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On Sunday, I came home from spending time in the park in a hammock, and as I came in, I let my cat Maggie out; it was a beautiful, sunny afternoon.

Later, I noticed she wasn’t around getting into things, and I went to let her back in, but she wasn’t at the door.

She didn’t come back in that evening. I went outside and called to her, but she didn’t come.  I walked down the steps to the street, but she wasn’t around so and I went to bed. I dreamt about her that night. Uneasy dreams.

The next morning, first thign I did was check, but she still wasn’t at the door.  I put out a bowl of food on the back porch, and walked around the block before I went to work.  I didn’t find her.

That night, she still wasn’t there when I got back from work. I looked all up and down the street. I took a flashlight and shone it under all the steps of mine and my neighbours’ houses. I looked everywhere. I didn’t dream anything.

The next morning, this morning, before work, I put up six missing cat signs on the streets around my house. I’ve never done that before. The spattering rain started smearing my ink jet signs before I’d even walked away from them.

Around 11:00 a.m., I got a call from the Vancouver Animal Control Shelter. They had found Maggie, and identified her from the chip I’d had put in her so that if she was found she could be returned to me safe and sound. Except that’s not what happened this time.

They told me that she had died. They said she was hit by a car. They said they were certain it was her, and that they didn’t recommend a viewing, and that they could cremate her and give me the ashes, so long as I paid in advance.

So I sat in my office chair and read off the full name and the number and the expiration date from my credit card, like I was buying tickets for an show, or ordering a pizza, or doing whatever soulless task requires you to say sixteen digits clearly over the phone but this time I was saying them so they would take Maggie and put her body in a fire because she was gone.

Maggie was the best bad cat I’ve ever known. (see slideshow)

Her goopy eye and her hiss and her purr. Her fuzzy red hair and tiny sharp claws. Her very, very occasional lick and the way she almost never ever meowed.

My friends ask about her as much as they ask about me.

She was a treasure, a rare, no, a unique cat. And I have lost her. I have lost her for myself, and I have lost her for all the people who love her. And I’m so sorry.

Yes, I didn’t push her into the road in front of a car. But I made the decision to have a cat in the first place, and to take care of that cat. And then I made the decision to let her be an outside cat. And then I let her out that day. And then I didn’t watch her or let her back in right away. She was wandering out there because of my decisions. I’m the responsible one here; cats can’t sign legal documents.

Responsiblity. I’ll come back to that.

Loss. What a long run of loss there’s been in my life recently.  I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut: again.  I won’t indulge myself in reciting the litany, you know it already.

And still, talking to others that I know, they’ve had loss, too, on scales large and small. I’m not special here. People I love have lost jobs, lost health, lost grandparents, lost loves, lost their futures, lost their children, lost themselves.. I don’t have it worse than so many. But I can certainly tell you, I’m sure as hell I’m not in the top half these days.

I’m tired. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of bad news. I’m tired of looking for the bright spot in a dark sky. I’m tired of anger, of disappointment, of scrambling, of thinking “well, at least this thing is not that-thing-that-is-crappier-than-the-crappy-thing-I-am-facing.”

I’m really damn tired of this blog being full of gloom. So I’m not going to let it. The next five things I post… will be good news, happy posts, and things I’m thankful for. Mark my words.

The common expectation is that in times of trouble, in times of crisis, in times of loss, that’s when one’s belief, one’s faith in God, is most challenged.  It’s a common refrain, and the story of Job is sort of the poster child for this scenario: God lets Satan fuck with Job for a while, ruin his life. Job suffers, and becomes irate with God, but doesn’t blame God or doubt his existence. Go, Job, go, stay the course! Faith is challenged then affirmed, doubt is conquered! (Eventually God gives Job even more good things. See? God is go(o)d, he’s not just a kid playing with an ant hill.)

However, as this crap keeps piling up at my feet, I find the opposite is true for me. I’m an atheist (oh my, yes, the revelations just keep on coming here at Unvarnished.com), but in fact, I’m starting to doubt that. I don’t understand why.  Maybe I just want something I can be mad at. But also, at a certain point, I’m starting to think to myself: this can’t just be coincidence. This can’t be just a run of bad luck, this just can’t be; or maybe, this can’t be just.  And as I start to talk about events themselves having justice, then I start to think about an agency responsible for that condition of injustice.

But there’s another thought in my head, too. And that thought is, who said the universe was just? And who says that any other agency is to “blame”? Why look outside, to things I never used to believe, to push this elsewhere? Because, if I look at myself honestly, as I’ve been trying to do, I’m bringing so much of this on myself. Responsibility, as I said earlier, is the key here.

Now, no, I’m not saying I deserve everything that has happened to me. Tearing my ACL, for instance. I played when I was physically exhausted, but I didn’t do anything stupid out there. I didn’t deserve the injury—not because of poor spot decisions at that moment, and not because of a crappy lifestyle—and not even for karma reasons, not only because I don’t believe in karma but also because I don’t think I’m in karmic debt right now.

On the other hand, it wasn’t anyone else’s mistake—I wasn’t hit by anyone when it happened. It wasn’t my coach keeping me in when I was tired, or faulty equipment. It was all me. I’m not saying that being responsible for something always means you deserve the consequences of that thing. I’m just saying - I’m driving the bus of my life. I’m not simply a passenger. And when my choices lead to bad outcomes, then those outcomes… lead back to me.

The same thing is true about a lot of my losses. They don’t come from outside forces acting on me, for the most part.  They come from decisions I’ve made. I feel like, ultimately, my choices have brought me here.

Here to Vancouver.

Here to living alone.

Here to the job I’m in, with the clients I have.

Here to the friends I have, and the friends I’ve (here’s that word again) lost, the friends who are lost to me.

So of course: What I wouldn’t give for a chance to do any part of this over. For a chance to get back some of he things I’ve lost. And the road ahead is unknown, it’s true. I can look back at the things I’ve done that have lead me here, and I can look forward and try to take the road that leads to where I want to be.

But Maggie.. there’s no road that leads her back to me now. That’s why death has such power, such fear, such sadness.

Maggie was a good cat. All joking aside, she deserves to be praised for that—for being good.

Yes, she threw up a monumental amount. Yes, she stole blocks of cheese bigger than a softball and would run off, growling like she’d killed an antelope. Yes, she darted out the door of this apartment every single damn time I opened it. And yes, she was probably less than best friends with my other cat, Aimee, who she terrorized.

But she made people feel special just by being around them. She made people laugh constantly. She paid attention, she played, she was acrobatic and friendly, she was energetic and gentle. She would keep you company when you showered, and not just to warm herself on the bathroom floor.  She’d inspect all your groceries for bread products, and she could clear a room with a single fart.

She had imagination. Maggie often played with a small fuzzy toy that was just a simple stuffed rectangle of fake fur. She would carry it around in her mouth and make little mewling noises, like she was a being a heroic mom and it was her only kitten and she needed to save it from a flood. She’d do this late at night, when I was watching a last bit of TV, and I’d hear her; she’d clearly be play acting by herself and her little cries echoing in the hall would melt an iceberg’s heart.

Then she’d bring the rectangle to her food dish, and leave it in there, among food where a kitten would most like to be left, and I’d find it the next morning when I was refilling her dish.

Or maybe she was pretending that it was a piece of teriyaki chicken and she was saving it for dessert. Whatever was going on in her head, it was pretty much cute and heartbreaking all at the same time. And I was actually going to video it the next time she did it. It was on my To Do list.

I’m sorry, Maggie, that I didn’t do that. I’m sorry that I let you go too soon.

I’ll miss you.



 
 

 

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That Crazy Day…

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An Amazing Bowl of Ramen

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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