Relax, dammit!

Though it might not break 100 today, we’re still sweating here at the Secret Lair.

Torso Boy is not doing well. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a dog go from apparently perfectly healthy to death’s door so quickly in my life, though I do admit my experience with dogs is limited. He kept me up what seemed like half the night wheezing; sometimes he really seems to have trouble breathing. Other times he’s – not fine, since he’s almost visibly aging in front of me – but not uncheerful. A lot of it right now is that he’s just hot, but just as I type this he’s having a terrible spell and he keeps coming to me as if wondering why I don’t fix it.

Anyway, I’m showing physical signs of stress that haven’t been around in quite a while. I get things wrong with me when I’m under a lot of stress and when I lived in the city they were old familiar friends. Suddenly, listening to my little guy choke and wheeze and cry and there’s not a damned thing I can do to ease him, they’re all back. Too bloody hot and bright to go out for long even if I wanted to so I’m just sort of keeping him company and quietly stressing out.

Obviously you don’t have to move to the desert to suffer the slow death of a dog. Many of you have been here. But right now I’m feeling pretty alone and helpless.

I’m filling the time till evening going through some old thumb drives and found a bunch of stuff I wrote nearer the beginning of my stay here. Some of it was for the blog, some for other things, some just to myself.

This one I wrote in the Spring of 2011, right after the last really cold winter I suffered through while the Lair was still under construction. Today it read like a letter to Future Me. It reminded me of how much better and easier and how much less entirely improvised everything around here has become in the past nine years, and that I should really just count my blessings. And it’s called Relax, Dammit!

Sometimes lately I want to take off all my clothes, sit cross-legged in the middle of the wash and chant “Calm brown ocean” to myself. I don’t actually do that. But sometimes it seems like the only sensible course.

See, if you’re gonna live off-grid, you’re taking on a lot of responsibility for things smart people leave to other people. Professional people. People who get paid to know what they’re doing. Things like electricity. Running water. Heat in the winter. Building construction. Little things like that. I’m not saying you necessarily need to actually do all those things yourself, but…well, actually I guess I am saying you need to do them yourself. And have you ever actually built a house? I never claimed I knew what I was doing. Right now I’m re-inventing plumbing and it’s probably not an improvement.

And then when things break down, which will happen at four in the morning when the temperature is five below, nobody’s gonna show up to fix it for you. You’re on your own, Otis. Enjoy.

There are a couple of possible approaches to this. You can call a contractor. If the contractors around your place are like the ones around here, they’ll show up in a few days or weeks and explain they don’t have the right parts. Or you can fumble along and do it yourself. You will make mistakes. The mistakes will be costly. They will make you uncomfortable. If you have a family, the mistakes will make them hate you. Enjoying yourself yet?

The reason I’m painting this dim picture is that unless you’re rich – actually even if you are – this is the reality. You’re the idiot who moved here. You should be ready to face reality, because it’s definitely ready to face you. You’ve moved to a place where the wolf can literally be at the door, and he’s going to be very interested in what you’re ready to do about it. The rational thing to do at this point is probably to run screaming back to the grid. When you’re there, you can leave all this stuff for the big boys. It’s got its charms.

It’s also infantilizing as hell. You’re an adult, for God’s sake. So take some responsibility for yourself. Make it work!

Assuming you’ve actually taken that ridiculous advice, there are again a couple of possible approaches. You can spend your life in a state of at best suspended panic, waiting breathlessly for the next thing to break down and leave you freezing in the dark. That’s one approach. It’s pretty common. It’s pretty familiar.

Or you can relax. Embrace the chaos. You’re not gonna die – probably.

See, the one thing you really must pack in your bugout bag is your sense of humor. Because things are going to go wrong. Some of them will seem cataclysmic at the time, not funny at all. If you’re gonna live out here, accept that. Plan for it. Always have a Plan B. When you get caught without a Plan B – you will – take it as the learning experience it should be. Next time you’ll have a good one.

Sometimes I feel like all three stooges. If there’s a pratfall I haven’t taken, it’ll be along. Hey, I’m from Detroit – I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m making this up as I go along, and I always eventually succeed. The things that happen in the meantime can look pretty funny. In hindsight. Sometimes they’re not exactly a yukkfest at the time. But the one thing I try to definitely learn – the most important thing – is to relax. What does not kill me…may not make me stronger but generally turns out to be a learning experience. Which is a sort of strength, I suppose.

It’s still better than that grey carpeted cubicle, and that rented room in somebody else’s house in a city where the only people who notice you’re alive are the ones you’ve annoyed and the ones who say you owe them money.

Life in the boonies can be scary. It has ups and downs. But hey, at least it has ups. Relax. Breathe.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Relax, dammit!

  1. Ben says:

    That sounds like great advice Joel; take it!

  2. Retired cop says:

    I know it’s not but some of the best medicine you can give Torso Boy is hanging out with him, scratching his ears and watching the sun set. Your touch helps him and calms you too.

    In my thoughts and prayers.

  3. Robert says:

    We recently had a beloved pet suddenly go from “fat and bossy” to “he ain’t gonna make it to tomorrow”. Grown men are allowed to cry, stereotypes be damned. Your commenters can’t really do much, but know we hear you.

  4. Claire says:

    How terrible for you and Laddie. But I’ve heard before of cancers taking dogs and cats unbelievably fast. As Retired Cop says, give Laddie what calming touches you can and relax for his benefit as well as yours. He can probably detect your stress in half a dozen doggie ways.

    Odd, though. While you were writing your post I was at an appointment with a local professional woman who has MS. I’ve known her for years. She told me that in the last four or five years the pain from her illness has been getting steadily worse and she has no expectation of it ever getting better. But also, in that same time, she’s become happier than ever in her life, simply because she’s stopped trying to fight it, stopped caring what people think when they see her in her fancy little wheel chairs, and … just relaxed.

    My best to you and Laddie, Joel. And I’m sorry your time together is going to be so short.

  5. Tennessee Budd says:

    As Ben said, Uncle Joel, take your own advice. Accept that there are some things we can’t change, no matter how much we might like to do so.
    I had one cat die last year, & my most beloved cat (14 years owning me) is becoming senile at an alarming rate: at times it’s obvious that she isn’t just being a feline & ignoring me, she actually isn’t at all sure who I am, & is a bit frightened by the big hairy monkey before her. Mostly an indoor cat, she often doesn’t even want to come in for food, not being sure what this structure holds. It’s heartbreaking, but I must accept it, & help ease her decline as much as is in my meager power.
    My sympathy is with you. For what it’s worth,my prayers as well–I’ll be adding you & Torso Boy–you for patience & acceptance, him for a remainder of life, however long or short, as free of pain & fear as he can have.

  6. Beans says:

    Sadly, most animals show a stiff upper lip when sick until they are really sick. Birds are the worst, but dogs and cats do it too.

    Which, of course, sucks.

    Give Laddie cuddles.

    Unfortunately, you’ll know when it’s time.

    Hopefully you’ll have someone there to help hold you together. We are here for you, but electrons aren’t vert comforting.

  7. Cliff says:

    Joel it may not help but your distant not alone. You’ve got a lot of friends thinking about you from a lot of distant places.

  8. Jerry says:

    We adopted a brother sister 10 year old dogs, Meeka & Nico. Nico got a growth on his bum, not cancer. Vet said give him Prednisone. He reacted to it, became a walking scab. 3 months before we put him down.
    Vets do guess, sometimes wrongly. I should have just left him TF alone until he couldn’t crap anymore.
    The pair had gone through 2 previous people arrangements. I assume one of them involved somebody not waking up. Meeka used to great me each day with what seemed to be vocalizing of “Oh thank God, you’re still alive”.
    Time passes. These days I’m just glad she’s still waking up.
    Now 2 years later, Meeka is having anxiety as the youngsters learn about Gun Jesus and shooting new guns. She’ll survive a while longer. Snoring at the foot of the bed right now.
    People who can keep you going. My friend Kevin. Almost like asking “Can I sleep with your wife? in terms of getting personal “Do you Conceal carry?”
    “As a matter of fact, I just got mine TODAY. ”
    Irony.
    Just like your learning of diesel exhaust fluid. Now that you know it’s out there, keep working with old stuff that doesn’t require it, as long as you can.
    Torso Boy brought something to your life, and you to his.
    You bring something to our lives too.

  9. Norman says:

    You and Laddie have been partners for a few years now. It’s changed both of you.

    Are you better off for having shared your lives with each other? Of the 7.4 billion people on the planet, is there any one of them who could have made his adventure of the past few years better? Different, certainly. But better? I doubt he’s ever been hungry, certainly never disrespected, his transition from “kept city dog” into “boondocks warrior” carefully managed.

    He’s been, seen, done, learned things most dogs never get to experience. So have you. Cherish the experience, savor it, remember it, lament its passing, the same way you did with Little Bear, and all the dogs that came before.

    They’re not pets, they’re life partners. Losing one is like losing a close relative. Helplessness, frustration, anger, all the stages of grief. Cold to say it this way, but none of that is fatal; the planet will continue to rotate, the sun will come up tomorrow, stuff – good, bad and indifferent – will continue to happen.

    Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

  10. If/when the weight of the imminent loving kindness decision is great, try to imagine that it’s a whole bunch of us piled on giving you hugs because so many of us have been there and know the pain.

    Try to take some comfort in imagining TB’s reunion with his first owner, ML, and him telling her all about the wonderful life he’s had with you. I know it gave me a lot of peace to imagine the joyous greeting DH got when he approached the beloved furkids waiting for him at the Rainbow Bridge, and they were all healthy and in their prime.

  11. Mark Matis says:

    Have you started him on the Prednisone yet? If not, is it a funds issue? The vets recommend that because it generally works well. My friends dogs who had a couple of good years after the chemo eventually “went south” again and she used the Prednisone for another couple of months on them before it was time for them to go. Seemed to work exactly like it was supposed to.

  12. Wayne Dygert says:

    Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat as necessary. Simple. Obvious. Difficult…

To the stake with the heretic!