We all have negative beliefs and attitudes about various (types of) people, things, places and ideas. I’m going to share with you the story of how one of mine changed and how I’ve grown to love it.
It has to do with a black cat.
What happens when you think of black cats? In my culture and upbringing, I was taught that it is BAD Luck if one crosses your path. The rational, logical part of me knows that it is silly to believe it, but whenever a black cat crossed in front of me, a little voice said, “Oh-Oh”.
As luck would have it, a close friend of mine was going out-of-town for a few weeks and realized that she needed someone to cat sit for her. Since only the day before, “Kitty” had jumped up and sat in my lap, I figured it would be okay – so I volunteered. And you guessed it, she’s a black cat.
As much as I love animals, I had notions about what it meant to take on the role of cat owner, what it would require, what a cat would be like (claw and bite when angry, hiss if miffed, moody, etc…), how it would impact my life and then this opportunity presented itself.
My friend brought her over the evening before she left for her trip and in the course of 5.5 minutes she found spots for food and water dishes, litter-box, petted her about 6 times and left. And on her way out, she asked me if I speak cat-talk. Excuse me?
During the course of our first week together, she followed me around and kept an eye on me. I’m guessing it was her way of knowing that I wasn’t a threat, that I’d feed her, protect and care for her.
We learned to live together and respect each other’s needs and routines. We figured out when we each like to eat, sleep, exercise, groom and play. I was learning a lot – I knew cats meow and purr but had no idea that they chirrup and chat. This was learning to listen in a very different way – a different dialect entirely.
In the meantime, something began to happen. I was noticing that this black cat was no longer black – she had bits of grey fur where her age was starting to show and, in some light, her fur looked like very dark brown. She was no longer a black cat, she was Kitty.
In no time at all, I found myself starting to look out for her, call to her when I arrived home, look forward to seeing her, anticipate feeling her step onto my leg in the middle of the night, and jump onto my lap. And uh-huh, I was doing the cat-talk thing.
I’d fallen for this black cat with my whole heart.
With time, respect and patience, Kitty and I learned to trust each other and communicate using our different languages. My negative beliefs about black cats went POOF! So much so that when my friend got back and heard how well things had gone, she generously suggested that we co-parent Kitty! I humbly and excitedly agreed and am now fully engaged in my new role. All those notions about cats, black cats and owning cats have changed. And it took my experience with one gentle, sweet-natured being to change my attitude.
All of us have negative beliefs lurking somewhere – could be about black cats, or about authority figures, or about people who are homeless – and the step to connect can change our beliefs, offer us new roles and transform us. In my experience, our lives become richer for each one of the times we step outside our comfort zone, “outside the box” so to speak, and challenge our beliefs. And who doesn’t want to enrich their lives? Not me.