#52: The Magic Eye Picture of Love

October 8, 2008

How many times can a person stare at the same photograph and not see the picture staring him in the face? I am currently passing 1,000 trials of looking at a situation and the truth hasn’t yet broken through my eyes to reach my brain.

A few months ago dedicated readers may recall the epic saga of L, her psycho-ex, and myself culminating in her penetrating this very blog to leave some acerbic comments. Time has passed and she has been in therapy, as have I, though I have yet to feel comfortable bringing my blogging to the level of honesty I had achieved prior finding and posting here.

From my perspective, my last posts have become infrequent and at times shallow, avoiding the deeper centers that I want to use this space to explore. As that has happened I have also found myself withdrawing more from telling my friends all that is going on with me. I consider this mistake a dangerous one.

With the support and guidance I resumed communication with L which at first went quite well. She has been functional in resisting her psycho-ex and much more positive in speaking to me. The challenge comes when we hang out without other people around- we still have the issue of mutual attraction and her clear desire to get back together with me. It is true that she has made progress, and therapy has been a very positive experience for her. After what she has been through, I wonder if she could really be healed so soon. After what she put me through, I wonder sometimes if I could see myself with her if things calmed down and we managed to avoid our familiar patterns.

I stare at the magic eye painting picture of her and can not get my eyes to cross. There is some truth laying right in front of me that I seem unable to grasp- I suspect either that therapy really has effected some serious change for her and that she would be a stable partner or that she is already walking in familiar patterns and I should avoid her and go no contact again, as Getting Past Your Past would advice.

I asked the therapist what she thought and her response was golden: “If the truth is right in front of you and you won’t see it, what good would my telling you do?”

#51: The Year I Learned To Say No

September 26, 2008

Every year needs a subtitle to sum up the story of the changes in life. Come New Year’s Eve, I hope to christen this period of my life “The Year I Learned To Say No.”

from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

That’s not exactly the “no” I meant. I really mean sticking up for myself in the face of well, whatever. So far this year I’ve turned down three invitations to date girls when I thought it wasn’t a good idea and called out my boss when she tried to pin the blame on me for other people misplacing expensive devices. Well, maybe that is a bit standoffish and rude but part of me also feels it is the first step towards setting boundaries and limits on my life.

I’ve been reading the book “Codependent No More” and thinking perhaps that label may apply to me. My therapist hasn’t disagreed though she seems less concerned with labels than progress. To me the greatest part of that book is replacing the controlling “do this to fix your life” script I have had with saying “That’s too bad. What do you need?” and deciding if I am willing to provide that to the person. So far in my relationships using those words has empowered both the listener and myself.

Meme-active: Any food but cookies

September 21, 2008

So I got this meme from Riding with Ricky and I thought I’d give it a spin.
1. Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
2. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
3. Put asterisks after what you must try before you die.
4. Put a question mark (?) next to the ones you had to look up because you had absolutely no idea what they were.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht (I’ve also seen a play about it)
10. Baba ghanoush (one of my coworkers has a husband who makes his own from scratch)
11. Calamari (deep fried or in sushi form)
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich (with bananas, honey, marshmellow fluff, chocolate syrup, reese’s pieces, or the grilled version from Potbelly’s)
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart (in downtown Manhattan a few blocks from city hall)
16. Epoisses (preferably with a fresh baguette and a chilled Vino Verde)
17. Black truffle (shaved in a souffle)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (There is this great vineyard in southern Virginia that makes all sorts of different wines and meads)
19. Steamed pork buns (Eaten regularly and at all opportunities)
20. Pistachio ice cream (Dad would buy this since no one else in the family liked it)
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda* (Ever since I saw that episode of Babylon 5 where Garibaldi tries to smuggle the ingredients onto a space station because he has to eat it at least once a year, I’ve needed to try it)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (Love cognac but don’t smoke)
37. Clotted cream tea? (I’m not sure… maybe)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O*
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail (Heck no)
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (maybe if prepared right)
43. Phaal*?
44. Goat’s milk (does goat milk cheese count?)
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more*
46. Fugu (Deadly food doesn’t work for me)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel (Especially on rice)
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (In a London Airport with my last handful of Euros)
50. Sea urchin (I’d try it)
51. Prickly pear (I may have had candy made from it but the guy who sold it to me didn’t speak English very well)
52. Umeboshi (It’s best in the middle of a rice ball)
53. Abalone
54. Paneer (the best part of Indian food)
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (once…. in High School… and I still feel it)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini*
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips*?
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin? (Is that thing that is part of Kaopecate?)
64. Currywurst*? (That looks cool)
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (Oh yes… Make sure to try the Churros! I used to work a funnel cake stand at a fair too. I claim that means I count as a carny.)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain (It’s delicious!)
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho*
72. Caviar and blini?* (That looks delicious)
73. Louche absinthe (And I thought it was overrated.)
74. Gjetost, or brunost*
75. Roadkill (I’ve never hit anything with my car except for people.)
76. Baijiu*? (Looks interesting)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (I’ve even used them to fight crime)
78. Snail (on a boat)
79. Lapsang souchong (A friend of mine’s father made me some once)
80. Bellini*? (My Italian ancestors demand it of me now that I know what it is)
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky (in a myriad of flavors including Gentlemen’s Pocky)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant* (I have a list of places I want to eat)
85. Kobe beef (At a Japanese wedding I believe I had some. If I haven’t I will at some point.)
86. Hare
87. Goulash* (I also have seen a play about this)
88. Flowers (They were part of a tea at a wedding ceremony in Japan but were floating in the cup)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate*? (Looks awesome)
91. Spam (I don’t suggest it)
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa?
94. Catfish (At a diner counter in a drug store… very old fashioned)
95. Mole poblano (It’s good)
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor*? (Wow I’m learning so many new foods from this list)
98. Polenta?
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee? (Maybe someday but I’d rather drink the expensive tea)
100. Snake (Not yet… but maybe)

And that finishes my culinary world tour of strangeness. Am I supposed to tag people now? I don’t know. Link back if you do it yourself. Bon appetit!

#50: 10,000 Steps

September 19, 2008

I’ve been told that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step though perhaps it is more meaningful to say that such a journey ends with a final minor movement. Today I’m focusing on the quarter of the self that I tend to ignore the most- the body- because perhaps imbalances there bring discomfort in the heart, the mind, and the soul.

So to combat my recent fatigue levels and weight gain (I blame SanityFound for talking too much about cookies) I have purchased a pedometer. Also, I recently discovered that they now make the Baby Ruth in Ice Cream Cone form. My chances of success may be summed up in this strip from Indexed:

The idea is by taking those 10,000 steps every day I will energize myself in other parts of my life too- to write more and maybe even to blog here more often! I know I’ve been getting more done though for today my pedometer currently reads 2,684. That isn’t much progress but I guess it is a start.

#48: Live the dream.

September 4, 2008

Today I finished watching the scifi television series Babylon 5. During the final episode one character comments that she learned that “We must create the future or others will create it for us.” A few hours earlier my horoscope urged me to stop planning and start acting on creating the life I want before the opportunities vanish. So today I grabbed a book of writing prompts and went to my friend’s house where we spent a solid time working on writing prompts just to spend time writing.

What is the goal of my life- The purpose? The show Babylon 5 focuses on the questions “Who are you?”, “What do you want?”, “Why are you here?”, and “Where are you going?” I have been thinking of these quite often lately. Despite my acceptance of another year at my current job and all the drama with my ex, I think I finally am realizing what sort of life I need to have- one focused on writing.

While most of the incidents that first spurred me to write this blog have been resolved, they haven’t vanished entirely. That said, lately my focus has been almost purely on work and on how work has distracted me from doing the real work I want to do with my life. For now I’m going to be focusing on choosing the life I want to live.

I’m Not Dead or Going to the Wastes

August 22, 2008

So a few people have emailed or commented asking if I’ve fallen off the face of the planet. After the recent drama in my comments section I’ve needed a little time away from the blog to introspect about its purpose. I feel better about it now than I did before and will be returning soon. Watch this space.

After all of the confusion about where it was going I felt I needed to “go to the wastes” like the monster in Frankenstein to spend some time away from humanity calming down. Of course in the real world I’ve been more social. I shall return so do not fear. Thanks for your concern!

#47: Play nice! Symbolic Godzilla takes off the gloves.

August 3, 2008

I’ve heard from quite a number of readers about L’s comment on a recent blog. I wanted to thank you all for your thoughts- she wanted to say her piece and it looks like she has. The last thing I wanted this blog to become was a battlefield for the two of us to tromp around like affectionate Godzilla vs King Kong throwing each other through buildings but it seems that the ape has come to Tokyo and won’t be leaving anytime soon.

I’ve received advice to consider ceasing the blog in light of that so that it doesn’t become more of a public fight. This place has been a powerful source of healing for me and your comments, emails, and discussions have really helped me put the focus on where it should be- fixing myself and the way I see things, not trying to fix her by attacking her problems with my atomic breath.

I could follow that advice though I really feel that keeping this hidden is part of the problem and
writing about it and getting it out there has been one of the most powerful of the positive actions I’ve taken to change my life.

Thus while I may post less, I don’t think it is wise to go away. Rather it may be time for this to hatch from the egg of the “breakup blog” and start stumbling around like the Symbolic Godzilla Junior of love. In other words, move the focus from her to myself. I still believe everything will be alright but now it is time to stop focusing on the past and dragging both of us through it- instead it is time to move forward and really come to know myself.

A special message for L: Next time you want to send me an email, please don’t do it on a public forum. This is not a place for us to hash it out and reenact our fights in a virtual setting. This is a place of healing and such a tone isn’t welcome here. Thank you for spurring me to change this place into something more but I’d appreciate it if you get your own blog instead of coming back here.

To everyone else, I’m honoring this shift by finally changing the name from “A Journey Through Couples Therapy” to something else. For now I’m just dropping the word “Couples” but I’ll figure out its true name in the coming weeks. It is time to write about more than L so expect new and exciting changes! Till then, stay strong. As long as you work for it, everything will be alright.

Words of the day: “You get what you put up with.”

#46: If you have love issues, your issues aren’t just romantic

July 29, 2008

I’m going to take a break from being introspective about my ex and instead spend some time on another related thought- family. After watching L and the way that her issues with her mother and father directly ed her current actions both towards psychoex and towards me, I wanted to look at how perhaps my own family relations impact my relationships. Even my happily married friend has issues crop up and many of those stem from either his or his wife’s family background. I know this mat at times sound angsty, though to me it is more about digging deep and figuring out what makes me act the way I do in relationships so I would encourage others to do the same- to really know what forces are acting on them

As deep as this may sound, it was really a rather petty moment that led me down this track of thought. I was staying at my parents house and woke up early. A little bit later the smell of western omelets filled the house- one of my favorite foods. Of course, I was a bit excited and may have went a little bit far in my imagination so there was a touch of let down when I walked into the kitchen and realized while I’d been cleaning their bathroom my dad had made omelets for mom and himself. I mean that is sweet, but I was there and so were the eggs. So that is a bit childish I suppose

It gets more childish when I realized that part of the resentment comes from back in high school, when I had to make myself breakfast every morning but my dad would wake up early to cook for my little brother once he hit ninth grade. Those thoughts are ever present with me in some ways, I always feel like people are doing a little bit more for someone else, even if they say they care about me.

The flip side is for a long time I was (and to a degree still am) too comfortable when that actually is the case. If someone takes me for granted I tend to let it slide as the natural order of things till I build up enough resentment to turn a tiny issue into a big fight that represents all the moments when I was taken for granted.

In my extended family we have a few “outed” members- people who aren’t welcome at family occasions. I’ve met them and understand why- these people are users and they take everyone around them for granted for real- and in relating to my father he has often associated me with them. In the past he’s gone so far as to say I’m like them in many ways. I always felt a large portion of this came from our complete disconnect- I’m the eldest son (like his nasty older brother) and my brother, for all his rage, is still the baby. I’m a writer, an academic, whereas my father is a very physical and tactile man. I respect the world that he lives in, but he doesn’t seem to have a lot of patience with the way I live. So yes, not making omelets for me that morning isn’t a huge deal but it reminds me of what really is going on when I relate to my father- I try hard to win his respect in my way yet we always have this disconnect.

The healthiest moment in our relationship was when I sat down with him a few months ago and said, “I know we argue a lot but is it really worth our relationship? I’m not your dad, I’m not your brother, I’m not out to use people for my own ends or abuse anything that you’ve ever given me. I’m not perfect I know and I have a temper, but using people isn’t what I’m about so let’s get things straight.” That honesty- the setting of the boundary really helped us relate. Sure he still didn’t cook me breakfast, but that doesn’t matter really. I’m an adult now and I know how to cook. It is really about not being comfortable being sent the message that I don’t matter, then acting on it. When I had the same conversation with L, she didn’t believe me and got angry at me- I realize now because she had me confused with psychoex in her head and by calling her out I made her face things about how she related with him that she wasn’t ready to face.

So in the future, wherever it leads me, I know that I still have growing and maturing to do but I shouldn’t have to tolerate being taken for granted and when I feel that way it is better to talk it out than let it simmer. That said, I shouldn’t break anything just because someone didn’t feel like making me an omelet. Besides, I can always run myself down to the diner and order some french toast instead.

#45: “Don’t let him throw our love away”

July 24, 2008

So I guess it was inevitable that L would find the blog and read it, especially considering that I told her that I’d be using symbolicgodzilla as a name a few days before she left me the first time. She sent me a long email in response to my post about removing her picture from the wallet… lately I have no idea how to respond to her emails. I don’t know what I can say that can help things and I don’t know what I’d want her to say that would really change anything.

The email is precisely worded and evokes a lot of emotion for me… and even as I write this I received another. The second one is… well… better… and includes an apology and a lot of hope. There is a key phrase that stood out to me in the first email though. She said, “Don’t let him throw our love away.”

From my perspective, I’m not letting him and he’s not doing the throwing. She did invite him into her house… even after that day she still told me he had come by. He is horrible and he hurt her, I don’t doubt that. She made the choices, she told the lies, and her story still doesn’t seem completely straight. There’s all those moments of silence and deceit and still she tells me she “wishes she’d handled him in private and not shared it with me.” That, to me, is the core of the problem. All that time in shadows.. yes it is unfair for her to put me through things because of him but the worst thing she did was creating the silence and the deceit. She was willing to walk away and spend an entire week without seeing me and start that weekend off inviting him into her home.

She’s had this revelation before and left me soon after so I don’t know how I can trust it right now- the vacillation is wild back and forth. I think she is yearning for me now because she can’t have me… because I’ve stayed out of touch with her. I wish there was a way for this to work but I don’t see it… not enough time has passed and there are so many holes in her story.

She told me she lied about the whole thing to “protect me from dealing with it” yet I don’t see why that needed to include so many lies simply about how she was spending her time. If she’d had her way I’d know even less about what happened it seems. That doesn’t seem healthy at all.

L, if you’re reading this, I don’t hate you. I just think you need to get your head, your heart, and your story straight. Whatever you’re going through, I’m glad you’re getting help. If you want to remove any other shadows from what happened, go ahead.

#44: Saying Goodbye to the Beaches of Her Memory

July 21, 2008

I’ve always associated myself with the crashing waves and salty air of the ocean. To find some peace and old parts of myself I took a trip to the beach. As an added bonus, I forgot to pack her phone number and had almost no internet access. Whatever emails she wanted to send, whatever messages she needed to hear- they would be replaced by space as I revisited the place that had become the anchor for so many of our happiest memories. Leaving her behind had to involve, at some point, a trip to the beach.

The weekend was calm and familiar: card games, long walks, ice cream, and playing guitar on the back porch have long been the staples of my beach vacations. My aunt, who was also down at the beach, noted that it had been awhile since I’d been down here without L and reminded me of the last time we’d all stayed at the beach house together. I had told her, “L and I love the beach so much” yet we never came out of her room or actually visited it that weekend. At that second I looked over at the seat that would have been saved for her, realizing that she wouldn’t be socializing with us but hiding in her room… and I didn’t miss her.

There is still a hole were she used to fit in my life and I feel it everywhere I walk, like an indentation left on a bed long after someone has woken up and left the building. But this weekend as I spent time with my family, my friends, and my self, I looked at that hole and tried to imagine if the time would be enriched if she was there. “Yes,” I’d say, “if she was happy.” I realized how much of the pleasure I took in her company was conditional. I loved those happy moments and somehow if we were still going to be building those times I think that I would’ve wanted to be with her. After catching her in her lies, after catching her with him, I just want to move on. The space left behind her has started to fill in finally, slowly, after almost a year of being emptied, filled, and emptied again.

Like stretching a unused muscles, it isn’t a completely comfortable process- lunch at our favorite restaurant didn’t bring tears or sadness, only sandwiches, but sleeping in the bed I used to share with her did. Ordering ice cream alone was hard but still pleasant- so much so I decided that it had to happen a second time. So much of the beach town landscape has changed- new bookstores open, old restaurants gone or moved- that it helps me to focus on this as a transition, the standard passing of time rather than the end of the world. Like the tides of the ocean, people come in to your life then slowly roll out, leaving the sand of your soul altered.

While shopping I accidentally pulled out the old photograph of her that I kept in my wallet- one she had printed out on cheap paper and given to me almost five years ago. She’s smiling, wearing a black dress, and a holding a cat so black that he fades into the dress till his eyes look like buttons on the dress. I stuffed it back inside, avoiding it. Is there something telling in the fact that my latest wallet had no place to put a picture so that it was easily seen- so much so that I had forgotten I’d even had it?

One friend has long pressured me to do something symbolic to address the end of my relationship with L, something firm that would show it. He reminded me of how when he decided to go back and finish college he shaved his head. Everyone noticed something was different and it gave impetus to the change. Tonight was my night for that.

I avoided the beach itself all weekend until last night, focusing on enjoying my favorite relaxing spots around the town. As the sun began to fall I drove out to the ocean, my last chance to see it before leaving in the morning. The air was salty and the tide was rolling out, and a few campfires were lit by lifeguards celebrating the end of the day. I pulled the picture of her out of my wallet and stared it as I approached the beach she had loved so much.

I remembered the first time I brought her here, a winter day too cold to swim- she was in a hooded sweatshirt and sandy blue-jeans. She leapt out of the car excited, jumping up and down like a hyperactive toddler, smiling. We had often talked about going swimming in the ocean and making love in the evening and, though we had almost tried once or twice, our courage had always failed us. Instead we’d eat sandwiches or donuts, depending on the time of day, and play. Playing- innocently, without the pain, was something I don’t think we could ever have anymore. The picture, having outlasted two wallets, had now lived beyond the relationship itself.

I bent down as the tide rolled in and pushed it to the bottom of the shallows, I couldn’t see it as the water pulled it out to become part of the ocean. I didn’t cry, I didn’t have time to let that out, but I savored the moment and felt it- the wind, the water, the sadness, the regret, the love for her. It didn’t magically change me the way baptisms are supposed to- there is now a hole in my wallet matching the hole in my life where her picture had stayed hidden. But, like my friend shaving his head, it helped somehow- I had done something. Letting her picture drift out to sea- it honored the ocean that I loved so much and it honored the time we spent together, I let her go out of my life like an old dead king- loved, adorned in treasure, dead, and burning- drifting on the oceans and dancing with ghosts.