More things I learned from my cats

One of my two cats seems to get more and more affectionate and, well, cuddly, in the last year or so. He’s about five years old. He’s a big fella but doesn’t seem to realize it. He likes to get up on my chest right up by my chin while I’m sitting on the sofa, or even out on the deck.

It’s hard to see over him and I get fur in my face, but I don’t mind. Tonight, while he was doing that on the deck, he slid over against my arm, which was resting on the armrest, his head resting on my belly. It was the epitome of total relaxation.

He was so thoroughly cozy and comfy. You could tell he felt as safe and content as any creature could. I wish I could feel that way. I really can’t think of a time, since being a small child in my parents arms, that I felt so safe, comfortable and relaxed. I know I’ve never had a long term significant other, but I don’t know if any adults feel that secure, do they?

I suppose it depends on the ability to give, or receive, unconditional love. That includes two-way trust. My cat couldn’t even ideate betrayal of trust, and my brother and I are not capable of mistreatment of any creature, especially one as loving as this. He also doesn’t have the human concerns and responsibilities of subsistence and such things. So, maybe it’s a little easier for Smokey to veg out in total comfort and security.

Well, of course it is. But when I look down at his furry little face resting on my arm, I get a moment of that peace and comfort, vicariously.  Everyone needs to have some peaceful, quiet moments to reflect. The world would be a better place if we could all do that.

Difficult people

What do you do with those people who are just plain difficult. You know what I mean. They always have to get their way. They don’t like to share, don’t work and play well with others. They’re petty, stubborn, manipulative, and so on.

If you have a choice, cut their negative energy out of your life.  Sometimes, you’re stuck with them at work, or in an organization or group, but if not, just cut them out.

I don’t mean to sound calloused. In fact, I’d say give them a second chance. You don’t know what has happened to them in the past that may have affected their behavior. But, if you’ve tried to be nice, and they just beat you over the head with the olive branch, then it’s time to give them the boot.

Of course, we often are stuck dealing with these difficult ones, like it or not. I’m not sure what the best answer is, but I know that giving in doesn’t work. Unfortunately, that often happens. The person who talks the loudest and longest, often gets their way by wearing down everyone else, or grabbing the most attention.

The other end of the spectrum doesn’t really do it either. If you fight them on everything, you just end up locked in an endless battle which makes you look bad too. Remember the old saying,  never argue with a fool, lest someone walking by can’t tell the difference.

I guess you have to choose your battles, build alliances, and sharpen your own game.  Hopefully, people will see who the bigger person is.  If they don’t, then perhaps they just aren’t a good judge of character, or they see something of themselves in the bullish one.

I have a situation like that at work. I share equipment with someone on another shift, who has worked there for about 16 years, I think.  Most people in the department have also been there a long time, whereas I’ve been in the department only a year.  The other employees tend to be sympathetic to his cause to some degree, since they all have workstations all to themselves, as he did, before I came along.

I had worked on several different workstations before winding up at the current one. Fortunately, I had already won over the others with my friendly, upbeat, unassuming approach to people and to life. So, it’s not like they side with him, exactly. Some kind of stay neutral, while a few are totally on my side.  I think that’s because I have been understanding and accomodating as the new person, but have stuck up for myself and spoke to someone higher up when needed.

It’s sometimes an uneasy truce, but I’ve learned not to let it bother me. I don’t care how he feels about me, and I don’t like him. As someone who hasn’t always been comfortable with conflict or having others be displeased with me, it’s actually liberating to be unconcerned about the mood or actions of a thorn in my side.

I’ll just keep minding my own business, and resist the temptation to respond in kind to any antagonizing.

Spoiler alert

When I was in first grade, the teacher got everyone in the class a thoughtful gift, which we opened in class the last day before Christmas break.  I didn’t tear into the wrapping quite as voraciously as some students did.  The first one to pull the gift free from its packaging, held it up and triumphantly showed it off.

It was a drink cup with a Santa Claus drawn on it and our faces placed on the Santa. The Santas and the Merry Christmas message were under the plastic, which was pretty innovative for the late ’70’s. Our faces were cut out of the class picture by hand and glued on. It must have taken a lot of time. Miss Dobes, as she was named then, remains one of my all time favorite teachers.

Back to the unwrapping. I don’t know why, but I was so very disappointed that the surprise had been ruined by the quick opener kid, so much so, that I lambasted him for it. I think I was near tears.  I sure laid a guilt trip on that kid. Other kids and the teacher backed me up, perhaps just because I had felt so strongly about it and they empathized with me. He didn’t really do anything wrong, though.

I’m still not really sure why it bothered me that much, but I don’t like having a surprise ruined to this day.  I guess I’m still a kid at heart. I’ve known people who will tell you not to worry about telling them all about a movie, even if they plan to see it. They don’t care if they know what’s going to happen.  I can’t understand that. I think most of us are more like me that day in first grade.  That’s why we say, “Spoiler alert!” in conversation or on social media.

What is it about surprises? Partly, it’s the inner child thing. We like to be delighted, or to have a moment of excitement, something beyond the normal everyday goings on.

I think it’s also a very genuine experience to be surprised in a good way. There’s no time to build it up, or knock it down. There’s no pretense, no spin, no analysis.  You just live the moment. You feel it. You savor it, and remember it with a smile.

Living, giving, striving

A commercial for Shriners Hospitals just reminded me to be thankful for what I have, and not feel sorry for myself about the negative things. The kids in the commercials are not sitting around helplessly. They’re working to overcome whatever obstacles life has dealt them.

I can’t speak for them, of course, and I expect that they sometimes feel sad or discouraged. Everyone does. Still, it’s inspiring to see them smiling and handling challenges at very young ages.

I’ve shared some things in this blog that I’ve dealt with, including some health challenges, but I was born with all my limbs, fingers, toes, sight and sound, organs intact and functioning normally and all the things we take for granted.

I feel like I’ve dealt with a lot and have shown a lot of strength and tenacity, and I have, but I would do well to remember that there are so many others who have challenges to deal with every day beyond what I’ve experienced or could even imagine.

I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s personal struggles which may not be as serious or severe as others’ by some measure. We all have crosses to bear, and they are important. The point is that we can take heart from those around us, or that we hear of through media sources.

It’s a strength of humanity that we experience empathy, and have a desire to help and support each other. Many people lament that we’re losing that capacity as we become desensitized, ever busier and harried, distracted, and perhaps, overwhelmed.  Not to mention, how divided we are in recent times.

But, when disasters happen, or a children’s hospital commercial is aired, or any of many causes, people give. Many people volunteer their time to better the lives of others. Family members make sacrifices to make life more livable for their loved ones.

There is good in humanity and we all should be thankful for what we have, and what we are able to do. Remember to give back because we’re all in this together.

No comparison, singles edition

I mentioned in yesterday’s post about there being two things that reminded me of the old saying, “All unhappiness comes from comparison.” I wrote about one of them. That being the success of others making me feel a sense of loss, or at least longing, for things still not achieved.

I touched on the other. A fellow picnic attendee mistook my friend and I for a couple. I wasn’t surprised, since I was kind of sticking close to my friend since I didn’t know anyone else very well, and wasn’t feeling real energetic that evening.

It really didn’t bother me at that moment, but I do think about it. The unhealthy comparison here is when I look at couples, gay or straight, who have been together a long time, and seem to complete each other. They also have someone to grow old with, to share special moments, perhaps kids and then grandchildren, carrying on the family name and all that.

It’s sometimes a little scary to think about getting old and living by yourself. But hey, I’m only 47. I have time yet. Someone out there is wishing they could be 47 again, while I might wish I was 27. It’s all relative. And it’s all irrelevant. Those damn comparisons!

Honestly, I’m okay being single right now. (When I’m not comparing myself to one happy pair or another who seem to have it all.) I have a harder time with the accomplishment and success comparisons, than I do with relationship jealousy.

Yet, if you’ve been single around the holidays, you know it’s better when you have someone to share it with.  I know a lot of single people don’t do any decorating for Christmas. I always have, regardless.  So, I guess I’m not unhappy being on my own, but I’d like to find “the one” eventually.

In the meantime, I will make no comparisons to others, but only examine my own life just as I do with goals or degrees of success. I’ve grown a lot as a person through the years, and have become much more comfortable in my own skin. They say confidence is the most attractive quality. I still need some work, but not comparing will help with that.

Things will come together in their own time.

No comparison

Two things recently reminded me of the old adage, “All unhappiness comes from comparison.” One was a picnic I attended at the home of an organizer of a gay friends social group. I went with a friend who was also in the group, who is older than me and also single. He seems content with that, as am I. Still, it would be nice to be in a committed relationship for the support and companionship. But that’s not what I really want to talk about now.

The thing that kept occupying my thoughts was how much better off most of the group members were as far as careers (current or retired) and their socioeconomic status. One couple lived in NYC during the week where one of the men was an attorney for the city.  They had a home in the Lehigh Valley area where they stayed on the weekends.

The home where the picnic was held was quite nice.  Another man was involved with running a radio station. There was another who also lived in New York, but spent a lot of time in the Lehigh Valley, though I didn’t catch what he did.

There was a couple who go to my church, that I haven’t talked with much before. They had just been to Paris. I’d love to do that, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get that chance. One of those men also thought my friend and I were a couple. Maybe I should talk more about that aspect in my next post.

There were others who either had great careers or talked about their travels. Then as I was about to leave, I ran into a guy I had met at an earlier event. My friend and I talked tiohim some. It turned out he was working for Amazon as a picker in the warehouse. Not a fun job, or well paying.

I felt better after that. But should it have taken that one comparison to get me to see that all the other comparisons were just making me unhappy, and they were irrelevant?

I was embarrassed to tell classmates at a reunion a few years ago that I was an assistant manager at Family Dollar. But I shouldn’t have been. That’s where I was at, and that’s that. It was good experience.

Now, I’m microfilming newspapers for preservation. I started in the digital department at the company and have learned a lot of different skills in a few years, so I guess I’m content with that for now. Of course, I still want to be a writer. It’s good to have goals and dreams.

You just have to be patient and work toward your long term goals while you muddle through.  Most importantly, don’t make comparisons, except maybe to yourself, to gauge progress.

The contribution

As we pulled out, I waved to my family. My aunt commented that my mom was really crying, and she seemed surprised that it was that hard for her to see me go for two weeks. I hadn’t been away from home for more than a night before that.

I was going to stay with relatives for two weeks and come back to our family reunion with them. It was the summer between 6th and 7th grades. We didn’t have middle school then, so the coming year was the first of junior high. I had kind of been manic in the latter half of the school year, though it would be years before I knew that’s what it was. It was kind of good in that it broke me out of my shell. I was always very shy and quiet. Unfortunately, that returned by fall and lasted for a few more years.

So, we were off, amidst the tears. I realized years later that my mom was crying because she felt so bad about my brother not getting to go too. My aunt had called my mom and made the suggestion.  I guess there wouldn’t have been enough room in their car for everyone on the way back with luggage and all, so only I was going.

It begs the question, why extend the invitation at all if it was only going to be for one? Then I thought maybe my mom should have declined the invitation. I guess she didn’t want us both to miss out. My brother and I were just 14 months apart in age, he the older one, and we did everything together.

My brother was gracious about letting me go. While he was close to our cuz too, he knew that I always had a special bond with him. I’m sure he still felt left out, though. We didn’t get to do a lot of things, or go places, because we didn’t have the money and my parents didn’t get much vacation. I don’t know if they had any paid vacation. My mom was working at a blouse mill and my dad worked at a hardware store.

Once at my cousin’s house, I had a really nice time. It was early in the summer, and the weather was great.  As I said, my cousin and I had a special bond. We only saw each other once a year, but we always picked right up where we left off. They lived in a city, and we went to museums and other fun things.

We also ate out two or three times. Near the end of the trip, my aunt asked me for money for those times we ate out and they had paid for everyone, including me. I was surprised that she was asking for it, but being only 11, I didn’t protest. The problem was, that I had only $13 at the start of the trip, some of which I had spent on a puddle jumper at the Children’s Museum.

My aunt’s response to that information was, “You mean your mother sent you out here with only thirteen dollars?”  Instead of feeling angry at her, I was embarrassed and ashamed. I felt inadequate. I was aware that my family was poorer than most everyone else I knew, but this was kind of a painful reminder. And, she still took the my money. I had wanted to get my brother a souvenir of some kind. My aunt said I could pick something out of a box of items she picked up here and there for our annual Christmas gift exchange via mail.

I selected a fancy plastic ruler with “wood” grain through the middle. I’ll never forget the disappointed look on my brother’s face when I presented it to him.

Well, that was more than three decades ago. (Is that possible?) I must admit I still feel resentment when I think of that incident, but I have forgiven it. I remind myself of her good qualities, which I’ll share with you now. She was fun to be around and had an infectious laugh.

My uncle worked for the post office and he used to joke that she gave him job security, because she sent cards to everyone for birthdays and anniversaries and such. She was very good about that. She kept track of everything. She worked hard selling Tupperware to help support the family. She actually won a sales contest not long before my visit. The prize was the station wagon we rode in.

She also had diabetes for as long as I could remember. She was on dialysis for the last ten years of her life, until heart complications took her too soon. I think she was 72, so she made it pretty long, considering. We all still miss her.