Notes on the Journey

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A New Way of Seeing

Sophie and I just went through a bit of a breakdown, or breakthrough, as I like to see it.  We've both been dealing with a lot getting ready to move to France, and we've been adjusting and integrating pretty well up until this week.  But, as happens with breakthroughs, we're both feeling better now that we're through it.

Sophie had to go in for her last veterinarian visit on Monday in order to get all her travel papers signed by the USDA-certified vet.  She's basically fine, but I'd been noticing behavior that told me her anal glands needed to be expressed, and she's "barbered" her lower stomach...shaved herself, so-to-speak.  The expressing happened--which can not be a pleasant experience--and the vet wanted to put her on antibiotics, both for that and because she thought there might be a bladder infection.  After three doses of the antibiotics, Sophie was throwing up and had diarrhea, so I stopped the medication and we went back to the vet today.  Only today, Sophie got to see her regular vet, Dr. Mariann Rozsa, of the Bayside Vet Hospital in Point Loma, for all you San Diego folks.  Dr. Rozsa is a miracle of a vet and a feline specialist.  She loves cats and Sophie loves Dr. Rozsa as she loves very few people.  Sophie was calm throughout the visit and didn't fight when she got a B12 shot or had a pill put down her throat or got put back into her carrier.  You would have thought she was a different animal.  She didn't cry on the way home, ate two plates of food and immediately went to sleep.  She's fine.  No more antibiotics, just probiotics to sprinkle on her food and three more pills for nausea and done.  Dr. Rozsa treated Sophie with such love that Sophie perked up, received energy from the visit, and calmed down...all at the same time.

Why Sophie's anal glands and why now?  A cat's anal glands secrete when the cat's bowels move.  It carries hormonal information and, through scent, any animal that smells the information contained in the secretions knows everything they need to know about the cat who secreted it.  It's identifying information.  It's who the cat is.  In my view, Sophie has lost a clarity about who she is.  She's gone through a lot in the last few years...a number of moves, losing a "brother" cat with whom she had a very conflicted relationship, losing her older "sister" cat who she loved and with whom she's lived her whole life, being left alone with a caretaker while I walked The Camino, and then being left alone again almost immediately when I went back to France to find a place to live.  It would be a lot to adjust to and process under any circumstances, but to then add this huge move across the world to all of what she's already been through, put her into an identity crisis.  Sophie has to see herself differently, in the same way that I do.  She is no longer who she was, and is in the process of rebirthing herself into who she will be in our new home and new life...creating a new identity.

Yesterday, I drove up to the USDA office in El Segundo, which is just south of the Los Angeles airport.  I had to take Sophie's travel papers there to get everything officially stamped, signed, and numbered.  Thanks to Jennifer, in the Bayside Vet Hospital office, all the paperwork was in order and complete.  So, $38 and an hour and a half later, I was on my way.

I had been fine on the way up to LA but, on the way back, my left eye started to tear and felt scratchy and got swollen and started creating mucus.  By the time I got back to San Diego, my left eye was practically swollen shut.  I've never had conjunctivitis, but I figured that's what I had.  Why I had it was a mystery, but have it I did.  I went to bed early and hoped that it would be better when I got up, but no.  Both eyes were affected, but my left eye was extreme.  I had to find a doctor.

I went to a family clinic near my sister's house, ended up being referred to another clinic in a different part of town, went there, waited about three hours, and saw a lovely doctor who told me not to worry and that I'd be fine in a few days.  He prescribed antibiotic drops for my eyes and some allergy pills to reduce the swelling and sent me on my way.  Done.  My eyes are already feeling better.

Why my eyes, specifically why my left eye, and why now?  Well, the physical trigger was that I'd been helping my sister clean out her garage and back porch for the last week, which meant considerable amounts of dust for my system to deal with.  But, I've been in dusty situations before and not developed conjunctivitis or had an extreme allergic reaction, so why now?  The answer I got was because I need to see in a new way.  And, specifically, I need to see in a more feminine way--left eye.  Yes...  I'm leaving my country and everything I know to move to a new country and live a different life.  My life will look/be different in all aspects.  I will be seeing new things and seeing new ways of doing things.  I will need to see things differently in order to adapt to my new culture and adopt new customs and ways of being.  My eyes needed to be cleaned out and reset.  I needed to come into a visceral awareness of the need to see in a new way.

I'm moving from a very masculine, aggressive culture in the US to a very feminine, receptive culture in France.  It's so important that I see this and see the difference between the two.  I will have an enormous amount to do when I get to Uzes.  I have to set up my apartment, starting from scratch.  My normal way of getting this done would be to launch an all out assault, attack the situation and wrestle it to completion.  One way to do it.  But, I need to pull myself back from my old normal.  The old way will not be the most effective way in my new home.

Fortunately, without realizing it, I arranged to arrive in Uzes on a Saturday afternoon.  Fortunate because that means my first full day there will be a Sunday.  On Sundays in France, everything is closed and life is slow and people enjoy the day.  This means, I can't even try to hit the road running.  I will take Sunday to get to know my new apartment.  I'll spend time in it and measure it and let it talk to me.  Every space wants different things and different colors.  Every space has a certain feel and flow to it that tells you where to place the furniture.  And, having a whole day to get to know my new space before putting one thing into it is a real blessing.

Sophie and I leave San Diego next Tuesday, fly away on Wednesday, and arrive in Uzes on Saturday.  Our day of departure from all that's comfortable and familiar is drawing near.  I've been so focused on getting everything done in order to be ready to leave--masculine aspect--that I've given very little attention to the emotional impact of leaving--feminine aspect.  But, because of what's happened for both myself and Sophie over the last few days, I've given the emotional aspect a chance to talk to me and catch up.  So, I'm seeing more clearly, all is indeed well, and I am yet again on my knees in gratitude, which is never a bad place to be.



  1. Wow. You're doing it. You're on your way. I'm so . . . I don't even know the word I want to say . . . for you and Sophie and your adventures. Excited doesn't even scratch the surface. I can not wait to hear your stories. Big hugs.

  2. Thank you!'s very exciting. Scary and exciting.

  3. To say that I'm in awe of you is an understatement. You go girls (Sophie included). Bon Voyage!