Thursday, September 29, 2011

The sound of sighing

Today, I had a bad case of "one of those days". With a little bit of "I hate my job" thrown in there for good measure.

First of all, I am exhausted. In less than 48 hours, I have covered more than 3/4 of the exceedingly large country that is Canada by air. Early Monday morning, I left the East Coast (where I spent a long weekend losing an embarrassing amount of golf balls during a round of 18 holes, eating far too much seafood, and hanging out with a bunch of football fanatics), only to arrive in Calgary 10 hours later for work-related meetings, only to catch a homeward-bound plane Tuesday afternoon, only to arrive home sometime in the middle of the night. Running on nowhere near enough sleep, and sucking back a nowhere near large enough coffee, I barely had time to give my husband (who I've not seen in nearly a week) a good-morning kiss before I had to get my ass across town to yet another work meeting that was being held at what my jet-lagged ridden body considers to be an uncivilized hour of 8:30. Neither my body nor my mind have any idea what time zone they are currently in...

Second of all, this morning's meeting was brutal. Capital B-R-U-T-A-L. I'll spare the boring details, but suffice it to say that I found myself on the defensive for the entire three hours. Not to mention under a considerable amount of stress.

Now I've already admitted to, at times, having certain difficulties when faced with stressful situations (see and My tendency to over-emote has led some to accuse me of being a tad melodramatic. Still, I am, after all, a professional. So although I wanted very much to climb up on my chair, hurl a jug of water at someone, and yell more than a few unmentionable profanities, I kept my emotions in check.

How, you might ask? Well, a little trick that the Beast taught me. Deep breath in, followed by long exhale out. A nice big sigh.

I love that sound! After a vigorous run, an intense play date, a satisfying dinner, or simply at the end of a long day, the Beast will sink down into a lay-down position and curl up at our feet. Sometimes he will chew on his antler for a few minutes. Sometimes he will pay rapt attention to what is on t.v. (he seems to really like baseball and football). Inevitably, he will turn over onto his side, and after a few seconds, we will hear his great big sigh.

Now a human sigh, as we all know, can mean many things. Some are negative - exasperation, boredom, dissatisfaction, frustration. But many more are positive - satisfaction, gratification, relief. I imagine that the Beast's sigh is nothing but positive. With every deep inhale and long exhale, I imagine that he is telling hubby and I, "Thank you for giving me so much exercise and so much mental stimulation, for introducing me to so many doggy friends, and for shelling out for the really good dog food. I feel really good about my life with you guys!" He is one happy and satisfied puppy!

But ultimately, that sigh symbolizes release. It is the Beast's way to finally abandon the last remnants of the vast reservoir of energy that he carries within his little self. With each sigh, this go-go-go puppy surrenders himself to a moment of rest and relaxation, allowing himself to just be. He becomes the puppy vision of zen.

...Until the doorbell rings and he is up like a bat out of hell, barking all the way to the front door. (That's what I mean by "vast reservoir of energy...")

But that's another story...

Back to the point of this story... Trapped in an emotionally intense meeting, I found myself channeling the Beast and using his release technique to calm myself down. Before answering difficult and accusatory questions, I would take an audibly deep breath, let it all out, and proceed. And although I could not make the ball of anxiety that was squeezing my chest disappear completely, I did succeed in shrinking it a little. And I kept myself from throwing something at somebody. Always a good thing when meeting with difficult stakeholders.

When it was finally over, the facilitator, who had been sitting immediately to my left, remarked on the tone of the meeting. Despite the moments of tension, he felt that we had achieved what we had set out to achieve. And he congratulated me for successfully navigating some difficult moments and keeping my own comments and responses professional and respectful. "What's your secret?" he asked me.

"Oh," I said, "just a little something I learned from my dog." ;)