“People tell me that it’s a crime
To feel too much at any one time
She should have caught me in my prime, she would have stayed with me
Instead of goin’ off to sea and leavin’ me to meditate
Upon that simple twist of fate”
– Simple Twist of Fate, as sung by Jeff Tweedy, lyrics by Bob Dylan
I’m a strong man. I’ve been through a lot, and I’ve been broken a lot. I’ve faced tests and trials, and I’ve come through the other side. I have the scars on my heart and my mind to prove it.
You see, there are a lot of things I can handle, but there are some things that I’m just not strong enough to handle, at least not just yet, anyway.
You were one of those things.
I wasn’t expecting you.
I wasn’t expecting how starshinebright amazing you’d be.
I wasn’t ready to hear the things you told me, the kind, honest, funny things you told me, the sad, heartbreaking things you told me.
I had wanted you for so long.
But I wasn’t ready.
I wasn’t ready to hear that there was a moment when I could have had a chance with you, but I didn’t see it through my depression.
I wasn’t ready to hear that I could have had a chance with you, and I missed it.
I wasn’t ready to hear that you moved on and you gave your heart to someone else.
I wasn’t ready.
I wasn’t ready for the things you remembered, things that really mattered to me.
I wasn’t ready to discover how much we had in common.
I wasn’t ready for your playlist. Your goddamn playlist. Your playlist that was almost exactly like my playlist. Filled with favorite songs from bands no one I knew had ever heard of.
I wasn’t ready for how strong made me feel.
I wasn’t ready for how weak you made me feel.
It was all too much.
Too much too soon.
At a time when my fragile heart had finally finished healing, I simply was not ready.
But that’s the story of my life – bad timing.
I wasn’t ready for you wanting to stay in my life, because I know how this story ends. I’ve lived it too many times. But I listen to my heart. My head, not so much.
And the more I got to know you, the more I realized how astoundingly perfect you were – even though you saw them as imperfections, I saw wonders. And I hoped.
Stupidly, I hoped. Even though I’ve been through this before, I hoped. Maybe this time. Maybe just this once.
Stupid me. Foolish me. Foolish old man.
You decided what you decided.
You wanted what you wanted.
What could I do?
I wasn’t going to push you. I wasn’t going to guilt you. I wasn’t going to try and convince you. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to get mad at you or insult you for your decision.
Those are the actions of a weak person. Those are the actions of a coward. Those are the actions of a person with no self respect.
I’m a grown man.
I’ve been through too much.
I’m a gentleman.
I have character.
I have integrity.
And because of that I live my life with rules. And a gentleman plays by the rules.
And if I compromise those, then I have nothing.
A grown man respects a woman’s decision.
And I’m too damn old and too damn broken to believe in bullshit fairy tale endings, because they don’t exist for me.
What exists for me is solitude – a life alone, and I’m fine with that. I like my life alone. I just don’t want to know about the would haves and could haves.
I should have known better. Next time I will. I hope.
And with the wisdom of old fools who’ve made the mistake of living their lives led by their hearts, I know this:
I will not take the backseat.
I will not hang around, a ghost, insubstantial and thin.
I will not lay at your feet, like a dog, scrambling for whatever crumbs that fall from your table.
I will not do that to myself again.
I know my value, I know my worth.
I’m worth much more than that.
It’s time to stop dreaming foolish dreams.
So I’m writing you this letter – even though I know that you probably won’t read it to tell you two things:
I’m letting you go.
I’m walking away, because your happiness is all that matters to me and if I’m in the way of your happiness then I need to remove myself from the situation, and because my heart has been broken too much, and I need my heart whole for my mom.
And the last thing, the wonderful, terrible last thing that I need you to know:
I love you.
I didn’t think it was going to happen.
I didn’t want it to happen.
I’m sorry. I really am.
I wasn’t ready for this.
I wasn’t expecting this.
But life is filled with unexpected twists of fate, and who, really, can prepare for them.
I love you, goddamn it.
I love you, and I always will.
What I’m about to tell you – like everything else in my blogs – is true.
This blog is about dreams.
My dreams are never particularly interesting.
They’re pretty straightforward.
Maybe because I am aware of the fact that dreaming is the brain’s way of processing the events – and my subsequent reactions to those events – of the day.
Maybe because what I think about or what I can, and do, imagine, during my waking hours is more “dreamlike” than other people’s actual dreams.
Maybe because I’m not afraid to wander deep into the dark corners of my mind, explore, pick up an artifact, look it over, then toss it back out into the dark black that forms the borders of my subconscious, a vestigial residue from the time before I was medicated, when I would fixate on horrible “what if” repetitive thoughts that I could not stop, because I got off too much from the sickening pain.
Maybe it’s due to the fact, that I lived my nightmares, culminating with the death of my father, the death of who I was before.
Maybe I’m just shallow.
But these dreams were different.
And yes, dreams as in plural, and as they were running like a midnight matinee in my mind, it didn’t occur to me just what it was exactly, that I was processing. It didn’t occur to me until I stopped dreaming them. It wasn’t until I got to the end that I understood.
I know this:
The dreams occurred in sets.
I can’t tell over how many nights. I can’t recall if those nights were consecutive, strung across time stretching like dim black pearls into the length of weeks or months.
Maybe they were scattershot.
Occurring in clumps of nights, collections of gleaming river stones.
I know this:
They began last Christmas – I think.
I don’t remember having any other dreams during this time. The sets had definite beginnings and endings. They never overlapped. They began, ran their course, like a fever, then stopped.
And then the next set would begin. And once the last set of dreams ended, they ended.
Any dreams I’ve had after that I can’t remember, and they didn’t stay with me like these still do.
The First Set:
My Family and a Constantly Mutating Hybrid of My Exes Hangout in Hotel Rooms and Ocean Liner Cabins.
It always started in a hotel room, or a cabin on an ocean cruise liner.
There was always a sense of density, like every molecule in the atmosphere weighed more than it should, despite the fact that every room appeared spread out and spacious – even the ocean liner.
Even though the dreams always took place during the day, there was a darkness that smudged the edges.
I’m in the room, doing mundane things, like hanging out. I never leave the room.
My family is in one room, and I’m in the other. And I’m always with some hybrid form of my ex-girlfriend and my ex-wife.
We’re not fighting or arguing.
We’re just there. I can always hear my family in the other room. We’re always getting ready to go somewhere, but we never do.
Once I dreamt that I walked in on my ex-girlfriend and an ex-friend ( a guy, obviously, who was a big flirt ) who I don’t talk to anymore.
I found them lying on the bed.
They were fully clothed.
The outlines of their bodies formed an acute angle, their feet on opposite edges of the bed, their bodies converging at the vertex – their heads.
They were touching forehead to forehead.
They weren’t kissing. They were whispering. I couldn’t hear anything, but I saw their lips moving. Staring into each other’s eyes, smiling, laughing softly the way lovers do when sharing secret jokes.
The intimacy alarmed and frightened me. I remember beginning to say something, but that’s all. The dream ended abruptly.
That particular dream, though was an outlier. I never dreamt that my ex-girlfriend cheated on me. My ex-girlfriend wasn’t perfect – who is – but that’s how secure she had made me feel in our relationship.
I feel like that dream was pulling double duty. Maybe it was processing something else, some last bit of friendship/relationship business, and placing it in the context of travel. I knew it wasn’t a dream about cheating or insecurity.
It was about intimacy – or lack of it.
Sometimes I would dream of returning home from a trip and packing or unpacking, the rooms being a mess, me finding a place to sleep. My brother Sam was always in these particular dreams, because we grew up sharing a room together.
Those were the most disorienting and claustrophobic.
Everything was cluttered.
The Second Set:
I Confront My Father As I Remember Him in a Picture From 1965 While I Morph Between a Forty Year Old, a Twenty Year Old, a Teenager, and a Toddler.
For a brief time in the early to mid eighties, my father had an affair with another woman.
It was a devastating time. I know now, as an adult, that he was going through a depression. His dream of starting his own supermarket failed. And it broke him.
I’m not ready to talk anymore about that.
I don’t know when I will or if I will.
The dreams were always a variation on a simple theme: I was confronting him about his affair.
He was always the same age. He was younger, in his late twenties or thirties. He was never the pale, emaciated ghost of himself that he became at the end, the way I never like to picture him.
I was always different ages when I would confront him.
I would talk to him as a forty year old man. I’d yell at him as a teenager or a twenty year old. Or as an infant, trying to communicate to him how I felt and being frustrated that I was unable to verbalize or vocalize what I trying to say.
My father was always silent.
He was neither sad nor happy nor angry. He was there to listen to my condemnations.
I don’t remember how many times I dreamt about this, but it seemed like a lot.
The Third Set:
I am in a Relationship With the Blurred Girl.
In those dreams I have a girlfriend.
She had no face.
She was not a composite of my ex-wife nor my ex-girlfriend, nor any female I knew or had ever known.
She was a blur, a gentle blur, but she was a blur.
In the backwards logic of dreams, it didn’t seem odd to me. And yet the strangest thing about this dream, about these particular dreams, was that nothing seemed strange at all.
There was none of the grime around the edges, no claustrophobia, no disorientation, no density – none of the usual sensations that something was off.
This was something new.
This girl was nothing I had known, or sensed, or felt, before. She was a literal tabula rasa. She was a clean slate.
In my waking life, I had filled my exes with love until my depression filled them with hate and anger.
This female, this person, was unspoiled. And despite the fact that she was a blur, she was solid, solid and substantial all the way through. She was someone who I had complete and total faith in, someone who I had complete and total trust in.
This blurred girl was someone who I felt safe with, secure.
There was no guilt from seeing someone behind my girlfriend’s back. There was no worn-down to the bone pain from constant bickering.
I felt at peace.
Sunshine bright light.
She was my girlfriend.
I was happy being with her.
She held my hand, would lead me around, often helping me navigate through the obligatory family gatherings mates and partners and significant others always attend, filled with people I did not know and could not recognize.
I didn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable or anxious because I was around New People. These strangers accepted me, treated me, like family. And they were like family to me.
It was all so normal.
It was all so right.
Children’s birthday parties on hot summer days. Going to carne asadas, family cookouts.
Splashes of bright Spring and Summer colors everywhere: piñatas, cascarones, all and both broken and busted, their painted egg shells scattered everywhere mixing with the colored confetti cuttings mixed with candies covering sunbright concrete patios.
Then the dreams stopped.
It took me a week or two to realize that they had stopped, that I wasn’t dreaming about the “girl.” Then, after another few days, as the distance lengthened far enough for me to gain some perspective, I began to work backwards in my memory.
I reflected on those dreams for some time. I held each one up to the light like a diamond inspector, turning it this way and that, keenly aware of how they made me feel.
It was such a strange sensation, you see, I had to be sure.
It was a new sensation.
It was weightlessness. It was feeling feather light. I felt unburdened. It was the feeling of no pain. No guilt. No obligation. No baggage dragging me down.
It took me a few more days of reflection and meditation to be sure.
And then I knew.
My head was clear.
My heart was clean.
My heart quietly whispered to me. It’s voice was so soft, I could barely hear it, and after all the self-inflicted pain I caused it, after all the pain the death of my father caused it, it was no wonder, but I had to be still.
I stilled my heart.
I stilled my mind.
I breathed very, very softly.
I had to, because I wanted to be sure that what I heard it say was right.
That it matched the weightlessness that I felt.
My head and my heart, my spirit and my soul, were all finally aligned.
So I listened very carefully, and this is what I heard:
I accept that I was emotionally unfaithful.
I had punished myself enough.
I did everything I humanly could to make amends, to make it better.
I forgive myself for what I did.
I found the key that unlocked the door of my purgatory, and I used it to open the door.
I stepped out.
And I heard the voice talk.
And I held my breath, so I could listen one last time, so I could be absolutely sure.
It spoke, it’s voice softer than the breath of a sleeping newborn.
It was my heart speaking.
I’m afraid, it said, but I’m finally ready.