Monday, June 27, 2011

Openness is Relative, Especially When Meeting New People

My last post was about love and openness.

Openness… is relative. Recently, I’ve delved into the world of online dating. I have a feeling it’s going to take me a long time to find someone who will see me for who I really am, and who will love me just for being me.

That’s okay. I’m not in a rush.

Because I suspect it will take a while, I thought I would get a head start and put up a profile on two sites. You never know, after all, when love is going to have its way with you, and I remain open to the possibility.

But I do wonder if, when I’m first getting to know someone, maybe I’m a little too open. I think it takes people off guard, to come across someone who will really talk about anything, at least to an extent.

Part of me says, "I am who I am, and if that scares off a dating prospect, then phooey on him!"

But I'm not sure it's that simple.

I’m used to being around Pathways folks, who sort of let it all hang out, all the time. When I’m talking to someone random, though, that sort of openness doesn’t usually translate.

My problem is… I have become practically incapable of small talk.

I have to wonder, though. Do people really expect the worst? Do they think that because I am open, and curious, that I must also be a little nuts? Or that I have a hidden agenda? Or something else? Clearly, I’m missing something…

Or is it just completely disarming and frightening to come across someone who is willing to talk and share about meaningful things?

It was actually easier to do the online dating thing back when I was so closed up and actually trying to show myself off as being totally perfect. But now that I am unafraid to admit that I am flawed, and now that I’ve stopped trying to be so damned perfect, what I’m finding is that authenticity doesn't seem to be good advertising.

The flip side of that coin is… do I really want to attract someone who is looking for perfection?

The answer is, of course… no.

Perhaps it's about balance. Learning where that line is between the light-hearted getting-to-know-you chatter where you ask questions like, "Where's your favorite vacation spot?" to the more serious and potentially thought-provoking questions like, "What do you  really want in a woman?"

Because after I ask that question... if the answer the other person provides has some real substance to it, I can dive in for deeper questions pretty fast. And real questions, real substance, can, as it turns out, send someone for the hills faster than I ever expected.

Hey, this is a learning experience for me. I'm dating again, for the first time in 10 years. Along with all the other things I'm doing again, for the first time in X number of years... I mean, come on. You didn't expect me to do it perfectly the first time around, right?

I'll be happy if I get it right, ever.

When it comes to balance... well. I tend to have some trouble with that.

Balance isn't about being perfect and centered. It isn't something static. It's about the small adjustments we constantly make to attempt to get to 'balance'. It's a verb. And sometimes it's about falling, laughing at yourself, and doing it again. - Patti's yoga teacher*

So, I am content that finding someone just right will take a while. In the mean time, I view this as a learning experience, and I do hope that along the way, I will at the very least have some fun and hopefully meet some great people.

And perhaps learn some balance along the way, laughing at myself when I fall down.

*I have every intention to actually get this person's name...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Post About Love

I just finished watching the movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I’ve watched it more times than I can count. And, yes, it’s essentially a teen movie, but the themes are universal and for someone like me, who didn’t have the blessing of friends from birth, I realized something while I sat there, crying during one of the pivotal moments of the movie.

I am lucky to have friends like that, now.

Lena’s story is compelling to me. This monologue of hers is a favorite:
Lena: [in her letter, after Kostas accuses her of being afraid to love him] He's right, Car. I am afraid. There's a part of me that wants to let him in but then I feel myself put this wall up and I don't understand why. Maybe that's what strikes me most about Kostas: that despite everything he's suffered he can still look at life in the most uncomplicated way. I've never known that kind of faith. It makes me so sad that people like Kostas and Bridget who have lost everything can still be open to love... while I, who have lost nothing, am not. 

It occurred to me that I used to be that way. I used to be so afraid to be open, and to be open to the possibility of love. I used to walk around, a collection a walls, and wonder why no one bothered to try and get to know me. I used to wonder why, when I was really in need, I had no one to call.

Fake Smile Me (as college senior)
I did it to myself.

Realizing that—and how far I’ve come since those days, it’s no mystery as to why I’ve settled for so much in my life, including in the realm of love. I didn’t even know myself well enough to know what I wanted in love—let alone what I could give to someone else, let alone what I was worthy and deserving of having.

I even settled with the way I loved my family. Back in 2002 when I was looking to move in with the man I would end up marrying, my mother had some not-so-nice things to say to me when I announced the move-in. It hit me that she didn’t really know me, at all. She was reacting out of her own uncertainty, frustration, and confusion. She had no idea what I’d been through when I lived in Massachusetts. She had no idea the experiences I had, the life I’d lived, or the ways I had struggled.

She didn’t know, because I didn’t tell her.

I tried to protect my family from needing to worry about me by keeping them in the dark. I tried to hold up that illusion of living a perfect life and handling everything perfectly, because as long as I did that (so I thought), they wouldn’t worry. And a part of me acted that way because I thought it was the only way to really get through life.

 If I could just hang on another day and pretend it was all perfect, then maybe someday it would be. It’s the “fake it till you make it” attitude to the extreme.

My parents are good people. Wonderful people, actually, who have been there for me, even when they were confused and frustrated. And so, of course—no matter how in-the-dark I kept them about the reality of my life… they worried about me anyway.

Keeping them in the dark about who I was didn’t serve anyone, but it especially didn’t serve me.

Last year, when I sat down with my parents to tell them about the divorce, I felt myself utterly falling apart before their eyes. And for the first time… I let it happen. I opened up to them and told them how I really felt, what I was really going through, and what I was really facing. I explained what led up to this point, and how unhappy I had been—for years.

And when my heart opened up… so did theirs.

Through the last year of my life, I have witnessed incredible grace, love, and caring from people I didn’t even know loved me. And part of that is because I surround myself with people who are loving, caring, and full of grace… but I think an even bigger part of that has to do with me and the way I have changed.

The Real Me
I’m more open than I’ve ever been. I’m more willing to admit when I’ve screwed up, and I am quick to ask for feedback, so I can do better next time around. I am willing to let my ugly pieces and shameful parts show, where before, I spent so much energy trying to hide the less-than-perfect parts of me that I was constantly exhausted. Even better, I don’t always view the less-than-perfect parts of me as ugly or even shameful. It’s all just part of who I am. I am no longer selective, because I’ve learned that you can’t be selectively numb. You really can’t filter out the feelings that hurt, because that means you’re also numbing yourself to joy and happiness, too.

And by trying to filter out what I presented to the world, I ended up showing only a faint image of my real self. That’s incredibly difficult to maintain, and a lot of the time, my less mature parts would come out sideways at the most inappropriate moments.

I have witnessed the futility of that first-hand. In trying to filter out the “bad” stuff, I ended up showing the world someone who was not really me at all. And, still, I wondered why so few people knew the real me.

Over the last year, I’ve grown in so many ways that most people in my world have said I am almost a completely different person. In the last year, I have allowed myself to feel whatever feelings I have, even if it was extremely painful. I’ve dropped 75 pounds. I’ve sought feedback and taken it to heart. I’ve grown my village so that I have more people to turn to when I’m in need. I’ve learned how to fulfill my own needs. I’ve learned that if I am vulnerable and I let people in… I am deeply loved. And perhaps most important of all: I love myself.

I am more authentic, real, and just… me… than I’ve ever been.

It feels good. Really good.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Feeling Lost, Directionless, and Confused

In the book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott talks about a book she spent years writing, only for her editor to reject it not once, but twice.

On Thursday, I came upon this passage:
“I tried not to make any big decisions about how to salvage the book or my writing life, because the one thing I knew for sure was that if you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.”

And then, this morning, I read my horoscope app and, get this:
“It’s been said that when human beings make plans, God laughs. No matter what deity you believe in, if any, you know very well that we are not in complete control of our own lives. You may now be working through a carefully constructed and highly structured plan. But you may run into an obstacle that will require a revamping of your strategy. Don’t stick with your plan out of stubbornness, for you will only be doing yourself a disservice. Be flexible and be open to new ideas and a new way of doing things—you can achieve success if you can bend.”

And from another message…
“Your inner soul-searching might lead to some nervousness. You won’t be able to solve everything at once.”

These messages hit me hard, because in all the transition I’ve been going through in my life (here, let me list it for you, because if I am having trouble keeping track, which I assure you—I am, I can only imagine that someone who isn’t living it can’t keep track either): grieving a lot of things from my past that I'd never grieved, getting divorced, living alone and learning how to take care of myself again, losing weight and figuring out how to keep it off while exercising and building muscle, becoming a believer in Jesus Christ, having a whole personality shift (for Pathways folks, that means I’m not a Relater as I had always tried to force myself to be… I’m Entertainer/Commander) and having more than a bit of an identity crisis… plus the fact that I haven’t yet been able to make any jewelry because I’m feeling creatively stuck—even paralyzed… taking up dancing again and learning how to let go through yoga and dancing… taking up playing piano again and having to basically relearn everything

Yeah. You might say I’ve been going through some big changes over the last year. To say I’m starting over feels just a tad understated.

It’s overwhelming to think about. In fact, I’ve come across a few thoughts lately that are more than a little unsettling.

Why am I having such a hard time finding my way? It’s not like I’ve been going through cancer, it’s not as if I’m starving, it’s not as if I’m homeless or unloved or [insert whatever other truly disheartening, desperate, and downtrodden situation here]. I have a wonderful life. I am blessed beyond all my expectations, hopes, and dreams. So why am I feeling so confused? Why can’t I just shut the hell up and be happy?

How do I reconcile the plans I had in place for my life with my recent acceptance of Jesus into my heart and world? I want to figure out how to bring the divine into my life on a daily basis, in a way that makes sense for my heart and my soul.

I don’t feel right pursuing the plans I once had in place… they feel meaningless now. And yet, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be reaching for, either. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next, in all the significant areas of my life.

I’m feeling lost and aimless, and I don’t like it.

How do I create new plans for my life that feel right and help me get closer to God in a way that makes sense for me? What does that even look like?

I honestly don’t even know what I want right now, in some ways. And even in the few places where I do have a picture of what I want, it’s fuzzy and foggy, and I’m not sure if it feels right yet.

It’s hard to just be, in this moment, when I am so uncertain of what tomorrow looks like. It feels like I should be spending energy on trying to create a picture for my tomorrow, my 5 years from now, and my 10 years from now… but 5 and 10 years ago, I never would have thought my life would look the way it does right now. I never would have imagined I’d be where I am in this moment.

So I have found myself asking, what’s the point in making plans at all?

A year ago I was married. I was unhappy in that marriage, but still—I was married. I fit in somewhere, with all the other married couples.

I made jewelry, and so I fit into the community of jewelry makers.


And over the last year, I’ve been dealing with so much grief and so much overwhelming change, that I’ve been in survival mode. On so many days, it was all I could do to just get through it and hope the next day was better.

And, I’ve realized a few things. I tend to pigeon-hole myself into survival mode, because I know how to function within it. I know it’s just about getting through the day, and embracing little pockets of joy when they come along, because they are fleeting. I know that with incredible change comes incredible growth. I know how to hang in survival mode… I know how to surrender in survival mode… I know how to totally let go of control in survival mode.

But, I’m out of survival mode now.

And I find that I’m struggling with letting go of control (yet maintaining what control I DO have, and where is that line, and how fine is it?).

I’m struggling with surrender, because I don’t know what surrender really looks or feels like when I’m not in the middle of some sort of transformative moment or a crisis of the heart.

Now, I am experiencing and learning new things. Now, I am discovering something new about what I want or don’t want, what I like or don’t like, and what I need or don’t need on an almost daily basis. This process is both exciting and terrifying.

It feels like I’m walking blindly through some un-named journey and I’m so focused on the outcome that I am having a lot of trouble enjoying this process of relearning who I really am, as God continues to mold me into the woman I’m meant to be.

Does anyone else struggle with this? Surrendering to this process of living a good, fulfilling life, and what that means… while trying to put plans into place so that you feel like you have some sort of direction… all while embracing the big and small changes that take place during this process?

I mean, I know it’s the illusion of being on control that has me spinning sideways right now. How do I surrender—and release that control, knowing that I am not totally in control anyway? And yet, how do I use the bit of control I have to find and fulfill the deep meaning I’ve been seeking in my life for so many years? What can I do to make my life feel more meaningful in every aspect—not just in my free time, but when I’m at work, when I’m driving, when I’m spending time with friends or alone?

I have a lot of big questions, and not a single answer...