Belonging and connecting … as we follow people on social media, make friends or maintain current friendships, I am sure you agree that the ones you are most attracted to are the ones that you feel add value to you on a “soul level”, the ones that you feel can relate to you and the ones that are the most authentic and real.
I have had a number of conversations lately with friends about this very thing, and as I was thinking about it, my big stray tomcat wandered by. He showed up a few years ago, seemed nice but boy he was a scrapper – or so I thought. He came by with increasing regularity, and some days he looked beyond rough. He had an occasional swollen eye, always had little scratches, bite marks and scabs all over his body and head, and sometimes was so skinny I almost didn’t recognize him except for his distinctive white locket on his pure black body and, as he became more comfortable, I got to see the white stripe across his belly, and noticed that his rib cage was deformed. Some of his toes were obviously broken at some point as the claws face all directions, and the tips of his ears had turned grey from frostbite.
Out of sympathy for this creature, I would make sure to run a little bowl of food out to him if I saw him, and if he wasn’t hurt too bad, he would actually eat it while I sat beside him. If he was really not well, he would streak away, clearly not wanting to be touched, returning to eat the food only when the coast seemed clear. When his big, fat tom cheeks were thinner from being too skinny, I would double up on the food, and leave it out for him. When winter came, he parked himself on a chair on my deck, even when the blizzards covered him with snow. I didn’t want another cat in the house, so I bought a heating pad and created a make shift house that would keep him warm and dry. Unfortunately, the storms were such that winter that the poor cat continued to sit, miserable and covered in snow until I took mercy on him and allowed him into the garage.
He was a fine guest, grateful and respectful. He had no problem using the litter box – but he would balance on the edge of it so as not to touch it while he did his business and covered it perfectly – much better than my house cats chose to. We had another stray come around about the same time, a tiny, emaciated female – she stayed in the shop and was terrified of Lucifer – I didn’t blame her – for a timid little female, a big 17-pound male would have been scary for her.
With a touch of rebellion against my past, I named the two cats Lucifer and Jezebel (who became Bella for everyday). And I eventually had Lucifer fixed on account of his splendid nature, also hoping it would keep him closer to home so he didn’t fight so much.
It turned out that he wasn’t a scrapper at all – he is the most gentle, mild natured cat I have ever met. The dog tortures him, opens his mouth around his whole head, slobbers down his back and flips him over with his snout. Occasionally, Lucifer is the victim of a vigorous humping, but he just finds shelter or a higher place to sit, never once lashing out at the rambunctious pup. In the morning when they wake, Lucifer winds himself around the dog’s front and back legs, under his belly and rubs his face on him. Sometimes he tries to cuddle on the same chair, pillow or in the kennel, but the dog seems to feel he is above cuddling with a cat and usually gets up and leaves.
Lucifer now regularly brings me presents in the form of fat dead mice from around the acreage, and sometimes a poor, unfortunate bird. He clearly feels he is part of the family and likes to contribute.
Watching Lucifer in his process of belonging with our family has been a happy and heartwarming experience. And he reminds me that there are so many of us who are like him. Perhaps we have been lost and orphaned for awhile. It’s okay to walk away from what you have always known – it’s a very real possibility that you will find a better place in the world.
Our experiences may have made us scarred or emotionally deformed. When we find that place of belonging, “our people”, don’t we appreciate them so much? When we are accepted with all of our scars, our deformities and our damage, life is wonderful.
For me, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am grateful for and in love with my little community of beautiful people who have figuratively (and some of you literally) fed my soul with friendship and acceptance of me and all of my scars. The ability to belong and connect with these like-minded people has absolutely changed my life for the better.
Don’t stop increasing your tribe, add value where you can, encourage, uplift, support and above all, love – you will change the world, or at minimum, change the world for someone who needs a better one.