The Shadow

It has been 10 days since my last confession. A lot has happened in those 10 days.

But let’s back up for a minute. I very briefly hinted at a new addition to our family in a post about a month ago. It’s a bit of an involved story.

Veruca and I had seen a little black cat up for adoption at our local pet store. Its name was Raven. She was adorable. The information card on her cage explained that her one eye “gets goopy” sometimes, but it “doesn’t affect her health.” I wondered about it as we left the store and V was begging me to put in an application. I had reservations about it, especially about the eye. Long story short – eventually we did.

The day I picked her up, the staff there wasn’t expecting me. They had to call someone to verify, and then they rifled through a file for her paperwork. When I saw it I told them it wasn’t the right one, although it fit her description, because this paper was for a male cat. He IS a male, they said. I was sure he was a she, because everyone including the guy who handles the adoptions referred to her that way. A few minutes and a short physical examination later, we confirmed that he was, in fact, a he.

So he came home. The kids were ecstatic. Oliver, not so much. At barely seven pounds, he moved through the house like a ninja. One minute he was there, and the next – gone. So we named him Shadow. He was not fond of being held – like a toddler who has just learned to walk. Opac was the first to draw him in. He laid on the floor until Shadow came up to him and allowed himself to be loved on.

His eye would occasionally get “watery” and he’d blink a lot. The adoption guy told me that it was “congenital” and that as long as it didn’t become pus-y or mucus-y, that he was fine. I made an appointment with our vet to follow up after he seemed to develop something resembling a cold.

She put him on antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection, ointment for his eye for conjunctivitis, and drops for his ears because he had ear mites. And he was not a good patient. He defined fighting “tooth and nail.” We double-teamed him on the antibiotic – one of us wrapping him tightly in a towel and the other squirting the dropper down his throat, all in less than 20 seconds.

But Shadow kept getting worse. He breathed loudly, like he was congested, and he snored when he slept. He sounded terrible when he ate, like he couldn’t breathe through his nose. Worried, I called the vet. We took him the next day and she took a closer look. His blood studies from the first visit were normal. His x-ray showed clear lungs. She suspected a polyp in his nasal passage, but she was reluctant to let it go and sent us to the emergency hospital a half hour away.

Animal ERs are just as busy and the wait just as long as human ERs. Veruca and I arrived about 8 p.m. and we didn’t leave until 1 a.m. Shadow was examined and x-rayed in more detail under a sedative, and placed in an oxygen tank to allow him to breathe better. The vet on duty told me the estimated costs associated with removing the suspected polyp – around $2600 – and I damn near fainted. Money I don’t have and can’t afford. The alternative was euthanasia, and I started to cry. V didn’t know what that was and after I explained it to her, she started to cry. I opted, come hell or high water, I was not putting this cat down. I would find a way to pay for it. They started the procedure and she couldn’t find the “stem” of the polyp, she said, and he would need to have surgery the next day with an internist.

We requested to see him before we left. He was lying on his side in the oxygen cage, still sedated, his one little paw taped up with an IV attached, and a soft blanket over him. He looked every bit the baby who stole our hearts just weeks ago. I reached out and stroked his soft head and back, trying to hold back the tears that had already washed my mascara away hours before. V pet him too, and together we walked out to the car, feeling relieved that he’d be fixed in the morning and would be able to come home later. It was the last time we saw him.

 

 

Not Always How It Looks

I’ve had a plethora of thoughts about my next post, one of which was planned last week on a topic that has long bothered me about the business I’ve grown up in. I didn’t get it written before the weekend, and damn if it didn’t happen again and it not only pissed me off that it happened again, but that if I wrote about it NOW, someone would assume it was because of THEM. So, I’m putting that post off for a few days while I process some other stuff. Yes, I’m cryptic sometimes. Deal with it.

I went to bed last night exhausted, but my brain wouldn’t shut off and I was turning over some thoughts about Life. Profound thoughts, some with sadness, some with gratitude, and some with just more questions. I fell asleep then and, as always happens, those great thoughts got sucked into the black hole of my dreams and it may take me a few days to conjure them up again. Am I being cryptic again? Okay – I’ll be direct – just this once.

Exhausted – because one of my BFFs came for two days and we didn’t get much sleep. Profound thoughts – because a friend from high school just lost his battle with cancer two days ago.

But before all of that, I was putzing around this closed group I joined under the probably somewhat misguided notion that we were all there because we were fans of a certain blog. Which is mostly true, but many of the posts mentioned troubled lives, inability to get out of bed and/or leave the house, insecurities, and so on. One girl posted how her life was so messed up while everyone else on Facebook is living the dream and have families and kids and great jobs… you know the story.

We all know the story. Who hasn’t been on Facebook and seen how great some people’s lives are? And maybe felt like, wow – I wish my life was like that/better.

Well, here’s a newsflash: NOBODY’s life is perfect. And I told her so. I also told her that social media is a place where one can be whoever they want the world to see. People do it every day.

A friend gushes on and on about how smart her kids are, how they made distinguished honors again, and what great athletes they are. Another calls her husband the best husband ever because he did something nice for her – maybe he brought flowers home, or made dinner and took care of the kids one night. Another travels all the time to wonderful places.

About seven years ago I reconnected with a friend who – in a nutshell – was living her dream. Great job, great husband, beautiful house, beautiful kids, lots of great friends. I felt a pang of jealousy, mingled with joy for her at having those things that she so deserved after years of struggle. It was another card stacked against the deck I was living in back then. I couldn’t ignore the feeling of, why can’t I have all of that too?

Appearances are deceiving. Some people gush to cover up their own shortcomings, insecurities, or fears that they don’t measure up to “the dream.” Some of those people will experience divorce, illness, job loss, money and stability, loss of a parent or loved one, or – heaven forbid – the loss of a child. The mother who gushes over her children? She has lived the last 18 years without her mother. The friend who has money and is always traveling? Lives a lonely single life and is struggling to find love.

I write a lot about my own life. People who know me personally, know who I really am. I write tough sometimes. Sometimes funny. Sometimes I write about my weaknesses. I try to be honest. I live in a nice home, drive a nice car, have beautiful kids, wonderful friends and neighbors, and the love of my life. Gushing?

No. I count my blessings. Because 7 years ago my life looked very VERY different… and I was the one wishing it could look more like hers, or his. And I am not so naïve to believe that anything can change in an instant. And that – my friends – is a truth I will share today. Inside myself lives a terrible fear of losing those who are most precious to me. I don’t focus on it, and I push it down, but it is the demon who occasionally whispers my darkest fears.

I have this God-awful anxiety that I cannot explain, that came to roost in the cobwebs of my sanity and steals my inner peace with wordless whispers. Not every minute of every day. But it’s there. My life is far from perfect. It may look like it is, to outsiders. I struggle with bills, I don’t work enough or earn enough of my own money. I have debt. A lot of it. It’s not Todd’s burden, but mine.

I don’t get enough quality time with my kids. I don’t get enough quality time with Todd. I wish I could travel more. I wish I had money saved for college. I wish I hadn’t given away 13 years of my life to abuse and unhappiness. I wish I didn’t still hear his critical voice in my head. I wish I didn’t have to work weekends. I wish my knees didn’t hurt, and that I could run again. I wish I was more this, and less of that. I wish, I wish, I wish.

And all any of that does, to repurpose a meme – is steal today’s joy. Which is my long-winded way of saying:

  1. The grass is NOT always greener on the other side and
  2. Don’t believe everything you hear/read.
  3. Don’t kick yourself for what you haven’t done. Do what you wish you could.
  4. Nobody’s life is “perfect.” The only world that’s perfect is heaven.
  5. Count the blessings you DO have. (In religion-speak, that means you praise God for what He has done for you. You reap what you sow.)

 

I’ll just leave this here…

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

~ Walden, Henry David Thoreau