What anchors you in this time of pandemic? This question was asked in a zoom meeting I attended today. One man answered, “My dog, he is always there and happy to be with me.”
I am walking my small terrier home from his evening stroll, when a bulldog bolts from an open garage door and lunges at my dog with bared teeth. I pull my dog’s leash, but he wants to fight, and I can’t get him away. My eyes fill with terror, as I imagine the larger dog snapping my dog’s neck.
I feel desperate to break up this fight and I know I do not have much time. I yank my dog up with all my might, my feet get knocked out from under me and I fall onto the sidewalk. The neighbor runs out, grabs her dog, while I scream for my husband, who gets our dog and takes him inside. The neighbor tells her husband to take their dog in and they both apologize profusely.
I check my body. My hands and elbow are scraped, my back feels okay. My neighbor rings her hands, “Are you okay, are you okay?” “I think so.”
My husband pulls me to my feet, and I go inside to check our dog. No blood and no apparent injuries. I pet his red and cream coat. How close he was to death and how quickly it could have happened. My body shivers.
I sit on the couch to gather myself. Anxiety speeds my heart and tightens my gut, while my eyes are still alert, though the danger is gone. It is bedtime and I know I am too distressed to sleep.
I ask my husband to find a guided meditation on anxiety. We settle in bed and I hear the voice of Oren Sofer inviting me to return to the breath as “an anchor” as we explore anxiety. He gently asks us to become aware of the anxiety “story”. Is it a future worry? Is it a past remembrance? (Yes, my dog was just attacked). “Now, put the story to the side and anchor in your body, returning to the breath.” The knots in my stomach loosen as I breathe and relax. “Do not fight nor feed the anxiety. Where is it in the body?...breathe into the lower body to reduce your anxiety…loosen your jaw…”
Following these guides is working but I add more, as my body surfs waves of different emotions that arise and fall. At the beginning of the meditation I let myself cry to loosen the tension, later I let my body shake out the fear, and then my left fist begins to go into a ball. I imagine socking that bulldog in the face and knocking him back. I take my hand and make punching gestures. My body relaxes after having discharged some of the tension from those feelings.
I turn on my side and pull the covers over my shoulder to go to sleep after the meditation. My mind goes to this: RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the eminent Supreme Court Justice) died today. That news felt heart-breaking. What if my dog had died the same day as RBG? I sit up and reach out for my dog, who is curled at the foot of the bed. I pet his warm coat to make sure he is really still here. As my head sinks into the pillow and I drift off to sleep, I see them together from behind. She wears her long black robe and pearl white collar as she smiles down at my little red dog, who wags his tail as they climb a hill toward the clouds.