Saturday, December 27, 2014

Is Love Out There for Me?

What a constantly plaguing question that haunts single people everywhere.  

But it's also a useless, dangerous, stupid one.  

Not the typical response, I know. Trust me, I have been haunted by this question for the years after my divorce.  Before I met someone that I fell in love with, this question haunted me.  After that relationship ended; it haunted me more.  Because surely if that relationship ended I would never be lucky enough to find it again.  Stupid, I tell you.  The whole thought process is insidious.  

Because why on earth am I (and all the other single people who battle this question) banging our heads and hearts up against the unknowable?  What positive can possibly come over ruminating over this question?  I don't know the future in any other aspect of my life, why would the future be knowable in the area of my love life? 

I'll tell you what I have seen come from this plaguing question and our obsession with it.  We spend countless hours on dating websites shopping for that possible future mate that we may or may not find out there.  We go on so many first dates (or ask so many people out on them) that we have a first date wardrobe.  We think about (read: obsess over) why we do or don't make a great partner: our character flaws, how much money we make (or don't), how we spend our free time, whether or not we like kids, what our non-negotiables are, etc.  We read books or blogs or Facebook articles on love, relationships, sex, marriage, hoping to find the key.  We wonder how will we know it's for real, what do we want in a partner, will they tolerate sleeping with a fan on (because I am not giving that up), how will we make the love last once we find it?

All of this or at least most of it, produces nothing positive in our lives, we still go to sleep alone at night.  We still wonder if we're fundamentally flawed and that's why we keep getting rejected.  We still throw up those emotional walls and blockades that protect our heart when someone does start to get close to us.  In other words, we're no better off after we did all this than we were before.  Actually we're worse off, because now we have lost time, energy, money and some level of emotional health in this process.  

That's why you should quit.  Or at least that's why I did.  

I decided, I have a good life.  I have three awesome kids.  They are emotionally healthier now than they ever have been, including the period of time that I was in a loving relationship.  I have a family that annoys, I mean loves me, they're pretty cool.  I absolutely love my fitness routine, my gym time, my fitty friends and my new-found love of Obstacle Course Racing.  I am in a very fulfilling educational track at my seminary and I enjoy everything I am learning there and love the people there.  I have a few (read: maybe 3) good friends and I enjoy hanging out with them.  I have discovered I love going dancing.  I like sleeping in the middle of my bed, for real, the dead center, I'm not sure I can give that up for someone anytime soon.  My life is full.  I'm free to nurture my relationships with others and God the way I see fit.  I spend my money and my time how I'd like to.  I raise my children without outside interference.  I have a fantastic dog to talk to when I'm lonely.  This is all good.  

And if it's so good, why am I striving to find a man to complete it?  People (married friends of mine and single guy friends who are uninterested in dating me) tell me all the time what a fantastic catch I would be.  Some days that's encouraging, most of the time I feel like they're lying to make me feel better.  So I'm doing what emotionally is best for me and I'm taking a time out.  I'm deciding that whether or not love is out there for me is an unknowable.  All my energy being expended in this direction isn't going to make it show up one day sooner than it is ready to, if it's going to.  But what I can do is enjoy my life.  What I can do is maintain openness to all the blessings that are there in my life already.  What I can do is focus on things that make me happy, instead of spending energy emotionally on something that usually doesn't.  

I am still open, I haven't decided that I'm never going to go on another date or going to be in another relationship.  But I have decided that I'm not going to be out there looking for it.  If someone interesting asks (that I know in real life not the internet dating world) I might say yes, if I feel like it will be good for me.  Then again I might not because I might be eating clean that week and I may have already used my cheat meal.  Because it's not about saying "No" to them; it's about saying "Yes" to me.  Love might be out there for me, it might not.  Either way life is here now and it's to be lived, not survived until I find a man to join it.   It's to be lived now.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Is your relationship costing you? Good.

Perhaps it's true that the worthwhile relationships aren't always the ones you fall into with ease but instead also the ones that require hard honesty and awkward conversations. Because they have required something of you.

Yes. Yes that is true. 

The ease of the friend that has shared a lifetime with you or the familiarity of a lover that knew your every preference those are sweet and worthy to be invested in. 

But sometimes it's the person to whom you must speak. It's the relationship that still requires your voice months or years down the line. They don't know, we are familiar yet not memorized. We can be anticipated but not perfectly

These relationships; they require something of us. They require our risk and our words. We brood and hesitate we rationalize and excuse ourselves from speaking.  Our fears, our truths, our needs are terrifying things to give voice. But the catch in our spirit, the restlessness that disturbs our sleep plague us until we move our mouths and own our truth

What happens in that space is magic. Something actually hangs in the balance. We know that there is risk in speaking. But the pain of being silent; we know that cost is greater. If we speak and our truth isn't heard there will be a cost.

I have watched friends years, or a decade or more into their relationship forget what hangs in the balance.  They shifted along the way and began to speak to their partner with an unnecessary harshness.  An honesty, a using of your voice, that isn't scary for the speaker, it's used instead as a weapon, a stealthy weapon at times but a weapon.  It's unnecessary.  It is damaging.  They have also forgotten what hangs in the balance of owning their truth and how to do that with grace for both yourself and the other.

They have forgotten that the single life isn't all roses and sleeping in and quiet without children tearing up the house every single moment of the day.

They have forgotten that what they invested to bring their relationship to this point in time has both cost them and blessed them.  They only see the cost.

They have forgotten that having small children is the hardest time of your life and it's not your spouses fault, it's the cost of having children, there is also blessing.

They have forgotten that dating and finding that 'new' someone will consume you and cost you in a way that is as costly as maintaining the relationship you have now, perhaps even more so.  Only the new someone doesn't know how you like your eggs cooked and might turn their nose up at your weird habits and walk out the door.  And this will happen again and again and again, in your new supposedly better single life.  And if you think you'll just be cool with being single forever, talk to some people who have been doing that for a while, you won't, none of us are.  It drains us and we all trudge our way into the dating world regularly, hoping to find that something that you think is worthless that you have right now.

They have forgotten that their relationship gave them something in the beginning and what it has the potential to give them now is so much more.

They have forgotten that these things take work, but my God are they worth it.

It grieves this single mom to see friends in relationships that are unhappy that needn't be.  I don't struggle with the loss of a marriage when I know the partner was an abuser or a cheater or a hopelessly terrible narcissistic asshole.  But the ones that I see teetering on the edge, the ones that I see fail where both people are reasonably decent humans who loved one another at some point, those ones make me cry myself to sleep at night.  Because those are sad.  I think: you quit!  I understand how hard it was, I was married to a crazy person for a long time!  I get that marriage is work, but seriously, why the hell did you quit?!

Because the best relationships aren't the ones that are all ease all the time.  The best relationships are the ones where we daily step our toes to the edge of the precipice and say I'm going to give this my scary honesty again.  I going to give this my sacrifice, even if it means I have to take time away from something I love doing because I have decided this is worth it.  I'm going to step up to that cliff and speak my truth about the wounds I'm suffering and hope and pray that the other person gets it.  But even if they don't, I will be at peace knowing I'm handling my side of the bridge with grace and truth.  That I am giving this my all.
The best relationships aren't the ones that leave us in our comfort zone 95% of the time.  The best relationships are the ones that push us to become better versions of ourselves. There is the push to become better and then the pull back to center of calm, and comfort.  This too is our relationship with God if we choose to have one with him.  He pushes us beyond the center of calm and comfort.  Prodding us to become better versions of ourselves and then just when we think  we cannot take it anymore and this growing and stretching is total crap, he pulls us back to center.

Remember this season the gift of those you share your home and life with.  Remember how irreplaceable other people are.  Remember that at the end of our lives most of the regrets we will have will have to do with messing up things with the people that we love.  Take that risk, love that person a little more, walk up to the precipice and decide that a lack of ease in life doesn't mean it's not worth it.

<3 <3 <3 <3

Friday, October 17, 2014

Adventures in Dating (Part 3)

So let's talk about women in this crazy world.  Hopefully not the crazy crap I have done because we all know that I'm not one of thoooose women.

I know that most of the women I associate with are brilliant, wonderfully talented, sensitive women.  They're hilarious, they know how to laugh at life and possess a wide variety of talents.  One of the 'talents' they seem to possess that is missing the in online dating world for women is tact.

Crazy shit girls do:

Post pictures of yourself in your wedding dress on a dating website.  I'm sure you looked fantastic, but seriously????  What the Hell!  Why would you do that?  Is there some subliminal message you're trying to send here?  I did this whole wedding thing once and I'd like to do it again.  So hurry the F up and propose already?  Seriously, it's just dumb.  Don't do it.

On the other end posting on pictures of you with a group of girlfriends is less than helpful.  Do you just want the guys to guess who you are?  Because they're not going to guess you're the hottest girl in the group they're going to assume you're the least attractive.  At least all the cynical men I know would.

Pictures of you falling down drunk, or sitting on the lap of another dude sends a certain message so unless you're looking for someone with zero intentions for relationship I wouldn't recommend going this route.

Of course there's always the possibility that you are not looking for a relationship at all, in which case you could send one of my guy friends a message filled with grammatical errors that says you're looking for some adult birthday fun.  Ummm ok?  And perhaps if you're even more forward you'll send a guy a message asking to sit on his beard.

I mention this not to gross my readers out.  I apologize, I know, I want to gag too.  But rather because those women right there, those are the ones we have to thank for all the X-rated pictures we have received over the years.  For years I just assumed it was a mental defect present in some men's brains that made them do that and while we all know that defect is quite possibly there, apparently there are also women who are just as foul and stupid and offensive.

Online dating isn't for the faint of heart, I've quit and gone back more times than I can count.  I have received more than my fair share (whatever the heck that means) of messages asking just for a strictly physical connection.  Delete, delete, delete.  But it would be great if all of those involved or even a measly half of them could start acting like mature adults.  Yeah, that'd be great.  Can we work on that ladies?  Please.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tough Mudder

I have been thinking about how to sum up my Tough Mudder experience since before I even left the course yesterday, but I can’t take you there without taking you back a little further. 

I was never an athlete growing up.  I practiced Martial Arts for a few years and was pretty good, but I didn’t compete, or race or play in sports.  It wasn’t my thing.  My very athletic siblings and coach Father contributed to my feelings of inadequacy athletically, through no fault of their own.  I was the smart one, or the creative one, and always the determined one.

Almost three years ago now I left a hellacious marriage.  My ex tore me down and was abusive.  I left that marriage overweight and a shell of a person.  But I was determined to survive for my children and provide for them.  Since then I can not begin to tell you what I have had to do to survive, how close to not surviving we have been, how many times I cried at nights thinking about what I could sell so we could eat.  But we have come through that.  My children and I, my family in tact.   I don’t tell you that for pity, we are doing great now.  I tell you so that you can understand I know what it means to fight hard for something and that spirit is what I have brought into my physical journey.

In the beginning of this year I began to focus more on my physical journey.  I had lost quite a bit of weight since my ex left (plus his 190lbs) but I needed an outlet to fuel the emotional frustration I was experiencing.  I began working out consistently and quickly got hooked.  Shortly after I found a supportive online community committed to health and physical fitness and loved the atmosphere I found there.  I found people who believed in themselves the way I wanted to believe in myself.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the same belief I had in my ability to survive for my family I could also translate into belief in my ability to accomplish anything physically. 

My determination and focus has only increased.  I brought that and all of my support network with me to the Tough Mudder course.  I could not wait to start.  The high in the beginning was huge.  Once we started, I was off.  Occasionally slowing down to help another Mudder or wait for a teammate.  I had no trouble running as much as I possibly wanted, although I walked a decent portion of the course. 

By mile 2 or 3 it became clear to me that I was just going to need to keep going on the course solo.  Not because of any fault of my teammates but this challenge was between me and the course and my mind.   I had survived the Arctic enema and lost my inhaler in the process, which was disconcerting.   I was so thankful to round that bend after that obstacle and see my parents cheering me on.  A truly great moment for me.

Who smiles like that after swimming through ice? Me, apparently. 
Ahead were miles of obstacles where the spectators wouldn’t be.  At this point I’m going it alone.  I’m alone on this course with hundreds of other people who are all in teams.  Just me and my thoughts and about 7 miles to go.  The Tough Mudder people know what they’re doing; they set mile markers really obviously up at mile 1 and then again at mile 2 and then even though I started vainly looking for where I was on the course at some unknown point I never so another mile marker until mile 9.  Because after all, you’re tired, you’re wet, you’re exhausted (and if you’re me you’re alone) what good is it to know you have 6 more miles to go and you’re not even halfway there?

I trudged through mud and ran slowly through the little hard ground there was and talked to many other fellow mudders along the way.  I finally made my way to the Funky Monkey.  I had practiced the hell out of this sh!t I knew I was capable on a normal day.  But today was not a normal day.  I kept looking at my hands, totally wet and caked with mud, and then looking at the rungs, also wet.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get a solid grip. I tried in vain to dry them off on my clothes, which was utterly pointless because they were also drenched.  But I stepped up and it was my turn, a volunteer turned to the guy behind me and said

“Listen I want you to step up close behind her and if she falls, push her so she goes in the water.”

And that pissed me the f#ck off.  I had trained hard for this, I was ready and I knew the volunteer was right; I wasn’t going to make it.  I didn’t.  Swinging to the second rung I lost my grip.   I was disappointed.  I swam out of the water but I won’t lie, it bummed me out that I had failed that obstacle I had worked hard to make sure I could complete.  

There was more course to go.  Never once after I stepped onto that course did I  doubt my ability to complete it.  There were two thoughts in my head the whole time: avoid injury and keep going.  That’s all I thought about, how do I complete the obstacles without injury and what is next. 

No idea, just a random badass moment on the course
I would get to each obstacle and often times you need a team or a partner.  I ran up to the Warrior Carry and I knew I didn’t have anyone to carry but I also didn’t want to skip it.  I didn’t want to skip any of them.  So, I waited and sure enough a big guy named Kevin said, “Does anyone need a partner?”  I said “yep” and looked at him thinking I have to carry him half of the way?  Of course we did it.  He outweighed me by at least 40 pounds of solid muscle and insisted he could carry me the whole way, but I have never been one to punk out and I didn’t this time either.   I said thanks, and never saw him again. 

I can’t tell you how many times I lightly touched a mudder on the shoulder to keep them from falling into the mud or someone offered me a boost that I had never seen before and I didn’t ever get to see them again.  The feeling of camaraderie even going it alone was amazing.  You also incidentally end up touching a lot of butts, I promise you no one cares.    

The Tough Mudder people made the Pyramid Scheme more difficult by digging a trench in front of it to make sure we were all nice and wet before we could get on it.  But I completed it on my first try.  Everest was awesome; I definitely felt a rush conquering that one, first try again. 

After that something shifted.  It could have been because I was running it alone, or the mixture of exhaustion and muscle fatigue, or the fact that we were now running through the woods and I was cold, but around mile 7-8 everything went silent.  No one was talking or joking around it was quiet.  I’m longing for that shirt I threw off before we started.  We were in the woods running, trudging through mud and everyone was fatigued.  We couldn’t see the sun.  Here is where my demons came for me.  I don’t want to imply that the battle wasn’t intense but this was my mental ground that I needed to fight and what they kept saying was “You’re alone” it was these little whispers in my ear for about a mile straight.  “You’re alone, Shannon, you’re alone.”  I kept thinking, yeah ok, I’m alone; I know I’m alone.  “But you’re alone, don’t you realize, you’re alone.”  And that’s when I realized I had won the battle.  Because going at a challenge like this alone didn’t scare me.  I came out of those woods and thought, “Yes, I’m alone and I am more than capable of completing this course alone.”

The Tough Mudder gave me more than just the confidence in my physical capabilities; it reminded my internal make up is able to overcome anything I want to, even if I have to go it alone.  

I’m so thankful for my online community.  I’m thankful for how you all have believed in me.  I hope you can feel my belief in you.  And I cannot wait to run another Tough Mudder, to be with my friends cheering them on, beside them, helping them beat back their own personal demons.  Because even while I was alone, I carried all of you with me.

Thank you

- S

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I Told the Truth (part 2)

I want to write a fun little blog post.  I'm stocked up on ideas on what my next adventures in dating one will be and have even started drafting it.  But to write about that today is to lie and a while back I committed to telling the truth so I'm going to do that again now.

As a 20 yr old, I was a highly sensitive individual.  I remember crying regularly about the pain that this world experienced.  I remember feeling on a deeply personal level the pain of those I cared about.  I also remember feeling the pain of those I didn't know, the horror and tragedies that were part of this world, I remember grieving when I saw those things happening. I remember thinking; I can't wait until I'm older so that I will stop crying about these things so much.  There's so little I can do, surely time will pass and my heart will harden and the pain will lessen and the tears will stop.

In a word.  Naivety.

Time has passed, 14 years give or take.  And I was so wrong.  I guess I could have chosen a path that deadens the heart and the tears would have slowed to a stop.  But that's not in my make up.  There was certainly a time in my life where I stopped crying or showing emotion in front of my ex husband.  But I never stopped grieving for others.  If anything time has increased my sensitivity.

About a week ago our family received some tough news that rocked our world for a while.  The kind that makes you stand up and pay attention.  But unfortunately life never stops for those things does it?  You still have to go to school and work and bathe children and make meals.  So in the midst of hearing all of that there was little time to process.  I found myself crying at my desk on a Friday afternoon for no apparent reason.  And my standard response to my tears?  Annoyance and confusion.  Where were they coming from?  Why now?  I don't expect being 34 rather than 20 to dull that kind of personal pain but sometimes I wonder why it still has to catch me so completely off guard.  It does every time.  I forget I'm not made of stone.  

On the heels of that a few days later I hear about a woman being murdered that lives quite close to me.  She's a friend of a friend and the daughter of a teacher at my daughter's daycare center.  It appears to be a murder-suicide of a domestically violent nature.  All of that hits close to home and my heart wants to pound out of its chest cavity for the pain of their family.  At the injustice of domestic violence.  At our futility in the face of it all.  It's too much. Too much to carry.  It's wrong.  God please come, I can't carry this anymore.

You'd think that grocery shopping would be a safe mind numbing activity in the face of the pain.  Go do something routine.  Just don't think.  Make a list, cross off the list and fill the cart, buy the groceries and go home.  But this heart, this God given one that I carry around in my chest is on full alert now.  I see an old man in his late 80s I'd guess navigating this crowded store on a Sunday afternoon in his little motorized cart.  I think kindly of him, his presence isn't annoying to me or slowing me down.  I'm grateful for the opportunity not to rush.  I think about 20 other things about him and the other shoppers, even the ones annoyed by him, as I fill my cart and then it happens.  He misjudges a turn and sends 100s of cans of pumpkins down the aisle, rolling all over the place.  I catch his expression for the briefest of moments.  Humiliation.  Frustration.  I wonder if he's thinking about how he used to be the young manager, capable and strong.  I wonder if he thinks that life is cruel for taking part of his capabilities from him.  I wonder if he's sorry for embarrassing his still able-bodied wife or frustrated for her obvious annoyance with him.  Doesn't she understand?

But all I really see is his pain.

And the pain of a family soon to be burying their daughter.

And the pain of my family navigating confusing waters again.

And the pain of officers who wish they would have made it there just a bit sooner to save her.

I can't carry all of this.  When I try to bad things happen.  I make terrible decision or cope poorly.  I know that I can't stop feeling it.  I actually don't want to stop feeling it anymore.  But I also can't carry it.  I have to lay it down and hand it over and let it go.  None of that is easy or makes any sense or is even possible sometimes.  But holding on to this pain will suck the life out of me and make me sick, whether in heart, spirit, body or mind, it will infect if I allow it to fester.

But right now, it feels like I can't let go either.  I'm sitting with it at the moment because I need God to come and take it and I hope he does soon.  I know that having a heart that feels is a gift, but it can be a burden too if I don't learn how to manage it.  This heart is part of my calling but it can become my stumbling block if I am not careful with it.

Perhaps I'm alone in this, the only one who walks around seeing and feeling the pain of all the other humans that inhabit the earth but somehow I doubt that.  In so far as I am called to mourn with those who mourn I will continue to do so, but I'll also be thankful for when the laughter returns.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Adventures in Dating Part 2

As some of you mentioned in your FB comments (where the majority of my readers come from) one of the reasons you have not started online dating is because you have to write a profile.  Generally websites have basic questions and then a place where you talk about yourself.  Sorry folks you're not going to get to read mine.  I happen to be a writer so this wasn't a particularly intimidating part of the process for me but I understand that everyone's not made that way.  Maybe if you pay me 5 bucks and ask nicely I'll draft one for you too. ;-) 

However terrible you are at writing there are still some funny things you see in profiles and some things that make you say WHAT???  

Some of the standard questions you're asked that you have options to choose from are: 

married? divorced? never married? separated?

Have kids? (Everyone should know the answer to this one.  At least I really hope so.) From there they (the website) discreetly allow you to put whether they live with you some of the time or all of the time or none of the time.  This is all presuming you do in fact know whether or not you have children.  

Then you answer, drinking habits, smoking habits, religious affiliation.  (all of these have a 'right' answer for me).  Nothing more than a social drinker. None is the only right answer to smoking, bleck who wants to kiss that? You and Jesus gotta be cool.  

But the one that gets me every time and makes me shake my head is the question of 
wants kids?  You can answer this in a variety of ways but the options are generally chosen for you: definitely, definitely not, unsure, and someday (meaning probably yes but not right now in my estimation). 

I get people that say definitely, definitely not (clearly I'm not interested) and unsure.  In fact I'll give you a little secret my profile says unsure.  How I interpret this is these are the people that are aware that having children has an age range and perhaps we're nearing the end of it.  If they meet someone and decide that's right for them fantastic, if they don't that may or may not suck.  In my case it'll suck less because I already have three fantastic people.  

I don't get people who say they definitely don't want kids who message me but then again I just assume that they didn't read my profile and just saw a picture they liked and messaged.  

But the real kicker is always the 40+ year old man (or there abouts) who says he wants kids "someday".  Sweetheart, let me let you in on a little secret.  The clock is ticking, if you're still thinking some day you might want to have kids at 41 then you're probably not going to.  You should figure that shit out.  Because at some point the women you're dating aren't going to be able to easily have kids anymore.  It isn't rocket science people, it's actually biology.  It cracks me up every time.  Are they some superstar that thinks they're going to land a 24 year old girl to procreate with at 45?  (Kuddos to them if that happens) but really?  This is what I refer to as over grown frat boy status.  They still think it's their time to party and have fun without any commitment.  That's great, all fine well and good, but if you party for the entirety of your age bracket's years in which they can procreate you're going to be SOL for having biological children.  Just saying.  

Then there are the people who write absolutely nothing.  Not one word about themselves.  They leave it blank.  And then when they message you before you respond you go and look and it's blank there's nothing about them.  I don't respond, well except one guy but his pictures were super hot so I was pretty sure it was a fake profile and I wanted to exploit that.  

Which brings me to the topic of fake profiles.  If it looks like a stock photo, it is.  If there's only one picture of a man (or a woman) and they're super gorgeous and their profile talks about how they make a ridiculous amount of money and have a yacht and enjoy traveling to the Mediterranean regularly, it's fake. Too good to be true is always too good to be true. If they love puppies and kittens and their grandmother, just delete and keep scrolling.  

There are a couple of other gems you'll come across in the dating world.  One is being 'matched' with the ex of someone you care about.  If you're lucky it won't be your ex brother in law.  Sure, laugh at my expense.  Thanks guys.  

Another thing you'll come across that my guy friends and I have both experienced is cheating spouses.  It is super uncool when you come across a profile of someone who is married to someone you know.  Then you have a moral and ethical dilemma.  This isn't only a guy phenomena there have been plenty of wives on these websites as well.  You just have to decide what to do at that point.  

And by the way no one (except me and only because I'm training for my Tough Mudder right now) works out as often as they say they do.  The most popular lie of dating websites.  Well maybe not the most popular one.  The most popular one for guys is height.  I really hate it when they lie about this.  I'm not short and it matters!  Just own your height already.  Most popular thing women lie about?  I have no idea (other than the workout thing) but I'd love to know.  Tell me? 

Alright folks, like or comment and let me know if you want more.  I've got so many more stories. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Adventures in Dating (the second time around)

I have been toying with the idea for some time now to start another blog strictly tackling the wild, awkward world of dating.  We all have some crazy stories and I thought it might be funny.  So I'm doing a test run here and if y'all like it, I might go full fledged and do a whole other blog.  (disclaimer: no blog will be happening without stories from my single guy friends.  This is not a male bashing session, women do crazy shit too.)

I re-entered the dating world in my 30s, 31 to be exact and let's face it the first time around I didn't really date.  I had a series of boyfriends before I chose the absolute worst one of them all to marry (yay me!) By the time I divorced, the dating world had completely changed.  The Internet had taken over our lives and I had no idea how to approach it.  Although I knew I didn't want to be single forever, so I had to figure it out.  I did what everyone else seemed to be doing and set up a profile on a dating website.  For privacy's sake I won't disclose which one.  But I took a leap.  And I jumped right into the frying pan.  It's been a wild, crazy ride and I have learned a lot.  Here's a few nuggets for today. 

Things you learn while dating:

Gentlemen are in short supply.  As woman you will be inundated with requests for pictures of you, which is all fine and good until those requests become a little more specific and now you're uncomfortable.  Keeping in mind, that you've never met any of these people you're purely communicating via email or text message.  If you're really unlucky you'll get pictures shared with you of a more 'private' nature.  Which is (not) awesome and scarring.  I'm totally unaware of the logic behind doing this.  I guess some women respond positively, I'm not one of them.  My only advice for combating this?  Get off the website that allows picture messages to be sent and try a different one. 

Many, many, many people don't know how to hold a basic conversation.  Sure you have the same conversations over and over again (a completely exhausting part of dating).  But it's not that hard people: where do you work, what do you do for a living, what's your family like or if you're me eventually you get to questions that are thought provoking or the ones that matter like: what is the one thing you want to accomplish while you're here on this planet or what is your number one pet peeve?  If the person you're talking can't bounce a conversation back and forth then chances are their conversation skills suck more in person.  And if they have no idea what they want to do while here on the earth then I'm disinterested.  Get some drive jack and then message me.  However, if their number one pet peeve is when people are late, I know we'll get along. 

Lots and lots and lots of people don't have jobs.  I don't know what they're doing with their lives but it's not meaningful nor is it earning money.  I have absolutely no explanation for this.  Moving on. Delete delete delete. <<<<you will do a lot of that.

Bad grammar is the norm.  For example I got a message recently, I kid you not "Hey there herd you were looking for me I'm Mr. Right BTW LOL"  Do you have any idea how much restraint was required of me not to respond with one word: "Heard"  I still want to.  Can I?  Someone please tell me that's not a total bitch move and that I can do it.  Sigh. I guess not. 

There are some really awesome people out there.  I know this is supposed to be a sarcastic humorous post but there are.  I have met at least two guys who were worthy of my time via the online dating world.  Which gives me hope, which also sucks because then you will get stuff like this...

As you progress through the online dating world there is a dance (some people don't figure this out so I'll tell you).  You read each other's profiles, someone messages.  At first it's maybe a message or two a day and then you end up talking back and forth many times throughout the day.  Because you're communicating through a website that becomes cumbersome so eventually someone suggests texting.  (if you're me) You reread the content of your conversations thus far and double check their profile before saying sure and giving them your number.  At this point you've taken a step forward, most likely there will eventually be a date.  But also now, they have your number, which is private information and therefore they're harder to get rid of.  Hopefully you've weeded out all the bastards and assholes at this point.  If not it's going to suck.  Occasionally a true gem slips through that process unnoticed and things shift rather rapidly from texting about your day to blatant sexting.  Not: "Hey I think it would be awesome to kiss you" or "You're so beautiful I'd love to wrap you in my arms."  Nope, that's sweet and endearing and acceptable communication.  It's more along the lines of how do you feel about bondage or I'd like to have you helpless in my grasp.  Ummmmm WHAT THE HELL???!!!!! No, just no. 

Sometimes it truly sucks to be a woman.  That is one of those moments.  Thankfully cell phone companies let you block numbers.  It's a wonder I don't quit completely.  I have experienced love and I believe it's worth finding again.  I actually have a few friends now that I met through this experience and I enjoy having them in my life.  But it's a jungle out there.  Keep your head down and watch out!

And if you want more stories (perhaps even ones about the crazy crap women do) let me know and I'll write more.  Comment or like this post. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is it safe?

It's no secret that I was an unhappy married person.  One of my best friends during that time in my life used to say "Marriage just doesn't agree with Shannon."  She told me that later after I was out and she confessed that I just wasn't the person she knew me to be.  She didn't know the backstory of abuse and my ex's addiction was fueling the personality change until after the fact.  Regardless, she was right it didn't agree with me, for excellent reasons.  Partly because of this when I left Jonathan I made some very deliberate choices about who I was going to be.  I wasn't going to "lose myself" in a relationship again and become an angry, bitter person.  But this commitment morphed into something else.  It morphed into the inability to tell anyone I'm in an intimate relationship with (friend or partner) that I'm pissed off, or angry or upset.

Because I don't want to be an angry person; I have shut off my ability to express any genuine emotion that resembles that.  Because I remember the futility of yelling and screaming at someone who didn't give shit about me, I refuse to tell those who may care when they offend or hurt me.  Because I remember the pain of feeling so unheard for so long, I refuse to speak about certain negative emotions.  I hold tightly to my ability to clean that shit up and package my emotions in a more palatable fashion before I share them.  The messy, dirty, imperfect parts of me aren't welcome at the table.  I literally have told at least one guy I dated that "I don't get angry."  His response?  "Bullshit, everyone gets angry."  And in my head I responded with "And if I do you won't see it, I will handle it."  I'm very good at handling things.  (eye roll)

There are relationships I feel safe enough in to express my anger.  My kids know when they've screwed up, not in a way that's unhealthy for them but they get to see when Mommy is displeased.  My family sees my annoyances although I'm past yelling and screaming at them about anything.  Thankfully my mother and I have moved beyond that for sometime now.  The fam and I disagree about things and we're all passionate people but for the most part we express that in a calm(er) fashion than we have in the past.

I have seen firsthand what anger does when it festers in a relationship.  I was not unjustified in my anger in my marriage but instead of remaining angry I should have gotten out sooner.  I don't like to "should" on myself and I know why I didn't in hindsight (fear) but that anger produced a change in me I didn't like.  But I have also seen what it does in my friends' marriages when it festers even over small things.  It comes out in morphed ways against people that it is not meant for and it destroys everything in it's path.  I know all these things about anger.  I know how destructive it can be so it makes sense that I avoid it as much as possible.  But just because I avoid it doesn't mean it doesn't happen for me.  I get angry and admitting that feels dangerous.

I still share things in relationships.  I talk about things that are uncomfortable.  I can and do tell my partner when I feel hurt or misunderstood (safe acceptable things to talk about).  I can ask for more sensitivity or greater understanding or more affection or affirmation.  These are all acceptable things to talk about in my opinion.

But "Hey I'm pissed off, you said you were coming over and you didn't and I was looking forward to that and now I'm angry, I feel slighted and unimportant."  Nope.  That's a no fly zone.  I don't go there.   The question "Are you upset with me?" will always result in resounding "No" from me, because even if I am I have worked through it before I even come back to the table.  Don't ask me what worked through it means.  I don't really know.  I just know that it's quiet before I reengage.

I know why I don't go there.  It doesn't feel safe.  The consequences I have paid in my former life were not pleasant and I don't want to repeat them.  So my head yells at my heart to shut up about that slighted feeling because it's not okay, it's not safe to talk about that.  If you talk about that bad things might happened, or you might get into a fight and you really hate fighting, it's not who you are, or this could happen, or that, or this.  But all of this happens in the nanosecond that I decide not to share my pain. And I remember and embrace my old comfortable frienemy silence.

To express anger or frustration feels really intimate, like the level of security in a relationship would need to be a lot higher before I did that.  But because I have never reached that level of security, that freedom of speech, I'm not even sure it exists for me.  What would I need to know about someone in order to be safe to say I'm mad.  How well would I need to know them?

The bullshit of it all is that I regularly ask my closest friends if they are pissed at me.  I ask my partner.  And they all freely tell me; I wonder if they have ever noticed that I never say the same in return?  I can know people for a decade or more without telling them even once that I'm angry with them.  So maybe the level of security just doesn't exist?  Maybe I'd prefer to go without the relationship then to go there in a relationship.

I was in a relationship a while back for nearly a year.  I thought it would last forever.  Thought I would marry that person (which should indicate the trust level I had for this person since for the most part getting remarried is one GIANT question mark for me).  For various reasons that didn't happen.  But there were several times when he pissed me the fuck off.  Once for saying something horrible about my kids' father in front of them (not something I do, not something anyone else is allowed to do around them).  Once for putting me in a very uncomfortable position at his family's holiday gathering.  I felt safer in this relationship than I thought possible at the time and yet I didn't get tell him.  I didn't tell him calmly how angry I was or in a more intense fashion.  I didn't express my displeasure in any palpable way.  I just ignored it and didn't talk about it.

I went home and found my journal or a computer screen and God and I told them how upset I was.  How not okay those things were.  I sorted through my emotions solo before I reengaged in the relationship.  Because I know that I can sort through my emotions in private and be safe.  I have learned that I am the ONLY one who can 'take' the full gamut of my personality.  I have embraced that belief system.

The problem with embracing that is that it's not true.  Well it could be true but if it is than I am wasting time dating and looking for a partner because there is absolutely no point whatsoever in being with someone that can not embraced the full depth of your personality.  And my unwillingness to share the fullness of my personality makes it impossible for anyone to make that decision.

But it's not only knowing them (well enough) that keeps me from sharing my unpleasant emotions.  It's also about trusting me to keep me safe.  It's about telling myself that it's okay to share this and if the response the other person has is not okay I will leave, I will be okay.

I have learned that I can take care of myself and my people in an excellent fashion.  We may not have extra, but we have enough.  I know how to emotionally care for them and prioritize that.  I prioritize my own emotional health, I work out to work things out and I talk when I need to.  But believing that I am safe in a relationship whether friend or partner is elusive to me.  This reality has smacked me in the face and it's not going to work out for me long term.  Either I need to pick "safer" people to relate with or I need to loosen the reigns on what I share and be more open.  Trusting myself to care for me in a relationship has been an evolving process, I'm getting there.  But trusting other people not to be giant self-centered assholes is taking a little longer.  

This is a process, I haven't figured it out.  But I have figured out enough to know that what I'm doing isn't working.  The first step is acknowledging the problem, so there I did that.  Now what?