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The now of December 2019

The big news this month is KITTENS. Meet Criminy and Crivens, whom FunkyPlaid and I adopted in mid-November from Cat Adoption Team.

These stray tabby brothers were expertly fostered, so it took them no time at all to adjust to their new home with us. At their fourth-month veterinary check-in this month, they had nearly tripled in weight!

Their foster names were Walnut and Chestnut, and they had two more siblings we never got to meet: Cashew, who was adopted right before them, and Almond, who is a bit of a mystery to us. We’re both sad and relieved by this missed connection: we can’t imagine only adopting two after meeting the whole family.

It had been decades since either of us had raised a kitten, and we’ve never raised two at once, so to write “it has been a learning experience” is both an understatement and sounds way less fun than we’ve been having. Crivens and Criminy are a delight as a brotherly-bonded unit and as individuals with very distinct personalities starting to emerge.

Mostly they are babies. And so everything is brand-new and therefore exciting. Sure, the things we have acquired for them like the cat tree, play tunnel, and window seat are pretty good, but they much prefer hoodie strings! Bathtub! Kitchen counters! Worn socks! The inside of the grandfather clock (sigh). Christmas tree! And each other. They really, really, really love each other. As I write this, they are play-fighting on their cat tree, and Criminy is attempting to fit Crivens’ entire head into his mouth. Sideways. It’s the best.

As expected, the joy these two bring doesn’t change the nature of my grief over losing Zen, but caring for our new family members has been a more productive focus of my energy. I still miss Zen every day; I imagine I always will. The pain is less acute, most days, more like a lingering bruise I forget about long enough to whack it good and hard with a careless motion.

I thought I might participate in Holidailies this year, and I was off to an okay start, but finally embraced the fact that I am just enough of a contrarian to resent the forced structure of daily challenges. Even my past Project 365 challenges were arduous to maintain. It wasn’t the pressure to create that sapped my enthusiasm, but rather the pressure to create within timed constraints. I never seemed to have enough time to do all the things.

And then I read Cal Newport’s book “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” and realization after realization crashed over me. It wasn’t about time, but about focus. In my desperate attempt to avoid FOMO – the fear of missing out – I have thrown myself into every new online service and group I discover, only to run out of energy to participate. It’s a basic math problem: a finite amount of energy divided among an increasing number of groups results in decreasing amounts of focus paid to each group. In plainer terms: I’m not participating in any one thing well because I’m too busy participating in everything badly.

Newport suggests a digital declutter to make participation more intentional. I had already turned off notifications from social media apps on my phone, but this week I decided to delete everything except and only check the rest once a week from my home computer. I’ll ask the people who only message me via these apps to email, text, or call (😱) instead if they need to reach me urgently. It will be a big adjustment but one I am eager to make.

I took notes on “Digital Minimalism” but opted not to share those notes or review the book publicly – a choice that I am telling myself is 100% okay to make so I can spend my time on other things I find more rewarding – but someone I know through posted his review and reference notes for “Digital Minimalism”. And if you use Firefox (which I recommend) here’s a plug for the Library Extension add-on which checks your local library’s holdings while you’re browsing books and e-books online.

Other things that happened this month:

It’s the end of the year (and the end of the decade, depending on who you ask), and although I am no longer so naïve to think that everything changes once the calendar page turns, I still savor the anticipation packed into the last few days of the year. Today I’ll crack open my new Passion Planner and try to capture some of that excitement. May your new year contain kindness, good health, camaraderie, and peace. And kittens.

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