Sunday, July 29, 2007's it going?

This is a strange time in my life. Married, but living alone. Three hours away from family, but struggling to find visiting time. Happy to have my own place, but a little lonely.

I'm working hard to be mellow about it all, because otherwise it just terrifies me. The health insurance questions -- the joys of having a preexisting condition in America. The brink-of-broke budget. Everything from career to where we'll live next, in question. When I let it get to me, like I did today, I wind up on the couch, crippled with psychosomatic nausea that's dogged me since childhood. Today's trigger? The new addition to my family.

I've talked about getting a cat for awhile, and for the last few months I have carefully planned it out. Found an ideal kitty, acquired the necessary supplies, made sure I found an apartment I could be in for awhile. Marlowe came home today. If ever a cat deserves to be cranky, he does -- and he's not. A little vocal? Sure. Anxious? Definitely. But sweet, terribly sweet, and already looking like he might be able to call this place home.

He lived in the shelter for two years. A family adopted him six months ago, then dumped him the following week. He wasn't outgoing enough. Have I mentioned how long he lived in that shelter? Or the fact that he is partially blind? Or that he appears to have spent the first four years of his vision-impaired existence fighting it out on the streets?

So, why the nausea now? Because suddenly, it's not just my life I'm gambling with. I'm terrified I'll do something wrong: miscalculate the budget, screw up my job, hell - anything I can imagine - and it will be both of us out in the cold. I'm afraid that maybe I'm not going to be good enough for Marlowe. I work a lot. I'm not always around. I couldn't get a second cat, both for financial and logistical reasons (no more than one cat per apartment). We will be moving at least once, maybe two or three times, in the next five years. There are old cat smells on the carpet from a previous tenant. What if he starts marking in response, or if he cries all night, or if he's never happy because he can't go outside? What if I can't do it, and I become another person who dumps him again? What if I fail him?

See what I do to myself?

I can't shut it off. It's like some women-only sickness that afflicts everyone I know: you contemplate every possible outcome, every worst case scenario, just so you know how to react if it happens. You lie awake at three a.m. wondering what the hell you'd do if you had to move somewhere that the cat, or the tortoise, would have a hard time following. If you're like me, you get so frustrated by your own what-ifs that the mounting anxiety escalates the whole thing. All the little fears you harbor rise and swell like high tide: the loneliness you feel on a Friday night, the weariness after working 13 days straight, the financial and health-related worries, the constant reevaluation of your own decisions. Until you're on the couch, wishing you could just get sick and get it over with -- but you can't.

So, I'm doing the only other thing I know how to do. I'm coping. Accepting. The novel has to wait. The big career dreams need to pause, just for a little while; this imperfect but decent job is fine for the time. Right now, I miss my husband, and I don't really understand what this period in my life is supposed to accomplish. So, I don't think about it. I just live day-to-day, finding pleasure in little things: walks, cooking, Marlowe's fascination with the front window (and his already noticeable tendency to walk across my keyboard, rather than around it). Sometimes, I think that means I'm settling. Most of the time, I think it means I'm surviving. And you know? That's good enough for me, right now. Frankly, it feels like a big accomplishment.

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