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Akira looking out of the window

Loving what is wild

I’ve recently finished reading Glennon Doyle’s (more here) UNTAMED – stop pleasing, start living. I feel I am a decade behind the loving Glennon curve. So many parts of this book resonate with and activate me. It leaves me primally screaming YES somewhere deep inside myself. What walks around the most in my thoughts weeks later is this idea of being held and free, of being whole and free.

In the reading afterglow, I mulled over this ‘right’ to be held and free from the perspective of one that was wild and the one that wanted to be free. The one that had abandoned all she knew to travel the world overland on the back of a truck decades ago. The one that had learned to make vows to herself only. The one who walked alone on the path called moral high ground or greater good. The one who (eventually) could not be cajoled to enjoy a corporate life as if financial security is all that matters.

But of course, thoughts that linger, do so for a reason. And life often gives you the chance to look at it (love) from both sides (now…I know I hear the lyrics too).  

During my end-of-life doula / coach training, we were tasked to decide what we would do/say/change if we had one hour left to live. We stretched the timeframe to one week, one month and one year. Of course, the thought experiment works so well because it zones right in on what’s most urgent, valuable and meaningful in our lives. It’s a great question life coaching, never mind end-of-life.

It was when I got to the one-year scenario that I acknowledged wanting a pet. Emigration can shake the sense of what home is to her very foundations. Whatever I was waiting for was not as important as what I was missing. And so… we started the online stalking required to find a rescue cat / kitten in a pandemic. In May we adopted Akira (previously Smokie) and our work to love and hold a wild & free creature began. Her name means bright in Japanese and it felt right to name this alert feline love accordingly.  

For months we kept her inside with us, luminous stickers and post-it notes left on every door and window saying “MIND THE CAT”. One Sunday in August, I was working in the garden while she watched from her window seat. I felt her longing and couldn’t look away anymore. We opened all the doors and windows and held our collective breath. Tentatively, she came outside. She twitched her body in readiness to pounce, bristling and hyper vigilant. She engaged with every shadow and smell she’d only had hints of from on the other side of the double glazing.

Akira came back inside and it was deemed a victory. At night, we closed the windows up safe & tight and rested easy. Days fell into weeks; she came and she went. She performed well enough on recall. For a cat this (magic) is definitely not the same as recall is for a (loyal and predictable) dog.

Then one night in September, she didn’t come back. Wrecked with sleeplessness we staggered into the next day. And there she was, waiting on the welcome mat. The poetry of this is not lost on me. The second night she stayed out partying God-Knows-Where we managed better. She came back, whole, hungry and tired – but there she was. We could do this. We thought.

In October she took off one day after breakfast and didn’t come back for food all day, all night and the next day. It was the coldest night of the adoption year so far. We walked in ever increasing circles from home calling out like mad men and women, hoarse and sighing deeply in helplessness. Scenes of wrecked rescue obsessed humans antagonizing smug extrovert cats played out theatrically in my head. A host of (good and catastrophic) mental scenarios later – our prodigal cat stole right back in after her unsanctioned all-nighter. Human stress headaches receded and appetites returned. Little miss nonchalance was merely ravenous and tired.

Where did you go? What I would give to speak cat! And should we buy you (okay, us) a cat tracker for Christmas Akira?

We managed her most recent November all-day all-night experiment away better because we knew that we needed to manage our wellbeing as much as hers. We needed to practice those skills of remaining positive and realistic about her chances and her independence. She enjoyed independence and resourcefulness long before she knew us.

She teaches us what it means to love but hold lightly what is wild and free. How to hold space for her but not to tether or contain her. How to offer love, grow love, and accept love from she who is …while wild and free. It is such a demanding / empowering lesson.  We weigh up the risks and costs of loving her on her terms. You’re onto something Glennon when you say that “love is the opposite of control” and that “love demands trust”. Isn’t that what we want too?

I now see the challenge, courage and trust of loving in this way. I see how hard it is for those anchor people in our lives to love us, hold us and let us roam free. I feel what it means to be the harbor rather than the ship sailing at sea. Akira is another of my teachers.

Much loved Akira relaxes at home

#catstagram #loveanimals #learning #untamed #free #love

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