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Love, and the Finding of It

Posted by Keen Observer on May 1, 2016

I haven’t written much these days.  It’s not because I don’t have anything to say:  it’s because I’ve either been too busy to write or too focused on more-important things. Like getting married.

After an initially-rocky start in the online-dating scene, I made a lot of progress in a short period of time.  I found a beautiful, sweet, clever woman who fits into my life almost exactly as I pictured it, in an almost entirely-unexpected way.  And I provide for her the emotional connection she sought.  We balance each other.  And in under six months, we’ve gone from that first meeting over coffee to trying to plan a wedding and three (maybe four) different celebrations in three (maybe four) different cities on two continents.  And navigating the migration process for her to come to Canada.  And no, it’s not that kind of wedding:  we’re truly nuts for each other.  Both of us are too old to waste time and money on that stupid game.  This is about being with the other half of our souls.

So, yeah, my attention isn’t exactly here.  Sorry about that.

And for those looking for closure, “Lenka” and I have worked through most of our issues, and we’ve actually become quite good friends.  I’m actually glad that didn’t work out, because in learning more about her, I’ve learned we would not have been a great match.  Good, to be sure, but not great.  It might have worked, but probably not.  The woman I found is a far better match for me, and I’ve found a friendship with Lenka that will last a long time and be deeper than most.

Peace and love to y’all.

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Posted in general, life, love, personal | Comments Off on Love, and the Finding of It

Recent Thoughts

Posted by Keen Observer on August 5, 2015

I haven’t written much in the past year for various reasons, some good, some probably not good.  Excluding my recent poem and post on Friendship, my last two posts were in February and December on fairly diametrically-opposed subjects.  One was filled with thoughts of love and amazement and hope, and the other was filled with the pain of the end of a friendship I had thought unshakeable.  The two posts were not related.  The main reason I have been focused in other directions is fairly reasonably laid out in my December post.  But recent events have finally convinced me that the love I was chasing—and offering—will be neither achieved nor accepted.  I’m still grappling with the pain of it.  And a large part of that is due to the nature of how this realisation was given to me:  the uncovering of her lies and her speaking “unforgivable” words.

For most of the past year, I have been blessed with feelings of love I have never before experienced (see Timing).  It changed me as a person, and I am at this point a better man than I was last year at this time.  For that reason (among others) I can feel no true regrets for the events of the past year, though I can certainly regret the outcome.  The time and experiences have taught me a lot about myself that I didn’t expect to learn—certainly not in this fashion.  I learned to let go of certain bits of hatred and bitterness towards my ex and my ex-boss, because in being filled with love, I had no room for hate.  It was a startling revelation, as I hadn’t realised I still hated my ex until I no longer did, and I figured I would always hate my ex-boss (he’s a narcissistic asshole–I seem to run into a lot of them in positions of power).

Only love can defeat hate

Only love can defeat hate

I learned about acceptance and selflessness.  I learned about forgiveness.  I learned about inspiration.  I learned about so much, and all from interactions with a single person, a person I had come to know as “perfect”, though I knew she was not:  though she was flawed, she was just perfect for me.  That I also think she’s stunningly gorgeous didn’t hurt, either.  She made me feel alive and happy and young and hopeful and appreciated in ways I don’t remember ever feeling before, to the point that my omnipresent depression was mostly just an annoying buzz that could be ignored at will.

But a few months ago, April, she told me that she had been lying to me (and pretty much everyone she knows) and using me for months, and the nature of that lie and revelation could have been devastating to me.  I’m still confused as to how it wasn’t.  She said she had been doing it to protect my feelings, because she had figured out that I was madly in love with her, but that became hard to believe later on. But we talked it out, and she assured me the cause was no longer required and she agreed for the sake of our friendship not to lie to me or hide such things from me again.  A smarter man might have walked away from her then for the betrayal, but there were defensible reasons not to, including some sunk costs, and the fact that I loved her so deeply and completely that it still sometimes scares me.  Our friendship recovered…or seemed to, at least…and we spent a lot of time together in various ways, and I revealed the full depth of my feelings for her, partially through poetry I hadn’t yet given to her and some new stuff I now did, plus additional writing besides.  And I tried to live my love for her through my actions.  I also learned more details of her lies after the fact and learned some other things that I did not make her aware that I knew, as there seemed to be little point:  the past was the past.

But some weeks ago, the “unforgivable” words were uttered, shaming words that compared me directly to a past abuser of hers.  I was shocked and hurt and confused, because I had never tried to be anything but a source of love and support for her.  But my love was not something that fit into her life’s plan, and so a distance grew between us that I would rather have never happened.  It was during this period of silence where I was giving her space she indicated that she needed that I was confronted with evidence that she hadn’t changed, that she still was lying to me and would continue to do so, that the reason for the lies still existed, and that she was still going to hide things from me.  The lies and betrayal resurfaced, much to my shock.

I’ve never been so shocked as when that evidence slapped me in the face, as though she had done it in reality.  Because of the nature of the space I was giving her, she was supposed to write me something in response to my defence of the actions she compared to her abuser, so I didn’t want to confront her before I saw that, to give her the possible chance to come clean and volunteer her story.  So I tried to wait for an uncertain, unspecified delivery date.  Two days later, the building pressure from that pushed me past a breaking point I hadn’t realised existed, and I…ran away.  With no notice, I asked my boss for the week off and went home to visit my family and my new niece.  I tried to run from her to deal with my pain, and just as though the universe was twisting the knife, she was the last person I saw leaving work that day.  Yes, she’s a co-worker, but we don’t work directly together. (To add insult to injury, the next day, I broke a tooth that’s going to cost me thousands to fix.)

The visit home was good, and I was gradually able to recentre myself.  Most of my anger went away, and my love for her kept trying to overwhelm and suppress my other feelings.  She texted me one evening that week and suggested we talk when I get back (I surprised her by disappearing unannounced), as she felt her writing skills were not up to the task of writing an actual response to my letter.  I agreed, not without trepidation.  We had that conversation almost a month ago, and it was both much less and much more than I feared. (Understand that there are a lot of details missing from here, which is contributing to some of my stilted syntax.)

She lied to my face, directly and very specifically, when she didn’t have to.  The lie was entirely unnecessary in the context, and the conversation could have been completed “satisfactorily” without that information.  Because that information was directly contradicted by the evidence mentioned earlier: photographs from a wedding and the knowledge I have that she doesn’t know I have.  But the photographs were visible to her friends on Facebook for a short time, and they’re pretty damning even without my knowledge, so one wonders why she would take that risk.  I think in part she’s just gotten so used to lying about this to everyone that she can’t help herself.  Despite the fact that the pictures were posed for, taken by someone else, and taken in public.  I guess she’s neither as honest nor as smart as I had given her credit for.  And then earlier this week, additional, more-innocent visual evidence surfaced that makes the case against her lies and deception yet more damning and longer-running, and she remains silent.  And she seems to be carrying a lot of cognitive dissonance in her head to be able to say and do the things she does that seem entirely contradictory to one another, and so I start to wonder if some of the unflattering things that she told me others have called might not actually be true.  Which is a horrible thing for me to even think.

I love her still, and I like her personally.  I like talking to her and spending time with her.  I value her friendship.  But now I question if we can actually stay friends, because she’s lost my trust and my respect.  But we still have more talking to do, and for the first time in my life, I’m going to be picking a fight with someone.  Not just “someone”, but a woman I love and care deeply about…despite everything.  Because I need to see her reaction and response.  Then, and only then, I might be able to figure out what to do, because right now, I’m more than a little lost and confused.

POSTSCRIPT (some time after writing the above and sitting on it prior to publication):  We were supposed to meet and talk more about this, wherein I would confront her, this week, but she had to cancel.  I had given her exactly one mental reason where such a cancellation would not result in the instant end to our friendship, and she managed to hit it on the nose.  So, we’re going to meet next week instead, and she promises that she will fully block off that evening for me.  She seems truly remorseful, but I still have trust issues, despite my soul crying out to be with her.  But at least she had the courage to tell me to my face (we went for coffee), and the conversation that didn’t revolve around that future talk was otherwise pleasant, as our conversations almost always are.  She seems genuinely concerned about our friendship, which makes this even harder on me.  But we’ll see.

Posted in life, love, personal, stupidity | Comments Off on Recent Thoughts

Heartbreak 3

Posted by Keen Observer on July 23, 2015

I haven’t written much in the past months, mostly for good reasons, some for laziness and a lack of motivation.  I might or might not be starting up again.  This poem is a glimpse into the emotional turmoil I’ve been experiencing since April, and more strongly in the past month.


Fighting with Myself

I do not know
What I am
What I feel
Inside
I am both
Full and empty
Paired feelings
Happy and sad
Still and shaken
Calm and afraid
Focused and scattered
Whole and broken
Supported and alone
Love and pain
Appreciated and betrayed
Certain and not
I do not know
How to reconcile
So many dichotomies—
Just that they must be
Or I will never again
Be whole or happy
To love once more
Freely and completely
How I once loved you

Posted in life, love, personal, poetry, stupidity | Comments Off on Heartbreak 3

On Friendship, Part 4

Posted by Keen Observer on February 7, 2015

Well, this is a post I didn’t think I’d be writing.

You may recall earlier posts bearing this same title, and that the subject of them was largely the same person, though others may have been referenced.  This past week changed all that in an instant, and yet it didn’t.

My former best friend–who shall remain nameless but who knows about these posts–explicitly, but without explanation, abandoned our friendship this week.  Not abandoned, really–more like executed it.  After five months of decreasing and then no contact, nor responses to contact attempts, she blocked me on Facebook Wednesday morning.  She was there, and then she was not.  My first reaction was that she had finally deleted her account, since she had mentioned having considered it in one of our last conversations.  But I mentioned it to a friend, and I was told that her profile was still visible.  The shock of that knowledge hit me rather like a bolo to the nuts.

I had accepted that she no longer wanted to communicate with me for whatever reasons, but that was an action I hadn’t anticipated, since it could be considered very aggressive.  And I had come to terms with her lack of response, though I had been working on an email for the past couple of months that would tell her I was confused but would respect her desire not to communicate with me and would wish her well; I hadn’t sent it, because I couldn’t figure out the right words to settle the right tone.  I still might send it, but the tone has become rather more bitter in the last few days.  I mean, I hadn’t heard anything from her since mid-October, despite a few attempts after that–though I gave up in late November–and she had already severely limited what I could see on her wall and profile (all without explanation).  And there are other factors which I learned indirectly (aka. “CG”–her bf-exbf-bf-fiancé) which caused me to believe that I knew why she had limited and then cut off communication with me prior to this, though I found those factors to be both confusing and hurtful.  So, I was settled into accepting that benign neglect would be the way of things, and I had decided about a week or so ago that if nothing happened in the next month (i.e., by the end of February), I would just quietly remove her from my friends list.  And so, she took this entirely unnecessary step without warning, notification, or explanation.  The only functional outcome of this for me is that I can’t see her profile, I can’t see her tags/other public activity, and I can’t send her messages/reply to our ongoing conversation thread, so there was very little point to taking this course of action.  I still have other contact means for her, unless she’s changed them all.  And in that case, she’s got bigger problems than worrying about me.

The worst part about it for me is that she went the “silent” road.  We had had long discussions about my past relationships and certain aspects of them involving silence and marginalisation of me by my ex.  Lack of honesty and communication doomed at least one of those relationships–the most important one–and she knew that.  So this method of going about “separating” from me couldn’t have been more calculated to hurt me than if she had tried (which I don’t think she was trying to do specifically).  So I am hurt and annoyed and frustrated and confused by all this.  The second-worst part was that the “other factors” caused me to start distrusting her–something I would have said was impossible in August.  And because of that distrust, I had to remove her as my emergency contact and change all the passwords I had given her (in a still-sealed envelope, I hope) to be used in the event of my death or incapacitation.  I didn’t think she would do anything with the information–not immediately, at least–but I trust none of the people around her not to do so.  These two “betrayals” poisoned what had been a beautiful friendship, in my opinion.

But to be clear, I do not regret any of it, except mailing her my passwords–I have a hard time remember the crazy number of them that I have, so changing them all was extremely frustrating and annoying…I had some really good ones that I liked.  But her friendship was of incalculable value to me, and she helped me get through some rough emotional patches in my life and deal with a lot of past anger and stress.  I like to think I helped her similarly.  Her friendship served its purpose, and I think I’m better–and a better person–for having known her.  That’s the legacy I want to remember, not the stupidity of how it ended.  In many ways she gave me back my emotional life, and I’ll always be grateful for that.  But that part of my life is apparently now over, unless she decides to contact me, and in that eventuality, I don’t know what I’ll do.  She made her choice, and it was pretty unequivocal.

But the surprising thing for me is also related to friendship:  the reaction.  I put up a post on Wednesday–D-Day, I guess–after I got home and had eaten some supper.  She can’t see it, having blocked me/unfriended me, but since she knows of this blog, I’m not sure I should repeat the words.  But I vague-booked a little and said it sucked to be “stabbed in the heart” by a friend.  The response to that was strangely strong and gratifying.  I got a supportive comment from an old ex, and a few other comments and several likes to the post.   And then I got some side-band communications.  I had two long conversations yesterday with friends, both of whom I’ve known for years, but I had only been close with one of them.  I try to explain the situation as honestly as I can (based on my knowledge), and the responses and support I’ve gotten from everyone have been uniformly positive.  It’s something that almost overwhelmed me in its magnitude and surprised me in terms of who reached out to me and how.  Which just goes to show you that if you pick good friends, they’ll stick by you.

So, I guess the upshot of all this is a new piece of learning for me about friendships:  good friendships can end, but the best ones don’t.  And only time will tell you which one is which.

Posted in general, life, love, personal | Comments Off on On Friendship, Part 4

Timing

Posted by Keen Observer on December 1, 2014

Timing is everything.  Or so they say.  And in my life, timing has rarely been something that has worked in my favour.  There are many examples of timing basically biting me in the ass, and very few of it working for me.  As examples, we can go from learning about and liking a product just before it gets discontinued, up to buying property high and selling low (of necessity, not choice).  And there are many examples in between.  I started working at my previous company just as its share price was peaking, and that’s the price at which my options started.  When we parted ways, that price was a third less, and all my options were under water.  All 60,000 options.  The company’s shares currently are worth 1/6 of their peak price, if that.  In any normal company, the president would have been turfed long ago, instead of continuing to get bonuses that dwarf the salary I earned there.  My life has been interesting in similar ways on the personal side, with otherwise-benign decisions made at times where they would have greater negative effects.  The pattern has been fairly consistent over the past two decades or so, and I’ve written about some of it previously.

I was looking back over these occurrences recently, kind of indulging in a bit of “woe is me” self-pity at how hard my life has been (it hasn’t, really, in comparison with most, but I have felt a strong emotional and financial toll from the events in my life), but mostly because something happened in my personal life that caused me to evaluate the cost and effect of the sum of my bad decisions, good decisions, and random timing of the events in my life that have guided me down the path I am on.  What happened was I met someone special who has challenged me personally and emotionally in ways I thought were largely dead to me after so much pain and failure.  And she has enriched my life greatly in ways I didn’t expect (and I don’t think she suspects, though I have hinted at them to her).  And the funny thing about it is that my “timing problem” is in full effect, because she isn’t emotionally ready for the type of relationship I would like to have with her.  Which has created an interesting–“It’s complicated.”–environment, though we have become pretty good friends (and yes, she is aware of my ongoing interest in her).

But the beneficial part of the timing revealed itself to me not long after the day I realised how far and how hard I had actually fallen for her (roughly two months into this story).  The day I realised how far I had fallen was the day I realised that I had no more hate left to waste on my ex.  I realised that all of my decisions and all the things that had happened to me–good and bad–had led me down the path that led directly to her.  And so, I could no longer hate what had brought this beautiful, sweet, wondrous person into my life, because the wonder of her just suffuses me.  And then I was surprised to find I still had that hate stored in reserve, because I thought I had rid myself of all of it:  I only noticed it by its absence in the wake of my realisation (which suggests another topic about self-delusion).  I hope at some point that a similar realisation will occur to her, easing her struggles to deal with her past.

And following this realisation, and coupled with getting to know “Lenka” (not her real name), I realised that my past path had served another purpose:  it had prepared me for Lenka.  My experiences, how I was treated, how I learned to adapt and persevere, how I reacted to and was changed by events and people:  all were early training so that I might be the right person for her in a life that was (and is, to an extent) fraught with negativity and bad things (some really bad) and poor treatment (I suspect emotional abuse) and repeated bad luck and her own bad timing–among other things.  I always knew that one of the things I learned at a fundamental level in my last relationship was patience.  A scary amount and depth of patience.  Lenka needs patience like you need to breathe.  I don’t say that as a negative thing, either:  it’s just part of her.  She needs other things I have learned, also:  acceptance, support, respect, appreciation, proper treatment, an absence of fear, the moral strength to accept another’s child in your life (I’m not entirely sure where that came from, but it’s there), the ability to listen without judging, selflessness, being encouraging, offering help, being friendly, not being demanding, loving her for who she is (I haven’t told her that part yet, unless she’s managed to interpret that properly from the poetry I’ve been writing and giving her).  All of these “skills” arise from the experiences I have had over the past twenty-plus years and have taken until now to be amalgamated into my personality.  And I’m still learning more and more of what she needs.

Had I tried asking her out two years ago–or even a year ago–I don’t think I would have been ready (nor would she have been, I don’t think), even though nearly all my experiences predate that.  I needed the extra time post-breakup to internalise and analyse all that had happened, and all that I had (and was) feeling.  So, at this point in time, it was the right time to proceed.  The sequence of events were almost humorously ordered:  following a one-off, random comment to a close friend, it was one thing after another in fairly-rapid succession with me just reacting almost without thinking (punctuated by her three-week vacation) that led to me asking her out, and so this story began.  (Given my usual level of anxieties in such things, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t think too much about it while it was happening.)  Except for the initial anxiety of asking (as would happen with me regardless), I haven’t really had at any point in this process any doubt about what I was doing–an extreme rarity for me–though the process has been bumpy.  I have done things and said things that I would have been deathly afraid of saying to anyone else, yet with Lenka, they seem natural and proper, and they seem to flow easily from me.  I am comfortable around her in a way I haven’t been around potential romantic interests previously, and yet I remain excited about her and my attraction to her is very strong.  And at the same time, there are other timing issues that keep popping up that have me wondering if the universe is toying with me (give a little, take a little, always leaving me off-balance), and the timing of close friends entering and leaving my life has also added complexity–and good (or at least necessary) things–to the landscape.  (It’s an odd coincidence that my closest friend has basically disappeared from my life over this exact same time interval; looking back, it may have been a good thing, because I think that many of the things I have done/said would have been left undone/unsaid, had I had her available to provide input into this situation…which is a bizarre thought to have occurred to me.)

And so the timing feels right, she feels right, the path feels right.  Though the path has not progressed as I had hoped (and much more slowly, as well), I’m comfortable with it and have the patience and perseverance to continue along it.  Looking back on it at this point, I almost think that timing is working in my favour, because I don’t regret anything that has happened–it all seems right and necessary.  I think that if we had started “properly” dating when I had asked her out, it would not have lasted very long; whereas now, I think we’ll have a better foundation for success–she’s in a better frame of mind about it, as am I.  As well, the effort I’ve put into this has made Lenka seem more desirable and more precious to me, making me more willing to support that effort and do what is needful for success. And the interactions we’ve had have had a positive effect on her, also, both in making her feel better about herself (I think/hope), more positive about some things and about men in general, since I’m apparently quite different from her previous experiences.  And the feedback I get from our interactions contributes to my sense that Lenka is the woman that I need in my life, the type of person that will keep my darkness at bay, because I’m focusing my efforts on her, on being the best I can be, so that she can flourish; that will honour and respect me in the way I do her; that will make me feel valued for who I am, not what I can do for her or give her; that will accept the love and affection I have and return it; that will be a stabilising, yet uplifting, presence in my life; that will always challenge me, yet never undercut me.  In short, I think we are what the other needs in his/her life.  But because of my timing, I just need to be patient until she realises it.  Always the timing.

Posted in general, life, love, personal | Comments Off on Timing

On Friendship, Part 3

Posted by Keen Observer on July 25, 2014

I was having a discussion with my best friend some days ago, in which she was engaging in some of her trademark obsessive behaviour, while simultaneously fretting about being in this obsessive mode.  This is something I have experienced with her on previous occasions, and it’s not something that bothers me beyond the fact of disliking that she tortures herself like that.  In fact, during this iteration of obsession, I realised a few things:

  1. I like listening to her obsess about things (which may surprise her).
  2. I like being the person to whom she feels she can obsess about these things (which shouldn’t).
  3. I like that these interactions are non-judgemental and entirely reciprocal (she takes her turns absorbing my own outpourings).
    • With the proviso that sometimes judgement is necessary, and is performed in both directions as appropriate.
  4. The connection we have/share is so profoundly deep that any other concepts that do not support these statements are entirely unthinkable.

The last item was kind of the key one in my moment of “Eureka!”  During our conversation, I noted it thusly (with improvements):

You are so much a part of my life, that when you ‘go off the deep end’ [as she put it], I just stand and let it wash over me, the rock on the beach sitting immobile and stable, as the stormy waves crash around it.  I observe and analyse and advise, but ultimately, I am apart from it in such a way that lets me fully accept the action of your storm waves without being drowned by them.  And at the same time, I provide an outlet for you that isn’t damaged by the force of the storm.  But the key is that you and I have such a deep, powerful connection that I can no more turn away from your rage or insanity [her term] or sadness than I can my own.  And so, I exist, and you exist, and we complement and support each other.  Profoundly.

As these words came out of me, I realised them for essential truth.  Or Truth.  I thought on this for some time after and realised that as much as I see myself as her rock, I equally know with certainty that she is mine (and I have also waxed poetical in this vein).  She provides a stable barycentre about which I may revolve, or the heavy storm anchor that keeps my fragile hull from being smashed to flinders, as I am tempest-toss’d by the hurricane of my emotions.  And I am confident in this relationship to the marrow of my bones.  I know her, and she knows me, in profound and complete ways.  We know the other’s flaws, and they don’t matter in the least.  We don’t love each other in spite of those flaws; we just love each other, flaws and all, because those flaws are part of makes us who we are, and we understand this intrinsically.

Though the metaphorical rock acts as an impervious observer to the stormy ocean, in another, very real sense, the solitary rock is enveloped by the calmed ocean, an ocean that surrounds and just…is.  An ocean that is accepting and supportive and tranquil and…there, gently reminding the rock that it is never, ever alone.  The ocean’s presence ebbs and flows, as these things do, but the constant contact between water and basalt echoes how one soul brushes up against and soothes the other, their presence a universal constant.

And as all of these thoughts passed through me, I realised another Truth:  I have little doubt that there are people out there who have never–nor will they ever–have so deep and honest a friendship.  These people I pity with all the strength I can muster, for I have been in that state and am indescribably glad to have escaped it.  Of all the things that exist in my life at this time, she is currently what makes me feel the luckiest, the most valued, the most understood, the most appreciated, the most…well, the list goes on.  I’ve finally gotten over the dazed bafflement at having so wonderful and awesome a friend, but the wonder and awe of her remain.  I have even been so lucky as to have developed other close friendships that I value highly as well, but she’s definitely special, and I believe she has been instrumental in me being able to see and accept these other friendships, to have given me the ability to once again let others see who I truly am.  To risk.

She has been such an incredible gift to me, that I can’t really imagine that life is possible in her absence.   My best friend centres me, stabilises me, gentles me, encourages me beyond my limits.  The reality–the solidity–of the connection we share grounds me so perfectly, that I can no longer feel that I am without also the parallel of she is palpably within me.  I could no more turn against her or hurt her than I can harm myself, because to hurt her would be to hurt myself.  And because of how she gives and supports and loves in return, I know the same holds for her.  The connection is truly soul-to-soul.

And to me, that is the nature of a perfect, true friendship…or as close to it as makes no difference.

Posted in general, life, love, opinion, personal | Comments Off on On Friendship, Part 3

On Friendship – Part 2

Posted by Keen Observer on May 21, 2013

I didn’t really plan to write this one, but the basic point I want to make has been rolling around in my brain for a few days, so I thought I’d kick the hornet’s nest and see what roils out. Usually, it’s more than I bargain for.

I used to think, pursuant to some things I had learned in school and elsewhere, that the optimal solution in a relationship was to be the best friend of whomever it is you choose to love. As a result of recent events, both in my life and in others’, I now no longer believe this to be true.

The common wisdom seems to be (to my eye) for a couple to be each other’s best friend, to be the source of all support and validation, the keepers of secrets, the discussers of weighty matters and problems, the accepters of all that makes us…us. This seems to be reasonably sound in theory, but I find that in practice this falls short, and it can, in fact, be somewhat damaging.

In a good relationship, things are usually fine, and this sort of issue generally comes up but rarely or inconsequentially. However, if a relationship is less-idyllic or trending sour–but still has value to both parties–with whom does one confide, if one does not know how to approach some issues with one’s partner? Parents or siblings are sometimes “outs”, or perhaps a clergy member (if you’re into that sort of thing). Some friends can be good friends enough that you feel comfortable talking to them about deeply-personal, potentially-embarrassing problems. But for people who make few friends, and who rarely have casual friendships, this is not a likely situation: private people don’t like sharing such details very much, especially if any of the details may show us in a bad light or create a sense of weakness or humiliation.

This is where a best friend comes in really, really handy. Some wag long ago said that a best friend is someone who knows all about you but loves you anyway. This is partly why I now think that this a critical resource to have outside your relationship. Your best friend–if you are lucky enough to have one–isn’t going to judge you and find you wanting for discussing your embarrassing (or whatever) problems with him/her; a true friend will be what you need him/her to be…listener, advisor, sounding-board, reality-checker, second-opinionator, tell-me-if-I’m-overreacting-er, calming-down-er-er, and so on. Even sometimes just a friendly voice on the other end of the phone call when you’re feeling too frazzled to deal with something just now, and you know you’re not in a stable frame of mind. I think this is a critical component of keeping peace, communicating well, and solving problems effectively in a relationship.

My reasoning is that sometimes, your confrontations with your significant other (SO) can become too emotionally-charged or too heated, and rationality can fly out the window. Stepping back and talking to a friend before saying something you can’t take back can often cool you down enough to make better sense of whatever problem it was that set you off, even if it’s just from the time it takes to step back and call your friend. Most of the time, your friend will support you and validate your position/feelings; many times, he or she will ask a question about the story being told that makes you stop and think about something a little harder than you had. Sometimes, your friend will even be strong enough to say, “I think you’re in the wrong here, bud,” which is a resource beyond price. But you have to be strong enough to accept such criticism. Sometimes, it’s not a heated exchange with your SO: sometimes, you’re just confused as to what to do, or you don’t understand what your SO is saying very well, and you know you’ll both just get frustrated trying to get to the same terms of reference to be able to resolve things without resorting to vases and dinnerware. A best friend can help you navigate those waters better without things blowing up in your face. They still might, but the odds are much lower, and you can go back into that conversation with your mind clear and your emotions more levelled. And as a side benefit, your friendship also grows stronger as a result.

And a best friend can also serve as just a general pressure valve, helping you keep emotionally grounded by talking about things that are just minor things of no real consequence, some of which you know your romantic partner has no interest in hearing about, despite protestations to the contrary. You don’t need to worry about that sort of conflict–or boredom–with your best friend, because you and your best friend are generally on the same page…connected on a very close level, but differently from the one shared by you and your SO. And talking about what’s bothering you can help you decide that you just have to bring some of these peeves to the attention of your SO before they become real problems, or it may turn out that hashing it out with your friend can make you realise something was really No Big Deal after all and set your mind at ease.

Nor is the role of best friend restricted to bad things. A best friend is also the receptacle for all your wondrous news and items of interest that might also bore a lower-quality friend to tears…or fly them into paroxysms of annoyance. These can be crazy fun to discuss, too, depending on the subject matter and level of shared interest…or opportunities for the gentle mockery and teasing that exists between true friends. And one of the reasons for this need is that people are, by their natures, fairly gregarious/social: they must communicate with others; they must have feedback and validation. But the audience capable of true interest in these very personal topics–and worthy of the trust implicit in hearing them–is very, very small. There is no better source for that–and interest come by honestly–than from one’s best friend.

The other side of this is that each person’s SO must acknowledge that there is a best friend that may be hearing very personal details of their relationship, which can create feelings of awkwardness. But I think it’s also important for the SO to buy into this, because it relieves the SO of having to feign interest for some things, and it off-loads some of the drama/stress elsewhere, so that the couple can focus on the issues that are actually important in their relationship, and not “sweat the small stuff”, as the saying goes. This can be a “dangerous” situation, though, if the SO doesn’t buy into it, because the knowledge of someone else knowing what goes on behind closed doors can turn from a chip to a crack to a fissure to a fracture to a rift to a chasm. And we don’t really want that. So, that could be a dangerous shoal to be navigated: only the people involved can judge the correct course.

On the whole, though, I think having a best friend to talk to is an integral part of any successful, romantic relationship. And I think it’s something you don’t automatically think of or realise, until you go through a dying relationship with no one to talk to about humiliating and embarrassing details, because your SO was your best friend and had been for more than a decade. And then you start talking about them with someone who becomes your best friend, and you realise how much more sense it makes to be able to step outside the relationship and get some sober second thought. Or a few wisecracks. Whichever.

Posted in general, life, love, personal | Comments Off on On Friendship – Part 2

Heartbreak 2

Posted by Keen Observer on October 31, 2012

My heart yet quickens at her voice,
The sight of her still thrills.
That ship has sailed, transporting hope,
But the heart wants what it wants.

Posted in life, love, personal, poetry | Comments Off on Heartbreak 2

Heartbreak

Posted by Keen Observer on October 18, 2012

It should’ve been louder, when you left,
A horrid sound for a horrid death,
Trains colliding, a building collapsing,
The universe imploding—or a gunshot
At close range. It hurt enough.
Instead, the door severed your life from mine,
Extinguished dreams, hopes…maybe love,
With a simple, quiet click.

Posted in life, love, personal, poetry, Writing | Comments Off on Heartbreak

On Friendship

Posted by Keen Observer on October 14, 2012

I’ve been feeling the need to write something here in the past couple of days, but I’m apparently horrid at keeping up with my intention to post more frequently.  Some of it is laziness; some is a lack of motivation; some is a lack of a good topic; some is time constraints.  There are probably a scattering of other reasons.  So, because a very dear friend of mine is supportive and encouraging of my writing, I shall write something that touches on her, but that is more general in scope.  I will offer some thoughts on friendship, starting without much of a plan and seeing where it goes.  Only time will tell if it’s coherent, or if the end has anything to do with the beginning.

I am not the type of guy who has lots of friends.  I’m not a social butterfly, and I tend to keep to myself.  And I’m also not the type of guy to maintain contact with someone who gives no sign that such contact is appreciated or wanted.  I like to have friends that reciprocate, that don’t think I take friendship lightly, that understand that few good friends are more important to me than many casual ones.  These are kind of critical for understanding my viewpoints, and so I mention them here.

There are different types of friendship that I’ve recognised over the years.  There’s a fairly wide–but simple–spectrum of them.  They range from the “nodding acquaintance” through to the intense BFF type.  Some of the other major types that I can identify include:  casual, school, work, shared-interest, good, dear, romantic, genetic, particular, best, and variations on the themes.

A nodding acquaintance is really anyone you’ve met.  You know them and don’t dislike them, so you’ll say “hi” in the store, and maybe have a brief chat if you’re not rushed.  There’s really not much “there” there, in that kind of friendship.  A casual friend takes that a step further: you might have a coffee and talk sports with them; Facebook friends would fall into this category.  These two type of “friends” are crucial, in my opinion, to be able to function in society, and I think they form the bulk of our human networks and interactions, even for people who are less than picky about their friends.

The next grouping in terms of closeness of friendship includes the work/school friends and the shared-interest friends.  There are additional levels of connection involved, and they are also fairly critical in operating in society.  School and work friends are just variations on a theme, and they are sometimes the same people.  These are the friends you make in those environments, but where the friendship does not often extend beyond the school campus or the workplace (nor might you want that to be the case).  Politics and news might form some of the discussions between such parties.  Shared-interest friends are similar, in that you acquire them by doing activities or pursuits that interest you (and them).  All three cases provide a basis to expand and grow a friendship, but only a very small percentage will follow that path.  Friends in this group may also change regularly, due to things like changes in interests, disputes, moving, and so on.

The next grouping is definitely more close.  Good friends and dear friends are similar.  Good friends have regular interaction and do things together.  Conversations can be far-reaching and intense, and there is a mental rapport that is often reflected in shared views on various topics.  There are generally more shared experiences.  A dear friend also follows this, but I believe there to be a stronger emotional component.  Genetic friends are relatives that you particularly enjoy spending time with or talking to, beyond what might be expected of family.  A particular friend is almost an archaic usage, but it pops up from time to time.  These I would define as a dear friend, but with a physical bond.  This might extend into a friends-with-benefits case, but it doesn’t have to. I would also tend to include friends with benefits/booty call friends in this general grouping, though I’m not sure I should, primarily because I’m not sure the “friend” part of the equation is strong enough.  And friends from this grouping often develop into love connections, romantically or platonically.

The final grouping is the most intense.  Romantic friends and best friends.  It is not unreasonable to apply “soul mates” to either of these two categories, depending on circumstances.  Boyfriend/girlfriend/lover/spouse…all are sides of the romantic friend die.  These tend to be humanity’s most-intense friendships, not least because of the love/sex bond that forms.  Romantic friends can also be best friends, but I think there can be situations where that is not the case, unless one allows the possibility of having multiple “bests”.  In both romantic friends and best friends cases, the parties involved have a much deeper personal connection than in other friendships, and are much, much more at ease with each other than with pretty much any other people they know.  These types of friendships tend to have fewer boundaries, and they also tend to be more resilient from the shocks of negative experiences.  Such friendships can be broken, but the emotional trauma tends to be quite large.  And such friendships have the potential to last a lifetime, juvenile BFF proclamations notwithstanding.

I have had only a few notable friends across the years of my life thus far.  But I haven’t had more than a double handful of what I would call good friends in my 40-plus years.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember some of them, as I was quite young, and end up having to recall them from pictures—badly.  And I should point out that I generally have an easier time getting along with women than men, but most of my good friends have been male.

I really don’t remember the friends I had before I started school, not really.   I had a couple of friends early on.  One of them lasted until he graduated university (I stuck around there a bit longer than he did) and I left the Church.   We just ended up going separate ways, and I think we were both equally responsible there.  The other early friends I had didn’t really last more than a few years at school, largely because our interests diverged.  I think there might also have been some jealousy in one case that involved me getting into a special program that he had not.  Throughout elementary school, I had a few other friends besides this “best” friend, and not all of them were in my school.  I had some neighbourhood friends that I lost after moving; we played outside constantly all the time, and even did recreational sports stuff together.  There were mostly boys, but a few girls kept up.  After moving, a different set of neighbourhood friends appeared, but only one had any type of staying power, and that largely ended with us both in high school.  I don’t really know why.  I only had one or two failed attempts at romantic friends, during the elementary years, once I realised how interesting girls really were.

The slate of friends sort of changed in high school, as my best friend ended up being among the popular kids, with me the faithful puppy dog hoping for table scraps.  But he always had time for me.  Others came and went in his orbit.  My first girlfriend actually dated him first, but they didn’t last very long for some reason (I didn’t think of it at the time, but I’ve long since suspected that he’s actually gay).  High school was peppered with a bunch of people I might label as friends of the “good” type, but they were never really that good.  None of them really lasted beyond university, and most not even that far.  Even my girlfriend and I split up before we graduated, though we were always friendly.  But as time went on, even my best friend and I drifted apart.  I also had some outside interests in this period that gave me a different group of casual friends through another good friend at the time, probably my “second-best” friend.  He and I were schoolmates in high school, but we also shared an interest in the military and aircraft, so we were in Air Cadets together for the two years I participated.  He kept on with it and had a 20-year career in the Canadian Forces as a reconnaissance pilot.  I had lost contact with him after he left Royal Military College, and only recently reconnected via the wonders of Facebook.  We’ve both changed, both loved and lost, but the changes knock us back into casual friends, rather than good ones.

University was a new environment.  It was chock-full of casual and school friends.  Few of them stuck.  My best friend found a new best friend, and they retained their faith in religion, while I lost mine.  They became teachers, and I decided teaching wasn’t for me.  It’s hard to fight against that, and when they stopped trying, so did I.  I did, however, find my second girlfriend (and first lover) during this time.  We got along really well, in addition to being kinda bonkers for each other.  Because pre-marital sex was kind of taboo among my friends, that certainly didn’t help in me staying around them.  Plus, one of the group hit on my girlfriend kind of aggressively (which she told me about after the fact), and that also discouraged me, because the person was defended when I mentioned it.  This group of friends stayed more or less intact for a few years after university, but then stupidity on my part and lack of interest on theirs just basically cut me off from them.  I had a bit of despondency about it, but I eventually got over it.  One of them reconnected with me on Facebook when I joined, but I see now that they and I are just too different these days.

The remainder of my time in Saskatoon was floating between jobs.  I never really found good friends that stuck around.  I came close twice (I think that was all), but in one case the interest seemed not to be maintained from one side (I think his wife didn’t like me much), and in the other, she moved away just as things seemed like they might develop more closeness.  I also, towards the end of my university career, found my third girlfriend (and second lover).  She ended up taking over the role of best friend, as well as my romantic friend.  We were largely inseparable, until I started going into field work, and we talked for hours every day.  With her around, I didn’t feel much need for other friends anyway, so the lack of them didn’t bother me much.  We ended up with a very complicated relationship, but it survived in some form or another for over 15 years.  And the last three years have been me trying to distance myself from the pain she’s caused me.

Since moving to Calgary, I haven’t developed friends outside of work, except perhaps for ones I used to work with but now no longer do.  In only a small number of cases have I really found someone with whom I would associate outside of work.  Unfortunately, only a couple of them have persisted, though in one case, the friend moved to Montreal area to be closer to his wife’s family, so the distance between us as people can’t be faulted.  But few relationships have persisted beyond me leaving a company or they leaving it.  I can, at present, count only a handful who are more than Facebook friends, if that.  And I try to keep them up, but without reciprocation, it’s almost impossible for me to maintain something one-sided.  Nor am I inclined to maintain contact where there is no interest in such.  But I have a few friends now that I would call really good friends, even though they have demands on their time that reduce what time I an spend with them, and I’m OK with that.

Through all of this, I also had one pretty good family friend:  my cousin.  He and I and my one sister were fast friends when younger, always wanting to hang out and do stuff.  We used to visit regularly, if not frequently, because our mothers are quite close.  And our friendship has lasted through our lives, though he is much more concerned with his family and circumstances and his own interests, naturally.  That he lives in Ottawa does not help, but we try to keep in contact.  But family bonds allow these to take precedence without damaging the friendship itself.

Then there is this one friend at work that I really want to get to know a lot better than I do.  We have an amazing working relationship, and I find her attractive and funny and interesting, and I would like us to be so much more.  But, it’s complicated, and I’m scared of putting a foot horribly wrong.

And then I have my current best friend.  My highly-improbable, wonderful best friend, whom I cherish deeply.  Over the past nine months, I have become as close a friend with her as I could imagine–and which I couldn’t have conceived of when I met her the first time.  She fills a need in my life I hadn’t truly realised was there until she stepped in to fulfil it.  The topics we discuss are wide-reaching, and many go deep into our respective psyches/souls, sharing our pain and confusion, hopes and dreams, desires and foibles, thoughts and feelings, anger and fears, ideas and creativity, and many other things.  Our boundaries seem only to be honesty, support, encouragement, and privacy.  And not being a total ass.  So far, she seems to be (scheduling issues notwithstanding) pretty much everything I had ever wanted in a best friend, but which had been missing in previous such relationships.  This makes her special to me in a way that’s hard for me to describe fully, but it does have me wanting her to be my BFF, as corny and juvenile as it sounds, because I think that without her as my friend, my life would seem rather…barren.  But it really is quite nice having someone know all my secrets and still liking me and trusting me and willing to share with me in the same way.  She can satisfy my curiosity about her, and in the same sentence, create a new and deeper curiosity that needs fulfilling.  I was worried about sharing some things with her, but the more I tell her, the more I want to tell her–something that both scares and thrills me.  And yet, I feel completely comfortable with her in a way that I haven’t felt in years, perhaps ever.  And because of her, I think I have a truer understanding of friendship than I have ever had before by showing me what it can truly be, and not coincidentally, giving me a truer understanding and acceptance of myself in the process.  And the only way I can really thank her is by being the best friend for her that I can be and being there when she needs me.  Though I wonder what any future romantic friend might think of that…

I have no idea how I was going to wrap this up.  I’ve had a night’s sleep and a mid-writing nap since starting this, so I probably forgot.  I’m pretty sure I covered all the high points, but I have no idea what my conclusions were going to be.  So I’ll just say something trite:  there many types and levels of friendships, and everyone should have friends.  Friends are awesome, and best friends even more so.  And I wish I could read minds at will.  Wait, what?

Posted in general, life, love, personal | Comments Off on On Friendship