Some of the kittens must die
The other night I dreamed of kittens.
Oh, how sweet!
This is my subconscious, folks, not the Disney Channel.
There were five… all black except for a dark gray… newborn… weak and helpless, piled on top of each other for warmth. I sat down next to them, picked one up and… ate it.
It had no taste. It made no sound or protest. I then picked up a second one, and ate it too… and a third one as well.
I felt mildly bad about having done this as I gazed at the two remaining kittens — the gray and a black one. I pushed away my remorse and disgust for eating the others because I knew for certain that the only way for any of the kittens to survive was to eliminate some of them. All five together would not survive. But two would. Two kittens alive is better than no kittens at all.
I pondered that dream for quite some time after awakening, and am still pondering it now. (Obviously.) I’d always heard that mother cats (and other animals too) will sometimes eat their young if they’re weak or abnormal in some way. Was this really true, or something we just grew up believing? I needed to know, so I went to the expert: Professor Google.
Turns out, a mother cat will, in fact, eat an abnormal newborn kitten if she has no other way to remove it far from her nest. For example, if she is kept indoors or in a small area, and can’t abandon the kitten far enough away for her satisfaction. Eating it is the only way to get rid of it. Very young mother cats upon having their first litter also will sometimes eat their young, defective or not, because they’re overwhelmed and just don’t know what else to do with them.
How about male cats? Dr. Google says they often will kill kittens, particularly if they sense they’re not their own offspring. However, their chosen method of execution is to shake them to death — rarely do they eat them. Just the females.
Interesting, isn’t it. Mother Nature will do what Mother Nature’s gotta do. The instinctual drive to ensure the survival of one’s own progeny is the key to the survival of the species, and clearly that’s sometimes very messy work.
Although my dream was rather revolting, it did resonate with me. I’m a master of keeping many plates spinning on sticks at once without a single one crashing to the ground, like a circus performer, and honestly, I still can. But, in contrast to a decade ago, it now takes monumental effort, and results in stress and exhaustion. The reality is that continuing to keep all the plates spinning will come at great physical and psychological cost. I have to pick which plates I will continue to spin, and which I will not.
Some of the plates must crash.
Some of the kittens must die.
I must make the “Sophie’s Choice” of feline maternal instinct and single out the kittens with the best chance of survival, and pour my time and energy into only those.
But which ones? It’s not quite as simple as a dream, because many of my duties and activities intersect and intertwine, and stopping one results in a constellation of other concerns and new problems. I have to choose very carefully, because once you’ve eaten the kitten, there’s no “do-over.” Even if you regurgitate it, it’s just a pile of bones and fur. What’s done is done, and you deal with the consequences of your choices.
At the moment, the only ill-fated kitten I can identify with certainty is iPinion Syndicate. It’s been my baby (my kitten, if you will) since May 2010, when fellow columnist David Lacy and I created this online opinion website, with high hopes of it becoming the next Huffington Post.
It did not. Maybe having a millionaire celebrity for a CEO makes a difference after all.
However, it did become an incredible collection of amazing writing, of which I’m exceedingly proud. It also offered me the opportunity to discover wonderfully talented writers and coach them… teach them the skills of the opinion trade. I spotted some of them on Facebook, via their witty, biting or poignant comments on mutual friends’ walls. Others approached me, wanting to learn, and yet others were referred to me by other writers who saw talent that merely needed coaching. There’s nothing as satisfying as shaping and polishing someone’s innate talents, and then watching as they mature and fly off without you. That’s joy, man!
More joyful lessons I’ll take away from iPinion are learning to run a website and learning to self-publish a book. I produced two iPinion anthologies on CreateSpace, and the jump from composing newspaper pages to book pages turned out to be an easy one. And seeing my name on a book at the bookstore and library? That’s writer’s crack. My self-publishing kitten can rest assured that it will not be on my dinner menu. I intend to keep that kitten fat and glossy.
As for iPinion Syndicate itself, however, Dec. 31 is my last day as CEO, entirely by my own choice. An internal thorough and painful psychological cost-benefit analysis revealed only one option: Walk away.
Eat the kitten.
But here’s the good news: iPinion won’t die. On Jan. 1, Tom McMasters-Stone and Carolyn Wyler will take over the helm and take iPinion to its next level, and will be the keepers of all that amazing online content. And, not to worry, I’ll still be a contributor and will be around to help them learn the ropes. I just won’t be in charge anymore.
One kitten down.
Two more to go.
But which ones? That’s still a mystery to me at this point. But as the new year trundles along, I’m sure it’ll become clear which kittens survive, and which do not.
Mother Nature is right. Survival is brutal. And also necessary.