Lessons, and a General Update
The most surprising lesson I've learned over the past few months is this: if you are forced to exhaust yourself, be careful when promising yourself rest. Once you set your mind on a certain date, and allow yourself to fully slow down - your body will rest, and leave you little choice! Although I was functioning normally when we found Jim, I had used up many of my reserves, and had not yet got as far as restoring those reserves.
I worked to the point of utter exhaustion, always promising myself that I would be able to rest once November arrived. Even after I caught bronchitis, I forced myself to keep going, with the same promise. Well, we did finish on time (last junk out of the apartment about 11 pm on the 31st of October, packed and pulling away from the curb about 11:30 pm - how's that for cutting it close?) and November arrived.
I assumed I would rest, but that I'd also begin getting back to normal. Instead, I learned what it must be like to have narcolepsy. I was so exhausted, and I'd primed myself so much to expect that I could now rest, that my body kept forcing me to sleep, no matter what I intended. I could only accomplish anything in snatches; I often fell asleep so quickly that (for example) while reading I'd suddenly wake when the book slipped out of my hand and hit the floor.
I finally caught up with my sleep enough to be able to stay awake, but I can feel I have still not rebuilt all my reserves. If I stay up too late, I can feel exhaustion dragging at me. I'm mostly over the bronchitis (the asthmatic part is always the last to go, so I still get short of breath easily), and there is no reason for anyone to worry about me (although it does warm my heart to know that my readers care about me), but I am really anxious not to wear myself out quite so badly the next time Life drops a surprise in my lap.
When he died, Jim still had a lot he wanted to do, and a lot of plans he'd never fulfilled. He expected to have years left to do these things; sadly, that was not the case. I can't restore that chance to him, much as I'd like to, but I can try to learn from his death, and to help my readers learn as well. Life is precious, fragile, and fleeting. Always try to live as though you had only a few weeks or months left.
Sure, there are still things you need to do that aren't what you most want to do. Errands, boring tasks, and the like weigh on us all, and some of them really do have to get done. But, insofar as you have the chance, try to take care of the most important things first. Let the lesser things slide. If the next day, you felt yourself dying, what would you most regret having neglected? What would you regret less? Try to live according to that sense of what matters. No matter how long you have to live (and I hope, for all of you, it is a long and a pleasant life), you'll have fewer regrets.
Many of you may already know this, or it may seem obvious, but when you are in shock you won't always think clearly, so it is good to have this firmly in mind. Whenever someone dies, whoever will be dealing with their possessions will find, among everything else, an appalling lot of stuff that simply has to be disposed of. If that person lived in an apartment, costs of keeping it are much higher, so the job must be finished much more quickly.
At least in Massachusetts, some kinds of trash are hard to dispose of. At once, find out the local rules for trash disposal, and take full advantage of every trash day as it comes. The most costly items to get rid of are: TVs, computer monitors, computers, and the like, appliances, and mattresses. Give away what you can. Throw away any of these things you are allowed to at no cost. And try to find a good, inexpensive "junk man". Paul, the guy we used, charged less than half what the heavily advertised services would have.
I learned several other lessons, but I'm not posting those now. They would involve discussing aspects of Jim's life that were personal to him, and I don't want to say anything that would have made him uncomfortable. So, if I post them to this blog at all, it will have to be after more thought.
The length of time I've been away from the blog was partly due to sleep's forceful takeover of my life, but it was also due to a few instances of Murphy's Law. One of the few tasks I attempted, once I saw how things were, was something I thought I could do in short bursts. I changed all my passwords so they would be more secure, and switched to a new password management system. In the process, I managed (and now that I'm awake, I could have predicted this!) to spoil my access to several sites.
In no case was the damage permanent; there are always options. But, having read that many people were having trouble with their G-Mail accounts, I first assumed my failure to open any Google site was due to the same type of problem. Of course, it was obvious that wasn't the case, but until I woke up and calmed down enough to think clearly about it, I didn't see that.
In addition, there was another death in my family; my father's cousin, who was more like an aunt to me. Ruthie was 95, and had spent the last few months in a nursing home trying to recover from pneumonia, so it wasn't totally unexpected, but when she died the day before Thanksgiving, it was still a blow. She was a very sweet woman who always seemed as if she'd outlast everybody else.
Some of you will have noted that I ended up keeping one of Jim's cats; the oldest, who he loved more than anything. Julius had kidney disease, a thyroid problem, bad teeth, and a bronchial rasp, in addition to being overweight and seventeen years old. In other words, no one else would adopt him. My tiger kittens have accepted him, mostly, although my son's cat still thinks he's Satan, come to take over his position as "big cat".
Julius, for his part, is a sweet guy who doesn't want to fight any of them. He's tried to make friends, but Mandarin seems to regard this as a cunning plot to buy time. So, for the time being, they must be kept mostly separate. It is not so much that they actually fight, but rather that Mandarin's continual hostility causes Julius too much stress. He won't even eat in Mandarin's presence.
At the time we brought him home, his kidney disease was being treated by nothing more than diet. For those of you lucky enough to have never had a cat suffering from kidney disease, I should explain that this diet is bland and apparently utterly devoid of appeal. Although they are fed separately, Julius knows the other cats get better stuff, and isn't inclined to settle for boring slop. So he wasn't eating much at all. Usually, if you hold out for a few days, a 'starving' cat will give in.
We tried that with Julius, but it didn't seem to work well. Ultimately, it turned out the food issue was camouflaging another problem. One of his bad teeth became abcessed, and was so painful he couldn't eat solids at all. The teeth can't be operated on; he's too old and sick to tolerate the anaesthesia. Penicillin did clear up the infection, for now, and he's eating again.
He lost enough weight, quickly enough, that it led to a condition, common in older cats who lose weight quickly, which could threaten his liver. So he couldn't afford to lose any more weight. Briefly, he was back on "real" food - now, with vet approval, he's on a mixture of "kidney food" and "real" food, with a few very high quality treats thrown in.
The real tragedy in all this is the fact that, due to the stress, infection, loss of weight, or some combination of factors, his kidney disease has worsened to the point where he is now on sub-cutaneous fluids, 200 ml twice a week. Giving them to him is an ordeal. He struggles, but makes no effort to hurt us, but he does stare at us, bewildered, wondering why we are doing this to him.
We, of course, know that he'd suffer far worse without the fluids. We can see the difference in him after each treatment; the surge of interest and energy, then a gradual slowing down as the next treatment nears. It is still a difficult thing to deal with. Although it doesn't cause him any pain, it does create considerable temporary discomfort when the fluid, which is of course always slightly cool even after warming, and thus feels "wrong", bulges up under his skin before being absorbed.
Worst of all, any of you who have dealt with kidney disease will know what is implied. If he's on fluids twice a week now, in a while that will get worse, and it will be every other day, then every day... Even now, multiple vet visits before we got him straightened out, 'runs' to the vet to pick up fluid, and all the other little things involved, played their part in keeping me from blogging sooner.
As I implied earlier, I didn't join NaNo this year with any real hope of success. I simply couldn't bear not to participate. Well, I did participate, a very little, but I was seldom if ever on the boards, and my word count is so laughable I may as well not post a total. I couldn't snatch much time between sleeping, taking care of Julius, and trying to undo the messes I made while too sleepy. Next year, I hope to take part, and again to win, if all goes well.
I am, of course, paying attention to Lesson Two, above. The most important thing in my life is my cats. After that, there is my writing. Blogging is a part of writing. So I don't intend to give up blogging. However, I am going to be very busy for a while taking care of a very sick cat, and if I want to stay in any shape to write, I need to take time to rest, and also to get more exercise and fresh air so I can build up my health.
What all this means is that I will still be here, but, for the time being, not as often. I'm not going to promise to post with any specific frequency; there are too many uncertainties right now. As I am able, I will try to post here, and to write stories (or post ones already written) for those of you who are waiting. I will also, more slowly than I intended, clean up my template and post about the ideas I had earlier this summer.
But, since I'd rather take it easy now than be forced to quit later, I'm only going to do these things as I can fit them in. I look forward to a time when I can spend more time blogging, but right now I can't say exactly when that will be. I will visit your blogs when I can, enjoy reading them, and try to leave a few comments so you know I'm not ignoring you. But, again, I won't be taking as much time to read the blogs I enjoy as I have in the past, not until I have the time to spare for that.
Take heart in this: by the time I can get back into the full swing of blogging, I'll be longing for it! In fact, I'm longing for it now; I'm just trying to make the best long term decision that I can. I apologise for a long and rambling post; I hope my next one will be much better and more interesting than this.