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In the September 2012 issue of Out on a Limb I wrote about our cat, Dusty Baker, the 14-year-old feline with a serious reluctance to eat. Here we are, two years later, and she is another pound lighter. She boggles my mind. She has had expensive visits to the vet, received a prescription for steroids to stimulate her appetite, tried countless types of canned and dried food, and confounded those who attempt to keep her nourished. Now on a restricted, low-fat diet, there are two foods she will eat. The choice is between her prescription (translation: expensive!) dry food, and cooked ground turkey. That is where my husband, Bill, plays a large role in this domestic dance with our lovable blur of black fur. When he realized that Dusty only likes cooked turkey if it is fresh (never more than a day or two old), Bill devised a whole system for freezing the meat in small amounts so he can prepare just what is needed every other night. This is devotion. And devotion yields joy.
If you have ever owned an aging pet, you know the drill. Their world gets smaller; activity diminishes. They sleep more than they already did. Sometimes, this decline brings the end of irritating behaviors. For example, Dusty used to wake us up in the middle of the night by jumping up on the bed to walk across our pillows. If there was something she could knock off the bedside table, she did. If that did not work, she found an electric cord in the bedroom and started to chew on it so loud that we could not help but wake up and go to the kitchen to feed her. Of course, we were delighted when this annoying wake up call stopped but the worry over her pathetic appetite grew.
Thanks to Bill’s devotion, we have had an occasional recurrence of Dusty’s bothersome behavior. We did not know Dusty could still jump up on our bed but on one random night this autumn, there she was. How odd to find ourselves celebrating such an irksome behavior! There have been other surprises. Recently, Dusty not only participated in night time play activities but resurrected another annoying habit: she placed a knot of a very long shoelace in her mouth and howled with it while she carried it towards her food bowl in the kitchen. (When younger, she used to drop the knot in the bowl!) When we realized this howl meant Dusty was up to her old tricks and not in distress, Bill and I just looked at each other and grinned. Devotion has brought unexpected joy to this household. And since all of us, not just cats, have maddening habits that might disappear or diminish as we age, perhaps Dusty’s tale invites us to celebrate them nonetheless.
The Short Story
Pets continue to underscore the unfortunate truth that all lives are short. If there is a trait or behavior in you or someone else that drives you crazy, it may also be what gets memorialized when you or that person or pet are gone! Why wait? Why not celebrate these challenging aspects, now? I would rather relish a late night pillow plea from Dusty, any day, over that eventual time when she will live only in memory.
Other words used to describe devotion are: commitment, dedication, love and care. If we strive to be devoted to someone, as Bill is with Dusty, we can bring those qualities to each interaction. The payoffs are huge, even if the bigger picture looks bleak. Quiet joys arise from quiet acts of devotion every day, if we take time to notice. The real sweet spot to go for is to be devoted, and to receive devotion as well.
Your December 2014 Prompts for Joy
When I think about the hours of joy that websites such as YouTube, Wimp, and Vimeo bring, wow! I am not just appreciative but in awe.
Click here to witness a brother’s deep and inspiring devotion.
Click here for an amazing story of a man, nearly blind, devoted to his art.
(Thank you, Cassie Murray!)
All previous Prompts for Joy (PFJs) can be found at my website, unless the video url is no longer functional.
Joy-Gram for December 2014
Just notice what you devote yourself to, and what joy it yields, be it immediately or over time. If it does not bring joy, is it an activity still in need of your devotion?
Dusty and one of her favorite catnip toys. Sometimes she lays her head on it for a pillow.
By no means
do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume
that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for
myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this
pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience
of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!
Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·