11 years ago today, I had my thumb pulled off during an event which shall be forever known as “the spinny machinery omg can we go to the hospital right now incident”.
It turned out pretty well for me, the stars aligned and I was flown to a hospital where my thumb was reattached. But in the moments leading up to that one, it was suggested that my thumb stay severed and the argument that swayed them back into the realm of “okay perhaps we should at least try” was that I play the piano. I made a promise to myself, if the surgery was successful and I had a functioning thumb as a result, I would play the piano as often as possible, if not every day. And for a good long while I stuck with that. I haven’t really touched it in months. I haven’t touched anything in months. No posts here is a good reflection of how much I’ve been writing. Not at all.
Snippets and bits of things, but nothing that makes me feel any sort of conclusion or accomplishment.
I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a laurel rester. I published a book! A book that was bought by people who are mostly my friends, but a couple who aren’t! And when faced with accomplishments like that, I’ll give myself permission to not write for a minute. Regardless of the fact that I’m a writer inasmuch as I’m writing. It’s not the only thing I am, and taking breaks is not terrible, but this has been different.
I went a little crazy last winter. It was a time, for sure. A up and down influx of what the fuck that barely allowed me to get my feet back on the ground before I was punched in the gut again. Things that, on their own, are stressful but not unduly so (mum in the hospital but she’s going to be okay, rolling a truck but not being injured so can still hitchhike to work, chimney fire during an insanely cold snap but the house not burning down, etc) unless they are the background noise to a most special dogfriend suffering from dementia (yes, dogs get it too) to the extent that she kept me up for hours every night, needing comfort. I don’t think I achieved rem state more than a couple of times in the first two months of the year. Combined with what seemed like strokes that knocked her for a loop and were happening often when I was home, and who knows how often when I wasn’t, we weren’t having an easy time of it.
I was with my mum and sis when we found Gala on the side of the road nearly 7 years ago. She ended up staying with me, and it was a mostly lovely 6 years, as there was one year my lovely humanfriend fostered her so I could stay on the island with my mum.
It ripped my heart out a bit to hear the vet tell me, even with all the money in the world, there was no way to know how much quality time I could buy her. And so I couldn’t save this lovely little dog that I had rescued. She was smart enough to be aware that what she was going through wasn’t fun, and reliant on me to make it stop. Which I did.
And then I left. I took a job that took me away from the memories, from the empty house, from the struggle to maintain an existence that I wasn’t totally enjoying. I went and worked in camps for 3 weeks at a time, and my week off I filled with distractions. Never being still, never being quiet, never focusing on the fear that I hadn’t tried hard enough, hadn’t done right by her. That I made a decision out of selfishness. Out of a desire to sleep through an entire night without being pawed at by a scared, lost dog who couldn’t find her way home anymore.
Running is a pretty common theme for me. I detach way more easily than I attach. I dreamed of a tiny house at the end of the road near the water where I could write and live quietly. I got it, and I spent a whole year there before I ran. To school in Nanaimo to be a heavy duty mechanic, out of some misplaced need to do something practical with my life. And I finished the first year of the course, and I ran from that, back to the kootenays. And I stayed there for 3 years, watching Gala slowly get worse, knowing in my heart that the next time I left the koots, it was unlikely she would be coming with me. And when the inevitable happened, I ran, as much out of habit as need to change things up.
I don’t really do intimate interpersonal relationships. I have sex with people I enjoy spending time with but tend to disengage before anything resembling attachment develops. I’ve considered I’m too selfish to know how to connect within a relationship that includes the feelings of the other person. I’ve been a solo act for so long, it’s what I’m accustomed to. I struggle to see the merit in having someone there, all the time, who has needs and input and a say in how the day/month/year/lifetime progresses.
As a result of this lifestyle choice (because it is a very conscious choice on my part to live this way, and while it seems to work for me most of the time, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone else. Humans are social creatures and benefit from seeking out interpersonal relationships that improve the well-being of both sides in more or less equal measure. Grow together and stay or grow apart and move on, but keep growing and learning) I sometimes suspect I don’t give my needs as much consideration as I would if I were involved with someone who might make me check in more frequently, just as a result of being in my physical presence on the daily.
I don’t dwell, I move on. Not always forward, sometimes lessons have to circle around a couple of times before evolution is achieved. However, for me it works because I have writing as an outlet to keep me sane and allow for some perspective.
I had become so used to Gala’s nose manically jamming itself under my elbow every time I sat down to write something in those last months, that I stopped writing because there didn’t seem much point, my world was all about her comfort. Nearly every spare moment was spent lying on my bed with her in my arms because she was only calm when I was squeezing her. Even then it wouldn’t last and she would get up, forget how to get downstairs and come back to paw me, begging for help again.
Watching any creature suffer is taxing. When I was younger and had Auberon, he died while I was living in Germany, and didn’t suffer at all. He went to sleep one night and when mum woke up he was gone. Other dogfriend Apache stayed vital until the day he checked out. It was quick and dignified. He stopped eating food on monday, stopped drinking water on wednesday morning, was gone wednesday afternoon.
Watching Gala spiral into madness night after night was one of the most horrible experiences I’ve ever had. I shared the experience with some friends via text but really, no one saw her at night, what she went through, saw her clever border collie brain struggling, and failing to encompass the void that was overtaking it.
And once she was gone, I was overwhelmed by how much relief I felt, which only cemented my suspicion I’d been selfish. And led to feelings of guilt, which compounded when I had time and space to sit quietly and write. So I created a life filled with noise and movement. Infrequent moments of perspective acknowledged, far less where I would allow my writing to stray toward a place of reflection and introspection. If there was anything showing up, it was fiction. It was the lives of others, imagined.
I detached from my own existence to such an extent that was genuinely not sure if I was okay. I checked in with mum and sis, with friends from time to time to let them know that everything was fine, I’m fine. I’m good, just busy. Busy maintaining this distance from myself out of some misplaced fear what I did wasn’t an act of compassion and that I’m a terrible person for choosing me.
But it was, and I’m not. And if anyone knew that, it was Gala. Because she chose me too.