For the Love of One Fur Ball

When my daughter was four years old, she asked for her first pet. Instead of coming to us, her parents, she went to her nursery teacher and told her she wanted a baby rabbit.

Mama rabbit, the class mascot, was a breeding machine. Every school term, she had a litter of five or six kittens. Twenty children put their names on the list and endured weeks of patience for their long-awaited bunny.

We could have said no to our child, but we were inexperienced parents. We did not want to feel emotional guilt when those pleading eyes burned a hole right through our soul. So, we agreed. Our family was about to get bigger, but little did we know what havoc the new arrival would wreak.

We spent a lot of time pouring over catalogues; strolled through numerous pet shops to get the best bedding and toys, and even compared different nutrition brands. At last, we were ready to welcome Thumper, a white bunny with red eyes. He was fluffy and cuddly, and it was instant love.

My daughter had a furry friend, but no way was she old enough to be a responsible owner. So, we took it in turns to be the carer, while she spoilt him with cuddles and let him roam free. Like our child, he was given what we thought he needed – nutritious food, toys, and gadgets. But we forgot the most important thing:  bunny proof our home.

And so, it began . . .

One day I noticed water leaking from the freezer. When I opened the door, I got a shock. Every item in it had defrosted and needed to be thrown away. Somehow, the electrical lead at the back of the freezer had been chewed.  A few days later, we had a visit from the telephone company. Friends and relatives had reported not being able to get in touch with us for two weeks. The phone cable had been chewed.

How can a rubber-coated wire taste better than hay or pellets?

We built Thumper an outdoor pen in the garden where he could be free to chew anything he wanted to his heart’s content during the day. He was happy and so were we. He lived happily-ever-after.

Fast forward to 2018. Another house. Another country. Another birthday. Another request.

“I want a pet rabbit,” said the same daughter with the same pleading tone in her voice.

“Nooooo!” was my reply.

Two days before her birthday, we went and got Romeo, a brown and white rabbit. We did not spare any pennies for his diet or toys. Did we forget something? But of course. We forgot to bunny proof our home. Again!

And the fun began . . .

And it is still going.

Cables chewed, wallpaper ripped, Persian rug damaged. We turn our back for a second and the irreparable damage is done. So often that we have become expert at organising a next day delivery with Amazon. When everyone is asleep, Romeo would stomp his foot until one of us would get up to tell him to be quiet, or to warn him where he could end up the following Easter.

But how can we stay mad for long? We cannot. He melts our heart when he follows us around and stands on his hind legs begging for a treat. When he joins me in a wild dance, hopping around my feet. Or, when we are sitting at the dinner table, he comes and nudges our feet asking for a head massage. All wrongs are forgotten.

 The power of love

One can wonder if we did not learn from our mistake first time round. The thing is, once we commit ourselves to take care of another body, we commit to love them warts and all. Yes, love can be blind, and it has led to the happiness of the whole family relaxing together with Romeo laying in his proud sphinx position.

Besides, having a pet can lower your blood pressure, reduce cholesterol in the blood and increase the level of serotonin and dopamine. I admit we need to be better prepared before taking on such a big responsibility, but material things can be replaced. Would I get another rabbit in the future? Most definitely.

My Perfect Valentine

“I love you. I am who I am because of you. You are every reason, every hope, and every dream I’ve ever had, and no matter what happens to us in the future, every day we are together is the greatest day of my life. I will always be yours.”

It is early afternoon. The sun is still high in the sky. A light breeze blows in from the open window. A single rose sits in a vase as a centre piece. An assortment of chocolates, in different flavours and shapes, are scattered on the sofa. Soft music plays in the background, creating a romantic feel. I hold out my hand while whispering ‘Love me now’.

“Love is an action, never simply a feeling” – Bell Hooks

We all know what February 14th represents. Lovers celebrate Valentine’s Day by exchanging personalised cards with messages of love. A special day that urges them to express their affection by buying expensive things. Tables for two are booked in their favourite restaurant and surrounded by balloons, they spend hours gazing into each other’s eyes as if they are alone in the world. Love is their true destiny.

But Valentine’s Day is not only meant for those who are in love. It does not have to be a lonely and depressing day for singles. Everyone can celebrate this special day in their own way. In Finland they celebrate ‘Ystavanpaiva’, which means Friend’s Day and in Mexico, it is called ‘Dia del amor y la amistad’, meaning the day of love and friendship. The emphasis is not only on romantic love.  

We can all be inspired to acknowledge the important people in our lives. We do not need heart-shaped balloons and gifts. A simple card, a message via social media – anything to show our love and appreciation for families and friends without the usual overcommercialised frills.

This year as we are still in lockdown, shops and restaurants are closed. The ambiance is different. Romantic dinner is home cooked and low-key: no serenade from a live band and no pressure to buy a single red rose from the seller hanging over our table. For once, we can find more meaning in our relationship with each other.

“The most desired gift of love is not a diamond or roses or chocolates. It is focused attention.” – Richard Warren

A few years ago, I lost the excitement of celebrating Valentine’s Day. I felt there were too many expectations on how I should celebrate the day. It had become too much of a cliché. I realised I did not need expensive jewellery to be shown that I was loved and appreciated. 364 other days mattered too. So, I started a new trend: look after the person who has the most importance. Me. I learned to love myself and appreciate my worth, putting extra effort on those special days.

So, here I am, relaxing with a glass of Prosecco in hand. John Legend is expressing his love and words from the ‘Notebook’ are dancing in front of my eyes. I am alone and undisturbed. This is my choice.

I have a date with myself, my perfect Valentine.

Let Your Light Shine

The Festival of Lights, also known as Diwali, starts this weekend for a duration of five days. It is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains around the world, to commemorate the triumphs of light over darkness. In other words, a celebration of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair.

“Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” – Psalm 119:105

As a child, I was mesmerised by rows and rows of small clay lamps. I did not know, that not only did they light the homes and yards of my neighbours, but also the hearts of the communities. The rich smell of incense and the aroma of sweet and savoury delicacies bonded different religions and cultures together. We became one community with one objective: Fellowship.  Of course, all I was interested was to tuck in a platter of delicious gulab jamuns, laddoos, barfis and halwas.

“Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:5

Diwali is an example of a time to reflect on our thoughts and actions. In 2020, we have been faced with unexpected challenges. We have gone through illness, isolation, job losses and death of someone close to us. Often our lives have been taken over by fear and anxiety. Depression has made us hopeless. Our self-belief has disappeared.

When we lose hope, we forget that we have a light within us that never dies. We forget that we have the power to overcome darkness. We stop loving. We stop smiling. We stop living. The only thing that stops us is ourselves when we wallow in sadness and self-pity. We must overcome self-destruction and reach out for the light. We must let go of our negative tendencies.

Arise, shine for your light has come

When we tap into our spirituality, we become aware that we can change our way of thinking. It is like turning on a light in a darkened room. The darkness disappears. And as the light appears, it clears out all the negativity within. It fills us with peace and positive energy. We let go of fear and judgement and welcome faith, hope and love.

Be the Light That Help Others

On World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis wrote on Twitter:

“The ability to stretch forth our hand shows that we possess an innate capacity to act in ways that give meaning to life.”

It is a sign that speaks of closeness, solidarity, and love. It is also an inspiration to better understand some of the initiatives that have been taken to offer concrete support and help to families who find themselves in objective difficulty.

So, today, be the light for someone who could be hurting. Reach out to them and bring them comfort and hope. Enrich their lives with love. People are attracted to others who radiate light. Let us not be selfish and hold on to the light for ourselves, like lighting a lamp and put it in a cupboard. Instead, set it on the table for it to give light to everyone around.

“A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.” – Denis Waitley

Thou Shall Not Judge

“Wow, have you seen what that lady is wearing?”

“Oh, mother, please don’t judge!”

“Come on, that dress is too short for her age, admit it!”

“Stop it. It’s not funny!”

That was a thought-provoking conversation between my daughter and I. Was I being judgmental? I believed it was a simple observation. I was neither judging nor criticising and the lady in question never heard those words. So, no harm done, right? That was what I thought until I was put in my place by my daughter. To her, I was judging by appearance and that was unacceptable. It was not a joke and she was right.

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself”- Dr Wayne Dyer

There is a fine line between a joke and criticism. So, when does a funny remark become unacceptable? Judging someone is negative, and ‘judgmental’ is a harsh word which we do not like to be associated with. Yet, when we are told that we are judging, we are quick to deny it. Very often we voice our opinions without thinking of consequences. It is instinctive. We react to how others behave but ignore our own behaviour.

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment”- John 7:24

We have become such perfectionists that we think we have the right to correct other people’s flaws. If we feel we have the right to do so, then we must make sure we know everything about that person. We must learn the facts and not assume. We are neither presiding in a tribunal nor are we God, Himself. We cannot form an opinion based on looks or actions. We might think it is funny, but would we tolerate this behaviour if it is done to us?

“When you have an emotional reaction to what you see, you are judging. That is your signal that you have an issue inside of yourself – with yourself – not with the other person. If you react to evil, look inside yourself for the very thing that so agitates you, and you will find it. If it were not there, you will simply discern act appropriately, and move on.”- Gary Zukav

Sometimes when we feel threatened, our defensive mechanism kicks in and judging others help us boost our confidence. Because when we experience negative feelings and our self-esteem takes a dip, we believe we are less worthy than others. Venting out on someone else might make us feel better but we lose our core values.

“It is easy to judge. It is more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience, and willingness to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods. Through judging, we separate. Through understanding, we grow.”- Doe Zantamata

Before we say something, we must stop and think. Before we judge, we must understand why we are doing it. When we learn not to judge others and accept them the way they are, we learn to accept our own imperfection. By turning that negative behaviour into understanding and compassion, we let go of our fear of rejection and learn to accept our own faults.

“If you start judging people you will not have time to love them”- Mother Teresa

Instead of spending time pointing out other people’s mistakes, take the time to ponder on your own. You cannot control how people think and act, but you can control your own behaviour. By choosing to see the good in others, you will end up seeing the good in yourself.  It is high time to learn to show more kindness and less judgement.