dating

Priming the pump with prompts

I have a resume workshop this morning and a PowerPoint class this afternoon. Yesterday was a church picnic in the park. Very few people showed – which was expected. Still, it was an enjoyable experience after the stress and activity of Saturday. Long story with little purpose. Short version? I helped my ex shop for a mattress for our daughter to have at his place, then helped him to assemble the loft bed he’d ordered for her off of Amazon. Fun times.

Anyway, I’m short on ideas and there wasn’t anything of import to report about Sunday. Also, for some reason, I don’t receive the prompt emails sent out to the participants of The Ultimate Blog Challenge, despite having gone through the website to sign up more than once. So, I turned to the social writing app I’ve gotten prompts from before and saw this “Finish the Story” prompt. Don’t know where I’m going with it. Join me?


I’m afraid you might not like me, when you meet me, she texted him. Three dots appeared on her screen, indicating he was typing. But, then they suddenly disappeared.

“Well, that’s that, I guess.”

She sighed fatalistically and reflected, I’m not any good at this whole dating game thing. It’s been so long since I’ve been on the market. Gah! “On the market.” What a horrible idiom. I’m not for sale . . . except maybe I am marketing myself as “damaged goods” when I tell men what I told him. WHY did I say that to him?

“Well. I don’t want to be accused of false advertising . . .”

There it was again, this language of sales, as if I’m a consumable commodity. Where on earth was this idea that women, even if they weren’t in the sex industry, were for sale?

Even as she asked herself that question, she knew the answer. It’s from the old patriarchal roots when women were considered possessions to be sold or traded in marriage for a bride price paid by the man who became her new owner, her husband.

“Well. I’m no one’s possession. I’m not for sale. I’m not a consumable commodity,” she declared to herself.”

Wow! I use “well” a lot! She chuckled to herself. Just then her phone buzzed.

What do you mean?
Sorry, I got a phone call.

Oh . . . he texted me back.

My selfies don’t really show all of me
and I’m much bigger than they make me look.

That doesn’t matter to me.
Skinny chicks don’t do it for me.

Ugh! Do I REALLY want to go any further with a guy who thinks like that,
“Skinny chicks don’t do it for me.” Seriously?!?!?

Listen. I’m sorry. I just realized, I’m not really ready for this whole dating thing.

What do you mean?
Whatever. You’re too much.

Bye.

Pretty sure I dodged a bullet there. Obviously I have some more work to do with my therapist.

She walked to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, knowing the answers she sought weren’t going to be found there.


Ah the joys of middle aged dating. It’s not like I’m writing from life experience or anything. 😉

Seriously, though. I’ve been dabbling in the online dating thing off and on for over a year. It’s kind of a nightmare. Especially for a woman of a certain age with low self-esteem and mental illnesses, including Binge Eating Disorder. I have more work to do before I want to deal with taking on the search for a new relationship.

But first, a job. I mean, some of the insecurities I have around dating, aren’t just about dating and trying to be in that kind of relationship with a man.

I’m not comfortable in my own skin and only part of it is the sizist/fatphobic discrimination that’s both insidious and overt in our society. I mean, it is a significant part, this internalized sense of being “less than” because I’m physically “more than.” There’s actual physical discomfort and difficulty with me being as overweight as I am. And still I overeat, choosing the foods that perpetuate the problem. BED is a bitch.

I’m working on it. I’m doing the difficult things of being seen in clothes that are physically comfortable, though not necessarily society approved for someone my size. I’m putting myself “out there” in ways that are uncomfortable because they call attention to me on a larger scale than one on one or in a smaller group . . . or at least I’m willing myself to do that. That’s part of the reasoning behind volunteering to speak and share my story in schools and in the community.

I am not my body. My body is only part of me. I am not the excess fat stored in the body I live in. Just like I am not my diagnoses. I have a bipolar brain that has been structurally altered by trauma and chronic stress. Genetics and hormones play a part in both my brain structure, as well as how my body reacts and is affected by environment, circumstances, and food choices. There is so much more to me than these things.

Factually, I know these things and I’m trying to live and make choices based on these facts, despite how scary it feels and the internal voices leftover from voices from childhood and beyond:

🎶Watch that wiggle, see that jiggle.🎶 Thank you Jell-O for that advertising jingle, twisted by middle school classmates.

“Fatty, fatty 2×4! Can’t fit through the bathroom door.” called out in singsong by kids on the playground. “Whale on the beach!” by the boys at the public pool. Lovely expressions of contempt by my elementary school peers.

“Fat ass!” A verbal gift from a former neighbor in denial about some legitimately serious mental health issues of her own.

That childhood rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” just ain’t true. Words have the power to hurt or heal. Even with the healing, the underlying hurt doesn’t go away, it just isn’t allowed to dictate and define anymore.

Obsession vs Mindfulness

So, there’s this guy…

We “met” online about three weeks ago, then met in person a few days after that. He’s legitimately in the military and was visiting home, on leave. Less than 36 hours after meeting in person, he was back on base…the length of our two states away.

I can’t stop thinking about him. We message, chat, or FaceTime daily. I find myself checking the apps we communicate on, almost constantly. I have to stop myself from sending WAY too many messages. In other words, I’m obsessed. I feel consumed by this and, at the moment, I feel powerless against it.

It’s especially frustrating because I know this “relationship” isn’t going anywhere significant. It’s just for now and worth appreciating what it is, without constantly thinking about when it’s over (future focus) or why it even happened (past focus). Most “now” focus, unless we happen to be interacting, is spent worrying if my obsession is actually bleeding through and making him not want to be with me…the twisted story in my head.

I’m beginning to suspect that part of what is driving this is my favorite PTSD coping mechanism, avoidance. According to my (recently former) therapist, something else that can be making this so intense are the layers and layers of unresolved, unprocessed feelings from past experiences.

Whatever the reason, all I know is that thoughts associated with him are intrusive and are consuming my ability to focus on anything else…including my attempts at mindfulness.

I’m learning that part of mindfulness isn’t fighting the thoughts, but to observe them, acknowledge them, and come back to the present without self-judgment.

Letting go of self-judgment…how does one DO that?

At any rate, I observed myself obsessing over this guy most of the day. The exceptions were when I was in physical therapy…that demanded my complete attention…and when I was zoning out on food. But, not even my self-harm with food was completely successful in avoiding the thoughts.

I guess my mindfulness practice today was to observe the amount of time, energy, and attention this obsession is consuming.

The following graphics are the poetry spawned by this…the order is most recent to oldest:

The Bridge

“There’s a lot of water under the bridge,” she said to me.

“As long as there is still a bridge, I’m happy.”

“The bridge is still there, believe me,” was the reassuring reply.

It triggered a swell of emotion

Hope and fear, swimming in the ocean

of tears filling my eye.

————————————————————————————

I spent a little bit of time this afternoon with my son and his new fiancee.  She and I have known each other and talked at different times in the past, but have had very little interaction overall and almost none in the past ten years.  They officially started dating a few weeks ago and my son informed me last week that it isn’t a casual, fill in the time relationship, it’s the real deal and they are working toward a future together.

My relationship with him is very strained and difficult, for a lot of reasons on both our parts.  As a matter of fact, he recently referred to me in on a social networking site as his incubator and another woman as his mother.  He removed that statement from public view within a very short period after a conversation with a mutual friend/acquaintance, and I’ve chosen to not confront him on that issue, since I understand where he’s at, what he’s going through, and the history that was behind that statement.  Regardless, it really hurt me to know that he genuinely feels that way about me, at least some of the time.  That feeling gets compounded whenever I check his profile page and see those who are listed as his family members and see my name among the general list of friends.  I try not to torture myself by doing that very often.

I think back to when I was his age and trying to heal, grow, and change from the messed up character I was into the person I longed to be.  There was a lot of shame and blame, fault and victim thinking that went on.  I was intelligent and able to very rationally connect the dots on what people should and shouldn’t do and how those responsible for my care and nurture should have done this or that different.  I had a lot of contempt and near-hatred for them and how their choices and faults had affected me.  There was a deep and abiding lack of respect for them and I thought I knew better than they what needed to be done in order to fix their lives, but they were just too this, that or the other thing and I just needed to write them off.  That is the exact same kind of thinking and mentality I see in him and his attitudes toward me.

What I know is that over time I have grown from contempt into compassion.  I have come to understand and accept more about myself and my past, which has allowed me to look at those people with new understanding, new eyes, and a new heart.  I believe that can happen and will happen with him as well.  It’s a long road to travel from 25 to 42, and I want to make sure I’m there on it with him and available to him as he travels it.  So, I work to be careful in how I respond to the things he says and the way he says them.  I work to make sure he sees I have a new way of coping with things that is saner and more constructive than what he grew up with.  I work to accept that his ability to receive, accept, and respond to my efforts is out of my control and trust the journey we are both on.

In the meantime, despite my best intentions, not so deep inside I tend to harbor the harpy of disillusionment and despair.  She will screech that the people in his life who know of me or knew me briefly back in the day, surely have a poor opinion of me.  Which is part of the reason why I didn’t friend request my future daughter in law at the time my son informed me of the status change in their relationship.

Today they came to pick up the littlest sister, who has been cooped up with me for over a week because she’s been sick with the kiddy flu.  They showed up early because I had let him know I needed to talk to him about something important.  I am in a position where he will have to be a character reference for me in a matter regarding the children of other family members, because he is my adult child.  I have very little confidence in what his recommendation will be, but, that is out of my control.  I just didn’t want him to be blindsided if he was contacted and I wanted to be clear with him that I did not expect him to say anything that wasn’t true according to his experience.  That was a fairly stiff and stilted conversation.  Thankfully, it was only about 30% of the total conversation we had.

There were some light-hearted topics, including some reminiscing of times past.  There was also a brief mention of the elephant in the room – my status/role as his mom – when they told me they are looking to get married sometime in January.  I thanked them for sharing their plans with me considering my out of the fold position.   Admissions and reassurances were alluded to, but we didn’t go very deep into the topic at all.  During part of this conversation, there were a couple of potentially snarky remarks from him toward me, but I didn’t even pay them any attention.  She, however, did and the brief exchanges were illuminating.  Basically, she subtly but unmistakably chastised him for being disrespectful toward me.  It kind of shocked me that a) she would come to my defense and b) that he would respond favorably.  Not sure I agree with how it happened, but it’s their relationship to figure out, not mine to judge.

As they were preparing to go and my son followed his sister into her room to get ready to depart, I said something about going ahead and friend requesting my DIL to be.  She responded with a smile and very graciously stated that I could have done that weeks ago.  I just said it was fine, that I have been trying to give him the space he needs.  The outcome of this conversation is what shut the harpy up and inspired the opening lines of this post.

We live in the city of bridges.  All three of us are believers in and followers of Jesus – who is the bridge between God, us, and each other.  Now it seems, she, my future daughter in law, is willing to work to shore up the bridge between me and my son.  I am grateful.

Make life easier: Assume innocent motive

I used to be a seriously egocentric drama queen.  I could whip myself up into a frenzy of anxiety and self-righteous anger, with the best of them.  I would verbally reenact every conversation where someone hurt me, offended me, or somehow made me feel “less than.”  Then I became a defender of others who I believed were being treated the same way – diminished, devalued, and disregarded. I became hyper vigilant in my quest to protect myself and others from maltreatment.  Which meant that I sought reasons to be offended.  Believe me, it was not difficult to find reasons to be offended on my own behalf or on the behalf of others.

You name it, I’ve probably either been the poster child for the statistic or championed others who were:

Teen mom – check

Runaway – check

Street kid – check

Working mom – check

Welfare mom – check

Homeless – check

and the list goes on….and on, and on.

Words and attitude became my weapons of choice and boy did I take pride in that.  Especially with men. I developed this ability to give a look and say a few words and have a guy who had mistakenly made an ignorant comment about women or welfare or teen pregnancy, shrink and cower, without raising my voice or using foul language.  It even reached a point where a former girlfriend of mine would have the guys in the club see her and hide because they assumed I would be right behind.  Hmmm, perhaps that’s why I had so many tearful moments in the bathroom because my friends had dance partners and dates while I was alone and not the fact that I was heavier than them?

Wow, am I sooo glad those days are 15-20 years gone, never to be seen again.

I guess the point of this post is this: In my woundedness, bitterness, and crusade against being treated wrong by others, I looked for and took offense, whether it was intended or not.  I would assume that what other people said or did was out of an intent to hurt, wound, and marginalize me and others around me.  I spent so much energy being offended and fighting back against it that I sacrificed friendships, familial relationships, and opportunities for personal and professional growth.  I was so offended, that I became offensive and I drove myself into isolation.

I have learned over the years is that a lot of people who do things that are thoughtless and inconsiderate or seem overwhelmed and incompetent in a situation, aren’t behaving that way in order to thwart the lives and efforts of the rest of us.  The speed racer weaving in and out of traffic in the shiny new car, may have gotten a call to the hospital because a family member is dying.  The woman who pulled out in front of you, unexpectedly and caused you to have to slam on your brakes, may not have seen you through the long line of parked cars and group of pedestrians obscuring her view of oncoming traffic.  The co-worker who is chronically late and distracted which causes you to have to pick up the slack, may be suffering from a mental or physical illness and have some serious family issues going on.

During one of my early forays into the recovery and healing process, someone told me to assume innocent motive.  That really stumped me for a while. Finally, I realized what was meant.  Instead of assuming that the people I was feeling victimized and offended by were intentionally doing something against me, I could assume that the motivation for their behaviors and words had nothing to do with me personally and weren’t about causing deliberate harm to me or others.  This released me from the need to do anything in response other than take care of myself.

There are definitely people who are just in it for themselves and don’t pay attention or care about their impact on others.  It is also true that there are people in the world who do exactly what I was on guard against.  However, most people that are out there being offensive are probably coming from a similar mental and emotional space as I was: wounded and insecure people just trying to protect themselves and those they care about.  When I approach things people and situations with this understanding, I’m much calmer, more rational, less rattled, and easier to be around.

It helps me to deal with unkind, unreasonable, and irrational people as well.  I am able to conserve, concentrate, and constructively direct my emotional energy when dealing with the emotional and psychic vampires of the world.

It is also helping me to cope with and go through the very real pain of being rejected and marginalized by someone whom I care about very deeply.  I can recognize that in many ways I have “earned” the way I am currently being treated and allow him to have the space to deal with his thoughts and feelings about it.  At the same time, because I know what I’ve done to grow and change from the person I was that caused him harm, I am able to establish the boundaries that protect us both from continuing the cycle of harming each other emotionally.  I have faith that, eventually, our relationship will heal and we will be connected again.  In the meantime, I will assume that his motivations aren’t to deliberately wound me, but to protect himself and do my part to maintain open lines of communication, while letting him know I’ll be here when he’s ready.  I don’t need to address the hurtful words and actions, because it would be counterproductive and he has to go through his process.

If I was still getting offended and angry, going off on every little thing I perceived others were doing to me, I would not have the capacity to handle the pain and grief in this present time from this critical relationship in my life.  I’m grateful to have learned this life lesson.  Assuming innocent motives of other people does make life easier to live through.

Being one of the “Cool Kids”

There is a beautifully silly show on FOX starring Christian Slater called “Breaking In.”  I have enjoyed his work ever since his movie, “Pump Up The Volume.”  So, I’ve been very excited and then disappointed when several tv projects of his over the past decade or so got started with great promise and then either were dropped mid-season or not picked up for a second season.  Most recently this occurred with “Breaking In.”

Imagine my delighted surprise to see it back on the FOX line up this month.

There’s been a major switch up though and while his character is still large and in charge, the new sheriff in town is played by Megan Mullally, and as usual, her character is completely over the top and out of the box.  However, neither of these characters are the ones that interest me.  The one who helped inspire this post is the beautiful, smart, people-pleasing British assistant.  In the grand style of Hollywood, this character has so many qualities and traits many of us wish we had a sliver of, but somehow she has this insane lack of confidence and self-assurance or seeming understanding of what she brings to the table. It’s rather ridiculous, really.

In the second episode, she is manipulated and used by her new co-workers, reminiscent of the cruelty of kids: The pretty, popular, “in” person pretends to befriend and include the outsider, gaining trust, and tricking her into falsely believing she has miraculously been transported into the strata of the “cool kids.”  This is actually a phrase used in the episode.

This same theme is continually popping up in a lot of shows these days: GCB, Alcatraz, NCIS…yes, I have turned my brain to mush with an On Demand overdose this week while I’ve been cooped up with a sick toddler and not feeling well myself.  But that’s beside the point.

I’ve had that feeling most of my life.  We moved around a lot when I was a kid and that trend continued into my adulthood.  Roots and stability are what other people have and experience.  It’s something I’m quite unfamiliar with.  I’m sure there are others out there who know exactly what I’m talking about.  Schools, churches, and companies always seem to have a core group of people who are “in.”  What I never understood is how that happened.

I would see people who laughed together and shared their sorrows with each other: co-workers who interacted outside of work, classmates who hung out with each other for more than completing a project or doing homework, and fellow church members who socialized and whose families came together more than one day a week or for sponsored activities.  How to fit into something that’s already established?

Oh, how I’ve always wanted to be one of the “cool kids.”

Back to the assistant: Beautiful, intelligent, fashion-forward, talented, and generous.  The men in the office were awed and interested while the women were jealous and wishing they had her gifts.  Yet, there she was, crying her eyes out, hiding away, because she felt rejected and not able to fit in.  She tried so hard to please and fit in that she didn’t give herself credit or value for what she had to offer.  Sure, the others didn’t necessarily jump on the welcome wagon, but she had already expected to be excluded and rejected and set herself up for that to happen.

Makes me wonder how many times and how many ways have I done that?

The news is full of stories of bullying, hate crimes, and suicide because so few people in our society, possibly the world, are able to realize what they have and what they are, in and of themselves, is sufficient unto itself, to justify their existence and placement in the order of things.  I saw a video posted on facebook yesterday by a high school senior about being bullied.  This girl is gorgeous, talented, accomplished, engaged, and active…and has been the target of bullying.  She talked about how she didn’t want to be one of “those girls” who allows the hurtful and hateful words and actions of other to cause her to believe that she’s worthless.  She spoke of who she is and the gifts she has and her accomplishments, not in an arrogant way, but in a way that sincerely acknowledges that she is sufficient in and of herself to qualify for her place in this world.  One of the things she stated was that she knew she was loved and cared about.

Ah ha! There it is. She knows she’s loved and cared about.  How many of us go through our lives believing that we are not loved and not cared about?  How many of us grow up without that understanding?  Whether it was true or not, somewhere along the line I came to believe that I wasn’t loved or cared about.  Then, somehow, despite how much I love and care about my oldest kids, managed to pass that same message onto them.

In a conversation I had with a new friend I’m growing a relationship with, we talked about this urgent need to do something “big” in the world that matters.  She’s a stay at home mom with a couple of littles.  I’m looking at becoming a stay at home mom with my littlest.  Neither of us are much good on the self-care aspect of living.  My epiphany was this: The biggest thing I can do that matters in this world is to help my youngest grow up with and try to show my older kids, how truly loved and cared about they are.  That’s the foundation of good relationships.

Becoming one of the “cool kids” isn’t about how much you can do, achieve, or give, it’s about how you grow a relationship.  Without a sense of being loved and cared about as part of the foundation of who you are, there’s always a sense of being on the outside looking in, if they only knew the “real” me, and everyone else is so much more or better than me.  Then, I either try too hard or hold back for fear of rejection.  Trying too hard has looked like sharing too much too soon or taking charge and taking over.  This resulted in avoidance and rejection.  Then I held back from fear of rejection, and wound up isolated.

Starting this blog has been part of my efforts to figure out how to do things different.  As I’ve been checking the blogs of various people who have somehow managed to find my blog, I’ve found myself falling into that kind of thinking, as well.  There are many creative, brilliant, talented, and interesting people who are sharing their words, art, and gifts.  There’s a community of bloggers that I’m beginning to realize exists – whether some of these know each other personally or if their relationships have grown online, I have the distinct impression that there is community to be had here.  Slowly, I’m becoming part of that community.  Comments and replies and the feelings of kinship and affinity when I read the stories and comments of others.

I’m pleased to say that’s spreading out into other aspects of my life.  That new friend I mentioned? A couple of years ago she was one of the “cool kids” that I never imagined would be part of my circle.  During that time, we’ve connected here and there, but nothing consistent or really deep.  She’s known a few of the things I’ve dealt with over the past couple of years, but I know a bit more about a particular struggle she has had – not the specifics, but enough that when I was trying to think of someone I could connect with who might relate to some of what I’m being faced with now, her name popped into my mind.  In the past, I would have dismissed the thought and had all kinds of reasons why she shouldn’t be bothered.  But, she has made it a point to respond to my stilted efforts to reach out and I went ahead and made the call.  That’s progress for me. The beautiful thing was that she was able to talk and we did spend quite some time on the phone and actually talk about what’s going on in both of our worlds in ways that are significant.

Wait, what happened with the assistant?  At the end of the episode, the first season’s new kid counsels her that she doesn’t have to try to fit in, she already does.  All she has to do is look around and realize that every person there has their own set of faults, foibles, and idiosyncrasies as well as talents, gifts and achievements.  Then she just needs to accept that while she has her differences, she’s no different from them in reality.

So, being one of the “cool kids” is about acceptance of self and others along with a willingness to believe that we are loved and cared for, despite how things may feel or appear.