Firebirdlifecoach's Blog

Pursuing a Passionate Life

Amazing Gracie June 30, 2014

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20140626_094408-1 I wasn’t allowed to have cats when I was child. My mother didn’t like or trust them, having grown-up around cats when she was young whose primary function was to serve as “mousers” – and not as pets, she was always a little scared of them. I once brought home a kitten, from a fair, hoping that she would be moved by its soft, grey, “kitteny” cuteness – but found myself having to return it to the family I got it from a couple of days later. But once I moved out on my own, I have always had at least two or three feline family members of my household. I don’t know about the whole “dog-people” -vs. – “cat-people” thing, but I guess though I grew up with dogs my preference is for cats. I appreciate their independence, their affection (when they choose to share it) and their overall orientation to life. Cats are cool and I simply like having them around.

For the last ten years we have had three feline members of our family: Taku and Soma, two littermate brothers that we adopted as kittens from a local animal shelter and Gracie a neighborhood “stray” who we took in about four months after getting “the boys”. From the start, these three were not like any of the other cats who have been part of our family over the years. I think this stems from the fact that they had “feral” rather than “domestic” origins. The biggest difference that was very apparent was that they were all pretty darned skittish. While our previous cats seemed to like our human company, these three all displayed what can only be described as “terror” and mistrust when it came to casually interacting with the human family members. Though, they each had their idiosyncratic preferences for when, where and how they would interact with us, the general rule was, that it always had to be on their terms – certain rooms, certain times, certain people, certain interactions were tolerated – but there was little to no – “casual” opportunities for affection and interaction. For the first couple of years we had them, I was primarily aware of their presence because someone was eating the cat food and using the litter box – but not because I ever had the chance to actually “enjoy” them.

That doesn’t mean that they didn’t hang around us at all – all three cats would sleep with my sons every night – often switching between rooms throughout the night, I assume to make sure that everyone had a chance to snuggle. Gracie would join you on the family room couch if you were watching a movie and gladly stand in front of your face so you could not see the screen. Taku would race in front of you if you were walking up the front steps, hop on my son’s bed and purr wildly while you pet him and Soma, would sit next to me in the kitchen while I paid bills at the table, allowing me to pet his head or more importantly to crunch up small wads of paper for him to chase around on the floor. There were a number ways you could interact – but they were all very specific, and were interspersed with plenty of frantic fleeing from the room if you happened to walk through, as if your very presence was inherently threatening. They were three goof-balls and not at all like our previous pets – who were constantly present, endlessly affectionate and relatively mellow.

Anyway, the dynamics all changed a couple of years ago, thanks to a couple of coincident factors; one – my boyfriend, the self-described, “God of Cats” became a more regular presence in our home, and two – Gracie lost her hearing (which eliminated all of those startling sounds that had previously frightened her). The result – was that slowly, but surely the God of Cats and Gracie became the best of friends. Taku and Soma, observing Gracie’s interaction without catastrophic incident, eventually followed suit and came round themselves to regular interaction with the humans of the household and over time – we became one big happy family. It only took about eight years to get to something that resembled the ideal that was in mind when we brought these three felines into our home, but who’s counting?
But Gracie’s loss of hearing and apparent connection to a bottomless desire for affection was only a small part of the physical and personality changes that she was going through. Though calmer and definitely happier in her quiet little world, she was also aging rapidly and suffering from a number of health problems, which were slowly but steadily taking their toll. One by-product of her hearing loss – was that her “meow” went from normal range to something that sounded more like a super-sonic goat and she had a lot, and I do mean A LOT – to say. It could be tough first thing in the morning, and she could be pretty darned persistent, but it was also pretty darned funny. Honestly, I don’t know if I could have imagined the sounds that she made if I hadn’t been there to witness it firsthand. That girl had needs, and if she wasn’t fast asleep she would make sure that you knew about them – as she wanted either to be fed or purring in your lap almost all the time. Taku, not much for independent thinking, decided that if it was working for Gracie, then he should give it a try too – and though he neither fit on your lap as easily (since she was very underweight due to a number of health issues and he is quite overweight from stealing her food as often as he could) he took almost all of his cues from her. “Gracie is meowing, I should Meow. Gracie is hopping on the chair; I should hop on the chair. Gracie wants to sleep on this pillow; I should sleep on this pillow, etc.”

Gracie went from being one of the shyest cats I know – to one of the most affectionate. And by her example – Taku and Soma learned that they could get affection and attention at almost any time of day, in any room, from anybody. It was a great thing.

Last week, we made the difficult decision to have Gracie euthanized. Sweet and seemingly happy as she was, she was also very ill and in the last couple of years had lost a tremendous amount of weight and muscle mass. It’s hard to tell, because cats are pretty stoic creatures, but it sure looked like it was difficult and probably painful for her just to lie down and stand up toward the end. But she never stopped being sweet and affectionate. We will miss the old girl, her loud talking, her constant companionship and her sweet loving face. I am so glad that her last couple of years seemed to make her so happy, despite her health issues. I hope that Taku and Soma remember what she taught them and continue to be more interactive and affectionate than they had been before. Time will tell.

But whether they do or not, I guess taking this time to reflect on the last ten years with these three just feels important to me. Our pets whether they are cats, dogs, bunnies or whatever, really do become a big part of our lives, a part of our families. Their personalities shape our day-to-day experience and it is amazing how much love they can bring us. In this case, I learned too, that the capacity for change and transformation is present in all sorts of creatures – finding opportunity within obstacles. Thanks, Gracie.

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Are you starving your creativity? June 24, 2014

Child's Drawing2

I can’t go without eating, none of us can. It is one of those fundamentals that all living organisms must satisfy in one way or another or perish without it. No surprises here. But what about our other urges, needs, drives and desires – and specifically, what about creativity? Do we need it? Will we perish without it? And beyond our own personal needs to express and utilize this aspect of our selves, do others need it from us? I say, yes. While we may not wither away in our physical form – without creativity our lives can become, bland, unfulfilling and stagnant. And the impact goes beyond our own well-being – without creativity how do we move forward as a species, where will our society be without new and innovative thoughts, ideas, objects of beauty and personal expression? No place that I want to go, I can tell you.

Why is creativity important?
Let’s pull it back a bit here – while the impact of a world without creative expression may evoke visions of bleak, grey automation – what I really want to talk about here is how it affects us in a personal way. There are those of us who identify ourselves as “Creatives” and our form of expression might manifest itself in ways that are easily recognized for their creativity: music, the arts, writing, etc. While for others the expression of their creative inclinations might take shape in how they dress, what they cook, how they approach confounding questions that arise during the work day, or the “hobbies” they engage in, be it knitting, model building or gardening. In different ways each of these activities, actions and approaches to life, involve that part of us that is “creative”. And to leave it out, to not have a place or a way to express it would not only make our lives less colorful, but on a basic fundamental level – it would be less satisfying, less enjoyable and more fulfilling.

Creativity: luxury or necessity?
That said, for many of us, unless we are fortunate enough to have occupations that require us to flex our creative muscles on a regular basis, we find ourselves left wanting. Wanting to find the time to pursue a creative activity; wanting to take that guitar lesson, to write that story, to paint that picture we have in our mind. It’s a luxury. Something we can’t afford the time or energy to commit to amidst the responsibilities of our daily living. Recently, in a writing group I was running, the members of the group discussed that though finding the time and commitment to create a space for writing is an on-going challenge – to not do it – to let it go, simply doesn’t work. And, why not? Because the “need” to do something creative, never goes away. It remains, like a nagging brain worm, turning and turning over in your mind, vying for your attention and simply not giving up. Expressing your creativity – is not a luxury, it is a necessity – and without it you can never quench the thirst that its absence creates.

So, what are you going to do?
Why deny yourself something that is so meaningful? Why keep putting off, that project for another day? As with all goals, if we refuse to commit to taking action, it will never happen and in this case that desire may get quieter if you continue to ignore it (though in many cases, it often actually just gets louder and louder) it’s simply not going to go away. So do it! Get out there, get started, create the space, make a mess, and allow for the “ugly”, but just do it anyway. It’s fundamental and without it – life just isn’t as satisfying, exciting, interesting or beautiful.

There’s strength in numbers!
If you are ready to start exploring and expressing your creative side, consider joining me and other creative folks who are ready to commit to making it happen in an interactive for this interactive virtual group! Where we will explore ways to: foster, hone, support and create opportunities to enhance our creative expression in whatever form that may take. Registration deadline is only a week away, so don’t put it off. For more information: http://conta.cc/1iBRmnH

 

“Where I am From” June 11, 2014

Sorting through a file of miscellaneous notes and assorted paperwork this morning prepping for a newSitting group I am planning on accessing the creative inside of us – I came across this… Below is my first pass at my “Where I am From” poem, see – http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html. What a great project and a wonderful exercise – might just have to incorporate this in to my group.

I am from Binney Park, baccala and bicycles.
From Aunts Emma and Violet
From head scarves and rubber bands.

I am from delicatessens and mansions.
From soft hearts and strict rules
From bocce and “BINGO” on Independence Day.
From wet snow pants and 45 records.

I am from the “rattle” of the utensil drawer and
the “kerchunk”of the library card.
From stories of WWII and Sunday visits.

From neighborhood hide and seek and whistles for dinner.
From dress-up and tadpoles.
From innocence and cigarette smoke.

I am from knowing too much and not understanding.
I am from the outside, looking in.
From train rides to “THE city” and walks to the beach,
From Friday nights and Barbie dolls.

All wrapped tightly in a bunch,
In a ball, a basket.
Buried deep and bubbling to the surface
All that came before and all here now.

If you haven’t tried it – I suggest you do. Offers an interesting way of thinking about your childhood – where you came from and who you are.
Be well… Lisa
http://firebirdlifecoaching.com/