“For 30 years it’s been my job to study and understand the vicissitudes of human strengths and weaknesses,” writes Santa Barbara psychotherapist Jennifer Freed in the introduction to her new book Lessons from Stanley the Cat: Nine Lives of Everyday Wisdom. “I’ve consulted on thousands of psychotherapy cases in my career,” she continues, “[and] everything I learn I pass on.” When asked from whom she has derived inspiration, her answer is quite simply: “My cat, Stanley.”
Freed and Stanley were together just shy of 20 years. When Stanley passed, Freed felt compelled to jot down all the things she’d learned from her furry companion. The result is Lessons from Stanley the Cat, a meditative, often-humorous book that shares Stanley’s sage approach to life.
The book is 117 pages of thoughtful anecdotes accompanied by whimsical illustrations by Tone Gellerstedt. Read on for a few samples from Lessons from Stanley.
Do not let any bad comments or derision bother you. Consider negativity as passing gas. Nothing is really as personal as it seems. Everyone’s opinion vanishes eventually, so there is no point in recording it in your memory unless it truly inspires you. When someone says something unpleasant about you, imagine it wafting by like a foul odor, or a plume of smoke from a soot-filled fireplace.
It is much more important to build on your strengths and work hard to improve on your weaknesses than it is to entertain a destructive comment. People who spread negative words usually live in a fearful and unhappy world inside their own minds.
When you want to wake up someone you love in the morning, put your face gently to theirs. Some of us wake up with a lot of vigor and drive. Others wake up like lazy dogs who would prefer to have the day start at noon. When you first approach someone who is struggling to open their eyes, it is wise to go in silently and smoothly for a soft face rub. When they feel you are a tender and fragrant companion, they can feel happy to open their eyes and see their waking dream sitting right next to them.
When someone is on the computer too long, help them by distracting them, or walk lightly on their keyboard. This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges of living in a computer-driven era. How do you get your beloved off the darn device? If a little nudging on the arm or a little repetitive pleading doesn’t work, then a warning screech or a walk across the keyboard is fair game.
How did the machine become the be-all and end-all of human attention? Devices are wonderful helpers; however, they can never replace the grandeur of body touch and the splendor of screenless contact.
Excessive appetites should not be fed. Don’t be ashamed if your beast gets the best of you. Some of us really crave more than we should, and we just can’t seem to stop the cravings.
We don’t all have a stop button when it comes to regulating substances. This is when you have to rely on your superior conscience or your “higher self” to intervene and limit or eliminate your intake of certain things.
Regardless of what your addictive demons are suggesting, there is never a real reward for consuming too much of anything. If you need help with this, that’s okay. Sometimes a loving friend will help you stay away from the things that possess you. A group of friends who want you to stay on track is best.
Forgive easily when someone hurts you accidentally, or even intentionally. The next moment is not the past. Moods, opinions, and attachments can lead to rash behavior. Sometimes we do things without even knowing why, and then strongly regret them. Forgive all creatures, if you can. It hurts you more to hold on to resentments; grudges cause stress in your body.
Jennifer Freed will be signing books Wednesday, October 6, at 7 p.m. at Borders, 900 State Street, and Saturday, October 9, at 3 p.m. at Tecolote Book Shop, 1470 East Valley Road.