Let’s say you have a cat.
Here, I’ll even give you a cat to envision in case you are having trouble conjuring one from thin air:
Let’s say you have this cat. You invited him to live in your house and you’ve loved living with him. Sure, he’s work. You have to brush him and feed him and clean his litter box. You have to make sure he doesn’t run out the door. You have to take him to the vet.
But the work is all worth it, because you love the cat.
Well, it’s worth it… except for one thing.
You see, it turns out that you are allergic to this cat.
Some days he can sit in your lap and you can skritch his soft little ears and rub the white fur under his chin and all is well with the world.
Other days, you start sneezing the instant he walks into the room.
Some days, you sneeze once or twice. Maybe you need some eyedrops. It’s annoying, but totally livable.
Other days, your eyes water and swell up. Your nose becomes a leaky faucet of snot. Your skin itches. Your eyes burn. Your lungs close up shop and you begin to wheeze.
Some days, even the worst allergies are worth it. He comes running into whatever room you happen to be in. He leaps onto your lap and butts his soft little head against your chin. His entire body rumbles with love purring love.
Other days, the only sign of him is a disemboweled mouse or a pile of half-digested cat food. Or you go to scoop his kitty litter and find he’s flung it to the far corners of the basement. Or he latches onto your leg with his sharp little claws, leaving you polkadotted with deep red welts and betrayal.
You take action to prevent the allergies from overwhelming your love for this creature.
You buy an air filter. You vacuum daily. You buy a baby gate and keep him relegated to the first floor. You brush him three times a day. You wear a mask at all times.
For awhile, this works.
But man, is it exhausting.
And if you falter – for even one day – your entire body rebels by sprouting 10,000 hives.
At what point do you say, “This relationship isn’t working”?
At what point do you weigh your own needs – your own health – against the needs of the cat?
The thing is, you CHOSE THIS. You invited this cat into your home. You are responsible for him.
How can you simply say, “Nope, he makes me sick – he needs to go”? (This is not a judging type of question, it’s a real question: HOW do you do that and feel okay with yourself?)
This isn’t about cats, Internet.
I mean, maybe you hate cats and so all of this makes no sense to you. (“Throw him in the river!” you might say.)
For you: Here, have a dog.
Imagine if all of the above applied to this sweet face.
Now what would you do?
This isn’t about dogs, either, Internet.
It’s about loyalty.
Loyalty to another. Loyalty to yourself.
I’d say that being loyal is one of my top five qualities as a human. But there comes a point when loyalty no longer makes sense. When it’s hurting you. Or hurting others.
What if the cat didn’t make YOU allergic… but made your spouse allergic?
What if your allergies were affecting your relationship with your spouse?
What if your allergies – and all the time you spent trying to stave them off – were taking over your life, so that you couldn’t think about anything, go anywhere, talk to anyone without first considering how it would impact the cat or your regimen of allergy prevention?
This is not about cats. This is not about allergies.
This is about loyalty.
How do you decide that your needs outweigh your responsibility to another?
How do you put yourself first?
How do you acknowledge that, hey, maybe the cat would be better off with a different owner? An owner who could cuddle the cat at any time and snuggle up to his little face and sleep with him in the same bed? That maybe the cat doesn’t give a shit who owns him as long as he gets food and water and occasional cuddles? That maybe your loyalty to the cat is totally one-sided?
This isn’t about the cat. It’s about loyalty.
And I want to know YOUR thoughts on loyalty. How and when you decide to choose your needs over the needs of another.
Maybe you had a boyfriend who swore he’d kill himself if you left. Maybe you had a friend whose whole world collapsed and without you rushing to her side 10 times a day, she’d collapse too. Maybe you had a pet who needed expensive surgery that you just couldn’t afford.
Maybe it’s a situation much less fraught with Certain Disaster. Maybe the boyfriend would latch onto another girl and be fine. Maybe the friend would find a good a therapist and be fine. Maybe the pet would… Okay, there’s no less painful version of this scenario.
It doesn’t matter, I don’t think, whether the situation is Dire or Not So Bad, Really. I don’t think it matters whether the Impact of Your Choice will be massive or minor. You still feel a sense of loyalty to Do Right by Boyfriend/Friend/Pet. You still feel like your decision will have a negative impact – however big or small. You still feel like your choice is an impossible one.
How, Internet? How do you choose you?