The Moment is Enough

Emmett has his own way of getting the day started.  He scuttles up to my pillow and whacks me in the face with his tail.  He’s not subtle, this second-fiddle cat who got promoted to Concert Master last December.  I consider myself trained.

From bedroom to kitchen in the gray, half-light, stiff joints find their rhythm.  The ritual of cat food alchemy and kitchen clean-up come from muscle memory, not any sort of gray matter function.  That, in itself, is a miracle.

It’s been a week since my new Medicare drug insurance ended the two month gap where I had no coverage.  I rationed three weeks of meds over those two months and learned, decisively, that Vyvanse helps the depressive part of my bipolar existence.  Without it, I made piles of my possessions in my mind with Sticky Notes of who should get them.  I slept a good part of the day and stayed in bed the rest.  All the hobgoblins nattered ugliness in my ear. I lived in a different sort of gray world.

With Vyvanse, windows of color open.  Joy slides in with the brush of Emmett’s tail and putting paint to paper.  A different ritual starts to reform—swimming, cafés, doing the next thing.  Gratitude resurfaces—for my weekly yoga class, for my steadfast sister, for the Salty Dog Ruccicino at the Erly Rush coffee drive-through.

A cardinal just flew across the parking lot—a blaze of color in the sunlight.  Limpy, the feral calico, prowls around the cars, waiting for opportunity.  Birds chirp.  Trains rumble.  The thought of getting a massage later in the morning creates a warm spot of anticipation.

In this moment, all is peaceful.  The moment is enough.

A Slow Leak

Over the past couple of months, I’ve noticed an ongoing shift in my mental weather.  It’s subtle, quiet, not alarming or uncomfortable.  I can only describe it as a slow leak of caring.  I’m not interested in much beyond making my bits of art and maintaining creature comforts.  This I attributed to lung crud overlapping Henry-grief.  It seemed pretty normal to me, and not worth fussing about.

And it’s not completely new.  I go through cycles of pulling back, detaching, giving the Hermit full reign.  In the past, those cycles included some kind of mental anguish or agitation.  Not so now.  I’m curiously uninterested in friends or family, untroubled by minor annoyances.

So, I confessed to my therapist yesterday in the spirit of full disclosure.  And, I think, to make sure nothing else might be going on.  She agreed that sickness and grief were probably in play, and that I was correct in taking it in stride.  Although, she did ask for my promise to call her if thoughts of suicide became a daily occurrence.  That seemed a bit drastic, but Sonya doesn’t know me that well yet, so her caution and concern are actually quite endearing.  I promised.

Today will be another spent on my bed with art supplies, Emmett, and the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation keeping me company (This was the season Michelle Forbes joined the cast as Ensign Ro Laren—Michelle Forbes who stars with Richard Armitage in Epix’s Berlin Station and who seems to be his current amour.  Seven Degrees of Star Trek.).

I will be content, unaffected by other people or the world.  It seems a little weird, but I’m not complaining.i

Productive with Phlegm

After a long and noble battle, my immune system took to her fainting couch, and bronchitis cackled its phlegmy victory.  I’m actually delighted to have gone almost ten months without lung crud.  Setting up the sickroom and soup kitchen was second nature.  Plus, my sister ran for juice and other essentials in the early days, so that was a new comfort and indulgence.  Thanks, Sissy.

I’ve been in a card-making mood for several weeks, and just moved everything into bed with me.  Counting up this morning, I’ve made 62 cards and little Penny Positive collages in the past two weeks.  They just flow—a positive role model for all my bodily Humours.

As my Etsy shop fattens, Emmett and I relax with some series or other on the TV, the bed full of paper and ribbons.  A mug of Gypsy Cold Care tea steams on one bedside table, snips and tweezers sit on the other.  Yes, there is coughing and dizziness, and Emmett’s weight loss, but we are companionable and warm and here.

In fact, I hear my bed calling.  A new batch of cards longs to be created with the awful first season of Star Trek: Next Gen on Netflix to keep us company.  Think how many we can make by the time we get to the seventh season series ender!

Once Again, Thankful

I love my blog.  I never came here to do anything except tell my story—whatever that might mean.  I never expected to find deep connections.  I never expected to touch so many lives.  Or to be touched by so many.  The only conditions I placed on my posts were to tell the truth and to wait long enough to know what the truth might be in a given situation.

Keeping this space for almost eight years means it has also become my memory.  Electroshock not only eliminated 2006 and 2007, but continues to burn holes in the process that changes short-term into long-term memory.  I stopped fussing about that long ago.  Being forced to live in the Now is a pretty decent way to live.

As I think about making some sort of journal/tribute for Henry, though, I mourn all the stories I’ve forgotten, all the little details, the ways he, Emmett and I became a family.  So, when I sit down to write about him, I start with what I notice now.  This morning I wrote about how quiet the house is without him.  That thought led to another and another, stitching together fragments of memories into a surprising string of delight and appreciation.

And I come to my blog, where Henry’s stories remain clear and available.  I took more pictures of the cats so I could illustrate those stories.  How grateful I am to have this reliquary!  Who knew how smart I was in 2011 to fiddle around with WordPress?

As Emmett and I rearrange ourselves around and within the space that was Henry, I’ll keep coming here to share our truths.  Today, Emmett is soaking up the morning sun in the Alpha chair.  When I came home from yoga (noticing the silence instead of Henry’s irritated greeting), and saw Emmett basking, I took pictures.  This is an important moment for him, for us, for our life now.

The sun and the silence.  And the Adventure Continues.

(This song by the Wailin Jennys has always felt like Henry to me—his energy, his personality—so I share him with you in a slightly different way.)

The Top Sheet Rumble

I changed the sheets on my bed yesterday.  A mundane chore, but surreal without Henry.  He was the sheet-changing supervisor (he was the Everything Supervisor), laying on the yet-to-be stretched lumps, attacking the Bed Boogies that lurked beneath.  But his specialty was doing The Top Sheet Rumble.

As soon as the top sheet fell over him, his hind feet flew up, anticipating an attack.  A hand-like creature swooped in, targeting the exposed belly.  Claws and teeth ripped at the invader.  It retreated.  Henry scrambled under the sheet, waiting.  Fingers teased the hind-quarters, which were seized and shredded.  Another retreat (to suck on puncture wounds), then a deep drive to the belly that left the invader wide open to attack.

The Victor emerged quickly (he seemed to know when to stop by the wailing on the other side of the sheet), licked his lips and bounded off the bed to find other prey (usually Emmett).

I never minded the puncture wounds.  Hen lived by his wits in the wild until The Humane Society found him.  Stuck inside, he needed the exercise and the Hunt.  Poor Emmett was his usual target, but Em learned early on how to lay low and hide.  Henry loved to Rumble, and I learned how to keep my battle wounds to a minimum.

Changing the sheets will always bring Henry back to me.  It won’t ever be a chore.

Good-Bye, Henry

After suffering a stroke in the wee hours of Monday morning, Henry gave me the clear sign I’d asked for fourteen years ago when we first came home together. I promised him then that I’d pay attention and be brave when he gave that sign.

We spent our last night together on the bed so I could help him move and tell him stories about our life.

Now I’m sitting in the vet’s parking lot, our contract completed.

Thank you, Hen, for being my Person when I didn’t have a person.  Thank you (and Emmett) for giving me a reason to live when I didn’t want one. I am so grateful.

Just Don’t Scare the Cats

I don’t know why I’m always surprised by how awful this illness can feel.  There are episodes that seem like the first time (though I don’t think this is what Bryan Adams had in mind).

Little annoyances pile up and become life-jettisoning disasters.  This morning, after fighting with my shower curtain and flooding the bathroom floor, I collapsed on the bed and bawled full-volume.  I didn’t try to stop, hoping the release would activate some mysterious brain juice.  But all it did was scare the cats.

While Emmett huddled in the corner, Henry leapt to the rescue, yowling and circling my body.  He’d pause to sniff my face, then circle again. Or pause and grumble at the window to make sure no predators attacked while I was in this weakened state.

My boys.  My old, grandpa cats.  Saving me from myself.  Again.

Eventually, I wound down and started pulling together a plan for how to get through the day.  And the boys went back to their naps.

Blessed Assurance

These are the things that keep me going:

1.  An Etsy customer sent me this photo.

She said, “As you can see, I’ve discovered a way to set up your artwork in my apartment; I couldn’t have your cards just sitting in a shoebox in the closet. When I’ve sent out cards to friends and family, I simply replace them with something else fabulous from your shop. It’s a wonderful system; It helps me foster relationships through writing. And you should know, they always love them.”

Another customer said, “You are a warrior woman who is in Amazon training. I join you in your training and I fight the good fight as a secondary teacher who has seen enough of school shootings and is ready for both kids and teachers to feel and to be safe again at schools. Love your positive cards that pack a pint-sized punch. Going to keep some and share some with those in need of a pick me up.”

2.  Choosing to be Grateful

3. Subsonic Purrs. 

4. The moments, however fleeting, when a crack opens in my anger, or paranoia, or hopelessness, or wanting and something wise creeps in—something gentle, something breathable—that reminds me of who I am.

5.  Daily Confirmation of the Power of Art to Heal.  I trust the process completely now.  I sit with no ideas and in a few hours something remarkable creates itself.  No mistakes, no judgment, no hesitation, no Time.  It is Magic.  It is Grace.

Visit From An Old Friend

Early morning light streams over my left shoulder onto the unfinished art quilt in my lap. After a year, it’s graduated from the unwieldy three-foot hoop to a six-incher. Almost done, it whispers to me. This part. 

Missy Higgins croons quietly from the iPod.  Sometimes every inch is bruised, and there’s nothing you can do…

The cats snooze elsewhere, satisfied that nothing superviseable is happening.

One more swallow of chai left in my mug. My favorite mug.

There’s a strange word drifting in and out of my mental rear view mirror, gaining on me, slipping through the open window and settling into the shotgun seat.

Contentment

Yes. That’s it. An old friend gone missing for years, decades, maybe. She’s one of those friends I used to chase after, trying to coax her back, trying to remember what happened to put so much distance between us.

I gave up the chase long ago. I stopped chasing after all the Used To Be’s. All that wanting kept me stuck, kept me sick. Instead, I blessed what I held in my hands.

But, here she is, back for a visit. I’m too savvy now to hope she’ll stay long, but maybe she’ll come back again, now that she knows the way.

And when Henry nestles into his companionable niche against my side, I know how he feels.

Ignition

So long, Iowa.

Thanks for giving us eleven years of sanctuary and for teaching me how to live bipolar.

Next stop: Muskogee, Oklahoma.

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