The first true commitment I made as a grown-up was to adopt my cat.
I know, I know. But for many years, I’d considered “commitment” close to a prison sentence. I watched how my mother went to the same therapist for over 30 years (and didn’t appear to get any better), and I figured therapy was a life-time commitment. I watched how she and my father remained in a marriage that had eroded from the inside (if there was ever much to hold it besides momentum), and I considered marriage a commitment to lethargy and despair.
My own youthful relationships had been bright fire-work explosions, replete with the optical afterimage of what was when that was not true any longer. They were short-lived, intense, and unstable.
And so, when it came time to move across the cavernous, yawning bay from SF to Oakland for graduate school, my amour of the time suggested I, like he, adopt a cat. I’d considered owning a cat for a long time, but my considerations had always been followed by this disturbing thought: But then I’m going to have to watch it die.
I’m going to get attached, then I’m going to have to part. This is life, this is death, this is inevitable. Why would I ever intentionally knock over a domino that would lead me toward suffering?
Why would I make a commitment, a 15- or 20-year commitment, to love and care for and cherish and laugh with and snuggle with and bat away from my water glass, if I’m only going to have to bring a now-underweight being to the vet and tell them, “Take her”?
So, yes, it was phenomenal, miraculous growth for me when I adopted my cat (Stella Meowenstein — “So she knows she’s Jewish,” my then-bf would laughingly suggest. Though, I think she looks like a shiksa). Stella was here in my studio apartment with me as I began grad school and slowed the number of times I could reasonably cross the bridge back into SF (where my real friends were). She was here when my car got stolen and it was even less reasonable to cross back in. Stella was here as I healed from my break-up from that boyfriend and tearfully read, It’s Called a Break-up Cuz it’s Broken on the Kindle he’d given me for Chanukah.
My cat has been with me for 8 years, and I will have to say goodbye to her. I will one day have to help her to exit the world, and I will weep precipitously.
But my commitment to her has also meant oodles of love that I have received and given. My commitment to her has meant that I have consistency, permanence (for its time), and companionship. In short, my commitment to her has been a highlight of my life (and I hope of hers).
Clearly, my relationship with a domestic short-hair has altered my ideas of commitment as a prison sentence. And yet, on occasion, the lines still feel blurred.