365 Grateful: The Teachings of Katniss

Katniss slipped into the home office at half past noon, where I sat lost in my work. Perched delicately on the arm of my chair, she lifted one tiny cat paw and tapped me once, gently, on the shoulder. “Prrrrrt.”

I turned and looked into a set of wide, yellow eyes just inches from mine. This was the second – or was it the third? – purposeful journey she’d made into the office, and this time it clicked: she was hungry. She’s been enjoying the same meals as I during my work-at-home pandemic life – breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and at 12:30, I was about an hour late for that now routine midday repast.

Katniss asked for what she needed: food.

When I stood, she immediately flitted toward the kitchen as I followed, far less flitty than she. She stopped at her bowl but, when I stepped past her to the fridge, she twined herself around my legs, executed a few hump-backed hops to rub even higher, and offered several “prrrrrts” of pleasure. She watched every move of the spoon transferring a third of a can of food into the bowl. Still, before digging in, she looked up and offered a quick caress of my hand with her head.

I, on the other hand, headed back to the laptop to finish up what I needed before making my own lunch. Before long, Katniss sauntered back into the office, again perched on the arm of my chair, again tapped me gently on the shoulder. “Prrrrrt.” And again, I turned to look into her yellow eyes. Without invitation, she climbed up onto my chest, sank into my arms, promptly extended her front paws over my shoulder, daintily crossed them like the lady she pretends to be, and proceeded to sink into a contented purr with occasional head bunts and rubs against my face.

Katniss offered what she could: appreciation or (dare I call it?) love.

There’s an indigenous tradition known as Circle, where members of a community gather in a circle to confirm the identity of the community through ritual, story-telling, dance, music, discussion, decision-making, and more. Long before you and I walked the earth, people shared stories around a fire, and, in fact, they still do in many indigenous tribes. These gatherings provide meaning and direction in life.

Participants sit in a circle – a place with no hierarchy. Instead they form the rim that holds the circle firm and unbroken. Members speak into the center, not directly to one of the rim holders, but to the circle as a whole, because all the voices in that circle co-create the community and co-create the wisdom that emerges.

One of the tenets of this gathering structure is this:
Ask for what you need and offer what you can.

It’s an invitation to freely offer what support you can to others in the circle, balanced by an equal invitation to freely ask for what you need. Circle works best when participants speak their truth, trusting it will fit into the center as support, combining with the truth of others. It builds trust, appreciation, respect, and (dare I call it?) love.

How marvelous to realize that Katniss asks for what she needs – to be fed, to be loved, to be playful. And that I offer what I can, which is food and treats, caresses, toys and playtime, safety and health.

I ask for her companionship, and she freely offers it as she rubs against my legs and face, offers head bunts of bliss, and purrs contentedly in my arms. (Not to mention mindfulness reminders to stop and be present.)

I love this concept of asking for what we need and offering what we can. It’s so simple that even my cat innately understands it. It’s foundational in relationship, isn’t it? We can’t offer what we don’t know others need unless they are open and transparent about that very thing. No fear of asking, no beating around the bush, no hesitation to express their needs. Simply a request.

How freeing to then offer what we can without hesitation. Yet… sometimes we have a hard time offering what we can because we either don’t know the need or we minimize what we have to offer.

In both cases, our circles – our relationships – are left hungering for that give and take, that yin and yang that offers the satisfaction of valuing and being valued, of mattering and caring, of asking and of giving.

Ask for what you need. Offer what you can. Katniss does it naturally. We can, too.

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