Part One: Bees
Some days we never want to end, others cannot expire soon enough. This past weekend held a little of both, though the good certainly outweighed the bad and the ugly.
As one might surmise from the title, this is going to be a long one, folks, and we’re going to cover a lot of ground (badly, and without much in the way of Organization, might I add.)
Let’s start with the bees, because they’re important, they’re dying all around us, and three of them had important cameos this week. Wait, lies – Let’s start with this weekend’s plans, because they factor into everything.
On Tuesday, I decided to tag along on a group motorcycle camping trip to the Salton Sea from Friday through Sunday. I’d not done motorcycle camping since 1996, and what better way to get back into the swing of things than with a gaggle of other like-minded folks?
Ok, now the bees.
That morning, I had found a very sickly looking bee on my patio furniture. I see dozens of dead bees around my apartment complex, which is always a sad thing. I have to assume there is some kind of pesticide they’re using which is killing them off in tragic droves, one by one, dozen by dozen. I find them lying on the sidewalk every day. I don’t know what sort of bees they are, or whether they are solitary, but I do know we need every last one of them that’s left on this Earth.
“To understand many things you must reach out of your own condition.”
Thus, when I saw the wee girl on my chaise lounge, I didn’t have much hope of her being alive. I gently blew across her wings, and she reared up into a groggy but distinctly defensive position: Middle legs and stinger raised, wings outstretched, facing this new unknown threat. Immediately after assuming this posture, she lost balance and tumbled onto her side. Oh, dear. Poison? Cold? I have no idea how to distinguish a poisoned bee from one that is simply too cold. I watched her for a few seconds as her legs clumsily churned in slow motion, trying to get her upright.
I can’t stand to see animals suffer; it causes me anguish in a deep, sensitive, delicate area. My first instinct was that she was dying, and that I should end her suffering. That’s such a final solution, though – I wanted to give her the chance to survive. Hoping she was cold and that I could warm her up, I placed my index finger alongside her body so the heat would radiate out to her. She immediately perked up and began scrabbling toward me – not in an aggressive manner, but in a keenly interested one: Her antennae and front legs reached forward ambitiously, her abdomen and stinger remained relaxed.
As quickly as she could, she climbed up onto my finger, legs frequently missing their steps and wobbling with every one, but she got there and then she sat quite still – only her antennae moved, daintily touching my skin, perhaps trying to figure out what I was, whether I was food, or just a heat source.
“This is quite an exercise in trust for us both, isn’t it?” I murmured.
I waited. After perhaps two minutes, her movements became more regular and coordinated, and after a minute more, she adroitly took to the sky where I hope she will live out a normal, healthy bee life. Thursday, the spectacle repeated itself as I found a similarly beleagured bee clinging to the wall near my elevator. She took much longer to come around, but eventually she, too, flew off into the sun. I videod that one, which is probably only of interest to me (and maybe Steven and Leslie:)
I hope this is amongst the right things to do, and isn’t causing them harm or more stress that will lead to terrible things. Thinking back to both of these times makes me feel happy: Altruism serves the self, too.
Flash-forward to Saturday night around a campfire burning in a large metal pit. A pale, half-inch-long spider ran in circles for over an hour along the rim of the pit, sometimes stopping to inquisitively check out its surroundings, but mostly just running around the rim fairly quickly. For awhile, no one else seemed to notice it, then Chuck pointed it out. We wondered why the circles – if it was too hot, why didn’t it simply hop off the edge into the cool darkness? Around and around and around, sometimes at what seemed like its top speed. Others began to notice it and watched.
I was worried someone was going to knock it into the flames – people are so often mindlessly cruel to tiny beings, particularly when we find them distasteful – but as far as I know, nobody did. I watched them watching it, trying to figure out what everyone, arachnid and human, was thinking. Naturally, I’ll never know. At some point, I looked for it, and it was gone – I hope off into the night to hunt some bugs, and not into the flames to briefly wither and then die. I was heartened, though, that at least for a half hour or 45 minutes, the humans elected to let it live. This brings us to:
Part Two: Compassion
We are strong when we show the smallest of beings compassion. Humans, lacking any real predators (though I do hold out hope for the bacteria and viruses to rein us in, perhaps soon,) might think we have little to lose or to gain by stepping on a spider or by putting it outside, unharmed. I posit we have everything to gain through compassion. The simple act of choosing kindness over cruelty or even over neglect actually changes our brain chemistry and our bodies. For the better. You can read a summary of one such study right here: Compassion Meditation. Scientific article here: Compassion Training Alters Altruism and Neural Responses to Suffering
Beyond quantifiable results, though, lie the more immediate, personal, less tangible ones: We feel good when we do good. Some might feel a sort of smug satisfaction when squishing an insect, but is it really a good feeling? Perhaps for some. If you’re someone who likes the idea of Power and Control, what greater satisfaction is there than to have the ability to decide whether something lives or dies? In the grand scheme of things, one spider, one bee, is meaningless to most of us – but it’s pretty fucking important to the spider and to the bee.
Let’s flip this around for those amongst us who aren’t of a mindset to live and let live. Let’s think for a moment about wild dolphins – these are powerful, intelligent animals, capable of quickly, easily, and efficiently killing humans in the water. Seldom does anything ever go wrong when people dive with them, though. Sure, there is the odd, misguided attempt at coupling, or a “rogue” habituated dolphin getting cranky, but most dolphin “attacks” get no worse than this – spoilers, no actual attack occurs, just enjoy:
They could kill us, but they choose not to. There’s a lot of power in that. Wild-animal-related human fatalities typically happen under circumstances that are usually the fault of either that particular person (getting selfies with wildlife, trying to pet or feed wildlife, provoking wildlife, et cetera,) or of People in General (areas where wildlife is often fed, encroaching onto territories, et cetera.)
Predators other than humans don’t tend to attack without cause – the stakes are too high, even for the apex predators (wolves, sharks, bears, et al.) They forever live in a PVP, very permadeath world (non-gamers, click the links to learn the lingo.)
All of us have the physical ability to intentionally harm or kill lesser beings should we so choose. There have been (thankfully rare) times in my past when I was needlessly cruel that to this day cause me the greatest shame I have ever felt. I don’t know why I did the things I did, and I wish more than anything I could go back and not do them. Instead, I have to live with those memories as a reminder of what I was capable of when my worst self took over and beg the forgiveness of a vast universe.
That Ian Malcolm quote, though: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” We all know how that ended up, don’t we: Velociraptors. Right? Right. The next time you see a spider or an ant that is not especially in your way, choose to let it live and see how that sits with you. I hope it takes, not only to benefit those critters who might otherwise be harmed, but also to benefit you, yourself – walk into the warm light, man; it’s really nice here. For all of us. I promise you won’t be any less of a badass by being kind – in fact, your level of badassitude will increase immensely because you could choose pain or death, and you instead chose kindness and life. That? That is the ultimate in strength.
I have digressed, per usual. My point: Be compassionate, because you can afford to be. It costs nothing to extend kindness, and I suspect that even the most calloused, blackened heart can be warmed through its practice.
Let’s get off this particular soapbox and move on: Part Three: Motorcycles (coming soon…)
“Age is just a number,” if we are to believe the cliche.
a lie an alternative fact – technically true as a fact, but “age” is not “just a number;” it encompasses so much more.
I understand the sentiment behind the well-meaning saying, of course; “don’t worry about your age; people don’t judge you by how old you are.” The blissful ignorance of that statement is precious and lovely, but also naive and ignorant in so many circumstances. Hanging out every day, sure – it’s not necessarily on everyone’s minds. On an employment application? Age can mean the difference between getting a job or not.More to my point here, though: Folks, it’s not just the age – it’s the miles. It’s the shit we’ve witnessed and lived through and cried over and laughed at until we couldn’t anymore (often at ourselves.) We have seen absurdity and serenity, abject cruelty and profound compassion, acts of altruism that make us burst into tears from their sheer beauty and acts of hatred that leave us enraged and hopeless.
We have borne witness to events much bigger than any of us are, as well as millions of simple, repeated, everyday moments, and that leaves us with little choice but to expand our awareness, to become mindful of how little we know, and, for many of us, it leaves us with a deep and abiding sense of smallness. Humbleness.
I should note – that humbleness does hibernate at times. I am reasonably certain my ego, if unchecked, would run absolutely amok. You have only the smallest idea.
I know plenty of people younger than I am who look like they were ridden hard and put away wet for decades; the sun, their lives, their kids, illness, jobs – something shriveled them, some from the inside out, some from the outside in. I also know people older than I am who look a decade or more younger.
I’ve been fortunate to apparently have good anti-visible-aging genes, and it probably helps that I’ve never spent a bunch of time sunbathing, or wearing a shitton of chemicals on my face. But the wrinkles are creeping in – first, around my eyes, now a bit around my mouth. It’s making me panic just ever so slightly, just occasionally. Now and then. Infrequently.
For now. I am certain it will increase and intensify if I do not get ahead of this looming trainwreck.
That ego is glancing around the edges of the mirror, finding each and every pore, every imperfection, every scar, every smidgen of evidence I am Not As Young As I Once Was, and she wails in despair. Oh, the unfairness of it all. Youth is wasted on the young! Get off my fucking lawn! Et cetera.
Both helping and hindering reconciling ego with reality is this: Since 2008, the vast majority of people in my life have been significantly younger than I am; I work with primarily twenty-somethings, with a few thirty-somethings peppered in there. Almost no one at my company is 40 years old or older. Most of the kids I work with are remarkably more mature than I ever was at their age – hell, some of them are more mature than I am now – and I have remarked before upon how much they have helped me to grow and develop as a human, for which I am eternally thankful.
I’ve been very fortunate that my team/tribe has been very accepting of an older person in their midst. For a long time, most of them did not realize how large the age gap is between us, but they recognized it was there. Many politely suggested they thought I was in my early-to-mid thirties (thanks, good genes!) and seldom have any of them seemed to really judge me for my age. There have been times when I’ve felt like Jane Goodall – even to the point of having mental conversations/note-taking sessions in that vein:
The young tribe members are wary and uneasy today; I let it slip I had never once in my life played a Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario Brothers game. This was a rookie move; my inclusion has ebbed slightly as a result. I must find a way to regain their trust and once again move with them as a troop member. “Hey, how about those Pokemons?!” did not have the desired effect. I will consult with my source text – The Urban Dictionary – for better vocabulary consistency.
Sure, it’s a source of some good-natured teasing, and a lot of groaning on my part when I realize these people have zero context for formative parts of my life, and indeed, most were not alive before I went to college. It’s sobering. Humbling.
But it’s also helped me come to terms with things much better. I hid my age pretty obsessively until the last few months, when I decided “oh, fuckit. If Dana Delaney can be out and proud about turning 60 and looking fucking amazing, then who am I to keep hiding it?” Out of the mid-life closet I tumbled.
I am 46.
I spent most of 2015 and 2016 saying I was 46, when I was actually 45, but whatever.
The guy I was dating until about a month ago was 28. The guy before that – 26. My husband was 9 years my junior. Thus, I have a bit of a history with younger men, sure, because I’m fucking surrounded by them and have no life outside of work.
The person who just asked me out is about 24. He’s an insanely mature 24, but I think that is too young even for me, no matter how well-traveled, well-read, ridiculously attractive, and generally amazing he might be. My entire brain balks at that number – nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, NOPE.
Of course, were he to know my age, he’d probably be NOPE-ing right along with me.
Men dating (often significantly) older women is quite a trend now, according to some sources, so I’m apparently not alone, but I’m not entirely comfortable with that large an age gap.
Per usual, I have digressed.
Just as I cannot fathom the perspective of someone 15 years my senior, these kids cannot fathom the things I have seen and done, and why I have answers to many of their questions. Why I can offer seemingly sage advice – it’s not because I am “wise,” my friends; it is because I have made a fuckton of mistakes, many of them more than once. I learned the hard way most of the time. I’ve seen many other people make similar mistakes, and have learned from them, as well.
When older people say, “someday, you’ll understand,” we’re not trying to be patronizing or dismissive of your life experience – we just know it to be true in more cases than not. Just as once cannot innately understand how the Krebs cycle works until we’ve seen it in action and have actually put the time in learning about it, we cannot expect to have the life perspective we’ll have 5 years hence.
Aging, like life in general, is not for the faint of heart. Today, a Physician’s Assistant at my doctor’s office told me (of my extreme sciatic pain,) “ah, you’re almost as old as I am; yeah, this is probably going to keep happening, and it’s probably going to get worse as you age.”
Naturally, that reminded me (as many things do) of a Louis CK bit:
As a parting note for those of you youngsters reading this: These are all things that have happened while I have been alive (source: http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe70s/worldevents_01.html:)
- Nixon was President
- Anwar Sadat became President of Egypt
- Apollo 15 lands on the moon and uses the Lunar Rover vehicle for the first time.
- The microprocessor was introduced.
- The environmentalist group Greenpeace was founded.
- Roe v. Wade legalized abortion
- Beverly Johnson became the first black model on the cover of Vogue or any other major fashion magazine. (Important aside: THAT IS HOW RECENTLY SHIT LIKE THIS HAPPENED. IN MY LIFETIME.)
- The United States Bicentennial
- Microsoft and Apple come into being as companies
- Elvis died
- The original Star Wars is released… and I watched it in the theater.
- Jim Jones/Jonestown
- Three Mile Island
- Iranian hostage crisis
- John Lennon killed
- The wreck of the Titanic is discovered
- First woman appointed to Supreme Court (not so long ago, eh?)
- AIDS identified
- US invades Grenada
- First woman goes into space
- Hole in the ozone layer discovered
- Chernobyl explosion
- Challenger explosion
- DNA used for the first time in a criminal case
- Berlin Wall came down
- First computer virus reported
- Exxon Valdez disaster
This brings us to 1990, a time by which most (but certainly not all) of my people were at least born, if not fully aware of the world around them.
I am as susceptible as anyone else to think of “anything that happened before I was around happened forever ago,” (for example, I spent the first 10-15 years of my life thinking Black Americans had been treated like equals for easily 50-75 years – that racism was truly a thing of The Past. Tragic.)
I was about to launch into another whole thing about Trump and the things he’s destroying that we’ve worked so hard for during my lifetime, but I’m spent. Thank your lucky stars. 😉
What an odd expression, “a line in the sand.”
It has unclear origins, historically, and may be based entirely upon a misunderstanding of words Jesus is said to have spoken.
A line in the sand is quickly blurred, and soon eradicated altogether. A gust of wind, a small wave, a footstep – gone.
Ironically, I have found my line in the sand; I know what it is – at least for the moment, I do. As I have learned over the last three days, “having made up my mind” is suddenly a fluid state of being. I am certain one moment, uncertain the next, and certain of another thing four moments hence.
The gods are having a field day with my life right now, laughing uproariously as I struggle to get a handle on this rapidly-changing, constantly unfolding trainwreck. “Look,” they cackle; “she thinks she’s got it now! Wait, wait – hold my beer,” and they throw something absolutely ludicrous into the mix.
I take the blow, smash face-first into the floor, blink in abject confusion, and then stand back up again, reassessing, beginning the whole process anew, but with different rules, different information, and a deck stacked against me – the deck I myself shuffled, and either subconsciously stacked badly, or just had my usual horrifically bad luck with random number games.
This is all my own doing. I knew going in that it was a bad idea – but I didn’t realize I was going to be the one to suddenly have the shoe on the other foot. My mood this very second is nothing short of absurd – I have tripped an emotional circuit breaker of one sort or another, unplugged my ego, and am being controlled by whatever inmates run rampant in my head when I’m not at the wheel.
I keep hearing this quote from WKRP in Cincinnati back in 1979 running through my head – Johnny Fever is … doing something dumb, I assume. Someone says, “let the chips fall where they may!” to which Johnny replies, “wait… I’m the chips!” Later, as the story unfolds, things get tense, and he murmurs in a very scared voice, “chips are falling!”
All of this is maddeningly vague, I’m sorry. I can’t go into details for more reasons than you can imagine, but these last three days have been a rollercoaster from the depths of hell. A ride of Shakespearean proportion. I half envision a Greek chorus following me around, providing foreshadowing to the audience – none of which I can hear, of course, because the actors don’t know about the chorus.
The irony won’t stop – it steps up its game every time I think things cannot get any more unreal.
I’ve said this many time before, and I’ll say it again – life is not for cowards. My heart-like place is just chaos – it doesn’t know what it is, what it’s for, where it’s going, why it’s here, or whether it’s even a real thing. It is simultaneously dust, and glass, and stone, and tender flesh. This is my life right now.
Unsurprisingly, from the time I began this post until now, the sands have shifted and my line is … if not gone entirely, then certainly blurred all to hell and gone. FOR THE CRAZIEST FUCKING REASON: The least likely person on the planet, almost totally literally, has put my mind at more ease than anyone else has been able to do thus far. We were having two entirely different conversations, depending upon which perspective one took, and it all worked out beautifully for both of us. And I’m at peace. For the moment, of course.
It could be matter of days, hours, or nanoseconds before I am ripped out of this “everything is hilarious/fine” mode – I’m guessing a matter of less than an hour, given the material at hand (buckle up, babycakes!!) – and then who knows what’s next. And then after that. And after that. How long can I keep this up?
Answer: Until I either don’t have to, or until I can’t.
Fuck, I wish I could go into more detail, and maybe someday, I can. But for now – just laugh with me, friends, and wish peace upon my soul. I need both.
My mother taught me a lot of very bad things.
Overcoming them as much as I have has taken decades of work, and there are many casualties lying in pools of blood alongside the path.
In the featured photo, I am far, far too young to realize the patterns I was learning even then. My heart aches for that little girl and the years she has ahead.
Seldom do they serve any useful purpose – they are designed to be precise weapons of terrible destruction, of others and of myself. I’ve used them that way in the past myself, and it’s horrible to witness myself, as if from a third person, wielding them thusly. They are wicked and effective.
I have learned, however, that in gentler hands, they can be used for good. One of the habits my mother taught me was to never show signs of hurt or anger. We bottle that shit up and shut it down, because emotion is weakness. Stay in control, never let them see you bleed. That defensive behavior, in conjunction with its more offfensive siblings, results in what someone once called The Ice Queen.
I don’t like the Ice Queen; she and I are not friends. She is, however, a tale for another time.
Today, running errands amongst the thronging hordes of people, I laughed and smiled and interacted as if my whole world were not burning. No trace of the flames in my heart licked up through my eyes, the shards of glass did not protrude through my flesh – all of that was Contained. Bottled up. Hidden.
Rather than storm throughout the day, being miserable and passing along those bad vibes, I radiated positivity, friendliness, and courtesy. When encountering a genuine smile, more people than not will respond in kind, sometimes even with surprise; this makes my day. So it was everywhere I went this afternoon. I even had myself fooled.
Back in the safety and solitude of my car (which is as black as my mood,) the feelings could no longer be contained properly, and oozed out, coating me in a foul, oily aura.
Home, I gave my roommate the briefest of details as to the situation. I didn’t cry, I didn’t rage, I just stated how I was feeling, loosely describing the mental and physical anguish and distress I’ve been in for the last three days. Going into any meaningful detail would have been a different story, but I even managed to chuckle a few times at his responses, for my roommate is far too impressed with me – “Dude,” he began, “you are on an entirely different level of acceptance in life.”
He meant it as a compliment, and I took it as such, but I wonder – is there such a thing as too accepting?
There is, I’m certain – and many of the things on the mental list I just composed of “things one should not accept” are things that I am, right now, accepting. Shit.
I tell you what, friends; life is not for cowards or for the faint of heart.
There is a very fine line between “broken” and “not broken.”
A hair’s breadth.
Is it possible to be crushed to bits, destroyed, yet not broken?
“Broken,” to me, implies being unable to recover, incapable of putting myself back together – I’m not there, not yet.
What I am is ground to dust. My heart, my gut, are filled with the sharpest glass, slowly shredding me. Everything in me is actively on fire.
But I am not broken. Though I may be absolutely crumbled to shit, sheer stubbornness prevents being broken – I am not going to let one cruel, cowardly, lying bastard break me forever. My pride, coupled with whatever sense of self I have, will not let this happen.
My pride, my wounds, demand his immediate and irrevocable banishment. My insecurities demand this, as well, but also wheedle to keep him close. My insecurities are conniving, two-faced assholes. My true self is ambivalent – she is honest, she is destroyed, she is furious, she is grief-stricken, heart-broken, incredulous, and filled with burning, but she loves him and believes at least some of it was real, somewhere. If she’s 100% wrong, then I’m better at fooling myself than I ever thought I was.
Was it real if only one of us was actually living it?
The thing I was living was an illusion – a lie. Of the two of us, only he knew the truth. I was living in a fantasy.
Perhaps the worst part of it all… no, there are many, many “worst parts:”
- I believed a liar, and I doubted myself. I consciously chose to believe his lies. I looked at my gut feeling, and I looked at the words he was saying to me, and I said, “you know, I really don’t believe this, but I’m going to choose to believe him, because that is the most kind and compassionate thing I can do.” So I did.
- Ironically, only recently, I was having a conversation with someone about being suspicious versus believing people. Every time I have this conversation, I say the same thing, and I still hold it as My Truth: It is better to believe someone and be taken for a fool later, than to disbelieve someone who is telling the truth.
- I am furious with myself, as well, because I knew. My gut knew. My conscious brain even knew. But two things kept me from trusting myself:
- I wanted to believe him. Plain and simple, that is what my heart wanted.
- I knew if I started this relationship with Grave Doubts, it would never flourish into everything it could be, and it would be my fault. Now, it will never be everything it could be… but it’s not my fault. I suspect that will be easier to live with.
- Karma/I don’t deserve nice things. This is karma for Jon, this is payback for the times I slept with married people. I am not a good enough person to be this happy.
- I did my best, and it wasn’t enough. I don’t have much of anything else I can do or give. That was what I was, what I had, and he actively chose to shit all over it. If he had me at my best, and that wasn’t enough… what then?
- Jailbreak. I was writing a beautiful piece about how he saved me from my internal prison, how he was the one I’d been waiting for for so long. Now, I look at the paintings, and am filled with unspeakable sorrow and emptiness. I suppose the one good thing is that I was out of the prison for awhile. Maybe now I go back in – this remains to be seen, and is terrifying. The only thing stronger than my stubbornness is my subconscious, and I don’t know what it’s doing right now. I am deeply afraid of it.
- I don’t know whether to burn the paintings, to keep them on the wall as a reminder, or to just put them away somewhere. I hate them.
- I understand his stupid, stupid reasons. I get it – but I don’t get it. I understand his logic, or the lack thereof, but I don’t understand how he could do this to me. To someone he professed to love and cherish, the person he said he had never and would never lie to. As he said he hadn’t lied, that he wasn’t lying in that very second… he was lying.
- I made plans for the future that included another person. I don’t do that. I didn’t do that with my fucking husband, not really, because I know nobody sticks around for the long run. What fucking planet am I suddenly from where after two months I believed? If I could see through the tears to kick myself, I would.
- Blatant disrespect and a complete disregard for THE ONE THING I NEED. This wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a slip – this was a conscious choice, a deliberate series of actions and lies to cover them up. I do not use “disrespect” lightly, for seldom do I feel I am worthy of respect. He made me feel I was – and then he was the one who destroyed that feeling.
- Sidenote. Irony: He may be the person who convinced me I am actually worthwhile and valuable enough not to be treated the way he has treated me. What the fuck do I even do with that.
- I have long been amazed and awed by people in relationships who have such obvious and abiding love, admiration, and respect for each other, no matter what. I thought finally, maybe, I had rediscovered such a thing after 25 years of what I can only call penance. I believed. I looked forward to everything.
- The cruelty. He chose a cruel path. He actively reassured me, built up my trust – encouraged me to believe, believe, believe, only to betray me.
- I legitimately do not know what to do. I am in an untenable position. I have two obvious choices, and myriad variants:
- End the relationship.
- I will be miserable. I will miss him. I will grieve for what we had, and what we could have had. “I couldn’t love you any more, and yet I will tomorrow,” I told him a couple of weeks ago. That would die.
- All of the things I love about him will be gone forever.
- He will never whisper, “you’re amazing” to me again.
- I will never feel that unbelievable sense of oneness as he holds me in his arms – the perfect contentedness of being right where I am supposed to be. Where I thought I was supposed to be.
- I do not become a crazy person, second-guessing myself at every turn. Well, at least, not with him – maybe that’s just going to be a part of my life from now on, becoming less and less trusting BECAUSE OF THE WORDS AND ACTIONS OF ONE FUCKING MAN GODDAMN IT I AM QUESTIONING THE THINGS THAT MAKE ME WHO I AM. FUCK.
- Typing those words made me burst fully into tears for the first time since this nightmare began. Great.
- Try to cobble things back together. Make the choice to work through the pain, the fear, the doubt, and try to figure out if there’s a bearable way forward.
- I will probably still be miserable, for quite some time. Maybe until it ends. I don’t know.
- I will still grieve for what could have been, because whatever lies ahead is irreversibly altered. We will never have “what we could have had;” it’s no longer a viable path.
- Because of that, I don’t know if it’s worth my time, pain, and effort to even try.
- I don’t know whether he would change (read, “stop lying,” and “stop being afraid of conflict,”) or even legitimately try to.
- Instinct says “people can change, but he is not going to change, because he’s not willing;” as he said earlier, “this is who I am.” If that’s who he is, and if he is comfortable with that, there is no changing. If there is no changing, I have to decide whether I can live with a complete lack of trust in my life. I can’t believe I would even consider that.
- How do I look this person in the eye after everything? He will never fathom the hurt, the damage.
- He would still be in my life with all the wonderful things about him – but also with all of … this. I legitimately don’t know what’s worse – having him, or at least the part of him I’ve had to whatever degree that might have been, or not having him at all.
- Common sense says, “you’ll never be sure. You’ll never be totally confident and secure.”
- I have to decide if that’s something I can do. Even considering it makes me feel foolish.
- When he murmurs, “you’re amazing” into my hair when I’m lying on his chest, I will always think, “but not amazing enough.” That is my new truth.
- When I am wrapped up in his arms, will I ever feel that same sense of security and belonging? Did he feel the same when he’s been cuddled up with her? Honestly? That part doesn’t even matter – monogamy is optional. It’s the DECEIT that is killing me. I know we can both be amazing in his eyes for different and similar reasons.
- Do I become a crazy, paranoid police person, always vigilant, always wondering, never truly certain I know the situation? How do I not become that person? Put a GPS tracker and a chest cam on him? Constantly monitor all forms of communication, knowing full well that is easily circumvented?
- I have no interest in keeping track of the seconds that have passed, the steps he has taken, reading all of his emails and chats, ruthlessly discovering what he has or has not done or said. That is exhausting, and it is an unwinnable battle.
- His lies come so easily, and they’re so specific; I’ll never truly know whether he’s telling me the truth. Can I live with that? That’s what this boils down to. Can I have a lesser happiness, a lesser relationship, and be content with that? Will that state with him be better than something else?
- I need assurances. How the fuck do I get them from a pathological liar?
- Worst-case scenario: I try to work things through, really give it my best go, and things begin to go well. Things fall apart as he cannot keep himself from lying. How do I recover from that as a whole person?
- Alternate worst-case scenario: I shut the relationship down, when it could have been the best thing that ever happened to me. I spend the rest of my life wondering about him, just as I have about Jon.
- End the relationship.
- Jon. I thought maybe, just maybe, the universe had forgiven me for Jon – that maybe I’d forgiven myself for what I did and said. Turns out, I was just being set up for a comeuppance.
- Changes. I made deep changes to accommodate him in my life, things about which he has no idea, and for what? Just to be lied to and deceived, all because he was afraid. You want to talk about “afraid?” He has no fucking clue the things I had to overcome to get to this place, and him? He was just status-quo’ing it, coasting along as he always has. The demons I have faced in these few short months would blow his fucking mind.
I fucking hate being this weak. As I typed those words, my better nature told me I am not weak – I’m strong for even considering working things out. Working for something difficult and painful, something I want to have, is not weakness. Not making a rash decision after an egregious wounding, is strong. My worse nature countered, “what if it’s just a pipe dream? An impossible fantasy? Is it really strength to pursue that at the expense of your sanity and self-confidence?”
Fuck. That reminds me – I have never felt more confident than I have these last couple of months. The love in this relationship made me a better person on many levels, and has given me strength I didn’t realize I had. Now, knowing I was laboring under a complete delusion, my confidence has shriveled and has slunk into a very dark recess; it is utterly unwilling to resurface for now. I hope it returns.
When I confronted him with the lies, he said he was going to tell me today. Oh, ok. How do I believe that? Even trying to swallow that line makes me nauseated. Here, we go back to “believe someone rather than disbelieve them,” but at what point does that become foolish instead of honorable? This is the first time I’ve had to ask myself that question; I suppose I have been exceptionally fortunate on that front, then. How tragic this is the time I have to ask it.
In his place, I would be fumbling over myself, trying everything and anything, saying any possible true thing I could think of to salvage the situation. He mumbled platitudes, and had very little else to offer. That is infuriating, and makes me feel he doesn’t really care either way. If things don’t work out here, he’ll pack up and go back home, and pick up his comfortable old life that never really made him happy – I’m certain of this.
It’s not like this was months ago – it was goddamned yesterday. It would be one thing if it were “in the past,” but it’s Right Fucking Now, all apparently because his what-I-thought-would-soon-be-his-ex-wife “started being nice to me.” If that’s all it takes to rekindle those feelings, I’m fucked any way you cut it.
I feel especially foolish that I fell into the “but I’m leaving my wife” trap. I didn’t want that originally – I wanted nothing of the sort. At all. But we fell in love, and then he said he was leaving her, and I said “not on my account, you’re not,” and he said “no no, it’s over anyhow,” and then he moved in with me and I actually believed it was all true.
God I’m such a fucking moron.
The truth is, it has only been a few months – I have to get my head wrapped around that fact. It has not been a long time, it is not a loss I could never get over. It will just hurt like a motherfucker for awhile. It doesn’t matter how long it “feels like” it’s been, how all-consuming my side of this relationship was.
“I deserve better.” Do I? Do I really? With the crap person I have been, do I? Maybe I deserve to be played like this, to be made into a complete, gullible, naive fool by someone I believed to be my unflinching ally. How horrible it is to realize my ostensible wingman doesn’t like conflict and had utterly bugged out once my foot touched the battlefield. I didn’t even know he wasn’t there anymore, and I kept walking forward, confident and trusting he had my back when he was actually nowhere to be seen. I am alone, surrounded by hostile forces.
I am used to being alone in the midst of the war – that is what my life has heretofore been; it was the feeling of having someone unquestionably by my side that was new. I can’t decide whether I wish I hadn’t ever felt that security, because now it’s gone, and I have no idea whether I’ll ever feel it again.
Listening to him talk with her on the phone just now, his entire tone has changed toward her; it’s softer and much more gentle. That might be the most telling thing of all. He is over there chuckling at videos, oblivious. I’m over here eating myself alive. Where is the fairness? I’m getting shipment notifications for things I bought just for him, dying inside, wishing they would never arrive. I am at a complete loss.
The only thing I know is that I cannot make this decision right now. I have to sit with it and decide which grief-stricken path I want to take, unless he offers some kind of opinion – which he is afraid to have.
That unto itself speaks volumes about my growth as a person – even entertaining the notion of trying to work things out is orders of magnitude more than what I would have done previously.
Despite being devastated, despite my heart being rent from my body, despite the immolation of my fucking soul, I will stand back up again.
But not today.
Today, tomorrow, for the foreseeable future, I have to figure out how to get from here to there, to pick a path amongst the thorns and pitfalls.
For now, I have to grieve the death of something nearly perfect, and decide which “less than” path to take.
I wrote this for myself, without intention of sharing with anyone, but now I think I have to show him. Verbally, I have failed to communicate where I am; I’m too devastated and angry to formulate words on the fly. So I guess it’s time to show him – provided he doesn’t mind being interrupted.
Today brought a different perspective – at least, later in the day did.
One of the most infuriating things was not feeling heard, understood, and acknowledged. Verbally, there was nothing other than, “I’m sorry,” “I love you and I don’t want to lose you,” and various other superficial sentiments that brought no new understanding to the situation.
Thinking maybe he might do better in writing, I reached out to him via text when we were working, and it did indeed bear more fruit. I have a better idea of where he is – it’s no less painful, the situation is no less dire, but simply knowing he understands how hurt, angry, and betrayed I feel makes all the difference. It’s helping me to allow myself to let go of the abject rage and sense of being completely dismissed and disregarded.
Old edar wouldn’t have let the anger go; she would have held onto it like a precious treasure, clinging greedily to it because it made her feel righteously indignant and justified.
edar 2.0 realized there is no sense in staying actively angry because he has feelings for his estranged wife. What does staying angry accomplish, other than making it all much worse? Nothing.
So, I am letting it go – sometimes great chunks of it break away, sometimes smaller ones, but at least now I can sense there is still a core of me intact beneath the jagged crust and molten rock.
Her flame may be dim right now, but at least she’s still there.
I’ve realized too that I cannot make a decision until he does. Now that I know where he is, and how he feels – that he legitimately may choose her over me – that puts a different spin on the whole thing.
It is situations like this when I become so frustrated with the culturally mandated concept of monogamy. He’s in love with two people, but has to choose one? How is that fair in any way, when he could love us both?
However, whinging about things out of my control serves no purpose. Now that I am getting my wits back about myself, I can apply the usual tools of logic, reason, dignity, compassion, understanding, integrity, and, if need be, graceful withdrawal.
I am not his wife, nor am I at all like her – I will not actively try to “fight for him” if he chooses another path; that, too, serves no purpose other than to frustrate and infuriate everyone involved. He will choose me or he will not, based solely on the merits or lack thereof. If he doesn’t find me worthy, so be it; it will be a loss for both of us.
I will hate it, I will be devastated even more, but I will accept, recover, and move on.
The not knowing, though, that is a fresh hell. Until today, I thought the decision was largely mine; now I know he isn’t decided himself. I knew it when I heard the tenderness in his voice last night, but didn’t let myself accept it until this morning, when he confirmed he didn’t know what to do, whom to choose. Ah.
And so, death metal, and painting. Escape.
[or, why online dating doesn’t work for me]
Disclaimer: Online dating is completely legitimate; I am not judging anyone for using it, and I’m actually a bit jealous of those of you who can.
Some time after I separated from my ex-husband, I naturally wanted to try dating again. Working second shift (and weekends to boot,) it is, shall we say, “difficult” to meet people organically. A mad scramble to enjoy an hour and a half at a bar after work doesn’t lend itself to getting to know people there, and not many acquaintances are going to be up for doing something after midnight on a “school night.”
What the heck, I thought; I’ll give this online thing a go.
I signed up for the least offensive online dating site I could find, meticulously and thoroughly filled out my profile (because words are my addiction,) took a photo of myself I could stand to have online, and published the whole kit and kaboodle.
As is the case with any female profile, the men pounced quickly, and relentlessly. It wasn’t long before I was matched up with, as far as I could tell, every living being with a pulse within a 50-mile radius. Most of them were not very compelling, more than a few worked with me (awkward,) some were outright NOPE, and a very few piqued my interest. Like maybe two. My hopes plummeted rapidly.
Some of those who messaged me seemed genuine, others were clearly nothing I wanted anything to do with, but the sheer volume knocked me back. A lot. I tried to answer each one with something personal to the original message, but quickly realized that would be a full-time job unto itself. Clenching my teeth against my own rude behavior, I started deleting those who were clearly just non-starters without replying.
I did end up meeting someone from that site, and he was great. His introduction was essentially, “are you a real person?” He was actually what I would consider wayyyy out of my league – a true Grown-Up; a lawyer, a father with kids out of the house, obviously very intelligent, well-informed, politically and recreationally compatible, attractive – all the things. We went on a few dates over the course of a month or so, and despite enjoying his company, I just couldn’t get comfortable; there was something huge and oppressive holding me back, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I loved conversing with him over email, but in person felt a little … the first word which comes to mind is “caged,” as if there were all these inherent expectations I wasn’t sure I wanted anything to do with just yet.
How does one navigate these online dating situations, in terms of etiquette? I have no idea.
I’m reasonably certain that caged feeling was a product of my own insecurities and neuroticism, and that what I perceived as a fraught environment was anything but. Still, it was there, and I couldn’t ignore it (neither could he; he noticed.)
As unfair as it may be, it was having met online. The only reason we met was because we were both looking for someone to date: That’s not something I’d dealt with previously. As much in common as we actually did have, all of that was (in my mind) overridden by the fact we didn’t meet through natural happenstance. This is irrational, I know; get over it, edar.
Typically, and I suspect this is true of most of us, I have dated people I met through shared interests (pool, motorcycles, guns, writing, anything,) mutual friends, or at work. Given my schedule, I have limited time for hobbies during normal waking hours, and my friends these days consist almost entirely of co-workers.
Dating people at work is largely out of the question, because I am a supervisor, and most of the people who share anything close to my schedule are not (not to mention, it’s not generally a good idea to date from the work pool, right?)
To go back a moment, I have fallen in love with people I’ve met online – sometimes even before having met them in person – but not through dating sites. These are people I met through email lists, games, and other venues which were very much not about dating.
Evidently, for me, I need to have that shared common experience, that foundation which has been laid without the overtones put forth by having met through online dating. While I’m not always a “friends first” kind of person at all, it apparently does make things easier by orders of magnitude.
Too, I enjoy my solitude immensely; more often than not, I am content being alone. The last person I dated ran into that obstacle time and again – he wanted to spend more time together, and I….. didn’t. Ideally, I’ll find someone who makes me want to spend time together, but in my head, I can’t even imagine what that would feel like anymore.
To get back to the already belabored point, barely a month after having signed up for the free dating service, I nuked my profile and fled, never looking back.
I know people who have married someone they met through online dating, and many more who have had wonderful, fun experiences. It’s been a year now since I tried it, and I still can’t bring myself to go back, despite being cautiously interested in maybe sort of dating someone, and having precisely zero appropriate prospects at hand.
Finding someone who not only has a compatible schedule, but who can put up with my nonsense is likely going to be a long, rough road. I suspect blood will spill from some of the bumps. Maybe it’ll be fun?
(Maybe I’m an Albanian jet pilot)
On Tuesday, I filed divorce papers. A week prior, my husband posted a very eloquent note on Facebook; it was poignant, fair, and painful to read. I read it several times, astounded at his newfound writing talent, heartbroken for causing him so much pain, but glad to see him reaching out for help from his friends, who of course responded warmly and generously.
He wrote about how, when he took off his wedding band, the skin underneath it cracked and bled, and used this as an analogy for how our marriage had protected him from various aspects of life as the ring had protected his finger from the elements. He’s working to overcome those obstacles, and I see him posting about going out with friends and socializing more, which heartens me. I am sad not to be a part of it, and I miss him, but these are the choices I have made.
Reading his post got me thinking about writing down my own thoughts, as I’ve mostly just been processing things subconsciously, and answering questions when I get them as honestly as I could.
I used to be a writer. I stifled those processes somewhere in the last few years.
It pains me to see how much Mike is suffering. It pains me to deliberately avoid talking to him, lest I accidentally tear open a fragile wound. However, as much as I love him (and I do love him,) I know we are not going to be happy together. We will both grow and move on, and I hope at some point he’ll be able to talk to me again. I am certain he’ll find someone who makes him deliriously happy, rather than settling for someone he can put up with. At the very least, he won’t be dragged down by our relationship.
Love, tragically, does not conquer all – at least not in and of itself. With Love there must come Work. Effort. A lack of Apathy.
If Apathy prevails for too long, the hole to climb out of becomes deeper and deeper, very very gradually. Once in awhile, we stopped and noticed the equivalent of, “Wow, we’re in a pretty deep hole here; we should probably do something about that.”
It wasn’t hellish, it wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t “bad.” It was mostly comfortable. So, we let it continue.
This went on until I realized I could no longer even see anything that wasn’t the hole. We couldn’t dig ourselves out together, so I started digging my own way up… and I left Mike behind.
It was not without soul-wracking guilt. In many ways, Mike saved me – Financially, emotionally, professionally. I hate to repay him with… this. He was always there for me in the most pragmatic ways – for he is a pragmatic man – and amazed me continually with new feats of engineering and ingenuity.
We had a good life on paper. Logically, we are a great match. We had a good life in other ways, too, but I am an impulsive person, a spontaneous person. Mike is very much the opposite: He is methodical, considered, meticulous – things I wish I were better with. Too, he wished for some of my spontaneity.
Instead of balancing each other out, as would be ideal, our instincts fought and clashed. Very seldom did we ourselves actually fight, or even argue, but we approach life very differently, and neither of us was compromising. Our descent into the big hole was smooth and gentle. A very professional veneer coated us, insulating us from truly connecting with each other.
A decade ago, I bought a wonderful set of wind chimes when I was shopping in Olympia with Mark and Wendy. The sounds they create in a gentle wind resonate deeply in my soul and make me happy. I don’t remember why I didn’t have them hanging outside at our house, but they weren’t – for years. They lay in a box, still and silent. I would see them occasionally and feel a pang of regret, but still didn’t hang them.
Several months before I left, Mike found them and hung them up in the family room one night. I was in the kitchen, and he moved the clapper slightly so the chimes toned, and then carefully watched my face. I remember being so surprised and touched at his thoughtfulness – but I can’t remember whether I let that expression show on my face. I was emotionally locked down. He did something so sweet to make me happy, and I’m not even sure I let him know he had succeeded.
Later, when I reflected upon this and realized what had probably happened (not showing happiness,) the first stirrings began of needing something else. I thought back to how our relationship started.
I came at Mike like a Mack truck, blind-sided him with the full force and intensity of which I am capable. He frantically waved his arms and tried to get me to back up a bit, but my mind was made up, and I am stubborn. I didn’t know who he was or what he was about – I just remember so vividly the profound gravitational pull Mike exerted on me the day we met, and how I was convinced we were destined to be together. And we were – for awhile.
I can’t help but feel, however, that my decision to leave will ultimately serve us both better in the long run. The breaking point for me was becoming friends with two people who are so clearly meant for each other – witnessing their connection jolted me into the reality of our situation. We would never have that, regardless of how much work we might do, and what we did have was making us both miserable.
We both deserve to be happy. We cannot be happy together. Therefore, I had to leave, because I knew he wouldn’t – he is too good a man.
I started staying out late after work more nights than not, socializing with friends from work until four or five in the morning. I didn’t want to go home; I didn’t want to face the awkwardness. I was going to say “oppressiveness,” but that implies it was Mike doing the oppressing, and he was not. It was the situation in its entirety – the too-big house, the too-deep hole, the too-prevalent lack of joy.
I wanted him to be asleep when I got home, so I could just curl up next to him and be close without being confronted with all of the Issues. Cuddling up at night was the best part of my day, despite everything. The love was there and it was easy when we didn’t have to try to communicate. We fit together so naturally, wrapped up in the same position every night without even thinking about it, literally all the way from our fingers to our toes. It was warm and comforting.
Looking at the big picture, each of us is to blame for the course our relationship took, but I am acutely aware of my guilt for the abrupt ending. I could have done it better, but this is the first time I’ve been through the end of a marriage – I fumbled my way through. I could have made better choices, I could have been more communicative. We didn’t know how to talk to each other at all about simple things – how could we talk about this?
I was in an untenable mental state – held almost motionless and emotionless by the gelatin of the relationship surrounding us. Mike was right there, right next to me, but the distance between us (even cuddled up with each other at night) was a chasm. We could not reach each other. This was not his fault; it was what it was.
Many nights, as I was fighting my daily battle with insomnia, I would have this fantasy that inevitably made me cry: I envisioned myself trapped inside a nearly lifeless body; depressed, scared, dark – suspended in black space. Another being I thought of as Mike was there, radiating this brilliant, warm, yellow light. Waiting patiently, watching, trying to gently help but unable to rescue me from my prison. He was patient, knowing I was trapped and that I would eventually find my way out. He did not leave me.
At some point, though, he succeeded in coaxing my true self out of the prison, and my own glowing light burst through the shell and spilled into the darkness. We are both deliriously happy, and I say to him, “you saved me. You stayed, you waited; you saved me. Thank you.” We go on to live an exuberantly happy, vivid life, alive and together, experiencing everything with a new intensity.
It brings tears to my eyes now, just thinking about it – moreso because I didn’t stay or wait until we somehow managed to save each other. I cut bait, jumped ship, deserted. I left a man behind. I gave up. Mike was strong enough to carry me, but I wasn’t strong enough to do the same for him.
I left for me, I left for both of us, because I believe we’ll find happiness apart where we couldn’t have together.
Lastly, I am nearly certain this is the worst decision I have ever made, and I told him that the other day. Understandably, he was confused. It’s difficult to articulate how I could think that, and still make the choices I have. The reasons to stay were largely pragmatic – We had firewalled off a great deal of the emotional side of things long ago – and I am not a pragmatic person.
I hurt him, I hurt his family, I hurt my family, I hurt myself. I’ve probably created awkwardness with our wonderful mutual friends.
As difficult as this is, ultimately, I feel I made the right decision. Despite that, I miss him, I love him… and I do know I failed him.
There are many things each of us wishes we had said or done, but didn’t – something I hope we can both overcome in the future.
I hung the windchimes on my front porch this week. They are lovely and gentle, and they make me happy, though each time they start to chime, I see Mike Neir’s face as he rang them for me, and I wish I had told him.
Giant Installment No. 1
(With special appearances by Heath Ledger, Gordon Freeman, and Urine From the Roof)
For anyone who is not Mike or myself – this will be completely, utterly and in all other ways yawn-tastic. I want to tell this story for myself, and for Mike, and if any of you want to come along for the ride, please do. This is only the first chapter; believe it or not… there is More.
I know, for many people, “love at first sight” is a completely ridiculous notion, and while I can’t say what I felt when I first laid eyes on Mike Neir was A Deep and Abiding Love, it was certainly a close relation.
First, let me say this. I got my job pretty much as a complete fluke. I’d tangentially met Yellowmouser/Alex through our mutual friends in the Stilyagi Air Corps, but never in person. I knew some details of his life from his LJ, but not much. After we had both moved to Lansing through a series of coincidences, we struck up an acquaintance, hung out a little and he recommended me for a job at his place of employment. It was his recommendation that landed me the job, because my references page had two errors on it. Two! The hiring manager had a terrible time getting me vetted by my past employers, but she and I both persevered and the job was fine. I started mid-June of 2008.
My first exposure to Mike was an introduction to his website through a trainer at work. “You’ll want to bookmark this,” Jay said; “dude’s a genius.” I glanced at the page, was impressed with the author’s technical savvy and his ability to form a sentence, bookmarked it, and promptly never looked at it again.
Fast-forward a few weeks to July 19th, when LW rented us a movie theater on a Saturday afternoon for the premiere of the new Batman movie. The staff gathered in front of the cinema, everyone talking and comfortable with each other. I was still new enough to feel awkward and not quite fitting in, except with a few people. I loosely clung to Benny and ￼yellowmouser, while trying to pretend not to feel highly uncomfortable. At one point, I was standing in line alone, while the other staff chatted around me, as I silently wished to shrink into the floor. I do well when people include me, but if they don’t… I don’t want to force myself upon them, so I retreat. Suffice it to say, I was feeling somewhat timid. ￼yellowmouser came back and walked with me into the theater, and we selected a choice pair of seats. As I passed the occupant of the seat closest to me, I noted “oh hey, cute boy at 10 o’clock” in my peripheral vision, but I was too busy feeling shy to actually look at him. I remember being vaguely aware of a chorus of people talking to him until the previews started, but I never once glanced in his direction. As Heath Ledger worked his creepy Joker magic on-screen, I was tangentially aware of this boy sitting a few seats down occasionally laughing or making a quiet remark about the movie, but I was fairly wrapped up in the story and didn’t take notice of specifics. Thus, I spent my first few hours with Mike Neir generally ignoring him. 🙂
That night, Benny had a party at her house. This was a much more comfortable setting with fewer people I didn’t know, and I was having a good time even before I noticed the boy from the movie theater walking up the steps. He was wearing a red shirt with white print and a red hat. I could see by the dim light of the streetlamps he had these amazing sideburns and a kind face. As he came onto the front porch, he was telling a story about how, when he’d parked his car, someone from the house he was in front of yelled down that he couldn’t park there. I missed most of the details of this story, because I was busy being completely drawn to him. I didn’t know who he was, had no clue what sort of person he was… but I was enchanted. I completely lost interest in flirting with the two or three other people who’d had my marginal attention that evening.
The guy in the red shirt attracted a lot of attention from everyone, many of whom seemed surprised to see him. Mike Neir is not a social creature; it was largely serendipitous we managed to be at the same place at the same time under what turned out to be the right circumstances. As I previously noted, I can be horrifically shy, epically shy, when I don’t feel comfortable. I also typically don’t insert myself into someone’s personal space if I think they’re attractive, unless I have some kind of specific invite or another way in. I just don’t. As this new person was telling the strange tale of his parking experience, I watched him from the relative safety of the relative darkness, trying to figure out what was going on in my head. He was standing in my circle of people, and I nodded and smiled and make a comment or two about his story, and riding a tide of emotional bogglement as I tried to understand my reaction.
I remember only one other similar occurrence, and it was long, long ago – about 30 years ago, in fact. A moment when I realized something enormous was happening, but I wasn’t sure quite what it was. I was at Girl Scout camp in Harrison, Michigan, and my group was out in a meadow somewhere doing whatever activity we were supposed to be doing. The details have long since faded. What I remember, though, is one of the camp counselors, Chicago, and how I was behaving with her. It gradually dawned on me, “I’m acting like she’s a boy!!” and my little 8-year-old mind was completely floored. I had no concept of gay or straight at that point; I just knew how I felt about boys, and suddenly, there was this girl causing the same thoughts. It was a profound moment of realization for me, and even though I didn’t fully grasp its meaning.
The entire night on the front porch with Mike Neir was very similar to those moments back in Girl Scout camp. My mental footing was slowly but steadily pulled out from under me over the course of about a half hour. I watched him with intent eyes, and I watched myself in befuddlement.
After a time, Mike went upstairs to get a beer, and I went back to talking to my friends, but the entire time my attention was tunneled in on him, my eyes were flicking around, looking for him, wondering where he was, wanting him to come back. He did, then went to sit down on the swing and began talking to someone else. I moved to the opposite end of the porch, leaned against the railing and listened to him talking. I’ve no clue what he was saying now, and I wasn’t really listening then. My not-shy self wanted to go over and talk to him, to sit down next to him and see what he was about. My shy self was completely convinced he wouldn’t be interested in any such thing at all. He seemed comfortable in his surroundings and confident and commanding. It was clear he was well-liked. I stood there and battled with myself for a good fifteen minutes or so, but all the while, there was an overwhelming feeling of riding this slow, powerful tidal wave picking me inexorably up and being completely helpless to stop it – and not really wanting to.
For almost five months now, I’ve been trying to describe to myself what the feeling was. The only thing I can come up with was, “I belong THERE, next to him.” A sense of belonging. And while it took me a long while, months even, to be confident that my comfort was warranted, I was comfortable with him on a deep, core level from the minute I made the choice to walk across the porch and sit down next to him on that swing.
I remained fully planted there with him for a very long time, and we swung back and forth … more back than forth as there were objects on the floor preventing a full swinging motion, which resulted in quite a workout for various leg muscles, and we joked about doing isometrics. We talked about a host of subjects, the third person on the swing varied as time went by and I became more and more enthralled. I also became more and more certain this man had to have a girlfriend. A serious, wonderful girlfriend, whom he adored. I felt a sense of panic creep in, because I knew I belonged with him, and was convincing myself it couldn’t possibly happen. Undeterred, I stayed by his side, ferreting out little tidbits of information… like he’d just turned 29 a very short while ago. I reeled from that momentarily, but it was a small blow compared to 1.) he must have a girlfriend, and 2.) I am nowhere near cool/pretty/intelligent enough to interest him. I managed to overcome my instincts to run away and hide, though, and muddled through the insecurities.
There was another girl there, Diana, who also seemed keenly interested in Mike; she was far prettier and obviously more fun than I am, and she would periodically drag Mike away upstairs to get a beer while I quietly wanted to strangle her. Fortunately, she lived rather far away and had a boyfriend, and she was sweet and funny, so I managed not to slit her throat in a dark hallway. At one point, they came downstairs giggling about how Mike had somehow ripped a door off its hinges while he protested his innocence. Oh, how nice; you have an inside joke. Seethe.
We all ate thermonuclearly hot pizza together, and chatted about airplanes and Stuff and maybe I was a complete nuisance but I was focused. If we strayed apart for awhile, I would periodically call out, “Mike Neir, how’s your car?” just to touch base with him. The two boys and the girl I’d been flirting with eventually gave up for the night.
We ended up back on the swing, and at some point heard this liquid spattering noise behind us – someone was pissing off the roof and onto the broad-leaved bushed directly behind us. Soon after, Benny’s brother peed on his own car from the roof. Not just accidental splashing – full-bore, I’ve-been-drinking-for-hours, torrential flood of urine… onto his own car’s roof… on purpose. Ah, good times.
I had to work the following morning, so I left earlier than most. It was difficult to just voluntarily walk away from the fun of the party and from Mike, but I was a good little bee and did it anyhow. When I got home, I found him on Facebook. The next day, he replied back and thus began an online dialogue that seemed awkward and stilted at first, but I plowed ahead anyhow. I’d recently begun playing Half Life 2, and we bonded over that a little bit and he helped me solve an in-game quandary I’d been at for a couple of hours.
A week after we first met, he shaved his head and the sideburns, too. I had only seen him in person the one time, but the sideburns were this hallmark thing in my head for him. Shaved head? I wasn’t sure I liked that idea. A few days later, as I was leaving work around midnight, I passed by doorway where I saw someone standing whom I didn’t recognize. I was about to transition to third shift, knew there was a third shift supervisor named Dan I should meet, and thought maybe that was him. Dan had been inaccurately described to me as “a big guy.” This dude sort of fit the bill and was at work at the start of third shift. I walked back and said, before I really looked at this guy and said, “Are you Dan? I don’t think I know you.” “Yes you do!” the bald-headed dude said, perplexed, and I realized OMG this is Mike Neir. With nary a hair on his head. I apologized, touched his head, decided he looked better with hair and that I didn’t care.
A few days after that, a work bar outing was organized, and I strongly encouraged Mike to come. He did, and arrived before I did and there were no chairs near him so I was at the other end of the table. I could barely bring myself to look at him, so instead, I talked and laughed with other co-workers and had fun and drank a bit too much. The bar closed down and booted us out, but we weren’t done playing yet. We all trooped back to LW and proceeded to invade the lounge, where we shot pool, drank more beer and listened to music. Mike can shoot a good game of pool, and as some of you know, so can I. I’d gone beyond that magical point, though, of Sufficient Beer – that zone where alcohol shuts down the over-thinking of trajectory analysis and just lets me instinctively shoot. I couldn’t sink a shot to save my life… I could perhaps blame it on the table, which lacks any character at all, and the cues that went “clank!” with every stroke… but mostly, it was just me.
Eventually, he plopped onto the couch, and I, in my drunk and less inhibited state, plunked down next to him and laid down with my head in his lap. He resolutely did not touch me. Over the next 45 minutes or so, everyone else left, and it was just the two of us in the dimly-light lounge. He got up, adjusted the music, came back and let me settle back into his lap. A few moments later, I heard the haunting strains of Opeth’s Watershed album for the first time and fell in love with them. After an hour or so, we left and continued talking online. My beer-addled brain grappled with words that adamantly refused to adequately convey my vexation at his complete lack of interest. Instead, the first thing I wrote was, “confound you, Mike Neir,” to which he replied, “yeah, I can be pretty impossible; fair warning.” This is perhaps the most true and the most untrue thing about Mike all at once.
I drilled Benny about him; is there a girlfriend? No? Are you kidding me? How is that? His last one was no good? Where is she? I’ll punch her in the throat! Have you two ever slept together? No? Yay! He seriously doesn’t have a girlfriend?
Benny instructed me to calm down and give it time; two weeks, she said. In two weeks, she believed Mike would come around.
I did not, of course, calm down. Unable to take advice, I calmed up. I plotted.
Later that week, undeterred by his stubborn refusal to take an interest, I invited him over to DC2 (the building where my cube lives) to watch movies or some such in the lounge after my shift ended at midnight. We have a great lounge in DC2, complete with Xboxen, many overstuffed couches, speakers all around (and under the couches,) DVD players and assorted other toys all hooked up to the wall projectors. He suggested “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” which I’d never seen before, and I readily agreed. He could have brought paint for us to watch dry and that would have been fine; the important part was bringing himself.
He got the DVD going and we settled into the front and center couch, immediately cuddled up with me under his arm. It was a natural, comfortable process. The awkward part was mental – I was nervous, while he seemed completely calm and collected. With his arm around my shoulders, he gently rubbed me with a thumb absently or tapped his fingers to the music. I was baffled at how at ease he seemed, and how physically at ease I was myself, the “I belong right here” feeling.
Hours later, in the wee morning, we were both tired and figured we should go home. One of the guys on his team came in and talked to us for awhile, and I was pleased Mike didn’t immediately shy away from me or try to act differently. He walked me to my car, where again I overcame my urge to be shy and said, “kiss me, Mike Neir.” He looked back toward the building and said, “but we’re on camera!” “Do we care?” “Well, kinda…?” and gave me two quick kisses before walking to his own car.
I felt somewhat euphoric, but it was just a tiny foreshadow of the grand, sweeping euphoria yet to come.
That’s the clinical, archival version of how we met and I managed to capture him. The bits to come are much more sickeningly sweet and gushy.