In a twitter

agitation, anxiety, bustle, dither    (chiefly Brit.)  excitement, flurry, fluster, flutter, nervousness, tizzy    (informal)  whirl  

I was sitting up in bed before the alarm this morning, scrolling through some Tweets. [this is now possible to do of a morning because I have stopped following/blocked most politicians including the President].

I tapped a cat picture on @RiseUpWorkingClass and the video blasted an agitated, angry yowl from a pacing feline. My big gray cat raised his head on alert and the younger, small cat jumped up from her position at my feet to stand next to Smoky. I tried to show her the screen, that it was just a picture, but her kitty brain was already convinced an unfriendly animal had rushed into our house. Both cats on their feet, with hair standing up.

I quickly clicked off the video when I saw their instant alarm. I used soothing words and petted the big cat. The kitten was having none of this although she did look me in the face with her huge green eyes. Not smelling clear and present danger, the big grey settled back down. But not Alphie. She was expecting something to come down the hall into the bedroom.

Her tail was still fluffed big like a squirrel. I’d never seen this. I reached to give her a little pet and she jumped as if captured by the thing. Smoky tucked his head down and closed his eyes.

I waited, watching Alphie. She waited. Expecting the manifestation of the sound her brain had clearly told her was a hostile cat. It took at least 5 or 6 minutes to stop reacting to little movements and the ideas in her tiny cat mind. She’d settle then remember. “Smart,” I thought.

While the first panic of my cats was not funny, Alphie’s aftermath was amusing. I was calming but teasing, “Hey, do you want to be in a cat video? Get hold of yourself, Alphie.”

I got up to make tea and they followed into the kitchen, expecting food as soon as the kettle was on the stove. As cats returned to normal mode, I was thinking how the little scenario was an analogy, or picture story, of what happens in our brains.

The thought, maybe with an online image, enters our brain. It is a scary fear, maybe not clearly verbalized, but loaded with danger. That’s the cat clip starting. Then our autonomic nervous system goes on full tilt. That’s both my cats jumping up, hair raised and eyes wide. Even as the thought with visual image passes on through our conscious brain, the wake of hormones and stimulants is tracing through our entire body. That’s the kitten still looking for the attacker.

Long after the input — be it an image or a self-generated thought — fades we are still in the grip of nerve reactions as chemicals race in our blood stream and our memory replays the danger. That’s the tail still fluffed out.

So, fear is in itself a scary thing. And I realize how easy it is these days to let the unworded, sub-thoughts and danger messages from the media play into our minds.

I have cut way back on the news as I think second-hand trauma is real. And I’m well enough informed now on how to shelter in place and manage my home during this pandemic. At this point, anyway.

What the cat scenario gave me this morning is compassion for us. All of us. Fear sweeps into our center, takes hold of our being, temporarily makes us do very defensive things. Then, it may pass and drop us like embarrassed kittens when there was no real danger.

That little wild-eyed puffed up skinny kitten looked like me, perhaps like you, as the next wave of bad news rolled in.

How calming and beautiful it was after tea to go out front to dig weeds in the sunshine and fresh air. Physical work and contact with the earth. Literally, grounded. Ha ha.

I hope you are finding ways to fill your heart and mind with peace.


Alphie and Smoky

Published by River Brown

Grant Writer with the San José Area Writing Project, B.A. Serigraphy, San José State University, M.A. Ed, Teaching & Learning, National Hispanic University, San Jose, Ca, Retired Intervention Specialist.

4 thoughts on “In a twitter

  1. There are better things to feed our minds than the news at this time. I hope that we will all find unexpected benefits from our homestay.

  2. Oh, I just love the picture of your big cat’s paw around the little cat. I really loved your analogy of our fears and their invisible ripples and how you saw this in your kitten today. I’ll keep that image in mind as I move away from the news and try to calmly endure, or maybe even learn to enjoy, this unexpected detour. Thanks for sharing.

  3. What a great analogy of exactly how we react to fear and stress. Thanks for the reminder and stay grounded! (loved that!)

  4. I cut WAY back on my news consumption today since I’ve been working with my daughter on home school things. Let me tell you, I feel better because of it. (Of course, I’m going to turn on “Meet the Press” daily at 5 p.m. and freak out again, but that’s another story.)

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