Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Badges of survival

Him Kitty napping in the sun/Tad Barney

Soooo not the morning I expected, yet I think I was open to it. Open being the key word here. Maybe open and present.

I was jarringly awakened with my chest pounding. Thankfully, it was 5:40 am, much later than I had expected. My alarm was set for 6 and I soon heard the comforting sounds of my oldest closing the bathroom door, then flushing. It used to annoy me, now I embrace it.

I was reminded of Sunday in worship just how comforting my children have always been to me; not, of course, that that is their main function in life. They certainly have their imperfect moments, illiciting comments I’d rather not repeat here. When I ambled into worship, then, too, my chest was pounding. I asked God for peace in that hour. No sooner was it off my heart then I felt the whirlwind of nearby activity (my eyes were closed) settling as each of my daughters took a seat beside me – bookends. And I felt great and deep peace.

The residue of worship must still be with me as I lolled in bed another 15 minutes, sat up to gently stretch and realized I’d experienced a solid night’s sleep. A little more alert this morning, I descended the stairs, debating whether there was time to make coffee before I swept the kids to the bus and hit the pool. While I was measuring the coffee, the girls announced that the cat was having a “spaz” attack. By the time I could turn around to look, he was still and staring into space, his typical past-time at the ripe old age of 18. Then I noticed the puddles and my heart fluttered. I have been dreading this furry friend’s imminent end. He has weathered thick and thin with me. Three years ago we thought he was a gonner after surviving what we believe was a stroke. Him Kitty made a strong comeback: his constant circling to the right and occasional staring at the fridge, the only tell-tale signs.

I cleaned up the mess, grabbed an old towel and cuddled him in it. He purred, which signaled things were ok. I whisked the girls out the door and returned to Him Kitty napping in the bay window. Nothing unusual. Before heading to my studio, I asked my husband to bring up a litter box up in case the cat couldn’t manage the basement stairs. I was finally out the door when the unearthly distress cry cats make made me drop my wallet, keys and laptop.  My instinct was to return to the living room, but I had just checked that cat and the noise was outside. I looked and saw our other indoor cat staring out the porch door at our adopted outdoor cat wrestling in the bushes. “OMG, the groundhog’s got him,” I thought. I went closer and saw there was only one animal and no struggle. Patches was experiencing a seizure. Tad had seen it once before and almost gave him mouth-to-mouth. I spoke soothingly to Patches to let him know I was there and perched on the edge of the deck as his white-with-black body thrashed in the brush and branches. It broke my heart. I prayed and began to weep. He sensed me there and I spoke again, softly, telling him not to worry about me. A few long, excruciating minutes and he was up, at my hand nudging to be petted … as if business as usual. Except that my heart was ripped to shreds.

I have been struggling with my own resiliency only to witness the suffering of these two cats. It’s really made me ponder how our society treats usefulness. I instinctively knew to tend to these creatures, maybe only accompanying them as they suffered. God was responding through me and, perhaps, I complied because I was opened and present this morning. Maybe it was the worship experience or the fact I’ve been bumbling through a fibro flare-up and empathetic.

However, I am beginning to think it’s because I have been faithful in doing something my heart has desired for a VERY long time: offer spiritual-nurture classes in my studio. What I affectionately call my Turtlebox group. Our first three sessions have been on pain as teacher, opening to the Divine and deep connection. I can’t teach what I don’t know so, in prepping for these, I have explored all of those in myself and opened some wounds.

After a wonderfully long run of high energy and low pain – enough to get Artsy Farsty, a non-profit art exploration for under-served, local kids launched – I hit a blip and, I freely admit, sank into some self pity, whining and yelling at God.

Perhaps, if I take the example of these two cats, I can pick myself up and carry on. I may have a little pee on my tail or dirt on my coat, but I can look at those as badges of survival and carry their wisdom with me … out into the world.

• What has opened me recently?
• What affect do children and animals have in opening me?
• How have they been a comfort?
• What have they taught me?
• How can I carry their wisdom out into the world?

happily napping
in the sun,
circling only
to the right
or staring for
what seems like
forever at the fridge

I know my Him
Kitty is all right
when I cuddle
him and he purrs

It’s our signal

the constant
contact and
from all
of us
his motor

Spirit do
the same
for me?

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  1. The standing by giving loving reassurance and comfort to your cats was God responding through you! It is a common belief that God sends pain to teach us lessons, but for me, that concept doesn't have the ring of truth. Jeremiah writes "I know the thoughts that I think toward you,saith the Lord,thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" and Paul writes "God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." I don't think that God causes the suffering. Instead, God causes the response to suffering - such as the compassion and quiet courage that welled up in you when you saw your cat suffering. I think that its God that is causing your heart to protest and push back against the bodily challenges that you face because God is not the source of those challenges and God wants you to protest and push back.

  2. I totally agreed that God doesn't cause or want pain and suffering, but I have learned that there is learning from these experiences. Actually, they have made me much more compassionate. I love your quote from Paul and the idea that God is in the response to suffering. I had to considered it in that light. Sometimes I just don't have the energy to push back and protest ... hummm ... always food for thought. Thank you!