I wish we each had a Lying Cat

There is one fictional character that I want to be real more than any other: Lying Cat from the comic book series, Saga, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples.

Lying Cat is not pretty.

lying cat is not pretty

But Lying Cat has a special ability: she can tell, definitively, when anyone is lying — lying to others, but also, and even more powerfully, lying to oneself.

She accompanies a bounty hunter, The Will, who makes use of this ability in his work: she’s able to call out his potential employers and any leads he interrogates on any lies they may be trying to get away with. It’s satisfying to watch this.

Lying Cat calls out The Will's employer

And entertaining when Lying Cat catches The Will.

The Will tries to fool himself

But Lying Cat proves her true power after The Will rescues Slave Girl (later named Sophie) from her sex traffickers. For two panels, she’s talking to Lying Cat, telling her all kinds of things: “My name is Sophie. I am six and a half years old. I can stand on one leg for a real long time. My favorite color is blue-green. I want to be a doctor or a dancer when I grow up.” Throughout this, Lying Cat remains silent. And then there’s this:


And Sophie knows she is not all dirty inside because of what was done to her. Because Lying Cat’s supernatural ability is definitive.

* * * *

I just came from a funeral for a 17-year-old classmate of my children, a young woman who took her own life. It was an amazing service, full of tears, and singing, and telling of emotional truths.

But I couldn’t help thinking about the lies that young woman had to believe in order to kill herself, lies that came from her own mind — that it’d be better if she weren’t here, that the pain would never go away, that there was no hope, or whatever she was telling herself. And I couldn’t help thinking of the kids at the funeral who were currently or had been suicidal; I know there were some.

How wonderful it would be to give each of them a Lying Cat to follow them around, who they’d believe when it said, “That thought is a lie.”

The lies of depression are so enticing, because they often involve a truth. With Slave Girl/Sophie, she felt dirty because of all the things done to her, but she, as a person, was not worthless because of it. When I’ve been in the grip of depression, it always felt like I was telling myself deep truths about my reality, but they were only ever half-truths. Which means they were half-lie.

Here are some truths that speak to the lies of depression:

You are not worthless.

You are not ruined.

You can get through it.

It does get better.

There is hope.

It won’t be easier for everyone if you are gone.

It’s not all your fault.

You are loved and treasured and valued.

You are worth the effort.

But I’m not Lying Cat, I’m just a random grown-up, so my words don’t carry the weight of a supernatural ability. I’m a grieving grown-up in the grips of some magical thinking, imagining that if we could give Lying Cat to each suicidal teenager, it would make a difference.

It’s a lovely fantasy. The reality is much tougher. We have to be Lying Cat for each other. But we have an advantage over Lying Cat, because we have a greater vocabulary. We can not only identify a lie, we can also tell the truth. We have to tell the full truth to each other, and tell it often enough that we start to believe it.





Magical Thinking Makes Me An Island

I am a hypocrite.

Lately, I’ve been writing about fear and about moving ahead despite fear. I’ve talked with one of my kids multiple times over the school year about magical thinking: as in, “you can’t just let your unfinished work pile up, hoping that it will go away and everything will resolve on its own.” I can honestly say that I’ve been doing things this year that give me high anxiety and the change and growth that have resulted have been really, really good.

Except in one case.

My daughter had 4 E.R. visits in from December to May, one of which involved an overnight stay, two of which involved IVs and X-rays, and one of which involved a broken bone. An avalanche of insurance paperwork and hospital bills have been arriving at our house. And I let them pile up.

After awhile, I let them pile up unopened.

My husband’s company had switched insurance companies two weeks before all this started, and the new company’s policies were incomprehensible to me. When my husband called about the first item that arrived, he was told to wait, that they’d pay that soon.

I took that too much to heart. Way too much.

In May, I made a binder for all the medical stuff, and I paid a few things from our flex pay account. I even discovered that we could pay bills based on the full amount that we’d set aside for the flex pay, that we didn’t have to only use what was in there at the time. Even so, I let the bills pile up. Unopened. As if everything would be fine. I’d been praying about it for months, praying that I would push through my anxiety and take a look at the bills, asking God to help me stop being such an idiot. I couldn’t sleep. For weeks, every time I woke up in the middle of the night, I’d lay there in a stew of anxiety and fear. And in the morning, I’d do nothing.

So this past Wednesday, I taped two pieces of paper together, opened the binder, opened every piece of mail, detailed everything in one big chart, tossed duplicate bills. And discovered that we had enough in the flex account to pay for everything. I felt chastened and relieved. And really, really stupid for having wasted so much time.

At least part of the relief was that I didn’t have to feel so alone anymore. Because that’s part of magical thinking: it keeps you alone. Alone and terrified. You can’t admit your magical thinking because as soon as you say it out loud to another person you realize how irrational it is and then your adult self will have to step in and do something about it — if you don’t, the person you said it to will step in. This is a lonely place to be.

I’ll have to confess this to the child I talked to about magical thinking, which should be good for both of us. And make us feel less alone.

Anyone have any magical thinking they want to confess? Feel free. You already know I’ll relate to it.

This was part of my participation in Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Fridays, wherein we write for 5 minutes about a common topic. This week’s word: lonely.