Heart open, guard down

Heart open, guard down

Why do we size each other up so we can nibble each other down to size?

Must we dress each other down rather than dress each other up in our love?

We’re a tough species, we human beings, tough on ourselves and each other and anyone who rattles our reality. We draw lines, build boxes, wield walls like weapons. We threaten to shut each other down, shut each other out, all the while leaving ourselves alone and trembling on a snowy stoop.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I’ve spilled much virtual ink over the years on how Tabby’s Place people, by virtue of our companionship with cats, tend to be different. We are not the wall-builders so much as the warm-nurturers; we adore across every artificial division, recognizing the hard lines of “us and them” as the chalk drawings of scared children.

But after all this time apart from each other, I want to be sure we remember who we are.

In isolation, we can ossify; safe in our thought bubbles, we can hunker and bunker down with those who think Just Like Us. Too long away from cats who love through every foible, we can forget the truth.

But the truth is always talking to us.

Bounty does not hold us in suspicion because we’ve never seen the perils of Kuwait. (She holds us in suspicion because we’re human, but we’re working on that.)

Beatty does not look at us cynically because we don’t understand life with no peepers.

Melanie does not make fun of us because our eyes are uncrossed.

Luna does not reject a lap for being too large, too little, too red or blue or traditional or radical.

You cannot be so different as to be “dangerous” in the eyes of Fenek.

Walter will greet you with galumphing hordes of gusto whether you’ve just won a Nobel Peace Prize or just said something stupid and small and mean to your spouse.

They forgive, forget, reach out the firm paw of friendship constantly, easily, without thinking about it.

They take us as we are, even as our “are-ness” is ever changing, ever imperfect.

We may live to cringe over the things we believe and say and do; we may regret the shackles we fashion out of our mistrust. But cats judge only on the moment, and their only plumb line is whether or not you do the next right thing (namely: bringing forth bacon and/or hugs).

Our ever-fragile, ever-evolving selves are safe here, so long as we’re not looking for caves of sameness. In all our wild variety and dashing disagreements, we are welcome in this circle of friends. We have only ourselves to blame if we choose to circle the wagons instead.

So even as we yearn to return, let’s remember the wisdom of cats who build no walls. The next time I see you, I promise this: I won’t be concerned with your opinions on the Oxford comma or the second Vatican Council or the consumer price index. I will not interrogate you on your political philosophy or why you’re wearing that shirt or whether you liked the end of The Mandalorian.

I will love you.

I will be thrilled to see you.

I will defend you against any who would reject you.

I will recognize — with the help of cats — the very face of God in you.

And somehow, we will muck through our mistakes and differences and crankitude together. Always together.


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