There Was A Lesson Waiting For Me At The Corner

It dawned on me recently that our energy is like currency; we need to budget it just like we do with our personal finances and program budgets; ideally so that our revenue exceeds our expenditures.  How we spend it – our energy – says a lot about who we are. And, perhaps what says even more is how we invest it, so that it will not only be renewed and return its value to us, but hopefully multiply it, exponentially. Maybe have some left over? Some available to share?

It’s so easy to focus on the negative; dwell on it. In the short-term it’s just so easy to get sucked into the drama. The news and media take us there – and try to keep us there  –  24/7 and we can so easily fall into the trap of just ‘venting’, or having a rant or two.  But it became clear to me that it’s the long view that matters most.

Our neighborhood is like a maze, and in our area, there is one way in, and one way out. No matter which way I go, in or out, I have to pass a particular house on the corner. For the longest time this was of no consequence to me; all I noticed was the manicured lawn, a remodel, a new car; the things you notice as you drive by every morning and every evening. When the garage is open I can see pristine cabinets, floors cleaner than my kitchen counters and two fancy sports cars. The folks who live there are a couple with fur kids, two very large Great Danes.  But I guess that goes without saying…anyone ever seen a very small Great Dane? 🙂

I spent much of my life in great fear of most dogs because of experiences earlier in  life; stories for another day. Given that, you can imagine my fear when passing by and seeing these large beasts roaming the front yard. Over time, I came to know that they would not leave the lawn area or rush after me as I ran, walked, or biked past their home.  My brain had become trained to trust them and relax as I went by. When my son was little and an early walker, his head came up level with theirs, and there was always a fleeting sense of terror that ran through me, but it was always fine. Exhale. Their humans are decent enough, but not particularly warm or neighborly, and not the type to sit and visit with on the porch. And in fact, a neighborly wave would often not be returned.

Days and months and years passed by, following much of the same routine. During the holidays a couple of years ago, my son and I were riding our bikes to our neighborhood market; I needed butter for some baking. We were laughing about Bonnie and Ben biking to buy butter for baking – the affinity for alliteration is perhaps genetically predisposed? We were relaxed; it was one of those rare winter days with unseasonably warm days. As we approached the house on the corner, I saw one of their large dogs ambling about in the yard, in the very direction my son was headed. My first thoughts were that he’s fine; those dogs are fine when we go by, you don’t need to worry…”. Something in me was on high alert, but my brain wanted to override the message – I had been conditioned to trust these folks and their dogs. I wanted, needed, everything to be just as it was any other day. I’m not prone to drama, or over reacting, and true to form, I was trying to keep things smooth and normal. Before I knew it though, I heard my son screaming; and I look over and saw the dog affixed to my son’s leg, the dog was biting him and just not letting up. As I dropped my own bike and raced over to him, I realize the dog is not a Great Dane, it’s a Doberman. A completely different dog. I had trusted the wrong dog. More importantly, the humans.  My internal alert system had been right, and I didn’t trust it.

The good news is that my son was ok; the skin was broken, but fortunately I had won the parent-child battle before we left the house and my son was wearing jeans vs. the shorts he had –  in the ‘I think this kid could be a lawyer someday’ way – negotiated for. I shudder to think of the outcome had I not firmly put my foot down on the wardrobe issue. Between the jeans and the muzzle on the dog – I can’t go there either – I knew he’d be ok.

The dog’s human was apologetic, waxed eloquent about how the dog ‘just happened’ to get off leash, and kept trying to assure me; and my son; that this dog is not a bad dog. Part of it’s a blur, but I remember asking him if the dog was up to date on all of its shots. My brain accepted his answer and without realizing, I assumed that because of  how manicured the house, lawn, garage, floor and cars were, then surely their dogs were well cared for. I was willing to let bygones be bygones. Things happen.

We went home to recover and call the pediatrician; we bagged on the butter and baking for that day. But later when finished, and sharing some goodies with our other neighbors, I learned that my son was not the first, nor the second, but more like the 4th or possibly even the 5th person to be bitten by this dog. I was furious to learn this; I immediately called animal control to report the bite. In the following days, I learned  more from our other neighbors. Other neighbors have filed reports, written letters, one filed a civil suit after being hospitalized.

The long and short of it is that they avoid the authorities who have made numerous attempts to address them and continue to walk the dog throughout the neighborhood and have him off leash in their front yard. Not long ago the dog tore after a contractor working on a neighboring home who luckily had a nearby ladder to climb. Let me be clear, my fumes are about the people not the pup.

Each day I drive by this home, because I can’t avoid it, and I – mama bear –  am reminded of that day. I take a very wide berth around their house; I cross the street to pass by on the opposite side of the street if I am running alone, biking/scootering with my son, or walking my own little white fluff of a mutt.  Once, the female human cheerily said hello as we passed each other going in opposite directions; I could not bring myself to reply.  I am angry with their irresponsible actions, what mother would let that slide?

My son is more forgiving than I am, always asking me why I am so mad at them when we pass by. And thankfully, unlike his mother, he did not generalize this experience to the rest of dog-kind. I can’t put into words the whole truth for him, that it would not have taken much at all to have a completely different, and terribly worse outcome that day. That the owner lied directly to me only added insult to injury.

So, what is the  lesson waiting for me at the corner? Letting go. Choosing carefully how I spend my energy, remembering to invest it in ways that return it to me in dividends that are positive, that generate good and good will, not visions of voo-doo dolls.  I realized recently that each time I drive by the house on the corner, my mood would darken and my thoughts would shift toward the negative, and I would feel that anger rushing in, like a storm front. Just like running your tongue over that same sore spot, over and over again, doesn’t help it heal, and instead only slows the healing. The same is true, I realized, for me.  The more I stewed about these folks, the more I was draining  my account, and it would never have any return, except a negative one, upon me and my family. What’s the point of that?

Those are expenditures I cannot afford, they are not in my budget and leave me depleted for the things that are worthy of my attention, love, affection, humor and compassion.

There is no Pollyanna here, it’s not being nice, the fact of the matter is, I can’t change who they are, or how they interact with our neighborhood. But, as I drive by each day, I can remember that it’s a lesson in mindfulness, on making the right choice. The choice that earns energy, or at the very least, saves it instead of spending it foolishly. This, I realize, has spilled over into other parts of my life. When people show up in my office to vent, I have to make the choice whether to absorb it or let the dark cloud walk out the door with them when they leave. Their dark cloud serves no purpose in my life and frankly, just creates more. When stuck in ridiculously frustrating events, traffic, parking lots at Trader Joes 🙂 – I have to remember it’s up to me for how I react, how I feel.

I realize there is always a choice to spend, save or invest. The folks on the corner – I still don’t ‘like them’  and I can’t make them care about the rest of us. But, I can just drive on by, and when on foot protect myself and my son by allowing a safe distance between us and their house.  And it doesn’t have to leave me bankrupt at the end of the day.

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38 thoughts on “There Was A Lesson Waiting For Me At The Corner

  1. there is freedom in forgiving. I know that letting go of anger, however reasonable, is the right thing to do. Good on you!
    also, I’ve had chronic illness and brain surgery and things. I agree that energy is like a currency

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    • Thank you Debbie…there is definitely freedom in letting go. I can’t say honestly that I forgive them, that’s another level altogether, but I do let go of the perpetuation of the storm clouds I would summon as I drove by every day. I can appreciate how you can grasp that energy should be well spent, after all, it is hard earned, especially with what you have encountered along your journey. I hope you are well ….

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  2. Bonnie, this ia a life lesson that we all should learn, and your story illustrates it perfectly. You are a wise woman.

    I’ve found too, that children are more willing to forgive those that hurt them than most adults, especially the “mamma bears” . I guess that’s another lesson. 🙂

    Thanks for posting.
    Kathy

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    • Kathy – thanks so much…

      You are right, and make such a great point, about children and their forgiveness flexibility…that can be a whole separate lesson for another day, but you are right, how nimble they/we can be as children.

      :)Bonnie

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  3. Good grief, Bonnie (I promise to get through this post without calling you Maggie:D)

    I can imagine your anger – as a mother the instinct to protect our children overrides everything else in life. The fact that the authorities can’t do anything about this dog astounds me. Next time this may be a child’s face (or life). In Australia we have a one-bite-and-you’re-out dog law (and up to $50,000 fines for dogs that bite). I own two large dogs that I love dearly, but if one bit anyone for absolutely no reason at all (god forbid) I would have it put down. I know this sounds harsh, but dogs that bite are just far too dangerous to have around no matter how much we love them.

    I really love and admire the fact that you are letting go of the anger. It takes so much energy to maintain this state. I’ve always equated anger (and guilt) to a spiritual cancer that can eat away at us until there is nothing left.

    I’m so glad your son has such a wonderful philosophical and forgiving nature. He will go far in life!

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    • Dianne…that’s funny, I like that we’ll always have that little joke. 🙂

      It’s taken nearly two years to understand I need to just release it, it was only causing this ‘dark cloud’ every time I go by, and there really is no way to avoid their house, unless I take up flying! We have some kind of laws/rules here too, so it eludes me how they have been able to avoid consequence to their actions, or lack of. But at the end of the day, me kicking up a mental dust storm has no effect on them and too much of one on me and my kiddo. So, it was time, and it’s been interesting to see that play out in other areas.

      You are right, anger and guilt really are both a kind of spiritual cancer, it makes a ton of sense to put it that way!

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  4. Wow….frightening to the max! I LOVE animals!….but where I live, the animal would have been shot on the spot or quarantined while the owners were arrested/fined after the first time. You are right about the energy suckers. I am a take action kinda person and when I cannot “fix” it ….I almost die trying. You are the best mama bear either….and your cub is amazing ~ 🙂

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  5. Oh my goodness! Cyber-hugs to you and Ben! I’m so grateful you both made it through that experience in one piece. And can I just say … perhaps the fact that Ben was able to be so forgiving with the neighbours (and the rest of dog-dom!) has something to do with his wise, compassionate, and thoughtful mama? xo.

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    • Aww – .Amber…so nice of you! Who knows, he’s a pretty amazing kiddo, who surprises me all the time. I love the dog-dom – perfect! I think for me, it’s the – what almost, what could have been the outcome – that really gets me freaked out. xo

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  6. Believe it or not, last night I dreamed my son was attacked by a dog! I woke up at three o’clock, scared to death and praying it would never come true. And now I’m reading this post… unbelievable.

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    • You’re kidding? That’s oddly cosmic, isn’t it? I am hoping that you were just channeling my experience and that this won’t happen for you or your son. It’s taken awhile, and while grateful to find the lesson in all this, I’d rather it not happen at all! Stay safe friend xo

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  7. Great post Bon, and I’m so happy that the outcome for Ben was more positive than negative. I, like you, would have harbored that resentment and anger only to have it surface each time I saw their faces or passed their house. This post is a great reminder to me to let those things that I can do nothing about just go! Breathe…..that’s how I can do it. Well done Mama Bear.
    xo
    R

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    • Rhon [love that..Bon and Rhon…] and yes, for Ben more positive than negative and that kid surprises me all the time. It took me a couple of years to realize that storming past their house every day just made ME cranky – that’s not pretty or useful.
      Breathe…my friend, breathe…[I have to tell myself that too, all the time…]

      xo
      mama bear

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      • We used to have a store in the MD/DC/PA area called the BonTon…you just reminded me of it. We are the BonRhon or RhonBon…LOVE IT

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          • Damn, lived in maryland 74-78, then again 91-93, then again 96-2000…Harford, Carroll, and Howard counties. PA from 2001 – 2004. I’ve been around my sister.

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              • NO! We coulda been related! Or something. Dang it…I was in Virginia from 82 – 91 too. but not near DC, down in Tidewater area, but still! jeez bonnielouise.

                and heyyyyyy….whadya mean? lol. you only know that half of it (the gettin ’round thing)

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                • Yes!! And who knows, maybe we are related…stranger things [not that I think you are strange…uh-uh, nope] have happened! I know, life is funny like that…
                  I figure you will tell me the other half – at some point! 🙂 I can be patient.

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                • welllll, enough of those dang 7 thingy awards and i may have no choice…already running out of ‘share-able’ material. shoot, opened my big mouth on that one!

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  8. Hey Bon, what a wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee-people post!! Everyone has just so much energy to call upon in the day, just so much energy they get to refill overnight, just so much energy that can be held in reserve. And the more we choose to hold onto, the less energy we have available for the present -one of the reasons perhaps that those reserves get sapped so quickly…My anger at the owners of this dog is massive – and I wish that every owner who is so irresponsible in the raising of their furkids shouldn’t be allowed to have anymore. How fortunate that Ben didn’t hold onto this memory with undue alarm generalized to all dogs. I’ve known some wonderful Dobes – and I have known some awful owners who have raised dogs that I am deathly afraid of. I realize that’s not the point – choose your areas for energy expression, so that you have some left for life! xox

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    • Coffee, did you say coffee? One of Mimi’s Marvels by chance…oh, how easily I digress…

      Thank you – you totally get it! And yes, anger at the owners is called for, they are irresponsible to no end. That dog needs a new zip code where he can be free to roam without being incited to exert his aggression. They still have a Great Dabe and the Dobie – and all I can do is just drive on by, not let it ruin my day, but I can’t engage or be ‘neighborly’. I got tired of having this take energy away from me, I didn’t like the me I was approaching or passing their house, and after Ben asked me for the umpteenth time why I was so mad, it sunk in what a waste of energy it was for me..which got me thinking…

      but yes, let’s choose how we spend our energy! I want some left for all the good stuff! 🙂 xoxo

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  9. Wise post, Bonnie, and so true! You’ve only got a certain amount of energy to share and hours in the day–might as well make them work *for* you to the best of your ability. On a side note, I’m so sorry that it was a Dobe that attacked your son. I’ve had four of them and, raised properly, they are beautiful, remarkable, loyal, loving companions. I fervently hope that you and your son have an opportunity to interact with a true representative of the breed someday…. Lori

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    • Lori..thank you! Yes, make them work *for* you….I like how you put that! I know that one dog is just that, one dog, and I am so glad to know that four of them have been lucky to have had YOU as their human. These folks need to figure something out and not continue on in denial. I hope we get to meet a Dobie some day too, my son loves dogs, for which I am so grateful, that he does not have the fear I had growing up. B

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