The Uninvited

D. emails: "I’ll make it simple for you, Sunny Jim. It’s because you’re a fair-dinkum obnoxious whinger who can’t see beyond himself."

Tuesday night. His assignment was to draw with crayons a picture of his life today. (Similar assignment from Oct. 4.)

He chose the black crayon which turned out to be purple.

On the far left of the 8.5 by 11 inch white paper, he drew a tall stick figure of himself standing on the south-east corner of Pico and Beverwil. Above him, he sketched a yellow sun, the only part of his sketch that was not purple. He wore a long beard and a smile.

Down Pico and Olympics Blvds, he drew the shuls that had rejected him — Young Israel of Century City, Aish HaTorah, Beth Jacob, Bnai David-Judea, Chabad Bais Bezalel. Racing up past the shuls, he drew two snarling dogs labeled "Kill", their bare teeth flashing in the sun.

The teacher asked the class to give their drawings a name. He chose, "The Road."

What did you discover?

"I’m not sure I discovered anything," he said. "There’s a road ahead. There’s sunshine. There’s a long road. And there are savage dogs out to kill me."

Does that surprise you?

"No," he said.

What do the dogs represent?

"They represent the whirlwind," he said.

Of?

"That I have yet to reap."

What do you mean?

"Past decisions I’ve made that will come back to haunt me."

They look prehistoric.

"I’m not a good drawer."

No, no, no. They look really interesting. Their teeth are almost as big as their bodies. And yet the hero is smiling under the sun.

"They’re dangerous dogs. They’re rotweilers or boxers or pitbulls. He’s smiling but he knows the killer dogs are coming for him up the road. But it’s a long road. That means I think I’m going to have a long life but there are killers after me."

Are they crocodile dogs?

"Their teeth. And they’re racing towards me. And I’m standing there smiling and having fun in the sun."

But you’re a lot bigger than them.

OK.

I don’t know if you’ve heard the term "naive art." Naive folk art. Childlike and yet the danger. Mixing that adult and that child.

Drawing is a way to make things concrete — feelings and ideas.

It was his turn to share. He picked up his journal and read excerpts.

Nov. 11. I’ve never been expressive during ***. **** says she suspects I make **** to all women the same way. She talks about my monotonous pounding.

My first time (in February 1989), I just held her in a hug for what felt like 30 minutes. I didn’t want to be too quick. I wanted her to feel something too.  When she waved her hands and told me to finish, I turned deadly serious.

I remember one day in August 1993 when I cried during…. We’d gone to the beach and I’d cut my foot. I felt we were on the verge of breaking up. We hardly ever made **** anymore. She felt sorry for me and halfway through, I started crying. I finished anyway. That’s the only time I’ve cried during…

I dated this powerful girl, Holly, who liked to be verbally degraded…. I found I enjoyed giving her a stern talking to. I enjoyed delivering that degradation.

When the fun and games were over, however, there was no doubt who was in charge.

I tend to date powerful women. They like me taking charge. It’s a pleasant break for them. I enjoy the illusion of power. My fantasies tend to revolve around wielding power.

Aside from these exceptions, I tend to have the focus of a prisoner in a mine meeting the quota that will permit him to live another day. That’s what *** means to me when it culminates happily — it means permission to live another day, to live light and free and happy, to live relieved of an enormous burden, to live without the demon spawn.

Without regular ***, I feel half alive. I don’t feel like a man. I feel like I’m walking around with squeaky hinges. I’m not living in my body. I’m living in my head. I’m out of balance and out of whack. I’m filled with frustrations. I feel unloved. I have so much to give but nobody wants to receive it.

When I look back on the past 20 years, when I’ve had regular ***, I’ve felt happy, no matter what else was going on in my life. When I did not have regular ***, I did not feel happy, no matter what else was going on in my life.

A passionate intimate relationship tends to be the difference-maker for me in my happiness.

Nov. 16. I am in an unsafe relationship. Why did **** not call me back Saturday night? Why does she wait until its yom tov (holy day) before she calls? Who is she meeting in Hawaii? Who goes to Hawaii for a week to be alone?

I need to be honest with myself about my own feelings, even if I don’t share them with ****. It does not feel good to have my calls unreturned. It would not bother me so much if I had my life together and I was surging ahead with lots of friends and social engagements, money coming in, groovy demands on my time, phone ringing, Blackberry buzzing, invites, and good health.

I am headed in the right direction but I’m struggling. I’m broke. I’m sick a lot.

I feel like **** lives a far more active life than I do.

I want to share vulnerable parts of myself with her so she can be vulnerable too and then we can become closer and mend each other’s brokeness.

I feel shaky. I’m pushing myself over my limit. My habit when I feel this insecure is to run away (most often) or to lash out. I can’t wait to go home to feel safe.

I am going to swallow my pride and ask to borrow money in the next week. I want to wait as long as I can while keeping up my minimum $2,000 checking account balance.

Nov. 17. I feel good that I rode out my shaky downturn. I feel good about my conversation last night with ****. It restarted our relationship.

Yesterday’s therapy was powerful. I’m learning how to articulate my feelings and how to share them. I can share my feelings without hurting others. I can take more risks with what I share. I’m learning to be vulnerable.

Nov. 19. I love to perform. I love attention. I was born to do one-man plays. Who might want to direct me in a one-man play based on my life? It’s rich soil.

I love the direction of our relationship. She purrs like a kitten after I make **** to her.

Is that a performance? That’s an obvious juxtaposition.

I wonder if I should sign up again for the $1,000 annual unlimited yoga pass. I got my money’s worth this year, going about four times a week, just $4 a class, just five blocks away. A studio that looks good and smells good and everyone’s nice to me and I meet my friends and I make new friends. It makes me happy, healthy and holy. It’s my shul substitute. No Modern Orthodox shul wants me but the yoga studio wants me. I wonder how much I am missed at Aish, Bnai David, YICC, Beth Jacob. Well, nobody is calling me. I can’t imagine they’re too cut up about it.

Is there any guilt? Is yoga a substitution for synagogue? Is that OK with the powers that be?

Well, —- them. I’ve got the blog. It’s my virtual shul. And I’m the rabbi. I give the sermons. I set the rules. Ong namo guru luke namo. Let’s all rub our hands together and tune in.

Nov. 22. I am exhausted. I’ve been low for a couple of weeks. I’m paying the price for my burst of survival energy in early November. I can’t believe how little yoga I’ve done since Rosh Hashanah. What a bad stretch of illness and exhaustion. With my crushing debt load, I fear the worst is yet to come. I have $600 a month in minimum credit card payments. I can do it.

Nov. 23. My therapist notes how much stronger I am. I’m not going to the weak and victimhood mentality when **** threatens to break up with me.

I’d love to hear how she threatens. What she says. How he receives it. Is it an ultimatum? What isn’t she getting?

We’re taking a break for a few days to reassess things. Well, she’s reassessing. I know I want her around. She can’t swallow my right-wing politics and religion.

When was the last time she read a book on politics? Her politics are all emotion. Mine are intellectual, backed up by sturdy amounts of reading.

I know that many other women find me attractive. I know my life is headed in the right direction.

Was I denying my feelings when **** talked about breaking up? I sounded so chipper.

No. I’m sure I will miss her, but I’ve given her the best I’ve got. I left it all on the field.

I can trace my feelings of loss and abandonment to earliest childhood. I did not have a secure lasting relationship with one caregiver.

I want to know why he’s using that word "caregiver" instead of "parent". Do you realize how unusual that is? That’s a string to pull. I would never in a million years call my mother a "caregiver". What is that? What is that distance?

My mother loved me but she died of cancer when I was four. My dad loved me but he was very busy and not around me much in those early years. My brother and sister loved me but they weren’t around me much in those early years. Ivy Harker loved me but she was only around a few months. The Barretts loved me, but that only lasted a few weeks.

Throughout my life, I’ve found people to love.

How he do did that? Does he trust that? When did he lose that?

But there have been those long lonely stretches.

I’ve created the life I’ve wanted. I am here in the heart of Modern Orthodox Judaism in Los Angeles. Why am I so alone?

I should feel confident in my ability to make my way, to form attachments, to maintain relationships.

I don’t let **** knock me off course with her emotional rollercoaster.

How hard was it to hold on?

She was so happy this morning on the phone and the voice of doom this afternoon. This is her pattern. I’m solid. I don’t bounce up and down. Every month or two, she looks to break up with me. I am in an emotionally unsafe relationship. I bet this gives her a feeling of power to constantly talk about breaking up.

She has her own abandonment issues.

She’s constantly manipulating me, expressing her contempt. She’s good for *** and for companionship. We share interests in reading, writing, personal growth.

I can roll with the punches and connect with other girls, preferably Jewish.

That meant a lot to me on Shabbos when Joe* called me a holy man who speaks the truth. Reb Levi of Berdichev. Much of my life is holy. My commitment to truth is holy. I can take pride in that. Who knows how much of my life has been held back by ****?

I love my therapist.

I want to know if he loves ****. It’s interesting hearing all the good things and then, I love my therapist. An interesting absence.

I love how she encourages me to share my vulnerability.

It’s funny how my Alexander teachers must struggle to deal with my verbal provocations. So little has changed since my childhood. I’m still the boy with the verbal dagger, waving it around to keep others at bay.

I want to know what that means.

I can come from a place of strength in a relationship. I don’t have to be this needy suck.

I can just enjoy ****’s rollercoaster of emotions. I don’t need to fix her. She’s not a woman I can treasure. She cheated on me. The more passionately I pursue interests outside of her, the better.

Better for whom? Was that the catalyst? Was there a feeling of betrayal when he found out? Who betrayed who first?

I saw **** four times over the past week. She always gets scared as we get closer.

I want to know if he does. What is getting closer? Is it continuity? Consistency? Or is it something that happens when they see each other a lot?

What do I think impresses girls? Why do they sleep with me? I want to say it is my ability with words, but I once slept with a beautiful girl from South America. She did not speak English. I hardly speak any Spanish. And yet she gave herself to me after a few trips to synagogue. I don’t think it was just the profundity of the prayers.

It was a Friday night in September 1994. I met her at Stephen S. Wise temple. I’d just gotten out of a passionate relationship, one that caused me to cry over the loss every day for three months straight.

She was wearing jeans and she had big breasts. I remember getting her outside after services and moving my hands towards them and saying, "Es muy necessario!" And she pushed my hands away and said, "No es necessario."

She was in town for a month visiting relatives. I began picking her up in Brentwood on Friday nights and Saturday mornings and driving her to temple to listen to the wise teachings of Dennis Prager.

How did we communicate? Through touch. Through a few commonly understood words. Through looking in each other’s eyes.

One Friday night after temple, we walked the Venice board walk. Then we went back to my Datsun stationwagon and I drove her to Brentwoood. We pulled over on a dark street near where she was staying and we got in the back and we made out. I was on top of her grinding away and then something happened and I was a sticky mess.

The next Friday night, we made out again. I was grinding away again. I was groaning. She was groaning. She said, "Condom?"

Thank the Good Lord, I had one. Away we went. It was glorious. We only had that one evening together in that way but I’ll live off the fumes for the rest of my life. When I’m married and bored, I’ll be able to look back to the girl from South America.

I slept with a beautiful girl with big breasts who didn’t speak English. And I did it in the back of a car I was living out of for six months! I slept in this car for six months. I was homeless for six months. I was quite ill much of this time but I managed to get it together for a few hours and I had a great time with this girl.

I think I turn switches in women’s brains and that’s why they decide to date me. I don’t sleep around anymore. I haven’t for more than ten years. I don’t prey on women anymore. I hope I’m not gross.

I want to get married and live a Torah life, just like I promised Dennis Prager 20 years ago. I want to be a good reflection of his teachings, not some chronically ill homeless bloke seducing busty South American girls on the dark streets of Brentwood after the intoxication of Friday night davening at Stephen S. Wise temple.

I want to sleep with every attractive woman I meet but I don’t because most of them won’t go for it and the Torah forbids me.

Why do some women want to sleep with me? Well, some women (such as Holly Randall!) have a thing for f***ed up broke writers. Some women find my delicacy and vulnerability appealing. My looks and my height normally play a role. My ability with words always plays a role. I think that South American girl could hear the music in my speech even if she did not understand 99% of my words.

I have this kingdom — Lukeland. It’s an alternate universe. I light candles. I shut the doors. I play groovy music. I open up my heart. I open up her heart. We study the sacred text. We write. We laugh. We cry.

Many women want to visit Lukeland. Some women want to move in.

I want to know if he ever reads his writing to them. Does he ever write to them or for them? Or is it just eloquent conversation? Or does he make sure to tell them, I’m a writer! I’m a writer!

I love it when a woman lifts me up. I’m a climber. I’d like to explore this. I feel so ashamed. I could talk about sex all day long and feel no shame, but my desires to be rich and powerful, that feels shameful. Is it socially acceptable to want to belong to a higher social class and to hope that your girl takes you there?

I want to know how high he socially climbed.

I’m not very practical. I’m an idiot savant. I’m good with words. That’s about it. I need help with the rest of my life. I’m like a rock star. I can command a room, but otherwise I’m helpless.

I’d love to see him in action. When does he turn it on? Can he do that at will or is it just situational? How low has he fell? What’s his class limit?

I feel like **** takes me into an alternate universe. I like her friends. I like how she sees things that I miss. She saved my life while I was driving carelessly (I didn’t realize I was driving in the lane of oncoming traffic on the PCH). I love how she took me to a play and to the opera. If we spent more time together, she’d take me more places. I’d meet more of her friends. She’d help me find work.

Does she always pay? What is that like for him?

I wonder if I measure up to what she wants in a man?

Is he looking for a girl with higher social status than ****?

What miracle would permit me to go to LimmudLA 2010? I can’t believe I found the money to go to the previous two. Just plunked them on my credit card. I can’t be that reckless this time. It is less than three months away. I want a miracle. How can I score some money? If I unexpectedly came up with the funds, I’d rather spend them on my Alexander Technique education.

I love the competitiveness of Jewish life. It pushes you to do your best. You go further than you think you can.

How is Judaism motivating him? Is it motivating him for sexual relationships? What is a miracle? Are there two kinds of miracles? A sexual miracle and a holy miracle?

My number one priority now is finding money to finish my Alexander Technique training.

I need a good earner. I need a sweet spot. Find it and I will transition to a new life. Without it, I will flail.

What’s ahead for me? I can look to the past for answers. Tough times. Hard work.

I want to know if he’s doing Alexander Technique for restorative reasons or if he’s training to teach it?

The more honest you get, the funnier it gets.

He’s writing things that perhaps he wouldn’t say. Notice what happens to you when you are listening to something so intimate and personal and truthful. Does it take you in? Does it give you permission to tell your secrets?

I want to know more about the social climbing and the class anxiety.

What is important to him about women vs. the sexual attraction and conquest? How does he navigate all that with his faith? What is it to get a smart, sexy, beautiful woman? Is that his work right now? What is he achieving? What is giving him worth? Is there any love? What validation does he get? Why do some women have a thing for him? Is it because he’s ****ed up? Because of his troubles? Because he’s that romantic troubled writer?

Any memories or images come up while you’re listening?

Just the women. The softness and the nurturing. The curves. The comfort. The mommy replacements. The mommying I didn’t get as a tiny child.

I’d love to hear that. That that goes hand in hand when he talks about them. That deep feminine understanding. What is it like to realize that? What does he think the women are getting from him? Is it just sex? Or is that a wonderful thing to be able to offer? I want to know how he’s able to take women into an alternate universe. What is that other place? Is it otherworldly? Is it holy? Is it salvation for both of them? Is it an escape? Transcendent?

What is the connection between his religion and yoga? Does he know the connection between kaballah and shakras? The tree of life? What do you want to investigate?

The climber. I feel deep shame. Wherever I can find shame, I can find good material. The material is as good as the intensity of the shame.

I want to hear that too. That’s part of the story too — how you are using shame as a guide. You know that is a litmus test. I find it ironic that you can talk about sex all day and not feel any shame. So you really are an artist-warrior willing to look and to investigate.

Nov. 25. I’m feeling ****’s loss. I’ve accomplished nothing of note today, just my three hours of Alexander Technique work and my washing and the movie Angels and Demons and I finished the Richard Russo novel That Old Cape Magic.

I want to write about class anxiety. I was raised to believe we were the highest class — the educated class. My dad was a self-made man. He led us to believe we could accomplish anything if we just put our mind to it. My dad put enormous effort into his work, his education, his scholarship and his evangelism. He was proud of working hard. He pushed himself to the limit. Always doing and doing. He encouraged us to be the same way. Alexander Technique is the perfect antidote to my childhood. It’s a path of grace and poise and non-doing.

In high school, I knew there was a better place for me — Pacific Union College. I’d run to my friends there over the break. Now it is Thanksgiving again and there’s nowhere to run. I’ve created my life here. Why isn’t it working out?

My substitute for the warm welcoming home is the warm welcoming female body. It’s not enough.

When it’s finished, we lie on the floor gasping for breath. Then she snuggles into my arms, surrendering her contempt.

She no longer wants to fight, she no longer needs to prove how much she doesn’t need me. I’ve drained the hate from her body. I’m safe for the day.

The music plays. The candle burns low. My life flickers.

I don’t feel like we’ve built anything. We’ve rubbed ourselves together and kindled the forbidden flame, but we’re no closer to making a life together. We’re no closer to bridging our differences in religion and politics.

I have friends of all political and religious persuasions. Why should opinions about politics prevent us from ****ing each other? But politics come into almost everything. Are certain positions patriarchal? What cable channel do we watch? Who pays for dinner? When we walk past Orthodox Jews on Saturday afternoon, do we say "Gut Shabbos" or "Hi"? Is it more important that we do our duty or that we pursue our bliss?

We’re from the same social class. Our fathers have PhDs and distinguished academic careers. Neither of our families are rich.

I want to talk to **** about class anxiety. Does she ever feel it? What does she regard as classy and as low-class? In what ways has she been a snob? In what ways has she been hurt by snobbery? When has social class gotten in the way of her relationships?

I feel most comfortable with academics and the children of academics.

I find it hard to locate my class anxiety. I’ve occasionally had the feeling of not belonging, of not being good enough. I feel it sometimes in Orthodox life, where those who are Orthodox from birth have varying degrees of skepticism about converts and penitents. Young Israel of Century City is a stronghold for those who are Modern Orthodox from birth. The rest feel like outsiders.

I’m in such a bad financial position right now. I’m taking loans from my family. Why do I keep putting myself in pathetic places and then seeking help? It’s not very manly. I feel pathetic. Why do I do this?

I think it goes back to my earliest childhood. I was farmed out to different people to look after me while my mom was dying. They’d often want me to do things I didn’t want to do, such as to eat my vegetables. I’d just sit there and refuse. During this long wait at the table, feeling fragile and helpless, I sought ways to salvage power. And where did I find it? I found it by being pathetic. I found it by keeling over. I found it by hurting myself, by running into a door or falling down the steps or by skinning my knee or my elbow, bloodying myself up, or just by thinking the most pathetic thoughts and letting that play out on my visage, letting my eyes retreat into my skull and the skin around them darken, so that I’d look hollow and starving and pathetic. The weaker I acted, the worse I looked, the more pathetic I got, the more help and love and attention I got.

I found power in being pathetic.

I’m not sure that’s quite it.

I was a lost and lonely infant and I wanted to be picked up and to be loved. I found I was more likely to get hugged if I wailed. I found I could get love by screaming. I found that if I fell into pathos, somebody would be more likely to pick me up and dust me off and help me go in the right direction.

Perhaps I’ve put myself on the sick bed, in the homeless state, in the broke state, in the broken state, in the bad boy state, the rejected oh woe is me state, because I’ve learned over my life that that is the best way to get the love I need.

I still want to suck on dead mommy’s breast.

I remember a poster on XPT saying that pity was Luke’s Trojan horse to get inside women.

I wonder if I can learn to get the nurturing I want through healthier means, through achievement and greatness and honesty and vulnerability. Maybe by impressing people with the good and responsible way I lead my life, they will feel safe enough to include me.

I find that when people help me (in ways I need helping), I feel nurtured and loved. I yearn for that, though I am usually too proud to ask for it unless I’m desperate.

I’m desperate.

Here’s another way of looking at. There’s this dark cavern inside of me, this inexhaustible yearning to be mothered. When I am reasonably successful with my life, I can cover this hole over, but when my life misfires, the hole opens up for all to see.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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