Everyone knows (or should know) the sound—the breathy, rhythmic, soothing sound—of a cat’s purr. Surprisingly, the exact process of creating a purr isn’t known: the cat’s brain does something to change the function of the larynx to create soft vibrations in the vocal chords. But what purring usually means is clear: a purring cat is a happy cat. We have more than our share of spoiled cats in the house and at any given time at least one of them will greet us with a loud vibration of purrs. Even our redeemed-feral (after 4 years of spoiling her outside, we’ve converted her to an inside-cat) will climb onto our lap or shoulder, root down to insinuate herself to our shape, and begin buzzing with purrs. At that moment, it is clear that the purr is both an expression of happiness (she’s happy to be with us, safe and warm) and a method for creating happiness (the sound and feel of the purr is calming, relaxing, and delightful)…expressing happiness seems to beget happiness.
I’ve known a few of those moments when, just by taking time to recognize my own feelings, I’ve multiplied them. I don’t purr as a means of spreading happiness…but I’ve written on this blog about a few times when expressing a feeling made the feeling bigger, better:
- I remember standing waist-deep in a Florida hotel swimming pool during a light rain, holding my daughter’s hand and wondering how many sons and daughters were watching us from the hotel windows wishing their old man had taken them swimming in the rain. Recognizing my own happiness made me happier.
- I remember when we had enjoyed an unexpected family treat, late at night on the beach under a black sky streaked instantly with Perseid meteors that went instantly dark again. Realizing our own wonder made it more wonderful.
- I remember how two friends and I had concocted an adventure to visit Tangier, Morocco for just a few hours: a Mediterranean ferry ride; a dinner; some pretty bad, pretty cheap, Moroccan wine; and a return ferry ride under a nearly full moon. Knowing the satisfaction of friendship made it more satisfying.
- I remember how, by chance, we enjoyed The Great American Eclipse this summer as a once-in-a-lifetime sharing of my grandmother’s Christmas gift from 50 years ago with my family. Understanding the specialness of the moment made it more special.
I hope—and expect—that late on Christmas Eve, I’ll sit in our family room feeling exhausted, sipping a nog of some kind, maybe munching a cookie, looking in delight at our dazzling Christmas tree with all its ornaments, sizing up all the packages piled beneath, sensing the promise of the coming Christmas morning, enjoying the glory of the season, and seeing it all as an expression of happiness that will make me even happier. Chances are very strong that one of our cats will be in my lap or on my shoulder purring out her own delight…and that will make me happier, too.