Circles in the Dark

I haven't mentioned much about my mom's blind cat, Cubby, because nothing has really changed in the months since he was diagnosed. From time to time he seems like his sight is improving, but it could just be that he sees light and shapes. He doesn't walk in circles as much, and doesn't seem to be exhibiting stroke symptoms, but every few weeks my mom follows up with the vet and Cubby gets some steroid shots, which seem to give him a boost.

Having raised him from a kitten, she's especially close to him, and always gets sensitive when any of her cats is unwell, always prepared for the worst. On Sunday night he was particularly moody, not showing an interest in food which is never a good sign for anyone, animal or human. I always try to downplay things partly because she could be overreacting, and partly because she might not be. I try to keep her spirits up when I hear her telling the cat depressing things like, “You better stay healthy; the ground is too frozen for us to dig.” Through all of this, his appetite had been the one thing that was consistent. He'll raid our other cat Chirp's dish. He'll flatten himself out and squeeze under furniture if he senses a random crunchy treat is under there. He's a feline vacuum cleaner.

My mom didn't sleep much Sunday night, keeping vigil. In the morning, he did seem “depressed” to me, but otherwise healthy. He just sort of picks places on the floor to lie down and rest his head on his forearm with the saddest look. His next appointment was Thursday, but my mom got him in on Monday. And when I got home from work, he was back to being feisty again. I try to reinforce what the vet has told my mom with my own research, that as long as he doesn't suffer another stroke this isn't a life-threatening condition, only an inconvenience. “How would YOU like to be inconvenienced and be in the dark all the time?” she snapped back. I don't have whiskers or animal senses to compensate, and even if I did I don't think it would do my graphic design career much good. It's hard for her to see this cat who was the baby of the family suddenly old and dealing with such a problem.

So Cubby doesn't circle as much, but this will definitely be a cycle he goes through for the rest of his life, getting better after he gets a shot and then gradually declining in the weeks until his next appointment. I was thinking about circles as I drove around the gym on Monday night, futilely hoping for a parking space that wasn't a block away under the broken street light. I was jittery because I had a cup of coffee at 5 PM to stay awake through a demonstration of some new software tools being implemented at my job. And I was kicking myself because, under the influence of that caffeine, I had posted a link to ”Chimpanzee Riding on a Segway” in response to a post from that girl I was almost fixed up with last month, in which she talked about having a bad day. At the time I thought it might cheer her up, but by the time I finished my workout, made my way to the car, and began driving home I was yelling at myself. “The Chimpanzee? The freaking CHIMPANZEE? WTF were you THINKING??”

In the end, it wasn't all that bad and did get a positive response. And I know it won't change my relationship status. But what did calm me down on my commute was the realization that, if I was resigned to just being a friend, I had to think like a friend. And part of what I do as a friend is to make people laugh, either with jokes or by showing them their lives could always be worse by example. I thought about how the elementary school teachers told my parents I craved attention, and didn't care if it was negative. And I realized that I couldn't play the role of a clown and then get upset when people laughed at me. I had an epiphany that, if I'm not subconsciously being a fool, I'm not focused on people laughing at me. If I consciously do so to cheer someone up, then I'm happy in accomplishing that mission. If it’s a choice, then I’m thinking about someone other than myself, and happy when they’re happy.

We are none of us experts in human relationships, even those who appear so. We all make it up as we go along, either by faking it or watching others. In some ways, we're like that blind cat in the dark, walking around in circles until our whiskers brush against something or we catch a scent. Only then can we find a direction, and in making a conscious decision to follow that path, can we walk a straight line out of the darkness. There will be other walls on the path that put us in a spin again, but with each loop we should get better at finding the exit, and continuing on our journey.


Post a Comment

<< Home