It’s About a Dog

A few thoughts have been flitting around my head. They’re not the best thoughts, nor the most insightful, nor even the most original. They’re simply my thoughts in this moment – in this time – perfectly ordinary from a perfectly ordinary person whose blog you’ve chosen to read (and for that I am grateful).

The thoughts centered around the 5th anniversary of Jay’s death, just a little over a week ago – the first anniversary I didn’t sit in the last spot he lay at the time of his death pondering what the sky might have looked like that day – through those leaves. Did branches frame the pure blues of a clear day? Was the air still? It was the first anniversary I didn’t cry. The first anniversary I didn’t post a tribute on social media – a song (I Wanna Hold Your Hand by T.V. Carpio from Across the Universe a favorite – reliable – unrequited love usually capturing my mood) – a poem (e.e cummings [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] – a photo… something, anything, to show my scars to the universe of friends and family so I am admired for being brave or strong or a survivor – support counted in likes, cares, or hearts. It was the first anniversary I didn’t talk to him. I didn’t care to.

I’ve lived in a coffin enshrined in the spaces he occupied over a lonely year.

I thought about how I wasn’t as sad.

Those thoughts wove into thoughts about social media – our best lives lived through limited characters and well composed photos. I thought about how my own personal well-curated narrative allows me to be an admired adventurer “…always up to something!” “…such an amazing life” – admired for my strength of character “…so strong!” “…so brave!” Applause I get for simply leaving the house and taking a photo. “Look at that drink!” “…that food!” “… that art!” Applause for understanding Jay’s struggle with mental illness and continuing to have his back. Applause for the nothings of an everyday life enhanced beautifully through prose, a well-placed word, a well-composed photo and the myths we create around seeing another’s story. “She’s so…”

I thought about the disservice we do – the unrealistic murals we paint and try to pass off as our well-lived realities. Our collective exteriors swathed in impossibly glorious hues – a cacophony of color that overwhelms the senses.

When a person dares a duller palette, we move quickly to course correct – “brown isn’t a color, perhaps a magenta, my friend? We need you to fall in line… don’t you feel better – just like everyone else.” A Stepford model applied to a vast virtual landscape. As an Oracle once said, “Here, take a cookie. I promise, by the time you’re done eating it, you’ll feel right as rain.” We feed on each other as we create a narrative more in sync with our peers, more out of sync with our realities –the best versions of ourselves.

Those thoughts stuck in my craw as I pushed past this anniversary. I didn’t want to post a lovely song or a meaningful poem on my social media, I wanted to flip a coffee table and scream at the universe instead – to say that while I understand that Jay’s death was related to mental illness that this year I wasn’t mad at his mental illness, I was mad at him. I wanted to say it in a way that was heard, that didn’t get shut down, where I wasn’t reminded “you are so strong” which to me amounts to congratulating me for sucking it up well – year after year – like a little trooper – not causing anyone distress.

I didn’t want to play the good, long suffering widow who lost her best friend. I wanted to yell – to be unforgiving – to demand that the universe sit down in front of me and explain itself.

The barely pent up frustration (trust me, it was pent up – it’s still more pent up than I’ll give myself permissions to share) came to a head when I returned the puppy I was fostering two days before the anniversary of Jay’s death. That perfect dog: fearless of sounds – firecrackers, thunderstorms, rain – they didn’t matter – loves car rides, all sticks, soft blankets, chasing things – great at hanging out while I worked, didn’t mind her crate, slept through the night – a grass shark, whose whole body said “wheeeee” as she dove through the blades over and over until she fell over on her back happily panting at the sky – on the Pill Bug’s “Most Wanted” for casually slaying (nomming) whole pill bug families. Eight weeks of pluck who loved chasing the kitty and would plop on her tush puzzled as to why the kitty kept running, when the kitty could now chase her. “Kitty! I’m over here. You chase me now?”

Four years before, a year and a week after Jay’s death, our dog passed away. Two days before the anniversary of his death this year, I took a dog back, because I couldn’t have her – because he wasn’t here to help.

After her plaintive whimpering-filled ride back to the shelter, I handed her back. There was a downpour.  I sat in the car moaning and shrieking pitifully.  Finally breaking. A sharp reminder of the things I cannot have, because of an event five years ago. The one condition I made when we first got together, “I will give up these things, but I get to have a dog.” But no, the deal I get is to give up everything.

I deleted all of her photos… all of her videos… I deleted posts on social media. My virtual equivalent of flipping a coffee table and setting it on fire.

I can try to make what I’m saying more palatable by talking about the stages of grief, but I think this more closely sums up how I feel.

My Experience with Grief

All of those thoughts on his anniversary.

So, instead of a lovely song, a poem, or sweet story commemorating a person whose death I’m supposed to understand, I can only offer what I’ve written – I offer these thoughts – this abject frustration – my honesty in this moment (the one you may want to think about claiming to admire) – this part of me that doesn’t understand.

FB: A Pocket Reference

So, one day you found yourself on your favorite social media outlet when you were suddenly overcome with the desire to hit that “let’s be pals” button.  And for whatever reason:  friendliness, pity, a desire to fatten the friend ranks so you can worship at the altar of THEM they agreed. Suddenly, like some scandalous diary entry written by your best friend’s older sister, a new window into this person’s life has opened before your eyes. Likes, dislikes, personal views, and photos filled the screen.  Like a good voyeur you poured over every unguarded piece.  You’d finally arrived and there you were sitting in the inner circle along with 100’s of their other friends.  You dabbled a bit.  You liked their updates, maybe a photo or two, you threw in the occasional “LOL”, but you weren’t quite certain where you fit.

Here’s my handy pocket reference to help you figure out your place.  Now this is customized for me, but easily tailored to fit your needs.

  • My husband (he’s awesome! He’s at the top and can pick on everyone. I’m sure he’d never pick on you. )
  • My  parents / My beautiful cousin (she’s a saint – no really, beatified and all)
  • Family I like (I know, sometimes it’s hard to tell which people are related to me and harder still to take a crack at which are my favorite – I suggest Ancestry.com as a start on family in general or you can request a Family Tree – you provide the paper since I can go back to the 1600’s. I’ll do you a solid and highlight my favorites.)
  • Friends from 2nd grade (hitting on the school bus forms forever bonds)
  • Former roommates and their spouses/partners
  • Anyone with the last name or related to anyone with the last name of Adam, Spear, Blankenship, or Simmons (again Ancestry.com)
  • While this is included in the above, let me go ahead and restate it more clearly: THEIR KIDS
  • Those that know and use my unofficial nickname
  • Anyone I have a nickname for (or have been given a title to address them by)
  • Anyone who I’m 100% sure could put a curse on me (seriously, don’t mess with her)
  • People who hate shoes and share their thermos wine – and wear turquoise pants, purple boots and are generally my fashion mentor (I’m not thinking of anyone specific – no, this is a generic reference – you probably have someone like this in your life – maybe two?)
  • Anyone I’ve seen Rocky Horror with (put your hands on your hips…)
  • People I’ve taken a 2nd hand smoke break with
  • People I’ve eaten real/virtual Beignets with (that’s right, all of you)
  • People who have loved up Sam or refused to take Sage (but she’s still available, just saying)
  • Anyone who has battled a Cthulhoid manifestation or staged an Orc rebellion
  • Anyone who has ever uttered, “roll for initiative”
  • People with combat reflexes
  • EverQuest people
  • Improv people
  • Family I’m more “meh” about
  • You

We all know that sometimes finding your place can be difficult, but with this unpatented reference guide (hierarchy), I’ve helped take the guess-work out of it. This guide can also serve as a handy pecking order when you need one and it will help you navigate to your rightful place (bottom).  You’ll develop a richer understanding of the players (characters?) and your place among them.  Soon you’ll be on your way to having positive interactions with complete strangers. (Rolling on your back exposing your belly and throat is also recommended.  Hey, you’re the new guy!)  You’ll quickly be on your way to avoiding awkward conversations and dust-ups on your new pal’s social media feed.  Don’t be the person (aka “dick”) who ignores the hierarchy and gets “un-friended” or “blocked” (your whining about it will exhaust me).

(For the record: My one gripe about blocking, from a blocker’s perspective, is it never properly mocks the blocked person.  I want a page that exclaims, “Wow. You really screwed up. Huh? Yeah, you’ve been blocked. GG. Hopefully someone out there likes you more than this person does.” Zuckerberg, get on that.)

So anyway Champ, you’ve sorted out the who’s who and figured out where you fall (bottom – see chart).  Great job! You’re ready to enter the ring.  Just remember a simple rule:  Everyone above you on the chart gets to abuse you freely.  Everyone below you is a target.

A word of caution when it comes to my personal group of friends:  they’re an insanely clever and somewhat devious lot who will quickly lead you astray and cackle as you step in the proverbial “it”.  Carnage is a rush. Never trust anyone above you.  Don’t be led into a trap.

Now go make some friends!