Gertrude is my cat, I have another one named Agnes, but we're talking about Gertrude specifically. She's maybe.....hmmm....5 or 6 months old I think.
I came home from a week in St Louis, don't worry, Alaina and Heather came over and took care of the kitties and played with them every day...sheesh.
So I came home from a week in St Louis and you would have thought these cats hadn't had any human interaction for months! They were all over me, both of them sat on the rim of the tub while I showered, they both slept on my pillow with me all night and occasionally would nip and lick at me to wake me up so I could play with them (yeah, it was annoying).
So, Agnes was all up in my face, whining and crying demanding attention. If she didn't get it, then she made sure you were miserable until she did.
Gertrude on the other hand was all cool and aloof for most of the time. Oh, she would come around, let me pet her for awhile then wander away. Sometimes, while I was petting her she would nip at me, but she didn't purr until probably almost 11, and I was petting her a lot.
During the night, Agnes slept right on the pillow, always touching me with some part of her. Gertrude occasionally would come over and curl up too, but mostly she was just out of reach on the other side of a pillow. I would reach over every once in awhile and make sure she was still there and pet her for awhile before falling back to sleep.
Why am I giving you all this information about Gertrude? Because I think that I'm a lot like Gertrude. It struck me last night how much we act alike. Please don't think I'm turning into the scary cat lady. Let me explain.

I am extremely uncomfortable being like Agnes. Demanding attention, constantly putting myself near people is exhausting and more then a little frightening for me. So I act aloof, distant, and more then a little disinterested in people that I long to be close to. All so that if they reject me, or lose interest, or find me repulsive then I can feign indifference and not let anyone know that I feel like I'm crushed within an inch of my life inside.
Like Gertrude, I fade in and out. I will occasionally be all about making contact, instigating spending time together and be very open about my "feelings". But I will alternate that will not making any contact at all. Maintaining long periods of almost total silence because all I really want at that time is for people to see me, notice me, and pay attention to me. But I know that it's juvenile to jump up and down near people that I love saying...."Pay attention to me Pay attention to me Pay attention to me Pay attention to me Pay attention to me!" Worse still, when I finally get the attention that I've been longing for, I find it almost unbearable.
If someone asks me direct questions about me, I'll deflect. I'll talk for awhile and then turn almost every conversation back to them, how they're doing, what can I do for them, how can I help them. That's my safety zone. I'm not comfortable talking about the deep hurts that I feel, it's almost unbearable to me to expose those to others....even though I so appreciate and want to bear witness to other people's deep hurts.
So like Gertrude, I'll come around for awhile, but more often then not, I'll lay just out of reach, hoping someone will take the time to reach to the other side of the pillow and make sure I'm OK. But I won't let them in for to long, I'll grow skittish and run away for awhile, until I feel safe enough to share a little bit more of me with them.
Like Gertrude I withhold my "purring". It's like I'm holding my breath, waiting for people to walk away from me. Purring is a cats way of showing they are content, that they are happy. Gertrude, when she purrs, has a sweet little smile on her face. Agnes will purr if you look in her general direction (apparently Agnes is a little bit of a whore). But it takes a great deal of time and commitment to get Gertrude to purr. You have to consistently and steadily show her that you're not going to stop petting her. That's a little how I feel. I don't know what to equate purring to in human terms...but I know what I'm NOT equating it to so cut me some slack with the terminology. In order for me to purr, to really trust that people aren't going to walk away and wipe their hands clean of me I have to feel that consistency and steadiness coming from them. I have to really feel safe in the feeling that they aren't going to just stop one day and there's nothing I can do about it. But I don't really know how to do that without having a relational guarantee...which most of us know doesn't exist.
Like the week before Thanksgiving. While I was ranting raving, also known as pissing and moaning, on here. In real life, I barely spoke about it. I could hardly bear to think that I would pour myself out to someone and have them dismiss my feelings as unimportant, or worse, totally wrong with no basis.
I held it all inside, I retreated into my head.
But randomly, one specific person truly surprised me. By asking the most benign question at just the right time I unleashed it all and didn't hide. For the first time I didn't hide. I honestly expected to be teased, or dismissed as "overly emotional". But I was listened to, cared for. There was follow up almost every day...
"how are you feeling, what's going on, are you OK" It was nice. It was mostly through text, and the occasional phone call. It was just the right amount, gave me the space and attention that I needed.

It was like I was on the other side of the pillow and every once in awhile this person would reach across to make sure I was still there.
So.....I think I'm like Gertrude. I think that's OK for now. But more and more I'm realizing that if there is ever going to be healthy and functioning relationship in my life, I need to push through the pain a little but more and be a little more like Agnes....loving, initiating contact and trusting that someone who has given me no reason not to trust them won't let me down.

OK Pete, the blog is posted, you can stop sitting on pins and needles now!


MCAC said...

Thank goodness, those pins and needles were starting to get uncomfortable! They are sharp!!

Once again as I read your blog my head is shaking like I'm reading something from my own brain. Are you sure we weren't seperated at birth?

ellenjane said...

I can neither confirm nor deny seperation at birth....it's a matter of national security : )