The wis­dom of cats

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS -

I’m a jour­nal keeper. Well, that’s a fancy word for what I do. Let’s say I’m a keeper of note­books. A scrib­bler.

I don’t bother with dates or any kind of lin­ear form. I don’t even have just one book. I have note­books, plu­ral, scat­tered around. On the cof­fee ta­ble, in that pile of mag­a­zines be­side the fish tank. This stuff is pri­vate, but (un­til my daugh­ter be­came a reader) I could leave it around be­cause my part­ner would only read it if forced to at gun point. Maybe not even then.

But you, if you’ve played a role in my life, you’re down in ink. Pos­si­bly un­der a name that suits you bet­ter than the one your mother chose.

I know this is kind of teenage – and I have had this habit since even be­fore that. As a kid I kept lists of the boys in my class that I liked (in ranked or­der) and of the girls that I classed as friends (again, ranked). I once wrote a dra­matic pas­sage about how I hated my­self and later found my brother had found my hid­den book and added “so do I”.

It was prob­a­bly about then that I got para­noid about my note­books. I never know whether to keep them. Mainly, I chuck them but there was one bunch that dated from a spe­cific pe­riod that I kept in a small flax kete (I know, so spir­i­tual) and carted around for years. They dated from a time of mis­ad­ven­tures and, as the scrib­bles would im­ply, feel­ing sorry for my­self. I come across as an id­iot, in­ca­pable of learn­ing. Al­though the books co­in­cide with the most promis­ing stage of my ca­reer to date, you wouldn’t glean from them that I even had a job. It’s not re­ally men­tioned.

That lit­tle bas­ket of his­tory be­came a thing for me. An al­ba­tross. If I got on a plane, I’d worry about it crash­ing and peo­ple read­ing my note­books (OK, so I’m a tad self in­volved). I wanted to throw them out but it seemed like a be­trayal of that 20-some­thing girl – and maybe they’d amuse me when I was drib­bling into my cup of tea in a rest home? The last time we moved house, I stared at the bas­ket and won­dered if now was the time to let go. I packed it any­way.

But some­times when you move house, your pets feel in­se­cure and con­fused. Hence, dur­ing the un­pack­ing, my cat walked over to the kete that was ly­ing on the floor and pissed on it. The smell of the books was now as dis­turb­ing as the con­tent. The cat had made the call.

These days my note­books are lighter on rev­e­la­tions and big­ger on lists. I make prom­ises to my­self (drink more wa­ter, go for runs, read bet­ter books). I even men­tion work some­times. Is this a fe­male thing? I feel like it is. I’ve never seen a guy with a Kikki K notebook be­ing all: “I’m just mak­ing sense of my feel­ings, try­ing to be the best me I can be…”

This week Eleanor Black’s col­umn is about striv­ing and, man or woman, I sus­pect you can re­late. Not just to the need to tick off achieve­ments but to the sense of fail­ure when even the sim­plest self-prom­ise just can’t be met. Be­cause that’s what hap­pens all the time to plans and goals. If you doubt me, start keep­ing a notebook.

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