Monday, July 25, 2011

Something other than Sad

"Can I be done?" I asked as we entered hour 3 of the meeting I was attending by phone. I'd mustered my energy and gathered my wits between gentle encouraging comments to Chienne to be careful or curl up next to me to rest. But I was weary - ever so sick of the same conversations with the same people.

I'm so tired. Of the arguments at work. Of the appointments at home. Of questions without good answers. Of projects without purpose. Where I look forward - more than anything - to my escape into sweet sleep and deep dreams.

I walked in this weird field that was forbidden - all dirt and barbed wire and weird fences that rested flat on the ground. I was with a friend from my childhood - I hadn't wanted to go in the field as I knew it wasn't for me - but she insisted so I followed, warning her all the while. A man moved outside the building in the background and chased us but only caught me, taking ruthless advantage of my stumbling attempt to flee with a smooth tackle. Yet I was unharmed when I landed in the soft soil, the color a rich brown. I remember thinking that it felt almost fluffy.

Acknowledging defeat in the face of the larger, stronger man who'd pinned my wrists while his body rested atop mine, I curled my fingers into the ground and waited. I merely closed my eyes when he called me fatty - taunting my inability to escape in a deep voice. Defenseless and guilty, I waited, slowly catching my breath as I rested my cheek on the ground and wondered what he'd do to me as I felt his breath on the nape of my neck.

The light changed, glowing softly as it emerged from the scary shadows around the field, as his grip on my wrists changed. He tickled the inside of my palms with his fingertips, allowing me to lace my fingers with his and relax into the small comfort. As I did, we suddenly stood together inside a home as coffee brewed on a counter nearby.

I was blissfully unconcerned - felt gently happy and peaceful - and smiled into green eyes before cuddling into his side and sighing with the relief of feeling safe and loved. Eventually I tilted my head back, disturbing the quiet of the moment with only the sound of my lips as they touched his. The caress lingered as I explored the corner of his mouth before he licked my lower lip. The lights around us grew brighter as I moved my arms to encircle him, clinging to all the lovely things he represented.

I smiled upon waking, bathed in the bright sunlight streaming through the east-facing window at the head of my bed. I leaned to pat Chienne, smiling and offering a 'good morning' greeting when she lifted her head, turning her face toward me with a couple wags of her tail.

"I had happy dreams," I told her. "Did you have happy dreams, pretty girl?"

But when the mental images faded in the face of back-to-back meetings I took from home in the face of Chienne's whimpering neediness, I grew sad once again. Heavy. Dark.

So when reality's version of the man from my dream sent an email, I eagerly responded, so wanting him to save me for just a little while.

[I could note that while I'm pretty unimpressive in person, sexually speaking, I do well online. Within the lifetime of this blog, I've exchanged my first sexy email (2005), indulged in delightful sex chats (2008), sent racy photos (2010) and even had satisfying experiences with phone sex (2011). So my online resume doesn't extend to nudity, nor have I done any webcam activities, but I'm otherwise pretty comfortable. So when nudged to try the camera thing again today, I winced. And delayed. And finally panicked into outright refusal.]

You won't think I'm pretty, I typed. And he disagreed.

It doesn't add value and will ruin what we do have, I protested. And he disagreed.

I can't, I offered. You won't, he countered.

Frowning, I took my hair from its ponytail and applied more lip gloss. I fussed with make-up and removed my oversized t-shirt, immediately cuddling a pillow in front of me. I got as far as opening the camera line in Yahoo Messenger - with its silly logo of a ridiculously happy face - before panic set in and I frantically jabbed the 'end call' button and closed the cover of my iPad. I even buried it under a pillow for good measure.

But I did manage a few photos later on. Pretty lace and tousled hair and thoughtful expression behind ever-present glasses. I reviewed them, looking carefully at the expanse of pale skin and tried not to catalog flaws.

"I still look sad," I said to myself after sending a couple to Jack. "So trying for sexy works about as well as trying for busy."

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I had, I thought, been handling Chienne's blindness fairly well. I canceled my business trip, made her an eye appointment and greeted my parents (who'd been on their way before I decided not to travel) and argued only mildly when they removed fluid from the right eye with a needle. I guided my girl down stairs and to the grass outside. We placed my box spring and mattress on the floor, easing the height of the leap atop or the accidental tumble downward.

It was on our third trip to the vet in 24 hours that I blinked at my mother as she cried.

We'd left Chienne this time - only for about an hour - having taken her back and forth from home to vet in favor of a kennel at the office. We were tired, having not slept well the night before, all three of us offering comfort and coaxing Chienne to rest. She was even invited to sleep with Dad, an alarming departure from normalcy - I wasn't aware his sympathy extended that far.

So when I handed Mom a tissue and stared at her as we sat in the oven-hot car, she shook her head and asked for a minute. "She's just so brave and happy," she explained. "Wagging her tail as they took her back for another needle in her poor eye."

"I'm hungry," I said after a moment. "I haven't eaten and there's a burger place just down the street. Could we eat?"

And so went denial - I acknowledged that she was without sight, but it wasn't a big deal. I had prepared! The house was ready - curtains and smells and sounds and all sorts of non-visual cues. I knew this was coming and the warning a couple weeks ago enabled me to focus on next steps rather than being sad.

I'd wince when she tripped or bumped her head. I'd wait patiently while she stood still, nose twitching and ears perked as she took in the smells and sounds to orient herself. And I ran up the steps when she cried, finding her as she sat still and unable to find her way.

"Come on, love," I'd murmur, placing my hand on her side. And our commands have gone from 'sit' and 'look' to 'wait' and 'careful.' "You're OK," I told her and guided her until we reached the curtain at the top of the steps. She tends to rest there - nose at that curtain - so she knows where she is.

But it was fine. Right? She was adjusting. She'd eat when you gently touched her muzzle, gently taking morsels from our hands. She'd drink when brought water. Potty when taken outside and encouraged. And she's continued to improve. She gets confused less and less. Now bumps into soft cushions I've placed rather than hard walls or furniture. She's eating from her dish and drinking from her bowl. We're OK.

But I wanted a bottle of water last night and Dad had extinguished all the downstairs lights before coming up to the guest room. So instead of the dimly lit main level I expected, all was black. And confusing. And a little scary. So I put both hands out, tracing the walls with my fingertips and moving slowly and carefully down the steps.

And upon realizing this was now Chienne's life - my ever-happy, slightly-silly, pretty-prettiest girl - slow and a little scary and unendingly dark, I sank down on the steps there in the darkness and couldn't breathe past the ache of regret and sadness.

So I curl up with her on the floor. Give extra treats and offer lots of kisses. And try to forget when she was so sick after surgery that she wouldn't acknowledge me at all that night - eye grotesquely swollen and gouged and sore - and she turned her face from me, finally rising from her ball of blankets and facing the other direction.

We're doing better. Now I get kisses and she wags her tail and cuddles as usual. But I'm sad. And know I don't want kids - this is far too hard, even with a pretty puppers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When it's not easy & has not yet passed

"What's it like there?" my driver asked after I told him (upon request) where I was from. "Are there hills? Do you grow crops?"

"Gently rolling hills," I replied. "And we do grow things - there's lots of land." I nodded when he told me he'd moved to New Jersey. That it was quieter. Better for his family.

"That's nice," I said, meaning it. It strikes me as lovely when someone finds a happy spot - where days seem brighter and sleep deeper.

I do not currently reside in one of those spaces.

Though I have no desire to relocate, my days seem dark and difficult. I awaken with gasps from vivid dreams and nightmares. It's oppressively hot outside and the dog has peed in my basement. Which I swear I still smell despite all the bleach and mopping.

It is not just work - scheduling an important meeting and forcing people to prepare and finessing the message and artfully arranging supporting material. Only to be informed that person for whom the review was designed has no plans to be there. Which leaves me to scramble and regroup or to just say 'fuck it' and move on.

Chienne is a major component, for I spend my time at home peering into her eyes and depositing drops at regular intervals. And she still worsens. I winced when she tripped twice going up the steps a few moments ago, knowing there's not much longer for her to see the world. That she can hear and smell and feel it will be a comfort. But I ache over every stumble right now.

I don't want it to be boys, for I've officially decided to take a break. Yet that stray attraction and hope remains difficult to extinguish. So it lingers - the memory of a voice or phrase or curl of fingers around a palm - and taunts me. Mostly gently and easily ignored, but still.

"He owes you an apology," she said when I passed her in the hall, late for my next meeting and still scowling over my last one.

"Who? How? What?" I asked, pausing and cocking my head at her and sighing when she explained.

"He does not owe me an apology," I offered. "It wasn't a big deal. I just had a headache and was taken aback by the emotion behind his comments and didn't handle it very well. It was fine."

"It's not fine when someone treats you badly!" she argued.

I closed my mouth over a retort and nodded before moving toward my meeting and perching on a chair to prepare for the next round of arguments. Life sometimes treats you badly, I think. And you find ways to endure (sleep, silly games online) or find moments of happiness (pretty shoes, lunch with Sibling) and hope it eventually does ease.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Do Not Like

I woke at 5:41 this morning, opening my eyes and making my unhappiest face at the numbers glowing in green on my digital clock. I patted Chienne and she lifted her head to blink at me blearily.

"We have to take out the garbage and go for a walk," I told her, forcing myself the rest of the way awake. "I need to pick an outfit and do something with my hair." I paused and pulled a strand upward so I could view it, sighing when it waved wildly as it tends to do when I sleep with it wet. "Pack my laptop bag," I continued, "and put in eye drops. Drive to the airport... We need to get up."

We moved around the neighborhood in our pajamas and collar, respectively, and carried recycling and trash bags to the curb. I pondered, briefly, blowing off my trip but decided I was a big girl and could do my job. Just like I did all week. Even though it was rather sucky.

But after an uneventful flight and a taxi ride into the city where everyone knows the street names, I found the focus of my attention and spent the day working fairly pleasantly. I accomplished what I hoped to do and busily checked things off my list just as I had replied to all emails on the plane - neatly arranging my inbox into the pristine condition I so enjoy.

I was feeling rather good about myself as I walked out of the building. I nearly preened with how productive and effective I was this week. I did dreadfully hard things (well, not really - just in the perspective of how easy my life normally is) and prevailed. Even though I would have rather napped. Or played games. Or flirted online.

And then I tried to catch a cab. Apparently around the time they change shifts. And it seemed all of the yellow suckers had their off-duty lights on and I started to feel like it was my romantic life (doomed to failure) rather than part of my professional duties (which tend to go well). And I walked, watching the numbers grow smaller on street signs perched on corners. So after walking some 15 blocks, I turned around and - with no small amount of relief - joined a line for taxis that I found.

I overtipped the one that pulled over ($35 for a $20 fare) but his gratitude was no match for mine. I had conquered the mean New Yorkers and their yellow vehicles and arrived safely at the airport. After having a leisurely dinner and spending some time looking at books, I waited in line at security.

"Do you have an early flight?" the man ahead of me asked and I shook my head, thinking he must not be from here.

"Seven," I replied and smiled as we inched forward.

"It's busy," he noted and I nodded in agreement.

"I waited much longer than normal at home this morning too," I told him. "I think people must be taking vacations - they seemed happier than the business folks that normally occupy the plane." And I was unsurprised when he said he was returning to Kansas in about an hour.

But I was still... if not chipper, then at least quietly content. Until the man announced that 7 had been delayed until 10. At which point I said bad, bad words in my head and cursed the airline and weather and whatever the hell was keeping the plane from being here and getting me home.


Love, frustration and some residual fear -
New York, NY

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Instant Gratification & Consistent Instability

I like to think I'm occasionally interesting - that something happens or I stumble across some cute story that I'd like to read again sometime. And I do read my archives - wincing at times, giggling at others (I do find myself funny) - and find myself quietly appreciative of past Katie writing out feelings and happenings and the like.

Post-iPad2, I've escaped into entertainment. Books and games, people. Books and games. God bless immediately delivery via the Kindle app. And Big Fish games with your mindless hidden objects and mini-game puzzles. I've read upwards of 10 romances and conquered Everest, explored the Amazon, rescued a kidnapped child from puppet makers, helped some guy escape a haunted house of mirrors. I met a couple of princess, helping them both defeat evil sisters to remove curses from kingdoms.

In short, I've spent a bunch of hours flopped on my couch downstairs or curled up on my loveseat on the main floor and sprawled across my bed upstairs. Playing games. And sleeping too much.

It takes no great insight to realize that my life is not great right now. I believe I'm mildly depressed (I've upped my medication 20 mg so no worries). But, I decided as I wandered through WalMart yesterday, part of it is situational.

Chienne is deteriorating, running into walls and spending a lot of time on her comforter in the bathtub. She sparked the only productivity this weekend - I cleaned and decluttered, widening walkways and installing nonvisual cues throughout the house. I hung sheers from a tension rod at the top of the steps, spritzing the hem with Fresh Rain so Chienne would know she needed to feel for the top step when she felt the scented fabric against her nose. I cleaned the basement - a de facto apology to Sir Sprout since he's going to have to wear a bell. (As soon as I can catch him.) I put new recycled-rubber (distinctive smell and texture!) on both sides of her dog door so she could find her way in and out. I sprayed Garden Rose on the base of each dog door. I need to hang a windchime near the dog door to add sound cues. And a fountain so her water bowl will gurgle helpfully so she can find her food.

She's not blind yet - I'm not sure how long we'll have - but the preparation comforts me even as I escape into castles and jungles to avoid thinking about it.

John's dismissal hurt more than I expected. Not sharply - I don't think it had a lot to do with him, specifically - but in that general 'definitely dying alone' sort of way. "This is unpleasant," I decided aloud when looking at other dating candidates. Which is an excellent time to take a break. I immediately felt better when deciding not to date anymore.

Until, that is, a man from the past got in touch and asked if I wanted to get together for sex this weekend.

"Sure," I decided pretty quickly. I mean, it cuts into my game playing obsession, but what the hell, right? He canceled/postponed (time will tell), leaving me with clean bedding and time to explore the Imperial Majestic to assemble some dragon wheel. (Except I got near the end and there was a bug in the code! I couldn't make the turtle pattern on the urn to get the ying yang! Totally sent angry email.)

(Also laughing at myself. Because, yes. I know. Not great.)

In an odd shift of topic that seems to fit my life, I'm meeting with Pastor after church to discuss becoming a member. The juxtoposition of that against the canceled weekend o' sin would have been a bit more jarring so perhaps it all worked out.

Work is tres 'one step forward, one step back' of late. Difficult projects that I like - they're distracting enough - but that tend to be ill-defined and therefore fail to meet some ephemeral expectation from my bosses.

From which I retreat - all the degeneration or lack of progress or effort wasted - and feel content when I curl into pillows that smell of Cheer or search for another game. I may just explore New York City on my iPad in advance of the 7 hours I'll spend on the ground later this week. I'll try to take a photo and invent some interesting story afterward.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Right Here.

I beamed at the morning even as I immediately began to sweat, feeling as though I'd stepped into a steam room rather than out my garage door. There were an army of ants in my recycling tub that I'd left at the curb yesterday. My lawn looked scraggly, weeds growing at different heights and in various clusters. But my pretty girl could see! So I wandered after her as she trotted down the street, feeling blessed to have one more day of the ordinary.

In the hour that we spent between waking and departing for the vet yesterday I said, "I'm right here," more than any other phrase.

"I'm right here," I'd offer gently when she turned her head in a sightless search for me as I frantically threw clutter on tables and off floors.

"I'm right here. Almost done," I called as I watched her pace while I was in the basement shower, wincing when she'd bump her nose on something and deciding not to condition my hair or shave my legs.

"I'm right here," I'd say when she stumbled over a step or hesitated before moving forward in the garage, knowing the gap between the Jeep and lawnmower was narrow and being unable to judge without the use of either eye.

I rested my hand on her back while I drove, reaching to rub her favorite spot - right above her tail - in hopes that it would comfort her. We stayed tethered together by her leash while at the vet - I'd tug when she'd venture too far and risk smacking her sniffer on something. And I sat with her on the elegant tiles that line the floor of the vet's office, petting and talking and wiping away tears.

"You need to instill confidence," Adam said to me upwards of a week ago. And though I've not mentioned it here, he's correct. I'm settled and productive and comfortable and talented, but unreliable. I get headaches, battle depression, worry over my dog. I have uterine fibroids, an aging pair of parents and a roof that leaked one time. I've been locked out of my car, jetlagged after travel and just plain didn't want to see people.

So there are times I work from home. Times I put in ridiculous hours at the office. Instances where I don't answer my phone or respond to email promptly. And while I'm good at my job - and I really am - if Adam wants someone solid and predictable and stable, that's probably not me. Which is not to say that I shouldn't work at it.

"I can over-communicate," I offered. "I'd promise to always show up and be nice and not snap at people, but that's not realistic. But I can promise to let you know if something happens or I don't feel well or I won't be immediately available."

So I have been. And it's helping, at least a little.

"So you asked me over email if we were done," John said when he called last night. "And the answer is yes - we're over before we ever really started."

And I nodded, admittedly hurt over the rejection but finally understanding why I couldn't properly predict him. He'd not been interested but trying to find a way to force it - I get that. Hell, I've done that. So I thanked him for letting me know, smiled sadly over how he didn't want to say 'it's not you - it's me' but managed to do it anyway and sighed a little when gently replacing the receiver.

I wanted him because he was solid and stable and predictable. And I'm not. But perhaps his presence would have soothed me - made me a bit less dramatic and less eager for sleep so the business in my brain can stop for a while. So I was more disappointed than heartbroken, twisting my mouth into a grimace and standing to throw out the flowers he'd given me.

"Done with that," I murmured as I rinsed the vase, upending it in the dish drainer and grabbing a bottle of water (which is so much less poetic than a glass of wine, but I'm being honest in this one). And after a moment's (or more) self-pity that nobody wanted to be 'right here' with me, I shrugged and flipped the cover open on my iPad and began to read a book.

"Hey, you," I said to Chienne when she curled up next to me. "It's eye drop time." And it takes us 30 minutes now to administer her medicine. We do the yellow bottle first, then wait the recommended 10 minutes before fetching the orange - 10 minutes - green - 10 minutes and white. I find it soothing somehow - the feeling of doing something aggressive to delay the stumbling blindness that will eventually find us.

So while blogging has been sporadic and of lower interest and quality of late (definition of 'of late' up to you), there's also comfort in knowing you're 'right there' so thank you for the comments and emails. Kisses and cuddles from Chienne and me.

Friday, July 01, 2011

"...was blind, but now I see..."

"Morning," I offered to Chienne after she lumbered down the stairs this morning. "Oh," I said when I looked up at her as she turned her head toward me, knowing both eyes were unseeing as the right one bulged, looking cloudy and discolored. "You're OK," I told her, wincing and knowing she wasn't as she stumbled toward me, bumping her shoulder on the ottoman and nose on the end table as she struggled to get reach my voice.

"Oh, God," I whimpered, reaching to pet her even as I tapped out 'eye care for animals' in the Google window and started to reach for the phone. I clicked on the main website, mind filled with how Chienne would adjust to constant darkness, why I'd not worked harder to prevent this, if I'd opt for injections or surgery to stop the pain as we'd lost all sight.

"Think, dammit," I demanded of myself with vicious impatience when I realized I should have clicked on the map to reach the local number. Punching it out, I left a message with a shaking voice, clutching the phone as I requested someone call me back even though it was 6AM.

"She's blind," I told one of the partners when she called, having coaxed my dog down the three steps from my deck, weeping when she sat and held her paw out to shake, unsure of where to step without falling and clearly reading my distress. "I don't know what to do. How to help her." She told me to come in at 8:00 and to keep Chienne in a small area where she couldn't hurt herself.

"We're OK," I told her, frantically putting away the various items I keep scattered across the floor, carelessly dropped shoes and dog toys, papers and books and bags. They tripped my pretty girl and I hated myself for my insensitivity, realizing I was overreacting and pausing to take deep breaths, dropping to my knees and bowing my head over my dog.

After guiding her through a walk, taking a quick shower and throwing on clothes, I dashed off an email to work and helped Chienne in the Jeep, gasping when she misjudged her typical leap and ended up bouncing off the steering wheel before I was ready to lift her. We made the trip without incident - listening to hymns I keep on CD - and I rolled down the windows when we arrived, some 40 minutes before the office was due to open. Despite my efforts otherwise, she bumped into a giant rock when I walked her through the grass then stumbled over a tree root.

The office staff must have seen me when I tried the locked door, for one came to open it for me so I could sit on the floor with my blinded animal, one of us terrified, the other curiously wagging her tail, and wait.

The doctor - the male partner - emerged from the back and grinned at Chienne before frowning when I said she wasn't able to see. "One minute," he said. "Bring her back to room 3 and we'll get started."

And so there were drops and checking of pressure (58 - her last normal reading was 14) and more drops and two pills. Chienne gave kisses as I blinked back tears, reacting with confusion when he said we were trying to restore vision.

"But she's blind," I replied.

"But you said she was fine last night," he said, staring into the dog's eye even as he spoke. "The pressure's below 60. And the pupil is starting to constrict." He turned on the light in the room again and patted Chienne affectionately before looking at me kindly. "I'll be surprised if I can't get it back," he told me and I blinked at him, afraid to hope.

"Still up," he muttered the next time he checked pressure. "We try glycerin next," he decided. "If that fails, I'll remove fluid with a needle but that does increase inflammation so I use it as a last resort." Having wrinkled my nose over the thought of a needle but desperately wanting her to see again, I nodded dumbly as he left and helped hold her head while he coaxed 4 syringes full of gel into my sweet puppy.

"30 minutes," he decided. "This is going to remove water systematically so she'll need to go outside. So go ahead and walk her - keep her away from bushes so she doesn't poke herself in the eye."

I breathed easier when she pranced around the giant rock, avoided the patch of tall grass and trotted over a pothole without tripping. And so we wandered. And I hoped.

And finally sagged with relief when she curiously watched the cotton ball the doctor tossed make a gentle arc before floating to the ground 20 minutes later.

"16," he announced of the pressure and I nodded, swallowing hard to regain some semblance of control. And we came home and slept. I offered water at regular intervals and refused to let her become sick by drinking as much as she wanted. I watched her carefully, noting the eye did look funny and she was holding it closed, but vision remained as she followed me around.

She rests at my side now - if more than a few moments pass when we're apart, one of us will begin to search for the other. Seeking reassurance. Comfort.

I had thought this morning - ever prepared for the worst - that degeneration was inevitable. We will all die. Parts wear out. Fears establish. Hearts break. But it appears there are sometimes reprieves. Corrections and recoveries.

And so we curl close and feel grateful and rest.

Additional Notes
  • Someone asked on my last point about having the eye removed. The blind eye doesn't bother her and the pressure is normal. The doctor tells me it's a choice of aesthetics. Please know that if it were hurting her and they wanted it out, she'd be down to one eye.
  • John's flowers appeared to last longer than he did. Which also makes me sad.
  • That was an instance when being hopeful was the wrong approach, methinks.
  • I find myself indecisive about new dating opportunities - I'm just not good at it. And it hurts when I don't understand what went wrong.
  • Work is work - one unpleasant task at a time. But - apart from those - all is well.