Mental Health

A Little to the Left

The second day of training for my new job had just ended and I pulled into my driveway and turned off the engine. I didn’t want this job. I’m an artist. I let the weight of financial obligation and a massive fear of lack corner me into it. I already felt completely defeated. I sat in the driveway for a moment, taking my first deep breath of the day, wondering if I had made a mistake pushing my big dreams to the back of my mind because I had chickened out yet again. A small flash of white caught the corner of my left eye and I turned to see a little body scurrying around some garbage cans. I thought it was a cat. I headed that direction until a floppy little guy with ears too big for his head came into view. He spotted me and stopped. We faced each other for a moment until I gave him a warm hello. He ran toward me and threw his weight against my feet excitedly. His whole body shook as he wagged his tail. He looked up at me and I knew. I was toast.

I carried him around the block hoping to find someone looking for him. He wriggled nervously when we approached a house not far from where I found him, so I went to ring the doorbell. I waited several minutes until a woman with curlers in her hair answered the door and rolled her eyes once she spotted the little guy in my arms.

“Is this your dog? He was running down the street.”

She grabbed him. “No, he’s my tenant’s. They moved out and left him. I’m taking him to the shelter tonight. I can’t keep him.”

“I actually live right down the street and I’d be happy to take him.”

The words fell out of my mouth before I could even stop myself. She took my number and said if the tenant didn’t pick him up by 8:00 tonight, he was mine. I walked back down the street to my house just as my husband pulled into our driveway. He could see clearly that I had news.

“So we might have a puppy now.”

He grinned and nodded. He did not seem even slightly surprised.

That night, we received the phone call and I put my shoes on to go meet them halfway down our block. The woman and her family brought the little guy down with his bed and his toys. She informed me that he was two months old, had no shots, and SURPRISE he was teething too. He seemed genuinely excited to see me and snuggled up into my neck when I picked him up and took him into our home.

I called him Bird right away. We started to realize he was a Jack Russell once he grew a scruffy white beard. I don’t know what you know about Jack Russell terriers but… they’re kind of a lot. Puppies, in general, are a lot, but Jack Russells are a whole other league.

The first week was rocky. The little guy couldn’t be in contact with the other animals without his shots, so we made up a cozy space for him in my office. His energy was out of control, he was in an unknown place with new animal and human smells, and his little teeth and nails were razor sharp. My arms and legs looked like I lived in a ferret cage after a couple of days of playtime. He whined at night because he couldn’t sleep with all of us yet. He whined at the door during the day, dying to go play in the yard, but he always needed a buddy. He wouldn’t go out without a buddy. He was relentless and the only way to get him to quiet down was to give in and go outside with him. At first, it seemed like the timing couldn’t be worse. The constant interruptions at home were driving me up the wall and the monotony of work was mind-numbing. Here I was, training for new a full-time management position, while also navigating a cacophonous new puppy with an unlimited amount of energy.

However, my perspective started to shift almost immediately. He woke up at 5:45 am sharp every morning, and I would go snuggle with him for a bit in my dark, quiet office. The stillness and the silence first thing each morning was almost meditative. Then, I’d let him out to use the bathroom and bop around the yard a bit while I got into my morning writing. This is a habit I had lost for some time and didn’t even realize how much I needed back in my life. Bird was the not so subtle reminder I needed. He would work out some of his energy before he could terrorize our other animals and I could download my thoughts before my day began. It felt like little pieces of myself started to come back to me. I began to feel clarity about my life and my purpose again.

I spent more time out in the sunshine with this little guy in a month than the entire time we have lived in the desert. I live in a place with near-perfect weather 70% of the year, yet I found myself constantly isolated indoors. Anxiety is funny that way. Yet after only one month with Bird, I began to go stir crazy if I didn’t get my daily dose of sun. He sits next to me each morning on the patio with his favorite chewing stick and me with my pen and journal. This has become a cherished routine.

Leaving to go to work became the most difficult part of every day. Not only was I not at all passionate about where my life seemed to be heading, but I didn’t want to leave this blossoming new dynamic either. Bird made us feel like a little family of our own. My morning pages began to show patterns of anxiety that would have been easy to blame on the stress of a new puppy of a ‘challenging’ breed, but all this fresh air and Vitamin D were pointing me towards something deeper. I was using the stability of my job as an excuse to put my goals on the back burner and my subconscious mind had a lot to say about it in the form of near-daily panic attacks. I was tearing through CBD products like they were nothing and my nervous system continued to fail me day after day. My hours were only increasing and so was my anxiety. It began to take every ounce of energy I had to complete a shift. The only time I truly felt at ease was when I was home, in the sun, with that little stinker. Finally one day it happened. I had a panic attack at work, then I quit.

I got an old part-time gig back and I am now actively working on creating my schedule predominantly around my creativity, something I never felt entitled to do. Somehow I had been cornered into thinking the things I loved could never earn me a living, so I never fully gave them my all. I’m no longer seeking that invisible permission slip I’ll never receive. My need to be cost-effective no longer outweighs my need to be happy. It actually feels like enough now.

Bird gave me a family I adore, a grateful heart, and the creative part of me I had lost and desperately needed back. He taught me how necessary patience is, how crucial sunshine is, and reminded me to just play again. All that in one little floppy, clumsy, precious, noisy puppy named after Charlie Parker. Sometimes the thing you think will send you over the edge actually brings you back to yourself, back to the things that make you the person you want to be. Sometimes it’s just the universe’s way of saying “Just a little to the left.”

by laurenscott

Rae is a screenwriter and studied Film and Art History at Pace University in NYC. She is also an avid reader, plant mom, and design enthusiast with a passion for cannabis and gardening.

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