Thursday, December 24, 2015

Santa Bastet Came By!

Crossposted on Blogetary 2.0

This post was completely lost on Blogetary 1.0, so this is a reconstruction or retelling of how Teddy came to live with me for Blogetary 2.0. Who knows? Maybe it'll be a better read this time round.

This is the story of how Santa Bastet came by and brought Theodore Forrest Beauregard Olivier, Emperor of Catmas, Noble Defender of the Household (Teddy for short) to live with me.
So we settled on a name: Theodore Forrest Beauregard Olivier, Emperor of Catmas, Noble Defender of the Household. Teddy for short, because he's a Teddy Cat.
Theodore Forrest Beauregard Olivier, Emperor of Catmas, Noble Defender of the Household. Teddy for short, because he's a Teddy Cat.
We were putting the January paper to bed the week leading up to Christmas and it was busy, but I was coming to the realization that I felt as if I was finally ready to put feelers out for a new kitty to come live with me. I wasn't going to be in any hurry, just slowly look around and be open to the possibility. I confided that at work, but didn't think any of it, just went about my busy day.

We got the paper to bed, barely. It's December 23 and though it's only a five minute walk home, I'm exhausted. I'm settling in for an evening of Christmas movies when Pam, from work calls me up and tells me she is at NKLA (part of Best Friends) and has seen an orange kitty there I might like. But they won't let her adopt it without me being there. Can she and Pierre come pick me up?

Um, sure? I nodded then realized she couldn't see me and said "Sure!" with more confidence.

I kind of sat and stared for a while, but eventually got myself moving again so I could be downstairs when she drove up. Almost forgot to bring my cat carrier. It was about 7:30 in the evening. She'd driven all the way from West LA and we were driving back again. She assured me we didn't have to do this this evening, but she happened to be at the shelter and saw an orange kitty who was about 4 years old and wanted me to take a look at it. And there happened to be another orange kitty there who was older if I liked as well.

I breathed again and realized I could just roll with this. This was Christmas after all. Magical things happen at Christmas.

With traffic it took a while to get back over to the shelter, and then we had to wait to sign in and then wait to be escorted back to the kitties, so that it was about 8:30 by the time eyeballs were on cats. I didn't think any of it, but they closed at 9 p.m., so it put a little bit of a hurry in our step.

There were all sorts of kitties back in the kitty room. Some were big, some small. Some older and some very young. Some playful and some napping. Pam introduced me to Kennedy (the shelter name for the cat) and I don't think either Kennedy or I "felt it" for each other. She was a pretty orange kitty with a white tuxedo. I hope she found a good home, but she and I weren't for each other. But I decided to look around at the other kitties while I was there, just as a way to take things in. Like I said, there were all sorts of cats. There was a young girl running around excited because her family was taking home a pair of white kittens. I found myself a little taken with a gray tabby who was about six months old. He almost came home with me, but he had Pye's feral look in his eyes and I knew what kind of work he would be for any home he went to. I wasn't sure I wasn't up to it again, at least not yet. So, I kept him in the back of my mind in case I didn't see anyone else who caught my eye, but kept looking.

In the meantime, my friend Pam had become taken with a kind, but very large, black and white cat who went by the name of Adam. And the only reason she didn't take him right there and then, I think, is that he had Feline Leukemia, so that gave her some pause (as opposed to paws... heh). She was having fun playing with him.

Poppy:Teddy 122315 1
I wandered back to the front. It was getting late, almost at closing time, but they'd said there was that other orange cat. Now, they'd called him an orange long-haired cat, but as I've been the owner two very orange-y cats, he looked more beige-y sand colored to me, and long hair? It was normal, if a bit thicker. And he had a patch shaved off his back and his tummy, but they didn't know why. He'd come from the city shelter that way. They'd guessed at his age as 7 years old and put his birthday down as December 8, but I think that was just his intake date. (These days -- June 2016 -- he strikes me as as more of a June baby and less of a December baby. Who knows?) They called him Poppy.


Poppy:Teddy 122315 2
Anyway, I wasn't really sure I was interested, but I thought what was the harm of getting a closer look at him, and maybe I'd like him, or one of the other kitties who was there. The NKLA shelter is on Pontius, which is at least an hour or more bus ride from where I live, so I wasn't sure when I'd get back there. Pam was still deciding about Adam, taking Pierre back to meet him I think. Since I was there, I thought I would check him out. And, after a lot of waiting ... (it was after closing now -- there was a LOT of waiting that evening, and I wasn't sure what for as there were a lot of minders just sitting at computers. Maybe they weren't allowed to do the cat or dog handling, but if that was the case it would have been good if it had been explained. If I'd let customers wait that long without an explanation when I worked in retail I would have been written up and/or fired. Nice people, all of them, but it was a lot waiting).... anyway, after more they finally took me in to see "Poppy," where he'd been hanging out in a small community room place with other cats.

Cat's don't always want you to pet them, even when they seem to exude "pet me vibes." I was aware of that as I approached this big, beige-colored cat. Poppy seemed like an odd name on my tongue. He had a pretty face, like a flower — I got that. But he didn't seem like a Poppy for me.

He was laying there, kind of looking depressed. I reached over to let him take a whiff of my hand, said "Hi!" and he got up right away, chirping and rubbing his face against my hand. It was almost instant. And I instantly started crying. Just crying. I wanted to pick him and hold him, but didn't want to seem forward, so settled with just lots of petting. And when I could find someone again (after more waiting and finding Pam and Pierre and letting them know) said, "I want this one."

And then it was reading and signing paperwork and going through the care and feeding of cats (they were very conscientious). "Poppy" had been checked over by a vet, given shots, been micro-chipped, and had the sniffles. They wanted to make sure I understood everything. I noticed in the paperwork that someone had labeled him "stout" at 12 1/2 pounds. I figured we were meant for each other since we're both middle-aged and stout.

Pam paid for the adoption as a lovely Christmas gift. (I call her Teddy's godmother.) And then we were finally, at about 10 p.m., on our way back to the car to go home! (Until someone came out and reminded us we needed medicine for the sniffles, so there was more waiting while we waited for someone to get the medication.)

And that's how I ended up waiving goodbye to Pam and Pierre at 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve Eve as they drove off after dropping me at home with a cat in tow. And suddenly as I stood there on the sidewalk I realized I had no litter, litter box, food, catnip or toys to speak of. I'd given most of it away after Pye died, and tossed the rest. I rushed up the stairs as fast I as could lugging the cat carrier. I'd forgotten how hard that could be.

I set the carrier down, opened the door, got some water (looked again for something akin to tuna and found nothing) and then rushed over to the computer to see what I could do about ordering something in the way of cat things from Yummy before they closed at midnight. I could always get other things later, but we needed the essentials that night.

I ended up with a roasting pan for a litter box. (Every time Teddy used it he gave me a dirty look if I was around. I apologized for it every time for it until we got a proper litter box.) Otherwise, I was able to get the food and the litter and treats enough to tide us over until later.

And that's how Santa Bastet brought Teddy to stay.

Poppy:Teddy 122315 3

June 12, 2016 Addendum: I forgot to say he's earned his keep in defending my honor against a HUGE brown spider that found it's way into my bathroom a few days after he arrived. I had seen the spider earlier and decided to ignore it until I could deal with it later. Teddy saw it, started batting it across the bathroom floor, playing with it, it scooted behind the makeshift litter box, he found it, and "killt it dead - d-e-d - dead." 

It was a good fight, but it was ugly. Spider didn't know what had hit her/him/it. 

Yes, I know, spiders are good. Normally, I'm all about leaving them be, but this was a big outdoor brown recluse-looking thing that had made it's way inside somehow. Scary. I am so glad Teddy defended my honor. Very happy I didn't have to be the one to trap it or scoot it out the window somehow or wash it down the drain.

And that's how Theodore Forrest Beauregard Olivier, Emperor of Catmas, Noble Defender of the Household (Teddy for short) came to stay.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

In Honor of Brian William Arthur Olivier

Crossposted from Blogetary 2.0

First created on Blogetary 1.0 around Nov. 5, 2015. This is a paltry re-creation of my father's death announcement and a little bit about our memorial, which is why I have it dated Nov. 12, 2015.
On Mon., Oct. 26 my sister called in the middle of the premier of Super Girl. I answered with, "Do you know what's on right now?!?!" She told me to sit down. Dad had died. I turned off the TV and spent the evening listening, talking, and not quite crying. Not yet.

After we hung up I knew my world had changed, but it hadn't hit me yet.

A couple of days later, my stepmom Meeg asked me to write Dad's obituary. The entire time I was writing it, I kept wanting to pick up the phone and ask Dad about things, verify things with him. I tried to make sure it was good, that I got everything correct, on my own. I learned afterward that I hadn't, but we weren't able to fix it. It is what it is, I guess.

A week and a half later, I was on my way to San Francisco for Dad's memorial, where a rag-tag, motley crew of family members were gathering to remember him and comfort each other; figure out where to go from here.
On the way to San Francisco on the bus it felt like even the skies were in a stormy, dramatic mood.
On the way to San Francisco on the bus it felt like even the skies were in a stormy, dramatic mood.
There we were, all of us family in one way or another, all trying to help each other. All trying to cope with the loss somehow. My cousins Simon and Sarah had made the trek from England. My half-sister Elizabeth had come with her husband Will and son Jon from Nevada. My sister Heather and Meeg, Dad's life companion, Gunilla (Meeg's best friend) and Ed, basically family, with Monica their daughter and her daughters as well as other long time friends — we were all there.

We didn't always know what to do with each other. Part of the time we were getting to know each other. Other times we were telling stories about Dad. Sarah and Simon would chime in with stories about Uncle Tony and some about Dad — stories they'd told us about themselves and each other. Then there was the shooting in France around the same time. And in the beginning we were wondering if we'd even have a memorial as Dad's doctor had forgotten to sign the death certificate, so the morgue couldn't cremate the body until someone tracked down said physician and got her sign it (and I think I remember there was more than one office she reported to).

Wed., Nov. 11 was a holiday in the rest of the U.S., and probably in other parts of the world like Canada and the U.K. But for us, it was Dad's memorial day. We were taking his ashes (and all his various kitties' ashes) out to Half Moon Bay, where we all gathered on a boat to toast him, remember him, and say farewell.

It was a perfect day. The sun was bright on the water and the wildlife — whales, seals, herons, ducks, gulls, etc. — gathered around us, as Dad would say, "like a god-damned Disney movie!" It felt like they were paying tribute to a man who loved animals, despite his often prickly exterior.
And then the send off lunch at the restaurant.

I remember holding myself tightly through it all, but realized I could relax. I was with people who knew me, even if they didn't know me. I met Blake, who had known Dad since he'd first come to the U.S. I loved spending time with Monica and her daughters. John and Sally, Cheryl, Julie.

Sarah and Simon and Elizabeth had all already experienced the loss of a parent and knew what to expect. It was comforting to have them around while Meeg and Heather and I stumbled around trying to cope.

That night back at Dad's place, we ate, we drank, we went through photos and tried to figure out what we were going to do with all Dad's things, redistributed some of them to people that evening. But it wasn't all logistics. There was magic. Simon found a guitar in a corner, picked it up and began to play it. We discovered old photographs of family we'd never seen. Heard stories we'd never heard about our families. It felt like Dad was there. I kept looking around for him. He loved large gatherings, being the pater familias, even though he didn't like to admit to it.
A small portion of Dad's ashes were sent back to England.
A small portion of Dad's ashes were sent back to England.
One of the things we figured out was sending some of Dad's ashes back to England to rest with his brother Tony and niece Kate.

I miss my dad — oh-so-much. But despite that, I was glad of the time I could spend with a few of the people from my tribe. I felt loved, like I belonged, and like each of us had a little bit of Dad in each of us.

Heather, Dad, Elizabeth and me around 1994/5.
Heather, Dad, Elizabeth and me around 1994/5.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pye-Pye-Gold-Eye-Pizza-Pie-Pie-in-the-Sky-American-Pie-Pi-R-Squared-My-Guy-Pye: July 1999 to May 2015

Pye passed away on Monday, May 4, 2015 around 1:15 p.m., probably due to heart failure. But whether you believe it or not, he had a huge, grand heart. Below is my eulogy for him, with pictures. It will be long, so feel free to skip through to the pictures and read the captions if you feel more "alliterate" than "literate" right now.

**********

I wasn't sure I wanted another kitty when Pye came into my life. One of my neighbors, though, was trying to take care of the feral colony of cats who lived across the street in the school grounds and was trying to get as many kittens adopted out as she could, as well as get the older ones neutered or spayed. It was late 1999 and I had just moved back down to Los Angeles from San Francisco, and for the first time in Kiko's life he wasn't allowed to go outside. We were three stories up. I was gone 10 to 12 hours a day at a job across town that was a 1 1/2 to 2 hour bus ride each way. No more chasing mice and birds for him, no more making friends with the neighbors. Poor guy was bored to tears.
So, without really consulting Kiko, or thinking about how I might upset his middle-aged life (he was five at the time), I told my neighbor, Stephanie, that sure, I would go with her when she was feeding the kitties and see if maybe one of them might look like an adoptable kitty.

So, one night in November we took some canned food across the street, opened it up and put it in the "usual spots" and backed away. I wanted the little silver striped tabby who was shy and scared and hiding behind the fence. But it was the bold, orange-striped tabby kitten who ran for the food we set out and got there even before some of the teenagers did (and there was a crowd!). Stephanie decided that was the kitty for me, he was orange like Kiko, but a little different shade, and bold, a survivor. There was something about him. She grabbed him before he could scuttle away and we took him home.
Pye when he came to me in November 1999.
Pye when he came to me in November 1999. That's a toy chair he is hiding under.
That first night wasn't easy. It didn't take more than once for him to learn to use the litter box, but the first time he didn't know what to do, and he was nervous and pooped in the main room and it was so watery it was like pee. He was about 4 months old, but seemed smaller, his belly was swollen and round, too big for his little body. And he wasn't happy, wouldn't let anyone near him. And so, so hungry. He'd eat anything because he was sure he wouldn't have another chance at food. Not like my experience with Kiko had been at all. Kiko thought I was crazy. My neighbor told me to keep Pye in the bathroom and just hang out with him. She went in there, totally ignoring his little hisses and posturing, picked him up, cleaned him off, checked his ears for mites, and held him until he settled down. And while he was never a model kitty, after that he was settled down (comparatively speaking). She got him through that first night (though a night or so later I had a hard time making it and felt guilty as hell when a plump mom cat stood across the street and yowled at our building).
Pye in my closet around 2000.
Pye in my closet around 2000.
Not many of my friends know this, but for a while, Pye didn't have a name. My old roommate, Kelly, and I, had settled on a name for Kiko (named after Pedro Almodovar's Kika), and I'd added to it because of my love for Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarembo....But with Pye, I wasn't sure what to do for a name. I figured he would tell me eventually, but for a while, he was just "Kitty!" or "My little-little kitty!" because he was so small compared to Kiko. And ever after that was one of his nicknames. I'd say, "Where's my little-little kitty? There he is!" And I'd scoop him up into my arms while he just sighed and put up with my woman-handling of him for a brief time. I'd sometimes jokingly call him "Second son Chang" because of the Tikki Tikki Tembo story, too. But eventually we got to Pye. Not Pyewacket. That didn't seem right. My boss at the time liked to call him Pye Squwacket because he was a scrapper.
Pye hanging out in the scratch post tree in 2004 or 5, maybe.
Pye hanging out in the scratch post tree in 2004 or 5, maybe.
He wasn't a big jumper like Kiko had been, but he was smart. You use a toy tied to a string and a stick and he had no problem figuring out it was the stick and not the toy at the end that was in charge.
Pye playing with catnip toy in 2011.
Pye playing with catnip toy in 2011.
Pye playing with boa in 2009.
Pye playing with boa in 2009.

Once I had the name Pye down, I had the rest. Not Pie and not Pi, but somewhere in between. Pye. With a name not as long as Kiko's but just as full of story. He had gold eyes. Not yellow like Paws or jade green like Kiko's, but deep gold. He liked to eat. Sometimes he smelled spicy like curry, and sometimes he smelled sweet, like maple syrup. His fur was rough for many years. It took a long time of good eats before it got smooth and glossy like Kiko's.
Pye liked his food. This is him letting me know in 2010.
Pye liked his food. This is him letting me know in 2010.
He liked to curl up into a circle and had been a bright, blazing orange star who had come to me out of the night. So, his name was Pye-Pye-Gold-Eye-Pizza-Pie-Pie-in-the-Sky-American-Pie-Pi-R-Squared-My-Guy-Pye and his song was "You Are My Lucky Star" (though later on I would end up singing "Skinna Marinky Dinky Dink" to him (and if you don't know that song without me finding it for you—with the motions—then shame on you)).
In the beginning, he was more Kiko's friend than mine. Kiko was my friend and Pye was Kiko's friend. Pye looked out for and/or harassed Kiko in turns. There were nights when I'd pray for enough money to sleep in a hotel with air conditioning away from the two cats who were chasing each other. I think there were times Kiko was so over it, but amazingly enough, he and Pye were good friends. Kiko was King Kiko. Pye was Prince Pye.
Pye in the sink and Kiko's silhouette in the bathroom around 2005 or 2006.
Pye in the sink and Kiko's silhouette in the bathroom around 2005 or 2006.
Kiko and Pye hanging out, 2000.
Kiko and Pye hanging out, 2000.
Kiko and Pye helping me write for Research Assistance back in 2002.
Kiko and Pye helping me write for Research Assistance back in 2002.
Kiko and Pye helping me in 2002 or 2003.0
Kiko and Pye helping me in 2002 or 2003.
Kiko and Pye Christmas 1999.
Kiko and Pye Christmas 1999.
And then Kiko died in March, 2007. It was a tough time for Pye and I.  At the time, my sister pointed out that our furry four-footed friends are often with us to help see us through specific periods in our lives. And when they pass from our lives, it's because it's the closing of one period and the beginning of another. They have done what they could for us, time to move on. Another friend of mine recently pointed out how Kiko had definitely passed on the torch for caring for me to Pye. But I think Pye was in serious doubts about that.

At first, though we did have each other, we didn't know what to do with each other. Pye had never been very good at letting me hold him for long, preferring to curl up with Kiko. After Kiko died he definitely blamed me. Every time I picked him up, he'd bite my arm. Not hard, just a quick, sharp bite to let me know it was all my fault (something he always did ever after if I crossed a boundary. If I stepped on a tail or bumped into him, etc., he accepted my pets and rubs for apology, but still always had to nip me somewhere to let me know I was wrong — a couple of times he bit me deep enough for the bite to be infected).

Where Kiko had slept curled next to my chest or tummy, Pye preferred sleeping near my feet. I'd always shoved my face in Kiko's face or on his tummy, and that was something I never dared do with Pye until just the past few years. Where Kiko always wanted to go out and explore, Pye was frightened of the great outdoors, wanting to hide underneath something whenever I took him outside. He preferred cruising through the hallways of the apartment building, smelling under the doors to see what was happening with the other animals in the building.
Pye curious August 2014.
Pye curious about what's going on with Sylvia in 307, August 2014.
But, over time, we got closer. If I was having a bad day, he would come hang out with me. When he was having a bad day, or needed attention, he definitely would make me pay attention.
Pye helping me on the desk, 2010.
Pye helping me on the desk, 2010.
Pye liked being comfortable, whether in front of the heater in winter or in front of the ac in summer.
Pye liked being comfortable, whether in front of the heater in winter or in front of the ac in summer.


Pye and computer 1
Helping me? Or telling me it's time for dinner?
He learned that he could curl up around me, near me, or juxtaposed to me and it was okay.
Pye on my lap, January 2012.
Pye on my lap, January 2012.
And he did his best to "help" me.
Pye helping with the lights, 2013.
Pye helping with the lights, 2013.
Helping me pack, February 2012.
Helping me pack, February 2012.
Checking the water connections.
Checking the water connections.
Pye helping me write in 2013.
Pye helping me write in 2013.
 He loved his windows.
Pye and Kiko 2009.
Pye and Kiko (the urn next to Blue Corn Woman) 2009.
Pye TV in the new kitchen, 2015.
Pye TV in the new kitchen, 2015.
And he LOVED Christmas. Loved the tree.
Pye's first Christmas, 1999.
Pye's first Christmas, 1999, with a real tree.
Christmas Pye around 2001.
Christmas Pye around 2001.
Christmas Pye 2005.
Christmas Pye 2005.
Pye's Christmas Throne 2010.
Pye's Christmas Throne 2010.
Pye Christmas 2011.
Pye Christmas 2011.
Christmas Pye in 2011.
Christmas Pye in 2011.
Christmas Pye 2012.
Christmas Pye 2012, putting up with my shenanigans.
Pye and the tree, 2014.
Pye and the tree, 2014.
Pye's ornament for 2014.
Pye's ornament for 2014.
Up until almost the end, he was the same old Pye — herding me into the kitchen every morning, running to the door to check things out and take a sniff in the hallway, greeting me at the door when I came home. I scooped his litter every morning and he'd wait until I was done to do his thing so he'd have fresh litter. I waited to pour fresh water for him until he was at his bowls so he could play with the water stream. He liked the new kitchen and hanging out on the table in the window while I wrote. I would put my face deep in his fur and sniff his scent, and he would purr.

Only read further if you want to read the end of the story...

It wasn't until the very end of April that Pye was acting a little poorly. It was close to my birthday, but I thought he just had a cold or indigestion. He was trying to eat grass and catnip and eating a little less. I saw him straining to poop on my birthday (the 26th) and started to get all sorts of kitty constipation aids for him online. I massaged him with warm wet towels. He appreciated the help, never once hissing at me or getting mad at me, but nothing worked. He just got worse and worse. He was just laying under the table and having a hard time breathing. From Sunday April 26 to Sunday May 3, he'd gone from "a little down" to dying. I'd taken some time off to try to finish writing a novel, but it ended up being my time to nurse Pye. At least I had that.

My first day off was Thursday, April 30, I was researching kidney problems in cats and pulling out all the old syringes I'd used on Kiko when he'd had trouble eating. On Friday, May 1 I was trying kitty metamucil and laxatone and ordering slippery elm bark. On Saturday, May 2, I was getting desperate and ordered a Pet-ema, three actually, because all the instructions said it took more than one. By now he wasn't eating on his own at all, and barely drinking. I would pick him up, sit on the bed with him and use the syringes to get milk or broth or tuna juice or water down him. It was Saturday, and I knew by then it was serious and I needed a veterinarian, but I still hoped for the best. "Just one big bowel movement, God! How hard can it be?"

By Sunday morning I realized he was probably dying, but I didn't know what to do, so I kept trying to feed him, hold him, comfort him, try to have him hang out in places he wasn't able to get to anymore, but I knew he enjoyed, like the bed and the window. Sunday evening I thought I had a reprieve as I found a little turd and thought maybe things were turning a corner, but that night as I held him, I realized he was having such a hard time breathing. It was so hard. I tried to keep him on the bed with me, but eventually he wanted to be down and under the table again. I cried and cried that night. I knew in the morning I'd need to be an adult and find a vet to help him one way or the other.

I woke up Monday morning, May 4, still crying. My last day off. Pye was still breathing. I called a vet who couldn't take me until Friday, or maybe Thursday. I tried one of those home vets, not wanting Pye to have to be stressed out by a metal table and a strange hand, but the home vet refused. Thought Pye might need more than he could handle, and I thought, "really? You offer to euthanize pets at home, but seeing a sick kitty at home to determine what's wrong might be too much?" So, I went back to the internets and found someone who would take me and Pye that afternoon.

Pye knew something was wrong. He got into the carrier without a fight. He rubbed his face against my fingers in the waiting room. The doctor took his pulse, his heart rate was erratic. They took his temperature (it was low) and he seized right there on the table. And there was oxygen and adrenaline and then he was gone. Just like that. The vet said he'd probably had a couple of heart attacks in the last week or so, and had probably been ill for the last year and a half. But Pye hadn't told me he was sick. He'd just been Pye. My Pye. My Guy.
My muse, Pye, 2010.
My muse, Pye, 2010. As a friend of mine said the other night, "Good Night, Sweet Prince".
And now he's gone.

When Kiko died, I had Pye to help me mourn. Now, I look around and there is no other being breathing in the same space as I do. As long as I have lived in this apartment there has been at least one kitty, sometimes two. I have been the almost constant companion of one cat or another for 21 years.

Now there's none. For years I have lived around the needs of my cats in this apartment and now, there is no reason to have a broom near the bathroom anymore to sweep up the litter. No reason to take up the bath mat anymore (no litter to get on it, no cat to pee on it). No one to escort me into the kitchen or hang out by my hand as I type on the computer. No cat to remind me it's time for bed or time to eat or time for a hug. No reason to save the last cereal milk or the pasta sauce or pizza for a kitty treat.

It's just empty; my apartment is just a big hole where I keep my things now.

Another friend of mine was helping me walk through my grief last night. She pointed out that our furry four-footed friends work hard to be our true companions. They have worked hard to teach us lessons in unconditional love, forgiveness and patience. They have earned the right to the grief and loss we feel when they are gone. They have earned the hole they leave in our hearts once they are no longer in our lives. The hole that Pye leaves in my heart is significant and I will treasure it always.



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Journaling as a tool for growth of one's inner voice and internal life

You can journal anywhere, but having a nice, clean spot that is pleasant, and where you can think and write is best.  
You can journal anywhere, but having a nice, clean spot that is pleasant, and where you can think and write is best.
I've blogged about journaling before, back in 2008. This is not a new thing for me, but I keep coming back to how important it is, so I thought I would touch base on it again, in my usual round about way.
The internet has become ubiquitous to our daily lives. It has become our democratic public space where we can freely discuss our ideas, our feelings, kitten videos and pictures of llamas and goats. In my head, I see the internet as this infinite town square with all these people getting on and off soap boxes as they yell for people to listen to them talk about art, politics, literature, medicine, ideas, cute animal videos and even what is going on in their everyday lives. Crowds wander past and stop at the occasional soapbox or steps listening to the various calls to attention, have their say and move on. Or someone from the crowd finds another soapbox or building step to stand on and make a speech while a crowd gathers around him or her. The crowd listens, comments, and moves on.

It's so vast, so all encompassing, all these pushmepullyous of ideas and comments and pictures and videos, and then there are the companies commodifying that space so it's snake oil, as well as ideas and such, littering our brain space and fighting for attention.

The internet as the town square of public life, the democratic public sphere where ideas can be tossed out and looked at from all sides is HUGE. And overall, even with all bad things that happen on the web, this is a good thing. But I think we forget how huge and public this town square is. We sit at our computers or peer at the screens of our various devices and we are each in our own heads and alone before those screens, and it feels singular and intimate. So, we don't just discuss who we voted for, or didn't vote for, or the price of tomatoes at the market (or kitten videos). We also put out some of our most intimate thoughts for strangers to see, read, and comment on. Things that are so private we wouldn't normally tell anyone in person, things we are just thinking about and pondering that we haven't decided on yet, we post on the internet, on the most public space in the world ever, for other people, complete strangers, to see and know about us.

To be sure, in this unprecedented public space it is possible to become friends with complete strangers who live on the other side of the world. You can have best friends on the internet who live on the other side of the country who know things about you that your best friends in meat space don't know. And this is a good thing. A kid in a small town can now know he's not the only romantic goth in the world, even if he is the only one at school. Someone living in a walk-up apt. in a city can live vicariously through a friend who has a garden or a farm. Whole movements can happen and people become very good friends and know a lot about each other, and yet no one has actually met each other. So, it's easy to forget how public a space this internet is, because we can be — and are — so intimate in the way we use it, in the way we post every last detail of our lives in our statuses and tweets.

I think, however, that part of what we are looking for — besides all the other things like friendship or intimacy when we are lonely or attention when we feel neglected, or interacting with like-minded people — is some place where we can see our thoughts outside of our head so we have a better idea of them and get comfortable with them. We want some place where we can live our internal lives.
Most people, by the time they are adults, have an internal life of sorts, a place all their own where they can think things through, ponder life, make up things, create, relax, imagine, and/or fantasize just about anything. We problem solve, make decisions, come to realizations, all within our internal life. Sometimes, like Dumbledore and his pensieve, we need a way to separate out all those thoughts so we can look at them more clearly, and not get lost in the jumble. So, we write them out so we may see them more clearly. People used to write their thoughts out in letters to a friend or in their own journals, and it helped them figure things out.

Should I fight in the Crusades or not? Should I marry that man or take the veil? Should I take that trip over an ocean to a land no one I know has ever seen, or remain here where it's relatively safe? Do I believe in abolition for all or the state's right to choose? Do I believe in suffrage for women and blacks? Or do I think only landholding men should be able to vote? Should I fight my entire family and cohort and go to medical school as the only female, or just be a nurse and governess like everyone says?

These questions were probably discussed aloud with friends and family at some point, but they and the processing of all the thoughts that went with them began with the inner voice. The individual's internal voice, inner life, had space so that person could look over those thoughts and consider the points, and they usually gained some measure of perspective in writing in their journals, or perhaps in letters. But still, it was the writing it out and looking at it separately from themselves that gave them that distance they needed to ponder those thoughts.

These days, however, I think journaling, that urge to look at the thoughts of our internal lives, gets lost in the urge we have to make constant status updates. Sometimes I find myself in the middle of an event or activity and thinking about how I'll post it, instead of just being in the moment and listening to my inner voice. And instead of putting these thoughts safely in a journal where we (and we alone) can ponder them and decide on them — indeed decide on whether or not we want others to see them or even if we want to work through them ourselves — we tweet or post them where everyone can see and comment on them. We get ourselves all frazzled because we put something out there prematurely.  Get ourselves into trouble and get flustered, or be embarrassed or whatever, because the thought we posted out there in the public square wasn't meant for the public square, it was meant, really, for the internal heartbeat, the inner voice that reasons things out before you come to a decision.
I remember a few years ago when I first started realizing how posting statuses so frequently online was affecting my inner voice and internal life. I can't remember now what it was I put out there, but I saw it, realized it was something I was pondering, not ready to share with people. I didn't want to see their comments littering up my thought, whether or not the comments were kind or not, meant well or ill. I just wanted to be able to hold my thought and ponder it outside myself, but privately.

So I took it down from where it was posted and stuck it in my journal, and I remember some people didn't get that. "Oh, you can share with us!" I think it may have hurt some feelings because it felt like I didn't trust them. It has nothing to do with that though. Your thoughts, when they are still yours, are like Schrodinger's Cat when they're still yours and no one else's, when they're still part of your internal life and have not made their way out into the external world. As long as they are still in "the box" — your head — they are neither dead nor alive, and both dead and alive, all at once. No one has told you it was a stupid idea or a good idea. No one has not laughed or laughed too loudly at your joke or comment. No one has not "got it" or gotten it a little too well and now you're uncomfortable.
I guess what I am saying is that what journaling gives you is this magic space and time to reflect on things before revealing them (or not, your choice) to the external world.

For example, I walk down the street and smile at people passing by, most of them neighbors and some of them friends. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, it feels good and I write about the experience as a status update and now everyone out there can comment on it. "Well you didn't smile at me." "No one smiles in my neighborhood." "It was too hot!" "Ha-ha! Did you remember to zip up your pants?" "Only tourists smile." And now suddenly it's a "thing," and instead of feeling good about your walk in the neighborhood, you're suddenly doubting whether or not it was real. Was it really a good walk? Was your experience real?

Another day, same thing, but instead of posting it online, you post it in your journal. You read it. You reflect on your day and your walk. You remember the warmth of the sun and the squirrel that scampered across the street. You remember the little girl pulling her own stroller as her mother pushed it, and the smile that went from their mouths to their eyes. And you remember it and think about it. And it wasn't just a happening and wasn't all fake, in fact, writing it out and rereading it has reinforced how real it was. It really was a good walk. It really was a good day. No one can take that away from you.

NOW, you can share it online if you want, now that you know it is real. Your friends can joke about it and you won't go away with a sour feeling, you'll laugh like everyone else, because you'll have seen your experience through your own eyes first. It's been run through your pensieve, and you've internalized it, made it your own.

This is what journaling does for you, or can do for you if you let it. It makes you stronger and helps you to grow, helps you develop a reflective self. Next time you break up with that boyfriend or girlfriend, instead of posting it on Twitter, write about it in your journal. Take the time to get everything down and out of your system. Not just 15 minutes, either. Go back to it the next day to work out what you went through changing your relationship status and putting together a bag of all their things to give back to them. The feelings you had were real and need the time you give them, privately, in your journal.

And then — maybe — you won't embarrass yourself with over emotional tweets about your ex for the whole world to see. You've already gone through it. You've processed it. You can tweet confidently that you're single now and ready to move on. Unlike your ex, who tweeted while drunk and is now face palming themselves for the crap they put out there and can't take back on the grand public town square that is the internet.