Lizzy and I know we’re supposed to grow.
Lizzy and I earnestly wish for you to grow.
But Lizzy and I would like to issue a public service announcement: growing isn’t the only thing going, and sometimes “no” is the way to flow.
We talk a lot about progress at Tabby’s Place, and progress can be a glittering, victorious thing.
Yes, we want the painfully fearful cats to loosen their grip on impending doom.
Yes, we want the murderous cats to learn to forgive other life forms for existing.
Yes, we want the cats who attempt to form a Motörhead tribute band each day at 4pm to be a little less strident about impending fish mush.
(We can’t always get what we want.)
Growth is good. Growth can give green, glowing things the chance to shimmy out of the dusty soil and thrive.
But growth for growth’s sake isn’t how we floweth. Not if we’re honest little waterlilies like Lizzy.
Lizzy came to Tabby’s Place in a state of pale fright. For weeks that whined into months, she buried beneath blankets; cowered in the presence of kittens and saintly soft-spoken humans alike; worried and worried and whirled herself into a timid tizzy of terror.
Such is not the destination of any lovely lily.
And so we worked with Lizzy. We worked on Lizzy. We worked to wend our way into the deep, sacred parts of Lizzy’s psyche, where trust and peace would be lost or won. We loved and worked and worked and loved and prayed, too.
All the while, Lizzy was working on us.
Lights turned on. The biggest, brightest eyes biggened with excitement, the kind that swallows fear whole and takes it as nourishment. Lizzy let us love her. Lizzy let go of misery. Lizzy lived, and then she leaped, and the next thing you know, people were asking, “who’s that happy black cat?”
And it was Lizzy.
Life leaned into a new ease.
Peace tasted better than your average tin of tuna. (It did not, let the record show, taste better than fancy sardines from Latvia, but even peace has its limits.)
But at no point did Lizzy cease to be Lizzy or begin to be Lizzo.
The bashful blossom did not become bombastic Bellamy.
Little Lizzy did not enlarge into an outrageous Angelo.
Lizzy is neither Liza Minelli nor Lady Gaga.
She will always be timid, holding the world tenderly between tiny paws. She will always ask questions. She will look before she leaps, and leap only when it’s prudent and palatable. The lilies on her pond will always shake and shudder at sudden sounds or thoughts or inspirations from Beyond.
Perhaps your lilies are likewise.
Perhaps you’ve been told, time and again, that it’s good for you to grow.
Perhaps well-meaning folk have grabbed hold of your wings — even in the moments you desperately needed to wrap them around yourself like a hug — and made them flap artificially.
Perhaps persons and places and situations have yanked your lilies from your pond and plunked them in a plastic bowl from the dollar store.
Perhaps you’ve been told it’s “good for you” to be more social, or less loud, or more courageous, or less outrageous, or to try your Uncle Flavian’s special coleslaw one more time because c’mon, you’ll like it eventually, everyone does!
Perhaps “growth” has been shoved onto your glittering-as-it-is soul like an ill-fitting scratchy hat.
Perhaps you’ve been carried out of your comfort zone kicking and screaming or crying and cowering or — and this is the worst possible possibility — quietly considering that perhaps they’re right, you’re not full-grown until you “grow.”
Perhaps you and Lizzy and I need to say “no.”
Every plant is called to grow, including us. But every plant grows in its own graceful or gawky way. No one of us is all the plants. Someone else’s “grow” is your “no.”
Yes: we all have work to do, on ourselves and each other. We all can and should and must be more loving, more merciful, more tender and tenacious.
But Lizzy Rosenberg is here to tell you that you do not need to grow for growth’s sake. The only things on earth that do that are cancer and multinational corporations, and those aren’t our best role models.
If you’re 26 and still hate tomatoes, don’t let anyone tell you to “push yourself and try.” Hate those suckers with zest.
If you’re 41 and still don’t want to go to chandelier-swinging social events, don’t let anyone tell you to “stretch yourself.” Go home and stretch out in your unicorn-print pajamas, and love people in the quiet, world-changing way you’re meant to love.
If you’re 66 and still can’t bring yourself to drive the Turnpike, don’t let anyone tell you you need to overcome this to be a full-grown human. You don’t. Tell them that Bruce Springsteen turned down the offer to have a Turnpike rest stop named after him, so you have no motivation to drive the dang horror, and besides, back roads are blissful.
If you’re 89 and still…heck, whatever you are and want and like and loathe, you do you. You got this. Jiggle righteously in your very own Jell-O mold.
Who knows? Maybe you and Lizzy and I will change in ways that shock us and make us shimmy. Life’s young yet.
But let’s not call it growth.
Lizzy is a full-grown flower, unfurling and answering only to her Creator.
Grow or no, may we all have peace. This is the way to go.