Sadness

My Tortoise
My Tortoise

 

It’s not been the best of weeks. Sometimes it seemed like the worst of weeks. But feeling sorry for myself doesn’t help anyone, so I’ll not dwell on things, other than to tell you a little about my cat.

Miss T-Tail was so named because she was a tortoiseshell kitten, and her tail was so flexible it could parallel her back. Plus I loved Boeing 727s, the archetypal T-Tailed jet.

Actually, she was a white tortoise, meaning she had white paws, white belly and white bib. She arrived at my house in Sydney one Saturday morning, a surprise from my then girlfriend. I’d been away on a trip to London, and I remember the moment acutely. I had just come from a nice hot shower, and was in my robe, looking forward to days off. She then sprung these two kittens on me, one tortoise, one tabby. I was blown away.

The tortoiseshell immediately jumped into my arms and it was all over. The next seventeen years were spent looking after my furry friends, keeping them safe, reveling in their cat-ness, loving their unpredictable and semi-wild natures. Non-cat people fail to see just how human cats can be. They’re emotional creatures, albeit on a muted scale, but they’re direct too. When they want to be left alone, they’ll find a warm spot away from the action. When they’re hungry they’ll eat. And when they want affection, they’ll come and demand it from you. For clarity of intent in this area, cats are perfectly transparent.

Which is why I love them so. They’re independent…right up until the point that they appear from nowhere, jump on your lap and begin purring. When you live with cats for as long as I have, you begin to see that they like an hour a day with their human pets, but that’s enough. They understand that too much of a good thing is too much, and that we all need – cats and humans – to lead our own lives, to do our own stuff. Being social is good, but knowing your own company is valuable too. In that way, I’m completely cat.

Alas, we all grow old and die. Moneypenny, my beautiful silver tabby, passed away in May 2011. She was afflicted with a nasty kidney growth, that made her suddenly sick, and so we had to help her make a comfortable and dignified exit from this world. Miss T started losing weight about nine months ago. Like many aging cats, her kidneys were no longer fully up to speed, and so she needed some help. It’s a very common problem, given that cats derive most of their nourishment from protein, a hard road for their kidneys given the life-span of domesticated cats. In the wild, your average cat won’t last more than about seven years. Loved, healthy cats like Moneypenny and Miss T-Tail remain healthy for many years beyond that, but mortality eventually catches up with them.

After months of pills, steroids and daily sub-cutaneous fluid top-ups, it became clear last week that Miss T was no longer having any fun. Her spirit was strong. She wanted to jump and do all the catty stuff, but she was getting weak. Her weight was down. She wasn’t always using the litterbox. She wanted to eat, but just didn’t have the appetite. Most of all I was afraid she’d make one over-ambitious leap and come crashing back to earth once too often, as I’d seen her do increasingly over the last month. I just couldn’t be with her all the time. So the choice become obvious.

It’s been a rotten few days. When you’re used to having the companionship of a creature to whom you are so tightly connected, it’s a blow to have them taken away. It was always the right thing to do for her, a last gesture of love, but having her taken gently from this world is a brutal reminder that nothing is forever, that our love does not conquer all, and that some day the same fate awaits us all.

In the end, I’m just sad for me: Self-pity, like I said. T-Tail’s in a better place (I strongly believe that) and one day I’ll get to be with her again. It’s okay to mourn, to be maudlin, to take time. Life must go on, mostly because there is no choice. What I have resolved is to make the important things in my life happen. Gain financial independence. That is the key to freedom. The liberty of that kind of freedom means I can spend my time doing the good things that can make our lives soar, that put the negativity right in its place.

Funny how a ten pound cat taught me more about life than any human. Rest in peace, Miss T-Tail. Thank you.

Follow your passion, right?

Cleaning bubbles
Bubbles of self-help

 

Self-help books extoll a life of satisfaction from self-expression. Find your passion, and make it work for you. Don’t be satisfied until your reservoir of pent-up you-ness is fully drained and out there in the world.

Great. I wish everyone on that quest the best of luck.

The problem I have seen with that approach to life is that stuff gets in the way. Pesky stuff like utility bills, the need for food, and landlords wanting their rent. It’s a hassle, man, just keeping your head above water.

So the kind of self-help book that should be written would follow this kind of recipe for life:

1. You will always need a minimum income simply to get up in the morning. Find out what that is, and understand that it will vary over the course of your life.

2. If your passion, the thing you most want to do can provide you with that amount of money (and hopefully a little extra) then go right ahead and indulge yourself.

3. If your passion isn’t, cannot, or won’t likely in the future come close to creating the cashflow required in point 1, above, do something that will, then…

4. …pursue your passion as a hobby.

Having a jones for a particular way of spending your days will not overcome the misery of being poor, or behind on the rent, or interminably in debt. Debt squashes everything about your life, by which I specifically mean your freedom…freedom to be creative, freedom to have ideas, even your freedom to look clearly at the world. Likewise if you have insufficient money to pay all your monthly bills. If you are struggling to make ends meet, if there’s more month left at the end of your money, you’ll be miserable. And miserable people stop having passions.

So here’s my hierarchy of self-help: Be able to pay your bills. If possible, be able to pay your bills with recurrent income. Once you know the bills can be paid, then you can try your passion, to see if that makes money. Self-help is about never needing help from others. That’s a somewhat different spin than all those books provide, don’t you think?

Affirmation

Sunset in Osprey, Florida
Sunset in Osprey, Florida

 

It must be because I’m so new at this sales business. This morning a (nameless but close) friend and customer told me how much she liked my company’s protein powder in her morning health drink. With that, she presented me with a cup of the cucumber and spinach juice to which she had added the protein powder. It was delicious. Frankly, I was surprised just how good it tasted.

My reaction was a new one, for me, a mix of pride and happiness. Pride because receiving an unsolicited accolade like that brings to sharp focus that people really do like – or even love – the products I sell. Happiness because it means my friends have gone beyond the idea of being customers as a favor to me, and found their own fit for my company’s products in their life.

It’s an important transition, and one that reinforces that I am selling good stuff, for the right reasons, and that people get it.

Happy.

Signposts

Information, order, advice or requirement?
Information, order, advice or requirement?

 

The new year is a natural time to take stock. Most folks, I think, will indulge a little introspection in order to place themselves accurately in the landscape. We should – meaning, I should – do this more frequently than once a year, but better sometimes than never.

Driving along any road, if you can bring yourself to do so, you’ll notice an enormous number of signs. There are so many that we no longer take heed, unless we must do so for accurate navigation or parking restrictions. Have a look next time; on a busy road, signs clutter the roadside at surprisingly small intervals. Frankly, it’s a mess.

In the wider and abstract roadside of our lives (sorry for the tortured metaphor) signs likewise clutter the view. Radio, television, newspapers, tablets, phones, advertising everywhere, pop-ups, banners, product placements, celebrity endorsements…all this static bombards us night and day, unless you live in a yurt on a mountain-top. Much of the time I imagine we let it go by without a thought, but undoubtedly some of it sticks. We wouldn’t be human if it didn’t.

That’s why the idea of a contemplative review is important. Dumping the cookies from your internal browser allows you re-decide what messages you see. The folks who want to sell you stuff want to know that you are remaining in the category hopper they assigned. Let’s take that assumption back to them by not allowing them to do so. Make them work to prove themselves to us again.

There are two positive advantages to this. First, a fresh start allows us to re-energize and refresh. Second, that renewal means we are likely to look around for change, for life improvements or for a better fit. Snakes and lobsters shed their skin regularly so as not to be hemmed in. We can do the same, and for the same reason: so we can grow and adapt.