Lesson #18: My cat healed my heart.
I’d been thinking about getting a cat for a long time and then one day I - who spends too much time deliberating and not enough time just doing - told my friend Elizabeth, "I’m leaving work early to get a cat, want to come with me?" and she said yes.
So we go.
Linda is the woman at the adoption center and she asks what I'm looking for. I’d like a black cat that isn’t super hairy, I tell her.
She shows me a small black kitten, hiding in a tea cozy shaped like a pumpkin. (Side note: don’t ever go to an adoption shelter unless you’re planning to adopt an animal because you WILL adopt an animal.)
Linda says- now this little cat, she’s very sweet. But she’s going to need to you to do all the work.
I know what that means with men, Linda but I don’t know what that means with cats.
She smirks. "Actually it means the same thing. You gotta do all the work until they are comfortable enough to come to you and trust you. And eventually love you."
I look at Linda. I try to sound calm. "Linda....one of the many reasons I’m adopting a cat is so that I don’t have to do that work anymore."
We laugh knowingly at one another. I wonder who Linda is thinking about.
I have a few more options that I think will work for you a bit better, she says and leads us to a second room.
Here, there are two black cats hanging out. They seem more extroverted, more playful. Elizabeth and I make the kind of noises you make when you’re in the presence of the cutest animals ever and have lost the ability to speak coherently.
Out of nowhere, this little black cat comes up and tries to climb up my leg.
"What’s he doing here?" asks Linda. "I don’t remember him being in this room."
I look down. "Hi little one," I say.
The cat looks at me.
"Want me to take care of you for the rest of your life?" I bend down and scoop him up.
The cat gets his claws stuck in my hair.
"He’s the one," I tell Linda.
I have a few other options to show you, she tells me.
"That won’t be necessary. I’ll take him."
"This might be the fastest adoption I’ve ever seen," says Linda.
"Well when you know you know right?"
Let me clarify something. I've never "just known." I’ve never just known when it comes to people.
Oh the number of couples and Bay Area residents that utter the phrase “and you just...know” in that wistful way people in love do. I've always wondered if it was just something people said to justify their decisions. Or something they weave into the narrative of their lives because it makes things sound more destined.
Well, I finally knew what it meant to know. Because I did just know. This little bubs and I were leaving together.
A few hundred dollars and a trip to the pet store later and the bubs and I were at our home.
And since then - what can I tell you about owning a pet who looks to you for love and care 100% of the time? It makes it impossible (and unnecessary) to have walls up. The only games you have to play involve toys that make rattling noises. You can project your issues all you want onto them and they won’t stop being who they are because they are little animals concerned only with food and naps and bugs and occasional cuddles.
I'd experienced so much heartbreak up until this point. I had loved so many people who didn't seem to love me the way I needed or wanted. Or they had left my world too soon. My heart had become crumpled up tin foil. The same size, but smaller and harder and less useful. Slowly my cat helped sort out the edges a bit. He brought me less anxiety. He brought me laughter and less loneliness at home. He restored my faith that love can feel...joyful and vulnerable. Not so filled with terror and dread and scarcity.
I tell this story to my therps and I tear up. And she tears up. I wonder if she has a pet. She knows what I know - that a year prior I would never have accepted the responsibility of a pet. I would never have willingly gone into a relationship that meant I would almost certainlywatch something I love grow old and die. But I did adopt a cat, after some time, after dealing with ghosts and talking about things week after week on that couch.
"Do you have a photo?" she smiles.
"I thought you'd never ask."