"Calm the Heck Down"
My partner Hanbit and I live on the second floor of a West Philly rowhouse. Below us are three humans and two rabbits. And above us are three humans, one cat, and one dog. I love all animals and enjoy our menagerie. I’m especially partial to Archie and Lotti, the lop-eared rabbits, who like to hop in the backyard during the summer and spring.
The first time Hanbit and I heard the meow of the cat and the swift chunky dog paws on the stairs, we were both super delighted. The dog above us is named Basil. Basil is a medium-sized dog with brown stripes in a pattern I believe (from my many hours of watching dog documentaries) is called a “brindle coat”; she is of some unknown breed.
Basil loves her humans but is vaguely disinterested in humans in general. We definitely get excited when we see her in the stairs but Basil is generally fairly blasé to our affection. None the less, Basil is a good dog and one that we love.
During the pandemic, Basil’s people were home a lot and now they are returning to school and work. During the day, when her people are away, poor Basil occasionally howls ardently with such grief and terror that Hanbit and I actually feel her heartache and utter isolation. It's a gut-cleching sorrow that is not to be underestimated.
It sounds something like this “arr-- arr-- ah-rooooooooo!!!!!” and it works its way up to full resplendent emotion as she gets going.
The first few times it happened we tried to console her by talking through the vent, “Basil, baby, it’s ok. They’re coming back. They love you so much! Nothing bad will happen. You are safe.”
If Basil heard us, she did not believe us one bit. Which led Hanbit to cut to the chase and move on to stronger declarations.
Now, when she howls, Hanbit says out loud: “Basil, calm the heck down!!!”
To be totally honest, Hanbit actually says something a bit stronger than “heck” which I will omit for purposes of this blog post.
He says it with love but also as a statement of fact. He knows that her people are coming back and is encouraging her to stop being ridiculous and to keep the faith!
“Calm the heck down” has become a straight-forward loving reminder in our household to slow the heck down, be calm, and be still. To connect with the capacity to rebalance your energy even when you’re not feeling much at ease.
Hanbit and I now tell each other to “calm the heck down” when we need to remember that it’s not only ok but even encouraged to take a pause to re-regulate the nervous system.
If you feel like Basil throughout the day, abandoned, dysregulated, anxious, overstimulated, or simply afraid, remind yourself to calm the heck down. Take a breath. Close your eyes for two breaths in and out. Drink some water. Move. Stretch, Breathe. Rest.
You have the capacity to come home to yourself at any moment in your day. Reassuring yourself, rebalancing, reregulating doesn’t have to take all day. Make a list of all the ways you can soothe yourself if you’re feeling stressed. Consult that list and return to yourself.
We have this opportunity over and over again.