The Things I Carry: The Jell-O Mold (Part 3)


When I started this little writing project the goal was to give internal pains an external form – a picture, a shape, an image and a few words. It seemed so simple. There should be nothing difficult about expressing these truths.

But each time I sit down and start to write I choke and gag. A panic sets in and what was so crisp and clear dissolves into a mist in the back of my mind. The goal is to gain perspective on a spiritual sickness that is killing me and the relationships around me. It is more painful than I imagined. The tap-root of this sickness is buried deep in my soul. I’ve watered and fed and nurtured this sickness my whole life with superficial relationships, naïve idealism, poetic romanticism, misplaced loyalties and self-serving illusions and mythologies.

Now at my mid-life I’m trying to pull it out and it is turning me inside out.

As such, at the moment, the process of taking my medicine leaves me keeled over and dry heaving, the taste of vomit burning the back of my throat. It leaves me in a type of pain that wants me to rush out and find some soothing balm to treat the symptoms but not the illness. The same balms that ignored the sickness to begin with: “Hey! You have a brain cloud. Take these aspirin and jump into the volcano and that will fix everything.” (Nods to the Tom Hank’s movie Joe versus the Volcano)

So I end up setting “that one” aside and tell myself I’ll come back to it later. I tell myself to move to the next one only to gag again.

In the back of my mind’s eye I’m trying to see how others will see what I’m going to write. I made a decision not to hide behind a pseudonym. I’ve hidden enough in my life and that is one of the ways I ended up here. As such, what I reveal has to be both honest and appropriate in a way that doesn’t create drama for other good people or the perception of an intimacy that is not real for the audience.

Here is the difference between writing a journal and a memoir.  Too often in the past I would share things in my writing more appropriate to a journal entry and appropriate to share only within intimate, committed relationships. What I ended up doing is sharing a false intimacy with strangers and spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically hiding from the people who actually matter. I find one thing that seems genuine and share it over and over.

Sometimes it isn’t even mine – a poem, a song, a joke, a photo, a story or a secret. It is something someone else intimately shared with me that I seized and repeat it to others. Then I do not even have to be vulnerable but I look vulnerable and sensitive. I look like something when in truth I am not.

I do not know if this is a unique behavior. I think some people who have intimacy issues because of sexual, physical, spiritual and/or emotional abuse look to others to bring intimacy into their lives. We look for people to make it safe first. We look for people who will make it safe to let our illness out. In modern terms those people are call hostages. If they stay they are volunteers.

I look for someone to love me first so that I can latch on to it.

When we meet a person that shows us what intimacy, vulnerability and commitment looks like we in turn it into a Jell-O mold. We try to repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat what we “see” onto other relationships. It is why my relationships are superficial. All my early relationships were superficial – from early girlfriends to my parents. My core relationships lacked depth. My second high school girlfriend was a complete nut job – and I went along with for no other reason than spite of my mother.

Well, that and the blow jobs – which I later learned could have been better. Which for most 16-year-old boys is fairly common. Ah, you live and learn.

It is why I try to make one relationship look like another. It is why I hang onto illusions and mythology of past relationships and people. It is why I hurt one good person after another – I try to stuff the relationship – and their love – into a mold never designed to fit. I try to make myself fit too.

I do it even if the love is mutual. Even if I really do want to be there.

What it looks like in the end is I say one thing and do another. I want to be vulnerable and open and committed but when those actions come close to old wounds I shut down and shut people out. I then fall back to the Jell-O mold of Superficiality.

This is why I am controlling and manipulating – I want it to be safe. I want it to work without the risk of vulnerability. Vulnerability threatens some deep wound. Like when you see someone else get hit in the nuts you still cringe. I act as if vulnerability and being authentic will make me weak – as if it will hit me in the nuts. I use superficial relationships as a catcher uses a cup – to protect the soft parts. I use it as a buffer to protect myself from further sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual abused.

The result is all too often I end up being the abuser. Forgive the cliché – a good offense is the best defense.

As such, because I’m spending so much energy “managing” the relationship I fail to participate in the relationship. All too often I know what I’ve done while doing it which creates a cycle of shame, regret and remorse and I create a whole new Jell-O mold. I create a whole new narrative. I become even more aloof to cover feelings of worthlessness and unloveability.

As I said, I don’t think this is unique to me.

At least I hope not or else I’m more sociopath then broken. With time and effort you can mend broken. I’m not sure sociopath can be mended. A sociopath can change their behavior but they will never have a connection to another person that is anything more than superficial. I long to be whole and to be a part of something deeper. I’ve just lacked to the courage to take my medicine and the patience to sit in the pain while I heal.

Not this time.

So then, here is to the Jell-O mold of Relationships: fun to make, wonderful to play with, challenging to eat with dignity and completely devoid of spiritual, emotional, intellectual or physical substance.

With better choices on my part I’ll never settle for Jell-O when I can eat from a buffet.

Maybe it will have pudding?

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