I’m going to start out this post with two disclaimers:
- If you’re not interested in listening to someone rage and vent during an entire blog post, please don’t read this post. I totally understand.
- If you think the KJV of the bible is the only correct version of the bible, if you abhor swearing, if you think blasphemy can never be appropriate or funny, if you think that angels look like cherubs, Jesus was a white guy and God never sits up in heaven thinking “Guys – I really do have unconditional love for you, but seriously – what the hell? You’re acting like assholes and making it really hard for me to like you” you need to stop reading this post right now. Jesus wants you to go here instead. Trust me on this. Also, if you think swearing is horrible, why in the hell are you still reading my blog?
This is not going to be a happy post. This is an angry and sad post. 2013 has decided that my declarations to punch it in the throat if it isn’t better than 2012 don’t mean much. So I’ve officially declared 2013 an asshole.
Today is the two week anniversary since Benjamin died. The Sunday before, we noticed that Benjamin had very yellow skin. Since Mira and Sam died so close together, we’ve been keeping ridiculously close tabs on the other cats, so much so that we’re really pissing them off. This came out of the blue. That night he refused to eat.
The following Monday he collapsed while putting him in the crate. We rushed to the vet. They took blood, and obviously his liver values were off the chart. He stayed Monday night and Tuesday night. I visited twice a day, but he was so miserable. He was a huge lovebug to us and our close friends, but he hated loud noise and most other people than his family.
We were both devastated. And I was furious. I took a punishing yoga class that Tuesday, hoping to exorcise some of the rage I felt through sweat and pushing myself physically to the limit. It wasn’t the smartest thing to do with my back and knee injuries, but for 90 minutes I thought of nothing but my struggle to not collapse. And when I got out, I was still seething. I hurt, and I wanted to project that hurt on someone else. I’ve learned over the years how unhealthy and unfair and shitty this is to do, so I warned my husband that I needed some alone time and sat up in my bedroom, alternating between sobbing and being filled with rage.
I made the bad decision to look at Facebook. That night the “perfect lives” people were out in full force – if you use Facebook you know exactly who I’m talking about. Those of you who know me well know I loathe a great deal of inspirations GIFs. They’re either adorable ways to be passive aggressive, or they take complex emotional issues and water them down to poorly written platitudes that you can post on someone’s Facebook page and make it look like you care. They’re the graphic equivalent of saying “I’ll pray for you” and never actually doing it. Of all the nights the above could have happened, of course it was that Tuesday night. Some douchenozzle had posted a “God never gives you more than you can handle” inspirational GIF. I felt like a cartoon character because I was so mad that it felt like actual steam was coming out of my ears. I wisely closed the laptop and began to pace back and forth in my room.
I lashed out. I let God know that he had given us more than we could handle and what a total asshole I thought he was. I was so livid that I don’t even know how I could possibly have had any room left for feeling bruised, beat-up, brokenhearted and numb. But somehow all of these things fit in my body, and I felt like I would explode from the pulsating emotions inside me.
The next day, we decided to bring Benjamin home. Our vet, Dr. Claire Ringger, is a wonderful vet who goes far beyond the requirements of her job. She sat and loved on Mira while she got her blood transfusion. She was able to coax Benjamin into eating something by feeding him under a blanket. I’m grateful for her compassion and her honesty. We could have had a biopsy done. Unfortunately, that would have meant more time at the vet. He was so stressed and scared that I just wanted him home.
Dr. Ringger gave us medications for almost all the possibilities, and we have a lot of experience with force-feeding cats. Benjamin snuggled in with us in the bed, and we were able to get a whole can of food in him over the next 24 hours. This gave us a lot of hope. He was only 10 – he was going to beat this. He was very weak, but getting food in him was a big victory. We were so hopeful we could save him – we didn’t care how much time it took or how inconvenient it made our lives, Benjamin was going to get better.
Thursday night, he crashed. Marcus and I took shifts loving on him while the other tried to sleep. He broke my heart again when he came stumbling out from under the dresser when he heard my voice and tried to rub on my ankle. The heater was cranked to 80 in our bedroom, and I was dripping in sweat in a wool sweater because Benjamin liked the feel of wool sweaters. I picked him up, snuggled with him and realized with a horrible moment of crystal-clear clarity, that we weren’t going to get to keep him. The kindest thing we could do for him was to let him go as quickly as possible. A quick call to the vet confirmed this, and we called the visiting vet to come put him to sleep. Laura was wonderful and sweet and kind. She cried with us, because she had to put one of her cats to sleep on Monday. And our beautiful Benjamin nodded off to sleep and died in our arms as we told him how much we loved him, but that he needed to go where he could be happy and safe. We did our best not to baptize him with too many tears. The vet cried some more; we cried some more. I hugged her and told her how glad I was that she was there, so he could die at home. She took a pawprint, hugged us and left.
Marcus and I just sat on the edge of our bed and cried. We cuddled Benjamin a bit more. And then my husband said “This is exactly where I didn’t want to be. Another $1000 and another dead cat.” And then we cried some more, and I got really pissed. Stages of grief are never as neat as they seem in Psych 101 textbook.
While I cuddled Benjamin, I uttered these words. “I no longer think God’s an asshole. Frankly, at this point, He can go fuck himself.” We sat there on the bed for a while. And then, Marcus looked over at me and said “Kristina – He’s God. He probably can.” Then this happened:
Obviously, this did not happen. Either that or Hell has one bitchin’ wi-fi connection and looks a lot like our house. No – we laughed, bitterly with the kind of black humor we bring out when we’re trying not to drown in sadness.
Benjamin, my gorgeous funny baby, was the straw that broke my back. My husband’s back isn’t feeling that strong lately. Despite all of the anger and sadness that I’ve felt about other situations going on in our lives, I’ve kind of kept my shit together. That house of cards built with hopes and optimism blew up.
Last Thursday, the cards lying on the table spontaneously combusted. More bad news medically which hit me (and the ones I love, especially my Mom) with a savage blow in a very vulnerable place. I’ll tell you about that later. A few hours later, my car broke down. I broke a nail. And I realized I had been walking around with my fly down for the last few hours. Friends received hysterical phone calls.
I hate this.
My heart feels like it’s in a perpetual state of being broken. Every time I think I’ve hit rock bottom, the rug gets ripped out from under me, and I fall again. I feel like Pigpen, except I carry a cloud of misery wherever I go. I am sick of asking for prayers or good thoughts or good vibes. I want to generate good mojo on our own. I’m sick of people being worried about me. I’m sick of being the hot mess of a friend. At one point, my Dad told my husband that we’ve had the worst streak of luck lately. I don’t want to be that person.
I told a friend that my life felt like the bastard child of a telenova and a Lifetime special – just with a lot less sex, less Valerie Bertinelli or Leanne Rimes and no affairs with gorgeous Hispanic lovers, begging me not to leave them. I’m actually very grateful for the less Leann Rimes part.
After a brief period of wading in the shallow end of the drama pool in my early 20s, I got the hell out. So many people wallow in their miseries and drama their entire lives. If you’re going through a bad experience, they make sure to tell you about how theirs was worse. If you’re dealing with an illness, they’ll one-up you with some mysterious malady. I refer to it as going for the gold medal at the Oppression Olympics. That’s an award I have no interest in winning. But I feel like I’m stuck in quicksand right now. I want out, but I keep getting sucked back in.
There are the people that tell you that you need to focus on all the good things in your life. I do that on an almost daily basis. I have my husband who’s been a rock through all of this, even as he grieves. My Mom and my Dad have supported me in more ways than I can possibly list. I have friends that care about me. I have a church where I can find support. I have a pastor who understands why I’m so angry at God and who doesn’t try to placate me with platitudes. I am truly grateful for all of those things, but that doesn’t make the pain and anxiety I’m feeling disappear.
The next group are the people that remind you that there are people suffering far more than you in this world. That the situation we’re in could be so much worse. And you know what? I am aware of that. I’m aware of the privilege I automatically get being a white, well-spoken, educated woman born in this country. I get all these things. But knowing that some mother in a third country is holding her baby while he dies of dysentery doesn’t make me feel better. Knowing that some gay teen in Kansas is living his own private hell of bullying and/or having to deny who he really is on a daily basis? That doesn’t make me feel any better either. That friend of mine just diagnosed with a life-threatening disease? Hooray! At least I don’t have that. I think you’re a bit of a sociopath if you find comfort in this way of thinking.
Some people find comfort in the idea that trials in life are just the way God tests you. So God killed Marcus’ dad, Cleo, Mira, Sam, Mama-cat and Benjamin in order to make us stronger? That’s not my God. That kind of God is the same jackass who blew apart Job’s life in order to win a bet with the devil. Nice guy, huh?
Life is hard. And sometimes it’s one thing after another, over and over. I don’t think God causes these things to happen. I think these things just happen in life. And you have some very simple choices to make. Do you stop going on or do you keep going on? I hope my choice of the latter option is evident. And if you have faith, do you keep it or toss it? I’m working really hard on keeping mine.
I think the God that wrestled with Jacob is totally OK with me calling him an asshole and telling him to go fuck himself. Because he understands that life is hard, and no matter how much He may want to comfort me, He has to let me rage and scream and struggle with my faith before I can find my way back to Him. Faith is not certainty and doesn’t come with soft pink lights and halos – if you’re certain, you don’t have to have faith. Faith is messy. It’s crawling through the trenches. It’s something that waxes and wanes. It’s the struggle to believe even when there seems to be no good reason to continue.
After writing several posts about grief, a few of you have emailed me looking for advice about dealing with grief. And you know what? I don’t know what the hell to tell you to do. I wish I had some wisdom to throw down on you, but I’m not doing so hot myself.
My suggestions? Be a hot mess for a while? Burst into tears at inappropriate times in public places? I think my best tip is not to wear disposable contacts while crying; they wear out quicker. Buy Kleenex with lotion. Let people be kind to you. Let yourself feel numb for a while – it’s your body’s way of protecting you. After that, get your grief and anger out in any way possible so you don’t take it out on yourself. Develop routines to force you to do good things for yourself. Right now, mine is yoga. Try to remember the good things in your life, but also remember that the bad things are allowed to overwhelm you at times. You don’t have to be rational and logical all the time.
People keep telling me it will be OK. To hang in there. You know what? I don’t think it’s necessary to have a stiff upper lip when the pain is so fresh. It’s OK to lose your shit for a while. In fact, please sequester yourself for a while from friends that are going to give you the ‘Cheer up Buckeroo’ speech. You don’t need to hear that when the pain is still fresh. Things will eventually get better, and you’ll find your way to the light. But when the darkness envelops you like a heavy quilt? You don’t need to look for the sunny side. You can be upset. You can be scared. You can rage. You can grieve. You can be mad at the world or karma or God or whatever you believe in. It’s OK.
Why did I write this post? I’m really not sure. Some of it was a form of therapy. Seeing the words written on the screen makes the pain feel more real, and I want to get as much of this pain out as possible. I also want to let those of you who ask me how to deal with grief know that there is no right way to do it. It’s messy, and no one has the answers for your grief. Suggestions? Yes. But actual answers? Only snake oil salesmen would sell you that idea. I wanted to share my faith – not some aqua-netted televangelist-styled version where as long as you follow the rules and stay away from gay people, you get a gold ticket into heaven. My faith is a lot messier and harder than that. I wanted to provide a blog that isn’t all train wreck and drama, nor a screed to a “Look how wonderful my life is”. But that means it’s a blog where the train might get derailed sometimes. And I wanted to share more of myself on my blog this year. This is Kristina – hot mess and bourbon and bacon and biscuits and all.
I feel like I’ve lost the capacity to write in any cohesive manner (I’ll give myself credit that it’s a bit difficult to do while bawling) so I’ll end with this. Go hug every furry and non-furry member of your family. Be kind to yourself and others. Eat more pie.