Saturday, 31 August 2013

Hindsight and Other Tricks of the Mind

We lost our eldest cat in the first apartment we moved to after leaving our house. The second-oldest cat died in the next apartment. When we decided to move again, I remember half-jokingly saying something along the lines of "So far we're two for two; I'm almost afraid of what will happen if we move to a third apartment."


In a short period before what happened with Fergus (yes, three for three), these things happened:

1) A Tumblr post came up in my feed, a photoset that I'd never seen before or since, of a selection of scenes from children's films that were heartbreakingly dark in retrospect. One of them, from a film unknown to me, showed an adult person looking at a child and saying, simply, "The kitty had to go."

2) There was a rerun of an eighth season episode of Bones in which one of the subplots dealt with Dr. Sweets' breakup with intern Daisy Wick. At one point Ms. Wick confesses her feelings to Dr. Saroyan, who tells her that they had something alive and vibrant which is now gone, and that the sadness she feels is because she's grieving that. When Daisy asks if perhaps it couldn't be brought back to life, Cam says As a scientist, have you ever seen anything come back to life and be as good as it ever was? She then goes on to counsel Daisy: So feel sad. Cry. You lost something wonderful, but keep moving forward. It'll get better. I promise.

3) I kept seeing, in my mind's eye, the 5 of Pentacles from the Tarot of the Cat People deck.
This is what my brain does to me.
Note that it depicts a wild-haired woman mourning the loss of her small striped cat, while the cat's spirit glows down upon her from what appears to be a stained-glass window above where she sits. (If I've never posted a picture of Fergus here, well, he was a small, brown tabby American Shorthair cat. And my hair isn't white, but left to it's own devices it's about as wild and poofy as that.)

Sometime later (afterward) I was dozing on the sofa, and in that threshold state between awake and asleep I saw him, reclining on the living room floor as he often had, awake and alert and looking at me; the vision startled me awake, though not in a bad way. I had dreams of both Warlock and Autumn after their deaths, in each case seeing them first as adults and then in subsequent dreams in kitten form, so perhaps the pattern will hold with Fergus as well.

Still, fuck my life.  :(

* * *

Addendum (some time after the above was written; I've developed a bad habit of not dating my hand-written notes):

I had another dream a while later. At one point, I was reclining with Fergus curled up on my chest, above my heart; the next thing I remember is being beneath a tree, holding him, and a woman--unknown to me but not unfamiliar, if that makes any sense--saying, very gently, "You have to let him go, you know."

"I know," I said, and I did; I recall feeling peaceful enough, if a little sad. I put him on the ground, and he ran off along a path/road leading out and away from where we were standing. At the far visible end of it he stopped, looked back at me, then turned the corner and disappeared from sight.

On another subsequent night, I dreamed I had gone to a park, and there came upon a kitten: a small boy, eyes still blue, coat of a dark plushy grey with white front paws. Near him was a large book, and when I opened it (of course I opened it!) I found a paper explaining that if I'd found him, then he was my cat, and outlining the responsibilities thereof. It read like some kind of cross between a cat breeder's kitten adoption contract and a "please take care of my baby" letter written by a distraught mother putting their kid in a basket on a random doorstep.

So what else could I do? I picked him, the letter, and the book, up, and took them home with me.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Keeping Vigil

Just over four months ago, I watched the decline of my older cat, Autumn, and ended up keeping vigil with her on her last day, which was also my mother's birthday. I really had no idea that I would be doing another such vigil again so soon, and for my youngest, dearest little Fergus. He's not even eight years old; his birthday isn't until the end of July.

He's a special cat, and a cat with special needs, having been prone to intermittent seizures since he was very young. I always knew that it could potentially foreshorten his life, but that was just part of the deal; he was my cat. (Is my cat; he's still alive as I write this, or at least he was half an hour ago when I last checked on him. But I'm upstairs at the moment and he's down and out of my line of sight, so perhaps what I have here is a pitiable Schroedinger's situation.) The seizures were never of sufficient frequency for him to require daily medication. He hadn't even had one since last August, when he was stressed from an eye injury.

He apparently had one, or perhaps more than one, or possibly even a stroke, while we were at work on Thursday or Friday. He seemed rather off on Thursday evening, but then better on Friday, then progressively worse on Saturday evening; not walking well or wanting to walk, exhibiting ataxia, etc. He drank water and used the box yesterday, and may have eaten a bit as well, but he moved into a position between the sofa and the balcony door last night and has not left it since (unless he did so overnight while we were sleeping). He's been there all day today, and has grown less responsive, although he will still move a bit, and he purrs when I stroke him and talk to him. I'm afraid that he may not be coming back to me.

I was going to go to an event with my husband and father in law today, but I stayed here, just in case. There's nothing I can do, of course, but...well. I've spent time today giving him as much love and sweet words and soothing energy as I could, telling him what an amazing cat he is and that although I wish he could come back to me, if he can't, I understand. But my gods, how I'll miss him.

I sang him a song, earlier--inadvertently, I was just listening to a CD to help center myself a bit, but realized there was something appropriate about some of the lyrics. Did you know that it's very difficult to sing and cry at the same time? About as hard as it is to cry and type, like I'm about to be doing.

The song is from the new Blackmore's Night album, and appears in two versions; I was singing along with the acoustic one, "Somewhere Over the Sea (the Moon is Shining)." I was doing pretty well until I got to this verse:

Oh, the stars stopped glowing
On the night that you left
Oh, the wind stopped blowing
All I could hold was my breath

Still I have to believe
You will return to me
Oh, the stars stopped glowing
On the night that you left 

And now I wait, and I keep watch, and I check on him periodically, because there's only a couple of ways that this can go now: either he pulls out of it, or he doesn't. And the hits just keep coming. The old proverb says something along the lines of fall down seven times, stand up eight, but seriously, some days it seems smarter just to stay down since it's obvious I'll be going back there again shortly anyway.
He's the sweetest, best little cat in the world, and almost everyone who ever met him fell madly in love with him. The unfairness and randomness of existence is never clearer or more heart-crushing than in times like these. 

Fuck everything about this.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

On Second Thought

Actually, I don't really want to talk much more about it--"it" being what I would term pagan fundamentalism. I've talked myself purple on the subject in the past, for what good it ever did me or anyone else; it changed nothing, because some people will always be inclined to the my-way-or-the-highway approach, and nothing I or anyone else says or does will alter that one whit.

And I realized, while reflecting on what I've been reading lately, that I'm all right with that. I don't care. If some people want to be fundamentalist pagans, let them. It has zero impact on my life and my practice. Sure, when I was battling it first-hand in my trad wiccan days, it was difficult for me, and I came out of that with more than a few scars; but those days are done now, and those people and those attitudes have lost the power they once held. You can't take it away from me if I don't want it in the first place! The sound and fury emanating from people I don't even know and don't give a damn to know signifies less than nothing in the grand scope of my life. I won't attend their rituals or read their blogs or concern myself with their life choices, and they are cordially invited to do the same in regard to me.

Life is precious and life is short, so why waste it on bullshit witch wars? Ain't nobody got time for that.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Quick Thought on a Current Controversy

The pagan blogosphere (gods, did I just say that?) is lately abuzz with a new/old us-vs-them controversy, one that's been relevant to me since my very earliest days. I want to talk more about it, and I will, but I haven't the time right now to do more than say this:

It's as pointless to get angry with a non-theistic pagan (be they atheist, humanist, naturalist, etc.) for not perceiving and interacting with deity as you do, as it is to get angry with a colorblind person for not loving the color green like you do.

More later. I have work (of the tangible, objective, paycheck-earning kind) to do first.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Catching Up: Post #3

May 6, 2013:

Have you ever noticed how most of the dust-ups in pagan groups and communities are the direct result of some wizard who can't keep his wand in his robes where it belongs? (I believe I may have commented on this before.) It's not surprising, but it's still depressing and annoying, because it serves to illustrate just how far we still are from a truly egalitarian and utopian ideal, and how deeply the patterns of the dominant culture still mark our interactions. This is one of the main reasons I'm not a festival-goer, or much inclined to group participation of any sort, if you were wondering.

In my cynical moments (which I'll freely admit are most of them), I'm disposed to believe that nearly all religions exist at least in part in order to control, dominate and/or exploit sexuality--which typically is synonymous with female behavior. And it seems to hold no matter from which angle it's approached, whether the desire is to suppress or exalt; there's always someone who stands to benefit, and it's rarely the person who is the object of the attention. While the religious mainstream uses what has come to be known as "slut-shaming" as its preeminent female social/behavioral control mechanism, the countercultural faiths such as paganism tend toward what might be called "prude-shaming"--intimations that not going along with boundary-crossing activities makes one prudish, hung-up in "Judeo-Christian morality," or otherwise non-pagan in attitude or expression. Either way, it's a control technique, the sole aim of which is to coerce someone into transgressing their own boundaries and conforming to the exploiter's desire.And it can be blatant and obvious or subtle and insidious, but it's a persistent plague within our communities which tried so hard to counter the dominant culture's toxic response to sexuality that they ended up doing the same things in reverse. "Everything is permissible" is ultimately no more tenable, and no less dangerous, than "nothing is allowed."

Did something happen? Yes, although not to me personally, but it was related to a powder keg that I'd been idly expecting to see blow for years, and I'm really only surprised by the fact that it took this long for such an explosion (though there have likely been other incidents in the past to which I've not been privy). My only comment is to wonder aloud how personal boundaries can be maintained in situations that appear expressly designed to breach them. My only suggestions are, as usual, moderation and vigilance. I also recommend retiring from participation or association with any group or community that bears even the faintest whiff of possible sexual coercion, manipulation, or predation, though I realize not all of them are upfront about it, but there are--trust me on this one--always indicators. To state it metaphorically, if you think you see a duck, you can probably safely believe it's a duck, even if there are a dozen people earnestly assuring you that it is in fact an aardvark and it's only your monotheistic programming causing you to perceive it as a duck.

Be safe out there.

Catching Up: Post #2

(I hate to say it, but I'm disinclined to transcribe much of what I've scrawled out by hand these past few months. I will, however, give you a few bits for your entertainment, like this one.)

April 30, 2013:

As it is May Eve, it seems only appropriate to tell you all this, so that you may laugh at my naivete or cluelessness, whichever. (I facepalmed so hard at the realization that I think I left fingerprints on my forehead.)

So, yeah, you know that speech from the first chapter of Liber AL that goes "pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous"? Nice bit of poetry, that. Appalling that I never realized until sometime just in the past few weeks that it's talking about peen.

Yeah, I know, it's dick-obsessed Crowley, solar-phallic cult, yadda yadda--I know, OK? Pale or purple. Veiled or voluptuous. (Technically, those terms could also be applied to the clitoris, but since this is Crowley we're talking about here, I'm pretty certain it's cock he's referencing. Oy.) If I hadn't already dropped out years ago, the OTO'd probably kick me out for not grokking the obvious.

Anyway, I'm still way behind in transcribing handwritten blog posts, some of which were written in January. I'll try to catch up. We're moved now, and once the (literal) dust settles I'll start catching up in earnest.

For now, happy eve-of-Beltane, and enjoy your Maypole of choice secure in the knowledge that I do, at least, know what that means!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Catching Up: Post #1

(I promised you transcripts of the handwritten posts I created during January, so here's the first of them. I didn't date it, but I must have written it somewhere around the 18th(3) of the month.)

The big room was, well, a warehouse: huge, open, industrial, echoing. The occasional forklift rolled down the wide central aisle that divided the two groupings of workers. While I waited for something to do, for something to happen (what a day not to bring a book!), I counted the rows and the number of workstations. Seven rows per side, with an average of nine workstations per row, equaled approximately 125 worker-bees easing back into the workforce.

Deliberate eavesdropping was unnecessary. The wide-open floorplan and lack of privacy meant that all conversations were fair game for the casual listener. One woman near me was returning to (redacted) after nearly a year's furlough from her previous assignment. (The concept of these potential, unexpected layoffs filled me with dread.) A man down the row was talking of his coworker in a previous department, a woman with a degree in Physics who was nonetheless doing the same clerical job as his non-degreed self. Everyone, it seemed, was an exile, a nomad, a person displaced from somewhere else--some other career, some other life--who'd landed here out of some combination of choice and necessity, desire and despair. Around me I could hear other new hires weighing aloud the pros and cons of this next phase of their working lives:

* It's like a warehouse!
* This is nothing like where we were for orientation.
* The pay is good, though.
* How long do you think it'll last?
* I really wish I could find something permanent.
* I was out of work for (insert frightening and soul-destroying length of time here)

Because I'd expected to be busy from the start, I'd brought neither Nook nor book, and thus turned to contemplation to keep my fatigued self conscious until something work-related started happening. My ruminations brought me, very shortly, to the realization that, after my own lengthy time in unemployed exile, I was now simultaneously very fortunate and very stupid. Sitting there, bored and anticipatory and mildly desperate, I realized that I had something that the people around me did not, something probably most of them would have metaphorically killed for:

A choice.

Just days before I'd found myself in the unique position of having to entertain two possibilities for employment. I'd had two interviews with a place that looked very interested in me, but I was hesitant, unsure that I was interested in them. At the same time, I had an offer--this place--that got me out of my crappy low-paying late-night short-term temporary position and into, well, a potentially longer-term (up to a year, though I later discovered it wouldn't necessarily last) and far-better-paying temporary position, and one which would potentially lead to rehire or even something permanent someday. I jumped on it, because it seemed the better move--maybe more interesting, certainly better money, and there was no guarantee the other place would actually want me. I jumped on it, because up to a year seemed more secure than 2-3 months, and $13.50/hr made it easier to pay the rent and eat than did $9.50/hr.

(Sitting idle in the warehouse caused a certain shift in my perceptions.)

The day before, I'd gotten the call from the other place; they wanted me, but at a dollar and a half less an hour than what my newly-accepted place would pay me. I balked. I stalled. I told them I'd had this offer, and what it paid. The HR person said she'd see if the Vice President would let her match it.

What the what? I'd heard stories--little more than fairy tales to me, and with about as much real-world relevance--of people negotiating for higher pay, but I'd never done it. For that matter, I'd never successfully competed for a singular position, either. I'd almost always gotten placed by staffing agencies, and then usually as one of a number of people going in, cattle-herd fashion, to an assignment. Here in the warehouse was no different from that old pattern--me, among the masses--and yet, I was being shown a different way, a new paradigm. It genuinely threw me, was so odd and off-putting that I instinctively grasped for what seemed familiar without giving due consideration to what was really being put before me.

I'd sent a company my resume, which ended up being one of about a thousand. Of those, 20 were selected for an initial interview. Of those, eight were selected for a second interview. And of those, they wanted me. For a girl who'd grown accustomed to perpetually being the last one picked, that scenario was literally inconceivable, on a winning-the-lottery kind of scale. Perhaps it was the shock of even being given the offer that made me bold and unthinking enough to express the desire for more money; that they wanted me enough to accede to that desire, to meet me more than halfway, just floored me.

I balked. I stalled. I asked to be let to think it over. And in the end, I accepted the offer, even with my faint misgivings--what if I don't like it? What if it's grim and joyless and boring? But I accepted, because money and benefits and permanent and maybe, just maybe, if I beat out all those other people(1) then maybe there was a chance that I was the right person and it was the right place, at least for now. So I accepted, but since I'd already accepted the first offer, I had that to do until I gave notice; offer number two came literally during lunch hour of my orientation day.

And then came the warehouse, and the conversations of my fellow travelers, and the realization that I had what the vast majority of them likely did not: a choice. I could walk away secure in the knowledge that I had somewhere else to go. I could even have a gap of some days between this and that and know that I wouldn't starve, the rent would still be paid, no bills would end up late. And if that ended up being no more to my liking than this, there were possible options then, too.

I don't pretend to know the "nature of the gods," or even if such things have any existence or agency beyond the confines of our own minds; nor do I have much belief in "magic" as it is commonly spoken of, beyond acknowledging the utility of certain psychological tricks that are aided by the use of atmosphere and props. Looking back now, seeing the way this has played out from the panic-fueled freefall of early December to landing here unscathed (more or less) a month and a half later, I know many people of faith would be singing praises to their gods for seeing them safely through. I'm torn. I'm entirely willing to concede that the gods (which I'm fairly certain I perceive rather differently than do many or most) worked for/with/on me in all of this. Did invoking Anubis as guardian and guide open the way within me to see the right way to go, even if I questioned it? Did invoking Thoth as patron of scribes give me a confidence and assurance in my interviews that I might not otherwise have conveyed? I don't know, and I probably never will, and that's OK; that's a kind of uncertainty I can live with.

And at any rate, it certainly won't hurt to give them offerings in thanks. Just in case.


Addendum: I wrote the entirety of the previous post while on-site at the warehouse in question, along with anotherr short chapter of a story I'd let languish since back before becoming unemployed (you can read that here, if you're so inclined). There was no work for us, no access to the computers, and no training until those things were available, so rather than sit idle all day listening to my poor brain devour itself from boredom, I got out the notebook I'd prudently tossed in my bag this morning and began to write. My hand is sore and cramped now, but the exercise actually had a salutary effect on my handwriting, which these days is rarely used, and perhaps upon my imagination as well. With no other tasks to occupy me, and no access to the internet, I turned to writing to entertain myself, and I'm pleased by the result. In so doing, I took stock of my current situation, analyzed it, and came to better understand it; and to be more at peace with the decision I made, which I now feel more assured was the right one. The increased familiarity with handwriting, and the improved legibility of it, was a pleasant surprise. I no longer have the same ambition of creating a beautifully handwritten BoS(2), but it's still a useful skill, and a dying art in the modern world. Legible--let alone aesthetically pleasing--handwriting will be a standout feature in times to come, I think. Not to mention that I would like to use my pretty blank books as "commonplace books," repositories of interesting bits of information (like a Tumblr on paper, perhaps).

Also, the fact that I'm writing anything is reassuring; I had so few words for so long, and most of them were so dark and hopeless I didn't even feel like inflicting them upon anyone else, or even letting them see the light of day in print. It was depressing me further to even think about writing about the situation! I had written no stories of any kind since the previous installment of the one I linked above, "Breaking the News," which I published back around August of 2011, right before the company closed and everything got weird. (BtN is a humorous tale of Brennan and Booth telling various people about her pregnancy, and how those people respond. It was an amusement to pass the time during the summer hiatus between seasons five and six; we're now into season eight and that fictional fetus is now almost a toddler.) I was glad to revisit it, and I hope the people who still occasionally come upon it and comment on it will be pleased with a new chapter. It feels a little short, a little rough, and yet maybe a little better than I had any reason to expect it to be. That's encouraging in itself. That part of me--the writing part--is one I miss a lot. I'm glad it's still there and accessible.

As I write this, I'm still at my desk in the middle of this buzzing hive, but not for much longer. It's approaching 2:30, and I get off at 3. At this point, I've covered almost 25 5x7 pages, which probably nearly equates to a dozen 8x10 sheets. I've been paid a fairly high wage to write fanfiction and blog posts all day, so boredom aside I can hardly complain; it's a level of productivity I'm quite sure I wouldn't have achieved at home, where the internet's siren call would've had me posting Grumpy Cat memes to Facebook and scrolling through 70 pages of fandom-related gifsets on Tumblr. (Discipline, I has none.) When I leave here, I'm stopping off at my soon-to-be employer's to go over their offer package, and I suppose to finalize my acceptance; it's all being done in a manner to which I am unaccustomed, so I don't know quite what to expect. If all goes well, I'm not sure what to do after that...except to call HR here and tender my resignation.

(1) Assuming that what I was told was true, and not just HR hyperbole designed to serve the employer's purpose. 
(2) But never say never...
(3) I just checked; based on clues in the narrative itself, along with notes on my calendar, I can date this to January 17th, which (coincidentally) was the day on which I was supposed to be born.