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The Strange Math of a Bravery Budget

·809 words·4 mins
Mental Health

It’s always tough when you’re waiting to hear back about a situation that you’re worried about. And there’s literally nothing you can do for the time being in order to clear up the ambiguity or the confusion. No, you must wait.

I’ve been in that situation a lot this past year. There’s been the pandemic of course — a mass experiment in that, where I was able to do my part in order to limit the spread of coronavirus. But I could not control what other people did. And then when the contagious variants entered the picture, that was another difficult variable thrown on top. Something else I couldn’t control. There was a lot of waiting. Watching. Seeing what happened.

But that hasn’t been the only “waiting on something worrying” scenario this past year. Oh no. Both of my cats are elderly (20 and 15, I believe, although I wasn’t around when they were little, they’re my partner’s cats). And so it’s not entirely unexpected, but they’ve both spent time in the hospital this past year, for different things. The fact that it’s not unexpected doesn’t mean it isn’t emotionally hard to deal with, so it’s been quite difficult waiting to hear how things are going.

Sure, I could call and call. Interrogate the medical providers every hour on the hour. But both times I was told no news was good news, and while I was told I could call at any time, I tried to space out any “may I have an update?” calls so I didn’t bother the folks taking care of my cats.

This leaves a lot of time to wonder how things are going. To imagine the worst.

The last time I had a cat in the hospital, an interesting thing happened: I went on a wild adulting spree. It had been a couple of years since I had so aggressively bolted down a list of tasks. But I did.

I researched and found a local dentist (an overdue task; when the pandemic hit, I had been in a new state for about 6 months and was working up the resolve to do this research and then was driven away), so I can get a proper cleaning beyond the brushing and flossing I’ve been doing at home. I called and inquired about whether they’re taking new patients, their COVID precaution practices, if they take our insurance. I scheduled appointments.

I was out of refills for a medicine and it had been over a year since I had seen the doctor who prescribes it — so I called their office and pled my case. They gave me another month and scheduled me to be seen. (I am familiar with their COVID precautions; they are excellent.)

I also called and complained about a very bad issue regarding my apartment that needed cleared up but neither my partner nor me had felt up to doing. This was particularly striking — since I hate complaining or arguing with people to get a different outcome. This is because I worked in customer service roles for years and was inundated with more than my share of Karens and Billy Bobs who wanted to yell and spit and splain at me. Those experiences have stuck with me. It makes it incredibly easy to feel like I’m being a mean, bad customer even if I’m being calm and polite when reporting an issue. I’m a little paranoid.

I’d much rather be that customer who is patient, friendly, and tips well. As such, I will deal with small inconveniences and mistakes without complaint. However, this time the issue was major but a little hard to explain. So I knew I had to complain but was nervous about how it would go. (And so was my partner, which was why he hadn’t called them about it yet.)

But I simply called the leasing office. And I explained what was going on. And I was instructed on an email I should send to fix the issue. (And it worked.)

“Wow,” my partner said, when I reported back what I had done on this particular day (in addition to lots of writing and chores, which is what a normal workday for me looks like), “you’re on an adulting streak.”

I shrugged. “I figured I was so worried about our cat that even if any of these interactions went poorly that it wouldn’t ruin a good day.”

He laughed.

I walked away from the interaction thinking about how being scared of what could happen with my cat had resulted in my being brave in other areas. It’s a curious thing — and something I’ve seen before in the past, the strange math of a bravery budget.

Being terrified but powerless can make you feel like you have nothing to lose. So why not tackle all the scary things?


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