The warm light piercing my eyes through the window above my bed is a familiar reminder. If I were anyone else, and it was any other day, my dog would already be outside on her wooden porch bench wrapped in her sheepskin blanket, waiting. The sound of my wheels on loose gravel just outside the gate, her cue to greet me; her little tail dancing under cotton candy clouds flirting with the southern California sky. But this is me. Its day six. I’ve yet to get out of bed, let alone make it to the office.

Pulling from the core of my lungs, I struggle to level the guilt within the walls of panic. The audacity of wanting to sleep forever when you could very well drop dead from a brain aneurysm – then realizing you don’t want to cash out this way – is nothing if not funny. Funny, ironic not funny ha-ha. Well, it’ll be hilarious – one day. Tragedy plus time. Isn’t that the comedy rule?

I wonder if normal people – people who don’t fantasize about not waking up – feel about us freaks. Fucking mental illness. Such bullshit.

Instead of hanging with the elements of the January day and kicking back on her bench, my baby Stella (a new three-legged Chihuahua mix I rescued from the pound) lies with me in love. Snuggled together next to the television remote, we’re sheltered from the late morning nuisance above by flannel sheets I quickly pull across our faces.

“How did I get so lucky? I promise I’ll take you for a walk tomorrow.” I whisper, fighting back tears of guilt.

Stella and I shift under the covers as I channel surf and mentally prepare for going back to my normal life soon. Then a buzz from under my pillow. A disturbing text.

A dear friend’s father is thousands of miles away in the Intensive Care Unit and doesn’t have much time left. My mind breaks from its prison of solitude. All I can think about is being there for my friend.

“Come over. I’m begging you.” I text in haste.

No reply.

“Where are you?”

Silence.

My heart was racing. I started to sweat. Where did he go? What can I do for him? What’s happening?

After finally hearing from him, his company wasn’t meant to be and I leveled back into myself.

Time passes and I’m left to marinate in the microscopic residue of familiar emotional patterns. A make-shift quilt of codependency.

Not that I would ever shun helping a loved one – especially someone who lives so close to my heart. But where was that strong woman – the would-be hero of his day, when I needed her the most? Why does she coil under the weight of self-doubt when it comes to her own safety?

For some of us, the hardest thing to do is to walk away from the emotional roulette table. We continually sabotage our safety – treating our own hearts with such carelessness. There’s nothing more intoxicating than a spinning wheel of chaos. So we keep playing. And what we think is shitty luck is really the odds of defeat laughing in our shadow. Of course we always lose. We’re too busy trying to make everyone else happy – never gambling on the one person who should matter most.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, instead of wishing ‘the odds’ would throw us a bone, maybe it’s time to do what so many of many of us need to: find the strength – put us first – change the game.

 

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