There's a self-imposed line drawn in the sand about just how much one should share when writing a blog. Six years ago, when I first started writing, I didn't feel too concerned about limiting what I said. Who was reading my words, anyway? Four people? It was unlikely I'd run into any of them at the store and there was certainly no fear of backlash or judgement.
It's very different today-not that I'm a celebrity, very far from it, but more and more often I find when I meet up with a friend or colleague and I start to tell them about something, they interrupt me and say they already read about it on my blog!
I believe that the most important thing I do is keep what goes on in my life “transparent” here on Covered in Cat Hair. Though I fear reprisal, I also feel I must stay open and honest. It's the only way we can have any trust and so far it's worked really well. I've been able to be free to tell you when times get tough or I do something stupid and though I fear the reaction I get for what I've written, more often than not, I have gotten more support and love than I ever could imagine (which I hope has reflected right back to you). I've always been very grateful and humbled by all of this affection. It's a fuel that keeps me going.
It's been impossible for me to write the past few days because things are so difficult in my life. My first reaction is to step back and assess, hide out with my sadness. Perhaps withdrawing allows time for reflection, but during that time, I also realize how difficult it will be to open this up to all of you. I write these words to help me process, NOT in ANY WAY to ask for anything. If I did ask for something, it would simply be to understand that writing, even with tears blurring my vision, helps me. We are friends now and as a friend, just let me say my peace and don't feel like you have to do something about it other than just read on.
What troubles me so?I'm broke-the two most embarrassing words I've ever written. It means I've failed. It means my choices may have been foolish or vain or selfish. Maybe it means, like anyone else, I did my best but it didn't work out. I've done a poor job at keeping myself financially stable and now, for the first time in 20 years, I can't pay my mortgage. I can't provide vet care for one of my cats-which leaves me mortified and humiliated. How can I rescue cats when I can't even care for my own?
I have never lived lavishly. I haven't been on a vacation since 1998. I've barely been away from home. I don't smoke. I rarely drink. I don't buy myself shoes or clothes or much of anything. I live a modest life, but I don't have an income big enough to support even that. I don't have health insurance any more. Bob getting cancer last year was the nail in my financial coffin, but I wouldn't have given up on him, not when he did so well for such a long time.
This is what really matters to me.
My dream was to set Kitten Associates up so that I could make an honest living and save cats lives. It can still happen, but the money I put into KA, isn't going to come back out any time soon. I will pay myself back for all the money I put into the rescues I did early on, but not now-no way; not when we have cats in our program who may need help. At least I have those funds to provide for them as long as nothing serious comes up. I couldn't have saved any of them this past year if so many of you hadn't jumped in to donate what you could. I deeply appreciate feeling like you have my back. It means you have confidence in me and I would never let any of you down.
Sadly the stress that's been going on behind-the-scenes is making me lose my hair. My emotions are like dry tinder-it takes so little to set me off-raging and yelling. You can guess what that does to anyone living with me-who is also not in the happiest of situations. It is a level of Hell living under this roof. Add to that a cat in renal failure who urinates all over the house, ruining and soiling everything in his path. The stress keeps ticking up, up, up, like a car on the wooden tracks of a roller coaster. With each “tick” my stomach tightens up. Each day more and more things get added to the list of how I am failing. How will I fix the leaky skylights? How will I fix my car? What happens if I get sick and have to go to the Doctor? What happens when there is nothing more to cut back on or cash out? How long can I keep putting things off in hopes that things will be better and I'll be able to do those things I need to do? I'm waiting for the sudden drop. I think I'm on a fast track to the bottom.
The chronic headache I've had since I was in a car accident in 2010 gets even worse. The Doctor said I'm in a “pain cycle” that we can't figure out how to break. I can't afford to see him any more. It's okay. I don't think he could give me an answer, anyway. I wonder how long I can take this, then I think of other people who are far worse off than I am, who have already lost their home and have no where to go and I feel guilty for feeling sorry for myself. I should just shut up.
There are moments of feeling all right; when I can forget for a little while, but mostly there is a lot of shame and fear. Where did I go so wrong? Why can't I find a way to make a living from all the things I seem to do for free? Even this Blog, which has been my passion for so long, it just taxes time I have that I could use to be making a living.
Sure, I could write a book. Well, I already did. I wrote the better part of two books now. I could also turn Covered in Cat Hair into a book-Lord knows there are enough stories here…but it seems insurmountable to get my work in front of someone who could help me “give birth” to these projects with everything else going on.
In my heart, I know I have something worth sharing and some talents worth being paid for (not THOSE kind of talents), but there's a piece missing-maybe it's good business sense? Maybe I need to be more assertive? What is wrong with me? Why can't I make a good living?
I think some of it has to do with not making it important-what matters to me is helping people keep their cats, rescuing cats who need help, writing about cats. Generally these are not areas where you make a living, but it does my soul good. It makes my heart sing to know one more cat is alive because I stepped in to guide them along the path to their forever home. I've worked for clients in the marketing and advertising world for decades and it's very rare when I finish a project and feel like it did anyone any good-other than to get a paycheck out of it. If this is my life, I don't want to be on my deathbed and feel like I left a nice, fat 401K to whom? My cats? I would rather feel like I did more good, than harm. I made some people happy. I helped some at risk cats live a full life, instead of it being prematurely cut short.
The other day I watched a series of programs on TV about the birth of the Earth and our universe. They spoke about galaxies that are 600 million light years WIDE; that our existence (depending on what you believe) is due to a star going super nova and that everything here, there and billions of miles away is all, at the core, just star dust. That we are even here, alive, with an intra-human-communication system we call “language,” with cell phones and frozen tv dinners and scanning devices that can see into our body without cutting it open…if you take a BIG enough step back and take a look at it, it's bloody amazing we get to be here at all, conscious of all of these amazing things and add to that we get to know love and experience a deep heart-connection with other sentient beings. Wow. How lucky we are. It reminds me how insignificant my problems are. I am not going to live forever, but what am I going to live for?
Why would I want to waste any more of the 20 or 30 or whatever years I have, going to a job, sitting under fluorescent lights, getting carpal tunnel syndrome and worrying about if a client is going to like the layout I designed because I was forced to stay up all-night to work on a project because my boss was paranoid that we didn't have enough layouts done. Yes, I could pay the bills under these circumstances, but at what cost? I paid dues for decades. I've been steering myself towards a change to follow my heart. I can't give up now.
What REALLY is important?
Like anyone else I have responsibilities that I take very seriously. I have a monkey on my back and I need to find a way to get it off. The anxiety is crippling me-making it harder to hold my head up high or get anything done at all. It's embarrassing to say I can't even afford to fix my car or buy more than a few groceries. For the past five years I've told myself it will get better, right? It will get better? Maybe next year will be “the big year” for me or maybe I'm just kidding myself? Maybe I better stop joking that I'll be living in a cardboard box with my cats one day.
I haven't lost my home (so far) and I will do everything in my power to make sure that never happens. In the meantime, I would rather hide myself under a rock and just stop writing here until things get better, but I have to find a way to hold my head up, take a deep breath and rescue myself. I found something I love to do, that matters to me, that gives meaning to my life.
I can't stop now, but how I don't know how I will go on.