Trying to Heal My Heart

It is over a year now since I first met my beloved, and I now admit that I have initially underestimated the depth and resilience of my feelings.

The last post I wrote took a while to compose, I wanted to mention that on that day I met him again, but then the serious issue of the post took over, and I found it hard to bring its tone down by going back to the sore (and now sour) subject of my heartache.

Even though love itself lacks reason, there are certain qualities that first drew me to my beloved. The one I appreciate most is his empathy and his genuine desire to stand for what he feels is right and just, to champion the weak and marginalized and stand up for them. So it is natural that he shows up in an event against homophobia. I know from experience, that once I see him, whether face-to-face or in passing, the damage is usually already done, I know that I will be in for a day or so of sadness and despair, so I might as well speak to him and face the consequences. So I met him head-on, and gave him a little rainbow flag to stick in his shirt pocket. He kept looking at his phone and commenting that he was texting people and urging them to join the event.  He also wondered about his Christian colleagues and where was their love for humanity. These are some of the small reasons why I love this man.

I do not remember much of what I said to him in return, but all I know is that in a room full of people I forgot about everyone but him. I was just lost in his presence. I remember he asked about my brother. A few days ago, and because my beloved would appreciate the irony, I had texted him that my brother was asking me for advice on how to make sure a girl likes him. I have found out since that my brother did not win his girl. But lucky for him and his clueless heart, he was not the worse for it. In fact he was quite amazed at how quickly he bounced back from the rejection. He was already on the mend that same day when his love interest told him she was not ready for commitment, how I envy him. I think I complained to my beloved how difficult it was for me to forget him. And even though he made fun of me and told me to listen to my mother and that there were “so many other fish in the sea” I could just look into his eyes and forget what he said and believe instead what his eyes were telling me. I might be delusional or clueless about the language of the eyes, but he told me that he was “bereft” that he did not have any books to read. If there is a word in the English language that would always remind me of my beloved Englishman it is this one, and it always brings back the feelings of loss that I lived with since I knew him. I am bereft too, and disassembled by loving him.

But since this is my life, where I am bound by some old-fashioned principles, the reality has to hit me even while I am fighting the depth of my feelings. I was standing next to him when his phone signaled an incoming call with the call ID of his wife, and in an instant I was brought back to the impossibility of imposing my presence into this script. I would never judge any woman who chooses to take a married man as her lover, if it is clear to all that the intention is to keep this as an affair, a love match that never gets formally recognized. But my feelings for the man are neither trivial nor transitory and I cannot degrade them in an affair that will inevitably taint my love with guilty and self-loathing. On the other hand, I know that an affair is all I could ever have, so I am done for either way. There will never be a “Bridges of Madison County” role for me, and it is best to walk and really mean it.

I have never loved anyone like I love this man, and I know my feelings for him are real, because I wasn’t out fishing when his love found me. I was not looking for a relationship and I will not even start looking now. It was foolish of me to think that an account on Tinder or OkCupid will help me solve the problem of accidentally falling in love with him. Because nothing will be solved until I heal my foolish heart. My problem is that love found me, where I did not want to be found. And as much as I am grateful for the colours it added to my life, for the depth of feelings that I became capable of since our first encounter, for the rebirth of my awareness of my appeal and sexuality, and for the renewed attention to my health, appearance and figure, as much as I appreciate and enjoy all that, there are times when I feel that I have given too much of my body and soul in return for a flood of tears and a load of heartache.

Maybe the happiness I had before was just an illusion, a sense of self-sufficiency that was thinly veiled by contempt, apathy, and cynicism. But I was content in my ignorance, and cushioned by my triumph over my past. Now I know that love exists, and I can no longer scoff at it nor deny it. But I cannot find full gratitude for its presence in my life. Given a choice, I might have wanted to remain ignorant.

So on the 17th of May this year, I decided to retreat into my shell. I wanted to disappear completely, and change my routine so that our paths never cross. I vowed to  keep a low profile and not go again to any event where he is likely to be present. I intended to reclaim the empty and peaceful space within my heart, hold in it only those who are already there, those who love me or need me, namely my son, my family, and my closest friends. I wanted to read and write again and maybe go back to school.

I am carrying this through to the best of my ability. And I am sincere in my desire to break free from the Englishman’s spell. I never venture anymore to any place where I am likely to meet him. I never drink coffee on his side of the compound. I spend minimal time in common areas, and mostly take my lunch at the office or in some other place where I am sure to be alone. I keep to my practice of meditation, as I turn to my nerdy nature and ask for healing from within.

Some days are easier than others. It helps sometimes when I am busy with work and my other regular responsibilities as a bread-winner and single mom. At other times the load gets heavy, and busy becomes swamped, and I begin to drop one or another of the many balls that I am juggling. At these times I feel so lonely and need a kind word, I miss him then terribly, because his eyes spoke kindness to me and promised a shadow of understanding and compassion that I was desperate for. And every now and then all the various disappointments, all the heartaches big and small, fuse together into a single red-hot point, and combined they choose to hit me in the solar plexus knocking me off my feet. In the grip of my sorrow, I am still aware that the Englishman is my illness and my cure. Because it is his shoulder that I need to cry on, and his arm that I want to hold on to when I stumble.

I tell myself that leaving was my only option. I reason that every day will get easier than the one before. On most days I do well, I can remember him without sorrow, but then grief hits me in the gut, and I have a tearful day like today.

I have not lost hope. And even on my worst days I still work on healing my heart. But I am not interested in the other fish in the sea. Love found me while I was peacefully drinking coffee alone and reading Dostoevsky. If it wants to find me again then it will, no matter how well I hide. By then I hope to have healed my foolish heart. By then I will know if it is the right love for me, and I will know not to mess with it if it was likely to burn me. I will wait, I have the rest of my life.




Walking Away from Love

When it comes to love, it is either given or returned. It is neither forced upon someone, nor taken. It can be perhaps learned, and practiced, and willed into existence like a forgotten habit. It can also wither and die without sustenance.

My love for Aquarius was a force of nature, a phenomenon all itself that I was not prepared for. Its singularity left me without options, I wanted either to embrace it or abandon it entirely to embrace instead the full grief of its loss.

While I gave generously and completely, my beloved was pleased to receive my adoration. He shone in its warmth but was not prepared to return affection in the same way.  I could not force him to acknowledge the depth of my love and reciprocate it. Even though I knew that I could have pressed my advantage, exploited his weakness, and the emotional need I felt he had for me. I did not want to be just a passing fancy, a fling, or a quick answer to an unfulfilled desire. I loved him too much to settle for this. I would have settled for the role of an occasional or temporary lover, I would have taken the love affair, with all its guilt and inevitable breakup. Love though would have needed to be an acknowledged part of it, not the close friendship he wanted it to pass for.

Perhaps I am paraphrasing Gibran when I say that love gives only itself and grows by the giving. And only a heart that completely gives itself, and opens itself to pain is capable of thriving in love, or at least truly appreciating its force. Many people approach life with a closed heart, whether in the interest of self preservation, or to protect the self or others from pain, and those will never uncover the mystery of true love.

I still grieve over my love, that was never meant to be. I still cry sometimes over what I could have had. But I am comforted with my conviction of freedom in love. I always accepted the choice of those who walked away from me, and exercised the choice to walk away myself when love ceased to be enough.

It is easier to remember the callous, self-absorbed, and constantly complaining Aquarius, when I do not have to gaze into his eyes. His eyes always told me their own story. Through them I looked into his gentle soul, and peeled away at the layers of pretense. My beloved’s true substance, I felt, hid under all these layers of opinionated adherence to certain form, style, physique and diet. If I do not see his eyes again, I can no longer interpret the subtext of his soul, or misinterpret it.

I am starting to rewrite his memory, it is my way of forgetting what I felt.  The English say, out of sight out of mind. In my Arab culture this saying goes, literally, “Far from the eye, is far from the heart”. This literal image fits my situation perfectly. His eyes were his way into my heart, and by walking away from them I am trying to set my heart free.


Taking the Consequences

In time my ex will describe me in many unflattering ways, but I can agree with one of his descriptions: I am naive.  His family do not know me from a bar of soap, they however have already passed judgment on me. Of course this is normal, and how could I expect otherwise?
They were most offended because of the contents of a few posts I wrote in anguish, and have since edited for relevancy. It was really stupid of me to expect that they would understand my plight, but since the posts are out I have set a process in motion that is out of my control. Maybe I am too direct for my own good, but I really did not intend to hurt anyone. This space holds my expressions of grief, anger, resentment but also my love, and I want to keep it this way. I am tired of hiding and keeping separate blogs with other pseudonyms. This is who I am; I cannot stop anyone from hating me for it. I am also not interested in being loved under false pretense, so I will take the consequences.
I don’t know how to retaliate against ugliness and bitterness, and do not want to start wars. If what I write offends people so much then they should speak up, and I will edit out the offending bits. If anyone wants I can even take out my ex-husband’s photos, his name and everything else. I don’t really care about keeping them anyway. It is one of many subtle ways the past can be slowly diluted until it fades away altogether.

At the moment I have an urge to run away and hide. Take my son and my baggage (including this blog) and disappear from sight. Even my father’s suggestion that I should go back to my birth country doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. It is one place I know that my son and I will be welcomed and embraced, even though I have been less than loyal towards my country of origin. Yes, if I needed a pat on the back, and people to tell me that my ex was a bastard anyway, I know where to go. But things are not that simple, it is not black and white. Nobody will ever know what it was like on the inside of this relationship, and nobody will be able to pass judgment based on half the truth. In fact, I can cynically say that the truth is irrevocably lost forever once two people decide that the marriage is finished. Because we all start to make up our own stories and justifications, with some bearing more truth than others. If we are lucky then we will know before our journey on this planet ends where we made the wrong turn. If we are not, we will have to pay back in another lifetime.

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Moving Out

I am writing this long after the actual events, so the intensity of my feelings have cooled down considerably. Robert and I moved out today, after a few days of extensive ugliness, which I do not want to dwell upon much. I will just recall however that Ron wanted us out sooner rather than later.
During those final days I tried to steer clear of Ron. I spent lots of my time with Robert in the park enjoying the sunny days of autumn. Most of the time, however, I had my hands full, trying to get retrained at work, tying up loose ends here, transferring phone and fax accounts, getting dental checkups, and packing boxes of books. While I still had a proof of address at our flat, I opened a bank account for Robert and made out a cheque for his Canadian citizenship application. I also managed to convince Ron to take us to the hospital to get Robert’s immunization for this month. I wasn’t sure if he would agree to take us a second time because the nurse was on holiday when we went there last week, and I got into deep trouble for not phoning in advance.

In the end Ron helped us move, but there are still a few items of mine he still holds in his possession, and I trust that he will hand over in time. Among those are my computer and scanner, but there is also my psychologically disturbed cat. Ron wanted Petey out of there as soon as possible as well, but I was hesitant to displace him into a strange environment especially that Jackie’s house is the territory of her female cat Spliff. Ron has grudgingly agreed to give the cat food and board until a better solution comes up, and I am grateful.

In retrospect perhaps it was a bad idea to give Robert his immunization in the middle of all this chaos, but I had no other option since Ron is keeping our car, and I don’t have another mode of transport. Robert was terribly cranky, with the combined effect of moving and the injection. I could not cope with his consistent crying, at the same time, I could not control my own feelings of displacement and loss. Whenever I set down something I ended up losing it, and it drove me crazy. By late evening I was a complete zombie and went into a complete breakdown. My baby and I were both howling uncontrollably.

Robert’s changing table found a home in Jackie’s bathroom but he cried bitterly every time I carried him to it. I hung up his music mobile over it, which helped somewhat. But he still cried bitterly every time I wanted to change him. Later I figured out that his upper leg was sore from the injection, but on the first day I was beyond reason and help. We both crashed into bed late and exhausted.

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Final Days

Sadly, my days together with Ron are numbered. Throughout this I am still trying to keep an outward facade to my family overseas who know no better. I do not want to add on to their worry. In the midst of all this, Robert’s long awaited Christmas present from Auntie Celia arrives. Its belated arrival made a sad testament to the changed circumstances. I picked the parcel up at the post office, and the it lay unopened for days. So I finally decided to open it and divided the presents, which were supposed to be shared. Ron got the tea, and I kept the chocolates, while Robert got the whole lot of baby goodies and a book.

During the past week Ron and I steered away from each other. He kept his usual morning routine, and at night he went to sleep soundly while I stayed awake, reading news feeds and blogs and writing my own. Just messing around on the internet to shorten the hours of the night and to keep the fear and desperation at bay. Many of my problems do not have solutions yet. Who will look after Robert while I am away at work? How will I manage work in the long term? what will happen next? I try not to think of everything at once, and deal with one problem at a time.

I had to explain my situation at work, thus making myself a novelty and a freak. People who have been at my work long enough know that I have been close to divorce before, and I can imagine the gossip that is spreading on the floor. I endured the pitying looks and asked for some arrangement to my shifts. The first solution that came to my mind was to work 20 hours of night shift every week. I thought that Robert slept through the night, and Jackie is home almost every night so she can keep an ear if he wakes up at night for some reason. I am still waiting for a response for my request, but if it is not granted I really do not know what else to do. Jackie is careful and paranoid about people who enter her house. It will be difficult for me to employ domestic help if they do not meet with her approval.
All these problems I try to forget while Robert and I are together. We are spending many hours at the park, and enjoying our final days there. Once I move in with Jackie it will be a much longer walk here, and I am not sure whether I can come here every day.

Robert crawls now very easily on the grass, and he can sit in the swing for a very long time.

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This Time it is Over

We are definitely getting divorced. This time I will not chicken out or make an about face, because I have had enough.

I am packing boxes of books and yarn. My clothes and baby’s are still waiting to be packed. This makes a fourth time for me, I have dismantled my life three times before for the same man or because of him, and this time I want my own life back. A life where I can call the shots this time, and make my own decisions.

In the end it turned out that people do not change that much. Perhaps he tried to change, perhaps he wanted to, but he finally realised that he couldn’t. I never offered to change, and if I had I don’t think I could change either. It is the way things go.

I still bear him some grudges, especially because he lied and pretended to be what he isn’t. Because he put a child in this world because he “thought” it would make him happy. In contrast, I KNEW that I was ready for a child, and I knew that having him will change my life. I am glad I did not know what the future held because I would have missed out on the most wonderful thing in my life.

Inside Dialogue – Ways of a Strange World

There is a full moon outside, and it is the last full moon I will see from this window. I remember seeing the one just before Robert was born, and thinking that when the next one comes I will be holding a baby in my arms. I spoke up my thoughts and dreams at the time to Ron, and I thought he shared them.

Now there are no more future plans for us to share, no more dreams. The pain is intense, it tears at my gut, and along with it there is furious anger that wants to claw out at his eyes, and tear his heart out, like he did mine. Anger and pain alternate in waves, and my head throbs with their intensity. At the end of the day, I feel drained, yet sleep eludes me. It is hard to sleep next to a stranger, and harder still to lie next to a loved one who has become a stranger.

I lie awake and think, of words, intimacies, and laughs we shared, and I wonder how many of them were contrived. For two years I was very happy, but my castle was built on sand, and it crumbled as all sand castles do. I will need time, to sift through the rubble of this marriage. I was married to two different men, and someday I will know which of them was real. Tomorrow we put an end to this. I will try to get over my feelings of bitterness, anger and disappointment. I do not want to waste further energy on destructive emotions. I would rather put my energy to better use. The most profound hurt, though, is the fact that I still love Ron. I know it, because I am still capable of making excuses for him and his behaviour. I am being too kind on him, though. There are other people out there, who come from broken homes and abusive families; people who survive violent crime, wars and torture, and can still rise above their pain, and give back to humanity. In fact, strong people can move on beyond the hurt of their past. They make it good, by breaking the chain of hatred and refusing to pass it on. The weak are the ones that wallow in the misery of the past and spread it like a disease. At this juncture of my life, I don’t want to pass along the pain, indignation, hatred and disappointment onto others, especially not onto Robert; I will not criticize, vilify or degrade anyone. The passage of time will be the greatest test, and the future will tell on everyone, as it did before.

This month among my close friends there was the wedding of Jason and Fiona, and in a few days’ time, a little girl ‘Olivia’ will be born to Monique and Bart. My friend -and future house mate Jackie broke up with her boyfriend, and I am getting divorced. I remember the irony of Ron saying that 2008 will be great. “What was he thinking?” I ask myself, and it is a question that will keep coming up for some time, and in relation to much of his actions in the last two year. 2008 is a leap year, and in my culture leap years are billed as difficult and unlucky. I do not agree with this theory; I think that a leap year is a period of adjustment and purge. It clears the slate and heralds new beginnings, and things that are waiting to happen tend to occur. Ailing people die, and also ailing marriages; people tie the knot after long engagements and babies are born. We are just part of the dance of human relationships, on simple or leap years. Change is always part of life.

And that’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

If I had thought that I was going to tackle raising a child on my own, I would perhaps been daunted by the sheer magnitude of the task. Maybe I would have chickened out and lost my chance to have one. I am therefore glad that I was too short-sighted to glimpse into the future.

Over the first six years of our marriage, I did everything Ron’s way. I gave up my simple dreams for his grand ones, and I even talked myself into completely adopting his dreams instead. Whatever I did, or did not do, failed to make him any happier. Ron’s unhappiness sucked my energy and I only experienced glimpses of contentment when I was away from him. His constant grumpiness was frequently blamed on me: My inadequacy, my poor cooking, my substandard cleaning and lacking organization skill, and my overall laziness. My unhappiness though had one reason: I was living my life in a mindless pursuit of some lofty goals and dreams he set for us. The days were rushing past and I was missing the pleasures of the journey, because of intense concentration on the goal. Also, I was getting older and it was becoming harder for me to lie to myself and deny my longing to become a mother.

When I left Ron for these reasons, he was the one who came back to me. He claimed he was starting to see things my way. He wanted to join me, living the good and simple life. He came on very strong, saying all the right words and making all the right moves. He charmed my friends and made them sing his praises. Everyone expected me to give him another chance, so I relented even though I was still enjoying my hard earned independence. As Ron grew more confident of my presence on his side, glimpses of his intense and grumpy persona started to show. Again, I was party to long conversations detailing his woe; I was sucked into the trials and tribulations of dissolving the business, and finishing the work on the house. And although I had left the past and all its baggage behind I tried to come with supportive advice and encouragement. I did not want to be part of any decision that involved the past, but Ron insisted on making me part of it. The pressure made my cool analytical mind realise that the conflict of interests between us is still very real, and that I needed to break away for good. Yes, I staged the break-up in a very cruel manner, intentionally perhaps, in order to make it final and drive the point home. In the end, however, it was out of my character and I suffered for it.

Last time the pain was unbearable for me. In theory I am more capable of finding happiness without Ron. I can take pleasure in simple things, and enjoy the here-and-now without lamenting over what or where I could have been if I had made different choices in my life. The burden of regret and blame was a main feature in our married life; Ron was on a mission to recapture his position in the world, the position and prestige he lost through the break-up of his first marriage. I felt as if I was living the consequences of decisions he had made even before we met. I would have been perhaps better off without this baggage. Still, I could not take the final step on my own. The price, for me, was too high, because it meant giving up permanently on someone I loved. I desperately needed to love someone, and Ron has filled this need for so long. When I realised that I cannot live with a cruel ending of our marriage, I begged Ron to give us another chance. I honestly thought that Ron and I were capable of patching things up between us. If it was possible for him to let go of this hunger for things that we could not attain, maybe we would have been both happy. But in the end his hunger won, and our “happiness” in the past two years proved to be an illusion. For my part, and at the risk of sounding stupid and naïve, I admit that I was blinded by my own happiness which became absolute with the arrival of Robert. Ron grumbled frequently, and I played counsellor to his outbursts of discontent, but I wasn’t extremely alarmed by them. Ron had an aura of unhappiness about him ever since I knew him, and I was beginning to accept that perhaps it was just part of his personality. He is just a chronically unhappy man, and I needed to get used to it. Maybe one day he will learn that happiness is a choice, it is the wisdom to be content with what you got, and stop regretting missed opportunities. Unfortunately things did not work this way. The fight for my marriage is over, for good this time. Ron has given up the fight, and I have learnt that one person cannot win, no matter how hard they try.

If I try to examine my feelings at these developments I come up with a whole spectrum of emotions. They come in waves of coordinated or contradictory shades.

I swing between sadness, anger, disappointment and worry. Notably absent from my gamut of feelings from two years ago are the guilt and the sense of terrible loss and emptiness. My life has meaning and purpose now, with or without Ron. Robert needs me, and he is someone I can love and cherish for the rest of my life. As for Ron, I hope he will find happiness elsewhere, although I doubt he ever will. Sad really, considering that even when I met him ten years ago he was fond of repeating this mantra: “I just want to be happy”. Happiness my friend is a choice, not a goal. Perhaps you did me and Robert a favour by allowing us to leave this black cloud of gloom behind us. It is going to be hard for the next few months, but there is light at the end somewhere, and we will be happy, with the grace of God.

Under the Surface : What is really happening

I am starting a series of posts which will be hidden for a while. I have been sugar-coating reality and buffering people I love from a cruel twist in the story. Things aren’t going well in this household. I feel very sad, mostly because I know how these realities will come back to hurt my son when he is old enough to know what is happening.

But I will fight ferociously to keep the sadness and ugliness at bay. I will not let my negative feelings impact my child’s view of his dad. The problems that I have with dad are between us and I will not put them on my child’s tender shoulders.

Ron and I have different sets of values and priorities. We therefore tend to move in opposite directions. The first six years of our marriage Ron charted the course and was satisfied with it, while I followed. But I was a reluctant traveller on this route, my natural tendency was in an opposite direction, and Ron felt as if he was dragging my dead weight behind.

The marriage came to a breaking point, when I finally realised that I was travelling in a direction I felt was totally wrong.

Against all odds, we came back together again, and these past two years I set the general direction, sort of. Ron convinced himself that he was happy to start a family with me, content to be a retired dad. But under the surface he was disappointed and unhappy, his goal was in another direction, and he felt that I was dragging him away from it. He hid his disappointment from himself and from me for some time, keeping himself busy with other dreams; dreams he thought we could share. Sadly, these dreams proved to be inadequate, for both of us, and reality reared its ugly head again: We are simply two people travelling in different directions. We cannot stay together for very long, sooner or later we need to go on our separate ways. The past two years for me were the time when I was the happiest, perhaps because Robert made my life complete. I now know that I always wanted a family, and had I met a different man, perhaps I would have had several children.

Things turned out this way for us, we were given Robert, and I have no regrets. The decision to have him was not an attempt to glue the relationship together; at least this wasn’t the case for me. I cannot speak for Ron, so I will speak for myself: Robert is here because he is wanted and loved. Robert is here because I loved his father. Robert is here because I refused to admit failure. Robert is here because I did not want to be the one who declared the marriage dead. Robert is here… and I do not regret a day in nine years of a dysfunctional marriage. He is definitely worth it.

Round and Round

I don’t think that I can ever write in this blog with my real name. People might think I am a lunatic or something. This project started with the intention of mapping my life near the Cape of Good hope, it turned out into a study in hopelessness. It has been almost a year since I wrote here, and ironically it is again the season of heartbreak in Cape Town ! I feel edgy and unhappy, and confused.
Since my doomed crush on Aquarius went nowhere, I got cold feet regarding my breakup with Husband. I pulled the plug on the divorce, and coughed up the lawyer bill.
In the divine wisdom of pop culture : “Love The One You’re With” (If you can’t be with the one you love).
So this was great, I swallowed a big wallop of my pride, and begged Husband to get back. He left for a few months home to Canada, then came back, called the moving van and shipped loads of stuff to Cape Town. The furniture has been in storage ever since, awaiting the time when it can be set up in a place we can call a home.
The past few months I was happy – I think – living on makeshift and 2nd hand furniture, and having very few possessions. We spent lots of time together or in the outdoors.
At the end of October we moved from the old flat, gave away the old rickety ‘furniture’ or whatever you might want to call it.

Yesterday it was the day, the day we were supposed to get our nice things, and put it in our home. Yes, the furniture arrived yesterday, and along with it came the foreboding. I do not know what is up with me. All of a sudden I see the expensive things, the box of old love letters, the diving equipment and the sport bags — his things, and again there is nothing of me here, just a few crates of books, and suitcase full of coloured threads that I wanted to knit one day into and afghan, and a black emotionally disturbed cat.
Years back, we bought some things together : A bed, a leather sofa ( his dream was always to have one) and a desk for me, but Husband has had almost everything else longer that I have been with him. He calls these nice pieces a legacy, and now they are incompatible with one of the few things that I do care about … Petey my cat.
The cat is sleeping in the closet now, he is disoriented and sad to lose his home, and I do not know why I relate to him so much. I will have to figure this one out.