Getting Over Him

Something wonderful happened last night, and today I can see that it was meant to happen and not just some coincidence. It may not even seem that major, but for me it is.

My original plan had been to go to a meditation with Spencer, and I’d been looking forward to it. But Spencer cancelled because he had to work late, so I decided to stay in and study. I got home, started studying, then realized I have no speaker for Sunday night. Sunday nights I’m the “speaker-getter” for an AA meeting I attend, which means I find someone in AA to speak on their experience in Alcoholics Anonymous. Usually I try to find speakers far in advance so I don’t have to worry about not having someone. In order to get a speaker I have to go to meetings and find someone who I think has a positive message, but I don’t go to AA meetings every night. Wednesdays I have meditation, Thursday I have open mic spoken word night, Friday I have CODA, Saturday this week I have work, and that leaves Sunday. I’d already texted several people, none of whom could do it. I didn’t want to go to the meeting because I needed to study, and I knew Jay would be there, and I didn’t want him to think I was trying to see him, and I didn’t want to see Yvonne.

I decided to swallow my pride and go anyway, so I asked my friend Kevin to take me for support.

We get there, and a few people are standing outside, so we stop and talk, and sure enough, here comes Jay, and I’m certain he’s surprised to see me standing out there since I only go to that meeting every blue moon. But I see him and I just smile and say hello. He heads straight over for his motorcycle buddy who just noise-polluted his way into the parking lot, and I realize something. I don’t even feel nervous, or care at all. It was so friggin easy! I don’t give a damn that he’s not paying attention to me because I have my own friends, and I’m doing my own thing, and I have a right to be there as much as anyone else. His motorcycle buddy who normally says hi didn’t say anything to me, maybe by chance, and his other buddy who’d asked me out a couple of weeks ago didn’t say anything to me either, maybe by chance, or maybe because I’d turned him down. Either way, who cares?

After the meeting Kayley, one of our mutual friends who’s known Jay longer than she’s known me, talks to me and apologizes for not replying to my earlier text. I’d guessed that she was avoiding me because her loyalties lie with Jay and Yvonne, and had decided it didn’t matter. I just told her that was fine I was sure she was busy with school and work, which she was, and she agreed to speak for me at a later time. She looked at me and said the same thing that Jay’s buddy had told me last week: “How are you doing? You look good.”

Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I’m not sure how to interpret that. I feel like that’s the kind of thing you say to someone who you know has been through a hard time. Likely they knew Jay decided to go back to Yvonne. They already knew I’d had a tough year because everyone in AA knows that. I’ve made no secret about that.

Or maybe they just think I look good. I try to take it that way, instead of the paranoid way.

Jay then came up to us in an awkward way like he wanted to talk to us but not really so he just kind of came near, and I smiled and said, “Hello Jay, good to see you,” and he smiled and said hi and then kind of crab-walked away while Kayley and I continued talking in our conversation that had nothing to do with him. After a bit her body language told me she wanted to get away so I let her go but not without saying, “Hey I’ll let you get to doing your thing,” and she was like, “It’s just too loud and crowded in here; I want to go outside,” so I didn’t follow her because I assumed she was trying to get away from me. Maybe she was just trying to get away from the crowd and it had nothing to do with me, so I pretended that’s what I thought it was, and like I have plenty of other people to talk to anyway, which I did. Most of the time, maybe all the time, it’s best not to take things personally, and just to be polite, because it often turns out there was no reason to take it personally anyway. And if I had taken it personally, it’s not even my problem or issue to worry about. I had a right to be there, and if people don’t want to be my friend because I had a fling with Jay after he and Yvonne broke up, that’s their problem, and I didn’t need to be their friend anyway.

My point is, it was all so easy. I didn’t feel nervous, I didn’t feel upset, I did not feel rejected. If anything, I felt pretty darn good. This may sound incredibly arrogant, but I even kind of had this feeling towards Jay: Aren’t you sorry you didn’t decide to take your chances with me? It’s arrogant because it doesn’t factor in the crucial seven-year relationship he had with Yvonne, the history they’ve shared, the foundation they’ve built. Of course I would love to have that with someone, and thought I was building that with Steven.

Which brings me to the bigger, underlying issue: getting over Steven.

He came across my list of matches on Match.com, or maybe it was the “What If” page—I can’t remember. It was a page in which you can read the person’s summary without clicking on their page, because no way in hell would I click on his profile. And his summary was all about how he’s on a quest for true, lasting love, and something about how if one or both people are in spiritual or emotional disrepair then it can’t last. He used lofty language that my friends said came across as arrogant, and as someone who has to be right all the time. And his user name is steven_phd (not his real name, but you get the gist).

A quick aside about that. I’d noticed someone else who’d emailed me as ER_Doc and had thought, You know, I really don’t care if you’re a doctor. If that’s all you have to bring to the table, and you have to put that in your user name to try and attract someone, you’re using the wrong method, and you’ll be attracting the wrong kind of person. It’s like how I thought Jay was so great just because he had a boat and a motorcycle. Those external things don’t make a relationship.

Steven’s profile description is a loftier version of what mine says. I like to think mine comes from the heart (that’s always my goal in writing, anyway) whereas his sounds like an academic essay a psychologist wrote. One of my friends said he sounds like a narcissist, but I think everyone gets that label these days, and he’s really just bipolar and probably in a manic phase right now. But he did have “phd” in his email address too. I fell for that. I remember he’d told me he wasn’t arrogant, and I didn’t really believe him, but I went along with it, because self-confidence is attractive. But he didn’t have self-confidence. He had what many or all of us have at some point (or forever) in AA, which is this: he’s an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.

When I first read his description, I thought, I sure hope he’s talking about himself there, being in a state of spiritual and emotional disrepair, because my MOM had just fucking DIED, you selfish bastard. I don’t care if it was four months previously—that’s not much time. She was my MOTHER. The one who gave birth to me, who nurtured me, who was my biggest cheerleader, who loved me unconditionally. Can someone tell me who loves you more than your mom? Sadly, I get the feeling he didn’t get that from his mother.

The other thought I had was this: if he expects someone to never be in any state of emotional or spiritual disrepair, then he’ll always be disappointed. If a couple can’t stay together during hard times, they’re not meant to be together. Commitment is about sticking with someone through thick and thin, and growing together during those times. He and I had our time together, and now it’s over. He could not handle my grief, could not stick with me throughout the duration, and he couldn’t deal with my weirdness over my stepbrother. A friend of mine said, There’s no way he broke up with you only because of that. But that is the reason. He felt like I’d accused him of being a child molester, and that was it for him. There was no recovering from that; that was unforgivable to him—and I’d like to add one more time here that I did not accuse him of that, nor have I ever thought he had done that or would do that. And I told him so. Multiple times. There had to be more to it than that, my friend said. And there was: he couldn’t deal with my grief or my issues, and he had to have known somewhere deep down that I wouldn’t stay with him if he continued to shut me out every time he got upset with me. Because I’d finally put my foot down over Thanksgiving and broke up with him after he spent more than a week ignoring me. After a year and a half of allowing him to ignore me every few months I was finally done–almost. Because I took him back at the first hint of reconciliation, and then on New Year’s my higher power did for me what I could not do for myself, and we split for good.

After ruminating over it for a few days, I realized what bullshit his profile is, and how odd that I fell for that person. I thought, How is what we had NOT what he’s describing there in his profile? How was he unable to see that I was willing to commit, to do anything for him? And I thought, if he can’t see that, then he doesn’t deserve my time.

Finally I’m seeing more and more how when life doesn’t go my way, it’s not because there’s a punishing God who wants to see me unhappy. It’s because something better is in store for me. I don’t deserve to be treated that way. I’m worth more than that. I have so much more to offer today than I did in early sobriety, and certainly more than when I was drinking. And I’ll be damned if I just give that away to someone who takes it for granted, or worse, treats it like it was nothing, like it was just not good enough, which is exactly what he did. I could never be perfect enough for him. Welp, hopefully he will find someone one day who is as perfect as he acts like he is. Good luck to him finding that. Because that is why he can’t commit. I’m human, and I make mistakes, and my quest is to find someone who can see that, and love me in spite of it, or maybe, in some cases because of it.

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I realize at some point it would be wise for me to exercise forgiveness and compassion, and I realize too that he’s mentally ill and can’t help the way he is. But today’s not that day, and I’ve got to be real with myself, and with y’all. This is a process, and I’m working towards that. In the meantime I’m already starting to see how Jay has helped me get over Steven, even though Jay didn’t stick with me, because it wouldn’t have worked anyway. There’s someone better in store for me. Oh and I have a date with the extra tall guy next Monday, and a date with another guy who seems really sweet (and good-looking) on Sunday. I’ll keep y’all posted!

Love and peace,

TCH

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Online Dating, Baby Goats, and Just Being Yourself

During each painful setback comes a more beautiful opportunity for growth. The combination of self-care actions I’m taking are working, and I feel so… enlightened and at peace.

This past week I’ve been meditating each morning, and have worked up to eight minutes at a time (can’t quite make 10…it’s progress though, y’all!). I’ve been reading Sharon Salzberg’s book, Real Love which is incredibly helpful, and I highly recommend it.

This online dating thing has been a fascinating learning experience for me about myself. Maybe the best part about it is that I’m in no hurry, and I don’t feel desperate or eager to jump into a relationship with anyone–though I ain’t gone lie, ladies (and gentlemen, and everyone else). I do get excited when I meet someone who seems interesting. The most recent guy is 6’6. Good. Lord. That’s more than a FOOT taller than I am! I immediately connected with him after he mentioned that his dad died suddenly five years ago. My SOUL mate! Another orphan like me! He gets it! He’s part of the club! The club no one wants to be in but everyone joins at some point if you live long enough.

Just kidding, btw. I don’t really think he’s my soul mate just because he’s also a partial orphan, but it was nice to connect with someone on a deeper level and have a more human interaction, as much as can be done via email. The other guy I’ve been talking to texts me each day but never really says anything of substance, so I don’t know yet if he’s bad at texting or if he’s just super boring. I do know that I’m in love with his dog though. I would talk to this guy on the phone but I ain’t got time for that, folks. This girl right here is incredibly busy with school, work, AA, and my friends. More on all of that in a bit. And it’s not that I don’t want to talk to anyone, but I figure I already paid for this service and I assume it will take a long time to find someone–if I find anyone at all from there. The beauty of it is that I get to decide. And I get to learn from it.

So I want to tell you how I’ve been able to watch my mind throughout this process so far. So the orphan dude—we’ll call him Goliath—sent me an email and mentioned his dad in it, and instantly my mind was off Jay and onto this new guy. I thought of how nice it was that someone was connecting with me. Jay’s dad died years ago too but he didn’t talk to me much about it (or anything else), and that’s just not the kind of guy I want. So it’s already like, Good riddance. I really do not need or want that in my life. My goal is to be more emotionally open—I’ve already lived most of my life the other way and I don’t want to go back there.

What bothered me was how quickly I shifted from obsessing over Jay to obsessing over Goliath when I know damn well that love can only be found within me. Thursday I talked to my therapist about it, and she told me something that I finally believe, and feel so grateful to have heard from her, which is this. She said, “You’re very normal.” I was like, “Are you sure, or are you just saying that because that’s what they tell you in therapy school to tell your clients?” She said, “I promise you.” She said, “The only thing about you is that you worry too much about being crazy. You’re no more crazy than the next neurotic person.”

Hallelujah! I’m no more crazy than the next crazy person! See? We’re all nuts in our own way, but at the same time we’re not unique in our craziness. If that makes sense.

It’s dawning on me that she tells me this every time I talk to her, in different words. Usually it’s something like this, “You’re fine,” or “That’s a normal reaction,” or “Of course you felt that way, anyone would.” It’s always so reassuring.

The other day I had an epiphany. Really it was something I already knew but failed to give credit to, and it came to me when I was meditating. The meditation was to recall an experience in which I’d said or done something that left me feeling guilty or ashamed, and of course I thought of the words I’d said to Steven that caused him to drive me home in the middle of New Year’s night to get all my stuff out of his apartment and out of his life forever. For months I’ve been beating myself up for saying that to him. Why would I say such a foolish, unwise thing? Why imply or insinuate that there’s something sinister behind his love for his daughter, when I know that’s not true, and I know I don’t believe that about him. I had that unhelpful feeling of What’s wrong with me? So the meditation exercise is to recall a situation in which I felt regretful for, and to then to mentally say the words I’d say to a friend:

You did what you knew to do at the time. You were at a difficult time in your life. You were devastated by your mother’s loss and you felt isolated and afraid. You didn’t get that kind of love from your father so of course you felt jealous. You felt ignored during that time so of course you felt jealous.

And here’s the biggest one of all.

Of course you had that thought because you have that fear about everyone.

These are all things I knew about myself, but somehow they hit harder yesterday. Because here’s the thing: throughout my life I have often find myself wondering if there was some kind of seedy underworld that was really going on that I just don’t know about yet but which everyone’s participating in. Over the past several years I’ve gotten much better about it, and thought I was over it completely, but from what I hear in CODA, it never goes away completely. It makes so much sense. If you grow up in a chaotic household in which things happen that aren’t supposed to happen and your trust gets broken at an early age, you might grow up suspicious too. What I knew was that I loved my stepbrother deeply, but he was not a good guy. Or maybe he was, and he just didn’t take good actions. But no one had told me that. I found out by eavesdropping on my sister and my mom. So it was confusing.

In Real Love, Salzberg writes about “reframing the story.” She grew up in a broken home and felt victimized for years. But here’s the thing: we do not have to live in that story. If you believe that you create your own reality, which I do, you get to decide what your story is, or how you look at your story, rather. That doesn’t mean bad shit didn’t happen, but it doesn’t mean I had no love or happiness, because in fact, I had lots of love and happy times with my mom, my sisters, and even my stepbrothers who were both very sick. One of them committed suicide when he was 28, and the other—my favorite—is a fugitive today, if Google is correct. It doesn’t matter, because that’s in the past.

Today I have two wonderful sisters and a niece and nephew, and I have my dad, my stepdad. My brother-in-law. And let’s don’t forget all of their sweet pets.

The point is, we got through it. And we can choose what to focus on from our past. Some of my favorite memories are of the times I’ve had with my sisters. And they make me laugh so hard. And now my sister’s kids and my brother-in-law makes me laugh. When I went to see the eclipse with my dad and his wife, I was able to appreciate him for who he is. He too is a quirky, endearing guy who was so delighted to see this once in a lifetime event. He was out there with his maps, examining his solar glasses, surveying the area, making sure we were in just the right spot. It made me want to hug him. And other people just came up to him and talked to him, as they often do. People just like him. He doesn’t put forth any pretenses. He’s just himself, and I think that’s what everyone really wants from each other.

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The above image was taken from this blog.

This morning I have a date with a guy I met from Match, and I hate to say it, but I don’t even want to go anymore. I’ve kind of already decided I should’ve marked him off when I found out he had a grown daughter who lives in the house with him. But at the same time I want to keep an open mind. My sister suggested maybe I find a guy who doesn’t have kids, which I took offense to at first, but I think she’s right. I want a partner, and not to feel like I’m second or third in someone’s life.

The good news is that it’s at a place I’ve been wanting to go, a nature center where there are butterflies and orchids. My therapist said one of her friends went on Match and found that if she just made plans to go for a walk with the guy, she wasn’t wasting her time if it didn’t work out because she was going for a walk anyway. She needed to get her exercise, and she wanted someone who’d go on walks with her. So if the guy wasn’t interested, then that was it. I’m thinking that’s a darn good idea.

I do have a loose “no-kids” rule but I think it’s unrealistic to expect it since most people eventually have kids. At the same time, less people (Americans anyway) have kids these days than, say when my parents were young.

The key to online dating is not to get hung up on any one guy. It’s been a few days since I wrote about the extra tall guy and he hasn’t responded to my latest email, in which I asked him how important it was that his partner attend sporting events with him. Because that’s just not my thing. I love the outdoors, but I am not one to freak out over football games, or games of any kind. Maybe he was hoping for someone to go to games with, and that’s not me. And you know what? That’s fine with me. I’d rather find someone who wants to go hiking and biking.

Already I feel the same about Jay. Mostly I was interested in the fact that he had a boat and motorcycle, and we could have fun together. But after a conversation with a friend about how old that would get after a while, and the drawbacks to it, I got real with myself and realized I don’t care that much about that stuff. Because nothing is as important as connecting with someone on a deeper level, to just have fun no matter what external things are around to entertain us. The last time I was on the boat with Jay I got motion sick because of all the sharp turns, and the boat smells like gasoline because it’s in need of repair. And the last time I went tubing they didn’t have the tubes with the bottoms in them, meaning you had to float with just your ass in the water. And I’m not a big fan of getting my private parts in river water, folks. Nor do I like getting my head underwater with water getting all in my eyes and ears and nose. I’ll do just about anything once, but let’s be real here.

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(I’m dating myself with the above meme that I found from this site; my younger readers may not have any idea what that’s in reference to? Oh man, I’m getting old.)

And at the time I felt sad about my ex and jealous of Jay and Yvonne because they had what I’d wanted (or so I imagined), which was a deeper love and commitment to each other, and I left that for what? For Jay? I didn’t have to tell Steven I was dating other guys, and I didn’t have to date Jay.

(For anyone new to this blog, Steven asked me over for dinner several months after we broke up, and I said sure but I’m dating other guys, and he said pah, nevermind.)

Really I did it because I had a gut feeling that it wouldn’t work out with Steven regardless, and I took a gamble at something I knew wouldn’t work either, just to confirm what I already knew, which is this: there are so many other fish in the sea. Never was I under any illusion that Jay was The One. But of course I felt rejected when he decided to go back to his ex. But you know what? That’s okay. Good for them. Something else is in store for me. It would never have worked with Jay anyway. Just like it won’t work with me and someone who wants me to go to football games with them. Ain’t gonna happen.

Today I’m more excited about my plans after the date which is to visit a petting farm with one of my friends where they have goats, cows, sheep, and lots of other farm animals who I want to hug and hold, if they’ll let me. They let me hold a baby goat last year! It was such a joyful, precious moment. I’m not sure if any baby goats will be there since it’s fall because I still don’t know a lot about goats but I do know the babies are typically born in spring.

My dream still is to get my own tiny house on a piece of land just on the outskirts of town with my own goats and chickens. In my mind I picture it looking like this (and technically these are sheep but just pretend they’re goats):

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Though in reality it might look closer to this:

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Ah well. One day.

One day.

Until then I can be happy right where I am today.

Peace, namaste, and all that love stuff,

TCH

 

Humility and All That Fun Stuff

In her book Real Love, Sharon Salzberg writes that “you don’t have to love yourself unconditionally before you can give or receive love.”

Thank God for that, because this self-love project is taking forever! It will take a lifetime, and I think that’s just a result of growing up in Western culture. From what I hear, people in Eastern cultures don’t have the problems with self-loathing and negative self-talk that we have here in the US. I’m no expert on any culture but I know that I, for one, struggle with this.

Salzberg explains that you can practice self-love at the same time as loving others.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. She probably doesn’t mean to jump into a relationship asap, but I did pay for a subscription to eHarmony, and I ain’t paying for nothing, folks. Just saying.

Salzberg writes that “love enters our lives unpredictably, whether or not we’ve perfected self-love,” but that once love flows from one realm, it can become easier to spill into other realms, provided we stay open to compassion in the process.

What I want to know is, just exactly how does one exercise self-love? How am I not practicing self-love?

So I did what I do these days, and I consulted Pinterest. This article contains so many inspirational quotes, that I find myself just scrolling down the page and reading every one of them. Just reading these quotes gives me strength.

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My therapist suggested online dating, and my AA sponsor agreed, though my CODA sponsor suggested I “learn how to be single.” I am single and I want my old life back. Minus the painful parts, lol. What I want is to rewind to the time that times were good between Steven and me, or better yet, fast-forward to a time that he comes back to me and we agree to do the hard work together and stay in this relationship and love each other, warts and all.

But wanting something you can’t have is a futile exercise that only leads to disappointment. It’s the opposite of being grateful for what you have.

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Last night I stood in a crowded room while Jay and his girlfriend, Yvonne, stood a few feet away, talking to their friends. From my point of view, and my history, the story goes like this: I met Jay a couple years ago, had a crush on him, then found out he was in a committed relationship with Yvonne. Then I met Steven, who I fell hard for, and we had a passionate, loving relationship for a year and four months, and the last two months were devastatingly rocky (see my last post… or any of dozens of posts I’ve published in the past, lol), so it ended.

Then I run into Jay again, who tells me he and Yvonne have broken up, it’s over, done, caput. So Jay and I started seeing each other, and even though it’s nothing like it was with Steven, and I don’t fall crazy in love, I think, Maybe this is better. Maybe we’ll become friends and have a stronger relationship. Or maybe not, maybe this will just be a casual, convenient relationship, and I’ll find someone I connect with on a deeper level in the future. My big ego made an assumption that I was in control of the relationship, and I did not anticipate returning from spending time with my family in the Carolinas to find that Jay and Yvonne decided to try to work things out. They’d been together for seven years and have a history that includes the same social group, their dogs (her dogs), and he takes care of her. She has everything I want: a comfortable home, she’s provided for, they have the same friends, they have motorcycles and a boat, and all kinds of fun ways to spend their time.

From my point of view, it looks like I did not get chosen. It looks like a series of unfortunate events fell in my path.

But what if I were in her shoes?

First off, I’d feel very unhappy and uncomfortable knowing that my boyfriend slept with a woman standing a few feet away talking to my friends. I’d feel trapped, like I had nowhere to go, because I hadn’t done anything on my own. It’s hard to know how she feels, but I know that if it were me, I’d feel defeated, like I had to stay because I couldn’t afford to leave, that I’d built my life around this man, this town, these friends, and leaving him meant leaving all of that. I wasn’t just divorcing him, but I would be uprooted from the very community I “grew up” in, in AA. I’d be jealous of the other woman who was working on her master’s in nutrition, paying her own rent, making her own friends. I’d wonder if my relationship could really work, or if my partner would sleep with some other girl in a few years when times got tough, if we split again, or if he’d even just cheat on me while we were together. Once when I was in college I had a similar situation but the other girl wasn’t a love interest of my boyfriend’s. She was the widow of one of his close friends, and she came to visit us, and everyone loved her. They had a history of friendship, and her new husband, their friend, had died a year or so earlier in a freak accident in which he got hit by a delivery truck while he was standing outside on his smoke break at work. I was jealous of her, and then felt guilty for feeling jealous because her husband had died, and I couldn’t compete with that kind of grief, because to me at the time victimhood was a competition in which I had to win so that I’d be “loved” more than everyone else. The night she visited I tried to commit suicide I was so jealous and unhappy with my life. Thank God I’m not that girl anymore, though clearly I still have the grass-is-greener syndrome.

In his book, Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, John Welwood writes:

As a result, ‘You have two choices in life: You can stay single and be miserable or get married and wish you were dead,” as H.L. Mencken wrote with a flourish of wry, black humor. Reciting this line at relationship workshops always evokes peals of laughter as people feel the relief of naming this basic human dilemma. When under the spell of the mood of unlove, living alone is miserable because we feel bereft or abandoned. And yet marrying is no cure for this misery, since living with someone every day can further intensify the sense of unlove and make it feel even more hellish.

How to deal with this conundrum? That is the focus of his book, which I’ve just started, even while in the midst of Salzberg’s book, because this girl right here needs a lot of help.

My first practice has been to meditate on the phrase, “May I be happy,” as instructed by Salzberg in her book. Then last night I had an opportunity to be different, to smile and be polite and friendly to Jay and Yvonne, or at least in their general direction, since I couldn’t really look them in the eye just yet. It was my first time seeing them out since Jay broke it off with me a few weeks ago. I had an opportunity to exercise opening my heart, not to show anyone else I’m a badass or to prove anything, but to keep courage and strength, to have self-compassion. I did nothing wrong, and I am a good person. I have a lot going for me. I know that my higher power takes care of me. I am being taken care of.

There’s so much more I want to write, but I’m already running late for work. Just know that you, too, are being taken care of. Everything is going to work out. It’s already working out. Maybe I didn’t get what I thought I wanted, but I am getting what I need.

Welcome, humility.

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Good Guys, Bad Guys, and the Ugly Truth

John Welwood, a writer and psychologist I’d never heard of until reading his article, “Intimate Relationship as a Spiritual Crucible” (in this month’s Lion’s Roar), just became my new spiritual hero. My Kindle is charging right now so I can buy one of his books, because I feel like I just found the answer to my relationship troubles, which is this: at their worst, relationships can bring out the deepest, most painful feelings of being unloved, but when we can face those feelings, accept that they’re there, accept who we are and who our partner is, we can grow spiritually. We must have the breakdown to get to the breakthrough. The key is “not losing our twoness in the oneness, while not losing our oneness in the twoness.”

This is always the problem I run into. In the beginning, my partner is my world, which means that after some time, my world becomes small. Instead of having my own friends, my time alone, my hobbies, I spend all my free time with the guy. With my ex-husband, I eventually did my own thing all the time, without spending much time with him, and he did his own thing. It was like living with a roommate instead of a partner. Each of us swam in our own fishbowl. Then I became intertwined with Steven, and none of my free time was spent on self-care, unless it was during a period of him shutting me out during his depressive episodes, and those times for me were spent feeling abandoned and hurt while trying to ignore that I felt that way, trying to spiritually bypass those feelings, which is one of the ways Welwood says we try to avoid the pain of being in a relationship. The other way is to leave altogether, which is ultimately what happens in my relationships, hence two divorces and my current singlehood at 41 years of age.

Another Buddhist whose name I can’t remember once said something that struck me, which was that when you become committed to a relationship, what you must know is that you’re going to have times in which you feel lonely. Being married does not change that. I know this from experience, and I’d say it’s more painful than being single and feeling lonely. When the other person switches from being the one who saved me from myself (which by the way is not the role a partner can realistically/healthily play) to the one who destroyed me, or worse, ignored or did not acknowledge me, or abandoned me—it opens up deep-rooted childhood wounds of not feeling accepted, unloved, unloveable. According to Welwood, everyone has these feelings at some point because everyone has had some kind of disappointment that probably started in childhood, because that’s just life. If you want your relationship to work, you must be willing to get down to the nitty gritty reality and ride the waves when tough times come.

One important point I want to raise here is that one could use this argument as a basis to accept abuse, and that’s one situation that I can’t condone. Also, I feel that both partners must be willing to commit—this can’t be the kind of situation in which your partner constantly breaks it off while you wait around and take them back when they decide they want to return to you.

My first thought as I was reading this was to send it to my ex and tell him that the ugliness that revealed itself in the end was what happens in a relationship, no one’s perfect, I said something hurtful to him that opened a deep wound within him that could not be healed or forgiven or forgotten, and that was this: I felt that you hugged your daughter too much, and it seemed inappropriate because she’s 13 now and getting too old for that.

No matter that I prefaced it with how it was my own issue, that I felt jealous, and no matter that I explained that I have my own childhood issues. No matter that I apologized, multiple times, that I admitted I was wrong, there’s no age limit on hugging one’s child, that I emphasized that never once did I think he was a child molester or that he’d ever even thought of molesting his child. How can a person recover from that? In my case, it wasn’t possible. What I’d thought was that maybe a man should keep more physical distance from his daughter as she grows older, but that because he’d never been a father to a teenage girl before he didn’t know about that “rule,” this rule I’d created, or grown up with, because my family hugs each other but we’re not as affectionate as some families. That’s just it. Some families are more affectionate than others. What I’d wanted was for him to show his kids that I was part of the family too, that I was his partner, but instead I felt like an extra wheel to their trio of unconditional love that happens between parent and child.

My therapist suggested that maybe I purposely and subconsciously sabotaged the relationship because I began to feel it wasn’t working. He’d placed unrealistic expectations on me to skip out on visiting my sister and stepfather for Thanksgiving (right after my mom died) and visit his father in the nursing home, his father who’d abused him and who hadn’t seen in five years, who’d been living in Ohio in a nursing home for the past three years. And he’d wanted me to have telepathy, to just know that’s what he wanted me to do, so he told me it didn’t matter if I went or not, then became angry and hurt when I expressed my choice to visit my family. I changed my mind when I saw how much it meant to him that I be there for him, but the truth was that I just could not be there for him during that time. Resentment grew because I felt that he was putting a time limit on my grief over my mom’s death.

The only thing worse than being hurt by someone else, for me, is knowing you hurt someone else and destroyed the very relationship you cherished above all else.

I want to believe we could’ve gotten through both of those situations, and maybe we could have. But the next hurdle to overcome would be that I need my space and time away from him, and he was not into “sharing” me with other people. I chose to spend my time with him—it was what I wanted, too. But now that I’ve had time away from him, have made my own friends, have my own haven, I don’t want to go back to that. At the time my sponsor told me that reconciliation was possible but it would have to be a different relationship.

The good part that came from all this pain is that I grew spiritually. Oh my God. Tenfold. Especially because my mother had died suddenly a few months prior to this. I’d believed he was my savior, that if I couldn’t have my mom anymore then at least I had a partner to take care of me. But the truth is, no one’s going to save me or take care of me except for me, with the help of a higher power that I call God.

Now I have a better idea of what I want from a relationship. I know–intellectually, let’s be real here–that finding a partner will not fix me. Practicing it is another thing, but I have the knowledge. I’ve spent many months beating myself up over saying those words to my ex, and I still regret it and feel ashamed for having expressed that, telling myself that no matter what I do in my next relationship, don’t ever express jealousy on that level. Writing this here and posting this is not easy for me, because I’m afraid you’ll all judge me, and I’ve wrestled with it for some time, but here it is. The ugly truth.

When I was a kid there was a song that used to come on the radio by Dave Mason called “We Just Disagree,” and in it he sings, “There ain’t no good guys / There ain’t no bad guys / There’s only you and me and we just disagree.” We are each human, trying to make our way. Sometimes we eff up. It’s what happens after that, how we handle it, that matters, where the spiritual growth comes.

I want to give this article to whoever I get into a serious relationship with next time, to say, Look here, buddy. Shit’s gonna happen. Do you want to be in this together or not? And if dude cannot handle conflict—if we cannot handle conflict together—then it’s just not going to work.

So there you go. For anyone out there who’s been following my blog for these past several months, wondering what in the world I could’ve said that was so bad, there you have it.

Now I’d rather feel the occasional loneliness that inevitably happens at some point during a relationship than be single. It’s not that I feel lonely all the time as a single person—I enjoy my solitude. The prospect of being in another relationship feels scary because I don’t want to lose the time I’ve gained building friendships and focusing on my own growth. At the same time, I want to be able to do that while in a relationship. That would be the ultimate growth, or so it seems to me.

I’m on eHarmony because the guys there want to be in a relationship, and because we each get to be honest and open about who we are and what we want, up front. Not that I put on my profile page that I’m a sober alcoholic, but I did write that I don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs, ever, and am looking for someone who’s the same. A light or occasional drinker is okay but if there’s someone out there who loves to learn about craft beers or visit wineries, they can move right along and that will be fine with me. it’s not a secret that I’m a sober alcoholic but the guy can meet me first and then decide if he thinks I’m a train wreck he can’t deal with, because I know I’m not. Guys with small children or even teenagers are a no-go for me at this point. Honestly, there are a lot of no-gos for me at this point. The most important part is that the guy not be a commitment-phobe. Don’t drag me into something that you hope will develop into something more only to realize that not only can I not fix you but I have the power to destroy you—or rather, you may feel destroyed, but you’re not. I sure as hell felt destroyed in the end, but that’s just the point at which I hit bottom, which was the necessary place to go before I could emerge a stronger, more resilient person, capable of loving and being loved. Maybe one day he and I can forgive each other, and I must say there’s no way in hell I’ll ever tell another guy he hugs his kid too much or that it’s inappropriate, but I’ll probably say or do something else that cuts his heart, just as he’ll do for me, but I believe that it’s when you can grow together through the painful times that a deeper love can develop.

So maybe I’m codependent but I am determined to learn how to be in a healthy relationship, which is why I go to Codependents Anonymous. AA saved my life—faith in God saved my life—and I’m grateful to have found a new way of life compared to the hellhole I used to live in. Maybe online dating is a distraction for me to feel better about myself by looking outside of me when the solution lies within. And I am looking within, too. After having been rejected a second time, after the ex, by a guy who uses spirituality as a means of emotional detachment, I’ve decided to give eHarmony a shot. I don’t seem to have a good “picker,” as they say in the rooms, so I’m letting an online dating algorithm do it for me. Because my picker lately seems to choose men who do not want to commit, after having chosen men who put me on a pedestal, who I wasn’t that into but knew would never leave me. It’s time to find someone in between those extremes.

Today is a good day. I’m off to Zumba here in a few, and later I’ll get to hear Sharon Salzberg speak for Tara Brach. Salzberg has written a lot of beautiful, powerful words about loving-kindness, compassion, and living life on a spiritual basis, and I feel honored to get to see her in person tonight.

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Opening Your Heart and Finding Gratitude

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(The above quote was taken from notey.com.)

In A Path With Heart, Jack Kornfield writes:

As we notice our thoughts in meditation, we discover that they are not in our control—we swim in an uninvited constant stream of memories, plans, expectations, judgments, regrets. The mind begins to show how it contains all possibilities, often in conflict with one another—the beautiful qualities of a saint and the dark forces of a dictator and murderer…

…This dualistic nature of thought is a root of our suffering. Whenever we think of ourselves as separate, fear and attachment arise and we grow constricted, defensive, ambitious, and territorial…

…To heal, we must learn to step back from all the stories of the mind, for the conflicts of our thoughts and opinions never end… The mind thinks of the self as separate, the heart knows better.

Meditation and Buddhism in general can seem like a good way to detach oneself, to believe in the story of how none of this matters—and these things are true, to an extent—but I can use that as an excuse to disengage from others. But really it’s about getting in touch with the heart, which starts, or works in conjunction with, loving oneself while loving others more deeply.

And all these stories in our head are just that: stories. As I re-read Kornfield’s words, I’m reminded of how everyone thinks like this. Over the past few days, I’ve been feeling separate, all because of stories in my head, stories based in fear, fear that there’s a limited pool of opportunity accessible to others that, when they receive this opportunity, it becomes somehow unavailable to me. Comparing myself to others, sometimes in a way that’s self-aggrandizing and other times puts me beneath everyone else. When really we are all just people, each of us trying to make our way. If I were to get what that other person has that I want, I’d find problems with it. As Kornfield writes, we’re wired to be dissatisfied. From what I’ve learned over the years, the key is to practice gratitude, and to do so on a regular basis. As Kornfield writes, we never become fully successful. I have a short-term memory, and I’m a slow learner, and I don’t think most or possibly all other people are any different. If I want to gain self-love and self-compassion, I must practice it, and exercise it repetitiously.

Specifically, what I’m alluding to in my life is the fact that my fling with a guy recently ended. There are a few different ways to tell this story: I got dumped, he left me for his ex, it didn’t work out, it wasn’t meant to be. I found myself feeling isolated. Here I am, six months new to this area, beginning to make friends, beginning to feel more comfortable in my skin, and there they are, fixtures in this community, long-time members with roots. Where do I fit in? Do I avoid outings because they might be there? Do I go to different meetings, ditch these friends, and try to make friends elsewhere? And why couldn’t I have what she got: an old-timer boyfriend who scooped her up from the start of her journey into AA and took care of all of her needs and wants: love, shelter, food, community, entertainment. Somehow, they became stars of the community in my mind. A friend told me, If you had all of that you’d feel trapped. How true. Why? Because I didn’t do it for myself. I remember once, in the beginning, when we went out and I looked around and noticed most of the people there (really only a few) were his friends, that this was his world, and I felt like a disposable accessory. But one of my friends reminded me that I have friends in this community, people who want me around.

And how do I know for sure that’s how her life looks to her? Her being his former ex, his current girlfriend, or wife is more like it. How do I know for sure that she has everything she needs and wants? It’s just a story I made up about her to compare myself to an unrealistic ideal, based in fear that I will not be taken care of. Constantly I’m looking outside myself to be taken care of, when the very thing that will take care of me is inside me, and it comes from a higher power that I call God.

God takes care of me. I take care of myself. During this time I’m growing, possibly more than ever. It’s so painful sometimes. Growth for me doesn’t happen without pain. At first I lamented over the fact that my ex didn’t come back to me in the way that her ex went back to her, that I didn’t get from my ex what she’s getting and has gotten, which is for all of her needs to be taken care of. I kept thinking, God, I don’t want to do this by myself. In reality, I do want to do it by myself, and I am doing it by myself—with God’s help and the help of my friends.

All of this comes a few days after setting up profiles on Match.com and eHarmony. Because let’s be real, folks: I want a boyfriend. A husband, or partner really. I’m codependent, remember? But I’m also human, and humans are social animals. My therapist had suggested it, my AA sponsor agreed, and my CODA sponsor said no way, that I need to get comfortable with being single.

Well it’s too late now. I’ve already signed up, and I am single. I’m a single woman dating, and I’m taking my time. There’s no rush, and I’d rather take it slowly to find someone I really connect with, rather than try to force something to work that’s not there. Possibly it’s foolish to be doing this now, when I barely have time to do anything outside of school work in my free time while staying on top of my not just physical but emotional sobriety by going to meetings and doing the footwork and self-care that living a spiritual life requires. But honestly? This is my life. I can’t spend all my free time making a guy my higher power like how I did with my ex. I got shit to do. He should be taking care of his own shit in the meantime, and not smoking pot or drinking beer or being a workaholic or watching TV all day like my other exes.

Next week I have a coffee date with a bankruptcy lawyer who feels like he missed his calling as a therapist, who looks good in some pictures but just okay in others, and who, most importantly, has kind, familiar eyes. But Ted Bundy might’ve had kind eyes to some people too, and bankruptcy and law are boring to me, and a therapist could be someone whose crazier than the rest of us, in ways that I cannot deal with.

You may have noticed that I first defined this guy by his job, a common mistake. I hated it when people defined me by my job when I was working in marketing, and now I don’t even want people to know I work in a grocery store because I don’t want people judging me… all because I judge myself. Sometimes the things we can’t stand in others are the very things we can’t stand in ourselves. My goal is not to judge someone or define them by their job but rather by who they are as a person.

On a deeper level, I look for in a man what I want for myself, which is someone who has their shit together. I want to be on the right path. And guess what? I am. Maybe I’m still not quite where I want to be, but I’m okay with that in this moment. All of this is an ongoing process that doesn’t end until the day I die.

Today I am right where I need to be. I’m grateful to have woken up an hour early (just by chance! Thank you, God!), to write this post, to have my friends and family, to have a nurturing workplace environment, to have healthy food and a comfortable living space. I am grateful to be on this path, to have guides who help me along the way, to have an opportunity to be a guide for others. I’m grateful for my readers, and for your posts on self-love, self-care, spirituality, positivity. Most of all, I’m grateful to be aware of God’s presence in my life.

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Peace and love,

TCH