Tonight is New Year’s Eve, 2011, and instead of noise makers and balloons, champagne and confetti, my heart is hurting in a way that it hasn’t since I was a child.
I have been crying since last night at 9:30pm when I held Mirabelle on my lap for the last time sitting here on my couch in the very spot where we were 24 hours ago. Tonight is the last night of 2011, and I am practicing the art of letting go. Or rather, I am perfecting the art of attachment, taking attachment and the inherent, inevitable suffering that results to a whole new level. Folks, tonight, through the murky wall of my tears, that makes the lights from the Christmas tree look like city street lights through a cab’s rear window on a rainy night, I’m not sure if there are other Buddhists out there as bad as I am. People who profess to practice non-attachment like me and in moments like these, just can’t. I honestly don’t begin to know how to rise above the deep ache in my heart that rises up inside me and wraps around my throat like a boa. I miss her. And I miss her more than I have missed most ex-boyfriends.
Mirabelle means “lovely and wondrous” in Latin, and how can I explain? She was both of those things and so much more. Charles named her, and it’s hard to articulate just how she perfectly she embodied her name. Her presence was like a bell-she spoke and her little cat voice was like the tinkling of a beautiful chime. Her eyes and her voice together were music. Her crazy patchwork coat with one leg that looked like a sweet orange witch’s stocking, and the other, gray half of her harlequin coat with random paintbrush strokes of white and orange, were the outer markings that represented her perfect unpredictability, her joyful demands to play at all times, and her fearless exploration of the world. She scaled 50 foot trees in seconds flat and gave the neighborhood squirrels a run for their money. She refused to come inside until she was good and ready. The charming white on her neck and belly were the one consistent swath of fur on her body, and she loved to have it stroked endlessly. Before Mirabelle, I had never had this exact experience of knowing how my touch inspired the most palpable bliss in another being, and her every movement was a silent communication, an acknowledgment, an appreciation that made me smile and inspired joy. One of her most wonderful talents was flipping her body upside down on the couch, her favorite place to assume every conceivable cat position there was– the poster child for the Kama Sutra of a cat in repose. Her incredible, special beauty. That face. Beyond. Everything about her endeared her to me in the deepest way. She was, she is a Mirabelle, a lovely wonder.
She was abandoned in late July in the middle of a back alley at Charles’ building. A car drove into the middle of the block, and just dumped her out right there. He watched as two small faces, pressed up against the glass of the back window, clearly a family– drive away. He happened to be outside at the time and watched the whole thing happen, incredulous that people would leave an innocent animal like that to fend for itself. Without a moment’s hesitation, he walked up quietly to her, cat whisperer that he is, held out his hand, and she was ours.
Mirabelle is unlike any other being I have ever encountered. She is always alive with brilliant, searching intellect, her eyes wide and sparkling, seeing all and missing nothing. Nothing escapes her. She is at one with every nuance, every subtle scent, every sound that goes undetected by human ears, already somehow ahead of it, and running it down. She speaks, she turns on faucets, she turns on lights, she fetches like a dog. She loves better than most any person I’ve ever met.
And again, I have to write, what a beauty. What a breathtaking, regal little beauty. Captivating. Arresting. Irresistible. And for some reason, some unresolved childhood traumas, some unresolved losses, my body rebelled against this other-worldly, magical little sprite and my histamines waged war, telling my nervous system that she was to be feared … or rather, that loving her was to be feared. I saw a wonderful and talented allergist four times, I took prescription asthma drugs, I went to extreme lengths, suffered terrific frustration from my impeded breathing that collided with my crazy love for her.
Little Mirabelle, you broke my heart wide open. This was one of your gifts, too many to name. And tonight, I feel like I am drowning in a sea of misery, a turgid sea that will surely swallow me whole. Feeling feelings that I never allowed myself to feel as a child because they would have killed me, or at least at that time, I was sure they would. Now, tonight, I am mourning all of the losses, all of those remarkable animal spirits who stepped into my soul and make the walls of my tender heart shudder against this icy wind that blows inside me tonight, telling me that I will never be free of this pain.
If only I could let go … feel the feelings that just feel so downright disgusting, so overwhelming, so interminable. Perhaps then they would abate, perhaps then the insatiable anguish inside would be placated, even for a few minutes, could I please, please have a respite from this? It’s New Year’s Eve for God’s sake. Have mercy, oh guardian monster of unfelt feelings from the past! Will these feelings ever go away? Will I heal? Will I be okay again without this extraordinary sweet bell of a soul who woke me each morning with her trills and her chirppy invitations? Without her penetrating glances and her loving advances.
After fighting the good fight for 5 months and loving her every minute of every day, even when she drove me crazy destroying my favorite couch and rugs, turning the potted plants over time and again, using my desk as her springboard and artillery trench, this morning, we drove to Delaware and gave her to the most perfect, loving new cat mother anyone could ever wish for, and it was harder than almost anything I have ever done. My heart broke in half, and the waters came rushing through. I felt relieved in some way when we saw the sweet and lovely new home where she would live. I didn’t shed a tear the entire time we were there, helping her to acclimate to her new surroundings and wanting her new best friend to feel okay about everything. And after we left, after we left her - that exquisite little soul standing at the front door watching us leave, I somehow, miraculously only cried for a few minutes on the drive back.
When we got back, I dove headlong into cleaning the entire house, washed all of the linens and performed a smudging ceremony. But the memory of her, her spirit was everywhere I looked, and while I fought valiantly to focus on each task at hand, her energy crept into my heart and my psyche as if she were still there, on those little padded feet, like ink bleeding onto the page and overtaking it, she was still there, like a tsunami, coming faster than anything I was capable of outrunning … the memory of her, beautiful soul, was overtaking me, and I knew that soon I would be swallowing gallons of water, tears that just would not stop. And all I could think of was one of my favorite Edna St. Vincent Millay poems:
“Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss her in the weeping of the rain;
I want her at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,–so with her memory they brim!
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell her foot or shone her face
I say, ‘There is no memory of her here!’
And so stand stricken, so remembering her!”
When Edna failed me, I turned to Rumi to save me, but I was beyond saving … Another failed attempt at being Buddhist: “Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form,” but all I could do was weep uncontrollably and get angry at myself for crying yet again, some more, and oh, the pain!
But tonight’s pain is about so much more, it’s about all of the losses, and all of the feelings, and how important it is for me to acknowledge that finally, I am feeling them. And while I may be rebuking myself for collapsing, I am submitting, I am surrendering. With the gentle coaching from my best friend who sits beside me and says, “It’s good that you are feeling these things. It’s good. Let yourself cry. You will learn from the tears.” And like a child who looks pleadingly at her mother when she is in the bathroom, sick and not wanting to be sick again, anything but to be sick again, I have looked at my husband this way more than a few times tonight. ”Who wants to learn?!” I feel like screaming into the cruel face of circumstance- at my body’s histamine reaction to this precious little being! And just moments ago, a slight, oh-so-subtle shift that I must be grateful for in spite of the agony I am suffering through … just before I sat down to write this, Charles spoke some very beautiful words.
“Be it all,” he said.
And when he did, the tears suddenly stopped. At least long enough to focus on this screen and save the blurred vision for the couch when I can sit there and cry some more and make the lights on the Christmas tree look like city lights as seen through the rear window of a cab on a rainy night.
Again, I am turning to Rumi like it’s a a stiff glass of Scotch, but somehow it has but a temporary palliative effect- it is wonderful, though, and I know tonight when I am asleep, it will permeate my subconscious like the poppies from the Wizard of Oz …
you worry too much.
You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.”
I love you, dearest Mirabelle. More than words can ever say. For you are a soul from some far-away place and you are a person in a cat’s body. Yes, one of those very, very, very special ones. You have broken my heart wide open, and the pain is immense. My missing of you is even bigger. Tonight, my entire being is rich and replete with the most searing and poignant of emotions. My body, my mind, my spirit are throbbing with the pain of being alive. But I am growing. These are growing pains … they have to be. They better be. Because they’re overwhelming and they damn well better be helping me to reach the next stop on this path. I am expanding with every second that passes, every second that pulls me further away from the moment when I said goodbye to you, that moment of blind courage- the act of living into my destiny and helping you, sweet Mirabelle live into yours … I am moving with the hands of the clock as we get closer to the end of another year, and I am shedding an old skin. I am tearing off the old clothes that no longer fit and truly never did. I am casting off the old armor that has weighed so heavily and protected me from nothing. I am stepping into the New Year in new skin, raw and somehow so much more beautiful because of it. Even in this anguish, I am so deeply connected to the beauty of feeling so intensely, and while I can’t deny that I am hurting in a way I never have, I am keenly aware that the reason I am here is because I have loved so deeply, so completely. I loved her with my every cell, and now I am no longer me, the physical person; I am just this heart, bigger than my body–open, exposed, bleeding.
And in truth, right alongside this prodigious hurt, is great peace and new-found, hard-won freedom … and waiting just beyond, are great possibilities that I feel in my very bones.
Tonight, I am “Being it All.” And I have a feeling that going forward, I will continue to do just that. As much as it hurts, I have crossed the bridge and passed the point of no return. I have no choice now but to do it. To feel. I have graduated to this place of utter consciousness, vivid awareness around my vulnerability, and I have surrendered. I am waving the white flag as we speak. I am feeling my feelings. I am greeting everyone at the door with a smile, even if it’s through the veil of my tears.
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
Happy New Year~2012 Here’s to you, my Mirabelle, and to “Being It All!”