January 17, 2017

anticipating the worst

On one of the first frigid mornings this winter, I woke the way I do most days: with my little boy cat, Bingley, scaling my back to come sit on my side. The temperatures had dropped rapidly overnight. Id failed to have the foresight--or maybe motivation--to add a thermal blanket or trade the cotton sheets for flannel, I'd pulled the comforter over my head like a makeshift cocoon. Apparently distressed by his inability to see my face, Bingley went about tugging the covers loose inch by inch. He did it biscuit-baking style, which only made this process more laborious.

This only gave me more time to consider what would happen next. Just what exactly did Bingley have in mind once he'd uncovered me?

Several possibilities came to mind. Most involved him sticking his nose in my eye or ear. He does that last one a lot, and it's basically the kitten equivalent of a wet willy. Only he usually accompanies that with a meow, which means a wet ear AND Bing in surround sound. There was also a good chance he'd lick me. While I'm flattered he loves me and wants to show affection, my friends, there are few things that feel stranger than a cat's rough tongue scraping over your forehead. (Plus, I have enough of Bridget Jones in me to worry that it's a sign I may wind up one day dead and alone, eaten by my cats. How's that for a morbid thought to start the day.) At least I assume he does it because he loves me. The cats always have some dry food and water in their bowls, so that's the only explanation I can come up with. That or Bing enjoys inflicting discomfort on others. It could go either way.

So I stayed there, keeping as still as possible, hoping he might give up on his mission all the while worrying about what he would do. Even though it probably took minutes versus seconds, he never gave up on his quest. The cover came down inch by inch, the cold air greeting my skin, sending even more chills down my spine.

I wonder if he's dreaming about new ways to wake me up.

At last Bingley succeeded. I froze, clenching my eyes shut, bracing myself for the moment he'd get me.

Seemingly exhausted from the effort, he collapsed heavily onto my shoulder. One paw was draped over my back, the other to my chest. His face leaned forward, his light breath chilled my neck. Then, he rested his furry cheek against mine and passed out.

It was maybe the cutest, sweetest moment I've ever had with my cat. Made even better by the fact I'd been preparing myself for the worst only to have him surprise me with a show of affection that I couldn't pass up. Even if it came before dawn.

I've been meditating on this exchange off and on since. I'm sure there's a lesson of sorts to be learned here. Something about how so often in life I often prepare myself for the worst. Maybe we all do that. It's a learned behavior. Something we've picked up after being burned before. It's hard not to worry. It's hard not to be scared when you don't know exactly what comes next. It's hard to forget about past upsets.

I do this all the time. I panicked about my trip to France last April. I acted like a real a-hole to other people and really braced myself for disappointment. It ended up being one of my highlights of the year. No, it wasn't perfect, but missing a train and ending up killing time with a plate of croissants and fresh-squeezed orange juice wasn't exactly a tragedy. I also came up with my current work-in-progress while I sat in a cafe one evening waiting out a rainstorm (and protest) that left us stranded several blocks from our home base.

I mean, seriously. Check out that set-up.
Not a bad way to spend a couple hours at all.

Life is full of surprises. Some of those surprises are sweet. Those deserve just as much consideration (maybe even more) than my always anticipating the worst. It's not easy to change something so ingrained in our personalities (or at least in mine). But it's probably worth a shot.

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