These fellows kept their train from being derailed- -this week, I’m not so lucky! From the cover of “Starbuck, the Little Town that Could” by Carla Woodend Giger, Kay Jackson Hickey & Carol Actor Wildman.

This blog was supposed to be posted on Thursday instead of today, the usual Friday. I  had planned to go off for 32 hours and do something purely recreational, like a mini vacation. Though I’ve traveled recently for work or other obligatory reasons, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve done something just for the fun of it. On Thursday, the day I’m writing this, the plan I’d made all the way back in December was derailed.


Were you going on a train?


No, Lily, I’d booked a round-trip flight to Seattle to use a travel voucher issued by Alaska Air for a trip I had to cancel in early 2020. The voucher expired at the end of 2021. I couldn’t think of anything “big” to do so I decided on something quick and compact. A play that a friend of mine designed the sound for was set to open in March. The show had been three days shy of opening in March, 2020, but the production was shut down because of COVID-19 restrictions. It seemed serendipitous, using my travel voucher from that same time to be there, killing two derailed events with one metaphorical stone.


It was exciting to contemplate, a quick trip over and back, and spending the evening with two college friends as part of the package. I’m not very outgoing about making travel plans but I pushed myself to get past this shyness (or whatever you’d call it) and made it happen. Or so I thought.


So why aren’t you going?



The best way I can put it, 9, is there were too many signs against it.


Last week it was all in place. I’d reserved the theater tickets long ago, knew where I was staying and what I’d be doing in Seattle during the daytime while my friends were at work. The house and pet sitter was booked. But even when everything was a “go” I was struggling with guilt over doing something simply because I wanted to.


I gave myself frequent pep-talks and successfully reeled myself back from the precipice of self-derailment. How could my usual world possibly not do without me for 32 hours? But I kept feeling guilty about being so self-indulgent. Shouldn’t I be using my travel voucher to do something responsible?


This week, the Cosmos answered that question to the affirmative.


The first nail in my travel coffin was learning that a friend who’d been dealing with cancer had started hospice. Derailment thought #1: you should be using the travel voucher to visit him. When you’re my age if you cancel your plans every time a friend starts hospice, or even dies, you can never do anything at all. I’d seen him as recently as October and he and I had a lovely, long talk, a few days ago. We reminisced and laughed and said I love you, a good practice in general since time shared with anyone dear will one day be the last.


With sorrow, but determined to keep my plan in place, I resolved to follow through. On my trip I’d be spending time with two very dear friends, one of whom I hadn’t seen in person for something like 25 years. That counts, too.


Then Friday started getting sick again.


Why don’t cats live forever?


That’s a good question, Lily, without a good answer. He started vomiting on Monday and when a pool of blood came up it was clearly time to check in with the vet. Animal medical services are in tight supply these days, but I got him an urgent care “drop off” appointment for Thursday with the goal of having a GI blood panel done to figure out what can be done for him.


I felt really low when I got home from taking him to the clinic. It would be a long day of waiting for the call to pick him up, since drop-offs are worked into the schedule as other appointments and emergencies permit. I was ready for that, also 110% confident in the pet sitter I’d booked for my 32-hour adventure, who loves Friday dearly and is highly experienced in animal health issues and home care. Once again I talked myself back from the derailment brink.


At home I checked my email. One of the two friends I was meeting for our theater date was having health problems of his own and very reasonably felt he shouldn’t be out in public on the evening we’d planned. I could have adjusted, and I still might have made it . .


Is that when you started to scream and cry?


Yes, 9. I also gritted my teeth and tried to rally again. I might have made it back from the derailment brink once more, but when the vet called and told me Friday needed to fast 12 hours before the new blood sample could be drawn. . .It’s imperative that his blood has additional testing to figure out what to do for his comfort; delay was not an option. He wouldn’t be available for pickup before I boarded the 6 AM plane. Yes, I could have asked the sitter to pick him up, but. . .


A guy can’t come home after a day-plus at the vets, poked and prodded and scared, and not have his mom to comfort him.


Clearly it was not the time to do something for myself.


Last week I had dinner with a friend. We know each other from college theater days and I asked him something framed in that context. I very strongly default to putting the needs of others ahead of my own, especially when it comes to work, pets, and romantic relationships. This, I think, is why my marriages have been abject failures: I don’t show up for myself  and after a few years there’s nothing left. I’m pretty sure this pattern evolved in my late teens when I learned, rightly or wrongly, that I have to give up the things I want in order for other people to care about me.


I asked the friend I was dining with if that was a sort of “actor” thing, a side-effect of honing a craft that teaches us to shape ourselves into what’s needed?


He laughed, not unkindly, and said, “It’s called being a woman.”


Sexist? Possibly, but also an oversimplification as I suspect many women are very good at showing up for themselves. I’m not, and it’s something I’m working hard to change.


Can see now why something as minor as a 32-hour optional trip has come to mean so much?


Fortunately the other friend in my proposed theater trio is the epitome of kindness and understanding. Alaska Air has given me a full-credit voucher that’s good until the end of this year. My sitter, who is rightly popular with pet owners throughout the county, is incredibly understanding. When Friday gets home from the vet’s- -on Friday or possibly Saturday if he needs another day of hospitalization- -she’ll come over and visit him, in case he’s gone the next time I travel.


Every kindness has come my way through this experience. I confess to feeling emotionally exhausted, and our society’s slow crawl away from COVID-19 is contributing to this. Surely some of you, too, have been moved to see so many people without masks, to see their whole faces, to feel awe at the miracle of mouths and how they add volumes to communication? An extra layer of emotional rawness to overcome.

Derailment. Sometimes the train has to go off the tracks. Sometimes, even when things have been at a standstill for a long, long time, it is still time for stillness.


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