by Abigail Putman, Herself
with little or no help
from Bill Putman.
God sent his only Son to earth to save all mankind. But even the Holy Trio wasn't enough, He had to send Abigail to save me.
"I am woman, hear me roar"
"Lend me you ears and I'll sing you a tune"
"She looks just like a woman, but she breaks just like a little girl"
"It's a lesson (NOT) too late for the learnin"
"If I listen long enough to you, I'll find a way to believe it's all true"
"Listen up Bill, this is the last time I'm telling you"
Bears do whatever in the woods, Abigail does pretty much what feels good to her, rainbows have it all. And that's just the way it is. Like it or not, you just gotta live with it. I do and it feels just about right.
Abigail has been about as painstaking as she can be to take what time she has left over to teach me lessons on living. I started paying attention, because she looked so damn content. It paid off in spades.
I learned a lot over the years, plan on learning a lot more and when she is gone, I am pretty certain I can keep on learning and growing on my own. I was grounded by the master herself.
When Abigail dies, and sure as today is today she will, it will be with the knowledge she lived, truly lived, every moment, waking mostly, of her life. That satisfaction will carry her on to wherever cats go on to. Onto wherever we all go. And she'll arrive in style. She's that kind of class act.
Tail high, whiskers pushed forward.
I know now, I'll go the same way. She showed me how.
There was simply something unique in Abigail when Suzy and I rescued her from the Rescue League. She was kinda a Maine Coonish looking thing. Kinda cute, but not exceptional. But it was the unique something that made me pick her out of the purring montage squirming at the cage bottom.
Suzy asked me weeks later why I picked whom I picked. She pointed out that Abigail was the only one lying in the litter box and dead center at that.
"Simple," I said.
Abigail looked at me and said, "Ya wanna make somethin' out of it?"
I simply knew right then that I was going to learn a lot from this critter.
And good God have I!
Abigail was simply different.
The first week home, Suzy was appalled when she was vacuuming the floor that Abigail just sat there watching. Cats just don't like those noises. Abigail seemed to.
We talked and decided she might be deaf. She rarely meowed and never seemed disturbed. I walked up behind her, clapped my hands and watched her continue to stare where only Abigail stares.
I could tell from his face that it was bad. As Dr. Kearns handed her back, he shook his head, "You've got a poor deaf kitty here." Damn.
Within the day she came, from wherever Abigail goes, at once to the sound of the can opener grinding and dinner getting ready.
Abigail hears what she wants and not a damn word more!
It, of course, got better. But today, seven years later she hears what she wants to hear and, to hell with the rest. Not a really good attitude, but then Abigail is not a social creature.
I'm not certain this was one of Abigail's better lessons on life, in fact it is rather poor if you consider other people important. But I think you may be getting a clearer picture of this animal that was to add so much knowledge and clear understanding to my life.
Suzy's mother visited us when Abigail was three months old. Kittens are always under foot. It was just a matter of time before Dorothy accidentally stepped on Abigail's tail. Ouch.
Three days later, Abigail bit Dorothy in the ankle.
The lesson was either: `Don't get mad, get even.' or perhaps a delayed: `Do unto other as they do unto you.'
Again not a very productive social lesson, but you are getting a better picture of Abigail, aren't you?
By six months our debutante was a stunning cross between a fluffy Maine Coon cat and a fluffy owl.
Remember when you were a child and were pouting, or better yet scowling, and your mother warned you that your face would freeze if you kept it up?
Again, not any social lesson here, but your picture of Abigail is coming together quite nicely, right?
All this certainly makes her seem like a bitch on wheels. Well folks, that she is. But she is also loving if she wants to and, many times only if you want her to. I call these lapses `weak moments.' They generally pass quickly.
But all in all, Abigail is just simply Abigail. And that's fine. God, how many years did I wish I could just be me. To have that was simply out of the realm of my comprehension.
But not for Abigail. But then bless her heart, she passed these secrets along to me over the years. Mostly when I needed them the most.
And being persistent, she kept passing them along until dumb old me finally got them.
Then she would leap to the top of some bookcase and wash her face. I know she was really washing her face with her paws, but I always thought she was washing her hands of stupid old me.
ABIGAIL ON ABIGAIL
If there is a single, almost insurmountable, problem for man, it is in the area of self. Self image, self esteem, self worth, self acceptance and on and on. It's all the same. We are all very uncertain of who we are and what we are. The safest approach has always been to go hide and put on a mask of the way you think people want to see you. This may be just great for image, but it snuffs out any hope of discovering self image. Self image can only be found when all the masks are put away.
This is an immense psychological task.
Not for Abigail. Abigail is Abigail. What you see is what you get. She is happy with that, and confidently assumes you are happy with that as well. It is more than putting self-doubt aside, it is a matter of asserting who you really are. Not what others would like you to be, not even what you would like to be. Simply who you are at that given moment in time and space. It doesn't have to be good, it doesn't have to be bad. It just has to be. If people can be certain of exactly who you are, then they can deal with you. If they are not certain of who you are, they have no means whatsoever of dealing with you. If you are honest with what you portray you are, then others can react or act in a reasonably sane matter, especially if they know who they are.
Abigail knows exactly who she is and lets you know that at once. No more, no less. Abigail knows how to deal with Abigail and that makes it so much easier for others to deal with Abigail. We are all talking the same language now. No interpretations or guesses are necessary.
If I could be me, them my relationships with anyone else would be a lot simpler. Maybe not any better, but one hell of a lot simpler. If other people know exactly who I am, then they can at least deal with me with some sort of common understanding.
There is no question about who Abigail is and therefore I can make a whole bunch of choices as to how I'm going to deal with her, or if I'm going to deal with her at all. But either way it is much easier than if I had no idea who she was, really was. That's only going to lead straight to confusion.
If I could only be like Abigail, then people could make a lot better decisions as to how they choose to deal with me. And best yet, I can then get some straight answers and actions from them.
It's as simple as either working in bright sunshine or groping around in the dark.
ABIGAIL ON ANGER
When Abigail bit Dorothy three days after the tail squash, even she realized that the bite just wasn't satisfying. Especially since Dorothy had no idea why she was bitten. The utter frustration of it all was simply too much for Abigail. She actually did a little behavior modification. Then things got more satisfying.
Anger, to me anyway, is the most difficult emotion to feel or understand. It's one huge gray area, not as bad as it was like a black hole to me a year ago. When someone was raised as a child with the words, "You shouldn't get mad about that." or "You have no reason to be mad over that silly thing." or worse "Don't you get mad at me!" You pretty well soon realize whatever anger you are feeling is no good, and worse, invalid. Pretty soon you just stuff that anger, bite your tongue and, then when enough of all this frustrated anger accumulates you pull a Mount St. Helena, spread ashes all over the county and absolutely no one, including you, has the foggiest idea of what just took place. It sure wasn't good old basic run of the mill anger, it was a mega-mega ton nuke.
I've done that more than a few zillion times myself. All I ever got was shame, no satisfaction, and a trail of broken bodies. I didn't have a clue what I was mad at. The other bystanders had no idea what hit them. The result was everyone took off to their own corner and to this day still have no idea what happened. That's what happens when you just don't have the foggiest what to do when you feel someone did something that just didn't sit well. The top blew, the ashes fell and the jury is still out.
Abigail had the same problem and was bright enough to know there was more satisfaction to be deserved and there must be a better way. And that way is going to take place right now! Right at that old point where the satisfaction is sweetest.
Say, I'm combing out a superglued hunk of hair and it hurts. Or say, I roll over on her in the middle of the night. Something tells her that just didn't feel right and in milli-nano-second, she lets out a hiss and swipes at the nearest appendage I happened to have in her reach. Ouch!
After the pain goes away, I realize I did something that upset the quality of her leave-me-aloneness. And believe me, I know exactly what I did because it is pretty damn fresh in my memory.
That's appropriate anger. Abigail felt the discomfort and acted very rapidly and very appropriately. And it was so fast that I knew exactly what was bothering her. No hemming or hawing over this. I was caught right in the act. She felt that was all she had to do and it was over in a flash and back to sleep. I knew what I did wrong, mumbled something apologetic and went back to sleep myself. Neither of us remembered anything in the morning, no one held grudges and remarkably we were still friends, and there was no sign of ash anywhere, nor has there been any sign yet and there won't be.
Anger acted in a reasonably quick, efficient manner closes the whole case. Simple as that.
I'm not advocating you pull a gun and off the first guy that bumps into you. But if you quickly said that it hurt or just didn't feel good, and he said he was sorry, then it would be over. Take a good complicated example, real good and juicy, apply the same simple concept and Bingo! Some sort of closure happens.
I am also not saying when it's over, it's over. It's quite fine to hold onto that anger for a time period that you feel is adequate. Certainly not forever, but for enough time to accept the hurt that caused the anger. But the biggie here, is to let the angeror know the angeree is angry right at the very time the angeree can access why the angeror is pissed. In anger like sex, timing is everything.
Abigail knows that. Hair trigger that she is.
ABIGAIL ON RIGHT
Knowing right from wrong in most cases is a concept you are born with. God starts everyone out with a basic set of Craftsman wrenches and a screwdriver. If you want the socket set you got to go do something or learn something to get the bread and then you go buy the set. But, that's the add-on set, lets just stick to basics here.
There is not a creature alive who doesn't know that you just don't tug on Superman's cape or spit in the wind. Same with what's basically right, or wrong for that matter. Abigail does not bother dealing with negatives, so we are going to stick just to ‘right’ here.
Knowing a basic thing, or whatever is right, is how Abigail knows it's yummy to eat mice, and that you get the up-chucks from Shrews. Trust me she didn't learn the hard way, she just knew. And as trickier stuff came along she somehow just knew that to. And not a creature or outside power told her.
Same with us. Some things we just know, right in the tummy, that it's right. But when the going gets a little sticky, something inside me whispers "right" and if I hear that, then I'm okay. When I don't, you know what usually hits the fan. I think the same is true with Abigail. I not sure, it is something only she can hear, but I'd bet on it.
Something I found out has been that I can have a zillion people talk about God, Higher Powers, and all that, but until I hear it from inside, I can't buy a word of it. After all it is inside where I hear ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and I trust that. And inside is where all the real trust and belief takes place. Ask Abigail. The only thing all those outside voices can say to me is to get my ears up inside and pay attention. I can buy that. And if I listen, real hard, I can hear ‘right’ and if I don't, I just know it isn't right.
What's right for me is right for me, it may not be right for you, so you gotta listen-up in there yourself. What's right for Abigail is something else again. But it's still right for her. Throwing up a hair ball on the bed is still open for discussion, however. One thing I've learned is that being right makes you feel good. Maybe, just maybe, she's okay on the hair ball deal after all. They are her values and no one else's.
But if I learned anything from her on this, it is that if I feel good about it, and if I heard the word, then what I am doing is right. There are no excuses needed. It's that simple.
But I do wish she would toss them hairballs up outdoors.
ABIGAIL ON ACCEPTANCE
Abigail has taught me so much over the past year. Abigail has never been one not to know exactly who she is, and to have absolutely no problem with that, thank you.
I sit with coffee every morning and sorta watch nothing except the sky, the sun, the flowers, the birds, the very life getting going as the day itself gets going. All while I myself am getting going. Most mornings I get a great pleasure out of watching a male and a female goldfinches. I've been watching them for two years. They fly by the back of our old bedroom and invariably land on the tip top of a Cosmos stalk. They are so light the branch doesn't bend or waiver. They are lovely, happy and so delicate. They sorta hang around, I think just to please me. They watch me as I watch them. I always hope I please them as well.
Last week Abigail brought me the better part of the female I had come to enjoy. I felt sad, but not the least bit angry with Abigail. It somehow seemed normal. I'm not heartless, but what I saw was simply nature at work. I've known the finch two years, Abigail for seven. I'm not talking longevity of pleasing me, but rather that I grew to understand them each in their own way. The finch did what she was supposed to do, as did Abigail. Abigail saw no problem in the whole thing, though the finch may have harbored some doubt.
What had happened was that Abigail was simply being Abigail, and that was fine with her. I saw Abigail as simply being Abigail, and that was fine with me. I think what she pointed out was that if you do what is right, right only for you but right nevertheless, then others can accept you for being you. And if they care, it will be unconditional.
Perhaps that is why I have been so afraid of accepting myself. It was because I was afraid how others would accept me if I was indeed truly myself. Abigail has laid that fear to rest.
And acceptance has to be total, it's like pregnancy, there is no half-way stuff here. And accept her I do, and that's okay with me, and her too.
EPILOGUE. It's a week later, and I hear Abigail making that bird like chirp that means satisfaction. I look, the bright yellow male hangs from her mouth. The same wave of sadness sweeps over me. More perhaps, because now an entire era has been closed. But sad or not, Abigail is still Abigail. Nothing has changed about that. And I still accept that. I've made the commitment, and it still feels okay. Sad at times, but okay.
I may not always like what she does, but it's who she is that counts, and I'll always like that. Same with folks.
ABIGAIL ON SELF WORTH
Some folks say a pretty good measure of how you feel about or value yourself hinges on how you treat yourself.
Abigail says bullshit to that. "Any fool worth his salt knows enough to take care of himself," saying this as she noisily and methodically licks her privates. "How you know about how you feel about yourself is how you let others treat you."
Proof is, you don't mess around with Jim, and you certainly don't yell at Abigail. Now maybe Jim had a over inflated ego as Slim discovered, but Abigail speaks from an inner place where the big stick is ready.
Dorothy discovered this years ago, and Abigail has honed her self worth to a rather sharp edge since then.
Abigail will not take any guff or put up with anything, and I mean anything, that could reflect badly on how she feels about herself. Simple as that.
It's not that she demands to be treated in the manner to which she is accustomed. She expects that regardless. What she means is she wants to be treated in the way she sees herself. Queen Elizabeth would be embarrassed by such elaborate treatment. But Abigail knows what she is worth and is simply not going to settle for less. Maybe a tad inflated to others, but what Abigail sees of Abigail is exactly what she wants the world to see and ain't gonna take any short change on that one.
If I allow someone to put me down, or if I allow someone to override my feelings. It's not them that are putting me down. It's not them that are discounting my feelings. It is me, myself and I. No one else.
Abigail don't take it because she knows she doesn't warrant it and neither will I.
What the hell are four feet for if you don't stand on them?
ABIGAIL ON OTHERS
This outwardly sounds strange. "What hoot could Abigail give for others?" you say. Well Abigail found it in her best interest, of course, to include a select and sometimes random sampling of others into her life. And for very good reason. Abigail ain't no fool.
Abigail figures what she knows, and of course that's most everything, is just not enough. What parts of this silo of knowledge she chooses to share is the only way she can get into contact with those damn outsiders who can actually help her.
Early on, I mean real early on, Abigail discovered she can't get diddly squat as far as her needs being met if she doesn't tell someone. Baby's are pretty damn good at letting you know they are starving to death in front of your very eyes. And damn if they don't get fed. If Abigail did swoon and faint in front of her bowl, she would have to forage outside rather than getting the variety with the ears and tails already removed.
Abigail may be the perfect, self contained ego machine, but she knows it takes the other guy's oil to really see it hum.
Abigail simply needs others in order to be herself. After all, without others, there's no one there to give a rat's ass about her. And that is really what this lesson is all about.
ABIGAIL ON THE DARK
Abigail, like most cats, just has to get into dark space. It can be the bottom of a shopping bag, behind a pile of boxes in the basement, a closet whose door is barely cracked, any number of places. I know she is never afraid. I also know it is not just curiosity that draws her in.
Its something else, kinda that she knows there's something to be discovered there and she wants to find it. Not curiosity, but certainty. A big difference.
I've found life a lot like that myself. There are some areas inside me that are ebony. Funny I know they are dark, because like a closet door slightly ajar, there is a crack to see in through. Otherwise I wouldn't know they were dark. Abigail slinks in and finds out what’s there and then comes out with the knowledge she discovered, satisfied. She says, if I peek into some of these dark places, find what's inside and then bring the knowledge out with me I can feel the satisfaction as well.
She says it makes her feel good. It makes me feel good and a little more complete as well. She also convinced me the dark isn't really frightening when you are looking for something, and hoping to find it. She says it's only scary when you go in expecting to find the worst. She always goes in with an open mind.
Her mind is fuller when she comes out. I can tell by the way her tail is raised and the look on her face. It usually tells me, "Now I know."
ABIGAIL ON BOUNDARIES
Abigail's place is simply Abigail's place. No one ever seems to contest that. Just fine with Abigail. I've tried doing that, and I either get myself upset because I can't stake out any boundaries or upset others because I'm violating theirs.
I asked Abigail how she pulled it off.
The bed. Okay, that's her example. You hunt around till you find a spot you are happy in, one that doesn't bother anyone and you drive mice in the ground at the four corners to stake your claim. Simple.
And it works. But she says you don't impale those mice till you are comfortable that the space can fit your needs and make you smile. You also check out to see if you’re on someone else's side. That important, jerk, don't you remember my lesson on others? Lie in someone else's space and bam, you’re on the floor. Remember what it was like when I challenged Suzy for the middle? Never knew you could hit the floor that fast.
I tested, everyone does, that with boundaries. But I found that if I honor other's boundaries, they tend to honor mine. Fact is, I get what I want, they get what they want. It works, we all sleep just fine and dandy.
Make yourself comfortable, make others comfortable, be comfortable all together.
Bed, Life, all the same.
ABIGAIL ON ATTENTION
Folks with a below par self image often think any attention is better than no attention. Not Abigail.
Quality of attention is critical. Same with the bigger two legged versions as well. Abigail also knows this is another of those sticky two-way streets.
Top of the line stuff that really sets you apart, not mixes you all up in lots of other stuff. Not the cute little, "Come here, I've got something for you" stuff, that's usually followed by one of those yucky flea pills that get dosed out twice a week. No sir, that ain't the world class praise Abigail's after. Not by a long shot.
Abigail usually has to set the stage for me by a lot of her weird screeches followed by a lot of leg rubbing. I now get the point and give her the rubs she just has to have at that split second. And I gladly give them, and give them good.
The reason that I give them good is that is what she wants, and that's what attention is all about.
You don't give attention just to make yourself feel good, you do it so others feel good. And if you're going to bother in the first place why not go whole hog, or mouse, as she prefers. Giving attention the right way means giving it the best you got, no half way crap here. People just know if you're not doing it right, and that hurts giver and givee together. Most folks don't prime the pump like Abigail, so here you gotta decide yourself when to give. And when you do, blow `em away.
ABIGAIL ON TRUST
It took a fair bit of time for Abigail to let me rub her stomach. Now, and, of course, only if she feels like it, she will kinda roll into a ball, roll this ball onto its back and then slowly explode and stretch, and there the old tan tummy is. I can rub it, knead it or just hold it. Ain't always been that way. She simply trusts me now.
Why I can do it, and again of course only if she wants it, is that she trusts I'm not going to do anything that will hurt or basically inconvenience her. And trust is very local and very specific. Only the naive give away blind trust. If my hand leaves her tum-tum and heads for the ears, that's another trust issue all together. I'm okay with her here too, but it's another trust zone completely with its own set of values. I can get a bit rougher there than I can with the soft underside.
Trust simply has its own boundary. It creates an area I can enter and she will feel safe even after I entered. Same with the two leg critters. We can't give out trust, and trust is something you give, and it is of less value than day old mouse if you keep it to yourself. Given it must be, but very carefully and with only you in mind. After all, trust is really an invitation to come inside you, and that's real special and real sacred. You don't let some yip yip poodle in there and you don't invite Genghis Khan's hoard. You pick and choose.
When Abigail invites me in, I take off my shoes and walk in softly. If I don't, she claws a little. Not to reject me, but to remind me of what she is giving me. These are invitations I respect, invitations that make me feel as good as she does.
ABIGAIL ON BREVITY
A monosyllable rumble in the throat is as simple as you can get. So I simply understand when Abigail purrs, exactly what's going on inside her. Didn't take a lecture and flip charts to know, but she expresses a whole dictionary in that sound.
Folks should be able to do it the same way. Peggy says I ramble and all she can do is tune me out. We both lose something with that.
Abigail says a feeling can be expressed in a sound, and if you have to use words, twenty five or less are more than enough. Feelings are simple, basic, no explanation needed. You really only gotta let someone know what feeling you are tapping into so that they can take it from there, because somewhere in them is the same feeling. To express a feeling of yours, just let the other know what it is and their Siamese feeling will do the rest.
Over twenty five words, and I'll guarantee your up in the old head zone and that can go on forever because the whole function of the mind is to rationalize and rationalize forever. Less than twenty five, you talk to, more and you are talking at. To is where it's at. Trust Abigail on this. Basically the K.I.S.S. philosophy.
What you really want to say is what you feel, thinking is for Math 301. Feelings don't come cheap, but they come simple. Lincoln and God knew that when they did their best works with very few words.
Abigail has to keep reminding me, but I too know it.
ABIGAIL ON PANIC
Panic, I've discovered, is self inflicted. No more, no less.
And why it is so very scary is that it doesn't allow you to feel any other feelings what-so-ever. Just the fear. Survival takes over. In my case, it's the old survival tactics of denial and blame. They didn't work then, and they don't work now.
When I feel I'm about to be abandoned, criticized, rejected or rated on a one to ten scale. I freak out. This is death. This isn't even annihilation. This is genocide of all mankind starting with yours truly. I don't hear or feel anything else and my trance sets in to save me.
Abigail says a chicken with its head off don't hear shit either. Listen up boy.
But when you realize you've felt this before. When you realize you're still alive and kicking, then you can calm down enough to hear the other voices that are yelling, "Slow down." "What's really going down?" "Let me get a new idea in there."
Until you listen up, nothing gets through. It's like the times Abigail used to know, just know, I was never gonna feed her again. Sheer panic. But I did. And she didn't.
Panic just covers up what your afraid of. Once you find out what you're afraid of, it's usually pretty easy to deal with.
Abigail says, "Light a candle you jerk!" It works.
ABIGAIL ON RESTING
If you do what's right, you don't have to spend all that time fixing back up what was wrong.
There's lots of time left to just rest and enjoy.
ABIGAIL ON HEIGHT
Abigail's always on top of something. She says it's not to be above anyone else or to look down on them. It's simply to lift yourself up so you can see over yourself.
When you rise up, you simply get yourself out of your own way. If you keep yourself down, you only see yourself because your lying on top of yourself and squashing all the stuff that only works when it gets up and gets out.
You don't have to be tall, you just gotta get up where you can see what's going on all around you. There's more to see than just yourself.
Same for me. Rise above whatever's holding me down and there is a much bigger world out there than I thought.
Stand up. Lighten up as well. See what's to be seen. Really see it.
Helps though, when you can perch up on top of the shelves.
ABIGAIL ON RETALIATION
Sounds good and aggressive, right. This is coming from the old leg nipper herself.
But, surprisingly she said something I didn't expect. Yeh, actually I did expect it. I expect a lot from her these days.
She says it just doesn't feel as good as it used to. You just don't go after another cat, because you just don't come back home in tact.
Someone said, "What diminishes one person, diminishes us all." Abigail is a bit more on the self concerned side. She feels to put someone else down would be to put herself down.
To Abigail, that's not what she's after. Nope not one single bit.
ABIGAIL ON TIME
Funny thing a bout time, it just always seems to be there. Usually in a fairly adequate supply. It won't, of course, always be that way. Sometimes things just happen. It eventually runs out for everyone.