Chercher l’ennui [fr]

Oui, vous avez bien lu. Chercher l’ennui. Il ne s’agit pas de le chasser, mais de le chercher, volontairement.

L’ennui est une denrée rare dans le monde d’aujourd’hui. Il suffit d’un doigt sur un écran pour qu’il s’évapore. Le cerveau toujours occupé, toujours en route, toujours en interaction. Toujours des choses qui entrent et qui sortent.

Ce qu’il faut, c’est du temps pour tourner à vide.

Alors moi, je vais chercher l’ennui. Ce n’est pas la première fois que j’en parle, et je vois bien que je commence à vous ennuyer avec mon histoire d’ennui. Je le cherche, par exemple, sur les pistes.

Ça paraît triste de dire ça, je sais, mais non, en fait c’est pas triste du tout.

Je skie seule, le cadre est magnifique (quand le brouillard ne nous empêche pas de savoir dans quel sens on avance, ou même si on avance), je bouge… mais au bout d’un moment, je sens une certaine agitation des neurones: j’en ai marre.

L’hiver dernier, et celui d’avant, quand j’en avais marre, j’arrêtais. Maintenant, je me délecte de cette sensation d’inutile, de non-productif, de cerveau qui part en vadrouille dans des endroits complètement imprévus. Je reste encore, une fois que j’ai trouvé l’ennui, je reste en je prends encore une fois le télésiège pour aller le chercher, encore, parce que je sais à quel point il me glissera toujours entre les doigts, une fois de retour au chalet, une fois de retour dans ma vie.

Et vous, où cherchez-vous l’ennui?

At the Chalet for Two Weeks [en]

[fr] Au chalet pour deux semaines. Pas mal de réflexions sur où j'en suis.

I’m at the chalet for two weeks. I brought Erica. Last time I came I left her at eclau, and she fell ill, and my neighbours had to scramble to get her to the vet. I was ill too. I figured for two weeks it was worth it. She and Quintus still don’t really know each other, as she lives outside and at eclau, and he lives upstairs in the flat and only comes outside for a few minutes at a time, with me. But they’ve “seen” each other (quotes as Quintus is blind). There was growling and hissing early on, and then I prevented contact for a bit. Lately, when Erica comes to say hello to Quintus, he hasn’t growled or hissed. She’s cool. He’s old and lame and suspicious. So, maybe I’ll introduce them at the chalet. If it doesn’t go well, Erica can stay downstairs and outside, and Quintus upstairs. Quintus doesn’t go downstairs anyway.

I wasn’t planning on writing so much about the cats.

I’m at the chalet, for two weeks. My first real holiday since becoming gainfully employed. My previous two attempts at holidaying failed because of my friend giardia lamblia. I’ve been feeling slowly better these last two weeks. My last test came back negative. There’s more to write about this whole story. I don’t know if I’m relieved or more worried. It could in theory be a false negative, unless giardia in humans behaves fundamentally differently in humans than in cats and dogs. The doctor says a false negative is very unlikely, but I haven’t had a chance to confront him to the vet lab instructions linked above. More likely, what I’ve been seeing over the last month could be a post-infection GI disorder. I still haven’t tried introducing dairy back into my diet. I’m keeping a journal now, trying to figure out if I can link certain foods to the symptoms I still have (mainly gas, mild cramps, discomfort — more and more intermittent). I do not want to have IBDIBS, so I’m resisting cutting out gluten to see if it makes a difference, in a futile attempt to make it not that. I’m pretty sure it’s not that, having not noticed an obvious link between wheat and symptoms. But clearly, when I stick to rice and meat, things are pretty good.

I wasn’t planning on writing so much about my digestive woes.

So, here I am at the chalet, for two weeks, on vacation. A vacation as an employee or as a self-employed person feels pretty different. I managed to wrap up everything at work before heading out. Nothing can “happen” during my holidays. When you’re freelance, you can always get that phone call for a dream gig during your holidays, and chances you’re going to pick up the phone and talk with the client. The flexibility one gets as an independent goes both ways: more freedom when working, but less “getting completely away” when you’re not. At least, I never really managed to, except with the week I’d take in the south of France with my martial arts school, pretty much completely offline.

So, speaking of offline. One of my aims during this holiday is to disconnect. Not completely, but largely. This autumn I realised I was suffering from burnout. Starting work has been a lifesaver, because it reduced my mental load dramatically. All I needed to do was worry about waking up in the morning and catching my train. My working hours were long (factor in commuting) but the job itself was actually relaxing compared to my freelance life — particularly on the mental load front. I love my job. My job and I are a great match. I like doing what I do and am good at it. I have good relationships with my colleagues. I have a lot of autonomy, enough stimulation, and appreciation. It’s given me hope for my future and my ability to earn a living.

But aside from work, and aside from the fact I’ve been ill for nearly three months, I can still feel the effects of burnout. I read a book that was very helpful when I figured out what was going on. And it made me realise, more even than I had before, how important it is to have downtime. To do nothing. When I was playing Ingress a lot, I realised that was the problem: I had completely emptied my life of any kind of downtime. And looking back, when I ended up on sick leave for four months in my first year of teaching, that was probably some variety of burnout.

A few links, by me and others:

In addition to the issue around technology, there is social interaction. I mentioned it already in passing, and it’s something I’m thinking a lot about these days. I am a helper/fixer (I don’t know if there is a typology around that, but whatever). Many of my relationships revolve around helping others, particularly in times of crisis. I tend to put others first. Their needs before mine.

Even with my cats, sometimes. When I was trying to get Quintus’s diabetes under control, I realised that the “caring” component of our relationship had taken over all the rest. All my interactions with him had become medical, to the point of becoming obsessive. Thinking back to when Tounsi was ill, there was some of that too. It’s even more marked with humans. I’m the opposite of the fair-weather friend: I’m there during the crisis, but don’t seem very good at maintaining relationships when things are going well.

I’m giving this for context: I’m involved a lot in helping others online, and I feel this double draw of a) fleeing my downtime, and b) wanting contact above all else, pulling me towards a screen when I would actually “want” to be doing something else. (Like eating. Or sleeping. Or watching a TV series. Or simply, something for me rather than for others.)

And so I catch myself: right, I want to check Facebook/FDMB/whatever — but then, what will I do? Will I not go and eat to answer somebody? Will I put off going to bed? Will I give up on relaxing in front of the TV or going for a little stroll with Quintus because somebody needs my help?

It’s good to be altruistic. But in the era of connectedness, there is no limit to how much time you can spend on others rather than yourself.

So, my aim is to spend my holidays on myself. I’ve brought colouring books, my Kindle, my photos to sort through, and I might do a little work on CTTS, like incorporating all the blog posts I wrote for what was then the Open Ears blog, back when I was managing it for Phonak (yay, they seem to have fixed the formatting issues that made the blog posts pretty much unreadable after they migrated to the new platform!)

A bunch of links [en]

A few links I picked up.

The war to sell you a mattress is an internet nightmare

My thoughts about this aren’t quite coherent, because it comes and hits right where I had some ambivalence about a category of work I did over the last decade. Not so much because I wasn’t comfortable with what I was doing, but because I could see it was somewhere on a spectrum where things, at some point, became unethical.

The mattress story is way far out there for me.

But where is the breaking/tipping point? Where does building a community of fans or ambassadors, or simply seeking them out to solidify a brand or organization’s relationship with them, veer into “buying influence”?

I had the first really bad sniff of this when early bloggers started getting paid to do promotional postings.

I suspect the answer has something to do with scale. If an influencer can make or break a business, then he is part of that business and that relationship should be absolutely transparent. Or is my reasoning too simplistic? I long for one of these slow blog-to-blog discussions on the topic.

The world’s most expensive free watch

Welcome to the world of dropshipping, affiliate marketing, and the rest. The world of people making a pile of money online teaching people to make a pile of money online by selling stuff. Only the people teaching you how to do it are making money off the teaching, not the “selling other stuff”.

This stinks.

I had a whiff of it last summer, when I realised that one of the (multiple) reasons my freelance business had been going under was that I hated sales and sucked at it. So I decided to look at what a bunch of these online marketers were doing. I took some free webinars. Subscribed to newsletters. Watched them sell.

And of course, googled them. Despite all they tell you, and the lucky incident, they’re making their money promising to tell you how to make money. Most people will spend quite a bit of cash on courses, and not find success, because, well, luck. And a broken business model.

I shared a bunch of interesting articles I unearthed through my googling on Facebook at the time. I might try and dig them out, or you can try your luck at googling too.

De l’exploitation en milieu fermier écolo

In French, but worth sticking in Google Translate if you don’t speak the language. Remember how people got all annoyed (me included, at times) when “crowdfunding” became a way to cut costs and get people to do work for your profitable business for free?

Well, look no further if you want to see how so-called “sustainable” agricultural methods work. Not the serious ones, which use science to minimise the amounts of pesticides and fertiliser we need. I’m talking about the “organic” and “natural” lobbies and movements, often headed by guru-like figures like Pierre Rabhi. Wwoofing, anybody? Or how to make your unsustainable farming practice sustainable by exploiting free labour.

I’m annoyed that people aren’t more appalled by these practices, simply because they profit businesses which are ethically aligned with their ideology.

Go ahead, Millenials, destroy us

This one is encouraging. When I start despairing about where the world is going, which is quite often these days (and a new thing to me — 45 getting elected changed that), I remember that there are young people growing up to run the world, and that they might do things completely differently from us. It gives me hope. I’m looking forward to meeting them.

To end on a light note, read Kirk Drift if you like Star Trek. I recently started watching the original series (before my android TV box died) and though it was fun, I was having a really hard time with the cultural gap — both in terms of screenplay, assumed character psychology, and of course, sexism. Somebody pointed me to the excellent article I just linked to, and it made me watch the series completely differently. I find Kirk way less annoying. And the miniskirts (I hadn’t realised that at the time they were the symbol of women claiming their power! talk about judging something from another time by today’s standards…)

Je dors [fr]


Franchement, je pourrais me demander si ma copine n’accompagne pas la maladie du sommeil. Je fais des nuits de passé 8h, à la chaîne, et je me réveille comme si un camion m’avait passé dessus. Avec 12h par jour environ loin de la maison, c’est vraiment mode survie. Je rentre, et en fait je pourrais aller me mettre au lit tout de suite. CFF, boulot, dodo. Mais je me fais quand même un truc à manger, hein.

Bref, heureusement que les chats vont bien, juste là. (Enfin, il reste des investigations à faire pour Erica mais elle est stable et semble OK côté symptômes.)

Alors, what next? La balle est dans mon camp. On va refaire des analyses histoire d’être sûrs qu’on passe pas à côté d’un truc, que la giardia n’est pas l’arbre qui cache la forêt. J’essaie d’attendre un peu depuis la fin de mon dernier traitement (début février) histoire d’être sûrs que si l’analyse est positive, elle est vraiment positive, et que ce n’est pas des “traces” de l’infection précédente. Je me rends compte que je n’ai pas suffisamment d’infos sur les faux positifs par PCR pour savoir à quel point c’est vraiment utile d’attendre.

Mais bon, là, de toute façon, je ne peux pas continuer très longtemps comme ça. Sans compter que je suis supposée partir en vacances dans deux semaines, et on sait tout comment ça se passe, les vacances, quand on est malade pendant qu’on travaille mais qu’on “tient bon”.

Donc, aujourd’hui, c’est le jour où je rappelle le médecin pour dire que “ça ne va plus”.

(Je précise que si j’avais voulu, il m’aurait donné un traitement quand j’ai appelé la semaine dernière. C’est moi qui me sentais assez bien pour continuer à attendre.)

What I’m Good At [en]

[fr] Un petit point sur mes compétences professionnelles, telles que je suis en train de les comprendre grâce à mon emploi actuel. Moins de digital, plus de relationnel et de systèmes!

Having an “employed” job has been extremely rewarding so far. Yes, the commute is tiring, but I’ve been really lucky regarding work atmosphere, colleagues, the project I’m working on, and the view from the office. Not kidding about the view:

Over the last months I’ve learned/confirmed a few things about myself regarding what I do well/like doing jobwise.

I like interacting with people, preferably 1-1. I’m good at listening, getting people on board, establishing a relationship.

I love figuring out complex systems or situations with lots of moving parts.

I’m good at looking at things from various points of view and taking multiple interests into account when looking for solutions.

Day-to-day operations are not what I prefer, but when it comes to making things happen, implementing change, making a project move forward, here I am.

Learning & Networking
The two go together. I’m a fast learner, so I’m quick to absorb new information (even in a completely new field), identify and connect with key people.

I like understand how things work and fit together, and I’m good at seeing “gaps” where things could be done differently, either better for the people involved, or more rational for the organisation, particularly (but not limited to) around digital transformation.

There might be more, or different/better ways to put this, but I thought I’d throw this out there already.

One thing I love about being employed, and that I had lost on the way during my freelance years, is the feeling of being really appreciated and valued. I really needed it.

Survival Mode [en]

[fr] Ça va. Mais je suis fatiguée. Vive le week-end.

Last week-end was my first week-end in a long time where I wasn’t sick, worried sick about a cat, or rushing a cat to the vet.

Quintus is in remission from his diabetes and doing well. If you have a diabetic cat, join FDMB.

Erica had an acute episode of something gastro-intestinal (pancreatitis? tummy bug? something else?) on a background of something chronic. She’s over the acute episode and we are (without urgency) investigating the chronic condition.

I probably still have my unwelcome host but by cutting out dairy completely I can keep the worst of the symptoms at bay and remain functional while we continue our investigations with the specialist doc.

My hip still bothers me a bit but my blocked back is clearly linked to the giardia digestive issues.

I’m tired. Work is going well. I’m trying to regain my balance. My brain needs down time.

I am trying to focus more on me and less on always being there for others above all. The realisation that my urge to help others first and foremost is something I need to learn to channel is becoming more and more acute. This article framing compulsive use of technology as “addiction to social interaction” really rings true for me.

So, more down time. More alone time. More energy invested in things I want to feel more motivated and enthusiastic about. Silly things like making my flat a place I really enjoy spending time in. Cleaning. Tidying. Just doing nothing. I’m looking forward to being able to ski and do judo, I really miss moving.

Two OTM podcast episodes to listen to for you:

  • Blame it on the Alcohol: interesting perspective on alcohol across the ages and borders (France vs. US for example), and a welcome critique of the ubiquitous AA in American culture, how Hollywood promoted it and labeled abstinence the one and only “cure”, despite the 12-step programme being anything but successful by any measure as a solution to excessive drinking. (No disrespect to my meeting-going friends.)
  • The Safety Net Just Got a Little Less Safe: back to the 2016 series busting poverty myths. How the current system pushes people into poverty, and a poignant account of how it can happen, by a mother who got evicted after being a victim of a crime on the property the family were renting.

Happy listening. I’m going to put the tech away and stare out of the train window.

Giardiose: ma copine giardia lamblia [fr]

[en] My friend giardia lamblia has probably kept me company for a good couple of years. Two antibiotic courses later, looking at a third. If you have any kind of tropical parasitic infection, go see a specialist.

Je dis que giardia lamblia est ma copine parce que ça fait probablement deux ans ou plus qu’on traine ensemble. Oui oui, probablement chopée en Inde, mais ça existe aussi dans nos contrées (chats, chiens, et jeunes enfants).

L’histoire? Je vous la résume, si vous n’avez pas suivi le feuilleton sur Facebook. Début décembre, “gastro” qui tarde à passer. Analyse de selles. Giardiose! Premier traitement. Rechute. Deuxième traitement. Rechute. Médecin spécialiste des maladies tropicales.

Si j’ai un tuyau à vous donner: la prochaine fois que vous avez un truc tropical, allez directement voir un spécialiste.

Des mots dudit spécialiste, c’est une “belle saloperie” pour s’en débarrasser. En fait ça me rassure et me soulage infiniment d’entendre ça. Il confirme que je me balade certainement avec depuis au moins deux ans. Oui, l’intolérance passagère au lactose, c’est ça. Les douleurs, ballonnements, gaz, et diarrhées intermittentes. Moi qui croyais que j’étais un peu trop relax avec le nombre de jour que je gardais mes restes au frigo (ou le nombre d’années au congél).

Semblerait que dans nos contrées, ce sympathique protozoaire soit même responsable de “mauvaises classes” chez les enfants. Celles où ils sont fatigués, pas à leur affaire, absents…

Je n’ai aucune peine à l’imaginer. Depuis des mois voire des années (et maintenant, je me dis “depuis en tous cas octobre 2015”), je me trouve fatiguée, sans énergie, et à la digestion souvent pénible. J’en ai même parlé à mon médecin, on a fait des analyses sanguines, quelques mini-carences, mais rien de profondément anormal. Et c’en est resté là.

On est toujours plus intelligent après: en gros, ça fait probablement deux ans que j’ai une infection parasitaire qui a un impact négatif sur ma capacité à être active dans ma vie. Con, hein.

Ce qui me fait penser ça?

Après le premier traitement (3x250mg de metronidazole par jour pendant 5 jours, un peu léger en première instance semblerait-il) je me suis sentie plus en forme et pleine d’énergie que je ne l’avais été depuis “des siècles”. Digestion nickel, je dormais même pas plus que d’hab, mais j’avais la pêche. Et patatras dix jours plus tard.

J’ai vu quelque part (je ne retrouve plus où) qu’il suffit d’une dizaine de ces bestioles dans un verre d’eau pour vous faire une belle infection.

Deuxième traitement, albendazole (400mg 1x/jour pendant 5 jours, bon choix en deuxième instance selon le spécialiste). Et moins d’une semaine après la fin de ce traitement, me voilà de nouveau HS (vive les vacances de ski).

Au programme:

  • éviter les produits laitiers pendant 2 mois (intolérance passagère aux produits laitiers)
  • si dans 10 jours j’ai toujours des symptômes, commencer mon troisième traitement d’antibios (histoire de se donner une chance que les symptômes soient dus à l’intolérance passagère)
  • troisième traitement, dose de cheval: ornidazole 500 3x/jour pendant 10 jours, qui devrait liquider l’éventuel ami blastocystis aussi.
  • si dix jours après le traitement je pète pas le feu, je retourne et on relance les analyses.

Au-delà de mon propre cas et des conséquences de cette infection sur ma vie (qui est encore à mesurer, une fois que je serai guérie, et que j’aurai un point de repère pour ce qu’est “aller bien”), ce qui me fait vraiment frémir c’est l’impact des infections à large échelle sur des sociétés entières. Si giardia lamblia peut nous donner une “mauvaise classe”, on ose à peine imaginer son impact sur les populations de pays en voie de développement où 30% des gens peuvent être infectés.

Ça ne m’étonne pas d’apprendre qu’elle a été largement négligées jusqu’à il y a peu.

Cette expérience me fait penser à Unrest — de nouveau, on est à une autre échelle de gravité que ce qui m’arrive, mais il y a des parallèles: le mari de la réalisatrice explique à quel point il est délicat d’obtenir de l’aide. Si on dit trop peu, personne ne peut nous aider, et si on en dit trop, on passe vite dans la catégorie “patient psy”.

Que faire avec ces symptômes vagues ou sub-cliniques? J’ai mal au ventre, je suis fatiguée, j’ai des coups de barre digestifs… C’est vrai qu’à force de revenir à la charge avec ces choses qui objectivement ne sont “rien”, on finit aussi par se demander si on imagine des choses.

What Happened [en]

Beginning of October, I started working in Fribourg, with an hour of commute to get to my office. 45 minutes on the train. I decided to use that time to blog. And I did, to some extent. But not as much as I initially planned.

What happened?

A bunch of things:

  • mid-November, Quintus was diagnosed with diabetes
  • I’ve been taking the train with two of my colleagues (usually not on the same day) a couple of times a week
  • I fell ill December 7th and am only starting to be properly better now — the days I did manage to drag myself to work I was too exhausted to write

Now? Quintus is getting better and could even be headed for remission. I’m getting better, but have been out of it for so long it’s going to take some time for me to be completely up and running.

Some Podcasts to Listen to [en]

[fr] Des podcasts à écouter.

Here are some episodes I recommend you listen to. There’s more to say, about these, other stuff, and life in general, but it’ll have to do for today.

By the way: if you use the Apple Podcasts app, like me, you probably also cursed the dreadful last update. Amongst other things, there’s no way to see what episodes are in my “play next” queue. I had high hopes when I saw there was a “recently played” list, but at least for me, it’s polluted by dozens of episodes supposedly played “yesterday”, at the top of the list. Thankfully, further down, there are the latest podcasts I’ve actually listened to. Which is something I’ve always wanted to be able to see.

So, here we go. A first batch on sexism and harassment at the workplace (you didn’t think I’d spare you that, did you?). Listen, particularly if you’re a man. Or if you think all this #metoo stuff is way overblown.

Then, about animal rights activists’ craziness. Remember the photographer sued for the “monkey selfie”? Well, listen to all the work he put in before thinking he’s benefitting from “animal labour”. (I’m leaving aside the discussion on the deeply flawed thinking – from a philosophical point of view – that underpins a lot of the antispeciesism animal rights ideology. Francophones might enjoy this piece by lawyer Maître Eolas on animals as subject vs. object of the law.)

99% Invisible is a podcast I didn’t think I’d like. But I do. It’s fascinating. Here’s a selection of stuff I’ve recently listened to, and that you should listen to too:

If you haven’t heard it yet and are up for a serial, you shouldn’t miss S-Town. And one of my favorite podcasts these days is Heavyweight — true stories, true people, going back to where things went wrong and trying to untangle things. Beautiful storytelling.

Happy listening!

They Chose Tears [en]

[fr] Aimer un animal, c'est choisir les larmes, parce qu'on sait qu'on va le voir mourir.

7 years ago today, Bagha.
In less than two weeks, it will be a year since Tounsi’s death.
I don’t know how long Quintus has got. I hope it’s longer than I fear.

I’m not big on the whole “pet parent”, “rainbow bridge”, and “mommy” thing. My cats are my cats, even though there is a kinship of caring for children and pets. I don’t believe in anything outside of this material world, in any god or afterlife. I’m also not into lengthy quotation posts. But this tale tells a deep truth about loving a pet: it’s choosing tears.

THE LOVING ONES by Anne Kolaczyk

The little orange boy stopped. Behind him, kitties were playing, chasing each other and wrestling in the warm sunshine. It looked like so much fun, but in front of him, through the clear stillness of the pond’s water, he could see his mommy. And she was crying.

He pawed at the water, trying to get at her, and when that didn’t work, he jumped into the shallow water. All that got him was wet and Mommy’s image danced away in the ripples. “Mommy!” he cried.

“Is something wrong?”

The little orange boy turned around. A lady was standing at the edge of the pond, her eyes sad but filled with love. The little orange boy sighed and walked out of the water.

“There’s been a mistake,” he said. “I’m not supposed to be here.” He looked back at the water. It was starting to still again and his mommy’s image was coming back. “I’m just a baby. Mommy said it had to be a mistake. She said I wasn’t supposed to come here yet.”

The kind lady sighed and sat down on the grass. The little orange boy climbed into her lap. It wasn’t Mommy’s lap, but it was almost as good. When she started to pet him and scratch under his chin like he liked, he started to purr. He hadn’t wanted to, but he couldn’t help it.

“I’m afraid there is no mistake. You are supposed to be here and your mommy knows it deep down in her heart,” the lady said. The little orange boy sighed and laid his head on the lady’s leg. “But she’s so sad. It hurts me to see her cry. And daddy too.”

“But they knew right from the beginning this would happen.”

“That I was sick?” That surprised the little orange boy. No one had ever said anything and he had listened when they thought he was sleeping. All he had heard them talk about was how cute he was or how fast he was or how big he was getting.

“No, not that you were sick,” the lady said. “But you see, they chose tears.”

“No, they didn’t,” the little orange boy argued. Who would choose to cry?

The lady gently brushed the top of his head with a kiss. It made him feel safe and loved and warm – but he still worried about his mommy. “Let me tell you a story,” the lady said.

The little orange boy looked up and saw other animals gathering around. Cats – Big Boy and Snowball and Shamus and Abby and little Cleo and Robin. Merlin and Toby and Iggy and Zachary. Sweetie and Kamatte and OBie. Dogs too- Sally and Baby and Morgan and Rocky and Belle. Even a lizard named Clyde and some rats named Saffron and Becky and a hamster named Odo.

They all lay down near the kind lady and looked up at her, waiting.

She smiled at them and began:

A long long time ago, the Loving Ones went to the Angel in Charge. They were lonesome and asked the Angel to help them.

The Angel took them to a wall of windows and let them look out the first window at all sorts of things – dolls and stuffed animals and cars and toys and sporting events.

“Here are things you can love,” the Angel said. “They will keep you from being lonesome.”

“Oh, thank you,” the Loving Ones said. “These are just what we need.”

“You have chosen Pleasure,” the Angel told them.

But after a time the Loving Ones came back to the Angel in Charge. “Things are okay to love,” they said. “But they don’t care that we love them.”

The Angel in Charge led them over to the second window. It looked out at all sorts of wild animals. “Here are animals to love,” he said. “They will know you love them.”

So the Loving Ones hurried out to care for the wild animals.

“You have chosen Satisfaction,” the Angel said.

Some of the Loving Ones worked at zoos and wild animal preserves, some just had bird feeders in their yards, but after a time they all came back to the Angel in Charge.

“They know we love them,” they told the Angel. “But they don’t love us back. We want to be loved in return.”

So the Angel took them to the third window and showed them lots of people walking around, hurrying places. “Here are people for you to love,” the Angel told them.

So the Loving Ones hurried off to find other people to love.

“You have chosen Commitment,” the Angel said.

But after a time a lot of Loving Ones came back to the Angel in Charge.

“People were okay to love,” they said. “But sometimes they stopped loving us and left. They broke our hearts.”

The Angel just shook his head. “I cannot help you,” he said. “You will have to be satisfied with the choices I gave you.”

As the Loving Ones were leaving, someone saw a window off to one side and hurried to look out. Through it, they could see puppies and kittens and dogs and cats and lizards and hamsters and ferrets. The other Loving Ones hurried over.

“What about these?” they asked.

But the Angel just tried to shoo them away. “Those are Personal Empathy Trainers,” he said. “But there’s a problem with their system operations.”

“Would they know that we love them?” someone asked.

“Yes,” the Angel said.

“Would they love us back?” another asked.

“Yes,” the Angel said.

“Will they stop loving us?” someone else asked.

“No,” the Angel admitted. “They will love you forever.”

“Then these are what we want,” the Loving Ones said.

But the Angel was very upset. “You don’t understand,” he told them. “You will have to feed these animals.”

“That’s all right,” the Loving Ones said.

“You will have to clean up after them and take care of them forever.”

“We don’t care.”

The Loving Ones did not listen. They went down to where the Pets were and picked them up, seeing the love in their own hearts reflected in the animals’ eyes.

“They were not programmed right,” the Angel said.

“We can’t offer a warranty. We don’t know how durable they are. Some of their systems malfunction very quickly, others last a long time.”

But the Loving Ones did not care. They were holding the warm little bodies and finding their hearts so filled with love that they thought they would burst.

“We will take our chances,” they said.

“You do not understand.” The Angel tried one more time. “They are so dependent on you that even the most well-made of them is not designed to outlive you. You are destined to suffer their loss.”

The Loving Ones looked at the sweetness in their arms and nodded. “That is how it should be. It is a fair trade for the love they offer.”

The Angel just watched them all go, shaking his head. “You have chosen Tears,” he whispered.

“So it is,” the kind lady told the kitties. “And so each mommy and daddy knows. When they take a baby into their heart, they know that one day it will leave them and they will cry.”

The little orange boy sat up. “So why do they take us in?” he asked.

“Because even a moment of your love is worth years of pain later.”

“Oh.” The little orange boy got off the lady’s lap and went back to the edge of the pond. His mommy was still there, and still crying. “Will she ever stop crying?” he asked the kind lady.

She nodded. “You see, the Angel felt sorry for the Loving Ones, knowing how much they would suffer. He couldn’t take the tears away but he made them special.”

She dipped her hand into the pond and let the water trickle off her fingers. “He made them healing tears, formed from the special water here. Each tear holds bits of all the happy times of purring and petting and shared love. And the promise of love once again. As your mommy cries, she is healing. “It may take a long while, but the tears will help her feel better. In time she will be less sad and she will smile when she thinks of you. And then she will open her heart again to another little baby.”

“But then she will cry again one day,” the little orange boy said.

The lady just smiled at him as she got to her feet. “No, she will love again. That is all she will think about.” She picked up Big Boy and Snowball and gave them hugs, then scratched Morgan’s ear just how she liked.

“Look,” she said. “The butterflies have come. Shall we go over to play?”

The other animals all ran ahead, but the little orange boy wasn’t ready to leave his mommy. “Will I ever get to be with her again?”

The kind lady nodded. “You’ll be in the eyes of every kitty she looks at. You’ll be in the purr of every cat she pets. And late at night, when she’s fast asleep, your spirit will snuggle up close to her and you both will feel at peace. One day soon, you can even send her a rainbow to tell her you’re safe and waiting here for when it’s her turn to come.”

“I would like that,” the little orange boy said and took one long look at his mommy. He saw her smile slightly through her tears and he knew she had remembered the time he almost fell into the bathtub. “I love you, Mommy,” he whispered. “It’s okay if you cry.” He glanced over at the other pets, running and playing and laughing with the butterflies. “Uh, Mommy? I gotta go play now, okay? But I’ll be around, I promise.”

Then he turned and raced after the others.