Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Rare Check In

Last night I had bad dreams. I don't have a therapist anymore (and am generally doing okay with that) but need a place to process the feelings. So, here I am.

Estella was in the dreams. I still have to write the final chapter or two of her story, and mean to. I am finally emotionally strong enough to do it. But she was in the dream, as was R, the therapist who pulled her from me, even if our marriage sucked, we had a real friendship, and usurped her for himself.

There are only two things I remember from the dreams though the emotions were so, so strong. One: I have been watering the vinca on our "lawn" (and I don't know any real lawns at our altitude)...trying to get the vinca, which is supposed to choke out anything and take over as ground cover (and is not that name related to "conquer" in Latin). Anyway, as the vinca fights with some hella tough clover, every weed known to man, and oregano I think, it surely needs water. So I ran the sprinkler in a couple spots much of yesterday afternoon and evening to soak the earth.

And in the dream, I was looking out my window and the yard was buried in water. Like, the whole left half there was no vinca, only several inches of water and large clods of dirt (which somehow seemed important, like they had killed the vinca). Not a green strand to be seen (vinca looks kind of like an ivy). I do not remember what the other half of the lawn looked like...but it was flooded too, the vinca gone or buried in water. Somehow, I felt like I had ruined the lawn.

And then, somehow connected to this, my current family was actually on a trip with R, my ex therapist, Estella's current husband. Like, a day trip or short vacation. All I remember is that I felt very angry, but he had this powerful guru sort of personality (which he sort of does, or did) and I could not tell him what I really wanted to say, or, in the dream, do what I wanted to do, which was probably hit him (we're talking dream now). He just kept talking as we went from place to place, and I was walking around near him with my head down, my face flushed, unable to really confront him. At least, that's what I think. Or maybe eventually, I did, and he had his own perspective. If so, I do not remember.

But there was just a tough of the Longing. I used to have dreams, for the first few years after Estella left me, several years, even after I had moved to the mountains, I had a few, at that was eight years after she left me with the note on the mirror and the little pink shavers in the shower (everything else, except the lingerie she got for the wedding, she took). I would have dreams where she and I would be talking, and all of a sudden, everything was okay. We were friends again. Never lovers in the dream, just suddenly close once again, talking, I could feel her presence, something I think I have to admit I have missed horribly at times, or did, those early years. Why so many of those dreams? What we had, even as friends, was not all that spectacular. We were critical of others, clinging to each other, very afraid, but somehow felt related like family. Anyway, last night, a bit more of that Longing...after all these years.

I do not know, I will never know perhaps, why I clung to Estella with such tenacity over the 8 or so years I knew her. For cling I did. Letting other women, a fair handful as I was in a popular social group in college and had lovely women all around, letting other women slip past me (sometimes with E's subtle, but skillful, interventions, sometimes not). Watching E and I draw together, then push apart in our anger and fear. I had two prior, rather serious for teenage years, relationships before E. Both involved physical release. Both women were committed to me and we had somewhat normal relationships. But not so with E. She was, truly, we were, truly, like something out of Fitzgerald. My Daisy. Dear God. The crazy thing is that we sort of managed the savage ground of our very late teens and early twenties and actually change and grow as people, even in the same direction. It was marriage, her suddenly flaring up incest issues and my utter incapacity to understand our sexual problems...it was her fear of anger, her own anger, and my depression and anger...the closer we got, the more destructive we were for each other. In the last letter she ever wrote to me, just before the divorce was final, she said "we were not good for each other, Troy." And I have to admit, she was right. I wish we had never met, in fact, certainly never dated.

But why, why, did I continue to fight to keep that thing alive? Sexless as it was from the beginning...precarious as it was. My brother used the very good word aloof: Estella was so aloof much of the years I knew her, even if we were sleeping together in the fold out bed in my mother's house when she worked night shifts (without doing anything, even kissing). We formed some kind of brother sister bond, but beneath that was always the Promise of something enormous. She was the Golden Girl. Sometimes, especially in college, I'd find flaws to push her away (oh, she's put on weight...man, was I distorted in my perspectives, but then I still struggle with that problem though much, much less) but mostly I saw the relationship, ragged and consuming and enmeshed and even addictive or obsessive as it was, in utterly glowing terms. We'd have arguments where I'd point out all that was good and great (whatever I said I don't even remember) and she'd refute me. I am sure it went the other way other times.

But much of this story I've told. The boyfriend she had not long before she and I became a "real" couple and got engaged. That was, perhaps, a relationship that gave her some sexual optimism but I do not know as it did not last long and I think that poor guy, the one time he and I talked about it, was having some experience like me (he said, on the phone, "sometimes I feel like I'm on solid ground and sometimes I feel like I'm hanging, clutching at a weed on a cliff").

What drove me to hang on to her so tenaciously no matter what? I actually still do not have that answer. Why did I turn down so many girls/women who would have made me a good wife? I think of one who lived in PV, short dark hair, lovely wide hips, who really like me. But when E showed back up on my doorstep I never even called her back. Why?

I still don't know. It was like some kind of chemical thing. Like naturalism in fiction, beyond my control. Until R came along, saw all for what it was, and made his own fucking choices. And E too. I finally wrote R my long letter, told him to fuck off, basically, in the final lines, and it was deeply, deeply healing to finally confront him with my anger after all these years. But my brother is right: I have found anger against R, but never fully been angry with Estella. Oh, I'm getting some of that now, getting closer to the rage she genuinely deserves from me (part of me continues to see her as a victim too, but after all these years....) I know I asked for the divorce, I know R was pulling strings with both E and I; I know, above all, that as Sharon, my last therapist said, something had to end that relationship because it was so bad for both E and I! Something dramatic did. A friend of ours, a woman I talked to not long ago, said something like "don't you think E needed that to feel safe, that she finally felt safe?" Yes. Her therapist built a trusting relationship, allowed her to feel safe, but then used it for romance. For that, he should never practice again. She should have gone out into the real world (even sans me) and found that with someone else. But she is not complete victim. My brother talks about "what they did to you" and I guess I am still reaching that level of awareness. And I am embarrassed to say she left me, uh, it will be 16 years this November. Twice the time I knew her, or she was in my life one way or another. And I am still healing.

I long ago quit trying to write well in posts like this up here. This is just one long share, as if I'm talking. It takes so much energy to do this, maybe, I don't want to put energy into the other. But whatever the enormous failings of that relationship, I still get the Longing; I can feel it, faintly inside, even now. Though I know if we saw each other...she would be very angry, I think; if she were not...I probably would. That was how it went, mostly. Mostly, if I saw her, I would see how she has aged (my brother says dramatically as he saw her at a theme park, and I only put that here as I know she could not possibly read this blog...even now, I would not hurt her over something as natural as age)...but I would see her age, hear her talk, know she is nowhere near the girl I knew when she was in her late teens and twenties. In fact, I might not like her at all. Or we might 'click' again, but considering she is married to R, well, would not be much of a click.

And I end on another odd note: in my current relationship, my marriage (12 years now we have been lovers, married 8) I have a woman who really does love me. Oh, we face it all: her graduate school, her new full time job (as a therapist, can you believe that lovely karma, truly) the house cleaning, the budget, the issues with our teenage son, the fatigue, too much television, not enough saved for retirement, not enough exercise for either of us (though let me say, we're not in serious debt trouble, never borrowed against our house, etc.) The struggle I do not understand to manage a love life after a dozen years when two of us have full time careers. Even there, it happens, but we are a shadow of the couple we were in the early years. All of the above is relatively normal...we will find solutions when and as we can as we grow together, and older together. But from the very beginning (and this is where I was trying to head) I have found faults with her. Where Estella was the Golden Girl without issue, the Daisy from Gatsby, the One (in my very, very young mind) I have always struggled with obsessing (often, literally, though not so much of late) with S's perceived "flaws." Oh, my wife has this or that wrong with her personality, she gets angry too easily, she can be dominant in her interaction, her body changed, from childbirth at a young age, rather genuinely; I long wrestled with that, though if you met her, all who meet her, tell me she is utterly striking and I know that to be true. And I have spent days and weeks obsessing over those flaws. In fact, I spent six years in therapy with Sharon working mostly on that. And thank God, literally, most of that is gone. But it is so odd to me that Estella, who was the complete wrong person for me from the beginning (issues with sex and anger and intimacy and nurturing), got the soft lens glow treatment, and S, my current loving wife who has stayed close to me since the very beginning, has gotten my Mother's critical glare on the stage of my mind since the first dates. I used to keep a list in my journal of all the things "wrong" with the two of us. And the odds of us working out (started at 20 to 1). The problems became less, the issues, many of them, resolved, but I still focused on other "issues" in my own anxious mind. S, who deserves it more than any other, has not gotten the "soft lens" treatment until perhaps recently, when I could let myself feel the way most men in love feel about their wives. I have learned to bracket off the unimportant things, focus on the soul, the gem, within.

What a tale this is. Drawn like a moth to the inferno of Estella for a decade, still missing what little we had in dreams (and I guess there was a real friendship there) still unable to get fully angry with her; while pushing away, fault-finding, critically observing a woman who has loved me without qualification for a dozen years.

Whew.

Damn, that was a post. I wanted to talk about the dream, but talked about something much more profound. I have to (really) close by saying: my work with Sharon cut my obsessive anxiety over S's "flaws" by a very high percentage. Some days I say 90, some days I say more (some a little less). S and I are settling into normal middle life with mostly normal middle life problems.

Still, I will continue to wonder why I so put E on a pedestal, so denigrated poor S for everything "wrong" with her. Enough for now. My damned dog is on the cable outside barking like I am his butler and why the hell haven't I let him in yet.

My love to all. Thanks for letting me get so raw. Feel a bit naked, but I know a few souls I can trust still check in here from time to time. I don't write often, so it may be a long time, but that is okay. To some of you, Happy Halloween...maybe even Merry Christmas :) Can't blame you, I never write.

Love and peace.

t