A good place and a bad one…

Personally, I’m in a good place… and that place is the time of year when I’m about to start burning off sizable chunks of vacation time to scour the mid-Atlantic region for all manner of used and vintage books. It’s a time of long summer twilights, evenings reading on the patio, and undisturbed stretches of free time. The run of days from the first week of June through the first week of July are, for me, the year’s apogee. Barring unforeseen events, there’s generally not anything better.

Professionally, by contract, it’s determined to be a season beset by stupid – both people and things. It’ll be catching up on mandatory training, and preliminary planning for parties and events that by right ought not to belong on my plate, and for whatever as yet unknown fuckery finds its way into my inbox. I won’t say it’s the worst of times, because that title belongs to another era entirely. Those days were bleak… These, in comparison, are mostly just obnoxious.

Still, it feels like an odd dichotomy. Although if one of the two must be a clusterfuck, I greatly prefer that particular dark cloud settle over the “work stuff.” I’ve spent a lot of time and effort rigging up a pretty reliable firewall between work stuff and home stuff. Whatever asshattery is taking place at work very rarely bleeds through to home. The barrier is somewhat less robust in the other direction.

By the time that first week of June arrives, it’ll have been six months since I took any significant time off. Right about now I’m feeling all those intervening days. I’m deeply, viscerally, looking forward to not needing to present the illusion of giving a single fuck about training rates, parties and events, or reviewing people’s requests to use the dumb auditorium. A few days wandering deep in the stacks is precisely what Dr. Jeff ordered as a restorative cure for the madness that seeps in from the “professional” side of the firewall.

On promise and disappointment…

I went to an estate sale over the weekend. I just happened to see the signs while on my way to do other things and dropped in. It was promising. The big house, fairly modern, with its rolling green lawn overlooking the Elk River should have been a good buying opportunity. It was about as picturesque a scene as you could want in a region that prides itself on sweeping water views.

Everything inside, though, was entirely forgettable. Architectural Digest prints on the walls and expensive plastic as far as the eye could see. Literally not a thing you couldn’t find new from your local Target or Pier One or Wayfair. At best, there were a few obviously modern pieces doing their best to imitate antiques.

At the risk of sounding judgy, if the house ever had any soul, it was gone long before its most recent resident shoved off. Not a bit of it looked in any way lived in – or really even lived with.

Someday, inevitably, my household will be shut down and the collections of a lifetime broken up. I can promise you, though, the house will look thoroughly lived in and the objects within will have some flavor of personality beyond the fashion of the moment. Every bit of it will be there not because it “looked good,” but because it recalled a time or a place or a feeling.

Gods preserve me from ever worrying about what looks fashionable or from ever leaving something that looks so promising, but ends up in such disappointment.

An unexpected moment of peace…

I’ll admit it. I’ve been letting the stress back up on me. I mostly assumed it was bleeding over from getting this damned government boondoggle through to the finish line next week. It’s not an unreasonable assumption. I like to think I carry it well, but it’s the kind of thing that wears on a guy as things reach their illogical end.

It wasn’t until I sat down last night and put my feet up after dinner that I realized how much lighter my own living room felt. Last night, with Anya returning healthy to the fold, was probably the first real night of peace I’ve enjoyed since Hershel died.

It was the first night in two months not overwhelmingly weighed down in missing my boy or worrying that the new girl was suffering catastrophic injury or that something would go wrong in surgery or during recovery. Then wondering if I’d ever manage to convince Cordy that under the bed is no place to live your life.

The last two months have been a chaotic mess – or at least what passes for a chaotic mess in my world. I hadn’t realized how much of that I was internalizing just to keep the whole thing plugging along. Now I’m just feeling an overwhelming sense of relief that maybe we’ve turned the flank of our current crisis and bought just a little bit of breathing room.

Last night, despite the racket of two cats periodically bouncing off the walls, was the best night’s sleep I’ve had since I couldn’t tell you when. There will be some other bridge that needs burning probably sooner rather than later, but for now I’m just going to go ahead and enjoy this moment of peace I didn’t know I needed.

On cats and making assumptions…

I’ll hold the major update on Anya until the end of the week, when we’ve met with the ophthalmologist for her follow-up visit and evaluation. Based on the feedback I’ve been getting from her temporary caretakers in Pennsylvania, her eye is looking good and most of the surgical trauma has resolved successfully. Thursday will, hopefully, release her from the daily regimen of a metric shit ton of drops and pills and leave us with something more manageable in terms of ongoing care. 

While Anya has been gone, I’ve had a fair amount of time to work individually with Cordelia. She’s been challenging in her own way and it’s been slow going. We’ve progressed, though, from her spending all daylight hours under the bed to at least some level of comfort in prowling about the house when Jorah and I are awake. If I plop down on the bedroom floor, she’s quick to break cover to come over for pets. In the last few days, she’s even taken to curling up on my lap. 

It’s a big improvement for a cat who six weeks ago was abjectly horrified if I so much as brushed against her. I’m cautiously optimistic that eventually I won’t have to sit on the bedroom floor if I want to interact with her. Getting this cat out of her shell is a real work in progress. I’d very much like to get her comfortable enough that I can reliably lure her in, if only so I can get her first vet visit in the books and get her scheduled for a spay. Even now she’s too likely to bolt to her favorite hiding place to guarantee delivering her up for a scheduled appointment.

Assuming Anya is, in all likelihood, coming home on Thursday, I’m mentally preparing to take a step backwards with both of them. Anya spent six months in the shelter, a month here, and then two weeks with the vet. Getting her reintegrated into the daily rhythm of the household, I’m sure, won’t be instantaneous. Having her back in the mix will be an adjustment for all of us – but I’m ready to get it started and finished. It feels like it’s about time to settle in and enjoy some time together that isn’t an ongoing low-grade medical crisis from day-to-day. Hopefully. 

Still better than the average Tuesday…

Anya had her first checkup with her regular vet this morning. It was about as successful a visit to the vet as one can reasonably expect from a cat. They caught her up on shots and gave her a once over. Aside from the eye, they didn’t find any areas of concern. She’ll go back in late May for her spay surgery. It was nice to talk to the vet about “normal cat stuff” instead of emergent situations needing immediate and decisive intervention. 

After that, it was a quick trip home to drop Anya off and reset a bit before running off to a couple of appointments of my own. There, we largely talked about things I already know since there were no appreciable changed to anything since the last time I was there. Checking in periodically seems to keep the sawbones at least reasonably satisfied. Plus, it’s nice to get an occasional confirmation that my innards are still plugging along in spite of what I’ve done to them. 

I knocked a few other things off the list while in transit. It wasn’t a particularly restful day off, but it was full of stuff that needed doing. Then again, even if the whole thing had been pissing away time on stuff that didn’t need doing, it would still have been time better spent than the average Tuesday in the office. And on that happy note, the week drives on.

A rare moment of perfect normality…

I got nothing. Seriously. It was as close to a standard day at the office as one could imagine. I answered some emails. I had a meeting. I ate a lukewarm Italian sausage from the local gut truck. I sent some more emails. And then it was time to come home.

Home, as you all know, is currently slightly more chaotic, given the medications schedule, trying to equalize what animals get to spend time in which rooms, and managing all the other basic household chores. Today, that routine offered nothing substantive to discuss. There’s only so many times I can reasonably subject you fine people to daily tales of the vaguely chaotic new normal that is this extended settling in period. 

Likewise, I know April is going to be filled to overflowing with gripes and complaints about the project I just love to hate and all the various ways it finds to try flopping off the rails. So just now, while things are busy enough, there’s not much more to say that I’ve already said. Not that this situation usually keeps me shut up for long. 

So, tonight is a breather – a mid-week chance to regroup – before launching into Thursday and whatever inevitably batshit crazy way this week decides to end.

The first thing to go…

With the arrival of two new members of the household, it’s been a busy two weeks. One thing I noticed across these last 14 days is that when shit gets busy or my stress level cranks up, my time on social media plummets. In fact, it seems like it was the first thing to go as my mindless doom scrolling of Twitter or TikTok shrank to almost nothing. The time spent trying to get a decent photograph of a bad eye in a poorly lit room also rose exponentially, so it’s something of a tradeoff. 

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, in fact it’s probably just the opposite. For all of its entertainment value, there’s no denying that social media is, by its nature and design, a complete time suck… and the fact that I’ve largely avoided it is something I really noticed as I sat down here on Friday evening to start putting the week behind me. 

I don’t necessarily miss the mindless scrolling, but I definitely miss having the unallocated free time with which to do so. In any case, if you’re one of those people who has sent me funny, funny memes or clips in the last few days, just know that I’m not avoiding you personally and I’ll eventually get back to those DMs and laugh along with you… probably. Unless I decide to just “delete unread” and start fresh. Could go either way.

Aging and other inconveniences…

This week, I’ve had an appointment with my dermatologist and two physical therapy sessions. Next week I’m back at PT for two more rounds. The week after that it’s an appointment with my primary care doc. Three weeks from now it’s a follow-up with the dermatologist. Then, four weeks from now, I’ll turn 44. 

I’m not saying all those things are in any way related, but I can’t help but feel like there is, perhaps, a vague connection between the never-ending parade of doctor’s appointments and the increasing number of times I’ve been around the sun. None of these appointments are for critical care issues. Just a bevy of regular appointments, follow-ups, and treating some minor issues.

My inner historian can’t help but note that our caveman ancestors right up through our dark age predecessors had a life expectancy of about 35 years. From the Tudor era right through the dawn of the industrial age, expectancy creeped up to almost 40 years. Over the last 200 years, expectancy has raced upward into the low to middle 70s. So yeah, we’ve managed to eliminate or at least mostly control many of the common causes of early death – ranging from accidents to disease – but we’re still walking around in meat suits that evolved over millennia with the expectation to get no more than 35-40 years of service.

From that perspective, it’s not hard to understand why there are occasionally bits and bobs that aren’t working quite right or how waking up in the morning so often reveals a new and unexpected pain somewhere. Sitting here looking at 44, I’m well past my warrantee date and from here on out will apparently need increasingly skilled mechanics to keep the whole thing cobbled together and running tolerably well.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be over here reading reviews on hyperbaric chambers and researching gene therapy.

I can vaguebook with the best of them…

It may not always be obvious, but I’ve spent a lot of time simplifying my life. With the exception of time spent working for wages, I do what I want, when I want to do it. I know my own mind and have things here ordered in just the way I like them. There’s very little now that catches me by surprise or off my guard. It is a remarkably peaceful way to get through life.

If you’re trying to fit into this little world of mine, though, there’s a singular catch: The amount of drama you bring can’t outweigh the overall level of improvement your presence brings to my life. Having spent two decades putting the bits and pieces in order, if your presence causes more stress than happiness, I don’t have time for it.

I’ve become something of an expert at excising the extraneous stress and drama from my life every bit as completely as the surgeon cutting out cancer. It is, to borrow a phrase, the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.

I’ll freely admit where I’ve been wrong. I’ll apologize for whatever shortcomings there may have been. I won’t, however, go about wearing eternal ashes and sackcloth. If that’s not sufficient, good luck on your journey and you go with my blessing.

Not bloody likely…

I think I’m suffering from annoyance fatigue. There are plenty of things this week that should have annoyed me to no end, but the most I’ve been able to muster is a shrugging dismissal. To quote a line from one of the great influential critiques of modernity, “It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.”

In a world increasingly determined to find new and interesting ways to agitate the living shit out of me, I find the number of things I feel compelled to dedicate any mental bandwidth to decreases every day. Where there used to be concern for global and national problems, my current span of concern regularly contracts to the point where it barely extends beyond the house, its residents, and whatever activities need done to meet our short- and longer-term goals.

Sure, that still leave plenty of space for being annoyed, but it’s as if somewhere in my head is a magical shrinking give-a-shit. At this rate, by mid-2035 maybe I’ll have reached some level of Zen consciousness where I truly don’t give a shit about anything and we can dispense with What Annoys Jeff this Week forever.  

That’s not bloody likely, of course, but it’s a happy dream.