Begin to win

Begin to win

Go easy on Gulliver. He’s never done this before.

Then again, neither have you and I.

To an outside observer, Gulliver appears to have recently arrived from the Andromeda galaxy. Everything is extremely astonishing at all times.

Morning expands Gulliver to 100% eyes, stretching to take it in.

The strength in his legs is equally miraculous and ludicrous, grander than he can believe.

The toil and chatter of volunteers are a hectic hymn, devotion in motion.

The dryer-fresh fleece, the regularly scheduled breakfasts, the disorienting absence of fear…it’s all as new as earth’s first dawn.

Gulliver is out of his depth.

The depths of despair were Gulliver’s doctoral research area. Shattered by a shameless car and declared “hopeless,” he earned his PhD in agony. He can tell you all about the far starcluster of sorrow.

But he won’t, because his education has become irrelevant.

He’s not prideful over his pedigree of pain.

Gulliver has returned to nursery school, stacking blocks of bafflement atop bliss. The Tabby’s Place Community Room confounds him as much as it comforts him. He is unskilled at ease. He is an amateur at peace. He staggers through our love like a sea of Spaghetti-O’s, constantly slowed by little loops lassoing his legs.

Oop! A tall smile draws near. Soft hands unfurl like birds. Then comes the skritching and stroking and petting without getting anything other than giving. How can this be?

Oop! The sun is showing off again, peeking and streaking and scribbling love poetry on the window. How can this be?

Oop! Peculiar persons with soft hands are squeezing his bladder, but this is far radder than it sounds. Old injuries get older and older, the memories less and less bold, even as this daily accordion concert has become routine. How can this be?

Oop! The tall smiles are taking care of all his cares. The pressure is off, the acceptance is astronomical, the ramshackle little body is again a charming cottage. How can this be?

Gulliver renews his wonder every hour.

He is newborn several years into his life.

He knows to go slow, because he knows how much he doesn’t yet know.

He is winning at beginning.

And because he’s brave enough to be a beginner, he finds himself found by friends.

When Gulliver landed in the Community Room, all the stars and moons leaned in close. They had heard of the crumpled little cat who wasn’t “supposed to” survive. They had seen his eyes expand twelve times in size every time life smiled. They had heard his honest questions.

“Hey Shelley! Why is microfleece so magical?”

“Hey Tux! To whom do I send thank-you notes for all the breakfasts?”

“Hey Pickles! Why do the tall smiles keep smiling, petting, providing breakfasts, even when we’re broken or bristly or so very small?”

“Hey S’mores! Hey Beckett! Hey Cleopatra, oh ‘Patra, oh glittering orange exoplanet of my dreams! Why are you all so sweet to me?”

The answers came in comets of comfort.

The friendships filled the sky, and Ginny’s desk, and Gulliver’s graceful, gasping heart.

The little cat who knew so little of large life was hugged at his humblest. Cats and kindnesses fell over themselves to orbit a little closer to Gulliver. And Gully, with nothing to prove and everything to learn, gulped grace like Spaghetti-O’s.

But none of this should leave us so starstruck. The universe loves a beginner.

A beginner has the courage to wander outside himself long enough to be wonderstruck.

A beginner has the innocence to ask other astronauts where the meatiest planets lie.

A beginner has the curiosity to care what other cats have to say, to study their flight paths, to delight in their differences.

A beginner is poor enough to be disoriented, and rich enough to be unafraid.

Beginners can be best friends, while experts are always rivals.

Bent on survival and bent in on ourselves like elbow macaroni, we forget this. We expand our chests and our war chests and our war-words like experts, etching gravel galaxies between ourselves and the friends who could be ours. We want to be consulted and commended and controlling, when all along we need to be comforted and carried and kindergardened no less than Gulliver.

But we can be more like Gulliver.

We are gullible and fallible, noodleheads dressed up as know-it-alls. But we can turn our tall smiles to each other like shy moons.

“Hey! How do you get that squeaky laundry cart to roll?”

“Hey! Where did you learn to draw so beautifully? Will you teach me?”

“Hey! Will you help me understand why you can’t stand that guy who I think is the sun?”

“Hey! What do you do when you’re scared no one will ever skritch you again?”

“Hey! Isn’t life bewildering and astronomical and heartbreaking and miraculous? Do you need some spaghetti or 90s R&B or maybe a hug?”

None of us have ever done this before.

But we can begin to win, if we’ll travel with Gulliver and his many, many friends.

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