A Lesson About Discontent I Learned From My Cat This Morning
Every morning (and night for that matter) when I come into the kitchen my cat stands by her food and water dishes and meow screams at me. “GIVE!” “GIVE”! “I NEED!” “I AM STARVING” “HEEEEYYYYYYYYY” (things I imagine her saying as her tiny face is screaming at me). Hearing the demand, I look down at her situation and 9.5 times out of 10 she has a bowl of food at least half full, a clean looking bowl of water and a nice little plot of cat wheat grass; everything a kitty could need.
So, I think to myself: she doesn’t need food and water, so she must want attention. So I proceed to talk to the cat. “Hello squeaks! I love you! How was your day today? Did you pretend to apathetically play with any toys? Did you nap in the sun? My day was alright…” (I was an only child so I am very skilled in carrying on single-sided conversations.) As she continues to squeak at me I say “I hear you squeaks. You don’t need anything. Stop squeaking” — and the like. The point being to let her know that I hear her, and to give her the fifth element she may be lacking (love). (Not seeing dead people. That’s the sixth element.)
9.5 times out of 10 she will continue squeaking relentlessly (which is actually more like cat yelling). After trying to just ignore her for a while I give her an ice cube. Marley (my cat’s real name; we just call her squeaks because she yells and squeaks so much) loves ice cubes. 9.5 times out of 10 this makes her happy. She merrily drinks the water with the ice in it and forgets about how discontent she is for about 15 minutes.
This scenario happens to me daily, in a number of configurations. Sometimes it’s the morning, sometimes it’s night, sometimes I appease her by picking up her bowl and spinning around and setting the bowl back down again. Sometimes I pick her up and snuggle her and tell her I love her a hundred times, sometimes I pick her up and toss her out of the room. There must be a rubiks cube worth of me-versus-my-spoiled-cat options.
So, what did I learn from this rigmarole today?
Three things, actually:
1) My cat is spoiled. And it’s probably (entirely) my fault. There are many things my cat has taught me about raising children; this is one of them. (The lesson, in brief: Don’t spoil your children or you end up with Veruca from The Chocolate Factory.)
2) I am my cat’s slave bitch. She says SQUEAK! I say Ice Cube, M’Lady? Snuggles? How may I serve you?
3) “Cats and dogs often absorb our vibes and after a while begin to act, obsess, relax, and even look like us.”
See, my cat’s problem is that she is infinitely discontent with what she currently has. She doesn’t even know what she wants, she just wants something that is not what she currently has.
Never mind that she has everything she needs and more — food, water, shelter, a plethora of toys she’s not interested in, WHEAT GRASS, fresh water with ice cubes, two humans who regularly contort themselves in bed so that they don’t disturb her tiny sleeping body that takes up a less-than-tiny amount of bed space, infinite snuggles and love, no dogs to bite her, expensive prescription food, and a spot in the sun where she sleeps all day long in perfect silence. Never mind all that luxury. My cat has a bad case of first-world perspective disorder. IE: “what I have will never be what I want” disorder, also sometimes referred to as “the grass is always greener on the other side” syndrome in folk songs.
It’s actually really sad.
So what did I learn from my cat?
I don’t want to be like my cat.
I can’t give my cat perspective, because she is a cat, but she has given me a world of perspective.
While I’d say that I don’t have perspective disorder as bad as my cat (I don’t wake up every day screaming; not literally, at least) I do find myself squeaking at the world more often than I’d like to admit. Staring at my half-full proverbial food bowl wishing it was filled with something else. Squeaking entitled demands; “I know I have everything I need but if only I had that — then I would be happy! Whhhhyyyyyy! Squeeeeaaakkkkk! Serve me, world!”
I (and my cat) need to be more humble and less entitled.
It’s funny because I don’t even know exactly what I want … and I fear sometimes I am asking the world simply to pick up my food bowl, spin around, and set it right back where it was, exactly the same amount full.
My world is filled with so much wheat grass but it doesn’t consistently bring me joy because I am too busy begging for an ice cube (or for my food bowl to be picked up and spun around and set right back in the same place).
Insight Leads to Action
Here are my takeaways from all of this: Before I start screaming for something new — or something else — I need to take a look at what’s already on my plate right in front of my face. Take an inventory of what I already have; spend a moment in gratitude — in recognition — before seeking anything else.
I respect my cat’s diligence, and refusal to give up hope. (You can’t win the lottery unless you play, right?) And that is actually a lesson within a lesson I take from this — the power of persistently seeking what you want — but my prayer for myself is that I may find an eloquent balance between striving and presencing in my life. And that I may find the wisdom to scream for change — rather than just screaming to have my food bowl picked up, spun around, and set down in exactly the same place as it was before.
A balance and wisdom that allows me to:
- Be aware of what I currently have
- Live in gratitude for what’s already on my proverbial plate
- Not be afraid to ask, but ask thoughtfully; asking the world to please, please, please pick up my bowl and spin around and put it right back in the same place doesn’t make much sense