Sometimes the cats are mirrors of our better angels.
Sometimes, they’re funhouse mirrors of what we would or could be.
Recently, I had one of those experiences that feels like a metaphysical practical joke.
A Tabby’s Place visitor — let’s call her Lavinia — arrived requesting a tour. Cool beans, said I. A tour you shall have. (This, after all, is how one speaks to an individual named Lavinia. Which she wasn’t, literally, of course. Never mind.)
Within five minutes of the start of this tour, a pattern emerged. I would say — or, more accurately, start to say — something, like, “This is our FIV+ Suite…”
Lavinia would immediately cut me off and proceed to do a free-association core dump of everything she knew about FIV. “Oh, I know FIV! That’s Fully Incandescent Vincent. I knew him in college. He invented the light that prevents cats from going blind after they eat sardines. Yup, I know all about that. And it’s contagious to dogs too. I hope you guys aren’t feeding them sardines in there?”
In fairness to Lavinia, a good number of her explications were, in fact, accurate. On many occasions she did, in fact, say exactly what I was about to tell her. But, accurate or otherwise, they all bore one thing in common: the purpose was to show the cats and/or me how much she knew.
What I had to say? Not so much interesting. Definitely not the point. Lavinia was not listening. She was not really even talking to me. She was talking at me.
But no sooner did I start festering up some frustration, than Mary wombled up to my ankles. (AutoCorrect be danged, “wombled” is indeed a word, if only in this case, because it is precisely what Mary does. If you see Mary in motion, you will understand wombling instantly.)
Suddenly my word hoard was wild: “Oh! That’s Mary. She has no tail.” (Clearly I assumed this was not obvious.) “She’s incontinent. We saved her from a shelter where she was going to be put to sleep. We save cats regardless of most medical or behavioral issues. We love them just the way they are. JUST THE WAY THEY ARE. BECAUSE WE ARE THAT AMAZING AND HOLY AND NOBLE AND LOVING!”
I don’t think (please, God) I said those actual words. But as I continued spewing our saintliness, Mary very pointedly turned her tufted head up at me and widened her eyes. The message was clear:
Angela. Shut thou up. Stop telling. Stop promoting. Stop narrating. Just be.
And, with a well-timed womble towards Lavinia, See? You do it too!
Leave it to tubby, tailless, terrifically wise little grey goober of a cat to set me straight.
Like Lavinia, like the majority of humans, I’d fallen down the stairs without missing a self-justifying step. I’m as guilty as Lavinia and Lady Gaga of feeling the burning need to defend what I am and what I do, to show and tell what I know rather than to do the harder, humbler work of letting my life speak.
Cats, though? No such problem. Ever.
Consider our muse of the day, mighty Mary. So she poops on the floor. So she’s built like a neutron star, dense as a jawbreaker. She’s also one of the cutest creatures who has ever wombled the earth. She has a gut-level glee that bursts through every last one of her standing-on-end grey hairs like emotional electricity.
And does she shout her super stuff for all to hear? No. She simply lives. And we get the message loud and clear.
So Lavinia and all my friends, let’s look into the Mary mirror and shift ourselves accordingly. No, we’re not perfect, and frankly we’re not that impressive in ourselves. But if we are what we are, time will show what we know and how we love.
And it will be so much more than enough.