The Cat

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In a small sense, adopting a cat reminded me of getting married.

I had wanted to do it for a long time, but I kept delaying because I wanted to be sure my husband and I were ready. We needed to finish unpacking and get the house in order. Who would feed it if we left town? What were we looking for in a cat, anyway – kitten, adult, friendly, calm? We scanned Craigslist looking for “free kitten” ads and perused Humane Society websites. We considered aspects of pet ownership such as time commitment and expense. Finally, we went for broke and bought a litter box.

Standing in a room full of cats, opening cages and reading personality descriptions, I experienced a minor case of nerves. No matter how long we spent holding and coaxing, no matter how many questions we asked the Humane Society volunteer, there was no way to predict exactly what kind of pet each cat would make. We liked three: a darling kitten who had once been feral, a shy long-hair with enormous paws, and an overweight tabby hiding in a cupboard. I looked at my husband in consternation. “Which one should we choose?”

My husband, bless him, has learned from past experience not to put pressure on me when it comes to decisions. “Which one do you want?” he asked. So I did what I normally do when I’m trying to figure out what I want: I called my mother.

“I don’t think it matters, honey. You’ll love whichever cat you take home. Just go with your gut,” she told me.

The problem is that I have an underdeveloped gut, metaphorically speaking. Choices for me are less a matter of intuition than a matter of careful preparation: gathering facts, weighing pros and cons, asking for advice, etc. If I have learned anything from the engagement experience, however, it’s that at some point, you simply have to go for it.

At some point, you simply have to go for it.

You see, there is a certain amount of risk involved in any choice, even one as seemingly insignificant as pet adoption. When we extracted the 16-pound tabby from her cupboard and brought her home, we couldn’t have predicted what a talker she would be, or how much she would enjoy opening all our bathroom drawers. (We have now sealed them shut with duct tape.) And while I knew my boyfriend to be gentle and selfless, I never could have predicted what an unfailingly kind and generous husband he would make.

There is a certain amount of risk involved in any choice, even one as seemingly insignificant as pet adoption.

What I often forget is that risk doesn’t merely imply a hazardous outcome. When you risk danger, or failure, or pain, you also risk joy, and intimacy, and fun. Perhaps that’s why the dictionary definitions of “risk” and “adventure” are so similar. If I spent less time deliberating and more time acting, I might make more mistakes, but I would also skip a lot of internal drama and, possibly, make some good decisions along the way.

I think we made the right choice in Zero, our “catloaf,” as my husband calls her. Maybe I would have felt that way about another cat, too – I don’t know. I do know that we spent most of the evening yesterday giggling over her loudmouth antics and attempting (unsuccessfully) to brush the endless dandruff out of her fur, feeling utterly pleased with ourselves for bringing home a kitty. I also know, or at least hope, that I am beginning to learn something about decision-making.

There is reward in action.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

Learning Loneliness

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Daniel Swanson Photography

Loneliness is new for me.

During college, I had an average of five roommates. If I needed a study buddy or someone to accompany me grocery shopping (that King Sooper’s parking lot got creepy at night), I never needed to look farther than the adjacent bedroom. After graduation, I moved back to a home where the household count rarely fell below seven. There was always someone to wish me “good morning” or “good night.” I could always find a willing audience to hear about my day.

Now I live in a household of two, and the other member works 60+ hours a week, plays in a band, and regularly records musicians in his basement studio. I am often alone.

I find it difficult not to blame my spouse for my loneliness. I am needy; therefore, he must change his habits to fit my needs. I lash out in frustration when he adds something to his schedule because “I hardly ever see you!” Before long, tasks he once enjoyed become shadowed by my sour mood.

I find it difficult not to blame my spouse for my loneliness.

My gratitude for friendship, on the other hand, has increased exponentially over the past months. During a particularly lonely week, one girlfriend dropped by to watch a movie and create chocolate-peanut-butter cookies; another invited me to meet her for coffee and go for a jog; a third drove a considerable distance just to chat.

I am learning the hard way to set my spouse free to pursue his passions. His whole demeanor lightens when he plays the drums, and he’s never more excited to tell me about his day than after a recording session. I want him for myself, but my bitterness only erects barriers between my husband and the activities that bring him life. He wants to be there for me, but he can’t possibly satiate my craving for company.

I am learning the hard way to set my spouse free to pursue his passions.

Neither can my friends entirely fill my void. Although my mood buoys in their presence, they eventually return to their own husbands or their own jobs. I am reminded how critical are the daily tasks assigned to us. A job does so much more than pay bills, and chores accomplish greater purposes than  removing dust or creating suds in the sink: seemingly menial tasks occupy our minds and alter our attitudes. I am never less happy than when my focus remains on myself.

I do not know the cure for my loneliness. Time, probably, or the acquisition of a full-time job might fill the bill. Either way, I am gradually noticing a change in my stability levels from out-of-control to slightly-more-normalized. I am thankful for the patient people who are (slowly) getting me there.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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Daniel Swanson Photography

Mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

– Quoted in a sermon by Pastor Mickey Lohr.

Emotional Ambivalence

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Daniel Swanson Photography

If you asked me how I’m doing, I could give you two honest (and opposite) answers: “I’m great!” and “I’m a complete wreck.”

On the one hand, I love my life. I’m married to someone who loves me, and I never have to say goodbye to him at the end of the day. I live in a darling suburb not too close to the city for excess traffic but close enough to have stores within walking distance. I even have a couple of part-time jobs that I enjoy.

On the other hand, I’m an emotional basket case. I cry over the smallest, silliest things and don’t seem to be able to calm myself down. I struggle with loneliness and often wake up with my stomach in knots, picturing the day ahead with dread.

The best descriptor I can find for my current state of being is ambivalent. Not to be confused with ambiguous, the word ambivalent describes the simultaneous existence of contradictory thoughts, emotions, or desires: like how you’d love to travel, but at the same time you want to stay home where it’s safe and familiar. I am at once contented and desperately needy.

I am at once contented and desperately needy.

I know I’m not the only one living in a state of emotional ambivalence, heart full of gratitude one moment and trembling with grief the next. I happen to know a lot of happy people dealing with enormous stressors. All you have to do is ask someone to pray for you, and you’ll find out that they have their own list of desperations and (perhaps) equally high levels of instability.

The funny thing about neediness is that it shrinks with sharing. I’m not talking about the type of “sharing” in which you unload to another person and expect them to solve your problem. I’m talking about a mutual experience that requires you to share their burden while they carry yours.

For some reason, I always expect to feel weighed down by someone else’s burden. I shy away from the question “How can I pray for you?” because I can’t help thinking, I have enough issues of my own. I want other people to have it all together so they can focus on supporting me. But the moment I start to listen, sympathize, or pray, I find my own sadness slipping away, even if just a little.

The moment I start to listen, sympathize, or pray, I find my own sadness slipping away.

There is probably a Bible verse to go along with the sentiment of shared neediness – Galatians 6:2 comes to mind – but for now, I’ll leave you with the idea that it’s OK to embrace both sides of the truth. I can tell people how thrilled I am to be married and how happy I am with my life, and (when the situation calls for it) I can also acknowledge my horror of transitions and lingering bouts of anxiety. And you can do the same.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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Daniel Swanson Photography

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete/Could we just be broken together?

– Casting Crowns