Meet Oliver. He’s the newest addition to our family. When we made the decision to invite a kitten into our lives, we knew that he would bring change, companionship, and love. He has brought all of these things and so much more. Often, we don’t think about our animal friends as supports to our social wellness. Or even as a pathway to growth, change, and mindfulness. Yet, he is all these things. Through my experience with Oliver over the last few weeks, I have come to realize that I underestimated the impact he has and will have on my life.
There are the changes in routine. It takes me longer to get ready in the morning. Food for Oliver and, of course, play. He gets underfoot, weaving between my ankles, seeking attention. If it doesn’t come in the way he wants, he discovers ways to occupy himself, tearing around the house, attacking inanimate objects (curtains, pillows, furniture), and biting anything he can get his mouth around. Then he comes back, his big blue eyes looking at me with a silent plea for a playmate. Sometimes I give in. Then I look at the clock and it prods me back to my other tasks. This can go on—for a while.
This dynamic helps me to be aware that I have lived with an imbalance between work and play. Whether I am actually doing work or set myself to tasks that look a lot like work, there isn’t much space in between when I focus on play. Play for the sake of pure pleasure without any goal or particular purpose. I catch myself thinking at times that I should be doing something else. Oliver’s persistent nudges—a paw tapping my leg, the vibration of his purring, or scratching on something he shouldn’t—brings me back to the present. I focus on how good it feels just to be in his presence. The impossibly soft feel of his fur. And share in his excitement to discover another new object in his environment.
Through his perspective, I’ve discovered a new definition of mindfulness in my life. I have a furry catalyst to remind me when I’m not present, and an important reason to slow down and enjoy the moment. Just because it feels good.