#13 A Tough Day and Choosing Gratitude

Sep 08, 2021

A few days ago, I was mulling over what to write this week and decided I'd share a bit about the power of gratitude... 

Then yesterday, my world turned upside down when my adventure-seeking buddy named Dash (pictured on the left next to his super-hero sidekick, Roo) decided that the bits of wormer paste that fell from each of my horses mouths would be a good thing to sample. Unfortunately, I didn't see him do this and only knew that he'd gotten into something after he started acting strange- which quickly progressed into behavior that was scaring me and Brett (my husband). 

After talking to the vet and racking my brain over what he could've gotten into- he's a fan of blackberry picking these days and we saw him sampling some Salal berries a couple of nights ago... It hit me...it was the Ivermectin!! We were already on our way to the emergency vet hospital after our vet and 3 others turned us away because they were completely full.

I've now learned that's a thing right now because of a shortage of vets and a huge increase in pet ownership during the pandemic.

Dash's condition was worsening. When we arrived at the hospital there were people strewn about the parking lot- some on picnic blankets with their dogs, some in the backs of trucks... there seemed to be a huge wait... I'd never seen anything like it. 

I refused to let the panic, that was welling up inside me, take over. The vet office I'd talked to, as we drove to the hospital, said to just show up at the hospital, that they would have to triage us and determine who had the highest priority. At this point Dash was starting to have convulsions and I was worried I was witnessing the end of his life.

I called the number written on the placard in front of our parking space - busy signal.

I tried it again- "the number can't currently be reached".

A surge of adrenaline kicked in and I headed to the front door to do some pounding.

On my march there, I tried the number one more time...

someone answered.

I let them know what was happening.

Within minutes Dash was brought into the hospital and quickly put on IV fluids... 

After a couple of hours of waiting I got a call from the doctor and the prognosis is "guarded". Now we wait to see how he does with the treatment. I was able to go in and hold him for a while before we left. 

When we got home last night the worry really started kicking in. Then I remembered the chosen topic for this week's blog- it was NOT how to help your dog who's ingested Ivermectin.

It was using the power of gratitude... I decided it was the perfect time to pull out the tool I've been cultivating for years now. 

I started thinking about all the things I'm grateful for with Dash. The list is long.

  • The joy he brings me everyday
  • The zest he brings to everything he does
  • That he's the perfect companion for our buddy Roo
  • How he bumps you softly with his nose instead of licking...

Quickly the worry, and what-ifs that were storming in my mind, were replaced with an overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude. I felt so much closer to him in that moment- I like to think he could feel that from his little spot in the hospital. 

All night (and even as I type this) I've been practicing using the gratitude tool. The panic and concern for the future well up, reminding me to choose gratitude. 

Here's the deal- we don't know what's going to happen in the future- none of us do.

Our brains are built to keep us safe first and foremost. One of the brain's super powers is to think of all the things that could possibly happen to try to prepare us... The irony is: often it leads us down imaginary roads that cause all sorts of nasty chemicals to be created in our bodies AND put us in a weaker position for dealing with hardships. 

One of my favorite quotes on this topic is from Mark Twain:

"I've lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened."

The experience I'm living through right now has reminded me that we really can choose what we focus on. I'm choosing gratitude.

I want to share a couple of things I've learned about this powerful tool

1. It's super simple! Try sitting for a moment and thinking of one or two things you're grateful for.

2. Choose one of those things and focus on it until you can feel the feeling of gratitude or love or grace or fill in the blank with a positive emotion that fits your situation

3. Now here's a clincher- try to sit with that feeling longer than you normally would. 20 seconds or more.

My friend, Marlene Spencer shared the 20 second concept with me a couple of years ago at a monthly gathering of wonderful people (you know who you are) that used to happen at my place- called the MAP group. I can remember the exact moment she shared it with me-

I had been sharing the idea of focusing on the positive aspects of a session with my horse, instead of the negative AND to sit with that positive feeling while I was still with my horse. Marlene then shared that she'd read a study that it took 20 seconds to form a new connection in our brains. Yes!! This made a ton of sense to me. I ended up researching it further- the fancy name for it is neural plasticity- the idea that our brains are constantly strengthening some connections and weakening others based on what we spend time on. 

There's a great article by Rick Hanson, the author of Hardwiring Happiness, that goes into the topic in an easy to read way (not the thick neuroscience kind of way). Here's a link to it if you're interested in delving in further https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_grow_the_good_in_your_brain

4. The idea of holding a feeling for 20 seconds or more is nothing new. It's as old as humanity. Prayer, meditation, snuggling with a loved one, telling a story that captures the heart- these are all practices that cause us to hold onto a positive feeling for longer and can all result in changing the trajectory of our thoughts. 

5. The more you do it the easier it is to access it. It's not a one time fix. You can get the benefits from it after one time- but inevitably the worries and judgements that we've had a lot of practice with (I'm pretty sure it's not just me 😉) will return. But each time we recognize they're back- we can change our focus and practice gratitude. I find it sets me up to be in a much healthier place to make decisions and solve problems. 

I hope you try this out. If you already practice it, I hope this email is a good reminder to take a moment (or 20) to practice it again. 

I'm grateful for you- that you've taken the time to get this far- that you've allowed me to be a part of your journey. 

Try it 💕 

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