I was planning to write something really upbeat this week
Really, I was!
There’s an idea I’ve been kicking around about why summer camp is awesome and I thought that would make for nice reading, and lighten up the tone of my blog, which may have become, oh, just a touch dark, as of late.
But then I had to kill my cat.
I thought I was ready. At twenty-one, Cash was so old that, unless asleep, he howled almost constantly. He had lost some teeth, spent a good chunk of his day staring at the dryer, his kidneys were failing and something had gone seriously wrong with his nose.
Our vet did what she could, but lately would just shrug, as if to say, what can you do?
When I shared pictures like this, friends suggested that all that crying might be him begging for us to just put him out of his misery, already.
So last Friday we called a professional cat-putter-downer, who came to our house and was so kind and good at her difficult job that the whole experience was much less awful than it could have been. After she examined Cash, and reassured me that this decision to put him to sleep wasn’t just an over-reaction to him peeing a river into my son’s guitar, I held my cranky old kitty on my lap and said good-bye.
And then, out of nowhere, a truckload of pain was dumped on top of me.
I knew I would be sad, but I truly did not expect to have that punched in the chest feeling. You know, that bruising that happens when you trip on your own humanity.
After the vet left, with Cash’s body tucked inside a small basket, I thought about how my mother in law had put her beloved cat to sleep a month ago. When my husband told me, I had called her to say I was sorry.
“I’m so sorry,” I had said, and meant it. She loved the cat. It was A Sad Thing.
Another friend lost her dog a few months ago and it pretty much went the same way.
“I’m sorry,” I said, and meant it.
But the truth is that in both of those cases, I hadn’t let myself feel their pain at all, really. I was sorry, but not enough to let even a little of their grief get on me.
When the hurt of Cash dying hit me like it did, I was surprised. It shouldn’t have been a shocking blow, but no matter how my brain tinkered with it, it was.
It’s only a cat. Not like a person or anything.
Yep, that’s right.
He was old. He had a nice long life.
He was in pain. It was time.
Seriously, that smelly cat???
I have an old friend who is really good at finding the meaning in every bad thing that happens. She can connect the dots like a boss and explain just why that diagnosis was a gift, why becoming homeless was the best life lesson, or why that guy who dumped you and still owes you money was your greatest teacher. She can spin any shitty thing until, eventually, it’s almost unrecognizable as shitty.
Look Ma, no sadness!
But talking to that friend about my heartbreak always feels a bit like hugging a wire monkey. She just never seems to get it. I wonder if it’s because she never let herself.
Like booster shots for compassion, small tragedies come our way all the time, reminding us that we are all vulnerable and that’s exactly as it should be. But the tenderizing effects of life’s curveballs only work if we let them hit us.
I usually don’t, but this time I did and I’m glad.
When I spoke to my mother in law a few days ago, and she talked about her cat, I didn’t try to make sense of why she was so upset. I didn’t think about how it had been a month, and what’s up that she’s still soooo sad about it.
Instead of thinking, I felt some of her sadness with her.We were up to our knees in it.
That’s progress, you guys.
You’re probably thinking this is like Common Decency 101.
What can I say?
I’m kind of a late bloomer.