March 2, 2021 at 12:59 pm #375468
Hi, Forum Folke,
I have what is perhaps a perhaps philosophical question.
Over the course of three years, I became quite emotionally attached to a woman I met in an AA meeting (both came in for the first time on the same night at the same meeting). We became friendly pretty much immediately. She liked me, and I certainly liked her.
Over that time, our only contact occurred in thrice-weekly AA meetings; no other in-person contact. Emails, texts, some phone calls, but no more than that. However, she completely occupied my thoughts for over two of those years, maybe obsessively so (see: limerence.) I never learned all that much about her, really. She *would* answer direct questions, but I was too shy to ask very much, and also didn’t want to “pester her away” with questions that might prove annoying (I’m not good at interpersonal relations.) I became terrified of doing something that might ruin the budding relationship.
Like eventually deepened into love (?? which is my question here), and eventually I made it known that my feelings toward her were more than simple friendship (which is pretty much exactly how I phrased it). Asked if that was a problem, and she said “Nope. Not a problem, to put it succinctly.” Sounds good, right?
Except not long after that, she packed her car drove cross-country to a mid-western state without a word to anyone, not even her sponsor. OR me.
She continued to show up at Zoom meetings… but as of late January, nobody has seen or heard from her. She’s entirely dropped off the radar, won’t answer emails, texts, calls… nothing. I haven’t been blocked, as far as I can tell.
I’m absolutely in mourning over her disappearance. So my question is this: can what I’m feeling for her be love? I spent so little time with her, learned so little about her, really… but I spent a great deal of time and energy thinking and dreaming of what a life together might be like, almost constantly. I’m wondering if A:) I actually love HER, the woman, or B:) what I’m attached to is my mental image of her, the *idea* of her, more so than the actual woman. What exactly am I in mourning over? One is understandable and natural, but the other is just feeling sorry for myself over the loss of a dream. I keep telling myself I shouldn’t mourn the loss of something that I apparently never had… but it isn’t very helpful. If I could sort out just what I’m feeling, and who or what I’m feeling it for, maybe it could help bring some closure to this.
Ironic… I always scoffed at the whole “closure” thing, being emotionally self-sufficient (or cloistered, or ‘stunted’… whatever), thinking it some “touchy-feely” thing. Well… I understand it NOW! Won’t be so quick to scoff st such things in the future.
The thing that’s striking me as odd, now, is that I think that from the very beginning, I suspected that it would come to nothing in the end. From the start, I saved every email, every text I ever sent or received from her, almost as if I knew that at some point, they would be all that I had left of her. Why would I get such an idea so quickly, based on nothing whatever?
The whole thing is so far out of my wheelhouse that I’m having a very tough time of sorting things out, separating fantasy from reality, and being objective about it. Letting go is impossible right now; maybe in time, but for the moment, if I think there’s the slightest glimmer of hope that this might be a temporary thing, I can’t begin the process of ‘moving on.’ Which, realistically speaking, I should probably be doing now. We are talking about an alcoholic, after all (both of us, not pointing any fingers). I managed to stay sober from day one (3 1/2 years now), and she continually lapsed… so I fear that she’s still active and dropped out out of shame. Not that there’s anything I can do about that; in the end, we all heal ourselves… all anyone can to is point the way, or try to dispel ‘cognitive distortions’ we may be having…. the actual work is up to us. Nobody can to it for us.
Thanks for reading, and for any thoughts you may care to share.March 2, 2021 at 5:00 pm #375475
In May 2020, in your first thread, you shared that you were a “normal ten-year-old”, before your parents split up. After they split up, you became “intensely shy, withdrawn, socially awkward and timid”. Later on, you were diagnosed with “an extremely high-functioning Asperger’s”. You joined the Navy and got married at about 19. In your 30s you’ve been seasonally depressed, and clinically depressed at about 36 and onward. You were prescribed anti-depressants but “very little relief.. or progress”.
“The more depressed I became, the more emotionally numb I became, absolutely indifferent to people.. just neutral, numb, indifferent. Plodding, marching… but never dancing.. Things are either bad, or not bad, but never good. I absolutely cannot remember the last time I was excited over something, or eagerly looking forward to something”.
In your 48 year marriage, you “don’t feel much of anything for (your wife).. never really did… we do things together and have our little routines and rituals and all.. but it’s so sterile for me, no joy, no real happiness”, and you were aware that she had a series of extramarital affairs during the marriage to you.
At 67, you met a 52 year old woman in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and you experienced an emotional awakening (my term): “joy, anticipation, eagerness, a fierce desire to protect and nurture.. it’s like she threw some switch that somehow turned on all those emotions… I find myself crying.. or just in joy of being alive. I finally feel alive and happy… The thought, now, of going back into that dead, gray emotional void is just intolerable…. I’ve been living from the neck up for the vast majority of my life”.
Ten months later, in your second thread, you shared that your contact with the woman who awakened your “joy, anticipation, eagerness and fierce desire” was limited to AA meetings three times a week and to emails, texts and some phone calls, “but no more than that”. Yet, she “completely occupied (your) thoughts for over two.. years”.
But as of late January this year, “nobody has seen or heard from her. She’s entirely dropped off the radar, won’t answer emails, texts, calls… nothing”, and you are “absolutely in mourning over her disappearance”.
1. “can what I’m feeling for her be love?” – my answer: yes.
2. “I’m wondering if A:) I actually love HER, the woman, or B:) what I’m attached to is my mental image of her, the idea of her”- my answer: B.
3. What exactly am I in mourning over?” – you answered this question yourself: you are mourning “the loss of a dream”, the dream of a life of emotional awakening, awakening from “neutral, numb, indifferent. Plodding, marching.. dead, gray emotional void, to “dancing.. looking forward to something… joy, anticipation, eagerness, a fierce desire to protect and nurture.. the joy of being alive”.
Like you wrote last year, “it’s like she threw some switch that somehow turned on all those emotions.
“I keep telling myself I shouldn’t mourn the loss of something that I apparently never had”- by something-I-apparently-never-had, you are referring to the woman who turned on all those emotions in you. She/ your mental image of her awakened emotions that were in you dormant. You experienced that joy of being alive long ago, when you were a child. But because you also experienced too much anxiety in your young life, there was a shut down of these emotions, a dissociation.
I’m having a very tough time of sorting things out, separating fantasy from reality”- your awakened emotions are reality, they were always there within you- dormant, but not dead. These emotions are alive within you now.
March 3, 2021 at 12:10 pm #375496
- This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by anita.
Thanks for your thoughtful (but, to me, confusing) reply.
Are you separating the emotion itself (love? or something else) from the target of that ‘love?’ I was seeing it as an either/or proposition: I either actually DO love HER… or else I’m in love with my mental model of her, not the actual person. Perhaps your approach is better: am I feeling love? Yes. Do I love HER, or my IDEA of her? My IDEA of her. If seen in that light, then it makes sense.
Though still, for me, I’m not even certain it’s love. Never been there before, so I’ve nothing to compare it to. I’ve run across a number of other ‘conditions’ that appear to be love: limerence, infatuation and others… and I’ve no idea how to tell them apart for sure. Maybe there IS no telling for sure, with slippery things like emotion. I do far better with objective things than with subjective ones. Emotions were always something I tried NOT to deal with; I’d either shove ’em into the dungeon and refuse to examine or question, or I’d drink at them. This “sitting with” grief and sorrow is not characteristic of me, and is also new ground. Not sure “where” I’m supposed to be going with it, or what I’m supposed to be “doing” with it. Unless maybe just letting it “run it’s course” and ‘honoring’ the feelings is the way to go?
Just too much I don’t know about how to effectively process emotions. At least I’m not drinking! Though I’m sure I’m being pretty unpleasant to be around. “Happy, joyous, and free” I’m not; “Restless, irritable, and discontent” I certainly am.
Wife keeps asking me “What’s wrong” with me. Huh. I’m so cynical and pessimistic about our relationship at this point that all I can see is self-interest at work: “who’s going to take care of ME if there’s something wrong with YOU?” not like she actually cares about ME and what I might be going through. BUT… I don’t even trust my own take on what I think I “see” though, as I’ve talked myself onto more than one ledge in the past, only to find that what I thought was not what actually was. And what am I supposed to tell her? “Gee, hon, sorry, I just fell in love with this other woman and now she’s up and disappeared, so I’m hugely bummed out.” I’m sure that will make things better for everyone. 🙁
I really often feel that this is just all too much. Too much work, too much confusion and uncertainty, too much worry about what others think, too much pain, and far, far too little reward for the effort put forth. If this is all life holds, I’m really not much interested in playing anymore. Too many battles, too many fronts, and no real idea of what I’m doing, or if what I AM doing is effective, neutral, or outright counterproductive. I think maybe I was better off when those emotions were dormant… I wasn’t happy, but at least I wasn’t in such pain.March 3, 2021 at 12:59 pm #375497
I hear you and understand your frustration. How about you try dancing? Move your body a little, down from the neck too? There’s actually a movement practice, called the 5 Rhythms, which is all about moving your body in order to awaken and process your emotions. I am sure there are many other types of movement practices, but in this one you move free style, without prescribed steps. You dance to get to know yourself and your emotions, not to impress anybody. I used to do it for a while, it was very fun and liberating. Anyway, you might benefit from something like that.March 3, 2021 at 1:09 pm #375499
“Are you separating the emotion itself (love? or something else) from the target of that ‘love’? I was seeing it as an either/ or proposition: I either actually DO love HER.. or else I’m in love with my mental model of her, not the actual person”-
– the way we experience the world outside of us (images, sounds, touch, smell and taste) is through our brains. Our brains translate the world outside of us to to chemicals that give us the physical/ emotional experience of the outside world: we don’t taste a cake, we taste the chemicals our brains produce when eating the cake. Similarly, we don’t feel love for another person, we feel the chemicals our brains produce when in the company of the person, or when thinking about the person.
Our translation/ interpretation of food, people.. images, sounds, touch, etc. may be true to reality, ex.: (1) we perceive the cake to be sweet and it contains lots of sugar, (2) the person we feel love for is a kind and loving person,
Or our translations/interpretations of the world outside of us may is be true to reality: ex. (1) we are eating saltines, believing they are sweet, (2) we feel love an unkind, hateful person.
“‘Happy, joyous, and free’ I’m not; ‘Restless, irritable, and discontent’ I certainly am”- I recommend that at this time, you aim not at feeling happy, joyous and free, but at feeling less restless, irritable and discontent.
“I think maybe I was better off when those emotions were dormant… I wasn’t happy, but at least I wasn’t in such pain”- I understand. You mentioned before that your life was neck up, something along these words, and that the longest distance one can travel is the 18″ between one’s head and one’s heart. I know the experience. I too lived in my head. But I did experience joy in the context of fantasy/ day-dreaming, and on a rare occasion- I experienced an unexpected and short-lived joy.
It is not too late for you to reach your heart more consistently and in a way that does not overwhelm you. Earlier, I referred to your emotional experience with this woman as “awakening”. I used the word because your experience reminded me of the 1990 drama movie Awakening. Are you familiar with the movie?
anitaMarch 3, 2021 at 6:47 pm #375532
It’s funny that you’d recommend, of all things, dancing. There’s no possible way you could know, but I’m not just out of touch with my emotions; I’m also out of touch with my own body. Dancing, for me, is right up there with public speaking. I used to practice a martial art, and I was given the nickname of “stick-man,” because my movements were so stiffly overcontrolled. Spontaneity, “letting go” going with the music… impossible. There’s nothing in me that responds to that kind of thing. I’m all elbows and two left feet. I DO have a sense of rhythm, as I’m a long-time guitar-player, and I love music (one of the very few bright spots in my life), but dance? Nope. Never understood it. Never felt the slightest urge to move to the music (I’d rather be *playing* it.) I truly appreciate the suggestion. My therapist is also recommending things involving movement, but more along the lines of either Tai Chi, or Qi Gong, or Yoga, or something along those lines. Additional complication: I injured my lover back, had surgery, and am now in chronic pain, and have to strictly limit the extent of my activities. Things like yoga are out, as they involve a lot of tight bends and especially of twists… all off of my “list of things to do.” I used to hike, backpack, jog, do a martial art, yoga, mountain bike – – ALL off the table now. About all I do is walk the dog, and even then it’s a dachshund; not like I have to struggle to keep up. I’ve heard the aphorism, “Move a muscle, change a thought,” but my options in that area are sharply limited.
I understand what you’re saying about how we perceive things. There’s the old saw, “Perception IS reality,” which is not too far off base. We’re each and every one of us alone, locked inside this bony prison sitting atop our shoulders, blind and insensate, except for what’s being either piped in from our sensory apparatus, or manufactured within us (hormones, endorphins, catecholamines, and a bunch of other chemical messengers, which we experience as different states). We don’t actually “see” what our eyes are looking at; it’s the brain’s “interpretation” of the electrical signals sent by the retina, which are ‘assembled’ into what we “see.” It’s not hard to fool this system either; look at the myriad of ‘optical illusions’ that fool us into thinking we see one thing, when it’s actually something else. There are big “holes” in the data, which the brain “fills in” according to what’s expected (context.) I’m fascinated with the whole subject of perceived reality; I like reading some of the work of Philip K. Dick, who hit on how we know “reality-as-we-see-it” is actually “reality-as-it-is.” How do we KNOW that what we’re “seeing” is actually real?
Sorry, I digress… but I do take your point. “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck… then it’s a duck.” I’m probably doing the equivalent of worrying about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin… focusing in on the wrong things as well. Avoiding looking at the right things, maybe, by focusing in on something else? Hmmm….
“Happy, joyous, and free” isn’t even on the radar at this point… but I agree with you that being “less unhappy” is a more immediate concern than going straight from miserable to ecstatic… and a lot more realistic, too.
Closest I seem able to come to getting out of my own head for awhile is either guitar playing (which is great, but short-term… I’m picking it back up after a nearly 30 year hiatus, and I’ve forgotten most of what I knew), or electronic gaming (PS4, PS3, Xbox360, or PC gaming.) It’s escapism, pure and simple… but it does keep me from rumination and otherwise general negativity. As it IS escape, I try to put some pretty strict limits on it, lest it become something I go overboard on (like far too many other things I enjoy doing- – I’m far too binary: all or nothing, black or white. Balance is the hardest thing for me to find.)
Oh, the movie? No, not familiar with it, and there appear to be several different movies from 1990 with the title “Awakening,” or “The Awakening,” that have differing plots; is it the one with the high-school student who falls asleep in class, and wakes up to weirdness?
And thank you for your replies, both.March 3, 2021 at 7:18 pm #375534
Awakening, the movie with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro- I am very curious as to what you will think of it.. or better yet, what you may feel about it.
About dancing and not having “a sense of rhythm”- I share it too, lack of rhythm. You and I have a lot in common. Tai Chi worked for me, and it is probably a good idea for you too, given your lower back chronic pain.
I may write more to you Thurs morning (in about 11 hours from now). For now, good night to you.
anitaMarch 4, 2021 at 2:20 am #375536
I mentioned dancing since you mentioned it first – that you are “plodding, marching… but never dancing”. So I thought this might be something to explore. But I understand the physical limitations. I too hurt my knee and can’t really jog, hike, do yoga, and I guess dancing would be a pretty big challenge too (haven’t tried it recently 🙂 ).
But for you, I believe there are psychological limitations too, since as you said, you always felt stiff and never felt the need to move your body to music. Playing music yes, but dancing no. You say “We’re each and every one of us alone, locked inside this bony prison sitting atop our shoulders, blind and insensate, except for what’s being either piped in from our sensory apparatus, or manufactured within us“.
That’s a very mechanical and gloomy image of the body. The body can also be a source of pleasure – when we move, we feel pleasure. When we can’t move, it causes us pain. The body is our vehicle to enjoy life, to go places, to love, to embrace, to nurture, to protect… the very things that your lady friend awakened in you. Pleasure – in all its forms – isn’t possible without loving and cherishing our body.
As children, we’re free and spontaneous, we laugh, we cry, we run around, we enjoy movement tremendously. We aren’t born stiff. But something can happen during our childhood that forces us to stop the free flow of emotions, of pleasure, of spontaneity. You haven’t spoken much about your childhood, except that it all changed when your parents got divorced. But may I ask – how free and spontaneous were you as a child, even before the age of 10? Were there rules and limitations that stopped you from being too spontaneous, from expressing your unmitigated joy?March 4, 2021 at 4:11 am #375537NarParticipant
Many things caught my attention in your posts, loving vs loving the image and “perceiving things as they are”.
I, too, have thought a lot about these two topics and can tell from my experiences and observations I think unfortunately it is very rare to love “not the image”. I am not even sure if it is possible as long as we are our conditioned selves. You see, the longer we know the person, the stronger the image built about that person. You must have heard about “beginner’s mind” term. I don’t want to call it a term, it is an actuality. Basically being able to see something as if for the first time. And how can we do it with someone who we have known our whole lives or 2 years? So we just continue living with images we built about that person. And we add and subtract from those images, thinking something changes… and here is a marriage of many decades where two people claim they “know” each other, in reality do they know each other? can you ever know someone? Did you ever look at that person leaving behind all the past memories of pleasure and pain? did you see beyond the image? And that person you think you know had an image about you too. So two people say they are in a relationship, but in reality its their images which are in a relationship. This is the main source of conflict in all relationships. Relationship is a movement, image is static, and what’s static contradicts and causes conflict with whats in a movement.
I was able to understand and see these points with the help of J Krishnamurti. He explains this point very well and i am trying to apply it to my daily life.
And back to love. What is love? Love in relation to people is when they can be on the same intensity at the same time with full understanding. it is a movement as well. It is a state. It’s an energy. Its not towards a person or an object. It’s not a product of our minds. It is not a fantasy. love is not that romantic ideas that go on in our heads either. An idea is born out of memory, to put it simply, you think that you love, you don’t actually love…
Perceiving things as they are is the ultimate art of life. Not only perceiving physical objects as they are, such as looking at a tree or a bird without trying to identify what it is, what colour it has and etc. etc. but also perceiving ourselves, our psyche, our thoughts and feelings as they are, which is ofcourse much more difficult… I really like Haiku poems and I usually go for a walk and write 1 or 2 a day. i find it really helps me calm my mind and bring me back to reality.March 4, 2021 at 6:30 am #375543
You wrote: “There’s the old saying, ‘Perception IS reality,’ which is not far off base”- I disagree: this saying is far off base. Perception Feels like reality, would be true. Often what we perceive and feel is not true to reality. A person may perceive no gravity, for example, and feel no fear jumping off a cliff, but Gravity is Reality and it will prove the falling person Wrong.
Do you love the woman herself or your mental image of her, you asked earlier: you feel love for your mental image of her. Is your mental image of her true to who she is? Because you don’t know her well, probably not: some of the things you perceived about her are true, some are not. If you got to know her further, you would have had the opportunity, over time and communication, to increase and edit your mental image of her, making it more and more true to who she is.
Here is my suggestion to you for the purpose of you being less “Dazed and confused”- as you post (when addressing me, at least), don’t give voice to each and every thought that crosses your mind. Instead, slow down and be selective as to what you type. Type/ word your posts in less of an academic/ educated style and more like a younger child would type. Aim at typing from the heart, not from the neck up.
anitaMarch 4, 2021 at 6:42 am #375544
What I feel about it? I just had to mop up the inside of my glasses, I was in such a state of tears after merely reading the synopsis on Wikipedia. I do remember watching it when it was new… but I was a very different person then, and I can remember no real reaction to it. Might have had one, but it left no impression. I’ll give it another watch and let you know if I survived.
The reference to dancing was a metaphor, nothing more. March: rigidly controlled motion with a definite purpose. Dance: joyous, freeform expression of inner feelings through movement. I know that a lot of people do like dancing, feel the need to express something through dance. I’ve long felt myself ’empty’ or ‘hollow,’ like there’s nothing *but* the facade I project in public… like there is no ‘wearer’ of the many masks. I’ve run into it in other areas: I’m reasonably articulate (if somewhat stilted at times), and I think I’d enjoy writing… but I find I have nothing to say. Music is another means of expression, as are art, and dance, and poetry… and in each case, I find that there’s simply nothing inside that wants out. Nothing to say. When I play guitar, it’s almost always “covers,” and even then, all I like to play is the “hook,” the part that everyone instantly recognizes. I’m a fairly good “artist,” in that I can copy almost anything (“human xerox” is what I’ve always called it), but no originality. Calligraphy is the same: it’s more of a slavish devotion to a rigid style than anything that’s freely expressive.
I’m sorry for the gloomy image of existing within a body I painted. I do take some pleasures from physical existence, I was mainly trying to illustrate how very alone we all are, within our ‘prisons.’ I can never know what it is to be *you,* just as you can never know what it is to be *me.* The only thing we have to bridge this uncrossable gulf are words, writing, and art. All descriptive, second-hand, never “first-person,” if that makes any sense. What I perceive when I look at the universe is not the same thing you perceive. Just as when police ask five witnesses to a crime or incident what they saw, they get five different stories (each witness focusing on different objects or aspects), so too when we look at things, or experience things, we each to do in a unique way. I think part of it is that we never really objectively and dispassionately see things; we always filter what we see through past experiences, feelings, and thoughts/ideas about things; we bring different things to bear upon what we see, and so “color” the seeing, resulting in a unique “take” on that thing. Superficially, when we each look at a tree, we see the same tree, the same object – – but our “experience” of that tree would be markedly different, I’m sure. I’d remember my favorite climbing tree from my childhood, and think about the beauty of wood grain patterns in firewood I’ve split and wooden furniture and art pieces I’ve seen, and think about how when hiking the trees got shorter and scrubbier the higher I went, until it was just low scrub, and eventually no vegetation at all…. just this long list of associations and thoughts and recollections that comprise my “experience” of the tree we’re both looking at. Same object, different experiences. And we can neither know the others’ experience, other than approximations conveyed through words and/or illustrations or pictures. In a word: together… but alone.
Childhood: I was a normal, happy, outgoing boy-child, growing up on an island connected to the mainland by a long, narrow road. It was a paradise for a young boy, and memories of it have this ‘golden haze’ around them. It was without question the happiest time of my life… and it all came crashing down when I was eight. Dad went to work one morning, and shortly afterwards moving trucks appeared, and big men came into the house and started carrying *everything* into the trucks, and my mom told me we were going to live somewhere else. When I asked when dad was coming, she said, “He’s not,” my life as I had known it was over. A new life in a city, on a busy road, in a third-floor apartment of what we called “triple-deckers” in the day. A new neighborhood, in a new town, in a new school, with new classmates and a new teacher. I knew nobody, and my response to all this was to withdraw, retreat, isolate. I became fearful and painfully shy and uncertain, and the differences from all the other kids did not go unnoticed by those kids… and I wound up the rejected outsider, teased and taunted and excluded. Bad enough, but then not too long after that came along my new stepfather (the man my mom had left my dad for.) As far as he was concerned, we kids (my sister and I) were the baggage that came along with my mom. To have one meant to take the other, too. A price he paid, but grudgingly. He was not physically abusive (would have been easier), but he was emotionally abusive, losing no opportunity to compare me to HIS son, who was big and brash and popular and did sports… where I was little, skinny, wore glasses, read constantly and voraciously (all sci-fi – – Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Norton, many others… in a pre-internet world, it was my only escape from an intolerable reality. Libraries became my churches), didn’t do sports of any kind, had no friends… “weird” in a word. He let me know, pointedly and repeatedly, that I would never amount to anything, using ‘cute’ pet nicknames like “horizontal” (from laying on the couch reading), ‘playboy’ because I had no ambition and never did much of anything, others as well. This continued until he “invited” me to leave home at eighteen, after I graduated (barely) from high school. So, from eight onwards, life and school were pretty much one unrelieved bad experience. He wasn’t brutal or cruel… but he was also not understanding or kind. I’m sure his taunts and dire predictions were intended to ‘motivate’ me, to light a fire under my “lazy posterior.” Just served to cause further retreat. High school introduced me to alcohol and street drugs, as well as other “outcasts” who I did drugs and drank with. Alcohol and drugs became my goal in life; to get as high as possible as often as possible. I would literally roll a joint before I rolled out of bed. That particular “ambition” lasted into my thirties, when I put the bottle down (the first time) for over thirty years. Threatened myself with AA if I couldn’t quit on my own. Ironic, as AA is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Done more for me than twenty years of therapy and just about every anti-depressive in the pharmacology. Although I’ve come to realize that I’m sure I wasn’t ready, then, to hear what AA had to say. So “dry drunk” it was for thirty years, until I got hurt on the job, surgery, chronic pain, inability to work, loss of sizeable 401K, job, home, just about everything. Managed to land on my feet (strictly through the efforts of my wife, who of the two of us is the only one that possesses a working brain and the drive to put it to use), but without my “identity,” as I was one of those guys who “was” my job. I was what I did, and now I couldn’t do it anymore. Wound up on opiates for chronic pain, and under their influence, decided that if anyone deserved a damned drink, it was me. I quit for 30 years on my own, so obviously I wasn’t an alcoholic. Right? Nope. Wound up worse than I had ever been, within a short period of time. Wife caught wind and issued an ultimatum: AA or away. AA it was, and I’ve never looked back. They’ve done a lot to help me, to show me that alcohol/substance abuse was merely a symptom of a much deeper-seated problem (ME), and how to cope with life and difficulties in a more productive (or at least less destructive) manner. Not always good at putting it into practice, but being aware of the problems is at least half the battle. AA is where I met my lady friend, and came to love her… and in typical AA fashion, alcoholics being who/what/how they are (or can be, anyway), she kept relapsing, and ultimately went the route of “geographical cure,” or at least it seems that way for now. Who knows if she’ll turn up again? I’ll wait… but I can’t sustain it for too long, the damage is mounting, and I’ll have to let it go at some point in order to survive at all.
So that’s my life in a nutshell.
Wow… I’ve spent much time thinking along those same lines. One of the things I dislike about my present situation is that I’m all too aware that when my wife sees me, she’s not seeing ME, not the me that I am at this moment; she’s seeing her mental composite of all the “me’s” I have been over the years, seeing me through the filter of long shared experience (good and bad… but she tends to recall mostly the bad). Doesn’t help that she often manages to toss out little digs referring to some of these past ‘transgressions,’ reminding me… or not letting me forget, to be more accurate. How does one move forward with a ‘partner’ who insists on holding on to the past? She’ll remind me, literally every week, that “so and so” is going to be here, so I need to be aware of that, and “behave.” In reference to an incident that happened once when I was drunk and “grayed-out” and she walked into the house from where she teaches next door, and caught me in a compromising situation. Happened only once, and I was still drinking, and I’m just not who I was then, nor do I do the things I did then. BUT… she never forgets a slight, and will continue to bring that incident up until one of us dies. Makes me feel as though it’s not worth the effort of staying recovered, of bothering with anything at all.
I like your point that image is static (can be modified, but mostly is a “snapshot”), while a relationship is dynamic. A “dance,” if you will. Which is unfortunate for me… ’cause as you may have read… I don’t dance.
I try to practice mindfulness, especially when upset. Simply seeing, or hearing, and letting the labels and descriptions come and go, without seizing upon them and pursuing them down a mental rabbit-hole. I like to compare it to surfing (another thing I don’t actually do, but understand); the waves (thoughts) come, and they cannot be stopped. I *can,* however, choose whether or not to drop and paddle frantically and “catch” that wave and ride it all the way into shore (leaving where I was, and wanted to be, far behind), or I can simply sit on the board, and note the wave’s approach, float atop it when it arrives, and watch it recede into the distance. Choose to not engage. Remain. Float.
It’s calming, and it helps to see things clearly, without all the mental nonsense that wants to come with it. It’s hard to carry into “normal” daily life, but it’s there when I need it.
I too enjoy haiku (and Japanese culture in general), especially basho, but there is a wealth of it to discover and read. Again, Mr. “hollow man” has nothing to say, so writing any is an exercise in futility. I enjoy the works of others, though.
Thank you all for your time and thoughts… helps to ‘speak’ with like-minded people. Pushes back the lonliness.March 4, 2021 at 8:11 am #375546
Hi again, Anita,
You must have posted as I was typing my “War and Peace” post above. I didn’t see it until after I posted, left, and checked my email.
I think it’s a semantics quibble; my intent was to say that what we perceive is *our* reality, or reality as we perceive it to be. I totally agree that what we perceive does not necessarily reflect actual reality-as-it-is. Walk into the core of an atomic reactor; you see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing – – therefore you perceive no danger. All good; just a room full of machinery and lots of plumbing. I think you can fill in the rest, and it’s not pleasant.
That’s why I feel that it’s not TOO far off base; but it’s also incomplete. Serves it’s purpose as a ‘throwaway comment’ to drag in a point.
That’s what I keep telling myself: that had I had the chance to spend time with her, learned more about her, I could well have come to realize that although I might love her, that we were two *very* different people (as I already suspect anyway, even aside from the fourteen-year age difference), and may not have been compatible on anything other than a casual friendship basis. I wonder if this situation was “meant” to work out like it did. I gave something to her, she gave something to me – – and we both move on from there. All this anguish is simply me, resisting reality, wanting what I want, and not just being grateful for what I was given. Painful? Sure, almost all spiritual development comes with pain as a cost (another saw… “no pain, no gain”). Or even Dr. Suess: “Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened.” Or maybe that other chestnut: “Better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all.” I find myself in the camp of Tommy Lee Jones in “Men in Black” on that one, though… “Try it.”
Your closing comment… well, I think I understand what you’re telling me. I’m well aware that I tend to run awfully wordy; I think it’s the perfectionist in me that wants to be absolutely sure that I’m getting across what I’m trying to get across. Pithy and concise is hard; hosing words at things is easier… but in the end, probably less certain.
I take your point, though. I will try to do that going forward. Can’t promise you anything, as I’ve been a “neck-up” pseudo-intellectual for the vast majority of my life. My entire existence (until my lady friend came along and pointed out that I DO have a heart, and live in it, which was plain to her but not to me… she managed to make me believe it’s true – – her gift to me) has been from the neck up, strictly thought. I’m quite literally a stranger to my own heart, emotions, and body. Very much a “me and them” existence. My heart (and emotions) have never been welcome at the table, and that’s going to be very hard to change. I recognize that it has to, and that it won’t be easy (longest journey being from head to heart). I’m not even sure how to go about ‘welcoming’ these strangers to the table. My mind can come up with all kinds of things, assign/interpret all kinds of meanings to things like feelings, and no one seems any more likely than any other.
I just read “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman; it’s not a new book, 1990’s, I think; but it was quite a revelation to me. I always thought that having my rational thinking hijacked/overwhelmed by emotions was not normal, which is another reason I saw my emotions as a problem. Never realized that this happens to everyone; why didn’t anybody tell ME? Where’s my owners’ manual? And I’m now reading “The Language of Emotions” by Karla McLaren, whose assertion is that our emotions are specifically trying to tell us something, but that we start learning to shut them off or minimize them when we learn to speak, and when we become more outwardly social in the 3 to 5 year area. I’m hoping she picks up where Daniel left off. He describes, and offers solutions for kids, when the damage occurs (prevention as opposed to cure), but there’s nothing in there for those of us already damaged. Maybe Karla has something.
And I’ll stop hosing words now 🙂March 4, 2021 at 8:18 am #375548
thank you for sharing more about your childhood and your life. It’s deeply touching and sad what happened to you as a child. You were living in a paradise, happy and carefree, and then one day, out of the blue, your life falls apart. Suddenly, you not only get to live separately from your father, but you are forced to leave your piece of paradise and find your way in a new, unknown and hostile environment. On top of that, you get a stepfather who doesn’t like you, who puts you down, ridicules you and compares you with his own son.
That’s a huge trauma for a child, Boris. It’s no wonder it froze you, it shocked you to your core. You found some solace in books, but it wouldn’t be enough to escape the pain, so you resorted to drugs and alcohol. Getting high was your only goal, because there was nothing else to look forward to.
Then, in your 30s, I suppose you decided to “man up” and stop ruining your life. And I assume being good at your job was something that gave you some meaning and a sense of self-worth. You started identifying with your job, I guess you took pride in it, you were good at it. You weren’t feeling too much, you were still frozen inside, but at least there was something that you could hold on – your job. At least you weren’t ruining your life. You were doing fine, sort of.
But then came the accident at work and it all came crushing down. You were deprived of the very thing that gave you some meaning and a sense of worth. And you resorted to drinking again. The pain was too much…
And now, I would like to tell you: You aren’t hollow, Boris, you’re just frozen. You lost touch with that little boy living on a paradise island, laughing, running, riding his bike in the sunset. He’s inside of you and waiting for you to retrieve him. To let him out to play again, to laugh again, to move his body again. To be happy again. You’re depressed because you lost touch with him. That’s why the drugs didn’t work.
Talk with your therapist about it, I am sure it would make a huge difference. You don’t need to wait for your lady friend to set you free – you can do it yourself, by freeing your inner child.March 4, 2021 at 10:52 am #375561
“I’m quite literally a stranger to my own heart, emotions, and body… My heart (and emotions) have never been welcome at the table”- your heart is welcome in your thread.
“I’m not even sure how to go about ‘welcoming’ these emotions to the table”- John Bradshaw is very famous for his books and exercises on healing the inner child, which means: welcoming the estranged, exiled heart back into your lives. One of his books is called Homecoming: it’s about the heart coming back home. One of his exercises I think, is to write with your non-dominant hand; it may give you greater access to your feelings, slowing down the thinking because you can’t write fast with your non-dominant hand.
The very practice of thinking too fast, “hosing words” as you called it, as entertaining as it can be- is keeping our hearts in exile.
anitaMarch 4, 2021 at 11:40 am #375564
Thank-you, Teak. Had to wait for my crying fit to pass before I could reply to your post.
I can truthfully say one thing at least: I’ve probably cried more since December than in all the years that came before… and this place is one of the triggers for it. I have no earthly idea *what* is is I’m crying over. Feels like something just “broke,” and now just about everything leaves me in tears… the difference is, now it feels like it’s okay to cry, to feel, even if I’m not sure exactly what it is I’m feeling. The urge to stuff it down and get on with things doesn’t seem to be around anymore.
Of all things, reading various self-help books sets it off; if anything even comes “close” to resonating, I’m gone again.
Music is an enormous trigger, too… David Gilmour’s second solo in the live concert version of “Comfortably Numb” (ironic, no?) is guaranteed to get me going, as is a small section of a song that a sixteen-year-old girl is playing on YouTube – her version of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin (not sure if they’re the original writer); it’s on YouTube, look her up, she’s absolutely amazing: Ayla Tesler-Mabe. The portion from about 54 seconds to 1:12, and especially the end of that segment. Tears just streaming, no idea why. I don’t do lyrics, as I have what has been called “auditory processing issues”… complicated, ears hear but brain has issues with processing what the ears are sending it – practical result is I can’t pick speech out of the background “noise” of any kind, instrumental music being just another kind of noise, so I listen mostly to instrumental music. One notable exception being “Separate Ways” by Journey – – there are several lines in it that echo my last email to her, and sum up how I’m feeling. Had to look up the lyrics, though.
Pandora’s box comes to mind.hanks for the suggestion; I’m due to see him again in a week.
Anyway… thank you for that suggestion; I’ll bring it up and see what he thinks, and especially if he has any suggestions as to how to go about it. Very much still in the dark with all this – like stumbling my way through a darkened room full of obstacles, looking for the exit.