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2023 - Week 7 - The Calm Before the Puppy Storm

Posted on:February 18, 2023 at 06:50 PM

Cosmo who will soon become our puppy Ollie

It has been another exciting week around here as we’ve been preparing for our new family member and our trip to Arizona to pick up our puppy next week.

My job has been chugging along, I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the team on which I’ve landed. It’s surprising to me that it has taken so long for me to even start to feel “normal”. It’s been already a year since I took leave due to my burnout and I have had to do a lot of work around setting boundaries and prioritizing self-care. Those steps, however, seem to be working.

Lou continues to create beautiful objet d’art out of yarn. She’s also been focusing on rekindling her writing skills. She used to write lovely poetry but it has been many years since she’s put pen to paper for a variety of reasons, so this last week as seen her focusing on getting words from her head to the paper / screen. I’m so proud of her for her efforts!

Oz continues to enjoy their time in acting classes. There’s only two more classes less in this session and they’ll be missing one due to our trip, so we’ll have to consider what’s next for Oz’s acting training going forward.

This week’s Thursday Hike was a little more abbreviated than I would like, but I essentially found myself meditating and reflecting on a bench for a bit longer than normal. There was a lot on my mind and I wanted to give myself the space, and permission, to work through it all.

The News this last week has been dominated with stories about the US & Canadian military shooting down more “UFOs” over NORAD airspace, though none have actually been interesting. Other prominent news has revolved around the train derailment in Palestine, Ohio earlier this month as more and more people wonder about the dangers of having burned and released all the toxic chemicals over the local population such vinyl chloride. In other terrible news: the death toll for the Turkey/Syria earthquake is now over 46,000- which is tragic.

Despite all the tragedy and despair in the news, we’re all just expected to carry on with our lives.

So it goes.

Particularly due to the upcoming vacation and life changes I’ve been reflecting quite a bit this week on the similarity of the feelings of excitement and fear. It’s not always easy to change your mindset, but one of the best ways to push through fear is to re-frame it as excitement. The physical sensations are identical.

I decided to ask ChatGPT about it because that’s a great way to add some content without having to generate it myself:

What are some physical sensations associated with fear?

Fear can trigger a range of physical sensations in the body, including:

  1. Increased heart rate: The heart beats faster to pump more blood to the muscles and vital organs in preparation for the “fight or flight” response.
  2. Rapid breathing: The body may increase breathing rate to take in more oxygen in preparation for physical exertion.
  3. Sweating: Fear can cause sweating as the body tries to cool down and regulate temperature during physical exertion.
  4. Muscle tension: Fear can cause muscles to tense up, making them ready for action.
  5. Trembling or shaking: Fear can cause trembling or shaking as the body prepares for action.
  6. Nausea or digestive discomfort: The body may redirect blood flow away from the digestive system to the muscles, leading to nausea or digestive discomfort.
  7. Increased blood pressure: Fear can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure as the body prepares for physical exertion.
  8. Dilated pupils: Fear can cause the pupils to dilate to allow more light into the eyes, improving vision in low-light situations.

These physical sensations are a result of the body’s natural “fight or flight” response, which prepares the body to respond to perceived threats.

What are some physical sensations associated with excitement?

  1. Increased heart rate: Excitement can cause the heart to beat faster, pumping more blood to the muscles and organs.
  2. Quickened breathing: Excitement can cause a faster breathing rate, which can help supply more oxygen to the body.
  3. Tingling or “butterflies” in the stomach: Excitement can cause a fluttery sensation in the stomach due to the release of adrenaline.
  4. Sweating: Excitement can cause sweating, as the body tries to regulate its temperature during the physical exertion of the emotion.
  5. Heightened senses: Excitement can increase alertness and sharpen the senses, making sights, sounds, and smells more vivid and intense.
  6. Increased energy and restlessness: Excitement can lead to increased physical energy and restlessness, as the body prepares for action.
  7. Pupil dilation: Excitement can cause the pupils to dilate, which can improve vision in low-light conditions.

These physical sensations are the body’s natural response to excitement, which can be triggered by a variety of stimuli such as anticipation, novelty, and positive experiences.

How can one tell the difference between fear and excitement when the physical sensations are nearly identical?

It can be challenging to tell the difference between fear and excitement when the physical sensations are similar, as both emotions can produce a similar physiological response. However, there are some ways to distinguish between the two emotions:

  1. Interpretation of the situation: Fear is often associated with a perceived threat, while excitement is associated with positive anticipation. Consider the situation you are in and your thoughts and feelings about it. Are you excited about something you’re looking forward to, or are you afraid of a possible negative outcome?
  2. Focus on the emotion: Fear is typically associated with a negative emotion, while excitement is typically associated with a positive one. Try to identify the emotion that you’re feeling and whether it’s positive or negative.
  3. Context and personal experience: Consider the context of the situation and your personal experience. If you are familiar with a particular situation or activity and have had positive experiences in the past, the physical sensations you are experiencing may be excitement. On the other hand, if the situation is new or unfamiliar and has the potential for negative consequences, the physical sensations you are experiencing may be fear.
  4. Duration and intensity: Fear tends to be short-lived and intense, while excitement can be longer-lasting and more sustained. If the physical sensations persist over a longer period of time, it may be an indication that you are experiencing excitement rather than fear.

It’s important to note that fear and excitement can be closely related emotions and that the distinction between them is not always clear-cut. It’s also possible to experience both emotions simultaneously. If you’re having trouble identifying which emotion you’re feeling, it may be helpful to talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or a mental health professional.

That all tracks. ChatGPT, being an unfeeling automaton incapable of real thought, certainly offers some excellent suggestions here.

This topic has come to mind quite a bit lately as I have been excited about taking a trip to Phoenix with the family to bring home a dog as a new member of our family. This is a pretty big undertaking for us, and I’m simultaneously fearful and excited about the entire experience.

I’m also excited, and perhaps a little fearful, about meeting some colleagues in the Phoenix area. It’s been a while since I have interacted much socially with people “IRL”. Almost all my social interaction for the last several years has been via voice and video call. Meeting with people in the real world feels much more daunting now than it ever did before, and I’m strangely most worried about being recognized as a neurodiverse person despite having known these folks for years and their obviously being aware of who I am.

I am choosing, however, to lean into the excitement of it, rather than the fear. This is an opportunity to connect with people that I haven’t had in some time, and I’m going to continue to frame as excitement and anticipation despite how easily my brain tries to shift it into a negative light.

I’m also deeply excited about bringing home our new puppy friend. The biggest challenge for me has been to deal with the mourning and grieving related to pets that are no longer in my life. I miss my Amphetamine Annie Dog, I miss Beau and Roger, all wonderful dog companions. I miss Chester, and Psycho and Sarah, wonderful Guinea Pigs. I miss these and all the other animal companions that have been my emotional support animals before I even knew that was a thing.

Now we’re about to bring a new companion into our lives. Where I’m challenged is not looking ahead to the day when we lose him. I have this tendency to “pre-mourn” the inevitable and it can be difficult to avoid spiraling into the darkness.

Again, re-framing seems prudent. I’m forced to reflect, to meditate on the situation, and to adjust my way of thinking. Yes, our curse as humans to be forced to repeatedly outlive our companions, but that doesn’t mean that don’t get to enjoy the experience.

In the same way that our own end is inevitable shouldn’t stop you from making the most of the journey.