Wednesday, December 29, 2010

...You Can't Turn a Bear into a Housecat...

Title clarification/disclaimer: I know what it sounds like to some of you, but it really is about bears and housecats.

When I was a little girl, I had a bear. I know, just go with it.

This bear was beautiful, with lovely brown fur and a perfect nose. She was creative, talented, and lots of fun. Everyone liked her and thought she was the most awesome thing ever. And she was smarter than the average bear; I learned a lot from her.

I recognize that everything wasn’t perfect all the time with the bear. That’s to be expected, it is a bear after all. So no matter how amazing and spectacular she may have been, it might have been wise of me to hold some reservations about her. I didn’t, but I should have.

As the years passed, she of course outgrew me. I couldn’t snuggle her the way I used to but darn if I didn’t try. I loved her too much to ever completely stop trying. Even when she swiped at me and caused me injury, I held on.

Still, things were never so bad as they were the day she discovered honey. Her fixation with honey was severe enough that I can’t begin to count the number of times I had to dress her wounds, or nurse her back to health following an unhealthy encounter with a swarm of bees.

I never faulted her for it, she’s a bear and bears love honey and I understood that. But I admit to some confusion about what seemed to be an inability to find and pick a safe honeycomb. Was this normal? I thought bears had a sixth sense for these things. Whatever the reason, it turned me off of honey for years.

In the meantime I did the best I could with the bad times and enjoyed and appreciated the good times. I feel proud of myself for having known then what a great thing it was, and for not having to look back with regret at not having cherished them more. I can still feel the happiness I felt when times with the bear were good. For better or worse, I loved her.

And when her relentless pursuit of honey knotted her fur, crippled some of her talents and turned her into a moody and often dangerous animal, I continued to hold back and hold on.

Sometimes it was painful. Imagine trying to soothe a hysterical, angry bear suffering from honey withdrawal? It wasn’t just painful, it was probably just stupid. Shame on me. But I did it anyway.

In my head, the bear and I had a bond, and there was nothing that could break that. Except, I would learn, the bear.

All these years later, she finally swiped at me hard enough to nearly knock me off my feet. I say nearly, because although I have avoided admitting to it, I feel reasonably sure that I am so much stronger than she is so I was able to stay standing. I think this is because I have always been my own source of strength. Unfortunately my bear’s strength seemed to be tied up in other things, like honey. So I am strong wherever I am because I am always present.

But the bear without honey was not as strong. Sadly, the pursuit of honey was also quite frequently as debilitating as living without it. I spent too many years of my life helplessly watching my bear hurt herself trying to catch something that nearly killed her every time she caught it.

So as I said the bear recently lashed out at me in a manner that forced me to take a long hard look at some things about myself.

  • I now acknowledge that I am controlling. It’s a freakin’ bear. It won’t ever understand why I do what I do. My heart and my intentions don’t matter. All the bear knows is all the bear knows. And maybe I wasn’t always mindful of that.
  • I acknowledge that I am powerless against honey. Honey addiction is serious and real. You can imagine the pain of being a controlling person who comes into the realization that frankly, you have no power. I deemed myself a failure at not being enough for the bear, and maybe, I took it out on her sometimes.
  • I can be selfish in a bad way. Yes, there is a good way to be selfish. If you take good care of yourself and consider your own needs, then you can do more and are more valuable to everyone. If you are selfish in a bad way then you’re taking care of yourself without regard to what’s valuable to anyone but you. I loved the bear and her happiness mattered to me, but the honey issue was to an extent about me: Can’t you see what that stuff is doing to us? Maybe it’s not nice, but it’s honestly what I felt.
  • This is another prime example of me living life in reverse. I’ve avoided honey for years because of the bear. But like that old Nice N Smooth song says, “too much of anything makes you an addict.” I suspect that the bear’s addiction was to meet some other need or address some other issue. And even though I don’t have those needs or issues, it’s still very, very scary for me to even think about honey.

When the bear swung at me this time, I just kind of stood and stared at her. She tried to express her rage, but even the most intelligent bear speak won’t articulate the message as clearly as everyone might like. And yet I think I understood.

Something inside me told me that sometimes the best way to really love something, is to love it from afar. So I opened the door for her and she ran off without looking back. Whether she escaped or I set her free is debatable. What’s certain is that I set myself free. And I feel really good about it.

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 Queen Latifah "Come Into My House"

Queen Latifah : Come into my house
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