I’m In Love With a Ghost

5 Nov 2014

I saw your photograph today. You looked happy. I want to be happy for you, but I’m not. I want to understand why you torture me with your words. Confusion is a word I have used often since I last saw you. You looked in my eyes and said “I love you” and you meant it. You could have said “I always thought you were a coward,” and still your heart would have betrayed your lying mouth. It shines brighter than a thousand suns, so brightly that no shadow of doubt can remain. Yet shadows of your ghost haunt me every time I think of your face since that day. I wake up on chilly mornings, and my soul reaches out for a fleeting moment, hoping you slipped into my bed in the night, like so many times before. I want so much to be surprised by the feeling of your warm soft skin, pressing into me and shying away from the crisp morning air; to wrap you up in the cotton wool of my heart as we did on so many mornings, as we watch the sun rise over the bay.

I miss you like you died. I can’t touch you or smell your hair or feel the depth of your love radiating from your chest. All I have is images of your smiling face in my social media stream, reminding me that you’re not in jail or laying in a hospital bed. And still, I see in your actions no evidence of this love we share. One singular response, telling me it was fun but you’ve moved on. Two words, to let me live in peace: “fuck off,” but all I see is empty space. All I hear is the devastating ambiguity of silence, like an echo chamber for both hope and despair; a cruel joke, and no one’s laughing, not even you.

All those nights I sang you to sleep, all those nights I dragged my fingers gently along the contours of your body, all those times I satisfied your corporeal hunger or soothed the savagery of your menses with laughter, love, and lust; and in the end, you reciprocate with a big fat slice of nothing. In a few rare moments of clarity, you told me how much you appreciated all that I do for you, but there was always something missing. You have such a rich capacity for love and joy, and you share it with all who are worthy of your presence, yet you keep me at twice the distance of a random beggar on the street. What you give so easily to others, you make me earn every inch and then judge me for it.

So I live my life, resigned to know that one day I will wake up and not feel this distance I feel now. It won’t be because you’re in my arms. It will be because our love faded through apathy, a withered rose neglected by an absent gardener. For, even fertile soil and bountiful rivers can not overcome the stale tide of neglect, a monument to callous indifference.

22 Dec 2014

My heart nearly leapt from my chest when I saw your name on my phone. You were calling to wish me a happy birthday and to thank me for the flowers I sent you. We hadn’t spoken in months. I was shocked, as I expected never to hear from you again. The flowers were one last romantic gesture, hoping to remind you of the love we share and how important it is to show that love. You cried as we talked, told me stories of your sadness, how lonely you feel, how much you wish you had someone to hold you on those lonely nights. It hurts every time I hear you say that, as I want to be there with you every night. I know how hard it must have been for you when I moved away. We made plans to spend time together when in California.

Days passed. I reached out to you the day you were flying into town, invited you to an adorable tea shop near your hotel. As with so many text messages before, I received no reply. The next day, you invited me to an event related to your conference; an Ignite event, like those we have attended in the past, both as speakers and attendees. You were so excited to see me. We talked all night, caught up on some of the things we’re doing in our professional lives. We went to a speakeasy for a drink. On our way, we stopped for a smoke, huddled in a cubby hole in the wall on the street, trying to get away from the rain. As we walked back to your hotel, you felt distant, yet connected.

Just like all those times before, I rubbed your neck and back, as your stress melted away. You turned to face me, and I ran my fingers through your hair. You kissed me, and like so many times before, we made love for hours. You fell asleep in my arms and snored softly in my ear, something I cherish very much. We awoke to the foggy sunrise over the city, and made love again.

When it was time for me to go, you walked me to the elevator, held me close, in what I have come to understand as the “don’t ever leave me” hug. You thanked me for a wonderful night, kissed me, and said “now you know how to find me.” It was the happiest day of my life.

That day, I reached out to have dinner with you, but I received no reply. The next day, I invited you to a Cirque du Soleil show, but I received no reply, so I stopped by your hotel. I will never know why you felt threatened by my presence that night. I only sought to spend time with the woman I love, to take you out for a night on the town. I only ever want to treat you like the amazing woman you are, to surrender myself to you and bask in the glow of our collective hearts, beating in time with each other. I respected your space and went to spend time with a friend, knowing you would reach out if you wanted to get together. I thought you wanted to spend time with me, but now I’ll never see you again. You left the next day without saying goodbye.

I wanted so much to leave things on good terms, but you made that impossible. So, it’s over. I want you to be happy, and you seem so happy with me, but something is always missing. And that something is you. I don’t know exactly when I lost you, but you’re gone forever. I hope you find happiness. You’ll always be my number one bird. Fly and be free.

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Love, Loss, and the Awesome Power of Choice

I’ve written several times over the last few years about relationships, love, and loss. I’ve had what seemed like great lovers, only to realize they aren’t and never really were. I’ve dated women who seemed interested, only to find they weren’t willing to give as much as they take. One lover in particular has inspired this piece, and I doubt she’ll ever read it (a testament to how little she cares). If she does, maybe it will help her understand my point of view a little better. If not, so be it. This is not about her. It’s about me.

As of today, I am abstaining from the chase.

I don’t anticipate giving up on dating entirely and living a monk’s celibate life. I like intimacy and sex way too much to do that. Instead, I’m deciding not to try anymore. I’m finally taking the advice I’ve heard over and over for years: “you try too hard. just let it happen naturally.”

After all this time, I finally understand what that means. I thought for many years I could never take this advice because it felt like every fiber of my soul was screaming things like “don’t give up!” and “nothing happens when you make no effort.” While I still agree with those feelings, I must acknowledge that many of my past relationships have been unbalanced, almost one-sided. I do so much to fuel the fire that my lover stops doing anything, once they believe they no longer need to try. This is what many people refer to as “taking someone for granted,” and anyone who has experienced this will know how it feels once this line is crossed. Respect is lost, and there’s no going back.

My friends, my family, and even strangers I meet randomly in the world, when told the stories of my struggles, universally say this:

“Fuck that noise! She doesn’t know what she has. You’re ready for something real and she’s just a party girl. When she turns 40 and looks around to see the bunch of 20-somethings she has for friends, if she has that at all, she’ll see what she lost.”

My rational solution-finding brain tells me to attempt to avoid this outcome through communication and compassion. I want to talk about it, hug it out, and reach mutual understanding. The reality is simple – there is no problem to be solved. I’ve manufactured a problem because that’s the only way I can make sense of the irrational behavior I observe.

About a year ago, when I first started into a rough patch with my girlfriend, my mother gave me the following advice: “walk away at the first sign of trouble.” My natural reaction to conflict has always been to try to find middle ground. At the time, I was going through some highly stressful drama, and my girlfriend told me she couldn’t handle it and wanted a break. Basically, at the peak of my struggle, when I needed support most, she bailed.

My unbearably predictable reaction was to negotiate. I didn’t want her to leave because I loved her. I tried to find a way to understand her needs, sacrificing mine in the process, thus doubling down on my stress in a gamble for my happiness; I lost the bet. What she did was an awful thing to do, especially to someone you love. I knew it then, as I know it now. I was hurt by her casual disregard for my needs. It took the better part of a year to realize this, but now I can say with certainty she didn’t love me. It was a word she used to control my behavior to get what she wanted. I doubt she was conscious of it, but that’s exactly what it was. Like others before her, she used me to get something she wanted.

Today, I draw a line in the sand. No more of that. There is such power in choice. The act of standing up for a belief is exciting and engaging. People spend their whole lives choosing from the options in front of them instead of finding more options. When you don’t like the options, make new ones. I don’t like feeling like I’m always chasing, so I choose not to chase. As my best advice to guys who struggle with dating has always been “be the pretty girl, and let them come to you,” I’m finally taking my own advice.

Do I still love her? Yes. Did we have some great times? Absolutely. Is it worth sacrificing my needs to spend time with her? Fuck no! And this goes for everyone I’ll ever meet.

My new plan is not to have a plan; to live fully in every experience, invest emotionally and intellectually, and walk away when it’s not what I want. It’s a terrifying and brilliant future, so far outside my comfort zone that I will be forced to be comfortable. I can’t wait 🙂

Don’t Hide Your Love Away: An Open Letter About Sex and Communication

This post is for men. Ladies, you’re free to read it, and hopefully you can help the guys learn a little about love and sex. Mostly, it’s for all those fools who think it’s better to withhold their feelings. It’s the 21st century. Men are allowed to have a more refined sense of awareness and expression when it comes to their feelings.

John Lennon was wrong. You don’t have to hide your love away. You can, but you’ll regret it. Sure, it may feel like people are laughing at you, and maybe they are. If they are, it’s because you expect to be immune to suffering, yet you bleed out every day by your own hand. Love is something to be experienced to its fullest. You simply can’t do that if you hide it. Men are taught to keep their feelings inside, never to be shared even with their most intimate lovers. Women are taught to be attracted to men who bury their feelings and never discuss them. I’ve met a lot of really feminine women who seek a sensitive, creative, affectionate man in theory, only to act on naive notions of caveman culture, to be beaten into submission and dragged off and raped. I have actually heard educated women say out loud “I wish he would just come over to my house and rape me. God, that would be so hot!” The first time I heard that, I was horrified.

Do we need an intervention? Show me on the Pikachu doll where the bad man touched you, honey.

Jokes aside, it’s much more complicated than that, and yet simple at the same time. Women are indoctrinated at a young age to compartmentalize their affections. Their fathers were busy building the family foundation, earning money so they could, in point of fact, bring home the bacon. That bacon was what the whole family ate every morning, and without it everyone would suffer. Fatherhood evolved as a form of automata. Mom’s job was to fend off disease, starvation, and boredom. Dad’s job was to keep Mom equipped with a constant supply of food, water, and shelter and defend against attacks from external influence. Mom is a nurturing provider, while Dad is a stoic sentinel. These roles are far more pervasive in modern society than we might want to admit.

With the advent of the first world came a more sensible egalitarian philosophy about the delegation of responsibilities in the household. Since Mom is now allowed to vote and earn money, the lines are blurred. The stay-at-home Dad phenomenon became a viable option when Mom’s skills in the workplace were potentially more lucrative than Dad’s skills. The hardest part happens when Mom and Dad both leave the house to exercise their skills to bring home dinner. Yet we still read in popular media all about how families struggle with gender equality in the natural order of things in the home. Men continue to have the attitude that women cook and clean. Women complain about being treated like live-in maids. Women continue to develop complex sexual fantasies involving the rugged and trustworthy milkman, even though milk hasn’t been delivered to anyone’s home in nearly 50yrs. Men continue to develop inherent mistrust of any other man who might wander within 20m of the house when they’re not home, as if their wives are helpless victims-to-be. That doesn’t sound like a healthy respectful atmosphere to me.

At the root of it all is the core behavior of withholding our feelings about love and sex. American culture is steeped in the doubt and self-loathing of sex as currency. We use competitive metaphors to describe how men “win” sex from women by rounding the bases on a baseball field. Teenage boys brag about “making it to third base” instead of talking about how much they respect the girl next door for her creativity and intelligence. In their minds, they are conning her into “giving it up,” as if she derives no pleasure from the experience. Imagine their confusion when she says frankly “I want to have sex with you now.” Some part buried deep in their caveman brain will think she’s deceiving them, that it can’t be so easy. Instead of having open honest communication resulting in mutual satisfaction, their defenses go up and they label her a lying bitch, thus destroying the moment that would otherwise have led rather quickly to the thing they both wanted in the first place.

Have we all regressed to being insecure children about this most fundamental aspect of humanity?

Communication doesn’t need to be the thing that destroys the mystery. I promise there’s plenty of mystery to go around. Communication is the hardest thing anyone can ever do. It requires mountains of patience, a willingness to be humble and honest, substantial self-worth on all sides, and the tools and training to build trust and chart a path to mutually beneficial outcomes. It all comes down to being confident in your own desires and having the courage to state them clearly.

You might be surprised how exciting it is to express that you’d like to lick something off your partner’s naked body and see them reach for the whipped cream and start slicing berries. The simple act of participation can be orders of magnitude more interesting than the hope of being overpowered. And with the right kind of open expression, you can ask to be roughly handled, bordering on abuse, taking you closer to the edge than you ever thought possible, all without ever losing the trust and safety with your partner. This is possible because of open discussion. In fact, conversation is what brings us all closer together, not just the mingling of slippery body parts. Just remember to agree on a safe word and always respect the safe word. Knowing where the line is and refusing to cross it will help strengthen your bond. When you’re near that line, remind your partner how much you love them. Actually, any time you think of your partner during the day, let them know. Over time, you’ll find those little moments add up to a deeper relationship.

Also remember this: vaginas are tough; testicles are the fragile parts. Think about that next time you call someone a pussy.

Breaking Personal Patterns

Years ago, I wrote a post about one-sided relationships. This morning, I went back and read that post again. It rings as true now as it did then, but with different context. As I read it again, I felt myself resonating with my own words, but in a different light. This week, another relationship ended. As I’ve spent the last few days trying to make sense of things and find closure, I’ve thought back on all the moments we shared together. My goal was to truly identify moments in the past where I put rose-colored glasses on. I wanted to understand better the situations that trigger my ostrich dance, the one where I close my eyes and ignore key aspects of the world around me in favor of my own world view. This is a crippling pattern I must stop.

As with the last time, I am open, able, and ready to nurture a deep spiritual bond. I am hopeful to build a strong emotional connection with another sacred soul. I am inspired to explore a rich intellectual attraction with another open mind. I am excited to play and seek new experiences and adventure with another sexual creature. All these things I feel for my love. All these things I see resonate in her when my heart shines on hers. Still, something holds her back from fully expressing her true self. It’s time for me to accept that she needs time to address her own hurdles. There is simply nothing more I can do. As I swallow my stomach and wipe tears from my eyes, I know this doesn’t need to hurt. There’s no script that says she will never call me again. That’s a script from an old and tired story. This time, we write a new story.

This time, I don’t hide behind fear or pain. Yes, it hurts, but what I lost this week was not my love. I will always have that. Even with all the betrayal from my last great love, I still miss her. I still want the best for her, and I believe maybe one day she will reach out to reconnect. This great love is different. With the last one, I lost hope of even having a friendship. Her betrayal was so painful that it took years to forgive her and move on. With this one, I lost only my rose-colored glasses. I lost the feeling that she and I share a common goal of building a life together. I lost the future I had planned, a future in which I was really happy with her and our children. The glasses had convinced me that she shared that dream. In truth, I never actually asked her what her dream was. It’s time to change that.

So this is my new story. I will not allow her actions to dictate mine. She does not have the tools to express her true self in a way I hear clearly. That means we can not be together romantically, but it doesn’t mean I must say goodbye forever. As I said in the post years ago, I seek vulnerability. I wanted this, so I could grow stronger. Her hurtful words could have inspired me to twist my love into hate. Instead, I choose to further invest in love. I will continue to reach out to her, to be the friend she needs, to help her when she needs help, and to expect nothing in return. It will take time for me to be ready again to seek a new great love. From now on, I follow my new path, and I see the world as it truly is. Most importantly, I know now to stop myself when I feel rosy.

The Power of Perception

Arguably, I’m kinda new to the whole dating world. I’ve had several serious relationships, but never a casual fling. Not even one. I’m the guy who waits until he finds a rare and exquisite beauty, then turns up the charm, so she’s hopeless to resist. And they always are. I think well on my feet, and generally talk my way out of trouble reasonably well, in those cases where I cross the line. I also have an extra helping of “I don’t give a fuck” when it comes to interacting with attractive women. This all conspires to promote an atmosphere of suave sophistication, which is great because when I’m not turning on the charm, I am typically perceived by most people in the world as “inconsequential.” In the majority of cases, where I want to be left alone and not be noticed, this is exactly what I want. However, when it comes to attracting the hottest woman at the club, that approach leaves a lot on the table. Actually, it leaves everything on the table. In fact, it doesn’t even get me in the front door.

I normally think of myself as a smart, sensual, and complex person. I’ve had a lot of great sex with a few really amazing women, and for that I am forever grateful.

Ok, that’s bullshit. Not the factual part. I do hold myself in high esteem and I have enjoyed hot sex with some incredible women. That’s all true. The bullshit lies in the presentation, not in the sales pitch way, but in the “this guy is full of himself” way, which is really only half true. As you read that short paragraph, you probably felt yourself thinking “why the fuck am I reading this boastful and simultaneously pseudo-humble account of this guy’s self-important exploits?” The reason you thought that was the last few words. There’s a part of the scenario that is hidden in plain sight. While I appreciate the experience, I am not grateful. Grateful is something I would feel if I needed a jump start in an Ikea parking lot with a car full of not-yet-assembled furniture, and someone offered me one of those portable battery things. Grateful is not what I feel for having successfully seduced a gorgeous fit blonde in a bar. That feeling is power, not gratitude. Really, that paragraph should have looked more like this:

I’m a hustler, baby. Women can not resist the temptation to fuck me, and once they try it once, they always come back for more and always leave satisfied.

See? That’s much different, isn’t it? It carries the same sense of confidence, but presented in a different way. It turns the typical paradigm on its head. Instead of man chasing woman, it’s woman chasing man. It’s the difference between hoping I’ll get to 2nd base and knowing I’m going to use all the condoms I brought. It’s all in the perception of both parties.

Right now, I’m dating a really fantastic woman who is changing my perception of myself in this context. She has said many times over the last six weeks that I am like Jekyll and Hyde – a strong, dominant lover in the bedroom, and a mild-mannered nerdy geek otherwise. This perspective is fascinating to me. I have always thought of myself as a confident guy who knows how to treat a lady, and also the guy who can diagnose that strange whirring noise your dishwasher is making. I take for granted my sexual prowess and my intellect equally. It never occurred to me until recently, though, that those traits are typically not present in one person, thus making me rather uncommon. To put it more succinctly, it never dawned on me that this makes me the rare and exquisite beauty, something to be coveted by lustful women who get a taste and can’t resist the urge for more.

I would never have imagined that I could turn around from a highly abusive relationship and find myself in a situation where my partner has no doubt (and has said as much) that I could easily charm any woman I wanted. I’ve had conversations with friends many times about how to stop being a doormat for my partner to walk all over. Apparently, I took that advice to heart because the feedback I’m getting lately is really positive, and I find myself thinking about relationships in a totally different light. I no longer find myself hoping a pretty girl will laugh at my jokes. Instead, I tell them anyway, knowing the pretty girl will likely be offended by them, but not caring because they’re jokes I like to tell and it doesn’t matter if the pretty girl laughs or not. I’m not here to amuse her. She’s here to amuse me, and if she’s boring, there are a thousand others just like her who do appreciate my jokes.

That’s the way it has to be, at least on some level, in my mind. I turn the world upside-down, shift the balance of power, and simply assert, through sheer act of will, that I am fucking fantastic, and suddenly it’s raining pussy and I can’t find enough buckets. Does that make me an asshole? Yes, and I’m ok with that. It’s par for the course. Do I apologize for it? Absolutely not. It’s a game, and I aim to win, or at least have fun in the process.

In the end, it’s simply a matter of conveying a sense of confidence. My lady friend said it so perfectly. I could never hope to express it any better, so I will simply paraphrase her:

“All women want to be fucked, so unless they are completely disgusted by you, they will probably sleep with you if you make an effort. Worst case, they leave unsatisfied. Best case, you rock their world. Nobody wins if you don’t try.”

I’ll Have the Abusive Bitch with a Side of Hot Sex

For some reason, I am attracted to bitchy high maintenance women. I am drawn to their mean-spirited criticisms and inability to express love and adoration without mixing it with undermining doubt-inducing snide comments. After a great deal of introspection and spending some much-needed time with people who genuinely love and accept me for who I am at my core, it’s clear to me that I am not a masochist. I know I deserve to be treated with respect, yet I continue to fall into the pattern of putting up with verbal abuse in the hope that I’ll see the joy-inspiring, tender, sweet charm that attracted me to these women in the first place.

The pattern is very distinct. They draw me in with their siren song of similar interests – active lifestyle, adventurous attitude, deep sensuality, and medium-to-severe geekiness. They seduce me with their creativity and infectious sexuality. Then, once I’m hooked, we have incredible game-changing sex with multiple orgasms that crosses into the realm of religious experience. We instantly develop a deep spiritual bond, drawing us closer together emotionally, physically, and intellectually. As we build a strong intimate connection, I find myself helpless to resist the temptation to help them, whether that means giving them practical and meaningful gifts to improve their quality of life or making myself available to support them when they need guidance. I go out of my way to make them feel special, to make them feel loved.

At some point, though, they begin to take advantage of my generosity and kindness, without returning the sentiment with any semblance of balance. They begin to criticize me for not doing enough, for not being closer to their ideal, despite being actually closer to their ideal than any other man they’ve ever met. They forget all the wonderful things they cherish about me and instead focus on the growing list of things they don’t like about me. They ignore their own rhetoric about how I am the nicest, most decent, caring, supportive, sexy, and all-around magnificent guy they have ever had the good fortune to meet. They even lose sight of the rich intimate bond they were so eager and excited to build and nurture, choosing instead to betray that investment by actively manifesting the very outcome they claim to want to prevent.

Sure, the sex is still dynamite. In some ways, it even gets better, but mostly the closeness and richness is supplanted with cold utility. They know I can play their body, heart, and soul like a symphony, and they expect repeat performances with results-driven vehemence. They take everything and give little in return. The relationship slowly devolves into a cycle of use and abuse. Meanwhile, I maintain an optimistic perspective, choosing to rationalize their behavior as a phase or a mood, a season of temporary behavior they must not realize is hurtful and demeaning. I weather the storm, believing it will pass and the closeness will return.

As each instance of abuse flares up, I wait patiently, communicating to calm the savage beast of their insatiable ego and resolve the apparent conflict. They make minor compromises if at all, taking two miles for every inch I concede, leaving me feeling frustrated and confused. I hold on until what inevitably comes to a bitter end, where they lose all respect for me and attempt to push me to leave them. They refuse to leave because somewhere in the back of their minds, they are still deriving some appreciable value from the partnership, though they contribute no value actively anymore. I refuse to leave because I hold on to a futile hope that they will snap out of it and revert to the loving, charming woman with whom I fell in love, believing in the power of that deep connection to rise above the pettiness and light the way to positive resolution.

Eventually, a significant event occurs that catalyzes their escape from what they have come to believe as a failed relationship. They’ve done very little to bolster the success of the relationship, and they’re content to let it die because they’ve used it up. They’ve taken from it all it will bear, so they cast it aside like a used condom. I’m left wondering why things got so fucked up and how we transitioned from the deepest depths of intimacy to cold, distant contempt. After all, I tried. I worked. I gave it my all, and then some. I look past the simple reality that they simply didn’t try, didn’t work, didn’t give it a second thought. To them, it wasn’t effortless, so it must not have been meant to be. At least they got a lot of hot sex out of it. If that’s all they can take away from the experience, that’s acceptable to them.

So, why do I still love her when she was such a spectacular failure of a girlfriend? I guess I need a little more introspection and maybe a stiff drink. Or maybe it was that she was the closest I’ve ever come to ideal, at least for a while, and I believe that bond can never be broken, even after all the abuse.