Not In Kansas Anymore...

Click your heels, and see if home is where you hang your hat, or somewhere else inside yourself as this simple, postmodern girl takes on L.A.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Suppose you have this friend. Whom you've known for 22 years. Who emails you after a long time because they're dying from a busted heart. Who then, drawn in by your charm (?- or perhpas some strange agenda on their part) proceeds, after a time to pursue you so ardently and passionately that against your better judgement, you're drawn in. They come to visit. It's decided that although there are Big Feelings afloat, it's just not The Right Time for them to have a relationship. But things get confusing, with kissing and hugging and 'honey' and 'sweetheart' and snuggling, and stay that way, at least for you. And then they go home. You don't know how things are going to turn out, but who knows, right? At least that's what you're pondering.

Then you're talking to them on the phone one night, and they're telling you how great they're doing since they got home, as it was such a blessing to have had the time with you, how healing it was. THEN this person, who spent so much time and energy to get your attention, keep your attention and went on and on about the loveliness of you informs you they have a DATE. Just a first date, but a date. When you're appopriately surprised, confused and hurt, they get snippy and say, "oh, come on Jessica. I never promised you anything. I went out of my way not to lead you on. And what am I supposed to do? Have a long distance relationship with someone straight out of an engagement? Please." You're floored, because apparently, you've not had the Script as To What Was Actually Happening. And then the real kick in the shins comes: " I dont need any negativity or guilt going forward at this time. I'm starting a new phase of my life.... and I should not have called. And I'm going to get off the phone. I dont think we should talk on the phone anymore, just email untill we can handle more. Okay? I'm going. " CLICK.


Which would you choose first?

a.) Calling him back immediately and telling him he has turned in to a Class A Jackass and not to bother EVER calling you again, although that would play in to his game of trying to make you somehow crazy/psycho bitch for feeling hurt and confused
b.) Sit on your couch and stare into space, trying to sort out WHAT THE FUCK just happened
c.) Email your best friend and temporarily flip it til you can actually get a grip.
d.) Start plotting a Walk-A-Thon with all the women he's dated over the last 10 years to raise therapy money for whomever this date is with next. Since it's never his fault that his crazymaking behavior pushes these women overr the edge, and they're just nuts to begin with ( probably true, but I doubt he makes it much better...) a substantial donation could even come from him directly!

I did both b.) and c.). ( I don't really have the energy for d., unfortunately) Oh, and I emailed him that my main complaint was that he handled it so rudely, dismissively, and cruelly. Could he have said, "Jess, I know this is hard, but....." and told me that way? Yes. Could he have treated my subsequent feelings with respect instead of disdain, disgust and "I don't want to deal with you" evasiveness? Well, I think after taking him into my home and having known him for 22 years, I might have earned that right.

But apparently not, because you know what? He hasn't bothered to contact you since. Hmmm.

Unfortunatley, a.) is far more true to form for this old friend; some new terrible twist in his character that was never there before, and about whom you were glowing just a week ago. It's sad, but his selfishness and utter self-centered approach to relationships and feelings were all apparent prior to his arrival, but you didn't see it. And even when he got here, and it was more and more clear, and you had A Big Talk with him about it, nothing changed, but you chose to believe it did. It was confusing, he was confusing, fair enough. He's a master at being so, because he's so lost himself. Okay, fair enough. But you're a bright, bright girl, and you have strong instincts and intuiion about things, So he hurt you, betrayed you, but really, you betrayed yourself. As is evidenced in detail with startling clarity- clarity you didnt particularly want, but hey, there it is- in the emails between you and your best friend:

Oh, honey, I'm really sorry. Please don't let this mow you down… your sexual/romantic self is so much bigger and better than that. I know you know that's true—just listen to the words you use to describe it. It's chock full of that Defeatist Depressive Verbage. I know you need some time to wallow in "poor me", but I hope you can snap out of it quickly because I don't want such a trivial thing to cause such a hard setback.

No, I don't call it trivial to make you feel bad for having the feelings you do—I totally understand why, and I don't judge that. I just mean that in the grand scheme of things, in the bigger picture, you KNOW he's right, in sentiment, anyway. He is far too emotionally stunted and socially retarded to have handled it with any sort of grace or consideration, but logically, practically, he is right. You know that a real relationship is impossible due to the distance, so there was never any hope for any lasting connection (in his mind). He shut off that possibility from the beginning, it was never an option. The thing is, you knew that, and thought you had prepared yourself for it. You knew it intellectually, but I think you (and pretty much every other single woman I have ever known) don't really know it * emotionally*. We cling to this fantasy that somehow, somewhere, there is our Prince Charming, who will be so entranced, so magically and magnetically drawn to our inexorable inner and outer beauty, that he will climb any mountain, swim every ocean, slay the dragon, surmount every possible obstacle just to be lucky man to be by our side. It's a wonderful fantasy. And sometimes love like that happens, but it doesn't just * happen*… that kind of love is the kind of thing that grows over time in a healthy, stable relationship. When you start a relationship out (no matter how seriously or not seriously either of you are taking it) with a "It's really great, BUT…" ['I'm moving to L.A.' 'He just got divorced.' 'I hate his roommate.' 'His mother is annoying.' 'He won't let me drive.' etc.] it should be a GIANT red flag: THIS RELATIONSHIP IS TEMPORARY. It can only last as long as both of you are willing to tolerate the "BUT…" or change it. You can't change the distance between you. And clearly you were both only really willing to tolerate it for the duration of his visit.

Naturally, he should have handled it so very much better than he did. He should have been a lot more sensitive to your feelings. That's where I have to remind you that you are asking an elephant to fly. He is not socially or emotionally equipped to have thought that far ahead. It's All About Him, remember? It didn't occur to him that you would feel jilted by his latest development. He was so proud of himself, he couldn't help but tell you, because he felt a connection to you—even with all his intellect, he wasn't able to recognize exactly what that connection was, or how it differed from the connection he has/had with his male friends. That's not to say he doesn't also feel a sexual or romantic connection to you—obviously he does. But he doesn't understand how that * should* color the other parts of your relationship. I imagine, to him, it went down like this: he found himself with you in L.A. feeling that rush of infatuation, the intense endorphins of lust, and just the all-around feeling of contentment, excitement, even bliss—all from being with you. And he didn't even have to have SEX to feel that way. All his past girlfriends didn't score that well. It's shocking to him to feel * so much* with *so little* 'cost' (i.e., sex). He got home and contemplated that turn of events, and realized that all the baggage he was carrying around for Bella was unnecessary, you had proven to him that he could be free to enjoy himself with a companion who gives him more than she did, that it was possible to move forward in his life and actually find a healthy relationship. He didn't make the fatal mistake that most women (sorry for playing stereotypes here) make: he didn't assume that the only way to achieve this is to attempt to continue a relationship with YOU. He saw the bigger picture—that the happiness was from having A connection, not THE connection. And again, it's not because you lack anything, or because he doesn't WANT to have that connection with YOU, it's because that option was already taken off the table, so he's shut it off in his mind and heart. With no emotional investment in the fantasy, there is no emotional cost when the venture fails.

I'm pretty sure I didn't say anything you didn't already know. I'm sorry about that if I seem preachy or condescending. I just know how easy it is to stop thinking about things altogether when you're really down and beaten up by something. I guess the question is, why is it you keep choosing emotionally crippled men? I know when questions like this are posed to me, I think, "But I * don't* choose them! They choose *ME*!" The fine line between the two is here: my momma never explained it to me (sure wouldda helped to know this at 14), you're not supposed to invest anything * emotionally* until you know him well enough to recognize these faults. The whole "Not on the first date!" thing—it's because dating is supposed to be about learning who this person is to make a PRACTICAL decision about your compatibility BEFORE you move on to the chemical/emotional/physical stuff that is SO MUCH HARDER to extricate yourself from once you've begun it. So yes, they choose you, but then you are supposed to inspect the merchandise before deciding if it's a wise decision. But I don't do that—when I am approached in one way or another by a man who expresses interest, I am SO FUCKING GRATEFUL for the attention, that I give him a chance, just because it's so FUCKING RARE for a man to express interest in me. I mean, the guy would have to be a Known Serial Killer or look and smell like a Sewer Dwelling Orc before I would shoot him down without a second thought. Heaven forbid if he's a decent-looking guy with a decent job or at least ambitions for a decent job and a roof over his head. Ding! Ding! Ding! It's ON, baby! And I dive right in EMOTIONALLY before really examining who he is or how he might effect my life if I decided to integrate him into it. Sound familiar??

In any case, you have to remember that the lack of "love" in your life isn't about what you lack, or a personal defect or anything of that sort. You know that you are attractive, smart, funny, and all the things that good, healthy, desirable men find attractive. Somewhere in there, you know it. I can't begin to know WHY Mr. Right hasn't shown up for you, though, and unfortunately, it's just one of those things you have to accept—it's part of learning to love yourself, being comfortable in your own skin. Maybe eventually you'll come to realize that your life is stable and you feel good about yourself and you are ready to actively look for Him… to sign up for online dating or speed dating or ask your friends to set you up, or maybe it's as simple as flirting BACK when you notice a guy looking at you across the checkout at the grocery store. But no, there's nothing final or devastating about not having him in your life Right NOW. Think of how messed up things are for you—you're not even sure you want to LIVE there anymore. How could you be in a relationship right now? How could that be fair to him? You know that's true. If you really want to be setting an extra place at the dinner table, then you need to get other things straightened out in your life, too. And that's not meant to be harsh, or critical—just that maybe it's fate, maybe it's subliminally calculated, whatever: the fact is that having a boyfriend right now would just complicate an already difficult situation, so it's * best* not to have a relationship to ruin right now. I constantly find it amazing that Rusty and I have survived all this time together in such a shitstorm. But I can see how it has been damaging to our relationship to be beaten up by the other person's baggage. It sucks, and I think we'd be much happier if we didn't have to deal with those things. Maybe you're just in a place where you get to work this stuff out before he comes into your life so that you DON'T beat him up with it. Above all else, have faith—not that God Will Bring You Love, but that you already have it. It's in your smile, it's in your wit, it's in all the ways you express yourself and your talents artistically, it's in the way your cats purr at you for dinner, and the way the sun shines through the window… nobody else has your life. It was given to you like a big piece of clay and you are molding it, making it into something beautiful. We don't always have control over what gets added to it or taken away from it, but we can always choose how to work with what we have.

Love and fluffy things,


So yeah, he promised me nothing, he didnt sleep WITH me on account that "I dont want to lead you on to believing that I can have a relationship when I can't" but is all confounding and confusing with regards to his feelings, and his actions, it was all Mixed Messages , ALL THE TIME. And I'm so confounded and so vulnerable and so I hope. Which was the foolish, wrong thing to do, clearly. Because...

... while it's stupid and insensitive and selfish and so, so hurtful that he could be so fucking clueless about how his actions afffect other people that he could wander in and DO all this maneuvering, and as you so aptly describe, go home, having all of this glorious healing and take a different course of action ( which, yes, is a wise course of action, I know) with so little regard as to how it might affect me, ( hard to believe someone could be so slow, but hey! ) PLUS when it is pushed in his face in the most tactful way possible that hmmm, you might have hurt this girl, be so cold and dismissive and careless about it, the worst of it all is ME. This is my fault. I did this. I let him come to my house, I let him sleep in MY bed, and I chose to do it all despite the red flags popping up everywhere and all the noise my skin and gut were making. I wanted to believe that all of it would sort itself out and we could really talk and that we could work something out, and that somehow, magically, I would end up happy. Even though all the signs were pointing to "he's a total wreck and has no clue as to what he's doing, and is going to HURT YOU trying to figure it out, and when he does he WONT GET IT" , I just said, " I need this" and jumped in. Stupid, stupid girl. Stupid, stupid girl....

I dont know what to make of it all. I know he didnt mean to hurt me, but he did. What he did was wrong, and I deserve better than that. And he'll probably never get that, because it IS All About Him. And he will go on and screw up again with whomever comes next and when that tanks, probably come around again. But I wont be such a sucker again. Not for him, anyway.

I feel like such a loser. It's funny you talk about why I pick these busted guys; he commented on it while he was here and was giving me dating tips! I keep letting these busted guys come around because I dont date, am not a good dater and dont think of myself as particularly attractive. And so I take what comes around, and I hang on, hoping they'll be better, I guess. Leo at least got me over that. He at lest helped me see that I am beautiful and I can get these skills. Not that I'm feeling like getting back on the horse any time soon, mind you.

And I know you say all these things about my life needing to be in order before The One shows up, that would be so much better. But Sassy, part of the reason I'm so vulnerable and stupid is because I dont want to do this by myself anymore. I dont feel like hacking it out in the world on my own anymore. I dont mean to sound condescending- please dont take it that way, I dont want another conflict on my hands- but you dont know what its like to have NEVER been married. NEVER to have even been asked. NEVER had a hand to hold through anything, even Shitfoot's rotten hand. I've had to do this ALL BY MYSELF since I was old enough to see over the countertops. And yes, my life being a mess right now would put additional stress on the relationship, but frankly, I would take a whole lot of stress OFF of me, because I would feel less alone, no matter what came around. I would hope it would be the same for the man I was with. And I WANT to work out a life with someone- I dont want it to be all about me, and whether I want to live here or not, or whatever. I WANT someone to come in and say, " This is me, this is where I am, lets work it out." Its sort of a cop out, I realize- am I so lost in my own life that it would be easier to have to negotiate it with someone else versus having to make all the decisions myself? Yeah, it would. But I'm just tired, Sassy. That's all. It physically wears me out to have to come home to an empty bed and just cats every night. You're right, I'm creating something beautiful from nothing, and I try to hold on to that when things get sad. But its a cold comfort sometimes. And its probably why I employed such ridiculous magical thinking with Leo- I saw two people who were despreately unhappy with their lives, the direction their lives were going, lonely, and hating where they lived, and I thought, perhaps a solution can come together. And I think Leo was thinking that too, quite honestly. But he's the scientist, and far more in denial than I, so he'll just go back to putting it all in compartments untill he spins out for real someday. Me, I just get to feel it all. And try to find a way to live with it. And wonder why, and try to make it better. And stay afloat and sane. Its hard.

I dont want to get all dark. I do have beautiful cats who adore me, and I'm so fucking lucky in so many ways. I have wonderful friends and generous family and a great apartment in a silly city that while loathsome, is never dull, and full of great shopping!!! And I have Jeannie and Irv and Joannie right down the street as my de-facto family, and you and the kids as far away family. It isnt all shit. It just this area that is so totally broken, and I dont know how to fix it that is so awful.


But I went to group, which was a good choice. I went and told this story, and said how I could be angry at This Person for the rest of my life ( which I might damned well be, I dont know. I am for now, but that takes a lot of energy, so I'll probably let it go sooner or later... but I doubt if I'll be speaking to him any time soon. Before I die.) or I could take responsibility for my own stupidity. And then I cried. And I didnt stop crying for awhile. And my wonderful, wonderful group members said, ' Jessica, we love you. Don't hate yourself for making a mistake. You only did so because you're human, and you need love. Be gentle with that child-like part of you. Don't call it stupid. You're not stupid. You're A Work in Progress. '. It helped. It did.

I'm still hurting. But I do what I do. I get up. I've been doing a great deal of that already this year, and it's only April. I keep saying that. Oh, I found that T.S. Eliot quote ( funny, because I got this book from my high school library, approx. 22 years ago. I was obsessed with Eliot then. I'm sure Leo was in my class, or in and around and about thereof when I first read it):

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
(-- from "The Waste Land", 1922)

How totally, totally apt. Thanks, Tom.

I'm done here for today....