A week ago I adopted an adorable 1.5 year old kitty from the animal shelter. Here she is smiling on her throne that used to be my armchair. Her name is Freyja named after the Germanic warrior goddess of love and beauty (I also picked her up on a Friday, which is named after the same goddess). I would be lying if I said I am not overwhelmed with my decision. The moment I committed to adopting her I freaked out and started looking at other cats and second guessing myself. Typical Becky behavior in reaction to committing to something. And yet, a few days of her here and it seems like I’ve known her forever. I’m amazed at her simultaneous playful, wild and loving nature that seems much like my own that I have become out of touch with.
What else keeps creeping up is my fear about being a kitty mom. I worry already I won’t be able to give her the love and attention she needs when I go back to working full-time. Does that mean I can’t do anything after work and only come straight home to give her attention? How will I balance taking care of myself and another being?? While these were all questions I asked before adopting her, the answer “yes” that comes from my heart only further assures me. I want to love her and learn about love from her.
It is only in the past year I’ve become aware of my what I would call “smotherly” energy (just another great word creation by me). Somewhere along the way I got the idea that I had to earn love or kindness, I find myself even wanting Freyja to like me. That somehow my existence needed me to feel constantly indebted to someone or something else. Unconsciously a lot of us (especially women) carry this heavy load of unworthiness and unhealthy desire to help as a way of feeling worthy.
A few months ago I got incredibly excited about an Enneagram book a friend loaned me. Immediately I did a test and we both agreed I was a 7. A fun-loving, excitable 7. I felt relief, thank goodness I’m not a needy 2 or a bulldozer 3. However, I couldn’t help but notice how often I do things for other people hoping they will like me. Small things, like get their water refilled, or offer to throw them a birthday party. My desire to help others surpasses a basic human desire to be helpful and more into a strange, needy desire for approval. After rereading the book about five times now, I am prepared to announce that in this moment it seems to me I’m a social 2 with a 3 wing.
What is even scarier is how afraid I am to ask others for help. The other day I spent fifteen minutes gearing myself up just to call a friend asking for a quick favor. Afraid of overwhelming people and realizing that I have to trust they have stronger boundaries than I do for offering to help. A friend told me the number one reason why people break up is because in one way or another they become each others’ parents. I don’t want to mother my husband. I want to respect and love his adulthood and give to him as unconditionally as I can, with an awareness of my own needs within the relationship.
There is a natural desire in being human to help others, we twos take it to an extreme that becomes an obsession and often unconsciously manipulative. By putting others needs before our own we often over-extend ourselves energetically, physically, and emotionally. Sure people may enjoy our helpfulness and feel loved (what we want them to feel since we don’t feel it), but inside we easily become sad, lonely, and resentful.
The strange thing is that it completely annoys me when people try to help me without asking if I need it (this is different than basic helpfulness such as carrying things or opening doors). Or when I can tell people are overcommitting themselves and then can’t follow through or seem resentful.
I meet a lot of women in particular with a similar theme who seem to have this need to earn our keep within all of our relationships. What is the anecdote to this mentality? A strong dose of self-worth and self appreciation. Remembering I deserve to be here just because I am me. That it isn’t my job to give advice or help everyone. By learning to take care of me I give others the space to heal with my know-it-allness, which is just a prideful way of expressing my desire to help. My needs come first (which simultaneously means I must be aware of them), or I need to know my boundaries before I make commitments to help others.
This smotherly energy boils down to one thing: self-worth. That I have a right to be here without earning my keep. That jobs, friendships or other relationships deserve to feed my worthiness not make me feel like I owe something or have to prove myself. So there, I’ve confessed I’m a wannabe 7, who is actually a self-aware needy social two with a three wing. (Okay, now go read the Enneagram book.)
So, what does all of this have to do with having a cat? Well, I see already that I feed her first, and give her play time before I even brush my teeth. I constantly look for signs of her approval like a purr and sometimes feel hurt when she goes to her favorite hiding place. I want to love her and learn to care for myself more deeply as well. The only way for me to do this is to fill myself up with so much love that it cannot help but spill onto her (and others in my path). I also see that my “smotherly” love arises from a really beautiful desire. The desire to bring more love and life into this world, which is exactly what I can do by owning a cat.