I'm just a cat, and if you're like most humans you probably figure that members of your family with four legs and hair covering most of their bodies, maybe with the exception of that one cousin you saw with his shirt off a couple of summers ago, have no clue about what's going on with you let alone down the street or the other side of town where, if we've been there, was no doubt in the middle of the night and we were scared, running, howling or meowing and hungry and just wanted to get back home. Chances are we didn't notice if people were "sheltering" or if they were in their backyards playing Twister, breathing on each other, taking ibuprofen and drinking. And I'll bet you wouldn't believe that we know something bad is affecting people all over the world right now.
But if you're a smart, perceptive human, you might realize that furry creatures who love you and who you love--your Calico, your Collie, or your Clydesdale--we know what's up, at least with you. We (I'm speaking for all of us, and I'm sure there are certain cats and dogs and horses who are pretty dense, just like a few people you might know!)...I'm getting sidetracked there...we can tell how you are feeling, we can tell from tones of voice if a human is having a good day or is stressed, confident or scared, happy or angry, and some of us who hang out with you humans a lot of the time (that may be around the clock these days!) listen to the same radio and T.V. programs, get to know voices and personalities.
So let me bring this home: Lloyd has his routine, at least most days, in spite of dealing with a malignant tumor and the ups and downs and worries that come with it. He gets up pretty early, does his sit-ups and yoga stretches while he has a spinach omelette cooking. He says "Hi" to Alexa, asks her the question of the day, then listens to NPR and the BBC.
While he's having his breakfast he checks out his emails and usually reads a dental journal or a book on his Kindle. And before all of that, he washes and dries my bowl, puts a scoop of my food in there (otherwise I will usually beg him for some of his eggs!), gives me some pets and talks to me. From there every day is different, but up until a couple of weeks ago, he would take an UBER to Gold's Gym, work on a couple of body parts, then walk home, or head out on his e-bike, and he'd be telling me about where he was going to go and how many miles he was going to try to ride.
All of that changed the past few weeks. The reports on NPR, and that we've watched on TV news, the posts he reads on Facebook, that he looks at on Google news on his phone in the middle of the night is (this cat's opinion) really upsetting. He hasn't been able to sleep much at all at night. He fusses and gets up and moves around, and I can't help but feel his anxiety. Then he sleeps two or three times during the day. He's tired and touchy a lot of the time. I have to be careful not to jump up on counters (which he usually lets me do!), sniff whatever he is making for dinner, or run back and forth from the kitchen to his bedroom just to work off steam.
Something really frightened me a couple of weeks ago. A friend who has been there for him for two years now giving Lloyd rides to medical appointments, helping with shopping, really supporting him, sent a text telling him he's on his own now. A text! Didn't call, didn't talk about why or offer comfort. With all of the losses he has endured, the surgery, radiation, chemo, having to give up his practice, all of the physical and emotional hardships, this was the first time I've seen him cry and look really scared. He hardly got out of bed for three days. I batted my favorite fuzzy ball into his bathroom and dragged this really fun feathery toy to play up on to the bed and he didn't even notice.
If you are an "animal person" you know that cats and dogs and horses and fish and rabbits and every other living thing live to be loved, and to love back. And that to have that kind of bond with another being takes trust, a gentle touch, patience, and some softness of heart.
People who are angry, who have no patience, whose hearts are cold...we can tell in an instant. In this crisis that is affecting every single person in every region of the Earth, I am hearing on the news every day that there is a lot of anger. People in power are blaming other people and other countries. People are blaming people in power. People are lying and yelling and for weeks now it has felt like humankind is in a tailspin. Not just because of disease and death. Because of anger, hostility and unwillingness to work together for the common good. Lloyd hasn't been Lloyd. He kind of shrank up and I have been worried that he, well, that he gave up. I've been really worried.
A couple of days ago things started to change. He went out on a really strong walk, up over Skyline into the Del Monte forest, in the late afternoon and early evening, when there were huge billowy cumulus over Monterey Bay.
Later on, Lloyd read a story to me about a local high school that is making face shields and respirators for local hospitals. And another about Mr. Dyson, who made the amazing little vacuum Lloyd loves. He and his factory have set about designing and making respirators in England.
On NPR yesterday morning, we listened to another story about companies here in our country switching gears from making what they've always made to making respirators, face masks and other equipment, and another about a University that has developed a technique to sterilize N-95 masks in just a few hours so they can be re-used, over and over.
And so many people in his life...people from his church, friends, men in his Breakthrough organization, so many former patients, have contacted him to ask what they can do to help him. Julie Walton, who spent ten days with us completely organizing our house and helping throw away or donate or sell a million things (she is a professional home organizer) has sent supportive text messages every day and told him over and over how important he is to so many people, how his strength and positive energy inspire others.
Friends and former patients have shopped at Costco and Safeway. Mary, who leads his cancer support group shopped at Trader Joe's. His mentor and friend Al in Breakthrough took care of his dry cleaning ("I won't need that for a while!" Lloyd kept saying when he was hanging it up). Tony and Pat (Tony led a band Lloyd played in for 25 years) brought some home-made soup over last night. And today, his friend Jinny sent photographs she took on a hike up Mount Toro this morning, with commanding views and beautiful lupine in bloom--things Lloyd so deeply loves and that give him strength.
This afternoon he got out his old Bundy flute and practice book. He kept shifting his flute from one bookshelf to another for the past few years. Julie made sure the flute and practice book were right where he would see them and sure enough, he spent two hours practicing this afternoon! Yeah, I hung out for a while but had to take a nap down the hall...seems like his energy is coming back but I have a way to go.
What I am purring about at this very moment is that Lloyd has come out of his fear and realized that there is goodness and beauty and hope and resilience...and most important love...all around him, and that is quietly, but with increasing volume, being heard all around the world.
So my concise contemplation about this crisis? From where I'm sitting, it doesn't have to be a crisis. It's a mess right now for sure. Lots of really good people are devoting their lives and risking their health to give medical care to millions of people around the world. And they deserve to have accurate information and equipment to protect themselves and their patients.
If you humans use all of that intelligence you have, learn from past epidemics what succeeded and what failed, learn from the current epidemic what is working and what is not, you will pull out of this tailspin. If you support one another, listen to experts and to ideas young people are offering, act responsibly, thoughtfully and with ingenuity--decisively, and above all with positive, loving intent--there will be no crisis.
Every single person can do something positive, like people in Lloyd's life are. Offer to go to the store for someone who is elderly or has a medical condition affecting their immune system. Call your mom. Send an email to your best friend on the other side of the country or in another part of the state or down the street, but who you can't physically be with. Share photographs of this beautiful planet with people who cannot go outside. Look into helping local causes that benefit the homeless, or that help feed those who cannot drive or go out. Be careful, all day, every day, for your own wellness.
Realize that you can have hope. Act not with anger or fear. Act with love, with gentleness. And the worry, lost sleep, the yelling and finger pointing, all will be forgotten.
For now, I'm looking forward to some dinner and a nice long night's rest.
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