Filling the hole

In the minutes/hours/days after Maci’s death, I went on a grief-fueled shopping binge. Anything remotely spiritual, cat-related, grief-related, or (better yet) cat-grief–and-spirituality-related brought out an urge to spend, spend, spend. Over the course of two days, I’d spent several hundred dollars on things I wouldn’t likely never have bought otherwise, including making a number of small, spur-of-the-moment donations. The only thing that really stopped me from spending more is a lack of money.

I’d done something similar when my mother died, buying things that I’d hoped might help me to come to grips with the emotions I was feeling…I still haven’t finished reading most of the books I ordered during that period. (Hell, I haven’t even *started* reading most of them.)

Most of the things I ordered this time around won’t arrive for several weeks, but I’m already over the initial rush of gut-wrenching emotion that prompted their purchases. It’s the ultimate in binge buying. The act of shopping filled the aching void in my heart, made me feel like I was actually doing something at a time when I was feeling particularly helpless. (In the weeks before this, I’d been on a smaller buying spree, ordering things that might help me get Maci to eat more. Those items are now arriving in my mailbox and I’m finding myself now trying to figure out where I can donate them.)

The whole situation has me thinking about the issue of hoarding in general. Hoarding is the current topic du jour on TV, the new train wreck for all of us voyeurs. And most people cannot comprehend how a person gets to that point in their lives. I can. While I’m not (quite) at a point where I would be featured on one of those shows, I do live in constant clutter. Before this, the clutter made me kind of depressed. Now, it’s comforting in the sense that it muffles the emptiness that is Maci’s physical absence. It, like the binge shopping, fills the gaping hole in your heart. Of course, it’s a stop-gap measure that causes its own problems in turn that can be even worse than the grief, but at the time you’re not thinking about the future, just about stopping the pain or anxiety.

It’s done what I needed it to do, but I think it’s time to release the clutter, release the bubble I’ve wrapped around myself over the last few decades.

I have much to do, and time’s a wasting.

Tear-stained thoughts from a broken heart

Maci, my feline companion of 15 years, died on Saturday morning, just two days after my 46th birthday. He’s left an enormous hole in my heart, bigger than you would think such a little guy could leave. It was a sudden decision I had to make without prior preparation. He’d been losing weight and was little more than skin and bones, but I still never thought cancer. Maybe I was too wrapped up in grieving for my mother, and that’s something I can’t make up for.

On Wednesday, he had a brief moment where he couldn’t stand up — his back legs just wouldn’t support him — and I finally made an appointment with the vet. The back end problem went away, but he still wasn’t eating much. And he was just, well, “off”. I had reiki healing done on him on my birthday — to support him until our appointment on Saturday — and he spent pretty much the entire session in my arms or on my shoulder. It seemed odd at the time, but I think he knew by then what was going to happen to him. Me, I was firmly in denial. He was supposed to be around for at least a few more years, damn it.

On Saturday morning, as I was getting ready to go, he actually came out of the bedroom where he was sleeping, climbed up on a box of cat litter, and started nosing at his cat carrier, which was sitting on top of my laundry cart. He got into the carrier with little fuss. That should have been enough to warn me something was going on, but I brushed it off. At the clinic, he was less vocal and upset than he usually is and I had the thought that I should take him out of the carrier and hold him…but I didn’t want to stress him. I will always regret that I didn’t heed that impulse, because, looking back, I would have braved any amount of biting or scratching to have one last cuddle with him.

I’ve been reading Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s book “On Grief and Grieving” lately, trying to come to grips with the ongoing grief from my mother’s death in August. I was reading the book in the examination room while we were waiting for the vet to finish up with an emergency patient. I talked to Maci — he was mostly lying quietly, though he hissed when I moved anywhere near the carrier door. (I’d brought a blanket with me for him, but that really upset him for some reason, so I tucked it into my purse, out of sight.) I told him we were going to make him feel better….and I suppose we did, though it wasn’t at all the way I’d expected us to. In hindsight, I should be thankful for that long wait in the examination room as it was the last time I got to spend with my sweet boy while he was conscious.

The vet finally came and took him into the back for his examination. After several minutes, she came and brought me into the back with her. That’s when I knew things were going badly. Maci has to be — had to be — masked in order to minimize the trauma of vet visits and he was still masked and lying on the table. The vet had me feel the mass in his intestine — it was so long, but hadn’t been there in January at our previous visit. She recommended letting him go. It was like a punch in the stomach. It wasn’t a decision I’d expected to have to make that day and it broke me to make it. I stayed there until it was over — I’ll be getting his ashes in a wooden box with a name plaque on it later — and then left. I cried at the clinic and then managed to hold it back in until I got home and into my apartment. Then I started hyperventilating and I’ve been doing that pretty much ever since. It is unbelievably empty here without him.

A heavy thread of guilt underlies my grief for Maci that doesn’t exist under the continuing grief for my mother. Guilt because I was responsible for his care and quality of life: I should have noticed how serious things were sooner, I should have had my own shit together enough to have been able to afford regular vet care, I should have been a better companion. My mother controlled her own life and environment, but I alone am responsible for what Maci ate and what his environment was like.

He’d been sick for some time, but I had lots of reasons for not taking him to the vet when it all first started: unemployment and lack of money, not believing in the seriousness of the situation, putting it all down to getting older, not wanting to stress him out more with a vet visit, my own personal emotional issues…lots of excuses, but it all comes down to a failure of my responsibilities and, for that, I don’t think there is or can be forgiveness, certainly not from me.

Right now, I’m precariously balanced on a precipice. Do I use this powerful grief as a catalyst for change and growth, to honour the memories of this most beloved creature and my mother who preceded him? Do I just fall fully into the darkness? Or do I just continue to teeter forever in this sorrowful, apathetic limbo?

I know what my answer *should* be, but it’s too soon to say how it will actually play out.

Exploiting tragedy to boost your PR

Yesterday, Microsoft was largely — and rightly IMO — condemned for a now-apologized-for tweet they made in which they said that they’d donate $1 for every retweet (up to a maximum of $100,000) to Japanese earthquake relief efforts. It definitely got them a lot of publicity, most of it not so good. It took attention away from any legitimate (and non-PR-based) help Microsoft had actually offered in the face of the disaster.

Today, my Facebook news feed is full of people reposting a message from Explore.org, which urges people to like one of their Facebook pages and saying that they will donate $1 for every fan they get (up to a maximum of $100,000) to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.

They’re doing the same thing to capitalize on the unrest in Egypt by urging people to like another one of their Facebook pages, saying that they’ll donate $1 for every fan they get, up to $25,000, to the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals.

On the surface, that seems like a noble effort, raising awareness and encouraging people to help. However, for me the problem arises in how they’re doing it. In the comments on a post about the Dog Bless You page on Mashable, someone from Explore.org remarked, when people questioned using a disaster as a marketing device, “We want to encourage and inspire online communities to work together and take immediate action. We work with many non-profits and the more recognition we can bring to them the better!

That would be marvelous if they were actually bringing significant recognition to the non-profits they’re supporting. Rather than providing links to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation site (or its Facebook page) or to the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals site (or its Facebook page), they hinge these donations on people liking their own Facebook pages.  On each of Explore.org’s Cat/Dog Bless You Facebook pages, they only mention the sites of the actual organizations in unclickable, uncopyable text on the poster graphics, making it harder for you to visit those sites (and thus less likely that people will make the effort).

You know that Explore.org is going to make those donations to the organizations in question regardless, just like Microsoft did (and had always intended to) when it made that unfortunate tweet. You Liking their Facebook pages isn’t actually accomplishing anything that not Liking them would. If Explore.org was really all about raising awareness for those organizations, they’d have made it about increasing the number of fans for the organizations’ own Facebook pages instead of their own. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great that Explore.org plans to donate to both of those organizations and I don’t want to take anything away from that, but by tying it into increasing their own fan base, they proving themselves to be not a lot different from Microsoft.

If you really want to help National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals, you’ll go Like their Facebook pages (instead of or in addition to the Explore.org ones) and donate directly to them.

(Note: The lack of links to Explore.org or their Facebook pages in this post is deliberate.)

Indecisiveness

Today I received an invitation to attend a day-long big corporation design meeting at the end of March in Washington, DC, for a volunteer project that I’m passionate about. Flight, hotel, transportation, and most food paid for by the big corporation.

I know. That should be an easy decision, and that decision should be “Hell, yeah!”

But attending means taking one, perhaps even two, days off work (and no work means no pay for a contractor). That would be about 1/7 of my monthly pay I’d be giving up, which is a particularly big deal because of lingering financial issues related to my lengthy underemployment over the last year.

I don’t have a passport. I’ve never had a passport. I’d have to get photos taken, find a guarantor to vouch for me, and then apply for (and more importantly pay for) express passport processing. The fees are an issue right at this very moment, but more of an issue is the time — I’m in the middle of two fairly intensive freelance jobs at the moment (not to mention my “day” job) and just trying to figure out where to squeeze getting a passport in there stresses me even more than I’m already stressed out.

And there is the issue of leaving my cat alone. He’s old. He’s still unwell. Leaving him alone for a day wouldn’t be too bad (he’s already alone for half a day on days I’m working), but if I end up trying to mitigate the payment losses by going directly from the airport to work, then he’d be alone for almost two days.

I have to decide by end of day on Friday and I just don’t know. I’m truly torn, though I admit I’m leaning towards declining the invitation as that’s the option that eases my stress the most. But it would be a huge shame to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — the company isn’t likely to extend the offer again in the future, especially since it looks like almost no one who has been invited to attend in person will actually be able to go.

So…I just don’t know.

And I have less than two days to change that.

Word!

The NaBloPoMo theme for daily blogging this month is “In a Word”, wherein you’re supposed to choose a word and build a blog post around that word, whether it’s just a word that strikes your fancy at the time or one that describes your overall day. It’s up to each blogger to decide what exactly it means. (And you’re by no means required to stay within that theme — the point of NaBloPoMo is really to just blog every day, and the theme is a tool you can use to inspire you to do that.)

I’ve been AWOL from this blog for months now, posting only occasionally. So I thought I might try (once again — I haven’t succeeded yet, though that doesn’t stop me attempting it) taking part in NaBloPoMo this month. I like the idea of picking a word a day to blog about. It’s likely to mostly be a word describing my day or state of mind that day, but who knows.

Is the Universe conspiring against me?

I can’t seem to place an online order to save my life these past two weeks. Orders that normally would have been shipped within 48 hours sit for a week with no update and no shipping before I finally contact the companies and cancel the orders. And others are cancelled by the supplier because they discover too late that the item is out of stock and unobtainable. I got a new computer for my birthday (very early) and we couldn’t place the order online for either love or money.

I’ve never had such a hard time trying to spend money before and I have to wonder if Someone isn’t trying to tell me something.

“Stop shopping!”, perhaps.

30-day challenge to better health?

I frequently shop online at Well.ca, a Canadian online drug store whose prices are frequently better than local stores…and they offer free shipping with no minimum purchase requirements.

February at Well.ca is free sample month. And, unlike most free samples you get that are small, well, samples, several of the freebies offered by Well.ca are full-sized products. I placed an order recently and one of my free samples* was a 30-day supply of a new multivitamin with probiotics from Merck called Multibionta.

Multibionta makes the claims that it:

  • strengthens the immune system
  • optimizes digestive and intestinal health
  • reduces the duration of colds
  • reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms
  • reduces stress and exhaustion

Multibionta contains the usual daily multivitamin vitamins (A, D, E, C, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, B6, B12, folate, biotin, and pantothenic acid) and minerals (calicum, phospohorus, iron, magnesium, zinc, iodine, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, and selenium) as well as the following probiotics:

which they say will help with digestive health, possibly help alleviate allergy symptoms (lord, do I need that), may help with lactose intolerance (part of the digestive health aspects), and boost the immune system.

Sounds like exactly the kind of thing I could use. For ongoing use, they’re pretty expensive ($15 for a month supply) but I can well afford to try them out with the free 30-day supply. And if I like it, the freebie includes a coupon for $10 off the regular product.

If you’re interested in trying them out for yourself, you can get a 30-day supply for free if you spend $30 or more at Well.ca this month, or you can get a coupon on the Multibionta web site for $5 off. Then you can sign up for their Multibionta 30 Days to Great Challenge and be entered to win an iPad. I’ve signed up and I think I’ll try to get back into posting here on this blog after my long absence by posting about whether or not I’m feeling any benefits.

* Another freebie was an awesome echinacia cough and throat drop called Herbon, which was perfect timing, since I’ve had a cough for the last two weeks that just won’t go away.

I could just cry

Today was the first day of the new job. My feet and back are killing me. I keep aggravating the torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder. (It’s been a problem for months, and I’m starting to think it’s never going to heal completely.) I have had about 2 hours of sleep in the last 36 hours, I have about an hour of freelancing work to do before I can go to bed, and I have to get ready for another day of work in about 5 hours. I’m hungry and dried out because we can’t have food or liquid in the work area — in the last 24 hours, I’ve had a really mediocre slice of pizza, an O’Henry bar, two two-bite brownies, and a fraction of the water I usually drink. But I’m too tired to find something to eat.

After $500+ in vet bills last week, I’m force pilling my cat appetite stimulants in order to make him eat more and inspecting the litter box with the intensity of a gold miner, making sure everything is functioning properly. He seems to be doing better, but there are still some issues and he loses his appetite if I don’t keep pilling him.

Today, the power supply on my refurbished Dell computer (have I mentioned before just how much I hate Dell?) finally gave up the ghost and appears to have taken the motherboard out with it. (Please God let it be the motherboard and not the hard drive.)  I’m going to try to find a SATA external drive enclosure so that I can make sure the drive is functioning OK. Tried to scavenge from my old computer but old motherboard is old and doesn’t have any SATA connector. So I now have the innards from two computers spilled out on my desk, and still no functioning desktop. Still, knowing that the motherboard is fried would only be partly helpful. If the drive is OK, I’ll at least be able to retrieve some files that I hadn’t had a chance to back up. But I can’t afford to buy a new motherboard (or new computer) because I don’t get my first pay from this job until late February or early March (it’s a contractor job, where I get paid once a month, a month+ late). Which means that I’m going to have to either spend my off time at an Internet cafe in order to complete some freelance work I need to work on or I’m going to have to struggle to work on this Netbook.

If I wasn’t so tired and dehydrated, I’d cry.

A new year, a new start

I worked as a mainframe computer operator for the first 11 years of my post-educational work life. When I left the field in 1996, I was in a life expansion phase: I’d lost 25 pounds and was fitter than I’d been in years; I was feeling better emotionally and mentally than I’d felt in almost a decade; I was positively exploring my spiritual life; and I had definite and achievable goals for the work, personal, and educational aspects of my life.

Within a year, everything had started to gradually head south, and in the years since then, I’ve gained back all of the weight I’d lost (and a whole lot more), I’ve become a mental and emotional wreck, my personal life has been non-existent (generally through unconscious choice, as I turned myself into almost a shut-in), my work life has been highs and lows and a lot of unemployment, and I’ve almost completely lost track of the goals I’d had for myself because they take more energy, enthusiasm, and commitment than I can sustain.

The last year has been rough, with everything heavily colored by my mother’s illness and death and steady unemployment. You probably wouldn’t recognize it as depression unless you’ve experienced it before or known someone who has — most people think of depression as sadness, crying, moodiness, etc., but it frequently manifests itself in subtler ways. I’ve tried to convince myself that I’m not depressed. Some days it works, most days I lose the battle part way through the day.

But enough is enough.

I’ve been absent from my life for much of the last year — probably even longer — and my world (and my cat’s world) are the worse for it. Both of us now suffer from health issues that are most definitely à cause de moi. We both deserve better and I can only hope that I’m not coming to my senses too late for either of us. Depression or not, I have to get my shit together.

I aim for 2011 to be different — better — than 2010.

I start a new job in the new year, one that takes me back into the world of mainframe computer operations. And even though I’d always thought I’d never go back into ops, that it would be a step backwards if I ever did, it doesn’t feel like backsliding. Instead, it feels like I’m being given a do-over, like my life is being reset back to the last high point. It feels like I’m being set back on the right road after taking a lengthy detour.

So, this is the year for the mother of all resolutions — rebooting my entire life.

No, I’m not crazy. In fact, I may be more sane than I’ve been in a very long time.

(More details to come later, as I sort out what exactly “rebooting my entire life” encompasses.)

Trying animals on for size

My sister has a lovely, fluffy cat and a boisterous golden retriever that are very much loved members of her family. Two of her children have (finally!) left home, leaving just one behind, and all three are making noises about wanting to take the cat with them. (They’d take the dog, too, but he’s harder to accommodate in an apartment.)

Presumably my sister said the cat wasn’t going anywhere because the two oldest suddenly decided within the last week that they were going to get their own cats.

The oldest adopted a full-grown part Himalayan on November 2. Life was all love and mushiness that first day. Less than a week later, she’d decided he was badness and Hell personified and had given him away without a single regret. And now she’s talking about getting a kitten instead, because, you know, kittens are so much less work. (Interestingly, the reverse was the reason she’d initially decided to go with a grown cat.)

The other adopted a nine-week-old male kitten on November 4. He’s already frantically talking about how insane the kitten is and hoping that getting the kitten fixed will calm the little guy down.

*sigh*

I love both of those kids to pieces, but I find myself getting quite angry — at them for not taking the concept of animal stewardship seriously, at the people physically around them — family and friends alike — who didn’t tell them to step back and think before adopting another living creature, at my brother-in-law so many years ago for treating the lives of the two kittens they used to have so cavalierly and setting a very bad precedent. (Yeah, I’m never letting that one go.) Today, that brother-in-law’s sister told my niece that, hey, at least she cared enough to try. Bullshit. Six days is not trying and, no, you don’t get karma points for making a half-assed effort.

Too many people make the decision lightly, like buying a new piece of clothing. Cute little bunnies at Easter, puppies and kittens under the Christmas tree. Try them on for size. If they don’t fit or they mess up your carpet, just return them for a refund or give them away to someone else. It won’t matter to them, after all. They’re just dumb animals. They’ll adjust to being passed around.