The Padding of Paws in the Hallway

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It is 5 AM and I am awake, my skin tingling with the sensation that there is something in the room.  My husband is still asleep, although his alarm will be buzzing shortly, so this unease must come from the shadow silently creeping up the bed. Suddenly, two furry ears appear over the edge of the comforter, whiskers hover inches from my face, and our new cat, Z, says ‘good morning’ by chewing on my thumb.

Getting an animal should never be a quick decision.  We had been considering a cat for several months, and had already factored in whether our building would allow cats (they said ‘anything but a dog’ … does this mean elephants are OK?) and if we had the time and finances for a pet.  However, my parents have this theory that you never really set out to get a cat on purpose – you just sort of end up with a cat.  As kids, my sister and I brought home barn cats, inherited cats from family friends and one time even found a kitten while trick-or-treating around town on Halloween.  With Z, we  were slightly more intentional. We decided to stop by PAWs on our way home from some Sunday afternoon errands, but  I should have known that if we stopped in ‘just to look’ we would find one.  And there she was!

There is an episode of Modern Family where Mitch and Cam decide to get a cat for their daughter.  After picking out a kitten at an adoption event they try to take it home.  The adoption woman refuses because there is a “process.”  Cam then becomes angry and tells her he thought “the process is, we say that we want this one.”  Ok, I’m butchering the comedy right now, so just watch the episode.  But we also had to go through the process – application, vet reference, building approval – before we could claim Z.  It feels funny to be so stressed over a pet application, but the organization does it to insure good homes for all.  The most nail-biting part was after we were approved, racing there to pick her up before anyone else could fall in love with her little orange face.  As my husband has told me, he is not a cat person, he just like this cat – so it had to be her!

We have had her at home for a few weeks now and in that time learned, that she will escape into the hallway if she gets the chance, but also that she will come back if there are treats involved.  She gets car sick.  She becomes electrically charged with static if she runs around on the carpet long enough.  She will follow you around, every move you make, just to hang out with you 🙂 So if you are considering a new furry buddy, don’t forget that there are many fun and friendly pets out there at organization like PAWS or other groups with older animals that need homes – well worth the process!

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A Quiet Day In – Spouses Living on Different Schedules

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This week, my husband worked the night shifts on his floor at the hospital.  This means that he is at home all day and I am home all night.  It makes for a strange altered reality where you live with someone and know they have been there, sleeping in the home you share all day long, but when evening falls they are nowhere to be found.  That is, until the weekend comes around and I’m home during the day too.  It is now Saturday afternoon (a rainy one, at that) and our curtains are drawn, lights off, and I’m sneaking around the apartment in sock-feet cursing the loudness of the refrigerator door.

Having a nocturnal spouse is certainly an aspect of being married to a resident I had not anticipated.  The late nights – check.  The long hours – check.  The missed social events, stress, and exhaustion – check, check, check!  However, when we both have a Saturday afternoon off it feels like a waste to spend it with him sleeping all day and me then sleeping all night.  The obvious answer is to go out and do something.*  The other day I met a physician, recently done with residency, who counseled me that ‘having my own life’ is key.  She told me that not waiting around for the spouse who is extra busy to be home is important for creating space for both people.  She is right.  The first few months of residency, which were also the first few months of marriage, I tried to spend every free moment that he was not at the hospital with him.  It was hard.

Coordinating schedules between two people is difficult anyway, even without the ever-changing shifts of a hospital.  And the issue of how much time you have together v. how much you spend alone or with your friends is certainly not unique to marriages with odd schedules.  You have to do activities that are you just for you, so that you do not feel like you are just waiting.  Waiting for them to come home, waiting to get his schedule to book a vacation, waiting to make dinner.  I understand that this situation is especially applicable during residency, however I think many people in relationships struggle to find common time.  This means using time apart to do things for you, and time together be a couple.

Before we got married, someone asked us if the time we spend together is valuable.  I had never thought about that before.   Do we just vegetate in front of the tv, or do we talk and be present for each other?  It’s sort of a quality time over quantity time idea.  Since the start of residency, my longer commute and all of the preoccupations that go with both of our jobs, I will admit that there have been more evenings of dinner with the tv on.  However, we still make an effort to go out, to talk and to connect, which has become even more important now that out schedule so rarely align.

*I did go to the gym the today! See Resolution #3