Getting To Know You

It has been a week with the kittens, and the biggest thing I have learned is… unfortunately, I’m definitely, absolutely for sure, a hundred percent a dog person. The complicating factor is that one of the kittens in particular has grown on me, so giving them back is not an option either. But the good thing is that cats require play, care and affection, but they don’t seem to demand a reciprocal and complex emotional relationship like dogs do. The cats are still confined to the bathroom – sometimes I go in there and they are all over me, sometimes they act like I’m a big annoyance. This is okay. We coexist, I take care of them, we like each other most of the time, but mostly, we’re just getting to know each other.

We are going to move them to the spare room though. They won’t be able to get water from the shower everywhere, we’ll be able to set up a bigger cat tree for them, they will be able to look out of the window. But best of all, I’ll be able to have a shower in peace and won’t have to deal with the crunch of spilled kitty litter all over the floor all the time. The cats are threatening to escape the bathroom every time we go in, so it’ll be better for them to be in a lower traffic area of the house.

How do I feel? I don’t know. It’s just so complicated. I wish we had thought it over for 24 hours before actually saying yes to them, I wish Nathan hadn’t dumped them on me during a week when he was in Canberra. I wish that maybe we’d gotten an older cat, or fostered kittens before adopting. I wish that I could have enjoyed Christmas before taking on this little project. I wish that I could have enjoyed being unencumbered by my leg or by TN for a little while longer without something else to suck up all my energy. Do I regret the kittens? Maybe. I think I regret getting kittens at all, but I don’t regret them specifically because I’m growing to like them and would be sad to see them go after having had them. But if I could rewind to a place where we never got them and never met them, and none of us would know or remember the difference, I probably would.

I’m sure this is just teething pains. It won’t always be like this, things will eventually settle into some sort of normal. And maybe things will even be better than they were before, who knows. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that, and trying to focus on enjoying Christmas despite this bit of chaos.

Introducing…

I’m feeling loads better after my last post. It helped so much just to write it all out and share it. Now that it’s mostly over, I can get on with the business of first time kitten-owning. Without further ado, I’d like to introduce my newest little companions…

Clover and Plato

They are twelve weeks old, brother and sister. Extremely cute and extremely little. Clover is hyper and ultra playful, but loves snuggling – we’re already up to headbutting, slow blinks and kneading, I think she loves me. Plato is more shy and reserved, I don’t know him quite as well yet. He has played a few times, but he’s definitely more skittish than his sister. The two of them are so bonded though, which makes me so happy that we could keep them together, and it makes my job so much easier because they are not clamouring for my attention all the time. I keep finding them spooning or snuggling with each other, and they love to wrestle each other, it’s so sweet.

Introducing them to the dogs hasn’t really happened yet and it’s going to be a long road. The cats are confined to the bathroom for now, and I think it will be the case for at least a few weeks or maybe even months. We placed the carrier in the lounge room for only a few seconds when we first got home, and while Posie was excited, Rupert was immediately in ‘stalking prey’ mode. So everything needs to be gentle, calm and most of all supervised… this is probably an introduction that is going to take months.

I was so panicky in the first few hours because they went on a series of rampages, and were throwing water and litter (like literally scooping their paws and throwing it in the air like confetti) all over the bathroom. I’ve already cleaned up in there five times. They are also pretty violent when playing, and I’ll walk in and find bowls overturned and their little lion scratching post laying on its side on the opposite side of the room. So many bangs and thumps from the bathroom, and it’s worrying Posie and Rupert a lot.

So far… I am stressed out. Two kittens is a lot, and although there are some really good benefits to having two (like they entertain each other and don’t feel lonely with each other), the concept of “I now own two kittens and will for the next 15-20 years” is really rattling me. There are loads of forum posts online about people who had horrible anxiety over adopting kittens, but most of them were cured just by time. The kittens have been home for less than 24 hours at this stage, and we are still very much getting to know each other. It has also been a crazy time because a dissipating cyclone has hit, we’ve had thunder and lightning, and it has been raining continuously since last night, so Posie and Rupert aren’t the happiest dogs in the world.

The whole thing so far has been 20% cute and fun, 70% freaking out and 10% regret. It’s horrible to say that I have any regret at all, and I’m sure it will eventually go away, but I’m haunted by this feeling of “what if we’ve made a terrible mistake? what if we’re not cat people? what if they just never love us? what if we chose the wrong ones? what if we should have gotten older cats instead of hyper kittens?” etc. It’s easier today though – they are just sleeping and requiring almost nothing from me, but last night they were total little horrors. They didn’t calm down until about 1:30am, but they did let me sleep a normal amount.

I know it will get better and easier in time, or I hope it will. It could be worse, they could be puppies or babies, which would be a lot harder.

Dread

This is going to be a sad one, fair warning. Here is my dread face, so you can see what we’re dealing with here:

We are getting kittens this week and next year we are planning on potentially adding some human mini-Johanna-and-Nathans to the family. These are both perfectly normal things for a 31 year old newlywed to be doing. These are even things that I should be very excited and happy about. But somehow, I’m a wreck over both things. When I look at my life with Nathan and the dogs as it is now, I would trade every unknown kitten or hypothetical baby to capture this little slice of my life forever. We have had the best time, we truly have. On weekend mornings when I wake up next to Nathan and those little wriggling pups clamber on top of us and frantically kiss our faces with their sleepy puppy breath because they missed us so much for those hours that we were asleep… that is heaven. I can’t imagine ever being happier than those mornings, I couldn’t even contain that much happiness, I’d just burst or die.

I’ve been terrified of Nathan dying for a while. A blogger I’ve followed for almost a decade lost her husband a couple of months ago to pancreatic cancer – he was healthy and young, then felt sick one day and was dead in a matter of weeks. Another blogger I used to follow lost her husband to melanoma a few years before, and her unimaginable grief has turned her life into a horror show ever since. And even before that, an uncle of mine was struck down by a brain aneurysm in his forties. It feels unfathomable that those little moments of heaven I just mentioned could be a mere hour away from one of these things, or any other number of countless ways a person can be snatched away before their time.

The dread of losing the dogs is more pressing though. Not because I love Nathan less, but because I know that statistically, all these terrible things that could befall him are unlikely. But with the dogs, it’s not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. Posie is nine years old and Rupert just turned thirteen. I don’t even know how to describe what these little dogs mean to me and how fiercely I love them, but the knowledge that I only have a handful more years with them… I just can’t. I don’t know how I could survive losing them. They have both been so much more than I thought possible, I have loved them more than I ever dreamed I could love anybody or anything. They are so perfect and precious, and I wish more than anything I could just pause them and love them like this for the rest of my life.

I was so excited about these little kittens we are getting at first, but it feels like they are signalling this next phase of my life where at least two terrible losses are inevitable. I am trying so hard to look on the bright side and let myself be open to the possibility of more love, more joy… but again, I just keep coming back to my weekend mornings in bed with my three loves. Maybe the problem is the limits of my imagination. I just can’t conceive of anything better than that, and life feels like it would never be as bright or colourful ever again once these days are over. And one day will be the last day ever that we’ll have together as a Fab Four, and I won’t even know until it’s gone.

It’s just so stupid. I am looking at Posie and Rupert right now, snoozing away after a day of playing and treats on tap. They have such wonderful lives, and when they die, the grand sum of their existence was that they were happy, safe and loved infinitely. I read something online that makes me feel a little better – a little braver or nobler, I guess – in the midst of all this dread:

I think about it this way– it makes me much much sadder to think about myself dying before my dog (for altruistic reasons, not for “I don’t wanna die” reasons)…
I have the faculties to process the concept of death, at least more than my dog does. I know she will die, and that I will die, so we’ll someday be parted. If she were to get terminally ill, I would be able to prepare for that. To her, though… I would just be not there one day.
So I think of it as something I’m willing to do for my dog, and probably the dog after her and probably after that: I’m willing to live their respective lives — their entire lives — with them, and try to make them as happy as I can for as long as I can. After she’s gone, I’m willing to bear the burden of being sad so that she doesn’t have to. And life goes on and soon all I’ll be able to remember are the happy times. I don’t know that a dog is capable of getting over something like that, so I’m glad that it happens this way.

It’s a nice thought, to know that even if my heart breaks, at least it will be mine and not theirs.

So, about these kittens. I was excited to get them until they became a symbol of all my existential dread. It makes sense to get them. We are hoping they will be enriching for the dogs, friends for Posie when Rupert goes, and then they will be a comfort to us when we have no dogs. The cats will be lower maintenance and require less attention when we are in our busiest parenting years. They will be easier to make arrangements for when we travel. There are a lot of good reasons for bringing them into our family, but it just hurts to be kicking off this kind of succession planning, because it forces me to acknowledge what is coming next.

I’m trying to look on the bright side, I really am. I am trying to be like Posie and Rupert, and live wholeheartedly in the moment. But the dread remains, tainting all this love and joy with the possibility that it could be taken away at any moment. I’m reading the Rainbow Bridge poem over and over, trying to console myself that if there is a heaven, we’ll all be reunited and it will be those weekend mornings forever and ever. I’m thinking of Titanic where Rose ‘goes on and on’ and lives an amazing happy life, knowing that even eighty years is a relatively short time until she’ll be reunited with Jack in eternity. I’m really trying, and in the meantime, I feel like I’m so full of grief for the living that I won’t be able to enjoy the time that we do have together, or let myself love the kittens like they deserve.

Anybody out there have any tips, besides “try not to think about it”? If we have years left together as a pawsome foursome, or only a few weeks or months, I don’t want it to be poisoned by my sadness, because when I’m sad, Posie and Rupert are sad too. How can I just pull myself together for their sake?

I’m going to try harder tomorrow. I will take them for a walk. I will give them snacks and cuddles and rub their little bellies and tell them how precious and clever they are. I will take photos and videos of them so I can show my future children how lovely they were. I will read in bed after I wake up and before I go to sleep so that they can snooze curled up against me for a little longer. The time is short for me, but it’s everything for them, and I want it to be nothing but wonderful for them.

A Nice Break

A change is as good as a holiday, but a change and a holiday is a whole new me. Let’s talk about this in two parts:

Bali

Nathan came with me to Bali for a long weekend (and is an absolute hero for doing so – his work schedule was hectic but he still carved out some time for us). It was so… needed. After all theĀ everything of this year, it was our first time to actually just enjoy each other’s company. Nathan used some points to get us a little chalet at our resort away from the hustle and bustle of the main area, and it was blissful.

And we’ve had many conversations about whether we need a twelve foot bed in our house and a pool in our backyard (answer is yes, duh).

After Nathan had to go home, I went to Ubud to stay in my favourite little bed and breakfast style hotel. The plan was that I would just write and write and write – this didn’t happen to the extent that I hoped for. First reason was that fluctuating power in Ubud meant that my laptop electrocuted me while charging, twice. Second reason – the medication I’m (still) on for trigeminal neuralgia has had two nefarious effects. It has given me a rash all over my body that has been driving me mad. The second part is that the medication is well known for turning people into bumbling zombies. We’re talking major cognitive deficits. I have struggled with things like paying for my prescriptions with a credit card or ordering from a menu, so as you can imagine, writing has been an insurmountable task*. So I didn’t get much done. But reading has been fine, swimming for about 4 hours a day (I have a tan!) and eating – I found a warung near my hotel that made the most amazing tuna curry (I know – tuna in curry? I was shocked too, but it’s really good) that was so delicious that I went back for it three times.

Here’s a story though: one night, I went out for dinner and made my first fatal mistake – I ordered beef carpaccio. In low season, in a regional area. It came out from the kitchen and I could immediately smell it. Like a toilet. I froze up, knowing that I was the only person in the restaurant, they would see if I flung it into the bushes, and I would die of shame to send something back or refuse to eat it. So I ate it. Tasted like a toilet too (I imagine). I struggled on through, diplomatically eating about two thirds of the plate before fussing with the remaining slices to make them look smaller and hiding them underneath some rocket. It was so bad, and yes, I paid for it later. Only for about thirty six hours, but still – I am so ridiculous that I will risk getting typhoid or whatever rather than hurt a stranger’s feelings.

Aside from that, my trip was calm, peaceful and uneventful. I skipped a lot of things that I usually do – no massages, no classes, no sightseeing, not a lot of shopping. Just a lot of restorative time by myself to recover from the year that was.

Home

When I got home, Dad had put in a mammoth effort and put a shower in our bathroom for us, after nine months of having to go to Mum’s every day. It took him three weekends, but I can’t even describe how much this has changed my life. Yes, seriously. The day after I got home, I just woke up, had a shower in my own house at my leisure, put on clean clothes, and it was such a revelation. There is so much self-esteem and positivity in being able to do these small rituals of self-care.

Conclusion

Both of these things together have signaled such a fresh start for me, it’s unbelievable. I came home full of hope and optimism, like I’d shrugged it all off and the year’s worth of bad things was all behind me. It was such a relief, and now I finally feel like I can get on with things. Aside from the novel, I have a bunch of upcoming projects and instead of approaching them with dread, I’m so excited. Instead of feeling tired before we’ve even begun, I can’t wait for what the future holds.

* This is slowly getting better. I am weaning off the medication because the flare seems to be over, so we’ll see how this goes. It’s really hard to be a writer who isn’t writing, and it’s especially hard when everybody is crowing about their NaNoWriMo triumphs and you are averaging 300 words a day. But it’s coming back. Maybe January will be my novel writing month.

I Write This From the Pool

Seriously.

I’m in Bali. Nathan was here for the first weekend, now I’m on my own. I’ll write more when I get home, but it’s all about sleeping*, eating**, swimming***, writing**** and reading***** right now.

* Luxuriously for as long as I want.

** Lobster rolls and dragonfruit and mahi curry.

*** Every single day, sometimes twice (part mermaid, after all).

**** Trying, mostly.

***** Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain and Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman at the moment.