Our dog has a drinking problem. That is, when she drinks water there is something in the way her throat works that causes her to regurgitate some or all of the water soon after. In her younger years she would throw up quietly and move on. As she's aged and as her health worsens, it sounds more like a loud, old man sneezing and coughing and choking at the same time. We are home all the time now, and there is nowhere in the house that she can't be heard.
"Oh, Chloe," we say, adjusting her medications, knowing we will also have to say goodbye to her soon.
We clean up the puddles left behind with one of a constantly rotating pile of "Chloe towels," old bath towels called back into service for mopping up slobber. There are discussions and pointed glances around how long a dog towel is meant to last before requiring laundering. You can refold a towel multiple times to make it last across throw-up events, but woe is the one who grabs a heavily used towel in the wrong spot.
Sleep is harder when there is an old man sneezing and coughing and choking at the foot of your bed. Sleep was already hard. At five years old our daughter has slept soundly through the night for a long time, but before the pandemic my body was only just starting to trust this reality. It remembers the early months of sleepless nights, the early years of figuring out sleep patterns and rituals that might or might not last. It has been listening for the sounds of a child wandering the halls in the night, needing a back rub or a book read aloud or a cuddle back to sleep. It has been saying, "don't get too comfortable" as it waits to be needed again. And now it says "don't get too comfortable" as it reminds me of what's happening in the world.
I pretended for a while that when the election was over we might sleep more soundly. Election day has come and gone but its many ghosts remain to haunt us. The yard signs around us proclaiming "we support a racist, xenophobic, misogynist, lying narcissist bully as our leader" have come down but the people who put them there remain. They are our neighbors, our community leaders, our elected officials. We co-exist, but we don't live in the same world. I am trained to look for common ground and my values would dictate that I avoid contributing to further division, but most days I just feel angry or upset. How could they?
It is hard to see the way forward for my country. All we have to do is swim through the fog of hundreds of years of white supremacy and fundamental disagreements about what's factual and true to find some solid ground. I lay awake practicing my backstroke in my mind. I don't get anywhere, and the fog closes in.