Virtute shut his eyes to avoid thinking about it. After about an hour of anxiously scurrying around the house watching furniture get moved out, he could foresee that he was on the precipice of another life change. Virtute is not a fan of change – and frankly – I can relate to him. I also like familiarity, routine, schedules, and stability. Change is unsettling.
For a few weeks we’ve been talking about the fact that Virtute would be moving with Jenny to her new place on St.Clair Avenue and that he would have a lovely fireplace mantle to crawl on and a new set of stairs to perfect his 1-inch mylar crinkle ball chase sequences. But Virtute struggled to deal with this reality. He burst into my room and unloaded dozens of questions in rapid fire succession: “Where will my feeding bowl be located? What if the smell of the new place isn’t familiar? What if there are new noises that scare me? What will life be like without Gumption? Who will sing with me in the kitchen?” All very valid questions, but these were difficult for me to answer. Part of what makes change so unsettling is that you must surrender to it in some way. You need to be willing to pass through change with all the uncertainties, fears, and anxieties that it brings. That’s what makes change transformative.
Exhausted and weary, Virtute asked me for advice on dealing with change. I suggested that I am probably not the best person to provide advice about this topic, but given that his question came with such sincerity, I would do my best to respond. I told him that one of the techniques I’ve used to negotiate large changes in my life is to think back on other pivotal moments where change occurred. What was it like when my parents divorced? How did I negotiate moving to Toronto? What did it feel like to be radicalized in a political sense? And when did I realize that being radical didn’t mean being self-righteous? What does it feel like to fall in love? To leave home? To make home?
We talked for a few hours about these things, before Virtute sat up, stretching his paws upwards in a long, drawn-out way, and said, “Change is the part of the story that’s interesting to the reader but difficult for the main character.” I thought about this for a bit, I wasn’t sure if that was exactly correct – change can be such an exhilarating experience. It can be liberating, like the first time you see that collective organizing can produce victories or the initial moment when you are free to be who you are or who you wish to become. Change can be inspiring, like when you hear music you thought was impossible to create or read words that bring you to action. It can be purposeful, like when you begin to learn from past mistakes or develop a skill you thought you’d never have. But even if it can be positive – change is never easy – and so I’ve been comforting Virtute with things that are familiar – mylar balls, regular meal times, games on the cat condo, and taking time to write in the blog. After waking up from his nap and seeing that I was hard at work on this post he quipped, “I’m glad to be the main character in your story.”
It’s in moments like these that I fear I’ll miss him the most.