Life Lessons Learned from Leo

It will probably come as no surprise that I’m a cat lover, given that my blog photo (used to) include a cat. Pretty obvious, I’m betting. What you likely don’t realize, however, is that I share my life with five cats.

Now I don’t know if you’ll be stunned by that fact, but the truth is, I AM. Many days find me exclaiming, “I can’t believe how many cats are here!” But I love them all; each one has a story, some version of “abandoned/orphaned” and now “rescued/loved.” I guess I’m a softy, and they just seem to find me. In fact, I used to have a fantasy that one day I would like to operate a hotel for cats and dogs (love them too but the inn is all full up); now, I can cross that fantasy off the list, because I realize I’ve actually lived the essence of it.

100_0612Anyway, today I’m writing about Leo, who has become a teacher for me in the most unexpected of ways. Leo started life as an energetic little kitten, a bit of an introvert with a dash of anxiety. But normal in every way. Doing all the things kittens do: running, jumping, frisking, prancing, purring.

As the years wore on, however, Leo changed. Not only did he get cranky, but he developed a host of nasty behavioral problems that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say that years went by when I felt like my house was under siege. Many visits to the veterinarian. Countless remedies tried. Truly a dark time for all of us.100_0608

Fast forward to February of this year. Leo is almost eight years old, and he gets very sick. Leo has not been a happy boy for ages, and this new turn of events foreshadows that the end is near.

But then, after many tests and unsuccessful treatments, a revelation: Leo has been misdiagnosed for years! His behavioral problems stem from a condition called megacolon. Simply put, Leo can’t poop. (No wonder he’s been cranky.) But it’s a very serious disease. And after all the standard megacolon therapies have been tried (and failed), when we are at the end of the line, the one that finally works is the simplest:


100_0611So here we are, eight months later, and Leo has blossomed. He has his life back. Bounding through the house. Chasing feathers on a string. Eating well and heartily. Grooming himself again. Insisting on spending as much time as he can right on top of me. And as you can see by the photos, even modeling my sandals.

When I think of Leo, I go all soft inside now. And I realize how I misjudged him: his life force wasn’t gone; instead, it was merely thwarted.100_0610

I’m always struck by how outer life experiences become metaphors for inner life growth. That’s how I make sense of life. How I make meaning. So at first glance, when I originally conceptualized this post, I thought the metaphor was about how we mentally and emotionally constipate ourselves, holding on to what no longer serves us and as a result, inhibiting our life force. Thwarting growth and change. And I still like that idea. I find it incredibly valuable to ask often:

  1. What am I holding on to that no longer serves my life, my values, my growth?
  2. What would it look like to let go?

100_0433But as powerful as these two questions are, another has surfaced, perhaps even more important to me. Because when I look at Leo, I know, at some level, he had to trust in who he really was to get where he is today. He had to allow his sense memory to take him back to himself and his joys.


And that’s the point that brings me up short. Because as I go through the routine and rhythm of every day life, I do forget things about myself that I dearly need to remember. Such as, when I was a kid I had a big rock that I named “Pinto” and she was my horse. I could spend hours staring at the clouds. Nothing was better than running from my house to my best friend’s house.

And as an adult, I love old movies. A redwood tree can move me to tears. Libraries are great. And this thing called life is quite amazing.

So how about you? What are you holding on to? What do want to let go of? And what do you need to remember about yourself that you’ve forgotten? I’d love to know!



11 thoughts on “Life Lessons Learned from Leo

  1. I am holding onto confusion of what motivates so many daily interactions to be governed by competition~ I am learning to accept that this is a mind view that I don’t need to understand to say no thank you to, and that I don’t need to fully understand to connect with others who do choose it.

    Letting go of frustration at time being wasted by the conversation focusing on “I’m better than you”; OK, you are, shoulder shrug.

    Me needs to remember that one who is different can trigger others defenses; that other’s responses are not my fault, that regardless of what I do or say at times, some will choose to not like/connect with me. I need to remember that when there are those that are deaf to my song, I don’t have to worry.

  2. Hi Char – Yeah, competition can certainly be draining, especially when you’re not choosing it. I love what you say – I need to remember that when there are those that are deaf to my song, I don’t have to worry. Reminds me of a quote from Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Thanks for the comment!

  3. The photos of Leo are so cute! I’m glad the old Leo is back. It’s funny I wrote those two questions in my journal today. Instead of answering them I’m pondering them. Do you think I’m afraid of the answers? Ya think?

  4. Hi Tess – No, you don’t strike me as the fearful type! I think pondering is a good thing. I always respect it, especially with BIG questions around letting go. I guess the danger is if we get caught in a repeating loop of pondering without any forward movement. Thanks!

  5. Hi Patty – There are many reasons why we might forget who we are. And sometimes it doesn’t feel like we are forgetting who we are, but that we never knew. But we do know, because when we start to remember, there’s strength in that knowledge. Just like Leo could remember what it was to be just a happy cat, we can remember what it is to be who we are, even if we feel we never quite knew that thing in our life previous.

    My cats also like to put their paws in my shoes. šŸ™‚

    • Hi Amanda – Your words are very wise. We can surprise ourselves with with what we remember, even if we think there’s nothing there. Because it was there all along, maybe we just didn’t trust it. Or it was obscured for some reason. And although the past seems static, it’s not; when we look back we realize that the past is actually always changing, and so much is about our perception and the lens we filter it through. Thanks so much!

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