8. I’m scared of losing my dog. He is pushing 16 years old. I’ve had him since he was 3 months old and he has seen me through a lot of rough times. He has a lot of ailments now. The only one that I know of that is life-threatening is his heart murmur. He was diagnosed with it many years ago. But, then in 2002, I was grieving a big break-up and crying all of the time and he started hiding under the desk in the spare room whenever I would cry. I’ve heard that animals go and hide when they are ready to die. So, I got worried about him and I took him to the doctor. I couldn’t bear to lose Doo as well yet. The doc said the heart murmur had gotten serious. I took my pooch to a specialist who said that they’d have to put him on expensive drugs with bad side effects and give him ultrasounds every six months. I debated about this and decided against it. I promised myself (and Doo) that I would not try to drag out his time here simply because I was afraid of letting him go and that I would focus on giving him the best quality of life I could while he is here.
I also consulted an animal psychic. (Go ahead, roll your eyes, but I don’t care. I was desperate for some sort of emotional understanding of how to proceed.) She told me that Doo is very devoted to me and worries about me. He wants to be there for me but my grieving was getting to be too much for him. (If you just look at it metaphorically, his heart was breaking for my broken heart.) He needed just fun time. She also said that it wasn’t his time to go yet. That he would stay with me until I was OK and would be taken care of. His time was coming but, when it did, he would just go and I wouldn’t have to make any agonizing decisions about whether or not to keep him alive. Knowing that his happiness was dependent on my happines, I made a point of pulling myself out of my funk faster than I would if left to my own devices. Like in childhood, a lot of mental health is due to the love of a dog. (Honestly, when it comes right down to it, my dogs are a big reason why I have made it this far. I feel incredible gratitude and love for them.)
But now I’m being taken care of now by a wonderful man who is really devoted to me. He is really good to me. Way better than any relationship I’ve ever had. Way better than I would have even expected or dared directly asked for. You can see where I’m going with this …. Right now, he and I live in separate homes and that means time with him often means time away from Doo. I’m really afraid of coming home one morning and finding that Doo died alone in his sleep. Every time I leave the house, I look at him and wonder if it will be the last time I see him again. I really want Doo to be happy all the way to the end. I want him to know how important he is to me and how much I care about him and how sorry I am that I haven’t always given him the attention and devotion that he has given me. Every morning I wake up at home, the first thing I do is stare at him to see if he is still breathing. I’ve been doing this for years now. But somehow it seems more of a worry now. The other morning I woke up and pulled him to me and curled up around him and laid my hand on his chest and felt his heart. It went boom …. boom boom boom … … … boom boom … boom … …. boom boom boom boom. Very irregular. Very scary. And very amazing that he has survived so long and with such a great attitude and energy level with such a funky ticker.
For the list of today’s complaints 7 through 1, click here
[OK, my mind is getting oriented for my writing retreat. I woke up this morning and had the idea that, at the front of each section of my thesis, I might like to write an autobiographical journal piece about the process of sequestering and writing this thesis. (For those of you that haven’t heard, I’m writing a big, ol’ piece on the transformative power of loneliness. So, here’s a first practice pass …. ]
Last night was the last night of meals on the run. The last night of status reports and water cooler conversations. The last night of commuting along the familiar groove in my psyche that shuttles me, 5 days a week, past the recycling dumpster, overflowing on Tuesday nights, through the welcome left turn light at the church, past the bakery whose early morning efforts make me breathe as if breaking the surface after a deep dive, and up the hill alongside students laboring on bikes, their breath forming twisted question marks in the cold, winter air behind them. My easy link from the comfort of cursory encounters with familiar faces and places to my solitary existence in this too big house has been cut.
With the sunset now a recent memory, the front door closed behind me, and yet I lingered there, just inside, with my hand on the knob, surveying the hallways and corners of my future. Protected from the unpredictability of the world outside, my momentary relief morphed into a low-grade dread. There was nothing here in this place either, except for more aloneness. It was as if the warm air around me, so briefly comforting, suddenly filled with dangerous smoke; my vision blurred, sounds disappeared behind walls of cotton balls, my legs itched with the urge to run for my life. I was choking on the quiet.
I reminded myself, “OK. It’s OK. You chose this, you chose this. There is nothing here that can surprise you.”
Today, I am writing to you from inside a jar. A jar I’ve borrowed for 40 days. I’ve been here before in this terrifyingly insipid hole. But this time I brought shelves full of books, a blank journal, open eyes, and the promise of an end. I am at the bottom of this empty beaker and I am writing my way out, filling it with my words until I become lighter and lighter and rise to the top like a buoy dancing on adverbs, similes, and past participles, until at last I am the one who is empty and my inner world has spilled over and washed me gently on to your lap.