02/02/2020

February 2, 2020. A palindrome date, as someone pointed out on the local online forum.

A lot has happened since I last wrote.

Last spring and summer were very, very tough as P. dealt with severe emotional instability. It didn’t help that the super-smart and insightful personal coach he’d been working with for about a year became less and less available during that time, and eventually closed her practice altogether. On top of that, P.’s condition was exacerbated by a dispute with the town that had arisen in late May due a mean neighbor’s complaint. When this neighbor passed away suddenly, in September, I had hoped that it would automatically put an end to the matter, but our over-zealous municipal authorities would not back down. We can joke about this situation now (at least I can) but at the time it was exasperating to say the least.

As a result of this dispute, last November, we rented out our house in town and moved into a rental a few miles away. It’s a beautiful spot, close enough to town to make errands easy yet far enough that we regularly hear owls and coyotes at night, and have been told that bears and cougars frequent the area as well.

Luckily for us, the rental property came with a chicken coop and a small covered run, both of which required only minimal renovations to make them more secure and habitable. It is not an ideal situation for the chickens long-term, as the coop is far from the house, the covered run is pretty cramped, and the larger run attached to it needs major repairs as well as netting over the top to make it predator-proof. But, it will do for the winter. Come spring, we will try to fix up the large run, or set up a new coop and run closer to the house (we have already spoken with the landlord to determine a location).

We have also gained more animals; this time, two cats. Ironically, they used to belong to our neighbor in town, the one who had complained about us. When he died, the cats sort of adopted us, so when we moved out to the country, so did they. I worried that they would run away in an attempt to return to their old home, especially because they live on the porch and can come and go as they please, but they chose to stay. P. and I are not really “cat people,” and P. could never really become one due to his cat allergy anyway, but they are entertaining and nice enough and perhaps they will keep the mouse population under control as well as keep those pesky birds that P. finds so annoying away from the house.

Also, this year, P. and I agreed to start a couple of family traditions. Neither of us really had any family traditions growing up, and we never created traditions of our own in our 19 years together. This is sort of surprising, when I think about it – although perhaps not so much, given how young we were when we first got together and how we have had to take our life one day at a time, much of the time. However, as I got older, I began to crave comforting rituals that were uniquely our own. I thought about what would be helpful for us in terms of meeting our shared goals of socializing more with others as well as spending more quality time with each other – while also being manageable. The two things I came up with were Friday night Shabbat dinners with one or two guests, and a bath together on Sunday nights. This year being so new, we’ve only done both things a handful of times so far, and enjoyed it. I hope we will continue.

In other news, I am planning an overseas trip in April to visit a childhood friend who has been posted to another country for her government job. This will be my first international travel since a trip to Europe with P. in 2012, nearly 8 years ago. And, the last time I was on a plane was in early 2015, when I flew to the East Coast to visit friends.

Needless to say, I am very excited about this upcoming trip. I also worry about how P. will do while I’m away. We are still considering the possibility of getting a house-sitter to take care of all our animals and traveling together, but increasingly leaning towards my going alone. That means that P. would need to remember to take all his meds as well as do at least the minimum that is necessary to keep the dog, the cats, and the chickens going. I am confident that he can manage dog and cat care. He loves our dog to pieces, and has taken care of her when I traveled previously. And, the cats are easy.

I am more concerned about the medication part and the chickens part. With our setup, chicken care requires going outside at least twice a day, morning and evening, to open and close the coop, replenish food and water, and put things away for the night. Ideally, there would be another visit or two during the day to bring treats and otherwise keep the chickens entertained. (I’ve taken to sitting with them in their covered run lately as often and as long as I am able to, and have been rewarded with some of our shyer chickens jumping into my lap, even if briefly.)

But, with P. rarely able to go outside these days, it’s really hard to imagine how he will make it to the chicken coop and back, day in and day out, twice a day or more, while also remembering things like food, water, treats, latching all the doors, putting things away and bringing them back out, etc.

Medications are another issue. P. may forget to take some or all of them. Or, he may remember, but lack the energy to get up from the couch, walk to the kitchen, pour himself a glass of water, get the pills out of their bottles, and actually swallow them. Not only are these pills not supposed to be abruptly stopped, but keeping the dosage constant is also extremely important.

It is probably hard for many people to understand how someone like P. – an intelligent, physically healthy adult – can have trouble with such seemingly minor tasks. Yet, here we are. It didn’t used to be like this in our early years together, but this is where he is now, and we continue to try to understand what happened. As with most things in life, there is unlikely to be a neat, straightforward answer. It is probably a combination of factors – his conditions morphing with the passage of time, genetics, effects of medications, external events, lack of meaningful social connections, and the dynamics of our relationship.

I do still have about two months until my planned departure. Who knows, depending on how this coronavirus outbreak develops in the coming weeks, I might not even go. But, assuming I do, we will try to make plans with P.’s therapist and maybe a couple of friends to help the duration of my absence go as smoothly as possible. Sometimes, the best one can do is just that, make plans and then hope for the best. I cannot control everything or spend my life worrying about everything, with no time left for actually living. P. is encouraging me to go, as long as the coronavirus situation does not deteriorate in the country that’s I’m traveling to, which currently has one of the highest numbers of diagnosed cases outside of China. And, he is confident that, somehow, he will make it through my time away.

So, I probably should take advantage of this opportunity. Who knows when I’m going to have another chance like this, to travel alone to an exciting destination, spend time with an old friend, and take a nice long break from work and home responsibilities? It will be what it will be; a mixed bag, as everything in life, but hopefully with more good than bad thrown into the mix.

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