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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Loneliness

We get hungry so that we remember to eat. The species would not have survived if we didn’t. We would have starved and never known what hit us. Pain causes us to seek a remedy.
The same is true of loneliness. Living our lives in concert with others is challenging. Given the violent and conflict spattered pages of our history, people seem ill-suited to live together in society. But for loneliness, we’d all be on our own. As it is, human relations are fearful, guarded and distrustful at every level.
We all agree that love is the best thing that ever happens to us, yet it characterizes almost none of human affairs. Imagine banking or even something obvious like medical care predicated on love.
We are together because we starve for one another’s company.
Being human, I have spent a lot of my life starving for companionship. For whatever reason, I have always been single. Add to that the fact that I’m apparently more than a little odd and possessed of a near complete lack of concern for approval. For this or whatever reason, my connections to others have been what might best be characterized as tenuous.
It’s been a painful condition, at times. I’m still human so I get lonely. I have the same longings for pair bonding as the next fellow. But at the same time I seem to lack either the physical or character traits to attract people into my life in a more meaningful way. I’m not even sure what those traits might be, but I cannot deny my results.
That great irony of this is that I have a host of friends and acquaintances, and a rich, full and joyous life. I’m very social. I have a good time at most parties and social events. I can’t imagine what anti-depressants would be for. I get on easily with almost everyone. Auto mechanics, to medical professionals, to folks at the dry cleaners light up when I arrive. When I had my wisdom teeth out a couple of years back, the folks at my local grocery store grilled my friends for details of my recovery. When I returned to shop, staff members actually left their cash registers and checkout lines to meet me at the door, welcome me back and inquire after my health.
So, I live in a world where I’m beloved literally wherever I go and where my phone doesn’t ring on the weekends. People seem to adore me. Yet, I have only been asked on a date four or five times in my whole life. I’ve done a lot of my own asking and the most common response is flight. Apparently my sexual interest must be something fearsome.
It’s a puzzle.
I spent years staring in the mirror trying to discover the fatal flaw that separated me from the rest of the world. I’ve tried to contort myself into some shape or form that seems to be what people are looking for. I’m clueless.
And then I made an amazing discovery.
A couple of years ago, on book tour, I met a man. He had not come to meet my famous writing partner, as most everyone else had. He had come to the signing to meet me. I was a little startled. My writing partner actually got his number for me. I called. He was visiting from out of town. I asked him out anyway. He agreed. It was a nice enough first date. Not the most amazing thing, but I had a good time.
He left the next day but stayed in touch. We spoke on the phone frequently. He seemed interested and persistent. Oddly, he never called me from home. Every call he made was placed while he was in transit somewhere else. He went on a business trip to New York and called while walking back to his hotel. He never answered the phone when I called. He only ever called back or on his own. He went missing without explanation.
“He’s married,” my writing partner pronounced when I told her about how it was going.
So, I asked him. He assured me he was single and that he would try to do a better job.
I took him at his word. Things improved. I was going to my parent’s home for Christmas that year and suggested making plans around seeing him for New Years. He was near enough to mom and dad for me to schedule flights the connected through Atlanta, where he lived. We talked about planning it. He agreed. Then he disappeared. I called to get his take on various plans and timing. No answer.
I was going to my parents anyway. I gave him their phone number so we could plan New Years. He was in retail. I knew Christmas would be tough for him. I tried to be understanding. I figured we’d talk after. I went to Mom and Dad’s. I had a great holiday with them. The guy never called.
My first instinct was to go to Atlanta and try to make things work. He seemed great. He said he was single. It wasn’t like I had any other offers. You can’t win if you don’t play, right?
And then it hit me. I want to spend New Years with someone who wants to spend New Years with me. What’s more, if no one does want to be with me at midnight on the 31st, then I’m just fine on my own. It was possibly the most freeing thing that’s ever occurred to me. I understood Gloria Steinem’s “fish without a bicycle” concept in whole new way.
I love my life. It would be great to find someone to share it with. But it’s going to have to be someone who actually makes a great addition to the life I already have.
I don’t have to examine me in the mirror, beyond regular care and maintenance. I’m just fine, thank you. I hope to meet someone who thinks I’m the cutest things since pigtails and the hottest since Tabasco. No more trying to shape me into what appears to be the object of others’ desires.
I want to be amazed, or I don’t want to play.
Hell, I’ve waiting this long. Right?
Meanwhile, I’m not starving. In my own weird way, I am surrounded by people who love me. I have great friends and a family I’ve learned to love people for being exactly as they are. I’m not lonely. And if who I am never qualifies me as husband material, then I get to have the wonderful life I’m already having. That’s not a sacrifice.
Best of all is knowing that I’m not single because there something wrong with me and there’s nothing wrong with me because I am.

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I once read, I’ve no idea where, that the quality that most successful people share in common is that they know when to quit.

It seems a brilliant notion to me.  But it is a perilous idea to have in my head.  Everything since has become an exercise of balancing results on the scales of persistence.  When do I give up?

It is not my nature to just give something a try and then move on.

I have stuck with the worst prospects for relationships in my life and am single to this day almost without exception.  I have stood by bad friends who’ve stolen from me, lied to me, betrayed me and ditched me for better offers.  I’m getting better with the friends thing, mostly by getting out of it.  I’ve adopted a policy of making time only for people who make the effort – I want only to be with people who want to be with me.  No sign on the boyfriend front yet – ouch — but I’ve a much better group of friends.

Professionally, I’m wondering how to apply this same idea.

It took ten years to get my first novel, Say Uncle, published.  It took nearly three just to write it.  I had three other jobs at the time and wrote it in long hand — personal computers were just the wet dreams of Jobs and Woz and Bill back in the before times.

Once I was done writing I faced a tough market.  The idea of a book about a single gay man raising a child was not well received by the very conservative publishing world in the 80’s.  It wasn’t a daily effort, but I persisted.  In the end, the book was published.  While it was not a big success, it changed my life and set me on a new course.

It’s fifteen years later now and I wonder, is it time to quit?

I wrote a sequel to the first novel, centered around the idea of gay marriage but that was too much for the still more conservative publishing world of the mid-90’s.  Ironically, Say Uncle was pushed out of print by the memoir of a gay man adopting and raising a child.  My controversial idea had become the banal musings of some journalist.  I have written and published several other books since, though none original to me.  Despite the success of those, I’ve had no other writer for hire offers either.

Still, I have persisted with my writing.  There is now a stack of novels and other works.  I keep trying to get this to work as a career, but it doesn’t seem to want to work for me.  I have thought to walk away.

I worked for a medical professional organization for a time.  I was fired because my work was too good – no kidding, that’s actually what they said.  There was a stint on a little TV show, Game World, working as a script coordinator.  It was cancelled because the new guy in charge of the network didn’t think of it.  You could tell he cancelled it for his ego because he replaced it, not with another show, but with infomercials.  Each time one of these doors closed, writing came back to me as the thing to do.

Yet my writing career is a bit like the chase sequence in a Scooby Doo cartoon.  You know those scenes where the characters run randomly in and out of the many doors lining a long hallway? Like that.

1.  The villain chases the gang into the hallway and everyone disappears behind a different door.

The offer of the Queer as Folk novelization series arrived the day I cashed my last unemployment check from the doctor’s group and came with the promise of work on the show.  The production of Say Uncle as a movie brought a period of financial independence and presented itself following the cancellation of Game World.

2. Velma and Shaggy run out of doors on opposite sides of the hallway than the ones they entered.

Then QAF “decided to go another way”.

3. Shag and Scoob emerge from the same door.

The studio that was going to make the movie was bought just as we were ready to go into production.

4. The villain backs into Shag and Scooby and everyone runs into the nearest door.

Most recently, the spectacular success of the Star books that I developed as a series with Pamela Anderson was destroyed without explanation by Ms. Anderson.  She has not offered any reason or returned a phone call or even made any effort to find out if I’m okay after ending the project just before it made me any money and leaving me destitute.

5. Daphne and Freddie collide with Velma, Shag and Scoob.

So here I am again, in a heap in the middle of the hallway.  I keep writing and persisting, but I’m faced with that little habit of the successful? Should I quit? And if I do, what to do now?

I know the ending of everything is the beginning of everything else.  I think the real talent is knowing and recognizing when the end has actually come.  Am I there? Or am I just waiting in the hallway for the next door to open.  Will it be another villain or the hero this time?

What’s next?

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