Travis coined the term “ANGSTICIPATION” last week. It’s a good new word. I put it on my cork board. And I’ve been thinking about how often it’s an apt description of my state of mind.
He was talking about the atmosphere surrounding the cats’ dinnertime. Our nightly feeding rituals have become more and more fraught, as they have become more elaborate. I can’t tell if it’s because we’re complicating things in our desperate scramble to please them, or if they’re complicating things because they are cats who almost by definition never can be satisfied. I suspect that both are contributing factors.
The cats always have dry kibble available in multiple locations on both floors, and plenty of fresh water, so nobody ever goes a second without sustenance. They also manipulate me frequently into giving them special treats throughout the day. But still, dinnertime, which happens just before we all go to bed, is a very, very big deal. You’d think they were starving.
Kitty Flo starts amping everyone up about an hour before — yowling as she circles the house, her tail waving like a distress flag as she runs from room to room. We try to reassure her, “Yes, sweetheart, we know, you’re right, it’s almost time…” But the acknowledgement and our promises only make her more agitated. Eventually, her escalating urgency riles up the other two. Val and Danny, who heretofore have been drowsing contentedly on my lap, awaken and suddenly remember all their grievances, hissing and taking mean swipes at each other. A catfight around my legs and feet makes relaxing on the couch less enjoyable for everyone, so Flo’s mission has been accomplished. We all join her in the kitchen. The three take their places — Val and Flo on the stairs, Danny on the floor by the sink — and begin a nonstop wailing chorus.
Travis gets right to work. (Our customary division of cat care is that I handle the litter boxes, and he manages feeding. Even though litter boxes are disgusting, I think I got the better job.) He divides their different wet foods into three dishes, careful to apportion equally. Then he squeezes some pureed treat on top, usually commenting on the preparation, like a tableside chef — “Ooh la la, I think this salmon lickable will be a delectable accompaniment to the liver paté!” The cats continue to howl — maybe with excitement about the delight to come, but it sure sounds more like plain annoyance that it’s all taking so freakin’ long. Travis crumbles a pet-formulated CBD nugget on top, like sprinkles on an animal mush sundae, and at last, it’s ready to serve!
Service is a dance that requires impeccable timing. If any one of them gets a bowl too soon before the others, then they become obsessed with each others’ meals and can’t concentrate on their own. This has been especially challenging to manage since Travis broke his leg because he can’t run fast enough from one side of the room to the other. Of course I help, but my presence sometimes confuses things and upsets the whole process. Val and Flo need to eat on the stairs, as far from Danny as possible. But which stairs are the right stairs is a fresh mystery every night. Generally, the crucial factor is for them to be close enough to see that each has gotten her fair share, but not so close that they are tempted to try to steal from each other. If, at any point, we get any of this wrong, they might abandon the meal entirely. The threat of a starvation strike looms nightly.
The girls often leave halfway through, heading upstairs. They aren’t done eating, mind you; they just want to relocate. So I grab their revolting leftovers before Danny can come steal it (he’s always lurking nearby), and take the bowls up to bed. Usually, they will finish most of it while I top off the kibble and refresh the water. Again, though, timing is key. Because already they’ve got their minds on the after-dinner treats to come. After we’ve brushed our teeth and finally settled in bed, Travis finally will dole out the “Temptations,” a couple nuggets at a time, to each cat in turn. If they start thinking too much about dessert, too soon, they might get excited and skip dinner. If the angsticipation becomes too great, they will not only refuse what’s left in the bowls but also throw up what they’ve already eaten. At any point, it could all have been for naught.
This is our life.
Like I said, it’s not just the cats — it’s my own mentality. (In fact, I’m willing to concede that much of the motivation I ascribe to the cats might actually be a projection of my own consciousness.)
MY anticipation of everything to come. MY angst about everything undone, everything to cross of the list before I can declare the day complete and hopefully sleep through the night. MY angsticipation about whether there’s enough, whether things are fair, whether I’m enough, if I’ve got what it takes. And for me, like the cats, so much of this seems to be about timing — order and orderliness, first things first, what’s next and what’s next and what’s next. I’ve learned that the only way I ever let myself really relax is if it’s a scheduled task on my to-do list — item 17: unwind for 20 minutes. It’s relentless, and it doesn’t have to be this way.
I’ve got a birthday coming up, so I’m feeling especially weird around time. The tormenting idea that there’s never enough of it.
We tend to experience time as a passing thing, transitory — from this, to this, to this. Caught up in time, we can feel temporary, too. Running out, a limited resource, getting depleted. But I don’t think that’s the way we’ve got to see it. Because I don’t think it’s the way it truly is.
The thing is: our being, who we are, stretches across time. We’re not bound in time or fixed in time. Already, obviously, who we are spans our own lifetimes and includes our whole lifetimes. And we might consider an even greater span, an infinite one, from the beginning until forever. Who we are transcends time. And whether we perceive it as a linear thing, or a circle or spiral, or imagine it as everything-everywhere-all-at-once, still we could consider Time to be something moving through US rather than us through IT.
As far as existence is concerned, it’s always now and always forever.
And maybe that can help ease some of the angsticipation. Because whenever it is, it’s now. Whenever we are, it’s now. And NOW — being all that it is, all that can be — has to be enough. It only seems lacking and I only feel lacking when I forget, and start comparing this moment like it’s something separate and different from what has been and will be or might be.
We’re always just in time.
I mean that in the sense of perfect timing — we’re just in time for this, right now. And also in the sense that our experience of time is just an experience, not the whole truth. It may feel like passage, but that’s just/only in time — our being is so much more.
I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, April 30, 10:00am at Maple Street Dance Space. (And also forever and always, because our divine appointment is just in time.) XO, Drew
©2023 Drew Groves