Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dancing as fast as I can

Last week, I published this column in Bay Windows. It has been a rough couple of weeks, and I'm not sure if I see any light at the end of tunnel....(or it may be an oncoming train)!

Lately I’ve been feeling stressed. Not in a small way, but in a full-throated, need to scream into a pillow for two hours sort of way. It seems that I’ve been “dancing as fast as I can,” getting involved in too many activities, running from event to event. Still, this engagement can be a good thing, I think, as it keeps me excited about my life, even when my “day job” is drier than the Gobi Desert.

I can manage multiple projects and stay reasonably sane, as long as my life is going along as planned. However, as the Yiddish proverb says, “Man plans and God laughs.” I’ve been reciting that expression like a mantra as I face a variety of crises, trying to maintain a sense of perspective, and still do what must be done.
For the past 10 years, I’ve been parenting an affectionate calico cat named Santosh. “Santosh” is a Sanskrit (Indian) name meaning peaceful or contentment, and my cat usually exemplifies her name. Unfortunately, both she and I are going through a difficult period, physically and emotionally.

The young vet who gave Santosh her last two checkups recommended a teeth-cleaning procedure upon our last visit. This led to a series of tests, expenses and now — complications. First there was the echocardiogram, along with various blood tests. (My cat has a heart murmur). Then there was the dental cleaning under general anesthesia, removal of two teeth and the aftermath.

A few days after the first surgery, I brought Santosh back to the vet, who determined that there had been “complications.” Suddenly my sick pet was facing another session under the knife. Currently, my cat is making slow progress, eating a bit more of her special canned food, and laying about the house with less zip than she had a pre-surgery. I haven’t fared so well, either. Twice a day I must dose Santosh with a small white pill, to stimulate her appetite, which has flagged after two procedures.
Trying to get that little tablet down my favorite feline’s throat involves a series of grunts, meows, groans, a string of swear words and finally, a sigh of exhaustion from me — and a sense of dread as we count down to the next round, the next dose.
As my cat has become ill, I’ve discovered just how dependent I’ve become on her, as she is on me. With the awareness of my responsibility as a pet-owner comes fear. What if I can’t get her to swallow that pill? What if she simply won’t eat? I’m assailed by ‘what if’ scenarios, all ending with the voice of doom/worst case vignettes in my brain — I killed my cat!

Now, looking back at the low-budget drama of earlier in the week, I realize that my stress level wasn’t quite as high as I’d imagined, at least from the heights I’ve reached today. After waking up from a half-sleepless night, I got a call from my mother, back in Cleveland.

“I’ve been moved,” she said. Still groggy, I wasn’t sure what she meant, though I didn’t like her tone. It turned out that my 79-year-old mother had fallen at home, and cracked her femur. She’d spent about 14 hours in the emergency room before landing at another Cleveland-area hospital.

She made it through surgery, and I’ll be heading back to Cleveland to check on her later this week, once she’s arrived at the rehab center where she’ll be spending several weeks. Now she faces months of physical therapy, rehabilitation, and hard work.

Just last week, as we celebrated the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, my mother said, “I hope it will be a healthy year for all of us.” Certainly, she’s at the age where many of her friends have been suffering with declining health, and facing serious illness.

I find myself wishing — fervently — that I could go back to bed, wake up refreshed and relaxed, and find that my family, both my mother and my cat, were fully healthy. I’d also like to be able to relax with what is, and not create a lot of extra drama. As one of my friends says, I need to “do the next dumb thing,” and be there for the sentient beings I love.

Sometimes, I think of the people I admire most. Those men and women, like my godmother Doris — who had little formal education but lots of school of life wisdom — embody a sense of grace. Instead of living easy or stress-free lives, they face whatever circumstances come their way, both the bad and the good, with a conscious intention to do they best they can.

Today, I watch myself fumbling around, trying to figure out what to do next. I am neither wise nor graceful but unwieldy, like a thin man in a fat suit. I don’t know how to move through this crisis. And so I remind myself, over and over, that I’m trying my best.

And for now, that’s going to have to be good enough.


Blogger cda said...

Judah, I think I'm dancing with you! I hope Santosh gets better soon. Cats are amazingly stoic. Sending you good vibes and hope to see you soon. At least your team is faring well, yes?

8:59 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home