Love Has Paws

Sometimes I just don’t feel real.

It’s like I’m outside of myself, suspended in the air, taking in the scenery. When people speak to me, I feel their words entirely. I feel them and I want to say “Congratulations. I’m sorry. I love you.” I receive the signal and yet, my response doesn’t get through. Message failed. Return to sender. Blinking lights and wasted stamps.

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

Please believe me when I say that I want more than anything to talk. I love your voice. It’s a tiny, persistent stream of light seeping through the cracks of my closed blinds. I know you don’t believe it, because your phone never rings. When I tell you that my phone is broken, you will glance at it and tell me that it looks just fine, certainly fine enough to give you a fucking call once in a while, and I will cradle that phone between my shoulder and my ear waiting for a dial tone that will not come.

Every so often, I lose control. It happens quickly, taking me under and spitting me out like a clumsy tourist meeting the ocean for the first time. But it happens slowly enough that I can see the change occur, wishing always that it could just stop here. It’s a rollercoaster climbing the tracks and it’s me knowing that no amount of fearful shouting will stop the descent. Every so often, I forget what it is like to move my mouth without asking my disorder for permission. It is in these moments that I am not certain I was meant for this life.

People often ask me what saves me, what makes it worth it to stay anyway. It’s not my ambition or potential driving me to pave a successful path. It’s not the need to prove anybody wrong. It is not what I would miss. It is always the small things that keep me rooted here, feeding me purpose.

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It’s small things like the slap of a tail on the floor when I make it past my door frame and into the living room, only to rest again. It’s a warm body on cold feet, and somehow, the only silver lining that stands out. It’s a wet nose meeting my temple, a joyous greeting to dissolve every goodbye I’ve ever heard.

Though there are always many more reasons to stick around than can be seen in moments such as these, this is often all I can cling to, and I do so with tenacity, because it is enough. There are 2 furry, strange beings who literally depend on me for survival. I am responsible for them in a way that I am not responsible for anyone else on this vast and mysterious Earth, and for me, that’s magic. It’s 4 cups of food twice a day and a serious dose of tenderness. In moments when words are heavy, there’s none to carry. All that is left is their pulse and mine whispering of our fondness of one another. In between breaths I can think clearly, and I remember that my phone is broken, so it’s probably time I got a new one.

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As I watch them frolick and tumble through drifts of snow, I wonder what a happy dog looks like. I decide that it would look a lot like mine. A warmth comes over me then, contentedness wrapping itself around a heart that I thought was expired. I silently mull it over, and I smile knowing that I have helped more than I have hurt. I have made another being so ecstatic that they are rolling in their own shit. In this moment, I am here, I am real, and more present than ever.

Why Not To Be A Jerk: Notes From A Recovering Bully

Sometimes there’s no other way to slice it than with the truth; I used to be an asshole. I know a lot of inspirational tales about the survivor, but I almost never hear much about how life turns out for the bully. (It makes sense if I think about how many people actually want to own up to their bullshit.) Since I try to live with no shame in my game, I’ll tell you how it goes. I can’t tell you how not to be an asshole, of course. That one is all you. But if you’re reading and nodding along, that’s a good step. I’ll just tell you WHY not to be an asshole instead.

5 Things That A Bully Knows

1. Words are glass. Small, jagged shards that wink as they hang in the light. These moments last only seconds, but these seconds in this light make the shards look as much like the truth as they felt leaving our lips. It is not until we lay sleepless inside of ungodly hours that we taste the blood in our mouths.

2. We have our reasons. Reasons like self-respect and love and justice. We see ourselves as the messenger rather than the villain, for a villain would surely use his fists.

3. Hate is heavy. To rule this way brings discomfort that is felt at all times, like stacking those we dislike atop our shoulders. We do not feel discouraged, because it takes a strong person to carry this weight. We blame them entirely, all the while questioning why everyone is on our back.

4. Bullies have bullies, too. There is the one person we all know, the one who started it. The one who gave us all of our reasons. An objective perspective would tell us that the virus did not begin with them, yet we will maintain the idea that this person doesn’t have reasons; just a blank space where a soul should be. We will imagine that even for a soul that is black like soil, there is, at the very least, hope that good things might still someday sprout.

5. We are just confused. How could we not be? So few of the people we know walk around with the weight of nothing and nobody. This is not malice; it’s survival. Surely if you cease to be the one holding the saw, you become the one laying on the table.

5 Harsh Truths That A Bully Learns

1. Awakening to life’s purpose will more than likely not involve pretty pastels, no third eye, no peace. It will feel as if we are going about life, skin held together by staples while our body attempts to shed this and replenish itself. We will resist, clinging to our rough exterior as if it were worth more than it is. We will not let go until we realize how painful it is to embrace ourselves.

2. Change, the grand, sweeping kind is almost never launched in quiet, thoughtful moments. Change is brought in by heavy gusts that shatter window panes. Change becomes the guest choosing to stay; invited or not. We will adapt and flourish next to it. Or we won’t, and we’ll find ourselves brushing up against it, hearts like sandpaper, vowing that we’ll teach our kids not to be wimps, because life is tougher when you’re a wimp. We’ll find ourselves spitting glass.

3. Everyone has their reasons. Reasons that make us unimportant to them, like them to us. Reasons like pride disguised as self-respect, vengeance disguised as love and loss disguised as justice. We will not see this great wheel of reasons until we and all involved notice that we’re running in circles.

4. Nobody with any kind of character bets on the bully. To be an asshole, to fly off the handle, so far it’s (kinda) worked. However, there are VERY few areas in life in which these strategies are efficient or tolerated. One day, when our sideshow is no longer the freakiest in town, the crowd that coos and strokes our fragile egos will begin to thin until it is us and the dust. We will be remembered, but people will not find it entertaining. We become the empty vessel after the party.

5. Perhaps the most jarring truth is that we matter more than this, that our lives are worth more than we’re doing with them. Our voices are melodious when they are not being used to wound. The energy we squander on hate takes real commitment, and there are innumerable positive outlets we could use to fine tune that rather endearing bit of our character. As we turn this over we will see that almost every black, rotten part of us started growing with the hope of something good. We alone are something good. The road is a unique, authentic journey for all who travel, but the pattern of change has been the same since Moses was an angsty teen. We become who we are when we discover that we can no longer be who we were.