Thursday, January 16, 2014

Facing Fears - A Cat Story

I am not the only one in our family who is working on Facing Fears. Junior Cat has joined me on this brave new journey and I can empathize with the struggle that I see within him as he dares to go where he has never gone before.

I have affectionately nicknamed our Senior Cat "Daycare Kitty". He joined our family when my daycare was in its infancy.

My little Daycare Kitty loves to interact with the kids and enjoys 'teaching' them how to treat an animal. If he knows that I am at his side, he will let the kids do pretty much anything. He has endured hair and whisker pulling, ear tugging and gentle tail grabbing. He trusts that I will always take care of him. He looks up at me with his big, grateful eyes and I can hear him thanking me for teaching the kids to be gentle.

Left to his own devices, he also 'teaches'. His method involves placing his teeth on the offending hand that is hurting him. He doesn't bite. He simply makes the motion so that the kids stop what they are doing. If he doesn't do that, he makes a run for it and finds a safe-kid-free-zone.

He also enjoys the selection of toys - in this picture, I believe that he is wishing that white box was empty because he simply loves jumping into empty boxes or containers:
Junior Cat is trying very hard not to be afraid of the kids. But when a cat is scared of sudden movement, unexpected noise and has trust issues with those he knows well ... attempting to love children is a very brave deed.

He wanders into the living room when the kid's backs are turned. His eyes look a small bit terrified as he makes his way deeper into the trenches. If no one notices him, he makes it all the way to the bookcase and can do a little bit of serious bird-watching while the kids play at his side.

But he is ever-on-the-alert and his ears give him away. No one is going to surprise this totally alert kitty!

Senior Cat was a masterful cuddler in his day. His illness has changed all of that. His preference is to snuggle up on his favorite cushions in my Youngest Son's room. It is a rare and special occasion when he nestles up on us and gifts us with his famous Lion Purr.

Thankfully, I have a tendency to keep the camera at arm's length, so I can capture the moments when he finds me and nestles up on my chest. He does love to know that we have the ability to scratch his cheeks and ears... 

Junior Cat however, is not a snuggler. He likes a physical distance between those he loves and his sleeping body.

He does grace me with his presence almost every morning. One morning, this is where I found him - in between the headboard of my bed and my pillow (check out the ears - still not in a state of restful bliss):

On another braver day, he actually lept up onto my reclined body like Senior Cat had just done. And he accidentally stayed!

One unexpected noise is all that it took before he was off like a shot. Little did he know that I took full advantage of the moment to snap a few 'selfies' to add to his Kitty Album.

The other night, he jumped up on my chest while I was nestled into my favorite quiet spot in the house, watching "The Gilmore Girls". He feverishly did the 'cat thing' where they knead their sleeping spot before they settle in.

Senior Cat has this kneading process down to a fine art. He takes his time and lavishes in the moment as he breathes in and breathes out (and may or may not drool in the process). It brings him such great comfort and joy that sometimes he forgets to quit kneading.

Junior Cat, on the other hand, acts like he has read this in a Cat Manual under the title: "Things Cats Do". He kneads like he just wants to get it done and over with. Fast, furious, no enjoyment factor and I can almost feel him thinking "Okay. I'm doing this. I am having fun. Right? Wrong! How long do I have to do this? If I do it really fast, can I be done quicker??"

The moment he started kneading my chest, I knew that he had the intention of settling in and staying for a while. And he did. Once he got the nasty Cat Job of nestling in done and over with, he rigidly laid down on my chest and breathed quickly. His heart beat fast. I could tell he was out of his comfort zone. But he stayed ... until he felt the presence of Senior Cat enter the building. I don't know how he did it. His back was to the door. Senior Cat walked into the room without making a sound. But his presence changed the air and Junior picked right up on it. And he was off!!

But in the minutes that preceded that ... he Did Hard Things. And I was proud of him.

I woke up this morning with a bit of a hangover from Doing Hard Things in the days that preceded this one. I thought to myself, "Oh no! What have I done? What am I doing? Who do I think I am??" Then I remembered successes-of-the-past. It started out scary and ended up brave. If Junior Cat can Do Hard Things ... so can I!

Face your day with the attitude that doing One Brave Thing will make you stronger. No one is fearless. Some are simply better at masking it than others.

Take a cue from our fearful kitty. You can always try 'bravery' on for size before you decide whether or not to make it a habit. He is getting braver by the day. I just don't think he has realized that yet.
"If I can balance on the back of a movable, swivel chair ... I can do anything!!" he thinks, with the Courage of a Lion.

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