I want to describe one of the monsters under my bed – one of the things that keeps me awake at night. I don’t believe describing the monster will make it disappear, but I hope it may help you understand how I’m feeling about something I’ve barely mentioned.
In 2007, I wrote this article about my dog Bess and she’s still my best friend.
The only thing that has changed? Everyone is 8 years older.
Bess is now 13.
I’ve written before about life and death, but mainly with people being uncertain I might hurt myself for me – which in hindsight seems very easy.
Writing about knowing you’ll have to confront the fear of losing your best childhood friend is much much harder.
On the one hand, there are so many things I feel lucky for: so many people whom I’m happy to call friends, colleagues and family – who look up and look out for me, so many more books to learn from, mountains to climb, friends to help finding their own paths through the labyrinths of life, and exciting projects to get stuck into – that I feel as connected and alive as ever.
On the other, I can’t communicate with my sofa-bound, best friend to tell her how much I love her, and have appreciated all moments we’ve shared together. To tell her how much her sniffs and snuffles meant through a decade of teenage turmoil, to share memories of our stomps around Blake Moor, or simply how much I enjoy rubbing her tummy.
When Bess was a young puppy, she used to be small enough to fit underneath a wardrobe, and used to disappear under it, and the emerge as a wild-monster-puppy, growling and showing how ‘big’ and ‘bad’ she was.
At other times, when Bess would sleep on my bed, with her nose at my toes, she’d sometimes wake up a from an exciting dream about rabbits and snap out at the nearest thing to her mouth – for example, my sleeping foot, which would be subjected to a surprise attack… until she realised my now-very-awake-foot, was indeed not a rabbit.
It’s easy to argue from reason: to point out she’s had a good innings, to say she’s lived almost every one of however-many-lives-a-dog-has, or to point out how lucky she’s been to have such a caring family. These are true, but logic and reason doesn’t make it any easier.
It’s so challenging for me to acknowledge that many of those great moments have passed and they must now live on as memories. Not unexpected, just very challenging.
So that’s out there. Those thoughts are something that’s taking up brain space right now, but isn’t something I talk about much.
I find it really challenging to talk about – maybe to the point that I don’t really want to talk about it because wanting to avoid uncontrollable floods of tears and an instant urge to go and see her is… well a pragmatic approach of sorts in many situations. I suspect there are no ideal approach.
I think the best thing you – as someone reading this – can help can do to help is just to empathise and be supportive where and when you can.
And so that’s the monsters under my bed and the ‘monster’ that used to shoot out from under my wardrobe. It’s good to put it out there.
Footnote: Different cultures see time in different ways, and my culture has a very linear approach (past, present future) which is reflected in this blog post. It doesn’t make it easy to see things as a cycle of things that have happened before and will happen again.