Let hope keep you joyful, in trouble stand firm, persist in prayer.... Rom 12:12

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I am sure there are folks who think I am crazy to have so many animals. Sometimes I do too. But most of the time I feel sorry for those folks who don't live with other species. Right now, for instance, I am sitting on my bed writing, with four cats in various stages of alertness around me, and two dogs definitely asleep on the floor next to me. It's difficult to maintain an attitude of anxiety in the face of so much contentment!

I have struggled with a bad streak of melancholy all my life. I take an antidepressant, which helps a lot, but there are still days when I feel bleak. On those days I am excruciatingly aware of all my faults and weaknesses, and prone to whacking myself over the head with all my failures, like some caricature of a penitent monastic from the middle ages. The benefit of being in my late forties, I suppose, is that I usually recognize that I am in the midst of an attack of melancholy and try to ignore and resist the temptation to metaphorically beat myself to a bloody pulp.

My furry brothers and sisters are an enormous help at this point. How can I possibly consider myself a sorry excuse for a human being when there is a lovely fluffy creature staring at me with huge green eyes and purring up a storm, obviously enjoying the scritching of the ears and the massaging of the spine? And would the world really be a better place without me when a fuzzy black dog seems to like nothing better than to follow me all over the house, and even all around the room, day after day? At least I am good for something!

The best treatment for emotional distress, actually, is llama therapy. I don't avail myself of it nearly often enough, especially considering that I have 5 of our "silent brothers" who live in my barn and are always welcoming towards me. One look deep into those old soul eyes tends to bring me back to myself. I can't explain it, but somehow being in their presence always centers me. They just simply are, and I can't help learning from them to just be. When I sit with them, they tell me to get back to the basics of life - breathing, eating, appreciating the feel of sunshine on my back and the comfort of knowing my companions are nearby.

I think our society has gotten too far away from the natural world, so far we've convinced ourselves we are not a part of the natural world unless we want to be. Children no longer know that vegetables grow in dirt. Grown-ups cannot recognize that there are some forces - wind and waves, for instance - that are beyond our control. We forget ourselves, literally, when we think human beings are something more than animals.

I believe it is when we embrace our creature-li-ness that we are most truly ourselves. When we can take the time to appreciate a good meal, a cosy patch of sunshine, and the comfort of knowing our companions are nearby, we are less prone to beat ourselves all to pieces with all our faults and weaknesses, all the regrets of things done and left undone. Mind you, I'm most definitely not saying that the cure for depression is just to keep pets, for depression is a real illness that requires treatment in whatever way works for each person - medical, psychological, spiritual, etc. But for me, part of my treatment has and probably will always be seeking solace in the kindness of my friends from other species. Six cats, four dogs, five llamas, and a goat, along with my husband and children, all keep me grounded in a reality that goes deeper than my melancholy can damage, and for that I am immensely grateful.

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