It only takes the smallest of things. One tiny little thing, and the whole day gets whacked off-kilter, everything goes into a downhill slide of frustration and sadness and tears. Like falling into a hole without knowing how deep it’s going to go. And without knowing how long it will take you to claw your way back to normalcy.

In the grief world, they’re called “triggers.” They set you off, get you running, and you have no choice but to respond to them. Sometimes, it’s brief. Other times, they last for hours, days. And occasionally, it’s a set of them, one after the other, all in rapid succession or intermittent, building up as time goes by.

For me, today, it was one of the kittens.

Mirin, to be precise.

I really thought Yuzu was going to be problematic. He’s older, more rambunctious, more energetic – he just seemed like the type to get into mischief easily. And he does. But it’s all innocent kitten mischief, nothing that causes major problems or promises to develop into future bad habits. He did spend most of yesterday curled up on my lap, refusing to move, but that’s likely because he’s been having tummy troubles and wasn’t feeling good. After a trip to the vet, we’re taking care of that.

No, the problem has turned out to be Mirin, and I’m hoping that it’s just her youth and immaturity that’s the problem and that she’ll grow out of these bad habits she seems to be forming overnight.

For one thing, she can be quite the pest during mealtimes. I roasted a whole chicken last Thursday, and rather than the nice, relaxing dinner I had imagined, it became a battle between us and Mirin for the right to eat that chicken. She nearly jumped into the oven when I pulled it out. She climbed up my legs while I was carving it. She leapt into our laps time and time again while we were eating. She even managed to snatch a piece of chicken off Geordie’s plate after she scaled the tablecloth in a desperate attempt for poultry. After that, we took turns holding her in the living room while the other ate.

The next day, she pestered me again while I was eating non-chicken leftovers. At lunch on Saturday, we had to shut her in the bathroom so that we could eat at the table together in peace. And again for Sunday night’s dinner. Since then, she’s been better behaved, but she still jumps into our laps once or twice at the table. After being shooed away, she’s amused herself with the toys we put near the table.

So that seems to be working itself out. What doesn’t seem to be getting remedied is her elimination habits. We have two litter boxes (one upstairs and one downstairs), and I’m going out today to buy a third, because she’s gotten into the habit of not using them in the mornings after waking up. She uses them during the day, but apparently, it’s too much work to walk from the living room couch to the litter box in the bathroom ten feet away. Instead, she just trotted the five feet to an enclosed toy contraption I bought for them and peed in that. I don’t know if she does this because she can’t initially remember where the litter box is (she is still quite young, maybe 9-10 weeks) or if she’s just that lazy. I really wanted to avoid having a litter box in the living room, but since that’s where they spend the majority of their time, I’m thinking I might not have a choice right now.

I’m hoping she grows out of it, because honestly, I cannot stand a cat who cannot consistently use the litter box. Especially when the other cat in the house has no problem using it, even when he’s having stomach issues that cause him to need the litter box every other hour or so (Yuzu has gotten better since then, thankfully. My only complaint about him is that he seems to want to use the box right when I’m in the middle of cleaning it.)

And yes, I clean it every time I notice one of them has gone in it. I wondered if that was Mirin’s problem, that Yuzu got to it before her and nastied it all up so she didn’t want to use it. But this morning, she was up before he was, and she still didn’t bother to use the downstairs box, which had not been used since I cleaned it last night (the upstairs one had been used, probably because they were playing up there after Geordie and I went up to get ready for bed).

It’s just been these little things, building upon themselves. And then you think, jeez, if I can’t even take care of a kitten properly, how the hell am I going to take care of a baby?

Oh, right. I couldn’t even manage that, could I?

Because it comes back to that, in the end. It always does. It’s the center of my world, even fifteen months later. How can it not be?

The rum cake is taking forever and is infuriating me, and my daughter died.

The crockpot mac & cheese won’t cook properly, and the sauce is breaking, and my daughter died.

It’s pouring rain, and nobody’s driving politely, and my daughter died.

The kitten won’t stop trying to steal our food, and she’s peeing where she pleases, and my daughter died.

It seems like every bad thing that happens is punctuated by that thought. And eventually, there are too many holes in the defenses, and it all comes falling down. The floodgates open, and all the grief and pain come pouring out. Breakdowns are a part of life now.

All I can do is build it back up, knowing that it will never hold properly but also knowing that I don’t have any other choice. Because if I don’t fix it, I’ll just go back to bed and try to wish it all away, and that won’t work. It never works, not even in the short-term. I would have to sleep forever for that to work. Instead, I know that I have to keep trying. The day I give up is the day I stop living, and I’m not ready for that. So I have to deal with the small triggers as well as the big triggers, and I just have to keep going on.

Even if it means putting a litter box right in the middle of the living room for a few weeks. After all, she’s the kitten, I’m the caretaker. If I can’t meet her at least halfway, there’s no point at all, is there?