Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Playing the Role: The Crazy Cat Lady

It didn't happen all at once.
But the flood gates opened within my heart
calling every abandoned cat around to my porch
eventually making their way into my home.
It was a shock to all especially me that I became the Crazy Cat Lady.
My coffee mug says:  All lives should have 9 cats.
It has been a WONDERFUL ROLE in my life
but it is over.

Let's go back 10 years ago:
This is an excerpt from my book Passing On Hope in the chapter: Giving Ourselves Away
There is a stray cat that has been coming around our house for a few years. I named him Smokie during a moment of nostalgia when his smoky gray patterns on his white fur reminded me of the clouds of cigarette smoke I used to enjoy. I leave a heaping bowl of Cat Chow and water for him on the porch each day. He doesn’t eat much; the raccoons and the opossums finish off his cat food at night. Sometimes I even put albacore tuna or salmon in the dish to treat him. He runs to me as I leave the house or return, rubbing his back on my ankles, tripping me as I try to walk away, and purring and meowing for me to stop and give him attention. I know he wants affection from me, but since I didn’t grow up with pets, the thought of that is torturous for me. I can give Smokie food and water and a little kitty condo with a blankie for the fall and winter. I can sweet-talk him with sincerity and love him from afar, but I can’t pick him up and rub him. My husband John, who is loved by all animals and children, scoops up the cat and infuses him with the attention he craves. John’s ability to give the cat what he wants used to make me feel guilty for not being able to do the same. Letting go of the guilt became easier when I finally understood that I was giving the cat all I could.

Fast Forward to present time:
I am 8 days from my move and can only take 2 kitties with me so my beloved cat family has been disbanded into new homes and with the help of Misty Eyes ( a local all volunteer based rescue and adoption center, the remaining will be placed where they can love and be loved.  St. Francis, the patron saint of all animals has been working miracles, and I am in awe how everything is unfolding which reminds me again and again that I am the train but there is something far greater fueling this train (and each train on the track of life).

The cats were rescued by John and I.  He used to say: We think we are rescuing them but they are actually rescuing us. It indeed felt this way as the connection and joy they brought into our home and our lives was divine.  After John died, I declared:   I am officially the crazy fu#%ing cat lady now, laughing at myself and the image of the stereotype: single, heartbroken woman filling her home with cats instead of humans, rattling around with wild hair, a moo moo, knee high pantyhose rolled down to her ankles with white pointy tennis shoes. 

In the depths of my grief as I laid in bed, I made an agreement with myself:  all you HAVE to do is scoop cat shit and breathe.  This became my mantra:  Scoop cat shit and breathe...scoop cat shit and breathe...When you want to feel alive, scoop cat shit and breathe, my comic relief version of the zen saying:  When seeking enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  When enlightened, chop wood, carry water.  Of course, I fed the cats too and caring for them, exchanging the energy of love with them was essential as it gave me something to focus on, something to get me out of bed; and when I laid in bed, they laid on top of me and around me.  Our souls have been on a grand journey together!

As I began to get out into the world again, I was scooping cat shit while rocking a brand new pair of shiny red patent leather stilettos with a cork heel and laughed out loud as I thought:  This crazy cat lady wears stilettos not a moo moo.   I owned the fact that I was the crazy cat lady, this was indeed a role I was playing and enjoying, doing it my way; and this gave me great insight into how we box ourselves in with negative stereotypes and ideas of what it means to play certain roles in this life. 

It is a gift we give ourselves to own who we are, to embrace the roles we play without apology, to not let the opinions of others or the stereotypes of the culture override what we want to do with our lives.  And to stay open to roles yet to come.  Never say Never!  Don't limit yourself through fixed ideas of who you are.  Life will always show us we are far more than we believe ourselves to be and it is exciting to be shocked by life as we are led onto paths we couldn't see coming. 

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