Red Ross Redux

One subject I’m happy to revisit as much as it takes to put it permanently in the grave is my temper. I’ve made serious strides since I dug into this last time, but it remains a work in progress. While there are a couple places I still need to address, the reason I took off down this road in the first place is long gone in my rearview. I was able to maintain my new mindset in the face of repeated insults and injuries for more than two years. I kept my cool when I wanted to rage and retaliate. Maintaining control was something special for me, something memorable. The second time I held my ego in check when I had no other choice. Do or die. Live or lie. Clearly I made the right choices.

Although my relationships with friends, family and coworkers continue to strengthen and grow, there are two areas where my temper (ego if you will) still rules the roost. The most important one is something I am finally addressing in earnest right now, though not providing real-time commentary on stupid drivers has proved just as difficult to remedy. I’ve had my pit bull-boxer mix for more than four years now, and she’s been quite a handful. I was her third adoption and the notes from the foster family before me were in direct contradiction to the dog I took home. Nothing seems to stick when it comes to training, though age is finally slowing her down.

I’ve tried everything to moderate my approach, but being short-tempered and inflexible has been the go-to, thinking I was establishing firm boundaries of behavior while really creating the exact opposite. It’s far past time to take the same lessons learned five years ago as it relates to the humans in my life and apply them to my dog. Not sure why it took so long to make this realization, but I’m definitely ashamed I didn’t get there sooner. I’ve also learned to quickly forgive myself and move on as the essential first step toward making meaningful change, so I’ve already started to pay closer attention to my instinctive reactions to her instinctive reactions.

Like I did with my favorite humans, I’m lengthening my fuse with my favorite canine to the point where she can’t trigger me, can’t make me angry. I’m practicing the pause before I respond. I’m taking responsibility for the part I play in this relationship, which is to be the grownup in the room and provide firm, but gentle and loving direction when she’s reacts to external stimuli. Controlling that reactive nature isn’t a skill she’ll ever perfect, so I have to modify my expectations of what is possible within the existing reality. I became trapped in a reactive cycle of my own, a prison I’ve already proven to myself that I was more than capable of escaping.

Which leads me to the other area of my life where I embraced my temper without thinking. I don’t drive all the time, but when I do, it’s usually dropping off and picking up my kid from school. Which means I have an intelligent and impressionable audience for my consistent critical commentary on the stupidity of every other driver, though I do pay the occasional compliment when people do the right thing. For the last several months, I’ve been working on moderating the tone and tenor of those comments, but it still remains an impatient and instinctive reaction to the actions of others that is illogical no matter how carefully I chose my words.

The inadvertent lesson I’ve been teaching my kid is that blasting other people for their perceived shortcomings, even if they can’t hear you, is a perfectly reasonable character trait. Same thing with discipling our dog without humility and grace and a recognition of her inherent limitations. I wasn’t being my best self and succumbed to my demon in full view of the one person on Earth who should not have seen that guy again. Now that I am aware of this blind spot in need of fixing, I’m committed to making sure they never have to make excuses for inexcusable behaviors ever again.