Saturday, April 16, 2011

What the little cat knows

The Little Cat loves routine. Three times a day my cellphone alarm goes off, I come to the kitchen and take my immunosuppressants, I feed her.  While I take the pills she rubs daintily around my ankles.  After she tastes the food she jumps up on my kitchen chair and holds her front legs up to me, an invitation to let her climb on my shoulder and settle down on my chest, purring.  The world is running the same old way, and she feels safe. Food, safe shelter, predictability, these make her actively happy.

It makes sense for an animal to be anxious about change; predictability spells out food and shelter to them.  So I suppose that we, in our animal body, are the same - comforted by routine.  But we are capable of understanding that things always change.  I mean always, every minute.  That's what organic life does.  Here in Ohio, you can count on the blue sky being gone in an hour, the temperature dropped 20 degrees.  People complain about it all the time, wanting the more equable skies of California, perhaps, without the mudslides and early freezes, of course.

Suzuki Roshi once said that the central teaching of Buddhism is "Things change."  When I first read that years ago, it didn't seem real inspiring.  Now that I am 68 many experiences have taught me that it's true.  Some 70 tornadoes went through the American midwest yesterday.  A high wind is the ultimate in chaos.  No telling where that tornado will touch down, whose house will be leveled.  Me personally, last summer I had the shock of being offered a kidney by a friend.  This promised to give me many more years of life, to take me from what had become very old age and physical degeneration back to being an active 68-year-old.

Since then I've had either 8 or 9 UTI's and two or three hospitalizations, lost count.  Inbetween all that, I've had glimpses of feeling alive all over again.

So far the UTI's are unpredictable and we've been unable to prevent them.  The good luck is that - so far - the bacteria involved have been responsive to antibiotics.  So far.  The spread of resistant bacteria is scaring everyone in the medical field.

Like all other living things, from strawberries to Bengal Tigers, our safety is never guaranteed.  We ourselves and all forms of life constantly change, and age.  Felt great Wednesday, Thursday woke up with urge incontinence, a fever, and urine full of white cells.  So we had to postpone the bladder scope that we hope will tell us why I have all these infections, and thus how to stop them. Had to cancel three appointments on Friday.  I reminded myself of The Five Remembrances (you can find them at the bottom of this page), which many Buddhists recite every day .  I focused on  "I am of the nature to grow ill; I cannot escape illness."  That is, don't count on anything.  And don't get too caught up in your desires; that way you won't be too disappointed.

Years ago I knew a woman who was convinced that if she did the right things and had a strong will and stayed hopeful ("a positive attitude") she would survive metastasized cancer and live to be 94, the number she felt entitled to after taking a test in a women's magazine.  She died at 72, pissed off, still sure that if you only did all the right things, all of them, you could live, well, forever.  Still not accepting reality, I'm sorry to say, which is, Do what you can, and let your craving for a certain outcome diminish.  Life is as unpredictable as a high wind.  Take refuge.

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