As usual, I awakened at 4::30 r this am to the alarm of my sciatica.
Wash, make bed, get dressed, come downstairs to have my warmed up yesterday’s Gevalia half French Roast and half house blend decaf. And of course hope that pounding on the microwave door will one more time knock the spring that operates the switch that causes the plate to go around while those magic energy waves warm up the coffee which the docs say I shouldn’t drink. But I need a bit of a jump start these days, some help getting into the new day’s new levels of challenges. I knew what awaited us and was trying fervently not to think about it.
I enter the kitchen area, and there is our Titan, everybody’s friend, the soul of gentleness, curled in his favorite corner of the kitchen, back against cabinet doors, and butt tucked into the corner. He likes to have his back covered on two sides. Maybe it was something he learned while surviving in the wild after his first owner abandoned him: be able to see everything that’s coming at you.
This morning I saw it right off the bat: his GSD stare said to me as clearly as if it were on a billboard: : I need your help.
Titan is never there in the kitchen when I get up. He is Nancy’s Velcro dog. He will not leave her side voluntarily, ever unless there is someone or -thing he does not know on the house’s turf or there is something wrong with him.
There was. He had lost some urinary continence control. Of course that got us to the vet lightning fast. Two visits later we found out that X-rays pictures revealed an enlarged thumus gland. That’s the gland that produces antibodies for puppies. When the dog is adult, the gland withers, but leaves enough tissue for tumors to form. And it could be lymphoma. Hastily an appointment was made for this morning to see the vet oncologist about what this is and what if anything at all, can be done.
The X-rays yesterday left him ground down to a nub of his usual frolicking, cuddling, clinging self. We were going to do it all over again today…. And more bad news from today’s round of examinations was the last thing we wanted to hear.
Yesterday I wrote about forbearance in this time of my world turned upside down. I hope to keep that resolve in all matters for another 24 hours. Forearance is one thing, the ongoing distress of the dawn of a US I don’t know or want to know is something else.
Still, the unprecedented developments in our political system have left us with our sense of safety shattered. This is not about the why and wherefore of that. We got there because we set the stage and wrote the play. The current actors simply auditioned for the roles we created and were offered the job by enough of the audience to make the offer stick. Forget about whether it was right, wrong, good or bad faith: the props are gone and they are not about to come back without a fight. And that means I, for one, and Nancy, for another, no longer can trust that our speech will be protected, that our healthcare will be affordable, that our national defense will protect us against cyber and terrorist attacks, that our economy which depends on stability and predictability in all those other factors will no longer work for anyone except the New American Aristrocracy which owns 99% of all we use and have and to which our new Leader belongs or wants to.
Abraham Maslow taught us that our behavior is driven by the needs of the moment, and the more basic the need, the more basic and protective our thinking and behavior. We all have just been plummeted from the opportunity to be self fulfilling to the need to be self protecting. I don’t need to say it will get worse, because this disaster is trouble enough by itself. The security, tolerance and even handed governance of our state and federal institutions, on which we built and relied all our lives, is at very least in grave danger, enough so that it just can’t be counted on any more.
Losing an animal companion is an unequalled trauma for me.
And that or any other stress of life now must ride the crashing cultural whitecaps whipped up by the turbulence of the storm which has settled where the spin and the buck used to stop, our governments. That violates a basic assumption of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address: the foundation of our nation. It releases an unrelenting, robust and totally arbitrary distress.
Unfortunately even in times when my fundamental assumptions about this country are not in the line of fire, I cannot by myself feel sufficiently grounded and protected. The trouble is, I am missing an internal gyrocompass and bubble level, also the operational mental and emotional filters to manage the attack of stressors. Consequently, or maybe instead, I work and have always had to work through very high levels of multi-factor lifelong, untreatable ADHD and a few of its troublesome spinoffs. That means the work others do easily in a straight line, you do twice: once is wandering swirls and the second time as editor. Everything, such as this post for example, takes you twice as long as it does others. And they don’t get it, neither do they care. You are on our own: distress. All that whirling, circular attentativness means, de facto, that our emergency antennae must always be fully operational: you’ve learned that you miss things and sometimes dangerously big things in the maelstrom. Concern adds more distress. Finally, restlessness operates like spraying water into a WW2 P47 Thunderbolt engine in a climbing dog fight: it makes the maelstrom speed up in bursts. You go past things you suspect are important but which you cannot really recognize in the blur.
Distress is a default condition. Or at least for me. So I can ill afford to have another source added, about which i can do nothing. But there it is: deal with it.
Dealng wth it begins with thinking that I have a choice: I can bemoan, even eloquently, the outrages of the slings and arrows of fortune or I can look for the sliver lining in the cloud. For most of my life I’ve bemoaned very skillfully and all too well, keeping the focus on me, King Baby. That did not lead to much peace of mind, our current cultural love affair with narcissism notwithstanding. My spiritual gurus have taught me however that I always have the choice of attitude. They want to carve into my mental concrete the notion that peace of mind, not control of outcomes, is the only viable goal of life in our woebegotten but wonderful world. And that outcome can be obtained by me — I don’t know about you — through a lifetime discipline of self criticism, making amends for my wrongs, and keeping myself spiritually fit so that I can be of maximum service to those around me — all those: dogs, plants, insects, people, trees (read The Secret Life of Trees if you doubt it), all life in short. One day at a time.
That’s the foundation, and I am grateful that living by those principles is a matter of progress, not perfection. ,
I look back at 19 years living on the ridge in Western North Carolina, and know now that this in one respect was exactly the worst possible spot on earth for me, just me, to have moved to. The sort of stimulation I need to manage the mental maelstrom of ADHD does not include watching the grass grow, or just sitting and watching the view of the mountains in the morning–picture below. (I just love the pano option on the camera on my iPhone 6!). For most it is an experience that brings serenity. For me it brings that also, but only until I start to get restless and feeling vulnerable, irritable and discontented. I realized after a while that our two first German Shepherds, Bruno and Zora (2000-2013) filled in the empty blank. For reasons I now can grasp, but eluded me for decades, from them alone so far I get grounding and secure.
I am so grateful for the gifts of being permitted to live with Titan, Kaiser, Bruno and Zora. Restless? Kaiser or Bruno would just show up at my side, lean on my leg, put his head onto my leg and look, with those sad inviting eyes soothing the whitecaps in my mind’s tempest. And Kaiser and Bruno did that without ever having been asked, not verbally anyway.
Titan does for Nancy what Kaiser (above with head on my leg) did for me. I get almost nauseated by the thought of her losing that because I know only too well what trauma the loss of Kaiser was just 8 months ago.
I’ve accepted that this might be the defining of the path to the end of this life for Titan, but could be just another bump. I’ve reminded myself that there is no point in suffering from wounds that have not happened and in all likelihood, probably won’t. The thought came and went, but it left in its wake a dark puddle of doubt and anticipatory grieving. The image of being without my personal service GSDs is daunting at least.
How to get out of that? How to relieve the distress? The only trick I know is to stop the suffering and start the servicing. I can get release from that dead end built into my life, my ego, only by doing something for others and if at all possible, not get found out. That sounds like some great moral principle, some spiritual maturity that will make my soul glow in the dark. It isn’t. It is purely self protection: I feel better that way. I”ve learned that I’m not so much a thinking person, as I am a feeling person. So I need to smooth out the path of change in expectations so that the bumps are bearable. Being of service to someone else diverts my attention from myself, feels good in and of itself, perhaps is of use to someone and most of all gets me back into the stream of life. If I do that, then the searing conflagration of torture becomes the purifying refiner’s fire.
So today is the day to help Titan on whatever path his journey must take. Today is the day to find other opportunities to get beyond myself and be helpful –and I know what those opportunities are but choose not to name them. If I get credit, then all it does is boost my ego. The spiritual pollution of ego boosting — no matter what the PR folks calll it — it seems to me, is glutting the spiritual and moral marketplace in this world. Poison by any other name will still corrode as well. Anonymous or hidden service, on the other hand, is still all too rare a commodity. At age 75 I have little desire to add to the oversupply of pollutants or poisons. God’s world does not deserve that.
Brave words. I love my German Shepherds with all my heart, mind and soul. They and I, like Kaiser-Bruno-Zora-Titan and I, can be a winning team. We can share respect, we can help each other. And they teach me how to love and give me a lifetime of opportunities to practice it without once getting it wrong.
Thank heavens the Gods do not demand perfection, but just ask for progress in learning to love.
That’s all this old, tired, and –today — unsteady man really wants.