Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Tao of Charlie Brown

One of my favorite Charlie Brown quotes is, "Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love." Although Charlie Brown was considered a blockhead by his peers, he was oh so wise. He had a heart as big as Texas. His quest for love from the Little Red Haired Girl always made me cheer him on. Come on Chuck! Go for it! Don't sit on the side lines any longer. So easy to say when you are not Charlie Brown. So easy to say when you are sure of where you stand in a relationship. Not so easy to say or do when you know you are standing on sand, not solid ground. I love peanut butter, especially chunky, but lately Charlie Brown is right, the flavor just ain't there.

The one thing good ol’ Chuck and I do not agree on is that I don't quite believe in unrequited love. You cannot be "in love" with someone if that love is not reciprocated. I hold tight to that thought even due to recent events. I do believe you can deeply love and care for someone; knowing that if the relationship continues down a specific path you see yourself easily falling in love.

The phrase "falling in love" is so appropriate. The realization that you are free falling, willing to let yourself be at your most vulnerable to someone, is freakin’ frightening as there are no nets in the high wire circus act of love. Whether reciprocated or not, your life, with one little realization, is about to be inextricably altered forever and always. Bye-bye comfort zone. Hello, doubt, uncertainty and insecurity. If a relationship has grown to this intensity, there most likely is a deep level of caring (and possibly love) reciprocated. But is it at the level you want or need? Is it at the level where your partner is willing to swing by on their trapeze and catch you as you fall?

For me, relationships always start better with friendship. The majority of my closest dating relationships began as friends. I cannot imagine caring for someone, or falling in love with someone without being friends first. Shared likes and dislikes, common interests and a deep respect for them as a human being are all foundations for friendship and sometimes, eventually, love. Build a relationship on anything less is akin to erecting a high-rise on sand. It will shift and tumble before the ground work is complete. I should know to trust the "friendship first rule". I first broke the "friendship first rule" when dating my ex-husband. And since “ex” is part of his current notoriety my explanation should be self explanatory.

Sometimes, though, relationships start backwards. You can’t help it. There is an immediate attraction that takes on a whole life of its own. The foundation is not built with bricks. The foundation is not really built at all. It’s as if the contractors decided to construct the middle 10 stories of a high-rise because that was the fun part and they liked working on those floor plans and interior design of those rooms. They want to do the fun stuff first. Then in a "d'oh!” slap on the head, what the hell have we done moment, the contractors realize nothing exists on which to stand their creation. They have to scramble and build the foundation. What once was feasible becomes extremely tricky and difficult to manage.

If both parties are willing, a plan can develop to backtrack and build that foundation. What once would have been simple and a beautiful natural progression turns into a difficult and awkward undertaking. The building can still be built, but due to strikes (wrestling with their own inner demons), labor negotiations (needing more or less than what each is capable of giving), revised architectural plans (logistics) and walk-outs (no longer available) both contractors need to be invested in the project at hand to restore balance to the building’s development. If one is unwilling, for whatever reason, no amount of bricks will stabilize the sand that has filtered into the groundwork and your relationship is going to fall like a high-rise built without pylons.

Where constructing a building is fairly black and white, love is not. In fact one needs a spectroscope to measure the variances and nuances of love. The music industry would be non existent if there were not a plethora of interpretations on love and its many different forms.

In my most recent relationship, neither of us believed in working on two projects simultaneously.  Although we were both one building at a time contractors, an exclusivity clause was never discussed in detail or written in our partnership.  It was more inherent in our personalities and beliefs.  We could peruse other buildings or land.  Be aware of what was out there.  But neither one of us believed in renovating floor plans on more than one building at a time.  So, when I learned my contracting partner had moved on to another project I was immensely bothered.  In reality though, our union negotiations had been at a stand still for months and although our foundation had the support beams of respect, admiration, appreciation and a form of love in place, things were still a bit shaky. Too shaky to engineer the placement of those 10 floors we renovated months ago.  It was going to take some pretty strong armed union tactics and a knowledgeable architect to bring this building to code and neither parties were in agreement. Rationally his moving on to another project made sense. Yet, I could not grasp why I was so angry and hurt.

Anyone who knows me knows my mind is moving 24/7. I contemplate everything ad nauseum. If you think it is frustrating knowing I think too much, just think about what it is like in my brain. It. Is. ExhaustING! Yet no one was more surprised than me when I realized my building was crumbling, union negotiations had failed and holy crap, the reason I was so upset is that I was free falling with no one on the trapeze to catch me. OK…there was one person more surprised than I, and I will get back to him shortly.

This epiphany happened while walking down Jackson Blvd. during rush hour, mid step on the way to the office causing a minor pedestrian pile up in front of Sears Tower. (I refuse to call it Willis. Refuse. I tell you.) Not a wise place to stop mid step. People were not pleased. Well if they knew what I was thinking, they would have known that I was not pleased either. Was I really falling? Had I fallen? Did I really care that much? Did he feel the same? My answers were in order: Yes. Quite possibly. Most definitely. Not a snowballs chance in hell. If he felt the same the new project would not exist.

My life, with that one little thought, was inextricably altered forever and always.

Bye-bye comfort zone.

Hello, doubt, uncertainty and insecurity.


I was suddenly Charlie Brown in love with the Little Red Haired Girl and knew why he was on the side lines, why peanut butter lost its flavor, why he felt so vulnerable and why he was paralyzed with fear. 

Still holding true to my belief that you cannot be in love without that feeling reciprocated, I realized you can still deeply love and care for someone. You can love and trust their friendship. Know and love their quirks and uniqueness. You can love how they look at life, love their strength of character, their honesty and how they treat others. You can respect them immeasurably. You can even respect how they convey the fact that they do not share the same deep feelings for you.

Some may consider that last statement pathetic. To me, not at all. As long as a breakup is not due to betrayal or abuse of any type and if the person can tell you their thoughts and feelings while taking into consideration how you will react, then you cannot do anything but wish them well. I won't lie to you.  The message is still going to hurt. Believe me, when the band aide is finally ripped off, there is a sting, a kicked in the gut, son of bitch that hurts reaction. But truth be told, because your foundation maintains the cornerstones of respect, appreciation, admiration and love, they are going to convey their feelings gently being mindful of the bruise in your heart.

And that is what happened. With love and respect we were honest with each other. We both regret how we handled aspects of our relationship. He does not seem uncomfortable with my revelation and I wish him well. How could I not?  The sting, kicked in the gut, son of a bitch that hurts reaction is still there. It will ease up eventually.  I also learned there is a net when it comes to free falling and thinking you are not going to be caught. It arrives in the form of friends and family who love you.

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