I'm at Open University Summer School. It's the end of the first full day, and I am exhausted. I've been exhausted for the past five weeks. Last night, I went to bed at 10.30pm. Today, I had to nap from 5.00pm to 6.00pm just to have the energy to go to dinner. This is all because, five weeks ago, He Who Only... and I became parents.
I haven't written in this blog for a long time. Initially, it was because I didn't have the time, the ten minutes or so, in a day to sit and purge my brain of whatever inanities I usually find to type about. And then the long stretch of time between my last post and the next time I found myself with the 10 minutes to type seemed to make it more difficult, because I felt like my silence required explanation. People started to email me and to facebook me, asking for new posts or whether or not I had completely given up on blogging. I have no idea. Probably not. Finishing things frightens me. I don't like endings. I like long, messy goodbyes, regular denials if possible, and lengthy post mortems which are perversely really just to keep the dead thing alive in some way.
(In October I go into therapy.)
One of the problems is that I have got so many things that I could be blogging about, but so many of them are completely inappropriate. I would love to write about work, but obviously that's a massive no-no, and I'm stupid but I'm not that stupid. I really long to blog about my voluntary work, but confidentiality is such a large part of what I do that I don't know the last names of the people I work with, and they don't know mine, and if anyone accidentally came across any entries relating to what I do there, and put two and two together, I would lose my place in that wonderful charity, and a really important part of my life. I would adore to be able to blog about my relationship, and detail all of the things that happen in my head and compare them to what is actually happening in the room between us, but that's the quickest route to singleness, plus a lot of his friends used to read this, and that would just be embarrassing at the next one of the MANY THOUSANDS of weddings we'll be attending.
And to do all or any of these things would also mean me finding a 10 minute gap in a schedule that simply doesn't have 10 minute gaps. Talk to me five years ago, and I would never have believed that I was (a) the member of a gym; (b) the member of a gym in North London; (c) struggling to find time to attend said gym; and (d) actually missing my trips to the gym.
My life at the moment revolves around four things. These four things take precedent over all others, and all four of these things irritate and delight me in turn. These four things, in no particular order of importance are my boyfriend, our skinny dog, my job and my studies.
I'm starting my Masters in October. This is the Masters that I applied for, told everyone I was doing, then decided I wasn't going to do, told everyone in my life that I wasn't going to do this Masters after all, then went to the interview anyway, then got offered a place, and then accepted, deciding I'd probably turn it down later down the line, and now I'm starting in October and have had to tell everyone that I told I wasn't doing it that I am, in fact, now doing it. I'm doing a Masters in Counselling because I enjoy listening to my little sister whining so much that I decided I'd like to do it full time and actually get paid for it. Plus, I like to feel important, and obviously listening to people's tragic tales will give me a lot more to blog about and will fill up the chapters of my inevitable book version of this blog when the fucking publishers finally find me and offer me the book deal.
Some of that isn't true.
I'm so terrified about doing the course, I can't even begin to consider what it would be like to be an actual grown-up counsellor out there in the world with clients and everything. It seems really perverse to be spending so much money, so much time and so much energy doing something I'm not entirely happy or confident about, but there is also a part of me sure that this is the thing that I should be doing, that I should definitely give it a go. And, you know, otherwise I'd have spare time in which to relax and sit down and some spare cash for food and luxuries like socks and fresh fruit and pay the television licence and who really wants to live like that anyway?
And just to make sure that I go completely insane before I even start the course fully and say goodbye to the last of my nerves, we got a small, skinny, abused and abandoned dog from a rescue centre five weeks ago, and said dog has been ruling our lives ever since.
Her name is Claudia Jean, CJ for short. We named her after the press secretary in The West Wing, because she is also long and thin, and to be honest she really does look a little like Alison Janney. CJ eats everything she can get into her mouth – sticks, poo, vomit, grass, dandelion heads, pebbles. She especially likes pebbles. She tries to crunch them down, and then when we ask her to drop them, she defiantly looks up at us and swallows them whole. We then get to pick them back up the next day, when they appear in one of the five different times she poos every day.
CJ's metabolism is something that we're obsessed with. She's very underweight and even though we feed her enough to floor a Doberman, she doesn't seem to have put on any weight in the five weeks that we've had her. This could be due to the fact that she never stops moving. She is never tired, until the moment when she collapses on the floor in front of us, or on the sofa behind us, and then won't move again until 5.00am the next morning when she's up on the bed licking He Who Only... on the face and wondering why the heck we're not up already, because there are balls to throw and joggers to try and bite. We are now feeding her puppy food in an effort to bulk her up a bit, which she is given three or four times a day (and probably more than that, because me and He Who Only... are currently engaged in a bidding war for her affection, a war that we have not spoken about but which we are both all too aware of. He thinks he has the upper hand because he eats meat, and therefore gets to slip her some little meaty treats off his dinner plate when he thinks I'm not looking, but he doesn't realise that because our dog is an undiscerning retard who, last week, lapped at a slimy pool of dog diarrhoea like it was the most delicious delicacy she had ever been offered, she doesn't care if it's tofu or bacon).
The little skittle never stops moving, and it's difficult for her to settle in the evenings when me and He Who Only... try to sit down to watch some West Wing (the scenes in the press room endlessly entertain us now, with all of the journalists urgently yelling our dog's name in unison from the television). He Who Only... has devised this fantastic game where he hides one tennis ball while throwing another tennis ball as far as he can throw it (which is impressively far). CJ takes off after the first ball and joyously brings it back, at which point He Who Only... produces the second just before CJ comes skidding to a halt in front of him. She drops the first ball as if she never cared for it in the first place, and takes off after the second which He Who Only... will have hurled off over the horizon, and so the game continues until CJ is barely crawling towards the balls. This means that she is then tired enough to go to sleep when we get into the flat, and we can watch telly in silence rather than with her proving her importance every three minutes by dashing over to the door to bark at imaginary nothing. This also means that any of the calories that we've managed to get into her during the day have been well and truly worked off, and she is still so skinny that you can see every bone and every muscle in her tiny, incredibly buff looking body.
I'll be honest with you, ladies and gents, since I don't think anyone is reading this right now anyway, I didn't really like her when we got her. Or rather, I didn't like what she brought to our Nest'O'Love, which had previously and wonderfully just been the two of us, with nothing to distract our attention from each other and how we could make each other laugh. All of a sudden, our lives were about trips outside, regardless of weather conditions, regardless of time of day or night, every 90 minutes or so, all of our conversations were about what she had eaten, the consistency of her poo, whether she was happy or content or nervous or worried. Our sleep was distressingly interrupted by barking fits, by her crawling up on the bed between us, and then lying down horizontally and kicking in her sleep. Morning wake up time is now any time from 5.00am when CJ decides she can't hold it in any longer, and absolutely nothing will persuade her to pee on the very expensive puppy pads that I bought off the internet that promised they were infused with such a pungent aroma the dog would be desperate to urinate all of them. (We had even talked about it before buying them, worried that she wouldn't want to wee anywhere any more but on these pads, as some of the posters on the internet forum I read warned. The little madam just sits on the pad at the front door and whines to be let outside.) After the first 10 days of dog ownership, with broken sleep and arms hurting from being pulled on the lead, legs aching from walking outside all hours of the day and night in the rain and the sun, and mind desperate for another topic of conversation other than how many times the dog had pooed that day, I consider whispering to He Who Only... what the voices in my head were increasingly urgently whispering to me. That we should give the dog back. Give her back to the rescue centre, because this one thing that I had been wanting since forever just wasn't working out the way that I wanted it to.
And I didn't like that He Who Only...'s attention was diverted from me, and that he was shooting those gooey looks that used to go towards me onto a skinny, furry animal just because she had decided to wrap herself around his neck and fall asleep breathing right into his ear. That's what I used to do. That was my rightful place.
But now, it's all changed. I haven't seen CJ since Thursday (it is now Sunday as I write this). He Who Only... took her up to his parents, since both of us were going to be away for the weekend, and we didn't have anyone in London that could look after her. On Thursday and Friday night, staying in our Nest'O'Love on my own, it wasn't He Who Only... that I looked for in the middle of the night when I woke with a start, but CJ. I spent this afternoon in the class in which I was supposed to be exploring how to use the online resources that the course is offering us looking through photos of our holiday in Galway two weeks ago and going all gooey eyed at the photos of my tiny hairy baby. I really miss the way that she smells when she's all curled up and sleepy, and I'm even missing her standing in my head in the morning, shoving a pair of He Who Only...'s socks into my nose as a morning greeting and way of getting me to get up and throw sticks for her before I go to work.
It's a very weird lifestyle change, a complete turnaround from the carefree, footloose way that we used to live and that I don't think either of us really gave serious thought to giving up. Now one or both of us have to be at home without fail within about 6 hours of leaving the house. We can't go away for the weekend, or out for the evening, without precision planning and packing an extra bag full of chew bones and rubber toys and her trusty little Liverpool FC food bowl. Windows must be checked and double checked in case she hurls herself out of one in a fit of rage at the sighting of a cat or another dog or – her worst enemy, besides horses – a cyclist.
Cyclists drive her crazy. Joggers she doesn't like – she wants to chase after them, and will bite their ankles and calves if she can – but that is nothing compared to her feelings about cyclists. Cyclists make her so demented that she tries to hurl her tiny body into the front wheel of the bike, presumably so that she can stop them mid-spin, throwing the rider over the handlebars to land in front of her in a crumpled, bloody mess that she can then climb up on top of and use as a launchpad off which to propel herself at the next passing cyclists. It is terrifying walking with her, because you have to anticipate the appearance of a cyclist from around the corner of the winding tow-path we live right beside, and reel her in on her extender lead before she gets a chance to put her Bike Revenge Plan into action. Stunted on the end of the lead, all she can then do is rise up like a meercat, rearing up on her back legs, held back by the lead, and stare with rage at the cyclist as they go past. I swear, at least two cyclists have almost ended up in the canal, so distracted have they been by this tiny form sending out waves of wrath.
I won't pretend that I don't still get twinges of jealousy when He Who Only... is too busy telling CJ about the everything he is doing while cooking dinner in the kitchen – she will not allow anyone in the kitchen without her, in case they accidentally leave the door of the cupboard that houses her food open and she can, like her wildest dreams allow her to imagine – crawl right inside that bag and eat her way back out. I can't say that I'm starting to enjoy being rudely woken every morning and forced to hurl on whatever clothes are on the ground on the alternate mornings it's my turn to do the “early shift” and take her outside. But I do love to throw things and have her bring them back, and I realise already that we wouldn't be without her now, neither of us, even if it means a lot of things have to change.