Life challenges us and we make choices about those challenges. There are some that believe that our challenges in our lives are predetermined by some Force of the Universe. There is a belief that our entire lives have been mapped out from start to finish. In some way, at some point prior to our birth and after our last passing, we played a part also in creating a roadmap of our lives. At that point we also contributed to the decision of who or what we would meet along our way as we traveled our life's journey. With the path predetermined, the choices we would have to make would be as an exercise of free will. With thousands upon thousands of permutations, our choices would allow us to learn whatever life lesson or lessons that were already prescribed in our challenges. I don't know if this true but big or small my choices, with respect to the people, other creatures and things I have met along the way, have propelled me forward in the understanding of who I am and where I might be headed.
On my path in 2003 was my "man" Gus. Gus is a cat. I met Gus one August morning on one of two screened-in porches attached to the house we lived in. I was "managing" a farm at the time (more about that later) and he had been born as part of a litter of six kittens that arrived early that morning or perhaps through the night before. His body was so tiny and his head so big that it took up most of his presence. I fell in love with him right then and there. I named him after my dad who lived in Brooklyn. Gus and I have been together ever since.
We, the farmers, were in the habit corralling feral female cats. After they delivered their litters and the kittens were sufficiently weaned (Gus being a part of one such delivery) we would take the mothers to receive veterinary care. Care that included spaying and any necessary vaccinations. Once they healed, we released the mothers back in to the wild. The mothers would repay us by periodically returning to the farm and help to balance out the field mouse population in the horse barn. We would adopt out the kittens to good homes and once, maybe twice, out of four litters we kept a kitten. Gus was one of them and he became my cat.
Now, a bit about why I was living on a farm in the first place. Briefly, I moved to the farm when I thought I was done with being a Nurse. It was a period in my life where my focus became distorted by the death of my mother. It was a time when I became unsure of my professional purpose and the direction in which I believed my career was headed. My mother was a Nurse almost all of her adult life. Her passing had me challenge that my adult life would reach that same conclusion. I chose farming because at the time it was as different and as available a walk as I could find. An experience at the time I thought was permanent but instead would be a transient stop. A detour that allowed me the deserved time to understand that I could learn and grow in other ways.
During that time I learned that I could do other meaningful service to life other than in healthcare and other than as a Nurse. I could care for; help make well; ease pain and comfort other living creatures even through to their end. It was hard physical work and in a way rewarding as a day well spent. In the end though, while I loved working with the animals and probably know more now about chickens than any woman should, I admit I was never really suited to be a farmer. I was, am and will always be a Nurse. Nursing is in my blood. I come from a short but distinguished line of Nurses and now through this test, there was no more denying it. While to this day I can't think of any more pleasant a smell than a horse barn first thing in the morning, except for maybe coffee or bacon, in 2005 I returned to my chosen profession and settled myself once again on my career path. My challenges and choices made had reassured me that I was confident and committed to Nursing once more.
In 2006 I chose to leave farm living completely and I moved to Cape Cod. I brought with me two dogs and three cats. One of those cats was Gus. The pets and I slowly acclimated to "urban" living. There were neighbors that I could see with ease and would often to say hello to now. There were cars, houses and other animals that lived and passed through our yard day and night. Gus, not so adaptable at first, found the top of the refrigerator as refuge in this new and strange land. In addition he located a storage space that was built into the wall behind the paneling in the basement as his second hiding spot. I had a treasured pet sitter who sat for my pets for two years before she actually saw "the cat that lived in the wall".
But there was more happening with Gus than "shyness" as I soon realized. With the stress of his new and unfamiliar surroundings, he began to have issues with urinating on the furniture; in cardboard boxes and on other pet's bedding as his favorite targets. He seemed to have developed the most curious upper respiratory issue where when he sneezed, only his right nostril would erupt like Vesuvius . His issues were so constant, my heart sank for him and for me as I could not keep up the challenge of protecting our living environment from this level of assault. Eventually, I had choices to make and some of them in my mind, though seemingly humane, were not very pleasant. So, I needed a bigger thinker. I needed help. I gathered my little pal up and we went our Vet for either some needed relief or next steps.
After a thorough check up, some trips back and forth to the office, some patience, counseling and consoling the verdict was in, Gus had flutd (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) and a benign nasal polyp. Both of these issues in cats are chronic, life long issues. Issues that needed special attention especially if surgical correction would not be pursued. Surgical correction, as described, I felt was not cost-effective; could do more harm than good and was without any guarantees of success. So, I chose to get Gus special food and limit his treats forever and pray for the best. He was not happy about the food or the treats, but when I explained that the only alternative would be an "early" departure to "Rainbow Bridge", he quickly assimilated to the new conditions and, magically, has never complained since. In addition he receives Prozac in a cream preparation applied to his ear to help with his anxiety. In short, he became a happy cat and I was his happy mom. We were thick as thieves once more and back on our joint journey.
Gus and I now live in New York City, the "big leagues" for urban living. Neighbors are next to, below and above us. We moved here in 2013 with him being the only pet survivor. For me, it was my choice to return to the place of my birth and to start a new an glorious coupled life. For Gus, as part of my journey, another new place with two new cats plus a new human for him to learn; get to know and love. It was a move with my geographical transition as a Nurse being a little more bumpy and his almost, but for a few territorial skirmishes, smooth as silk. Our adaptability reversed in a way that would only lead to more growth for us both.
Our challenges together as Nurse and cat with the choices I've made are now internalized for me as wisdom, a source of inner knowing now available for present and future use in like situations. Choices I can use with the predetermined challenges awaiting me on the path. I can exercise a flexibility that comes with the growing well of wisdom filled by the choices born of past challenges. When I am present and in tune, I can tap that inner source to inform today's choices about today's challenges. I can even take a moment to see that I may need to make a different choice all together. As a result, my exercise of free will propels me forward in my life to meet the next challenge and the next as I press on in my journey with my "man" Gus.
Until next time.