I am a sucker when it comes to love. Every single time, I fall hard. I suspect there is a camera lens, a little slapstick humor, maybe a laugh track.
Here go little pratfalls of love.
Once I feel the love, it never eases up. Little things like places, phrases, or topics, often plunge me into recollections of people that I loved and then left behind. Their memory whirls around in my head for minutes or hours, and often I bid those trains of thought farewell by saying a little prayer hoping they are doing well, that they are safe and happy. That prayer often works for me: it gives me a sort of temporary closure and it makes me feel in control and confidently altruistic. Other times I wonder whether nursing the joys of the past is courting some future black disaster. I have my reasons for stepping away from people I love. Most were careless with my heart, some had a twisted sense of balance (or none at all), and others needed me to be someone I wasn’t. It was better to vanish.
Why does love, for all its rainbows, unicorns, and fairies, have such a dark side? When hope finally bleeds out, the chilling result is months or years of lost time, going through the motions of life without really living? Couldn’t we just skip from love to love like stepping on stones in a creek?
Wait! No, we absolutely cannot. We make the problem bad enough when we recklessly try to fix one love by immersing ourselves in another. We’re avoiding the problems that we don’t know how to solve by taking refuge in new hope, without tying up the threads of the last one.
This weekend, some threads of my life got unexpectedly tied up.
On Saturday I got a Facebook friend request from my old polyamorous girlfriend Lia. We haven’t seen each other in nearly three years, haven’t messaged in more than two. I vanished from her life after a couple years of our being lovers, because she got a new lover and pursued him with an intensity that left no room in her schedule for me. I asked if she could manage to see me once a month, and we planned on it, but she wasn’t able even to keep the dates that we had made, so I told her I wished her well and I walked away. It wasn’t a balanced relationship anyway, though the sex was amazing and I think it shook my senses loose a little.
We soon chatted and I learned that she has gotten separated from her husband, dropped what ended up being a toxic relationship with the other guy, and picked up a new guy that reminds her of me.
She apologized for the way she treated me, said it wasn’t fair. Now after processing her life’s lessons, she regretted that ending and wanted to address it for both of us.
All this time I have been confident that I was completely healed without her assistance. But instead my reaction to her apology was a great, world-emptying sigh of relief. I’m thankful for that.
My heart has been frozen for a long time I think. Can I let myself thaw?
Happy Groundhog Day!
Today I’ve been sorta quiet and reflective. Father’s Day is a weird sort of day for me.
For most of my life, Father’s Day has been solely about my Dad. I always called him “Father” because to use the more affectionate word, Dad, would be dishonest of me. I didn’t have much affection for him. Every single day he made sure I finished my responsibilities before I could have time for fun or play. He punished me for having a smart mouth and frequently, for generally being an impulsive, over-curious pain in the ass. He was loath to praise me lest my head grow big with ego. He never missed an opportunity to show his power over me by saying no when I asked to go and do something fun. He never gave reasons, just a firm “no.” He made rules that were to be obeyed and never questioned. He yelled at me for questioning the rules, when I was actually looking for some sort of wisdom or story that might explain why, for example, we were not allowed to hold the refrigerator open for more than five seconds. That is maybe a bad example, I sort of know that the rule was made for me because when I was hungry I would usually throw the refrigerator door open and gaze longingly at all the wonders inside, daydreaming about goodness knows what while minutes and possibly hours went by and he would turn a corner and find me just staring into the space within, and he would yell. I would try to recover with some smart-sounding question like, “how does the refrigerator light know to turn on whenever the door opens?” But father was now angry; and in such a state he was even less willing to share his encyclopedic knowledge of the miracles of normally closed contact microswitches. He just wanted to yell and lash out with violence. But why? I would never know. I would only know the pain in my backside when I persisted in a behavior I had been previously warned not to engage in.
When I grew into adulthood, I flushed all those stinky rules from the crapper of my mind the moment I walked out the front door. And lo, for some reason my milk always went sour too quickly, and my refrigerator light burnt out every few days. I could seriously talk for three hours about all my refrigerator woes and lessons learned in the hardest of hard ways (seriously, I could…), but the point I am trying to make is that I had to enter a whole unnecessary phase of figuring out why everything was going wrong… that to be honest, I still haven’t completely emerged from.
One day my lovely daughter was born, and my whole outlook on fatherhood changed in the course of several days when I realized I would do anything, give anything, endure anything, or face any fear just to know that my little girl would be okay. And it was only a tiny hop-step from that feeling, to the realization that my dad would, and did, the same for me.
And my opinion of my dad began to soften. And realizations began to trickle down, like the realization that nearly every day he would review my tests and homework papers, and his perfectionist comments that school was not hard, that there was really no excuse for a smart kid to ever get a question wrong… these were all his way of increasing the likelihood that his child would be successful. The stupid rules about refrigerators were his special way of preventing me from dying of food poisoning one day, or — maybe just suffering financial ruin from the electricity bills that were $0.20 higher than they really needed to be.
I’m not as sure about the spankings or violence, but… whatever.
Anyway, so now Father’s Day is also about me and the kind of parent I am. And sometimes I have a glimmer of admiration for my dad — if not for his methods, than for his intent — and I hope that I can be as firm as I need to be, as warm as I want to be, as kind and supportive and loving as I want everyone to be. I hope that I can learn to set aside my worries and be fully present when I am needed. And I hope that I will be addressed as dad instead of father.
I am cold against your skin
You are perfectly reflected
I am lost inside your pocket
I am lost against your fingers
I am falling down the stairs
I am skipping on the sidewalk
I am thrown against the sky
I am raining down in pieces
I am scattering like light
-from Suzanne Vega’s “Small Blue Thing“
At the moment I want to shut down and become immovable. I want to resist by becoming inert. I want to become small and hard and perfectly round so that everything flows past me and over me.
And when they’ve given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it’s not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger’s wall.
– Pink Floyd, “Outside the Wall”
It’s been a year now since I last saw my girlfriend, Lia. I guess that’s probably why she has been in my thoughts a lot lately. I get really irritated by those thoughts because they are not welcome in here anymore. Her memory has become a persistent cat that keeps walking on the book I am trying desperately to read; and until now I’ve always just picked it up and put it outside my room and closed the door so it can’t get in again. But lately I realize the mere presence of the cat means that I don’t have as much closure as I need, and my mind is still trying to unravel the threads of a relationship that has badly frayed.
I know now that I am never going to get any closure about it. It doesn’t really make sense to me because her words and her actions never pointed to the same thing. So I can only presume she was lying about wanting to remain friends. Her actions were pretty simple to read: she found a new partner and poured her attention into that relationship and suddenly there was no time to respond to my emails or messages, or to remember dates she had made with me. She just vanished from my life, after two years of being together.
So I sent her a kindly email telling her I couldn’t handle it anymore and didn’t want to be in a sexual relationship any longer. She said, “I hope we can find a way to still invest in one another as friends.” Then we had lunch together, one year ago. And after that she stopped responding. So I stopped contacting her. It was a bit of an experiment on my part: I wondered how much time would go by if I never initiated. Because it seemed like I was always the one doing the contacting.
Five months went by. Then she texted me these lines (among others):
My time with you was amazing. I miss you. I don’t want to hurt you. It’s hard to know how to engage.
I told her not engaging was the best way to hurt me. And after an open-ended sort of goodbye like, “see you later,” that was the last we ever said to each other. That was seven months ago. Now I don’t even remember her face. I have no pictures of her.
A year later, I am forcing the book closed in my mind. I know at this point all I will ever know. I know the relationship was actually a toxic one, I just wasn’t seeing the red flags at the time. I know I wouldn’t respond now if she contacted me again.
I have so many other engaging and wonderful relationships in my life. So much else to be grateful for.
It’s just the not knowing that still gets me.
My friend Silver once slayed me with this wonderful quotation:
“When I get semen, I like to get it from a man that looks like *THAT*.”
“I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” -Rita Rudner
I haven’t had a playdate with a female friend since December of last year. Shortly before that, I broke up with Lia because she made me unhappy. Staying connected to her was an exhausting investment of my time and energy, with very little payoff. She just wasn’t worth the effort.
I think sometimes I catch myself trying too hard, working too much, to make something work that really isn’t even necessary to have in my life.
At some point (well after it happened), I realized I needed a friend more than I needed a lover. And from that moment, a lot has changed in my everyday life.
I read an interesting book last year that encouraged the reader to fall in love 20 or 30 times each day. It is surprisingly easy to accomplish: holding doors open for people, listening to a stranger’s complaints, helping people find their way around town, engaging strangers and cashiers and waiters in conversation. It is surprising how connected and invigorated it makes me feel to be part of a community and know a little bit more about all the people in it.
It reminds me a little of the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray’s character falls in love with an entire town by becoming curious about every single person who lived there, and it changed his life.
Now I have a small handful of friends who I love dearly and I want to talk to them every day or at least a couple times a week. They inspire me, they listen to me, they share with me, and together we try to cope with the events of our lives. It’s fun.
Maybe not as instantly gratifying as orgasms are, but certainly more worthwhile, certainly more lasting.
The monogamy isn’t going to last forever though. I know myself too well. And though our intercourse is great, Katie only grows more and more habitually plain vanilla for my tastes. She’s the best person I’ve ever known at giving oral sex, but she only does it long enough to get me hard when she’s forgotten about that thing called foreplay, and she only does it for a minute or less, never to completion except about once a year. I’m not going to be able to hold out much longer.
I know one day I’ll have a lover again, but now I also know that my next lover is going to be, most importantly, my best friend. Someone who knows me and understands me.