Saturday, September 24, 2016

Still I learn! - More ramblings about Sister Sheena II

A misattributed quote.

In the late 80's, I was working for the phone company. Scott, a co-op and good friend of mine was also working in our group. We each had our little open-air cubicles and Scott liked to think out loud as if each step in his work needed to be shared with everyone. Having ADD, such distractions were fatal to my own work.

One day, I had had enough and stood up and hung a sign over into his cubicle. "Scott." I said.

"What?" he asked.

I said "Look.".

He turned towards my cubicle and saw the sign. "S. T. F. U. What does that mean?" he asked loudly.

"Shut The Fuck Up!" I shouted back and the whole group (who couldn't help but overhear our conversation) burst into laughter. They had obviously been suffering in silence but thinking along similar veins and shared in my expression of their feelings.

To my recollection, I had never heard the acronym used before and from the group's response, neither had they. Was I the creator? Who knows? Like the quote "Still I learn!", it is sometimes hard to attribute the creation or documentation of use of some quote.

It is the title of my blog for it's Spiritual context and my own personal struggles with the topic.

For instance, "Hence where there is a multitude, a crowd, or where decisive significance is attached to the fact that there is a multitude, there it is sure that no one is working, living, striving for the highest aim, but only for one or another earthly aim; since to work for the eternal decisive aim is possible only where there is one, and to be this one which all can be is to let God be the helper----the "crowd" is the untruth." from "Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre".

Imagine a book composed of such sentences with the reader having the attention span of a squirrel, especially when the topic is boring or filled with such verbose sentences (notice, that is just ONE sentence!). Having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) as an adult and never having been diagnosed as a child, I am having to struggle through such texts until my doctors decide what the safest course of treatment is for me.

The quote seems to me to reflect a belief my dad introduced me to, agnosticism even though it resides in a book on existentialism. I recall my dad sitting in the kitchen and making me go look up the word during a discussion about religion in which he said he was an agnostic. Like many of my current Spiritual partners/friends who claim to be "recovering Baptists" and proudly wear the badge of an agnostic, it resonated with me also.

My own brief fire and brimstone brush with the Southern Baptist religion left me mostly with the memory of a pounding headache (from the preacher shouting damnation using 6 foot speakers) and the standard "Do as I say, not as I do" attitude. So it was surprising and refreshing to discover my own path was much like my dad's. I was quite happy about it. I wasn't alone in my path, no matter how winding it might be.

Having recently lost my cat, Sheena, after 14 years, I still find myself struggling with what has happened to her and me being left behind. I reflect on her life and the living of most of it blind, having lost her sight when she was hit by a car. It seems that event and those that followed had much meaning in my own growth.

Once past the pain and healing, she didn't let her handicap slow her down much. She didn't seem to reflect on her loss. Instead, she pushed her boundaries as far as she could. This included jumping off of the second story deck a few times when she had climbed up on top of the fence surrounding the deck and then jumped back down on the wrong side. It took her a few times before she decided to no longer do that.

She began to understand her new limits, and we both began to understand our new relationship and her increasing dependence on me. She couldn't get back up on the deck until I came to check on her. In turn, I had to find a balance between giving her as much freedom as she desired without too much danger and without too much restriction. It was a constant struggle that caused me much stress as I was fighting so hard to not love her much but her growing affection and need for me wore us both down.

Having been given to me around a month or two after birth (2002-04-23), she seemed to exhibit some typical baby habits, such as an oral fixation. In her case, she had a desire to lick my tongue and over the years, became quite obsessed about licking my spit. If she heard me swallow, she'd push at my nose to get me to open my mouth for a "drink". If you've had kids, you'll know you've done similar things (ever chewed your kids food?) and those without babies of their own simply don't understand how unoffensive it is to a parent. Don't say my cat is different, for you really are narrowed minded if you do! Someday, I will share how convenient this habit became for me!

The above picture was taken around November 17th, 2003 at Rickwood Caverns Park, Alabama before Sheena's accident. She didn't like that heavy chain but loved going out to new places so took to the chain with few complaints (a dramatic leaning to the side as if it weight a ton to be one of them)!

After the accident, she still enjoyed walks in the woods, now having the need for me to take her and her following the sound of my steps or walking on a leash. She still demanded access to the entire house, wandering throughout, exploring the boundaries. Though being blind, her bodily needs soon turned my entire house into a litter box and I was forced to begin limiting her access to being in diapers on beds and carpets or fenced into the kitchen linoleum floor that was more easily cleaned.

Again, with her world having become so small with the loss of eyesight, I struggled with giving her more personal attention, and my care and love grew even more. Due to physical problems, my ability to keep things to my OCD level of cleanliness soon grew beyond my ability and I soon became very reclusive, reluctant to expose guests to the less than pristine environment I preferred.

Sheena still loved the outdoors and no matter how many times she got rained on, she still was up for sunning herself on the deck. Even in the middle of winter, a few minutes were often required outdoors until she got older and the warm comfort of a seat next to daddy became more precious to us both.

So, no matter how quiet I was, she would seek out my company and always managed to find where I was. I had been using baby gates for many years to keep her in the kitchen on the vinyl floor which was a lot easier to clean and sanitize.

As many with children will note, even a momentary distraction can lead to accidents when diapers are removed or not snugly fit so even sleeping with me at night was no longer possible. This probably was the worst permanent change and I think signaled more drastic decisions to come.

But there were also still moments of great leaps of learning on both our parts. Sheena had a seat next to mine so that she could be as near to me as I could tolerate while I worked on the computer. Anyone whose owned a cat knows that the preferred place is on your person or on the keyboard but I managed to often convince Sheena it was better to sit next to me (reaching out a blind paw to make sure I was still there), rather than be confined to the kitchen behind baby gates.

So, many years had passed with me carrying her from the kitchen, stepping over the baby gates, and settling down at the pc, the couch, or the bed. I had become pretty good at it but began to suffer from problems in my hip and so one day it happened.

When Sheena was 13 and 1/2 years, old, my hip failed, I clipped my toe on the top of the baby gate, and went tumbling down with Sheena. Of course, her safety was my prime concern so I stretched out my arms and dropped her in my metal lawn chair (the only sort of computer chair that could support my enormous weight!) instead of trying to catch my fall. As you can see from the above picture, my chest caught the fall instead and though I was in severe pain, my baby was safe.

Why do I tell you this? To brag about how smart my precious baby had become! Due to the traumatic nature of the event, Sheena was very focused and aware of what had a occurred. She realized the gates that had been blocking her had a top. Within hours, she began searching for this top and discovered it was not high at all. Even having bought gates with diamond shaped meshing so it would pinch her paws, she now began attempting to climb over the gates and within hours, a whole new level of prisoner and warden began (as those with bassinets and babies know all too well!). I was quite proud of the intelligence and reasoning and determination she was showing at that age and quite encouraged she was still so young at heart!

I knew things were changing somehow and I could share much more but that's enough for now. I learned a lot about attitude and I am constantly reminding myself of her example. It isn't surprising that as we grew closer, our feelings also grew but I soon found myself alone and wondering. Is she still around? What happens to our consciousness when we die? Strange little things occur in my life that seem to be an attempt to reassure me that existence does continue after death of our corporeal form. I am not sure but I continue to search and Still I learn!

Miss you Sheena!

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