Over the past year and a half I have been subject to many silent nights. The kind of silence that you can feel touching your skin, running its hands down your face, and gently whispers in your ear “you are alone.” Some nights I would drown the silence in a libation hoping and praying the screaming sounds of nothing would subside and allow me to focus. These nights always ended in disappointment, as adding a depressant into your system cannot lift the darkness. This is recognized, often the devil on my shoulder will even back off for a while to allow a few nights of clear minded thinking to take place. When granted this permission my mind tends to wander back, to her, to a life that has escaped me, to who I was and now who I will be. As previously written the “Why’s” and “Maybes” are a dangerous fill to a quiet night. Reflection and anticipation, however, seem to be even worse. These two areas only create a romance to a previous and a yet to happen life that no possible scenario could match.
Back is an often-tempting place to look. To think of all of the life we experienced together in all of its glory and in its difficulties. I always believed we were stronger than anything the world could throw at us when we were together. We had buried a father, lost a child, lost a good friend and someone I looked at as a mentor, making it through standing side by side. When one of us was weak the other would grow stronger, when one of us fell ill the other could care for, and when one of us experienced success the other would celebrate as if it was their own. The feeling inside me had grown with the notion that we were perfect together, with that I continued my falling for her as our time grew. Did we each have our faults? There is no question. Did we each have our moments that frustrated each other? Absolutely, but we always recovered. Reflections often led to the “what went wrong” and “where did we go wrong?” Questions that will never be answered, she simply found another that drew her in, which can leave someone trying to figure out, after 20 years, “what is wrong with me?” Now there are a million answers I could give to that question but I wanted to focus on the reflections I have on the things I miss.
As a warm blooded human being who has not felt the touch of another woman in over a year and a half, physical contact is of course one, not sex though, don’t get me wrong I do miss sex with her, but the little touches I miss more. Her gently gliding her fingers up and down my arm, the way she would rub her foot against mine when we were falling asleep, and holding hands when we drove somewhere. I now keep something in my right hand at all times while driving because it just feels weird to drive without her hand in mine. There have been times at night while sleeping that I can feel her next to me, the warmth radiating from my toes up to my chest like there is a body pressed up against me. I don’t ever see her, as until recently, it was hard for me to remember what she looked like. The thing is, I know it is her, there is a familiarity to the warmth that could only mean it is her. These nights I wake up and find that a part of my body has slid over to the vacant side of the bed; the side that hasn’t felt human touch in over a year. It may just be an arm or a leg that has wandered but it is enough to allow ghost of her to relay the message. As with her face, my body and mind forgets what it is like to be touched in an affectionate way. This is a strange feeling making my body feel like it has fallen asleep to the basic human connection that is affection. I didn’t grow up with parental affection so I would think that this is something that I would be used to but like an addiction when your body and mind get used to feeling a certain way and that is removed withdrawals can be equally devastating. I think I would rather detox from a powerful narcotic than detox from the strongest drug that is love.
Conversations, these are what I miss the most. She was so incredibly smart about so many topics that you couldn’t help but to learn from her. She made me smarter just by being able to talk, debate and discuss. My favorite nights were the nights where the TV would be off, a bottle of wine in our grasp, and we would face the chairs towards each other in the living room and just talk, for hours and without knowing it. We would start the conversation at 7pm and without even noticing the time passing it would be 2 am and we would scramble to get to bed because the kids would be up in a few hours. To me that is the truest sense of love when you can lose time with someone; when hours pass and they feel like seconds and while you don’t want to, the responsible adult in you has to end the moment to prepare for another day. We had many of these nights over the course of our time together where time just didn’t matter, and when you are with the right someone, it doesn’t matter. Time is just something that keeps you on schedule but doesn’t motivate you to be any more or any less of what you are. You know at certain times you should eat, you should go to work, you should feed the kids, but the only way time meant anything to us, was to just make sure we had “our” time. We would put the kids to bed at a reasonable hour and the rest was for us. We caught a lot of grief from friends and family for our kid’s bedtime but to us it was vital that we had our time as well. We never wanted to lose “Us” in the realm of being a family for one day it would just be us and we didn’t want to be strangers. To me our time never got old.
We spoke for the first time in a year just the other day. She asked if we could get together to discuss the kids. My initial reaction was no, there was no chance I was ready for that. A week earlier, on my birthday actually, I ran to the grocery store to get some stuff for dinner, as I walked out of the isle a woman stood before me. Her back was to me, she was tall with brown hair, and wearing a “Beer Geek” sweatshirt, and I felt it. For the first time in a year and a half I wanted to, no I HAD to walk up to this woman and speak to her. I needed to find a way to know who she was. She started walking, so I started walking about 10 feet behind, I was trying to think of a way to break the ice. Do I hit her cart with mine? Do I just walk up and say “Hi” much like I did with my Ex 20 plus years ago? My mind raced with the possibilities as I stared at her desperately trying to not lose her in a crowd. As I watched her these eerily familiar items started standing out. Her walk looked like a walk I had watched for years but her shoes were different, her hair looked recognizable but done differently, and then it hit me when I saw her purse. It was her, my Ex, standing before me, drawing me in like she had before without even knowing it. So, I did what any self-respecting man would do in that situation, I ran. I turned my cart right around and ran across the store and stood in the produce isle for 17 minutes until I saw her leaving through the windows in the front of the store. I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain the 19 pounds of Brussels sprouts to my boys but it was all I could do to waste time. I was devastated and from my feet to the top of my shiny baldhead I was shaking. Why did it have to be her standing there, on this day, and why did she still draw me in like that? How did I not recognize her? Mostly though, how was I ever going to move on if she still had that gravitational pull? It really scared me.
So the day arrived, I had agreed because it was for the kids and we needed to be able to be adults and discuss this stuff face to face. She knocked on the door at 3:15 in the afternoon and I could hardly look at her. We made small talk about the new dog I had adopted for longer than the subject should have lasted. We spoke with the kids about school and other things for a half an hour and then she and I needed to talk divorce. That subject didn’t last very long though. For the next four hours we spoke about a variety of subjects without realizing the passing of time. We spoke about our relationship, our current lives, we cried, we laughed, and like that I was hooked again. My addiction article was running through my head as we spoke. It was good to see her; it was good to have someone to have a conversation with like her. It worries me though (I will get into this more with the anticipation) will I ever find someone that I am AS physically attracted to as I am mentally attracted to? It also worries me how quickly we fell back into an old routine, losing time with each other. Does she recognize the same thing that I do? Was it equally as awkward for her? She chose to leave but does she struggle with feelings like this as well? I am not sure it is appropriate for me to ask but I would love to know. I would love to know that after 20 years together that I am not just a guy who watches her kids every other week. That there is still love there that may confuse her as well. She doesn’t need to come back but it would be nice to know that 20 years meant something more than a bridge to her current life.
This conversation set me back, FAR back. It was so nice to lose time with someone again that it made the silent nights that much harder. I also struggled with the fact that we had such a conversation but that she left, again. Will it be like this every time I see her AND she walks away or will that dissipate? I want someone to be able to answer these questions for me. I don’t see many “male” sides of this story like this and that troubles me. Is it just me? Am I just too sensitive about all of this while other men are easily just able to move on? I get the sense that it is expected for women to be devastated when a man leaves them but if a man is devastated, then does that makes them less of a man? I recognize that I am more emotional than other men and I also recognize that I don’t hide my emotions (to clarify I am some jittery mess all of the time who breaks down crying regularly but I know when I feel sad and it comes out that I am sad. Not the typical male response of anger) but for feelings to come back like that? I felt like in the cartoons when a piano gets dropped on the characters head, I spent the entire time she was here walking around bouncing up and down like an accordion. I am sure she found this weird but sometimes you just need to physically play out how you are feeling on the inside and she was with me for almost 20 years she knows I am a bit off. Wouldn’t it be easier though if there were physical manifestations that portrayed our true emotions like in the cartoons? What if everyone danced walked when they were happy or skipped everywhere. Sad people could swing their arms back and forth like elephant trunks when they walked. Angry people would have red faces with steam coming out of their ears angrily shaking their fists. Then we could just walk up to them and say, “I see you are feeling (type emotion here), can I help you?” I have spent enough time studying body language where I can pick up on many things but if we just made it outrageously obvious I think that would be great, well maybe not great but amusing for sure.
It is difficult, for me at least, looking back or often looking from side to side because there are so many things that we did, there are things that I do or see that still bring back memories. I don’t want to avoid them, especially for my kid’s sake, but I also cannot have them come up too much. I try to race by them in my mind. If I can feel a memory starting to eek it’s way into my thoughts I will push on the gas a little bit and try to either think of something else or recognize the memory, acknowledge that it was a happy time but push it away as fast as I can. I hope that this isn’t always how I have to do it. One day I would love to be able to look back fondly and enjoy that time because they are very important to me, I want them not to hurt, I don’t want to think “was she happy here?” or “was she thinking of leaving me when I took this photo?” Not that I even take out the old photos or watch the old family movies but I would like to, one day, not today though I need to focus on myself and my boys. I would like to reflect and not just have it seem like it is just a reflection of me, like I have done something wrong.
There is no other way to put it; I think that one day I would like to meet someone else. I always said that if she left me that, that would be it and I would just live alone for the rest of my life. The thing is I am not so sure that I was lying when I said that, well not lying but you know being overly dramatic. I can easily see a situation where I just do my thing from here on out, not necessarily that I want it to be like that, but that is how it would play out. It is a sad thought for me to think that could be a possibility, being a hopeless romantic and all, but how do you spend the rest of your life trying to move on from someone that you thought was perfect for you? Anyway, the anticipation of meeting someone new and how I will meet them opens up that romantic door for me all over again. What if we bump into each other while shopping for the same toothpaste at the grocery store, or somehow end up on opposite ends of a really long spaghetti slowly chewing it in until our lips meet (oh, that is romantic right there. Someone should use that in a movie, I give full permission). It is this type of thing though that has its perks and its pitfalls.
The perks of wondering when the moment will be that I will meet the next person I share my life with has opened me up to more experiences. I have tried to go out and meet new people, to force myself to go out on weekends when I don’t have my boys, and to explore new possibilities but I feel like I am searching? While I have always wanted to be Indiana Jones I don’t want to be searching all of the time. It is odd, the advice I use to give people was to just do the things you love and be around like people and there will be an instant icebreaker, I don’t even take my own advice. My confidence is only as deep as a kiddie pool so engaging, especially after a year of being alone and becoming feral, makes it that much harder. Still though, I keep heading out to force the issue. I have always been under the belief that you take your discomfort or a challenging situation head on and watch the cards as they fall. This has been the most difficult discomfort to take on, as these are deep-rooted issues that I now have to dredge up deal with and overcome. (Random thought, I am never going to link my blog on a dating site. I must come off as absolutely mental.)
The anticipation of when and where and how leads a dreamer like myself to sometimes get lost in the dream scenario and how it may play out. This I see as a pitfall because what if I keep looking for the dream scenario and overlook the encounter I was meant to have? Every interaction with a woman I cannot help but think of how she would be as my next. I feel horrible about this to be honest because that is too much pressure for her and myself on an initial meeting or conversation. It is setting unrealistic expectations on someone else that they don’t deserve which leads me to guilt and the ultimate withdrawal. Does she do this like my ex did? Does she do that like my ex did? The things that I found vital to my last relationship I find myself judging right away when there is no way a comfort level of a 20-year relationship could ever be attained at such an early juncture. I don’t want to shut down the dreamer in me but at the same point I just need to become more open minded about the potential that this person may not be what I WANT them to be but they could be exactly what I need, whether it be at that moment or for many moments. This feeling of searching and seeking connection finds me constantly looking around, to dizzying effects. The only result is my staying away and finding myself a bit more, this to avoid putting someone else in a role that they shouldn’t be asked to play.
The further anticipation of finding someone that will challenge me intellectually as well as physically builds up an expectation like a wall that is brick and mortared around me. I find them to both be so critical in any partner. I was (and still am. Frowny face) physically attracted and mentally attracted to her. I don’t anticipate being with someone that I don’t find in that way. The term “trophy wife” irritates me on so many levels that the very idea of even being around someone that is only attractive physically with nothing to offer cognitively makes my skin crawl. What do these people talk about at night? Or during the day? I would hate to be bored with my partner, I would hate to sit there and think that this person is clueless with every word that exits their mouth. What is there to learn about your partner in those situations, their favorite designer? What they think of the Kardashian family (I don’t know if the name is spelled correctly and honestly I don’t care, they bring nothing to life worth viewing) or what The Bachelor did this week on that waste of a life show that has produced as many couples as American Idol has produced actual idols. To have the intellectual capacity to discuss politics, religion, a book, a deep movie is far more attractive to me than someone who knows that Beyonce’s baby currently has an ear infection and I don’t feel wrong for thinking this way. Being attractive physically to me isn’t also about wearing the most make up or the nicest clothes either. A woman can be attractive in a simple T-Shirt and jeans or bummy pajamas. I think it is being comfortable within yourself that makes you more attractive. Make up to me is telling to world that I don’t feel good about how I look so I am going to spackle this stuff on and hide behind Este Lauder (I completely get that I am a man and that I know not of the expectations placed upon women. I know that society places undo pressures on you and to that I say, Fuck them. Be you and love it, make up or no make up. Grey hair okay, better than dead hair from dying it so much. Jeans and a spider-man T-shirt if you love it I will love it). I find many people fascinating, physically and intellectually. Now though, I want to find A woman fascinating again, both physically and Intellectually.
Anticipation can be an evil that can only be exorcised by the strongest of priests. To anticipate is to be so far out of the moment that you miss the moment itself. These demons that plague the mind are that of desire, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless desire takes you to a place of the unforgiving pursuit of perfection. Perfection is a label that we place upon something (guilty) when there is no absolute perfection to be attained. This idea that I would find perfection, or that I even had it at one time, only limits the ideas I have for what I should anticipate. Was my life with her perfect? No. Did I enjoy it? Immensely. Will the striving for a life that I enjoy once again lead me to being alone or being found? It very well could be either but until that moment, until I can overcome reflection and anticipation, until I can find just the here and now or the what actually is and not what was or what may be, only then can I become comfortable with the roadblocks upon my way that might lead to a number of detours. This journey into discovering who I am and what I will be has led down some very narrow and dark paths, opening up rabbit holes, some of which I have fallen into and others that I was able to avoid, but when you seek to discover something you are bound to fall and you are bound to fail. My knees are bruised, my ego torn, my heart a wreck, but I keep getting back up with the hopes of one day looking up from all of this knowing who I am and being comfortable with the fact that I may not necessarily know where I am going. (I wrote this with the song at the end of Doogie Howser M.D. playing in my head.)