Its been a strange kind of May. Strange in the sense that it is unfolding completely differently from how I ever imagined which is generally exactly how everything usually unfolds. Laced with losses and unbearable grief for people I love and small inconveniences for me. Full of plans that got cancelled and timetables that have been changed. I’ve found myself out of sorts and uncomfortable and feeling tight, disconnected, a little paralyzed. I feel drained of my superpowers, doubting I ever had them. All weekend I have walked around feeling cotton-headed and spacey and terribly overwhelmed. I feel not myself at all and not in the least bit grounded.
Out of school and setting up my practice I am now in a stage that is all about “getting to the next stage”. Its strange really. After years of practicing being simply present with what is, I wake up each morning to find myself constantly anticipating the thing that will come next–whether its the start of the summer or getting my practice to the next big place. I am constantly looking ahead at the schedule–what is coming next and then next after that? I am having discussions with Max about the rhythm of days that won’t unfold for weeks, focusing on getting to a magic number of patients per month. My eyes have suddenly gone out of focus–trained too long on a magic horizon which is really just illusion. This is how I have lost my way.
In our house we are in transition spaces. At 13 Max is becoming. Becoming a teen. Becoming a man. I am becoming too. Becoming healer. Becoming old and wise. In this Facebook-era, more than ever we are focused on the big moments which seem to arrive out of nowhere in my feed–things that are done and complete and neat and tidy celebrated with punctuation marks. But we are really all constantly in transition. We are constantly becoming–there is no other way–but we have falsely thought that there is a magic arrival place that is somewhere else–a place called NOT HERE. When my practice is full. When its summer vacation. When the house is clean. When the teenagers stop acting like jerks. When your eyes are focused on the horizon it is easy to feel that the place you need to be is anywhere but here.
Max and I were sitting on the couch, watching the Sandlot–one of our all time favorite films. He was leaning on my ever so slightly–what passes for cuddles now that he is 13. And then it hit me THIS. This is my life. This is my life that I love. Now–not next month when I will have so many patients or when summer is in full swing. Not next week when I have caught up on sleep and laundry. Not next year when the garden is weeded. Not one day when it all somehow comes together in some magical formulation that I can’t even now anticipate. The magic is now. Right now. With the aches and pains and the mess and the stumbles and the completely imperfect ways I make mistake after mistake. How could I have forgotten the lesson my life keeps telling me again and again?
Moving my eyes from some make believe tomorrow and training them right now on what is here is the only way to bring it all into focus again. This is a lesson I learn over and over and forget with predictability.
For just about 20 years, you have been by my side, sharing my space never leaving. We’ve been through a lot you and me. From the group house where you climbed the curtains and knocked over all the housemate’s plants to my first apartment where you would escape to the streets of Mt Pleasant through the closet. You gave a stamp of disapproval to a series of very bad boyfriends but fell in love with the same guy I did. You moved with us to our new place and again when we bought a house. You watched me get put on my long white dress before I said “I do”. You sat by my side with wide eyes the entire time I labored at home with Max and paced nervously until I arrived with the new bundle of joy who you eyed suspiciously. You eventually made your peace with him and loved him as much as I did (well… almost). When Juan moved out, you licked my salty tears when I sobbed inconsolably and sat up with me late and night while I worried over Max. When Odette moved in, you lay on her bed and sat by her chair and ate chicken out of her hand and showed us you have love enough for everyone. I went back to school you sat on my lap in the middle of my reading and walked over the keyboard while I stayed up in the wee hours writing papers, nudging me to bed, where you slept curled up beside me. Almost every morning you climbed into my lap and remained perfectly still during meditation. You nursed me through years of migraines but laying on my hip or at my side whenever I took to the bed. Most recently you greeted many of my precious patients, talking to them and insisting that they pet you, even going as far as using your elderly little paw to direct their hand to the place on your head you like petting best. You showed us all the meaning of great spunk!
I was barely an adult when you came into my life. Now I am a middle aged mom with graying hair and a teenage boy. And you my friend are dying.
Just last week you were meowing and running, waking me up first thing to feed you, the way you have done at 6am every day for the last 20 years. You were climbing up onto beds and the backs of chairs, though sometimes asking us to help you. But something happened 5 days ago and the slow aging process has suddenly caught up with you. Now you can’t really walk, but today you found a way to slip downstairs to the basement and hide away. Today you stopped eating. I can’t even get you to sniff at the tuna water or bone broth you’ve loved so much and which carried you through recovery after blessed recovery through the years. You are only taking a few sips of water. I am watching you let go of the things you loved so much with grace. Your breath is shallow and I wonder if you will make it through the night.
Its a miracle really–that you and I have been together so long. Eleven years ago, the doctors diagnosed you with a cancerous tumor around your windpipe. They said you were dying. We almost let you go then–you were so close to death’s door but Juan was in Mexico and I couldn’t make the decision to say goodbye alone so we gave you a little bit of palliative chemo to keep you alive so he could say a proper goodbye to his girl. It was nothing short of a miracle that you went into remission and even then they told us that we would be lucky to have more than 2 years with you. You gave us 5 times that. Eleven blessed years of cuddles and meows and mice caught. Eleven years of laughing at your antics and snuggling with your furry self Eleven years of love as presence, of holding the space, of changing it all for the better simply by being.
You survived the addition of 2 new kittens into our family–I think they gave you another reason to live–defending your territory, showing them the ropes. Max and I think that you were afraid to leave us in the care of those dingbats. You ruled this house with an iron paw. You held your own until two days ago. But now you let them have it all. First feeding, the best spots in the sun. They don’t want to take it. Instead they lay at your feet watching you breathe so slowly. Looking at each other and at me–wondering–what next? What will it be like when you are gone?
You have taught me a lot. Before Max came into the picture you taught me how to mother. You taught me that mother-love was simple–food, water, arms and presence–pure presence. Everything else is just a variation of those. Everything else is commentary on those basic principles.
I am so very grateful you found me and I found you and that we have had each other these many years. You truly have been my familiar–my mirror–my side kick. Sure I love those other kitties who share our home but there will never be another cat like you, the friend who humbly walked me through all these doors of initiation. I guess my final initiation is doing it alone.
May whatever come next for you be sweet. May there be plenty of mice to chase and milk to drink and people to boss around. May you be pet well and feel no pain. You deserve that for you have loved me so well.
I kiss you good night not knowing what comes next. If we have one day more together that will be a tremendous blessing indeed. But its OK if now is your time to go–please don’t stay and suffer because of me. We will always be together in my heart and I know I will see you again.
I wrote this piece on Sunday night. My Rosie girl passed away in my arms as I pet her and she curled her paw around my fingers on Monday May 11th at 5:20 pm. She was 20 amazing years old. She was truly and completely the best cat that ever lived. The last words I said to her were, “You can go Rosie–We will see each other again. You have done a good job with me. I love you.” She then breathed out and did not breathe in again as she buried her face in my chest. I am a lucky blessed person. I am grateful.