Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Carpe Diem

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W.H. Auden

Today, I heard that a friend died. In my life, I have to say, I’ve been largely untouched by death. Of course people I have known died, but not too many people close to me. My grandparents died when I was pretty young, and I hardly knew them because we moved with the Army in those days. And I heard of a few deaths from people I went to school with, but I heard long after I was gone from there and long since I had known them.

My sweet Rottweiler, Detta, was really my first major death. I had her for 13 years, since she was just a ball of fur, and it hit me hard. She died of cancer, and my dad had recently been diagnosed, and that just made it that much harder.

And then my dad died. He’s been gone since 2007 and still sometimes I’m caught short, wanting to call him, to share some news with him, to ask him something.

And of course, there is the quite recent death of Bodhi, a stalwart and near constant companion for the last nine years. You know all about him, so I won’t go into that.

Tonight I found out a close friend died. And this poem was the first thing that popped into my head. I tried to shake it – it didn’t seem quite right. I remember John Hannah reciting it at the funeral of his partner in Four Weddings and A Funeral and I thought, that’s not me at all. We hadn’t built a life together, we didn’t have the history that that poem speaks to…and yet.

Here’s to the grief of the never-to-be, the sorrow of the I-was-going-to.

To the pain of could-have-been, the remorse of the wish-I-would-have.

Here’s to the plane not taken, the call not made.

To the time not spent, to the press of the mundane.

If you are reading this, there’s a good chance I love you. This is my reminder (to me, and yes, to you) to step out, people, take the leap. Do the thing, whatever it is. Don’t wait.

And remember this poem, by Shel Silverstein.

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Online dating

Over the years, I have attempted to meet people in a variety of ways, from way “back in the day” Westword ads in Denver to whatever that agency was called that you made a video and had a profile in a big 3-ring binder. As time passed I moved with the times to online personal sites. I tried free sites and even paid for Match.com at some point.

bad day match

And it was fun. Mostly. My friend and I spent hours looking at Westword ads and coming up with clever profiles for ourselves. There was some kind of character limit, so we had to be creative. At the big video site, another friend and I spent at least one evening a week watching videos (on VCR tapes, no less). We watched ones we like and ones we found hilarious. Yet another friend and I chuckled over online ads.

online-dating-grammar-sex-love-flirting-ecards-someecards

Although I have put up profiles several times over my life, I never actually dated much via any of those avenues. I think I might have gone on one date years ago from Match and a short sweet romance from Craigslist, that really is about it.

Since January, though, I decided to give it a serious try. I decided to answer some ads and to actually go out on some first dates. And I did. (yay me!)

Here’s what’s weird about that. Dating via an online site is kind of like dating in public. It’s happened more than once that after I returned from a first date (or “meeting,” as my friend J calls it), I went to my profile to see what it was about my profile that attracted that particular person. I’ve wanted to change my profile to eliminate similar dates – only – if I did that, then that person would see the change. See what I mean about dating in public? There have been times I’ve wanted to go back to my profile and make a strong statement, something like, “Please don’t message me if you plan to argue with me about what I believe, my identity or my hair” I’ll let y’all imagine the other ridiculous things that I have heard at these first meetings.

danger zone

It seemed somehow wrong, though, knowing that those same people could go to my profile and see my comments, right there, out in the open. After a number of first meetings, however, I wasn’t so sure. And now that I’ve talked with someone else who’s in a similar position, I’m ready to change my tune. It’s time to take my own advice. I’m ready to add those caveats in clear, concise English. Since when is it wrong to ask for exactly what I want?

03-Ask-for-What-You-Want11

Barbarian Weekend

So, after hearing that I have never been camping, a friend from work invited me to Barbarian Weekend. She explained that she would find a tent and bedding for me, and that the food is all taken care of for the Barbarian Feast. There’s a trailer with the food in it, so that’s safe, and there will be plenty of drinks, water all that. There are outhouses, so it wouldn’t be seriously roughing it. She told me about all the people who would be there, lots of families, different groups of families, 20 something adults who were part of the Barbarian Weekend when they were kids, older adults who are starting to let those younger adults take on the jobs that keep Barbarian Weekend going.

I’ll tell you the truth. I said, “Sure, I’d do that” months ago, with very little actual interest in camping. I admit it. What most interested me in this event was the thought of all those families. I miss families. I grew up with just my mother, father, and sister. While my dad and mom both had large extended families, we grew up moving from country to country, state to state, far from other family members.

Even as a kid, I found ways to get myself included in other people’s family events. I hung out in friends’ living rooms, sometimes annoying my friends because I was hanging around with their parents and siblings. As an adult, I continue to join in with other people’s family events. Barbarian Weekend sounded like my kind of thing.

This was something that was months out, and I kind of forgot about it. As it got closer M started talking about it and asking about my plans. I was nervous, but by then I really liked M and wanted to join in that family thing. So I confirmed. Two weeks before the event, she told me I needed a Barbarian costume. I wasn’t really surprised, nor was I very worried, as she told me that they have things there that I could use to make my costume. A few days later, I discovered she was going to make a new costume for herself, making last year’s available to me.

Another friend from work, C, who is also friends with M asked me, one week out, “What’s your talent?”

“My what?”

“Your talent…you have to perform something for the Barbarians.”

“I…what? What do I have to do?”

Conveniently, M walked into C’s office about that time.

“I have to perform something?”

M smiled broadly and told me that it was no big deal, that it could be some jokes, a story, a song – “you can do a dance,” she said.

Yeah, I was not going for the dance thing. This increased my nervousness, but it wasn’t a deal breaker for me, you know? I went.

I won’t bore you with a story about my performance. I will say, though, that there were a number of fabulous performances and leave it at that for now. They were good enough that they deserve a post of their own.

What I will tell you is that I definitely found a wonderful family experience just like I was looking for. The people were warm and welcoming. There wasn’t just one family, there were several families – and not everyone was related. There were little kids and bigger kids and as mentioned before younger and older adults. It was amazing to listen to younger adults talk about their experiences growing up around Barbarians. It was great to see older adults talk about the way the younger adults were stepping up.

The creativity involved in the performances and Barbarian Idol was intense. I’m not talking about how good the performers and performances were – though they were great. What I’m talking about it is the freedom with which those performances were executed.

Robert Fulgham, wrote an essay about if you ask a room full of first graders, “Who here can dance?” all the kids will raise their hands. Likewise singing and drawing. He goes on to say that if you went into high school classes you would get very different results. Some have made the argument that that is because school “teaches” the artist out of people. I don’t think it’s just about school. I think it’s a cultural thing. I think people learn from all around them to “tone it down” and “fit in.” I think kids hear that it isn’t enough to love singing or dancing, but that they need to be “good” singers or dancers.

In this crowd, those messages were not evident. They got up to sing, dance, recite and tell jokes. I’m not saying no one was nervous – I’m just saying they got up. They got up and they smiled and laughed. They got up with original works and they demonstrated new abilities.

I was honored to be part of the tribe.

Bad break-up, anyone?

I don’t “get” the gut-wrenching break-up. I really, really don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I have never suffered before, during and after a break-up. I’m not saying I haven’t been mad, or hurt or even bitter about a break-up. I have. All those things. And I have been mad about what some ex said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do. All that. Breaking up is sad, painful and difficult. I’m not talking about that at all. What I am talking about is the kind of break-up where your gut is actually wrenched (is that a word?) – where you feel your stomach tied in knots, where every contact is painful, where people feel the need to vilify their ex’s.

…or worse…

I have heard about this phenomenon many times. From family, friends and clients. I have heard stories of ex’s who fight over golf clubs and/or parenting schedules with equal ferocity. I have heard of ex’s purposely disagreeing with the other merely for the effect of watching them squirm (I mean I’ve heard it from the one’s doing it, not just the one squirming). I’ve heard of ex’s who make visitation schedules ridiculous to the point of making it almost impossible to keep up with.

I’ve heard from people in the throes of these situations about the effect it has on their physical and mental health. Stomachs tight with worry and anticipation of the next shoe (to drop), ulcers and compulsive nail biting. Deep depressions or high anxiety (sometimes both!), difficulty concentrating, sleeping, eating, even driving.

I think the toughest part that I’ve heard about is they way people feel when they are in the middle of this kind of break-up. I’ve heard that people start to question themselves in the middle of all this, they start to genuinely feel as if they are going crazy – as if one should somehow be able to handle all of this insanity. In sitting with my friends over the years, I offered a supportive shoulder. With clients, I listened and did my best to help them to manage their own out-of-control emotions.

But all along, I had never had one of my own. And let me tell you, I have had a good number of break-ups in my time. For lots of different reasons. I mean, I’ve been dating since I was 15 years old. And I’m single today. Lots of break-ups. But none that sounded remotely like the ones people tell me about.

I’ve heard it said before that you can’t take someone where you’ve never been (often in reference to therapy and addiction counseling). In some ways over the years, I have agreed with this idea, knowing that some of the time I am able to be helpful because I have “been there.” However, I also know that I have helped people (by their account) who’s experiences were radically different from my own.

Now that I’ve had my very own experience, I gotta tell you, I don’t know how this will help me help anyone at all. I don’t even think that my own experience of a deeply disturbing gut-wrenching break-up will make me more empathetic. In fact, it might just trigger some kind of horrible PTSD-type reaction! I certainly never want to experience anything like that ever again.

And it’s so useless! The first line of this post is still true, even though I’ve experienced it first hand. I still don’t get it. Because guess what? The whole gut-wrenching, name-calling, angry emails, texts and phone calls did not make anything better. The relationship was over, and it’s still over. Only now it’s over with lots of extra bad feelings, with no chance of friendship or trust. Now it’s over and there’s a hole, a piece missing from my life that I don’t even want to think about. Now it’s over and instead of being able to look back at the parts that were good, they’re all colored over by this horrible coating of ick.

When it’s over, it’s over. Cut your losses and go. Say goodbye and go gracefully. Or say fuck you if you feel like you need to, then drive away. That way when you look back you can really what’s back there, rather than just seeing that wall of ick. You can pick out the good things and put the not-so-great ones in perspective. Can we just make a pact to give up the gut wrenching break-up?

Can I get a quorum?

After yet another grueling, yet useless seminar, wherein one of the other interns bashed me and no one said anything in my defense, I headed home with my fresh, organic, locally grown vegetables and let the tears fall. I know my life is good, I do. But these Tuesday meetings are seriously sucking the life out of me. It’s a good thing my CSA pickup is on Tuesdays, because at least I can look forward to that.

Depression is not new to me, nor is the scenario that is playing out with the interns. In a nutshell, there is a person who gets picked on whom I defend. That is kind of my way in the world and most of the time it works for me. In this scenario, of course it isn’t my “job,” so I try to keep my mouth shut and limit myself to supportive comments to the picked on person. However, once in a while it gets to be too much for me and I speak up. This has played out several times. Meanwhile there is a third person who, from time to time, points out that I am being mean to the person doing the picking. This has also played out several times.

Here’s the part that got to me today: when all these roles get talked about (and they do, we’re psychologists, for fuck’s sake) everyone says something nice, everyone get’s a little pat on the back, except me. No one ever points out that my behavior, while not always polite, is useful. No one ever defends me, although I defend the picked on. Meanwhile, while I defend that person, that person defends the picker! The third person, stirring the pot, never gets called on anything.

That’s a pretty big nutshell, huh? Here’s the thing, in a smaller nutshell. No one stands up for me. Not even me. Not that that would help matters. I’m pretty sure if I stood up for myself in this situation, I would just look worse. It isn’t like the person has asked me to speak up for them. I know I would be better off if I kept my mouth shut (like I said, that isn’t new for me).

That does not change the fact that I feel quite alone whenever this happens, there I am, waving in the breeze, hung out on the line, an easy target. I’m already lonely, you know? I don’t really need the beat down on top of that to remind me that no one is on my side.

Of course I didn’t come here to make friends. I knew I was probably only going to be here a year. But the part that gets me is that while we aren’t friends, I feel like I try to treat people as if we were. I try to be kind and supportive. And people are totally ok with that, right? As long as they don’t have to do anything for me in return.

I know I have to make it through the rest of the year and probably none of this is going to change. After all, I’ve been lonely a long time, right? What’s four more months?

I can do bad all by myself – just bad?

The Wayward Woman

I want to start by saying that I know this is just a movie. And I understand that for some reason, all movies need romance. Which I think is ridiculous, but not the fault of whoever made this movie. I heard once that one of the reasons a great film based on Ender’s Game hasn’t come out is that every time some company tried to get the rights they wanted to make Ender have some romantic involvement. The story takes place when Ender is 6 years old. Please, people, get real.

Anyway, this is not a criticism of this movie, which I enjoyed. I did.

But there are parts of this movie that really bug me. So, the good guy in the movie hugs the wayward woman when she finds out her mother is dead. She’s crying, distraught, he holds her a few moments. Then she goes upstairs and the bad boy pushes her away in his sleep without even noticing that she’s upset. So far, so good. I get where they are leading us.

The good guy...

Later, when she asks him why he held her “like that, “ like he cared about her, why was the answer supposed to be “because he’s falling in love with her”? Yes, I know he didn’t say that out loud, but that was the implied answer. Why couldn’t the answer be “he’s a decent human being with some empathy and so was able to be there for her in a moment of need”?

Because you know, even if I didn’t know you well, if I were next to you when you found out your mother died, and started crying – I’m pretty likely to hug you if you turn to me. Why is the message always that we get all that we need from our love interest? Or that people only do for you if they are interested in you?

What you need is to put down that drink...

When she’s in the bar, crying into her drink over the bad boy’s bad behavior, she says, “I need a man. A good one. One who cares about little kids.” Really?! That’s what she needs? Why? Yes, yes, I know it’s hard being a single mom (especially overnight) and it tends to be easier with help. I got that. But why does the storyline go there? Why can’t she discover strength in herself?

And finally, why, when she says that she wants to learn how to love, does he pull her into his arms and kiss her? Here she is, looking vulnerable, admitting that she doesn’t even love herself too much, asking for help from this “good man,” and his response is sexual? Blech. If they could have spent 30 seconds on a tender hug first, I think I’d have been ok with that scene, but it was just too…too, Ah yeah, now I’m gonna show you love, baby! Ick.

Yeesh

Maybe I’m hypersensitive to all of this because of my interest in community. Maybe it’s because the story that the American public is sold every day about fairy tale endings (see my recent post) is on my mind lately. Maybe it’s because I feel like part of my job every day is about people finding other people – not necessarily love interests – to help them out, to support them, to care about them.

Sing it!

And maybe it’s because of the way the rest of the movie is made. This movie pulls no punches as it makes clear to us values it counts as important. Family, religion, community are all front and center. He’s a bad boy first because he’s cheating on his wife. She hasn’t spoken to her mother in a long time. The church people help out the good guy in return for honest labor. I just wish they would have taken one more step and stood up for strong, independent women. 

Why can’t she do good all by herself, too?

Life lessons – great and small

Every relationship teaches you things, you know? Sometimes they are big life lessons, sometimes simple truths. And I don’t just mean big relationships, partners, children, very best friends, but even co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances. In the 30 Day Reinvention one of the assignments was about thinking about what we’ve learned from people, both loved ones and people we don’t get along with. I like this exercise and have been asked to think about things in other classes. I love the idea of considering what we learn from the people around us, of taking time to think of such things. At any rate, this idea has been on my mind lately.

Tonight, though, as I was sitting down to my dinner, it occurred to me that there are simple things, as well, that often go unnoticed. One of the things I learned in my last relationship is the simple pleasure of a few slices of avocado served with an omelette. Tonight I made a simple omelette for dinner when I remembered that someone from work had given me an avocado. I halved it and sliced it and added to my plate, a smile on my face.

Mine wasn’t this beautiful...but still tasty!

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