Several months ago my friend Mike mentioned an article he’d read about a parasite in cats that may contribute to turning people into (as I remember him telling the story) crazy cat ladies. As I have become more and more smitten with this handsome kitty, it amuses me to imagine that his rough licks are in fact a form of feline manipulation rather than a demonstration of any affection.
Why wouldn’t he want to infect me? Well, for one, why else would I get out of bed at the first sound of his meow, to let him either in through the bedroom window (he leaps in from the neighbor’s fence), or out through the back door, where he often makes me wait, groggy and cold by the door, before finally stepping out into the wee hours of the morning? Why else indeed, as he will rarely come snuggle when I want him to, usually preferring to run up but stop short of my reach, and rub up against some inanimate object.
And wouldn’t having a crazy cat-lady parasite — especially one that has been linked to other neurological conditions such as schizophrenia — be a great way to explain all my other “irrational” or otherwise inexplicable behavior? Another explanation / justification to add to the existing ones: it’s because of my __________ <insert reason here: work stress; Myers-Briggs or enneagram type; astrological sign; insomnia; birth order; time of the month; etc>?
I finally got around to reading the original cat parasite article. The author orders a test to see if she is infected, and tells the scientist she features in the article about her negative result:
“It’s strange to admit,” I say, “but I think I’m a little disappointed.” He laughs. “People who have cats often feel that way, because they think the parasite explains why they behave this way or that,” he says.
Clearly I’m not the only one who wants explanations. Not just for one’s behaviors, but also for ideas, or new life directions, or anything else.
The challenge I’m giving myself this year is to resist the urge to always try to come up with explanations for things that just feel right, either because I might tell myself I need one, or because someone else wants one. There’s always a reason, and these days, I’m often happier not needing to know what it is. It leaves more time and energy for getting down to whatever it is that comes next: the celebrating, the apologizing, the planning, the laundry.
Given that as curious humans we frequently ask for explanations, I’m trying to be more mindful of (on one side) the feeling of wanting one, and (on the other side) the feeling of not wanting to give one. I’m also working on coming up with a few responses that honor people’s questions, and yet are clearly code for “I choose not to have to explain.”
My brother’s take on this is awesome: whenever someone — often, our father — questions or complains about something he’s done, he will respond, happily, “It likes it!” Between the two of us, my sweetie and I are experimenting with “It’s in the bible,” or “IITB” for short, a nod to the recent Ham vs Nye / creationism vs evolution debate. While both these approaches do get the point across and crack me up at the same time, I realize that they are not universally accessible, nor appropriate when things get a bit heavier.
Until I come up with something better, perhaps “because the cat gave me a parasite” will work just fine.