Truth: There is no kitten stuck up the tree
About 10 years ago, I and my two cats moved from Atlanta to Americus and promptly set up house with my parents. I had a lot of big dreams about what my life would look like at 40. Moving in with my parents as an adult was not even a blip on my dream radar. While I had a good time getting to know the parents in an up close and personal manner, I would not recommend the move. At some point Mama is going to want you to cook or clean something. Daddy is going to grow irritable when questioned on his obsession with watching westerns. The only thing I was bringing to the table was a single woman’s lifestyle complete with two cats who clawed to pieces anything worth more than $100. Those two cats became the fulcrum of everything family relations for the Halls. Finally, after having been thrown out of the house against my very histrionic and frantic wishes, Gracie, the oldest cat decided to climb a prized sweetgum tree. She is, after all, designed for such. And did she ever climb. Cat stuck up a tree is something I thought only happened on TV. “Kitten up a tree” in my experience was nothing more than a fireman’s marketing ploy created to make them appear to be even greater than they actually are. I have never, not once, seen little cat skeletons in a tree, thus proving all cats know how to get down sooner or later.
This cat of mine not only got stuck up a tree, but she also screamed the entire time her feet were off the ground. For every scream Gracie let out, a Hall let one out as well. I eventually came to accept kitten up a tree is an actual thing, and it was playing out in my back yard. When Gracie left planet earth, she took every bit of sense the Halls cumulatively owned with her. We began to turn on each other. Family conflict textbooks have long been a part of my life. During the kitten up a tree episode, I saw all those theories flesh out in real life. In my real life. It was miserable. Daddy took to the tree with his ladder. Gracie somehow remained out of reach and the Halls grew angrier with each other as the moments passed. Finally, having had enough of me, Mama and Gracie, Daddy cut the whole tree down. And that my friends, is how we handle “kitten up a tree.”
Recently I had my own “kitten up a tree” incident. Everybody has their target issue which makes them feel “less than.” Mine is having to ask for help. I absolutely know life will bring its little knots. I clearly know each of us comes with our strengths and weaknesses. I believe in a community which brings what they have to the table for the better good, however I abhor having to take from the table. Lately I’ve had to take a lot. Usually, I take from those more skilled than I am in all things “man.” For weeks I’ve had a porch under construction, my roof soon joined in with its aches and pains, I am the proud owner of a fig ivy emergency and finally I have some plumbing and electrical needs rounding out my list. In the middle of walking around for weeks in a “please help me, please” posture, my car’s tire decided it needed a nap and I found myself stranded at my own house when I wanted nothing more than to meet a friend for dinner and to buy something in bulk from Sam’s. That tire was my line crossed. That tire was all that was needed to push me from fully capable woman to absolutely tragic kitten up a tree. I, much like my Daddy of days gone by, was in the place where I was going to cut down the whole blasted tree. It threw me. I am aware of myself enough to know I had reached my limit on saying, “help!” I have played kitten up a tree to my advantage, but to be kitten up a tree in actuality makes me think I am too stupid to live. This is where my emotional hiccups lie, I was officially “less than.” When help arrived, he had the gall to make fixing that tire look easy. It didn’t help my ego that the help was also the same man who had been tasked with my porch, my roof, and my plumbing and electrical. I handled it with all the grace of a frantic cat up a tree. I hissed and swatted as he offered help. At one point I listed off the things I had skills in, just to prove I wasn’t utterly unable to function in life. Then I took a breath and slowly climbed down out of my tree.
Eventually, maybe kittens do learn how to get down out of their tree. Fit fully thrown, maybe we learn to accept with grace the help offered us. Maybe accepting help from another is a way to honor them. On really awesome days, maybe within ourselves we find the help we need. Help will come. It always does. Help may be a gentle retrieval back home, or it may be cutting the tree down all together. All those things could happen, but is it worth the risk of having to ask for help? Here’s the thing about being a kitten up a tree—very rarely do they live their life out stuck in their tree. Their view is often exceptionally good. They are not afraid their claws will fail them. They see the adventure before them. They are fully committed to their journey. They stretch their limits to new heights. I am learning a big adventure calls for a handful of help. I may get momentarily stuck or I may reach the highest limb and have not one issue getting my feet back on the ground. But mostly, in the precious places of my soul, I say alleluia for having someone who offers their help. It means I have learned to trust someone bigger than myself, it means God has provided for me a resource, it means I have learned the art of admitting I don’t have to know everything, but also realizing I do know some things. These are gifts, and they are precious. Sometimes our emotional stuff starts screaming we are “less than.” What if we took those screams, handled them with care and came out the other end more accepting of ourselves? There is life in accepting ourselves right where we are in the moment, strengths and weaknesses both. We have a beautiful design, don’t we? Climb your tree. There will be help in case you need it. Most importantly, you’ll be joining the big adventure. You are, after all, designed for such.