That’s the contradiction. That you have to be vulnerable and strong at the same time. Because you need to have holes in order to make the light come through.Academy-award-winning, French actress Juliette Binoche, as quoted in “The Radical Vulnerability of Juliette Binoche” article by Sasha Weiss in The New York Times Style Magazine, October 17, 2021
Is it true that as we make our way through life it is best to understand that we should–paradoxically–seek to be strong and vulnerable? Do our imperfections and the difficulties we have faced–our holes, as Juliette Binoche says–open us to new ways of being and make us stronger? As I mused about whether my own life experiences supported her words, I thought about our rescue cat, and how we both startle so easily.
Two years ago our cat Cadi Kitty was living on the streets of Lexington. Our nephew Zach lived near the basement of a home where she had been taking refuge from the cold Kentucky winters. One of Zach’s neighbors, B., was feeding her, but he had a cat already, and could not bring Cadi inside his home. Zach and his partner Paige could not take her in because they had two dogs. Cadi’s situation became more critical when the couple who owned the house decided to board up the access where she was getting into their basement at night. Zach and B. feared Cadi would freeze to death, so Zach asked my husband and me to consider giving her a home.
We had lost our former cat companion when we moved a few years ago, so we said, yes, we would take her. On a cold November day, we met Zach halfway between Lexington and our home in Knoxville. During the drive home, Cadi was meowing pitifully in her cat carrier. I tried to soothe her by talking to her in a reassuring voice, and sticking my fingers into her carrier to pet her.
B. and Zach called Cadi (short for Acadia, as in Acadia National Park), “Charlie” because they thought she was a male cat. When we took her to the vet, we learned that not only was this adorable cat a female, but she had a microchip, meaning she once had an owner. Our veterinarian got in touch with Cadi’s original owner in Lexington, and she was willing to sign Cadi Kitty over to us.
It took awhile for our new resident to settle into our home. She was used to living on the streets, seemed ill at ease, and nervously scratched our upholstered furniture. I suggested we allow her to go outside, and she seemed much happier as an indoor/outdoor cat.
We learned that she is called a tuxedo cat which means she has markings as if she is wearing a tuxedo. Such cats are highly intelligent and quirky. That describes Cadi very well because she falls into regular habits, then one day decides to do something entirely different. But in the main, Cadi is the happiest of cats, acting more like a lap dog indoors and just wanting to be near us.
However, on one point, Cadi has not gotten better: She is hypervigilant; startles at sudden movements or loud or unexpected sounds; and is terrified of strangers. Perhaps she suffered some abuse at some point in her life that has caused her to be more sensitive than the average cat. Or maybe being constantly on her guard is how she stayed alive when she had no home.
Even though Cadi startles easily and often, is easily frightened, and is a very sensitive cat, she no longer scratches the furniture. She sleeps through the night in the guest room, without meowing, and although she will not eat people food–and will only eat dry and wet cat food that contains turkey–she is a gloriously happy and healthy cat.
She feels more relaxed and confident when she is with us. She loves it when I go with her into the backyard so she can let down her guard and nibble sweet grass. To thank me for accompanying her, she rubs herself against my legs repeatedly. Occasionally she gets so excited with her thankfulness that she jumps up and rubs my face if I am bending toward her.
Although Cadi and I are both hypervigilant and startle when someone appears unexpectedly and neither of us can abide cacophonous sounds, we are more comfortable when we are in the company of those we love and who understand and accept us. It is not easy to be vulnerable and strong.
To be vulnerable opens us up to possible harm, but it also opens us to living life to the fullest, to passionately embracing the joys that make us dance with possibilities.
To be strong invites us to do everything we can to make a difference toward justice, truth, and the yearning always to learn more.
As Bertie Carvel, the British actor when he was discussing his title character Dalgliesh in the latest serialization of the “Dalgliesh” mysteries written by P. D. James:
Contradictions define a person.Bertie Carvel, British actor
I can with great confidence say: Contradictions also define a cat.
~ Anna – 11/30/2021