Back in April I adopted a cat. At the beginning of our time together she was very shy, and who could blame her. Who wouldn’t be a bit timid when you have had your surrounding change multiple times within the span of a month or two? At the beginning of our journey Tigress taught me that mutuality and a ministry of presence are not only important parts of my diaconal formation and ministry, but are also an important part of adopting a pet (you can read more that reflection here). Especially a pet that is a few years old and you don’t know their full story and lived experience. By giving her space and time, she settled in to her new environment and life with me.
Reflecting now on our journey over the past 9 months, I have realized that Tigress had continued to teach me lessons and give me insights along the way. One of the main things she has taught me about is the importance of patience and trust in growing our comfort zones. As I said, when I adopted Tigress she was rather shy. She would spend most of her time hiding under my bed or up in her cat tree. As time went on she progressed to laying where she could watch me from the other side of the room, so she could get to her hiding place if I startled her. She would sometimes come near for a moment or two to get pets then go back to her safe supervisory distance. Over time her supervisory distance grew shorter and shorter, and she would sleep on the foot of my bed. She would test out her comfort zones and see how I reacted to her and as she saw I was more friend than foe her trust in me grew. As time progressed she started to come sit next to me on the couch, and was less startled by my movements. Through all of this I had to be patient with her and let her go at her speed through the adjustment. If I tried to pick her up and put her on my lap or hold her it didn’t usually go well. I wished she would come sit on my lap rather than next to me on the couch, but was thankful for her progress. My role was to help create a safe, welcoming place for her to be able to grow her trust in me and her environment.
In late October, she took the next step and started laying down in my lap in the evenings when I was sitting and reading or watching TV. She had tested out her comfort zones on her own terms and was finally ready to cuddle on my lap. Through all of this I had to be patient and let her go through the motion at her own speed. And now she is like my little shadow following me around and wanting to cuddle in my lap at almost every chance she gets.
As I have reflected on this it has brought back memories of transitions in my own life, moving away to college, moving to Idaho, and even the transitions and changes to life throughout the midst of the pandemic. When we go through transitions, big or small, we are often pushed to test our own comfort zones. When I moved away to college I had to push my comfort zones to make friends and connections in a new place. It took patience and trust to grow and make those lifelong connections and turn Valpo into my home away from home. Throughout the pandemic it has taken patience and trust as we have adjusted our lives to live in ways that protect ourselves and each other from covid. When things around us are in transition it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by it and we close up ourselves up. Kind of like when Tigress would spend most of her time hiding under my bed. Yet with time, patience, and building trust she tested out her limits and we do that too. We have our own ways of going through the steps of testing our comfort zones until we adjust. Sometimes the patience is with ourselves as we are going through a transition and we think we should be handling it better or different than we are. Other time the patience is with others as we support a friend or neighbor through a transition. Similarly, with trust. It may be that we gain trust in those around us as they support us, or that we are the friend who provides support and gains trust from that friend. Transitions may be hard but we grow through them. Like Tigress did, we make it through the transitions and settle in.
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Thank you for your tender observations. I’m not a cat person, particularly, but I can only imagine your delight when she finally found a home in your lap!