Perseverance (02/07/07)

Dear Zelda,

About a month ago I broke my arm. The doctor has told me I'll be in this cast for three months and I'm going crazy. I read that your owner broke her neck and had to go through something similar. Do you have any words of wisdom on how I might be more patient? There are days when I want to just cut this cast off and throw it in the fireplace. I am at the end of my rope and need a little Zelda Wisdom on perseverance. Help me Zelda.

Armed and Ready to Throw

Dear Armed,

Trust me, my owner knows how you feel. Having your skull screwed into a metal frame for three months makes for some very long nights. What she learned to practice, and what you might try practicing, is how to become a more patient patient. Sure the cast on your arm is bothersome, but it's temporary... and it's helping you move forward with your life. Things are mending, things are healing, and it's what needs to happen.

I know it's not easy to put up with the inconvenience that your cast is causing. My owner was frustrated as well when told how long she had to remain in her 'halo' in order for her broken neck to heal. But we all adapt, and honestly, we surprise ourselves with how much we can handle. She found a number of strategies to help her mark the time and keep her sanity. One of her best tricks employed her great love of Godiva 'Open Oyster' chocolates. She counted the days she was going to have to remain in her halo, then ordered that number of Open Oyster chocolates. Every morning she would sit down with her latte and one Open Oyster chocolate. It was such a positive way to start each day, and also a reward for hanging in there with the halo. As the gold Godiva box emptied, my owner knew she was getting closer to her goal, and she found she was even having a good time in the process. Think of it as a sort of break-neck advent calendar.

My advice to you is to select something you love, like my owner did with the chocolates, and treat yourself to that reward every day. For me it would be a Kong chew toy stuffed with my favorite peanut butter and blue cheese, but I'll bet your passion is for something a little different. (There's no accounting for taste.) Focus on what you can do, not what you can't do, and find something simple to enjoy each day.

It's the sticking with it that separates the wins from the wanes. Think of this cast as an educational opportunity. It's a way for you to practice both your patience and your perseverance, traits that will suit you well in all walks of life. When all is said and done, your stick-to-it-iveness is going to be your ultimate success insurance, and it will guarantee happiness and health in bone-healing and beyond. You may not be there yet, but you're a day closer than you were yesterday.

When your cast has been removed, don't forget to invite me to the 'cast party.'

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

I read that your column this week is about perseverance and I'm a college junior on a full scholarship that requires that I maintain a 3.5 GPA. My problem is that I live in fear of losing the scholarship if my grades aren't high enough. I have been in accelerated classes all my life but the pressure makes me very depressed and recently, because of the stress, I've lost a lot of weight. Is there any such thing as too much perseverance? I'd really like to just be a normal, healthy student for a while.

Pushed Too Far

Dear Pushed,

Of course perseverance has been applauded, and rightfully so, but once in a while a little time-out in our lives is also necessary. We all need breaks now and then, and we definitely need to take time to enjoy life along the way. Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in hard work, and believe that it helps us do many of the things in life that have meaning for us. But there comes a point at which you're getting so overworked and overstressed that it becomes unhealthy, and it sounds like you may be reaching that point.

My recommendation is that you do a couple of things immediately. The first is to schedule a meeting with your academic advisor. College should be a time not only of achievement, but also of exploration and enjoyment. Talk with you advisor about your concerns, and find out if there are feasible options for lightening your load without having to toss all your hard work out the window. For example, could you take fewer classes, or take some less intensive classes to help you distribute the burden? Even if it means giving up the scholarship for the last year and a half and taking on some loans... that's okay. Alternatively, does your scholarship allow you to take a semester or a year off to work, to travel, and to think about where to go from here? If so, you might seriously consider it. This may seem like a lot of extra time in the race to get through life, but remember... it's not a race. In fact, the more time you take enjoying it, the better off you'll be. The trick is to use your hard work, your intelligence, and your careful personal reflection to make smart, principled decisions about what has meaning for you in life, and then figure out healthy ways to pursue that.

My second suggestion is that you talk with someone in the school's counseling or student well-being office and tell them what you've told me. The fact that your stress levels and your depression have gotten to the point of causing you to lose a lot of weight is a definite warning sign. There needs to be a significant change here, and you simply can't keep burying these stresses and anxieties for the sake of your GPA. Something's going to give. Talking to a professional about what you're going through sounds very formal and scary, and many people don't think their issues are 'serious enough' to warrant that kind of interaction. Trust me, they are serious enough, and it can be a real help to talk to those folks. Just try it, and see if you find it useful.

Wanting to be a "normal, healthy student" is a very "normal, healthy" thing. You're obviously very smart and accomplished, but smart, accomplished people often do silly things like not taking care of themselves. Don't be one of those people; take care of yourself, and find a way to work your own happiness in with your professional life. Life is long, and learning how to balance these things will serve you well far into the future. With many licks and wags,

Zelda

Dear Zelda,
 
I was hoping you could give me some advice. My bulldog seems to have a crush on our neighbor's dog, who is a cockapoodle, since he howls when she walks by and seems to circle her whenever she comes near. What do you think the best advice would be for me to help my puppy find true love? I know the direct approach can work, but it can also send the ladies running. What would you do?

Curious in California

Dear Curious,

It's not that your starry-eyed bulldog has to be smart, well-to-do, or even good-looking in order to win his ladylove. He just needs to be himself, and he needs a little perseverance. We all know that dream girls like your neighbor's cockapoodle may not be willing to woo, but that just means trying and trying again. Perhaps he needs to spend more "getting-to-know-you" time with his dream-doggy next door, and here's where you can help. Watch and see when she goes for walks, and ask her owner if you can join them. A walk makes for a great first date: it gives you something to talk about, there are plenty of things to smell, and your bully might even have the chance to demonstrate his chivalry by protecting her from other would-be suitors at the dog park.

While your dog is busy oogling the cute little cockapoodle, talk to her owner and find out a little more about what this pretty pooch likes. Trust me, this is the way to a girl's heart. Maybe she loves running and chasing in the park? Or getting pampered at the doggie spa? Or leftover carrot cake? Or maybe, hope beyond hopes, she likes to play tug of war? Once you've become pals with her owner, you can even volunteer to dog-sit when her owner goes out of town or is at work. Start a playgroup for two in your yard and let them romp around together... supervised, of course. As much as I'm sure your little bully would love to "canoodle" with the cockapoodle, you'll need to act as his chaperone here or you may end up with a shotgun wedding and a house full of... Cock’n-bull-apoodles. Ultimately it's up to your bully to turn on the charm, be himself, and find out if there's any chemistry between the two of them. But don't worry, he sounds like quite a catch to me, and I'm sure he'll do well for himself.

Failure is the path of least persistence, so keep your bulldog on-track and focused. He may be disappointed if he's rejected, but he's doomed to a life of regret if he doesn't ever try. With a little luck, a lot of passion, and a little perseverance, your dog's crush may yet turn into puppy love.

Zelda