These are the first words I said when my cat was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney disease a few weeks ago. Those of you who know me, or if you have had a conversation with me that has lasted more than five minutes, have probably heard how much I love my cat (or worse, I may have whipped out my phone and showed you a picture of him whether you were interested or not. I can’t help myself, and yes, I am embarrassed). I am a crazy cat lady in general, but my heart belongs to one special guy.
I got Simon from the ASPCA in Staten Island, NY just over sixteen years ago. Simon is not your average cat. We all know pets are like kids, you never know what you are going to get. You hope for the cat that cuddles and greets you at the door, but sometimes you get the cat who believes you are privileged to clean it’s shit of a box in your own home. I have one of those cats too, and I love her, but not like Simon. Simon hasn’t left my side for sixteen years. We sleep together every night… and by sleep together I mean that he lets me spoon him and stays there all night until I get up in the morning. He is the sweetest, most handsome cat in the world, and yep, I’m going there… I love this cat more than I love myself. He truly is my baby.
He started losing weight last year, but I didn’t want to take him to the vet because every time we go he somehow transforms into his evil alter ego and harasses all the vet techs. If you have the same appointment time as me, you will hear me down the hall saying, “I swear he’s not like this at home. He’s the sweetest, really! Oh, don’t do that, he will bite the shit out of you…”. A few weeks ago, I woke up with this feeling that I needed to take him in to get checked. His behavior hadn't changed and there was nothing from him giving me any sign of needing a check up. This was an internal sign, an intuitive knowing, a inner voice that should never be ignored.
It was at that appointment (after blood work and urinalysis) that they diagnosed him with kidney failure. We now do daily subcutaneous fluids and a lot of medication and supplements (would you expect anything different from me? This cat is getting fish oil out the yang). Inserting the first 18-gauge needle into his skin was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I was physically shaking. The fear of doing it wrong, hurting him, making it worse; it was too much to bear.
I know the day will eventually come where I will be without him, but I never knew how the hell I was going to get through something like this. For those of you who have pets, you understand that pets are like children that die before you (it's the unthinkable). I share my experience with you because I believe that everything in life is happening FOR us, not TO us. As I care for Simon, I realize that when he passes (unless I can figure out how to cryogenically freeze him) I will have the opportunity to practice one of the most important and difficult life lessons of all: unconditional acceptance for the present moment.
We tend to be okay with our present moment as long as "what is” is what we have chosen for our day to day reality. As soon as it’s not in our favor, we run, numb, fight or complain about it. Eckhart Tolle’s famous spiritual teachings all come back to one central thought: "You cannot argue with what is; you can, but you will suffer". Let’s all imagine for this moment what our lives would be like if we were at total peace with each moment, good or bad. I know at some points in your life it seems impossible. I know when Simon’s health takes another turn it will feel like my entire world is crashing down. That being said, instead of my repeating mental tape (aka my recurring thoughts) telling me I won’t make it, and that I am going to die along with him, I am asking the universe to help me accept the present moment. I don’t have to be excited about it, but I know my grieving process will be easier when I accept it as a part of life and a part of my growth. This experience will teach me compassion, strength, acceptance, and most of all, that love neverdies.
A commitment to living life fully awakened means that you have to feel it all. I remind myself that sharing this love with Simon is one of the best feelings I get to experience, it's only natural that I would feel extreme grief when he passes. I was taught that pain is inevitable in life, but suffering is optional. Suffering looks like breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend and then stalking their new partner on Facebook. Suffering is wishing something didn't happen in your life that already happened. I suffer when I try to picture Simon not being in my daily life even though he is still right here on my lap as I type this, purring away and remaining fully present to this moment.
This makes me think of the famous quote "the mind is an excellent servant, but it is a horrible master". In order to be in control of our thoughts, we must accept what is put in our day to day reality, even if it is the opposite of what we desire. So, whatever is going on in your life right now, instead of actively trying to fix or change it, just allow yourself to sit with it for this moment. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and just be ok with whatever is. Practice this "allowing" every day, even if just for a few moments. You will notice that even as you feel pain, you can feel peace too.
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