Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Caution: Grumpy When Tired (beware... this is a rant)

As some of you who read my Flaming Diva Cup post might recall, I really don't do well when I don't get enough sleep. Such has been the case for the past few weeks.

It all started 2 weeks ago. We were having a "kitty visit" as part of the attempt to integrate Princess into the family. It was probably my fault because she was a little on edge to begin with since CatMan had spent some time with her earlier that day and she still considers him to be a horrible ogre.

Plus, allowing all three boys to visit her at once was probably pushing it.

Anyhow, one thing led to another and my sweet, meek little snuggler Princess...

 ...turned into Xena, Warrior Princess.

She didn't really intend to hurt anybody, but she was swatting and Jasper felt cornered so he ran past her to get away and ended up getting scratched in the eye.

This led to an extremely fun 2am visit to the emergency vet.

We then had to give him antibiotic eye drops every 2 hours (oh, the joy). We've had to have vet check ups every few days, and the thing just kept not healing and not healing, so even though the eye drop regimen got reduced to every 4 hours, well... I haven't exactly gotten much sleep lately.

I don't really know how people who don't sleep enough on a regular basis can cope, because I just turn into misery on wheels when I'm tired. And I don't seem to be able to "sleep under pressure". Like when I know I have to get up by a certain time, I just get all worried that I'm not gonna get enough sleep, and then I can't sleep! And once I'm awake it's nearly impossible for me to get back to sleep... UG!

Anyhow, I fear my grumpy sleep deprived disposition may have contributed to my FreeCycle Flake Freakout today. I've been de-cluttering, and I decided to give away a bunch of padded envelopes that I used to use when I sold books online. Actually, I tried to sell them on Craigslist, but they wouldn't let me list them without getting my account "authorized" - but their stupid phone authorization system wouldn't work and after a day of fruitless attempts at getting it to work... AAARRRGGG! - I just couldn't deal with the hassle.

So I gave up and posted them on FreeCycle. Holy Moly! It was like an avalanche of people who all REALLY wanted them.

Now, I had made it VERY clear in my FreeCycle posting that I wanted someone to pick them up promptly with no BS because it's been raining here and I really, REALLY didn't want to deal with hauling them in and out a zillion times and worrying about keeping them dry.

So I choose the person who seems most reliable, and who had a compelling story... BIG mistake. First she's gonna come that day (Sunday)... so I haul them out to the front porch... then she can't come... but she can come tomorrow (Monday)... so I haul them in and haul them out again... then she has some other problem and can't come until Tuesday... so I get up at the crack of dawn today and haul them out to the porch again before heading off to take Jasper to yet another vet appointment. And it's not like this is a trivial amount of envelopes... it was like 6 huge cases!

So I get home only to discover that she has flaked AGAIN and now wants me to hang onto them until later in the week. AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!! So that was it. I decided that I was through messing around with this woman and told her to go shove it (politely). I just didn't have it in me to haul those damned things in and out again.

So I send an email to all of my alternates saying that I need them gone ASAP today and will give preference to the person who can come by the quickest. I get a bunch of immediate responses, and choose the person who says she can come by 2pm. This is around noon...

An hour passes and she doesn't respond to my email. So I write back a second time, and a third... no response. Then shortly before 2 she sends another email asking if they're still available... like she never got the other emails or something. I respond again... even from 2 separate email addresses in case there's some sort of technical problem... no response. I finally send yet ANOTHER email saying that I need to hear back from her soon or I'm going to the next person.

I waited another hour or so and finally gave up and called someone else on the list who was very nice was even willing to drive down from the mountains this afternoon to get them. So I sent crazy non-responsive woman another email saying that I was sorry, but since she didn't respond to any of the emails I'd given them to someone else.

So then I finally figure that the issue is resolved, and I can forget about it and get on with running my errands for the day...

So I go out for an hour or so, I get back and they're all still out there on the front porch and there's an email from the crazy non-responder lady saying she's coming by to get them later today. WHAT?!? AAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!!!

Just then a car pulls up in front of my house. So is it the non-responsive email psycho, or the woman I talked to on the phone who was driving down from the mountains to get them? Turned out it was the woman I actually spoke to, and I was SOOOO glad. So I helped her load them into her car and then sent a final email to my psycho non-responder saying that I was terribly sorry but I'd given them to somebody else. She replies (instantly, I might add) with a somewhat snotty response about how "unfortunate" it is that I gave them to somebody else.

Is this just me? Am I just being a sleep-deprived bitch, or is this just plain rude behavior?

I still feel bad but geeeezzzzz! Maybe there was some sort of technical difficulty... but if so it was an awfully selective one.

And ANOTHER thing.... just joking, I'll stop ranting now.

At any rate. Jasper finally got a clean bill of health this morning... well he still has a visible line on his cornea, but it didn't pick up any dye and there's no more edema and no sign of infection, so the vet said it's probably just a scar that may or may not go away eventually.

But at least we can stop with the eye drops and I can finally get some sleep... which is really good news because if ever there was someone who needed a nap, it's me, now!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Gods Must be Crazy - or at Least I Am

Some of you whippersnappers out there may be too young to remember the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. It's a thoroughly delightful film, and if you haven't seen it I highly recommend giving it a viewing. The basic premise is that a group of Bushmen living deep in the Kalahari Desert stumble upon an empty Coke bottle which an unscrupulous pilot had tossed from the window of his plane.

The bottle ends up disrupting the idyllic social structure that the Bushmen enjoy because it introduces the concepts of greed and materialism, heretofore unknown in their culture. Anyhow... the head of the family decides that the "thing" is evil and sets out on a mission to get rid of it, and all sorts of bizarre and hilarious things unfold from there.

The film makes a wonderful statement about "civilization" and "progress" and is also pretty damned funny. However, all societal criticisms aside, what has stuck with me over the years is the image of that Coke bottle.

Here was this "thing" that most of us would consider to be useless garbage. Yet the Bushmen found it so useful and desirable that it nearly tore their family apart. I know this isn't the message that the filmmakers were trying to get across, but somehow what got burned into my psyche is that nothing should be considered garbage.

Now, on the one hand, I do believe that the concept of garbage is absurd. In nature there is no waste. Everything simply becomes the building block for something else. On the other hand, while this is a beautiful and enticing ideal upon which to build one's life, I have discovered that one can arrive upon a few... um "stumbling blocks" when trying to put it into practice.

So here's what I'm leading up to. I've spent the vast majority of the past few days working on my de-cluttering project. I have pretty much gone through all of the "things" and now I'm at the really hard part... the junk. Seriously, this should be the easy part. But I have been through days of mental anguish trying to figure out how to deal with the vast number of bags, boxes, jars, bottles, plastic containers, packing paper, bubble wrap, etc. etc etc that has found its way into my basement.

This is all stuff that most people would just toss in the trash or the recycling, and therein lies the problem. It just kills me to see useful things being used once and then either tossed into a landfill or put through an energy intensive process to make them into something else that will probably be used once.

The wastefulness of it all just makes me sick... literally! After about 5 hours of sorting I found myself sitting in the middle of the basement surrounded by piles of stuff and my head just started to throb out of control. Pretty soon my guts were wrenching and I had to run to the bathroom to be sick.

I dunno... maybe it was off gassing from all of the plastic and what not, but I tend to believe that it's just the needless squandering consumption of our society that overcame me.

I held strong though, and allowed myself to keep only one shelf's worth of packaging supplies, boxes and containers. I found someone on FreeCycle to take a bunch of the boxes and packing peanuts, and am recycling the rest. But it was absolutely incredible to me that a person who "hasn't used" plastic bags in over 10 years, and who really makes a concerted effort - shopping in bulk with my own containers, rarely ordering takeout, etc, has accumulated SOOOO much in the way of disposable containers!

The whole experience has strengthened my resolve to do everything in my power not to bring any more of that kind of stuff into my house in the first place! I know on some level that it's impossible, I'll end up with another half dozen boxes next time I buy cat food for heaven's sake. But I'm going to pay much more serious attention to the whole issue from now on. Every time I go buy something, I inherit the responsibility for not only the thing itself, but for everything that it comes packaged in.

What do you think? Am I the only crazy person out there who struggles with this stuff? How do you guys maintain discipline when it comes to single use containers? I'd love any advice I can get.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Garden Guilt

I love my garden. There's just no other way to put it. Some people garden for food, others for the sake of having a beautiful yard. While I certainly enjoy any nutritional or aesthetic benefits that my garden may provide, it's not really about that for me. I just love the excuse to play outside in the dirt and smell the scents of the plants. I just get a genuine thrill out of feeling that I am part of a living system far beyond the scope of our narrow little culture.

But the past week has given me pause. We've been enjoying a rare rainy spell here in the Mile High City, so I decided that it would be a great time to weed the front yard xeriscape and spread the remaining horse manure that I acquired earlier this spring. I set about my task last week as I wanted to get it spread before the rains came.

I was happily shoveling manure into my wheelbarrow when I dug straight into a mouse nest. Now I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say that I have mixed feelings about mice. While a mouse in the garden can be adorable and cute, a mouse in the house will send me shrieking onto furniture. But no matter what status they have in our society, they are still living creatures. So I felt absolutely horrible about digging into their nest. And to make matters worse, there were tiny little babies in there. I tried to put it back together and re-cover it up the best I could, but I fear the little ones probably won't make it.

I know it's totally silly to feel guilty about mice... I mean most people go out of their way to kill the little suckers. But seriously, they didn't do anything to deserve such treatment. They just found a great place to live...  I guess I've learned my lesson about being slow in spreading the manure.

OK, so here's where I go completely off the deep end. If any of you read my previous blog you'll know about the wasp attacks of last summer. I think the total count was 5 yellow jacket stings in 10 days, 3 visits by the exterminator, 5 nests destroyed and 2 trips to the emergency room. So this year I decided that I would take a proactive approach and I bought a yellow jacket trap. The thing works with pheromones, and you just hang it up and they fly in and can't get out.

It sounded like such a good idea... I mean it doesn't kill paper wasps or bees, just the yellow jackets, and it uses no pesticides, they "die naturally". The problem is that "dying naturally" really means that they slowly starve to death in the trap. As of yesterday there were 3 yellow jackets in there, and I just can't help it, I feel terrible. I peeked in there and one was starting to slow down and he didn't look like he was gonna make it much longer. Another one was sort of comforting him. I'm sure I'm anthropomorphizing the little creatures, and they did send me to the ER twice last summer, but still...

I guess there's no way around it. I mean I want to live in a world where everything works in harmony and no creature ever suffers, but unfortunately nature just doesn't work that way. I just hate to be the instrument of said suffering. I know on some level that it's impossible to "do no harm" but it really kills me to have to witness the harm that my life entails.

So what do you think? Am I taking my love of animals completely over the top or what. Does anybody else ever feel this sort of guilt or am I just singularly crazy? I'd love some words of wisdom right about now...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Art of Doing Less

When people talk about simple living, they often focus on things. An image comes to mind of an austere Amish room with a wooden floor and only the most spartan of possessions. While I am making great strides in my efforts to de-clutter, (car load number three goes out today) nobody could possibly call me a minimalist while keeping a straight face.

However, I still consider myself to be living simply, because for me, simple living isn't primarily about things, it's about time.

I often feel like I'm living in a bit of a temporal bubble... you know, some sort of freaky Star Trek anomaly where the clock moves at a different pace inside of my warped little sphere. Actually, that's putting it backwards. I feel like things in my life are normal, it's when I look at how the people around me live that I start to get dizzy.

Scheduling a get together with a friend who lives in the "real world" is like trying to cram the 99th person into the proverbial phone booth. And when we do finally get to sit down together, our time is wedged tightly between business meetings, and hauling of children, and any of a zillion other mind numbing things that "must get done". They carry around their Blackberries, or smart phones or whatever those little blinking devices are, which they constantly need to check just in case they're "missing something". Frankly, it all just makes me exhausted.

The thing is, I used to be like that. In my youth I was the consummate over-achiever. Busy with a multitude of vital tasks and social commitments. I was so proud of all of my "accomplishments" and of how important I was. But underneath it all, I was desperately unhappy. I felt totally overwhelmed every single second of every day. Nothing I did was ever enough, and I felt a constant nagging dread of being inadequate.

Recently, I've been reading some posts on procrastination over at Raptitude. The author is consumed with plotting how he's going to overcome his procrastination beast, and finally be able to conquer his daily "to do" list. Sigh. On some level, reading those posts just makes me sad.

It reminds me of a time when I still thought that I could outsmart this stuff. I remember thinking back then that I just wasn't organized enough, I wasn't managing my time properly. So one day I sat down and made a list of all of the things that I needed to get done every day, and how long each task would reasonably take. I figured that I just needed to work the puzzle better and stick to my schedule and then I wouldn't feel overwhelmed anymore. So I added up all of the time allotments for my daily chores, and to my absolute shock and horror, it totaled 36 hours! Holy Moly! And that didn't even take into account anything unplanned that might come up. No wonder I was exhausted!

So here's the fundamental question: Why do we live this way? We generally act like our daunting schedules are imposed upon us and we have no choice in the matter, but anyone who is being honest with themselves knows that this is a cop out.

I remember one time back in college, the campus pastor was speaking at a dinner gathering for a group of us hyper achievers who had succeeded well beyond our peers in scheduling ourselves into oblivion. He remarked how we all liked to complain about how harried and overwrought we were, but that on some level we all thrived on it. At the time his comments thoroughly pissed me off. I didn't like this lifestyle! I was overworked and burnt out, and frazzled to the core, but I didn't have a choice in the matter, goddammit! Or did I?

Over the years I have come to see the veracity of the pastor's statement. Nobody held a gun to my head and made me take on an unreasonable work load. I did it willingly, and almost with a sense of glee. "Busier than thou" was my mantra, and I wore it like a badge of honor. On some level I was deeply proud of how frenzied my life was, fluttering hither and yon. But the question remains, why?

A few years later, when I was in my early twenties, I was spending a few hours with my elderly grandmother. She asked how I was, and I proceeded to regale her with a litany of how hectic the furious pace of my life was. She gently patted me on the back of the hand and said quietly, "That's nice dear, that way you don't have any time to feel bad." Wow. Leave it to Grandma to cut to the chase.

And after many years of working on this stuff, I believe that this really is what's at the heart of the issue. We live in a frantic state of over committed hell, because we're trying to avoid emotions that we don't want to feel. I mean let's face it, it's pretty hard to feel much of anything but oppressed when you spend all day every day in a tizzy, rushing wildly around like a rabid animal.

So there it is. The only way out of the jungle is to do less and feel more. I realize this is easier said than done. Generally the feelings we're trying to avoid are pretty big and powerful, and we'll do just about anything to get away from them. Plus, there are logistical realities in extracting yourself from the world of "too much" once you're firmly entrenched there.

Getting to the point I'm at has meant facing some pretty big personal demons. It's also meant that I've had to be willing to let go of a whole host of things, like money, and keeping up appearances, and meaningless social interactions, and being "in the loop," and "accomplishments," and feeling important. But I've also been able to shed a pile of other things, like "to do" lists, and uncomfortable clothing, and a generally crazed lifestyle.

It hasn't always been easy, but the rewards are so, so, so worth it. I get to live in a world where I go to bed and wake up whenever I want. Most days I don't have anything that I really have to do except feed the cats and feed myself. I work when I feel like it, and when I don't feel like it, I don't work. I take long leisurely walks, I fiddle around in my garden, I cook, I drink wine, I enjoy sitting in sunbeams with my cats and just pretty much doing whatever I want when I want.

I'll write more on the practical realities of extracting my self from the world of too many commitments if anybody is interested, but for the moment, I'll just leave you with something that one of my yoga teachers once said: We're called human beings, not human doings, and what we're really trying to do here is to simply be.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A New Day

We got some wonderful news yesterday. Princess Kitty had her final FIV/Leukemia test and she came up clean! And she also hasn't had any more seizures in 6 weeks, so that pretty much rules out all of the deadly diseases that might have caused it. Woo Hoo!!!

I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Not only does this mean that she doesn't have a deadly disease, it also means that there's no risk of her infecting the other cats, so we can start working on integrating her into the rest of the family. And not the least of it is that my life has suddenly gotten a whole heckuva lot easier. No more meticulous hand washing and clothes changing after playing with her, no more having to be extra careful about keeping her dishes and everything else separate from the rest of the household, and no more low level worrying!

I sort of feel like I can take a deep breath for the first time since she arrived on the scene last fall. I realize this sounds sorta crazy, but it's like I've been in a state of constant low level worry every since she appeared. At first when she was still outside under the tree, I worried constantly that she'd be cold, or that she'd get attacked by another animal or that god knows what would happen to her. Then when the Orange Boy tested positive for leukemia I was sure she had it too, and on and on and on...

And now that things are finally resolving, it's like a huge pressure has been released... one that I didn't even really realize was there. It's silly little things, but it turns out they are huge. Suddenly, I feel like I can hug my cats again without a nagging worry somewhere in the back of my mind that I might be inadvertantly infecting them with a deadly disease. What an enormous relief.

Maybe Princess came to teach me something. I mean, letting go of control has never been my strong suit, and the past 6 months have definitely been a lesson in lack of control. I'm sure there will be new challenges as she gets integrated with the other cats, and we still don't know what triggered her seizure (I personally think it was the vaccines), but for the first time in months I feel like I can actually let my guard down a bit.

And in a funny way, Princess is the one who got me going on decluttering. Sitting down in the basement with her for hours on end, surrounded by all of my junk really made me realize how much I wanted to change. I'm working on carload number three and it's getting WAY easier, especially since I'm starting to see progress. Today I unearthed a box full of newspapers from 12 years ago. Not papers with any special meaning... just stuff I was hanging onto in case I needed packing materials. Oy Vay!

A new day is dawning... a new chapter is beginning. I don't know how it's gonna turn out or what will happen, but it sure feels wonderful to move forward, and I feel lighter already.

Happy, happy, happy days!