August 05, 2009

Different Drummers

Photo: jbrownell

So over at All Frayed Edges and Shades of Red, Beanie has a great post about her youngest daughter, "The Bug." Now The Bug might take her time tackling developmental milestones, but when she feels ready, well, watch out! She knocks 'em out of the park.

And reading this very sweet post was a great reminder to me that every kid is different, and they have their own timetables and talents and interests. And that this is a good thing, not a bad thing. To try to force a child to be more like the "other" kids is sort of like nagging an apple tree to be more like a rosebush. It won't work. And what good would it do to have all these roses all over the place and no apples? Apples are awesome! And what about apple pie? You can't make apple pie with roses, damn it!

(Wait. This analogy somehow went all to hell. Sigh. Important Legal disclaimer: Cranky Fitness is not suggesting you bake your kids into a flaky crust with a bunch of cinnamon and butter and sugar. It's illegal and unethical and your children probably don't taste very good anyway no matter how much sugar you sprinkle on them).

So the whole notion that we're not all the same and that this is a good thing: gosh, what an original thought! This "duh" moment brought to you by Crabby McSlacker, rediscovering the obvious.

Oh yeah, and then MizFit came along and reminded me again yesterday with a post about being "unapologetically ourselves." Which drove the same message home again: there's no point in being all sad and sorry for the rose bush you're not, when you could be celebrating the awesome apple tree you actually are instead!

And yet, since this message about being yourself and celebrating what's unique about you appears in hundreds of poems, songs, motivational posters, and even commercials selling diet soft drinks and overpriced blue jeans, why the heck is it so incredibly hard to live our lives as though it's true?

Well, I'm guessing part of it has to do with being human, social animals who come genetically pre-wired to want to please others in order to get along. Which is not a bad thing! If our ancestors really, totally did not give a crap what other people thought about them, they'd probably have been way more selfish and mean and probably smelly too, and they would have gotten themselves kicked out their caves and fed to the bears. We who are around now probably mostly descended from the socially aware cave-people who were conversant with group norms and knew how to get along.

Yet many of us, particularly women, may notice that this human tendency to want to fit in can lead to counter-productive behavior. Instead of encouraging ourselves and each other to be who we are, we all scramble to be the same person: slim and pretty and successful and happily married and not too shy or too loud or too big or too sarcastic or too lazy or too frantic or frivolous or serious or lazy or frumpy or spacey or demanding or too... anything! But, sad to say, particularly not too ugly or too fat.

So we beat ourselves up for not being "enough" and compare ourselves to people who are totally different from us, and then we sometimes even gang up on others who act too "weird" or "don't take care of themselves" or otherwise fail to meet our arbitrary standards for what's acceptable. We know this is bullsh*t, right? But we live in a society that encourages it, and it's hard to fight it all the time and so sometimes we don't fight it at all.

And this post was originally going to be an incredibly grouchy rant, inspired by, of all things, the Huffington Post. (Yes, tiny little "CrankFi" was going to take on big ol' HuffPo!) If you don't frequent it, HuffPo is a liberal blogging behemoth with a lot of great contributors (like the awesome Charlotte from The Great Fitness Experiment). And all kinds of empowered women hang out there. Yet which posts are almost always among the most popular? The catty ones critiquing how female celebrities look, or the fawning ones wondering how we can all dress just like Michele Obama. These are not just the most popular in "entertainment" or "style," these are the most popular on the whole frigging site. It drives me nuts every time I go there! (Now watch, today out of spite it will be all serious and scholarly, but go there often enough and you will see what I mean). And I suppose I can't really blame HuffPo for telling me the truth about what supposedly well-educated, politically aware people actually care about... but I can certainly find it depressing.

And then I was going to complain about how many of our insecurities about not "measuring up" are created and exploited by people trying to sell us products. But we all know that already, right? And it doesn't seem to help.

Oh, and then I was going to go into a whole thing about the health and fitness world, and how it's always assumed we all have the same goals, interests, priorities, metabolisms, nutritional needs, pain tolerance, financial resources, obstacles, motivation, and time. When that's totally not true. And how I'm as just as dumb as any other health writer in sometimes mindlessly passing on this attitude that we should all aspire to one way of being healthy, when it's really clear there is no "one" way.

But then I got to thinking about a whole different thing. Bear with me here...

Once there was a little girl kitty who got adopted into a household that already had another boy cat. The boy cat cat was smart and charismatic and knew how to charm the humans by fetching toys and following the humans around and generally being adorable. He was also kind of a bully and would play rough with the girl cat. She liked the humans just fine, but spent a fair amount of time during her first few years hiding under the furniture. Her humans thought she was very sweet, and felt a bit sorry for her, but feared that she did not have much personality.

Then one day, the other cat was gone. (Long, bizarre story there; perhaps another post for another time). And guess what? The little girl cat came out from under the furniture and turned out to have a lovely, sweet, quirky, personality. She was playful and charming and cuddly and wonderful. She'd no doubt been this way all along, but between her shyness, her aggressive big brother, and her clueless humans, her personality had been hidden from the world.

But not squelched.

How was she able to flourish and come into her own after those formative years spent hiding? Well, perhaps because unlike a human, she did not sit there muttering to herself: "why am I not more like my brother? Why can't I be charming and charismatic and aggressive enough to make an impression? " No, Maile ("The Moo") just was who she was, and when she was finally able to crawl out from under the armoire in the bedroom (her favorite hiding spot) without getting chased and bitten, her world finally recognized her for the complex, unique, sweet, loving, silly, cat she was. She was the best cat any human could ever want.

And sometimes I think we should be more like cats and stop worrying about what the other humans are doing. And we should try to create a world where everyone can crawl out from under the furniture and take their place in the world for whomever they are.

So as is probably becoming clear by my use of the past tense, we lost Maile last week and it's been such a sad thing that I couldn't quite bring myself to blog about it. (And I know it doesn't compare to other blogger's recent tragic losses). But I'd like to at least think that I can be grown up enough to take some lessons from the wonderful 18 years we spent with Maile, and try to be smart like a cat and not dumb like a human when it comes to accepting myself for who I am.

And the next time I have the choice between subtly chasing someone back under the furniture, or encouraging them to come out and take their place in the world? I hope I choose the latter. I hope we all do.

Thank you Maile, for all those wonderful years.


  1. I'm so sorry about Maile. We could learn a lot of things from cats.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. I know what you're going through. Kitties wrap their paws around our hearts.

  3. I am so sorry for the loss of your cat. Any loss is hard no matter what!

    As for your post.. AMAZING!!! I have a post that started on a similar way & ended a bit differently that I expected when I started. I have to continue it & a lot is just what you wrote... why I lost weight is the part to be continued & it had a lot to do with "fitting in".

    Thx for your post & telling us all it is OK to be us!!!! A very important message, especially for women as we get dumped on the most!

  4. Aww, I'm so sorry about Maile. Cats are such wonderful furry friends. We could do worse than take lessons from them. A lovely and poignant post...

  5. Oh no! So sorry to hear this sad news. Losing a pet that has been part of your family for a long time is a big loss. I'm all teary eyed for you. My condolences to you and the Lobster.

  6. Im so sorry for your loss.

    and as we've talked about for ME it's hard to even think about going through it all again after the loss---yet do it all again we do.


  7. Thank you all so much for your kind thoughts.

    And I obviously had a tough time writing this post--which is why I originally published it with about 800 typos and still keep finding more. The last one I caught? Not realizing my spellcheck had changed "Unapologetically Ourselves" to "Apologetically Ourselves."


    Again, thanks everyone for being so kind!

  8. Crabby I think this is one of the best posts you've ever written - seriously.

    So sorry about your kitty - you're so lucky to have had her for 18 years! wow!


  9. I am so very sorry about the loss of Maile.
    Kitties teach us many things about being who we are.

  10. Again, I'm so sorry about the death of Maile - pets truly are family and you write a very moving tribute to her.

    As for HuffPo, I totally agree with you - and, like you pointed out, I write for them! There are a lot of intelligent interesting things being said over there but they are def. not the ones that get the headlines...

  11. Oh, no! Crabby, I'm so sorry about the loss of Maile! You and the Lobster must be heartbroken.

    It's terribly hard to lose a pet who has been a part of the family for so long, and you have my deepest sympathy.

  12. "To thine own self be true" story turned heartbreaking pet loss story. Beautiful post, and a good reminder.

    So sorry about Maile. She was a good friend and I'm sure you'll miss her. Darned cats...why can't they live forever? You and the Lobster will be in my thoughts.

    And thanks for the shout-out. Although, now all of America knows that The Bug was a thumb-sucker. She may not love me for this. lol

  13. I'm so sorry about the loss of Maile :(

  14. Lovely essay. I'm sorry about your kitty.

  15. Hugs, Crabby. I feel your pain.

  16. I lost my dear 15 y/o kitty on Mother's Day.

    Three weeks later, I lost my mother.

    Both of those losses hurt a lot. And my mom's death actually made losing my kitty a little harder, as I no longer had his snuggles and purrs to comfort me through the heartbreak.

    I am so, so sorry for the loss of Maile.

    This was such a beautiful, necessary post. Thank you.

  17. So sorry about your kitty.
    This was an incredible post and a great way to honor Maile's memory.

  18. Holy heck Crabby. What is the deal? We lost our sweet Buster (who looked incredibly like sweet Maile and was about as old - I sometimes wondered if they were related based on your posts about her) on the 22nd.

    *sigh* How do those furry little beasts worm their way so far into our hearts? It still nearly brings me to tears every time the Boy asks where Buster is.

    Sending you and the Lobster warm fuzzies.

  19. What a lovely tribute to a very sweet kitty. I'm so sorry for your loss...pets bring so much into our lives and it hurts so bad when they leave.

    I like the life-lesson that Maile gave you, and it's so wonderful that you were aware of it!

    Hugs to you, Crabby.

  20. Sorry for your loss luv!!! :(

  21. I'm so sorry about Maile. The post was a lovely way to pay tribute to her (and a fantastic post in its own right).

    *hugs* to you and Lobster

  22. aw sorry about the kitty. this is a great post- thanks so much for sharing

  23. Awh, I'm so sorry about your kitty! Hang in there. Hope your days get brighter

  24. Beautiful tribute to your beloved Maile.

    Fantastic post. ~thanks~

  25. At least you didn't kill your cat like I did mine by overstuffing it with food.

    I'm really sorry for your loss. Loss is big this season. I am still grieving my loss.

  26. Crabby, this post was absolutely beautiful in every way. Your knack for self-reflection, your critical eye and your ability to call out b-s and then laugh about it is truly a joy. Thank you. I am sorry about your kitty :/

    <3 Annabel

  27. Beautiful post! Thank you for that!

    I'm sorry for your loss. She sounds like a great cat!

  28. Very sorry about your cat!! They add so much to our lives and really ask for so little in return.

    I try to be happy where I am at, yet strive to improve. Our society seems set up to make us all feel like we need more to be OK, and it's not just economic.

  29. I'm sorry about Maile. *hugs*.

    And I can't get enough of the apples :)

  30. I'm sorry about Maile. It's amazing what a great impact animals can have on our lives. I really liked the story because I often am the one under the furniture wishing I was more like someone else. It never occured to me that their personality doesn't make me any less what I am. Thank you.

  31. What a beautiful post, thank you for sharing a little bit of Maile with us.

  32. She's a beauty, and I know how much you must miss her. I love the way you write Crabby, and how you march to the beat of your own drum...I think Maile raised you well! :-)

  33. Very sorry for your loss. It was a great post though. I think the lack of encouraging individuality in society today is what's killing some genres of art and music as we know it. There are a lot of carbon cookies that are roaming the big cities and the "any towns" in our country today.

  34. Cats Know These Things. (But they're not so good with the typing.) Please keep telling us stories about The Moo. As a catless person I need other people's cats--and she was one of the best!

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  36. i <3 this post. and condolences about maile. so hard to lose a pet. :(

  37. I've been fighting this "different drummers" since my son was born in 1996. I was an unusual parent, for a very weird, OCD unusual child. I struggle with him daily, and sometimes want to just give up and medicate him.

    Trials make us stronger, right?

    Vee at

    p.s. Sorry for your loss.

  38. Crabby,

    I am so very sorry for your loss. It's so, so hard to lose those we love. I hope that in time, your hurt can be overtaken by the wonderful memories you have of her.

  39. Thanks for directing me to that post - it was really fantastic :)

  40. And now I discovered the link to read your hole post - aha moment! That was really a fantastic entry that went into all sorts of places in my mind and heart and said "hello"... thanks for taking the time to say it and to share it...

    I'm sorry to hear about your Kitteh, I am a kitteh-person. I had a loss of my most beloved pet, and it brings tears to my eyes just thinking of him.

  41. Thanks again everyone, and I'm so sorry to hear about other pet losses too. (And bdaiss, that's weird timing about Buster--so sorry to hear!)

    And one thing I love about the people who stop by here, is that I think so many of you really get the whole "different drummer" thing, and the importance of celebrating who we are and not obsessing about media ideals for who we should be. There's a lot of lip service paid to the notion of individuality out in the world, but many of you guys are totally living it.

  42. This is a great post. Thank you for sharing your loss with us and making so many empowering points in the process. It's beautifully written and with the usual wit I love so much. I'm sorry for your loss, yet happy you had Maile for so long.

  43. I love, love this beautiful, Crabby. And I'm so sorry to hear about Maile's passing. She sounded like a sweet and wonderful cat. I'll be thinking comforting thoughts for you and Lobster. (And giving my own 17-year-old kitty some extra loves...that is, if my daughter will share her.)

  44. Crabby, I am so sorry to hear about Maile. What a wonderful post. You were blessed to have her in your life and I know how much you and the Lobster will miss her. My thoughts are with you both.

  45. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your sweet kitty. What a wonderful she had with you guys. I hope she will say hello to a sweet dog we lost about 7 months ago - who was very friendly to all of cats, dogs, and people he met while he was with us. I'm sure they are having a wonderful time.

  46. Leave it to me to bring GILAD into it, but he's got Maile the monkey on a couple of episodes of Bodies in Motion.

    Losing a pet sucks.

  47. Oh nooo! Just catching up on the past week... sorry to hear about Maile. She sounded like an amazing companion... and inspired a truly beautiful and kickarse post too. Hope you are doing okay xx

  48. Oh Crabby, I'm so sorry to hear about your sweet Maile/The Moo. Such a beautiful post inspired by a wonderful kitty. I'm happy for the many years you had together.. heartbroken for your loss.


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