Some of us are wired to expect the best from people and experiences. Others expect the worst. We tend to get what we expect, either from the people and the experiences or our perception of them. I tend to expect the best from people and experiences, and I usually have that experience. I am something of a paradox, though. On the one hand, I have a built-in BS detector; on the other, I have been accused of being gullible. I can be fooled, but generally not for long.
Based on my limited experience with Ned, I wondered if he expected the worst from people, or perhaps he was also a paradox, though a different kind than me. My face-to-face experience with him had been delightful, upbeat, and positive, but the phone conversations and texts were mixed. He seemed to question our interactions after having them, as if teasing them apart, looking for something a little unclean or wrong in them.
Five days after the dinner at my house, Ned had business in the metro area and visited me once he was done with it. We retired to the gazebo, herbal tea in hand, and picked up a thread of conversation as if we had just seen one another hours earlier. We talked about his writing, my writing, shamanism, business, backpacking, our mutual attraction, and whatever else came to mind, spending more time on some subjects than others. It was not all easy and comfortable, though.
Ned had done peyote–a lot of peyote. My shamanic work is free of drugs for several reasons. Apart from the obvious illegality of most drugs, they are simply not needed to enter a shamanic state of consciousness. Not only are they unneeded, I had witnessed the deleterious effects of drugs enough to know that they are usually ill-advised. I had energetically seen/felt cracks in the psyches of those who had done drugs when they were psychologically and spiritually unprepared for them.
I was not convinced that Ned’s peyote use had been necessary to take him to where he had wanted to go, nor was I convinced that he was a good candidate for it. I owned up to the former and kept the latter opinion to myself for the time being because I didn’t yet know him well enough to have a good sense of that, though his rather erratic behavior seemed to support the opinion that he might not have been a good candidate for peyote. That I do not employ drugs in my work seemed to mystify Ned a bit, perhaps because it was not consistent with his limited experience with shamanism and shamans.
My use of the word shaman was troubling to Ned. In his model of the world, the word was simply not spoken by one who actually was a shaman. It was a point of view I had heard before. He seemed to have some intrinsic doubts about my shamanic work because of that mindset. And having been on the receiving end of belligerence about this issue in the past, I was a bit defensive.
But for the most part, our interaction was intimate and playful. Ned wanted to sleep with me under the stars but was clear that he was willing to keep sex out of it because he didn’t think either of us was ready for that. I wasn’t so sure about him, but I knew I wasn’t ready for it. I pointed out that sleeping with a person is, in many ways, a more intimate act than having sex with them. He agreed, but he still wanted to share that experience with me. I found his desire to take me backpacking and sleep under the stars with me to be completely charming and even enticing, but it was too soon for me to consider it.
It was that sense of intimacy and playfulness that led me to do something that felt innocent enough but was definitely misguided. The consumption of herbal tea had prompted the need for a break, so we went indoors to separate bathrooms. When I came out of the master bath, I saw that my neighbors across the street, Kathy and Glen, were about to leave for a getaway trip. I had agreed to water some pots and collect their mail for them, and I knew that they were curious about this new man at my house. Kathy was reading my blog, and we had chatted about my dating experience. Glen was always aware of what was going on in the neighborhood. I thought they would want to catch a glimpse of the new guy.
When we were both ready to go back outside, I took Ned’s hand and asked him to come with me. I wanted to touch base with Kathy and Glen before they left and this was an opportunity to introduce them to Ned, which seemed preferable to surreptitious peeks as Ned came and left. Ned seemed a bit reluctant, but not overly so. I made the introduction. Kathy and Glen were their usual gracious, friendly selves. Ned appeared a bit uncomfortable.
In the annals of dating, it is said that introducing a man to your friends prematurely is a quick way to throw cold water on a budding relationship. I should have considered that. But Ned and I had been intimate and playful that afternoon. He was moving forward in the nascent relationship quicker than me. As a result, I had a moment of lapsed common sense. The introduction seemed harmless and almost insignificant.
And it appeared to have been exactly those things judging from Ned’s behavior once we were settled back in the gazebo and right up to the time he left. That evening, we texted one another lightheartedly and chatted on the phone.
Except that it wasn’t, at least not by the next day. Just as he had done previously, Ned seemed to have replayed our time together and found problems with it. When I texted him that my neighbor found him gorgeous, what he texted back was a long, angry text that ended by suggesting that I had trotted him out like a toy pony. My text of surprise and confusion back to him elicited more anger. He had come unglued. Much later, I received a text from him stating that he did not want to pursue anything further with me and was sorry he had texted from a place of reaction instead of picking up the phone.
I felt an immediate sense of relief and realized that Ned’s second-guessing and mood swings constituted way more drama than I wanted to experience with a man. And even though my act of taking his hand and walking across the street to the neighbor’s house without explaining what I was doing could definitely be seen as bad form, it really had been innocent and therefore ignorant on my part. But when a person is looking for people and experiences to be a problem, they will not only see them that way, they just might come unglued.
It wasn’t the first time I had done something that brought out the true nature of things quickly, and I thanked my guidance for prompting me to rapidly put things into perspective so I wasn’t wasting my time in a liaison that would never work. But I felt a bit like a child who had been slapped for doing something she really hadn’t realized was wrong. Ned seemed to think I was looking for a boy toy. If I had been looking for a boy toy, I would have picked someone younger than Ned. There had been numerous men between nineteen and forty-six who had made themselves available for such encounters. I wasn’t looking for a boy toy. But I was inspired to ask myself what exactly I did want to get out of this dating adventure.
What were my travels with an open heart about? What was I looking for? I needed to do a bit of soul-searching.
Note: The name Ned is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved. The names Kathy and Glen are real, and I am forever thankful to have them as neighbors and friends.
Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall