juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I encountered a discussion on [tumblr.com profile] why-animals-do-the-thing about bi/pan/trans/ace/aro animals, or rather, about the non-existence of cis/straight animals, and how gender identity and sexual orientation work in the animal world, and the relationship between biology, gendered pronouns, and anthropomorphization, and nothing has ever better articulated my gender identity.

I've discussed my pronoun use before with a tl;dr of "female pronouns are convenient and acceptable; non-gendered pronouns are equally accurate: because I'm a cat and cats don't have genders, and using these words isn't the same as embracing their connotations"—which has always been about as close as I can come to a gender identity. I present as cis female due to my body shape/the clothing that flatters in & in which I feel comfortable, but don't identify anywhere on any human gender spectrum. My spay/neuter status as a desexed cat has always been the defining factor of my identity—and that's not even a measurable real thing; it's complicated, it has no particular overlap with human gender identities or agender/genderqueer experiences, and more to do with the way gender (doesn't) work in animals, particularly desexed domestic animals.

I'm quoting that post here, for my own record keeping and future reference, with all credit to anon submitter and the parent blog. I just want to make sure I never lose it. It's such a good post! The personal connections I make to therianthropy/my gender are a smaller, secondary conversation, but it was elucidating to see these things laid out and they helped explain some of me to me.

Read more... )
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
The other day I found myself talking to Teja about that weird cat thing/therianthropy, which is something I rarely discuss these days. Read more... )
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
It's fairly common to see Flight Rising users put name/timezone/preferred pronouns on their profiles, which I adore. But it meant I had the opportunity to just state my preferences, and thus I discovered that wiggly hand gestures and "it's complex" are not a statement.

The reason I prefer FR's habits—compared to LJ/Tumblr/journal spaces, where it's more common to use labels like cis/trans in combination with preferred pronouns—is because I'm adverse to discussing my gender identity; I don't know how to do it without co-opting those labels. I don't talk about therianthopy much these days because my intense period of self-discovery has passed. I don't have much more exploring to do or a lot to express; it's simply an aspect of my identity, definitive but known and, frankly, no big deal.* But I really do identify as cat, and for me that also defines my gender—and cat gender is complex. Domestic cats have some gender dimorphism, but it's effected by their neuter status and life history (namely, when they were neutered)—and none of it has corollaries to human concepts of gender. To me, the defining aspect of a neutered domestic cat's sex and gender is their neutering—they have a third non-sex identity and social role.

Yet I call Gillian my little man, and I call August my pretty princess, and that's simultaneously accurate and irrelevant. Gillian has a developed face structure, and so looks like a male cat; he also has a bossiness and noisiness that we associate with masculinity. August is a very pretty cat with silky fur, and is spoiled and demanding, which fits a feminine princess archetype.

I identify with both halves of that. My gender identity is "domestic neutered cat," which means a near absence of any aspect of sex or gender, physiological or social, human or feline. But I appear as feminine, and so I'm assigned feminine pronouns. Those pronouns aren't accurate, but they're functional. To call a pet "it" is (for lack of a better word) dehumanizing; gendering pets is a way of fitting them into our worldview, of interpreting/projecting/interacting with them as individuals. I'm especially aware of this with Devon—the parallels between Devon's relationship with me and my relationship with August are startling; he's my person, and I'm his girl in the way that August is my girl: the gendered identity is a useful tool, a way of interpreting and defining my identity and our relationship.

In some ways, the gender projected and assigned to me is important because it puts me under the "female" umbrella and that's not unburdened; it effects how I interact, as a human, with humans. But it does not make me a woman, any more than what I call Gillian turns him into a man.

The hand-waving complexity nudges up on the territory of agender and genderqueer, but I'm not comfortable with those labels because they indicate an experience that I respect and don't share. There's a massive cultural difference between the experience of gender identity and species identity—in short, my circumstances are meaningful to me but make nary a blip on anyone's social radar; agender and genderqueer identities do, in loaded and painful ways, it would be disrespectful as fuck to co-opt that experience.

Given the freedom to identify myself as I see fit, without needing to justify it, I freeze up. I presume that everyone intuits the unstated complexity and silently demands that I explain myself, which is classic social anxiety: the belief that everyone cares a lot about everything I do, and they're all judging me for it. I want to footnote in some handwaving and, I don't know, an apology. But when I'm able to step away from the paranoia, it's liberating. All those wiggly hand gestures are important to me, occasionally important to those close to me, and in adjunct ways important to society at large. But they're not always relevant, they don't always need to be expressed and defended.

My FR profile says "she/her or they/them." What that means is "female pronouns are convenient and acceptable; widely-recognized non-gendered pronouns are equally accurate" with subtitle "because I'm a cat and cats don't have genders, and using these words isn't the same as embracing their connotations." I care a lot about that!

The people glancing at my FR profile don't, and that's lovely.

* The primary exception: I feel like domestic therian species are underexplored, and yet domestication is the defining aspect of my therianthropy. As example: the effect of neutering, discussed here; also neoteny and its effect on my relative immaturity/continued dependence on caretakers. Gimme discussions about domestic therians pls.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
So I have the best of friends.

You may remember that a while ago, reddogdied illustrated me-as-cat, which is one of the more meaningful gifts I've ever received. In Animal Crossing, you play as a lone human living in a town of anthropomorphic animals. My friend Sabrina also plays, and she draws, and she was illustrating friends as AC villagers. I asked her to draw me. She drew this and then let me sit down and nitpick it to my heart's content, pulling criticisms and preferences out of me even I'd usually give an artist a wide berth around their art, and then Express concurred with the final design, because they both know how important avatar-equivalents are to me—which they are (read more).

Animal Crossing Juu by Yadomi

And she made this. Green eyes! Floofy tail! Orange kitty, hint of tabby, and I would totally wear that outfit if I lived in a land without pants. AC-me is adorable, and I know awesome people, and I am blessed: behold.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I warn you that all that follows is pretty self-centered, angry, and immature, interspersed with vague gestures in the directions of Deep Thoughts. Also it's more or less about Homestuck. Read at your own risk.

I have a friend that has to blacklist a lot of media because they internalize it, take it personally, get sad over sad stuff and heartsick over romantic stuff. Of course it doesn't make sense to consume media you don't appreciate or enjoy, but I tend to think this is an extreme reaction; to be honest, I think they should get over themselves, and that taking it all so personally shows a certain amount of self-centered immaturity. But I just finished reading what so far exists of Brainbent, a Homestuck AU set in a residental mental health treatment center, and hey would you look at that: there's stuff that I take too personally, and most of it has to do with mental health and illness.

It's not the only thing I take too personally. I hate cats in popular media, because their representations are inaccurate clichés and I would know—and for the same reason that I know, it's a personal issue and I hate to see it butchered, over and over again. It's akin to someone making a mockery of me. Sometimes representations of mental illness trigger the same disgust, as well they should—even it means I'm getting mad over another goddamn saccharine advertisement where depression is symbolized by some sort of cute blob. Fuck you, Abilify, because no it doesn't feel like *sadface* and a cute little animated hole in the ground, and patronizing to me will not convince me to shove that or any other medication down my throat. It's a personal bias—because what medications I tried didn't work for me, and I don't have the faith or energy to find the ones that do—which I shouldn't project onto others—like those with the need of and resources to find effective medication, who should be able to make that search without my judgement or doubt—and so I'll admit to being selfish and short-sighted, but the anger is still pretty righteous.

But that's not what Brainbent does. It leans a little saccharine, or at least feel-good; it has competent doctors and respects patient rights; in short, it's a best possible situation with the best intentions: to provide a heartfelt and helpful story about living with and recovering from mental illness, instead of dwelling in the horrors of lack of recovery or corrupt mental health systems. But on the whole it approaches its characters and their illnesses with knowledge and respect, fetishizing their diversity just a touch but managing to be accessible and hopeful and real.

And you know what, I still don't care.

It's not righteous indignation at this point: it's bitterness. It's me reading it at the wrong time, and taking it too personally; contrasting the resources of St. Lobaf Residential Treatment Center residents against oh wait I have none, contrasting mod's promise of a happy ending or at least that residents won't be left in misery against oh wait I don't have that either, contrasting any sort of it gets better against fuck you. Of course it's a stupid reaction, and two weeks ago I probably wouldn't be such an idiot about it; but one week ago I started a steady descent towards feeling like shit—because there's some minor real world stress going on, because my brain is really damn good at feeling like shit, and for no other reason—and so I don't identify or think it's useful or find it hopeful; I think it's trite, and that anyone who can be helped doesn't have it all that bad, and that anyone with hope is a fool.

And look at me all self-centered, immature, and did I mention an asshole?

No deep thoughts here, no conclusion. This isn't a recommendation for or against Brainbent—I found it compelling enough to read the whole thing (even if I probably shouldn't've), but I just can't pretend any sort of objectivity. Nor is this a condemnation of [livejournal.com profile] junkmail, who recommended the AU—I warned her that I might have this reaction, and that the reaction is all me and says nothing at all about it, and that if there's any fault in my anger it's my own because I just should have put it down until I was feeling better. It's just a realization that I too can have such an arbitrary and selfish reaction, and that in fact I often do, and that to be honest I'm just ... not doing that well right now. This is a roundabout PSA that I'm about one week of anxiety/nightmares/depression/dizzy spells, and a repeat realization that perhaps I'll never be able to find the distance I need in order to not internalize this stuff—because even these years later, I'm still too deep in it.

But Devon is here for the weekend, snoring on my bed while I try to figure out if I'm still boycotting sleep. August is in my lap, napping until I decide same. It's not as bad as my unrighteous indignation would suggest. It's just not awesome, either, sometimes, to be me.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
After watching Devon play Saints Row 3—and after playing just enough of it to go clothes shopping and blow some shit up with tanks—I'm having weird Second Life cravings which are less about SL and more about character design. I suppose I could play Sims, but not unlike SL it requires such a significant investment (initial and ongoing) that I can talk myself out of it.

I've lost about ten pounds within the last few months, the result of slightly more exercise and slightly better eating, just enough of an improvement that I can see it and feel more comfortable in my skin, just little enough that I'm paranoid about losing it. The best thing I can do is continue to get more exercise and maintain a stable diet—I'm more concerned with the former than the latter—and my body would probably be happiest if I lost another five to ten pounds. Ideally ... well, who the hell knows. As established, my view of beauty is incompatible with or, more correctly, unrelated to my actual body. "Ideally," I'd weigh little more than a hundred pounds and would wear long drapey layers, if there was a me-as-we-know-it at all.

But gaining a little control over my body makes me want more. It threatens to become an unhealthy and unwinnable battle against my body, against every bite of food, against every minute not at least spent doing leg bends. It makes me want to go shopping, or at least to have something approximating a wardrobe; it makes me curious about the terrifying and depression-inducing realm of makeup (which if I explored here would make for much too long a post); it makes me want to develop a mode of self-presentation, a style, a visual identity.

I've been watching Being Human as I do some never-leave-the-room recuperation and hiding, and one character—Mitchell—frequently wears a pair of green knit fingerless gloves. I have a weakness for this sort of comic-style character design: when everyone has pretty much the same face, they get distinguishing features instead, a crazy hair color and certain hair style, a fixed outfit, a trademark accessory, headphones or jacket or fingerless gloves.

When I think about owning my self-presentation, I want to design myself in the same way—however silly it is to treat yourself as an anime character, despite the fact that I do have a distinct face: it's a form of character design that I understand and appreciate, because of my exposure to it but also because my face blindness and inability to visualize means that cheat-sheet character indicators are useful to me even in the real world. But when I wonder what my indicators would be, I draw half a blank. There's no single piece of clothing (other than perhaps thumbhole sleeves/arm warmers) that I would want to wear all the time, and I'm trying to train myself not to live in just one hairstyle. But everywhere that I make an avatar—in Second Life and in stupid silly Flash memes—the bare necessities are pale skin, red hair, green eyes, glasses, cat parts, and sometimes a collar. Where cat ears aren't an option, the character never quite feels like an avatar—that is, like an image of me. In the real world I'm stuck with blue eyes (no contacts, thank you), and I'm at peace with that; I've internalized my coloring enough that I associate it with myself (unlike my body shape and facial features). But cat ears, a tail, whiskers even, are as much a part of my internal self-image as my hair color, and more integral than my body shape or gender.

On Halloween I wore my cat-eared hoodie and bell-and-tag collar (this one, but it also has a heart tag with my name on it now) when we walked to the store and when I answered the door, and I've never felt so comfortable as myself. Paranoid and nervous too, of course, because Dee gave me those ears almost a year ago but I'd still never worn them out of the house—but Halloween is the day that you can be yourself by pretending it's just a costume, and that costume was me: just a black hoodie and blue jeans and big stompy black shoes, and cat ears, and a cute collar with a bell. It wasn't ten-pounds-lighter me, or hundred-pound-waif not-me, but it was a me that felt comfortable and true.

Even more pathetic than designing yourself like an anime character is pretending you can be a catgirl and pull it off. On the other hand, who's gonna judge you—your supportive boyfriend, or your supportive roommate? Who'd even know it was more than a novelty when they saw you at the grocery store? (Unless I also take to wearing a tail, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.) But that hoodie still sits unloved, and I'm not sure how to even contemplate wearing the ears without it—on a headband I guess, but then I'd have to try finding a headband that works, and it all just gets ... silly. It's absurd, and I'm not sure if it's something I shouldn't even consider or something I should have to take so long to consider, but there we go.

August says it's bedtime. I'm inclined to agree.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I've been in weird headspace these last few days. The month of pain issues has, for the most part, resolved itself, insofar as I'm not waking up in much pain, and I tend to have a few body-functional hours during the day—but by the evening I'm still stuck with back pain too severe to allow me to sit. The depression that came along for the ride is improved but lingering, which means that I'm sorta-better, e.g. motivated but incapable, e.g. restless, and that when the evening pain kicks in I crash like a highway car wreck—in part because I'm in pain, but largely because I'm anticipating another nonstop month of it and scared sick.

It's frustrating. I want too much, and the wanting builds on itself until it becomes a mythological beast named Want. I can barely manage to fight through a book review but I have my sights set on authors, books, writing—and I idolize and combine it in a mixed desire to read ALL the things/contribute something/be just like all those beautiful, well-read, well-spoke literates that I admire. I anticipate autumn so avidly that dead leaves on the trees make me glace twice just to make sure they haven't yet started to change colors, because autumn is my season of renewal and inspiration (and because I am oh so sick of this heat). The desire to be involved in something literary and wonderful transmutes into a desire for wonder in a general, grand, amorphous sense, and I'm having those stirrings of religious craving that I get every year but have never yet been able to transmute into faith, least of all practice.

And meanwhile I've the attention span of a gnat and it takes me three hours to type a book review and in the evenings it all falls apart, leaving me short-tempered and miserable. And there's something in this mental mess which leans towards cat-shifty, in a sense similar to this shift. In part, it's that my difficulty sustaining a thought or writing a sentence mirrors those shift-triggered difficulties with language; in part, it's that my constant flickering fascination-without-fulfillment is similar to the peak of that particular shift (which was spent at the public library, staring wide-eyed at the mass stimulation of all the moving things! without in the least being able to do the reading or writing that I'd come there to do). After the month with August, I see that behavior in her—and as I see us perk at the same sounds, I see it in me too. One of my lingering doubts about my therianthropy has long been that I'm not as playful or predatory as most cats, but I think there's more of that in me than I realize—some of it sublimated, some of it unrecognized, and some of it never explored or encouraged. I don't expect that I'll turn into the hallway-bounder that my beast can be, but I feel more secure in that facet of my identity, now.

But this pseudo-shift is frustrating. Frustrating, because cats are not the literary geniuses of our time, and insofar as this is a shift (instead of just resembling the effects of one) it's not exactly producing productivity. Frustrating, because it's a keen reminder that I am not indeed a cat. For one, living here separates me from My Person—and Devon is that, for better and worse: he's my petting-slave and food bowl-filler, and distance from him makes it hard to engage in and be satisfied by a shift. I'm forced to be something approximating an adult human, which is good for me—but bad for this. For another, I have both a taunting example and depressing distance in August, who shows me just what I'm not, what my body can't do (she can fit on a single stair step, and it makes me ache to be small) and what I can't get away with (especially without Devon here, because Dee really would not appreciate any more "is it food time? food time? food time now?" than I already do). The other day she played reciprocal chance-and-almost-pounce with me, and it warmed my heart to play with her on something approximating cat-to-cat level—but I know full well that I'm her person and she's my cat, and that distance does a little to break my heart. (But not so much as her presence helps to build it).

So. Better but never well, crashing frequently, desirous, frustrated, nostalgic for something I've never had, unfocused, thoughtful, restless. All over the fucking board. I've been in weird headspace, these last few days.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Kitty under my chair.

August has discovered the magic of microfleece blankets. I'm not horribly surprised—Madison goes crazy for them, she'll kneed and suckle on them like some replacement mother; August just kneeds and ... puts her nose one the fabric. It's like she's not sure why her nose and mouth need to touch it, she doesn't drool or suckle at all, but they have to be there or the experience isn't quite complete. Honestly it's like she's not sure why any of it has to happen at all—she gets this look of WHY AM I KNEEDING PLEASE SEND HELP that morphs into NEVERMIND TOO COMFORTABLE PLEASE GO AWAY. Kitten loves her blanket.

Not that it's her blanket. Boy is using it over his long weekend here, and then it'll return to the living room because my dirty little secret is that the freakishly soft feel of that fabric makes my skin crawl. Said blanket has been necessary for the weekend, however, because we hit the sweet spot in this week of remarkable, overcast, cool summer weather: Rain. Buckets of rain. It's pouring now and has been pouring all day, hours of it, I fell asleep to the sound of heavy rain and woke to find it even heavier. All of this unseasonal coolness has been welcome—seriously, Dee and I won't stop talking about the weather—but this rain, it feels too good. It's perfect. It makes me long for autumn as if it weren't already here—because I know well enough that it's not: this weather can't last forever, and now that it's had its grand finale it'll probably pass. I've come to embrace summer in the last few years, as I've learned the art of sleeping in sunlight (and since Boy has an air conditioner in his room), but this is my weather and my home: the sound of rain, the gray sky and silverblue light, the cool humidity, the cold breezes, long sleeves and blankets and a sudden craving for warm food covered in cheese. It hurts me a little to know that after this will be many more weeks of heat—not that the heat has been bad this summer, and we've found all the little tricks for coping with it, but ah, this weather. I want it to last forever.

Devon's visit has been fantastic. He got here Thursday night, and leaves this evening—we've been doing four or five days together every two weeks, which seems to work out wonderfully: the longer visits are more relaxed and fulfilling, and the weeks off give us more time to engage in our own local lives. This weekend's weather has me in the mood for books, sleep, and staying in, so we're thoroughly wasting our time away with a marathon of the original American McGee's Alice, and it's perfect. We're sleeping when we want to sleep, sometimes at night but also to the sound of the rain during the day; we have the windows half open and most people would think it's way too cold in here but that just makes the snuggling even better.

You may have noticed at some point that sleep and I are not particularly good friends—but August has me napping at all hours, these days. We curl up for a cuddle and sometimes when she drifts off, so do I. That, like this casual non-schedule that Devon and I have had this weekend, feels surprisingly natural. It embraces my preference for sleeping in sunlight and the fact that I wake up so often that pretending to get a solid chunk of sleep is foolishness, and it dismisses so many of the anxieties that make sleep difficult—like the simple expectation that I'll sleep now, for this long, and then be awake and engaged with the world. As a result of course I'm less engaged, but...

Basically, August is teaching me to be a cat. Some of it already there, in little realizations that tickle me—like when we watch out the window together and we both perk at the same sound or movement. But my sleep issues are one of the hallmarks of the disconnect between my self-as-human and self-as-cat, and so this.... Well, back in that post I wrote, "A cat that can't catnap hardly feels a cat at all." And now, sometimes, we catch a bit of sleep in the sunlight for no reason at all other than the fact that the bed feels nice. There's that argument in the therianthropy community about nature and nurture—if this identification is innate, or if it changes and grows; if it's inherent nature, of if it's tainted by affectation. It makes me feel like something of a charlatan that so much of my personal experiences are about the disconnect between my human and cat identities, and therefore about (re)learning mentalities and behaviors—not because they're not mine, but because I get in my own way where they're concerned. And for all that anxiety I still don't give a flying fuck how it might be perceived, because these little lessons, these little naps, make me so happy.

So it's been a pretty nice long weekend, I guess is what I'm saying.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I'm going today to look at a cat. She's just a cat, she may not be the cat, but she was the first to catch my eye and so she seems like a good starting place—I'll go meet this cat, see if she is the cat after all; if she's not, then I can start a broader search of humane societies in Corvallis and the Portland area until another potential jumps out at me. (I'll probably do the same at this adoption agency, if she turns out not to be the cat—it's in a Portland suburb, so there's no reason to waste the drive.)

But this cat, when I first saw her, made me break out in tears. To be fair, the cat search has been emotionally intense and tears have never been far out of the picture. (Because, goodness knows, now that the previous emotional roller coaster has slowed down, I'd best find another ride at the fair.) I compare a cat of my own to having a child, without exaggeration, for obvious reasons: cats are my people. That isn't a connection I expect the cat to make—I'm not looking for miracles, a familiar, a once-in-a-lifetime relationship. I'd be happy to find it, but to expect it isn't fair on the cat. But she will still be special to me, because she's my first ever own cat and also because having a cat of my own, being with a cat of my own, is so important than even I can't quite find words for it. It's a want that makes me ache inside, the way I miss tail and ears like there's something in me and of me that begs to be solid and is a void, instead.

I'm trying to not get too invested in this cat—because right now she's just a cat, and I refuse to let every single step and stumble on this journey make for an emotional landslide. I don't have the resources for that. Luckily I'm too much in shock to really believe that this is going on. This is something I've wanted for so long that it doesn't seem possible that it's finally leaving the realm of dreams. If this is the cat—and I'm not saying she is—then I may have a cat in a day or three. That just doesn't make sense.

So if you need me I'll be over here in my corner, quietly freaking the fuck out.

I almost don't want to share anything about her, because that signifies investment and because it'll just be silly and embarrassing to broadcast every cat in what could be a search through many. But at the risk of future disappointment, because you should see her eyes to see what it was that caught me and made me cry:


Her name is August.

And she may not be my cat. But I want to meet her.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
The thing about this constant state of lumpiness is that while part of be is a bit alarmed by it, it feels so right.

Prior to getting sick I was on what was for me a productive streak. I've been doing more multitasking these days, reading and gaming and writing and being social instead of concentrating on just one or two of these things until I exhaust myself; I am by nature given to extremes and so that feels out of character, but it also feels healthier and I've been encouraging it. It does mean that my productivity may not have been obvious—multitasking doesn't make for a steady stream of output, and no one sees my writing but me—but the productivity was there, and it was nice.

And then I got sick again, a fairly long sick, and was thrown off my groove; getting back on it is always hard. I feel like I should be productive, should be writing and communicating more, but right now even sitting up to use my laptop is work. Part of me rallies against that, the part of me that thinks I should at least mime being a productive and contributing member of society on the rare occasion.

But it was a weird sick. It was with a few exceptions almost a beautiful sick: chills and aches and fevers, a bit of a cough, an excuse to lie in bed all day and a clear sign that I was suffering and should be pampered. It got me in the habit of lying around like a maiden wasting away with consumption, weak and beautiful and indulged. (You know, like I already wrote about). In retrospect, especially given my poor memory, that's impression is even stronger.

So I got in that groove, instead.

And lying in bed all day feels right. It feels lethargic and wasteful, certainly, but it feels right. I've written before about my many issues with sleep, and in particular the relation between cat brain, human brain, and sleep. Lazing about is something I envy and idolize because it is not something I can often do. Sure, I can lie in bed and read, or I can waste away my days with little bits of nothing, but simple lethargy is not my strong point: my brain spirals into stress and anxiety, and there is nothing restful about that. I have never been good at doing nothing, except in the worst of my depression.

These days I've been doing nothing with aplomb. Oh, I'm still reading a lot (I am now four book reviews behind—the notes are all written out by hand, but typing the reviews, well, it means more sitting up) and I've been putting plenty of hours into Pokémon, but I'm not getting bored when I get to the end of the book and have nothing left to do, I'm not trying to trick my brain into quiet and sleep, I'm not restless or stircrazy in the least. I am calm halfway to the point of stupor—there's still plenty going on in my head, and there are letters and essays I want to write as a result, but nothing has urgency and oh, my bed is so comfortable

Probably it's not healthy, this indolence. It does get annoying after a while, to feel like I'm constantly falling behind on the things I want to say, to feel like I'm abandoning my friends. I wish I was able to type comfortably in bed.

But that doesn't change the fact that it feels right. It feels like more of who I am meant to be, cat-in-person that I am: still an alert intellectual, still consuming art and playing games, still loving and engaged, but also quite inclined to lie on something soft and do little at all for hours and hours at a time, curled and soft and sweet.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
cathoodieIMG_6807
YOU GUYS YOU GUYS YOU GUYS
(especially [livejournal.com profile] century_eyes!)

So [livejournal.com profile] century_eyes gave me cat ears for Christmas? and then Dev and I were out shopping in preparation for the cruise? and we found nothing for him, but a ton of things for me? and in that ton, I finally found a nice long black hoodie?

And now I have a cat-eared hoodie! And yes, I know this is silly, and it probably looks silly, and I don't care. This is me, people. I am silly, and maybe I look silly, but this is the me that I want to be. It is comfortable and cute and me, so very me. When given complete freedom to create me, this is the me that I am. Now, sometimes, this is the me—ever more the me—that I really can be.

Being me rarely makes me happy. You could call that the fundamental problem of my life.

Today, being me makes me overjoyed.

+2 pics of the hoodie. )

I will tell you one thing though: those magnets are not playing around. The quality of the ears is great! But damn, those magnets are almost stronger and more stubborn than I am.

Oh also: I cut my hair.

While we're here:

catcatIMG_6801
Have a picture of a real cat. She's cuter than I am.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Reddogdied - Sleeping WIP


And then I discovered this, and now all of my complaining seems so very silly.

For my birthday the wonderful reddogdied drew an illustration of me-as-cat (that's my long fur, my fluffy tail, my little face and wispy ears, my paw, my coloring as best anyone knows, my small sleeping curl) asleep on my bed (that's my squishy green modal pillow, my beloved baby blanket in the bottom corner—Dev will love that you can even see the fraying tendrils).

There are no words to describe a gift like this. I can muster words—wonderful, beautiful, perfect come to mind—but at its heart this is a thing without language. It is me-as-cat, wordless and furred and sleeping. I fell in love with reddogdied's art for the conflation of sensation and spirit in his work: the texture of fur, the communication and expression in body and face, that each animal feels real: feels, the thick fur long whiskers sharp teeth sensation of it; real, as in authentic and individual and true.

I experience dysphoria rather than phantom sensations, and so my sense of physical self-as-cat is more absence than presence: it's the fur I should have, but don't; the size I'm not, the movements I can't make. I'm sure that phantom sensations come with their own benefits and drawbacks, but I'll admit I tend to envy them because I want to feel that connection, that sensation—I want to feel that much closer to being animal.

And so something like this—a visual of me as cat, something so personal, so me, yet so textural, so much about fur and body and shape—is invaluable. It is precious. It is so beautiful.

I am desperate for sleep and so I should try to get back to that. I think it will be a little easier now, having seen this. I'll end with two more pictures—the fullsize version of the above, for a closer look at that rich beautiful fur, and a fullsize of the beginning sketch, because I'm in love with it too. By while you're at it, go check out reddogdied's gallery.

(Typing with my new headphones on is so bizarre—I can't hear the keys click at all.)

+2 large pictures. )
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I have all of these ideas for posts sitting in the back of my head, waiting for me to pull them forward, give them more thought, commit them to text, and share them with the world. Thoughtful posts, important posts, formative who-I-am posts, posts about mental health and therianthropy and the creative process and media. But I've not been all together and I've a surfeit of things to think and do and write; by the time I'm ready to pull a waiting topic forward I've run out of energy, or my wrists need a break, or I've pushed my back too far. So the thoughts sit, waiting, fetal, mostly quiet. These are some of them.

Most representations of cats in popular media, knowledge, and lore are caricatures which are are overblown, inaccurate, and/or reply on trite and often unfounded images of cats as superior, or magical, or fiercely independent. They boggle and bore me, and can easily rouse my anger or, at least, disinterest in a piece of media. Yet for all of that, Cats tugs deep down at my heart of hearts. It is still a caricature, but it is the best sort: by simplifying and exaggerating certain traits, by glossing over others, it distills a comprehensible, vivid, yet accurate version of its subject—one which is, for the fact that it's easier to see and understand, almost a truer representation of self.

I'm becoming more aware of how distinct the cat that I should be actually is—which is to say, I still believe that my guesses as to appearance are mostly wishful thinking, but the specific cat that I am seems surprisingly well defined: not any domestic cat or the archetype of a domestic cat, but a particular domestic cat with its own quirks and nature—and more unusually, one with a particular life: indoors only, neutered, spoiled, probably a single cat in a small household, etc. I rarely care or wonder about the origin of my therianthropy, but the specifics, the idea that I was supposed to be a certain cat, make me wonder about those origins. Have my views of therianthropy and domesticity been influenced by what I've been exposed to as a human, and if so how so? I grew up with outdoor cats—do I contrast myself against them? I grew up listening to Cats—did that influence my concept and and identification with cats? Simply: what explains the impression that I should have been a specific cat, and those specifics? Right now these are all questions; I don't yet have any answers.

I've made the link between my depression and back issues many times, but I've yet to fully appreciate or throughly discuss it. Relatedly, I tend to underestimate the continuing impact of my mental health issues—I forget that, even though I've carved out a safe space for myself, my mental health issues persist and can still impact me. As a result of both, I can go for days before I realize that my general moodiness is in fact indicative of a persistent problem, one that I haven't recognized and so haven't been treating. But that realization comes tied with a bit of dread and melancholy all its own, because it's a reminder that these big, unsolvable problems—chronic pain, chronic depression—do persist.

There is a distinct and sometimes troubling gap between my personal mental health issues (and their effects) which I am willing to discuss, and those that I will admit to almost no one; between my certainty in and comfort with my lifestyle, and my lingering guilt in owning or discussing that lifestyle. The reason that I've yet to address this all is, of course, because it's something which I'm reluctant to address—but it make me worry that I have plateaued: I have a comfort zone regarding my mental health issues, and that which falls outside it goes unaddressed and therefore unattended. I'm content not to solve all my problems (thus my lifestyle), and need be accountable to no one but myself, but I still think I need to be thinking, and talking, a bit more. But fear of potential backlash, both external and internal, makes me doubt that I ever will look deeper at these things.

Emo is an aesthetic. Emo is a horrible word for what I mean, but it brings with it so many of the right connotations and so I'll use it anyway. When I write Ghost and Aaron I sometimes end up in, or feel like I should be in, a depressed mental state: in order to write about their personal and emotional troubles, I make myself personally and emotionally troubled. And to state the obvious, that's not a good thing. But as I've recently gone back to them, I've managed to embrace emo as an aesthetic rather than purely a mental state—I can dig into their lives and mindsets, and create and indulge in that awful, sympathetic, delight in suffering, without internalizing their struggles. In a way that's sad—it gives me just a touch of distance, and I don't want to be distant from them—but on the whole it's refreshing to play and write them without such a personal investment and struggle.

Five makes for a healthy list, I'd think. I may never come back to these, or at least not any time soon, but better to have notes and blurbs than nothing at all.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Ah, I should be sleeping. Or, failing that, writing, or reading. But first:

Lately, there's been discussion on WereList about the news coverage of these teenage "werewolves"—forgiving discussion, for the most part; I suppose therians have a healthy tolerance for "weird." (I think these kids are adorable, for the record; I'd love to meet them.) But what's struck me in the discussion is the people who relate experiences of being in similar stylized teenage "packs." One-time furries in the community tell similar stories. They go like this:

A person discovers, joins, and grows attached to a group of people who imitate animal appearances and behaviors, but over time notices that for most others, the imitation is play—and for the individual, it's less like imitation and more like freedom of expression granted to innate personality and behavioral traits; it's meaningful. The individual begins to feel out of place in the group, and may leave or expand beyond it. The realization of this deeper, more meaningful connection may be a critical step towards the discovery of therianthropy.

And I, I had a remarkably similar experience with Second Life.

I don't remember when or how it happened, but I remember how it felt when I discovered that cat ears and tails were a "thing" in SL: it was warm, it was right, it was intimidating—because it felt like it would make my inner desires (at the time, I thought that's all they were) externally visible, which is frightening. I worried over will I, won't I for a little while, but not too long; by my second month in SL, pictures begin appearing of me with ears and tail. At the beginning I told myself it would be a sometimes thing, a costume, but that didn't last long either. By my fourth month, I felt naked without my ears and tail; by my fifth, it was a costume when I went without them.

All of this was a "neko" look, a catgirl: human body-shape, human skintone; feline "accents," let's call them: ears, tail, whiskers, slit pupils eventually, paws a time or three, stripes a time or two. My usual look turned out to be something like this:

A New Home


and I became more attached to that image of self than my own physical body and, despite the fact that I've now been away from SL for about a year, remain so.

But I noticed pretty early on that the prevalence and subculture of nekos bugged the hell out of me. Oh, it seemed wonderful at first: other catpeople! other cats! But it became increasingly clear that I wasn't like these other nekos. It was a pile of little things: most nekos had four ears, wearing their cat ears as if they were startlingly lifelike accessories, while I went to pains to conceal all trace of my "system" ears; neko was as much as style as an attitude, and I wasn't drawn to the stray cat/grunge look; nekos would meow at each other and purr like it was a gimmick, and their behaviors were feline clichés, unrealistic and overdone.

Meanwhile, in my fourth month in SL I picked up a quadruped cat avatar. It was an ugly little thing, but the best option out there; I wore it rarely for the former reason, but loved it because as "catgirl" had become "self," "cat" had become "inner desires"—I thought it was joyful wish fulfillment. A year later I found a different, much more realistic quadruped avatar. It was a great improvement in every way save that while my first av had been the size of a housecat, this one was the size of a wolf. Again I wore it rarely because it wasn't visually ideal; again, I loved it. That av looked like this:

One picture. )

And I wrote of it, at the time:

But my real joy is finding open, natural locations—where I can run through the field, hide among the grasses; open wooden floors where I can lie under the slanting sun; places where my avatar size doesn't matter and I can lose myself in the body of a cat.

It is like coming home.


It was in that same month that I went from viewing therianthropy as a fascinating concept to adopting it as a personal label. I'd haunted the fringes of the community for some time, and what I'd read resonated—but it seemed a little too weird to apply to myself. Goodness only knows why—I know I'm weird, and it'd be a failed effort to avoid saying so.

My discoveries via Second Life were massive contributions to my journey. I'd been familiar with the furry fandom for years, but the aesthetic didn't appeal so I never grew attached to that concept. So it was through SL and the neko subculture that I discovered that people could portray themselves as animals. It was through my gradual divorce from the neko subculture that I discovered that these silly little catbits were, to me, not silly: they were visual expressions of the self I felt inside. It was through my attempts to branch out into other forms of visual feline expression, forms that were more extreme and realistic, which were not connected to a subculture, that I realized that the self I felt inside was not just a woman with cat ears—but simply: a cat.

My avatar in SL was always an avatar—most visible in the fact that it's a black cat, where I think my "real" coloring is lighter, maybe ginger, probably not black. But I adopted it as part of myself precisely because it was wish fulfillment: it was a way of getting a little closer, idealized and inaccurate but still closer, to the self I should be. My catgirl av, part human, part cat, is the best example: it's an unrealistic, arbitrary amalgamation but it's also a compromise, a midpoint between the cat within and the human without, and so despite its inaccuracies, impossibilities, and the fact that it may look little my physical form as human or cat, it became an image of me.

I was compelled to record all of this because yesterday I wandered through some of my old outfit shots from SL, and since then I've been mourning the loss of my tail. Some therians have phantom sensations, the feel of paws, tail, muzzle, fur, some animal part that the human body doesn't have but the animal within should; I don't. Instead, I feel an absence: a sense like homesickness for the body and body parts which I do not have. SL was my outlet, and perhaps that's what I felt when I first realized I could have a tail, ears, in game: "Oh god, finally. It won't be real, but it will be better than nothing." Sims is, for a dozen reasons, healthier and happier for me than Second Life—it's more creative, less obsessive (no, really! until you've played SL, you just can't image), miracle of miracles it doesn't often lag, and there's still pretty pixel clothes. But in Sims there is no me, cat-bodied and scratching behind an ear, human-bodied but still with a full, fluffy tail swishing behind. Nika's similar but not the same. And I miss it. I miss the twitch of ears to nearby sound, the tingle of brushed whiskers translating space, the balance and beauty of a well-groomed tail, the real purr rumbling deep, the lazy catscratch, the golden sunspots, the flow of four legs on the ground. I never had that in SL, but I had something like it—and I don't have any of it, now.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I lately (finally) joined the Werelist, and I don't know what's cause or effect—if I joined because the cat stuff has been on/in my mind, or if joining and reading through old threads put it there—but however it worked, for whatever reason, I've been deep in catbrain these last few days. (Yes, I'm talking about that weird therianthropy thing again. Feel free to skip this post.) About a week's worth, to be somewhat more precise. My baseline feels shifted: I'm normally somewhere between humanbrain and catbrain, but lately have been closer to cat than usual; I'm generally inclined to shift a bit towards either pole, but with a changed baseline my shifts take me closer to cat (and not as close to human) than is usual.

Does that make any sense?

Because, you see, I'm not so much with the communication these days. As much as I love and value catbrain, it doesn't have a lot of patience or ability for things like rational thought and writing. I'm rarely so deep in it, even when fluctuating towards that pole, that thought and language make zero sense, and I've been able to eke out some time for actual, concrete concentration on human activities like reading, writing reviews, and Sims. But my concentration and logic are shot to hell, and it's all too easy to run out of resources—I use up the sum of the human thinking I can manage for the day, and all that's left is cuddle—sleep—watch movement—pettings—night crazies!—food time—more cuddlesleep. This may be a case of being careful of what you wish for, for I often lament my constant, word-oriented thought because it is so often tied to my anxieties. (Indeed, I recently wrote on it.) As such this is a valuable experience, a blessing and a freedom and a surprisingly natural state—not for me, on the last, but universally; it feels simple, it is animal. It feels real, feels right, feels like who I am meant to be. I don't know that I've ever spent so long so in touch with this aspect of myself, and I take deep joy in it. But I am so used to a word-oriented brain that the breakdown of language is most unsettling—my thoughts are not sentences but fragments, phrases, partial words; sometimes they seem more a buzz of white noise than anything, and that's, to me, alien. And so it is disconcerting, in part because it means I'm not getting as much done as I'd like, in part because it's unusual (and what is strange can often be frightening), in part because it leaves me stranded with an excess of cat in places like the library or a family vacation where such inclinations are out of place. Devon, meanwhile, as been as tolerant as one can be without quite understanding what's going on—and I don't know if it's because I've been leaning towards cat lately and so better able to appreciate it, but man cuddles/petting have been awesome as of late.

So, yes. I may not seem like I've been absent, because I've been posting reviews, but they come through force of will alone: I actually have much else in which I am remiss, but the impersonal reviews which require transcribing thought more than building it and which can be done in chunks (notes, the drafts, then polishing) rather than long blocks of coherent work have been better within my abilities, lately. If to you I do seem remiss, comments gone astray or, worse, letters gone so, now you know why! Me and my rotating door of excuses, indeed. I do believe I'm starting to come out of this strange period, however, which means more posts upcoming, including Sims chronicles, and a return to things like letter writing. So that's good, I suppose. And there's been much thoughtful stuff gleaned from the 'List, so I'm glad I finally joined up.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled flist, sans girl-that-thinks-herself-a-cat.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I am finally feeling better. There was a turning point last night so distinct that I could almost mark the hour—and it came not long after Devon brought me orange juice and a brownie, so I am now convinced that this is the cure to all ills. I'm still coughing, still a little snuffly, but this is my body shedding the last of its illness—rather than wallowing in the production of more. I even slept well and had good dreams, a rarity at the best of times but particularly impossible as of late. I am pleased, because it's about damn time: I started noticing my first throat-itching symptoms one week ago come tomorrow. Apparently, that's my version of a "little sick." Do I feel like I'm being punished for the fact that I'm getting out of the house more often? A bit.

Jumping back to the subject of sleep: I've been thinking on the disconnect between my self-as-human and self-as-cat again, this time as it relates to sleep—and to obsessive thought. Thinking on—and bemoaning, to be honest, this last week while I needed sleep to rest and heal but found it even more cruel and fleeting than usual.

And so I'm going to talk about (among other subjects) my therianthropy. Confused as to what the hell I'm on about? Review my first post on the subject and/or my therianthropy tag. Think this stuff is just too weird? Feel free to skip this post.

I've had issues with sleep since middle school—I used to sleep as little as possible, as self-punishment but also to avoid dreaming. These days I'm more at peace with the need for sleep and the nature of dreams, although my dreams are more often than not nightmares, but these days I'm also plagued by problems with sleep. My sleep is never predictable—I get it in three hour cycles, sometimes as few as one cycle a night for weeks on end, sometimes sleeping half the day away although I tend to wake every three hours for a little while.

Getting to sleep—at the end of a long day, but also after each mid-night wakeup, is the hardest part. Some of it is physical, the simple discomfort of a bad back and a curvy body that demands an artful arrangement of pillows to keep everything aligned and unstressed. Much of it is the fact that I'm prone to obsessive thinking.

I've mentioned my obsessive thought before but I don't know if I've ever tried to explain or describe it. It's an aspect of my anxiety, but it's also a simple part of how my brain works—an aspect of my nature that sometimes causes anxiety. It's like having a song stuck in your head: a phrase set on repeat. It can be anything, hurtful or harmless (I obsess over sour memories, troublesome conversations, problems which are huge to me but would be foolish to another; I obsess over video games, over sentences, anything at all, though I've particular fondness for that which contains repetition or rhyme). Sometimes it's a small annoyance at the start, but after hours (sometimes years; I still obsess over mistakes I made as a ten year old) of incidental repetition or minutes of unremitting repetition it grows tiresome—moreover it's so resistant to change that it grows stressful: I can't stop obsessing. That's a simple statement with a vast import: I cannot stop obsessing. I can't think long, coherent thoughts. I can't concentrate. As a result I can't enjoy, engage, even distract. I am stuck obsessing—repeating a sentence fragment, rearranging letters, hating myself for an offhand remark—indefinitely.

It's painful. And that's what I go through most nights when I try to sleep—and that's how it's been this last week when I was more-than-usually physically uncomfortable and found it that much harder to fall asleep, and so had that much longer to wait for an obsessive thought to arise, settle in, and keep me awake.

The only cures I've found are to stop thinking or to intentionally pick an obsessive thought. This is why, in the worst of my depression, I sometimes do nothing but watch Law & Order reruns and why I often watch movies as I fall asleep: if I can clear out my brain and replace it with the passive occupation of consuming familiar media, I can smother obsessive thought under a blanket of white noise. The problem is that as soon as I stop, as soon as I free my thoughts, the anxiety can return. So I have obsessive thoughts I turn to intentionally. I sing Donna Donna to myself half a dozen times in a row. I go through the alphabet, alternating English and French, over and over. These are repetitions too, but they are familiar and sometimes comforting, and because I chose them I can control them—so that they are not negative, hurtful thoughts; so that I have a calming illusion of control over my own mind. If my obsessive thinking hasn't kicked in yet, I sometimes plan my dream house, tell myself short stories, or visit my meadow*—familiar but longer meditations which keep my thoughts focused so there's less chance that a pause will open the door to obsessive thinking.

The cat doesn't do this. My self-as-cat can feel anxiety: mistrust, skittishness, fear of stranger and of dangers. But as I've written before, my self-as-cat doesn't feel the sort of anxiety that my human brain is prone to, these obsessive rounds of thought. In fact, my self-as-cat wants to spent hours and hours doing nothing more resting. That's another simple sentence with great import: The desire for rest and sleep, for thought-empty stillness, is a vital part of my therianthropy, and that's a vital part of myself. A cat that can't catnap hardly feels a cat at all.

Madison has a sweater, a red chenille business which no one would wear but she loves to sleep on, and since it got put down within her easy reach she's done little but lay on it. She purrs and kneads, suckling the fabric; more often she just sleeps, curled up nose to tail in a neat small round. As she did when she discovered the guinea pigs's bedding, she's been forging her usual outside excursions just to stay there, comfortable and pampered and often asleep.

I have a passion for modal which rivals my passion for chocolate—there is no fabric softer or smoother, and after I fell in love with it Devon got modal sheets for the bed in a subdued spring green. I have a pillow-top mattress and a down pillow, I have A/C to keep the room cold, I have a little den of comfort which I rarely leave. But when I pass Madison in her curl of sleep I still envy her, because I can't do that. I need to wrangle pillows into a back-pampering pile to be comfortable for long, but more importantly even with every comfort arranged just for me I need a book, a film, a conversation; I need a b c d running repeats in my head or "on a wagon bound for market" for the fifth time—I need these things because if I don't have them, instead I have a word, a sentence, a "should have said," a "can't believe I did," a "do they remember?" in a loop so endless that running it has fatigued my thoughts, a repetition so insistent that the trap of it frightens me. In the middle of the night, when I've slept for three hours and wake again like clockwork, if I immediately try to go back to sleep it's even worse—because on the liminal edge of dreams the repeated thought is even more immersive and I can have mental images (which, at other times, escape me) and so I can also obsess over that sight, that action, as well as those words. At those times I can find myself trapped in obsessive thought for a solid half hour, which ends only if I get up for a while or if I finally fall into dream—a dream more often than not tainted by some obsession.

I know that there are far greater complaints out there—I'm not the most miserable of the miserable. I know that I'm not the only one that wishes: oh, for the simplier mind (and life) of a beast! This is not about my status as a special snowflake. It's not even entirely about my obsessive thoughts—they can be hellish, but ever since I discovered the little tricks that help me deal with them they've become a more manageable evil.

What pains me is that how my brain works defines me-as-human, and it separates me from me-as-cat. My self-as-human and self-as-cat are not separate identities, but sometimes there is a wall between them, sometimes they are at odds. I wrote before that "in order to be myself, I have to move beyond myself"—that I have to overcome some aspects of myself-as-human in order to be myself-as-cat, and there's a certain pain in realizing that, in experiencing the disconnect within myself; there's more of a pain in the long nights of sleeplessness and anxiety where I'm not only suffering from those miserable repetitions, but also because I am not myself, you see; because I cannot be who I ought.

* The comfort, sometimes the saving grace, in all of this is that my meadow—an open field with a single large tree and a single small house where a single 60-some woman resides—is the realm of my meditation and where I let my mental self-as-cat run free. It's the most difficult of my mental distractions because there's so many levels of complexity (immersing myself in cat-body, trying to imagine the meadow when I can't image images, etc.), and I can't indulge it unless I'm in a pretty healthy mental state; if I'm not, it soon disintegrates into obsessive thoughts. But when I can manage to run there, it's a blessing: an escape from the troubles of my human brain, and a chance to experience a more complete version of myself-as-cat.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
The other day I came into the kitchen and Janet (Devon's mother) was there cooking. "You surprised me!" she said. "You shouldn't be so quiet. Wait, how can you be so quiet walking on plastic?"

Because there's a plastic sheet over the carpet in the hallways which leads from my bedroom to the living room and kitchen—so that we can use the hallway while we treat the carpet beneath with enzymes.

As I left the kitchen and started back down the hallway, Janet called out from the kitchen, "Madison!" And then came around the corner and saw me standing in the hallway looking confused and said. "Oh, I thought you were Madison. Sorry, you can be in the hallway."

Because we're treating the carpet to try to put an end to the cats using it as a litterbox, and we're afraid they'll try even with the plastic down. Madison is one of the two family cats, a tiny little tabby not much bigger than a kitten. This is Madison. And Janet mistook me for her. I know it's a little thing and it makes me no more a cat but really, it tickled me greatly. There's a certain self-righteous pleasure in thinking—a cat! I sound like one!
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I intended to append this to my previous post, but it has grown unexpectedly into a wily, furry beast.

Ah, if only!

So. A few days ago, I ordered leg warmers from Sock Dreams. I abhor pants with a passion that leaves no room for analogy, but my legs get cold. So Devon and I sent $13 to Sock Dreams with fingers crossed and, behold: legwarmers!

Legwarmers from Sock Dreams

They are this pair, specifically: 40 inches of ribbed acrylic and nylon goodness. The verdict? Everything I need them to be. They stay up well enough for lounging around in the bedroom (because when I'm up and walking about, I generally wear pants), they are long and thick enough to cover as much and be as warm as I need, and even new they are remarkably non-itchy (but I suspect it'll take a few runs through the washer for them to reach comfortable). The quality is solid and I suspect they'll hold up well. The price was more than fair, basic shipping is free(!), and they ship out promptly. All in all: recommended.

The only thing is that wearing them feels a bit odd--for, as it turns out, complicated reasons. )

Oh why hello there, navel. How're you?
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
After living without a feline companion for ten years, I'm currently living with two house cats. Madison is a shy, small, independent female; Dude is a bold, friendly, large male. I am a shy, cuddly, small house cat. I am also an adult human female. And for the first time since labeling and actively exploring my therianthropy, I am living among my theriotype.

Not many therians are able to spend extended amounts of time with their theriotype, because it's difficult—for geographic and safety reasons—for a wolf in a human body to spend time among wolves, for a leopard-human to hang out with big cats, and other equivalents. Domestic therians have an unusual opportunity, because our theriotypes are more accessible and some of them even live in our homes. We may have the chance to interact and live among them, as I have while living among cats.

Spending considerable time with one's theriotype has both benefits and drawbacks: Read on. )

Crossposted here to [livejournal.com profile] therianthoughts.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
A few nights ago, I had two consecutive dreams (in between waking up and forcing myself back to sleep) involving goats. In the first, I was myself a goat but incredibly uncomfortable in that skin, constantly sitting and standing in postures that didn't suit my form. In the second, I was in a barnyard and a goat spoke to me, aiding me on a quest for something that was hidden below the floorboards. Both dreams were wrapped within the nonsense of dreamland: in the first, I was wearing a goat avatar in Second Life; in the second there was some long, rather comical story of a barnyard mystery.

I don't put much faith into the import and meaning of dreams precisely because they are so often rich with nonsense, and because the topics that I do care about (religious or otherwise) rarely appear within them. Nonetheless, I'm curious about this goat thing. I've been reading up a bit on the symbolism of the goat, and tying it back to therianthropy, totem animals, and Celtic Reconstruction; meanwhile I've been reading the personal journals of a few totemists and animists and shamans which have been thought-provoking and inspiring. It's all begins rather unconnected, but things have been coming together in an interesting way. I'm thinking of therianthopy into my religious beliefs, but I have to do more reading on human-animal shapeshifters in Celtic myth. I'm also thinking about animal "totems" and CR—perhaps better said, about animal spiritual guides within Celtic spiritual practice. This goat thing intrigues me, and I don't want it to pass unexplored. Furthermore, if I can build a framework for working with spiritual guides, I can also apply it to the bear.

I don't hold with archetypes. In my recent active exploration of my therianthropy I've actually found the cat archetype largely useless. As a cat, some of my behaviors coincide with cat stereotypes, but others are the result of cat aspects which defy popular knowledge, and some are simply the result of my personality, as a cat and otherwise. Celtic Reconstruction also discards archetypes, and I've moved consistently in that same direction. I was never able to bond with the the Wiccan/eclectic pagan concept of a universal God and Goddess, nor did I understand the inclination to see deities as archetypes. By contrast, Celtic deities are not archetypes, they are identities. They may be linked to some natural forces, social elements, or animals/plants, there is no "Sun God" or "Fertility Goddess" in any Celtic pantheon, at least not as recognized by CR. (I also believe that I need to attach myself to a specific Celtic deity to help realize my religious practices, but that's another thought and post.)

Archetypes can convey some overarching trends, but they obscure individual detail and some underlying truths. Therefore, I'm trying to approach the goat without its the preexisting archetype. I recognize that stereotypes may have a seed of truth, so I've skimmed summaries of the goat as totem; I'm more interested now in reading about goats in Scotland, where they were originally brought over as livestock but have since been abandoned and gone feral. I figure that by learning how the goat lives and why will give me a basis to determine for myself what the goat "means."

I've also been doing some brief mediation simply to approach and interact with goats. Brief because I'm still a poor hand at slipping into trance, though I'm getting a bit better at it with the practice of my therianthropic work.* I've been beginning in my field, moving further out and towards a group of grazing goats. I had some early frustration—I think because I was trying to force the goats closer, into domestic animals in the field; today I had quite a bit more luck: a journey with a goat. )

In that experience, the goat for me was: Leaving my comfort zone. Journeying further afield. Walking difficult terrain. Lacking immediate, personal support. Emotional distance, but also the opportunity to follow and learn. Journeying to new territories, moving upward, overlooking hitherto unknown potential. The invitation to go, do, achieve new places and things. Feral independence, contrasted against my domestic identity. It fits within what I would expect from what I know so far of the goat within a Scottish context, and some aspects from, say, [livejournal.com profile] moonvoice's essay on goat. It was a wonderful experience, although intimidating—I'm keep encountering urgings to explore new territory, explore my potential, and take action, and frankly that makes me want to turn tail and run. However, since that seems to be such a strong current theme—well, I suppose it makes sense that the goat would enter my life.

The goat showed me territory that I had not seen before; territory that I can explore, but I must take the steps to do so. I could follow the goat up the hill, but I don't have a guide back down and into those fields.

I will try and return to the goat, and I'm curious about more mundane features of that goat's identity. Is the goat a specific animal? I'm curious also to gender; I know nothing about gender differences within goats, and have been thinking a lot on the (lack of) gender differences in domestic cats and what my self-as-cat's precise identity, sex, and appearance may be. But that is thought for later and certainly content for a different post; this one is long enough. I hope it's vaguely interesting to someone and I'm happy to talk about it all, but I took the time to write it largely because I want to focus more on specific moments, practices, and steps forward. I want to actively practicing these things, rather than being caught up just in the thought of them.

* For my own purposes, and for anyone that is curious, my meditation is pretty low key, but useful. I sit or lie comfortably and concentrate on something to slow and focus my thought: frequently deep breathing or heartbeat counting, sometimes repetitive movement, infrequently repetitive music. When I've calmed and centered, I envision my usual starting place, which is a field broken by a single large tree. This setting arose from my first experience with a cat transformation hypnotism tape, and its details and surrounding vary depending upon what I require. My mental images are patchy at best (see comments), sometimes I float in and out of trance, sometimes the image disintegrates, sometimes I wander off focus, sometimes time moves out of joint. I allow all of that, use my breathing or movement to hold the trance as best I can, and give up if it just won't work. By forcing myself to allow imperfections and avoid frustration, I've actually been able to make progress. When I'm done, I take a few moments to continue my deep breathing and recenter, then I move and stretch to reconnect with my physical body, give thanks, and then go on with my day.

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September 2017

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