Friday, August 12, 2011

A day in the life....

Sety Spaghetti, disappeared 12/10
Hathor, 7/11/09

M'Nubis, aka Fluff Bunny, 8/11/11

Heru the Pooh, 7/26/11

There are times when all you can do is to bleed, when the concatenation of bits and pieces and scads and blobs and effing boulders of stress just landslide down on you and eat you alive. Today was one of those days.

After I had Heru put to sleep a couple of weeks ago—my baby!—I knew that I had to take steps to get the other cats checked up and get them their shots. I don't know when or how the ax will drop on my home's foreclosure, but I will either have to find homes for some of the cats that are left, or move them elsewhere, and they will at least have to have their shots. So I took some of the money I had ahead, and paid to set up appointments for the remaining 7 to be checked. Today, I took M'Nubis and Wendy in for their shots.
Wendy's Fine—just p'oed

This whole spiraling free-fall stress party from my ex-Domestic Partner robbing me blind and running me into one of these toxic mortgages has been playing out since I threw her out in 2008. She ran through over $100,000 of my assets, left me crippled with pneumonia, depression, and deep, deep anger, and 9 cats. I had 4 when we met, which seemed plenty to me, but she *kept* going on about wanting one of "her own." By the time we'd adopted 7 and none of them would take to her, while I would be pushed down into the memory foam mattress by 80 pounds of cats, I should have caught on to the fact they were better judges of character than I was. Or, at least, that I was allowing myself to be; I was in that mind-warping state where I dissociate from so much of the nastiness to try and "hold the relationship together" that it took some considerable horror to finally knock me back to reality.

The pneumonia I caught in 2006 in Chicago proved to be a drug-resistant form, and I kept having recurring bouts every 5 weeks of it until I changed doctors in mid-2008 and we knocked it out. I haven't entirely recovered from that physically, and I've known I've been getting worse in the last 3 years as I've struggled to deal with taking care of my home (and all of its problems), fighting the mortgage company (B of A after Countrywide), the insistence that they would not even talk to me about a loan modification if I didn't have more income—which is really hard to get when you're a) disabled on SSDI, b) the 2008 economic "downturn" just blew up in your face, and c) you can only work part-time anyway because of SSDI at minimum wage rates—and those jobs tend to be filled by eager, healthy young teenagers, not creaky old people like me.

I had also talked myself into going back to school toward a graduate degree, starting in a Master's program online in psychology because—frankly—after all the years of trying to understand how my own head has gotten so badly messed up and then cleaning up the mess, I wanted to have some clear idea of what normal looked like, and whether there were "best practices" I could use in situations like mine, rather than the "seat of the pants" methods I'd been trying. I got hired to teach undergraduate English classes for the same online university, but found that the stress of keeping up with both my own classes and teaching the students often ended up with me crashing in a heap in the corner—and not getting paid.

Things cascaded, and on the first 4 days of 2010 B of A put 3 trial mortgage payments through my checking about simultaneously, and crashed my finances well into April to recover. They did, later come back with a counter-offer, that if I would pay them over $1300/mo. to make up the differences, rather than the $725/mo. trial payments I'd been struggling with, maybe we could work something out. <shrug> I had, by then, switched over to a different online doctoral program in psychology that appeared to have better prospects for the kinds of material I want to do—but you can only "bank" on the potential of living off your student loan refunds *IF* you have a reasonable chance of paying them back when you graduate. As it is, I don't know whether I have any realistic chance *of* making it to get my degree, and if so, I would be about 60. Where I run into the same dichotomy I have trying to find a part-time job here—if you have a fully healthy, able, raring to go 25-year-old postdoc, and a rather beat up, disabled 60-year-old postdoc prone to stress-induced illness, who are you going to choose for your project? No, we officially do not discriminate according to disabilities; however, the reality is different.

I am finding things that I am quite interested in learning in the program, which is good, but also finding limitations that terrify and depress me further. Online (for profit) universities don't tend to be accredited with the American Psychological Organization (APA), the primary professional organization in our field in the US. They often do not provide degrees that lead to licensing—which often expect APA accreditation—and very few jobs will take you if you cannot get a license. Typically, these licenses involve either clinical practice (involved in a lot of diagnosis) or counseling practice (treating people already diagnosed), neither of which are area I feel very comfortable with because of my own psychological scars. It would not do to have a client act out in a rage in the office only to have me try to reason him or her down from under/behind the desk. Or another room. Not professional.

Horribly, though, I find that I really love the research and mathematical aspects of the work, both the quantitative statistical parts, development of more qualitative studies, and of finding ways to tie results more strongly to the experiences of individuals across cultural groups, sexes, genders, identities, spiritualities, times, places, and on and on. And I enjoy teaching—and am good at teaching statistics to psychology students whose immediate response on being told they have to take a math class is to scream and run around the room in horror. At least, that was how I was making my secondary income most recently—tutoring my fellow students in the stuff while we took classes.

But time and tide waits for no one, not me, certainly. And as 2010 was winding down, I was getting sicker and weaker, with horrendous migraine-like headaches that were lasting a week, 2 weeks, or longer, until I could get into the doctors for shots to break them up. I was having memory problems, and getting tired easily, and by October of last year, I kicked off on a violent headache that lasted 5 1/2 weeks before my doctor and I finally figured out it was a flare-up of a nerve disorder I've had before and found a medication that helped drop it down a little. That was part of why I spent the time at Isis Oasis last year in such abject misery—the whole left side of my face was on fire, I couldn't see very well, and the hotter I got, the worse the pain got. I spent nights sleeping on the mats by the pool; I couldn't manage the upstairs dorm in the lodge at all.

I was also going through tests on my respiratory functions to see if I had sleep apnea, which was likely. It also turned out that I have something called "central apnea," in which I simply stop breathing at all. The latter is worse than sleep apnea, which is caused by a collapse at the back of the throat—you gasp and it opens up. The problem is that it took me a great deal of work to get the trips down for my studies and results—Redding is 65 miles from here, and I've frequently been too sick to drive that far and back. I finally got my local doctor to check the results up here in January, and he had Lincare out with oxygen the next day, and a BiPAP machine for sleep within a week.

They help, and I've actually begun to dream again—I had forgotten what that was like. Not to mention how incredibly warped my subconscious really is. But the fact  is that now I'm getting relatively restful sleep, all those years of being utterly exhausted by not getting good sleep have caught up a bit, and I'm sleeping "too much." When I'm off the BiPAP, which I only use to sleep, I still need to use the supplementary oxygen concentrator most of the time—because if I don't I start getting headachy, confused, disoriented, my memory gets messed up, and on and on into deep depression. If I keep the oxygen on, I stay mostly ok, but I'm pretty much limited to my bedroom, where the cannula reaches. I finally qualified for supplementary oxygen when I go out of the house last week—thank the Goddess! Due to arcane regulations with Medicare, I didn't meet a numerical criterion they required, even though I was clearly mentally impaired off the oxygen; luckily I hit the magic number while my doctor was watching, and can now have some support when I have to go shopping for groceries.

In and amongst all of this sturm und drang that has been scaring the stuffing out of me, I've been trying to deal with the cat clan, and their ongoing situations. I've known that Heru was getting very sick through the latter part of last year: he was losing weight, walking around very creakily, clinging even more than usual, and drinking lots of water—but when your own finances are at the point you have to get creative to have food for everyone the last two weeks of the month, there isn't money to take him to the vet. Finally, in May this year, I had enough to get him checked, and found he was diabetic. Two months of careful feeding, tending, and twice-daily insulin shots, seeing he had gone blind and was very tired, and had a horrible sinus/respiratory infection broke my heart. So I took him up, knowing it was likely to be the end, and had to put him to sleep 3 weeks ago.

I had also watched M'Nubis getting sicker last year, although he was a younger cat. I had no money to care for either of them beyond the love, food, and general care I could provide, and I did my best. But once I had to put Heru to sleep, I had to confront the fact that whether I have to move and can find a place that will let me have my cats, or if I have to find homes for them, I have to be sure they have their shots and are sufficiently healthy. Most of my other cats are 4-6 years old, in their prime of health; only Hathor, who died in 2009 was 10 or so. (Heru was 12 1/2.) I made arrangements to take up two cats at a time because the vet would give me a discount, and I chose M'Nubis and Wendy first.

I knew that Wendy was healthy, and of my cats, most likely to adapt to a new home if I have to find her one. She's a fiesty alpha brat, and if there's trouble brewing, she and Tut are probably at the bottom of it! That being said, she's really very sweet, loves to cuddle, and squeals instead of meows. She loves to have her tummy scritched, and does these roll-on-her-back serpent dances through catnip sprinkled on the floor. She got her shots and is fine, although she was definitely *not happy* about the whole adventure, having pooped over the side of her cat carrier, herself, etc. and requiring a "hosing off" by the technicians. She's back to speaking to me.

M'Nubis, on the other hand, was just resigned the whole time. I've known there was something wrong with his teeth and right ear; he's been drooling a lot, and would not let me anywhere close to his mouth to check. He'd been listless, and had lost weight—I noticed his bony hips even before I did on Heru, despite the long, Persian coat.  The vet checked him over thoroughly, and looked at all of what was going on that we could *see*, much less what might be necessary. He had severe gingivitis, and would probably need removal of all his teeth, he was significantly underweight, and would need medicines for the rest of his life to stabilize him, and the best we could tell was that the problem with his right ear may well have been a festering infection from one of his teeth—he was running a fever. She and I discussed all the possibilities, both in light of the other 6 cats I still have and the potential to find him another home, and we made the toughest decision of the day—I asked to have him put to sleep.

I do not do this lightly, ever. These are the children of my heart, and I have no other family. M'Nubis was a sweet, playful, friendly, lovely submissive cat I adopted from the local shelter, and I gave him love, warmth, shelter, play, petting, and more love, as much as I could. I had to let him go; knowing that he'll be in Bast's arms and hope for a better place and life next turn of the wheel.

So, in and amongst all of the financial, physical, psychological, relationship, scholastic, and sheer misery of the last 5 years, when I had to get rid of a partner I hoped would be my companion, and instead turned into a thief of all I'd managed to regain after my disability, and whom I threw out after trying to kill me a couple of times—oh, it's been fun—I've now lost four of my very beloved cats:
Hathor, Heru, M'Nubis, and Sety Spaghetti. (Sety Spaghetti disappeared between Christmas and New Years 2010, when I had a friend watching the cats while I was at a residency for school. Sety was always a spook, and terrified of his own shadow; I'm sure he got out without my friend even being aware he was gone, and once gone, he wouldn't have come to me if I called him either, though I did try. I'm hoping he's been carried off to Faery, where he seemed to spend a good bit of his time anyway, rather than the more mundane likelihood of being eaten by a bear or coyote.)

I have six left, all of whom are healthy cats, but I'm still facing what to do if I have to move—when I have to move—and how to work things with a potential landlord to keep as many as I can. I don't have many other beings in my life who are *here* and who give me love on a regular basis, and I cannot afford to lose many more of the few I have.

I know that their lives are short, and that I've rescued these babies from difficult circumstances. But it is a point of my belief of self-worth that if I take in an animal such as this, give him or her a home and love, and care, that I am then honor-bound to care for that animal for the rest of its life, and to see that he or she has a good home if I cannot. It tears into me deeply to have to put one to sleep, as I did with M'Nubis today—but if I had the money to spend to make him well, and was able to do so or find him a home, what kind of life would he have had? And I don't have unlimited money; I live on a low fixed income.

In so many ways, this is very hard for me. I am depressed, frightened for my own health, and in despair of what will come because I can't even manage the stuff that's in front of me right now. My bond to my cats acts as a safety valve when my brain chemistry goes completely haywire, and I lose the will to live—I have to wait it out because they need me. There is no one else.

I know that we expect priests and priestesses to be able to write uplifting and hope-filled stuff, about the power of faith and the knowledge that the Goddess/Gods/Whoever will help us get through the darkest night. But, sometimes, when you're in that dark Night, you just need to be where you are, and it helps to acknowledge that where you are. We've fixed all the easy or obvious things we can manage—that's what's so scary about my breathing problems: no clue as to what's wrong. All I can do is keep trying day-to-day to do whatever I am able, not what I've planned, or scheduled, or even *want* to do, but simply what I am able. It is very hard to live this way in Western culture, where everyone has expectations of you, and when they see you, they assume that everything must be ok—and they don't really want to know if it's not because that's scary for them. So I hide a lot of my pain away from sight and sound, but that makes it no less real.

I know that Bast understands, and that She knows I'm doing the best I can for her children. She knows how much I love them, each as individuals, and as a whole clan. They are real people to me, and my family. I have to have faith that She will help me find the best way forward for them and for myself, somehow. I just have no idea what the shape of that future looks like, in any form that I can imagine.

On August 27th, at 8:00 PM PDT, I plan to hold a Dulce Domum rite for the cats that have passed these past few years: Hathor, Heru, Sety, and M'Nubis. The Isian funeral rite is in Panthea, and while I haven't used it for cats before, I feel it is appropriate in these cases, where they are so much my dear friends. You are welcome to join me by attunement at the Temple of Isis of the Stars for the ceremony, and celebrate the passage of any of your own beings at that time. It's after the end of Mercury Retrograde, but in the late Balsamic Moon just before it brightens into New. A good time for passage into the light.

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