GAWD! How do I get myself IN to these situations. (Shut up! Don’t answer that! Who asked you? No I didn’t, it was a rhetorical question!)

My friend Charlena recently said, “But is there really any other way to go but in over one’s head? Full out baby, that’s the way you play it, and it’s the best shit even though doing it this way hurts like hell.”

You know what? I’m tired of hurting. I’m exhausted by pain, anguish, uncertainty, soaring hopes dashed to pieces on jagged rocks. Flying without a net.

Truth is, I’m soft.

For 20 years, someone had my back. While there were times when that person terrified me, and I her, as only those we don’t want to live without really can, and not knowing what she might or might not do brought me to my knees, at the end of the day, she was there for me, and I for her. If we had problems or questions or issues or needed a gut check, we had each other. I had to be careful not to indiscriminately substitute her judgment for mine, but hers was pretty good, so it didn’t kill me if I did.

But now (cue the pity-party music), I’m all alone! And my self-sufficiency, I can handle this, I’ve dealt with stuff worse than this muscles feel like they’ve atrophied. Which is crazy, when you think about it. I’ve never done more, for myself, for my kids, BY myself, in, well, ever. Taking care of myself in my 20s was baby-steps compared to even MY pathetic half-measures, which, in fairness, are only somewhat to mostly pathetic. Sometimes they’re even borderline competent. Not according to some people, but most of those can bite me, as far as I’m concerned.

So at a point in my life that I should be feeling the most empowered, the most competent, the most in-touch and in command of who I am and what I want and how to get it… I’m feeling the most completely and totally opposite of all those things.

I stare and my phone, hoping for the slowly flashing light that means contact from another life form, followed by disappointment when it’s taunting glow turns out to only indicate the arrival of a piece of spam or an email from work. I search the web, seeking contact or something to initiate contact with someone about, spending far more time doing THAT than the actual mechanics of living our day-to-day life (and it shows).

During the first year, I honestly didn’t have as many doubts. Maybe because I was SO flipped out, nothing was right, so, in a way, nothing was wrong. Guess I’m lucky I didn’t get into more trouble! This year, doubts, doubts, doubts. One of Brené Brown’s “guideposts” in her second book is, “Letting Go of the Need for Certainty.” Ugh. Last year, I thought I had that one licked. “Destinations are aspirations at best, illusions at worst. All we have is the journey,” I used to say, all proud of myself. Now? F**k!!!! All my certainty-craving insecurities are back, more useless and irrational than ever!

Pathetic. Desperate. Inadequate. Unwanted. Needy. These are the words that describe how I feel. Unfortunately, they also I think increasingly describe how some other people see me, too.

Vulnerability. That’s supposed to be good, right? But being vulnerable also means, “easily injured.” Unprotected. Exposed. At-risk.

Honesty and openness. What everyone wants from the people in their lives, right? Sure. Except when it is off-putting. TMI. Awkward. Embarrassing. Your underwear is showing.

Passion, intensity, enthusiasm. All desirable attributes. Except when they are overwhelming. Out of scale. Premature. Reckless.

Like so many things, none of these are black and white. Like sound and light (and Autism, ha), they are on a spectrum; from the violet of honest, open, enthusiastic, passionate vulnerability, to the red of awkward, off the deep end, unprotected, unwelcome exposing of underwear. (Worse if it’s on Twitter.)

A motivational speaker that I saw many years ago (bear with me) who’s name I forget, challenged the notion of “balance” that is often held as the ideal. He said, essentially, that, when you have perfect balance, nothing is moving. You have a flat line. You have death. Life, by contrast, is a wave, an oscillation, a back and forth, like waves on a beach or a sound wave or a heartbeat. Instead of “balance” we should seek the rhythm of waves—pure tones that move back and forth in smooth regularity between poles, always moving, not too fast or too slow.

So I guess I need to find my harmony—the pure notes that go together well, where the oscillations between their poles create a manageable rhythm, instead of jarring extremes or chaotic patterns of phase cancellation and amplification. (In acoustics, the size and shape of a room will amplify some frequencies so that the room will actually make them louder than they really are, while other frequencies will literally cancel each other out, making those sounds seem quieter. Listen to the same sounds in another room, and everything can sound very different.)

I also need to preserve headroom. (More audio geek-speak. Again, bear with me.) If an ideal audio wave is supposed to look like this (note the even oscillation):

This is what happens when you turn up the volume beyond the capacity of the circuitry to handle it. (A digital system is the worst, because you literally run out of digits with which to represent the waveform.)

So, while a true flat-line would be absolute silence, any wave, if the oscillations become too big, turns into a distorted, crushed flat-line of another kind. A little bit is bad (notice how the tops and bottoms of the wave are flattened). A lot is nothing but noise, retaining nothing of the original tone:

I guess what this means is that, “Full Out” is not the same as turning all of our amps up to 11, 24/7. There is no loud without the quiet, no vulnerable without the guarded, no open without the closed, no self-sufficient without the needy.

And right now, my room needs to be tuned, my speakers are out of whack, my gain-staging is all wrong and something’s out of phase somewhere.

The worst is, I know (or can find out) how to fix ALL of those problems. But I am so very, very tired. Tired of fixing, of re-making, of taking care of, of making due.

And tired the most of not having someone who knows me, who really, really knows me—flaws, brilliance, shortcomings, talents, everything—be there to say that it’s OK. That tomorrow’s another day. That they’re not going anywhere. That we can fix those problems, and that we can once again make beautiful music together.

9 Responses to “Full Out, Baby!”

  1. Charlena says:

    This journey does ask the most of you… trust that in answering the call love has on your heart that you can rest and step to the side for a moment without losing your way or being forgotten. Love, C.

  2. Mel says:

    My goodness Jay — that is a good post. No — a great one. I am also a widow, been reading you for a while and I’ve reached the same place mentally as you are now, wondering who is ever going to actually see, and get me, again. Although you’ve been brave enough to put yourself out there and try (and get some response as well.) Hang in there.

    • Jay says:

      Thanks, Mel. Sometimes I wonder if, in fact, putting myself out there is the brave thing to do, or if it is the lonely, needy, afraid to be alone after being married almost 20 years thing to do. I’m sure it’s some of both. Thanks for reading and for your kind words of support. Take care.

  3. Lana says:

    Happy Fathers Day for you Jay. Thank you for sharing your pain and your hopes. We all need a support. Sometimes strangers will give us more than relatives.

    • Jay says:

      Thank you Lana! Here I like to think that, rather than strangers, I’m very lucky to have friends I simply haven’t met yet. And many of those turned into some of my very dearest friends, and the support has been, well, lifesaving. Thank you.

  4. Jill says:

    Hey Jay. Just thought you’d like to know that yesterday I tried looking around on Match and noticed your profile, and then today I saw you at Albertsons. Weird, huh? I read a little of your blog just now and am moved to say – you’re doing great. Keep plugging along. Best to you.

  5. Noel says:

    Jay, all that you say about balance, letting go of the need for certainty, the constant trying to walk the line between openness and TMI and then being exhausted from it all…thank you. I hugely appreciate and believe in what you have to say here. Although I’m not a widow, I do understand the intensity of the long marriage and how complex and entangled it can be. How much (we learn) ‘for better or for worse’ contains!

    I know I don’t get to see you often, but please know that I think your writings on how you feel and cope and push forward are utterly relevant and stirring to anyone who has known (or wants to know) what it means to love someone else truly and well—as clearly you have.

  6. Jay says:

    Thank you so much, Noel! Your comment came at a pretty low point for me today and warmed my heart very much. I had no idea you even read this. Holpefully I’ll see you and your delightful English husband at a #thinkndrink soon!

  7. Noel says:

    You bet. Yes, I saw your Camp Widow tweet and came to see…then kept reading. Cheers :]

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