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Cedarfield's Chronicle

Live and Learn and Live Some More


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Fun, introspection and agility
meanddev
cedarfield
I've come to an important decision: I need to have more fun. I'm not sure when it happened but somewhere along the line I stopped having fun. Having 9 days off recently and seeing people I haven't seen in a long time I guess got me thinking about the past and about how I used to do a lot more hiking and camping and paddling and traveling (or at least traveling that was unassociated with agility). For the last year or two it seems that I have done nothing but agility with my dogs. And every weekend is either spent doing housework or going to a trial or a seminar.

And somewhat because of this feeling that I've lost something in my life I've decided not to go to Nationals. I realized that I've been feeling pressured to get busy training for it and not liking the feeling. It doesn't feel like fun. I spend 40 hours a week working plus the time I have to spend cleaning the house, shopping for groceries, cooking meals, doing laundry, etc and then on top of that I'm supposed to find time to train and teach.

A friend has invited me to spend a few days at her in-laws' lake house in western MD in August. It sounds like paradise. It's a very underdeveloped area, just farmland and woods and this long, long lake. There'll be no one there but us and our dogs. We can swim--or not, paddle the canoe--or not, lay in the hammock and snooze, read, whatever. I was going to have to refuse because I don't have enough vacation days to do that and go to Nationals. And then I started thinking about the pressure I've been feeling to train, the realization that I'll probably not make it past the 1/4 finals and the difficulty I'll probably have finding the vacation time to go to the Nationals and to my nephew's wedding right afterward. So I decided to accept my friend's invitation and skip the Nationals.

It's very likely that next year the Nationals will be in the Southeast anyway, possibly even in NC. Jaime will only be a year older and Devon will probably be ready to compete by then. It'll be much cheaper, much easier to get there and I won't have to fly Jaime. It just makes so much more sense to wait a year.

I guess going to the two Regionals and seeing what the competition is going to be like also made me realize that I'll never be really competitive. It seems like you have to be willing to really dedicate yourself to doing little else (at least if you work).

And seeing the people I saw last week and enjoying hanging out with them also made me realize how I can never spare the vacation time to visit them anymore. Every single day of annual leave that I have is used for agility (except at Christmas) so I've been unable to even think about going back to Greece or taking a trip somewhere else.

It's funny how you can tell yourself that you have a particular goal and then find out it's not something you ever really believed. I've always thought that when I get to the end of my life I want to be able to look back on it and feel that it meant something. And I don't see how chasing something as fleeting as first place in a competition will ever be really meaningful to me for more than a few days or weeks.

But my relationships with my family and friends, my connection with the natural world and my dogs has lasting value for me and I've really cut myself off from thinking about that. I've always used my time in the woods and on the water to reflect on things and figure out what is meaningful to me but I've been too busy with agility to do that for the last few years.

I think it started as a way to distract myself from all the pain and misery of Valli's sickness and death and then as a distraction when Ted got sick and then died followed 4 days later by Simon's death followed by a year of having to deal with Honey's dementia and death. Jeez, no wonder I needed a distraction. It's a wonder that I got through all that with any sanity left. And it's amazing that I can still enjoy life knowing all that I know about death. Or maybe it's *because* of everything that's happened that I can still enjoy life. George's death must have reached me more than I realized. It must be what's gotten me thinking along these lines again.

After Valli died and I got through the first year of grieving and started to be able to enjoy things again, I thought I'd never lose that feeling of being able to get so much out of life and to be able to ignore all the little things that can bring me down sometimes. But then all the other crap started happening and I started feeling like I was sinking again. Since then I think I've kind of just been too busy distracting myself to realize I was losing a lot of the stuff that had made me happy before.

For a lot of people winter is the season of retrospection but for me it's always been summertime. I guess because it's when I'm the least busy with other things like agility. Yesterday I took the dogs to Duke Forest and walked to the river. It wasn't exactly peaceful because Devon kept attempting to fling himself into the flood waters and Jaime kept shoving the bumper into my hands so I'd throw it for him but it reminded me of all the times I had done this same walk with Haven and Simon. I must have done that walk with them at least 50 times not counting all the others we used to do and I realized that Devon has never been there once. What happened to all that time I used to have? Why don't I do that anymore? Is it really just because of agilty or is it something else?

I think I need to give myself more time. I need to get reacquainted with my own thoughts and ideas. Maybe I need to stop doing agility for awhile. I don't know but I think I'll just give myself permission to do only what I really want to do for awhile.

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What an absolutely lovely post!

Well, thanks. I've already started putting my words into action by taking the doggies for a blackberry picking jaunt at lunchtime. Every summer when the blackberries ripen I like to take advantage of all the bushes that grow around my agility field. It's so cute how the dogs follow me around waiting for me to pick theirs for them. At first they were very suspicious when I handed them a berry to eat but once they saw how much I enjoyed them they decided to take the plunge. Now they sort of shove each other out of the way to see who's going to get the next one. I'm stringently fair though--it's one for me, one for Haven, one for Jaime then one for Devon. Then 2 for me, one for Haven, one for Jaime and one for Devon....

It is such a balance. I found myself taking two years off of agility and enjoying my time with my dogs and friends.My young dog Nova is just now really entering the agility ring and she will be four in September. I so enjoyed her while she was young. We hiked, camped, went swimming, walked the streets of Portland, etc. I still enjoy these activities with her, but agility has been taking away from our "dog" time. It is strange that I consider agility work for us. It is fun, but not in a freeing way like other activities are. I love to watch my dogs make up their own minds, choose which path they want to go down, what toy they want to play with, what field they want to roll in. I hate always being the boss. I don't like to feel like I have robots living with me. They give me so much and I feel like I should do what they like to do more than what I like to do, which is hiking and swimming. In summer I try to get my dogs to the river as many times as possible. Your post was much needed for me. It made me remember what is truly important. Agility is my sport, they are just good enough friends to play it with me.

I know what you mean about agility being like work. I suppose it's because there's so much to learn and to teach the dog and because the sport keeps evolving and becoming more complex. It's still fun but I think I definitely need a break right now.

Not Enough Real Life

(Anonymous)
This post probably would touche a chord with many agility competitors. It certainly does with me. I used to have several hobbies and activities; I used to spend lots of time with friends and go on long, interesting vacations. Now, I do dog agility, dog agility, dog agility, and more dog agility. And four or five years ago I started complaining about it. At the beginning of this year, I *vowed* I'd do only 12 trials this year instead of 20. Well--here it is July, and I've done 13 already. There's always JUST ONE MORE that would be fun, or useful (for titles or qualifying for nationals or whatever), or just TO BE THERE DOING AGILITY. Sure, I love it, but it sure has squelched everything else I've always loved, too. What a conflict. I'm not sure that I could manage 2 years off from agility--I'm not quite sure what I'd DO with my high-drive, high-energy dogs if I didn't have training to focus me and them. Sigh. -ellen (http://www.finchester.org/dogs/dog_diary/)

Re: Not Enough Real Life

"....What a conflict. I'm not sure that I could manage 2 years off from agility--I'm not quite sure what I'd DO with my high-drive, high-energy dogs if I didn't have training to focus me and them. Sigh. -ellen (http://www.finchester.org/dogs/dog_diary/) "

No, me either, but cutting out a few trials a year *might* be managable. Of course I say that now when the only trials hereabouts are AKC trials that are either indoors and hard to get into or outdoors and too brutally hot to even consider dong agility. People are so nutty for agility, though that there's actually a "midnight madness" NADAC trial this weekend when it's 90 degrees and 90% humidity.

Deep Creek Lake

(Anonymous)
I'M SO GLAD! I feel the same way about camping and hiking and, now, spending time away from my family and with my girlfriends!

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