The Vet let me take my kitty home last night, with some pain medicine and a vague hope that maybe she'd eat something once she wasn't in pain anymore.

So I was hopeful. Until the Vet called this morning. The final test came back, and it turns out her white blood cell count is horribly low. So We made an appointment to take her back into the doctor's for another test. This one was to see if she had either feline leukemia or kitty AIDS. Those being the most likely reasons for a low white blood cell count, apparently.

Apparently, she was also much calmer about getting her blood drawn this time around. And it only took ten minutes to get the test results back. She is evil illness-free, as far as we can tell. Luckily, it is NEITHER feline leukemia NOR kitty HIV. Unluckily, we still don't know what it IS. I have strict instructions from my Vet (who also owns a tortie) to call her with updates.

And LUCKILY, I have a very wonderful update to report. As soon as we got home, she got out of the cat carrier, wandered over to the wet food that has been sitting hopefully in my room for the past few hours, and licked it a few times before wandering back to her blanket in front of the space heater. FOOD!!! She ate a bite of FOOD!!! That's more than she's eaten of her own volition in three days! WAHHOOOO!!!!

And I have finally got some hope back that she'll recover from this insane trip of hers.
Thanks for all your good thoughts, everyone. We both needed them for a while. Maybe we still do. But at the moment, Abbigale is curled up on my bed in the sun pretending that her little fore-arm isn't shaved and listening carefully, just in case I venture over to the pain medicine again. Because, well, she REALLY LIKES that pain medicine.

So, basically, the only thing we know for sure is that she had some really painful gas, stopped eating, got really dehydrated, and is now hooked on pain killers. Not necessarily in that order. Life can be such a trip. ...sigh.


Loving Abbigale

My cat is in the Animal Hospital today. They're trying to figure out why she stopped eating and drinking two days ago, why her chest hurts, why she has a build-up of gas, why she's been puking and other grossness for the last 24 hours, at both ends. And how to make it all better.

I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to cope. She is a fixture in my life. She is one of my best friends, and my life-companion. She is only ten years old. And if she needs surgery to remove an obstruction in her bowels, I'm not sure I can pay for it.

I'm trying to figure out how to make my situation go away. How to have a job, or another credit card, so that I could have a hope of paying for this. I'm trying to figure out how I got so desperate financially that I would even consider NOT getting this $800-$2000 surgery for my Abbigale. I'm looking into donations from animal-rescue organizations. I'm looking into my credit card totals to see how bad they really are. I'm looking into payment plans. My vet is looking into some possible other cause for her illness.

I'm trying to cope with my sudden reality that I've already spent $600 on her medical care today, and that I really don't want to wake up without her tomorrow... and that it costs less to put my best friend to sleep than to heal her... but even that would be expensive. I'm really trying to cope with reality, but failing.

Because the reality is that she is my one ability to keep coping with my life. She gives me a reason to get up (even if it's a half-hour earlier than I wanted to get up), and she helps me sleep at night. She loves me unconditionally, and forgives me for being selfish and stupid from time to time. Nobody else does that. How can I weigh her life against something as stupid as two or three months' worth of rent payments.

I have some wonderful wonderful human friends-- and some of them have really been there for me when I've been in tight spots at various times. But believe me-- I've spent more time being content because SHE was content to be with me than I have just happy on my own account. So here it is.

The last few shreds of hope I have are that maybe the problem is something that can actually be fixed without surgery... or that I won the lottery last week and just don't know it yet. Because as much as I want the opportunity to earn my way-- I'm going to feel like shit if I get a good-paying day job within a few days or weeks of putting her to sleep for lack of funds.

I know that my desires are purely selfish here-- the desire to keep her alive, and the desire not to go into debt to do so. And I've realized, that as much as it's going to hurt-- whatever the outcome-- what I really want is for her to know I love her, and for her not to suffer. Whatever that means, I think I can make my peace with it. Eventually. After the heart-hurt eases a bit, and the empty spot starts to heal. I know I'm never going to fill her place in my heart.

Today, I'm just sitting around waiting for news, researching dead-end financial options and grant moneys for emergency pet care, and crying. At least, after I made the vet appointment last night, she and I had the whole night to lay together and cuddle on the bed. And even though she had to get off the bed to vomit and have diareah about five or six times, she always made her way back up to where she could sleep on my arm, curled into my side.

God, Goddess, please let her live.


Getting to know yourself...

It's an interesting challenge, slowing down long enough to make friends with ourselves. Usually, when we get into stressful situations at work or in our marriages, we try to ignore them by being too busy to care. We are often so afraid that the situation that is "going wrong" is somehow our fault. Nobody wants to be the bad guy.

So we hide from this imagined truth by adding more activities and commitments into our day. We take on more responsibilities, and we try to be "everything for everyone" in a few more peoples' lives. We watch more TV, and we stay up too late so we aren't awake enough to lie in bed and actually THINK before we go to sleep. We don't want to know.

We don't want to know our marriage is failing, or our work situation is unhealthy, or that our eating habits have brought us to this situation where we hate our bodies and indulge in comfort foods to feel better about everything. My dad doesn't want to know he has Alzheimer's. So after the first three tests came back clean, he decided he's FINE, and has refused any more tests.

With Alzheimer's, you keep doing the same tests over time to show deterioration of faculties, memory, etc. And it's a process of elimination. You take tests for everything else, and when you don't have any of the other diseases that involve memory issues, you have Alzheimer's. But my dad doesn't want to have that disease, so he tells me he's too busy to keep taking all those tests. And they cost a lot, too.

I find that we often use the family budget as another reason to let the status quo remain. We worry that being divorced, we wouldn't have enough money to support ourselves (and our children, if we have them). We worry that our partner wouldn't be able to take care of him or herself-- either physically or money-wise, or even emotionally-- if we weren't there with them.

The truth is that we are enabling unhealthy situations. My dad's mind is worth spending money to preserve. It's easy to make choices about our lives by refusing to act, by refusing to pay attention. And yet, by refusing to take responsibility for our own happiness, our own fulfillment, our own future... We are being complicit in our own suffering.

And what we THINK we would know about ourselves if we actually stopped to think about it-- stopped to look at ourselves clearly-- isn't always the reality. Maybe the marriage just needs more attention, and maybe if we stopped to notice what was missing, we could find a way to add it into the relationship. We could actually improve our marriage instead of ending it. We could actually value ourselves enough to make a healthier choice about our bodies or our food or our embodied stress or our right to be treated with respect.

Getting to know yourself is different from sitting down for a hate-fest of self-abuse and self-recrimination. That is called a pity-party. And it can be very destructive to sit and dwell on all the things we THINK are wrong with ourselves-- over and over again.

I'm talking about getting to know yourself. Looking past all the stories you've told (or been told) about how unkind, inconsiderate, passionless, closed-minded, stupid, fat, etc etc etc we supposedly are. Looking at our lives without the drama for a few minutes. You went to school, and did well there. You are a wage-earner for the family. You budget well with the money you have. There may not always be enough money, but your budgeting is not at fault for that. You are loving and you put others' needs before your own MORE often than is actually healthy for you-- and there is nothing selfish or self-centered about that. You value your friends. You have tons of awesome skills, and a really great sense of humor. You are worth knowing.

Often, the foods we eat (or don't eat) when we are feeling bad about ourselves and our lives are not indulgences-- they are punishments. We try to punish ourselves for "failing" by giving ourselves reasons to be unhappy with our choices. Eating too much, eating unhealthy foods, refusing to eat anything at all. We express our discontent by contributing to our own physical deterioration, as a punishment for being imperfect. For being human.

And the truth is that we are all human. That perfection is boring. That there are valid solid serious reasons to love and appreciate each person on this earth-- including you. Do you kill for fun? Do you have a spare-closet-full of expensive clothing you've never even de-tagged so you could wear it? Do you eat puppies for breakfast and drink the blood of virgin sacrifices for dessert? Do you tell evil lies about your coworkers to get them fired? I think not.

What does your mental picture of a good, likeable person look like? Don't think about you for a minute here-- I know you've got that ready list of dislikes in your back pocket, and we're circumventing those for the moment. Jumping right past them without looking down. What are traits you value in your friends and/or mentors? Write a list of things you appreciate in real-live people around you. Yes, we like Mother Theresa for her selfless life... but it's hard to say what made her likeable as a person if you didn't actually know her personally.

Remember to add in those silly jokes your son makes just in time to break (or distract) family tensions-- the ones that keep everyone from arguing about who spent more on the credit cards this month. Remember how much you enjoy that one friend who says outrageous things and makes you laugh. Remember the guy at work who ALWAYS brings his lunch, and then gives his cookie to the girl at the front desk. Remember that the things that make a person lovable aren't always super-human.

Have your list? Okay. Now, add five numbered spaces at the bottom. Here is where I want you to pull out the "what I hate about me" list from your back pocket. What five things about yourself are you most annoyed or disappointed by? What do you most wish you could change about yourself? What do you spend the most time being angry or disappointed in yourself about? Just put down five that you're really dwelling on this week. We numbered the spaces because you have to pick five. Not six.

Don't agonize over this. It's an exercise in getting perspective. This is not the list that God will use to decide if you are worthy of heaven. (I don't mean to be flippant or derogatory-- and I don't mean to be exclusively Christian. I'm giving you perspective on making your list of five things you wish you could change about yourself.)

Now take that list (the list of things you'd like to be, and the things you think you are) to a few folks who love you, and who you trust to be brutally honest with you anyway. Ask them how this list compares to the way they see you. Trust their responses. Trust that THIS IS HOW YOU COME ACROSS TO OTHERS. You may be shocked to discover how many good traits people already think you possess. How strongly they disagree with your list of five negatives about yourself. You may notice how badly out of proportion you've blown these supposed faults of yours, and how little credit you've given yourself for your accomplishments and good traits.

Our self-awareness, our ability to see ourselves and judge our own merit realistically often gets thrown off-center. The more we dwell on our short-comings, the more our minds turn them into monsters. We may occasionally indulge in a latte or a new pair of winter shoes. This does not make us spend-a-holics. We may occasionally express a preference to our spouse. That does not make us selfish or mean.

In fact, it's pretty hard to be self-confident and proactive about our lives if we don't know what we do and don't want-- if we fail to have preferences and set healthy boundaries for ourselves and our interactions with others. If we don't know who we are, nor acknowledge what we are capable of. Self-confident successful men and women have opinions and a strong sense of purpose. They have goals, and they succeed because they make decisions and take actions accordingly.

We can be considerate of our partners and coworkers without being subservient-- without being slaves to their preferences and opinions. We can be gentle and loving without basing our lives on the premise that we are here to make someone else happy. The only person who can make you happy is you. The only person who can make your grumpy coworker happy is your coworker. It's okay to ask for-- or offer-- help. It's okay to have bad days. We all do. But it's vital that we don't give away our power to make positive changes in our own lives.

It's vital that we acknowledge our own success, our own skills and abilities. It's vital that we befriend ourselves enough to forgive--and learn from-- the occasional mistake. Would you expect of your most loved and respected mentor or friend the perfection and strict adherence to certain "rules" that you expect of yourself in your daily life? Maybe it's time to be your own friend. To give yourself a break, and acknowledge all the things you actually do right.

You are an amazing person. Take a few minutes to slow down and find out why the people you appreciate also appreciate YOU. And then decide if your marriage is over or your work situation is hopeless or if you don't deserve to have nice friends. Maybe all you need are some tools to help you take responsibility for meeting your own needs, expressing your own truth, reclaiming your own power to make positive changes in each of these situations.

Get to know yourself. You're worth appreciating.