I’m sitting here, envisioning brain cells popping like bubble wrap under a 6 year old’s thumb, as I breathe in the sickeningly sweet aroma of an insecticide impersonating as Febreeze. I have won the battle against my cat’s fleas, and in that victory, I have lost.

Not really sure how in the Hell this got so out of control. We had an outdoor cat, who amongst other nefarious parasites, probably had a flea or two in her lifetime. But then, she was in the woods more than out, so really who could tell? We treated her for the gamut that any wild creature naturally carries about, but needs to leave at the door before cuddling with me on the couch, and never really had any issue with it.

Then we were moving to California. No longer on a 14 acre stretch of wilderness, we were going to be boxed in by neighbors on all sides, complete with their ark of pets, not to mention a whole new variety of wildlife.

“But the cat has to come with us!,” my children begged.

“But we would have to keep her indoors,” I explained.

“But it would break the children’s heart,” my husband countered.

“But she craps in the houseplants, finds the spotless litter box beneath her, and we’re moving into wall-to-wall white carpeting!,” I growled.

“But she is a part of our family,” he reminded me.

And that was that.

So Puck, appropriately named for her wandering out of the wilderness and into our lives, creating much midsummer’s mischief by disemboweling many a woodland sprite on our doorstep, became a west coast house cat.

We all learned to adapt. After two weeks of sleepless nights, we finally realized that playing with her during the day would help her sleep at night. (Yeah, I know, “Well, duh!” Clearly, we had never been real cat owners. We were more like an alternate food source for a feral beast.) We treated her to toys and special attention. It was bumpy, but we all seemed to be getting along.

But then she started scratching. And my kids started scratching. And my husband started scratching. I tried to convince myself that the state that barely sells bug spray has more insects than upstate NY in the summertime. Reality wasn’t postponed for long.

We have fleas. I say ‘we’ because fleas, like the joy of sexually transmitted diseases and foot fungus, is a community experience.Trying to contain fleas is like trying to contain a sneeze two seconds after it has already happened. A much more likely proposition when the host animal lives a majority of the time out of doors and rolls about in dust on an hourly basis. However more like Mission Impossible when said same host now lives on your bed 12 hours out of the day, and when not snoozing, is rolling about on the wall-to-wall carpeting.

I work all of the natural angles that I can muster. I vacuum so much that my biceps are bulging. Everything is a little smaller now because it has spent multiple cycles in the dryer on high. Our house smells like an exotic lemongrass tart, as I was dousing everything with the most natural and pleasant weapon in my arsenal.

And none of it is working.

I am coming apart. Shit like this never really got to me, but now I feel as if I’m peeling apart at the core and running up under my skin – like an inside out onion. Fears, frustration and utter exhaustion is just bubbling up to my surface; blind panic when I recall our past lice infestation, angst that I’ve thrown at others when they’ve had similar situations, rage against being forced to bring a cat against my wishes and never feeling heard in the first place, guilt for wanting my cat to disappear, even though all she ever does is want to cuddle with me – it is an ocean of negative waves, each one washing over me and it is all I can do to remain upright at the surface.

I find myself standing in the insecticide aisle at the store. The colors of the boxes and cans are bright and cheerful. They make promises that I’ll find the peace that I’m searching for. I don’t have to wait that long, either. In just a few quick steps, it will be all over.

When I get home, I light a candle and sit to meditate. I let the sadness and despair wash over me, through me.  I sit with it, just letting it take hold and hoping it will move on. I sit as long as I can before my mind is too filled to ignore.

I put my meditation cushion away, and pull out the insecticide.