Words to Love: Cultivate Cat-like Patience
Back in September of last year, I introduced you to the newest member of our family: Longshanks (Room for One More). As with all new members, we’ve been getting to know him over the last few months. He’s an odd little one; correction, he’s an odd BIG one. Longshanks’ long shanks are indeed long, as is his frame, which as he grows, makes for a BIG cat.
Compared to our other cats, each of whom have their own quirks, Longshanks has the strangest habits. He loves chips. And bread. And milk. And anything else he can beg from you at the table.
He loves cuddles. He loves to stretch out full length on the ground and let you massage his belly with your feet.
But one thing he loves the most is hunting. Longshanks is a champion hunter. Since he’s come to live with us, he’s caught moles, lizards, salamanders, chipmunks, and even toads. Now with the warmer weather sweeping in and the daylight hours lengthening, Shanks is catching, on average, a mole a day. We thoroughly encourage this as moles have been the bane of our garden for years. He’s sending a message loud and clear to the mole clans of Cottontown that our property is not the place to settle.
I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a cat mole before? It’s quite the education. I was afforded such an opportunity recently, and it’s stuck with me ever since.
Ordinarily, I do my writing in the living room, seated at a full length window that overlooks the undulating hill down to the pond at the bottom of our property. Right beneath the window, there is a bed of flowers- lamb’s ear, daffodils, purple salvias, and even a lone crocus that volunteered itself.
One day while writing, I looked out the window to find Longshanks seated in the midst of the spreading lambs ear and salvias. I’m talking idyllic cat pose. There he sat, perfectly still, starring at the lambs ear. Even when Purrseus walked by, Longshanks didn’t move a muscle.
His stillness captivated me. I figured he was mole-ing, but I had never witnessed his process up so close and personal.
For nearly an hour, he just sat there, starring at the lambs ear. Then he moved, nosed a furry leaf, shifted his position to sit slightly to the right. Then it was back to the starring again. This went on for three hours. During intermittent rain showers. And a short-lived thunderstorm. You see, when a cat moles, it’s a lesson in patience.
Longshanks’ goal was the mole, and he sat there for three hours, waiting and listening and ready for when the opportunity to pounce would appear. He could hear it burrowing beneath the soil close to the surface, but he knew that he could not pounce too early. Like all other cats, Longshanks has a keen sense of hearing. The longer he moles, the more attune his hearing becomes to the progress a mole is making beneath the surface. So, while he can hear the mole, and know it’s there, almost in his grasp, he also can know that if he claws the dirt too soon, the mole will not only be out of reach, but will hear him and burrow deeper into the dirt and be lost to him. That is why Longshanks sat there. Quietly. Patiently. With intense focus.
After watching Longshanks over the course of those three hours, I had an epiphany.
We’ve heard the proverbial saying Let patience have its perfect work. In fact, we’re so familiar with it that I’m sure we sort of tune it out. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.
But, really. Let’s take it apart. The process of patience is a discipline, and like with all disciplines, you have to work at it, exercise it, so that it will grow. Patience requires stretching.
We don’t like patience. Just like most people don’t like stretching. But any athlete will tell you that if you want the results, you need to stretch before you start. Stretching ensures success. And when it comes to achieving your goal, you want success.
Sitting in the rain. The chilly April wind ruffling his fur. A clap of thunder or two to frighten his little cat-self. None of the discomfort dissuaded Shanks from his goal. He maintained his fearless stance in patience. He would have his mole.
I’m happy to say- as both an amateur gardener and a cat-mama- that Longshanks got his mole. For all that waiting, when the time came, the results were quick. With bullet-like swiftness, Shanks shot his paw into the ground and VIOLA, he had the mole en claw.
Shanks exercised patience on every level. He had the physical endurance to sit there, still and quiet, though the elements buffeted him. He had the character to suffer calmly. He didn’t fret that it was taking him so long to get the mole. For me, I lost interest quickly and went back to writing, only giving him the occasional glance now and then. But, he didn’t re-direct his focus. He kept it intent and honed. And he had the habit of mind to be content in the waiting. For such a little guy, watching him was a massively humbling experience. And it made seeing his success all the more satisfying.
So, the epiphany is: When you’ve set your goal, cultivate cat-like (or should I say, Longshanks -like) patience while you work steadily toward it. Working toward a goal is a time of waiting. But, as I said in Why We Need to Suffer, greatness comes at a cost. Any goal you set is an intention toward greatness. So, if p then q, to have a goal means a commitment to suffer for a time. And that time of suffering is where patience has its perfect work. You will stretch, you will endure, you will grow. You will need all of those qualities once you’ve achieved your goal.
Because once you’ve achieved a goal, you will set another one- a loftier, higher one which will require stretching and endurance and growth all over again. That’s why Shanks sleeps so hard after moling all day; he has to be rested so that he has the energy and determination and fortitude to do it again tomorrow.
Living life means constantly growing, and to grow consistently means you have to be willing to let yourself be stretched. What goal are your patiently stretching toward in your life? Please, share it in the comments below and be encourages that the stretching is part of patience’s perfect work. Just like Shanks, you will have your goal (or mole- whichever way you prefer it).