Tag Archives: relationships

I will always love you… or possibly until trash day

In October I found wood shelves tossed out on the curb. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with them but finding real wood furniture always makes me happy (pressboard or particle board crap just isn’t the same). About 29″ tall andĀ  33″ wide, they weren’t too heavy so I carried them home; I knew I could pass them on to someone else if I couldn’t find a use for them. Otherwise they were almost certainly going to the dump – trash day for that area was the next day – and any other passerby wouldn’t likely see their potential since they didn’t look like much at first glance.

The paint job, likely a stain, was uninspired.

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Before I even brought the shelves home, the words on the back caught my attention and sealed the deal.

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Now that was curious!Ā  Who are Louisa and Joe and why were their – or his – shelves chucked out for trash? Does she no longer love him? For whatever reason, were they no longer together (if they once were)?

It happens that I know someone by the feminine name but she spells it differently and moreover the woman on the shelves wrote her last name too, which I’ve edited out of the photo for privacy. It was an unusual name and googling it got no hits, further compounding the puzzle. I wonder if it wasn’t either of these two people who threw the shelves out but someone else. Maybe Joe nor Louisa was still the owner? Those words are an unusual thing to write on nondescript shelves anyway. Shelves aren’t all that romantic.šŸ˜• Maybe she painted them for him? Or secretly wrote the words on the back for him to find? And when was this written anyway? It just raises a lot of questions, the sort that intrigue me.

Now that the shelves were mine, the first order of business was fresh paint. I decided I could use the shelves in my room, if only temporarily, so I used this green that’s close to a shade I have on half the walls. The shelves aren’t ideal here because they extend past the window but I found myself in need of a little extra clothes storage, at least between seasons, so these will do. Painted, they look like a completely different piece.

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After I fixed up the shelves I found these interesting fabric bins at Dollar Tree. This setup may be temporary but for now it’s fine. And I will never paint over or otherwise change the words written on the back. In the end, I find the “secret” declaration of love, whether it lasted or not, kind of touching.

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Short Thought 209 (girlfriends)

There are some men who make all of their girlfriends (or wives) do the same thing. That is, all of the girlfriends in turn have to sing in his band, or work in his yard, or throw dinner parties with him, or take cross-country motorcycle trips together, or swing dance. And I think to myself, I could never be such and so ‘s girlfriend (or wife) because I don’t want to do whatever that thing is thatĀ all his women have to do.

Short Thought 153 (bells & whistles)

I dated a man who I concluded needed about half of what I was. Sort of like buying a phone or a computer or other major appliance with lots of bells and whistles you’ll never use. Better to get a more basic version.

Acts of affection…

It was probably the most genuine, tender interaction between us. We were both in the vicinity of middle age. Our relationship to each other was ambiguous, not or not-yet defined. I was sussing things out you could say. We were in public together, in a social setting with other people. I don’t remember what precipitated it – had anything? – when, without speaking, he suddenly inclined his head my way, almost bowing but not too low. Maybe it was an act of supplication, maybe it was a declaration, I don’t know. Without hesitating I reached out and put my hand on the top of his head and rested it briefly there. I said nothing.Ā To me, the moment was not quite maternal, not quite romantic, but something else or something in between. It felt, despite the eyes on us, private.

He spoiled it not much later, hopping around,Ā bleating, “Touch my head! Rub my head!” while leaning in toward me the way a cat or dog does when it wants to make you pet it. He was clearly playing to the other people present, acting the fool. IĀ Ā had a fair idea this time was going to be used for a joke or punch line. I wouldn’t do it. I paid him no mind.

 

 

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Waiting for people to “change”

Going way back in my life, I remember waiting for people to change. Not usually arbitrary change. More typically it was change they told me they WANTED to make, were GOING to make, and so on. I was all ears. Great! They see the problem and they want to remedy it. They want to improve this issue. Make themselves better and — in either some or many instances — help our relationship in the doing.

It started, as many things do in childhood when my mother was always talking about “things changing.” The situation in our house wasn’t good, god knows, and there was plenty of room for improvement. She talked a good game. I believed her. I had a vision for a much better life myself. It was within reach, not the stuff of fluff and fantasy. We could do this as a family. Do I need to tell you nothing, ever, ever changed? Unless you count getting worse as change. No, I didn’t think so.

As I grew older and had relationships, I took this trait with me. Not to a one, but I came across my share of people who talked about change. Changing themselves. As I’d been with my mother, I was a gung ho cheerleader and sidekick. Things can be better! Won’t things be great WHENā€¦[insert “X”] happens. In my own way, much as it chagrins me, I was a True Believer. (I hesitate on that because I take a rather dim view of True Believers. When I say someone is one, I don’t typically mean “isn’t that a grand way to be.” No. It’s a way of explaining someone’s dogged pursuit. A single-minded vision that tends to overlook or block out anything that doesn’t really fit the picture. Cheerleading over iffy causes.)

Anyway, I know I was a key part of this dynamic. When people – some of them – became involved in relationships with me, started interacting with me, listening to my ideas and philosophies, they often started talking about “changing.” Again, I was all for it! This changing was invariably about eliminating a negative trait or behavior and improving themselves or their life in a meaningful way. Why, the solution was just around the bend! Things will sure be great when they – and by design, we – get there.

I must have been, consciously or not, directly or not, eliciting this response (to me). Which isn’t to necessarily say the people I’ve known weren’t ALSO talking to other people about changing, etcetera – I don’t know for certain – but I have to conclude I somehow prompted it in relating to me. It may have been a way to get or hold my attention. Sometimes people wanted my approval – telling me what they thought sounded good – which I saw or see only in retrospect.

Wanting people to improve themselves and/or to be happier, isn’t inherently a bad thing. So it’s not like a malicious intent. But misguided? Yes. It’s absolutely useless if the other person doesn’t genuinely want that – whatever “that” is in a particular instance – for themselves; if the idea doesn’t spring from something deep inside them. It’s not worth spit if you – i.e., *I* – am the only one really interested in the subject. If I’m the one propelling it, even indirectly.

It took me a long time to realize the above. That is, anything that’s going to have legs and last must be self-initiated. It’s all well and good (for me) to talk to other people, to introduce ideas, if only by example, but waiting for other people to change is a fool’s errand. Counting on it is a ticket to ride the Misery Moped – a comrade of the Bitter Bus – which you will ride alone.

My realization wasn’t sudden. It took years and evolved. I took all the maxims about the only changes that can be made are the ones you make for yourself, to heart. It wasn’t just about “them.” I took more of the energy I poured into other people and directed it my way. I became more conscious of how I affected people. My antennae went up whenever a person I knew or was getting to know started talking about “changing,” all the more so if it linked right back to me somehow.

Maybe a relatively benign story will help. I was seeing a man years back when I was becoming more conscious of this trait in myself (and wanting to CHANGE it). He was very smart, dry-humored, trustworthy. A basically good, if needy, man. However, decidedly into middle age, he wasn’t someone who took care of himself. He led a sedentary lifestyle, didn’t eat especially well, and was overweight. A big guy, not obese, but packing pounds. I, on the other hand, have for a long time, placed good health – exercise and eating right – at the front of my lifestyle.

His physical condition played a part in what we might do together – we certainly weren’t going for a run or rock climbing – but I never said a word to him about his weight or his eating habits. I didn’t talk about eating better or exercising more. It was a new day: I took him as I found him. I went on the idea that he was the way I saw him and anything I thought or decided in terms of our relationship would spring from that base.

Soon into our relationship though, he started talking about his weight. He volunteered that he’d lost a pound or two the previous week. (I donā€™t remember exactly what he attributed it to but it was an unreliable thing, not a lifestyle or philosophy change.) He made a point of announcing that if he kept up at this pace, he’d have lost 30 – or maybe it was 50 – pounds in such-and-so many weeks. Although I’d actively done nothing to incite it – other than to show up – I sensed that this talk was for my benefit.

That was confirmed in a follow-up conversation where he accused me of not being sufficiently encouraging of his weight loss plan. If I know me – and I think I do – I probably explained about the weight loss idea not really seeming like a goal of his and further, that I’d never said anything to him about his weight, so although it was presented as an offering of sorts, he wasn’t doing it for “me.” (I am reminded here of another man, who, soon after meeting me, announced he was going to “start working out.” I heard that proclamation from him a few more times until it dried up and was said no more.) And just to wrap up the story – so long as I knew him he never lost any weight or changed anything about his diet or lifestyle. And if he ever did after that, I surely don’t believe it would have anything to do with me.

I’d finally gotten it. The people I know and meet are usually in the vicinity of middle-age. I’ve stopped approaching people on the premise they will or may change. I assume they WON’T. This feels healthier and smarter. I don’t even want to hear talk about changing and I’m skeptical of it if I do. If someone changes, I’ll see it. In fact, the less talk – if it’s for my theoretical benefit – the better.

Left

I realized a long while ago that it’s harder to be the person left behind than the person who is leaving. Assuming they went willingly, it is generally easier on the one who goes somewhere else. Whether that’s the buddy at work who quits, the good neighbor who moves away, the child who goes off to college, the spouse who vacates the marital home, or the loved person who dies.

I think it’s because the person left behind experiences the absence acutely and regularly. They see the co-worker’s empty cubicle. See the child’s room with their posters still on the walls, their trophies and knick-knacks sitting on the shelves. Go through the practical matters of funerals or sorting through and dealing with the deceased’s belongings and mostly, try to fathom and cope with the huge hole left. They field phone calls and mail for someone who’s moved on. They no longer commiserateĀ with their neighbor during snow storms or electrical outages, or chat over the fence in fair weather. They sleep alone in the bed once shared with the other person.

While they may miss you – except for the deceased, who, no matter your beliefs about what happens after death, probably doesn’t missĀ anyone – the leaving person will have lots of new stimuli occupying them, or minimally, they won’t consciously or unconsciously expect to see you.

That’s the rub. It takes awhile to stop looking in the old places you still frequent or live in, expecting to see and hear what you used to. There’s a confusion that occurs, when you catch yourself about to do something you once did – and you realize you can’t. It’s over. They’re gone.

I know the sayings about doors shutting and windows opening. About old goodbyes leading to new hellos. How every new friend was once a stranger. Yes, I know all that. Like you, I hear these sayings. And you know what?Ā I don’t care.Ā Painful is painful. Difficult is difficult. I don’t have to paint it up pretty, spin it so it’s more palatable. I’ve lived enough to know. You miss the good ones. You just do.