Thursday, November 10, 2011

Faith and the "New Normal"

If you pick up a newspaper, watch the news or work for pretty much any corporation in the United States, you are familiar with the term "New Normal".

It seems to mostly be associated with the economy; with the ways and means we are supposed to be getting the economic engine revving again so that people can go back to work and companies can see profits and stock prices rise. (Or, as it really seems to mean, so that companies can see profits and stock prices rise and then people can go back to work...).

Yet, no one -- not the politicians, not the heads of corporations, not most individuals -- seem to be able to define with the term really means.

What is NORMAL these days?

I believe most of us are just trying to find some stable ground again. Ground that feels solid for longer than a day or two. So we find ourselves sort of waiting it out...applying approaches from total denial to those that are difficult (right sizing; closing doors; leaving jobs/houses).

The New Normal is hard enough to define this on a macro-level -- figuring out the world at large. It is equally as difficult to define this on a micro-level -- figuring out what it means within our little lives.

Which brings me to Oscar, our 11-month old kitten.

We adopted Oscar and his sister, Kishka, last March on Hubby's birthday. The kittens were one of six that had been born in January.

After losing Kirby, Hubby's cat, very suddenly a year earlier, we finally had healed enough and decided to bring two more cats in to our house to join us, Lefty and Callie.

Hubby's son's girlfriend had a friend with a cat that had delivered a litter and after we saw pictures of the fuzz balls, we decided it was time to add to our brood.

Kishka, named after the famed Polish polka song, "Who Stole the Kishka", got her name because she too is "round and firm and fully packed". She is the smaller of the two, black and white and adorable.

Oscar is grey and fluffy. He is as outgoing and as social as they come. Loves people, loves to be in the thick of things. Loves me (follows me every where; sleeps near my head).

We have loved having them in the house and, although it took a bit of time, Lefty and Callie seem to be happy to have them with us too.

Last Saturday, we started our then "normal" day. Woke up, ate breakfast and started our day. I took some time to watch some t.v. and have some coffee and Oscar joined me on the couch.

When I got up to really get going in my day, Oscar stayed put. Slightly unusual, but nothing alarming. As the day went on, though he really didn't budge. Slightly alarming. I ran an errand and after I got home, Hubby was sitting on the couch next to Oscar.

"Has he moved since you got home?", I asked.

"Not that I noticed", replied Hubby. Now more alarming.

I noticed that Oscar's breathing was a bit labored. We decided that he must have eaten something that didn't agree with him and that he was merely sleeping it off.

We ran one more errand and when we got home on hour later, Oscar's breathing was much worse and we knew it was time to take him in to the Vet.

We've had lots of experience taking our cats in to the University of Minnesota Vet Hospital. Ungodly expensive, but the best care in the region, as far as I'm concerned.

Oscar went in about 8:00 pm and they immediately put him in oxygen and started to try to diagnose.

He wasn't stable enough for them to do much that night, but they did take an x-ay which indicated fluid around his heart, which meant either pneumonia or heart failure.

What? Heart failure? The cat is only 11-months old! How can his heart be old enough to fail? With two older cats in the family, I knew it was only a matter of time before their time would come, but OSCAR?

The news stupefied us.

We left Oscar at the U -- they started a course of diuretics to reduce the fluid and we hoped for the best.

On Sunday morning, the Vet called and said that his condition had improved dramatically (!). They were able to run a few more tests and when the called with the results, the news was bad.

Oscar has a congenital form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy == a condition which causes the heart ventricles to become thick, which weakens the heart, which can cause heart failure.

Heart failure in cats is not curable, and we are now looking at a dramatically shortened lifespan for this tiny, loving cat. The worst case scenario gives Oscar about 3 months. The best, not much more than that, but as the Vet says, "Cats like to prove us wrong". I'm keeping my paws crossed....

What we can do, is to lessen the likelihood of fluid buildup by giving Oscar two small dosages of Lasix (a diuretic) and we can make him happy and comfortable for as long as we can.

A routine we have to build in to our "new normal" of daily life and activities.

For now, Oscar is "normal". He is eating, drinking, playing, purring and still as cuddly as ever. You wouldn't guess that there is any thing wrong with him at all. (My 'normal' reaction to this is, naturally: the diagnosis was wrong; he is fine. Some might call this denial....).

But I'm going to hold on to this for as long as I can because I can.

Before his diagnosis, I envisioned how Hubby and my lives would continue to progress as time moved us forward.

We'd continue to work (in my fantasy, I would retain my job -- a situation that is still up in the air); we'd continue to travel, to golf, I'd still do tris until I started to really look bad in spandex -- eventually we'd retire and we'd spend half the year some where warm.

In all of the scenarios that I envisioned, Oscar and Kishka were there with us, growing older with us, sharing experiences and life with us.

Now, even my future fantasy scenarios are impacted by the "new normal".

I am not happy about this -- not one bit.

What I do need to try to lean on, though, is the same thing I've been trying to lean on through all the other adjustments I've been trying to make to try to embrace the macro-New Normal -- faith.

Not the "religious" type of faith....that isn't my thing. Rather faith in that universe knows what it's doing. That there is a reason for every thing and that some how, some way it will all be okay. The outcomes may not be (and in this case definitely won't be) what I want them to be, but that there is a rhyme and reason for all things.

This belief is so easy when times are easy. Not so much when times are tough.

But I'm trying my best to believe and trying to embrace the New Normal.


Sara White said...

What a beautiful tribute to Oscar and your love for him. I teared up reading this and thinking about my own Dakota who has blessed my life the past 2 1/2 years. What would I do without her.

I also appreciated your note on FAITH. You echoed my own thoughts.

Thanks for sharing!

Dori said...

I didn't realize Oscar has such a short time to live. I'm so sorry; I know what a shock that must be. When my cat Sammy was ill, I found out on Halloween that he had liver cancer. He was gone by Thanksgiving. Although he was 12 years old, I expected him to live to 18 or so and looked forward to bringing him to our new home in California. Instead, we had to bury him at his home in Minneapolis, under the tree he loved to climb.

Beth said...

Big hugs to you, Amy, during this tough time. I hope you get as many days as possible with Oscar and that your job situation works out.