On Being an Outdoor Cat

I easily get claustrophobic, but it goes beyond crowded elevators or airplanes. I get claustrophobic in office cubicles or conference rooms with no windows. For most of my adult life I’ve held an office job, but I yearn to be outdoors more often. If my desk sits somewhere in a building where I can’t see outside, I get a little stir crazy. I would take breaks to go and linger by a window to get a glimpse of sky.

This sort of claustrophobia can get particularly bad in the last long, dreary stretch of winter, much like what we’re experiencing right now in Chicago. I currently work from home, and my desk faces two large sets of windows, which makes my inner “outdoor cat” happy. I can see the backyard while I work and watch the squirrels run along the top of the fence.

This winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder has been lurking nearby in the shadows, threatening to capture me. I wish I could fly somewhere sunny and beautiful, but I can’t right now. Instead, I try to find little ways to make myself happy. If it’s nice out (in my very Chicagoan definition, sunny and above 17 degrees), I take my dog out for a walk during my lunch break. We’ll stroll through our neighborhood and admire the beautiful old houses, then visit the local park. Just seeing trees and expanses of sky immediately lifts my spirits and reinvigorates me for an afternoon of work.

When it’s too cold, icy, or rainy, I’ll spend lunch reading hiking blogs or checking out the Instagram accounts of national parks. I let myself daydream about visiting those places someday, or even dare to think about tackling the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, or Appalachian Trail myself. Granted, this would require saving up thousands of dollars and taking about 6 months off of work, so it’s more of a very, very longtime goal far off in my future.

I’m hoping for an early spring and that the worst of the cold and gray is behind us. Until then, like any other outdoor cat, I’ll curl up near a window in a nice warm sunbeam and daydream about leaving the house again soon.

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