Credulous at best
Your desire to believe in
Angels in the hearts of men.
But pull your head on out (of) your hippie haze
And give a listen
Shouldn’t have to say it all again
The universe is hostile
Devour to survive
So it is, so it’s always been …
We all feed on tragedy.
It’s like blood to a vampire.
Late last spring (ed: 2006) I received an email from classmates.com telling me that I had a message on my account. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was from Eddie. Imagine my frustration when I realized that I could not read it unless I purchased a membership. I could, however, respond, so I did. But nothing happened. I could see that he had not read it and I recognized that he probably was also a free member. It occurred to me that I could get around that with a little creativity, but my regular reticence to be too forward held me back for quite a while. After all, it meant sending him a second reply and I did not want to appear too eager. Eventually, enough time passed that I broke down and did it anyway.
A month later, I received a regular email from him. He told me a short version of his current life; his recent divorce, his beautiful little boy, his move to Denver sans most of the specific details. He sounded good, he sounded happy, he sounded… casual, above all.
I replied. Told him a longer, but still short version of my life since we last saw one another. Mentioned my honey and son, our move away from the ‘American Dream’ (and my own distaste that we had ever pursued such) Told him we were in small town, now, and life is good.
I planned to tell my honey that evening that he had contacted me. I knew that it was going to be a bit uncomfortable after our ages old agreement that I would not seek him out. But I had not broken my word, as I saw it. He came to me – I simply responded. Just the same, I expected it to be a little tense. Partly because of that, I’m sure, but also because of assorted practical concerns that I no longer recall, the conversation did not happen.
Eddie replied to the email with a few more details and a few nicely placed compliments, a question on our marital status… typical Eddie stuff. Then, late in the afternoon, he called. When I answered the phone, I did not immediately recognize his voice. So he said something like “You don’t know who this is, do you? (At which point I did) What if I said that you are a gorgeous, sexy redhead ….” and so the conversation went.
My honey was working out in the back yard at the time. I could see him through my window as I spoke to Ed. About midway through the call, he came in to ask me a question — which I answered – and he asked if I was on business… unfortunately I said Yes. That soured the rest of the conversation for me. I could hardly grasp what Ed was saying to me, because I was worried my honey would come in again, hear my voice and know that it was not work, that he would discover my lie rather than allowing me to admit it. Finally, I couldn’t take it any more so we ended the call. Eddie ended the call with “I love you” — I did not, could not, reply to that. Didn’t really even know how to respond.
Shortly thereafter, I joined him out in the yard, sitting in the sun with a frosty beverage. And I told him that I had to talk to him – that I had lied to him and I now needed to tell him the truth. Explained that I was not on a business call, in fact, I had been talking to Ed – that I had heard from him some weeks earlier, but only the previous day had we actually made contact. I told him that I had planned to tell him the night before… but we both knew how hectic the evening had been, so I did not do it. And that I had planned to tell him this evening, if it had not been taken out of my hands.
He was very quiet at first. It seemed like he might just take it all in stride. But then I realized he was being too quiet. So I pushed him a little. I don’t recall the totality of the conversation, but he did make reference to an old accusation that had been made against Ed, which I flat out told him was untrue. This did not sit too well with him, after all, he had been told that it WAS true. He was disturbed by my faith in Eddie, that I could assert, uncategorically, that one of my friends was not being truthful. The next day, I wrote this friend an email asking about all this. She replied that she had not thought she had ever made the accusation to anyone – that she had thought it, although even she recognized it was not technically true, but that she had felt ‘seduced’ by him, perhaps even to the point of inappropriateness – and so when she was angry with him, she would tell herself that he raped her. And of course, of all the people in the world, the one person to whom she repeated the slander was my partner.
In any case, the storm passed and we went on with our lives. Or at least that is how the story is supposed to read, right? But I never leave things so simple. Eddie worked his inevitable magic on me and I began to take a hard look at my life. He always had that effect on me; and I have had to analyze that as well. I think, perhaps, that over the years he had ‘caught me’ being pretentious or inauthentic, and managed to call me out on it with nothing more than a few words or a look. I didn’t like being caught, (regardless of whether he knew he was doing it or not) so I learned to preempt him. I would look at myself and my own behavior before he had the opportunity to comment on it – that way, he would never be able to spot my inconsistencies.
I think that has been very valuable to me over the years: although, perhaps, it also caused me to lose myself – without my mirror, I could not see myself at all – or perhaps just refused to take the time to look when I did not feel like I had to do so. That’s an interesting thought in itself, but perhaps I will come back to it another time.
So at this point in my life, as I looked in my mirror, I found a person that I was both proud of and afraid for: proud of my Ishmaelian ideas and foci, proud of my growing self confidence and social acumen, and proud of my independence and family; but on the other hand, I was afraid for this uncentered, inexpressive, frightened little girl underneath it all. A little girl afraid to act on her beliefs, contained within a shell that no one was allowed to penetrate, and cut off from all of the truly high ideals of my youth. I realized that there were pieces of me hat had become misplaced or buried: and that these pieces of myself were important to me. Yet they were gone.
The weekend after I first talked to Eddie, I sat down and started writing(link to Chrysalis). I told the story of high school – not the sexual components, but the social ones. The importance of supporting one another as we are as opposed to as we should be. And understanding that I was stepping across a threshold from the safety of ‘going along’ into the uncertainty or being true to myself once more, I sent the document to a number of people; some old friends some new – all potentially supportive of my efforts. It turned out that some of them really were.
From that point forward, my life began to spiral out of control; I was consciously, intentionally, deconstructing the person I had become over the years. Looking at each piece of who I am and how it fits with the rest – and then throwing away any pieces that I did not like. Stranger still, I did this successfully – as I discarded pieces, they really did go away. I don’t recall any moment when a dismissed trait came back to trip me up. They were just gone.
As easy a process as it was from a technical standpoint, it played havoc on my daily life. I had no focus or energy for the mundane parts of my life. My work suffered, my garden was neglected, my house was left filthy… and my attention to my family and our daily activities waned significantly. My honey could not help but notice. Of course, he noticed the crisis I experienced back in Elk Grove, as well, yet did nothing. Why was this time different? I am unsure, but I have two possible explanations: the first, and obvious, is that when I finally opened up to him last time, the solution was easy and obvious to us both.; the second, that somehow he sensed the importance and intensity of what was occurring. Of course, there is a third possibility – that he saw the connection with Eddie, and although he did not understand how he caused it, the simple chance that he might be responsible was so incredibly threatening to him that he couldn’t not respond. Not if he wanted to have a chance to salvage our life together.
Most likely, it was some of each, but now that I think about, I think the third option was the most critical.
Then Grandpa died. Here I was, in the midst of this amazing but terribly exposing process and then his death brought all of the emotional rawness that only grief can create. I went up for the funeral, spent a little time with the family and then came straight back home again. The grief was tempered by the knowledge of how unhappy he had been in recent months, and exaggerated by the anger I felt over the system that caused his unhappiness. Perhaps this added another level of complexity to my process, but at the very least, it drew my emotional core out toward the surface, made it that much easier to really look at myself truthfully.
Soon after the funeral, I got together with a friend for lunch. As I recall, I was feeling sort of… cocky that day. Self assured, at least from an outside perspective. We talked a little about my perspective on my relationship with my honey – I was beginning to feel like we did not have a very solid future. I had come to realize that I had very definitive ideas about where i wanted my life to go, and also a growing sense that he did not share those goals. So I had a choice to make – a choice between my goals and aspirations and our relationship. At the same time, Eddie was on my mind and I had assured myself (as I always have done) that I had no expectations of him, no illusions of a possible glorious future for us, but that nonetheless, if I chose to pursue my goals over the relationship my honey and I shared, that perhaps, some time in the future, Eddie and I would once more become occasional lovers.
Over the course of our talk, Mona also reminded me of something that I had forgotten – or perhaps chosen to suppress – that looking back over the years we have been together, perhaps more than half of that time I had spent fuguing; questioning whether we were really meant to be together at all. Strange that I could have not seen that myself, but I can see that it is true. Staying had always been the easy option and so it was the path I followed. Aside from the week I moved out when our son was a toddler (and the crisis leading up to that) and the distress in wrote about in Chrysalis, I had never seriously considered leaving, so in my mind, those were the only past troubles we had had. But she pointed out that this had always been in my mind as a question.
Of course, this brought me to a deeper level of deconstruction. I recognized, finally, that the single biggest weakness I have always had is a fundamental distrust of my own emotions. An inability to distinguish between thoughts driven by insecurities and thoughts driven by true emotional understanding; between honest emotions and lazy emotions; or between believing in others and projecting my own desires onto others. I think I was most often driven my insecurities, the ‘easy’ path and especially the belief that others could not feel as I wanted them to feel, so I could never bring myself to assert my own desires with conviction.
Somewhere in here I sat down and tried to define the person I wanted to be. The thoughts I came up with:
• Empowered – financially and socially self sufficiently
• Fearless – a life in fear is no life at all
• Self-Confident – if i can’t trust myself, then who?
• Active – I want to be doing, not sitting on the sidelines
• Empathetic – caring-sharing-being
I want to be part of something greater than myself. Neither defined by it nor in control of it – yet made more ME in my association.
I want the things I do to have MEANING – even if only to me. Writing immediately comes to mind again.
I want to make the world (or my tiny piece of it) better for having been here. I want this to be a natural consequence of my life – not some liberal guilt response.
I want to have a passionate life. I’ve been dead for too long.
I think that this list is the most clear, concise and accurate representation of my hopes and dreams I have ever expressed. I also think, looking back on it now, that I have subconsciously been moving toward these things ever since. Looking at it today, I find that everything on the list is closer to who I am now than I was then, and in some cases I feel like I have truly embraced the spirit of those words. This gives me more hope than all the rest together. Hope that this really is who I am, not just who I would wish to be.