I’ve written here previously about recent changes in my life and the terrifying travel-away-from-home that goes with it. I took this new job, in part, because I hoped it might force me out of my pyjamaed comfort zone to engage a little more with the world. In retrospect, expecting to show up in the world on day 1 of new job, in cute-but-professional work attire, swish off on a plane, calmly embrace the new and unfamiliar and become the vision of my future Amazing Self, may have been a bit naive. Still, tears and meltdowns notwithstanding, I was determined to break character and remain optimistic, to break familiar patterns and remain open.
Then, last weekend, something happened to one of my two cats.
My cats represent everything that is HOME to me. Pets, in the absence of children or other significant other types, can feel like your children. Only rather less demanding and messy. It’s a pretty good deal most of the time. Until something happens to disrupt that and the ground falls away from under you.
So on Sunday, the pieces I was holding somewhat tenuously together broke apart. Which is when I started getting pretty pissed off with the Universe. By virtue of having any sort of conversation at all with the Universe, I don’t believe in the randomness of events. So while I was trying to climb out of the onesie from within which I’ve been watching the world for the past 36 years, it seemed as though the Universe was throwing everything it could at me that would send me hurtling back into it.
I’m sure there’s a lesson in this somewhere. But lessons are futile when you’ve gone into batten-down-the-hatches-and-stock-up-on-baked-beans mode. It is not lost on me that having to close up my doors and windows to keep my recuperating cat inside is a glaring metaphor for the lockdown I appear to have gone into. The world out there seems darker and more dangerous than it did before. I am having trouble imagining how I am ever going to let my cats venture out there again (how did I ever do it before? it feels terribly reckless now); equally, I wonder how I will ever be able to let them go, or go away from them, and remain intact.
Apparently this kind of thing is normal following a trauma. Running low on toilet paper and canned goods, I was forced to make a trip to the shops this weekend. And I found myself watching people with renewed awe. Mothers who let go of their children’s hands. Who let their adolescents go off with friends. Couples who parted ways to shop more efficiently and meet back in the fresh produce aisle. Men who dropped their families off and went to play golf. All sorts of people walking around as if everything in their worlds would continue to stand upright. How do they not melt into a puddle of terror at all the possible ways that things could go wrong? (and I’m not even talking about stray asteroids or the zombie apocalypse).
The answer I came up with, the one that makes the most sense to me right now, is faith. Not the religion-spirituality-higher-power kind of faith. But the trusting-that-when-you-go-out-into-the-world-everything-is-likely-to-be-okay kind of faith. It’s a faith so easily taken for granted. It’s also a faith I don’t have a whole lot of. And when you have so little of this faith, you tend to balance it out with fear. And you batten down the hatches to close everything in. After all, hiding away from the world offers a terribly enticing illusion of safety.
There is no moral of the story here. No particular enlightenment or happy ending. But the glimmer of hope is this: living faithlessly and fearfully thus, is living small. It’s living under the covers, knitted into your skin, walking carefully between the white lines. And frankly, it’s getting a little tiresome.
I think it might be time to live bigger. I’m going to try out this faith thing for a while. I hope the Universe plays along.