How do  cats know when we need them most?

Somehow they just know.

 

The other day, I was in the bathroom- without my phone, of course- as I had just awoken from a much-needed nap.  I did not know whether or not Jack was home.  My back started to spasm something horrible and I could feel that it just might become the intolerable, devastating pain that I have had in the past.  I hollered for Jack to no avail, since he was indeed not home.  Sheba came running, bless her kitty heart, and started rubbing, rubbing, rubbing on my legs, and somehow, her calming presence and furry massage allowed the muscle spasm to abate enough that I could get back into the bed and get some valium and my cell phone.

 

I was unable to clean the litter boxes for about two weeks.  Sheba and Marilyn seemed to understand.  Marilyn has had some “issues” with thinking outside the box, so to speak, in the past, but she was perfect.  Like I said, somehow they knew.  They looked at me funny when I kind of dumped the catfood into just one dish from waist-high (the best I could manage) at first, like, “Um. Mom, that’s not how you feed us.”  But they got used to it.  They learned to eat out of only one dish- a good lesson for both.

 

Some people say (Jack too) that animals do not “love” us, that they only have some kind of rudimentary enlightened self-interest: that is, they know who fills the dishes with kibble.  But this has not been my experience. 

 

Even my neurotic first cat, M, with whom I never really bonded, knew when I was sad and would comfort me.  One time I was  deeply devastated over a lost love (some loser boy) and cried and cried, inconsolable.  M came to my bed, lay by my pillow, and allowed his fur to absorb each hot salty tear.   (M was a strange one.  He was very jealous of Jack: when we got married and finally moved in together, M showed his displeasure by pooping under my pillow- clever!- and  I could not find it.  I searched everywhere.  I had to sleep like that.  This is a gross story, I know, and I talk about poop way too much, but M had this jealous love.  He did not want to share me.  He loved me.)

 

All of my fur babies have been rescues in some form or another: M came from a co-worker who asked me to cat-sit and then said she didn’t want him back; Sheba came from down south with five kittens in tow, and Marilyn had had so many homes and been in the shelter twice and a foster home as well (she’s only about four years old, give or take).  Maybe that is why they truly do love me, and show it in strange ways.  They know that I, like the Statue of Liberty, welcome the huddled masses of fur yearning to breathe free…

send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me…” 

 

Like I said, somehow, even though I never got that cat translation dictionary, somehow they just know.

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This post at Cheeky Pink Girl– a wonderfully thoughtful (and smart, and interesting) blog- is about me.

Charlotte- the blog’s author- is the only person that I could have even mentioned these things to. (Jack- bless his heart-has circuit overload when I try to talk about it. He’s wired a bit differently than most, too: don’t judge). Char and I had the most wonderful, loving phone discussion. When I say love, I mean tough love: the kind that she knew I really needed.


Usually I am an optimistic person, but sometimes the dark clouds take over- for instance, severe lasting physical pain brings them on, but also the winter SAD that for some reason was the worst this past winter than ever. I can get into a hole that seems to have no escape route other than exercising my free will to…well…but Char helped me find the some real escape routes: Prayer- of course; even the simplest of prayers; ways to find the right fit of a counselor; and possibly antidepressants just for the winter, and just getting the stupid light box already!!! (I had forgotten to tell her about my horrible EAP experience and our ridiculous stepfamily counseling sessions that hurt more than helped.   So my fear of finding the wrong counselor is not irrational). And then she opened up the discussion to her thoughtful and kind blog readers. People whom I have never met, and likely never will- except online!

What a blessing. What a cloud of believers on the Internet. Think about that- people’s souls- never having met IRL-, touching each other, praying for each other, in the ether, on the way to eternity. It is a beautiful thought.

Half-Siamese, all love.

Half-Siamese, all love.

The  cats have been taking excellent care of me.   Somehow they always know when some feline companionship is most needed.

For all you cat lovers out there, I thought I would show off my babies.  Sheba just came over and sat right next to me.  I swear, they know when I am thinking about catlove.

Glamor girl Marilyn.

Glamour girl Marilyn.

Saturday was the first day in two weeks that I spent any amount of time functional and upright. There were two music events that I really wanted to catch, knowing that they would lift my spirits and require little physical exertion. Going to both was the right choice. It was a tiring evening, but so worth it.

The first was a Gospel music event held at one of the many churches I used to attend. Three groups “performed” (although I hate that word when it comes to praise music; it has such an egotistical connotation). It was powerful. I wept. I knew so many of the people there- and had to explain my injury and my cane about 30 times, but it gave me an excuse to say “No hugs!” (lest I break into vicious muscle spasm!) I tried to sing along to the songs that were so familiar to me, and choked up every time. Eventually, I realized (now, this concert was at the church where the pastor had told me that I was having a pity party)- that I was, indeed, at that very moment in time, having my very own pity party. It was a humbling moment. He may have hurt my feelings then- and definitely did not help me spiritually at that previous vulnerable moment- but sometimes words have a way of showing their meaning at a much later- and more appropriate- time.

Please do keep in mind that at that point I had been out of commission for two weeks that included my birthday. I had managed a calm optimism and problem-solving skills, and actually enjoyed the freedom to write things with the disinhibition that only valium can provide- but the day before this concert, I just finally broke. I melted down completely, having hit the limit of what I could bear. The previous afternoon my old suicidal ideations had came back with a vengeance. Being currently physically incapable of my standby “plan and means,” I started to look with different intent at my three pill bottles, so handy, so full, such a perfect handful. But how would I get myself into my Marilyn Monroe gown, so that I could shit all over it, in a perfect final “F**k You!” (Elastic waist pants and a t-shirt- the same ones for days and days and days (some days unable to even get that on)- then suddenly the formal gown that I was saving for Russ Feingold’s big Inaugural Ball when he finally gets elected President? That certainly would look suspicious… besides, I’d like to be an organ donor when the time comes.

But something happened at the gospel music festival. There was such power in the words- in the music- such faith emanating from the singers; it was palpable, electric. I am getting teary-eyed again just writing this. Such love and care from all the diverse and wonderful people I’ve worshipped with over the years-– some who have had it way worse than I have, coupled with amazing worship music- brought me out of the pity party, into the real party: the party everyone there was planning for, the one with trumpets and angels and Christ’s triumphant return.

After I got in a needed a couple-hour nap, Jack joined me for the always-amazing (and full of existential angst himself) Mark Mallman. The sound in the club was terrible, but the performance was energetic and just…amazing. I spoke with him at the merch table- he was selling his own merch and being friendly to each and every fan who came out. He is one of the musician I aspire to be like. He sings from the heart: from brutal honesty, from pain, from joy- from real life.

Today a dear longime friend called, encouraging me to seek some professional help (not from professional musicians; although as stated above, that is excellent therapy as well) and we had one of the best conversations possible: she showed me the angry love that I needed to hear. She shared her gift of self. She shared her personal trials and listened to mine- she showed me how God couldmaybe- just maybe- be using me for something bigger than myself. I have some ideas. I have some new plans- not to off myself- but for a new project or two that’s been percolating in my brain for months, and suddenly taking on a form, a shape, and a whole new life.

 

Stay tuned.

I saw this blog post title today and thought, gee, that sounds like a decent, worthwhile read: “You Are The Average Of The 5 People You Hang Out With Most.” Since I am looking for new friends, and ways to be a better friend, it seemed a safe bet to give it a whirl. The guy refers to himself as a “success-oriented entrepreneur” and goes on to describe his hefty country-club membership dues (I used to work at one of the finest old-money country clubs in the region. I know the type well).

Why does “success” always have to mean “financial success?” (I have indeed read Rich Dad, Poor Dad– twice, thinking I had missed something important- but all I came away with was the self-knowledge that having to worry and think about that much money- and its possible loss should one become lax for even a moment-would drive me batshit insane.) And does financial success guarantee happiness? No. Research shows that a medium income ($50k a year or so- enough to not have to scrape by, counting every penny, and foregoing toilet paper) is the happiness point at which no more money makes a person any happier.

I don’t reject people who “drag me down,” either. I may spend less time with them than I would with a positive person, but I do not deny them. That is the precise attitude that led to white flight and the ensuing destruction of our American cities, that leads to the marginalization of persons with mental illness or physical disabilities. I have spent much time listening to people pour their hearts out- lending a listening ear, a kind heart. Did it drag me down? It made me a kinder person. It prevented suicide. It showed the love of Christ, in the truest sense possible- even coming, as it did, from an imperfect being.

Now I prefer to think of this concept in its inverse, as I am seeking (as I said) to expand my friendship circle, many good friends having moved away. I am trying to be the person with whom I would like to spend time- fun time, work time; I am trying to attract positive individuals by being positive. By offering something. By making my “self” something worthwhile that is of value. This puts the responsibility right where it belongs: on me.

There is a lovely Bible passage…
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13, NIV translation

When I visualize myself being formed in the womb, it is nothing at all like textbook pictures of developing fetuses. I imagine angels, forming me, shaping me…knitting and dropping a few stitches, perhaps; or tenderly patting a smooth ball of bread dough back and forth between angel hands, then letting me bake just a tad too long (I was, after all, born four days late); or maybe more like miswiring my brain’s computer. Perhaps ingredients- amino acids?- were being poured into flasks above bunsen burners, and one was mismeasured or even forgotten entirely. I’m not sure. I just don’t really believe explanations like “At week 12, fingernails and toenails appear.” That is not how babies are made. They are carefully created by angels.

At any rate, when the angels were forming me- maybe they were newbies, or just regular ones having a bad day- something went wrong: something that couldn’t be covered up, hidden, or fixed. Not anything so very terrible or incompatible with life, just something that…well, the angels looked at each other and said, “Uh oh.” And they were not quite sure what to do.

They couldn’t fix me, but they decided to let me live. And I got a priceless consolation prize: extra angelic protection. It’s hard to explain. It is not something that I can really feel (usually; although once I did feel- literally, feel– a hand push me gently forward when I was about to fall backwards down a flight of stairs; I was “alone” at that time), but something that when I look back at how many “almosts” could have happened to me, it is obvious and unmistakable. It is just something that I know.

I heard this commercial on the radio the other day, and was astounded by its ridiculousness: it was a conversation that contained the phrase “A diamond that says who you are to each other without saying a word.”

What?  Jack is a man of few words, but neither he nor I would never think a diamond could convey anything at all about what we are to each other:  lovers (in every sense),  best friends, confidants.  He knows me better than I know myself.  We trust each other implicitly.  Diamonds?  What do they say- “I paid some huge amount of money for very poor people in Africa to risk their lives to find you a tiny thing that looks vaguely like broken glass, and that you could easily lose in a public restroom if you bother to wash your hands after using the toilet?”

In fact, I got this email after I tried to help find a coworker’s briefly lost engagement albatross:

  “I promptly found it the same day, but appreciate the look out. I probably would be dead at my husband’s hand if I actually had truly lost it.”  Really?  Dead, huh?  I wrote back: “That is the definition of irony.”  Which it is.  An expression of love, now?  I just don’t see it.  I never got an engagement ring.  I didn’t want one.  Eleven years later, I don’t regret not having one, either.  Ask me again in another eleven years.  The answer will be the same.