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Since we lost our cat Bella two weeks ago, the house seems empty. The irony is, we still have three cats. They are elderly, quiet, less active than they used to be. They are also the last three of a “pride” that once numbered eleven. Going from 11 to three is a dramatic decline. We feel like empty nesters.
Two feelings have arisen in me simultaneously: A desire to adopt more cats plus an equal desire to never adopt again. It is difficult for me to not want to help every stray and needy animal that’s out there. On the other hand, every time we lose one, it hurts dreadfully. I don’t want to hurt again, even though I know I will as three becomes two becomes one becomes zero. Each of our adoptees filled a special space in my heart. They taught me about patience, nurturing, joy and love. As they leave the earth, they take that piece of me with them.
I’ve had to analyze why it is I want to reopen what’s left of my heart to another animal. I think it’s because it’s easier to love animals than to love people. Cats appreciate the smallest luxuries, especially after a life on the streets: a warm bed, plentiful food, a clean box. But people? They’re complicated. Jealous. They come with baggage. It’s harder to please them. It’s harder to show them love. There’s no guarantee that they’ll purr in response to your efforts.
I clearly have a lot of love to give or I wouldn’t have adopted so many animals in my lifetime. What makes it so difficult to transfer that loving from animals to people? Maybe it’s because I understand cats. I can communicate with them. People, not so much, even though we do share a species, language and culture. You’d think it would be the other way round.
And it brings up the following question: Why can’t we accept the simplest acts of love from one another? Why do we look into every gesture, every word, for subtext, motive, hidden agendas? Probably because we’ve been hurt by those things before. If we could give and receive love as easily and freely as animals do, we’d probably be a lot better off. If all it took to restore someone’s good mood was a scratch behind the ears, I’d be doing a lot more scratching. And those good moods would be creating a mountain of good will.
So don’t be put off if some lonely looking woman comes up to you and offers you a sardine or rub under the chin. It’s just me, looking for connections in a simpler, stranger language. Take it as a compliment. Or hand me a kitten. Either way, I’m good.
I’m learning a lot from PBS natural specials. Last night, I watched a troop of chimpanzees launch a concerted attack on a group of gibbons — surround them, roust them, attack them, tear them apart and eat them. It was very disturbing. I mean, isn’t that a little like cannibalizing a cousin?
And did you know that a full 20% of squirrels — that’s one in five — doesn’t collect food for the winter? No. He (or she) steals them from other squirrels. In fact, lives a life of crime. How does that happen? Are some squirrels born bad? Is it nature or nurture?
I guess what upsets me so much about these acts is that they are so very human. And aren’t animals supposed to be better than that? I realize how backwards that sounds. So often, humans are lauded as the highest of God’s creatures — the only ones who think, who have the ability to plan, who are moral, who are civilized. Except maybe we aren’t. Maybe we’re just less-furry mammals. Because we steal. We kill. Even human flesh isn’t off the menu (so to speak) for a depraved few. So what distinguishes us from so-called lower forms of life? Maybe less than we think.
Yet animals are also capable of extraordinary acts of goodness. A dog will nurse kittens; a cat will nurse a puppy or a rabbit. Strange animal friendships abound: a dog and a cheetah, a gorilla and a kitten, a bear and a tiger. In many ways, animals seem more capable than humans of reaching across lines of perceived differences and striking an accord. Yet we’re the ones with free will. And, at least according to some faith practices, the only ones with souls.
Maybe it’s time to take a good long look in the mirror. In what ways are we no better than animals? In what ways are we perhaps worse? In what ways might we learn from animals how to treat one another and the planet we live on?
I think God gave us a wide range of examples to follow — or to eschew. That’s why our world is so vibrantly alive with so many species of living things. Our job is to observe. Not to judge — we have no real moral authority for that — but to look, examine, and see how we want our lives to differ or mirror theirs. And to protect them, because we aren’t any better than they are. We’re just different. And we all have something to give.
Except for mosquitoes. Those little monsters are pure menace. Am I right?
This morning I awoke to the usual routine: my cat yawn-stretching his way off the bed and onto the rug so he could receive his morning back-scratching session.
For some reason, KitKat purred louder than I’ve ever heard him purr before, and this inspired me to sit on the floor and spend time with the Snore-Meister (one of his many nicknames.) Petting his soft fur made me feel warm and fuzzy, too. It was as if his purring had a liquid quality to it and it seemed to wash over me, making everything seem right with the world.
Then as I started the day and scanned the headlines, I came across this story about cat yoga at a rescue shelter, and I knew that it would be a great day. For some reason, this wave of joy stayed with me all day. It was as if I’d made a decision: no matter what happened, I remembered it was a designated great day. Done deal!
Without even realizing it, I was finding only articles that heal, soothe, or uplift. In the same way, I was finding only the good in everyone I encountered and everything I did.
I stayed in the “Good News” section of the headlines to keep myself in this positive frame of mind. For me, that would be stories with cute cats, or hard-luck tales with happy endings, like this one about an older gentleman in England who posted an ad looking for odd jobs, saying he was “dying from boredom!”
You might not even realize that something good is always happening somewhere if you go by the nightly news.
I ambled upon this good-newsflash: The World is Actually Becoming a More Peaceful Place. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker tells us, “The news is a systematically misleading way of viewing the world.”
The more we appreciate our blessings, the more blessings come to us.
Maybe they were always there, but we were too focused on problems to open our arms to embrace such grace.
Like this picture shows, sometimes, God tells you to stop and pet the cat!
Over the weekend, I took a deep breath and suddenly was in so much pain, I doubled over. The doctor on call said it was something called “pleurisy” and told me to go to the ER.
My son drove me to the hospital, and, on the way, I mulled over what this mystery condition was all about. Could it be the plural version of leprosy?!? Something that sounds like a fancy French dish can’t be a big deal!
Two stern-faced nurses, one male and one female, started to disrobe me and put electrodes on my chest for the EKG. At least buy me dinner first! I thought.
They put an oxygen tube over my nose, started an IV line, drew blood and wheeled me in for a chest x-ray.
Finally, one of the nurses smiled. “Love your cat socks,” she said. Another one laughed and said, “How great!” and pointed to her jacket, which had a pawprint design on it.
Another nurse, Marielle, asked what I did for a living, and it almost occurred to me to say I’m a professional patient of late, but told her about my writing gigs.
Her parents only spoke Tonga at home, she told me, but she really tries to speak English like a native. Her “friends” corrected her all the time, and she said that she sometimes confused “was” and “were.”
I was impressed with her because she worked in the ICU of another hospital in our town on weekdays, and at this hospital’s ER on the weekends. She’s already achieved so much, but what makes her feel less accomplished is her grasp of the language.
The nurses focused on my cute cat socks, even though all the while I was thinking, I look and feel like forty miles of bad road. They didn’t see what I saw.
Marielle focused on her perceived language issues, even though all the while I was thinking, she’s young to have accomplished so much in her career. She didn’t see what I saw.
When I got home that night, I prayed for all the nurses who had taken care of me, and that we could all see each other through God’s eyes, healing each other with kindness.
So many times recently, I’ve found myself railing against something. Standing in opposition. Fed up with the ways of the world. Shouting at the anchor on the evening news, “How can these things happen?” as if the stiff guy in a grey suit actually controls the events of our day.
I felt I was reaching a threshold of sorts. A dear friend passed away over the weekend. I had to stop taking a medication that was bolstering my health. The things going on in the political arena have been infuriating.
Bad things happen in life. That’s just a fact. But wonderful, positive, uplifting things are going on at the same time. I decided not just to count my blessings, but to let them know, personally, that I appreciate them.
Tapping my son on the shoulder, I exclaimed, “Blessing!” Cole just nodded, smiled, and went back to his video game. He’s grown accustomed to his mother’s quirks by now.
Following the cat in his stealthy tracks down the hallway, I said, “Blessing!” In standard feline operating procedure, KitKat slow-blinked in my general direction and continued his meandering mosey.
Sometimes, though, it seems it’s hard to find the silver lining.
Garry Marshall passed away recently. He produced one of my favorite sitcoms, the Odd Couple. He also seemed to be a down-to-earth, likeable guy, and it saddened me to hear of his passing.
But soon, I was watching old reruns of his shows, and I felt blessed again. Sorry for the loss, but grateful for the legacy of blessings he left behind.
“It’s nice to be important,” Marshall once said. “It’s more important to be nice.”
So, at least for today, I’m on Auto-Pilot Optimism, and I’ve got only two modes: To Be Blessed, and To Be a Blessing.
And, to you, dear reader, I’ve got just one thing to say: Blessing!
It’s a lazy Sunday, and I didn’t go anywhere at all today. Kept my pajamas on. Kept my hair in its Bedhead-Blowout configuration. Even kept my “sleep socks” on – the ones so soft and plush that they don’t even fit into shoes. I can only wear them when “lounging.”
Walked into the kitchen because I felt like a sweet snack + a warm cuppa, and – for no reason at all – said to myself, “I am so blessed.” Opened the refrigerator and had to look past all the food to find the specific treat I wanted, and – for no reason at all – said to myself, “I am so blessed.”
Walked into the sunroom, saw the light streaming through the bamboo blinds onto the comfy couch, gazed upon the upside-down, snoozing cat, and – for no reason at all – said to myself, “I am so blessed.”
Walked into the living room, felt the cool air coming from the ducts, looked out at the sweltering summer day, and – for no reason at all – said to myself, “I am so blessed.”
Maybe I did go somewhere, after all – to the place where my heart resides. Luckily, the commute is only a stone’s throw. I just puttered around, watching old movies, knitting, noshing, and feeling blessed.
Had time to gaze at my navel, and didn’t even give myself a hard time about my muffin top!
Had time to wax philosophical, and didn’t even chide myself that the floor needs waxing!
I thought about nothing and everything, like the idea of kin. The people who just get you in life. For me, it’s writing people. Praying people. Knitting people. Kitten people. Kind-hearted folks with a sense of humor and a sense of purpose.
There was nothing happening at all at my house today, but – for some reason – there was nowhere on Earth I would rather have been. I accomplished nothing at all, except a trail of snack wrappers on the counter, a low-level of energy and a high level of contentment.
No, I didn’t go out at all today, and I didn’t miss a thing. Yep, I stayed in today.
Stayed in grace today.
Stayed in faith today.
Stayed in a positive place today.
It’s true what they say, don’t you think? There really is no place like home.
Well, by now you may think that I’ve crossed over into crazy-cat-lady-dom with yet another post about my catpanion, KitKat. And, yep, you may well be right.
But, you know, I’ve really come to admire his absolute autonomy. He doesn’t:
- Wear a watch
- Punch a clock
- Perform on cue
- Pay taxes
- Wake up with bed-head
In fact, his hair is always perfect, except for those mile-wide whiskers, which would irk the heck out of me if I had them attached to my face, and surprise the heck out of the cashier at the grocery store. And nothing surprises Marishka!
In short, KitKat does his own thing.
Why then, I wonder, isn’t it possible for our feline companions’ overlords (let’s be honest – in truth, servants) to live in the same way?
Doesn’t it seem that so much of our time belongs to other people? And that our money, even before it comes in, is already spent?
My point is this: when do we get to do exactly what we want to do? We designate specific days to honor the people we love: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc.
I’d like to propose a new holiday: “Soul Re-charge Day.” Put yourself on your own calendar. You can’t take care of anyone else if you’re continually depleting your own reserves. If you’ve got vacation days at work, take a mental health day for yourself.
Even if all you can carve out is ten minutes of bird-watching (a hobby shared by KitKat, mind you), those moments of repose can really make a difference.
The Good Book doesn’t say, well, maybe, someday, you’ll have a chance to fill your own cup. No, it says, “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
That passage is in the present tense. This is the day. Be like a cat and do your own thing. (Whiskers and catnaps: optional.)
⌧ Let the cat out. 😺
⌧ Wake my son up. 😑
Checking things off my daily to-do list, I went through my morning routine.
Hold it. That should be “let out the cat.” And, “wake up my son.”
I remembered what my English professor would write in red pen on my papers: “Keep related words together!”
Any language can be hard to learn, but English seems to break its own rules. For instance, all of these words have “ough” in them, yet each is pronounced differently:
And another thing. Why is it: commit perjury yet perform surgery? I think surgery takes more of a commitment than telling a lie. Don’t you? I mean, who wants a non-committal surgeon operating on their spleen? Just saying.
The whole point of language is communication. To connect with people, to hear and be heard. To create a community and listen to each others’ stories.
In the same way, faith is not about the letter of the law. It’s about grace. It’s not about being a stickler for the rules and making sure everyone around you worships, works and walks the same way. It’s about being a blessing and keeping a positive spirit.
So go ahead. Split the infinitive if you choose. Speak in sentence fragments. Like this one. 😉 Dangle that participle! Use emojis. Alk-tay in-yay ig-pay atin-lay. (Talk in Pig Latin!) Whatever words you may speak, it’s manna from heaven when you say it from the heart. 💗
Tell me your story, in your own words. I’d love to hear where you’ve been.