How a Cat Named Larry Transformed My Perspective on Meaning, Purpose & Gratitude
by Sean Paul Mahoney
*Dan's Note: What a strange and wonderful world social media is—that we can connect with another person miles and miles distant from us, a person with whom we'd normally never contact . . . only to find resonance on account of a cat that person finds dear. As a fellow in long-term recovery, I cherish the bond with others who seem to have been given the same brain I own. Impulsively, I suggested to Sean after I saw the photo (and the story connected with it), that he take a stab at writing something a bit longer. And here we have it! Thanks, Sean! - Daniel D. Maurer
"What's the point?"
I feel like that's something I ask myself a lot lately.
Things seem shitty.
Politics are shitty.
A lot of people are shitty. So what is the actual point?
When I was drinking and using for the better part of twenty years, slipping into hopelessness and negativity was just second nature. Not only did everything seem terrible but a lot of things were legitimately terrible.
My dreams of writing were put on permanent hold. (Editor's note: permanent until now, and of course the various other great projects Sean's written for.)
My relationships were a disaster to say the least, and everything else from finances to my physical health simmered in a whirlpool of drama and uncertainty.
This state of *blah* was so uncomfortable for so long that it actually became comfortable.
Normal. Whatever that is.
When I got sober in 2009, my thinking had to change. I couldn’t settle for misery any longer, no matter how familiar it felt. Gratitude on a daily basis became instrumental to reprogram my mind—a mind that innately enjoyed wallowing in its own sorrow.
Everyday, I tried to find something to be grateful for, regardless of how small I might perceive it.
Maybe I was thankful for a delicious burrito I just gobbled down. Or maybe I was thankful that I ran into another sober person at the exact moment I was struggling. Or maybe I was just thankful that a truly terrible day . . . was finally over.
The challenge was to find something—anything—that made me remember everything was okay.
That I was going to be okay.
Seven years later, this practice is still a part of my life and my recovery. But this isn’t to say I don’t occasionally slip into hopelessness. Just because I’m in recovery, it doesn’t mean the world stopped being complicated and life ceased being intense. In fact, the more time I have sober, the harder it is to remember to stop and appreciate the beauty around me.
Given the state of the world, it’s still incredibly easy for me to slip back into hopelessly wondering: What’s the point?
Last year, a friend from work texted me a picture of a tiny, fuzzy black kitten with a quick accompanying caption: "Hey! Do you guys want a kitten?"
I texted my husband Michael immediately and said, "So whaddya think?"
We decided we'd take a look at the little guy, but made no promises about keeping him. I mean, we had an older cat already and we're busy (fabulously so)—did we even have time for kitten?
We'd cautiously look him over.
You know. As a favor.
Suffice to say, we spent all of three minutes with the little guy and we were totally in love. The story goes, this little feline friend (or as we know him now—Larry), was found here in a Denver suburb by my coworkers cat, only to find out later he was part of a litter that was dumped in an alley.
I suppose we did the noble or right thing by bringing him into our home. The surprise for us became the hours of love and hilarity Larry has provided. He proved he was the one who really did the heavy lifting.
At the end of 2015, the husband & I jointly agreed that Larry was one of the best things to happen to us last year.
So what is the point?
As far as I can tell, the point is love.
If that gift of love comes in the form of fuzzy kitten wandering a suburban street, or a smile from a person at the grocery store, or a much-needed hug, I'm grateful for all of it.
And I'm grateful for Larry.
(Like cat stories? Especially ones that change you? Check this one out.)
About the Author
Sean Paul Mahoney is a playwright, humorist, blogger and podcaster. He lives and writes in Denver with his husband Michael and two hilarious cats. Sean can be heard weekly on the Since Right Now Network's Sloshed Cinema, a weekly show about movies and sobriety. New writing about recovery and pop culture can be found at the seanologues.com.
Sloshed Cinema: https://soundcloud.com/sloshed-cinema-pod