A Family of One – The Life of a Stray Cat

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Someone describing herself as a “lone wolf” might usually be done for a mysterious effect. On one hand, it might want to signal the capacity for self-sustainability, on the other – it has romantic undertones. A careful person would take from it another signal altogether – she must be a sociopath – can’t keep a pack. 

I’ve never felt like a lone wolf – if anything – I’d be a dog – I wasn’t brought up in the wilderness by wolves and rabbits – I was a baby and brought up in a home – decently domesticated. 

But what is a domesticated cat that no longer has a home? A Stray Cat. 

A Stray Cat, too, in some sense has a romantic flair to it. Her pain is the fact that she is incapable of feeling at home anywhere – always a guest. Sometimes even an unwelcome one. The romantic part in it all is the hope that one day there will be a place she could call home again – with a partner, a family. 

The effect of a person’s parents divorcing when no longer in any mood, position, or capability of figuring it out and going on together – has a wide variety of effects that can happen afterward. 

Optimistically, the kid from the broken-up home might think to herself, that alright – let’s see the good in bad – at least I have two homes now! 

That’s not how it played out in reality, anyway. There were two houses where each of my parents lived – with new partners, families – and I became an unwelcome guest in one and a piece of baggage, like a piece of furniture that occasionally went around and left things in the way – in the other. 

Rationally speaking – you could argue I had nothing to complain about – a roof above my head, clothed and fed. But those who know no better may discount the effect of human connections, the effect of a family – a little too quick. The tones that play in your head and shape your thoughts, hopes, beliefs that start bending your perception… 

Why am I not welcome at a place that used to be my home? Did I do something wrong and get banished? No, I simply got in another woman’s way. Perhaps another woman that was desperately trying to find for herself a steadier spot to live at… And to achieve this – aggression towards me was her way. 

A strange lesson right there – I am extremely lucky to have not experienced much male physical violence – but the kind of shit women can do to you without touching a hair – terrifying. I’m not saying it’s worse than physical violence – I wouldn’t compare them with each other at all – but unlike physical violence – fucking someone’s brains doesn’t leave visible marks and you can’t exactly call the police on them. Sneaky shit. 

I cannot say whether someone who suffered much physical violence in their childhood has it worse, or whether orphans have it worse, or maybe those who simply have whole but fucked up households – because I have not experienced such lives… So, with this piece that I am writing – I first want to make it clear that I am not trying to say the life of a Stray Cat is the worse and that I’m now trying to start a competition based on who has it worse… I don’t really know what’s the benefit of doing that. 

But I want to think about the life of a Stray Cat just to explore it – the strengths and vulnerabilities, causes, effects, hopes, and dreams – take a guess at what kind of a function it has in the wider scope of the society – and should you identify as one – perhaps inspire or give you hope, too, if you happen to be going through one of the lower lows. 

I think it is a cruel thing to first domesticate a kitten – give them everything easy while they are young, never making them work for it, never making them MOVE, never challenging them – just handing them all the food they need so they can return to sleep or play with a candy wrapper – and then – suddenly – abandon them. 

What does a domesticated kitten do outdoors? Most of them die. Many become feral – very violent. They get into fights – with other feral cats or other wild animals – and very likely – they will also get some bad disease. They carry it around. Very few of them survive decently enough and find a new home with a great owner. 

I’m not saying that I – a domesticated human – lost on the street – was ever looking for an owner – but I was looking for something. Whether the idea of a home is something that’s there for everyone in the same way – maybe even those who don’t feel at home who have not gone through this whole divorce thing and experienced new parasites taking over… Maybe we all worry about the same thing and this has nothing to do with my particular past… But all I know – I was looking for something – and I had absolutely no idea what it is and where I should be looking from. 

I was at a place in life where I could no longer stay – but where I would end up – I have no idea. 

But when you are this kind of a person – no pack, no family, no home, always a guest or a stranger… Now, once again, I don’t know how such a condition affects a male – but I have a good idea about how this affects a female. 

This condition made me, makes anyone in such a situation – extremely vulnerable. To absolutely any kind of exploiters and abusers, there are out there. And it’s not like a person who will want to exploit you dashes in with an ax and severs your limbs – they come smiling, bearing gifts, they say you’re wise and beautiful – whatever they think it is you want to hear… And maybe you didn’t expect to hear it at all – but it surprises you. This all song and dance draw you in… Into something, you’re utterly clueless about. 

You have not a single soul around you to say, “Hey, there’s something fishy about this guy,” or “how did your date go?” Nothing to hang onto to make sense if something was out of the line, whether there were any red flags… Because a young person – without the knowledge of those who came before her – simply is clueless. 

I was clueless. 

And it’s not just the cluelessness that makes a Stray Cat vulnerable – the vulnerability comes from the same fact where the cluelessness comes from – there is no pack, no family, no old wisdom. You’re starting from scratch. And when the glass breaks, the blood is out, the little heart and gold you had, robbed from you – you have nowhere to return – no place to lay low for a while, to process what had happened, to get a 3rd perspective to get a clearer picture to understand where you made the mistake – and how you should have detected that this is exactly how this situation would end up… You’re down at the bottom of the pit, bleeding out (mentally!), no energy, no will, no home, only contempt… Towards your self, and the abuser, and to all humankind. 

Should you survive, maybe that’s the point you’d turn feral. A domesticated cat that has turned crazy.

But how did I bounce back and not become feral? I owe it to the kindness of strangers. I don’t think there was anything special in me to go further down one or the other path – the options certainly were there – all you have to do is fall and accept everything the schmucks offer to you. 

Occasionally, here and there – I have met kind people – however long and short they were there – they didn’t exactly offer me what I wanted – a home – but whatever they did offer – other options, other ways, other things to do, other places to go – it kept me from falling to worse crowds, it kept me from ruining my health, it kept me from opting out entirely. 

Getting burned enough times, I learn the tendency to want to keep my head down and not bother anybody. Maybe I have asked for something in the past and that caused another person to pack their things and leave. And I don’t recall ever asking something out of the line. I have always wanted to belong somewhere, which is also why I was super sensitive to group dynamics anywhere – I could see rejection and exclusion from miles away. People just vibe a certain way and you’ll know it – they don’t want you there, you’re not welcome, not even as a guest, go away.

Possibly – they were strays, too – and were just being protective of their newfound place. Nothing personal. But until I didn’t know that part better – I always thought it was personal. Do I stink? Am I sick? Do things around me start rotting and die?

Nope – as it turned out, maybe I put it to a test. I took care of my surroundings, of things that I got involved with – I discovered it through WORK. I built something and took care of it and it would benefit others involved. So, my exclusion from packs had never anything to do with my capabilities. Well, do I have a shitty personality, then?

There was a period I got accused of negativity, a lot. Why are you always so negative? I didn’t think I was being negative, I opened my mouth because I was unhappy with the shit bargain I was being offered. Shut your mouth, do what your told (and we still won’t accept you as our own).

Being unwelcome to circles, homes, groups – this motive, this pattern has followed me for a long time. I do have a home with a good man, now – and I do feel at home here – but outside of it – even though I am not looking for a home, anymore – the sense of being an unwelcome guest – persists. If I am bothering you in some way – well, I don’t want to be there, either. Not good vibes.

Even though I now am at a good place, comfortable and safe – achieving this state was a long journey, a series of failures with different people and other life choices. I gave up on myself and humans and the idea of love, motherhood, home, community, collaboration a couple of times. But every now and then, there was a sliver of kindness – from a stranger, a neighbor, or a brother. There was no home to turn to – but there was random kindness – and that kept me going. 

Still, a bad day and a catastrophic mood can make me a little crazy. I feel like I’m back in the wild, unequipped to deal with the draconian challenges. These moods don’t come out of thin air, though – when I feel something is wrong, it’s usually for a reason. But the whole wave becomes a little more volatile when the problem is a little difficult to define. 

Something is wrong and I want to feel right again – not understanding what it is – I start throwing shit and things and see what sticks. Sometimes shit sticks to the wrong places and it triggers problems that originally weren’t even there. All this can happen inside my own brain when I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong. I’m wrong. I’m a piece of shit. And hooooo here we gooo, I might get upset, furious, cry, want to throw something, punch something, scream… And to a bystander that might look like something very ugly. Throwing a fit like a confused baby who has not yet learned the words to speak what ails her. 

But it’s not some type of aphasia that stops me from seeing what the problem is – and I am not IMAGINING PROBLEMS – and while it occasionally may be some temporal blindness (I misinterpret something that was said or happened) – this situation is caused by completely new problems – something that I have not yet personally experienced before… The problems are real and they cause pain – now, or in the perceived future – and I NEED to define them and once I have defined them, I can set the course or apply a fix. 

Maybe – had I access to some old wisdom, lived close to generations of a family – such episodes would be greatly reduced. But that’s just not possible for me and millions of others. Besides, even those who wouldn’t define themselves as Strays will often find themselves lost in new situations – in complete darkness – and their go-to method of trying to figure out what’s what is just the same randomized fashion – sling some shit and see what sticks. Innocent and not so innocent bystanders may get involved – and the problem-solver finds himself or herself straying further from the original pain. 

But this doesn’t mean there was no problem, that the pain was imagined. The pain is real – we just need time to figure out where it’s coming from.

I had no control over becoming a Stray – I couldn’t stop my family from making the choices they did (and I bet they couldn’t stop themselves either). It was a fragile family and there was no helping it. It seems cruel and wrong in some way – but in another sense – how the times were, and how times are – these sorts of families did emerge, they weren’t planned by some secret government org – so, this all is natural. It does suck, though – and it creates a lot of pain and confusion among people. At least, it did for me – and I believe this to be the case for many others. 

Severe vulnerability makes them take the sucker end of the stick – and those people aggressive and sociopathic enough can’t stop themselves from exploiting that situation. Personally, commercially… Cruel, but fucking natural. 

While I’m sure I have accumulated quite a nice mound of experience with my journey and it will serve me well – I want to add that none of it would matter at all if it wasn’t for the kind people, kind neighbors, strangers, or even an occasional brother once a full moon. 

A family of one doesn’t work, really. It is impossible to survive as a stray without the random acts of kindness of strangers.

The world is going crazy – but it’s going crazy from the bottom-up. You can also fix it from the bottom-up – with occasional kindness towards those in need. 

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