TAILS OF BAD HABITS (Book Excerpt)
Jessica Loftus and Jack Murray
Chapter 3 Deception
My name is PurSneakity, and I‘m a creature of habit . . . BAD HABITS.
After losing two pounds on my new eating plan, I gain a lot of momentum with writing my book on bad habits. Also, I become the local weight-loss guru among my pudgy kitty friends. Quick to point out their bad habits, I enlighten them with my new-found wisdom. They seem to be in awe of my transformation. I’m riding high on my pink cloud of moderation.
Even Penelope, the beloved object of my desires, compliments me on my cut physique. When I tell her It’s my first birthday, she finally agrees to a romantic outing to the local pond that is stocked with lots of fish. Now that I have a svelte body, I easily snag a catfish for our dinner. She is so impressed that she lets me lick the back of her graceful neck. Intent on winning her love, I am even more motivated to lose weight. Best birthday I could imagine.
A few days later, she is more remote. She no longer answers my catcalls. When I run into her, she meows lame excuses for refusing my invitations to prowl the neighborhood.
So, I distract myself by spending more time with my human who spends hours a day on Facebook. It is there, on Facebook, that I learn the truth. Plain as day, there is a photo of my beloved Penelope with Fido . . . rubbing her chin against his front paw.
Numb and desperate, I race for my jumbo bag of kitty treats. After eating my allotted five treats, I walk away, but soon I return for five more. Then I return for a couple more. After I finish the bag, I start rummaging through the kitchen trash can, gobbling every fattening carb I can find, not even noticing how the food tasted. Then I dig up leftover treats buried in my sandbox before I dart to the local restaurant garbage bin, and gorge myself on cheesy biscuits, and fried shrimp until I pass out.
Bloated and foggy from my carb feast, I awake covered with food trash. Slowly, I start my walk of shame home.
Back in my cozy fleece-lined box, I fall into a deep sleep. Upon awakening, I rationalize that I had a bad day, and I resolve to get back on track moderating my kitty treats.
Without going into humiliating detail, I admit that my binges have become more frequent. I am quite adept at fabricating excuses and hiding my dirty secret, just like ‘Nurse Jackie’ in the Showtime TV series. When my pudgy kitty friends start making nasty comments about Karma and the return of most of my lost weight, I correct them with my explanations that I am building muscle from my new work-out plan.
One especially pudgy kitty, Greta, confronts me that I really hurt her feelings with my insensitive remarks about her weight problem. I quickly retort that my intentions are good; I am only trying to help her. When she meows a protest, I lecture her to “just get over it.” After all, the comment was in the past. She growls something about “invalidating her pain” while she trots her fat carcass away from me. “Talk about drama,” as I roll my eyes.
Back home, my human is in another one of his foul moods. “PurSneakity, what happened to those five bags of kitty treats that I bought for your birthday?” he bellows. “You are a Bad Kitty!”
“I’m not listening to this.” I growl indignantly as I dart for the front door. But even my out-of-shape human catches me before I jump a few steps. This never happened before. He then plops me into the laundry room and slams the door.
Alone with my thoughts, I ponder my situation. I pray to Our Father, “Please help me with my problems.”
Then, I have the following inspiration, “The truth will set you free.”
What is my truth?
In my next counseling session, I address this question about truth with my purchologist. As I tell my story of my weight loss, kitty treat binges, Penelope and Greta, I finally admit that I wasn’t able to moderate my consumption of kitty treats— even when I was losing weight, I often ate more than five treats, but ate less dinner to compensate. As I describe Greta’s emotional response, I realize how cruel I had been to her. I even see how I didn’t recognize that Penelope had no interest in me; I was deluding myself that she liked me.
Instead of scolding, my purchologist applauds me, “That’s great! You’re on your way to recovery and positive change now that you acknowledge your problematic behavior. You may want to consider a 12-step program to address your kitty-treat addiction. Many of the steps focus on looking at your behavior and making amends when appropriate.
“It takes a lot of courage to pursue counseling, spiritual direction or recovery programs,” my purchologist encourages. “Humans and Kitties want to see themselves as good. So they often lie to themselves and others to avoid looking at their true motivations and the related harm their behavior causes. In fact, they may be so good at lying, that they even believe their own lies, at least some of the time.
“When I was in graduate school,” the purchologist shares, “I attended a lecture where a cruel professor was seated on my right and a close friend was seated on my left. A few minutes into the presentation, I noticed that I was leaning to the left, practically in my friend’s lap— as far away from the professor as I could manage. I straightened myself, but soon I found myself leaning towards my friend again. After several corrections, I realized that I couldn’t control my body language even when I tried.
“Here is the lesson,” The purchologist continues. ”When words and behaviors are inconsistent, believe the behaviors as they usually reflect the truth. That goes for body language too. If someone avoids you, they probably don’t want much to do with you, no matter what they might say. If someone agrees to a request but doesn’t follow through, they didn’t agree. Deception usually leaves a tell-tail sign; you just have to find it.”
So, I ask the purchologist, “Do you think I should pursue Penelope or just give up on her?”
She gently challenges, “If I told you to give up on her, would you listen to me anyway?”
“Probably not.” I admitted. Deep down, I know I’ll never give up on Penelope.
“Besides, it’s your life, not mine,” continues the purchologist. My purpose is to help you learn the skills to make important decisions, not make the decisions for you. You might be very unhappy with a decision that I would make”
In an ‘ah hah’ moment, I realize that I knew all along that I hurt Greta’s feelings and that I couldn’t eat kitty treats in moderation. I just didn’t want to believe these things. Fooling myself made me feel better in the moment, but it only made my problems worse.
After the purchologist notes the dejected look on my face, she soothes, “Don’t be so hard on yourself; we are all guilty of deception to some degree. The important thing is to strive to be aware of the lies we may tell ourselves or others and the lies that others may be telling us. Validate your perceptions by checking them out with several other people. Prayer can be very helpful in discerning the truth as well.“
Feeling greatly relieved, I head home to research local 12-step programs. As I wonder how I can distract myself from kitty treats, I pass a community event, PumpKids Painting Party, where kids decorate pumpkins with paints, glitter, feathers and beads.
“Stuff!” I proclaim. “I will distract myself from kitty treats with stuff.”
Photo by Jack Murray