Playing Nice and Playing Small

I knew it would be risky to share my shamanic journey with Derek, but I was committed to be open in this budding relationship, so I offered to read it to him if he was interested. He was. Further, he wanted to have it read to him in my journey room, which amused me. He knew very little about shamanism, but he was open to and interested in knowing more. I texted him that I was feeling vulnerable about sharing the journey with him, and he texted back that he had a little vulnerability of his own, which he proposed sharing with me after I read him my journey. I wondered what that vulnerability was about and sensed that it was important, but the fact that he was willing to share personal vulnerability with me was significant in and of itself.

I had spent enough time with Derek to know that we were good one-on-one. Now I wanted to see how he was with other people. I had felt him out about having dinner with a couple of my friends, and he was open to the idea, so I scheduled it for the weekend following his trip out of town to see his stepdaughter and grandchildren. I invited a longtime friend, Patty Wheeler, and her boyfriend, Bob Stone. That Bob had once been a kayaker would be a point of connection between the two men.

The dinner was animated and fun. If I’d had any concerns about Derek’s ability to interact with my friends, they were jettisoned as I watched him converse with Patty and Bob. Derek held his own well.

Once Patty and Bob left, Derek and I retreated to the journey room for my reading of the journey and his confession about his vulnerability. He closed his eyes, appearing to be listening intently, as I read the journey. For him it was like the reading of a good story. He had not quite sorted out what he thought about my shamanic work, but when I had first told him I was going to journey and that it had to do with him, at least in part, his unfiltered from-brain-to-mouth reply had been that if he did a journey, his question would be about why he felt like such a teenager when he was around me. I had even offered to facilitate a journey for him so he could understand what it was all about, and he had not only been open, he had conjectured that he might need do have me do that to understand what it meant to journey.

But this was my journey, and he had played a part in it. He had nothing specific to say about it once I finished reading the journey to him, and I suspected he was trying to wrap his brain around it. He liked to figure things out, but shamanic journeys often defy left-brained attempts at figuring them out, even one like this, which was fairly straightforward.

As we snuggled on the journey room couch, I asked about the vulnerability he had referred to. What he told me spoke to whether or not he was through enough of the grieving process related to his wife’s death to actually be in a relationship with a woman. He had already told me about one woman he had dated since his wife’s death, and now he talked about another. They had date a couple of months During that time, he felt great about her and the relationship when he was with her, but when he was alone, he found himself struggling with the idea of dating at all. He had felt he should not be in relationship, that he should be alone, and agonized over it. He finally ended it with a note to her, presumably an e-mail, though I didn’t ask.

He still felt vulnerable to the possibility that this would happen again, but he was quick to say that he did not feel that way with me.

I muttered something about the lameness of his having sent her a note instead of talking to her, and he did not disagree, but it seemed he had only been able to do it at arm’s length at that time.

When I had first learned that he was only a year and a half past his wife’s death, I had been concerned that it was too soon for him to be in a serious relationship again, even though his stated desire on the dating site had been for a serious relationship. I knew that a person’s readiness for relationship after the death of a spouse was a highly individual thing, but I also knew that when a man had loved his wife as much as Derek seemed to have loved his, it might take quite a while before he was ready to move on. He had been a bit vague about the timing of the relationship he had ended by note, but it had been some months before he and I met.

I was happy that we were close enough for him to open up about this, but I also wondered if he was really ready for a relationship with any woman . . . let alone me.


Note: The name Derek is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved.


Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall


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2 Responses to “Playing Nice and Playing Small”

  1. gaildstorey Says:

    This relationship is so complex and nuanced. I look forward to hearing what happens next!

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