One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

September 26, 2011

the cup that was burned in the potter’s oven

After the last few days of enduring other people’s opinions on prostitution, criminals in prison, poverty, mental illness and homelessness – not to mention the sheer volume of people of my acquaintance who STILL think it’s okay to call something “Retarded” – I came home and said to Ian, “one of these days I am actually going to pitch the fit that is always in my mind during these conversations.”

“Fuck you, I grew up on welfare.” “Y’know what? Fuck you, I grew up in what you are snidely calling the hood, and it’s just a neighbourhood, one I would happily live in again if I needed to and one that’s not well served by being stigmatized.” “Shut the fuck up about prisoners giving up their rights or deserving prison rape, my father’s in prison, asshole.” “My uncle was homeless for the last several years of his life – a situation that most certainly contributed to the shortness of it, so how about you shut the fuck up with your generalizations about their behaviour and drug use and while you’re at it, shut the fuck up about mental illness.”

I don’t generally pitch these fits because it always seems like the fact that I’m taking their dipshittedness personally doesn’t add much to the debate. And then often I don’t say anything at all because it doesn’t seem worth it to even try engaging in debate the kind of people who love being outraged at an already marginalized group. But then these people aren’t ‘debating’ – they’re just holding forth about their bigoted opinions and they may as well be confronted with the fact that their convenient stereotypes don’t match real human beings’ realities. And why shouldn’t I let them know that they’re losing my good opinion?

Yeah maybe next time I actually will.

So, last night I dreamed that I took my ex-husband to the vet and the vet said he had terminal cancer and insisted on putting him down right away. Then I came home to find Ian was gone because he had brain tumours and had gone for treatment. “But this one will be different,” I was told by someone official and faceless, “he’ll probably live.” But then he didn’t.

Then today we found out that my mum’s cat’s lumps in her chest were probable cancer that had metastasized maybe just in the last week. I accompanied her to the vet to say goodbye today and then cried like a baby the whole time. Probably the world’s most imperious and unusual cat, and only four years old, how goddamn fair is that?

At first, while I was crying, I was thinking about my cat that we put down last summer. And, in a fairly typical human way, I thought to myself, “I’m just not cut out for this,” as if I’m some special human who is uniquely not cut out to deal graciously with death.

And then I thought, “and this is why I never want another cat, ever.” Which I had already been telling myself ever since we had Thistle put down.

Part of that narrative was obviously that I was dealing with the grief by promising I’d never put myself through it again, but a bigger part of it was the moral complexities that accompanied the decision to have my cat put down. Because she didn’t have anything terminal, just a significant loss of quality of life. And we didn’t have the $1800 to restore it. But the whole time we were saying goodbye to my cat of fifteen years, I was also guilt-stricken thinking, “this isn’t the decision you would have made for yourself. Even if you couldn’t have treatment, you’d choose to live with an illness over not living at all.”

Everyone that’s listened to me say, “I don’t want another cat ever because I just can’t deal with being responsible for their life and death decisions” has nodded sagely and understandingly.

But today I thought about the cats in the SPCA that Ian and I had been looking at recently. And I realized how selfish and narrow-minded that thinking is. When you consider the volume of unwanted cats, to say, “I won’t get a cat because I can’t deal with eventually sentencing it to death by not being able to pay for vet treatment” is to sentence a cat to death now. And if you do have to be responsible for putting it down in a couple of years, then you have at least given it those years. And are you really going to say it’s not worth it because you’ll have to spend a couple of days crying and feeling guilty?

“Would you apply that logic to the people you allow in your life if someone in  your life died?” I asked myself. And then I thought of my dream from last night. If my ex-husband had died before our relationship did, I wouldn’t want myself to have decided never to get involved with Ian. Indeed, my worst fear (right up there with ruining Christmas) is having to deal with the death of someone in my family. But I’m not pushing them out of my life because of that.

So this is what I concluded, experience should expand you, not contract you. It’s fair to allow yourself time to grieve, but overall, when tragedies sensitize you to something, you need to respond by opening up to the world in the places where those tragedies are and maybe help fix them, not close yourself off from the entire cause.

It’s cheesy to quote something like The Prophet, because I do claim to be an atheist (though depending on my mood, some days I’m agnostic), but Gibran covered the idea of grief as expansive so nicely.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your
laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your
tears. And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your
being, the more joy you can contain.

The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

I can’t find the file, or I would close with that picture of Cissy from the evening she imperiously walked off the street into our vacant house that we were fixing up, and put herself in Ian’s lap as he sat trying to tile the Kitchen floor. A pretty perfect visual of her personality; those giant paws on his leg and her face a mask of queenly unconcern at the inconvenience she might be inflicting with her decision to transition from a stray to our charge. She was a great cat.

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