It won’t appear on your calendar, but this is a very important season for cats, humans, and all assorted animals, vegetables, minerals and politicians.
It is the three-week period after Election Day, the great window of mercy…the time when campaign ads are silenced.
A wise professor once pointed out something unsettling about campaign ads. If you listen to them, you’ll recognize it immediately. Politician A isn’t simply telling you that Politician B will make bad choices. Politician B isn’t merely informing you that he has a better plan than Politician A.
They are both telling you, if you vote for the other guy, we are all going to die.
This is true whether they’re running for President or Fourth Ward Alderman. They’re not (usually) quite so explicit, but the subtext is roiling just below the surface like poisoned lava. Vote for him, and The Bad Guys will get us and hurt us and hurt us bad. Vote for her, and All The Terrible Things will happen to all of us immediately. He’s not just the wrong choice. He is a criminal and an extremely bad person. AN EXTREMELY BAD PERSON YES I AM YELLING!
It’s fear + fear + fear.
It’s a lie, as fear can only be.
And once you can see the lie behind the light show, you’re not afraid anymore.
I am, of course, talking about cats.
Todd heard many lies outdoors. By the time he came to us, the three-month-old kitten was a cinnamon-sprinkled powder puff with a heart wrapped in barbed wire. He looked like an angel. He raged like the devil.
He was catastrophically afraid.
In his few short weeks on earth, Todd had been a sponge for massive fears. Everything he saw had fangs, nowhere he could hide was truly safe, and everyone he met was an extremely bad person. Trust was impossible. Safety was unattainable. Peace was irrational.
Fear was all.
After a season of rage in the Quarantine wing, Todd was moved against his will to our Special Needs Suite. Our hope was that the presence of such fear-conquerors as Sequoia and Uma would help Todd to loosen his grip on terror, and to get a grip in general.
It was a call for patience, as hope must always be.
Before you could say “I’m Todd Rosenberg, and I approved this ad,” Todd evaluated the suite and deemed it unsafe at any speed. With a grimace and flattened airplane ears, he decided the least terrible terrible place was the top of the corner crates, and there he hunkered. Flat as a cotton ball beneath a steel-toed boot, Todd trembled and hissed and felt the fear. One day, overcome by terror, he attempted to escape humanity by flinging his entire tiny body against the suite window.
It would seem the lie had won this soul permanently. I can haz Todd, laughed fear.
But, despite his best defenses, something other than fear was whispering into Todd’s airplane ears. It was Jess. It was Jane. It was Denise. It was volunteers unafraid of rage. It was love.
It was truth.
Fear is a lie.
I will not sprinkle Splenda on Todd’s sriracha personality. There were no hints that Todd would “come around” or “learn to love” or any of the other sweet cliches we cherish.
There were no clues. There was only a lightning bolt from darkness into light.
One night, airplane ears. One night, “we’re all going to die.” One night, the constant mourning that comes from a life of fear.
The next morning, joy. The next morning, trust.
The next morning, this:
When Todd closed his eyes and leaned into trust, the door behind him closed forever. He’s not looked back to the darkness once. Love grows. Love is all.
This is not the end of the story. There’s no perfect “happily ever after” this side of eternity. Todd will taste teaspoons of fear again. Doors will slam. Garbage trucks will rumble by. Dinner will be delivered late.
You and I will have occasion to duel fear again, too. Politicians will thunder. Thunder will thunder. Hostess may even threaten to discontinue Twinkies again.
But there’s a funny thing about fear. Once you’re over it, it can’t crush you again. It’s smaller now, defanged, incapable of the last word.
Fear lies. Love sings. The truth will set you, and Todd, and me, free.