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a dog type dog

Petey found me nine and a half years ago. At the time, I was still in deep grief over losing Scott. I didn’t want to be alive. Yet I adopted a dog. This, I was told, was a sign that I actually did want to live, that my suicidal thoughts were just that—thoughts. I argued against this, of course, because how could anyone really know what was going on inside my brain?

It was probably the worst part of my life so far. In fact, I’m sure it was.

Before I fell into that horrible depression, I had wanted a dog. Even long before that, years before, I had wanted a dog. We had dogs when I was a kid, but they never stayed long. My dad and I were allergic, and as soon as a new dog entered the house, our eyes swelled shut and our lungs tightened. Antihistamines and asthma inhalers were secret staples, but eventually one of my parents would come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t working out and the dog would go back to where it came from. As I got older, my allergies became far less severe. I can’t really articulate why, but it felt even more necessary to have a dog in my life.

When Scott and I talked about our future, we imagined ourselves in stable and enjoyable careers, in a nice house, and with at least one dog. Scott wanted what he called “a dog-type-dog”—the kind of dog you’re thinking about right now. Dog size. Dog shape. Nothing fancy or full bred. No special dog features. Just your run-of-the-mill barking, fetch playing, pal on a leash.

We never got to have any of that. All that I wanted became nothing I could ever have. Or so it felt.

It was about a year and a half after Scott died that I fell into my first major depression. I was recently out of grad school and had just started a new job. I found a nice place to rent. I needed to complete the picture. In spite of my constant sadness and emptiness, in spite of my inability to do anything but stare straight ahead, in spite of my complete lack of enjoyment in anything, I needed a dog.

I wasn’t searching for anything in particular when I found Petey. Just a dog type dog. And that’s exactly what I found. His likeness is everywhere. The white dog with a brown spot over one eye seems to be the symbol of most things dog. Add a red color and you’ve got the quintessential dog.

But when he came to live with me it was clear that Petey was more than just a dog. I refuse to believe that it was my grief state that made me see certain things in him. Until he came along, I didn’t hold much in terms of belief systems. I’d given up on the notion of a higher power. I knew only enough about eastern religions to know what reincarnation was. And when Petey came into my life, after that first night he was in his new home, I knew he was a dog embodiment of Scott.

When I got Petey, he was a year and a half. He had to have been born shortly after Scott died. It made perfect sense that Scott’s soul transformed and he managed to find me. And it made perfect sense that he would find me when I was at my lowest. Petey saved my life.

Without going into too much detail, I will tell you that there was a day when I decided I no longer wanted to be alive. I made a plan and I started driving towards the ocean, knowing I would never come back. I got almost there when it occurred to me: there would be no one to take care of Petey. I hadn’t left a note. No one even knew I was leaving town, and there’s no telling how long it would be before anyone realized I was gone. I couldn’t leave Petey. I couldn’t.

I came home that night, weary and disappointed in myself for not going through with my plan. And there was Petey, thrilled to see me. When I sat on the couch, in a fog of confusion, Petey leaned into me. He laid his head on my chest and I swear he was listening to my heart beat. If he could hear it, it meant I was alive. We made an unspoken pact that night. He would take care of me as long as he is alive, and I will stay alive for him and take care of him, no matter what. He remains determined to keep me safe and happy, and he does a wonderful job. I’m alive because of him.

The person I loved most in the world died one day and because he died I wanted to die. A year and a half later he found me and he taught me how to live. This soul that rests in the body of a sixty pound pit bull is one of the most beautiful souls I’ve encountered on my life journey.

It feels strange writing this, and even stranger knowing that people will read it. But we believe what we believe. Our realities are uniquely ours, and this is mine. I have all the things I was meant to have years ago. I have a house, an enjoyable career, a dog type dog. And somewhere inside that dog is the soul of one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known.

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just don’t look at the clock

A few weeks ago, I set out to build a desk that’d be just for me. Something solid enough to set my laptop on and sturdy enough to rest my elbows on when my hands stop moving across the keyboard. I aimed for something unique, something that looks cool enough to be at least moderately impressive. And I did what I usually do: I approached the project without any plans. No measurements, no cut list. Just an idea and a cool piece of an old pallet that I wanted to serve as the front.

I’ve been building the desk for three weeks now. It comes together and then I find mistakes. I take it apart and decide on a new approach. I drill and screw and cut and measure and recut. Then I take the whole thing apart again.

Finally, finally, it started coming together tonight. In my mind, it’s pretty damn impressive. In the garage, it looks like some lumber screwed together haphazardly.

It’s going to look amazing. In time.

………….

L decided a few days ago that we should push one another to go to the gym. We each have memberships, but rarely workout. I was going pretty regularly before J and I broke up. My gym is on the way home from work, and it was a nice stop-over on my way home, where things were becoming less comfortable. Working out was good self-care. I was strengthening the shoulder I’d broken a few months before. I had more energy. I could feel my body starting to change. More than anything, I worked out to de-stress.

So I’m back at it, hoping to make this a regular thing again. I might need L’s encouragement from time to time, and I’ll return the favor when she needs a little push.

With some of the machines, I have no idea what I’m doing. Instead of asking someone, I just glance occasionally at someone who’s using the same machine and try to do what they’re doing, all while doing my best to not look like an idiot.

I wish I could approach exercise as fervently as I approach woodworking. If I can keep it up, I’ll figure things out and eventually I’ll do it right and my body will start to transform. I have no vision of what I will look like along the way. I only know that I’ll be healthier mentally and physically.

I’m going to feel great. In time.

………….

Through an odd series of events, I started chatting online with a psychic the other day. It’s not what you think; she’s not giving me glimpses of my future or calling up people from beyond. We’re talking about the metaphysical, something I’ve been quite interested in yet know very little about.

P is very open to questions and is generously letting me pick her brain. I told her that I am working on a book that’s somewhat metaphysical in theme. I explained Scott’s death and the shape and scope of Acceptance and, through our conversation, I’ve found myself almost ready to begin working on the book again.

It’s strange how these things happen, how I can completely unexpectedly fall into a conversation with a psychic who lives in another country, how I can feel safe telling her some pretty intense stories, and how it all makes me want to return to work on something that’s very important to me.

I’m looking forward to seeing where our conversation takes us, and I’m anxious to learn as much as I can from P, to swap ideas and form, challenge, or reinforce my beliefs. I feel like this is the spark I’ve needed. My world has shifted in the past few months and I have the space in my life to reengage with Acceptance. It felt impossible to work on while J and I were together—for several reasons. But now, I’m ready to write what needs to be written, and no one has to give me permission to do so.

Daunting as it feels, I just might be able to finish the book. In time.

………….

Everything is starting to come together.

It’s becoming clear that I can have that undefinable it. That I can become stronger, more confident, more driven to create. That I can build a desk and sit at it and write a book that needs to be written.

Coming to that realization, recognizing that I can return fully to my most essential me, is both wonderful and terrifying. I remind myself that this is not a race, that all I need to focus on is the want and the possibility.

I’m moving forward with a vision but no plan. Cautiously, mindfully.


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the goodbye collection: brief views of forever leaving

At 8, I moved for the first time. I gave my friend a Matchbox car. He gave me a Hotwheels car. I can’t remember if we hugged before I climbed into our station wagon. I buried the Matchbox car in the backyard of our new house.

At 20, I left my father, mother, and brother in the airport and I got on a plane to fly across the country, to a new home. As soon as the plane took off, I became a full-fledged adult. My mom packed me a lunch and two pieces of pound cake wrapped in plastic. My dad gave me dating advice.

At 26, I left on a plane and told D I’d be back. Months later, I called him and told him I wasn’t coming home, that we were done. Sixteen years later, he mailed me some photos he still had. One is my high school class picture; the other is of that day I left to fly across the country.

At 37, I ran out of M’s house, screen door slamming behind me, never to return. For Valentine’s Day, she’d given me a bracelet that says “love me, love my dog.” I wear it occasionally as a reminder of the way I need and deserve to be loved.

Three months later, I got out of R’s car and watched her drive away, never to return. Before she drove away, I returned her house key, only to learn later that it wasn’t hers. I carried her key on my keychain for a year, thinking one day I’d perform a small ritual and throw it into the Sound. Instead I threw it away in a garbage can outside the Home Depot.

I never planned on not seeing any of them. I loved them all, in different ways, and I had imagined a life with them. In romance or friendship, I imagined our forever. After I left, though, I made no real efforts to get any of them back in my life.

I think of all of them often, some more than others and some with more fondness than others. I wonder where they are and what they’re doing, and I wonder if they think of me. I would never choose to not have had them in my life. But, knowing where they are now and where I am now, these goodbyes have been not only necessary, but small blessings. I walked away and moved along a newly forged path.