Saying Yes-And... But Not Yet

Last Monday, I was finishing up a trail run along the Potomac River when I came upon a man with two dogs on leashes, sprawled across the trail. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so I paused my music, approached slowly, and asked if he was OK. He said, “Yes, I’m trying to get a photo.” Then I saw his phone and understood the weird angle—he was taking a closeup. And yes, the blue bells are lovely right now. 

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I was so focused on the man, I didn’t even register that the smaller dog was yapping at me. As I ran around them, it had enough slack in the leash to leap up and bite me on the leg through my capris. 

It didn’t hurt much, so I knew it wasn’t a bad bite, but it did startle and infuriate me. I stopped briefly and said to the owner, “Your dog bit me!” 

The man, still prone, responded, “Oh.” 

It may have been followed by a “Sorry,” but it was the kind of sorry you’d say when brushing by someone in a crowded hallway. And again, I may have supplied the apology in my imagination, because what kind of person doesn’t even say Sorry?

I was so shocked by the bite, and the man’s non-reaction, that I just kept going. I also had a sense that a man who left it at “Oh,” and perhaps “Sorry,” wasn’t a man that a woman wanted to confront on a deserted part of the trail. (This is something many men won’t get, and almost 100% of women will. No, we’re not paranoid.) 

A little further down the trail, I inspected the bite. The pants weren’t even torn, but the bite broke the skin. Dammit. 

So I went back to see if I could find Oh And Perhaps Sorry Man and find out if the animal had had its rabies vaccine. I’ve been bitten before, lucky me, so I know the drill. I was in high school, riding my bike home from a babysitting job. A dog charged me from behind its house, tearing the skin at my ankle. Thankfully I knew which house it was, and Animal Control did its thing. No problem.

Unfortunately, when I doubled back, Oh Perhaps Sorry Man had left the premises. Of course he did.

It probably would have been fine to leave it alone. Rabies in dogs is exceedingly rare. But as a friend put it, it’s 100% fatal and 100% preventable. I’ve never been a gambling woman, and my life has enough uncertainty as it is. 

So as of this morning, I’m one week into a two-week course of post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies. 

[Obligatory questions answered: the first treatment involves several needles, but there are no shots in the abdomen, unless that’s where you got bitten. The follow-up shots are singles in the arm, and are no worse than a flu shot. The treatment is expensive, even with insurance. And yes, I could have taken up to 10 days to try and identify the dog and its owner, and animal control can help with that, before starting treatment. But it’s not like I ran past a particular house, or even a small neighborhood park. Riverbend Park is a big place. There was very little chance we’d find this guy.]

I was unpacking all of this to a mentor/friend of mine a few days ago. I laughed a little as I told the story, admitted how hard it had been, but also reflected on some deeper stuff as I moved forward with it. Churn and learn. Grist for the mill. The moral of the story. Three points and a poem.

She said, “Yeah… It’s good to reflect and learn and all that, but can we just pause for a minute and sit with the fact that you were assaulted by a dog on the trail, and that now you have to go through this inconvenient and traumatic treatment for it?” 

Oh. Yeah. That.

She’s right, of course. 

As we approach the one-year anniversary of God, Improv, and the Art of Living, it’s been so fun and gratifying to share that work with groups, and to hear from readers how it’s impacted them. People get the power of Yes-And. It’s how we’re wired—to find the hope and the redemption, to write the next chapter, even mid the most dire of circumstances.

As I write this, Notre Dame Cathedral is still smoldering, and the damage being calculated, as if such a thing could be quantified. Is rebuilding even possible? So much has been lost; I don’t know. 

But I do know this. People sang hymns on their knees as Our Lady burned. The people of God will continue to worship; if services were planned there this weekend, those prayers and readings and songs will be shared in other places instead. To say nothing of the members of African-American churches in Louisiana, whose worship spaces were also consumed this week, albeit in the fires of hate and white supremacy. Will those saints sing praise to the resurrection, and life out of death, and love being the last word, this Sunday on Easter? Hell yes they will, because that’s what we do

All that being said, I always try to offer this caveat to people: Yes-And on stage, in comedy improv, usually comes very fast and furious. But in life, it unfolds more slowly, deliberately, with discernment. And it’s OK to take your time getting to the And—and maybe even awhile accepting the Yes.
It’s OK to sit with the suck for a while. 
It’s OK to sleep more than you normally would. 
It’s OK to eat the comforting stuff you normally dole out thoughtfully in normal times, because taking care of yourself is always important, but taking care means different things at different moments. 
It’s OK to feel sorry for yourself for a while. 
And it’s OK to lament. It’s OK to sing hymns on your knees, for a long time perhaps, before taking up the cries of “we will rebuild.”  

Yes-And is powerful, but I try to remember to offer that caveat to others… and sometimes I need others to offer it to me. Thank you, M. Message received. 

So… yeah. Some day it’ll make a great Moth story or book chapter or article or something. Some day. Or not. But right now… I’m sad. And mad. It’s been an exhausting week. 

I’ll Yes-And it, but not yet. And that’s OK.