Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Big Scary Kitty of Doom

Photo from http://www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/cats-for-kids/about-cats/body-language

Five years ago on Bastille day, I crept quietly past the doors of my sleeping housemates in my temporary home and out into the foggy early-morning to take refuge in the private sanctuary of my beloved car.

I did not want any sobbing and wailing that might occur to awaken those people I barely knew and then have to endure their awkward sympathy.

The call from my very-soon-to-be-ex-husband from outside the judges chambers in Milwaukee came right on time at 7 AM, but only to tell me that he would call back because the judge had not yet arrived.

I sat waiting for this second call feeling a mix of pretty much every uncomfortable emotion you can name. As these feelings cycled through me in waves, I noticed a large gray cat sitting right in the middle of the empty street.

She was clearly enjoying the morning, sniffing the breeze appreciatively.

As a woman professionally dressed for work, with a small white poodle on a leash briskly approached, the cat began to grow larger.  She rose to her tip-toes, arched her back, raised the fur on the ridge of her back, bristled her tail, glued to her ears flat back onto her head, and opened her mouth in a hostile hiss that showed her sharp little white teeth. Although I couldn't hear it I am reasonably sure there was a menacing growl emanating from her furry throat.

The fluffy poodle went ballistic, bouncing and barking furiously, and straining at the leash in a vain attempt to attack the insulting feline, but was dragged away by the annoyed business woman.

The sounds of the angry yipping (which continued as they went around the corner) faded, and the cat melted back to her former size. She settled happily into her same spot. 

She did not have long to wait.

Another woman in yoga togs with a large chocolate lab appeared. Once again the cat transformed into a big scary kitty of doom.

Perhaps the lab had previously felt the swipe of those claws on his tender nose or maybe he had simply never encountered anything quite so eerie, because his tail went instantly between his legs and he shrank in horror behind the black leggings of his owner. 

As they too, went around the corner (with the dog’s eyes rolling nervously behind him), the cat smugly resumed her perch - presumably to await her next victim.

Whether this was a new game for the cat or a favorite morning ritual, it was the perfect gift for me. The building tension was diffused with delighted laughter as I watched this other little drama unfold.

The call came and the divorce procedure was a mercifully dry and brief formality. Of course there were still tears of grief afterwards as I drove to the Muir Woods to seek solace from the redwoods, but the dogs had taken my fear and anger with them around that corner.  Well, not ALL of it but enough to make my divorce-by-phone-in-a-car easier to bear.

My photo of Muir Woods

The following day I drove to Harbin Hot Springs for the first time as a post divorce gift to myself. After my Watsu session (a delicious experience of bodywork in which I was cradled and swirled through the water in a lovely private outdoor pool), the practitioner asked if I had done anything to process my anger. I had told him at the beginning of the session that I had gotten a divorce the day before, so it was a reasonable question.

I've beamed blissfully up at him (I was still floating in the pool), and told him that I had no anger. I was filled with love and light and had totally forgiven both of my former husband and his new sweetie.

He looked skeptical and suggested I explore a little deeper as he detected that there was a fair amount of anger stored in my body.

I promised that I would, and more to prove to myself he was wrong than anything else, I decided I would fulfill my assignment on the long drive home. Probably not the best idea!

I dug out a CD and played a song* that I thought might help me find any teeny-weeny bits of residual anger - if there were any.

After roaring through it for maybe the 10th time while screaming, sobbing and shaking with rage until I lost my voice, I acknowledged that the Watsu guy had a point.

I wanted with all of my heart to handle my transition from my old life to my new one with grace and kindness for all.

I really and truly DID (and do) forgive and love both my former husband and the woman who is now his new wife. And given the circumstances, I was reasonably graceful.

All of this is well and good. AND there was some dark stuff that could not and should not have been bypassed.

Not that I advocate Carrie Underwood's Louisville-Slugger-to-the-pick-up-truck solution or taking ANY destructive action, but I now know that feeling the entire range of emotions from the rage and despair to the bliss and love and everything in between is essential. Vital. Necessary for life.

Transitions that involve betrayal and loss or other painful circumstances are actually gifts that help us experience the fullness of life and help us to become more fully realized beings. 

When the next big scary kitty of life appears unexpectedly in your path, if instead of fighting fleeing or hiding, consider this stance adopted by my sister Hilary's puppy, Irving

Photo credit: Lisa Asp, Tangerine House of Design

- which translates to “Woof woof, want to play?”

Inviting those we might consider to be adversaries to play is not usually a first response - especially when the other party caused pain.

And playing that game is not always just wagging tails. There may be growling and howling and even some snapping.

However when our intention is to bring in the element of willing engagement and seek resolution rather than retribution  healing occurs so much faster and easier.

If the goal is to feel better, learn from our experiences and make our transition easier for ourselves and those we love, a little play goes along way. (No, baseball bats don't count as play except on the baseball diamond!).

Carrie Underwood from "Before He Cheats"

* shortly after leaving my former husband, while at a car wash in Arizona, I heard a song that was not my usual flavor of music, but it struck a chord so strongly that I went out immediately to get the CD. I just watched the video for the first time and the scene (starting at minute 2:25 - worth a watch!) where she is powerfully striding down the street with a trail of explosive destruction in her wake, is like the goddess Kali incarnate! This, in combination with her impressive voice belting out those triumphant lyrics is the perfect antidote to the powerless feeling of betrayal. I'm guessing it was/is popular with a lot of women - even those who are playful and compassionate!


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  2. I like Irving's approach. We just adopted a dog who went through abuse and neglect in her five years, and she is so loving with all people. She does have issues with other dogs however, but we're working on those. Nancy


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