One of the loves of my life is Laney. Laney is my dog, and she is an adorable cocker spaniel that is “party” color. Party color means that she has white and brown fur with spots of each, all over. Her vet says she is a Cocker Spaniel in a Springer Spaniel disguise. As I write this, she is sleeping by my side and “at the ready” to protect me if she should hear the slightest noise.
Laney has a special indestructible ball that glows in the dark, which I think Santa brought to her four years ago. She adores that ball, and always knows where it is hiding. If it is hiding in a spot she can’t get to, she doesn’t let anyone off the hook and whimpers, even threatening us with scratching the offending piece of furniture in the way, until it is retrieved. She wants to play again, and again, and again.
Over the years of throwing and her retrieving this ball, she has developed a silly little game. This new game is where she brings you her ball to play, eager for a nice happy throw. But, just when she gets close enough to engage you, she teases you by slyly carrying her ball away and surprising you as if she doesn’t really want to play after all. In addition to that, she will even drop her ball, but not close enough where you can reach the ball to play. She then looks longingly, and ultimately makes you get up and go for the ball to play. Over time, she either successfully engages me in her play, or she gives up because I am distracted and my attention is elsewhere. Cunning, wouldn’t you agree?
It is a silly game, but a light bulb went off in my head when she played this way today. She doesn’t want part of my attention. She is asking for me to participate a little more with her keep away game. Her sad, sweet eyes beg me to be present and chase her down. Most of the time, I can’t help but stop what I am doing and play.
Aren’t relationships like this too? Balanced attention and interaction is key. Is it detrimental to give too much? Is it detrimental to hold back and not give? I have been on both sides of that and can honestly say that I often question the sanity, just as I do when I play silly games with Laney. How long will it take me to get up and chase her to throw the ball? How long will she continue to engage me to play her game? Should I ask for attention when I get none? Should I quit paying attention when I am forgotten? With a dog, they have the perfect tail wagging indicator (so much easier than complicated human hearts).
For me, in a relationship, whether it is a friend or family, not enough attention breeds second guessing and fear. Do they still care? Too much attention breeds boredom and stagnation. Thus, reminding me what a delicate balance it all is. Complicated and sometimes messy, it is the relationships that seek for and find that middle ground of give and take, that truly flourish. Are you giving too much? Are you a disappearing act and checking out? This reminds me to put more thought into my relationships, but I will wish for a bit of care back. I don’t expect the perfect balance of a seesaw, but I do expect some reciprocity and genuine interest. Naturally, I don’t have an answer because I am still figuring it all out with each family member, each friend, and even with my sweet dog. Pondering done.
Gosh, there is only so much you can do……