The Ten BEST Things About Getting Dumped (this time):

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As embarrassing as this is to admit in public (never mind the shoulds or should nots, it just is) my partner of more than two years suddenly left me a couple of weeks ago.  Suffice it to say, that was not ideal and put me on an emotional roller coaster ride. I have plenty to say about all of that, but to help me stay in the present I’m opting to focus on the pros rather than the cons.  In a cost to benefit analysis, here are the current top ten benefits of unexpected singleness:

10. eating whatever the fuck I want, whenever the fuck I want
9. going to bed whenever the fuck I want
8. not waking up to a 6am alarm clock, especially on my days off
7. no more snoring
6. no more incessant whistling
5. no more teenage boy in the house
4. no more joint accounts and shared bills
3. feeling free to let my OCPD freak flag fly all day every day
2. not feeling guilty because a nap is frequently more appealing than sex
…and the #1 reason that getting dumped was a good thing: never worrying about coming home to an unlocked back door

More to come in the days, weeks and months ahead…

love is a choice (originally posted on 8.18.13 – new title “history repeats itself OR fool me twice, shame on me.”)

I have been sick with a head cold for nearly a week now and it has gotten quite tedious.  I am so rarely ill that I have no patience with my own body’s stubborn refusal to get well faster than it is.  I have grown weary of feeling ill and all the emotions that go with it.  As I have said before, I am independent and self-sufficient to a fault, asking for help is not my strong suit.  If I can take care of myself, I would rather do it than inconvenience someone else.  A wise woman once taught me to treat myself the way I want others to treat me, so I happily buy myself flowers and soup when I’m sick. I refuse to play helpless or be self-pitying. However, I deeply appreciate it when people close to me offer to help.  Perhaps especially so since they know how difficult it is for me to ask for help. My roommate, my sister and even my parents have repeatedly asked me if I need anything or if they can bring me something.

My boyfriend is the one person who has not asked me what I need. That makes me sad.

To add insult to injury, he was sick first so I feel an underlying irritation that he passed this mess on to me. Voilà, le pièce de résistance. Last Thursday, after expressing an interest in “doing nothing with me,” he made it clear that meant I would have to drive to his house across town because he was too tired to come to me. I declined because I was sick, among other reasons. Yet later in the evening, he opted to go see a movie with his roommate. I was flooded with ugly thought and feelings…angry, disappointed, dejected, rejected, and neglected but most of all sad. We both had busy weekends ahead and agreed not to exchange any more texts until we could talk face-to-face today. Texting has been consistently troublesome for us and I realize it is not an adequate mode of communication. I went to bed that night with the words from Bonnie Raitt’s heartbreaking song “I Can’t Make You Love Me” running through my head.  I don’t even like Bonnie Raitt. The last few days have given me a lot of time to think about what love means to me. I believe we all have deeply ingrained ideas about what it means to love someone.  I am not sure we take a lot of time to ponder those ideas, where they come from, and how they play out in our lives and relationships. I have come to realize that I believe love is a choice. When I agree to enter into a committed, monogamous relationship with someone, I do not take that decision lightly.  I feel that it is an honor, a privilege, a gift and a responsibility. I do my best to honor that responsibility every day by showing up for my partner, even when I don’t want to or it’s inconvenient or when I don’t even like him that much.  I am not in love with love or the fantasy of love or the way this man loves me; I love this man and it is a choice I make every day to honor that privilege. His proclaimed love for me is a bonus, the proverbial icing on the cake.

To me, love is an action. I frequently refer to Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages, not because I love the book; I find it too Christian and heterosexist but like most things, I have been able to take what I like and leave the rest.  I love the simplicity of the principles Chapman proposes. In my personal and professional opinion, a lot of frustration could be alleviated if we take the time learn one’s partner’s love language and put it into practice. Chapman says, “Love is a choice and cannot be coerced…Each of us must decide daily to love or not to love our [partners.] If we choose to love, then expressing it in the way in which our [partner] requests will make our love most effective emotionally.” I love the idea of making relationship requests; ideally, it takes a lot of the confusing guesswork out of the equation. My primary love language is what Chapman calls Acts of Service, “they require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.”  I openly share that this is the way I am best able to receive love.  My partner’s primary love language is Words of Affirmation, which I do my best to apply liberally and generously even though that is not my natural inclination. Since my love language involves action, I feel words are hollow so I naturally show my love with acts of service.  Giving words of affirmation is a deliberate choice I make to show my partner love in the way that he can best receive it. I do not say all of this because I feel I deserve praise; I am simply sharing my philosophy of love.

In my tribe, we frequently hear that expectations are premeditated resentments.  Furthermore, love and tolerance of others is our code. These are also principles I do my best to live by. However, as a recovering person who still sometimes struggles with co-dependency, I walk a tightrope between being caring and caretaking.  For me, having no expectations in my relationships feels like one misstep away from being a doormat.  Allowing myself to have requests and what my therapist calls “preconditions for sex” is part of this ongoing negotiation we call a relationship. When it comes to certain requests and preconditions, I think all of us have some non-negotiables. An expectation of mine sound like this: I would like to know my partner is willing and able to show up for me when I am sick, hurt or scared, even when it may be inconvenient and possibly annoying to him.  My preconditions for sex include getting tested for STDs and maintaining good physical hygiene, even when he might not feel like it.  Chapman says you do not have to do these things but if you do them, it will be an act of love.

To my knowledge, I have never asked a partner for expensive gifts, dinners or trips. I do not need flowers, cards, or chocolate, although all of those things are nice.  I am most often drawn to men who are not wealthy. Generally speaking, that is actually more attractive to me than the alternative. I’m not wealthy, nor do I expect to be.  I do not want or need a man to take care of me financially, although it sounds great in theory. I have issues around money and I fear the conditions that are sometimes attached to bank accounts. I frequently wonder if I am too demanding, if perhaps I have my expectations set too high.  Could it be that I am delusional and I don’t give nearly as much as I think I do? I am not hoping for a 100% return on my investment, in fact I would probably be happy with a 50% return on what I give.  I enjoy being a giver and I do not think that makes me a martyr, I am just wired to be nurturing and I believe those closest to me would agree.  However, I do not want to feel that my partner is taking my efforts for granted.  Apparently, acknowledgement, validation and appreciation are my relationship requests and my preconditions for sex.  There is no way I will feel turned on if I feel my partner is taking advantage of me.  I have found it is nearly impossible for me to stop the giving so it is imperative that my partner appreciate me. The Bible says “Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs…love never gives up; and its faith, hope and patience never fail.” Although I am not Christian, I find these to be Universal truths and I only hope I measure up.

sexual privacy…what does it mean to you?

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I have been following Ester Perel on Twitter for quite some time, although I have yet to read her book Mating in Captivity.  I adore this woman and yet somehow I missed her talk on TED when it first aired on Valentine’s Day last year.  For both personal and professional reasons, I have been researching eroticism and desire in long-term relationships and in the process, I found the TED video after reading an interview with her in The Sun Magazine. I am slightly obsessed with her talk right now, I have printed out the transcript and carry it with me to revisit regularly.  I keep hearing these words in the quiet spaces of my mind, when I am alone and with my partner, “I’ve come to understand erotic couples…have a lot of sexual privacy. They understand that there is an erotic space that belongs to each of them.”  Being the very private introvert that I am, those words have given me much pause for thought.  What exactly is sexual privacy?  How can I explain to another the exact nature of my erotic space?  I would love to hear your comments, either here or in a personal message, about what sexual privacy and erotic space mean to you.

Click here to watch Esther Perel’s TED talk on “the secret to desire in a long-term relationship.”

attempting re-entry

As I sit here attempting to pull myself out of the crater that my creativity has become, I cannot believe I have not written anything of substance since last year. So much has happened in the months since my last post…some of it wonderful, some of it terrible; yet as always, all of it growth enhancing. I want to begin by sharing that I have recently been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, moderate on the right and severe on the left.  Having near constant pain and numbness in my hands has severely limited my desire and ability to type. The orthopedic surgeon said that some of the muscles in my hand have atrophied and that is rare to see such an advanced case in someone my age. I have been feeling somewhat foolish, knowing that had I taken care of the issue sooner it would not have gotten this bad.  Sadly, it is still in my nature to ignore or minimize my own wants and needs.  This afternoon an acquaintance of mine said he believes that is a sign of emotional immaturity, nothing quite like being shamed for one’s shame.  Personally, I disagree with that and believe it is more likely a sign of childhood trauma, either emotional, physical or both.  For the record, I have rarely been accused of being emotional immature.

Please allow me to indulge in a brief synopsis of everything that has happened this year.

Almost immediately after I posted about my “misadventures in dating,” I decided to disable my online dating profile following a particularly vile first (and last) date. I decided I would be better off leaving my romantic future up to The Fates and as luck would have it, I was right. I accidentally fell in love with a wonderful man whom I had previously known as a friend for nearly three years. In many ways, he is my equal and my ideal.

Ironically, around the time I was falling in love, a very dear family member went through an unexpected, unwanted and extremely painful divorce resulting from ongoing infidelity and dishonesty.  The divorce split our family apart and was devastating for everyone involved.

I have resigned from more jobs, thus setting a personal record.  However, I continue to be blessed with work I love.

Not to be outdone, I received more unsolicited and unwanted contact from the ex who will not go away, despite the fact that I have not responded to him since last June. At that time, I asked him not to contact me anymore.  Clearly, he has very little impulse control.

“July 16, 2013: I hope this message finds you healthy, happy and blessed.  I just wanted to write to let you know that since we last saw each other, I’ve sort of experienced a major transition in my life, moving from one life stage to a new one.  And while that has brought about changes to nearly every aspect of my life, such as how I see myself & others, the things I value, how I engage with the world around me, what I’m interested in, how open and comfortable I am with myself and others, the company I keep and so forth… the one thing that has remained constant is my appreciation for who you are and what you’ve taught me.  Ok, so maybe it hasn’t remained constant so much as it has grown, but you get the idea. I hope that this isn’t interpreted as an attempt to rekindle anything or anything of that sort.  My only intention here is to let you know that you have had a tremendous influence on my life for the better, and that I am constantly thankful for having gotten to spend the time with you that I was allowed.  I hope someday to be able to have the same level of positive influence on someone else that you have had on me.  Other than that my only other hope is that someday perhaps we can sit and enjoy cup of coffee together, even if in absolute silence. Until that time however, I hope you received and enjoyed the coffee and that whatever life puts before you is of the very richest possible quality, as someone of your character deserves nothing but the very best. Congratulations on the 10 year milestone, the new career & your birthday by the way.  I hope each milestone was celebrated to the fullest :)

Thoughts, prayers & well wishes, R.”

Do not be fooled by his snake-charmer wiles, this is not about love, respect, adoration or admiration.  Remember, this is the same man who accused me of acting like a cunt on Christmas Eve during one of his temper tantrums. I assure you, he does not even care whether I like him.  He is a master manipulator who makes vain attempts to bait me (and others, I am sure) into reflecting his attention back onto him. He can be quite convincing but he is not the best I have encountered. Thankfully, I am older, wiser and blissfully impervious to his narcissistic machinations.

misadventures in dating

For the last few years, I have been attempting to navigate the world of online dating.  It certainly isn’t ideal but since I quit drinking and changed careers, I have found it much more difficult to meet prospective dates.  It isn’t that I’m desperate to meet someone; I have always been content to be alone.  However, I have also been madly in love before and I wouldn’t mind experiencing that feeling again one day.  Yet I sometimes wonder if I am even capable of having feelings that intense again, now that I am older, wiser and perhaps a bit more jaded.

Online dating began as a sort of anthropological experiment, as most of my adventures do.  I spent the better part of nine years getting a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, so became an innate part of how I operate.  People sometimes ask me what exactly is cultural anthropology.  Although I certainly understand what it is, I usually have a difficult time explaining it. Wikipedia states “cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans, collecting data about the impact of global economic and political processes on local cultural realities. Anthropologists use a variety of methods, including participant observation, interviews and surveys. Their research is often called fieldwork because it involves the anthropologist spending an extended period of time at the research location.” I suppose I have been conducting personal fieldwork as part of an ongoing longitudinal study on human dating and mating behavior.

My last relationship was the result of meeting online and taught me a powerful lesson about the importance of meeting sooner than later.  Had we initially met in person rather than relying on electronic communication for three years, I would have saved myself a lot of time and trouble.  More recently, I dated a man I met at work, which I felt was a much more organic way to get to know someone.  Unfortunately, that resulted in a rejection of my least favorite variety, the disappearing act.  There is something about the loose ends and unfinished business of a disappearing act that leaves me feeling abandoned, as discarded and inconsequential as last week’s garbage. I would rather someone tell me to fuck off and die than quietly disappear with no explanation.

I decided to get back on the horse, so to speak, as quickly as possible to avoid wallowing in self-pity.  The online dating has quickly become akin to a train wreck or carnival ride.  I want to quit looking or jump off the ride but I just can’t seem to pull myself away.  Here are a few messages I received from strangers in the past twenty-four hours:

“Hey cutie” [so verbose!]

“DAMN you are beautiful girl! Hi, I’m [Uncreative Man].”

“Hey are you into younger men and if so do you want to have a boy toy because I want a older women no strings attached. So if you like what you hear text me xxx-xxx-xxxx and maybe we can get to know each other.”  [hmmm…rather presumptuous]

Last but not least, my personal favorite…

“Nice profile… you like Dominant men? Im looking for submissive female to date and get to know..You interested?” [nothing says “nice to meet you” like a D/s introduction].  After I politely responded he replied “get over it.”  Nice.

Sigh.  Interestingly, I’m not quite ready to give up yet.  I rarely get the butterflies of excitement anymore at the possibility of meeting someone new and promising, but the allure of conducting more anthropological research is too strong. After all, almost nothing holds my interest quite like the endlessly fascinating ways in which human beings behave.

I am such a girl

“You’re such a girl.”  In the end, that was the bottom line.  I will never understand how a heterosexual male who claims he is attracted to me would consider being such a girl a liability.  My knee-jerk reaction was embarrassment, perhaps even shame, for being such a girl.  How silly, how ridiculous, how immature of me to be such a girl.  I have spent a majority of my life shrinking back into myself after feeling shame about simply being.  As I shared in a previous post, I always felt too tall, too big, too sturdy, too broad, too thick, too fat, too loud, too much.  However, and in the oft-quoted words of Anaïs Nin, “the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I suppose I could now add “too much girl” to the list, but thankfully I have grown exponentially this year, finally allowing my bud to blossom, and I refuse to take that on.

Last Christmas Eve, a man who said he was in love with me told me I was acting like a cunt.  Yes, you read that correctly. A cunt. On Christmas Eve.  Almost a year later I still have no clue what it was about my behavior that would elicit such response.  In my forty years I have behaved quite badly quite often and not once has a man ever described me as a cunt.  In the months that followed, we had many inane discussions and arguments that ultimately led to a relatively anticlimactic breakup and not once did I feel embarrassed or ashamed of my innate self.  I know I am not a cunt.  However, the idea of being such a girl conjures up images of stereotypical women from romantic comedy movies who behave in ways that make me feel embarrassed for them and embarrassed to be such a girl.  Perhaps I am sexist but I believe I am a truly feminist, which I understand to mean I have the freedom to be the entire woman I am, shamelessly. Perhaps I am too much girl for that boy, but that has nothing to do with me.  I am always willing to hold myself accountable for my part, but I will not be accountable for another person’s fears, insecurities, self-doubt or otherwise.  I will not apologize for being such a girl.  In the past eleven months I quit smoking, ended a relationship, said goodbye to a beloved pet, read my writing onstage, reconnected with a man who has been an infrequent lover and consistent friend, quit two terrible jobs, landed two wonderful jobs and several amazing clients, turned 40 and lost my dog who found her own way home.  If that is what it means to be such a girl then I will proudly own it. 20120705-IMG_6625

I can’t help but wonder if some men (and perhaps women) are intimidated by strong sexual energy and the confidence that comes with it.  I recently had a colleague tell me that I have a lot of “male” energy.  I’m not sure I identify as “male” anything but I do think that might be a way for some people to understand and explain a sexually free-spirited woman.  Thanks to my career path I can happily justify buying all the books I want in the name of professional development.  I recently began reading a book entitled Women Who Love Sex, initially because I want to help my clients who are struggling with their own sexual desire, but also because I am a woman who unabashedly loves sex.  The book is wonderful and I hope that I find even more healing, for my brave clients and for myself, within it.  The author writes,

“Women are used to squeezing or stretching to adjust, used to conforming to attract…Our wishes for something more in bed never seem to be the right size or the timing is off.  We begin to question if we ought to want what we want, if our wishes are normal…Women who are too randy, or too cold or too demanding risk losing the right to relationship…Despite the risks and dangers, despite the possibility of brutalization somewhere along the line, despite the challenges, taboos, and misunderstandings, there are women who continue to love sex.  Women for whom sex-by their own definitions-is a source of connectedness, health and personal power.  For whom sex is a route to ecstasy.”

Yes, yes, yes…I am such a girl.

Aside

little bit

“Hands down
I’m too proud, for love
But with eyes shut
It’s you I’m thinking of
But how we move from A to B it can’t be up to me
Cause I don’t know
Eye to eye
Thigh to Thigh
I let go
I think I’m a little bit
Little bit
A little bit in love with you”

And for you I keep my legs apart
And forget about my tainted heart
And I will never ever be the first
To say it’s still a, Game over
I would do it
Push a button
Pull a trigger
Climb a mountain
Jump off a cliff
Cause you know baby I love you love you
A little bit…

Come here
Stay with me
Stroke me
By the hair
Cause I would give anything
Anything
To have you as my man”

reflection

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It was on this day ten years ago that I took my last drink.  Overall, it was an uneventful evening as far as hitting bottom goes.  Long story short, I brought an entire band back to my home, which at the time I shared with my younger sister.  The next day I decided I had to quit drinking, for good and for all.  On the anniversary of that night, I like to devote some time to reflecting on everything that has happened in the past year, what I have learned and how I have grown.  One of the significant events from the year was my volatile relationship and extrication thereof.  I repeatedly engaged in some of the most ridiculous power struggles imaginable; including debates about coffee, sleeping arrangements, firearms, condoms, STI testing and fetish modeling.  It was one of my more exhausting and emotionally draining relationships and sometimes I still feel embarrassed that I stayed in it as long as I did.  Two months after we broke up, he contacted me and I requested that he cease and desist.  I enjoyed a blissful three more months of no contact until this week, when I received a gem in my inbox.  My friend DD suggested that I write a book about the past two years of my experiences with men entitled Notes from the Narcissist.”  This would be an excerpt from Chapter Five:

“Hi,
     I don’t know if it’s welcomed or not, but I wanted to touch base with you.  Lately I’ve been going through a major life transition and my attentions have shifted from the external to the internal.  Consequently I feel like I’ve been much more in tune with things.  At any rate, I’ve been getting the sense that I should say hello and ask you how you’ve been doing.  I think about you often, and the thoughts are always of an appreciative nature.  I really do think you are a very unique and remarkable person and I am grateful that I was able to connect with a soul as uniquely brilliant as your own.
     If you want I can bring you your ironing board and iron sometime.  I’ve been toting around a couple of natural citrine crystals with me also lately and been wanting to give you one of them just because.  I was also hoping maybe you’d let me do something for you just so I can communicate in your own language that I do appreciate you for who you are.  Doesn’t have to be anything special or anything… I’d just like that opportunity to convey to you that I do think you’re a wonderful person and that I appreciate you for having some impact on me in ways you don’t even know about.
     Anyway that’s what’s been on my mind.  I really hope life is blessing you and treating you with favor.”

My first instinct was nausea, and then the warm feeling of flattery washed over me, which was quickly replaced by anger.  Or was it pity? Perhaps revulsion? I am not sure how one can misconstrue a request to cease and desist but in my world no means no.  It is much too late for hollow gestures of admiration and appreciation.  I am grateful for the lesson in every experience and I learned this one well:  I have been here before and I will not go there again.

unintentional hiatus

I realized I neglected to write anything last month. I have been so insanely busy and still trying to adjust to my new work schedule that I just lost track of time and August got away from me. I will do my best to carve out some time this month to knock out two blog posts to make up for it.
Fall is just around the corner and I have mixed feelings about it. I welcome the cooler weather but with it always comes a slight sense of loss and melancholy. The fall has always been a difficult time for me and I struggle with it every year. This year I hope that all the wonderful things happening in my life will offset the sadness.

life is difficult

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Life is difficult, the first line in M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled. It is just one line in one man’s book but I agree with his assertion, as life has not been easy for me.  I am fully aware that growing up in white middle class America secured me a protected and privileged position in society.  Among other things, that position afforded me the guarantee of nutritious meals, healthcare, good schools, and family vacations; all of which I completely took for granted growing up.  As an adult, I suppose I have always felt somewhat guilty that I was born into such a life yet still find it difficult.  So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making.

I spent my first thirty years operating as an egomaniac with low self-esteem, making most decisions based on near-panic levels of fear, albeit subconsciously and unintentionally.  Fear of financial insecurity, fear there wasn’t enough love in this world for me, fear of losing something I have, fear of not getting something I want.  Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity….we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt. Thankfully, I have spent enough time in introspection and self-reflection that I have learned how to do something different.  I am grateful that I have gained just enough emotional maturity and coping skills to act rather than react, from a place of love rather than fear.  I have gathered enough experiential evidence to know that if I just get out of the way and let the Universe unfold as it should, it always does exactly that.  And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone…easier said than done but I only hurt myself by struggling against the Universal Life Force over which I have only the delusion of control.

It took me nearly ten months to the day to get a job in my field after finishing my graduate degree and now there are limitations, details and logistics making the situation feel intolerable to me.  I find myself wondering why this is so difficult…why can’t everything be smooth and easy, at least for a while?  The answer to that question is always the same: where is the lesson and learning experience in smooth and easy?  If life were never difficult, I would not be compelled to seek out comfort and solace from friends.  I would not have experience, strength and hope to draw upon when friends seek comfort and solace from me. I would not have learned how to be a woman of character, who aspires to behave with grace and dignity regardless of life’s circumstances.

This week I received the gift of perspective and with it came a taste of serenity.  I am blessed to have a job putting my education to use, I am enjoying my freedom from a dysfunctional relationship and I am surrounded by a support system of reliable, caring people.  I can be grateful for the difficult times because without them I would not be able to fully appreciate the wonderful ones.