A quick glance back at the past year reveals two huge things standing out, and they happened at the same time. The super-awesome: Beth was able to quit working for other people, to work full time (okay, full time plus) at her store, Beth Wodandis Designs nee Fiberwytch. This was a big fucking deal. Working even part time at someone else’s job was a nightmare. While, yes, she could do it, it wasn’t without huge sacrifices on her part. Without a car, getting there on public transportation was an ordeal, and the commute took up most of her spoons. Once she was there, she was more or less okay-ish (providing that you have a low baseline for what constitutes ‘okay’) but the two and from was very taxing, and the sorts of medication she had to take to be functional was starting to seriously and negatively impact her ability to do that safely. By the end there, I was terrified every time she left the house that I’d get a call about her being hit by a car or worse – that’s how brain-fogged she was most of the time.
Beth’s been an inspiration, and a reminder to myself that the way our world is set up is broken for so many reasons. The broken-ness closest to home is how we’re encouraged to allow ourselves to be chewed up, used up, depleted, and shattered upon the expectations of our society to serve it. We’re supposed to work a full time job, for a pittance, and be okay with that. We’re supposed to be satisfied – no, grateful for – the chance to get paid less than a living wage, have crappy healthcare that many of us can’t afford, or can’t afford to use, to work ourselves into exhaustion, to ignore depression and anxiety and crushing hopelessness, just because. We’re supposed to be able to support our families, and when we can’t, we’re blamed for needing assistance, but we’re not provided with education or access to things like birth control without being made to feel badly for that – at best. The idea that we can get ahead if we just work harder is not always true, the deck is stacked, and I say that as a white woman, and yeah, I own the fact while the deck is stacked, it’s stacked mostly in my favor.
I’ve seen Beth struggle with her invisible illnesses, and I’ve seen her prioritize her health above other people’s expectations of her, and it’s been a great reminder that in our lives we need to be selfish when we can, we need to put ourselves first. We need to think of life, at times, as a depressurized cabin, and put those fucking oxygen masks on ourselves before we can help anyone else.
So, she was able to transition to working only on her store, and that was a huge, huge milestone!
We celebrated by learning that our cat Grim Greyling was dying of cancer – and dying quickly. Our vet was out to confirm his illness on Beth’s last day at work at her outside job. The upside to that is, she was able to spend the last few weeks of his life with him, and she was able to be home during his transition from physical cat to spirit cat. Which brings me to the second part of this experience for us – being present for Grim’s transition, for it was very much a transition. We’ve both written about his passing before ; what we don’t write about a whole lot, is how much his transition impacted the whole Nunnery. He slipped out of his body easily, without really looking back. It was broken, it was done, it no longer served him, but he is by no means done with us.
I’ve experienced spirits before. Hell, my life is about experiencing spirits of one sort or another. I interact with Powers on a daily basis, and I have a pretty decent ‘antenna’, for lack of a better term. I rarely experience spirits on a visual level. I’m simply not a visual person when it comes to that – it’s one part fear of suddenly seeing unexpected things (which is behind my alien fear) (no, seriously) and one part I have crap poor eyesight and it’s just not my most immediate way to interact with the Powers.
Grim doesn’t care. Sassy didn’t, either, nor did Angel, but I’ve seen Grim more times since his transition, out of the corner of my eye, super-imposed over his brother, or creating a shadow where there is no shadow, than I can count. It’s not daily, but it’s still at least weekly. Furthermore, his presence is strong. For months after his transition, it was difficult to feel either Odin or Poseidon as much as we were used to, because it was all Grim. They could have amped up Their signal, I suppose, but it was important for us to get used to Grim as he now is, and it was important for Grim to get used to how he now is.
Grief has completely changed Zerk’s demeanor. He’s adjusted to the new normal of happy that isn’t as happy, and he no longer purrs as loud as he used to, not even when I’m touching him, and that breaks my heart. He keens at night, sometimes, and he’s still clingy, even though he’s not as clingy as he was. Neech has moments, but Neech has always been our witch cat, and so he also has moments when he’s obviously hanging out with Grim, too. (We let the boys in after, to spend time with Grim’s body before it was taken away for cremation. Neech stepped past it like it was nothing, to check out the spot on the bed Beth and I both felt Grim move to.) It’s been awful and sweet and heartbreaking and wonderful, and if it had to happen, then this is the best possible outcome. I’m not sure if he’s hanging around to be with his dad (Ilovemydadmydadisgreat!) or to be around Beth. I’m pretty sure that his dad won’t be leaving me any time soon, so either way, I think Grim’s here for the long haul. (And, too, Beth and Zerk have a sweet relationship now, bonding over their shared grief for Grim’s passing). But, we don’t speak of him having died, not out loud. We speak of his transition, for it truly was a transition. We are still a four- cat household, we feel it keenly, and I’m always a bit surprised when we only have to do things like feed three, or flea treat three, etc.
These two things have more or less dominated our year. It’s been extremely hard to grieve Grim’s passing when he’s right here – both because he’s obviously right here and also because our becoming upset about his having died confuses him and upsets him, and so we do it privately. Because he is a cat, despite whatever else he is now, we don’t actually have a lot of privacy in our household. This, I think, makes the grieving process take a bit longer – but it’s also challenged us in our perception of loss and what death means in a way that this has not been challenged before, and so that’s been interesting.
So, we reach 2016 with one fewer incarnate animal companion, though it’s not the one we went into 2015 expecting to lose. (Master Corbington continues to fail at heart failure, and we couldn’t be more pleased about that!) Beth’s store continues to grow, and my modest writing career is also growing steadily, if slowly. I released a novella, wrote a book, and started two other novellas. My leg pain has gotten under control. I wish that there’d been travel, both for myself and for Beth’s daughter out to see us, but chronically ill and terminally ill animals are expensive, and all in all, I think we did okay.
Poseidon has pushed me more and more outside of the Hellenic cultures to study, learn, and grow, and that’s cool. Don’t mind my grumbling as I go.
But mostly, mostly 2015 has been about adjustment, and the redefinition of boundaries between life and death, and reaffirming how important our connection with the spirits is.