Doris was a special needs kitten. She had a traumatic eye injury sometime between birth and when I met her which has left her left eye kind of marginal. She is thinner than her brother and she pukes all the time, so I can’t help but believe her early childhood was a tough one. Boris tends to intimidate her with his strength and size and good eyes. He constantly chases her and overpowers her. But they clean each other’s ears and other parts I wish I never had to witness cleaning so there must be some bond even in what appears to be a dysfunctional relationship.
I bring up my cats not because I am a cat person; or an animal person, as I am not. But only to illustrate that even these cast off animals that don’t expect much out of the world deserve to be taken care of a little bit. Not because of their inherent worth as animals, I am not chasing down deer and checking them for ticks after all, but because when I brought them into my home and thereby prevented them from trying to make it on their own out in the world, I made a commitment to them to provide that which they would otherwise have taken care of themselves.
I made a contract with my cats, albeit unwritten, which is just as well because of course they can’t read. They’re cats. The contract was this: I will take care of you if you keep me company and kill any mice that run across my living room floor. When I take a little too long to clean out their litter box, or to fill up their feeder, I am in breach.
The contract I have with my cats is not the only one I have of course. My name is on hundreds of proverbial dotted lines: my kids, my job, my family, my finances, my friends, my garden, my blog, my home, my husband. Life is full of commitments big and small, written and unwritten. Every last one of them expects a certain level of attention; deserves a certain level of attention. Even if I don’t feel like giving it.
While these commitments can sometimes feel like an oppressive weight, they are at the same time a buoying force that keeps a person involved in life. When any one area threatens to overwhelm, the rest are at my back pushing me forward: “Let’s not wallow. Work to be done. Move along. Just keep swimming.” They take away the ability to sink into darkness when things get really bad by being quietly demanding. As in, ok, you can spend a little while indulging in your sorrows, but then the laundry needs to be folded, dinner needs to be made and the kids need a bath. Actually, there isn’t really time to indulge, because if you don’t pick those cucumbers they will go bad and wouldn’t it be a shame if all those cucumbers went bad because you were just lying there crying? Get up and pick the cucumbers. And the rest of the beans while you are at it.
Consistent advice given to young whippersnappers starting out in sales is to, “fake it till you make it” or “act as if”. The idea being that eventually you will have the confidence you don’t yet feel, but you have to pretend to have it, because, well, you won’t be a very successful salesperson if you don’t. That advice carries over into other aspects of the human experience. Sometimes it has to be enough that you are going through the motions and smiling on the outside, even if the world inside feels like a tropical storm.
I have also heard that “motivation is everything” but I don’t think that is true. Showing up is more important than why you are there. Maybe not to you, but to the people who depend on you.
Recently I’ve been accused that, “fake it till you make it”, puts a false front on things that aren’t really as rosy underneath. The argument is that the down and dirty truth, a.k.a. reality, is inherently better than a cracked façade. The reason I disagree is because negativity has a power of its own. It is a nasty beast that feeds on itself and infects everything around it like an airborne virus. Masking negative emotions with a positive spin has the two-fold benefit of not depressing everyone around you and eventually rubbing off on you to the point that you actually start to feel positive. It’s like magic. And sometimes when reality is really unsatisfactory, a little magic helps.
So I got the cats’ message and cleaned their litter area. I harvested the garden. I’m posting to my blog. Life is pushing me forward, pulling me along, dragging me kicking and screaming at times but I am still here. I am showing up and I am smiling.