Toy Dogs and the trouble with short-term thinking

Last night was one of those unfortunate, frustrating nights in our house.  At 3:10AM, the dog decided he needed to go out into the yard, which caused him to prance loudly around our bedroom until we woke up to let him out.  Although he woke up both my wife & I, I was awake enough to get out of bed first (which rarely happens), so I let the dogs into the yard, brought them in, and went back to bed.

About 15 minutes later, before either of us could fully doze back to sleep, the 3-year-old started to cry in his bed.  It was just a bad dream, and he went back to sleep quickly, but when I came into his room I moved his toy dog over on his bed to make room for myself.  The button on the dog’s paw that causes it to sing and talk was now easily triggered every time my son rolled over onto it, which we discovered about 5 minutes after I went back to bed.

My wife, aggravated with the singing, got out of bed and went down the hall into my son’s room, and simply moved the dog over, expecting it to finish its song and then go silent.  Too tired to take a look inside the dog and switch off the battery back, she stumbled back to bed hoping the problem would go away.  Of course, by now, the 3-year-old was awake, and playing with the dog – hitting the buttons over and over to listen to the dog sing and talk.  Then, it became my turn to go and try to calm him down, which was impossible, and by 5:15 he was ready to run and jump, so we got up and went downstairs to watch some cartoons while I tried not to bang my head against a wall until I fell into unconsciousness.

Most of us have been in situations like this, or at least similar to it.  Tired, frustrated, stressed out – we seek a quick solution to an immediate problem, ignoring the potential long-term consequences.  For me, I simply moved the dog over rather than putting it someplace where it couldn’t be triggered accidentally.  My wife compounded the problem by just moving the dog and not taking a moment to find the off button.  As a result of taking care of an immediate problem, we ended up with a much longer-term one:  the toy dog kept on singing and the 3-year-old kept on playing, leaving us both tired, frustrated and grumpy as hell for the rest of the day – which will culminate with trying to get the kids to bed (and this time with the dog switched off, which he won’t understand, which means he won’t sleep well….).

Taking a few extra minutes to solve a problem for good seems like an onerous burden when you’re in the middle of the firefight.  That exact same behavior, however, is what leads to the next firefight in the first place.  Although we instantaneously reward ourselves (even with just a few more minutes sleep) for taking care of an immediate problem, we need to remember that solving the bigger problem usually means thinking about the longer term, and that alone will usually guide us to much more long-lasting solutions that allow us to avoid the next problem altogether.

When habits go bad – walking the extra mile

Let_Your_Mind_Do_The_Walking_by_jzcj5

Let your mind do the walking by jzcj5

So, it has been nearly 2 weeks since I’ve post to the blog.  Some times, inspiration is simply hard to find.

Other times, your mother-in-law takes your wife and 2 sons off on a trip and you get a whole week to yourself.  Such has been the case around here.  As it typically goes when the family takes off on an adventure without me, the fist half of the week is grand and glorious.  Napping, eating at crazy hours, sleeping at even crazier hours and, of course, the chance to knock some long overdue projects off the list.  The second half of the week, however, gets to be downright boring and lonely.

In the midst of the boring and lonely part, I needed to pick up my car from the mechanic’s this weekend (having it serviced was one of those projects that is much more convenient when only one car is needed for the week).  The shop is a bit of a walk – about 40 minutes, but not too bad once you get going.  While I could have easily called a neighbor or a friend for help, I simply felt like getting the exercise, so I hoofed it through the neighborhood and cut through a field to get to the shop, picked up the car, and drove home.

That, of course, is not much of a story.  But it did lead to an interesting observation.

What did strike me about 2/3 of the way there, however, is the thought –  “Why in the hell didn’t I just ride my bike??”

Duh.

Seriously, I should have.  The car I was going to pick up is an SUV.  There’s plenty of room for the bike once I get there.  It would have saved about half the time, at least, and still afforded plenty of good exercise.  Especially since I made the trek early in the morning when there was little traffic to worry about, too.  Of course, I could rationalize and say the exercise was great, or the slow pace was cathartic, or whatever else we all tell ourselves when we haven’t though through all our options only to realize later that there was a better way to go about our business.

And that’s the point when it comes to trying to understand how and why we all do, what we do.  Habit tells me that to get places without my car means I have to walk.  If I rode my bike more often, the thought to get on the bike and ride down to the mechanic’s shop would have been as natural as the thought that tells me I have to put on shoes before I go out the door most mornings.  Also, I could say, if I’d developed a better habit of stopping and thinking…to weigh alternatives….before doing….then I would have realized I didn’t need to hike all the way down to the shop.  I might still have wanted to, but I would not have needed to.

So, in a way, my habits let me down.  It makes you wonder how many other things we prevent ourselves form consciously choosing because we are unconsciously eliminating possibilities.  When habits rule, the likelihood of seeing other options simply diminishes.

It might even get you left all along on the roadside.

I’d like to thank my dog for running away, and the opportunity to think things over

English Setter running
English Setter running

English setter running by bars code

Friday evening my 7-year-old accidentally left the gate open and our 2 dogs took off into the neghborhood.  Neither I nor my son saw them go out, and a neighbor alerted us to the fact the dogs were a ways off from the house, running along the bike path that is next to our property.  Given that most of the neighborhood is heavily wooded and the average lot is around 1 to 1.5 acres, the dogs were able to sneak through the trees and get fairly far away pretty quickly.  As I went off to look for the animals one of the dogs, who is much more high-strung than the other, came running through the woods and went right to the door, where I let him into the house and he trotted inside.

The other dog, however, could not be found.  Another neighbor went with his son into the woods and caught a glimpse of “Lou,” the English Setter who goes about 80 pounds and is a total clutz.  He managed to elude them and disappeared towards the wet, marshy area that runs behind the properties on the opposite side of the street.  I spent the next 3 hours walking through the woods, and all over the neighborhood, going many miles in the hopes of catching a glimpse of him but with so many wooded areas between homes and a large, swampy meadow as well, there were just oo many places for him to get off to.  I walked and walked until dark before giving up the search until morning.

I was well aware of how exhausted I was becoming, the blister emerging on my foot, the sharp pain and tightness that was creeping up my back and the incredible soreness that was gripping my legs – but all that time walking around gave me time to think about things that have been on my mind lately.  For one, I thought about why I was spending so much time out walking to find a needle in a haystack, knowing the dog would likely be picked up by animal control, a kindly neighbor, or just return home on his own?  The answer, I concluded, was because although there are many things in the world that I have screwed up, the one thing I think I am pretty goo at is being a Dad.  I was out there not so much for the dog, but for my son, who was pretty upset at himself for having left the gate open and letting the dog come into harm’s way.  In addition to my concern for him was my need to always show him the right way to do things – when something is your responsibility you do whatever you need to in order to make that thing happen.  It’s about dedication, diligence and duty.

I came across another thought while I worked on that one, too -.  While my career is far form what I’d hoped it would be, while I never seem to have enough money or time to do the things I want, or provide the things I want, that beating myself up over poor choices or missed opportunities really isn’t worth the effort so much.

More than a reminder to focus on what’s important, this walk was sort of about realizing, and accepting, where life needs us.  I have watched others go farther in their careers, make more money, and have more of the things that I often think I should have, but I also know that the only thing I’ve ever truly wanted was a family.  Even long before I met Mrs. Right, my only goal was to find Mrs. Right and have kids.  Why?  I have no idea.  I have walked away from more lucrative career opportunities, and always did so with concern for what it would mean for my future family before I had one, and my current family once I did.

What I decided upon, however, was that no matter what life needs from you – it’s not necessarily a situation where happiness is wanting what you have vs. having what you want.  Nor is it strictly about accepting one’s lot and trying to carry on.  It is about focusing intently on what you are good at – and enjoying the benefits that come from being good at that thing, even if they are not necessarily material in nature.

So, thanks to my big, dumb dog for those moments of perspective and clarity.   When you least expect it, the enthusiasm to carry on comes from unexpected places.

 

And, by the way, a neighbor found the dog wandering in the yard around midnight and brought him home for us, too.

Last Week’s Top Tweets

Twitter

Twitter by Chiisao on deviantart.com

In case you missed it, here are some tweet & re-tweets of articles & other things that caught my eye last week:

MUST READ: From Dan Markovitz (@timeback): Respect for people — treating them more like machines. bit.ly/zVyKew

 

From Others:

From Me:

Last week’s tweets

tweet, tweet

tweet, tweet by chibiniko on deviantart.com

In case you missed it, here are some tweet & re-tweets of articles & other things that caught my eye last week:

From Others:

From Me: