It has occurred to me that we spend a good deal of our time waiting.
Waiting for a shoe to drop. Waiting for someone to put their shoes on so we can get out the door in time. Waiting for that email or that fat envelope or that text that will, for one luminous moment in history, make everything worthwhile.
Waiting is wrecking our heads.
Waiting is keeping us uncatly and inelegant, “vulnerable” and “proud” in color-coordinated ways that are the worst of both words.
Fortunately, we are not irredeemable, at least not here in this palace of cats. We are surrounded by senseis of varying degrees of patience and infinite appetites for irony. Case in point: one of our wisest elders is a rather young stick insect named Grasshopper.
When first we met the smidgen of a smudge with a white locket and a white-hot heart for hugs and shenanigans, Grasshopper was scarcely larger than his namesake.
Being a proper kitten, Grasshopper had no concept of “waiting,” other than “the world was formed to wait on me” and “waiting for Godot sounds OK, if ‘Godot’ is, as it sounds, a pricey soft cheese.”
Merrymaking through his days like a small hovercraft, Grasshopper did not hold his breath. He did not hold still. He did not hold out for something that would make everything alright — adoption, arrival of dairy products, new album by Dawes, etc.
He did not surrender his considerable power to the unpredictable delivery of “good news.”
He did not submit to suspended animation (although he would like the record to show that he thinks suspenders are an excellent look that should be revived promptly, and that everyone’s style would be improved by dressing more like an elderly farmer in general, but he digresses).
He did not hold his happy between his teeth like a hollow peanut M&M (we have all experienced this disappointment), breathless until someone or something outside made everything OK.
He just happied.
With the kind of wholeness known only to ancient ones and ageless cats.
Sure enough, the email came; the thick envelope from the first-choice college arrived; the good news descended like confetti on the winning candidate. Grasshopper was adopted.
But he who lives by “good news” dies — by which I mean, is inconvenienced or disappointed or dunked in despair — by “good news.” Grasshopper’s home was not forever-flavored after all.
The smallest sensei hopped back to Tabby’s Place.
You and I, so easily elated and deflated by the things we can’t control, may have handled this differently than G-Hops. Just think of the answers you anxiously await: the “yes” (“yes, I will donate $100,000 to Tabby’s Place;” “yes, I do want to see you again;” “yes, All-Lime Skittles are back in stock”) or the “no” (“no, we will not have to go to Uncle Flavian’s 56.5th birthday party;” “no, you do not have jury duty;” “no, I decided not to give you a shipping crate of vegan cheese for Christmas”).
Think of your joy when the weary waiting is whipped into the airy frosting of What You Wanted.
All your labors were not in vain. All your worries were in vain. All your breath can come back into your body, and now you can rest at last.
Until the next longing latches onto you like a cricket.
Or until the thing you awaited is whisked away (“I’m sorry, it isn’t working out;” “I’ve decided to direct my donations elsewhere this year;” “no, it turns out Mumford and Sons will not be reuniting to remake the exquisite timeless treasure that was ‘Whoomp! There It Is‘”).
All along, you’d given your considerable, shimmering power to “good news” outside your control. No wonder you weren’t granted serenity.
No wonder one sensei doesn’t know life outside serenity.
Good news came, and Grasshopper leapt; good news left, and Grasshopper kept jigging. “Good news” outside of Grasshopper’s wee white-locketed self was never The Thing to begin with.
And so, to exactly no one’s surprise, Grasshopper’s return has been humming with joy. Happy to lose his people? No way. Happy to be back at Tabby’s Place? Why not? He can’t control his circumstances; he can hand-paint his own headlines.
Grasshopper, being 100% cat, is fully capable of creating his own good news.
But here’s the secret our sensei is eager to share: so are you. Me, too.
You can have the happy every day.
You can fill your own inbox and vase and soul-cupboard with the surprises and serenities you need.
Your joy will not begin when The Thing arrives, and it need not depart on The Thing’s schedule.
Hopping can commence immediately.
Kittens, we will always have bad news with us. The disappointments and indignities will keep chasing our song-crickets and lovely Luna moths as long as we tread this earth. But we can tread lighter — and sneak in a leap or ten — when we remember just how much we can take our lives in hand.
Take the hand of your nearest whiskered sensei. Take back your role as editor-in-chief. There’s good news to be written every day. Let’s keep delivering it to each other.
PS: As will surprise precisely zero persons, between my writing and your reading, Grasshopper was happily ad-hop-ted. And for that putrid wordplay, I plead your mercy. Will a song help?