When an Ageing Pet Goes

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My Jasper turned nineteen earlier this month. For today I have moved my laptop upstairs to the dining room, where I can sit down to write, and now and then look over to where he is asleep in his basket. How do I write an elegy for a cat who has been a part of my life since he was a kitten just a few weeks old, found at the harbour of the Cape Town Foreshore, a kink already formed in his tail from some injury that had befallen him in those early weeks? I remember his first ever visit to my local vet shortly after I bought him home. She offered to straighten the tail, having assured me that it was not impacting on his health or mobility in any way, and it would be mainly for aesthetic reasons. I kept the kink; he had no doubt been through enough trauma to last him a while; and he still has it to this day. He was my companion in the small cottage where we lived in Bergvliet for a year, just the two of us, before piling onto a plane to Johannesburg along with all of my belongings to continue our lives there. (He went by plane to be exact: myself and my belongings took the scenic route by train from Cape Town to Joburg.) He continued to thrive and strive towards living all his nine lives as fully as possible, through a number of changes of address here in Joburg and including three ‘sisters’: a second cat and a little dog, both of whom he outlived, and then a hen who arrived unexpectedly to take up home in our garden before we found a more suitable home for her, and surviving a number of self-imposed adventures and minor accidents involving periods of absence- sometimes for several days and nights on the trot. Being a parent to cats, especially very adventurous and spirited ones as he was in his youth, has its challenges. His final home, where he has been for the past few years, has been with me and my husband and our beautiful garden that has offered him (and us) plenty of room to move and play and explore, and learn about creatures not commonly found in ‘normal’ gardens, such as scorpions, black widow spiders, small snakes, bats, garden birds flying into our house on occasion, an owl that flies in to visit from time to time, and a buzzard that we sometimes see circling the area before it comes in to settle in one of our trees for hours at a time. Even as recently as March 2020, just as we were settling down to heavy Lockdown restrictions, we underestimated the prowess of the then eighteen year old Jasper. At that stage he was already weakened by more than a touch of Dementia, losing his bearings very easily and becoming disorientated even within his familiar space. Unexpectedly, he wandered out of the property at around 6 o’clock one morning, and despite all our efforts throughout the rest of the day, was nowhere to be found. So when we went off to bed that night, still Jasper-less, it was with very heavy hearts. But he made it safely back! Despite the limitations of his old age, he was able to get back on to the property somewhere around midnight that same day, and I was awakened by the sound of him calling outside the bedroom window, asking to be let in. I suspect he was as happy and relieved as we were at his successful return. But today is different. Over the past two or three days he has weakened dramatically, and has stopped eating and taken barely any water. He walks slowly and with some difficulty over short distances in the house, mainly from his basket to some sunny spot on the porch, and to his water bowl, where he seems to have ‘forgotten’ how to drink and sometimes dips his paw in the water and then licks it. I am trying to help him by feeding him drops from a syringe which I dip into his bowl when I see him struggling. And I made The Big Call earlier today: I have phoned our vet and we have an appointment this afternoon to have him euthanised. There is just never the perfect time for these things, and yet a time has to be made, a decision has to be made. He has been a huge part of my life for nineteen years, and no other being (other than my parents and siblings while I was growing up) has been in my life for that long. This post is not meant to cover all the things I have learnt from him and describe just how precious he has been. Anybody who lives with a beloved pet knows already that we learn from them and that they are precious. This post is really just a short record of my life with him, and of his with me, and a way for me to thank him for bringing so much love and companionship to my life over all the years that we spent together. I love him and will miss him dearly, and I have no way of knowing how life is going to feel without him in my world. Thank you Jasper, for sharing this life with me. You are one of a kind ♥xxxx♥

 

 

Revisiting your ‘normal’ while on a slippery (Covid) slope 

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In my garden: Pear Tree under Autumn skies

 

I am accustomed to working from home. What I’m not accustomed to is having someone at home with me, sitting at his desk just on the other side of the pillar while I sit at mine. It’s not really a big deal- while he’s busy on one of his conference calls, or speaking to a colleague on the phone, in go my earplugs and I continue as normal. So on a practical level things have not changed much- I still do pretty much the same stuff as I did before lockdown: cook food, clean house, garden garden, feed cat. And write.

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Is perfection sustainable?

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Perfectly Positioned. Courtesy of Pexels

 

My husband called me a perfectionist the other day. I was taken aback. I’ve never really placed myself in that bracket before, thinking instead that I am simply not good at prioritising, too easily convincing myself that there is something more important that I am avoiding, and that I am focusing on the wrong thing, the easier thing. I had been complaining to him about my own procrastination on things that I have good intentions of doing, and then finding that somehow they remain undone, or partly done and unfinished. This kind of constant second guessing about what to do and when, leads to time wasted as I pause in doubt of what I should be doing with my own adult 55 year old time. It feels strange sometimes that this adult who studied yoga and yogic thinking for years, who has taken comfort from and offered comfort in maxims like “Just go with the flow”, so easily slips into that insecure space where making a simple choice just feels so hard.

 

 

But he may have a point. my husband, that is. Perfectionism can be debilitating, especially when you believe you lack that boldness, that flourish, that ability that is required to tackle the job perfectly. The sad thing is that one then ends up feeling stifled, reluctant and even unable to move on and try, and instead finding it easier to stick with things easier or more familiar. Fearing a lack of certainty, a lack of perfection, one misses out on the chance to aim for the stars (and if you miss, you may just shoot the moon instead ;)) In constantly awaiting perfection, or waiting for that perfect moment to try something, one misses out on life. So yes, perfectionism can cause procrastination, and I have at times been frozen into inaction by my own reluctance to try something that may turn out less than perfect.

 

It takes me back to my days as a yoga instructor. From time to time I would have a brand new student say to me ahead of class “I can’t do a headstand or a shoulderstand yet, will I be OK in this class?” assuming that they may be at a disadvantage if they can’t manage these things in class. These things, bear in mind, are postures (asanas) that no yoga beginner should be expected to master, and in fact can cause serious injury if attempted too soon. Being prepared to embark on a journey toward self-mastery is part of the wisdom and beauty of yoga. True yoga (not the yoga that belongs in glossy magazines and inside sweaty gyms) requires patience, perseverance, self-compassion and the willingness to take the necessary steps towards a desired outcome.

 

It’s the same with any task: for instance, I have decided to refurbish the second hand, vintage wrought-iron table that I bought for my bedroom, and I have come up with 3 options:

  1. Do the research on doing a thorough renovation. This involves sanding down the metal to remove the old paint, and then priming, painting and finishing, using materials specifically intended for metalwork.
  2. Sand down the table a bit, leaving some old bits of paint visible, giving the table a deliberately distressed and aged appearance.
  3. Use some of the leftover paint that I used to paint a small cupboard in my bathroom to paint over the table, leaving some old bits of paint visible, giving the table a deliberately distressed and aged appearance.

You may agree that option 1. is for the perfectionist, whereas 2. and 3. is for the casual crafter with little time on her hands, and a budget to stick to.

 

My life as it is right now dictates that option 1. is just not on the immediate horizon and that if I want a pristine job done, the perfectionist in me will take it to the specialists who are paid to do such things. But then my budget tells me that paying more for the renovation than what I paid for the table in the first place does not make sense, so I have decided to go for option 2 or 3 instead. I’m still deciding. Either way, I can accept that sometimes perfection is just not on the cards and that good enough is good enough.