Till Death Due Us Part

On the wings of the WordPress class awhile back I find myself doing the exact opposite of the class goals: posting infrequently and irregularly. I really respect those of you who commit to regular blogging regardless of what life brings your way. If you’ve read My Two Cats recently, you’ve seen that unemployment has had my number and has been a source of irregular posting. I tried to change it, and right when it was taking a turn for the better, life happened again. Or rather, death.

My stepdad passed away in mid-May, and writing became insignificant in the light of that. Instead, I walked through grief with my mother and reflected on the ‘writing’ of the life I’d known for 22 years; on a marriage that lasted until ‘death due us part.’ It is a rare thing these days – commitment.  Relationships of any kind are under attack by culture. We’re a throw-away society.  We upgrade things and upgrade people. We downgrade people. We remove them from our lives because we’ve succumbed to the rhetoric of positivity.  If they can’t serve the purpose of fluffing our ‘happy place’ pillow, if they make us uncomfortable by expressing the hardness of what they may be going through, then we cut loose the strings.

People miss out on people that way.  People miss out on the richness of life and getting to really know someone. If they only knew  how much they are short-changing themselves because of their premature disconnect. Life is messy and so are people. But I say ‘look longer’.  ‘Dig deeper’.  You don’t stand in a museum and hastily move from picture to picture. You don’t find gold by scratching the surface of the dirt. And you get neither the life transformation nor the treasure if you walk away too early.  Commitment, perseverance, determination … these are what yield the true nature of a thing, the obscured value.

I guess that’s why I love my cats so much.  I’ve taken the time to observe them. I’ve persevered through Timba’s terrible biting phase when most people would’ve tossed him to the shelter. He is my cat ‘soul mate’ now, and I would’ve missed out on the gift of who he is had I reacted the way society shapes us to react. I also could have missed out on the gift of Toby. I thought of getting rid of him due to Timba’s early harassment phase.  I thought Toby was so lovable he’d get a great home, but Timba such a hellion that he’d die in a shelter. I honestly considered keeping the difficult cat to spare him, and painfully parting with the well-behaved cat to likewise spare him. But I stuck that out as well, and for over a year now they have become the best of pals and would grieve the loss of each other probably as much as the loss of me.

Commitment. It doesn’t make me cringe. It makes me smile, because it is worth it. I smile that I’ll have my cats until death do us part. I smile that my mother had her husband until then. I hope you smile at the ones in your life you’ve committed to keeping around for the long haul. And I hope that reading this in some way strengthens your own sense of ’till death due us part’, whatever your connections and relationships may be.

Fear and Love

Probably one of the most popular or recognized quotes on fear is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I have no idea in what context Roosevelt coined this phrase, but I must say, I have to disagree.

Fear is not the only thing to fear. There are plenty of things to fear in life and for good cause, lest we find ourselves in a state whose fearsome unknown certainty has plagued mankind since the beginning: dead.

It’s only natural to fear certain things, and of course there are learned fears as well – socially fashioned fears that were it not for social perceptions, we’d have no fear of such things. Rather than assert that fear is the only true fear, we should focus on ways to cope with and overcome our natural and legitimate fears. Blindly ignoring them just won’t do. You might have more peace if you’re not a fear dweller, but turn a new corner in life and BAM, you run into something that makes your heart fall rapidly to its knees.

This is how my poor Toby Bear still lives. In fear of the dreadful corners. Around the corner from my open bedroom door is a loud air condition, and those awful corners hide what lurks beyond. He still remains, after 4 entire months at my new apartment, bound to my bedroom despite the open door policy I implement every day.

My precious little Toby is indeed a fraidy-cat. I can’t blame him. Watching Cat Daddy and learning to read my cat’s cues helps me to understand where his fear comes from. I have some ways to help him get past the Big Bad Wall Monster outside my bedroom door, the main one being to switch the location of his food. At some point, he’ll have to come out.

I’ve tried the oh-so-dangerous carry-him-out method (several times actually), and well, were I not strong and he not small, I’d be in a world of hurt with cat scratch fever. And after I set his rigid little body down on the floor he either stays flat like a wounded pancake kitty or darts under the couch to remain there for days or until I heft it forward and scoop his fear-flattened furry self into my arms.

So for the meantime, I’m trusting him to do it in his timing, and that’s ok. Pre-mature or forced encounters with fears can do more harm than good.

I learned the other day, though, that Toby is not the only fraidy-cat in the house. I’m not referring to Timba, who named after the white lions of Timbavati South Africa, is filled with courage and curiosity to mostly healthy degrees. Nope, I am the other fraidy-cat. I generally don’t think about fears until I encounter them, and rarely do I encounter a truly fearful thing.

However, I had the heart-drop-to-its-knees reaction this past weekend when my roommate and I were returning from an outing. She opened the door and Timba strolled casually between her legs and made it across the threshold. His whole body was outside and there went my heart! Thank God he was chilled and laid back, that he didn’t dart for the adventurous Great Beyond he stares at all day through the sliding glass door. And thank God no bird or rabbit happened to catch his eye in that pivotal moment. I uttered a wordless vocalization and my roommate scooped him indoors.

Safe.

Whew.

Wow.

I can’t imagine my heart rate and adrenaline rush if he’d actually run off. I can’t imagine my Timba, whose precious being is entwined with my heart, being lost or hurt or worse. I am a fraidy-cat when it comes to my cats. I don’t dwell on the what-ifs, but the occasional scare flits through my mind. It’s a way of telling me to be prepared, and slowly I’m taking action. Eventually I will probably get pet insurance, and soon, and very soon, Mr. Timba is going to get micro-chipped.

In fact, May is micro-chip your pet month, so I’m hoping for a discount, perhaps this weekend. And Toby’s chip needs to be updated to the new address. So fear did serve a little bit of good. It was a motivator to get done what needs to be done.

John Lennon is quoted as saying “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.” Now this is a fear quote I experience as truth. My love for my cats motivates me, and so does my fear of any harm or loss regarding them. Love and fear seem intertwined. To experience love is to experience fear, and yet oddly, love overcomes fear on many occasions. I am motivated by them both, but mostly by love. Everyday is filled with love on some level. Fear can’t live when love is all around. It just jumps out every now and then, unwittingly aiding us to realize in greater measures just how wonderful and precious those things and people in our lives really are.