My Pet Peeves

Here are pictures of me sharing the story of my pet "Peeves" in the Storytelling Class in Changsha, China recently:

We all have those things that even in the midst of stress and disarray, they energize us and give us renewed strength and purpose. These are our passions.
— Adam Braun

Stress. It's a part of every human life. We are masters at it taking our concerns in daily life and making them the focus in our minds, perpetually rerunning lost causes and failed efforts and forever replaying future problems we cannot solve today. I compare this to my pet "Peeves," the little cat I once had as a pet. Peeves was a total failure as a hunter. But Peeves never gave up, always eager to stalk birds, or chase rats, but never once, to my knowledge, with any success in a catch.

Once I watched Peeves eyeing a group of birds who were happily enjoying the grass in my backyard. Peeves engaged the hunt, slow stepping with cat-like stealth, moving her body with silent grace, threading her way ever so slightly toward the goal. I watched with my own intense curiosity as she moved ever closer, gradually, incrementally, over a long period of intense focus, each step inching toward her goal. Finally, the moment arrived when the Peeves brain decided to jump, leaping in a perfect arc across the sky, cat claws extended, angled toward the winged ones with sharpened intent. All the birds escaped with ease, avoiding the timeless dance of predator and prey, flying away before her descent had any chance of success. Peeves landed on the grass, paws empty, another failed attempt at what every cat should easily do. We humans so often personalize failure, making it into a recipe for misery and using our worry to keep us up at night. What did Peeves do after another failed attempt at the catch? She rolled on her back in the sun, delighting in the cool grass against her fur, fully enjoying the moment as if all was just as it should be.

I was happy with her and felt the sudden ease that comes from living in the moment. There is more to life than the goal achieved, more than the desire fulfilled, more than the skill perfected. Something magical happens when we let go the urge to fulfill a promise or complete a task, when we abandon ourselves to the immediate and find ourselves living in the world just as it is.  My pet Peeves taught me about desire and expectation, about how to live in a world that does not comply with our wishes, about how to respond to disappointment and the inevitable let down that comes to anyone who has hunted for something more in life.

I have told that story many times and there is a learning in every telling, a renewal in each revisit, an awakening in each rewind. Our stories turn our lives over, working the ground for another crop, and churning the soil to receive new seed. Such stories, repeated and perfected, become the picture within the picture, the screen that shows both a single instance and our whole lives. We fall into our little lives so easily without noticing we live our whole lives in the moment. I want the cat-like grace to leap again no matter what has gone before. I want the pure desire that never falters even in the face of repeated failure. My pet Peeves may have passed long ago, but she lives in my heart, in this magical moment.

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Photos, Prose and Recital © Nick LeForce
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