My dog Detroit is very good at letting me know when someone is at the door or the phone is ringing or there is a squirrel in the yard. Even though I assure her that I know these things and she does not need to bark, it does no good. She will bark incessantly until I answer the door or the phone—or let her out to chase the squirrel.She seems to think it is her job to warn me of these perceived threats.But in other situations, Detroit is likely to sit quietly and wait for me to intuit what she wants. Sometimes, I find her lying by the back door waiting to go out or sitting by the pantry that holds her treats. Then I say to her, “Use your words.”
It seems to me that she is good at telling me when she thinks I am in danger, but not so good about telling me what she needs or wants.
I wonder if she learned that from me. Has she watched me sit home waiting for someone to ask me to go out? Is she tired of being hugged because I am afraid to ask for a hug from anyone else?
Sometimes on Saturday mornings when I am cleaning the house, I turn on pop music and dance while I clean. If Detroit comes into the room, I might pick her up and dance with her. I can almost hear her say, Get a life.
I admit it: I am not good at using my words to ask for what I need or want.
What words do I use to let someone know I want a treat—whether it is something sweet or a hug or an affirmation? How do I ask to go out, to be with others and have some fun?Since moving to Michigan four years ago, and leaving behind people who knew me very well, I have been even more challenged to ask for what I want or need. Admitting I need or want anything makes me feel vulnerable, and feeling vulnerable is one of my least favorite things.
After I was here for about two years, my spiritual director commented that it didn’t seem that I was initiating social contacts. She was right. My grief and sadness at all I had lost or left behind had incapacitated me from initiating. I just did not have the energy to risk rejection.
And I could see how harmful that was. I was spiraling deeper and deeper into myself; it was a grand pity party.Since then, I have pushed myself to ask friends to go to concerts or out to dinner, and I do more things on my own, like visiting art galleries.
But, I know I have a ways to go in asking for what I need or want. Telling Detroit to use her words is a great prompt for me look at how well I am doing at using my words.