My life as a rat

My life as a rat


Since I joined the rank of rats, I’m much more relaxed.


It came about after reading a book called ‘Who Stole My Cheese’ by Spencer Johnson.  He pointed out the difference between rats and humans was that when rats discovered something wasn’t working they tried something else and didn’t give up.  When humans found something wasn’t working, they looked for something or someone to blame.

Numerous times in my human condition I rammed myself at a wall, determined to break it down if it killed me.  These days I take a softer approach. If I’m passionate about something I don’t give up but I don’t make myself ill over it.  I think about the man who decided to eat an aeroplane to prove it could be done and chopped it into bits until he’d achieved it.

I no longer feel I’ve failed because I haven’t found the key to fit the lock.  I think of Thomas Edison.  After his 700th attempt to create the electric light bulb, he was approached by a journalist of the New York Times.

So how does it feel to have failed so many timesKeep-your-chin-up.-No-one-expected-you-to-save-the-world-otherwise-you-would-have-been-born-wearing-a-cape-and-tights.-Just-do-the-best-you-can?’ he was asked.

Eddison replied ‘I haven’t failed once. I’ve just proved those 700 ways don’t work.’

Now, when I find myself writing the same chapter umpteen times (and throwing it in the trash), I tell myself each attempt is bringing me closer to the final version.

I’ve stopped banging my head against the wall in desperation. I’ve stopped blaming myself when I can’t get a handle on something. I’ve stopped blaming others when things go awry.  As a rat, I get on with life without analysing the ‘becauses’.  This I was helped with by my teacher in India.  When I asked him why something I’d strived for so hard had crumbled to ash, he said ‘Because’.

‘Because of what?’ I asked.

‘Who knows,’ he said. ‘Don’t waste your life dwelling on it. Move on.’

So I took his advice.  I know I can’t win them all but walls no longer thwart me.

Rats always find a way round without stressing out when they can’t get through – and with practice, I’m slowly getting the hang of it.



Jaylen Grace is the author of Omzak The Space Cat Warrior, Porridge The Two Faced Parrot and Omtopia (The 7 steps to enlightenment).  She also writes under her own name (Stella Ralfini) for adult content books  ie lovemaking manual Three Faces of Sex           @jaylengrace   @stellaralfini




Last week, on a Comedy Writing Course at City Lit in London, we were asked to share an embarrassing moment. I have so many I could write a book, but the memory that came back was an incident that took place at a Buddhist retreat many years ago. A boyfriend had just dumped me and I was feeling bruised, so a seven day haven which included writing workshops struck me as the ideal place to lick my wounds.


I didn’t know what to expect but felt elated when the mini cab dropped me off at an old beamed house surrounded by woodland.  I was late and all the students were already in the dining room, deep in porridge, muesli and live yoghurt.  They were sitting squashed together on benches trying to maneuver their spoons and forks. The only vacant spot was next to a girl called Kate who was sobbing because her boyfriend had just dumped her!  Not my ideal breakfast partner, but, when she held out her arms for a hug I obliged, hoping I wouldn’t cross her path too often.

‘Om shanti, I hope you enjoy your time with us,’ a teacher said, slipping a sheet of paper into my hand.

When I read it I nearly fainted. It was a long list of my household duties. I hadn’t been expecting that as part of my recovery therapy; nor the fact we’d be woken every morning at 5a.m.! The next jolt was the sleeping arrangements. I was sharing a dormitory with nine other women. And guess who had the bed next to mine – KATE!

I didn’t know about ‘crying therapy’ at the time but three days into the retreat I could have happily suffocated Kate with a pillow.  She wailed with the owls at night and woke up wailing with the morning birds. I was dog tired from the minute I got out of bed to the minute my head hit the pillow.

The writing workshops consisted mainly of poetry. My mind was so weary the only thing I could come up with was an ode about a lazy, fat cat whose days were spent being shoved off peoples’ laps. I joined a screaming therapy session to appease my urge to ram a boot down Kate’s throat but my deepest source of misery stemmed from the fact my bowels hadn’t ejected the mountain of chickpeas and lentils that were served up at every meal, and I’d started to inelegantly break wind.

The good news was that I was able to share my woes with my new mate Keith. He was a Buddhist retreat virgin like myself and had attended the screaming session to get rid of the stress he’d accumulated since his arrival.

On our last evening, the meditation in the shrine room was to be a special one that included a ceremony of forgiveness, gratitude and thanksgiving.  Whilst Keith and I had no idea what it entailed, we were looking forward to it – apart from my reservation that my gut felt ready to give birth to a donkey because I was so constipated.

‘Mind over matter,’ Keith said, dragging me in.’You’ll be fine. Stop worrying.’

Everyone was sitting on cushions facing each other on either side of an aisle. We grabbed the two remaining cushions and joined in with the meditation. The fermented beans in my stomach did a somersault. A crude sound left my behind. I coughed into my hand to cover it up but farted even louder.  The woman next to me giggled. My brow breaking out in a sweat, I squeezed my buttocks together hard.

At the sound of a gong, the couple nearest the front, bowed to a statue of Buddha. Swaying and dancing they lit incense sticks and circled them over their heads. When they fell to their knees and brought their foreheads to the ground, Keith and I stared at each other. I knew his look of horror was because he was afraid of making a fool of himself. My concern was that kneeling on the floor with my butt in the air spelled DANGER!

I thought about making a run for it but by the time our turn came, I was back in control. All went well until I circled the incense stick –when I could feel a giant fart trying to get out. I crossed my legs to stop it coming and when Keith dropped to his knees, tensely followed, praying the vision in my mind wouldn’t become physical reality. Too late!!!!!With the speed of a rocket, the wind trapped in my stomach, blasted out of the now, open back door and the reverent silence was shattered by disgusting mega-tone farts.

My cheeks the colour of plums, I peeked at Keith. ‘Don’t try to blame me,’ he spluttered.

My acute embarrassment IMG-20130714-01471made me laugh with hysteria, which resulted in another flurry of farts. When I stood up, everyone was howling with mirth and rolling about the aisles.  Laughing, crying and farting, I scurried into the garden and hugged a tree for solace, wondering where I’d ever find the courage to face the others again.

Later in the kitchen, full of love and goodwill, everyone came together to give me group hug. ‘I’m sure Buddha’s still laughing his head off,’ one of our teachers grinned. ‘Thanks for making his celebration so memorable.’

Jaylen’s convinced I’m highly strung…A Post by Sophia Loren

Jaylen’s convinced I’m highly strung…A Post by Sophia Loren

038Jaylen’s convinced I’m highly strung because she rescued me from a woman with psychological problems – but I’ll have you know that when left in peace, I’m the most balanced cat you could meet. So, let me tell you what happened and let you be the judge of whether Jaylen could have shown more understanding

As you know, we recently moved to a house which has a garden. I had never been outside, nor ever wanted to, but little by little Jaylen wheedled me out, and yesterday I forgot myself and stayed there. The reason I stayed there was because of a crocodile. Well actually it was a lizard but my mind had convinced me otherwise. I was frozen with fright to the spot when I felt something brushing my tail. When I turned, an enormous ginger cat was sniffing my behind.

‘You filthy beast,’ I hissed with outrage, boxing him around the ears.

He pounced.

I fled for my life.

Jaylen said she was standing in the kitchen when I flew through the door like a torpedo, crashed on my butt in the hall and tumbled into the living room. When I opened my eyes, I saw TWO orange cats running towards me.  Convinced they were relatives of filthy beast, I lashed out at one, whilst ripping the other to shreds with my back claws.

I was so busy biting and fighting I wasn’t aware of anything else but I could hear Jaylen scream ‘STOP YOU LUNATIC! Arrgghhhhhhh.’ I assumed the relatives had brought a friend and Jaylen was dealing with him.

My teeth were stuck into one of the cat’s heads. It felt like I was fighting mid air and a violent force was shaking me.  Next second, I’d lost my grip, hit the floor and hit my head.

When I came out of my daze, I saw Jaylen hopping about on one foot. ‘I don’t know what goes on in your crazy head,’ she screamed. ‘Can’t you tell the difference between real cats and socks with cat’s faces on them! She waved a foot in my face. Look! That’s my blood dripping on the carpet.’ She limped off. ‘And don’t think you’ll be getting any cat treats.

As you know, I taught myself to write to clear up misunderstandings that can arise between pawrent and pet. Later that night, after she’d bandaged her wound and was resting her leg because she’d sprained her ankle in the tussle, I left her a note.

A REEL orang cat made me do it. Sory.         PS can I hav one cat treet?

Enlightened by – a cat guru

One day, many years ago, I was driving along a busy highway and saw a dead cat in front of me. I swerved to avoid amputating its head and came within a whisker of hitting a motorbike.

Trembling and shaken, I pulled into a bypass to reflect on the fact that I could have KILLED another person because I’d allowed my panicked state of mind to take control of the steering wheel.

What had I been thinking?

Hopefully the cat’s spirit was winging its way towards cat heaven, but in its physical form it was DEAD. Had it been a dead branch, I wouldn’t have thought twice about trampling it, and certainly, in the cat’s diminished condition, it couldn’t have cared less how many cars drove over it.

What a lesson that turned out to be!  I understood that until the mind was brought under rational control, we remained victims of irrational illusions ruled by that devious monster called fear.

I saw in how many other ways fear distorted logic in everyday situations.

How it destroyed relationships.  How it destroyed dreams.

Fear was a master of disguise that lurked in the dark to catch us out and required diligence to stop it entering the mind and poisoning us with its venom.

Teachers come in many forms. That day mine was a cat guru.

I sent blessings to the cat for enlightening me…and moved off in new unders