Virtually Attached: Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships, Part Nine

 

Full Moon, July 19, 2016

 

You own everything that happened to you. 

Tell your stories. 

If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

 —Anne Lamott

 Click here for Part Eight

Note to new readers: I began writing this Virtually Attached series on the full moon of May 21, three days before my 67th birthday. I had posted a Comment on Facebook that the one thing I wanted for my birthday was not to feel the anxiety I’ve felt my whole life when I fall into a romantic (or potentially romantic) relationship.  Reading the book, Attached,  helped me to understand the theory that each of us responds in relationships in three distinct ways: Anxious, Avoidant, and Secure. When I read the descriptions of these three attachment styles, I quickly saw that I was your typical Anxiety type and Billy embodied  Avoidant. Armed with this piece of vital information, plus every world renown relationship expert swimming in my head,  I thought there might be a slim possibility of finding Secure common ground.  

So now here I am, two-months and many pages later, on the full moon of July 19, writing the last chapters of this story.

The story so far:  After six months of virtual communication with Billy, the musician I befriended on Facebook, he jumped out of cyberspace and landed on my front porch.  The opening Chapters describe Billy’s first days in Ojai, during which he gives my elderly parents, both in at-home hospice care, two uplifting piano concerts. A few days later,  on the Summer Solstice full moon of June 21, after his time at a local retreat center ends and other accommodations fall through, in spite of all the wisdom I’ve gleaned from books, tapes, counseling, and past experience, I do the one thing I know I should not do and invite him to stay at my house. Part Five, Six, Seven, and Eight of this story described the surprises that popped up in the close quarters of my abode, and my glimpse during yoga classes into the vulnerable man behind his masks and defenses.

In Part Eight, on the fifth day of Billy’s stay at my house, I saw that I needed to tell him that I was finding his presence—especially not knowing his plans or motivation—increasingly confusing.  

Even now as I reread Part Eight, it surprises me how intimidated I felt confronted with the dilemma of having to ask Billy to leave. I loved his music, saw his good side, and wanted us to at least remain friends.  In the six months of our virtual relationship, I’d gotten some idea of Billy’s pattern of turning on people close to him and, after all my inner work and outer efforts, I didn’t want to end up relegated to his “asshole full of shit” file—I wanted him to still like me even if I gave him three-day notice. 

Friday, Day Twelve in Ojai (8th day at my house)

 My friends couldn’t understand what my problem was. Why was it so difficult to ask a guest to leave? “Just tell him he has to leave. You don’t even need to give him an explanation.”

“Everyone knows that fish and guests start to smell bad after three days!
 You told him on Tuesday night that he has to leave on Friday. Three days notice is plenty long. Let him get a hotel room. 
He’s got the money! He’s being cheap! You are allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. You are being an enabler.”

So, that morning, as I showered and brushed my teeth, I made a simple, sensible plan. I would wait till I was all set to leave the house to go teach my  yoga class before bringing up that today was the day he would have to leave. That way, if he got mad, I could simply bolt out the door.

I was afraid of Billy’s anger. I wanted to avoid an outburst at all cost—this is why I neatly put my Smart Cart with the smooth rolling wheels for easy maneuvering outside by the front door with my yoga roll book, keys, cell phone, a bottle of water, some tangerines, my contact lens solution, makeup bag, and wallet—everything I might need if I needed to stay away from the house till he left.

When I was good to go,  I gathered up my courage.

My plan was to first ask Billy if he knew yet what his plans were. Then, if his answer was vague or if he reiterated that he didn’t know if he was leaving Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, I’d tell him in my best empowered crone voice, “No, you have to leave today.” And then I’d be all set to bolt out the door if he got mad.

None of my fears materialized.

When I walked into the yoga room where Billy slept, he was already up and dressed.

As I was about to open my mouth and make my speech, he beat me to the punch.

“I’m going to stay in Santa Barbara for a couple of days,” he announced.

My jaw dropped. His sudden declaration startled me. Along with a sigh of relief,  I felt  an almost overwhelming wave of guilt.

It sounded like he’d made that decision on his own and not because he respected that this  was the time frame I’d given him Tuesday night.

He didn’t say if from Santa Barbara he’d head North to San Francisco, or if he was going back to Santa Fe. Or maybe even back to Ojai, if it cooled off. And I didn’t ask.

I leaned forward and gave him a quick, warm, sad, sincere hug.

He returned my embrace.

I didn’t know when and if I’d ever see him again.

I felt too nervous and guilty to make small talk.

I moved toward the door.

Then Billy started to say something about his shoulder feeling sore, like maybe he’d pulled a muscle. It felt like he wanted to engage me. Maybe this was his way of seeing if maybe we could talk.

I said, “Maybe you hurt your shoulder when you fell out of the ropes at yoga on Monday,” thinking to myself, “why are you bringing this up now? Why didn’t you ask for help the last four days when I would have been happy to help you with any shoulder pain.”

On some level I felt like I was giving my own father the boot.

My poor father. The fearsome authority figure that made me go to the pentecostal church all those years; the angry male figure that filled me with shame when I stood before him as a teenager and confessed that I was pregnant. Soon my patriarchal father will be nothing but dust in the wind. Ashes in an urn.

As I write this, trying not to digress, I can’t help but remember how last night, as I massaged my father’s feet, he asked, “Suzan, will my ashes be put in a box?”

“Not a box, ” I replied.  “We will put your ashes in a nice urn. If you like, we’ll scatter some of them in the mountains or at Meditation Mount, Or even here in the backyard. Whatever you like. We’ll put your ashes and mom’s ashes next to each other . . . “

After the hours of helping care for my elderly parents and all the other endless responsibilities, it had been fun to come home and talk to a great story-telling-musician, safely in another state.

As I left the house I reminded Billy to be sure there was a barricade in front of the broken back gate and to shut the front door tight so that the dogs  don’t escape.

* * *

When I came home a few hours later, I saw that Billy’s car was gone. My neighbor has a similar car so I looked twice. Billy’s car had a clever bumpersticker that said “OBEY GRAVITY. IT’S THE LAW.”

When I stepped back inside my home-sweet-home and closed the front door, the first thing I noticed was that the front door latch was still hanging crooked by one screw. Exactly as it was the night Billy arrived.

All Billy’s belongings were gone. Except for the two CD’s he gave me with a really nice picture of him on the back cover. Those I would play again after I recovered.

The guest mattress was propped against the wall, sheets in a pile.

Yoga props on the floor—no effort to straighten up the yoga room.

There was no thank you note —not even a scribbled scrap of paper.

I had my whole house back again.

I was once more the queen of my castle.

I could turn the air conditioner off when I deemed it was cool enough outside.

I could once again let the dirty dishes pile up in the sink while I write.

A great cloud of sadness and disappointment came over me.

I was back where I was six months ago. Alone in my nunnery with no hopeful romantic interest on the line.

“But,” I told myself, “if I sort out what went wrong, maybe I would land in a field of endless romantic possibilities.”

I gathered all the props off the floor and put them neatly back on the shelves I’d emptied for Billy when my hopes were high

Two days went by.

I still didn’t know what Billy’s plans were. Maybe he was still in the vicinity and coming back to Ojai to play the piano or connect with the musicians he’d met.

I decided just to send a short, friendly, innocuous Facebook private message.

I wrote: 
Hi Billy. I hope you are okay and somewhere cool. Are you still in Santa Barbara or are you on your way back to Santa Fe?

No reply. After another day of silence I began to think he was ghosting me.

Five days later he wrote:

I’m back in Santa Fe. I’m back at work. Thank you for the yoga lessons and the cosmic concerts at your family’s house. Do whisper in your nieces’ ear that I believe in her music ability. Tell her that I said that she has “the goods.”

His curt reply caused a flood of emotion.

No mention of what went on between us in Ojai. That would come later. After he read this blog.

Instead of quietly sitting with his response and not reacting off the top my head, I wrote: I’m still in emotional pain and processing what happened between us. I thought that the first four days when you stayed in your own place at the retreat went well.  Having you sleep in my yoga room with a shared bathroom, especially when it got so hot, turned out not to be a good idea. I hope you will remember that moment during our yoga lesson when you were deeply relaxed and I put my fingers on your forehead in the space between your eyebrows, your third eye. At that moment I felt a spiritual transmission and your defenses fell away. I cry as I write this . . .

I had nothing to lose by being a little bit dramatic.

Billy boy wrote back:  I never forget anything. Tell your niece she has great talent playing the piano. 

Dear Reader,

Do you see how smoothly Billy gallops past my feelings?

His response verified all my fears. That he cared nothing about my feelings.

I showed a therapist friend his message.  She said, “It’s wild how he avoids going near your feelings. . . and I suppose his own as well. I’m sure he’s done that at some cost to himself. . . whether he knows it or not.”

I showed Billy’s reply to my close friend Sandy.

She responded, “He is speaking to you with kindness here, as though nothing has really passed between you. I think he has little interest in what you have to say.

 It works for him, better than interaction.”

She added, “By not responding to the note you sent him about your feelings after he left, he’s telling you he doesn’t want to go there anymore. He feels safe and confident just talking about music. If he cared about your feelings, he would not have taken four days to reply. And he would have left you a note thanking you for allowing him to stay at your house, and maybe saying he was sorry it did not work out in the way you both hoped for but that he hoped you could continue to be friends. There would have been some acknowledgement of what transpired between the two of you. Some responsibility and a sense that he cared about how you felt.

By directing the conversation back to music and acting like nothing happened between the two of you, he’s telling you he doesn’t want to go there. Don’t bring it up again.”

When I speculated with Sandy that I thought maybe the breakdown came due to a battle about who was the boss, she reminded me to consider the generational implications too.

“Men of a certain age were raised with a sense of ‘being in charge’—-just by the fact that they are male. That has been changing since the cultural revolution in the sixties. Younger men seem very different to me. In some ways, these old guys are like dinosaurs still roaming the earth and wondering why their environment is different. “

When I discussed the situation with my other close friend, Marie, she said, “As women, we devote an enormous amount of psychic and emotional energy worrying over WHY the man is acting like a self-absorbed asshole. . . There is an explanation.   When we are abused as children (physically, emotionally, sexually, verbally, religiously, etc.), there are three ways we can react to the abuse, summed up in the Four Fs: Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn. Billy was abused in some way–he chose “Fight,” the choice of the narcissist. You and I are Fawners: We seek to smooth things over, to soothe the angry man, to change ourselves first instead of demanding change from others. We always placate others, and swallow our anger, which shows up as tears and sadness, and self-blame.”

I honestly thought that this was the end of my  virtual conversations with Billy. I figured there was no point in trying to have a dialogue with him on the phone. He had too much of a hair trigger temper ––but I needed to process what happened, so I went to my blog and wrote this story  instead.

A week later, much to my surprise, Billy called.

On the message machine he said the one thing that might have tempted me to return his call. He said that he remembered how I’d said that we change and grown through relationships. And that this was important to him.

I left him a Facebook message that I needed to take a break from talking on the phone.

* * *

I often write Facebook Posts about nature and the weather. On July 1st I wrote:

Almost every night a merciful coolness descends on our sacred valley. It’s almost as if the stifling heat wave is saying, “Okay now, I’ve done my job. I’ve driven those who aren’t serious about living in Ojai, away. It’s safe now to fling open your doors and windows, walk the park-like streets with your kids and canines, and come out to play . . .”

Now it’s 5 a.m., and the air outside is actually icy cold. Most summer mornings early risers are blessed by a spectacular, energetic sunrise . . . but today there is a surprise thick blanket of promising, cool, grayish-blue fog . . .

Billy took my comment about the heat driving away people not serious about living in Ojai personally. He suddenly erupted with an angry message that said:

You never stop talking!

Oy! The fidgeting!

Your aggressive behavior and magical thinking drove me away from you . Not the Ojai heat. Ojai is in my blood.

You’re a good yoga teacher but you should avoid telegraphing your neuroses in print messages.

The arrogant and self serving expressions you post in public would be best in therapy




.

To this he added a positive note:

You have a lot to offer. Your knowledge of food, yoga, and the basic principles of self-awareness save you from a good many things. 

I know that you are aware of this. So don’t make yourself feel better by saying that the heat pushes people who don’t belong in Ojai away.

I regret sending the following response as it only added fuel to the fire.

I wrote:

Billy, I’m sorry if you thought that Post was about you. It’s a long standing joke among us old timers that the heat drives many people away. That’s a fact—many people cannot take the heat. I myself sometimes think I can’t stand it one more day but then usually cooler weather comes.

I even took time to back up my Post by copying a Comment left by a longtime Ojai resident. She wrote:

It’s true…..if the weather was moderate people would be clamoring to live here. The heat is a blessing in disguise









.

Billy dismissed my efforts at waving the white flag. He fired back:

Nonsense! You people have an over inflated sense of importance about the Ojai heat!  The heat in many parts of the country is far worse.

As beautiful as Ojai is, it has been terrifically spoiled by all the people who have clambered to live there









.

Nobody really has anything to complain about in Ojai regarding the heat because the evenings cool off beautifully.  Cooling off at night is a blessing.

I did not respond. I would wait till he cooled off.

A few days later, a friendly message:

What’s up yoga girl?

I told him the truth: Yoga girl is writing her heart out




.

Five days later he wrote again:

You’re not talking to me these days. Are you playing hard to get? (smile icon)

Again I told him the truth: I’m writing a new memoir. I’m not taking any calls except my daughter and emergencies.

He joked back: Just don’t steal all my good lines
.

I joked right back: I wouldn’t think of it!

He wrote: You’d be foolish not too.

And I wrote: Well foolish I am not!

He added: That’s up for debate. 




Glad you’re writing.

And I wrote: My Life depends on it!

I made it clear that I couldn’t talk on the phone but every few days we bantered a bit like old times on Facebook. He sent links to great music. One evening he sent, It’s Not Dark Yet, the song by Bob Dylan, where I found the line below which I’ve inserted into this story.


“She put down in writing what was in her mind”

I told Billy, This is going in my next memoir, thank you.

When Billy called again, I did not answer.  I reminded him via Facebook message:

When  you first contacted me on Facebook you were very willing to communicate in writing. I hope you understand why it’s painful for me now to talk on the phone. The long phone conversations created a bond, at least on my part, that I no longer feel safe to have. I care deeply about you and want to see you flourish. But the things you wrote upon your return to Santa Fe  hurt me to the core.

He replied as follows:

Suza, I meant no malice saying the things that I did upon returning.

I experienced someone that could not control herself in many situations.

This inability to be silent and to sit still when someone else is giving or talking is something that I think you could look at.

There is no question that your heart is good, that you do good work, that you are a wonderful spirit.

But there is some injury that I keep seeing that makes you a chatterbox. That makes you fidget. I do not say this to hurt you. I say it because it is always about your world even though you give the appearance of giving to others and being open spiritually.

I do not take lightly the gifts I received from you, to open my heart, to do yoga and have your hands upon my head.

Therein lies the paradox.

Dear Reader, You can imagine that I was a bit taken aback. I recopied  the exact words that Billy wrote upon his return and wrote him:

If you meant no malice than you need help in better communication because there are kinder ways to say things. This was intended to hurt me. You at least owe me an explanation of what you meant by my “aggressive behavior.

I was so hurt by your description of me as a “chatterbox” that I ran it by my close friends, both men and women.  I’m happy to consider everything you wrote as I want to grow and be a better listener. But I sincerely hope that you also consider other viewpoints.

I showed Billy’s message to my close friend Marie. She replied:

When I saw you in Billy’s presence you said hardly a word. He did all the talking. It’s hard for me to imagine you as a “chatterbox.” This is a very, very old chauvinistic complaint, that women “talk too much.” He is demanding silence from you. He wants to lead the “conversation,” not participate in a give-and-take.

Arrogant! Describing you as arrogant makes me laugh. He really is describing himself here. The last thing you are in the world is arrogant!

She added,

The entry in Webster’s Dictionary for “arrogant” has Billy’s picture beside it, not yours.

In spite of this, I was happy that Billy and I were communicating again. For what it’s worth, I’m a Gemini and my astrological chart is all about my need and ability to communicate.

At this point, I didn’t know if Billy was reading my blog, or not.  But I wondered if he’d read Part Eight, about our date in Santa Barbara, when he wrote:

I did say to you that I admired your presence when we were in Santa Barbara but between Ojai and Santa Barbara it was nerve-racking. I am not a chauvinist in the least and I’m not trying to shut you up. But you were not aware of how much you fidget, how much you talk to change the subject every 30 seconds.

When we were in Santa Barbara visiting Bob and Barbara I was totally impressed by your presence, and you may remember that every time I spoke I looked in your eyes and  I included you.

The rest of his message referred to things mentioned in earlier Posts—maybe this was a coincidence as there was no admission that he was following my blog, till we get to the end of Part Nine. He wrote:

But what I am talking about is what was going on at your house, when I was playing the piano at your parents. May be a good deal of all of this is you are an enthusiastic Live wire. What I am pointing at, that you don’t have self-control and listen.

It hurt my feelings a lot when I was giving music to your family that you couldn’t sit still and be with me.  You were fidgeting on the floor and distracting me.  It may seem like a small thing but you are constantly spinning.

When you touched my forehead during yoga you stopped spinning— my tears came out and I was sharing openly.

I wanted to talk about that moment because you said that no person can be in a relationship without changing and I felt that, and I felt frightened that I would be warming up and getting next to somebody that couldn’t calm down.

And for future reference: please do not try to validate yourself with your friends feedback. It should be fairly obvious that everything would be out of context.

 We’re not in a court of law spiritually or psychologically.

I wrote back:

Thank you for taking the time to say all this. I had no idea that the way I behaved at my parents house was as you describe. That totally surprises me! The first time you played I was with my mother in the other room and the second time I was enjoying your music with my 18 month old granddaughter –and we are all having a wonderful time so this surprises me!

If by fidgeting you mean I stretch and do yoga all the time, that’s true. I have very little time to myself so I do yoga whenever I can.

And Billy shot back:

Make no mistake, I know that you felt  the music. But there’s a time to sit still and that time is important to me, it has nothing to do with having so little time to do yoga, surely you jest, you are a yoga teacher and it’s beautiful and I love doing yoga with you but there’s a time and place for everything.

I do not want to sound like a controlling idiot. 




I felt comfortable letting go with you but feel there’s something inside you that foments.  It’s not for me to say but I do have my feelings thoughts about it.  You may have issues with your father and mother and  sisters




.

Clearly you are an effervescent personality —Bubbles is a good nickname for you and I love that about you, but there’s something that bothers me and I don’t understand you.

I asked him:

Are you talking about the first time that you played when my mother was in bed? Or the second time with the kids present?

He replied:

 
I was talking about the time when you were sitting on the floor and you grabbed the leg of the piano. I was in my concentration mode and I was trying to find the music and I know that you meant well, your heart was in the right place, but the point I’m trying to make is you could have been a calming influence for me and you were fidgeting.

In my defense I wrote:

Billy, I always sit at the base of the piano—I’ve sat there for years while my mother played.

He replied:  




For me, it was inappropriate




. You could have been sensitive




. I’m not trying to make you feel bad so don’t give such easy answers.  I’m not your mother.  I’m a full-blown artist. I felt insulted. I’m not some jerk who just sits down and plays church music or pop tunes, etc. You understand




 if I were watching you do a yoga routine for the benefit of your students I would sit with the utmost attention




. When it comes to doing the yoga, I have total respect




.

Anyway, it’s all good.

I’m just asking you as someone who cares deeply about you to consider this. You saw another figure emerge from me when I was doing yoga and that means that I trust you . You get the gist of what I’m saying—you saw me when my ego fell apart.

I replied:

I really had no idea you were feeling all this. I’m glad you told me.

Thank you for taking the time to say all this. I had no idea that the way I behaved at my parents house was as you describe. That totally surprises me! The first time you played I was with my mother in the other room and the second time I was enjoying your music with my 18-month old granddaughter –and we are all having a wonderful time so this surprises me!

That day Billy wrote:

I’m really good with you and care about you.

But then, a few days later,  Billy, who claimed not to read, especially not ‘long stuff,” said that he’d started reading my blog. And he wasn’t happy about the way I depicted him!

Continued, Part Ten

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