I’m going through the emotions of some personal matters and have spent a good chunk of the day in bed with occasional bouts of tears. I watched Brené Brown’s special on Netflix, hoping I will actually have the courage to be vulnerable, and was beginning to work my way through the most recent issue of Magnolia Journal on authenticity. I took a restroom break, which gave my cat enough time to come in my room and meow at the top of her lungs at my absence. I came back in, sat on my bed, picked up the magazine, and then she hopped up to join me. This sweet, pain in the ass cat has always had a way of knowing when I need her. Twenty one years together. That’s a lot of days in bed from being sick, fights with friends, family matters, relationships that seemed promising and ones that fizzled or floundered. I often look at her and wonder when our time together will be up. It has a 100% chance of making me emotional. Is it possible for a cat to be my soulmate, if that kind of thing exists? I wonder what her purpose on Earth is. Heck, she’s been here 21 years. I don’t think she’s only here to act as a couch decoration. And then I think that this little ball of fuzz has taught me more about love than anyone else.
I remember the certainty I had in the weeks leading up to the Christmas morning I found the certificate on the fireplace. I told my brother again and again, with the kind of confidence a five year old has, that I would be getting a cat for Christmas. He assured me I wouldn’t, but I ignored him. A grey, female cat that I would name Sara. That’s what I wanted and that’s what I would get. My mom and I went to the pound the day after Christmas to go pick her out. Who knows how many times I repeated my wishes on the way there. Grey, female cat named Sara. When we went in the area with the cats, I was distracted shortly by an orange cat in the corner and considered scrapping my plans, but I kept at it. We looked and looked with not much luck, until my mom spotted a grey kitten at the back of its cage. There wasn’t any information, so she had to ask. It was a female, brought back that day by a family who had adopted her and returned her after a son had taken her outside and a dog barked causing her to scratch him. When I got to hold her, I knew I wanted her. I just didn’t know at the time how much I needed her.
I’ve never been one to say “I love you”. Never. I believe I’ve verbalized it to my mom three times in my twenty six years, to my aunt once, and possibly my brother when he left for the Army, though, I’m not certain. The last time I had said it to a human, for years, was January 11, 2011, the last good chance I got to spend with my uncle before he passed. I’m not positive he heard me because it was through tears from realizing seeing him as a grandfather figure wasn’t one-sided. I’ve always said it to my cat, though. Any cat or creature, really, who couldn’t say it back, at least, not in English. I believe it brought a form of comfort to me that I could never be shutdown saying it to them and that all I could do is judge by their actions as to how they felt about me. Isn’t that true for just about everyone when we really think about it; actions speak the truth?
I often look to relationships and to my cat and wonder, what is love? Is it sacrifice? Hard work? Compromise? Two people who won’t quit? The right timing? Shared morals and values? Common interests? Opposites that attract? Maybe there’s not a clear answer and maybe there’s never supposed to be one. Or maybe it’s the little things. It’s moving all the crap you’ve piled on your cedar chest out of the way so they can lay in the afternoon sun that you know they love. It’s frustration and irritation, but showing affection and telling them you love them even if it’s more to remind yourself, so you don’t act in a way you’ll later regret. Maybe it’s food and a warm blanket or knowing you can depend on them to act as your alarm clock and wake you up with a snuggle when your other one fails. It’s being greeted by them excitedly when you walk through the door, as if they’ve been waiting for you all day, and how they look at you as if you control the sun. It’s a reminder to think of yourself less and do what you can to help others more, even when you really really don’t want to. It’s patience and trust. It’s letting the other know it’s okay to be vulnerable because you’re there to protect them. It’s shared silence knowing that you’re both comfortable and content to simply be in the other one’s presence.
What is love?
(And don’t you dare say “baby don’t hurt me…no more”.)