Heidi is a gray and black-striped tabby cat with spots on her underbelly. She is a very reclusive soul. It’s her nature. She likes to hide. She finds refuge buried beneath the luxurious folds of the comforter on the bed or behind the closed doors of dark cupboards. When she is stressed out she retreats to substitute wombs. She is not very sociable. Many are the visitors who have come to the house and never seen her. But that’s okay. She is who she is. And she likes who she likes.
She’s a plump little ghost who nervously haunts our lives, pads quietly in and out of rooms, meows plaintively and jumps like a jack-in-the-box when there’s a knock at the door.
She’s not gregarious. But she’s lovable. She’s unique. She likes laps and people-food. She likes to snuggle. She’s loyal. And many are the lessons I’ve learned from her.
For one thing, it’s absolutely okay not to like EVERYBODY. Accept people, tolerate them maybe, but like ’em all? Heck no! And it’s okay if not everybody likes ME. Heidi is a quiet creature. So am I. And oftentimes we’re misunderstood. But that’s the way we are. We accept that about ourselves. We don’t have to change intrinsic things about ourselves to please other people. We don’t have to be loud.
It’s okay to be who you are. Black or white, orange or calico. Introvert, extrovert. Long-hair, short hair. Manx. There’s a niche for each of us somewhere.
Another thing I’ve learned from Heidi is that it is not always necessary to force yourself out of the cupboard for unwanted guests. My home is my refuge. Trespassers are not allowed. I can pretend I’m not at home when a salesman knocks at the door. Or a Jehovah’s Witness. It’s my right. I don’t have to put on my mask and face the world if I don’t want to. I don’t have to have guests for dinner if all I feel like doing is heating up a pan of fish sticks.
Eccentric is okay. It’s all right to mix colors or patterns — stripes and spots, plaid and paisley. It’s okay to occasionally meow at inappropriate times. Let everything be in its own time. It’s okay to be alone. To be mysterious. To be an observer. To read instead of watch TV.
Who do you trust? Not everyone. Building up trust is inching your way out of the bedroom one paw at a time, looking, sniffing, listening, free to turn back at any time. Heidi trusts us. Her life is in our hands and she let’s us hold her with complete abandon, knowing we’ll do what’s best for her. It is a great responsibility to be trusted. And ah, what a precious gift to find a friend to trust.
There are people I’m going to feel comfortable with and people I’m not. Heidi knows who those people are for her. Those are the ones she associates with. They get a rub on the leg. They’re granted the privilege of scratching the back of her head. I don’t have to make small talk with a surfing enthusiast if I don’t want to. I’ve pretty much learned that people who are going to satisfy me socially are individuals who like The Far Side, have read Dorothy Sayers and Emily Dickinson and know who Carole King is.
When you’re tired or stressed out, take a nap. Who the heck was it who said that after kindergarden we couldn’t spread our rubber mats out on the floor in the afternoon anymore? Heidi knows instinctively that 9 to 5 is abnormal.
It’s okay not to talk. Listening is good. Silence is a gift.
Best of all, it’s nice to be loved. Unconditionally. For who you are. No matter what colour your stripes or your spots.
©January 1995 by Phyllis J. Hanniver
Heidi was a tiger tabby born in approximately 1988 in Los Angeles, CA. I lost track of her after 1995 because I lost custody and visitation rights after the break-up of whatever relationship that was.
(Photo of Heidi to follow.)
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