essays by Shé

Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

Essay #42: present

In Love on December 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Four years ago, the time between Christmas and New Year’s was one of the worst in my life. Emmett was dying and I didn’t know how to save him. Everything hurt him, I could not make him comfortable for more than a few minutes. He wouldn’t stay in the house.

The vet had removed his front leg a year before: sarcoma. And for a while he was okay. Then he got pneumonia and a wracking cough. His breathing went from labored to difficult.

Big dog. Shiny coat. Stupid woman, me, who didn’t know what to do. Even riding in the car hurt him, so I went to the vet alone to get more medicine. It didn’t seem to be working, though he took it with peanut butter every few hours. He had the softest mouth, gently taking the pills from my hand.

He could barely walk around the block. He was only six years old.

On New Year’s Eve I awoke at 4 a.m. Dark. By this time we’d developed a fairly good telepathy. Emmett rarely barked. He only had to stand outside my window for me to ‘hear’ him. But he wasn’t there. I pulled on a jacket and went out to the garage where he’d been resting under a boat. He wasn’t there, either. He wasn’t anywhere in the garage. It felt like the tomb after Jesus had risen. Empty.

I searched the back yard, the front yard. Finally found him up by the sidewalk. He had jumped the fence. He could barely walk or breathe, but he had jumped the fence.

I called the emergency vet. She asked if his lips were blue. “No,” I said. He was still in the front yard, staring through the fence at me in the house. Come on. Let’s go. I knew what he was saying. He was done here. But I wasn’t done. So I ignored him.

The streets were icy. I asked a neighbor whether I could borrow her 4-wheel drive, but Emmett wouldn’t get in. He stood by the back door of my old Toyota, waiting for me to open the door. We were doing this his way.

Emmett sat in the back seat as usual, looking out the window at the sunrise and passing strawberry fields.

His regular doctor wasn’t there, and the one who was wouldn’t see us right away. So Brandy, his favorite vet tech, came in and talked to us, then weighed him. He’d lost 10 pounds in a week. “Fuck,” I said, shocked. She nodded. It was bad. We decided an x-ray was in order.

For some reason, Brandy expected me to walk Emmett back to the x-ray room. Usually he went of his own accord, no trouble. And he was no trouble this time either, but I walked back with them through the hospital and saw him through the door. “Good dog, Emmett.” Then I returned to the little consulting room we’d been in, and shut the door. That was the last time I saw him alive.

Someone yelled, “I need help here,” and running footsteps came from all directions. I started praying. Not that he would live, even then I wouldn’t make bargains with gods, but that he would be okay.

I am loving you, Emmett. I am loving you.

He was the best present of all.

Essay #41: support

In Love on December 19, 2011 at 11:03 pm

I am taking an aerial dance class. It’s very difficult, engaging muscles I don’t use every day. How often do you pull yourself up on a long piece of silk and flip upside down?

My favorite so far is the dance trapeze. It’s easier to get into than the sling, which is just a loop of fabric hanging from the ceiling. My mind chimes in with, “Silk is something you sew, you can’t possibly dance on it!” But the trapeze has a sturdy wooden bar I can grab and manuever.

I seem to be stronger and able to do more when the teacher is standing next to me than when I practice on my own, outside of class. I will spot you, she says, I will hold your weight. Meaning, I see you. You’re safe.

With her support I am able to get into Half Angel, Sitting Pretty, and Coffin pose. The cycle of life, yes? Born angels, we’re sitting pretty for awhile, then we’re dead. And the whole thing is easier with support.

Usually I apologize for needing help. “I’m such a loser.” But how will she know I need it unless I ask? Maybe I’ve been missing the point of this exercise. I signed up for a dance class, but what I’m actually learning is how to ask for what I want. How to receive it. How to trust. How to fly. And how to land.

Just back from class, my arms are so tired I can barely lift them to the keyboard. But tonight I was able to pull myself up higher on the silks, and hold on longer. For the first time, I held myself steady with my feet, pulled my upper body through the slit in the fabric, and performed the Diva Descent, arms open wide and welcoming as I slowly slid to the ground.

Supporting myself the whole way down.

Essay #40: duty or delight?

In Love on December 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm

“If you feel a sense of delight, you know you’re on the right track. Delight is a marker for the soul’s truth — it’s never wrong.” ~Kathy Freston, Expect a Miracle

Amen, cousin.

Who would you rather be around: someone who’s delighted to be here or someone who thinks she should be? Don’t do us any favors by saying yes when you want to say no. We can tell it’s a should — a duty, not a delight.

How much energy are you expending on duty, on shoulds? Do you talk yourself into hateful jobs? ill-fitting friends? Do you pray for traffic or nasty weather so you have a good reason to skip the company Xmas party? Or do you immediately reschedule everything so you can attend?

I’m not saying duty can’t be delightful. Take exercise. It starts out being a duty, something I should do, but by the end of the walk or ride, I’m delighted. Life is good.

Figuring out whether something is a duty or delight can be tricky. Usually the body knows better than the brain. I recently, surreptitiously, returned the music to a dance piece I hadn’t bowed out of. My body wouldn’t let the CD all the way into the house, kept it near the door so I could slip it in my pocket next time I visited the choreographer. Afterward, my brain finally let me e-mail my resignation. If I attend rehearsals for a piece I think I should do, I’m doing my Self a disservice, as well as the dance.

Moving toward delight can be scary if you’re out of the habit. I have actually run from delight, talked myself out of it in all its manifestations. Years ago, I was hugely attracted to a man at work. Instead of talking to him, I avoided him like the plague. Could barely look at him. Whipped a quick 180 from the very possibility of delight. I’ve regretted it ever since.

Which are you choosing — duty or delight?

Essay #39: rolling through fear

In Love on December 5, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Before Thanksgiving I stopped at Bike ‘n’ Bike to see if I could find some wheels for the winter. Volunteer run, housed behind a thrift store, here you can avail yourself of donated tools and used parts to build a bike or fix one. Volunteer Elise found me a bike with a good frame, and a comfortable seat to swap out. I worked on the brakes, put my name on it, and left it propped against a ladder to the loft.

After the holiday, I swung by three different times but the shop was always closed. Finally, yesterday, it was open. Full of bikes and men. No Elise. I looked around the crowded room. Couldn’t find my bike among the many parts and people. Finally, hanging on a hook against the wall behind a slew of other bikes — I saw it.

Dirty white Cro-Moly frame with a bike rack. Rear brakes still stuck, though I’d cut myself trying to loosen them. Elise had even put the good seat on for me. But another name was taped on the frame. No sign of my name or the sheet of paper I’d threaded through the spokes. Perhaps it fell off when someone lifted it on the hook. What to do?

I walked over to the counter and tore off a piece of old greasy flyer. Wrote Elizabeth on it. Went back to the bike. Looked at it. Decided to take it instead. Gently pushed the other bikes out of the way, but handlebars impeded my progress. An older man started yelling that it wasn’t my bike. “Yes,” I said, evenly, “this is my bike.”

“That’s bullshit!” screamed Angry Man. “I’m not going to stand for it!”

“It’s true,” I said in a higher than normal voice. “Elise gave it to me.”

“I don’t give a fuck who Elise is! Who’s Elise?” he yelled, storming around the shop, which was hard to do given the limited floor space.

“She’s here on Fridays,” I said, starting to shake.

Angry Man continued cursing and screaming. I raised neither voice nor fist, but continued extricating the bike while asserting my right to it as calmly as I could.

Finally it was free and on the ground, but I was deep in the dingy room. Angry Man and the others were between me and the door.

Then a miracle occurred. As soon as I started to move, a pathway opened up. Without making eye contact, I rolled the bike past everyone and out the door. No one laid a hand on me or barred my way. Angry Man stopped screaming. Even though I was scared, I pushed the bike through the thrift store, outside into daylight and fresh air.

No one stopped me.

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