If you are (a) human, (b) over the age of eight and (c) equipped with a real, squishable heart, you have felt like a loser.
Fortunately, Sherpa lacks (a), and so he’s spared feeling that the world is collectively flicking its finger and thumb in the shape of an L on its forehead.*
A particular Tabby’s Place staff member does not mince words. In the words of this anonymous Founder/Executive Director whose name rhymes with Chronathan, Sherpa the cat is now a “three-time loser.”
That’s almost enough to make a cat blush. Almost.
It’s not terribly uncommon for a cat to be placed on hold for adoption, only to have the adoption fall through. People change their minds. Applications get declined. Sham and drudgery do their dirty deeds. It happens, and we don’t think much of it when it does.
Not when it happens once, anyway.
When it happens twice, the ohhhhhhhs start to bubble up, as in, “ohhhhhhh poor Sherrrrrrrrper. He was aaalmost-adopted twice.”
Rare is the cat who makes it to three almost-adoptions. But then, Sherpa is nothing if not a rare bird.
And, in the Tabby’s Place word-hoard, a three-time loser.
Sherpa has reacted to this news much the way Mitt Romney reacted to losing the presidency: by getting hairier than ever, gaining weight and dominating his domain like Napoleon. Sherpa has heard the message of “loser,” he has weighed it, and he has found it wanting. If anything, our hairy emperor has acquired fresh confidence, and he now monopolizes the window perch, blue eyes flashing into the lobby, “I am a glorious, glorious beast. Be wise and respect my massive mustache.”
Three-time loser? Sherpa says, whatevs. (Which, in Sherpaspeak, sounds something like, Fare thee well, guv’nah.)
But we are a different kind of creature. Neither you nor I nor any honest human from Justin Bieber to Jeb Bush would appreciate the “loser” moniker. We’d prefer winner, or fabulous, or ballin’. “Loser” is salt in a wound we’ve all got.
Maybe yours is hidden under your Pulitzer Prize. Maybe you wrap it in sparkly pink silk. It could be buried beneath your gigantic taffeta hat. But we’re all, in our eternally-13-year-old moments, afraid that we are less than enough.
When I was growing up, my Mom put a framed print of the Desiderata in our bathroom. Many mornings, while getting ready for school, I cried over the boys who didn’t see me, or the bangs that insisted on evoking Lloyd Christmas, or just the generalized angst in my angsty angsty soul. My teary eyes would fall on these words:
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Always there would be girls with Audrey Hepburn-ier bangs and more unfortunate noses. Always there would be writers with holier verse and more plodding prose. Always there would be people doing better by the downtrodden and people trodding them down.
Always greater, always lesser, often combined in the same other persons.
I would always be a loser or a prideful prig if I careened into comparison. Somehow, even my 13-year-old soul was stilled by the reminder that we are all what we are, given the gifts and glitter and grit deemed best by the Giver. No losers. No winners. No “them.” Just us. And this was no truer or falser for any one of us:
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. … With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
Now that I am older and
wiser older, I still need this message. Better writers should inspire me, but sometimes they make me want to bury my lesser words under a bushel. More loving lovers of humans/cats/narwhals should spur me on, but sometimes they make me feel like the Duchess of Selfishness, worthy of a cold, molded mustard sandwich.
But I’m not, and you’re not, bereft of healing. We can take comfort from greater teachers than the Desiderata.
I am speaking, of course, of cats.
It’s clear to Sherpa’s blue-eyed soul that it is still a beautiful world — and even clearer that he is still a beautiful beast. There is no question in his hairy head that he is a winning winner — nay, that all he does is win.**
Maybe he’ll be adopted for real tomorrow. Maybe he’ll be almost-adopted another ninety-six times. Maybe he’ll spend the rest of his imperial days at Tabby’s Place.
There’s greater. There’s lesser. But there’s no need to compare.
And there’s no real life in the word “loser.”
Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, kittens.
*However, “The World’s Forehead” would be an outstanding name for a band.
**Aye, all he does is win, win, win no matter what. He goes into da club, all the hands go up. This is a true fact.