Belonging in the Moment by Carol Hoshi Meir
I have read some of the best stories on the net about good people and the pets that reside with them. Some of these stories can be the most heart wrenching stories of lonely, hurt and helpless animals and I’m amazed at some of the courage shown by the people who adopt them. My story isn’t nearly as fantastic or heroic though. Oh sure, two of my cats came to my home very ill from a breeding house, and the other came to me at the request of a dying friend. Friends have commented to me that these cats are very lucky, because I was there to save them from unhealthy conditions, and that they are now provided with a healthy, happy place in which to live. But in truth, I am the lucky one because it was my life that was saved.
For as long as I can remember I’ve never felt at home, anywhere. I was always the odd person out, but not always in a bad way. I didn’t have a particularly bad childhood – I was a good student and athlete. On the contrary I think my upbringing was typical if not better than of most of the middle class families of that era, with a stable home, both parents there and involved, two other siblings, and a dog. But I knew that I belonged somewhere else and I knew the moment that I turned 18 I was going out to find that place.
For years I lived outside of the United States, in fact almost as much as I’ve lived in it. Several years of military service through as many countries, and riding my bike as a civilian through a couple dozen more held my attention for only short periods of time. My attention never lasted. I was always seeking that place I could never seem to find.
In my early 30’s I was given a medical diagnosis that signaled that my eyesight would eventually be devastated – and that all but destroyed my entire life plan. As my vision started to wane so did my spirit. I retreated to a place inside myself where nothing mattered, because I believed I would never find what I really wanted. I wasn’t suicidal and wasn’t terribly depressed. I was angry. I felt cheated by fate, because everything I’d learned or gained was wasted and because I would never be able to use them.
I stayed that way for years. I was able to get some good therapy that certainly helped me better cope with my circumstances, but it still didn’t fully change my perception of the situation. Then one day a friend came by and asked me to hold on to a couple of cats. They had been abandoned and she wanted to save them from the kill shelter. I agreed to hold them for a while and eventually they ended up staying with me not because I particularly liked cats, but I didn’t want them to be put down.
I didn’t do an exceptional job with these cats. I always got the cheapest litter, and bought whatever food was on sale, despite the fact that it might not always have been what was best for them. Visitors to my apartment probably were also not keen on the odor, a result of my cats spraying here and there, and I eventually had both of them declawed as well. And, because I didn’t really have the money, visits to my veterinarian were few and far between. Then one night one of my cats was moaning. I could tell she was in distress, but I was unable to take her to a vet hospital at that moment. Somewhere in me, the medic that once was came to the surface. Without going into all of the grand details, I pulled out my medical kit and tapped my cat’s bladder, as blind as I was. I was terrified, but I was able to relieve some of her pain. The next day I was able to take the cat to the vet and he diagnosed a blockage. Though he chided me a little bit for doing the tap on my own, he put his hand on my shoulder and told me what I did probably saved my cat’s life.
These first cats had a good 10 years with me. I learned more about cat behavior and care and grew to really appreciate these aloof creatures (I was strictly a dog person before). So when they passed from my life I thought it was a good idea to get another cat, this time just one. So one day I went with a friend to a breeders’ home, because she was looking for a Cornish Rex kitten. While patiently sitting and waiting for my friend to look over the cats, a thin, red tabby-like cat jumped in my lap, meowed once and gave me a head-butt in my chest. I liked it and considered adopting him at a later time, if he was available. We were there after all for my friend to get a cat!
So I stayed in touch with the breeder and finally decided to bring “Jake” home, however, before I was able to pick him up I got a call from the friend, who had adopted one of the other cats. She advised me not to adopt Jake from that breeder, because she told me that her cat was not only sick, but she was going to be returning it to the breeder.
I later found out this breeder had several cats returned for bad health and behavior issues, including Jake who as it turned out was a rather talkative and loud cat. Better reason would have had me walk away. I was disabled and my resources were limited. I didn’t drive, this cat was not well and my history with cats was not perfect. Besides Jake was not the gentle, aloof cat like the ones I had before. I realized that I would need to engage him, interact with him more and plan his care. I should have just walked away, but all I could think about was leaving Jake there in that home to be adopted and brought back. So against all better judgment, I went back and got him. While waiting for him to be packed up, a tiny blue and white cat jumped up on the couch and sat on my thigh. She was so tiny she didn’t look real. I took her too.
That was six years ago. Since then we have faced some challenges. Lots of health issues in the beginning, but we’ve overcome them all. I didn’t declaw either of the cats this time so some of my furniture has been destroyed from clawing along the way, but for the most part they have learned how to channel their energy elsewhere. I still budget food and litter, but cheap can be healthy too if you take the time to educate yourself. Jake is still a talkative cat, in fact EXTREMELY talkative. He has taught the other two (now that Moshe Moshi is here) how to talk, loudly. They are needy, demanding and take up entirely too much of my personal time. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I scarcely believe the change in me having gone through this experience. Every day I learn something new about them, and in the process I learn something about myself. I now know that sunshine is an important element of health and that we should embrace it like a welcomed friend; naked if at all possible. I’ve learned that food is not something to just have or waste. We should savor every bite. I’ve learned that with practice and patience even difficult obstacles can be overcome, and that laughing at yourself takes away all pretension – you are whole and perfect, regardless. Where I barely leave my home other than for work, I’ve learned that hiding sometimes can feel comforting. But you can’t hide forever, and you have to come out sometime. Trusting what you have together and not bemoaning what you don’t is a better use of your time.
I’ve become more resourceful, more engaging and less fearful than I’ve ever been in my life. I may fail at times, but I also know that I can take a chance to succeed. All of that is enough to celebrate, but since having lived with Jake, Maus and Moshe Moshi the greatest thing I’ve learned is that I know where I belong now. The place that I was searching for, and the place where I belong is in this moment, and I know that’s because they are here in this moment with me.
Carol Hoshi (CHo) Meir is an avid coffee drinker, crafter, cat slave and principal writer for the weblog, Coffee, Cats n’ Yarn. A former Army paramedic and Gulf War veteran, she currently works in information and support for the Smithsonian Institution. A native Washingtonian, CHo is also a yarn trade fiber artist and tests charts, patterns and schematics for crochet designs. She is currently owned by three cats; Jake, a red mackerel tabby, Maus, a blue and white bi-color, both Cornish Rexes and Moshe Moshi, a cream-point Sphynx.
To read more of her stories visit… http://www.coffeecatsnyarn.com/