The hardest thing in life is to start over. The best thing in life is, we can.
It’s been just over a year since we moved to Santa Rosa, California. We are well into feet-on-the-ground stage of our life reboot. Except, well….things seem to be getting harder instead of easier.
Fortunately, a little stray cat provides my life lesson for today.
Near the end of summer, Jon and I were sitting on our little front porch, waiting for ‘our’ hummingbird to appear. Every night, at the same time (relative to sunset, that is), he’d appear, and zip into our little tree lawn tree to settle for the night.
Suddenly, just as the hummer appeared, a black cat also zipped across our tree lawn, ran under the fence, and into our backyard.
I thought it was our rescue cat, Noddy. “How the heck did she get out?!” I sputtered. But when we went inside, there was Noddy. (aka, ‘Naughty’ or ‘Nutty’, depending on her behavior at any given moment.)
Soon it became apparent the nightly visitor was younger, and a lot skinnier, than Noddy. I finally tracked her down to the little garage in back, which we use as storage space for my booth stuff. I began to feed her in there, and within a week, she was approachable. So, not a true feral, but a well-socialized little cat–who desperately wanted to join the fold.
After weeks of trying to locate her owner (yes, I went through all the steps, offical and social), I finally got her inside. Turns out she is a lovable, loving, very affectionate cat. Can’t get enough hugging and petting. She is now fed, safe, and happy, except for one issue:
She’s terrified of the other cats, and especially the dogs.
It’s understandable. On the street, other cats are threats. And the dogs chased her every time they saw her in the backyard. Even inside, when the cats get in a dust-up, their spats and yowling trigger a massive reaction from the dogs. (I can just read their little dog brains: “Fight! FIGHT!! Let’s go get ’em, too!!”)
How does this relate to life reboots? Plenty.
I’ve convinced myself I need to partner with a few local galleries, and small fairs, to reboot my art biz. The most powerful connections are made in my studio. But in the meantime, I’d like to get my name out there. And frankly, I’d like to make a little money, to at least carry my own weight out here.
The stress of negotiating this new (or better, revisited) territory, is fierce right now. Struggling to figure out how to simply my old booth set-up, so I can do it in an hour instead of 2 days. How to manage my inventory so I can introduce my highest art, while selling the less-heavy (figuratively) items I make (vintage button, and vintage resistor jewelry.)
I bombed at my first show, and now I’m freaking out about my next one, this holiday weekend. It didn’t help when a studio neighbor mentioned that a following will grow, but it will take 4-5 years.
Four. To five. Years??!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh……
I began to whine. But my neighbor, a cancer survivor, would have none of it.
“Life is all about starting over, Luann,” she said sternly. “And it’s always hard, and it’s never easy. And sometimes, you lose everything. Everything...” Her voice drifted away. “But that’s what life is.” I could hear the unsaid words. Everything can disappear. Life. Love. Even second chances.
I’m used to pep talks lately. My straight-talking life buddies are three time zones away now, and I don’t get to hear their words of dead-on wisdom so much anymore. But I was embarrassed enough to realize I cannot equate fear-of-doing-it-wrong with the disruption and displacement of my fellow life travellers. And I’m sure a few billion people in the world–people who would gladly exchange their life of hazard, hardship, homelessness, nation-less-ness–would gladly trade places with me, and my meager problems, that are pitifully small, even for me.
Even worse, I cringed when I thought of all the whining I do, looking for sympathy and reassurances that I’m a good person, and a good artist. Hoping people will see how hard I’m trying, and take pity on me, and, oh gawd, like me. (OH, my skin crawls to think of it.)
That night, as I drifted off to sleep, my lizard brain kicked in again. I’m scared. I need kind words. I need promises that everything will work out. Nobody wants my work. I’m doing it wrong.
And then I thought of Bean, our newest kitty, and almost laughed out loud.
Bean’s emotional life careens between two extremes: Desperate for affection and affirmation (well, in a cat sense), and extreme fear. There’s not enough love in the world to conquer her fear. Only time, and patience, small steps to introduce her into our household, will do that.
Or her anxiety may be a permanent trait. She may never adjust to two bouncy big dogs who love to ‘play’ with cats. (God help any creature who runs from them.)
But she is still loved. She has a place in our lives. And she has a place in the world. Can’t I learn to accept that about myself, too?
So maybe my lizard brain needs a new name: Feral Kitty brain.
And maybe a bowl of kibble.