One morning last weekend, we couldn’t find the dog’s collar which made me irrationally angry.
The two things I really can’t deal with, apart from goat’s cheese, are being late, according to my exacting routine, and losing things. So not being able to locate the collar made me late for walking the dogs which, if I was Superman, would be kryptonite.
The most popular over the past few days was the one about how it’s much better not to imagine the worst because, if you do, you’ll suffer whether the thing you fear happens or not either through imagining it, encountering it, or both.
I’ve been catastrophising over the dog recently anyway.
She’s been a bit lame for a while and it doesn’t seem to be shifting so I took her to the vet hoping she’d tell me a few day’s rest would probably sort it out.
She suggested an X-Ray if things don’t improve and so I’ve been watching her like a hawk every time she wanders into the kitchen when she hears me open the fridge and convincing myself that it’s bound to be something awful.
“Do you think everyone worries about their dogs the way I do?” I ask my daughter.
“No,” she says, without looking up from her iPad.
When we first had the dog she walked into things and although I told myself she was just a clumsy specimen it turned out that she’d been born with any number of ocular abnormalities and couldn’t see.
All I’d wanted was a dog who would chase after a ball and bring it back to me having had one previously who would chase after whatever I threw to him but then take it off into the bushes at which point it would never be seen again.
I hadn’t considered that I might end up with a dog who couldn’t see the ball in the first place.
In those early days, I thought about how a lot of people would have given up a disabled puppy, or worse. She’s nearly six now and had a life I hadn’t thought possible and which makes me feel overwhelmingly grateful and ridiculously protective in equal measure.
So it turns out that when it comes to self-help, just telling people the best thing to do doesn’t really cut it.
An acquaintance, knowing that I was a therapist, asked me once,
“How do you handle it when something is troubling you?”
I’d never considered the answer until I heard myself saying,
“I generally know what I ought to be doing but that doesn’t mean I always do it.”
Recently, I had some blood tests and missed a call from the doctor’s surgery a couple of days afterwards while was on a walk with the dogs.
I frantically rang back to hear what I had immediately decided was bad news but they were closed for lunch.
I thought about them all eating their sandwiches as I, a man condemned, circled the field with his dogs wondering who’d walk them when I was gone.
When I eventually got through they told me I had a folic acid deficiency and put me on some tablets.
The answer then is, to remind myself that the best way to avoid catastrophising is to acknowledge that we can’t stop frustrating, upsetting or challenging things happening but that, so far, we all have a 100% record of managing to get through them.
Like the time I left the dog’s lead and my shoes on the beach while my daughter and I frolicked in the surf, and the tide came in and washed everything away.
I used my belt to get the dog back to the car and arrived home with sore feet, a happy hound and an amusing memory of precious time spent with my daughter.