Be the Child, Be the Cat: Reclaim Your Joy

During the beginning of college I lost something very precious, and have just over the last year and a half started to gain it back. It took me a long time to even realize that I had lost the ability to unashamedly enjoy every moment.

Children have it. Cats have it.

Why have so many adults lost it? I actually worked hard for a while to suppress my joy, because it throws people off. Why is she so happy? Why is she constantly humming? Why does she laugh so easily? Why is everything so exciting for her?

My question, how come everything is so hard for you?

I’d never really fit in with my peers (nobody ever believes that I am as young as I am) and for a while to fit in was what I wanted most. So I dumbed down my vocabulary, I developed some angst, and I was as miserable as everyone else. Then, when I got on my health kick, I finally decided “this is ridiculous.” I like being happy. I like to ooh and awe over the fog in the morning, or a particularly beautiful falling leaf, or an awesome new office supply. I love laughing. This does not make me any less intelligent than those stoic, jaded folks who call a pen a pen and smirk at nature-loving hippies because they do not have the latest igadget and could not possibly grasp what it really means to be modern, it just makes me happier.

I am back at The Lake House this week cat-sitting, and I have been alternately amused and amazed by the pure feeling exuded by my feline charge. When happy, Maya purrs. When unhappy, Maya walks away or demonstrates her unhappiness quite vocally and then moves on. When adventurous, Maya convinces me to let her outside. Maya oozes confidence. She slinks all over, fully-knowing that she is beautiful and sexy, and lets nothing fluster her. Sure, she jumps when she is startled, but as soon as she lands on her feet she is slinking away again. “What?” she asks, “I was startled in the moment. Deal with it.” Cats are my favorite animals because they are such sensual beings. Not just in a sexual sense, but completely sensual. They like to feel and taste and listen and smell and be rubbed. They live life in the moment. Even when they are lounging about they look supremely happy and superior. Unlike livestock who, when lounging, just look pathetic, miserable, bored, and unsure of themselves.

Lounging livestock like the animals that I saw last week when N-Ben and I went to the Thurston County Fair. I had not been to a fair in years, and I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed. The Mason County Fair kicks the Thurston County Fair’s derriere. My favorite part, other than discovering that I am a pig whisperer and N-Ben and I complaining that the horses being judged weren’t doing anything, was the grand stage. When we first sat down to watch, there was a river dance school performing. Most of the young students were pretty bad, but a few stuck out as having promise. The boys were especially awkward, brows furrowed in concentration, arm muscles shaking from being forcibly locked at their sides. Don’t even get me started on the glossy curly plastic china-doll wigs bouncing ridiculously atop the older girl’s heads.

Up next was the Army Legion Band, the band that practices at SMU and that I conducted for one third of my conducting final. They play big band, marching, and movie soundtracks generally—your typical parade and event band. I hear them practice every week and have heard them perform many times, but what enchanted me was the little girl performing in front of them. Now, she was not a part of the band, she was merely a free-spirited girl taking advantage of the small raised platform in front of the band which she claimed as her own personal stage. And she danced. She had no training, no particular method, she simply moved as the music beckoned. When Sousa made his expected appearance, her steps became measured in length and choppy. When a movie theme was played, her arms flowed like water and she began to leap and frolic. And she was good. I don’t mean to say that she was a dancing prodigy. On the contrary, her dancing was pretty pathetic. But her confidence, and pure joy, was beautiful. She was enjoying life, and this lent her a grace not possessed by any of those river dancers who had been taking classes.

Eventually, of course, she noticed that we were watching her and she started to smile at us, and began ending songs with a dramatic flourish, arms raised to the sky beckoning for love. She pretended that all of the applause was meant for her (and I’m sure some of it was).  She was working hard, too. She had to stop to take a water break every so often, but she always returned ready to amaze and delight again. This young girl was pure joy. This young girl was me, unfettered.

There are some of those jaded adults who begrudge the cat and the girl their happiness. “Life is so easy for them, they are taken care of–they don’t have to bear the weight of the world yet. Wait until the little girl grows up. Watch her lose that joy. Watch her become self-conscious, ashamed, lonely, miserable. Watch her become just like us.” Why does this have to come to pass? Why can’t we, through our age and wisdom and pride still retain the pure joy of our former years? I think we can. I lost touch of it for a bit (willfully) but I’ve chosen to take it back. You can too. This doesn’t mean that there will not be pain, sadness, and perhaps depression and utter despair. But, alongside, there will always be that simplest, purest joy of being in love with being alive. If you told Maya that her life as a cat is far too easy and that her obvious pleasure in everything she does (including being unhappy) is not fair, I am sure she would smirk at you as only a cat can smirk, and say, “Yours could be too, if you would only let it.”

So that dear friends is the secret to my happiness—allow yourself to be happy. It is not, as my piano teacher suggested last year, because I suddenly found a boyfriend. I just rediscovered myself.





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