Maybe you were kind of a recluse before All Of This. (Maybe “kind of” is kind of an understatement.)
Maybe you’re scared to death to admit you’re scared to death of everything returning to pre-All Of This.
Maybe there are things you’ve learned to love about a global pandemic.
It’s all OK. In fact, it’s a whole harvest of OK.
As I write this post, we’re gaping at all sorts of anniversaries. It was only twelvish months ago that the word “pandemic” sounded novel, a little exciting, and too outrageous by half. We sang “COVID-19” to the tune of “Come On, Eileen.” We winkingly made remarks like, “Well, this is my first GLOBAL PANDEMIC, after all!”
Rather quickly, the comedy drained away.
We scrambled away from each other. We listened to Arnold Schwarzenegger and his tiny equines and agreed, “We stay home.” We battened down hatches we didn’t even know we owned. We learned to Zoom and to sanitize and to sweep our expectations clean of any sort of timetable.
We kept our hands to the plow. We kept the news from the cats, who thrived on, who kept coming, who found ways to get adopted under lockdown, who found ways to unlock our joy in a graceless age. The dance of life spun madly on, at Tabby’s Place and beyond.
We endured, sometimes elegantly, more often with our arms flapping, flailing for the hugs that would have to wait.
Our losses were immeasurable. Our dreams were deferred. Our grit grew catlike and courageous, feisty and funny. Our togetherness was tried, but our bonds grew deeper as we had to consider every word and treasure every email. We lost eye contact; our souls sang to each other across the islands.
The cats kept the beat.
And then, beyond seas we couldn’t glimpse from our landlocked town, we heard new songs. Venerable people were singing “Vaccine” to the tune of “Jolene.” Beatific beasts were barrelling our way from places like New York and Oman. (Yes. As of this writing, Tabby’s Place is actually awaiting actual cats from the actual Sultanate of Oman.)
There was talk, and then jubilant shouting, that All Of This might be almost over. The world would open. The old would become new. The hugs were coming. We would be allowed and expected to face each other face-to-face, tears soaking our double-masks.
Every jab got us jazzed. Every drop in the infection rate elated our hearts and minds. But amid all the tender talk of a world re-made new, isn’t there a little bit of fear, too?
Do you feel me, introverts?
If we’re honest — and the cats permit nothing less — isn’t it more than a little scary to contemplate storming the world once again?
Haven’t there been things about this year, this excruciating year, that have been kind of…comfortable?
When All Of This first started, I stumbled home shell-shocked one Friday, knowing it would be my last day physically at Tabby’s Place for a few months. (HA HA! “A FEW MONTHS!” I MADE A FUNNY!) Hopeless homebody though I am, I did not want to work from home. I did not want to be torn from Tabby’s Place. My Mom mailed me a pair of purple slippers emblazoned with the words Home Sweet Home to comfort me.
Now I don’t want to take them off.
I am — maybe you are, too? — like a once-adopted, briefly-adored cat who has been returned to Tabby’s Place. At first we fussed in our cages, face-planting into a blanket and cowering in our litter boxes. We rightly mourned our un-adoption. We felt the constriction of our world.
And then we adapted.
Being not-adopted was comforting and delightful. We could make our own schedules and wear our ugliest sub-pants. We forgot how good it felt to be held by adoptive arms; we resigned ourselves to life in the orphanage (albeit the grandest of all orphanages); we forgot that we’d ever dreamed of more.
Now the dream is dashing in our direction.
The world is going to reopen.
Returnees are going to be readopted.
We’re going to get what we’ve forgotten to yearn for.
And, when we’re honest, sometimes it makes us all so very afraid.
But the Tabby’s Place returnees would like to remind you that you are more resilient than you think.
A year ago, if you’d told us that All Of This was about to unfold, our actual heads would have popped like actual pumpkins. Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, all lived under lockdown? Masks and goodbyes and metrics and curves? We could not have handled it.
If you’d have told Jack, or Michelin, or Anemone, or Sammy, that their adoptions would be tragically temporary, they may never have left in the first place. They might not have even learned to love the glimpse they got of life in the full.
But life has a way of forcing its fullness into our view.
The cats learned to exult in adoption; they re-learned to love doing time at Tabby’s Place; they have now all adapted, bashfully before blissfully, back to life with forever families.
We learned lockdown well; we rolled with the ceaseless waves and punches. We will remember how to encounter and enjoy and exhale in each other’s presences again.
I don’t know how. I’m scared to death. But the soul and body never truly forget how to dance.
We’re (optimistically) weeks away from full sunshine, and we may be squinting in discomfort for quite some time. But when dawn finally breaks in full, I want to be there. I want to remember Before, and I want to love more boldly than ever in the After.
I know you do, too.
We want, as so often, to be catlike. And we are graced, on an international scale, with precisely the saints and sages we need.
We’re going to be OK, kittens. Spring forward.