First my cat disappeared. Then I started praying. I pray sometimes but only when it’s convenient for me, like when I’m on an airplane and I think I might fall from the sky. I pray for that not to happen. I prayed when my aunt got breast cancer. She’s still with us. I prayed when Emory was in the NICU and we weren’t sure what was wrong. He turned nine last week. And I prayed when my niece’s best friend, Erin, got sick even though I’d never met Erin. I prayed for her a lot. And even though I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, nor do I answer to any other religion, at the time I felt like my track record for being a foul-weather prayer was pretty good. So I prayed for Erin.
She passed away two years ago last week. And I was so angry at the time. I was so angry that all my praying, my silly routine, didn’t work. This little girl died and I became angry at a God I stopped believing in a long time ago.
On Sunday a mother of one of Elliot’s classmates killed herself. At the time of her death, I was baking a cake. She had three little boys, one of whom was just 5 months old. She must have been in so much pain. And I went back and reread all of our emails and I hated that I wasn’t a better friend to her. We continually did the “Let’s get together this week!” Missed that. “OK, next week!” Nope. Maybe if people had been there for her more, she’d still be with her family.
Then Murray disappeared. I was away for two days at my mom’s house so the boys could see the beach for a day since we had to cancel our beach vacation due to Toby and work circumstances. I left Monday with the kids. Toby stayed home. Murray was last seen Tuesday afternoon. And it damn near stops my heart that it happened on a Tuesday—his day.
Let’s see: I put up fliers. I put fliers in every neighbor’s mailbox. I knocked on some doors. I posted on every local message board. I posted on every local Facebook page. I called the vet. I called our animal control center. I even called the police. And then I called a plumber. You see, we moved into a new house (yes, I went back to the old house, many times) and there are a lot of little crevices in the eaves. So I paid a plumber to come with a fibrotic camera and comb through all those spaces making absolutely sure he wasn’t in the house. My words to the dispatcher, who is also a lover of cats (thank goodness) were, “Listen, if I don’t rule this out and then one day the flies come or he starts to smell, I’ll never ever get over that.”
They showed up later that day. Bless their plumber hearts. And gained a customer for life.
We set up cameras. Brought out his favorite blanket. Combed the streets again calling his name. Checked the gutters. We put out food. We put out a litter box. We exhausted every option. We still don’t have Murray.
So, the other night I prayed again. I told God, or whomever might be listening, I said, “God, I will stop drinking forever. I won’t touch another drink if you bring back my Murray.” I made this prayer well into my nightly bottle of wine.
I gave God an ultimatum. I would quit self-medicating with alcohol, something I’ve been doing for months, if God brought my cat back.
Some people hit a rock bottom. They do something devastating like drive drunk and kill someone. They get a DUI. They fight with the wrong person and get the shit kicked out of them. Some folks end up in prison. Some folks simply grow tired of saying so many stupid things every single night and then forgetting about it the next morning but still having to reach out and apologize for all the stupid things they don’t remember saying.
Me? I gave God an ultimatum. I tried to make a deal, negotiate.
Murray isn’t back. And I am starting to feel a darkness around me, a void that he is no longer with me on this planet and my heart hurts. I may never know where he is. He may never return. He may be dead somewhere. He may have been taken in. But this morning when I woke up at 4 AM to the faint taste of last night’s wine in the back of my throat, I knew he was gone.
And I cried.
I miss him. And I am not a very happy person these days. I don’t particularly like myself these days. And I’m not going to wait for my cat to come back to stop self-medicating with alcohol. And I’m putting this out there, perhaps irresponsibly, maybe this will backfire and people won’t hire me; or neighbors will judge me; they might look at me differently. But I need to look at myself better. I need to like myself again. So I’m holding myself accountable this time. Out loud.
God doesn’t have to bring my cat back for me to take care of myself. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I would give anything to have him home again. I miss him so much. But not drinking and my cat? These two things aren’t mutually exclusive. They’re absurdly unrelated.
I mean, I do want my cat back. God, please bring him back to me.
But I’m going to stop drinking without him.
I need to like myself again.