Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More space and less

There are so many layers to this conversation, layers that start beforehand I mean I've been thinking about it for weeks and especially last week when we were supposed to talk but then Derek had three nights of particularly awful sleep and so he canceled and that made sense. Last week I was ready because I actually slept okay and I figured out the two things I needed to say; this week I'm not ready at all. It starts and we're talking about random things but mostly I don't think either of us is that interested in what the other person is saying I'm just scared. So scared that even though I decided I was going to talk first, I mean talk right away and say those two things, because usually I ask Derek how he's feeling first and that didn't work the last few times. Even though I decided that ahead of time, I mean that I would speak first, I can't speak. Even when Derek starts, he's talking about how he still feels angry but his eyes are still here not far away like last time, still on me in a way that means I'm here, we're here, we're here together. Or mostly. He's telling me that it felt like I was talking about things that were so old and he's changed he’s a different person he can't deal with that kind of processing. He's telling me that he’s thought about it a lot but it doesn't serve him anymore to think about something obsessively from all angles so he's tried to look at it from the distance more. He's telling me that it's hard for him when I talk for a long time without interruption, it's overwhelming, and maybe there's a different way we can talk. Oh wait, he's asking me, he's asking me and I'm trying to say something I close my eyes.

There are so many layers to this fear. I'm scared of losing Derek. I'm scared of continuing our friendship but losing the possibility of that intimacy that goes on and on. I'm scared of Derek. I'm scared of saying that the last conversation was really scary for me.

Derek says do you think it's okay to have this conversation now, do you think you’re present enough? Because I said something about my sleep and I keep going to the bathroom to shit because I can’t digest anything. I say no it's fine, I mean I'm present it's just that I'm scared. I look him in the eyes, no he doesn't do that thing like we’re military enemies but I still can't say what I want to say. I start to speak but it's just a mumble, I'm looking in the distance then my eyes are closed then I'm looking up then my eyes are closed again and I feel like crying but I can't cry and I'm kind of shaking a little maybe there's a tear or two and I try to look at Derek I say I'm having trouble speaking.

My feet, pay attention to my feet is what I'm thinking. My feet on the ground, are my feet on the ground, my butt on this chair, my shoulders am I holding my shoulders back too far I'm trying to avoid my body in too much pain afterwards. I'm thinking about my list of two things , two things I noticed that list was right underneath the piece of paper Derek was studying, the directions for the shower filter I moved the piece of paper to the other side of the table. I say it was really hard for me last time, it was hard because you were speaking to me in such a dismissive way, with so much anger and disdain and I've never felt that before, except for the obvious people way long ago and definitely never before with you I mean it felt violent I felt like you were requiring me to shut myself off emotionally and afterwards it was really overwhelming I mean I still haven't cried and I feel more distant, distant from everything.

This takes a while, it takes a while for me to say each sentence broken up into parts and then: I mean I know this wasn't going to happen, but I felt in my body like you were going to hit me. Derek gives me that smile like I just said something preposterous, and I think okay, this is the end, but I say that's the dismissiveness I'm talking about, and he stops. I'm shaking, suddenly freezing I say I need to put on a wool sweater then I'm in the bathroom shaking shaking shaking probably I should just keep shaking to let it out my hands all clammy I actually lean my head back just like I'm high I mean really like I'm high or crashing from drugs and I'm freezing what is this feeling?

This is the second or maybe third no fourth time in the bathroom already, two times shitting and two times shaking, back in the kitchen I say I don't know why I'm so cold, Derek says the fog just rolled in I say you're right but I think it's emotion. Derek starts talking about how I just kept going on and on it was hard for him to listen it made him so angry I say that was the first conversation, because the last conversation I didn't say anything. He says the first conversation, I say yeah the one from a month ago. He says what do you mean you didn't say anything -- is that how you remember the conversation, I just got angry and then I left?

He's angry again. I don't say anything. I'm wondering if he's going to leave now, leave now and then this is the end. I'm wondering if I want him to leave.

But I don't know if I'm getting the order of this right -- Derek's dismissiveness, maybe that's not right after I say I felt like he was going to hit me but later, when we're talking about our last conversation and he remembers me talking talking talking but I just remember him cutting me off. All these times I go to the bathroom, some of them are before we start talking, I mean we're talking but we're not talking.

I don't say that much because Derek doesn't want me to say the same things, even when he says the same things: I felt like you were dumping on me, you need to let things go. I say all I wanted to do was to tell you how I was feeling, that's all. Derek says I kept saying I hear you, I hear you -- I say you never said anything like I hear you.

What matters is that something shifts in Derek, in me, I mean we go through several shifts and I think the bathroom helps there, and also the times I get up to stretch because I'm shaking too much, and the time when I'm gargling saltwater because I'm choking. The times I close my eyes and breathe, breathe, or stare at my food and wonder if the cure for hunger is pain. What matters is that at some point Derek is getting emotional, what I want is to hug him but I don't know if I can break the barrier the barrier that makes me distant am I distant or just lost? In my head I'm thinking yes, I can take that risk, yes it's worth it I say do you want a hug? He says yes, and we stand, and he's the one who starts crying and I'm hugging him and I feel my body in a different way my body with him in the way I want to feel except I'm also wondering if this is the future, I'm present for him. It's a long hug I like this hug I don't want it to end maybe this isn't the end, also I'm brushing the hair above Derek's ears with my fingers, when I'm not holding his hands my freezing cold hands I guess my hands are usually cold but now I actually feel cold, clammy too I say I feel like I'm on drugs.

The hug is over I sit down but Derek is still standing, he says I feel like I'm doing all this work on myself I've been doing all this work and it's finally working -- I mean I spend all this time with people in AA who are mostly concerned with buying this and buying that but I can also feel things for these people and I used to feel scared of people like that, like I would become like them I would lose my sense of self but I'm not. And sometimes I feel, I mean I know the world is still a horrible horrible place, but sometimes I feel like maybe I can be happy and that makes me question all of my friendships and see their limitations and I'm okay with those limitations. And I'm really really busy with school and stressed out about my living situation and school’s about to get way busier I'm going to have to memorize all of this information.

Derek sits down, really softly I say I'm okay with change, you don't have to pull away from me in order to change. Derek says I know, I know that's true. I say I just wanted you to know, I mean I'm friends with all different kinds of people and not people like me or anything and that's always been the case. Derek says I know, I've always seen you interact with all different kinds of people. I say maybe with us it's a bit different because a lot of our connection has always been about similarity, but I'm not attached to that.

I say maybe another thing that's different is that I'm not okay with the limitations in my friendships, I mean I guess this is still true -- I mean it's still true what I said at the beginning of our first conversation, that you're the most important person in my life but I also said that I was confident of the longevity of our relationship and our intimacy and trust but I didn't feel secure and now I don't feel secure about any of those things.

Derek says you know I love you. I say I love you. He says I just feel like we need more space, I need more space to think about things I feel like sometimes more space give me clarity and things work themselves out. I say I will do whatever would be best for you, but I know for me often distance just makes me feel more distant. Over the last month I've felt a lot of loss, loss about our relationship and loss about my hopes for our relationship and I don't know what to do with that.

Derek says I feel like all the nerves in my body are inflamed, I'm getting a shooting pain in my back. He says I'm sorry my feelings made you feel unsafe. You know I've never hit anyone, I know you made the distinction between what you thought might happen and the way you were feeling, but I want you to know that I would never hit you.

I say thank you. Derek says although don't think we've ever had such a bad conversation, afterwards I just wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Even though I can send stare at getting distant again, things feel softer -- softer in my body, softer in this room, softer in our relationship, softer since we hugged even if I don't know what the hell is going to happen and Derek says is there anything else you're thinking? I guess I've gotten quiet again, I say I'm thinking a lot but I don't know what to say.


Hilary Goldberg said...

seems like two puzzle pieces that have changed their sides, know they fit together, but aren't sure of the angle just yet.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Hilary, that's a good way to look at it, except I really think it's mostly on his terms and I keep accepting that and the irony is that this all started because I wanted to express anger that I felt I was holding onto and I still haven't expressed that anger -- but more on that later...

And really I want more closeness, more openness and not less and I don't think that's going to happen. Maybe in some ways, just not what I want and I guess I also need to acknowledge that.

Love --