Trials and Tribulations of Dating

Rejection hurts no matter what shape it takes, or from whom. Online dating has forced me to reject guys more often than not, and I’ve been ghosted so many times I’m beginning to wonder if the profiles on Match and POF are even real. It’s like anything you want though: it only takes one person or one job or one whatever thing it is you want, right?

My wild oats are sewn, or should I say my one wild oat, and I’ve decided not to see Khalid again though he doesn’t know it yet. I don’t know who he is, where he goes when he’s not with me, where he’s been… and I want a meaningful relationship.

Liam, the one guy I was interested in (after being on two different sites for months and months), turned out to have issues I can’t deal with, including three DUIs in his past, a very recent break-up, and a diagnosis of ADHD, of which he’s only now getting treated for. ADHD is probably not that big of a deal, but after my experience with a guy who had OCD, which turned out to be “relationship OCD,” and prior to that, the ex with bipolar disorder, I don’t want to take my chances. Last weekend I texted him that it’s not gonna work, thinking he’d go away yet hoping he wouldn’t, and indeed he didn’t. He asked me why, then said it sounded like I was making a lot of assumptions, and asked if we could keep communication open. That was my cue to give it a shot, or so it seemed to me at the time, and I remembered a recent conversation I’d had with my friends.

“I believe in throwing it all out there, on the table, this is who I am, like me or not,” I’d boasted. “I’m a sober alcoholic, and if the guy doesn’t like me because of that, he can move on.”

Then I had the phone call with Liam when he blasted me with all red flags at once, and I was like whoa there train wreck this is not your station. Because my past is so pristine, as y’all probably already know, or will soon find out.

But because I liked “him”–or rather, his online profile, and the things he had to say, his pictures, his job (therapist! because they all make healthy decisions, right? probably no codependent relationships there at all!), I thought, Maybe I’m jumping the gun.

So I agreed to continue talking to him, and I thought we should at least meet in person and ADHD isn’t that big of a deal and he said his relationship was over long before it was actually over and maybe the DUIs were a long time ago. He said he had no desire to drink now, and hasn’t in a long while, and it’s not like I’m perfect nor do I have the perfect past. So we made a plan to meet Saturday.

Then a few days later he sends me a text cancelling our date, saying he’s going out with another girl instead, someone who lives closer to him, and he felt that I was too guarded.

rejection

The above image was taken from this site.

I’M too guarded??? You just laid all your baggage on me on the first phone call, and I’M too guarded? I just told you about how my ex had bipolar disorder, that the relationship was a literal emotional roller coaster, and then the guy after that had “relationship OCD”–and who knew there was even such a thing? How do i know this guy doesn’t have “relationship ADHD?” The ex probably had “relationship bipolar” for all I know. If that’s not in the DSM-V now then it probably will be, with my face, or my personality type (shout out to all the INFPs out there!), next to it: This is the woman guys with this illness are attracted to.

Do I just expect too much? I have scrolled through so many profiles, swiped left to so many guys. Every now and then I think well maybe I’m being too critical, and then I just feel like I’m settling. Never do I ever want to be in another relationship in which I feel I’ve settled. It seems to me that I’m not asking too much: a guy I’m attracted to, who has a job he likes, who likes to have fun, who’s funny, at least 5’10, preferably with dark hair or brown hair or even bald. He doesn’t have to be rich, he doesn’t have to be in some position of power, he doesn’t have to be a non-drinker (but I don’t want a heavy drinker), preferably he’s a nonsmoker, and he doesn’t have to be gorgeous but I’d like him to be good-looking–someone I’m attracted to. There has to be chemistry. And I just really do not like blond guys or short guys. Is that really too much to ask? One would think out of all the hundreds and hundreds of guys in the Baltimore/DC area, someone would fit that description.

And come to think of it, my therapist told me I’m actually too tolerant, so it can’t be that I expect too much.

Every now and then I come across some guy who looks interesting, but they’re never available. They don’t respond, or if they do, they ghost. The really good-looking ones just want to hook up, and even they will ghost. Is there something about me that just really turns guys off? It’s baffling, because I get a lot of emails from guys who compliment me—rarely guys I’m interested in—but the ones I think would be a good match just ignore me right off the bat, they ghost, or they send a few benign emails and we do that for weeks until one of us just gives up. Those particular emails go something like this:

Guy: Hey how are you?
Me: Good and you? Just finished Zumba and about to go to work.
Guy (a day or two later): Nice.
Me: So I noticed you mentioned you’re a foodie. I love food too! I’m studying nutrition in grad school. What kind of food do you like?
Guy (a few days later): I love all food.

Um, really, Guy?

Maybe I should start dating unattractive guys or short guys or blond guys. The funny thing is, I’ve been told in the past that I dated guys who weren’t that attractive, and what are you doing dating him? Um, because the good-looking guys don’t like me, y’all. They just don’t. One thing I’ve noticed is that they maybe are used to women chasing them, and I don’t like chasing guys.

There’s one potential silver lining, which is that I’ve reconnected with an old friend, a guy I knew who used to work with my first husband, who I’d always liked, who always liked me more, yet who I never dated, for many reasons. For one, I was married. And he was married. Then it turned out he’s an alcoholic. Well, he got sober a year ago (divorced a few years before that) and he wants to see me. We’ll call him Evan. Evan lives in Florida and is going to fly me down there to visit him next month. I should be way more excited, but Evan also has a lot of baggage, and he’s a smoker, he’s irresponsible with his money, and how do I know he won’t drink again, and I guess I just feel like I’ve been through so much shit when it comes to relationships I don’t even know if I want one anymore.

To top it all off, I have fever blisters all over my mouth, which I’d gotten from my ex-husband years ago. I’d cheated on my first husband with my soon-to-be second husband, then I cheated on the second with the first right before I moved to Maryland. A few months later, I got cold sores all over my mouth, which the first had gotten from this girl who he’d always flirted with in the meantime. So I felt like that’s what I get for being a cheater. (I would like to add here that it turns out he’d cheated on me before I ever cheated on him, and I only recently found this out. Not that it makes me a better person but it certainly doesn’t make me worse.) Anyway, the cold sores never returned, so I thought I had the kind that lie dormant, as some people have, but here they are, back again. Painful as hell and worrisome because who’d want to kiss me or be my boyfriend and what if Khalid gave me something?

Maybe it really is better to be single.

believe

The image above was taken from this site.

Peace and love,

TCH

On the Tip of a Melting Iceberg?

Yesterday I went to an herbalist at school to try Chinese herbs for my anxiety and depression. I’ve been on Wellbutrin for a few months, after having been on Prozac for a year, and I’d like to try something more natural for my body. The Prozac made me feel fatigued, and the Wellbutrin makes me feel mildly numb or apathetic. Not completely robotic, but not completely human either. Feelings should be felt, even the painful ones that I don’t really want to face, ever. Not that I’m experiencing painful feelings at the moment, but I’m just saying.

These kinds of healthcare visits always make me think. Probe. Into the dark recesses of my mind, or soul, heart. I’d just gotten finished re-reading a passage from Louise Hay’s You Can Change Your Life from the chapter on how to change, and I’d wondered if I’d ever even read it before. She’s all about positive thinking and the law of attraction, and I’d decided to get back onto that train. But the problem is, this herbalist starts asking me all these probing questions and finally zeros right in on the center of my pain: “So what is it about your mom that you miss?”

My mom died suddenly a year and a half ago, and four months afterward I started taking Prozac. The pain was so unbearable I just didn’t want to deal with it.

So the herbalist asks this question, and that’s when the tears came, but only for a minute, and more like half a tear, because I just don’t want to cry. Been there, done that, let’s move forward.

The Louise Hay book was in my bag, I was at school, and I’d ordered it for a friend of mine who I’ve been wanting to help, trying to help for a couple of years now. But as I read it, I realized maybe I hadn’t even read this particular book before, although my Amazon account showed that I’d ordered it already on my Kindle, probably a few years ago. I know I’ve read some of her other books, but I wasn’t remembering this passage, even though it’s stuff I know. It’s just that we all need reminders—I do, anyway. Louise Hay’s law of attraction philosophy has been on my mind again the last couple of days, along with how my sponsor and my therapist have told me I don’t have to force myself to try to be single. So now I’m beginning a new story to rewire into my consciousness which is that there’s a good man out there for me, someone who loves and respects me for who I am, who will allow me my independence, who’ll be faithful, who I have good chemistry with, and the relationship will be one in which we have friends together and outside of our relationship. Because prior to this I’d been telling myself just the opposite: The pool of available, good single men gets more and more limited the older they get, I won’t find a good guy, I’ll be single forever, and if I do get into a relationship it will feel like a trap and/or won’t be healthy. Eventually that thought pattern leads to Eff this whole town I’m gonna get me a tiny house, live on some land and get some goats. (Because that’s the thought process everyone goes through, right? LOL… PS: Baby goat season is almost here and I cannot WAIT to go to the farm and see them!) These are all old ideas–about the relationship, not the adorable baby goats–but the old ideas about relationships will hold me back if I allow myself to believe them. How do I know there’s not some great guy out there right now who’s maybe going through the process of a divorce and will be ready for a relationship in the future, with me? Someone who’s really funny, and who finds me funny too.

head

The other thing is, I saw myself on video recently, twice, and it was… jarring, to say the least. It’s been bothering me ever since. First of all, I look weird. On the video I look nothing like how I look to myself in the mirror. My mouth is crooked, I move my mouth in a funny way when I speak, my face is asymmetrical, and I don’t understand how anyone finds me attractive. I’m grateful that some people think that–don’t get me wrong. And that part is not important on a deeper level; it just sparks my curiosity. More importantly, more disturbingly, I can see how people find me to be someone who doesn’t show her emotions. Mark had said I keep my cards close, or something like that, whatever the saying is, I have a poker face. It reminds me how others have expressed surprise in the past when I voiced my care or concern over an issue—they’d say, Oh I thought you didn’t notice or care. The videos were for an assignment we had to do for my clinical skills class in which we are to interview a mock client and in it we ask them questions about their health and background. We’re supposed to show empathy and comfort. The good news is that a classmate said I seem like a natural and she could see that in me, but the things is, I cannot see it when I watch the video. I don’t think my customers at work can see it, I’m sure my family doesn’t see it (but then, they don’t see a lot of things), many of my friends don’t see it, and I’m concerned I won’t be able to show it when I become a licensed nutritionist. That classmate and I had a conversation about it afterwards and she said that she herself is expressive so much that when someone tells her something shocking she can’t hide her surprise, and that for me to be more poker-faced is a positive attribute because if a client tells me something I don’t want to show it if I’m surprised or judgmental about it. This is true, but it really bothers me.

So the herbalist gave me some Chinese herbs, some that are designed to “break apart things,” she said. I love how acupuncturists and Chinese medical practitioners always describe things in a way that make no sense to anyone else but make perfect sense to them. They always use their hands when they describe it too, and they always pause before describing it (love you, K!). I’m in a hurry to get ready for work right now so I can’t elaborate, but more on that later. But I am pretty sure I’m picking up what she was throwing down there, which is that I’ve buried a lot of feelings and really need to release them. So maybe I’m on the tip of an iceberg that’s about to melt?

Sigh.

The thing is, I want to bypass all of that and get to the happy part. I just want to be happy! All the time. LOL.

But life is a process, and more layers get peeled back all the time.

Peace and love,

TCH

Ex-Boyfriends, FWBs, Relationships, Etc.

Mark and I had decided to be “friends with benefits,” but we still have feelings for each other, so the fwb thing just ain’t happening. Yet he “can’t be in a relationship with anyone who’s divorced and been hurt by the divorce” (his words) because it triggers childhood trauma from his mother feeling lost (for years) after her divorce from his dad, and subsequently neglecting her kids as a result. She apparently paid more attention to her boyfriends in search of a new husband that never came along. How that situation is anything like mine, or how she and I are anything alike–other than in the way that we’re both human, and all humans experience pain, and most single people our age or older are divorced–I fail to see. I do want a husband, although some days I think I’d be just as happy (or possibly happier, lol) with a boyfriend who lives in a different house who I see maybe twice a week for the rest of my life (lol).

Luckily, Mark’s in therapy. He has OCD, as I’ve mentioned, and suffers from unwanted, intrusive thoughts, and when we’re apart he re-lives the pain he felt as a child when his mother neglected him. I can’t pretend to understand any of this—I’m just telling you what I know. Maybe he feels like I’m neglecting him? He wants to be with me all the time so maybe that’s it.

I’m not sure if any of it matters, because after I talk to him today it’s likely we won’t talk again because I don’t think he can deal with it. I’d be willing to try, because I already know that everyone has issues, and you just have to find someone who’s craziness complements your own, and who’s willing to work with you through theirs. But he probably won’t be willing or able to do that.

The way I see it, you (I) can spend your life trying to find someone who’s perfect, only to be constantly disappointed. Eventually you (hopefully) come to realize that when you find someone new they may be amazing in the beginning, but eventually you find their skeletons, they find yours, and what it boils down to is a decision to deal with each other’s skeletons, and how you communicate that with each other. You’re going to have childhood issues that come out sideways with each other, so you can choose to deal with it together or not.

It’s not that we should settle for any old person who comes along. What I’d like is someone who I enjoy spending time with, who I have chemistry with, who treats me well, and who I trust. It would be great if that was Mark, but I don’t think that’s happening.

In the meantime, my ex emailed me again. He had sent me an email before that he’d been on NPR (eyeroll) for an educational interview about the field of research he does. He’s an academic superstar complete with a PhD, big salary, and high status. Good for him that he has that going for him… but really? I’ll probably never have that in my lifetime, but you know what? I don’t care. I don’t think I’ll be on my deathbed one day regretting that I didn’t get a big job that put me on NPR. I sense he’s feeling me out, trying to see if we could be friends, maybe even get back together, but guess what?

Nope. Ah to the nah to the no no no.

That break-up killed a part of me that will never come back, and probably for good reason. I’m no one’s doormat. No way in hell am I going back to that. It’s too late now. We tried and it didn’t work. I won’t be treated that way again. Dating Mark is like having a girlfriend who’s on her period all the time, but at least he’s nice to me. And respectful. And he can either stay with me and work it out or not. Who knows? Maybe he’ll grow up and get his shit together, come back to me in a year after so much therapy and want me back. By that time I’ll probably have already found someone else who’s already got their shit together, or at least working on it, because no one really has it all together.

But if not, then I guess the time just hasn’t been right yet. I’m getting closer though. I can feel it.

Here’s a song I dedicate to my ex, Steven:

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.

00salzberg

 

Opening Your Heart and Finding Gratitude

1secret

(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.

1vulnerability

Peace and love,

TCH

 

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.

1gratitude

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.”

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.