Sunday, October 19, 2008

Risks, Rewards and Expanding Worlds

It's been three months since I cat-napped Puss and drove with her from San Francisco to Altadena.

Puss, accustomed to life as an only cat in a small SF apartment, entered a brave new world with a dog and two other cats. The menagerie frightened her, and she showed her fear (and anger and confusion) with hisses and sharp claws. Betty, my shadow dog, felt the wrath whenever she was within eyesight.

Puss seemed content with her life in solitary confinement in the bathroom that straddles two upstairs bedrooms. She only cried out when it was time for her Fancy Feast fix.

After one week, I opened the door to the bathroom to give her access to her own bedroom suite. Puss liked having a room to call her own. She enjoyed my frequent visits but had no desire to join Betty and me in our bedroom. If I dragged her in, she would immediately scurry back to her safe place.

Betty, the biggest threat

Two weeks ago, I decided to expand her world again. I opened both bathroom doors (it's a Jack-and-Jill arrangement) so that Puss had access to our bedroom and the rest of the house. The result surprised me. It was as though Puss had become institutionalized. She was free to come and go as she pleased , but she had no desire to leave her suite. When I carried, her out, she couldn't wait to jump out of my arms and back to her own safe, dog-free space.

Yesterday, Puss decided to take a risk. She ventured out of her safe haven.

Puss decides to cross the line, but pauses to think it over.

"This may not be such a good idea after all."

The reward, basking in sunshine on mom's lap, was worth the risk.

"Can I watch the Aristocats one more time?"

Now Puss (or Sour Puss, as I like to call her) is free to roam about the entire house. She's exploring every nook and cranny from the basement to the bedroom, where she now sleeps by my pillow. She still hisses at the other animals, but, if cats could talk, I think she'd say the rewards of freedom and extra attention far outweigh the risks and fears. (Or maybe she'd just say, "Back off, Milk Bone breath.")

For the first seven months after I completed my auto stem cell transplant, I became a fearless, pole dancing risk taker. When you ask yourself, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" and the answer is not "death," fear of new challenges starts to evaporate.

With two recent events, the sickness that laid me out for nearly three months and the economic crisis, I've become a little risk adverse. It was even tempting to fall into a pathetic "I think I'll just stay home. People might be mean to me if I go out" thinking at times.

I think my risk pendulum swung a little too far in one direction and then, just as quickly, veered off into the other direction. Now, like Puss and our economy, I just have to find the right balance.

(Check out the latest at Open Mouth, Insert Fork, Sunday Italian Brunch, the Lazy Woman's Way)


Ann said...

I know you'll find that balance. :)

About Margaret Finnegan said...

You may not realize this, but I am a crazy pet person, so this really spoke to me. I love the story about Puss, and I love the metaphor you create with it. It bring to mind something my meditation group leader was saying yesterday. It was something like finding equilibrium doesn't mean fixing yourself in one place between two extremes; it means being able to slide between the whole spectrum without having to cling to your preference. Does that make any sense?

Susan C said...

"Does that make any sense?"

Hmmmm. . . I'm not sure what that means or how to get there, but I'd love to learn.

altadenahiker said...

I love a good apalogue. There is no worse feeling than dread. Better to choose how and when to face the fear than have it grab you from behind as you run.

Russ said...

Love the blog. I just started Hyper CVAD treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma--I'll be certain to check in from time to time!


Susan C said...

I just checked out your blog, Russ. Sounds like you're doing well, both physically and emotionally, with the Hyper CVAD.

Ronni Gordon said...

I wrote a comment before but it didn't seem to take. Hmmmm. Anyway, loved the writing, the metaphor and the photos. Lots of "food for thought" there. After my first transplant failed in April, I told myself, "I'm never going to go anywhere again without a mask." Obviously, as time passes I will need to take some risks. Sounds like you're doing lots of cool things!

Susan C said...

I've been thinking more about Margaret's and everyone else's comments and have concluded that, just like there's a season for everything, there's a time for risk and a time for not taking risk.