I found myself pacing tonight. I was working out in my exercise room, and I couldn’t decide, the elliptical or the mini-tramp. Pretty soon I was just pacing back and forth on the cement floor.
I wondered why it felt good. Just pacing. I was listening to my usual road trip music. There is this favorite CD of mine I reserve for the road. It’s good old rock and roll oldies that makes me want to turn it up and put the pedal down at the same time.
Since I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, I thought I would listen to it while I worked out. The energy was building inside me, the anticipation and excitement of the open road. The between times have become some of my favorite times. When you are between point a and point b, and there is nothing to do but travel it’s incredibly freeing for the soul.
When there is absolutely nothing but time and road before you, all that energy gets dissipated in the freedom.
But now it was different. The energy was palpable. And I didn’t know what to do with it. So I was pacing, back and forth like a caged lion. I felt passion and excitement inside me, and I wanted to unleash it. And feeling that way, seeing myself pacing, took me back to another time, when I knew a lion pacing in a cage.
When I was a little girl I could hear lions roaring at night from my bedroom. There was a ‘zoo’ near our house, at Bever Park just a couple blocks away. It was one of those zoos that housed animals in incredibly small quarters with no natural habitat what so ever.
The bears had a cement enclosure with one dead tree surrounded by nothing. The African Lions, so noble and beautiful, looked sadly neglected in their small cages. The lions had a grassy area, within the small barred walls. And at night I listened to them, their roaring sound seemed only a heartbeat away from me, and I wondered if they dreamed of freedom. Sometimes I wondered if they would find a way to get out of their cages.
As I lay in my bed at night as a girl, I wondered if those lions I heard roaring in the night, would one day find a way to be free.
When I was grown and visiting family back in my hometown, I went out for a walk and found myself once again in Bever Park, once again facing a lion in a cage.
Most of the zoo closed over the years. The African lions were gone as were the bears. But a few sad looking animals still remained. The monkeys, and one other still remained in a cage – the mountain lion.
The monkeys were in a glassed in case. It was astounding that in the 1990’s the people of Cedar Rapids were still supporting such horrendous zoo exhibits.
And the mountain lion was still behind bars, pacing back and forth along a worn out patch of ground.
I sat down in front of her cage and cried. I sat and did my best to connect with her. I listened within for her voice, but it was silent.
As I watched her pace I felt myself feeling equally frustrated in my own life. At that point I was still struggling to accept my path and my purpose. I was still living a life that others expected of me. I was dutiful to my family, and denied my own desires and callings.
I shivered in the cold, fall Iowa air and imagined this mountain lion free. I visualized the cage gone, the monkeys gone, and the park setting expanding to heal the area where the cages once stood.
In my imagination I sent this mountain lion a picture of running free in the Western United States. I sent her images of being free to live her life the way she desired. I was not sure she was receiving the images, as she felt closed off, yet I continued to visualize for myself.
I knew this mountain lion would never run free. I knew even if the city would finally let go of the last sad remains of the zoo, that she would be sent to yet another enclosed environment for the rest of her days.
The wild cat in her would never run free.
Suddenly I was filled with an exciting idea. I had been contemplated taking my true name, of letting go of the name I was given by my father and my husband. I was not yet comfortable with ‘Cat RunningElk’ and was still arguing with Spirit about actually using it everyday. I knew I needed to let go of the old, but I was reluctant to accept what Spirit was telling me was my path.
I felt uncomfortable with the freedom of being me, and wondered if I, too, would spend the rest of my life always adapting to the confines of other people’s expectations and desires for me and my life.
In that moment as I visualized freedom for both of us, the mountain lion and myself, I told her I would take her name as my own, to give her freedom through me. I would live always remembering her in the cage, and I vowed to never forget and to honor her in this way.
When I stood to walk back to my parents house, I was filled with excitement. I had found a name I could use for I was sure it would be acceptable. And I was going to barter with Spirit. I would take a mountain lion name, without having to accept the Cat RunningElk name my guides kept insisting on. I thought I had found a way out of what would one day actually be the key to my own freedom.
Avoiding the truth does not set us free. Avoiding what we fear most does not set us free. Playing it small, resisting our truth, only imprisons us even more.
Surrendering to our destiny is the only way to be free.
But I was still living in my own mental prison of fearing what others would think. I called the zoo board a few days later from our home in Seattle, where we were living at that time. I asked for the name of the mountain lion.
I waited with great anticipation.
The lady on the other end of the phone said, “Midget.”
“What?” I asked.
“Midget,” she repeated, “The Mountain Lion is named ‘Midget.'”
Oh my, I thought hanging up. My guides laughed at me. I enjoyed their humor eventually. In that moment I felt obstinate. I tried on the name, “Midget.”
I tried it on for about five minutes…
Then I got the joke. In trying to be small, I was torturing myself. My true essence cannot be confined behind any name. We are not meant to play it safe and we are not meant to live our lives in cages.
Years later, after I accepted my name, my callings and my larger persona, I was once again visiting friends and family in Iowa. I went for a walk one evening, and decided to venture by the zoo, just to check and see if any miracles had happened here, to match my own freedom.
I found green grass, picnic tables and no sign of any bears, monkeys or lions. They were gone. The zoo was gone. The cages completely vanished.
I pictured my mountain lion friend, Midget, running somewhere, free.
It was a great relief not to see ‘Midget’ again in a cage. Yet I still remember her and have to laugh now at how Spirit can work in our lives. I was trying to avoid being who I am. I was always looking for a way around being my true self.
I am now free to be who I really am. And I certainly am free to hit the road if I truly desire.
After I paced in my workout room for a while, I came inside and began writing. I have done about 8 hours of writing since my pacing began.
Seems I have found another way to be free. Expressing who I am, through my stories, sets me free.
In being me, I am free. The key is in being true to yourself, not to anyone else. In following our heart, having the courage to be who we are, we are free. I am Cat RunningElk, and it feels good being me. Even pacing, I like being me.
So Spirit is showing me another way to use the energy that built to a crescendo this evening. I don’t have to just go and go and go. And yet, I still plan to enjoy the open road now and again. With my oldies, and my wild cat energy that loves to run free, I will go again – out west somewhere, someday…