We recently adopted a young calico cat after our older cat died unexpectedly. We’ve called her Lentil. She is the picture of cuteness, emphasised by a black marking across her face - almost as if nature decided to articulate a final smear after the effort of painting all the other colours on her body. Were she human, it would have been impossible to take her seriously because it looks like she has a permanent smile on. Her personality matches her adorable face: she is the epitome of “joie de vivre”! She doesn’t run; she hops around.
We also have another older cat, Juju, who has long been the matron of our household. She has been the adored one and, understandably, now feels threatened by Lentil’s presence. Lentil just wants to befriend Juju and is steadfastly curious in her efforts. Juju’s response has been to fervently guard her territory. She lies miserably at the door for days, waiting for Lentil, and when she spots her, she growls, tail on alert, and readies her body for attack – which sometimes happens, resulting in hairs flying everywhere.
After such a skirmish Lentil will hide for a few minutes before happily spreading love once again, seemingly unfazed by Juju’s foul mood.
What Juju doesn’t realise is that she wouldn’t lose anything by allowing Lentil into her space. She would not receive any less love or care. On the contrary, she could stop wasting her energy guarding and could instead gain a friend and a grooming partner.
While watching Juju defend her space, it occurred to me that we are not unlike her when it comes to change. As humans, we also sometimes hold onto our existing situations. We guard our wealth, health, children, positions at work, or social status. When we perceive that sharing our space or resources will reduce them, we react to protect what we deem is ours. We feel threatened and typically spend our energy and resources guarding, just like Juju.
But, if we are, instead, like Lentil - curious and open-minded when we experience change in our status quo - we have the option of alternative behaviours and responses that are better for us. Engaging with change, rather than guarding against it, gives us the opportunity to enlarge rather than diminish. We can explore how sharing and cooperation make what we already have so much bigger and better.
We will be facing increasing changes. We can choose how we react to those changes. When we feel threatened, perhaps we can remind ourselves of Juju. Could we be missing out on a different reality, even potential new friendships, or perspectives, by holding on to how things were? Or could we embrace change, and with curiosity, explore a new reality?