Cat Walks and Triangles
My son has always loved cats. When he was small we used to go on what we called cat walks. We’d pick a neighborhood in town to visit, walk around, and try to meet as many cats as we could. We also had a cat at home. Meggy came into our lives when my son was two-years old. My son’s father and I had split. He was making noises about getting back together. I wasn’t interested. In one of the most elegant twofers of my life I got my son the cat he wanted and sent a clear nonverbal message to my allergic-to-cats ex. Our cat walks were also always walk-and-talks. My son and I found it easy to talk together about anything, but those walk-and-talks added an extra icing of ease that traveling in your car with a child sometimes also provides. And we definitely saw cats. Lots of cats. We petted all the friendly ones and tried to coax out the shy ones.
We also went on walks with something particular in mind to find. We didn’t name these walks because the first one happened by accident. As we were on one of our walk-and-talks we spied a small piece of plastic that happened to be shaped like a triangle. We decided to start looking for triangles, not just for the ones that occurred in architecture or signage but those we could spot lying randomly on the ground. There were so many. It was as if we had put in an order for triangles before we started on our walk. We were amazed. Was this some kind of magic? Was it Triangle Day and no one had told us? Or, were the triangles always there? Did we see them because we were looking for them? Did we usually not notice them because we weren’t thinking about them?
I’m not big on the think-only-positive-thoughts philosophy though I do ascribe to not getting mired down by hamster-wheeling fear-based thoughts of what awful things may be waiting to spring into our lives. But those triangles reminded me that we do seem to notice what we are thinking about the most in a given moment. If you’ve ever hoped or worried that you were pregnant you probably saw pregnant women everywhere, almost as if central casting had put out a call. Purchasing a new car or considering buying a particular model also seems to make that type of car appear much more than usual. Or does it? Do we see what we expect to see? Studies show that we do, but this isn’t about that. This is about walking through life without paying attention.
We’ve been conditioned to be hyper-focused, to rush towards what’s next without noticing much on our way. If we wash the dishes or brush our teeth in a way that’s less about the task at hand and more about getting through it so we can leave for an enjoyable activity or to fulfill a responsibility, we may or may not be looking forward to, it’s likely that we won’t do a very good job. This makes sense because our focus is on the moment to come instead of on staying grounded in the one we are in. We waste a lot of time avoiding things. We worry about disappointing someone and having them think less of us. We dread being seen as not good enough. We put most of our thoughts and thus our actions into avoiding what we don’t want. What if we put all that energy into creating joy and harmony in the moment we currently inhabit? I bet we’d see a lot more triangles.