Archive for the ‘Virtually Attached: Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships’ Category

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

July 20, 2016


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  

Link to Part Nine

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:

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!!!




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

July 20, 2016


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



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

July 14, 2016

July 13, 2016 

Note: Click here for Part Seven

The story so far:  This story began with a three-part series posted on Facebook entitled Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships, written the week of my 67th birthday (May 24). 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. By the time we met in person, it felt as if we were old friends. Parts Four and Five described his first five days in Ojai, during which he gave my elderly parents two spectacular piano concerts. After his time at a local retreat center ended and other affordable accommodations fell through, I did the one thing I’d sworn I wouldn’t do, and invited him to stay at my house.

Part Six described the first evening with Billy at my humble abode, the little surprises that popped up in close quarters, and my fleeting glimpse into the vulnerable man behind his masks and defenses when I gave him a yoga lesson.

In Part Seven,  Billy’s fifth day at my house, (ninth day in Ojai), after an evening with friends, one that brought out the best and worst in us, I decided that  I needed to tell him that I was finding his presence—especially not knowing his plans or motivation—increasingly confusing.  I still cared about him, which I tried to convey,  but I needed my space and privacy back.

Wednesday, Day Ten in Ojai

This morning, when I began writing Part Eight, I realized that I’d I left out the most important part of the conversation with Billy the night before. Tuesday night, after things calmed down and I recovered from his outburst that “If we lived together we’d kill each other,” I informed him that I would like him to vacate the premises by Friday.

Of course I didn’t really put it so coldly. I was kind and diplomatic.

I had an early morning dental appointment and was eager to leave the house and give us both some space. Things felt fairly civil again as we brushed elbows in my small kitchen. I knew I wouldn’t be able to chew solids for a few hours after the dental work so I decided to make an almond milk smoothie—enough for both of us.

I’d had the organic almonds soaking for two days and enjoyed making fresh almond milk. After making the almond milk in the blender, I added three frozen bananas and a basket of fresh organic blueberries. (Billy had informed me that blueberries and strawberries were the best fruit for diabetics due to their lower sugar content.)

When I finished pouring my half of the smoothie in a large jar to sip before and after the dentist, Billy opened the fridge and announced he wanted his smoothie to be more creamy. Even as I protested and said, “It’s creamy enough,” he took the carton of half ‘n half that I’d bought as a courtesy for his morning coffee and proceeded to dump the contents into the blender, after which he gave the smoothie another whirl.

He poured his creamier version of the smoothie into a large glass and practically drank it in one gulp. “Delicious!” he proclaimed, smacking his lips with gusto.

I tried not to look judgmental but from my perspective, he’d just ruined the precious fresh almond milk NON DAIRY smoothie I’d so lovingly made.

I bit my lips and didn’t say, “You’re supposed to swish each mouthful of liquid food around in your mouth a few times, to mix it with saliva.”

As I type this I can see how someone might view me as “controlling.”

I can see how difficult I might be to live with. I’m afraid I’ve become set in my ways.

On my way out the door, much to my pleasant surprise, Billy was on the back patio, looking over things that needed fixing.

When he first arrived in Ojai, even before his stay at the retreat center ended, he’d mentioned that he was good at fixing things. I know some of my women friends who are as good with a hammer and nails as any man, will roll their eyes at this part, but truth be told his offer to fix some of the stuff hanging by a thread was music to my ears.

To back track for a second, Billy arrived in Ojai shortly after I’d had half the house painted and the painter hadn’t gotten around to putting back a few of the drawer handles and front door latch after the paint dried.  Billy kept saying he’d take care of it. I even left my tool kit by the front door where no one could miss seeing it and assumed that he’d do these simple chores as a token of appreciation for staying at the house.

Much to my happy surprise, Billy promised he’d repair the latch to the back gate and all the other little things, this very day. I thought that was very considerate of him, even though I was a bit suspicious that maybe he was trying to stay in my good graces so he could hang out at my house a bit longer.

When I came home from the dentist a few hours later, everything was just as I’d left it, latches and door handles still hanging by a thread. Nothing was fixed. I found out later that he’d been going over to the musician’s house everyday to play her top of the line piano. This I can understand—it’s his profession. I totally respect that. There was no hanky panky going on between them and I applauded their friendship knowing these were the kinds of connections Billy needed to make in order to move to Ojai—if that was his plan.

I waited for him to mention the delay in making the promised repairs but he offered no explanation and I didn’t feel comfortable to ask.

That evening, even though it was still a bit warm, for the first time since his arrival in Ojai ten days ago, he came with me to the river bottom to walk the dogs. I promised we’d stick to fairly level ground and not head into the hills surrounding the riverbed.

Aside from the issue of the repairs, the day had gone well.  After the walk, as we settled in for the night, I waited for him to bring up the matter of his plans to leave.

He started watching a movie.

Later that evening, trying not to start another fight but feeling even more clear that this was the right course of action, I brought up the issue again that he can’t stay indefinitely.

I asked straightforward “What are your plans ?“

“I’ll be leaving Saturday or Sunday—maybe Monday.”

The message I got was that he would leave on his terms. When he was ready.

I asked myself a million times why I couldn’t muster up the courage to enforce what I’d said the previous night—that he had to leave by Friday.

I just weakly responded that I had to know when he was leaving . . . but I didn’t say when, like I did the night before

I agonized over this.

I asked myself if it was worth it to push for Friday like I had stated the night before. I really craved my privacy. I needed to replenish and restore for the week ahead. But I decided not to make an issue of it so late in the evening and risk another argument. I figured I could bring it up again the next day.

If you’ve ever had a roommate or houseguest overstay their welcome you’ve probably experienced that once a person is under the same roof with you, it’s harder to lay down the law. You don’t want to make them mad —you want to keep the peace. Especially if they’re bigger than you.

The next morning, I asked my close friend Marie, who was married many years to a big overbearing guy, why couldn’t I muster up the courage to enforce what I’d said the night before—that he has to leave by Friday.

What am I afraid of?

Why is this so uncomfortable for me?

She replied, “
I understand better than anyone, Suza, how it feels to wilt in the presence of a large intimidating man. Don’t blame yourself for your reaction–our parents and our patriarchal culture raised us to be this way!


Thursday, Day Eleven in Ojai

Thursday morning I left early to teach. Most days, by the time I got home from yoga, Billy was out playing the piano or eating somewhere, so I hardly saw him during the day.

Ojai’s such a small town fishbowl that if one of my friends or family members spotted Billy at Bonnie Lu’s or Rainbow Bridge, I’d hear about it. Having lived here sixty years, I have spies are everywhere! We’re not quite like a small town in an old Western where every local yokel looks every hapless newcomer up and down and the local Sheriff follows them around to make sure their intentions are good—but it’s close! 

That afternoon, I got a call from my friend Joel. I’d told him about Billy’s music background,  and he wanted to meet him. He offered to treat us to dinner that evening at Agave Maria’s, a Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from my house, that served organic black beans and rice and other healthy options.

Billy was enthused about the offer so when the appointed time rolled around, off we went.

The weather was still quite warm so we found a spot in the courtyard near the fans. I sat on one side of the table where I had a grand view of all the other diners and Billy and Joel sat across from each other so they could easily converse.

I was already in high spirits but when the waitress took our order for drinks, I decided to go all out to elevate my consciousness and ordered an Ojai pixie margarita. The pixie season was coming to an end and this might be my last chance.

The last time I had the opportunity to enjoy a margarita was four months ago, back in the spring. On that occasion, joining two girlfriends for lunch, I was on the tenth day of a 21-day juice fast, and, as a testimony to my will-power, I demurely sipped fresh squeezed Pixie juice mixed with plain sparkling water.

After such an austere length of abstinence, the famous Ojai pixie margarita had a magnified effect.

I was enjoying myself so much in the company of these two fascinating men, each of them highly accomplished in their respective field, listening to them converse about music and philosophy,  that when the waitress came around again and asked if we wanted another drink —after some typical Gemini indecision (should I be good or should I be bad?)— the pendulum swung toward hedonism.

I’d almost forgotten that Joel had long ago rented a piano and taken lessons. He plied Billy with questions which Billy was only too happy to answer, in depth.

As on Tuesday night when Billy was in the company of his old high school chum, I felt I was seeing the best of him.

The margarita quelled my appetite. I hardly touched my vegan black bean tostado bowl.

Billy and Joel also had a common interest in the teachings of J. Krishnamurti. I continued listening to their conversation, not even wanting to chime in.

I secretly think they’d both be better off reading The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Anatomy of Love (the new edition), The Shadow Side of Intimate Relationships, How to  Be an Adult in Relationships, Gods in Everyman, Why Does He Do That? Attached, The Conscious Man, He, She, and We, and dozens of other titles, old and new,  that come to mind, and save the K books for when they hit the retirement home,  but I kept my opinion to myself.

While Joel ate his vegetarian enchilada and Billy enjoyed some Mexican shrimp   concoction, in my altered state I desperately wished I’d brought along a notebook. I so wanted to described every detail of the couples interacting around me as I tried to guess which ones were on a date and which ones were happily married.

I alternated sips of the second margarita with sips of water but I think instead of diluting the ambrosia effect the alcohol permeated my cells—magnifying the effect.

After Joel left the restaurant a bit early to meet a writing deadline, I sat a few minutes alone with Billy. With the two margaritas flowing through my system, I still hadn’t touched my dinner.  I put the black bean avocado concoction in a carry-out container. Then I stood up and put the knapsack I always bring along on my back, so I could have my hands free and hold the container (and myself), steady.

After I stood up, I realized I had a little trouble walking. I deliberately made my way slowly  out of the courtyard and back on South Montgomery Street. I tried to stand tall and appear “normal.”

Billy walked out of the Agave Maria courtyard several feet ahead of me.

As I started to follow him toward Ojai Avenue (in my altered state he seemed to be speed walking) I realized that I couldn’t keep up with him and that for me the noisy Ojai Avenue route was a mistake.

I was in no shape to make my way past dozens of people (half that would probably recognize me) and negotiate crosswalks and noisy traffic.

I decided that it made much more sense to take the road less travelled.

So I turned and headed for the footpath by the Art Center that leads to the back of Libbey Park. The same path that Billy and I had walked his first promising morning in Ojai, after we had breakfast at Café Emporium.

I looked in Billy’s direction and shouted, “I’m going to walk through the park—you can come with me if you like.”

He didn’t turn around. Maybe he couldn’t hear me. Maybe he didn’t care.

I’m sure he could see that I was a bit wobbly on my feet. But he kept right on going in the direction he was pointed in.

Maybe he was tired or had other good reasons to continue walking in the opposite direction –but what woman wouldn’t think, “If this man cared about me wouldn’t he at least accompany me to the park—and check to be sure I was okay?

I quickly recovered from my initial disappointment and felt happy and carefree to be alone, with no one to censor my thoughts or behavior or move me along at their pace.

I could walk at my own speed (in this case very slowly) and stop whenever I liked to look at everything .

+ + +

A few minutes later, I found myself alone in the wooded area behind the back of the Art Center. I stood still on the foot bridge and saw that I was in a cool green enchanted glenn, dappled with early evening sunlight.

As luck would have it, this was the Ojai Golden Hour. When I looked down into the baranca, into the gnarled tree trunks, I could almost see the hobbits, elves, and fairies peeking from behind the branches.

I think sipping the second margarita, alternating with sips of water, had an almost mystical effect.

As I look at the notes scribbled quickly on the back of my checks, this must have been a special magic Ojai pixie margarita that seeped into my cells and transported me to the Garden of Eden.

All earthly cares and concerns drifted further and further away. I allowed myself to stand very still, feeling all my cells grow quiet, and just breathe, breathe, breathe, and fully absorb the beauty of this golden hour . . .

While thus transfixed, I became aware of a woman walking toward me. A real flesh-and- blood, curly-haired fair-skinned woman in a beautiful long skirt, not a hallucination.

She looked familiar and I realized it was a long ago friend from way back when we were both young hippy single mothers with toddlers—almost fifty years ago.

She smiled at me in warm recognition and as she came closer, we leaned in and gave each other a warm embrace.

I whispered, “I’m a little bit in an altered state. I just had two Ojai pixie margaritas . . .” She smiled back knowingly and laughed, “So did I.”

We stood silently together on the bridge, looking down into the ravine—this was old Ojai, an undeveloped oasis, almost the same as when we were young. Back then the high end condominiums now on the border of this enchanting spot were low income Evergreen cottages . .

After a little light reminiscing and another hug, we went our separate ways.

As I walked toward the Libbey park playground where I could relax on a bench under a canopy of oaks, I could hear children laughing and playing in the distance.

It had been many months since I’d been in the park alone, without my toddler granddaughter running off or my rambunctious dogs biting at the bit to keep moving.

I would enjoy the luxury of sitting alone on a bench, meditate under the trees, unencumbered, the same as I did fifty years ago when I was in my teens, when I was myopic and shy, and, having grown up without brothers, raised to be submissive, I was afraid and in awe of men.

My consciousness was fully present but also aware that time is an illusion. Everything is happening at once. I could feel everything that ever happened in this lifetime—and maybe reaching further back.

When I was sure I could walk steady, I made my way home four blocks away. The sun had set but it was still light out. Billy was deep asleep in my yoga room, a big bolster under his big head.

I drank some water and quietly  put the vegan blackbean tostada that I had carried carefully the entire time, in the fridge, to eat later, when the appetite of my food body returned.

I leashed my excited, energetic, exuberant dogs.

Still in an altered state, but now steady on my feet, my canine entourage and I walked to Cluff Vista Park. There we ignored the downtown traffic and took in the expansive view of the Ojai Valley, looking toward Meditation Mount. The white leafed Matilija Poppies with their soft brown gold center were in full bloom. Sage and other natives of the plant kingdom were nodding goodnight.

All this Billy missed.

But that’s not my fault. I invited him along but he’s not ready for the ride.

The house was dark when I returned —Billy was either still asleep or watching a movie.

So ironic. If Billy was far away, we’d probably be talking on the phone.

I didn’t want to disturb the tranquility so I came in quietly through the back gate and stayed out of the yoga room, in my half of the house. As I ate the delicious cold black bean tostado left overs alone outside on the cement table, now stone sober, I made up my mind that I would tell Billy in the morning that I needed the house to myself for the weekend.

He would have to leave tomorrow, Friday, on my terms, not “Maybe Saturday, maybe Sunday, or maybe Monday . . . “

Next: Part Nine and Epilogue


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

July 11, 2016

Note: Click here for Part Six

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

The story so far:  After six months of virtual communication, Billy landed in Ojai. By the time he materialized, it felt as if we were old friends. Parts One to Five described his first five days in Ojai, during which he gave my elderly parents two spectacular piano concerts and, after other affordable accommodations fell through, I invited him to stay at my house. Part Six described his first night at my house, the little surprises that popped up after he settled in, and my fleeting glimpse into his soul during his first yoga lesson.

Saturday night, Day Six

If this were a Chapter in a book, I’d be tempted to call it, “If we lived together, we’d kill each other.”

When Billy returned from the elegant Saturday night fundraiser party, we again relaxed on the cement table, under a canopy of stars, and watched the full moon grow brighter. As I lay beside him, platonically pressed in the crook of his elbow, he told amusing anecdotes about his explorations around Ojai, reminding me what a great storyteller he’d been on the phone. He then launched into a cosmic discourse on the nature of infinity—way over my head, practically putting me to sleep.

I suspect he’d inhaled a good amount of high end alcohol and wolfed down a stockpile of appetizers /hors-d’oeuvres, main courses, and probably desserts, as he seemed quite gassy, making me wonder if maybe all that incense he was burning was not so much to create a romantic ambience but more as a cover up.

My vivid imagination works both ways —it fuels both my fantasies and delusions. The thought of dead animals putrefying in any love interest’s intestines is enough to dampen my full moon ardor. (This party had vegetarian choices, so, to be fair, it’s possible that he passed on the lamb.) I think much of his prana, his vital forces, was channelled to his digestion —it takes a lot of inner fire to process and eliminate an omnivorous feast.

Perhaps if Billy could have stayed a few more days at the retreat center, or had checked himself into a hotel, and if he’d been more motivated to take me with him to the enchanting garden party, or to another party with flattering light, nice sips of wine,  soul stirring music, an atmosphere conducive to laughter and flirting, and then taken me home afterwards and kissed me goodnight, disillusionment might not have set in prematurely, way before either of us had the wherewithal, or the love, to handle it. 

* * *

When I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered that I was no longer alone in the house, I went into the yoga room to check if Billy had turned off the light and air conditioner.

As I surveyed the scene before me by the soft warm glow of a Himalayan salt lamp, I thought to myself,

“Well, I finally got what I wanted—there’s a man sleeping in my den.”

“Life’s greatest prize—a mate,” according to  Anatomy of Love.

This must be what Carl Jung meant when he said, “Congratulations and condolences!”

The writer in me peered into the darkness so as not to miss any detail of this monumental moment. Billy’s soft snoring assured me he was dead to the world. He lay sprawled out on the mattress, near the wide open front door, with the cool night air wafting through the screen.

The light of his laptop, sitting by his head, flickered in the darkness. I could see the outline of his bear-like bulk through the flannel sheets.

The floor of the yoga room was covered with assorted electronic devices, men’s socks, underwear, Bermuda shorts, an Einstein T shirt, loose change, car keys, band-aid wrappers, Krishnamurti books, a half drunk jar of pink passion hibiscus tea. (As soon as Billy arrived, it gave me great domestic pleasure to brew copious amounts of herbal tea and squeeze lemons at night so that by morning the fridge was filled with jars of ice cold elixirs to quench our thirst during the hot day ahead.)

The yoga bolsters, blankets, blocks, sandbags, and straps that once rested neatly on the shelves I ‘d cleared for him now sat in a pile on the floor —I had to resist the urge to pick up after him and put his stuff on the shelf.

I just stood there for awhile in the dark, wondering, how did this man, a virtual Facebook Friend but a real-life stranger, end up seemingly oblivious in my yoga room?

I have to admit that I liked the novel sight of his can of shaving cream, his tooth brush, razor, and tube of Ayurveda tooth paste, all perched on the edge of the bathroom sink. And I liked the look of his beach towel hanging on the towel rack. These items, like his laundry mixed with mine in the laundry basket, gave me that feeling of familiarity and hominess.

I liked the half burnt incense sticks and fluffy piles of ash around the sink, bath tub, and top of the toilet tank.

And I still loved his music. When he played the piano or his magical flute, all sins were forgiven.

But I felt confused. Conflicted.

He’d been in Ojai six days, and I still couldn’t figure out his motives.

One of my confidants, monitoring the situation, had dubbed him,“Mr. Murky Motivation.”

I still wasn’t sure if he just needed a free place to crash while visiting Ojai, or someone to help him with a book he wanted to write, or if he was interested in me personally or just as a friend.

For a fleeting second I felt like I was suddenly trapped in a bad dream—a fate far worse than living alone. Like I was about to get stuck in some kind of loveless marriage. The image of him sleeping alone, falling asleep while watching a movie, was not what I’d pictured when we flirted online . . .

But maybe I was just impatient. I should just let things unfold, especially after I’d glimpsed his vulnerability during the yoga session.

I turned off the AC, the light, and went back to sleep.

* * *

Sunday,  Day Seven

Sunday was uneventful. I invited Billy for an early morning dog walk in the river bottom but he declined. Later that morning, my daughter brought over my now eighteen-month old granddaughter while she went to Farmers Market and had breakfast with one of her girlfriends. I took Maggie in the stroller to nearby Libbey Park while Billy headed off for breakfast at Bonnie Lu’s.

It was too hot later in the day to take Billy to explore Meditation Mount and other places he’d not seen on his previous visits to Ojai.

He slept in the afternoon.

Sunday night, while it was still hot out, he treated me to dinner at Hip Vegan Café. I ordered a huge salad—enough to take half home to eat later.

Again, it gave me great pleasure to see him eating organic vegan food with great gusto. I could see myself falling for that old fantasy of imagining that “If this man was with me, I’d feed him healthy food every day and turn his life around.”

Later that evening, while outside filling the bird bath and watering plants,  I spotted the full moon rising in all her glory above the mountains.

I wanted to share the moment with Billy, who was back on his laptop. I went up to the front door and said, “Come outside and see the full moon with me.”

He replied, “It’s too hot!” sounding to me like some lazy slob, one without a romantic bone in his body.

My fed-up inner crone finally  bypassed my eternally patient yogini persona and yelled,

“For the love of God— it won’t kill you to step outside a few minutes and look at the moon with me!”

A few moments later he emerged from his cave and stepped out in the open. But it was not the same if he’d come out willingly.

A little later, he sat outside and played his flute. That soothed me somewhat.

That night while he watched the rest of his movie and I laid outside alone on my stone table, I felt confused.

I didn’t know what to do.

I’d invited him into my home without any discussion, no strings or conditions. I couldn’t just simply give him the boot. Plus, he was coming to yoga the next morning—I had to keep the peace.

I made more jars of ice tea and soaked almonds for fresh almond milk smoothies. I even had the bright idea that we could go on a juice/smoothie/watermelon fast together. He’d feel better and be more available if he gutted that gut of his.

*  * *

Monday, Day Eight, Summer Solstice and Full Moon (this section still needs work)

I wish I’d videotaped the yoga class. Billy’s big presence filled the yoga room. Students naturally wondered who he was. To his credit, he tried to behave like a student but his competitive streak was obvious to everyone but himself.

He had a hard time following instructions. Since he thinks he knows everything, he thought he already knew what to do.

He fell out of the wall ropes . . . after that I was hopeless. I could hardly stop laughing.

After class we ate lunch with some of my students at Rainbow Bridge. When I sat down next to him with my legs loosely crossed in the chair like I always do, he glanced over and joked, “Can’t you sit like a white person?” He chatted with my close friend Sandy, who he later referred to as ” a sly fox,” from the way she was checking him out.

* * *

Monday night, his fourth night at my house,  we bickered a bit over his late night electronics.

My bed is near the master box that runs the land line, WiFi, etc.,  Before I go to sleep I flick a switch that turns everything off.

I thought it was generous of me to give him till midnight to use his laptop. I explained that to sleep deeply I like all electronics off.

Instead of honoring my request, Billy suggested I put all the devices under my bed. I explained the cords didn’t reach— plus I didn’t want all that woo woo underneath me.

Of course, what this was really about, was, “Let’s give virtual reality a rest and commune with each other in real life. Or just sit in silence together . . .  or alone.”

But I could not find the words to say this.

I’ve lived alone for so long now I’m used to being the queen of my castle!

* * *

Tuesday, Day Nine 

During the months of virtual communication, Billy had mentioned  that he had a high school friend in the film industry who had recently moved to Santa Barbara with his wife.  He’d gotten in touch with him over the weekend and, after several calls, it was settled that we’d meet them for dinner on Tuesday night.

I was sub teaching that week and had a dental appointment—plus with my parents in hospice care at home,  I was often called to help out. With the drive back and forth, plus the hassle of taking my dogs to a friend’s house, plus his wanting to leave an hour early, it would take up a big chunk of time. But I didn’t see how I could gracefully wriggle out of it  plus I realized I was becoming like a little old lady set in my ways—it would do me good to get out of the Ojai vortex for a few hours.

Billy wanted me along. It would be awkward to have dinner with his old school buddy plus his wife without a female companion along.

Plus, they’d asked our food preference and he’d told them vegan, on my behalf.

I did have one condition for coming along: I wanted the windows of his car clean. I made it crystal clear (I thought) that if I was going for a ride I wanted to enjoy the scenery.

Tuesday afternoon, after teaching in the morning, I took the dogs to my friend’s house and Billy and I got ready to go out together.

Billy wanted to go two hours early in case we had trouble finding his friend’s house—we briefly bickered over how soon to leave—and compromised by leaving an extra hour early, giving us two hours to make what would normally be a one hour trip.

When I got in the car my heart sank.

The windows were filthy.

There went my yogic equilibrium.  Billy drove off before I could run back in the house for paper towels and window cleaner.

Unperturbed, he ran the automatic window wipers which did little to improve the view. I tried to keep my voice pleasant but in that moment I exploded.  “I thought I made it clear that it was important to me that the windows be clean.”

He responded that he’d stop at the gas station—he had to get gas and check the oil anyway.

That news immediately gave me even more of a bad feeling. He’d had plenty of time to do all that before we left. This too felt disrespectful and inconsiderate of my time constraints. Maybe he didn’t yet grasp that every day I’m in survival mode, juggling a thousand things.

Or maybe my time was not valuable to him.

After this confrontation, he suddenly  pulled off Ojai Avenue  —he needed to get directions. At first it didn’t compute —he never asked me if I knew how to get to Santa Barbara and he basically told me not to interrupt while he fiddled with his computer or iphone or whatever.

I couldn’t help myself. I blurted, “Why didn’t you do this before we left instead of rushing me to get ready early?”

When he pulled back in traffic, he was joking on the phone with that virtual assistant lady, Siri, asking her how to get to Santa Barbara.

I  said, “I know how to get to Santa Barbara. You just have to decide whether to take the coast route or through the mountains.”

He had the speaker phone on. I could not control my annoyance and dismay and asked him to please get off the line with Siri. It felt so rude and invasive.

And then I saw him glance down at his screen while we were driving.

I shouted, “Stop right now. I do not drive with anyone who looks down at their screen.”

To his credit he agreed. He promised not to do it again.

We stopped for gas and oil and he took a swipe at the windows. They were still foggy but at least I could see the scenery.

I willed myself to enjoy the ride.

Now that Siri was out of the picture,  he turned up the volume to his favorite classical music.

I could feel my inner anxiousness to connect, to communicate, increasing.

If you’re familiar with the book  Attached, described in Part One, Two, and Three, you’ll recognize the anxious and avoidant dynamic between us.

After a few minutes trying to appreciate the piano composition that put him in ecstasy, I committed heresy.

I said, “You know, when you have someone with you in the car, it would be polite to ask what they’d like to hear.”

As we drove further away from the Ojai vortex and approached civilization, Santa Barbara, I felt my spirits perk up again.

I told him that I knew the exit—but it turned out that either I’d misunderstood the name of the street or he hadn’t pronounced it right.

Soon he was back on the phone with Siri, asking for directions.

This is when the fun really started.

We found the right street, no problem. But the numbers were all strangely low—many blocks away from our destination.

So, after going up and down the street several times, zigzagging a few blocks over, turning around, connecting with another section of the street (I thought maybe the street reconnected in another part of town) I started saying things like, “You know, if you’d given me the address the old fashioned way I could have printed the directions from Map Quest.”

Being a Luddite, I didn’t realize he could access Map Quest on his iPhone.

He pulled over.

By then almost two hours had passed and I desperately needed to empty my bladder. After another ten minutes and still not finding the address, even though he told me to be quiet and not be a backseat driver,  I finally said, in exasperation, “Maybe your friend typed the wrong address. That’s easy to do. Why don’t you give him a call?”

Yes,” he agreed. “I’m beginning to think he gave me the wrong address.”

He pulled over and I thought he was going to call his friend to check the address. I saw him looking down at the screen. He turned to me and casually confessed he’d copied the address wrong.

“It’s 411, not 4111.”

“Well,” he added, laughing the whole ordeal off.“ At least I admitted that it was my mistake.”

I thought to myself, “Just imagine if I’d done that!”

He then drove over to the nearby parking lot behind Starbucks, where I could use the ladies room before my bladder burst.

I swear, as he pulled into the parking lot I looked up and saw a big sign that said, URGENT CARE.

“Just drop me off right here,” I joked.

Now we come to the good part of the evening.

His friend was also a musician and as I soaked up the ambience of their beautiful, creative home, and tranquil, Zen-like garden, I saw the best of Billy.

The two highschool friends were genuinely happy to see other and soon Billy went back to the car for his flutes. After he instructed his friend, they played the sweetest tune together.

A little later, we headed for the vegan restaurant. I still had a buzz from the wine at the house, and everything felt right. I had left my Ojai monastery. I was having a real night out on the town with a loving, committed couple (secure role-models, the kind described in  Attached  that feel comfortable with intimacy.)

To my mind, this secure couple was an antidote to anxious old suspects like me, still preoccupied with romance,  and avoidant suspects like Billy who equate intimacy with loss of independence and bolt like a spooked racehorse at the first sign of closeness.


The vegan restaurant was delightful. Delicious food. . . great company . . . Billy and I both on our best behavior —the rest of the evening went off without a hitch.

After we said good bye, I watched the friend and his wife walk hand-in-hand back inside the oasis they’d created.

On the way home Billy played music he knew that I liked.  The evening had turned out well. He even praised me, saying, “You were great!”

I’d made a good impression on his friends.

In the presence of his friends it had almost felt like we were an “item.”

After we picked up the dogs and settled back into our comfortable sleeping duds, I had in mind to relax with Billy in the yoga room like we did all last week before he moved in, and talk.

Alas, when I came into the yoga room he was already in bed, watching a movie, just like the night before.

It struck me that it had begun to feel like his room — like I was the intruder on his space.

I felt confused.

I didn’t know what to say and I slipped —I forgot all about Loving What Is.

I accidentally launched into an escalating tirade about how rude it was for him to watch movies while I was trying to do yoga.

I said the flickering screen and background noise was bothering me.

I was headed straight for the abyss, When Things Fall Apart!

Instead of responding to my plea to communicate, HE PUT ON EAR PHONES!

Now he was not only blind to my needs but also deaf!

I put two chairs in front of his bed and hung a yoga blanket over the chairs to block the computer light.

I could no longer ignore that this was not going to work for me.

Not even the Goddess Pose could save me now.  I moved next to his bed where he could not ignore me. He glanced up, took out the ear phones, and slapped his laptop shut.

I said, “I need to tell you how I feel. I’m confused. You staying here is starting to confuse me.”

I could have kept it simple and said, man-to-man, “Look Billy, I think five days in my digs is long enough. I need my space back by Friday (three-day notice).”

Instead, I desperately wanted him to understand me. To care about my feelings.

That’s when he blurted, “If we lived together we’d kill each other.” (His exact words —I swear.)

At that moment I felt the full blast of his anger, his pent up frustration, and the insecurity that drives his forceful, aggressive, controlling, domineering personality—all magnified by his 6’2’, 200 plus pounds of body mass.

“I knew this wasn’t going to work when you said that you were uncontrollable.”

(I secretly thought that was the highest compliment a man has ever given me but I refrained from making a cheeky remark. I longed to tell him that I’ve worked my whole life to stand up to men and not be pushed around—but I kept quiet.)

He proceeded to tell me how difficult I was. That I was impossible to live with.

I tried to defend myself. I said, “Most of the problems we have are due to living in close quarters. I don’t know anyone who could put up with you sleeping in the living room (my yoga room) for more than three days!

I’m not used to not having any privacy.

I knew enough to back off.

I sat yoga style in the corner, a few feet in front of him. When he was done venting,  he changed tactics and said everything he liked and admired about me.

On the surface we hugged goodnight and made peace. But his words, “We’d kill each other if we lived together,” were burned into my consciousness.

I wanted to run for the hills.

Dear Reader,

By now, if you’ve gotten this far, you probably wish this saga was over. 

But to let this  go, I have to finish the whole story. Even if I’m the only reader left. The witness to my own story. The observer and the observed.

Next:  Part Eight


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

July 9, 2016

Link to Part One through Five
“She put down in writing what was in her mind” –Bob Dylan, It’s Not Dark Yet

The story so far:  After six months of virtual communication with no face-to-face cues or physical contact, Billy, the musician I’d befriended on Facebook, leaped out of cyberspace and landed on my doorstep. By the time he materialized in the flesh, it felt as if we were old friends, with none of the awkwardness one sometimes feels on a “first date.” After a pleasant evening where I welcomed him into my yoga room and fed him a nourishing vegan dinner, Billy headed off to a local retreat center where he had arranged to stay for four nights.
Part Four and Five describe his first five days in Ojai, during which he gives my elderly bedridden parents two spectacular piano concerts and, after his other possibilities for affordable accommodations fell through, I invite him to stay at my house.

Saturday, Day Six (Full Moon, Summer Solstice Weekend)

I was both relieved and disappointed that Billy didn’t try to kiss me as we relaxed under the stars and almost full moon on my cement table, his first night at my house. I fell asleep in my own bed, with Billy’s enchanting flute compositions floating out of the CD player on my dresser, just as I’d done many nights before when he was thousands of miles away, a virtual fantasy, and not a real life flesh-and-blood giant, gently snoring a few feet away.

I rose at dawn, tiptoed around the house quiet as a mouse, ate a chunk of watermelon, and brewed triple the amount of coffee I usually make so it would be ready for Billy when he woke up.

I should explain that there is only a half wall between the kitchen and where Billy slept so I refrained from running the orange juicer. And, since I didn’t want to disturb him by doing my yoga practice a few feet from his bed, I left the house early to practice at the studio before my 8 a.m. class.

When I came home midmorning, the first thing that hit me was the smell of incense. Fortunately, it was a scent I liked-–not the kind that gives me a headache or makes my eyes burn. Of course I noticed right away that he’d perched the incense sticks on top of my best Manduka cork yoga block in such a way that the incense ash was falling on the block. I feared the pile of hot ash might scorch the block so I nicely said that it would be better for the ash to fall on a saucer. Since he was occupied on his laptop, I handed him a saucer. To his credit, he moved the burning incense, now perched on a saucer, on top of a yoga chair, which I also didn’t like but decided not to make an issue of it.

When I went into the kitchen, I right away noticed he’d washed the dishes from the night before—so that scored points. And I noticed he’d filled up the water dispenser—more points. But then I noticed that the top to the three-gallon water bottle was missing. After checking all the usual places —kitchen counter, dish drainer, drawers, cupboards—all the places he might have set it, I asked him, (trying not to sound like a nag), “What did you do with the top to the water bottle?” He looked up from his laptop unconcerned and said something like, “Oh, it’ll turn up.”

After looking again in all the usual places, I grew suspicious and started rummaging through the overflowing trash and recycling cans that sit near the sink. I then inquired, “Do you think maybe you threw the top in the trash?” Again he glanced up and I think he said, “I doubt it.” So I took matters in my own hands and dug around in the trash. No luck. Then I had the bright idea to take the recycle can outside to the large bin that I share with my neighbors and toss each item, one or two at a time, so as not to risk dumping the water bottle top into the big bin where it would be lost forever. Sure enough, when I finished that process, there was the missing water bottle top. I went jubilant back in the house. “I found the lid,” I shouted. “I just saved $6. That’s what these bottles cost.”

When I went back into the kitchen, he said something about the coffee being bitter. I was a little bit taken aback and I might have sounded just slightly defensive and said something like, “I made the coffee early—maybe it was bitter by the time you drank it after sitting in the pot.”

A little later, Billy left to play the piano at the home of a musician he’d befriended (also on Facebook, I later found out), a widow I hadn’t met yet. Shortly thereafter, when I went to clean the coffee maker, I noticed that the filter was filled to the brim, practically exploding with coffee grounds. I also noticed that my Altura organic coffee stash was almost gone. He’d brewed a second batch of coffee while I was teaching and used up what for me is a week’s worth of coffee in one gulp! I couldn’t even remove the filter without coffee grounds spilling out–I had to unplug the coffee maker and turn it upside down over the open trash can.

I thought to myself, “No wonder he said the coffee was bitter. The pot I left him was probably perfect but the batch he made was ten times as strong as I usually make it.” I felt exonerated! Vindicated!

It was only the first day of his stay at my house and I was aware that it hadn’t even been 24 hours but already little annoyances were popping up. But I was committed to making him comfortable and feeling as at-home in my humble abode as possible.

That day the temperature soared—it would be a week before the weather cooled off again. I noticed he’d hung a red yoga blanket in the doorless doorway between the kitchen and the back of the house, where I slept. At first I liked that he’d taken the initiative to do that. His explanation that this barrier would help contain the cold air coming from the air conditioner, made sense. I also liked all the other things he described that he could do to keep the house cool.

But later in the day, as my uninsulated block house grew hotter, I realized that the hanging door blanket that helped contain the cool air in the yoga room also kept the cool air from circulating in the back of the house, where I slept. Plus, without air flow, the kitchen seemed more stiffling. So I kept flinging the yoga blanket curtain open, and, of course, he kept flinging it back down.

Speaking of flinging, I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention that I’d begun to notice that Billy never flung the toilet seat back down. This puzzled me as he’d been married or had lived with several women before. I decided early on that if the women he’d lived with couldn’t train him all those years, my chances of that changing now that he was almost seventy, were very slim.

When Billy returned a couple of hours later, fortified from his piano playing, he was in good spirits. I decided not to mention the coffee—at least not right then.

I forgot to mention that Billy had been invited to a fancy fundraiser that night. Knowing he’d be leaving the house again in a few hours made it easier for me to feel relaxed about having his large presence suddenly taking over my small space.

I turned up the air conditioner (my first summer with the newly installed unit) and rested with Billy on the yoga bolsters. Aside from the aforementioned slightly annoying annoyances, the energy between us felt harmonious.

As I write this, I realize that I forgot to mention that during the week, when Billy slept at the retreat center, we practiced Restorative Yoga several times and, on a few occasions, I massaged his feet, especially after he told me more about how his diabetic condition affected his feet.

I joked to my close women friends, who naturally wondered what was going on between us, that we were practicing “safe sex”: yoga and foot massage.

Over the past six months of our Facebook chats and phone conversations, Billy often expressed his respect and admiration for how long I’d been practicing and teaching yoga.

He seemed impressed that I’d studied the same subject for such a long length of time—almost 50 years—if you count the first books on yoga philosophy that I read at the Krotona Library as a teenager.

Since we were the same age (67 and 68) we had a lot of history in common. He told me how he first heard Krishnamurti speak in the 1980s—and I shared with him my anecdotes about first hearing K speak in the Oak Grove in 1965 (while I was a student at Happy Valley School), and a few years later in Saanen, Switzerland.

In retrospect, the conversations about yoga and Krishnamurti also helped cultivate a friendly bond between us and, if I cut myself some slack, helps to explain why I felt comfortable to invite him into my home, even though I’d only known him in person for five days.

Billy was familiar with the yoga of BKS Iyengar and his classic treatise, Light On Yoga. Since he was planning to come to my group classes the following week, and since he’d expressed interest in taking lessons for the past six months, plus the revelations about his health issues, that Saturday afternoon I thought I better teach him some Iyengar Yoga Basics and introduce him to the wall ropes, before he had to leave again for his evening shindig.

He seemed eager to have his first lesson with me so I placed his yoga mat along the wall that has three sets of wall ropes. I explained that we’d be doing Standing Poses at the wall. I showed him how to stand near the wall, with his feet about four feet apart, and placed a chair and block nearby. I then proceeded to demonstrate how to use the wall for alignment and support.

I noticed that the moment I put on my teacher hat, there was a shift in the dynamics between us. I was the teacher telling Billy, the student, what to do. He willingly cooperated, wanting to show me he was in good shape. He followed my instructions, turning the right foot out and left foot in, reaching his top arm up to the upper ropes to help open his chest and shoulders, keeping his back near the wall as he stretched into the classic Triangle Pose, first to the right and then to the left. But about fifteen minutes into the lesson, after the challenging weight bearing Warrior II Pose and Extended Lateral Angle Pose, he admitted, “This isn’t easy for me. I don’t like taking orders.“

I laughingly told him that there’s no competition in yoga. That he needed to listen to the feedback his body was constantly giving him and not worry about impressing me with how well he could do the poses.

I take initiating people into yoga very seriously—yet it’s my nature to be playful and lighthearted. Laughter releases tension, helps us to let go of our defenses, and open up.

Even prior to this first formal lesson, I‘d become aware that Billy was a man of many faces, many masks. As I write this, I remember now that he’d joked about being like a gangster —I’d glimpsed that there was a rough edge, a volatile temper, a rascal, lurking inside this master musician/ composer. He would pick up the flute and play haunting, mystical, meditation music but in the next breath he seemed to enjoy berating anyone who did not live up to his high standards. He often referred to the people who paraded through his life as an “asshole.” I’d even joked on occasion that his description of the human race was “a bunch of assholes” or better yet, “a bunch of assholes full of shit.” Like most human beings, as you get to know them behind their public persona, he was full of contradictions. He claimed to come from a refined, cultured background (his mother was also an accomplished pianist) but he could be vulgar and crude—from my perspective he seemed almost like a musician with mafia roots.

All this was swirling beneath the surface of my consciousness as I observed Billy’s physical expression in the Standing Poses —the expression and response of his whole overweight but still fairly strong body, and also his facial features.

His years at the piano had made him aware of posture and he brought to yoga a high level of body awareness. I told him how many talented musicians, notably the violinist Yehudi Menuhin (who wrote the foreword to Light On Yoga) had turned to yoga for health issues like insomnia. During the lesson we spoke of the connections between yoga and music.

After the Standing Poses and Hanging Downward Dog Pose, Billy wanted to hang completely upside down again—like we had briefly done his second day in Ojai. This time, we were both much more prepared, and he hung himself upside down almost like a pro. Again, his response to reversing the downward flow of gravity was positive. As he inverted, I became aware that he had become very still. He hung quietly for several minutes. A few times I heard him say, “Thank you . . . thank you . . . “ When he indicated it felt long enough, I guided his hands to climb up the upper ropes, hoist himself upright, and step back down to the ground.

To be on the safe side, I instructed him to rest in Child’s Pose, as I always do with students unaccustomed to inverting for long periods of time. After several minutes in Child’s Pose (a position similar to prostration and surrender) I then suggested a long stay in Downward Facing Dog Pose to round out the lesson.

I could see he was getting tired and even with the air conditioner the room was getting warm. So then I put him in Supported Legs Up the Wall Pose, Viparita Karani, with his bottom and rib cage supported by a big bolster—a powerful combination backbend (heart opener) and inverted pose.

Something happened between us as he deeply relaxed in Viparita Karani that I may not have the words to describe. While I was the teacher and he the student, whether he felt it or not, among all the other things going on beneath the surface, there was a play of masculine and feminine energy.

I was the teacher but also a woman. I have not been in intimate contact with any man for many years. I felt a powerful force—some might call this the Kundalini energy or shakti. I could feel his cells, his nervous system relax. His face grew softer and softer and his masks fell away—as our faces do in death when the ego dissolves and everything we identify with falls away.

I felt his vulnerability. The tough guy gangster act was gone. For just a fleeting moment, I felt I had a glimpse into his soul.

I sat kneeling behind his head, (as I often do with students) and placed my hands on the back of his neck, near the base of his skull, ever so gently lengthening his neck. I saw tears seeping out of the corner of his eyes, down his cheeks. Then I instinctively placed my fingertips on his forehead, near the center of his brow, the space some refer to as the third eye. I heard him murmur, “Yes, yes. . . that’s it. Yes . . . “ So I kept my fingertips gently on his forehead, feeling the energy flow, the current between us . . .

I then removed my hands and moved out of his aura, to another part of the room, giving him time to just be.
After awhile, I think he fell asleep and I relaxed on the backbender, absorbing the magnitude and mystery of it all.

Soon it was time to get back to earth and “reality.” When he left in the late afternoon for his party, the dogs and I went to the river bottom.

To be continued, Part Seven

Link to Part One through Five


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

July 6, 2016

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

Where we left off: After six months of communication with no face-to-face cues or physical contact, Billy, the musician I’d never met in person, virtually leaped out of cyberspace and landed on my doorstep. By the time he materialized in the flesh, it felt as if we were old friends, with none of the awkwardness one sometimes feels on a “first date.” After a pleasant evening where I welcomed him into my yoga room and fed him a nourishing vegan dinner, Billy headed off to a local retreat center where he had arranged to stay for four nights.

Part Four described the second day (Tuesday) of Billy’s visit with me in Ojai.  After breakfast at Cafe Emporium, and a walk in Libbey Park, that afternoon, he gave my elderly parents a spectacular piano concert. Part Five continues with Billy’s second day in Ojai . . . and on to Friday, Day Five.

Billy’s piano playing transported my 95-year-0ld mother to a higher realm. She could not believe that “a man of his high status” (as she later described him) was actually in our humble home. She had fallen that morning and bruised her knees, and was lying in  bed, so she could not see him play. But her bedroom is only a few feet away from the piano so she could hear the music perfectly.

After I convinced my mother that the tall man standing by her bed really was the pianist pulling the beautiful music out of her piano, I escorted Billy to meet my father in the back bedroom where he rests most of the day in a hospital bed.

After my father expressed his gratitude for the live music and for making my mother so happy, Billy left the room. Then my dad asked, “How did this big man get here?”

There was no easy way to explain that I’d met Billy on something known as Facebook—a concept virtually unfathomable for my father’s pre-Internet mind to comprehend. He’s never looked at a computer and basically thinks they’re the work of the devil. So I kept it simple and told him that Billy was a professional musician, visiting old friends in Ojai, and that he enjoyed playing music for elderly people.

After promising we’d be back later that week for another performance, I loaded Billy and the dogs back in my van and returned to my house. While Billy took a nap on the floor of the yoga room, I hoofed it over to Rainbow Bridge deli to fetch us a healthy dinner.

It gave me great pleasure to see Billy diving into the baked yellow acorn squash (cut in half and stuffed with walnuts, celery, and cranberries) with a side of brussel sprouts and kale salad. Even if he wasn’t a bonafide vegan, I could see that he enjoyed vegan food (although  I later noticed he got into the cheese that I save for my dogs).

While I cleared the table and washed a few dishes, Billy sat outside on the front porch, in the cool twilight, playing his magical flute—just like I had envisioned during the months of phone conversations. A little later, as the sky grew darker, he came back inside the yoga room. I again showed him how to relax with a bolster under his back to open the chest and heart center, a folded blanket under his head, like a nest for his skull.

Before heading back to his second night at the retreat center, Billy sat in Virasana (Hero Pose) and played another enchanting tune on his flute. He sat very straight and yogic. I was impressed with the prowess of his lungs. It was as if the energy of the God Pan had entered the yoga room, adding magic and merriment to the atmosphere.

I needed to go to bed early as I had to teach the next day.  I again walked him to his car and we hugged good night. He gave me a quick platonic kiss on the lips. We agreed to meet again for breakfast before my mid morning private lesson.

Day Three (Wednesday)

The next morning, Billy’s third day in Ojai, he arrived early to pick me up for breakfast at Farmer & the Cook in Meiners Oaks, a ten-minute drive from my house in downtown Ojai. I suggested that we take two cars because my mid morning private lesson was near Farmer & the Cook. “That way,” I reasoned, “we don’t have to drive back to my house and we’ll have more time to eat and visit.”

“No way, “ he said, “If we run out of time, I’ll take you to your student’s house.”

That sounded like a good idea so I hopped in his car. As I buckled the seatbelt and leaned back in the seat, a funny thing happened. I felt a deep well of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. I have no recollection if it was triggered by anything Billy said or did. But it was a familiar anxious feeling —one that I’ve felt many times over the years in the course of romantic relationships.

As he drove, it gradually dawned on me that my uneasiness had something to do with losing control. This was the first time I rode in his car. And, as he himself  pointed out when I told him how I felt, “when you get in someone else’s car you are on their turf, in their space, and at their mercy.”

As he drove through the winding, narrow streets of the park-like neighborhood we Ojaians call the Arbolada, (the scenic backway to Meiners Oaks), the tension I felt increased from his curt response to my driving directions.

When I tried to indicate where to turn, he barked, “Just say left, or say right, or say go straight ahead at the next stop—don’t say anything else.“

In my hyper-sensitive state, his voice sounded authoritative and patronizing. In my eagerness to tell him about my Ojai life, I might have said something like, “Oh, there’s my old high school. We were the last class to graduate before they switched and made this campus the Junior High . . . After that building, turn right.”

Even though it was a short drive, there were moments that I got distracted and forgot that he didn’t know the route. I’d get flustered when I accidentally waited till we got too close to the intersection to say, “Turn  right. “

Or maybe I felt compelled to say something like, “I love how the Arbolada is covered by a canopy of Oaks. . . Oh, now turn right at the next Stop sign.”

You know, the way we women tend to talk to our own kind!

In any case, the whole short drive I felt a familiar tension, one that I’ve experienced with certain men (not all) many times in the distant past.

I was aware of how easily my feelings were hurt and that it had been a very long time since a man had chastised or reprimanded me. I wasn’t used to it anymore!

On the surface,  things were going  well— and I so much wanted them to go well! I tried to release the churning in my guts and relegate it to my own neurosis.

Some readers may think that I’m making much ado about nothing but if you’ve ever lived with a controlling, domineering man, you’ll empathize with my gut reaction.

After we arrived at the Farmer & Cook, and I was back on friendly, familiar ground, I felt my good spirits returning.

As we sat across from each other, talking, sipping organic coffee, eating the very tasty breakfast burrito, absorbing the good Farmer & Cook vibes, I was aware that in spite of the bossiness I felt in the car, I still enjoyed male companionship and said as much. He responded in kind.

When it came time for me to go teach my private lesson, I cleared the table (on week days customers bus their own tables here) and promptly splashed left-over salsa all over my white yoga shirt. My instinct was to run cold water over the orange splotches but Billy instructed with great authority, “run hot water.” So hot water it was–but later, when I got home, I soaked and washed my shirt in cold water and the stains disappeared.

This time when Billy drove there was no tension as I gave directions to my student’s house—maybe a full stomach soothed us both.

When we pulled up into my student’s driveway, she right away noticed the strange man driving the unknown car and stepped out of the house to greet us. I had confided the week before that a man I had befriended on Facebook was coming to Ojai to visit me. She invited him to come out for a few minutes and see her newly landscaped garden. As we admired the lovely design, the bright flowers, as well as  the grand views with an Oak grove below, she plied Billy with friendly questions about his background.

Billy  thoughtfully said he’d pick me up when the lesson was over, even though I’d assured him that my student wouldn’t mind driving me back to town.

Later that week, on several occasions, Billy expressed that he felt that my friends were scrutinizing him. He called one in particular a “sly fox.” I defended my friends’ “snoopiness,” and told him, “Well, I’m sorry if you feel a lack of privacy in this small town but what did you expect? I’m a public person! I’ve lived here sixty years. People know me from yoga, politics, my books . . . and I have a large extended family. The people you’re meeting are my tribe and they’re looking out for me.”

And I also told him, “If I visited you in your hometown, I’d expect your friends to scrutinize me too. And I wouldn’t mind. I have nothing to hide.”

And I thought to myself, “For crying out loud. I’m a woman living alone. Naturally they wonder who is this strange man visiting me. They don’t care if you’re the reincarnation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Ludwig van Beethoven himself. They’re interested in your character and whether or not you care about me . . . ”

That same day, I had another private lesson in the afternoon. By the time I got home, Billy had gone off to meet a friend for dinner. While he was thus occupied, I followed my normal evening routine of roaming the riverbottom with my dogs and eighteen month old granddaughter. It felt good to go about my regular life––I was glad Billy was occupied so I wouldn’t have to concern myself with dinner.

I should add here that earlier Billy had mentioned that the friend he was meeting for dinner was leaving town for a week. He’d mentioned that maybe there was a possibility that when his stay at the retreat center ran out he could stay at his friend’s house while everyone was gone. That would be the perfect solution to the “where will he stay after Thursday” dilemma I saw on the horizon. I crossed my fingers that free accommodations at his friend’s house was how things would play out.

Later that evening, while I did my yoga practice, Billy again played his flute. At that point, it started to feel very relaxed and comfortable having him around. As he was leaving, since he didn’t volunteer any information, I asked, “Will you be staying with your friend who is going on vacation tomorrow?”

“No, “ he replied. “That didn’t work out.”

I recall remembering how prior to coming to Ojai, when we were discussing affordable places where he might stay, he had mentioned that he was willing to sleep in his car.

That was the moment that I weakened and heard myself say that if he hadn’t found another affordable place to stay by Friday that he could stay at my house. As I said this, I set no time limit—the thought didn’t didn’t even cross my mind.

This is what my therapist friend meant when she said in Part One, “Your biggest fear is what you’ll do . . . the anxiety you feel is about YOU . . . that you will act inappropriately . . . ”

I really didn’t even have time to think it through because I was sub teaching early in the morning in addition to  my own classes for the next three days straight. I even told myself that since I wouldn’t be home that much, Billy might as well make use of my house while he explored Ojai and connected with other musicians.

I planned to move my computer and desk work into the yoga room. Then Billy could help me set up the futon frame I stored on my back patio. The guest mattress that I store against a wall fits on the frame—–with his help we’d turn my office into a guest room in an hour.

That was the plan—the flirt in me figured it would kind of be like a long date—I imagined that we’d give each other plenty of space since most mornings I’d be gone by the time he got out of bed.

I also felt confident that I wouldn’t do anything I’d regret.  I didn’t feel any kind of sexual vibe from him. However, at the same time, I enjoyed the close proximity of his male energy—so long as he wasn’t telling me what to do or mansplaining.

Also, I neglected to mention that the second day of his visit he promised to help me fix things—there were loose door hinges, the back gate latch was broken, and he was full of ideas to fix the place up.

Thursday, Day Four

The next day, Thursday, Billy’s fourth day in Ojai, I had to teach back-to-back morning classes so we planned to meet for lunch at Rainbow Bridge around noon. Two of my students, Marie and Jim, both also close friends, joined us. That gave me a chance to sit back and observe their interactions.

Marie and I had to get back to work so we left Billy and Jim bonding over baseball and rock ‘n roll.

When I was free again, I continued with my normal routine of taking my dogs over to my parent’s house. The canines romp in the yard while I babysit the elders and give my younger sister a break.

Upon arriving,  I saw that my mom had risen from her deathbed of two days ago. She was sitting alert in an easy-chair near the piano, wearing one of her colorful sundresses, her white hair neatly combed.

Her oldest great granddaughter, seven-year-old Grace, was drawing on the nearby dining table. Grace takes piano lessons.

When I saw my mom sitting alert near the piano, it came to me in a flash that I should call Billy and see if he would be willing to give another in-house concert. He didn’t take the call but I left a detailed message, explaining the situation.

I called again five minutes later. Still no answer. I tried a third time and this time he picked up.

“You answered!” I said.

“That’s what people usually do,” said Mr. Smarty Pants, oblivious that this was my third try. To his credit, he agreed to come right over and play.

I called my daughter who lives nearby and invited her and my granddaughter to come to the concert. My youngest sister, who sings and plays piano and guitar, was also at the house. So we had a nice audience waiting when Billy arrived.

When I explained to my mother what was about to take place, she looked dubious, like I was pulling her leg. But when Billie planted himself on the piano bench and his amazing fingers sprang into action, once again my mother’s whole demeanor changed. Her posture improved; she sat taller and straighter, her face became animated.

At first she closed her eyes, clasping her hands reverently to her chest. But moments later, as the music grew louder and livelier, she stretched her arms up in the air, high above her head and shouted in Dutch, “Ik will hem trouwen! Ik will hem trouwen!” (I want to marry him! I want to marry him!)

Grace stood close to the piano, watching in awe as Billy’s fingers touched the keyboard. For a long time she stood still, taking it all in. Maggie was swaying on her mother’s lap. She’s naturally cautious and tentative around strange men but after awhile she slid to the floor and began dancing.

I wish we’d videotaped the whole scene!

While the Piano Man played on, I checked on my father and told him how happy my mom was. That gave him peace of mind as he sank back in his hospital bed and enjoyed this second concert.

Billy continued playing. Toward the end he played some dance music and we all danced free style while my mom clapped her hands and looked adoringly at this amazing pianist who dropped out of the sky.

After this stellar performance, we drove our individual cars back to my house. I only spoke with Billy briefly as he had arranged to spend his last evening  at the retreat center  with another friend. I told him that I would be leaving the house early to teach and to be sure to keep the back gate and front door shut tight so the dogs don’t escape. I told him to make himself at home if he arrived before I returned.

Friday, Day Five

The following day, Friday, (Billy’s fifth day in Ojai), when  I came home after yoga, Billy and his car where nowhere in sight but his suitcase, a pair of socks,  a bag of flutes, and various personal items were scattered on the yoga room floor.

I saw that he’d put some dirty clothes in the laundry basket like I had instructed him to do—he didn’t ask me to do his laundry—I offered. It gave me a warm feeling, a feeling of familiarity, to see his T shirt in the basket.

When he returned home he told me about another Ojai musician he befriended who had a good piano he was welcome to use. And that she was introducing him to other musicians. That all sounded good to my ears.

I then started to explain that I wanted to move the futon frame into the house  if he could carry one end. I began to say that I would clear most of my stuff out of the office —but he immediately and forcefully dismissed that idea .

“No way,” he said. I’m not sleeping in there. I’m staying in this room.”

In fairness that might have been because one of my little male dogs had “marked” the rug, but if that was the problem I would have had the carpet shampood or spot cleaned it myself.

Maybe I’m prejudiced but if a woman friend had preferred to sleep in the more spacious yoga room, I’m certain we would have at least discussed it first.  The occasional  overnight guests I’ve had all prefer being able to close the door–there’s mutual understanding that  both host and guest need privacy, especially in close quarters like my small house. Plus, I need my quiet yoga room to practice and fortify myself for teaching.

But the way Billy announced it was like, “I’m sleeping here. End of story.”

There went my peace and quiet and privacy. Only it would take three days to fully grasp this. At the time I offered no resistance. I went right along with the new program.

Minutes after establishing his territory, Billy put a bolster under his head and fell asleep in the middle of the room. To his credit, he had no problem sleeping soundly on the hard floor.

When he woke up, I said he couldn’t just keep all his stuff on the floor—Chico or Benji might pee on it. I cleared three  prop shelves  to stash his stuff. And then, out of some deeply ingrained ancient mothering habit, picked his stuff off the floor and put everything neatly on the shelves. I stopped short of picking up the socks he’d thrown in the corner the night before—I pointed to the socks and joked that he’d failed my first “test.”  He right away picked them up, but, a day later, I noticed another pair on the floor—the “training” didn’t stick.

I cleared a towel rack for his towel. I explained it was best not to leave shoes outside at night or one of the black widows living in the cracks of the wall and under the window sills might take up residence. I reminded him that if he stepped outside at night to be sure to wear shoes and to be careful where he sat in the dark.

A little later, we moved the mattress up against the yoga room wall where it would be easy to flip it on the floor.

At this point in the story the weather was still relatively cool and we were both still on our best behavior.

It’s my nightly routine to do yoga and meditate on the sturdy large cement table built into my back patio. It’s big enough to comfortably hold two people lying side by side with arms spread, and one or two dogs. On hot summer nights, I often sleep there half the night, till the house cools off. This was the Friday night before the Summer Solstice and full moon—an auspicious time to my magical way of thinking. My head was full of hope and curiosity to see how things would unfold. Some things felt a  bit awkward, like to suddenly be sharing a bathroom, but I felt at ease enough to invite Billy outside to relax with me on the table and look up at the stars.

It felt comforting to lie beside him  in the crook of his warm arm, my little dog Benjie nestled beside us, Honey snoozing in the cave like space underneath the stone table.  He identified some of the constellations, and soon we could see the coming full moon peeking bright above the black outline of the branches of the nearby trees. After all those months of listening to Billy’s voice on the phone, somehow this felt right—although it still wasn’t clear to me, or to any of my friends who spoke with him, what his plans or motivations were.

To be continued, Part Six 






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

July 4, 2016

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

Where we left off:  After six months of virtual communication, Billy, the musician I’d never met in person, suddenly announced he’d be in Ojai within a week. And sure enough, early Monday morning in the middle of June, a week before the Full Moon and Summer Solstice, he called to say he’d be in Ojai that evening. By that time I’d made it clear, both in writing and over the phone, that he could not stay at my house and that he’d have to be responsible for finding his own accommodations. It still wasn’t clear to me whether he was seeking housing for the summer, possibly with plans to move here, or just coming for a short visit. When he told me that he had a place to stay at one of Ojai’s retreat centers for four days during the week (it was not available on the weekend), I let this slide and didn’t ask, “Where will you stay after that?” I shrugged it off and figured we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.

After teaching my morning yoga class, I put on my domestic goddess apron and went to work cleaning my small abode—I vacuumed all Honey’s dog hairs, no easy task as they kept clogging the promising new Dyson animal vacuum I purchased a few months ago—mopped, scrubbed the toilet, tub, and sink, and threw piles of clutter and paperwork that could easily wait into boxes and stashed everything into the garage. Out of sight. Out of mind. I waltzed over to Rainbow Bridge and bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers to help  make a good first impression, assorted cold drinks, raw vegan “Back to Life” humus, cucumbers, avocados, pixie tangerines, watermelon, coffee,  and a large container of vegetable coconut curry from the deli. I cooked a pot of sprouted organic brown rice, filled up the bird bath, watered the front yard, took a shower, rested in the Goddess Pose, and walked my dogs early in the evening so I’d be free by the time the mystery man arrived.

Three of my closest women friends knew this unknown quantity was coming. They were ready to greet him with one hand on their hip and a pitchfork in the other. “Yes,” one said, “he looks very good on paper. Impressive credentials. Nice public persona. But, until you can smell him in real life, you have no idea what he’s really like.”  Another one said, “Sure, his meditation music is beautiful. That’s why we buy CD’s. You don’t have to get involved with him in order to listen to his music!” 

I assured them I had the situation under control. They recommended I not see him till the next morning and just meet him for coffee, like I would anyone else I’d never met in person before. “You don’t owe him anything, Suza,” one of them said. But, in my mind, having him go straight to his sleeping quarters seemed so unfriendly. I wanted him to feel welcomed. Besides, after six months of virtual communication, I was dying of curiosity.

I didn’t feel the least bit anxious or nervous like I might have been if he had not already told me the story of his life. Plus, the issue of where he would be sleeping that night was settled —so I had no worries about anything awkward, uncomfortable, or inappropriate happening. I basically tried to put myself in the same frame of mind  I would be in if he was an out-of-town yoga student. And he wanted to do yoga so that wasn’t that far-fetched. I felt very much in charge of the situation as he was coming to visit me, on my turf, and, I thought, on my terms.

At 8:30 p.m. my cell phone rang. The screen showed his number so I picked it up. “I’m sitting on your front porch,” announced his familiar booming voice. And sure enough, there he was, as if he’d leaped out of cyberspace and suddenly manifested. My dogs were going nuts, barking like crazy, jumping up against the door. I flung open the entrance to the nunnery, smiled, and welcomed him inside. We gave each other a warm, friendly hug. He was taller and wider than I expected —his presence filled my small, low ceiling yoga room. While he’d metamorphosed a long way from the handsome days of his youth,  by the soft evening light I found his features pleasant. I served him a cold sparkling drink and asked he wanted something to eat—he said he wasn’t hungry yet. So then I did what comes naturally to me. I had him lie down on the floor of my yoga room and showed him how to relax lying back on a yoga bolster. I was thrilled that he willingly took off his shoes and easily sat on the floor in various yoga positions. I saw that he had very flexible legs and hips for a big guy—so the stories he’d told me about doing yoga over the years appeared to be true.

After about twenty minutes of stretching and relaxing together, he fell asleep on the floor—not surprising after driving all day. When he woke up about ten minutes later, I asked if he wanted to have some rice and curry before heading off to the retreat center. This time he said he was hungry—I enjoyed warming up the food, playing hostess,  and serving him. He asked for chop sticks and said the curry was delicious. “This is going great,” I thought to myself.

After he ate, I hinted that it was getting late and time for him to get going. We hugged goodnight and agreed to meet for breakfast. I remember feeling hopeful and happy that this talented, accomplished being had finally come to Ojai to explore our connection in real life.

* * *

The next morning he called to say that he’d be at my house in an hour. Perfect—that gave me time to do yoga and a few morning chores. When he arrived, he wanted to drive to the Cafe Emporium, a 15-minute walk from my house. I was kind of taken aback.  One of the perks of living in the heart of town is leaving the car at home and walking or bicycling everywhere.“No,” I said, “I’m walking. Drive if you like —by the time you park I’ll be there.” That’s when the first conflict and concern reared its head. He explained he had trouble walking . . . of course in my book that’s a sure sign you need to walk more—not less! But, being on his best behavior, he gamely followed me down to the end of the arcade and across the street to the Cafe Emporium. Usually I speed walk but, being also on my best behavior, I politely slowed my stride to a level comfortable for him.

It was very pleasant to be finally sitting face-to-face across the table from the man I’d been virtually communicating with all winter, all spring. Here we were in real life, sipping coffee like normal people, eating a tofu scramble with a side of fruit. Being on his best behavior, he refrained from ordering eggs and bacon. (I used to take for granted that spiritual types are vegetarian but I’ve had to face that for many the definition of “vegetarian” is fuzzy and apparently includes chicken salads, fish, crab, shrimp, and bacon. Some even think that giving up beef loosely qualifies them as “vegetarian.”) I try not to make an issue of eating animals, but, sometimes I tell men that if you want to pour a bucket of cold water on my romantic interest, just order veal or bacon on the menu.

After breakfast we strolled across the street to the Ojai Art Center —he wondered where there might be a good piano he could play, so I suggested that later we’d go over to my parent’s house to the piano my mother has played for decades. We slow walked the back way behind the Art Center over the bridge, into Libbey Park.

That first week Billy was in Ojai, the weather was still cool, adding to the feeling of compatibility between us.  As we wandered under the oaks, I thought to myself, “Well here we are. Two old people meandering through the park, wondering what this is all about—not just our potential relationship but Life in general.”

We sat down on the long cement bench in front of the fountain. I’m used to doing yoga everywhere I go, or at least sitting yoga style. And I always take off my shoes at the first opportunity. So I sat across from Billy —my bare feet near his lap. I thought it was a sweet gesture when he gave me a nice foot massage.

After soaking up the ambience of a cool summer morning in Libbey Park, we slow walked back to my house and relaxed for a few minutes in Legs Up the Wall Pose, just as I normally do throughout the day. In spite of his girth, he seemed to take to yoga like a duck to water. We relaxed together and he reached over and held my hand. I thought to myself, “It’s been five years since a man has held my hand.” It felt like a warm, friendly, affectionate gesture —not prematurely sexual but entirely respectful.

He’d seen photos on Facebook of my students hanging upside down, and over the past months, he’d written, “I can’t wait to be in your torture chamber and hang from the ropes.” Now that moment had come. He asked if he could hang upside down.

“Well,” I said, “I don’t usually hang new students completely upside down. I have them get used to being half way upside down first.” So I had him do Downward Facing Dog Pose. I continued to marvel that a guy as big as him had the strength and flexibility to stay awhile in Dog Pose —I remembered how he often called me on the way to working out at the gym.

To be on the safe side, I questioned him about any medications he was taking, as I do with all my students. I forget at what point I found out he has type II diabetes —a serious health condition that can usually be handled with proper diet. I was somewhat hesitant to hang this big older dude on two medications I was unfamiliar with, completely upside down, but I was so thrilled by his eagerness and willingness to try it that I decided to  seize the moment. “Besides,” the comedienne in me thought, “this will be a good way to test if the eye hooks can withstand 200 plus pounds pulling on the ropes . . .”

I secured my sturdiest yoga strap between the two ropes and proceeded to demonstrate the proper way to safely get in and out of the rope sling. I made sure the length of the sling between the ropes was high enough so that his head would clear the floor . . . I tried to support his weight as he lowered his six foot two frame upside down; at one point, he started to slide his legs outside the ropes, which might have resulted in a concussion. The comedienne in me so wished I’d videotaped the whole scene. After nearly falling out, he hung for several minutes, smiling and making all sorts of happy sounds of relief. I was thrilled by how much he enjoyed it. His face remained a normal color—it didn’t turn beet red and he assured me he felt no unusual pressure in his head. When he said he was ready to come down, I helped him extricate himself safely out of the ropes and he obediently rested in Child’s Pose. Naturally, I was already making plans in my head to put him on a diet and turn his health around.

By then it was noon and I suggested we take my dogs on an outing to my parent’s house. While the dogs played in the yard, he could play my mother’s piano—something I had imagined many times during those six months that we spoke on the phone and communicated virtually. I had rescheduled my Tuesday afternoon private lesson for Wednesday as I thought I should at least clear my schedule his first day in Ojai. On the way to my parent’s house he asked if we could stop at the bank. As I drove, he held Chico, my elder Chihuahua on his lap and massaged his dear little doggie head—scoring more points. (I forgot to mention he was great with the dogs—another hopeful sign.) He proceeded to tell me about his finances —I was pleased to learn he was more financially stable than I thought.

During the months that we communicated on the phone and Facebook, Billy had learned all about my parents, that my dad had been in the ER twice, and that both my parents had at-home hospice care. When I explained early in our virtual relationship that I thought my dad was dying, he’d told me how he helped take care of his mother at the end of her life, and also about other deaths in his family. This all added to the emotional closeness I felt —even from a long distance.

When we arrived at my parent’s house, I found out from my youngest sister, Paula, that my mother had fallen early that morning. Thankfully, no bones were broken but her knee was bruised. My dad is usually in bed most of the day, although he still occasionally sits outside in the morning sun.  My mom normally  sits in her favorite easy chair by the window where she can see the mountains, the birds taking a bath, and the grandchildren and great grandchildren playing in the front yard when they come to visit. Even though she has short term memory loss, occasionally she still plays the piano, and she listens to classical music all day long. But today, due to her fall, her fragile skeletal figure was in bed in a fetal like position, looking barely here. I sat on the bed and said, “Mom, I ‘ve brought you a real concert pianist. He’s going to give a live concert on your piano.”

I pointed to Billy, standing in the doorway. He’d told me he was very good with old people and children—and he was. My mom was too weak to fully take in what I was saying, but when Billy started playing the piano the whole expression on her face changed. She closed her eyes and looked on the verge of rapture. I saw her clasp her hands over her heart and I could see that her consciousness was completely focused on the music spilling forth from the piano. It was unbelievably beautiful. For the first few minutes, I continued to sit on my mom’s bed, just watching the expressions on her face. Her sensitivity and appreciation of Beethoven, Mozart, and other masters is much greater than mine, but hearing the sonatas and symphonies “live,” played with such mastery and skill, I too felt myself swooning. Her piano was only about ten feet away from my mom’s bed so the sound was truly magnificent—like we were in the front row of a great concert hall.


As soon as he finished one piece, even as my mom and I were loudly clapping like kids to express our appreciation, Billy floated seamlessly into the next composition. When I went into the living room to watch him play, it was all I could do not to nuzzle the back of his beautiful neck. But I remembered how in our virtual conversations he’d mentioned many times that women would often hang around the piano while he played and leave him notes and the key to their hotel room and how he didn’t like that. He wanted to be taken seriously. I didn’t want to be put in the same category as those kind of women so, I wisely resisted the urge to nibble his neck. But I did look longingly at his beautiful hands as they drew centuries of music out of the piano . . .


Dear reader, keep in mind that this is just Day One of Billy’s visit to Ojai. I feel the need to describe these moments so you better understand that in spite of all the wise counsel from my friends, all the hours listening to the world’s top 25 relationship experts, all the books and resources listed in the beginning of this story, how it came to pass that as the moon grew fuller and the issue of where he would stay when his time at the retreat center ran out, why I weakened and invited him to stay at my house . . .


To be continued, Part Five




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

July 2, 2016

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 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 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, “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) 

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Link to the book, Attached:

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