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

Field Report, January 27 & 28, 2014

My afternoon Max rides have been fairly uneventful lately, save for the fact that I find myself being hit on by younger men.

The first time this happened was about two weeks ago, post-miscarriage and breakup.  I was attempting to remain absorbed in my book while this young man sitting next to me attempted to use any opportunity to start conversation.   He seemed very sweet, perhaps in his early to mid-20s, and I tried to remain polite, but I really had no interest in chatting.  He kept asking me questions about where I am headed, what book was I reading, what other books do I like to read, etc.

I would answer each question with a polite smile, and then turn back to my book.  Undaunted, he would then ask another question.  It took all I had not to be like, “Bitch please, can’t you see I’m busy trying to read my mutherfuckin’ book on this motherfuckin’ train?!”

But he had kind eyes, and I’m far too nice to ever actually say that to another human being.  It was close to his stop, and he gathered his things.  “What was your name?” he asked.  I told him, and then he told me his, but I cannot remember what it was.  He then looked at me expectantly, as if I was going to offer my number or ask for his, or perhaps get off at his stop and we could go get an ice cream cone together.

At this point, my attitude softened, and I just wanted to say, “Look, son, you have no idea where I’ve been and what I’ve seen.   Save yourself and find a nice girl.”

I told him goodbye, and he gave me a disappointed smile, and left the train.

Incident number two occurred last night.  I was absorbed in my Twitter feed, when a young man sat next to me.  The very first thing I noticed was that he reeked of cigarettes.  I am fairly certain he jumped out of the shower, and while still damp, rolled around in an ashtray, and then put his clothes on.

I looked at him out of the corner of my eye.  Young man, dressed decently, with a backpack.  He was shoving a soft drink cup into his pocket, the loud distraction causing me to turn and completely look at him.  I gave a polite smile and turned back to my phone.

“Are you a student?”

Grrooooaaannnnnnn

“No, I’m not. I work in the Lloyd District.” I said.  At this point I gripped my phone tighter, in case he was an Apple Pickin’ Asshole.  (“Apple Picking” occurs when the train’s doors open, someone capitalizes on your distraction and grabs your phone and runs off the train.)

“Oh, what do you do?” 

“I work for the state.”

“Oh, nice.  I’m a student at PSU.  I’m just a few classes away from getting my sociology degree.”

“That’s great, congratulations.”  I really didn’t want to keep engaging him in conversation, so I would look back at my phone with each answer.  This did not deter him. 

“I’m planning on pursuing a medical degree.”

I looked up at this young man, mid to late 20s, and gave him a head to toe scan.  Leather jacket, dark hoodie underneath with the hood up, black jeans, slight facial hair, and eyes that revealed a level of stoned I haven’t seen since my restaurant days.

If this is the future of medical care in America, I’m moving to Europe.

The ashtray smell was so strong that I kept trying to breathe through my mouth without making it obvious.  “That’s great,” I lied. 

The small talk continued.  “So do you take the train every day?” he asked.

“Just some days,” I replied.  I’ll make sure to avoid this day and time from now on.

He then told me about his commute, which involves taking the Max to the bus out to Estacada, where he then has to walk two miles to his house.  I wanted to ask him “WTF are you doing living in Estacada?  Why don’t you have a car?  Do you understand the meaning of a shower?  Take a good whiff of yourself.  If cigarettes had assholes, you are what that would smell like.  What kind of doctor smells like the asshole of a cigarette and gets completely baked during class?!”

Instead, I just said, “That’s rough.  I don’t envy you.” 

The train came to a stop at the transit center, and I gathered my things.  “What was your name?”  He asked.  I told him, and instantly regretted it, and decided from then on I’m going to start giving out fake names, using the first names of female singers from the 60s and 70s.  Cher, Dolly, Roberta, Joni, Janis, Gloria, Karen, Dionne, etc. 

“Well, take care,” I said.

“Do you drive?” He asked, and it was at this moment that I realized his intentions.

This malodorous son of a bitch isn’t hitting on me; he is hoping to score a ride out to redneckville.  If he thinks I’m letting him inside the Blacura so I can drive him out to the place where the banjos play freely and a deer head hangs on every wall, he has another thing coming.

“I sure do,” I said. 

“Oh, that’s nice,” he said, looking at me with bloodshot, half-open eyes. 

He started to say something else, but I was at the stairwell to the parking garage and interrupted him.  “Have a safe trip home,” I said with a smile, and bounded up the stairs.  I think he said goodbye, but I’m not certain.  I did make sure to look behind me and make sure he didn’t follow me up.

Blech. Another stellar trip home.

While I absolutely despise the PM commute, the AM commute is usually always pleasant and uneventful.  This morning I sat reading a new book, and when Max arrived to the second to last stop on my journey, I put it away and gathered my things.  I looked up towards the door and saw a very nice looking man, and we locked eyes.

It was then that I made a new resolution.  Normally when I’m out in public, I avoid eye contact, especially with men.  I don’t know if this is out of shyness, introversion, or safety, but I tend to look anywhere but directly into someone’s face unless I am at the checkout line or something similar. 

New plan: Anytime I see a good looking, age appropriate man, I plan to make eye contact.  Not like a creeper.  I don’t want to channel my inner Alex Forrest.  Rather, if I don’t see a wedding ring, or a significant other nearby, I will look him in the eyes and offer a smile. 

So as the train rolled to a stop, I stood up, walked toward the doors, looked him square in the eyes, offered my best “hey there” smile that I haven’t busted out in years, and walked off the train, feeling confident and proud that I had the nerve to do that. 

This will be a good year.  😉

Until next time ~ B