Tuesday, August 19, 2014

on when reality and cliches don't match up

I keep envisioning those people with perfectly straight, white teeth and shimmering, immaculate hair smiling and saying "I just love being pushed out of my comfort zone." And I keep envisioning myself sucker punching them square in their perfectly straight, white teeth.

Moving across the country has been nothing short of an internal bloodbath on my feelings and, many times, my outlook on life. This likely comes as a shock to most that know me, because it was an incredible shock to myself. Leaving Michigan I didn't have any of the feelings I was supposed to have. I didn't cry enough when I hugged my mom goodbye because I was shoving every sad feeling I had into the bottom of my chest. When I crossed every state line I didn't get a wave of excitement. I felt like no matter how high I had the AC on, and how cold it made me, there was not enough air in the car and there was some pair of hands were surely reaching up to strangle me and I shivered while cold sweat ran from the top of my nape down between my shoulder blades. I thought about the end of my life and how it was feeling. But, of course, this wasn't the end of my life, it was just another panic attack. I reached up and felt my pulse throbbing far too quickly and far too hard through the skin in my neck and wished for it to go away through shallow breathing and trembling lips.
If you are lucky enough to be a person that is not ridden with anxiety then I hope you perhaps reread that and try to imagine what it's like.

I've had several of those since I left home, and in-between them are long stretches where my throat feels too swollen to talk and my mind is so blank yet unbelievably crowded that I don't have anything to speak about anyway. My jaws clench so hard that sometimes I swear my molars are cracking together when I check my phone and someone from home has texted "How are you?" or "What's it like?" or "How's Arizona?" And usually I can hold back the swollen tears but sometimes one seeps out, and sometimes one thousands follow it, and sometimes none.

I have glimpses where I know I need to get it together, and in those glimpses I feel like I have a life. I applied for a job and had a spot-on interview, which made me smile as I walked to my car, and as I was sitting across the table from the manager discussing fine dining service/stigmas/cliches I felt like myself. For the larger part of an hour I didn't have a weight on my chest or puffy eyes and things were okay. It was short-lived, but I held onto that memory of that feeling for the rest of the night, and it felt like a big deal to me. It is not, however, a big deal to others, and I felt foolish for thinking it would be.

I had orientation with roughly 200+ people that were in some range of the same situation as myself. There is one other girl in the Literature program and from 9:00 to 12:00 I felt like I had a friend. I was forced to sit at a table with 8 other people who identify their hobby as 'running', and though I forced myself to be a part of the rapid conversations it was hard to drink my water out of a plastic cup because my hands were shaking with a fierce so bright that I had to stop trying. Three different times I had to ask someone to repeat what they had said because all I could hear was my own blood pumping through my ears.

No one likes being pushed outside of their comfort zone. If you're enjoying it, then you aren't outside of your comfort zone. There is the cliche of "the best things happen when you're outside of your comfort zone" but I don't fully believe that. Perhaps the best things happen when you find a new comfort zone, after you are out of being outside of your comfort zone. And perhaps sometimes the best things don't happen. Both of those outcomes are very real and very possible every single time. People tend to forget that. Mainly because people only like to remember the good things.

I was texting Sammy while sitting in my car outside of World Market (I know, I was surprised Flagstaff had one as well) and as I clenched my phone in both hands I tried describing to her what I was going through and it's probably the furthest I've gotten with anyone on the topic. At one point in the conversation she said "Have you talked to your mom? I assume Julie always knows how to make you (or anyone) feel better." Then I cried because I missed my mom, and she does know how to make me feel better. And, as Sammy, had included, make anyone feel better.

One time (more than one time) I thought my life was in shambles because I was experiencing a heart-wrenching breakup, and all she kept saying were things like "It just takes time," and "Fake it until you make it," and "Time heals all wounds". When I called her out through my tears for her abundance of cliches she responded with "Well, they are cliches for a reason. Because they're true."
And I always thought there was some validity in that. Props, mom.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Cohen Conversation

Do you want to talk about it?

I don't even know where to start.

Start from the beginning.

It was a nice day.  It was snowing for most of the trail outing, but I had my coat on so I didn't mind.  We were out for a pretty long time, I'd say close to the time I'd spend napping before getting up to stretch, but it wasn't long enough for me.  I mean, I was feeling great and had no arguments from her, so I didn't see why we had to cut back to the car at that particular time.

Did you tell her that?

Yeah.  I did.


Like I always do.  When I started to notice we were heading back, I lagged behind a little.  She tried to get me to run in front of her, but I wouldn't.  I stayed a consistent 5-7 feet behind her, stopping exactly when she would.  She knew what I was saying and she didn't care.  She wasn't listening.  She never listens.

Then what happened?

She turned towards the car and I stopped in my tracks.  She looked back at me and tried to get me to come to her, using that soothing voice that she uses whenever she thinks something might be wrong with me.  I backed up a few paws.  She crouched down and acted like she wanted to play and started to be rambunctious, but I knew her games.  She was going to get me to play with her and then grab my collar when I wasn't paying attention.  She's done that one too many times.

And how'd you react to that?

I ran away.  I ran down the nearest trail.

And how do you think that made her feel?

I don't know, probably mad.  But I wanted to play.  I wanted to feel the wind flapping my lips and my paws kicking up snow.  I was feeling more free than I'd ever felt before and I didn't want to stop.  Hell, I couldn't stop.

Did she follow you?

Yeah.  She did.  She followed me with a stick, waving it in the air like she was going to throw it.  I bought into it for a minute because, hell, I'm a dog.  I saw that stick and fantasized about how many pieces I could chew it into, and how fast I'd run just to get my teeth on it.  Just as I was jumping up to get it out of her right hand, her left hand goes for my collar.  Who does that?  You're going to trick me into getting back into the car?  I don't think so.  So I took off again.

And she followed you?

No.  She didn't.  She walked back to the car.

And you followed her?

Yeah, I followed her.  I stayed about 15 feet behind her, just in case she tried to pull any stunts.  To my surprise, she didn't.  She walked straight to the car and got right in and started it.  I stayed by the trail head, about 10 feet away.  We locked eyes and I could tell she wasn't playing around, and do you know what she did?


Guess.  Guess what she did.

I don't feel like guessing.  What?

That bitch drove away.

Did you chase after her?

Nope.  I stayed just where I was.  Who is she, thinking she can leave me like that?  I'm my own dog, and if she doesn't want me anymore, that's just fine.

Did she come back?

Yeah.  I tried not to notice her backing the car up to the original parking spot, but I watched her out of the corner of my eye.  I knew she wouldn't *actually* leave me.

Did you go with her then?

Hell no.  I wasn't even close to being done playing.  I watched her from a safe distance, acting like I was sniffing a tree, but really just keeping an eye on her.  She rummaged around in the car for something and emerged with a bag of treats.  Not just any treats, either, but the expensive ones that we use for obedience lessons.  The good ones.

And did you go for the treat?

God, it was tempting.  But no.  I perked my ears up and licked my lips, but stayed right where I was.  She took two steps towards me and I stayed there.  She took three more steps towards me and I took three giant leaps in her opposite direction.  It was at this point she started to get vocal.  I believe it started with "Fuck you, Cohen!"

And how did that make you feel?

It hurt a little, to be honest.  I know she just wanted to go, but couldn't she tell I just wanted to stay?  Why does it always matter what *she* wants?  With that in mind, I trotted off.

And how long would you say this went on?

I'd say this went on for about as long as we were running.

And how long were you running for?

I told you, about the time it takes for me to nap until I have to stretch or switch positions.

So an hour.

Which isn't that long.  Anyway, she walked back to her car and sat there for awhile, staring at me like I was the scum of the earth.  I knew she'd be happier if she just came to play with me.  If you think about it, I was doing her a favor.  Who wants to sit in a car when you can romp through the woods?

But you had been romping through the woods for almost two hours already.  She was probably cold.

Right.  But we were having a great time.

What if she had something to go do?  Like perhaps go to work, in order to make money to feed you?

Of course.  It's always her.  Her schedule, her necessities.  Why couldn't it just be about me for once?

That sounds like a topic for another session.  What happened next?

Well, I looked up just in time to see her slam the car door so hard that I thought the car was going to flip right over.  She came running toward me, but instead of reaching her hand out to grab me, she just kept going.  I was delighted.  She had finally realized that we needed to run more.  She had caved.  Life seemed to move in slow motion as my jowls floated through the air and my tongue smacked the outside of my mouth.  She wasn't smiling, but I was.  It wasn't long before we came up to another dog on the trail, and I ran up to sniff him and converse with his rear end.  Just as we were getting to know each other she slipped her hand around my collar.  And that was it.

It was over.

Yeah.  I tried to plant my paws and not follow her, but with her fist wrapped around my collar it seemed as if I didn't have a choice.

Do you think she forgave you?

Not for a long time.  The whole way home it was completely silent.  I panted with my nose pressed up against the window, and out of the corner of my eye I saw her glare back at me as she rolled it down.  If looks could kill, I'da been six feet under.  And damn does that girl hold a grudge.  By the time we got home I had forgotten all about it and was looking forward to a nice bowl of salmon flavored pebbles and a nap on the bed, but every single movement she did was filled with anger.  I could hardly get any shut-eye as she was describing our trail experience to Jesse.  It was 'fucking this' and 'fucking that' with a few sideways looks in my general direction.  I hadn't seen her blood running that hot since I flipped the kitchen table over and broke the chairs, back in March of '11.

What's it like between you two now?

Things are mostly back to normal.  We cuddle, I slobber, she scratches my body and gives me Dentasticks.  Whenever she puts on her running clothes, though, she never takes me with her.

Do you think she'll ever take you again?

I'm sure she'll get over it soon.  She always does.  This has only happened once before, so it's not like.. you know.. a 'thing' I do on the regular.  I heard she put an ad for me on Facebook.  It read "For free:  One not-so-Great Dane".  Really clever.  I have to admit, it stung.  Doesn't she know how sensitive I am?  She doesn't understand how hard life is.  Imagine living life in a world that is built too small for you.  The struggles I go through daily aren't even acknowledged.

Your time's up, we'll have to visit that topic next time.