• Jessica Sherry

Don't Hate on Black Cats: How We Sabotage Good Things

We are not cat people.

Once in Wilmington traffic, I got stuck behind an older, beige Honda. In the passing lane. Going 54 mph in a 70. And her car was full of cats! Free-roaming cats!

Forced to pass on the right—ugh—I counted 4 felines, including the fat, orange tabby lounging on the dashboard, and an anxious gray one pacing the backseat, clearly not a fan of car-rides. No wonder she drove so slowly—none of her passengers wore seatbelts!

More bothered by her driving than the cats, I voiced my annoyance. “Dang cat people.”

Abby shook her head and said, “She’s just living her best life, Mom.”

Hmm. Though still annoyed with the cat-car-lady, my attitude softened with Abby’s perspective. We experienced the same thing, but saw it differently (though in my defense, Abby wasn’t driving).

“You give everything its meaning.” – Bernard Roth, The Achievement Habit

If we’re responsible for the meaning we give things, then how often do we sabotage ourselves into bad attitudes, bad days, or bad luck? And what do we miss out on because of it? A more gracious view of the cat-car-lady would’ve created a less stressful drive—a godsend around here.

We aren’t superstitious people, but I can’t deny the slight dread when I eyed the calendar on Friday, May 13th. Since I grew up watching Friday the 13th movies, that’s understandable, though I had no plans to visit any camps that day…. But, no joke, the power did go out for over an hour while attempting to write my Friday the 13th thoughts, making me wonder.

If I truly believed Friday the 13th was unlucky, and maybe crawled back into bed, declaring the day a bust, then I would’ve missed out on paid work, a lovely walk with Joe, fun giggles with Abby, Jimothy love, and, yes, brainstorming ideas for this blog.

Oh, this is Jimothy. He belongs to Abby, and he’s our first cat ever.

When my husband’s co-worker needed homes for her kittens, we took a chance. A BIG ONE, according to some people. Black cats aren’t a popular choice in homes. 33% of cats in shelters are black, the highest population, beating out grays by more than 10%, according to humanepro.org. This study by Carini, Sinski, and Weber reports that only 10% of black cats get adopted, and the majority—freaking 74%, sadly—get euthanized.

Why, you (should) ask? Because of people’s bogus, dumbass perceptions. While black cats are just like any other—trying to live their best lives—people see them as less friendly, evil, or at the very least, unreadable, according to psychologytoday.com. The same article reports that some don’t adopt black cats because they’re less photogenic, you know, for social media and blogging…


It pains me, thinking of what we could’ve missed if we’d attached negative biases to Jimothy. He’s the coolest, most playful and loveable cat ever… and yes, maybe he’s plotting to murder me, but I don’t even care because I love him too much to be mad about it.

We also love our adorable black dog Brownie—she’d never plot murder (except maybe against Jimothy)… and, yes, I’m just realizing we have two black-furred pets. Black dogs suffer the same negative stereotypes and lower adoption rates. Superstitions and villainous portrayals in books, film, and TV prevent them from finding homes, according to cesarsway.com. So, our sweet girl Brownie, a fourteen-year veteran of our household, could’ve been another family member missed, had we prescribed to biased nonsense or negative assumptions.

Cat-car-lady. Friday the 13th. Jimothy, Brownie…

“Once you understand that you can choose what meaning and importance to place on something, you can also understand that it is you, not external circumstances, who determines the quality of your life.” – Bernard Roth, The Achievement Habit

We certainly wouldn’t be living our best lives without Brownie or Jimothy! Thank God, negative beliefs didn’t keep us from our sweet pets!

Superstitions seem like a way to “rationalize” negative thinking. Most people have a negativity bias, anyway—focusing more on the bad than the good, as described in this article by positivepsychology.com.

To fight it, it helps to pay attention to the meaning we give things. Positivity improves overall outlook and wellbeing. Negative thinking isn’t living your best life.

Consider your regrets. To me, regrets have always been devilish mental bullies, jumping out from dark corners to take jabs at my self-worth whenever the mood hits.

Wouldn’t it be awesome not to feel bad about shit that happened ages ago?

In Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt, he calls an entire chapter “Regret Reveals Opportunity,” and writes:

“Instead of seeing our regrets as working against the chance to grow and improve, we can see them as actually pointing the way toward that growth and improvement we most desire.”

Regrets are only bullies if we allow them to be. With a better perspective, it’s possible to spare ourselves the same mistakes and use them to our advantage.

“… we can leverage our regrets to reveal opportunities we would otherwise miss.” – Michael Hyatt, Your Best Year Ever

For example, I first published Sea-Devil through a small press because I’d been turned down by the big guys, and I believed it’d give me more street cred, sales, and a better-quality book than self-publishing. Wrong. The book wasn’t properly edited or promoted and for the books that did sell (thanks to me), I was paid pennies on the dollar. I regretted signing the contract, and the $800 it cost me to get out of it.

Though guilt and negativity plagued me at the time, regret turned into an opportunity. Joe and I learned self-publishing (and are still learning). We re-published Sea-Devil ourselves with much better editing and quality printing, and went on to do three more, so far. We’re much happier with our finished products.

See? Aren’t they beautiful? I love my book-babies.

If we can put a positive spin on old regrets, then everyday problems can be opportunities, too.

For example… Last week, I published my first blog in over a year, and I experienced many setbacks. What should’ve taken 4-6 hours took 4 days with an outline. While writing, I accidentally hit PUBLISH when I meant SAVE, and had to quickly take it down. Then, hours after intentionally publishing it, Joe found a huge cut-and-paste mistake. I still have no idea how it happened—it was like two paragraphs at opposite ends of the document got spliced and mixed together. Weird. We unpublished it again to fix my mistakes. Being out of practice with blogging and anxious about it, anyway, finishing felt like a rough journey.

Harping on the journey’s problems rather than its completion is easy. As someone who struggles with anxiety and staying positive, the meaning I apply to things matters. Feelings translate into beliefs, but they can’t always be trusted. Like these, courtesy of my blog-snafus… Why am I doing this? I’m clearly a terrible blogger. I’m just not good at it. Why waste my time?

But giving these events a negative meaning only hurts me. And it’s faulty thinking, anyway. The problems I experienced aren’t gremlins in my machine, mischievously working against my efforts to make life more difficult for me. Nor are those problems some cosmic favor of the universe warning me off blogging. Geez! As if my blog could ever be that important!

And even if my blogging skills suck now, they won’t always. With time and practice, I’ll improve. That’s how it works. And any bad days with blogging will just become another fun anecdote I share with my many, MANY future blog friends.

Problems should be viewed as annoying sidenotes—not the full story. And this provided an opportunity to reframe my thinking…

It was my first blog in over a year—of course there’d be some issues!

I succeeded, anyway.

And those dumb problems helped inspire another blog.

That I have the power to give (or not give) meaning, then I control my mood, state-of-being, luck, and the good things in my life.

And, helps others, too. Like adopting Jimothy. Refusing negative biases and taking a chance gave him an awesome home with plenty of opportunities for pouncing, playing, bug-hunting, and more love than he needs (or wants, usually).

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet

I hope to choose good more often… like a lovely Friday, regardless of the date, and becoming cat people. No, wait. Not cat people. Jimothy people.

Oh, and something new despite the gremlins. My first blog with a video…

Take that, gremlins!

Your turn to share! What positive outcome has resulted from your battles against negativity biases? Funny cat stories are always welcome, too.