Requiem for a Cat Lady – The Legacies We Leave

Betty was my elderly cousin, second cousin…my mother’s cousin, on her father’s…cousin it is!

She died many years ago.  She was not married, (she was married once, the gentleman tried to strangle her with a phone cord, which was sort of a deal breaker) and she had no children so my brother, sister and I went to her place to clean it out.

It’s uncomfortable, going through another’s belongings.  Pulling things out of drawers or nooks or jewelry boxes, all the places people tuck their treasures – letters, diaries, jewelry, things passed to them from a cherished friend or family member.  That memento from a trip of a lifetime, something that reminded them of an amazing time they had someplace magical.  Betty had all of these things among her socks and hairpins, but there was one clear majority of knickknack.

Betty had an astounding number of cat things.

I don’t mean things for actual cats; she did not have one, and didn’t as long as I’d known her.  No, I mean things with cats on them, decorative plates, clothing, pictures.  And dozens upon dozens of cat figurines.  Cats made of glass, ceramic, wood, china, plastic, pretty much any material that can be manufactured or harvested, there was a cat made of that item.

I wanted to do something with them, something to honor her in a way.  I didn’t know what yet, but I tucked the cats into a bag and brought them home.

Finally I made this, which I call Requiem for a Cat Lady.

I’m not a photographer.  Oh my no.

I wonder sometimes, what will happen to my own treasures when someone goes through them?  I’ve mentioned before about my huge collection of a certain mouthless white Kitty (still don’t want to get sued) what happens to her?  What about my diaries, and the poetry I’ve written all my life?  What about the treasures collected in my travels?

I think these concerns are very human.  The things we have are meaningful to us.  They tell a story of a life that mattered.  My life, your life, we were here and we mattered.

We also leave a legacy that does not involve things.  Our possessions can certainly be reminders, as with my cousin’s cat figurines, but really, they aren’t forever.

But this is not sad. Whatever one believes of an afterlife or lack of, once you’re gone these things are no longer your concern.  So why obsess?

What kind of legacy would you like to leave?  What would you like people to say about you?  Will they smile gently at the memories?  The funny stories will outlive us, if they are told. In reading this article, you know a few tidbits about a woman you have never met, and if you should tell someone say, the phone cord incident, the memory of this unique lady goes on!

For me, the legacy I would like is my friends and family hearing something deeply dark, absurd, inappropriate, and saying “Oh man, Sue would have found that hilarious!”

Also they must take care of my Kitty.

My beautiful mouthless white Kitty.

kitty for blog cat lady
I’ll just leave this here.

Anyone who knows me, knows that.












What Did You Dream Last Night?

Note: Given the climate in the United States right now I want to tell you that this article uses a short description of a dream-scape shooting.  It is not graphic and is very short.

Do you remember your dreams?  Are they vivid?  Do you write them down?

Maybe you’re one of the people who analyze them, look through books and websites about what a symbol means, what your subconscious is trying to tell you.  These can be fine things to do, up until your subconscious tells you to quit your job, buy a unicycle, and ride around town throwing turnips at people.  I might not take that one literally.

I come from the place of the mind not the supernatural, as I’ve written about before.  Your subconscious is telling you something you already know, something that is hidden for some reason, even unacknowledged.  But it’s from you and your beautiful, powerful brain.

Sometimes that brain gets pissed.

Years ago, before I got sober for the I think second time, I was lying in bed in that not really asleep sort of blacked out state, the one where you stumble to the kitchen, drink orange juice right from the carton, and in the morning wonder how the hell a carton of orange juice got in your closet, that sort of thing.  It’s not the most enlightened time for a person, is my point.

This particular night though, I had a dream that I remembered, and it was not subtle.

I was on the porch of a sort of farm style house somewhere in the desert, a place surrounded by swirling dirt and scraggly brush.Creepy Old House

Anyway, a person came out of nowhere with a rifle and was mercilessly shooting everyone in the way, until arriving at the porch.  I had hidden behind a large rocking chair, terrified and crying, waiting to die.  The shooter came up and pointed the muzzle at me.  I reached out, grabbed her wrist, and pleaded with her to not kill me.  “I’m not done yet.” I recall saying.

The shooter, coming as a surprise to no one, was me.  I told you it was not subtle.

From that moment on, I was clean and sober and never had a manic episode or a depression ever again.  The End. <credits>

That’s not how things work, of course.  But it helped, and that always matters.

So what dream are you having that you need to wake up from?  Try to search them for a clue, and when you find it, look at it with unblinking eyes.  If it is painful, try to look at them even more.  You may want to do this with a therapist.

A common defense mechanism for us is disassociation and we are good at it.  But try to stay present, try to hear what it’s saying to you, and be gentle with yourself.

Below is a link to the National Helpline.  If you decide your dreams are telling you something you don’t want to face alone, if you are finding your carton of orange juice in the closet even one time really, or for whatever reason you need help and support, please give them a try.  It’s free and confidential.

And if you feel like it’s too much, if you’re having dark thoughts and considering a way out, I’ve also included the Suicide Prevention Hotline.

It will pass and the world is better with you in it.

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.





Verbal Free Writing – Finding the Gold in the Sand

When I am writing something, the forward in my book, a new poem, this article, sometimes I get stuck. If I’ve reached a point where my fingers hover over my keyboard and sort of wiggle in mid-air with no real idea where to land, I open a new document and start to free write.

Free writing means I simply type and do not stop.  If I hit a wall, I write something like “damn I hit a wall what shall I write about now I had a carrot yesterday the color orange is funny what hell is Crazy Legs up to out there…” or just one word over and over.  The point is to keep writing, keep focused, don’t edit.

Hidden away among those carrots and cats, I usually find something real, however small, since my brain did not have time to block it.  It may be a creative idea to expand on, the break in the dam that sends the water roaring down.

Or it may be truly enlightening.

Alone with my thoughts, I can write nonsensical ramblings that only I will see.  But there also may be the inadvertent slips of sometimes brutal insight.

Then I get to my therapist’s office.

It’s a quirk for me that I want to sound smart and well-spoken with the current keeper of the “I can send you to a 72 hour hold,” so I choose my words carefully.  I’m so super smart!  You don’t know how many thoughtful things I can say with my face-hole!  So a lot of time is wasted on long pauses while I try to find exactly the right word, the cleverest turn of phrase. (I also feel weird if I don’t make small talk when I get there, but that’s just my usual neurosis.)

Anyway, I told her that I wanted to try an experiment.  In order to get to the heart of the matter I was going to free write verbally, without a “watcher” in my head, an inner critic, any sort of a barrier to raw truth.

It goes like this, start talking, that’s it.  Just open your mouth and say things with your lips. Do not edit for grammar or vocabulary or syntax, just talk.  You will almost certainly hit on something.  And when you do, stand up and shout “Eureka!” (totally don’t do this.)  When you hit on something, stop and look at it.

The process of healing is sifting through the dirt until you find gold.  You will find a lot of “fool’s gold” in the process, but if you can get through that dirt, if you can sift out the bugs and rocks, you can hold a nugget of gold in your hand and know you’ve accomplished something.

Therapy is old timey gold prospecting, apparently.  I shouldn’t watch documentaries before I write these.

“So you see Jeremiah, if you sort through these dad-burn bugs and confounded rocks, you can find bits of evocative insight!”

Anyway, I encourage you to try it, both written and verbal.  It cuts through the long pauses where we sometimes obsess about how to present ourselves in the best light.  You don’t have to impress them. You’re in therapy, not on a date.

Also, you don’t have to make small talk.  “Hi how are you?” will generally suffice. I’m still working on that one myself.