Mistakes, Misunderstandings, Misses, and Messes

There’s this mistaken belief out there – so widespread, it’s almost universal – that cats are aloof.  That’s on a good day.  On a bad day we get an even-worse mistake: Cat-demonization.  This is on par with another very bad mistake, which is the demonization of women as witches.

There’s this other, better-informed view that cats are simply part-wild, independent and mysterious.  And that some women, believed to be witches, were really healers.

Likewise, there’s this mistaken opinion out there about me.  That I’m selfish.  That I’m willful, for not honoring my mother as she would like.

I sucked up this mistake with my mother’s milk.  It’s made me sick my whole life.  So I’ve been sorely tempted to turn it back on my mother and, also, on others who endorse the view.  Starting with my mother.  She came first, after all.  (She “started it.”) She’s the one who’s selfish. She’s the one who’s willful, for not honoring me as I would like.


If I were to indulge in pursuing this mess in that way, I reckon I’d be pretty much doomed to spend the rest of life locked in a closet with my mother and somebody threw away the key.  You couldn’t call that living.  She and I pointing the finger at each other and that’s only just the commencement of hostilities.

I would rather think that both she and I are mistaken.  We’re both missing the point.  Which is, that neither of us really knows who the other is.  Which is, that we are whom we are, not necessarily whom we think others are telling us we are.

The point is: To know ourselves.  The point is: To know the borders of our knowledge.  To stand at those borders and to peer into the abyss of bafflement just beyond, and to act with the grace to be humble about it.

My cats have the grace to help me become whom I want to become.

The person I want to become is the person who knows that she understands the cats’ world only in the most superficial and rudimentary sense of the word “understand.”  And, crucially, to be the person who knows that she does not know.  Which is an awful lot to not-know about.

And how is any of this not-knowing bearable?  In any way?  When we, as biological beings, are susceptible to an elaborate chemical-reward-system in our brains, one that incentivizes certainty and that penalizes not-knowing?  I’ve written about this before, here.

Grace.  Humility.  Love.  I think that’s how this is bearable – but, really, it’s a mystery.

I have a good friend.  He was devoted to his girlfriend but she moved out and left him, taking her cat, whom my friend also loved, with her.  So what kind of person is my friend?  The kind who answers his ex’s frantic call when the ex had to go to work and the kitty was nowhere to be found.  The kind of person who would stump around the ex’s new neighborhood, calling kitty until he showed up and followed my friend, across traffic on a busy street, safely back to the ex’s new home.

My friend is the kind of person who, over this specially brutal winter we’ve just endured, fed and housed a stray cat in his shed.  Hence the name “ShedKitty.”

A milestone.  My friend just posted pictures of ShedKitty come out of the cold and into my friend’s living room (though my friend tells me ShedKitty still prefers to spend nights in The Shed.  It’s all about the brand, after all).  This same ShedKitty has now hung out for a spell on my friend’s couch.  Sniffed around.  Showed some belly.

shedkitty3-cropshedkitty1-crop(Those are clean clothes in the background, by the way.)

My friend models for me, then, the kind of person I want to become.  And he’s the kind of person whom I want to be happy, in his own right, in this bad sad world so full of misunderstanding.

From time to time, I get fed up with my kitties’ refusal to be hugged-on.  I simply manhandle them – “personhandle” them, I prefer to say – into my arms.  I call this deplorable practice “mandatorization.”  There comes a time when I simply cannot bear one more instant of all this honoring-of-the-cats’-space. It’s just mandatory.  I just demand that these kitties submit to my will, no more ifs-ands-or-buts about it.

Last evening I mandatorized Barney.  Usually he tolerates the outrage with his customary good cheer.  He grizzles some, and he doesn’t tolerate the outrage for long, but by then I make sure I got my happys on and I let him go.

Not yesterday.  Was it the impending tornado that killed sixteen people, or eighteen as I have lately heard?  Surely not – that monster hit 177 miles away.  Was it thunderstorms?  More likely.  Alignment of the stars?  Who the dickens knows.

Most likely, it was my menacing flip-flops.

Anyhow, Barney took one look at the flip-flops, freaked, and – recently clipped claws notwithstanding – scratched hell out of my belly and thighs on his way over and out.

Clearly a freak-out.  No sign of targeted aggression.  Nevertheless, it hurt like hell.  I wondered, at that point, why I put up with this.

The answer came back simple: I love Barney.

The answer is more complicated: I know what it is to be misunderstood.  I identify with cats in that way.

It’s my mother’s mistake, to call me selfish.  It’s my mistake, to believe her.

And in any case, the love that runs between Barney and Bugs and me does not run between my mother and me.  At least not in any way I recognize, and that’s what matters most to me.

That’s doubtless both her and my mistake.

So rather than tolerate all that mess, I’m looking elsewhere.

I’ll take the love that runs between my friend and how he shows up for an ex who done him wrong, and for a kitty he loves.  And for another kitty he’s working on loving.

I’m taking the love that runs between my cats and me.

edge-space 004-cropshedkitty-ba 001-crop

Any other take on the matter just locks and loads into a cycle of misunderstanding, mistrust, and misery.

I say:  Out with the lock-up.  Out with the “mis-es.”

That’s my take, and I’ll take it.  On the chin sometimes – but I’m taking it.  One fine day, and maybe even right this very second, I’m-a take it to the bank.


About nadbugs

Anita loves cats. This must be because she, too, has had nine lives. She’s been dancing since she could walk, she was a commercial artist and advertising producer, she earned a third-degree black belt in Aikido, she is a drummer with the Afrique Aya Dance Company, she is an attorney, and she’s a meditator and a devoted student of Nonviolent Communication. She also spent one lifetime sidelined with a devastating back injury in 1992. Since then – FELDENKRAIS METHOD® to the rescue. The FELDENKRAIS METHOD is all about dreaming concretely – thinking intelligently and independently by way of a gracious and kind physicality. The work affords all who study it a process by which to reach, with movement, into the mind and the heart, to make nine lives into one whole being.
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8 Responses to Mistakes, Misunderstandings, Misses, and Messes

  1. Sparkle says:

    My human considers us kitties and her boyfriend her family. Her real family are strangers to her and she does not care. She knows where the real love is.

  2. Marilia says:

    Here in our home, the Mom´s family are her kittens and her daughter!!! And we are very very happy together!

  3. dawn knapp says:

    You are just so freakin’ awesome!
    And you write so freakin’ well! Thank you for sharing!
    Love and Appreciation Always

  4. Sparkle echoed my sentiments to a T!

  5. Anya says:

    Anything I thought of saying in response seemed lacking, so “freakin’ awesome” it is!

  6. Sounds like you’ve had a lifetime of discord with your mother. Sorry. I also just grab and hug the boys, but they put up with it pretty well. Carrying Lokii around is out, however. Hugs: great. Being picked up: great. Taking a walk: aaaaa bleeding. But I’d be pretty sad if they didn’t want to be snuggled under the covers with us at night, or impatiently waiting for lap time when we (rarely) watch TV.

  7. Karen Lucas says:

    I have to tell you that I’m just so grateful that you and the boys are safe and sound – looking at the pictures from Arkansas on the news made many of us who follow your blog and you and your boys were very worried.

  8. Oh, Anita, I’m so sorry you got cheated out of your mother’s love. One does not earn a mother’s love, it is unconditional. I’m glad you have a wonderful friend you love, and that you adore your cats, and don’t forget your many friends who love you, too. I know I do.

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