They Called Me a “F*cking B*tch.” What I did About It.

Via Kate Evans
on Oct 15, 2014
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It was a gorgeous early October around noon.

The beach and sky glimmered. I inhaled the salty air, relishing the off-leash joy of Max and Levi, the two Golden Retrievers in our care while my husband and I house-sit in the Pacific Northwest. Today he was back at the house gardening, while I took the dogs out for some exercise.

Max came bounding toward me from the water and dropped a stick at my feet. When I bent down to throw it, Levi galloped down the beach. I wasn’t concerned. He always comes back.

I smiled when I saw from afar that he had approached two people with a dog, knowing how much he enjoys greeting other dogs. But as I got closer I could hear the women yelling. They were pulling on their dog’s leash to try to keep him away from Levi.

Soon I could hear they were swearing, yelling at me. Come and get your f***ing dog! What the f*** are you thinking, you f***ing bitch?

Now I could see that Levi’s tail was wagging, and that he was nose-to-nose with their dog, a Boxer mix, who was rearing back on his tight leash.

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“Come! Levi, come!” I had to call a few times before he came to me. I put on his leash. I didn’t have one for Max because when I’m holding his stick, he won’t leave my side.

As I got closer, the women continued to berate me, calling me a f***ing bitch and an idiot. Screaming at me to get both dogs on leash. My heart raced. My stomach tightened. I just wanted to get around them, like I would a raging fire.

Their words felt like physical blows. The urge to defend myself welled up. You’re the crazy bitches! The urge to justify: This is an off-leash area! There are dogs all over the place!

Noticing my mind’s machinations calmed me a bit. Was I going to get hooked? Was I going to add fuel to the fire?

As I skirted them—their dog lunging—one of the women screamed: “Get your dogs under control! Just because your dogs are nice doesn’t mean others’ are!”

To me, this place was a playground for dogs where they congregate and bound around together. I was tempted to say that, but I knew she wouldn’t hear me.

“Get your f*cking act together!” she screamed.

I gave into the urge to say something, to lash back: “No wonder your dog isn’t nice,” I said. “You sure aren’t.”

“You’re giving me sh*t? Are you?” The woman not holding the dog moved toward me, chest out, fists clenched.

I didn’t respond, just passed by. I threw Max’s stick so he’d go running into the water, and picked my pace up to a jog so Levi would be redirected.

I felt bruised. Angry. Victimized. Those feelings moved through my body, like waves.

I thought about not taking it personally.

I felt hate welling up. I hated them. I hated the way they treated me.

I wanted to feel better. I knew that was up to me.

I took a few deep breaths. Watched clouds drift in the sky. I soothed myself: Good job, Kate. You didn’t freak out. You didn’t meet their aggressive energy. You calmly roped in the dogs and walked by, circumnavigating the conflagration.

Another woman with two off-leash dogs approached. My first thought was, Oh good, let them see I’m not the only one with off-leash dogs.

My second thought was that revenge might feel good, but it feels better to help someone out.

As our dogs sniffed each other, I warned her that around the bend were two women who were angry about off-leash dogs because theirs were aggressive.

“Why don’t they walk their dog somewhere else?” she said, pulling two leashes out of her pocket. “Well, thanks for the warning.” That felt good because my ego kept saying, “I’m right, they’re wrong, I’m right, they’re wrong.”

Next I saw another woman gathering sea glass. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a light blue piece I’d picked up earlier. I said to her, “Would you like this one?” She looked at me like I was handing over a precious gem.

“Really?” she said.

“Sure,” I said, smiling, reveling in the good feeling of giving something away. My ego said, “I’m a nice person. I’m a good person.”

As I continued to walk, I thought about the times I’ve gone off on people: road rage, screaming during an argument, temper tantrums. I thought about times I’ve been blinded by anger.

Years ago I asked my therapist, “If I’m not supposed to repress my feelings or act out impulsively, what am I supposed to do with them?”

“Just watch them like bad weather,” she said. “They will pass.”

Pema Chodron says the root cause of aggression, conflict and cruelty is “getting hooked” by something someone else says or does. It’s a charged and sticky feeling. “And it comes along with a very seductive urge to do something. Somebody says a harsh word and immediately you can feel a shift. There’s a tightening that rapidly spirals into mentally blaming this person, or wanting revenge, or blaming yourself.”

I recalled a dog I had years ago who was snippy with other dogs and, once, bit one of my friends. I loved that dog, but it was nerve-wracking taking her anywhere. I didn’t know how to handle her.

I know what it’s like to be scared, to be angry, to attack, to feel out of control, to call people names. I know what it’s like to lash out, to get hooked.

Violence can beget violence or it can beget self-awareness. Empathy. Tenderness. It starts right here, with me.

The sky and the sea melted together at the horizon. Max came back to me and dropped his stick at my feet. I wished relief for the two women, for their dog, for me. I wished us ease, joy, peace.

 

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Editor: Travis May

Photo Credit: David Rhine


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About Kate Evans

Kate Evans is the author of Call It Wonder: An Odyssey of Love, Sex, Spirit, and Travel, a memoir about chucking it all to live on the road, having a brain tumor, talking to dead people, and loving both men and women. She is also the author of two novels, a collection of poems, and a book about teaching. She holds a PhD, an MFA, and an honorary degree from life. As an editor, ghostwriter, and writing coach, she loves helping people unleash and shape their stories. She lives half the year in Baja California Sur, Mexico and the other half she’s a gypsy. She’s grateful to be learning that, as Foucault said,“We are freer than we think.” You can connect with her on her website, her blog, on Facebook and via Twitter.

Comments

28 Responses to “They Called Me a “F*cking B*tch.” What I did About It.”

  1. guest says:

    Love this. Thank you so much for sharing. I can completely see myself in that situation. Thank you for walking me through a peaceful and compassionate alternate response.

  2. cathleenmiller says:

    Thanks for the wisdom.

  3. marcie says:

    Yes, we all relate, it's easy to get hooked. But so much better to find a centre and recognize our own selves in everyone. I love the compassion you end with, the healing true forgiveness of understanding. You remind us that what we hate most outside of ourselves reflects a painful inner truth, but you dig deep and express love – for others, mankind, yourself – the love that will bring peace to this world. Thank you for spreading peace. We need this!

  4. phyllis says:

    I would love to hear this from their point of view.

  5. Shannon says:

    This is a beautiful example of the power we have to choose, as Viktor Frankl writes, in that "space between stimulus and response". In a very trying moment you both stuck up for yourself and spoke your peace while avoiding feeding negative energy, emotions and behaviors. Bravo!

  6. Hi there- Thank you. Blessings, Kate

  7. Thank you, Cathleen.

  8. Thank you, Marcie. The Dalai Lama has made a big impact on me in this regard. He believes peace begins with each of us.

  9. Hi Phyllis- Me too! Best, Kate

  10. LKJ says:

    Oddly, last week I had a similar experience involving my own dog and a neighbor who lives in our condo complex. He was so out-of-the-blue nasty to us (along these same lines but because he felt we were walking too near his front porch) and I went through that same wave of emotions—wounded/angry/wanting to lash out and feel justified, etc. All these days later I've still had trouble shaking the interaction. This post is well-timed for me and helpful to the point I almost feel relieved and able to let it go. Thank you.

  11. Pat says:

    Maybe you should put your dogs on a leash. She did make some good points albeit not in a very kind way. And why didn't you do something nice to her? Instead you retaliated and called her mean. I don't know but something is missing in this story. I'm not sure you're any better than her.

  12. HI Pat,

    It's an offleash area for dogs. But it's true that maybe the more rambunctious one, as loving and sweet as he is, might need to be on leash until he learns to listen better. (They aren't my dogs; we were housesitting for two months and taking care of the sweet beasts.)

    I agree I retaliated, and then I thought about Pema Chodron's words about how when things like this happen we try to affix blame to ourselves or others, or we feel outraged or guilty–and I just decided to let all those feelings blow by like weather. There was no fixing the problem, just letting it be and seeing what I might be able to learn from it.

    I do think there's more to the story that don't know about. There was something big going on with them that I wasn't privy to. And I think they were scared. As I said in the piece, I used to have an unfriendly dog, and it was a very stressful thing.

    I'm definitely not better than her or anyone. We are all equals here on this offleash beach called planet earth!

    peace out- Kate

  13. What amazing parallels between our experiences. Now that's synchronicity. Thank you, LKJ.

  14. Hi Phyllis – Me too! Best, Kate

  15. HI Shannon- So cool you'd mention Frankl as I was just reading some stuff by him today. Yes, it's that SPACE that's so crucial. Sometimes when I meditate I imagine space opening up inside of me. It makes me less tight, more generous and receptive. Thank you, Kate

  16. Tera B. says:

    Thank you for sharing your brave story. Very helpful and inspiring.

  17. Peter Johnson says:

    At some point in our lives we take stock, being tired of keeping up the good fight or illness, her fight and your illness. Feedback can hurt back is generally good. An off leash beach is just that and doesn't go away in summing up by either party later.
    I was intrigued with 'she approached with fists clenched …' and wondered about the story as it loaded. Did you throw out your arms and say 'give me a hug' and smiled as I read you gathered pace upon exit. The hug may have worked but so might all the nice people at emergency (on you).
    It is amazing how all the dogs get along when off the leash and left to decide for themselves on those beaches. My sheep dog would not back away from a territorial fight on a farm but at the dog beach she was an angel. Once back on the lead she had that edge to her, don't mess with me.
    For me, I think the feedback was brave and little by little could lead to a positive outcome for her, and it was honest, she wasn't being nice.
    Yes those of us with dogs have had those stories and nice to see one drift away on paper.

  18. Mark H says:

    I am happy that I read this. I needed to read this. So, you say you got "hooked", you reacted. How would you have acted differently? What would have been a better response? I think I would have exploded, but I don't want to explode. Maybe the best I could have achieved was silence while sorting through it all. I'd love to hear your "ideal reaction/response".

  19. Maria Mc says:

    The dog owner was way out line talking to you like that.

    That being said . . . I have a dog with leash aggression. I would NEVER walk him on leash in an unleashed area. I know better.

    This weekend while visiting the OR coast, we took our smaller dog to the beach that was clearly marked dogs must be ON leash. There was a guy playing with his dog off leash. We purposely walked far around them, but his dog still came running up to play with my dog. My dog, being on leash, wasn't having it.

    My husband picked up our dog and yelled to the other owner–hey get your dog, mine isn't nice. The guy slowly sauntered over, while lecturing us about dog behavior and rolling his eyes. Rude.

    This happens so often that people will just let their dog walk up to ours without asking. I am friendly person and wish my dog would respond to other dogs nicely, but he doesn't.

  20. Hi Maria, It seems like our dogs provide us with many opportunities to work with our reactions to others in the world! Thanks for your thoughts. -Kate

  21. Hi Mark- I think the thing that works best for me is to observe my thoughts–and to let them be what they are, like weather. That means not pretending I'm not feeling bad, but also not lashing out because I feel bad. Just let myself sit "on the dot" as Pema Chodron calls it. When I said to my "attacher": "No wonder your dog isn't nice, you sure aren't"–I was lashing out to try to "fix" things, to make myself feel better. That wasn't just letting it be what it was.

    In fact, the word "fix" means both make better and make static. But life is fliud, there is a flow to such events (to all events)…

    There's a difference between a FUMING silence and a true, self-reflective silence. Shit happens around us all the time. I want to be curious about how I feel when things happen, almost like a scientist watching stuff through a microscope or a telescope. It's fascinating to watch the storm clouds gather, then disperse. If I don't watch the storm but instead enter it, I get buffeted around–and I become a giant wind that exacerbates the problem. That's interesting to watch too, but there's always a price to pay. I'd prefer not to attract more violence into my life but rather attract self-growth and peace.

    I definitely don't have it all figured out! 🙂 And each situation requires something different of me. That's why you can't plan out the ideal response in advance. Life is improvisational. Life is an off-leash beach.

  22. Thanks, Peter. Your insights are fascinating to me. It proves that when we have dogs in our lives, non-verbal animals, they have a lot to teach us. And no, I didn't offer her a hug…just as I wouldn't hug a dog with its fangs bared! 🙂

  23. Raven says:

    Interesting comments. I am not that advanced or calm. I have learned that someone else's aggression speaks volumes about themselves and their own insecurities. I used to think that I had to diffuse this and try to understand them. Doing this has not brought about peace or understanding. I just think, at the end of the day, the end of our lives, it's about knowing ourselves and being at peace with it. I think so many people are so wrapped up in their own heads, and they rarely bother to venture out and walk in someone else's shoes, much less, lives.. People I find, tend to assume that everyone else must know what goes on in each other's minds. This is sheer craziness.
    Again. how someone reacts to us, is a direct reflection of themselves. I may try to alter their perception, but, really, if they aren't open to receive my message, I don't bother. Life is too short to 'teach' or convince others of something. It's all about really knowing one's self. and feeling peaceful and content with who we are. Treat others with respect, but don't ever expect that this will be returned. I would like to think that this should come naturally, but, alas, I find that it does not.

  24. Word. Thanks for your input, Raven.

  25. This is a greatly detailed post. Nicely done!

  26. jazz says:

    A former boss once told me that the B word stands for Babe in total control of herself…

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