My travel companion in life and on this road trip is Yoda, a Boxer/French Bulldog/Large Munsterlander mix who rescued me 6 years ago when I was reeling from a broken heart. “Yoda” in Sanskrit means “warrior,” an appropriate name because he was a little warrior by surviving on the streets before we found each other. Ask any Star Wars fan, and Yoda is also the wisest being in the Universe. He is. I swear. You see, Yoda continues to rescue me every day. He gets me out of bed on the mornings when I want to pull the covers over my head and hide all day from the weight of the world. He burrows his forehead into my chest when I am sad – so hard that I’m convinced he is desperately trying to get as close to me as possible in order to comfort me. He presses his back against mine in bed, which, even on these humid hot nights of late, provides a comforting reminder to me that I am not alone.
I’ve been having panic attacks about the current mess of my life for the past 6 weeks. My heart races, I have trouble catching my breath and I break into a cold sweat. When they are happening I’ve tried all the standard tricks to stop them: shots of tequila make the room spin, Valium makes me nauseous, pacing makes me dizzy, meditating oddly makes the panic escalate, and ujjayi breath (a calming and balancing yogic breathing technique that has always helped me when I feel anxious) makes me hyperventilate. I had another panic attack today when Yoda and I were leaving Centinela Feed. We had just bought 2 1/2 months of road trip supplies and food for him, and I looked at my receipt and realized the $101.36 that I spent marks the beginning of me living completely off my meager savings account. I drove the short drive home with white knuckles gripping the wheel and tears welling up in my eyes as I tried to stay calm. Have I lost my mind? What business do I have taking over 5 months of my life to prep for and then take a road trip to “find myself” when what I should be doing is spending every waking minute trying to figure out from where my next paycheck is going to come? But then again, how can I not take this trip? I’m so lost that it is the only thing that actually makes sense to me right now. I feel deep in my bones that I NEED to do this, I HAVE to do this, I AM GOING to do this.
Panic attacks are new to me. But they are not new to Yoda. Like some rescues, he suffers from a severe panic disorder called separation anxiety. When left alone he’s jumped through a screen window, punched a hole in the front door, broken out of a metal crate, and scratched and gnawed a bloody mess out of the molding around my front door. I’ve spent the past 6 years working with animal behaviorists, trying different anti-anxiety medications, and trading ideas with members of my Yahoo support group for owners of dogs with separation anxiety. We are finally to the point, with proper prep, stuffed Kongs and an exact repeated ritual of me leaving, where I can leave him for a bit over an hour without him having a panic attack. But that’s it. 1 hour 20 minutes tops. I can’t go over or he regresses. The only reason I’ve had any semblance of a social life since Yoda’s adoption is a combination of doggy daycare and the generosity of my dear friends John & Lisa who regularly invite Yoda to play with their lab Penny.
Despite Yoda’s own struggles with panic, he seems to understand what I need. He’s the one thing that can calm me down when I’m having a panic attack. He’ll head-nuzzle into my chest, he’ll snuggle into my lap, or he’ll tease me with his stuffed coati toy until I snap out of it and play with him in the yard. My Yoda really does have the Force. With him at my side I’m leaving on October 16…we’ll drive to wherever we are supposed to be.
In the words of that other famous Yoda, “Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future…the past…old friends long gone.”
|Yoda and Kee Kee, hiking in the Santa Monica mountains|