Odd thoughts on cause, effect, free will, life... and cats!

Sorry... a bit of a long one...

I often like to sit quietly and muse about my life (as many do, perhaps, when they're not constantly distracted by TV, music, social media, etc!)  I've always been like it, to be honest - but perhaps with a different slant on it since my diagnosis.  I often wonder how my life might have been changed by an earlier diagnosis.  Would I have gotten more support, which would have given me a better and more confident start?  Would I then have made different decisions?  Would I have taken advantage of more opportunities as they arose, instead of - as I've so often done - turning them down in favour of remaining in my comfort zone?  It's all speculation and fancy, really - whether you're ND or NT.  The past is the past.  I once drafted a short novel in which a man, after his death, was given the opportunity in an after-existence to see - much as the ghosts of Past, Present and Future showed Scrooge - what would have happened had he made different decisions at crucial stages in his life.  Would he have still ended up dying when he did?  Would he have led a more fulfilling life?  Would he have died earlier?  It's a subject that continually fascinates me.  Clearly, such speculation can often lead to regrets.  The What if? niggles.  But the past isn't a variable.  It's a constant.  It's the past, and although it can be reinterpreted, it cannot be changed. 

Having said that, the past is what has informed the present: made us the people we are and delivered us to the place we're in.  The Buddhist view on 'cause and effect' has always interested me.  The problem I have with it, if I understand it properly (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that it seems to imply a predetermined destiny, whereas I've always been more inclined to the idea of free will and chance.  An uncle of mine always used to say to me "If you're meant to have these things, you will."  By which he usually meant money, fame, success, material wealth, and so forth.  I disagree.  I think that if you want something enough, you order your life in such a way as to maximise your opportunities of attaining that goal.  And if that doesn't work, then you seek consolation, or a relative level of life-acceptance, in whatever way you can.  You're not pre-destined to be denied your objects of desire.  You're simply not able, for any number of reasons, to attain them.

But having said that... there is a part of me that still sees patterns, and perhaps the notions of some kind of a 'plan', in things that have happened to me throughout life.  I don't mean a Divine plan.  I'm an avowed humanist.  But I can't deny that some things have happened to me at crucial times in my life... and usually just when I needed them to happen.  Occurrences that I might normally have dismissed as coincidences have somehow directed me, or otherwise reassured me.  Just as I've been under the threat of homelessness, for instance... the right place has appeared, at the right price, in the right environment.  I've been in situations, too, in which I could - rather, should - have died or been killed.  But I've survived them.  And this has often led me to think - counter-intuitively, maybe - that I've been spared for a reason.

This has all led me today - just lying in bed first thing, looking at Daisy (my cat) sitting on the duvet looking at me as if to remind me that she wanted her breakfast - to think about the series of events that led to her being here with me.  And the real, fundamental significance of her presence in my life - and, of course, of mine in hers - at this particular point in time.

Seven years ago, I was in a pretty desperate state.  I'd just come through a suicidal breakdown and was still in therapy.  Things were a bit touch and go.  I took a short holiday, touring around Suffolk and Norfolk, and when I returned I suddenly began - after a long period of blockage - to write again.  It was as if the change of environment and the relaxation had opened something up in my head, and allowed the free flow of creative ideas again.  I joined an online writers' forum and posted some pieces, and got some positive and encouraging feedback.  I continued with this for a while.  But then I grew tired, and decided to take a rest from it, and just write for myself.  Then, one day, I wrote a short fictional piece about a man with a mental health problem, and decided on a whim to post it on the site.  That very same day, a young Frenchwoman joined the site because she wanted to improve her English through reading English writers.  Mine was the first piece she read - and it bowled her over!  The mental health problem I was describing was one that she herself suffered from.  As soon as she read it, she said in her comment, she knew it was written by a kindred spirit.

Long story short, we struck up a correspondence which, after 3 months, led to her coming over to England for a holiday and to meet me.  Within another month, she'd given up her job in France and moved over here to live with me in my small rented flat.  She'd had a cat whilst she was in France, which she'd given to her parents to look after because I'd told her that, being in rented accommodation, I couldn't have pets.  That had always been my understanding, anyway, and I'd never had cause to question it with any of my landlords over the years.  It wasn't long, though, before she was missing the cat - so I told her I'd check with my landlord to see what he said.  To my surprise, he said "Do what you like, mate.  It's your home."  So, we made a trip to France and got her cat.  And a little later, we got another one to keep it company when we were out during the day.

Another long story short - it was a stormy relationship, and it fell apart after 18 months, when she moved out, taking the cats with her.  It may sound mean... but I found that I missed the cats more than I missed her!  I'd gotten used to having pets around again, after many years of none.  And I'd always been very fond of cats, too.  So, a month after she'd left, I was checking out the website of a local cat rescue centre... and suddenly I got up this photo of a forlorn-looking young tabby called Daisy, cowering in the back of a tiny pet carrier.  I rang up straight away, and the next day I went over to see her.  I was told she'd had a very rough life and had been treated badly at the hands of humans, so she might be very wary of me.  She was being kept in a large cage in the fosterer's garden, and was asleep on a high shelf when I got there.  As soon as the cage door was opened, though, she jumped down and came over to me, rubbing around my legs and purring loudly.  I picked her up and gave her a kiss, and she purred even more.  It was love at first sight!  The following week, after all her checks were done, she came into my life.  Which is where she remains, and always will - until that time comes for one of us to take our leave. Or maybe both of us.  I sometimes think that my own remaining days on earth are very much bound together with hers.  That's not a morbid thought, by the way.  If she lives a full life, as I hope she will, she'll take me well into my 70s.  Long enough, I think.  Long enough.

She hadn't been with me many months before mum became ill - which was at the point that I moved in with her to nurse her through her final months.  Daisy came with me, of course, and she gave mum a huge amount of joy.  She'd always loved cats, too, and it was so special for her to have a cat around again in these last days of her life.

In the aftermath of mum's death - the death of the closest person in my life - so many things could have happened to me.  Sometimes, I honestly think that without Daisy to be responsible for, I'd have gone under.  There were times when I seriously thought that life had nothing more to offer me, and that I might as well end it.  And, on past experience, I genuinely think that if it hadn't been for Daisy, I would have ended it.  Her presence has carried me through.  And she keeps me going.  She's now the centre of my life.

So... effect back to cause.  If I hadn't written and posted that piece that day, and if that Frenchwoman hadn't visited the site on the very same day, I might never have had Daisy.  And nor would mum.

And I might not even be alive now to write this.

But who really knows?

PS Since I've had Daisy, the one thing I've discovered that she most definitely doesn't like is being picked up!  Far from eliciting purrs, it usually leads to howls of distress... and sometimes scratches.  Now... if she'd behaved that way on the day I first met her...

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