Monday, September 29, 2008

The Break-Up Poem

Learn the styles of poetry while breaking up with your Valentine!

I saw this on Anna Louise's blog, and thought it was pretty funny [I'm perennially guilty of understatement -- it's hilarious]. It's called "The Break-Up Poem", originally found at Funny or Die.

Disclaimer: Posting this does not imply that I'm breaking up with anybody (not that I have anyone to break up with) or that my feelings have changed in any way for anybody. I just enjoyed the use of different poetry styles.


See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"The Invitation"

Note: This "invitation" has nothing to do with me "needing a date for Saturday"...

"The Invitation" is a poem by Oriah (a.k.a. Mountain Dreamer) that a friend of mine posted recently.  It's not the first time I've seen it, but it spoke so loudly to me just now that I'm re-posting it here.


The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I need a date for Saturday ...

I've never tried this before.  I suppose it can't hurt...

I have Symphony tickets (excellent seats) in San Jose this Saturday night, and want to find someone to go with me.  I'd prefer to go with some nice woman and not have to ask one of my daughters.  Dinner would be part of the deal.  No cost to you.  Except airfare :-) [exceptions could be made.]

This is the season opener for Symphony Silicon Valley and they are presenting a program of 20th century ballet music conducted by Leslie Dunner of the Joffrey Ballet (no, we don't get to dance).

An irresistible sampling of dance music from three 20th century masters. Prokofiev's dramatic Romeo & Juliet, one of the most expressive of all ballet scores, sweeps us from the pageantry and menace of two warring families to the passion and heartbreak of young lovers. We begin with dances from Ginastera's high-spirited ballet about gauchos' life on the Argentine pampas. Duke Ellington's jazz-infused suite follows, drawn from his ballet for the great dancer/choreographer Alvin Ailey. Leslie Dunner, Music Director of Joffrey Ballet, makes his third appearance with the Symphony.

It could be fun to meet one of my blog readers, and I just cannot muster much enthusiasm for posting an ad on Craigslist.  If you're at all interested, drop me a note and we can answer each others' questions.  

I also welcome any comments with better ideas on how to do this...

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Popular Keywords: "Vasectomy and Cum"

Not too long ago Riff Dog made a post about some of the search strings that have led people to turn up at his blog.  I liked it a lot and decided then and there to rip off pay homage to his idea by copying reinterpreting it for my own blog.

I use Google Analytics for traffic monitoring; I went to the "Traffic Sources" page, selected "Keywords", and then set the period to include the past two months.  This gave me list of 141 keywords

You Faithful Readers probably expect me to discuss each and every one of them at length in a five part series...  Well, that was my initial plan but that clever Riff Dog came up with the novel idea of only listing the entertaining ones!  I know it's unscientific, so of course I still had to list about half of them. But I only discuss a few. Yes, I try to stay in the vanguard ...

Vasectomy and Cum

"Cum Vasectomy" is my leading search term.  In fact if you Google "cum vasectomy" I'm in the top 10 results.  Most of the search hits on my blog are because of the My Vasectomy series, especially the Afterwards post in which I discuss the changes in my cum after the operation.  This is clearly a topic that men care deeply about, but about which the medical community is strangely silent.  Do they think we don't care?  Or are they hiding the truth ...

Now I don't want anyone to worry about me so, just to be clear, everything still works fine.  It's just that it I think my cum seems to have a different viscosity than it used to, a little thinner (a bit like Astroglide), and often has less color than formerly.

Here's the whole list of "cum vasectomy" -related terms that hit my blog:
  • cum vasectomy
  • vasectomy cum
  • can i still cum after a vasectomy
  • cum after vasectomy
  • do guys still cum after having a vasectomy
  • does having a vasectomy allow you to cum 3 or 4
  • does the look and colour of cum change after vasectomy
  • first cum after vasectomy
  • i have less cum than usual
  • is cum different after vasectomy
  • less cum after vasectomy
  • vasectomy cum loads
  • vasectomy will my cum load be less
  • vasectomy cum still come out
  • vasectomy wife cum inside
  • what cum looks like after vasectomy
  • what does cum look like after a vasectomy?
  • what is cum like after a vasectomy
I wonder what's up with "vasectomy cum still come out" and "vasectomy wife cum inside"? Maybe somebody thought that the whole spigot was supposed to be off?

Painful Vasectomy

I think my operation was pretty normal -- one of my nuts was a little sore for several months, but that's it.  However it looks like some men do have significant problems.  Look at this list!
  • sensitive testicles after vasectomy
  • i had a vasectomy 5 months ago, why does my right testicle hurt me so bad?
  • is it normal to have lumps on my scrotum after vasectomy
  • my testicle hurts 1 week after vasectomy
  • sensitive testicles vasectomy
  • testicles still bruised months after vasectomy
  • vasectomy and month later testicle still hard
  • vasectomy month after swollen
  • vasectomy swollan
  • vasectomy swollen testicle
  • vasectomy testacles bruised for months
  • vasectomy testicles sensitive
Ouch!

My favorite vasectomy search:
  • when can i play with myself after a vasectomy
Poor guy, didn't his doctor tell him?

Now here are the other terms I liked best, grouped by topic:

Pure Sex
  • boners at work
  • feel my hairy chest
  • hands restrained by silk scarves
  • her clit was on fire
  • my scrotum is on fire
  • tease me
  • kissing
  • kissing photo
  • kissing photos
  • kneel kiss my penis
  • massage fantasy fuck
  • naughty wife testicles
  • yummy clit
  • sexy pantygirdle
  • stroking her long slender legs
  • her leg rubbed mine
  • moving leg forward in hug
  • goodbye hug
I'm damned proud that my blog was a hit for "yummy clit", even it is only result #48 on Google.  Now imagine somebody doing a Google search for "yummy clit" and then checking all the results, up to number 48.  That scares me.

Leaving Your Wife

Yes, these are sad and desperate:
  • i have 6 kids should i leave my wife
  • do men admit regret of leaving wife
  • help me leave my wife
  • how do i leave my wife and child?
  • how to leave my wife
  • i want to leave my wife but children
  • i want to leave my wife for another woman
  • leaving wife to be with my girlfriend
  • told me you will leave your wife
  • california law change the locks separation
  • is my wife allowed to change the locks on house uk

Marriage Counseling

And these pretty much speak for themselves.
  • first trip to marriage counseling questions to ask
  • marriage counsel need space
  • marriage counselors affairs
  • questions raised during marriage counseling
  • should i dress really nice for marital counseling if i havent seen my spouse in awhile?
  • telling children about an affair

More Weird Stuff

Finally, just a few more.
  • how would you be sure that someone is demon-possessed?
I feel bad for some poor Christian who stumbled upon my blog while searching for advice on demon-possession ... Ok, no I don't.
  • i could be sitting there talking to her, thinking to myself "wow, her lips really look nice..." but i didn't know what to do next. this would often leave me kissless, and many times kissless for good, as i didn't get another chance.
Umm, yeah.  And finally ...
  • what does apollo's fire mean?
Ok, What Does Apollo's Fire Mean?

This reminds me that I had one comment a few weeks ago where someone complained that my blog title was all wrong because I really meant Prometheus, not Apollo (Prometheus is the "fire bringer" in Greek myth).   Yes, I know about Prometheus.  Here's the scoop ...

As used in my blog title, "Apollo's Fire" has multiple meanings.  First of all, take the idea that I'm Apollo, see?  and so this blog is my "Fire", right?  Nothing too complicated there.

Or you could think of mythic Apollo in his role as Apollo Helios, driving the chariot of the fiery sun (Apollo got around quite a bit over the centuries).  Either way, you've got heat, you've got light, you've got the danger of getting burned, you have the metaphorical connection with the Judeo-Christian tradition of God burning away the chaff and leaving only that which is worth keeping.

Or how about Pythian Apollo, patron of the oracle at Delphi.  Prophetic words can be fiery, can they not?  Oh, I could go on and on. In fact I already have :-)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

Today, Saturday, my wife E and I celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary.  Oh it isn't the actual day, but it's very close.

It was unlike any previous anniversary.

After spending the morning alone in my apartment, I drove over to pick her up at our house about noon.   We met in the driveway, where she had just pulled in from doing some errand.  A short hug, a kiss on the cheek.  No cards exchanged, no presents even.  "Happy anniversary" with irony and sadness.


We spent some time looking over a few improvements that are being done around the house, discussed some mail and family business, then drove about 40 miles to the Northern California Renaissance Faire.

Together in the car we talked of this and that, once reaching the point of being angry and frustrated with each other, but we moved on from there, and were on good terms when we arrived at Casa de Fruta, the site of the Faire.  Not jolly, sweet, loving, passionate, lustful, or longing.   Perhaps "cordial", certainly polite, a little strained.

The Renaissance Faire is a chaos of costumes and commerce.  Tight bodices abound, squeezing even smallish breasts into eye-catching, jaw-dropping cleavage, supported and projected so far in front of the womanly chest that they sometimes seem to be in a different time zone.   Full contact jousting!  Fencing Lessons!  And carnival booths where, instead of throwing darts or pennies, one throws axes or spears.  And merchants for every sort of medieval-seeming trinket, all doing business under the banner of their liege lords: Lady Visa and Master Card.  A pleasant afternoon.




About 5 we take our leave, making our way back to the gleaming Silicon Valley future.   It's our anniversary, so dinner is next on the agenda.  A nice restaurant in Los Gatos: scallops, salad, soup, steak.  A little wine.   Even dessert and coffee, then a stroll through the colorful downtown.  Finally back in the car, back to the house.  Our house.

I should say "our" house (using the quotes), since I don't live there right now.  Walking E to the door and entering, she thanks me for a wonderful day.   A hug and very short kiss. 

I love E, it's been a big day, and the hug lasts a few seconds.  And then I'm remembering something Tiggy once said to me regarding a certain hug: "Any physical contact longer than 3 seconds is interpreted by the brain as sexual."

E's arms are closing on me.   It's been 3 seconds, perhaps 5.  I have no desire to stay, no desire to mislead her, no desire to inflame her feelings where mine no longer burn.   My own arms loosen, we separate, and I say goodnight.  Then it's back out the front door to my car in the driveway, and then I'm gone.  Back to my apartment.  Leaving E in "our" house, alone for now until one of the children comes home.

Friday, September 19, 2008

In The Spa Again

Dear Reader, here's a break from all the psychology. This is part of the occasional series on people I've met since moving out of Casa de Apollo nearly three weeks ago.

Now, I don't want anybody to read this and be disappointed, so I'll tell you now, there is no sex in this story. Well there might have been sex, but I was not involved and it's not in the story. Just innuendo.


I got home to the apartment about 9:30 Sunday evening. My place overlooks the pool and spa, so it's easy to see if anybody else is out. It's a good way to meet folks, and it's more fun to hit the spa with others than all alone. There were a couple of people in the spa, so I changed quickly and out I went.

It was a small disappointment to see them leaving from one gate just as I opened the gate at the other end of the courtyard. Oh well. Advancing to the spa, I stepped alone into the 104 degree water. The nearly-full moon shone brightly in the eastern sky.

I was there only a few minutes when I heard the gate and saw, looking back over my shoulder, two young women headed my way, talking cheerfully. I smiled as they came to the spa and greeted them.

Both were apparently in their mid-20s. One wore a standard two-piece suit that revealed her narrow waist and firm, flat tummy, tapering into her bikini bottom. When she bent over to step backwards into the spa I saw something written across her bottom.  Distracted by her perfect butt, I didn't even read it. But I saw it again later, and looked a little longer. Am still not sure, but it may have said "Santa Cruz".

Her long blonde hair evidently had started out some other color, but looked nice enough. Her face was pleasantly pretty but not, somehow, interesting to me at the time. Her bikini top enclosed an attractive but not ostentatious pair of breasts, modestly sized, probably a B or C cup. Her name is Cheryl and she is wearing large hoop earrings in the spa.

The other girl is Heather. She has lovely brown hair, about shoulder length, pulled back behind her ears. Heather is a large girl and you can tell she's self-conscious about it -- her very modest swim suit has one of those "tents" that falls from the bra all the way below her waist to hide her tummy. It does, however, reveal some generous cleavage.

Heather has an attractive, squarish face, alight with expression. She wears a huge smile which draws you right in. Her manner is, well, coquettish. As we talk she'll look down, then look up at me out of the corner of her eye and smile, then look right at me briefly, smiling even more beautifully, and just as quickly look down again. I'm guessing it's a general insecurity about her weight, compounded by the natural social shyness of conversing in bathing suits with a strange, older man.

Competition!

We talk in general terms for just a few minutes until the gate opens again. This time it's two young men, also in their early or mid-20s, who live in a bachelor pad just across the pool from me. Again, we introduce ourselves: it's Ian and Cody. I've met their roommates previously (yeah, four guys in an apartment). They've apparently met the girls before and the immediate topic becomes some club in San Jose.

Both young men have that hairless look pioneered by bicycle racers and body builders, popularized by Gay Men, and now adopted by just about everyone. However, I am at ease: my own hairy chest is freshly trimmed! It not only looks nicer, but it also helps conceal the spots where I was sloppily shaved for an EKG the previous week.

Ian seems the brighter of the two. He is a student in Civil Engineering and also works in the field. But meanwhile Cody is putting the moves on Cheryl. And he seems to be making progress.

At this point, I decide to leave the spa and swim a few laps. That's part of what I came here for, after all, and I think it's more dignified than sitting here as the odd man out in the conversation.

Chatting with Heather

After a few laps of the 25 meter pool I'm back to the spa. Cody is still chatting up Cheryl, but Heather seems to be neglected. I am nothing if not the gentleman, so in a few minutes we are deep in conversation.

The best thing about talking to Heather is her smile, which she flashes quite a bit, and in many variations. I also enjoy the mobility of her hair, constantly in motion as she bobs her head and frequently reaches to pull strands out of her eyes. And (I have to admit) I enjoy her reel-you-in cleavage, breasts continuously flowing into new shapes as she frequently changes position.

Heather is going to school to be an EMT. Heather is working as a temp. Heather would like a roommate to help pay the rent. Heather recently broke up with her scum-of-the-earth boyfriend, with whom she had lived for three years. Heather would like to be married. It is not a fascinating conversation, but it is pleasant.

Roughhousing in the Pool

Cody and Cheryl, meanwhile, have gotten into the pool. Cheryl, for some reason, doesn't want to get in the water past her narrow waist, giving the ungentlemanly Cody an excuse to grab and throw her. He is behind her, putting his arm across her chest, just below her bikini top, and she doesn't seem to mind too much.

Ian apparently wants to join the fun and next thing I know Cody is grabbing him too. It is an unexpected sight -- Cody is holding Cheryl with one hand and prying Ian loose fromthe railing on the pool steps with the other. I think Cheryl finally helps and Ian is soon all wet. The three of them do some happy, noisy splashing, probably unappreciated by the 10pm neighbors.

As they rejoin Heather and I in the spa, the pool gate creaks once more, announcing the arrival of another young man on the scene. It's Chris, one of Ian and Cody's roommates. I've met him before, he's just out of the Air Force I think.  Chris is a good looking guy, well muscled, with a short beard. He is obviously smart and we had a good conversation last time we met.

Cody and Cheryl Get Shots

Within a few more minutes Cody and Cheryl, who have been comparing personal drinking habits, get up and head out the pool gate, apparently to do shots up at Cody's. Heather seems a bit concerned about her friend, but off they go.

Pretty soon Chris is betting that they won't be coming back. This increases the agitation of Heather, who finally picks up her cell phone and calls Cheryl. And there they are, discussing such things where Cheryl is going to sleep, leaving Heather's door unlocked, what time is breakfast, and when Cheryl has to be at work the next day.

Time passes -- Cheryl and Cody actually do return to the spa, somewhat to Chris's surprise and, perhaps, disappointment.

Heather Goes Home

A short time later, Heather decides it's her bedtime. This now requires a repetition of the previous phone conversation, only longer and more intimate. Heather will leave the door unlocked for Cheryl. Cheryl might spend the night "at the guys' apartment." Heather will cook breakfast for Cheryl. Heather needs to leave for work at 7:30 am. Cheryl might not be at Heather's by then. Cheryl will be fine.

The conversation repeats along these lines for a while. I could be wrong, but I think Heather is hoping that Cheryl will just come up with her and go to bed at Heather's place. But she doesn't want to be a wet blanket so she won't come right out and say that. I think Cheryl is trying to keep all her options open.

Anyway the conversation, as I said, repeats along these lines for a while until finally Heather does leave.

I get back into the pool to swim a few more laps, and when I get out I find that the conversation is about how drunk Cheryl is.  Chris is explaining to her that the hot tub increases the speed of alcohol absorption. She actually seems just fine to me, but Chris says that she is slurring her speech. I found myself wondering, is he concerned that Cody is going to take advantage of a drunken babe? Or is he worried that she'll get sick? I'll probably never know.

Beat It! The Cops!

We're in the midst of this, and I've just gotten Cheryl some water when her phone rings. It's Heather of course, but this time with a word of warning: the cops are coming! And before Cheryl even hangs up, there they are at the gate.

Well, not "the cops" really. It's just a couple of security guards, but we need to go. The pool officially closes at 10pm. It's about 10:30 now, and we're being too noisy. I grab my towel and head for the gate at the end of the courtyard.  Chris, Ian, Cody go out the other gate with Cheryl.  And the security guards.

It was the last I've seen of her, or any of them for that matter!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Marriage Counseling 6: Comparing EPPS Scores

Continuing the series describing the marriage counseling that my wife E and I are currently doing with "Dr. S", in this episode we begin to compare our results on the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (EPPS).  This was last week's session -- we did not get all the way through it in one session, or even two, so there will be more to come.

The basic format of session 6 was simple.  Dr. S would name a specific preference area (e.g. "Number 12, Change") and one of us would share our own estimated and actual numbers, and the number we had estimated for the other.  Then the other would do likewise, and we would discuss what this meant to us.

At the outset, Dr. S reminded us that discrepancies between our estimates and the actual scores were completely normal, because the EPPS does not measure what we do, it measures what we like.  "There is a discrepancy for most of us between what we do and how much we enjoy doing it."

I've made a summary of all the data below.  Rows with "__" are those which we have not compared yet.

PreferenceMy Est.My Act.E's Est. for meMy Est. for EE's Est for EE's Act.
1.AchievementA need to accomplish tasks well909995409050
2.DeferenceA need to conform to customs and defer to others301805606509
3.OrderA need to plan well and be organized4033__50____
4.ExhibitionA need to be the center of attention in a group4082__30____
5.AutonomyA need to be free of responsibilities and obligations7070__70____
6.AffiliationA need to form strong friendships and attachments6018__80____
7.IntraceptionA need to analyze behaviors and feelings of others7028__75____
8.SuccoranceA need to receive support and attention from others408__85____
9.DominanceA need to be a leader and influence others809890257585
10.AbasementA need to accept blame for problems and confess errors to others20120070(20)4000
11.NurturanceA need to be of assistance to others602__80____
12.ChangeA need to seek new experiences and avoid routine708290608591
13.EnduranceA need to follow through on tasks and complete assignments8067__75____
14.HeterosexualityA need to be associated with and attractive to members of the opposite sex8589__50____
15.AggressionA need to express one's opinion and be critical of others355445103555

Dr. S started with areas where we have common ground.

Change

We started with number 12, Change, describing this area as "What I think is going to be our best friend."  I estimated that E had a 60, thinking that she liked change, but probably not as much as I do (I had given myself a 70 and tested with an 82).

But E rated herself an 85 and scored 91, and estimated that I was a 90.

So our actual preference for change, 82 and 85, are almost identical.  Dr S dwelt on this for a while, describing this as "One of the most powerful" tools we have in our process:

"The more we have that pair of glasses on as we're walking through this stuff together, we don't have to be threatened, we can be excited about what's ahead.  We can frame this as an adventure.  We can frame this as an opportunity to learn something new.  We can think about how do we, not just remodel, but revolutionize our relationship."

But, he says, the downside is that we're going to feel threatened by any effort to make us do something "the old way" when we want to do something new and different.

I can't help thinking this is directed at me, since I'm the one doing stuff that's "new and different" (like sleeping with another partner and moving out of the house).

Also, I find it notable that I significantly underestimated E's desire for change.  However we did not discuss this at the time.

Deference

E gave herself a 65, but actually scored 9 (her lowest score).  I had estimated a 60 for her.

She gave me a 5 because she thought I was "worse" than she is.  I gave myself a 30 and scored 18.

I had to explain why I gave her a 60.  "I think it's the difference between what we'd like to do and what actually happens."  Not much of an answer -- kind of like saying the stock market went down because there were "more sellers than buyers."  But by this I meant that in some activities, especially church-related ones, she often seems to be bowing to the demands of others, and this is what influenced my score.

At this point Dr S reminded us again that a big gap between your estimate and your result can often indicate simmering resentment at being forced to do something you don't like doing.  But "the good news here" is that a "suggestive style" is going to work best for both of us.

Suggestive Style:
  • Ask if the other wants input, rather than just giving it.
  • Offer a number of ideas for the other to choose from, rather than just one.
  • Don't tell me what to do.

And especially, don't tell me to do something that conflicts with my deep desire for change.  Dr S wisely recognizes that telling Apollo, "You should do this, and should not do that, and need to get your ass back into line" is the quickest way to send me in the opposite direction.

E is asked her opinion and, while she agrees, notes that she has "a lot of built up frustrations because I didn't know how to bring you issues" and "Not knowing how to communicate effectively [so that] action will result."

Aggression

On this one I gave myself a 35 and scored 54, and gave E only a 10 on the grounds that she does not get angry much, is not very critical and "revenge isn't even on the landscape."  Interestingly, E also gave herself at 35 and scored a 55.  She gave me a 45.

It's interesting how similar our scores are, and how we both have notably higher scores than we allowed ourselves.  "You both have things that bother you.  You both have things that provoke you.  You might not feel a lot of freedom to put them on the table very easily, but they are there."  This becomes a source of resentment -- if we can't get it out it builds up.

Dr. S points out that this is one reason I felt relief over finally being able to get my thoughts and feelings out on the table and he wants us to recognize that it isn't easy for either one of us to share personal feelings along the lines of, "I felt hurt when ..."

Dominance

E gave herself a 75 and scored 85, and gave me a 90.  I gave myself an 80 and scored a 98, and gave her a 25.

Dr. S says that this is unusual.  People with high dominance scores do not usually have trouble bringing issues to the table, do not have trouble dealing with conflict.  Usually it's the people around them who have trouble!  So in our case, this seems to suggest that we can "present ourselves" very confidently to others, especially in positions of leadership.  But in personal relationships "there is a whole other side of you that's not as confident, not as 'take charge', that might even avoid things that are uncomfortable."

I wonder if that's true, or if it's just the interaction between E and myself.  I wonder if Tigs would agree that I avoid things that are uncomfortable?

So he suggests that we should make better use of our natural dominance preference in dealing with each other and be much more forthright in bringing issues to the table.  Apply our "'Let's figure this out' mentality" and take charge, taking care of business.

E points out that we do fine together with projects and stuff, but because we love each other we don't want to hurt each other by bringing up this tough stuff.  Dr. S recognizes this and suggests that perhaps I have at times framed the marriage as if it was a burden, as if I were its shepherd, and then "what does that do to his freedom to bring things up if it feels like it would hurt those that he's shepherding?"  So instead I've chosen to push the stuff aside, saying to myself, "It's not worth it, it's not that big of a deal."

He wants me to make a change, to buy into the idea of dealing with the tough things, and recognizing E as a competent partner who can rise to the occasion.  He reminds me, "She is an 85."  The unspoken part of the reminder is that I thought she was a 25.

We spend a few minutes discussing how to raise issues with each other in a safe way.  E points out that it's only worth raising issues if you feel the other person is interested in changing.   "If you feel like the other person is intractable ... after a while you just don't even talk anymore about it."

Dr. S argues that this is an assumption: we assume that the other person won't change.  But E pushes back.  What if you've tried repeatedly and nothing has changed?  Dr. S replies that most of her trying is probably trying the same things.  If they didn't work before, they're not going to work now.  We need to try new things.

So there's a systems issue: our inability to try things in new ways.  We view it as intractability by the other party, but we should see it as a "faulty system."  And his point is that it's easier to fix faulty systems.  We have common ground, as shown by the preference areas where we match up, so there are a lot of assets that we can employ to help.

Afterwards, as I write this, I wonder if that's really the problem.  How much of it is fatigue?  Am I just tired of living with E?  How badly do I want to try to make things better?  Or are her fears true: am I just going through the motions on my way out the door?

Achievement

This is an area where there's not so much common ground.  I gave myself a 90 and got a 99.  I gave E a 40 -- she gave herself a 90 and scored 50.  She gave me a 95.

The good doctor points out that we both thought we were 90s.  We both want to do things we like, and are looking for personal excellence.  The good side of this is that we can be focused on the counseling, trying to get the most out of it.  The danger of my 99 is that I can be too driven, setting myself up to be self-critical.

Both of us, as a result face a danger ...

Abasement

E gave herself a 40, but actually got a 0.  And she gave me a 0 because "I can never remember your being self-critical or condemning yourself." I gave myself a 20 and came up a 12.

I said that I gave E a 20, but this really is not true -- I had given her a 70.  I changed it because, as we had gotten into the discussion, I realized the 70 would seem offensive.  And it's interesting to think that my first opinion of her ranks her self-esteem so low (a high score would mean that she is high in expressing self-criticism, guilt, inadequacy).

Dr S says that the good news is we "appear somewhat impervious to going to guilt-land", but there is a danger that we may be defensive about anything that infers a criticism.  It's like we're threatened by taking responsibility, we avoid criticism.

And here's where the interpretation seems fuzzy.  Remember, the test doesn't measure what we do, it measures what we like to do.  So the really low score here means that we're "tender" in this area, and I suggest that it's more likely because we are too self-critical, and we don't like it! Dr. S. agrees and further notes that this over-sensitivity has a side effect: we perceive slights and criticism from others when none are intended.

E and I agree that this shoe fits both our feet, and she points out that this is one reason we have trouble raising problems with each other.

Digression into Proverbs

Dr. S pulls out a fragment of a verse from Proverbs... "a man of understanding will consider a reproof and become wiser."  He adds a clever baseball analogy: if someone throws a "reproof" at you, your responsibility is to "catch it" and take a look, but you don't have to let it hit you.  You decide whether it's truthful or meaningful.

"So as we're walking through this, don't be surprised if there's times when you feel attacked, even if that's not intended."  But don't shut down.  Do bring the stuff up.  We're going to have to push through it.  The more difficult it is to talk about, the more important it is.  And if it's difficult, it may just be our lack of skill at talking about it.  We can improve.

Dr. S gets a little tougher and brings up a few more things from Proverbs on what happens to those who "refuse to listen to reproof."  Here is the whole sequence he mentioned:
  1. Damage to Self-Esteem
  2. Conflict in Relationships
  3. Damage to Finances and Reputation
  4. Permanent Damage (health, finances or otherwise)
  5. Death
Yikes!  Well, that's not unexpected from a Christian counselor.

Success and Failure

There is some discussion now, and E asks, "As a couple, is our motivation to change and our desire to achieve results high enough to overcome our 'natural inclinations'..."  Dr. S interrupts, saying loudly "Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  No 'if'.  'Yes'.  How things turn out, we'll see, but the opportunity is there... That's not a yes or no, none of us know about tomorrow, " and adds that we do have these assets that we have not been using as well as we could.

He talks about success and failure, and observes that, because both E and I are achievement oriented we may not be willing to tolerate failure, we may have too many expectations.  But success can take many forms, and there are usually a lot of failures on the way to success.  Expect failures, and don't fear them.  And be prepared to accept small successes in various areas of our relationship.  Don't insist on a single giant Success, take the small ones along the way.

I think that's good advice for anything in life.  And for some projects, the small successes may be all you get.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

On Psych Testing, Tarot, Astrology, and Tiggy

My last couple of posts have been all about the current round of psychological testing that E and I have been doing with our new marriage counselor, Dr. S.   Writing about them is something I need to do, but I know the posts are tedious and not at all sexy.  I'm not apologizing (hey, it's my blog!), but I promise we'll get through it soon. Dear Readers, thanks for sticking with me. This post is at least a variation on the theme.

I'm a pretty rationalistic man, so it may seem odd that I was drawn so strongly to Tiggy who, among other talents, is a professional astrologer and tarot reader.  And it wasn't just her sweet smile and fine ass.

I remember when she gave me an astrology reading and looked at my birth chart. It's not like I've ever been a believer in astrology, but I do try to stay open minded. As she proceeded I realized that each celestial relationship, each sign, was to her just a clue to the person you are.  And one of Tiggy's great gifts is her ability to take these clues and translate them into something meaningful about your life.

So it's not just a purely objective statement: "The stars say that you ..." It's more like, "Here's how I see this working in your life..."  And because she is perceptive, smart and insightful, these turn out to be meaningful, helpful thoughts.

Later she did a Tarot reading for me. Now I have even less confidence in Tarot, and she knew that. But here again, each card and each grouping was to her just a clue.  A cue to be used in bringing to bear her personal intuition, insight and psychology, training those guns upon particular areas of your life.  We knew each other a little better at this time, and the session was correspondingly more insightful.

So now, as I go through EPPS, FIRO-B and MBTI results with Dr. S, I can see a lot of the same thing happening.  I'm not saying that the tests aren't scientific.  But they aren't so clear that you can just look at them and give a diagnosis or prescription.  The most helpful use of them comes when an insightful person can apply them directly to your life and circumstances.



Saturday, September 13, 2008

Marriage Counseling 5: More Psych Test Results

Dear reader, I know you may be sick of these psych tests, and that's ok. If you've had enough, please just skip it and be assured I'll get to other things soon! Meanwhile I need to write this down somewhere, and it might as well be here...

This post describes my fifth session with Dr. S, which took place about a week ago. In the previous session we went through my EPPS results. Today was intended to be a joint session where my wife and I compared our results. E, unfortunately, suffered a motor vehicle failure on the way over and couldn't make it, so once again it was just me and Dr S. The joint session with E took place this week and will come in another post.

The good doctor used our time to present some further EPPS insights, as well as my FIRO-B and Myers-Briggs results. I did not, bring my recorder this time, so this post is based on my written notes.

Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (EPPS)

Dr S had prepared a summary sheet that broke down my results a bit. First of all he had grouped my five highest scores together as Approach Motivations. Evidently these are the things that really turn me on ...

Approach Motivations
99 Achievement
98 Dominance
89 Heterosexual
82 Exhibition
82 Change

Sounds like a good portfolio for an adulterer!

And, in contrast, my five lowest scores as Avoidance Motivations.

Avoidance Motivations
02 Nurturance
08 Succorance
12 Abasement
18 Deference
18 Affiliation

Looking at these together, it's clear that I value autonomy: I love my independence. While at the same time I'm pretty burned out on taking care of others! And this is reflected in my Real Life right now: I've moved out of the house and am living in my own apartment. The scores show that I'm more comfortable on my own. Not needing anyone, not being needed.

Hmm, that sounds to me like a broken heart. I have to admit that I still feel keenly the loss of relationship with Tigs.

Another way of looking at EPPS is to collect the results into categories, where, say, Dominance, Deference and Autonomy are grouped together under "Control". The table itself isn't that interesting, but Dr S drew some interesting conclusions from it.

Control:Dom 98 Def 18 Aut 70
Social:Het 89 Suc 98 Nur 02 Aff 18 Exh 82
Emotion:Aba 12 Agg 54 Int 28
Lifestyle:Ach 99 Ord 33 End 67 Chg 82
Focus on Others:Def 18 Nur 02 Int 28
Focus on Self:Exh 82 Aut 70 Int 28 Succ 08 Dom 98

Emotionally, Dr S suggests that I'm withdrawn because I'm "tired of feeling guilty." And if my recent actions show an uncharacteristic focus on the self, it's because my "needs are screaming."

However, referring to my move into the apartment, he observed that "Being away from turmoil isn't necessarily good. The tough times help you grow more." Of course that's true, but is it helpful? Using the same argument, you could try to convince anybody to stay in any given Bad Situation. It's a recipe for taking no action at all.

FIRO-B

Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior is a very short test, based on a theory that one's interpersonal relations can be measured in three dimensions: Inclusion, Control and Affection. In each dimension, there are separate scores for Expressed behavior, and Wanted behavior, denoted e and w. The ratio e/w in any category is used for interpretation.

It's worth noting that the inventor of the FIRO test did not consider it suitable for typing people, because their scores will change over time and circumstances. For some reason I don't quite understand, many people use the test for that purpose anyway.

Here's my FIRO-B score matrix:


ICASum
(I+C+A)
e44816
w91818
(e+w)1351634
(e-w)5308

Scores are 0-9, where 0-3 is considered low, 4-6 moderate and 7-9 high. All the standard analysis just refers to "low, moderate, and high". The Wikipedia article has a good discussion of the interpretation.

I looked at each category with Dr S.

Inclusion: 4/9 (moderate/high)
According to Dr S this means I "want people to move toward me". The suggestion is that I have "Hidden Inhibitions" -- I'd like to be more social but often depend on others to make the moves. My expressed (e) score is at the low end of the range, indicating that my inhibitions at "organizing the party" are actually pretty strong.

Well this is quite accurate. I can, and do, organize parties and events, and I enjoy it, but it's stressful for me. It doesn't come easily. And I usually love to be included in social events.

Control: 4/1 (moderate/low)

As I understand it, the expressed score reflects how much you control others, while the "wanted" score reflects how much you want others to control you. My scores indicate that I don't really want to boss people around, and I damned well don't want others bossing me around. According to Dr S my score is considered "collaborative". But once again, My e score is at the low end of the range putting me close to being a "Loner".

Again, this is pretty accurate. I've done a lot of management in my career, and it's always been characterized as collaborative. I don't like to give orders. I'm definitely not a Loner, but there have been times in my life when I was very much alone.

Affection: 8/8 (high/high)

I'm an optimist! My notes from Dr S are too cryptic to decipher, except that he notes that this helps to counteract some of my low EPPS scores.

I suspect these results were biased by my recent reading of Seligman's Learned Optimism. There were more extensive tests that I took as part of that book that suggest I'm really not such a natural optimist, I have to work at it.

We didn't spend much time summarizing the FIRO-B results. I thought they were a good reflection of where I am, but I'm doubtful whether I learned anything new.

Myers-Briggs

Ah, the famous MBTI, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator . MBTI is designed around Carl Jung's theory of psychological type and was developed during World War 2 to help place women entering the work force for the first time. It is best recognized today for how it sorts people into one of 16 possible boxes, based upon four dichotomies:

Extroversion vs. Introversion
Sensing vs. Intuition
Thinking vs. Feeling
Judging vs. Perceiving

In each case case, actual preference scores range from 0 to 70, where 70 would be the strongest possible preference between the two poles of the dichotomy, and 0 would be no preference at all.

So here's what I got:

E (21)
N (45)
T (21)
P (17)

Dr S breaks it down this way: E indicates I am energized by other people. With the strong N, I am more strategic, less tactical. He didn't say much about the T and P.

Looking at this myself, I note the relatively low preference for "P" (perceiving), "I like a flexible and spontaneous approach". I do like spontaneity but there are plenty of times when I prefer "a planned and organized approach" as in J (judging).

My only really strong preference is for "N" (intuition), tending to "focus on the future with a view toward patterns and possibilities" rather than "S" (sensing), with its "focus on the present and on concrete information gained from my senses."

So I'm still wondering how I can use these results.

Conclusion

Well, this is all fascinating, but where do I go with it? Is it worth the effort? Frankly I'm getting a bit fried, but I guess I won't know unless I really try to understand.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Marriage Counseling: Thoughts on Psychological Tests

I wrote this as a comment on my last post, and then decided to give it a bit more visibility as its own post.

The question everybody has, myself included, is "Just how useful is any of this going to be?" For years I've scoffed at these sorts of standard psychological tests, especially Meyers-Briggs, as just another dehumanized way to sort people into oversimplified boxes.

One could assert that it's always valuable to know one's own self. But, while True, that is not an entirely satisfying answer. After all, the question was about utility, not value.

Here are some simple ways in which the results are starting to be useful for me. We'll see if these bear up over time.

  1. Remember that the scores generally represent your preferences, not your actual life. I am a relatively high achiever in real life, but the "99" score actually shows that I'm dangerously obsessed with achievement. This indicates a bunch of negatives that fit me to a "t", such as perfectionism and procrastination. It's useful to learn that such traits can arise from my excessive valuation of achievement.
  2. I had not previously recognized that I have such a strong preference for Change. Having led a relatively stable life for many years, this helps to explain why I've often been unaccountably unhappy and bored to death: even depressed.  For me it affirms the direction I've been taking: dust off my courage and make changes in my life.
  3. I always thought of myself as highly empathetic, but the test results indicate that empathy comes hard for me. It's possible that I am indeed being very empathetic, but since it doesn't come naturally it means I'm putting out a lot of effort to make it happen.  That means I can more easily burn out.
  4. Finally, by comparing my scores and E's scores (a separate blog post) we've gained some useful insights into each other, and how we perceive each other.
What use we make of those insights remains to be seen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Marriage Counseling 4 -- EPPS Test Results

Some of you may recall that as part of our counseling program with Dr. S., I took a number of psychological tests.  In two sessions over the past couple of weeks Dr. S has discussed the results with me.   These were individual sessions and he also had a couple of sessions with E for the same purpose.  Tomorrow we meet with him again as a couple and before we do, I wanted to go back over the results.  You, dear readers, may look over my shoulder if you wish.  I recorded the first session so I have a lot to review.

Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (EPPS)

We spent the entire first session on the EPPS.  The Edwards Personal Preference Schedule is widely used in personal counseling.  It was the longest of the tests I was given.  Its 225 questions measure 15 dimensions of "personal preference" (needs and motives) against each other.  It's important to keep in mind that this test can only measure the strength of your preference for each need/motive in relation to the others.

As Dr. S put it, this is not a test of reality.  It does not measure what you do.  It measures how motivated you are to do it.  The most interesting results will be the extremes: which choices you make over and over again, and which ones you tend to avoid.

Before we went over my scores Dr. S presented me with a list of the 15 dimensions and asked me to estimate how I thought I would score in each area.  Then he told my actual scores and we discussed the meaning of each one.  He evidently is very familiar with the test, and he wrung a lot of meaning out of it.

Having me self-evaluate before presenting the test results provides an obvious opportunity to look for big gaps: places where my self score is widely at variance from the actual score.  Dr S explained that the gap doesn't mean I'm not "doing" the score I think I am, but if my self score is higher than the actual score, say I gave myself a 90 but the test shows a 10, it indicates that I'm putting out a big effort to achieve that score.  "The bigger the gap the more the effort."  Or if I gave myself a low score but actually scored high, it indicates a level of dissatisfaction: "I would like to be ..."

Here are the 15 dimensions with my own estimated and actual scores.  Some of them have very strange names, like "Intraception" and "Succorance".   Is it just me, or does "Intraception" sound like something out of Scientology?

PreferenceEst.Act.
AchievementA need to accomplish tasks well9099
DeferenceA need to conform to customs and defer to others3018
OrderA need to plan well and be organized4033
ExhibitionA need to be the center of attention in a group4082
AutonomyA need to be free of responsibilities and obligations7070
AffiliationA need to form strong friendships and attachments6018
IntraceptionA need to analyze behaviors and feelings of others7028
SuccoranceA need to receive support and attention from others408
DominanceA need to be a leader and influence others8098
AbasementA need to accept blame for problems and confess errors to others2012
NurturanceA need to be of assistance to others602
ChangeA need to seek new experiences and avoid routine7082
EnduranceA need to follow through on tasks and complete assignments8067
HeterosexualityA need to be associated with and attractive to members of the opposite sex8589
AggressionA need to express one's opinion and be critical of others3554


Achievement (90/99)
The good news is that I'm an "ideal employee", setting high expectations for my own performance.  But there's a danger in being 85 or above, it may mean that I set unrealistic expectations.  Higher scores mean you're more vulnerable to self criticism, focusing on what you did wrong.  "To criticize you is to be redundant."  The 99 sets you up to be vulnerable to be performance-based (win or lose), rather than pursuing excellence.  And it means that I may generalize failure in one area and feel like a failure in all areas.  It also means I'm susceptible to perfectionism, vulnerable to stress and compulsion, and possibly vulnerable to dichotomous thinking: "Is it right or wrong?  No shades of gray."  But I don't think that last part really applies to me.

When something goes poorly, I need the ability to "own it" without it crushing me, taking away my voice.


Deference (30/18) and Autonomy (70/70)
These are opposites.  My low Deference score shows that I don't like to be told what to do.  On the other hand I do like to act independently.  I like to work toward defined goals with the freedom to decide how to get there.  "There's this part of you that's a pioneer."  And we agree that's probably one of the reasons I moved out.

Change (70/82)
"For you, variety is the spice of life."  I like things that are new and different, outside the norm.  Part of me thrives when I have things to look forward to.  If I get depressed, it's good to put things on the calendar to look forward to each week.   Dr. S proposes that, in order for me to be drawn back to the marriage I need to believe that it's going to evolve into a new and different model.  I won't be drawn back to "more of the same."

I admitted that I have trouble visualizing that "new and different model" and noted that it could be I lack imagination.  Dr S suggested an alternative explanation: my feelings about the past.  My own sets of resentments and discouragements weighing down my hope for the future.

Order (40/33)
"It's not on your turn-on list, but you can do it."  I don't like order for it's own sake, but as a tool to an end.


Exhibition (40/82) and Succorance (40/8)
These are levels of the same thing.  Exhibition is a need for social support and attention, Succorance is a need for emotional support and attention.  These are the first significant divergences.  "One of the worst things one can do to Apollo is to ignore him."  My need for attention may be a lot more than I realize.  An affair would have provided some of that.  In work, it shows that I prefer a position with high visibility.  "Succorance" means receiving nurture, letting people fuss over you.  "Why would you avoid letting people affirm you in these things?"  Dr S proposes that I've lowered my expectations to avoid disappointment.  But I noted that actually I've gotten lots of good emotional support throughout my life.  We kind of go around on this one.  "How motivated are you to be vulnerable, to let her back in?"  Well that's certainly an issue nowadays.

Nurturance (60/2)
Biggest divergence here.  Also, and much to my surprise, my lowest score!

This implies a closing up.  The big divergence is an indication that I may be putting out a lot more effort than may be acknowledged.  We discussed some examples of this, where actually it's a lot of work for me to put out in this area.  Dr S suggested that maybe the marriage has felt like a lot of work for a long time.  I hesitate.  "When was the last time you let her in?"  Perhaps I have a skewed perspective on what's really involved in connecting with another person.

He asks me how my affair ended, and asks how much these two things (Succorance and Nurturance) were a factor in the affair.

I think what he's getting at is that I was making up the gap, was getting something I was missing at home.  But I question that, question whether I was missing it at home.  E has always been very nurturing I thought.  Maybe too much!  So maybe not nurturing in the ways I need most?  We spend a few minutes discussing some of the things I found so attractive about Tiggy.

Dr S suggests that I should spend some time thinking about this: ask myself, "What was I looking for, what was I getting that was missing at home?"

Intraception (70/28)

Intraception is described by Dr S as part of a "continuum of self vs. others" but later he makes it sound more like it's about efforts to understand both self and others.  I admit to him that I don't really try to understand why other people do what they do but now, on reflection, I question whether that's really true.  Dr S suggests that perhaps my natural bent is not to try to understand myself either.  I question this at the time, but then he suggests that perhaps I do this this in order to support one of my high-preference areas, like Change, or Autonomy.

Update: I'm still having trouble understanding this dimension of "intraception" so I did some more research.  According to "Adorno et al.", cited in Dinkelaker 1997, "Intraception is a term ...to stand for the dominance of feelings, fantasies, speculations, aspirations -- an imaginative, subjective human outlook."  Much discussion of the term actually centers on anti-intraception, said to be an indicator of fascist, authoritarian tendencies!  I would not characterize myself that way at all, and I think anyone who knows me would laugh at it. So I'm still don't understand my low score here.

For some reason I make the observation that I generally try not to beat myself up about things.  But his opinion is that, when I come to these sessions, I'm "ready to get beaten up".  I agree that it could be true, and remark that I've tried most of my life to nurture E, so it's very hard for me now to accept that I've done something to hurt her so much.  But Dr S turns this around most remarkably.  He suggests that perhaps I've burned myself out by trying so hard to be a  nurturer all these years, when it's actually really hard for me.  The burnout is suggested by my ultra-low scores on both succorance (8) and nurturance (2).

He further suggests that many, perhaps most, people will detect this and take some action.  But my low intraception score suggests that I don't "naturally reflect" on things and so would have missed it.  He describes intraception as a sort of radar that alerts one to problems in relationships.  Well that makes sense.  I'm often clueless about relationship problems.

Dr S said, "[With] the depletion that's measured by your succorance and nurturance score being low, [and with] the change score being elevated, [you then start] looking for something new to compensate for that.  And because your intraception score wasn't as reflective as you may have thought..." I failed to nip it in the bud.  Furthermore,  because my Achievement score is so high, I tend to sublimate the problem into other arenas, such as work.

Affiliation (60/18)
Another big divergence, this has to do with making as many friends as possible or spending time with friends.  The implication is that I'm a lot more selective about my friends.

I'm not crazy about this conclusion.  I like to think that I'm fairly good at making new friends.  But on the other hand, I can see that I only have a few really close friends, and to be honest I don't spend that much time with them. 

Heterosexual (85/89)
At this point Dr S observes that most of my social scores (Affiliation, Succorance, Nurturing), except Exhibition, are low, a symptom of withdrawal.  And he speculates that this withdrawal, coupled with the high Heterosexual score, could have led me to "put all my eggs in one basket" with another woman instead of hanging out with friends.

Dominance (80/98)
Dominance has to do with taking charge, persuading and influencing others, and "being the chairman".  It's not about being "domineering".  He asks if this plays out at home or if it's really all about work, and I agree that for most of our marriage E has very much looked to me to take charge, maybe too much.

Dr S notes that we often marry people different from us.  In a healthy progression, they tend to converge and acquire each other's strengths.  But if that doesn't happen "the very things I was attracted to, sometimes I have contempt for."  So as a take-charge guy myself, if E isn't developing in this area over the years (and she really didn't, until very recently), it can become a sore point.  

And yes, it did become a sore point.  She seemed to depend on me for everything.  I not only earned all the money and paid all the bills, I even did the laundry!

Abasement (20/12)
I've previously mentioned to Dr S that I've been actively working to minimize self-criticism (I recently finished Martin Seligman's Learned Optimism and have been working on its application), and he sees the low score here as the result: "You're actively working to avoid guilt-land."  One of the good outcomes is that it has become easier for me to bring things out and put them on the table without filtering them through a bunch of guilt.

Dr S remarks that this low score is probably the best hope for reconciliation with E, because it means I can be open about events and issues, instead of hiding them and becoming apathetic.

Endurance (80/67)
"When you do set a goal you have the ability to stay the course."  I think he's pleased that "I won't be looking for a quick fix" but am presumably able and willing to keep working at our counseling process.

Aggression (35/54)
He felt that there was enough divergence here that "there might be more to Apollo than meets the eye."  That I might be operating with more resentment than I admit to myself.  This means he will want to look for situations where I say "Everything's ok", but he may probe a little more to see what resentments are harbored.

The ensuing discussion deals with some of the facts of my situation.  Years ago these issues started to build up and I didn't address them at the time.  But Dr S is firm that this should not send me into a round of self-criticism and guilt.  As he says, "When a take-charge person doesn't take charge, there has to be a reason."  He is targeting my underlying belief system.  I believed that discussing my unhappiness with E would not be useful.  Why is that?

The session ends with three homework items:
  1. Are there any scores I'd like to change?
  2. My best guess as to where these scores came from.
  3. Examples that confirm some of the things I heard today.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend Update

My preference is to post one topic or story at time, but for the second time in a week I feel the need to dump a bunch of stuff at once. This is a remarkably non-sexy post ...

Work -- It's performance evaluation time again! The first stage is "self-evaluation", which requires a summary of everything I've done over the past year. My past year has been a little unusual -- I started a new project and taught two new engineers to help me. For a variety of reasons our progress has been much more erratic than I'm used to, and having to write about it feels frankly embarrassing.

What I need to do is spend the extra effort to write about the things that we spent time on, even if they didn't have quick results, or the outcome we were looking for. I'm finding this chore really difficult to face for some reason.

Band Gig -- I play electric bass in various bands, one of which is a bunch of guys I grew up with in southern California. We play classic rock (Neil Young, The Doors, Spirit, Eagles etc.) and gig only two or three times a year. This Sunday was one of them -- I flew down Saturday for rehearsal, and so was down south for two days.

The Sunday event was a major fund-raiser for a well-known charity. It went off pretty smoothly, but there was one thing I've never seen happen before. We were playing outdoors in a park and it was a pretty hot day. The company supplying the portable stage had apparently just recently painted it (black), and certain sections were still tacky. And they got stickier in the sun. This was annoying for us in the band as our feet and cables would stick to the stage.

But it was handy for my set list: I put it down on the stage, stepped on it once, and there it stayed for the next four hours.

The stage had a wheel chair ramp, and at one point a group of young woman were walking up the ramp for a presentation. Several were wearing sandals, and as they reached one of the sticky patches, their feet would get completely stuck. It was funny to watch first one, then another as they tried lifting their feet, tugging on the sandal straps to no avail. They finally had to take their feet out of the sandals and scamper barefoot across the hot black surface while someone else wearing shoes went back to retrieve the sandals.

My Sister -- While I was down south I had dinner with my sister and her husband. I had, earlier this week, told her on the phone about my separation from E, and then she had lunch with E on Thursday (see below). Sister was very understanding. She has been divorced three times, and her husband once. But at the same time she loves E, so it's not easy for her.

Surprisingly, to me, the biggest question Sister had for me was not about my marriage or my infidelity, but about my loss of religious faith. This really seemed to astonish her. She is not particularly religious herself, but when I "came to Jesus" at about 20 years of age (about 35 years ago) I became quite the little zealot. My Bible-thumping waned through the years, but I guess I still have the reputation as the family preacher.

My Wife -- E was also visiting down south this week. She had been planning to come home on Friday, but decided to stay for the gig on Sunday. Given the current circumstances between us, I thought that was very nice of her. For Saturday night she booked herself into a very nice hotel just two blocks from the gig. And then asked if I wanted to stay with her.

Hmm. I hadn't made any formal arrangements for myself yet -- there are various places I can easily stay when I'm in that area -- so it actually made a lot of sense. E even switched her reservation so that we could have separate beds.

I arrived at E's hotel about 8:30 pm, after dinner with Sister. We walked around the area, which is more beautiful than ever, and finally headed to the bar with its spectacular view. There we talked over our situation.

I wish I could say we came to some deep insights, to some resolution, or at least some new understanding of each other. But we didn't. Like everybody else, she is full of questions for me that I get tired of trying to answer. It's remarkable how much faith people put in questions. Yes, I know she wants to understand. But I'm not sure anyone will understand by trying to put 2 and 2 together.

Anything I say is just a rough approximation of reality. Not because I'm trying to lie or dissemble but because words cannot capture very much of what I my feeling. And once I say anything, it can be picked apart or turned around on me.

Sleeping Together -- So there we were. This is the first time we've slept in the same room in about a month. I know that some of my readers are hoping to hear that we were consumed with love/passion/lust, and that rousing night of "sex with the ex" ensued. But that was not to be.

We were polite roommates. I slept in my underwear, instead of nude as I normally do. We were in separate beds. And I felt not the slightest desire for any intimacy. It was a little awkward, but not that bad.

In the morning, I kissed E goodbye, on the cheek, and left for the gig.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Reaction from my Brother-In-Law

My wife E has a number of sisters, one of whom, Marissa, is married to Donald (not their real names). Marissa has been very kind since I admitted my affair to E -- she actually made a special trip over to the house when I was staying there alone after E left, just to let me know she still cared. It meant a lot to me. Donald also knew about things from that time about a month ago, and I had gotten a phone message from him offering to get together. I didn't reply.

But today I received an email from him. I think it must have been triggered by learning that I had actually moved out. Here's what he said:

I find it very difficult to try to fathom where you are in your head and am very angry and disappointed. Although I can think of many terms to apply, [the] only one appropriate for text is narcissistic in all the true sense of the word. As if you have gone away and become something else, hardly a person at all, or you had us all fooled all these years. I find it difficult to see you dump E___ this way. I find it difficult to attempt to explain in some appropriate way to my kids what your behavior means.

Just thought you should know, but I doubt you give a sh...

Ouch!

Yes, this process is indeed serious "sh.." and I've never doubted it. But his note causes me to wonder about a few things ...
  1. Just what, exactly does "narcissistic" mean? Well, Donald is a licensed counselor so presumably he uses it in its clinical sense (narcissistic personality disorder): "a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy." Fortunately, having just gone through a battery of psychological tests with Dr. S. (which I have yet to blog about), I can say with some professional assurance that this is not the case. Yes there are elements of that in my current behavior. But it is not part of my core personality.

    Of course its possible that Donald was using the term less formally. Garden-variety narcissism is a label encompassing excessive vanity, conceit and selfishness. Certainly my actions are selfish, the question is whether it is "excessive". I suppose it depends on where one is standing.
  2. Have I become "hardly a person at all"? Hmm. Well that seems meaningless, unless Donald is trying to demonize or de-humanize me, which could be dangerous. De-humanizing others is the first step in justifying inhumane actions.
  3. Have I "had them all fooled all these years?" E and I have been married nearly 29 years. Donald and Marissa married 12 years ago. So his perspective is relatively short. But what does he mean by "fooled"?

    Did I "fool him" into thinking that I would never leave E? That implies that I always intended to leave E, which is false.

    Did I "fool him" into thinking that I would never be unfaithful? Well, I starting thinking seriously about infidelity about 10 years ago, so there could be some truth to this. But again, the implication of "fooling" them is that I was a philanderer from the start. This is false.

    But did I "fool him" into thinking that I was an upright and honest Christian, incapable of such a sin? Here again, I wasn't fooling. But I did change my mind.

    There is a school of thought in Evangelical Christianity which says that if someone really backslides and abandons the faith, then they must not have ever been a "real" Christian. This is a mental gymnastic to get around the doctrine of eternal security. Perhaps he means it in that sense.
  4. Donald has had some struggles of his own which I won't go into, but I wonder if the nearness and fear of his own devils has made him react more strongly to my deviance from the straight and narrow.
  5. Donald -- I'm sorry it's difficult to explain this to your young kids.  It wasn't easy for me to explain to my four older kids. But a lot of things are tough to explain to kids -- so get over it.

I'm quite willing, maybe too willing, to entertain criticism of myself. But when I think seriously about all Donald's points and really reflect on them, I have to say that they are just a load of "sh..".