The New Normal

Rags no longer being part of my life means I have a lot more time to myself. I’m trying to see the silver living in this, but it hasn’t been easy. On Thursday morning, the day after, I had no idea what time to get up for work. Walking Rags, feeding him, changing his water bowls, and in recent months, giving him his meds, has always been part of my morning routine. I always built in some time for cuddling. It used to be that when my alarm went off, we’d cuddle while I hit the snooze button a few times. And if I got ready faster than planned, I’d lie on my bed with him and cuddle for a few extra minutes before I headed out the door.

When he first got sick about 6 months ago, I refused to do just about anything after work. I worked from home on Thursdays that I could be with him all day before going on my Thursday night team runs, but otherwise I came straight home after work and never left again. I think I went to the gym once and to get a haircut once during those 6 months. I went on runs before or after work, but honestly slacked with my weekday runs because I wanted to be home with him instead. On weekends, I barely left except for Saturday long runs, coming straight home afterward, or to run errands as quickly as possible. It’s true that my social life suffered in the last 6 months, but that’s because I would have rather been with him than anywhere else in the world. Do I regret missing outings with friends? Not really. Would I have regretted missing time with Rags that I could never get back? Absolutely. I know I made the right choice every time I prioritized him above myself.

So here I am with no reason to get up 2 hours before work unless I’m going running, and no reason to rush home afterward either. I do like saving on time/cost of commuting by working from home one day a week, but I can’t be alone in my empty, quiet, Rags-less apartment so those are on hold for now. I decided to start taking the T again, instead of paying $13 a day to park near work (still a 10-minute walk from my office after a 20-30 minute drive). I fear I’m going to find myself walking less now that I have no reason to go for a walk morning, afternoon and evening, so walking to/from the T will be good.

While flooded with feelings of guilt for other reasons, I will no longer feel guilty about doing anything in my free time other than being home with Rags (and it’s not that I felt guilted into this – I WANTED to be with him – but when I couldn’t because of some other obligation, I felt terrible and beat myself up about it). So, now I’ll have no excuse to skip cross-training workouts or weekday runs, say “no” when asked to cover client events in the evenings, and decline social invitations. And that all leads back to me being in my empty apartment less. If I have more to do after work and on weekends, then my apartment can become – at least in the short-term – a place to lay my head and nothing more. Except after long runs…

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Checking on me while I’m in the bath.

I panicked about how to fill my Saturday afternoons. Long runs are draining, physically and emotionally. Rags was sick the entire time I’ve been training for the marathon, so I’ve always rushed home to be with him after long runs. I’d take him out immediately, then draw myself a hot bath while he’d lie on the bathmat next to me, occasionally checking to make sure I hadn’t drowned, then we’d stay in bed for hours cuddling and watching Netflix, because I could never actually nap but was too tired to do anything else. We’d go out a few more times, take one long walk before bed, and crash at some ungodly hour like 7pm. Now, I come home tired but unable to sleep, and have nothing to do to fill my time and not enough energy/motivation to get out of my apartment.

There are other things that have snuck up on me to remind me he’s gone:

  • When I take my frozen peas out of the freezer to ice my sore spots, Rags won’t freak out and hide under the table when I slam them on the counter to loosen them up.
  • When I open the back door to my balcony, even in the dead of winter, he won’t come running to take in any fresh air he can get.
  • When I open a package, he won’t run under my bed and hide. And I have no reason to obnoxiously pop those bags of air, which always made him bark in a playful way.
  • When I scoop yogurt into Pyrex to take to work with me, he won’t lick the spoon before I wash it.
  • When I’m bundling up to go outside in the snow, I don’t take an extra 3 minutes to put on his winter coat and boots.
  • When I slather Eucerin healing creme on my hands before bed, he won’t look at me until I let him lick off an entire finger’s worth and then have to reapply.
  • When I get ready in the morning, he doesn’t stare at me, begging me with his eyes to stay home from work (I gave in a lot over the last 6 months).
  • When I eat eggs, he won’t lick the yolks from the plate.
  • When I get up in the middle of the night to take Advil or go to the bathroom or get water, I don’t whisper, “Stay there – I’ll be right back.”
  • When there’s a knock at my door, I don’t have my protector barking up a storm to warn intruders to leave his Ma alone.
  • When I inevitably get hot at night and jack up the AC in the summer or turn the fan on full blast in the middle of winter, I won’t constantly try to tuck him back into extra blankets so that he stays warm in my frigid bedroom.
  • When I foam roll or do yoga, he’s not trying to kiss my face or take a nap on my mat while I work out.
  • When I drop a pill, I won’t scour the floor looking for it because I’m worried he might eat it.
  • When I walk back inside to my apartment, I don’t bend over, pick up all 18lbs of him and carry him up 3 flights of stairs.
  • When I need to rush out for a quick errand, I don’t bring him with me and walk back to my car waving at him while his tail wags and he smiles at my return.
  • When I drop food on the floor, he won’t be there to clean up after me.
  • When I take a shower, I don’t have a reason to peek my head out from behind the shower curtain and look down at him lying on the bathmat.
  • When I go to the bathroom as soon as I get home from work, I don’t invite him in with me and let him put his front paws on my knees and scratch his head while I pee.
  • When I cry, he doesn’t come over to see what’s wrong and lick my tears away.
  • And worst of all, when I’m lying in bed and night and put away my book/phone/laptop and turn off the light, I don’t lean over to kiss him before my head hits the pillow. Instead I’m wiping my tears away and falling asleep clutching his beloved red fleece blanket.
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