Veterans love dogs. I’ve worked with a lot of veterans over the years and they can be slow to trust. Especially the ones working through some issues. They are quiet. Don’t talk to others. Don’t share their feelings well. Don’t relate well. Unless you put a dog in the room. Then it’s game on. Dogs are great. Dogs don’t judge. Dogs don’t make up shit. Dogs just wag their tail, drool, bark, and be dogs. Nobody is happier to see you when you come home, even though you were an asshole in traffic, than your dog. Whenever I train people that work with veterans I tell them to be like dogs (see also Carl Rogers positive regard). I remember an iconic memory in therapy. We were doing some deep work and my therapist asked me what I wanted. I saw a clear image in mind of a faceless (unknown, I wasn’t in a relationship at the time) woman sitting on the couch. I was sitting on the floor, as though we were watching tv or something, and I was leaning on her lap in comfort. She was accepting of me without judgment. I could see in the image that there was no posturing or trying or attempting or striving on my part (all hallmarks of masculinity, that is to say, energy of effort). What the image meant to me was acceptance of me as I am.
When I was going through therapy for two years I was having difficulty feeling emotions. I was numb much of the time, except for anger. Anger was never far. But connecting with another person was difficult. I worked on it. I went to therapy. I got better. I got to where I could love again. In the wake of this was a long list of failed relationships. Lots of them. I felt guilty for that. Still do. I didn’t want the women I dated to be an means to an end. I didn’t want to use them for my emotional awakening. But as I felt more guilty, I closed up more. So it was a balancing act of putting myself out there with vulnerability, and allowing others the freedom of the same. I had to trust that what happened would be the result of honest desire and intention on both parties.
Then I dated T. I was in great shape. I had come to grips with a lot about myself. I felt great. I was solid in a lot of areas. I was calm and confident and sure of so many things I had worked hard to get to. And for months that strength paid off. I remember one particularly nasty fight where she attacked everything I said, every motive, every little thing, and more. I returned back calm love and acceptance and slept on the couch. My message to her was that I loved and accepted her and no matter how she felt, I’d be there waiting when she came out of the storm. Sweet dreams. Good night. There were many nights like that. She wore me down. In a few months I doubted. My strength wavered. I lost perspective. Once the crack was made, it only widened. Her threats of suicide only made it worse. In the end I didn’t know much anymore. I doubted myself. I doubted my own thoughts and motives and reasons. That I had doubt at all helped seed more doubt. I couldn’t have been that strong to begin with!
An ugly breakup. But I worked to get back to normal. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. I felt happy again. I chalked it up to a lesson in meeting a narcissistic personality type. My own dad told me that he understood. He said that everyone has to go through that at some time. He’s sorry that I did, but he was glad that I came out of it. My mom was such a type. Took him 16 years to get out.
At the end of summer I met an amazing person. A fellow Ásatrúar. Gorgeous. Strong. Independent. Fierce. We instantly hit it off. Great chemistry. Great intellectual energy. Great sexual energy. Many times she told me “I see you”! She often told me that she could see clearly the person I was. She loved and accepted that. Between us we opened up vulnerable areas. We told each other secrets. We explored the light and the dark. And then suddenly she turned around, rejected me, said I was a variety of things, among them weak. It was sudden. It was without warning. Intellectually i could see it was a response she had to a trigger with her parent’s health which pulled up trauma from her past. It was clear to see. But emotionally this ripped my guts out.
For November to January I was in a depression. I was useless to most everything I tried. Everything in my life suffered. I had no motivation or drive. I barely functioned. I tried dating someone, a really nice woman, but I just couldn’t connect with her. I was closed off. I knew that my state was hurting her, perhaps she too was attempting to date too early. So I ended it.
I’m out of the depression now, but I still can’t trust. That image of the partner that accepted me, from the vision in therapy, was my secret hope. It is what I truly want. Twice I thought I had it recently. The first was a narcissist that plaid games with me. The second was, I’m not sure what, someone deeply hurt and who can’t return love? I don’t know. But while I’m no longer depressed since January, I don’t feel trust. I imagine meeting someone nice and going out with them. And in the back of my mind I feel certainty that they will lie to me, they cannot possibly accept me, they cannot possibly love me, that I cannot possibly be enough for them. And so I’m in a bind. I can’t feel my way through this. I can’t feel how to open myself up to someone with this inside of me. I feel like being a hermit. Even going on a date feels like it would be fake.
I just don’t know. But the rune Hagalaz keeps coming up. For a while now the plains have been beaten down by hail. Perhaps in time the ice will turn to water and the crops will grow. Yet the existentialist in me reminds me that the universe is not a fair one. My life doesn’t necessitate love. There is no guarantee of it. I could very well live alone. Die alone. After all, almost every woman I’ve dated has been 6 months or less. Only one was two years, and that included a deployment to Iraq. Sometime I will have to accept the fact that when it comes to love… I’m just no good at it.
Maybe I should just get a dog.