how i found you


How I Found: Atticus
March 12, 2009, 5:37 pm
Filed under: my cat | Tags: , ,

I left my husband, “Rick”, on April 14th, 2002. I lost my job two weeks later. My bank account was completely dry, so I used a credit card to stay in a motel for a couple months. Unemployment helped a bit, but hurt my self-esteem. My parents were unsupportive at best, blaming me for the separation. All my friends were originally Rick’s, a mistake I vowed never to make again. I was alone, I was penniless, and it was just the beginning of the end of my life as I knew it.

Rick and I owned a beautiful $250,000 house on five acres; he offered me $3200 as a buy-out of the marriage. Although I only asked for 25% of our assets, we quibbled over money for more than a year. Since we didn’t have children, the court system kept delaying our hearing date, and we weren’t legally divorced until late in 2003.

But I get ahead of myself. I did find more work, but also lost that job at the end of the summer in 2002. I moved back home, in with my parents, feeling like I had nowhere else to turn. My legal fees were ridiculously high, my unemployment ran out, my car’s timing belt slipped and amounted to thousands of dollars in repairs, I began having health problems that also amounted to thousands of dollars in “repairs,” and my mother still seemed intent on giving me the impression she hated me (my favorite was seeing a book on her shelf titled, When Our Grown Children Disappoint Us.)

 After trying to make things work with my parents for five months, I couldn’t take it anymore. I literally left in the middle of the night and moved to another city, in with a family member. None of my relationships were healthy, romantic or otherwise. I didn’t understand how to love or be loved. I didn’t trust any emotion I felt and, as a result, all emotions manifested themselves as pure anxiety. I didn’t trust when things went well, and molecularly expected things to go poorly. At the beginning of it all, when I first split with Rick, I remember thinking, Well, this week sucked. Next week will be better. Eventually, that changed into months, until finally, I would tell myself, Perhaps next year will be better. I began to drink too much and knew I couldn’t stay, so I packed up again and moved to Ohio to stay on a friend’s couch while I tried to find work.

The day I moved to Ohio, I met him. Things went poorly in Ohio as well, and I stayed less than a year, but it didn’t matter. I  had him.

He loved me, and he didn’t care that I was broke. He didn’t care that I was making minimum wage sewing dog collars in a factory (at a time when federal minimum wage was a magnificent $5.15 an hour.) He didn’t care that I was sleeping on a couch. He didn’t care that my mother never called anymore, or that I was not living up to my potential. He didn’t care that I still wasn’t divorced after a year of separation. He didn’t care that I couldn’t quit smoking. He didn’t care about any of those things; he just loved me. And he needed me. When was the last time I had felt necessary to someone else’s existence? I couldn’t even remember. I would get home from working in that demeaning factory, where I had to wait for a fricking buzzer to go off just so I could take a shit, and he would be waiting for me. If all I could do was lie on the couch and breathe, he would lie next to me. If I needed to smile, all I had to do was look in his eyes.

I started imagining a better life; a life where I could be happy again. A life where I was going somewhere and doing something. I listened to a song with the lyrics: “Stay right where you are, you’ll be half of who you were,” and all of the sudden, a light began to shine within me. I thought, “I want to be happy, so I can make him happy.” I began studying for the GRE to get into grad school. I left Ohio. (Hope I never have to go back.)

But it’s where I found Atticus, my orange tabby cat.

I almost lost Atticus in the fall of 2008. He got so very sick, and spent quite a bit of time in the hospital. I spent thousands of dollars on him, and a lot of people didn’t understand that. I can’t say for sure that he saved my life in 2003, but I can promise you he saved my soul.

He’s doing better now, and I’m in a place where I’m ready to let him go if I have to, but know this: Atticus means more to me than anything in the world. He taught me to feel love again, and what could possibly be more important than that?

Emily Reese lives in Minnesota and works for public radio.

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