Once upon a time there was a farmer, he had a prize stallion, which was worth almost as much as all of his farm. One night there was a fearsome storm, and, in the morning, he woke to find the stallion gone. His well-meaning neighbors came by to console him. They said, “We are so deeply sorry, your prize horse is gone. This is a tragedy.” The farmer looked at them and said, “We’ll see.”
If it were not for the friends in my life who are lesbians my dating life would be a mess. Not that it is not a mess, but they do minimize the damage.
Lately I have been drawn to a man who is quite different than I in some ways, but I suspect it is not the differences that have drawn me but the similarities. He is of “my tribe,” those of us who read, think, and wish the world well. We are watching the unfolding of the last brutal grasp of the current administration, the rifts in American society and the unfolding of police brutality and protests, all of this with the backdrop of a pandemic. I can talk with him about these things without translation. This is rare.
What I want to address is desire and sitting. Sitting as in not forcing or attempting to force any particular outcome. Like the farmer…. “we’ll see.” The maturity to let the outcome unfold.
I must confess, I am the Attila the Hun of straight women. I see what I want, and I drive toward it relentlessly. Left to my own devices I would bulldoze anything in my path in the attempt to achieve what I think I want. This has often been foolish and sometimes destructive. It is amazing that the lovers in my life, over the course of my life, have remained friends. I am both proud of this and a little in awe of them. They have put up with Attila the Hun. If gathered in a group, they would all agree with a former boss’s assessment of me who stated that I was a pit bull. I would get it done no matter what. This is not always a wonderful quality in relationship.
With reluctance, I suspect, this Attila the Hun thing must go. I must learn to sit. I can sit regarding my work, finances, health, with all kinds of important things but desire is not one of them. I may have met my lesson. The bright mind I am currently drawn to will not let me bulldoze, sweeping across the plains of Asia intent on conquest. He simply won’t have it and if I am to have any friendship with him, I must pause and let him be.
What a bummer and what a marvelous lesson.
Let me explain the sitting thing. For those of you who don’t meditate or subscribe to any practice that encourages mindfulness this may be a foreign idea. Sitting means simply staying put and not forcing anything. Watching one’s impulse to do a certain thing and then watching some more. Being willing to see what happens, to not grasp or control. This is what my two friends, Sally and Kristin reminded me of. Sally practices Buddhism and Kristin does not. Both women have had long term relationships and one is married (to her partner, Susan). Both said, slow down, do not overwhelm the poor guy. Both know me well. Sometimes I wish my good friends didn’t know me quite as well as they do but this is the grace of friendships that are long term. Eventually you start telling one another the truth.
I have wondered whether my urgency is really about my fear that I will not survive to experience love again, but how does this explain all the other urgencies? The people I had to have as lovers before now, regardless. I can only be grateful that they turned out overall to be a likeable bunch and quite sane. I could have pursued Ted Bundy and perhaps not known the difference. He might have gotten the worse of it.
The fear of death is real. I don’t mean to dismiss it. It weaves in an out of my awareness in a different manner than it has before. Part of this is age and part of it is the pandemic. Returning from Guatemala this winter I looked at the people around me wondering who would not be here next year. Recently, my friend Kristin has told me her wife has Covid. She is counting the ways her wife is vulnerable. All of this is very real. My pursuit of the smart guy is besides the point in some ways and in some ways, is the point. When you really aren’t sure whether you will be here next year intimacy becomes especially important. As does touch, deep conversation, and connection. All are vital, particularly to people in crisis. I am fortunate to have this with my friends, but I am finding that I want in with this man, who may not want it with me.
Back to the farmer and his horse. Back to sitting. What is the difference between desire and grasping? I think grasping has a quality of forcing the point, of pursuit, of not paying much attention to what the other person’s ambivalence may be, fears may be, not paying attention to what they might need. I think the reason my two friends are smart enough to give me the advice to slow down is that they are lesbians, they regard men as simply human, as they are. Straight women may give men too much credit as both Prince Charming or not enough as Dogs and miss the basic reality. Men and women are more alike than different. As a therapist I know this, as a woman, I can get led astray but my delusions. The delusion that this human is more powerful than I. He is not. We are all subject to vulnerability, to fear, to uncertainty, to need. Men are not exempted from this.
I don’t know what happens next. I struggle with this, that I have no absolute control over anything. Life unfolds, the horse comes back, or he doesn’t, the pandemic kills me, or it doesn’t, the country collapses or it doesn’t. I can’t Attila the Hun this one. The Buddha in me knows this. The Buddha in me is fascinated about what happens next. When I sit in quiet and curiosity life is marvelous. When I attempt to control the outcome, life is awful. The neighbors need not console me about this one. “We’ll see.”