If I contradict myself, I contradict myself. I contain multitudes.
This is Part 2 of 2 stories on the desire to be seen. Click here to read Part 1.
This is one reason I enjoy the courage and tenacity of A Patient Man. He simply wants the woman he loves and wants, to see him more completely for who he is.
Don’t we all?
In his case he wants to live congruently with his wife. More than any other writer, with the possible exception of maybe Not Your Average Girl, he is plainly stating what he needs and wants and is giving his wife the opportunity to see him more fully. Say what you like about his past behavior, but moving forward what he is doing is courageous. As a couple, they are more courageous than most I’ve seen. They appear to be facing the challenges head-on. If it fails it won’t be for a lack of truthfulness and honesty.
If we do not feel safe showing our Partners the good, bad, and ugly of who we are – for whatever reason – we still have an innate desire to be seen and heard. For some that might be reflected in showing off their good in their art, writings, family, work, or simply in their clothing.
For others that may mean hiding their secrets and spending a few hours with a call girl, a dominatrix, a long-term mistress or even an ex-wife. This is not an excuse, this is the reality.
It is why I appreciate the writing and perspective of people like Esther Perel, the Affair Clinic’s Yvonne Filler, Not Your Average Girl, Spouse of a Sex Addict, Dolly Allen, Walking the Journey, Elle, and several others. I may not always agree with them – or them with me – but they are all trying to see people as more than a one-dimensional caricature of villainy. They are all sharing their attempts to see beyond the barnacles and see the frame of what lies beneath.
Every vulnerable word I’ve ever written or spoke – even the angry, bitter, and sarcastic words – are a spiritual plea to the people I love, and claiming to love me, to see me. Every action – the good, bad, and ugly – is an attempt to be seen, accepted, and loved. I want you to know, as Nepo writes, “I am more than I have shown you and more than you are willing to see.”
Unfortunately, all too often our pleas to “work our love and know each other more fully” falls on the deaf ears of strangers, friends, family, and lovers. Bitterness, suspicions, and jealousies blind us. We don’t listen to each other because we too are busy screaming in a million subtle, and not so subtle ways, pleading with others to see us more fully too.
For this reason, and this reason alone, prior to my betrayal I wanted C and K to be friends. I want to be seen more completely as someone with a past, present, and future. Neither was fully willing to muster that courage unconditionally.
The sexualizing of these relationships only began as I tried to reconcile the emotional and mental dissonance created as the weight of my betrayal warped reality. That included fantasizing of a menage a trois between my future and my past in the present.
When people inevitably fail, for their “nonconformity we whip them with our displeasure,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson writes. When they act “out of character” or seem to arbitrarily change in ways we don’t understand, they are met with demands they change back, a diagnosis dejour, and grandiose pronouncements from the comformity police.
We use money, sex, rumors, shame, food, pride or marriage to train others to be what we want. In order to make our point, when they misbehave we hit them on the nose with a newspaper, on the ass with a paddle, a sullen silent treatment, or divorce papers.
We rarely want others to be anything other than what we want or need. For us to allow others to be for themselves would require an openness to unpredictability and change most people cannot muster without sufficient pain – myself included. Instead, we demand others conform so we can avoid pain and discomfort – or we lie and keep secrets so as to avoid our own hurts and disappointing others. This is why the dog gets in the trash only when no one is looking.
Nearly, everything I tried to do in the relationship with C was to show my belief and support of her and her Vision. They are my attempts to demonstrate the truth that I see her, want to see her, and want her to be seen.
Over the last several months I’ve developed a zen approach to C’s ugly. I knew she had it hidden somewhere, and as a result of my betrayal and her response, I see her more completely than anyone at the moment. I’ve loved her at her best and I’ve loved her at her ugliest – and I still accept her. It is why I’m trying to treat her (and the trolls) with some compassion.
Some may scoff that this is a convenient self-serving change, but it is not. I have always believed this; I have always tried to practice this principle.
This is one of my finest qualities: I accept people as they are. For example, I accept C where she is and left when she asked me to leave. I’ve never demanded her attention.
Nuance matters. Nothing is ever simply right or wrong, good or evil. We are infinitely complex inconsistent feeling thinking meaning-making biological meat puppets terrified of shadows.
My experiences and behaviors with F, the Cafe, the Village Board, other artists, the community, and friends were about showing a more complete and vulnerable self to C. I didn’t care about the approval of others. I did it to show C more fully who I am. I chose this path in order to share a meaningful life with my Love of loves.
That doesn’t mean I did it well…but still, I am here. I haven’t run.
I want people to know I believe in them and see them. I’ve often not experienced that in my life and know how important that is in a relationship. It is why I’m such a compassionate and empathic friend and giving and attentive lover: what you need and want matters to me. Too much sometimes.
I never wanted a one-sided relationship with C. It is why I always referred to the give and take, ebb and flow, of our Partnership as a power exchange: when she needs to be picked up and charged, I will be there for her no matter the circumstances or situation.
Which is also one of my finer qualities I like about myself.
Working art shows, date nights, impromptu travel stops, financial sacrifices, working the concession stand, 1,000 other little things, and my passions and hunger for C was how I showed my commitment and love.
It was how I demonstrated to C, “I see you.” C was the one. C was the only one.
I can betray you and love you. This is the core contradiction of any betrayal: how can both be true? If you were willing to see me you would understand. I know the betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies is a contradiction to my character. To expectations. To others.
But like everyone, I too contain multitudes.
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