We are two weeks away from The Day On Which It Is Permissible To Expect Affection.
This is of no concern to The Species From Which We Can Learn Much.
Contrived or sacred — you decide — Valentines Day comes with expectations and permissions.
You are expected to show greater gush than you did on February 13th.
You are permitted to look forward to being lavished with love and/or nougat.
You are expected to declare what you feel.
You are permitted to hope you’ll hear heartsongs you crave.
This is, of course, a perfect recipe — high in both carbs and chaos — for leaving everyone anxious and blue, stressed and inadequate. Expectations + affections x Hallmark/humanity = insufficient funds for really, truly showing love.
Good news: the cats have a way out.
Don’t store up all your love poems and longings for a Thursday in February. Let them all hang out all of the time, yes all of it, and better to err on the side of too loudly.
I was reminded of this wisdom loudly on a recent visit to Suite A. (When short on wisdom, always consult The Diarrhea Suite.)
The cats of Suite A are, not to put too fine a point on it, our raggediest ragamuffins. (This is saying a lot at Tabby’s Place.) We call it The Diarrhea Suite for a reason. Inflammatory bowels and spinal injuries have left this crew a leaky lot, and prescription diets and steroids can only go so far to ease the explosions. It gets gross in there.
To top it off, several of our Suite A sweeties are especially ragged. Adam walks like he has a wedgie. Mary has been compared to both a dust mop and a dust bunny. Jimmy has so few teeth, his tongue perpetually pokes forth like bold bologna.
And then there’s Boom.
Vaulting around on chicken legs, so skinny he disappears when he turns sideways, Boom is in perpetual motion. His eyes are larger than his face, and his ears turn down in the front, as though someone stopped reading him midway and folded them to mark the place.
Boom is no one’s definition of beauty and grace.
Boom’s image will never make the cover of a Russell Stover heart.
Boom might, frankly, even turn some people off as soon as they look at him.
Boom does not care one whit.
Boom will accost you, as he accosted me, with chariots full of confidence that he is worthy of your love. He will leap into the center of whatever you are doing — petting another cat, climbing a ladder to the ramp, planning your State of the Union Address — and gaze and poke and pepper you with himself until you relent and regale him with loving.
He is irresistible, no ordinary charms required.
And he is persistent to the point of being inspirational.
Boom does not need to wait until Valentine’s Day to hope his time will come. Heck, Boom does not need to hope — he’s making his worth known, to everyone he knows, every day, every hour, every minute.
Need love? Ask for it. Not being heard? Keep asking. The answer will come, and it’s the lover who will be lucky to let Boom prevail. Don’t be shy. Don’t languish all lonely-like. Just ask, and you will — sooner or later — receive.
No calendar cat ever had greater charm than that.
Boom knows, as cats and poets intuitively know, that he is worthy of love and sunshine and being known. He is refreshingly free of any anxiety over needing to be a certain way to earn the affection he needs. He has no illusions of making himself acceptable enough to be accepted.
I think this is why the scrawny crumple-eared cat inspires me so much. In this way, he shares the wisdom of the great Mary Oliver, whose blazing light recently left our world for the next. Some of her most famous words could have been written by one Boom Rosenberg:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
May we heed the wisdom of cats and poets.
So Hallmark and Godiva can keep their pristinely lovable perfection. Yes, by all means, corral that business into one day a year. We’ll keep on with the business of loving the loopy, casting out all conditions. And maybe, one of these minutes or days or years, we’ll find the courage to be Boom-bold ourselves, blaring our own need for love.
We will — sooner or later — receive.