There is no question that life is complicated and challenging. There is no question that life is a roller coaster, and a very big, very curvy one with lots of loops and dives and climbs. There is no question that sometimes it feels as though one’s very heart has been left at the top of a climb while the rest of oneself has dropped to the very bottom of the ride. That’s the way life is.
There is grace enough in the world – the kindness of strangers, the glowing good hearts of do-gooders, the sweetness of naive children who overshare sticky everything with those around them – that we are always able to rejoin our bodies with our temporarily dislocated hearts.
This is the way for all beings, including the most favored among us, which, of course, are cats.
In this respect, Shifty has been on my mind a lot lately. When we first met, he was on the scrawny side for his overall size. He was a bit grizzled looking. He was a bit guarded and a bit shy. When we met, Shifty was in the Community Room, and he had some challenges. Looking back, he was climbing up out from the bottom of a big rollercoaster dip. It isn’t clear how low his low got or how high the climb was, ultimately. But, it took a volunteer, whose name rhymes with mussel and starts with an R, who gave this boy unconditional love and pointed him out to me and probably to others in order to gather the necessary force to propel Shifty up to the top of the ride, where he has since been coasting smoothly.
Shifty, as you may be aware, is now a gentleman of the lounge. He has had medical issues addressed, and he has been thriving. First, he put on a bit of weight. Then, his coat smoothed out and thickened. Then, his whole middle thickened a bit more. And, very recently, he has discovered that he has a voice that will be heard. Not only that, when his whole body quakes as he sings for his supper, he knows he gets results…FAST.
This is a short-short version of Shifty’s story. It is one of the condensed stories in this digest. Another is of Muffin. To be fair, I’ve only recently met Muffin. That’s true of everyone at Tabby’s Place. Muffin has not told me much about herself. She has shown me that she is an eminent muffin-maker, and her muffins are almost as sweet as she is. We were instant friends, introduced by someone whose name rhymes with crew and starts with a D. The timing could not have been more perfect! Minutes before, another volunteer had asked if I knew Muffin, and, at that moment, I did not. But, once we did meet, I ran off to find that volunteer because it was essential that he meet her with all due haste. It’s a thing about Muffin: she must be known.
Another thing about Muffin is that she too has had a ride on a rollercoaster. Some dip on that ride brought her to Tabby’s Place. I don’t even want to know how such a sweet, charming, gentle creature ended up at the sanctum sanctorum that exists for the purpose of helping those with least hope. What I can tell you is that this miss is on her way back up to the top. The staff will provide whatever is medically necessary along with heaps of love. The volunteers will provide whatever is humanly possible to make Muffin happy and comfortable, served up with additional heaps of love.
These are the condensed versions of life stories. We all know the long versions. We all live the long versions. Our tales take us down paths that are at once unique to each of us yet familiar to all. We ride our rollercoasters, sometimes shrieking with glee, sometimes crying in fear. We ride them together. We hold hands. We swoop through those dips, and fly back up to the top. We swirl through loops, hopefully laughing as the world goes upside down on us.
At the top, things always smooth out. The way seems calm and clear. Sometimes, we barely catch our breath before the next dip. Sometimes, we have a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery all around. When we’re very lucky, we can see what lies ahead, and we can prepare for loops and dips and climbs. When we’re together – in fact, in purpose, in love, in hope, in trust – it doesn’t matter where we are on the rollercoaster. It doesn’t matter if our stomachs drop into our shoes as we hit a particularly deep dip. It doesn’t matter if our breath catches in our throats when we hang upside down for moments that feel like eternities.
When we act as one – as we do in our support of Tabby’s Place, as we do when we show our greatest kindness to the littlest among us, as we do when we come together with love for cats like Shifty and Muffin and for each other – we flatten all of our rollercoasters, so they look more like gentle kiddie coasters instead of those coasters meant for thrill seekers. Instead of being left with our hearts feeling dislocated from our bodies, we leave with our hearts feeling full: full of love, full of joy, full of hope. That also leaves us full of expectation of ever greater things ahead.