I love a cat I do not know. Our shared context: the parking lot where she lives, circling the apartment building where my son lives some of the time with his father, and where I twice-daily leave and then collect my car in the complicated dance of co-parenting, school transport and work commute.
I barely registered her as I raced from car to bus and back again until the day I saw a small tail flicking out of the dumpster. When I understood, suddenly, this cat was no one’s cat, she came into focus. I filled a giant tupperware full of dry cat food and packed it in my car with a small plastic bowl. The next morning, my small ritual of feeding began. Within a few days, the cat I do not know was running to our agreed-upon spot when she heard the sound of my car. She’d cower in the recess of a bush and wait until I had moved a safe distance away before eating.
I named the cat I do now know Sadie. Her tattered ears and sky-yellow eyes say that beneath the surface of her distrust, she could be convinced. When I wrote it down, I saw that Sadie’s name was nearly my name. Both of us orbiting the periphery of a home where we do not belong.
A month or so into our ritual, I realized that watching Sadie eat was the absolute happiest moment of my day. A few days later, she was not there to greet me. Nor was she there the day after. Her food was untouched and bloated with rain. On that second day of no-Sadie, I cried all the way home. Sadie who I couldn’t protect or save. The next morning, she met me at our appointed time to eat her breakfast.
My happiness and grief about Sadie got my attention. I was awakened to what I have always known about myself but rarely take time to acknowledge: my greatest heart-openings and heart-aches are directly tied to the welfare of animals—specifically cats and dogs. I had to admit that my soul has a calling I have not yet lived into with a force that matches my desire. I steeped in this knowing for a few weeks, asking myself how my no-margin life could accommodate more service to animals beyond the four who live in my home and the one I feed in a parking lot.
As I steeped, I was invited to an event hosted by a colleague at an animal charity for whom I’ve done some writing. Then out of the blue, the woman I adore who serves rice and beans at my favorite food cart mentioned that her mother founded my very favorite animal sanctuary—one I’ve fantasized about moving to many times throughout my life. When I realized that I have a connection at a local animal shelter, ad campaigns I could write for them started flashing through my dreams. It was clear that just giving my attention to this abiding passion of mine was surfacing friends and colleagues and possibilities. But even more importantly, I noticed that my willingness to give the ache that Sadie signified my full attention was bringing me a layer deeper into the truth of who I am, to the core strength of my soul.
Who or what is your Sadie? Is there a small tail flicking in some unobserved corner of your life? Is your soul sending you messages you’ve been too busy or stubborn to receive? What could happen if you gave those untrusting eyes of your soul’s deep desire your full attention, maybe a bit of food, and then followed with interest where it led you?