Running with the Dogs
I have a confession to make: I, Kelsey Lindell, went on a run with a dog this week.
If you know me, you know that this is more unlikely than anyone who gets involved with the Kardashian family coming out of the ordeal with all of their marbles still intact because I genuinely detest animals. I know, not the most admirable quality. Whatever the normal human amount of affection for animals in the human heart is, mine was translated into compassion for humans and put on steroids and is so overdeveloped that it now has awkward veins sticking out of it that make it seem fake. It’s not, I’ll genuinely lose the plot over humans being treated unfairly and equally as much over surprising humans that I love with things they love. I’m not heartless, I just prefer my animals on a plate thanks to the counseling sessions my beloved River gave me to get over my ridiculous fear of eating burgers in front of people.
The most annoying phrase in the human vocabulary is “Oh, trust me, you’ll love my dog (or cat/hamster/bird)!” I’m sorry, what do you think is so special about your little fur nugget that it’s going to change the 23 years of experience I have meeting animals? Does your dog talk? Smell good? Respect physical boundaries? Not shed? Not slobber? Pick up it’s own poop? I didn’t think so. I don’t like your dog.
I like African animals, because they’re usually kept very far away from me. As long as I’m not forced to interact with them and can admire the complexity and creativity that God used in creating elephants and giraffes we’re Gucci. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not pro-animal cruelty. Those humane center commercials with the Sarah McLaughlin backing tracks will occasionally hit me in the feels, too. I’ve come to realize that it’s more of a combination of a fear of animals and people trying to force their animals on me that’s elicited this strong conviction of devoting my life to being a human lover/animal hater. I do think that this fear of animals is rooted in a place of truth: you never know when they might attack, you can’t have a conversation with them and they can’t tell you what they’re thinking. I mean, I don’t really like babies that much either. I like them more than animals because at least they don’t try to attack you or hump your leg, but if you can’t reason with it and it won’t laugh at my jokes I’m generally not a fan. I always tell my friends that have babies to wait until their kids are around 1.5 and we’ll be besties but until then do NOT leave me alone with your kiddos if you don’t want me having a panic attack.
When I arrived at my friend’s farm out in the middle of the mountains in the middle of nowhere in Africa, I was SO excited to go for runs and workouts because it is genuinely the most beautiful place I have ever been. I’ve snowboarded the mountains in Colorado, I’ve hiked the Andes, but these mountains sucker punch you in the soul and leave you dumbfounded at how impossible it would be to look around and believe that there isn’t a God that created them all. You look around and realize that you’ve been swallowed by grandeur and nature in one big gulp, paired with the realization that the same being that created them is desperately, passionately in love with the little tiny broken pieces that make up you and you’re lost for words. Yes, even loud-mouthed, million-miles-a-minute Kelsey gets lost for words in the middle of here.
As much as I dislike animals, I love exercise. Obviously you know this, because if you’re reading this you either know me personally or follow me on my social media which is littered with more gym selfies/ab shots that I try to disguise as “meaningful, deep posts” than the slums of Cape Town are with plastic bags and garbage. The last time that I was there I was about to go out for a run, and they suggested I take one of their dogs. I laughed, because they knew how I felt about animals but they went on to explain that the property has a tendency to have some pretty dangerous snakes, and that the dogs would bark and notify me if any were coming to pay us a visit. I shrugged it off, seeing as I had been there plenty of times and had never seen a snake once.
I went out, ironically probably jamming to some highly un-Christian music, and came back to the main house to see a huge, dead snake on their front porch. This guy was like twice my size, no joke, which isn’t that hard considering I’m a nugget. But still, that’s huge. Minutes after I’d left, this little SOB decided to pay the house a visit and my adoptive Afrikaans dad had whipped out his shotgun to ensure the safety of everyone. Before you get your undies in a bundle, unsubscribe from my blog and then report me to PETA, bear in mind that he was very poisonous, dangerous slimy creature who has no business being that close to us and there wasn’t an animal control we could call. The whole point I made earlier about not hating on African animals too much? TOTAL opposite when it comes to snakes. I had nightmares for a week afterwards about what could have happened had I left three minutes later.
This left me with a bit of a dilemma: not do my favorite activity (exercise) in my most favorite place for fear of getting attacked by a snake, or get over my fear of animals and bring one of the dogs with me.
The puppy came with, ran alongside me the whole time. She didn’t make a sound, didn’t try to jump on me or attack me, didn’t poop or require a thing from me. Fear number one, conquered. The assurance that I had of having the dog with me allowed me to not fret about the impending arrival of a snake and I could just focus on the task at hand: loving the creation I was in the midst of, mentally detoxing from the busyness of life, and getting a six pack. The most beautiful thing was that I didn’t have to do a thing to overcome my two fears. When you come to a point where the things in your life that you love are in jeopardy of not being a thing anymore because of your fears you have to come up with a plan to get over it. In most cases, I feel like I’m in a boxing ring with whichever fear I’m currently trying to overcome and I’m trying to shuffle my little feet around it and strategically give it a well placed left hook (see what I did there?!) but this time it was different. Instead of me battling each of these fears independently, I focused on what I loved wanted to do: run my brains out until I got shin splints or had an asthma attack – maybe even both.
I ran over 40 kilometers in my less than 5 days there – which is a lot for my little legs and lungs – but what surfaced over the course of those steps was magical. Ideas, inspiration and dreams for Uphold Global that were so far out of what my little brain would usually come up with. It’s easy to dream big when you’re overcoming your fears and surrounded by undeniable evidence that there is a very big and powerful God that’s on your team, and I shudder to think what may have happened had I not decided to just go for it and bring Lulu with me. I was an overwhelmed, overworked and frustrated Kelsey when I arrived at the farm, and I wept like a baby the whole drive back to Cape Town as I was hit by wave after wave of unshakeable faith in what I know God is going to do with Uphold.
Now don’t get too excited, I’m not an animal loving convert. I thoroughly enjoy a good burger and I snuck an entire rotisserie chicken into a movie last night… so I’m not going vegan anytime soon. I still don’t like how animals smell or the fact that you have to pick up their poop until they die, so I’m definitely not getting a pet either. But, here’s the lesson friends: stop trying to fight your fears. Honestly, we can’t fight our natural responses to things like that. They are what they are, and sometimes our fears are actually there to protect us from danger. What we CAN do is overcome the irrational parts of them. Instead of fighting them one on one, I put my fear of snakes in one corner of the boxing ring, and my fear of dogs in the other and I let them beat the shit out of one another, instead of beating the shit out of me. Just go on and do the work that you love doing in the first place. Recognize that your fear may always be there, swinging and ready, and honestly it’s going to hit something – rather have it knock out one of your other fears than taking you down for the count.