Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Curiosity killed the cat

I used to have four cats. All at once. Two of them were brothers (one of those brothers is still alive); they were named Mozart and Sebastian. They were the dastardly duo, a pair of cats with a hidden agenda who would often poke their noses into situations they were not meant to be involved in. This became extra apparent when my one female cat, Marie, came into the picture. Sebastian would always give Marie a hard time, sneaking into the room where she spent most of her days and bothering her until she would hide under cushions or in little crevices, hissing as her only defense mechanism. Marie herself was a bit of a drama queen, but even so there was something about Sebastian that irked her - his inability to keep to himself, his curiosity, his nosiness.

Sebastian was an instigator. He never kept his thoughts to himself. And even though he was a cat, somehow I always knew what he was up to. The furtive peeks, pushing my door slightly ajar, were entirely readable. He wanted to know what was going on even when it was completely none of his business.

We always forgave him for it. Because he was a cat. He may have annoyed me to pieces, but at the end of the day I always gave him a pat on the back or a scratch behind the ears. Because I loved him. He may have been an idiot, but he was my idiot. And you love your idiots no matter what kind of idiotic stuff they are up to.

That's true of an owner toward their pets anyway. Or a tolerant parent toward their children.

Not so much for anyone else, though.

I've found that in my relationships with others, the instigator tendencies that I share with Sebastian don't have much of a place. Start poking my nose into other people's lives and instead of being shooed away and then having my ears scratched a second later, I have the door slammed in my face, never to be opened again. No one wants to deal with a friend, a significant other or an acquaintance who bothers them too much.

Well that's a problem, because like Sebastian, I like to weasel my way into places I don't belong.

If Sebastian had been a human, I have no doubt he and his brother (again, Mozart) would've grown up to become detectives. Or journalists. The main reason I'm an instigator is that I am a researcher and a journalist. I love learning, I love knowing things. But learning is one thing and being too interested, too involved and too invasive is another. That's the line between investigator and papparazzo.

As a journalist, I do have an uncanny way of prying a bit too much in the subjects of my interest. I like to insert myself in a scene - get involved with it as much as I can and talk with as many people who will talk to me about it. And as a reporter, that's a fine trait.

But then I start doing that in my personal life. And while it's okay to be involved with people's issues - to let them confide in you and share their thoughts with you - forcing them to involve you is a completely different ball game.

I don't know what it is about my mind, but for some reason I enjoy knowing a few too many details about the people I care about. It's not because I'm a gossip, I don't take much pleasure in spreading secrets. It's really just because I like to have all the facts squared away. In reality, my intentions are honorable. In practice, they seem questionable. I realize that.

There needs to be an invisible line drawn in my head. A point at which curiosity stops and tact comes in. They say curiosity killed the cat and while that metaphor isn't true when applied to the real life situation of Sebastian (or Mozart), I can see how it makes sense.

How many relationships of mine have gone sour because I found myself too interested in what was going on in the life of the other person? How often have I let my desire to know more drive me to instigate so far that I alienate instead?

This is the first time in quite a few months that I've focused more on questions about myself than on questions about others. For the first time in a while I'm only surrounded by people I can fully trust; I've eradicated my life of the presences that were questionable, removed the interactions with people who were more concerned with their own self-interest than being a good friend to me. And that has made my life infinitely easier.

I don't worry about investigating my own mind. Unlike other people who become angry when I care too much and question too much, expending curiosity on myself will never cause any sort of rift. And that goes for instigators who want to know more about me. I'm not the type of person who gets sick of people for being instigators. To this day I miss my Sebastian, the tactless little Siamese cat who would pop his way into my life when I least expected it. For the moment, he often annoyed me; in the long run, his curiosity made me love and remember him.

If anything, I hope I can find people to add to my life who are as accepting of this quirk of mine as I am of others'. If I want to peer in doorways and ask for attention, please don't slam the door in my face. If I could control this trait in myself, I would, and I will continue to try. But if I can't, then I guess what I need most are people who can understand and who don't become upset because someone cares about them too much.

"Curiosity killed the cat" is an antiquated phrase. If curiosity did in fact kill anyone, then every journalist, every detective, every curious mind in the world would be doomed to a terrible fate. And I refuse to think that my often compassionate concern for others and my wondering about their circumstances is any cause for my immediate demise.

If it is, then surely I'll be struck by lightning tomorrow. It remains to be seen, I guess.

No comments:

Post a Comment