Virtually Attached: Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships , Part One, Two, and Three

Click the Archives for Virtually Attached: Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships to view all Parts (Chapters) Posted So Far 

This was originally a three-part series,  entitled, Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships, mostly written in real-time haste before running off to teach, and posted on my Facebook Writing Yoga Memoirs page. I’ve now had  time to edit this first part of the story (it still needs some links and formatting) and am eager to pull together the draft of the rest of this memoir. Part Four, where the leading man jumps out of cyberspace and lands on my front porch,  is really the heart of the story. Part One, Two and Three (posted here) is background reading so you don’t judge me too harshly or think I’m hopeless (like I sometimes do). I’m eager to finish Part Four—I’ve reached the point where tears have turned to laughter. I hope you enjoy the reading as much as I enjoy the writing. Namaste

Part One: Virtually Attached

“She put down in writing what was in her mind” –Bob Dylan, It’s Not Dark Yet

May 21, 2016 (full moon, three days before my 67th birthday).

There must be millions of older single women like me. We are busy from dawn to dusk, holding down the fort, caring for elder parents, grandchildren, rescue animals, or others in need. At night or weekends we go grocery shopping, pay our bills, and tidy up our humble abode. With rare exceptions, we don’t have the energy for a social life—most days we’d rather collapse in bed with a good memoir and suffer vicariously than go on match.com and face 70 coffee dates in order to find “The One.”

I laugh now when I look back on these last six months, but getting to this place beyond tears was a lot of painful, hard work. And on the way to getting my head on straight by writing this story, I consoled several crying women friends who, like me, had let down their guard and fell into a hormonal coma.  My heart ached for them as they described a familiar story of high hopes, attraction, sex, betrayal, and disappointment. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the child bearing years or post menopause–apparently the swooning girl that lives inside us doesn’t care how old we are—when my 95-year-old Dutch mother heard the leading man in this story playing the piano in her living room, she rose from her death bed, waved her hands excitedly up in the air, and shouted, “Ik will hem trouwen! Ik will hem trouwen!” (I want to marry him! I want to marry him!)

Over the years I’ve watched several of my women friends fall for men they’ve never met in person. They chat on Facebook, on the phone,  and Skype. Evidently, occasionally it works out.

Two months ago, when I told my hairdresser about a man I’d met online who seemed much more conscious than the Adam character in my dating memoir, Fishing on Facebook: A Writing Yoga Memoir, she got all excited and told me to call a mutual friend of ours who met a man on Match.com who lived in Europe. After three months of long phone conversations and online communications, he flew to Ojai, stayed at her house, met her kids—and last she heard everything was going hunky-dory. (My hairdresser thought I might find it helpful to talk to another woman who had experienced  the virtual bonding I was going through.)

But, I also have an undaunted friend who went to pick up her virtual romance at the airport and confided that she knew immediately it wasn’t going to work in real life. He was good-natured about it, but, after flying so far, he wanted to visit Ojai, and she was stuck with a houseguest for a month.

The truth is that I’ve never before in my life had long Facebook and phone conversations with a man I’ve not first met in real-life. As with Adam, with Billy (not his real name), I let down my guard because we had mutual friends and common spiritual-psychological-nature-loving interests. And, like Adam, he talked about moving to Ojai. (“Ojai is my spiritual home.”) By the time I woke up to how seductive listening to his voice could be—plus, in this case, also his haunting, mystical yoga and meditation music — it was too late. I was hooked.

These last six months many nights I’m back in my childhood home, helping to take care of my elderly parents who come and go from the brink of death. After changing my mom’s diapers, helping her into her pajamas, soaking her dentures, massaging my dad’s feet, assuring him that I’m “saved,” I’m too tired to go out and have a social life. The online flirting and soul bearing phone calls added a little spark to my life that my feminine spirit craves–plus, I could relax on my yoga bolsters in the Goddess Pose or lie down outside under the moon and stars.  I liked Billy’s strong voice and, in the course of time,  found him to be a fabulous, colorful, soulful story-teller. The more he confided in me, sharing snippets of his childhood, all the family triumphs and tragedies, his past relationships, his hopes, his dreams . . . the closer I felt to him. If I didn’t know how common this phenomenon is, even among savvy women, I’d be embarrassed to admit the romantic plans I was making in my head. The highly imaginative writer and vulnerable, love-hungry woman in me was smitten.

(As I write this I still can’t believe I allowed this to happen before I ever got close enough to smell him in real-life.)

Apparently, I had to learn the lesson that one can be bathed in oxytocin—the love-bonding hormone– even without ever touching the person. Billy’s deep male voice, punctuated by rascally laughter, lulled me to sleep—literally and figuratively.

I knew I was in trouble when I began having anxiety attacks. I hadn’t felt those painful pangs in my gut for six years—I thought I’d slayed those dragons. But this time I knew enough to reach out for help. I knew these were old, deeply embedded patterns—that I needed to get at the root of this anxiety once and for all!

His calls were not consistent. He made up excuses for not calling as promised—and when I tried in my pitiful fashion to stand on my own two feet and explain how his erratic pattern of calling and not calling for days at a time made me feel anxious and disrespected, he brushed it off as inconsequential. As if it was MY problem! (Red flag, right there!)

In short, I represented what is known as “anxious attachment style.” I’m a classic case! I only learned this a few days ago from reading the book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—And Keep—Love. And although he would no doubt deny it, I would characterize my virtual friend as your classic, “avoidance attachment style” kind of guy.

We were most definitely not the “secure attachment” types!

Seeing that I was in psychological and emotional trouble, I arranged to have dinner with a therapist friend at Farmer & the Cook. She told me to take notes and I have them right here.

I ordered a delicious raw vegan taco — purple cabbage leaves filled with walnut and sun dried tomato croquettes topped with cashew -cilantro “cream,” mixed greens, pico de gallo & carrots. Delicious and nourishing, but I hardly touched it. Eating was secondary to talking!

After I described the situation in confidence, in much greater detail than here, she said: “Your biggest fear is what you’ll do . . . the anxiety you feel is about YOU . . . that you will act inappropriately . . . ”

She was right. I was afraid I might invite him to Ojai to visit and stay at my house. If I had my head on straight that thought would not even enter my head!

It sounds so obvious in retrospect, but at the time of our conversation I was in emotional turmoil. I knew intellectually that being in this relationship—even though it was just a virtual relationship, and that’s all it is at the time of this writing six months later—it triggered deep insecurity and anxiety in me. This was my golden opportunity to set boundaries, to stop fantasizing, to “strengthen my core,” as my friend reminded me several times during dinner.

I put the left over raw taco in a take-home box. When I got home, my appetite kicked in and I devoured it!  Then I went straight to my computer.

* * *

A few days later, I had the most vivid, symbolic dream. When I woke up I scribbled it in my journal, almost exactly as I type it here:

 I can’t get over this dream—the road to the wedding is covered in shit. I stopped my car in front of a big house (I knew people were waiting for me inside) —I kept stepping in piles of dog poop —the funny thing was that each pile was identical and I knew someone had thrown it there on purpose, like a prank.

It was impossible to cross the road without stepping in shit but I tried to dodge it anyway. You could not move without stepping in it.

When I got inside the house I saw a gathering of sorts and gradually realized it was a gathering for my upcoming wedding.

There was a man who I knew to be the man I was talking with on the phone, even though I hadn’t met him yet, and a woman who was his mother. I realized that not only had he come to Ojai—everything was all set for us to get married—there was a whole crowd of his and my relatives. I recognized my middle sister— the others I didn’t seem to know.

His mother stepped out of the crowd and came up to me. I was surprised how friendly and young she was, as I had thought she was old or dead by now. She hugged me and took my hands warmly and said her son had been talking to her about me and that getting married was so good for him.

Even in the dream I wondered how all this had taken place behind my back!

I kept trying to get a good look at the man I was to marry (he did not approach me). I thought I should at least SEE him before we get married.

I could get fleeting glimpses of him at this gathering but I just could not see him! I’d get an image and then he would disappear. I just could not get a good look at him except I saw that he was tall.

In the dream I realized that the fact that he liked me made him attractive—that was the only basis I could come up with for this hasty wedding!

I went off to have a private chat with his mother—I followed her off to another room—I continued being amazed how much she already liked me!

And then I woke up—literally and figuratively!

 

* * * *

Part Two: Virtually Attached

Full Moon musings on my 67th birthday, May 24, 2016

Last night, as I wandered the river bottom with my dogs on the evening before my birthday, I felt a great healing deep inside. I arrived late, after 7:00 p.m., and I stepped into that magical moment just after sunset with gold light illuminating the landscape, where you can see the shift from day to night happening before your eyes. The mountains toward Matilija Canyon were dark purple and blue, and as I walked alone, I felt a blessed silence descending on the land—a living silence where you can hear the sounds of nature like a celestial song of creation.

That feeling of anxiety triggered by my attraction to someone I’ve never even met in person, that feeling of a knife churning in my gut, was completely gone. I felt whole and free again, like I did before I began these phone conversations that inadvertently led to a way-too-hasty attachment on my part.

If you’ve read the book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment And How It Can Help You Find—And Keep—Love, you’ll recognize from my writings that I’m a classic anxiety driven attachment case.

Why didn’t I grasp this years ago?

In the past, my modus operandi would have been to blame the man as the trigger for the pain I was in. And certainly, in this long distance situation, his motivation for contacting me, his mixed messages (he knows I’m a writer and I told him that I take notes on what he says), his sporadic, unreliable phone calls—plus his talk about coming to Ojai but never giving a time-frame, and also his request for helping him find a place to stay—-all gave me cause (in my anxious mind) to cut the cord between us.

Six-months into this online/phone relationship, the shadow side inevitably made its grand appearance. On both ends of the line.

Having been through this many times before, I wanted to find out once and for all why any man should have this kind of power to disturb my equilibrium. I hadn’t even allowed him into the nunnery yet, though at the height of spring, especially while listening to his music, I was tempted!

The truth is, I want to remain friends with this man. My goal in getting to the root of my pain is being in right relationship. Whatever his initial motivation in suggesting we move from Facebook chats to talking on the phone, he has stories, musical talents, and insights that I appreciate and enjoy. No need to burn my bridges if my head is on straight!

* * *

A few days after the Farmer & Cook dinner meeting with my therapist friend (described in Part One), where she reminded me that the only thing I had to fear was myself, I kept seeing an ad on Facebook for a 10-Day online audio series proclaiming “Attract Your Soulmate: 5 Keys for Smart, Conscious, Successful Women to Attract the Right Partner and Create Lifelong Love.”

Normally, these types of events are no longer on my radar—I haven’t opened a book on relationships since I recovered from the Adam episode six-years ago. I spent endless hours in my childbearing years working on relationships and when the pain was bad, going for counseling. This time too, it was the emotional pain that motivated me to scroll through the list of 25 world-renown relationship experts.

At first it looked like a lot of fluff, but, since it was free for 10 days only (I ended up buying the series for my birthday), I thought I better humble myself and give it a shot.

I had to ask myself, at this late hour in my life, “What’s the point of doing yoga if I’m walking around with a knot in my stomach?” I can get a reprieve in the Goddess Pose, but then, a few days later, if things don’t go as I think they should, the anxiety pangs return.

So, therefore, three weeks ago, I humbled myself, opened my mind, and joined in with over 200,000 women from around the globe to listen to a panel of 25 relationship experts. In spite of multiple marriages, starting at age 18—almost 50 years ago—I felt I had to go back to the drawing board and look at my emotional pain from a different perspective.

By the time I tuned in it was the 8th day of the 10-day live audio-interview series so I had a lot of catching up to do before the free access ended.

I was my usual skeptical self during the first presentation with Marianne Williamson, entitled “Invoking Aphrodite: Aligning Power and Vulnerability.”

I’m sure she’s right that my chances of attracting romance would move up a notch if my bedroom, shared with my canine companions, didn’t look like the inside of the Humane Society!

For my birthday, I hired a housepainter to paint my prison grey bedroom walls soft alabaster white. However, it’s telling that when it came time to move my bed back into the now beautiful bedroom, I saw a golden opportunity to create a sacred writing space. The writer in me is laughingly thinking that maybe once the spring season passes, with the possible exception of the days around the full moon, maybe sacred sex is not so important to me after all.

I love my new alabaster white writing room! My journals are spread out on a long folding table, eager to see the light of day. I’m sitting at an oak desk my father bought for $20 when I first started writing 50 years ago, in a house on Thacher Road—back when the rent was $150 a month. The room is filled with natural light, a cool breeze blowing through the window, chimes ringing, Honey snoozing at my feet

It feels like a clean slate—the past is simply grist for the writing mill.

I’m confident the right man will understand my priorities! 

Part Three: Virtually Attached

More Full Moon musings on my 67th birthday, May 24, 2016

I skipped the audio interview on Embracing and Exuding your Feminine Sensuality and went straight to the interview with Dr. John Gray, with the enticing title, Attracting a Conscious Man: What to Look for in a Life-Partner.

Dr. Gray explained the qualities that conscious men bring to the table. This consciousness is not “perfection” or “the finished product,” but is the foundation for transformation. How staying rooted in authentic femininity (not playing the seductress) is the key to attracting the right partner. And if the woman feels she has to be the one to make it happen, it’s probably best to let this train go by.

I then skipped forward to the interview with Dr. Amir Levine, author of the previously mentioned book, Attached, where I learned for the first time about the three attachment types: anxious, secure, and avoidant. This is when I decided I had to buy the book and the audio series so I could listen to the interviews anytime the need arose.

At risk of sounding dramatic, at age 67, I feel my personal life depends on understanding my unconscious anxiety driven attachment patterns and how to detach them—patterns that us anxious types too often mistake for love.

A reader, Jessica Jyotika, left this Comment on Facebook in response to my Post about Attached:

Attached is revolutionary, a game-changer, mind-blowing . . . and should absolutely be required reading for all humans! I tell everyone I care about it. It’s that important. Liberating!”

She adds,”Anxious/ambivalents CAN be in healthy relationships, with a secure partner, which also brings out the secure in them. But, avoidants? Run like the dickens!”

Of course, if I understand these three types correctly, my virtual friend Billy is your classic Mr. Avoidant. And, we are both playing all the games described in Attached–in fact–I learned that these games are common dating advice and promoted in popular relationship books to help us “land” life’s greatest prize: a mate.

For example:

“Don’t make yourself too available, say you’re busy even when you’re not, don’t call him —-wait for him to call you, don’t appear to care too much . . . Presumably, you preserve your dignity and independence in this way and gain your partners respect. But in fact, what you are doing is behaving in a way that is not true to your genuine needs and feelings. You wave these aside to appear strong and self-sufficient. And indeed these books and the advice they give ARE right; these behaviors may indeed make you seem more attractive. What they don’t mention, because they are unaware of attachment science, is that they will make you seem more attractive to a particular kind of partner—an avoidant one. Why? Because, in essence, what they are advocating is that you ignore your needs and let the other person determine the amount of closeness/distance in the relationship . . . “

* * *

Maybe I’ve just been living in the nunnery too long but I find this stuff utterly fascinating!

I not only purchased the Attract Your Soulmate interviews and listened to some of them several times, I also got the revised, hefty, 450 page hardcover edition of Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray, by  biological anthropologist Helen E. Fisher.

According to Dr. Fisher, the go-to-authority on love and heartache and chief advisor to match.com, “Online dating is much more natural than walking up to a stranger in a bar.”

And, on the urging of a friend, I also threw Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft, into my amazon shopping cart. I didn’t think I really needed that one, but turns out that’s the one I needed the most!

Did any of this do me any good? That remains to be seen.

Three weeks after I wrote this, Billy jumped out of cyberspace and landed on my front porch.

To be continued. (Part Four) 

* * *

Link to the book, Attached:

One Response to “Virtually Attached: Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships , Part One, Two, and Three”

  1. Suza Francina Says:

    Testing to be sure the Comment section works. And a reminder to figure out how to add a Facebook Share button.

    Like

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