Yes, I live on Vancouver Island and it rains a lot in the winter, making things feel damp and grey, but this post isn’t about the weather. Although, for the record, I’ll take rainy mornings over freezing cold snow and icy roads any day.
Strangely, this post is about a cat that I saw on my run yesterday.
I started running again as a way to get physically stronger but also a way to try and get some sleep and to cool my brain a little. Something about being outside with my tunes and my thoughts as I push my body against its preconceived breaking point soothes my anxious soul.
Anytime I go out running, adventuring, hiking, swimming or just walking in the forest, trees and near the water, I set my intention to see things I need to. I like to think of this as asking for universal signs and being present enough to really pay attention to my surroundings. I know I miss so much when I’m preoccupied with trying to visualize my end goal or allowing my thoughts to wander too far.
Yesterday, I saw a gorgeous grey cat laying in front of a hedge in someone’s front yard. I’ve never run this route before so I’ve never had the privilege of witnessing the splendour of this all grey, calm, serene cat before. It was looking at me curiously and didn’t jump, move or even really acknowledge that I was running towards it with super heavy breathing (I was running 5 minute intervals for the first time and this specific interval was kicking my ass). Most people wouldn’t think twice about this but I knew exactly what seeing this grey cat in my path meant.
One of the issues that come with deep trauma is black and white thinking. I know because I’ve been working through this with counsellors, psychologists and in group therapy over the past 6 years. Due to living in situations where I’ve felt unsafe, unsettled and have been abused in ways unimaginable to most people, my brain has been conditioned to go to best-case and worst-case scenarios. Fight or flight.
I quickly assess new situations and information and process it in a way where I can keep myself (and anyone around me) safe. It’s worked well for me through most of my life as it kept me alive but it’s exhausting, painful, and I forget that there are a million scenarios outside of my black and white thinking. Most of the time I can catch myself doing it, take a step back and reframe to see what’s actually going on. I can remind myself that I’m safe, secure and strong and that I can get through anything. I will always be okay. But there are times when the anxiousness takes over and I’m back to black and white. Even worse, I get into blender brain and the worst-case scenario takes over to a point where it’s one of the only things I can focus on.
Which is where I was before I saw this amazing grey cat.
I came home, wrote out all of the things that could happen best-case, worst-case and what was actually most likely to happen (grey area). Not surprising there were tons of entries in my grey area list, a few in my white (best-case) area and only one in my black area (worst-case). That cat reminded me that the magic is in the grey area. It reminded me that I’m often wrong about what the actual best-case and worst-case scenarios are, especially when these scenarios are made under stress. It reminded me that if given the space to play things out as it should be, things can change very dramatically very quickly and even surprise and delight me along the way.
I needed this grey cat in my path. I needed this sign and message. Things are going to be okay. They are always going to be okay.
Bravely Thinking Forward