Ups and downs, ins and outs, curve balls and random collisions. Who said Life was going to be easy? As I sort it out, here's a collection of my essays, newspaper columns and mental meanderings about family, friendship, ecology, politics and a world that goes bump in its fright.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

We keep looking in the wrong places

A few weeks ago, my cat, Ace the Ferocious Hunter, brought into my house what I thought was a large mouse. After much skittering and chasing around the kitchen, where the still-quite-lively creature took up behind the refrigerator, I finally decided I had had enough. So I bought one of those terrible, deadly zappers and within an hour had dispatched what turned out to be an actual rat to that Big Kitchen in the Sky.
My cat checked out the places the rat had been--apparently he skittered from behind the fridge to a little space beside the dish washer and, when he thought the coast was clear, to the bowl of dog kibble and water on the opposite side of the kitchen. This happened in the middle of the night, at which time the cat would hear the skittering, the dog would hear the cat and, for a few minutes, all hell would break loose. This is not my idea of a good night's sleep. Thus, the rat electric chair. I felt bad, but ... it's all over now.
So the cat investigated a time or two and immediately got the idea: the rat is gone. Case closed. My dog, however, to this day dashes expectantly over to the space beside the fridge and sniffs enthusiastically, digging at the tile beside the fridge. Or he passes the dish washer, is reminded and starts trying to dig the rat out from under the dish washer. I have pulled both appliances out and thoroughly mopped, so most traces should be gone. And besides, if any of us is going to keep trying to get the rat, it seems it ought to be the cat. But no, he gets it. Game over.
Most of us have more in common with the dog than the cat, at least in this regard. We keep looking for love where it used to be, revisiting life as it has been, eager for a new experience, but looking along familiar pathways trying to find it. We think if we only dig a little deeper into what has been, or approach it from a different angle, we'll see another outcome and recapture what we've lost.
I haven't posted anything on my blogs for a while. I went through a long period where anything I could say would be so maudlin I wouldn't want anyone to read it. Within a three month period two years ago, one of my dearest friends killed himself, my 18-year-old cat died and my mother passed away after a lengthy series of illnesses that defined how I don't want my passing to be.
I entered a kind of paralysis that I now recognize as the way I process things. I keep working--my salvation when things get rough, and they've been that way a bit, so I've created a great career for myself with all this marching on--I only wear my heart on my sleeve for a very small circle of friends, and then only enough to let the pressure off. I just carry my sorrow along with me and keep doing life and eventually, the fog lifts and life starts coming back again.
What I notice is a profound temptation to keep looking back, wishing for what will never be again. My friend who died was one of my best music buddies and certain songs have simply disappeared from my life since his death. I realized recently that I was, in some illogical part of my heart, saving them until we could sing them again. I've been holding my present cat at arm's distance (which to people who haven't ever been friends with a cat might not seem so bad) because he just wasn't the same cat I had come to know so well. He's a cute cat, and a sweet cat, but he wasn't my cat.
And my mother? I keep wishing for a few do-overs. I don't have a lot of regrets, but death inevitably drives those that exist directly to the surface. So, even while knowing utterly and absolutely the futility of the desire, I've been wishing to revisit some events and conversations and have things turn out different.
Watching my misguided mutt as he enthusiastically visits the rat's old haunts reminds me how goofy such impulses are. Time to move on, to learn different songs and to find love in unanticipated places.


Blogger Dave said...

Simply beautiful, KC. Thanks for posting this look into your soul.

9:51 AM

Blogger Charles said...

What a wonderful extended metaphor, Katie. I'm well conversant with the habit of revisiting old events and wishing I could change them, a truly futile activity.

But lately I have become somewhat reconciled with my past: I kind of like the me I have become, and changing the past might turn me into someone I wouldn't like (of course, the me I would be then would probably be happy with the me I had become. Talk about truly futile activities!

1:52 PM


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