Life Lessons From a Cat #1000Speak

Yesterday was Sunday, yet Amazon’s delivery company was working overtime and a parcel arrived. It contained gifts from friends halfway round the world. I took the packages out and put them beside the others by our tree, and then I went back to working on a post I was writing for our 1000VoicesSpeak blog.

My husband brought a cup of tea, and I turned round to see this:

I posted the photo on my Facebook wall along with this comment: Running around feeling stressed about Christmas? STOP! Take lessons from our cat. All she needs to feel happy is the box a parcel just arrived in.

Even though Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, for many people it’s also one of the most stressful times of year. People stretch themselves beyond what they normally do, which is good – so long as it’s a stretch and not a push to breaking point.

We think we have to find the perfect presents, to cook the perfect meal, to be happy and caring and remember the people less fortunate than ourselves. We have to complete everything we’ve got hanging around – finish painting the living room, writing that novel, mending the fence – or creating the perfect blog post!

If we don’t catch an attack of finishitis (or should that be finishititis?) then someone else gives it to us – my daughters’ school breaks for the holidays tomorrow and one of them had a test today. The other has to hand in three essays tomorrow.

I used to try to make sure the house was spotless for Christmas Day, with all the washing and ironing done. (I think I learned this habit from my mum.) There have been Christmases that I spent all morning cooking while everyone else opened presents or watched a movie on TV. There have been Christmas Eves that I was up till past midnight wrapping presents.

Honestly, I look back now and wonder – why? If there’s dirty laundry in the basket on Christmas Day, so what? If we have enough for ourselves to eat instead of enough to eat till we feel sick and leftovers for a week, so what? If we buy each other gifts that we know each other wants (because we write a list) and there’s nothing expensive or fancy on it, so what?

It’s a cliché to say that what matters is enjoying our time together, spreading kindness, sharing love. It’s a cliché and yet it’s still true.

It’s also a cliché to say that when people are fleeing wars or living and dying on the streets, whether we have a red tablecloth or a purple one really doesn’t matter. And last year’s tree decorations will do just fine. (So will those from ten years ago.)

And yet, and yet… thinking about someone else’s misfortune won’t necessarily stop us wanting our lives to be better. It might even leave us feeling worse. Some of us on Christmas day will want everything to be perfect. So what? It doesn’t make us bad, it just makes us human.

So if you notice yourself feeling anxious because the turkey (or in our case the nut roast) isn’t ready and the guests have arrived – have compassion for yourself. If you notice your spouse, parent, daughter, son, sibling or friend feeling anxious because the turkey (or nut roast) isn’t ready and you are the guests who has arrived – as best you can, have compassion for them. If you notice them frowning instead of smiling as they open the gift you gave them, remember that they have a story running through their head and in that story Christmas should be perfect. The gift you gave them looks more expensive than the one they bought for you, or they got one already and are trying to pretend that they didn’t. Or maybe they are darned annoyed because they don’t like what you gave them. Whatever the reason for their frown, it’s nothing to do with you and everything to do with that story running through their mind.

My cat has no story about boxes not being expensive or pretty enough. She just likes sitting in them, so when one arrives, she hops in.

If you feel overwhelmed by the stories running through your mind about how the Holidays should go, give yourself a break and let go. I know of no better way to do this than with The Sedona Method, a simple welcoming and releasing process I have used for several years. If you’d like help to let go of fears and expectations about the Holidays, Hale Dwoskin of Sedona Training Associates has put together several audio tracks for anyone to listen to. You can access them here.

Disclaimer: along with the audio tracks the web page contains information about a retreat Hale is doing over New Year. I am not an affiliate, but having been on one, I do recommend his retreats.

Or you could just try sitting in a box.

cat in box

This post is for 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion’s December link-up, which this month focuses on simply on COMPASSION.  To read more posts, or to add your own, click on the blue button below.

cat sleeping1000 Voices Speak For Compassion is a blogging initiative started in response to violence and alienation in our world. If you would to be part of a movement for loving change, join our Facebook Group, like our Facebook Page, or look for our posts on Twitter with the hashtag #1000Speak.

Write a post about any aspect of compassion and add it to the link-up right here by clicking the blue button below.


  1. Interesting Yvonne, how concern about perfection at Christmas is a topic this month. I found myself almost being gripped by perfection as I started tweaking things only to have them unravel. Perfection doesn’t sit well in our crazy household of kids and dogs and come to think of it…me! Christmas seems to draw my attention to the imperfection in our world, which only blows out when I look further afield. On a personal note, I find it hard when my health has held me back from my career aspirations on so many fronts and feeling the need to explain what you’ve been doing for the last 12 months is also such a part of our culture. My blog is very important to me but generally not given much weight by my family and friends. Now that I’ve reached 30,000 views, that’s starting to change but my Dad hasn’t even read my blog. These are the sort of things we also need to be compassionate about. Trying to understand that he doesn’t love me any less. It’s just not something he really understands.
    Anyway, here in Australia we pretty much wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Of course, some are more Merry than others.
    Best wishes,

    1. Author

      Roweee, I guess the theme came up because so many people seem to feel stressed about Christmas. I’m working in a clothes shop over the festive season and some people came in on Christmas Eve with faces filled with panic. It’s sad the way we humans turn what are meant to be happy events into stressful ones.

      I’m not surprised that you find it hard that you health has held you back, and you do so very well given all that you go through. I hope you had a good Christmas.

  2. I think I need to find a comfy box.

    I really have had to just let go. By this month, I was so tired and feeling run down. It’s my birthday month, so it’s usually when I’m the most excited. I just like the idea of starting fresh, I guess. I suppose I have. I’m trying to do what I can and realize that I can just do the rest tomorrow. And if there’s something that never gets done, then so be it. As long as it’s not life-threatening, I’m not going to pursue perfection. I can’t. I hate falling short.

    1. Author

      Yeah, we could all take up sitting in boxes Tamara, and see what that does for us!
      And yes, we can only do what we can, and stressing over it won’t get more done.

      I hope you have (or had) a good birthday and Christmas.

  3. Love this post.
    My cat was sitting in a box my mom brought over earlier.
    He was so happy in there. I am on a hunt for peace and I know participating in 1000 Voices again this month, at this time of such high levels of expectation, that can only help.
    Merry Christmas to you. I hope to keep this compassion thing going in 2016 for us all, for all our sakes.

    1. Author

      Cats and boxes seem to go together, don’t they?
      I’m so glad you have enjoyed 1000 Voices and I have learned such a lot from you! Thank you for all you do.

  4. I will always remember Christmas when we had our first child. He was nine months and the paper fascinated him. Nothing else. Understanding simple pleasures takes an inate understanding which only unnurtured children possess. Perfection is indeed in the ability to glory in the simple. Happy Christams and a splendid new year Yvonne.

    1. Author

      Geoff, children are a bit like cats aren’t they, in what we can learn from them. I like what you say about perfection being the ability to glory in the simple.

      Incidentally our first child was also about 9 months at her first Christmas, but I can’t remember what (if anything) fascinated her about it!

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