A Small Step in a Fresh Direction

We’ve all experienced those times when the best laid plans in life fell apart. It’s okay to grieve and grouse, but then it’s time to take a small step in a fresh direction. It’s basically that or drink a lot of wine, give up or die. This post tells you which option I chose.

We all have dreams! As a dreamer, I have lots of dreams! Have you ever felt stressed when you know you should be feeling lucky and thankful? I’m referring to those moments when everything in your rational brain knows one thing to be true, while at the same time, another voice is grumbling inner sounds that resemble the famous mumbling teacher in every Charlie Brown television special?

Despite the fact that looking back at what might have been is unproductive – unless there’s a specific lesson to be learned to move forward – I feel a bit like a puppy chasing its tail as I reflect on the last year.

Winter in the Northwest can be a bit of a bear, and last year, Central Washington saw more snow (I hear) than in the last twenty years. I’ve only been back here for twelve. It was also colder than when I lived in Wisconsin! So this past spring, I decided last winter was my last winter in a cold climate, and I started applying for jobs in Arizona (where I have a solid network of friends), California (where I lived for six years), and Texas (where two of my best friends live.)

And then it happened. My best laid plans went up in smoke. Last month, my knee surgery was postponed, and the dream job, with the huge salary and benefits amazing enough to make a grown woman cry with joy fell through. I came in second. It’s mid-September now, and I should feel incredibly lucky – but instead I honestly feel a little bit (okay, a lot bit) like engaging in high levels of grousing.

I really shouldn’t be complaining. I mean, I am really lucky! I tore my meniscus on the job 18 months ago and I had a Washington state claims manager who fought for me to have my case reopened and receive a second opinion. He even warned me not to move out of state until I had my surgery because he feared I might not actually get it once I left Washington, and he wanted to see me healthy again. (WOW!) I was assigned an exceptional physician for my second opinion. I was accepted by the exact surgeon I wanted, despite the fact that he rarely accepts L&I. My long projected recovery is due to the fact that I have no arthritis in my knee and the surgeon will be able to stitch my injury up in such a way that will result in a perfect knee ten weeks from now. I am employed at a job where I make a difference to thousands of students and teachers. I have a roof over my head, basic needs met, family and friends, three pets I adore – the list goes on.

But the other side of the coin: I lost a dream job and dream house, with a hot tub for ten, in Phoenix. I haven’t even had my surgery yet and I’m looking at a recovery that includes crutches for six to eight weeks. It’s mid-September. And the thought of spending another winter here makes me want to cry.  But I don’t cry. I take a deep breath and murmur quietly to myself like the teacher in Charlie Brown specials. I watch hurricane aftermath coverage and read social media posts about people who are battling life-threatening illnesses and I feel worse. Because despite the fact that another year passed me by without my dreams materializing, I know that life truly could be so much worse.

And so I do the only things I can. I send out resumes, connect with former colleagues on LinkedIn, hug my pets, thank my loved ones for caring and pull out boxes of Christmas cards to start addressing. Because if I’m stuck in a full leg brace, in a cold climate for yet another winter, at least my holiday cards are going out on time this year. It’s not Phoenix, Los Angeles or Dallas, but it’s a small step in a fresh direction. And hopefully it will silence the disappointment and grumbling sounds in my head.

Blog puppy

Sometimes Love Requires Getting Poked

Winnie adopted me. She was feral when someone dumped her litter off on my street. Four starving kittens.  I already had a pet bird and was not in the market for any felines. But, as is often the case with animals, they pick their humans, and Winnie picked me.  The short story was that while I fed her (how could I not?) she remained feral until she had kittens two years later, and today, my fully domesticated and spayed Winnie, and one of her kittens has joined the bird and me in our forever home.

Getting poked (whether by life, a finger or a needle for a vaccination) is never fun. But keeping animals safe and disease-free is important, and it’s one of the best ways humans can show them our love.

Like many cats, Winnie and Lucky do not particularly enjoy car rides or visits to the veterinarian – despite how truly gentle, supportive and nice he and his staff are – despite that these adventures always include food treats at the end of the visit – and despite that each time, after the quick check-up is complete, I cup their little heads in the palm of my hands, stroke them, kiss their noses and give them the hard truth: Sometimes love requires getting poked.

The fact is that loving – a person or an animal – means investing in a living, breathing, changing relationship. And relationships are not always how they appear in static photos on social media. Sometimes they feel amazing. And sometimes they hurt a lot.

When I have a tough day, few things bring the level of comfort that comes with snuggling an animal  – a dog, cat, bird or whatever that curls up beside you quietly, looks you eye-to-eye and tilts their head as if to say, “I understand.”  Humans come with opinions, questions, ideas, judgments and sometimes unwelcome commentary. Animals come with a need for basic necessities (food, water, shelter) and love.

I wish there was a more enjoyable way that I could keep my pets safe and healthy. I wish the shot didn’t make them whimper and the car ride wasn’t uncomfortable. “We protect responsibly” is the motto at our veterinarian’s office. And because love sometimes requires getting poked, it’s my motto too.  Winnie