Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Long, Hard Summer

It's not unusual for us to be totally broke, between student loans, and wondering how we are going to make it. July is the first time we've missed a mortgage payment. And we're going to miss two more before funds come in to catch us up. The landlord hasn't said anything yet, and we enclosed a note with last month's late payment indicating things had gotten tough. That mortgage payment kind of covers the rest of my life right now, too.

A few months ago the engine in my car seized, which required $2300 repair. My dad was kind enough to help financially, for only the second time in my adult life, and I caught a lot of rides over the three weeks required for the repair. Then the landlord of the mechanic hit my car and I spent last week in an insurance provided Jeep. It was a joy to drive, except it cost $78 in gas when I normally would have spent $25.

Cameron reading out loud to a captive audience.
In the background: Dickens
On the TV: Lugh, Tully and Xian
November 2010
My knee has also become increasingly problematic. Turns out driving the Jeep was a good thing. It had shown marked improvement that only a day of driving my car has undone. And the litany goes on. Insert violins and self pity here. And while I'm whining, I miss my Tully cat, damn it!

I've actually rolled with these fears, concerns and worries fairly well. The breaking point is work. I'm going to try to find a way that if my boss would accidentally find this site, I would not be out of work, and yet convey the challenge and frustration of my situation. I'll ask that comments also reflect the desperate need of my paycheck.

Our building was constructed about five years ago. We've desperately outgrown the space, and are expanding. Construction has created some rather, shall we say, unfortunate challenges. I get up about 3:45 to arrive at work at 5 a.m. The joy of my morning is watching the sunrise through my east facing window. My office, an afterthought of previous construction and poorly planned, is about 5 feet wide and 12 feet long. The narrowness of the office is negated by a window squarely over my desk. The sunlight warms my small space in an overly air conditioned environment (typically about 60 degrees in most offices, summer and winter). Friday I lost my window to construction. The space has become constricted, tight, claustrophobic. The overhead light does not work, and my request for repair has been denied (insert office politics and protect my further comment here.) So coworkers found me a few more lamps. It's not working.

The view through my door isn't much better. All the windows are likewise blocked, as is the front entrance (adding 12 feet to the front of the building which will create a total of four offices). All daylight has been blocked, and the temporary wall increases the feeling of closeness. Everyone has been commenting on how bad it is. The construction noise as bricks are removed from the opposite side of my wall, etc, is about more than I can stand. So far I've endured mortar drills, concrete being poured, etc. All of this is literally on the opposite side of my wall. And it promises to get louder as they continue to remove bricks, etc.

We have about 850 clients that come to the clinic between every day and once every two weeks. The front hall, just outside my door and pictured here, has had quite an effect on them. Most people don't like change. Addicts particularly don't like change, and their reactive behavior to the current condition of the clinic has been notable. My own reaction isn't much better. I've lost all time sense, and have lost all connections to the outside world, the seasons, and the weather. I adored looking out my window. My office was extremely warm yesterday because the window also insulated. It'll take about six weeks to complete construction. I've requested a new office, and pray they listen. In the mean time, I feel like I'm loosing my mind.

Yes, I know that last statement sounds melodramatic. But therein also lies truth. It's been a hard, hard summer. Normally summer replenish my spirit and prepare me for the cold winter months and restricted lighting. I'm dysthemic, which means chronic depression. In other words, I'm naturally "the glass is half empty" kind of girl. As the daughter of a schizophrenic mother, I'm bred to see the world through treacherous lenses. In my mind, everything is always going to be as hard is it is, right now, forever. Unfortunately, history has often reinforced that lesson. Between finances, the deterioration of our home which we can't afford to repair, the shortage of grocery money, bill collectors and the like, things have been a struggle for a very long time. Most of the time I still manage to stay on top of it. Cameron is quite a blessing and positive person, which helps considerably.

June 6, 2011
It's funny. I've noticed time and again that when things get horribly, horribly difficult we are always blessed with a litter of kittens. With the nearing loss of Tully, the Lady Bastet once again blessed us. Some days, it's only their adoring looks and affection that keeps me on track.

In reflection, I think the office is the universe's affirmation that it's nearing time to leave my current job. I never wanted to work in addictions, anyway. But I needed a job and it was an opportunity in my field. I was lucky to find work when most of peers at school could not. I've hated the hours from the beginning, but it made grad school, the practicum and now the internship possible. As of this week, I've completed the hours required for licensure (I still have to see client and have supervision until Dec 2012, but the hours requirement can be the most difficult part to fulfill).

And  here lies darkness, also lies hope. I am a child of the Goddess, and know well that fertile soil gives tiny sprouts the chance to grow. I believe a miracle is coming...I've invested in that miracle, nurtured it, waited for it, dreamed of it. I know that when it comes, our lives will change radically. But I thought my miracle was going to arrive months ago, and I hold on with weakening fingers.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reflections and the Rainbow Bridge

Tully, age 12 and Dante, age 6 weeks
Grief is an old friend. We've had many, many cats and a couple dozen are buried on our property. But the passing of Tully hits especially hard.

In the mid nineties I lived a very different life. I had just begun my Pagan path, and was not on speaking terms with the Christian God. I had crawled out of my fourth, and very abusive marriage. I had disowned my biological father due to his toxicity in my life. I had found yet one more knight in shining armor, who later proved to the most abusive of them all. I finally gained custody of my sons, and was desperately trying to keep them with me. For a couple of years things looked rosy. It was during those years that Tully came to be.

A few years later I lost my grove, my friends, my sons and all hope. It was one of the darkest times of my life. The knight in shining armor turned out to be a very dangerous sociopath and his extreme charm and manipulations had everyone believing his stories. After destroying my life, he went on to destroy even more lives. But that's an entry for another day. The cats were the only constant in my life. Their need for me, for affection, for care, for cat food, kept me going when I wanted nothing more than to give up.

With no where to go, I moved into The Fiber Geek's basement with my sixteen cats, including Tully and his littermate, Temptation. Later, the cats and I moved to North Carolina and eventually into the trailer I now share with Cameron. I think part of the reason I grieve Tully so deeply is because he represented a tie those days when my sons were with me, when my eldest son had not stopped talking to me, when the world was still filled with those possibilities of normalcy and family. Losing my cat is like loosing the hope I've carried all these years of a strong connection to my sons, to my grandchildren. The years move on, and the distance between us grows. And I've no power to change it.

Looking back, I saw the symptoms of Tully's illness. But my income is half of what it was in the nineties and cost of living has doubled. Vets and chemo are not an option. So we've loved Tully while we had him, and he was utterly devoted to us.  We went to the vet a few weeks ago for antibiotics, and he gained weight. He's spent every moment he could in my lap at the computer or on the bed. I think he's known it was almost time, and he poured out his affection. He's always been affectionate, but these last few weeks even more so.

Yesterday he didn't find his way to my lap. He slept most of the day. Today he refused food. This evening, he crossed the rainbow bridge. 

Tully has been a life lesson to this old, disillusioned witch. He was determinedly cheerful to the end. Indeed, he was the most joyful cat in the house. Only a couple of hours before he crossing, he was "smiling" with his customary cheer. He went swiftly and easily, and is buried beneath the pussy willow.

 Son of Brom, son of Isis, I give the cat goddess Bastet thanks for your life and your joy in living. I miss you desperately. May you please find your way back to me with the turn of the wheel. So mote it be.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tully Cat

Grey cat: Tannis, in the middle, Marmelade,
Tabby: Tully, and Orange Cat: Rascal (2007)
It's Sunday afternoon and my cat is curled up in my lap asleep. He was asleep the day I found him, 12 years ago, curled up with his momma Isis and littermates, less than four hours old. I initially planned to have several of the kittens adopted out, but couldn't stand to let him go. My best friend, Fiber Geek, named him Tully for Tullamore Dew. It's our drink of choice during late night Filking.

I know the day he was conceived. I did not know, until then, that cat sex is a spectator sport! We had an evil bout of upper respiratory infections run through the house. A neighbor moved out of town, abandoning Isis on the doorstep. She and Brom were the only unfixed cats in the house. She went into heat, and neither cat could be taken to the vet for surgery until they were well. Initially, Brom was too young and inexperienced to know what to do. He definitely was not making the right approach. Firedancer the First solved his problem. With every cat in the house (12 back then) in a circle around Isis, crouched in position, my very neutered Firedancer stepped up, demonstrated how to pleasure a lady, and stepped back. I had no idea he has such knowledge, as he had been neutered very young. Brom watched with deep attention, and then took his turn. I counted the weeks. Four kittens. Three survived.

For the first three years of his life, we called him Tully of Little Brain. He just didn't seem too bright. He raced around like a maniac, got into things and fell off high places. He brought me joy and laughter during a very dark time in my life. He grew so fast he never knew where his feet were. He had me fooled. He had learned playing dumb got him extra treats and attention. More recent years revealed a very elegant, very intelligent cat. Never any problem, gentle and loving.

Two weeks ago Tully was diagnosed with end stage cancer. The vet said to take him home, love him, feed him anything he wants. My rail thin cat, who lost all his teeth a year ago to the cancer, has gained two pounds. Yesterday I found the swollen lymph node in his neck, an inch away from the cancer. We count his life now by breaths and purring.

Yesterday I had to run to the store for cat sand. The check out clerk inquired how many cats I have. When I replied 22, she asked, "Do you know all of their names and personalities?" How offended she might have been if I asked her children's names and personalities. I simply replied my sons are grown and gone, and of course I know the furchildren's names. Yet even as each is precious and unique, some do bond more tightly than others. Tully is very near my heart indeed.

When it's my time to cross into the Summerlands, I want to cross with the grace of my cat. I'm sure he knows he's dying, yet each day he is cheerful, enjoys laying in the morning sun, and devourers every bite of food I give him. Tully has always been an easy cat, happy to have attention, cautious with his claws, delighted in the moment whether it included cat nip, cat food or attention. He is a study of Mindfulness. My clients at the clinic and I could learn much from him. Soon he will cross the Rainbow Bridge, joining his poppa Brom and momma Isis.

May the Goddess Bastet keep you and hold you, and love you like I do, Tully. May she guide you gently to the Rainbow Bridge when it's time. Know my heart goes with you, and you will be welcomed back again with the turn of the wheel.

I love you, Tully Cat. I shall miss you more than I can say.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chronic Pain

I've worked as a substance abuse counselor for the last three years. We treat opiate addiction with methadone. I wasn't sure how I felt about that in the beginning, substituting one addiction for another, but seeing the remarkable transformations in the people around me has made me a believer.Needless to say, I cannot take opiates for pain without a prescription. Ibuprofen is loosing its effectiveness.

My partner struggles with chronic pain. Neither of us have insurance, so Cameron cannot yet have the much needed surgery that would transform her life. Recently, I injured my right knee. It's not healing. Did I mention no insurance? Chronic pain dogs my steps, rides my temper, waits in the shadows to goad the darkest parts of self.

Chronic pain has become yet another part of mind numbing poverty. You know, choosing between the electric bill and grocery money. Some days it is all I can do to roll out of bed and go to work. What good is a substance abuse counselor or therapist when I hurt too much to filter other people's stories?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I first read Annie Dillard's book in the mid to late 80's as I stumbled my way into Paganism. I think of Dillard an a word artist because she paints with words across a broad canvas of science, introspection and reflection of the world around her. I dream of taking a year, or a lifetime, to live beside water and watch the passage of seasons on its surface. She's done it.

Growing up in Southern Indiana, the daughter of a schizophrenic mother driven by her psychosis, the woods were a refuge, a sanctuary. Hot humid summers lured me into the depths of shadow to walk the dried water fall, to follow the path to the creek, to wade in its shallow waters. Our home was filled with sharp edges, narrow spaces between trouble and anger. The only predictability was the unpredictability. My mother's retreat to her bedroom let me wander those acres of woods unsupervised. Our cats birthed their kittens in the fallen logs beneath towering oaks and maple. To find the source of those tiny "meeps" was a game.

Always there was the edge of the sacred and the profane. Tiny bundles of life become tiny lessons in death when the tomcats found the little boy kittens. I hated the neighbor's orange tomcat who culled our population. I hated my mother even more when we moved to Arkansas and abandoned all twenty cats and kittens. I've always wondered if any still survive in the woods or barns of those neighboring acres.

Eight years ago I found my way back to water, or almost. I can see it from my modest 30 year old mobile home, but I don't own the property with water access. That doesn't always stop me, though. I've found the paths of the South Carolina fishermen to the rocky shore of our modest lake. And I dream of something more.