Worrit

My cat doesn’t travel far. She is no globe trotter.

This is her route: nag someone mercilessly into opening the front door. Stroll nonchalantly down the drive.

If the sun is shining, sit down at the bottom of the drive, allowing the gentle wind to riffle one’s fur, infuriating a few dogs that live across the green. Lie down. Doze to the frenzied barking of any canine observers: this is music to any cat’s ever-vigilant, perfectly cocked little ears.

After a pause as interminable as possible, get up and amble to the right of the house. There lies a path which leads to the forest. Take a seat. Put up one’s paws. Try violating a neighbour’s personal space.

After a satisfying interval – just long enough for the neighbour to ferret around in their kitchen cupboard for their “Get Off My Garden” anti-cat miracle spray, but not long enough for them to re-emerge with it –  potter right again to the garden fence.

Now I have never seen this next bit. I have never worked out how my incongruously named feline householder, Kit Kat, gets from outside the eight-foot garden fence, to inside the eight-foot garden fence.

By some mystery only known to the brotherhood of Felis Catus, she dematerialises on one side, and materialises on the other. Lewis Carroll was not kidding. They do that, really.

This sleight of paw accomplished, she saunters to the bench outside the back window. She jumps up. She lies down. Another two-hour hiatus while essential slumber interrupts play.

Finally, and with infinite tolerance, she gets down and walks the one-foot chasm between the bench and the cat flap.

Where she miaows, like an air raid siren, without pause or mercy, until some poor sap opens the door. Why use the cat flap, when there’s some sucker on the other side of the door.

Her journey is typical of the domestic cat. These creatures are spirits of place, and like a ghost anchored to a haunted gallery, they float close to home. You may have seen maps of cat journeys. They always make me laugh out loud, they are so extremely, ridiculously local.

Ada girl.

It occurs to me these little four legged spirits have the secret of a happy life somewhere in their perfectly formed minds.

All they have to do is land on their four feet with an owner who loves them. This accomplished, their life is generally one in which worry must play a far smaller part than it does in the lives of most humans.

Kit Kat has had times in her life when she was stressed- that’s not up for debate: but her life, following a well worn track round a well loved house and being let in by a well trained family: that has much to recommend it.

I think Maddie envies the cat.

Mad is a world-class worrier. She can worry anyone else out of the stadium in an Olympic worrying contest. First prize on the podium.

I have watched the anxious shadow descend during the last week, as the first day of school approaches.

Home and school, we’re all in the business of helping Mad not to worry. Over her ten years we have compiled a complex menu, a veritable feast of panic buttons.

And as she’s by no means unreceptive, she has listened and learned.

Worry, we have all found, works a lot like Kit Kat.

It circles, treading the same ground, pressing the same buttons.

But unlike our languid furry friend, it is frenetic. It prods our sore and fearful spots, agitates our spirits, pokes and prods mercilessly.

The trick, Maddie and I have found, in our efforts to stop this cycle, seems to be to trip the worry up.

We’re not talking about huge life events here. Controlling inner dialogue at a time like that is like trying to steer the Titanic back home.

No: we are dealing with that wheedling inner voice which takes the real events you have to deal with, and sows doubt. JRR Tolkein called him Wormtongue. The allegorical figure appears throughout folklore. If we  let him have his way he can paralyse us entirely.

Because he is like those mediaeval pictures. Mediaeval British art magnifies those it sees as important. Kings are huge, saints tower over their cowardly miniscule captors. It was their way of according significance to those in their world they felt deserved it.

We can make worry more significant.

Mad and I have learnt there are ways to stick out your foot at that vital moment, and derail the huge figure as it capers devilishly on its way. There’s not one easy answer. That would be trite. But one can fight him.

So: Maddie and I  look meaningfully in another direction and we shout:”What’s that incredibly interesting thing over there?”

And Worry, who never was very bright, swings round, interrupting his circle to check out what you’re talking about.

It’s called distraction. The circle is broken, just for a moment, and the towering mediaeval figure loses some of his stature. We find he looms just a tiny bit less.

The distraction can be a scheme for the weekend, a fabulous film with popcorn: it can be a list to organise oneself: it takes many forms. In fact the more varied the distraction, the better. But he will look, and he will trip.

Of course, what he lacks in wit, he makes up for in persistence.

He’s soon back at his antics, round and round. Tripping him up is an age-long, day-long, life-long process. But over the years we have found that while he never goes away, we can make him smaller.

Maddie has been tripping him up constantly over the last few days. She was gleeful as she showed me the latest index cards she has prepared to reduce the concerns of returning to school to their correct proportions.

And she has been given a beautiful present by a good friend, only today: a set of Guatemalan worry dolls. She tells them the worry, they sleep under the pillow, they take the worry away.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, you great big ugly goblin.

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18 thoughts on “Worrit

  1. And the things we worry about are invariably not half as bad when we get to them as we have built them to be! I have spent my entire life worrying like that. It has just become part of the fabric of my life. And I have learned to deal with it…as will maddie. X

  2. My Mum always has to worry about something, or someone. She has been known to comment that life is good, and she is rather worried that she has nothing to worry about! I think I have inherited a small degree of her worry, but mostly because of being a Mum myself, but I also inherited a chunk of my Dad’s approach…..”I will only worry when I really need to!” The only problem is, I find it a little worrying trying to decide when it is time to worry!!!!

    1. I sympathise, Nick. Phil’s a bit like your mum….if things are quiet he invents reasons to chase the goblin:-D Sometimes I’m good at tripping him up and sometimes I’m terrible. Depends on the day.

  3. I understand your Maddie well, as a lifelong worrier myself and now the mother of a worrywart.
    “Worry is like a rocking chair–it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” That said, I set aside an hour early every day to dedicate to worrying.

    As for your cat and that high fence, don’t you know that cats can simply melt through things when they want to?

    Have a terrific Tuesday, Kate 🙂

  4. Oh, but without the worrying she would never be the same Maddie: I’m told intelligent people worry – s’cuse I while I nibble on a fingernail 😉

    Maddie, your new term is going to be wonderful, filled with magic only you can see – unless you decide to share it – and friends to play and swap stories with and, of course, new things to learn every day. What a great idea to use index cards!

    We should all be like cats: leave the worrying to others ^~^

  5. Oh, me too, Kate…a masterclass with our Jina 🙂 Your exquisite description of cat behaviour makes my heart sing! As it does each and every time I hear her purr. She’s my stress sponge, through and through. Don’t know how she does it, but it never seems to ‘worry’ her 🙂

  6. I love Naomi’s photographs. Couldn’t see where to leave a comment. If I could use a camera like that I’d post my photographs everywhere 🙂

  7. Thanks Liz, you’re so kind! And Kate, for your interest in Jina (bsuy snoozing beside me :-)) There are quite a few pics on my blog (of course!), which you’ll find if you click on the ‘Norwegian Forest Cat’ tab in the Tag Cloud.

    Have a wonderful day!

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