Belfast Telegraph

Following my cat's lead is the key to feline happy with life

By Nuala McKeever

Well, here we go again. Another year begins. Sometimes I envy my cat. She gets up, goes out, has a sniff around, looks at some birds up in the bare tree branches as if she's never seen birds before, settles into her favourite bush for a wee while then comes in to eat, sleep on the couch and enjoy some quality stroking from me. I'm beginning to think that far from being dumb, perhaps animals are more evolved than us.

They don't waste energy on worry. They don't spend hours fretting about the future, or regretting the past. They don't not speak to other members of their species because of something one of their dead relations did or didn't say 35 years ago. They are fed and watered, sheltered and loved, excused and accomodated and stroked to within an inch of their lives without having to ask for it.

See what I mean? Doesn't that sound like they get the quality end of the bargain?

They live in the moment. Essentially they're Buddhist. They don't hold onto or reject things that arise. Well, unless the thing is a small bird, which, sometimes the cat will hold on to. But even the small bird, will, eventually, be let go. When it's either dead or proving to be too strong to be killed.

The cat doesn't attach meaning to life the way we do. Yes, she knows enough to register that the sound of the cupboard door opening means she's going to receive food, but she doesn't waste time moping if I'm late feeding her. She doesn't call in a series of high ranking cats from Washington every time something goes "wrong" in her routine. She carries on with her simple life and lets Life with a capital L happen.

Fair enough, she doesn't have to go out and earn money to pay for the food she eats. But even that, surely, adds to the argument of her being a more highly evolved critter? Why work when you've got minions to do it for you?

This year, I'm being like the cat. I'm not sweating the small stuff like where's my next job coming from and how am I going to pay my mortgage? I'm just being my creative self, lying around thinking up great plays and books and hilarious sketches, without a care as to who's going to feed me or clothe me or shelter me. I'm practising trust.

My brother described how he went onto a beach in Spain one morning last summer to watch the sunrise. He remarked that he was the only person there actually watching this most stunning display of beauty, as the sun rose and coloured the sea in glorious shades of pink and orange and gold. We've all seen sunrises or sunsets before. They can be breathtaking. And then we forget about them and go back to worrying about the details of our lives.

I'm going to watch the sunrise every day. (I don't mean literally, let's not get hysterical here. I just about make it up to see daylight arriving around nine in the morning most days and that's not likely to change for a while.) But I'm going to take time to remember every day that the world turns, the sun comes up, beauty happens with or without me and all I have to do is notice.

I'll be cat-like. In the moment. Greeting each day with a beginner's mind. (I'll skip the licking myself in public mind you. Well, at least til the weather warms up.)

Don't give up on your health kick

Stomach feeling a little dodgy this morning?

Did you start your new year, back to work, time for change, get this body into shape, embrace the healthy lifestyle day with some liquid concoction made of juiced raw vegetables with a couple of squirts of lemon and a centimetre of ginger root?

Or perhaps you got out the organic porridge you bought on Saturday when you still had one last night of "fun" left before you took the plunge to purge your corporeal temple of all things toxic?

Well, stick at it. The discomfort is just your body's way of saying thank you. Honest.

These gongs are just all wrong

My cat is delighted. She received an MBE in the Queen's New Years Honours list. Miaow Before Everything, that's what it stands for.

"How silly", I hear you mutter as you turn away from my ramblings. But wait. Not really that silly.

If we're to accept it's okay for retiring civil servants to receive an award simply for having done their job or that politicians like Maurice Mills, who blamed Hurricane Katrina on God's punishment of homosexuals, deserve to be honoured by the Queen, then a cat getting a gong is right up there with the meaninglesssness of the whole system.

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