My first pet as an adult was an adult shelter cat that I rescued from the PetCo in Union Square. The night before we met, I had a dream about an orange cat who slept at my feet. Then, as my then boyfriend, now husband, David and I were wandering around the city, there he was. Now this is not the cat you think you are going to rescue – he was “7-9 years old,” enormous, and plainly disinterested. And yet… he was so soft. And his eyes were a piercing green. I liked him.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“About what?” David said.
“Yes, what do you think of him? Is he OUR cat?”
Realizing that I was barreling head-first towards an impulsive decision, David became much more engaged. “Well, I don’t know. Let’s see.” Now, David is somewhat famous as a cat whisperer. There are cats known the world over as crotchety Fookwires but when David enters a room they are suddenly weaving in and out of his legs purring. It’s fascinating.
This cat was no different. While I was someone he was willing to tolerate, David was downright interesting. “I like him,” David said, “what’s his name.”
“This is Brandy,” the shelter worker said, coming up behind.
“He was rescued from an alley way in Harlem. He’s a little aloof, but he’s a nice cat.” she said.
“He’s a street cat! Poor thing.” I said, reaching out and realizing again how soft he was. “What would we call him?” I asked David.
“Socrates.” I said, hearing it. “Sounds good.”
Needless to say, after a spending spree at PetCo, Socrates came home with us that very day.
I had to stop at my fellowship location on my way home that afternoon. When we arrived on the scene with four bags of cat gear and a cat, the fellowship coordinator was surprised.
“Is that a cat?” she asked.
After hearing our story, she asked if she could see him.
“I don’t know,” I said, looking at David-the-Cat-Whisperer for guidance. “Do you think he’ll be nervous?”
“He doesn’t seem nervous” David said, peering into the bag at the utterly unperturbed cat.
“OK, then, sure.” I said, and we let him out.
Within three minutes that “poor traumatized shelter cat” was settled into the good life.
I’ve seen him do this this time and time again.
Like, AT ALL. Why would it? The opportunity to sleep, eat, and escape out the front door was everywhere. Did it really matter where he pursued his dreams? Apparently not.
I really admire that.
I get caught up in the expectations, structures, and routines of my life. When things turn upside down (like during a pandemic) or even go a little sideways (like when I don’t get a good night’s sleep), it takes me some time to recalibrate.
Socrates, on the other hand, was just living in the flow.
He was a cat who knew who he was and what he wanted. The circumstances didn’t change what he wanted, nor was he overly concerned about exactly HOW those needs were going to be met.
Watching him move from one environment to the next in his utterly unflappable manner, showed me how many opportunities I waste waiting for things to line up, fall out, be perfect, and feel ready.
As I’ve loosened my need for CONTROL AT ALL TIMES, I’ve found that Socrates was right: the opportunities to get what you want are all around, all of the time.
As a result, I’m happier, things happen with more ease, and my progress is faster.
That’s one smart cat.
I wonder if the same is true for you? Are you waiting for the perfect, predictable opportunity when you could get busy with the opportunity that is right in front of you?
It’s something to think about.
Socrates lived with us across 8 homes until he was 18-21 years old. He died in August of 2019 after a few years of slow decline.
I’m confident that wherever he is, he’s found that patch of sun.
I guess he lives there now, and I miss him.
Amanda Crowell, PhD is a cognitive psychologist obsessed with how people make change. She is best known for translating cutting edge research into practical strategies that can be used right away.