Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Tigers, Tummy Rubs, and Tabletops

Annie was a teeny tiger kitten when I got her Thanksgiving week-end of 2001. Our Hester and her sister, Elsie, joined us for dinner after church. Karen and her boys were up from Wustah, MA. I have a lovely photo of Hester (who would be about 99 now), holding the little mite. Hester was, like all normal and sane people, a cat person. :-) 

Annie, it turned out, had cystitis. When I took her to the vet's, the vet picked her up by the scruff of her neck and she shrieked like a Tiger. That's Annie. As sweet as can be if you don't cross her - and then she's wild. 

What does all this have to do with tummy rubs and tabletops?

My Annie had tummy surgery years ago after swallowing something she shouldn't. Hester visited again, Annie rolled over and showed her tummy. Hester naturally took that as an invitation and stroked the lovely soft fur. Rrowrr. Hester had a scratched hand. I took a photo of that silky tan, rust, white, and greyish tummy and Annie sent it to Hester with love  - and an 'X' marking the spot to avoid. I still am very cautious approaching that tummy.

Tiger Annie protects her tummy

Maggie Muggins, on the other hand, exposes her tummy for rubs with no reservations whatsoever. She moans, chirps, chats and rolls - especially on the knitted circular rag rug Mum and Grammy Cameron made c1965. (see photo). She is affectionate in the extreme, if she feels like it of course. She is, after all, a cat with a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to uphold.

Maggie Muggins, on the other hand ...
allows vulnerability and loves tummy rubs

Maggie is named for the Maggie Muggins, the little red-pigtailed girl in the first book I ever received - age 4. She's a pert, curious, energetic child who dances through life exploring, and at the end of each day says "All in all, it's been quite a day," to Mr. McGarrity. I use that expression often. I think Maggie would, too, if she spoke our language. Her sweet, pointed pixie face and dainty white paws rate her extremely high on the cuteness scale. But she has this thing for the kitchen table. Table is a no-no. She leaps boldly onto a chair and onto the table.  I splash water on her, lift her down with a little smack and a big NO. It matters not what I do. She zips across, flattening her body as she goes - so I can't see her ?? Sigh ... Part angel. Part brat? Ah well - in my heart of hearts, I have to admire her outrageous determination to do what she wants. Period. And she's so cute!

I named Annie after Annie G. Rogers, a psychologist who wrote A Shining Affliction: A Story of Harm and Healing in Psychotherapy. True story poetically and powerfully told. Annie was completing her PhD at an inpatient children's psychiatry facility. One of her patients was a very troubled, fascinating five year old named Ben. I can't tell you the whole story - it would take too long - or it wouldn't do the characters or the story justice. You should read it! It is profound and thought-provoking - way beyond an intellectual journey. It was - let's see - healing. Yes, that's the word!

I was reading the book when I got Annie - and it had become my small 'b' bible. What a journey. She writes, "The oldest meanings of the word affliction include a vision or spiritual sight that follows upon a time of darkness and torment." This book was one of my watershed times (literally, actually, as it brought many tears) ... setting me free by affirming my experiences of the Pit, of two different therapists, of recognizing that healing is always two-sided, that we have this inner drive towards healing and, if we listen, we will find the paths and/or create the paths we need. She found a therapist who was creative and open, as I did, to therapeutic play and discovery. She journeyed in imaginative play with Ben and each of them opened in ways she couldn't have predicted or expected. Wuff! 

So, I remember Annie Rogers' and Ben's courageous healing, enlightening journies in my Annie-Cat. Annie who sets very clear boundaries on affection given and received. Growls if picked up. Invites a tummy rub, but don't you dare actually rub it. Who will curl up, beside me, but if she sits on my lap, she always faces away. 

Maggie, who enjoys a brief cuddle, has many things to do in her busy cat life. She enjoys sitting in front of the computer screen to get attention. Kisses on her head most welcome and appreciated. Tummy rubs - ecstacy. Table top - the brat looking for trouble.

I'm in awe of the brat. Of each one with different levels of intimacy - of allowing people close. I ponder my own journey in their light and in light of humans whose journeys have touched me.

I wonder - about Henri Nouwen who could speak so passionately and compassionately about God, faith, life and our human journey - and then go back to his hotel room and cry with loneliness. Who could reach out in love to others, but persistently wondered and asked from early childhood through adulthood if he was loved. Wounded healer. Anton Boisen who suffered from schizophrenia, yet wrote profoundly about mental illness, founded the clinical pastoral education movement, and was instrumental in transforming our understanding of mental illness as spiritual.

And now, I've discovered The Shack Revisited by C. Baxter Kruger. the first part of the book refers to The Shack and connects us to Mackenzie Allen Phillips when he arrives at the shack at papa's strage invitation. Mack  screams "I hate you!" at God. Kruger write: "It is the scream of honesty, the only real response when our pain and the cold, heartless impotence of this god collide in real life tragedy. I hate you!(p23) Mack's understanding of God is formed by his early experiences - as are ours. His journey is wonder-full. Opening to a God. The large, warm-hearted African-American 'Papa' tells him - "I'm not who you think I am, Mackenzie." Hmmm - and God is not the God we have constructed, either. Or at least way beyond ...

Where are we at? We want to be open, loving and loved. We set limits with people as well as God based partly on our own woundedness. We want our tummies rubbed, at least figuratively, but don't come too close. We do that which we should not do - race across tabletops - which reminds me of Bonnie. Bonnie who tested us at the hospital when she was in for treatment - and helped me release my inner brat. Bonnie who learned, and taught us all, about loving and allowing ourselves to be loved. 

Sooo... a continuing journey in, and into, love. Or is it Love. Or is it both? Meantime, Maggie wants to play, and Annie, whose tiger ancestry is closer to the surface, needs some attention but no tummy rubs allowed.

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