Safety Latch

Safety Latch-01

Have you ever had an experience that left you feeling unsafe in an environment that you count on for security? I did, early this week.

Early on a hot and unusually humid Monday morning, Arthur and I took the dogs for a walk. Neither of us really wanted to be out in the August desert after having spent the last 10 days in idyllic coastal California climate. Yet we made an obligatory trek down our road, uneventful until we were three driveways from returning home.

Arthur was ahead of me with Whisper, our large Malamute. I was connected to both Huskies by trekking lines, bringing up the rear, when I noticed the yips and screams of a coyote pack. It’s a common sound, and spotting a relatively close coyote or two is not unexpected. But something felt – and sounded – different on this morning.

Looking ahead, I saw one, two…then six coyotes cross the road, very close. Arthur slowed in front of me, and the dogs began to get agitated, pulling in their harnesses. The coyotes began to race back and forth, yet the noise was coming from my left. Looking to my side, I saw several more running among the scrub bushes. There were perhaps 20 total.

Arthur held Whisper’s leash tightly, and straddled her for extra strength. It was all I could do to stabilize my body enough to hold onto Kairos and Heather, but somehow I managed to do that and fish my pepper spray out of my pack. I removed the orange safety latch from the container, and quickly realized I was unsure how to operate it. I put it into my pocket, and took out my phone.

By now, the coyote packs had joined and were closer, several of them fighting in the driveway to our left. Our dogs were beside themselves, tethered to us, their guardians. I felt as if we had parachuted into a wild animal park.

Hands free due to my wonderful trekking belt, I dialed a neighbor. He answered. In a panicked voice I explained the situation, and almost instantly he was walking down the road, carrying what looked like a large oar. The minute he appeared, another neighbor pulled out of his driveway on his way to work, scattering the coyotes. Arthur and I took a breath, and the dogs calmed.

Adrenaline flowing, muscles strained, and exhausted, we walked home quietly. I went straight to work. But I could not shake the unease. Once I had time to really assess what I was feeling, it became clear. My beloved home felt unsafe. While I know well the hazards of desert hiking, could we not walk our dogs down our road without threat?

As the following day unfolded, the lesson revealed itself to me. The meeting was coincidental, nothing more. The coyotes’ hunt location had nothing to do with our walk. The situation presented itself as a lesson to me. When my “safety” latch was removed, I didn’t know how to operate. I let my fear take over, and I know our dogs felt it.

Feeling is what launches energy into creation. We don’t have the luxury of succumbing to a feeling of fear. I know I have the ability to maintain presence and a sense of protection. It is indeed the only thing that will keep me safe. Neither locks on my doors nor pepper spray in my pockets work without the resonance itself. (Oh, and of course I need to learn how to operate the thing!)

What fears can you transform by shifting your feelings and thoughts? What safety latches are preventing you from examining the source of the fears that are overshadowing enjoyment of the things you love?

This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!


You’re the Only Self You’ve Got

by Andrea Chilcote

You're the Only Self You've Got

“How are you?” My Pilates instructor, Dana, asked. “I’m angry with my body,” I replied.

For five years I’ve been dedicated to a somewhat unconventional practice for managing the issue of my back. I’ve been committed, using a combination of prescribed stretches, Pilates and other exercises that have quite literally changed my life. Before finding this process, I had poor posture, bad sitting, standing and walking habits, and always had at least some pain.

Lately I’ve been slipping. I’ve been busy, traveling a lot and not making the time I know I need to dedicate to this practice.

After stating that I was angry, I went on to complain about how little time I had and how frustrated I was that maintaining the healthy state I had achieved still took so much work. Why couldn’t I have just been born with an easy body that didn’t require so much maintenance?

I picked the wrong person to whine to, at least if I was looking for sympathy. Dana knows me well. She asked me to consider that perhaps not making time for the exercise that improves my quality of life might just be an indication that I wasn’t making the time to care for myself.

She was right, and I knew what I had to do. But I left there that day still angry with my body.

I went home with resolve to repair my current ache through diligently practicing my exercises. As I lay on the floor stretching my right hamstring, I suddenly thought, “This is silly. How could I be angry with my body?” It’s just a body, not a being with conscious intent. That would be like feeling anger at my car because it wouldn’t start.

I know I’m not my body. My body is a vehicle I manage, and it was me I was angry with; angry for not making the time to care for myself in a way that’s loving and forgiving of its physical flaws.

Still, I had judgment. Self-judgment that here I am, writing as I often do that a loving and kind relationship with ourselves is a prerequisite for the same with others, and not walking the talk.

That night, one of the huskies helped me see the lesson, and helped me take a gentler stance.

While making dinner, I accidentally stepped on Heather’s paw. She jumped, began to slightly bare her teeth, and then softened. I embraced her, and she cuddled into my arms. In the five months she’s been with us, she has been working to outgrow a fear response to pain from the abuse she suffered. I was struck by her progress as I recalled the first weeks with her. I saw it as just a residual shadow, but indicative of a long process of letting go of what appears like a reflex response. At once, I knew the same was true for me.

When life gets busy and demands for my time are heightened, I can forget to take care of myself. It’s a reflex response like Heather’s. And like hers, it’s dissipating over time. Like hers, it responds best to love and kindness.

I feel qualified to repeat the advice I’ve offered before. Care for yourself. You’re the only self you’ve got.


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!