It’s time for the September 9 Groundhog Day Resolutions Report, covering the period of August 9 to September 9! My cat passed away three weeks ago. This has added to the deep sense of depression I’ve been feeling, but I have gathered a few observations and insights to keep myself oriented in a positive direction.
Last Month’s Review
First let me recap the insights + working hypotheses from last month:
- INSIGHT: Conceptual Modeling is at the core of all my interests, not productivity tools or even creating kits and seeds; they are the by-products of my modeling process.
- HYPOTHESIS: My working memory limit is at most two chunks at a time. This is quite a limitation, since one chunk is used to be “conscious”. That leaves just one elective chunk available for project-related activities. My approach to productivity has to take this limit into account.
- HYPOTHESIS: What happened to my long-standing desire to be part of a great creative team making cool stuff together? I haven’t thought of it for ten years; in 2021 do I still have need for it?
Also, I decided to assign a new “singular focus”: health & exercise. This is going to be much harder than the previous focus of “getting better at software development”, because there is no external motivator in place. Before, I had someone to talk to about the project. Who do I talk to about health and exercise?
A Terrible August
I had started the month feeling pretty good, but my remaining cat Katai (aka “Kat”) unexpected fell very ill. He couldn’t stand up anymore, and his regular vet was completely booked. I took him to an emergency animal clinic that they recommended. With organs failing, I elected not to put him through surgery. I stroked his head as he lay exhausted on a little cushion, and he slowly went to sleep. I stayed by his side for a long while, continuing to stroke his head, until I felt I had seen him off to kitty dreamland the best I could…
He was a 19 year-old cat on several medications, so I had been somewhat prepared for this. The past four years have been demanding with his insulin needs and inability to use the litter box, but that wasn’t his fault. He was at heart a good kitty…
I am still not over it. However, now that a month has passed, I have made some observations:
While Kat had been kind of annoying while I worked, he kept me from dissociating completely from the world through his demands for snuggles and food. He was so good natured about it, and was really a good sport about the “extreme snuggles” to which he was subjected.
Those daily cat interactions helped keep me balanced. We weren’t inseparable companions, but I am aware how much more alone I am. Kat was a conduit to the outside world, as I regularly would go to the local vet for his prescription food and see their lobby bird, and sometimes talk to the staff about macarons. They all knew my voice and Kat. And of course having a cat always gives you something to talk about with other cat people.
I was always on guard against catastrophe that might result from lighting candles or making something accessible for his snout or paws to ruin. The kitchen was covered with obstacles to keep him from reaching the kitchen sink, where he would rummage for scraps of garbage and then barf up on the floor. It feels remarkably carefree to eat a pizza sitting on the floor, or put a coffee on my desk and not see someone’s snout or litter-encrusted paws probing it.
My living space is becoming more usable, and I am now free to travel for extended periods of time. Too bad there is still a global pandemic preventing me from doing so, but maybe the important thing is that I feel free to do so.
I still love all cats, and still making cooing noises at pictures of them. I have thought of “loving cats” is one of the three non-negotiable personal truths that are at the heart of my identity, but I had wondered if it would change when both my cats had moved on. NOPE. (the other two inexplicables are the joy of seeing a genuine spark of empowerment in someone, and my deep sense of gender)
Insights aside, this is becoming a month of necessary self-care. I am still really depressed about the loss of my cat. It comes and goes depending on what I happen to notice out of the corner of my eye. My sense of joy I is slipping away, and this is compounded by a new pattern of recalling past failures and having dreams about what might have happened. There’s a lot more going on, and it feels hopeless to even imagine anything positive. The coping mechanism I seem to be using is binging k-dramas and isekai anime, getting a few hours of work in, then playing video games until I pass out. While these seem like enjoyable pastimes, they are really a way to keep my brain passively engaged so depression doesn’t knock me completely on my ass. As a precaution, I’ve increased the frequency of my therapist appointments and have tried to keep in touch people more, but it feels like a chore. The bad outcome would be complete dissociation from society, which I find scary but disturbingly not any worse than how I feel now. That’s even scarier.
While part of me is annoyed at the “inconvenience” of depression, I’m trying not to give into the negativity and still acknowledge that it is there. The best version of myself, if she knew that someone was going through something similar, would NEVER say “tough it out” or say “it’s all in your head, there’s nothing stopping you from achieving what you set your mind to!”: they ALREADY know this, and that is not helpful. What they really need, I think, is to hear someone genuinely to give a shit about how they feel. I am not always up to the task; it can be emotionally draining and my tank is at an eighth of its capacity. But dang it, let me try to be kind to myself as I would to others. I like to believe that “practicing what I preach” is part of the give-and-take of building a strong social network, but the WORST version of myself is saying to leave everyone to fend for themselves and let GOD sort them out. That is TERRIFYING…I don’t want to succumb to that.
In the meantime, I’ve made an attempt to restore productivity to my day-to-day. This might lay the groundwork for recovery in some way, but let me take this one step at a time and not expect too much at this point:
I thoroughly cleaned the floor with enzymatic chemicals, and moved all the cat-related things into one corner until I dispose of them. I’m keeping his cat bed though, which contains a collection of his toys and feels very cosy. The house is MUCH CLEANER and LESS SMELLY, which does lift my mood.
I’ve started to reintroduce tracking back into my routine. After six months of totally not tracking, my focus has slowly crumbled into nothingness. This is probably one facet of depression; the lack of “felt progress” doesn’t help my mood. Today, I have a better sense of what to track, and my primary need is remembering what I’m doing and also feeling good about what I’ve made. The difficult part is to maintain focus on it over the long term, and that’s a topic larger than tracking for another day.
I’ve started to close down active development on my current project, as the budget is winding down we’re moving into more of a maintenance phase. I’m hoping that I can pull out of my slump and make good use of this time to restart my long-deferred personal projects related to the website and household improvements.
The Month Ahead
Since not much happened goal-wise in August, the same goals will apply to this month. For specifics, it’s these:
WORK: Write some documentation, design some fancy GUI. These are things that I like doing but the weight of systems programming work (something I don’t ordinarily like doing) had kept me from them.
ENVIRONMENT: There are a lot of things that I just need to take to the dump. I want to enjoy the space I have now, and this is now physically possible without the cat’s needs taking up a good portion of kitchen and living room.
However, my primary goal is recovery of my optimism in a pragmatic forward-looking form. My self-esteem and optimism are being vigorously undermined by remembering past failures that seem to predict permanent stuckness, and thanks to gender dysphoria, I can’t even see myself in a mirror or hear my voice without feeling like I’m being punched in the stomach in slow motion. However…that best version of me tells me “Every day I make do to make it through is one day closer to a brighter future for me and everyone I am traveling with”. I would hate to disappoint her.
About this Article Series
For year 15 of Groundhog Day Resolutions, I am writing about TRANSITIONS. All related posts on this subject are posted on the 2021 Groundhog Day Resolutions page. You can also find the link under the INVESTIGATIONS menu item on my website.