Monday, November 10, 2008

Pussy Present

I sit at the kitchen table of the house in which I grew up, now owned by my brother and his wife. Their daughter, Lauren now sleeps in my old bedroom. There have been a lot of changes around here since I lived here last, in the summer of 1998, but the place still feels the same. Bucolic, safe, quiet. Horses live across the street, deer graze the yard in the morning, stars shine in milky formations and in astonishing numbers on clear nights. The house sits on a small hill on a private drive at the dead end of a long dirt road, seven miles outside of town.


Home

Between paragraphs typed here at the kitchen table, I steal glances of the family cat, called Mama Kitty, who is killing a bird in the front yard. A Tufted Titmouse? No, it's not that big. Must be a finch of some sort. I used to be able to name nearly all the species of bird which live nearby, due to a short infatuation with the feeder birds that frequented our back deck. I'd sit in front of the big glass door with a glossy, photo-filled bird identification book and my cat, Hershey, in my lap. We'd gaze out the window, mentally cataloguing the Goldfinches, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Sparrows, Mourning Doves, Purple Finches, Robins, Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, the occasional red Cardinal: state bird of Ohio.

Mama Kitty disables the creature, places it on the ground, and watches it intently, her neck flexed, swanlike, paw lifted, ready to strike a final blow. "Put the poor bird of its misery, kitty." I plead in my mind, empathetic, but secretly proud of the cat. She's a stellar example of existential purity, fully owning her cat-ness: cuddly and purring one minute, instinctual National Geographic huntress the next. She never second-guesses her purpose in life. She is here simply to exist. She's present to each moment, a stranger to generalized anxiety, phobias, depression, quarterlife crises, midlife crises, latelife crises, career crises, marraige meltdown crises, economic crises. No one ever told her that fortyisthenewtwenty, or pressured her into learning the six new abdominal exercises that will have her looking good in a bikini by summer, and she wouldn't care if someone did. She feels no guilt, not even for a second, as the finch's heart beats its last beats tha-thump, tha-thump, fight, flight, fight, flight, tha-thump, thump... thump. Euthanasia is a foreign concept, absurd. The cat grows bored and pads away from the bird, leaving it to die in the yard.

I suddenly realize the absurdity of asking myself overandoverandover Who Am I? Who Am I? Who Am I? Tha-thump, tha-thump, fight flight, fight flight. When I take away the things I rely on for an identity, things like clothes, lovers, my hair, my job, my friends, my music... what's left? I'm not my past, not my future, not my partner, not my job, not my body. I'm not the things I do, I'm not the people I know, I'm not my Vantasy, I'm not Mama Kitty, I'm not the dying bird. Strip away all the distractions and there's just me, naked, invisible, dancing, loving, sobbing, terrified, intoxicated with life. And when my heart tha-thumps its last thump, this is all that I will be.

This realization has left me feeling very, very alone. I've spent the last four days sobbing in Vanta C, reflecting on the life I left in Portland, amazed at how easily we move on. So quickly we adjust to vacancies in our lives! It's humbling to know that life goes on at home without me, and unnerving that I've found it so easy to leave that life behind. I suppose the ease with which we move on is further proof that we are not our distractions, our jobs, or our loved ones. We are inherently alone, no matter what we do to keep ourselves occupied. I've spent a lot of time in the last two years keeping myself occupied. Now that I've taken away the distractions, the silence and solitude intimidate me. I'm terrified to be present to myself and my emotions, but refuse to let fear keep me from going there.

So, I take a deep breath, close my laptop, and go outside, where I find Mama Kitty curled up, sleeping. "It's really not so bad, is it?" I ask her, and she arches up, purring as I scratch behind her ears.





4 comments:

LiveWorkDream said...

Thus, you've just discovered the truth about life. Feel fortunate that you did, because not too many people are willing to look that hard at themselves and see life for what it is.

Traveling has allowed you the time to make this discovery, and now you can continue your journey, collecting the "things" that really matter in life; encounters with people, places and nature...instead of just busying yourself and accumulating more crap that you can't take with you. The memories are all we have in the end.

Jim and I are kinda in the same boat right now; we are back in our home town, and stunned at how nothing has changed, yet everything has changed, at least with us. Weird.

Rachel Tamed said...

I am glad to see a blog from you little lady. I think writing that profound can only come from pain (sometimes ufortunately), and I think you have figured out a little more than you give yourself credit for. Life goes on here, but we are all wishing we were living yours instead. Take care.

rach said...

Beautifully written.

Hugs,
rach

MANDA said...

Wow. I have inherently known this all along and all throughout my travels, and even while I nest here in Gainesville. But so far, I have not had the courage to face it yet. I hope I can be as courageous as you soon.