I was laying in bed trying to sleep when my cat walked onto my pillow. His back paw slipped and his nail sliced right through the cartilage of my ear. I yelled out in pain and the cat bolted out of the room. There was actually a fair amount of blood. We have nail caps on his front paws but we didn’t think to do his hind legs. I also didn’t know that a cat could accidentally injure you this bad.
Trying not to panic, I hopped on the computer and tried to research what to do. I’ve seen those women who at some point must have had their earrings ripped out and now have a split earlobe. I didn’t want that to be me! I read that you only have max 12 hours to get the cartilage fixed before it dies and can’t be healed. So I went to the ER.
Although they did a good job cleaning out the ear and prescribed me antibiotics, the doctor explained that because the injury was caused by a cat, they couldn’t super-glue the ear back together. Cats claws are notoriously full of bad bacteria, so it would be too risky to seal up the ear. I would just have to chance it and see if the ear healed up on it’s own.
When I got home, the cat didn’t seem sorry. He was curled up on the bed sleeping angelically without a care in the world. Of course, I also don’t know how a cat would express feeling sorry even if it wanted to. I had to ask myself what I was even expecting from my cat, an apology letter? Obviously it was an accident, but I was still being faced with the task of having to just let it go and move on after a family member has potentially mutilated my ear.
This raised a lot of questions for me. I did some internet research and the general consensus is that when a cat hurts you if you yelp out in pain then they know that they’ve hurt you and that they will try not to do it again. However the cat will not feel guilty about it. Typically their way of dealing with social conflicts is to either avoid you if you seem scary or to act like everything is normal. Honestly this reminded me of how things were handled in my home growing up.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this incident happened the night after I published the post on child abuse. Honestly I didn’t feel great about sharing all of that, but I’m genuinely hoping that it can help people.
I believe that the reason why we have pets, the reason why they chose us, is that we’re meant to learn from them. They are sort of like special spirit guides in the flesh that are here to teach us about our human relationships. Sometimes family members injure us and leave scars because they don’t have the capacity to understand fully what they are doing to us and don’t have the ability to feel empathy. By carrying on about it, from their perspective, we’re the ones acting crazy, we’re the ones being unreasonable, and we’re the ones who lack understanding.
Obviously I still love my cat and haven’t tried to punish him or anything for what happened. We have decided to keep the bedroom door closed while we’re sleeping, which I do feel bad about because I know how much the cats love to hang out with us on the bed. At the same time, I know it’s my job to take responsible for my own well-being and that I would be responsible if it happened again either to me or my husband.
So why did this happen? What is the spiritual lesson here? I can’t help but think that this is meant to be a lesson on forgiveness, however I’m very very hesitant to go there. I think one of the problems with the whole idea of forgiveness is that it puts the task of personal growth onto the victim. Society pushes forgiveness because it’s easier than addressing the abuser needing to change. If an abuser is not going to change, which they most likely wont, then we reach an impossible impasse where the issue is seemingly never resolved. HOWEVER if the victim forgives the abuser then we can bring the issue to a happy close and all of the people responsible for the abuse, including other adults who knew the abuse was going on but did nothing to stop it, can all wash their hands of the matter and move on. Once again the victim is being made responsible for everyone else’s feelings. That doesn’t sit right with me.
I have a sister that I have not spoken to in 8 years. She is a dangerous person and I would never allow anyone to be alone with her or to get into a car with her. It would be safer to walk home in the middle of the night than to have a chance encounter in a vehicle with her. Do I think she’s capable of killing me? Yeah, I actually do. If at any point I think to myself “Hey it’s been several years. Maybe she’s grown and changed…?” It seems like at that moment she’ll find a way to contact me and send me long abusive wall of text just to remind me that there isn’t a chance in Hell of us ever having a relationship.
I don’t forgive my sister because I would have to be completely delusional to do so. I know that there are people out there that use different definitions of forgiveness. However, the definition I use comes from the original intended meaning of the word which meant that you erase all debts that person owes you and resume your relationship with that person debt-free. I can do that with my cat, but I cannot do that with my sister. Until something changes where she truly figures things out and changes her life around, it is completely off the table.
Another question that arises is do we owe family members forgiveness? Let’s say years from now my sister has completely changed her life around. Perhaps she completes AA and gets into volunteer work. Maybe she becomes a pillar of the community. Does that mean I owe her forgiveness and should act the role of the perfect loving younger sister again? I don’t think it does. It should still be my choice and I don’t think it’s truly a “choice” if “no” is considered an unacceptable answer. Sometimes it’s just expecting too much from a person to expect them to have the strength necessary to simply forget the past.
For the record, I don’t do anything to hurt my older sister. I used to just sit there smiling politely at family gatherings while she dished it out, my mother forcibly handing me glass after glass of alcohol to try to make the experience bearable. But 8 years ago I decided that this was absolutely nuts and I couldn’t do it anymore, and simply refused to smile through the abuse. At some point you have to have some kind of self-respect and walk away. It was clear to me that she didn’t want to have a relationship with me either. Truly, this separation is mutual!
With my other family members I am low-contact, and that may be where my lesson lies. My other sister tells me that our mom is just clueless. She was too wrapped up in her own dramas to even realize what was going on during our childhood. Although she’s gotten a little better these days and will even admit to being “thin skinned”, her ability to emotionally regulate is simply not there. Unlike my older sister, I think it does make her sad to have a limited relationship with me. My mother is like the cat who has no clue what she’s doing but just wants things to be back to normal and copacetic.
Can I set up boundaries to keep me safe while also saving my mother from herself like I did with the cat? Perhaps, although I would argue I’ve already done that. I think what’s missing is that there is still a part of me that wants my mom to be better. I am still expecting her to be able to function on the same level that I am. I think the lesson was that I need to accept that she is what she is. Maybe in another life she will be better, but certainly not in this lifetime. Just as I’ve accepted that the cat is a cat, I need to do that with my mother.
Interestingly enough, my ear is already looking a lot better and I do believe now that it’s going to heal up nicely and look like a normal ear again. Something I’ve learned while traveling this spiritual path is that we are indeed here to learn and everything is a teacher, especially our pets. Even though they may hurt, try to be grateful for these lessons. I find they lead to less pain in the long run.