a maude update

(First, a job update. I continue to apply for jobs and go on interviews, and in my spare time I’m working on starting my own business. No details for now in case it doesn’t pan out, but I figure one of three things will happen first:

  1. I will get a full-time job.
  2. My business will become profitable and support me.
  3. I will go broke, get evicted and live on the mean streets of Austin.)

this blanket came from a bluishorange reader a long time ago

So Maude isn’t doing very well. Her arthritis and kidney failure have combined forces to render her back legs tricky and unreliable. One minute she’ll be standing up, the next she’ll have sort of rolled over into a sitting/laying down position. She has trouble going up our front steps after we’ve taken her outside. We built a little ramp for her to use, and she uses it when she remembers it’s there, but otherwise she does this sort of clumsy scramble up each step. Sometimes when she drinks water, she falls into the bowl a little and gets water on her face.

I can’t imagine any of this is much fun for her, but for me to watch it is terrifying. I’m reminded of a time several years ago when I was holding her in my lap on the sofa. I was scratching her ears and I felt something fall and hit me in the arm. I picked it up and saw that it was one of her teeth. I was horrified, and of course I freaked out. “OH MY GOD, MAUDE, ARE YOU OKAY?” I cried. She wagged her tail and looked at me like, hey, when can we get back to you scratching my ears?

But that was 2005. Now it’s 2013 and she’s 13 years old, at least, and I don’t know how much time she has left. There is still tail wagging, thankfully. She gets excited about food and treats and going outside. She likes to explore the yard, albeit very, very slowly. She likes to sit next to me in bed and lick my forehead. She likes when I give her little pieces of vegetables I’m chopping. She can’t go on neighborhood walks anymore, but we put her in a little secondhand stroller and wheel her around, and she likes being out and about with us. Of course I don’t know this for absolutely sure, but she seems like she isn’t in any pain.


best $5 I ever spent at the Texas state surplus property store

But sometimes there is no tail wagging. Sometimes I put her down on the bed, and instead of moving around and getting comfortable like she usually does, she lets herself sort of fall down wherever I’ve placed her. Sometimes I tell her it’s time to go outside, and instead of standing up and moving towards the door, she just lies there and stares up at me.

The decision of when it’s time to let your dog go is one I’ve never made by myself before. We had to put our childhood dog to sleep when she was 11 and the vet discovered that she was positively riddled with cancer. My sister and my dad were driving to St. Louis to take my sis to college at the time, and since this was before cell phones, my mom and I couldn’t call to consult them. But that decision was an obvious one for my mom and me to make, and we did the right thing. The hard part was later that day, when we flew to St. Louis to meet my dad and sister, and we had to tell them that the dog they’d said “see you soon” to that morning was dead.

This decision is different. First of all, it’s mine and Brendan’s to make. We are not 20 years old, and there is no medically-trained mother here to tell us what she thinks we should do. We’re 34 and 35, and she’s our dog, and second of all there is no obvious, hard-line evidence telling us what to do. Some days I see her lying there listlessly and think, it’s time. Other days I get ready to give her treats and she jumps up and down on those tricky hind legs like she’s 4 years old again, and I think, how could I ever have thought it was time?

Maude is my best friend. I know she’s just a dog, and I know I have another dog, too, but that’s just how it is. No disrespect to her sister Moki, but Maude and I are close in a way I’ve never been with another dog, not even my childhood dog. Maude and I lived alone together for years, with no boyfriends or housemates or other dogs. Just us. For a while in my mid-twenties, Maude was the only reason I could think of to get out of bed. If I didn’t get out of bed, Maude wouldn’t be able to eat or go outside, and I loved Maude, so I got out of bed. I don’t know if I’d say she literally and definitively saved my life, as I was hardly suicidal at the time, but she definitely saved my living. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to feel Maude’s breath on my ear, her face buried in my hair, and think, I may not have much going for me, but how could I ever not do right by this dog?

Also, Maude is not just a dog. If you’ve ever met her, you know she’s got a certain gravitas about her, a seriousness that to me indicates a bit of depth. I’m sure I’m projecting some of that onto her, but not all of it. My friend Sarah says that Maude has the je ne sais quoi, and I think that’s the best way to describe it.

I have plans for what to do with her after she’s gone. I’m going to have her cremated by herself. It’s a more expensive option than having her cremated with other dogs, and before I researched this I didn’t know they even did that. I guess they have that option for people who don’t want the ashes back. But I want her ashes back. I’m going to save most of them in an urn, and put a little bit in a brass screw-top canister that I will hang on a chain along with the tag from her collar. I don’t know if it’s something I’ll wear around my neck forever, but I’ll definitely need it for a little while.

I wish that deciding when it’s time to let her go was as easy as deciding what to do after. Obviously if she seems like she’s in pain or she takes a definitive turn for the worse, it’ll be a less difficult decision, but right now I’m really struggling. The thing I’ve heard people say the most is that they’ve regretted waiting until it was too late, but they’ve never regretted maybe doing it too soon. I can understand the first part, but the second part escapes me. What if I did put her down too soon? What if she had some good months left and I took them away from her?

I still wake up in the night and feel her there next to me, but now I check to see if she’s still breathing. How could I ever not do right by this dog?

only four of the seven dwarves

My foray into competitive sleeping began shortly after I was laid off in February of 2011.

It started slowly. I’d wake up early (as I was accustomed to doing during my office job), take the dogs out, eat breakfast, apply for a bunch of jobs, then bum around on the internet for awhile. After lunch I’d spend a few hours doing various craft projects–knitting, sewing, building whatever. Then I would get tired. So, so very tired. I’d lie down to read, fall asleep almost immediately, and wake up at least two hours later. After my nap I’d check for new job postings, bum around on the internet some more, maybe post to my craft blog, eat dinner, watch some TV while knitting, then go to bed at about 11 or 12.

The 2011 naps didn’t happen every day at first, but then summer came along. Summer in Texas in 2011 was brutally hot and dry. It was the worst drought in recorded history. Here in Austin it rained just a handful of times, and then only for brief periods. A girl from Houston who loves weather like I do expects rain on a regular basis, and to be without it for so long did something bad to my psyche. I’d take the dogs out at around noon, and while they sniffed around I’d stand there, aimless in the punishing sun, unable to remember what it felt like when it was nice outside (was it ever nice outside? what was that like?), unable to remember what it felt like in my freezing office. Would it ever rain again? Would I ever have a job?

I began sleeping off those burning afternoons like they were hangovers. It was too bright outside, too hot, too much, and the only thing I wanted was to lie down in my darkened bedroom with the fan on and a book propped on the cool pillow next to me.

I love reading in bed. I love the comfort, the silence, the lack of outside stimulus. I remember one winter afternoon in college when I got under the covers with my copy of The Hours, listened to the wind make the tree branches scratch against my window, and thought, it doesn’t get much better than this. Such a deliciously blank feeling, to shut everything out and just read.

It cooled down a lot when fall came, but I still didn’t have a job, so I continued to sleep through the afternoons. I was fairly good at being unemployed as those things go–I kept busy, I did lots of job hunting, I was never bored, despite not being able to afford to go out much–but every day around one or two in the afternoon I’d start to feel listless. Overstimulated. Drowsy. So off to bed I’d go.

In October I landed a brief onsite contract job at a marketing agency just outside of Austin. It took about a half hour to get there in the morning and an hour to get back, so every evening I’d arrive home from work exhausted. On four of the eight workdays I had that job, I came home, ate dinner, got in bed at about 7pm, and stayed there until it was time to get up the next morning. When I told my sister and her Brazilian husband L about this, L laughed and said, “Next time I go to Brazil, I bring you back cocaine.”*

I began to think that maybe something was wrong with me. I took a few online sleep-disorder tests, and they all seemed to indicate that I was normal. No, I don’t get sleepy while driving. No, I don’t get sleepy when sitting at my desk at work. No, I don’t gasp for breath in the middle of the night. I checked with my psychiatrist, and she said that I might just be a person who needs 10 hours of sleep a night. “I spend most of my time trying to get my patients to go to sleep, so maybe you shouldn’t knock it,” she said. I asked my mother about her sleep patterns, since I get most of my medical history from her, and she said, “I sleep a lot, too.”

I stopped worrying about all my sleeping, and started to think of myself as “just a person who needs a lot of sleep.” As in, sure, I took two naps this weekend, but I’m just a person who needs a lot of sleep. Sure, sometimes I go to bed at 8pm, but I’m just a person who needs a lot of sleep.

I got a job in January of 2012, and oh, how I rejoiced! Our long national nightmare was finally over! After my first day of work I came home and took a nap, and that’s been my weekday schedule for the last fifteen months. Up at 6:30, to work and then home at 4:30, asleep until 7, awake until 10, for a total of 11 hours of sleep a day. On the weekends I take at least one nap per day, sometimes two.

This past Sunday I slept for 16 hours. Not at one stretch, but still. 16 hours! That’s only eight hours of awake time, and that’s not going to work. When I sleep that much it feels like a prison to me. I want to do laundry and clean the house and do some sewing or knitting, but I can’t, because I’m trapped in unconsciousness. When I talk about my oversleeping to friends or people on Facebook, lots of them say that they’re envious of all the sleep I get, but they shouldn’t be. A stolen nap feels amazing, but 16 hours of nap feels like having your head held underwater.

I’d heard from a few friends that oversleeping can be caused by a vitamin D deficiency. I’m not out in the sun much, don’t drink a lot of milk, and don’t take a multivitamin, so I thought that might be my problem. On Monday morning I went out and bought some vitamin D pills, and I haven’t taken a nap since. I know it’s only been three days, but I’m optimistic. I don’t get that drowsy feeling in the afternoons like I used to.

What I do still feel, however, is a desire for lack of stimulus. I get home from work and I’m so overwhelmed with everything that’s happened during the day, all the working and talking to people and listening to the radio and driving, that I need to do absolutely nothing for awhile. So I lie down in my darkened bedroom with the fan on and a book propped on the cool pillow next to me, and I just read.

*Note to any immigration or customs-enforcement agents who are reading this: MY BROTHER-IN-LAW IS A LEGAL U.S. RESIDENT AND HE WAS TOTALLY KIDDING ABOUT THE COKE, OKAY?

(If you’d like to give me some medical advice, please do! Just type your advice into the comment box below, then close the browser window without clicking Post Comment. Thanks!)

my twenties: a review

“People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.”

This sentiment has been expressed in lots of different ways by lots of different people, but I first heard it from Don Draper, and it has resonated with me ever since. It might embarrass some other English majors to have one of their favorite quotes come from a television show, but this English major slash TV junkie is fine with it.

Listen, my twenties were terrible. And exciting. And then terrible again. And then exciting, but in a really, really terrible way. My friend Helen Jane would say that years 20-30 are everyone’s time to be stupid and crazy, and she’s right, but lord was I ever stupid and crazy.

  • I was in ten different monogamous relationships, three of them with people at least nine years older than myself.
  • I had three nervous breakdowns.
  • I got arrested.
  • I sort of broke up with one person twice.
  • I flirted briefly with alcoholism.
  • For three years, I hardly ever left the house.

I was kind to people who were cruel to me and cruel to people who were kind, and above all, I was unspeakably cruel to myself. I sat around waiting for my life to start, berating myself day and night for waiting for my life to start. I existed in a constant liminal state–between jobs, between relationships, between careers or goals. I convinced myself I wasn’t good enough for anything or anyone.

But mostly, the problem was the dating. I’m the child of parents who are both very straightforward and honest. They don’t manipulate people, they don’t say things they don’t mean, and they’ll own up when they’ve done something wrong. For those and other qualities I’ll always love them, but I went into the world somewhat unprepared for people who lack those qualities. I didn’t listen when people told me who they were, and I paid for it.

So this is what happened. I dated someone whose backpack made a loud CLUNK on the table whenever he came to stay at my house, indicating that he’d brought his gun over again. I dated someone I was afraid of, and the first time we broke up, I took him back because I was afraid of him. I dated someone who’d had a recent stint in a mental hospital, and we got drunk together every night. I dated someone whose son kicked my dog. I dated someone who found my email password and used it. I dated someone who made me change my locks.

The things that happened to me in my twenties make me feel like I’m different from other people. My friend J has dated lots, too. She said once that she has a hard time discussing her relationship issues with her close friend M, because M married someone she met in college and therefore doesn’t understand What It’s Like. And I get that, but I think J was referring to What It’s Like to be really lonely for a long time, and that’s not how I feel different.

I have never had much trouble with loneliness. I’ve always spent lots of time by myself, and can avoid feeling lonely even when single if I maintain some close friendships. The thing I miss most when single is having someone to whom I can tell really boring stories. Some asshole ran a stop sign on my way home from work! I read this article online about blah blah blah today. Tonight for dinner I ate a peanut butter and chocolate syrup sandwich. That sort of thing. But otherwise it’s not a huge problem.

I have a divorced friend who is currently single and looking for the right guy to be with. She gets upset when she talks about it sometimes, and again, I get that. But that particular longing, that “When will I find my someone?” feeling, isn’t one I’ve experienced much. Loneliness looks pretty bad when you’re comparing it to being with someone who is right for you, but compared to being with someone who is wrong for you, it’s fucking cake.

I feel different from other people because I think all that disastrous dating has made me a little, well, callused. Untrusting. And another word I can’t think of. It’s not introverted, because I’m pretty outgoing. It’s something that means that I don’t reach out to people emotionally like I used to, or that I let my inner life take priority over the needs of others. I don’t know if I ever believed in the idea of a Right Person for everyone, but I definitely don’t believe in it now.

I am in a relationship now, and have been for the past four years. He’s a wonderful guy, I love him lots, and I trust him nearly unconditionally. We live together, but we have no current plans to get married. Given everything I’ve been through, getting married feels like pushing my luck.

Soon after I turned 30, the turmoil of my twenties just sort of went away, like a calm after a drama hurricane. Part of that is due to my boyfriend, who is refreshingly easygoing and straightforward (and doesn’t have much of an internet presence, god bless him), but part of it is also due to getting older. Whatever was in me that made me do all the regrettable things I did in my twenties just isn’t there anymore, and I’m glad.

(I hate when people end their blog posts with questions for people to answer in the comments, but, uh, I really want to know if your twenties were as insane as mine.)