Failure of Vision
Exercise: The Sands of Time
Intention: To end a relationship
Frequency: Twice a day (early morning and twilight) for up to three minutes, for seven days
Close your eyes. Breathe in and out three times and see yourself walking along a beach holding hands with the one with whom you are ending the relationship. The two of you are dancing, skipping, cavorting along the beach. Then you drop hands, say good-bye, and retrace your steps backwards thoroughly erasing everything that you see before you. Finally you reach the shoreline. The waves wash away all the residue of the relationship. You then swim to the horizon, using a regular crawl stroke, seeing your arms, legs, and torso elongating. Meet the horizon and come back to shore using a backstroke, your arms stretched out far above your head, your legs stretched far in front of you, kicking. When you reach the shore, come out and let the sun dry you. Put on a clean robe or gown and return to your home. Then open your eyes.
. . . and find yourself surrounded by your dusty floor that was sanded not by the person you are trying to break from, but your former husband, who did a lousy job, leaving cracks and splinters, and applying a polyurethane that never completely dried. You are wearing one of his old huge t-shirts—the one with the photo of Kafka on it, who, with his pointy ears and intense eyes, looks like a bat. You can recall the last time you were at a beach but can’t recall the last time you cavorted. Steve, the person you are visualizing ridding yourself of, is not someone who cavorts either. However, you can both swim. Even though it’s only six AM, you can hear your four-year-old, Ivan, beginning to pant in the next room. That means he’s getting hungry. But you are sick to death of your routine, which is Ivan’s lifeline. How on earth did you acquire a child who likes each moment of the day to be exactly the same, who will only eat the same foods prepared the same way at the same time? Instead of getting up to prepare Ivan’s toast and peanut butter, you lie there, the slightly curved end of your spine pressing into the floorboards, the small of your back much higher off the floor than it should be, and you recall the last time you heard from Steve, which was three weeks ago. He takes you to the beach in his two-tone brown Chevrolet that has cardboard in the back right window. Your son Ivan is with his father (he goes with his father, not regularly, but only when his dad has a whim) but Steve’s six-year-old, Nicholas, sits in the back seat of the car, not wearing his seatbelt. He’s tall for his age, but, unlike his father, fine-boned. In fact, he looks nothing like Steve, who is tall and burly, dark-skinned, with dark hair and a long, equine face. Steve looks, in fact, like your father. Every time Steve looks at Nicholas, with his small round face, buttercup blonde hair and small blue eyes, he recalls Nicholas’ mother Bebe, who hates Steve, and, according to Steve, has good reason, which is probably what you like about him. Still, according to Steve, Bebe can be quite the bitch.
Steve doesn’t say much, but you’re used to his silence and feel quite comfortable. Your father didn’t talk much either, though you weren’t comfortable with him—you always felt there was something you should say to keep him entertained—and it made you tense. But with Steve it doesn’t matter if you say anything—you keep him entertained in bed. Your father was (I’ll give him credit for this) immune to your teenaged attempts at seduction, preferring, incomprehensibly, your mother. Deborah Tannen writes that silence can be used as a weapon, frustrating efforts to communicate. You realize that your father used his silence that way with your mother, but not with you. Steve is in a bad mood. He seems angry at Nicholas, but he might really angry at Bebe. He doesn’t seem angry with you, and, while driving skillfully with one hand, he makes you feel special by using the other to hold your hand, which rests on in your lap, on your wraparound skirt. Trying not to get mixed up in Steve’s relationship with Nicholas, you say nothing, even though Steve’s behaving immaturely, and Nicholas’ face is red and swollen, as if he were crying, which he’s not, though clearly he is miserable.
On the beach, you unwrap your skirt, and you’re in your one-piece, black bathing suit. You rub sunscreen on your white, freckled arms and shoulders and thighs, and on Nicholas’ white body. You and they have been to the beach together a few times, and Steve is the only one who’s managed to work up a tan. The sunscreen smells sweet—like peaches and coconut—and reminds you of your childhood in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn. Somehow sand has already gotten mixed into the sunscreen, and you can feel yourself rubbing it into your skin. You’d like to remain in a reclining position on the hideous Thomas the Tank Engine towel (Ivan’s) you’ve brought, because your body looks best that way—reclining; but you think you should help Nicholas and Steve build a giant sand castle. As soon as you start to help, by letting damp sand run down through your fist to be shaped into parapets, Steve says, “I think I’ll take a swim.” You suspect that maybe he’s been taking you to the beach because he can’t cope with being alone with Nicholas, and you help him take care of the kid. You watch Steve gracefully enter the surf, his body still trim from the carpentry, the physical labor, he’s doing.
Your legs are asleep, and you, full of sand, are bored. Steve shakes his wet hair over you, and you gasp at the coldness of the water drops. He laughs the laugh you remember from years ago, when you were both kids in college. He looks at you with his head tilted, as he always does, because he has a problem with his eyes—his eyeballs seem to tremble. But his gaze is intense, loving. You feel like part of a family here—Steve, you, Nicholas. You forget that you have a hideous ex out there, and a kid of your own who’s seeing a therapist, and that Steve is only here in New York because he’s on probation for doing something like selling drugs or hitting Bebe, and that Nicholas also is seeing a therapist. “My jail psychologist told me I tested sociopathic,” Steve says.
He sits on your towel and begins to devour the chicken and honey mustard sandwiches you’ve made. “Bebe is marrying a lawyer in Denver—an ugly toad,” he says. “Is that what’s bothering you?” you ask. “Nothing’s bothering me,” he says, chewing. Drops from his hair drip into the sand, creating tiny little sand balls. “She’s doing it for money and security,” he says. You say nothing, happy to be taken into his confidence. This is Steve, opening up. “Are you jealous?” you ask. “No,” Steve laughs. “I hate her so much.” “Your hatred is ruining your life,” you say. “Maybe you should try these visualization exercises to get rid of your hatred.” You are doing visualization exercises, at that time, not in order to stop thinking about Steve, but in order to get money. The exercises are not exactly visualizations—they’re supposed to be self-hypnosis, and the man who speaks extremely slowly on the tape tells you to imagine yourself in the sun, on a beach letting old hatreds, negative attachments, and envy leak out of you, while sunshine and golden relaxation begin to fill the void. “You deserve wealth,” the man on the tape tells you. You are beginning to feel that you actually do deserve wealth. “I hate her so much that if she were here I’d drown her,” says Steve.
Meanwhile, you feel yourself beginning to envy Bebe. She has Steve so much in love with her that he hates her. He thinks about her endlessly. He takes care of his son so she can go to law school. And she’s going to marry an ugly lawyer for money and security. You find yourself wishing that Steve hated you as much as he hates Bebe.
Exercise: Parting and Departing
Intention: To end a relationship
Frequency: Each morning for three to five minutes, for seven days
Close your eyes. Breathe in and out three times and see yourself on a beach. The one with whom you wish to end the relationship is lying there. You have with you golden ropes with lead weights at the ends. With these you truss up your “friend.” Nearby in a large rowboat, put your “friend” in the boat and row out to the Marianas Trench off the Philippines, one of the deepest spots in the world. Stand up in the boat and lift your “friend’s” trussed-up body, and toss it overboard, knowing that you are ridding yourself of that person. Watch the body disappear as it sinks, leaving a small whirlpool behind it. Know that it is going to the bottom, never to surface. After it has sunk out of sight, sit down in the boat and row back to shore with a new sense of yourself. When you reach the shore, stow the oars and beach the boat. Return to your home alone. Then open your eyes.
. . . and realize what you’ve done. Panting like an animal, you quickly run back to the beach, realizing that this is like one of your nightmares—you’ve left someone, usually Ivan, somewhere, completely forgetting about him, and then you rush around in a panic, searching unsuccessfully for your poor defenseless baby, imagining all sorts of horrors. You get back into the rowboat and row as quickly as you can to the spot where you dumped Steve’s body. The only sound in the deep night is the gentle splash of your oars, breaking the surface of the water. You wonder whether this is simply another of your nightmares, but luckily Steve’s landed on a sandbar just a couple feet underwater, and you pry him up with one of your oars, and pull him, limp and gasping, into the rowboat. “I’m so sorry,” you say. “Forget it,” he says, between gasps. But he looks at you sideways with an expression of fear, vulnerability, spite, and rage that threatens to evolve into a taunting smile. His arms are still tied behind him by the golden chains, but you can see that his carpenter’s jumpsuit is puffed out down below by his hard-on. You suspected this about him—that he loves being tortured. After pulling your oars in, you slowly remove your clothing and stand in front of him, naked in the moonlight. He can’t grab you, can’t even move. He’s powerless. You kneel over him, and pull the top of his jumpsuit up over his round, muscular, hairless shoulders, which you bite and kiss, tasting the salt of the water. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” you say, loving the fact that he’s tied up and powerless, but it’s you who’s surrendering.
[Exercises from Healing Visualizations: Creating Health Through Imagery, by Gerald Epstein]