Unlocking Unrequited Love

So now what?

I didn’t realize how often I thought of him at night, until it became too scalding, too final, too over, and in his absence, there was only black space. 

Instinctively, I searched for another face, one I had summoned at times in the void, in the weeks and months when he had drifted back into the mists. I tried to recall a phantom from the past, all of them phantoms I see now, soldiers in the unrequited army, but no one came.

key-lock

It is like a blanket I wrap around myself, this desire, this moment of possibility. It is not the fantasy of fruition, it is more the texture of ache, of the “please, God, yes, finally” submission. I have trained myself in this, not even knowing that I was tapping into this place of ache and desire and possibility, because, perhaps, I never imagined I could have more, or that more never felt like enough–not this exquisite and piercing, in the anticipation, in the profound intensity of it.

I can trace it back to the 7th grade, when Jacob Wallace left me quivering and flushed between the temporary buildings of  my middle school, not knowing what to say, or how to say it. He was gorgeous, with thick soft brown hair parted in the middle, the flowing feathers of the 70s. I can see him in slo-mo in my mind’s eye, shaking his head, hair falling just into place above those eyes, slanted above high cheekbones, a crooked smile, tall and thin.

He asked me “to go” in that barren courtyard–I can still see the scrawny shrubs and dirty blacktop–and I was so surprised, wanted it so badly, could not believe it was real, didn’t know what it was, that I thought he was making fun of me, and that his friends would leap out from the bushes and laugh at me if I said yes…all I could stammer was, “you’re kidding, right?” He stood his ground, which I now realize had to be awkward and confusing, since he must have known I liked him by the way I gathered superhuman strength in his presence, cheeks flushed and energy shooting out of my childish frame. “I’m not kidding.” “You’re kidding.” “I’m not.”

I don’t remember how it ended. My memory cuts from the blaring in my head, the hot flush over my body, the powerful handprints of shame on my cheeks, to the waiting.

The next day a boy I don’t remember approached me, “If Jacob asked you to go again, would you say yes?” “Yes,” I said, my voice a blur, a regret I did not know how to unwind from, a mistake I could still not fathom. 

I spent the rest of 7th grade tracking his movements, learning his classes, strategically positioning myself so that we might casually pass during the day, allowing him to ask me again. Every morning, I worked at my hair, cut in the Farrah Fawcett style of the time, but looking more like the mom in Modern Family, rolled sausages along the side of my face. I brushed my braces. I was a late bloomer, still looked like a little girl, maybe that was part of my own disbelief. I was not prepared for this part. But bodies, oh, our bodies, they betray us! 

And so it began. Every night, alone in my bed, staring out at the streetlight, I would imagine the ways it might happen. That moment when he would come up to me, and say the words, and this time I would say yes. I remember only getting up to that moment, that feeling of surrender, but I do not remember thinking about what it would feel like after, the walk hand in hand, the meeting in between classes, making out outside of woodshop. It was the moment leading up to it that I was practicing. 

It lasted a long time. I can’t even tell you how long. Forever. Years. Thousands of nights. And after him, there was another, and another, none perhaps so intense and so palpable, but always someone to rehearse that moment with. Even when I was “happy” in a relationship, even when I was married, there was always someone.

It might be about my relationship with relationship, and who I get tangled with. I have felt passion and connection, but I have also felt lonely and misunderstood when I’ve been in love. Or smothered, unmatched, unseen. I understand immersion, and disconnection, and not a lot in between. So that leaves room. There is that piece.

It might be about feeling matched erotically. My ex-husband–he was 13 years older–knew what he liked, and I tried my best to follow along. It was a wild world of blues and debaucherie and altered states–and in the silence between submission, surrender, and shame, I found myself thinking about younger, healthier, vibrant, communicative men. Men I thought I couldn’t have. Men that perhaps were a healthier version of me, if I were not chugging tequila and snorting meth and hiding my talent behind my husband and in my darkest fears. A different version repeated in the relationships that followed.

So there is that piece. Definitely that piece, a longing for a connection that seems natural, returned, effervescent, even, if only I had the courage to step into it.

And it could be a cliche, always falling for, fantasizing, about the impossible man. My fantasy man is hot, maybe even ridiculously hot, but with a great smile, and humility, either doesn’t know he’s hot, or reaches deeper. Very likely he has a girlfriend, and if he does, she is amazing, someone you’d want to be, or be friends with, and, if not, his lover might be the sea. So he is unavailable in an almost mythic way. Usually there is at least the promise of attraction. He knows who I am…if things were different…If we were single…or less honorable…but the feeling is always that it would just be for the moment, and never more.

The unrequited obsession.

I could it make it all about this obsession, this peculiar relationship, this man, or that one and I like to do that. But it came to me yesterday in a Moses moment:  that the man is not really the point. That this is a key to a lock that I could not see until now.

When I started writing this, I was exploring that empty space. Now that “The One I Have Been Wanting” has lost his power (it’s not an act of will, they have a life of their own), what do I put in its void? It had been long, this one, and palpable, and sometimes even real, via text, via pictures, dear God in body and soul once or twice, so the void was vacuous. I have been digging at the emptiness trying to see the full picture. What IS it?

I was in a place I never am. Alone, by a pool, no children, none of the twenty million Angelinos nearby, a waterfall trickling beside me. My back was sore, unusual for me, and I thought the sun on my skin would help it. I felt the warmth on my back, seeping into the skin.  And it was suddenly…just…quiet.

I do understand quiet, and I cultivate moments of quiet. I walk in nature. I meditate. But it is never really silent. Even when I am trying not to, I know I am listening for something: clarity, luminosity, guidance.

This was different. It was like a long pause. It gave me almost a start. I don’t know if I felt like a child or the eyes of God, but I can’t remember a time where I had no thought at all. No reaction to sound or smell or vision. I don’t know how long it lasted…it might have only been a few seconds, but when it was over, I heard this clear question, a loud voice, “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT?”

I almost looked around. “Uh…right this minute?” 

And I knew the answer was, “Always.” 

In that same state I saw the minds of millions, their faces, eyes, turned toward the highway, toward their children, their beloveds, their computers, their bank balances. I saw the worry, the pinched faces, traffic faces, knitted brows, scattered, searching, unfocused stream of thoughts, a mask of every human emotion.

And the real question was, I realized, what are WE thinking about, the great We, the One we are all with each other?

I know there is nothing original about refocusing thought. Mae West said it, L Ron Hubbard, The Secret, I understand that. I can’t explain it, I just GOT it in a way I never did before. I have practiced “thinking a better thought,” and “telling a better story.” As I have focused on a larger vision, I think a lot about that vision and can truly embody the feeling of its presence. I know how to raise my vibration. I think about those things, but those are the conscious thoughts, the thoughts I summon. The thoughts I try to “correct to” when the other stuff is running. The other stuff that runs…that’s another story.

Many years ago I worked for a highly successful writer. He had been successful in almost every way a writer could be successful–journalism, TV, film. He was the first person I had ever known who was successful at something I would aspire to. I had known businessmen and lawyers and even actors and agents and producers, but I never had any interest, so didn’t study their habits or their thoughts. He was different. The thing I noticed first, (and immediately resented), was his incredible discipline. At one point, with a newborn son, an ailing father, three other kids, wife, an ex-wife, a deadline on a huge project on which his reputation depended, he got up every day at 5AM and worked on his novel, for which he was not even getting paid.

He was a former Marine, a Marshall Scholar, someone who seemed utterly out of my league, and yet, and yet…being near him ignited a hunger in me to be so much more. 

In a way, those six years are a microcosm of my life, any life.

The thing he tried to teach me, overtly and inadvertently, was focus. But, I argued to myself, my work with him was often mired in details, tossing between the creative and the mundane. His creative, my mundane. I would want to go on and on about the futility of health insurance forms, or the recent injustice at Staples, and he would look at me with those laser focused blue eyes and say, “think about your novel.” Uggghhh!

Right, I was writing a novel. 

Just after my 30th birthday, I spent the night alone in the ER. I had driven myself there when the pain in my chest after a yoga class had stopped my breath, then was wheeled at top speed through the hospital with cathodes on my naked body and doctors rushing all around me. I had just moved to Austin, my then husband was in another state, my new boss as well, and I knew no one. I truly didn’t know if I was going to die. As I lay there, I did not have the urge to call anyone, not even my mom. I had this sudden realization that we are born alone, and die alone. And I had this powerful impulse that I didn’t know if I could ever live the life I really wanted, but I had never even tried. I had kept myself distracted with relationships, drugs, alcohol, failure. I was an anomaly, because, dressed up, I looked so normal, so bright, had so much to offer, but inside…Dagobah.

So lying in the bright light, the beeping of machines all around me, I wondered what my life could look like? And the answer was: be a writer, of course. Not a huge secret. I had studied writing. I had always “tried” to write. I just didn’t write. 

They never figured out what happened to me, but it didn’t happen again. And through the long winter–my new husband, a musician, was away for four months on the road–I had time to write.

But what to write? I had tried short fiction, poems. None of them ever did what I wanted them to. I wrote a children’s book about an ostrich who wanted to fly. It wasn’t bad.

Then I decided, honestly, the only life I knew anything about, was mine. So I would try that.

So I began the novel whose toil would last seven years, was finished, but failed, led to everything I am as a writer now, my love of surfing, my daughter, and so much that is good in my life, and yet…and yet…it was so hard for me to “think about my novel.” 

I know I can pin it on ego. The gap between where I was and where I wanted to be was so enormous, I was consumed by envy. One day I would be on a call with Tom Hanks or director Robert Zemeckis, or in a room with Sean Connery as we broke down and brainstormed the essence of story, and the next on the phone battling an insurance company on the family’s behalf. I suffered at my lowly plight. In those creative sessions, I was not the most important person in the room. I was not a player. I burned with the desire to already be that person. 

Outside of the creative sessions, I not only occupied my mind with the small tasks at hand, I obsessed on them, even hid behind them. Instead of soaking in the glory of the masters around me, allowing it to all percolate, letting myself surrender as apprentice, even servant, I missed moments by being consumed with jealousy, with the feeling that I would never be this much, never be enough.

Looking back now, I realize there were two major problems. The first, I never got to the heart of what I wanted. The second, I didn’t have a clue how to get from here to there. Where was the guidebook? I suffered from the injustice of the universe, cursed with insufficient talent, insufficient clarity. And my real burning desire was not that of truth or expression, but of the need to be accepted and celebrated. 

Without real clarity, I articulated between frustration and jealousy, tremendous desire, and grandiose visions. One minute I was slogging insurance forms, the next I was accepting an Academy award. Just like with the man, I would bring myself to the precipice of surrender, of passion…then skip to the award, but never work the process.

So what does this all have to do with spending my nights in a fantasy of the edge of surrender? 

I realize I do it in everything in my life. I bring myself to the precipice of the love, of the surrender, of the passion, of the career. Then, in my mind, I skip to the end, like Cinderella and the happy ending. And it sounds cliche, but the ending is just the beginning. The real stuff of dreams is the sticky gooey part in between. It involves interaction with another, a dream, a work of art, yourself, the world. 

And, now that we are in Epiphany Central, I am putting it all together. 

This act of fantasy keeps us in a perpetual state of rehearsal. It is not the same as vision. It is not the same as clarity. My Oscar win, my day with Oprah (okay, that is NOT fantasy, that is going to HAPPEN) is rehearsal for another type of unrequited love. Even though it is a powerful symbol of what I might want…the glamour, the recognition, the acceptance…it has nothing to do with the feeling of doing my work in the world. Just like that moment where the man wants me, pursues me, invites me, needs me, has nothing to do with what we could create together. 

I realized I don’t allow myself to have what I really want, even in fantasy. More importantly, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I REALLY WANT.  I am afraid to even admit that I want what I want long enough to see it.

I remember Cheryl Sandberg talking about this in a different way, talking about Leaning In. She talks about how we start lying to ourselves, and then we lie to everyone else, and we forget about what we are lying about.

I know many of us feel this restlessness, like we want something we either can’t quite put our finger on, have given up on, or are embarrassed to even want. Maybe it is an every day feeling, to have a partner who is our best friend that we can’t keep our hands off, or a moment, to win the Nobel Prize for Peace, to sing with Adam Levine. Maybe it is everything. 

I have spent the last two years drilling into this–call it purpose, your dream, your heart’s desire– through coaching and programs. One of the most telling processes I’ve heard is one Derek Rydall uses, which is to ask someone, “If you could truly live the life of your dreams, if you knew you would succeed, what would that look like?” Almost no one can answer. They are too afraid to even GO there. A lot of times, when they start talking, they want to lie on a beach somewhere. So Derek might say, you’re tired, that’s a fantasy, lie on that beach for a month. You’re rested. You’re full of life. Now what? Then a slow, shy, agonizing revelation begins.

It touches people at every level of success. The other day I was listening in on another coaching call, and a magnificent, beautiful, brilliant woman whom I have met, revealed that even she was terrified to get to the bottom of what she really wanted. Here she was embodying so much success, so much courage. Anyone watching her, knowing her, would know she could do whatever she wanted. But she was afraid to want it.

So I go back to the man, and to the unrequited, and to the surrender. And, of course, for me, it comes back to rejection. A deep, universal type of rejection. “You don’t get to have what you really want.” “Only the chosen get to have what they really want.” “You are not the chosen.” Which boils down to, “You are nothing. You are not important. Not as important as that one over there.”

But I am. I know I am, because I can see that every other person on the planet is. I can see it, I can feel it, I can see their light, their brilliance, their gorgeousness. Your gorgeousness. It is blinding!

Recently, a high school student did a short film project where she recorded people as she told them “I am doing a project on beauty, and filming things I think are beautiful.” The camera captures the moment when they take that in, if they can, and they ARE beautiful. We are all so beautiful. As Rumi says, “If only you could see your face through my eyes, you would realize how beautiful you are.”

So I am making this commitment to myself. To do whatever it takes to open my heart and soul to what I really want. Even, especially, if it is embarrassing or impossible. With men. With work. With life. I want a man who will make me tremble and want that surrender. I want a man who will meet me, take me, to places I cannot imagine. I want a life where I create, and am of service, and am steeped in the blue Hawaiian waters every day. I want to sit with Oprah. I want to play her my hit song.

And I am making the commitment to fail. It turns out the guidebook I was looking for does exist. Its chapters include unflinching honesty,  commitment, practice, completion. Like finishing this article, which I began months ago, and has tortured me, and taken me to all kinds of places I did not expect, and could not reign in, but I so get it now!

I will keep unpeeling what I want. Practicing, focusing, working, walking towards it. And loving it, when I can, the gooey, sticky in-between of it all.

As my 7th grade self would say now, if she could, “God, yes. Absolutely! Let’s go.”

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Sexting, Selfies and Salvation

Guitar

This was my masterpiece, the last one I sent him, a few weeks ago, as we struggled to find the silent ground between X and PG-13, which was a prelude to goodbye, which started last weekend, and ended yesterday, with a song.

“Sexting,” a word I never thought I’d use, a practice I was sure I’d never do. Absolutely not. He asked me once, during the last secret, sporadic, faraway year, and I said, “No. Only word pictures.” “Even better,” he said. And they were.

Then he asked again this summer, when I would soon be near him–not specifically to see him, as that was never a part of it–but back to my island home, just across a channel, and I told him, “you will have to come see for yourself.” And he did.

After that, well, after that…

It wasn’t easy. These people that invented sexting, young and perfect, so much more perfect than they know, do not have to worry about lighting. Do not have to worry about angles. Shadows. Folds of skin. Do not try to shoot a steaming shower shot only to discover that the neck is collapsing on itself, that the lines over the lips are defined by sweat, that things shift and swing in certain positions. You have to be a gymnast, a scientist, an artist. It was better once I discovered the timer. But still there is lighting, the twisting, the squeezing, the study of gravity.

It was all a rush but also there was a layer I did not expect. I didn’t just look at his pictures. I could not stop looking at mine. Sometimes I looked at mine longer. In the creation of them, there was the thrill of him, of connecting with him, but there was also the thrill of connecting with me, honestly, with Who Had Made me. With Who Had Made Us. It was not porn, it was something else, sacred sexuality, maybe art, maybe love. Afterwards, I was elated and exhausted. I kept looking at my pictures, part appalled, part adoring.

Like any creation, once it it was unleashed, there was the fear it would be rejected. That I would not see the GOOD GOD or the HOLY GOD, BABY that made me audibly inhale. There was that moment when I hit “send,” not knowing what would happen, where my mouth was dry, and I was irritable and distracted until I saw that tiny “1” next to the message icon (I had the notifications turned off because, well, because) or “2”…or rarely “3,” which meant it was really good…

When it was received, absorbed, when it had succeeded in intoxicating, and we were bound together in that moment, I would look again at the photo, this thing I had never seen in myself, and the whole experience would replay. It was not like sex with myself. It was not like fantasy. It was intimate, like tumbling into a moment, the one where I might blurt out, “I love you,” even if I knew it was only for right then, or, please God, another time soon.

We could not keep it up, though, holy God, it was exhausting. The planning, the positions, the consuming quest for opportunity, on my daily hike, behind the oak tree, checking for coyotes and curious hikers amidst the mighty oaks. On a drive to the beach. A stolen moment when the light was good getting ready for work, getting carried away. Then he would send requests, directions, my heart racing as the shots failed, then finally came alive.

The fucking song he sent–drums that chisel out bone, sweat and tears trampling wilted roses on a sold out stage–a blessing, final curtain, an incantation through that moist and salty wasteland, “At least we stole the show…” And we did.

I will keep the pictures, but where to keep them? For now, they are stored with him, in his messages, next to his name, which still makes me shudder. I don’t know if he will keep mine.

I will feel this for awhile. Maybe longer. The ache of electricity where it once flowed, the sudden cessation, like a phantom limb, the scorched flesh, and spirit.

This might be for the young, after all.

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Tinder at 50?

So I went on Tinder the other night, mostly to distract myself from a situation I am in that is a little complicated. I have gone on it before, for five minutes, or ten.

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Tinder is like looking a deck of cards in a magician’s hand. You see one picture, only one, its image hiding all possibilities behind it. Shallow. Pure. You look at the man, feel him, and cannot move on until you make a decision: swipe yes, or swipe no. If neither of you swipe, you never hear from him. No thoughtful emails you think you should respond to because he was so nice to write such a long missive. No second guessing. And if you both swiped yes, you get the rush, “its a match!” A flash of connection, attraction, possibility. The world unfolds.

So I went on, and I wrote just a tiny bit in my profile. I started to write that I was looking for a man to walk a spiritual path with, then deleted it. Too serious. Too much. I wrote something less specific, less conscious, it doesn’t matter, because it’s Tinder. Tinder gives you 500 hundred words to write your profile. Most people use much less, if anything. I find myself looking more for warning signs in those words than resonance. If they want a hookup, or marriage (for now), or, and this is shallow, they are willing to mention they are short, they are not for me. “Simple, easy-going guy,” not for me. “Looking for woman who wants to travel,” unless he wants to take my 10-year-old, no.

Anyway, I saw a picture that gave me a little shudder. My type. Tall, dark, angular. In this case, scruffy. Ripping it on a wave.Then you can click on more pictures. Is that…? No… Could it be? Older, but…I think so…

I met him surfing in Topanga 12 years ago. Or, actually, I met him and his friend standing at the top of the stairs checking the surf in Topanga. I was late-30s, but looked younger. Ripped. In a bikini top and low riding khakis. I had the time then to surf and do yoga and walk for hours. Recently divorced. Devastated. Brave.

It was a brief conversation, then I put on my wetsuit and paddled out.

It was crowded, and the waves were good. I was newish to surfing, about 300 days in, but driven. Inventing myself. Saving myself. I wanted a wave, and I had a strategy of waiting halfway down the line, where sometimes, a surfer who caught the wave early would catch a rail or blow his turn and fall. If that happened, I was in prime position to drop in and ride it the rest of the way.

The problem is, I was also in prime position, if someone should be shredding a shortboard, crank the turn too hard, and shoot his board over the top of the wave, to catch the tip of it directly in my throat. Which happened then, and blood starting oozing from the wound.

Scars…

The guy who hit me didn’t really want to miss the next set, so his friend paddled in with me. He got something to stop the bleeding. We went across the street and ate fish tacos. He was warm, with rich chocolate eyes, and an intense presence. He focused on me completely. As we were talking, he took my shoes off, unwrapped my feet, and massaged them. We talked for hours, the sun went down, the restaurant closed. Then we walked out by my truck. He asked me what I wanted to do? What did I want to do? Jesus. I pushed him up against the side of my truck and kissed him hard and deep.

I guess it should have been a sign that we couldn’t go to his house…I didn’t really hear that. All I could hear was the blood pumping in my veins, or maybe it was the surf across the street, then the truck door was opening, and we were tumbling inside, and finding just enough room in the passenger seat to do everything we both wanted or could in that position, and there was an explosion of connection in a way I am certain I had never experienced.The windows were steamed opaque. Everything was soaked. Us, the car, saturated. Breathless. We drew back and looked at each other, shock, delight, surprise.

I walked back with him across the highway so he could give me his card. I gave him mine. We both looked at each other’s last names and said them out loud, and laughed.

On the drive home–it was farther for me–he called me to say he was getting into a bath. We relived the experience a little more deeply. It was ridiculously, unfathomably, unconscionably good. It was completely sober.

The whole time we had been talking in the restaurant, I had been weighing him, pros and cons. He seemed into me, and I had never encountered someone who seemed into me then just disappeared, so I wasn’t thinking about that. I was assessing whether I was into him. The jaw…square…too square? Lanky, too lanky? I like the way he talked, his intensity. Smart. Spiritual. He was a plumber, self-employed, a man who fixes things. I liked that. Literary? Maybe not. He surfed. Very well. He was a dad, which didn’t mean anything to me at the time as I was a long way off (I thought) from that experience. He talked deeply of emotions, metaphors. Warm, so warm. Yes, maybe.

I had never dated. I had always just been in a community of people, in college, in a hippie commune, in a blues bar, and spent time with someone, like a night, and fallen in love, and moved in together, even gotten married. It had all just happened, for better or worse, without a lot of angst, without any distance. So I just assumed, after that night, that we would fall in love, and that was that.

Then he didn’t call. A day passed, another, and I figured maybe he lost my number. I finally called him, and felt the chilly wind. I was genuinely confused. I know now that I hadn’t been listening, with his hands on my feet and his eyes on my heart. I didn’t hear the part about that he couldn’t go home…because…someone might have been there? Or might come there later? I didn’t hear any of what he said, rather cryptically, about relationship, did I believe you could be in relationship and still have a lot of space, or that it was about giving our love away, or whatever else he said. And I didn’t quite hear what he said in that phone conversation, but I said, hey, you want to get together? And he said, yeah, we can do that…some time.

Some time? Did this happen to him often? Transcendent truck sex?

But so it went. Days passed, or longer, I don’t remember. Then one day he called, and maybe we surfed, or maybe we just found a hiding place on the beach and found each other, or maybe that was at his house in the afternoon, or mine, where I could watch the ripples in his lean torso shift and flex while he stretched my arms above me with his long arms. And on and off and on, for quite awhile. Because it is really hard to say no to that when it happens, whether or not one should.

There was always SO. MUCH. CONNECTION. So, much, presence. Much later, after I was with my daughter’s father, (whom I met through–I’ll call him Michael–who had slept with–I’ll call her Gia–as well, who my now-ex said was the one Michael was really into, which was true or not true, I’ll never know) my now-ex asked Gia, what is it about Michael? Because he could feel that although I said I didn’t want to be with him, which was true, because I didn’t want to play with a disappearing man any longer, I still felt a jolt when I saw him, or he called, or a Jeep drove by that looked like his. He asked Gia, and Gia told him that he is just incredibly present when he’s with you. Which is true. He is also put together just right. And knows what to with a woman’s body. And he is beautiful to watch. And slow and deliberate and fast and intense at just the right times. And he looks into your eyes, and you look into his, and you see God.

So I learned something really interesting about sex the other day. It made such an impact that I stopped cold in the kitchen and my jaw hung slack, truly, like an overblown acting moment. I have been listening to a lot of Abraham, which is Law of Attraction stuff, which is really Law of Alignment stuff. It can sound pretty wonky and I can’t explain it like they do, but I can tell you that when I feel aligned, I feel whole. I feel happy, easy, excited, loved. I feel alignment in nature, sliding down a perfect wave or with the wind in my hair on the back of a horse, on a bike, in the back of a truck. When I write. Sometimes, when I am really present, I feel it even in traffic. I know it when I feel it. It feels like me, and more.

They said that sex is alignment.

I have long known about myself that with sex I want to see the white-hot face of God, and I have seen it. I have felt it kick into a craving, like an addiction, and wondered what that was about. As we learn more about addiction we know that addiction is about trying to fill that sense of isolation, that people use drugs and sex and shopping and food to feel that incredibly good feeling. That we crave dopamine and serotonin and oxytocin and all those chemicals our own bodies know how to release to feel good, but it feels like more to me. Anyway, I was listening to Abraham talk about sexuality, because I have been blessed to find these connections but I certainly have not always had access to them, and have to deal with the long lapses of absence, even in good relationships, which can feel like loss.

And they went on to say more, which I interpreted this way. That when we are the object of someone’s unbridled focus, of their desire and passion and connection to their own source, we feel wholly connected and surrendered and aligned with our own source. And nothing is more fun than doing this with someone else, and the shared wonder in each others’ eyes, like you have discovered the BEST toy in the sandbox and have gotten to share it together.

And then, because of the mysteries that make all of life Life, this cannot be sustained. Call it the Fall from the Garden, the Fall from Grace, but we become separate, some would say under the illusion of our separateness. Whatever. It feels separate. Because each of us has our own other missions, to express and be individuals and not just be joined as co-creators in every facet, so we shift our focus away from that person, and they shift their focus away from us.

Some do it subtly; some do it drastically. It feels like rejection, heartbreak, and, if you have just gotten to share THE BEST TOY EVER and giggled and wondered about it together, and that other person does NOT want to come back to the sandbox right away, or at least the next day, or the day after that, it just doesn’t make any fucking sense.

Except that there is no way of knowing whether that person likes the feeling as much as you do, or finds it doing something or someone else, or is afraid of it.

In my case, I wanted more. A lot more. And I spent a lot of time being angry and confused and full of craziness because of it. Sometimes he wanted more; sometimes he didn’t. It was always that good. It was always amazing. Sometimes he said he would meet me, and not show up. Some excuse. Just a bailout, a last minute lie, but it was usually at the surf, so I would surf anyway, not a total loss, and this is how I let myself keep playing.

There were strange adventures. One time he took me to this photo shoot. He chose me because, he said, I was in such good shape, and this friend with the yoga magazine would appreciate me as a model. It turned out the “friend” was an ex, who did not appreciate me. I still have the issue of the magazine, with the pretty picture. And she let me keep the bathing suit from the shoot as well. Which looked good on me. She pulled him away and locked him in conversation for most of the photo shoot, which he engaged in, and must have needed, and it was awkward, but practice.

Another time we met to surf, then scratched our way out into a cave just out of sight of PCH. After, he said he wanted to see a friend, bought a bouquet of flowers, and took me to visit a man who had just had serious dental surgery. The man was 40ish, and had made a lot of money as a developer. He had just built a magnificent home in the Malibu hills, with a panoramic view. He was super high on vicodin and percocet but was really happy to see Michael. We sat for hours talking about life. The friend asked, at one point, what I was focusing on in my life. I said something about learning to feel comfortable in my own skin, which was a lie, because right then I really just wanted to crawl into Michael’s. Later, Michael slipped away to play the drums upstairs, and would not let me listen, so I came back and sat next to his high, funny friend, who could only talk about how Michael was so warm, and he was, except when he wasn’t.

Some time before, Michael and I had played music together. He is the only one I ever played music with. He played the drums and I played guitar and sang a song I had written, not entirely about him, but not entirely NOT about him, either. I did not really know how to play with other people, but he had no judgment, and it was fun, and he liked my voice, and the song, and he had some idea that if this man heard me play and sing he would fall in love with me. I didn’t quite understand the plan until afterwards, and might have asked more questions if the guy had not been so high, so into sports, and had had warm chocolate eyes, and hands that knew just where to find me…but the man did not have a guitar anyway, and, well, he was short.

So we were friends, kind of, hookup buddies, I guess. There was always someone else, though I was never sure who, or how many. It went on six months, maybe longer? The longest lapse was maybe a month, when I saw him in a different car and he stopped to talk to me. “My truck got stolen with your number in it. Give me another chance?” I know…but there was something so sweet and imploring…and that focus…and that touch.

I think I saw him once after that.  Then he introduced me to the man who would become my daughter’s father, who was skittish and outside himself but got a huge boost just by not being like Michael, by coming back from Hawaii and calling me as soon as he landed, by bringing flowers, and calling every day, and taking me out to dinner. Later I realized this was not exactly who he was but he did it for me at the time, and it was what I wanted, because I thought maybe that was what it felt like to be loved.

A few things, a few lovers, happened since then. The most acute is, well, still complicated, and secret, and probably almost over, and the first to be more intoxicating than Michael.

So I went on Tinder, and there he was.

I swiped right. It was a match.

First, we both had to verify. Him, “Do we know each other?” Me, “Holy crap, is that Michael from Topanga?” It took him awhile, processing, processing. Wasn’t until I reminded him about the surfboard, and the truck, that he knew exactly who he was talking to. And it was still about a hookup…where do you live? Do you have time to…date? Exactly how he put it. I asked him, “Are you still a player?” “Maybe a little. I have feelings, though. Maybe a little calmer.” Ha.

So there was a little more, and then he asked to talk on the phone, and we did. There it was, that focus, that sweet attention, that incredible self-awareness and consciousness and spiritual and emotional articulateness. That thing he has so much of, and gives so much of, until it goes somewhere else.

It was good to talk to him. It was good hear him say that he had not had a lover connection like the one we had, not since, which was certainly a lie just by the law of numbers, but it was true right then. It had been fucking good. It was good to get to say to him, I never really understood how you couldn’t want more? But I think you were in love with someone else. He had a lot to say. He said he has just taken on parenting full time as his ex had given over their son. The timeline does not quite fit, but it is his timeline, not mine. He was out of a relationship, newly, and going wild. He was into someone. He got back together with an ex shortly after. I don’t know. He had a lot of reasons.

He talked a lot about the emotional work he’d done, family constellation work, to find his own truth and forgiveness and also to stand in others shoes to understand theirs. He said he had been afraid of our connection, that he was sure that with the intensity of it all he would have lost any sense of responsibility and gotten me pregnant.That one piece rang true to me. Absolutely. And I am really grateful I did not have a child with him.

It was all of it, so good, so focused, so much alignment, attraction. Then, him saying I want to see you, soon. And me telling him about the tiny windows I have, a few hours on Saturday, sometimes on Tuesdays or Wednesday mornings.

And this one more thing I had to say, right or wrong, helpful or not, but Michael, if I make time for you, you need to honor my time, not just blow me off, because I don’t have the patience for that anymore. I don’t make time for very many people, but I will make time for you.

And I would have. To do what, I’m not sure…quite. Well that’s a lie.

People tell you who they are, if you listen. Nothing makes it harder to listen than that electric shock across the airwaves, the ignition of promise, that all the noise of the day might be obliterated by that merciful all-encompassing force of light. His profile, the 50 out of 500 words on Tinder, said it all. “By the way, growing out, not up.” When I asked if he was really 52, he said, no, 13. Maybe 15. And there was the story he told now, that he had been so immersed in his son, but I remember being in a cul-de-sac under the stars in Topanga, reaching a crescendo in the dark against his Jeep, and his phone ringing and ringing and ringing. He glanced at it and chose not to answer, and I didn’t question, figuring it was some woman, then after, he said it had been his son. Who, if he is now 25, in the summer of 2003 (which I can verify from the magazine I still have), was 12, not 10, and needed him.

So the next day, of course, he didn’t call. Another day passed.

I remember cornering my friend, Linda, at the Austin Film Festival in October of 2003, and holding her hostage while I told this obsessive story about this beautiful man who kept disappearing, and she said, finally, after hours, running her fingers through her hair in exasperation, staring out at the Driskill bar full of people having conversations about art and film, “well, if it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, it is probably a duck,” and that is the last I ever spoke to her, so exhausting was that conversation.

This time, I have a different frame of reference. That first night it had been hard to sleep just reliving it all and the power of the connection, and all that it brought up, including a song I wrote about him “You run just like a little boy,” The next day I was tired and thin and far from aligned. No word from him, and it took me right back to the place. And I know that I do not want to live in that place again, and go down that rabbit hole, but one has to wonder, why did I bring him back?

One reason might have been to find a way to express this thing I’ve been wanting. Now I know how to say, “It feels so good to connect with a man emotionally, spiritually, in this way and this language that makes sense to me. I love hearing a man use words that are deep and meaningful and insightful. I love feeling that connection in conjunction with attraction, that beautiful edge of sexuality and consciousness, that feels so good. I love his attention on me, and knowing he is thinking of me, and wanting me, and wanting to make this deeper connection even as he wants to rut and throw me against the wall.”

Also, I know what I don’t want, which is the disappearing, and the lies.

It helped me look at what I am getting from this other, far away man. I love the way he does not disappear, even when his attention needs to be somewhere else right now. Even though there is a lot of space and we are nothing like a couple, I love the way he communicates with kindness and clarity. I love the way he stands in his own integrity and gives me room as well. I love the way if I let him know I am uncomfortable, he does not judge me, or run from me, or ignore me, but in a gentle and very spacious way connects with me.

I would love to feel those two things together. I love feeling both of them and knowing they could come together. And to feel it with a man, someday, not yet, who is actually present, fully available. When I am present and fully available myself.

And this is how I keep practicing what they call the law of attraction, but I like to think of more as the law of alignment. You are what you feel, like you are what you eat. I am finding endless evidence of this truth. So I keep reaching for that thought that feels good, keep finding that place that makes me feel whole, and focus on that.

But it is not all ecstatic, and that has been the hard part for me to figure out. Through my 20s, once or twice in my 30s, I tried a lot of drugs, especially portal drugs, ecstatic drugs. I LOVE connection. It is only now that I am finding that alignment in gentler ways. In meditation. In walking. In moments with nature. In friendship. In love of every kind. In writing. In music.

I have always been trying to connect with the source. Knowing this about myself, understanding that this is what drives me in relationship, has been a mindblower. So today, I can watch myself. I can feel the impulse, the desire, for Michael to call me, so that I can be in control, so that I can choose whether to join with him or not, so that I can have that opportunity. I also dread it, because if I open that door, I remember. I still know his phone number, because I remember getting out of a surf session, and the first thing I would do was pull out my phone, which I had stuffed in my glove box not so that it would not get stolen, but in the hopes that it would be further from my consciousness, that his not calling would make me a little less crazy. And I would grab it. If the number was there–I never entered a contact–I would relax, because now it was in my hands, until I chose to call him back, which I always did, and it would start again.

Now I can just observe all this. I can focus back on what felt so good, and what felt so good about him. And I can know that if I keep my focus on THAT vibration, if I keep my energy there, the universe absolutely will yield that to me. I have seen it time and time again, more times than I can ever mention. Focus on something, be it, and the universe delivers. But you have to be willing to let it go. To know that it is NOT Michael that will ever deliver this connection in the way I want. But if it does come, and go, I can still focus on the deliciousness of it. Feel it, enjoy it, attract it. One of two things happens…either he becomes it, or someone else steps into it.

In the meantime, I deleted my account on Tinder. His messages. Not his phone number. Not quite yet. But I missed him. Whether or not I should, I did.

****

So as it is in the life of a single, hot-blooded woman, a few days later I started feeling restless, started to cast about for ways to feel a little bit better. This is the subject I will come back to over and over again, because we, or at least, I, have been trained to believe the only thing that will really make me feel at ease in a constant way is a partner. I also know it is a fundamental lie. I have felt that delicious ease many times, the swing from ecstasy, to joyful belonging. I have also felt the most excruciating aloneness ever when I am with someone I love. I have felt dead, asleep, exhausted. I want to feel awake, enthusiastic, courageous. It is not that I don’t want a relationship that would last until death to us part. I don’t want to be strangled to death by one. So I dance this dance, keeping open.

And I started to feel playful. I have had some warm men pass through my life in the last year, but they couldn’t show up in a way that felt conscious and present to me. I cut them off quickly.

So I thought I might try them as dance partners. It didn’t have to be THE ONE. And if I am going to keep attracting somewhat unavailable men, since I am too busy, too focused, to be fully available myself, I figure the game is in numbers. So I reached out to a couple, without expectation, and they played, a little.

Then I reached out to Michael, to see, will he play? Is it different? What to say? “I do wonder if the sea salt still tastes the same on your skin.” And I did.

The answer, “Who’s this?”

All my transformation, all my wisdom, gone in a whoosh. The shock of it in my body. Had he forgotten me, really? Had he not even thought about calling me? I had assumed he just decided no, for whatever reason, too much, too long, too close to his age, despite the good pictures. But maybe I had totally passed from his mind, maybe that’s what it always had been, nothing. Although he had said something different the other night.

I didn’t answer, what is there to say? And a few minutes later, there was a text, “Hmmmmmm.”

The shock died quickly, and didn’t go very deep, I was just, as I always am with Michael, surprised. I decided that was that. I remembered the game completely. All those feelings came back to me, the feeling of being brought so close, then completely cut off.

I took my dog for a walk. I found myself giving myself the “talk.” “Girl, you are way too hot and too awesome to put your energy here.” I caught my hips swaying a little more when I said this. I laughed at myself, a defense mechanism, like a puffed up bird. I planned to delete him, to block him. I felt around in all of it, the way I always let it reflect on me, made me feel unlovable and rejected. It didn’t really go that deep, just sent me fishing into that place, THAT PLACE that I have done so much to work my way out of.

I came back in and made dinner, did the dishes, and finally checked my phone again.

“Is this you, Kevin?”

I enjoyed that. I really did. I enjoyed, that at least for these few minutes, I had his attention. He was the one bewildered.

And then, out of nowhere, the fun ended. I remembered our conversation the other night, when he talked about all the work he’d done with family constellations, deep dive healing work to change the course and patterns of your life. He had done at least four of these, which means a lot of commitment and vulnerability, and means a great and powerful need to find peace. Whoever this man is, the one I think of in all the ways I do, the one who is not there to serve my needs on a whim, the one who has shared great ecstasies with me and found greater draw sharing them elsewhere, he is just a man, searching out his own solace, finding his own path, working through his own wounds. How can I possibly know what moves around in his world? It is my nature to want to peel it back, to see inside, just because I want to. It is my nature to find a man so close to all this wounding, so I can help him peel it back, be there for him, be the deliverer, whether or not he has EVER asked this of me. This, my weird little pocket of love.

Everything shifted in me. The fun, the hormones, the elation of having maybe one-upped him for just a moment. I just saw a person, a fellow soul, a man who had shared sweet moments with me and his own process.

He sent one more text. “Thank you. It’s a nice way to be remembered.” So maybe he knew after all. I took a breath, and sent him something sweet and funny, revealing myself, heart on my sleeve, wishing him warm alohas, as that is really all I have to offer. “I knew,” he said. “And u knew I liked it.”

I don’t know if he liked it back then, or liked being thought of, or liked this dance. I liked it, but not enough. Not enough of a dance partner for me.

I deleted the texts, I deleted the number. But the truth is, those digits are forever blazed in my memory, probably the last number I ever memorized, despite myself.

Traditional dating advice would tell me to stop dealing with any man who is (fill in the blank, “unavailable,” “a commitmaphobe” “just not that into you.”) He’s a player. He’s a jerk. And so is the guy who accidentally sent me a text meant for another woman, or the one who wanted me to split the bill. And pretty soon the world is full of jerks, and players, of sex addicts, of narcissists. But the truth is the world is full of people, women and men, trying to find their way and connect the best way that they can. My job is to know my role in it.

So why did I bring him back into my life? I do believe 100% that everything we do is a direct response to what we are putting out into the world. The best word I know is vibration. Maybe I brought him back, at a time when I am casting around for what is meaningful and lasting, just to be able to tell a better story. That I had danced with this beautiful man and he had been on his own journey. He had shared music with me, his beautiful body, his warmth. He shared my love of surfing, and with his knowledge inspired me to try a different, shorter board. This gave me access to waves I would never have found before, and taught me how to turn. He introduced me to a man I fell in love with, who became one of my greatest teachers, and who gave to me the most precious gift of my life, my child. And now, he has catalyzed in me the opportunity to practice, once again, unconditional love, forgiveness, and being true to my own self.

What more, really, can one ask for from a person?

 

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