Dreams of my youth

My subconscious is so mysterious to me. I know there’s a lot of processing going on in it all the time. A few times a year, a rare gem emerges from it: insights into one of my behaviors/actions or that of a family member or close friend, for example. I find this both marvelous and frustrating, because I wish it didn’t take me so long to figure stuff out. It seems most other people are better at reading these tea leaves than me.

In the past few months I’ve had several nights full of vivid and highly memorable dreams featuring an old boyfriend. This was my first serious boyfriend and he entered my life at a time when I was still quite young (late teens). We kept up an on again/off again relationship over a long distance for many years.

I have regrets about how our relationship stopped being an exclusive one and became what it did instead. For many years, I felt that this change was all my fault for being so needy and fragile. (Of course I realize that narrative is wrong now.) I thought I wanted to marry him, and he didn’t seem keen on it. So I shut him out for a while and pursued another relationship that ended up being very bad.

When we reconnected years later a lot was different, but we were still attracted to each other and that there was a comfortable familiarity, too. He was going through a tough time. His mother was dying and he wanted me to visit him so badly that he paid for my plane ticket since I didn’t have the money to do it.

And so our odd long-distance relationship truly began. It was a FWB arrangement, at a time when that phrase hadn’t yet entered the general lexicon. We enjoyed each other’s company, felt comfort with each other, yet didn’t have to put in the real work of a relationship. He had moved since our exclusive days and now lived in a popular tourist destination, so there was always something fun to do during those long weekend visits.

For me, there was still the tug and desire for a more traditional LTR, though. Once or twice I’d get wrapped up with someone and wouldn’t see him for many months, or even a year or two. But when the relationship didn’t work out, I would get in touch and a visit would be arranged. To me and probably most people he seemed to be a dedicated bachelor.

Once he paid for another very expensive plane ticket to fly me halfway around the world with him to visit his father. We were together day and night for more than two weeks, and I realized how much of a challenge it would be for me to live with him every day. When I returned from that trip I started dating the man who I would marry just over a year later (and divorce 11 years after that). I recall talking to him about my choice to marry and receiving his best wishes.

After my divorce, I reached out to him again and arranged a visit with him. We had both changed a lot over the years, but he was still a bachelor. In just those few days it was clear we still hadn’t changed so much that our habits wouldn’t rub against each other in uncomfortable ways, though.

 

When I next contacted him a few months later he told me he was seeing someone and was thinking that they may get married. It was my turn to pass on best wishes to him and we haven’t interacted since then.

But in the past few months I’ve had these vivid dreams about him. In these dreams, he is usually in bed with me, mostly as a comforting presence, but sometimes there is physical contact. I wake from these dreams full of longing and wanting to sink back into that dream state where I have him next to me. Recalling our times together I remember how much he made me laugh, the meals we enjoyed, and conversations and adventures we had.

Years ago, I visited the city where we had lived together with a friend. After a few days of my nostalgic comments of how much I missed living there my friend questioned me “Do you really miss the city or do you miss being that young?”

I think that is what is going on in my head when I sleep. He has become a symbol of my youth and of simpler times. Of how connecting with another person could be fun and not require examination or emotional labor. I miss the time when my body seemed less of a burden and more of a joy, and when I had someone who I could turn to for physical, animal comfort: a cuddle, a kiss, a fuck.

Now that I’ve puzzled this out and written it down, I wonder if the dreams will stop. I’m not sure I want them to.

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Highs and Lows

Fair warning: there’s some adult content here!

Stuff that makes me feel good:

  • I’ve been getting into a groove with exercising in the mornings. I found this fitness program that I really like on the local PBS station. It’s a sort of ballet/classical dance based program and each episode is only about 25 minutes long. I went looking for DVDs online and found that in addition to the DVDs you can subscribe to a bigger catalog of streaming programs, so I did that instead. With my employer fitness program subsidy it only costs me about $7 a month. In case anyone wants to try these classes they’re at essentrics.com. At the end of each session I say “Thank you, Miranda Esmonde-White!”
  • One of my close friends from Chicago contacted me a couple days ago and asked if it would work for her to visit me over Labor Day weekend. Yes!! She scored a super cheap flight. We’re going to have so much fun!!
  • I’ve been listening to the Against the Stream podcasts more often and thinking about how I can add meditation into my days. I’ve sat a couple of times for a whole 20 breaths.  Woo hoo!
  • In a totally different vein, I’ve also been amused by listening to the Guys we F****d podcasts (NSFW!), starting with the oldest ones first. I still have quite a few to catch up on, but am finding them intriguing. I admire that these young women are claiming their sexuality so boldly, and find some of their advice to be spot on, yet at the same time I think they still have some things to learn about relationships. But they are stand up comedians, so the podcast isn’t meant to be super serious. A few of the shows have been annoying, but I just skip past those. It will be interesting to see how the podcast continues to develop as I catch up with the current episodes.

Not so good stuff:

  • I cried during a conference call today. I think my colleagues (both women) knew what was happening. One sent me an email message tonight that was really nice. I’ve been working on a project that is really frustrating the hell out of me because I seem to be hitting all sorts of roadblocks. The project team keeps telling me I need to step up and make some progress, and that just is getting to be too much for me because besides this project I have like 5 billion other things I am supposed to be doing. I have 3,500 emails in my inbox. I’m waaaaayyyy behind on just about everything, and I keep getting more piled on. My new boss (yes, I have a new boss and a new organization I’m kinda sorta not quite fully integrated into) says things like “Just speak up when you need help,” so I do and the people he tells me to get help from are also already really busy and help just a tiny bit and then it just bounces right back to me. *sigh* Every Friday I am ECSTATIC that the weekend is nearly here. Every Monday I am hopeful. By Wednesday, I am frequently in the pit of despair. But I have a job, right? I am employed and able to pay my bills and all that. That’s good, right? Right?
  • I am currently in a stand-off with my father and stepmother. When I was back in Chicago for my mother’s 75th birthday my dad was unexpectedly hospitalized. I hadn’t been planning to add a visit to my dad that trip, but I had a rental car and some flexibility in my schedule so I drove out to see him in the hospital. He was released a few days later and has been doing OK, but I apparently made a couple critical errors around that whole event. I didn’t know that he and stepmother don’t want any references to them EVER posted on social media. I had made a reference on my Facebook account to going to the hospital to see him and what his condition was. Big error, apparently. A lurking relative contacted dad and stepmom about his “health scare” which is how they got tipped off. They let me know they did not like that I had posted something about them on Facebook, etc., etc. Fine, I took my lumps and said I wouldn’t ever reference them again on any social media [which I guess I’m sort of breaking right now], but apparently that wasn’t enough and they were still miffed about it. Also, the fact that I had expressed any interest at all in dad’s treatment by asking questions was seen as bad, too. When sister had a visit with dad and stepmom last month, stepmom apparently complained vehemently about how I had not only shared information about dad’s health with all sorts of people who didn’t need to know (and not just mentioning that he had been hospitalized on Facebook, but likely talking to my friends about it, horrors!!) but that I also had tried to give my dad medical advice. ????? I guess by asking questions, I was giving advice. So for the past three weeks I have been in a f*** them mood and refused to call them, and since they refuse to call any of their “kids” (we are expected to call them once a week…yes, EXPECTED, as they have made abundantly clear to me) we are in a stand off. They’re older than me and not in as good health as me, so I’m gonna bet they break first. We’ll see.

Not sure if good or bad:

  • Last weekend I did some social media “gardening” (such as removing some “friends,” etc.). One of the things I did was update my Google profile photo. I don’t use Google +, although I do have an account, but I use Gmail and comment on Blogspot blogs and had noticed that my photo was very old (like, at least 14 years old!). So I changed it out for a more recent one. Ever since then I’ve been getting notifications that men I do not know (they are all men) had added me to their circles. I have checked my G+ privacy settings and strangers should not be able to add me to their circles, so I’m very confused by this development. And a little creeped out by it, too. Is G+ now some sort of clandestine dating site where guys troll for women? WTH?!
  • I had a very odd, but very sexual dream about an old boyfriend last night. The boyfriend in my dream was someone I dated a very long time (like nearly 30 years) ago. I had ended the relationship because he had become very disrespectful of me (by cheating a couple times, and essentially raping me once) and then proceeded to creepily stalk me for a while afterwards. So it disturbs me that I had this dream about him and it involved sexual stuff. Certainly I’m feeling healthier these days because I’m having…ahem…cravings, but to dream about this particular guy in this particular way…ewww. Maybe I need to listen to less Guys we F****d podcasts.

Being honest

I had a date last night. It was a very interesting experience: exciting, sickeningly scary, and disconcerting. I was certainly off balance a bit, but I think I conducted myself fairly well and the other person didn’t leave abruptly.

This wasn’t my first date since the divorce, but it was still sort of significant for me because I was trying something that I was somewhat reluctant to do. I can hear Adrienne in my head now telling me I don’t have to date if I don’t want to, but…I sort of do. Because the reasons I haven’t been dating lately are based on stories I tell myself that — while they may be based on reality — aren’t truthful.

I tell myself that I am not good at choosing men, but that’s not true. If I really listen to my instincts, I’m very good at determining who to keep seeing and who to walk away from. (And I have someone backing me up on this, my therapist, who has gotten to know me pretty well in the past 12 years.) I just have to tune in to myself, hence the emphasis I’m placing lately on things like meditation.

I also have a tendency to fixate on men at times. I make up little fantasies in my head that account for why things may not be working out, all the while desperately ignoring any signals that may be leading to a conclusion that is not what I want. Since I’ve been teetering on what may or may not be a fixation on my part, I wanted to shake myself out of the pattern and do something productive.

In this case, dating is productive because it leads me away from sitting at home (figuratively) wringing my hands and (literally) crying about how lonely I feel. It challenges me to be true to my convictions and be honest with myself and those around me, and to not let the loneliness either paralyze me or lead me to ignore my instincts.

Then today during a little lunch time blog reading, I see the latest post from Penelope Trunk. And I’m completely undone. I start to cry, right here at my desk. And I start to think, too: what do I want?

The answer to this question worked it’s way out like this: to be more child-like >> to be less hard >>to be more vulnerable >> to be more *comfortable* being vulnerable. 

Every time I find myself letting out vulnerable feelings, I feel really scared. My mom was a basket case when I was growing up and that affected me deeply. Mostly when I find myself being really vulnerable and needing reassurance and comfort, I stop myself because I know how overwhelming it was for me to experience this in my mother. I don’t want to be that overwhelming person, so I mostly ignore the feelings and stuff them down when they spill out. 

But I was just a child back then, so of course I didn’t know how to deal with someone who was supposed to be taking care of me falling apart in front of me. I no longer have to think that anytime I feel vulnerable and needy I am doing something that others will run away from as fast as possible (as I saw my dad do in a figurative way), or that I will be an emotionally-stunting burden (as the situation was to me and my sister).

This is also why I so often think that I want to be back at Esalen, too. There it was OK to be soft and vulnerable because no one was going to walk away — in disgust, horror, or overwhelm. You were much more likely to get a hug or have your hand held if you expressed upset in any way. So I could walk around and just be…me. Me in all my nakedness and vulnerability and child-like humor and fascination/love with the nature surrounding me. It was like being drunk on reality and I miss it so, so much.

I’ve been trying to cultivate that ability to be honest, open, and vulnerable since I’ve been back and it’s been hard to keep it going in this very different atmosphere. But if I can’t be totally open and vulnerable, at least I can try to be honest in my communications and interactions with others. Even if it means they will think I’m odd or weird I can keep trying.

Even before I read the Penelope Trunk post I had written an email I want to send to my date from last night. Here’s an excerpt:

I’m finding that my thoughts about dating are different now than they were when I was younger/before I got married. I was used to the flirty and light conversational style of dating, and now I’m thinking that as much as I like having conversations that make me laugh, I’m more likely to find the ridiculousness of life the most funny subject matter to discuss. I guess I’d characterize this as more — dare I say it — Seinfield-esque than burlesque. Frankly, flirtiness is something that I can only keep up for a short time before I get exhausted.

If women could be said to “think with their dicks” like men are accused of, then I can say I’ve done enough of that. And when I have found myself in such situations, I’ve usually regretted it later. I don’t mean that I suffer guilt over sex, I mean that I usually end up realizing that I was focusing more on orgasms and physical pleasure than on spending that precious resource, time, with someone who engages my mind as much as my body. That’s why I was clear that I’m not out to just get laid. 

This is me being honest, and living my life like I did at Esalen, which is more along the lines of what I ultimately want.

As Penelope sums it up “…part of coping with adult life is allowing yourself to want something even if you are not sure you’ll get it…The trick is to admit what we want, even if we are scared we won’t get it. We can only be who we are. And if we are disappointed, later on, well. I guess that’s just part of being a grown up and knowing what we want.”

What I really want is to be that honest, vulnerable person I could so comfortably be at Esalen, and to eventually have someone at my side who feels the same way.

Adjustments

I’ve been back here in the “real world” for a few days now and I think the bliss is finally starting to wear thin in a few places.

As is often true, I’ve caused most of the disruption myself. I had a difficult conversation with G the other night and am blundering through the process of bringing a relationship to a different place. I had thought that it may be possible to make this situation less intense but still viable; now I think it just has to end completely. In other words, I’m dealing with a break up here.

Why is there so often imbalance in relationships? One person wants more than the other person and then you have a mess on your hands. I’ve never been good in these situations, maybe because I’m typically the one who wants more and gets dumped.

But what’s happening here is so much a pattern for me that I need to put a halt to it. I wasn’t looking for a steady partner, yet that’s what I got. Someone who sort of stealthily creeped into my life, and before I knew it I was giving, giving, giving again.

G is miserable and lets me know that. “Why did it seem you were so into this relationship, too?” Good question.

Answer: because that’s what I do. I see what the other person wants/needs and I give it to them. I don’t really pay attention to what I need or want, I just give it up. And I’m OK with that for a while, too. I’ll blithely go along and not realize why I’m getting uncomfortable in my own skin. Mom taught me well in so many ways.

Oh, and it is seductive to we wanted so badly. I spent several years of marriage where I felt unwanted, unloved, and unappreciated in many ways. I wasn’t getting any sex at all, either, and I like sex. So, it’s also hard to say no to spending time with someone who’s been giving me lots of good sex.

I heard my friends and my therapist express some concern for me and the path I was on, but I just kept going and making excuses to them and myself. It took a week away for me to feel like I broke the spell and could tackle this situation.

Now I feel like a shit for making G so unhappy. He’s a good guy who deserves a good partner.

But I’m not partnering with anyone right now. When I heard my friends and therapist say that I hadn’t spent any real time alone I just brushed them off. So what? Is it an obligation to spend time alone after a divorce?

Well, now I see the wisdom of it. I’m falling right back into repeating patterns that resulted in an unhappy marriage, and I’m not as comfortable being on my own as I thought I was.

I woke up this morning and felt…lonely. The dogs were there with me, of course, but I was the only person around. And because that scares me a bit, I think it needs exploring.

An honorary Darwin award?

This is NOT knitting or garden related at all. I am going to record here a story that sounds made up, but it is not. Sadly, it is absolutely true.

Be warned: this story is totally hilarious, but definitely off-color. If you offend easily, don’t read below the line.

The story was related to me by my sister first, and I verified the facts with my mother. Mom relayed it from her husband, who was told the story directly by his uncle. I have recorded only the facts, and am not exaggerating (for enhanced amusement value or any other reason).

Let me also emphasize that this uncle and the rest of the family in question are NOT blood relatives of mine. They are related only by marriage.

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My stepfather’s family is large and a bit odd. They are salt of the earth people that don’t place emphasis on schooling. The family owns a fairly large piece of property in the far suburbs that they refer to as “the farm.” At one time it was an actual working farm, but now it is pretty much a collection of odd buildings, machinery, one house, a few mobile homes housing various relatives, and whatnot. This family has experienced some pretty peculiar (and at times tragically sad) events.

So, my stepfather has this uncle: Uncle Butch. Apparently, Uncle Butch has been sleeping in the barn for several years. (Don’t ask why; it’s complicated.)

It’s winter, and the nights are cold. Uncle Butch decided that he was tired of getting up during the cold night to urinate. (At a certain age, guys often need to do that, you know.) Uncle Butch’s solution to the problem was to catherize himself.

Yes, that’s right: he catherized himself.

Let’s pause here for a moment to ponder a few details.

  • What did he use as a catheter? We don’t know for sure what he used, but Uncle Butch is not in the medical profession. It’s therefore highly likely he did not have access to real medical supplies. [Update: it’s been confirmed that he used aquarium tubing.]
  • How large was the tubing? We can only guess that he found some tubing somewhere small enough to pass through his urethra. We have no idea of the actual size, though.
  • What about the risk of infection? Well, Uncle Butch apparently realized this could be a problem, so he sterilized the tubing and his hands with rubbing alcohol first.

This scenario alone is bad enough to contemplate. Anyone who has had a catheter inserted knows that it is very uncomfortable to have one, and that the process of insertion is pretty bad. I understand that it is much worse for men, too. But, Uncle Butch thought it felt good. (Yes, those were the exact words: it felt good.)

Uncle Butch would take the catheter out during the day, and put it back at night. So, he went through the process of insertion and removal several times.

It gets worse.

One morning, the catheter tubing got stuck inside him. Uncle Butch could not get it out of his urethra. This made it really difficult to urinate. He was able to get some urine out by milking his penis, but not enough to relieve his swollen bladder.

Uncle Butch did visit a doctor. (This is a pretty extreme measure for a male member of this family. Usually they avoid doctors like the plague.) When he realized what was going on, the doctor directed him to the hospital. So, Uncle Butch then had to have “an operation” to remove the catheter tubing from his penis.

Apparently, the events above took place several weeks ago. I’ve only just heard about it, as my mother and stepfather were on vacation during the time it took place and therefore didn’t know about it until recently. I can only imagine the exchange between my stepfather and Uncle Butch after my stepfather returned from vacation.

Uncle Butch: So, how was your vacation?
Stepfather: Pretty good. How’d things go here at the farm?
Uncle Butch: Not bad. I had to have an operation on my penis, though.
Stepfather: Say again. What?
Uncle Butch: Yeah, I got a tube stuck in my penis and had to have an operation to take it out.
Stepfather: [Total silence for about 20 seconds.] Why did you have a tube in your penis?
Uncle Butch: Well, it was like this…

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Again, let me emphasize that this uncle and the rest of the family in question are NOT blood relatives of mine. They are related only by marriage.