After Joan Didion‘s husband John Gregory Dunne died she wrote perhaps the best book of her entire career A Year of Magical Thinking.
I have been told that there is something incredibly liberating after the death of a loved one…as there definitely is after the end of a relationship. One can suddenly see everything so very clearly.
The only thing I miss about being in a loving relationship with another person is to check in, to share, to make sense of a troubled world.
Someone who is committed to listening as I am committed to listen.
Since last weeks end of relationship prose I have not only felt creative again but quite by chance have found what I was looking for..to be at peace. It was without doubt the answer to the most nagging of all my prayers. Was I, could I…am I even capable of making a relationship work.
The answer has to be a resounding NO.
I am not sad about this conclusion, in fact I have found much peace from finally answering this most perplexing of questions.
You will have your own ideas about this but for the time being I tell you I have found my equilibrium. It has been a very bumpy ride. Not just the past eight months but the past 50 years.
You see, he thought I was like the man he met on the TV…but I had been edited that way. Compassion and kindness are only a small part of who I am.
I want to write this blog entry just feeling the breeze on my face. Listening to music. There were days when I could not feel a thing I was so distrusting of him and full of fear. Within weeks of meeting Jake I found it hard to trust. Looking over our long email correspondence it is obvious that I become toxicly paranoid with those I say I love. I have felt the same with others..this is nothing new. You have said that he was too young. Well, I am not the sort of man who worries about age appropriateness. But I am the sort of man who frets about appropriateness.
I am blighted with the most gayest of disabilities: always wanting something better then..when something better comes along..strangling it to death.
There is a stigma attached to those of us who finally throw in the towel and accept singularity. Yet, my grandmother was a widow for 40 years. She owned her aloneness and for that I am very grateful. She was not a particularly loving human being, prone to complaint and curmudgeonly conversation yet she taught me that she would rather be alone than have someone in her life who would not compliment it.
I am sick of feeling guilty for the crime of being single.
My mother’s greatest fear for me was that I would die single. Well, baby, most people do. There are retirement homes crammed with human husks who will die today alone. They are unlikely to be missed, there is no hope of an obituary. They will die oblivious that they have been processed (three score years and 10) through the mill of modern humanity. Born, worked, reproduced, ate, died.
I stayed with Jason and Jennifer last night. Their marriage is tight but they bitch and complain like any couple. I watched this morning as Jason was thrown out of the piano room. He moped around for a little while then seemed to forget all about his gripe. I know from recent experience that this is no easy task. When I look back at the time I spent with Jake we seemed more often than not to be locked into some kind of squabble.
So, where have I found this peace and acceptance? Well, knowing, owning, accepting that I will be single for the rest of my life dovetails beautifully into the work I have been doing in therapy. The search for sex or relationships, the intrigue and flirtation and unrequited love has all been set aside. In doing so I have a clear head, clear enough to begin writing the chapter of my last years.
I am not and never have been lonely when alone. I have only ever felt lonely when I am in a relationship with another and they are not there.
Some people have few or no friends, are not connected to community, do not believe in God (I remain nondenominational) and most crippling of all: they are not creative. Without doubt I am most excited about how creative these years will be. If it is only me and my writing then I may as well marry my pen as soon as possible.
To say out loud that one has accepted absolutely ones destiny as God intends it is indeed the first hurdle to making sense of the rest of ones life.
Without Jake constantly in my head, without the fantasy of the great dark man, without the perpetual search for sex or sexual complication I can avail myself of some peace. I am more than middle-aged. I used to sneer at my Grandmother because it seemed to me that she had given up but the truth is: she had only just begun. A healthy relationship with one’s self takes as much time and energy as a healthy relationship with anyone else.
I have given up so much, things that others take for granted to get them through every day: drugs (prescription and recreational), alcohol, television, white flour, career, and now..romance. You’d think life would shrink..but quite the opposite seems to be happening.
The house in Malibu is set above the glorious ocean. The land around begs my attention. Sometimes I do not get further than the first step outside the house. Some days I cannot leave my bed. This is not the sort of life I want. If I am going to be single forever then I must start engaging with the land as I planned many months ago before I met Jake.
I am sure that some of you will think that I am just giving up for no good reason. Well, I am very sorry, I don’t buy your dream that there are ‘plenty more fish in the sea’, that there is ‘someone for every one’ etc. That is your dream. My dream is that I can be alone without resort to catastrophic thinking. I have lived on borrowed time for as long as I can remember. Everyday should be a delight! By cluttering my life with suspect romances I have only served to degrade the quality of the one thing I truly own.
I am grateful that I met Jake because in 8 months he has done more for me than almost anyone could have. Without realizing it he held a mirror to my face for long enough so I could see in startling detail just how ravaged I had become.
Relationships make me so unhappy. They bring out the very worst in me. I don’t like sharing my bed or my head with anyone. If I don’t like me when I am in a relationship how could anyone else?
In the night I think of him but as I have said many times before it is not him. It is the ghost of what never was.
16 replies on “You’ll Never Really Know..”
Congratulations on being brave enough to share your truth.
Well said Duncan.
To be at peace with yourself and your decisions is a great achievement. You SHOULD marry your pen!I can feel your excitement for the future. bravo.
I really really love this work, Duncan. Well done. Live authentically, that is important. Be true to yourself.
Duncan I had the same realization/made the same decision 15 years ago without regret to date. Tremendously liberating. Yes, there are empty moments in a dedicated single lifestyle, but that emptiness only beckons the mind, heart and soul to go deeper into life. You are free to explore and become the best Duncan you can be. Further you are free to give of your gifts and talents liberally to the greatest number of people. Belonging to no-one, you belong to all. So happy that peace is coming back to you since you have a great capacity for it.
You do sound clearer and sharper in many ways.
You’re also being a very harsh judge of yourself with Jake,
as if all your behavior happened in a bell jar.
Is it possible that MANY aspects of that situation acted on tender spots in you?
That you may have been less reflexively reactive with someone healthier…more evolved…less living-his-life-in-the-eye-of-a-tornado?
Glad your creative juices are running, whatever the reason!
I agree with you relationships are a bunch of huey. 🙂 Are u taking care of your bullocks?
You mean Bollocks ha ha.
I had 1000 pens made once with ‘never mind the bollocks’ written on the side, only they put ‘never mind the bullocks’
ha ha my bad. so if you catch my drift why correct it?
D..THIS IS WHY SO MANY LOVE YOU. YOUR HONESTY AND BRUTAL AT TIMES
D, your simply amazing.. and this is why you get so many hits, so many you touch.I dont have the 5$ words, but yanno..your a hero to many, a man who lays it all out. props darlin.
Wow! It really is all — or nothing at all with you, isn’t it? While I am glad that you are feeling a return of your creative energy and that you are feeling at peace in the eye of the storm… I beg to differ on a number of points.
Joan Didion was not writing about how clear everything was after her husband died and while her daughter was still fighting for her life — and ultimately lost that fight — she was writing about how the tremendous loss was like being blindsided by a blow to the head that addles your thinking and a punch to the heart that almost stops it. Where you are walking around one minute numb, zombie-like going through the motions and the next collapsed in agony, all the while trying to make “sense” of something that can only have sense in the meaning that you find later on, looking back and trying to fit the pieces of the days spent. into some coherent pattern. She quotes Emily Post from a chapter in her 1922 book on etiquette with regard to “Funerals”: “Persons under the shock of genuine affliction are not only upset mentally but are all unbalanced physically. No matter how calm and controlled they seemingly may be, no one can under such circumstances be normal. Their disturbed circulation makes them cold, their distress makes them unstrung, sleepless.” Hardly the description of liberation.
You wrote “… Was I, could I…am I even capable of making a relationship work. The answer has to be a resounding NO.” Really? Based on the one 8 month, non-relationship, folie-a-deux that you had with Jake? The ONLY “relationship” that you’ve attempted since you’ve been sexually sober? Where if you read back over the way you’ve talked about your feelings and need to have a boyfriend, sounded more like you were talking about needing a fix — love/romance junkie — than someone who was in a place, mentally and emotionally, where you could attract a healthy person with whom to “relate”.
You flayed your skin off in little strips during “Sex Rehab”. I can’t even imagine how vulnerable and alone you must have felt. How your new insights must have seemed like a condemnation instead of a liberation. Realizing that you had been reenacting your abuse. Realizing where your rage came from. And just at that vulnerable moment, Jake contacted you. Did he ever read the script that you mentioned? Did he ever do anything at all but use you for your contacts? What kind, sweet things did he do or say? Because before you were so justifiably angry… you never mentioned any of them. How he bought you flowers, how he cooked you dinner, how he called you just to check in and tell you how much he missed you. You did mention how on several occasions that he was drunk, drugging or had taken nitrates when he was with you. And yes, when your one friend said that looking at your FB pictures that “he doesn’t even like you”, you ignored it. And when you felt the way you wrote about in “Red Suitcase”, you not only ignored those feelings, you still “dragged a complete stranger around Europe”. Yes, you willing gave up your sexual sobriety BUT… even if you were wearing a fucking t-shirt that said “Kick Me”, HE DIDN’T HAVE TO DO IT. And on THIS evidence, you base your argument that you are not capable of having a relationship and that you are fated forever and a day, to make yourself, and the unlucky prisoner of your affection, miserable.
I think that you DO need some time to yourself. Time to work on your sobriety. Without the crucible of a “relationship”. You’re not ready for one. You’re still too stuck in your mad head. You ask for someone “somewhat sincere”, get him, and think that love means that you have to abase yourself. That that’s all that you can hope for. So sad. You need to like and love yourself first. You said “Without realizing it he held a mirror to my face for long enough so I could see in startling detail just how ravaged I had become.” THIS is your revelation about yourself? His hurtful words used to manipulate you, that you’re old and difficult — taken as gospel?
Reviling yourself is not a revelation. It is a LIE. Abasing yourself is just as much of a sin as grandiosity. When the mirror is held up to Quixote, it breaks him because he believes the lie of the world that he is the superficial reflection that the world sees and not the beautiful soul that changed so many people. That helped Dulcinea save herself. Don’t believe that the reflection that you saw in the cracked mirror of the last 8 months is the truth about you, Duncan. You are so much more. And yes, you’re a handful, but you’re not a lost cause. You tried to push the river. It was YOUR will, not God’s. Don’t confuse the fact that you couldn’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear with the idea that God’s plan for you is to be single. Forever. Bless you, you really are an arrogant sod. When your plan and God’s plan don’t coincide, your response is to say “So long, cruel world. I will become a recluse.” You may have — given up — such things of “modernity” as drugs, alcohol, TV, and white flour but you ran from your career. You said you did. You ran right into the tortuous embrace of the iron maiden of computer pornography and sex addiction. Don’t make the same mistake. Get your head and your heart together. Stop running from or to something or someone. Just be. But don’t close doors that God hasn’t closed for you. Don’t listen to your mad head. It may be a hard road, but God didn’t intend for you to come this far and despair. We’re not like Tantalus, meant to forever try to grasp something just out of reach. Truly. Don’t lose your trust in a beneficent universe. You will be healed and you will find your grail.
hi Duncan i am glad you take some time to think you don’t do that enough ha ha. I find you think sometimes to much, relax a little enjoy your live take it slow don’t make it so complicated just lighten up a bit. I don’t mean to belittle you I just want you to be happy. love barbara
ignorance is a blessing!!
Dammit man.. No longer sure of this venue.
Brillant confessional and not a testicular response in the bunch.
Standby, I have somethings to say.
Would that be testicular as in the perspective from your gender or testicular as in forceful, challenging…? It is up to the moderator what gets posted as I’m sure you know. (I wonder if Duncan keeps a file of the responses that don’t get put up for viewing?)
Looking forward to your perspective. 🙂
Both.. But waning.