A Possible Cure for Insomnia

This piece was published on Huffington Post.

A Possible Cure for Insomnia

I have figured out one possible cure for insomnia.

I started having insomnia in the mid-1990s. Mine is the sort that wakes me up at night, my little brain buzzing like an electrical transmission tower, thoughts of work, thoughts of family, song worms, you name it.

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Just Stop Already!

Three and a half weeks ago my dog died a horrible, violent death that did NOT involve a car, and left nothing of her body. Our family has been reeling and grieving this loss, trying to come to terms with it. She was a part of our family, present at the birth of my youngest daughter (who was born at home), and important to all of us.

Why am I bringing this up? Because I can’t stand how many people are asking me when I’m going to get another dog, or telling me we should get another dog. It’s obnoxious. It hasn’t even been a month yet, for Christ’s sake! Some people asked me 2 DAYS after she died!

For the record, we have another dog. He’s helped somewhat, primarily because we love him so much, we can focus on that love instead of our hurting, which helps with any loss, I know. Heck, I got Ava the day after the death of another dog I lived with. How is that different? I can hear some people say. For one thing, that dog was my boyfriend’s. I loved her, but I had only lived with her a few months and she was attached to him. She was a dear, and my heart broke losing her. But there were many other, much worse situations going on in my life at the time that did not involve the death of any loved ones that led me to get Ava. It was the combination of these things that led to the decision to bring home a puppy to love.

The thing about pain, grieving, and loss is though, that you can’t bandaid them away. If you do, these emotions will come back to get you in other ways, and it will all probably be worse and prolonged. I knew this when I brought Ava home. And for the record, I was also seeing a therapist for all the other stuff going on.

The questions about getting a new dog bug me the most primarily because they seem to imply that dogs are simply replaceable. They’re all four-legged furry things that have to be taught to potty outside and behave appropriately. They live relatively short lives. They can be left at home all day without much trouble (most of the time, anyway).

Yet the implication belies the individuality of each animal. I’ve lived with lots of animals in my life, and just like people, every one of them was different. Each one had its own personality. Each one touched my life in different ways. To presume that Ava could simply be replaced, like a pair of shoes or a car, shows such a lack of . . . something, I can’t even find a word to express it.

I get it that I view animals differently than most people. I do not think people are more important than animals; humans are animals who happened to develop brains that gave us the capacities we have. Ultimately though, we are all equal lives in my mind.  This belief system is perhaps part of the difference between myself and those who think Ava can simply be replaced. Others think of animals as things, as property. Even our legal system reflects this, and I’m not naive enough to hope the rest of the population agrees with me.

But shit, show a little sensitivity folks. Would you tell someone who lost their husband to go get married again? Lost their child, go have a baby again? Obviously, the depth of emotion we feel for a human is much more intense than that for a dog. I would not have been able to leave that place alive if it had been Isabel or Milla instead of Ava who had been killed, I truly believe that. I could survive the loss of a spouse, but I’m not sure I could the loss of a child.

Yet for me, the sentiment on some level is the same. Ava was an individual. She was a part of our family. She wasn’t a couch, or a car, or a rug. She was special to us and to a lot of other people as well. She can’t be replaced. Someday when I’m feeling up to it, we may invite another creature to come and live with us, but for now, I wish people would just stop telling me to get another dog.

Ava: December 3, 2008 — August 23, 2013

Every Friday since August 23, I have noticed and looked at the clock at 11:45 a.m. and thought of Ava. It has only been three weeks, so it’s likely this will stop soon. Then one Friday afternoon I’ll look at a clock at 12:30, or 2:00 and realize I didn’t notice and tears will form. It isn’t because I’m a bad person, but because I’m a normal one, and in order to go on in life, I can’t be looking at a clock every week remembering the moment she died.

I wish I knew the time of the day I first met her. It was some time in the afternoon on April 11, 2009. We had been to a movie at a theater next door. We played with her and several other puppies, then zeroed in on her. After 45 minutes, she needed her puppy nap and we needed to go to dinner with friends. As she lay on her side on the floor inside her puppy kennel, I reached in and put my hand on her side and she sighed. I felt complete love in that moment.

Then we left. I did not expect to see her ever again. I did not know that when we returned home at 11 that night our dog would die within 10 minutes of our arrival. When I woke up at 3 heartbroken and lost at everything that had happened that week culminating in the death of our dog, I knew my daughter was leaving to go to her father the following day, Easter. I knew after everything I could not come home to an empty house and all the grief that was a part of my soul. I remembered that puppy, remembered the moment that passed between us when my hand covered her heart, felt something immediate and visceral and complete, something other than grief and loss.

I decided lying there that I would call the store in the morning and offer them less than half the asking price for her. If they were open on Easter and they would take my offer, I would go and buy that puppy. I have never paid for a puppy in a pet store before.  I don’t really believe in it, considering all the unwanted animals up for adoption. But at that moment, I did not care.  In this decision in the pre-dawn hours, I was finally able to sleep.

First thing the following morning, I awakened feeling like I had a hangover. The morning was damp, classically spring-like. I told Milla my plan. I searched online for the number of the pet store using google maps to find the movie theater, then street view to find the name of the pet store, then googling the name to find the number. Together we called them. At 9:30, they answered. When I described who I was and made my offer, there was no hesitancy. They accepted on the spot.

Walking from the subway in Washington Heights to the pet store later that morning, as we paused on a curb to cross the street, my ex asked me whether we should name her Ava or Gloria. In unison, Milla and I said, “Ava.” It wasn’t until days later that I got it. My last name is Gardner. His is Gaynor. Ava Gardner or Gloria Gaynor. It was a joke, but it became Ava’s name and we never considered another.

My puppy baby.

My puppy baby.

I loved Ava from the moment I knew her. I loved her before I knew she would be mine. I loved her completely and fully and this love got me through the lowest point in my life. I credit her with saving my life, I was that low. Love will do that for you, give you the gift of life when you’re sure you can’t make it through. Even after Isabel was born, I kept loving Ava and kept her close. She was present for Isabel’s birth. She was a little light in all of our lives.

Back in May of this year when Ava was poisoned and almost died. I went there in my mind and imagined the possibility and could not bear it. After that incident, Ava stopped running away. She used to like to leave for 20 minutes or a half hour and roam the neighborhood. It only happened a handful of times, but one of our neighbors really hated this, even though she didn’t do anything. After the poisoning, even if she wasn’t tied up, she would not leave. I don’t know what changed for her — did she understand how close she came to death? I did not know, but I was grateful for the change.

Now she is gone and I wonder if Death felt thwarted back in May. Determined to do its deed, it took her from us when we least expected it, leaving us all reeling. Isabel lost a member of her family. She is only now getting her rhythm back. She doesn’t get it. Out of the blue in the car yesterday she said, “When we die, our bodies become the earth. Is Ava now a part of the earth again?” She has asked multiple times if the fish are going to send Ava back to us. I have tried to explain, but she doesn’t understand. Milla seemed fine within a few days, then last week I found her sobbing at the bottom of the stairs. “I miss Ava,” she cried. I held her and cried too. We all do.

It gradually recedes. I have to fight the guilt at not grieving 24 hours a day, but we can’t live like that. If Ava could have understood such things, I cannot imagine she would have ever expected us to stop our lives at this loss. Most of the time I want to crawl into bed and stay there all day, but I can’t, and really, if she could understand such things, would she want me too? I think not.

I miss you Ava. Your life was too short, but you brought me hope and love. Thank you, little friend.

Lead Me From the River of Woe

If we wish to turn away from that which torments us, do we also turn away from that which inspires us?

I am concluding that some of our deepest compassion comes from our deepest suffering, yet we must survive the desolation in order to make it through to compassion, and sometimes this can feel impossible.

Some days, in order to turn away from the shadows, I bask in the simple light of my little girl. I’m like a fucking Hallmark greeting card. She glows and I glow in return. She radiates divinity. It is impossible to remain in dark places when my focus is on her.

Do I lose artistry in leaving the banks of Acheron to turn toward my Venusian angel?

Tenuous Connection

This article was published on Huffington Post and can be seen here. Regular readers of my blog will recognize it as part of what I wrote yesterday.

Tenuous Connection

How will you and I connect if there is no electricity? How will you and I connect if there are no phones? How will a world made of 9 billion people exist when the only means of communication is the same as that which was available in 1850 (or 1750, when there was no postal service)? What if we no longer have motorized transport in most of the world? We would be stuck with our legs, or bicycles. Where would all of this leave us, back in some-distant-past BC because so few people know how to ride horses or use animals to pull wagons? In this, the third world has already outpaced us. How quickly the strands of our amorphously tangled web of connection would fall away if there was nothing to give us the power to connect with one other as we do in the modern world.

Human “leaders” seem hell bent on war and destruction, and it is not implausible their actions could lead to nuclear war. Fukishima is leaking and we can’t stop it. Weather patterns have changed so drastically it is not just possible, but highly probable that many major catastrophic weather events will occur in the near future.

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Pondering the State of the World Too Much

I went to the bookstore today and walking through I felt like I was gliding through a cacophony of voices. It wasn’t the sounds of people around me but the books themselves. Everyone is an expert on everything and they want all of us to know it. I wonder if anyone picks up a book proposing something they absolutely did not believe in and then the book completely changed their mind. I doubt it. More likely they had no perspective or a leaning toward the book’s argument and the book just solidified them in their beliefs.

Humans, humans everywhere. We take so much of society for granted. No one even questions it. For example, we accept the hierarchies placed upon us. Some human says you must pay to park in a certain place, you pay to park there. Our entire society is arranged this way. Obviously some of it is necessary for humans to interact. But sometimes I wonder why humans are so willing to go along with how things are and to even perpetuate how things are. We arrange ourselves in a certain manner and do not question it.

I have been pondering the state of the world too much lately. I keep wondering:  how will people connect if there is no electricity? How will people connect if there are no phones? How will a world made of 9 billion people exist when the only means of communication is the same as that which was available in 1850 (or 1750, when there was no postal service)? What if we no longer have motorized transport in most of the world? We would be stuck with our legs, or bicycles. Where would all of this leave us, back in some-distant-past BC because so few people know how to ride horses or use animals to pull wagons? In this, the third world has already outpaced us. How quickly the strands of our amorphously tangled web of connection would fall away if there was nothing to give us the power to connect with one other as we do in the modern world.

Human “leaders” seem hell bent on war and destruction, and it is not implausible their actions could lead to nuclear war. Fukishima is leaking and we can’t stop it. Weather patterns have changed so drastically it is not just possible, but highly probable that many major catastrophic weather events will occur in the near future.

Disconnection is genuinely possible, disconnection on a scale not fathomable to most people. If we could not pick up the phone and call, if we could not turn on the computer and email or Facebook or tweet, if we could not mail a letter, if we could not drive our cars, if we could not take a bus, or train, or streetcar, or plane, what then? Would we walk across the street to the people who live around us because this was the only option left?

I can imagine human connection turning into a grand scale game of telephone, with each of us passing a letter to our neighbor to pass to their neighbor, on and on through various channels until our messages reached our loved ones. And what of those messages? How quickly we would turn to that which is really important. Perhaps catastrophic disconnection could lead to more meaningful communication.

How tragic.

I hate apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic tales (although Take Shelter was handily one of the best films I have seen). I am not the doomsday sort, nor am I a frightened rabbit, quivering at reality and worrying over every possible scenario. Sometimes I leave my house unlocked. I don’t carry mace. I pay attention, and I don’t run with headphones, but neither do I live as if danger is lurking around every corner.

However, lately I have been afraid. It isn’t a dithering fear. Rather it is a deep in my bones realization that the planet is in real danger on many fronts, and in some instances we are past the point of doing anything about it. For the situations that can be changed, those who can, won’t. They have their own agendas and damn the world, they’re pursuing those agendas. It isn’t lost on me that many of the consequences we are now suffering and will suffer are the result of these same few ignoring what is best for most and taking what they will, but that is beside the point. We are here and even the most drastic action won’t undo what has been done, and drastic action isn’t even a possibility because those who need to won’t get on board.

Which all leads me back to wondering how we will all connect when 95 percent of the means used to connect are gone. How will we get to those people we love the most? I can foresee a scenario where a person decides to set out on a journey across their state to go meet up with family, only to arrive at their destination and discover their family had left to go find them. This of course assumes the powers that be will let people travel away from their homes on foot or bike.

I sound like a doomsayer, but we must plan for this eventuality. The risks are real. We must all set up a plan with our loved ones, even if they are just across the city, but especially if they are across the state or the nation, or even further. Decide between you who will be the one to travel (if travel is possible) and who will stay put. Make friends with your neighbors because if there were a real emergency, they would be the people closest to you and the ones you would most likely get to speak to. Stock up on pencils and paper maps. Imagine life without the ability to plug in, literally or figuratively.

I wonder if at some point in the not too distant future if humans will be angry that humans today squandered, absolutely squandered, this planet and our lives, the lives of every living thing. You were able to buy a dollar and 99 cent spatula made of plastic and now the world is uninhabitable. It’s this billions and billions and billions of times over. Some person wanted a green lawn and now people haven’t enough water to drink. Someone wanted a Hummer and now the ozone is gone. On and on and on. Maybe it won’t matter that people can’t connect. There won’t be anyone left because the planet is uninhabitable.

The main thought that keeps running through my mind is that humanity should be ashamed. It isn’t, but it should be.