Andrew James Whalan

Poet Blogger Writer

Tag: Relationships (page 1 of 2)

Vulnerability is the Endless Way Back

Twitter is like someone  sitting next to you while you write. And as soon as you look up, she winks at you. Then you go back to writing again. Until you stop and she winks at you again.  Until you put down the pen or stylus and return the look.  For you realise that she has been waiting for you. And when you do, you have to stop yourself from staring. For something new has appeared.

As happened to me when I looked up after Twitter winked at me. That Twitter eye catcher was Trust, and the Only Fruitful Response to Betrayal in Intimate Relationships Maria Popova’s review of Martha Nussbaum’s book, Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (public library).

I can only rely upon the book excerpts in the blog. And similarly to the blog, my experience was eerily similar.  Except I’m now staring aghast at this new thing I’ve learned.

Yes I was betrayed. My trust was utterly vapourised. And me being me, I told myself it was my own fault for being so vulnerable. And not being watchful enough.

Yet vulnerability as that blog above states is the way back. For me, the other ways didn’t work.  If there are better ways, I’d be happy to  learn.

I falsely thought I had forgiven the betrayals.  No I had simply coloured over the incidents. And yet I remember many things clearly, for instance, the pattern and colour of my baby high chair.  Until four years later when the perpetrator recalled them. Then my life was a video replay of the content that I won’t divulge here. When challenged, the perpetrator denied them completely. I was still focussed on the act rather than being angry at the person who did it as Nussbaum states.

That betrayal still constantly denied,  found me and made its home in me. Have you ever had anger turn in on itself and feed itself? Still my response was repression, ignoring the video replay in my mind and the taunts in my ears the best I could. Nussbaum refers to my feelings as a status injury, which made me an ex-husband well before I separated!

Then three years later, she admitted the betrayal was true! I still recall the date, the time of day, the light that afternoon, the trees in the driveway, where the car was, where she was standing, where I was standing and how I reacted. I chose suppression. I said nothing and walked away. I had to.

But this time the anger was different. It wanted truth over revenge. It took me eight or nine months. Until I confronted her. She denied it again. This and every other time I had focussed on the first incident. That night, for the first time, I described the exact details of the second incident including the danger I experienced. There was no response. For all defences had collapsed.

This time, no answer was an admission of truth. She knew it too. Afterwards, I would joke to myself that like the spies say, “Everybody talks”, that is everyone tells the truth eventually. Yet the truth can also be told by omission. For what had been excluded had finally formed the real picture.

After the admission, came the explanation. I shook my head and walked away from that too.  It was a contradiction of present words versus previous actions! I can laugh at its inanity now. Then I was too sad. When I was angry afterwards, I had nothing to feed now I had found out the truth. And being angry just made me tired and sad. I suppose I had met the truth at last.

That was the way out. And in time I left.

But the problem with grief is that it is so easy to keep it at a distance. I was simply afraid that if I didn’t it would overwhelm me and crush me. Then I would have to admit I was vulnerable.

Which it did. It took another relationship for that. And this is where Maria Popova’s  blog devastates me. For one cannot ignore grief. I had read about grief in Kluber-Ross On Death and Dying, but I never really had it happen to me.

Grief? It’s the wave taller than you that flips you and lifts you then throws you down to the sea floor until you become sand.

It leaves you with nothing. But I knew that. I just didn’t want to experience it!

From nothing, all I could do was renew. I think what I was doing was Kintsugi reassembling broken pottery with gold!

That was the way back. I did what I needed to renew and review. From that nothing, I studied, I wrote, I walked, I listened to music, I had people appear and help me, I made friends and I started a charity. Every day I looked for joy. And nearly all the time, I found it although I was still unexpectedly surprised!

I consider myself lucky that I could get through. Not all of us can. It is better to admit vulnerability and ask for help. I have done, I still do, although I find it challenging. The road is not ending anytime soon.  And as I have found there are switchbacks and recurrences.

So often, one forgets those times and are then unprepared for its recurrence. And still unprepared to recall the resilience that saved.  Besides I don’t like fairy tale endings. Living happily ever after almost certainly is death by boredom!

Now that I’m out of the fairy tale, there is learning ahead. I learnt and am still learning to trust myself. I learnt and am still learning to accept my vulnerabilities. Then I learnt and am still learning to forgive myself.  It sounds so trite and easy but it’s ruddy well not!  I have not always succeeded either and there are relapses. That’s what the self-help books don’t tell you. The road is endless.

In there, somewhere, I don’t know where exactly, I learnt to forgive the betrayer, the betrayal and free myself. And leave them to deal with it.

In truth as Nussbaum writes, all of this runs closely together. For I had chosen all this. I was therefore responsible for the negative consequences. I know better why I chose it and I’m the wiser (not yet wise) for it.

I’m also responsible for the positive consequences which is, once you get through the worst, you know what you can get through, then you look back and discover life has given you a bonus. That was last week’s truth.

Now I’m left with today’s truth. Betrayal, misusing trust and taking advantage of the vulnerable is too difficult a life to bear isn’t it? Yet such behaviours are an admission of vulnerability from the perpetrators too.

For them, the road hasn’t yet begun. For me it has yet to finish.

 

Baby Crush

A bald head crowned by a few curls peeks out. Two eyes large and watchful wait and see what I might do.

I’m not moving. I stand silent. I’m a daddy statue.

Tiny hands cover her eyes. She tries to catch my gaze.

No way. I’m having no part of it. Not yet.

She opens them. She peeks carefully at me. Then covers herself with the blanket.

“Peep bo!” The blanket speaks.

That’s my moment. My eyes close. Although I keep the good one only an eighth open. Enough to cheat. Enough not to get caught.

Each time she closes her eyes, I open mine. Each time I see her open her eyes, I close mine!

Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. “Peep Bo!”

“Peep bo!” I say again. Before the blanket went on.

I chuckle as the blanket giggles and rolls on the floor. Then smile at her laughter while she wriggles her way out. Usually she beats me to it. Then as she unwravels…

“Peep Bo!” She got me that time.

The blanket again wraps itself up. It giggles and rolls on the floor. Then she crawls out. And stands a little taller than this morning. Now her jumpsuit is too small for her. But that’s no matter now.

Two arms stretch to the sky. She starts to waggle her fingers. Twinkle twinkle? Yes i’m happy to sing that with her. But no peeking. Otherwise she’ll catch me lip syncing.

Then she stops stock still.

No. I was lucky there. Then not so lucky.

“Jump game.”

Oh no! Daddy workout time.

Arms stretch high. “As high as the sky.”

I squat down. I waddle towards her. I put my shoulders under her arms. Then my hands around her waist.

I lift her up. Until her head is level with mine. Her eyes are already laughing. Daddy’s doing the heavy lifting now.

I stand up and throw her high into the air.

Giggles, then laughter.

I stop just before I let her go. I’m not a dad, I’m an astronaut trainer. Besides she’ll never get vertigo from me!

“Again. High as the sky.”

More deep squats. More overhead presses. My knees ache. My shoulders sing. I sneak a glance at my burden.

She’s frozen in time!! One arm up, one arm out, frozen in a ballet pose.

Carefully I shift her to my stronger arm. I lean forward, most weight pushed backward and draw back the coverlet, sheet and blanket. Then i place her in her bed as if one false move would be the last. She slumps flaccid in her bed. I cover her up. I start to lightly leave…

Her hand finds my finger. And crushes it. I hold my breath. I listen to her breath slow and deep measuring eternity one second at a time.

Yes parenthood is a vocation, it’s not a job. But if someone can tell me how to remove a child’s hand from my finger without waking her, I’d be really grateful!

This Teleconference Has Been Postponed…

At last! Another opportunity to catch up on the backlog of outstanding work.

A teleconConference Call Phoneference! I dialed in, entered the meeting identification, my pin and spoke my name.

Then I placed my phone in hands-off mode and muted myself.

I knew I was safe because:

  1. I wouldn’t be asked to contribute
  2. I had very little to contribute
  3. I didn’t want to contribute
  4. I had a document to compose.

As people signed into the teleconference, I started to listen absently. As it continued, my attention wandered even more. Meanwhile people were dropping in and out. This meeting I thought was starting to resemble Tripp & Tyler’s  A Conference Call In Real Life.

But once the momentum resumed, I every so often stopped what I was doing and jot down a few notes. I thought to myself this was a very unfocused conversation indeed. Perhaps a facilitator or mediator might help. Besides nearly everyone else was on a higher level than me. And as I discounted that idea chaos struck.

My phone began to blare hold music. I looked carefully at the console. No. None of the lights were flashing. I still was on mute and still connected to the conference.

As the participants realised what had happened, a dull and boring meeting had become a hunt for a culprit. Much like school roll call, one by one we re announced ourselves over the continuing hold music. I took two attempts as I had unmuted and then muted myself.

One person failed to respond. He had received another phone call mid conference. And in answering that call  had placed the current call (us) on hold. He had to be contacted as soon as possible to continue the conference and save our sanity.

One of the participants suggested calling him. Which sounded contradictory until he added the words “on his mobile.” The meeting collectively held its breath (as best you can over Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries) and waited for the call to put through. No. He wasn’t answering his mobile either.

Which meant a physical intervention was required. Somebody must find this person and physically remove him from his phone. We waited a few minutes until this was organised.

“Are you near his desk? “Can you see him?” “Can you catch his attention?”

No to all questions.

“Can you go to his office and speak with him?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”

Once more we collectively held our breath (Ride of the Valkyries is a long piece of music) and waited.  Upon his return the hold music still continued. The culprit was in his office on the phone and couldn’t be disturbed (in another teleconference).

This teleconference will be postponed until a later date and time…

 

That Love of Loves

I still don’t know how that motorcyclist didn’t hit her. And me too I suppose.  Every so often I stop and wonder why. Considering what happened to her later. I just shake my head and muse upon the two memories I have of her.

We were standing at a bus stop. Near the Old Treasury Building in Brisbane. Waiting for the one solitary service that took us to Jimboomba and then Beaudesert. The time was about ten to five. I was early for a change. We were both standing near the edge of the footpath. She was on my right. That was both safe and dangerous.

As I looked to my right, I saw him. The glint of the sun on his helmet. White helmet, black rider, grey bike. He was going way too fast. His intent was to turn the corner to my left. But too late he realised his way was blocked. A car had stopped there. With nowhere to go, he jumped the footpath. And headed straight for us. And before I could reach out to grab her, he was past. He had turned back off the footpath. Back on the road to take the corner.

We just looked at each other. I mumbled something to the effect that I’m sorry I couldn’t get you out of the way. I completely forgot that I would’ve been hit first or been hit trying to save her.  Besides I only knew her vaguely. She had just started taking the bus.  As we had mutual acquaintances on the bus, I knew her name. I’d say hello. I had found out that she had finished school and had started her first job. That’s all I knew about her until that day or the next day, or another day, when she sat next to me.

There was something about her that day. A certain light in her eye. The way she held her smile lightly. How her dark brown hair circled her light face. How her pale skin seemed to shine with a quiet light. Yes she seemed more attractive than ever. Eighteen or nineteen? I wasn’t sure. But I knew it wasn’t me.

Normally, she sat with her friends, but not today. She sat herself down next to me and immediately began or resumed the conversation. She talked about her new job. I heard her enthusiasm and dedication. I thought it’s pleasing to hear someone telling me they loved their job. Just about everyone else I knew complained. But I heard another reason. One that brought it all together.

She told me. The two men in the seat behind me stopped talking. And started to listen too. But they thought she was talking about something else. During our conversation, I could hear the remarks they were making. It has nothing to do with me, I thought. And resisted the temptation to drape my arm over the seat, lean over and set them straight.

For here sitting next to me was a girl in love. For the very first time I thought.  And she was in love with everything now. So it didn’t matter who she told. Or how she told it. For to her it was the real thing. For she was telling me about both sides of this love : the joy and the difficulties too.  Behind me I knew the two watchers could see her moving around as she spoke to me. They thought something else was happening.  But they could not have been more wrong. Here was someone jumping out of her skin with an ultimate joy.

She was infatuated that was true. She spoke extraordinarily highly of her boyfriend. But mentioned how it wasn’t easy to see each other. And how they stayed in touch despite the distance. For this was before smartphones, social media and apps. Call me or don’t call me. Write me or don’t. And they were doing both! I mused to myself, she knows the way ahead isn’t easy but doesn’t care.

And she was in love now with the world. And that is what my backseat companions didn’t realise.  Once in love with love, now all was love. And that brought me joy and comfort in my situation.

And then the light went out. For I never saw her again. And then I heard what happened to her. But she had seen, heard and felt that love of loves.

 

 

The Gentle Heart

I heard those words spoken
From a pure and gentle heart
Once riven almost torn apart
And now complete, healed and unbroken.

I  heard not how your heart was broken
I only heard that heart’s intent
To be a comfort in every extent
To those lost : healing with words unspoken.

The gentle heart seeks comfort and surety for all those who are lost
The gentle heart in its silent moments knows peace for itself is not enough.

A Moment Everlasting

Unconsciously we crafted a moment
Where we stopped time for a time
And met each other once again
To resume an  everlasting serenity.
I thought I was merely speaking
Wasted words and actions repeating
Yet as I spoke to the others I could see
You were listening, listening completely to me.
And your listening created a unity
That quietly and ever so gently
Reached out and enveloped me
And when you spoke I too was set free.
And now together in that moment
That passes through both you and me
How could there ever be torment?
In a peace we thought we would never see.
Yet we still have that moment spoken
Though the next was lost through me
Yet that first is always unbroken
As the sun by the sky touches the sea.
And even that moment lasts a second
So short that it demands to be mourned
Having now flowed away to the past
But in its shadow of light a new one is waiting.
So we know there will be another
Which we will fashion together
Whether impossible or difficult
Or greater than before.
So let us craft another moment
Not a minute stilted and still
But a thread between hearts
That flows forward to an everlasting one.

The Measure of Each Other (Inspired by Adele’s Hello)

Once the years stop passing
And our fissures fade to grey
We two could have a reckoning
And determine who would pay.

I could admit my failures
You could admit yours too
We could each count the others
And weigh them up all in all.

I could then price your virtues
And you could price mine
A counter each to the other
Of all our losses over time.

It would start as a jigsaw puzzle
Become checkers for pennies
Until both of us are playing chess
Each move played for hoards of gold

And when the game is over?
We’ll agree on the victor
Let the loser pay the winner
And we both walk away.

As for me I’ll never call you
As for you the call never came
I found out what I always knew
I could never play that game.

I Saw You Listen

I saw her walk past me. With a friend. They sat down opposite each other.

I chose not to notice. But out of the corner of my eye I could see her head bobbing and moving.

I glanced for a second. But she wasn’t talking.

But my intuition nudged me. There’s something more happening here. Watching

I glanced again.  And then I understood.

She’s listening. To everyone. To her friend in front of her. To the people across the aisle on the train. To the people passing through. She was awake and alive and alert to all occurring around her.

She alighted off  the train.  She and her friend walked in front of me.  A crowd of us were taking the bus from Caulfield to Darling.

She sat near me. Or I sat near her.

She listened to her friend show her phone photos. She listened to the two children on her left. She laughed while they played peep-bo while sticking out their tongues! She listened as the girl next to me gave up her seat before I had even thought of it.

She was awake and alive and alert to all occurring around her.

And the joy she gave me was watching someone really listen.

Sex and Vacuuming : A Game of Mutual Selfishness

Kathy Lette’s If Your Wife Doesn’t Want Sex Then Try Doing the Vacuumming article echoes the Annabel Crabb‘s The Wife Drought re having it all and needing a wife.

Like the old expression, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage“, there isn’t much of that anymore.

Yes, unfortunately, I’ve heard this all before.

In the throes of a disintegrating marriage, I turned to reading books many of which made the same recommendations.

The prescribed panacea was that if a man did more housework or spent less time with his mates, marital bliss awaits.

In truth I did step up and I fervently believe that men should (see Having It All). But there’s no guarantee of reciprocation. Not that reciprocation was my motivation.

Unfortunately, the opposite argument is of course is that the woman should do more. As set out by Laura Doyle in her book the Surrendered Wife where women need to step up so the man can step down. Again there’s the implicit guarantee of reciprocation.

These viewpoints seem to treat marriage as some sort of reality show (Wife Swap perhaps?). Marriage is seen as a game where you amass points for doing the right thing, are penalised for doing the wrong thing and receive or forgo prizes. Marriage in this light seen as territorial and transactional with winners and losers.

My real problem with all of this is that both viewpoints are both motivated by the guarantee or expectation of reciprocation. If I do this, I get that and if you do this, you get that.

What that creates is a relationship based on mutual selfishness. Both partners keep score and amass points and expect to be rewarded. The problems occur over keeping track of the points, rewards, penalties and prizes. From my personal experience after arguing over that there’s little energy left for vacuuming or sex.

Nor does it foster much love. Nor create an environment that fosters compassion and generosity.

So what’s left from this? My dull insight is this. Perhaps we could try an unselfish love for oneself and for others for a change? Perhaps we could create an environment of compassion and generosity?

 

 

After the Game : The Extended Failure

End of the footy season and time to reflect for the winners and losers.
Perhaps from the players, coaches and supporters point of view but certainly from mine, the hardest thing for me as a perfectionist is the extended failure. Whether its a relationship or a project, where i have poured myself completely into it and completely crashed and burned. Much like in sport for instance, where all effort has been made and little result returned.
And when I play it back as if describing the experience to an unbiased bystander, I hear them say, no one should have gone through what you went through. The listener is empathetic but not sympathetic. The listener doesn’t feel sorry for me in any way shape or form just says what he/she says. Implied in the listening is that thought: well now he’s  found out what i know and he may be a little wiser. There’s no pity for me at all which ought to be disappointing!! Besides the disappointment has come and gone now : it’s too late for that now. Besides ongoing disappointment is boring, I’m better off choosing differently.
And what I realise is that yes I’ve failed but I’m also intact. And will be whatever happens. And that’s when the miracle occurs!! But it’s not the one I’ve dedicated myself to: whether relationship or career or project. It’s an insight : that whatever happened happened and there’s something better. It’s just not what I pinned my hopes and dreams to! Wait and see!
Older posts

© 2017 Andrew James Whalan

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑