Wax On, Wax Off: Rejection and the Past

Q. What do you do when you initiate sex with your partner and they’re not in the mood? And when they turn you down, it makes you feel small, mostly due to jackasses before (even though your partner is super cute and nice and kind)? Not that I have any experience with this.

A. My sweets, I hope you like movies. I really do. All I can think of when reading over your question is the power of movies. Think about it. Here are these living time capsules, semi-artistic moments captured in a certain time, hoping to convey a story. It’s like that line from Her: “The past is just a story we tell ourselves.”

Funny isn’t it?

Maybe that’s why we have such a vested interest in movies. They are a bit like attainable bits of the past, flitting into our lives, able for us to grab and take hold of, even if only for an hour and thirty minutes, at a safe distance, but also personal enough to let us revisit certain feelings, thoughts, places we used to be. Quite honestly, movies seem like the best way for us to actually deal with our pasts: held lightly, used when needed, let go when not.

You know what I mean, don’t you, my sweet?

I would hope you do, as you look at your partner who is super cute and nice and kind, especially as you feel that slight twinge of rejection and think of such a way to hold onto your own past. Certainly even with jackasses before (and we have all had our jackasses) you know that your partner is not a jackass, and what is happening here is the mathematical formula of feeling vulnerable in your love. Want to see that formula?

Here is my heart + something sensitive – not the exact reaction I wanted (from the person I care deeeply about) = oh god, cling to the past for signs of it repeating

You see, the past is what we know. Or knew. It’s also just a story we tell ourselves, however we need to tell it at the time. Not in a way that discounts us or our experiences, but in a way that sometimes helps us move on or in a way that sometimes gives us something to fear, to feel badly over. But also the past is a nasty little fairy tale, a foreboding story we need to tell ourselves over and over. It’s like we are comforted by the bad ending and if not comforted, then always expecting it. If we expect our lovely hero, that Goldilocks-Red Riding Hood-whoever-you-choose person to live out the same narrative each time, all based on what happened in that previous story, it doesn’t matter that the story isn’t the same or there are new characters, or instead of the woods, you’re in grandma’s house, something or the other. All that matters is you are telling yourself the same story that has the same outcome.

Now how is that fair for the brand-new present thing you have yet to experience? Or the brand-new person who isn’t from your past? Really, how is it fair for you, if you keep living out the worst story ever told by yourself?

Back to the movies. Have you ever seen The Karate Kid? You know, that ’80s movie about a sassy young thing who is displaced and alone, yet finds comfort with something that speaks to him and goes to train with that old guy, soon charting the progress of his karate mastery?

Remember “Wax on, wax off?”

That’s what our lives are like, my sweets. Life goes on, life goes off, one thing happens, another does too. It feeds each other. We go through these experiences which seem like nothing but shit — all shit, I tell you. But instead of carrying them on into the next phase in the ways we need them, we carry the experience itself. We carry what we think will happen, because it happened before. Wax on, always.

Why not just let it go? Look in your partner’s eyes. Tell me, is your partner the jackass you were with before? Is this the same person, same time, same place when all the hurt happened? Are you the same person, in the same place, with all the same crap ? No. You are a brand new person, in a brand new place, with another brand new person.

Why are you carrying the experience from before and not just what you learned?

Why is the wax always on?

When will you wax off?

It ain’t easy, sweets. We do tell the same stories over and over, mostly because we know them. It’s hard for us to get through a story we might not know, to deal with the anticipation, the anxiety, the unknown. But why is it that this story is so much more enticing than the one we do not know just yet? Why do we want the story of the past repeating? We don’t — we really don’t. We just take comfort and security in what it is we know. We take comfort in what we know, so we can be one step ahead of the game.

Can’t be like that.

So wax on, wax off, my love. Wax on when needed, when you think the story of your life requires a flash from the past, and wax off for the rest. You’ve already lived that story once. Try living a new one once again.


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