Updated: May 4
My 14-year-old cat Luna has a nasty eye infection. Her left eye is oozing, and she can barely open it. The pupil has disappeared, and there is a noticeable cloudiness that is, no doubt, evidence of her loss of sight in that eye. I took her to my regular vet who gave me some drops that did not remedy the situation, and then sent me to an eye specialist for pets.
The eye specialist examined her and told me I needed to give her 2-3 drops a day of 3 different drops. That’s 6-9 eye drops a day for 14 days. It felt like an impossible task. I asked for gabapentin though, which would relax her and make the treatment much more manageable.
I love Luna – at least I say I do - but I don’t always treat her lovingly. I am afraid that is true for all the humans and other beings whom I profess to love.
When I first took Luna to the vet, I was decidedly cranky. I had the familiar feeling I always have taking one of my cats to the vet. Everything will be too hard – getting her in the crate, finding out it will be expensive, giving her whatever medicines are prescribed. I didn’t even consider how she might be suffering at this point.
There were several vet trips in two months, as Luna had two respiratory infections in addition to her eye infection. I gave her the medicine for her respiratory infection, which was an oral medication, but I wasn’t so diligent about her eye drops.
When things got really bad, I took her to an eye specialist. I realized I had to get serious about helping her when her eye was almost glued shut with pus. Then my heart started to crack open, seeing her as the old girl she is, feeling her suffering, and realizing that I may not get that much more time with her. I was able to start caring for her from a place in my heart. Everything else fell away. I cancelled several social engagements I was looking forward to, as well as a long-awaiting trip to see my cousins on the East Coast. It was just Luna and me.
Somewhere along the way, I stopped caring for Luna again and just started to treat her eye. She was all eye. I wanted to nab her to get to her eye to put in the drops. I wanted to pet her so I could get a good look at her eye. I stopped giving her much attention that wasn’t about giving her the medication. I could feel a shift from loving her as my beloved pet and companion, to a project. She became just an eye to treat.
I have a lot of practice distancing myself from my heart. Staying in my heart is a new practice. It is hard work. I want to live my life from my heart, but it is not easy.
I had an incredibly disturbing dream many years ago that clues me in to my difficulties. The dream took place at a school site, a common setting for my dreams, as I was a teacher for most of my adult life. My critical and controlling aunt from my childhood was in the dream, and I was cleaning up shit that wasn’t mine. I was there to teach students about how to saw cats in half. I sawed the first cat in half. I felt sick about it. But I just kept going. Sawing cat after cat. It was the task I had prepared, and even though I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing, I kept at it until the dream woke me up.
That habit of completing a task from a place in my head is clearly still with me. It’s not surprising there is an origin in my family, as many dreams help us see our patterns from childhood that helped us to survive, but no longer serve us. The dream showed me that while I still have a tendency to clean up shit that isn’t mine, seeing it might allow me to make a different choice. My dream teacher has told us many times, that “the seeing is the doing.”
And I can still feel the horror of sawing the cats in half – an action that is wholly against my heart. The dream is a clue that my head cannot be trusted. And, so often, it is still my head that determines my actions and runs the show.
The dismay of finding myself treating Luna like she’s just an infected eye, reminds me to make the journey from my head to my heart, once again.
There’s another uncomfortable way I see myself moving into my head. I take myself out of the tenderness in caring for Luna and imagine how well others will think of me when I tell them how I gave Luna all of her eye drops. The importance of my reputation was highlighted in another dream that I don’t quite remember, but I do remember feeling mortified to find out how much I operate from wanting to be highly regarded. I definitely learned to be a “good girl” in my family. To always be nice. To do the right thing. To not cause trouble. I even felt myself as a pious little girl. It’s hilarious to think of my 6-year-old-self walking around feeling so virtuous, but I can feel her still with me.
Being a good girl in my family meant I could stay safe. My mother always said I was so easy to care for. I never caused trouble. That wasn’t accidental. I worked hard to maintain that perception because being in trouble meant I might be the target of her abuse, which was almost exclusively directed at my brother. I wanted to avoid her violent and raging outbursts at all costs.
But there’s no life in being a good girl. There’s no heart in it. No risk in it. No possibility of making mistakes and learning something. No way to grow. And it takes me away from my heart. I can tell myself and others that I gave my cat 9 eye drops almost every day for 14 days, and perhaps feel a sense of satisfaction about that. But Luna and I have different business here. She doesn’t need me to be a good girl. She needs me to care for her. To feel my love for her. To be touched by me in a way that lets her know she’s important and loved. Not just treated for her eye.
It's a constant struggle for me to get from my head to my heart. To not jump to, "How am I doing? Is this the 'right' thing? Is this action going to reflect well on me?" I don’t like living in my head, and caring so much about what other people think of me. That is not the human I want to be.
I’m working on it. One eye drop at a time.