Therapy: My Experience to Date

In the past I’ve written posts where ‘humor and observation’ were the theme, but at the moment, I want to write about my life as messy as it is.  I finally went back into therapy last October and it is funny how it will force you to acknowledge things about yourself that you try so desperately to ignore for decades.  It’s painful, but if you do the work you’ll be happier and stronger in the end – at least that’s what I’m told.  Since I’m still in the process, every step feels like I’m moving through quicksand.  To change life-long habits, tolerate bad behavior from others and never really find my voice to speak my mind is a real struggle for me.  I have learned through the process that burying feelings is no longer healthy for me.

I grew up in a very passive aggressive household where you never spoke up, no one yelled at one another and everyone hated confrontation.  Confrontation meant you didn’t love a person.  I didn’t realize it just means that you’re voicing your opinion or needs until I accepted a position where that was my job.  Granted it took me years in business to figure this out, but for some reason I have never truly been able to transfer this thinking into my personal life.  Instead, I became a people pleaser for everyone.  I couldn’t, and often don’t know how to say no, as I’m afraid I will let them down.  At the end of the day, it often takes me years to let someone in….and usually it is only friends.  So when I took a chance letting someone in, I was (and still a bit) crushed that I wasn’t enough.  However, after reading my past journal entries (journaled over the past 20+ years), I’m not sure I’m a person I’d like.  I became the worst version of me.  I tested him at every opportunity, drilled him with questions when I should have let him tell me when he was ready.  Long story short, I was reverting back to what I’m trying to change in therapy.  While I believe everyone feels this innate need to feel liked or loved; one should never force it.  In my case, I knew this person for years prior and respected in him in business, but several months ago, things changed.  I got to know him differently and it was exciting because I couldn’t imagine this person could like me.  Now I know I should have recognized I have a lot to offer someone, but I just wasn’t ready.  Honestly, I’m still not.  However, what therapy has taught me is not to bury my feelings anymore.  There are days I miss him because I still find him to be: interesting, funny, nice, quirky and kind-hearted.  Do I wish things worked out differently?  Yes and no.  If it was later when strong enough to realize that I have a lot to offer the right person, I think it would be a richer/deeper relationship.  Here’s what I know:  I heal very differently than my friends.  I’ve been told that I shouldn’t engage with this person, but I’m not a water spigot.  I can’t magically shut off my feelings for a person.  However, I can and will stop taking jabs at him for hurting me.  He has every right to move on.  I wanted him to know how much he hurt me and I think he knows.  I need to heal and being angry or bitter is not going to help me….and quite frankly, I’ve known some bitter women in my lifetime and they scare me.  Besides, it really does physically hurt me to carry that much angry with me.  I don’t enjoy shutting down and, in time, will open my heart when I’m ready to.  In the meantime, I’m tired of not enjoying life, appreciating the people who love and care for me.  At the end of the day, my friends won’t understand why I’d continue to let someone in who hurt me as he has, but I know I will be a better person because I learned to let him in.

I’ve decided to take what I’ve learned from him – the things that put a smile on my face and carry them forward.  What he has taught me is that it’s okay for a woman to be intelligent and not hide it because a guy isn’t as bright.  He also awoke a part of me I decided wasn’t important: dressing up, wearing heels, dresses and taking extra time to feel pretty.  My mother judged people on their looks so I took the extreme position and hid who I was, but now recognize it is okay to want to feel pretty.  I know that just because I want to feel pretty, doesn’t mean I will judge others on their looks like she did.  It just means I want to come out from the shadows I’ve been hiding in for so many years.  I also want to be a better communicator.  I don’t need to add to every subject discussed, and that sometimes silence is just as important.  I used to be a great listener, but I think over the years I had to repeat self to be heard.  I really hate that and know that’ll take time to change.

In the meantime, I’ve started going back to cooking classes and am carving out time to do things that are really important to me.  I no longer feel the need to impress anyone, but still love doing things for people I care for as I love to care for others or just put a smile on their face.  One day when I’m ready, I hope I find someone like this man…with the one exception – I want this man to want to share his life with me and think I’m more than just enough.

 

 

Experiment in Dating Self: When Do You Know It is Time to Break-Up with Any Person, Place or Thing?

This week, the school of hard knocks pounded on my door and crushed me.  I let someone in my life when most vulnerable, didn’t let my wall down for a long time, but they slowly took it down brick-by-brick.  I was blindsided by a 2×4 and am hurt and angry more than I ever have been.  As the undeclared Queen of Over-Analyzing any Situation, even I can’t and won’t analyze the reasons given to me as the person still wants me in their life.  Here’s what I know.  I like the person, I enjoy our interactions and everything is easy, but don’t know if I can trust him or anyone new again.

As I was stewing in anger, I decided that I needed to shake things up and decided to use my anger to fuel my desire to train for a ½ marathon.  I have an unusual fear of running so this is a HUGE and exciting challenge for me.  During my first training session, I realized towards the end of it, I will lose my anger through this training and anger can only fuel you so far.  I was relieved to feel the anger leave my body during that workout, but Anger, Sadness and Betrayal (aka friends from hell) do make a daily appearance in my life because of this one person I let get close to me.  I realized after waking up this morning, it is okay to embrace and acknowledge these emotions as it’s the only way you heal, but also realized that all these months of trying to date myself, I don’t like the person I was dating.  I want someone different.

No…this doesn’t mean I’m going change my life and move to an Ashram, but I’m going to embrace good boundaries, admit when I don’t like something and move on and stop analyzing words or situations as much as I used to.  Why?  Because life is too damn short to embrace stuff in my personal life that doesn’t bring me happiness.  For instance, I can’t seem to break-up with a bad book.  I can be bored out of my mind and I continue to read it because I feel if the author took the time to write the words then I should read them.  That’s going to stop.  I have dozens of books I want to read in my house and I’m obsessing over hurting the feelings of an author who has no clue that I’m even reading their book.  Seriously?  Next….

Yesterday I had a conversation with my soon to be ex-husband (we’re friends) and I was telling him how I couldn’t meet with him this Sunday as I was meeting with a cleaning person (who is a friend of a friend) and when he found out where she lived he was trying to get me to worry about her commute to my house.  After the 2nd time of succinctly stating:  that’s not my issue, if she wants the job, she’ll make the commute and clean my house twice a month.  It’s not my job to worry about whether she’ll be okay with the drive to my house.  Now I realize why nothing was ever worked on at the house when he lived with me.  This constantly worrying about what races through the minds of others is no longer my concern.  I need to let it go so I can focus on me.

Here’s the person I want to date – it’s really the person who has always been hanging around in the shadows, but hiding because I couldn’t embrace a version of me that wasn’t always going to try to be perfect.  My philosophy has always been if I can’t be perfect then I shouldn’t try.  I could be interested in it, but as soon as I realized I sucked at something, even if I enjoyed it, I stopped doing it.   After living under this mantra and not being happy, I think it’s time to embrace and love who I really am.  I’m a person who is curious about most things in life.  I love to keep an open mind, have many interests and at times am a hot mess who can’t handle everything.  I decided I am going to begin to let the balls drop and pick up only one at a time.  I’m also going to stop hiding because I’m not beautiful by Society’s standards.  I want to be girly…I want to dress up, wear heels and stop avoiding the mirror because I’m not one of the models you see on the cover of any magazine on the newsstand.  I want to read more books without the guilt of having to finish one I don’t like; listen to more music, cook, write and only allow people in my life who I truly feel safe around.

Nurturing Oneself

As a woman, I’ve used the word ‘diet’ as often as I’ve said my name.  I hate the word, but seemed to have begrudgingly embraced the word into my everyday life for the past several decades.  However, about 10 days ago, I eliminated the word and began a daily practice of nurturing.

I know I sound very new-age, but trust me, I’m not giving up my AC to live in a yurt.  Instead, I finally learned that trying to be on a diet stressed me out more than I ever imagined.  I was never perfect and would constantly beat myself up and be disappointed that the numbers on the scale would just never go down enough.  What I noticed was a direct correlation between how I felt with the type of food I ate, hours I slept, and amount of me time I gave myself on a daily basis.  I shouldn’t be all that surprised since I started looking at the relationships in my life 2 years back and started eliminating the ones that weren’t working and noticed an immediate change in how I felt about me.  While I didn’t recognize that I was ‘nurturing’ me, I guess I was.  It only took me 18 more months to put this practice into place about how I spend my days.

I no longer use the word diet.  I find it to be restrictive and punitive.  Why was I wanting to punish myself when what I really wanted was to feel better and have an active lifestyle.  Let’s take aside the fact that I don’t enjoy my job (I may have a change of heart down the line, but that requires an entire attitude adjustment that I’m not ready to make quite yet), I just want to feel good.  I don’t want to feel sore, achy, itchy (psoriasis) or bloated.  I’m slowing figuring out what trigger foods set me off, but I’m not perfect.  There are times I’m jonesing for a diet cola and know well what the consequences are and go through the drive-thru of my local fast food restaurant anyway.  I’ve stopped worrying about what to order when I go out to dinner.  Why not order what I truly want, enjoy the meal, and move on from there.  It’s not a set-back in my mind anymore because I know when I’m in my own environment, I’ll eat the right foods and make choices that will have me feeling better.

I think the hardest thing about nurturing oneself is being true to who you are and figuring out what you need to be happy.  I realized this morning that I wasn’t making progress to take better care of me and at times I was trying to be anyone but me.  I wasn’t giving myself permission to mourn my impending divorce and at times, I miss my husband…I mean really miss him because I know we’d both enjoy what I was doing, so I’ve been crying a lot lately.  However, I know, in my heart, I’m happier alone.

There are so many things I need to repair before I move on to be with another person and I honestly don’t think I have the room in my heart to let anyone in anymore.  I’m slowing learning that the person I need to worry about embracing me, and loving me, is me as I will learn not to let me down.

Master of My Own Domain….

When I started on my venture to date myself, I thought because I was in control I won’t let the traditional pitfalls of any relationship be a part of mine.  Well….ya know what…. the pitfalls do creep in when you aren’t looking.

For instance, everyone wants to put their best foot forward in any new relationship.  They want the other person to see a shiny, happy, magnificent person: one who is this awesome human being and I know I did this with myself.  I want to change, but I realize if you try to change everything at once you become cranky, tired and disappointed.

I recently read an article that stated the most important thing to teach a child isn’t necessarily to have self-esteem, but self-compassion.  I need to start doing that.  I am in the process of cleaning out a house I’ve lived in for 20 years, but what I’m really cleaning out is the stuff left behind 2 marriages that I hid in my basement and attic.  I thought, silly me, this would take 3 weekends.  Let me throw into the mix that I live in a different state for 3 days for work and by the time I get home on late Wednesday evening I’m burnt out.  Sounds sad, but Thursday is a bit of a recovery day which leaves me Friday and Saturday and I’m working Friday, cleaning and running errands on Saturday and then getting my crap together on Sunday for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  While this should take a very short time, it doesn’t because I’m procrastinating because I’m unhappy.  I feel like a nomad.  Sorry….strayed from topic of this post, but my point is that I was trying to impress self by being this amazing super person – setting ridiculous goals as I enter into my new life and am now realizing things are going to slide.  I’m not perfect.  Nor will I ever be.  I need to date the version of me that at times is incredibly anal and on top of organizing my life; other times just needs to veg out and be completely unproductive because of the stress I put on me to be perfect combined with working in a job I don’t enjoy; the over-analyzer and constantly questioning the what-ifs because I’m a worrier; or the me that just needs to hang with friends and say fuck it to the long list of things I should be doing.  Instead, I’m going to embrace the true me and if there are things about me I want to change, I will change them for me and really isn’t this whole purpose of ‘Date Myself’ is to be in a relationship with the person who is supposed to bring me the most happiness?

 

It’s So Easy to Slip into Old Habits

I think it’s easy to slip back into toxic habits, and in my case, I’ve been allowing distractions to consume my life instead of focusing on what I need to be happy.

Part of being truly happy, besides treating yourself well, is looking at your surroundings and taking stock of your home, health and finances (aka as ‘my well-being’) – which are all the basics I need to have in order in place before I can incorporate another person in my life. I’m finally seeing my issues that need addressing in my well-being and am slowly starting to take some steps at correcting it, I realize I need to make it my number one priority because…well….I’ll never heal and will be a proverbial walking hot mess.

This year has been both a tough and interesting year. I’ve had some health issues that landed me in the hospital and an oral surgeon’s chair for emergency dental surgery (mouth issues are the worst). I also found out that I’ve locked away a lot of interests I’ve neglected (like love of lingerie) because I didn’t feel strong enough with who I was to just not give a shit and explore that side of me. So……for the next 21 days, like any good cleanse, I’m limiting my smartphone use to bedtime – I use mine for music and an alarm clock. No texts, Facebook or games. This should give me an idea of what I’ve been neglecting in my life because I haven’t been ready to face things. I’m also going to limit my Internet use to blogging, bill paying, research on lawn mowers, and setting up times to see friends to actually connect with people in person. Novel approach to heal while I file for divorce and start the next chapter of my life.

During this time, I also plan to use the bow flex max trainer M5 I ordered late one night while on Vicodin from dental surgery, box a bit more, run again, take back my health (translation get psoriasis under control – it really is stress and food related for me), meditate and openly lean on my friends for social events.

Honestly, I’m curious to go back to the 1990s before the smartphone – where people were forced to look at their surroundings for their happiness. I just think my smartphone became my drug of choice to ignore the bullshit I have to get through to finally be happy.

Learning to Communicate All Over Again…….

As I get older, I find it harder to communicate with others that I want to get to know better or begin to care about. I know I’ve become much more guarded and often react to statements by lashing out with cruel comments and know as soon as the words have left my mouth that I was a total dumbass. The best I can hope for is that someone accepts my apology and try to never repeat the same mistake again.

However, it’s not always what I say, it’s often the questions I ask. I push and push without realizing before it is too late that I’ve really hurt the person on the other end of what turns out to be an unplanned interrogation. I’m so worried that I will repeat past mistakes of other relationships that I ask the questions because I need to see how they’ve handled a situation. I don’t judge, but I do evaluate their answer. I know I sound like I’m splitting hairs, but it’s really very different.

Judging means that I think I’m superior or better than that person, but evaluating, well evaluating is accessing how that person handled a situation and pondering over whether I want to know more about this person. I already have a fear of allowing someone to get close to me, do you think I’m going to come and say “Hey, I’m going to ask a whole bunch of personal questions and if you think I’m going to let up on you, think again.” Honestly, I didn’t even know I did this until a friend told me I needed to be more sensitive with my questions. My heart sank as I hadn’t realized that I was dredging up a part of his life he didn’t want to necessarily talk about because he politely answered all of my questions. To this day, I still feel horrible that I hadn’t realized my questions, which I thought seemingly innocent, were actual painful to the person answering them.

I’d like to say this is the only area that I need to improve my communication skills in, but I’ve been so focused on getting over this rough patch in my life that at times I’ve become the worst version of me: self-centered and myopic. I truly care about my friends and family, but yet, I forget to ask the basic of all questions: How was your day…or What do you have going on? My sister recently called me out on this bad behavior and am grateful she did. I think you only become a richer individual by allowing others to share their lives with you. I was a history major in college and find it fascinating hearing about the lives of others, and while this may sound corny, I consider myself blessed that someone wants to share their life with me. I get a glimpse of life from another set of eyes and from a different perspective.

As I get older, I find it harder and harder to allow others to see or get to know me. There is a part of me which thinks people will find me boring or dull. What is worse is that there is another part of me that fears I’ll forget how to speak up when unhappy or hurt because throughout the years, I was conditioned to smile and not make waves. I chose partners that either didn’t like when I disagreed with them as they were insecure with a not-so-great temper and another who chose not to listen unless I either cried or screamed. At the end of the day, I realized I didn’t want to become the worst version of me to be heard….and frankly, it was too exhausting for me to continue life that way.

It’s funny, but over the years I’ve collected 2 Horton the Elephants. I’ve always loved the story that Horton’s able to hear what others can’t and eventually everyone discovers he’s not crazy and are also able to hear the people of Whoville. I thought I loved that story because Horton was very protective of the tiny village, but now realize it’s because I relate to the townspeople of Whoville. I am hopeful if I allow myself to open up and don’t shy away, I’ll find my Horton who is willing, wanting and able to hear what I have to say.

Valentine’s Day

Traditionally, Valentine’s Day is shared between 2 lovers, but when you date yourself, you have a tendency to focus on the lack of partner for the holiday instead of focusing on the great one standing before you in the mirror.

Years ago, I nixed Valentine’s Day. It’s one of those holidays where expectations of how your loved one shows you how he/she loves you by the day they’ve planned. Personally, I’ve had many a holiday where the gift has fallen flat and I’ve been left completely disappointed. I guess it’s because it’s the one holiday where I want my partner to have paid attention to the subtle hints I’ve dropped of what would make me happy instead having to prattle off a list of acceptable gifts.

See…..I’m a hopeless romantic. Well, kind of. I’m pretty logical and analytical and bury this part deep within me because no one has ever been able to figure out that not every gift has to be over the top to put a smile on my face. I won’t lie, if someone planned a long weekend to Paris for me, I’d be over the moon.  However, I think part of this is because someone other than me, planned the trip. For me, it is often the simple gesture which melts my heart. You want to cook a dinner for me, or buy the ingredients and cook with me – AWESOME. A great music playlist because you’ve paid attention to what I listen to – AMAZING. I really think it’s because someone has taken the time to zero in on what I want, not necessarily buy what advertisers think I would want. Also, buying the same gift year-after-year is wrong. Just because I loved a gift last year, doesn’t mean I want it again. I mean I might, but to me, Valentine’s Day is more about paying attention and listening to what your partner wants at that moment in time.

For years I carried my aversion to this holiday forward. This year, I changed my thinking. I realized if I was dating me, who better to buy me my own gift. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine, he wholeheartedly supported me and suggested a piece of pottery.

I know that may not appeal to all, but I love to entertain and love serving pieces made by artisans. My friend offered to take me to some places and commented that my eyes lit up as soon as I saw a piece I wanted. I’d like to say he’s lying, but I do light up and do get excited when around pottery. It sounds crazy, but I begin to imagine how I’d use a piece….and, not all pieces are for practical purposes; some are treasured because they are whimsical and make me laugh. This year, I decided to splurge on me on bought several pieces. I can’t wait to use them because I’ll know I bought them to celebrate the love I have for me.

I know many won’t understand the above comment, but I’m starting to be in a place where learning about me is a pretty interesting and awesome place. I’m unlocking interests I’ve suppressed over the years and have more confidence in who I am and what I want at this point in life. If or when I decide to date someone other than me, I believe they’ll have to be a strong individual who compliments my lifestyle and not intimidated by the confidence I’m beginning to discover in myself.

This Valentine’s Day was pretty amazing because I reclaimed it. I no longer loathe the holiday, but look forward to next year.