Reacting vs. Responding

IMG_0551I realize it’s ironic that I’m posting this now, considering I had a meltdown last week, but since I’d written it a while back, here it is.

The difference between reacting and responding is that reacting to a stressful situation is based on emotion, while responding is based on reason. I believe my newfound ability to respond instead of reacting to unexpected situations by crying, going back to bed, and just shutting down in general, has improved because I keep a structured life, and because I meditate (which is part of my daily routine). When I know what to expect most of the time, I can usually handle the unexpected things that pop up (except for last week).

Anyway, while walking the dog a few weeks ago, I responded to something unexpected, and it was one of the things that falls under my thoughts/worries of “The Worst Case Scenarios While Walking the Dog,” which used to keep me from from doing it alone because of anxiety.

Before taking Rudy out, I always make sure I have a poop bag torn off the roll and in my righthand pocket before we leave. On this particular day, after he did his business, the bag wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened to it; it was just gone. We have a roll of bags attached to his leash, but it was empty. Fortunately, I grabbed a new one on our way out, but didn’t bother putting it into the dispenser.

I tried removing a bag from the roll, but I had gloves on, and the plastic was slippery so it started to unravel. I became flustered, but that was nothing compared to how I felt when another person just happened to be walking his dog and approaching the corner we were on at that same moment.

My heart began racing because I knew what would happen, and it did: the dogs lunged and barked at each other. Normally, I would have been able to handle that, but there I was, with Rudy’s leash in one hand trying to pull him towards me, while bent over and trying to pick up poop with my other hand.

So one of The Worst Case Scenarios While Walking the Dog happened. And I handled it. Luckily, the guy turned the corner and went in the opposite direction. Both dogs calmed down, and I cleaned up after Rudy.

Sure, I was stressed out. I could have reacted to the situation by crying (which I sometimes do when frustrated) all the way home, and then yelling at and complaining to my husband about what happened and how awful it was and creating this huge drama, and stopped walking the dog for a while.

Instead, I responded, even though I was anxious and distressed, and took care of the situation. When we got home, I calmly told my husband what happened, and was even able to laugh about it because the whole thing was a comedy of errors. I still think that it’s one of The Worst Things That Can Happen While Walking the Dog, but if it happens again, I know that I’m equipped to handle it.

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