|Life: An Evolving Adventure||
As the year and the decade draw to a close, I thought some deep wisdom (and humor) might be in order. So, here are a few true insights from my beautiful feline friend, Misty, who is now happily frisking around in heaven after spending 20 years blessing us with her sweet self. I would love to hear your feedback on Misty's marvelous advice, and perhaps you can contribute your own tips on how to live a better life, based on your experiences with our four-footed friends. Dogs may also apply :)
Last December, the day after Christmas, we said goodbye to our nearly 20-year-old wise kitty, Misty. We were bereft, since she was the last of the six cats who were such a beloved part of our family through the years and she had been with us since birth. Luckily, we did not allow ourselves to be "catless" for very long, since the house was so empty we couldn't stand it. We found these two simply amazing kittens at our local Humane Society and have been enjoying their lively, energetic kitten comics ever since. In a quirk of serendipity, they were each named and had the same coloring as two of our kitties who were gone over the Rainbow Bridge. We knew immediately upon seeing them piled together sleeping in the window, that they were ours.
They are without a doubt the most intelligent, inventive, playful, athletic and adventurous cats who have ever owned us! Our breakable plates, glasses and knickknacks have taken a pretty big hit, (six glasses, four cereal bowls, two cat food dishes, and a crystal basket so far) but we are so grateful that these furry felines have chosen to be with us for their life's adventure. Below, please enjoy their romp through the cushions. They can entertain themselves endlessly with pretty much anything: paper bags, boxes, a crack in the tile floor, their tails, each other. Here's to feline fun!
Misty is my 19-year-old kitty, who likes to share her vast experience of life from a feline perspective, here on my blog. I am just the conduit for her "whisker wisdom". Hope you enjoy her insights and musings!
1. Follow your inner feline curiosity. There's a big wide world on the other side of the window. You can decide whether to view it with fear and uncertainty or with curiosity and delight. Choose delight!
2. Groom yourself to look your best. Good grooming is very important. Wash your face and ears often and keep your fur in place. Getting all ruffled is not attractive. Neither is getting puffed up to twice your size unless the neighborhood bully is bothering you. In that case, it's perfectly acceptable. Claws can even be unsheathed when there is something crucial to defend. Like your food bowl, or your mousie toy.
3. Be vulnerable. Misty has mastered the art of vulnerability. She turns on her back with feet up in the air exposing her belly, inviting a rub. We can all find our individual way to express that trust and vulnerability to those we love. It's a sign of great strength to be open and invite others to metaphorically rub your tummy.
4. Be peaceful. Sometimes the very best thing to do is curl up on a cushion and meditate. Or take a nap. If we want peace, we must be peace-full. Cats know this. You can't "fight" for peace, you simply live it!
5. Creaky doesn't equal cranky necessarily. At the advance feline age of 19, Misty knows all about being creaky. But creakiness doesn't give you the right to be cranky. We all have days when it's hard to get motivated or we are moving slowly due to pain or injury. Go ahead and lick your wounds, but don't let grumpiness cause you to snarl at others or bite the hand that feeds you. Life isn't perfect, and at times it can be downright messy. But remember, misery is optional. You can always choose your response to life.
6. Stay active and engaged with life. Stretch yourself, mentally and physically (cats are good at the physical part!) I often observe Misty doing her morning yoga and try to follow her example. She sometimes assists me with mine, also, usually by rubbing against me or dragging her tail by my mouth. Do yoga, chase birds or geckos, be alert for mice and other interesting creatures crossing your path (or whatever your human equivalent of these activities may be). Have fun, play, learn new things, stretch your life to new dimensions! Hiding under the bed is not an option! Be brave and have an adventure today!
7. Practice looking cute. If you find yourself drawn into any problem or communication issue, such as putting your paw (foot) in your mouth, simply looking cute can prevent escalation. Misty is the absolute master of looking cute. She does it pretty much all the time, to varying degrees, making it very difficult to be angry or upset with her at all. Try it. Hint: it helps to practice with a mirror so you can experiment with various expressions and gestures. Too bad we humans don't have whiskers and multidirectional ears to generate extra cuteness, like cats do. I love Misty's "Yoda" ear position, which indicates relaxation and her whiskers-forward move, which means she is intensely interested or curious or about to pounce on something. If humans had feline type ears and whiskers, I'll bet we'd have far less miscommunication!
Karma (kar' ma) n. 1.Sanskrit word meaning action, work or deed. Refers to the principle of causality where intent and actions of an individual influence the future of that individual. Good intent and good deeds create good results, bad intent and bad actions bring about the opposite. 2.the cosmic principle of rewards and punishments for acts performed. 3.the good or bad emanations felt to be generated by someone or something.
Last night I had the great good fortune to be at a gathering of girlfriends (old and new) to celebrate our creative courage to change our lives and to say 'so long' to those who are parting ways for the summer. It was magic! There were hugs and heartfelt sharing, fabulous food, fine spirits (all meanings of that word) and as the group dwindled down to a core of five, uproarious laughter ensued (the laugh-until-you-cry-and-almost-pee kind!) And it just felt soooooo good. It also made me realize just how much I have been sucked into seriousness lately and I want out! My inspiration from this experience is that laughter is not only the best medicine - it is also as necessary as air for survival in an increasingly insane world. My soul sure felt lighter as I left the party, so I decided that this kind of en-light-en-ment deserves to be shared.
As author of this blog, since I have ultimate control over what appears here, I hereby declare a new direction toward karmic (comic) relief through stories that cause enlightenment & laughter. Here is the first of the karmic relief stories for your humorous pleasure. (No worries, girls, I'll only share my own stories so you will remain anonymous, if not innocent :)
Karmic relief and the Parrot
Many years ago, in a universe far away, there was a neighborhood noise issue. OK, it wasn't a universe far away. It was here. The neighbors got a small dog whom I shall call the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth. It was a Jack Russell Terrier, also known as a spring-loaded jumping manic barking machine. It performed in this crazy-hyper fashion whenever I walked into my backyard. Luckily for me, it was separated by a chain link fence, so the murderous intent of the dog (and later, um, me!) was deflected in part. The barking and springing were annoying beyond belief and completely spoiled the peace and quiet to which I had grown accustomed when watering my garden, sitting on my lanai, contemplating my navel, etc.
The-most-annoying-dog-on-earth also had the habit of silently sneaking up on me when I took the trash or recycling out after dark. He would then launch himself repeatedly against the fence, just a few feet from me, barking and snarling maniacally and scaring the bejeebers out of me. If a dog could laugh, I swear he did. Suffice it to say I did not like this dog. A first for me!
Life went on, and despite my very polite complaints to the neighbors, the problem persisted. Then, it got worse. MUCH worse. They got birds. Really BIG birds in cages on their back lanai. I think there were one or two African Gray Parrots and oh, about 17 other kinds of smaller birds - a whole menagerie of birds which added incredibly loud squawking and screeching and twittering to the barking and snarling. Arrrghhhhhh!! It sounded like the jungles of the Amazon and when the whole lot got going with the barking and springing and squawking and screeching it was total bedlam!
Now, I'm normally a quite patient person. Well, mostly a patient person. OK, sometimes I'm NOT! But this noise was way over the top and was making me and the rest of the neighbors nuts! Then a minor miracle happened. After much discussion, letters, petitions, prayers, threats, gnashing of teeth, they got rid of the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth!! Yup, he was gone to chase buffalos in Montana or something. And there was quiet again in the neighborhood, well except for the screeching and squawking and twittering. So, as I am sitting on the lanai, enjoying the well-deserve peace and relative quiet, I hear the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth -- barking! What?????? Softer, but it's definitely him. How is he haunting me from afar? I peer over into the neighbor's yard, but there's no sign of the dog. I listen intently. Minutes of barking pass. Then, I realize the awful truth. It's the parrot barking!
After I recovered from the shock of the barking bird (it eventually wore off after a year or so), I will allow that the parrot sort of redeemed itself with its other entertaining emanations. For instance, I called my cats to breakfast every morning with the traditional "Heeeeeeeeeeeere kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty" call, adding my own trademark rising inflection at the end. As I wait for the usual feline stampede, I hear a faint echo of my "heeeeeeeeeeeeeere kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty" refrain, complete with my rhythm and inflection. Yup, it's the parrot. Now that really cracks me up! I wondered what the cats made of it, but I secretly hoped the parrot would get what he was asking for - in a nice sort of way. Or, perhaps in a karmic sort of way. Wish I could have gotten that on video for all posterity and maybe America's Funniest Home Videos. A parrot calling a cat would have probably been worth some money as well as some laughs.
This talented parrot, who I began to call the-loudest-parrot-on-earth continued to add to his repertoire in the most interesting ways: he did a loud and very credible wolf whistle; he "yelled" at the successor most-annoying-dog-on-earth (names Dakota), but not usually when he was actually barking; and his major feat was to "learn" the dialogue from a rather loud, nasty and highly personal argument that his owners, a married couple, had in Spanish--yelled at the top of their voices, with LOTS of emotion. He repeated this fight for months, much to the chagrin of the neighbors, and despite their attempts to drown him out with a radio, this was a regular feature of our little neighborhood. Though I don't understand Spanish curse words, I am pretty sure there were many included. See? This is what karma is all about. :)
Well, I must report that the sleep experiment is not going all that well. Instead of feeling dipped in God each night, I feel ... well, let's just say dipped in something else altogether! My cat, Misty, is not cooperating with this new plan at all. Though she can sleep up to 75% of the time, she doesn't see inclined to let me do so between 3 and 4 am, in particular. So, I have been reworking it and trying new approaches. This is what works best:
1. Relaxing before bedtime, breathing and gently stretching
2. Using quiet music to wind down
3. Listening to Max Highstein's Sleep Well Tonight - Cottage by the Sea meditation (you can listen to a bit of this by clicking the link below)
4. Taking melatonin about a half hour before bedtime.
Just thought I'd check in with everyone and see if anyone else out there is feeling sleep deprived...yawn.
Up since 3 am. Sigh. Maybe an afternoon nap will be in order.
Sleep Well Tonight
Enjoy a good night's sleep with this gentle inner journey. Take an evening walk along the beach to your secluded seaside cottage. Secure in your comfy bed on the screened-in porch, enjoy a full body relaxation, and then let the waves lull you into dreamland. At the end of the inner journey the narration tapers off, and the waves continue for another 30 minutes. More about Sleep Well Tonight...
"You know you're spoiling your cat when...you won't turn over during the night no matter how uncomfortable you are because you might disturb the cats."
Misty in her cozy nap chair
I confess. I am a serial cat spoiler. I resonated with the quote above, having spent many an uncomfortable hour in bed with multiple cats cuddling up so that I could not move. I know there are others out there. Come on, you know who you are. I imagine this can even apply to "dog" people. At this point in time, our cat population has decreased to one, very old (18 years this month which is ancient in human years), very sweet cat, named Misty. She is a very wise kitty and I am sharing some of her deeper thoughts herein.
1. Be engaged with life, and amazed daily by its wonders. Allow life to surprise you with good!
Misty and I were cat napping together yesterday when a dove flew up and perched on a hanging basket just outside the window, only about two feet from Misty. Birdwatching is one of the few select activities which actually outrank naps in Misty's world. She was immediately on full alert and in stalking position on her side of the window. The dove then grew even bolder, after shifting position in the plant several times, to Misty's intense interest, it then flew directly in front of her and perched inches from her face on the windowsill. It was quite an amazing interaction to watch: Misty, frozen in stalk-mode, except for tiny twitches in her tail, whiskers forward in pleasure and fascination, eye to eye with the dove. This went on for some time as the dove turned its head this way and that, trying to get a better view into the room, Misty completely focused on its every minute movement. I was enthralled and thrilled to be witness to her catly acumen and the enthusiasm she displayed. When the encounter finally ended, she remained vigilant, keeping an eye to the window for the rest of the afternoon. So, the lesson here is you should never be afraid to stalk what you desire, whiskers forward in anticipation of receiving, and you're never too old to dream!
2. Sleep around (in the literal sense)
No, not that kind of sleeping around! Get your mind out of the gutter, folks! Misty has made an art form of selecting the very best sleeping spots, which meet her precise and exacting requirements for sheer comfort and security. She has an incredible knack for finding the coziest spots in the sun, and spends quite a bit of time on her sleeping schedule and strategy. Certain sleeping spots are reserved for special occasions or during certain seasons of the year, or cycles of the moon, or some other mysterious formula known only to Misty. Sometimes, there is total panic in our house when we can't find her, but these are not warranted. She always turns up safe and sleepily stretching from a newly discovered nap spot. So her wisdom to share with humans is that sleep is a very good, worthy activity, requiring some planning and superb execution. Since the latest research bears out just how important sleep is to humans as well as felines, I think we should learn from her napping technique. Start immediately to identify prime napping spots in your house (or yard -- hammocks and swings make wonderful napping locations in warm climates). Make them cozy, soft, secure and distraction-free -- Happy zzzzzzzzz's to you!
3. When someone you love is feeling sad or ill, offer a cuddle and a purr.
This one is self-explanatory. There is no substitute for being present for those you love in warm and comforting ways. It's good for the soul!
4. Meet life with curiosity.
Misty has a new habit. I call it the interrogatory trill. When I walk into a room where she is (usually) sleeping, she elicits a sound that is a cross between a purr and a glissando slide up the scale, as if to say "I'm here, don't step on me -- Yes, can I help you? -- Want to play? -- Want to pet and adore me? -- Want to feed me?"
Sometimes the trill morphs into a meowy sound or a yawn, but it always welcomes and expresses willingness to connect. I love this about her. And it is a very valuable lesson. Always be open to life, to learning, to seeking the new and interesting. Curiosity is a powerful tool for engagement with life's mysteries.
5. Make do with what you've got.
Misty is not shy about asking for what she wants. Loudly. Repeatedly. In the wee hours of the morning, or whenever the mood strikes her. She still has no respect for weekends or my sleeping schedule, which often does not coincide with hers. However, if her repeated demands for attention are not met (i.e. no one is immediately springing into action to replenish the food or water bowl, or scoop out the litter box, find her catnip toy, or other urgent need), she is satisfied to have called attention to the issue. Then, she lets it go and looks for an alternative for the meantime. (not to the litter box, thankfully). She will usually find the bowl of dry food left for her snacking pleasure and have a few bites to satisfy her hunger until mealtime. Or she will grudgingly drink hours-old water from her bowl.
This lesson also has a great wisdom to bear: Ask for what you want. If it is not immediately forthcoming, make it clear, put it out there, and then look around for a temporary satisfaction of the problem. This is not compromising your high ideals, but rather using your creativity to temporize until what you desire manifests. It is a good skill for any human or feline. Many times, we find that all we have is all we need.
"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
As a lover of cats and a musician, I heartily agree with Albert Schweitzer in this quote/life philosophy and even have it engraved on a plaque hanging in my study. I would add one more crucial item to Schweitzer's list of useful refuge-remedies: books! Every now and then, the perfect book shows up in your life by some mysterious serendipity, at the exact moment you need the comfort, information, inspiration, wisdom, beauty, escapism, or higher vision to heal your inner being. Just as a song can become your "mantra" in lifting you out of sadness, so can a book lift you to higher emotional ground, insight and understanding. The little gem of a book titled "The Dalai Lama's Cat: a novel" by David Michie, was just this sort of soothing-serendipitous-balm-in-a-book for me. It is part allegory, part comedy, part fantasy, part teaching tale, and entirely charming!
The story captures the reader in the opening paragraph by its unconventional viewpoint -- seen through the eyes of a kitten/cat, who is rescued from abuse and almost certain death on the streets of New Delhi by none other than the Dalai Lama to become HHC (His Holiness's Cat). It cleverly interweaves colorful characters and their all too human foibles, simple tenets of Buddhist philosophy, teachings & history, intimate moments of insight, details of daily routines of the Dalai Lama, and some pretty awesome life lessons-- all while telling the story of this privileged feline who shares the inner sanctum (and lap) of the Dalai Lama. As the cat, HHC, also known as Mousie-Tung, Snow Lion, The Most Beautiful Creature That Ever Lived, Rinpoche (Precious), explores her new environment and life (both inner and outer), struggles with lessons such as disengaging from the basic instinct to kill (hence the Mousie-Tung title), to yearning for a "relationship", to overeating, and the causes of suffering, many precepts are introduced in a skillful, entertaining way. The mind is opened through HHC's cat's eye observations of celebrities, heads of state, and important people of all walks of life, whose meetings with the Dalai Lama change them in subtle and life-altering ways. The warmth of the storytelling, and the engaging atmosphere of the setting brings wit and wisdom together with insight and truth to give this book it's appealing and yes, enlightening power. If you are looking for a good read, that is at once amusing and deeply inspiring (in a sneaky cat kind of way), this one will bring a surprising array of gifts and delights. I heartily recommend this cat tale of amazing depth and insight. Pull up a comfy chair, next to a cozy hearth, and let HHC and this sweet book purr its way into your heart!
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for review purposes.
Sometimes I wonder how I ever managed to, miraculously, survive childhood. With my lively sense of curiosity leading me to try many "experiments", my natural clutziness causing me to be somewhat (uh, highly) accident prone -- think falling, scrapes, cuts, bruises, and many tentanus shots-- and my strong tendencies as a young environmentalist to rescue every kind of living creature -- animals, reptiles, baby birds, and sea creatures--sometimes at great risk to my own wellbeing. Well, it's really a wonder I'm here to tell you about it! So, here are the gems of wisdom I learned from the school of hard knocks, shared for your general enrichment and entertainment:
1) Caterpillars can't swim. Or even float for long. I proved this beyond a shadow of doubt when I was 5, by floating one in a bathroom cup for two days. After noting that it sank to the bottom and no amount of poking could revive it, I flushed the remains and replaced the (unwashed) cup back on the counter for my sister to use. Experiments are useful for satisfying one's natural curiosity.
2) It is not necessary to tell others of your experimental failures (or successes) -- especially when they mention the "funny taste" in the bathroom cup. Sometimes it's best to keep those secrets to yourself.
3) Electricity is a very tricky thing--when you stick a plug in an outlet with one prong in the outlet and one in the wall, it short circuits the power to the whole house, thus prompting an expedition by flashlight to the basement panel box. Note, this experiment could also result in short circuiting YOU, so don't try this at home! See what I mean? Childhood is fraught with danger!
4) When you rescue small furry animals from pain and possible death, comfort them and feed them, they are devoted to you for life. Over the course of my long, illustrious career as a rescuer, I saved 2 dogs, an abandoned kitten, 7 shelter cats, a duckling, a dozen baby birds, untold numbers of geckos, and many other assorted critters (and still counting!) I have found that rescuing critters is more rewarding than trying to rescue people, generally speaking. There might be some exceptions to this rule. I'll let you know.
5) When you are flying solo (i.e. without training wheels on your bike) for the first time, know that you can do it even when your Dad lets go. I didn't believe this and crashed the moment I realized he wasn't running along beside me anymore. Self confidence is crucial, in bicycle riding and life. As soon as you let doubt and fear creep in -- you fall. It always helps to have a guiding hand of love to keep you going until you realize you can fly on your own. Trust the love. Trust yourself, too. Love will always pick you up after you fall, dust you off, dry your tears, and praise you for your excellent effort.
6) Mothers can't actually tell if you are fibbing by looking into your eyes. About most other things, however, they are usually right. I also noticed that my mother got increasingly smarter as I got older. Interesting how that happens. I find myself remembering and speaking her words of wisdom now. They are still relevant and true.
7) The external scars of childhood will usually heal on their own with time. Some of the more spectacular ones remain as badges of courage and honor, and good conversation starters. The internal scars may need some extra help to heal. Ask for help with this -- from friends, family, God, Mother Nature. Even when life hurts, try to keep your heart open to others and keep the circle of giving and receiving love going round. Be adventurous! Dance, sing, play, and love fully in each moment, with the openness and joy of a trusting child. Decide in advance that the Universe is a good, kind, happy place. And so be it, so it is! Remember Abraham Lincoln's sage advice: "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right!"
This is my 17-year-old cat, Misty, napping in her cat bed. She has worked hard over her long life to teach me some very valuable lessons. I'm a slow learner, apparently, but she is persistent. Here are the basics:
1. Naps are excellent tools for enhancing life and making it very pleasant. Naps can happen at any time and without warning. You must pick your nap spot with the greatest care so you won't be disturbed, and vary the location according to the time of day, season, and movement of the sun. Napping will make you a better person/cat/being. If you can arrange to have a nap companion, that is preferable. Take lots of naps.
2. Ask for what you want. Ask often. Ask loudly. Ask without ceasing. Ask and you shall receive -- (OK, Jesus taught this one, first, but Misty is an avid believer!). She also believes in the seek and ye shall find philosophy, with the added twist that she gets me to do her seeking -- for her toys. It's sort of like playing fetch with a dog, but in reverse. She hides them, I seek them.
3. Pay attention to your surroundings. Misty will notice if I move the living room sofa two inches to the right. Really. And if I add anything new to her/our environment, it must be fully inspected and approved. She's very thorough and she notices the least little change. If the change does not meet her approval, she lets me know about it in no uncertain terms. She has many ways of doing so, and none of them are nice. Accordingly, she almost always gets exactly what she wants. See # 2 above, since these two work in combination and synergy to great effect.
4. The entire world and all of humanity are at your beck and call. Explore, enjoy, live it up! Someone will always be there to open the food can, comfort and pet you when you need it, and otherwise take care of your every need. (This one works better if you are small, cute, furry and have four feet.)
5. Exercise is good for you. Stretching luxuriously, leaping on and off furniture, running in a mad dash from one end of the house to the other, chasing the little feather toy on the end of the stick -- all these are really good things to do, and you should do them often. Yoga is sort of acceptable, but it bores her quickly. She shows this by dragging her tail across my mouth, usually when I'm in downward dog position. (I have often wondered how she knows that's what the pose is called!)
6. Drink lots of pure, fresh water. On this lesson, she is most adamant. She has several water bowls around our house (at least four, for one cat!) and all of them must be kept fresh. She knows if it hasn't been changed in the last 2 minutes. Unless she sees you do it, it doesn't count. Water is very important and no compromise is ever allowed.
7. Personal grooming must be done often and with great care. Washing your face and paws is crucial, and keeping every hair in place requires your full attention. She allows us to comb her to assist in this task, but really, she does a smashing job on her own. If someone ruffles your fur, immediately smooth it back in place and go on as if nothing happened. This may be the most valuable of all Misty's lessons.
8. Everything in the Universe exists for your pleasure, fun, happiness, and if you expect only good, that's what you get. For instance, she expects love, comfort, care and adoration from her humans, and -- yep, you guessed it. She gets it. OK, as I reconsider, maybe this one is the most important. The Universe is a good place. Enjoy it!
Today I am struggling with emotions because one of our cats is at the vet being treated for kidney failure. This sweet feline has been with us all his life, born in our closet at 3 am on March 15, 1995 -- more than 17 years ago. He is without a doubt part of our family and we are in the midst of the waiting, alternately resigned & hopeful -- wishing mightily that he may be given a reprieve. But this whole experience, however it turns out, prompts me to consider the depth of love we have for our furry friends. Pets bring so much joy and comfort to our lives -- and according to research, can improve our health and mental well-being, too. But that makes their loss that much more difficult to bear.
I have read a great deal about pets, usually dogs, used in therapeutic ways for the elderly, and particularly for those with dementia. The unconditional love of a dog is a beautiful thing, and very useful in all kinds of applications, from helping calm autistic children, to providing assistance and love to wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan (very helpful for traumatic brain injury patients and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder), to the traditional seeing-eye service dogs for the blind. Cats are more subtle in their approach, but no less therapeutic in their own way. I had a cat that was truly a healer -- he would lay on or touching whatever hurt and purr until the pain went away!
I would love to hear your stories of special pets you love or have loved and lost. How do they impact your life? How do you heal from their loss?
I also want to share a link to a website that has healing after the death of a pet as its main mission. It's called the Rainbow Bridge. Here's the link -- www.rainbowsbridge.com
Here are a few of our fabulous felines who have shared our lives and brought immense happiness!
I am a singer, a writer, a craftswoman, a student of life and of Spirit, a wife, a friend, an inquisitive adventurer on the learning path. Seeking, sensing, sifting and now connecting! Please join the fun by leaving a comment or passing on a favorite post via your social network. As you can tell from the category list, my interests are varied and somewhat eclectic. I am seeking all that brings joy & excitement to life, purpose & passion to our daily round. I am curious about pretty much everything.