Friday, Erica went to a client's office, spending the day there (as always, once a week). I went to the datacenter, where about 3 hours of work awaited me.

The datacenter trip was uneventful, except on the way home. Given the discussion about my relationship with Erica on Wednesday, I was feeling very introspective and pretty lonely about the whole mess.

Since I left my wife, I've been feeling a bit more willing to explore my own spirituality again. Until I left her, I'd gone the agnostic route, having neither time nor inclination to even think about it. These days, though, without a skeptical partner around to keep me "in line" and away from the spirituality stuff, I'm able to finally explore who I am, and what relationship, if any, I have with the universe.

I've been trying for the last two months to figure out if there's a God, and whether I've got (or should have) a relationship with it. Really, I knew pretty quickly that there's something bigger than I surrounding me (and all of us), but didn't know how to poke at it and get it to talk to me. I've tried talking to it, thinking to it, feeling for it, and even paying for it, and generally gotten very little back.

One exception to this happened a few weeks after I arrived here, when I discovered an entirely different level of consciousness within myself, where all the pain, misery, self-doubt, and confusion within my mind lived. It welled up and took control of my life and was the cause of all of my insecurities and self-confidence issues. Erica helped me find a sword within my soul to fight it with, and to our mutual astonishment, I actually picked it up and slashed away at the metaphorical beast, and emerged victorious.

These days, that monster lives on in much smaller form, rarely able to directly influence me, and it's weak now -- I know how to fight it, and it doesn't win anymore when it tries to take control of me. It grows smaller by the day, and I'm sure that very soon it will be vanquished entirely.

The rocky road my relationship with Erica has travelled lately hasn't helped with that particular monster's slaying. It gets to speak more these days as I wonder to myself what's going to happen, how things will work out, and so on.

So anyway, back to my drive on the way home from the datacenter. For the first time in my life, about half way home, God and a friend finally sat down with me for a long chat.

I don't like what they had to tell me -- despite that I've been the best I can be for Erica, and that I haven't done anything wrong in the relationship (I've been faithful, trusting, loving, etc.), it was time for me to step aside to let her develop the relationship she really wanted, with the person she really wanted to develop it with. Sadly, that person isn't me.

They went on talking; laying that one on me wasn't enough, it seems. Friday night I was also burdened with the knowledge that Erica's relationship with the other man won't work out either, and that she'll be subjected to significant pain and suffering (at his hands -- through words, distrust, and inaction, not violence or anything like that) before it ends. I was told I'd have to be the one to be strong for her, to help pick her back up and put her back together when she crumbles. I vowed I would do so.

I'm scared for her, because I don't want her to her hurt, but my guides Friday night told me she has to experience it herself to understand it and move on.

Friday night after all that conversation with thin air, I got home. Through a mild miscommunication, I didn't get her message that she was having dinner with the other guy. Many hours later than I had figured she'd be home, she called at around 3:00am to tell me she'd fallen asleep there at his place, and was on her way home. She arrived around 4:00am, and we talked about what I'd experienced.

It was strange to me that what she had to tell me from the evening's events so closely matched what I was told spiritually earlier on, even before I knew she wasn't coming straight home after work. We agreed together that I shouldn't sleep in her bed with her anymore, as she wants to give her ex-boyfriend more reason to trust her again.

We're still friends, and I still love her dearly. She hasn't thrown me out of her home or her life, and I don't expect her to ever do either one. I've seen into her heart and soul, since she's shared it openly with me, and because my feelings for her are strong enough that I can see it anyway, and I know that she's not the kind of person to do something that painful to me.

Today (Sunday), at her suggestion, I took my spiritual exploration a step further and went to a church. It wasn't a Catholic church, more an alternate to that; there's still a belief in God, but it's a more gentle belief. There's none of the "blasphemous sinner doomed to burn in hell" crap going on, and it seemed more a celebration than a "lecture". I even talked to a minister afterwards about things, and about how I could get God and friends to talk to me again (since they've been silent since Friday).

After the church trip, I wandered around San Jose and Santa Cruz in my convertible, just to have a long, hard conversation with myself. There's lots of injury, hurt, and pain from my marriage ending in January, and that whole relationship, and from losing my current relationship with Erica. My inner strength is at risk of being crushed by all this stuff going on around me, and it seemed like today was a good day to reach out to anyone who'd listen, anyone who'd help, and combine their strength with mine to pull myself back up again and stop from being crushed.

During my drive, I realized that God wasn't ever gone -- I had been upset that I couldn't get anything out of the spiritual world since Friday, even though I've been trying almost nonstop since then. It turned out he was there with me all the time, along with my spirit guide, waiting for me to realize it.

Another long talk ensued. I had yet another life-changing day today thanks to that ... I've realized a lot of things. And I'm going to write them here, so that I can have it better organized when Erica gets home tonight.

I'm stronger than I thought I was.
When things get bad, financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, it's easy to let myself slip down that slope and give up.

It's harder to stand tall, force myself to stay strong, and tackle every challenge intelligently and properly. Fortunately, I've discovered that "inner strength" I possess isn't a fluke, nor is it something that only shows up at random -- I really can summon it at will and use it to fight off the hopelessness, the confusion, and the fear. Those emotions aren't as strong as they once were, but they're still there, and I still have to fight more to get rid of them entirely.

An unfortunate side-effect of finding this strength is that it means, by necessity, things will change in my life that I don't necessarily want to change. It's a concept I've understood for a long time, that the very instant I finally, and completely, transform myself into someone who can stand on his own, those around me will decide they need to "let go" of me so I can actually do it.

That is, the minute I gain the ability to stand proud and alone, the world will expect me to do so. It will expect, nay, force me to be alone, to prove myself. Again.

I don't want to be alone.
I know now that I'll never truly be alone, because something spiritual stays within me even when I'm so scared, angry, or hurt that I can't see it. I understand that it's there, and I don't feel hollow anymore, even when no one human is around me.

Still, I have realized that human companionship is a critically important part of my life. I am able to find my own happiness and self-satisfaction, but it doesn't feel the same to me without someone around to share it with.

I'm here to share my life experience with someone else. I know my life has meaning on its own, without anyone else around, but I know that my purpose is to share it with someone else. I understand that unless I'm a strong, kind, and loving person, who is at peace with himself and loves who he is, it won't do any good to try to share myself with someone else. That's what I'm working on now, and I'm close to that, but it's still an issue.

The most important thing here, though, is I don't like the feeling of being alone. I don't like coming home to an empty apartment (or an empty house). I do not like knowing that once I settle in the evening in my home (wherever I live) that nobody else will be coming.

I want a family.
Tying right in with not wanting to be alone, I know that a family is very important to me as well. Of course I have my parents and relatives, but I refer to starting my own family. I want to start something greater than I am, of my own flesh and blood, and I want to share it with someone else (and obviously, biological requirements for reproduction mean I need to share this goal with someone else -- it's the one thing I can't do on my own).

I don't have to give up how I feel about Erica.
I discovered today why I've been so sad for the past two days. The obvious answer is that Erica and I ended our romantic relationship officially -- no more sleeping in her bed, no more kisses, sex, hugs, etc. That's enough to bring anyone to tears; anyone who knows Erica, anyway.

That isn't the actual answer though -- sure, that hurts, but my heart knows truly that it will eventually work out okay. I know her rekindled relationship with her now un-ex-boyfriend will ultimately fail, and that some day I will be given the chance I deserve to show her who I really am and what I can really be for her. I know I will still be there for her to help her through that, and I will give her my best.

What I was truly sad about was something else entirely. My mind reached the conclusion that in order to stop the pain of the relationship ending, I needed to stop loving her. I needed to force my heart to stop feeling what it wants to feel. Well, perhaps "need" is the wrong word.

Today I discovered I had a choice between two options: one, I could shut down my heart, shut out those emotions, and go cold on the inside again. Two, I could open it all up, let my heart love who it wants to love, and walk with it through whatever heartache those emotions cause.

The first choice is the one I made by default Friday. It's why I couldn't sleep, and why I've been so sad since Friday night. It hurts to think about going cold again. I love the feeling of loving someone. Though I don't like the negative emotions that come through, all the positive ones are worth it. I wept for the loss of my emotional self.

Most importantly, I wept at the thought of not loving Erica anymore.

The second option is one I hadn't thought of until today. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it's the only way I can be the strong, caring person she will need when she emerges from this new relationship ready to try something with me again. If I shut her out of my heart now, it won't be open to her when she's finally ready to try with me again. That would hurt her, and that's something I don't want.

So really, dealing with how I feel, and keeping it alive and well is the only option I really have. Anything else would hurt myself, and hurt her.

I still love her, and I will not act to change that. I will be a part of her life, in whatever capacity she eventually chooses she wants me. Whether that's as her husband, her lover, her roommate, her friend, or just her business associate, I will be what she needs me to be. The hardest thing you can ever do for someone you love is to let them go, and that is what I must do for her. I will do my best in whatever role she chooses for me in her life, and I will do it with the strength and courage my love for her gives me.

It was a very good moment for me today when I realized I didn't have to stop loving her, and in fact, that I shouldn't.

I understand the risk of how I feel. I know that things change, that even God can change his mind and decide that Erica and this other guy can work out after all. I will ask him daily not to change his mind on that, and to guide her back to me, but I realize that ultimately, it's in God's hands. That's part of why I'm at peace now with this decision to end the romantic relationship and to let her go try this other one -- it's because I'm willing to trust God with it. If it's right for me, he'll guide it back to me. If it's not right for me, he'll keep me out of it.

Either way, my devotion and committment to Erica will never falter and I swear this to everyone reading this entry, to God, and of course to Erica herself. If I never experience her sweet, gentle tenderness again as her lover, I will still be her friend if she wants me to be. If she does not want my friendship, I will still be a sound business partner for her professional life. If she ultimately wants me out of her life completely, I will gracefully bow out and give her what she wants. As I've told her on many occasions before, I won't ever just abandon her, no matter what happens, unless she asks me to go. Otherwise, only my death will ever stop me from being here for her.

It sounds like I'm doing all of this in my life just for her, but oddly enough, I'm doing it all for me. It is the single most self-satisfying decision I've ever made, and that I am actually able to commit to it makes me feel so strong I could take on the whole world. I know that feeling this way, believing these things, and making these decisions are what's best for me. It's just handy that it's also exactly what Erica needs.

She's not being completely honest with me.
That sounds like mistrust, doesn't it? It's not; read on. It also flies in the face of everything I've said above, but it remains true.

I have known since God's first chat with me Friday that Erica isn't telling me everything I deserve to know. I understand, though, why she is omitting certain things from our conversations.

She's scared. I know she's happy at this moment with the other man, but she knows it to be fleeting. I think they both feel the desperation to make something, anything, work out between them. The sooner they realize that they're just hurting each other, the sooner they can start healing themselves. She is afraid of that moment, just as she was afraid to start talking about dating him again with me -- because that meant telling me it was over between us. She's afraid of the moment when she has to tell him the same thing (or that he has to tell her).

She's intentionally keeping that part of her life away from me, partly because she's sure I'd just keep trying to turn it to my advantage and "change her mind", and partly because she's not sure how it all feels yet herself, and doesn't want to drag me through the pain of listening to her talking about the dates she has with him. I respect her for that, but I still hope she'll keep me in the loop. It may hurt a bit, but I still want to see her happiness.

Finally, she feels a debt to him. Things were not always rosy in her life, and she was not always kind to him. Because he's stood by her through all that (despite some rough spots), she feels he deserves another chance at it. He might, but that's a shaky way to resume a broken relationship. I haven't been in her life as long as he has, but I've stood by her through thick and thin, too. She's told me many times that she might not have made it through January and February without me around, and I'm proud to have been there for her when she needed it. She doesn't see it now, but he did abandon her after she hurt him the last time. He may well have said nice things to her after that argument, but he still exited her life, only to reappear weekly every time she got within a few miles of his home while she worked for clients.

All the same issues they faced before still exist now; she wrote about them at great length, and they haven't changed. His friends still don't like her, and, as he's written himself, will undoubtedly discourage him from dating her again. His mother still doesn't like her, because he still has nothing good or kind to say about her to his mother. His love for her still comes with a laundry list of "but..." bullet points. "I love you, despite ..." and "I love you, but only if...". That's not unconditional, and that's not love. All this stuff existed even before I came along and accidentally shoved a monkey wrench into their relationship. Now with that, added to his mistrust of her because I'm around and am not going anywhere, how will that possibly work out? They have pressure from all directions from the outside, from friends, family, and even God (indirectly, I suppose) saying "this isn't right, cut it out." They have pressure from within, too -- lots of doubts that right now they're stomping down and covering up because they don't want to deal with them head-on.

Corny as it sounds, I worry about her. When I come home and she's not here and there's no indication of where she's gone, I worry about her. I don't worry that she's "cheating" (and I didn't worry that she was doing that even when we were dating). I worry that she's making a mistake, and that she's going to hurt herself more as she pursues this. I worry about the more basic things too -- that something's happened to her (a car accident, a flat tire, a family emergency) that she may need help with or that she's injured.

I don't expect her to call me to say things like "Hey we're going out to a movie, then to dinner, then going to his place for some fuuu-uuun!" I do hope she'll share her feelings about the relationship with me -- if she ends up happy with it, I want to be there to watch it unfold and to see her happy.

That's a level of trust in me that she revoked, not because of anything I did, but because she isn't sure of things herself either. That trust is something I must earn back, even though I didn't "violate" any trust to lose it. It's just something that happens when you break up with somebody -- you don't share everything anymore. At least not automatically.

Update: this has already happened; she *is* telling me what's going on, and not keeping much (if anything) to herself. It's exactly the level of detail I was hoping for. I'm sure there's conversation and maybe even actions taking place that aren't my business, but this "issue" in general is gone; she's open and honest with me, and that means a lot to me. I'm leaving this section here anyway, because it's a glimpse into my mind she deserves to see. Sorry for seeming paranoid; that's not quite how it is, but I imagine that's how it looks.

I'm not giving up anything.
Right now things aren't so hot for me financially. There's trouble coming if things don't improve in that direction. But I'm not afraid of it.

I'm not going to stop trying to improve my finances. I'm going to give the new business venture all I have to give, and I'm going to make it work because there simply isn't any other viable option. As Erica likes to tell me frequently, "failure is not an option."

Friday night, I had nearly convinced myself that I would soon be leaving California. I had even packed a suitcase just in case she tossed me out on my ear that very night. I was convinced bankruptcy was in my future, and that I was going to end up living with my parents again in Colorado, a broken, destitute, and lonely man. I'd had the feeling that my conversation with God on Friday was a hurried one, that he didn't really want to have it with me yet because I wasn't ready for it, but that he had to intervene because I was driving myself down the wrong path. Obviously my packing a suitcase was proof he was right -- I wasn't quite ready to hear all that.

Today's discussion with him changed that for me. I owe it to myself to stay here, stick it out, and try my hardest with all of it. Erica. Work. Business. Finances. I want it all. All of it can turn into something incredible for me. Something special is coming for me, and I will meet it here, not in Colorado. I still firmly believe Erica will be a major part of it. Giving it up now means I don't get to experience whatever is coming for me. I can't give that up.

That Erica will be a part of it makes it all the better. I hope she's looking forward to seeing that success as much as I am.

I wish it were easier. Sometimes I wish I could switch off my feelings for her, without turning off my feelings entirely. I wish I could step back all the way out and let her go back to that other relationship without telling her what I think about it.

I'm not going to say I wish God hadn't told me what was to come. I'm glad he did, because it's made me stronger, and it's enabled me to take the next step in making myself and Erica ready for a proper relationship. Even if the two of us do not end up in the same "proper" relationship, learning to let go when it's not right for both of us is a mandatory step in the growing process.

Through all of this, I have become a better man. I'm going to keep growing, getting better, getting stronger, and Erica will have the pleasure of seeing that transformation, knowing she was a part of it. She still is, and as far as I'm concerned, she always will be.

There will never be walls around my heart that will stop her from seeing into it. I will always let her see everything.

It occurs to me that it's entirely possible that she is really hiding things from me on purpose, and that she's taking advantage of my feelings for her to get me to take care of things while she goes off to have some fun on her own (or with her boyfriend). It's entirely possible that all the words she's said to me were meaningless (that she will never remove me from her life, that she will fulfill her committments to me, that she still is committed to me, that she still loves me, etc.). In a month or two, she may well ask me to leave whether I'm ready or not, despite her promises not to. She may well give in to his ultimatum (he's already told her "get him out of your life, or you can forget about having me in your life", on a LiveJournal entry that the world can see), even though her core values won't let her right now. When it's down to potential husband versus friend, that choice is tough.

I don't think that's what's going to happen, though. Neither does God. For once, I actually have faith in that, and in myself to straighten everything else out in my life so that once she's ready for me, I'll finally be ready for her.

And even if she's never ready for me, I cannot begin to imagine just how strong, powerful, and incredible a person I will become as life goes on.

Sorry for such a lengthy rant; I may come back and revise this at some point, particularly if things change significantly between us and I still suggest to her that she read this entry. I do want her to read this as it is now, but I may want to remove or add more depending on what happens tonight. She's probably been gone most of the day like I have, and she's still not back yet. Clearly, they're getting started. I just hope they don't hurt each other again as badly as they did last time before realizing it shouldn't continue this time.

Update: I linked "Erica" just out of habit as I linked stuff; the user here on E2 by the name of Erica is not the same one I'm talking about here :)