Change the Way You Feel

Change the way you feel.

These are the words that woke me from a dream, words that I slept-talked from a dream that had seared its way into my subconscious, that I’d gotten from Tara Brach’s meditation talk last night about how neurons that fire together wire together, that we were designed to focus on the negative, to have a fight or flight response for survival, but that we can create new neural pathways in our brains (neuroplasticity) to focus more on the positive, on gratitude, on compassion, on love. And to have all of these feelings for ourselves too, first and foremost.

I had a revelation: my life is pretty friggin fantastic today.

Gratitude is the antidote for jealousy. Jealousy–that ugly feeling that there’s a limited pool of opportunity unavailable to me when it lands in the laps of others–it’s is a useless feeling.

It’s my perception of what others have that creates the jealousy; not the truth of the situation. The truth is that I would feel trapped if I were in Johanna’s shoes. She doesn’t make enough money to go anywhere else, she can’t live alone, she has five pets who would have nowhere to go, she’s done nothing with her master’s degree, and she depends on Jay for all of her needs. The biggest “need” (or want) she has—or that I have, really, because I have no idea what she wants–is for someone to take care of me, to have an emotional connection with one person who is my everything. How unreasonable of a demand is that? I want a partner who I share friends with, who entertains me, who supports me financially. And I can have all of that. But at what cost? Her entire sober life has been built around him, as far as I can tell. They started dating when she was new in sobriety about seven years ago, and now she lives in his house, they have the same circle of friends, he supports her, takes care of her dogs, bought her a motorcycle, provides her with entertainment. The one thing he cannot give her is the only thing she needs—or rather, without it I could not have a real relationship–and that is an emotional connection. None of that other shit matters without an emotional connection.

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I have forged my own way through a series of mishaps, bumbling into one mistake after another, distanced myself from my original group, only to float around to other groups and not feel a part of them either. Then I moved back here where I started, this time without the non-AA husband, and instead became entangled with this dude, “Mr. AA” (yeah, right), who’s been around for 27 years, lived in this area for 57, who knows everyone, who’s viewed as the meditation master, and it’s all bullshit.

People like to hang out with him is because he has a boat and can take everyone out on it, and he has skis and tubes and he can provide entertainment for everyone. He’s a nice guy, so that’s not to say people only want to be his friend because of his boat. And he’s not the king of spiritual living just because he has 27 years of sobriety and meditates every day. He’s just a guy, and there are tons of those out there. If I want a boat to entertain my friends on, I can go get one. (Okay, so maybe I’m too poor right now but I am sure I could find one somehow, or borrow the money and add to my debt.) But who wants to deal with the upkeep and financial burden? A friend of mine said the two happiest days of your life are the day you buy your boat and the day you sell your boat.

By the way, this is not to say that no one else has forged their own way through a series of mishaps. I mean, we’re all doing that, aren’t we? Isn’t that just life? And it’s not to say that my perception of their relationship is what’s really going on. Maybe she’s not dependent on him, maybe he offers her emotional support, maybe she really loves him and does not feel trapped by the life they’ve built together, that appears to me to be the life he built for her, but maybe she built her own life. But here’s the thing: it does not matter. What matters is that I be real about how I’d feel if I were in her place, the situation I’m so jealous of. If I truly got all that I thought I wanted, I can guarantee you I’d find something wrong with it. I’d beat myself up for not having done it myself. Honestly, that’s the one thing I’m most proud of. I am my own person. And let me tell you: I did not get here because life was one big carefree, breezy path with no pain. I got here for exactly the opposite reasons.

My friend Kathleen suggested that four of us, without Jay or our crazy friend–the one who had an episode, stole a car, sent disturbing texts to all of us, who needs help we cannot give him outside of being his friend–Kathleen suggested that the four of us get together for a game of cards. She’s dying to play Euchre, and she enjoys our company–she enjoys my company. Personally, I like the four of us better than the six of us myself. Mike is the funny one, Spencer and I have become good friends in the past few months, and Kathleen is fun and sweet. Jim’s another story. My heart goes out to him but I can’t help him. Plus he’s in love with me, and Kathleen thinks he might be a stalker. I think he’s harmless but one can never be too careful. Anyway, there are others in the extended group who hang out with us, who are fairly new to the group, women who are my friends. Now that I think of it, I think I’ll reach out to them more.

This is my life. I have my own friends. Who cares what Jay and Johanna are doing? Who cares if they’ve been in this group for years with deep roots and established connections? I’m in the process of making my own connections, and having fun while doing it. These friends really like me too, if I do say so myself. We all make each other laugh and have fun together. If I get pushed out of the group it will only be because I distanced myself, not because no one wants to be my friend. And honestly? Jay and Johanna are nice people, but in my opinion they’re boring. A boat is fun, but I got personality, my friends. Which means I am judging them as boring people with no personality, and obviously their friends don’t feel that way, which is good for them. But that’s my opinion, and this is my life. They have their lives, and I have mine. I don’t need to worry about theirs. Fuck this whole jealousy thing.

And one more thing is this: if I were in Johanna’s shoes right now, I’d feel incredibly isolated and alone, stuck in a rut. I’d have been friends with all these people for years who might be great but who aren’t fresh and new anymore, and some of whom have moved away, others who I may not even feel that close to, and/or who I’ve had conflicts with, and I’d be thinking, Is this all there is? Even worse is that some other younger woman (only by two years but I look even younger than that), who’s more attractive than her, who’s well-liked by everyone in the group, who’s working on her own master’s degree for an interesting career she’s interested in, that will pay well and be rewarding (we hope all these things are true), slept with her partner of seven years. You think I would feel secure in my relationship and go running back to the dude if that happened to me? Hell no. In that light I feel compassion for her. In most lights, I feel compassion for her. She’s a nice person, though I’d understand if she’s not too nice to me in the future. But they were broken up for eight months, and she had moved out at one point (that had fallen through because the couple whose basement she was living in decided split, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t fall through again for related reasons, because she was going to move back into the same place in September where she’d lived before).

My therapist suggested that it’s possible that this one-eighty happened because Johanna has nowhere else to go. Before I left for North Carolina Jay told me that Johanna was due to move out at the end of the month, and a few days later when I returned, Jay told me that they’d decided to get back together, that it was totally unexpected, but they were going to try to make it work. My response? Oh, good for you. That’s good for you. Y’all have been together for a long time. You’re very lucky. He replied, Are you sure? I said, Well of course I’m bummed but what choice do I have? He said, Yeah I didn’t think you’d be all broken up about it.

I cried for the next few days as though Steven and I had just had a conflict–not like we’d broken up because that was devastating–but I just felt sad. And it was embarrassing because I wasn’t in love with Jay. Friends would remind me, You weren’t that into him. It didn’t matter. No one likes to be rejected. I mean, how dare he break up with me? It bruised my ego.

I don’t need to hide or disappear from my group of friends just because I feel rejected by one guy.

Blessings and prayers to those suffering from the damage caused by Harvey. To learn where to donate, how to avoid donation scams, and links to animal shelters for how to help animals (who couldn’t just get into a car and evacuate), the New York Times and NPR have some articles posted online. Please send money if you can afford it, even if it’s a just a few dollars.

I’ll leave you with this song by Robyn and Royksopp that I find inspiring. My interpretation is that it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. I got my own thing going. My favorite line is this: “Play some kind of new sound / Something true and sincere.”

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The F Bomb Post on Growth Through Grief and Heartache

My friend’s dad died last night.

He’d been living in a nursing home, or “assisted living,” as we call it these days, for a while now, and suddenly in the past couple of days he took a turn for the worse. He was barely conscious, barely breathing. Spencer saw him Sunday afternoon and he slept the whole time, but all seemed okay. But when his brother got there yesterday their dad still had not woken up, and when we saw him yesterday he already looked like a corpse, with his mouth is hanging open and his eyes half open. He was unresponsive. He hadn’t eaten in five days, and looked like a skeleton lying there with an oxygen tube across his nose. It was a shock for Spencer to see.

If a person decides they don’t want feeding tubes or IV fluids once the dying process has started, they basically die of thirst. Eventually one or more of their organs fails and that’s it. It can take up to 10 days, maybe even two weeks. This LA Times article describes this process as painless, and the experiences the medical professionals describe seem plausible. Who can really know unless they’re going through it themselves, and if you’re going through this, your body is unresponsive and you’re not talking, so you can’t exactly tell people how you feel. I often wondered how much my mom could comprehend when she lay unconscious in the hospital, hooked up to a ventilator that was breathing for her. Was she in pain? Nevertheless, this article certainly made me feel better; prior to this, I felt uneasy thinking of how we basically let people starve to death. Turns out maybe it’s one of the most peaceful ways to go. This article from pbs.org explains the various life support options for those who are at the end stages of life.

As emaciated as Spencer’s father looked, I knew he probably wouldn’t make it another day. And sure enough he passed last night around 2:30. It comforts me to know that this was (most likely/God I hope) a peaceful process. It was an honor to go with Spencer to see his dad, to be a part of that, and I had a chance to spend a few minutes alone with him, which may sound weird but it was something I wanted to do. Here was a man who was dying, at the end stages of his life, about to pass into the next one, or wherever it is that we go after this. While it may sound morbid, I consider it a privilege to be able to sit with someone going through this process, to get an opportunity to comfort them. I told him what I’d want to hear if I were in his place, which was that he’d be home soon, and it was okay to let go, that he’d had a good life, he’d been a good man and a good father, that he was loved. Our friend Mike had met him before and had said he was a sweet man, and he looked like a sweet man. Spencer told me he’d always done the right thing, he’d been a dutiful man. I held his hand and kissed his forehead, stroked his hair, put my head on his chest—lightly, because he looked so frail. These were all the things I did to my mom, that we all did to my mom, and we told her how pretty she was, we kissed her cheek and her hands. We warmed her feet with our hands, and cooled her arms with our chilly hands. Maybe it all sounds weird, but no one cared. At that point I was beyond caring what I looked like to anyone, or how uncomfortable anyone else may be. They could just get over it.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with death. It’s not for me to judge. I have no idea how I’ll be when my dad dies.

Spencer’s mother died a couple of years ago. She’d been living in a nursing home and had been given two weeks to live, so she was transferred to hospice. Two days later she died in the middle of the night, and when the hospital called Spencer and his dad, no one answered because they were asleep. They didn’t get the message until the morning, but by that time the hospice had transferred her body to the morgue, and they couldn’t go see her.

How is that even legal? How can someone think that’s okay?

When my mom was laying in the hospital bed there in the trauma unit with a ventilator breathing for her, I did not want to leave her side. I’d been up all night, first to wait for Steven to come get me to drive me down there, then in the nine-hour drive to make it there. It was the longest night of my life. I was so distraught, and everyone in my house was asleep or gone. Of course, the first thing I’d done was check flights to get to North Carolina from Maryland, but by the time I’d get there on a plane I could’ve driven there. I was so full of anxiety and confusion I couldn’t think straight, and my right eye was extremely dry from some bizarre eye infection that I only had then and never again. Even my tears couldn’t keep my eye from feeling like sand, and I had to keep it closed. If it hadn’t been for that eye, I’d have probably driven myself down there. So I just sat in my room vacillating between crying and staring into space. It had taken forever to get Steven to wake up and pick up his phone because he’d recently had back surgery and had taken some pain pills to sleep. And I really, really wanted Steven to be there with me. I did not want to be alone. I thought he was my soulmate, and that we’d be together forever. If I’d known we’d break up a few months later, I’d have just gotten a flight. But at the time I wanted Steven’s love and comfort, which he gave to me, all week, and for weeks and even months after, at least until Thanksgiving, when I think he just got tired of my depression, and thought that it was time I was there for him, to visit his dad in the nursing home with him. He needed something from me that I just did not have to give at that time.

It was hard to be grateful for him being there for me until now, given that he left me a few months later, because at first my memories of my mom’s death were tied up in my memories of Steven with me. How pissed off I was for such a long time that he had the privilege of being there with my family and my mom as she took her last breath. But now, as I’m typing these words, I’m realizing that I often don’t think of him when I think of that week, of her dying—not in a negative way, anyway. I absolutely do think of how heartbroken I was New Year’s and for months after we broke up, and how sad about it that I still am some days. It sounds cliché but how could something that felt so right be so wrong? I’m pretty sure that’s a song.

If everything happens for a reason, maybe the reason I had him was to help me during that time, because he did a lot for me during that week of trauma for me, and for my family. And for months after, until the Thanksgiving incident. His presence alone was comforting. He knew how to say the right words. He gave sweet hugs. He drove me down there and back, and it’s not a short trip. In fact, he drove twice, because he had to go back to work during the week.

But I am so tired of writing about that anymore, and even more tired of thinking about it. I imagine y’all are tired of reading about it. But everyone has their thing, and I guess this just has to be my thing, for a while anyway. This thing has just been going on too long, that’s for sure. Because you think you’re over it, and you have to wonder why you spend more time ruminating over your broken heart than the loss of your mother, the one who brought you into this world. And by you, I mean I. Until someone comes along with a promise to distract you from your broken heart, with all kinds of fun things to do, and a whole set of friends to go with it, who all make you laugh. Deep, belly laughs. And then that same person turns around and says, Nevermind. I’m going back to my ex, who I’ve given everything you wanted from your ex, and I’m doing everything you wanted your ex to do for you, except I’m doing it for my ex and not you.

In the midst of all of my self-pity yesterday, it occurred to me that now is my opportunity to look at this differently. This is the hardest time to exercise this practice, but it’s also the most important, the most effective.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Jay was enamored with me, and gave me the world. There’s one thing he can’t give anyone, and that’s the emotional connection so crucial to relationships. He’s conflict-avoidant, and tells lies to avoid hurting people’s feelings. It takes one to know one, and now I can see how infuriating this approach is. Just tell us our numerous group texts are annoying instead of waiting until someone asks and then giving a lame excuse that the phone hurts your eyes. You stare at your phone the entire time we’re at the diner so don’t pretend the phone hurts your eyes. We’d all much rather you say, Hey I don’t need 55 texts when I’m trying to work. Then we could all have a good laugh and leave you alone. His lack of honesty and emotional connection would never work for me. I’m tired of living my life that way, and I sure as hell don’t want to invite someone else into my life who hasn’t figured that one out yet.

Let’s also pretend that Steven came back to me today. He showed up on my doorstep and said, I’m sorry. Let’s get married. What would change? Nothing. He’d shut me out during his depressive episodes. He’d become angry and resentful when I didn’t provide the response he wanted for whatever situation that may arise. He’d complain about how wrong the world had treated him, how stupid his co-workers were, what assholes his brothers and parents were, how annoying his ex-wife was.

I don’t need that in my life.

Hopefully for his sake he’s found help. Who knows. People can change. He’s only behaving exactly the way I used to behave, and still can sometimes—let’s be real. Isn’t everyone like that at times? But it’s not up to me to try to make someone else be different.

Now is my opportunity to look at reality. This is what has happened. This happens to everyone at some point. Steven is not coming back to me. My mom will not come back to life. Jay is not interested in me. He’s going back to his ex.

The question now is, How am I going to deal with it?

Jay and his ex are just going back to something that did not work. She gets her life back: a home, her friends, someone to care for her dogs and cats… and a man who will most likely never be emotionally available. Steven has to live his life with an emotional disorder that makes relationships even harder for him than everyone else, plus he has to deal with the depression, anxiety, and possible delusions that arise, as we’ve seen with our friend Jim who went nuts this past week and stole a car. Jim clearly has his own issues, and is lucky to have a place to live that’s not jail, and Spencer has to deal with his father’s death right now. Jay has to live his life not understanding why or how to connect to people.

So life could be much worse for me today.

Right now I’m doing the hard work. I’m getting through school, working. Going to meetings, talking to my friends, writing, praying. Getting through it. One foot in front of the other, and it gets easier every day. Some days are harder than others, like this distraction with Jay, who may be a wonderful person but who sure as hell is not worth what precious time I have in this world, time that can be spent on loving and being loved by others who are willing and able to share their love with me. I have a lot to offer, and if he and Steven can’t see that, there’s nothing I can do about it. Someone else out there can and will, but when they do, I’ll get to re-learn that that won’t save me either. The only thing that can save me is faith. Call it faith that things will work out, if you want; I call it faith in God. And knowing I can have an attitude of kindness and helpfulness when I go in to work today, and I can be there for my friends. There’s so much to be grateful for. Why waste what little time I have on this earth pining over men who clearly don’t give a fuck about me? I am worth much more than that. I have friends and family who love me, and who I love. I have a friend grieving the loss of his dad, and I get the opportunity to be there for him. What more can I ask for? That’s what life is all about. Being there for each other.

And I also have the chance to build a life for myself, which I am doing. Right now. On my own.

How empowering is that?

Let me tell you: it’s pretty fucking empowering.

I have a lot of love in my heart right now, and no way am I keeping it to myself. You get more of it by giving it away. And so that’s what I’ll do at work today, and afterwards at the diner with my friends, and eff Jay if he feels uncomfortable or doesn’t go because I’m there. I can be kind to him but I sure as hell don’t need him in my life, as my boyfriend. So there.

My favorite part of this song starts around 3:15, and ends with these lyrics (written by someone in the Evangenitals, not sure exactly who–maybe Juli Crockett?):

Fuck em when they tell you that you gotta go to work
Fuck em when they tell you that you’ll always be a jerk
Fuck em when they tell you you don’t make enough money
Fuck em when they tell you that your jokes aren’t funny
Fuck em when they tell you that you gotta get a girl
Fuck em when they tell you that you’ll never see the world
Fuck em when they tell you that you don’t know shit
Fuck em when they tell you that you’re never gonna get it

What I like about this song is that it expresses a determination to prove the naysayers wrong. Those naysayers could easily be the negative voice in my head that tells me I won’t make it. But guess what? I’m going to make it. I am making it.

And you can too.

Love and peace,
TCH

PS: My apologies to anyone who doesn’t like gratuitous f-bombs. I think of my niece and nephew when I write this. Who are actually probably dropping f-bombs all over the place themselves right now. But I have decided, fuck it. These are the words that express my emotions in this moment.

Twerkin, Butt Graves, and Getting Right With God

Jay left me for his ex-girlfriend. If you could call what we had a relationship. Nevertheless, it hurts. The old me would’ve felt sorry for myself, wondered when do I get my piece of the pie, when do I get a man who’s done what he’s done for her: he gave her a home, rent-free, took care of her dogs, built a life for her. He gave her everything but his emotions, which he can’t give anyone, and so she left him. But now, for whatever reason, she has decided she wants him back. It’s coincided with the time she was supposed to be moving out a second time, and she had a hell of a time finding anything in the first place, eight months after their break-up.

I’ll be honest: the old me is still here.

None of that really matters, all the stuff about why she left or came back, except that I often wonder what makes people tick, and what changed for her. Did she really love him and want to make it work? Or did she settle, telling herself she’d accept him for who he is, because she’s poor and has no place to go, no job that pays well enough, and no way of keeping her dogs without him.

I cried. A lot.

All I kept thinking was, Why? Why did Steven leave me. Why did I have to say those words that hurt his feelings so badly. Why did that have to happen that way. Why could he not be there for me when I needed him, when I was grieving the loss of my mother.

Because this is not about Jay. If Jay was a choice, I might have taken him, even as an emotionally unavailable partner (even though I found him hard to love because of that, but remember: I’m codependent and extremely adaptable), if I believed he loved me. But he told me from the start that he was unavailable, just a distraction, that he didn’t want to get married or live with anyone, and I believed him and decided I felt the same.  Sort of. Steven had told me that too, and I’d hoped he’d change, though I became willing to live apart as long as he could commit to me emotionally, which he could not do.

The new me is trying to break free from the prison I’ve lived in. Feeling sorry for myself because I’ve worked my ass off my entire adult life with no sugar daddy or parents to bail me out of whatever bad financial decision (a master’s degree in creative writing, anyone?) I’ve made, no one to give me a car, or a motorcycle, or my own house, to walk my dog when I had one, to take me out boating. I opened my heart to someone who couldn’t commit to me, and then I opened my legs for someone who wouldn’t commit.

The old me says, Eff them all. Figuratively speaking. This heart stays closed, and no one’s getting sex from me, ever. Celibacy is what this woman right here is all about right now. I can’t WAIT for menopause. I am so DONE with men. And I ain’t interested in women either.

The new me knows this is not the answer, but I sure as hell don’t know what the answer is. I know that I’m building a life for myself. But it’s fucking painful.

Meanwhile one of my friends went nuts, stole a truck, got thrown in jail, then to the looney bin thanks to his bipolar disorder, a relative who’s a cop, and a new county ordinance in which mentally ill people get put in psych wards for rehabilitation instead of jails where they just learn to become violent criminals. This particular friend was a member of my group of friends who I was having so much fun with until Jay decided to spit on the heart that Steven had ripped out of me. We’ll call him Jim. Jim started sending bizarre group texts that only I seemed to understand because I speak the language of crazy. Here’s what the first text said:

“Commander C: what is it with your default morbid reflections grotesquely Southern twerkin’ butt positions aerial reconnaissance photography? I command that thou’st, after 3 or 4 or 5 mea culpas, watch Harold and Maude 16 times in reverse. And remember: I’m much better looking than Maude. And unlike Harold I have tried to hang myself at High Noon only 19 Johnny Unitas times. Or maybe we should kill them all. Report back before midnight or I’ll commit you to Section 8 with me forever. PS: did you know that Hemingway his own self was a spy himself in some previous war or another? Unlike the us he didn’t have a problem with evil. He just hated Fascists, whoever those sorrybastards might be. Again the midnight oil burns bright in Washington, Land of the Free. Amen.”

Let me translate for you, my dear readers.

Commander C is his nickname for me.

I’d taken this photo at Harper’s Ferry and sent to the group a week or so earlier, with this caption: “Here lies Butt.” My inner 12-year-old found it hilarious. My apologies to anyone out there with the last name “Butt.” If it makes you feel any better, people make fun of my last name too. A lot of jokes are and have been made with my last name: Honeycutt. Honeybutt. Honeyslut. Honeycunt.

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A month or so ago, Mike told us about how he’d gone to the restaurant we frequented one night and much to his horror, people were twerking to some loud music that was playing in our normally quiet and sleepy Mexican restaurant, where the loudest noise came from our laughter.

Harold and Maude is a cult film about a young guy who falls in love with an elderly woman and tries to commit suicide several times over her.

For my international readers: Section 8 is the “Housing Choice Voucher Program” in which private landlords rent decent homes to poor people at a lower cost. It’s not easy to get. I’ve tried. In the counties surrounding the DC area, you get put on a waiting list and then you hear nothing unless your name gets drawn from the lottery. My name never got picked so I don’t know what happens then, ie, if you get the place you wanted or a place that was chosen for you.

The rest of Jim’s text is irrelevant. But here was my response:

“I’m not sure what you’re trying to say there but I try to take people at face value and to communicate the same myself. I hope you won’t try to commit suicide a 20th time, I won’t be killing anyone–on purpose and hopefully not by accident–and my plan is to buy my own tiny house. And I’ve already seen Harold and Maude. Your text would make a good short story or film. To answer your questions about Butt graves and twerking: I thought it was funny, and Mike brought up twerking at Villa Maya.”

In short, I won’t be participating in or encouraging homicide or suicide in any way shape or form, no matter how casual the reference, nor will I be moving into any kind of housing with anyone else, certainly not Jim.

Soon after Jim called me from the psych ward and told me his roommate had given him Devil’s Claw, an herbal supplement for pain relief, and it put him into a manic state, after which he stole a truck and wound up in jail and then the hospital. Somehow he managed to get out of the hospital and has since been sending dozens of bizarre group texts that I haven’t responded to. I spoke to his brother who told me he’d told him that we were in a relationship and had gone for coffee together, both of which are untrue, and I’d told Jim before that I was seeing someone. His brother told me he has bipolar disorder and has done this before and they’re just glad he’s safe and he’s sorry Jim bothered me. What I want to know is why the psychiatrist thought it was okay to let Jim out, and how it is that he’d committed a felony and isn’t in jail.

Regardless it gives me a good reason not to hang out with the group anymore. No one needs to know about my brief saga with Jay, and I can and will make friends elsewhere. I’ll miss these particular friends—though not Jim because now I’m freaked out by him—but the rest of them were fun and I had a good summer. I’ll probably spend more time with other women and focus on my sobriety, spirituality, and school, and let these other women deal with these asshole men who don’t deserve my time.

My time with my family this week was surprisingly wonderful, and I’m grateful to have had that time with them. I had a good day on the eclipse, which marked one year since the day my beloved beautiful mother died. More on all of that later.

I’m off to work now, and I’m grateful to be working with my boss-friend who I love, and who’s going to the Tiny House Expo with me in October. We both have a dream. And it will come true one day.

I’ll leave you with a common theme you see along the roadsides in the South. Can I get a amen?

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The Eye of God

This time a year ago I would’ve been sitting in my room, writing, oblivious to what would unfold 12 hours later, when my sister would call me at work to tell me that our mother had had a stroke and that the outcome did not look good. That was the worst day of my life.

Today I’m driving back to North Carolina again, this time to visit my stepdad, my sister, my best friend, and then tomorrow to South Carolina to visit my dad and his wife. Tomorrow we’ll look at the eclipse, a once-in-a-lifetime, awe-inspiring event. I think it’s so cool that tomorrow is the anniversary of mom’s death. I read in this article in which an eclipse enthusiast, Rick Brown, describes the solar eclipse as the “eye of God.”

Yesterday I came across this article that was in my school’s newsletter from tinybuddha.com. A good reminder to have gratitude. The negativity I sometimes find  engulfed in does not serve me, or anyone else. It just sets in my brain and keeps me down. What I like about this article is the idea of taking something that bothers me, and seeing the positives of it. Even if my job doesn’t pay much, I’m good at it, and I like my job, which is more than I can say for 99% all my other jobs. When I feel alone, I must remember that I have family and friends who love me, and who I love. Last night I got to hang out with my friends, and today I get to visit my family for a few days. I may be slightly stressed about visiting my family, but how lucky am I to have family. And I include my stepdad and best friend in that, and I love them all very much.

Now I hope to God for my dad’s sake alone that there’s not a cloud in the sky when this eclipse comes tomorrow because my father has been planning for this event—I kid you not—for about five years now. He rented a cabin years ago, bought the glasses and everything. He determined on a map the latitude and longitude of exactly where we need to be for maximum visibility, and he has a backup plan for where we can go if it’s cloudy (not sure how that will he, but he does have a backup plan).

In light of recent events–and just because–I’m mildly anxious about visiting my family next week. My dad loves Robert E. Lee and the Confederate South, though I will say in his favor he doesn’t love the slavery and racism of it. Probably like many Southerners he dismisses that crucial piece of history as being something white people just did at the time. I’m not saying it’s okay or that I agree with it, because I do not, and for the record, I do not love Robert E. Lee and I’m glad the South did not win. However, I do not want to get into a discussion or argument about it with my dad (or anyone else), nor do I want to hear him rant. An innocent person got killed, many others injured, and Trump’s reaction(s) was/were horribly inappropriate, and that’s just my two cents. But again, I’m not interested in talking about this with my dad, who’s crushed that people want to take down memorials of his hero. I love my dad. We just don’t see eye to eye on most subjects. He’s a bit of an Archie Bunker, but he’s endearing and quirky in his way. And he’s my father.

School starts back soon and my free time won’t be free anymore, so I’ve had a bit of the end-of-the-summer blues these past few days. But isn’t this a wonderful time in my life, right now? My job’s not that stressful, and I get to learn so much every day. Now I get to see the eclipse, which my dad planned for, making it so easy for me. Otherwise, I’d have stayed home and probably worked. I’d have missed out on this.

I miss the people who once were in my life but are no longer anymore. But I believe I’ll see my mom again one day, and she lives forever in my heart, today. As for my ex-boyfriend, who I loved more than any other guy I’ve ever dated or married–and there have been a lot–I know that one day I will find someone I love just as much or more, and who will love me the same. Right now is time to focus on me. On learning and growing. School. Spirituality.

I know this post is all over the place, and I want to write more, but I haven’t even started packing, and I don’t want it to be dark out by the time I get to the middle of nowhere western North Carolina tonight. Everyone on this side of the country seems to be driving to South Carolina today so traffic will probably be heavy.

I just want to say one last thing. It’s significant to me that my mom died a year ago tomorrow, the day of the solar eclipse. What a powerful time for the one-year anniversary of her death. Not that her death is anything to be celebrated, but rather, her life is. Rest in peace, Mom. You’ll be forever loved.

rumi

Codependency. Just Codependency.

Let’s assume that the guy I’m seeing does not have Asperger’s and that story was all a delusion I made up to make myself feel better for seeing him. It’s an excusable reason for why I’d be okay with his behavior last week at the diner. If he has it, it allows me to continue hanging out with my group of friends, which includes him, without feeling disrespected, because dude cannot help it.

The other alternative is that we never figure it out because either I never mention it to him, or he doesn’t accept my theory. How would you feel if a friend diagnosed you with a neurological disorder associated with a lack of empathy towards others? I sure wouldn’t like it.

One of my friends seemed convinced Jay had Asperger’s, until I told him I decided I don’t care, and I’m going to continue hanging out with dude, because if dude is a robot, well, he’s the sweetest robot I know. And Aspies aren’t robots anyway. So then this particular friend said that he didn’t want to see me get hurt because he saw how hurt I was over the ex, and it seemed to him that I’ve made up this diagnosis because the fact that dude is just not into me would be an unbearable truth for me.

As much as I’d like for you all to think I’m a nice girl, and that I’m in love with this man, the truth is, I am not. I’ve got the easiest situation in the world, which is that I get to see my lover once a week, and I spend the rest of my time doing what I enjoy doing, which is write this blog, spend time with friends, do all of my self-care things I like to do. Maybe one day my heart will get broken again—and that’s a risk worth taking—but it won’t be with this guy. I want to be in love with him more than I actually am. Let’s be real here.

bullshit

Let’s take a step back. What did the guy do? He talked about another woman’s boobs in front of other guys with me present, which I interpreted to mean that he doesn’t care what I think or how I feel. When I got upset, I looked at Spencer the whole time, leading one to believe I was upset with Spencer when in reality I was pissed at Jay.

It’s unfair for me to expect him to feel and act like I’m the love of his life when I know he’s not the love of my life.

As much as I’d love to believe men don’t sit around talking to each other about this or that woman’s tits or ass over there, men of his generation absolutely do. Probably they all do—I really do not know. But I know that I certainly noticed her enormous boobs. Would I have brought it up to my friends? I doubt it. But what if we could see guys’ packages? And someone with a huge one just walked right in the door? I wish guys had to walk around with their junk showing for all the world to see. The rest of us could be like, Wow, that dude has a micropenis. Hope for his sake he’s a grower. And let me tell you, I certainly noticed the gargantuan hands of this 6’4” co-worker of mine, and I absolutely did talk about it to the other women after he left. To this day I talk about it. He’s a good-looking dude. With huge hands. It’s just the truth.

Maybe Jay has Asperger’s and maybe he doesn’t—I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know. Whether he does or not, isn’t it better to just be direct and straightforward with him, and everyone else?

So that’s where I am with that. One of my friends said I have a diagnosis for everyone, which may be true. But like I said before, everyone has something. I can’t help it that I have intuitive powers. 😉

Of course I’d rather be in love with someone who was in love with me. But right now I have someone who I enjoy spending time with, and neither of us is ready to get into a serious relationship with anyone. Why not just enjoy this for what it is? And stop trying to make it into something it’s not. When school starts back I won’t have time to create drama where it doesn’t exist.

Of course I’d rather Jay and I be in love with each other. But we are not. I want him to love me and treat me like a queen, yet I don’t feel that way about him, so it’s not really fair of me to have that kind of expectation. And as they say, expectations are just resentments in the making.

The more time I spend with Jay the less I have a chance of meeting the right man. I *should* be single (my former sponsor used to tell me: Do not should all over yourself). I do not have time for a relationship, and sex without love is unfulfilling. There are so many reasons why I should walk away. Spend this time focusing only on me.

But I just cannot do it. Today. So this might be a codependency relapse.

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One of the characteristics of codependents that always makes me cringe when we read it in my meeting is that we accept sex without love. I don’t like to think of myself that way because I have this shame around sex, that I’m just not a “good girl” if I do that. I want to not care. I want to be able to say that I can walk away, giving a fist pump in the air, and that you all will cheer me on: good for you and you be you and don’t take that shit. I want you all to read my blog and think, Wow, what a badass courageous woman she is, and I want to have the strength and courage to take the hard road for spiritual growth.

By the way, my ex sent me an email last week. He forwarded an article about a topic we both share an interest in (alcoholism), without any message in the email. Since there was no question in it, and I don’t know what he was trying to accomplish, I did not respond. If he wants to feel forgiven for breaking my heart, he’s just going to have to wait. That wound will take a long time to heal. As much as I wish that relationship had worked, it did not, and there’s nothing I can do about that today.

I really do have a good life today with friends and a woman I sponsor in AA, and I’m showing up to my CODA meetings, and I have a sponsor there. I’ll see my therapist in a couple of days, and I will keep doing this thing. I don’t have to drink over it today, and that is a blessing.

In the past, when I was in a loveless relationship before, before my ex and before CODA, my AA sponsor asked me, What do you want to do today?

So that’s what I’ll focus on: today. One day at a time.

Here’s a good quote I found on Pinterest and which originated from lonerwolf.com. God, I look forward to the day this happens for me.

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Codependency and Asperger’s: A Marriage Made In Heaven?

Here’s the short answer: No.

But let’s not dismiss the person with Asperger’s (the “Aspie”) as someone who lacks caring for others. They are not robots. They have emotions. They just can’t read yours. No one has telepathy.

Here’s an article I came across from a psychologist, and this quote in particular stood out to me: “The Aspie needs to recognize that he or she does indeed have zero degrees of empathy. And, the Aspie needs to stop expecting that his or her grasp of the facts should rule. The NT [neurotypical, non-Asperger’s person] needs to recognize that zero degrees of empathy can co-exist with feelings of caring.”

The common belief is that Aspies lack empathy, but here’s a blog post I read in which the writer states: “If you don’t realize others are seeing and feeling different things, you might well act less caring toward them… But that doesn’t mean, once people with autism spectrum disorder do become aware of other people’s experience, that they don’t care or want to connect…. Studies have found that when people are overwhelmed by empathetic feelings, they tend to pull back. When someone else’s pain affects you deeply, it can be hard to reach out rather than turn away. For people with autism spectrum disorder, these empathetic feelings might be so intense that they withdraw in a way that appears cold or uncaring.”

When I think back to particular situations with my dad and with Jay, this explains a lot.

Once I remember my dad crying in frustration after I spent a week in bed, not coming out of my room except to go to the bathroom or eat, because I was so depressed at that time. “I’m just worried about you!” he’d said.

3love

(The above quote came from this site.)

So much more is becoming clear to me. Yesterday I spent reviewing Jay’s behavior, confirming all the little clues I got but didn’t see at the time, that there’s no way he does not have Asperger’s. I read this article, How to Be a Better Friend to an Adult with Asperger’s, and I felt compassion for this man, and for my dad, who’ve lived their entire lives mimicking others’ behavior just to appear normal to everyone else. I can see how AA (Jay and I are both sober alcoholics, for anyone new to this blog) is a safe place for him, because it offers an instruction manual for how to live. Interestingly, he accepts the belief in a higher power (probably unlike a lot of Aspies), maybe because of his Catholic upbringing, which a lot of alcoholics reject for the same reason.

The person with Asperger’s syndrome (AS) appears cold and distant, when really they just don’t know how to pick up on nuance, hints, body language even. The fact that most of us don’t always say what we mean—that’s an eye-opener to me. Yet it’s so obvious, now that I think of it. When I first read about it in a friend’s blog, my initial interpretation of her post was that she felt that her friends were just playing a charade of being her friend, so why bother reaching out. But actually, she’s just being honest about how people behave. And it’s true. We do not always say what we mean. In fact, we often do not. In the Four Agreements, Don Ruiz writes about the importance of being “impeccable” with your word. This is true for everyone, not just those communicating with Aspies. Having grown up in a passive aggressive family (and culture really), it becomes second nature, until someone points out that we try to control and manipulate others through this passive aggressive behavior. I might have said, “I’m fine,” when really I was not fine. I might have been angry for days with my first husband without telling him, bottling it up, leaving him only to guess what he’d done that displease me, until I finally just exploded ragefully in a drunken fit. I learned in AA not to do this anymore, so I did/do my best not to act that way after I got sober.

My codependency (maybe?) appeared when I started devising schemes for how to tell Jay he probably has this psychological disability. I must rescue him! (Yeah, right.) I thought, we (our group of friends) all need to understand this so we can better communicate with him, and he needs to know so he can better understand himself and get the help he needs. Though I’m not sure yet what a person with AS does to get help. Everyone in my family thinks my dad has it, and sadly, that knowledge (so far) has not changed anyone’s way of communicating with him—though I must say it will change mine, and I do want to go on a crusade to communicate with the rest of the family about how we should go about interacting with him. I do think it’s made my uncle be more forgiving towards him, though they still butt heads. Perhaps I’ll get a book and buy them all the same book so we can read up on this. Or at least send them an article. Here are the cliff’s notes—and I’m a beginner at this so bear with me; I’ll probably have more information later—but for now: be very direct and literal in your language, and mean what you say. Do not take offense when the person says something that seems cold or distant because they’re really just telling it the way they see it, and if they say something that sounds like a quote from a book, they’re probably just mimicking what they’ve learned to show as “normal” behavior.

Does that mean we just excuse whatever thing they might say, even if it hurts our feelings? No. I think we can just explain why we disagree, but then each of us has to be willing to allow the other person their opinion or feelings. Does it mean that if I were to choose to go back to Jay—which I’m not—that he’d change or I’d be his hero? Nope. Been there, done that. I read several books on bipolar disorder (which my ex had), was committed to going to support groups, I thought/hoped CODA (Codependents Anonymous) would save our relationship (it did not), was ready to be his loyal life partner and stepmother to his kids—and all of that did not save our relationship. I still made a serious mistake, and mistakes were not allowed! The mistake was inevitable, and I could not control the relationship or him or his feelings, nor could I change who I was or how I felt at a particular time. If I could do it over I wouldn’t have said the words that hurt my ex so badly. But trust me, I’d have made some other mistake at some other time. There would eventually be something I’d done or said wrong that I didn’t know about, something he’d bring up later. And this is actually how an Aspie feels—that they could say or do the wrong thing at any time, and their partner may be holding back something they may spring on them at any moment.

That’s not to say no one can have a relationship with someone with bipolar disorder or Asperger’s. Just that it was more work than I could continue doing. Having grown up in a broken home where no one’s relationship ever worked out, relationships are hard enough for me as it is.

But in many ways, as a codependent/adult child, I was the perfect partner for someone with a neurological disorder. Adapting to whoever or whatever appeared, no matter how damaging, and the willingness to work with it no matter what, held our relationship together. But if the other person isn’t willing to work with me, the relationship cannot stay together, not in a healthy way. And that kind of relationship just was not good for me personally. I do believe there’s someone for everyone though.

This is my opportunity to be real about what I want out of a relationship, and what I want is someone willing to commit to me, be open with me, communicate honestly with me, and allow us each our own space. I know I will find that person one day.

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Is Everyone Crazy, or Is It Just Me?

Probably just me, or all of us really.

After writing yesterday’s post, and then reading up on Asperger’s syndrome, I became convinced that the guy I was seeing had it. All the signs were there: he didn’t understand subtle clues, facial expressions, or innuendo, in this or that situation. I remember at one point interpreting my words for him into more direct language, and him being like, Okay cool, yeah, I feel that way too. It was one of those situations that seemed obvious to me. He often used formal language, even in texts, which just seemed quirky and cute at the time. Once, I’d told him I was worried about my sister, because my mom’s death hit her harder than my other sister and me, and he paused and said, “I’m sure you love your sister…” Just a bizarre thing to say. Of course I love her. Let’s see… what else? He’s detached, he doesn’t touch people much, and he often asked me, “What would you like for me to do?” And he’d say, “I’ll do whatever. Just tell me when to be there and I will.” He was not kidding when he told me in the beginning he really does not know what to do. It makes me feel sorry for him. If he really has that, what a lonely and confusing life.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to adjust my communication style and start seeing him again. That’s what I’d have tried to do with my ex, who had bipolar disorder. Read every book on the subject and learn how to make life more comfortable for him, to make our relationship better. And I just cannot do that again. As cold as it sounds, I can no longer morph myself into being the person I think others want me to be, and instead I need to look for someone who jibes with me and who I am. I’ve lived my life for too long trying to change who I am just to feel accepted, instead of being who I am and letting others accept that. I don’t mean to be uncompromising, just not so easily adaptable.

On a positive note, this may help me better communicate with my father. Everyone in my family has been convinced he has Asperger’s for years, and I rejected that notion, insisting he’s simply an active alcoholic with self-centered, anti-social behavior. After reading these articles, I can see exactly where they’re coming from. He absolutely does not get sarcasm or innuendos. He makes occasional eye contact, probably because he’s learned that’s what you do when you talk to people. He often refers to people in third person, and everyone has a nickname. He likes everything to be direct science, and he doesn’t believe in God, yet he says it’s okay to go to church because “it makes you feel better.” He could not explain it in any other words than that to me. I really think he has spent his entire life guessing at what people wanted. My mom had said that they went into marriage counseling before their divorce, and the therapist said he had the emotional maturity of a 13-year-old. That was in the 80s, before anyone knew about Asperger’s. That must’ve been such a frustrating situation for him to be in, to be so misunderstood. And it must’ve felt so impossible to be married to him. And I could’ve been asking him for money for years and I bet he’d have given it to me, at least sometimes. Not without complaining that I was freeloader and criticizing me to my sisters and to my face, but still. Just kidding. That would’ve sucked for me (and for him), and I had too much pride to do that. Not that pride is a good thing—I could’ve at least asked for money more often. But it doesn’t matter now.

In ten days I’ll see my father, which is the same day a year ago my mom died. It also happens to be the day of the eclipse. I’ll try this new direct way of communicating, without hinting at anything, without speaking in metaphor, without sarcasm. Which really, should not be a thing anyway. Wouldn’t it be nice if we always said what we meant?

I want to write more, like how, even though I don’t want to see Jay again in any way, I want to find out if he has Asperger’s, because people fascinate me, and I feel like a sleuth, figuring out what disorders they have. My sister says everyone has something because this world is hard to live in, and I think maybe that’s true. If we don’t all have something, I wonder if soon we all will. I read that 1 in 45 children have some form of autism now, which makes me wonder if we’ll have a society of robotic-like people one day in the future. Then this woman I met at a meeting came into the store where I work yesterday, and gave off some serious Single White Female vibes, and I started getting paranoid that she has borderline personality disorder or some kind of stalker-like tendencies, due to that and some other things she said that I’ll probably write about in a future post. All I know is that either I’m attracting people with mental disorders, I have a mental disorder myself, or everyone is just crazy and this kind of thing is inevitable, or I’m just paranoid. To be continued.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite scenes from Orange Is the New Black, which is Crazy Eyes’s definition of love. My sponsor says everyone is crazy, you just have to find the person who has your brand of crazy. The one who’s crazy complements yours.