Continuing the Focus of 2015: Building a Happier Family!
See the character above? Her name was Carly and she was a pill. A perfect pill. When people see this picture they inevitably ask me, “Was she yawning?” While it’s an understandable assumption, she was actually doing something I called Meow-ling – something she, and only she, ever managed to do… a combination of meowing like a normal cat and howling like a wolf.
Neither of which she was.
More about her in a moment, but be assured, she does have a contribution to make to our Building a Happier Family focus.
Families are made up of family members and these members are each individuals in every sense of the word. If we were all alike, there probably wouldn’t be any disputes, rolling of the eyes, disagreements, or expressions that beg an answer to, “What is with this person????”
Things would be peaceful, but they’d get boring fast.
Carly with two of her babies, Bo and Adam
In the second picture, you’ll notice that Carly is pictured (with attitude intact) with two of her three babies, Bo and Adam. Like Carly, Bo will play a role in this post.
Over the years, I have had far (far, far, far, far) too many cats to even begin to count. However, Carly and Bo stand out from the rest for completely opposite reasons. Their temperaments are also perfect for taking a closer look at our family members and close friends – the individuals who, ultimately, have a large say in how happy we are.
Most humans will fall somewhere in between Carly and Bo – but, make no mistake about it, they’ll probably lean heavily in one direction or the other.
The Carlys of the World
Carly was born into our family over ten years ago. Her mother, Bree, was a very small, dainty, sweet-natured cat. From the start, it was obvious that Carly would not carry on Bree’s sweet tradition. From the time she was able to be handled, right up to the day (years later) when she disappeared, we always kept band-aids and first aid ointment on hand.
Heck, we usually just kept it on the counter – as we knew it’d be needed at some point.
I had it in my mind that the more I handled Carly, the sweeter she’d become and the less apt she’d be to scratch arms, hands, and fingers.
For a span of 6 years, I had ever-present scratches on my arms and hands.
You could be in the middle of pouring food on her plate and SWASH, you’d feel a scratch on your hand. She would purr the entire time – that’s what always amazed me. My little beauty enjoyed tormenting her humans.
Carly’s attitude was even obvious on her face – even from a kitten. She didn’t sit and stare at her surroundings like most animals… she sat and glared. The picture above (with two of her kittens) displays this expression perfectly. Ears pulled back, cheekbones tight, mouth pursed… that was my girl.
Carly would often “bop” other cats on the head for absolutely no reason. I’d watch her as she’d quietly position herself higher than her victim, then gasp as she lowered the boom. The claws were never out when she did her patented head bopping – but the message was always received. The “bopped” was to remove himself/herself from the “bopper’s” presence. They never failed to do so.
When, a few years back, Grumpy Cat became an internet sensation, I thought, “Big deal. I knew the original.” In fact, Carly made Grumpy Cat look like pushover. A ridiculously high-on-life pushover.
Some people are kind of like Carly was. Their “resting” facial expression is a snarl and if they ever have anything pleasant to say about anyone, you all but faint.
Once, an especially bad storm was coming and my daughters and I rounded up Carly and her babies to bring inside until it passed (hoping our inside cat, Prissy, would look the other way for a few hours). I volunteered to hold Carly and thought I just might require a blood transfusion.
They’re what would be referred to as “difficult” people. Those that aren’t always easy to get along with and aren’t ever easy to understand. They may not (I certainly hope not, anyway) bop other people on the head with their hands – but they will try to “emotionally” bop them with jabs, insults, rudeness, snarliness. The end game is pretty much the same: I want to be left alone.
The sad thing for human Carlys is this, one day they probably will be left alone. All alone.
Carly wasn’t always a little grouch, mind you. She had moments when she’d purr without scratching. She’d allow me to hold her as we walked around the yard or even sit in my lap occasionally while watching birds.
She filled my days with so much amusement – I gotta admit, I found her cranky disposition funny. Even the head bops.
(Continued beneath the handsome picture…)
The Bos of the World
Bo. The name should be synonymous with sweetness. This cat was one in a billion. Sure, I’ve had ridiculously sweet cats over the years – including the ones who currently grace our family. But there was just something different about Bo. Something that was decidedly UN-catlike. For one thing, most cats aren’t that wild about being held. Bo would stand up against your leg, requesting to be picked up and held. If he was put back down before he was ready for it, he’d simply request another trip up.
Our youngest daughter would wrap him up in a blanket (like a baby) and hold him and he would purr with delight. She’d lay down with him bundled up and they’d both sleep for hours.
I’ve never known a cat so intent on cuddling and “lovey dovey” as Bo was.
Where Carly’s attitude was decidedly, “What can you do for me to make me happy??,” Bo’s attitude seemed to be, “What can I do that’ll make you happy… because that’s what makes me happy?!”
Something else that separated him from most cats was his VERY laid-back disposition. Storms freaked Carly out as they do most cats. In fact, every cat I’ve ever had hated storms.
Except Bo. He’d just go right on about his business. He’d open his eyes when it thundered and even twitch his whiskers when lightning struck – but I always got the impression he was more amused by storms than annoyed by them.
Some humans are like Bo – uncommonly dialed into a Zen channel. Not only do they not cause drama, they do all they can to avoid it. All they’re after is a world filled with laughter.
And hugs. Lots of hugs.
If you have a room full of Bos, there will be NO drama until… you guessed it… a Carly arrives on the scene.
Here’s the funny thing, though, and something we’d all do well to think about: I loved Carly with all my heart, just as I loved Bo with all my heart. They disappeared (as outside cats in the country often do) years ago – several years apart.
For months, I watched out the window for each them. At any point then.. or now… I’d have given a million dollars to see either one stroll up the yard.
Either one. I loved them equally and, if I had one million dollars to spend on the return of one… I’d never be able to pick one. That seems kind of strange, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you think I’d go for the one that came with blankets instead of Band-Aids?!
But there you have it. They were each members of the family – warts and all.
We all have to remember that about each member of our human family. There may be things about their disposition or temperament that we don’t identify with. They may come across as snarly at times and downright rude other times.
But they’re our “Carlys” and we’d be completely lost without them.
Tips for Dealing with Carlys
- Say, “I’m not going to be able to change this person.” Now say it again. In fact, say it until you accept it! A person’s basic disposition, temperament, and personality are what makes them THEM. You can’t change who they are… and, can we be honest for a minute? You shouldn’t want to. Accept them as they are and avoid the head bops whenever you can.
- Improve your People Reading skills. When a “Carly” is in a bad mood, it usually shows on their face. Maybe I’m extra perceptive, but I can even tell from the “energy” a person puts off whether they’re in a good way or not. When they’re in a bad way – I simply stay clear until it’s safe. You get fewer bops that way.
- Don’t push it. Imagine that Carly had been in a particularly cranky mood one day. Imagine that, just that morning, she’d scratched both of my arms and hissed at every cat in the county. How many shades of stupid would I have to be to walk out, scoop her up, and plant one right between her eyes. It would have meant a trip to the ER. If someone is in a dark mood, don’t try to “pull” or “push” them out – UNLESS their personal temperament responds to this approach Most do not, however, respond at all to the taffy approach. It just makes things worse.
In the end, it comes down to acceptance and amusement. Accept who they are and how they are and, when possible, try to see the amusement in the situation. Above all, do not… do not take their temperament or disposition personally. Carly loved me more than anyone, and yet, guess who wore Band-Aids more than she wore socks for years?! I knew it wasn’t ME… it was HER. Taking it personally would have a waste of time and energy.
I’d have been a real sap.
Remind yourself that families are made up of all kinds of people. Love them and enjoy them as they are. Any time spent trying to change them or wishing they were different is simply time wasted.
EDIT: It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – The Carlys I’m referring to are not physically, emotionally, or mentally abusive. People like that aren’t
Carlys, they’re jackasses. What’s more, they aren’t to be tolerated. Period.