Blanket Criticism

Today I am feeling thankful for many things, primary among which is that I am not named “Blanket.”


Job Search – Vulnerability Analyst

Each day, Monster.com sends me a list of jobs they think I would be perfect for. Usually they are very wrong. This time they may be right. The position is at a company called Symantec, and they describe themselves as “a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions …”

Dear Symantec Hiring Manager:

I am responding to your recent posting for the position of “Vulnerability Analyst.” I believe I am a perfect candidate for this position.

What is vulnerability? The dictionary defines “vulnerable” as :

1 : capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
2 : open to attack or damage : assailable
3 : liable to increased penalties but entitled to increased bonuses after winning a game in contract bridge

I do not play bridge, and I assume such activity would be frowned upon on the job, so I will leave the third definition aside for now. But let me tell you why I feel I would be an asset in this position, based on definitions one and two.

I have vast, personal experience in the area of vulnerability. In fact, as I write this very letter, I am feeling incredibly vulnerable. A few days ago my sixteen year old cat Blanche passed away. I loved her very much. There are many people who do not feel this kind of love for animals. They view them as a lesser life form, not worth investing emotion in, and choose not to allow themselves to risk being vulnerable to kitty love. And there are also others who do not realize they are making a decision, and they let their heart carry them into such a relationship, thereby exposing themselves unwittingly to vulnerability. Your company is seeking an employee who can make informed analysis about all these situations. My past experience, as well as my current grief for my cat, make me an excellent choice for this position.

The second definition of “vulnerable” speaks about being open to attack or damage. When I say I loved my cat and miss her, I realize this puts me in such a position. I know that some people may look upon this as a weakness, a stupid display of misplaced emotion. Logically we know that our pets have a shorter lifespan than us, and yet we agree to take them in, to care for them, to open our hearts to them, and ultimately, to lose them. We know that we will be heartbroken by their passing, yet we still allow ourselves to be open to such damage.

It is worth noting at this point that, based on my extensive experience, I believe vulnerability is not the same as risk. For instance, today I am wearing white pants, and I chose to reheat leftover spaghetti with red sauce for lunch. I knew I was risking hard-to-remove stains on my white pants, and I can confirm that ultimately, this was not a wise decision. But it did not rise to the level of vulnerability, which by definition includes an emotional element. I do not grieve the stain on my pants in the same way I grieve the loss of my cat. Are these the types of analyses you are seeking? If so, I think you will agree that I would be a valuable addition to your team.

In your search for a Vulnerability Analyst, you are seeking someone who can look at the pros and cons of each individual situation and advise, with some accuracy, whether a particular one warrants being vulnerable or not. For instance – will I get another cat? Yes. I will. But not now. I still need to heal and grieve Blanche. But certainly, in deliberating this particular situation, it is clear to me that sixteen years of love and affection and head rubs and cuteness are well worth the pain I am feeling now. I know this pain will subside, and I will ultimately be left with good memories. The decision to enter into another relationship with another cat will result in more affection and head rubs. That is a situation where allowing myself to again be vulnerable will, I believe, yield a result that definitely tips to the positive side.

This is exactly the same kind of sharp decision making I would bring to my role as Vulnerability Analyst for your company. As such, I feel I would be a great asset to Symantec.

I am taking a few days to gather myself and let myself grieve my loss of Blanche, but I would love to discuss the position further. I look forward to hearing from you.

Please let me know if you have any trouble opening the attached resume.

Sincerely,
Tara


Sooner Came

Early in the morning, my cat Blanche passed away. She had been with me for sixteen years. It was very sudden, although not completely unexpected. As much as I might have been prepared for the loss, I was not ready. She was on the bed with me, and I was able to stroke her and kiss her and tell her how much I loved her. It was not easy to watch, and I don’t know if she knew what was happening, but I hope she felt love in her last moments. She was a cat with a unique personality, and I often felt she was more like a roommate than a pet.

She had been rescued from the streets by an old roommate who could never pass by an animal in need. But my roommate already had two cats, and told me this one was mine. I wasn’t sure at first – I was a struggling actor, barely able to support myself. I was worried about the cost of cat food, and the responsibility. But what would happen if I turned her away? I named her Blanche Du Bois, after the character in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” because she had a little white face, and as a stray, she depended on the kindness of strangers. I had always thought if I ever got a cat, I would get a beautiful orange tabby, not a little runt calico who seemed totally indifferent to me. But soon, eventually, I fell in love with her.

She was so tiny she fit in the palm of my hand. But she had a huge personality, and a very strong will. She demanded food, and ate it ravenously, something that barely changed in the sixteen years she was with me. She was not cuddly at all at first, and wanted little to do with me. She wanted to be fed, and then she wanted to go out. The first time I let her out I didn’t know if she would come back. But she did come back, and kept coming back. And soon, eventually, she was “mine.”

Blanche was with me through so many changes in my life. Through my fist job lay-off, when I didn’t know how I was going to pay the rent. And through the second one, and the third. Through the bad boyfriends. Through the career confusion. She hated it when I cried, which I did a lot in those dark days. I would be on my bed, sobbing about my life, and she’d look at me with what seemed to be disapproval. “Get it together,” she seemed to be saying. “You’ve got a cat to feed.” Sometimes she would come up close and poke me with her paw, as if saying, “Stop that. Enough already.” She was not a sentimental cat. Soon, eventually, I stopped crying and got on with life.

I remember the first time she let me cradle her in my arms, like a baby. I’d had her for about a year. She had never let me hold her like that before, but this time she did. She looked up at me with guarded eyes, as if saying “I’ll let you hold me this one time. But I don’t have to like it.” Slowly, she did like it. She let me hold her like that more often. She started to relax. Slowly, the bad memories of her early life on the street seemed to subside. The days of scrounging for food, and defending herself against all threats went away. It took years for her to trust that she now had a big protector who would feed her. She always had to remind me, usually at around 4:00 a.m. every morning, that she was here and needed to be fed. She would scratch the wall, or sometimes poke me with a paw. Even on the weekends. Even on holidays, when I would have liked to sleep in. No – it was time to get up and feed the cat. I tried to ignore her, I tried to stay in bed. Every single morning, it was the same. But soon, eventually, she would win and I would get up.

She never became friends with any other cats. She could tolerate dogs, opossums, squirrels, and skunks, but never another cat. When I bought my own house with a little backyard, she finally had her very own territory to guard, and she chased away any cat that dared intrude. She was a hunter, and if I accidentally let her in without checking first, she would sometimes run inside with her prey – often still alive. There were many times I chased some small animal around my house, trying to save it before the mighty hunter got it and finished it off. As she got older, she eventually slowed down and stopped hunting, preferring to enjoy a nap in the sun. Soon, eventually, she stopped hunting at all.

When I got married, she moved with me to our new house. She was the Queen. She took over. She endured the months long remodel, allowing the workers to invade her territory day after day. She was older now, a bit more settled. She claimed certain spots in the house as hers, mostly where she could catch a little sun, and she was content. But she still woke us up at 4:00 a.m. every morning, something my new husband discovered with some alarm, but put up with. He fell in love with her, and she allowed him to inhabit her universe. I had finally found my prince charming, but she was still the Queen. Soon, eventually, the three of us settled into a happy little family.

At sixteen she was still jumping up on the tall stools which gave her access to the counter which led her past the stove and to the sink. She loved going to that sink, looking for water, even though she always had fresh water in her bowl. At sixteen she was still scratching to go out everyday, even though she would just sit on a chair in a sunny spot and sleep. At sixteen, she was still waking us up every morning, although in the last few days it went from 4:00 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. and then two days ago she did not wake us up. And she seemed to be limping, and when I took her to the vet he mentioned a series of possible causes, and advised me that she was an old cat, and any number of things could be happening, and at her age it was about “quality of life,” and sooner or later, decisions would have to be made about what was best for her.

Yesterday, sooner came. The vet told us later, after, that she may have had a blood clot which caused a stroke. I could tell she was in some kind of distress. I don’t know if she was in pain, or knew what was happening to her. All I could do was hold her in my arms, and stroke her, and kiss her, and tell her I loved her. It was fairly quick, but felt like a lifetime, and soon, eventually, I watched her slip away.

When my husband told me she was gone, I didn’t quite believe it. We wrapped her in a towel and placed her on a pillow, and she looked like she was sleeping. I kept creeping into the room after that, hoping that she would suddenly get up, go to the door, and start scratching to go out. I kept listening from the other room, kept thinking I heard the little “click-click-click” as she made her way across the hardwood floor. I kept hoping she was still with me. Soon, eventually, I accepted that she was gone.

Loss is such an integral part of life, but that doesn’t make it easier to accept. Beyond the weighty questions of life and death and “what does it all mean?” and “why are we here?” there is simple emotion. I miss Blanche very much. She was my responsibility, at times my tormentor, and for a very long time, my friend. I hope I was a good cat mom, because she was a very good cat. Soon, eventually, I hope I will stop crying and just remember the love.
Blanche


Quality of Life – Listen Up!

I took my cat Blanche to the vet, because she seemed to be limping. Three hundred dollars later, I learned she has sciatica and is old. Okay, I knew she was old before I took her in. I’ve had her for sixteen years, but sometimes I forget because she’s small and like any good resident of LA, she really doesn’t look her age. But she’s started to move a little slower, and these days she’s more interested in curling up inside the house (in my chair, of course) than running around chasing birds outside. Right now she’s sleeping off the pain medication the vet gave her to “take the edge off.” At sixteen, he said, it’s not so much about curing her, but more about “quality of life.” There is a decision that will have to be made at some point, perhaps sooner than I would like to think, about whether her pain is impeding her quality of life. But for now, for today, it is under control.

I am also under control. My doctor has put me on blood pressure medication. Apparently being middle aged, and unemployed for a year, and stressed out about the economy and life and three hundred dollar vet bills have caused my blood pressure to increase markedly. I really didn’t want to go on the medicine, because that’s for old people, or people who eat Big Macs every day. But when I said that to my doctor she got very agitated and her voice got really loud as she described all the horrible things that would happen to my heart if my blood continued to rampage through my body with such a great force. Then she told me that she didn’t care and she would write “patient was advised of risk of not taking medicine” on my chart and go her merry way, and it was my body and it was up to me, but of course by then I was afraid I would give her a heart attack if I kept resisting, so I quietly asked her how much the medicine cost.

Later, when I gave the pharmacist the prescription, I asked her what the name of the medicine was, because I couldn’t read the doctor’s handwriting. “Oh,” she said “This is Listen Up.” Listen up? As in, “Listen up – you better get a handle on things? You better get a job, and start eating more vegetables for dinner. You better straighten up the shoes on the floor of your closet and file all those papers that you keep pushing to the side of your desk. You better get with it and get on it and get to it, because this is serious and you need to wake up and pay attention while you still are relatively young and don’t have to take fourty-six pills every morning. It’s all about quality of life, and yours is going to go down hill faster than you realize if you don’t listen up!”

And when I picked up the prescription fifteen minutes later I realized it was actually “Lisinop.” But then I thought about the cat I had seen cradled in the arms of her owner in the waiting room of the vet’s office. Argyle was a beautiful orange tabby, and she was seven years old and dying of Leukemia. And I thought, “Listen Up! Forget about the shoes and the unfiled papers. Hold Blanche while you can, and take your medicine and eat your vegetables and also have a cookie once in a while. Find the balance.” Because it’s all about the quality of life, and there are decisions that will have to be made at some point, maybe sooner than later, but for now, for today, it is under control.


My Cat Needs A New Office Chair

Or else I do.

When I was working at an office, away from home for ten hours a day, my cat had four comfy spots she slept in: chair by window in living room, left pillow of bed in guest room, foot of bed in master bedroom, and in between the two seat cushions of the sofa in den.

Now that I am unemployed and spend my entire day in my home office at my computer searching for work and writing my book, my cat has one spot in which she sleeps. My office chair.

When I wake up in the morning and go to turn on my computer, she’s in my chair sleeping. If I am working and leave for two minutes to get a glass of water, when I return she’s in my chair sleeping. If I go out for groceries, when I come home she’s in my chair sleeping.

There is, apparently, nowhere else in the house that is suitable for her to sleep, now that I need my chair during the day. My husband, who goes out to work, has a chair two feet away from mine that is empty all day. She does not prefer that chair. Sometimes I move her to that chair so I can sit and work. She glares at me and either jumps into my lap (do you know how hard it is to type with cat-in-lap?) or starts poking me with her paw, and I have to take off my reading glasses and switch back into my regular glasses and get up and walk all the way through the house to let her out into the backyard. Sometimes I bring in a dining room chair and put it right next to mine, and move her onto that chair. She does not prefer that chair either. It has to be my office chair.

Sometimes I move my chair, with her still in it, away from my desk, and move my husband’s chair in front of my computer, but I don’t like his chair as much as I like MY OWN DAMN CHAIR.

I really feel if she’s going to be in my chair all day, the least she can do is finish my book and answer my e-mail, but so far that has not happened. I think I’m going to have to buy another chair exactly like my chair. If she doesn’t prefer to use that one, I’ll use it. Anything to get the book finished. But I can tell you this – if my cat thinks I’m dedicating my book to her, she can think again.


Why Broadway Is Ruining My Image

I have been walking around the house for the last two days singing “Always look on the bright side of life…” from the musical SPAMALOT. I saw a particularly infectious television commercial, and have come down with a severe case of “can’t stop singing this song.”

The troubling part about it is I’m not really a “bright side of life” kind of gal. I’m more of the “swirling vortex of nothingness” type. I’m terrified that one of my neighbors is going to hear me being all happy and stuff and then they’re going to want to talk to me and who knows where that might lead – friendships, sharing, participating. Ugh.

I have to get this stupid song out of my head before it ruins my life.


Overheard in LA

While waiting for my friend at a trendy cafe, I overheard a hip 20-something say:
“I don’t know, I’m just not feeling the lobster and shrimp crepes today.”

Neither am I, my friend. Neither am I.