By Merf
Written for Animal Quills November 2006 writing prompt.
Monday, the 20th of November: It was my day off, and I was walking back to my apartment with a fresh DVD rental when I felt a bit of a pain in my lower abdomen. I thought I was just a bit hungry and initially ignored it. I was in the emergency room by the end of the night, and in the operating theater surprisingly soon after that.
Turns out I was suffering from Appendicitis, which is good, considering their first theory was kidney stones. It was a simple procedure, since I didn’t rupture, and was in the hospital for about thirty-six hours. Now, I’ve always been a remarkably fast healer, physically, so that’s not proving to be a real concern, but something else remarkable did happen. I was in and out of consciousness for most of Tuesday as I slept off the anesthetic, but woke at one point to find my mother there beside me. When she’d heard of my operation, she’d found a sub for her fifth-grade class and drove out to see me. In the three seconds I was awake, I managed a smile at her, which she returned, but she spent the next three days or so in Omaha, helping me through the first few days of recovery.
We wound up having Thanksgiving dinner together, as well. Originally, I’d been planning to spend the day alone, since my sister (my only family living in the area) was spending it with her in-laws, but now here I was with my mother. Both of us are food geeks, and we got creative with the meal and surprised ourselves with our innovations. We talked a lot about spirituality in living life and she found herself encouraging my artistic endeavors professionally. Previously, she’d encouraged me artistically, but only if I’d pursued it in my spare time.
To top the day off, my baby brother, who had until very recently avoided the whole family like the plague for years, called me, that day. He’d heard that I’d been in the hospital, and wanted to be certain that I was all right before getting shipped off to the Middle East. We had a very personable conversation and for a few minutes, it was as if we were kids again.
The whole experience strengthened my belief in family and seemed to hasten my recovery from surgery. It helped to give me a stronger sense of well-being and helped me to feel okay as I healed.
Part of my recovery from Depression over the last couple of years has had to do with my discovery of the therian community. When I found that there were other people like me out there, and that they had words for what I experienced, I was able to accept myself for what I really was. When I was able to look the Bear in the eye and not be afraid of her, I was finally able to begin seeing myself as okay. I was able to begin exploring my inner world without shame or fear. One revelation that this led me to is that the body, the mind, and the spirit (or identity) are not separate things, as classical “reasoning” has historically suggested. They are intrinsically linked, for good or ill. They cannot be separated. What affects one must affect all others.
On Thanksgiving, however, I was reminded of something else. Through spirit, a person is also his connections to others. I remember reading, years ago, a book in which the author claimed that the word “I” in the English language is much more fluid than most westerners choose to believe. He believed that “I” is actually similar to “here” and “now,” that it’s meaning is indistinct. In many cultures, the word for “I” could mean one person, a whole family, or a whole tribe. It was reading this that first got me thinking of Spirit and the Divine as not an intelligent being outside the universe, but as a force of nature, similar to gravity. Whereas gravity draws us towards the earth, Spirit draws us towards others. We are not as separate as most of us choose to believe.
This is why I believe that there must be a therian (or “animal people”) community. To know of and interact with others of one’s own nature is a very healing and strengthening thing. Like most bears, I tend towards being by myself; I am slow to trust strangers, and I need a lot of time to myself. But on the other hand, once I do accept someone as a trusted friend, I am loyal (or so I think), supportive, and dependable. Even solitary creatures like me must have others around, once in a while, especially others that we can relate to.
I often wish that the therian communities were less divisive. There is so much potential for mutual support and aid, but a lot of it is lost to popularity contests and power struggles and it sometimes becomes unhealthy to be there. I am just as often reminded, however, that every community in the world has the same problem, from families to church parishes to sports teams to bridge clubs. Gather a bunch of people together, and they’ll often squabble, just for something to do. When the chips are down, though, they’ll just as often surprise each other with demonstrations of generosity and support, like my family did, last week.
Between the attention hogs and the posers, I often think of giving up on the therian communities. I don’t think that I will just yet, though. There’s still hope, just as there is with my family.