It is way past my bedtime. I’ve thrown one window open and the fresh December air is washing out the stagnant remains of the day from my room. I can hear the rain outside. Its notes are super soothing. My eyelids are heavy with a welcoming exhaustion. I can barely type but much like the green tea leaf scented candle flickering by my bedside, I too have been burning with a three day long itch to pen something down.
Two days ago, a parcel arrived in the post. Inside it was a gift from my medschool sister- Rhi. She bought me a graduation present. This graduation present was related to a story I told her, well over a year ago when we were on elective together in Samoa. I have to admit, I don’t totally remember the exact details of the tale but it goes something like this. A friend of a friend got a chinese cat. You know the tacky, golden battery powered cats with the creased eyes and the single arm that oscillates. Myth or legend or whatever has it that a person writes a wish on a piece of paper, puts it under the chinese cat and then has to think about the wish all the time. The wish is supposed to come true. And for the friend of a friend, there was an elaborate story, laced with romance and theatricality and sure enough, her wish came true. Like I say, the details are patchy in my memory. Three such wishes exist. But the catch is this: you can’t buy yourself the chinese cat. Someone else has to buy it for you.
So on Tuesday morning, chance would have it that this was the last day of my first job as a doctor… in Psychiatry. On the cusp of what the doctors call ‘changeover’, the dreaded Wednesday that rolls round every few months, where we all rotate into new jobs, I receive an adorable, tacky, golden wish machine. My first feeling is pure delight. Fucking hell, Rhi. As if you remembered that anecdote from all that while back and ordered me such a thoughtful gift, you incredible human. The second thought was… what the hell do I shove under my new cat?
And it dawned upon me quite instantaneously that the cat might not be able to give me what I want because I don’t want much that I can’t get without the cat.
What do I want? I want to be happy. No, it’s genuinely that simple. I really want to be happy and do as much good as I can for other people. If I had a mission statement for my life it would be that. Any cat-wish will only bring me temporary happiness that fades with time. I mean, temporary happiness is great but what about the deeper thing? Fulfillment? Lack of fear? Living a life driven by love? Is it just me that feels like I’m on a constant search for something real to fill a void that can’t be filled by the love of another person, the fun of intoxication and nice things exchanged for little chunks of my bank balance?
The being happy part, I’ve had to accept, doesn’t come that naturally to me. I care about lots of stuff- mostly other people’s opinions. I also worry. When I was in primary school (one of many), I once told a teacher about how I always think of all the poor people in the world who don’t have as much as me and I worry about them. I was told by said teacher that I worry too much. Or care too much. I am also extremely self critical, but in ways that aren’t totally mentally healthy. So yes, being happy is somewhat of a challenge. And in order to face that challenge, I’ve set apart a small portion of my wage and am engaging in weekly sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy. Appealing to my analytical side, CBT has turned out, so far, to be scientific and effective. I have begun to understand how I have become the way that I have become. Accepted that it’s not really anyone’s fault. And I am in the process of learning how to, quite honestly, let go of some of that shit and become happy. I have words for everything, most of the time- but I don’t have words to tell you, reader, how badly I actually want this. It took me a very long time to realise that wanting to physically hurt yourself simply for being yourself is drastic and unhealthy. The moment it clicked was, for me, the moment I stopped feeling empty. CBT empowers me because I do not want to make my sadness clinical. I don’t want a diagnosis or an excuse. I just want to be happy and I wish to do whatever it takes to get me there. I would move mountains to feel good about myself and to like myself, hell, even to love myself. If I was flexible enough, I’d bend over backwards to feel confident in who I am.
Can I fit all that under the cat?