Renewal Fifty : The Guard Dogs Got Old

Today was the last lecture of the spring semester. Saturday begins finals and by Friday of next week, I’ll be finished. That may be an unfortunate word, as I’ve contributed my two-cents worth to a resolution that the Academic Senate will vote for or against on Monday about whether to send it to the Board of Trustees. The resolution concerns administrative policy and the appearance of punitive actions against selected faculty. My vote is that it would be nice to work in an atmosphere of inclusion and openness instead of this adversity.

Just yesterday, a faculty member who doesn’t have tenure backed down from an issue that I was asked to take to the Senate because he was worried about stirring up a hornet’s nest. I think he was right on both counts, the hornet’s nest and backing down. The policy was weird and illogical, but not so crucial that it was worth risking a career over.

Such are the decisions that are made everyday across the nation in much more than the academic venue. It just seems as though the hallowed halls of learning that are supposed to be academia would set a better example.

On the other hand, as exemplified by me, learning can be a painfully slow process.

I have been giving considerable thought to this week’s encounter with my second love. I think that I’ve learned something a little differently and a little more deeply than I previously knew.

Her actions and my reactions were fascinating to me (not that I was just doing reactions or she was just doing actions). It dawned on me that part of my illusion in dealing with the three loves in my life centered around me misinterpreting their intent. That may sound like one for the duh file, but their lack of introspective awareness in knowing the difference between what they were thinking at the time and what was actually real was misleading to both of us, as were my misinterpretations about their respective intent.

At 16, when I first went out with who would eventually be my first love, she did an amazing thing to me, she sat just to the right of me in the car and put her left arm over my shoulders while I was driving.

I remember it very clearly. I remember where we were at the time, on what street, headed in which direction. I remember that my entire body reacted–sort of melting.

At that young point in my life, I had never experienced such a thing. Oh, I had been involved in some adolescent petting, but it was never personal. It just seemed like everybody involved was handy and hormones and proximity were the driving force, not true intimacy–there was a very clear detachment about it all.

But with her, it seemed like official intimacy. I had asked her out and she had agreed. I had procured my father’s car and off we went. And she just slid over and put her arm around me. That alone did me in and I somehow interpreted it as more than it was.

I’ll bet most anything that she wouldn’t even remember the incident, and if she did, it would only be because of my reaction. Her action was just something she did. To me, I had been genuinely, intimately touched for the first time in my life. This is not to say that she was just handing out affection, but it is to say that she grew up in a different household than I did. To her, affection was something that she was used to, to me, it was foreign (in our house, people did not get into other people’s space). And, to her, if she liked you enough to go on a date–well that meant affection.

Months later when we finally (to me) had sex, I was really a basket case. That event felt like the ultimate intimacy and the ultimate responsibility. And so it has been for me ever since. In an intimate relationship, sex and affection were a very serious undertaking. In fact, I wound up with her because I felt so responsible for and to her.

I’ll never forget the first time I had sex with my second love. That was something that also touched me deeply and provoked a lot of emotions. She had a different perspective, one I later considered a means-end approach. If she fancied someone, she knew how to get their attention. The fallout was just something that could be dealt with another time. One cannot become influential if one cannot get inside, seemed to be her approach.

I was a grown man at the time, not the 16-year old I was the first time. I was not naive, but apparently I had the same heart–I was responsible. A woman had given herself to me and that could not be taken lightly.

I was way overboard in this pattern, but had not even considered that the problem may be my taking intimacy way too seriously when it was not necessarily given that way.

When she and I got together it was very rocky after the initial magic, which had nothing to do with sex, even if it had to do with chemistry. We finally found our way I thought, and we seemed to be touched by each other. However, in the case of both of these two loves, I never got the feeling, despite what they claimed, that they were intertwined with me. I felt touched, then could not reconcile that it did not seem mutual, except on occasion.

Such was not the case with my recent love. When that woman finally let go, she seemed as deeply touched as I was, and that connective link was beyond anything I’d known. But as her behavior proved, she was extremely conflicted and had a tendency to act very much contrary to what she espoused. Perhaps she could not stand the level of intimacy, but she certainly didn’t act like she apparently felt. Maybe it was just fear of success, or the inability to release what was most familiar–dissatisfaction.

This was all somewhat of a mystery to me until it kind of gelled this week. Recently, my second love had once again professed to love me and she seemed sincere. But for the first time I realized that our definitions did not match. I lacked the ability to see what these three women were really saying. I had such an enormous hole in my energy being, I stampeded toward what I considered the sacred in our love and assumed we were on common ground when, in fact, we did not have the same interpretations.

This path since my former lover and I went our separate ways and since my mother’s passing has not been easy. I keep finding this 54-year-old fool at every turn. I kind of like the guy, but it’s hard to believe that this knucklehead can’t be a little more fluid and a little less serious about this relationship stuff, at least when it is not mutual. I will have to learn to not misfile thoughts and feelings and to recognize that my emotional interpretations are not necessarily emotional facts. Then, I may be open to the woman who finds it all as profound as I do and who knows herself. In that place there is no confusion and plenty of room to play. The disconnect will have been removed and the sacred will reign. And when that time occurs, there is plenty of space to be fluid and to laugh and to dance and to be light. The guard dogs can retire, two who are one can laugh at each other, can laugh with each other, and can rest easy that illusion is the playing field and not the residence of their love.

Well, it all sounds good. And it feels good. I wonder how I’ll fare when it comes time for me to step over that threshold into such true intimacy?

I’m guessing I’ll have a bit more empathy with those three loves of mine.

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