On Love and Relationships in the Trumpian Era
A different kind of love story for my brothers and sisters around the world.
I am writing to all of you as someone who knows very little about love in a traditional sense. In terms of transcending the many sociocultural standards which tend to fill our heads with notions of ‘what is’ and ‘what isn’t’ or ‘what should be’.
Truth is, at the ripe young age of 45, I am just beginning to understand what it means to have love, to share love, to be love, to be in love, and to use its power to transform relationships. Especially the relationship to the Self.
It is no great surprise that we are living in incredibly complex, divisive and challenging times.
Apart from all the stuff we encounter through the media — the sexualization of popular culture, the ‘Tinderization’ of dating, the endless ephemeral social media content, and the absurdities of sexual misconduct in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, D.C. and abroad — we are being faced with something far more powerful.
Far more profound. Deeply existential.
I submit to you that at the base of all of it is a kind of appel aux armes which fashions a different introspection around love and relationships. It is something that points to kinship, or friendship, between men and women that is often missing in our daily discourse.
Allow me to explain through the lens of my own experience.
Like many people, I have suffered through various traumas over the course of my life.
I am fortunate to have parents who, despite divorcing very early on in my childhood and despite their differences, have been good friends. For the most part, they have always loved and respected each other for who they are, and were.
I was never sexually abused myself, but other forms of abuse have entered the fray as I went through various life struggles. As a younger man, violence was my therapy at times, to include verbal assaults and any number of rather harsh interactions with friends, family and some of the women in my life. And, of course, strangers.
To be clear, I have never intentionally abused nor have I ever assaulted a woman (nor has the thought even crossed my mind), and while I have been in a couple of highly volatile relationships, I was lucky enough not to fully ‘take the bait’ so speak — the bait partly being my own creation — in acting in such a way that I would seriously regret the outcomes. Although, as you read this exploration, you will see that I have come dangerously close.
Upon reflection, I have come to realize that perhaps a handful of women I have been seriously involved with have suffered through significant sexual and physical types of abuse. It is a startling realization for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that you quickly start to see just how serious the dynamics between men and women have been blighted.
It can be a very sad, disheartening thing to see.
It has also forced me to look at my own way of being, to include the kind of power I wield in the world, and how it affects other people, both positively and negatively.
The last dating relationship I had really opened my eyes to this.
Leading up to it, I had become disenfranchised. Dating was abysmal. I no longer enjoyed sex, so I stopped having it. I didn’t have intimacy anywhere in my life. For a long period of time, I didn’t feel all that great about myself, and so naturally, I could not invite love or companionship into my sphere of living.
I was trying to heal — perhaps more like self-medicating — and going through a lot of pain and suffering from my previous relationship, as well as beating myself up about how things had fizzled in that relationship.
Then I met ‘Jane’.
Jane showed up one day at a local organic market that I frequent.
She came into the place like a torrent, a mini tornado, talking on the phone, in her gym clothes, using whatever extra pair of hands she had to sling various produce over her shoulder, balanced out with a pair of fresh pressed juices and G-d only knows what else she was determined to gather. As she paid for her items, multitasking like a madwoman, she grabbed my grocery bag at the cashier counter and dashed out the door.
Surprised, I ran after her, shouting out the obligatory: “Miss… Miss… Miss…”
Nothing. I amped it up.
This elicited a sharp look. She stopped in her tracks.
“Um, you stole my food.”
She looked down at her hands holding the bag.
“Oh… I’m so sorry. Here you go.”
She said it with this impossibly adorable southern twang.
She handed over the bag and looked up, revealing deep blue eyes.
Her car was running and her daughter was nagging her to leave.
I stood there with a frozen grin. With a slight twitch of her aquiline nose, she smoothed out a lock of curly blonde hair.
We studied each other for a second.
I felt something very unique in her presence, a very different kind of feeling.
“Mom…” her daughter beckoned, “We gotta go.”
Jane smiled with those pretty, kind eyes of hers, and off they went, taking a sharp left turn out of the parking lot.
I went back into the store, asking if the owners knew Jane and if they had her cell number. They didn’t, but they said that she came in every morning right around the same time and that I would undoubtedly see her again.
I was tempted to hack her credit card information, but quickly thought better of that strategy. That would not leave a very good first impression.
So I went back to the store, every day for seven days, asking if she had come by.
She hadn’t showed.
I went back on the eighth day, somewhat dejected, milling around the store for a bit, sorting through avocados and squashes and tomatoes and whatever else.
Then one of store owners said in a comforting tone: “I have a surprise for you.”
I looked over, pulling my head up. He and one of his employees presented me with her number. She had come in earlier that morning and left it with them.
With a rush of excitement, hyena-like, I advanced to the cashier counter, writing the number down on a fresh piece of paper, and immediately put two versions of it into my phone — one in my notes section and the other in my contacts.
I came home, and called her. Her voicemail was full (as it often is), and so I texted her, asking her out on a date for that night. She responded about twenty minutes later in a text, saying that she’d love to see me.
I was ecstatic, pacing around my house, flexing, plucking my nose hairs, primping, on business calls, paying little if any attention to the people on the other end of the line.
We had our first date that night.
It can be tough to fathom the effects of economic pressures on personal relationships.
There are always the stories of people enmeshed in wicked divorces, with settlements that look like ransoms, and lawyers who might as well be field generals.
I’ve had family members and friends write checks that would make your eyes bulge out of their sockets.
And in this current paradigm of economic hegemony, anyone can find her- or himself beholden to basic financial needs. Whether ‘small’ or ‘large’, it’s all relative.
In a Trumpian context, I can recall the time when I was still living in California, fresh into my divorce, when one of my best friends rolled into town with Marla Maples, who is probably one of the most magnetic women I have ever met.
We spent a couple nights at a local strip of artisan restaurants and specialty shops, indulging in all sorts of cool stuff, talking story, regaling in our colorful mistakes, messing with patrons over fancy wine and spirits.
She did this funny little thing with the waiters, all handsome young men who were completely smitten with her. She was very particular about her water, and so she would make them cut fresh lemons by the table, slicing wedges in succession, constantly decorating her glass between squeezes. The waiters would stand at attention, all five of them lined up, fighting for first position at the next refresh. I chuckled, gently elbowing a couple of them away from the table — their gazes completely stuck on Marla — as their lower torsos were getting uncomfortably close to my girlfriend Annika’s head.
It got to be so competitive, one of the waiters slipped away into the restaurant food locker, bringing back a small potted tree which he propped up on a tray stand. Naturally, the tree fell over, making a mess all over floor and our feet, shrouding them with a mix of dirt and clay shrapnel, the price to pay for having neglected gravity’s wishes.
We took our shoes off and carried on.
Marla transitioned to very candid, very humorous tales about money, how she didn’t get what she wanted out of the divorce but didn’t seem to care, and all the wealthy, goofy, strange men she dated since. And this other cheeky bit about never carrying a wallet anywhere she goes.
At some point, the mood switched. Marla’s radiant smile cracked to something more somber. You could start to see the regret on her face.
Her divorce, her child, her high-profile lifestyle, the many boyfriends, it was all filing through. As I suspected it did every single day.
I had wondered what her life with Donald had really shown her.
I also wondered what she was really running from.
It’s good to step outside the enchantments of upper scale city life.
Sobering, in fact.
It’s when you leave the city limits that you see how people, and their relationships, are completely broken by regret.
Or, even without it. Some people never get the chance to be regretful.
A couple of years ago, my business partner and I worked on a renewable energy project up in Canada. We were there to design a system, and build a venture fund, which would convert crude oil assets into zero footprint, clean hydrocarbons.
We had been informed that the project would involve some of the native First Nations tribes, and so we took a drive out to the flatlands to check out the pipeline developments and get a sense for how they were affecting the reservation landscape.
We encountered… nothingness.
These lands were empty.
I mean, yes, there were boxed houses dotting a thin, almost bare treeline ridge, cordoned off in rows of square plots, all of which looked exactly the same. Gasline pumps would stake out the corners, and every ten plots or so, you would find a rig.
But there didn’t seem to be any people around.
A couple miles down the stretch of open highway we finally saw a Blackfoot couple ambling out of their porch, wrapped up in tattered coats, releasing heavy breaths into the cold, wintry air.
They didn’t speak or exchange any glances.
They didn’t look out.
They were visibly broken. Lifeless.
We drove back in silence.
That night we ran ceremony, and asked the Elders how they wanted us to help reclaim these lands.
Jane arrived for our first date almost on the hour. She insisted that we meet at the restaurant.
This time, her movement was steady, measured, elegant, vibrant.
She wore a sleek black dress with a short half, her tanned, toned legs peeking through, strapped in tall leather, canyon colored heels.
She wore an emerald pendant, matched with sterling silver hoops.
Her hair flowed over the crests of her shoulders.
I’m pretty sure the entire place went into stop-motion.
I’m pretty sure I was in the presence of the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen.
I greeted her with a tiny kiss to the cheek, pulled out her chair, and seated her, ordering two glasses of wine.
We talked for hours.
We were both giddy.
Lost in her eyes, I remember thinking to myself: “This is just toooooo perfect.”
As I’ve ‘softened up’ over the years, I’ve also made the fundamentally incorrect assumption that my male sexual energy has been redirected. Meaning that I would come off as less of a threat to women, or to men, for that matter.
That’s not exactly the case.
When I reached 35 and my testosterone really started to drop, I felt really liberated. I no longer was led around by my privates, and I made much better decisions overall.
I was never a cheater, and I’ve always leaned towards monogamous relationships, but even as a single man I’ve always struggled to figure out what it was that could help me maintain a healthy balance between feeling an impulse to bed every beautiful gal I met and becoming a monk.
The reality is that sex can be an amazing form of healing. That is, if the participants are really in it to heal, and heal together.
As I’ve developed more refined spiritual practices (meditations, martial arts, etc.), I’ve noticed that my power requires a lot more shaping, and that certainly includes how I channel my heart center, and my svadhistana or sexual chakra. Eastern practices teach you alignment of all the chakras, but I’ve found it to be a consistent challenge in western society, given all the signal noise and deep cultural programming, to maintain samatà or balance.
It also explains why I’ve been attracted to women that are typically high-intensity, fiercely independent A-types. You attract people of similar frequencies.
It’s a fascinating thing to uncover, because you realize that there’s often a fine line between you, as a high-functioning, archetypally compassionate man, and at times — if we are to examine this from the standpoint of energy transference — a downright predatorial one.
Sometimes this manifests in non-sexual aggression, sometimes in trysts of various sorts with outside partners.
At this point in my life, I was on the receiving end of both.
I remember the day, and the exact moment, when my ex-wife left me.
It’s not as if I didn’t know it was coming, or that something was going on.
But, you know, it was a moment.
I was about to give a talk (a speech) out of the country, at a university, when a buddy of mine called and ‘broke the news’ as it were.
I gave the talk as if nothing had just happened, then hopped on a plane, ordering several cocktails.
In partial shock, heading straight into total shock, I ruminated.
The stewardess came by repeatedly, trying to lock eyes with me, making her best effort to console me, while essentially patting my drool and sobby, reddened cheeks with a bib.
Like a little angel, she leaned in.
“Sir…I’m just going to leave this with you.”
She delicately placed a fresh bib and another cocktail on my tray table, slipping away to help another passenger.
Then came the swinging pendulum of rabid thought. The exclamations of loss.
I came home to an empty household, cried my guts out for about ten days, lost fifteen pounds, started boxing again, got my papers in order, and decided I was fucking free.
I was going to be just fine.
Most importantly, I forgave her. And I took responsibility for the role I played in the relationship. After all, I had a hand in the outcome.
Two weeks later, I met my ex-fiancee.
Meeting ‘Annika’, my ex-fiancee, was not only fortuitous, but about as timely as one could conceive.
I was lucky — a strong, tall, athletic, beautiful divorcee was available. She was probably the most competent woman I’ve ever met, and it’s not a mystery why we tried to have kids together.
My divorce was kicking into high gear, and she had undergone the completion of hers just a year before. Both were shitty situations, as these sort of things go.
She was incredibly supportive and accommodating, and I tried to learn Finnish, her native language. That didn’t go so well, but we really understood each other. We really helped each other heal, and grow professionally. I had a number of paths to choose from, and she was rapidly ascending the corporate ranks in her gig.
We became fast friends, and great lovers, and it all just kind of worked. I moved into her small house, and we eventually bought another, moving near my mother and stepfather about forty-five minutes south from where we were at the time.
We would travel to Israel, Europe and beyond, enjoying the fruits of our labors.
But I’ll never forget what she told me, around a month into the relationship.
“Look, if or when the time comes, and it’s time to move on, let’s be respectful about it. Okay?”
I nodded my head, barely placating the thought, sipping a Fernet Branca, pulling a drag from an American Spirit.
I secretly got into my fighting routines during that time, mostly when Annika was out of town.
She traveled more than I did.
I was also in a pretty dark place. Underneath the surface, I was pissed off and resentful, and couldn’t stave off the urge to fuck somebody up in the dojo or in the ring.
I was also dabbling in drugs, which she didn’t do.
At that time, I became privy to a lot of information about ‘the system’, and the players within it, that didn’t sit so well.
Oligarchs and their chess games.
The realization that the Trumps, the Clintons, the Bushes and the Obamas were all playing roles on the same team.
The preconditions for systemic fallout, for system collapse, were being propagated by us.
The main thing that occurred to me was scary and isolating: I was faced with the choice to leave the world as I knew it.
And, I became highly motivated, by fury or felicity, to create another one.
Jane and I dated for the duration of the summer, and had an incredible time together. You could say that we fell in love. We had amazing chemistry (and still do).
We really got to know each other, and engaged in a mesh of activities that mostly involved trips to the beach, long talks about past experiences, our dreams of the future, a couple of spiritual retreats, and really fun nights out on the town, matched with really quiet nights at our respective homes.
Between my slate of projects and her daily grind, we started working on her new venture (an aside: one that aims to empower women) which brought out a lot of creative flow, and in many ways, deepened our connection to each other.
My fondest moments were probably the times we just laid in bed together, fully present, talking about everything.
Sometimes we would read passages from books about secret societies or watch Netflix programs about ancient aliens. She’s really open-minded and curious. I’ve always loved that about her.
I would get sad when she left my house, or I left hers. I always got this sinking feeling that it would be the last time we saw each other. But I would quickly pull myself out of it, realizing that I was doing this whole abandonment thing, and told myself to basically stop projecting that shit onto the relationship, or eventually, her.
We even did an ayahuasca ceremony to clear away some of our own cobwebs. That was a trip, literally. It opened up some new doors of perception, as we howled at the moon, and I danced with the Serpent.
But still, I had that sinking feeling.
We attended a costume birthday party one night before she had to go on a work trip. We danced away to a disco cover band, acting a fool. Being the scatterbug that she is, she dropped her cell phone in the toilet. She tried to dry it out in a cup of brown rice (because brown is better than white, apparently), but her attempt at being MacGyver failed.
Sure enough, that was the last night I was with her as my ‘girlfriend’.
The feeling of euphoria that comes with serendipity is intense.
As the initial rush of meeting someone wears off and moves into a steady flow — a relationship — the experience of balancing joy and pain equals out in moments when one or both people realize that they are, in fact, occupying a space together.
That can be a literal or physical space, of course, but really it is a field of energy, a set of frequencies, that is created between two people.
If you believe in spirituality, or more specifically, the spirit, you soon realize that what your mind and body want often run in conflict with what your intuition tells you. You, effectively, are then confronted with a choice: To be a sexual object, or, something else.
It’s a rawness. A masquerade of Divine comedy, and earthly irony.
Imagine those moments in which you’ve shared yourself, your body, your Self, with someone else.
You slither through the sheets of a bed, writhing, twisting, contorting, fitting yourself into the other person, finding a place to be one with her, if such a thing is possible.
As you get there, if you get there, heart beating quickly, perhaps furiously, you start to get into sync with the other person. You get to know her movements, and she gets to know yours.
And then, as you get closer to a climax, you forget where you are. You’re not there. You’re here. Right here.
And here is where I want to stay.
But right now, I can’t.
Right now, in this moment, it’s difficult to see what the future holds.
I don’t know what it is about Trump that has anyone of marginal sanity believing in the future.
I can’t imagine that any sane person can view him as a sexual object, but hey, to each her own.
More seriously, it’s very likely that he has no vision of the future.
Aside from the fact that he is sloth-like, has boxy orange hair and tweets as if he is out of his own mind and body, he is actually an innocuous human being on many levels.
He could fare much better with innuendo.
In Heiner Fruehauf’s Visions of the Baojun, he writes about the Pathological Large Intestine Archetype that is ‘the Donald’. The exploration begins with a summary of the perceived Self: Separation Consciousness, Ostentatious Materialism and Apotheosis of the Profane.
In a nutshell, Heiner describes Trump as a representation of our current, collective mindset, a kind of unconsciousness.
And, a seduction we all tend to fall for: Thinking and believing that the world, that this sick, diseased form of western society, is external.
There’s a stronger inference as well. We’re all susceptible to being a Trump if we can’t see past our own noses, and can’t fill up our hearts with just a little more goodness.
Fact is, around here, where I live, not too many people actually care about Trump.
I have some friends who know him, some more personally than others. All say he’s not a bad guy, some say he’s not a great guy, and some say he’s just… a guy who got really good at promoting himself, and at any cost to the people around him.
My own take on him is not so similar — I think he represents precisely what’s wrong with society, right now, in this moment. Yet, he is a representation, not so much the actual source, of the unconsciousness.
In the most maternal contexts, he might as well be a man who gave up on himself, a long, long time ago.
Giving up on oneself is a multi-layered, two-way proposition.
I learned this in spades when I was with my ex-wife, ‘Janice’.
Janice is a Yale grad, a lawyer, a former ballerina, very athletic, very smart, very pretty, very capable.
There is nothing ‘wrong’ with her.
Janice, from day one, was given everything, it would seem, that a young girl could need to move into the world as we know it, and operate within it.
But that isn’t really all that relevant.
Around that time, about or a year or two before the veritable collapse of our relationship, our marriage, we lived in a million-dollar condo in a nice part of town, we drove luxury cars, wore nice clothes, hung out with a popular crowd, ate good food, traveled a bit, dabbled in our spirituality, all of that. We lived ‘the good life’.
We spent as much as we earned.
And we loved each other very much. We respected each other. We leaned on each other. We supported each other. But it wasn’t enough. It was never enough.
Imagine this: Two young adults vying to make their marks in the world, a highly superficial, pressure-filled, competitive world. Imagine a situation in which every step forward in terms of affection, compassion and commitment was challenged by an unseen force. Something trenchant, heavy, obscure, and incredibly destructive.
Imagine a monster, looming in the shadows.
Now imagine how it would affect the way we related to one another, and ourselves.
It is convenient to say that our choices, particularly our indiscretions, were a coping mechanism.
There is also no need to describe what we did together — healthy, corrosive, implosive, or not — and how we did it.
I am fairly convinced that Janice was sexually abused, and that she has endured fairly extreme forms of trauma.
I am also fairly convinced that I failed her. And, that I contributed to her emotional and spiritual decline not because of what I did, but what I didn’t do.
I didn’t stand for her. I didn’t step up and insist that she seek real help. I didn’t have the balls to be able to walk away from our relationship, at any cost to either one of us.
I didn’t because I was a coward, and I was delusional.
And so, she ended up having an affair and leaving me anyway. Fathom that.
When I came to grips with the realities of this situation, you know, right after she left me, I had two wishes:
One, that she would end up with the man with whom she had the affair.
Two, that she would find some sense of happiness.
To be really clear, this does not make me a ‘good guy’ or any better or wiser than her. I am not.
Sure enough, she married the man and had two children with him.
I’ve spoken with her, briefly, maybe two or three times, since we finalized our divorce. She has apologized to me for what happened, and I’ve apologized to her.
Yet, this does not make up for the prospect, as far as what I chose not to stand for while I was with her, that she might be unhappy.
This is not to say that I am responsible for her happiness — how could I be — but more to say that it would bring me great joy to know, for sure, that she is happy, in whatever definition of the term one might hold.
When Jane told me that she no longer wanted to date, that she didn’t want a boyfriend, I was crushed, as well as confused.
I processed the information.
She loves me, she cares for me, she thinks I am amazing, truly she does, but she just can’t handle a relationship right now. (WTF?)
I was so proud to be ‘her man’, and her ‘my girl’. When we walked into restaurants or other venues together, heads would turn. We exuded a kind of power you don’t typically see in a couple.
But, of course, that’s not the kind of power that would ultimately matter.
The reality was that I had not yet learned the distinction between acceptance and expectation.
As I traveled back to my original home in California (I currently live on the east coast), I ran through the machinations of what any man or woman might do who is saddled with what they perceive to be rejection.
“Why am I not good enough?”
“Why am I not wealthy enough?”
“What did I do wrong?”
“Why can’t she just love me the way I love her?”
And perhaps the most decomposing and sinuous: “How do I get her back?”
These things are not necessarily true, but they do seem painfully real in these moments.
This is where the story gets really interesting.
I spent some time unwinding, trying to turn off my brain, exercising and going on hikes and meditating, what have you.
Then I started to reflect on her needs, and her initial request, and it occurred to me that not only had I not really listened to the information she was giving me — which was quite clear — but that what I thought was the most important to her, probably wasn’t.
So after consulting with a few close friends — men and women — I decided that I was going to ‘court’ her. I was going to build intimacy with her, without sex, without any type of a forced commitment, and see what would happen.
I was going to show her that I really love and care for her as a human being. Which I do.
The caveat, of course, was that in this phase of our relationship, our friendship, I did this with the expectation that we would get back together, at some point, as a couple.
I wrote her a long love letter, keeping one version for myself, editing the other for a proper, perfect delivery. I sent her flowers and small gifts, a painting I had done of her before we met (another story for another time) and sent her little things like her favorite coffee and whole grain bagels. She was very appreciative, very grateful, and expressed how much she enjoyed the gestures.
I continued to help her with her new business venture. That was, and still is, a very creative endeavor which has continued to strengthen our bond.
We began hanging out sporadically on ‘friend dates’, and even went out of town for a couple of jaunts to enjoy some relaxing time away. Naturally, we always had great fun and we were becoming truly intimate, without sleeping together or being physical in any kind of sexual way.
And there were the powerful little gestures: small kisses, touches of the hand, of the arm, head to my chest, firm and gentle hugs, that sort of thing.
You know, intimacy.
While strange at first, it was amazing to experience, and for the first time in my life, I was seeing how liberated I was without sexual expectations involved.
To put it another way, I carried a more balanced energy around her because we weren’t pressuring each other in that way, and as a result, she felt more and more comfortable around me, and frankly, I with her. In truth, we didn’t really even think about ‘hooking up’ or having to ‘satisfy each other’ like that. It wasn’t about that.
And, our trust was growing.
I live in an area of great excess — excess wealth, extended resources, manicured estates and a predominance of extreme privilege.
I am not ‘rich’ by societal standards, at least not here, in this place I now call home.
I have no family inheritance or a trust to lean on. I make no judgments about this, other than to say that my definition of wealth has changed dramatically over the last several years. In many ways, I’ve been forced to do this, and have found myself with my back against the wall more often than I would probably like.
In other respects, it makes me somewhat of an outcast. In other respects, it confirms to me that I am on the right path.
Don’t get me wrong — I am highly ambitious and am about to reach a new windfall, but my lot in life comes with huge sacrifices, and if I am to be perfectly honest, it also has left me highly vulnerable. Vulnerable to false perceptions, to character attacks, to superficial sociocultural narratives, to relationships with people, who, by and large, are quite ‘comfortable’.
If I am to be perfectly honest, while I trust myself, I have had a hard time trusting other people.
And, I have had to own my vulnerabilities.
I also have a fairly unusual heritage. I am not your average ‘white guy’.
I am German-Scandavanian Jewish (my father’s side — he is a holocaust survivor), and Irish Lutheran Native American Ute (my mother’s side). I probably identify more with the native side at this point in my life, and that is something I am discovering more as I see the world in all of its glory, its majesty, and its ugliness.
I am not religious, but I firmly believe in a higher power. The Creator and Creation. The Father. The Mother. Christ Consciousness.
As well, I walk between worlds, navigating diverse circles that involve high finance, social and environmental impact spaces, technology domains, and to boot, many of the so-called ‘minority’ groups which comprise the world’s dispossessed. That is a very difficult thing to do. In fact, it is excruciatingly hard at times.
But, it is what I do. It is who I am.
How I got here, the place where I live, is its own tale for another time. Let’s just say that I was ready to leave California. I was ready for a major change. Part of that change was the decision to remove sociopolitical labels, on myself, and to remove myself from party affiliations. They have not served me well, personally or professionally.
It’s also worth mentioning that the place where I live is magically beautiful.
If you can imagine a historic neighborhood and mixed stone sidewalks lined with banyan trees adorned in Spanish moss, set against a backdrop of topaz textured waterways and white sand beaches, this is pretty much a tropical paradise.
The people I’ve met here come from all walks of life. There are local folks, part-timers (snowbirds), international businesspeople, pureplay nomads, as well as a healthy blend of multicultural groups. My peer group falls between the ages of 35 and 67. I don’t have many close friends here, but I do have a fair number of people I interact with, although that is changing given a shift in my lifestyle choices.
Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s lavish compound and country club, stands out on a huge corner property less than two short miles across the main waterway that flows just a couple of blocks away from the small, modest home I rent. I consider my next door neighbor a good friend as well as a good man. We share a sideyard fence and all the adventurous tales that come with it. It’s nice to be around someone close in age who is actually hardworking, responsible, gentlemanly, generous and easygoing. I love him like a brother.
I talk to my main business partner several times a day. He is my muse, my intellectual and spiritual support base, my brother from another mother.
These days, I spend about 12–14 hours out of 24 building my businesses out of my home office, managing to train (work out) in the early afternoons. Every day, I directly interface with a group of about 30 people who are scattered all over the globe. Typically, I then head out for dinner and a nightcap at my favorite local restaurant down the street from my house. There, I often catch up with some of the regulars, typically chatting about subjects like the financial markets, real estate bubbles, various travel experiences, and on a good evening, things like art, music, politics and whatever else presents itself.
You know, fairly light, standard stuff.
In short, I’m rebuilding my life.
I’m establishing a new foundation, so keeping it light can be a good thing for someone who is quite intense when it comes to my work.
I was married once, and I have no kids, although I tried with my ex-fiancee, a woman who I am still very close to. Looking back on my prior relationships, particularly with her, I realize that I was absent in many ways, absorbed in the hustle of my career, and motivated by the trappings of what I considered to be ‘the good life’ at the time.
One of the things I’ve noticed entering middle age, at least here, but perhaps in many places, is that men and women don’t have the healthiest of relationships. Sure, there are failing or broken marriages, dysfunctional unmarried couples, and the various wandering types who insist on some form of polyamory.
But I’m actually talking about relationships in which there is decent communication, and a mutual purpose. Yet, a distinct emptiness fills these spaces and public analogues.
What I’ve seen overall is that male-female relationships have become very apathetic, and at times, very adversarial.
I would say that this has been the case for many, many decades, perhaps centuries or eons… But this is different.
There is a sharp edge to all of it.
It’s as if men and women are going through the motions of avoidance, whether they are technically together or not. It’s not even that they don’t like each other, they just seem completely disinterested in each other.
You know, in their real selves.
The supposition is that there is always something better, something more, something bigger, something… else.
And maybe there is.
When I ask my friends’ teenage kids about Trump, the responses are always curious.
There is, as we all know, the famous ‘pussy-grabbing’ meme which has unfortunately permeated just about every social media channel and has programmed every captive mind in existence, to some degree or another.
Perhaps the scariest thing about this is the idea that these kids think relationships are somewhat of a joke, commodities to be traded, and trashed, if necessary.
One kid told me, unabashedly: “My chick lets me grab her pussy all the time. She likes to grab my dick. And suck it. Whatever. It’s no big deal.”
He paused for a second, then shot me a convincing look.
“She’s reeeeeeally cool.”
I took in his expression.
“Oh, yeah? That’s great. I heard she’s a really pretty girl, very sweet. Whaddya guys like to talk about?”
He cowered a bit.
“You know… stuff.”
He searched for something more to say, but went blank, slinking off to another room to play a video game.
My mother refers to the later 1960s up to the mid-1970s, when ‘free love’ and key parties were common, as a major factor in the run-up to our current fate as a listless, carnal society. She didn’t partake in those kinds of things but she said that, back then, no one really talked like a Trump simply because everyone was doing it — they didn’t need to talk like that.
Perhaps nowadays we have the problem of words matching actions, creating more words spawning more actions. And vice versa. That memetic, viral thing. And not necessarily of the right kind.
But is Trump to blame?
It’s an interesting question. One way to look at it is that every douchebag on the planet right now is getting caught with his pants down, or is about to get caught with his pants down, and is losing his life and career over it.
Maybe it is some loose form of accidental accountability, compliments of Trump.
I mean, we didn’t see this much exposure over the last, say, eight administrations, did we?
Even still, the world has gone insane, and everyone is a willing actor, in some shape or form, in the stage play.
In my early thirties, I dated a gal in California, in LA, who was, well, a handful.
‘Tamara’ was insufferably hot, a real vixen, and had a personality to match. She had long, wavy dark brown hair, penetrating green eyes, a buxom build, and was witty as can be.
Like many men my age and older, I wanted her.
I was going to have her, at any cost.
I was ending a stretch of sobriety, having been enrolled in a variety of self-help programs that included everything from Indian sweat lodges to holistic retreats to Landmark-esque forums.
Coming out of this phase of my life, I was ready to put the gloves back on, you know, to reenter the world.
Which world, was a whole other matter.
Maybe it was our relative youth, but it seemed like after three months that we were already dating about a year.
She constantly tried to antagonize me, between flirting with other guys and the frequent biochemical explosion — a precious cocktail of Ritalin, alcohol and “where are my fucking Pradas?!”-type of outbursts.
So we fucked a lot, and we were really good at it. And affectionate too.
Around nine months in, she invited me to go visit her father, who lived in Destin, Florida, in the panhandle. She had a spotty relationship with him, but nothing like the raw, contentious dynamic with her mother. She always talked about how she competed with her mother. Sometimes, how much she disliked her, almost hated her. Both her parents were remarried.
We arrived at his modest home, and he took me in with laughing eyes. He liked me, and I liked him. I loved his daughter.
That night, we went out on his boat, just he and I. He talked for a bit about his time in the army, and some more about fishing, which I care nothing about, so I pretended to listen intently, mindmapping the correlations between bait-and-tackling and the possible number of estranged children in this military town.
Then, practically on cue, as we traversed the harbor over rough waters, he cracked open his fourth beer, and turned to me, giving me a tiny punch to the chest.
“I didn’t expect you to come here.”
“I didn’t expect anyone to come here.”
Having avoided my own father’s digressions, that was probably the first time I truly understood regret.
I saw it. Point blank.
It sank in during the next day of watersports and umbrella-laden margaritas and loose conversation.
Tamara and I went out that next night, lighting up the town, landing, ‘somehow’, at a strip club. I’m pretty sure select drugs were involved.
She entered the ‘amateur showcase’, won it, shortly thereafter corraling a small group of hooting Marines over to the sidebar for a review of the show. She whispered in a couple of their ears, them stealing glances at me, and me at them.
A smile flit across her face as she blew kisses in my direction.
“What the fuck did I get myself into?” I thought.
The energy shifted, my adrenaline kicked in, and fists clenched.
Before two of the guys could bum-rush me, I connected cleanly with one of their jaws — he dropped like timber.
Glasses and limbs started breaking, total chaos ensued.
And as the shit was really going down, a giant hand took me by the neck. Out of the corner of my half-shut eye, I noticed that her neck was in the other hand. I had blood and glass all over my face and hands.
We were thrown out of the club and ushered into a private car.
Gently, the bouncer — looming over us, probably seven feet tall — leaned in, shaking his head.
“Y’all motherfuckers is crazy. Both y’all.”
Jane made a new request: Stop with the gifts.
No more courting.
Thank you, you are so sweet, but please, stop.
To cap off that request, she followed with the statement: “I don’t want to hurt you.”
I reeled back into my headspace, defaulting to mental scenarios, wrestling with self-destructive thoughts about what I thought this meant, or what I thought, in that moment, the implications were.
I went back into my proverbial cave, and contemplated cutting down on our communications, imposing some set of ‘new rules’, and even considered cutting her out of my life completely.
Pinging back and forth between these somewhat flighty notions, the exercise drove me mad for a period of a few days.
But again, I wasn’t really listening.
Truth is, she never said: “I am going to hurt you” or “I will hurt you”, or even “I want to hurt you”, she was saying that she is incapable of being in a relationship right now, and was sensing an impatience in me to be in one, thus triggering this response.
More of the truth: I was not, and am not, capable of being in a relationship, either. Not right now.
But that is not what I expressed in my gestures, my small deliveries, to her.
So I came to my senses, consulted some more with my close friends, and reached back out to her, asking her to dinner to discuss a way forward, you know, as real friends.
When I look at Trump, I see a man who was never really loved by his mother.
You can tell by his gait, the way he carries himself. The way he talks at people, not with them or to them, a not so subtle deflection, a rejection, of the maternal story. There is no nurturing behind his intentions or his delivery.
In a much bigger sense, Trump is a man on the warpath of self-destruction.
This is something for all of us to really look at. To dig in deep.
You see, it’s an evolving archetype.
Trump is, perhaps, the shell of a man. A being who is no longer human.
In a day and age in which we prize automation, and ‘artificial intelligence’, robotics, singularity and the like, we face not only a crisis of economics, but a crisis of consciousness.
It would be convenient to say that he is a mere by-product of ‘the system’, but that would be letting us off the hook from our own responsibilities to the future.
It is not enough to be able to point fingers at him, to lash out and make him the fall guy for society’s improprieties, or to say that he is ushering in some kind of doomsday new world order, because that is cop-out.
I certainly refuse to accept that. And I’m not talking about ‘resistance’. I’m talking about creating a different set of choices. Ways to live and work on our own terms.
As the great Radiohead song, The Numbers, professes: “The future is inside us.”
As you might have gathered, Jane and I are still no longer dating.
But here’s the wonderful thing: our relationship has just begun.
You might be thinking that I’m delusional. But I’m not. And even if I was, I wouldn’t really care.
You see, we did not really meet to be ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’.
We gave each other those designations as we began dating, but that was not the reason for our union. It was not really about sex, or a so-called ‘committed relationship’, or any of the things we might’ve preconceived to be our purpose in being together.
We met to learn from each other, and to develop kinship.
Each in our own ways, we needed to teach one another two critical elements: trust and acceptance.
Jane’s information to me has been consistent from the beginning; she made a request of me to help her build and understand trust. Even though I didn’t verbalize this to her, my request was similar in that I needed to know that I could be trusted by being my truest self.
This is an incredibly important distinction because it has meant that I have had to be brutally honest with myself. As a man, I am not an easy person to get to know or even understand. I often carry an imposing disposition, I am physically quite strong, and, have been told repeatedly over the course of my life that I am nice looking.
I have also been told that I have a big heart, and I genuinely care about people.
My mother has given me a tremendous amount of confidence, which, admittedly, I have sometimes conflated for control, ownership and competition. I say this because I have largely trained myself, in a survivalist sense, to use my wiles to get what I’ve needed in life, often at the expense of my own well-being.
And so it comes as no great surprise to me, or probably to you, the reader, that this runs at odds with the type of trust and acceptance I mentioned earlier.
The last time I stared into the belly of the Baojun (not the automobile company, the classic Chinese medicinal doctrine) I was actually in Europe, on business.
There, a group of us ‘changemakers’ had gathered at a nice countryside restaurant, a four-star, to discuss the terms for a new initiative to build a sustainable manufacturing ecosystem for the perfume industry.
We had splintered off into smaller cliques, eating southern French food and drinking good table wine as we expanded on all the ways we were going to change the world.
It was all very formal, albeit with intermittent pangs of laughter and good cheer.
And then I saw it.
It was right there, right in front of me.
A diplomat of high status, sitting directly across the table, gorging himself on the food and the wine. Almost as satirical as a Monty Python tragedy.
Mind you, he was not slovenly, or obese, or even slightly overweight.
He was just… gorging.
His wife, an attractive older woman, sat directly next to him, watching over him with a conciliatory look, rubbing his back, kissing the rear of his neck, occasionally whispering in his ear.
He paid no attention to her, made no effort to even acknowledge her.
She saw me watching them, and with a soft glance, pulled out a cigarette and walked over to the veranda.
She lit the cigarette, and holding her glance at me, straightened her posture. I could hear her one declarative thought, loud and clear.
“I’m done with this. I’m done with all of it.”
It is not important nor appropriate that I share the reasons that have led to Jane’s decision not to be in a romantic relationship with me or anyone else right now, other than to say that she has been through a lot in her life and is still going through a lot.
Frankly, it is no one else’s business.
But you can imagine that Jane is an archetype, a character, like many other women, and many other men, who have never been fully supported in their lives in terms of enabling their creativity, their dreams, their sacrifices, and their harder choices.
I have no control over Jane’s choices, nor do I want to. I cannot interfere in her chosen path. I have no right to.
What I can do, however, is provide her with the love, trust and support she needs from me.
What do I ‘get’ in return?
My sanity. My perspective. Some form of companionship. An opportunity to break from my own destructive patterns. Maybe many other things I cannot see in this moment.
That is also my challenge as a man, and a human being, who chooses to evolve.
And instead of this idea that something has ended, or that I, ‘we’, are experiencing a loss, quite the opposite is the case.
She is healing, in her own ways and at her own paces.
She is also opening up to me, more and more.
I consider it a privilege, an honor of sorts, that she trusts me to the extent that she can share things with me she doesn’t really share with other people, perhaps for the exception of her sister.
It is a gift.
And so I am arriving at my own clarity in this process, which is quite simply that I am learning to accept her for who she is and what she needs, and to accept myself for who I am what I actually need.
I also need time and space to heal.
Because, what is also true, is that my feelings for her and for the other important women in my life cannot be easily compartmentalized. I often wonder if they even should be.
Nevertheless, Jane and I truly love and trust each other, as human beings, unconditionally.
What we have as human beings is real, and it is ours.
As for the future, our friendship, our kinship, represents many possibilities, regardless of who we end up with or how.
But for now, this moment is quite powerful, and carries with it a beauty I have not seen or understood ever before.