Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In, Out and In-Between

It's one of those days where the weather can't make up it's mind. I was all set for a lazy, rainy day (as opposed to my usual lazy, sunny-to-partly-cloudy days) so I went back to bed. When I woke up the sun was shining. After I decided to walk to the North End (more pumpkin cupcakes), it began to pour. So I changed my mind, and the sun came out. Now it's darkening again.

Thanks to our new kitten, I'm reminded lately of a theory I developed during the summer after college, when I was living in some suburban woods, house-sitting for a retired professor. I lived with a future philosophy professor and an intrepid gray kitten named Harris Winfield. According to my theory, known as the Inful-Outful Dichotomy, a cat is always contemplating the advantages of being somewhere else. If the cat is inside, the idea of going out is always tempting to some degree. And if the cat is out, it's always thinking about being inside, where the food bowl is. My proof for the theory is how much cats always love standing in the doorway as you hold open the door for them. The happiest place, the best of both worlds, is right in the middle, as you wait, letting in the mosquitoes or the cold. When the cat finally makes a decision, you can sense a touch of regret in their hesitation — because as soon as they choose, the opposite choice becomes appealing.

Harris Winfield missed the woods and wanted to run free when we moved to Boston; he disappeared on the streets of Back Bay within weeks. Heart-broken, I searched for him in the shelters for over a year, adopting two other cats I met on those sad visits. I was young and learned the hard way with poor Harry: he was my last indoor-outdoor cat. And the Inful-Outful Dichotomy became a dim memory. But because our apartment is full of potential hazards and bad hiding places for the kitten, we've started keeping the bedroom door closed when she's out of her crate. This, of course, presents the Inful-Outful Dichotomy in an indoor-cat paradigm. Guess where our adult cats love to be?

The human version of the Inful-Outful Dichotomy is the Grass-Is-Always-Greener Principle. When I'm not working, I'm anxious to find work, and I have nothing much to do with all my free time. When I get a project or an office assignment, I resent it for taking up so much of my valuable time, because suddenly I have a million other tasks that must be done. The equivalent of the half-open door is an interesting job prospect that may or may not materialize. I wish....

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