It’s been a while since I sat down to write a birthday blog. Last year I had a small afternoon birthday party: taco bar, cupcakes, and sunshine. I had a house filled with most of my friends – over 20 people showed up- people flew in or drove. I lived in the Berkeley Hills and I had a view that was simply breath-taking. I got three flower deliveries including one edible basket. That simple party was one of the best birthdays of my life, I was shocked at how many people not only showed up, but sent gifts if they couldn’t come. I realized how many people loved me last year, and it was a nice to be reminded.
When I took a break from writing in 2013-14, I told myself it was because my business took off and I simply didn’t have the time. The truth is when my business got busy, my whole life changed. Clients became more important than anything else. I had a lot of adventures with my clients, but very different ones. It was exhilarating for me to excel in business and to watch it grow. I realized if I did it right, this job I’d created for myself was something I could be happy doing for the rest of my life. My clients challenge me and they also teach me to value myself, because if they are assholes I fire them. It’s a powerful feeling, to know that you are not owned by anyone.
I never really thought I had it in me to have a business that could not only sustain itself and me, but then continue to grow. As a paralegal/personal assistant, you take a walk into people’s lives just like you do when you interview someone. People fascinate me, and I have learned more in the last year from my clients than I have in a long time. I love my job; it allows me freedom and it puts my brain to work. I am a problem-solver; there is nothing more satisfying to me than fixing problems. I get off on it in a way I never imagined; at times, in some ways what I do is better than sex.
September, October, and November 2015 pushed me to the limit. I had an incredibly exhausting relationship- emotionally, mentally, and physically. I had spent so much time dealing with my clients and everyone else, I stopped taking care of myself. In December I stopped, took a step back, and learned how to be Vanessa again. I went on vacation to a place where I meet special friends each year. From the second I got on that plane, I was free – I decided this was my time. Vacation was a blast, I had more fun than I’d had in years because I didn’t have to do a goddamn thing for anyone.
What most of you don’t know about me is that for eleven and a half years I had a calico named Cleo, short for Cleopatra. Cleo was a rescue; I went to a shelter in San Luis Obispo (I’ve rescued all my pets). I went into the part of the shelter where the older cats were, because much like adopting children, everyone wants a baby. As I walked through the kennels I felt a paw tap me on the shoulder; I turned to my right and that was the first time I saw Cleo. I asked the attendant to take her out of the cage. As soon as they handed her to me, she put her face in the crook of my arm and started purring. Cleo chose me; I loved her from that very second and never stopped.
Cleo was my partner: she moved with me; she kept me company; she was there for every good and bad thing that happened in my life. All of my friends, lovers, and clients knew Cleo- the kitty who ruled with an iron paw. Every party I had she was a part of, she let people pet her and was never skittish; Cleo loved attention. When people came to the house, she assumed they came to see her. Cleo was the best part of my day.
On March 7th this year, close to 5am, Cleo woke me. At first I thought she was playing but I realized very quickly something was very wrong with my sweet kitty cat. When I picked her up to place her on the bed, her back legs gave out. Her front paws worked fine but she rolled like a rolley-polley because she could not use her back legs at all. I saw the panic in her eyes, and her breathing was labored. Thank god, her vet was open 24 hours and I took her in immediately. They rushed Cleo downstairs and the nurse walked me into an exam room. The vet came in and when I looked at her, I knew she was going to tell me something I was not prepared for. She said “I’m really sorry but I don’t have good news.”
Cleo had a heart condition. Ironically, she had been to the vet three months prior for a checkup. The vet said she was in great shape, and with her type of heart condition it would go one of two ways. One, little blood clots will shoot out and they put her on medication. Worst case scenario, a huge clot would form, paralyzing her back legs and sending her into heart failure, which would kill her. And here it was; as soon as this vet started explaining, I realized Cleo had the worst case scenario. I had to put Cleo down. There was nothing they could do to save her.
Then the vet said “You know this happens a lot to cats; it’s something that’s common. But what’s odd is that most cats are screaming in pain and she’s not. She’s clearly in pain but she’s meowing; that is one tough kitty cat you have there. She is still purring when I examine her.” That’s my Cleo. Much like her momma she is always a lady, and a lady knows how to exit. The vet said due to Cleo’s condition, I could not sit with her when they put her down. But since she was doing so well in the moment, they were going to shoot her up with morphine so I could go say good bye.
After they gave her the morphine they came and got me; I walked into this very cold, sterile environment. I saw my Cleo laying there looking like she always did- she looked high as a kite and exceptionally happy- but she didn’t look like she was about to die. They left us alone and we had a talk. I petted her and she purred and I thanked her for picking me to be her person. Cleo picked me to give her a life and she picked me to help her leave this world. I told her I was sorry it had to go like this and I kissed her. I told her to say hi to Dad, and I would see them both on the other side. When I came home, I felt like I was on drugs but I was completely sober.
People always say I live in a big house and I never thought it was that big. But after Cleo died this house seemed huge because all the love that lived in it was gone. The first week was the hardest; I never realized how much space, energy, and love that little kitty gave me. I didn’t rescue Cleo that day at the animal shelter, she rescued me. No matter what happened in my life, no matter how bad or sad, there she was. It’s been very hard to adjust; sometimes I think I hear her, or I forget she’s not here. My birthday is today, March 28th; I was going to have a big party on the 26th, but I cancelled the party the day she died. I can’t celebrate without her right now.
Death, whether it’s a person or an animal, really fucks with you. Death, brings change, whether we like it or not. Death is the big question mark- what happens when we die? It forces us to look at our lives and re-evaluate what is really important and what isn’t. I used to say “I know what I don’t want, but I have no idea, what I actually want.” Cleo’s death forced me to take a hard look and figure out what I really want for myself. I did a lot of soul searching, and for the first time in my life, I know what it is. I’m not going to be sharing that, because it’s also my birthday wish. So, I will keep this to myself for a while.
I have had an extraordinary life. I had an amazing father who shaped me into the woman I am today. I came to San Francisco to be a lawyer and somehow I ended up a writer and a business owner. Being a writer is not easy; usually you have to try and try again. I didn’t have to try very hard to get noticed; I was very lucky. For some reason, people liked reading my work and they still do. I have worked in the amazing world of adult entertainment, seen and done things most people only get to watch on the internet. I have traveled; I have loved and been loved. I have a wonderful family- some blood, and the rest a family of my own choosing. I have been blessed to have a variety of friends, and they make my life very interesting.
And I had a cat, a cat that loved me so much. I realize she was why I never felt alone. Animals love you so purely and unconditionally; they bring us joy, company, and a friend for life. While I process all of this, I wonder what life will bring next and I look forward to a change. After canceling my birthday, I had a lot of very kind friends offer to take me to dinner or to do something.
The truth is, I have no desire to celebrate my birthday this year. Instead, I am taking the day off; I will be headed to the nail shop and then to my happy place- a 14,000 square foot spa, where everything is perfect and just for me. I just want a quiet day, so I am choosing to have a day of self-care and reflection.
It’s never too late to do something different, no matter how old you are. Life is what we make of it, and I’m not done yet. Do something you never thought you would do; you will be amazed what you are capable of when you realize that, even as adults, we can be better, happier people.
Don’t worry, I will be back to writing my sexy blogs again. But sometimes life isn’t sexy, and this is one of those times. I have a fantastic Craigslist casual encounters story, with this couple…oh man, it’s a good one, talk about a freak show. I will write it when I am in that place again. For all of you that are pet owners, kiss your sweet perfect beasts for me. I’d give anything to snuggle Cleo again. Until next time folks.