Sunday, October 4, 2015

Let them be Cats

I am lucky to have wonderful in-laws (yes, it's possible.) 

They visited my husband and I this weekend. It's become their tradition-the Canadian Thanksgiving Trek (except this year they were rebellious and came a week early). The visits are always pleasant but also tough. No, not because of them. I assure you they've got the parent-in-law role down pat. 

Why are they tough? 

Take last year, for example: 

When heading out, I'd wait for Brandon and his parents to be ready to open the front door while I did a frantic scan to make sure our cats were safe and not about to book it into outdoor turf. 

Anytime they'd use the washroom, I'd try to casually saunter upstairs to make sure they closed the door afterwards so our cats wouldn't get into something and die. 

Brandon's dad joked that I hid things. He'd place a half eaten chocolate bar down and I'd swoop by to store it in the cupboard to prevent feline death by chocolate. 

You get the picture. 

I've been in therapy since my trigger of thinking I was going deaf. That was my tipping point. 

This year I realized their visit was an opportunity for an exposure, after an exposure, after an exposure. Normally I would panic about this in advance. Anticipatory anxiety and OCD are besties. This time, my meditation practice helped to start severing their friendship. 

So did I succeed? You be the judge:

While we ate dinner, I left food on the counter (one of our cats, Clive, is a notorious counter surfer), sat facing away from the kitchen and let my panic of wondering if he was getting into the food just be. 

Brandon's dad lined up his Pringles, magazine and glasses case on the counter. This to me felt like a death zone. I didn't play my usual role as the Easter Bunny. 

I even allowed him to let Clive lick one of the BBQ Pringles. 

"Is BBQ deadly to cats?" 

No one else seemed concerned so I tried to allow myself to enjoy the moment. 

Brandon and his dad set up our new washer and dryer while I had no idea where the cats were half the time. I worried that nuts and bolts were rolling on the floor just waiting to be swallowed. I let myself have faith that Brandon and his dad would keep an eye on them. 

I slept in Saturday morning. It was quiet. Where was all the chatter? The echo of the television? I was convinced it was so quiet because the cats got outside, that Brandon and his parents were conducting a search party while I dozed. I didn't fly downstairs. I proceeded as I normally would for my morning routine. 

I did all of this in a state of anxiety. But I chose to let the anxiety be there instead of attempting to relieve it with compulsions. I'm the first to admit I still do some neurotic things and implement certain safety measures but I'm trying not to let the compulsions overcome me. I'm trying to be self-compassionate. I can't change over one weekend. But I can make progress. 

Vincent taught me that life is fragile, that death can be unexpected despite all the safety measures you take to get the upper hand. Vincent taught me that to fully enjoy my cats, I need to let them be cats. 

My trigger of thinking I was going deaf may have been the catalyst for another shot at therapy but my choice to honour Vincent is my life vest as I swim in the deep end. 

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