A Journal of My Mid-Life Crisis
16 August 1998 - Needs and Limerence
It's been tricky finding an approach to writing about some of the people issues I've found while traveling. Really, what it comes down to is that the things I think of as people issues are really all questions of how I behave in relationship to my emotional needs.
Specifically, I've seen that I'm at my worst when my need to feel competent is threatened. The first week I was on the truck, I felt very incompetent - what with not having any real camping experience and all. The situation that arose out of this had to do with an area that I do feel competent with - namely, cooking. Because I needed to feel that I was good at something, I turned into a total control freak the first time my cookgroup had their turn and offended two other people by being a complete asshole over it. Of course, I didn't realize this at the time. I knew I was being a jerk, but it took a bit of soul-searching to figure out why. I did apologize, but it was too late to avoid permanetly poisoning my relationships with those people.
The obvious thing to ask is whether I've improved any over this. Well, I'll leave it to you to judge, but let me just mention the last time I felt my competence was severely questioned. The next to last night on the R.M.S. St. Helena (the ship I took from Cape Town to the U.K. and the subject of a future travel dispatch) the evening activity was Pictionary. My obvious mistake was agreeing to form a team with just two other people. Particuarly two people who I knew well enough that they would tease me mercilessly for any perceived weakness, Hywell already having gotten a lot of mileage out of the subject of co-ed dorms in backpackers' hostels and, as for John, I will write about him in a bit.
Anyway, the phrase I got was "the lion shall lie down with the lamb." I got them to guess "lion" well enough by drawing a cat and then adding a mane. My drawing of a lamb was bad (or should I say baaa-ad?). It was obviously a 4-legged animal but they were guessing things like "turtle". The real problem was that after a while I was laughing too hard to be able to do anything. About once a year or so I will get into one of these uncontrollable laughing fits and John kept setting me off. Of course, the next day, both Hywell and John had to make a point of repeatedly mentioning the whole thing. I consider a sign of tremendous improvement that I didn't lose my temper at either of them, though I did feel defensive enough to try to get them to see some of the better efforts in my sketch pad. (And, to be fair, there are plenty of things there that I would not have wanted them to see as illustrations of competence at drawing!) At any rate, I think I handled the whole thing better than I would have a few months ago.
I said I would write a little more about John and, now, there is an interesting situation. I have to go back to something about my relationship with Robert, though, to explain this in a way that will make any sense.
One of the things that has kept me in what I realistically know is a dead-end relationship for so long is sheer chemistry. Even after 13 years, I still react strongly to his mere presence. I've read Dorothy Tennov's Love and Limerence and a lot of stuff in there rings very true about my feelings towards him.
But what I wanted to get at here is that, while I've had other relationships during the same time period (since Robert has no intention of being monogamous, there's certainly no reason for me not to look for someone else, too), I've not had that sort of visceral reaction to any of those people. Until now.
Not that I really started a "relationship" with John. In fact, I have no idea whether he would even have been interested and, even if he were, it would not have been a good idea for anything to have happened on the ship. (Since he was an officer, the ship's doctor, to be specific, and there are inevitably rules regarding officers getting involved with passengers.) Besides which, I had referred to Robert several times (without getting into detailed explanations of the situation there). And then there's the geographic matter, since John is pretty committed to living in Cape Town.
So there are all these reasons why it's good that nothing happened, per se. But it was still an eye opener to realize that I can react that way to someone else. The real test will come in early September when I see Robert and figure out if that realization helps in sorting out what I am doing with him.
In the meantime, what I really want to know is why this never happens with men who live near me. Sigh.
Copyright 1998 Miriam H. Nadel
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