What shall we be scared of today, kittens?
I know, I know! Let’s go with “being changed.”
This is a half-turn different from “change.” Change can range from the innocuous (e.g., Dunkaroos are out of stock today) to the life-altering (e.g., Dunkaroos will be out of stock for the next six months). But change is generally outside of us, and if we’re wise and solid, we can keep a still, serene center untouched by its tumult.
But then there’s “being changed.” The passive voice is intentional here: I’m talking about those times when something external (e.g. a global pandemic, the closure of all Dunkaroos factories, the inability to see your favorite cat for ten weeks and counting) changes you, whether or not you co-signed the change.
This is the scary stuff.
In these ten-plus weeks of weirdness, it’s been a comfort to observe just how little the cats have been changed. Surely they notice the shrunken staff; surely they miss all the footmen and ladies’ maids who used to dote on them; but sure as granite, they have not been shaken at the roots.
The merry ones are still merry. The melancholy ones are still melancholy. Those who would swing from chandeliers swing on; the quiet keep napping and noodling and pondering everything in their hearts.
They are no more fearful or anxious — or exhilarated, for that matter — than they were when 200+ people bumbled through Tabby’s Place every week. They have square-danced with change, and they have remained themselves.
So at this point, I can confidently say: I’m not worried about the cats.
I’m not worried that Alfred is going to get so giddy over our absences that, when normalcy roars back, he’ll have a hard time accepting the fact that, yes, we all still exist.
I’m not worried that Olive is going to sink into despondency that there is no one to greet at the main door except the occasional dry leaf.
I’m not worried (OK, this is a total lie, I am profoundly worried) that Bucca is going to either forget me, hate me, or enter a period of profound but painful intellectual activity due to ten-plus weeks Angelaless.
I’m really not worried about these resilient, remarkable marvels.
It’s you and me I worry about.
Have you found yourself a titch more tense lately?
I don’t mean since All This began; I mean in the last few weeks, since All This started growing a little bit of mold around the edges. The panic has been widely wrung out of the pandemic; we’re used to this now, masked and weary as we plod along.
I’ve noticed, in the world and in myself, a certain second wave of emotion, inflamed by the fact that the world is now on fire, more irritable than mournful, more prone to strike than to weep.
I don’t like it.
I hear myself being short with the ones I love; I feel my hackles rising sooner than they ought (if ever hackles should rise); I have less patience for the people whose perspectives I can’t understand; I want everyone to see it my way.
I see the isolation and the outrageousness and the tension of this time turning me into someone tighter and terser and less large-hearted than I am. I am at the risk of being changed by fear and changing into fear.
I will not give in.
The outrageousness calls for a patience bigger, not smaller, than before. The tension wails for a mercy that extends where we didn’t think we had to reach our soft, scared hands. The low-grade anxiety demands that we listen harder, speak less, assume the best, remember how much we love each other even when we can’t understand each other.
Changes are coming, as changes always do. They will change us. But we have some control over the change.
So this is my commitment to change backwards so I can change forwards. I will look to Twister and remain unafraid; I will look to Olive and resist despair; I will look to Bounty and believe in love; I will look to Denni and delight in every soul I meet, gazing deep until I see the gifts and secrets given only to those who listen.
Let’s be patient with each other even as we grow impatient with this anxious age, kittens. This is no time to drop tender mercy. Let peace pursue you and catch you. Let change change you for the better.