Monday, September 7, 2009
I Am My Dog, My Dog Is Me
I am just like my dog. Daisy and I have too much in common. It disturbs me. It does. Something happened to her before she came to live with us, something to do with lightning. More than thunder, she is terrified of lightning. And she has a visual radar that alerts her to lightning that can be seen only from the other side of the house, only by peering out a window while standing sideways on tiptoe. In other words, her threshold for anxiety about lightning is, roughly, nil. If there is lightning in Wyoming, I'm convinced Daisy is aware of it. Likewise Kansas, Nebraska, Utah and New Mexico. And probably Oklahoma. Aware of it and anxious. There is one spot where she feels safe, but only sort of. She is too nervous to settle down tonight and now I'm antsy myself. Anxiety is contagious. I've held her and petted her and given her a million little love talks. I don't know about you but I baby my dog and speak to her as if she were an infant. If she only understood me when I tell her it's okay, she's safe. But I understand that. I understand that she doesn't understand. I understand her animal brain oh, far too well. In acute danger, our brains switch to auto-pilot. This is not the night for a serious scientific discussion of brain function, I'm sorry, I'm too anxious. But it is a night I can relate to you that the brain on terror is a brain that gets fried, fast. Too much cortisol, too much stimulation, the circuits fry. Mine did. It takes a long time for them to heal. In the mechanical, inanimate world, recovery is not possible. In our human world, our sophisticated brains, it is. But it doesn't come quick. There is nothing rational for my dog to be worried about tonight. The lightning is miles and miles away. Almost to Kansas. But she doesn't get that, her brain doesn't sort out that kind of complex information. It is on a default setting. It sees lightning and goes bananas. DANGER! And there is no talking her out of it. It's like that old setting has been baked in, or programmed to the point it can barely be undone. I'm like that. My brain is still practicing -- okay, all of us, our brains are still practicing -- and it has a long ways to go. It is locked on the default setting that says, "DANGER" whenever I see people, in person. That's a problem when it comes to living on this planet. I see people and my animal brain goes bananas. I don't sort out complex information as readily as I used to, as -- I hope -- you do. But I'm healing. Learning, or unlearning, or relearning. And it's coming along. Frankly, I'd rather be terrified of lightning than people. But people were my lightning. Out of the blue, from the most unexpected sources, people did very dangerous things that caused me grave injury. I don't trust them. I don't feel safe around them. It's irrational, I know, I know. But it was burned into my animal brain. It took me a long time to figure out why I felt safe in Poland. Nobody there tried to kill me.