Nearly all my houseplants are a blend of vibrant green, and a pathetic shade of darkened brown. Lack of sunlight, or too much water aren’t the issues. Actually, it’s that the cats love to gnaw on them.
I’ve tried a few different tricks in the book. I’ve placed double-sided sticky tape around the plant to detour the cats from stepping too close. I’ve sprinkled cayenne pepper on the top of the soil, and sprayed lemon juice all around it because I’ve heard those are both scents cats hate. Everythinag short of simply getting rid of the plants, I’ve tried.
But Dash, my precious, plant-eating cat – she only licks the tape and comes back to the plant once the scent has worn off later. When one of the reviews for the tape mentioned a demon cat eating the tape off its surface, I thought: Surely not my demon cat. Wrong.
It’s been an annoying, frustrating journey of trial and error. But the worst of it happened last week when we cleaned up cat puke. Multiple times.
The first time it happened, we didn’t think much about it. The second time? We thought it was only what was left of the first. But by the third time, we knew something was up.
And so it went on for 2 days: listening to the cat heave, and then cleaning up puke.
Bless her. I knew she wasn’t feeling well. Her food bowl sat full those days, and we held our breath until she went back for water. She seemed even more put-offish than normal (if those you that know Dash can even picture it.)
As bad as I felt for her, it only took one whiff of her mess to assume what had made her sick: the aloe plant. That same one with the hardened, brown tips – evidences of her chewing. Apparently, my ridiculous attempts to detour her had been ignored.
First off, I don’t get why she even goes to the plants in the first place.
But secondly, why does she go back to the plants, even when they make her sick?
We watched her do it. Just moments after getting sick, she’d go back to the very source of her sickness. Time after time. Eventually we’d have to completely move the plant out of her reach. But until we did that, we waited anxiously, hoping she’d get the point and stop going back to the very thing that was damaging her.
As much as I wanted to be like WHYYYYYY??!, the strange realization hit me: I do that too.
No, I’m not confessing that I eat my aloe plant and puke it up every day. No, not quite. But this is a confession that I go back to the things that damage me. It’s not an aloe plant, but it’s a whole list of other things I go back to –
My phone for comfort and distraction.
Social media to desensitize.
Unkindness to myself and to others.
The crippling list of could haves, should haves, and would haves.
All these places, and more I’ve not listed, are the ones I run to. I know they’re not good for me. I know they’re not helpful to my life’s vision, and I know that these are not things that I want to be marked by. These things don’t refresh me, or enliven me. These are not the will of God for my life.
They bring me anxiety and worry, fear and cowardice. They cripple me, causing me to feel stuck and think that my Savior doesn’t care for me. They leave me out, make me feel unworthy and far from my best. It disgusts me every. Single. Time.
And yet, I keep going back. Even though I know full well that these things make me sick with regret and discontentment, I return.
It’s stupid because my Father promises to give me the opposite of these things. He promises kindness through and to me. He promises to give me the truth, and assures me that when I believe it, I will truly live. He gives me permission to be content and joyful, staying focused on my tasks ahead without the hindrance of the regrets. And when I believe him, I am restored and nursed back to health.
But when I don’t believe him, it’s damaging.
We all have something that tears us up, but we keep putting stock in. For Dash it’s the aloe plant. For me, it’s that whole list – and more. But today, I am remembering that I don’t have to go back to the things that make me sick. I might have hunger pangs for them, but I don’t have to thirst for them.
What if instead of going to them, I ran to the things that do enliven me?
Like writing, both here and in my paper journal.
Reading the story of Jesus.
Talking to God.
Reading my current book (The Hobbit!).
Serving and doing well toward my people.
Snuggling with the cats (always necessary).
Setting screen time limits.
Jotting down goals.
Taking the time to hike beneath a sky that is beautiful and fills me with wonder, being sure to breathe in deeply and say thank You.
I might look at Dash returning to her sickness time after time and be like WHYYYYYY??!, but one beautiful thing to remember is that is not how God sees me. He looks at me with a tenderness, not an astounded frustration. I’m surprised by Dash, but God is not surprised by me. And yet, he still fully loves and accepts me, despite my sickness and crazy. I’m glad for that.
Here’s to a day another day of practicing running to the things I love, not the things I hate. It feels more awkward than it should, but I know this is going to fill me with a life and health that I didn’t know I was missing. That’s worth it.