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It's the Wanting

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

Back in the day, up in Connecticut, my ex-wife, who is also a naturopathic doctor, practiced in a neighboring town. When anyone discovered that I had been her husband, my standard response was, "She's a great doctor, just don't marry her."

Here in San Miguel, Veronica and I have been dating for six or seven years. Recently, a couple of months ago, we went from being lovers to being friends. As these things usually are, the change was overdue. As these things usually aren't, the transition has been very smooth. She's a great friend, but when it comes to intimacy...

Insightful, honest and fun-loving, Vero has a lot of friends. But it's hard to let anyone love us more than we love ourselves. I'm working on that one myself.

Veronica would agree with my assertion that, as a boyfriend, I was 95% perfect. But, oh, how sometimes that lacking 5% bothered her. This, my not being good enough, would, through the bulk of our relationship, push me into my childhood abyss of being emotionally abandoned by my mother. Ours were mutually compatible pathologies.

More recently, over the last year or so, I've been able to respond, or to not respond, more maturely. I stopped playing into it. I took a breath and was able to not act out my neuroticism just when she was acting out hers.

On a closely related matter, I've come to believe you get the cat that you deserve. At least I have. My cat, Fellini, is not very sociable, and neither am I. Those of you who have seen me out and about, chatting away, might find this hard to believe about me. But I do spend days on end alone.

Fellini grew up running wild, with little human interaction. He still prefers it that way. He comes in to be fed and to shelter. He doesn't accept any but the briefest petting. I can't play with him, because he always scratches, drawing blood. When he does jump up on my lap, he expresses his contentment by rhythmically kneading his needle-like claws into my thigh.

My relationship with my cat has me feeling used. Apart from his keeping the mice and rat population at zero, I don't know what I get; and mousetraps are easier to maintain. I hate the way he kills birds. But at least he cleans up after himself, devouring his prey.

The other day on seeing what I thought was a pair of bright green feathers on the floor in a corner of the office, I thought he had murdered the hummingbird that visits our garden. On closer inspection, I discovered the "feathers" to be the wings of some enormous insect, no doubt a rare and noble creature slaughtered by this feline assassin.

As with Veronica, recently, my relationship with Fellini improved dramatically. Perhaps, more precisely, my attitude towards our relationship improved dramatically. This happened when I stopped expecting anything from him. More feral than domesticated, I finally accepted that he will never be a house cat. He's a real Tom, prowling all over.

I stopped expecting Fellini to learn or understand. I'm not trying to teach or train him. I'm not trying to improve our relationship. I don't want anything from him. Now, when he does something annoying or forbidden, I banish him by growling, "Get out of here." He understands the tone, taking his distance according to the loudness of my voice. On the positive side, I have been remembering to keep some article of clothes within reach to interpose between his claws and my flesh when he does jump up on my lap.

I'm not growling at Veronica. But, as with Fellini, I have stopped expecting her to understand, to always respond positively to my affection. Now, when she exceeds her capacity to receive, I stop giving. I'm not trying to further domesticate her, to develop our relationship. The Buddhists say, "When you find yourself in a toxic situation, leave." Now, when she isn't good company, due to chronic pain or lack of sleep or the time of month, I just politely make my exit.

Vero is my best friend. We go to the hot springs on Tuesdays. Saturdays, I bring over her food for the week from the organic market and usually spend the night. We sleep next to each other, but there's no hanky-panky. Neither of us want it. After our former stress, both of us are grateful for our new ease together. Sundays, I make our traditional big brunch.

A friend sent me a short clip from a series, The Many Saints of Newark, the prequel to The Sopranos. In it, as a young man, Tony's future uncle, is visiting Ray Liotta in prison.

Uncle: Well, for one thing, my wife, she can't get pregnant. It takes a toll. I want a son so bad. What would you do?
Ray: It's the wanting.
Uncle: Huh?
Ray: The Buddhists will tell you, "All life is pain." Pain comes from always wanting things.
Uncle: A son is not a thing.
Ray: It's the wanting.
[Richard's opening riff from "Can't You Hear Me Knocking"]

Would I like a romantic relationship? I'm open to it. Would I like to trade in my cat for a different one? You bet. But I'm not "wanting." I'm not expecting Vero or Fellini to change. And meanwhile, not blindly re-enacting my past emotional frustration, I am better able to love myself. Not looking for love in all the wrong places, I am finding easier avenues of fulfillment.

This weekend, Vero was busy Saturday. I went over Sunday, delivered the groceries and took her shopping. When we got back, I made us carrot-beet-cucumber-ginger juice, while my spaghetti sauce (always better the next day) warmed up on the stove. That's me, 95% perfect. After dinner, we were both tired and went to bed.

This morning, I drove Vero to where she meets her ride to school (she teaches) and came back to my place, the dog running for stretches alongside the car. Here the three of us are: the cat snuggled on my lap; the dog sleeping on her blanket, all huddled around this digital hearth. It's Monday morning, and writing this, I've already got Friday's article almost in the can (movie talk). Now, I'll go eat a medley of papaya, pineapple and watermelon up in the rooftop sun, and then, mostly keeping to the shade, do my yoga. "If that's not love, what is?"

ps: Veronica is also taking better care of herself. Thanks.


Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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