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.

Dating Self – Week 2

During last week’s blizzard in New England, I did take the time to clean out my drawers I never really go into, but thought it time as I’m in the cleaning and purging mode. Right before I opened the drawers, I couldn’t remember why I hadn’t looked in them for years – didn’t I need what was in them? However, as soon as I opened one I realized exactly why they had been shut for so long: they contained a lot of lingerie. Lacy bras, stockings, night wear, underwear all the things I had talked about wanting for myself was right here within my own reach.

It is funny how one person’s dislike can impact you. The sad part is that I let something as innocuous as lingerie impact how I handled it. Instead of continuing to wear the pieces, I shoved them in a drawer and haven’t opened them in 7 years. I guess a part of me knew how much I loved them and couldn’t bear to part with them, but really I have to ask the question: What the hell is wrong with me? While he may have not enjoyed them, I LOVE them. I love feeling pretty, sexy and feminine and can’t imagine why I hid that part of me away. At some point, you can only hide so much of who you are, and what you love, before you become unrecognizable. I realize now I was as effective at being a happy person as an empty shell is in a loaded gun.

In addition to finding my hidden treasures, I received my package from http://www.adoreme.com and am very pleased with my purchase. I’ll definitely be buying from them in the future.

This week, I started to feel a bit better and while I still have a way to go, I got out to the gym a couple of days and realized I missed it. I also had dinner with a friend and called another friend who I hadn’t seen in a while. I’m learning to put up boundaries so I can learn to put me at the top of the to-do list for the day. It helps when your able to voice your wants and needs and actual realize most people don’t get offended. I admit I’m still stumbling through my words and know it’ll be some time before this becomes second nature to me. However, I refuse to go back to the way things were.

The other night, I had dinner with a friend of mine. We’ve decided to run 5k and 10k races in different states. While I originally suggested this idea, she has run with it. She sent me a list of runs for every month last week and admit my meds wipe me out so I brought the list to dinner. She has found some really cool races for us to choose from and all have some sort of theme. I can dress up as Waldo from the Where’s Waldo series of books (I really loved trying to spot him) in Colorado Springs, to a night run in Las Vegas. Her efforts and list only motivate me more to really push myself and become a success at completing all of what she’s looked into. This is also an excellent way for me to put me at the top of the list, tell people I have to train, while at the same time learn how to set aside time for me.

During dinner we talked about her recent trip to Spain and upcoming trip to visit a friend in Chicago where they’ve set up appointments with a stylist. My ears perked up about it. I asked questions and then mentioned how cool this sounded and she volunteered to do this with me in NYC. I have to admit, I have a lot of black in my wardrobe, which I love, but I think as I branch out, communicate more, I want some more color in my life. I also want to be okay with looking in a mirror and know I need some help with picking the right outfit. A stylist will take me outside of my comfort zone, see what I can’t and introduce me to a different side of me I’ve been hiding. I mentioned doing this in April and can’t wait.

Tonight, I’m meeting a friend for coffee and then planning a Mardi Gras dinner for later in the month (not on the actual day, I just want to cook the food and have fun with friends). I’d say I had a great time this week and can’t wait to see what’s in store for me this upcoming week.

Dating Self – Week 1

Last Saturday I was gung ho and ready to set the world ablaze with my enthusiasm to embrace being single by starting to know me by abiding to the contract I established with my friends. I journaled, meditated, and even took a boxing class. Then…..the day changed.

When I got home from boxing I began to have the chills….and then aches and the headache began. I had begun to up my workouts and was sure I was dehydrated. I know that when I don’t drink enough water I get headaches and feel achy, but this went on all day. I drank and drank all of Saturday into the early hours of Sunday morning when I switched to Gatorade. I felt a bit better and saw my trainer to discuss some goals.

I was home a ½ hour later slowly adding layer after layer of clothing and finally hitting the bed for some much needed rest. Right before I put my head down, I noticed a small area on my ankle that was burning red, but it was small and I thought it was maybe a bug bite. Fast forward 2 hours later when I got up and noticed the redness had spread ½ way up my calf and I couldn’t get warm even with jacking the heat up to 90.

It’s not that I don’t want to care for myself, but truth is that I hate doctors. I have a low immune system and am susceptible to infections and sure enough, it was cellulitis. After visiting the walk-in clinic and ER, I was admitted to the hospital late Sunday night with check out on Wednesday.

It was during my stay that something amazing happened: I learned how truly blessed I am to have such wonderful people in my life. You always introduce the person you like to your friends to get their feedback and here I was getting feedback that I’m a pretty special person. I know it sounds corny, but I was truly overwhelmed by the love and support I was receiving. I’m so used to putting everyone ahead of me, I hadn’t stopped in a very long time to acknowledge me or what I have to offer as a person. This stay let me see how important I am to others.

After leaving the hospital I realized that I do have a lot to offer someone, and am more determined than ever to spend the next 12 months alone while I really get to know me (I’m calling this my transition period). There is no one I want other than me because I want to see what others were telling me while in the hospital. At the end of the day, I don’t want to settle just because someone is paying attention to me. I want to be wanted, I don’t want to be needed. There is a difference. If someone needs me, it means that I’ve become needy and am attracting a needy person. I’m a big believer that what you put out into the universe is what you get back. Confident people attract confident people, so it makes sense that needy people attract needy people. I think that explains why I’ve become exhausted over the years trying to help everyone.

Last night I thought it time to take charge of feeling pretty and sexy again. Years ago, I was into lingerie, but my husband just didn’t see the need for the gift wrapping. What he didn’t realize is that the gift wrapping is what helps me feel a bit turned on…a bit more beautiful and confident. It’s one thing to wear jeans and a sweater, but add a lacy bra and underwear and I feel beautiful. While in the hospital, I kept seeing ads for Adore Me.com (http://www.adoreme.com) and I spent Friday night watching a movie of my choice and then searched the site for a new item. I found several, but am only going to order one to see how the quality is. If good, I might join their VIP club, which you get great discounts for a monthly purchase. I’d like to branch out into other purchases like corsets, stockings and nighties. All of which won’t be seen by anyone but me. However, at the end of the day, I’m the one that wants to feel sexy and I don’t want to need someone to validate how I feel….but….that’s not to say I won’t appreciate hearing my partner enjoy the gift wrapping.

This weekend we have a blizzard. I’m going to finish nurturing self by cleaning out clothes drawers and closet. To me a fresh start also means a clean closet and it’s time for a new beginning.

I Have Decided to Date Myself…..and it’s about TIME….

Why? Is it because I think I’ll give better birthday and Christmas gifts to self….or is it that I’ll never have to worry about getting up in the middle of the night and having to check to see if the toilet seat is down when I go to the bathroom? Ummm….no.

I decided to date me because I suck at interpersonal relationships with the opposite sex. Well, that’s not 100% true. If they’re married or gay I have no innate need to impress them with my intelligence or wit and I can just be me. Eventually, with every male relationship I disappear. While I don’t have the need to hide behind the likes and dislikes of my male friends that are unavailable, at some point I always have this innate need for the attention or approval of a single male friend. I actually become needy and that’s not me. I wish I could view all men as married or gay because then I would not have this need to win their approval like a prize at a carnival game. It would be nice to just quietly be me and have a healthy relationship.

Yesterday I was surprised just how well one of my married male friends knew me and how deeply he cares for me. I met him 12 years ago when we began working together. I supported him and as we worked together we began a friendship that grew out of professional admiration for one another. He knew me when I had cancer, saw me through my lean unemployment years and I have to add was my friend who persistently pestered my previous manager to interview me for an open position that I currently have today. I got to share his life by the stories he’s told me about his wife, his parents aging, kids growing up, kids getting married and now becoming a very young grandfather. More often than not, I just listened. I didn’t feel the need to share because I wasn’t needing his approval or attention. I thought I had quietly slipped under the radar. Little did I know that for the past 12 years, he listened to what I said and didn’t say, and admit was flabbergasted during our conversation about a recent email I sent him.

I emailed him that over the holidays I separated from my second husband. He’s a wonderful man, but I did what I’ve always done from the moment I started dating; I disappeared. I lost my voice to express my likes and dislikes and put his needs far above mine. I spent the last year or so lost in a marriage because I was too afraid to rock the boat and buried any wants, needs or desires away and became a shell of a person. I’ve done this all my life because I was raised in a house where confrontation was non-existent. Although, I was raised and encouraged to get a college education and work, my main purpose in life was to get married and raise a family. It didn’t help watching my mother always cave to my father and wonder what their marriage would have been like if it was a true partnership.

I married my first husband far too young. Eventually, as we grew up, we became very different people and it was easy to say goodbye to him as he wasn’t healthy for me. However, I thought I was smarter when I met and married my second husband. Because my first husband was so vain, and had a temper, when I wanted out of the marriage, I didn’t know how to tell him. Confrontation was not an option for me, so instead I ate my way out of my marriage. I knew his vanity would get the best of him, and eventually he became disgusted with my appearance and I was able to end the relationship without an argument. His vanity made me realize I wanted to be loved for who I was and not what I looked like. I was incredibly overweight when I began dating again (still am), but it was my second husband who adored me as I was. While a wonderful man, I have to ask if he hadn’t adored me as he did, would I have married him?

We’re so different. He loves hunting and fishing and I love the arts and traveling. He’s more of a home body and I enjoy going out with friends. We built a marriage off genuine kindness towards one another and food (I love to cook…and he’s a good cook as well). For him, I think it was enough – or it could be that he loves the person I’ve become in the marriage. For me, I don’t know the person I’ve become in the marriage. I stopped exploring the things I love and accepted a life that I saw myself just going through the motions of daily living. I’ve kept the weight on over the years and have used it as my shield of armor so people wouldn’t notice me; so I could exist under the radar. I’m figuring out that after all these years of trying to be accommodating with his likes and needs that I’ve disappeared and am literally numb. Other things happened in our marriage that have led to our separation, but disappearing into the marriage and losing my voice was a casualty of it.

When I emailed my friend this news, I was apprehensive. He’s a strong married man with deep Catholic convictions. I thought he was going to judge and instead was sympathetic. When I told him I was in therapy to figure out why I keep making the same mistakes, he nailed who I was without me having to explain why I decided to take the time to focus on me. All these years I thought I was listening to him and instead he was quietly observing and listening to me. He told me that he was happy that I was ready to put me first because he watched me for so many years put everyone else above me just not to let others down. His comments were spot on, but I admit how alarmed I was at how well he knew me and how painful his comments resonated with me.

Besides my therapist telling me I need to focus completely on me, I decided to pull the trigger because I noticed a recent close male friendship I have was beginning to fall into my familiar pattern of male relationships. We became close when I didn’t care about his opinion of me, but once I started to care, I recognized I was needing his approval ….and….well, that makes me sad. What the fuck is wrong with me? I’m able to tell my friends the only approval they need is from within themselves and if they need another person’s approval to feel happy than something needs fixing. While I say this and believe it, why I can’t apply it to me? I don’t want to have to crave his approval or attention towards me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy his company and our conversations, but I never want to feel the need to have it. I shouldn’t feel the need to try hard to have his friendship and hate that I’m becoming that round peg trying to fit in a square hole. A great friendship should flow naturally and what’s funny is that we became close friends when I wasn’t looking for his approval proving I’m likeable as I am. It’s just too bad I don’t believe strongly enough in me to think that his first impression of me could be a lasting one.

For the next several months, I’m taking my therapist’s direction to put me first and I’ve decided to date me. What does that mean? Well, for starters, I realize I need to reconnect with things I love to do and make them a priority. I thought a long time about what I wanted for me and drew up a makeshift type contract that would push my focus on having to stretch myself to accomplish what I wanted for me. I sent the contract to my sister and a lifelong childhood friend and asked for their help (something I find incredibly painful to do) to pester me to ensure that I’m living up to the commitments I made to me. At the end of this, I proposed we go out to NYC and celebrate. They’re both in. Both are willing to pester me and remind me just how important this is to me.

What do I hope to gain from this experiment? I hope I’m able to see just how much I’ve neglected me over the years and begin to learn how my needs are just as important as others. I know 3 months won’t change me, but I know it’s a great start……and I plan to blog about my journey along the way.

Reconnecting With Self

Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of who I am and what I can offer to others.  I’ve spent years walking by mirrors never really looking at self in them and forgetting how important it is to voice my opinion about my wants and needs.  Over time this can really take a toll on a person…to the point where I almost feel invisible.  Now, if I had the magical powers with actually being invisible that would be one thing, but to just feel invisible in a room full of people because you’ve chosen to feel that way, has left me feeling lost.

This past year I’ve been working on creating boundaries with the people in my life.  I’ve learned that some people should not be a part of my life because they’ve either made me feel unworthy because of their own insecurities or they feel the need to change me into who they think I should be.  Shame on me for allowing myself to believe them, but no more.  I’ve eliminated the bullies; the people who never appreciated me and am only embracing the people that want to be in my life and accept me as is.

I’ve also been taking a hard look at others who are kindhearted but necessarily aren’t right for me.  This is something I’m struggling with because I hate hurting people who truly care for me, but am learning that you sometimes need to be selfish to be happy.  At the end of the day, if I’m not happy, why should I take it out on others?  I shouldn’t….and won’t.

Today, the least likely person reminded me of my passion of cooking….and realized how I haven’t really been doing much of it for awhile.  I miss it and will probably further my cooking education this year with classes and challenge self at home by throwing dinner parties again.

In addition to walking passed mirrors, I’ve walked by rooms in my home and that is going to change.  I want to take the next 2 to 3 years and work on a room at a time to create a different environment.  I want the charm of the 1949 Cape I bought, but update it to the 21st Century.  Basically, it will still have Barbie Dream House appliances and lack closet space, but that only means I will be far more thoughtful at what I select to make a room pop!  Funny thing is that I’m not sure I want to stay here, but I do think taking the time to change the house will help me learn more about my self and I want that.

The biggest change I plan to make, and it may sound like an oxymoron, but I will be learning how to reach out to others and let them in.  I’ve recently started to and I’ve found that the people I am letting in are more than willing to help me rediscover me.

I’m looking forward to this journey and do plan to share what I’m up to on a weekly basis (I’d love to say I plan on writing daily, but who am I kidding).  Part of me is excited and part nervous at what I’ll discover, but know the timing is right to take this journey.

Hello …. I’m Back…

I really wanted to start blogging again and thought picking up and moving to a new format would help out with the spammers, but I really haven’t taken the time to read about Word Press (which explains the stock picture I’m using on my page).  I’m not surprised as I have a tendency to either jump in or be thrown into situations where I haven’t a clue what I’m doing.  It’s happened all my life with my career — people who have worked with me in a completely different scenario, offer me positions that I haven’t a clue what I’m supposed to do.  Faking it till you make is only one step to making a scary situation work, but you need to ask as many questions as possible and never apologize for asking any question.  What may be a stupid questions to others, could be critical to you.  One last thing…..I hate the career path I’ve been thrown into.

Always flattering to be thought of as competent, but take the time to seriously look at what makes you happy before you let others decide for you.  I guess that is where I’m at now.  Part of figuring what you want to do with your life is figuring out what is critical to making me happy.  So….this blog will be interspersed with what’s happening in my life, along with my own A-Ha moments, recognizing what boundaries I need to be happy, and what made me stop and finally listen to the obvious.