“Better a neighbour who is near than a brother far away.”

8 November 2021

So, this blog is a tad longer than usual. If you don’t feel you have the space now, feel free to read it at a quieter moment. I’d like to let you know in advance that the saying above doesn’t make sense to me. But I’ll talk about that later. Since we are on the topic of expressions and sayings, there is a Dutch saying where the meaning is similar to: “Desperate needs lead to desperate deeds.” That saying, literally translated is: “A cornered cat will make strange jumps”. And when I say this, I’m not actually talking about my cat, but about myself. Although our cat, Rose, was the trigger.

Those who follow me on insta, have probably already experienced this with me through my stories. It felt quite special to me, to feel so close to those in the Netherlands that were so involved whilst we are here in London.

In case you didn’t know yet, Jeroen, myself and the cat, Rose, have been living in London for the past few weeks. Our daughter has just graduated from high school, is now in her gap year and we have all left ‘the nest’ of the Zuidas in Amsterdam.

This course of action was partly due to Jeroen, who has had a new job in London since the beginning of this year. I continue to travel back and forth between the Netherlands and the UK on a regular basis, both for private and work purposes. For those of you that have known us for a while: it was time for new adventures.

Our cat, Rose, has also embarked on a very brave adventure this week. She managed to slip into our neighbours’ home by jumping onto their terrace via our balcony on the 5th floor. The sliding doors to their bedroom were open and she snuck in. What she was unaware of (as was I) was that they have dogs.

Now, I should mention that Rose has not had many encounters with dogs in the 11 years she has been with us. Last New Year’s Eve, we had a dog with us named Lisa, who was hiding under the bed for about 4 hours. Once she finally came out, Rose became curious about this sweet dog called Lisa. They slowly sniffed each other. Both alert and inquisitive.  

Rose probably felt that same curiosity when she entered that room, smelling that familiar dog smell. Turns out, there was another dog (of the owner’s son) in the house, who was shocked by Rose and he started to bark like a true guard dog. When I arrived at the neighbour’s house to have a look around, the man mentioned that his wife had seen the cat run upstairs.  

In my elation and stressed state, I looked around, under the bed, in all kinds of nooks and crannies of the different rooms. Problem was, this house had three floors, and I was probably just running round like a headless chicken, not really being able to focus on the task at hand. As a result, you guessed it: no Rose.

Then something dawned on me. I don’t think “A cornered cat will make strange jumps”, in fact, it would know how to find very clever hiding places. And since I had an appointment, I decided to leave it for the moment. And to trust that she would find her way home again. I had left the sliding doors open on our terrace and decided to go to my appointment. After, I returned full of expectations, but alas, she was not there after all.

I tried the neighbours again, but unfortunately, they weren’t in. I left a left a note by the mailbox with my phone number asking If they could ring me when they got the chance. 

They did, and the man assured me he would look out for her. I, in turn, told him that I would let them know if she was found. I then asked if I could come and have another look later in the day, but he said that wouldn’t be possible and that they would be gone all night. On top of that, they were in the middle of a move, so it wasn’t very convenient. 

In short, I felt the tension bubbling up inside me. The powerlessness I felt and lack of control over the situation became very intense. What the neighbour didn’t seem to understand was how important Rose is to me. Still, I had to trust in surrender, that it would be all right. 

In reality, my body was producing fear, or rather, terror. It felt like life and death. I went completely into survival mode. And my thoughts went in all directions like crazy.

My primal maternal instinct told me that she had to be in the house. And that Rose wouldn’t show herself to strangers and that she must have hidden somewhere well. That afternoon, I stood on the terrace a few times and called her name. Ironically, that same moment, the neighbour’s dog walked out with its tail wagging. I asked the dog out loud: “Do you know where Rose is, can you find her and let your owner know she’s been found”. And I saw that she understood me, she started sniffing and walking around like she was really searching. It was very moving.

From a distance and with the loving support of some dear friends, I sent our cat Rose a lot of love, I visualized open doors and windows, and how she could find her way back home. I spoke to her and let her know that she may make herself heard. I encouraged her to show herself to the neighbours and that the dogs are really sweet too and I told her that the son’s barking dog was no longer in the house.

I also realised that the fear that went through me made me alert and awake. I saw clearly and sharply which steps I had to take. That I was going to enlist help with the organisation of this apartment that we are temporarily renting these weeks. And someone came to look at the roof to make sure she wouldn’t be trapped outside on the roof somewhere.

At the same time, I also felt the wave of trauma that was triggered and released. My fear of losing control, fear of powerlessness, fear of rejection and my sense of mistrust. I was toiling away (again). I had even posted on social media a few days earlier saying ‘Bye Bye Fear’, deciding to turn my back on the fear.

Turns out, the universe heard my cry, “Jessica is getting a bit overconfident, it’s time to humble her and let her sink a little deeper into her confidence.”

The fear is deep in my (our) system. Still, I surprised myself immensely. For the first time, I felt how intense the love for our cat Rose is. And I said to Jeroen: ‘If I have to, I will sacrifice my life, as long as Rose comes back alive’. It had been a while since I had wept so intensely, so viscerally, from my innermost being. I cried so hard; my contacts leapt from my eyes. It was liberating in multiple ways. 

I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I didn’t do everything in my power to bring her back alive. I realised how this whole event with our cat Rose was allowing me to feel an even more intense love and it was clear that there was something much deeper going on here. In addition to the fear, there was an immense sadness. It touched life and death. Something I have no control over.

That first night, I slept alright. Though every gust of wind in our bedroom made the curtain move, waking me up, teasing me of Rose’s return, I felt like Rose was communicating through the wind, telling me: “I’m here, it’s going to be okay”. That allowed me to sleep peacefully again. The next morning, I waited quietly before making another attempt at overtures towards our neighbours. But first, I’d try to call out to her from the balcony.  

The neighbour saw me and walked onto his balcony. I asked him if I could come by the house again today to look for Rose. His response was resolute: “I looked for your cat from 6 to 8 this morning, she really isn’t here. And we won’t let you in again.”

I didn’t understand what had just occurred. 

Until his wife came out, furious and shouted at me in her English accent and I picked up fragments of it: she was talking about London being a dangerous city and that if I were to stare at their balcony one more time, she would call the police. The neighbour later told me that his wife was walking through the bedroom, apparently naked, and she saw me watching. I was completely unaware of this wrongdoing. I hadn’t seen her at all. My focus was on Rose and blinded by everything and anything around it.

I understood she was intimidated. A couple of Dutch people who think their cat is with us. All hope had been lost regarding having another look in their house. Still, the neighbour was my rock. He understood my powerlessness and he realised it was serious. I had made it very clear to him once again that Rose is a smart animal and that she knows how to hide well and probably won’t dare to show herself to people she doesn’t know.

He said he was going to do his best and take another good look tonight when he got home. And I apologised for any inconvenience and thanked him for all the effort.

Again, I had to surrender. For a whole day I could do nothing, except trust, feel, carry, breathe, quite a bit of sighing, ask loved ones for advice when I was going through it, give my full attention to the sessions with clients and call out often on the balcony, so that Rose would continue to hear my voice. 

What helped me in this situation was to start writing. I could better understand what was happening to me through writing. When writing, I felt the transformation and began to encourage myself. As if the fear gave way to peace, clarity and love. I felt the compassion for my neighbours. I felt gratitude that the neighbour let me in the first time I rang the bell. I felt for them, the fact that they’re in the middle of a move and that they must be experiencing a lot of stress and that it is an uncertain situation for them.

On top of that, I felt Rose. That she was in a place where she was not free. That she couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, and was scared. I felt as if she were my own child and I didn’t want her to starve. That I could never forgive myself if I didn’t try everything. Between meditating, breathing, pacing and writing, every so often I would walk onto the balcony and call Rose’s name towards the neighbour’s house, so that she could at least hear me. And that she knew I was there.

Then I could feel calm again, withdraw myself, as it were. I’d feel what it did to me. Out of rest, came new insights. I walked to the building next to our neighbours, wanting to check she wasn’t stuck somewhere up there on the roof. I encountered a very sweet lady at the reception and she empathised with me. Together, we searched on the roof. She was my hero at that time. She had an understanding of dogs and has a cat of her own.

She bridged the gap between me as a cat person and our neighbours with dogs. That my neighbours and I were not so opposite, that we both loved animals very much. She also encouraged me that Rose is probably in a place where she keeping very quiet. And yes, I also wanted to imagine Rose like that. Instead of seeing her in her fear and starvation.

The second night was a bit more restless. The tension built up in my body made me exhausted, which, eventually, was good for something. I didn’t eat for two days either. Then around 5 a.m. something special, something magical happened. I started to take very deep, releasing breaths and I felt the space for the mantra: “I am open to receive the miracles. I feel the flow of joy, curiosity and tranquillity.” And just like that, I suddenly felt no fear at all.

An hour and a half later our neighbour rang me and said that Rose was in their bedroom. He said it as if he had seen a ghost. The woman was completely surprised that Rose had been in their house this whole time. From my balcony, I had handed him our cat bag over the fence and he placed Rose in it. My hero, our neighbour.

If you are still reading this far and you find it difficult to comprehend what I went through with our cat Rose, then see if you can replace the cat for your own child (even if you don’t have children). I heard this question recently and I think it comes from Abraham and Esther Hicks: “No matter how bad you are, would you let your children starve?”

To me this is a very clear no. And apparently this also applies to our cat. As a little girl my young heart was already touched by cats. Maybe because they were always there for me when I was home alone. That I felt their peace and warmth in the most difficult moments of my childhood.

For the observant reader… a great insight that came to me was… “We create our own creation”. That insight hit me hard. I projected my fear onto our cat. Afraid she’d fall off the edge and I’d lose her. That was an old trauma that was still in my system. 30 years ago, we had a red tomcat called Coco. He jumped on the balcony edge, when I was also on the balcony. I was so surprised that I tried to stop her out of fear. But she fell. A 10-foot drop. That day she survived. The second time was fatal.

Now 30 years later, once again, the lesson was presented before me. A cat wants to be free, to discover, to climb on edges, to see what it is like in other places. And at the same time, they are probably also here to guide us and teach us life lessons, like any interaction with humans and animals in our daily lives. All reflections.

It’s incredible that once I felt intense peace, she suddenly showed herself. Was it indeed my own creation? Who’s to say? I’ll leave it open…

And you know, this situation isn’t just about me, our neighbours and our cat Rose. This is about us, about you, me and what’s happening. Our neighbours were a metaphor for the matters that I don’t have much influence on. But I can continue to observe and acknowledge and feel what that does to me. If we think we can find freedom outside of us, that is a bitter pill to swallow.

If we pin our hopes on the government and the system, we’ll be sorely disappointed. We have to take on the adventure of life ourselves. And what that adventure looks like is different for each of us. Let me share something with you what helps me.

For me, that’s the path inwards. Time and time again. In humility. In not-knowing. I have no idea. Nonetheless, I follow my own wisdom. I find my own truth. At least that’s the story for me now. Still, I think we are challenged in all sorts of ways to take this step inward. And from there to take our steps outward.

For some, it is contending, for others, it happens in silence. Everyone makes their own choices, whatever feels true to you. 

I have hope that we are able to do this together.

I know we will come together in our differences.

And I feel that our love is strong enough.

“A cornered cat will make strange jumps” also applies to many people in this time. For me and my cat, this new saying now applies: “A cornered cat will make wise moves”. In other words, “Desperate needs lead to necessary deeds.”Provided we properly acknowledge, feel and bear the fear. Take our responsibility, learn our lessons and feel compassion for each other.

Also, the saying “Better is a neighbour who is near than a brother far away.”, I would like to rewrite to:

“How nice to have the good neighbour and to feel the gratitude for the distant friend, who is very close in your heart.”

I am grateful for you, that you are here and that we have crossed paths.

Love from London! Jessica