I have two cats. Sometimes (often) I despise them. Like when Elsa walks up and down my used-to-be-sleeping body in the middle of the night, her pointy paws digging into the weird parts of my body no one ever touches, and after 15 minutes of body pacing, settles on my neck, her face one centimeter from my face, her long ass whiskers tickling my skin and I just count the seconds until she…yep, there it is, that rough tongue licking my chin, and the only way to avoid it once she’s reached the licking part of the evening is to cover my face with pillows which she then proceeds to sleep on top of, essentially attempting murder by suffocation.
Or when Elliot hops onto the bed or couch or any surface really, and I give him a congratulatory pat (I feel it’s important to celebrate when he makes it anywhere off the floor, I can only imagine what a feat it is to get that giant body airborn) and he happily waddles around, so proud of himself, but I’m overwhelmed by the smell of dried shit stuck on his butt hairs because he forgot to wipe again, and I have to don a plastic glove to clean his cathole.
But sometimes, I adore them. I especially love how accepting they are when I make an extreme commitment to laziness. I binge watched all five seasons of Girls this past weekend and not once did they look at me with those puppy dog eyes, beg me to go out or whimper for my attention. Cats are like the best stoner friends you’ve ever had, luring you into the folds of the couch, so happy to see you, to be next to you, to share a slice of guilt-free no-judgement lazy pie with you. You’re just going to lay on the couch all day? Cool man, cool, those were my plans too.
Do I enjoy layering myself with cats before I go to bed? I won’t say no. When Elsa drapes herself across my midsection and Elliot snuggles his massive body hard against my feet in the winter, I’m happier than a tater tot, letting their loving warmth purr me to sleep.
Over the course of my seemingly never-ending time with them, they’ve taught me at least one valuable life lesson per year. While that’s better than no valuable life lessons per year, I’m still not totally convinced it’s worth the gallons of cat vomit I scrape off the bed, floor, carpet, the pounds of cat poop I shovel out of their plastic toilets, or enduring Elsa’s loud mournful meows in the middle of the night, riddled with anxiety and the general stress of being a cat (I keep telling her, you eat and poop and sleep and then we cuddle. Don’t think about it too much. Contemplating your existence and purpose in this world will drive you insane.)
Last night I came home from a much needed dinner conversation date with my friend Alex, who has been helping Stella get her groove back since 2001, and I walked into my Cat Life Lesson of 2016. And I was just beginning to worry they would teach me nothing this year.
Both of my cats spend an unreasonable amount of time in the bathroom (the human bathroom, not their litter box). And both of my cats love running water. Elliot races into the bathroom after I shower, eager to suck up the last drips from the tub faucet. I’ll wait to push the shower knob down until he gets there, so he can enjoy an extra treat. After work, I’ll often come home to find him sitting in the tub, staring eagerly at the faucet, just waiting. He regularly naps in there, like a hunter in a tree stand, hoping to catch the elusive beast.
He has no idea how the water turns on, he has never tried to turn it on (based on my hours of observation), he just knows that sometimes it’s dripping and it’s a wonderful miracle and he waits and waits for that time to come again. Hoping, wishing, wanting. I catch him all of the time, just staring.
Elsa is a bit different. She decided she wasn’t going to rely on someone else to make the water run. She would learn to make it run herself. She doesn’t wait for things to happen, she makes them happen. So she watched me. She observed. And then she tried. And failed. And tried. And eventually learned how to turn on the sink faucet with some calculated head nudges and body placement. Sometimes she got too much water, sometimes too little. Sometimes the water got too hot, sometimes it was just right. But she always got water.
After too many days of coming home to hot running water, I bound the faucet with a rubber band. She then learned just how far she could stretch it to make the water flow. She learned how hard to she had to push it back until it was no longer tight enough to stop the handle. She learned how to chew it off, knowing it was preventing her from getting what she wanted. I know this because I watch her do all of this, I watched her little kitty brain figure it out, I watched her succeed, again and again.
Of course, she doesn’t quite understand the concept of waste, conservation, or water bills, so I am now forced to close the bathroom door when I leave on work trips, putting an end to both Elliot’s hopeful stares at the tub faucet, waiting for the goodness to flow, and Elsa’s driven spirit to find a way to get what she wants.
Last night I came home to the familiar sound of the sink faucet trickling into the drain. I forgot to shut the bathroom door. I walked upstairs and saw Elsa curled up happily on my bed, belly full of hard-earned water, the sink faucet long ago running hot, and Elliot in the tub, staring at the dry spout, not a drip in sight. Even with water flowing freely two feet away from him, he kept his eye on the tub, bound by expectation of the past, holding out hope for something that would never come, not without outside intervention.
I sat down on the toilet, turned on the tub and sadly watched him blissfully drink in his ignorance, super aware of the Cat Life Lesson of 2016 materializing in my bathroom.
2016’s been tough on me, but 2016 isn’t my problem. I am. Because lately I’ve found myself approaching life more like Elliot than Elsa. Fully knowing there are so many good things out there, even knowing how to find them, where they come from, but still putting forth little to no effort to make them happen. I’ve spent most of 2016 just sort of…waiting. Waiting for the next big thing, waiting for things to get better, for something to happen, for time to pass, for that faucet to drip. Not without hope, not totally unhappy, but void of any real motivation, drive and inspiration.
And that makes me sad. Nothing against Elliot, he’s a cat, he can do whatever he wants. He actually exceeds my pet cat expectations. But I don’t want him to be the cat I resemble. I don’t want to sit around, hoping for the best, waiting for my faucet to drip when faucets are running all around me.
I want to make the water happen.
Happy New Year, kitty cats. May your 2017 Faucet, flow freely.