Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Independence Day is a few days away. I may be independent at times, but I do not feel free.

Red sores on my hands match the places where I collide over and over with sharp-edged constraints that shape my day. Every twenty-four hour period is a blessing to someone who wakes in a good mood. Well, pull those chips off the table for me and poke your fingers through what's left. Hope is in there, but it's like like not enough salt. I know I shook some on there, but I don't taste it. I catch glimpses, and I mean brief static bursts between radio stations as I scroll. I get a funny deja vu feeling: was that lightheartedness? Was that happy anticipation?

I don't know why, but I did not turn out like my grandmother. She was happy instantly regardless of the prospects company or conversation. She was always fine with random, with unpredictable, and with sudden change. These characters lounged in the background of her life comfortably, feet up, arms crossed. Did she care? Nope. She would rub her hands together or laugh and was ready to change directions without losing her mood.

I need all the right props and I need them to stay in place.

Anyway, Lily arrived one muddy, unusually warm late December day and my dull predictable days toppled. Their pieces are scattered across December 26 irretrievably. My mood has since been trampled, bitten, chewed, and shredded.

Today is June 30 and I don't feel normal yet, but tonight I had a glimpse. I actually laughed. I sat with Jerry on the patio and drank a glass of Merlot. We rode his motorcycle and the late June air chilled our skin.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The day began with a morning stickier than fly paper. Somehow flies mosquitoes gnats bigger flies creepy buzzing things and things with sharp pointed stingers all love a body slick with sweat. A big quick-serve blood bar. I took Lily down the street and as I ran I kept my left hand on the leash and my right was swatting wildly.

Something small like the size of a sesame seed with wings and legs squished in my eye as I squinted. Just for a second I felt it there, pinned between lids where I smeared it out with a sweaty finger covered in long, abrasive strands of fur.

I felt something land on my cheek and in a panic I hit myself in the face. The tender bridge of my nose still hurts.

At three in the afternoon jogging through heavy clinging air was tough. At 6 when I went with Lily again, gravity had stopped pulling so hard and the air had thinned.

I was so encouraged I took everyone but Ozzy into the woods so they could run loose. Ozzy tends to turn around and go home without telling anyone and there I am wondering if he got lost.

Yesterday Hershey launched after a stick and bumped Ozzy. He tipped over, four legs jutting into the air, then toppled to his feet again. I don't think he knew things were upside down for a second.

Lily wanted Hershey's ball today. Hershey turned away and Lily ended up with Hershey's scruff between her teeth. They spun around like that for a second and I couldn't get there fast enough. When we got home I found a patch about the size of my fingertip was plucked to the skin. A red tooth hole in its center bled.

I am sorry Hershey. I looked at it tonight and I am sure one of Lily's teeth would fit the puncture. How do I fix that? Maybe I should not stupidly throw a ball where they both will run after it.

I can't do anything without falling asleep. Stress is just shutting me down. It's not sleep, but like a spell. I can't keep my eyes open. Sight and sound abruptly fade and something physically pulls me into unconsciousness. My headache grows like an ant hill, tiny increments that come in a steady flow. It's happening now, like I suddenly lose my balance and my head dips forward. I know people walk past my desk at work and see me eyes close, then burst back open.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Using my soothing and calm voice that I save for bedtime stories, I told the dogs that I was going to kick them like footballs. I would hold them between outstretched hands and just kick.


Lily jumped up and dragged a heavy claw down my thigh. She left behind a red rug burn surrounded by what looks like powdered purple eye shadow.

Ozzy barks at night. Once. At nothing. Again. At nothing.

Hershey and Lily go in circles trying to hump each other. Lily wraps her front paws around Hershey and her feet are tapping like a drummer's. Bandit has been OK.

It's hot out and he sits down under his thick fur and waits for the humidity to pass.

I woke this morning and listened to a glass bottle bounce against the bottom of a plastic recycle bin again and again. Rotten neighbors. Don't they know? Fill first, carry to curb second.

What day is this?

I can't stay awake long enough to push through all the foggy stuff between here and the end of this sentence.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I should sell tickets to the humping dog show in my house, which has become a circus. Stress is like an invisible drug that makes me sleep. I sit down at my desk and am suddenly drooping on the computer keys. I close my eyes too long in the shower and feel myself drift.

The bright colors and flashing lights and collective screaming drawing near, pulling away, drawing near, pulling away, make a fun and distracting blend of sounds and rhythm at the carnival tonight.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lily. She is part of the big stupid lump of fatigue jumping up and down on my shoulders.

Too angry to write today. Dreams are bad, shadows in my peripheral vision are back, and I keep glancing to see what black blob ran across the floor. I don't have enough wine for this.

Yesterday, for once I was clear enough to see that the black thing bouncing at the bottom rim of my vision was real and had tufts of white in its tail. Its motion was not the sleek forward attack of a cat in the night, but the determined trudge of a scavenger. Too slow to run for safety, but equipped to win the fight.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I am retreating. From people conversations greetings pleasantries and mindless chatter. From eye contact interaction shaking hands standing in line sitting in a coffee shop where someone will approach and gush their hellos while I've got my java half way to my lips and rather than catching the delicious and sweet steamy brew, I place the cup on the table to say hello.

Lily is good but I am clinging to her as cars pass. I fear she'll make the leap into someone's passenger window they have rolled down to catch the summer, bringing hot breezes in to rustle their clothes and tug at their scalp, to slap against their shirts and slide over their skin.

Out on the motorcycle tonight after a town meeting I shuffle thoughts like cards held in uncertain hands.

Do I wake up tomorrow and grab for the retreating threads of a dream running to hide from daylight? Do I hurry and chase it back into the darkness or open my eyes and test the day?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Amazing that we all succumb to the spell of "not really realities" like texting email reading, a movie the web. Is it because no mirrors reflect our sorry faces in these places? Is it because we have reached through the dust and crumpled shirts to the back of our minds where the special stuff hides? The stuff that only we see, and only if we're looking for it where it sleeps peacefully without light or sound or swearing or car horns or crabby neighbors.
Lily jumps up and barks and I wonder if one of my churlish bad moods is outside in the dark, dirty and ratty, loading its slingshot. It doesn't want to damage me really, I mean, it's me, but it really wants an award for being annoying.
I won't walk past a window for a few minutes.

Can the dogs sense moods descending like they hear thunder minutes before we do?

Patty had told me, if you're in the woods and this dog's ears perk up and she stops, stop. If she snarls or backs off, get out. Run away. She smells something dangerous, the trainer told me. She had also told me that there are Shepherd People and she could easily place this dog in a home.

As if a secret signal has passed among them, the Shepherd People soon emerged. Like a new word I have learned, they are popping up everywhere. Suddenly I understand Patty's comment. Certain people out there are dog lovers. Others are Shepherd lovers. I am a Lily lover.

Someone is prank calling a friend. He is too far for me to reach with anything other than a helpful idea. I can't sit with him and make reassurances that the sounds he hears are not threats coming true, but only the wind whipping branches across the window in a remote and barely-there part of Maine. By straddling the imaginary boundary drawn in a nearby river, he has a foot in Canadian territory. I want Lily to scare and bite his prank caller. Record THAT on the answering machine.

I look at Lily and see the bones beneath. I see the shrink-wrapped version of her at 46 pounds, but the same hopeful and curious expression. I see a doggy with a head like a pin cushion, the ticks large, shiny, and ripe enough to fall like plump bubbles into the grass. I forget the large ears and incisors that are stark against her black fur. I remember the hikers who stepped into a clearing from a trail as their big, fluffy dog shot past them, wagging, eager to greet Lily. I know Lily would have welcomed it. She is Miss Social. Loves everyone. But the woman stopped, gasped, and slapped her hands to her mouth. Was she worried her dog would head for the road? Was she worried about Lily?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Arriving at the end of a book sucks. It's not an accomplishment, it's an immediate addict's need to replenish. It's panic.

My book ended. I sat there with a half glass of wine, Lily finally slept, and I turned the page where the last paragraph waited.

I see the exact spot on the page where the spell breaks and I am left to find something else quick quick quick before my mind wanders stupidly down a familiar path home where my life waits behind a boring set of curtains.

When is the last time I was in a good mood? Do you remember, I ask Jerry.

Ummmm. I wait. My mind searches around the bars hotel rooms camping trips little detours to a tag sale coffee a bar somewhere in Maine. I can't find a good mood along this string of memories and just about drop from sight as I veer away from huge craters. The gaping holes are left by my anxiety, stress and plain rotten moods.

I look at Jerry and his eyes are closed. He opens them after a second, then laughs. Well, were you asleep? When was I in a good mood.

I'm THINKING, he tells me.

Sometimes you're in a good mood.

They only last a couple of hours, and I usually notice them seconds after they're gone, I tell him.

Hey, there goes a pretty good mood, I think. I wonder what scared it off.

I remember, I say. The time we were on the motorcycle and found that roaming dog. Remember? I had used Jerry's belt as a leash and ran door to door in boots with high heels while I looked for the owner or someone to hold this dog until an animal control officer could come.

You can tell tons about a person based on how close they come to the front door screen when a stranger knocks. You aren't getting help from the person you can't quite discern through the dusty, finely woven grid.

Why don't they come close enough to see? Is it instinctive to seek concealment if you know you're refusing to help someone who needs it?

Is this the person that would walk blocks out of his way to avoid the begging man on the bench? Would this person pretend not to see the man who tripped as he stepped through the coffee shop door?


I was in a good mood that day once we found a woman who of course had a friend with a sister who lived next door to the weekend animal control officer of this really itty bitty town. I am not joking. This was not a straight line, but zig zagged a little before a few phone calls got us a promise that help was coming.

I gave the woman my phone number and Jerry put his belt back on as we headed home. I felt better -- about everything -- because I did something that mattered, I persevered, I didn't just look away from a wet lab contemplating the best way through a busy intersection as cars swarmed. The owner called to thank us. His father forgot to swing the gate shut and dogs scattered. The others were back home already.

I was also in a good mood after I attended a wake. A coworker's brother had died on his motorcycle. I immediately thought of my brother, then my boyfriend on his motorcycle. These things swirled in my head and I think the feelings I have for my brother and my boyfriend threw me into my coworker's shoes and I was at once a wreck. I knew his misery and I had to go. I cried for a person I did not know, arrived at the wake and threw my arms around the neck of a man only a little familiar to me, and really got clogged up. I ran out and the sky was brighter and the world was a much lighter place. Once again, the usual pointless junk that drags like lead on all my attention and energy was suddenly very evidently JUST JUNK.

As Jerry and I spoke we realized that sometimes on a weekend over a drink, my mood is fun, happy, and sometimes I even laugh. About half way home snakes sprout from y hair and the high crashes. By the time we're in the door the black-out curtains are blocking out all the pretty stuff in exchange for morose old furniture where I bump around the dusty, grim thoughts.

I can viciously stomp and kill any good mood in a bloody and relentless attack until what was once smiling becomes pulp.

Jerry agrees.

All this because of vacation. Do I stay or go this year?

Are you worried about being away from Lily, he asks me.

No. I am worried about her being around someone else for too long.


I tell him that my mother can't walk her because she's so unruly, and she needs a ton of exercise or I know she'll unzip her restraints and shoot like a rocket that will hardly fall back to Earth. We can't stuff her into a little kennel where the attendants take her out for 30 minutes of exercise a day.

As for my moods, Jerry has been waiting years to tell me how quickly and with glee I shred their happy little faces, crack their bones, and twist crunching joints in my hands.

As Jerry says, it's like shaking hands with a bag of pretzels.

I have learned that if I fail to find a place for the anxiety, an outlet, a receptacle, or someplace to put it, it turns on me and I am the cracking bones.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Is it Friday? Saturday? Maybe it is Monday? I stare at the ceiling fan as it tosses a cool breeze and hums softly. I hate it. I look at the laundry basket buried somewhere under a mound of wrinkly clothes that I lift off the floor each day and Jerry drops back in place at night. Maybe the crappy wadded up shorts and twisted shirts and socks would just fold up already.

It's 10:07 in the morning.

My foot is itchy and one arm is a little numb. For elusive and slippery little reasons that skitter and hide when I look for them, I fold my hands under my head as I creep up from sleep that clings like gauze, but unfortunately the day is pushing through. Today is Monday.

Today I wake with the same unanswered questions dangling like tiny barbed hooks from my skin. Every morning I poke at them. I tug a little, but I never resolve these hurtful little problems. I get into bed with them each night, and they don't disappear when I fall asleep. They are reminders that all the junk clogging my mind yesterday is real. All the things I said have not faded with the distance of one night. My decisions remain, but I have wasted a day and a chance to solve them.

Do I call a trainer for Lily do I go on vacation or stay do I attempt to do more freelance work should I push harder to take photos what the hell is my point?

Cell phones and computers televisions cars CDs text messages Twitters email and vodka. None of this junk helps me. How consoling is a cell phone? How much comfort can you really wring from an emptying booze bottle?

Lots of people in lots of places rushing with some urgency to talk talk talk and they talk while they drive eat shop wait in line. Shut the hell up.

I recently reconnected with a friend from elementary school. Through her I will look for myself, because I am not me anymore. I am a ball of nerves, not a person. I spend each day trying not to snag these stupid hooks on things.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

From the edges of a quiet and slightly humid night bursts a storm.

Approaching thunder pushes an abrupt breeze minutes before rain slaps the steps.

I'll pay you anything you want to go down and close the truck windows, Jerry had said to me a couple of hours ago. I didn't think rain would come.

Lily reacts to the sudden weather. From her spot on the cool ceramic tiles she stretches and stands. Sniffing, she walks a few feet and curls up in a new spot. Rain wind and thunder rush through the trees outside and the quiet night is no longer asleep. Ripping off its covers the night sits up with a burst and begins to throw water and light against the ground and sky, tossing ragged streaks of light through the darkness.

I hear Lily licking her paw. She doesn't whimper or raise her ears until she hears barking from a movie left on upstairs. Did I hear Jerry go to bed? Did Ozzy sit on the remote?

Rain falls like a faucet, its steady sound creating a camouflage like it's no noise at all.

I look behind me and Lily doesn't seem to hear it anymore either. Her head is flopped back, ears relaxed, and she sleeps.

I think of my friend who came to visit me at the bar. I admire feelings and genuine expression handed over like a gift -- no wrapping no ribbons no distracting bows, just plain and evident enjoyment.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Take some smooth marbles and drop them into a sturdy shoe-box. Add a few water-worn round stones. Slap a lid on that box, and tip it to one side. Hear that frenzy of rocks and marbles rushing against and over one another in a race to the other side? Tip it again. Tip it again.

Look at your alarm clock. At least one hour before the alarm will go off I realize I am not playing with marbles. Animals are rushing back and forth over hardwood. Cats skitter across the boards and behind them are the dogs.

They are too heavy, clumsy, and uninterested in stopping before they hit the area rug and go sledding across the wood on a nice, braided antique before they collide with a wall.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Plucking plucking plucking, Jerry pinches tufts of tan fur from Ozzy and drops it on Hershey's chocolate head.

It's her wig, he tells me. Then he says, look at Ozzy. Piles of loose fur sit between his little black ears like a mohawk.

Jerry pats me on the hip. I look down and see a burst of scraggly tan fur stuck to my black pants. Thanks.

Too many tumbleweeds of fur.

At the bar a familiar face asks, were you walking a dog? Did I see you the other day?

Yup, ya did.

She lunged at the car. Looks like a work-out and a half.


I tell Jerry on the way home last night: I had no idea, no clue that adding one dog would displace EVERYTHING in the house, everything about my routine, every minute of every day.

You let it, he says.

I have to. She needs it, I think.

At my desk and between dreams of sugar plums and Lily, Ben stops to say, hey, I took your advice…

I gave advice? I asked him. He told me what the advice was and I recognized it.

I think I had been thinking out loud about something and Ben reached into the jumbled thoughts and found something he could take with him. He could hold it up to the light somewhere and take a look at the pieces he had snared, add his own thoughts, then do what he would do. Nothing is better. It was a free little thought that had its own wings and when Ben added wind, it covered more ground.

Kind of like me with Lily. We do fine on our own, and when a car goes by, she shoots from a crouch like a sprinter and I wrap her in a bear hug.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A dream and a sensation: I am asleep and dreaming but I know I am struggling or suffocating falling landing with a bounce on the bed or tripping over something I probably need.

The placid flat sea rises to meet the shore and form a perfect seam underfoot.

No sound or voices, just the lulling perfect warmth of salt water that washes my skin away from my bones . Sound is gone and I step from the beach to the sea and drift in glassy water. I see you on the shore but I don't know who you are. You're there and I am gently rocking and bobbing and you are far away. You don't know I am there, and I suspect you are another dreamer adrift on your own.

I scramble for the bottom. Nothing. I splash and swipe my arms through the water that is now thick like Jello. Waves. I fight to get closer to the shore and to you and to yell. No sound. No response from you. I wake up without knowing if I ever reached safety.

My lucid self knows of no assurances here either for safety or anything else.

Will I be happy? I guess I have to manufacture that on my own too. People who think happy is a frame of mind and a decision are happy people. Guess they never decided to be unhappy one day, just to bum around with the rest of us. Bastards.

Six more months with Lily girly, and where will we be? In that time I can call the trainer again and ask how to prevent her from lunging at cars, and I can learn how to teach her to come back so I am not running through the woods without a clue, yelling Lily! LILY! Will she be happy? Will I? I know with certainty that she needs a job. She needs a place to focus her attention and inquisitive eyes. She needs to use her head and take instruction and satisfy both of us by learning and doing. Where the hell do I find that?

Gotta make time first. Then I have to gently coax it into something longer and more elastic, where my patience pins down fury and aggravation and the immediate and frequent desire to lose my temper, yell, and get NOWHERE.

Lily the guide dog. Lily the search and rescue girl. Lily the drug sniffer. Lily the companion. Any other thoughts?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Something lurches in my gut and I rush to the sink, but I don't barf.

The rest of the day sits on my shoulders like mean little jackhammers, and the slithering anxiety knots in my gut.

Finally at 7:30 that evening I sit facing the police chief and a board of police commissioners.

It's time for public comment, the chairman says, smiling at me.

I begin: I want to thank you first for taking my e-mail and responding, I …

WELL WHAT DID YOU TELL HIM? DID HE SET UP A NEW MEETING? The voice is thunder and I instantly lose my thought as half a cell phone conversation crashes along the tiled halls and spills into the acoustic meeting room.

I just want to raise the problem about speeding … that's all.

LOUD, the REALLY LOUD VOICE is getting CLOSER and my thoughts are scattered, but I catch one phrase in the tumbling structure of key points I had hoped to share: I think, there is so much I had hoped to say here … I am not making a dent … bastard out there talking all over the place like a loud radio.

You had said in your mail that you have some concerns, the chair says. Bless him for prompting me. I turn to Jerry and whisper, close the door. He understands my noise problem. It's like displacement. My concentration immediately gives way to the distractions.

I stress that I am concerned about speed, someone could be hurt. The list is long, but the point remains: let the drivers hold some of this responsibility and maybe try it on like a new coat every …

LOUD man's voice rearranges its course and now it shoots past the room and creeps in another door.

Don't hesitate to call us with a license plate or a description…

I could give you descriptions by car, house, face, whatever, but I would rather avoid creating a problem with a neighbor and butting heads. I would rather solve a problem, or at least take a look at it again and see what we can do about speeding ….

I add that like many people, I put up with it and stew and get more frustrated, then something propels me into their meeting.

Truth? Lily lunges at cars or nips like she wants to grab that shiny bumper and play…

Slow down you speeding bastards.