“Give us this day an itemized, notarized guarantee of everything we will need for the next five years.”
If cats pray, they do not pray like this.
Leaving aside the club-sized can of worms that is “if cats pray”, I think we can safely say that they neither pray nor think nor worry like we do. And, what are so many of our prayers but skyward worries and metastatic hyper-thoughts?
The longer I keep company with cats, though, the more I’m convinced that our worries are wrong.
Not just counterproductive.
Not just unpleasant.
Actually wrong — wrong like “cats are eight-legged birds” wrong, or “vegan cheese is food” wrong, or “Mumford and Sons is not the greatest band in all the land” wrong.
Wrong. Against the grain of reality.
Exhibit A: McNulty.
If ever a cat might grasp for guarantees, this would be the one. McNulty has known what we might know as “security.” He belonged to someone, once; walked tall, once; went without nothing he needed, once.
And then it all went wobbly.
His owner couldn’t or wouldn’t keep him any longer.
Something led to a limp and a lack and a certain strangeness in his shoulder.
Everything was wrong.
McNulty’s wants were a wayward dream; his needs were not being met; and the promise of tomorrow had hardly been promised.
At this point, were it McYou or McMe instead of McNulty, we’d have worried like it was going out of style. We’d fling our fears to whoever listened — are you there, God? It’s me, McMe! — and scrambled for whatever we could scrabble up for tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Deprived so direly, we’d hardly be comforted to hear that today would be OK. What’s “today” when “today” is fleeting and “tomorrow” has a wheelbarrow full of fresh fears?
“Today” is everything, as McNulty knows.
When McNulty landed at Tabby’s Place, worry might have made sense — that wrong sense that we only think is real. But McNulty wasn’t glomming for guarantees or five-year plans. McNulty was marveling at the fact that he was being HELD! And LOVED! And — oof, thermometerized, but OK, because…HELD!
This day’s daily hugs and hopes were fully actualized. That was enough for McNulty. And tomorrow? We’ll, tomorrow he’d ask for tomorrow’s.
And he’d get it.
Weaker beasts that we are, we want to know — cold-chiseled in stone FOREVER MORE IRREVOCABLY MAY IT BE — that we will have what we need and want and reach for, as long as we shall live and then some. We want to be able to sit back, Jabba-the-Hutt-like, and say, “Soul, you have everything you need for the next 500 years. Now you can chillax.”*
We think such a guarantee would stop our worrying.
But the price would be to stop having to trust.
That’s not to say that life without worry makes for life without pain. McNulty’s life at Tabby’s Place is not without its mountains. The main one of those is that mysterious shoulder, all limpy and stubbornly “off.” We once thought it was broken, but these days it’s looking more like an autoimmune, steroid-responsive strangeness. The knot is not yet untangled.
More on McNulty’s mind is the social scene in Suite FIV. There are cats in there, and he did not preapprove this state of affairs. For a few cranky weeks, he murmured against everyone who would hear — and by “murmured,” I mean “beat the batting straight out of every mammal.” He wasn’t worried, but he wasn’t exactly in his glory, either. Neither was it exactly glorious to see him chasing Amos under the cages 400,000 times a day.
If he’d been a little more like McYou or McMe, McNulty might have started beating his fears into worries and his worries into plans at this point, and that’s where things could have really turned toxic. Fear-fed plans are never, ever, ever a good idea, and when you give them worries for breakfast…well, let’s just say you shouldn’t be allowed near the big red button.
But, devoid of worry, devoid of scheming, McNulty was free to receive each day as a new-born gift. And one day, the gift was inexplicably…Amos.
If cats pray, maybe McNulty prayed for his enemy’s departure.
And if cats pray, his prayers were answered…because he was given the eyes only to see a soulmate-friend.
Today, Amos and McNulty are cuddled together like sardines. It is a mighty thing, the thing that happens when you stop worrying and decide to love today.
Daily bread is enough for McNulty’s today. And if cats pray — which I’m absolutely certain they do, just by doing what their Maker made them to do — perhaps they’ll pray that we’ll get with the program.
Receive this strange and wonderful day with McNulty and McMe, McFriends. Trust the hand that delights to do you good, one day at a time.
*See, I know how you talk to your soul. Don’t pretend otherwise.