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What I Learned About Hard to Love People From My Ornery Post-Partum Cat .. MeowPurrGrrr

Well, I believe I've finally sussed it out!

None of it is my fault, you see.

I simply can't be held responsible.


Definitely not my fault!

So .. I'm coming out!

Yikes ..

This is the day .. the one where I come clean.

Finally everything makes sense.

<-- This

makes sense!

Yup .. the cat is out of the bag!

I'm officially turning into CAT LADY (not Catwoman - unfortunately, the PVC might look a little dodgy on me nowadays, though I'll

work on that .. one day! ;o)

You see, the thing is, I seem to have made it that I've always had animals in my life - usually the furry four legged kind (though there have been the occasional two types also, bipeds if you prefer) - and now I absolutely know why.

I used to kid myself that much of this was so that my children would be able to grow up to have a love of animals. There were few things to compare with the joy and excitement of bringing home a surprise new furry friend (or two) and see their delighted little faces as they welcomed the new addition/s into their lives. I'm sure it must have bugged the hell out of my now ex-husband (no, it wasn't the pets!) though of course, our non-human family additions did not all come into our lives at the same time - we are talking over a period of close on 20 years!

I'd go out for bird seed to feed the wild birds in the garden - and come back with a couple of baby rats, which were supposed to be both the same sex but as it turned out, turned into 14 rats in not such a large amount of time! (Bargain or what? Only charged me for two!) Or I'd nip out to buy a loaf and come back with a puppy!

In the years my sons were growing up, we had an assortment of fish, a lobster, mice, rats, cats, dogs, a rabbit .. I think that about sums it up. I was always rescuing injured animals and birds - still do now! But thinking back, it was actually ME who wanted to have them around. My sons just enjoyed (as I remember it) the crazy ride .. and they both turned into deeply compassionate and caring young men so it was all good!

Animals have a very special place in my heart, because they are my teachers. They were leading me to my calling. I was destined to be surrounded by them. So you see, it really isn't my fault! It's a higher directive. And that's my excuse.

Gawd, so much of the stuff I've learned about human nature - communication skills, relationships, even the drive for pro-creation - has been enriched and filled out by the presence of animals in my life. They've helped me to gain a much deeper insight and a richer understanding about love; affection; humility; compassion; connection; personality types; behaviour patterns and all manner of other things that are so relevant to human character development.

The latest illumination relates to the matter of feeling loveable via the aforementioned ornery cat - the one hiding in the box atop the page. Miika. You'll understand about the 'hiding' bit shortly!

You see, I've had many cats since the first one (my beloved Mouse), whom I sneaked into the house via the back door with a big red ribbon tied loosely round her neck to bamboozle my Mum into submission while I hid from view behind the bin shelter to gauge how long and painful a period of extra domestic duties (there were six of us!) she might bestow on me, or whether I should just grab the cat back and leave home now while the going was still good, when I was around 17 years old.

I've loved and lost numerous cats since then; another equally painful and beautiful lesson I've learned from my animal friends about the power of vulnerability - the opening of your heart to love wholly, while allowing large pieces of it to be carried around in a world full of hazards to these endlessly curious and wondrous little friends who you share or have shared your life with, for however brief a time you have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to; and about the necessity to be willing to let go when you must. It ain't always fluff and stuff having animals in your life. Sometimes it hurts rather a lot!

The Cat Contract

I love all animals and have 3 adorable miniature daxies as well as cats in my life now. But I've always had a special affinity with cats. I love their free spirit; their irreverence & independence, their slightly snooty and regal way of reminding you that 'you are my human - I am not your cat. You shall never own me'.

They come into your life, and they adopt you, whatever else you may understand just happened when you bring a cat into your home. That's where the fun and craziness begins.

The 'Clawses'

  • I will allow you to pet me, tickle and stroke me - but only within certain limits - always determined by me and subject to change without prior notice

  • I may allow you to pet me while I lay over your lap and knead your legs for a while with my newly sharpened claws to wind down, and then fall asleep, after which you shall not move or otherwise disturb my slumber unless I move first

  • My needs will always take priority over yours

  • I reserve the right to climb you, no matter what you are wearing - or not wearing - and sit on your shoulders as you try to go about your usual boring human routine and not pay attention to me

  • I will occasionally huff and puff, hiss or snap my tail impatiently for absolutely no reason whatsoever that is apparent to a being of your limited intelligence

  • Sometimes, especially in the middle of the night, I will have a 'cat crazy', during which I may rouse unexpectedly from sleep, tear around any part of the house that is accessible to me (*Note rule about closed doors below), shredding wallpaper, knocking ornaments off shelves (the higher the better because there is nowhere (do you hear that - NOWHERE!) that I shall not gain access to) and destroying your house plants, which incidentally, may be used for my convenience if you dare to forget to clean out my allotted toilet immediately after use

  • From this point on, your furniture - is MY furniture - even if you think buying some expensive 'cat furniture' will keep my attention off yours

  • I enjoy knocking things off shelves and tables for fun, and the more you try to deter me from continuing what I love to do for fun, the more I shall do it just to remind you that your rules are of no consequence to me - that sh1t is for dogs!

  • Should you ever feel the need to take your attention away from me to do some other menial thing, even if I appear to you to be otherwise occupied, the more intensely your attention is focused on that thing and not on me, the more likely I shall remind you that I am much more important than anything else you may wish to bother yourself with by jumping up onto your book / newspaper / magazine or work, even if I've just come in from outside and my feet are all wet and dirty, and I may choose to rub my face all over yours until you remember the terms of our agreement

  • Closed doors are CATegorically not allowed. Close one on me and lock me out and I shall use any and all means - including the 'kitten eyes' and/or yowling loudly - to guilt trip you into getting up to let me back in, and then either come in until you think it's safe to sit down again and continue with your boring activities, and then demand you open the door again, or simply just stand at the door unmoving to make sure you fully understand this very important rule

  • If you thought your mobile contract was bad, know this human: I reserve the right to add to, delete or amend any or all clauses at will without your agreement .. and there's nothing you can do about it

Are we both clear on that? Then let's proceed. We shall start as we mean to go on. You may feed me now.

I kinda loved all that hard to get stuff - and I guess I'm now recognising that many traits of cats reminded me of myself. Not a fact of which I'm especially proud, you understand, but then, self-awareness is not always easily won!

With the wisdom of the passing years, I've come to see more and more that this is true of so many human characteristics. We are really not so different after all. For instance:

Miika, (ok, she's a little past postpartum by now but that's a minor detail) gave birth to 3 kittens - one of which I (begrudgingly) gave up to my son's friend for his little girl - begrudgingly because he was the one I intended to keep. He was a beauty - and would have been the first ginger cat I'd have had in my life. The other two, a boy and a girl were so alike, I felt they were a pair who couldn't be parted so whatever happened, they were going to be re-homed together, or both stay with me. You can guess the outcome! Here they are shortly before my 'Little Ted' moved to his new pad. (Photo courtesy of my talented videographer son Ryan Bunning.)

So, on the left is Hollie and on the right is Shaun, or Shauni as I sometimes call him.

Now, much as it gives me enormous pleasure to have an excuse to ramble on in my blog about my puddy cats and my dorgies, there is actually a point to this. So how is all this pet-talk relevant, you might ask? Allow me to explain.

Miika was a wonderful, attentive and committed mother when the kittens were, well, kittens, as of course nature intended. However, after Ted 'left home' at about 9 or 10 weeks around Christmas 2014; she, Hollie & Shaun had 'the snips'; and the kittens began to develop more independence; she wasn't much impressed with this new status quo.

Although she wasn't the cuddliest of cats that I've ever had the pleasure of sharing my life with, she was still loving and a great joy to stroke and pet so long as her feet were mostly on the ground or other solid surface, or if you man-handled her into a crook in your arms, upside down, feet in the air, while you assertively rubbed her ears, chin and head and elicit a sort of not quite fully committed purr - though only for the strictly limited amount of time that she would permit such an outright breach of the rules.

Now though, a low level growl seems to accompany her whenever she is in the vicinity of 'the kids' and though she will occasionally play chase with them - and they truly are almost joined at the hip so I guess must be as in your face as any human children in full out play mode, she will make herself scarce and do her own thing for as much of the day as possible. It's probably not so much different to how many human mums feel a fair bit of the time when the children are rowdy.

Rather sweetly, there are many times I quietly observe one or other of the kittens (very) carefully approach Miika while she is, say, snoozing blissfully on the sofa in the warmth of the summer sunshine, in that cat kind of slow mo, and you can imagine that they would so love her to let them in again as she used to when they were still babies and give them comfort, but the very second she cottons on, she'll snarl or hiss or lash out and they'll dive out of there like the proverbial scalded cat.

I find it kind of sad that there is this lovely easy 'family' feeling between my dorgs and the kittens, where this <-- is a common occurrence, Miika is usually anywhere but snuggled up in the throng of furry four-legged members of my tribe. But still, I'm ok with it if she is. I shall keep on trying!

Often, we ('my' furry family and I) will have a free for all stroking / play session, where the dogs make lots of noise and chaos to get the most attention they can, and the cats also come into the fray to be part of the fun. Miika has always made herself part of this game, and she still does, despite the willing proximity to the kittens.

She'll come wandering in cool as you like, as cats do, like she was just passing by and happened to notice there was something of minor interest going on. She will make sure to get in among the little bodies to get her fair share of the action - appearing under your hand and then walking off, appearing under your hand and then walking off - until the game is over for now (usually when my back starts to ache from bending down to play!).

Now the interesting thing is this: I've begun to notice a new thing about her behaviour where every now and again, if I happen to be playing with the kittens - or rather - when they are doing what they're doing in the photo above (which is often through the day as I very often work / write from home), I'll catch her looking at me as if to say 'you've forgotten about me', which of course I haven't. She's still as special to me as she always was.

I make special efforts to give her one-to-one time, as with the kittens and the dogs, throughout the day around my work. Initially, as I approach, she gives me the sweet and affectionate looks cats are so good at - you know the one - eyes half closed in apparent bliss and eager anticipation of the strokes that are about to land on their heads, and the little kind of half meow that they do when they really really love you the most (first thing in the morning, food time, when you're trying to work!

However, often, because the kittens are much more free and easy with their affection, as soon as I make my way to her, they will come running along with me and the growling ensues, and I'll be lucky to be able to stroke / give her one-to-one for longer than a few seconds before she beats a hasty retreat, sounding super-narked to have them muscle in on her formerly exclusive cat time. On those occasions when the kittens may be playing outside, out of sight for a while, she will delightedly soak up the attention as much as she did prior to having to share the cat love with her two growing 'children'.

What I have been noticing lately is this: with her not coming forward with her love, and holding back in her somewhat new insecurity, she makes it more challenging to give her love - yet I know beyond doubt that she wants that love and affection because of how she responds when the kittens are not around for a few minutes. Having the two new additions to the fold has drawn this more into my awareness because they absolutely make you have it, as of course do the dogs - as dogs are usually prone to do.

This is reminiscent to me of how we can often judge shy people as 'difficult' or unfriendly, if not downright miserable - a judgment which must be like the straw that broke the camel's back for someone who is already struggling with feelings of unworthiness. Their fear of expressing themselves honestly for fear of rejection and alienation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What this has brought home with some new clarity is how we, as humans, relate to people who are shy, or who we might perceive as 'odd'.

We can all too easily make a judgment that a person who holds back is unfriendly, not nice or just plain miserable. We know that there are many people who find it difficult to be relaxed around others for all sorts of reasons. We all have our own story to tell and some may be unimaginably difficult for others to comprehend. Add into this mix the sometimes brittle exterior shell a shy person may need to build so that others can not see how very vulnerable they really are, and you can begin to see how easy it is to completely get it wrong when we judge!

I'd like to throw some thoughts out there to help plant a seed from which greater compassion can germinate.

How long will a shy person wait in their lives for someone else to give them the love they crave, because they cannot believe themselves worthy of love, not even their own? How easy can we suppose it is for someone who, for whatever reason does not know how to love themselves to reach out to others? Will they ever?

How many people would you imagine will never find the will and the confidence to reach out of their fragile comfort zone simply because it has become their prison, so that they would rather live a lonely but sort of safe feeling life than risk having someone else burn them with a less than welcoming response to what appears to be a luke-warm effort to get along, when really it is just a terribly fearful one?

The shy person so wants to be loved, to belong, to feel accepted and acceptable, and to feel they are as loveable as anyone else, for everything that they are. Yet until they can learn to 'be loveable', it's very unlikely that others will love them authentically. After all, we already understand that others will treat you the way you teach them to treat you! We show them how we expect to be treated by the way we treat ourselves - in all the tiny nuances of our mostly unconscious day to day behaviours!

We also understand that people who don't love themselves attract relationships with people who a) don't love themselves either and b) because of their own lack of self-love, any potential partner (or family members, friends, work colleague etc) will likely as not be incapable of giving love to someone else - a quandary that creates a very negative downward spiral. We cannot give to others what we do not have within ourselves.

People who don't love themselves will often believe they should be grateful to anyone who gives them attention, and others who don't love themselves have a radar for people who they can beat up on to make themselves feel more important - which is how abusive relationships begin.

Effectively, what happens is this:

  • I don't love me, and I wear that fact like a red flag that is flying above my head to alert anyone who would give me the love I crave. Someone as lacking in self-love as myself sees it, in probably many cases registering my lack of self-love as unconsciously as I recognise my own patterns (though not always!), and the attraction feels powerful and exciting at first (like attracts like). And so a love-like relationship begins, but over time, when routine helps us slip back into our old familiar patterns, things begin to deteriorate

  • My partner doesn't love him/herself; they feel no personal power in their own life; therefore they need to find ways to feel more powerful by bringing someone else down; their lack of love for me makes them say/do hurtful things, and maybe even act out with violence toward me (someone they perceive as weaker than themselves, because I will take it just to not be alone and feel nobody wants me!); my feelings of worthlessness make me think I don't deserve better than this; my fear of the rejecting behaviour makes me feel weak, stupid, lonely (though less lonely perhaps than being completely alone) and even more worthless; my increased feelings of worthlessness, added to my fear and disorientation make me feel even worse about myself than I already did because now I hate myself for being so pathetic, which confirms to me that I am simply not worthy of love, therefore what's the point of trying to convince myself any different?

And so it goes on! Spiraling down and down and down, perhaps until something truly radical happens to break the cycle. Sometimes it can take a person many years to break away from this relationship pattern. Or it may never happen, as long as neither partner can muster the energy or develop the insight to make a decision that things need to change, meaning the abuse just continues indefinitely.

Or as in so very many cases, it may even end in murder! Sobering stuff eh!

A person without self-love may show up in the world with all the signs of having a really bad attitude, which is not endearing to others and likely as not will just drive people away, unless, as is with the case with me and my ornery cat (who is here to teach me!) - there is enough understanding there to really know what is going on beneath the self-protecting behaviour that nothing would make me believe she is not worthy of my continued effort!

Lack of self-love is absolutely epidemic!

I would argue that it is THE Number One sickness that ails humanity.

Added to this already deeply unstable equation, how much social exclusion might a person with no self-love (self-esteem) experience because they are so afraid to come forward; to put themselves out there; to risk further rejection when they already stand on shaky ground; to stake a claim on their place in the world and mix - with a smile, head held high, shoulders back and voice projecting confidently as they express themselves as someone of value - even as they may quake in their boots?

How much can we suppose a shy person longs to feel important and significant enough for even their giving of love to matter to others, let alone for others to love them back? How do we begin to build wealth of this kind for ourselves from an empty account?

Heavy stuff from observing a cat huh! Such is the nature of inspiration.

The bottom line is that nobody else can fill up your self-love account but you! That's why it's called that. When two people come together as two half-people, they will never make up a successful 'whole'. Because their union is based on the other person remaining a part of what is actually an unhealthy co-dependent relationship.

What must happen is that each must take full responsibility for developing The Art of Feeling Loveable. For any relationship to work successfully, it must come from a meeting of two wholes, not two halves.

Two halves do not make for a strong relationship, because there is always a tug of war to own the other half that is missing from oneself. While that goes on, both will continually project onto the other an expectation that they must fill the others' empty spaces inside, which of course they cannot do. They're too busy looking for completion themselves. Both are starving, neither has the others' missing piece/s!

On the other hand, two wholes can meet in the middle, in true equality and completion from the inside, not the outside. They meet in security - joyful and ready to share the fullness of all that each of them are. It may take the biggest effort a person has ever made at anything in their life so far to find ones' own completion - and it might be argued that this IS actually the one thing that we each must learn above all other life lessons. But boy, is it worth the pain!!

We must make a decision - that we are worthy of our own love - despite any and all experiences we may have had in our lives up until that point. We must give up any and all ideas that anyone else's opinion or evaluation of us matters more than our own.

Yes it can feel so difficult.

Yes, it may run contrary to almost everything we have learned to believe about ourselves along the way to today!

There is no short-cut. Only a pile of useful tools that may help us. One has only to search the self-help book shelves of any book-store; take a scroll through the wilds of our favourite search engine; take a leap into the video resources online, or listen in to some of the vast numbers of audio programmes available out there in the world. Ultimately though, the journey must be taken alone, under ones' own steam. It doesn't have to happen without support, but ..

.. first must come the decision .. that nothing is going to stand in the way any more to your finding the way to begin loving yourself more.

A favourite one for me is this:

Today, I am loving myself better!

Go do it peeps. It's the only way!

Miika tells me so!

With love, light & compassion,

Trish Brennan

.. and my little family of wise & wonderful can/fel-ine mentors!


With love,

Trish Brennan


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