Monday, July 2, 2007

a daffodil in olivialand

olivia is a tortoise-shell calico cat. has been part of our family for 13 years. she came to live with us when she was six weeks old. she is deathly afraid of strangers. she runs. panics. hides. hisses. acts nice as she walks uop to people visiting our house - and then bolts, runs. she's neurotic. very afraid. we've been loving and affirming for her. but something in her has always been afraid, and that's made her territorial. we love her. she loves us. she's getting older, but she's still our cute old livvie.

for some bizarre, ineffable reason - one of those mysteries of the universe - we decided a few weeks ago that it was time to get another cat. we didn't think olivia would love the new cat, but it just felt like time to bring someone into the family - we'd never thought of this seriously before. it just came to us. so, we went and got a cat from a shelter. daffodil. an absolute cutie. she's nine months old, long-legged, so not a pushover. olivia can't eat her, in other words.

yes, i know, cat people, you are already saying to me, "why would you do such a foolish and potentially world-destroying thing?" the answer is that we did our research. we knew there would be initial conflicts between the two cats, as they figured each other out, and each one established her territory. we set up separate eating areas. we put the new cat in a different bedroom. we did all the right things according to the checklist.

this was a little over two weeks ago. they're not over it. last night there was the proverbial cat fight. it scared the shit out of us.

it occurred to me as i was putting antibiotic ointment into the gashes on my hand that maybe our gradual efforts for this past few weeks to help olivia and daffodil like each other were unnecessary. they're territorial predators. let them figure it out.

so, that's what's happening. i'm typing with the index finger of my right hand bandaged. we're going to let olivia and daffodil figure it out today.

why is it that there's a part of me - and lots of us - that wants to avoid conflict? at any cost? even our own integrity or sanity? a fight is the scariest thing in the world. maybe it's that people fought around us when we were small and it scared us because we didn't have any way to respond or protect ourselves, and in our cells there's still that fear that we can't protect ourselves. but i can. i'm a grown man. a large one, in fact. and i've learned that i'm not only tall, and grown up, but also that i am able to say what i want and don't want, and set boundaries, and not implode or explode. not die of guilt or fear. not have a breakdown. (and what if i did? the world would keep turning.)

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