Opossum In My Yard


Finally, spring has come and with it, in my case anyway, are some strange new animals sharing space with my dog and cat.  This little alien isn’t a familiar sight where I live.  The winters here are often too cold.   Still, with the shift in temperatures, milder winters and a welcoming backyard these little critters have set up house.  We have two and I guess that means that we will have more.

Mom, Dad and baby marsupials (pending ) have created a bit of a dilemma in my routine prone household.  That is the routine that we have fallen into because of our dog, Finneymae.  Finney can no longer go into the yard after ten at night without a chaperone.  Seems that opossums and dogs aren’t well suited to each other.  The dog doesn’t handle change well.  She isn’t as able to shift her habits and instinct to accommodate this new yard reality.

The result is that as the house “pack leader” I have some decisions to make.  Long ago, in my training as a psychotherapist, I learned that it was best to go with resistance rather than trying to battle against it.  Learn to move forward into new realities rather than try to stop or contain the evolution that is taking place.

As a coach I use the expression “choose the hill you want to die on carefully” I  wish I could teach my dog the same philosophy.  The new little critters, that now live in my yard, have created an issue for her.  She just can’t accept this change and continues to rail against it.  It made me think that this situation is not unlike issues that are created in a workplace or family when an unexpected and alien change is imposed.

   As humans we often meet new ways of “doing and thinking ” with powerful resistance.   My dog is always in a never ending and losing battle to protect territory.   She can’t self regulate.  She isn’t human.  My cat doesn’t have such issues.  She is totally independent but still can’t self regulate.  Both are driven by instinct. I venture to say that the opossums can’t self regulate either.  They’re just good at playing dead when there is a threat.

Picture this in an office that is undergoing a period of change.  Row upon row of work-pods staffed with resistant humans playing possum!  Interesting image isn’t it?  If you have lived through a workplace change then you know what I’m talking about.  Lots of resistance, playing ‘possum and external blaming.

As humans we have much better options.  We can choose to self -regulate and turn a perceived or real external threat into an opportunity for growth and learning.  Still, as rewarding as self regulation is, it’s a difficult and challenging thing to learn.

Self -regulation is the key to being able to adapt and change as needed.  Self -regulation equals self confidence and puts an end to damaging defensive responses.  It supports  and encourages the creation of important pro-active boundaries.  It provides the structure that enables self actualization.  It supplies the  individual power that only comes when our  locus of control is firmly planted in our sense of self  as we exist in a larger world.

This all seems so simple, yet it is the hardest lesson to learn.  Once we’ve felt the power that comes with self regulation, we no longer need to engage in defeating emotions and non effective coping mechanisms.  Instead, seeing life through a self regulating lens creates a world  that is crisp and clear  and this lens  provides  a great window on how to negotiate forward.  Often the path chosen is a surprising one .  It is a path unencumbered external bias.   Individuation , the gift that comes from self regulation.  Once you have this, change and transition become non threatening.

So, back to the opossums in my back yard.  It’s true that they have brought a new challenge to our family.  Once you get beyond the fear of the new,  the disruption and the change to routine, then what you’re left with is a gentle ally.  In this case,  a cute little critter who will eat the snails that eat our plants, keep the mouse population down and  act as a green bin for uneaten veggies and fruits.

So, welcome “Som” and “Oppo” to the TJ Woodfield urban forest.  Looking forward to  our new adventures together.