One of the greatest gifts from reading Jordan Peterson — for me — was being made aware of how little I value myself. And also that this is normal. (Heck, it’s probably evolutionary.)
This was brought home today because in less than half an hour we have to try to corner and bag Greebo so we can take him to the vet to do a procedure to cure his hyperthyroidism.
He’s our fifth cat to go into hyperthyroidism and we’ve tried the other treatments extensively, from the rub in the ear (Pete, now 18 years ago) to tablets (Pixie, now gone 13 years) to DT — radio therapy by mouth. Cheaper But two years later she developed jaw cancer– to, currently, Euclid cat.
When Euclid went hyperthyroidal there was no thought of radio therapy because Euclid has been senile for years. How senile? Forget where you are and howl senile, and also pee/poo wherever you are senile, so that we’ve had to confine him to a (granted spacious not to say palatial) kennel because there’s only so much furniture I can lose. Yes, we are considering that last, sad, vet trip, but he doesn’t seem to be in pain, massively enjoys his food, and loves being held, which we try to do often.
Also, when the hyperthyroidism set in, Euclid was 18 and arthritic and….
But Greebo is, other than the sudden hyperthyrodism making him lose a third of his body weight in a month, in really good shape for 16. Also, to be honest, he’s unpillable. Having started as a feral kitten, he’s both impossible to catch when he doesn’t want to (see the note above about trying to bag him) and very smart. So we’d give him the pill… once.
We had enough issues with Pixel who was as smart (if easier to catch) and who turned every morning into a rousing game of “Where the heck is he hiding now?”
So we could choose to let my editor — or my dog, which is what DIL calls him, for his absurd loyalty to ME only, his following me around from room to room, his interposing himself between me and any disturbances, and his failure to cat when he wants to show affection. As in, idiot cat doesn’t strop, he leans on my ankles, as the highest mark of love — go at a galloping pace into senility and death, or we could lay out … well, a lot of money.
No, not asking. I asked — kind of — in the diner on facebook while pointing out we have the resources (though not the ready cash) to do this. It’s just that right now we have other claims on those resources, because three years ago younger son stopped being able to borrow for tuition (eh, the college is not set up for two and a half degrees) and he only occasionally manages to cover his rent (though to give him his due, he tries. Need a paper edition designed? He’s good.) And other things. We bought the house knowing it needs repairs, and then got socked with a full tuition bill (we were covering half) and … well…. You know how well I’ve done at retaining paying jobs these last two years. (Yes, I know, and I’m finally writing fiction again at what I consider a normal pace, so that’s irrelevant.
Again, we have the resources. Not the end of the world, it just makes me uncomfortable, which is what I told people in the diner, and said that it would make me feel better if I had at least some towards it. (And they did help. About half the cost. Even though I told them it was mostly to assuage my neurosis.)
Because it’s a big plunge to spend that much on a … cat. And one who is already sixteen.
Non-cat people would tell me that I could just go to the shelter and find another non-descript black cat with a huge head, and adopt him. And they would be right if a cat were just a cat were just a cat. But this is Greebo, and Greebo is mine, as surely as I’m his. He’s mine, I love him and I’m responsible for his care.
Which, to get away from cats (sorry for the digression) brings us to Dr. Peterson and “Treat yourself as though you were someone you love that you’re responsible for.”
In fact, one of the things he pointed out was that people pill their animals more assiduously than they do themselves, spend more on their animals than on themselves, and in fact, look after total strangers than they do themselves.
That is because we know ourselves. We know all the times we fall down, we know all the times we fail, we know everything we did wrong and we know — each of us — that massive potential locked inside each of us, which we fail to realize because… because we’re lazy, venal, too preoccupied with immediate satisfaction. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves, right?
Our opinion of ourselves might be insane, at least viewed through the eyes of those who love us, but we’re sure we’re not worth it. My kids, some of the hardest-working people I know, (seriously, I see it.), mostly talk about their failures as “I was lazy and stupid.” Let’s just say ain’t neither of those boys stupid. And sometimes taking a few minutes to sit down with a cup of coffee, or an afternoon to go to the zoo or go out with friends isn’t being lazy. We’re not machines.
But then I see all the time I waste, every day, and I think I’m lazy and certainly often stupid, and most people horse-laugh at this.
Maybe your own view of yourself is also distorted. Because you’re inside your head, tallying up every time you fail. Maybe Greebo thinks of how he upchucks in my freshly cleaned floor, and that all he does is try to be near me, so why should I care if he’s dying?
I think devaluing yourself and what you do is evolutionary — at least for people worth a damn — because throughout the long history of our species, adults were usually responsible for the survival of weaker members of the tribe. In a way, maybe what makes us human is that we care for the maimed and the elderly as much as for children, which other species don’t seem to do. There are people who think this allowed people in bands time to THINK and create, beyond the immediate. Because the guy who could no longer hunt could shape a better blade. The aged woman could weave a better fishing basket.
BUT that means that burly hunters and capable women had to ignore their own needs and wants, to keep someone else alive. Sure, children, but also other people.
So I think fully functional adults ignore their needs in favor of their obligations because overtime that was best for the species.
Well, guys, we’re no longer living close to the (flint-scraped bone.) You can look after those you owe a duty to AND yourself.
In fact, arguably, you look after others better after you care for yourself, at least past a certain point. Remember, if the plane loses pressure, you must secure your own mask before assisting those you’re responsible for.
Or as my friend Jeff Greason says so often “You must take care of the meat suit.”
Christianity has a work around for that. If you can believe, believe absolutely that G-d himself went through becoming a human and enduring a horrible death FOR YOU, you have to believe you have value. The problem with that in the 21st century of the Christian era, is that even people who are believers have trouble believing with absolute faith. Faith, grain of mustard, etc.
But the “Take care of yourself, as you would of someone you love who is utterly dependent on you is a revolutionary concept, one you can hold in your head and remember. It has caused — little by little — the remarkable improvement in my health as little by little we’ve been taking care of my various medical issues that had brought most of my writing to a grinding halt, except for short pieces.
If you need an excuse to take care of yourself take this: You are of value.
If you believe in G-d, believe you were put here for a reason. There was a plan and a reason for your existence. It might be to be the crazy cat lady, but that’s still a reason. Or it might simply be to be there at that crucial moment someone else needs you, which in turn allows them to be there when someone else needs them, which–
And if you don’t — you’re still here for a reason. Perhaps not a predestined and planned reason, but a reason. There are things you are and do that no one else can fulfill at that time and at that moment. I know a lot of people, but even those I personally could dispense with are important — vital — to someone else. Your reason could be as personal as taking care of your child, or as generic as being someone the people in the office find comforting or dependable.
As you are, you are unique and irreplaceable. And you’re at least as important as a little grumpy cat who leans on my legs when he needs me to know he loves me.
Take care of yourself, be kind to yourself.
Particularly in these unstable times, and facing who knows what ahead, we need people who can help make sure what comes next isn’t hell on Earth.
I can’t afford to lose any single one of you.
You have things to do. So don’t let yourself get to the point you can’t.
I have friends who were just laid off (it was seen before it happened. The industry they worked for is shedding.) and trust me, I know the distress and confusion and everything else, as your path in life changes.
But it’s precisely when you need to stop and look around yourself rationally and figure out what comes next, and how you can take it to the next level.
It’s not just a matter of finding a new job, or whatever. The catastrophe happened. Now stop and think and analyze (yes, as hard as it is.) Treat yourself as a house you plan to sell. When we live somewhere and we have to do a repair, we always look and go “How do we improve it while repairing, because that adds value?
In this time of catastrophically fast innovation, when you are faced with a major set back, stop, and wonder “how do I add value?” It can be taking a new course, or simply learning a new thing. Or it can be going “hey, I can freelance doing this, make more AND set up a new pathway for other people like me.”
Because in the end doing that will benefit not just you but others.
Secure your oxygen mask before looking after others.
And be not afraid.
*Sorry this is so late, but I was dropping Greebo off at the clinic, and they made us watch a presentation on it, even though it’s our third cat doing this, and it took almost two hours. (ARGH.)