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.
Anyway, 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.
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:
A FEW SPOONFULS OF PUMPKIN EACH DAY. WHO KNEW?
So 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.
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:
- What am I holding on to that no longer serves my life, my values, my growth?
- What would it look like to let go?
But 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.
HE HAD TO REMEMBER WHAT HE’D FORGOTTEN ABOUT HIMSELF.
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!
WHY NOT START NOW?