The Crazy

I kicked a coat yesterday. I kicked it right in its stupid, uncooperative coat face.

For the past few days, I’ve been fiddling with a post about The Crazy, but I’ve been having trouble articulating exactly what it’s like. Our family, as far as sleep and eat and health and temper goes, has enjoyed a patch of relative smoothness. Thank goodness yesterday happened so that I can fully impart to you the feelings that lead up to a coat ass-kicking.

The Crazy feels a lot like bombings in war movies. There’s an explosion, and tinnitus-like ringing, and the camera tilts back and forth until you’re dizzy.

The real life example I was going to use for this had something to do with being awake at 4am after trying every conceivable thing to stop your child from crying and telling the dog that you will “end him” if he doesn’t stop barking. That example is a vague amalgamation of several nights. It is far more useful to imagine yesterday morning’s scene to fully grasp The Crazy.

Friday night, my neighbours had a party. They were whooping and running around playing, what I imagined to be a midnight game of thunderball, a popular game on Planet Leigh’s Pissed Off Imagination. Between their screaming, and Joanie’s cough, I slept three hours. Saturday morning, I was due to leave for Ottawa to visit my dad, but when the time came to start packing, it dawned on me that I hadn’t showered in three days, that I still had to do groceries, laundry, and the weeks preparatory cooking, otherwise this family would be eating pizza every night. As much as I want that, I’m a full grown adult now. I don’t say that to boast of my maturity, simply to say that my tum tum doesn’t like that yum yum. Point being, I let everything pile up, emotionally speaking. Joanie was having one of those days where she was only happy in my arms, so I was doing my chores one handed that day, and as a result doubling my work load with all my clumsy mistakes. Nothing particularly bad happened, but lots of little things weighed me down, or rather pushed me to the point of madness when I tried to zip up my coat. Joanie, who hates her baby sling, was screaming as loud and as close to my ear as she could. Frank was barking, as he’s expected to do in such a situation, and my zipper, which I cannot see below Joanie, got stuck just above my waste. I took a deep breath and tried to wiggle it free but it didn’t budge. I tried again, but this time with more force. It didn’t move. Joanie, still screaming, was getting hot, transferring her body heat to me, as we both sweat in my parka. Panic washed over me, and I tugged on the zipper as hard as I could. Nothing happened, so I took hold of each side of my coat and Hulk-shredded my way out of it, pushing it down over my waste, then in a fit of fury, stomped and kicked and raged against what it, my mother who’d purchased the coat, and the God-foresaken manufacturers who made it, did to me. Then I grabbed another jacket, threw a blanket around Joanie, and went out to walk in any direction until we both stopped crying. It was only minus 4 or 5 out and there were kids playing in the park. Birds were chirping. There wasn’t any wind. With renewed calm I strolled into the grocery store, and, like the totally normal person I am, did my shopping. Joanie was perched in the children’s seat of the cart and we smiled at all the other shoppers. I remembered everything on my list, bought myself an extra sweet treat, and returned home to make soup, have lunch, and clean the living room.

The Crazy is losing a plot. The Crazy is being unbound. The Crazy is not a cataclysmic destruction. We move through our day, being piled upon by little obstacles, by broken zippers, by barking dogs, by chores, chores, chores, and then something happens. The Crazy happens. We get hot. We sweat. A noise comes out of our chests and ekes through our teeth until they spread apart and release it in rage. The Crazy happens and then, before we know it, we’re outside. The air is fresh. We’re walking fast. We’re breathing deep breaths, the biggest breaths we’ve ever breathed.

That’s The Crazy, and I wish I could offer advice as to how to deal with it, but I don’t know any, and this isn’t really an advice blog anyway. Generally it passes rather quickly. Take solace in that, I guess.


My Damn Dog

Frank is an eleven year old cockapoo. Actually he’s a mix of cockapoo and cocker spaniel, so a more apt title would be cocka-cockapoo. His full name is Franklin Dogdog Roosevelt and his favourite thing in the world is his rubber blue bear. He’s my dog and I hate him.

Here is our story:

Five years ago, Frank moved in with Leigh. He had been living with her mum whose migratory life no longer suited a dog. The move was seamless. He got along with all of Leigh’s roommates and they loved dressing him up. One night Leigh came home to find them all celebrating an evening of cross dressing. Hari and Tyler wore skirts and blouses, Melinda wore slacks and suspenders, and Frank wore a string of pearls and a floral head scarf.

Frank gave Leigh something to chat about and introduced her to a community of dog owners who, if you asked Leigh, are strange and obsessive but very nice. They went for walks in Montreal’s beautiful city parks, sat on terraces in the hot sun, and curl up on the couch to watch Deep Space Nine. For a few years they were inseparable. They were best friends. They even shared cloths on occasion. Yes, it was weird, but Leigh had left her roommates, been living by herself, and there’s only so much Star Trek a girl can watch.

Things were going well for the best friends; that is until the falling out. It happened after the birth of Joanie, Leigh’s daughter, who entered into their lives and took up all the love.

When the pair first moved in together, Frank was an exceptionally well behaved dog. He’d been to puppy academy and graduated top of his puppy class. He could sit, stay, play dead, and roll over. He even pranced when he walked, each paw springing up from the pavement like a small child’s feet in hot sand. Leigh’s mum had worked hard to make him a good dog, but Leigh didn’t have the same patience. She figured he didn’t need to roll over or play dead, and prancing, while adorable, was unnecessary. She let him go unpracticed.

As the tricks waned so too did all the other discipline. Soon he was barking at the door and pulling so hard on the leash his breathing became wheezy pants. It wasn’t long before Leigh had to keep the garbage pale on the counter to stop Frank from spreading carrot peels and coffee grinds all over the apartment. Finally when Joanie was born, and the last remnants of attention Frank received disappeared, he started leaving surprises on the living room floor in front of the television.

One night, when Joanie was a week shy of six months and Eric was on business in Germany, Frank pushed Leigh’s patience until it fell over the anger cliff and disappeared in the ocean of fury. She had picked up her daughter from daycare, walked home in the pouring rain and lugged the buggy up three flights of stairs. She wanted nothing more than to collapse on the couch and zone out to an episode of Sesame Street. In the half an hour she was gone, Frank tipped the garbage can, strew its contents down the hall, vomited whatever he had eaten onto her bathrobe, and pissed a big astringent puddle on Joanie’s foam play mat. After putting her baby down to nap, cleaning up the mess, shedding her soiled socks and crying all the while, Leigh called her mum.

“It’s too much. I don’t trust myself. I’m going to take him to the park and leave him there,” she cried.

“No you’re not,” her mother assured her, knowing all she needed were comforting words, “you’re not a monster.” Leigh was calmed, but her relationship with Frank remained tense. She ignored him when he looked up for scratches and pushed him back to the ground when he tried to snuggle with her on the couch.

That was recent and I’m still having difficulties feeling close to Frank, though I have a new resolve to be a better dog owner. When that dog moved in with me I made a commitment. For a while I would say my life is so vastly far way from that which I had imagined when I got a dog, that if I had known I was going to have a baby I would have remained pet-less. But that’s just an excuse. If at any point in my life I could see the future I would have made different decisions. If I had that power I would never do anything, paralyzed by the fear of what could happen. I make choices that I have to live with for better or for worse and Frank was a choice that I made, a responsibility I am committed to. So I try hard to visit the dog park, and I take him to the groomers, albeit not often enough, and I introduce him gently to Joanie in an effort to make him part of the family. It’s tough and I’m lazy but as I write this I am reminded of all the companionship Frank has given me, and I figure I owe the little guy some love.

He’s a good dog. I’m a bad owner.

I hate the fat man on the chair

“Help,” I meekly called from the bottom of the stairs up to our apartment. I was caught in the doorframe between the two parts of the stroller.

Eric looked down at me from above and over the sound of Joanie’s shrieks and Frank’s bark he yelled down, “can’t.”

We could have fought. I initially felt a pang of ire but it quickly subsided as I wiggled my way through the frame and up the stairs to meet Eric’s laughter. When I was pregnant I may have been fat but I could still fit through door fames. Situations like this one that elicit bouts of anger were sparse. There was simply less to get argue about. Now it seems like every day there’s a new opportunity for rage. But we don’t fight, not really any way. We bicker about wearing socks in bed but there’s little emotion behind those spats. It’s probably a combination of our mutual aversion to raised voices, our active senses of humour, and a whole bunch of adoration that keep us so calm in our dealings with each other. We high-five a lot.

However, anger has to go somewhere. It’s like the first law of thermodynamics (forgive my layman’s explanation) which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only change forms. Instead of a familial argument, my ire changes form and becomes rage directed at another man with whom I have no real contact: the fat man on the chair. I hate the fat man on the chair.

For the past few weeks there has been construction in the street behind my apartment building. I don’t drive and I’m usually awake at seven when the bulldozing begins, so I’m not bothered by the work itself. What works me into a flushed, exaggerated, perhaps disproportionate rage is the fat man on the chair. His only job is to guide trucks and pedestrians through the intersection, and he’s terrible at it. Yesterday I made it all the way to a giant hole and back again before he called, “le trottoir est barré!”

In Montreal corruption is assumed, especially when it comes to construction. It’s normal to see twelve supervisors standing around a hole while one worker digs. Quebec is a welfare state, and I’m all for paying high taxes for the sake of public programs but the mismanagement of funds is so catastrophic that citizens rarely see where taxes are spent. Our infrastructure is crumbling, our high school drop out rate is astronomical and we are still dealing with asbestos in public institutions. The fat man is emblematic of that corruption, or to put it mildly, that poor budgeting. His job is so utterly pointless that he has brought himself a chair from home. I walk by him at least four times a day and he never moves from that spot. He is constantly sitting, sometimes eating, usually smoking and always soaking up public money. I hate his stupid snide grin and his fat calves stuffed into work boots, a likely indicator of gout. I hate him. I hate him. Oh damn it, I hate him.

Now I know that the fat man on the chair is not the cause of all of Quebec’s problems, but he, as a symbol, has stumbled into the path of my expelled anger. Aristotle wrote about how anger is a good thing when directed at the right object and used to fuel political action. I could use it to write fervent letters to the city, or speak passionately at counsel meetings, but my rage is not being used for such lofty ideals. It is instead directed at a man who I have never met and with whom I have only exchanged a few curt words.

Aristotle would be very disappointed with me, but I hope he would understand. Between family, writing, groceries and work I don’t have the time to be as politically active as I would like, and at least no one is feeling the effects of my vented ire. The fat man on the chair has no idea who I am. He doesn’t notice my seething glare, and by directing my rage at him the people I love most escape it.

Everybody wins.