Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy, Safe and Warm

This post first appeared as a "Guest Post" on Carla is amazing - check her out!

The Hubs and I rescued this pitbull two years ago.  He's anxious, sometimes unpredictable, and early on, there were moments when he was downright scary.

We didn't know his history.  His behaviour and responses were like nothing we'd encountered in previous pets.  We wondered how to train him.  We worried if we didn't fix him address the behaviours, he'd do something really bad and end up euthanized. Longstoryshort, we brought in a professional who taught us how to teach this dog.  How to read him, how to redirect him.  How to remind him that he doesn't have to be in charge all the time.  And slowly, he learned to trust that we could keep him safe.

He still gets agitated sometimes, and when he does, one way I calm him is to make him sit (this is essential - he can't "hear" me if he's too agitated to sit), and I kneel (get down on his level), hold him steady with my face right by his (but not blocking his view of The Scary Thing That's Got Him Upset) and whisper as calmly as possible:

The world is a happy, safe and warm place.
No one and nothing can hurt you here.

Happy, Relaxed Louie
Until Louie bounded into our lives, I don't think I ever gave much voice to my own feelings on whether the world is truly a happy, safe and warm place.  Certainly people and things can hurt me (and have, of course).  From my early teenage years until I was... well into my 20's I guess, I can't quite say... I didn't really find the world to be all that happy, safe and warm.  For a variety of reasons that I won't go into, there was a great deal of instability in my life that carried on even once I had the ability to control such things (which one cannot do as a teen, but somewhere between 14 and 25 that responsibility shifts and it's on you, right?)  During that time, I would not have used any of those words, Happy-Safe-Warm to describe my experience of life in general.

I can identify the moment when that began to shift.  It wasn't a switch that was flipped (I don't feel safe did not overnight become I Feel Safe), but the day I met The Hubs, my world view began to change.  It was not "love at first sight" but within a matter of weeks, I found myself gravitating to wherever he was.  I wanted to cocoon myself in his apartment and never leave.
Louie is a fan of the Cocoon Lifestyle
I wouldn't have used these words at the time, but looking back,

I felt that as long as I was there, 
I was cloaked in something that made me feel 
Happy, Safe, and Warm.  
I felt that no one and nothing could hurt me, as long as I stayed inside of that bubble

And why would anyone leave such a bubble?  Ever?

The Hubs is a talker.  When he's happy, he's talking.  When he's angry, he's talking (but louder).  When he's reminiscing, he's talking (storytelling, more slowly).  When he's tipsy, he's talking (animatedly). When he's agitated, he's talking (faster and about anything and everything BUT the thing that has him agitated). He was willing and able to do all the talking, and he didn't need me to say much.  No pressure to talk about my feelings (yech) or my history (oh dear god no I don't want to get into that) or my plans for the future (at that point there were none to speak of) or my worries or my fears or any other damn thing.  I could sit with my feelings and listen to him and when (if) I wanted to talk, he'd listen.  Meantime, he would carry our conversations.

I wasn't SILENT, mind you.  I just didn't want to talk about anything REAL.  Not then.  I wanted to stay in the bubble, and I didn't want to acknowledge that anything else existed. And these days, The Hubs is one of maybe three people I really want to "get real" with.  (Yes, I know.  Louie isn't the only one around here with Trust Issues.) (Or maybe not? Maybe all anyone really needs is those three people.)

I read two posts from Carla Birnberg recently that sort of rattled my brain, kept bouncing around and wouldn't leave me. The first, about the concept of having a Safe Person, brought all this history to mind.  It reminded me how unstable, unsafe I felt in the Bad Old Days of my early 20's.  It reminded me what a blessing I have in The Hubs.  He has been my Safe Person.  We didn't call it that, though.  We just said "You're my favorite thing to do."

The second was this post about... well, to be honest, her words prompted me to talk to others about it, and I have had trouble explaining what this post is about!  I guess the way I read it, it's about the definition of "listening."  It touched me and reminded me of a specific conversation.  Her post resonated with me so much that I commented:

I worry often that The Hubs thinks i’m never listening. He’s a “yammerer” too and in the earlier days of our relationship when we’d snuggle into the wee hours I would often fall asleep, ear to his chest, listening to his voice.
I asked him if it hurt his feelings when I’d fall asleep while he was mid-sentence. He brushed it off – I think it DID, at least a little, hurt his feelings. Until I explained:
“Your voice calms me like a lullaby. It makes me feel happy, safe and warm. I never want you to stop talking and I never want to interrupt.”

We don't really snuggle late into the night these days like we used to. (When did that stop? And WHY? I resolve to incorporate more snuggling.)

He is STILL my Safe Person, my favorite thing to do.  
He still makes me feel Happy, Safe, and Warm.  
When we met

20 years later

Last weekend - Snuggling RETURNS!

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