I get so confident with my 46-year-old self, coasting along believing I'm ready for whatever lands in front of me. Ha.
In my meditation practice, I use a set of slogans which, together, form a system of training called lo jong. I won't try to explain, except to say that it's Tibetan and very old. One of the slogans is a reminder to make offerings to the döns. Döns, when you see them depicted in art, are like little demons that pester you and try to throw you off. Sometimes they bring sickness and conflict. They're unpleasant. The instruction is to thank them for waking you up, showing you where your hangups are, reminding you that you still need work, and giving you an opportunity to practice equanimity and compassion.
I've known my friend Z for several months now. We've had a very sweet friendship, unlike any relationship I've had. We're physically affectionate with each other, there's a lot more touching and petting and kissing than getting naked, though we've done that too. Because he travels a lot for work, and because I'm neurotic about preserving time for myself, we typically see each other about once a week or less. He has a close group of friends he spends time with, and I've met them a few times and like them but don't feel drawn to be a part of the group. Our relationship has always felt like a precious thing we keep to ourselves, separate from any social context, like the fluttery first few weeks of new love.
For a while, when we'd been seeing each other for a few months, I grew concerned that he wanted more time, more commitment from our relationship than I wanted to give, but we talked about it, like we talk about everything, and the tension disappeared. I told him more than once how remarkable I think he is and that I wished sometimes that I had met him earlier in my life so I could be the boyfriend he deserved.
Toward the end of July and into August, our traveling schedules overlapped and we didn't see each other for over a month. We were in touch, sporadically. When I came back from my retreat, I had a powerful hankering to see him. We made plans to have dinner Wednesday night. He picked me up. When I got in the car, we hugged and I kissed him. He held back. Not in a way that felt like rejection, but it felt different. We can both be a little moody, so I didn't think much of it at first, but then it dawned on me: Z has a boyfriend.
I told him all about the retreat, and Lizzie Borden, and U.T. orientation. It was his turn to catch me up on his life. He told me about his trip to Arizona with his parents, some new volunteer work he's doing, then he said, "And ... I've ... been seeing someone."
My first reaction, I'm proud to say, was sheer joy, and still it makes me happy to see my friend, who I think the world of, in love. But of course it changes everything. He and his new boyfriend -- they've been seeing each other for about a month -- have decided to be monogamous, which strangely, I applaud. I think even if that weren't the case my relationship with Z would need to change. Just because you agree to have an open relationship doesn't mean it's going to be okay to continue making out with someone you were dating when you met the new guy.
But where does that leave us? Suddenly it becomes obvious that a big part of our interaction was touching. We held hands, we kissed, we rubbed each other's legs under the table. Sometimes it was more erotic than at other times, but I suppose it always had the seed of something sexual in it. So we stop. No transition, no weaning, cold turkey. We can hug, but hands above the waist. We can kiss, but no tongue. It's so fucking weird to suddenly have these boundaries. Weird and heavy and sad.
When we said goodnight on Wednesday, I wanted to tell him that I love him. It seemed like absolutely the right and necessary thing to say. And at the same time absolutely wrong, so I didn't say it. I'd never used that word with him, because, though there's no question in my mind that it is love I feel for him, the expression is too loaded. But now that things are changed, I want badly for him to know how deep my feelings are. I second-guessed myself and worried that if I told him I love him he would think I was competing for his loyalty, which is almost the opposite of the message I wanted to convey, which was more along the lines of, "Because I care so much about you, I want you to be happy." I'm sure next time I see him, I'll tell him all this stuff that's running in my head, but I couldn't put it into words in that moment of saying goodbye. He's leaving tomorrow for another road trip and won't be back until the first week of September. It occurred to me that it would be good to have an adjustment period before I see him again.
I went out last night, on the spur of the moment -- I know I won't have time or money to go out carousing much once school starts, so I decided to have one last night out with the boys. I smoked some pot before I went out. I had a couple beers. But I didn't feel inappropriately impaired for the setting. I planted myself on a bench near the bar, and I chatted with a guy I'd talked to there before whose name I don't know. I decided to stroll around.
I was walking from the front bar to the back and saw Z leaning against a wall. I have never once run into him in this bar. He doesn't go there. So it was a huge surprise, but a nice one. I gave him a big hug. He introduced me to his boyfriend. And then suddenly I felt very high and completely at a loss. Every molecule in my body wanted to flirt with Z, touch him, act like a girl, but I checked those impulses. But my brain wasn't giving me alternatives, so I stood there like an alien trapped in someone else's body. And I was stoned, so suddenly even more self-conscious. I tried to chat like a normal person, but I couldn't form sentences. I made a fool of myself, and I think I was probably rude to his friend. They left shortly after our encounter. ("This place is full of freaks, let's get out of here.")
I sent him a contrite email this morning. I hope he didn't have to spend too much time explaining my bizarre behavior to his boyfriend.
Today I thank the döns for reminding me that, as confident as I may be, I am still as squishy as an overripe avocado on the inside.