One of my son’s current go-to books is “CAT” by Matthew Van Fleet. While my son meows at the various cats pictured in the book, pets the different fur textures, and pulls tabs that move paws or tails, I am marveling at how many cat idioms exist and are cleverly portrayed within its pages. Of all of the fine felines highlighted within the book, my personal favorite is the “Scary cat”. Take a look.
Here’s the thing. I look at that cat, and I don’t see scary. I see hilarious. It puts a smile on my face. Like so many things in life, whether that cat is to be considered frightful or funny is all in the eyes of the beholder.
I can see why the word “scary” was chosen to label the cat. I mean, look at it. That cat is pissed off. If batman and cat woman had a child, surely this is what it would like. I suppose its superpower would be scaring the bejeezus out of people with its intense, green-eyed glare that would make even pops cringe (Ben Affleck, take note). You’d find it lurking in the streets, coming out from the shadows just long enough to give its look to the next would-be criminal. “Stop talking, stop walking, just stop. Turn around and go back home. Don’t make me call mom. Or go ahead, make me. I don’t really care either way because I need to get back to my nap.” Okay, maybe it wouldn’t make a great superhero, but it has the glare down. I digress.
There are some people in this world who know what they want, and they go after it. They enjoy doing something, so they make the time to do it (guilt free, might I add). A problem emerges, and they deal with it. Next. I’m married to one of those people. I, on the other hand, well…as I’ve said before, I think about thinking. I process things, I let things marinade and soak in, sometimes I even stew and wallow around in my own thoughts.
This scary cat, for instance, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. It’s metaphoric to me, representing what keeps you from taking action, what keeps you from doing something that you love, or what keeps you from fully expressing yourself. In short, it represents fear. Not the scared-of-the-dark fear: “Oh my gosh, did you hear that? What was that?! Grab the ball bat!” Not the bug fear: “Kill It Kill It Kill It Kill It!!!” I’m talking about the fear that stems from thoughts of inadequacy, mediocrity, and failure. This kind of fear isn’t typically discussed in social settings; it doesn’t make for funny stories like the boogie man or the spider that was THIS BIG!!! It’s deep, it’s personal, and it usually has a huge arsenal of excuses at the ready to keep you held back and pinned in.
Maybe you’ve wanted to try something new for quite sometime like learning a new language or an instrument. “Why didn’t my parents sign me up for those lessons when I was a child?” How about joining a fitness program or a getting a gym membership? “I’ll lose a little weight on my own first, then I’ll sign up. Oh, and I have this bad knee.” Do you miss that high-school activity or sport that was once a part of your regular routine? Maybe your community actually has the offering available for you as an adult? “But life is so busy and my spouse and my kids and work and the dog and the yard and and and.” Perhaps you love hosting and entertaining… “Well, once I tear down the wallpaper, replace the carpet, and update the bathroom.” Or maybe you’re highly creative. “I always did want to write a book, or compose a song, or paint, or choreograph. I had to grow up instead.”
That critic that’s holding you back? – “Who, me?” That blame game? – “It’s so not my fault.” That excuse? – “It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation!” Is fear. But fear doesn’t have to be scary. Look beyond its glare, and see past its wrinkles. Reach out and give it a little pat. Tell it to go take a nap. And now? Start enjoying your life.