Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It's December 27th. Two days after christmas. Five and a half months or so after I made a deal with myself, this summer. Gave myself a deadline. A deadline of six months.

2006 has arguably been the worst year of my life, with special emphasis on the late spring through summer. This was a time when Zack and I, buckling under the pressures of the problems our life together has fostered, took turns hurting each other. I've realized, recently, that I can't regret any of the things that I did to him on their own; that I have to regret the entire era of our relationship, as a whole. (I feel, as I write this, a hint of deja vu, so please forgive if I am being repetitive.) I've realized that my actions weren't those of a good person or a bad person, a promiscuous person or a faithful person, a person in love or a person in a bad relationship. My actions, in a way, weren't actions at all, but reactions. In a way, this can be said, too, of the things Zack did to me. In a way, we can blame each other infinitely, and everyone else, and everything else.

And at some point, though, we both have to take ownership of the ways we hurt each other. Under different circumstances, this concept-- that we both did what we did, and for whatever reason, we had control of ourselves going in, so ultimately the responsibility lies with us-- might have caused either of us to be unable to forgive the other. But we've accepted each other's failings, the moment when each of us fell from grace, because we both know what we tripped on.


Five and a half months ago, I gave myself a deadline. I realized that the vitality of my marriage, which once seemed so terribly immortal, hinged upon my ability to give Zack what he needs: sex. I realized, further, that of all the many things I've wanted to be in my life, and there have been many, the one I want know more than all the others combined is to be his, and no matter how I negotiate it with myself, I'm fairly sure that I don't want to be anything else at all if I can't be that. And I realized that while I've been making an effort all of this time, there was a nagging little seed of avoidance with in me, rooted more intricately than I knew, that kept causing me to put it off, the way I put off everything of importance. I let myself believe that I had all the time in the world to make this problem better, and I let the disease that this truly is take that time to make itself worse.

Now, I cannot function half as well as I once could. Now, I have built up so much baggage surrounding anything sexual, and I do mean much more than even those who have met me could possibly understand, that I have simply made it a non-issue in my life. Like someone who is afraid of bridges, I take alternate routes. I deal with the needs of others as nessecary, but ignore my own, or address them with machines designed to make intimacy obsolete. When I am not near a bed, or a partner, I feel the desperate need to relearn the art of pleasure; when pleasure is a possibility, I sabotage myself.

Listening to the hypnosis MP3, I have learned that if I am ever to cross the moat of frigity to slay the dragon of vaginismus, I must first defeat the castle guard that is my own cynicism. I've spoken of him here before as my inner critic, addressing him in terms of self-esteem and calling him "Jiminy Critic." I've given him a voice and told you all exactly what he has to say. And while my awareness of the destructive things he has to say about me was peaked, I did not realize that this self-worth-attacker by day was moonlighting as the soulmate of my sexual dysfunction.

He's telling me now that this personifying thing has gone too far. That I've used cast one too many metaphors, and I must reel them back in. He's not half bad to have around, when I write.

But when I'm listening to this MP3 that's instructing me to relax, and he's relentlessly mocking every word that's supposed to lull me into a state of suggestibility, he's not so helpful.

"Your muscles are melting like butter-- there's some imagery I've never heard before. She must have learned that in Hypnotherapy Clich├ęs 101."

He disagrees with her when she tells me my stresses are melting away. Points out when the things she says come off of condescending. And just laughs when she gets too sacharin.

It occurs to me that he does not sound totally unlike my father, who taught my whole family to make cynical jokes out of anything that hits too close for comfort. The feeling I get as Jiminy battles my whispering voice that pleads with me to just let go, it seems, is somewhat similar to one I experienced on Christmas day: I forced my family, finally, to watch Love Actually with me, at long last. During one scene where one character is discovering her husband's affair, my father pseudo-jokingly criticizes the wife for snooping, and the husband's carelessness in leaving evidence to be discovered. Every time the couple graces the screen, his chiding gets louder, more forced, and it occurs to all of us that he is not really joking, just hiding his discomfort at the idea. My sister starts making comments back at him, sharp barbs amid the guise of laughter, that she'd always assumed he had experience with the topic. I try to ignore the truth behind it all-- watching my mother and father interact, seeing her forced strength when it comes to issues of philandering and loyalty, it's clear to see that somewhere in their 30-plus years together, some infidelity has occurred. I know this about my father, and accept it. I see the tolerance in my mother, and envy and pity it all at once. But as Cathy makes another "Joking" comment, and my mother joins in, I tune it out. Acknowledgement of this issue isn't the kind of family activity I had planned for this Christmas.

Believing, really believing, that eventually husbands cheat, eventually wives must turn a blind eye, or forgive, or cease to be wives-- this doesn't help the vaginismus. I don't know how much of it is fueled by what any more, but it never escapes my attention when I see or hear something that I can't help but believe is making it worse.

I'm thinking about yoga-- finding my inner self, forcing myself to practice at quiet, at acquiescence, at acceptance and moving on with the flow. I want to shut up Jiminy; slay the guard and start working on crossing the goddamned moat.

But it occurs to me that part of me doesn't want him gone. It's not just the part of me that wants to keep me safe from penetration-- or perhaps it is; there's more than one way to be penetrated, after all. Beyond the defensive reasons, though, I hear myself thinking that perhaps my outspoken little critic is the most interesting part of me, and he eagerly confirms the suspicion. We East-coasters wear our cynicism like a badge. We consider it a habit of intellectuals to congratulate ourselves on our free-thinking anger, to find our daily pride in moments when our comebacks are particularly brutal. We are warriors with minds faster than bullets, pens mightier than swords. This is the kind of cruel detachment that builds empires, makes millions, writes sitcoms. Careers have been built this way, and, furthermore, this is the way I've always wanted to build mine.

I don't hate Jiminy; I embrace him. I laugh along with him, because he's so undeniably a part of me. He is my father's voice, and also, perhaps, the thing I've always loved best about my father.

I fantasize that there's something like an on/off switch to be found; that I'll be able to listen to him when I want him, and tune him out when I don't. I suspect, however, that it doesn't work this way. That there's a choice to be made: that I need to be either in or out.

"No." Corrects Jiminy. "You need to put out and take it in."

To take a line from Sin City, I can't bring myself to tell him to shut up. Maybe he's just a part of my psyche. Maybe he's just a product of a guarded, sarcastic upbringing. Maybe he's just a figment of my imagination.

None of this stops the bastard from being absolutely right.

On with it.