Just as all people who drink do not become alcoholics, not all cats exposed to catnip become addicts. In fact, many cats are not even able to get high on catnip -- those that do are highly sensitive to a chemical found in the plant called nepetalactone (let's just call it "N-tone", as I can more easily imagine a dealer marketing it this way).
My cat, Blaze, is a therapy cat. This means that once or twice a month, we visit nursing homes or assisted living facilities so the residents can pet her and reminisce about their former pets or otherwise feel comforted by her purring.
But Blaze has a substance abuse problem.
Yes, she is definitely one of the cats with N-tone receptors; she will happily roll around our garden in a catnip induced haze for hours at a time if you let her. Normally, this doesn't really interfere too much with her lifestyle or job responsibilities.
But yesterday, rather than visit a nursing home, Blaze and I were invited to visit a drug rehabilitation residence.
It was time to come clean.
But could Blaze do it? I wasn't sure she would be able to admit her habit, much less change in any way. Nevertheless, we decided to go.
We met outside the home on a beautiful sunny afternoon with a couple dozen adolescent residents. As usual, Blaze was the only cat present, as most animals suited for therapy work are dogs. The atmosphere was casual, the kids sitting in small groups at picnic tables or lounging in the grass. Some were discussing assignments that were soon due -- one girl mentioned an "anger management" essay she had complete in the next two hours that was obviously causing her some anxiety. Yet she seemed to forget all about it when I handed Blaze over for a cuddle.
In fact, several of the kids (even the boys!) were very excited to see Blaze, as they had cats of their own at home whom they missed. I told some of them the story of how I had taken Blaze to see a pet psychic once, and how my cat apparently swore that she had once been an Indian elephant. I also told them how Blaze had been meant to be a breeder, but had given birth only to stillborns. (This didn't stop her, by the way, from raising two amazing adopted kittens.)
Although the teens were mildly amused by these and other cat anecdotes, I didn't get their full attention until I decided to share the details of my kitty's catnip habit.
Suddenly, they could relate.
And this is something I've been thinking about a lot since starting this blog. It's weird for me to be journaling so publicly about my own failings -- having MS and being fired are both topics my past self never would have volunteered to share, even with people I know well. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about exposing my vulnerabilities to the whole cyberworld, and honestly have no idea where this is all leading.
But I do think there is value in sharing our weaknesses, as well as our strengths. Or as Michael J. Fox put it when discussing how he retired from acting to become a Parkinson's and stem cell research advocate:
"Ironic that in order to do my life's work, I had to quit my day job."
The first step is admitting you have a problem.
My job as a litigator was a problem.
MS is a problem.
I've never completed a 12-step program, but isn't there something in there about having faith and handing over that which we cannot control to a higher power? Or if not to a higher power, at least to other people?
And maybe this is what the blogging world was created for. By sharing our stories, we unknowingly just might help someone else on their own heroic journey.
How do you feel about sharing personal information with online communities? Have you ever been comforted by someone you knew only in cyberspace? What about blogs? Are we all just self-indulgent exhibitionists now, exposing far too much of ourselves online? Where do you draw the line?