Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tina vs. Smeagol

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!


  1. Hahahaha, your post made me smile. Animals are very much like humans in many ways. My mom has two dogs, and while they both look the same they act opposite to each other. They take a while to understand, but now that I know them better I can give them the right kind of attention and love. :)

  2. Tina! Your post makes such perfect sense. I love those experiences. Where what seems like the simplist notion turns into a life lesson.
    This is such a legit lesson for our experience too. I hope that when I am in Argentina and I am faced with a person (or perhaps an alpaca) that I don't get along with that I will remember this post and release my frustration and tackle the issue from a different perspective.
    Thank you for sharing your insight!

  3. You know, I have to tendency to walk away when things, people, situations get frustrating. And the more we go through this BB experience, I'm learning to approach things in different ways to try and relieve the frustration - just as you did with Smeagol. It's important for us to remember that we are all going to be placed in situations that are completely uncomfortable, we just have to learn to go with it! Thanks for posting this :)

  4. I am not going to lie, I definitely started reading and thought.. uh-oh, Tina is o roll to beat somebody up!
    But then, it was not a human being it was a cat, and no beating up occurred (thank God), just petting. So, I think you win funniest blog!! Ultimately deceiving hehe

    I think this will be a challenge must of us will face in our placements. The language barrier, as I have written on Olivia's wall, will be difficult to overcome. Although they may speak English, it will not be their native language, and the communication will not be ideal. It will be a step-by-step process. We will all go through it together, though we may not physically be there for each other, we will in mind and spirit.

    Nev ;)

  5. This post made giggle a lot, and it made me miss Dodger, le sigh.

    I was hearing about Smeagol last night, particularly about Smeagol's method of discipline for whistlers. The cat definitely sounds like a character...

    I liked the "letting go of the frustration" part, and I think that cats and roommates and situations here are apt comparisons to, and sometimes good preparation for, other new situations.

  6. This is such a sweet post with a good lesson :o)