From December 2019 to March 2020 when Covid-19 was taking off in the UK, I looked after a total of 8 cats over 5 house-sitting assignments. I sometimes drift off into thinking about the cats I looked after and how much I miss them.
I learned something important looking after so many different cats in such a short space of time. I learned that I truly, loved all those cats, despite their wildly different, and often very quirky, personalities.
There was the cat that wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. I provided food, she ate. That was the extent of our relationship. But I loved her. Then there were the two Bengal cats who tested my nerves by staying out all night long and often not coming back until mid-morning, at which point they’d sprawl out on the heated floor, or on my lap, or we’d play together in the garden. I loved them too.
Then there was the cat who loved sitting by the bath whilst you were in it, enjoyed jazz music, and was forever pawing at the fridge. Oh, how I loved him. And the little ginger cat who insisted on bringing live mice into the bedroom in the middle of the night, who pierced a hole in my plastic tub to try and get at the butter and who ate her food in approximately 10 seconds. Little Meggy was crazy, but I loved her too!
And finally, there were the three fluffy cats, including the elderly, silver-haired Angel, who squawked rather than meowed, vomited often, made it very difficult to give her her medication and who would not rest until she was suckered to my chest and being lovingly cuddled in my arms. I miss Angel very, very much.
What I love about cats is that they don’t try to change to suit you. They just are who they are. They don’t try to be ‘good’ cats, or ‘nice’ cats or the ‘right kind’ of cats. And what I love even more is realising that no matter what they are like, I love them anyway. I love them because I love them, not because of anything they do or don’t do and not because of anything they are or are not. They are loveable because they are!
And then I think of how much I have not been like the cats I’ve loved. How much I’ve tried to be good, to be nice, to be the right kind of person, and generally try to act in a way that means no one could ever have a reason not to like me.
Yet of course, despite my best efforts, I have failed at this. And not only have I failed, but in the process I lost the most basic joy of life – the joy of being yourself!
This is still something I sit with and observe within myself – all the ways I’m fearful of being myself in case it isn’t to someone else’s liking, which of course, eventually, at some time or another, it won’t be. Have you noticed how it is actually completely impossible to go through life and have everyone think wonderfully of you?
I’ve noticed how I even do it here sometimes, with my writing. You see, I’m familiar with lots of the people on my email list. There are different groups of people who have come to receive my writing at different periods of time.
There are the people who have been here ever since I started writing online in 2012. There are friends I know from real life. There are even people I have done cat-sitting assignments for. There are teachers from school. There are people who came after my Buddha at the Gas Pump interview. There are people who have read a guest post I’ve written somewhere online.
And in my head, all these people have different ideas about who I am because we can’t really help that, can we? We filter the people we know through our own lens. And at this point in time, I have a pretty good idea about which things I write will speak to which people.
And so sometimes, there might be something I really want to say but I think, ‘Oh yes, but that one person on my list might misunderstand that and be offended’ and so I think twice and doubt myself. Of course, I never purposely try to offend anyone but you see how it’s impossible not to upset some people some of the time because whenever we express ourselves, that expression interacts with a person and everything that is inside them, which we cannot control and nor can we control what they think or perceive about us.
I love observing my patterns and habits and feeling what feels helpful and what feels like something I need to keep letting go of. When we observe clearly what’s going on and feel the associated fear, for example, that goes along with it, there’s a window of opportunity to just be with that fear and to see how it doesn’t need to run the show. It doesn’t have to control your life.
And then? And then there’s a little more freedom to take the actions that you want to take. To express what you want to express. To not be a puppet on strings moving in all directions trying to make sure everyone likes you. Ultimately, to feel the basic joy of being yourself and knowing that no matter what, you are loved just because you are. Because you exist.
Love and courage,