Tag Archive | relationships

Irreconcilable Differences

“Irretrievably broken.”  A phrase intended to describe a relationship that cannot be repaired.  But the thing is, it sometimes takes only one party to a relationship to send it down this path.  Sure, it can be a romantic relationship, and I’ve had my fair share of those.  But every relationship requires nurturing and care.  Professional relationships.  Family ties.  Friendships.  Even acquaintanceships. 

The last two years have seen so, so many examples of irretrievably broken.  People shouting at strangers in the supermarket.  Violent workplace interactions.  People attacking others in the street.  Don’t get me started on politics.  It takes so little to treat someone with kindness and respect, so why is this a dying art form?  Is it really so difficult to not be a jerk to someone whose opinion is different than yours?  Because if you think you are right, I’ve got something to share with you.  In my 21 years of Human Resources work, I’ve learned the truth is ALWAYS somewhere in the middle. 

But it doesn’t have to be so dramatic.  It can be simple neglect.  It can be death by a thousand cuts.  It can be the snarky comments, the constant interruptions. It can be dismissing someone’s advice or expertise.  It can be digging in when really, maybe you ought to just apologize. 

A little advice for you if you find yourself on this path.  Stop talking.  Start listening.  Ask genuine questions.  And by genuine, no fair trying to bait the other person; that’s just juvenile.  Consider that maybe you aren’t right after all.  Consider that someone may have another perspective.  It may not fix things, because there is always the other party who might still be intent on napalming the bridge.  But at least you can rest easier knowing that you did what you could… 

As for me, I feel I’m on a path of irretrievably broken, despite my best efforts.  And no, I’m not talking about a romantic relationship.  I’m a Virgo, and damn I’m stubborn, so I haven’t wanted to admit defeat.  But I find myself feeling like there’s not much more I can do.  It makes me sad, and frustrated, and more than a little bit tired (that stupid insomnia certainly doesn’t help).  I don’t feel like listening.  I feel like shouting.  But in the end, my own behavior is the only thing I can control.  So I try not to do something rash (maybe no promises).  And I wish I still had some of my mentors to talk through it with. 

In the end, I feel that things are gaining momentum, but who knows which way it will go.  Thanks for listening. 


Hey you…

You weren’t supposed to die this soon. You weren’t supposed to die like this. You weren’t supposed to leave me wondering if I’m now at that age where my people die.

We didn’t want the same thing out of life.  I was the shy introvert who always felt awkward around your friends. You were the larger than life extrovert. I wanted the quiet career and the white picket fence (I still don’t have that fence by the way).  But for that four years starting with the Halloween after I turned 18, you were my people. My first roommate. My first adult relationship. The one who taught me about love.

You wanted to be in a metal band. To make it big. I hated metal and wanted to be in bed by 9:30 – well maybe midnight back then… You stayed out all night going to band practice and playing Dungeons and Dragons, while I studied and watched M*A*S*H before bed. I never worried about what you were up to because band practice and Dungeons and Dragons was your obsession. I knew where you had been because the smell of that damned pizza on your sweat when you crawled into bed.

You were a genius. One of the smartest people I ever knew. You knew so much about history. We used to talk about it when I was learning things in school. I always wondered why you didn’t want to go back and get a degree. 

We shared my car until you got your own.  You borrowed the money from my parents.  Do you remember how you would get off work late on the day the payment was due, and even though I would try to convince you to do it tomorrow, you insisted on driving over to my parents house that night so you could make the payment on time.  My dad always respected that about you.  I wonder if you have seen dad up there in Heaven and have had the chance to catch up. 

You bought me my first legal drink at 21.  You nursed my hangover when that night ended up like most 21 year old birthdays do.  You made sure I didn’t feel so adrift at parties.  You were always a better cook than me. And your bathroom habits set the standard to which I compare every man since you. Every parent should teach their sons so well how to keep a bathroom clean.

We had lots of good days together, as broke kids just starting out, even though we were destined to go our separate ways. I loved you. You were kind. You treated me well. Those who came after you could have learned a thing or many from you.

We stayed friends after we broke up, after we got through that awkward phase.  I hope we both recognized we were good people who just wanted something different from life. I know I always thought you were a good man.

I see all your friends’ tributes to you on Facebook, and I feel removed from them. Most of them don’t know me. I came from a time before. My pictures are from a time when we almost children.  Now your oldest daughter is older than we were then.  My pictures have fresh young faces unmarked by time, and the weight of life. But I see the grief in your friends’ words, and I feel that too. I feel their pain. I feel what they feel so profoundly that it makes my heart ache and the tears fall in torrents.

I could never get behind all those cheesy sayings you did later on.  It’s the introvert in me. It’s the Virgo in me too.  I never wanted to be on stage, to be the center of attention the way you did. But you connected people with those cheesy sayings and made people feel valued and seen. That was your gift. I wish more people had that gift and used it. I wish some of the men that came since you had that gift and used it.

God speed Jeff. I know your soul is free and you will shine down on me and everybody else who is hurting with your loss. Vaya con Dios.

April 27, 1975 – May 25, 2021


It Wasn’t Real

It is those moments before falling asleep and those moments spent in wakefulness in the middle of the night when I have my most powerful thoughts.  I’m too tired to have my guard up, and it is too quiet in the world to have the distractions of work, friends, home and other obligations.  Whether I like it or not, I am alone in my thoughts.  Lying there, marinating in those thoughts, feels painful and vulnerable, much like writing these words.  Yet, I have to feel it – I have to speak these truths.  The only way out is through…

This week I learned that my former love, a man I deeply loved, is engaged.  It hurt.  I cried tears more forceful and raw than I have in months.  I have struggled to move him to the “has been” pile, and push his presence from my heart.  Even though I have long known that I do not occupy his.  He was a Jekyll and Hyde who went from sweet and funny to critical and even frightening.  But I miss the times when he was sweet and funny and caring.

I have long suspected, but never knew for sure, that our relationship wasn’t “real”.  It was real for me; a man who occupied my whole heart and with whom I wanted to spend a lifetime.  Sadly, I realized over time that it was more a game of manipulation for him, rather than love.  Those sweet, funny and caring times were an act.  He sought to control and had no issues with trampling over boundaries.  He reduced interactions to a zero sum game of winners and losers, in which he was the only acceptable winner.

This week I learned that our stories, the ones upon which he framed our relationship, have been recycled for her.  Of course, I only had a tiny glimpse into the new life he has fabricated since leaving me.  I say fabricated because that is how it feels to me.  I know he created a fantasy in which I was placed on a pedestal, and inevitably I tumbled to the ground when he suddenly saw me as nothing more than my flaws, my imperfections; no longer the Madonna or the angel that he originally believed me to be.  It isn’t as though I changed; but his perception of me did…

I’m sure his pattern is the same in his new life; she is perfect – until of course, that moment when she no longer is.  The only mystery is when.  And when the inevitable tumble from the pedestal occurs, I know the pattern.  The critical comments, the questioning, the name calling.  The “fact-checking.”  I wonder if she knows – I imagine not.  I didn’t.

Meanwhile, I struggle to learn to trust again.  I don’t know if I will ever take for granted that a man may mean what he says, or say what he means.  Every word will be analyzed, dissected, and replayed in my mind at 3 am.  I will probably always expect a man to walk away.  Because I’m not perfect, or I have boundaries, or will not tolerate being belittled, or because he found a new Madonna to believe his stories.  I’ll never really know why – I will only know that he left.

As for my former love, I’m left with his stories.  Whether they were truth or fiction – it probably doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that I don’t believe them anymore.  I’m working towards building a new story that includes trust, and I hope one day that is the only one I live.

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I Chose You

I have never been a person who has done much fighting back.  I’m generally pretty quiet; an introvert, someone who doesn’t make waves.  A rule follower.  Mostly I’ll listen, and assess, or detach to protect myself, but I won’t typically engage.

You can say a lot to me without getting a reaction.  I have mellowed over time; I used to get more worked up, but now I have more of a tendency to go numb.  Conditioning over a lifetime I suppose, and a career where you have to make some people unhappy.  I rarely say much back in these situations; I tend more towards thinking up all the brilliant things I should have said later…  But quiet is likely better anyway.  If it will come to the same result, it seems the path of least resistance at least gets it over with more quickly.  Maybe it isn’t the best strategy; I’m sure that can be debated until the end of time.

Perhaps that gives people the impression that I’m meek.  That isn’t it.  I have simply learned that to engage is rarely productive; by the time you are done lobbing whatever negative opinion you have of me, there isn’t much that I will be able to say to change your mind.  Your hurtful words come from a lifetime of your own hurt, and aren’t likely to truly be about me.  I have learned that lesson more times than I care to remember.  When your goal is not to help but to hurt, the message has lost its meaning.  And whatever I have to say in response won’t be heard, or received, or considered.  I will be talking to ears that hear but cannot listen, and ears that cannot listen cannot change or understand.

My choice is to disengage.  To say I tried, but I could not overcome.  To say that I loved, but it wasn’t enough.  To say that I still love, but I had to let go.  The only one I can change is myself.

The last words I ever wrote to you were, “I wanted us.”  Don’t you know I would have followed you anywhere?  It seems that you got so busy fighting your imaginary rivals, that you forgot that I had chosen you.


Circus Trip 2018: Reconnecting

I was 13 years old when I met him; we were introduced by an older mutual friend.  He was 15, adorably cute, funny, and sweet.  We were both instantly attracted to each other.  We started dating, and spent a lot of time together, but sadly, neither of us really remembers how long we were together.

The memories are 30 year old memories.  The photo booth at Woolworth’s, him meeting me after school at my school (his school got out earlier than mine), walking around downtown for hours, lots of kissing.  Snippets of a time when we were happy together – the kind of happy you feel as a child, before responsibilities and life weigh you down so much.  Our biggest issues were making sure we made it to the last bus home, doing our homework, and arguing with my brother about how much time we each got on the phone.

He spent a lot of time at my house; my parents were stable and kind – his parents did not give him the same sort of blissful childhood I enjoyed.  He was living with his dad and step-mom in my town, but he didn’t feel wanted.  My house was a respite for him, with the kind of parents he wanted to have.  I have the kind of parents that any kid is blessed to have.  We spent a lot of time in my room, talking, kissing, laughing.  We cooked after school snacks; and I began his lifelong attachment to Minute Rice, although I didn’t know that at the time.

And then we got in trouble.  We snuck out together and stayed at a friend’s.  It was innocent; the stuff of good kids who were smart and cautious – we watched The Princess Bride, stayed up all night and kissed.  But he got caught.  He was marched over to my house the next day to confess to my parents while I was still out with my friend.  I got grounded for a few days.  His punishment was excessive; he was put on a plane and shipped back to his mom’s in California.  Banished for a minor teenage mistake.  I never even got to say goodbye.

Life went on and I pined for him at first; later on the memories faded and I thought of him less.  But I still thought of him from time to time.  I even tried to look him up more recently online and on Facebook, but was never sure if any of the countless profiles with his name was his.  The one who got away.  The curse of a common name.  I never knew he thought of me too.

In early July I posted a video on YouTube of my swim with whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium in order to embed it into my post on this blog.  It was shortly before I left on my big road trip, and it was the first and only thing I have ever posted under my name on YouTube.  A few weeks later, on July 30, I was at a tiny state park in Minnesota.  I needed a day of rest and had found a little out-of-the-way park on a man-made reservoir with farmland all around.  It was quiet.

I woke up from my first night in the park to find a comment on my YouTube video.  “funny, i used to have a girlfriend with the same name…..but she had braces and LOVED minute rice. then my parents screwed it all up and grounded me for life. i felt like a jerk and always missed her. its probably been 30 years now. i’m a dummy.”  The comment was left with an obviously fake name, but I instantly knew who it was, and I knew he had found the right girl – given that only one other person on the internet shares my extremely uncommon name.

We started emailing, then talking on the phone, as I drove further and further away from California (where he still lives), on my trip.  The connection we felt as teenagers was still there; he still made me laugh, his core personality was the same as the boy I dated at 13, only grown up now.  We have both been through our share of joy and trials, and we both keep trying to find happiness in the simple things in life.  We found ourselves talking everyday, and he soon asked if my trip would take me through California.  Days turned into weeks, then months, as we texted and talked, and exchanged photos – my trip, his life at home.

My trip did indeed take me into California, where the things I was feeling over the phone turned out to be even stronger in person.  Can first loves work out?  Can you find happiness with someone from your past who has found you again?  We never broke up as teenagers; there was never a fight or a gradual loss of interest.  He was simply taken away from me.  At 13 and 15, before cell phones, driver’s licenses and the internet, or even the money for long distance phone calls, being 1,100 miles away from someone is the kiss of death for a teenage romance.  But we have been given a second chance after all this time.

He is kind and sweet and I have fallen in love with him all over again.  His quirky sense of humor makes me laugh; he keeps me from being too serious.  There are details we both need to work through if we are going to work; it will take time and it is complicated.  We both want it to work though.

It is strange that my past found me 2,000 miles and 30 years away from home?  That we just clicked – the same way we did when we were kids?  I always wanted the fairy tale.  And finally, once again, my Westley found his Buttercup.  As you wish.

Me and Jeff