Now that My Terrible Ordeal is over, I can get on with trying to salvage the rest of my life. In addition to all of this writing, being sober and temporarily without the distractions of telephone, cable TV and Internet has allowed me to take a more clear headed look at my life up to now. These circumstances have also allowed me, with some difficulty, to resume my love of reading and listening to music. This is difficult because those things are clear evidence of the state of my psyche at the time I chose them. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with some of my history and of my tendency for idealistic thinking. Well all those books, records, and memories are painful reminders of the choices that tendency has led me to make. Choices like who and what I loved, what I did and did not give up to pursue those loves, and what I did in response to their loss.
I must say that my definition of what ‘love’ is has evolved to be quite different from what other people say it is. I now believe that a person can truly love only the people and the things that represent that person’s ideals brought to life. Unfortunately, my definition was nowhere near complete enough to be a proper guide for some very critical choices I made in that area. So although my current beliefs did exist in infant form, they were of little help in preventing me from becoming locked into what later became very painful relationships with women and things. Of the two women important enough to write about, the first was my early childhood sweetheart and the other is the mother of my five children. The things are too numerous to mention other than to say that they were the typical kind that we waste so much time, energy, and money pursuing.
While I have little ambition for things these days, the women have been nowhere near as easy to dismiss. Regardless of how I feel about love and philosophy now, the feelings I have for these two women are still so strong that I literally get a psychic shock whenever either of them cross my mind. I try very hard to tell myself that my feelings aren’t rational because I shouldn’t feel this strongly for anyone not ‘qualified’ for my love, but I might as well be spitting into a fan for all the good that does me. And there’s simply no possibility that I can prevent the thoughts altogether, especially when it comes to the mother of my children. So I guess that the only thing left to do is to face those memories and feelings head-on like all the head-shrinkers advise.
Before I can begin to describe either of those relationships, I must delve a little into the circumstances – and my thoughts about them – that surrounded them. I was born into a time of great turmoil and anticipation. If you know anything about the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, you’ll understand why this was so. And I’m not sure whether it was arrogance or naivete on my part, but somehow I came to believe that I had a special talent for judging right from wrong and for finding the good in anyone. My faith in my abilities gave me the confidence to take on many challenges that I might not otherwise have taken on.
But the belief that I was somehow ‘special’ also left me feeling that I had a bit of an unfair advantage over other people. This feeling was reinforced by their apparent lack of faith in their own abilities and by the ‘protected’ state I lived in due to having such a dangerous father. In turn, this led me to never want to appear ‘superior’ to anyone and to never tell anyone of my fear for them should they be seen by my father as a threat. So I adopted the persona of a non-confrontational person who gave everyone the benefit of doubt, while I secretly strived to keep my true perceptions to myself.
But also behind the mask I wore raged the heart of a romantic idealist who believed himself capable of perceiving both the true pains of the world and the answers needed to alleviate that pain. Thus began the log lasting conflict between the person I let people see and the desire to be recognized as the ‘answer’ I wanted to be. I became a person who denied the possibility of finding a ‘perfect’ mate for himself while always campaigning to bring everyone to a state of ‘perfection.’ As anyone in my family will eagerly tell you, that was not the way to begin a long and healthy life. But that’s how I ended up choosing women for mates not because of who they were but rather who I thought they could be. That’s not to say, despite the opinions of others, that just anyone would do.
My first ‘love’ was a little girl that lived next door to me at the time of my earliest memories, when I still thought of myself as Bobby Hart. From then until I was ten years old, we spent practically all of our time together. She seemed so perfect to me. In fact, her family seemed more like my true family than the one I was born to. They even looked like me, which was kind of unusual in those days. My attachment to her was so strong that it inspired the first obsession I had with a song – The Monkees’ I’m A Believer. But when I was ten we began to drift apart. I think this was mainly because she was a grade higher than I was in school, and had developed a circle of friends who couldn’t understand why she would spend so much time with a ‘lesser’ being.
She had also developed an interest in other boys. The only fight I was ever in that I actually started, was with one of my perceived rivals. As I remember it, the fight pretty much ended in a draw. But I remember quite clearly how embarrassed I was at my behavior and the struggle I had to regain her respect. To me, those results felt like a terrible loss. I kept on trying to keep that relationship alive however, right up to my twelfth birthday when my mom shipped me off to live with my sister in L.A. I’ve seen her only twice since then.
The first time was after I was discharged from the Air Force over eight years later, during a drug-induced search for lost love after my wife revealed that she was pregnant by another man and had refused to resume our broken marriage. She was still just as beautiful as I remembered her, and still cared enough to welcome my visit in spite of the circumstances. But the fairy tale reunion came crashing down when should told me that she was in love with the guy I had started the fight with. The last time was during a road trip for my job. That’s when I found out that she had married that same guy and had a couple of pretty little girls by him. Since he really was a decent guy, and I was back with my wife at the time anyway, I did the best I could to hide my pain. Whether she bought my act or not is anyone’s guess.
I met my now ex-wife right after I moved to Ohio from L.A. in 1970, when I was fourteen and just getting used to being teased about that damned Janis Joplin song. She didn’t look like me the way my first ‘love’ did, but I found her athletic grace and stature to be irresistible. Her family lived across the street in the housing project my sister lived in, and when I finally got up the nerve to talk to her, I found that she was a very bright fifteen year old who was very active in track and girl’s basketball. I myself have never been much into sports, but I had a pretty good hook shot and was fast enough to outrun her. And amazingly enough, she was a year ahead of me in school and was born in February – just like the first girl I fell in love with.
Over time I also discovered that, until I actually introduced myself, everyone she knew had wondered why ‘a White kid like me’ was such a frequent visitor at my sister’s house. And even after I thought I had made it clear that my interest was in her, she and her sister still tried to fix me up with the White girl down the street. From the perspective of a horny teen-aged boy, it seemed to take forever to convince her that I was worth spending time with. Looking back on it now however, I have to wonder just how convinced she really was. You see, except for my intense attraction to her, we had almost nothing in common. All of our interests in music, in books, and in how we spent our time apart were completely different.
Although she was obviously just as bright as I was, the things she chose to focus her intelligence on made no sense to me whatsoever. I’m sure that she too wondered at the oddity of our relationship, because she introduced me one day to a potential suitor who just had to see it for himself. That really hurt. But I was relieved nonetheless when she chose me over him. And even after I joined the Air Force just to be financially ready to do so, I was still amazed when she agreed to marry me just three years after we met. If you consider the fact that we had to fake a pregnancy in front of a judge because I was only seventeen at the time, you can perhaps empathize a little with how I felt.
Have you ever heard the song I Hope You Dance by Leann Womack? It’s probably a fair bet that my ex-wife hasn’t…
But if she had it could have given her some insights into the way I feel about my life today. You see when I was very young, I was so naive and uninhibited that I actually loved to dance all by myself in the bootleg joints frequented by my mother. As long as people kept giving me dimes to put in the jukebox, I danced like I was alone and happy on the moon. Unfortunately for our marriage, I had become increasingly extremely shy and introverted by the time we met. I had also discovered what actually motivated all those gyrations at the parties and nightclubs she wanted us to go to. So when I needed to the most, I just couldn’t bring myself to dance with her in public.
When you add to that the fact that my mental state also denied me the ambition needed to properly provide for our family, the fact that she remained married to me for almost thirty-three years is kind of hard to believe. And through all of those years, through all the highs of our reunions after the lows of our separations, through the successful births of our children and the frequent miscarriages, through all the stupid things I did that should have driven her away, she stuck with me. And the intensity of my feelings for her never diminished one little bit. Even after my spirit-liberating discovery of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, during the months of separation surrounding my military discharge, I was still unable to give her the life I wanted for us after we got back together – although for an entirely different reason at that point.
And for that same reason, the conflict between the person I showed to the world and the person I actually was became so great that it led to a psychotic breakdown. But she still kept me in her life, even through hospitalizations for mental health, drug abuse, and pancreatitis. However, I knew it was finally over when I awoke from a medically-induced coma, after an almost fatal resurgence of the pancreatitis, to see that she had brought her new man with her to visit me. Ironically, it was the guy she was with when I got out of the Air Force. You know, the guy she chose to be with instead of resuming our marriage. The one who actually fathered my first child – the son who still considers me to be his dad even though he knows otherwise.
But maybe the true irony lies in the fact that, in spite of all the drama, I still miss my ex-wife with an intensity I couldn’t begin to explain. Just hearing her voice on the phone can bring on one of those crying jags I struggle so hard to avoid. If there were no more evidence than that of just how badly twisted my mind has become, I think that should still be quite enough. But her new man is actually a very nice guy despite the animosity between him and our son. She certainly seems to be living a far more comfortable life than the one she had with me. And I truly don’t want to cause them any pain. So I try my best not to let my feelings show. But I’ve always been a very poor liar and I have my doubts about how successful my efforts have been.
Now that I’m nearing end of this article, an amazing thought has occurred to me. While watching the Presidential inauguration earlier, I was once again impressed by the imposing stature of Michelle Obama. If I had to guess, I would lean towards her being the physically stronger of the two. And that’s when it hit me. Do you recall my earlier statement that I believe you can truly love only that which represents your ideals brought to life? Well I realize now that the irresistible attraction I have always felt for my ex-wife derives it’s power from the strength that I first saw in her from across the street when we were kids. And it has been reinforced time and again by the courage and confidence she has demonstrated throughout the years.
Despite all my rationalizations to the contrary, telling myself that it didn’t make sense for me to love her because she didn’t look the way I wanted my woman to look and didn’t have the same goals that I did, I realize now that I did indeed love her. Not because she fit some magazine definition of beauty. Not because we wanted to do the same things and pursue the same goals. Not even because she truly was the best sexual partner I’ve ever had and of all the wonderful children that having sex with her produced. I loved her because she completed me by possessing the courage, confidence, and strength that I have always lacked and was willing to put up with me anyway. I’ve heard it said that, “There’s no fool like an old fool,” While I don’t know if such an imbalanced love can ever actually work, knowing the true nature of my love for her might have helped.
To be clear, I have had other, shorter term, relationships with girls and women, all with equally disastrous results. I have not had even a one night stand since the end of my marriage in 2002. That is, other than those of the infrequent and always disappointing pay-to-play variety. The loneliness has gotten to be almost more than I can bear. But I’m so full of unresolved anger at myself and my circumstances that I simply haven’t had the confidence or the courage needed to approach a prospective mate while dragging such a mountain of pain and confusion behind me. Considering my history, I fear that starting a new relationship before dumping some of this baggage will only lead to more disaster.
My regular readers know how I like to include lyrics from my favorite songs in these articles. And when it comes to the subject of love, I’ve certainly had a wide array to choose from. I’ve looked into the soulful sounds of The Temptations, The Spinners, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Sly and the Family Stone, Lionel Richie, Hall and Oates, Grand Funk Railroad, Larry Graham, and Whitney Houston. I’ve surfed the melodic waves of The Beatles, The Carpenters, Elton John, Billy Joel, The Doobie Brothers, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, U2, Heart, and REO Speedwagon. I’ve even churned through the dark and angry waters of The Police, John Waite, Def Leppard, The Who, The Eurhythmics and Pink Floyd.
Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut is an excellent reflection of my love life:
“Through the fish-eye lens of tear stained eyes
I can barely discern the shape of this moment in time.
And far from flying high in clear blue skies
I’m spiraling down to the hole in the ground where I hide.
If you negotiate the minefields in the drive
And beat the dogs and cheat the cold electronic eyes.
And if you make it past the shotgun in the hall.
Dial the combination. Open the priest hole.
And if I’m in, I’ll tell you what’s behind the wall.
There’s a kid who had a big hallucination
Of making live to girls in magazines.
He wonders if you’re sleeping with your new found faith?
Could anybody love him? Or is it just a crazy dream?
And if I show you my dark side, will you still hold me tonight?
And if I open my heart to you, show my weak side. What would you do?
Would you sell your story to Rolling Stone?
Would you take the children away and leave me alone?
And smile in reassurance as you whisper down the phone?
Would you send me packing?
Or would you take me home?
Thought I ought to bare my naked feelings.
Thought I ought to tear the curtain down.
I held the blade in trembling hands, prepared to make it but
Just then the phone rang.
I never had the nerve to make the final cut.”
The only significant difference between that story and my actual life is, ironically, the fact that the ringing I heard before attempting suicide was the call of crack cocaine.
Considering the state of my recent ‘love’ life, maybe I’d be better off these days looking to groups like The Tubes and their song She’s A Beauty:
“You can step outside your little world.
You can talk to a pretty girl.
She’s everything you dream about…
But don’t fall in love!”
But for the future I’m still hoping for, perhaps the best advice came from the group Toto in their song Hold The Line:
“Hold the line. Love isn’t always on time.”
I have no idea if writing about these things will truly have the exorcising effect I hope for, but I do know that having copies of them outside of my head seems to somehow diminish the power of the ones still inside my head. I’m holding on very tightly to the hope that it’ll all work out in the end. I guess that would be the ‘faith’ part of this whole thing. And in the real world, that may just be the best that I can hope for.
I want ice water.
More from the My Life volume