My Therapist's CatI’ve been paying a great deal of attention to cats lately. These last two weeks of my life I'll forever remember as mid-life cat obsession period. Cats are everywhere now.
I like cats, although it's taken me quite a long time to get this fond of them. The first one I can remember belonged to my mother. Lee was named after Mom's favourite WWF wrestler in the late 60's. A martial artist style combatant, he later became a second-rate referee.
Lee, the cat, was a magnificent specimen of female feline; likely a purebred Siamese. I remember how she sort of slithered stealthily around the house in a continuous state of assessing everything and everyone around her. Mom and Lee definitely had a very special connection. Their relationship was way beyond traditional pet and pet owner type arrangements. Growing up, I was convinced that they could communicate with each other telepathically. They could read each others thoughts. I had the impression that they were both very witch-like in their mannerisms, Mom actively practicing a bit of witchcraft at the time. Come to think of it, she never read cards or tea leaves without Lee present in the room, although hiding underneath the couch.
Not being superstitious by nature yet I can no longer help but notice that neither the black ones nor the white ones will cross my path anymore. Hardly any of them in any color will cross me at all now and I encounter a ton of them along the way everyday let me tell you. Nowadays, any of my fury friends I engage'll either do one of two things: sit there and watch me pass by or wait until I approach close enough to walk alongside me for a short bit. I eventually did realize that it's the white ones that prefer to stroll with me whereas the black ones make it appear that they are disinterested in me and don’t seem to bother with me much.
I have no trouble remembering the solemn trip to the vets Mom and I took together when we had to be put Lee to sleep. There was a song playing on the radio that to my Mom's dying day she was unable to hear again. I could never fully understand the depths of mourning Mom had for that cat, until today.
Luckily for me I enjoy walking and I enjoy hunting. When I arrived in Vancouver three years ago, with not a penny to my name, it was a natural fit for me to become a picker when I ended up homeless. I spend much of my day and night combing up and down the alleyways in search of redeemable bottles and cans people would bag up and whatever else of value folks would put out for pickers like me to window shop. That's where I've been seeing the bulk of my cats lately; in the alleyways.
A great side effect to walking is that it gives me time to think. I'm quite sure the experts would insist that adequate thinking time is important for someone recovering from addictions and mental health disorders. I suppose thinking about my stuff all the time is better than avoiding dealing with myself or staying completely distracted somehow. So I am happy that I have a lot of time on my hands and that I always seem to have many things to think about. I use up a lot of my walks trying to reason with myself about my behaviours and choices. And being a practicing artist, I use some of my walking time when conceptualizing art projects. Sometimes when I am feeling brave I quietly sing out new songs I'm writing. Whatever I’m up to, walking is always therapeutic and calming for me.
There’s a bit of a danger with engaging in too much walking and thinking. Sometimes during excessively lengthy thinking periods I can become a little bit delusional I suppose, my therapist’s cat being a good example. I have now conclusively determined that cats have extraordinary powers of communication. They can even relay message to me from my dead Mom. Last night I added copious quantities of alcohol and drugs to this insanity and I became a complete raging lunatic in my room for over half an hour. Amidst the blackout that night, I recall attempting to invoke hallucinations of Siamese cats. I'm unsure as to my success on that one.
All this recent lunacy revolving around cats is Brad's doing. He's been my addictions counselor and for about a year now, I must admit, I never really liked him that much. I found him somewhat uninteresting and way too gentle. What kind of therapist is this that treats me with kids gloves on? My mother used to rip my heart right open in order for me to see myself clearly. Tough love she called that. My counselor gently pries me open. I suppose in the end, his approach eventually made me develop a respectful admiration for him as a therapist. And finally, after all's been said and done, I've concluded that he's an exceptionally talented counselor because he given me clues into some of the things that have been blocking my progress. Not only that but he's left me ample rope to hang myself. So subtly has he dug deep into my emotional turmoil that I've found resolution to grieving my mother. Today in some very distinct ways recovery-wise, he has filled in some of the space my Mom once occupied in her supportive role that she played in my life.
Anyway, the crazy appointment started off like all the others. I gave him a run-down of my last month’s successes and failures. We noted the need for improvements and talked about some new fan-dangled effective harm reduction strategies I could attempt to implement. I could tell though that something was on his mind. At the first real pause in our hour long interaction he suddenly blurted out “I had a dream of you last week. You were playing with my cat.” He busily minimized windows on his monitor to show me his desktop backdrop of this fat black and white patched feline; his long dead cat.
“How long’s it been dead?” I asked. His eyes dropped for another moment. “Two years” he quietly replied. I didn't say anything for a few moments as I tried to absorb the moment. Naturally I thought the dream significant but my immediate reaction was that my life would soon be over, my day was coming and that my ultimate fate is to end up being just another desktop background image on my therapist’s computer monitor. I began wondering how long it will take Brad to mourn his cat death or even my death only to realize that it'll likely be as long as it took to find a new pet to care about.
Brad was looking at me for a response but my silence and deep thoughts continued. How would my mother interpret this dream? She was clairvoyant you know. She'd tell people that they would get pregnant or catch a moose this fall and for some reason these predictions would happen. What does a dream of me playing with a cat mean? I have learned in my recent research that cats appearing in dreams normally symbolize that there is something in life that needs to be accepted. This can be a self-acceptance that requires resolution but they are usually about accepting something in someone else. A cat’s mood can also be an indicator as to what the dream may mean. A happy, playing cat can only mean a good thing but getting bit by a cat is a nefarious foreshadowing of an unchallenged inner conflict.
I shook myself out of it. I didn’t want to have the self-impression that I was thinking crazy thoughts so I decided not to talk to myself about what I was experiencing. The meeting terminated somehow and I walked away with questions continuing to bombard my mind.
A week later, during a particularly lengthy treasure hunt, I got so deep into thought that I slipped into a daydream-like state. I started off the walk contemplating how I got into my addictions counselor’s dream and what playing with his dead cat could signify. The thing’s been dead for two years and he is still mourning over her. What does this mean? Has Brad not been attached to anyone or anything since?
Then the day before my next appointment arrived. I took a quick inventory of my progress with the obsessions regarding cats. I have endured nearly thirty days of mental madness revolving around my mother and cats. I'm pleased that I've sorted through most of my cat psychosis in spite of my best efforts to avoid them. I have come quite the distance with it all. The most important revelation came when I knew that I was not on the verge of dying because Brad's cat has nothing to do with death at all but everything to do with change. It was not my dream. I was playing with my therapist's cat in my therapist's dream. It's a bit of a stretch but I am convinced that since it was Brad who conceived a dream that caused me to think extensively about the relationship I had with my mother, that the dream must in fact be a message from my mother's spirit. Her spirit's very much alive. Furthermore, because I was playing with the cat, the dream could only mean that I am in a good phase in my recovery and that I am on the right track. There are no major acceptance issues in my life right now although I still need to change things about myself but nothing drastic at this stage. My mother is telling me that I am to continue on the path to my recovery and that she is still supporting me despite her not being with us anymore.
The dream made me think about my Mom. It made me think about all the wonderful things she used to tell me about myself even though I could never see it, I sure could feel it. It was the therapist's cat that made me feel how much of a loss I am without her and of how much I truly miss her. The experience has left me understanding that even four years after her death she is still finding ways to encourage me. Maybe it is the same for everyone else but whenever my mother is in my thoughts and in my heart I feel comforted by her. I still love my Mom.