C, Melissa, and I just returned from a Thanksgiving Day/week visit to see his father, sisters, and other relatives in St. Louis, MO. I like St. Louis, MO for a few reasons:
1a) Midwestern people, or at least those residing in the Kirkwood-ish area of St. Louis, do not seem to be in total control of their cars. At least 3 times I or Melissa were almost run down in a store parking lot; C claims he was able to escape this potential fate because he's just naturally more "specialer" than us and people not in control of their cars manage to steer clear of him in a magical way.
1b) In spite of this (or maybe because of it), Midwestern people are decent, down to earth, friendly folks. Here in the metro Atlanta area, I sometimes feel like I'm more of New Yorker than a Southerner. People cut you off in traffic, stand in front of you in the steak section of the supermarket utterly oblivious to the fact other people actually exist in the world around them and may need to gain access to your area of the steak section so freaking move OKAY??, and just generally get in the way and don't seem one bit apologetic about it. Just like pre-schoolers in Toys R Us.
However, whenever I am in the Midwest--be it Oklahoma or Illinois or Missouri (really the only 3 Midwestern places I've been that I have any real knowledge about, so I don't know...maybe this opinion just reflects those Midwestern locations and the rest of the people in the Midwest are complete nincompoops) (no! no, they are not--I am kidding: I know wonderful people from Kansas and Iowa, and they are lovely). Where was I? Oh yes, Midwestern people are lovely and polite. They say "Excuse me," and "I'm sorry," when they have to pass in front of you in a store or realize they're in the way...and they often realize they are in the way, because they are not under the impression they're the only ones on planet Earth. Midwestern people are lovely, friendly, sweet, and just NICE.
2) We stay at a Marriott-run hotel when we go, the same one each time. It is near the airport, and very nice. We found it several years ago when we needed to stay in a hotel because C's dad's house had too many people in it...he sent us to a Super 8 motel nearby, which was just fine...there is absolutely nothing wrong with hotels that are clean and useful for their purposes: sleeping and showering. ....Unless there is a night of shooting/homicide in their parking lot. That's when we decided maybe not all Midwesterners are lovely, and we needed a place that was slightly more secure. So we went down the road a little and found a hotel pilots and airline attendants like to stay at, which is this place.
They just remodeled their lobby and so now when you walk in, you feel like you're walking into a really swank hotel any D-list celebrity would stay in (we won't discuss the conditions of the rooms' tubs and the fact that rich people no longer need cord phones in bathrooms to make important business calls...do important business people often make important business phone calls while sitting on the toilet? I wonder). So you feel very swank and important until night falls and you look outside your room's window and see the Hustler Hollywood Emporium across the street, all lit up like a sleazy all-year-round Christmas tree. It really puts vanity into perspective, and I love that.
3) St. Louis just feels less ostentatious than Atlanta and, I suspect, it's easier to maneuver. The Monday before we left, Anne Lamotte came to town to give a free book reading/talk about her new book. I love Anne Lamotte, and fervently wish we at least lived in the same town and went to the same church. She is funny and honest and really real. However, I had schoolwork to do so I wouldn't have to think about it when we got back, and I had to make a decision--drive 40 miles in freaky Atlanta traffic to hear one of my writing heroes speak? Or do some lesson plans and pull some other school stuff together? My priorities won this time, but only because of freaky Atlanta traffic. I'm sure if I lived in St. Louis this would not have been an issue.
So, anyway. St. Louis is nice. And it also kept me off the internet (mostly) for several days. What a nice break--do you ever think the internet, facebook, pinterest, etc. are time suckers eating our brains? Honestly, they're starting to make just quietly watching TV (TV, the 20th century time sucker/brain eater) feel like completing a Harvard course in the History of Medieval Law.
What I discovered while not consumed with mindless, brain eating internet tom foolery: I can finish reading a 400+ page book AND still be a semi-competent mother, wrote at least once in my journal (and I NEVER write in that thing--years of dust fell off it when I opened it and it gave a delighted yet shocked squeal of delight when it realized it was getting written in), and Melissa had my fullest attention ever--she was no less hyper, but far more entertaining than usual. My patience (which is never very big) grew in gigantic proportions, in mere days.
Which is why I've concluded the internet is eating my brain (yet here I am, writing on a blog....I know. But I'm writing! And writing is something I have let fallen on the wayside for far too long, so any writing--even rambling, incoherent blog writing--is healthy).
I've decided I need to get myself a schedule. I am a person who needs lists--otherwise, I can't remember who or what I am. And my child, I can tell, will also be a person who needs lists and schedules...we are both easily distracted people who prefer mindless, wasted activities to productive, creative ones. So schedule and lists it is.
On a sad note, Tasha died before we got her to the vet to put her to sleep. Several important things about this, that my soul did take note of:
*I asked God to take that decision off my plate. Because God isn't on my schedule, and doesn't act as fast as I think God should, I assumed God wasn't listening to me at all (never, ever assume God isn't listening) and so I said fine, that's how You want it? I'll go ahead and make the damn decision. I went ahead with my decision.
*I began talking to Tasha about my decision, that I was reluctant to help her move on but that she was incredibly sick and old and there was little we could do to help her get better, but that it was okay for her to let go herself. I told her I didn't think whatever is waiting for us after this is scary at all, and that she would be young and happy again, but that we would miss her so much over here on this side of the veil.
*Tasha began letting go. I noticed in small ways, but assumed (because God never listens to me) that we'd still take her to the vet on Saturday as planned.
*Melissa got sick on a Wednesday, and I stayed home on a Thursday to take care of her. Tasha started going rapidly downhill that night--so much so that I woke up C to ask if we should go ahead and take her to the vet the next morning, though I really didn't think she'd even make it through the night.
*The next day, instead of just taking care of sick Melissa, I helped sick Tasha die.
*Tasha died at 10:15 am on Thursday, November 15, 2012.
I think events like these are spiritual mile markers; events the Universe puts us through to shake us up and make us see what matters. God did take the decision making off my plate. But God also let me see why we should always be careful about what we ask for--watching Tasha go through her dying process was terrible, for her and for me. However, she has gone onto be part of God's peace, and I am left with wrenching memories of watching her die and incredible guilt that I didn't help her go over sooner so she didn't have to go through that...I won't do that again with another aging animal. Lesson learned, the hard way (as I usually like to learn all my hardest lessons, which I suppose God is already quite aware about me). But God also made sure I was there to be with her when she died, and I am thankful to him for that. And she did die at home, with someone petting her head telling her it was okay to go, just let go, until she finally did. I just wish it had been much more quietly, in her sleep (I think that's what I was thinking/hoping it would be...it was the opposite).
I miss her deeply--people who don't get attached to animals will not understand this. If I were a witch (and I am not, no matter how many times Melissa insists that I am), Tasha would have been my familiar, and my most important, best spells would all be broken now. There are signs of her everywhere still in our house--I'll find pieces of fur every now and then, and the Friday after she died I found one of her whiskers by her favorite window spot. It's always sad to come home and know she won't come downstairs to lay on the sofa next to me, or on a chair. But I think some part of her is still here; I feel her presence everywhere. I hope she understands, in whatever form she's in now. I talk to her every day, just in case she's still here.
I've started reading a book called PROOF OF HEAVEN by Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who once thought the brain was solely responsible for Near Death Experiences of people claiming to have been to Heaven when they died. He claims he has evidence that dying is not necessarily a brain thing, and this also makes me want to raise my fist in a victory salute (remember in my last blog entry, how I was all: "Curses on YOU, party pooper brain scientists!"? Dr. Eben Alexander is officially off my Party Pooper Brain Scientist list). It's a comforting book...if you're a party pooper brain scientist, I'm sure you'll find a lot in it to do your party pooper arguing about. Party poopers usually do; it's why they're on my party pooper/not invited list. And if you're very fundamentally Christian, you may not like reading Dr. Alexander insisting on referring to God as "Om" and you might feel slighted because Dr. Alexander never ran into Jesus or Paul or anyone while he was over there. But I think there's still a lot of common ground people of different faiths can high five about, and when we do, we can all stare at the party poopers with looks of giant disapproval. Highly recommended, for both soul peace and world peace against all party pooping.
I'm going to abruptly end this blog post there and go make up a schedule for myself. Winter is knocking and I am at my laziest, least focused during Winter.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Sunday, November 11, 2012
|a favorite perch.|
I've decided to help Tasha move on to the Other Side this coming Saturday. She is not well, and even though she's still occasionally hanging out with us and is affectionate, I can just tell: she feels icky. Her meows tend to end in groan-like growls. She has huge mats in her hair I can't get out (side effect of hyperthyroidism), and I think her appetite is going. Tasha's appetite going is a huge sign of distress for me--this is a cat who loves her food. I don't want her to suffer. I don't want her to end up in any pain. I don't want her to be afraid or confused by anything.
But I will miss her deeply. She has been a good, sweet cat, and there for me through thick and thin. When I decide I love someone or something, I am very tenacious; letting go is not something that comes naturally for me, even after it's painfully obvious to me it's in my own best interest to do so. My friend Patresa told me the other day cats are notorious at clinging to life, well beyond the point it's good for them. Which sort of makes me like Tasha, I suppose, at letting go. This is very, very hard.
I don't know what state I will be in when C and I drive her to the vet this coming Saturday. I know that when my parents had to put my childhood friend/dog Sassy down, I was in a terrible state of grief when I found out. I have had two great animal loves in my life: Sassy saw me through childhood and Tasha saw me through adulthood. I am sure the Universe has another great animal love to see me through my twilight years.
When Sassy died, I was in a lot of emotional distress. I'm sure there are neuroscientists in the world who could explain the following to me, but quite frankly I think those neuroscientists are big party poopers who are simply refusing to look at The Big Picture.
Anyway, I was driving home from work one day, still weeping and grieving over my little black dog, and a tremendous warmth flooded through me. It didn't last more than a nanosecond, but it was so enormous, so gigantic, that even years later, I can still almost feel it. If I were a less sane person (and at times, I have been), I would quit my job, run off to live in the desert, and spend the rest of my life trying to get back in touch with whatever sent me that warmth. It was like somebody gave me a swift, warm hug of deep peace from deep inside of me, just to send me the message: "All is well. Sassy is in a very good place, and she's okay." That was the message, only there weren't words--the message was in the feeling, or actually WAS the feeling. I could feel the words.
(Neuroscientists, you may have your field day now...but over there, in the dark corner where all the party pooper punks hang out.)
I don't know what happens to us when we die. I wish I knew for absolute sure; some people say they know for absolute sure, but I will not make any rash statements I may have to back pedal on later. I am a mere human being, small in a huge and infinite Universe with amazing things we don't even know exist yet. I feel God around me, I have always felt connected to something that--because this is what my culture calls it and so do I, for convenience and to avoid being blasted a hell-headed heretic--I have always called "God." I believe God is very very real, except I don't think God is tangible, or a big man in the sky sitting on a golden throne surrounded by singing angels; in fact, I don't think God has a gender at all or is even all that judgmental, quite frankly. I'm absolutely certain God wasn't on anyone's side in the recent election. Sometimes stuff just happens because that's what has to happen--it's not good or bad, it just is. If you want God to intervene, just ask Him/Her. Usually, S/He does...usually not in the way you'd like or expected, but the intervention does happen. Otherwise, I think God just loves us, and lets us run around all willy nilly here on Earth, like big crazy kids who really, really need some teacher directed recess but refuse to acknowledge they need that until someone gashes open their leg on some playground equipment.
That's where I think God exists: in the "just is." (Here, I am sure half of my readers are now logging off, shaking their heads, saying something like: "That freaky Amy is surely headed to hell in a hand basket." This is fine! Since I'm also not really convinced there necessarily is an actual location called Hell. Unless Hell is sitting in my very own living room and having to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks "Chipwrecked" 4,000 times straight and then 4,000 times after it's over, dissect every single thing that Simon aka Simone says and WHY he gives Jeanette the bracelet/tiara...and even if there is an Alvin and the Chipmunks Chipwrecked Hell? I doubt any of us could actually get there in a hand basket.) (Unless you're the size of a chipmunk, of course.)
I've offtracked myself. I'm sorry if I've totally confused or lost you...my point is: I think the real issue I have with Death is the God-connected energy we all have inside of us. Some people call it our soul or spirit, but to quiet the punk neuroscientists in the dark corner over there, we're calling it Energy. Something must happen with the energy inside of us--that's a simple law of physics. The energy must have somewhere to go. Once, after my maternal grandmother died, I was at a friend's house sitting on their sofa and I felt her, hovering right above my right shoulder--and I instantly knew she was just passing through...stopping by to make sure I was all right, and then she was gone. But I don't know where she went, because I haven't felt her again. But wherever she is, I know she's in a good place, and that she's okay.
So I have had some incredibly strange and freaky and really wonderfully inexplicable things happen to me and my energy. Which is how I know that there is great, calming, peaceful...energy? spirit?...that will make contact with you exactly when and how you need it to, in just a way that works for you, wherever you are at in your spiritual (or not spiritual) life and beliefs. And I call that spirit God, but maybe you call it Science. (So you punk neuroscientists can all go back to your dark labs now and continue not seeing The Big Picture.)
Anyway, back on topic: friend Patresa (who is full of good energy and thoughtful and helpful) also suggested I have a heart to heart talk with Tasha, and I have. I have spoken at length with Tasha, telling her about God, and about how I don't know about what happens to us after this physical side of existence. I explained what I've had to decide to do, and why. I've told her the Story of Sassy, and the weird but extremely comforting experience I had after she died. I've told Tasha I'm scared to make this decision, but I'm more scared of watching her get to a point she'll suffer. We talked about what a good, long life she's had. How many cats can say they were born in one part of the U.S. and got to take an airplane ride to live in another part? That's exciting. I thanked her for being such a sweet, even tempered cat--there simply aren't that many sweet, even tempered cats in the world, I think, and I apologized for putting her through the experience of a baby in her twilight years. But she's been a good animal friend/child to me, and a very patient, loving animal friend/sister to Melissa.
I go back and forth between wanting to be in the room when it happens and not wanting to. I do think I want to take her, to hold her in a soft blanket instead of sticking her in the carrier, and maybe go say good-bye to her when she's gone. Or maybe when Saturday gets here, I won't be able to do any of that--C will have to take her and I will stay home.
I think this is the hardest part of being human, dealing with death. The spirit part of me knows this is simply a new beginning, and that it's both useless and silly to waste time worrying about it. It is inevitable, and a part of the experience we agreed to have when we agreed to hang out here for XX years and have a Life Experience. It's in the contract, and not in fine print...they're pretty up front about it, I think.
Off tracking: While living in Arizona (Arizona: desert land of a myriad of spiritual experiences; I swear it's the dry heat), I found out my dad had congestive heart failure. The way the information was presented to me made it sound like he had about 48 hours to live (he lived for 5 more years). I was inconsolable then, the night I found out, and went to bed sobbing. I fell asleep, and had a dream. In my dream, I was sobbing, too, and an older lady--I couldn't see her, but I could hear her--asked me why I was crying. She was intensely curious. I told her because my dad was dying, and she laughed...not at me, or in a mean way, but a laugh like, "oh, is that all?" And then she got very serious and said, "God created all creatures great and small. It's true your dad is dying, but one day soon your time will come too. Until that day, you are never to worry about death and dying."
Then she repeated the last sentence again, but very very firmly: You are NEVER to worry about death and dying...and then I woke up. But only my brain was awake--my body was frozen and deeply sleeping. I knew I was awake, and in my bedroom, and I knew I was awake, but I couldn't move my body. Then, in my ear, a deep male voice said very loud: You are NEVER to worry about death and dying. And then my whole body woke up. All of that happened so very fast--less than 5 seconds. And of course, I was totally freaked out--I had every single light in my apartment on in less than 10 seconds flat to make sure I was alone (I was...or maybe I wasn't. Doo doo doo!). And of course (part 2), to this day I DO still worry about death and dying. I worry about it all the time. Who the heck wants to die? Who the heck wants anyone or any pet they love to die? Dying is the Great Unknown...I could barely figure out how to decorate Melissa's room without knowing what gender to plan for...I make lists about lists to make sure I know what's coming next. But Death...don't worry about it? Just...don't worry about it? Me? Who once took 20 minutes to decide between a gray pair of pants and a black pair? What a useless thing to say to a human being. Who came up with THAT lesson plan, Universe? Give them a D-. (And tell them to stop freaking people out at 3 am.)
Still, I think about those freaky, weird, inexplicable, wonderful experiences of Spirit that happened to me, what I think I know and know I don't know about the Great Beyond. I do not care what neuroscientists, atheists, and so forth have to say about my experiences or beliefs; they happened to me, I like that they happened to me, and I think you and your Science should stick to Global Warming, where you can make a much bigger difference in the long run. They stay in my heart, and they give me a lot of comfort during moments like these, when I have to let go.
Back on topic: Tasha is/was a lot of cat. She has a sweet, gentle soul that I hope will come visit if she can, wherever she goes. She loves ear rubs and cuddling up right on top of you when it's cold...I will miss that, this winter and every winter without her. Other than a warm body to snuggle with on colder days, some long ear rubs, and a full food bowl at all times? Tasha has never really asked much out of Life, or from anyone--she is and was a go-with-the-flow kind of cat. Happy and satisfied as long as she had company and food in her belly...tIf you were on the sofa, she'd hang out on the sofa with you. If you were working at the kitchen table, she'd find a kitchen chair to curl up on. When I was on pregnancy bed rest for 4 weeks, she was my bed rest buddy. She's been pretty quiet and content to just be, which is something I think human beings could learn a big lesson from. Just stay quiet, and be content just to be. Tasha has filled up my whole heart for almost 18 years simply by doing that. I am so thankful that God collided our life paths...I am sure she was sent just when I needed her, for exactly how long she was needed.
I hope she gets some good ear rubs on the Other Side.