A Chew Toy A Day (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

Because I’m spending all my time at home, my dog has relaxed into a routine of playing with his toys more frequently in the afternoon than he previously did. He will chase a ball briefly and loves to “kill” certain toys. I purchased two new ones for him and they were delivered today. Before I could even remove the tags, he stole a small fox plush with a squeaker and ran off in delight. He has been playing with it for hours now and is semi-seriously guarding it when I get near. The joy and excitement it has brought him is making me smile from ear to ear and was well worth the money spent. I also bought him a small bull plush toy and he is loving gnawing on its ears. It was hard to judge the size and feel of each toy through a computer screen, so I’m pleasantly surprised at how well they have been received. If you have a pet, what is its favorite toy?

Snow in April (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I chose to store all my winter coats away last weekend and, well, it appears my assessment of the arrival of spring was slightly premature. It has snowed not once but twice this week, which is unusual for where I live this time of year. There were a good few inches of snow, so it is sticking on the grass but is also melting quickly as the temperature is near freezing. The most enjoyable sensory experience I had as my dog and I walked around my yard was the fresh smell of green grass and snowflakes. Each breath was rejuvenating even if I’m craving a bit of sunshine and a bike ride. What part of nature did you enjoy today?

A Pup in a Basket (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

After finishing my work this morning, which went well but felt chaotic, I needed to stretch my legs. I went outside with my dog at apparently the same moment everyone else in the neighborhood decided to do the same thing, which results in him barking left and right as there was nowhere we tried to walk that didn’t have another pup present. It was not relaxing!

I came home and regrouped. I decided to put him in the basket of my bicycle and go for a short ride. I’ve purchased a trailer for him but am not convinced I can attach it to my bike without breaking the entire wheel system; luckily for me, he only weighs 10 pounds and fits easily into my basket. We biked past another dog and he ignored it! It felt so good to have the warmth of the sun hitting my skin and the cool breeze blowing on me as I navigated the streets in my subdivision. I came home feeling refreshed and my dog has been napping ever since!

Unbridled Joy (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

My poor pup has been cooped up more than usual as of late, between the winter weather and my attempt to avoid unnecessary trips during the health crisis. I had a few housekeeping items crop up unexpectedly today, so I decided it was worth it to head to a local home improvement store that allows dogs in. His incessant whining the entire trip there let me know he was very excited about the trip.

As soon as we arrived at the store, my dog started leaping for joy as his feet hit the ground. He found the nearest human and tugged me in their direction. There was a family with several small children, who did not quite know what to make of such a small dog (he’s a Yorkie) enthusiastically sniffing their shoes and looking up at them in bliss.

I found the light bulbs I was looking for and headed off to another area of the store. We ended up behind another family, and my pup joined right in with them, ignoring their personal space and acting as though they obviously wanted him to tag along. I normally keep very close tabs on him, but, between trying to locate and carry several items, he kept sneaking closer to people than I realized he was.

He met the first family again at the cash register. The young boy who had at first drawn back from him didn’t reach to pet him, but did give him more attention as he stood facing him. My dog was in heaven, surrounded by new humans who might, just might, let him sniff them and perhaps even pet them.

I am in love with the innocence and earnestness with which my dog approaches people. Me in dog form would totally be bearing teeth and foaming at the mouth at anyone who approached; thankfully, he is not me. The fact that he seems to believe he owns the entire warehouse, barking loudly at any other dogs who dare to enter, and prancing around as though it’s been too long since he took stock of his playground, never ceases to bring a smile to my face. I’m reminded of what seems to be my grounding statement this year–there is more beauty than pain in the world. I am so happy to have witnessed it today.

Running with My Dog (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

It is only since starting T that I’ve had any desire to go for a run. I’ve met people who talk about running as stress relief and their remarks have, until recently, baffled me. Normally, I get winded very quickly and do not have enough stamina to run any distance, but I’ve been so wound up as of late that it felt like running was the only way through my feelings. I used a running leash for my dog and we took off!

My dog is a Yorkie, so he is not built for endurance. He got worn out before I did which let me feel like I was “winning” our race (he would definitely best me in a sprint, however!). I slowed down for him and enjoyed the feeling of my legs in flight. I did still have a bit of discomfort in my upper chest where my lungs and/or blood vessels constricted, but it wasn’t as bad as it used to be. Given that there is still snow on the ground and it is below freezing, I feel that my pup and I have lots of nice runs ahead of us in the coming months.

What’s your favorite stress relief when you are angry and/or feel that you have excessive energy to burn? If you run, what season and location do you prefer? Do you run with your pet?

A Crisis Averted (Today’s Moment of Gratitude)

My dog is much less anxious than I am, and his willingness to barge into situations head-on can get him into trouble. This past week was no exception as he managed to eat a few foreign objects and I was highly concerned he was going to have an intestinal blockage. Today, I got the best Valentine’s present ever when he passed the item about which I was most concerned through. I never expected to celebrate poop, but here we are!

The relief I felt as a potentially life-threatening situation coupled with thousands of dollars in costs faded from view was overwhelming bliss. It got me thinking, though, about how my mind works. I was left wondering whether part of the reason I am extremely anxious and frequently feel like I’m on the edge of disaster is because, when the storm clouds clear and the sun comes out, the physical response I feel negatively reinforces me to respond to the next threat in an equally overwhelmed manner.

I am much more punishment-averse than I am reinforcement-seeking, and this experience has given me possible insight into my internal experiences that might be maintaining that discrepancy. I’m curious what it would be like, the next time I am catastrophizing, to ask myself “how good will it feel when this situation is resolved and I don’t have to worry anymore?” I have no idea what I will actually be like when my own mortality comes to call, but I think it strikes me as the resolution of everything and I anticipate relief rather than anxiety might overtake me.

Perhaps my gratitude isn’t all feelings of joy because something good has occurred, but also the feeling of my body stepping out of fight and flight into a more peaceful state. I am so, so appreciative that my weekend might not be spent in the fullness of anxiety I had anticipated it being. What’s something you’ve felt relieved about lately? What is the balance for you of seeking rewards and trying to avert danger?

Sensory Indulgence (In the Cards)

Today’s card encouraged me to contemplate which of my senses might need some extra pampering. The two that come to mind are my sense of hearing and my sense of touch. I have felt really over-stimulated lately in terms of noises, and underwhelmed in terms of my experience of touch.

Misophonia misery

I struggle with severe misophonia, which means that certain sounds (mostly those made by other people) trigger rage. I especially cannot sounds “mouth noises” like someone chewing or breathing noisily. My dog has been having bad skin allergies and therefore biting at himself and licking his paws. I took him to the vet but his medications are not fully kicking in yet. My insomnia has been partially caused by being unable to screen out the noises he’s making.

To engage in some self-care for this sense, I am going to put more effort into having soothing music playing when I’m relaxing, as well as taking a drive to the country at some point this weekend to get away from the hustle and bustle.

Touch Hunger

Because I have my dog, I don’t feel as much of a craving for touch as I have in the past. Between my PTSD, asexuality and germaphobia, sexual touch isn’t something I desire with anyone else. I do, however, have times where I’d like a hug or to be able to let my guard down and relax around others. I’m not fully certain how to get my needs met for this sense, but I think some simple actions like a foot bath or brushing my dog’s hair might help.

Which of your senses has been overworked lately? Which might be feeling neglected? Which acts of self-care do you find particularly beneficial for each sense?

Creating Pup-Pie Treats (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

My poor pup has been getting a little overlooked between my return to work and my illness, so I decided to make him some homemade treats today. I’ve never attempted to do so before, even though I let him have tiny “people-food” snacks far too often. I settled on a baked treat being the safest bet.

I first measured and then cooked 1 sweet potato by cutting it up and boiling it in water. It came in at 260 grams, so I measured out equal parts of that in rolled oats as well as in dry roasted, unsalted peanuts. I pulverized the peanut-oat mixture in my Vitamix until it formed a loose paste. Once the sweet potato was cooked through, I used the Vitamix to puree it. I mixed the wet and dry ingredients together along with two eggs. I then pressed the dough into a greased ceramic pie pan and baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for twenty-five minutes.

After the initial cook time, I cut the pie into one inch by one inch squares, and baked them at the same temperature on a sheet for 10 minutes so that they would be as dried as possible. I think they could have gone longer but I was too lazy to experiment. Weirdly enough, I unintentionally created the start of a gluten-free biscotti for humans, were I to add perhaps coconut butter and a source of sugar. All in all, not bad for a spur of the moment experiment!

A white ceramic pie pan containing a light brown cookie with chunks of sweet potato. The cookie is cut into small pieces.
Mid-way through the bake process.
A small purple bowl sits empty on a couch cushion. In the upper part of the photograph, a blurry image of a Yorkie is visible.
The empty bowl after offering the treat.
A Yorkie dog is standing on white carpet eating a treat.
Nibbling away!

Healing Presence (Today’s Daily Remembrance)

Living in the present moment has enabled me to gain perspective in regards to my trauma history. If I’m grounded, I’m less likely to get lost in a sea of negative thoughts or to make irrational decisions based on negative emotions. My dog, my meditation practice and my time in nature are my most reliable conduits into present moment awareness.

Dogs live for the moment. My dog can occasionally show signs of holding a memory or anticipating the future (for example, if I mention a bath or going to the store), but he spends most of his time anchored in the here and now. When I find myself lost in panic, he will sit with me or demand a snuggle, and I can detach slightly from the pull of before and after.

I am not the most regular in my practice of mindfulness, but I do return to breath-work whenever it enters my mind. Finding my center, especially in noticing the gaps between each out and in-breath, reorients me into my body which allows me to come present. Giving my full awareness to simple actions like sitting or walking with intention serves as an additional current-moment touch-point.

Finally, immersing myself in nature helps me focus on the present. I especially appreciate the beauty of trees and love the texture their bark provides underneath my fingertips. The sounds of leaves crinkling in the wind and the warmth of the sunlight on my skin make every moment special. If my present is captured outside with my dog while I open my field of awareness to all of my senses, I am not only here for it, I’m joyful. What helps you ground and center? What best connects you to the present?

Caring for an Animal (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

On Sundays, I bathe and groom my dog, so today’s simple pleasure of providing relaxation for an animal fit right into my routine. My pup has hair instead of fur, so he has to be washed once a week and his coat needs a lot of TLC. After he gets a bath, I clean his eyes and ears before I brush out his hair and trim the edges. He even gets a spray of doggie cologne! In cold weather, I finish with a salve for his paws.

Since my dog has become a part of my life, my depression symptoms have become much more manageable. In particular, the ache I so often felt in my chest has disappeared. Interacting with one’s pet increases oxytocin levels and is linked with fewer depression symptoms. In both of these studies, the effects held only for women; the researchers of course did not take non-binary people like myself into account. All I know is that I am tightly bonded to my pup and that he loves a good grooming session with lots of loving touch (after his dreaded bath is finished). If you have pets, what benefits do you find you experience from your interactions with them?