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December 5, 2016

15 Seconds can Change Everything.

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My husband barely tolerates two of my greatest loves—two extremely large, spoiled and adorable Maine Coon cats.

They are over 18 pounds of fur and unconditional love—each.

I’ve had a furry feline friend all my life. He’s avoided them his entire existence. He claims that he’s a dog guy. I never fully understood why we can’t be both.

The first night he stayed over at my house, years ago, when we were first dating, the cats performed their usual nightly ritual—traipsing across the bed (and our heads) until they found a perfect place to purr loudly for a few minutes before falling asleep.

By 2:00 a.m., the purring and paws were all too much for him to take. He bolted.

I breathed.

My inner voice quietly spoke to my heart and said not to worry. To trust my intuition. To relax. To remember that I was good enough and not take his frantic departure at 2:00 a.m. as a personal sign of ultimate rejection—if at all possible.

I desperately wanted to trust the overflowing, if not gushing, excitement that my spirit felt for this new guy in my life. A guy who effortlessly unlocked the padlock of the deepest chambers in my heart the moment we met.

With that, I fell asleep listening to the soothing engines of my four-legged loves.

When I woke up, there was a text from him on my phone. My spirit lifted. My fear of rejection and insecurity evaporated. All it said was,

“Can we try that again?”

Days turned into months. I moved in. Months turned into years. We got married. We loved. We lived. And we argued at times. Mostly about the cats…and sex. (We’ll save the latter for another day.)

At one point a while back, in the volcanic eruption of one heated discussion, he mentioned that if he knew how much damage two small animals would cause upon moving in to his very snazzy house with fine leather furniture (now punctured from cat claws), gorgeous fabric couches (with threads now pulled at the corners) and the most fragile wood floors ever laid (now scratched by innocent paws), he would not have made the same decision.

The truth was that if they weren’t moving in, neither was I.

He knew that. Unless severe allergies were involved, with severe meaning “causing death,” we were a package deal.

I trusted that love would win. It did. And the lessons learned by choosing love and also through our differences leave me overwhelmed with gratitude.

The most powerful lesson I’ve learned is the life-changing impact of 15 seconds. What you can do with just 15 seconds and the ripple effect it creates.

In the beginning, we tried everything to keep the cats from waking us up at all hours of the night by coming into our bedroom or scratching at the door. We tried tin foil on the floor outside the bedroom door, double sided tape, motion-censored sound and air cans that shrieked so loudly it likely woke up the neighbors. In a desperate attempt for a good night’s sleep, we even bought that pet bark/meow deterrent but promptly decided against it when we first tried it on ourselves and our knees almost buckled in shock, feeling as if we’d just been tazed.

Then a miracle happened.

My husband’s daughter and grandson came to visit and we bought a baby gate to ensure the toddler’s safety on the stairs. It worked perfectly for a one-year-old.

Upon their departure, as if struck by genius, we realized that it could work for cats too! That night we placed the gate at the staircase leading to our bedroom and the cats were unable to climb the stairs and scratch at our bedroom door throughout the night.

How is it that some of the best solutions to life’s problems are so simple, staring us in the face, waiting patiently for us to see them?

The gate is permanently kept down the hall and each night. I bring it out along with the wooden 1×6 board that gets positioned above the gate, since the cats have learned to jump over the gate. Each night, as I climb the stairs to go to bed, I wander down the hall to get the gate and set it up, securing our restful sleep.

It takes about 15 seconds.

Even with the gate, it felt like the tension would never be completely erased when the topic of the cats came up. Until the smallest of gestures changed everything.

I cannot recall exactly when it happened. One day, the gate and wooden board were leaning neatly by the stairway as I made my way to bed. It was always my job to go get the gate and prop it into place before crawling into bed. However, on this night it was already there, conveniently waiting for me to set up before I came up to bed.

My heart recognized the gift in this simple gesture from the man I love.

The next night, it was there again. I’m not sure why this tiny yet thoughtful gesture meant so much to me. I whispered a silent gratitude of thanks to my husband.

Perhaps I felt more understood. Less alone. I’m not sure.

My husband’s thought-filled action continued and the remaining threads of tension dissipated in our relationship.

Something was different. Unmistakably different. We’ve never talked about it but I think we both felt something shift.

It’s only 15 seconds a day. But it changed everything.

Now, I fall asleep to the purring sound of my husband snoring.

Years have gone by. We’ve both mellowed. The 18 pound balls of fur still squeeze under his skin and his reaction still gets under mine!

Sometimes. But rarely now.

The tiny grains of cat litter sand still leave a trail from the litter box in the laundry room downstairs to every corner of the house and we are forever stepping on it, no matter how often I sweep or vacuum. They have ruined nearly every piece of furniture with their lack of ability to decipher between the couches and four (yes, four) cat trees that they are supposed to climb.

And they still manage to find their way into the bedroom occasionally.

But none of this seems to matter quite so much any longer. I’d be lying if I said everything was absolutely perfect. Of course, it’s not. But the positive impact of my husband’s thoughtful gesture—a gesture that probably takes less than 15 seconds—is bewildering.

I am more gentle and patient with my incredible husband. He is more tolerant and loving with his kind-hearted wife. I express my appreciation more and notice all the things he does to make my life easier. He takes more notice of and acknowledges my efforts to make his world brighter.

It’s only 15 seconds a day. But it has changed literally everything.

I see the effect of how 15 seconds a day has changed our lives immeasurably and I can’t help but wonder what the ripple effect could be around the world if we all shared just a few seconds of kindness every day with those we love—family, friends and even strangers we cross paths with on our journey through life.

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Author: Crystal Flaman

Image: Flickr/Helena Jacoba

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Travis May

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Crystal Flaman