First of all, I wouldn’t wish this experience on my worst enemy. It was certainly an accelerated growth period, but so is puberty and we all know that sucked.
Second of all, I will relieve you of any anxiety and soften the pity-pathos-party by letting you know she did come back on her own. We are reunited and she is healthy and all is well.
And before you tell me that this is an ordinary story…oh cats, they leave, they come back, I should tell you that my cat is special. And of course completely ordinary.
That’s kind of my point.
Lesson number 1: I have neighbors.
There is a certain irony to cat people banding together in community to help another cat person return to the comfortable, inhuman isolation of being a catperson. I met so many neighbors who felt deeply for my loss—neighbors I would not have met in any other dimension. There are portals between cat people, portals guarded by capitalism, individuation, loneliness, heartbreak, and fear of the unknown. Okay not to say I didn’t have anyone but my cat. But she is my safest, most secure attachment on the planet, and that says something.
Lesson number 2: Oh wait, I do have friends.
It’s taken me time to build community in California, but it has happened. And I have passed the Rubicon. I am now officially Bay Area, through and through.
A few days after she went missing, I found myself texting: “I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it to your show; I have to see how it goes with the pet psychic.” But the great thing about the Bay Area, is that we all get it! We all speak this language so we aren’t offended!
It took me a while to adjust, but now I appreciate the shifty wind here. We’ll gather together if there’s a storm, and this time, there was.
I’ve been in mental health crisis before, and friends have gathered together to support me through that. But I was in altered states so I couldn’t really appreciate what they were doing or properly thank them or understand their sacrifice to show up for me. Although this time I was beside myself with worry and cycling through stages of grief and anxiety for the week my cat was missing, I was at least cognizant enough of my surroundings to show my deep appreciation for my friends who showed up in ways big and small.
And now that I’m in my mid thirties I am finally realizing the value of thank you cards. Those will be going out soon, now that Sharkey is home and the crisis is over.
More Radical Reads: 3 Tips for Practicing Self Care While Grieving
Lesson number 3: I am an adult and can make my own decisions.
Go looking at dusk, go looking at three in the morning, don’t cry out for her at all, it’s a waste of your time, be persistent with searching, she’s hiding somewhere, stick close to home, widen your search path every day up to a five block radius. Leave food out at night, set a trap, leave your dirty clothes outside so she can smell them, leave her litter box out so she can smell herself. Call a pet psychic. Don’t call a pet psychic. Check animal services. Wait a bit to check animal services. Make sure her microchip is current. Don’t worry about the microchip if you’ve kept the same number. Post on craigslist. Post in multiple places on craigslist. Post on nextdoor.com and facebook. Use PetAmberAlert. And my favorite, the day after she went missing: “Give yourself the respectful time to grieve, but don’t take too long. You’re going to have to move on.”
Needless to say, I heard everything, I thought of everything I could think of, and I did almost everything on this list except for moving on. I listened to neighbors, friends and family. But it had to be me, ultimately, who made the call. That’s life.
Lesson Number 4: The whole airplane oxygen mask thing.
First assist yourself, then assist your children, furry or otherwise. I had to eat and sleep and take care of myself before worrying about Sharkey. That was hard, but aforementioned friends helped with that, too.
Lesson Number 5: I was in cycles of hope and despair.
It was a microcosm of life. I would get a lead, hear about a sighting, get my hopes up…and then they’d be dashed. I’d get another lead…dash. Rinse, repeat. That’s life. Enjoy the hope. Hope there’s more than hope. Which brings me to lesson six.
Lesson Number 6: What’s more than hope is love.
And what gets you closer to love, ultimately, is prayer. Prayer worked.
Not the trap (it kept shutting on its own with nary a raccoon inside), not the searching at any time of day, not the psychic, not the Amber Alert, not the ladder I assembled outside my window to help assist her back in.
She came back after I lit a candle, cried, sang, prayed. Several nights in a row. She meowed outside my window, I cried back to her to wait for me, and I scrambled outside shoeless to find her and scoop her up in my arms.
And to all you skeptics out there…well, do what you want, make your own decisions, you’re an adult (see lesson three), but prayer sure did work for me.
More Radical Reads: ‘I’m Proud of You:’ You Really Are Doing Better Than You Think
Lesson Number 7: Nobody’s special. Everybody’s special.
When I had my boyfriend, I thought he was the most special person in my life. And he was. But he isn’t now.
Losing Sharkey, even temporarily, reminded me that while she was my most special being at this time, there are other most special beings out there.
And if the tide had turned differently, and she’d never come home, I would have grieved, it would have been hard, but I would have recovered. Because I have friends, neighbors, and because I am an adult who has prayer.
She is the most special cat in the world. She’s my cat. She’s just another cat.
I’m the most special person in my life. I’m just another person. And when I find that next “most special person,” they will always be helped after me in a crisis (see Lesson Four, oxygen mask principle).
I didn’t have to grieve Sharkey, but she made me realize I may still be grieving my ex. And that’s okay. But when she came back, I realized it was a new era with her. I’m ready to move on. I can’t set a trap, scour the neighborhood at dusk with a flashlight, or prop a ladder outside my window for a new significant other. (translation: OK Cupid only sometimes works)
Sharkey makes me feel comfortable in solitude, but in the week without her I realized that as dear to me as she is, she is an ersatz companion. She is a darling in her own right, but she can keep me in the catperson dimension. (See Lesson One).
What I need to do is witness the love, support, spirituality, and community that blossomed in the week she was gone, and move from that place. That is special. That is extraordinary.
Do you struggle with that ‘whole airplane oxygen mask thing?’ Do you see yourself as the most special (and ordinary) person in your life or do you keep putting other people’s well-being before your own? If so, check out our webinar 10 Tools for Radical Self Love.
(Feature Image: A photograph of a grey cat, outdoors, stretched out on the grey sidewalk, its green eyes looking at the camera. Source: https://static.pexels.com/photos/8415/pexels-photo.jpg)