I Can’t Stop Thinking About Dog Hair
An essay of survival mode amid wanton white supremacy.
Waking in the middle of the night, I’m covered in sweat even though we drop the heat at night to save money. After the events at the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, sleep eludes me. I reach for my cellphone to check Twitter. I hope nothing else so brazen has happened in the six hours I’ve tossed around. Oh. I removed Twitter from my phone last night because of all my anxious doom scrolling. Should I wake up? No. It’s 2:23 am. But the puppy heard me, and she’s ready to play. Still, I lay back on my pillow and close my eyes.
At 2:37 am, I’m jolted awake again. In my dream, a long haired white Nazi in a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt is at my door, asking why my flight was late to support our Lord and Savior. I think, is my sweatshirt even clean? Because now that I’m awake again, I am cold. I think it’s covered in dog hair and I just washed the sheets. I think about it for another few minutes. I have four blankets, but I’m chilled to the bone. I pull the sweatshirt over my head at 2:46 am. It is from a fundraiser for the Hispanic community after the Alameda fire decimated our neighboring town. I am so proud of the way this valley came together in support.
At 5:00 am, my alarm chirps. I silence the phone and rise. No need to snooze; I wasn’t sleeping. No notifications; I turned those off last night after uninstalling Facebook. I’m thankful for slippers; the heat seems to be taking the long route to raising the temperature in the house today. I think of how bundled up all the rioters and protesters were in D.C. on the 6th. I am grateful the pile of AP media gear trashed and gathered on the Capitol steps evaded becoming a pyre for sacrifice. Surprising, really. It looked ready to burn. I say a prayer for the AP photographer who survived being assaulted. After all the vitriol against the media, I’m so glad his death wasn’t one more to count.
It’s 5:15 am before the coffee is finished. The lights are low, and as I welcome the puppy inside from her morning respite, I dry her paws in the dark. She jumps all over me, leaving more of her border collie fur behind. I make a mental note to take a shower. I hope I remember. I wonder how long it would take to wash blood from my arms if I’d been near enough to the woman shot in the neck.
By 7:45 am, I’m showered and rushing to help my daughter log in for Zoom school. Her laptop needs a restart, and so do I. In my haste to not be seen naked on Zoom, I pulled the same sweatshirt over my head. It is definitely covered in dog hair. I’ll change clothes later.
By 8:02 am, I am at my desk, trying to focus. My coffee is cold, so I microwave my Magnolia mug for the third time. This mug is oddly heavy. I make a mental note to drop by Deadstock Coffee the next time I’m in Portland because they’re right — coffee should be dope. I don’t need to care about sneakers to support their business. I pick dog hair from my sleeves and wonder if Chip Gaines shares the same political leanings as his pedestal looting doppelgänger. Has he been arrested yet? I make a mental note to check.
When the microwave beeps, I notice my heart is racing. I say a prayer for the three people who died of medical emergencies during the riot — one of a heart attack. This reheat ritual is meaningless; I know I’ll only carry the cup with me and reheat it a few more times. I pour my coffee down the drain. My heart does not need the extra pressure.
My husband overhears me pacing through the kitchen. Are my thoughts stomping so loudly even he can hear them? He suggests I take a walk. It’s 8:07 am and already I’m exhausted. He notes that I’m wearing tennis shoes and a sweatshirt, so he assumes I planned on an outing. But I’m only wearing tennis shoes because with shoes, I can respond faster to what everyone needs.
But a walk is still a good idea. I leave the puppy whimpering at the door and pop in a pair of headphones. She still doesn’t know how to handle a leash. It takes the first four minutes to decide if I should listen to music or a podcast. I notice my black yoga pants show a lot more dog hair in the daylight than I expected. I settle on a podcast about rejecting the hustle, because forward motion requires stillness to exist, and I need both.
It takes 30 minutes on a walk before my legs start to feel tired. I realize I haven’t eaten, so I turn around. I wonder how hungry the aides and congress people were during the six hour siege. Do you even notice hunger when you’re breaking windows? I hope Officer Sicknick had eaten something really wonderful and comforting before he died.
At 8:39 am, I open the door to find a disappointed puppy. She needed a walk. I return to my desk and drink 18 ounces of water. I need more than water. More than a walk. I need a nation that does not celebrate Christian nationalism and white supremacy. I need to find a way to navigate through the retriggering of narcissistic abuse every time someone mentions 45.
The futility of my words. The insignificance of my impact. As a white woman, I have equal parts responsibility and lack of influence or respect. Thanks to “Karen culture,” white women are asked to speak and be silent at the same time. I’m not a Karen, but damn if it isn’t easy to dismiss me as one when I’m upset.
I need a clear path forward.
At 12:25 pm, I decide to try laying down for a nap. I have not been able to create anything of value yet today. I try box breathing to relax, but it doesn’t help much today. I turn on classical music, which reminds me of the scene in Titanic — the orchestra plays even as the world around them sinks.
It’s 4:06 pm. I have yet to remove the sweatshirt. All day, the brain fog has kept clarity elusive. I know my next right thing is to remove this sweatshirt and place it in the laundry. But I want my next right thing to be storming a different kind of castle. I want dog hair to be my last concern because I am starting a revolution of a new kind — one that unveils the deceit of conspiracy and fear.
As I’m considering what to make for dinner, I say a prayer of gratitude for the food in our home. I make a mental note to research for correlation between white supremacy, the existence of billionaires, and food scarcity in the U.S.
It’s 4:47 pm. I’m still wearing the sweatshirt. This personal essay is the fullness of all I’ve accomplished today. I know this is more than enough. Trauma derails our thoughts, our bodies, and our days. I did not really need to expect more of myself.
My daughter is interested in becoming a veterinarian someday. I wonder if she knows invertebrates are eligible to hold federal office. Of course, she’ll treat bounding puppies that shed all over her sweatshirt, not spiders and shellfish.
But still. It is unconscionable that so many spineless cabinet members, congress people, and state representatives have either doubled down in support of their demagogue or resigned in an effort to avoid invoking the 25th amendment. I wonder if I’m the only one wondering if the inauguration will be safe from attack, now that 45 won’t attend. I can’t help but think it’s more than his ego keeping him away.
It’s 5:01 pm. I think I’ll take the rest of the night away from the wondering. I think I’ll remove the sweatshirt. I hope I’ll be able to sleep, but I imagine the nightmares are the least of my worries.
This essay came from a need to understand and make sense of my constantly racing thoughts. As a coach, I opted to step back from the personal nature of the mental noise and observe myself throughout the day. As an observer, it became apparent that my detachment and lack of focus was a normal part of the grief response. Scattered thoughts and feelings of obligation, confusion, or mental fog are indicators that rest and support are necessary. There is NO shame in support.
If you find yourself struggling to understand your next step, or needing support, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s website regarding support for coping with traumatic events, or speak with a counselor online through BetterHelp, TalkSpace, or more.
Mandy Capehart is a certified grief and life coach, and creator of The Restorative Grief Project. The Restorative Grief Project is an online community focusing on one another’s stories and new methodologies for grief, creating a safe environment for our souls to heal and our spirits to be revived. For more information, visit www.MandyCapehart.com/grief or follow along with weekly columns on Ask A Grief Coach!