Category Archives: loving

Love and friendship

Last night I had to tell someone who was clearly falling in love with me that I was interested in being his friend, but didn’t think it was going to develop into anything more. And he, obviously hurt, replied that he was fed up of being just a friend to women…

He didn’t ask me, but it made me think, what is it that makes that difference for me?

In my quest to find myself the sort of relationship I am looking for, I’m doing my best trying to look beyond the intoxication of romantic love and/or purely sexual attraction. I’m trying to find a person that I could feel happy, on a long term basis, spending lots of time with, relying on, growing with.

So, setting aside hormones as far as possible, what is it that separates a perfectly nice, kind person that I want to be a friend with, from someone that I feel I might fall in love with?

It’s difficult to comment on someone’s personal characteristics and why they somehow “weren’t good enough” without sounding mean and judgemental. Which would be unfair, because he’s a great guy in so many ways, and he certainly gave me cause to seriously consider whether it might develop into something more. I really valued his ability to be honest and was touched by his willingness to expose his vulnerable sides. I enjoyed spending time with him – and particularly liked the poems he sent me!

And yet it was sadly clear to me that it was only nearly right, and that this wasn’t enough. I want to understand, as far as it’s possible to understand such things, why this was.

So although it may sound negative, I want to be honest about what I actually was thinking and feeling – in order to understand the implications of what I’m looking for. To understand which of the things I’m looking for are helpful, which are hindering me from finding a person that I love, and which are completely irrational. And of course, which of all of these is in my power to change and which isn’t!

I don’t think the stereotypical things matter much to me – like conspicuous wealth, cars and other possessions, macho traits such as arrogance or pushiness, or indeed overprotectiveness. I don’t think I fall into the “women like bastards and walk past the nice men” trap. And I’m pretty flexible about what I find attractive… I don’t demand immediate chemistry as I believe it can develop gradually and be the stronger for that.

I think there’s a pheromonal component – I’m certainly not saying he had BO, but the smell of him just wasn’t attractive to me. It seems a trivial thing… and yet bodies are very powerful in these areas!

There’s something about being met as an equal. Which is partly about being neither protected nor put on a pedestal. And partly about feeling an intellectual rapport. Someone who challenges me, makes me think in new ways. Which is odd because he was very clever, and well read, and interesting… and yet somehow I didn’t feel we connected – or rather, not consistently. There wasn’t a feeling of banter, of someone responding to my humour and moods as I responded to theirs. I can’t explain it any more precisely than that. (I think also he probably let himself down by talking about the things he didn’t do well more often than the things he did do well.)

And even harder to define is something that I find core to attractiveness… on a simple level it’s about confidence. It’s also about a seriousness of intent, of desire. A charisma. Which I didn’t feel from him – which seems utterly unfair because there were definitely ways in which he was pursuing his dreams. And yet if I am honest, that is what I felt. Was it that I didn’t give him a chance to shine? I tried to leave space… but I didn’t feel he came to fill it.

Perhaps above all, while it was clear he wanted a relationship, I had a strange feeling that it wasn’t about me. As if what was looking for was his ideal of a person, and somehow this got in the way of his seeing the person I was. And in a way this was confirmed last night – when I told him that I didn’t think we were likely to go beyond friendship, he fell silent, and I don’t expect he’ll contact me again (of course I could be completely wronging him here – time will tell!). Of course that needs no other explanation than hurt, and disappointment… but I can’t help feeling that he wanted to have a romantic relationship with someone much more than he wanted to get to know me, to get closer to me, as a person.

(Do I do this? So easy a trap to fall into when you’re meeting people with the intention of finding out whether they are potential partners. And yet, when I came to the conclusion that things weren’t going to work out for us romantically, I was saddened, but didn’t lose interest in him as a person that I wanted to get to know.)

I’ve come up with a number of answers but I don’t know which is the correct one… I think perhaps it’s a combination of them all. If more things had been right, I like to think I would have easily been able to overcome the other things. But nothing was quite right enough… leaving him, as well as me, in that sad space of “nearly”.

It’s easy to analyse these things to death… when maybe it’s just as simple and unarguable as pheromones.

And yet it’s fascinating to try and unravel the complexities of attraction…. and in the process, learn more about myself, and about humankind.

My approach to looking for a relationship is simply this – to try to increase the number of new people that I meet and get to know. Like buying as many lucky dip tickets as I can! And welcoming new people into my life is giving me new perspectives on myself and others, and introducing me to activities I’d never have tried otherwise.

And so, even if I never find the relationship I’m looking for, the search in itself is a fascinating journey.

Advertisements

Hope

head heavy on the soft void of my pillows
I think about hope, as my tired mind
tries to construct pleasant futures
out of the broken fragments of old dreams

yet staring me in the face, (interrupting dreams
with all the subtlety of an alarm clock’s frantic buzz)
is the knowledge that hopes, thwarted, bring pain
my eyes (still gritty from last night’s weeping)
squeeze shut again, looking for sweeter dreams

yet the sweeter the dream, the harder the waking
into a world that knows nothing of my dreams
why hope? why search? when finding nothing hurts so
and yet what point is living without searching or hoping?

with a sigh, I throw back the covers
stand up, begin to face the day

perhaps hope
is not dreaming
but simply taking one step
after another

my heart’s song

I sing the pain
of the heart that yearns
not,
(as endless poets have pleaded)
to be the object of love
but rather to be its subject
the heart that is trying to remember
how to love
how to lose itself in the depths of another’s eyes

I sing of the guilt
of the heart that feels
it is somehow culpable
for not being a beholder of beauty
for not finding, in this infinite world
even one person before whom
it bows down in exultation

I sing of the searching
as much within as without
to match my soul to another’s
wondering if it is some sickness,
some lack, in me
that stops me finding what I seek
not a heart of gold waiting to be brought to light
but a cunning tooth biting in too strict a test

(I sing… yet how can I sing?
for my voice, too, is searching in silence
where the cries of the soul are drowned
by the voices of critics debating
how that pain should be voiced
when each life-giving gulp of air is poisoned
by instructions on how to breathe)

I sing of the loneliness
of a heart that refuses to be deceived
by the flattering haze of romance
of a heart that knows what it wants
and will not settle for less
that cannot look away from the truth
that what it seeks is not here, not now

the heart that suffers
wondering
if what it seeks
will ever
be found

Survivor instinct

I’ve come across some people who have what I call the survivor instinct. People who, when things start looking bad, will throw everyone around them to the wolves to protect themselves.

I’m not saying I could never do that. I’ve never been to the last pitch of desperation and it would be arrogant to predict how I’d behave when I was there. But I’ve certainly seen people respond to a threat with what seems to me a disproportionate selfishness. And I know that, in similar circumstances, I would have had continued to stay open, to value the needs of others as much as my own. I’ve never had to develop this survivor instinct. And I like that about myself, but it’s also a vulnerability.

Of course I have learnt to protect myself from people who are always selfish. But the people I’m vulnerable to are the survivors who seem perfectly compassionate and generous on the outside. For whom it’s only when the chips are down that this harsh streak suddenly takes over. I’ve seen this in two people– my ex, and my singing teacher – both people who seemed extremely compassionate, caring and altruistic, on the surface. (I wonder to what extent this particularly active altruism is in some way a compensation for what lies below.)

By a coincidence I’ve only just recognised, they both showed me this side in the space of a fortnight. Unsurprisingly, it was probably the most painful and difficult fortnight of my life – and even now, a year later, I find myself still learning lessons from dealing with the after-effects.

I’ve never had to defend myself by attacking – so I was completely unprepared when these people I trusted and admired turned on me. I couldn’t understand why they suddenly behaved that way, and took it far too personally. It didn’t occur to me, at the time, that this was part of a defence mechanism, something driven by their feeling of being threatened rather than anything I’d done.

I’m proud that I coped with that without hardening my own heart. I learnt to give myself a less damaging sort of protection – one that recognised just how little the way people relate to me can have to how I have behaved. One founded on knowing myself better. Quietly, but firmly – in a way that doesn’t need to impose that knowledge on others.

And now that I am aware of this survivor pattern, I think I’d find it far easier to recognise when people get into this mode – and protect myself straight away rather than having to come back and patch up the damage caused by taking these harsh words to heart.

From talking to my singing teacher, and from what I know of my ex, it seems to me that some people, during childhood, find themselves under such soul-destroying pressure that they have to protect themselves, at all costs. And once they’ve done this once, it becomes so much easier to do it again, even when the threat isn’t as great. Or maybe once you’ve been so deeply threatened, anything that threatens you even slightly feels just as dangerous as that childhood trauma – so you react the same way, even if the threat isn’t actually that great.

I was lucky. I never needed to defend myself that way. And I hope I never will. But my heart is full of compassion for those who have.

Against the night

strong against the night, the lights shining
red on the dark river, a bridge spanning
bright through the cloud drift, Venus glinting
slow down old alleys, our steps straying
outfacing old hurts, my heart hoping

 

The photo is Thames River panorama at night, London, originally uploaded by David Bukach.

impossible bridge

like a roman arch
the bridge of a conversation
stands through the stones’ trusting alignment
and the solid support
of both sides.

When it stands solid
it’s child’s play to run from one side to the other
lean on the balustrade, hand in hand
and watch the world flow by.

but then one day you started kicking away
the foundation of your side of the bridge
testing each word to destruction
analysing motivations
with a chiselling eye
I lurched and fell,
mortar dissolved
in bitter tears
you kicked harder
until the keystone
crumbled

and now the words of our conversations
are not a solid arc of flowing words
but stones thrown across a river
in the dark

so I sit lonely
among dust and stone and half-words
piling one stone on another
trying to build an impossible bridge
with only one pillar to support 
the half-span reaching out into empty air

in my attempts to reach you
sometimes a brick falls on you
and you throw it back, harder

so now I find myself
just sitting alone
in a futile rubble
of words you will not hear
learning bitter lessons
in engineering.

The photo is ruin, originally uploaded to flickr by annette62.

Ochre afternoon

Ochre afternoon sifts as dry as daydreams
Dim horizon lies brittle-hard as bone
Just shadows play – just echoes laugh and scream
Who hears my aching heart singing alone?

Hoop and hopscotch memories are all washed out
Bleached arcades will not echo to my voice
Tears of ripped up rainbows fail in the drought
My soul weeps quietly at the end of choice

Ghosts have no shadows by night or day
Yet creepier far than the midnight hour
Are these sad streets where only shadows play
A childhood shorn of youth’s maturing flower

No living warms these streets we used to know
Just empty dreams that faded long ago.

Thanks to Christine for sharing the image above , “Melancholy and Mystery of a Street,” by De Chirico, which triggered this poem – this is all part of a read write poem prompt where various people shared different poems, pictures or songs that have inspired them.

Sorry to share two melancholy poems in a row… things are basically fine but I just need to work a few sad reflections out of my mind!