I can’t imagine my life without her and I don’t want to but as she sleeps in my bed as I write this, the tears inevitably fall because soon I know I will have to reconcile this idea – that she won’t be by my side forever. Of course I knew this and am no stranger to grief having lost my father at the ripe age of fifteen to lung cancer, yet somehow I always imagined her invincible or some form of celestial magic. Harmony is magic and celestial because she is a guardian angel sent to save me from myself.
When I first moved to a new city for the first time (the summer going into Grade 7) I did not adjust or adapt like most kids. I completely shut down but I was always too proud and empathetic to ever let this show in public and even most cases even in front of my family. Looking back, that year was the first indication of my struggle with mental illness. I would come home from school having been bullied most the day and came home to my sanctuary – my room – the one place I could safely explode into fits of what seemed like never ending tears. I would literally draw all the blinds so it would be as dark as possible, crawl into bed, and emotionally decompress, holding the one thing, the only thing that kept me holding on while my world felt like it was coming apart.
That thing was and has been for seventeen years my companion, my baby, my light, and sometimes the only reason I would push on days I felt suicidal – not ever wanting to leave her behind without my affection. My cat Harmony is a piece of magic sent to me who saved my life. She gave me a reason to go on, her presence something to look forward to after a long day of putting on a front and battling the demons in my head that I was and will never be good enough.
Harmony sat with me and kept me company the long manic nights studying til 4 am in high school. She would occasionally sit on my textbook reminding me she was there. She was present when I was manic, but also when I was depressed and extremely low. She would crawl under my arms arranging herself as my teddy bear for the sixteen hour stints I would stay in bed, immobilized by my troubled and racing mind.
She was a constant source of comfort in a world where I felt very alone and misunderstood. She understood that some days I wanted to play, we would chase each other play fighting cause FYI my baby is sassy like me. But she seemed to really understand the days when I needed to rest from the demons in my mind, letting me cry into her fur, dampening it with my tears. She’s always there, never far behind, always by my side. I mean literally the poor girl has some attachment issues, and never leaves my radius unless forced to by my temporary absence from home.
I like to say she’s “needy” when she gets on my nerves smothering me with kisses and head butts in moments where I’m irritable and want to be left alone. As I just finished writing that previous sentence, I felt a pang of shame that I ever had resented certain moments of her affection I’m realizing now – are and were fleeting. I thought I had learned that lesson harshly at a young age and would never forget it, “life is fleeting.”
I think I got comfortable and took for granted her life span because she’s always been so vivacious, spunky and “full of life” (for lack of a better term). She has an infectious energy that most people, even those who hate cats, notice and comment on. I can’t count the amount of times someone has met Harmony and exclaimed “She’s not like most cats! She’s so affectionate and chill.” She has a lot of love to give and has primarily given it to me for that I am so thankful. She chose me, literally. I love recounting this story but I did not technically choose Harmony. She chose me. She instinctively knew I needed her and would be able to provide what I was missing – unconditional love.
I went to the Humane Society to pick a kitten to adopt after begging and emotionally manipulating my mother into the idea. I wanted a pet of my own and felt I deserved, no needed, a companion. I approached the cage with the only three kittens available in the centre and exclaimed, “I want the grey stripped one!” I always preferred that colour of coat on cats. I was immediately deflated when the lady showing the kittens said, “sorry, that one was just adopted! I haven’t even had time to put the “adopted” tag up yet. I’m so sorry but the other two are available.”
She nudged me towards the cage and I looked forlornly at what I deemed “the rejects” in my young mind and cursed my constant bad luck for not getting there sooner. As I looked from the calico to the tan-and-white kitten, and back again, I grew slightly frustrated wondering whether I should wait until more kittens came in or “settle.” I was pondering these thoughts when the calico pushed her face against the cage aggressively and pushed her paw at me as if she was trying to reach and grab me. She meowed this aggressive, high-pitched, almost desperate meow that my heart just stopped and responded to. I smiled and said, “can I see that one?”
The lady brought her to the back room for me to meet and play with for a bit. I did not know it then but I was meeting for the first time, the other part of my soul. Harmony would carry me through my darkest days and remind me why it’s important to open your heart. And every time I gave too much of it away and was let down, she sat with me and soothed my bruised ego. She passed days, sometimes months, and occasionally years, keeping me company until I felt healed and was ready to try again.
Things you need in life rarely come in the packages you expect. Harmony is the light, the light that reminded me I do not need to stay in the darkness.