Saying goodbye to a pet…..Staying present to life…..

Let me start with a brief summary of my morning yesterday and how I realized that I needed to stay home as I was a danger to myself and others. My day started off with grocery shopping, which is where I discovered that I had somehow lost my debit card. Panic sets in…..and I immediately rush around managing to knock a bottle of ketchup on the floor at the checkout line. I drove home, intent on searching my house and car to see if I could find the card. Backing up into my driveway, still panicking, I managed to scratch and dent my neighbor’s car. Some day this may be funny, but it was not yesterday.

I took myself into the house, talked myself down, called the bank to order a new card, and wrote a note to place on my neighbor’s windshield to confess my deed. I thought I would make myself a bit of breakfast and calm down, to discover that my toaster died. Ok, that was enough. I knew better than to leave the house or touch anything else for fear of what might happen next. And so I sat quietly and checked in with myself. Of course, I realized, the stress of what I was, and am, dealing with, effects everything. And I need to be hyper vigilant and careful. Because…..(in addition to the trauma that we are all dealing with for some time now —pandemic, politics, all of it…….) I have my own additional personal trauma…..

My kitty, who is over 17 years old, has liver cancer and is in the process of dying. He is still eating some, cuddling, sleeping beside me, and still very much engages with me. How does one say goodbye to a being that has taught me a different, deeper kind of love? I have no children, and no partner currently, so my kitties have been my family and my lifeline during this pandemic. I had two kitties for the past 17 years and this past June I lost one of them just two weeks after I retired. And my other kitty has never really recovered from that loss of his dear companion. And now I am facing yet another loss, and it hurts beyond what my words can describe.

I had a zoom appointment with a nurse from a pet hospice. She talked with me about doing daily assessments of my kitty’s quality of life, and gave me a “Pain Scale for Cats” to be able to help with this assessment. I am trying, but it is so hard to assess in a concrete and rational way what his quality of life is (except, of course, to try and stay aware of pain, as I don’t want him to suffer). I talk with him and ask him to please let me know, so that I can help in the best way possible. But, truly, I hate the thought (and the feeling) of losing him. He is my companion. He lives with me and offers me comfort and touch and softness in this challenging time. He has been with me through so many different struggles and other losses in my life. He has been loyal and loving and there….truly there…for me. How do I let go of this loving being? How do I deal with the ache of not having him here with me?

It brings home to me how all of us are here for a temporary time…until it is our time to go. It makes mortality, which is already more and more present in my awareness as I continue aging, such a reality. It makes me appreciate each moment so much more, both with my dear kitty and with myself and my own life.

It is a challenge to stay present with the pain of this impending loss….to not try and escape or numb it somehow. And it is also a gift to be able to cherish him as much as possible until it is time for him to go. There is such an exquisitely poignant quality to this time, time with my kitty and also including this time of aging myself.

I cherish this kitty of mine. I cherish this life of mine…with all of its challenges and ups and downs. It is such a gift to be alive and to be able to feel these things, even the things that hurt. This is one of the gifts (and costs) of being human and being alive and of loving. And so I will love when I can and for as long as I can. I am still alive and able to love. This being human ride that we are all on is not easy…….worth it, but so not easy….. And I can hold love in my heart for those here and for those gone and for those who are on their way, as are we all. i am honored that you have shared a few moments of your precious time reading my words and connecting with me….it is one of the joys of this life…..real and authentic connection.

The richness within….the eternity of Self

It’s Saturday morning reflection time again……It has been a challenging week in some ways, and also a very full and rich week.

I believe in Divine Guidance and timing. So, I love to write and I also love to paint. I have not painted for some time, and out of the blue, a young woman asked for a particular painting from me (a purple cow!) and I have begun to paint this fun purple cow! And it humbles me and fills me with some awe and wonder that this feels like the Universe giving me a gentle nudge to begin painting again. As the Universe has also helped guide me to write more, to start this blog (and I am such a beginner at it, but not letting that stop me!), and to also begin voice lessons. All of these are ways of finding, claiming and expressing my voice in so many different ways. We speak with our voices, and with so much more. I am grateful. And I am also grateful and in wonder that those parts of me that I remember from very long ago (drawing, writing) are still there. No matter what life has thrown at us, that core and inner part is still there. It is just waiting…..until we can invite it to come out again and show itself. Having recently retired (the end of May), I am blessed to have more time now to re-acquaint myself with me. All of me. As if to say to myself….welcome back, I have missed you. I am so glad that you waited and are still there. Let me hear what you have to tell me. I am listening. I am here.

I am also facing yet another challenge and lesson in life. I have had two kitties that are my family for 17 years. Last June (two weeks after I retired) I lost one of them. Too soon, too pressured by the vet (that will be another post) and such a deep and painful ache. And now my other kitty has masses that are growing in his liver, and we watch and assess. So today, I have a zoom appointment for a “quality of life” assessment with a pet hospice/palliative care group. I never even knew that this was something that existed. We will talk about my dear kitty and his symptoms and how he is doing. I do not want to rush this, but also don’t want him to suffer. This process is painful. And I am grateful for each day that I have with him. I am grateful that he was with me for Thanksgiving. In this time of COVID and isolation and no hugs, I hold him close for comfort…for both of us. It is hard to face his decline and it will be devastating to have him die when it is time.

Indeed, it is painful to face my own mortality (having recently worked on my own Advance Directive for what i do and don’t want done at my own time to leave). Isn’t it interesting … to feel closer to death and yet more alive than ever? To appreciate each moment more (even the painful ones) in the growing recognition that the number of moments we each have is limited and finite. To cry from grief and gratitude at the wonder of it all. To be alive…..and painting purple cows….

Moments of Grace….

I stand here on this early Saturday morning reflecting on life…..

These are challenging times for our country and for the world. I pray that we find our way through this soon.

In the meantime, how, I wonder, do we make the best of our precious time on this earth during these particular circumstances?

I find that I cherish more and more each moment of grace. The chance encounter at the grocery store where eye contact has to speak more than it ever has, given that the rest of our face is covered with a mask. And so we look, learn to smile with our eyes. And learn to enunciate more clearly speaking through our mask so that others can hear.

Some of my moment of grace this week :

Going to a nighttime (socially distanced) holiday event at the zoo where I volunteer. Taking a friend with me and both of us turning back into the excited 10 year old little girls that we once were when we look at all the beautiful huge lantern animals that created such a magical scene before us.

Going to the art supply store and connecting with the woman ringing up my purchases. i thought I recognized her accent and asked her if she was Italian (being a daughter of immigrant Italian parents myself). A delightful brief connection in that moment because I reached out (I can sometimes be shy, although much less so as I age, thank God) and she reached back. A shared smile and shared common ground.

Going to the grocery store and helping the clerk figure out what chestnuts are and telling her about roasting them and how they taste…..bringing back memories of my childhood to savor.

Having a voice lesson (yes, I am taking voice lessons now that I am retired….just because it sounds like fun…!) and having a lovely connection with my teacher (via zoom) and learning something new…feeling myself stretching into a new arena….with someone to guide me who takes me seriously…

Telling friends about my blog (did I mention my shyness) and having such sweet responses to that. If I want to talk about my voice being heard and encourage others to have theirs heard, I better put some action behind that!

Connecting with friends and ex’s – and realize that once there has been love, it never leaves. It may change form and expression, but it is always there. I am so grateful for that.

Taking care of my aging, ill kitty. He has liver cancer. And I am so cherishing (although at times with such pain and sadness) each moment with him and being grateful that I get to spend time with him still….until it is time. I tell him to let me know when it is time to go…..and the vet and I are working together to assess his comfort level. He lost his kitty companion (they have both been with me for 17 years) in June, and I don’t think that he ever was able to recover from that. We both still grieve.

Losses, pain, challenges, fears, anxieties – all part of life. And so are joy, excitement. connection, love, peace in solitude, creativity, gratitude. Although some may feel better than others, they are all moments of grace…..grace in this brief life we have been given. I am grateful for this moment of grace to be able to share some of my thoughts and feelings with you all. Thank you.

The Companionship of Grief

So I am dealing once again with another loss. Grief truly is a more constant companion as I age. I have lost friends, lovers, family, and pets.

I retired at the end of May and two weeks later lost one of my two 17 year old kitties. This hit me and my remaining kitty very hard. I tried my best to comfort my remaining kitty (as well as myself). There is something quite unique about the loss of an animal companion (I intend to write more about this at some point). And this week I found out that my kitty who is still with me now has liver cancer and the prognosis is not good. I feel such a deep ache inside that cannot ever be adequately described with words. With my kitty that I lost in June, I feel that I allowed the vet to talk me into putting him down too quickly. It was the perfect storm – a weekend night (so I was at the emergency vet and not my regular vet) . I could not go into the clinic due to COVID. The clinic was swamped, so I waited outside in my car all night long, to be told that my kitty was very sick and it was time to let him go. I believe that he was sick, but I also think that I could have brought him home and done it differently. I regret that. I now have my other kitty who I can see slowly declining. The vet and I talked about my just continuing to watch him to assess if he gets uncomfortable and then to talk about when it is time to let him go. That’s something else I will write more about – how do we make such a decision…? When do we allow a natural death? When do we hasten death?

So I have the gift of spending a bit more precious time with my sweet fur companion. Pets have taught me a deeper kind of love than I had known (I have no children). They have come into my heart in a way that no one else can. I am in grief, and in gratitude for the time we have spent together. I dread losing him before the holidays, but tell him to just let me know when it is time. I don’t want him to suffer. I will miss him so deeply.

This is one of the challenges that we take on when we bring a pet into our home and our lives. One that I do not regret, although this is such a painful process to go through. I live alone so the loss will feel so very intense as my house will feel empty. Will I get another kitty? I don’t know yet – I need to grieve this loss first, and then decide if I want to sign up for this process once again. I am thinking that I may…..I love living with pets and coming home to them waiting for me. I love sleeping with their warm furry bodies next to me. This ache is becoming so familiar…the ache of loss, the ache of death.

Indeed, I am working on getting my own affairs in order….working on my Advance Directive and what my wishes are for when my time comes. It’s so strange to be making plans about my own death. And yet I know it is important, so that my wishes are hopefully followed.

Each loss, each goodbye, each ending – all make me realize more and more how precious each moment is. How I need to fully live while I still can. And appreciate it all. I think that the grief carves out room in our hearts to really open. It hurts to open that deeply. And yet…I believe that it hurts more to stay closed and shut down. So, here I am … grief, and feeling the ache of love. And grateful for the experience and for being able to feel all the feelings. It is part of this ride of life that we are on.

Hair today, gone tomorrow…!

So this aging thing is quite the challenge. My latest discovery – my hair is thinning and coming out more. I had this happen once before, where the amount of hair coming out was very noticeable. I checked it out with the doctor….no real answers except that it can be part of aging. Yay….not.

So, I like to think of myself as having some depth….but it turns out that I can be quite upset about the surface ‘trivial” things as well. I do not mean to minimize the feelings around hair loss, but in the grand scheme of things…..not so huge, right? Except that at this moment, it is. I feel the pain of yet another sign of things breaking down, changing, fading, sagging, wrinkling, and now thinning (not that my body is thinning, of course….!)

So, what is this about? It is about yet another loss, yet another grieving for part of me that has been one of my strengths. Yet another piece gone of what I used to feel was attractive about me. Yet another part of what feels like sensuality. Yet another part of youth to say goodbye to and grieve. I used to be self conscious of how I looked from the back because of my perceived size, but now add to that the thinning hair and my scalp showing through at the back of my head. How silly I can be. And yet, this is real for me. I believe it adds to all the losses that do come with aging. I have lost many friends, ex-partners, family, my career (having recently retired – but that will be another post..), pets (I lost one of my two 17 year old kitties in June and my remaining kitty has two masses in his liver that we are monitoring), sense of purpose and structure that my career as a social worker gave me (not to mention all the losses with the pandemic), relationships (I am old enough now to choose being alone rather than being in a relationship that does not meet enough of my needs), some friends (I am more picky these days with who I spend precious time with as I realize more and more how precious each moment is). And I redefine who I am, what my purpose and passions are now, and how to navigate this stage of life…..with an ever increasing awareness of death.

How brief this life is – and yet so rich and full. Of everything…joy, pain, delight, grief, loss, light, dark…..and all of it is important. All of it is necessary, I believe, in order for us to fully appreciate and fully live our lives. I appreciate it more now than ever now that I am feeling closer to the end …..And so I live, embrace each moment, feel each joy and each loss, and always…always….laugh as much as I can.

So, hair goes nothing…..!

A Time to Heal – for all of us

It’s Monday morning after the election results have finally been formally projected. We will have a new president. And he (and we) will have much work to do. We are a nation divided, one group against another. This will not sustain us or move us forward. We must come together, slowly, carefully….but deliberately. I respect all of our rights to our opinions and to vote for who we choose. The choice has been made (and I am grateful for that particular choice) and it is time to get to the work of becoming Americans united again. This is where our power lies. This is who we really are deep down. A country that has formed from all different people from all nations….not perfectly, for sure…..but it is our heritage and history and dream. There is so much more power in love than hate.

It is the same with all the various divisions and groups that each of us may belong to. I am a women, aging, daughter of immigrants. To see a woman in the White House as a Vice President is something that brings tears to my eyes. She is a woman of mixed race, daughter of immigrants. She is all of us. She brings us all with her.

I see an older president. To take on this job at the age of 78 is mind boggling. And yet he does. And it is, from what I perceive, a man with a heart, soul, compassion, persistence, kindness and patience. A man who has known pain in his life and can understand and empathize. A man who, I believe, really does have the greater good as his purpose. Our country (and the world) has been starving for this. He has a hard road ahead of him, but at least he is on the road. His age brings gifts – patience, understanding, and a quiet persistent strength. He did not give up. Neither should we.

We all have much to contribute and say. Let’s begin coming to the table and listening to each other. Let this Thanksgiving be the time we come to that table as a country that needs to sit down together…all generations and colors and beliefs and genders…..we have so much more in common than those things that divide us. We can do this.


So we are still waiting to find out the election results. I know that we are all aware of the tumultuous times that we are in, and this is another example. And so we wait…and wait….and wait – because that is all that we can do.

This makes me think of the patience that we can acquire as part of the aging process. It’s interesting for me to notice that the older that I get, the more patience that I seem to have for the important things as well as for things that I cannot control. And I notice the less patience I have with things (and perhaps some people) that do not seem to nourish my soul. But…for the important things, I have lived long enough to learn that waiting is a part of life, and also a part of wisdom. You cannot rush some things. You must wait.

And so one question becomes how do you wait? What quality do you give that time? How do you navigate the space of waiting? Can you be patient and trust that the process takes whatever time that it takes, and have trust and faith in the process? Can you remember that there are things and circumstances that you cannot control? To obsess about these results in only more stress for you, but doesn’t help the situation. How do you navigate the uncertain and in-between parts of your life? How can we learn and be gentle and kind with ourselves and others? How can we live life in the times of uncertainty? Because, and I see this more with my aging process, life is full of uncertainties. And how we handle that helps define our character as well as how we get to experience our lives. And how we learn how to connect rather than to allow tensions and uncertain times divide us from each other. We are together in this process of life. Take a deep breath. We can and will get through this…..together. This too shall pass and life will go on. May it do so peacefully, with kindness, grace and human compassion.

Monday morning musings….

It’s Monday morning….the Monday before election day. I have anxiety about the outcome and anxiety about possible reactions to whatever the outcome will be. It is a tense time for our country and for the world. Election year in the midst of a pandemic and much civil unrest as well as raging fires here in California and other environmental disasters everywhere. I believe that our country is in deep trauma. The world is experiencing deep trauma. And it will take us time to heal in every sense of that word.

We are a resilient people. We are survivors. Although divided, I believe (and want to believe) that we can come together again. That we can heal the divisions that have been encouraged. That we can rise to become what we are capable of becoming. Becoming what I see every day in small acts of kindness. Random acts of love. We have much to heal. We can do this.

As I continue on my life’s journey, I can recall how much we have healed throughout history, and I throughout my own history. We have more that connects us than divides us. We just need to remember that. Democrats, Republicans…. Black, White, Asian or Hispanic….women, men,….older, younger…. We are all human trying to do what we can with the lives that we have been given. We can do this. Together.

Older than dirt???

So I was part of a zoom meeting recently where different ages of women come together to offer their perspectives and experiences, which is lovely. One of the women, who is actually a few years younger than I, referred to herself as “older than dirt”. I, when it was my turn to speak, blindly went along and referred to myself that way as well. It felt awful, but familiar. It was not until another women of our generation spoke up about it and refused that label…it was only then that my awareness woke up. It saddens me that we (I included) can so easily accept derogatory labels in the name of laughing at ourselves. We hear what we say to ourselves. Our Spirit hears this. It’s time to speak lovingly to ourselves, to appreciate our years and wisdom. Yes, of course we all need to laugh at ourselves, but not in ways that slowly erode our self concept and definition and invite others to see us this way as well. We need to be careful of our language, especially toward ourselves. We deserve so much better. Yes, I am older -and will write about all the ways that this shows up. But, I will not call myself names just to get a laugh….not at the expense of how I define myself. Not any more.

Friday morning thoughts…

It’s Friday morning, and how different Fridays feel now that I have retired (since the end of May). How different life feels. Yes, there was an intense grieving process with the end of my career. It felt like the end of an era, and also the end of the way that I had become accustomed to defining myself, as much as I thought that I had not defined myself by my career. I am grateful to have been able to be a social worker in my working life, but now the question becomes “Who am I now?” And my age also factors into this. I realize that I am much more aware of the end of life…..mortality becomes more real each year. Yet, I am still here, still very much alive. And I still have life to live. I have things to contribute. And it is time to get to know myself once again on a deeper level….to talk with myself and ask “How are you? How has your life been so far? What dreams and hopes do you still have? What brings you joy? What is your passion? How would you like to spend whatever time you have left in this body and on this earth?” I get answers as I slow down to listen. I want to write. I want to laugh. I want to acknowledge and use my voice in every way – in ways that I have been taught to keep it quiet.. (dear God, I even signed up for voice lessons!) I am still here. I am still so very much here.