Lessons on Living The Best Life: Things I’ve Learned from My Dogs

Bodhi (front) and Sirius (back) enjoying morning walks on the beach. And yes, we named our dog after Sirius Black.

When Wyatt and I first met, we knew (literally within seconds) that we were meant to be together. So, we cut the bullshit of small talk pretty quickly and began exploring deeper conversation. About two hours into our coffee date, I somehow brought up getting married and apparently let him know that, “any man who proposes to me will give me a puppy and not a ring.” Honestly, I think my soul was so overwhelmed when I first met him that I blacked out, so sometimes my mind is unclear about the sequence of events. However, I know I did say that because fast forward to October 21, 2017 and there Wyatt is – on one knee with two puppies in his arms.

Over the past 8 months, we’ve had quite the adventure raising our pups. Somehow those fur children have managed to simultaneously drive us insane while also keeping us humble and sane. Most importantly, they’ve taught me how to truly be alive.

In my last post, I wrote about living for and in the present.  And I owe a lot of those realizations to my dogs.

As humans, we constantly multitask, network, and cultivate a public or social media image. We climb the ladder and participate in what we ourselves termed “the rat race.” We focus on what could be, not what is, without wondering why. We fail to check in with ourselves and ask, “Is this who I am? Is this what I want?”

When you look at a dog’s face, whether he needs to go for a walk or he wants you to play fetch, he doesn’t know why you’re not springing into action. You need to finish writing this email? But you’ve been on that computer all day. You’re watching something on TV? But you can pause anything these days. You have to finish what you’re doing? But you could just take a break.

Dogs focus on the essentials: eating, drinking, sleeping, and going to the bathroom. The only other thing that enters the picture is: having fun. Their lives are much shorter than ours, and yet they have a lot more fun than we do. They sleep on their back or curled up in your lap, and they’re as content as any person anywhere could ever be.

With that being said, and for the sake of brevity, here are the top 10 lessons I’ve learned from my pups:

  1. Love, sleep and water are the three most essential necessities in life
  2. Try everything once. If you don’t like it, that’s okay. At least you know and you won’t have to do it again.
  3. Approach everything and everyone with optimism and love. If they hurt you, realize that is a reflection on them and not you. And then give them another chance
  4. Forgive, forgive, forgive
  5. Give lots of cheek kisses. It always takes everyone by a pleasant surprise.
  6. Play with everyone. Even if they look different, smell different, sound (bark) differently – it doesn’t matter. They are probably really fun.
  7. PLAY ALL THE TIME
  8. Whatever you loved doing at six years old, make time to do that every day. At six weeks, my dogs were obsessed with playing fetch with squeaky toys. Now at nine months, they are still just as obsessed, and we make time to enjoy that every day.
  9. We have no time to waste holding grudges or being upset with people, UNLESS they purposely do something that threatens your life in any way… or they take your food mid bite.
  10. Wake up every day with the mindset, “this is the best day ever!” And then go live the best freaking day ever.

Peace and Palm Trees

The Greatest Gift

Sunrise walks with our dogs

My birthday is Thursday. My gift to myself this year is the precious present.

Almost every day for the past two weeks Wyatt and I both have found ourselves asking each other what day of the week it is because we’ve both completely lost interest keeping track. It is a pretty incredible, sometimes an uncomfortable feeling. You wake up each morning with no pre-determined outlook on the day, such as: “Ugh, Monday.. Tuesday is the worst.. OMG we made it to Wednesday.. Thursday is here – almost the weekend!” You get my vibe.

For us, the sun rises and we focus on our work and our relationship, and then the sun begins to set and we  begin to settle and slow down. We do keep a daily schedule, just because we realize we have obligations and goals to accomplish. However, we have both tried to eliminate labels from our days. I especially tend to reflect and plan A LOT… always distracting my mind from our most important gift, the present. I’ve found that when I see days as “good” and “bad,” I live in either the past or the future. I am sure you fall into this mindset sometimes too. It may look like this:

You get home from work and think “today was not great, but tomorrow will be a better day.” Stop right there please. What did you just miss? Whatever is staring you right in the face (your present). It could be your kids (or dogs in my case) welcoming you home, your loved one approaching you for big smooch, or even maybe your neighbor waving to you as you pull into the driveway. Because we are so focused on the past and the future (one of which has already happened, therefore you cannot change it. And the other is not even guaranteed), we lose our present. And the present is called just that because it is the most precious gift. Ever.

In my opinion, we live so much by the past and for the future because we often avoid  our own mortality. If more of us accepted the fact that one day your life will be over (because it will unless you’ve found the fountain of youth), I firmly believe we would all do exactly what we wanted with every 24 hours we are given. We would care less about labels, about definitions, and about expectations. We would follow our instinct more and follow trends less. And because I personally think that humans are innately good, I think we would do more good for each other because we are focused on being our best selves.

The average life expectancy in the United States is 78.74 years. That means I hopefully have 53 more summers left on Earth. I’ve got a lot I want to accomplish. And by no means do I intend on setting 5-10 year plans. Each plan is now. Each goal I set I will accomplish now. And then I will hopefully be given the gift of present time to move on to the next one.

When you feel guilty over your imperfect past, or you are anxious over your unknown future, you do not live in the present. You experience pain.

Your past was the present. And your future will be the present. The present moment is the only reality you ever experience.

As long as you continue to stay in the present, you are happy forever, because forever is always the present.

Life is a precious gift.

Peace and Palm Trees

 

Fear-Less Series Part 3: Ego

Gateway to our front yard

 

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, and granted we’ve been in the process of moving our lives, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was anxious about not being a “good blogger” because I obviously wasn’t constantly curating content.

Thoughts circulating my brain these past weeks:

“My pictures are definitely not thematic at all.”

“If I am not constantly writing, people will lose interest.”

“What do people want to hear that has not already been done before?”

“What time of day will people actually read my post?”

When I voiced this to Wyatt, he kindly asked, “Isn’t this blog for YOU?” Pause. Oh yeah, that is right. My purpose for this is NOT to gain a million followers and become another blogger girl. My purpose is to simply dive into my creative side and possibly help some of you fellow anxiety ridden perfectionists along the way who are interested in doing the same. Duh.

Ok – back to regularly scheduled programming.

I want to talk about my friend Ego. She’s really built a bad rap over the years. People often confuse her for bitchiness, arrogance and selfish desires. And this is so wrong. She is so powerful, and she is so good.

According to Merriam-Webster, by definition, the ego is, “the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.” Let this marinate for a minute or two. When you actually dissect the ego, you come to realize that ego encompasses life, passion, excitement, growth, drive, creativity, individuality, unique personality and reason.

Saying ego is bad is as preposterous as stating water is bad, because it can drown you. Or like saying fire is bad, because it can burn you. Ego, water and fire are all life sustaining, and they only bite if they are misused. I think of ego like I do a power tool: it is extremely useful, but if it is misused, it is extremely dangerous.

How do we use ego for good? Let’s look at Mother Teresa as an example. For all her humility, she had a strong ego. Namely, she had a clear sense of her own identity, giftedness and importance. However, instead of using this for personal gain, Mother Teresa understood that the source of her giftedness was God and that her gifts were intended not for herself but for others. Like Mother Teresa, great persons have strong egos but are always aware that their giftedness does not come from them but is something flowing through them (whether it is God or whatever else you believe in) as a gift for others.

Embrace your ego. The process of self-discovery and spiritual growth has been called self-realization; because it’s based on the premise that you are the key to your own soul evolution. Furthermore your heart, wisdom and logic hide the secrets to your own growth.

Remember this mantra:

“I got a big ego.” – Beyonce

Peace and Palm Trees

Fear-Less Series Part 2: The Permission Slip Syndrome

Red River Gorge | A Kentucky Treasure

Do you remember permission slips? You know – the waivers we once had our parents sign for trips to, say, Safety City. I am afraid we forgot that permission slips only existed because we were all under the age of 18 and could not legally make decisions for ourselves. Yes, when we were seven years-old, our parents had a LEGAL responsibility to give the “green light” for that Safety City trip (as risky as it may have sounded).

Why do I fear we’ve forgotten this seemingly pointless and simple fact? Because today, now more than ever, we search for permission in all forms from our friends, family, mentors, gurus, dogs, cats, palm readers… you name it. I was, and still can be, especially guilty of this. Let’s recall my last post about fear and expectations. Well, asking for permission and acting (or not) based on other people’s judgement and expectations go hand-in-hand.  It is a suffocating way to live. You never allow yourself the freedom to do exactly what you want to do. When we are constantly looking for other people’s opinions about what we should or should not do, we fail to direct our focus, and we never concentrate our power. This is self-crippling. Who wants to dabble their way through life and never master their discipline, art or passion? Not this woman. No thank you.

You have probably picked up on this message, but here is what I’m getting at: You do not need permission to live the life you want to live.

Maybe you never received this lesson during your childhood. Maybe your nurturers were terrified of risk, obsessive-compulsive rule-followers, abusers of any form, afraid of what everyone else thought, etc.

Guess what? That is not your excuse to not be the creator of your life journey. If you want to follow by someone’s example, look back to your ancestors. They were immigrants, farmers, slaves, soldiers, etc. They were the makers of their fortune. They were the determiners of their path. There is your example. There is your permission slip to do. To just do you.

The next time you find yourself wanting to ask someone, “do you think I should do x,y,z?” replace that with “does x,y,z make me say HELL YES?” And then you go shake what your mama gave you.

There you go, ladies and gents. I just gave you your permission slip.

Peace and palm trees,

JBK

Fear-Less Series Part 1: Fear and Expectations

Third Street Stuff Coffee

I am absolutely terrified that you’re reading this right now. I am afraid it’s stupid, not good enough, cliché, poor writing, elementary, etc. The fear list is infinite. Truthfully, I’ve been wanting to write my own blog for almost 6 years and 3 months now. I express myself best through the written word. Sometimes I don’t know how I feel about something or what is going through my mind until I start writing it down.

So, you are probably wondering why it has taken me this long to start. Two things: fear and expectations. Let me explain.

Since I can remember, I’ve been a chronic perfectionist. Everything I’ve done has been carefully calculated and as flawless as possible. In fact, I was so afraid of not exceeding everyone’s expectations and getting that 5.0 GPA in school and life, that I often found myself doing things I hated. I did these things out of the mere concept that they were “what JBK is expected to do.” It actually turned out to be an easy path. Go where expected, do what is expected, exceed like expected, move on to the next expectation. Everyone will be happy with me, and I will avoid failure. And I was living a lie.

I feared failure so much so that I prohibited myself from living my truth. I said and did what people wanted to hear and see. What kind of life is that? I was in autopilot – a complete robot – a slave to fear and expectations.

Until I said enough. And finally wrote this damn blog.

The funny thing about fear is that we often use it to define ourselves. We believe our fears are unique and that they make us who we are based on our stories of adversity. NEWSFLASH! Your fear is not special. Think of it this way: when you wave your hand towards a fly, it zooms away as quickly as possible. Why? Fear. Fear is an evolutionary innate response. Everything and everyone has it. The difference between a human and a fly is not our deepest darkest fears. It is our intellect. A fly’s brain is microscopic. They do not have the human ability to create and love. Our brains give us individuality. We can live a life of curiosity and creativity because of our ability to adapt, learn from others, empathize, teach, etc.

I woke up not too long ago and realized it is time to pursue my real journey. Although I am not quite sure what that is yet, I am really excited. My fiancé and I chose a place to establish our roots in Atlantic Beach, Florida. We both have divorced and remarried parents, so finding a place that you feel is your own to grow independently and as a family  can sometimes feel like a game of geopolitical strategy. But we are ready to live a life of the unexpected.

This is just my introduction to the “Fear-Less” series. If you can take one thing away from this post, please ponder this question:

Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?

Peace and palm trees,

JBK