What I give to kittens… and what I get back in return
The Humane Society put out the call for foster families for a mama cat with five babies. The rest of their foster families were already full, so I stepped up.
Claire and I have been visiting the kitten room at the shelter for a few weeks and we had discussed fostering. Yes, we have two cats of our own and a very awesome golden retriever, but kittens are something special.
Any rational person would look at my life and say, “You’ve got too much going on. Taking care of kittens is the last thing you need.”
But this small act of giving through caring for a mama and her babies is giving us all a lot more in return. It’s a small gift to them, and it is a larger gift of experience for me.
We’ve named them. Three girls, two boys.
Want to meet them?
Magi started out as Magellan, the first intrepid explorer to venture out and say hello. He’s very sweet and affectionate. I don’t have any non-blurry pictures of him because he rarely stops moving. He was also the first kitten to try solid food and is always the first kitten at the door to say hello and climb my ankles, which are looking like I am a piranha victim.
Maia is very sweet and the smallest of the litter. She is a tortie with adorable tan paws. She loves to jump into my lap and invite her brothers to attack her as she defends herself, using my legs as her castle walls. She is especially fond of Claire and never stops playing.
Skye is also called Skyaia, to rhyme with her sister Maia. She is shy and was very clear about her boundaries at first. She even did a whole, “talk to the paw” to Claire when she didn’t want to be picked up. She’s starting to warm up to us all, though. She’s curious, very smart, and the first kitten to step up and defend the family from the evil you and I know as the broom. Don’t tell anyone, but she might be our favorite.
Midnight isn’t as black as you’d think, but Claire wanted to name a cat midnight. She’s cute, sweet, and has fallen asleep in Claire’s lap more than once. I want to change her name to Gaia, and then we’d have Maia, Gaia, and Skyaia. But alas, Claire insists on Midnight. Max suggested Maddie and Claire used that as another opportunity to start one of our summer arguments I have nicknamed, “when does school start.”
Last but not least, our shy boy, Bruce. It took a while before we figured out his name. It was Dave for a long time. His name is different dependent upon who you ask in the family. Claire called him Dave. Max called him Bartholomew. Mark wanted to name him Donald J. Trump. Hanging out with him over the last few days, I kept accidentally calling him Bruce, looked at him intently and said, “Yep, you’re Bruce!” A few hours later, Claire asked to call him Brooks, which was pretty close. Ever since renaming him Bruce, he’s been more friendly with us. His personality shifted a bit.
My legs look like I’ve been wading in a piranha-infested South American river. I’m covered in scratches and scrapes and little nips from their tiny razor-sharp claws.
I sat watching Sapphire, their mama, nursing them patiently. And I had memories of how I nursed my own children. I watched as the kittens tried solid food for the first time and began the transition of weaning. They’re now knocking down 3 small cans of cat food every day, and I know it won’t be long before they’re all completely weaned and mama will express her disdain with them. It’s all happening very fast.
Too fast. All of it.
Something very primal in me was awakened, and the temporary nature of all life started becoming very visceral.
In a few weeks, this little family will be broken up as the kittens go back to the shelter to get adopted. They’ll find new families and new humans to love them, new homes to explore. They’ll never see mama again, they’ll never see their siblings.
Right now, they need the safety of a small room, shelter, mama’s protection, and food. But soon, that safety and protection will become restrictive and confining.
And, too, that will happen for my babies who are no longer babies. Max is already starting high school and asserting his own independence. Claire no longer needs me the way she used to. The safety and protection I provide them will no longer suit them and will be confining and restrictive.
Watching Sapphire and her babies, the parenting experience is compressed into a few weeks. Things that to me seem like they’re going to go on forever, like Claire and Max arguing over everything from dinner to naming kittens, that fighting will end. They’ll go off and move in with friends and meet someone special and start their own families. Empty nest. New experiences.
I know, I’ve got years. Sapphire only has weeks.
But watching these guys, I can feel time dissolve into nothingness. I plug into so many endings, so many beginnings, so many transitions. They say life goes by like a blink of an eye, and the older we get the faster it seems to go. What seems like a blink of an eye of this magical experience of meeting Sapphire and her babies for a few short weeks is a microcosm of our own lives as parents. It goes way too fast.
Nothing on this planet is permanent
Even the things that seem permanent can disappear in a heartbeat. Disaster can wipe out entire communities, wiping out all we hold dear. Our relationships will morph and grow, or they will wither and fade away. Even our bodies are just temporary housing. The only thing of permanence is our consciousness, and yet it is the one thing we neglect all too frequently. We wake up in the morning, forget our dreams, and start worrying about everything we have to do for the day… everything that is transient in our life but sucks up so much of our attention. We forget about the one asset that we carry with us for eternity: our very selves.
Sitting with her, I felt tears well up in my eyes, for Sapphire’s little family being broken up soon, for my own family’s eventual and inevitable shifts, for my life that seems to be on hold in certain ways. Everything is going way too fast.
After trying in vain to get happy doing web work again, I found myself at my wits end with everything and everyone. I just cannot do it anymore. There is no joy, no creativity, no passion. I found myself pushing pixels for dollars, and wondering why I felt so horrible doing it. And in so doing, I was avoiding the one thing I needed to do. It’s too hard, I thought. Too complicated. It challenges other people in my life that get threatened when I speak out about what I see happening in the world. It is too challenging for some when I speak out about pretty much anything. I was allowing others’ discomfort to silence me, though I know deep down their discomfort is their thing and I need to get clear and clean with my own voice.
It’s not just me
On the global scale, we’re going through so many changes. It is like labor pains, as a new way of being human is being birthed. We get squeezed. We know something is going to change in a big way, but we have no idea when and we have no idea what the new way of being is going to look like.
Like a mama in her 9th month, we’re feeling done with the experience of being pregnant, and we’re ready for something new to show up. We keep looking for signs, wondering how much we’re dilated and effaced, looking for anything to give us an idea that our next experience is here.
And like a mama in her 9th month, we have no idea. We don’t know. We aren’t going to know. But when it’s time, you KNOW. There’s no question about it; when it’s time, it is time.
So when you’re in this place between a dying experience and a rebirth, what do you do? Do you distract yourself looking for signs? Do you scan the news, social media, and message boards looking for a sign of impending rebirth? Or do you just live out today the best you can?
Balancing knowing and not knowing
Likely, it’s a little of both. But there is great power in not knowing, in just allowing it to unfold the way it will. To know that you’re here, you’re still here for a reason. That you’re holding space for yourself and others to become more than you ever allowed yourself to be. That you’re expanding into a new world that will no longer restrict you. But along with that new world, you’re going to have to let go of what you think is so true for you.
For today, Sapphire and her little family are here, safe, cared for, and loved. Soon, they’ll be off on great adventures of love and experience elsewhere.
For today, we’re all here and loved. Whatever tomorrow brings, trust that it will bring adventure, love, and excitement. We’re too confined and shut down in this system, and whatever happens next will give us much more freedom to explore. It has to.
But that freedom comes with a whole ton of uncertainty. It’s time to get really comfortable with that and welcome it. It’s time for us to step into ourselves, to grow up and move out of the nest as human beings, and claim our true power. That power is rooted in love and grace, and it’s that love and grace that are going to ground us and see us through.
Doesn’t mean there won’t be tears at the loss of what we no longer need, but trust that what’s on the other side is stepping into a playground of unlimited possibility and freedom.
Originally published at www.zant.com on August 6, 2015.