Post Mortem & Listening to 1,500 People Smarter Than Me

This post is to share an article by Mark Manson, of the NYT bestseller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. Cheeky title, but full of truly redirecting, self-defining, serious help for this era’s over-informed, yet principally out of touch folk like myself. 

I’m doing the wrenching internal post mortem report on my three year relationship that recently irreparably broke. I’m the last person to be giving relationship advice, given that I’m 34 and more alone than I’ve ever felt in my life, though most of the last Year of Pain felt the same way. I’ve read an embarrassing number of dating and relationship books in my adult life, which never make it to my public Good Reads list and are usually quietly given away. I just don’t seem to get it. I have felt a failure for so long and been jealous and mystified by the couples around me who make it work, and are even happy. The gall. 

I’ve had two serious relationships that book end my love life thus far. When I was in my early 20’s, I believed what was Most Important for a couple was communication. Period. I came from a small, pretty terrible, rural high school and never had anyone to really talk to with my super-feeling heart. Hence my love for poetry. Poets say and point to everything we feel and cannot say or give words to something we didn’t feel until it was said. So, I ended up in a comfortable, loving relationship with a woman. Who else communicates better, especially in early adulthood? But much was missing and it ended, rightly. 

After, in the midst of dating and making literal “must have” and “must not have” lists for the person I would fall into perfect lifelong love with, I held firmly to a new belief that the Most Important things for a couple were stability, reliability, and romance. Really. I cringe at how many times I probably gave this advice in the last several years. Just tonight, stumbling upon this Gottman Institute link, Mark Manson has hit me over my tear-sopped, red-nosed head with his synopsis of what 1,500 intelligent people, who actually know what makes a relationship thrive, say. 

I see that I have been so wrong. That is such a horrible thing to admit when all I want to do right now is put blame on my ex and damn fate and all my sincere efforts to live happily ever after. He is indeed stable, reliable, and romantic. And by romantic, I mean that the sex was great, not the little thoughtful gestures that do actually add up to big things. Now I know that great relationships make great sex, not the other way around. And far greater than stability and reliability: deep respect, admiration and trust in each other. Damn. We were doomed. We had utter contempt and distrust for each other this last year. We fought horribly, attacking each other’s character and bringing up every past offense. I’m ashamed and overwhelming sad. 

It’s a long read, but it’s far better than the thousands of pages of dating and relationship books I’ve read combined. I don’t think there’s anyone, single to coupled, who wouldn’t be improved with its (harsh, to me) truths. 

I’m back to the drawing board, but not dating anytime soon. I know I have a total paradigm shift to commitment and a potential partner. Also, I probably owe my ex an apology for being at least somewhat at fault instead of my wounded, nonstop lashings. We were both wrong. 

Please take a timeout and read 1,500 PEOPLE GIVE ALL THE RELATIONSHIP ADVICE YOU’LL EVER NEED and let me know what you think. I want to talk through this. May we all love, marry, and stay married better. May our relationships not suffice, but challenge and fulfill our truest selves. 

The House of Belonging

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
like any other.

the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
I thought

it must have been the quiet
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the gray day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

– David Whyte

Whyte is my newest obsession. Finished “what to remember when waking” and “three marriages” is up next.

Vacillation (Verse IV)

My fiftieth year had come and gone,I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.

– W. B. Yeats

the year of letting go

the year of letting go
of understanding loss, grace of the word ‘no’
and also being able to say ‘you are not kind’
the year of humanity/humility
when the whole world couldn’t get out of bed
everyone i’ve met this year says the same thing
‘you are so easy to be around, how do you do that?’
the year i broke open and dug out all the rot with own hands
the year i learnt small talk
and how to smile at strangers
the year i understood that i am my best when i reach out and ask ‘do you want to be my friend?’
the year of sugar, everywhere
softness. sweetness. honey honey.
the year of being alone
and learning how much i like it
the year of hugging people i don’t know because i want to know them
the year i made peace and love
right here

– Warsan Shire

Poem about My Rights

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thinking about the world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence:
I could not go and I could not think and I could not
stay there
as I need to be
alone because I can’t do what I want to do with my own
body and
who in the hell set things up
like this
and in France they say if the guy penetrates
but does not ejaculate then he did not rape me
and if after stabbing him if after screams if
after begging the bastard and if even after smashing
a hammer to his head if even after that if he
and his buddies fuck me after that
then I consented and there was
no rape because finally you understand finally
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was
wrong again to be me being me where I was/wrong
to be who I am
which is exactly like South Africa
penetrating into Namibia penetrating into
Angola and does that mean I mean how do you know if
Pretoria ejaculates what will the evidence look like the
proof of the monster jackboot ejaculation on Blackland
and if
after Namibia and if after Angola and if after Zimbabwe
and if after all of my kinsmen and women resist even to
self-immolation of the villages and if after that
we lose nevertheless what will the big boys say will they
claim my consent:
Do You Follow Me: We are the wrong people of
the wrong skin on the wrong continent and what
in the hell is everybody being reasonable about
and according to the Times this week
back in 1966 the C.I.A. decided that they had this problem
and the problem was a man named Nkrumah so they
killed him and before that it was Patrice Lumumba
and before that it was my father on the campus
of my Ivy League school and my father afraid
to walk into the cafeteria because he said he
was wrong the wrong age the wrong skin the wrong
gender identity and he was paying my tuition and
before that
it was my father saying I was wrong saying that
I should have been a boy because he wanted one/a
boy and that I should have been lighter skinned and
that I should have had straighter hair and that
I should not be so boy crazy but instead I should
just be one/a boy and before that
it was my mother pleading plastic surgery for
my nose and braces for my teeth and telling me
to let the books loose to let them loose in other
I am very familiar with the problems of the C.I.A.
and the problems of South Africa and the problems
of Exxon Corporation and the problems of white
America in general and the problems of the teachers
and the preachers and the F.B.I. and the social
workers and my particular Mom and Dad/I am very
familiar with the problems because the problems
turn out to be
I am the history of rape
I am the history of the rejection of who I am
I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of
I am the history of battery assault and limitless
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind
and my body and my soul and
whether it’s about walking out at night
or whether it’s about the love that I feel or
whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or
the sanctity of my national boundaries
or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity
of each and every desire
that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic
and indisputably single and singular heart
I have been raped
cause I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong age
the wrong skin the wrong nose the wrong hair the
wrong need the wrong dream the wrong geographic
the wrong sartorial I
I have been the meaning of rape
I have been the problem everyone seeks to
eliminate by forced
penetration with or without the evidence of slime and/
but let this be unmistakable this poem
is not consent I do not consent
to my mother to my father to the teachers to
the F.B.I. to South Africa to Bedford-Stuy
to Park Avenue to American Airlines to the hardon
idlers on the corners to the sneaky creeps in
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination
may very well cost you your life

June Jordan