happiness

Charlotte: Gratitude for a Cat in Uncertain Times.

{Photo credit: Ella Middleton}

 

It’s 7:30 a.m. The sun streams through my windows. I open my eyes and as consciousness floods back into me, I remember that it’s another day of July 2020.

Another day of uncertainty, lack of plans, and the fun game of how-much-will-anxiety-and-depression-rear-their-heads-today. You know, just fun summer stuff.

“Brrrrrp.” The abrupt sound snatches my attention away from my own thoughts. I turn my head and see two bright green eyes in an inquisitive, black-and-brown-striped face. The creature pads over, a purr rumbling in her throat, and touches her wet nose to my face. The purr gets louder as she sniffs closer to my ear, and I feel a sandpaper tongue tickling my cheek.

I reach out my hand and her furry head greedily rubs against it, demanding her morning scratches.

Charlotte (or CharChar, as she is commonly known in my house) is a petite, five-year-old tabby with a feisty spirit and an exceptionally soft, snuggle-worthy coat. In my completely unbiased opinion, she is the cutest cat ever to exist.

In the four years since I adopted her, I’ve developed a special, almost us-against-the-world sort of bond with Charlotte. As a single, mid-twenties gal with no kids or plans to have them anytime soon, I often look to Charlotte as a sounding board, a cuddle buddy, and a (furry) shoulder to cry on.

She’s been with me through loss, heartbreak, mental health struggles, multiple moves, various jobs, and now, a worldwide pandemic. Looking into those unblinking green eyes, I can’t help but hear her say, “You’re gonna be okay, you know that, right?” She forgives me quickly if I leave her home alone for a few days, forget to change her litter, or even shove her into her carrier to be poked and prodded by the V-E-T.

She’s just a cat, yet she’s pure love.

I have a few friends and family members who claim that they just aren’t “animal people,” and as someone who lived basically pet-free the first 16 years of my life, I sort of get it. It’s definitely an adjustment sharing your house with a semi-wild creature, cleaning up their poop and vomit, and knowing they have the potential to do some serious damage to your couch (or your hand if you’re not careful).

But I do think that people who have never had the chance to bond with a cat or dog (or horse, or lizard, or, okay… maybe even tarantula) are missing out. Especially during a time of unprecedented uncertainty, global anxiety, social upheaval, and — let’s just say it — across-the-board suckiness. Because animals aren’t like us.

They aren’t petty, they don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed, they don’t hold a grudge, and they never, ever, say one thing and mean another. They’re not worried about next year; they’re concerned with their next bowl of food. And the affection that they show us is simple and pure and healing.

I know that Charlotte, in all likelihood, will not live as long as I do, and yes, sometimes the thought of that makes me terribly sad. There will probably come a time when I will have to make difficult decisions about her well-being. I pray that time is many years down the road, but the truth is, as current events remind us daily, life is fragile.

But then I look over at her, and realize she is not thinking about any of that. She’s lying in her favorite patch of sun on my bed, eyes half-closed in a drowsy peacefulness. She invites me to join her in the here-and-now, offering up her fuzzy belly to be stroked, only a small number of times before my hand is met with a corrective nip.

She is my rock, anchoring me to a stillness within this wild, unpredictable world. And in this moment, she is all I need.

{Photo credit: Ella Middleton}

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Ella Middleton is a California native living in New England. She is a singer, writer, introvert and proud cat mom. You can find her listening to a podcast and drinking a strong cup of coffee.

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