Because we had to stay home from school and finish the semester online, I thought it'd be an excellent time to get one of my parents' farm cats fixed. Her name is Lenny. She had come to the farm at about 10 weeks old in the fall of 2019. I was walking with my husband near the strawberry patch when I heard a lot of meowing. As I approached the sound, her tiny head peaked beside the tire of an old John Deere tractor. She quickly ran back into the shadows of the evening until the next day. She has lived at the farm ever since.
She was about 7 months old when I was finally able to get her spayed. I called around and found a place that could take her and get her surgery done the soonest. It cost me over $300 with shots and surgery.
I was completely ignorant when it came to what was next. I was told I'd have to bring Lenny back to get the stitches out and I would have to keep her confined for at least a few days. It was then I had to call my husband and tell him we had to keep Lenny for a few days until she was better from her surgery. Well, a few days turned into a couple of weeks that ended up turning into, hopefully, forever now.
During the first few days Lenny became a resident of our bathroom, we started to form a bond. Within a day, she let me pet her belly and played with a homemade cat toy (a bathroom handle attached to a pink headband). Nights were pretty hard for Lenny and me. Lenny was scared. I would go into the bathroom and sit on the floor into the wee hours of the night, making sure she wouldn't cry and keep my husband awake since he gets up early to go to work.
At first, I was OK with it because it wasn't Lenny's fault she was trapped inside my bathroom. As the days wore on, she became more friendly and I became more exhausted. I could sometimes feel the need to get upset when it was 3 a.m. and Lenny was crying. Those first few weeks were hard. The next three months have been less hard, but different for sure.
In the course of becoming a cat parent, I've learned so many things about myself and gotten to be a better person. For all the trouble the new cat was, I learned to calm down. Just because things aren't going my way or I'm not getting enough sleep or something may inconvenience me, it is not the end of the world. I was not reactive before, but I knew I had to work on this part of my life.
Whenever I felt anger or an upsetting emotion coming up at 2 a.m. or 4:23 a.m. due to Lenny wanting to play with me or cry because she wanted my attention, I learned to quickly let those emotions go.
Lenny, a cat, is just another life form that wants to be loved and feel protected. She just wants to be happy and play. Nothing she did or does is to get at me, and even if she did do it on purpose, I did not have to react negatively. I cannot control how I feel, but I can control how I react.
Being able to work on this has helped me tremendously. As the world sometimes seems to be going up in flames, it's helped me stay centered and balanced. It is rare I take things personally nowadays, even when they are meant that way.
Another thing Lenny has taught me is the importance of waking up happy. Yes, she wakes me up at really odd hours of the night to play, but if you saw how happy she looks, you wouldn't get mad at her. A few times, I've woken up to her laying belly up on my arm like a baby. Other times she is by my feet, but it's usually near my face she likes to wake me up from.
Last Sunday, as I talked about life with my sister on the drive back to my house with Lenny in tow, we talked about how good it must feel to always wake up like Lenny. We both came to the same conclusion that if someone is waking up dreading the day, for whatever reason, it may be time for something to change.
Life isn't always great. Sometimes it's terrific and sometimes terrifying. Yet, we are still able to make changes. If we make a poor choice or are in a bad situation, we can make different choices to improve the current situation. If that fails, we can choose to have a better mindset. Some things are out of our control, which leads me to another important thing I've learned thanks to Lenny.
My sister was driving, and I was holding Lenny because she doesn't like car rides. Lenny was struggling to get out of the car. She wanted out of something that was entirely outside her control. She couldn't will the vehicle to stop any more than she could use her paws to open the door (though, she can definitely open the window).
This is what it's like to experience anxiety and worry. These emotions usually come when we are trying to control a situation outside our control. As I held down Lenny so she would feel safe, I thought about the many times I've experienced anxiety and worry.
During this pandemic, I've experienced more than reasonable amounts of anxiety and stress. I find myself constantly worried about things I can't do anything about. Sometimes the emotions are overwhelming and crippling.
At first, I didn't think being in lockdown affected me at all, but over time, it's become clear my anxiety levels are higher than usual. Some days the simplest tasks can take hours to accomplish. Pushing through is a matter of necessity, but it allows me to keep moving forward.
Holding Lenny that day made me realize things are OK. It's OK to feel stressed out and want out, but at the same time, recognize that no matter how hard we stress or want out, some things are just out of our hands. I, like Lenny, can't change anything by just wishing it away. Accepting the moment I find myself in and going from there is a much better place than to be worried and anxious about things I have no say over.
I do not recommend anyone to get a pet as a family member unless they are willing to commit for life to it. Having a pet as another part of your family requires work and commitment.
We recently adopted a brother for Lenny. We knew it was going to be work and were consciously making a choice. Lenny has already made our life better, and we wanted her to have another cat to keep her company and play with her when we are not home.
Life has a way to teach us what we need to learn through different means. Pets are great teachers, but it's always up to the student to learn the lesson. What lessons are you learning?