Please allow me to introduce my household familiar, Gretchen MurderMittens Miernik. She is a wonderful member of our family and generally easygoing, but she does make this face if you accidentally walk in on her human bed nap and turn on the light. Well, who wouldn't? At this point in the pandemic / insurrection / zombie apocalypse happening outside in the world, I seek to follow Gretchen's lead in gently setting boundaries around healthy amounts of rest--and playtime, and sharp sense, and ferocity.
As coronavirus vaccinations roll out slowly, I am also rolling out my spine and sinews, all catlike, and feeling a new balance of relaxation and strength, well-rested chill and pilot-lit alertness. I am feeling more certain that the end of the pandemic is nigh, so I have let go of some anxiety over how long this will all drag out. And at the same time, I am comfortably certain that our civilization won't roar back to pre-Covid activity levels for another few months at least, so I still have time to finish re-reading all my favorite old books and enjoy my remaining freedom from "hard pants" and all the other minor discomforts of fully functioning daily life.
In other words, now that I feel confident in the pandemic's end, I can settle down into its comforts without feeling anxious or guilty about it.
Poor little Gretchen doesn't yet know that her Girl will have to return to on-campus school one day (maybe even this spring!!!) or that The Mother will return to the offsite office, but I trust she'll relearn to enjoy that alone time when nobody interrupts her human-bedroom naps.
In the meantime, some of her habits and "cattitudes" are rubbing off on me, and I admit I don't really mind living the house cat life for a little while longer. I no longer miss very much about my pre-2020 lifestyle. I've adjusted, and I'm taking better care of myself these days. I've become a bonafide Cat Lady, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Although I look forward to a more active and socially engaged future, I've accepted this opportunity to practice The Way of the Tortie while I can.
Though she be but little, she is fierce!Gretchen is a passionate pro at resting, cuddling, purring, and playing, which comprise the vast majority of her time each day. Her greatest value to her family is her comforting and joyful companionship, which contributes to all of our health and happiness. On the side, she keeps our house free of delicious spiders, mosquitoes, and flies. In the winter, she has a lot of time off, but though she's always eager to provide hunting services, she graciously avails herself of a long vacation.
Although Gretchen fully leans into her status as a pampered pet, she retains instincts to keep her senses and physical prowess sharp. She earns her rest by playing hard, exhibiting stereotypical "tortitude," to our endless amusement. She may transform into a warm puddle of fluff during a catnap, but we've learned that that relaxation is spring-loaded. Her sweet little toe beans contain needle-sharp retractable shanks; her muzz muzz wittle facey face is armed with tiny incisors that can lock onto the back of my slipper as I drag her across the floor.
Gretchen never complains about her aching back or exhaustion. Sure, it probably helps that she's only three years old, but I've also watched how she stretches and does high-intensity parkour every single day. Inspiring!
Gretchen appreciates her privileged life and doesn't try to slip out the door too often. (She did escape once on some kind of epic adventure for almost three days, sending her family into a full-blown panic, but she returned completely unscathed and in good spirits when she remembered how great it was to be served duck kibbles and lamb pâté in a clean ceramic dish.)
Although she has seemed content to stay inside ever since then, she stays woke to what's happening outside of the windows. She absolutely loves to watch a thunderstorm, and she regularly scans the premises for wild animals and wandering neighbor cats. She's not shy about expressing her feelings about what she sees, either, and she raises her voice and lets it be known that she will not tolerate a rival kitty on her lawn, no matter how floof. And she is impervious to the manipulations of puppy dog eyes.
She may be a bit of a NIMBY and a Judge Judy about new acquaintances, but she places immense trust in us, her caregivers. She may not understand why we must trim her claws and put her through other uncomfortable indignities on occasion, but she voices her displeasure and then lets us do it without a fight. She takes her medicine, tolerates the authority of those who have earned her loyalty, and never holds a grudge against her nearest and dearest.
Sometimes she returns the favor by trying to bite off my mascara, which I'm sure she views as besmirchment of my eye region. Most of the time, she avoids hypocrisy by clearing the dust bunnies from her own whiskers first.
Over the holidays, we bonded by snuggling with an electric blanket by the fireplace while binging "Queer Eye."
We've established some new, healthy routines together as well. I let her wake me up these days, usually before 6:00 a.m., and then I check to see whether I need to shovel the driveway before my essential man comes home from his very early work.
I'm also taking more opportunities to play vigorously, such as by sledding or climbing trees with my family. When the weather doesn't permit outdoor play and work, I do kitty cat stretches and yoga or belly dance or fun workout videos.
The days are finally growing longer. The light through our windows is strengthening into warm, bright spots suitable for curling up in. I think I am making good use of this house cat life, reveling in its pleasures and accepting its challenges to grow strong and ready for whatever comes next.
Gretchen and I wish everyone a safe, comfortable, patient winter and--as soon as we can safely get back out there and resume the hustles of our normal lives (or try out new ones)--a happy Mew Year!