A cat by any other name

Against my better judgement



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Meow to me

It started out innocently enough, so many years ago. My college roommate and I had three cats between us, and for whatever reason, we went to the local animal shelter to look at the kittens. Recognizing the giant neon flashing 'Sucker!' signs embedded in our foreheads, one of the SPCA volunteers who works out there talked us into trying foster care (not that it took much convincing - the chance to play with cute adorable kittens who wouldn't *stay* - they'd get adopted by someone else, really!). Fast forward a bit of time and we'd become a major foster home - specializing in orphans to the point that for nearly four years straight she and I were on a two to six hour bottle feeding schedule, round the clock. At this point, sensing we were deeply embedded in the system, that same volunteer cajoled both of us onto the Board of Directors of the organization, and hence, it all began - my introduction to the murky world of volunteer politics, of management and policies, of personalities that should never have been put in positions of leadership, and to a side of my own personality that I'm not sure I ever wanted to discover.

I stayed for five or six years, but by the end it was painful. Like a bad marriage, we had all fallen into ruts impossible to escape from. When a board consists of people who are salaried, they can be, in a sense, policed by that fact. There is no way to police volunteers - there is very little you can do to control them, and goddess knows I fought as hard as I could to try to put into place at least some method of requiring the members to at least be responsible for their own actions. Finally, tired of the struggle, the petty fighting, the cliques and back stabbing and personal agendas, I resigned. I turned in the letter to the president of the board, and breathed a sigh of relief because I had finally taken back my life. The cause this organization supports is one that is very dear to me, and I could have put up with everything for that alone, but I left for one simple fact. I didn't like what I became at those board meetings each month. I didn't like what it did to me - and how I took those feelings out on the others. And so I left, before I became like some of the others who seem to be unable to escape. That was over a year ago.

As I write this, however, I am sitting in my car, outside the office where the board meetings are held. They haven't changed much since I left - the still the same place, still mostly the same people. And when I finish with this, I'm going in - I'll be voted back on, into my same position. The vote itself is formality - the outcome was assured the instant that I, in a moment of weakness, agreed to consider the possibility of going back. It's not that I have forgotten what happened before - it's foremost in my mind right now and there is a small part of me that is pondering just starting up this car and driving away, quickly, before it's too late, but then I suppose the fact that I'm sitting here means it's already too late. Because despite everything, despite what happened before, I miss it - the times when it was good, when it worked, when we all remembered why we were there and we all worked together.

So against my better judgement I will walk into that office, holding my breath and biting my tongue. And I will pray to whatever god might be listening that this is not as bad a choice as I'm afraid it will be.