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.

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.

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.

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.

Mental health update

My sister was transported in the wee hours of the morning to a facility an hour and a half away from her home. At least she didn’t have to wait days for it.

I’ll have to drive my elderly parents there to visit on Saturday during the one hour all day that the facility allows visitors.  She’ll probably be there about a week before an insurance company makes the medical decision that she should go home. She will most likely not be ready.

I hope that I make it as a writer so I can help take care of her in the coming years as funding for Medicare and Medicaid is cut down more and more.  It’s scary to think about. It’s enough to think about how my brother and I are going to have time and energy, or be available to help her when our parents are gone.  Hopefully, the services she will need to rely on will still be there. We simply can’t do it all while working full time (with overtime).

I hate to be so negative, but a guy’s gotta vent sometimes. There are good things that come along and make it bearable, and she does have a caseworker who has been helping her to be more independent in the last couple years that she’s had her own place.

I know that I must have faith in God to provide, and I do, but I also believe that God works through His people. We must fight to make things better for all, while we do what we can for our own loved ones.

 

Behavioral health: a misnomer

This post was sparked by news I just received from my mom concerning my sister.  She has a psychiatric diagnosis. The specifics will remain undisclosed for her privacy, but let me first address the general term.  For some years, the psychiatric field has taken to calling things like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. by the phrase “behavioral health”, rather than the older, and more accurate, mental health.

It’s a misnomer because it implies that the patient’s behavior is somehow causing the problem. It’s mental illness, not behavioral illness.

My sister was already kind of  “on the edge” lately, emotionally and mentally with her ongoing illness. She’s had many hospitalizations over the years when the symptoms of her illness or the medication management thereof, become too much to deal with.

Then someone from her church, whom she thought was turning out to be a new friend, invited her to a Christian coffee house last Friday. That was not the problem. They both enjoyed it. It was a couple days later that this person said something to my sister about the devil putting a bug in her, or something to that effect, referring to her mental illness. I’m getting a third party relay of information here, but I’ve heard it before.

I myself have bipolar depression.  It was more than twenty years ago, that I tried Biblical counseling. During the months that I was going there, I began to realize I was missing something. It was the fact that I, like my sister, had a mental health issue. When I shared this with my counselor, he told me mental illness is a misnomer. I never returned. I felt betrayed that I had spent time and money there, and shared intimate things, only to be met with a brick wall of ignorance and rejection.

I sought medical help and through medication and God-given inner strength, I have fared much better than my sister, thankfully. As someone I met through NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) once said, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

So, this night, my sister waits alone in the ER for a bed among the mental health departments of any area hospital.  Somehow, none are available in the expansive, profitable “non-profit” hospital networks of our area, save for one an hour and a half away, which somehow qualifies as part of this network area, as far as the profit-gorged insurance companies are concerned.  She’s alone after my exhausted 86 year old dad and 77 year old mom went home for the night, having spent most of the day with her, waiting.

Visitation will not be practical, if she ever gets to that bed. The social worker said it sometimes takes days to arrange a transport from one facility to another of that distance. What a system.

I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. A moment of tough love from a sibling. While the church member should not have said what she did, I wish my sister would learn to assert herself. Hell, tell her off, and be done with her, rather than build it up to this dramatic event. I understand that she has an illness, but that’s what therapy is for. Sounds harsh, I know, but what are sibling for, right?

Sunrise, sunset

A follow-up to Tuesday’s post: I was about to hit the snooze button the very next day, when I spotted a red glow through the closed blinds. A peek through revealed a gorgeous sunrise. I took it as a sign, and opened the blinds to enjoy a good long look at nature’s beauty. Then I went back to bed. Just kidding, I’m happy to say.  Did I get ya?

On the contrary, I turned the alarm off and got ready for work. I got there the earliest I have in a while. I quite accidentally overslept today, but still got to work a couple minutes ahead.  Momentum starting.

Then I was reminded by a news update that today was the first day of summer. It was a good day. Now, I’m watching the sunset on Midsummer’s Eve and enjoying the longest day of the year come to a close.

The lightning bugs rise up from the lawn to meet the day’s last light with their own. Earlier, my cat joined me in my chair on the deck, purring and padding my shirt. He has really soft fur, soothing.  I feel like I can do this. Working a lot, trying to write, keep house, take care of business, and myself.

I guess you have to find inspiration in the everyday beauty around you.  Find strength in the people around you, most of whom are dealing with the same things, or similar that you are. We’re all in this together. We can do it!

 

Photo credit: Eric Ritchey, Summer solstice sunset, 6/21/2018