Monday, October 18, 2010

"I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence..."

"...but it comes from within. It is there all the time." ~ Anna Freud

Last week (Oct 11-15) was a difficult week. I'm not one to complain too often or to reflect upon my life pessimistically. I like to spread positive words. And this post will spread positivity and self-reflection. But first I need the catharsis of confession. It was a f*$!#ing HARD week. There was friend drama, crazy traveling schedules, work drama and hectic meetings, illnesses and sleeplessness, teaching and deadlines. And there was Buddy.

Although I try to be positive about situations and appreciate what I have as often as I can, sometimes I am stunned by the slightest thing that makes me feel that I've been taking my life for granted. In this case, it's my sense of self. I didn't have a difficult childhood but it wasn't an easy one. I've been blessed with a fair amount of self-confidence and self-love because of the different types of people I've had to deal with and my experiences growing up. Being the oldest of 5, I also had to serve as the protector of my siblings and that really boosted my strong sense of self. No one's opinion matters but your own and those you love. I whole-heartedly believe that this is what gets me through life, in addition to growing up in a hard-working family.

Lately, I've been letting myself get carried away by how other people see me when I know it's simply jealousy and envy they are feeling. Even though I thought I was listening to myself and not falling for malice, I don't think that's true. After the past week, I think I've been thinking far too often about my own lifestyle and how I may negatively affect others. Is it a detriment to be my friend? I try to use whatever lifestyle advantages I have to help others, but am I doing enough?

And along came Buddy. Buddy is a stray cat in our neighborhood (I chose the name Buddy) and he showed up in early spring. My husband and I have several cats of our own and foster cats for a local shelter. We are committed to catching the strays to make sure they are at least neutered/spayed and up-to-date on shots. If they seem super friendly, we take them into the shelter to put them up for adoption. It took me 7 months to get Buddy used to me enough to let me pet him. He immediately became one of the sweetest cats (and possibly least intelligent one) I've ever known. Buddy obviously wasn't feral, just a bit shy and maybe a little slow. Two weeks ago, he seemed comfortable enough with me that I decided it was time to grab him. He stayed in a spare bathroom until we were able to take him into the shelter and I was surprised by how easily he adjusted to being an indoor kitty. He surely must've been an indoor kitty before.

We finally took him in after a few days with us and I was sad to see him go. I'd gotten used to his wide-eyed look while he hung around our porch for nearly a year. But we have so many cats as it is, I can't take another one. I comforted myself with the knowledge that someone loving and kind would adopt him and I could keep tabs on him through my contacts with the shelter. We also put our names down as a responsible contact in case he gets sick and needs to be temporarily fostered.

We got the call on Thursday that Buddy had tested positive for Feline HIV. Most likely, he had gotten it from another stray cat he got in a fight with, considering that it's not an airborne illness. We had 5 hours to decide if we wanted to pick him up or have him euthanized. On one of my busiest work days, I have to make a difficult decision. There's no way he can be with our boys if we want to minimize any chance that they could contract the disease. But it's not enough time to find someone without cats who would want to adopt him. We can't put him back outside and monitor him because he could give it to other cats and get sick and hide, committing himself to a slow, painful death. It seemed we had only one option.

While frantically searching the internet for suggestions of what I could do besides the obvious (because it just wasn't FAIR), I came across a suggestion for a cat sanctuary or shelter that takes in cats with Feline Leukemia and Feline HIV/Aids. The nearest shelter I could find is in Harrisburg, called the Best Little Cat House in PA. I have dealt with no-kill shelters before and they almost never have room. I discarded it as an option but decided to email them just in case, explaining our situation and asking that they at least respond. It seems that despite the rough week, I still had luck on my side because they happened to check their email (usually only once a day I was told) right after I sent it. I was given a phone number to call and ask about space, which wouldn't be available until December. I was so relieved that they would have any openings at all that I started crying there at my desk. We could keep him quarantined until then and he would get the care and love that he deserves.

What has followed this turn of events has been nearly three weeks of a very sick Buddy (quarantined in a spare bathroom until December), who was neutered at the shelter and contracted an upper respiratory infection, which could be deadly. I spent two weeks hand-feeding him and giving him water with a syringe. It was not an easy two weeks. And he has just now stopped sneezing blood. But holding him in my lap while he has to breathe through his mouth, watching me in confusion over what has happened to him, I feel above the petty jealousy and attacks on my good intentions. I know that I'm making a difference in his short little life and I have no need for self-doubt. There isn't room for it and my momentary lapse got me nowhere except stressed.

When I converted to Judaism, I had to choose my Hebrew names. I went through many books and websites, trying to pick meanings that identified me or embodied traits I wanted to possess. Ultimately, I chose names that would serve as a reminder of who I am and who I strive to remain. Akiva Chemda is my name. Akiva (although a boy's name, a Hebrew version of Jacob) means to protect or to provide shelter. This is my mantra towards animals especially, but for any friends or family that needs my assistance. I could look at how many people alone have lived in our home... Chemda is a girl's name meaning charming. This reminds me to always be positive, pleasant, and wonderful towards others.

I realize this was a long, heartfelt post. And really I wrote it more for me than any of you, my lovely readers. But I needed this catharsis to remind myself that I'm OK. Thanks. :)


  1. "After the past week, I think I've been thinking far too often about my own lifestyle and how I may negatively affect others. Is it a detriment to be my friend? I try to use whatever lifestyle advantages I have to help others, but am I doing enough?"

    --> I doubt that anyone can ever "do enough," but I personally think that you are an awesome person that does whatever she possibly can, whenever she possibly can, so you will never be a detriment to a friend. You are a great person and role model for others to follow. Take pride in that.

    I think you probably know who this is, and while I will probably never put down in words the emotions and inner workings of my own self, I envy your ability to share. However, I will share with you this: meeting you has been a great improvement upon my life and I truly value your friendship. I have been able to confide in you and learn from you in the relatively short period of time that I have known you, and I thank you deeply for that. No matter what the future holds, I will always value you enormously.