You Live, You Learn

Now you can all have that Alanis Morissette song stuck in your head too. You're welcome. 

Earlier this year when I was interviewing for my current job, one of the questions I was asked was something about a life lesson I had learned recently (I don't remember the exact wording). I responded by saying that I had been working on owning my choices--both good and bad. I (like many people) have a tendency to backpedal on mistakes I've made, by blaming the circumstances or other people. Another common reaction to mistakes is to spend hours, days, or weeks berating yourself for being a 'bad' or 'stupid' person. I don't think that's healthy either. Another part of why I answered that way was was that one problem I had in my last job was a work environment that often made me question or defend my decisions. That was often stressful, but it also taught me to clearly articulate why I had made certain choices, both to myself and to others. Sometimes I was wrong, and I quickly learned that admitting my mistake to myself and others, without drama, and moving on made the learning process so much faster. I have many things about myself that I want to change and that I know are unhealthy, but one good way that I've changed from the past is that I feel I've developed a much better ability to accept mistakes I've made, find lessons in them that help me change for the future, and move on without feeling like I'm 'bad', 'stupid', or 'incompetent'. 

Take this week's adventures with my cat, Tiger. Earlier this week S-Boogie brought me the cat and said that she was worried about her because she was meowing in a funny way and didn't seem to be feeling well. I had also noticed this behavior and noted that the cat food was not disappearing as fast as it used to (with two cats it's sometimes hard to tell how much each one is eating). Honestly, I didn't want to deal with a sick cat and so I tried a classically ineffectual problem-solving method: ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Wednesday morning I was doing some cleaning and realized that there were quite a few puddles of kitty puke on the floor in the family room, and the cat was even more sad-looking than usual. Again, I chose to do nothing. I didn't have a regular vet and Wednesday was a holiday, so not taking the cat to the vet was easier than doing something. Thursday morning I didn't see Tiger around when I left for work, but instead of finding her and checking on her condition I was running late and decided to just leave. Then Thursday evening I had book club and chose to go to that before checking on the cat. 

I got home from my book club at about 10 o'clock on a Thursday night. Before going to bed I decided to look around for Tiger since I had not seen her much that day. She was huddled behind the couch and felt hot and shaky. She didn't seem to have eaten or used the bathroom at all that day. I briefly thought about leaving her until morning, but felt guilty doing that. I got on the internet and found an urgent care vet clinic nearby that operates after hours. When I took her in they discovered that her heart rate was elevated and she had a fever. The vet felt her abdomen and didn't think she had a blockage--although I was beginning to suspect that was the case based on her history of eating things she shouldn't.The clinic did some blood tests and decided to keep her overnight with an IV that had fluids and antibiotics. Her liver functions were all out of whack, which can indicate some serious issues--but when I got home and did a little internet research I found that cats that are unable to eat will quickly develop liver problems.

I didn't get to bed until nearly 1 o'clock this morning and then I had to go back and pick up the cat at urgent care by 7 o'clock since they are only an after-hours service. She was a lot perkier after having received fluids, but still not feeling all the way better and not interested in eating. When I got home with her I called a vet clinic near my house and got an appointment for later in the morning. At that point I made the decision to take a sick day from work, because I was tired and because I was not sure how the rest of the day would play out. This morning I had a few hours before Tiger's appointment and the kids weren't here, so it turned out to mostly be a pretty relaxing day. I used that time to get some things done around the house and online and to finish reading a book. Then I took Tiger to the vet, they looked at her lab results from the other clinic, and were just as mystified by the fact that her belly felt soft and her labs were kind of weird. The vet was really nice and listened to my hunch that the cat had possibly eaten something, and so agreed that an x-ray was probably a good idea. About fifteen minutes later she came back in the smiling, "yes, there's something in there all right". She couldn't tell what it was, but the minute I saw the x-ray I recognized the outline of two rubber suction cups from the foam darts that came with a gun Little Dude got for his birthday. I was not surprised--that cat has a weird obsession with soft foam objects. I left Tiger behind at the clinic feeling much happier that the mystery was solved, and felt even better that it was not some long, difficult illness we had to deal with. She should recover from surgery quickly and be back to normal soon.

So, what did I learn? First of all, I have worried about the cat eating things ever since I got her last year. However, I have often chosen to be optimistic and assume that things will pass, rather than being more vigilant in keeping things cleaned up and away from her. I also hated the foam dart gun for many reasons and should have just confiscated it much sooner--especially since the cat chewed up many of the darts shortly after Little Dude got it. I was not surprised by this problem and I probably should have been more proactive in preventing it. Second, I learned that ignoring a problem may mean that it will get worse. And it's better to decide to do something about it sooner rather than later, especially if later means after-hours medical care that costs a lot of money and missing a full day of work (I probably could have taken the cat into the regular vet clinic yesterday morning and gotten the same result, without the extra visit to urgent care and the resultant lost sleep and such. Or maybe the cat could have waited one more night until this morning. Who knows?). 

Third, and finally, I've also learned that you just have to own your choice and let it go. I knew that getting pets meant taking a chance that they might need some expensive medical care down the road. I gambled on not having to do that and lost. But when I took on the cats, I took on responsibility for them. Today I had the choice to pay for surgery for the cat or let her die--there weren't other options. Choosing to spend my money on surgery for a cat was actually a decision I made last year when I adopted them. I do have a savings account and so I don't have to go into debt, but it sure would have been nice to spend that money on something else. We won't be going on vacation for Fall Break this year like I had planned (I had been thinking of canceling that trip already for other reasons). Oh well--we don't always get to do what we want and we can't have everything all the time in life. I'm not going to spend the next few years getting mad at myself for letting the cat eat something, or for taking her to after-hours care, or for spending the money on surgery. There wouldn't be much point. Like a lot of other decisions in life you just have to do the best you can with the knowledge you have at the moment. Sometimes you just make mistakes and bad decisions, but the best way to not make them again is to admit that you made a bad choice and then move on. I may actually look into get pet health insurance though--I used to think it was kind of stupid, but this cat is only a year old and this may happen again.


The Weed said…
I love this. I have a really hard accepting my choices and moving on (probably we all do?) I have been trying to really examine my motivations lately, and have discovered that I do a lot of things out of a desire to validate my worth (or, conversely, invalidate/excuse things that make me feel shame). To counteract this, I've been trying to really accept that my worth is static, and choices are just choices--bad ones don't invalidate my worth, and good ones don't augment it. So this post really resonates with me.

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