Let me tell you a little story about one tiny furry animal conquering her fears.
If you know a little bit about me (or follow me on Instagram) you are probably aware that I have two cats, Astrid & Sofia. They are nearly two years old and they really are the loves of my life (sorry husband!). Watching them grow and develop into their own little individuals has been fascinating. Despite being sisters from the same litter, their personalities (or sizes!) couldn’t be more different. While Sofia is super laid back, always looking at you with a calm introspective expression, Astrid seems to exist in a constant state of alertness, which is a mix of high energy, curiosity and being extremely jumpy about things. She is a strange little contradiction of being super timid, but possessing boundless energy to burn, she could play constantly and loves the outside world, going for long trips to who knows where every night. In the meanwhile Sofia could really take or leave the outside, she does like going out and spending the day sitting in the shade of her favourite bush, but she’ll be just as happy spending the day on the sofa being occasionally cuddled.
It was really Astrid that made us decide to let the girls outside in the first place, before that she was constantly demanding attention and play, and was clearly distressed when she couldn’t get rid of her highly strung energy. So it was for mostly for her benefit (and because we got tired of operating a constant door service for her) that we decided to install a cat flap.
After the flap was in, I was so eager to show Astrid that she had her own door. She could come and go when ever she wanted, dash out and climb to the top her tree (yes, the first time her head popped out from the top of that tree I nearly had a stroke, now I’m used to it being the only climbing tree big enough to satisfy her), run around chasing grasshoppers until she was properly spent, the lot. I was so sure she’d be over the moon! Sofia was the first one to investigate the flap. She wasn’t sure about it, it made a funny noise, and it seemed a little bit like hassle compared to getting us to open the door for her. Slowly she started to experiment more, pushing the flap with her paw once in a while, and eventually figuring out that she could indeed go in and out when ever she could muster up the energy for squeezing herself through the hole in the wall.
Astrid on the hand, took one look at the flap and completely freaked out. There was no way no how she was going near that thing, and when we tried to gently push her towards it she started shaking and crying and then played dead. To be honest, that was not the way I had imagined that moment going down. I started reading up on ways to ‘train’ cats to use the cat flap, and we proceeded to experiment with a litany of techniques from trying to ply her with food, to threading her favourite toys through the flap, to taping it open and slowly lowering it day by day, to just trying to push her through it. Nothing worked. The heartbreaking thing was that while Sofia was quite happily getting used to having her own freedom, Astrid clearly felt like she was being punished for something. All that time she had to spend inside when we weren’t there to make sure she’d get in, resulted in her adopting a constant look of feeling sorry for herself. She started crying in the night again, and doing this thing where she looked at you with her big, always slightly alert, eyes and make the cutest, most soul-destroying tiny pleading noises, and then come rub herself all over us in attempt to charm us into letting her out. And all the time she could have just walked out through her flap anytime she wanted!
Cut to about two months of frustration later. We had advanced to me pushing Astrid’s tiny shaking body towards the flap, and letting her own paws push the flap open a little bit so she could then crawl through it, staying as flat as she could. Until one night. I could sense a sudden change in her attitude, it was like she had finally got to a point when her desire to go out was starting to tip over her fear of the flap. I watched her mentally talk herself into finally properly trying. I held my breath and stayed still, knowing that if she saw me watching she would revert back to pleading me to come help her. She got closer, and the flap made a click when the lock opened, she jumped back. But she steeled herself and tried again. She placed her little paw on the edge and tried to push. It didn’t open as the lock had closed again. She went closer and the lock read her microchip and released, she pushed again, and the flap moved. She froze for a moment, as if not quite believing what she was about to do. And then, slowly, determinately, she pushed herself through until she stood outside, tail up, looking like a complete champion. I whooped, jumped up and down, and after going out to give her a celebratory cuddle I ran into the bedroom to wake up my husband in order to give him the news. High fiving, our joy for her was so profound, and as silly as it seems, I felt so incredibly proud of how she had conquered her fears. A clicketyclickclick of the flap kept me awake for most of that night, as she kept going in and out, but it just made me smile. She was celebrating, giddy with her newfound freedom. The next day she slept 12 hours straight.
Pretty much instantly, after months of irrational fear before finally mastering the evil cat flap, she completely owned her success. Now she takes her time going through, landing outside with a big stretch, she takes in her territory, her tree, her freedom. And clearly feels like a boss. And that’s something we could all learn from her. No matter how many struggles we will have on our route to seemingly small wins, it will serve us well to properly celebrate each and every success. Celebrating facing our fears, or taking new small steps, conditions us to taking pleasure in running a successful business. It teaches us to properly OWN what we do.
What have you done lately worthy of celebrating? Started a business? Painted a wall? Helped someone in some small way? Share your successes and we can have a little celebration together, I’m pretty sure I can get Astrid to do a victory lap around the garden for you as a bonus.Marianne Taylor is the creator of Beloved Magazine and founder of Her Lovely Heart.