The Trouble With Women, Part I

I haven't spent much time blogging, as I am straining my brain to figure out how to begin this autobiography that the Capuchins are asking for. Part of it stems from a lack of direction: where do I start? What do I highlight in my life? Is this small event important enough to add, or am I leaving out something that should be told?

Those excuses have served me well, as they've covered up a greater truth about this autobiography: there's times in my life I don't like reflecting on. In grade school I was a quiet kid and was often teased for being Mexican, for being poor, for not having a dad. I thought about the one and only time I cheated on a girlfriend. I thought about situations where I completely lied to get out of. For every good moment in my life, there was a time for me to be shameful, to be guilty, and even to forget about.

What I've noticed is most of these times center around relationships with women - a part of my life that has been surprisingly hard to manage. They are hard for me to discuss because the topic evokes emotions that I'm not comfortable with. It's easier to forget pain than to face it. It's easier to pass the blame than to accept being wrong. Sometimes the lie we tell ourselves is more pleasing than the reality we wish to face.

As I attempt to accept the mistakes and the quirks of my personality, I've tried hard to sit in contemplation of different aspects of my life: my spirituality, my relationship with Jesus, my discernment, even my "worth" in living up to the expectations of religious life. One thing I've conveniently side-stepped is my attitude towards relationships and women.

This is a big topic, and I'm not sure how long this will be, so I'll start with my "first" and end with my most recent relationship of a year ago.

I had a girlfriend when I was 15, right before my mom and I moved to Michigan from Iowa. She was a very pretty "Iowan farm girl:" straight blond hair, blue eyes, and a wonderful smile. What I failed to see at the time was her intellect, her passion for social issues, and her interest in anything besides me. The easy answer is always: "Hey, I was 15! I was dumb." But if that were the case, why do I feel guilt and even shame about treating her as a trophy...a plaything to satisfy the stirrings of an adolescent kid?

Before I give the wrong impression, let me say that we never had sex; never even came close. She was too smart for such a thing, and I was too nervous about such a thing, despite my machismo attitude. Rather, she satisfied a personal need of mine beyond the carnal.

When we are depressed, we sometimes buy things to make us feel better. If we feel insecure or low in the self-esteem department, we buy superficious things to improve the way we look or appear. In this way I felt I used her. Rather than being in tune with another soul, I flaunted her like a college kid with an iPhone. Instead of being a friend to someone I was dating, I worked on my status at school. While I never said a mean thing to her or ever fought with her, I treated her like garbage without even knowing it.

Eventually she had enough and one night we broke up. Rather, she broke up with me, citing that it would be easier since I was going to be moving Michigan that summer of 1990. It was hard for me to handle because I realized at that moment that I was losing more than a trophy; someone I cared about no longer wanted to be with me. I'd never done a good job of showing my true feelings, and now it was too late.

I soon realized that having a broken heart will make you act like a moron. She said the reason we were breaking up was because I would soon leave. In some last ditch effort to win her back, I started telling people that I was in fact not moving. I told this lie to friends, teachers, everyone I could. Perhaps it was an extension of what I wanted my reality to be. I didn't want to move and leave my friends. I'd finally established an identity, I had a girlfriend, I was a somebody! Why give it all up?

When that didn't work, I became cold. I feel she really want to be friends, but I figured my heart had been broken already. I wasn't going to toy with emotions I could neither understand nor control. While I pretended to have closure, I spent the rest of my time in Iowa lying to everyone, including myself. Quite frankly, I became one of those "crazy ex's" you hear stories about.

That part of my life stuck with me well into my high school years in Michigan. One of the first songs performed by my band was entitled "Allison's Song" - an attempt to put my soul on the line and say everything that I've been typing for the past half hour. At some point I had her address and sent her a letter with the song lyrics. I don't remember getting a letter back.

Even now as my fingers write this entry, I stop every 5 minutes to clench my fists and think: "Why were you such an asshole, Vito?!" Usually when the memories flood in, I shake my head to clear my thoughts. But tonight I kept thinking about her and what exactly that feeling was that I kept hiding from. As I kept thinking and remembering, my stomach began to clench up, my head started to hurt, and I could feel tears welling up inside. There wasn't just guilt hiding there. It was a sense of loss; something was missing from within me and I could feel it. These 17 years later, I realized my heart still had the scar from where it was broken.

The deeper I delve, the harder it is to sit with these thoughts, but I continue...trying to reach some sort of closure. Instead of remembering the past, I think about contacting her or meeting her in a coffee shop; maybe a coincidental meeting in an Applebee's or something. There's part of me that wants that, a small voice that tells me I should look her up and try to start a conversation. But that voice has always scared me, because I don't like the road it leads down. Will I turn into some weird stalker? Am I going to break my heart again? I happened to find her via Google, and she's not married. Dare I say anything at all?

It's painful to keep thinking this way, but I have to ask myself: "What do I want?"

I take off the blinders, let loose the id, and allow my mind to roam free. I envision meeting her somewhere. We talk. She smiles. We even share a laugh or two. I cringe as my thoughts wander, scared to see what kind of obsessive fantasy springs forth. But as the daydream ends, there is no second meeting. There's no twisted sexual desires or even far fetched ideas of getting back together. There is balance. There is peace. There is a man and a woman talking and smiling about the foolish ideals of youth, and when it's over they walk away happy for the opportunity to see someone from their childhood years.

Perhaps that's all I want: a chance to tell her I was young and dumb, and that I know what I was doing and that I'm sorry. The daydream is nice, it gives me a feeling of warmth. I realize I'm not looking for a lost trophy. A trophy can be replaced; fancy items can be rebought. When we lose a friend, we lose part of ourselves. Only now, many years later, can I understand that.

Just so I don't end on a depressing note: When I was done feeling sad and lonesome about being 15, I cranked up the hair-band rock and played some air guitar until I could laugh at myself again.

Enjoy!

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4 Response to The Trouble With Women, Part I

December 21, 2007 at 11:05 PM

Vito

I am struck by your honesty as allways. I was about ten years before you and didn't date until I was seventeen yet much of what you said can be applied to my own first relationship. I honor your ability to look back and find fault with your own behavior because that takes guts and honesty. But when it comes to the re examining past relationships the scrupulous honesty and courage must be meted with a leaven of compassion for human frailty. My own motives were not pure when I dated my first girlfriend, and since then they have often been a mixed bag of desires, needs, wants and love. I think the thing to remember is that we are as God made us and perhaps these less worthy parts of ourselves are there to help school us to be better, holier individuals. Got to trust the man.

December 22, 2007 at 12:22 PM

A question that has haunted me since entering my adult life is "How did I get here?" And while I have not sat down and thought about that for some time, I know the answer lies somewhere in the relationships (or lack thereof) of our past. What happened at 15, 16, 17 -- it all shapes us and molds us and changes us. Allison -- nay, rather your view of your relationship with Allison -- set into motion a series of events that changed your life. In fact looking back on it, reflecting on it, talking about it... those too set other things into motion.

We can talk about "good" and "bad" and how we're better off for the actions and decisions and consequences but that too is just attempting to justify answers to the big question -- how we got where we are.

So then is the "goal" of a well-lived life being able to answer that question on our death bed? To have it all figured out? To be able to explain to everyone why we did what we did? To explain what led us to being where we are?

Or does all of that only matter to us? To shape us into the next path in life? To help us learn from our mistakes? To be a better person?

When I went through my divorce, I clearly remember my internal debate of wondering if bad things happen to good people or if I was really a bad person all along. I am who I am because of the choices I made. And yet, I too "lie awake and remember... all of the good times we shared ... all of the love and the laughter ... we should belong together ... I just want to hold you... and kiss you one more time ... make me believe ... I never said goodbye...make be believe... you never said goodbye..."

December 22, 2007 at 3:08 PM

My catharsis has not come in any greater understanding of my life, nor will that hurt ever go away. I don't think it's supposed to.

I've not figured all this contemplative stuff out just yet, but I think the idea is to be at peace with everything, or to find some form of equalibrium in all aspects of your life.

More importantly for me, there is a quiet voice in my mind that tells me I'm only trying this "Postulancy thing" because of my history. It's a voice of doubt I don't want to hear, but exploring these thoughts is what discernment is all about. Also, I know I am the hardest person to forgive, and while I'm not letting myself off the hook for past transgressions just yet, I'm working on it. Having made it that far is a blessing.

Each time her memory comes to mind, I don't get frustrated and hide the memory in the back of the closet like I used to. I acknowledge the thoughts, I can sit with these thoughts like bad dinner guests: annoyed yet still smiling. I do my best not to hide from my feelings anymore. Rather, I acknowledge they are who I am, and I shape the rest of my life by how I carry myself as a result...a very Sadhara-like awareness I suppose. =)

P.S. Kudos on remembering the words. I've long forgotten the lyrics to the song.

December 24, 2007 at 9:50 AM

you describe emotions very well...i find i have very good relationships with the men in my life now i'm married with 10 kids..seminarians,young & old men & Priests feel comfortable with me..i bet women feel comfortable round you because of your awareness..nice post..& glad i found your blog..Blessed Christmas..