We cling to things that make us feel good. Like, if you love cats (and why are you reading this if you don't?), sometimes you'll see a cat minding its business, sitting in a too-small box, and it fills you with this intense urge to hug it. Cats almost uniformly hate being hugged, and this makes hugging them all the more enticing as they stupidly try to push you away with their ineffectual little fur-tube legs. Hug all you want; you will never be able to hold their cat essence within you. Everything is like that. Satisfaction and joy and everything are by nature temporary, and we know this, but we try to lock that shit down anyway.
I know a bit about locking things down because I got married three years ago. I know even more about the transient nature of contentment because I got divorced two years ago. I was one of the first of my friends to get married, and now I'm one of the last remaining women I know from the group who are unmarried and childless.
It's remarkable how fast it happens. Like a disease, really. You think you know someone, you think you can rely on people to be the versions of themselves you create in your head when you are all 25, and then someone shows up with a fucking diamond on their finger and the whole neighborhood starts changing. I guess I thought that by being the first to take that particular plunge, I was somehow protecting myself from the horrifying progression of life that everyone confronts at some point, except Julianne Moore who is either 30 or 60 or an alien.
On the day we married, my ex and I had no way of knowing that the seeds of resentment and doubt we were planting would grow into a jungle of dysfunction, despite our valiant efforts, in a matter of months after the wedding. We had no way to see that the very reason we were marrying — a search for perfection, for outer success and inner peace all wrapped up in a very expensive Palm Springs ceremony — would be the thing to undo us. We loved each other, and we thought we were doing the right thing. Instead, we failed at the very first benchmark of adulthood, just as everyone around us was succeeding heartily.
By the time the divorce papers were signed, my last single bridesmaid was engaged and the other three were married with kids on the way. That year, the holidays had taken a toll, and being the fiery free spirit with a new much-younger boyfriend amid a sea of nesting couples now felt pathetic and empty. I started going out a lot and drinking more, smoking more weed than I ever had. I went to a karaoke bar alone and handed the DJ $20, saying, "I'm going through something," as if that were a hilarious bit people do, not just nauseatingly sad and narcissistic (in any case, $20 is definitely not enough dough to accompany such a vague announcement).
Around that time, my new relationship with the guy who was eight years my junior, once so refreshing and liberating, was moving toward its inevitable end, and I was clinging to it with an inappropriate fervor that made me feel creepier and older than ever. What scared me the most was that for the very first time in my life, doing stand-up didn't feel like the refuge I was accustomed to. I was having trouble making light of my pain, or making light of anything at all. I needed something — anything — to distract myself from my shitty self-image.
Volunteering at the cat shelter near my home seemed like a very low-stakes way to keep busy, and I love cats and am good at dealing with them (except when I make them hug me). Besides, my cats make me happy, so I figured more cats could help take the edge off my mood.