My pre-pandemic everyday life was a mosaic of endless lists meant to optimize my every single day; chaos that led to order, punctuated with passionate scratching out of things, highlighting and rewriting. My plans used to change dynamically despite being surprisingly simple, but show me one person who has never written ‘GET SOME REST’ in their calendar, only to reschedule it several times.
Now, however, the times of forced working from home and sensible self-isolation have come, bringing with them an array of mundane activities, shamelessly elbowing their way into my calendar’s free spaces. New trends have also taken shape. In my case, they were introduced by my somewhat distant and independent – but at heart, always hoping for a piece of colourful ribbon or yarn – cat named Fern (also lovingly referred to as Fernie, Fernybob or the Feline Monster).
Just like any sensible cat, Fern is unfazed by the human presence, which she uses exclusively for restocking and recreational purposes. As long as the bowl refills itself with her favourite wet cat food and the supply of crunchy snacks flows freely, the Feline Monster is happy to make some concessions and sit on the human lap from time to time, purring and demanding attention.
Obviously, the new reality means a new routine. Fern’s morning hunts for invisible demons make my getting out of bed two hours before dawn far from impossible. In the morning, I am peaceful. In the morning, I am healthy. I drink a glass of warm water, meditate, sometimes I might even do a Sun Salutation or two. My new self-care routine inspired Fern to introduce some changes in her daily life, too. Just ahead of my official wake-up time, she purrs for a minute before leaping up onto the windowsill, awaiting her personal human Uber to transport her to the kitchen and give her some overdue affection while I’m at it.
To the cat, the seconds before seeing the first portion of food meet her bowl are among the happiest moments of the unfurling new day. As soon as breakfast hits the dish, it is consumed loudly until I leave the kitchen. As I start working, Fern watches me from her observatory, located on top of the large sofa pillows. 15 minutes pass, and when the time is up, she announces it with a loud, insolent MEOW, which sometimes sounds not unlike the croaking voice of an old fairy-tale witch. This noise informs me that Fern is ready to receive the second course of her breakfast – but she simply cannot eat it without me keeping her company. I have no other choice but to get up and pad to the kitchen. I stop in the doorway for just one moment, but it does not go unnoticed by Fern, who watches me with glaring impatience.
Here we are again, in the kitchen. While I anxiously glance at TimeCamp, checking how much time I’ve lost so far, Fern lifts her little head and turns to me to emit another, even more croaky-sounding MEOW. The message is loud and clear: no petting means no eating. A few bites later, she goes back to the living room, granting me another 15 minutes of peace.
How cute, some of you might think, while the majority of the readers will say: The lady’s gone bonkers, keeping her cat company every time it wants to eat. But let me tell you this: I wanted out of this deal, but the Feline Monster had other ideas. After several minutes of desperate wailing in the background of my very important Microsoft Teams video conference, I finally realized I am not the one who makes the rules around here. And who am I to dismiss Fern’s self-care routine?
P.S. If this text made you wonder what could possibly link the pandemic with the well-known obsession of felines with taking over the world, don’t worry, it’s a perfectly normal reaction. It’s fine to seek momentary respite in the warm embrace of absurdity – administered in moderation, of course.
Translated from the Polish by Aga Zano
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