Saturday, February 13, 2021

Texas notes: All that glitters

     Sometimes you flap and flap, and just can't get off the ground, and I felt for Austin bureau chief Caren Jeskey this week, admiring her professional determination to get airborne. Been there. She finally soared away, and for the first time I felt tempted to insert an editorial aside along the lines of, "Editorial note: Old journalism maxim, 'It is easier to apologize than to get permission.'" You'll see what I mean. 

     This week was hiccupy to say the least. I am writing this piece propped up in bed in my tiny house, in frozen Austin at 7:30 Friday night.
     Since COVID began, I dedicated myself to what I call radical self-care. Healthy food, long walks, meditation, lots of rest, and refusing to take on too much. The word “no” is such fun to say. Who knew? This approach has kept me relatively balanced, and when I’ve had slumps I’ve been able to get back on the saddle.
     This is the first Friday in ages I’ve felt squarely thrown off. There were times this week I was precariously hanging off the side of a horse from one boot, my rag doll body helpless to right itself, my hair grazing the dusty ground.
     Talk about curve balls. Just when I thought I’d safely fielded one, another came whizzing up. I had unexpected and uninvited financial news, and a rocky start with a new contract. I’ve had to beat down a few rounds of carpenter ants who came marching in from the cold. (If you need to know the best ant bait, I can tell you). A creepy neighbor made a couple balls jokes to me, and when I shut him down retaliated by insulting me. I’ve tried for hours to secure a COVID vaccine for a relative, to no avail.
     My blog post did not go as smoothy as usual. My first idea just didn’t gel. I had completed a new piece, edited it, sent it Neil and was ready for bed. I had contacted the person I wrote about for some clarification and their response was “I am not comfortable with you writing about me.” That piece got ixnayed. And to top it off, as I sit here writing, I just got stung by a bee. Yes, a bee. Ouch! The Texas critters are trying to come in from the cold that’s for sure. Lest I sound too whiny, I must say that all of the good things in my life are not lost on me, and I know this too shall pass.
     While reflecting on my week I have come to realize that I threw the hardest ball at myself. A few weeks back, I did not trust my intuition. Things snowballed to the angsty place I have been trying to extinguish all week.
   Here’s what happened: I reached out to an acquaintance from my teen years who I wanted to write about. We have not seen each other in over 30 yeas, and though our connection at the time was powerful and memorable, it was brief.
     He decided it was a sign— citing several synchronicities— that I’d reached out to him and we, therefore, were meant to be together. He’s in Texas now (as am I), and in his eyes that’s even more of a reason to rush into something blindly. As a person who would rather be in partnership, a part of me was intrigued and fell for his charms. Since we had a childhood connection and have friends in common, I felt a false sense of intimacy with him.
     I entertained a short flirtation (a few weeks) of phone calls, texts and FaceTime with him. I quickly saw that we are not compatible. When I set boundaries around my availability to talk or text, he became mean and harassed me with messages. Instead of immediately running away, as I should have, I decided I would try to wean him off of his delusional dream.
     We’d talk, I’d remind him that I am not seeing anyone due to COVID, plus I feel we are not compatible. He’d fuss, I’d ignore him and/or respond with more boundaries, and he’d apologize. I’d go back to chatting and laughing with him until the cycle resumed. He lost his temper more than once, and cussed at me. In my rational moments I was scared. Then there was the part of me that wanted to be patient with his process. He clearly has deep attachment wounds and my presence activated them.
     I didn’t realize how bad it was until, the other morning when I heard a snippet on NPR. It was about the fact that coercive control (exactly what he was doing) may soon be illegal in the U.S. as it is in other parts of the world. I realized with crystal clarity that this person was trying to manipulate me into staying in contact with him and I want no part in it. I cannot help him.
     The mistake I made, and the stress I felt this week will help me relate to others when they take similar missteps. Each unwise decision I make renders me a better therapist with real life experience to pull from. It also propels me further into keeping my life small and safe, with plenty of radical self care. Now I will drink my ginger tea and cozy up for the night. Exactly where I want to be.
     If you want to listen to the piece that woke me up, here it is: 


  1. It seems you found yourself, without initially knowing, in the domestic violence cycle of tension building, crisis, and calm. Easy to do. Glad you found your way out. Not many do. They usually do not end well.

    1. Yes- I saw it and thought I could have it end with him acting correctly. My own delusion. Glad it's over too! Thanks-

  2. What a wonderful post. One of the great lessons of life is the difference between alone and loneliness. We are hard wired to want to share the journey of life, but sometimes Fate has a different plan for us. The worst kind of hell is sharing the journey of life with the wrong person, especially a person who makes us a lesser version of ourselves. We need people in our lives that make us a better version of ourselves.

    Magical thinking ("He decided it was a sign— citing several synchronicities— that I’d reached out to him and we, therefore, were meant to be together.") is not a great strategy for healthy relationships.

    Keep up the great work.

    1. Thank you for reading, and the caring comment.

  3. I happened to listen to some of that discussion on NPR about the prospective laws against coercive control. It's much more complicated than it appears on its face, as I'm sure you know, Caren. Certainly, law or no law, it's a good thing that you recognized the behavior and steered clear of it.


    1. Thank you! It happens so often... then the survivor is blamed. Dodged a bullet here.


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