Friday, April 19, 2013

My heart's far, far away

I'm sitting here in the Midwest thinking how terribly ridiculous my choices were three years ago. Why did I decide that being away from home was a good idea, that moving away to somewhere cold, devoid of family and (at the time) friends would be good for me?

Lately, I've realized how tragedy can draw you closer to people. In the event that you feel nothing has gone or will ever go right, having someone beside you to hug you until you can barely breathe provides some sort of solace. Unless there aren't people. In which case, it can make you curl up into the fetal position, looking only inwardly and beating yourself up in the process, feeling increasingly lonely by the second.

Well place me in category two for the moment because I feel not only a sense of sadness at not being in California at the moment, but of guilt as well.

I wanted nothing more than to go elsewhere in 2010. I only applied to three schools instate. The others were all on the East Coast or in the Midwest, a few in England. I was sick and tired of California, but barely considered the issue of separation anxiety.

Now I'm here.

And to get to the point of this tirade of bleakness, my cat is near passing away.

I haven't been sad about losing a pet since my first dog died almost a decade ago. I still remember taking her to the vet to put her down. The memory haunts me, but the camaraderie within my family during that time also encourages me. It marked a special time in my life, when I felt like I was happily surrounded by those who loved me. That even though I'd lost an incredibly special presence in my life, I had others nearby to make up for it. The sun shone again without much effort.

Since then, two of my cats have passed away and two remain. The two that left this mortal coil did so while I was away - either on vacation or at school. And while I felt sadness having seen the loss of  another life I'd known since as soon as my memory served, I was never intimately connected to those cats. They were friendly faces, but I didn't associate them with too many of my fondest memories. So I wasn't broken hearted.

Mozart is causing a different sort of reaction.

He's the only cat I have conversations with. He greets me when I come home - annoyingly so - meowing loudly and in that certain tone of his that says "Notice me" or "Please give me your undivided attention." But also, underlying all the context clues of his noises, was the feeling I always felt expressed - "I love you."

It's weird to think that you have a caring enough bond with an animal that you can feel love towards them, or that they could feel that way for you. Maybe I've gone soft since becoming a vegetarian, or maybe my dietary choices are symptomatic of a sensitivity to the emotions of my pets. Whichever way it goes, I know that in my life Mozart has been more than a cat. He's been a companion.

We used to play games. If he was lying on the floor of the living room, I'd walk in a circle around him until he'd fall over and knead his paws at me, purring and meowing until I leaned down to pet him. Sometimes he'd walk in between my legs and I'd trap him by keeping them close together. He'd struggle free then beg for attention again. There was no tiring him.

There were times in my youth when I was sad and in response he would come to me and nudge me, sit down next to me and purr. He would help me get over my pain in subtle ways. It always seemed to me that he had an intuition that, however apparently ridiculous to those who believe cats aren't sentient, within him made perfect sense.

He had a loving bond with his brother cat, and he eventually forged a bond with one of my other cats - after several years of animosity - thus proving that he has the heart of gold that a lot of people attribute to dogs. Well, dogs may be "man's best friend," but Moe is everybody's best friend.

Now, in case my father is reading this - or anyone who has any intimate relationship with my favorite of all the pets I've ever owned - I will stop before I dig too deep into the emotional well that only accounts for more tears and sorrow.

He is still alive. He is still loved. He is still loving. And for that I rejoice.

My only sadness is that in these, his prescribed final hours, I will not be home to give him the attention I haven't been able to lately. I will not be able to kiss him on the head, scratch him under his chin or tell him I love him. Maybe it wouldn't have made a big difference in the long run, but I still believe that I should be there, at home, helping him along. Helping my whole family along.

It's times like these when you realize what's most important in your life. Not getting away and living in an unusual place for four years, but being surrounded by people who make you feel that even in the darkest days, there is a light.

I hope that when I come home I will feel the love of my family even if the lovely presence and the wall-pervading voice of Mozart is gone. After all, I can't call him gone yet, and I will not fully accept it until I must.

But let this be a reminder to myself of what is important in life - not just in dramatic moments like this, but always.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Finding me

You'd think after weeks away from this blog that I'd have something profound or fascinating to say. While I've done quite a bit of soul-searching lately, and had a lot of conversations with people I love who have helped me sort various things out..there's really not much to report.

At the moment I'm back in my room at university. It's messy here. I haven't fully unpacked my suitcase and all my throw pillows are in disarray on my bed. My Wall-E plush is covered by a blue blanket. When I took off my boots yesterday, I threw them into the corner and never put them away. I feel a little sorry for how my living space is in shambles.

But on the other hand, my life has been pretty stable. At least as of fairly recently.

I'm not going to claim it's all been sunshine and daisies. In fact, when I write blogs I tend to focus primarily on the sad or depressing occurrences of day to day life because writing or sharing turmoil is a good way of gaining catharsis (at least for me).

So I won't pretend it's all been great. My journey back to campus, in fact, was pretty rough. After being home for two weeks, I'd fallen into a routine. Evenings hanging out with my dad, days spent with my grandma, several trips to Disneyland, quite a few afternoons spent helping my sister and brother-in-law keep track of their rambunctious toddler (my niece) in the wake of the birth of our newest addition (my nephew) and countless hours spent simply relaxing and enjoying my own company.

It's something I've forgotten to do lately - just look to myself and realize that I'm the best friend I'll ever have. I don't often pick fights with myself, I'm usually up for whatever I want to do and, when I need to, I can pretty successfully knock sense into myself. Solitude can sometimes be the best medicine.

Whereas at college, being alone in my room often makes me sad, being at home I feel empowered by it. My room in California is a place of comfort and refuge; it's fun to let loose there and not worry about the world. When I was little being alone for long periods of time worried me - sometimes I thought if I was by myself long enough that the world outside would cease to exist. But these days, there are so many reminders of the outside world and often too few moments to focus on oneself.

So spring break was a time for me to stop blogging - to really stop doing much of anything. On the other hand, it was also one of the most valuable experiences of my young life and the first time in years that I've looked around and said that things are absolutely as they should be.

As I left it all behind - departing from Easter dinner and saying goodbye to my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew - I started crying. That somehow the short return home I'd been waiting anxiously for was over and soon I would be returning to school (a place where I'd been wrought with loneliness for the past couple of months) terrified me. Even the plane ride was awful - I got a migraine on the drive to the airport and was battered by flight attendants and other passengers every time an inch of my body leaned over into the aisle.

But then I got back to the Midwest. And my friends greeted me. And we had dinner. And I re-entered my (then) pristine room. And it was cold and comforting. And the sun shone each morning. And we played video games and we danced and we laughed just like we had before. And I felt the way I'm supposed to feel at college for the first time in quite a while. So in a way I returned to a past version of myself, but I consider it a completely new chapter of what has been a long life despite only living 20 years.

I've established a few goals for this new chapter. From buying a new guitar which I plan to devote time to learning and relaxing with (when I'm in California) to setting aside a couple of minutes each night to write in a private journal rather than a public blog space, I'm looking to branch out in ways that may take me out of external dramas and into internal peace.

There's so much trauma that can be provoked by other people. I feel as though much of the material of this blog has been in analyzing others and their effects on me, but as someone who admits to a degree of stubbornness, I forgot what a powerful presence I can have on myself when I stop worrying about what others are up to.

Right now I'm in a class where I'll be looking into the effects of society on political studies and resulting policies. I'm also going to be starting a class where I have to be creative and invent a world through which to tell a story (in other words, a screenwriting class). I'll be living in the minds of other people in that way, but in other ways I need to return back to being the person I was years and years ago - whose purpose was primarily focused on self-discovery and personal fulfillment.

The other stuff will come later, I think. The happy relationships, the long-sustained friendships, the valued acquaintances, the interpretations of society and world events. But first and foremost, I have to figure out me.

Without me, nothing else makes sense. And at the moment I'm well on my way to finding me again.