Full disclosure: Bucca is my favorite cat at Tabby’s Place.
Full disclosure: last weekend I cried at least four times, and two of them were during the Americana Hour on public radio.
Full disclosure: I don’t know about “full disclosure.”
Cats have many secrets that we wouldn’t even know to seek out, but they have utterly no shame. They don’t hold back because they fear we’ll draw back; they simply exist in such a state of self-mastery that they can give themselves such as they are, in all or part of what they are, as pure gift.
(OK, I probably lost you at “pure.” At least I gave Olive and company a good laugh there.)
But even cats have an urge to reveal themselves at times, and the times and ways and truths don’t always “make sense.”
Consider Blink, the cat named for her eye infection. Like so many Tabby’s Place greats, she came in as a scared and sickly stray. In her own tragic twist on the garden-variety “hopeless situation” (it is a very large garden), she had an upper respiratory infection so severe, it looked as though she would need to lose an eye.
Such sufferings are enough to send the strongest among us into self-preservation mode. Now would not be the time to share secrets, show weakness, bare one’s softest parts.
Unless you’re as wise as a cat.
As Blink’s barrage of vet visits marched on, Blink’s self-revelations rolled out. Full disclosure: I actually really love being snuggled, and I will roll around and show you my magnificent belly all day. Full disclosure: plants are highly suspect and must be vanquished, violently if necessary. Full disclosure: I am equal parts goofball and sweetheart, and I will love you more than you could ever predict from my winky eye and wobbly first steps into your life.
Full recovery: that’s what Blink has made in these soul-baring days. Two-eyed and clear-eyed, she’s gazing into a future that I think she always saw was possible. Telling us her story was an essential part of the story, splendid and love-drenched and still yet to be totally told.
Self-disclosure. Self-revelation. Self-mastery and total self-giving. They don’t wait for convenient times, unmediated times, easy peasy times of lemonade and porch swings.
Just think of the ways that these strange days have steered us to share our souls and secrets with each other. One of the great graces of The Defining Event Of Our Generation(TM) has been the deepening of friendships that were mere embryos in the days when we could hug each other.
Now that we’ve been forced to slow down, settle in, and keep in touch through written words, we’ve lost the old ease of drive-by friendships, friendly waves and five-minute conversations. Now, if we communicate, we choose our words differently, think and consider and ponder these things in our hearts. We write paragraphs where we would have spoken just scraps.
And we open doors that we might keep locked without a keyboard between us.
I can honestly, gratefully confess that, since the wheels came off the world in March, I’ve had some of the richest conversations and most bonding revelations of my life. By some strange, sweet grace, they have happened via email and letter (pen! ink!) and — I kid you not — even Instagram. The bonds we’ve formed through long-form writing have nourished me and freed me and shown me so many magical things about once-aquaintances, now-friends. When we’re face-to-face again — with or without masks — these bonds will be forever different, deeper, truer.
Maybe the space between us has blessed us with a bravery we needed.
Blogging at you all these years (eleven…!), I’ve already glimpsed and indulged in this quirky courage. Frankly, kittens, you know things about me I’d be far too shy to tell you in person (and not just the fact that the third time I cried last weekend was during a conversation with my stepfather about Lenny Kravitz, who is awesome, but not as awesome as my stepfather).
The challenge now, of course, is to continue courageously when the world welcomes us back in, or out, or wherever we’re going. Will we choose to keep seeing each other and letting ourselves be seen?
The fourth time I cried last weekend was at the point of our church service when the priest sang “graciously grant peace in our days.” Oh my stars, did I crack, kittens. I want that gracious gift more than I can tearlessly express; I know you do, too. I have no idea how we’ll get there, but I know we will, and that it will come to us from beyond us, and that everything, everything, everything is ultimately grace.
Even the bonds born of long emails.
Let’s keep loving each other this way even when it’s in-person awkward, OK? I promise not to laugh when you tell me you have nightmares about tuxedo cats with eight rows of teeth, or that you always mix up Warren Zevon and Levon Helm, or that part of you still really wants to dance professionally. Promise me you won’t judge me for being so friggin’ weepy, or wearing ballet flats with socks (I AM THE QUEEN OF THE DORKDOM!), or being simultaneously shy and self-indulgent in my too-little and too-much talking.
Let’s continue the conversations, long and real and catlike in their confidence that love can’t be lost. Our keyboards may make vulnerability easier, but they’re just training wheels. When we come back together, may we be for each other and with each other more than we ever dared.
The cats and saints and angels are with us on this. I’m confident that Lenny and Levon would approve, too.