If you separate a pack animal from its pack, it flounders, it does not thrive, it merely survives, if that. I think about this sometimes with Alvin, when I got him he was so malnourished and seemed so weary and guarded. But over the months (now years) with him, he changed into a completely different dog, he’s comfortable taking up space wherever, he’s more confident, and far more chill. I was talking to Tom about this the other night, noting that he hasn’t had to be on prozac in a while or use his thundershirt, saying that he must feel like he’s back in a pack (one that comes with endless pup cups, right Tom). When a pack animal is by itself it has to stay vigilant at all times because it never knows what threat is harboring, put the animal back with a pack and it can flourish because it has others to stay vigilant with it. I’ve thought about this a lot. For so long I felt so isolated and felt like I was on high alert, vigilant for the next looming threat, the next perceived menace. Since July, I’ve felt that rest can finally seep back into my bones, the burden I was carrying is no longer wearing me down. I feel like I’m back with a pack. The vigilance is no longer mine to carry alone, and it never was it just felt that way.
I’ve thought a lot about rest in the past few months– especially because for so long it felt so elusive– as I feel like I’ve been on the move quite a bit and have been asked if (a) I have down time and if so (b) what does that look like. I’ve thought about this a lot because when I was at my peak fight or flight, I had an MRI done and it was like 30 minutes of pure bliss. That’s when I started to think maybe I needed to rest. But even then, I couldn’t, it really wasn’t until the panic attack acted as this catalyst and even then it took so long to get back to a resting state. Now I realize that when my body was in this hyper vigilant state, rest, no matter how often I did yoga, got a pedicure, or did mediation, never came, it felt like I was constantly sleeping with one eye open, being on alert for what risk was around the corner. I feel like I’m mostly back to homeostasis and it’s given me some perspective on how I rest and what that looks like.
I’ve done a lot of visualization work in therapy (again maybe like a placebo effect but I’m a big believer in placebos). The last one I actually threw up during, I called it my great purge (exorcism-ha, sorry mom!) when in reality I think I ate something wonky the day before and had thrown up a few times already that day. Anyways, we were going back into the controlling times, when I felt like I was stuck, literally black tar around my feet, holding me in place, because any step would be the wrong step, everything was dark and closing in and realizing how terrifying it all was. Then I had to visualize the girl inside me who came to save me, who pulled me out of that dark space, but then it wasn’t just me there getting me out of the dark space, it was this whole choir, like everyone I knew was there, it was a large group and it was really moving and powerful. To realize that even though I had felt so alone and so isolated, I actually wasn’t, that others were staying vigilant with me, I just didn’t realize. But now I do.
I thought of this the other day because I was in yoga and struggling to get into child’s pose. The pose that you’re suppose to be able to relax into, but my feet kept cramping, and I kept adjusting to mitigate any potential cramp, I was doing slight movements to find the sweet spot of relaxing and non-cramping. It wasn’t pretty but then again most of the yoga I do isn’t (more blocks, plz!). I went up to David the instructor after class to talk to him about my cramping feet when I was suppose to be relaxing. “I saw you struggling to get into the pose, but you adjusted and adapted, you listened to your body and did what it needed.” He said that when you feel the cramp happening, go in the opposite direction, as if to let your body know it’s okay, then he demonstrated how I might too sit on my feet to stretch them out. Oh, he did see me. The struggle was not mine alone.
At first I was hesitant to relax into this pack feeling, it’s jarring when you go from fight or flight to a safe feeling. Even being more grounded I have to remind myself that the free falls isn’t going to come, the moments of joy can linger, there is no shoe that is going to drop that those steps can be missteps, stumbles, and falls but they are not final. Anyways, the rest comes in waves, on airplanes, in the checkout line, with a namaste, in the stillness of of holding your best friend’s baby, in the FaceTime check-ins and video messages, in the early mornings walking to work, in the phone calls just to say hi, in the parking lot meet ups, and beacon checks, in the swapping stories, the dance moves, the belly laughs, in the exhalations, the morning meditations, someone making the coffee, the house dinners, the MRI machines, the photos of Alvin, the kindness of others, the realization that while an individual pursuit, the collective humanity of it all, of us all.
So here’s to those that remain vigilant with us in our pursuits.
Blessed are those who linger just a little bit longer in a hug, those who stay after the check is paid and no one wants to be the first to get up, those who fill the chorus in with their laughter, who carry joy in their eyes, those that make you tea, send you photos of their children, stay on FaceTime so you don’t have to cry alone, those that text you on a powder day, that let you sit on their wheel, that show up to crew your race, those that ask you to watch their dogs (and cats), that show up for impromptu arepa nights, that bring you sour patch kids, that pretend to know what you do for work, that elate in the small victories and celebrate the big wins, those that remind you the loses are small, there are better things down the road, those that send you articles to read, and memes, those that support you getting 1000g skis even if that means only skiing together during volcano season, those that let you sleep on their couch, floor, spare bedroom, those that know how you take your coffee, those that show you grace, and those that see the magic and brilliance in your life, in your eye, in you.
There are two things that have prompted a lot of reflection, one is H5N1 is making moves and the other is I’m thinking about dating again. Both which have made me realize how many people are invested in my well-being. Thankfully, I love data so for 5 years I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet (called All About That D(ata)) of every guy I have been on a date with or dated since my last long term relationship ended, don’t worry he’s not included. I know you’re probably like wow, that’s weird, and sure it is but I literally have spreadsheets for everything so really it’s more like a journal, just with data you can manipulate. But it’s created this great sampling of longitudinal data where I can identify patterns. One thing that emerged was just how passive I have been over the past years with dating, where it’s like oh this fine because I always figured I would be leaving so never thought too much about how much I actually liked the person vs. being like oh well this isn’t bad–lollz! I also realize that I’ve ran so fast in the pursuit of so many other things that I have this great foundation now to just live my life. I joke that now is the right time to find a guy because of how fast I’m moving, I’ll need someone who can keep up or be excited for my solo adventures. Let me know if you want access to the spreadsheet, always happy for a peer review- haha. Sorry, mom! I joked during COVID that I couldn’t wait to get back to working on influenza but I’m okay if this one doesn’t spillover just yet….and of course happy to talk to anyone about this at any time and share data.
In all of this it’s also learning compassion for myself and others, and I liken things to COVID, I think back to how I operated in March of 2020, wiping groceries, leaving packages out because we didn’t know how the virus was operating. Fast forward to now, I think I know more about this virus than I ever thought possible but as a result my behaviors have changed. I some times think about this, those early red flags, the things that seemed off, and instead of judging I remind myself the information I have now is very different than then. Or as Frank says, no flag is red when you have rose colored glasses on. Hence the very helpful spreadsheet to remind me of them.
Alright, headed to CO for a ski race— and while my posts have gone a way of showing more emotion, one thing that the past few months have shown me is how incredibly grateful I am for my pack, and being more vulnerable in showing that gratitude for others.
Death is but a change of clothes and I came dressed to kill. What I thought would kill me actually came to save me.
Photos compiled from moments when I took in rest in some form or another.
2 thoughts on “From Vigilant to Vigilante”
Awww Alvin looks so happy. And you always make those donuts look so good.
@toby– Alvin is so happy! And those donuts are the frozen gluten free ones– I’ll have to bring them and Alvin by next time I’m in town!
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