There’s nothing like an epiphany. Though I’d be pretty happy if rather than a sharp smack upside the head that the lesson came more like a golden amber shaft of light piercing low grey morning clouds over the glassy slate of an ocean or bay.
No such luck.
So what’s the lesson this morning?
You cannot be upset with someone or with a situation when you have not clearly communicated what your boundaries are and where your tender spots are when it comes to other people’s behaviors. In other words, if someone behaves in a way that is inconsistent with your internal monologue, it’s your own fault. After all, most folks aren’t mind readers. In short – either open your mouth and speak what’s on your mind or shut up and stop whining.
Like I said … WHACK.
Of course this whole thing has come to my attention because of a relationship. Actually I should say the specter of a potential relationship.
Here’s the scenario: Let’s say there’s someone to whom you’re attracted. Let’s say that you have some similar interests … a rather uncanny set of similar interests … and let’s say that there’s clearly a sense of mutual enjoyment – dare I say, pleasure – any time you have even the most brief of interactions.
Based on a series of conversations and a basic gut instinct, you have a sense that maybe, just maybe there may be some mutual attraction on some level.
Sounds like it should be a simple equation, right?
Yeah. Maybe if you live in an episode of some highly rated, well-written dramatic comedy that wins at least one Emmy every fucking season.
For the rest of us things aren’t quite so simple.
Instead of speaking in the ever-so-safe third person plural, I’ll bring this one directly home.
I’m smitten. Perhaps it’s more accurate to describe me as thoroughly fascinated. I’d say “I met someone,” which of course would technically be true, but that phrase indicates that this is someone with whom I’ve moved beyond basic pleasantries and have actually gone out with on a date; or that there’s an established mutual interest.
We’ve been in public together several times. A few times it was on purpose. There was even one night when I got picked up and dropped off – something that if I were living in the heterosexual world could most certainly have been considered a date.
Like I said. For the rest of us, things aren’t quite so simple.
We met quite a few months ago, but only started to truly get to know each other in the first part of this year. In that brief time there have been a rather stunning number of realizations about what we have in common. Some things are seemingly inane or basic – a penchant for unusually flavored lip balm, culinary fascination over pizza and pork chops, an almost pathological attention to grammatical structure and vocabulary choice. Other things are more profound, or at least more philosophical – desire for connections where we have freedom and independence while at the same time enjoy a sense of being safe, a distaste for passive-aggressive conversations and love of direct communication, and ultimately a desire for trust and intimacy.
Again, what’s the problem, right?
Here’s where the wheels come off the cart.
She doesn’t know I exist.
Okay so that’s a teensy weensy exaggeration. Obviously she knows I exist. We are, after all, becoming friends and spending time together. What I mean is that I don’t think that she sees me, at least not as anything more than a friend. We have a grand time when we’re together. We laugh, have serious and profound discussions and share intimate perspectives on life; but in terms of it having a romantic leaning I’m finding my usually fine-tuned instincts … well … absent.
The fact that we’re getting to know each other and clearly find each other simpatico isn’t altogether a bad thing. Because, of course, as anyone can tell you the one kind of relationship that you can always trust as a woman – whether lesbian or not – is that of your girlfriends. In my specific case it’s also a very good thing because, well, she’s a stellar human being who makes a superb addition to that ever-protected immediate circle of confidence that one calls “close friends.”
Now my perspective on this whole friend versus girlfriend thing is pretty simple. Friendship is a prerequisite for getting more seriously and intimately involved. Period. I’ve spent enough time in heart-a-flutter-butterflies-the-size-of-pterodactyl connections to know that ultimately they never work. That said there is no question that a romantic relationship must have some sort of spark.
There has been more than one occasion on which I’ve thought I felt something of a charge with this particular individual. And there have been moments in conversation where I’m pretty sure my interest is a reciprocal sort of thing.
One of my friends told me to stop being such a chicken, tell this woman how I feel, and get on with it. Perhaps a simple act on paper, but the reality is, as I said before, more complicated.
The stakes in this game are high. Truly superb individuals are a rare commodity, and when found should be held in high regard. This statement may seem strange coming from someone who, as one friend put it, knows more people than most individuals ever meet in life; but while quality and quantity would be nice in persistent tandem, the truth is that more often than not they’re mutually exclusive. So when you meet someone whose intellectual, emotional and spiritual combination result in someone special whose presence increases the quality of your life … well … you don’t want to jeopardize that. At the same time in order for any friendship to truly take root and grow it requires honesty, candor and authenticity of behavior.
I’ve written about boundaries several times on this site. I’ve also written about the conundrum when one’s personal boundaries collide with someone else’s and the delicate navigation that ensues from being true to one’s self and at the same time being respectful of others. I’ve also written about the importance of patience when it comes piloting these particular waters.
Patience is vital, however, in seeing how this situation is unfolding in the ever-rapidly-moving place of my internal dialogue, I see a distressing pattern that I am keen to break.
You see, this isn’t the first situation like this, where I met someone superb, began fostering a friendship, sensed some sort of connection beyond friendship and then allowed my fear of “ruining” the friendship and a deeper seeded terror of rejection to render me mute.
The result in this other case is a friendship that began upon a chance meeting at a conference several years ago and continues today to grow and thrive. I often wonder what might have happened had I taken a more forward approach in this other situation. But that’s a would’ve-could’ve-should’ve scenario and as my father and mother always told me, those are just a waste of time. What matters is how you react today to the events and scenarios placed in front of you, not how you imagine things might have gone had you reacted a certain way. And in the category of “all things happen for a reason” (another topic I’ve addressed in my musings on this site), that particular relationship is now precisely what it is supposed to be – a good, platonic friendship.
In a recent commentary (“Fireflies”) I talked about my saying good-bye to living behind the old walls. It’s easy to talk about things, but now in rather short order I find myself put in a situation where it’s time to prove that I’ve learned the lesson.
I could easily follow the same path with this woman that I have in the past. It would be simple to take a deep breath, swallow my pride and cast aside the feelings that sit on top of the friendship foundation that already lies in place.
But simple isn’t always best, at least not when it comes to breaking old habits, and making the conscious decision to move past old behaviors and embrace something new.
That loud clattering noise you may hear is me casting aside that old mode and, with crossed fingers trying something new.
No matter how it turns out, I can be proud of myself for taking the chance … or at this writing at least thinking about it … and for embracing the true me.