This morning I was mulling over my Chinese food overload from last night and I saw our dog going through her usual bizarre dog-food ritual. She will approach her bowl, do a weird little backward dance, rear up on her back legs, then stealthily approach the dish AGAIN, take a small mouthful of food, back up quickly, drop the food on the ground and then eat it with her little ears flattened to her head. Every single bite happens this way.
We often laugh at her because it is truly amusing to watch. But we’ve analyzed WHY she does this every time she eats: it’s because she came from a place where there were twelve other dogs, and this was her mode of survival. She would have to jump up and down in order to SEE the bowl in the sea of other dogs. Then carefully plan her approach, sneak right in there at the right moment, then grab the food and back up to take it to a safe place to chew and swallow. She couldn’t just stand there, leisurely-like, and munch away.
We brought her home when she was 9 months old. She’s almost eight YEARS old now and still she does this. She hasn’t figured out that she is the only dog in the house and she does not NEED to do this. There’s no amount of reassuring that can break her of this ritual.
But it made me think of my own “rituals” and the things I do that began long, long ago. I know they don’t serve me. Did they ever? Many people have wondered why we eat to soothe our emotions even when we know we’ll feel worse in the long run. Because at one time, it DID work (or so we believed). Food actually does work as an anesthetic and can mute feelings that are too upsetting or just too MUCH. I think last night I had just reached the end of my proverbial rope. After worrying and caring for mom all week I had to go in and go to work for a longer day than I’d planned. I was exhausted, the worst seemed to have passed, and I just let it down.
Last night I got a good long night’s sleep. Today I am going for a nice long walk. I’m going to be gentle with myself, and learn once again what it means to take care of one’s self.