I think we’re all waiting for the clock to strike twelve on 1/01/2021 and find out that somehow this entire year has been a really long dream nightmare.
The optimism that comes with a new year and a fresh slate is just as intoxicating as the champagne we’re clinking together to ring in the New Year, but as we all sober up we have to realize there’s still a very long road ahead.
I stopped blogging in April, unintentionally. I’m a store manager of a retail store and all of our stores were shut down for a few months. I was still going in on reduced hours and helping with online order fulfillment so I didn’t get the same quarantine experience that it seemed millions of others did during that time to learn how to use TikTok, “Marie Kondo” my closet, or become a sourdough bread making master. I kept reminding myself to be grateful that I still had work, but it was hard not to feel bitter when so many others were bragging about all the extra time they had and that they were actually making MORE money on unemployment, while I was bringing in a third less than what I had before. That bitterness coupled with civil unrest, protests, and the constant barrage of social media posts, made me retreat inwards. It was frustrating to see people being attacked for speaking about important matters, but then on the flipside others being berated for not posting at all. It seemed like a lot of noise without much action or self-education before speaking and it only made me retreat further.
Mid-May my store along with about a hundred others got the go-ahead to re-open. I was filled with dread as that day approached. I didn’t want to be in contact with the public and get into confrontations after asking people to do the bare minimum of wearing a mask in the store. I didn’t want to expose myself and then not get to see my parents for extended periods of time. I just didn’t want to do it. I realize now that my gut feeling about why that day was filled with so much anxiety, dread, and heaviness was for an entirely different reason.
Leading up to the store re-opening, Punk, my cat of 17 years, had been having some issues. She seemed like she was having trouble breathing and the vet was able to make a last minute appointment for her in the morning of the store re-opening. She was dropped off and I went to work. The store had been open less than an hour and I got the call. The vet said that she thought Punk had some form of cancer causing fluid to build up in her lungs and that she was struggling to breathe. Her recommendation was that she be euthanized that day.
I was gutted with those words.
I did my best to keep it together in front of customers and was grateful for my mask hiding most of my face and doubling as a tear catcher. My team quickly came together to cover the rest of my shift so that I could leave to go be with her. To say that it was one of the worst days of my life would be a gross understatement.
I had to go back to work the next day so my grieving was reduced to my 45 minute commute into work and then again at the end of the day. After a short while I snapped into a very numb auto-pilot version of myself until something like cleaning and getting rid of her litter-box, picking up her food, or just waiting to see her in her familiar spots would trigger me into the deepest sobs, losing my ability to breathe, and this intense ache in my chest. It still happens. Randomly and violently until I find that inner switch to shut myself off again.
I know a lot of people will read this and think… “Get over it. It was just a cat. People lost parents, siblings, and spouses this year.” And that’s okay for you to think or even say. My loss probably pales in comparison to those that have lost human family members and I suppose I should count myself lucky to have not experienced that type of devastation this year.
I don’t know how to describe what Punk was to me. She was this amazing little being that I felt more connected to than most humans.. part child, soulmate, friend, healer, etc. I guess that’s what people mean with the phrase, “They’re my everything.” She came into my life as a floofy spunky little kitten when I was 14 and has been by my side ever since. She was there when I had my heart broken for the first time, when my parents divorced, when I moved into my first apartment, my road trip companion when I drove across the country to start a new life in Oregon. She was there during my divorce and my road trip buddy yet again when I moved back to Iowa. She was there when I bought this house.. and now it feels a little empty without her squawks and purrs filling it. I feel empty too. I don’t know how to survive the next big hurdle in life without her.
This is the first time I’ve written about her and losing her, but I didn’t set out to do so. I guess I just wanted to explain why I’ve been quiet nearly the entire year. Instead this is just me telling you I’m grieving still. Life has just felt like it keeps moving forward and I have no choice but to keep going through the motions to keep up with it. My mental health is probably the worst it’s ever been. I don’t meditate or take any time to do this “self care” thing that everyone talks about. I guess it’s because when I used to have that alone time I was never truly alone. Punk was always in my lap while I was meditating, snuggled into the crook of my arm in bed, trying to use my journal as her nap space while I attempted to write. Now when I’m alone… I’m just alone.
For awhile now I’ve felt this heavy weight of figuring out what my first post after such a long hiatus would be, so I suppose it’s a bit ironic that it’s quite literally a very emotionally heavy post. I’m still not entirely sure how I’m going to move forward and heal, but I suppose getting this all out in “written” form is a solid start.