My mother calls them chihuahuas. The incidental problems jumping and nipping at your heels. They’re not big enough to take you down, but they can be annoying, and it doesn’t take many to trip you up and force you to fall. She’ll lament—the chihuahuas—at the end of a long day, exhausted. She’ll fix a martini to mute the yapping, and hope maybe, by the next day, they’ll have run after a new target and cleared the lawn so she can clean up the mess and put in whatever safeguards to keep them from coming back.
Mom’s also a detail person. “A virgo,” she tells me, even though I find astrology slightly less reliable than I do closing my eyes and flipping through the Complete Works of Oscar Wilde when I’m looking for answers (I will admit to doing this). But if it matters to you, I’m a picses. I’m also a big picture person. I don’t usually notice the baseboards are dirty, but I can reliably bring myself to tears looking at pictures of outer space or imagining what it must be like to see elephants in the wild. Also, I like chihuahuas. One of my favorite dogs in the world is a chihuahua, a dreamy fluffy black and white creature, who looks like a sled dog for gnomes and behaves like an exceedingly polite social butterfly.
It might be a function of getting older. It might be a function of getting older and becoming more like my mother (on a recent visit to the Wildean oracle, I did get “All women become like their mothers”). It also might be a function of just, like, losing my ability to function after how many months are we again? Seventeen? I don’t remember. I stopped marking days on the wall because it made me feel morbid, and I own just enough Cure records that don’t need any extra excuse to feel morbid.
The creeping dread is back though, along with the worry sirens. I didn’t have enough of a reprieve to even catch my breath before people are talking about the Greek alphabet and how we’re going to have to spend the rest of our everloving lives keeping six feet apart outside, masked, uphill, in the snow, or whatever. Hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you agai—oh, yes I did hear about Afghanistan. Thanks.
And the @#$%ing chihuahuas. They’re out in packs. There’s the work stuff. There’s the house stuff. There’s the social stuff. There’s the life stuff. I can’t seem to get anything fixed. Sometimes because it takes forever (my bed, after six weeks out, has held me for two nights). Sometimes because I don’t know even who to call. Sometimes because I’m doing it all wrong. Sometimes because I don’t know what I want to be doing or how I want to be doing it, and I suspect, at the end of the day it doesn’t even matter. My mom wondered why I hadn’t gotten around to fixing the garage door, the front door. Did I ever send back the vaccum she sent me some months ago as a gift?
No. Because I don’t know who to call and I don’t have the money. Because I don’t know what to say is wrong. Because I suspect I’ll inconvenience someone and they won’t fix it and I won’t have the energy or wherewithal to fight with them about it. Because I don’t have the energy and wherewithal to fight with anyone right now. And every now and then, something finally goes a little bit right for a minute, then it breaks worse than it was broken before
Today’s example: I bought this exercise bike. Like, you know. The very thing I always swore I’d never do. I did it so I could cancel my gym membership in the middle of a pandemic that now feels endless, and we’re had these 105 heat index days and meetings keep happening in the early morning, and I gotta get some exercise somehow to stay sane. So I pull out the credit card and lob off another shot into debt and it gets delivers. It takes me forever to get the bike together and it was super heavy, but I did it myself, because I am a functional adult human being and I think I can put a bike together. And it was great—like surprisingly great– for ten, eleven days.
Then among the many chihuahuas of today, it broke. It broke in a way that I don’t know how to fix. I don’t know if I can fix it. I also don’t know how to return an 80 pound bike that I bought online, or if I can return an 80 pound bike that I bought online or if the reason why it broke was because I didn’t assemble it correctly in the first place. And the terrible, no good, very bad voice in the back of my head is all “it broke because you’re a fatso, fatso” and I find myself in the middle of the day when I have so much to do, so many better things I could be doing, reasonably healthy and privileged and all that shit, unmoored by nothing, sitting in my house crying over a broken exercise bike pedal like a complete child, because all the nothings just pile up overtime, until I’m in some Collyer Brothers mansion of chihuahuas that feel like a drowning risk, at best.
Cue sad trumpet.
Maybe that’s the better word for the chihuahuas. The sad trumpets. The whomp-whomps. The scenes half-played for laughs because they’re so trivial.
I get that I’m not alone. Life is mostly struggle, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s exceptionally hard right now for most of us. Each little thing takes so much out of you. And that’s before you have worry about how to argue with the guy you need to fix your chihuahua/sad trumpet situation about the proper way to wear his mask (the A/C guy who came to fix that last week when it went out—honestly more of a terrier situation during a historic heat wave—could not be bothered to pull it over his nose) and whether he’ll be a dick about it. And that’s way before the big dogs start snarling and wolves start howling. ‘
I’ve always been pretty good at ambling through Big Chaos. I freak out at the beginning, but eventually I find my pace and keep on keeping on with the notion that at some point the chaos subsides, and I can have a chance to catch my breath.
Maybe I’ll figure out how to fix something in my life.
Maybe I’ll actually get one thing done today.
Maybe the dogs will disperse and the sad trumpet will get kinda jazzy.
Maybe, just around the next bend, the road will smooth out and the clouds will part.
Please get vaccinated.
Postscript: I heard the news about Charlie Watts while writing this. I am a (mostly) unabashed Rolling Stones fan. What a complete bummer. R.I.P.