On Becoming Pack Leader

Had yet another incident this morning while out with Brody in which he lunged at another dog, almost without warning. This time, the other dog’s person was not understanding, in that he was not putting up with such behaviour and escorted his dog safely away immediately.

I felt terrible.

In talking about it with one of Brody’s treats ladies, who was with us at the time, I realized that one of his triggers might be the nose-to-nose greeting, particularly with dogs who are bigger than him. This was a puppy, but on the larger size, and she got right up in his face, right from the start, to which Brody said a whole lotta no. Apparently some dogs find that sort of greeting to be kind of stressful, and prefer to be approached from the side, instead. I noticed long ago that Brody shies away from direct frontal contact, even when it’s me reaching down to pet him. He prefers to ease into it, which I can fully understand.

Regardless, though, if things keep on like this, he’s going to get himself killed.

So naturally, I took to the internet, and delved into Cesar’s Way, website of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer.

Now, I’ve stated several times – even as recently as yesterday – that I am not a good leader. This holds true for being a Pack Leader to Brody, as well, but in that case, neither of us can afford for me to not be one any longer. Really, I should have looked things like this up before Brody and I even met, but I was looking up a whole whack of stuff, trying to be prepared, and a person can only anticipate so much. Especially when one has never really realized that one would have to be a Pack Leader. I am the opposite of Alpha, so I have a lot of learning to do, anyway, but I think I’ve already taken great strides in just realizing that I have to come at all of it a different way.

Kind of like some of the lessons Hudson the polar bear taught me, actually. I saw things differently because of him, and now I am learning to see things differently because of Brody. It’s just time for teaching and learning between the two of us to stop being a one-way street. Brody needs me to lead, and so lead is what I’ll do.

Or I am learning to do.

One of Cesar’s rules is to live in the moment, not regret the past nor fear the future. Dogs live in the moment, and I need to, as well. Which I have already been thinking recently, anyway, I just needed a nudge to commit to it more resolutely. So instead of talking about what I will do, I’m attempting to talk about what I am doing. Or at least trying to do.

There is a lot to learn. And everybody is different so Brody and I will of course need to figure things out based on who we each are, but more importantly, who we are together. I just wanted so badly for him to love me – we came together because we’d both lost his girl and needed some extra love. While I have no intention of holding back affection, of course, I do intend to step up and be the Pack Leader he deserves. I now understand that’s what will create an even more loving bond between us than we already have.

Getting to know him has exceeded my needs and hopes from the get-go. Now it’s time for me to exceed his needs, too.

Love you beyond reason or measure, Brodykins. Time for us to both learn what that really means.

We got this.

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Officially Amazing

According to my Facebook memory feed, it was one year ago today that I first learned I was officially a Guinness World Record holder. I started to cry pretty much immediately. Tears of happiness, relief, vindication – a myriad of emotions went through me in the moments following that message. I had to read it twice to be sure that it was real; that I had actually done it.

I actually had.

I needed to confirm a couple of things for them, and even then it would be a few days before the website reflected The Mind Reels’ official amazing-ness, so I decided to only tell a couple of people right then, and make it all more public later. Tim and I created an announcement video to thank those who had donated to our crowd-funding campaign prior to the event, but the majority of the celebration would have to wait until after visible proof was available.

I got home from work that evening and cracked open the bottle of craft beer that one of our lovely guests had gifted to us at the event. I’d told her that I would only open it once I’d heard back from GWR, and drink it either in celebration or to drown my sorrows.

Naturally, I drank it from my Guinness glass.

I’ve had mixed emotions about the whole thing all along, really. It was almost exactly a year between the time I came up with the idea to attempt breaking the record, and receiving the notification that I’d been successful. It was a bittersweet success, however, because I’d also learned a lot of hard truths along the way, and the toll it took on me – on every level – is still affecting me even now.

All the stress and anger and frustration and just staying awake for 55+ hours wrecked my body, of course, but it also did some damage to my state of mind, my heart, and my spirit. I learned that I am a terrible leader, in that I do not inspire confidence nor action in anyone else. I learned that things would likely go better if I just set out to do them myself from the start, because depending on anyone else to step up and help will only end in stress and failure. Most heart-breaking, though, was learning that I’m unable to get others to see my vision and work towards helping me to make it a reality.

That whole thing was intended to be an event to pull the entire channel together, raise our visibility in the public eye, and propel us all forward as a team. Instead, it ground everything to a halt, and even a year and a half later, we are still struggling to get started back up again. Those of us who are struggling at all, I mean. Most just seem to have stopped all together.

I couldn’t even get local media interested, even though I was trying to shine a light on Canadian talent, among other things.

Learning that we are no longer the official record-holders made me want to take another run at it – to make it bigger, stronger, better – rather than feel defeated by it. I have SO MANY ideas for making the attempt epic – even more so than the first one was envisioned to be – but it would require a lot of teamwork, and I do not have the ability to inspire that in others. I can’t even get my own little show going again, let alone something on that grand a scale.

And this isn’t me being down on myself, really. Maybe a little, but I feel like it’s mostly me being down on everyone else, and just trying to be nicer and more polite about it than I actually feel much of the time. Since the GWR attempt elevated my awareness of how things are, I’ve been constantly torn between asking for help to make other visions a reality, and just doing things myself/not doing them at all. Even small things require effort, and while I am no stranger to putting in said effort, I recognize that I can’t do everything myself. Not well, at least. So I’m not sure whether to focus and do one thing as well as I am able (despite my admittedly mediocre talent or ability), or do a few things half-assed, or accept offers of assistance, even though I no longer believe in anyone’s ability to follow through.

That’s pretty much the crux of it, I think. I don’t know what it is about me that makes those closest to me not believe in me, as I’ve proven time and time again that I am stubborn enough, at the very least, to do what I say I’m going to do. From where I sit, it’s everyone else who is falling short of the example I set. From a relatively young age, I’ve tried to lead by example, in fact. Yet for some reason, however, no one follows. It often makes me frustrated and angry, yet it’s an impotent anger – the kind that lets me cry and yell and stamp my feet and even slam the door…but still go to my room.

Maybe it’s time for me to focus on finding the source of that disconnect; the reason that I don’t inspire the confidence in others that I feel in myself – that I start off feeling in all of us, until I am let down yet again. I think I need to figure out what it is about me that holds people back from believing in me, and also determine why I keep giving out second chances, hoping for different outcomes, and whether or not I should continue to do so.

I broke a Guinness World Record, guys. Just imagine what else I can do – and how much more we could do together.

Because I imagine it all the time, you know. And it’s amazing.

Sometimes I even feel sorry for some of you, because you can’t see it, too.

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Making An Attempt

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I keep thinking that, had I known ahead of time that I’d have to do most of the work involved with making my Guinness World Record attempt by myself, that I would have done a better job. I would have taken on each facet of the attempt head on from the beginning, instead of thinking someone else was taking care of certain aspects, and then having to scramble late in the game when I found out that wasn’t the case. I feel like I accomplished a lot, and ultimately the attempt itself was successful, but I’ve always been kind of disappointed in myself for not trying harder to make the event more of what I’d envisioned in the beginning. I’m still – more than a year later – trying to get the footage posted online, and the fact that I’m having to use the back-up footage with it’s crappy sound quality is a constant source of frustration and regret. Just – for example.

I go back over it all in my head, and make vague plans for “next time”, how I’ll do it bigger and better, and basically blow myself away with my ingenuity and creativity.

There is, of course, another possible outcome to finding out that I am doing something alone. It’s possible that I just won’t do it at all.

That’s where constant nagging self-doubt comes into play. When I didn’t know I’d have to do something alone, but was too stubborn to admit defeat, I can usually accomplish what I set out to do, or at least a stripped-down yet still acceptable version of it. If I know ahead of time that it’s all me, though, then the stubbornness doesn’t have a chance to kick in. Because I don’t set my mind to it yet.

Retrospect tells me I could have done something on my own, but looking ahead – it’s not that I see failure, exactly. It’s more like I don’t see anything at all.

Which is weird, because if we take my amazing idea for a themed bar as an example, I’ve been thinking up the steps to take to make it happen, how it will run, and how it will keep drawing customers. But all of it, in my head, involves a team. Even though the whole thing just exists in my head – and my head alone – it comes with an imaginary team of individuals who help along the way. One of those I-couldn’t-have-done-it-without-you things. Only I haven’t done it. I haven’t done anything but think about it. And even my thinking about it involves other people. Just not the thoughts of, nor input from, other people. Haha

So, I guess my thing is this: I can conceive of things without help, I can retroactively see how to have done it without help, yet I can’t seem to translate that into any sort of sense that I can actually do anything without help.

Or maybe I just don’t want to. Who wants to do everything alone, really? Also, I have trouble delegating, because it’s often easier for me to just do something than to explain to someone else how to do it…though that may be a product of my work environment for the past 15 years, now that I think about it. But maybe despite all that, I still long for a team to take part in my vision, and to share in its outcome with me. To make the seed of an idea in my head grow into something we can all be proud of, together.

It’s like my head wants to work as a team, but I can’t make my reality translate that desire into a functional outcome. It’s a push-me, pull-you battle inside me, all the time. I really want to do something – and then remind myself that I can’t. I start and stop a project internally, and nothing ever actually happens outside of my brain. And that’s ridiculous.

I’m a strong believer in balance, in trying to find balance in my daily life. Though, on a physical level, I have terrible balance. And I’m afraid of heights. I can’t even walk across a bridge in a video game without falling off. It’s humiliating yet hilarious.

Anyway, maybe there’s a balance to be sought here, too. Maybe there’s a way for me to take the first step or two on my own, and use that progress (assuming I make any…let’s call it the initial manifestation of my personal think-tank, the physical outline of my idea, instead of ‘progress’) to begin putting my dream team together. Even if it just leads to a brainstorming session with a couple of people, which opens up other ideas and questions to add to the list, that still has to be better than brainstorming with myself, doesn’t it?

And then those actual people might take a more vested interest in the whole project, because they will be involved from the beginning. Of course, everyone was involved from the beginning of the Guinness attempt, but at the same time, once we’d had an initial meeting about it, everyone kind of went their own ways, and we didn’t reconvene until it was way too late. I assumed things were happening, but I should have checked in more often just to keep everyone on point. You live, you learn. And I really did learn a lot. So hopefully if and when I do something like that again, I’ll be far better equipped to make it a success.

First, though, I might have to dip my toe into the waters of this themed bar idea.

Just in case.

On This Day

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With Contessa at Jungle Cat World 2015

Today happens to be the 7th anniversary of what was arguably the worst day of my life.

Melodramatic, I know.

And for sure worse things have happened. But it’s not so much how the day itself went, as the effect it had on me then, and continues to have on me now.

I was pretty sure my life was over, and in some ways, I was kind of right. Obviously it wasn’t physically over, because I’m still here writing about stuff. But something broke inside me, and I’m not sure it’ll ever be repaired. I’m not sure it can be. I’m forever changed, and for the most part, that’s okay.

For the most part.

But that day, I stopped participating in my life. I stopped showing up. I stopped being present.

I stopped dreaming.

And none of that is okay.

I can, of course, look back and point out a thousand things I’ve done since that day that would seem to prove the opposite of that claim. I’ve written 4 very different novels and self-published two of them. I’ve opened an Etsy store of geeky crafts I make by hand all by myself. I wrote my first screenplay. I am a Guinness World Record Holder. I pet a freaking TIGER! I participate in a successful blog and podcast called the Mind Reels, and that has opened countless doors to opportunities that were unimaginable to me before we started. I’ve forged friendships with people I’d previously only watched on television. I’ve dealt with my MS fairly well thus far, as well as my depression, therapy, the loss of my Kate Kitten, and the addition of my current furbabies into my adopted family. I’ve got a great apartment that is tricked out to display my geekdom to…well, me, mostly. I don’t really have guests very often.

Anyway – clearly I’ve lived. I’ve been living. I’m alive. I’m gaining wrinkles and lines and scars like a freaking BOSS.

But none of that has really set in. I don’t have any confidence in myself as a person. I actually lost a lot of my swagger in 2003, which is a large part of the reason why I can have a teaching degree without ever having set foot in a classroom as a paid teacher. I just stopped believing I could do it. And then in 2007, I stopped believing I could do anything. I stopped believing I was a good choice to be here, in this world. I stopped believing I had anything of value to contribute.

So since that day in 2007, I’ve basically been killing time. And it’s pretty miserable. Even when I do awesome things, the feeling I get from having done it is so fleeting. So temporary. More like a dream of something that happened, instead of something I actually did or participated in. Because the walls are up now and they are very high – I can’t see over them. I just imagine what’s on the other side and once in awhile I imagine myself over there, too, but it doesn’t feel real. It’s just a daydream to pass the time, from one day to the next. For seven years.

Now, in my very logical brain, I know that this is my thing to remedy. I know it was a ridiculous response in the first place, and to drag it out this long is even more so. It’s become a habit. I can’t even remember how to be different anymore.

So what I need to do is find a new way to be different.

Which sounds simple, but even as I type it, competing thoughts exist in my head at the same time.

For example, I have what I think is an amazing idea for a themed bar/pub I’d love to open. I know it’s amazing because it’s somewhere I’d freaking LOVE to frequent. I have it all set up in my head, and some even on paper. I’ve researched a series of possible steps to take to make it happen. And then I remember – I’ve never worked in a bar, let alone run one. I’ve never run ANY sort of business before. I’ve never even been a manager, unless you count those months at the Great Canadian Bagel when I got promoted to manager of our kiosk because all the other staff returned to school in the fall. But I don’t really think that counts.

I have a pretty good idea about what customers want, as I’ve been in customer service since forever, and that alone makes me a great customer for others. But would it make me a great business owner? Not bloody likely.

But man, the place would be incredible. Maybe. It COULD be incredible, at least.

And that’s part of the problem, too, really. I see so much possibility in my head, but as soon as I try to get things rolling, they…stop rolling. Even my Guinness World Record attempt – while fun – was a far cry from what I’d envisioned. I don’t think I’m much of a leader. And I have no idea if that’s a chicken or egg thing, even. Do I feel like a bad leader and therefore no one is inspired to follow me? Or is no one inspired to follow me because I am not leadership material?

Is it all just a self-fulfilling prophecy?

If things had been different on this day in 2009, safe to say I wouldn’t have done many – if any at all – of the things I’ve ended up doing since. But maybe they would have been better. Maybe I’d be a better writer, or a stronger leader, or a full-time teacher.

But maybe they wouldn’t have happened at all. Impossible to say what’s for the best. All any of us have is what actually happened, and how we choose to deal with it.

And thus far, I have chosen poorly. Like that guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade who picked the wrong goblet.

I want to do better, but my mind is at war with itself, and it’s hard to know in which direction I should take my next step. Still, there is one key difference between now and that day 7 years ago.

Unlike this day in 2009, I’m now willing to take a next step.

And that could very well make all the difference in the world.

Besides – I really, really want to hang out in my imaginary pub. I’d participate the shit outta that if it were real.