Friday, November 5, 2010

How my cat taught me humanity

He is 38 years old very attractive with a stellar career
steadily unfoldingin front of him. He was brought up with all
the privileges that money affords and with a sense of entitlement
and solipsism that in his mid 30s left him empty and bored.
He brought his depression, existential angst, and frustrated
quest for meaning to my office, deposited them in my proverbial
lap and in not so many words led me to understand that he expected
me to address and cure all his plights, after all isn’t that what
he would be paying me for? A few months into therapy it dawned on
him that if he wanted answers he would have to roll up his sleeves
and work at it just as hard as I was. He proved to be a good sport,
however, as he did not complain too much about this first disillusionment
in this enterprise called therapy.

In our work together we came upon the same often insurmountable
obstacle: his ego-centered view of the universe. His multiple
relationships with women came to the same predictable and unhappy
end, he was told time and time again that he was not “listening”
and he was sincerely puzzled about it. How could they have a
world view different from his? How could they tell him that he
did not do enough for them when he knew what they really
needed a lot better than they did? When I told him that everyone
sees the world through his or hers own “lenses” crafted by unique
and individual life experiences he told me that if you are short
sighted you don’t keep bumping into furniture, you go to the
optometrist and get glasses. He saw himself as everyone’s
corrective lenses to emotional or intellectual myopia, you see.

And then a year into therapy it happened. He was passing by
Pet Smart one day with his girl friend de jour: “oh” she exclaimed
“kittens can we adopt one, pleeeeease?” “And I did” he said
dropping his eyes to the floor with shame and guilt, “to impress
her,” but then Tyson took total possession of my house and my heart.
Why the name Tyson? I asked. “would you believe it”he said,
“this fur ball climbed onto my chest and started boxing me” I did
not have the heart to tell this X quarterback that this “furball”
was “seeing” him as its mommy and was kneading his chest to
stimulate lactation just as it had done with its “biological” mom.

I sat back and listen with barely contained glee how the
“furball Tyson” steadily turned a elegantly and expensively
decorated bachelor mansion into a kitten’s playground. Pillows
and throws now covered the custom designed couch, cat toys
were strewed all over the house and a floor to ceiling
cat condominium featured right next to the humongous flat TV,
because “it is more fun to watch him playing than football.
” Into the trash went playboy and sports illustrated to be
replaced by an assortment of cat books and magazines.“And you
know something doc” he told me one day “I don’t need those
sleeping pills anymore. Tyson snuggles up to me
and begins to purr and I am out like a light”

The finishing touches of this “miraculous” transformation
came when Tyson got sick and required scheduled medications
and care. Gone were the after work drinks with his friends,
the 15 hour work days and lunch was spent driving home to
comfort Tyson. It must be tough for you, all these life changes,
I tested him one day.“Not at all” he said sincerely surprised
that I would say such an inane thing “I love taking care of him”

I thought that things don’t get much better than this, but he
surprised me once again. One day he told me beaming with joy
that he was now part of an animal rescue and adoption organization,
“ and the people are sooo nice too!” he tells me “a little eccentric,
but who am I to be talking”. He was exchanging the crown of
egocentricity for human camaraderie and tolerance. He was now
fostering 3 more cats. “You know ” he said “I think I am beginning
to get it, this whole thing about believing in something bigger
than yourself? You can tell Tyson’s story in one of your blogs.
Maybe there is another self-righteous, know-it-all guy out there,
like me, who needs to be rescued. I have a few Furballs willing
to volunteer for the job”.

“I don’t know if it is all these cat pictures in your office
that led me to adopt Tyson, but he is the best therapy ever.
Don’t take it personally, you are a great therapist, but Tyson
taught me humanity” he tells me.