This week has led me to think a lot about my rapes and I’m choosing to focus on one of the blessings that derived from that trauma; my best friend, George. 10 years ago, a friend called me saying “Hey Ali, would you like a kitten? This may sound crazy, but I found a kitten on a dirt road outside of Lubbock and God told me that I needed to bring him to you.” I still don’t know if she just knew I’m a sucker for kittens or if there was truth in that statement but I am very grateful that I agreed. At the time, I was living by myself, recovering from a recent rape, physically, mentally and spiritually sick, misdiagnosed, and overall in a dark place. Suddenly, here was a tiny kitten, whose eyes were still opening, in my care. I named him George after my Grandfather. He is curious, smart, maybe too brave for his own good, and loyal. George gave me responsibility and was a being for me to love and care for when I struggled to love myself. The vet estimated he was born the week of my birthday. We have lived in 3 cities in Texas, Washington DC, Bakersfield, and now Berkeley together.
He has been by my side as I’ve recovered from 8 surgeries and procedures, 2 comas, the isolated reality of chronic illness, and countless seizures. In fact, this feral cat earns his keep by sensing my seizures by letting me know when one is coming and that I need to take my meds. George is sickly like his Momma so we take our prednisone and adhere to our costly diets together. He keeps me company when I am mostly home bound and entertains us by being very talkative, playing fetch and chasing his tail. I love this dang cat who I am not sure realizes that he is a cat.
What I appreciate about George is that his feral nature is still quite apparent and I have numerous scars to prove it. Many wouldn’t put up with his biting tantrums, but to me, the love and loyalty to he gives make them worthwhile. We are all imperfect and can act out when we are overwhelmed; animals are no exception. You could say that I was just as feral and explosive when George and I came into each other’s lives and I embarked on my healing; yet he loved me and didn’t run away. George knows what is acceptable and what isn’t and seems to have comprehended that we have to enact boundaries and expectations for toxic behavior. When he struggles with that and the feral takes over? Well, that is when we have learned it is most productive to fully envelope him in love and security to enable him to remember his place and worth in our family. Jason and I have gotten quite good at stopping George’s feral moments from escalating too far and preventing him from causing damage by literally enveloping him with our arms or a blanket. If that doesn’t work, we pick him up by the scruff of his neck and remove him from the room and he returns when he is calm. It is quite a comical scene but also a continuous lesson for how to love ourselves and others. We are to love each other through the feral and raw moments but consistently strive for being better through patience and devotion. Since we started the response of enveloping him, I’ve noticed George responds even more so to me in the same way when I am broken; right by my side, loving me regardless, and even nudging me when I need to get back up. I have learned just as much about God’s grace and love from this dang cat as I have from my years working in the church; it is unconditional, unwavering, and redemptive.
I like to think George was God’s way of creeping into my life to teach me how to love myself and others again when my anger, illness, and traumas prevented me from desiring a relationship with God. George was a light that kept me going until I was eventually able to cultivate my own light again and was ready to become reacquainted with and then fully submit to devoting my life to following Jesus. I joke with Jason that he is my best human friend and soul mate, but George is my bestest friend and has seniority. Keep your hearts and minds open for the animals that come across your paths, friends. I think they often have greater purpose than we give them credit for. I’m very grateful for this dang cat.