It had happened too many times to be coincidental.
I have a big dog. Twenty years of dog walking have taught me big and small dogs don’t always get on. In the interest of harmony for all, I’ve learned to steer clear of all small dogs unless I know they’re on the approved list.
No matter which route I took, the woman with the small dog always followed me, shadowing me so that I’d know she was there. If we weren’t walking fast enough for her, she’d run in place until we moved on. My dog moves more slowly than usual. She’s been sick for much of this year, and she’s still recovering from a week in late August without air conditioning. I remember my mom’s doctor telling me many years ago that the older we get, the less bounce back we have. I honor my dog’s need to move at whatever pace works best for her, and it doesn’t help her move any faster to have people and dogs stalking her.
I’d try to read the woman’s mind. Should we zig or should we zag to get away from her? She’d zig right along with me, and she’d zag right along with me. And she’d jog in place until we zigged or zagged at a pace that worked for her. She wouldn’t leave. She was gum on a shoe.
I’d had enough. The time had come to take a stand.
Yesterday, I turned around and said, “Look, whenever I see you, I always go the other way.”
She was stunned. “Why? I stay behind you!”
I was on a roll. “Big dogs and small dogs don’t always get on. I keep trying to read your mind, trying to guess which way you’ll be going so I can take another route…”
She looked stunned. She stammered, “You’re trying to read my mind? I can’t even read my own mind!”
I calmly responded, “I’m not being rude. I’m just trying to make this walk as easy as possible for all of us.”
She ran away from us to cross the street, calling over her shoulder, “I understand!”
Her face revealed her shock at hearing me call her on what she’d done. Most dog walkers don’t tell other dog walkers to back off. Then again, The Golden Rule also applies to dog walking; I respect your space, and you respect mine.
She wasn’t thinking of how it felt to be my ailing dog, having a person and a dog encroaching on her space, silently pushing her to move more quickly than she’s able. She wasn’t thinking of how it felt to be me, having a person and two dogs encroaching on my space while my post-stroke brain is rehearsing how to walk safely before taking the next step.
I don’t think she was thinking. I think she was so attracted to our energy that she’d go wherever we went, whether or not we wanted her with us. And the more annoyed I got with her, the more I glared at her, the more closely she stuck to us. By giving her my anger, I was giving her my energy, and that’s just what she wanted. By choosing a strong and calm response, I’d withdrawn my energy from her and forced her to do something else.
She was a sacred distraction, a situation brought into my life to first help me get clear about my boundaries and then express that clarity by defining them out loud.
Why is she a sacred distraction?
What do we truly own in life? Material things can be taken away. Relationships come and go. Health seems to be here one day and gone the next. The only thing that is truly ours is our own energy. We have the right to be happy or sad. We have the right to be attractive or distancing. We have the right to radiate whatever it is we radiate. It’s all part of the human experience. And we have the right to safeguard our energy. We have the right to determine who will receive our energy. We have the right to determine how we will allow ourselves to be treated.
That’s the sacredness of the distraction. When we become lax about determining and enforcing our own energetic boundaries, the Universe will send in a sacred someone or something to make sure we get the message. The Universe has created us to be us. Maintaining strong and healthy energetic boundaries helps us to become a better version of the us we came here to be.
I trust my words were strong and clear enough to keep her away. If not, I’ll reaffirm what I said, and I’ll add even more calm strength to the words I speak. She’d feed off my anger. She’ll get nothing from my calm strength. And I am the one who gets to choose who receives my energy, especially as I continue to recover.
I remember one of my spiritual teachers advising our class to radiate peace if you’re ever in a bar and a fight breaks out. Sending love to the fighters merely feeds the conflict, which makes all the fighters happy. They want to fight, and the energy of love, even though it is the energy of love, merely gives them more energy to fight. Radiating peace will do more to settle the dispute than anything else. Metaphysical principles work in ashrams, and metaphysical principles work in bars.
Many of us on the spiritual path have learned to ask our angels to help. Our angels will help, if that’s appropriate for them to do. They also want us to help ourselves, and they will not protect us from a lesson that will help us grow. They want us to take our own power.
People who want our energy for themselves develop skillful ways of getting it. They’ll give endless comfort to the hurting, they’ll give nonstop sex to the horny, they’ll give unlimited entertainment to the bored, they’ll give money to the financially strapped, they’ll give a sympathetic ear to the lonely. You’ll think you’ve found your soul mate, you’re seemingly so much in tune with each other. Not in the way you might imagine. Our soul mates are friends of our souls, not always friends of our personalities. And there are times when our soul mates show up as advocates for our souls by hurting us so much that we have no choice but to wake up and choose another path.
People who want our energy for themselves have a well-honed instinct for first finding our Achilles heel and then learning how to use it to their advantage. They’ll manipulate us, they’ll guilt us, they’ll lie to us, they’ll isolate us from others, they’ll treat us inconsistently in order to create a strong bond that is based upon the cycle of deliberately opening our wounds again and again in order to soothe them again and again and bring us ever closer.
They’ll do whatever they have to do to gain our trust in order to drain us dry.
There are also people who want to lower our service. They know how to find people who want to help people who are hurting. They give them endless love and attention. And they, in turn, use the givers as toxic waste dumps, filling them up with their stories of victimhood and their complaints, so much that the givers’ bright lights have now dimmed. And, in turn, the complainers have even more energy to keep doing what they do. They don’t want to change what they’re doing. They get their power out of taking others out of their power, and they do that by draining off life force energy through complaining, selfishness, and manipulation.
There is a difference between being there for people who call out for our support and love and guidance while passing through challenging times and being there for people who dump on others and talk at others without committing to change.
Pick whichever one serves you best.
I see many wonderful people being pursued by others who want their energy. Yes, everyone is exactly where they’re supposed to be. That being said, education is power. The sooner we learn to identify those who want the energy of others all for themselves instead of exchanging energy in a healthy relationship, the sooner we can regain our power and get back to being who we showed up to be.
And it all begins with first defining and then enforcing our energetic boundaries.
Establishing and maintaining my energy is my responsibility. Establishing and maintaining your energy is your responsibility.
Fall in love with the word “no.”
And then fall in love with how you feel when you say the word “no.”
“Look, spaghetti arms. This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine. You gotta hold the frame.” Johnny to Baby, Dirty Dancing
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