Yesterday, I was criticized. It wasn’t even constructive.
It is not a surprise actually. Everyone has critics in life: people who look and judge and tell you what you do wrong or what you can do better (or how they would do it better). People who respond with a simple “suck it up” or “buck up” or “shut the fuck up”. So many variations, so few themes.
She means well, but I’m going through a place in my life where everything hurts. Well, not everything, but enough to cause my eyes to spontaneously seep water. It happens when I sleep, I’ll wake up with moisture on my pillow. I’ll be driving and will have to get off the road for a few minutes – breathing becomes labored.
Women call it crying. Generally, men call it being a “fucking pussy.”
The simple explanation is, over the last year, I’ve lost a series of relationships in quick succession and the awareness of the loss has overwhelmed me with grief. Grief feels like the end of a Tom Hanks movie…and during the closing credits someone runs up and kicks you in the balls. Oh, and for no apparent reason, your dog is shot by the pimply teenager from the concession stand.
I know crying isn’t manly. Men are supposed to be strong, virile and stoic. Except when they aren’t. Of course the line between vulnerable, committed and sensitive and needy, pushy and obnoxious is a moving target. Fighting for the relationship is romantic and makes a great movie except when it is simply pathetic idealism. It is fantastic except when patient persistence becomes stalking.
I use to argue that my Ex and I are connected by a string through time and space that bound our souls to some cosmic love that would persist throughout all ages. It sounds romantic until one recognizes the truth: my Ex was, and may still be, nuts. And just to be fair, so was I.
For nearly thirteen years after the divorce we didn’t speak.
Then the Ex called me.
This is where I’m suppose to tell you, she called out of some motivation to make things right, to find some closure.
This is what actually happened. She fumbled through an acknowledgment of the pain WE inflicted on one another and THEN she got to the point: she needed a copy of some legal documents so she could have our marriage annulled by the Catholic Church. It would make it easier for her to remarry.
In hindsight, I wish I had not taken the call. Instead I rolled over like a well-trained dog: tongue hanging out, tail wagging and just happy for the table scraps.
Looking back on that call six years later the irony isn’t lost on me. I was still trying to get her to like me. I was still seeking her approval. I still carried this torch for her and a romantic belief that we would find a way to reconcile. It would have made a fantastic Hallmark movie…or an AA/Al-Anon Couple’s Lead.
Never mind, reality: I was happily married.
Six years later – hell nearly nineteen years later – I finally understand.
I don’t understand her or her needs. I mean, I understand what I need.
I understand, that when we married, I should have slapped a collar on her, threw her over a knee, pulled down her panties and blistered her ass. Maybe that is not what she needed (but my opinion is she did) but it is what I needed. Not in an abusive, misogynistic way but more in a, “Hey, riding Harleys till three in the morning with other men who want to daddy, and then fuck you, is not okay” and for your behavior there are consequences.
There were never any real consequences.
She did what she wanted and I ended up crazy. And the crazier I got the more she misbehaved with men more interested in riding her then riding with her.
In the end, I believed the problem was me not her. After, all that is what a Hero does – take all responsibility for everything. Even stuff that is not his job.
I do know that when she called thirteen years later and wanted something – one more time – I should have told her no and spanked her on the ass just for asking me. It is what I needed. It is what I needed to keep my dignity and self-worth. Instead, I played the “Hero” and two days later sent her the paperwork with a smile.
Over the last six years we’ve periodically talked on the phone. We were Facebook friends. We traded text messages.
It was all superficial. It was all bullshit.
I didn’t see it was until about four months ago when two things happened.
The first one was she called, I don’t remember why, and we spent some time talking about her new boyfriend and her newfound desire to have a child. For a variety of reasons it pissed me off (I’ll talk about that later). However, I congratulated her and told her how wonderful I thought it was. Essentially, I played the nice guy and encouraged her to follow her heart and if that is what she really wanted she should do it. It is the same reason when she moved out, I gave her the furniture and the bed – I suffer from fucking Nice Guy Syndrome (do or say one thing while thinking another).
I was actually seething with and anger and jealousy.
The second was her birthday. I sent her a card with a Wonder Woman theme. Nothing fancy, just a polite card to keep the illusion going. She responded with a warm thank you, telling me how much she loves Wonder Woman and that it is a theme in her bathroom. She was going to send me a picture – her idea not mine.
Kind of cute, right?
I joked about not being surprised considering my Ex’s…umm…Wonder Woman likeness. She acknowledged she still felt there is some chemistry between us and it was nice we could be friends. I agreed and told her I look forward to seeing the picture – cause you know – I’m a Nice Guy. She asked how I was doing and I opened up to her and told her I was going through some rough emotional things and that I was seeking a spiritual solution to my pain.
I haven’t heard a word since. No pictures of Wonder Woman. No words of encouragement. Just silence.
I thought I was having a relationship with a woman. Instead, I opened myself up to a vacuum. When she needs something I’m on it within two days – with a smile – when I need something I get nothing. And I’m looking for friends…apparently in all the wrong places.
This why we divorced. This is the truth of our marriage. This is why what could have been beautiful actually sucked: I married a vacuum. I looked crazier and crazier and she looked saner and saner. It is easy to look the sane one when you are an empty vessel and the other person is all in. The person that is all in acts desperate, and honestly, there is nothing attractive about desperate.
Desperate people do desperate things. As such, I was and I did.
Within a few days of seeing reality, I unfriended her on Facebook. Deleted her phone number and email address.
Here is more truth, if she thought we were really friends she would have said something. There are people on Twitter that if they don’t see a tweet from me on a weekly basis will direct message me and ask if everything is okay. I’ve never met them. I’ve known my Ex for nearly twenty years and I don’t get a, “Hey, I know you are in pain. I just want to let you know it will be okay.” It’s been over two months and I haven’t heard a word from her.
So this experience ended up highlighting several things I was unaware I carry for my Ex. What I realize is that none of it is real and what has passed between us is simply a continuation of fantasy. It takes two people to have a relationship. My Ex and I never had a relationship. When we met we there was an opportunity. An opportunity squandered and lost. There is no magic string connecting us across lives, time or space – that is simply romantic idealism. It is a form of escapism that allows me to ignore the people in my life today because it is easier to imagine passion and love then it is to create it.
I’m done carrying naïve fantasies of being a Hero or Nice Guy and saving the Girl. I’m not Batman or Tom Hanks and she is not a victim needed saving. She is not Wonder Woman.
There is much I have to learn, but I am going to create love and passion in my life. I’m done hiding from the opportunities.