Saturday, August 12, 2017

What Grandma and a Black Cat Teach Me About Life

When I woke up this morning, I remembered the daunting “to do” list I penned before drifting off to sleep.  There is always so much to do on Saturdays.  My husband has the Explorer during the week, and even though I use it in the evenings after he gets home, it seems like I’m always rushing to do the bare minimum to put food on the table or some other necessity.  Not having a car during regular business hours makes it difficult to do many things, like pay the water bill for example.  Somehow, we make it work.  But on Saturdays, things tend to pile up.

So this morning, in preparation for the big day ahead, I get out my IonCleanse and shake up some ketones and start to write.  I need to be in a state of peace and calm so I can tackle this day with ease.

Our black male cat climbs on my lap to greet me.

Our neighbor’s dog found him as a little feral kitten….eyes closed and just big enough to fit in the palm of your hand….about three years ago.  He is so interesting, as he is far different from our two female farm cats we “adopted” about ten years ago.  Part of it is probably gender, but most of it seems to be a struggle from within his own mind daily, where he fights his instincts to be wild and his actual life of being domesticated. 

I’ve been practicing something I learned in the book “Love Warrior” by Glennon Doyle Melton.  Breathing.  Taking baby steps so I can learn how to be in the moment, enjoy life and not worry and be afraid so much.  This cat is helping me.

Because he comes from a long line of feral cats, he has to fight his instincts to bite and attack when he gets scared because he has let his guard down.  We have gotten so used to his bites….literally mid purr……but it’s hard to fully relax and enjoy the time he “chooses” us to love.

When he jumps on my chest and begins to purr, my chest tightens and my heart is in my throat.  He is soft, black, sleek and beautiful…..but so skittish, that it’s rare he chooses anyone at all to love.  So you feel special, but you feel scared.  At any moment he will jump away at the slightest noise, pushing with his strong muscly legs and digging in with his claws.  If he does stay on your lap a while and purr and rub his face on yours, you feel his sweetness, but know that in about five minutes, he will probably bite your face or neck. 

It’s so strange to think and feel so many things about a five minute experience that may or may not happen every day, but I think it’s so powerful because it is about love.

I don’t feed this cat or change his litter box.  I throw his toy for him to fetch now and again.  I’m calm.  And yet he “chooses” me to show me he loves me, for however brief and fleeting the moment.  He isn’t asking for anything in return, really.  And I don’t have to work hard to get his affection.

But I’m not completely enjoying these cuddle moments because I am afraid the whole time of being bit or scratched.

So, I take a lesson from “Love Warrior” and when he jumps on my chest this morning, I stop what I’m doing and I breathe.  I tell myself, “So what if he bites me?  He doesn’t break the skin.  It only hurts for a second and we are both back to our day.  He doesn’t mean to hurt me.  Just enjoy this pure form of love from this kitty.  Just accept it and let it fill you up with peace and love to help fuel you throughout your day.”  And just like that, I breathed in and out….and the moment was over and he jumped painfully away and sat at my feet.  It was over and done, but the experience was better.

I’m learning how not to live in fear….just waiting for the next moment to escape situations that make me uncomfortable.  I am always in the “flight” mode of ‘fight or flight’…..and what I’ve realized is that when things get tough, I need to acknowledge my feelings and express them appropriately, so I am better at handling stressful situations.

Being a naturally introspective and reflective person, I’ve been wanting to write about my recent experience with my Grandmother.  There is so much about the experience to share and discuss, I can’t cover it all in one sitting.

Amongst all of this morning’s ramblings, what I wanted to address was this simple fact:

One’s worth is not determined by how much they get done in one day.

I was a strong believer that this was a false statement until the experiences of late. 

My Grandma is 89 years old and she has led a very busy life.  Her days until becoming bed ridden were ended with crossed off “to do” lists and a feeling of accomplishment.  When she had to rest her legs as she got older, she would spend her time reading the newspaper, writing in her diaries and working puzzle books.  “I’ve never been bored!”  She used to say. “There is always something to do.”  And she did it.  Cleaning and cooking were the top priorities because that’s how she took care of her family.  She was the matriarch of the family with no one even coming in as a close second.  Grandma had a listening ear for everyone’s troubles with an empathetic hug and she cheered for all our victories with enthusiasm.  Many of us in the family thought she was invincible….our own elderly energizer bunny.

Until she wasn’t.

Her sciatic nerve had been a problem for decades….slowing her down in mornings….being a nuisance, is what she called it.  It took her a while to get going in the mornings because her leg felt numb and as time went on, she would need to sit and rest it after about 10 minutes of walking.  She never really expressed the pain she was in….she knew It would pass and people in her day didn’t discuss such things.  “It’s just old age.  Happens to everyone.”

Not getting out of bed and being productive in a day was Grandma’s idea of a death sentence.  And yet, one day, the pain from her leg and the arthritis in her back was so severe she could not leave her bed.  For days.  Which turned into weeks.

This situation is so difficult for so many reasons.  The one I’m focusing on today, is how my Grandma felt losing her ability to be productive….to physically work.  Her tears each day were not just because of her pain, but because she felt worthless.

All of us who love grandma, love her because of who she is, not what she can do.  But she feels like she is not a value to her family if she can’t “do”.

Up until this point, I would have argued the same.  If any person on this earth is not working hard, they are less valuable to me and less valuable to society.

Our love should not be conditional to the amount of physical work someone does in a day, yet we tend to think its okay to look down on someone who is “lazy”.  Maybe that is different, because being lazy is a choice, when you are able to do things but don’t and you rely on someone else to do it for you.

Being physically or mentally unable to take care of things doesn’t make you worthless. 

Infants are helpless and completely rely on someone else to do everything for them, yet we love them unconditionally.  I can’t imagine a love more pure for my son with autism, who needs help with many things and might never live on his own.  He brings me so much joy and richness into my life…..I wouldn’t trade him for anything.

And I think back to this black cat…..rubbing against my feet.   Aside from catching spiders and lizards, he doesn’t do much of anything “productive”.  In fact, he can be a literal pain.  But he gives me so much joy in those sweet moments we share……that he is worth it.  He is worth it all.  Just as all of God’s creations are. 

Take the time to just breathe today.  Soak in the goodness and beauty in life that is all around us.  Be patient and forgiving. Realize your true value and worth in God’s eyes. 

Remember that love and kindness and sincerity…..THAT is your legacy.  Having your house dusted once a week and your closets organized are worthy of our time, but they are not on God’s list of requirements to get in to heaven.

Breathe.  Accept love so you can give it.  Have FAITH replace fear.  Be present.

Happy Saturday J