Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fell In Love

When my psychologist tried to reach me through my avowed influence Miyamoto Musashi, and suggested that I 'sleep with 70 women' in some kind of romantic homage to his battle with the 70 students of the Yoshioka school, I was admittedly dubious.
But she was identifying something well known about myself - that basically since my sexual awakening, I have been looking for 'the one' and as terrible as the advice to go and sleep with 70 different women sounds, removing the face value she was suggesting that I basically form a discipline to act contrary to my habitual behavior in order to empirically test the most theraputic question of all 'how's that working for you?'
Because the simple answer was, that it wasn't. I had been single for something like 7 years when my psychologist suggested this. I didn't lack sex drive or curiosity (I mean, I wasn't compelled to sleep with whomever I could though, so maybe by some definition I did) nor did I lack a social environment with attractive women in it. I just had a tendency to focus on very few women of the general population. Pulling numbers out of my head in an attempt to describe my reality, lets say I would meet around 3 women a year I found attractive, but only 1 woman every 3 years would I want to pursue, sometimes for 3 years.
My best effort to break this mental habit was the one time I asked out a girl trying to objectively and cognitively look for evidence that someone was kind, brave, beautiful, honest ... a true constellation of human qualities that would make for a good partner and happy relationship. This was the only time I ever felt I tried to 'force' the chemistry. In my previous relationships I had dated women simply because I could and generally I had discovered over time that attachment was lacking for me.
I don't know if our chemistry can be out-thought, I would like to think it can because that's really all a person with a history of abusive relationships can do - think, experiment and hopefully discover that they can fall in love with someone their attachment style does not predispose them to for the better.

In my case it didn't work out. I got rejected. I found the process of motivating myself to court someone really exhausting and I basically gave up on the concept and just hoped for the best. I was trying at the time to escape someone I did naturally feel attracted to but all the evidence suggested it was destroying me mentally.

I did eventually escape that someone, through no efforts of my own. A better description was to say that they finally escaped me by starting their own relationship, at which point my instinct is to exit the picture to avoid all temptation to undermine someone else's relationship. In being altruistic I was most generous to myself.

To grieve privately though, a relationship that never really existed is incredibly painful because the grief and sense of loss is real but a community does not tend to acknowledge the heartbreak that can arise from somebody you've never dated. I feel sad as I write about this, but curiously I cannot recall why I was attracted to the person in question, in hindsight the miss match is obvious and while I feel for the predicament of my past self I feel no nostalgia for the prolonged and abortive courtship. I hope it means I have healed whatever wound had me pursue that pain.

I unfortunately next fell in love with someone equally unavailable, but only in the ultimate sense. I realised I loved this long standing friend when she divulged to me she was breaking up with her partner. It sent me into a wonderful panic.

But here is the thing, the kind of women I'm attracted enough to pursue, I'm attracted to because I can conceive of being happy for the long term with them. I have the patience to wait for the real deal. And I certainly had the patience to wait for this friend to go through the necessary grieving of ending a long term relationship. I also possess a strong sense of self, despite my fixation on finding 'the one' I do demand of myself some degree of self respect. Put simply, I need my prospective partners to demonstrate the capacity to be alone. I need them to take a risk on me, which isn't to say that they need to ask me out, the simply need to be put in a position where if I don't pursue them, they don't have an on hand backup plan.

This friend never was able to relinquish the role of being primary caretaker of their former partner. Nor was their any evidence they had stepped out of the role of being girlfriend in all but an official capacity. Eventually, the resumed the relationship officially.

There was a take away from this though, after spending a relatively short 6 months (for me) investing time and energy into this person I love, and that was this 'wanting somebody to change for you is at the direct expense of the person who doesn't need to change to be that person.' That's a bit wordy, and less than succinct but imagine if you were in love with Johnny but wished he would stop lying, putting time and energy into hoping that Johnny would become honest is at the expense of Bobby, who is honest and doesn't need to change at all and may love you too. You are making him wait and yourself by sitting around wishing that Johnny would somehow become Bobby.

Enter Yolanda. I noticed her immediately of course. She showed up at my work one day and her personal style screamed out new-age hippy. So I dismissed her off hand. I more or less make snap judgements like this about everyone. Still there was something about Yolanda that was undeniable, she had this bemused look and refreshingly for me, was engaging. Perhaps the single most attractive quality a human being can have.

We were employed by the same employer but we didn't work the same job. So what was incredibly rare about Yolanda, was that she was willing to engage people that weren't on the foreign language team. She crossed cliques. She would come and sit in the break room at work and complain out loud that everyone on break was just looking at their phones. Entirely through her own efforts I would talk to her, and she was delightful and easy to make laugh.

Yet, I wouldn't say I was attracted to her. I only know I noticed her because I can recall her, and our early interactions. The first to notice I liked her was my colleague Giulia, who has an almost Asperger's like ability to call out what she is thinking with no filter, a quality rare in women and even in Asperger's syndrome bearers over the age of 30.

But I was blocking the doorway while talking to Yolanda about having a nice clipboard. And Giulia said I would rather talk to a pretty girl than consider everyone else trying to leave. This struck me dumb, but I just felt it was one more piece of testimonial evidence that I am often a flirt without consciously knowing it.

And that was it really, because I was mostly preoccupied with the pain that my best prospect for finding lasting happiness in a relationship had decided their former partner was better than the wider world of possibilities that included me. That pain eventually resulted in my being ostracized, cut off. It happened some time just before my birthday, almost 3 years ago.

And so it was that my 31st birthday came and went. It was no exception to my ostracism, and I found most of my cognition dedicated to making excuses for this person I loved to not have remembered my birthday, good reasons for them not to care about me while still allowing them somehow, through my mental efforts to care about me despite the evidence that I'd lost out completely.

There is a point where most people who know me, are officially too late to wish me happy birthday, and that is after Bryce sends me birthday greetings. One of my oldest and most precious friends who is nevertheless reliably, but reliably none the less late to wish me happy birthday.

And so I was literally brooding about how I could no longer make excuses and that if someone had not wished me happy birthday by the time Bryce had then I had to face the fact that they just didn't care when my thoughts were interrupted by 'Happy birthday by the way.'

Which is when I noticed I was in the break room and Yolanda was there, and it hit me like a freight train that Yolanda was the person who I was wishing other women could turn into. It was at her expense that I was brooding.

There are some mysteries in life that I quite aggressively want to remain a mystery and how Yolanda knew it was my birthday is one of them. It was later determined that she didn't know my star sign, and the simplest explanation is that she overheard some colleagues talking about my birthday or perhaps saw someone wish me a belated birthday. But I prefer the mystery.

Frustratingly, having determined that I need to ask this Yolanda out, on a date or even to take a break together, she disappeared from my workplace. I didn't see her anymore, and I had no idea what her name is. In a moment of weakness I asked a supervisor friend to do my dirty work for me, and divulge her last name to me. The moment I did I felt wracked with guilt, my friend saw no problem and gave me the name so I could find her on facebook.

Through which Yolanda accepted me as a friend, and I saw she was performing at a gig. This I knew, and gig's are generally a nice quiet venue where by showing up you can get quality one-on-one time with a person and they really appreciate it. So I went to the gig and instead of being the typical quiet weeknight venue with punters sitting around a band room drinking some beers and quietly paying attention to the performers. I stumbled into what was a huge family picnic day type event except in the evening and attended by the entire Spanish speaking population of Melbourne. I was a very solitary white guy who unlike everyone else had absolutely no connections in the room.

It was the most self conscious I've probably ever felt, and all my instincts screamed out 'LEAVE' but instead I found a plastic cup that I could fill with water and a pole to lean against and I locked my feet up determined to wait it out. Yolanda walked straight passed me and I watched her look at me from the corner of her eye and immediately look straight ahead. I realized I had grossly miscalculated.

And so I laughed at myself, and resolved to simply be a spectator of a show I had paid to see. I was incredibly moved by the music and got to sit through the two sets. Yolanda has an amazing voice, especially for somebody her size. She is incredibly small, something that is easy to forget because her presence for me at least tends to dominate a room.

After the two sets I got to talk to her, to which she exclaimed 'what are you doing here?' and 'You stayed for both sets!' both with incredulity. Her friends and community were incredibly warm and welcoming people. But our brief exchanges had me learn that she was studying spiritual science (anthroposophy) a fact that required reconciliation with my world view, and so I texted my sister and 'she studies spiritual science' to which my sister replied 'you're a match made in heaven! scientifically speaking...' which I feel is one of her best calls.

I walked away from that gig alone, but excited, hyper-active even. I was so full of adrenaline I put Faith No More's 'Motherfucker' on my phone and rode home with more energy than I'd had all day.

The next day I asked her to come with me to the next gig of my favorite band. This fb message was ignored. Perplexed, I found a reason, she'd been in Nepal for the gig.. but not sure if I should risk the harassment of a second ask I ran it by my friend Shona in one of my favorite phone conversations of all time.

I explained the situation and read out the message I'd sent asking her to the Canary gig, Shona concurred that it just sounded like a music enthusiast asking a musician to check out some music. I asked her what I should say to ask her out on a date, given that my only available communication channel was facebook. Shona told me the perfect thing to say. I said 'that's perfect! now what did you just say?' and I got her to dictate to me how to ask her out in a manner that was clear and not creepy.

A week passed and facebook told me she hadn't seen the message. Shona was optimistic. She said it was a good sign, it meant that she would have got an email about the message and she wasn't going to open it on facebook until she was ready for the date.

Then a few days later, the message clicked over to 'seen' and I was ushered into the new world of social media sexual politics by Yolanda.

And so I did the only thing a person not wanting to harass a woman they like can do. I gave up.

6 months passed, and then one day I got a bog-standard invitation to Yolanda's farewell party, on the same night as I had another friends birthday party on the other side of town and I was dogsitting a very high maintenance dog. I resolved that I had to go. First to my friends birthday party, then to Yoli's farewell, as was right and just. I was just too curious.

From there I pulled up my bicycle and locked it to a pole in a very dark street somewhere in Essendon or Moonee Ponds or something but a side of town I rarely visit and a place I'd never been before. I had no idea whether my invitation had been an oversight, and I am aware that from a different perspective having a man who had expressed romantic interest that was not reciprocated turn up at your house is an objectively terrifying prospect for a woman. I know statistically the danger suggested by this situation and I was very self conscious of how potentially unwelcome I could be. I walked up to the front door of the house, my face burning with embarassment and my feet moved by a self-aware determination that at the very least this would make for a great anecdote.

Unfortunately when I arrived the entire party was crammed into the living room, right on the other side of the front door watching video performances of Yolanda's group. I had to step into a space directly next to the TV interrupting absolutely everyone as I entered. I stood there for 5-10 minutes asking myself what I was doing and if I could do this. I just knew it would be more embarassing to chicken out and walk away. So I picked the closest moment to a pause in action to enter the door.

As I was saying 'no habla espaniol' Yolanda from the back of the room cried out 'Welcome!' and my mind plummeted into confusion. I could do nothing but find a place to sit and watch like everyone else. Easy enough to do. Then the video ended and the party broke up into various rooms. Here I became extremely self conscious, it was just like the family-picnic gig except that now there wasn't even a gig to focus my attention on. I was simply standing in her kitchen. Yolanda's friends were and are incredibly caring people. One of them told me I looked really serious and offered me a joint.

This highlights another problem I have in terms of meeting women. I don't do any drugs, whether they be illicit or legal, unless a hospital emergency ward administers them to me. This includes caffeine and alcohol, so at a party I am generally blind stinking sober. For quite some time in my sbriety, I felt that I was more or less screwed romantically by this choice, as I consider it poor form to hook up with someone who is much much drunker than you, particularly when you are completely sober - this I believe is called 'taking advantage' and at any given party dependent on my arrival time I have somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes before someone is too drunk for me to hit on.

It's an aside but what I have learned since though is that I can be confident a woman is interested in me if after finding out I don't do any drugs period, they start talking aloud about how they need to quit, especially sugar, caffeine etc. This is the subconscious process of mapping where a person tries to figure out how to map their life onto the person's they are interested in.

But Yoli eventually spoke to me that night, and I could do nothing but stare at her as we talked briefly wondering what the hell was going on with this girl and why she ignored my message yet was so engaged in our conversation now like it had never happened.

Then she was dragged away to perform. And I simply sat in in the living room listening to her sing to nothing but guitar accompaniment, and that the clock was ticking and I had a high maintenance dog at home that I needed to return to. I was going to have to Cinderella out of there. It was extremely hard, I just wanted to listen to one more song. Knowing that she was getting on a plane the next morning and that was it.

For the second time in 6 months I was just extremely angry with myself that I wasn't who I needed to be to get a woman's attention. I sat there listening to this beautiful music and all I could articulate was 'damn'. Then I had to go. Just accept the failure.

I wrote her the next morning to tell her that she reminded me of the strongest person I know (my ex girlfriend Misaki) and that I'm sure she was going to be fine returning to Spain. It seemed like a nice thing to do that I would appreciate in the reverse.

Perplexingly this was the message she finally chose to reply to, and we had a brief exchange which resulted in her asking me to draw a picture for her, which I offered to send to Spain.

And that was it. Exit Yolanda. My last attempt to find and secure a relationship with 'the one'. I had to come back to that therapeutic question of honestly assessing 'how is it working for you?' from there on, I was resolved to find a new approach to meeting and falling in love with people. The world of women I naturally fall in love with is just too small.

It is hard to imagine though, what it is you are not doing. So I decided it was simply a matter of faith. If I lead the kind of life I wanted, I would meet the kind of people I wanted to be with and they would want to be with me.

That was the theory anyway, but I can't testify as to it working yet. What really changed was taking stock of what I didn't have. I woke up one day and realized that I had no financial obligations, no relationship obligations and no tennancy obligations. I could pack up and leave.

It was the time in my life where I could be completely irresponsible, quit my job and go off to Italy to live in my city, the only city outside of Melbourne I have ever truly loved.

The moment I made this decision, much changed for me. I was no longer interested in 'the one' as suddenly, forming a long term relationship would be a real spanner in the works for my dreams of that city. It was a dream I didn't want to share with anybody.

But suddenly my eyes were open to casual relationships and hook ups with women I was not particularly interested in. Particularly women that I had no long term prospects with, or was not romantically interested in but physically attracted to, and in one case I was happy to oblige someone I wasn't physically attracted to either.

Thus began and quickly ended my experiments with casual sex, something I'd never done before. My brain is too geard towards pattern recognition to recognize that having multiple novel sexual partners was insufficient to make my friends that did so happy. There was significant evidence that it did the opposite. For myself I have had sex without attachment twice, and found them both to be ultimately hollow experiences that I can happily forego for the rest of my life.

None the less, I enjoyed my new open mindedness to short term relationships. I was looking forward to Italy and maybe having a summer fling with a belladonna.

I cannot describe to you how otherworldy living in Italy was to me. Beautiful women were simply everywhere once I learned to venture out of the historic center populated by much less attractive tourists. Where the Italians live and play, one only had to wait minutes if not seconds to see the most beautiful woman you have ever seen.

I developed crushes, particularly retail crushes, but I was also living in the kind of town where if you saw a person you liked enough to notice one day, you would inevitably see them again a few days later. It was much like my hometown Ballarat in that regard, where the thoroughfares were shared.

I was finally at peace with the Good life, I left the confines of that city far less than I expected. I was at the halfway point of my time there before I took my first train down the coast to catch up with my brother and his partner and my nephew. I had expected to become bored of the city I was in before that. Instead I resented having to leave it, even for a day.

I took a trip to Sicily with my sister that will always be a cherished memory we share. She was also the only person I got to share my city with and one of the only people I'm willing to.

I decided though, to get out of town and revisit Barcelona, mostly because the last time I'd been there I'd had kidney stones that prevented me from seeing much of the city, but also because there was Yolanda.

Although I'd been on a few dates, I hadn't actually hooked up with anybody in Italy. I had only just gotten enough of a social life to start meeting the kind of women I could be interested in. But I had a theory.

Yolanda had only started to communicate with me after she left Australia. I was sure I wasn't so deluded in thinking she liked me that I had completely misfired by asking her out. So to reconcile the two facts, I felt that Yolanda was simply not interested in a committed relationship. Therefore it was possible that if I saw her during a brief visit, she might be up for some fun given no threat of a relationship to follow.

I reached out to see if she was around, and she invited me to a catch up. We managed somehow to coordinate a time and day, and on my trip to Spain I managed to get to her town.

She says I was almost unbearably stressed when I arrived. Completely insensitive as to how her own ambiguous behavior might have contributed to my stress.

It is hard for me to talk about that day, because it is so precious to me. I decided it was ours, and that I wasn't going to share it with anyone else. Just that while I had come thinking I was on the same page as her finally, interested in casual relationships and not serious ones, I discovered I was way off the mark.

At some point sitting in her room listening to her talk, I realized with some frustration that this was the woman I would marry. It sounds crazy, and later I would take to refer to her as my 'imaginary wife' but in my first hand experience, I felt I was understanding what old timers say when they say 'when you know you know'.

It was like this one person had swept all the belladonnas of Italy off the face of the earth absent mindedly. In a panic I returned to Italy feeling both incredibly great and incredibly worried that I basically had lost my ability to see all the characters of my Italian adoptive home as I had wanted to portray them in an exhibition prior to leaving for Spain. I felt deep within myself that I had met my wife, in what that means to me, yet couldn't perceive how it would work.

Thus I tried my hardest to force myself back into the headspace of someone who wasn't interested in settling down. The person very happy with single life. I just couldn't do it, despite the best efforts of the beautiful women of Italy.

I wasn't sure what had happened to me or my life, eventually I found a video by Zizek who I generally find interesting but vacuous, but on this point he managed to describe exactly what had happened to me

So I returned to my home town, both full and empty. A piece of knowledge that this person I'd been looking for existed and no idea how to be with her.

here's what I will divulge about our day together. I knew what she was to me, I had no idea if this day, this afternoon even was all I would ever get. Consider that the love of your life is on his/her deathbed, what would you give to have one last day with her? Four more hours even?

This was salient for me. My dog had been put down the prior year (one of the things that left me responsibility free to leave for Italy) and I knew how much the efforts of the vet to let me walk her one more time in a park meant to me. The knowledge that I got just one more walk with her.

It meant everything. And as I walked behind Yolanda, it was very salient - 'Okay, this is her. Who you've been looking for exists, and this might be it so make the most of it. No regrets, just enjoy her company for this afternoon.'

She would later tell me that when we said goodbye, my hug was really intense. I feel she understands that of the two of us, I understood what was at stake. That it might be our last embrace. That afternoon may have been our whole relationship.

The question as to whether all the relationships I'd foregone, the dead ends I'd pursued, the time and money spent to get to that one day in Gelida was worth it, is laughable to me. You cannot possibly underestimate the value of the knowledge that someone like that, for you, exists.

People who manage to climb Everest get to sit on top of the world for a couple of minutes if they are lucky. Take a photograph maybe. Then they have to make the life-threatening descent. It's completely logical. If you are truly present, a moment is a life time.

Upon returning to Australia, I followed my intuition and decided to write Yolanda a love letter. Surprisingly, nothing I've ever done has attracted more voyeuristic interest than this exercise. People I would have assumed would have told me it was a stupid idea wanted to hear daily updates. With some advice from my dear friend Q, I eventually managed to write the kind of letter I felt reflected me. I wrote it and sent it. It took me 2 months of daily efforts, something like 48 drafts.

I sent it and almost on the day she recieved it she contacted me and told me about it. And that was it.

Then my birthday rolled by, and just as at the beginning, she remembered. It was the only birthday wish I cared about, but when I received it, I was struck by just how much that meant to me.

Currently, in part this blog post is procrastination from a process I have been through 9 times. That process is writing personalized invitations to people for my exhibition. I have at least 70 more to write, and I have already written 80. It's an exhausting, draining process that sends me into the depths of depression. Part of what makes it so hard is the asymmetrical relationship I am forced to accept. Of the 80 invitations I have written, 30 people have accepted the invitation and committed themselves, at least nominally to going to my exhibition. Even so, only about 50% have responded in any manner at all.

I am asking people to do me a favor, so I don't believe anybody can create an obligation on the part of another by reaching out to them for help. What i am aware of is that I generally run a large 'caring' deficit in terms of the thought I allocate to my friends versus what I receive back from them. For the most part, my inner circle more than compensates for the negligence of others, and this is more or less how life works - some people do the work of many and most people are passengers in one context or another through their lives.

Thus, it seems like the most simple and insignificant thing, to wish somebody happy birthday. And many people do, even without the assistance of facebook reminders. But Yoli wrote 'happy birthday dear' something not even my favorite ex Misaki has managed for 10 years.

It is hard to describe what literally happens and at the same time not want to paint myself, or accept that I am a tragic figure. At any rate, through her simple action Yolanda relieved the tragedy. It was the best birthday I'd had in a decade, because the woman I love had acknowledged it. Turns out, that is a big deal to me.

Yolanda was slow to acknowledge her attraction or even love of me. I knew you she did, when she spent her New Years Eve on the phone talking to me, had dressed up for me, in a room alone. I know who you spend your New Years with.

Weekly conversations turned to daily, soon I was being carried through the streets of Spain as my Yoli walked to work or ate her lunch. I would wake up to her and go to sleep with her. Somehow in a long distance relationship I'd always been skeptical of. This lasted 4 months, until Yolanda gave up.

Contrary to what you might expect at a time like this, I can only testify that long distance relationships are easy. Particularly if the relationship commences as one, but I've enjoyed talking to Yolanda on a daily basis more than any other aspect of my life of the last 10 years. Perhaps because distance strips a relationship bare of all but what couples spend the most time doing together - conversing, it allows you to focus on the most essential part.

What is hard to the point of impossible to have a relationship with, is anxiety. Self-defeating anxiety. Allow it into a relationship and in my experience, physical distance plays no role in appeasing it's destructive urge to take control of what you fear to lose.

So this is a sad post, maybe, about precisely what it is I live for. And I got it, enjoyed it, had it and am grateful. Getting dumped changes no facts, simply leaves me with a bunch of emotions that for what its worth, I shall honor by experiencing them. I plan to channel it into my forthcoming exhibition to, in my experience enhance the works themselves with the authenticity with which I feel my subject matter, and seize a pretext to re-enter psychotherapy to process my grief.

While daunting to think that statistics suggest I have another 10 years to wait for my next relationship, I nevertheless have faith in my intuition that Yolanda is the one. I'm left with the same mystery as to what this intuition means as when I left Spain and Italy and returned to Australia. The deep sense of knowing she is the one, with a complete lack of understanding as to how that can be, compounded by her desire not to participate in the relationship anymore - which of course means I can't also.

Thus I have nothing to do but live my life as I would live it. With a complete disinterest to the romantic pursuits for now. Until such a time as my feeling is either validated by some reconciliation with Yolanda, or by some heretofore inconceivable person that may prove to evoke an even stronger sense that they are the one. Given that I was completely blindsided by how quickly and deeply I fell in love with Yolanda that afternoon, I have to allow the possibility that even stronger versions of the experience may exist. But that means it may take 20 years to discover somebody able to evoke such feelings in me.

Good thing I wasn't planning on dying anytime soon.

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