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I’ll admit upfront that this essay will likely stray from strict academic style into something more creative. But how could it not? I’m talking about an abstract concept in the first place. I’m attempting to put into nice human words how I feel inside, nice explainable understandable-to-anyone words. Not an easy task. Not that I care.

You see, it’s a different essay on what my felineself looks like, the ins and outs of tan fur and separation from human skin. Thick tail, bright eyes, large paws, teeth, you know. Phantom sensations. But those are physical, or fit into the category of the closest thing to physical therianthropy can achieve. Honestly, I seem to pay less attention to this than others, and even moreso now that I’ve had some progress narrowing down what about me is therian and what fits under other labels. Pictures of mountain lions are nice in a recognition way. Like looking at a wall and not expecting a mirror to be there. But the majority of what makes me a mountain lion is beyond the sensations of fangs and paws, it’s all caught up in my personality. I cannot separate the cat out from the human, because I am both. Maybe a perfectly human version of myself would have ended up with the exact same personality, I don’t know. But there’s always more, more, it’s tangled together.

So let me try and explain what feline is. First of all, and I do believe this is part of the cat, I have a different perception of myself than what I would have otherwise. There’s an idea that you can be weird-- I’m only weird as it fits the definition around certain social groups. Idea of being shameful-- why should I hold myself to any value system, why should I feel bad about anything that crosses my mind? I know what’s real and what’s not and the actions I take, so if I have an intrusive thought, it means nothing to me. It’s simply something I thought, not a reflection of whatever scale of the universe I’m on. And, of course, idea of being a bad person, worthless, lack of self-esteem. I feel like a bad person when I’ve hurt others and haven’t done what I can to fix things yet. But that’s the crowded emotions of guilt and fear, wondering about social status, wondering about and imagining other’s pain. Not a grand statement about my worth.

This is simple, at least: I am always doing the best I can. If I don’t do something well, there is a reason for it, and I will think until I’ve found that reason and done what I can to pave it over, or in certain cases choke it. Morality is a construction that is extremely useful and good, I can think highly of myself within it by filling and wanting to fill the right boxes, but it’s a construction all the same. So there’s the sort of default superiority that bleeds into this way of thinking. It’s kind of uncomfortable, right? When did it become narcissistic to not hate yourself, I might say, but this is really a disclaimer statement. Idea of humbleness, of needing to hedge myself, of needing to promise that I’m not above others, because obviously I’m not. The point is self-introspection (you’re only yourself if you know yourself, to thine own self be true) and I’ve realized that I just am. And what I am is good, and needs no apologies in front. Not even in a defiant way, this is just fact.

I know what things are mine and what aren’t. What I have a claim to and what I don’t. If I don’t know, I seek out the lines. If I decide the lines should be blurred, I do so. Here’s an example, my room is as good a territory as any. Cohabitating softens the urge to keep others out considerably, because I have to acknowledge the space isn’t completely mine. Living alone, though, you’re here because I invited you. I am going to spend all of my non-scheduled time in this space. If I want to talk, if I want to interact, I will seek you out. Only touch my hair if you’re a friend who’s hair I’ve touched. Feel free to come to me with wants, but barring cases of care I’m not sticking around past when I want to.

(When do I leave? When I’ve gotten everything I want out of the experience.)

I enjoy knowing where I stand with others, and prefer for life to be blunt about that, because I can move on without time loss. It’s a calm comfort to know when I’m under someone else’s rules because it means I know how to behave-- and when wanted, how to disbehave. Life’s about control. Control is about owning your own actions. Actions have meaning when you know why you’re doing them. Everything I do and say is a product of my own blend of nature/nurture. Everything everyone else does is a product of theirs. Having the option to do these actions in the first place. What the boundaries of your own forest are.

I can survive in any condition and I can thrive in many more. I will make this happen if necessary. It might hurt now, but I’ll get through this, I always get through everything and I’m stronger afterwards. I love comfort and luxury and soft things, but there's pleasure in the raw outdoors, too, the afterfeeling of river water.

The problem with explaining how it is to be feline is that I know that these things are cat, but presumably my audience is not (if you’re another one stopping by, hello!). There’s no reason to try and prove my worth or validity by any measure-- an outside opinion will never have the same weight as my own lived experiences. Maybe I can make categories here, pun intentional. Felineself is proud. Felineself is unapologetic. Felineself is very aware of strengths and limitations, if anything, the limitations are at the forefront. Felineself isn’t doing any of this to show off or strut. Just. Is. And with that awareness comes quiet peace.

The only limits I want are the ones I place on myself.