It’s Time To Retire

It’s time to retire this blog.  I feel that I’ve taken Dispatches from PDX through a dark time in my life, and now that I am emerging from the end of what has been a very depressing tunnel, I want to move on.  DofPDX has been an cathartic outlet for me to cry, vent, opine, cry, and mourn.  It has been company when I felt I had none, an ear to listen when everyone had become tired of hearing me speak.  It was my friend, my confidant, and sometimes, even my enemy.  I have posted things I should, and definitely posted things I shouldn’t.  This blog carried me through, and I’m grateful I had it in place when things became so incredibly rough that I could barely make it out of bed.  

The next step of my writing journey is unknown.   I have been toying around with the idea of a another blog, something fresh and new, that is free of the heartbreaks and burdens that DofPDX has witnessed.  There are a few concepts floating around in my noggin, and I hope to have something in place soon.

Until then, thank you to everyone who took the time to read my words, especially those who took the time to comment.  I hope some of these posts have helped anyone going through similar painful experiences.  I apologize to those who have been hurt by this blog, as that was never my intention.  It has always been easiest for me to express myself through prose, as sometimes the words leave me in real life verbal discourse. 

In light of her recent passing, I would like to end this blog with a quote from Maya Angelou.  I do realize that is a bit pretentious of me, but I feel like her words transcend time, space, race, culture, sex, age, and ethnicity.  Thank you again, dear readers, for being there with me through my recent journey. 

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. 

Until we meet again ~ B

 

 

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When All That Is Left Is You

I had a terrible dream.  The kind that bothers you all day and forces your brain into overdrive to discover the hidden meaning in your psyche.

In the dream I had a baby, who was nothing but chubby cheeks, blonde hair, and big blue eyes, exactly how I would picture a baby of mine to look.  It was adorable, and instead of being a doting mother, my dream self was completely ambivalent over it.  My mom was doing most of the care-taking, and I would try, here and there, to spend time with my child and bond with him or her.  Yet, I felt very little connection to this tiny human, and I knew there was something wrong.  I would hold the baby, feel good about myself for doing so, feel somewhat emotionally connected, but then in due time I would be ready to hand him or her back to my mother.  I knew that this wasn’t right; that I should be feeling more than I was for my own child, but I kept coming up emotionally short.

When I woke up, I recalled the dream and felt very unsettled.  After my miscarriage in December, I still ache for the baby I will never hold.  So why was I so disconnected from the baby in my dream?  I have tried analyzing it, but still come up with nothing.  All I can say is that I hope this was not some kind of foreboding of my future attempts at motherhood.  Maybe there was no meaning to this dream, and I can just chalk it up to some misfiring neurons during my sleep.

Then again, the dream got me thinking about what we think we want versus what we actually want.  In the dream, I knew I should want this baby, and I would try to convince myself that I wanted it, but it wasn’t clicking the way it should.  The events of the past five months have taught me that hopes, dreams, and desires can take on a much different look when real life happens and you are forced to confront these things in a way that perhaps you never thought you would.  I always knew, in a very abstract way, that I wanted to have a family of my own.  When I came face to face with that desire, it was in an entirely different way than I had imagined.  I had to ask myself if that was what I really wanted, and then when I lost the baby, I realized how much my heart longed for those things.  I had to lose it all to understand how much I really wanted it all.

Just as the pregnancy loss and breakup forced me to confront the truth of my heart’s desires, recently I had to confront another desire of mine, which was to get back together with T.  For the past five months I have been trying to give him everything that (I thought) he needed.  This included a lot of space, encouragement, kindness, and love.  Even though the words I spoke aloud told the world I wasn’t waiting for him, deep down the truth was the opposite.  I thought that if I was patient and gave him what he needed, he would eventually see that I was the real deal- the “girl who didn’t know the meaning of quit” -and return to me.  What can I say?  I am a hopeless romantic and I wear my bleeding, broken heart on my sleeve for the world to see.

I held on to this silent conviction up until about two weeks ago.  The last few conversations I had with T forced me to confront some stark realities.  I began thinking about what it would look like if my desires came true and he returned to me, ready to start anew.  I thought about how it would make me feel, how we might repair the damage done, and what our life would look like.  When I began really examining the possibilities, my eyes were finally opened to the truth that I had so long been denying.

Yes, I wanted T to come back, but his words of late (which I will not post here) made me realize that what I want will never come to pass, at least not in the way it should.  Despite his protests, I have been trying to convince him that he wants to be a husband and father, that he has what it takes to make that happen, and with me by his side, we could make a good life together.  When I finally opened my eyes, I saw that he does not want to be a husband, nor does he want to be a father.  At least he does not want those things with me.  This revelation allowed me to come to terms with the fact that I cannot coerce or bully T into a life he does not want to live.  I cannot compel him to feel emotions he does not feel, or make choices he does not want to make.

And that is when I realized that if he did come back, I would always fear that I am not good enough for him.  Let me pause to make note that this is not a self-esteem issue.  I know what I am worth, and I know what I have to offer.  By good enough, I mean that I fear he would always be looking for greener grass.  That our relationship and the life we built together was not enough for him to be happy.   If T came back, I would be faced with the very real possibility that I would spend the rest of my life sleeping with one eye open in fear that he was sleeping with one foot ready to start his run out the door.

That is no way for anyone to live.  Not me, and not T.  So, I did the hardest thing I have had to do in some time.  I finally gave him exactly what he wanted: I set him free.  I told him I understood we do not want the same things, and I would no longer by trying to convince him otherwise.  I told him to be happy and enjoy life, and that he wouldn’t hear from me again.  That was two weeks ago, and while the truth of his feelings has not become any easier for my heart to bear, knowing that I did the right thing by walking away from a man who does not want to share a life with me is what allows me to keep moving forward.

And perhaps that was what my dream was really about: the realization that you cannot push a person into a feeling, life, or choice they do not want.  If we had reunited and became a family, there may have been times that T felt okay about his choice, and that he was doing the “right” thing, just as I did in my dream by trying to bond with my child.  However, eventually the ambivalence would return and he would long to be free of our life, in the same way that I would pass the baby back to my mother.  Love isn’t about chaining a person down, but rather giving them the freedom to make the choices that are right for them.  And sometimes those choices don’t include you.

I would have moved the moon and the stars for T, and I tried to many times.  I finally accepted that he does not want that from me, and so I became resolute, and turned around and walked away with the determination to instead move the moon and the stars for myself.  I said earlier that everything was taken away from me.  But the thing about life is that when everything has gone away, what is left is you.  Just you.  And that can be enough if you let it.

Until next time ~ B

 

 

 

 

Old Lessons, New Loves, and Wet Toes

I used to think that love was powerful enough to do anything. I thought that if I could show someone how much love I had to give, that they would see how amazing I am and would thus shed all baggage and we would live happily ever after.

Unfortunately, this is not how human psychology works. Yes, I can throw my love all over a man, but unless he wants to receive it, I might as well be lavishing all my attention on a pet rock. I learned this lesson the hard way, of course. Not just by being the person who was trying to use love to help a person change, but also as the closed-off person on the other end of affection. Years ago I once dated a man who tried to move the moon and the stars for me, but I just wasn’t having it. I look back on that relationship and see that I was so emotionally shut down that no amount of love in the universe could have forced me to open my eyes to what I was doing, which was using any excuse to push him away.

Love may be powerful, but the human psyche is stronger. If a person does not want to give or receive love, there is nothing you can do to change that. It can be a hard pill to swallow, especially for someone like me. I think it is part of my DNA to want to take care of others. I once took a personality profile for work and got ISFJ, and the career section was all about helping others: teacher, therapist, social worker, and so on. I have an innate instinct to care for others, and when it comes to romance, that instinct goes into hyper over drive.

Having come to terms with this harsh life lesson, I am approaching my next relationship differently. I recently started dating someone. This person has been in my life a very long time, and I am ashamed to report how neglectful and blind I have been of this relationship. How could I have overlooked what has been right in front of me for years? Now that I see the light, I am committing to making this work between us, because I think it may be my only shot at learning to be truly happy with my life.

Folks, I am dating myself.

You read that right. I recently had an epiphany: I have spent so many years throwing my love into other people that I overlooked the simple truth that I should have been throwing love into myself. One of the things that helped me come to terms with this fact is the movie Lola Versus, about a woman nearing 30 who gets dumped by her fiancé just weeks before their wedding. We aren’t privy to much of their relationship before he leaves, but the aftermath of the breakup is no less devastating.

What I loved about this movie is that it is not your typical rom-com. Lola is not an entirely sympathetic character, and her ex is not a total cad. Instead of cheesy music montages and grand gestures, we see Lola self-destruct as she wades through the waters of gut-wrenching heartbreak. After her engagement ends she is a self-centered, confused, possible-alcoholic who endangers her friendships with her behavior. We don’t get to see much of Lola pre-dumpage, so it is hard to say if this is who she in her relationship, but this is definitely who she is turning into.

Lola, in her downward spiral, is no loveable Carrie Bradshaw. However, that’s not the point of the movie. Lola is real, she is human, and she is trying to figure out her next steps. Although her ex-fiancé does not have much screen time, he is also painted in a very human light. There is no villain in their love story; there are no fingers to point. All we have are two people who have issues and are trying to make sense of them.

Towards the end of the movie, Lola realizes her behavior is destructive, and begins finally starting her healing process. We see her at yoga and finally unpacking her things in her new apartment. She is beginning to settle into her new reality with acceptance and hope. She begins repairing her relationship with her friends. You can see she is beginning to find peace.

One of my favorite scenes is of her and her mother.   Lola says,

Remember how much I loved Cinderella as a kid? What a sick fucking kid. It messes little girls up because we become obsessed with shoes and then we think that some guy is gonna come put them on our feet.

Ah, Lola, you hit the nail on the head about what is wrong with so many women, including myself. We wait for a man to make us happy, when we should be buying our down damn shoes and putting them on ourselves.

The last scene is of her birthday party. She is turning 30, and her friends and family have gathered at a park to celebrate. Her ex-fiancé shows up, and they greet each other warmly. He tells her he misses her, and wants to get back together. He said the time apart has made him realize how much he loves her.

Does Lola jump into his arms as a cheesy upbeat 60s song plays in the background? Does the camera pan down at them from the sky, as they fly into each other’s arms and embrace in a majestic kiss?

Lola, with wisdom and kindness, tells him that while he spent that time finding himself, she spent that time obsessing over him. Now she is at a point when she is attempting to find herself, and she isn’t ready to think about getting back together. And in a touching scene, he understands and accepts that.

Ladies, it is time to start dating you. I won’t lie. It is hard being single sometimes. Every once in a while I get on to OkCupid with a ghost account just to remind myself that I am not the only one alone and hoping for love. In case you are wondering, I do realize how pathetic that sounds. What else can I do? I am still mourning the loss of my baby, and my heart is still recovering from one man. Last week that man told me he is moving to Germany, effectively shutting the door on any chance we may have had in the future. There is nothing like moving to another continent to terminally end a relationship.

With that news, there is nothing more to do than start moving forward, dating myself, and seeing where that takes me. However, this does not mean I am going to be a nun. I actually had a coffee date yesterday with a man I met in New Seasons. In an old school meet-cute, I accidentally got right in his way down the drink aisle. I apologized, we laughed, and after a couple minutes of banter, went our separate ways. Five minutes later he caught me completely off guard when he found me in another part of the store and asked me if I want to get a cup of coffee sometime. I said yes, and he gave me his number.

I held on to it for two weeks before I decided it was time to take a step forward and get in touch with him. Cause, you know, like YOLO and stuff. Seriously, though. I figured it was just a cuppa joe, so what was stopping me from having a nice conversation with a new friend? Yesterday we met at a cute little place in Sellwood and had a great time. He has pretty eyes and nice forearms. (Yeah, I’m into manly strong looking forearms. No judgment. It’s just my thing.) The coffee date was the perfect “dipping my toes into the water” experience, and we plan on grabbing a bite to eat this week.

Love may not conquer all, but I definitely believe that the more I love myself, the better of a person I will become. As I date myself, my goal is to try new things, figure out what I like (I can finally admit I prefer TV over movies and coffee over alcohol), and build enough confidence so that my heart matches my head. This means that my heart will finally and truly believe what my head knows to be true: that I’m pretty damn awesome, and worth taking a chance on. If a man can’t see that, the fault lies in his eyes, not in me.

Let the dates begin…

Until next time ~ B

 

 

 

 

 

How Searching for Perfection and Happiness is Akin to Putting Your Head Up Your Arse

 

I am 31 years old, single, and have spent the last eleven years looking for love.  I am ashamed to admit that throughout this process I have been guilty of always looking for the next best thing.  I would hit rough patches and wonder if the grass over yonder is just a little bit greener.  This also applies to my professional life.  I have yet to hold a job that made me happy and satisfied.  Why have I been such a fickle creature?  There are many reasons, but I think two big ones are the distorted ideals of Perfection and the Destination of Happiness.  These falsehoods have ruled my life for far too long, and I feel like I’m finally at a place where I recognize the detrimental depths of these flights of fancy.

I have spent years searching for the perfect relationship.  I always thought that when the “right” man came along, things would magically fall into place. It would be easy and fun and amazing.  No conflict, no fighting, no need for real sacrifices.  We would buy a house with a porch swing and a big back yard.  Our kids would be smart and beautiful.  We would be that couple that other couples wished they could be.  Over the years of men and heartbreak, I continued to create this ideal in my brain, like my own private Pleasantville.  Due to this erroneous train of thought, when conflicts popped up in relationships, I would immediately wonder if that person is right for me.

He and I are fighting- this must mean we are fundamentally incompatible. Time to break up.

No wonder I’m still single at 31.

Now that I’m older, and somewhat wiser, I have realized that “perfection” does not exist. There are no perfect people, perfect relationships, or perfect anythings, no matter what society likes to tell us via rom-coms, Hallmark commercials, and beauty magazines. People, myself included, are so focused on finding what is perfect, that they are missing the beautifully imperfect things, and people, right in front of them.  Clinging to the concept of perfection is tragic defense mechanism that allows a person to justify surrounding him or herself with chasms of emotional distance.  Perfection does not exist.  Period.  The sooner that someone comes to terms with that, the better off he or she will be.

If there is no perfection, it stands to reason that there is no Destination of Happiness.  A Destination of Happiness is the notion that happiness is only reachable if certain things come to pass.

If I could just get that job/house/baby/car/husband/wife/etc, I will finally be happy.

How many of us have had that conversation with ourselves? How many people are always looking for that one thing that will fix their lives and finally make them happy? I know I am completely guilty of this. I thought that when I found the perfect man and had my perfect relationship, I would finally be happy.  It would be what “completed” me.

(Fuck you, Jerry Maguire)  

Except happiness is not a destination.  Life has constant ebbs and flows that bring peaks of happiness followed by canyons of sorrow. That sums up my entire experience in 2013. Up, down, up, down, like a psychotic yo-yo. When I stumbled down the deepest ravine of my life four months ago, I wasn’t sure how I was ever going to climb out of it. I’m pleased to report that I am slowly making my way out of the darkness and feel like I have some decent footing on my climb up.  But it hasn’t been an easy ascent and I still have a ways to go.  Even when I reach the top, it won’t be a Destination of Happiness.  Something will bring sadness or anger, unhappiness or fear.  That isn’t pessimism speaking, that’s the reality of life.

With no Perfection and no Destination of Happiness, what is life about, anyway? Well, life is about whatever you make it to be. If one constantly looks forward to finding the next best thing, or maintains the mindset that if only he had this, or she had that, then life is going to be a constant battle.  But if one can discover happiness in what one has now, then he or she will have the ability to find happiness no matter what life brings.  The truth about life is that you can plan and prepare and think that you have everything under control, but you don’t. So focus on the now, on what brings you joy, and let that soak into your pores and your cells and the deepest parts of your being. Live with that, and you can live with anything.

If there is no Perfection and no Destination of Happiness, what does that mean for relationships and finding love?  The fact of the matter is this: sometimes relationships are easy, and sometimes they are hard. Relationships require work and sacrifice. There will be times when your partner frustrates or angers you. There will be times when you wish they would just shut up. There will be days when he doesn’t pick up his dirty laundry or leaves the toilet seat up.  There will be days when she doesn’t want to watch another football game or would rather marathon Netflix than learn to sleep in a tent.

But there will also be other days, days when he bring you donuts at work, and she makes your bed, and he rubs your feet, and she scrubs out your stained dirty wine glasses.

And those are the moments you realize that your partner is pretty amazing.

I had a conversation yesterday about sacrifices in relationships, and how do you reach that balance where you aren’t giving up too much of yourself, but doing enough to sustain a healthy partnership. It can be a difficult dance trying to figure out where to draw that line. But at the end of the day, I think that if two people care for each other, then

whatever you give up should be worth less to you than the person you are with.

For example, let’s say you are an avid snowboarder. You love it so much you would do it daily. But if you get married with kids, you don’t have that same kind of freedom to drive off to the mountain on a whim.  So what do you love more- your wife and kids, or the freedom to snowboard whenever you want?

Another example. Let’s say you are a blogger and use that outlet to process your emotions. You love to write about whatever you want whenever you want, but your partner does not like your dirty laundry aired on the interwebs, no matter how anonymous it may be. What do you love more- your partner, or your freedom to write?

There is a disclaimer in all of this, being that if the person in your life is asking you to give up and change everything about yourself, that is plain unhealthy and you should run for the hills. However, if that is not the case, then you should ask yourself if the requests and sacrifices are reasonable and worth it.  I know that I am willing to give up or change some of the things I enjoy for the right person. It’s not perfect, but you know what? I’m okay with that, because

there is no such thing as perfect.

It is scary to make big changes. It is scary to give up things and make decisions and sacrifices. It is scary to let someone on and be vulnerable.

But you have to want it more than you are afraid of it.

So, ask yourself these questions:

What is it that I really want? What is it that I am willing to give up? What does my heart say?

Only you can answer those questions.  Take your time and do it right.  These are some of the most important decisions you will ever make.  As you think it through, make sure to drop Perfection and the Destination of Happiness.  If you don’t, you might as well just stick your head up your arse, because you are setting yourself up for a really crappy future.

Pun intended.

Until next time ~ B

Lessons from Glisan Street

I just completed a three-month tour in therapy. I’m not ashamed to admit I sought mental health counseling, especially after such a terrible 2013. It ranks up there in the top five worst years of my life: my living and working conditions were difficult, I was emotionally manipulated by a smarmy politician who broke my heart, then found love with someone new, then I got pregnant when I wasn’t ready for it, miscarried said baby, and then experienced the absolute worst heartbreaks of my entire life- losing both baby and baby daddy.

To say I wish I could have an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind experience and erase that entire year from my memory is an understatement.

But since that is impossible, and I have to live with the events of what transpired, I sought help that couldn’t be provided by friends and family. Tuesday was my last session, and in the spirit of moving on and healing, I thought I would share the lessons I learned from that big comfy chair on Glisan Street.

 

1.  Your emotions are temporary.

This means that the way you feel at this moment is not how you will feel forever. Emotions ebb and flow. Even when it feels like your feels as if it has been wrapped up in barbed wire, even when the pain feels far too difficult to overcome, those feelings eventually will pass. It’s okay if it takes a while to move forward, but just know that you will move forward.

 

2.  Allow yourself to experience your feelings.  It’s the only way to get past them.

I learned how deeply I could bury my feelings so I can quickly move forward. I was still holding on to pain from years past, and that pain was seeping into my life like a toxic sludge, poisoning my actions and relationships. This was completely unhealthy, and I suffered the consequences.

No matter how much you want to avoid it, your feelings must be fully experienced in order to move on. This includes pain, anger, hurt, and sadness. No matter how far you try to push those emotions to the side, they won’t grow legs and walk away. Instead, they will become squatters on the periphery of your life, festering in silence, growing putrid and rank, influencing you in negative ways without you even realizing it’s happening.

You can try keeping busy, burying yourself in work, or dating new people to distract yourself, all in the name of “moving on.” It’s fine to be busy, but you still must face your emotions and allow yourself to just feel them. It’s okay to feel hurt, to be sad for what you have lost, and it’s even okay for you to cry it out. Each day is going to be different, and you need to go easy on yourself as you work through painful experiences. The key is to recognize and feel the emotion, and then let it pass.

 

3.  Your emotions do not define you.

This is an important part of working through pain. You may feel like this is a permanent part of who you are, but it’s important to remember that there is a difference between what you feel and what you are. I told my therapist, “I am damaged. I don’t know how to move forward.” She was quick to point out the language I used, and talked about how that negativity will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I tell myself I am damaged, I am setting myself up for failure.

“You feel hurt, you feel pain, but you are not hurt and pain. You are not damaged. How you feel is not who you are.” This taught me to be very aware of the language I use in describing how I feel and who I am.

 

4.  You’re actions don’t define you, unless you let them.

Just like your emotions do not define you, you’re actions do not define you either. That is, unless you allow them to. We all stumble and fall, make poor choices, and sometimes hurt the ones we love. When this happens, we must atone for the grievance and seek forgiveness. We must also remember that we may not be granted forgiveness, no matter how much we try to make things right. Therefore, and this is extremely important, we must learn to forgive ourselves.

Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean that what you did was okay, but rather it means that you have made peace with yourself. It means you won’t hold on to the pain and regret of your actions. It’s far too easy to get lost in the past. If you walk around thinking to yourself, “I really screwed up and acted pretty terribly. This means that I must be a terrible person, and will continue to screw up in the future. I will hurt every person who tries to love me. It’s just who I am.”

No no no. Do not let your past actions define you as a human being. Take the time to acknowledge what you did, take action to right the wrong, learn from the mistake, and then forgive yourself. It’s the only way to move forward in a positive and healthy manner.

 

5.  Your future is not governed by your past, so stop living in it.

One of my current biggest fears is that I will always be haunted by my dad’s abandonment, and will push away every man who tries to get close, as I have been doing for the last twelve years. This will only come to pass if I ignore everything on this list, as I have been doing up to now, and marinate in the negativity.

Nothing can change the past, and nothing can predict the future. All you have is the present. What can you do today that will change your future? What can you accomplish that will throw off the shackles of the past and allow you to be free and focus on what is happening now?

I have been stuck in the past before, and it’s not a fun place to be. I realized that I’m doing it again- living in the past, piling regret upon regret, thinking to myself, “If only I had said this, or if only I had not done that.” Does that make a Delorean appear in front of me to transport me back in time? No. All that does is further my frustration.

My future is what I make it to be, and so is yours. Will it be one that continually looks backward, allowing those shackles to hold you back? Or will it be one that steps forward into a new journey, a fresh start? Choose the latter.

 

6.  99% of the time, other people’s actions have nothing to do with you.

I realized in therapy that I have been hinging my self-worth on my dad’s actions, and the actions of every man I have encountered since. There has been a feeling of worthlessness, that I wasn’t enough for my dad to stick around, so I won’t be enough for any man to sick around.

Except, that’s not true at all. My dad’s actions were his and his alone, and do not reflect upon me at all. He is an emotionally unavailable man who wants things on his terms, and when he doesn’t get his way, he tries to bully you into doing what he wants. His issues are his and his alone. My mother raised me to be a different kind of person than that, and I can recognize that my dad’s career choice was perfect for him. It allowed him to be both physically and emotionally distant, and this has nothing to do with me. He disappeared because he was a coward, not because I wasn’t worth enough for him to stick around.

Do you have someone in your current life or your past life who has made you feel like you aren’t good enough? Let that go. Even if you haven’t always acted right, that doesn’t mean you deserve to be put through a proverbial wood chipper. It’s always good to self-reflect and learn what kind of role you have played in a relationship, but if someone makes you feel like you have no worth, that reflects upon him or her, not you.

 

7.  Learn to draw boundaries.

Are you a “yes” person? Do you do things you don’t want to do, just because you think you should? Do you spend time with people you don’t want to see? Do you let someone at work push you around? Do you let the ghost of the past infiltrate your present?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to start drawing boundaries. For me, one boundary I had to draw was with friends who are pregnant. One was about to give birth, and I told her I couldn’t go to her baby shower because it was too painful. The other friend was only three weeks behind me in conception, so looking at her is like looking at where I should be in my failed pregnancy. With her, I had to say that it was okay to talk about her health and how she was feeling, but to just be mindful of how much she said, and to please not show me all the baby stuff she was buying. For example, she found out the sex of the baby, and I asked her what she was having. She talked about it for a bit, and when I gently changed the subject, she understood and we talked about something else.

Drawing boundaries is important for your mental health, because you have to take care of you. If you are too busy trying to please everyone around you, you risk neglecting your needs, which are valid and important. If someone reacts negatively to your boundaries, that is a reflection of them and their insecurities, not you.  So learn how to set boundaries in your life by saying “no” or voicing your feeling and concerns. It will be like a weight is lifted off your shoulders.

 

8.  You have to love yourself before anyone else can love you.

This is a biggie. Perhaps this is the most important lesson on the list. If you don’t think you are good enough, then no one else will, either. You can try to hide your insecurities, but eventually they will pop up like a bloated dead body down in the river. Gross imagery, right? Think about it. We all know someone who is so insecure it makes the people around them uncomfortable. We’ve all had that friend or significant other that puts himself or herself down, can’t take a compliment, is so clingy you feel like you need a gallon of Downy to break that static down. No one wants to be around that guy, right? Right. Just like no one wants to be around a dead bloated body.

Learn to love yourself. There is only one of you, and that person is pretty great if you give yourself a chance.   Work on figuring out who you are, what you like, and what makes you awesome. And when you are comfortable with who you are, when you genuinely like yourself, that glow will shine out like a lighthouse, attracting all kinds of ships.

 

9.  Focus on the good things that you have, not the things you don’t have.

If you keep thinking about what everyone around you has that you think you should have, you’ll never move forward. This is something I am terrible at. I look at my age and current life status, and get angry with myself for not doing things differently. I’m the last single friend, I don’t have a home of my own, I’m not financially secure, and I don’t have a career. It’s hard when everyone around me has the things I so deeply desire. So I end up letting my self-esteem take a beating by comparing my life to theirs.

It’s not easy to reframe an entrenched way of thinking, but this is what you have to do. Ask yourself: What are the postive things in my life? What do I have that is good? What do I have that makes me happy? Start a gratidue journal and write down three things that made you happy. It can be as simple as “The sun came out today.” The more you do this, the more your brain will begin to focus on the good and not fixate on the bad.

I tell myself “it’s okay that I am starting over at 31. I can do this.” I’m starting to believe it, too.

 

10.  You’re stronger than you think.

I promise this is true.  I know it’s hard to believe it sometimes.  It’s hard for me to believe it sometimes, especially when things get overhwhelming.  The last three months have not been easy.  In fact, they’ve been some of the hardest months of my life.  Yet, I’m still here.  I’m still standing.  When I look back at some of the things I’ve experienced in my 31 years on this earth, I see that I somehow manage to keep moving forward.  I don’t crawl into the fetal position under my covers and hide from the world.  Well, maybe I did once or twice.  Sometimes we just need that downtime.  But I didn’t stay hidden under the covers.  I eventually got up and faced the world.  And you can, too.  Find your inner-strength and channel it, even on the days you don’t want to.  It will begin to make a big difference in your life.

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Those are my ten lessons I learned on Glisan Street.  My time in therapy was valuable, but by no means am I healed.  I still feel hurt.  I still feel lonely.  Last week I had my first OBGYN visit and it took courage to return to the clinic, my first time since I lost the baby. And this morning I broke down in tears in front of a nurse practitioner in immediate care because she asked me what sources of stress I’ve been experiencing lately.  It is still incredibly pain to say the words I had a miscarraige.  And I know it will be for a while.  And I also know that’s okay.

I still have a lot of work to do.  One of the reasons I wrote this list was to remain mindful of the work I have done, and to have a place I can return to when things start to feel bleak and hopeless.  I can read this list and be reminded of how far I’ve come, and that I have the ability to keep going.  I have the ability to heal.  And so do you.

Until next time ~ B

 

Single After Miscarriage (The M Word, Part VI)

Miscarriage.  Such a terrible word.  Three months later, and I still have a hard time with the reality that it happened to me.

Pregnancy loss is one of the hardest things a woman will ever have to experience, particularly if the baby was wanted.  I never knew how much I wanted to have a child until I lost mine.  It still aches in deep places when I think about what happened.  It’s a profound sadness that will never go away.  It may lessen over time, but it will always be with me.

What is hitting me particularly hard lately is that my baby dreams are on hold.  I am envious of couples who have grieved together, and that envy runs especially deep knowing that can try for another one when they are ready.  I have read stories of women who got pregnant as little as a few weeks after their loss, and carried a healthy baby to term.  I do understand that I am generalizing here, as many couples struggle with fertility and multiple miscarriages.  There are also couples who simply don’t know when will be ready to try again.

Part of my jealousy stems from not having a partner to plan another child with.  I don’t have a future baby daddy in my life.  The father of my lost baby grieved on his own.  It kills me to think that we conceived a child and yet grieved separately.  It also stings deeply knowing that I have no idea when I will ever have the opportunity to plan for a child with someone I love.  I don’t have that to look forward to.   Not only am I dealing with the horrific pain of losing a baby alone, but I can’t even look forward to trying again.

I lost everything.  I am rebuilding my life right now, brick by brick, and it feels like an eternity before I will ever see a positive pregnancy test again.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just want the baby.  I want it all.  I want someone to come home to.  I want a home of my own.  I want a career.  I’m slowly putting the pieces of my life back together, but it’s a long, difficult process.  I’m searching for the light at the end of the tunnel, but right now all I can do is run my hands along the wall and blindly feel my way there.

I no longer have hCG running through my veins, but some days it’s hard to believe that.  I still feel like it’s there when I see babies, especially one that may have looked like mine.  I feel like it’s there when I see pregnant women.  I feel like it’s there when I pass the baby section in a department store.  The strong, driving urge to nest and procreate feels as though it remains at the same level it did when I was still pregnant.  Will this ever dissipate?  Will I forever see young families and feel myself burning with envy inside?

And by god, when will I stop picturing T when I think of a future family?  Somedays I wish I could wipe him out of my brain.  Well, that’s not true.  Rather, I wish I could wipe the idea of him as part of my life out of my brain.  No matter how many times I tell myself he doesn’t want you, you need to move on, it’s like my brain is hardwired to reject those thoughts and keep him in that picture anyway.

I would like to think that I’m just being too hard on myself.  It’s only been a little over three months since the worst day of my life.  Things are slowly improving.  I finally found a job, which I start next week.  I had two men on two consecutive days give me their phone numbers, so I must be putting some kind of positive vibe into the universe.  Spring is here and the cherry blossoms are blooming, which always makes me feel like renewal is just around the corner.  Am I finally on the upswing, and this relentless pain of my blank, partner-less and baby-less future will begin to fade away?  Will this soon be nothing more than a far away memory that I look back on with respectful melancholia?

There is nothing sadder or more frustrating than a miscarriage.  I know that I am strong and will make it through these dark days.  I also know that I am only 31, and there is hope for me yet.  There is still time to find someone to build a life with.  Someone to have children with.  Someone to grow old with.

Sigh.

Miscarriage.

Such a terrible, terrible word.

Until next time ~ B

The Power of Words

Words.

Words are powerful.

Words are uncountable.  According to Oxford Dictionaries, it’s impossible to truly count how many words comprise the English language.

These uncountable words hold the power to control, command, influence, enlighten, and destroy.  In prose, words can tell stories, transfixing the reader into another place and time, into someone else’s mind, into someone else’s world.  Words can show us the meaning of life and love, filling our souls with droves of emotions.  Words can show us the meaning of hurt, filling our beings with sadness and anger.  Words can be so strong that they alter our being, molding and shaping and changing us in ways that were unimaginable.

This holds true for words communicated between two people, except real life words hold the most power, because unlike words read in a book or a poem, words between people are purposely meant for the other.  Words that are directed towards a specific person are no longer in the safe world of fiction;  these words are real, born out of the relationship you hold together.  Because of this, we must be careful with words, because once they pass the lips and become audible to the intended audience, there is no taking them back.

I was going through some papers a few days ago and came across this:

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It’s the ticket stub from ZooLights.  T and I had gone there just days before the miscarriage. It’s one of my favorite holiday events, and since he had never gone, I was extra excited to attend that year.  My happiness was subdued, however.  I noticed he was staring more at the children running around than enjoying the scenery.  I felt myself become defensive, scared that he was too overcome with fear and anger about my pregnancy to enjoy himself. I thought he saw the kids as a reminder of his impending doom.

As we made our way back to the entrance of the zoo, we stopped for a minute to look at one of the displays.  He said something, and I can’t remember what his exact words were.  But I remember my response:

“Who knows, maybe this time next year there won’t be a baby.  We won’t be together and I’ll be blogging about you behind your back.”

I also can’t remember his response.  I think he might have laughed and said something snarky.

I think about those words, born out of my own fear and trepidation at the journey ahead.  Those words were spoken out of a need to protect myself, and were intended to push him further away.   If only I had understood when I spoke those words that no matter how much I tried to keep my heart safe, that he already had it in his hands, and I just needed to let go and trust in him and in myself.

Words used carelessly, as if they did not matter in any serious way, often allowed otherwise well-guarded truths to seep through.
― Douglas Adams

Instead, I used words to distance myself, as I had done many times before.  The words I spoke that night are not the only ones I wish I could take back.  I told my best friend the night my cat was sick that I didn’t want to be with T anymore.  I told T the day before I had my miscarriage that I wish I would just have a miscarriage to make all the stress go away.   It breaks my heart that I said those horrible things out loud, and they came to pass.

It’s been three months since the words that I unleashed upon the universe came true.  I lost the baby, and I lost T.  Sometimes I wonder if the universe saw that my negativity and decided that it would make my words come true and teach me a lesson.  Perhaps the universe wanted to make me reap what I was sowing.  Rationally, I understand that this is not reality.  As an atheist, I understand there is no higher power directing my actions or causing things to happen to me.  Things just happen.  That’s the reality of life.  I did everything I could to be a healthy expectant mother, but I was at the mercy of biology and nature.  There was nothing I could have done to change the outcome of my pregnancy.

Words.  Words can be poison and they can be medicine.  They can break a heart or heal a heart.  Words allow us to verbally communicate with each other in a way that no other species on earth can.  Yet, we humans are often to careless with what we say to each other.  We don’t think before we speak.  We don’t truly understand the strength our verbal discourse can hold over ourselves and others.

 “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” — Rudyard Kipling

I saw T last weekend for the first time about two months.  We got together to talk, to finally say all the things that had been brewing during our time apart.  When he walked into the tea shop, my heart skipped a beat.  He was as handsome as ever.  We hugged and kissed, and I breathed in his familiar scent.  He was wearing the shirt I gave him for Christmas, which was a beautiful gesture on his part.  He handed me a paper bag and said he got me a gift.  I was excited and opened it, only to find a janky broken Sex and the City collectors edition magic 8 ball.  I can’t remember the reason why he owned that.  I think it was something about it being worth money someday, despite the fact it didn’t work.  This was something I had teased him about just a few months prior.  When I pulled it out of the bag,  I laughed; partially because it was funny, and partially to cover my disappointment that it wasn’t a real gift.  Nevertheless, it was a good icebreaker.

We ordered our tea and began catching up.  There was an easiness and a nervousness in me.  He seemed different.  I realized later that he didn’t laugh that night.  Not the laugh I remember, anyway.  The infectious one that makes his face become more alive, the laugh where his eyes light up and their corners crinkle just enough to show his joy but not give away his age.

There was a heaviness instead.  A maturity that only comes with surviving a battle of a certain magnitude.  He talked about everything he is doing and all the things he has planned.  As the words tumbled out of his mouth, I felt happy that he was taking care of himself, but soon I realized that he really is moving on without me.  He is living life, enjoying himself, and healing what has been broken.  And when he is ready to date again, it won’t be with me.

At one point, we stopped talking and just smiled at each other.  It was a comforting smile, but a difficult silence.  I had so much I wanted to say.  So many words on my tongue, enough to fill an ocean and perhaps spill over into another.  Words that were pouring out of my heart and filling me up, so many words that spread down through my legs and jutted against my toes, words that bubbled up to the crown of my head the through the strands of my hair.  But my lips remained pressed together in silence, as all I knew I could do was smile.  Words, at that point, were useless.

He reached out and touched my arm.  I scooched in and he kissed me, and I wondered how something could feel so natural and foreign at the same time.  Natural because we had kissed a hundred times before, ever since he lit the upside-down firework and he picked me up and kissed me in the parking lot after the 4th of July.

Foreign because we are no longer those two people who embraced in perhaps one of the best stories of my life.   Because now we are two people who then went through one of the worst stories of my life, and the innocence we had that night was buried under the rubble of stress and emotion and words that we can never take back.

Instead of allowing the words that were brimming at the surface of my being to begin seeping out of my pores and past my lips, I said something meager and weak like, “I’ll always want the chance of a first date with you again.”  I knew that were was no place at that table, no room in that teahouse, for anything else.

The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” –Ludwig Wittenstein

He nodded and said okay.

After tea, he took me to dinner, and then dropped me off at my car.  We kissed goodbye, and he thanked me for coming out.  I said, “Talk to you soon.  Or sometime.  Or whenever.”

As I was getting out of his car, he said, “Don’t forget your bag.”

“Nope, I’m leaving that with you.  The next time you give me a bag, it will have a real gift in it,” I quipped.  I shut the door and got in my car.  I began driving before the tears could come, before I had too much time to become sad before I got home.

Because I knew that there wouldn’t be a bag with a real gift in it.  I knew that we wouldn’t talk soon.

Those are the kinds of things you say when you are parting with someone you care about, and don’t know what else to say.  You want to have that hope that there will be another cup of tea, another upside-down firework, or another first date.  But you know, deep down, that it’s over and you have to start driving away and leave it all behind you.

So that’s what I did.

My evening with T did two things for me.  We were able to tell each other that there was no more anger or resentment, no animosity or hard feelings.  We had gotten past those feelings, and now only had warm affection and respect for each other.  We gave apologies and explanations, and said all that needed to be said. Everything that needed to be said, was said.  There are no words left.

Where do the words go
when we have said them?
― Margaret Atwood

The other thing it did for me was show me that I need to move on.  I need to stop living in the past, because just like my words during pregnancy didn’t spark vengence from the universe, I know that no matter how much regret or hoping or wishing that I do, nothing will bring them back, either.  Nothing I say will fix this broken relationship.  Words may have the authority to start and end wars; they may have the power to cause hurt or create joy; words may have the strength to alter the course of your life.  But words cannot change the past, and words cannot create love where there is none.

Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.”  –Rumi

It’s difficult to let go of life’s “what ifs.”  But I have to.  I really can’t live as this century’s Miss Havisham.  I have to find new words to say.  I have to find a new song to sing.  As I do so, I will remain aware of the energies that I am putting out into the universe.  Not because I think there is a vengeful and petty deity waiting to use my words against me.  No, it is because I don’t want to have more regrets, especially regrets over things I have said.  I want to be mindful of the words I give to those around me.  I want to harness the power of my words to create happiness instead of pain, to move me forward instead of remaining stagnant.  My words are my future, and only I can decide what to do with them.

Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”― John Greenleaf Whittier

Ask yourself, “How will I use the power of my words to better my life?” It may be the most important question you ever let leave your lips.

Until next time ~ B