Chickenpox Day 7
The sight of me surprised my sister’s cat. One of her cats is the typical one-person only, skittish, hide-under-the-bed type cat. Snowy has always been that way and days can pass without my actually seeing her. When she hears anyone come she ducks for cover. I have had chickenpox for enough days that I imagined everyone who lives with me was well aware of how I currently look. Last night I saw Snowy and realized that she could not have seen my face lately. The look of shock and fear were too evident. Yes, she knows me. She trusts me, but the deformity of my face covered in scabbed blisters was too much and her ears pinned back and she dodged back into hiding. As I registered the effect my visage had on her I could see my sister’s other cat, Pussywillow across the room gazing at me with adoration.
Pussywillow had self-assigned the role of nurse through the very real misery that is chickenpox in adults. He had devotedly watched over my chills, severe muscle pain, nausea, moaning, and ever-increasing skin blistering. I had pushed him off me because his weight was too much for my agonizing skin to bear. So, he had gently lain himself down by my side and quietly purred. He would lie over my head on the back of my chaise and ever-so-gently reach one paw down and rest it on my shoulder so lightly that I couldn’t even feel it as he sang his most soothing song in my ear. It felt like a benediction. As fear was betrayed in his sister’s eyes his were full of deep, abiding love. I was beautiful to him. He wasn’t looking at my face with its disfigured skin. He was looking into my eyes and deep into my soul. He saw me, not what I looked like. My sister and I joked that it was such a pity neither of us has found a human man who will look at us like her cat.
Later I saw myself in the mirror and was aghast. I don’t take my appearance very seriously, which is I guess a good thing, considering… even I was taken aback. All I could think is, “That’s not me.” I long to pull the scabs off like scales off a dragon. “I look like a monster.” I thought. Suddenly “Beauty and the Beast” and all kinds of children’s fairy tales popped into my head. Who knows, they may have originated in reassuring some child that the blisters of chickenpox or some other such thing would not last.
Now I cannot help but ponder how often we all feel like we are hidden under shells. We all have protective shells acquired to keep our feelings safe. We hide behind fashions, status-cars, houses, spouses, kids, jobs, titles, anything to make us feel immune to criticism. We build walls to keep us safe, but they can in fact become like the dragon-shell and turn us into a mis-understood “monster.” We judge one-another by the shells. We base our actions not upon fact, but assumptions about how someone who lives in that neighborhood, or has that profession, or that tattoo must be. In reality we are all much more alike than different.
What would the world be like if more of us betrayed the real suffering that is part of the human experience? I did not throw Pussywillow out when I became sick. There was a moment when he was determined to “knead” my blistered stomach with his long claws where I really might have considered it if I had felt strong enough to wrestle him. Fortunately, for both of us he got the message and stopped. But, honestly, I trusted this cat. He could have really caused me more pain, but I trusted him to be a good friend and he was. It was due to his sharing the hard part of the journey with me that he looked through the blisters and saw me. How would our communities be different if rather than hide our pain we helped each other though? What if we all pulled off some of our “dragon-scales” and let others care for us? Will you run and hide based on externals or will you get to know people through the good and the bad and look with God’s love at their heart even when they are wearing tired scales?