Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Getting Out Of Triage Mode

Things are finally starting to return to "normal" around here... though I have to confess that it's been such a hectic and crazy last 18 months or so, that I'm sort of struggling to define what exactly "normal" looks like.

Smoky has one final vet appointment this week before he is pronounced cured. He's off of all his medications and we're just gonna do one more check of his blood pressure, bloodwork and urine to make sure that everything is OK.

They still have no idea what happened to him (he got very sick in July with dangerously low protein levels in his blood, anemia and high blood pressure) but the best guess is that he got into something and had some sort of acute distress in his digestive tract (which somehow manifested without any GI symptoms.) At any rate... he's gained about 2 pounds and is back to his curtain-climbing, sister-chasing, marauding ways.

From a few years ago, but you get the idea...
I've been cleaning... and cleaning, and cleaning and cleaning. Near the end of Sputty's illness, we had 11 litter boxes - they were literally strewn across the entire house, and I've been slowly paring them back to a more reasonable level. I've gotta say that it's really nice not to be tripping over them, but the emptiness makes me miss my little Sputty-Cat so very much. And then there's the laundry... let's just say that cats with urinary problems tend to generate a lot of it.

But beyond the kitty issues, the past year has just been crazy. It was a bad year for parents all around, as not only did my mother pass unexpectedly, but three of my best friends also lost parents. Plus there have been several crises in terms of my online business, and CatMan's broken pelvis, and then there's the whole Obamacare saga (rant on that topic still to come.)

Anyhow, it all just makes me realize how accustomed I've become to living in triage mode.  And if I'm truly honest with myself, I have to admit that my penchant for crisis living extends far beyond the chaos of the past 18 months or so. I think that in a funny way, it's a place that I feel "safe."

I mean, if there's a big urgent problem that requires immediate attention, it sorta sucks all the air out of the room and focuses your energy by necessity. There's no time to ponder deeper questions, feel uncomfortable emotions, or face up to age old insecurities when the mountain lion is about to rip your head off, so in a very counter-intuitive way, I think there is some comfort to be found in fight or flight living.

Back when I was still working I was the "woman in demand" basically doing the work of 3 full-time employees for the salary of one poorly compensated one. And then when I quit my job and struck out on my own I was driven to make a success of my business (which I did) but I think I might have worked even harder those first few years than I did when I still had a real job!

Then, of course, there were cats to be rescued - first the boys, then Princess...

Anyhow, my point is that chaos is very easy to find. And while some of it is inescapable, much of it is self-inflicted. And I am very, VERY good at grabbing the anvil, hoisting it over my head and then complaining that the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

So. That brings me to now. Everything is OK. It really is. My business is fine, if a bit smaller than it was a few years ago. My mortgage is paid off. My cats are all fine - well, the ones that remain. CatMan has no broken bones, I am healthy, my Dad and step-mom don't seem in need of immediate medical attention. The house isn't falling down or in need if immediate repair. I've got money in the bank.Things are OK... they really, really are.

So what do I do now? I have to admit that over the past week or so I've had the urge to delve into a few major remodeling/redecorating projects... I do have some time now, and I can assure you that my house could use it. But I'm not going to. Neither am I going to leap into the many new business endeavors and webpage ideas that have been brewing in the back of my mind for the past few years. And I'm not going to undertake any new dietary or budgeting challenges.

I think that what I need to do at the moment is to create space. And I don't mean that I'm gonna jump into a massive new de-cluttering project either (although there might be a bit of that here and there.) No... I'm talking about a deeper kind of space.

I just keep thinking of this quote by Henry David Thoreau from his classic, Walden:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

I guess I sorta feel like when we choose "simplicity" or "minimalism" or whatever this lifestyle is that I'm living, it's very easy to get caught up in the details of it and forget the purpose. Simple living blogs are all full of lots of "doing." We cook, we garden, we mend, we save, we "de-clutter", we clean, we "make-do"... but if living simply requires such an endless barrage of "simple living tasks" haven't we sorta missed the point?

Anyhow, since the universe has blessed me with a relatively calm spell, I'm gonna use it to try to rest, and focus, and breathe, and just to "be". That doesn't mean that I'm gonna spend all day lying on my back in a yoga shavasana or "corpse" pose, but I'm certainly going to endeavor to be a bit more intentional in terms of how I spend my very valuable time and energy.

So how about you? Do you ever feel like you spend your life careening from one crisis to another? Am I the only crazy person who secretly feels safer in the midst of chaos? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this whole topic.


  1. I hate chaos! I dread it showing up in my life. I had so much of it when I was younger I just want peace but life has a way of dishing it out and making me deal with it in unexpected times and ways.

    Like you I want to live, to experience life and to know I made an impact while I was here. Still working on the last part of that, guess I will till the end.

    Love the picture of Smokey climbing your screen, that would drive me nuts because I know it would mean new screens down the road. Our one dog used to scratch at the screen which faced the drive when we came home. I had so many tears in it, always having to repair it.

    I hope your calm lasts the rest of the year, you deserve it after last year.

    1. I actually think I have a love/hate relationship with chaos. I hate the way it feels, but it's just soooo familiar that the alternative is frightening.

      Anyhow, the Smokster has certainly done a number on my screens. I actually found screen online that is specifically designed for pets. They say it's 7 times stronger than traditional screens and much harder for them to destroy. So when I do finally get around to replacing it, I think I'll be upgrading to that stuff!

    2. I have that same screen and it's wonderful. My cat hasn't hurt it yet, despite 3-4 months of scratching and climbing it.

      I don't like chaos! I'm firmly against drama and craziness if I can help it. :) I leave early so red lights and traffic don't bother me, I prep vacations months ahead, etc. My planning doesn't always save me from stress, but I think it cuts back at least. Enjoy your calm spell!

    3. Thanks for the review on the screen... sounds like it might be worth it.

      And I'm envious of your centered zen approach... I'm trying, really I am! :-)

  2. I'd say that I don't like chaos, crises and uncertainty- I get really stressed if there are plans that are not firmed up/unresolved and I have to sort them out! However, I agree that in the midst of a problem you can't really stop and think about anything else...it's when there is nothing I can do about the issue that I get anxious.
    I am bad at just stopping and being, rather than doing- I have a bad habit of writing myself huge lists of projects to do, getting overwhelmed by huge list, and then doing nothing. FOCUS is what I need! I've cut back on the crazy lady list making recently, and am thus more chilled...and I think more productive, weirdly, because I don't freeze in a 'too many things' panic. I've been letting myself do what I want to do each day, rather than what I feel I should. (Y'know, other than making sure all of the animals and people are fed!)
    So, to sum up- not a fan of chaos, ok with a crisis if there is something practical I can do, and trying to get better at taking the 'doing' pressure off!

    I love the photo of Smoky- what is he doing?! Glad to hear he is better, and almost has the all clear :)

    1. Oh, it's not that chaos and crisis don't stress me out... they totally do - it's just that the immediacy of such problems somehow helps me to channel the stress into action. But I think it's also deceptive, because I think that much of the knot in my stomach sensation actually has to do with other deeper things... but it's just sooo easy to blame it all on the current situation when you're in the midst of crisis. When there isn't a crisis, and you still have a knot in your stomach... well, then you have to deal with the ugly lingering stuff, and I think that's what I'm always trying to avoid.

      Anyhow, I'm with you on the lists... some people find that if they write it down they can stop thinking about it so they have less stress, but for me it's just the opposite. As soon as I put it on a to-do list it becomes a looming "have to," which very quickly turns into a dreaded "don't wanna." And then the hopeless spiral of "I'm overwhelmed and not good enough" begins.

      Isn't that picture of Smoky priceless? I believe there was a squirrel in the backyard, and he figured that if he just kept climbing the screen he'd find a way out. Oh my...

    2. It looks like he is levitating!

      I occasionally find at work that writing a list helps to stop my brain whirring and lets me focus, but with home stuff I find huge lists aren't helpful. I'm still making a daily to do list, but I have learnt to make them manageable!
      I might eventually ditch the daily list too...

    3. Ha! The amazing levitating Smoky Cat! Seriously, there have been times when I've wondered if he didn't have that ability. Once when he was still a pretty young kitten - maybe a few months old, we were all down in the garden level "mud room". It has a door that swings inward and then a security/screen door on the outside. In my post about Sputty there's actually a picture of Sputty & Jasper looking out that door together.

      Anyhow, we were all hanging out down there with the door open so they could look out, and all of a sudden I realized that I couldn't find Smoky. I was starting to panic when it occurred to me to look up. And there he was, balanced on the top of the open door. I still, for the life of me have no idea how he got up there!

      Maybe what I need to do is make lists for Smoky! They'd look something like this:

      1) Don't climb the curtains
      2) Don't climb on the television
      3) Don't knock the pictures off the wall
      4) Don't chase your sister
      5) Eat your dinner!

      Oh my...

    4. Knocking pictures off the wall?!

      I have found Albus cat balanced on top of doors before...I didn't see him get up there, but I imagine it'd be pretty tricky as the door would probably swing about with 5.8kgs of cat hanging off it!

    5. I'm not sure what the deal is with Smoky and the pictures, but it's like an obsession with him. He's broken several frames and I'm constantly having to watch him so he doesn't destroy any more. Maybe it's the reflections on the glass? Or maybe he just thinks there should be no pictures of any cats but him in this house! :-)

  3. Sadly, I thrive in chaos (especially at work) - because it allows me to focus on the emergency and forget about the everyday. But I don't go seeking drama, and there are some who do - I am always responding to theirs! I try not to be a "fixer" because that can be enabling, but sometimes it goes with the job. Enjoy the calm, and don't let yourself believe it's the "before the storm" variety, because it doesn't have to be!

    1. You sound a lot like I was at work, only I fear I tended to be much to quick to jump in and fix everything... which did make me "indispensable," but also angry and overwhelmed. It took me years to figure out that fixing everything for everyone else wasn't actually helping them.

      At least these days I'm fairly insulated from situations where I have the temptation to jump in and solve everyone else's problems, but there's still much more chaos in my life than I would like.

  4. I think it's good that you're giving time to just be. When the crises have ended is when we have time to process them, time to let the emotions of them out. Those are very important things to experience before you move on.

    1. Well said. And I'm certainly still processing. I cried washing the comforter yesterday because there were a few little brown spots... signs of Sputty. And there's one litter box that none of the other cats would ever use that still has his footprints in it, and I just can't bring myself to destroy them. Sigh.

  5. I usually avoid chaos but sometimes, as you well know, it finds me. While my last year wasn't as crazy as yours, I had quite a bit of unwanted crises going on with my mother's health, my father's dementia, differing sibling opinions on what is going on and how to deal with it, a flooded basement, a kitchen remodel (yes, I brought that one on myself) ... right now I feel like I'm in the calm after the storm (although maybe it's the calm between storms!). I find for myself that it's hard to unwind and I feel like every moment of the day I have to be super-productive. Our winter weather has been unusually awful (I'm used to hard winters but this one takes the cake) so I have been working very very few hours--I think it's good to have the time to quiet down but it's hard--if I'm at work being "productive" then I don't, as you say, have to think uncomfortable thoughts. For me (and I apologize if I'm making you uncomfortable in talking about my faith) this is a time when I am trying to hear "the still, small voice of God".

    1. Oh the "I must be productive" monster. I know it well! Doing my best to be a lazy bum right now. :-)

      And no, it does not make me at all uncomfortable if you speak about your faith... I have a great appreciation for people of all faiths, even if they are different from my own. Truth be told, I sorta think all faith and spirituality is tapping into the same source... we just have different ways of understanding it (and I hope that statement didn't offend you!)

      Speaking of faith... isn't there some verse in the Bible about lilies of the field... they neither reap nor sow... something like that?

    2. I'm fairly hard to offend. :)

      You are referring to a favorite section of mine. Yes, Luke 12:27. "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." If you take it in context, you would include verses 22-34. Jesus is talking to a crowd about ... worrying ... seems human nature doesn't change much. I love a couple of verses in this section--"Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes" and it is summed up with "But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well" and "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also". Thanks for reminding me of these verses. Sometimes I need to be reminded about, well, a lot of things.

      Hope that wasn't too wordy!

    3. Wow... you know it always strikes me that there are these things that we think of as "modern" problems... like worrying, and stress, and getting too focused on stuff that just doesn't matter. But perhaps they're just human problems that are ageless.

  6. Birds of a feather, my friend, birds of a feather. Your post made me realize that I'm the exact same. If there's no crisis, no event/situation needing immediate attention, I don't know what to do with myself/how to feel. It's like, "What do I do now?!" I'm such a do-er that not having any pressing thing to do makes my brain confused. If you find the solution and have success with just taking some time and space, please share your wisdom!

    1. Well... CatMan always says that I just need to go to a quiet place, lay down and focus on feeling whatever I feel. I'm not so good at that, my brain just starts to wander off onto my mental "to do" list, which is totally not the point!

      But when I'm soaking in a hot bath, or doing yoga I'm much better at just letting it flow. In fact, there was a whole year when every time I'd do yoga I'd end up just sobbing uncontrollably for no discernible reason. I finally decided that figuring out the "reason" didn't matter as much as just letting the emotions out... but it did make me feel a bit nervous about ever doing yoga in a class or group situation again!

    2. I think yoga is well known for bringing out the sobbing...a yoga teacher I know told me how on her teacher training they all ended bawling their eyes out at some point!

    3. Well that's oddly comforting. At least I'm not the only person who tends to "lose it" while doing yoga. The funny part is that it never happened during the intense stretching poses - which would sorta make sense if we're going with the theory that we store emotions in our bodies.

      It was always when I'd be doing corpse pose right after doing the plow... it was like after doing the plow I found it almost impossible to lay flat on my back... it was almost painful to lay on my back at that point... but not really a physical pain... Well, it's hard to explain, but certainly a powerful experience.

    4. I think one of the reasons some people don't like slow yoga classes (as opposed to fast flow classes etc) is that the still parts of the class can let uncomfortable emotions come up...so maybe it is not that surprising that it was in corpse pose that the emotions came up

      I've never had that sort of experience, personally- I'm not sure if that's because I don't have any deep emotions to well up...or if I am just good at repressing them!!

    5. Hmmmm.... very interesting about the slow vs. flow yoga. I've always preferred the flowing poses myself but I thought it was just because I'm lazy and holding the poses is generally more difficult. But perhaps there is an emotional component as well. Thoughts to ponder...

  7. I can relate to the idea of going from one chaos to the next. There never seems to be much of a time spread between fires that need to be put out. I have two cats and both are ill right now. Hardly a week goes by that a vet isn't needed. Our sweet Carmen is saying her goodbyes this week.

    Thank goodness, we seem to not have any human crisis' right now as I am terribly sad with the cat situation.

    1. Oh Cheryl, I am so terribly sorry about your little Carmen. Plus having another sick one too. That's a lot to bear.

      It's just so hard to know what to wish for in those situations... we want them to stay with us, but we don't want them to suffer. Near the end, part of me secretly hoped that Sputty would just go peacefully in his sleep, partly to spare me the horrible decision, and partly so that he wouldn't have to be afraid... alas, it wasn't to be.

      Big Hugs,


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