Thursday, April 13, 2006

My Harbor by the Hearthside

Years ago, I had a cat we called "Barney." He was another abandonment case, and he was a "one and only" in terms of the "domesticus" species in our house. Then, one December night, Dara showed up at our back door. Barney wasn't thrilled with Dara at first, but she was more than happy to allow him to have his run of the house, so he quickly realized the benefits of remaining king of his domain and having a playmate. They used to play this game we termed "chase." They would run after each other all over the house, taking terms being the chase-er and the chase-ee until one of them reached the slate platform in front of the fireplace. Then, the running stopped. The chase-ee was on "base" and could not be touched. Eventually, so the game would continue, the chase-ee would leave this safe spot and the running would continue in this cyclical form until one of them got fed up and gave the disapproving "hiss and swipe" to get the point across as clearly as possible.

Regardless of our experience in this world and how it increases over time, we never seem to expect bad things to happen to us. They happen over and over again, and yet, they remain surprises, they take us off-guard. No matter how level headed you are, I honestly don't believe anyone is so well adjusted to the mysteries of what we call life to say "I just roll with the punches," implying that those things have no negative effects. Of course they do. We shouldn't be striving for the unattainable ideal that is not allowing any of life's ridiculousness to throw us for a loop, make us upset, make us take a long, hard look at ourselves. Instead, we should be ready for those things to happen--we should expect them in the unexpected, allow them to produce their effects upon us, and let them ultimately strengthen us so we learn something from them. Ignoring them, letting them slide off of us like "water on a duck's back" cheats us of too many valuable learning experiences.

Well, we admit something bad happened and we feel bad now because of it. Now what?

One thing I have discovered over time is the concept of that "base" as being the one thing that reminds us that everything can and will be OK. There are things within ourselves--qualities, interests, dreams--that existed before that happened, and will exist long after we have forgotten why we were so upset in the first place. It is too easy to let those events and how we feel about them subsequently narrow our vision and focus. That is what makes learning how to completely ignore them so attractive. We get so caught up in how we feel, how upset we are, that it can become literally consuming. However, that "base" can be the one thing that keeps us from sinking and gives us that all-too-necessary perspective.

What's your base? Is it what you want to be, who you want to be? Is it a happy memory, a kind person, a beautiful song, a quiet place? It is your interests, your thoughts, your faith?

Mine is usually what I want to do--projects I want to accomplish. I think about my writing, listening to certain music that has stayed with me over time through many similar situations, places I saw and enjoyed before it happened. Simple, yes, but they remind me that there was something before and will be something after that is positive. It confines that moment to what it is--a moment boxed in on either side by other moments and experiences much more well worth remembering.

I'm going to sit on my slate platform in front of the fireplace for a little while, because this next game of chase, well, I don't intent to lose ;-).

Harriet Update: Although we did think that her time was up a few weeks ago, she has subsequently recovered from her illness and is doing just fine. She is treated every three days with a hefty injection of antibiotics, to which you can assume she readily objects. Luckily no one has landed in the emergency room....yet....

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