Monday, February 25, 2013

Fresh air with The Teacher

I went out with The Teacher over the weekend. It was a very fun night. He is not jaded. How rare to find!  He doesn’t judge and has a pure, somewhat innocent way of looking at things. No wonder his kids trust him implicitly. It is a refreshing to be around.  However, as the night went on and I realized how not-dark he is, I thought about how dark I feel myself.  I feel cynical and untrusting.  Jaded and lost. I was never like this, I prided myself on maintaining a view filled with innocence and hope regardless of what life served up...until the affair & divorce, when it all fell apart. It feels like I’ve lost my innocence. I’ve lost my hope.  

In my date debrief with my mom, I mentioned my concern that The Teacher has no darkness in his perspective and that I do. She told me she doesn’t think that I am a dark person by nature. I may feel that way right now, but it isn’t me.  Could it be true - could the piece of myself that felt like a casualty of cruelty still be intact under the surface? I hope so!

At the end of the date, The Teacher gave me a hug. Much to my chagrin, as I was anticipating a nice kiss at the end of a very fun (and almost flirty for him) evening!  Regardless, I found myself looking forward to our next time together and hoping it would be soon as the absence of any pressure that this viewpoint brings feels like fresh air.

Thoughts from The Alchemist

I’m currently reading The Alchemist. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.  As Amazon’s so eloquently describes, “The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories have done, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, above all, following our dreams.”

I’m still scared every day. Scared that life with throw another curve ball and I’ll break. Still having mini-panic attacks in the morning. I’m starting to see that as each day passes, I am ok.  I deal with what comes, as I proactively build my life, I continue to be ok.  I still have a strong urge to control what is going to happen to eliminate all possible risk, but I’m learning to give in to change and realize that I have what it takes to survive and to thrive - and to one day find joy in the uncertainty. This thought from Santiago (“the boy”) in The Alchemist articulates what I’m working toward:  “Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. You’ll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens and that tribesman fight because they are part of the human race. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we are living right now.”

I’ve been very guarded in talking about my feelings about switching jobs. Everyone asks “are you sad to leave?” or “are you excited for the new job?” and I’ve answered very flatline “yeah, I guess”.  It isn’t because I lack sadness or excitement, it is because the risk of daring to change when things are calm and the uncertainty of what that brings is paralyzing.  Santiago realized, “When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”  This perfectly describes my life. Every decision that I’ve made has opened doors I never expected.

The flip side, when I’ve settled for safe (reference: my marriage!), has been a curse. When I wasn’t brave enough to make a decision to stay true to myself. The boy learns this lesson early on in the book when he worked for a man who owned a crystal shop that was successful enough to enable him to continue living his safe life, but not successful enough to allow the man to travel: “’I don’t want to change anything, because I don’t know how to deal with change. I’m used to the way I am.’  The boy didn’t know what to say. The old man continued, “You have been a real blessing to me. Today, I understand something I didn’t see before: every blessing ignored becomes a curse.”

Here’s to counting blessings of change!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Trying a new path

This week’s “heart advice” from Pema Chodron is particularly applicable for my week (funny how that always seems to happen!)

The three difficulties (or the three difficult practices) are:
   1.    to recognize your neurosis as neurosis,
   2.    then not to do the habitual thing, but
      to do something different to interrupt
      the neurotic habit, and
   3.    to make this practice a way of life.

This week I decided to make a major change in my life. I resigned from my job where I have been for the last 8 years. It was not a decision I arrived at lighty, as I have a very “perk” filled job - a lot of flexibility, great colleagues. But I wasn’t feeling challenged enough.  I needed more. If I stayed, it would be settling. And we all know Wonder Woman is not a settler!  So I found a position that offers more challenge and professional development opportunities. If you read between the lines, I left so I could have more work & a greater degree of difficulty - yikes!  

After resigning, a wave of anxiety took over. Fear of change. What if I made the wrong decision? What if I’m not yet strong enough to handle the stresses that come with the new job?  Am I a fool for leaving a safe place for the unknown?  There it is again: Uncertainty. And how do I respond: Anxiety.

Receiving Pema’s weekly advice email helped me to turn the situation around - rather than focusing on the fear side of uncertainty (which I always do & is a well trodden path for me to follow), I am practicing focusing on the strength it took to resign, the character it took to know I needed more, and the challenge ahead that will open up new doors and new possibilities.  

Every time the anxiety comes into my thoughts (just about every other minute), I simply think “anxiety, anxiety” and then let it go. Because it isn’t reality, it’s just the trodden path.

Another situation that triggered reoccuring anxiety came up with The Soccer Player. He is very “available”. He texts, he calls, he freaks me out!  I am drawn to emotionally unavailable, relationship adverse guys who present the challenge of proving my worthiness (i.e. repeating my “story line”).  So when someone is just “there”, I get uncomfortable. Rather than writing him off, I decided to acknowledge the anxiety of this unknown area and lean into the discomfort to see what happens when you choose a different path. I already knows what happens when you pursue the path of the unavailable guy (see the preceding 12 months of blog posts!).  I don’t know what happens when you lean into the discomfort and experience something new. I had a brief taste of it with The Runner when he was Superman for the first month we were together (until he revealed himself to be emotionally unavailable...good thing I recognized the unavailable nature as soon as it started peeping out and knew it was time to move on...but that’s history now).  End result: rather than pulling away from The Soccer Player (here’s the collective disbelief “wait, a good looking, British, ex-professional soccer player? What is she thinking??) -- I’ll see how this plays out (here’s the collective sign of relief)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Presidents Day weekend surprises

I went out with a new girl friend Saturday night. We haven’t hung before so I was a little nervous about making conversation for an entire evening. As it turns out, we hit it off right away. We had so much fun swapping dating stories, eyeing up boys in the bar and we even met a few boys (that we promptly tossed back!).  After meeting her the first time, I had set her up with a good friend but after a few dates it fizzled. So this time, she set me up with someone she knows - an ex-professional soccer player from England!  Hereby known as “The Soccer Player”. He texted and called the day after he got my number. As I answered, I could only imagine the dreamy soccer player matching the hot British accent on the other end of the line.  He asked me out for tea, with the date to be determined. He called again last night but I didn’t take the call, I was tired & chatting with a stranger is hard work!  My friend thought I might like The Soccer Player because he’s “available” (i.e. he texted and called the day after getting my number).  Great distraction and you never know what else.

Meanwhile, The Teacher asked me to hang out next weekend. He asked on a Sunday for the following weekend, so I said yes. It meets all of “The Rules” requirements (i.e. you need to be asked out by Wednesday at the latest).  Also, at this point it is just a friendly thing as I still don’t get the impression he’s priority is dating.

All in all, quite a surprising end to a long holiday weekend and happy to have a few things on the horizon for the upcoming week or so!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wear and tear

Each time I’ve glanced at myself in the mirror lately, I’ve notice I look different. I look worn.  When I finally stop and take a good look I see new creases, darker spots and an all already fading of what I used to look like.  I don’t mean to say that I am upset that I’m aging (which I likely am), but instead I am dismayed because the person that looks back at me reminds me of a survivor of a war. Torn, tired, with scars to show it. I pushed my body to the brink when I went through round after round of fertility medication to have Grace. And then again during pregnancy. And then for a third time when I lost all of the pregnancy weight + 10 additional pounds shortly after Grace was born when my ex-husbands affair was revealed.  My body is now tired and sore. My face is creased and sunken in.  I don’t know if anyone else can see it or if the reflection in the mirror is the reflection of my mind.

Nonetheless, I’m off to get a haircut and I invested in some “brightening moistorizier” becuase whatever scars exist either in reality or as an image in my mind, they were earned. They are badges of merit. For the strength it took to have my daughter. The strength it took to build a new life. And the strength it is taking to move forward each day into uncharted territory. So my badges of merit deserve a little pampering themselves and hopefully a mini-makeover will help restore some pep that used to be.

This post is not meant to be a complaint or even negative. It is more a statement of fact, an observation. Things you notice that have changed after the dust settles.  And as always, with change comes new growth. I’m looking forward to noticing that too!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Just ask!

I was left wondering what exactly The Teacher meant when he said I didn’t look like my pictures on match. Was he ready to bolt? Why did he stay for the rest of the date if I didn’t look like he thoughts? Why would you even make that comment to someone?

Little Buddha (my trusted adviser) suggested that I use this opportunity to ask. Since, historically, I’ve had trouble finding the confidence to ask when there was an answer I was hoping to find. So in the spirit of courage (and having nothing to lose), I texted The Teacher last night and said “I have a question - what did you mean when you said I don’t look like my pics?”. As my phone notified me of an incoming text from him, my breathe caught, scared I would open the screen to find a cutting remark about how my skin isn’t clear or my hair isn’t nice or a whole slew of other negative personal image remarks that girls make to themselves.  I forced myself to open the screen to reveal....”haha not a bad thing at all. you look great. you have more cheek in your pictures.”  Whew. That’s good to hear.  I have no idea what “more cheek means” but I’ll take it as a compliment either way.

Next time I want to know something, I need to remember to just ask!  And not shirk away and then ruminate over it for 24 hours!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Meeting The Teacher

After nearly a month of emails, texts and phone calls, I finally met The Teacher in person on Saturday night. We had dinner at Susanna Foos, one of my favorite restaurants. He is a very nice, good hearted person. He is a little geeky in that endearing way. However, I have no idea what he is thinking!  Shortly after we sat down, he said “you don’t look like your match pictures. They were taken further away”.  How do I respond to that? I’m pretty sure I turned bright red and said that I was tan in the ones that were the summer but pretty much look like the one that was taken on New Years. He said “I think they were taken from a cell phone.”   Ouch, harsh!  He didn’t frame it like “you are much prettier in person”, he just stated the facts and moved on.  Part of it is his way of speaking, very frank & honest but without judgement.  Doesn’t make it any less harsh though!

There was zero flirting or any date-like banter. The night ended with an awkward hug (that I had to initiate because it felt weird just to wave and say goodbye as I headed to my car).  It felt more like dinner with a friend. Maybe that was what it was supposed to be, I don’t know. Either way, it was nice to meet him in person and he’s certainly engaging (I didn’t get bored, which is more than I can say for most dates).  But, I don’t have a feeling this is going somewhere other than possible friendship.  Last night we were texting a bit and I said I was going to go to bed, have a good night. No response. I would like to date someone who at least writes back and says good night. Niceties are...well...nice!

So I’m feeling a bit deflated. I’m getting zero traction on match. After The Runner, I’m paranoid no one is interested in me because I’m a single Mom. And after The Teacher, I’m paranoid no one is interested in me because I’m not very attractive. All in all, it’s a bit depressing.  On the positive side, more time to focus on stuff I want to do and less energy spent on anyone else! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Don't live your life, lead it

Fantastic Harvard Business Review blog post today entitled “Don’t Live Your Life, Lead It”, delineating the difference between passively living your life and proactively leading it with specific examples of what a difference your mindset makes.

Leading life is a prerequisite of personal and professional growth. When we lead our lives, we set a vision and intentionally resolve to advance from a lower state to a higher state. We are not resigning to live life as it is.“

I love the phrase “don’t live your life, lead it” - this is the perfect way to describe the evolution of my life from my 20’s to the shift in my 30’s. For years I was living life. It happened, I went with it. I pursued more career-wise but personally I put my focus on staying on track for the life I thought I should be living.  I forgot to lead the life that I wanted to live.  

It’s amazing how much more vivid life is now, more color, more depth, more joy.  I ran into a peer from an environmental council I used to sit on for my township. He last saw me when I was 6 months pregnant. He asked how my baby was and how my husband was. When I informed him I was divorced now, he said “oh, you poor thing” and as I tried to relate on the salient points of the last 2 ½ years, he kept saying “oh, poor thing”.  What?? I was trying to tell him I am a badass, why was he saying “poor thing”?  Some people are so blind.  Apparently I’m not living the life he thought I should be - and thank God for that!

When did you make a decision to lead your life in a certain way?

Monday, February 4, 2013

“I Was Trying To Feel Some Kind of a Good-Bye.”

Great quote from Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project blog today.  I find such comfort in this quote because I like to say goodbye or I do feel worse!  The times I haven’t said goodbye, the person or situation has haunted my dreams for months and in a few rare cases, years to come. And when I finally did say goodbye, it was literally finding peace.

The Runner did reply to my email saying goodbye. And he said the things I’ve been hoping he would say all along - acknowledging the situation, acknowledging he cared.  I didn’t want to say nor hear that it should be revisited, I just wanted to say and hear goodbye.

“What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t, you feel even worse.”

– J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Friday, February 1, 2013

Shame Spiral

I laid down on the couch, curled up in a ball, crying. We all know the position, though no one wants to talk about it nor frequent it. I know I still need bubble wrap around me. I can’t sustain being bumped around, it knocks me down too easily. I got knocked down again, right back into the Shame Spiral (we all know that one well too, it is usually what lands on the couch, curled up in a ball!). And because my energy meter is still scraping the bottom, I went down quickly and am rapidly tapping that freaking A button to drag myself up again (see January 28th post about Mike Tyson’s punch out). I’ve had a brief, meaningless email conversation exchange with The Runner. When we dated, I felt hope for the first time in 2 years and although I let go of him as a person, knowing he was not a fit for me, I was clinging to that hope that there might be a fit, knowing that if I let go, I would once again feel hopeless. I sent a closing email to him yesterday gracefully ending the conversation and suggesting it may be time to let go & that being friends is probably just a silly idea made up for movies. I cut the final thread and as I waited for him to write back I remembered that I asked him not to! I proactively bubble wrapped myself - great, I am not giving this situation one once more of my energy!! But letting go of that hope was/is really sad. The Teacher has barely communicated since our last conversation which I thought went to well. It sucks when you start to open up and let someone get to know you, only for them to turn around and walk away. Then I went to the jewelry store to sell back my engagement and wedding bands. As the jewelry took my rings to examine then, he sat me down in front of the engagement ring cases to wait. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Talk about salt in the wounds. He couldn’t put 2 and 2 together - I’m selling BACK my engagement and wedding ring. I stared at the floor in shame. I was here because of a failed marriage. I’m the loser whose husband cheated on her and now I have to give back the most gorgeous symbol of my commitment and love to a fake failed marriage. It was gut wrenching sitting there. And then I had a moment of clarity...a woman came in with a baby strapped to her front and a 5 year old in tow. The 5 year old said “Mommy, why do you NEED to buy diamond earrings” and the mother replied “because I work hard”. Perhaps I was there to sell back these rings because I was really great in my marriage, unfortunately I married a dud. Now I am selling these sentimentally worthless rings so I can turn their value into something that will benefit Grace & I - a proverbial cash bonus for my hardwork in my marriage to a dud. Lastly, I had a professional disappointment this morning and received this “you are really great” talk, but obviously I was not great enough. It felt like the “it’s me not you talk”! I won’t get into details but you know the drill. Hello Shame Spiral!! You are pulling me down fast: You are great, but not great ENOUGH. I’m trying to repeat that this is about fit, not about worth. You are good enough just by being a puzzle piece. But by definition, every puzzle piece is unique and only fits one place in the big picture. It’s not easy to find where your piece fits. However, the consequence of trying to find the fit is it is draining the little life left on my energy meter and knocking me down into the goodl ol’ shame spiral quicker than I would like. I’ll spend the weekend tapping the A button, trying to stand back up again.