When to grieve and not to grieve: an Introspective

As we grow older, we gather layers of grief. Grief is a strange beast, best let have it’s way. It ebbs and flows like tidal waters under a glowing moon. It creates its own patterns to your days, the late hours, when we are tired and at our most vulnerable, are when the currents are strongest.

How we deal with grief builds resilience or swallows us whole. For me, living each day with loss means I need routine and happy habits, I need work to distract me and I need times to reflect.

Acknowledging grief is not easy to do. What is it every Australian says when asked how they are? Fine. I’m fine. Truly I am. I’m full of gratitude for my little house, my fluffy peeps, my kids, my work and my interests. I am fine. What I also am is quite lost, quite often.

I have learnt that this is okay. It waxes and wanes, ebbs and flows. A morning I have to convince myself to get out of bed and go to work can brighten into a day of laughter. A day which has started well can drag on and go downhill. I have remedies for these.

Every day I dash home from work and take my three little dogs to the off lead dog park. There we play ball, meet their doggy friends and chat with their humans. I love being down there. It’s  a peaceful piece of bush, with a brisk creek running through, which dogs and small people enjoy.

I make sure I have plenty of berries. Full of vitamin C, low in fructose and delicious, they cheer me up and ensure I don’t resort to lollies or chocolate. I ring friends to see how they are and what they are up to. It’s good to hear other people’s stories. I take myself out for coffee.

I spend time thinking about good memories with the loved one lost. I count my blessings and sometimes I cry. Not often, I don’t like crying, but sometimes it is just the thing to do. I do what I need to do and move with the flow.

From brown to grey in a few short years

Very recently, Youngest Daughter, re-posted a photo of me from 2009. I looked so much younger than I do know. A lot has happened over the past eight years and I am completely grey. (I tell Youngest Daughter that she is responsible. heh!)

I don’t mind being older, in fact I relish it. There is so much that once used to bother me that now doesn’t. My hair being grey? Looks good. Other people’s opinions? Who cares? What I relish most is what I know. Feeling down? It will pass. Sliding into a depression? I have the skills now to balance out. Stressed out about kids, work, house, elderly animals? I can deal.

All that ‘dealing’ has been hard won. Does it sometimes get on top of me despite my best efforts? Totally. Do I break under the strain? Sometimes. Do I know that I can get back up? Absolutely. At times it seems to take me longer, I don’t bounce back any more. ‘Getting back up’ can be laborious and take some serious determination. Do I pep-talk myself every morning to get up and get going? Yes. Do I have internal debates about every effort? Yes. Do I do it anyway? Yes, I do.

I am better at what is good for me and better at not giving up. Sometimes it takes an inordinate amount of time to figure how to get things done with limited resources (for example, gigantic dresser down to Middle Daughter’s place without strong people to help), and I eventually succeed. I am better at knowing when one thing extra is too much or when one thing extra will be just the thing. Falling asleep at the wheel on the way home from work? Go to sleep or take dogs for walk? I take the dogs for their walk. I feel this deserves cheering!

My reluctance to socialise does not concern me any longer. I work with people five days a week, belong to committees and volunteer. Enough people. Being at home, peacefully with my fluffy peeps is the best.

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Today is Sunday and I am tired. (Yesterday was exhausting, searching for missing child.) I will take the dogs for a walk after this, then have another cup of tea. I will do some shopping (yuck) and housework (double yuck) and rest because it’s back to work tomorrow.

Yes, I like being older. I am sad that I have physically aged so much but vanity was never my concern. I do wish I had more pep. I know that I will still get done that which needs to be done and the selectivity between need and want will prune the extraneous. It may take me longer but I get there in the end.

Grey hair rules!

 

Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do? An Introspective.

It’s been awhile since I was writing regularly. I suffer from severe anxiety and chronic severe depression. (If anyone has read my parenting blogs, you’ll know some of the triggers.) I hate being depressed. Being a passionate and compassionate person, I hate not caring. Being someone who finds many things funny and enjoys laughing inappropriately, I hate having no laughter. I also hate the medication but I endure because feeling depressed is far worse.

I live on my ideas, enthusiasm and feelings. We all do. The meds dampen all that. This must be endured until the light is seen again. (I once wrote a very bad poem called The Abyss which describes my descent into depression. It’s on this blog because good judgement goes out the window when depressed.)

We humans need to think of mental illness as an injury from which one has to recover. However it is triggered, falling into any episode requires healing time. If we would only treat mental illness as an illness, we could recover more easily, as individuals and community.

I am currently off meds, for the first time in ten years. How awesome is that? Some pretty hairy things have happened (see Parenting blogs) and I have coped. How fabulous is that? I am wondering if this period is petering out? It followed the break up of my marriage, my father’s death and a rad hysterectomy due to years of suffering endometriosis. All of that is enough to plunge anyone into depression. Add to that caring for foster children on my own and dealing with their birth parents on my own plus permanent caring teens, while working full time to provide for everyone. However, my bouts go back a long long way. (My story about my growing up is elsewhere on this blog, I won’t re-tell it here.)

I wonder if there is a period as we transition into older middle age (I am 52) where the rites of passage no longer exist and we suffer accordingly? Obviously my anxiety and depression were exacerbated by surgical menopause and the other things that happen in life at middle age. How curious is it that most women and many men go through these mid life crises? How strange is the radical increase in diagnosis of mental illness, particularly for this age group?

What have we lost here? Is it like teens, where the rite of passage to adulthood has been lengthened and made impossible? Is there a rite of passage from your younger adult to middle-aged self to older middle aged? Will we go through this again when we become seniors? I don’t want to.

I will have to think on this. If you have thoughts, let me know. I am wondering, when my working life is finished, how will I transition to senior? The transition to single, older middle aged working woman/ mum/ grandma has been excruciating. What will the transition be like in another 18 years? I assume I’ll have to work to 70, as you know, money.

Do we need a rite of passage for menopause, for middle age? Do we need to define this period of life as …. something. I am still working, running a house, caring for kids the same as I did through the past two decades but I am different. I am different. I am not the same.

What do you think?

Blogging: An Introspective

It’s been quite awhile since I have blogged. You may surmise from my previous post that I have not had a lot of head space for thinking of anything else but Youngest Daughter. Between suspensions, near expulsion, dope, alcohol and cigarettes that resulted in a new school and new challenges, my head and heart have indeed been full.

Interestingly, blogging began as a way to develop my writing and I have many stories that have yet to see the light of this screen. Then I started painting and drawing again. The pictures I have shared here have been surpassed and it continues to be a way for me to explore and process a lot of stuff.

A lot of stuff. I read other blogs as I am interested and so very curious to know about others’ experiences and thoughts. I am passionate about so many things. I hate when I drop into a depression and care about nothing. My curiosity drives me to speak to people I don’t know and ask about activities I haven’t experienced. Only this morning, two women were peering into the back of a car. I couldn’t stand it, I had to know what they were looking at. Laughing at myself, I walked up and asked. Two absolutely mud caked dogs were in the back of the car. They were so caked the mud had dried in splatters and stiff points. They, the bad dogs, had been banished to the rear, the naughty dogs were on the back seats and the good little girl was in the front. All were rescues. Now I have more people to smile and chat to. I love a small town. Mind you, I was on my way down to the park and my own small fluffy floozy of a dog went wading in the creek and got a muddy tide mark.

Which bring me back to (I had no segue) blogging. It’s fun, interesting, satisfies my curiosity about oh so many things, and I get to share in ways I would not normally. How strange is that? The buffer of the screen is not really a buffer at all and yet we share intensely personal thoughts, feelings and experiences through blogging. I, for one, want to say thank you to all the bloggers who have considered topics I have no-one to discuss them with, and thank you to the many comments in the blogs I read that can leave me snorting with hilarity.

I guess when all is said and done, we blog for ourselves. Yep, that’ll do. I’m off to the studio now to paint.

Perspective, Perception and Expectations: An Introspective

I am thinking about the crossover between perspective, perception and expectations. How what we see is what we get. I am outside with my daughter’s 6 month old kitten and hoping that he stays in the yard. He’s had his op, his microchip, no collar (my poodle uses cat collars as handles for dragging) and I am just a little concerned he might disappear before I can catch him.

My perspective is this is an adventure that could go very wrong. My expectation is that he will want to explore too far and my perception is that I am being over anxious, especially as he comes every time I call. Oops, first stalking of a bird. He is getting an enclosure and will only ever be out supervised. See? Perception: cats are killers. Expectation: he will catch a bird if he can. Perspective: I can be a responsible cat carer and environmentalist. Does my perspective alter my perceptions and expectations? No. My perspective demonstrates my commitment to both, hence cat enclosure and supervised outdoor time. Fences, dogs next door, my own Fluffy Floozy dogs giving him a chase, keep my perspective bounded. I hope. As long as he doesn’t go under the house.

I’ll try for a clearer example. Years ago I married. A lovely young woman. I was a young woman too and I was absolutely besotted. She seemed like such fun, full of life and adventure. When we wanted to have a ceremony, because she wanted the surety of commitment, i assented and asked friends to join us. They were horrified. None of them wanted to participate. It wasn’t the wedding aspect, it wasn’t the commitment, it was her. No-one said to me, don’t do it, she’s nuts. No-one tried hard to dissuade me at all. A few did question closely why I wanted to do it. I was doing it for her. I was absolutely broken-hearted that no-one wanted to join in. Maybe some did, but my crushed expectations altered my perception of my friends and my perspective of friendship. Within a year, I had a whole new barrel load of friends and I was married.

Within 6 years I could see that things were not working. I understood that she had lied to me about numerous things to make her appear more agreeable. I came to understand that my perception of her was clouded by my perspective of relationships and my expectation of how we would travel along together. I realised that how she operated was vastly different to myself and the compatibility I had perceived was a fabrication. By whom? Both of us. Her through lying and mine through my own expectations. It took me a further 7 years to extricate myself, they were bad years and not what I wanted. I was clear from the outset that I wanted children and to grow a life together, which included a business. She said yes yes yes, until it became clear that she didn’t mean a word of it. I said we foster together or I foster alone. I’ve been on my own with the kids for 12 years now.

The young woman inside of me who fell in love with the young woman inside of her, still loves. Love is a creative energy, you can never run out. However the grown woman who looks at my ex and sees the needy person she is, so greedily grasping for people’s time, energy and refrigerators, is not someone I would allow in my life now. Now my perspective has changed. I understand that we can love someone and not allow that person in our lives because how they are choosing to live and the person they are choosing to be. My perception of myself as a individual of worth who deserves honest and respectful relationships has changed. My perspective of the landscape of my life has shifted. I never wanted to be a single parent but I would rather be on my own than shackled to a relationship where I end up unrecognisable to myself.

More recently this has occurred with my ex foster son. For ten years I raised and loved that boy, taught him (he has autism and functioned poorly when he came to live with me), cared for him and was proud of him. He showed me a young man who was caring, could love, form relationships, be insightful and would lend a hand. I’m still so proud of the steps he dug into the hill for me, closer together so I could step down them easily. He could be so very kind. Eighteen months ago he started changing but would not tell me what was wrong. There was always a nasty streak but doesn’t everyone have that? I chose to see him as my lovely boy so was much troubled by his nastiness. His desperation for a girlfriend culminated in meeting a woman online, 9 years his senior, who came from interstate and took him away. I was devastated but gave them a farewell dinner and planned to keep in touch. Over the year he morphed into someone I didn’t recognise. Someone who chose to return to calling me by my name but never had the courage to discuss it with me, who called one of his ex foster sisters an “attention seeking whore” and his youngest ex foster sister a “black slut”. This is the tip of the iceberg. I have moved through profound shock and grief over the past year as this unrecognisable person stomped in his hob nailed boots all over our hearts.

My perspective was that he was my boy. My perception of him was not that he was perfect but that he could be kind, loving, caring and thoughtful. My expectation was that he would continue to be a member of our family. I love him. He can never take away the ten years he was my boy. However I will not have the person he has chosen to be anywhere near my life. The abuse was such that I had to get my solicitor to write to them to tell them to leave us alone.

What’s interesting here is how thwarted expectations cause the most pain and it is our perspective of relationships and our perceptions of individuals that have to shift. Doesn’t mean we don’t love them but sometimes it does mean that we have to set them free.

The kitty? Yep. He’s gone under the house to explore where I cannot get him. I’m off to get a can of tuna. I perceive that he’s a cat and I know he loves tuna. I hope my expectations, of enticing him with it, are right this time.

P.S. He came out just after I finished writing. Oh, the power of food.

Doggone Woman: An Introspective

There are events that happened in my life that I do not discuss. I have always been annoyed that things that happened long ago have current impact. My therapist (ooh, I feel so American. I’m not!) says those were foundation events and have currency throughout our lives, interweaving experiences, ricocheting, echoing patterns. Dammit.

In the interest of shedding some of this nonsense, I will endeavour to put down here a synopsis of what has occurred. Hmm, know that I plan for it to be brief. I’ll do my best. We create stories about events that occurred and only see them through one perspective. I do not mean that they need another perspective. Oh no. I mean events need to be seen as occurrences that occurred. Then we added meaning and story. So many of the stories we tell, over and over again, hurt us. Well, I’m a little sick of it, can you tell? Here goes.

Adopted at 2 months, by the time I was 3 my mother had found pedophiles for everyone and I was sexually abused from 3 until 7. At that age, I decided that no-one was going to look out for me so I had better do it for myself and refused to go to the house where the old man that hurt me lived.

My father decided, that at the ripe old age of five, I deserved whipping. I cannot to this day imagine what a five year old could possibly do to deserve being whipped. My mother had hard finger nails that could pinch and twist and bruise. She could also hit hard enough to leave a welt of her hand. I cannot imagine how hard you have to hit a small leg for that to happen.

Needless to say there was other abuse and I grew unable to understand motivation, social mores or keep myself safe. This led to awkward and horrifying scenarios as a teen. By the time I was 15 I wanted to be dead. Fortunately I did not have any idea how to effect that, so I went on. Before I left home, I was date raped. It was the only time I was ever pregnant. I had no idea what to do. I lost the baby and being singularly clueless, told no-one and chose this time to venture out into the world.

Life got hairier. It was difficult to manage and read cues. My mother suffered from extreme social phobia plus the trauma of my early years, navigating the world was an almost impossible task. After a second rape (remember I had no idea how to keep myself safe), I stopped sleeping and fell into a pit of terror. The “abyss” as I came to know it, had been familiar to me since I was six but this time took me two years to climb out.

Post traumatic stress disorder is a mean mean beast. I met my birth families at the time I was in the midst of the worst of the symptoms. (Shaking my head here just thinking about it.) It took many years to learn to manage. Today I suffer from severe anxiety and chronic (incident triggered) severe depression. I recognise the symptoms though and know how to deal with things very well.

I got married at 27, and spent the next 13 years as the ‘slow boiling frog’ as my relationship became increasingly abusive. It took me seven years to extricate myself from when I first realised it was not good for me. By the time I did, I could not stand the person I had become.

While this was going on, endometriosis took over my life and I was suffering two full cycles every month. Pain, I divided into crawl on the floor, stagger about and keep going no matter what. When I finally had a radical hysterectomy, I was so ill I could no longer understand conversation or function normally. A friend would come and speak with me and saved my sanity, helping me to recognise words and interact again. My father died. After the surgery, the wound got infected and tore open. It was akin to being raped again. I ended up back in hospital and the wound took 3 months to close. (see the tangled threads?)

That was over 10 years ago. Still not far enough away. Finally I got my life in order, sold my house, moved myself and the children, and began to heal.

I like me. I love me. I am proud that I have never succumbed to making excuses or allow my life to devolve into despondency (no matter how bad I feel at times). I am suitably impressed with myself. I am also happy living alone (well, youngest daughter is still here but you know what I mean).

Until my therapist (snigger!) gently suggested that I had felt trapped in every major relationship and struggled to escape. Dammit. She’s right, that is exactly how I felt. Will I never be shed of this? I can, I can, I know I can. I am determined. I am stubborn and obstinately determined to have my life be exactly the way I want it. My birth mother once referred to my “doggedness” as a saving blessing. When I finished laughing I asked her where she thought I got it from?

In a life full of challenge, I am immensely grateful for my birth mother and the friends who have waited and stood with me. I am grateful for the children I had the privilege of raising. I am grateful for my animals, home, town and many many things. Mostly I am grateful to be the stubborn, determined, obstinate and doggone woman that I am.

Christmas Survival: How to enjoy your Christmas when it’s unrecognisable.

Each year our Christmas has been a little different. I don’t have a lot of family close and don’t cope particularly well with the large Christmas gatherings that some families have. My little family has consisted over the years of the children I have fostered and their birth parents and whatever friends or family want to join in. I invite people a lot.

Not everyone copes well with Christmas as we know. For me it has to do with my expectations of Christmas as a family day. My adoptive parents did their best to make it wonderful, with Santa Sacks on the end of the bed (I never questioned why Santa wrapped everything in newspaper or even noticed that he had our local paper) for unwrapping at an ungodly hour, re-wrapping and unwrapping again on the Parents’ bed at a timely hour. This was probably the very best part of Christmas, when they were barely awake and before the squabbling started.

Then there would be breakfast, rushing off to Church where we were always late and consequently had to sit in the front row. This gave me an uninterrupted view of the congregation which was educational in itself. Listening to the interminable sermon before talking with all the kids about what was in the sack. I don’t remember anyone not having a sack or admitting it if they did not. Returning home for Christmas lunch and tree gifts was fraught. The order of handing out always resulted in a battle. I don’t remember it every going smoothly. As a child I had little understanding of the stress my mother was under to get everything ready. I’d much rather disappear and read a book.

My parents also asked lots of people for Christmas. At times it was confusing. I have a range of images of different people in my memory, most of whom were acquaintances, not family. It made for a merry and loud Christmas lunch.
Over the years Christmas has evolved. Children meant the enjoyment of Santa sacks and watching their amazement. In my home, it was a family event to watch the unwrapping and celebrate each surprise uncovered. Youngest Daughter describes it as exciting and awesome, full of joy, food, full tummies, happiness, cheerful, that’s what it was like. First Santa sacks would be opened, then we would have breakfast which the kids made, then when everyone got here we did the presents.

“Everyone” refers to their birth parents who were always included in our celebratory days. One year, when Kevin Rudd gave the bonus $900, there was an ridiculous landslide of gifts. It was overwhelming. The best thing about that day was that both birth mothers were well and happy and really contributed to the day. It was the best we had. Sadly, once has since died from her addictions and the other has succumbed to extremely poor mental health. My ex foster son has left home and entered a twilight zone of the “world done me wrong” song and has cut himself off. My Eldest Daughter is busy with her husband’s families on Christmas day so I have them and my grandson on Boxing Day. That works out well.

Funniest memory for me was my ex foster son finding moustaches in his Santa sack and delightedly trying them all on. I figured it would save me from drawing them daily. Another is Youngest Daughter finding a bright yellow hand bag from Nan Nan (my adoptive mother) and hugging it to her in ecstatic delight, and Eldest Daughter’s shy pleasure at still getting a Santa stocking when she had thought she was too old for it. Most of my glad memories are about their pleasure and playing.

This year my Mum (birth mother) joined us and my brother (adopted) came later. We were the smallest group I have ever had. Because of the changes, Youngest Daughter did not want to put up the Christmas tree. The small fibre optic tree was still pretty. I found it a peaceful day, full of mixed emotions and sad at times but peaceful.

With that, I am content.

What makes a Mother? An Introspective

I spent over ten years of my life caring for and loving a boy that wasn’t mine. He was fostered and very challenging.

Aidan’s mum had been a severe alcoholic who failed in her care of him when his primary carer, his Grandma, died. As a five and six year old he would ride around the street on his bike, knocking on doors asking for food as he couldn’t wake his mother. The Department stepped in and Aidan was placed in foster care.

Profoundly deaf with a cochlear implant, Aidan had other disabilities that were difficult to define and made it hard to find the right placement for him. Two years of moving in and out of the foster care system left him with little function. Some children explode, some implode. I was asked if I would make a long term commitment to him. We had a trial week.

I had been told by his worker that he was saving all his hugs for his mum. In two years that child had received and given few. On his first night with us I told him that the rule was that everyone received good night hugs. He could not get into my arms fast enough. He came to live with us.

When he realised he was safe, he released. I had no idea that so many things could get broken. I had no idea I was attached to so many of the things that got broken. He was mystified by my distress and it became apparent that there was a lot more going on with him that was previously expected. He was eventually diagnosed with a lower than average IQ, memory disorder, language disorder and Autism.

It was so challenging to get him to understand appropriate reactions and to take him step by step to comprehend other’s responses. We made it though. There were times where I thought we would not but I persevered with support from the foster agency. We even made it through the period where he would shove his fist in my face to get what he wanted. Finally he got through school. It felt like a real achievement.

This was my boy and I was so proud of him. He had been calling me “Mum” for years, long before his birth mum died of her alcoholism. Then he met a girl online, a whirlwind romance later he was gone. I have not heard from him for months and the last time I did, he told me that I wasn’t his mum, just his ex foster carer.

You know what, that’s true, and yet it isn’t. I have loved that boy, looked after him, been there for him morning and night and all the hours in between. He cried on my shoulder, I mopped up his tears,taken care of him when he was ill. I explained things to him and helped him work out his rages. I coached him through his confusion and talked with him about girls. Toughest of all, I let him go. To live his life and explore.

I sent  him a Christmas card that hoped he was happy and dared to ask him to let me know he was safe. Today I received a message that read: “Thanks for the card. BTW DON’T ever say that you are my mother. You are my FOSTER MOTHER.”

I ask you, what’s the difference?

Who knew? An Introspective

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This is Jeremy Giraffe. I painted him after drawing him over and over. I didn’t know I could draw or paint, until this year.

It is interesting the things we convince ourselves of. I did art at leaving level for high school but had to ditch it before my Year 12 exams (that’s another story). I was firmly convinced that I did not have any style or ability.

This year, I began working therapeutically on my ‘ishews’ and started collaging, drawing and painting as part of the process. I am trained as an holistic counsellor, using art and craft as means to process work (I also use stories) so it was a logical follow on for me. I also discovered a Facebook page called 52 Week Illustration Challenge where artists of differing abilities contributed their take on the word of the week. I joined as admirer. When ‘giraffe’ rolled around, I thought to myself, “Self”, I said, “I’d like to draw a giraffe.” So I gave it a go. I looked at lots of images and no, my painting could never be described as photo-realistic but I really like him.

Emboldened I began drawing other animals. I haven’t got much past their necks yet and did you know that ducks can look very sad if you give them a big beak? I like quackers. I like animals. My drawings and paintings are cartoonish and not at all complicated when compared to my zen tangled doodles (that sounds rude, doesn’t it?) but I enjoy the simplicity. I now have ducks, emus, wombats, echidnas and trees. Yes, I really like trees too. None of them are spectacular but all of them have personality and feeling and isn’t that what art is about after all?

Jeremy has a rhyme, so do the others although some are being a little coy about revealing theirs. That is the storyteller in me, can’t be helped. I’ll pop them into a book for my grandson. I’ve already done him one book, something about fart-bubbles, he likes it, and now he’ll have another. What else would I do with them?

I am currently painting and drawing a peacock. His name is Pomjoy Pobcock, who knows why. I’ve learnt about stretching paper when it’s painted so have prepared the background and having perfected how I want the feathers to look am ready to paint and draw. I need more art supplies. More! More! I have a studio. It’s not full yet. I spend hours in there with little to show but smears of paint and a happy disposition. Think that’s all worth it then. Haven’t cleaned the floors for a few days but they’re not going anywhere.

Next year I am taking on the 52 Week Illustration Challenge and seeing what I can do. Might have to paddle fast to keep up, some of the artists are extraordinary and some ordinary. I think I’ll fit right in.

I wonder now about my decision so long ago that I was not an artist. I do not aspire to an exhibition or have any delusions about my abilities but I am having fun and I am able to share a feeling with my work. It has made me wonder about what other things I decided I could not do that might be worth trying again.

In the meantime, enjoy Jeremy, watch out for Pomjoy Pobcock and when next you come looking for me, check my studio first.

Help Wanted: Cats Only Need Apply

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My cat, Heart’s Gem (aka Gemma or Pudding), likes to keep me company while I type. She likes to keep me very close company and grooms part of me as I work. This creates significant distraction and awkwardness for the placement of my arms as I reach around or under her to the keyboard.

There are any number of objects on my desk that could make a good spot for her. But her favourite position is right next to my laptop, lounging across my arm onto the keys. Either that or sitting behind the screen, pushing it forward, staring at me with purring concentration. While it is lovely to be loved by a cat it can be exhausting for my arm or neck. My arm keeping my hand in place to continue typing while pudding-cat rests heavily upon it, roughly grooming along it. My neck as my screen slowly bends lower as she stretches against it, purring lovingly all the while.

Yes, she is a muse and often amusing. Really, I consider myself lucky that the dogs haven’t got into the act. Although come to think of it they do use the opportunity of me sitting still, from their perspective doing nothing, to demand pats. I wonder how much I would notice their absence if they were out (for a walk, chewing a bone, barking at the dogs down the back)? Gemma though firmly believes in the delicateness of her build and the svelteness of her silhouette. I have not been able to persuade her otherwise.

Twelve years ago my ex-partner took me to the RSPCA to choose a ‘recovery kitty’ after significant abdominal surgery. Straight from hospital. No thought given to how I would walk across the carpark, through the centre or down three flights of stairs. When I was eventually standing in the kitten cage, a flood of kitties streamed across the concrete floor. Here they come, I thought, wonder which one will choose me? The flood moved straight past me to the cat carrier we had brought in and clambered all over it. Harumph! Except one tiny fluff ball, who marched through the river of kitties, climbed up my jeans all the way to my shoulder where she sat, purring and kneading and batting my hair. It took less than a minute to be claimed. It had taken me 20 minutes to walk down there and thirty to walk back.

Heart’s Gem she was named and Gemma she became. Throughout my recovery she stayed with me and sat on my chest whenever I stopped moving. She has had faith in her tininess ever since, sure that a cat sitting on my chest, covering me up to my eyes, is exactly what is needed. Or kneading my cushiony softness with claws like scimitars is enormously appreciated by me. Mind you she is not much different than her fellow housemates.

Recently when renovations caused us to be away for a few nights and finally I was home to stop for awhile, I sat in my arm chair and was smothered in seconds. I called for my daughter to take a photo (see below). I suspect they missed me.

I do think of the animals as companions than pets. I am certainly glad they choose to live with me. As to Gemma’s help with my writing? Well, I have her to thank for this blog.

Perhaps she’s my muse after all.

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