20 years

I’m too young for it to be 20 years since my dad died.

I’m sad.

I’m angry. At the cancer. At tobacco companies. At the hospital. At Dad.

I’m angry about how the new chair of my state Green Party is treating me, and I’m about ready to be done with it all together, but I care too much about the people in my local and resigning feels like abandoning them. And I don’t know whether my feelings like I’m not a very good chair and they’d be better off with someone else are a realistic assessment of the situation, or the depression, because it’s been really bad lately.

I’m not sure to what degree the two are related, but they’re happening at the same time, and it’s frustrating the hell outta me.

20 years and I’m still trying to squash my emotions and continue with business as usual, and when that fails I’m playing video games until my eyes bleed. And when I do want to focus on this ridiculous mess of emotions, I can’t help thinking about what certain people in the state party leadership have said to me, how they’re slandering Ron & me, how they’re disrespecting me and my local.

I need space for me but I’m struggling to create that space.

I’m tired. I’m sad. I’m angry.

I’m grateful for my mom stepping up as a single parent to raise me. She’s been there through thick and thin. She’s still supporting me and Fox. And she’s been working hard, learning a lot, coming to respect me more as a person and an adult. Whatever my relationship with my dad (and my mom) could have been, I kinda mourn it but it also doesn’t really matter (and I get the impression it would be worse).

My relationship with Mom, now, is what’s important. It’s something we’ve struggled with, something we’ve fought through, something we’ve cried and argued over, something I’ve dragged kicking and screaming out of the mud, something we’ve both worked our asses off for … and we’ve come out the better, closer, for it. And there’s still a lot of work and growth and that’ll probably be a lifetime effort … but it’s there and it’s REAL and it’s OURS.

Each year I’ve been counting how long it’s been, and I think it was last year that I realized I wasn’t really mourning missing wishing I still had him in my life … I’ve been celebrating. 20 years of survival. 20 years of LIFE. 20 years of me and my mom not killing each other, lol. 20 years of us CREATING our own relationship and our own lives.

In my last music therapy session Wakana got me to sing about all this. I sang/said that I had pulled myself together from the ashes, and when they say ‘rise from the ashes’ they don’t say how hard it is to pull each individual ash in and make something new from it. But it’s what I do, it’s my nature, even though it hurts and even though I’m tired. Whatever happens, I rise. I rise. I rise. I rise.

And it’s not just her it’s my wonderful family and friends. Fox & Banji were both here for me big time yesterday. My uncle & aunt (Mom’s brother & sister-in-law) came to visit while Mom was away; they took me to dinner and lunch the next day and we had some wonderful conversation. And over the holidays it was so wonderful to spend time with my family and friends.

I felt alive in a way I hadn’t since getting caught up in all this political bullshit.

I felt whole again.


Compassion / Pay It Forward

TW: mention of suicidal ideation

Ron had two really bad days in a row, and didn’t sleep in between. Ze told me ze was suicidal. On the first day I took time from my visit with Banji to have an extended phone conversation with Ron, anything to keep zir connected. On the second day I drove for five hours, successfully chaired a 90-minute meeting, reconnected with Fox after 5 days apart, then welcomed Ron into our home at 10:30pm. We decided to hang out in the back yard.

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Pretend that You’re Feeling a Little More Pain

On Friday I was awarded 5 out of 5 possible experience points (XP) for role-playing my (tabletop RPG) character exceptionally well. My secret: I genuinely felt the wide range of emotions she exhibited, from pride to concern to fear to sadness to disgust at the vengeance another player character (PC) took out on an adversary (non-player character / NPC). I was raw and in the moment, responding to what was going on around me with relative ease… while still thinking about how my character would react, what she would say, etc. It was … brilliant, really. I had a lot of other exceptional, long-time role players to, well, play off of. We just get into character and go, and a story weaves itself, and the next thing I know I’m both exhausted and elated having experienced and expressed just about every emotion possible for the past several hours and having accomplished something meaningful… albeit in our collective imagination.

Then Fox and I took the weekend as down-time, which for me meant playing The Sims 3. All weekend. I’m happy with how my game is going and I’m getting to explore aspects of the game that I haven’t already beaten to death, so it’s a mostly neutral-to-positive experience. Except that my body hates sitting at the computer all day and the sims do really stupid, frustrating things and I’m starved for meaningful interpersonal interaction. I know I could pick up the phone or leave my house or actually interact with Fox (not that we haven’t been interacting at all, it’s just been sporadic and not satisfying enough to counteract the effects of staring at a computer screen all day) … but I’m kind of having some issues with intimacy. I don’t want to talk about how I feel or what’s going on in our relationship or my goals and dreams. He gets so angry whenever anything related to his career goals or working comes up that I find it best to just avoid the topic and let him exist on my the couch consuming the internet nonstop. And he comments on so many things that I do – how I’m sitting, whether/what I’m eating, what I’m reading or (heaven forbid) laughing at online, how I’m responding to the sims – that I don’t feel comfortable expressing myself musically or decluttering or otherwise doing anything really noticeable (heaven forbid I should distract him from his videos). If I were to actually go out and do something, then I’d have to explain myself and he might want to come with me so I’d have to wait for him and so on… *sigh* It’s a mess. To make things even worse, I’ll be sexually aroused sometimes but grossed out by the thought of any sexual acts (e.g. “what goes where? eww!” and don’t even get me started on bodily fluids) so I just try not to get too expressive when we are affectionate. Between that and the pain I’m having in my bad tooth and jaw and sinuses and ear (possibly affecting my hearing) I just want to leave my body for a while… but if I could, I might never come back…

Anyways I was playing The Sims 3 yesterday and, out of nowhere, “Cry” by Faith Hill starts playing on repeat in my head. Here’s a link to the official music video on YouTube.

If I had just one tear running down your cheek
Maybe I could cope maybe I’d get some sleep
If I had just one moment at your expense
Maybe all my misery would be well spent

Could you cry a little
Lie just a little
Pretend that you’re feeling a little more pain
I gave now I ‘m wanting
Something in return
So cry just a little for me

If your love could be caged, honey I would hold the key
And conceal it underneath the pile of lies you handed me
And you’d hunt those lies
They’d be all you’d ever find
And that’d be all you’d have to know
For me to be fine

Yeah…. And you’d cry a little
Die just a little
and baby I would feel just a little less pain
I gave now I’m wanting
Something in return
So cry just a little for me

Give it up baby
I hear you’re doin’ fine
Nothins gonna save me
I can see it it your eyes
Some kind of heartache
Darlin give it a try
I dont want pity
I just want what is mine

quoted from AZLyrics.com

At the time I interpreted it to be my frustration at not being able to feel anything while I was playing The Sims 3. The game has a nice numbing effect and I tend to turn to it when I’m feeling miserable. I’m still not ready to cope with the death of Robin Williams and I miss my pet rat Trouble terribly and I’m questioning whether it’s wise to even try to finish my masters’ degree in part because I had to get an extension for my summer class and I still have an F on my transcript from the last time I did that and my finances are in shambles and I can’t keep my act together long enough to take a course never mind finding and keeping a job and I have to wait two weeks before I’ll even be prescribed Lamictal and I don’t know if it will work and the infection in my gum will probably spread to my brain by the time I can have a dentist look at it and I don’t even know what I need to do to plan for my wedding in less than two months that my aunt might not be able to make because of her boyfriend’s health issues and I just want to take a walk outside and enjoy the nice weather and maybe enjoy some of the nice “yay it’s autumn!” activities friends post about on Facebook but I can’t pull myself away from the computer and FOX DOESN’T SEEM TO CARE ABOUT ANY OF IT AT ALL!!! All he cares about are the games he’s playing and what he’s going to eat and maybe the occasional hug, when he wants one. Well, based on our interactions as of late.

It would be nice if he would show that he cared about something like “hey, it’s gorgeous out, let’s go for a walk” or “hey, let’s finally straighten up like we’ve been saying we need to for over a year now” or “you said the mum needs to be watered, would you like me to do that?” or even “I love you, let me massage your feet while reciting Klingon love poetry” … yeah, that’s not going to happen. Once upon a time he was actually romantic but now… Now I don’t really want him to be romantic. The sexiest thing he could do now is get the fuck off the computer and go out with his scores of 7 on the Burns depression checklist since he started taking Wellbutrin / bupropion and earn a steady income we could use to get out of credit card debt (that’s affecting my credit rating, not his) and feed ourselves.

I spent most of the day yesterday numbly playing The Sims 3 and directing Faith Hill’s scathing lyrics at myself instead of him, followed by a couple of hours literally roaring at him. I mean I looked at him and yelled “Roar!” and he yelled back (playfully) “Rawr!” and I got even angrier and yelled “Roar!” and eventually he started sounding angry when he replied, “Roar!” and it felt good to get the anger out but it didn’t do anything useful. And then I went to bed and poured my heart out in my paper journal and had weird dreams about floods and dancing and actually feeling the wind on my skin for once which was awesome. Today I woke cold and alone and in pain. He got angry at me as I was looking online to find him someone else to call because the person he’s supposed to contact about his internship is never in his office and doesn’t have office hours posted and doesn’t reply to emails. He yelled at me and didn’t thank me and didn’t apologize. And he’s content to know this post is “going well.” I can’t live like this.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m better at feeling the emotions of fictional characters than my own emotions because the latter are overwhelming and largely in response to factors I feel I have no control over. I’m angry at Fox for not seeming to care and not taking initiative. He apologized after reading this post and we talked a little, but we’re still having trouble connecting. It’s so tempting to just disappear.


I wish I could pull the wool from their eyes, even if only for a couple of seconds, so they could see each other and feel the love we all share. Because every so often it falls from mine and suddenly everything is so much clearer. I look around full of wonder and joy at all the colors and sounds and sensations of life, content to be a part of it all… And then the curtain falls again, and it’s all gone. I feel empty.

~ Ziya to Fox in the pool on Monday.

Take this. I’ve been carrying it for you for 16 years.

Insight by itself isn’t particularly useful. You need to actually do something with it in order to benefit. I’ve known for years that I never fully mourned my father’s death. That the knot in my shoulder probably has something to do with him. That I’m angry with him for hurting Mom and me, lying to us, and abandoning us. That I’m not going to recover from my depression until I forgive him.

But today was the first time I actively expressed those emotions to him. With Wakana’s support and guidance I propped up a stuffed animal to represent him and yelled and cried and stood with my hands on my hips and didn’t hold anything back. I wasn’t nice about it at all. I was brutally honest.

Something came out that took me by surprise. Something extremely familiar, yet completely unexpected: Disappointment. I’m disappointed in him. It seems absurd, what right does a daughter have to be disappointed in her father? Well, this daughter is all grown up. And yes, I’m disappointed in him.

When he married my mother, he made a promise. I’ve made that same promise to Fox, so I know how important it is and how difficult it can be to keep. But I’ve made a commitment to keeping that promise, to always working with Fox to keep that promise no matter what. My father broke his promise to my mother. I am very angry with him for that. I am very disappointed in him. These are my emotions that I feel, and I feel them toward him because of something he did.

When he helped to create me and took on the role of father, he made a promise. It might never have been spoken, but it was a set of expectations I had for him: that he would protect me, that he would live by the values he taught me, that he would be there when I needed him, that I could trust him. He broke his promise. He hurt me both physically and emotionally. He lied to me after teaching the importance of honesty. He was a hypocrite. He abandoned me. And he taught me to value and respect him more than I valued and respected my mother. For all her flaws, she deserves at least as much respect as him. He should have modeled that for me, but he did the opposite.

I am very, very disappointed in him.

Here’s the thing: I’d been directing that disappointment at myself. I’d taken on the guilt I imagine he would feel, were he alive to hear the things I said today. I took responsibility for his failings; I believed I was the one who’d committed the sin of betrayal; I thought I had to redeem myself and did everything I could to do so and felt crushing guilt when nothing I did was enough. Maybe it’s possible for a father to make it up to his daughter after disappointing her as my father disappointed me. Maybe. But for a daughter to make it up to herself? Impossible. Nothing I can do will make my disappointment in my father go away.

But now I am directing it at him. I am disappointed in him. I am giving him the responsibility I’ve been carrying for the things he did to hurt me. It’s his responsibility. He’s the owner of the guilt. He’s the one who, if he were alive, would have reason to feel like he has to do something to redeem himself. Not me.

I am the one in control, the one feeling the disappointment, the one with the ability to sentence or forgive. I am the Judge, the Warden, even. I was never on trial. He is.

I’ve expressed my anger, my rage, my disappointment, my hurt, my sorrow. I’ve yelled and cried. I’ve handed him the burden I’ve been carrying. It’s his burden, it was never mine; it belongs to him.

And under all of that, I love him. I’d been saying I wanted to punch him, but when I had the stuffed animal standing in for him I decided it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t need to become violent, to have that violence on my shoulders. I hugged him instead. I chose to express my love for him.

Now it is time to let go. To say goodbye. And to forgive.

Can I really just walk away from all of this?

Well, I have lots of people whom I love and who love me. I’m married. I’ve already lived 16 years without him, carrying a burden that was never mine. I’ve experienced success and I’m learning to tolerate failure, as much as I dislike it. I’ve been and will continue to develop my talents and skills. Some day I might even have meaningful employment. Children of my own. A legacy.

Yes, I can leave this burden in the sand. I can walk away from it. That is what I choose to do.

You disappointed me, Dad. You weren’t the father I needed you to be. But I know that you were human, and humans make mistakes. And I still love you, Dad. I’ll always love you. So I choose to forgive you. And I need to live my life. Goodbye.


My mother seems to have a special talent for draining all of my energy. She starts talking and I go from feeling alive and motivated to do something and in a relatively pleasant mood to, well … exhausted. overwhelmed. very, very angry. And then it’s harder to do anything.

Over the weekend, it was my aunt and uncle. I thought all three of them, plus my cousin, were draining my energy. Or rather that their 4-way shouting match was overwhelming me. It certainly didn’t help, but I’m pretty convinced my mother was the one actively draining my energy. If nothing else, she’s the one who insisted on talking about the topic that prompted the argument, even though the conversation wasn’t going very well.


Yesterday Fox and I were going about our business getting ready to visit with Banji, who had come back to her parents’ house for the weekend. Mom called to say she was bringing home some soup for me; that sounded delicious so I decided to wait for her so we could enjoy the soup before leaving. When will I learn that “free food from Mom” isn’t free?

She comes in my (part of the) house and starts talking about the wedding celebration we’re planning to have with both my and Fox’s large, noisy, chaotic, wonderful families. I grab a notebook and start making a list in hopes of having some semblance of organization, and so my head won’t explode. She’s concerned about / we need to:

  • find a hotel near the venue that offers complimentary breakfast for out-of-town guests
  • contact the venue about
    • coming to their next food tasting
    • viewing the room where our event will take place
      • including possible layouts
      • and measurements so we can hold our own rehearsal if necessary
    • asking when the buffet will be set up
  • decide what I’m wearing and acquire the necessary items
  • decide on a color and send swatches to members of the bridal party with guidelines
    • guys in black pants and dress shirts, vests of desired color
    • female-bodied individuals who are willing to wear a skirt in dresses of the desired color
  • coordinate transportation and hotel rooms for the bridal party
    • I should spend the night before the event with Banji, Fox with his best man
  • clearly communicate expectations/responsibilities to bridal party
  • contact our photographer
    • negotiate costs including meal, travel, and accommodations (if necessary)
    • what, specifically, we want to photograph
    • written contract
  • music for the procession, dinner, and dancing
    • be sure to include songs she likes
  • officiant

You have to understand, my mother does not give me organized lists. She does not create PowerPoint presentations to separate her ideas into manageable chunks of related information. She does not allow for a Q&A session at the end. She does not give a 15-minute break. She just starts talking, and I have to listen. I have to have answers. I have to follow her as she moves from one topic to another without warning and goes off on tangents. I have to do something to show her that some action will be taken to ease her anxiety about whatever it is.

I made the list to try and salvage my own (and Fox’s) sanity – and so I can show it to her the next time she tries to plan my entire wedding in one conversation. Maybe instead of talking about everything again, we can focus on and accomplish something.

The conversation was actually a lot shorter than I thought, but to look at Fox and me you’d think a small tornado had come through. He said he was very frustrated. He looked exhausted. I felt exhausted. Derailed. And pressured to do something right away, never mind that we’d been in the process of getting ready to go somewhere. Never mind that someone was waiting for us. Someone I care about deeply.

I searched online and found several hotels within 5 miles of the venue, five of which offer some kind of complimentary breakfast. I emailed a list to Mom and told her she’s welcome to contact them with her questions. Why she couldn’t do the search if she was so concerned is beyond me, but it’s done. I’ve thrown her a bone to chew on instead of my sanity.

She’s like a cat who’s been thrown into water clawing her way on top of a flotation device (me). Or a spider with a fly caught in her web. I’m her worry stone, and soon she’s going to wear a hole in me.

I love my mother. Really, I do. I have so much to be grateful to her for. And I truly believe that she loves and cares about me.


But I just have enough of my own shit to deal with without her draining all my energy. I’m already on a roller coaster; it’s intense enough without her making the drops taller and the turns sharper and the upside-down loops more nauseating. The last thing I need is for her to disable the safety bar that’s the only thing keeping me from flying off in some random direction, probably to my doom.

I need to feel safe and have some stability in my relationships. Is that so much to ask?

The Trouble with Feeding Demons

We brought our rat Trouble to the vet last night. It brought up the guilt and sadness I’ve been feeling since the last week or so of his cagemate Schmoozer’s life (Hole).

Trigger Warning

I’d been meaning to take Trouble for a “wellness visit” after Schmoozer died, but I was mourning and concerned about my credit card bills after paying for an “exotic” to be hospitalized and hiding in video games to escape my anxiety about my pending legal marriage ceremony. Trouble seemed to be doing okay for the most part, maybe a bit lonely but otherwise healthy, so I half convinced myself that a wellness visit was an unnecessary expense.

Until a few days ago. I heard that telltale chirping noise – in my experience, the first audible indication of respiratory doom – coming from his cage. When I went over to him I observed that his breathing seemed labored. I was worried and sad and maybe a bit guilty, but I wasn’t going to sit by and let him suffer untreated as Schmoozer had. With Fox’s support and assistance, I made him an appointment.

As we coaxed Trouble into the carrier, I couldn’t help thinking we were taking him somewhere to die. I got lost on the way to the vet; the resulting frustration was actually kind of helpful because it distracted me from my other emotions. We had to wait a long time as a result of being late; Trouble was relaxing in his carrier so Fox gave me his smart phone to play games on (I still have a stupid phone). It was so embarrassing and disorienting to be playing a game when the vet walked into the examination room where we’d been waiting! Trouble’s symptoms hadn’t seemed as bad, and I felt disconnected from the urgency of fighting rat illness.

Fox maintained that the symptoms have been concerning us, and the vet heard Trouble’s labored breathing for herself. We briefly discussed antibiotics, but quickly agreed that they didn’t seem to be working – or, at least, that they hadn’t worked for Schmoozer. I’d been so focused on Schmoozer, who had the worse symptoms, that it was hard for me to remember how Trouble’s symptoms had responded to antibiotics. I felt so guilty, now not only that Schmoozer had suffered so much in his short life, but that I hadn’t paid enough attention to Trouble to provide useful information about his condition now. (I also felt responsible for causing both their suffering by introducing them to my previous rat, who had carried the disease and made it clear from their first encounter that he didn’t want cage mates).

The vet recommended a pediatric nebulizer, which would deliver treatment directly to the affected areas and provide immediate symptom relief. It was something she’d brought up when I’d finally contacted her about Schmoozer’s condition, and essentially what they’d done for him (too late!) at the veterinary hospital where he eventually died.

I embraced the idea wholeheartedly – finally, an effective treatment I could administer as needed to give my beloved pet a longer, happier, healthier life! It was almost like getting a second chance – almost.

The fact that Schmoozer is dead – my wonderful, extremely friendly, sweet and trusting little friend DEAD! – weighs heavily on my mind. I wish I’d done this months ago, in time to give my beloved pet a longer, happier, healthier life. Because I have to admit, I loved Schmoozer more than I loved Trouble, and if I could pick one rat to have I would pick Schmoozer. I feel like Denethor telling Faramir he wished Faramir had died, and Boromir had lived.

I try so hard to see Trouble for himself, to love him as he deserves to be loved, and so on. But I see a cage housing one rat when it’s supposed to house two. When Trouble runs off to eat the treat I gave him, I see Schmoozer sitting on my leg to eat it. When Trouble gets into an area I’d rather he not, I see Schmoozer staying closer to the areas where it’s easy for me to interact with him. When Trouble does whatever it takes to grab the treat from my hand, I see Schmoozer willingly doing the trick I’ve asked of him. When Trouble curls up happily in his hammock, I feel horrible because Schmoozer isn’t there to curl up next to or on top of him.

I remember the little black and white fur ball clinging to my sweater as though he thought I could save him from his pain and suffering and fear. I hate that all I could offer him was death – albeit a quick and merciful one. And I wish I could have at least another year with him, loving him up every day. But he died because of my negligence … and, I’ll admit, because Fox didn’t do whatever it took to make sure Schmoozer got the treatment he needed, even if it meant confiscating my video games. I wish he’d been more proactive in that regard, and I’m angry that he wasn’t. But we rushed Schmoozer to the veterinary hospital together, and we mourned his death together, and we’re doing our best to care for Trouble together, and to get our lives back on track together. We miss Schmoozer together, there’s no point in being angry with him.

Just like there’s no point in beating myself up, I know. But it starts with “I wish I had …” and then the Critic Heckler Evil Sadistic Torturer takes over, telling me I’m the worst person ever to live and I don’t deserve anything that I have – especially not love – and that I deserve to die the worst and most painful death possible, scared and alone.

At best I beg for forgiveness, and at worst I want to enact the punishment he has sentenced me to … except that I can’t. Because I’m aware of the suffering that would inflict on the people I love, and I just can’t do that to them. So I’m trapped. I might feel better for a time, but he’s always there, waiting. And the moment I give him an opening he charges in and I’m completely at his mercy. There’s no escape, its my own bloody thoughts that are doing this to me!

I told Mom about taking Trouble to the vet. All I got from her was a lecture about how much money I’ve been spending on these rats, and they cost more than the dog but live a much shorter life, and maybe I shouldn’t have pets anymore.

You have to understand, I had a dog before I was even born! There was just a very short time when we didn’t have at least one pet, after we put the dog I’d grown up with (who was no longer eating) to sleep. It’s taking all my willpower to resist the temptation to “get cage mates for Trouble” because it wouldn’t be what’s best for any of the rats involved, or me. I’m mourning and feeling guilty and trying to take good care of the pet I have.

Telling me I shouldn’t have pets – while financially sound – is like telling me I shouldn’t have a family. Even with all the emotional issues I’m having, just spending a few moments interacting with Trouble can brighten my darkest of moods. She’s also trying to talk me into “cutting back” on my sessions with Wakana to save money (I shouldn’t have therapy). Mom’s words cut through me like a burning knife. I know it’s not her intention, but she’s feeding the worst part of my illness. And I don’t even know how to ask her to stop.


The friendlier of my & Fox’s two rats, Schmoozer, struggled with respiratory symptoms for much of the time we had him. Sneezes and coughs developed into chirping noises and what I would call asthma attacks, until eventually it was a constant, fully audible effort for him to breathe. We tried treating him with antibiotics and an immune booster, but it wasn’t enough. And in the last weeks of his life, I was too caught up in struggling with severe depression to take him to the vet. The compassionate voices (both in and outside my head) keep saying that if I had gotten him to the vet in a more timely manner, all she could have done is prolong his life and therefore his suffering; there is no treatment that would have cured his disease. It doesn’t help to dwell I what I should have done or even what I wish I’d done, what would have been better or worse.

The reality is that we rushed him to the animal hospital at 2am last Sunday morning, fighting fatigue, depression, and one of the worst anxiety attacks I’ve ever had. As we passed a very serious car accident I thanked God that we hadn’t been in it and prayed for the people involved and their families. My anxiety got much, much worse. It took all my concentration to stay focused on the road, pay attention to driving, keep my mind from torturing me with crushing guilt and paralyzing catastrophic thoughts. I kept having this internal dialogue: “What’s my goal?” “To get my rat to the vet.” “Is this thought helping to achieve that goal?” “No.” “Then let it go. What will help?” “Focus on driving.” “Then do that.”

They took him almost immediately and worked all day to try and stabilize him. An incubator with extra oxygen. Three different antibiotics. A nebulizer like a human would use to treat asthma. Steroids to try and open his airways. Nothing worked. He kept trying to hide, he wouldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep. All he could do was breathe.

They called us in time for us to visit with him. He perked up as soon as he saw us, and though the last thing he wanted was to be picked up he perched on my shoulder for a short time. We hugged and pet and talked to him; he got to taste a little bit of apple sauce. But it was clear that the most compassionate thing for us to do was to let our sweet furry companion go.

So it was with broken hearts that we agreed to euthanasia.

We brought the body home and spent Monday digging a hole in the back yard, so we could give our furry friend a proper burial. It was difficult physical labor, the perfect outlet for the anger that kept threatening to eat me alive in the form of guilt.


When we’d dug the hole as deep as we could get it, we had Schmoozer’s funeral. Simple reminiscence about what an awesome pet he was, some of our favorite memories of him, and wishes for him to be at peace. The ratty heaven we constructed for him sounds so wonderful, I wish I could visit. Plenty of treats, furry and large fur-less companions, lots of interesting places to explore and warm, soft places to sleep.

Then we placed him in the hole and piled the dirt we’d removed back in. I cried more freely – and loudly – than I ever have before. Fox was crying too. And as we stood there holding each other, looking at the large barren area where there had once been grass – and under which our beloved pet now lay – I began to hear a rustle in the trees. It grew louder, until every visible leaf was waving and a cool breeze flowed across our faces. When it had passed I said, “I think that was Schmoozer, promising to watch over us and make sure nobody steals our food. He’s at peace.”

The past week has not been easy. Most of my work with Wakana has revolved around freeing me from my overwhelming guilt. At our first meeting we talked about him; at our second we used a very large toning bowl that made the whole floor vibrate. Humming along with it helped me to feel whole in a way that I haven’t felt in so long … And after the last vibrations of its massive sound faded away, I started putting the things I’d loved about and learned from Schmoozer into it, each represented by a different colored scarf. Then Wakana asked if she could add something, and when I agreed she put in a white scarf, representing spirit. “For all these things to be integrated in you, and for him to be at peace.”

We’ve made some changes around the house over the past week. The first occurred Sunday night, as soon as we got home from the animal hospital: we moved our remaining rat, Trouble, from the big wooden cabinet-style cage we’d built into a smaller wire cage that had been their travel cage. According to the vet who tried to save Schmoozer, the wooden cage did not allow for enough air flow and that probably exacerbated the respiratory symptoms. The wire cage is a better size for a single rat and allows air to flow freely through 5 of its 6 sides – much better than the wooden cage, which only had ventilation on one side. Trouble has adapted the cage to his liking and seems quite content.

The second change has taken place over the course of the week and will be an ongoing process: Fox and I are both more committed to keeping our home clean. Schmoozer isn’t the only one who’s been suffering from the dust we’d allowed to build up; Fox and I have also been sneezing frequently and struggling to breathe through our noses. At times I worry that whatever is causing these symptoms may have moved to my lungs.

So on Monday we stocked up on cleaning supplies. I’ve already dusted a few times, with satisfying results. Yesterday we moved several items off the floor and into better homes; this made it possible for Fox to vacuum – and had the added benefit of making our home less cluttered. I’m determined to maintain this momentum toward a healthier home environment for myself, Fox, our current and future pet(s), and our someday children.

We’re also making more of an effort to spend plenty of quality time with Trouble, especially when he seems to be interested in socializing. Without a cage mate, we’re the only socialization he gets. In most situations it is better for rats to live in groups of at least 2 because they’re very social creatures who need to interact regularly with their own kind. But in this case the vet urged us not to acquire any additional rats until at least a few months after Trouble dies, to avoid spreading the disease. To be honest I think he’ll be happier living alone with plenty of attention from us, than if we tried to introduce new cage mates allowed new rats to invade his territory.

I’m quite sure, and the vet confirmed, that Schmoozer suffered from a disease common in rats called mycoplasma. According to the Rat Health Guide, practically all pet rats are born with the bacteria mycoplasma pulmonis, which can cause the chronic disease murine mycoplasmosis. (The bacteria are not harmful to humans.)

Murine mycoplasmosis may have been present in Schmoozer before we even adopted him, but the symptoms developed so gradually we had no way of knowing. There’s no way to eliminate the bacteria, but it is possible to prevent symptoms (and the secondary infections that often contribute to murine mycoplasmosis) by providing a stress-free environment with minimal dust, good ventilation, frequent removal of urine & feces, safe bedding, and early treatment. We just weren’t able to do that well enough for Schmoozer to live a long life, but we did our best and I think we succeeded at providing him a happy one. He certainly brought us a lot of joy, and for that we will always be grateful.

Rest well, little one.

Creating a Space for Me

I had every intention of getting to Banji’s parents’ house on time. I packed the night before, set an alarm, even got up in a reasonably timely fashion (largely due to Fox’s insistence), had breakfast, etc. But by the time I was out the door, it was almost the time I was supposed to arrive.

I pushed through feeling light headed and nauseous, overcame my guilt-driven urge to use my non-hands-free cell phone while driving, and got there in one piece. I moved quickly, expecting them to be ready to rush out the door, and prepared my apology.

But as I came in, I was greeted by smiles and open arms, as though I had just come home. There was no need for apology (they weren’t quite ready to go yet, either). We had a pleasant conversation, transferred my stuff to their car, and hit the road to Banji’s house.

Conversation was intermittent, especially later in the drive when I kept falling asleep as soon as the car started moving. But during the conversation, whenever I started to say something, Dad would turn down or even turn off the radio so I could be heard.

These little things – the warm greeting, them making an effort so I could be heard, never being rushed at rest stops – helped me to feel valued & respected. That means so much to me, especially when I find it hard to value and respect myself.