How relationships happen

I’ve tried finding jobs on LinkedIn and relationships through apps. I’ve looked for housing on Craigslist and roommates on websites. I’ve made long detailed lists of the features that I want in a job, a roommate, a partner, a home. Then I’ve researched and hunted and prayed for those things.

But this never works. This is never how it happens.

I end up in basements and spare rooms because somebody hears that I’m about to be homeless. I get work because a friend of my parents hears that I’m moving, I run into an editor at an offsite event, or there’s a guy that I meet on a plane in Nebraska and three years later he has a lead on a job. Four out of five times that I’ve fallen in love, it was with men I would never have swiped right on an app.

And so it was with this new piece of my life. The universe knew I that my heart had space and that this beautiful creature needed someone to care.

Talitha

September 7th was not a great morning. I woke up at 3:30 am jet-lagged and confused. Three weeks prior, I’d dumped my heart out to someone who wasn’t ready to receive it, then I hauled it to Europe for a two-week work trip. This is not the first time this has happened, and really, I should have known better.

Later that day, I got an email from a co-worker who had been sending me cat profiles since March. She kept insisting that my life would improve with a pet, but I always had a long list of solid counter-arguments.

Something about this situation was different, though. Maybe my heart was raw, or the lack of sleep was affecting my ability to rationalize, but when I read the story of an animal who’d been traumatized, abandoned, and nearly put down because “no one would want her in that condition,” I started to cry. Instantly. Unstoppably. From places in myself that I can’t always access.

This is how I knew I was making the right choice, even though I also knew I didn’t have time. I replied to the email and said yes, I was interested.

There were still plenty of reasons to forego owning a pet. Even more, in fact, than I was aware of. But my heart said yes, and I every once in a while I let my heart drive.

The following afternoon it drove down to South San Jose, where I was “meeting” my potential feline, as if there was really any chance that I’d  go back to Oakland with an empty car. Her foster-mom was warm, friendly, and completely reassuring, but my future roommate spent most of my visit curled up in a box, with zero interest in attaching to someone new.

I get that. Really, I do.

So we packed up her litter box and blanket, put her in a crate in the passenger seat, and back to Oakland we went.

Later that afternoon, I told my co-worker what had happened and she sent me a text of sheer excitement: “Yeeee! Are you happy? Do you love her?”

Truth be told, I was not happy. I was running late for a dinner date, covered in cat hair, and hauling a large loaded litter box down two flights of steep narrow steps. I also did not love this cat. I did not even know this cat. But I wanted to.

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For the first few days, Talitha spent most of her time in a corner under my bed. I got down on my hands and knees, put my face to the floor and tried talking her out. I assured her that she was safe. She had a new home. It wasn’t very big, but she was welcomed to be in it. She wouldn’t be hurt. She would be taken care of. Eventually, everything would be ok.

Sometimes love happens at first sight. Sometimes you walk into a home, a job, a hug, a human, and you know—you just know—that this is it.

That has rarely been my experience. More often for me love is a lot of work. It’s negotiation and trust, familiarity, fondness, and affection that slowly, over time, turn into something stable and soft, with just enough give that you don’t feel trapped. And then one morning you wake up and realize that you’d fight with your life to keep this connection that happened when you weren’t paying attention. It’s work and it’s wonder both at the same time. That is how relationships happen.

The next week I joined the Mewglers (Google’s organized group of cat people). Mostly I was looking for recommendations on litter boxes and scratching posts. What I got was a wave of welcome from cat people being, well, cat people.

“She will be very happy to have a home,” wrote one. “Most adult cats end up euthanized.  So you really gave someone a chance.”

It’s what I ask for myself most days of most weeks. It’s what most of us ask for when we find ourselves wanting. Would somebody, please, just give me a chance?

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So that’s what we’ve been doing for the past two months, which have included four baths, three litter boxes, two flea treatments, one vet visit, an outbreak of mites, countless sleepless nights, several break outs, and a few precious hours of laying on the floor and purring together.

Talitha did not pick me, and I did not really pick her. We found each other wandering around in the world, and so far we’ve decided that it’s better this way. That’s just how it happens. That’s how it works.

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