“No,” I said. “You have already been outside.”
When you have dogs and kids, it’s easy to fall into rituals to maintain order in the house. Both species thrive on a schedule, otherwise, a lack of security starts to set in. The snack bin gets raided repeatedly, the fridge pursued multiple times, the aimless wandering begins, and naps happen at weird hours.
Meals and bedtimes are the two most significant parameters around a day.
With my dogs, I set their schedule right away, feeding them at the same time and letting them out. Like a fine oiled machine, they worked with me and usually conformed. Sometimes though, they would stray from the plan. Their internal clock would go off, and suddenly at an off hour, they would beg to go out.
The routine at night was to let them out at ten, followed by a teeth treat. Both had dental challenges and hated to be confined while I tried to get them to open their mouths. If dealing with a resistant child and medication is difficult, a dog and a toothbrush are arch enemies.
The hounding to go out early indicated they were hustling me for a treat. Sometimes I gave in, and other nights I made them wait it out.
This time they had already been out, had a snack and were now racing toward the door like I had amnesia. Do you know how your kids will tag team you into believing you are not right when you know you are? They both tell you one thing, but you know the truth. Dogs can manipulate this way too. It was time to go to bed.
They went to the door to go out, trying to swindle another round of handouts.
After watching me struggle with them for a few minutes, my daughter said,
“I need to reset them.”
“I need to convince them they have had what they normally get.”
She went to the kitchen cupboard where we kept their nighttime chew sticks. They watched her open and close the door, but she gave them a baby carrot from the refrigerator.
After that, it was like a switch was thrown to recalibrate their brains.
When I said,
“Time for bed,” they ran side by side to my bedroom.
She used the term “reset” because most electronic devices have them hidden somewhere. I discovered with my Fitbit I used to own that if it was malfunctioning, I had to take a paper clip, bend it into a straight line and press the tip into a microscopic hole. Like magic, it would bring everything back into working order.
We take the ease of today’s technology for granted, and many of us have not experienced any of the former ways of doing tasks. Calculators didn’t exist, so a pencil and paper had to be on hand. Inventions like “touchless” faucets or soap dispensers didn’t exist. You had to put your hands all over everything. Stairs you walked on, not people movers or escalators, got you from point A to B.
One time, I went into a bowling alley with my dad. As we were watching someone throw a ball down a lane, he said,
“I hurt a guy really bad once at a place like this.”
If we had been attending a boxing match, I would have understood. But this was bowling. There were people in their late 80s wearing ugly shoes and matching shirts, barely able to use their back muscles when letting go of the ball. It was a far cry from a drag down brawl. It ranked it up there with croquet, backgammon, or chess.
“How did you do that?”
I knew when he was young he was in a street gang, so I assumed he had a run-in with a rival.
“Watch after someone knocks down the pins. Do you see how the machine drops down to pick up what they didn’t hit and sweeps away the ones they got? Then it puts the rest of them back for their second try?”
“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t that the reset?”
I had no clue where he was going with this.
“Before they invented that automated system, they had guys standing back there waiting to do that job for the bowlers. They had to jump in, take out pins and return the ones still in play.”
I watched more closely, and this seemed an impossible task for a human to do.
“I had turned my back to retrieve the ball, and I wasn’t paying attention to the person crouching down to put everything back in place. I quickly stepped up to the line, whipped my ball down there, and it knocked him in the head. He ended up flat on his back with a goose egg on his head.”
“Was he knocked out?”
“No. He was stunned and could barely move. I gave him some money because I felt so bad.”
I could relate to his feelings because I had hit a ball while playing softball that struck the pitcher. She was taken off the field by ambulance, and I had to go on and play.
I imagine both individuals were a bit more head shy the next time they resumed their positions. It only takes one bad incident to cause trauma in the body and mind for years.
Feeling anxious would happen every spring when I would get behind home plate as a catcher. My coach expected me to stretch forward to place my glove as close as possible to the edge of the strike zone, making it difficult for the batter. This was strategic and a great idea unless you were the one with the top of your head inches from the bat.
By the fall, when the season ended, I wouldn’t flinch once, but at the start of March, every muscle in my body would jump as I tried to control my emotions. The crack of the aluminum impacting the ball was unnerving, but I forced myself to stay there to get used to it. Moving away would have made it that much more difficult the next time. With repetition, my body learned to relax when I didn’t sustain a concussion.
It was mind over matter and can be applied to anything that has brought pain or the potential to cause more.
You can go through life believing that being clubbed might happen, so you avoid what will make you cower. Or, you face it, and whatever isn’t real, you identify as fake.
I was in a dangerous place, but it never resulted in injury. I learned to return, deal with the uncomfortable feelings and play on. Every year I had to reacquaint myself, but after a few times, the fear would disappear, and my focus would change to what would happen next.
More than once, I was hurt by a runner. I was knocked down, trampled on, punched, and felt the agony of cleats digging into my exposed arms while on the ground. I had to throw myself into defending the plate, even if that meant sustaining damage. To play meant I had to take the chance of being hurt.
My interest was not to ride the bench. Ever. To sit and watch runners come home on plays I knew I would have tagged them on was worse than the possibility of getting wounded.
That’s the dilemma of life. You can hide away, running from more harm that might never happen, or you can take another chance and put it into God’s hands.
Reviewing past offenses that resulted in trauma, I see where I contributed to the situation. I am not condemning abuse victims but making sense of how it has occurred. I’m not coming at this in an angry, bitter stance. But to see where the missteps might have been on my part for letting it continue. The true test is to overcome the thought you will keep the destructive pattern going.
It helps to ignore the idea that you have wasted your time that you cannot get back.
But, once you get good at blocking off the fear of repeating the same mistakes, all you can do is ask God for a redo.
As an act of heaven’s great love, the stopwatch gets reset.