“Oh no,” I think to myself as I watch my 11-year-old daughter walk out of her new middle school during the first week of September. She looks sullen, moody, and completely lacking in energy.
“How was your day?” I ask gently.
“It was okay,” is her quiet response.
“What is wrong? You don’t look happy.”
“No one is talking to me. I don’t have any friends.”
Okay, Moms, you know – immediate heart bleed.
I contemplate where to go with this. I can calmly provide support. I can probe. I can give advice. This is a conundrum as anything I say will have major import and this needs to be handled delicately.
Then it hits me.
“I love cats and I love puppies,” I begin slowly, “I love cats because they’re mysterious, quiet and self-sufficient. I love puppies, because they’re fun and cute and so friendly. They love everyone and always make people happy with their boundless joy.”
“Oh, I love puppies too!” she exclaims, sitting up straighter in her seat. “They play together and jump and chase balls. They’re so fluffy and cute. I just love them!”
“Well, which would you rather be? Would you rather be a cat or a puppy?” I ask.
“Oh, I would rather be a puppy. They have so much fun.”
“Well, at school, which do you think you’re being right now? Are you being a cat or are you being a puppy?”
She thinks about this for quite a long time and sheepishly replies, “I think I’m being a cat.”
“I think you are too. Do you think other people feel comfortable saying ‘Hi’ to someone who’s mysterious and quiet? Or do you think they’d be more comfortable saying ‘Hi’ to someone who’s open and happy?”
“I think they’d be more comfortable saying ‘Hi’ to someone who’s happy.”
“I think you’re right.”
“I think I’m going to be a puppy from now on.”
Fast-forward a few months and she’s going to dances and movies and shopping. She has had a Halloween trick-or-treat adventure and is planning a ‘Beat the Winter Blues’ sleepover.
I’m thankful that these words were at the ready when I needed them and we have used the cat/puppy comparison on many occasions since that day.
During this love exploration, I want to introduce the cats and puppies philosophy of life to each of you.
I feel that girls start out as kitties and grow into cats and boys start out as puppies and grow into dogs.
Think about it.
Kitties and puppies frolic and play. They live in the moment, love everyone & everything, and are open, playful and joyful. Little girls and boys are so similar and then as they grow, girls become like cats – quiet, mysterious, independent, self-sufficient. While boys become like dogs – still playful, open and approachable.
We need these differences as they make up the tapestry of relationships, love, and community. However, as women, we have a choice of how we approach our inner and outer worlds. We can choose to be catlike or puppy-like.
When we are cat-like, we feel powerful with our contemplative stares, seeming disengagement, and independence. We reign over others with our superiority. Yet, to be this way, all day and every day, would create a world of one. It would be lonely.
So, at times, we’re puppy-like. We engage others with openness and accessibility. We can choose, so it’s available to us at any time.
Think about the older people in your life. Picture them in your mind’s eye. Who’s happier: the puppy-like people or the catlike people?
When I think about one of the happiest people I had the joy and good fortune to know, I think of my husband’s Aunt Julie. When I met her, she was almost 80 years old and she was telling a story about riding a motorcycle and breaking her leg. She was animated and sparkling and laughing about it. I thought she was telling a story that happened long ago.
Oh, not true. It was 3 weeks prior. I found that out when I looked down and saw her leg in a cast!
Auntie Julie was the most puppy-like person I have ever met and she was one of the happiest. She approached everything with wonder and joy. What a way to live life!
My daughter and I now look at people as we walk by and call out puppy or cat to each other. Bar none: the puppies are happy.
I think I want to live my life as a puppy – with openness, joy and wonder. I invite you to join me, especially in this season of love. Perhaps it can be our intentional resolution for the rest of the year.
As always, wishing you joy,