When life gets too confusing, when petty worries seem profound, I rely on three ways to realign my perspective.
One is to ask myself, “What difference will this make in a hundred years?” That can quiet my thoughts quickly.
Another trick is to imagine I am standing on the moon looking down on Earth with all its boundaries erased by distance. From far above the stratosphere everything appears silent and serene.
But sometimes, my first two methods fail me, and I remember my favorite lens for putting my problems in perspective. I pretend I am my cat.
Almost any human problem looks trifling from the perspective of a cat. I fret about the quality of my writing, but my cat has never read a novel and does not think a lot of them.
As I type on my laptop, laboring over every word, I imagine what sage advice my cat would offer about my writing woes if she could speak: “Why would you make marks on a nonexistent surface? Can you eat them? Drink them? Smell them? You could be doing important things like batting bottle caps under the stove. You could be hiding under the bed and chewing lint. Humans are boring. You have no idea how to have fun!”
And my cat would have made an excellent point. To myself I am a writer. I have wrapped my ego in the printed word. Thus, I take it – and myself — very seriously.
My cat could not care less about the quality of my writing or my ego.
My cat knows what really matters. She cares about play, comfort, my lap, the mysterious red dot that appears when I am around, my ability to produce treats, and my power to open cabinets so she can dive into them.
Unlike everyone else I know, my cat deems money barely worth a sniff, although the super-important bills stacked on my counter promise her many joyous hours of shredding fun time. She prefers soda caps to cars and shoe boxes to real estate. She does not own a watch and if she had one, she would just bat it under the refrigerator so she could try to paw it out later.
Whenever my life seems dull, I seek to emulate her fascination with details I normally dismiss as trivial. To my cat, a frayed shoe string is as dazzling as a rainbow bridge to Mars. A drop of tap water is – perhaps — a tiny crystal world. The mighty rattle of a paper grocery bag paralyzes her with wonder and fear.
To my cat, a fruit fly is magical and deserve full, tail-swishing concentration. A warm patch of sunlight on the floor is worth more to her than a treasure chest exploding with rubies. A cube of ice in her water dish is a gem of nature, slick, cold, and vanishing — more wonderful than the stars.
I need a cat to remind me that ice is weird and status pointless. I need a cat to rescue me from the faulty common sense that has been hammered into me since birth: Be disciplined. Make lots of money. Your worth depends upon how beautiful, successful, or productive you are.
Cats are wise. They know better.
When the prospect of dying fails to jolt me from my rut, when contemplating the vastness of the universe fails to embolden me, I look to my furry philosopher stretching in a patch of sunlight in the floor. With a lazy yawn, she says without speaking that none of what you care about matters, that playing is paramount, that tuna is delightful, that reality is now.