Posted by: AgingChild | February 14, 2009

It’s a Heart Ache

It’s entirely coincidental – really – that I post here on Valentine’s Day a pair of emails dealing with a deep struggle of my heart, one that’s had me terribly engaged and distracted, battling even tears and genuine, hard depression. 

The intimate, one-on-one love between man and woman is a beautiful treasure that comes too rarely into one’s hands and life, and seemingly too easily dribbles out before we can clutch it to the heart and appreciate it for all its worth. I’ve been there, I’ve done that… and gave up on it with true regret over five years ago. (Meaning, of course, that I’ve stopped dating and am celibate, not that this is anyone’s business but my own.) 

Something also of great value, even more underrated and overly ignored, is simple friendship, especially of the deep, buddy-sort: a freeness to speak honestly, with little or no sugar-coating; a non- self-consciousness over dorky laughter, even the occasional accidental release of inner digestive gases; mentally, emotionally, and even physically leaning on each other as may be needed or just happen to happen; and just simply finding good, relaxed (yet rewarding) company in the other. 

It can be real eggshell-walking when this kind of special, too-rare friendship spans the gender-divide. Yet the comfort to the heart can also be especially deep.

Online-friend Augusta emailed me yesterday; I haven’t been in touch with her, and she wanted to catch up: 

—–Original Message—–
From: Augusta Lovelace [mailto: AgustaLovelace@CondeNast.net]
Sent:
Friday, February 13, 2009 7:33 PM
To: ‘Aging Child’
Subject: Hi A. Gene

Hi Gene, 

How are you?  How is your mother.   

We are all fine now but everyone has been battling the stomach virus or flu-like symptoms that have been going around.  Hopefully at this point, everyone seems to be feeling all right.   For awhile there I was starting to feel like Florence Nightingale.  I was glad to see everyone finally feeling better.  No sooner did everyone get over their illnesses and my sister and brother came up to visit.  My brother had to come back up again to take care of some business so they came up yesterday and left today – whew!  I’m tired.  So now that it is calm and quiet I am spending a little time getting caught up on e-mails. 

Hope all is well with you and yours, 

Augusta  

In my response, I found myself unloading as well about this very personal issue, which I’ve thus far kept nearly fully private; I bcc’d friend Spartacus because he’d e-peeked in on me a few days ago, concerned about my near-silence of late, and he deserved to know the latest: 

—–Original Message—–
From: Aging Child [mailto:AGeneChilde@YouWho.com]
Sent:
Saturday, February 14, 2009 10:36 AM

To:
Augusta
Bcc: “Spark” le Klaus [mailto:SpartaCuss@Yabbadoo.com]
Subject: RE: Hi,
Augusta!  

Good morning, Augusta: 

All’s well, overall. Mother may be released from rehab within another week, most likely for a time staying at my sister’s home (not as many stairs to contend with, day to day) before coming back home here. This is great news – the rehab folks let me know yesterday, and not everyone in the family even knows yet; I still need to get the news out. 

My older brother, Sarge, went off to Iraq with the Marines at the end of last month, one-year duty. His new wife speaks very little English (Korean only), and so my sister and my other brother and I take turns dropping by their home once a week to help out with errands, bills, maintenance, and so on. I do worry about Sarge; he assures us that he’s in a safe, cushy desk-job far from any of the dangerous areas, but of course we’ll keep worrying – and praying – until he’s back home again next year. 

Besides for my brother, and for my mother, I’ve been doing heavier praying for my own job-hunt, and am seeing God’s grace and compassion yielding a good several interviews lately, including one yesterday. For the last few weeks I’ve been working evenings and weekends (the shifts I’ve desired least) with a relatively easy job doing research surveys over the phone. The pay is low, but it’s still money coming in to pay for groceries and the car… although just barely, if even that. I’m grateful for it (probably not enough, I admit guiltily), and also look forward to not being as dependent on it – i.e., these interviews yielding a full-time, daytime job at a much higher wage. But nonsensibly dread almost every shift. 

Further personal stress comes from a new, very heart-warming relationship I hadn’t expected and am now inwardly finding this heart of mine in some ways seriously chewed up over. Guinevere and I had been gentle friends back in the early nineties, at a very different and extremely difficult time in our lives (and briefly a bit more than friends), before falling out of touch when I transferred out of state in 1993. I’d always worried how life had turned out for her, and with some persistence found her online in 2005 and briefly emailed with her, before losing touch again. 

Late last year we reconnected again via email, and met up again to say hi, the first we’d seen each other in nearly seventeen years. There was an immediate warmth and delight there as we sat in Pizza Hut talking; I gave her a book of hers she’d loaned me way back when (and I’d been holding to return to her someday), some music, and a magazine I’d tracked down and bought for her in Germany in 1993 and never gotten to give her (again, always hanging onto for her). 

It seems we’ve found a nice friendship – more new than renewed, I personally believe; we’re both rather different people now, though the younger two-of-us still occasionally peeps out of our eyes, I think. I’ve visited her at her home in [a large nearby city] three times now (including yesterday evening), and she was up here last Sunday for a stroll through some of the nicer parts my own town, and to meet my mother (and bumping into my younger brother). And, yes, all has been G-rated. 

The stress I mentioned, though, comes to me from finding that one wide facet of my thoughts and feelings for Guinevere are much deeper than friendship-only, even while I know there is also a genuine friendship and respect for her in my heart too. She herself, owing to a particularly rough life and ongoing challenges (unemployment, and some other issues she’s only been able to mention indirectly), is likely capable only of friendship-level feelings and responses. 

It’s not that we’re looking at a huge imbalance between us; it’s more like an extreme struggle strictly in me at times, wanting to preserve that friendship against anything that might make it more vulnerable (e.g., going deeper – or just trying to), rather than strengthen it further. My struggle is to keep a lid on these deeper and more intense feelings in me, since I deeply value Guinevere’s blunt honesty and candor, and so badly need that in a friend, and am genuinely frightened of losing her/our friendship through motivations that would be merely superficial, self-serving, and stupid. If I try to direct us into taking that path, it would put an absolute lie to all the focus and motivations I’ve permitted thus far, and – again – would cost me a relationship utterly unique in my life today, let alone for most of the past twenty years. 

I didn’t plan on this attraction, never engineered or deliberately fed it (I think)… and have not found myself so attracted, either, for nearly those same twenty years. I keep it reined in, yes, with some difficulty… but there seems little more I can do about it – certainly can’t kill it, and it’s not likely to starve or fall into a coma anytime soon. This is very far out of my recent experience, and I am very, very close to being in deeply over my head… at least in over my heart.

And the struggle has an added, heavier dimension: indulging my deeper feelings for this good, sweet, fun, and patient (and spiritual) woman is totally at odds against my prime motivator for many years now: to turn over the rest of my life to serving my faith and my Church, either as priest or professed/avowed religious (i.e., monk/friar). That’s the selfish-versus-selfless struggle: be a little something for many people, versus just try instead (with a lousy track record, and rusty skills at best) to be something for one person… and with no guarantee at all, and the frightful risk of ruining something new, treasured, and unexpected. 

The only resolution, of course, for all of this, is for me to keep that deeper interest banked, and simply enjoy her company when we’re together. (And my heart wrings its metaphorical hands over how long before the next time I see her.) There’s nothing wrong in valuing a friendship, nor even in there being much deeper feelings and desires for this person, so long as they don’t control, don’t overburden, don’t distract, don’t detour me – nor us. 

There’s the crux of it for me. I’ve lost hours of sleep over these feelings on more than one night (including last night), and at times find myself deeply depressed and helplessly/hopelessly vulnerable. Much of this I must keep to myself (Guinevere and I did discuss a bit last night, and last Sunday), since I know it would put an unfair burden on her, and on our friendship… given especially that her level at comfort – and her understandable concern over how much even of my friendship-feelings may derive from simple loneliness, and a desire to seize hold again of something from my/our younger days (not true, by the way) – is much more fixed and content at the friendship-side of it all than my innermost heart is. And, in cold, hard, fact, this friendship is new, and so still has much of that just-hatched, new-colt fragility throughout. 

The inner stress and struggle have sapped me a good deal, and lately have been affecting my other outer expressions of inner self, such as my writing (both blog and novel), and my focus on my future: mapping out classes to take once the income is coming back in, detaching myself further from this world; also even on some stuff around the home (painting, winter garden-maintenance, etc.). 

Even gathering info on your ancestor’s German stamps has been almost impossible to put some needful focus on, so I can get them identified and back to you for his album. I do apologize for that (they’re still here on my desk; I will get on them as soon as I can give them the attention due)… and for how needlessly long this email’s gotten, too. 

So let me close for now by asking that you keep my mother and brother in your prayers, and me – and Guinevere, too. We each need it, and all. 

Always,

Gene 

And to a gentle followup question from Spartacus, I answered at even greater length: 

—–Original Message—–
From: Aging Child [mailto: AGeneChilde@YouWho.com]
Sent:
Saturday, February 14, 2009 2:34 PM
To: “Spark” le Klaus [mailto:SpartaCuss@Yabbadoo.com]
Subject: RE: Girl, and Buoy
  

This wrenching struggle I’ve kept almost entirely to myself (since it’s strictly confined to my own heart and will), sharing just a Readers’-Digest version with my mother – who was warmly charmed by Guinevere, and vice-versa, this past Sunday – and sharing also just some of the more difficult parts with Miss Guinne herself. 

This extreme sensitivity’s had me nearly at tears, now and then, these past several weeks… including while visiting with my mother this morning, and skimming off some of the choppy froth of these tossing waves to share with her.

She’d asked how yesterday evening had been (I’d brought “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” along to Guinevere’s for us to watch and munch popcorn over – and though I’d left at close to midnight, we – I – had as always stayed completely G-rated). And Mother even asked “Did you break up?” I forced a chuckle and told her there’s no dating to break up from, and that I’d probably be back down there (or Guinevere up here) again next weekend. (Maybe; last night Guinevere also said that next weekend’s “up in the air”. Far from comforting… but I’m not about to push.) 

Just because she’s recovering from a debilitating series of strokes doesn’t mean my mother’s blind. She saw how a couple times my lips pressed shut tight and I looked away as my eyes began to fill a little, and heard my voice needfully pause and catch itself. She sent me home right before lunch, and told me, “No more tears.” I hugged her there in her wheelchair, and kissed her fluffy hair. 

Spartacus, the tears and depression aren’t over anything Guinevere’s said or done. She’s been warm, welcoming, and friendly; honest and utterly BS-free where only sincerely open friends can be; she has a big sweet heart that will inevitably have her smooching the nearest fuzzy four-legged critter, whether her own or one passing by on the sidewalk, or even peering out a neighbor’s window. 

The ache feeding the tears (kept at bay, although that’s just barely upstream from here) is from the seemingly irresolvable three-way, entirely-inner struggle between a) cherishing this friendship I seriously need, plus holding fast to an unshakable commitment of my heart to take care of this unexpected gem of a rare kind of friendship and not wreck it; b) a staggeringly powerful yearning to cast down my inner walls and let myself simply fall in love with her… but quite obviously this would require the same of her (and she’s had too many emotional roughing-ups since childhood; and has in not-so-many-words gently explained that she’s in no emotional shape for anything of a beyond-friendship nature) – this yearning really wants to pilot me to where she and I would be/become everything to the other; and c) an unwavering (well, okay… near-unwavering) commitment of soul and spirit to continue detaching myself from the world – and relationships – and take on the tonsure or white collar, thus giving my heart and life away to all, not to merely one. 

b” and “c” are of course absolutely mutually exclusive, and even “a” and “b” not at all necessarily hand-in-hand allies, since “a” requires a strong degree of selflessness, and “b” by its nature is a kind of selfish thing. Only “a” and “c” can work together with certainty, and these mark and define the path my intellect and soul want me to keep to. 

Brother; I’m so incredibly over my head and out of experience in this stuff! Azey (2003) never had firm hold of my heart, so we just fizzled out, though she was there when I needed help through my grief over my father; the girlfriend before her (oddly also a Guinne – well, Gwen – and same city, too, 1999) never got off the ground; before her, Lannie just outside the Poconos (1996) lived too impossibly far away, and also never had my heart; and before that, PauliPortia‘s mom – did indeed have all my heart at the end (1992), but it was too, too late… and that one will never stop hurting. And it was then – 1992-3 – that today’s Guinevere first passed through my life (including, admittedly some brief intimacy) when I was hurting badly enough to rationalize a little selfish reaching-out. I had no heart left to give her then, nor did I receive hers. 

Now this same heart of mine is almost throwing itself against the bars of my chest to get out to her, even though there’s no clear, discernable perch inside Guinevere for it to land on. Said heart responds poorly to reason, chafes at restraint. 

Again, this struggle is entirely internal – I’m not fighting her for her own heart, nor even (I sincerely hope) trying to make a case for the dating/love scenario. In fact I really have told her, when outlining (considerately keeping the toughest details to myself) to her a bit of what’s going on inside here, that I don’t want my being open/candid about this to be a thing of even the least pressure on her, that I’m only showing her what’s inside so she can know a bit more about me as I am today. 

One of the keep-me-awake-in-the-night thoughts/fears is that, deep inside herself, Guinevere may never get past a hunch (incorrect… but how do I prove it?) that the foundation of what I feel for her now – friend and crush (a feeling I guardedly admitted to) – is founded on a passing-though-needed friendship that back then had a patina of FWB I am rather ashamed to recall, other than lovely ivory skin, and a beautiful body the years since appear not to have badly marred. 

It may help me (but would it hurt the friendship?) to sit beside her and let the tears flow. I’ve cried in her presence already, although this was at emotion-saturated scenes in “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and “What Dreams May Come”. I don’t know. 

(Playing incessantly in the background – I really don’t need this! – is Robert Palmer’s 1991 cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy, Mercy Me” – just the second half, where medleys into “I Want You (to Want Me)”.) 

Thanks, anyway, for the thoughts and wishes. I have to work on this myself, and thus deeply appreciate (and can definitely use) the bolstering. 

Gene

Update, 5:36 PM: I dashed over to Mother’s rehab facility after posting this blog, and sat with her a while — even mentioning what I’d put up here in this posting. Just before I left again, she looked at me and said, “It’s good for life.”

Topics had changed a couple times; I didn’t know what she was referring to now. “What’s good for life?” I asked.

She answered: “Friendship.”

And I nearly started crying.

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Responses

  1. You seem really lonely and desperate for some romantic love. Have you considered dating (like actively searching for female companionship)? This chick seems really complicated and if you’re so terrified of scaring her off then honestly you should just keep her as a friend and find someone *else* to fall in love with. You obviously badly want and need a woman in your life and the whole priestly celibacy thing seems like a cop-out. Like, if you can’t find a woman then you’re just going to become a priest and then it will be like you didn’t fall in love on purpose. Yeah right. If this “Guinevere” was as crazy about you as you were of her then the whole “white collar” thing would be history. So maybe be a little more honest with yourself about what you want…what you NEED and what you can do to GET it. Crying, blobbing, sending emails, and praying is definitely NOT going to move you closer to satisfaction.


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