The winds have been blowing north, north-easterly since yesterday morning and are predicted to worsen today. Jon came in just as I was waking up and yelled from the foot of the stairs that they’d be moving the Shah (the gig boat) from the top of the quay to inside the still-roofless shed, and could I lend a hand? With ten of us, and two sets of wheels, it didn’t take much effort, though we were all thoroughly blown about and chilled by the time we got her up there.
Later in the afternoon, I ran into Maresh on the road. She had been walking around the island in the gales, and looked adorably windblown and rain-lashed. Her hair stuck to the sides of her face from underneath the hood of her jacket. We got to chatting and I invited her to my place for tea. To my pleasant surprise she agreed and we headed up the hill towards Pengold.
Back at the house she commented on how cozy the kitchen looked as I made tea, warmed a couple of muffins, and served them on a big plate.
It was nice, just sitting having a chat about where she grew up, my time in San Francisco, etc. I tend... I don’t know... I tend to scheme a little bit. I think, hmmm, do I want to kiss this girl? What can I do? What should I say? Scheme, scheme. It’s so crap, really. When I put that out of my mind and just think, yeah, it’d be really nice to know her. What’s she about? What has she seen? What does she enjoy? Then it’s lovely. Still then to bridge the gap to a kiss, to a touch, seems terribly difficult even though there was an energy in the kitchen that could have powered the whole archipelago for a week. Was it attraction or just inner tension?
I tell you what—this is all going to get embarrassing fairly quickly… Why not take this opportunity to skip ahead a bit?
Sigh—anyway, after the muffins were finished, after several cups of tea and bunches of grapes, after hundreds of words exchanged, about the inherent sauciness of the islands, about the romantic ideals she had of the boys living here, the plot thinned. “Well, I’d better get going.”
After she left, I just sat there reverberating in the energy of the last two hours that now had nowhere to go. I stood around, walked from the kitchen to my office without reason, and played the same four notes on the guitar.
Physicality, tenderness, they’ve always seemed like separate entities to me. They feel so difficult to integrate. It’s as if there’s a great wall behind which these things live, separate from the rest of my life, and I’m always trying to figure out how to get to the door at an opportune moment. But then there’s fumbling with the key, rusty hinges, etc. Better to just break through the wall when one encounters it or pretend it doesn’t exist, because it doesn’t really.
The other thing is that I also goad myself on, when perhaps I’m content with just having a chat. Maybe it was just that. What a mess. I feel like I’m fifteen. It’s so ridiculous.
Sigh (again)—so anyway, I thought, “Invite her back for a glass of wine after dinner.” (I felt desperate to recover from my earlier inability to bridge connection.) It was supposed to be her last night here on the island so felt a bit of pressure (never helpful). She was staying at Drew’s. So I ran over to Ellen and Bryce’s through the windy gusts to get the number. Maybe she’s sleeping with Drew. Hell, I don’t even know.
Ellen was looking through her phone book. “Let’s see... Drew’s mobile...”.
“It wasn’t actually Drew that I wanted to talk to, it’s Maresh.”
“Oh, is she still here? We were hoping to get to see her before she left.”
Running back home again through the gusts and getting blown past the door, I started to feel a little lame. Why not just all get together instead of me trying to work the angle? I called Ellen back and said as much, except the bit about wanting to work the angle. She said, “Yeah great—invite her up and we’ll all sit by the fire.”
I called Maresh—no answer. I called again and left a message then ran the gusty gauntlet back across the road with a bottle of wine and chocolate. “Did you get a hold of her?” asked Ellen.
“No, no answer.”
“Let’s try one more time...” She dialed… I waited… “Hey Maresh, Ellen...”
Drew had told her not to pick up the phone and she couldn’t hear the incoming messages. She recognized Ellen’s number on the caller ID though and picked up. So she ended up braving the storms again to hang out for a bit. We called Jon as well and it turned out to be a nice evening. Jon ended up staying until about midnight. Maresh and I stayed for another half hour after that. We both got up, she moved towards her coat and I towards the door.
Should I wait and walk out with her? No, I was too nervous. I just said, “Well, drop by for another cup of tea if you’re around tomorrow.” (She was thinking about missing the boat in the morning and blaming it on the weather.) What an invitation, huh? No, “I really enjoyed meeting you.” No, “Let me give you my number in case you’re ever in SF.” Just a pathetic invitation and then out the door, guaranteeing, of course, that I won’t see her today. I felt so lame.
Just an even flow, a steady course, and an honest expression of feeling, that’s the goal. Just that. Just that, and so much less energy would be wasted. Just that.
Oh, young self... (and dear readers who see yourself in these pages, or know someone that might) I hear the struggle. I empathize with the loss and longing for connection, with the frustration of not being able to bridge it, with the crushing nature of your desire attempting to push you through your internal walls, which do not give way.
May I offer you an opening, a gate through the wall you perceive? For, through any wall, no matter how thick, a passage may be made.
I offer that the passage can be carved with these elements of awareness:
Observation (What do you see, hear, experience, free from your own evaluations?)
Feelings (What emotions or sensations arise in you, based on those observations?)
Needs (What internal needs do those feelings reveal?)
Requests (What action could you request that might meet or serve those needs?)
FYI, this process comes straight out of the NVC (aka Compassionate Communication) playbook.
How might this have looked with Maresh? (from what I wrote/remember)
Observations: You noticed her straight, brown, neck-length hair that curled in at the ends. You saw that she wore her dad’s old sweater, knitted by her mom. You saw her brave the gales and rain to walk around the island. You heard her play violin late at night, by light of fire and candles. The next day you invited her up for tea, she accepted, and you both talked for a couple hours. You heard her say that your kitchen felt cozy, that the islands felt saucy, and that she romantically idealized guys that lived there. [I mean, what else do you want? ;)]
Feelings: I imagine/remember you feeling attraction at the site of her, engagement, and warmth when you experienced how she changed the conversation that evening at the pub, aligned and happy when she spoke of her appreciation for her centuries-old instrument, appreciative when she agreed to play that evening at Drew’s, fascinated and curious as she worked through layers of velvet and silk to unwrap her violin, dazzled, spellbound, amazed, and entranced when she did play, admiration when you crossed paths with her in the rain, and realized that, like you, she was willing to brave the weather to be with island and walk the land, affection and attraction when you saw her smile while her wet hair clung to the sides of her face under the hood of her jacket, surprised, excited, and happy when she accepted your invitation to tea, invigorated, enlivened, thrilled when you heard her describe the islands as “saucy,” and the men who lived there as her romantic ideal, aroused, hopeful, joyous, as you sat and talked with one another, hesitant and unsure when you confronted the thoughts in your head, disappointed, discouraged, disheartened, and forlorn when she left and you hadn’t been able to (or for some reason didn’t want to?) offer a bridge to physical connection. I’m sure the list went on. And I imagine there was a fair amount of overlap for her.
Needs: You had needs. All beings do. Perhaps you had a need for affection, connection, and closeness after months on the island, a need for beauty and touch, a need to honor your attraction for her, as well as to honor her possible (likely?) attraction for you, a need to be valued, appreciated, a need to appreciate the aspects of her that you admired, a need for gratitude for the gift of her presence, her playing for you, a need for aliveness, for passion. I also sensed in your writing a need for clarity regarding your feelings, even a certainty perhaps?
And here I’d like to add an aside and suggest that you may find that you don’t need absolute clarity and certainty, in regard to your feelings, in order to offer a bridge to physical connection. You may find that you don’t have to know that your whole entire being is aligned. A kiss can just be a kiss. It doesn’t have to be the end-all, be-all. An afternoon of kisses can be a lovely time, a curiosity explored, an experience on its own.
Requests: OK—here is where the invitation to action comes in. And it is just that, an offering, an invitation. It isn’t a demand. As such, be prepared to welcome a “no” as well as a “yes.” A request inherently asks for consent. And it can reference the need it is seeking to fulfill, as hearing the need sometimes helps people align themselves with the request.
How might this have looked in your case with Maresh?
After the evening at Drew’s when she played violin, perhaps like this:
You: “Maresh, I’ve so enjoyed meeting you. And hearing you play felt beyond amazing. That was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. It felt like such a gift. Thank you. Thank you...”
Her, perhaps: “Oh, thank you. It felt so nice to play for you. I appreciated you asking... I’ve enjoyed meeting you too. It’s felt like a lovely treat.”
You: “Aww, thanks. I’m glad... Before I go... I wonder if you’d welcome a kiss goodnight?”
You: “Would you welcome a little more connection before I go?”
Her, perhaps: “What do you have in mind?”
You: “A hug and a goodnight kiss.”
Her, perhaps: “Yes—I’d like that.”
When you were having tea at your house, perhaps it could have gone like this:
You: “I feel such lovely energy with you. Do you feel it?”
Her (perhaps): “Yes... I feel it too.” (shy smile?)
You: “I would love to kiss you. Would that be alright?”
Her (perhaps): “I think so...”
You: “Let’s try...” (Lean in for a slow kiss.) “How was that?”
Her (perhaps): “Mmm, that was lovely...”
Perhaps you could have laid your hands on the table, palms up, as an invitation for her to lay her hands in yours.
Perhaps you could have asked her if she’d like to dance, despite the fact the lack of a stereo or radio in the house, and, if she accepted, hummed or sung to her as you swayed.
The last night at Ellen & Bryce’s house:
You: “I’m glad we had another chance to get together. ”
Her (perhaps): “Me too. It’s so nice to sit and chat by the fire when it’s so stormy outside.”
You: “It’s SO stormy out. May I walk you back to Drew’s place? You can hold on to my arm, if you’d like, so you don’t get blown off the island.” (smile)
Her (perhaps): She greets your smile with one of her own. “Thank you, yes—that’d be lovely.”
And, in anyone of these scenarios, she might have declined...
Her (perhaps): “Kissing you sounds lovely and I feel wary of rousing that energy when this is my last day on the island.”
And you might have responded...
You: “No worries, at all. I understand. It’s been so lovely chatting with you. Thank you for this time together.”
And it’s all good. You would have honored your feelings and found a way through your wall. And, in respecting her sovereignty and choice, and in making your requests, either found a door in her wall that opened or remained closed.
And in that, I imagine, you might felt a sense of joy and wholeness at standing out in the light.