When You Defer Your Dreams to Take Care of Yourself
Whether it’s postponing motherhood or dreams of the perfect dog, the most painful steps to living the life you want are often the most necessary.
Sealed in blood. Perfect!
You can still move forward with your list
I picked her up and carried her out, nuzzling her silken ears all the way. My floppy little angel.
We lasted two days together.
At four o’clock that Monday afternoon, I dropped to the floor on my knees, gagging on the glucose tablets I was trying to shove into my mouth. I’d forgotten to keep an eye on my blood sugar after a miscalculated insulin dose. Somewhere in the background, she gnawed on a Kong ball. I kept my cheek to the floor. Drool collected in a sweetened pool.
After my blood sugar stabilized, I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling.
“Well, Caira. I don’t think we can go drop you back off at the breeder, now can we?”
The thought of driving myself out to nowhere, or opening the car door and watching diabetes hop out onto the pavement was hysterical. I laughed the strange, loud, relieved laugh of a person utterly defeated.
“I just don’t want a dog right now.”
I Just. Don’t. Want. A. Dog. Right. Now.
“I just want to take care of myself.”
I breathed in and out. I could feel my heartbeat. Tap, tap. How funny it’s always there, but I only notice it sometimes.
I closed my eyes and mumbled to the dimming afternoon. You can know what you want. And you can know it’s not the time to have it.
“This is going to hurt, Caira.”
A friend of the breeder’s just outside New York who’d adopted from an earlier litter was willing to take the pup. She would have a big backyard, an older brother, and two teenage children to look after her. We took a Lyft to her new home around midnight. She slept in her dog bed in my lap the entire way. I stroked her small puppy head and stared out the window. If the driver wondered why there was a little Vizsla in the car on the way to Nassau County on the drive out, and then an empty-handed, silent thirty-four-year -old on the drive back, he didn’t ask.
I slept for twelve hours and woke up confused. A few beats passed and I realized—the apartment was silent and I was alone. I tried coaxing myself to just go back to sleep, that I didn’t have to do this right now. I didn’t have to look at the emptiness I’d made.
“She needs to go outside,” I thought. “I need to pick her up and take her outside without her little paws touching the ground first so she knows to go potty.” But she wasn’t there. Nothing was.
“What have I done?” I couldn’t breathe.
The sadness felt familiar at first, but I was swept into an undertow. It was a thousand parts of pain, breaking at the surface and running down my face.
“What kind of a person am I to want something my whole life and have a nervous breakdown when I finally bring it home? Am I a monster?” I asked my friend, in a text.
“Nope,” he said. “That’s bananas! We got a basset hound named Humphrey once and he jumped on my parents’ bed and took a giant piss and my dad was like, alright! Back to the pound for you, little guy.”
I started hyena laughing.
The dense cluster of dread in my chest dislodged briefly and, for one flash, I felt relief. This wasn’t it. I wasn’t going to be saved by this after all. Caring for the puppy in my apartment wasn’t going to bring me home. I’d been mining for the answer for so long I’d forgotten what the question was. In that brief, breathable moment, it felt like it could be OK.
I pulled out a trash bag and started picking up the dog things I’d collected the past few weeks. The pee pads and the soft chew training treats. The paw-printed plastic bags I’d rolled up and stuffed in my pocket on our hourly ‘let’s go outside!’ enchantments. The hand-me-down dog collar from my family’s fourteen-year-old Doberman we’d said goodbye to in the spring.
I stopped when I saw her elevated doggy dish, the water and kibble still in their bowls from the night before. I’d mixed in a teaspoon of coconut oil with the kibble, because it’s good for their young coats. I put down the trash, momentarily stunned from the pain.
I couldn’t just throw it all away like it was never here and move on. Not yet. It was too much. It was too much, and I couldn’t do it.
And then, “Don’t force it, Caira. You’ve never been here before. It will take some time.”
I sat down at my table and blinked my living room into focus. The window unit AC hummed from the bedroom. It was warm outside, and quiet. “It is just me for now,” I thought. I almost smiled. How boring and painful and necessary.