The Puppiness Project – Keep the Big Picture in Mind

Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever.

Confidence given by squirrels.

Golden Retriever standing on couch to look out the window.

Stop wiggling. You're making it hard to see what's going on.

Honey isn’t a bold dog. After tripping once while dragging a big toy up the stairs, she’ll whimper at the bottom of the stairs while she tries to figure out if she’s brave enough to try it again. And she’s very uncertain if surfaces move under her feet.

Honey’s not the kind of dog that I need to worry will get onto the counters while I’m at work. Too scary.

And yet, when something important comes along, Honey gets a confidence boost. She does what she must keeping the big picture in mind.

Yesterday Honey heard something outside the front window. I assume it was a squirrel in the tree. Cautious pup, the one who is afraid of unsteady footings and tripping, climbed my body to get a good view out the window. She balanced with two paws on the back of the sofa and two on me. She was absolutely fearless.

Keeping the big picture in mind.

I feel like I’m at a low point in my confidence right now. I’m coming off my first major illness after years of being healthy. I’m still feeling pain related to my month-past bicycle accident. I had a really hard time writing recently although I usually find blogging pretty easy.

Oh, and I’m slowly converting to a full head of silver hair after more than a decade of dying those grey hairs that started appearing when I was 18 years old (just about the time I met my now husband; a coincidence? I doubt it).

I certainly don’t feel smart enough or strong enough or ambitious enough to pursue all the plans I’ve made for 2012. I could really use a shot of confidence.

I need to lift my eyes from the silly fears I have right now and look toward my goals for the future.

Learning from Honey

The reason it’s hard to teach Honey to ride in the Doggy Ride bike trailer is because I can’t share the big picture, as I see it, with her. I can’t say, “Honey, as soon as you feel comfortable riding in the trailer, I’ll take you to the Dog Park to run around with your friends.”

But when Honey knew something interesting was outside the window, she was willing to challenge her fears to see it. She kept the squirrel (or dog or child or blowing paper) in her mind and climbed a very unsteady surface to get access to the window.

I need to remind myself that every brave step I take will get me closer to the life I want to live.

Maybe it’s time to paste a picture of my squirrel to my computer monitor.

Monday Mischief Pet Blog Hop

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  1. Erin, Trump, Bubbles & Texas says:

    Very True! :)

  2. I got my first white hair at 12. By 32 I was completely white. I have never once dyed my hair. I look like my own grandmother, and I have such a young face that I’d look ten years younger with brown hair… but I just can’t be bothered. The time and expense aren’t worth it to me. I hope you will find your true hair colour liberating rather than depressing. And if Mike doesn’t mind, why should you?

    I’m sorry you’ve had such a tough time of it recently. I have not been keeping up, and I’m sorry to hear you’ve been both ill and injured. May you make a full recovery from both, and find the Pamela energy I know is there to keep chugging after those goals I am sure you can achieve!

    • Thanks for the encouragement.

      Personally, I find silver hair beautiful. Even when I look at my own in isolation I find it pretty.

      I can’t tell if I’m more bothered by having a full head of white hair in my 40s or by how bothered I am by something so shallow. :)

  3. I find my gray hairs comforting – a badge of honor to show I’ve lived life. Course I’m the annoying 32 year old with only a few (dozen) silvers so far so take that with a grain of salt!

    You and Honey will get there – with conquering fears and training to enjoy that darn bike trailer!

  4. What a great idea! Sometimes it’s so hard to feel motivated when there are so many other distractions screaming at you. It’s definitely hard to tune all the negative voices out, especially when they are your own. 😛

    Most of my goals this year revolve around getting Shiva to a trial. For whatever reason, I have been letting many other things take priority, including blogging. Focussing my energy on a single task is not my strong suit, apparently.

    Good luck finding your squirrel! I know when you do, you will be unstoppable!

    • Sounds, Kristine, like you are chasing a few dozen squirrels instead of using one to motivate you to bigger and better things. :)

      That said, you’ve come so far with Shiva. The trial will come when you’re ready for it.

  5. I can’t comment on the hair, I’m very vain and so I dye it every month. :-(

    As for the confidence part, sometimes I find myself really lacking in the confidence area and afraid to take the next obvious step. All I can tell you is look at the things you are doing and have accomplished. You’re an amazing woman, you have a great readership and everyone looks up to you. Not to mention you’ve given up your car, you’ve learned to sail and you also brokered a peace treaty. Sometimes when we are faced with a wall it’s easy to focus what’s in front of us, instead of what’s behind us.

    I believe in you Peter Pan.

  6. Look at that pupper using you like a human ladder! What a stinker. I guess when the motivation is strong enough we can get past our fears – and maybe even forget about them entirely. Somehow though, I don’t see that resulting in my attempting sky diving anytime soon.

    • I’d say you must know something about working through fear. I can’t imagine what kind of process you went through to sell your house and take to the road. Talk about the great unknown!

  7. First of all, it’s nice to have your back – I’ve missed your posts! So sorry to hear that you were so sick and that you had a cycling accident (ouch!).

    Don’t even get me started about the gray hair. Why does it look so handsome on my hubby? I read this article in Yoga Journal ( over a year ago, and wished that I could be okay with letting my hair go gray, but apparently, I’m not ready yet. Of course, she looks absolutely lovely with gray hair, and I’m sure you will too :)

    Sorry you are feeling down, I’m glad Honey is there to remind you that all you need is a squirrel to get you going!

  8. @Amy = my dad went skydiving (tandem) at 70 y/o. He had a blast and I have the video to prove it :).
    Pamela, you are an amazing person – I so wish I could sit and chat with you in real life and time. One thing my dad told me with each of my surgeries is “in six months, this will be all over.” I talked with a patient the other night and we agreed – however it comes out will be OK.
    You are and will be OK. Look, you’re a stepladder for your fearful dog as she ignores her fears to protect YOU :).
    I’ve been going silver very slowly over the past couple years (I’m 58); I kinda look forward to my silver (not grey) hair! Go for it, girl!

    • Awww, thanks Roberta. Your dad sounds like a wise (and brave) man.

      So is the hidden message here that I should use the time I’m saving by not coloring my hair to learn skydiving? Please tell me you didn’t mean that. I’m really scared of heights. :)

  9. I think confidence comes with motivation. We can’t rush confidence any more than we can rush abilities we need to develop. Of course squirrels DO help develop both. Metaphorical squirrels or real ones.

    • You’re so right that motivation helps us take the steps toward building confidence. I think I need to clarify just what I hope to do so I’m more motivated.

      Honey knows exactly what she hopes to see out the window. But the image is a little murkier for me right now.

  10. How strange Pamela. I came out of being sick with the crud (as I suspect you and Mary Haight had recently) feeling the very same way. I hadn’t been sick in 4 years (since I last worked for my company). I found it really hard to be motivated and a bit depressed too. Maybe the crud as a lasting side-effect? I hope it doesn’t last as long for you as it did for me. (I think Mary recovered much better than I did.) I didn’t want to do much of anything, including blogging.

    I also didn’t know that you had a bicycle accident. I am so sorry. I hope you weren’t seriously injured. So scary.

    As far as your gorgeous hair, wear it proudly. My mother went gray at 30 and dyed it for years. She looks younger than most people her age. Go figure. We’ll love you no matter what color your hair is my dear!

    • Somehow the combination of the flu, licking my (minor) bike accident injuries, and seeing more and more grey every time I look in the mirror is reminding me I’m no longer invulnerable. It’s time to take some chances and take advantage of whatever youth I have remaining.

      You’ve put me to shame. You were a much more productive blogger during your sick than I was. :)

      • No way I put you to shame. I didn’t blog for two whole weeks.

        I like your comment “t’s time to take some chances and take advantage of whatever youth I have remaining.” I think I will too. :)

  11. Pamela, I love your Puppiness Project because I love the way you bare yourself and I always find myself able to relate on so many levels. So sorry to hear about your illness and the accident. Believe I know all too well what it is like to not be sick and find yourself in some health issue that zaps the life out of you. I’m going through it now and it sucks. I am also one to put grave amounts of pressure on myself about everything. If my husband could he’d knock me up side the head with a 2 x4, I can get so insane about it. Conquering fears is hard, reality is hard both have nearly crushed me, but I keep finding success in those baby steps just the same. Maybe it is as easy as going after a squirrel, I don’t know, I think I’d need four legs to find out. :)
    And as far as the grey hairs, I thought I was going to die at 28 when I found my first one. Once I got over the shock, I’ve worn them with honor. I never thought I’d live long enough to have any, so I’m pretty proud of them.
    I don’t know if I have any great words of wisdom, except that I can relate and that you are not alone. And I’d like to thank you for all of the ways you have helped me and didn’t even know it.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll try to wear my greys with honor.

      And make sure you don’t let you husband get anywhere near a 2 x 4. We don’t want him trying to knock any sense into you.

  12. I’m sorry you’ve been under the weather and feeling a bit down! Those things take more of a toll on us than we’d like to admit. I’m struggling with a few things right now myself. I can’t seem to find the time I need in a day to get to it all. Since I work in a germ factory, I usually go through a winter every three or four years where I catch every germ that exists.

    Kuster is fearless when it comes to climbing on things! I need to learn more about self assurance and confidence from him. I hope Honey overcomes her fear soon so you can expand your world and hers!

    • Kuster would be a great teacher. And I bet he’s not at all susceptible to the runny noses and sore throats that your students expose you to.

      I’m sorry you’re feeling overwhelmed right now. You’re one of the most amazingly productive and consistent bloggers I know. Maybe it’s time to congratulation yourself and rest on your laurels for a little while.

  13. Thank you so much for hosting!
    Kerry at HouseTalkN

  14. Going grey can be scary. I dyed my hair for years, just for fun and because I could, rather than because I was scared to see what colour my hair really was. A year or so ago I decided I’d just be me and hoped I’d have pretty silver hair by now (I’m 57) but it’s just ordinary mousey brown with a very light sprinkling of grey. So I’m envious of your silver locks and hope we’ll have an unveiling when it’s all here:)

    Another reason why you’re feeling down (as if you don’t have enough!) could be lack of sunshine? I get really blah durning winter for no other reason.

    I’m sure your confidence will return, you are a very strong woman and what don’t kill ya only makes ya stronger! Look out world (and squirrels) when Pamela is back:) I know you won’t let how you feel now keep you down very long.

  15. I would be willing to bet that when your squirrel is in front of your window you will indeed challenge your fears. You don’t strike me as a shrinking violet. :)

    As for seeing the big picture, it is funny you should say that you wish you could show Honey the big picture. Thunder is very much a “big picture” kind of learner. When ever we have struggled with his field training, he has always excelled once he understood the “big picture”. Storm on the other hand will do what you want (or not lol) task by task and that is about as far as she thinks. It is funny that our dogs are related, yet so very different in their thinking.

  16. You know, it must be the time of year, but I was sick and kind of felt defeated after as well. I’ve not been keeping up with some of the goals and plans I made last month, and I’ve been meaning to give myself a kick in the butt!

    However, I must say… you are one of the most amazing and inspiring people I know. With regard to anything you want to do, (with apologies to the Little Engine) I know you can, I know you can, I know you can… :)

  17. i’m so sorry that you’re feeling less than stellar about things, but i hope that you can look at that awesome picture of honey climbing you and smile and remember to chug on through.