Red Flags

A counseling client named Marie was telling me about a woman employee who stole money from her. I asked Marie if there were any red flags and Marie, who is from another country, did not know what a red flag was. So I asked her if there were any warning signs about her employee. She thought about it and said “Yes!” She then described them in detail. From all that she was describing, there were enough red flags, actually six, that the woman should have been fired months before she had stolen money. But Marie had such a good heart and a sincere trust in people, and she hoped this woman would change. Instead, her behavior got worse and worse to the point that she stole a considerable amount of money from Marie’s business and then left town.


In choosing a partner, it is critical that you be aware of red flags. When you see these warnings, pay attention to them. All too often, people end up with someone, sometimes even marrying them, only to realize that they ignored the red flags showing up alone the way.


Red flags can be internal as well as external. They can come from a strong intuition that something is not right. I have had this happen to me to the point that I actually feel sick inside if I attempt to do something that truly does not feel right. When something is right, there will be a positive feeling to it as you move forward.


My wonderful husband Barry loves to go on river rafting and backpacking adventures. I don’t ever want to stand in his way. I know that I am welcome to come along, but for the most part these days, I would prefer to stay home by myself, as I love being alone as well. There is one river in very remote Southeast Oregon that Barry loves the most, the Owyhee River. Year after year, the water levels were not right to raft this river, there is such a narrow window. Finally, it looked like the water levels would be perfect for him to go. He would be gone and out of cell reception for eight days.


But as his departure drew near, something definitely felt wrong. Every time I thought about him leaving, I felt sick inside. Everything about the trip felt perfectly good to him, but not to me in any way.  Sometimes the greatest red flag of all is that we just do not feel right about something even though we cannot give voice to exact reasons. Finally, I was able to clearly communicate that I felt sick inside every time I thought of him leaving to go on this river. He heard me and cancelled his trip (with naturally some sad reluctance). Once he cancelled the trip, I was able to relax and the sick feeling went away.


On the exact date that he would have started his journey down the river, our beautiful and very loving golden retriever, Rosie, became very sick. She had previously been treated for cancer and the veterinarian had assured us that she could have several more years of life in her. She had a lot of energy and loved chasing balls and playing. She was only nine years old. Both of us absolutely loved Rosie, and she had been one of our favorites. We had done all that could be done for her with regards to removing the cancer. We knew that if she became sick again, it would likely mean that she was dying. Overnight, she went downhill fast.


What would have been the third day of Barry’s river trip, our beloved Rosie died. Having our dogs die and needing a vet assistance is just about the hardest thing for us. We always do this together and lean heavily on each other for support and love during the process. We always hold our dogs for hours and even stay up all night with them talking to them and thanking them for being with us. It is heart breaking for both of us. After they die, we always bury the dogs in special places on our property.


I am so grateful that I heeded that major red flag warning in my heart. I needed Barry very much during the days that Rosie was dying and when she died. I probably cried more in those three days than I had in the past two years all together. And for Barry, it was the same, and he would have been heartsick to go off on his trip with Rosie doing fine and to return with her gone with no chance to say good-by. He was very grateful that he was home with Rosie and with me during this sad time.


So sometimes a red flag is something outside of us, something that we can see or hear, and sometimes it is an intuition, even without clear evidence. But in either case it is so important to pay attention. These red flags are pointing us in the right direction. When we act on them, we seldom go wrong. These red flags are intended with our best interests at heart. No harm can ever come to us for taking the time to listen and watch for the red flags. This is the universe’s way of loving us and taking care of us.


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