Head Coach: These are 'Sirius' times

By Lane Johnson
Aug. 2, 2012 at 3:02 a.m.

We are well into the Dog Days of Summer. It technically begins on July 3 and continues for 40 days, ending Aug. 11.

But, depending where on the globe you live and to which culture you listen, it can range anywhere from early July to early September. Everyone seems to agree, however, that the Dog Days of Summer represent the hottest, muggiest part of the season. It is a sultry time of extreme heat characterized by periods of stagnation or inactivity.

That's not why we refer to this time as dog days though. The stagnation and inactivity seems to impact us all. Not just the dogs. I can feel the energy being cooked out of me this time of year. I see it in others.

Even my cat, Jake, lies around unresponsive to noises or movements that usually to stand him straight up. This season is named after the dog star, Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation, Canis Major.

Constellations are groups of stars that form connect-the-dot pictures in the sky. Our European ancestors named most of the star pictures we recognize today. There are bears (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor), twins (Gemini), a bull (Taurus), and dogs (Canis Major and Canis Minor), to mention a few. The brightest of the stars in Canis Major (the big dog) is Sirius, which also happens to be the brightest star in the night sky. In fact, it is so bright that the ancient Romans thought the earth received heat from it. In the summer Sirius rises and sets with the sun, and the ancients believed that its heat added to the heat of the sun creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. Hence, the Dog Days of Summer.

But enough about astronomy and how the dog days of summer got its name. The point is that it's doggone hot out there. And with heat comes fatigue. With fatigue comes irritability. With irritability comes rudeness. All of a sudden we're all acting like the French. Although, even the French are beginning to question the wisdom of generalized rudeness for which they have become known.

A recent survey in France revealed that 60 percent of those polled believed the No. 1 source of stress in French society was their rudeness.

There are now campaigns in France to put their rudeness in check.

Maybe we could all do the same. Summer is in its height of heat, fatigue and stress. By now most of the kids are bored. The parents are spent. The crowds and the traffic are more irritating than ever. Conditions are ripe for impatience. If we don't pay attention, we could easily be blind-sided by fits of anger and go off on some undeserving by-stander. It could trigger a chain reaction of hostility. Someone could get hurt.

I don't want to get hurt, and I certainly don't want to be the reason someone else does.

So, I'm going to make a special effort to slow down a little, take a few deep breaths every day, and be mindful of my mood, emotions, reactions and behavior. None of us are immune from getting triggered into unprovoked confrontations that serve no purpose other than to turn us against each other at a time when, sociologically, politically and economically we need each other the most. I'm going to attempt patience when I feel irritated or offended.

I'm going to make a conscious effort to smile more, make eye contact with that smile and look for opportunities to exercise random acts of humility.

Just because these are the Dog Days of Summer doesn't mean we have to act like a poodle.

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by e-mail at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.



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