About a month ago, I wrote my Big Bad Things List and I triumphantly crossed off “Cat Dentistry” – finally, I saw a vet about Florence’s mushy mouth. The pen is mightier, I thought, as I faced my fear and put a line through a scary, expensive to-do. It wasn’t so bad!
Sometimes, I cross things out before they’re even done. My biggest obstacle is usually my own inertia, so once the ball gets rolling, a task almost feels complete. I had taken Florence to a vet, they had done blood work (normal) and given her meds, and that, I thought, was that.
Of course, the Big Bad Things List is not just a cute name reminiscent of a fairy tale wolf. It is named such because of its looming, dark, consequential line items. Sometimes, marking things off the list too soon wasn’t powerful at all – it was foolhardy.
This is all to say, Florence’s medical woes were not through. We had follow-ups and saw a specialist. The word cancer was a big part of all of those visits. The jokes about cat braces went out the window. My little Flo, street cat extraordinaire, 7-year-old purr machine, almost certainly has a horrible, no good disease, and no one can say when it will start to hurt or even kill her.
It’s always in the truly hard times when I am amazed at the collection of warriors I have assembled around me (thank you, me). My mom mobilizes her network to find me a vet tech to talk to. My boyfriend says just the right thing. My friends send kindnesses and check in on me. As the love poured in, Caroline, my roommate and Florence’s sister, quietly suggested that we give Florence all of her favorite things – and that I might consider setting up the Christmas tree permanently in the new apartment.
The Christmas tree is Florence’s most treasured jungle gym. It’s quite small, but you can see her fat bum sticking out from behind it during all those Yuletide hours. A calm, restful cat, she rarely scampers and swats – unless there are Christmas ornaments. She particularly took a shine to a cloth puppy, and would reach to high bows to get down her new friend. She was enchanted.
But why wait for these hard times to make it Christmas every day of the year? What were the small happinesses that I reserved for special times that might be installed in my life year-round? Wasn’t now the time to live and breathe and feel special – before things got too inescapably dark?
Last night, I started a box of slips of paper. On the slips, I listed things that make me happy that I do so infrequently: trips to get froyo; learning a new recipe; visiting my favorite street cats in my old neighborhood; night swims. The idea is to take a slip of paper out regularly, to make sure I’m getting the happiness I deserve year round instead of forgetting to indulge in these small wonders. It’s akin to my Thanksgiving Advent project, but this time, it’s for every single day.
Merry Christmas to Florence and merry Thanksgiving to me, too.