With Chris flying out for a work trip Thursday, I had to stay organized to keep the family routines running. We are a small family–me, the first grader, and the dog.

First grader got to school, I got to work, then back to get the first grader after work and walk the dog and do the homework and go to bed and get up to do it again on Friday.

Friday was harder because there was an event in the evening. Why did it have to be 100 degrees? The dog walk was super-fast and dinner was picked up to eat at the event. Then home and FaceTime with daddy and go to bed exhausted for everyone.

But the dog. She whined in the middle of the night. Stumble up, let her out. She’s getting old and needs to be let out in the middle of the night as a usual thing now. Stumble back to bed and try to sleep again.

But the dog whines again. WHAT?! Stumble up, let her out AGAIN and back to bed.

Still whining. UP AGAIN and this time muttering at her, “What is WRONG? You have been let out, what do you WANT? You have food, you have water…”

Oh. The water dish was completely dry. Ooops.

I filled it up. glug glug glug. Now my whiny dog would hear the water being poured into her dish and should leap up to drink.

She did not. I had to drag her over and SHOW her the water before she realized it was there. She drank and drank. Stopped, her tail still down. Then I led her to drink some more.

I was not happy about being awake. Can’t this dog go drink out of the toilet if she’s so thirsty she has to whine all night? Doesn’t she KNOW there is water right there if she’s so desperate?

And I realize, she’s only a dog. She has one place in this house for water. That water had run out. She didn’t troubleshoot this solution. She’s just a dog.

I remember another story. How the Mayflower landed and the Pilgrims set out to make a new life for themselves in a new world. And they starved to death. Like, half of them.

They were surrounded by food. But just like my dog, it wasn’t what they expected it to look like and where they thought it would be. It took some Native Americans’ pity and help to keep the last half of them alive.

It’s not just dogs. People are the same way. We only look for things where we expect them.

Our comfort zone can turn into a prison.

A friend of mine has created a whole curriculum out of this idea. It’s human nature. Even more than human. It’s almost universal to get stuck in our habit and narrow understandings. It’s a useful thing to eliminate all the places we will NOT look for what we are looking for.

Most of the time.

Then there are the times when, like my dog, we are stuck in an uncomfortable and even dangerous spot that requires expanding our horizons.

My friend’s theory is that we should stay in our comfort zones. We can pull and stretch our comfort zone slightly, a bit at a time, not asking ourselves to go into the red zone of terror. Right now, the red zone of terror is where the desired outcome is.  It may be where we eventually want to be. She says we can take little steps, and grow into the desired outcome.

My dog wouldn’t think to get water on her own, but we can. People can look to find what we need in unexpected places. The start is to have in our minds that it is possible. To believe that what we seek can be found. That hope can grow into a new expectation.

We can always keep growing.