After a somewhat tumultuous evening with my youngest daughter, and a couple of upsetting incidents with my son over the last week, I find myself sitting in the Jacuzzi staring at my cat.
Many years ago I did not care for cats. It was not much of a neutral issue, I really didn’t like them. I was aware that they were not friendly in a dog sort of way, and that propensity for aloofness apparently offended me. I was also aware that the issues I had were about me and my emotional distance that developed when I had a run-in with someone. That my tendency to be distant when betrayed or otherwise not allowed to make mistakes mirrored a cat’s natural disposition was not lost on me. That contradiction drove me to get cats as pets.
I had a lot of trouble initially. Cats, as I soon discovered, are capable of taking revenge when they feel thwarted. Of course when I didn’t want a cat in the house and they wanted to be in the house, they would take to wrecking screens or spraying on doors or, when finally let into the house, proceed to mark my house as their territory. And I was part of the territory–when a cat is not finished being petted, they can become quite arrogant and indignant. This feline behavior would drive me nuts (okay, I drove me nuts). I found all of this quite disconcerting (not that dogs, as it turned out, were much better). But I persisted because I didn’t understand my cellular behavior and I wanted to change it.
It took a few years before I caught on.
That was my first deliberate, explicit lesson in allowing another to be, and to adjust to them, rather than my expending energy getting them to adjust to me. I finally came to truly like and appreciate the feline species.
My children have been a parallel lesson, though I have always loved (and liked) them, even when I’ve been upset with them. My oldest daughter worried me immensely before she seemed to catch on. For me it was a lesson in cutting the invisible umbilical cord. We don’t agree sometimes about the way things should be handled, but we respect and love each other (as is the case with all my children). She has recently been accepted into a state parks system and is attending “boot camp.” This has caused her a great deal of changes, and she has been entirely adorable, and strong, in her vulnerability.
My youngest daughter is busily attending college and paying her way, though she continues to live at home. Last night she dropped a semi-bombshell on me about something she intended to do. I did not consider it a reasonable situation at all, in fact I considered it taking advantage of the opportunity she has been provided with by living at home. But even worse to me was that she was not asking me anything, she was informing me. In the situation she was getting herself into, I had the most experience. She had already informed everyone else, meaning the three former women in my life, and had asked their opinions, which just blew my mind. Only her mother seemed to give a reasonable response. What made it worse was that I went semi-ballistic and said some inappropriate things (though I said a lot of appropriate things as well) about the logic, intention, and contradictions of the entire scenerio. My daughter called me on the inappropriate stuff, and in no uncertain terms (I taught her to stand up for herself, even with me–and I can be rather formidable). It was a real encounter, but one in which we could only reach an agreement that she would not go through with anything without talking to me first.
Last week, my son, who has been having his troubles at work and in the world at large recently, fell down a flight of stairs and had to go to the emergency room. The way I got the information was upsetting to me, but at least he turned out to be all right. In any case, it was clear that he was distracted by events at work and that his energy was/is just not up to par. While he has not been handling things as I might (though he is probably doing better at 22 than I did), it seems clear to me that he works in an adverse environment. He has a good paying job, but it sounds like the managers in his company are trained to be tyrants. There is certainly ample evidence that harassment is not an occasional tool of management, it is a main tool. Apparently these people do not care nor understand about productivity, though they claim otherwise. The main mission is personal power and the currency for that power is intimidation.
I have attempted to teach my children to be reasonable, to be understanding, to look at probabilities, to see the other person’s point of view, and to not be intimidated. My son seems to have over-learned the last lesson and is at the point where he is just back in these people’s faces. As a result, he understands that they are going to let him go when he gets back from disability (for his fall down the steps) in about a week. They claim, according to my son, that going out on disability has put him over the allowable number of days he can miss work (which is actually correct as I recall). I know he takes it seriously, I can see it in his demeanor, but he appears somewhat cavalier–his attempt to pretend things will just work out.
Along with these events at work, which I consider primarily the attitude of the company, but compounded by my son’s contribution, he has been making, in my view, some other unsound judgments about financial issues. We have talked and I have been quite expressive about his propensities. There are some things he cannot undo and he is relying, to some degree it seems to me, on providence to pull his irons out of the fire. However, that being said, he knows enough and works hard enough and has proven that he can change directions and get to where he was headed.
The upshot of this cat’s and children’s story is that we can run from cat-profiles, but it is harder, if we pay attention, to run from children-profiles, especially when they’re our own. Relative to me, I decided not to run from cats, as they had something important to teach me–though I had nothing to teach them, and relative to children I had no choice about running or not, and in any case, my children have certainly taught me more than I’ve taught them.
But I noticed in the Jacuzzi just how limited my scope of involvement is with others outside of my children. With little exception, when I’ve been done with a relationship, I’ve been done (okay, not counting the fallout). I’ve noticed this propensity at work, I tend to stay away from involvement where I’ve had run-ins. I’ve noticed this in relationships, I tend to stay away from the women I’ve been involved with. In fact, it is not even a neutral situation. Short of bridging gaps, which just doesn’t seem to occur, I feel incredibly better when I don’t run across these ladies. It is clear in all cases, whatever it was that led to a tweaked relationship, these people are better off without my energy and I am much better off without theirs.
But I wonder why this is? I realize that getting involved with metaphorical cats is risky (I’ve gone there with three women), but I wonder if I’ve learned what I should be learning, whatever that is? That part of me that does not fare well when surrounded by what I perceive as arrogance, power, ego, and the need to influence people so as to look better, assaults me and stimulates my reclusive reflexes. I don’t want to be there.
I think I’ve not learned some necessary skills. I’m on the boat, as are these people. I won’t help punch holes in the boat, but there is really no place to “go,” especially in this world. Oh, I can recoup by camping, by sitting under trees, by being in the Jacuzzi, by looking at the stars, or relishing in the breeze, but those things are mostly of the earth. My comfort with people seems a bit autistic. There are a few that I enjoy commiserating with, but it seems preciously few and far between.
Given the circumstances, I have no interest in being around the three major women in my life. I’ve looked at it carefully and it’s just not there.
I’ve no interest in being involved, any more than I have to, with those at school who are most adept at polishing someone else’s posterior to get what they want. I’ve looked at it carefully and it’s just not there.
I have no interest in talking with those people who devalue another’s life such as my mother’s. I’ve looked at it carefully and it’s just not there.
Despite all of that, I do realize it is necessary sometimes to talk to any and all these people, but it is not something on the top of my list.
Something about this propensity of mine seems like my problem and not just about others and their problems. I don’t have to get involved to be friendly. I can allow people to be who they are, even while I’ll allow myself to be me (which, hopefully, includes learning), which mostly means that I’ll leave because I will not be engaged in what these people represent.
But I do not. I am so thoroughly put off, that I must still view myself as vulnerable to these people’s machinations, which means to me that I must have as part of my guidance system the need to be liked and embraced, even if it is not at all costs.
Of cats and children. Without them, I doubt that I would have come this far. Certainly my life would have considerably less depth and breadth.
So there is my daughter telling me in the enclave of my home and there is my cat sitting with his pet, interlopers in my recovery space while I attempt to attune myself with the night and the stars.
From them I will not hide. From them I will learn to face the challenge. No person is an island, no island is a refuge, no refuge can always remain a safe haven, for even as we are different and separate, we are the same and one–just visitors to the Galactic Bar.