Look at You!!

Five or six years ago, our pupper pack increased to the size that we decided kennels were a necessity. The three youngest members didn’t mind theirs at all; any of them would go anywhere for a cookie. The oldest didn’t mind his, either; being locked in there gave him an opportunity to pester the middle two, one on each side, when they were a trapped audience. #2, though, didn’t take happily to the idea, so not only did he get a cookie when he responded to “Kennel puppers!”; he also got lots of encouragement and praise.

Fast-forward a couple years. #1 has decided he ain’t going in no stinkin’ kennel, and he wins the argument. The other four are pretty placid about it; no more need for praise; they’ve come to the understanding that kennel = cookie + quiet time to save energy for tearing down the house later.

Then, suddenly, one day #2 refuses to go into his kennel, not evenwith the lure of a cookie already lying on the floor inside. He stands stubbornly at the gate, watching me with huge brown eyes as if he can make me understand what he wants if he just tries hard enough. I order, command, offer a second cookie and even try to push him inside. Beau holds his ground.

Finally I remember the praise that worked so well in the past, and I begin clapping my hands. “Good boy, Beau! You’re so pretty and smart and such a good boy! Way to go! Good job!”

And, smiling happily, tail wagging, he trots into the kennel, settles in and eats his cookie.

Everyone needs encouragement and praise now and then.

Fast-forward to last month, my first time to stand up after the knee replacement surgery. It’s been less than 20 hours. I’m in thigh-high TED hose and a gown big enough for two of me. Something about the whole procedure has ticked off my hormones so that I’m having the kind of night sweats that could drown a person. My hair’s standing on end, and I have the kind of icky feeling that mowing five hours in hundred degree heat brings. The physical therapist tells me how to move my legs to the side of the bed, where to put my hands, how to push. I do, gritting my teeth, and with her help, voila! I’m on my feet beside the bed.

“Great job!” she says. “Look at you! You’re standing! Way to go!!”

Now . . . I’m 50+ years old. I’ve been standing since I was 8 or 9 months old. It’s been a very long time since anyone’s applauded me for it. Somewhere in my drug- and pain-dazed mind, I knew that. But standing there that morning, with a death grip on the bed rail and the walker, with the physical therapist waiting to catch me if I fall, I bask in the praise. Look at me! I’m standing!! Way to go!!

Everyone needs encouragement, even if it comes from ourselves. The level of praise depends on our needs at that moment. You wrote ten pages? Wonderful!! You’ve been whacked by the writer’s block monster but finally fought your way free to write one whole page? Fabulous!! Life has snatched you bald but you managed to think about your story today? You’re so smart and talented! You’re such a good writer!! Look at you!!

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