Let’s Talk About My Abandonment Issues

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My cat is over fifteen years old. He’s a Siamese. I bought him on New Year’s Day, 2002. I went into a pet store for food, saw him wiggling about in his cubby space, and asked to pick him up.

It was love at first site. I came in looking for some Fancy Feats and left with a three month-old furry ball of unconditional love. This guy has seen me through some tough times. But he’s getting older. He’s still very active and has the appetite of a pro-football player, but he’s become increasingly needy. He meows more than ever now; long, sometimes drawn out mewls. A half of a can of cat food quiets him for a few hours, as does a quick round of scratches behind his ears. Then the yowling starts up again. Dr. Google says that there are numerous explanations for why my cat has become such a talker, but only one has me on the verge of tears.

moon

Moon has no fucks to give. Ever.

Illness. A trip to the vet this week will provide more information, and until then I will have to find ways to push the thought of losing my handsomest of handsome best friend out of my head. More than likely the doctor will tell me to stop spoiling him. When he rolls around at my feet I stop what I’m doing to rub his back. When he follows me up and down my hallway, stopping at his food bowl, I feed him. If he jumps on the bed and intentionally pulls every item off my night table, I get up and feed him. The little piggy must eat at least four 3oz cans of cat food a day. I know when it all started, too: after I bought him chicken treats from the pet store. In my rational mind I know he’s just spoiled, but go a few houses over and to the left and you’re knocking on the doorstep of panic. What if he’s sick? What if he dies? How will I cope? Despite being so familiar with death, the thought of losing this particular “person” in my life shreds my insides in a way  that has me worried what will happen to me when that day comes.

I lost my father, step-mother, and sister in the span of eighteen months. Boom.boom boom. One right after the other. Gone. Of the three I only grieved my father’s death. My step-mother ended up betraying me when she disinherited my sisters and I. My sister cut me off because of a legal battle that resulted from my father’s death.  My stepmother’s casket could be flung onto the street and t-boned by an eighteen-wheeler. I feel nothing for her. Only now – three years later – am I beginning to process that my sister is gone. Today I was at the gym listening to Pandora when a Le Freak by Chic started playing. My sister’s face popped into my head and I smiled. It took a long time before I could do that.

I have no illusions about death and its finality. I lost my mother when I was seven years old. Losing a parent at that young of an age sets a certain tone. Experiencing a loss that profound at such a fundamental point in your development alters how you experience the process of attachment. After I wrote this post on Friday I gave a lot of thought as to how and why I could be so casual about sex. The conclusion I drew took little analysis: I’m dead inside. (J/K!) More specifically, I see little value in forming connections with other people. I have become so self-reliant that I don’t feel compelled to lean on anybody. Whatever I need, I give myself.  And yet, at the same time, I ache for companionship.

This is the war that wages in my brain.

It scares me that I can be so detached about sex. I don’t blame that guy for freaking out. I know it’s not a healthy attribute and that it comes from a place of fear and loss. Ask me what scares me most and I will tell you it’s saying good-bye. As I explained in this post:

I don’t crush on men the way some people do. Crushing on a man is agony for me. It’s never as simple as “I like him.” I torture myself with negative thoughts.

He’s not attracted to you.

You’re just going to get hurt.

Oh my God, why are you setting yourself up like this?

I do this not to keep from getting to know a man, but to enable myself to take those tiny baby-steps required to make myself vulnerable. It’s a convoluted exercise, but it’s the only thing that works.

You’ve heard the term “unconscious coupling”? Well, for me the act of coupling is a very conscious one. I am aware and alert every step of the way, readying myself for any possible landmine. I was able to make it through the Michael situation with very little pain because I was preparing myself for it all along.

I haven’t done any of that with my cat. I have loved him from the moment I took him home. With all the other deaths in my life, I had the luxury of distance. My mother was sick for three years before she passed, making it a challenge to bond with her. I lived hundreds of miles away from my father for over twenty years before he passed. Same goes for my sister, who also threw me the cold shoulder in the year leading up to her death. I was used to being cut off from her.

There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought of Moon (my cat). He has literally been by my side continuously for over fifteen years. Even knowing that our relationship would not last a lifetime, my love for him was instantaneous. I know as sure as I’m writing this that the day he draws his last breath I will be in a pain so unimaginable that I double over at the thought of it. And still I forge a bond with him that grows deeper every day.

When we’re fighting, my sister likes to use my attachment to Moon against me. “All you have is that cat,” she spits. “You care more about that cat than you do your own family.”

She doesn’t understand that my closeness to Moon is borne from an inherent trust that he will not hurt me and wants nothing from me besides affection and love, which he returns in kind. As long as I do everything right, he’ll live as long as his little heart lasts and won’t leave me until he has to.  People don’t really work like that.

I don’t want to be like this for the rest of my life. I want to be as open and trusting of people as I am of Moon. There’s this anger that swirls around inside of me when I consider letting someone in. It’s like I’m preemptively mad at them for leaving or for being so weak that I have to look outside of myself for comfort.  Anger is my armor, but these steel plates are getting heavier every day. I suppose I can start slowly, shedding a piece at a time, until the suit is off.

I just wish I never had to wear the damn thing to begin with.

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6 comments

  1. I certainly hope for you and Moon that this is nothing more than a Siamese chatty period, and that you have him around for a good length of time still. It’s a shame that they aren’t around as long as we are, and that we have them for such a short period of time.

    It’s been a rough couple years for you, and you will lose that armour eventually, in your own time when you’re ready to do so. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Takes a lot of introspection, and you’re doing that, you’re on your way….

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    1. Needing comfort from outside yourself is NOT weak! It just means you are human. Anger is exhausting and wastes so much energy. Try to be as gentle and loving and patient with yourself, as you are with Moon. You deserve that just as much as he does.

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  2. I have had a few cats in my life and there were some I connected with and loved with all my heart and some that were just pets (albeit cute ones). I know what it’s like to feel that an animal really gets you and is the pet of your heart. I will say that in my experience cats will respond “in kind” to the level of chattiness from their owner. So if they make noise, meow, or play fight with feet and you “talk” to them, they’ll keep doing it, and might talk back 🙂
    I hope that Moon is around for many more years and gets to be a very old kitty!

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  3. I can completely relate…to your bond with Moon. Never thought I would feel that way, about the first Persian cat I adopted, at 4 months, and he lived to be 18 years old…and saying goodbye was heart wrenching for me….Yes, it’s a pet…but when you come home from your long day–and every day that pet greets you at the door, without failure….every day…that’s hard to not miss, and get over. I hope all is OK with Moon, and you get to enjoy making more memories. It’s a shame they do not live as long as we do. But such is life 😦 I lost mine to kidney failure….but know he lived a long and happy life, and actually taught me that I was capable of loving and caring for something other than myself. That has to mean something. Ridding yourself of your protective armor will take time, patience and perseverance. I operate the same way…I have become to self-reliant, that it seems I’m impervious to anyone…but I know I crave that companionship…it’s only human to do so.. But, when you have been on your own for so long, it’s not odd to wonder whether you can do that “coupling” thing anymore. I’m there too. But not to say, it has to be that way indefinitely.

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  4. I also have a 12 year old siamese who’s been the only constant in my life for these 12 years. She was going through the same talkative phase and it did turn out to be an infection, but treatable with a simple course of antibiotics (those blood test bills – different story, agrh). Best of luck to you and your kitty, i hope he doesn’t have anything – or at least anything serious. BTW, cats are supposed to eat 0.75-1oz per pound of weight per day (of wet food). My cat is 13lbs and yours as a male probably more – so you’re definitely not overfeeding him.

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  5. I am sorry to hear about your abandonment issues. Sadly, childhood traumas are much more common that we would acknowledge. I discovered that in my own life. Some bad experiences with abuse while growing up led me to be abusing in turn to my own siblings, and they have never forgiven me. Also, poor dating experiences early in my life set me down a poor path and it created habits that became so set that it is hard to change. At the same time, I have also met others who faced trauma in their own lives. One woman I dated had lost her mother to breast cancer when she was very young. She could never commit to relationships. She only lived in the moment because she felt life was so short. And she was also casual about sex and the many men she dated. That hurt me quite a bit when I found out and pieced together why she did what she did. I have also known many men and women who had partners or spouses cheat on them, and they never could get over their trust issues. There are so many such stories I have experienced. Early traumas in life can consume such a large part of one’s life in getting over them. For some, it will affect an entire lifetime. Just understanding this and acknowledging it is very meaningful. Coming to terms with it may be the goal in such a life that makes the journey worth while.

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