Monday, December 31, 2007

Once and Future

A year ago at this very moment I'd packed a bag and loaded Duncan into my car. Ken had been in the manager training program for the Lone Star in Thornton and invited us up to celebrate the new year at the hotel he'd been staying in off and on for over a month. We hadn't really seen him since our return from Idaho the day after Christmas. It had been a fairly uneventful week: the tremendous snow that had fallen had hardly melted, Duncan was recovering nicely from his emergency surgery and my anxiety seemed to be under control, so much so that my doctor and I had actually begun reducing my medication in hopes of eventually coming off it completely. But as anyone who's taken these sorts of drugs knows, the process is a slow and tedious one and the ultimate goal is sometimes years away. I was in no hurry, except the hurry to begin. Mostly, though, I just wanted to spend the new year with Ken and Duncan, even if it was only for a few short hours in some small hotel room.

Duncan and I made the trip to Thornton with only a few challenges (a car had rolled over on the I-25 and I-70 junction) and we arrived at Ken's room at 11:30 sharp, ordered take-out Appleby's and within 30 minutes I was in the throes of the last major panic attack I've suffered.

I don't know what triggered it, but with a physiological disorder it's difficult to determine whether or not there was a trigger at all. What mattered was that I became almost instantly paralyzed with fear. My stomach knotted up, I was alternately burning hot or freezing cold, I could not stop shaking or crying and was convinced I was going to die. Logically I knew I wasn't going to exit on the nice clean date of January first, but that voice in my head kept popping up, telling me that the diagnosis (or rather the pseudo-diagnosis–they'd never actually been able to make a clear one) had been wrong and that I was about to stroke out in that crummy little room next door to an Appleby's and a Lone Star. I took an extra dose of drugs and tried as hard as I could to ride out, knowing that as soon as they kicked in I'd pass out and wake up exhausted in a snowy new year. I remember laying on the bed listening to Anderson Cooper discuss Katrina and interview Angelina Jolie. I remember the smell of cigarette smoke on the pillows and the sickly green light coming in from the bathroom. I remember apologizing repeatedly to Ken, who had to be back at work at 6 AM, and crying on his shoulder, convinced my life was no longer my own. Mostly, though, I remember feeling a tremendous sense of sadness because it had been so long since the attack and I'd thought them under control and behind me forever.

Duncan sat near the foot of the bed, even climbing up on it to whine in my ear and lick my face and hands when I'd lay still long enough to let him.

It's been a year since that attack, and tonight, with Ken once again off at the Lone Star, and my dog by my side, I am going to celebrate, not just the changing of the date from an 07 to an 08, but the fact that I have faced my fear, put myself right into its very grasp, and not turned myself over to it. It's another momentous occasion for me (you must be tired of reading about them by now, I'm sure) and I think I'll crawl off the couch, wrap myself in a nice warm sweater, pull on my new walking boots, don a cap and gloves and venture over to the park with Duncan. We'll trudge through the snow, climb the hill overlooking the lake and watch the year change together. He won't know why the moment will be so special, why I'll be hugging him desperately and perhaps wiping a few stray tears from my cheeks, but that's why I love him. He loves me when I lose as equally as when I win. He loves me simply and beautifully. And he deserves to play in the snow.

Happy New Year. May it be more wonderful than you can envision.

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