I came across some interesting quotes and thoughts on social media recently about how saying you are “finding” yourself isn’t exactly accurate. Those of us truly looking within our hearts and minds to become the best version of ourselves – are not lost. We are simply trying to remember who we were before the world got its hands on us.

In the past year and a half, I have been quite dedicated to rescuing stray cats, getting them medical attention and fostering them until I could find them homes. To date I have rescued and re-homed 10 cats, and I hope to continue. But that isn’t really the point of this reflection.

Several months ago, it was brought to my attention that I was being attacked on social media by my ex-husband’s current wife. Of course, she wasn’t going to mention me by name, but a trusted friend summarized the content. I certainly won’t waste my time acknowledging the petty digs and comments made by people who banded to her side and have never met me, nor heard the actual truth or context. However, one thing mentioned did resonate.

I am sure the intention was to hurt me by belittling the connection my ex and I both had to our animals (2 cats). When the male passed away a few years ago, I messaged him and was attacked via messenger by his current wife then too, but I digress. When I had to put down the girl just a few months later, I didn’t contact him at all.

While I still have no idea what prompted this most recent attack of me on social media – I will now get back to my point. According to the current wife, “all I have in my life is cats” and on some level I should be ashamed and pitied for that. (And my personal favorite, I was trying to use the cats to get him back…oh my). The impression was also left that my ex couldn’t care less about the cats – but he and I both know the truth on that one. Obviously, the source reeks of insecurity, but it’s not an uncommon stigma to look down on “cat ladies” or people who actively work and bond with animals in their lives.

It’s ridiculous and ignorant to assume someone’s life isn’t fulfilling simply because they do not value or prioritize the same things that you do. It is also maddening that somehow it became a competition between women who have children and women who chose not to or cannot have them for a multitude of reasons. Not every woman without children cares about animals, and not all animal lovers use them as a substitute for a child we never had.

It gets even crazier when people like my ex-husband’s current wife try to make the incredible bond I had with my first two cats for over 16 years a negative thing. I guess it is impossible for some people to achieve a bond with another species – personally, I think those people are the ones we should feel sorry for and pity.

The only people who can understand how special it is to share your life with another species, are people who connect with animals in the same way. We will never convince the naysayers that we are fulfilled and happy in ways they couldn’t begin to experience themselves, because their hearts just can’t love outside the box.

That’s why, in my personal quest to live my best life and be my best self, I no longer worry about anyone’s opinion on how many cats I’ve rescued or decided to keep for myself. When I was a little girl, I spent so much of my time with cats on my grandfather’s farm. Most of my childhood I was raised with dogs – whom I loved with all my heart and bonded with. I was devastated when I myself, put down my childhood pet dog when I was an adult.

Yet, I always knew I was going to want cats someday. When I finally moved into my own apartment (with my ex-husband), I still had to wait a year before he would allow me to get a cat (yes, you read that correctly). They brought us so much happiness for 14 years, it was worth the struggle to get them.

When all is said and done, I feel more connected to that little girl today who would play with the kittens on the farm and worry about them if they got sick and try to help them. That is who I was before the world got its hands on me – she was always here – and now she’s unapologetically being her true self.

To anyone who has loved and lost a precious pet in their lives – know that love is justified, valid, important, and just as real as any other type of love someone feels. Consider yourself extremely lucky to connect in that way with such special creatures – I sure do.

**Update: Almost immediately after posting this article, the person referred to in the article went on quite the defensive attack mode – on social media of all places. Who knew that a simple, reflective blog post about my own personal feelings and experience would generate so much anger and hate. Reflection is healthy, and writing therapeutic to the soul. My thanks to my fellow writers and bloggers for all your support – happy writing!