On the Cat, Tearily

Ignore the whole “is your pet your child?” debate…because we are moving forward with this post under the assumption that yes, your pet is absolutely your child. Of course, he’s never going to graduate from high school, or get a wife and family, or pay for my eventual nursing home, but for all intents and purposes, Carlos is my child, albeit my feline child.

For almost six years, he’s been a constant in my life. Perhaps the only constant, other than my car (whose parentage we won’t argue about today…for obvious, pet-as-kid-negating reasons). Carlos has been with me since I was twenty-one, which isn’t something I can say about very much else in my life, not merely as a possession, but as a constant companion.

I knew when I adopted him that eventually, he would get sick and die. I guess that’s how it works with most things. Today, my therapist asked what his prognosis was, and I answered succinctly, “Death.” And then I paused for a moment and reconsidered. “Every living thing’s prognosis is death.” Which is true, but one a more realistic note, his prognosis is now good. Hopefully. With the aid of fancy prescription wet and dry food and a stash of medicine I’m amazed at, of course…

Carlos has been with me since we lived in that third floor apartment on Newgard in Chicago; lived with me at my City Park apartment, and now lives with me in my first home. He’s been with me through countless relationships, three jobs, two continents, and the loss of the dog (one of us was pleased to see the dog go…I’ll let you guess which one). He’s survived cancer and hernia surgeries, and come out pretty healthy, considering he’s a Chicago street cat with FIV.

A couple weeks ago, when he started crying and urinating blood, I was distraught. He’s not a complainer. After emergency calls to find that my usual vet was booked for days and the other vets whose names I’d been given my friends were also not available, I took him to the nearest vet. He was given a dose of antibiotics and some ridiculously expensive bloodwork. (If only Obamacare covered pets…thanks Obama.)

24 hours later, we were back in the same place. My cat isn’t a cryer, and so hearing him cry out in pain is a uniquely disturbing sensation. I wanted to fix it, of course, and so we went back to that vet, they had our most recent test results, after all…an emergency overnight stay, a credit card handed over blindly, and we were on our way with little knowledge other than that he had been given fluids and should be healing.

Flash forward to last night, when it began all over again. I didn’t sleep. I called another vet this morning (never going back to other vet — I felt as though I was merely a sale waiting to be made, with little regard for my son’s wellbeing), and they got me in immediately. We went. He was examined, evaluated, and sent home with more information, new meds, and a hopeful follow-up.

I’m grateful to my parents for giving us pets as children, allowing us the unconditional love that comes with owning a pet, caring for them, and the eventual pain of losing them. Even though I have had to say goodbye to numerous animals in my lifetime, including the dog – who isn’t dead, but in California – I know that losing Carlos will be the hardest loss of my young life. I brought myself to tears last night thinking about that, then looked him in his yellow eyes and told him that after all the money I’d spent the past few weeks, he wasn’t allowed to go yet, because I wasn’t ready.

I tried to make myself feel better by blaming it on the evisceration of my savings, but the honest truth of it is that I’m not ready. I know I won’t ever be, but right now I’m not even a little bit ready. He’s not done yet. He hasn’t moused enough, or spent enough hours in the grass baking in the sun, or napped in my arms while I do computer things.

I have loved every moment of cat motherhood. I had never considered myself a cat person, or had a cat, or even wanted one, and then I met Carlos. I know that’s what they all say. But to love something so deeply is a strange and beautiful feeling. This morning, he was crouched in his carrier at the vet, terrified and hiding in a very uncharacteristic way, and I stuck my hand in, to try to comfort him. He nuzzled up against it, rubbing it against the sides of his face, and settled in against my palm. My heart wrenched. I have never felt so responsible for a life in my life, and it is in that that I realize how deeply love can cut us.

Love is the most precious gift we are given. For him, as a cat, motivated by food and sleep and shelter, he seeks me as his guardian. He comes to me at night to hold his little body while we sleep, and I in turn look to him for comfort. After my ex and I broke up, and I gave myself a day to cry, I laid in bed, miserable. The cat came to me and laid on my chest, nuzzling me and staring at me with his bright eyes, and I knew in that moment that he understood. I realize that we can’t communicate with words, but words don’t matter. I am his and he is mine. We are.

Regardless of when he goes (may it be ten years in the future, please), I will take great comfort in knowing that we were able to give each other comfort in the moments when we needed it most and that we were able to share so much together. At night, I turn to find him, or he’ll come to me – claws out in order to drive home his intentions – for snuggling. We have slept next to each other for so many nights, claws/paws and hands entangled, in that beautiful dance of solidarity.

He has brought so much joy into my life, and I don’t think I stop to be grateful for his presence enough. Of course, he’s a financial burden, even more so now with his fancy foods and supplements, but I knew that going in. I committed. And I am so blessed that we found each other. I’m very selfishly so happy that I got to be his mom, because I don’t think anyone else on this earth could have loved him as much as I love him. I also don’t think I could ever love another cat the way I love him. He’s got such a beautiful personality, something I never expected.

I love his missing fang, his snaggletooth, his cropped ear, his broken tail, the way his stomach dangles where he had the hernia surgery. I love his face. It’s so expressive. I love the way he yawns, the way he stretches, the way he curls up and somehow manages to take up half the bed. I love his aloofness, his curiosity, his endless desire to roll in dirt or lay in his dirt hole. I love how much he demands snuggling. I love the way he sits in my clothes pile when I’m taking a bath, waiting for me. I love how he can’t purr and the sound he makes when he jumps.

I don’t really know what I’m trying to say, but I guess it’s that I’m so happy that he’s okay. I’m so happy that I get to have more nights with him. I’m so happy that I brought him home that first night, and I’ve been so blessed to have shared this love and life with him. (Even though his love for me may be based on the amounts of wet food he’s received…some part of me thinks it’s deeper than that…and I’m sticking to it.)

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On Rape and Rape-ish, Angrily, Regretfully, and unRemorsefully

Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault.

This article is about rock music and rape, so it’s not something you’ll understand.

At its core, it’s about being taken advantage of, when you’re young and naive and vulnerable, at a point in your professional career when you’re on the cusp of something wonderful, and that’s something I understand in a very profound way.

That’s where I was. I was on the cusp, the perfect target, easy prey. Pathetic. (Not me; the man who took advantage of me. I didn’t have a choice. I wouldn’t have made that choice, not that night, not ever.)

Later in the article, the author talks about telling the mom. I didn’t tell my mom for months after what happened in New York. I tell my mom everything. I didn’t tell her that. I hated myself and I hated my shame. I hated what happened. She knew something was wrong, but she had no idea what it was. She knew, but she didn’t know. She cried when I told her; I hated breaking her heart. I felt worse inside because I let her down, because I was broken and it wasn’t something that she could fix. I wasn’t the same and I wouldn’t ever be. I wasn’t hers anymore. I hurt her, and I hated that more than anything.

That’s part of why this article touches my heart so much. There are things that happen in an instant that change you. After them, you’re never the same. You’re darker, you’re different, and you can’t explain it. You can heal, and move forward, but there’s no forgetting. Sometimes I wonder if there’s ever a time when you can forgive.

People say they do; they say that all the time. I haven’t, and I never will. I hate who I became that night. I hate the person who woke up that next morning. And that’s the person that I am today. I don’t get to go back. I don’t get to atone, because I’m not the one who made that choice. I have tried to embrace love and happiness and to allow the beautiful things back into my life, but I’ll never be the person that I was on January 29, 2013. I can’t be. I carry something heavy with me everywhere I go now, and I will carry it until I die.

I make light of it now, but not really. At least I don’t cry when I talk about it anymore. But it cuts me every now and then, when I least expect it. Like tonight. I read this article and I cried. Hard. My therapist told me that these things happen – it’s a roller coaster, and sometimes you don’t see it coming. He said that one day, this would just be something that happened to me, rather than the only thing, and he was right. That’s all it is now. But it’s not nothing and it never will be.

When I told the new dude about it, he gathered me up into his arms and held me, and I felt safe and loved and healed and stupid for even feeling anything about it, for even telling him about it. But tonight, I read that article and the parts of me that are so together fell apart. I hate that these things happen. I hate that I “just had some fun” (not my words – the salesman’s words) with a middle aged married salesman when I was 24 and drugged, and I don’t get to erase that. I hate that I’m left with that scar, because I don’t want it. I don’t deserve it. No one deserves it.

Here’s the quote that got me — that hit home so fucking hard:

“I know from personal experience how all these things can eat away at you. They can take vibrant young people and turn them into something else.”

Tonight I’m crying; my palms hurt in that deep tingly way and the tears are hot and full and dripping out of my eyes. It’s real again; it’s visceral and it hurts. I will wake up tomorrow and this will all be a bad dream, but it’s not a bad dream and I know it. I refuse to let it consume me, the way it did for so long, but I will allow it to touch my heart so that I remember. I will never forget, and I will never forgive. I’m sorry — but I’m not sorry at all. I don’t have to forgive. It’s not a prerequisite for progress; it’s not something that I have to do.

I’m not kind in that way, the way I’m so kind in so many other ways. I will never forgive that disgusting man or my old bosses. I will never forgive them for what happened or how it exploded, destroying my career and shattering my soul. I don’t have to to be a take-the-high-road kind of person and I won’t be; not today and not ever.

I hate that I hate them so much. I don’t like to hate. I thrive on love and good feelings, good feedback, and gratitude. But I take exception here. I smile and laugh and pretend that I’m not hurting. Usually, I am all good, the embodiment of good vibes and positivity. It’s long forgotten, something that happened to me and not THE thing. But every now and then, it creeps up on me, like if there were such thing as a silent hybrid freight train.

Here’s the song I listen to when I’m upset. I don’t know why, but it calms me. Tonight it’s been on repeat for almost a half an hour.  

I feel better. It’s over. It’s done. It’s not happening right now and it hasn’t for a long time. I can’t change the past. There is only forward.

My roommate in college had a wise mom. She always said that when something was upsetting you and you couldn’t solve it, you should sleep. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. The nest of blankets and my cat son should do the trick. Tomorrow is a new day.

There is only forward. I am who I am. I am not what happened to me. I am still me. I am good. I desire and deserve love, even now.

On Hating Baseball, Passionately

I understand that baseball is America’s pastime. I understand the allure of drinking beer in the sunshine; in fact, that’s something that would constitute my sort of heaven. I understand how one might be intrigued by the significance of actually seemingly arbitrary statistics.

Even with that knowledge, I can’t help but just hate baseball.

Maybe it’s the ADHD. Or the fact that paying $8 for beer that will be warm and half spilled by the time I get back to my seat isn’t something that excites me. Or the fact that I can’t sit still for three hours watching tiny little men in pants run/stand around a giant lawn.

It’s probably that. I can do that for free pretty much anywhere.

I’m happiest when I’m trying to guess how fast the pitch is going to be. And even that loses its luster after like 7 minutes, or roughly 1/3 of an inning, which is like 3.8% of a game. (See, I did speculative math just to prove my point. That’s how intense my dislike is.)

Then what? Sunshine that I had to pay for? Or worse, a rain delay? Ha. I know we’re all terrified of the lightning strikes that have really just been a sweeping epidemic for baseball player deaths, but I think mud baseball would be way more interesting to watch. They’d slip and slide and it’d be way more interesting than the current quick jog to first and then maybe you’ll be out because you’re forced to run to second and everyone knows that’s where they’ll throw the ball. Oooh, double play. Interesting, for a split second. Much like a heart attack. Then back to the slow steady rhythm of the ball, strike, ball, strike, foul, ball, strike, ever consistent keeping of the count. It’s a baseline for boredom, an undercurrent of apathy, an elucidation of the reasons behind the effectiveness of Chinese water torture.

For some, it’s a near religious experience, a replacement for yoga, for meditation. For me, it’s nothing but sunburn and struggle.

My littles are going to the game today. My aunt told me that they get to go to school for the first half of the day and then they get to go to the game. They’re about 9 years old, and the little boy is the most passionate baseball fan I’ve ever seen. He loves it. He thrives on the game play, the player stats, the experience. I adore him, and I love that he loves it.

I finally understand how my mom feels about my cat.

Ah, well. I can avoid it as much as I like, which I do intend to keep doing. However, if I do find myself in a ballpark, I will be content to soak up sunshine and eat hot dogs, which are truly the only redeeming quality of the baseball experience.

(I’m mostly kidding – I do get bored easily, which is why baseball isn’t the sport for me. I don’t hate it as much as I pretend to, but I enjoy how riled up everyone gets when they’re defending it.)

On Writing About Breaking Up and the Aftermath, Emotionally (Because I Can)

I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I kept myself busy this weekend, trying to keep the mantra of “positive and productive” alive in my head to drown out the emotional white noise. I danced all night on Friday, went out to dinner with my brother and his girlfriend on Saturday, ran errands and took the dog to the dog park on Sunday. (I got to have the dog last weekend. It was lovely.)

Monday came, and then Tuesday, and with them, a surprising sense of lightness and joy. The days were great; the nights not so much. I’d not slept alone in a year and a half, and man, there’s some serious truth to the biorhythm thing. The nights are the worst. They stretch on forever.

Last night, it all caught up with me. I knew it was going to, but I’d been almost reveling in how calm I was, and I hadn’t prepared myself (not that I could have, really). The tears came, randomly, and then they wouldn’t stop.

I’m not going to fight this, I’d already decided that when the sadness engulfed me, I would let it happen. There isn’t anything but time that can fix these things. Even though I want nothing to more to keep muttering “be positive and productive” and channel everything into the future, I know that the pain of losing your other half is immense. And you have to let it happen or you end up bitter. I don’t want that. I have bitten off two of my nails, though, so the stress is starting to get to me.

I haven’t been good at eating or sleeping. I need those things, but right now, my body doesn’t want them. Tonight, I was going to scrub the house with wild abandon, and I’ve been unable to do much of anything. I did start some laundry, so there’s that.

Am I trying really hard to keep it “positive and productive”? Yes. Am I hurting? Yes. Is this for the best? Yes. Will it get better? It has to.

I know that I’m grieving, because the loss of any relationship is painful. I’m not pining for him or wishing he’d come home. But at the same time, I miss him. His nearness. Part of me keeps feeling that he’s just in the next room. The proximity sensors are so out of whack.

It’s just overwhelming for a million different reasons. The darkest part of me hopes he’s feeling as badly as I am. It’s just emotional pain on a totally different depth than I’m used to, and I’m not pleased that I’m feeling it. I don’t want to push it down because that will only create long-lasting and crippling complications, but I’m really sick of feeling it and it’s only been a week. I persuaded my therapist to ballpark a healing date and he said five weeks. He was very nervous about that, so don’t hold him to it, but when I asked him how long it takes normal people to get over a relationship and he said “several months to several years,” I think the look on my face forced him to reconsider. It was the “Oh, hell no!” look.

A friend said on Friday, “It’s just like skydiving. You’re ready to jump on 3 and they push you on 2.” That makes so much sense. So does the friend who told me that she had a boyfriend for five years whom she loved very much. The hardest part of their breakup was the realization that they would each become better people if they weren’t together. I think that’s going to be a piece of advice I cling to. I think we both stopped reaching and I think that being apart will allow us to grow as people.

When you think about it – or if you’d known us both – we are incredibly different people with different values systems. In the long run, there was no way we’d have been able to sustain a happy, successful relationship.  Just wasn’t going to happen.

Blerg blerg blerg. I get it. No one cares. Emotional pain is so self-contained. It’s this funny quality of the human condition, because when you’re experiencing a really strong emotion, all you want to do is share it, communicate it, get it out there, commiserate, be congratulated, be supported, be held, and so on. And yet, both extremes of happiness and despair are frowned upon. Because why should anyone be so happy? That’s some bullshit. And the sadness is not immediate to anyone who’s not forced upon it, so why dwell? No one wants to hear about it, because even though everyone’s been there, they’ve lost the ability to relate on that exact level. If they’re doing the support and commiseration or support and elation thing, it’s because they care, not because they feel it. They do get it, but they don’t get it, if you know what i’m saying. (You don’t. Think about that scene from “10 Things I Hate About You” when Bianca is trying to explain the layers of love, and she’s like, “I love my Sketchers, but I love my Prada backpack.” It’s like that. Never mind.)

It’s much like my mother’s motto for our teenage years: this too shall pass. And with it, so will the emotional reverberations. But for now, they’re bouncing around in my heart and the visceral reactions are alternating between frustration, triumph, anguish, and calm. It’s a hot mess happening in here. I’m okay with it. It’s good because it will lead to growth. But god, growth pains are the worst.