Soothing the Cat-bit Soul

Last time I wrote here, dear Scouties, I told you about how Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things helped me understand why I was getting yelled at. In the ensuing weeks, what continually surprised me was how painful I found that episode to be. Was I being oversensitive (whatever that means)? Did the content of the yelling strike a particularly ouchie nerve? If I had a good understanding of why this person behaved that way, why couldn’t I just brush it off?

And how, facing adversities that all of us will eventually face in life and art and work, could I stay as open-hearted as I believe I need to be in order to give my best to the world?

And then I remembered the worst thing that ever happened to my dear kitty, Miss Maude (she’s an indoor kitty; she hasn’t seen a lot of “action” in her 15 years). Once upon a time, poor Miss Maude innocently put her curious head through the handles of a plastic grocery bag. And the next thing she knew there was a terrible crinkling monster right on her back! Everywhere she went the monster was right on top of her. The faster and faster she ran the louder its terrible crinkling was. In complete despair, she tried leaping out a third story window only to (thank God) fall back to the carpet because that window was closed. And then, horror of all mortifying horrors, she lost control of her bowels.

Seeing the poor thing in this horrible situation, I did what any caring person would do. Like an idiot, I reached out my hand to remove the bag from around her neck. And she, like the terrified wild animal into which she had been transformed, did what any terrified wild animal would do. She bit me. It was not a playful “now I pretend to rip this catnip mouse to shreds” bite. It was not a warning “I could bite you for real if I wanted to” bite. It was pure and simple a “sink my wild animal fangs into you because I am afraid for both my life and my sanity” skin-breaking, puncture-wounding bite.

The fault, of course, was 100% mine. And I felt only sorrier for her plight and didn’t feel an ounce of anger or rejection or anything of the sort.

Eventually she collapsed in exhaustion and let me creep toward her inch by inch while only letting out occasional growls until I was close enough that (with a potholder on my “good” hand) I could slip the bag off her neck. She then slunk under a living room chair and did not emerge for 36 hours.

I cleaned and bandaged the wound as best I could, but within an hour my hand began swelling and getting nice and warm and red and I knew. Cat bites, not unlike human bites, can easily get infected and so I was off to the doctor for antibiotics.

And now, over a decade later, this “interaction” with Miss Maude was teaching me something valuable about how to deal with people being mean to me. There’s the intellectual understanding of what’s going on and it’s very valuable to have a clear eye on this: she bit me because she was scared out of her wits; the yeller yelled for “reasons” of their own. Neither had very much to do with me. Good to know.

But the wound — on either the physical or the soul level — stills needs tending.

Just because Miss Maude “didn’t mean to hurt me” didn’t mean I could forgo the antibiotics. And just because I knew that the meanness had little to do with me didn’t mean that my hurting didn’t need attention.

I could take care of myself without blaming anyone else.

I sang just for myself, I practiced my new-found love of crochet, I wrote about Miss Maude in my journal, I used all of my tools for healing. And most importantly, I admitted to myself that some healing was called for.

Especially at this sometimes-challenging time of year, how do you tend to your wounds regardless of whether you “should” feel hurt? What truly soothes you?

2 thoughts on “Soothing the Cat-bit Soul

  1. Whether or not we “should” feel hurt, the fact is, that we often do. We might “understand” the other person having issues that created the ultimate hurt within us, but there is no doubt, it is harder to just “shrug if off” and so much easier to tend to our wounded self, so that the shrugging becomes automatic.

  2. Thank you for this! It came at just the right time since I’ve been working on remaining joyful and at peace specially in the face of other people’s meanness. But just in the last two days I realized I needed to take some time to acknowledge how hurt I have felt and without going into blame or judgement, just allow myself to feel what I feel and be kind and gentle with myself.

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