Sunday, September 6, 2009

Are we all Pavlov's dogs?

Some people evoke visceral reactions in us. These reactions run the gamut from love to hate, from passion to agony. And certainly not every person we know or meet or see evokes these visceral reactions. A physical response often accompanies these emotions. That flutter in your stomach as you catch the eye of the woman (or man) you love from across a crowded room. Or the rending pain you feel when you unexpectedly run into an ex after a bad breakup. Our bodies respond with a physical memory of emotions, feelings, thoughts, etc.

These physical responses linger. The mere thought of FMHW for instance causes the corners of my mouth to rise in a slight smile which might not even be seen by the casual observer. But I can feel it, I know it's happening. She evokes other physical responses in me as well. I can still hear her saying certain things (saying isn't exactly the right word here, but it'll do) and it's almost as if my body doesn't know she's not right here next to me.

Conversely, Ms. Ex evokes a gut wrenching feeling of loss and tears. No matter that it's been years since we've been together. No matter that even before we went our separate ways we weren't in love and we weren't happy. No matter that I'm pretty sure I was unhappy and depressed for about half of our relationship, give or take a year. No matter that I do not want to be with her. The tears still flow freely when it comes to her. And not just the kind that barely leak over your eye lids before slowly trailing down your cheeks. Nope, not those. Instead she induces the flood of tears that cause your vision to swim and leaves you gasping for breath and feeling like you've been punched in the stomach.

What I don't understand, and perhaps I am not meant to, is why I still react this way to Ms. Ex. I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned from it and perhaps when I do the feeling of being punched in the gut will go away. She e-mailed me yesterday, Ms. Ex, wanting to let me know she'd been "thinking about this a lot" and asking me to get together to "catch up" over "coffee, a meal or a hike." I had an immediate flashback to the end of our relationship when we were having "talks" that lasted forever, went nowhere, and where the same things were said over and over and over by her, words that were just lip service in the end. And Ms. Ex nearly always wanted to have these "talks" over dinner which is bad enough to do in the privacy of your own home let alone when you're out to dinner as was nearly always the case with us. A restaurant is the LAST place I want to have a talk about a failing relationship. So, needless to say I don't want to "catch up" with her over a meal.

Honestly, her e-mail ruined my afternoon and evening (great way to kick off a holiday weekend). I replied to her message tonight and told her (again) that I did not want to get together. I'm hoping this time I was clear enough that she gets the hint (how many different ways can you say "no, I don't want to get together, I'm good with the way things are and all the not talking we're doing"?). I've been telling her this for over 18 months now so we'll see if it sticks this time. I expect I'll get another e-mail from her in the next few months trying again. I think she hates not knowing what's going on in my life. She was in control for so many years. Now that she's not I don't think she knows how to handle it.

In the meantime I choose to hold onto the memories that make me smile. The thoughts and people who evoke the good responses from my body. The ones that make me tingle, my heart flutter and my mood lighter. And sometime soon I'll be lucky enough to have a woman in my life with whom I'll be making new memories and who will evoke new, happy, physical responses from my body. I'm formally putting in my order to the Universe for this woman right now. The specifics of this order I won't relay here, but I know what they are and so does the Universe. Now, I wonder how long shipping will take? Do you think the Universe uses UPS, FedEx or the US Postal Service?

I had a hard time picking lyrics for this post. How do you pick lyrics that relay in words the visceral reactions of our bodies? How do you pick lyrics that apply not only to the tears you shed over an ex you're so much better off without but also to the ex that some part of you still wishes wasn't an ex? It's not easy. I decided to go with Baby Can I Hold You by Tracy Chapman. I think in some ways it really does apply to both Ms. Ex and FMHW. And the lyrics also fit with my deep seated feeling that if only I could say or write the perfect words....

Is all that you can't say
Years gone by and still
Words don't come easily
Like sorry like sorry

Forgive me
Is all that you can't say
Years gone by and still
Words don't come easily
Like forgive me forgive me

But you can say baby
Baby can I hold you tonight
Maybe if I told you the right words
At the right time you'd be mine

I love you
Is all that you can't say
Years gone by and still
Words don't come easily
Like I love you I love you

(And I'd like to take this opportunity to say to FMHW, if you ever stumble across this blog and recognize yourself please know that I'm not some obsessive stalker who can't let go of the past, just know you had a profound impact on my life. I wish you all the love and happiness in the world. You're very capable of it and you most certainly deserve it.)

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