Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the Western psyche. In our culture it has supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness, and ecstasy. —Robert A. Johnson, WE Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love
Full Moon July 19, 2016
I can imagine the shock and possibly even betrayal Billy felt upon discovering he was the subject of my blog. But I think if he discussed it with a good friend or therapist, he or she might tell him, “Why are you surprised? You knew going in that this woman is a memoir writer. She even told you she was taking notes and saving your virtual conversations. She even mailed you a copy of one of her books about a dating relationship six years ago. Be glad she used a pseudonym and that her writing is not vengeful or bitter.”
Ted Turner probably wasn’t thrilled with the way Jane Fonda depicted him in My Life So Far, but far as I know, they’ve remained friends or are at least civil.
I’ve read over a hundred memoirs—I’m aware there can be unintended consequences when your friends or family members find themselves in your stories.
Once Billy started reading, he left a Comment every few minutes. Here are a few:
I think the writing blog is really unfair . . . Your retelling of events, to make yourself feel better, is quite the passive aggressive diatribe.
Your writing is an extention of your inability to stop talking. There is something clinically wrong here. You turn everything around to justify and hurt others when you feel threatened.
Shame on you! Don’t you know that there are people always willing to participate in your unreality?
This blogging has shown me the real you at last. How dare you? Have you no self respect?
You have no idea how moronic your vomit writing is. It’s like you have an eating disorder of the pen. In the end, its all about you and you think that men are your achilles heel. Get over your self— you’re not that important!
Yoga brings silence, silence you do not have. Yes, I have compassion for you. The noise I felt in your head drove me from you.
It’s like what you wrote: “I tried to release the churning in my guts and relegate it to my own neurosis.”
You think all men are domineering.
You make literary tempests in a teapot. Stop babbling and you’d find the same release you gave to me.
Shame on you! Such rubbish– oy vey maria
No wonder you didn’t have the Kurds to pick up the phone or talk after I left!
Why do you want to write this crap?
I did not respond. I just sat with it.
I felt no urge to defend myself.
A little later when there was a pause in the comments, I wrote back:
Readers understand that memoir writing is one person’s perspective. I’m glad that you’re reading so that you have the opportunity to see things from my perspective. I hope that someday you’ll see the humor in my writing. I mean no malice in sharing my perspective. The reason that I gave you for not wanting to talk on the phone is honest: The sound of your voice tugs at my heartstrings. I cannot continue to bond with you the way we did before you came to Ojai. I truly wish you well and hope we both learn from this experience.
Judging from the time frame of his messages, that day Billy kept reading. In the mid afternoon, his comments were still coming:
You act as if you are the sole arbiter. But you fail to see your intent is an embarrassment to yourself.
No wonder you’ve been alone all these years. Your behavior disorder is beyond your therapists ability. I have no interest in pursuing any kind of friendship with a psycho yogini .
It’s all about you— and your friends feeding your head.
At that point, Billy blocked me. That’s like hanging up on someone and refusing to answer the phone.
I did not take his attack personally. I’d heard him use similar words to describe other people in his past.
A few days later, the day before the full moon, Billy unblocked me.
Paraphrasing the line from Bob Dylan’s song, It’s Not Dark Yet, he wrote:
He put down in writing what was in his mind.
I have been digging deep into my writing process, telling my story. I feel the therapeutic side of it. I can’t focus on my intention . . . I start to write, and a larger dimension emerges. I have been advised to allow this just to flow and not try to edit as I go along.
My heart is moved as I let the threads emerge. So, I wanted to say, while I did not like being the object of your blog, I do understand you. The power that writing has is an immense and profound experience.
I confess that at first I did not understand you and your need to write. I feel a mask falling away when I write. I think through all the contacts we had, casual and serious, riding in the car, playing piano at your parents’ house, we were talking, expressing ideas and wonderful things.
Some felt threatening to me.
I didn’t mean or intend to hurt you or anybody else and for this reason I apologize and take responsibility for acting foolishly.
I live by principles that you were speaking to, and I failed to respect you and those principles.
I think what you do is important and that you be who you are. And I’d like that same respect. I am trying to take responsibility while at the same time I do not fully understand everything but I don’t want to hurt you. I loved every second of every yoga time that we had.
I learned a lot. You touched a place in me that has to do with resistance and yielding. Fear and openness. I apologize and take responsibility for allowing it into “the mix ” of our interactions. There is injury and I seek pardon. I wanted to be understood rather than understand — I created my part of sadness rather than joy.
I wrote back:
I’m so happy to find your message above.
It’s good we are talking again. I feel we have much to learn from each other. It’s not easy but the deeper understanding will be worth it. There are many things about you that I also do not yet fully understand–but I’m working on it.
I want you to know that my mom remembered you even a week after she last saw you. That says something as her short term memory is gone!
Later that day, I shared Billy’s new response with my friend Carla, a therapist by profession. I said, “This is a huge change from yelling (virtually) that my writing was like “vomit.””
Carla replied, “Wow, I’ll say! It takes a big man to turn his view around fresh off of being surprised and wounded by your blog. He saw some powerful things about his behavior and I’m so glad he offered you his apology. I’m impressed. How about you?”
“Yes, very impressed. I’m going to weave all of this into the story . . .”
Most women spend a tremendous part of their energy in efforts to make a loving relationship with a man and to deal with his seemingly incomprehensible feelings, ideas, and reactions.
—-Robert A. Johnson, WE: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love
Epilogue (To come in August, 2016)
Readers responses to the story, including observations from readers formerly in relationships with musicians: (To come in August, 2016 )
Recommended Reading and Resources: (To come in August, 2016)
May we grow like the lotus, at home in the muddy waters of life
As one reader wrote: I guess if the Fair Maiden wants to find herself a Prince, she just has to keep jumping back into the muddy water, kissing some more frogs and hoping for the best. I know that much can be learned “in relationship,” but I think I’m too much of a coward to get wet again. It’s SO much work!!!