“He's leaving. I'm trying.”

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Dear Al,
Be forewarned, this is a long one. Hopefully, you’ll at least find it interesting. Maybe something or other you can use on your site. I’ll just ask that if there are names involved maybe you can change them.
Well, I am writing you for two reasons. First, writing you is a diversion from any further “pushing,” which I am afraid I’ve done quite a bit. Second, well it’s a way for me to look at the last week in an objective way that somehow journaling alone isn’t doing.
As I wrote you before, I booked a flight to where I knew he’d be soon after he wrote the letter. Over the weeks following, I struggled with whether/how to tell him I was coming. Since I could come up with no answer that “felt” right in my tummy, I said nothing. I contacted him via phone text message, which seems to be his preferred method of communication, around twice a week, and generally got some sort of response back. I kept it light, relaying happy events.
Hmm. I suppose all that chat, neglecting to mention that I’d be on a flight soon, was a bit of lying by omission. Perhaps the tummy test needs refinement.
Day 1
After many flight delays, I’m on a plane. I’m nervous now, because I really wanted to be able to tell him I was in town the evening before so he’d have a night to digest before he had to decide whether to come camping with me or not.
I sent a short text message.
He answered pretty quickly: “what’s happening.”
I could think of no good answer to this. And so said nothing.
My flight was so late that I didn’t actually get to my hotel until around 2 am. Too late to text, I said to myself.
Day 2
So, I’m in the same city as he is. My plans still sketchy. So I opted for a text message inviting him camping.
He left a short message, declining. I answered with a short mini-argument. [Mistake #2 I guess. Argument will get you nowhere. But I felt compelled to point out the distinction. Would have been better, I suppose to validate.]
Later on that evening, I called and left a message on his voice mail, telling him I wasn’t sure why I was there, I realize it’s a little crazy, but that I’d like to see him. And that I had no expectation. This is the truth. I came here with no expectations. Hopes. But I didn’t expect a certain result. If anything, I expected maybe even a little less response than I got.
Day 3
I determined that the best thing to do would be to go camping as I’d planned. As I booked this trip, I said to myself that I knew coming here was a risk. That he may not answer me at all. That I might not see him. That I might be going by myself to heal myself. First though, I thought, another message. Short. Letting him know it was okay and that I’d be around all week.
My first night I met Sally, a single woman (I think) around 60. She caught me as I was driving around the campground the first time and invited me to set up camp in the site next to hers. I was thankful for this as I was nervous being about a single woman alone, and thankful to camp next to someone “safe.” Later on that evening, she invited me to accompany her to the campground up the road to fill our water bottles from a natural spring and to meet a woman she’d just met that day named Betty who is a 70-year-old, extremely vital and wonderful German woman. I decided why not so I went. I met Betty, who was in fact wonderful and had a site right next to a creek where the sound of water drowned out nearly everything else.
Sally and I sat on some rocks by the creek with Betty. There was a pool, just about the size of a bathtub next to us. Betty said she liked to lie down and bathe there. It somehow became clogged though, with debris, rocks and leaves. “I need to clean it out,” she said. It’s gotten dirty. “Well, let’s do it now,” said Sally. For whatever reason, I jumped to the task. It didn’t take long. I first began to pull out sticks and leaves and put them to the side of the tidepool.
“It will be better if you put them to this side,” said Betty, indicating the space downstream of the pool, “so that they will wash away down the stream..”
I did as she suggested. The water rushed out the open gate. I continued clearing. The water rushed more. The pool cleaned itself as we sat there. It made me think of how clarity can only come once you clear away the debris..
As we pulled up next to the spring to fill our bottles, Sally and I spotted two younger looking guys in the campsite next to the spring. I’d expressed interest in moving my camp to this campground to be closer to the creek.. Sally suggested I go ask the guys if they thought they’d be here long.. They were very nice, and said they were thinking about it, but we were more than welcome to set up in their site, as they had plenty of room. So that’s how I met the brothers Bill and Isaac.
Day 4
The next day, I headed down to town with Sally. Then, I got the message George had sent the day before saying he couldn’t meet this week.
My reaction to this was rough. I cried several times during the day. But I’d decided a while ago that it was better for me not to contact him when I was in anything like a “needy” state. So I didn’t contact him at all for the next couple of days.
All in all, I think my trip was wonderfully theraputic. There were times I wondered what I was doing there. There were times I felt miserable. There were times I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I went on the tour with Sally. Then collected her phone number, and proceeded on to the new campground. I thought I’d meet up with Betty again. When I arrived, it appeared Betty had gone. I was sorry to have missed her, but this meant I could use her primo site! So I set up in her site. And sat down by the creek.
I was feeling sad and lonely. And again wondering what I was doing here. I drove down the road closer to town where I’d get a signal. I called a friend. In spite of the fact that I’d experienced some moments of despondency, it wasn’t anything like the panic of old. My friend pointed out that in all fairness, opening up with “hey wanna  go camping” was probably pretty intense. Maybe suggest something lighter. I told her I’d think about it. In the meantime, I was going to introduce myself again to the brothers. I felt better after just chatting with her for a moment or two.
I went back to my camp and walked down to speak with the brothers. I had a wonderful time. I had some sort of a “connection” with the older one, Bill (though far too young for me).  We share some same backgrounds though and just really enjoyed talking, looking at the stars, and being around one another. Their energy was intoxicating. It was simple and wonderful. It eventually got late, and I went back to my tent after we determined we’d all go to breakfast the next day.
No physical contact was made, save a hug on the way out (everyone seems to hug there), but I fell asleep thinking about how great it felt being around this new person, how much better than the sadness and turmoil of a few hours prior. And I thought I’d made some sort of discovery.  I decided to think about him because it felt so much better than dwelling on why George wouldn’t see me.
Day 5
Was sitting at my table at my site early in the morning when Bill showed up. We talked a bit. I felt really happy to see him and excited about the day. We went to breakfast, wandered around town for a while, and somehow wound up making sketchy plans to spend the day together.
We went swimming at a water hole, then hiking. But all in all it was just a wonderful time. Swimming for me was magical. The water was ridiculously cold. And I reflected later, that I didn’t think about George or being sad the entire time. I was completely in the moment enjoying myself, and the attention I suppose. And I found both the brothers delightful.
After the swimming and the hike was over, I was happy and in a good mood, so I drove down closer to town to get some food. I decided this was a good time to call George again, as I’d thought of him a couple of times on the hike. So I called and invited him to coffee or dinner.
And then I headed back to my camp with no cell reception. (Incidentally, there’s nothing like staying in a place without internet or cell reception to keep you from checking messages.)
So the discovery, which I thought about later that night as I sat by my campfire (the brothers slept early due to exhaustion), was this: When you’re not getting what you need from your partner, and suddenly someone appears who is giving you what you need, or think you need, it is infinitely more comfortable and makes one feel immediately happier to focus on the new person.
What I wanted from George was attention, and then I got it from someone else.
I believe this was an important lesson for me to experience. If Bill were traveling with me, or working with me, the choices placed before me would be quite different. We clearly had a connection of some sort. I felt wonderful with him. The turmoil with my current relationshipornot seemed important, but I could quite consciously decide not to think about it. I felt good for the first time in months. Of course, said my brain, it is an illusion. But what if I didn’t know that? What if I hadn’t read all about the Lizard and the Map of Relationships?  What if I was being driven entirely by my lizard, and feeling good felt safe? Well then, I might do exactly what my partner is doing.
I don’t know how to tell George of my new understanding. I’ve already forgiven him completely regardless what he does now, but I’d like him to know (I think) that I think I understand. And that I think it’s normal and makes complete sense. I get the sense.
Day 6
I determine to leave the forest on this day. The brothers are leaving, too. Bill and I exchange information. We will be friends I think. And I will be forever more grateful to him than he imagines. His attention gave me a much-needed reprieve and understanding.
I drove too close to where George is. It is a bit stalky. I didn’t actually mean to come so close. I only meant to put myself within driving distance should he change his mind. But alas, there is almost no decent hotel that I could find.
I was so tired when I finally arrived and checked in I just took a bath and fell asleep. The milestone? This was the first time in three months that I have fallen asleep and slept nearly the entire night with neither sleeping medication nor alcohol. I haven’t been overdoing it, I just normally take a couple sleeping pills before bed, or have been drinking at least 3 drinks to fall asleep. I needed neither of these. Between sleeping on the ground camping and all the hiking of the previous day, I think I’d just finally exhausted myself. Felt wonderful.
Day 7 (today)
Felt good about not contacting him again. Coming to terms with the scenario I’d tried to prepare myself for, that I may be coming here and not see him. I woke once at 4 am (I suspect because I fell asleep around 9:30pm the previous night), with the thought that I wanted to call/email/text and say something like: “it does make me sad that we can’t talk at all. I have forgiven you. Won’t you forgive me so we can at least talk again.” I decided against this or any message at 4am, and went back to sleep. Woke at 8:30 with a jolt, very hungry and worried I would miss the free breakfast. Had breakfast and went to the pool. Got a text message from him asking me to be safe.
I thought awhile about what, if anything, to text back. He’s clearly worried, which is normal I guess. I suppose the thought of a woman traipsing around in the forest alone is worrisome. Presumably he has no idea what I’m doing. I thought about all sorts of things to text back, but the only thing that felt right in the tummy (I’ve been subjecting messages to the tummy test lately) was a short reassurance that I was.
I’d hoped to hear something more, but nothing more is forthcoming.
And so, here I am, alone in a very comfortable hotel room, ruminating on my trip. Was it worth it? Was it the right thing to do? I certainly met some amazing people who I’m very glad I met. I’ve learned some things.
And I think I’ve learned that I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve no certain notion how long I will wait. I am not moving, as I thought I was when I last saw him. I am learning patience. Yes, it may be a little long and yes, I need someone who will work with me, but I want this someone. And we had so much good, and so little bad (though yes , the bad has been really bad), that I’m willing to put in more time to see what will happen, especially as I think I’m learning that waiting does not mean I have to stop living, that I still can enjoy life.
I will go back tomorrow, having come and gone without seeing him. What does it mean that he wouldn’t see me? I don’t know. I can guess. It may be that he’s still stuck on what he told me when we last spoke. Moving was exciting, and he didn’t want to say anything to stop me going. He can never forgive himself. Can I show him the path to forgiving himself to give us a chance? I will try.
It could be that he really wants me to go away, that he doesn’t want to see me. But I don’t think that’s right. And he didn’t say that. Of course, he could be lying by omission. But I don’t know that.
I think he could be frightened at what he thinks are his unreliable emotions. If what he felt about this woman was anything like what I felt about Bill. I think that the main reason I don’t feel confused about what I felt for Bill is your site. I HAD read about the map of relationships and thought about the differences btw Romantic Love and Vintage Love. Perhaps, just perhaps, I will email him a link to your map sometime. Maybe it will help.
In some ways, I think maybe this is best. Now, I can tell him I’m not moving and he won’t think I’m not going just because he gave me hope. Maybe he’ll be able to accept it better.
A friend of mine once told me that all decisions can be made by asking oneself the question, “what’s it worth to you?”
Well, rediscovering this relationship is worth sticking around for. That’s the best I’ve got. It’s worth exploring. I think I got a tiny glimpse of what’s possible with vintage love with this person, and that glimpse was so inviting, I can’t turn away from it. Or I won’t for now. Perhaps vintage love is embracing the imperfections, loving even the worst mistakes. Learning patience, even when it hurts.
Since we’re not technically “married” the technicalities tying us together are our house and our dog. I’m going to stop rushing solutions for these, and instead practice patience, a big challenge for me. And try to re-instate communication. That it’s safe. I’m still not entirely sure how. But this feels right.
Thank you for your website. I’ll keep referring back as I figure out what to do next. It’s certainly an interesting journey.
I think it’s good I made the trip. I’m not entirely certain why yet.
I’ve thought of all sorts of messages to send.
I’m not certain which, if any, of these will go first. I think I am still working in the “what to do when he/she leaves you” realm, yet the letter felt like something different. I think he loves me and what’s keeping him now is his guilt and thought that he can never get over it, and that we won’t be the same, and that this means we can’t get through this. How to show him that the same may not be what we have to go for.
Also, I’m rediscovering I think some sort of spirituality. I’m not sure. I generally proclaim myself agnostic. Lately, my tummy test is proving itself. And I’m not sure I can deny some sort of spiritual thing going on. I’ve no notion of what it is, nor any inclination to define it (testament, I think, to my agnosticism). I’m fairly certain I can’t deny it. No action till the tummy is settled, is my guide. though it may be too early to really judge the results.
That’s all I’ve got for now.
Anyway, thanks for reading. 
July 5, 2008
V:  (07/08/08


“He's leaving. I'm trying.” — 3 Comments

  1. I think your trip sounds amazing! You should be so proud of your commitment to working on everything. Sounds like a few of us in similar positions were fortunate enough to find this site– I wonder if there's a way we could take another step and form a little online support group for us clingers who are trying the Turtle Method. 🙂 If you ever need another sympathetic ear, I have one, and I think you're doing great, especially being brave enough to use your heart, mind, and tummy as such a good system of checks and balances. That's a great lesson.
    Sending good thoughts,

  2. I was SO HAPPY to read this story. I can find sense in it for me with the fact that I was recently divorced. I'm the clinger/pusher and have somehow managed to stay near this woman. At first I was pushing her and I know I have in the past for us to get back together. I love her so much and the family I had with her means so much to me. It always did but I didn't see it until I was divorced and realize just how much she did for me and our boys.
    I kind of want to spread some hope though. She and I have talked WAY more now then in our relationship. The safety is there now because there is a big legal/physical boundary. We communicate better and in some ways we are better friends because of it. Something is happening and I'm WAY IMPATIENT to wait and its taken every ounce to hold back as much as I have.
    I believe we still have that something special even after years of the power struggle (Read the map of relationships). I think she RAN to door number three and I definately find myself in the panic and commit phase. I'm clinging to everyone I know and expressing my desire to have the biological dream and its building positive relationships with other men and women in my life.
    I still want to build it with her. She still calls to tell me what I did wrong. I'm glad she calls. I do my best to validate her, because it makes sense to her, and I am so happy that she tells me those things. That I provide a sense of safety for her. Thats my goal.
    So hold your heads high. Keep working on yourself, visibly. Don't push. Survive. Be available. You obviously care/love them and you want that biological dream with them.
    Keep working on it. Just keep trucking. I know it might be hard if they don't come back but you will find someone who wants the dream and will work on finishing childhood and loving you for the gifts God gave you. Dig into Al's site here. I personally find it excellent.
    Until I post again, Peace Love and Rock and Roll! 🙂

  3. I read your story with a lot of interest. Thank you for sharing it. I could not come at a better time for me. I have been the pusher in my relationship too and regretfully I have not managed to keep her close to me. I am happy to see I am not the only one who sees everyday, almost unrelated events (your clearing of the creek story) as a lesson. Keep up the good work on yourself.

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