Day 208: The Man and the Total Recall; ‘Scent’

If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still see the deep, rich hazel of her eyes. I can feel her hair tickling my neck as she rests her head on my shoulders. If I take a deep enough breath I can still catch a slight trace of her scent in the air. Sweet with a tinge of melancholy. In the most profound and all-encompassing silences of the night, her laughter echoes, and in my weakest and most desperate moments, I can hear her calling me ‘baby’ again.

Image result for closing eyes gif

That is the beauty, and the burden, of memory. What’s more, as a storyteller, a writer, a creator, I cling to these scars like bubbling wells when I might feel thirsty or starved for inspiration. I am, for the most part, free of the emotions of these memories. When they first started popping up, I felt like a lost lonely little child in a haunted house, surrounded by the ghosts of something long dead and gone. But I’ve grown up and realized that these are benign ghosts, more like tragic tapes on permanent playback than harmful poltergeists. They are no longer intruders upon my house, but fixtures, like a chandelier that creaks in the wind or a squeaky floorboard. I can walk and weave my way through them, letting them pop up and occupy my mind for a few seconds before floating away, like wisps in the wind. I don’t think I could ever truly be entirely free of them; the memories are too distinct, too significant, too much a part of my life to be forgotten, like the name of my favorite stuffed bear when I was a tiny baby. What life, love, or longing is gone, but Beautiful remains.

And I’ve often wondered if I’d be better off forgetting it all. Freeing myself of even the seemingly benign burden of slight reminders. To say goodbye permanently to the good, the bad, and the ugly of what, seven years more or less of an intertwined story? Would my life be better, would any of our lives be better, if we possessed the ability and the luxury of wiping from our memory all of the failed, faded, or lost loves of our lives.

Now this is not a new concept. And it’s heavily and thoroughly investigated in one of my
all-time favorite movies, it’s come up before once or twice on the blog I believe, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. After a painful breakup two former lovers undergo a procedure to erase each other from their minds, only to run into each other and contemplate the possibilities of being together, knowing what could possibly await them again.

I mean, the immediate appeal is there, for sure. There would be no painful reminders. No fear of going back to some place and falling into some emotionally deep memory that you can barely get yourself out of. In the beginning of it all I might have gladly taken the option. I would have found myself in more places around my home, places I’d barred for fear of feeling too attached to the memories they brought up. Anyone who’s gone through a painful breakup can relate to that desire of wanting to just be rid of it all. Usually it is because we focus so much on the good times, the perfect moments, the snapshots, that we then idealize and gild them until they are placed on a pedestal of unrealistic proportions. The more we focus on these moments, the more we miss them, the deeper the hurt. And yet we go back to them, again and again. Why? Because a familiar pain is better than an unknown one. Why not wallow in the familiar sting of long lost love when the alternative is to go back out into the world and open yourself up to newer, potentially deeper, scars? So, burdened with the memory, we live in pain. Wouldn’t forgetting free us, then? Wouldn’t it allow us that blissful ignorance, hopeful optimism, necessary to chase after the love we once wanted? But it doesn’t work so well. Case in point, look at the characters in the movie. Look at Kirsten Dunst playing the doe-eyed assistant in love with her married doctor boss Tom Wilkinson. Spoiler alert: near the film’s conclusion we learn that the two of them have had an affair already previously, and here they are in the same situation once more. ‘Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it’. What if the price of forgetting our follies is being stuck, like those ghosts, in permanent playback, doomed to constantly chase after the same, make the same mistakes, and run away from the same problems?

Up until now, I’ve lived in that sort of realm of possibility. I’ve only ever wondered, ‘what if I could forget’. And it is partly because I’ve never had an alternative to consider. Until that is, I watched Netflix’s show Black Mirror, and in particular the episode The Entire History of You. A wonderful piece of technology from the future, only referred to as a ‘grain’, allows its users to capture everything they ever see and play it back either in their minds or on screens in homes and at offices. An infinite playback reel going back to infancy, capturing every moment, every nuance, in picture-perfect real-life definition. It lets people replay interviews to analyze how well it went, watch a baby’s feed to make sure the babysitter was gentle and safe, or even play back those better moments of past relationships. But total recall comes at a price, the price of security, privacy, trust, but most surprisingly, happiness.

As one pro-grain user in the episode says, ‘half the organic memories you have are junk’. It can’t be trusted. How many memories have we blown out of proportions. How many childhood lakes as large as oceans and filled with pristine beautiful blue waters have turned out to be shallow mucky ponds in adulthood? Wouldn’t it be better to have preserved everything as it truly was. There’d be no doubt, no worry. I could replay over and over, again and again, catch myself browsing ‘redos’ in my mind until I go dizzy. I’d catch the moments in picture perfect clarity, to bask in past glory or to fanaticize over failures. But then again…that’s the problem. I’d catch the moments in picture perfect clarity, or fanatacize over my failures. There is this wonderfully poignant scene where the main couple are making actual real love in real life, but the movements are generic, uninspired, mechanical, their eyes glazed over as if possessed, because rather than engage in the now, they are both independently playing ‘redos’ in their mind of better, more passionate, earlier times of having sex rather than trying to capture that now. And how many of us would be guilty of choosing to relive the past rather than appreciate the present. And with permanent records, how many could resist the temptation to go back to fantasies and memories of past loves. Or grill our partners on their past. With the power and the ability to project exact memories, how many of us could resist digging into that even knowing full well how painful those memories could be? The history of your partner is right there at your fingertips. You know it could possibly hurt you, maybe even too much to handle, and yet…the temptation. The possibility. The all-too-familiar pain.

And so I pose to you this conundrum. What would you rather have. In what world would you rather live. How best do you move on. Would you rather forget everything after a breakup, or have everything captured forever. Total recall, or total wipe.

And, before some of you answer, while you are contemplating this over your morning toast and tea, I say you must choose one or the other. Making a choice, to remember or to forget, reveals a lot. Remaining neutral does not. So, no ‘neither, because I believe you can make new and better memories with the right person that will override past memories and I need to remember the past to learn from my mistakes’. Sorry, can’t play both sides. Hahah. (Just teasing, but yes, you will need to make a choice. :P)

Day 208

Man: 176 Loneliness: 32

Day 199: The Man and the Missed Anniversary; ‘Oversight’

Today would have been our anniversary.

the office

When we first started dating back in college, we wanted some time just to test the waters, no need to rush. We made it official on January 23rd because we liked the idea of ‘1-2-3’. Easy to remember, and you could make a wish on a day like that. Hahah.

When we got back together last year, or were in the process of doing so, I asked her out for our first date on January 23rd. It’s kind of crazy to think that an entire year has already past. We didn’t even make it to the halfway point.

January 23rd has therefore always been an important day for me. Either I had something to celebrate, or something to miss. This is the first year I can say with full confidence that though I might not have something really to celebrate (other than being a day short of the big 200!) I also have nothing I could say that I miss.

But it is an interesting coincidence though that on this 23rd of January I do have to say goodbye.

Image result for hot pot gifOh maybe I should clarify! I’m not going anywhere. Slight trolling on my part. Hahah. Actually this is more of a reflection on the weekend; as most of you regular readers know I had my annual hot pot/sleepover over the weekend. Or at least, I tried to.

We do this every year and every year I am a more than willing host, partly because my parents love to vacation for months at a time and partly (mainly) because I am the only one in our group who ever offers to host or else we’d have had to do this at some overpriced restaurant every time. And every year we treat it as an opportunity to let loose and get drink just a bit more than usual because everyone stays overnight and then we have a big Filipino (read: hangover cure) breakfast the next morning. It’s a big tradition in our group. I thought these meant something to people. Maybe traditions have lost their significance. Maybe we’re all after the newest things, consumers of trends rather than bastions of tradition. Or maybe I’ve put too much into people whose only fault is that they just don’t care. Like at all.

Aside from the assumption of longstanding tradition, I have the written texts of all my friends confirming they were ready, able, and committed to this weekend’s events. It is not until the very day as I am picking them up at their homes (again, the idea was everyone would stay) that every single one of them tells me that they will not be spending the night.

Image may contain: foodI hate to say it but internally I immediately reverted back to my 7-year old self, thinking ‘well that’s fine, I didn’t want to hang out with you anyways, pfffbt’. The truth is it hurts. I feel like a child who’s been walking around holding something in my hands and wanting to show it off to other people and tell them how valuable it is and someone takes one look at it and tells me all I’ve actually got is some dirt or trash.

Apart from all of that and despite having to cut festivities short, we did have a pretty great time though. That’s the thing of it. We can always make a great time of whatever we do. Image may contain: foodWe had plenty of food, music playing in the background while we ate and drank, and the communal nature of a hot pot (everyone placing different things into the boiling broth and fishing out whatever catches their eye) really brought us together while eating. We had to do the grocery shopping together, we prepped all the ingredients together, set everything up, and took everything down. I had a giant Jenga tower for us to play (penalty shots of course) and then we whipped up some meringue and made a baked Alaska for dessert. While everyone was sobering up we played some Crabs Adjust Humidity (not an auto-correct typo, a great copycat game of Cards Against Humanity with better cards) and my friend even brought back souvenirs from his trip to Japan with his girlfriend.

Image may contain: foodSunday I had the day to myself again. I cleaned the house, just as I did the week before in preparation, loaded/unloaded the dishwasher, went grocery shopping, and realized I was just as happy as I was on Saturday, only minus the disappointment. Which means I can’t fault my friends. The only thing preventing me from being happy was me. And I think it’s because I’ve placed too much on these relationships. It’s hard to admit that maybe I’ve placed more value on our friendship than my friends have, but I feel that now that I have come to acknowledge this, I can be happier and enjoy and appreciate my friendship with them more, seeing it for what it really is. And that’s not to say that my friends don’t care or that I am anything less to them; it’s that I overestimated how much they cared and how much I am. But if I can successfully live in that ‘gold zone’ and be more realistic and aware, I think we’d all be better off.

I thought that the great tragedy this weekend was that I had been slighted. I wanted to be Image may contain: foodthe victim, to take offense at what I thought was being treated like an oversight. That is absolutely not the case. I’ve been thinking about ‘are these friends right for me’ and ‘what am I still getting out of maintaining these friendships’ but the truth is, I had a great time Saturday. We can still have great times together and I have no reason to want to change or leave. I do want to grow, and find people who might actually care at the same level and intensity and with the same openness and intention as I do, but I am still glad to have the friends I have.

Image may contain: foodAm I a little disappointed that their actions this past weekend clearly reflect that I’ve been pursuing much more in a well that ran out? Yes, a little. But I don’t say goodbye to my friends. I just have to say goodbye to these expectations and continue to search out. It must have been the same for when I was dating her. I placed way more into that relationship than I got out. But I am no victim and she was no villain. It’s important to get out of that ‘victim mentality’. I loved her deeply. I thought there was some great injustice to what happened between us. But I had invested too much, expected too much, in a well that was much more shallow then I could try to draw out of. It is not the fault of the well when your bucket hits the bottom. It is simply time to move on. Don’t hold on to any perceived slight, look towards more and better and deeper.

Day 199

Man: 167 Loneliness: 32

Day 173: The Man and the Promise of a Period of Peaceful Plunder; ‘Pillage’

Last year as I stood on the cusp of 2016, I felt ready to take on the world. I was ready to conquer something, to raid and pillage as if the glory and treasure and beauty of the year was something to be broken into. I was preparing for a new job, Beautiful had just entered my life again, and I felt a new surge of purpose and drive. I was the hammer and I was ready to beat the year into submission.

And my god, did the year ever fight back and teach me a lesson never to try and do that again.

My relationship imploded. My job took me out of home and routine and family and friends for such a long time that I almost burned out. I mean let’s be completely honest here, I love this blog and I love this community, but this is not the writing or circumstances of a man who’s had that great of a year. Hahah. So I’ll concede to 2016. You win, year.

I tried to take on the year through brute force and sheer will. I thought I was the ferocious viking landing on the shores of 2016 with an axe and a torch ready to claim everything for my own. But, of course with a little bit of research, I find out that even the vikings weren’t as violently viking-ish as I thought.

The vikings conquered most of Europe through romantic family holidays. I mean come on, how iconically European is that. It’s true though. Turns out historians were wrong in assuming that most of the raiding parties that landed on the mainland comprised solely of men. When you actually look at the items left at the settlements and the DNA of the ancient buried, you find that a good number of the travelers were women and even children. They didn’t conquer Europe, they inhabited it. Men would bring women along, which meant they could have children, which meant establishing communities further and further along their routes, meaning trade and assimilation and expanding territories. We know that vikings didn’t just go from village to village and rape women, but that while there was definitely instances of this, because of the rigorous regimen the vikings had of cleaning themselves and caring for their appearance, many women were seduced and enticed by the clean, well-groomed vikings. We know that their great halls were not war rooms or places of violence, but were grand meeting spaces for lords and nobles to strengthen their power through feasts, parties, luxurious meats and cheeses, and barrels and barrels and barrels worth of beer and mead.

So what does this mean? It means that the vikings didn’t accomplish as much as they did on the edge of a sword. They did it through open, outstretched hands.

2016 beat and battered me to a pulp. But I learned not to thrash and wail and strike back. I wanted to conquer love, work, and happiness. Instead of going out into the world and trying to claim as much of it as I could from others, I learned to bring it along and plant it in the memories and places and experiences that meant the most to me. All these things  I wanted: love, acceptance, warmth, happiness, they weren’t resources someone else had that I had to take from them. I didn’t have to take my sense of joy, my feelings of warmth, my tender love, or my hopeful happiness from Beautiful. Maybe she had none to give in the first place, or maybe it wasn’t mine to take, but the point is I’ve learned instead to cultivate and grow these things that I want in the places I want to find them. To do as the vikings, and bring what I have along the route, and plant them as I go, so that eventually I can find it in anything and everything. In anyone, and everyone, and maybe hopefully one day as I’ve learned to grow and appreciate and nurture and cherish and recognize, in a special someone.

I used to look at someone like Beautiful and ask myself ‘what happiness can I derive from her’. Now I am trying instead to look at someone and see what love there is to grow with them, to experience with them, to share with them. I looked onto 2016 thinking I was never going to be alone again, and by mid-2016 I was afraid I would never be able to live alone. Now I am redefining my relationship with myself and forcing myself to be with something that I thought was going to scare me to my very core.

As yesterday, and today (with its lingering effects) has clearly shown, I’m not done yet. I can still be taken over the edge of what it is I’ve been skirting and trying to avoid for so long. If the world can’t rid me of the pain and reminders, I’ll need to learn to do it myself. I can’t tell you how much sleep I lost last night because of her message. Or how tempted I was to go back to that blog, fearful of finding that while I have been trying to move on, she’s built some shrine to this other man. I wish I could say that the course and journey of her life has no impact on me anymore. But the gravity of our paths still keeps me curving ever slightly inward. I am learning to increase my orbit, and one day I hope to be free of the pull.

I’ve done a lot of things this past year that I’m not proud of. I might have ruined legitimate potential possibilities for romance. I might have neglected the relationships I already had with friends and family. I’ve said some things, not said some things, and either through action or inaction, I recognize I’ve placed myself exactly where I am right now, no one else. These are my things to acknowledge and to do with what I please. I could run away from them. I could chalk them up to youth and naivete and inexperience. I could, as one very close and dear community member has pointed out today, keep opening up the wound because I like the pain. I don’t think I’m fully ready yet to close the chapter on these things. I don’t think I can as yet delude myself into thinking I’ve grown beyond these mistakes.

But I’ve also done some incredible things I never thought I’d get to do. I’ve opened myself up to new experiences and activities. Picked up new hobbies. I’ve strengthened and deepened some existing relationships, and as with some members of my family, created some new relationships that didn’t exist before. I started a blog. I wrote more this year than I probably did when I was in college, and all of it was voluntary. I found a voice and a platform for my thoughts and experiences that helped me grow. I wrote the first draft of a novel. One that I want to revisit and really dive into, to experience the pain and drive and hunger to have your story put out there for the world.

I just want to live and grow for 2017. I mean I have hopes and dreams for the year of course. I hope and yearn for love. For a deep and fulfilling relationship. I dream about maybe finding a job that is financially, personally, and emotionally nurturing and fulfilling. Maybe it’s in this company still, maybe it’s not. I listened to a speaker recently talking about how workers in my generation are seeking fulfillment in their careers which is a good thing, but lack the patience and the work ethic to realize it comes not with an immediate job but maybe over time as you earn it. He likened the desire for fulfillment and impact like the summit of the mountain, so we see the peak and we know what it is and what we want, but we fail to see the mountain in front of us. So I do have some hopes and plans and intentions for the year. But I won’t dictate my year by its successes or failures. I’d still like to practice what I’ve learned from the vikings. Grow along the journey, and realize how much further you can go because of it.

I hope you all have had a satisfying, enjoyable, or at the very least memorable year. I don’t know at which point in the year’s journey you found me or I found you, but we’ll be starting a new year together and I look forward to that. Once again I will be spending some time with family and friends over the next few days so I may not get to be on here as much, but I do want to wish you all a safe, happy, and healthy new year filled with promise.

Day 173

Man: 143 Loneliness: 30

 

Day 172: The Man and the Confused Communication

Hey everyone.

Hope you’ve all had a great holiday. Maybe you’re still off from work, relaxing with a cup of coffee or recovering from all of the festivities.

I don’t get what it is about the holidays that makes people think it’s a good idea to dredge up the past.

If there was one thing I was dreading about the holidays, it would be that I would already be constantly batting away reminders and pangs of loss.

I love having love over the holidays. Somehow though the timing’s just never worked out. Hahah. Summer relationships grow ice cold. Winter romances somehow miss the countdown.

The last time was in college. It was the very first, and so far last, time I ever brought a girl over for the holidays. It was Beautiful, of course. We went, as we always do every Christmas, to my great-aunt’s house. Everyone was so excited to meet her, and she was so great. I prepped her before the visit, showing her pictures and names and relations. She did incredibly. Not that I had any doubts. She was always the light of the room.

I knew I was in love watching her at that party. She spoke with everyone, tried all the food, and if you’ve ever been to a Filipino party you can attest, that is always a LOT of food! I was laughing watching all of my relatives taking turns scooping more and more food onto her plate, but god bless her she ate it all. My relatives even actually got her some presents so when we were exchanging gifts she’d have something too.

We were together again on New Year’s and for once I actually had someone to kiss at the countdown. I had a reason to want to watch the ball drop, a reason to yell and shout and cheer at the end of the old and the beginning of the new.

To be honest I knew the holidays would be the hardest part of this entire year for me. There’s already enough pressure to be with someone over the holidays.So many movies, commercials, and stories are about love at Christmas and etc and etc. Someone you love to give presents to at Christmas. Someone to kiss at New Year’s. But then my birthday is a week after New Year’s and then in a month it’s Valentine’s. It’s the lonely heart’s gauntlet. Hahah.

I was doing a pretty good job, don’t you think? Funny posts, fun Christmas events at work, focusing on family and cooking. I didn’t need any extra reminders of anything else.

So why did Beautiful have to rock the boat. What about the holidays made her think it was okay, or acceptable, or warranted, or even remotely wanted, to hear from her. Why did she think I would care to know that she was in Philly, our city, with friends. Why would I have to see a picture she took of the mural garden that we had walked through so many times before, having our picture taken kissing under one of the arches, catching our reflection in the many mirrors throughout the exhibit and taking pictures.

One day, one message, one picture, and suddenly I have to inhabit this world again.

Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean we have to be greeting everyone or bringing up old memories. I’d been doing fairly god damn well handling the holidays with some appropriate cheer without dealing with the past.

The most generous and gracious thing I can say about Beautiful now is that I don’t care what she does with her life. I’ve walked away from all of this, all of that, all of her. Without sounding like too much of a jerk, I wish for my sake, she could do the same for me. I don’t care if her intentions are good.

In my perfect world, maybe she’d realize how she made me feel. Maybe we could both address and admit to our own faults. I would tell her how sorry I am for trying to pigeon hole her into my version of the life I always wanted with her. How I wish I could have had the maturity and patience and foresight to let go of how possessive I was of the past and love her and appreciate her for the woman she became. And maybe she could face me and I could hear from her how she stopped loving me way before our relationship actually ended. How she was sorry that she let me invest so much of myself in an impossible dream. How she should have freed me from the pain and insecurity of having to learn from a goddamn blog post, and how even when I confronted her, she couldn’t say a single word to me.

She could never say the most important words to me. So I’m sorry if I feel like she doesn’t have the right to say anything else either. I don’t want to hold onto anger. I don’t want to have to keep caring about this. She made the decision to walk away and not communicate the most important things. She shouldn’t feel like she can just keep messaging me like this. I don’t care that you’re in Philly with friends. I don’t care that you were at the Magic Gardens again and it reminded you of me. I don’t care that you wish my family a merry Christmas and hope we have a happy New Year.

Sorry to bring everyone down. I don’t have any right to be upset over the holidays. I’m just surprised and a bit disappointed that I still can’t handle this as well as I’d like. To be fair I never even really created any sort of plan for this. I had hoped that maybe we could be decent enough to each other to just never cross paths again. I thought the world, and she, could at least give me the least bit of tiny mercy and spare me the interaction.

I don’t even know what to do. Maybe I won’t even respond. Maybe my silence can get the message across that all I want from her is hers. Maybe I walk away, and after a year she’ll find this blog too and she can learn it all secondhand. That the day she messaged me and I ignored her was not because I didn’t care, but because I couldn’t convince myself not to care. Maybe I’ll say nothing to her, but my thoughts have already been taken over.

Day 172

Man: 143 Loneliness: 29

Day 117: The Man and the Plunge-50,000 Leagues Under the Sea; ‘Giant’

nanowrimo

I first heard of NaNoWriMo in high school. A friend of mine mentioned she was going to take on this seemingly insane endeavor of writing 50,000 words in a single month. I was always into writing and I had submitted a few short stories to our school’s literary magazine but they were short little things and they had taken me months to write. Let’s face it, I’m an easily distracted procrastinator. It would have been a terrible and unrealistic task for me but I rooted for her and watched her go. Excitement, eagerness, and anticipation in the beginning, a bit of skepticism around the mid, and by the end we were eating consolation sundaes at the mall and we never mentioned the phrase ‘word count’ again.

nano-blockFor those of you who may not know what NaNoWriMo is, it is short for National Novel Writing Month. It is a collective writing event internationally held during the month of November as a catalyst to help all those aspiring and professional writers who have always believed there was a novel inside of them that they just needed the right kick in the pants to get out. The average word count of a novel is 50,000 words so the challenge is for writers to write 50,000 words in the time between Nov 1st and Nov 30th. In case you’re wondering, that’s about 1600 words a day. The online community gathers on their official website to offer encouragement, share their successes, but most importantly find inspiration and support when the task begins to wear on them. Very few people have ever sat down and devoted themselves to so many words in such little time. A few notable novels have been published as a result of NaNoWriMo efforts. A personal favorite of mine is Water for Elephants, which was then turned into a fantastic period piece movie with Christoph Waltz, Reese Witherspoon, and the sparkly Twilight guy. For those crazy enough and hungry enough, it’s a fun project and could be a significant undertaking.

Ever since then the paths of myself and the 50,000 word count never crossed. I dated, went to college, became a teacher, got a new career, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten even close to that many words. Until now. The average word count of my posts borders around 1200. At 117 days, a conservative estimate would be I’ve written around 140,000 words since I began ManVsLoneliness. While they have all been loosely organized around my experiment, they have all for the most part been separate individual collections of thoughts. Minus a few series on the importance of setting routines, meditation, gratitude, etc, I’ve never tried to organize these posts into any sort of cohesive arrangement or towards any particular goal or purpose.

Starting on Tuesday, Nov 1st, I plan on trying my hand at NaNoWriMo. I’ve had some time now to get into the habit of naturally writing that much each day and I feel I’d like to try and organize my thoughts into something that could benefit others and create a compelling narrative and perspective. I’ll be foregoing the daily prompts for the entirety of the month and instead each day’s post will be my progress for that day. 1600 words or so towards what could maybe be the story of Man and Beautiful that I’ve been trying to work over myself anyways. nano-comicThe premise of what I’d like to write centers around my history with Beautiful and, to a lesser extent, all my previous relationships. What I’ve learned from them all, what they’ve meant. I used to think that the story of Beautiful and I was something unique, that we felt love and I felt longing on a level that few would ever understand or experience. It was that uniqueness that drove me and also made me feel like I couldn’t possibly find another. Writing will help me see the story as it relates to everyone else. What was once something I obsessively clung to for its uniqueness is now what I want to tap into to touch on a universal desire for love and universal pain of loss that we all feel in our lives.

I also want to talk about the expectations and templates we create for ourselves that inform our relationships. Whether its from literature or TV or films or music or our families and friends, we all have certain stereotypes of what we believe love should be like and I want to see how this affects us, for better or for worse. I want to talk about the myths of love. My chapters will be centered around those commonly held beliefs, how they’ve manifested in my relationships, and how they are either harmful or actually beneficial. Myths like the ‘meet-cute story’ that all good loves have. Or the myth of soulmates or love at first sight. Myths about love and sex and intimacy and trust. I’d like to ask you all for a little assistance in this. If you believe there are certain fundamental beliefs that we share about love or relationships that would be worth discussing or investigating, please share them with me so that I might be able to dedicate some portions to it. The societal pressures and beliefs of love, the personal results, and the use or harm of holding these. That’s the focus of my novel. Lots of personal anecdotes, and hopefully some important lessons too.

nano-shieldIf any of you are interested please check out the website. If you are crazy enough to try, let me know and I’d love to create a circle of support and encouragement. Or if you just want to watch a man’s descent into madness, sit back and enjoy. This will be a giant undertaking but I think there’s a story here that’s worth sharing and this fire is just hot enough and just big enough to fit comfortably under my butt. Hahah. I have one more day to rest before I begin!

 

Day 117

Man: 96 Loneliness: 21

Day 100: The Man and the Hundred Day Update

On a side note, I can’t believe it’s been 100 days!

Yes, it does mean that 100 days ago my relationship with Beautiful ended, and that was a very tough time for me emotionally. But it means so much more than just a timeline of heartbreak. I’ve been single and pretty happy and secure for 100 days. I’ve been writing for 100 days. At an average word count of about 1,000 words, that means I’ve written around 100,000 words! I don’t think I’ve ever written so much in such a consistent way over such a long period of time. They might not always be the best words but they’ve always been my words; genuine, authentic, purposeful words. For 100 days I have been moving ever forward and I’ve found my little niche in this enormous community where my words can find a home and even an audience. For 100 days I have been reflecting and learning and growing.

So I look at my M/L ratio so far, and I see I’ve had 80 days for Man and 20 days for Loneliness. That’s not too bad, I should think. If we break it down, it does still mean that I have a bummer day every 5 days. That’s still like, one or two a week depending. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it that way, but it’s interesting for me at least to think of the past three months in that way. Obviously it hasn’t been as consistent as just one a week. For the most part, the bad days came often times in a row. A slump to get over. It makes me wonder though at the end of the road, what my days will look like. I’ve never quantified them in this way. Thinking of how many good or bad days I’ve had to experience. I hope in the end I could say I had a bad day in every ten, or maybe even thirty days. I think that would be a very satisfying life.

What I have learned though is that my enemy was not who I thought it was. In the very beginning, Loneliness was the by-product of my breakup. I felt Loneliness in the void Beautiful left in my life. It was the bad reminder of good times long gone, like the charred remains after a house fire. I feared anything that would remind me of her or my relationship, so for a while I lived a shell of a life in isolated sanctuaries I knew she hadn’t yet entered. But I can’t live my life afraid of being burned by a fire that has already passed. So I moved on. Yet Loneliness remained. So I thought it was because I was without a relationship. But I have surrounded myself more now than ever with friends and family. I have been learning to cherish and appreciate these other relationships in my life. I could balance time with others and have time to myself to be alone but not lonely. So I have relationships right now to keep me happy and fulfilled. Yet, Loneliness remains. And now I’m beginning to see that I can sort of see the silhouette of what it is I feel so lonely for. This special, higher, much more intimate relationship. I’m beginning to reflect more on what it is I want in a relationship. I’m not just chasing the shadows of images confusing them for the real thing. I want to investigate the nature of what I want. And now those moments when Loneliness wins, it’s not so bad. It’s a bittersweet reminder of the intense feelings that come from being alive and having loved and having lost. Loneliness is the cloud from which there would otherwise be no silver lining.

I don’t know why but recently I’ve been on a serious binge of really sappy love songs on Spotify. I’d come into work and turn on my computer, log into Spotify, and almost immediately Celine Dion is playing. They don’t write love songs like they used to anymore. Celine Dion, Boz Skaggs, Lionel Richie, those love songs you feel in your heart versus your pelvis. Recently I’ve been having more dreams with these mysterious dream girls. Always different, never the same, never even someone I know. Just these various versions of what I’m looking for. Last night she had long hair and was short and we met in martial arts class. The other night she had short hair and had this pale skin like the full moon and she let me rest my head on her lap. I used to hate these dreams because I’d wake up and focus on not having these things but now I wake up and love how much I want them. I’m not gonna lie I’m almost itching to get back to dating. But I can see so much of the benefits of this time away that I don’t want to stop. There is value and worth in discretion and discipline. I knew it would be difficult and I knew I’d want to get back real soon but I thought it would be out of fear and desperation. Instead I find it’s out of excitement and enthusiasm and wonderful curiosity.

Beside the fact, I wouldn’t even know where to fit dating into my life again at this time. Hahah. What started as attempts to drive loneliness and fear and insecurity from my mind as distractions have become genuine interests and passions. My days are full of activity and growth. On Mondays and Thursdays I’m taking boxing classes. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays I am still going to martial arts. On Fridays if I’m not there I’m hanging out with friends or going out on my own. This Friday I’m seeing Kurios with a friend and her family. On Saturdays I am almost always either with friends or family. Sundays are my days to myself to rest and recuperate or to enjoy my own company doing the things that I love, fully comfortable on my own. I cook more. Next week I am planning a meal for my family and I can’t wait to cook and take pictures and moreover I can’t wait to share with you all a post I already have planned about what cooking has taught me about life. I am blogging now almost every single day and that takes up a good amount of time. Quality content doesn’t come easily or quickly and I’m still trying to find it. I’ve taken up archery. I even built my own target stand. I try to shoot 100 arrows a day to develop my muscle memory, my eyesight, and my instincts (no fancy equipment or sights here). I thought my life was defined by my relationships and that without it I would only be left with silence and thoughts. Instead I find that without a relationship to define me I am filling in the blanks with my own interests and values and spending my time defining myself for myself.

I won’t lie, I miss having someone though. I still fall ever so slightly in love with every beautiful woman who looks my way. But there’s no pressure to do anything about it. I’m not killing myself not having it. Just enjoying that rush and that feeling. I miss having someone’s hand to hold as I walk through the special and wonderful places and times of my life. I miss hearing sweet words directed at me. I miss a beautiful woman’s laughter right next to my ear. The unmistakable sugary flowery sweet smell of a woman’s perfume on my pillow. I miss the gaze of a woman who can see into my soul and see her world. I miss it because I want it. I refrain because I want to earn it. I write these clumsy words because I want to remember how to cherish it.

Day 100

Man: 80 Loneliness: 20

Day 92: The Man and the Taste of Figs; ‘Tree’

Fig 1.jpg

I’m going to share another story with you.

A story about me, about Beautiful, about choice, and even yes, about you.

Fig 2.jpgIt is true, that when she first asked to meet up again after all these years, that she was already with someone, and that she had been with this person for the past three years.

It is true that I respected that, and her, and even him, and that I never did ask her to leave him or to go back to me.

It is also true that after we went as far as our carefully parsed words could take us, we
spent an amount of time in each other’s fig-3arms, trying to continue to reach beyond the emptiness and silence to bridge the years apart.

It is true that I promised myself that I would approach this meeting with no expectations
but I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t have some assumptions. And my silly, stupid, hopeful mind raced. I couldn’t be the one to tell her what to do or to be the one who influenced her decision so in the quietest, subtlest, most honest way I could, in the warmth of my embrace, I tried in earnest to broadcast to her the only thing I knew to be true.

Fig 4.jpgThat ‘us’ was still a choice she had the option to make.

Now pay attention to how I phrased that. I didn’t want to tell her it was a choice she had to make, it was just an option she had. What years apart had done to our perceptions was that neither of us thought that the other would ever want anything to do us anymore to even begin to consider getting back together.

I was a single guy who had the whole world to choose from. I wasn’t tied to any fig-6choice and
I wasn’t exactly poised to make one before her appearance either. But she had made a decision and had stuck to it for three years. I was okay with that. I didn’t want to change that. I admit, I don’t think I could ever possess the ability to be happy for her per se, but I had at least come to accept
the reality of her with someone else. I wasn’t meeting her to catch up. I had no desire to know how her life was without me. For better or for worse I had learned to live in a world without her and I didn’t need that to change. I met up with her because she asked to and if I could acknowledge any agenda on my part, it would only have Fig 5.jpgbeen that I wanted to make sure she knew that she was with someone because she wanted to be, because she was happy, because she was better, and not solely because I did not want her. Maybe that sounds arrogant or self-centered. I just wanted her to know that the option was always there if she chose but I wanted no part in the decision making process. I placed my fig at her feet just to let her know it was all part of the same tree.

That is, honestly and openly, all I did with her that night. We met up and we exchanged the pleasantries of twofig-7 people who used to know and love each other. We talked about new interests and hobbies and people who have drifted we knew and forgot, filling in the holes we had created by blocking off portions of our lives. Then we had nothing left to say. I never asked about her relationship, she never shared. We embraced and I walked away; my only objective was to let her know I had never written us completely out. And, much like many other things with many other women, this meant more to me than it did to her.

Fig 8.jpgThat’s all I have to say about that night. I never asked for what happened next. I never wanted it or even expected it. Our lives are full of choices that we have to make. Sometimes we are burdened by the weight of how many there are and other times we feel hopelessly adrift because we feel there are none at all.

I don’t regret the choice I made to see her again and to reconnect. And I don’t regret her choice to want to see me and, eventually, on that rainy night a month later when she showed up at my doorstep, her choice to come back. At least we were making choices. We were moving forward.

What hurt was how long it took for her to make the decision to eventually leave. And her fig-9decision to hide her true feelings and reasons to me. What hurt is that while she was feeling unsure and hesitating to pick her fruit, I was blindly content thinking it was okay to watch the rest of my fruit wither away as well. Could Bird have been a fig I wanted to taste. Was I looking in the wrong places for the wrong people for the wrong things. I would never know now because I was happily partaking in the fruit before me.

I can’t think too much anymore about the probabilities of the past. There are too many ‘should have’s and ‘would have’s and ‘could have’s that could keep me up at night and drive me insane. The past is done and decided. Instead I find myself worriedly and unasurredly looking into the future. I wonder how I will move on. I wonder when and where and with whom.

The past is heavy, the future is light, and the present is based on how much we choose to carry.

Fig 10.jpgThe most important thing is that I continue to find the resolve to keep making choices. You might think that my decision to abstain from relationships and dating for a year is actually retreating from choice but actually it was me picking the one fig that I knew was always there but was too afraid to try. I always saw a version of myself that was single and alone but it was almost always only in nightmares. Now it is my reality and rather than worry about the past versions and all the other things I could have done or would have done or should have done I am moving forward with it and deciding what to bring with me.

Like you and this blog. Perhaps this is the only reason why this is no longer a waking nightmare for me. This is the fig that nourishes me under the shade of so many others. But when this is over, will I have the resolve to pick another and the wisdom to pick correctly. Or will I fall back into the same bad patterns. There is this impending dread on my shoulders that I am watching a lot of fruit fall off the branches of my tree and the only thing keeping me from gorging on the level of egregious and grotesque is this vision I have of me writing through it all and finding an audience to read it.

I cannot judge or measure the weight of my past except for in the slouch of my shoulders Fig 11.jpgand the bags under my eyes. I cannot bring back rotted fruit that had its time and withered away. There are perhaps plenty of relationships I should realize for the husk that it is now. I am since still content with the fruit in my hand but I hope when the harvest comes once again, I will be able to see what is left and pick from those that have yet to fall in the time it took for me to find myself.

Day 92

Man: 72 Loneliness: 20

Day 88: The Man and the Ugly Scared Face; ‘Graceful’

Shadows.gif

Happy October everyone! The leaves are changing, everything is pumpkin-spiced, I finally get my cold weather back. I’m a big fan of gray and dreary and cold, much like the weather is right now in New Jersey. But what I am most looking forward to this season is Halloween and all the wonderful scares. Scary movies, haunted hay rides, Fright Fest, haunted houses, I love every single one of these. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for those of you who saw my posts in the past on nightmares and scary movies like Lights Out.

What I especially love about all of these are the jump scares. Those moments that catch you so completely off-guard that you literally jump straight up in the air. They make for great viewing. I love being the victim for the rush of adrenaline and that hyper-awareness afterwards that really brings everything into sharp focus. I know some people could very happily life their entire lives without having to suffer through a jump scare but most everyone can agree that watching people go through them makes for some really funny entertainment. There are so many compilations on the internet of such experiences. One of my recent favorites has to be Ellen putting her producer and his assistant through various haunted walks.

What I enjoy about these moments is the sheer honesty of the victim. There’s no time to plan a reaction or compose yourself. The scare comes so quickly and with such complete resolve that you can only react in what is most natural and most honest. In that split second you are face to face with sheer terror and brutal honesty. Sure, afterwards you can laugh it off with your friends. Assure and comfort each other that it was all fake. The monsters might have been, but your reaction wasn’t.

Did you jump up and scream? Did you shrink and cower? Who did you grab onto when you were scared and needed protection. Who grabbed onto you. And what was with that absolutely ugly scared face you had.

This brings me to today’s prompt: graceful. Everyone thinks of grace as something to be displayed, like a well-tailored suit or a little black dress. It’s something we put on at the ball or at the evening opera. Grace and elegance accompany each other like two dancers doing the waltz. Some ‘possess’ a natural gracefulness and others go to charm schools to ‘acquire’ it. I think gracefulness is so much more than this. It is a product of necessity and it is the finer side of a coin. The other side is chaos.

Gracefulness is the finer way we deal with chaos and disarray. It is our victory against adversity. Being graceful isn’t just about how we move about the dance floor. It’s about how we conquer the music, take control of the rhythm, and then master the steps. Gracefulness needs a foil in which to prove itself, otherwise it is just vanity and ego. Often times you can see this in how we portray someone’s grace. We handle breakups ‘with grace’. We disarm tense and volatile situations ‘with grace’. In the face of shame or failure we can rise ‘with grace’. So for as much as we try to avoid these nasty situations the truth is we need them if we ever want to test, with honesty, the extent of our ‘gracefulness’.

I fear there is a very distinct lack of this true ‘graceful’ nature in our world today. I see too many examples of people who, having never had to face obstacles before, simply don’t know how to act. We shield ourselves too much, insulating ourselves from harm or injury, yet we still have the audacity to claim to posses the higher and nobler qualities and characteristics that come only through challenge. The ‘graceful’ way to handle insult or injury is not to spit back. The ‘graceful’ way to handle failure is not to try and change the rules or abandon the game altogether, it’s to learn from the failure and rise again to meet the challenge.

I am sometimes embarrassed and ashamed of how I’ve handled some of the moments in my life with less than stellar grace. I haven’t always had the best temperament, and I have certainly severed personal and professional relationships because of it. There is a fine amount of restraint and discipline that comes with grace that, if misunderstood, could be mistaken for submission or weakness. This is something I’ve always struggled with, not wanting to be perceived of as either of the two. Sometimes retaliation can seem so much more tempting and satisfying than grace. But as I’ve grown older, wiser, hopefully more mature, I come to crave the latter more than the former.

There are a few moments in my life now that I know will test my own personal level of gracefulness. Certainly my breakup is one as I continue to move beyond events and choose how to remember and share my story with Beautiful. I could be less than generous and graceful in my handling of the matter, but slander and vitriol would take away not only my credibility but the value in whatever lesson I could learn and share. When I eventually, carefully, try and re-enter the relationship-sphere I know that there will be times (more often than not) when my affections and attempts will be rebuffed. How will I deal with these situations? Can I handle myself to preserve whatever relationship existed prior or at the very least move on from the awkwardness of rejection with poise. Funnily enough my boss recently had a private meeting with me and apparently of the forty or fifty stores I’ve visited (some more than three times), five of them have reported me as ‘condescending’. Okay fine I admit, I expect a certain level of learning and development from grown adults. So professionally, how do I deal now with this small but perhaps growing perception people have of me. How do I grow in my field and perhaps navigate my professional development in this company or any other with grace.

What it all boils down to of course, is relationships. How do we deal with others. That is the true testament to our own graceful natures. Whether in our direct dealings or in how we are perceived by others, it is important to know that no matter what we do in that split second of challenge, it is always, one hundred percent, honest.

Day 88

Man: 69 Loneliness: 19

Day 85: The Man and the Third Day of the ‘Who’s WHO’ of Wisdom

Day three of the quote challenge and it has been a lot of fun to actually do this. More than I thought I would, not being a quote person. Before we move on to the last quote, let’s review.

kitchen-confidentialWe now know that the first day’s quote came from Anthony Bourdain’s hugely popular first book, Kitchen Confidential.

‘I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure.’

I chose this because of the brave and wildly reckless attitude towards good food and good life. Bourdain is a culinary and lifestyle hero and I’ve lived by his creed in all the ways I can. (Yes, this does mean that every girl I have ever dated has had to pass his infamous ‘sushi test’.)

Yesterday’s quote source is revealed today.

‘Worse than the feeling of loss that comes with a breakup is the feeling of losing. Loss is a state of emotional injury that you can get past; losing is a feeling of humiliation and defeat that stays fresh. The latter causes most of the problems in the world. If there is another man involved, it is almost impossible not to judge yourself as a failure and see him as an enemy.’

Attempting Normal.jpgThis is an excerpt from the wonderfully manic and depressed comic Marc Maron in his second memoir, Attempting Normal. I like this quote because it deals so poignantly with the origin story of my blog. I could certainly speak to great length about this very true and very deep feeling, as petty or vain as it may seem. A breakup does feel very much like losing. Say what you will about the folly of pride but it is an undeniable accompaniment to loss. There were plenty of sleepless nights spent imagining Beautiful with her ex, the one she left for me and then left me for. In a relationship you spend so much of that time idolizing the other person and being idolized in return. You shower each other with praise and admiration so consistently and constantly that you begin to believe it in the deepest most dangerous parts of yourself.

To that, I say there is good news and there is bad news. The good news is Beautiful’s words have begun to fade from memory. I’ve separated her perception of me from my own self-perception and am beginning to identify and characterize myself for myself, not for what I once meant to someone. This is a major point, I believe, in the process of getting over someone. The bad news, ironically, is that this would have been a really great piece of writing. So before I completely heal I’ll need to pick at this wound just a little bit to capitalize on what sad inspiration is left.

The truth though is that this quote is too mature, too insightful, too serious to really capture Maron’s spirit and prose. This is a wonderful book full of trauma, humiliation, self-deprecation, and insecurity. It is a love song to paranoia, self-doubt, and feral cats. If PokeMeme.jpgyou’ve ever seen or heard Maron’s material or seen his short-lived IFC sitcom Maron, you would know that this level of self-awareness and confidence is so rare in his environment of self-loathing and self-destruction. I like broken heroes. I prefer the Batmans of the world over the Supermans. Both Bourdain and Maron lived lives that were so dangerously close to the edge of peril that I want to hear their stories because they survived. I can’t deny that I’ve had a pretty god damn cushy life. I have two parents who are happy, healthy, and together still. My brother and I are closer than ever. I’ve got a nice job, friends, and I enjoy a regular diet of good food. I can’t change this. I can’t just suddenly inject myself with so many drugs that the still living ghost of Keith Richards suddenly appears at my door to take me to nirvana. I live vicariously and destructively through these idols. I love a broken psyche. The fact that these guys have not only hit rock bottom but have then eked out more than just an existence but a success story is all the more compelling. I don’t aspire to live their lives or be them. I’m just glad that these people exist for our benefit. You need to read these stories. You need to see that the human spirit is not only capable of incredible victory but that it often times craves intense loss.


Time for quote number 3! This should be a dead giveaway for fans. I had to do this in video because his delivery of the line is just so perfect as well. Enjoy, if you recognize it I hope it brought a smile to your face, and there is a whole beautiful post lined up just for this that I’ve been waiting to share and lines up perfectly.

Allons-y!

Day 85

Man: 66 Loneliness: 19

Day 77: The Man and the Enemy Revisited; ‘Silence’

Silence Please.jpg

Back on Day 8 I wrote ‘The Man and the Silence’ which you can read here if you’d like. Beautiful had left me only a week ago and I was still getting accustomed to my new job. My sleep pattern was shot to hell and I was keeping myself up with the background hum of my hotel television because I couldn’t handle the permanent ringing silence that had characterized my nights.

When this all started, I thought the definitions were set. I was a lonely, heartbroken victim trying to pick up the pieces, Beautiful was the hungry consumer who took everything I had given her to figure out her feelings for someone else, and on that day, Silence was the enemy to be conquered.

I likened Silence to Loneliness and believed that the presence of one would surely shortly The Silence.jpgbe followed by the presence of the other. I feared and hated the Silence because it only reminded me of the void I had in my life. My stories were caught in my throat with no one to share with and there were no soft, gentle voices to accompany me to sleep.

I realize now that I was mistaken to consider silence and loneliness as equivalent. After all, how many times have we felt alone amidst noise and chaos and how many times have we spent quiet, contemplative nights with the people we love? It is the loneliness we feel when surrounded by the noise of so many people that strikes us with the harshest clarity and it is the ability and comfort and ease of spending moments in silence that characterize the strongest of our relationships with others.

To conquer my enemy, I must know my enemy. Silence is not the enemy. It can most definitely be a symptom of loss, but it is not the ally of it.

Since that original post I have been sleeping better (as much as a night-owl can) and sleeping in silent peaceful contented solitude. I have been able to bring back and appreciate a facet of life that I used to always be comfortable with.

So what changed? Why this transformation and how?

Over the course of my writing I have begun to create a much clearer image of who the enemy really is and what it is I am actually fighting against. It was never silence. I was so caught up in defining myself by my relationships that to me, I thought anything that was not a part of that was the enemy. Beautiful was the enemy for ending our relationship. Loneliness was the enemy for creating the vacuum next to me. Silence was the enemy because it meant no one to listen to or talk to.

Loneliness is still the enemy. Nature abhors a vacuum. Beautiful, I wrestle with from day to day. But I can guarantee you that Silence is never the enemy. It gets a bad rap because Silence is an ally we all need but never want. It is the only one that speaks the truth.

When we are left in silence we are stripped of the distractions and pretty things that keep us occupied. It forces us to face the things we hum away in our mind with catchy songs and jingles. I hated Silence back then because it was only in its presence that I began to really reflect on the relationship and start to pick apart the good from the bad and learn to survive and grow on the scraps. The silence rattled me because I could not keep playing my victim song over and over. It offended me because it tried to understand Beautiful’s own journey and my place in it. It reduced me to tears because it couldn’t answer the questions I kept yelling inside.

Why not her.

Why not us.

Why am I alone.

Will I ever find someone.

Can I do this on my own.

But, it was also in the company of Silence that I began to acquire the wisdom to answer for myself. And the humility to let go of the questions that were not mine to contemplate. I stopped trying to control and justify the actions of others. It was in silence that I stopped obsessing over Beautiful’s actions and began to only hold myself accountable for my own.

It is always in silence that I find the best words. It is in silence that I find the best company. I used to fear that having no one to share with meant silence. Now I hope to find someone to share silence with.

Silence can sometimes be a grim accompaniment but is always a necessary companion. I do think for the same reasons I’ve said that too many people fear the Silence.

Perhaps it is possible to live a happy, blissful life never confronting or being comfortable with Silence. Perhaps, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Not for the curious and insightful soul. Not for the true consumers and devourers of life. If you are hungry, be quiet. Silence accompanies all the great emotions that are responsible for great writing. You are so happy you find yourself speechless. Grief overcomes you with such immensity that your sobs stay in your throat. Fear grips and steals your breath away. Love overwhelms in a way that cannot be expressed. Beauty freezes every part of you.

I am now okay with sitting next to Silence. It is my friend once more. I know to seek it in the largest moments of my life as that one brief moment when I am not distracted by little things. Silence is the sharp intake of breath when you take everything in for the very first time. It is your purest reaction.

Know your enemy. Conquer your enemy. Silence is not your enemy.

Loki Ssh.gif

Day 77

Man: 59 Loneliness: 18