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Less Confused

Wow.  This has been a whole lotta bloggin’ going on lately.  But I thought I’d get some of these thoughts down before I go to bed.

This ended up being a day of serious highs and lows.  And another reminder that yes, people read this crap.  Like, real people, not random electrons floating out there.
I walked into Pete and Deb’s for the Fourth, and Nick asked “You OK?”  For a moment I wondered WTF, then realized – oh, he read my blog today!  Later, Fi whispers in my ear “Is that the girl?”  “Huh”  “Is that the girl you blogged about?”  “Oh, yeah!”  Usually any responses I hear about the stuff I blog are on here – again, that random electrons thing, disconnected from real life.  Oops.  🙂
So, Devi and I didn’t chat on Sunday – it ended up happening on Saturday, because she’s got plans on Sunday night.  I was NOT happy with this – I really wanted to have this chat on my way out of town.  Then if things went badly, then I didn’t have to face a day with her and the kids when I’m wanting to run like hell (ditching out on the kids is NOT an option for me – Madi already knew I was going to be there.)
Devi failed to tell me she had plans Sunday night (actually, she said she txted me about it, but I got nada on my phone.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – I’ve had stuff on my phone before that registered as outgoing, but have physically SEEN it didn’t show up on the other person’s phone.  Usually only happens where there is intermittent signal.  Guess what – that describes Cheney’s cell service at her house perfectly.
I had prepared for three potential outcomes.  Positive, and she is wanting to start something.  Neutral, and nothing changes between us.  Negative, and we tell each other to fuck off and die (or similar but less nasty parting of ways.)  And for the life of me, I had no idea which one it was gonna be.
So, I get to her house late, and start digging into her car – I wanted to get the last bit of the tuneup done before I left.  The car runs great, but, it still wasn’t completed yet.  She asks “So, what did you want to talk about?”  “Now isn’t the time.”  She looked at me funny – I know she doesn’t like the idea of something being discussed “tommorow” anyway.  She doesn’t like things to just float out there, ‘specially if I’m upset with her about something.  It’s not S.O.P. between us for something to float out there if one of us is upset.
She prods me about it a couple more times – I said “Devi, not today.  Sunday night.  Now isn’t the time.”  “Davis, I’m DOING something Sunday night.  We can’t do it then.”  I was pissed instantly.  How dare someone fuck up my perfect plan.  “You know what?  I’ve done a lot for you.  And I ask one thing, and I get fucking nothing?  Fuck it, I guess it will just have to fucking wait until I get back from Kenosha, if ever.”  The minute it came out of my mouth I regretted it.  Before she could say anything, “Wait.  That was shitty of me Devi, and you didn’t deserve it at all.  I’m angry, and I’m lashing out because of expectations, without really telling you enough for you to understand.”
The damage, for the scope of this conversation, was done.  You’ll notice if you meet Devi that she has scars on her arms – she tend to have bumps appear on her arms, and when she’s stressed, she picks at them.  She was instantly picking at them.  I had never lashed out at Devi – not before we got to know each other again after not having seen each other for 12 years, and definitely not since we started talking again.  I started the conversation by bewildering her, and throwing her into the deep end of my emotional pool.  Nice work there, Davis.
So we began the talk.  I explained what happened Thursday night when she came home late, and why it had ticked me off, on the surface.  I never asked her to be home at a certain time – had I, she would have.  She always has before.  I just assumed, without telling her anything.  So I explained that the problem was with me, and my expectations in the situation.  But I still wanted her to know what it was that made me mad on the surface, so that she understood.  And she did.  She explained, yet again, that her and I needed to quit assuming things of each other – we needed to TALK about things, not just assume the other person is going to do what we want.
Honestly, if you want a relationship sort of discussion, that was it.  I’ve had this discussion before with women, and it’s almost exclusively someone I’ve been involved with for a while, not a friend.  That didn’t escape me during the conversation – this was only gonna make things harder to have the final part of the conversation.
There was one sort of tough point for me.  I’ve been discounting my important to people a lot in the last couple of years.  If someone says I’m important in their life, I try to shrug it off.  About the only person I’ll admit any importance level to is Erin.  I’ve accepted a level of importance in her life.  Why?  It’s an intimacy issue.  If I can feel that I’m unimportant to people, I won’t be hurt when they quit talking to me, leave me, etc.  It’s a defensive mechanism.  I’ve been hurt mort than I tell people by those around me.  I don’t admit it, I don’t talk about it, and I don’t show it.  But it’s there.  By being unimportant to most people I keep the potential for harm at bay.  Something was said about me being important to the kids, and I popped off with my usual comment about not really.  She stopped, and sounded a bit cross.  “Davis you have to quit discounting your importance to people.  You’re a hell of a lot more important to the people in your life than you seem to think.”  
I choked up immediately, and she heard it.  “Because Devi, if I’m not important to people, it’s a hell of a lot easier for me not to get hurt.”  Hey, we all have our issues.
Up next was a conversation about the kids.  I explained “You know how I told you my concerns?  And seemed to indicate that’s it’s all a bad idea?  I’m wrong.”  She raised an eyebrow at that one.  “If they want me to come over and hang out with them and stay the night whenever, or they want to come over and play Rock Band?  That’s fine with me, as long as it works for you.”
We talked about it for a while.  She was fine with what I had to say.  I picked this as the second conversation very specifically.  Something a bit less heated, so if the first conversation went badly, then we’d have something a little more calm to talk about while the situation calms down.  Except it didn’t go that way, stress level wise.  Her ex-girlfriend called in the middle of that discussion.  Devi commented to me “Great timing, Michelle.”  Yes, great timing indeed.  ‘Cause if there’s something that would make the final part of the conversation go badly, THAT would have been it.
After Michelle talked to Madi, then talked to Devi, we went back to the kid conversation.  One of her difficulties is Alex is coming to live with her full time in August, and we chatted about that – see, I won’t be able to watch the kids anymore.  Devi might be a part of my life that accedentally got integrated with me, but so are the kids.  And one of the things I had to ponder before our conversation was my role there:  were the kids an issue solely because of Devi (IE, because I’m around her, I spend time with the kids), or have they become their own independent issue (IE, I spend time with them solely because I want to spend time with them.)
That didn’t take much to answer, and sort of surprised me in a way.  I know I like kids and all, but I still have difficulties with the idea of things like being involved, kids caring about me, things like that.  I accepted them as them, not as part of Devi, after about the second time I watched them.  Madi and I bonded fast, and Marc isn’t far behind.  Maybe it’s just a point in my life where it finally became “the right time” and they happened by.  I dunno.  But it happened.  So, they are a stand-alone issue in their own right, though if Devi and I turned into a “Fuck off and die” situation, then it’s the end of that.  In some ways, that might not be a bad idea – there’s less risk for me and them.  Things can’t proceed on, finding them hurt because I’m no longer around.  So the next question I had to ask myself was “Are they receiving benefit that equals or is greater than the risk?”  Hm.  
That’s impossible to gage.  I pondered that.  At the moment, their life has Devi in it. Michelle hasn’t QUITE abandoned them, but damned near it.  In fact, she’s fucked it up bad enough that Madi no longer really wants to talk to her.  Hm.  The kids have fun, and the get a… ug, a pseudo-parental figure in their life, a male figure that has a different approach then Devi’s.  They are 11 and 9.  
It holds a risk.  But I looked at the balance of things, and felt it might be worth it for them.  It’s worth it for me, too, risk wise.  It’s up to Devi then.  But, for the moment, this DOES hinge on if this turns into a “fuck off an die” conversation at the end.
We’ve never fully discussed the situation with Alex though.  I mean, I know a lot about Alex, and I’ve gotten to know her a bit.  But the situation with watching the kids once a week has to come to an end when Alex moves in – it’s part of the court issues with custody.  We chatted about it a bit.  I never asked what the parameters were for that, and she explained that anyone who watched the kids had to be interviewed by the state and deemed “OK” to watch the kids.  She wasn’t going to ask anyone to go through that, she said.
I told her “You know, if you ever do want someone to do that, just holler.  I would.”  We chatted about the details of how it works, etc.  Not that big of a deal really.
Devi looked tired and stressed.  I FELT tired and stressed.  Two issues down, one to go.  The biggie.  Somehow the conversation side-tracked to some of her recent drama, and how that developed.  She gave me a huge opening buildup to work with.
I explained my theory of interpersonal relationships.  It boils down to: We have rules.  We develop these rules with each person independently.  How much time we spend with someone, how we act around them, everything.  There’s no set rules, universally, for this – it’s different for everyone.   However, we get quickly confused when the rules change – change how much time you spend with someone, and they think something is wrong.  This was the source of drama in her life with her female couple she had made friends with (actually, there’s more to it than that, but that really can sum it up.)  We discussed that back and forth.
OK, I already knew something now.  This wasn’t going to be a positive outcome conversation.  It had to do with the interpersonal relationships conversation.  Only neutral and negative were possible now.
Then I sat down beside her, hip to hip.  “For instance, you changed the rules between you and I.”  Her head dropped. “Why the hell did you kiss me?  I made it obvious there were a set of conditions on that.”  She paused for a couple of seconds.  “I don’t know how to explain it, I’m looking for the words.” “It’s OK, take your time.” A bit of time passed before she could start to explain finally:  “You once tried to kiss me, and you put your conditions on it and what it meant.  This time, I got to do it on my terms.  I used to kiss you back when, and I remember I rather enjoyed it.”
I’m going to point something out here.  If you didn’t catch it the first time, there’s no answer there.  Not really.  She said the conditions under which she did it, not why.  We do things because we enjoy it, but it’s incredibly rare that we change intimacy levels for no reason.  That’s not how it works 99/100 times.  On this, I let it pass.  I could already see something – she didn’t know why, not really.  There was no reason to press this one at all. 
Then we started talking about us.  The first part of it was bullshit, but that’s what I expected.  When you ask someone who’s angry why they are angry, they tell you the surface thing.  I learned, the hard way, to pull out the pick axe, and start digging – I’m gonna take some bruises along the way, but with enough digging, I’ll find the REAL reason behind it.  Same goes for a discussion when you know fear is involved – the first answer is just surface fluff, designed to prevent us from looking deeper.  
There were a few surprises.  Apparently, this has been something on her mind since the very beginning of us meeting up again – the idea of a relationship between us has been something she’s been attracted to, but afraid it won’t work out.  I asked why, and got bullshit again.  I mean, she quoted things that are from her past relationship with Michelle, things she already knows aren’t true of me.  So I pulled out the pickaxe there too, and went to town.  
Really, I can boil this down easily.  She’s tired of rules.  And dear lord, I know exactly what she’s talking about.  Relationships are awesome, and when you have compatible rules, it’s great.  When you have incompatible rules, well, it’s a ton of effort.  She wants to do anything that she feels like, without having to answer to anyone.
But at the same time, she still wants a certain level of relationship with me.  She wants me to continue to call at 10 PM.  She appreciates the fact that if she’s busy, I usually just tell her “Cool – have fun, honey, I’ll talk to you tomorrow night!” and exchange whatever cutesy gnight’s we do that time.  I never really have any problem with it, unless an emergency comes up – and she makes time for a conversation for that.  And if I don’t call, well, she worries – am I OK?  Are we OK?  (Those rules again.)
Simply put, she wants that friend / fake significant other setup still, but with the freedom to answer to no one.  It’s an idealized thing though – she knows even in that situation, she still has to answer to me to a certain degree, when it comes to her and I.  It really sort of ends with another one of those sort of “don’t assume – TALK to me Davis” things.
This is a crossroads for me once I could see it all laid out.  In many ways, I should tell her to fuck off.  In other ways, I can see why sticking around wouldn’t be bad for me either.  But you know what?  I’m not letting this conversation end easily.  I push a bit – something I don’t do much of – and tell her try it sometime.  She might like it.  There’s no real risk of loosing my friendship – that’s not how things work with me (how many ex-girlfriends, etc. am I still on good terms with when I see them?  Pretty much all but one.)  THis goes back and forth a bit, each of us defending our position.  Part of it is me actually trying, knowing it’s not going to happen, the other part is trying to run the situation through my head.  Negative or Neutral?  Worse, since I’ve also got the kid issue sort of hanging out there too, I’ve got a rather unique problem – in my car trunk is my hat.  I need to decide what to do with it.  (I’ll explain that in a bit.)
I start dragging this out too long, and finally look at her and say “You know what, now I’m just fighting over this.  Sorry.”  There was no hesitation on her part – all was forgiven instantly.  She knew what I was doing on the surface.  I have no idea if she knew what I was trying to figure out below that though, and I have no intent of telling her for the moment.  “OK, I’m going to go have a cigarrette – I’ll be back in a minute.” 
I started to walk past her, and it all sort of gelled for me.  Her back was to me, and I walked up behind her and put my hands on her arms and leaned in, and kissed her neck.  “Devi, I love you.  You are my friend.  That’s not what I wish for between us, that’s not where I’d like to see things go.  But our friendship doesn’t hinge on that.”  I kissed her on the cheek.  “Thank you,” she said speaking softly.  
Wait… I’m sure at least one person is going to do a forehead slap, thinking “Davis, you idiot.  Leave her behind!”
I thought about somethings in my past, drawing from my experience with fucked up situations.  Often, they don’t end badly, not when looked at in the long term.  Fuck it – I’m going to stick with the neutral route.
Plus… even with everything we said, I know this is going to be something revisited again someday.  Possibly multiple times.  This one isn’t a story.  It’s going to end up being a saga.  Sheesh.  Call it morbid curiosity, but I want to know how this story twists next.  The next twist is at least a couple of moon cycles away, but it will happen.  And I gotta see if I’m right.
But the situation is resolved, or as resolved is it will get with each other in our lives.  It’s a muddy mess really, but it’s a muddy mess that most days I’ve enjoyed the hell out of, and so has she.  It’s just every once in a while, she changes the rules, and when those change, it causes us to stir up shit between us.  There’s no fix for that – it’s going to happen.
But every time that shit gets stirred up, we both somehow manage to end up more intertwined in the end.  It’s only happened three times so far, so I can’t say it’s enough for a trend yet.  It’s… stupidly fascinating.  I can’t help it.  
So fuck it – I’ll run this through a couple more of those stir it up cycles, and see what happens.  Not necessarily trying to win her heart or anything at this point, I’m just along for a ride I’m enjoying most days.  And you know what?  Fuck, a ride I’m enjoying most days is what I get out of most relationships anyway 🙂  (OK, and sex would be nice.  Too bad about that.)
But cool… this means the fate of my hat is also resolved.
Did I happen to mention this whole set of conversations ended at 2 PM?  Yeeeaaahhhh… I’ve got the whole rest of the day to face, with Devi, three kids, and a host of other people to deal with.  Fuck, I am DRAINED and really, kind of hurt at this point.  I was more emotionally invested in that conversation that I’d really care to admit (but will anyway.)  More than one set of important things in my life rode on it.
So the next stop was her Grandparent’s place for lunch with them for Madi’s birthday.  At this point, I’ve got a sort of plastered on smile for most of the occasion, until the kids got ahold of me outside.  I had one kid on each arm, and Alex was laughing at it all (and taking video on my phone, which was pretty damned cute really).  That lightened my mood, and restored some of my energy, but not enough.  I needed to get away for a while.
When we left, I whispered in Devi’s ear:  “Do you need to stop back by your house?”  “Yes, why?” “Can you take the kids?  I need a bit of alone time.  I’ll just meet you at my house.”  “Sure.”
You might call my drive home a mini-breakdown.  I blew every bit of stress, hurt, confusion, and bravado that built up during the last two days out.  And blew chunks on the side of the road.  I wasn’t shittin’ when I said I was more emotionally invested in that conversation than I had planned.  I cried a bit, too – I was that wound up.  And re-broke my knuckle.  Pretty much the whole gamut.  
I wasn’t quite myself when I got back to Doc’s.  I still had one point of stress left, really.  The hat.
I had originally thought up the idea giving Madi the hat, because she wears my hat about 20% of the time I’m around her and Marc.  Then had two reasons why I was considering not doing it.  The first was something concerning Devi – I mentioned the idea, and she rolled her eyes and smiled.  I took that as “stupid idea.”  Second, well… after I retired the hat, I had started thinking about how old that thing really was.  It’s at least 10 years old.  It was a part of me, in many ways, an identifier, an extension of my personality, a unique point about me.
Handing it to Madi could result in a “uh, ok, gee… thanks.” sort of response, but I doubted it.  But the bit of nerves from that possibility was still there.  The second was, well, this was a very personal gift.  I was giving her something that was sort of a part of me.  And… well, I knew somehow, deep down, that meant I was committing myself to a set of kids.  Hard to explain – even though I would never wear the hat again, I couldn’t throw it away.  It was too important.  And to hand it over to her meant I was giving her something tangible of me, something that if I didn’t show up the next week, she’d still remember me.  And something that if I turned my back and walked away from the situation, I’d be leaving her with something to hate me by.  I’ve fucked that up once – walked out of a kids life when I shouldn’t have – and have vowed if I ever got involved in a situation with kids again, I’d never make that mistake twice.  And for those who believe a bit in magicks, I’m handing her something heavily laden with my energy, with a litteral trace of me in it.
Decision time.  Devi and the kids got here, and Marc and Madi wanted to ride with me (if Devi and I are headed the same destination with two cars, at least one of the kids want to ride with me.)   The hat was in the trunk – only Devi knew about the idea, and if I didn’t do it, she might ask later, but there would be no harm done.  I drug my feet just a bit – I thought about it all, over and over.  The only real wild card about being involved with the kids is Alex.  She seems to like me, but doesn’t know me very well yet, and I don’t know her very well yet.  The other two are great kids.  They ask about me.  They try to get me to be around more often.  They are proding a bit about me being with their mom (the last one is only significant because it shows a level of trust on their part, not because it makes any difference between Devi and I.)  Even if they moved, if I wanted, Devi would still keep me involved in their lives – she seems to encourage it.  (Actually, one of those “she’s saying things without saying what she really is thinking” moments with Devi has been twice now when I’ve mentioned that I’m just temporary, and someday she’ll move, she’s mentioned “Well, I’m not moving if the economy doesn’t improve.”  Um, yeah.  So, the economy is gonna suck forever?  She’s either looking at a way to ally my fears, or, a way to justify someday not moving.  Can’t decide which.)
Aw hell, let’s give a bit of my heart away to some kids.  It’s been healthy for both sides so far.
I handed Madi her card, which had a $10 gift certificate to Game Stop in it (go ahead, call me a cheap bastard. A beat up old hat, and a $10 gift certificate for her birthday 😉  Then I pulled out the hat box (the hat as been stored in a hat box since I bought the new one, kept secure.  I’m not kidding when I said the hat was important to me.)  I handed her the box, and said “Before you open this, there’s some things you need to know about this.”  She was excited, but looked at me, one hand on the box ready to open it.  “What’s in this box is older than you are.  It’s seen at least 15 US states, and has probably had around 25,000 miles on it.”  She looked at me, and looked at the box – now she was at a loss as to what it was.  “It’s even possible that I was wearing it back when I met your mom.”  
She opened the box, and a sort of gasp escaped her mouth.  “Your old hat.”  I bought my new hat after the kids had first met me – Madi had worn the old hat once or twice already, so she recognized it.  I had even guessed at hat size a bit, based on her wearing it before and wearing my current hat, so I had put some extra liner in it.  Almost perfect fit out of the box.
She must have told me how much she loved the hat two dozen times that night, the first dozen in the ride from the house to Pete & Deb’s.   I explained to her how to care for it and all that good stuff.  She wanted to keep the hat box, so she could put it back in there when she’s not wearing it.  I think that made a hell of an impression on her.  No, I KNOW that made a hell of an impression on her.  I think I’ve got a fan for life there.
The rest of the day was rather fun, though tiring.  Even if I was recovered emotionally, man I was still physically beat.  I had picked up fireworks for me and the kids – not something Devi asked me to do, but I did it anyway 🙂  
I love making things go BOOM!  This is a widely known fact.  I didn’t spend as much time making things go BOOM as I had planned on.  Instead, I spent more time dealing with the kids – I told Devi what I had in mind, she approved, and I went and played with the kids basically. Which means I saw like 5% of the things other people set off.  But I still had fun – again, I like this whole process of dealing with them. Sure, sometimes I end up with mysterious bruises, but I’m more complete around them.  Devi kicked back and relaxed for most of it, though for the first time I had to see one of Marc’s “melt downs” start to occur – I’ve never delt with that before.  Devi snapped at me just a bit at the beginning of that, then had to deal with Marc.  I stuck nearby, to hear the whole exchange.  Devi is pretty good at making sure I understand what’s been going on in their lives, the entire history, and how to deal with Marc.  But without having seen an escalation towards a meltdown before, I missed the signs (‘specially since I was now dealing with three kids, instead of two.  Geez, it’s incredible how much difference one extra kid makes.)  Then after Marc was better, she explained it all to me, what I missed, etc.  And apologized, hoping she hadn’t jumped down my throat.  I told her it was all good.
So, all of that with the hat?  What’s it mean really?  Nothing, when you get down to it.  Right now, it just means I’m sticking around, and I’ll stick around those kids until something happens that Devi tells me to go away, if it ever occurs like that.  I’ll be essentially a glorified baby sitter (I saw her wince when I used that term to describe myself one day), and another personality in their life.  There’s no commitment really, when you get down to it.  It’s not like I’ve taken on a dad role or something.  Everything about the situation is under Devi’s control – the way it should be.  But I’ve commited to being there until she finds someone better, or she kills me herself 😉  It’s too hard to tell what the future hold, but I’ve set myself in a position and a mind frame where I’m open to the possibilities.  I’m good with that.  For now though, they’re “on my schedule”, just like Erin is, as kids in my life.  I’ll fill the void they have now, and they’ll fill the void I have.  If and when it ends, well, so be it.  
After I got home, I sit and pondered a bit more what my day had been.  It ended up being a good day.  
The final take away is the situation with Devi and I isn’t over.  I can’t articulate this.  I’ve been repeating this mantra “it’s just a role, it’s just temporary, she’ll be gone soon” for months now.  It may not be temporary, and it may not be a role.  It’s… something in the things she said, and something in the things she didn’t say.  It’s in the way she said them.  OK, fuck it – Davis, let’s have some fun with this.  I’m gonna ride this rollercoaster for about six months – if something doesn’t happen before the end of the year, I’ll give up.  But for now – I’m changing my attitude towards it slightly, and going with “It’s possible” and ride and watch.  There’ll be a couple more soap opera moments on here I’m sure.
When I talk to Devi on the phone, I can see most of her facial expressions when she speaks – it translates well to phone, since her vocal inflections change so much.  She txted at just the right moment to say she was home safe and sound.  So I txted her back and asked if she had time for a five minute phone conversation.
I started with the easy one, something to make her feel good – I told her thanks for talking with me today, and thanks for putting up with my little bit of drama.  She made sure I knew it was all good.  Then for the next part:  “Remember I said if you ever wanted someone to take the interview with the courts to watch the kids, just ask?  Well, I changed my mind – Devi, I’d love to take the interview so I can watch the kids.”  “OK.”  I could hear the smile in her voice.  Doesn’t mean it will happen, mind you, but she’s very happy I offered.
We chatted about a couple more non-essential things – book editing while I’m out of town, things like that.  Then “Now, I want you to understand, if you ever feel the desire to kiss me again, go right ahead.  It’s OK.  If I remember, back then, I used to rather enjoy kissing you too.  I’d hate to there to be a misunderstanding and me miss out on that.”  She laughed, but it was that extremely happy laugh she has, when I’ve said something that touches her a bit.  “Hell hon, you wanna throw me down in bed, that’s fine to!  Unlikely I know, but just gotta make sure that’s out there ya know!”  She laughs again.  Things are already returning to normal, from the sound of that laugh.  We hadn’t shared one of those laughs in two days.
“And if you change the rules again hon, I’ll try to keep up.   No assumptions, I’ll ask.”  “Thank you.”
We chatted about a few more things – the phone conversation was actually 7 minutes, not 5.  Close enough. 🙂  I wrapped up saying “Well, hon, I need to hit the should and collapse.  I’m drained.  I love you.  Good night.”  The vocal inflection was different than normal when we say it.  I had thrown a bit more… emotion into it I guess.  “I love you.  Good night.”  Funny, it sounded like she did the same thing.

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