“Essay on ‘The Sanctuary'” (July 2006)

Oddly enough, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked about the title/phrase I use at the top of my journals—“The Sanctuary of the Catatonic Soul”. Yet, I’ve also never explained it on my own (until now), for lack of reason and motivation to do so, as also I think I didn’t have enough understanding of myself to write anything up on it, so I let my short, vague poem for it suffice (even though I never really liked the poem much, at least compared to numerous other poems of mine). I’ll give an excerpt from it here, although not the entire thing because the majority of it, I believe, seems mostly irrelevant to what I’m writing in this essay, and honestly, I think I’ve mostly forgotten exactly what I *was* talking about in it, so I’ll just go with the parts that I understand and find relevant to this writing here.

“I possess wings that cannot fly,
Legs that cannot run,
Eyes that cannot see,
A nose that cannot smell,
Teeth that cannot bite,
Ears that cannot hear,
And voices that shall not be heard,
For they are silenced within.
But, against all odds,
I will not give up.
I shall never let these precious gifts go,
Because one day, I believe,
That they will be resurrected within me,
And be freed to attain their longing purpose
They call for in cries each day…
Each passing moment.
(skipped lines…)
To finally be one with them;
To finally be what I’ve always known to be…
My one, true self.”

As far as the “purpose” goes in that, I’ve got some ideas about what I meant, but in truth, I really don’t remember well and how I viewed a number of things then (December 2004) is quite different from now. Regarding the first few lines of possessing things that can’t [fill in action/attribute], those involved my phantom shifts among other traits of my animal sides that can’t be perceived by anyone outside of me, so essentially, they were things I knew and felt well but they were limited to only myself. The part about the traits being “resurrected within me”, I’m not entirely sure exactly what I meant by that, but I think it stood as a metaphor for there one day being a time when I could embrace them, and when my theriosides would be “free”, not in a literal, physical sense (such as having the body of any of them, at least not in this lifetime), but in a more spiritual and mental sense, so to speak. It seems, though, I made the mistake then of thinking I had to not possess my physical human body anymore in order to be “my one true self”, and I find it interesting to look back on a mild example of my thoughts at that time and what I’ve vastly learned since then. My true self is attainable in this lifetime, because it does, during this life, include my human self, as also my non-human soul, and I don’t have to wait to embrace it, wait to discover and revel in my true self, I can do that *now* with time, effort, and determination, which I’ve already continued to do.

So, with that as a starting point for this writing, I’ll go into more depth about “the Sanctuary” and the “Catatonic Soul”. Why did I choose the term “catatonic” to describe my soul in that poem, originally? Actually, it appears it was a loose, misuse of the term, with me using it to describe, in a sense, a state of being fully aware of the world around me and wanting to interact with it, yet not being able to physically do so (that’s the best definition I can think of for what I meant at that time). So essentially, I viewed my body (and thusly connected my human self, to some extent) as a horrible cage and boundary to what I believed, at the time, to be the “true me”, my non-human animal soul, that part of me that only *I* could feel and experience and no one else knew about it unless they interpreted some of my odd animal quirks as being linked to some “animalness”, but they didn’t know just how deep it went (hell, at the time even I didn’t consciously know how deep and extensive it went). For years, I had felt my human life and body as being a cage and boundary to my animal self within, even though I never consciously acknowledged I even *had* an “animal self within”, which probably led to the dysphoria being even worse over it during that time because I always denied myself as having any part of me that was other than human, and then I wasn’t even accepting much of being a human—my teenaged angst over it really just made me more uncomfortable with myself as a whole, with me not appreciating my human self and straight out denying my animal self. It’s really no wonder, when I stop to think about it, that I felt “catatonic” (by my usage of the term) in my body and life, and though I didn’t feel that extensively bad about it late in 2004, it was a time of realization and I hadn’t realized at that time just what developments and progress I had already made up to that point in accepting and embracing myself on all levels, the human and the animals.

Just recently, I’ve thought about removing the title altogether and making a completely new one, then thought to only remove the word catatonic from it and replace it with some other word. After over a month, while considering numerous different words, I’ve finally decided that, for now until I decide otherwise (if I ever will) I’m not going to take the term catatonic out of it, I’m going to keep the phrase just as it is. Now, I wondered why I had kept it for as long as I did and why should I bother keeping it if it misrepresents myself and my soul (which I feel it does)? There’s an interesting reasoning behind that. It’s not about how well it fits who I am *now*, it has over the extensive time I’ve used it (on my journals, since January 2005) actually taken on a different meaning entirely. It used to be how I viewed myself, but now it’s symbolic of where I’ve come from on this journey since I realized my animal self consciously. It marks the beginning on this essential and vastly important journey of mine and all I’ve learned about my therianthropy since then and will continue to learn from it. It doesn’t say *who* I am, at least the catatonic soul part, but it does say where I came from on this path and gives me an idea of the thought pattern I do *not* want to return to. Until recently, I didn’t remember what it had felt like during those times I felt caged, because it had been a year and a half (maybe closer to two years) since I had felt such a thing, except for the annoying and disconcerting body dysphoria (usually from Horse) on rare occasions, even though that’s what I thought I had felt so often throughout high school, that those were the kinds of experiences that led me to believe I had a “catatonic soul”. But recently, I experienced a type of dysphoria as Cat that I haven’t experienced in a couple of years if not longer, and that’s when I remembered what it was really like, and how badly I didn’t want to go back to that; disconcerting is certainly not the word for it, it’s quite beyond that.

When it comes to the part about the Sanctuary, well, that’s something I’ve had to think about for quite awhile, months actually. I kept pondering “what the hell did I mean by ‘sanctuary’?” and I’ve finally come up with an explanation. Again, I’m not entirely sure exactly what I meant by the term/metaphor for it when I wrote the poem, but I can certainly say some of the things that make up that Sanctuary for me now. It isn’t just one, sole attribute or aspect that composes the Sanctuary for my soul, or rather my entire self, it’s numerous things working in conjunction with each other, though particularly things pertaining to my therianthropy. Awareness and acknowledgment, contemplation, introspection, understanding, self-honesty, acceptance, embracing what I can learn to love and appreciate in myself, patience, determination, among numerous other positive attributes, as also expressing my thoughts, especially through writing, can often times be a part of my Sanctuary. Alongside of that, I’ve come to realize that my physical body is also part of the Sanctuary, and when my physical “well being” is thrown off (not exclusively in a potentially deadly scenario), such as with my possible anemia, my whole self can suffer, including my soul and mind, and that begins to tear down my hard earned Sanctuary for myself. My motivations in life, especially life goals/purposes help to keep me feeling more balanced (even though some of them can be distressing to think about anyway), or more accurately, they just keep me going and I keep the thought in my head that what I hope to fulfill or contribute to is by far worth the trials and suffering that I may go through in order to attain it. I must acknowledge and accept all aspects of myself that are here to stay, namely my human self and my animal selves, and let myself develop in specific ways/areas where I need to and not be afraid to take some risks I know I need to take or to allow myself to go through the developing I need.

Essentially, overall, the Sanctuary is where I am now and what I work to maintain when it comes to my therianthropy, among other aspects of myself, and the Catatonic Soul denotes the point in which I began this journey of accepting my true self, human and therian, hand-in-hand as they are intertwined deeply into who I really am, and that it describes what I’ve left and am not anymore in thought.