Yesterday, I wrote about Christmas 2019 and how it affected my mental health. In short, not “being present” made the holiday season fly-by, and I hoped that I’d be able to slow down and enjoy the Christmas trees on the eleventh night of Christmas before going to bed.

(Some friends said, in response to yesterday’s blog, “Why don’t you just leave your tree(s) up until you feel ready to take them down?” As I have this weird rule that Christmas trees don’t go up before Thanksgiving and must come down on or before the twelfth day of Christmas, I give in to my neurosis and follow that rule.)

White Christmas tree with warm white LED lights
Our white Christmas tree with warm white LED lights, 2019

We had our good friends who spent Christmas with us — a couple from out of town whom we met on a cruise way back in 2006, and their daughter and son-in-law, who live here in Christchurch — back over for dinner, and I cooked my famous deconstructed chicken rouladen. As I was super-anxious about cooking, I have to admit I had a few drinks to unwind before our friends came over, and as I had not had much to eat all day, it went right to my head. Not good.

This wasn’t panic-inducing anxiety. I’ve cooked this dish a million times before, these were good friends who love me unconditionally, and the point of the night was to have a good time and share a meal before our friends from out of town started their journey back home.

The anxiety did, however, keep me out of “being present” on and off throughout the night. It’s something I am working on controlling better.

Our cat Sissy is an amazing little girl. She’s 16 years old now, and she has always been a caring, cuddly cat. Last night, she shared her cuddles around among our friends, and I think she also knew I was anxious at times because she’d come to me, sit on my lap, and cuddle into me. She loves us, and our friends, immensely. (Our neighbor’s cat Jack? She’s not too sure on that one.)

After our friends left for the evening, Noel and I sat up and watched some YouTube to unwind. He kinda kept reminding me to “be present”, but, for me, it’s not like turning a light switch on and off. It can, at times, be difficult and exhausting, especially after being anxious for a period of time beforehand.

“Being present” wasn’t really working. I think, as I had had a few wines by then, my relaxed state, combined with my exhausted mental state, was kinda like “meh”.

A little more time passed, and it was time to go to bed, so we put Sissy in her area of the house (she has a bed she likes to sleep in). Noel said good-night to her and closed the doors, and I gave Sissy cuddles and kisses like I normally do before I go to bed.

The white Christmas tree was in the front living room, which is the area where Sissy sleeps, has her toys, and so on. She was on her scratching post in the garage (in the same area), happy as could be, so I snuck into the front living room and sat down near the Christmas tree.

I stared at the tree, and I tried. I tried really hard to “be present”.

I looked at the lights. I looked at the way they illuminated the needles, and how areas without light appeared dark, almost black. I looked at the contrast. I looked at the pattern the lights cast on the ceiling, a snowflake made of slim beams of light, radiating from the top tip of the Christmas tree.

Nothing. I didn’t feel much of anything, to be honest. Maybe a little disappointed, but that was it.

Suddenly, Sissy appeared on my lap. She came up, settled on my chest, and cuddled her head deep under my chin and against my neck and upper chest. I put my arms around her, and she kept rubbing up against me, pushing herself deeper into my embrace, and purred quite strongly.

My hands stroked her fur. I could feel her small spine bones under her skin — since she’s been growing older, this has become more pronounced — and the soft fur and pointy whiskers around her mouth. Her body was slightly more rigid, less agile than it used to be, and I took this all in while holding her.

But still, she cuddled hard against me, and something in me melted.

I felt this strong sense of closeness, a love given and a love returned, and a desire (from both of us) to return to a state of better health. A bond of kinship of sorts — me her human parent, she my fur child — flowed between us. And I held her and petted her and hoped this would help, at least a little, to take her aches and pains away, as she relaxed and snuggled deeper against me as if to say: “I’m here. I’ll make you better. I love you.”

I realized then, I was “being present”.

Christmases can come, and Christmases can go, but this moment with her? It was in the here and now. It could be a moment we would never have again. It was only minutes long but was full of love.

I was thankful for that moment. It wasn’t what I was trying to achieve, but I was thankful for “being present” with one of the people — in this case, a fur child — I love. I felt a little more whole than usual.

And I wouldn’t’ve traded it for the world.

Writer, blogger, actor, reader, singer, liberal, German, American, Kiwi, gay, Caucasian, educational administrator.

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