What would happen if you acted as if you welcome every single moment as if it were a friend?
“As if.” It’s not just for Alicia Silverstone anymore.
Richard Parker lived at the shelter. He was a big, buff-colored boy with a loud purr and bright, wide eyes that stayed engaged. They’d lock on and follow you with a sense of what felt like intense curiosity.
I had the idea that he was trying hard to learn whatever it is he was watching me do. When he looked at you with his pale green eyes, you felt you’d been well and truly seen.
If no one else noticed you all day and all night and all the next day, if Richard Parker had seen you, you had been fixed in the universe.
Richard Parker was left by his family. Before he was left at the shelter, he was not fed very well and not treated nicely. They even cut off all of his front toes. And just like the book for which he is named, his view seems to be,
“You must take life the way it comes to you. And make the best of it.”
You know what Richard Parker does?
He purrs. Yep. He leans his head into your hand and rubs with gusto. Pick him up and hold him to your chest. He will push his big orange face against you and purr.
God knows. He likes us. Inexplicably, graciously, unfailingly — he likes us.
This creature who has been so badly used by the world has decided to act “as if” he never had any expectation except that the world would treat him well.
So I was thinking about acting “as if.”
Maybe one way that looks is not holding grudges.
Buddhist priest, Pema Chodron, says it like this:
The way I regard those who hurt me today will affect how I experience the world in the future. In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it. When someone harms us, they create the cause of their own suffering. They do this by strengthening habits that imprison them in a cycle of pain and confusion.
It’s hard not to hold grudges against people who treat animals badly. Like those who harmed Richard Parker. But nursing that anger may be wasted energy. Richard Parker has moved on. Maybe we should try.
What if acting “as if” changes things?
It’s a small but surprisingly energizing and encouraging thing. And when you think about it, what is everything but a collection of small things?
And it can’t hurt. A cat doesn’t have to be named Schrödinger to get it.
“According to the rules of quantum mechanics, our observations influence the universe at the most fundamental levels. From the quantum perspective, the universe is an extremely interactive place.” — Craig B. Polenz
So how much does what we bring to the table matter? I don’t think anyone truly knows that.
And that’s where acting “as if” it matters comes into play.
For Richard Parker, that looks like purring and giving head butts. It looks like always being up for a game of fetch and even loving to play in water.
- Maybe for you that looks like not running around in a panic declaring disaster.
- Maybe it means trying something new–opening your heart to a new human or a new animal companion.
- It might mean treating whatever makes up your day as if you invited it there. Then see what comes of not pushing against it.
Kind of like a surfer must paddle out to a wave to get on top of it. Paddle out. It doesn’t mean you may not fall off. But you have to paddle out to be in the game. And the top of the wave is where all the fun is.
What if we radically “Richard Parker” our lives?
“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.” — Anne Lamott
- It’s a process.
- Assume the best. Think about how the physics of making a choice may be on our side.
- Set an intention. You really don’t know what you could change.
Did Richard Parker’s intention create Friends For Life as he knows it? As he crashed his head into my mouse and purred, I thought maybe he did. I’d be honored to have been dreamt up by a cat.
If you act as if you welcome every single second of the week as if it were a friend, a funny thing happens after not too much time: It starts to feel like you do welcome more of it. And your days start to feel more like a companion you chose than a “to do list” or a white-knuckle extreme challenge.
We had a big orange guru here at the shelter. He passed out free head butts, soothing purrs, and a look into our soul every day. He was warmth, patience, hope, and forgiveness with a stripey tail. He was a living, moving, breath prayer reminding us that we have a choice and maybe…
that we have unfathomable power.