Change was in the air. Like a hot, muggy July night in the Midwest, it had enough weight and substance for me to taste it.
I knew I needed to let go of Jake. I could tick off more than a half dozen reasons for it, but as Lady Gaga had so pointedly said in her song, “Million Reasons,” even when we have plenty of reasons to go, sometimes it only takes one good one to keep us sticking around, whether or not sticking around is a good idea. I had more than one reason to not turn away from Jake: I genuinely liked him; we had fun when we were together and even when we just texted; there was juicy chemistry between us; and we had shared a particular kind of intimacy with a level of abandon and depth that was not easily replicated. I dragged my feet.
When Jake texted me on New Year’s Eve, I thought it a good opportunity to end things. It didn’t take long for the texting to spiral into sexting. I pointed out that the possibility of ever getting together again was slim since I was unwilling to be a last-minute backup plan when what he really wanted to do fell through, and he was unwilling to schedule me in. I expected his reply to admit that it was an untenable situation. Instead, he agreed that scheduling time together was a respectful thing to do.
But it didn’t happen. Texts between us came and went.
Strangely, one night as I was thinking about Jake and reaching for something in my nightstand, a recording my late husband had made many years earlier started to play, spontaneously. The recording accompanied a photo of Howard and me. He had made it before going to Iraq in late 2004 to train cops as an independent contractor. It was his voice reciting a bit of lyrics from the song “You Do Something to Me” in a Transylvanian accent. He knew it made me laugh every time he sounded like Bella Lugosi saying that I had the power to hypnotize him. All these years later, it was tinny but still audible. I kept it in a small cedar box in my nightstand, buried under other things. It was implausible that it could play by itself because it had to be opened and a button had to be pushed for it to play. But play itself it had. I knew that he was sending me a message, but I wasn’t sure what that message was in the moment. It later became clear.
Finally, four months to the day after our first meeting, I sent a text essentially ending the relationship with Jake. In true Jake style, he responded to the message with understanding instead of just blowing me off. That willingness to engage in communication was a part of what I found so endearing about him.
But it was over, and I found myself pensive about it. At the bottom of it, Jake had been unavailable, and that made me think about the many men in my life before him who had been unavailable, beginning with my father.
Does it always come back to a woman’s father? Maybe so. My father’s unavailability was the result of his introverted nature coupled with the psychological and physical detritus from his World War II experiences that nudged him towards alcoholism. I’d been twenty-seven when he died, and I regretted not having his company and his counsel during more of my adult years.
The other unavailable men in my life, from my first husband to those with whom I’d been in relationship before my second marriage, had been unavailable for a handful of reasons. None of them were unavailable by virtue of marriage to someone else. I didn’t like messing with another woman’s man. They had been unavailable because a man cannot be available to you if he is in serious relationship with his own demons, whether psychological or chemical. After breaking up with a man I deeply loved but whose relationship with drugs–primarily marijuana–took precedence over his relationship with me, I had joked that the half-life of my bad relationships was improving because it had been whittled down from more than a decade to a matter of months.
Even my second husband, the man I’d loved for the twenty-five years preceding his death, was seen by his best friend as something of a lone wolf. He had not been the easiest man to live with, but he had opened to me and been available to me more than he had to any other woman in his life, and the marriage worked.
Now, six years after my husband’s death, I was again contemplating my tendency to be with unavailable men. Derek had surely been unavailable. So had Jake. They were examples of something I had discussed many times with apprentices and others with whom I had done shamanic work. As we face, heal, and clear away the remnants of our internal shadow and everything in us that we’ve put in place for purposes of defense (usually subconsciously), we experience something that is not so much like the peeling of an onion as the peeling of an artichoke’s layers. There is nothing left when the onion is fully peeled. In purely esoteric terms, I could argue the validity of that. But in more human terms, what is left when the spikey outer petals of an artichoke are peeled, then the more tender inner petals, and then the hairy choke, which is bitter and inedible? Beneath that is the artichoke heart, which is perfection.
Invariably, before we reach the perfection of the authentic self (which I argued can be approximated but maybe not completely achieved in this life), we undergo many initiations. And usually, when we rather arrogantly think we have it mastered, we reach the mother lode of what must be faced, the internal equivalent of the hairy choke.
But even when we have made it through that initiation, enough energetic remnants of that bitter obstacle remain that we find ourselves cycling around to it again and again, usually at more profound levels each time, and sometimes, if we’re lucky and have done the work, it is just a challenge and test to our mastery.
The issue of unavailable men was up for review one more time.
But this time, I saw it for what it was in Jake–an external representation of something within me that needed facing and working through. And I knew that clearing those energetic remnants was something I was ready to do. Just the acknowledgment of it transformed most of it.
But was I available? My travels with an open heart across the past ten months had tested and refined my availability. I believed I was available.
I was finally ready for a man who not only suited me in many ways, but one who was available. And I was available to meet him and travel openheartedly with him. It had taken my entire life to accomplish, and whether or not that man showed up in this life, I was ready for it.
Note: The names Jake and Derek are fictitious and have been used out of respect for the men involved.
Copyright 2017 by Melanie Mulhall
Tags: "Million Reasons", apprentices, authentic self, change, chemical demons, ending the relationship, ending things, hairy choke, half-life, initiations, intimacy, Lady Gaga, peeling an artichoke, peeling an onion, psychological demons, sexting, shadow, shamanic work, shamanism, texting, Travels with an Open Heart, turning away from, turning towards, unavailable men