Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Wooden Beam in My Eye

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)
I am sometimes (often?) a stupid and inconsiderate man. And a hypocrite to boot.

On Monday night Pim asked me to meet her at 6:30 at the Central Pinklao shopping mall after she got off work. We were going to shop for her birthday gift, a watch. I was there as usual exactly on time. My second ex-wife thought punctuality a vice not a virtue, and could not imagine why anyone would want to arrive at a social function at the announced time. After 5 minutes of "eye shopping," I sent a "Where are you?" text message. A little later she called to say she had forgotten the time, was still at the office and would be leaving soon. I huffily replied that I would wait until 7 and no longer.

She arrived at 5 minutes past my deadline, after calling to plead with me to stay. She had in tow three of her postal colleagues and we all went off to dinner together. I hid my irritation so as not to embarrass Pim in front of her friends. All of them are interested in improving their English. So I announced over the meal, "My lesson for tonight is the word 'inconsiderate.'" It means, I explained, someone who is self-centered and thoughtless. An inconsiderate person is not aware of the needs and feelings of others. Pim got the unsubtle message and was most apologetic. We agreed that a nice watch would help her be less forgetful of our appointments.

My fear, of course, is that when she is at work or with her friends, particularly those unaware of my presence, she forgets about me. I am discovering new depths of insecurity after years of relative self-sufficiency. Steve, a colleague from GPI Publications in the 1970s whom I've recently re-encountered through the net, writes: "I remember reading that when an older man falls in love, he falls hard." As a confirmed batchelor, he's asking me for verification. When you're older, of course, it's more difficult to get up. My attachment to Pim has grown over the six months that we've lived together and the ten months that we've known each other. But because of the difference in our ages, and her reluctance to go fully public with our relationship, I feel lost in limbo.

I want to be with someone who is proud of me, I told her during a difficult patch, someone who will take care of me (in Thailand love is an agreement based on reciprocity), and someone who desires physical intimacy with me. All of this hit home, as intended. The truth is, Pim is superb in all categories, but the lapses are like mustard seeds which grow into the giant trees I fear. When we sleep apart, whether because her sister is visiting or because she's staying with friends after a late dinner, I fret. If she is not affectionate when she returns, my fear festers. She is bored with our love-making and finds my attention repulsive, I think.

It was in this mood Monday night that I reproached her for her lack of interest. "Do you want me to go see a bar girl?" I asked petulantly. No, she said softly. And then it came out. She was not feeling well; itchiness, pain and a discharge. I recognized right away that she probably has a yeast infection. And I remembered that she had told me about feeling itchy a few weeks before, and I'd also noticed a look of pain on her face when it should have registered pleasure. But she'd been too considerate of my needs to say anything.

It was an AHA! experience of the worst sort. While we may have some real mountains to climb if this relationship is to last, the fears and insecurities I've been feeling are the result of my self-centered thoughtlessness more than anything else. When the dark clouds disappear, I see before me a loving and sensitive lady who inexplicably loves both my intelligence and my broken-down body. She cooks, she cleans and she washes my clothes, and we snuggle in bed like two children in Eden.

Last night we bought medication for the yeast infection along with yogurt, and today I got some cranberry juice. This morning Pim went to work wearing her new silver Elle watch, the first she has worn since she was ten years old (its loss was a major childhood trauma). It may be raining outside, but the dark clouds (and the wooden beam in my eye) are gone (at least for now).


Roxanne said...

There is no fear in love: true love has no room for fear, because where fear is, there is crippling pain; and he who is not free from fear is not complete in love.

1 John 4:18

Unfortunately, as humans our very existence is so often clouded by fear. But, if we live in fear, are we really living? And if, out of fear, we end up pushing away that which we are afraid of losing--thinking to anticipate or counter the loss?--aren't we just being self-defeating?

No answers here. I'm just another frightened, fearful human being.

Thank you for sharing your journey.

Anonymous said...

Hi Will,

Ouch. A painfully honest account of your mistakes there Will. Few people would be so brave as to put them on the Internet like that - despite the fact that we've all of us behaved in similarly stupid ways ourselves. Thank you.

Not least, for the mirror you provide.

Wishing you both peace and happiness.