Wednesday morning. My Day Ten. It’s still dark outside. Phoebe, my thirteen pound spaniel mix, always finds her way to me sometime during the night. She may start somewhere else, on my ratty sweater at the end of the bed, perched on the back cushions of my dove grey display-model couch, or even, on the rare occasion, her dog bed, plush, and also dove grey, but humiliatingly positioned on the floor. By the morning, I will inevitably wake to find she’s pushed her body against mine, which makes her more dangerous than the Snooze button. I will inhale deeper, and she will stir, only to nuzzle herself even more deeply into me. I have always felt certain that if I could adequately explain the situation, no engagement would ever be angry for my tardiness.
These days I suppose I can sleep in a little. Hell, even before, working at a bar, I might have needed to on occasion. In some ways, I am adjusting to this new quarantine lifestyle with aplomb. I am an artist, an actor and a writer, which means, as my mother says, “Your father thinks about you just all the time.” You’ll infer easily that “thinking” is polite for “worry.” I’m not new at this, either. I’ve had success and I’ve had droughts. I’ve been flown business class, and also lost my union insurance because I didn’t book enough work the year before. I’m no stranger to peaks and valleys, but this is different. This is a valley we’re all in together, and, like grief, I firmly believe we all process in different ways, and must do our best not to judge each other as we trip and stumble towards whatever is on the other side of all this. Difficult as it may be, let’s not forget that valleys are also home to the rivers that nourish so much; there’s a reason we don’t find them at the top. Now, it’s not yet clear to me if we’re in the darkest moment before the dawn, or just post-sunset, before the stars have appeared overhead to guide us, but my hope is that soon, the river will start to sparkle in their light.
I’m up now, and Phoebe has elected, as she often does, to steal my warm spot on the bed. Clever girl. I decide that I should shower, which I’ve done most days, and that I should wash my hair, which I haven’t done in over a week. Not out of depression, but a rationing of resources. I’ve been repurposing, too. The expensive purple shampoo I bought to slow the oxidizing of my blonde hair, now dark chestnut in a regret-free act of spontaneity last fall, is now my body wash, and I am not angry at the lavender bubbles collecting at the drain.
I remind myself to change the sheets today. I’ve been meaning to. I’ve been meaning to do a lot of things, and like the repurposed soap, have found ways of stretching them. The sheets for instance. I live alone, and so have opted to sleep on the other side of the bed for a few days. What’s the point of stripping them if they’re only half-used? Is this an example of why my father thinks about me so much?
I think about them, too. Therapists in the small town where I grew up running through corn fields and chasing feral kittens that made a haven of our garage, my parents are 70 and 71. I’m grateful to still have both of them around. Partly at the behest of their three adult children, they’ve now begun holding sessions by phone. I’m also grateful they take their health seriously. My father could launch a thriving vitamin business on the side, simply by opening a kitchen cabinet. And despite the fact they’ve eaten meat their entire lives, much of which my father hunted himself, they became vegan— sorry, plant-based, two years ago. They are, thankfully, in good health. But so am I, and that doesn’t make them think about me any less.
Phoebe decides to get up an hour later, when I’ve made my breakfast of oats and cinnamon topped with a few drops of agave I bought months ago to make margaritas at a birthday dinner. I use warm water from the kettle to rehydrate her human-grade oatmeal-esque fish stew, knowing full well she’ll ask to lick my bowl, too, and think about how much this dog has figured out in life. Keep it simple. Find pleasure in the little things. Love the one you’re with. Fully. Unconditionally. Let it be enough that you’re together. Ask for what you need without shame, and with optimism. Hit the Snooze button, but by all means, don’t go back to sleep. Stay awake. There is so much waiting for us, right here.