Category Archives: Relationships

On Overcoming Rivals

On Overcoming Rivals

I never thought of myself as a competitive person because I saw how much more competitive many others were than me.  I never cared to win much at sports or other “see who is best” events.  Maybe it was because the effects of losing didn’t last long or I’d just rather not dive to the ground just to keep a ball in the air.  Regardless, I did engaged in my own competitions from time to time, but they weren’t always so sportly structured.

Often my rivals were simply my friends in school.  We were all trying our best to get good grades and we were all in the same boat when it came to intelligence, so it was often a close call.  I only had to win by a few inches, not cram for a whole mile.

Other rivals were family members of a similar age vying for attention or adoration from the adults, which we were never actually starved for.

These competitions were constant throughout childhood.  As I got older and became aware of these behaviors, I realized that the scars I was accumulating and causing were not longer a result of healthy competition.  It was down right mean.

Though all of this I always thought of myself as a nice person.  I was at heart a people pleaser to the point where I put other people’s wants above my own.  But I wasn’t fully a nice person.  I inflicted social pain on others when they didn’t even know there was a competition.  I felt triumphant when I finally felt better than a specific person.

Then I looked back and realized that they were just being themselves, reacting to the world, looking for a friend.  Here I was jealous of their natural advantages, needing to prove myself when my friend just stood there defeated by my behavior.

Its been over 10 years since I had this realization.  I’ve since made new friends who were so beyond my own situation in life that I felt no need to compete.  We are simply not comparable because we play life in completely different arenas with completely different rules.  We can simply talk about life and try to understand each other without one-upping.

I still encounter my old rivals, often with compassion and guilt over having “beat” them when they were already too far down to fight.  Others, I just avoid, having never settled the score.

San Francisco

San Francisco

Jane sat leaning on her bedroom’s bay window soaking up the sun on her face while she pretended she was laying on the beach in her hometown. Even though this was the first day in a week that the sun had broken through the dense San Francisco fog, the air outside, helped by the whooshing wind, still sent an annoying chill down her neck whenever she got lazy about tying her scarf correctly.

“It’s always 50 degrees here,” was her latest mantra since it was the first thing that came to mind every time people asked how she was enjoying her freshman year of college.

“Getting into a lot of trouble, I bet!” was another common one. She would stare back blankly or shrug. It wasn’t that she wasn’t enjoying herself; it was that her usual sources of fun no longer existed and the new ones being experienced weren’t reliable old friends she could turn too to ward off her boredom or need for excitement. They were simply fun new experiences with no predictable reoccurrence in her daily routine.

There was plenty going on. Parties, drunken dorm room chats, drama between roommates, and all the usual college campus life experiences that she came there to check out. She had new friends who were getting themselves into all sorts of random situations, but she was still on the outside of it all. Simply going with the flow and wasn’t sure how to breakout of herself.

Her boyfriend wasn’t helping. Even though he was staying home for college they wanted to stay together and still felt connected in their distance relationship, his opinions held her back. She bought a CD off a street performer playing the cello and played it over the phone feeling certain that John would appreciate it but all he said was, “why would you buy a shitty CD off a street performer? I can download something just like it for free online.” She sighed, “I just thought it sounded pretty that’s all. Besides it was only $5.00.” She changed the subject, “Are you coming to visit this weekend? Is your brother’s friend still driving up?” He complained, “Ugh, it is such a long drive, it’ll take like 6 hours.”

He complained. “He was never a good traveller,” his mom explained to her once. “I don’t remember a single time that we drove to Las Vegas without him throwing up. We resorted to sleeping pills once he was old enough, but then he just felt groggy and cranking for hours after we got there.”

He made the drive and was dropped off at his brother’s apartment in Berkley. When she called to tell him which train to take into the city, he was reluctant to take the 45 minute train across the bay from “We’re having a good time here, why don’t you just come join us.” She took the train.

She arrived late after having gotten side tracked by some usual dorm drama and a long deserved nap. He met her at the train station with a big hug and beer ridden kiss and suddenly she felt better. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “Nothing, I just think I had a bad day, should be better now, I’m glad you’re here,” she replied with a deep breath and progressive smile. He took her hand and they slowly wandered to his brother’s place.

On Falling

On Falling

One day I fell.  Hard.  I couldn’t get back up because as I laid there in complete and total confusion and despair, I had no way of knowing which way was up.    The world hadn’t spun, it simply twisted behind its facade.  On the surface all was as it always had been: people went to work and the store, they played outside with their pets and children, they ate laughed, drank, cried, and loved.  But as I finally stood, slowly so as to hide my wobbling knees, looking around attenuating myself to this new existence, it became clear that the shock waves had damaged the foundation of things.  All around was the sound of familiar voices hitting notes I had never heard before, people moving in much more ways to ponder, and most of all eyes lingering on me more puzzled than ever.

 

The mirror trap

The mirror trap

There you are, chatting about the past.  Answering honestly questions about how you perceived things happening.  Suddenly the questioner doesn’t like how you saw things and begins to argue that it didn’t happen that way.  They see the most negative extreme of what you said and you meant something judgmentally void of right and wrong.  In an attempt to keep clarifying, you realize that it is going nowhere and just as you are about to give up on the conversation, they throw shit at you: “Well it isn’t like you never did something stupid?”

Suddenly your eyes narrow, your throat wells up and you’re pissed.  “We weren’t talking about me, sooo what does that have to do with what we were talking about?” you ask.

“I’m just saying….”  the other party continues looking smug.

I try to retrace the conversation aloud with the person to figure out where I missed a turn but they are so dead set on putting me down that they refuse to map out the logic.  My mind races to map it out alone before the emotion wells up enough to take away my voice.

step one: she asked my opinion

step two: I gave it to her, she seemed fine until I said that one thing

step three: I kept clarifying and she couldn’t see that what I said was just a neutral observation.

step four: the tables turned and now I am under fire.

step five: escape!

In reality I said something she didn’t agree with and instead of staying on topic, she was offended and responded with a verbal jab.  I guess what I thought to be truthful common knowledge actually wasn’t.  I so unknowingly offended her first and she fought fire with fire.

Moral of the story: don’t use examples that include the person you are talking to… use examples about other people instead.  If they are still offended by that, then just don’t answer their questions anymore.

 

Summoning past lovers

Summoning past lovers

In a brief moment of despair at not being in love for far too long, I summoned up my favorite lover from my memory.  After dancing the softness of his skin and reliving the sparkling spot in my soul where his memorizing eyes met mine, I finally remembered what it felt like to be in love again.  For a brief second the portal between us opened again, long enough for me to whisper “but i love you…”  Swooning once again in a state of ecstasy, he awoke from my spell, “Mareks…Mareks, darling are you still there?” said a sweet voice over the phone. “Hm, hmm, yes yes, uh blue, blue is a great color for the guest bedroom, look I’ve got to go, I’ll call you back when I’m on my way home” he replied….”Love you too….cheers….bye”.  He nervously stood up and looked out the window over Sydney Harbour.  He remembered too.

How you know a relationship is dying part IV

How you know a relationship is dying part IV

You feel confident when in certain situations, but when specific people are around you feel the need to compete for the friendship.  Your “friend” encourages this by naturally not making social concessions/offering agreed upon reassurance towards you.  When confronted your friend acts like they didn’t notice because they do it on purpose as their way of controlling you.  Confused you assume it is just in your mind, so you try to ignore it.  It happens again when the “better” friend is around.

Suddenly you realize that there is a hierarchy and the needs of the friends higher on the list are met before yours.  Often the needs of higher friends is that your “friend” be cold to their lower friends.  This modern day Machiavellianism is how friends exert dominance other each other for their own negative, controlling self indulgence.

Crush

Crush

Crush always likes to slam into me like a 30 foot tsunami.  I just don’t know what hit me and I don’t see him coming (no pun intended).  His desperation for a home is a result of my desperation for autonomy.  I say he is “desperate” because his fancy takes such a wide variation of forms, so wide that I couldn’t possibly choose just one.  I love them all (all meaning foreign ones, domestics are just pass times).  He makes me love the way they speak, the words they say, the tone they use, the stuff I would normally shun, the actions they so easily express without asking…I love it all.  I want to take it home with me.  Nurture it and live off it to the point where I am completely dependent on it.

Sadly crush doesn’t stay in one place for long.  His constant shifts sadden me.  But in my deepest, darkest despair over what I can’t have there is always a little light checking in.  He feeds me attention when I least expect it.  He actually gives me hope…. but I think it is just crush in friend’s clothing…

Robots

Robots

A friend of mine sat on a lawn chair in the pool area of our apartment building, leaning forward with his head in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  He hadn’t taken a puff of his cigarette for a few minutes so his cigarette looked more like a long ash stick than an actual cigarette.  I approached him cautiously and said, “Hey Frank, what’s up man, rough day?” startling him out of deep thought, he jumped and once he realized who I was he mumbled, “Oh, Rob, hey man, what’s up?”

“You don’t look so good, what happened?” I asked.

“Oh my girlfriend blew up last night.” He said.

“Another one?!?” I asked amazed, “Isn’t that the third one this year?”

Yeah another one and, no, fourth one this year. Remember I had two in January. That was a disaster also,” he said throwing his hands in the air and slapping them down on his thighs, “I thought that if I have two on opposite cycles of the month then I wouldn’t have to wait around for them to, you know, be in the mood.  It worked out great for the first month but I couldn’t afford the maintenance, then when I kept getting their preferences confused, like which on likes wine and which one likes beer, they both exploded…. But I didn’t even see it coming this time.  I don’t get it Rob,” he continued, “I read the manual three, even four times and followed it exactly.”

“What model did you buy?” I asked.

“The Edu…educated Showpiece 5000,” he replied with a stutter.

“Holy shit, Frank, no wonder!  Why you messing around with such an advanced model?  You got a 5000 series with an education package?” I exclaimed.

“I know, I know, but I’m just sick of the dumb ones,” he said sucking on his cigarette,  “I didn’t realize that the education packages think so much, I just thought it just makes conversation and advice better.”  He explained, head bobbing low, “I didn’t realize that I actually had to put so much effort into them.”

I hate to say it man but that’s advanced material,” I responded, “I’ve never bought higher than a 3000 series, I like to keep things simple. Actually I’m happier with the 2000 series actually, they don’t analyze my behavior so much and it is much easier to persuade them to do what I want them to do, ” I trailed off realizing that my words weren’t really helping.

“Now I have to start all over,” Frank mumbled head in hands again. “Build the whole relationship from scratch, if only they didn’t cost so much money.”

“Well, just try being single for a while then,” I replied.

“No, no, I’ve tried being single before, it messes with my mind man,” he said with wide eyes, “suddenly everything in the world has a sexual connotation.  This one time I walked into a grocery store to return something and the cashier was talking to me in plain English but I didn’t get what she meant.”

“What was she saying?” I asked

“She said something like, ‘This is past the return DATE sir, we have to GO OUT to the warehouse and speak with my manager. Most likely she will approve it because we like to keep up good RELATIONS with our customers.  COME along.’ Then she had me follow her to the back and all I could focus on was her….”

“I hear ya, you don’t have to give anymore detail…” I interrupted while tapping him on the shoulder, “but hey, lets go grab a drink, take a load off.  I’ve had girlfriends blow up on me before too, it always sucks at first but, hey, it’s a learning experience, that’s why you try different models.  You’ll get it down…”

“yeah you’re right,” he responded as he got up to head off to the local pub with me.

While walking out of the pool area we saw smoke flowing out of a second floor apartment where a couple was arguing on the balcony.

Suddenly the man on the balcony yelled, TAKE COVER!!!!” instantly we jumped under the nearest table just in time to hear a loud BOOM BOOM BOOOOOM.  As the shards of plastic and metal wires rained over us, I said, “See, you’re not alone.”

Disconnecting

Disconnecting

I once had a close friend whose method of disconnecting from things, eras in life, and people was much different than my own.  He would put a lot of time and energy into building something awesome, then enjoy the fruits of his labor for years, only to one day kick it to the curb calling it a worthless piece of junk.

Nothing he called “junk” was junk at all.  He simply couldn’t see how to bring the object, habit, or person into his next phase of life with him.  Since he couldn’t form a plan to mix the old with the new, he automatically thought that the old must be gotten rid of.  Labeling it as worthless was the only way he knew how to depart from it.

The gap in his reasoning evolved from his belief that by that point in his life he should know how to handle life.  To save face from not knowing that more options for dealing with the situation existed, his ego assumed that his default method of departure was the only way to handle it.

Respectfully departing would involve feelings of loss, disappointment, evaluations of love, and many other emotions that, in order to save face, he had a strong urge to hide.  These, more positive, goodbye emotions were replaced with disrespect.  In justification for his actions, he pushed aside the good aspects to focus on the few things he felt resentful for.  Since objects and people are never perfect, flaws pointed out can hold a lot of weight, especially when other people feel as if the flaws are the result of some sort of personal failure.

If something is junk, well then obviously someone wouldn’t think twice about getting rid of it.  But a pattern of calling once-cherished things junk just to avoid facing the loss…is, well, sad.  But people do what they do and it picking up the pieces gives them more things to do.

The Frequency of Conversation

The Frequency of Conversation

Conversations either flow or they don’t.  I find it strange when my in vain efforts to initiate conversations leads my counter party and myself to have a conversation over how my behavior has been interpreted as strange to them.

There is just no simpler way of saying it:

“I just wanted to talk to you, so I called, and when you didn’t answer, I left you a message.  When you didn’t return my call for a few days I assumed you didn’t want to talk to me….then when you finally did talk to me, I had already gotten over wanting to talk to you, but I was suddenly stuck in conversation with you and had to processes the two conflicting ideas that 1) I thought you didn’t want to talk to me and now 2) you are talking to me.”

So you can understand my confusion and hesitance because now that I am finally having the conversation that I was hoping to have 5 days ago, I can’t enjoy it because I have a feeling that I’m going have something I want to tell you about tomorrow and I’ll have to wait another 5 days until you are in the mood to talk with me.  At that time I will have probably forgotten what it was I wanted to tell you, so I won’t have anything to say, so I’ll just act nervous because all this stuff is going through my mind because someone in particular doesn’t like having conversations as often as I do.