Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Purr of Energy

Feeling too busy for a dog, and really preferring cats anyways, we found our four month old kitten at a local animal shelter. With a little difficulty agreeing on a name she ended up with two names: MaryMilo.

She has proven herself naughty by constantly exploring places she's not supposed to be.

One day I had spent the entire afternoon repairing my baby blanket that she had shredded and stood up from my sewing machine to find that she had spilled paint all over our shoes and floor.

The lid to the paint can was warped and she had knocked it over. I panicked, picked up the paint can, and brought it, dripping, to the garbage. 

We kept her away from the paint for three days before it dried enough for us to peel it off of the floor.

Yet, MaryMilo's naughtiness isn't entirely a bad thing. It provides something to talk about. I can remember several nights in college where I would be hanging out with a friend or two, and none of us would have the energy to create energy for the group. It reminds me of an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Raymond and Deborah go out for dinner and can't find anything to talk about. Deborah gets upset and says that they've become "one of those couples."

When we first brought MaryMilo home we were in the middle of a overwhelming semester in Owen's PhD program. We had spend the preceding weeks drained of energy and it was getting to a point where neither of us could gather enough energy to cheer the other.  MaryMilo brought a spark of life into the house and provided us with the comedic relief we needed. One evening when we were both frustrated and low energy, MaryMilo bolted down the stairs jumped on the round chair and knocked it over causing both of us to laugh. Had she not been there, we may not have laughed together that night. 

Whether we're chasing her away from the countertops, throwing paintbrushes for her to fetch, or cuddling with her on the couch, MaryMilo's extreme kitten-energy is contagious and helps give us the energy we need to encourage each other through stressful times. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Open Your Eyes. Open Your Heart.

I quit my job! (Sort of) I still work for the Arc, but starting Thursday I will be considered indefinitely unavailable to take on any shifts. So, as if I were quitting entirely, I gave my two weeks notice so that they could start finding replacements. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the Arc, we provide respite services for families who have children with disabilities and household services to older adults with disabilities. I love the people, but the unwieldy schedule and constant driving between homes are an absolute headache.

The last two weeks have yielded a range of emotions. First I was sad to leave. Besides Owen, the only people I see on a regular basis are those I work with, and we have been through a lot together. I work in their homes helping them to prepare food, shower, care for wounds, and any other random task they ask me to do. I have helped them apply icy-hot to sore muscles, clipped their toenails, laughed with them, and found quiet routines in their presence. As I leave to take my own respite, I fear that the isolation may overwhelm me.

Once I had submitted my change of schedule I mentally checked out. Unengaged in what I was doing, I went through the motions daydreaming of my break to come. For the first time in a year of working with the Arc, I forgot to go to an assigned shift. My old-man-client-buddy didn't get his dinner that night, and I felt awful. I emailed him a note that I was sorry, and he responded, "It's okay. I had pop-tarts for dinner! HAHAHA!"

In the final days I find myself soaking in every minute. Though I ceased to notice it for the past several months, my job constantly offers new experiences. Within a three day period I faced new challenges, found more efficient solutions to previous problems, met new people, and talked about new subjects with the regulars. Suddenly my job had a new rush of meaning.

Why does it take an end to remind us of the novelty of the beginning?

Primed for new experiences, Owen and I decided to try out a new local bar this weekend.  We decided to talk to each other as if we were on a first date. I found that I listened better than usual. Owen talked about his childhood and family, and though I usually think that I've heard it all before, I actually noticed new details in what he said. I felt energized to share interesting stories about my family that I hadn't shared in a long time, like how my aunt used to live in a green school-bus on the Mesa in New Mexico. We didn't get bogged down in our current life issues, like often happens when we talk to each other.

Simply paying closer attention to the people around you, especially the day-to-day people, can make an average day feel like a day of new experiences and bring fresh interest in the people you see on a regular basis. In the first few weeks of working with the Arc, one of my clients shared a poem he had written with me. His words are simple, but they reflect with great depth his experience as a person with disabilities who's opinions and feelings are too often overlooked, even by those who are closest to him.
He says, "Open your eyes. Open your heart."