we grieve, but we cannot stop.
My sweet, amazing, 12 year old cat that I adopted from a shelter when I was heartbroken and trying to figure out what went wrong.
She is one of the biggest sources of unconditional love I’ve ever known.
About a year ago, this past December, I found a giant lump right next to her tail. It showed up overnight, basically. When something that large shows up overnight, it’s absolutely terrifying. Part of me, when it happened, wanted to do the whole la-la-la thing and pretend it didn’t exist. After all, Fogg was absolutely normal–except for that lump. It had to be something minor, right? But there was a nagging in my heart that told me to watch it carefully. I did a lot of research and most people said to wait a few days because sometimes these things go away. I was alone in Denver. My roommate was living out here and had gone home for Christmas with plans to stop by Denver after. So, I decided I’d wait till his return. So, for weeks, I lived in limbo–a sleeping terror in my heart. And the lump never went away. It also didn’t change. Fogg remained the same.
When my roommate returned from Maine, we took her in to her vet. Who I would later come to appreciate even more because she always listened to my concerns and always humored me when I probably sounded like a crazy lady. They took some cells and looked at it under the microscope and discovered it was a tumor. A pretty shitty cancer that–if it spread to her organs–could kill her. But–our vet was reassuring saying she felt this was the better kind of this version of cancer–the kind that invades the skin and its tissues–and can simply be cut away. It was a no brainer when we chose to get it cut out. We decided to do her dental work at the same time since she’d been due and had lots of teeth problems, as many older cats do. So, we waited a couple of weeks. And between then and the surgery date, I noticed a little tendril of something coming from that large tumor. It was a thickening, and given all that I read, that tiny little something…that could be so easy to miss if you weren’t crazy kitty mama me…was way more scary than the big something. So, when I took Fogg in early that morning–alone–I made sure the surgeon knew about it–and they took extra wide margins.
Long story short–my cat had two kinds of cancer. One completely cured when it was removed. The other with a high chance of recurrence–often fatal–a very bad big bad. We made plans to get even wider margins, but then Fogg got pancreatitis and almost died. So, we didn’t do that. Then she got diabetes and IBS. Oh, and they discovered a slight heart murmur. My amazingly healthy cat who had been totally fine until that surgery–well–where did she go?
Suddenly, my life was engulfed by caring for this beautiful, sweet, extremely sick little kitty. And I was failing all the time. And bleeding money. And doing it all alone.
I will legit tell you it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I lived in constant fear for months. So, that’s how my year started.
But Fogg pulled through. She kept pulling through. I sold everything I could. I took out massive loans that I just finished paying off. And my heart broke a million times. I learned so much about myself and found strength I never knew I had. And somehow, a year later, we’ve had no recurrence. Six months is super positive. A year–well–it’s as good as this gets and may mean she will live several more years–happy and mostly healthy. She is stable on her meds and eats almost normally. And me? I’m adjusting-amazed I somehow survived what felt like a lost cause–this ordeal that just would not end.
I share this with you guys tonight because so many of my friends have expressed hopelessness in the face of this election. They are utterly terrified of tomorrow and what could happen. I’ve faced a lot of really scary shit in my life. And, usually, the worst case scenario never happens.
But sometimes–like tonight–it does. I’ve been there, too. Sometimes, your heart is blown to bits and obliterated and you are left wailing in the street. And you carve out a new existence for yourself and spend years trying to stand back up. But it’s never what we think it’ll be. And it’s never forever.
During our move, my optimism was severely tested. And I thought about the ordeal I went through with my precious Fogg this year. I thought about how many times I wanted to give up. How scared I was all the time. How alone I felt. How useless I felt.
But then, I remembered how–one day–when she was in the hospital–sicker than ever–on day 5 of not eating…basically the last day a cat can go without food before a tube goes in or they die. My fear had kept me away for a whole day. But I sucked it up and decided it wasn’t about me. I accepted that my kitty could die–and maybe–probably–would. That I had zero answers. They brought her in, and while she was frail and not herself, she was feisty and energetic. And in that moment, I knew that the only thing I could do was love her. It was mostly for me. But after that visit, she finally ate and came home the next day.
They didn’t think she would.
In my life, fear has often been a constant. A lot of my anxiety comes from that, and a lot of what I do every day is my attempt to manage that fear–so it doesn’t take over. I gather my details and hold on tight to the things I know. It comforts me, and I’ve learned that so much of surviving anything is getting through it. It’s not perfect or pretty, but if you can just hold on–you’ll get to the other side.
Earlier tonight, I was outraged, ashamed, and heartbroken. As an empath, I soak up other people’s grief. My fixer nature makes me frustrated when I can’t make it better. I felt overloaded and out of control. So, I slept and woke up realizing something. And it’s something I shared with a friend who asked what she should tell her children.
I cannot fathom why people did what they did. It doesn’t really matter now, does it? The point is–here’s this mess some of us didn’t make–but we still have to live with it and clean it up. We can choose to protest the mess–let it fester–resent those who caused it–let it ruin all our days and change the course of our lives. We can try to force them to clean it up and build up more rage. We can leave it and pretend it doesn’t exist. We can go somewhere else and hope it doesn’t follow us. And on. Basically–we could choose to be paralyzed by fear and rage. We could give up. We could throw tantrums.
Or we can stop being part of the eternal nonsense. Own our parts in this–because we all play our roles. Learn from those we don’t understand. Open our hearts. Share who we are and what we believe in. Be the change we wish existed. Forgive. Hold onto our hope. And love like crazy. Stay. Be present in the pain of this moment and the discomfort of all those future moments. And stay in it. Vulnerably.
Hate doesn’t exist where humility exists. Thinking we know everything feeds that. Thinking we’re right creates this world. But being with our fellow humans–sitting in the grief of these moments and humbly processing it together? That eradicates shame and lifts us up.
I know it’s true because it happened to me tonight. When I woke up, in all my grief and fear–I realized that I was not alone. That everyone I knew was right there with me, and they needed me to remember who they were for them. And so I listened to them and I told them I loved them. No matter how long it had been since I’d said hello.
I believe in you. I believe in me. I am heartbroken, and I am sorry. I am sorry you are in so much pain because of other people’s choices. I am sorry you are in so much pain that you choose division and hate. I am sorry this world has failed you. But what can we do to be there for each other now? Because this isn’t our path. This isn’t what anyone deserves. How can we build something greater than this moment?
We sit in it and let it hurt. We bleed together, and then tomorrow, we be the people the world deserves.