The Beauty in Becoming a Cheetah: Lessons Learned in Quarantine

When huge life events come at us from all sides, there’s always something quite meaningful to learn. Always. During this period of quarantine due to the Coronavirus, we’ve all had time to reflect on a number of issues: the strength of our country, the unfortunate reliance on other countries for medicine, the addiction of hoarding toilet paper—sheesh!  Most importantly, we contemplate aspects of our life that do and do not give us joy. Like most of you, it’s been a wakeup call on a variety of levels.

But for this writer of words, it’s been a few years, not just a matter of days, that’s taught me why I can no longer live in quarantine and isolation.  As I was having coffee this morning, two events came to me via text that inspired this blog post. It’s amazing how God orchestrates such events, as I know it was simply not a coincidence.  I received a link from a dear Arizona friend regarding a podcast in  which she said was a “must listen.”  She signed the text, “You are a cheetah!”

Odd… I’ve had several labels placed on me in my past, some good, some unfortunate, but I’d never been called a cheetah.  My friend definitely had my curiosity peaked. Just when I was about to log on and give the podcast a listen, I received a text from a Kentucky friend about a bizarre show on Netflix called, “Tiger King.” Strange… These two correspondences, combined with my rag doll cat’s incessant whining to be fed, forced me to face the obviousness of a lesson to be learned from felines.

“The Tiger King” tells of an eclectic assortment of individuals who are determined to turn wild tigers into pets, with the result often leading to drug use, illicit behavior and even death. It’s unbelievable how these people live and the recklessness that ensues. The podcast, with Brene Brown, was one in which I’d probably never listen due to the sheer fact of having very little spare time. My mind has been preoccupied with other pressing matters: the huge life change in becoming single (Heaven help me!), launching a jewelry line with the Home Shopping Network (now owned by QVC) and the boxing up all of my material belongings in preparation for a move to Santa Fe. Listening to a podcast was not at the top of my list. However, being quarantined changed all that and I decided I needed a break from boxing up stuff. After all, I wanted to know how the heck I was like a cheetah….

In a nutshell, the podcast, intended to empower women, begins with a story of a wild cheetah in Florida and the attempts made by zoo owners in trying to tame it. They found, through trial and error, they could tame this beautiful young cheetah by raising it alongside a Golden Labrador.  Whatever the canine would do, which included chasing after a stuffed pink bunny tied to the back of a jeep, they’d train the cheetah to do the same.  As a reward, the cheetah would be given a raw steak and the lab would be given a dog treat of some kind. The trainers deemed it a great success. However, the wonderful point of this analogy was this: if a majestic cheetah can be turned into some tame creature of which it had no prior clue, couldn’t the same be said for us women?

Wow. The comparison gave me chills. The author proceeded to make many valid points in which I couldn’t write down quick enough. However, I kept waiting for her to circle back to an obvious point that jumped out at me early on:  it had everything to do with what they were feeding these two animals. Although they were being trained identically, they were being fed something entirely different. While the trainer wanted to tame the beautiful cheetah, he also recognized that it had an appetite for something far greater than a dog treat, hence the reason for the raw steak.  I couldn’t help but think about this fact for hours after the podcast concluded.

Isn’t this what often takes place along our life journey in being known? We are born with beautifully unique personalities, filled with wants and desires, and yet at some point we’re conditioned to be just like everyone else. Rather than being fed a “steak” we’re told to be content or thankful based on what others deem as proper nourishment.  

Dear readers, that is not a good thing.  

As a Christian woman, I clearly understand God’s Word and that honoring it is important. We live in a sinful world and the ways in which we seek fulfillment is quite telling in how we define ourselves.  God’s grace is a wondrous gift and I give thanks for Jesus daily. This blog is not a contradiction of that.

It is, however, a manifesto to encourage women to be their authentic self, one in which God created.  We cannot serve Him honestly until we accept that we're loved unconditionally. Own that, sweet friend. 

Of no fault to our upbringing, many of us were reared over top a poison root system that automatically led us to burst from the soil and grow towards a light in which we’d been genetically engineered. Just like a parent raising their first child, we rear them based on what we’ve experienced ourselves and this fact often repeats itself for generations.   We inherit both the positive and negative traits of those before us, all while facing the arduous task of adapting our reality to the aspects of life that we willingly choose on our own.  Our free-willed choices are the fertilizer on this twisted root, causing us to either sprout weeds or provide luscious fruit.

Sadly, we often can’t discern who we really are due to suffocating vines or phrases like, “you’re just being selfish,” “you’re supposed to mother them this way,” “you’re not being very lady like,” or “why can’t you do it the way it’s usually done.” 

How can we strive to be what God designed us to be if we're growing in shame and such scolding? I’ve been given similar instruction by a few friends, family and of course, the media.

But as both a woman and an artist, I HAVE to feel things. It’s a way I honor myself and how I’m uniquely created.  Trying to tamp that down is like trying to calm a volcano. I’ve found that it’s much more destructive to myself and those I love if I try to desperately quieten down the rumbling, rather than recognize it for what it is:  a crack in my core in which I must eject the particles from my life that cannot be kept any longer. It’s far better to say “Hello…I see you, I honor you and it’s okay to feel a rising eruption that brings me physical or emotional joy. (Thank you, Chelle, for that reminder)

Or if using the feline analogy, many of us women feel like cheetahs: we’re encouraged to be domesticated with a particular set of rules, when what we really yearn for is a raw steak—fulfillment of desires that gives us nourishment in a way we unashamedly need.  Again, I’m not speaking of sinful desires that jeopardize our soul, I’m writing of the importance of fulfilling desires that if left ignored, will threaten our very sanity. 

I’ve been there. I am there. Perhaps you are as well. Whether it was my move to New Mexico, my decision to design jewelry, my divorce, or a zillion other choices in which I’ve I made in my journey, I’ve been criticized for living life a bit off the rails. Judgement came in whispers or periods of silence that reflected the inability to understand why some molds just have to be broken or at least altered. I’ll be the first to admit that some of my choices were not very wise. I hope my fellow readers can be honest enough with themselves to admit the same. However, many of my decisions, regardless of how they're deemed by others, are ones in which I have no absolutely no regret.  Some concerned friends often email or message me, “Aren’t you scared?” or “What if this doesn’t work out?”

Fair questions.

But I merely have to look to three people who personify courage in human skin:  my mother and my two adult daughters. I owe these women more than I can assign words. While no one is perfect except our Redeemer, I’ve learned through much prayer and reflection, not to mention the life of my momma, that the best way to  be less of a burden to my daughters is to be a parent of strength and convictions. It’s not their job to be my therapist, my caretaker or best friend.  That’s cruel and unusual punishment to expect my daughters to watch me settle for less that I deserve, to squelch who I am as a woman, and to not live unabashedly. What type of role model would I be as a female? One of my favorite quotes in the podcast is, “the greatest burden a child can bear is the unlived life of a parent.”   Friends, that brings tears to my eyes and I hope it does yours as well. I’ve been guilty of turning a child into a beast of burden and I’ll go to my grave trying to remedy those actions of years past. Actually, I learn far more from my daughters than they do from me. By the grace of God they’ve learned to chase their own dreams wherever it takes them and have men in their lives that feed them “steak” instead of some dried up dog food that leaves them unnourished and longing for more.

They are cheetahs. I’m determined to be part of that pride.

I can’t thank my two girlfriends enough for their timely audio suggestions this morning. I suggest you give both a listen while  currently caged up like an animal.  It is my prayer and hope that when we’re allowed to break free, we can roar with the best of them and feast in enjoying exactly what we crave. Thanks for sharing this post. May it be an invitation for others to join this amazing pride as well. 

Brightest of Blessings 

Angie