An Open-and-Shut Case of Something or Other

Although I have been told that I have “loud” facial expressions, my pleading eyebrows were easy to ignore this morning. I guess my eyebrows were not loud enough.

My eyebrows were requesting conversational assistance … no, they were pleading for a rescue, stet.

One of the great parts of a life in recovery is the fact that I have a network of people with whom I can share some of my day-to-day difficulties. My friends in recovery remind me that there is really only one thing I need to understand: I am my only problem in my life. Anything that I feel is a problem is almost one hundred percent of the time a repercussion from me reacting to a person or situation as if it was the problem. My reaction is the problem, not the person or situation.

I brought today’s challenge to my network. I spared them details, as I will spare you details, except to tell you that it involved my relationship and it involved words and actions that did not make me resemble Cary Grant. I resembled a child, and not in a good way. But as I spoke with my friends, I felt the inner pressures of the difficulties of me being me lift—after all, both she and I, separately and together, have real challenges in our life and in our lives. Relationships are difficult. They are also not at all difficult.

The gist of my couple sentences was about me growing up and that today offered me one more lesson in all this. Perhaps because I did not give specifics, because one shouldn’t, one party only heard the words “relationship” and “girlfriend.” He pulled me aside and started to offer help:

“Two guys, two men, can live together and it’s all good. Add a woman to it and there’s nothing but treachery.”

I pretended to mishear that. “Archery?” My eyebrows went up. A friend walked past and my eyes followed him. I was silently screaming a request that my friend would remember that he needed to ask me something very important, right at that moment. No such luck.

My advice-offerer pretended I did not mishear him. “I discovered,” he continued, “That everything that I thought I needed to change about me and everything that I changed about me, came back in whoever I started having a relationship with. Now, I’m alone” (by his telling, he is in his 30s) “and now my money is mine and my house and my cars are mine.”

Over the years I have perfected for myself a certain vapid look on my face whenever confronted one-on-one with someone whose ideas make me want the floor to open up directly under me. Or so I thought.

I was aware that this empty expression, which even included me closing my eyes so I would avoid eye contact—like a child playing hide-n-seek by closing their eyes when told to hide—was not working. I also used another method, also to no effect: I nodded at random words, making sure I nodded only at the nouns and not the verbs. (This usually makes me look and sound like I am incapable of understanding your sage wisdom and am thus not worth your effort.)

I now realize that those two methods sat in conflict with my first, admittedly stupid, attempt at sarcasm: “Archery?” Thus he continued his disquisition about how if I need to pursue happiness, if my relationship is producing “more tears than laughs” (was he going to tell me he is writing country songs next?), that I owed it to myself to break up. My eyes opened and I started to say that I am in the opposite sort of relationship, but he was on a roll and I could not interject anything with more syllables than “Well,” which he steamrolled over: “Well you have to make sure that she doesn’t know what you’re going to do, if you’re going to leave. Protect yourself.”

I looked down at the floor and noticed a microscopic piece of non-anything and leaned down to pick it up. I stood up, said my thanks for the advice, and left. His advice worked, at least in instructing me in how to leave him: I didn’t tell him what I was going to do. I protected myself. I went home to my opposite kind of relationship.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for November 22 asks us to reflect on the word, “Elicit.”

The WordPress Daily Prompt for August 23 asks us to reflect on the word, “Learning.” Since this column first appeared in June, I have not again seen the guy I so comically avoided that day. That’ll learn me.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for June 16 asks us to reflect on the word, “Open.”

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  1. loisajay · June 16, 2016

    Mark, I know this is a serious post, but I had to laugh at you mis-hearing “archery”, at you bending to pick up a non-anything, but the best was wanting the floor to open under you, When I am in situations like this, I usually want the floor to open under ‘then.” Btw–nodding at words (nouns not verbs) is so good!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The Fierce Urgency of ‘No’ | The Gad About Town

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