It’s not about the cat.
Just like it wasn’t about the dog. Or the sickness. Or the death.
Change. It’s about change. Actually, let’s call it what it is: thresholds. Multiple ones.
But everyone thinks it’s about the cat – missing the cat. He’d been bunking at my house for about four months while my stepdaughter Jennifer and her husband Jon stayed with his parents. They’d sold a house, found jobs, then found a new house seven hours away, and orchestrated a move to a state a little kinder to teachers than West Virginia.
The cat. The cat and I bonded. I mean, how could we not? After two years of change and thresholds aplenty for me, he represented a stable purring presence, a loving bundle of hair (that went everywhere), and a great companion for four months. He was there when I got home (demanding food), there when I got up (demanding food), and there at the computer chair demanding attention (and food) when I got absorbed. He was my mindfulness coach, a cuddler, and the noisiest purrer I’ve ever heard.
Miss him? Of course; that goes without saying. But he wasn’t my cat. He was visiting, and his stay had a time limit. I knew that, even if he didn’t.
It’s like I told Jon as he picked him up Sunday morning for his eternal drive in a car, in a crate, with his dog sibling. (I wasn’t too sure who to be sorrier for: the cat having to ride in a car for seven hours or Jon having to drive in a car for seven hours with a mouthy cat.)
“You know it’s not about the cat, don’t you,” I asked tearfully, with a smidge of disgust that I was freaking crying as the cat left. He smiled politely at my tears. His mom had, I’m sure, shed a few herself just 10 minutes before. “It’s about change.” At least that’s what I thought I said. It may not have been so coherent.
Because that’s really it, and not many people understand that. It’s about another step in the transition from who I was and my “story” I was living to who I am becoming and what the hell is my story going to be now?
That change began three years ago with Charlie’s cancer diagnosis, with his death 15 months later, through my own surgery seven months ago, through the dog’s final days eight months ago, to Jennifer and Jon’s decision to relocate, and, finally, to the cat leaving for a state where catnip may well grow all year long.
It’s just one more threshold to cross, one more step in the process of changing from what once was to what’s next.
Well, I’m onto this change thing now. I get it so fully it’s scary. Tears over a cat that’s not mine and that was always destined to leave are only tears over the next transition as it hits yet another threshold. The cat? He just represented another step over another threshold in my ever-changing life (not that I won’t miss him).
There’s something cleansing about a threshold, about leaving something behind yet taking something forward, about being ready to step across with purpose, with curiosity and a little trepidation, about embracing what’s next. Thresholds are amazing opportunities to move to the next thing, to a new story. All of us live ever-changing lives; it pays to become resilient about change, and it pays to step mindfully over the threshold en route.
Is it scary? Oh, sure. Is it easy? Oh, hell no. But each step over another threshold is bringing me closer and closer to the next chapter. Or maybe, just maybe, each one is a chapter. Either way, here I go. Tearful or not.
But it’s not about the cat.