Category Archives: Social Issues

Focus on the Cans

I’m trying, but all I see are Can’ts

I actually started this piece at the beginning of all this Covid-19 quarantine business and I was full of optimism and advice on ways to stay positive and healthy (both physically and mentally) through the challenge. Then I just got sick of seeing articles on those subjects so I put mine on the back burner, guessing that you all were also suffering from Quarantine Pollyanna Fatigue Syndrome, otherwise known as Thhhssbbbpp!

Now, we are all also subject to Quarantine Misinformation Fatigue Syndrome and Quarantine Political Battle Fatigue Syndrome (at least in the States, we are). It’s exhausting and it’s ridiculous, amirite?

Still, we have to deal with it all. So, how?

At first, I was taking my Labrador retriever Stella for a walk around the neighborhood every day and I was doing something else outside every day – weeding flower beds, clearing deadfall, arranging supplies, whatever. On rainy days, I was working on indoor projects – organizing drawers, closets, etc., and taking donations to thrift stores, ripping up damaged carpet, removing damaged sub-flooring, cooking and freezing tasty, healthy meals for my sister, and spring cleaning. I was also calling my dad every day to chat and I usually called at least one other person just so I could talk to people. (My sister works nights; so, we don’t talk very much most days.) And that was working nicely.

Until my allergies struck.

My sister has a lot of allergies that attack her sinuses, make her sneeze, and leave her with a stuffy head. My allergies go straight to my lungs. I don’t normally have a stuffy head, but my lungs will clog, leaving me with a deep, wet cough. The coughing fits are sometimes so bad that I can’t get air back in, which leaves me lightheaded and panicky. The cough also makes me very tired. The fits are scary from my perspective, but they are apparently terrifying to listen to. My sister is constantly afraid that I’m just going to either keel over or cough up a lung.

Most years, taking an allergy pill nightly keeps the whole cycle under control; however, after two mild winters, this Spring has been an allergy killer in Middle Tennessee. The topography of the region doesn’t help since we sit in sort of a bowl in the middle of the state. Allergens and pollutants get in this bowl and just linger for. ev. er.

I will be okay and able to breathe fine for a day or two, then I’ll do something stupid like go outside for an hour and I’ll be right back to sounding like a TB ward. I need to mow my back yard. I enjoy mowing my back yard. But, I know that if I do it – even wearing a heavy-duty mask – I won’t be able to breathe. I need to finish removing the damaged sub-floor so I can put the new floor in. But, if I am in that room for more than a few minutes, the mold spores still there get me and I’m screwed. It is incredibly frustrating.

Frustrating AND infuriating. I have never thought of myself as particularly delicate or vulnerable; but, this lung thing makes me feel that way and it makes me SO angry! For all the things I want to do and need to do, my lungs are throwing up a big CAN’T when I want and need a big, ole CAN.

Most of the time, I think that the answer to any challenge can be found in the perspective with which you approach it. However, this one is kicking me in the teeth, friends. I can’t seem to get a good perspective so I’m asking you:

How do you approach your CAN’Ts so that you can see your CANS?

Keeping it Real or Keeping it Quiet

Yesterday I wrote something on my personal Facebook page that reflected a very deeply held belief of mine – very deeply held. However, it was inappropriate for me to make that post. I’m not going to say what it was and I have since deleted it because I realized that I really should have just kept my face shut.

Last week, I mentioned Brene Brown and her book Dare to Lead. In that book, she advises everyone to have a “square squad” a very small group of people (whose names will fit on a 1-inch by 1-inch piece of paper) whose opinions matter to you. Those are the people you listen to, not the people in the cheap seats who have something to say about anything and everything you do. You listen to only a select few who will tell you that you are “outside of your integrity” on some action. That’s another phrase Brene uses – outside your integrity. There is so much packed into that! And to say that “you are outside” your integrity is much more applicable than to say that “you are wrong.”

What I posted yesterday wasn’t wrong; however, it was harsh and edified no one. It was unnecessary. It was outside my integrity.

I used to watch the show America’s Next Top Model (complete guilty pleasure and intellectual bubble gum). I stopped watching after the season featuring an aspiring model from the Bronx. This girl was just mean as a snake! Hateful and spiteful for no reason. Her reason was that she was just “keeping it real.” The things she said might have been true, but they didn’t need to be said. Nothing was gained by saying them and no one would have been hurt had those things remained unsaid. Likewise, nothing was gained by my comments yesterday and no one would have been hurt had those things remained unsaid.

The world, in general, spends so much time spewing negative energy at us, right? It’s exhausting! I try really hard to be a source of positive energy. I failed yesterday. For the two members of my Square Squad who gently called me on it – Thanks.

Now. Here’s hoping next time I will pause, stay inside my integrity and keep my face shut.

Right Here, Right Now

My friend Joey sold ad time at a radio station right after we got out of college. He asked me to do a voice-over for him one day since a client wanted an Australian accent and I was the only person that he knew who could mimic one (passably enough for late 1980s Starkville, MS, anyway). Thus began my short career in radio voice-overs. Since there was such little work involved for me, I took CDs and concert tickets as payment. It was a great arrangement that got me tons of tunes and got me in to see Heart and Jesus Jones where my worlds collided. (I was a chemistry lab teaching assistant at a local high school. Some of my students walked up to me at the outdoor show. Honey! You have never seen a cigarette get flicked and beer dumped so fast! I don’t know why I thought my students shouldn’t know that I drank and smoked, but I did and so jettisoned those articles at warp speed! If you were at the show at Malfunction Junction and were suddenly soaked, my bad!)

But, I digress. (Imagine!) One of Jesus Jones’s biggest hits was Right Here, Right Now. The first couplet of the chorus is, “Right here, right now / there is no other place I want to be.” And, although I sometimes have romantic notions about living in some simpler time, the truth is that I also want to live right here, right now. Every morning when I wake, I am thankful for modern advances, specifically in vision correction. I cannot see more than five or six inches before my vision gets blurry. Without glasses, I would be largely helpless. I am so grateful that I have access to tools that allow me to continue to function. Glasses are not the only daily tool I use to function, either.

As I’ve mentioned on many occasions, I have been treated for depression for over half of my life. A large part of my treatment was and continues to be pharmaceutical. And, although I have been taking my meds throughout all of my recent trials, I was still overwhelmed; so, I went to see my doctor – another reason I’m glad to live in this time. The doctor changed some dosage amounts and times around. I began to feel the effects within just 24 hours. Wonderful!

Now, here I am, several days later and feeling 100% better. I’m sleeping with only one or two interruptions rather than waking up every hour or so. I’m no longer craving sugar to the point of eating roughly 4000 calories every day (Y’all, I wish I were exaggerating. No Ho-Ho or Ding Dong was safe within a half a mile of me.) My stomach is once again communicating with my brain letting me know when I’m full. My mood and perceptions are once again stable. I don’t feel like I’m on the verge of tears all the time. It’s really wonderful!

I think of my Self as a castle that sits inside the fortified walls of my mind and emotions. Negative people and stress can deteriorate those walls. People whose endocrine systems function normally can manufacture the materials needed to repair the walls. To a lesser degree, I can, too. However, people with both normal and abnormal endocrine systems may find their fortifications overwhelmed by circumstances. Last week, I mentioned coping mechanisms, finding ones that work for you, abandoning ones that don’t or ones that are harmful, and seeking help when you need it – when your fortifications are being overwhelmed. Sometimes meds are the help we need, sometimes it’s counseling. But, somehow, we think of seeking counseling as some sort of character or moral failing.

Ummm.

Generally, I seek counseling when I’m puzzling through some situation I’ve never encountered and don’t know how to handle. So, it’s rather like reading the instructions in complicated flat pack furniture. Is it a character flaw to read those instructions to put together something I’ve never constructed before? Only a stubborn fool would insist that it was. So, how is seeking help to get through an unfamiliar situation any different? I just don’t see it.

Similarly, people often see it as shameful to admit that they are taking anti-depressants. Why? Are people with Type 1 diabetes ashamed to admit that they take insulin? Their bodies don’t make it. It’s not their fault. It’s just how their endocrine systems function, or rather, don’t function. The same thing is true for people with many mental conditions. These are actually endocrine system issues that express themselves through the mind. They can produce brilliance in the minds of some of the Selfs that carry them like in Van Gogh, Hemingway, and Poe. But they create misery in the minds of all of the Selfs that carry them. Perhaps those artists would not have created had they had access to today’s medications. Perhaps they would have.

In any case, I am grateful to have access to today’s medications and tools and to be right here, right now.

The Contradictions of Grief and learning to call the wolves

A friend of mine sent a text just to check on me Monday. At first, I told her that I was fine; but, then I told her the truth. Grief is a strange thing. When you are dealing with the grief of losing a job, some days you wake up like, “Ooh-rah! New challenge! Let’s do this!” Other days you feel like you’re just circling the Drain.

I admitted to her that Monday was a Drain day for me. As it happened, it kind of had been for her, too. She is grieving the death of her sweet 19.5-year-old Yorkshire terrier Pedro. It was a great comfort to me to know that I wasn’t circling the Drain alone and I appreciated both her text and her honesty more than she knows.

I once knew a woman who would regularly quote Jeevan Pradhan by saying, “If you… throw me to the Wolves… Then I will come, leading the pack…” When she said that, you could almost hear P!nk and Gwen Stefani singing bra-burning, Helen-Reddy-style, ooh-rah, feminist power anthems. And there are days when I feel exactly like that – a Dharmesh Agravat “You can’t throw me to the Wolves for they come when I call” kind of feeling. Then there are days when I feel like the chewing gum stuck to the roller rink floor.

In my current situation, no one threw me to the Wolves – it was just a business thing. It happens. This process might actually be easier for me if there was someone I could target with my anger, but there just isn’t, which kind of sucks, too. Anger is a stage of grief and my stage really wants a target. The fact that it doesn’t have a solid one increases my frustration, which makes me even angrier. It is wholly unsatisfactory to be angry at a Situation. But, that is where I find myself. UGH! What a completely ridiculous cycle – and one that I must break if I am to ever call the Wolves.

I am a huge fan of the band Disturbed, a Disturbed One, as the band says. They recorded a song called The Light which is a personal favorite for several reasons, not least of which is the drum track. (a-MAZE-ing) I recommend listening with headphones to really appreciate everything going on in there. I also recommend reading the full lyrics, which I’ve included below. The line that I keep repeating to myself on my Drain days is: Sometimes darkness can show you the light. It’s a hopeful thought for surviving the Drain days on my way to creating more Ooh-rah! days. As I concentrate on the Light and understand the lessons of the Darkness, I’ll learn to call the Wolves.

Then, before you know it, I’ll be back, leading the pack.

Like an unsung melody
The truth is waiting there for you to find it
It’s not a blight, but a remedy
A clear reminder of how it began
Deep inside your memory
Turned away as you struggled to find it
You heard the call as you walked away
A voice of calm from within the silence
And for what seemed an eternity
You’re waiting, hoping it would call out again
You heard the shadow reckoning
Then your fears seemed to keep you blinded
You held your guard as you walked away

When you think all is forsaken
Listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light

An unforgivable tragedy
The answer isn’t’ where you think you’d find it
Prepare yourself for the reckoning
For when your world seems to crumble again
Don’t be afraid, don’t turn away
You’re the one who can redefine it
Don’t let hope become a memory
Let the shadow permeate your mind and
Reveal the thoughts that were tucked away
So that the door can be opened again
Within your darkest memories
Lies the answer if you dare to find it
Don’t let hope become a memory

When you think all is forsaken
Listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light, beautiful

Sickening, weakening
Don’t let another somber pariah consume your soul
You need strengthening, toughening
It takes an inner dark to rekindle the fire burning in you
Ignite the fire within you

When you think all is forsaken
Listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light

Don’t ignore, listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness
Can show you the light

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Dan Donegan / David Draiman / Kevin Churko / Mike Wengren
The Light lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Happy New Year, Loki.

(You jerk.)

Loki with a fishing net
A Norse mythology image from the 18th-century Icelandic manuscript “SÁM 66”, now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland. Image uploaded from http://www.sagnanet.is and turned, cropped and color-corrected with The GIMP Version 1.2.3.

In early December, I told a group of friends that the worst thing that had happened to me in 2019 was that I lost a few vacation days. In my mind, I was displaying gratitude that my year had been so good. I thought I said “thank you” to the universe; but, Loki heard me say, “Loki, son of Leufey (Norse gods always hear insults as mentioning their fathers) eat dirt! Nanny-nanny-boo-boo!” So Loki turned to Baldr and said, “Hold my mead.”

Within two weeks of my pronouncement, my roof was leaking, I found out that my son could not come to visit at Christmas, I had a cold, and my dog died. Seriously?!

To say that I was thrown for a loop would be an understatement. I cried for several days over my first Christmas apart from my son. Then, I cried for several more days over my Ellie girl who was geriatric but apparently perfectly healthy on Saturday and dead by Thursday because she seemed to just decide that she was done and she refused to eat. The truth is that although I’ve been feeling sorry for myself for a couple of weeks, to pretend that I am not enormously fortunate would be disingenuous, at best.

I am an educated, white woman living in the United States; so, I enjoy safety and privileges I have not earned.  No bombers are dropping ordinance in my comfortable neighborhood. I have not been accused of any crimes that I have not committed. I have a wonderful job that pays me enough to own my home and enjoy the luxury of pets. Although I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire, I have family and friends aplenty who love me. The truth is that, like so many of us living in industrialized nations, I have no real complaints – regardless of what advertisers tell me. (Except perhaps that I am idiotic enough to tempt Loki AGAIN.)

Here are wishes for myself and for others who are as fortunate as I:

  • May we always acknowledge our blessings.
  • May we seek not only knowledge but also wisdom.
  • May we be honest, yet compassionate.
  • May we love others the way we say we do, and
  • May Netflix give us another season of Henry Cavill in, well, anything.

Amen.

Object Permanence and Animal Rescue

Why I suck at fostering animals.

Object permanence is typically acquired when human infants are between four and seven months old. At this point, the baby understands that, although she can’t see something, that thing is still there.

I think I may have been absent that day.

Just before Christmas, I arrived home one day to see a new cat peering at me from the vent to the crawl space under my house that the ferals keep knocking out. It looked like a pretty small cat – likely female and less than a year old. It had a pretty little blue and white face and, when it turned, I could see that it had no tail. I thought I’d call it Bob. Except that everyone has a bobtailed cat named Bob, right? So, I called it Les instead.

As you know, I have a feral colony around my house that I have fed for several years. Our Mommie and Twin have been with me for six years now while other cats have appeared and disappeared over time. I see strange kitties on the regular, but I don’t see most of them for very long. Fast forward a couple of weeks. Les was hanging out beside the house when I got home. It meowed at me and I meowed back. That baby lit out at a run towards my feet! “You speak the language!” it seemed to say. Anyway, long story short, it was isolated in the house that night. Turned out, it was a she. I posted her photo all over the place and took her to a local facility to check for a chip. No joy; however, the lady that scanned her had just lost her 14-year-old cat and said that she would take Les if we couldn’t find her people and if she wasn’t pregnant. Several days later, we had her spayed, vaccinated and tested for kitty leukemia and kitty AIDS. (Both tests were negative.) With a clean bill of health, the lady confirmed that she still wanted Les and the dread began to build in my chest.

I have too many cats – five in my house now. I can’t afford any more. Still, I started crying early this afternoon and was literally sobbing just after I let Les go. Her new lady will love her and she will have a great life, I’m confident; however, to me, she just died. I left her and will never see her again; so, for me, she’s dead and I’m grieving that, as silly as it sounds. I did the same thing with O’Malley, a feral kitten my sister and I caught and I socialized and fostered. Both kitties will continue to exist outside my sight. O’Malleywill continue to snuggle in the crook of your arm. And Les will continue to pounce on unattended spectacles and wag her tail stump like a puppy. Both cats will be loved and cared for and will live much better lives that they would have as ferals.

I know that, but I don’t feel that. My heart is just crushed. Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of this fostering stuff.

Probably not.

Please spay and neuter your animals.

 

The Burden of Knowing

I’m a cat person. I have been since I was around four years old and (directly against my mother’s instructions) I started feeding the stray cat that showed up at our house. Her name was Missus and she was a beautiful blue cat with a little white badge on her chest that looked pink. She lived outside and let only my dad and me pick her up. She tried to have several litters of kittens but the litters were always really small and none of the kittens ever survived. She would grieve over those lost babies the way I grieved over her when, one day her heart just gave out. I was away at camp and Dad found her by the pump house shed where we put her food. I was eleven or so when she died and I mourned her deeply.

We lived outside the city limits – not in the country, exactly, but certainly not in a neighborhood. Missus had likely been put out or dumped by someone. That happens all too frequently. People can’t keep their pets anymore for whatever reason and they just put them out somewhere. Many go feral. Many die. But, if they are lucky, they find a disobedient four-year-old……or the 51-year-old she grew into.

For several years now, I have had four cats living in my house and, as much as I love them, I will tell you quickly that four cats is two too many. Bodhi and Wallace are great pets, but Link and Lucy are still pretty feral. I keep them because they are too tame to live outside, but they are too wild to be adoptable. I’m afraid that no one else will love them right if I don’t keep them. So, I had four cats.

Had.

IMG_20181115_154455_675.jpg

This summer, my sister and I were completing our daily steps when we saw this bedraggled, medium-haired cat approaching us. I could see her mouth moving to make mewling sounds, but no sound came out. After some time of getting to know her, we picked her up and brought her home. My sister and I do some trap, neuter, and release with the ferals in my neighborhood; so, we took this cat to be vaccinated, evaluated and sterilized before we released her back into the area. Except that didn’t happen. Her exam revealed that she had already been both spayed and declawed! She also has a cleft palate and has neither upper nor lower incisors. This cat has no weapons. It’s no wonder she was at half a healthy weight! After months of failing to find her family and of working with her, she has been introduced into my clowder, which now numbers five. Here’s the thing, though – I don’t want five cats.

In recent conversations with both my friend Sean and my dad, I’ve admitted that I don’t want five cats. Both of them suggested that I take her to the pound. Here’s the thing, our shelter is not a no-kill shelter. Tests show that the cat has neither kitty AIDS nor kitty leukemia and they show that her kidney function indicates an age of between 12 and 15 years. I am afraid that if I surrender her, they will kill her and it’s not her fault that she was made defenseless then lost or abandoned. Both Sean and my dad pointed out that it’s not my fault, either, and they are right. Here’s the thing, though: I know. I know she’s old and defenseless. I strongly suspect that a shelter will put her down. I know that the likelihood of a life-ending event is great if I don’t care for her. I know that and I can’t do that to her.

Ignorance is bliss, right?

But, I’m not ignorant. So, Drue is the fifth member of the clowder. She’s a good old lady who, even without claws or incisors, shreds toilet paper like a master. I suspect that I should have named her Magda because she has turned out to be such a Tartar – running the other cats off the bed and away from the food with nothing more than a menacing glare and an imposing hiss. At the same time, the old lady is a snuggler and I often wake to find her curled up by my legs during the night. She is easy to love and I will love her for as long as she has left because I am a Cat Lady and because there is a burden that comes with knowledge. In this case, the burden weighs eight pounds.