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Saturday, January 12, 2013

How Do People In Your Life Express Themselves?

I’m reading a nonfiction book called Homer’s Odyssey. It’s about a woman named Gwen Cooper who adopted an eyeless stray cat nobody else wanted. It’s a beautiful love story.

When Cooper adopted Homer, she was single, living with a friend, working at a nonprofit, never had more than fifty dollars in the bank at the end of the month – and she had two other cats. She had a lot of perfectly good reasons to pass on Homer. And she almost did. Before meeting him for the first time, she makes this observation:

“I should note that, prior to this, I had never taken an I’ll meet him and we’ll see attitude when it came to pet adoption. It never occurred to me to meet the pet in question first, to see if he was ‘special’ or whether there was some sort of unique bond between us. My philosophy when it came to pets was much like that of having children: You got what you got, and you loved them unconditionally regardless of whatever their personalities or flaws turned out to be.”

As a result, she says she felt dishonest driving to the vet’s office that day. But she couldn’t help but wonder how a cat without any eyes could convey expression. Homer answered that question for her.

As she interacted with him, he responded to her voice and cuddled against her shoulder. Then she realized something. “It isn’t the eyes that tell you how someone is feeling or what they’re thinking. It’s the muscles around the eyes, which pull the corners up or push them down, crinkle them at the edges to convey amusement or narrow them into slits indicating anger ... And I could tell, from the shape the muscles were taking, that if he’d had eyelids they would have been half closed in an expression ... of utter contentment.”

Homer found a home that day.

A few years ago, I adopted a cat named Latte. She can be wild as all get out sometimes and I wondered early on if I made a mistake in choosing her. Reading between the lines, the woman at the shelter told me Latte had already been returned once and I got the feeling that she was close to becoming unadoptable, which meant certain death. Maybe that’s what made her so adoptable in my eyes. Well, that, and the snow job she put on the day we met. She was the picture of tranquility.

I only learned about her wild side after we got home. But she has a loving side as well. Right away, she developed a habit of curling up in my lap while I’m watching TV at night. She rubs her head against my cheek as we drift off to sleep. She begs for attention whenever I get home. And she loves to be around people so much that she prefers not to eat unless someone is in the room with her. That means her food and water bowls are next to my recliner in the living room.

Cooper’s philosophy about pets, and children, rings true to me. You got what you got, and you love them unconditionally.

In fact, I think her philosophy applies to all personal relationships.

No doubt, that’s easier said than done. But maybe our relationships would be a little stronger if we took the time to find each other’s way of expressing ourselves and then met each other there. Some speak with their eyes (or eye muscles). Some speak through their passion for music, art or literature. And others speak by the choices they make.

How do people in your life express themselves?


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