My Golden Retriever ate a roll of dental floss while I was in the shower this afternoon. So much for my plans to write a witty, insightful first post, the kind that makes you shake your head in recognition and thank the fates for writers who can put our common humanity into words. This afternoon of freshly-showered writing was to be accompanied by a cup of herbal “detox” tea and perhaps a handful of cherry tomatoes and three or four raw cashews. Look how wholesome I have become in my mid-fifties, I yearn to tell you.
To quote the twitter sphere: “haha.”
I am finally sitting down to write at 7:30 p.m., newly returned from the vet, where for a hundred and fifty bucks, the dog was purged, the incriminating roll of dental floss emerged (note to dog owners: dental floss = bad news for your pet’s digestive tract), and my clean black jeans were liberally slobbered-upon. The swordfish and sautéed greens I had planned to cook around six were passed over for a plate of homemade nachos; the detox tea did not hold nearly the appeal of a substantial slug of Reisling.
Before our voracious pup Westley decided to explore oral hygiene, I was going to write some high falutin’ shit about the duality of human nature: flesh and soul, the challenges of living as a spiritual and sentient being in an animal body, how this business of being incarnate has been a source of conflict and confusion for me, as I suspect it is for most of us. I was going to introduce you to my body now, at almost-56, and the journey she and I have made together, the truce and collaboration we have negotiated after all these years.
But then I look at Westley, asleep at my feet. He is so trusting, always devoted to being with me, even though I (literally) shoved his butt into a cold car, dragged him to the vet, and let them take him into a back room and inject him with a vomit-inducing cocktail that caused him to throw up for 10 minutes straight. (“He gave it everything he had,” said one vet-tech admiringly. The imagination balks.) Afterwards, he hopped back into the car wagging cheerfully, fully trusting in my care despite this bizarre gastro-intestinal outing.
And it dawns on me that in some ways, I have treated “my body” like a faithful dog, expecting it to come when I call it, to leave me alone when I don’t want to deal with it, to be unfailingly loyal and affectionate, whether I am feeding it dental floss or grass fed beef. I am increasingly grateful to my body as I age, but I still often conceive of her as somehow separate from “me,” as if the choices “I” make have few consequences for “her.” Who am I, and who is she; in what ways are we still in a process of becoming integrated? Maybe at some point she’ll decide she’s had it with my inconsistency and kick my ass to the curb. I’m grateful she’s been so patient with me.
Before closing this, my first post of twenty-nine (in this Leap Year February), let me just say “thank you, body” for bringing me this far. Thank you for tolerating my bad habits with such generosity, and for enthusiastically rewarding my good ones. Thank you for creating and delivering into the world three astonishing babies — you did all the heavy lifting, growing eyebrows and lymph nodes and a central nervous system, while all I did was take pre-natal vitamins and swap out Riesling for milk shakes. Thank you for dancing with me every day, for laughing and singing, for healing and playing, for teaching me to relax into the pleasures of sleep and sex, good food, warm hugs, and the soft sensation of Westley’s golden fur beneath my bare foot as I write.