Lying in bed I wait for my partner to arrive home that night. Suzan Ferreira runs a fine-dining restaurant on the other side of the city. When you’re in bed with a restaurant you scavenge for scraps of time together.
Waiting is never a good practice. Patience is a great practice, but not waiting – just waiting, waiting, waiting. I had run out of things to occupy the attention of my tiring and undisciplined mind. A never-good combination.
It was getting late. Later than usual, whatever usual is. There must be a reason. My mind begins to scratch at a few – none of them particularly kind.
Obviously the one demanding my attention was the version where Suzan had cashed up earlier and was with some guy, probably having sex. Bam, a punch to the solar plexus!
Instant feelings of devastation and distress begin to overwhelm me: my heart hammering, my breath sharp and shallow, my meek mind becoming misty and mad.
Thoughts flood my veins, clambering over one another to substantiate the painful claims. A thousand variations of her infidel tales, all true and nastier with each subsequent variation.
Outraged and beginning to fume, I abandoned the bed.
Instead I paced the room, grasping desperately out the window with my eyes for any sign of headlights. I searched for reassurance as disbelief and doubt twisted each other into a wrangled knot. Back and forth, and back again. I seemed to be trying to shake the agony loose from my desperate form.
The blackness that leers in is not reassuring.
Lying down thought, that is reassuring – I feel like I’m about to collapse and my capacities are abandoning me. So, like a corpse I’m back on the bed, being inescapably taunted by the bleak ceiling.
Waiting. Never, ever good.
In all likelihood, by now about 30 seconds have passed since that initial stabbing thought. My mounting fear casually suggested that this experience could well be endless.
I need to calm-the-fuck-down.
In that fleeting gap Roy slips a few words in: “This experience we’ve just gone through is without knowing what is actually going on.”
An idea of what might be going on, without actually knowing, and out of the many various possibilities choosing the single option that was most excruciatingly painful and distressing. That got me. Everything became temporarily suspended – like a bookmark I could return to, which I eventually do, many times.
For ‘without knowing’ that was an intense and undoubtedly real experience. Vivid and visceral. “Wow! Okay. So, if all that happened just by thinking these thoughts, what could happen if I think different thoughts? Thoughts that aren’t quite so nasty perhaps?” Now, there’s a thought!
I start with compassion: it’s been a late and busy night with a long drive home and Suzan is looking forward to arriving to a calm place of safety where she can unwind in the loving comfort of my arms. Breathe.
Immediately I feel myself morphing into this state of being, knowing for myself that coming home to a grumpy partner is not appealing. Somewhere I hold an idyllic version of myself of someone a partner would be excited to come home to. In my current state I most certainly am not matching up.
As the tensions I had summoned skulked back into their dusty cornersI felt gradually better. Yes, with this thinking I can be welcoming, embracing, sympathetic and available. I lingered there a moment longer.
Not one for being calm or still my active mind is already peddling another possibility: Suzan’s been in an accident and is being rushed off to hospital.
Different response: fright, worry, concern. It’s a distressing state but as it feels less personal it sits differently. I decide to leave this one and explore some other options.
An innocent one, perhaps: Suzan stopped off on the way home to share a night cap with some of her troup. A pang of jealousy, or is that envy? Indignation even – I’m waiting at home while she’s off having fun with her buddies. Fuck her!
I’m feeling safe enough to stew in this one a while – Roy, are you… of course you’re watching, it’s me who forgets.
I begin to feel and see where it takes me. Underlying the objection to her fun I feel left out, unconsidered and unimportant. Somehow this feels familiar except that I’m feeling like a young, uncertain and insecure little boy. A tirade of self-deprecating thoughts played their hand. Quickly, on the defense, I called their bluff. “What if… what if they asked me to join?”
I imagined the conversation.
The phone rings and I hear “Hey babe, shitty night! The girls and I are going to grab a drink at that new roadhouse joint. Yes? You’re going to join…”
I ponder this, radiating momentarily in being invited to join and to be ‘a part of’. I considered standing up, putting on clothes I could go out in, locking up the cottage, climbing into my car to drive for 30 minutes to get there. I imagine the bright lights, the music, that chatter and laughter, the smokey buzz of energy discharging from an evening of serving others and being replaced by the self-serving fuel of wine and wit.
I just couldn’t be bothered. “Hey, thanks for letting me know… I’m happy to hang here and enjoy a quiet night. See when you’re home…”
A verdict drifted up like a smoke signal on a subtle breeze. I just wanted to be asked – to be thought of and to have that moment of connection. A kind of reassurance in itself. As much as I felt I wanted to be included, given the choice, I preferred (in this moment anyway) to be right where I was. With this, all the negative feelings towards Suzan for having fun without me fall away as the grounds for feeling them lost their grip.
But before I could relax into that a rather large pink form shuffled quietly and embarrassingly in the corner of the room. Anxiety threatened to return.
I double checked myself, “I’m imagining things, any or none of which could be real, and at any point imagining a best-case scenario calms me down.”
Okay. Good. Hold the teddy bear.
Damb, no teddy bear, just when I need one! Fine, I’ll hold myself!
I’m feeling safe enough to dip my toe back into the crusher, the option my seemingly sick mind is jumping to frame in neon and hang on a naked wall: “She’s with a dude. I’m being cheated on. Pay attention!”
With zero effort, my imagination gushes in to fill up with details. My feelings are right behind them with perverse pom poms and an uncomfortable dance routine. In essence, they’re laughing at me. I’m a weak, shriveled up, pathetic loser.
Everyone knows. They’re all pointing fingers and smirking with a toxic brew of pity and disgust. I’m so stupid. So ignorantly trusting. Such a miserable walkover.
I want to die but Roy casually intertjects with curiosity, “If ‘I feel left out’ could be turned into ‘I’m happy’…” he trails off.
“Roy, where are you going with this?” I demand.
“Well, what if you were being considered?” he prompted.
I wasn’t going to go there easily – what a ridiculous suggestion! But the seed was planted, the mind is fertile and again the phone is ringing.
I cautiously answer to hear, “Hey babe, umm, I’ve been chilling with some friends. Er, there’s a bit of a sexy vibe happening and, well… well I’m keen to explore it a bit… with one of the guys. Feels quite awkward but I just wanted to check in with you… I don’t know…”
I’m simply stunned! I have no idea what to make of this or how to respond. Where is this even coming from?
My mind on a roll decided to continue “… maybe you want to join?”
I’m going to skip over what happened next, to what happened next-next, which is nothing. Blank. Gone.
As a shock response of total overwhelm I quietly and peacefully exit the scene by passing out while clutching an imaginary childhood teddy bear. Sleep had saved me but that experience was to taunt me for years to come.