I learned something really valuable in these past couple of weeks that I thought I'd share...You know when there's someone in your life that you just can't seem to get along with? Maybe you don't really care whether or not you get along, but it would just make life so much easier if the relationship wasn't so stressful. While there are "just a few" of those people in my life, there is one that I had been having particular trouble with. Well, ok, its not actually a person, but I feel like this scenario could definitely apply to other human interactions I will face in the future.
The culprit of this stress is my roommate's cat, Smeagol. He's a long-haired, ragdoll, with beautiful blue eyes. He's gorgeous! Having had an amazing experience with my old roommate's cat, Dodger (I previously had never lived with a cat...I was always more of a "dog person") I was super excited to get to know Smeagol. Well, let me tell you, Smeagol is no Dodger! Dodger was your typical snobby cat, but he also had an affectionate and playful side. He and I worked really well together because he made you work for his attention, and I am certainly not the type to offer affection upon demanded. It was always really gratifying and heart-warming when I'd be sitting on the couch and Dodger would choose me to nap on! (I know, I know, I'm kind of a nerd...but only kind of!)
Anyway, Smeagol very quickly showed me that he was not the same as Dodger. I guess I shouldn't have assumed that just because he and Dodger were both the same kind of animal that they would be the same kind of cat. Smeagol demands attention, is constantly at your feet rubbing up against your legs (which he sheds long cat hair all over!), and when I finally decide to pet him, he either bites you to stop, or bites you to keep going. It was so frustrating!
Then one day I decided to try letting go of the frustration and make a real effort to get to know Smeagol. And guess what? It worked! I began to understand his body language (which really helped avoid being bitten), and harnessed my patience to give him more attention than I had been. What really amazed me was that the more attention I gave him, the less he demanded! I am beginning to understand that the dysfunction of our relationship was due to poor communication and a lack of effort.
So, I realize that I just devoted this entire post to my relationship with a cat. Seems a little crazy. But I think that it's important that I recognize how using the same tactics (ok, maybe not the petting part) will help me in difficult relationships in the future, and certainly in my placement. In the Ukraine I will be faced with having to build relationships despite a language barrier and differing mental capabilities. Since Smeagol is a cat, and I am not, we had to figure out some way of communicating without the use of verbal language, which will be helpful working the in orphanage with residents and staff who don't speak english. And by remaining open and conscious of the different personalities and characteristics of the people I meet, I will be better able to meet their needs, and hopefully have mine met, as well. Though I understand that humans are much more complex than cats, I think that this will truly make for a more balanced relationship building process. Thanks, Smeagol!