Apr 1, 2009

Some Days Are Better Than Others

I lie in bed awake staring at the cottage cheese ceiling waiting for my sleeping pill to kick in and welcome me to the land of dreams where there is no sense of the loss I feel during consciousness.

Eventually the pill takes over and carries me away where I have lucid dreams always about buildings filled with people I don’t know (or haven’t met yet) mixed in with family members and friends. Sometimes there’s a party and the guests get trapped by a snow storm. There’s always a room full of presents and treats. Sometimes there are animals and if there are then I always have to save them for some reason or another. Most of the time they are cats, but once it was a baby zebra.

That was a weird one.

I was running down long hallways carrying this zebra whilst dodging bullets from a large black man dressed in an Armani suit and wearing sunglasses. I think we were in a mall or it could have been a museum.

I often dream of museums I’ve never been to. My mind creates the most interesting and natural law defying architecture. Often I find my way to a bookstore where I’m searching and searching for this one book that feels very important to me but I never find it. The lights blink on and off and the next thing I know I’m being ushered out sans purchase.

Regardless of where I was in the dream before, once I get to the bookstore I always seem to end up on the same small twisting street that seems more European than American. I always have a car in the dream. It’s usually some weird little thing that seems more like a go cart than a car. I drive fast feeling like I have to get somewhere very quickly but I always get lost on these tiny curvy streets that roll up and down steep hills.

The dream ventures many places from this point. Most of the time I find my way to a small unpaved road leading through coastal terrain as I drive further and further out to a narrowing peninsula. Beautiful beach homes pass me on the right and left. They range from modest to mansion. Eventually I get to the last one. For some reason the house always belongs to one of my grandmothers. If it belongs to my maternal grandmother then it’s usually empty and dark and a little foreboding. If it’s my paternal grandmother’s then it’s full of light and people rejoicing. Either way the house always looks tiny from the outside but has constantly shifting hidden rooms filled with strange treasures ranging from a box of Swatches to a chest of gold inside.

Sometimes instead I end up driving past all these brownstones and I’m in a hurry because I’m supposed to either be delivering something or babysitting or doing something at one of these houses but they all look alike and I have trouble finding the right one.

Once when I found the right one I was supposed to be babysitting Frances Bean and Courtney Love just kept yelling at me and yelling at me. Oh that was a strange one.

Most times though I’m delivering something and when I find the right house no one is home but I can still get in. Once inside I always have to suddenly go to the bathroom so then that becomes a whole thing in and of itself.

I have constant bathroom dreams that are always embarrassing and uncomfortable in some way. Typically it’s the toilet in the middle of the room with no privacy situation and I’ll be worried that I’m missing something. Like you can’t just go pee in front of everyone. Maybe there’s a hidden switch that creates a wall or something? So I’ll wait until someone else uses it to test it first.

But on the occasion I’m dropping off a package in someone’s home and I’m there alone I have no choice but to just go for it. Without fail, someone always comes home and spots me the second I drop trow and sit down.

And so we come to the part in the dream where I wake up having to pee.

My eyes open and adjust to the familiar surroundings. I remember who I am and where I am. I remember when I am. And that’s when it hits me. Before I even rise, only moments after my eyes open, while I still have to pee I remember that they’re gone.

It’s a physical force, an energy that pushes down on my chest making me feel heavy like I can’t move. So I lie there and wait for the feeling to pass.

In the beginning the moment did not pass. After some time it finally moved on. However of late the moment has lingered.

Why has it returned? Why does it linger so? How do I free myself of this tightness in my chest, this force that makes getting out of bed so difficult? Maybe if I just role over and sleep a little longer I’ll feel better.

So, if I can, I force my way back into my dream. I try to grab on to the last thing I can remember.

Oh, right. Bathroom.

I get up slowly and make my way out the door, through the vanity, and into the bathroom. I try to not think while I do my business. I try to keep my head in dream space. I go back into my room, crawl under the covers, hide my head and drift away. Bubbles of blurry color fill my mind. Where was I? What was I doing? Was I at gramma’s? Or at the mall? Was I with Mimi? Or alone? Eventually the colors become images and a story line ensues. I lose myself to the movies of my mind’s eye.

Time passes.

I wake again for any number of reasons.

What time is it? How long have I been gone?

It’s 4 o’clock.

How did that happen? Where did my day go?

And then it hits me again.

Oh, right.

I try to push the memory out of my mind. I wonder if I have anything to do today. If I have nothing to do but clean, I’ll most likely try to force myself back to sleep. I can go another day without socks. The kitchen floor can wait. Maybe I have something fun to do like make necklaces. Do I have beads? Oh, right, I’m waiting on a new crimper. Maybe I have work to do. Yes, a website to maintain or a video to edit.

Oh, but I just don’t have the energy.

What time is it now? 6! How’d that happen?

I look up at the ceiling. I feel guilty for sleeping the day away, which makes me feel worse than I already do like an endless cycle. I just stare. I start making out shapes hidden in the bumpy surface. There’s a bunny blowing bubbles. Or maybe it’s a fairy with wings. Or is it a dragon blowing fire?

I drift to my childhood reclining in a plastic fold out chair on the lawn staring up at the clouds with my faithful cat Ace by my side. The thought of Ace snaps me back to the present. Like Ace, Comet and Lucy are gone. I feel sad. I feel sick. I feel lonely. I feel like no one will understand. I feel like people will think I’m crazy if I tell them the truth so I don’t tell them anything. I just hide. Maybe I’ll go sit in the bathroom with the fan on and cry. I can’t stop. I’m inconsolable. I want it to stop. I want the pain to go away. I don’t want to miss them so much. But I do.

My stomach hurts. I should eat but I can’t. I finally make my way to the living room. It’s night. I missed the sun again. I forget my plants need watering. I get a drink for myself. If Jeremy is home, which he has been a lot these days, he’s sitting at his computer desk in front of the TV simultaneously surfing the web and watching cable. I plop down beside him. Next to me on a different kind of desk sits my Netbook, a mini version of a laptop. I could open it, check mail, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, & such, but I don’t.

I can’t.

Old friends crawl out of the woodwork asking for friendship, I add them, and feel guilty knowing that I’m incommunicado these days.

But everyone asks the same questions. How are you? What are you doing?

If you asked me a year ago, I’d have been delighted to answer. I was great and I was doing stuff. I don’t want to answer now.

Because of my dark mood I feel I have nothing positive to add to a conversation so I avoid them for the most part and just hope no one is offended and just assumes I’m too busy to get back. I wish I were too busy. Actually, if I was doing what I’m supposed to be doing then I would be too busy. That’s the terrible shame of it. So then I get hit with another dose of guilt.

I sit and watch Jeremy network like a mad man on Facebook and Twitter. He laughs, posts absurd, funny videos, and amuses himself nearly endlessly. I glance at my Netbook and just feel sad for it sitting there collecting dust. Then I feel sad for myself. What am I doing? Why am I wasting my life? What’s wrong with me?

Then I remember.

Oh, right.

They’re gone.

What’s the point? What’s the point of doing anything without them. Without Comet and Lucy.

I look at Jeremy. I want to share what’s going on inside my head but I know he won’t understand. He loved them too and misses them but he can deal with it. He lost his best friend when he was in his early twenties. He accepts loss on a level I can’t grasp. I wish I could. To those I do share with I tend to get the same replies. They tell me to remember the good times and feel blessed for having known Comet and Lucy. The old, better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all. Yes, I know. I get it. On a completely rational, logical, reasonable level I get it. But on a completely emotional level, like a raw nerve, primordial me – I just want them back.

I fantasize about cloning or The Pet Semetary. Then I wonder about my mental state. I wonder if what I’m experiencing is normal. It is socially acceptable to be in prolonged mourning for the loss of a human, but not a pet. I fear the average person would think me a nut job or a basket case, when all I really am is a person who misses her beloved pets, her best friends, her confidants -- those who offered nothing but unconditional love in return.

Every night when I went to sleep Lucy would hop up on the bed, walk the perimeter, then settle in next to my head right on my pillow and purr. She was all the sleeping aids I needed.

Every day I used to spend on the computer. I’d zone out. Lose track of time. Whether I was writing, designing, or socially networking. Then my keyboard would bounce and I’d hear a loud, brash meow. My keyboard would bump again and get pushed inward as Comet’s big head would appear from beneath. His meows alerted me that I had spent far too much time on the computer and must pay attention to him. He needed me. He demanded attention. A lot of attention. If I talked on the phone too long, he’d meow loudly in the background until I got off. If a guest were visiting he’d sit between us and meow if I paid too much attention to the guest. Comet had a larger then life presence about him and, to top it all off, he was larger than life! He was a 20 pound cat. Not fat, but large, like a dog. I called him my puppy.

If I left for any amount of time, upon my return both Comet and Lucy would be waiting for me at the door. I miss all these things about them so much. They were the highlight of my day and without them my days feel so empty and dull.

I glance back at Jeremy. I decide to tickle him instead of burden him with my thoughts. He gets annoyed but laughs.

I stand up. I look around the apartment. I try to think of something to do. I could read a book. I could play with my beads and necklaces. I could do some work. Heck, I could even write. Or if I didn’t feel like using my brain, I could tidy. The place always needs tidying. After all, we still have a gaggle of other cats. If we didn’t, I would have already bought a kitten by now to fill the void. Comet and Lucy were pets. The other cats are more like boarders. They’re happy with food, shelter, toys, catnip, and the occasional belly rub, but only if they’ll let you near them. There are a couple that are friendlier than that, but they still weren’t as close to me as Comet and Lucy.

When we first moved to LA, Jeremy worked long hours all the time and I didn’t know anyone so I was wicked lonely. We decided to get me a cat for company. We drove out to Pasadena to adopt a cat from the SPCA. I had told Jeremy that I always really wanted a tortoise shell or calico cat but that I was most interested in personality. However, the second we walked into the shelter where they keep the cats, Lucy spotted me. We made eye contact. She had big green eyes and tortoise shell fur. She rubbed up against the cage and started purring. I was hers. But the adoption process takes time so we couldn’t bring her home right then and there. I believe we had to wait about 2 weeks. Jeremy was on a job at the time and I was going berserk all day at home alone in a strange city without a car. One day Jeremy’s location was a pet store. That day when he came home he had a surprise. He walked up to me and plopped a tiny all white kitten into my lap. The kitten popped up, jumped down to the floor, and started racing back and forth like crazy. He became a blur of white. I said, “He looks like a comet!” And his name was born. When Lucy came home, she was not happy to meet her roommate. She chased him all around the apartment. I remember being terrified she’d kill little Comet. He was so tiny when we got him. I used to talk to him like a person. I’d explain to him everything I was doing so he could understand the ways of humans. I didn’t care if he really understood me or not, it was just nice to have someone there with me all day. He’d watch me with great interest as if he actually understood me. He’d meow back in assurance. I’d be like, this is the bathroom. This is where humans go. Like the litterbox. But for people. Meow m’ar’row. We had great conversations.

Standing in the living room looking around for something to do I feel the deadness in the air. The lack of presence. The only conversation is some scripted dialogue coming from the TV or maybe a YouTube video on Jeremy’s laptop. I want to talk to someone. I want to tell someone what I’m doing. I want to explain how a cabinet door works so that he can learn to open it on his own. I want to take a video of him skateboarding across the living room again. I want to laugh and have fun. I miss my little buddy, my side kick, my Comet. The world seems so empty and pointless without him.

Everything was for him. It started out with just toys. Mouse for Comet. Then it grew into whatever was brought into the house. Table for Comet. He’d hear those words and dutifully walk up to whatever it was and inspect it. Everything had to have Comet’s approval. The living room seems so lonely without him. He was a constant fixture sprawled out in the middle of the room. While all the other cats, the boarders, the rescues huddled under the bed all day long, Comet made his presence known. This was his turf. If a guest came over, Comet wouldn’t move an inch while the others scattered like roaches in light. Oh, what do I do with myself now? I have no audience. I’ve talked to my Mum and my shrink about it and they both said that what they each did was get themselves a kitten. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. It’s strange to think that someone else could take up that much of my attention. It’s strange to realize that I never even knew it at the time. Only now, without him here, do I even comprehend just how much of my attention went to my cat. And just the one. Despite all the others. Just the one. With a little to Lucy, as well, but Comet was the spotlight. So what do I do if I can’t do what everyone else does?

More time slips by.

Having realized that I can’t bring myself to do anything, I sit back down next to Jeremy and stare mindlessly into the TV. It’s just late enough now that something good might actually be on. Maybe House will pull me out of myself? Or maybe I’ll get lost in Lost? More time ticks. Prime time is over and there’s nothing on but late night news, countless movies I’ll never want to watch, and reruns of animated shows I’ve already seen too many times. I want to lose myself in something, anything to distract me from the emptiness I feel. I remember my Blackberry. The red light is blinking. I have voicemail and over a hundred emails and text messages all unheard or unread waiting for replies. Guilt washes over me. I think I’m a terrible person. But I can’t help myself. I just don’t feel like myself. I don’t feel right. I count back a few days and wonder if it’s the new meds my shrink put me on. Could that explain this? Then again, he put me on the new meds because I wasn’t responding to the old ones because of exactly what I’m describing. So it can’t be a side effect. Maybe the new one just isn’t working. Maybe none will work. Maybe I just miss my damn pet and there’s no pill to make me feel better. I need to find something to do. I know, I’ll do laundry it’ll take up just enough mind power to distract me. Oh, look at the time. Too late. It’s already time for bed and I haven’t even gotten out of my pajamas. How’d that happen?

Oh, right.

So, I pop a sleeping pill, lay down, and stare at the ceiling watching the bumps turn into shapes until my dreams swallow me whole and I forget for a little while just how much I miss Comet and Lucy.

Comet
Comet
IMG_0002
Lucy

Addendum: I wrote that a couple days ago. Today I talked about it to my shrink (a new one -- long story). He said that grieving a loss takes about a year with different phases and that it sounds like I'm just going through a purging phase -- a time to cry. That it was "normal." I don't necessarily always strive for normalcy, but that reassured me. I feel much better now.
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