What a Story!
On Friday, I grabbed some quiet time to celebrate my reunion anniversary with our puppy, Story, and reflected on the story she had given us.
During a pre-sunrise walk, she got so frightened by a large man with his huge dog coming through the shadows she transformed from a little puppy into The Hulk, broke from her leash, and took off faster than you can say amygdala hijacking.
She would be on the run for close to three days and became Facebook famous in these parts. Countless friends, strangers, and neighbors spent hours looking for her, and then, in the cold and rain, our friend David spotted her in someone's backyard. I rushed there and let out a primal cry when she ran into my arms.
Growing up, I didn't have much luck with dogs. Our first rescue, Ginger, from Lollypop Farm (aka Humane Society), was hit by a car when I was in third grade – it was the first time I remember feeling grief. Our second rescue, Snoppy, developed seizures and had to go live on a "farm." Plus, many dogs chased me as a paperboy, including a Doberman Pincher with salivating fangs.
I desperately wanted to be a "dog person," and it wasn't until I met my wife that I finally had a healthy relationship with one. Her name was Jilly.
Even though Story's story had a happy ending, I became anxious that she would 'leave me' like all my other dogs did. I would double-leash her in case one broke when I walked her. I even reached out to Better Help for support, but that's another story for another day.
I've done countless values exercises throughout my executive career and have invited coaching clients to do the same. Understanding our values or first principles is one of four cornerstones to building a solid foundation and living a values-based life. The other three are community (aka your peloton), your mindset, and having a contemplative practice like mindfulness or gratitude).
Over the years, I prioritized principles like harmony, peace, kindness, hard work, competition, providing, resilience, hope, community, and health. These are all awesome values that I hope people see in me. Plus, they were corporately acceptable to share in a workshop forum - who would judge me for valuing hard work, I thought?
As 2023 unfolded, I spent more than a few Pause Breathe Reflect moments trying to understand what surfaced after getting Story home safely. In time, I discovered that the experience provided greater insight into other values essential to me, like defense and protection.
I've never thought of myself as a defend and protect kind of guy - except to protect my glasses from breaking when I got bullied. Plus, it felt inconsistent with my value of peace.
But what I realized in reflection is that when these values are not honored, I show up differently, like the time I helped my wife escape a violent mosh pit at a Ramones concert, the pain I felt when I couldn't protect my childhood puppies, how we've created our Pause Breathe Reflect community, and the reason I really went after my executive-suite position.
And how I felt as we searched for Story.
As traumatizing as last year was, the experience uncovered something that was always within me and is now helping me live in alignment with what's most important today.
So, why do I share this navel-gazing story with you?
First, if you helped in any way, from feet on the street to rippling hopeful juju, in our search for Story last year, thank you. I don't have the words to adequately express my gratitude except to further the ripple you generously shared with my family.
Second, it allows me to share a couple of photos of Story. Isn't she adorable?
Third, it's an invitation to inspect a cornerstone and take steps to honor your first principles/values to help you live in better alignment this year.
And finally, it's a reminder that you're never too old to discover something about yourself. Still, given today's pace and our relationship with discomfort, we risk missing the wisdom in our moments.
However, when we slow down just a bit and sit with what the body is trying to communicate, we might discover something about ourselves that can help us live with greater awareness and be authentic to who we really are instead of who we think we should be or how others want us to be.
I'm going to snuggle up with Story because she thinks she's protecting me which is probably true.