In his book, Turning Pro, Mr. Steven Pressfield (The War of Art, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Do The Work) shares a story from his younger years about this particular cat that used to stare him down when he had his dinner at this rundown rental he used to live in.
Almost every night, as he sat by the cinderblock steps out back, this red-headed cat would come out from his side of the woods where he lived and just sit and stare at Steve, as if to give the vital message of how pathetic his life had become. At this point in his hero’s journey, Steve had come to terms with his hiding and avoiding his true calling: writing books. He knew he was making up excuses and BS ones at that. He’s been a trucker, an apple picker, a taxi driver among many other odd jobs, divorced, and was basically watching his life swirl slowly down the great metaphorical drain one miserable year at a time.
Redhead (let’s name him that for now) he recalls, would not even take the dinner scraps that he would toss out across the distance to him. “He was nobody’s pet.” and made sure he knew it. In this staring contest, Steve continues, they both who was boss. Both knew who was in control of their lives and who was not. Both knew who had the upper hand.
Redhead sat there there, staring, daring SP to do it already.
Redhead was Steve’s life metaphor. He says,
“I miss that cat. I missed him nights he didn’t show up. I miss him now.”
So, as I was making the kids’ third (and 458th) chicken/bacon sandwich for the school lunches, after frying four eggs – two sunny side, the usual for Joshim and two scrambled, Oona’s special request; as I just finished wiping down the breakfast table and by chance, glanced out the sliding glass door of my kitchen, as I looked across the crab grass and weeds growing in our backyard, I had the sweetest sight of my morning : a shock of bright red-orange against deep, dark green.
Redhead. My Redhead was right there. This time he was facing away, back towards me, and immediately I knew it was him.
And this time with a message for me: “I’m here. And I’m watching you.”
As I opened the sliding door as gently and quietly as I could, he turned his big, round head and faced me and just as he did with Steve, stared at me for a full minute unmoving as if in a dare:
I knew. At that very moment, with Steve’s words and all of the 94 chapters of the book, MY book, Turning Pro still ringing in my ears, I knew.
My own life metaphor was staring me in the face.
Like Steve, and I imagine like you, we’ve all had my very own version of “slow-swirl”. Thanfully mine hasn’t been Steve’s version of miserable. Though you know what I mean when I say there’s that empty, hollow feeling, almost like a hole in your heart from all the hiding and feeling self-doubt and shame. There were years of not singing a single song, all because I was…what? Afraid of trying again. I felt and allowed the fear to take over. I’ve had my own share of making excuses. And now…
My Redhead. He’s watching me.
Of course I took a photo:
And I didn’t wait another minute and shared it with Steve. Yes, we’re definitely on first-name basis now.