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Complementary Corner

Lessons from a blind cat

Renee Lehman

(6/2015) The cat pictured with this article is my cat, Charlie. She was almost 17 years old when she had a stroke on Friday, May 8. Her corporeal soul returned to the earth and her ethereal soul returned back into the heavens just before midnight, on May 8th. Since then I have been grieving the loss of her physical presence in my life.

Charlie was always a petite cat, weighing just over six pounds. She was named after her mother, Charleton, who she looked exactly like. When I took her to the vet office, they always thought she looked like a kitten. She did however, suddenly become blind almost two years ago. And, this brings me to the reason why Iím writing about her in this article. I learned so much from her during those two years of her being blind. I wish to share those lessons with you.

1. Learn to trust.

First, and foremost, she trusted me! She trusted me to put food and water in her dishes, to clean her litter box, etc. I had done this for the previous 15 years, why would the last two have been any different. She trusted her whiskers to find the walls, cabinets, furniture that she walked around. She also trusted my voice to direct her around an object or corner. I would say, "Go Left," or "Go Right," and she would, 99% of the time, follow my commands to avoid hitting her head on an object. Because she was blind, it meant more to me to be trusted by Charlie than by any of my previous pets.

She couldnít see, but she could hear and "feel." Trusting your gut or your intuition is like listening to what you are "feeling inside." When you trust your intuition, you are valuing your inner voice, and therefore, loving yourself!

What if we trusted what is "unseen." That would mean that we had faith. Thatís the next lesson that I learned from Charlie.

2. Have faith.

The definition of Faith is a firm belief in something for which there is no proof (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Charlie was blind, and couldnít see me. Yet, she had complete faith that I would be there for her. When I left in the morning to go to work, I would tell her that I would be back later in the day. When I walked in the door, she would get up from where she was resting, stretch, gently meow, and walk toward me. There was no frantic movement, or upsetting meowing sounds indicating that she didnít think that I was coming back.

When a vacation was planned, I started telling her the week before the vacation that I would be gone for the week. I also told her my neighbor would be coming in to take care of her, and that I would be returning home. Now, when I did return home, she was usually "mad" at me for a short period of time, and acted aloof and distant. But, she acted this way even before becoming blind. She was just telling me that she didnít like me going away!

The concept of having faith reminds me of the last part of Max EhrmannĎs poem Desiderata:

...You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soulÖ

Have faith that everything is as it should be, for remember what Master Oogway (from the movie Kung Fu Panda) said "There are no accidents."

3. Stay in the present moment.

How many times have you heard this saying? Well, Charlie called me to be present every day. When I was at home, she would meow to me in a way which meant that she wanted me to pick her up and hold her. If I would try to multitask while holding her, she would move and meow in a way indicating that she wanted to be put down. She had had enough of that activity! Notice how I said that I tried to multitask. I learned quickly that it was impossible to multitask while holding her. She wanted my undivided love and attention. When I gave this to her, when I was totally in the present moment, she purred and cuddled in close to me. This helped me to be more aware of the subtle differences in her purring, meowing, her movement, and the way that she would hold herself. I learned more about who she was and what she needed from me.

Being present and in the moment, is a GIFT. It is a gift to you and a gift to the people that you are with. It demonstrates that you are appreciative for what you have in your life.

4. Anything that you love needs your attention.

Charlie loved to be held up against my chest, and sometime she would stretch out one of her front paws over my right shoulder area. I could feel her heartbeat against my chest. There were times when I would hold her like this for 30 minutes or more. When she wanted more attention, she would raise her front paw, and gently stroke my chin. Then I would take my chin and rub it over the top of her head. She loved this. She loved when I would pet down over her back a little roughly. She would half purr and half meow.

When you love something or someone, give it/them your undivided attention. This shows them that they are worth your attention and respect. You will gain more insight into the relationship, leading to an improvement in the quality of the relationship. Wouldnít it be nice to have more supportive relationships?

5. Move with purpose.

When Charlie became blind, her movements became more purposeful. She walked to the litter box, to her food and water dishes, down the hallway, etc. with intention. To get off the bed, she would walk to the foot of the bed, steadily walk on the four inch wide foot board until she reached the end, then step down onto a stool that I placed at the foot of the bed for her, then down onto the floor. She NEVER fell off the footboard! When I bought a new sofa, she very methodically sniffed every corner and rubbed up against the fabric. Two weeks after the sofa arrived, she suddenly jumped up on it. What a surprise! She knew just where to jump up on it, and how to jump down from it, and land on the floor just right. She moved with self-confidence.

Because Charlie was blind, she could have allowed fear and uncertainty to control her movements. She did not! We need to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare when uncertain situations arise. If we have a strong sense of who we are, and are resilient, then we will have the strength to move forward with purpose!

6. Life can be full and enjoyed even with an "issue."

Even when Charlie became blind, she loved playing with her woolen mice toys and loved getting catnip mice to whip around and rub up against. She loved sitting on her cat box in front of the gas fireplace. She would even turn her body, and sit facing the fireplace as to say," I would like for you to turn the heat on, NOW!" She knew the exact moment that I pulled out an afghan to place over me while sitting on the sofa, because she was on my lap within seconds (from wherever she was in the house). She loved to cuddle up in the afghan. She remembered where the sunshine came into the house, and would follow the sun/warmth around. She loved the warmth of the sun! I believe that she enjoyed her life, even with acquiring blindness.

Donít let an "issue" so consume you that you forget to live your life. As William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." There may be an important spiritual purpose of the "issue." Finally, Lao Tzu is quoted as saying, "Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you."

Charlie gave me many wonderful gifts. Her spirit and these lessons will remain with me forever. My hope is that by honoring her with this article, you will have received a gift, too.

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA.  She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman