Time to Say Goodbye
Three years ago a new friend, well I did not really know him too well, he was my opera singing teacher, I took a sabbatical at the Conservatory in the Hague, 6 months of opera singing lessons, I always wanted to learn singing so why not go for the most extreme, Stace style, anyhow, so his name was Bo, an exchange student from China studying a masters in Opera singing at the Conservatory in the Hague, it is a very good conservatory mind you, one of the most respected and hardest to get into, so I wanted to go through the experience of what it would be like to study there. So, I signed up for the pedagogic training, this is where the masters students must teach so other students can apply to be their guinea pigs and for a very small cost or no cost at all, I think I payed nothing, get 6 months of training in an instrument or singing class of your choice. So I signed up and got given Bo.
My relationship with Bo was volatile. But I learnt much, also about myself. It was an intense, emotional and definitely interesting 6 months, from Bo trying to convince me that I could not even attempt to try to sing “Time to Say Good Bye” by Andrea Bocelli for our end of year every pedagogic student presents their new 6 months trained skill variety show, even trained opera singers take years to get there, it was just not for me and yes it took some time and some falls of heart to dissuade me from following this fantasy no matter how many times I practiced at the top of my lungs with Andrea at home the verses of the much beloved Time to Say Goodbye, with all of my heart, (apparently just heart is not enough), so the song I got given, much to my dismay was “I Dreamed a Dream”, from Les Miserables. The supervisor who was overseeing our progression and relationship in the end, after Bo could not dissuade my stubborn ass mind, had to intervene and said this song is much more fitting for you, why don’t you give it a try? Shock. Horror, did she even realise what she was signing me up to do? A song about disillusionment and the shattering of dreams?? It took me a while to become immune to the heavy sense of the bad omenness which this new intervention suggested, but I had to climb down from my fantasies and so this was the song I performed. I knew I had it inside out but of course on the actual day of the concert managed to mess up. Anyhow, in all fair sightedness it was not a bad attempt, at my first public singing performance. Good enough, for a 6 month pedagogic students variety show. I was saved by some more middle aged personas with some quite out of tune drums rhythms, thank god.
But yes, where was I, this is a story about Julius. So in the 6 months spent fighting with Bo, and yes we fought a) because of my stubbornness and as he said wanting to get immediate results without putting any work in, guilty I know and b) because of his total lack of organisation, absent mindedness and non-attention to his one and only, Jees the whole thing made me angry. But I have to say I learned a lot from Bo, from my interaction with him. First of all he was Chinese, non European, alas I was so happy to be able to communicate with him outside of the politeness, we both allowed ourselves to be emotional and irrational, it is as if I felt a familiarity a cultural likemindedness. Thank god, non European, flames and fire accepted. I felt ok to act in my all delusional Russianness, in all its excessiveness and splendour. It was ok. But where does Julius fit in? So at some point towards the end of our 6 month training, and Bo and I exchanged freely thousand time messages on WhatsApp and Facebook, about him being late, about him forgetting, about me being annoyed, no boundaries in that and then one day he floods me with 10s and 10s of images of this cute little fluff ball writing things like oh ain’t he cute and look at him and goooojeegoo and gaga ga, but in a more of Chinese minded way. I suspect now, in hindsight, it was all part of a cruel and heartless abandonment plan. But little did I know then. He must have somehow, between our rages and fits of boundless laughter, oh we laughed a lot, at each other mostly, figured out my weak spot for fluff balls and for anything cute, cuddly and small in general, guilty again. And so I immediately, being the spontaneously impulsive person I am, replied with lots of hearts and heart shaped eyes and all that other unnecessary dressage in the heat of my cuteness extase and then Bo lay the bomb; “Do you want him? Smiley.”
Somehow, my long term thinking and any sort of soberness flies straight out of the window when aroused to such emotionally spontaneous highs, it is good to be aware of oneself in such delusions, lest you commit to something which could take years to resolve. Well, here was pure innocence, but still in hindsight, it is good to be aware of the self. Don’t get me wrong, I do not in any way regret any of the turn out of the events and the next three years of my life which will be detailed in here (summarised) shortly, but as hindsight always does, it gives one a fresh sense of perspective, a calm outlook at the situation and allows one to make some conclusions about one self (Eu thinking hat on), in short, it helps. So, I readily accepted. Actually I think Bo made a group and included me and Sara, the pianist, who played the piano as I sang my one debut about broken dreams to post to the potential would be Ba (Julius’s first name pre-Julius) mamas the little baby. Sara was more apprehensive, asking how would he live and having all these mature, down to earth, realistic and pragmatic real life situation questions and I remember thinking, in my exalted state at the time, Jesus why all this worry crap, why be so hesitant, why for gods sake hold yourself back in the name of cuteness, he is sooooooooo cute, I will take him of course.” Somehow Sara’s apprehension I believe somewhere even speeded up my millisecond decision to adopt this thing. In seconds the deal was done, I was the new proud parent of Ba (renamed Julius) with no idea what who and how it involved, the actual maintenance – details, I thought in the name of love. I also felt somehow that this was an act of god as some months before, and some friends will attest I was wishing for a pet, we were at Sophia’s former place in Utrecht, having a nice lady lunch and talking about pets and me expressing my urgent desire for a cuddly animal, which I imagined more to manifest in the shape of a cat or a dog, your normal images, so when the Ba stream flooded my Whatsapp I recognised god’s hand immediately, the Universe answering my prayers, so hastily went along to aid in completing this mission and pick little Ba up.
When I arrived at Bo’s apartment, there he was a tiny little creature not even 2 months old. Why did you get him? Because I was lonely and wanted something to cuddle. Why don’t you want him? I actually don’t remember the answer to the question but now, 3 years later and with full experience with Ba now Julius understand, he is just not cuddly !!!! But how can you know that, only having someone or something like a baby bunny for 2 months. I think Bo just didn’t want the responsibility so he passed it onto me, Bo style and somehow even turned it into a deal. I ended up paying 20eu to him for the cage. These Chinese, natural business minds. I remember, in the midst of some bunny diarrhoea incident thinking, Jeeees what a victim I’d been, to take on this little bundle of nerves and pay for it also. There were some happy days of course, but the majority was not cups and fairy pies. But ok, so 20eu less, a cage, a free Nike bag (he gave me his gym bag to transport little Julius in) as I was by public transport. So off we went, cage folded in my hands, the bag, little 2month old Julius in it, terrified, having peed all over himself. Yes it must have been terrifying to have been locked up in that bag, Julius never liked climbing into bags since, don’t blame him. So I brought him to my place and gosh was he tiny.
The rest is a bit of a blur, but in the 3 years I had him I did try on various occasions to hand him down to other openly loving souls who shared in the soft spotness for this furry but moody little creature. Julius was not one to cuddle with. Hell no, this was a little Prince, Emperor, clad in bunny gear. A lion head, the king of rabbits and boy did he behave like that. Julius the Fluffius. I even remember when I brought him to the vet for the first time, she was like dang this is one fierce bachelor, with some huge balls. And I have to admit I did not want him getting his balls chopped off, no matter how many times he sprayed my couch (yes we had to get a new one) with his sperm and tried to hump things and friends, countless. But anyhow, so in my 3 year period with Julius I have had the pleasure of being surrounded by some great friends, deep souls and caretakers who have partaken in care, sometimes for extended periods of time, which I secretly wished would go on endlessly, guilty again, sorry for that you know who you are and was fully appreciative of their willingness and care. Why you may think did I wish to give up this creature on countless occasions? Well first of all, I always felt like a bad mum. I was always out, I did not really play with him or give him the attention I thought he deserved. Yes I gave him shelter, I gave him food, an array of fresh leaves and vegetables (even though he loved apples they were not so good for his stomach or my floors) I made sure he was getting everything and cleaning his cage regularly, I was taking care of him, but I did not feel a very strong bond between us so did not really invest too much time on trying to be his friend, he always seemed to be minding his own business anyway and that was ok. But after a while I started to think, what if he is bored? Others also commented, he needs a friend. I did not want to have too many bunnies and also I travel a lot whether I am aware of this or not, I travel extensively and the headache of having to find a temporary home and the pain of having to go through friends and feel like a burden and hand over to them my own inability to fulfil a caretaker’s responsibility was just a lot to go through with. So long story short, or well, not even long but the middle, its not important.
After having come back from India, my longest trip yet, 2 months, I realised its just not fair on him and those who I keep asking to take care of him to go on this way, so having to stop lying to myself that I can do it all, have little Julius and go away and and and, I thought ok the reasonable thing to do here is to give him away, to that shelter that that rabbit obsessed vet who proclaimed his manliness earlier suggested, Der Knaaghof, where animal rights come first, and where the main concern is to make sure that bunnies live a happy and social life as they deserve since they do not deserve to live alone. Meanwhile at my place Julius was turning into a Zen monk, meditating hours and hours on end, sitting silently in the same position sometimes for days, and whenever attempts to come and pet him came, either, and this was like 20% of the time, he would sort of melt into the floor, half close his eyes and allow you to pet his furs, or, and this was 80% of the time, start to ruff and fluff up and make protesting leave me alone sounds, trying to scratch and bite you with his little paws, as if you caught him in a moment when he was just not up for it, and run off. Definitely his way or no way. This was, sadly for the majority of his lately existence at mine. I would say lately since oh yes, the castration, for much time I tried to resist and withhold for as long as I can him not getting his balls chopped off, somewhere deep inside I felt criminal to deny him the one pleasure rabbits are so known for and knowing that his balls are huge, do you really deprive a Casanova of his treasured sack? I was determined to find him a mate. Actually for some time I spent investigating into options of taking him to a breeding farm, there, I fantasised, he would be like the king of the farm, mating with all the other females, producing thousands of livestock, ah the life, and he is extremely handsome, what a waste not to have off spring, but sadly this delusion also got knocked down, there is an over infestation of rabbits in the Netherlands, no one wants to produce more, well maybe they do, but I just did not find them, maybe we should do it? That was a business idea for a time with his other mum, but a short-lived one thank god. So anyway, where was I oh yes so back to the shelter and the balls. So in the end I gave into castration, why? Well because I investigated into the option of him finding a girlfriend and the most viable option after finding a breeding farm and enjoying many females at once died, was to to find one for him at the shelter by taking him speed dating. But they only allowed castrated rabbits in! We even talked about a family outing at one point, us, his caretakers going all together to take little Julius on his first date, holding his metaphorical hands. The visions. So, there the deed had to be done and it was done, and I have to say, that after the castration, despite what all the vets and general advice said, Julius did not become more happy and less aggressive, actually the opposite. Yes he may have stopped the spraying and this is of course better for the couch, but I felt that his mood worsened, for some time he was just apathetic and then its as if he went into himself even more, he definitely matured and lost a bit of his playfulness, he just kind of zoned out. And was less loveable. Maybe the balls gave him some sense of self, taken way and all alone in the world, maybe poor little Julius was just confused. So this was shortly before India. Then abandoning mum flew away leaving him behind for 2 months. Then after coming back and feeling the guilt trip all over again, I called the shelter, for the 2nd time now, I already called once before like a year ago, to take him and how it works is you call and they put him on a waiting list, it is not immediately that they can take him in, this is a process which takes time, and the first time they called some months after initial sign in and I just didn’t have the heart, I did not want to let him go. So this time around fresh from India and less attached, I called again and they wrote him down and then corona happened and then right in the middle of it they called.
And so it was a tough ten days, a myriad of consultations with friends and family, you know who you are, a plethora of tarot spreads, countless pendulum swings, all one question, should he stay or should he go? Why all this drama I now know, it’s an underlying factor in my life, about making decisions, but with having let Julius go I realise the problem. It is about trusting and listening to the self. I have known the answer all along, all along as I tried to shove him in friends’ houses, as I tried to find strategies and ways for him to find a new home, why lie to myself when in reality I have felt for a while that he deserved a better home. And so yesterday we took him in, I postponed the day 3 times that week, and spent a lot of time ruminating over the right thing to do, I consulted my heart countless times but the answers as always were vague. In the end through some friends’ support who encouraged by saying you have wanted this for a long time and animal comes first and rabbits should not live alone and bloody hell you want him to have a partner, encouraged me to stick with my decision and not think of my selfish needy needs but think clearly and rationally, not emotionally and put him first. And yes it was sad and at the shelter I asked if I could take him back, should I change my mind and they said yes but with a bunny and I did think a few times oh this is silly let me just take him back, but then resisted, stayed put and we left. And the only thing which gave me joy was to hear that lion heads live up to 9-10 years. Julius is still 3, not in middle life as I already thought wasting away in the corner of my bathroom but young and full of life, his thirties and ready for a new life. I became excited for little Julius, not so little any more, because I thought I would not want his life to just be with me, a mother who is not sure and who has not committed 100%. I really want him to experience what its like to meet other bunnies, travel, live in new perhaps, better, more exotic places. This is the life I would wish for him, keeping him all to my self felt a bit sad and selfish and no matter how hard it was to give him up, I realised I did not give him up at all, I let him move on and I was not a bad mother at all. All that feeling of guilt, persisting, I did the best I could and for a time that was an experience we both shared but time to move on. But, the feeling which I realised this morning, the first morning without Julius, which I wanted to share which spurred me to sit down and write non stop this story which is now reaching over 3 thousand words is that I did not feel remorse at all. Actually, I felt the opposite. I felt free and I felt relief. Relief for not having neglected myself anymore. Finally, the realisation came. It was not only Julius I felt I was neglecting, who I really wasn’t but the guilt of it all hung heavy in the air over the past three years, it was actually myself. Jesus, what relief, once you actually have the courage to listen to yourself. And this is what I wanted to share.
A big big thank you to Katarina Petrovic, Daniel van Straalen, Mabel Calvert Verbruggen, Sophia Bulgakova, Stefano Zucchini, Michaël Roumen, Karina Avakyan, Pieter Peers, Liina Liblik, Caitlin Sarah Watson, Floor Knoote, Michelle Theodotou, Katerina Iacovides and Natalie Ktena for being there and being involved, even if only remotely caring for and partaking in this little creature’s (but with big attitude) life. May he continue his journey, full of adventures ahead and lead a colourful and vivid life as his highness deserves.
ps. Don’t get me wrong I loved Julius dearly in my own way and tried to make it work and we had some fun times and he wasn’t all grump balls all of the time (maybe 85% of the time) and there were moments of pure joy and happiness and fun and cuddles and those were the moments for which I was prepared to keep going, those were the moments which made it so hard to let him go, which kept tripping me up and delaying the inevitable, but in the end, I just knew this would be the best for us both, and when I finally did it and went through with it, the confirmation from the universe that it was the right thing to do, in the unbearable lightness of being which followed, was worth the whole experience. Dear Julius, I love you and I wish you well, we all do, onto new pastures, you fluffy ball of steel!