Let’s unpack that box

This is what my grief counselor would say when we would come up against something deep-rooted that I clearly struggle with. During my dark time I saw him weekly for two months. I have said before that the right counselor can change your whole life. Together we did a lot of unpacking. I stopped seeing him when we had come to a good place and everything surrounding my acute depression had been worked through. The plan of action at that point was to unpack some of my bigger, older boxes. The ones in the back of your mind that you have tucked away and do not open. I wasn’t ready. Maybe one day.

I had an epiphany about one of these boxes recently after reading an article that relates to it. I had/have abandonment issues. Honestly I don’t know where I stand with it now. I know my fear of being left and being devastated has surfaced in my current relationship because I used to have repetitive dreams about it. I would dream that I did something awful and Todd left me and I could not fix it (similar to my most recent break up before him except in that relationship I did the leaving). I would dream that Todd became ill or was in a terrible accident and left my life that way. There were multiple themes that all lead up to the same thing, me waking up in a panic in his arms saying “you left me again”.

There is a song by City and Colour, a band I relate to so well because the singer struggles with anxiety, called Fragile Bird. This song, like many of his songs, is one I easily relate to. Or I did at least. My nightmares stopped when we became engaged. It’s like my subconscious finally relented.

When discussing my issues with abandonment my counselor and I determined with a degree of certainty they do not come from my childhood or family. I have no sad story to tell about an absent parent etc, I am fortunate to come from a close-knit family that has always been a shining example of love. We didn’t delve much deeper into it as other things would come up.

It all kind of hit me not long ago. My abandonment issues surface exclusively in my relationships with men, boyfriends to be more specific.

My first exposure to a strong emotional bond with a boy came at age 14, just a few months before my car accident. After the accident I clung to that relationship with ferocity. I looked damaged for a while due to all the stitches in my face and the laser surgery treatments that followed. When I returned to school some people were cruel or just curious, either way I felt singled out for the wrong reasons at times. My boyfriend made me feel better about all of it. My emotional state was stable because of him, I was completely dependent. That first dose of “love” is strong anyway, especially when you are younger and maturity hasn’t caught up with you, add a life altering event and forget about it.

He is the only boy who has ever left me. I was devastated. We had been together for 3 years, that is a huge chunk of life at that age. When he left it was to be with one of my best friends, even more devastating. Although a lot was said at the end the words that were burned into my brain were him saying, “the only reason I stayed as long as I did is because if I had broken up with you right after the accident like I wanted to everyone at school would have thought I was an asshole.” Well he was probably right. So he stuck it out and faked it with me for 3 years, a much better alternative. Then there were my friend’s kind words, “it’s not my fault he likes me better than you.” I am sure she was right, she too was just a blameless victim.

The thing is, that was a very long time ago and I did not date for a while after that. When I sat down and really thought this all through after reading this article I just could not believe that something that happened when I was 14-17 could impact every relationship after in the way that it did. I am seeing this to be true though.

In every other relationship I have had I have always been the one leaving rather than the one being left. I never once thought about how hurtful my actions on the way out the door may have been to the other person. My problem (on top of this hang up that I was unaware I had) is that I avoid conflict and I am a feeler. If I am being forced to deal with the conflict of a break up along with my extreme fear of being left alone and then you throw the negative feeling of a broken heart on top of that, I am consumed. The emotions that come along with such changes, as moving on from a relationship, are so intense for me that rational thought escapes me. I am become a tornado of emotions.

Looking back I wish I had understood this side of myself sooner. The relationships that ended needed to end and I was always better on the other side. I did better with my most recent break up before I started dating Todd. I was in counseling at the time and my then boyfriend and I were such good friends that we navigated it slightly better than I have in the past. I am glad I ended up where I am at. I am glad I left everything else I just wish I had done it sooner in most cases and with more grace. If you know there is a personality conflict that cannot be changed and will not work, why stay? If you know you are being lied to on the daily, why stay? If you know you do not love the person and see a future with them, why stay?

The funny thing is, I do single really well. Some of the best times I had in my teens and twenties was just me, no guy. I liked the freedom, a lot. What was I so afraid of? With Todd my fear has never truly been that we wouldn’t work out. We have never had issues that would give me such a fear. I think it’s just that once you find something that really works and that you can love with your whole heart there is a piece of you that is afraid that it will be taken away.

I do feel that this fear is finally dying. It won’t be mourned and certainly will not be missed.

 

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Challenge Accepted!

For as long as I can remember I have struggled in a dichotomy between confidence and complete lack there of. I fluctuate between  knowing exactly who I am, being confident and self-assured to then suddenly feeling inadequate and having a defeatist attitude of not being “good enough”.  At any given time I feel I am walking on a taut shoe string and the slightest breeze can push me the wrong way. In these moments of self-doubt I feel like a phony further amplifying the negative self talk I am experiencing.

In my INFP personality my “P” keeps me loose and fluid, I am not rigid or severely structured in terms of lifestyle. This does not ring true for everything though. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my interactions with the world. To explain further, what I mean is I hold myself to a very high standard in my role as an employee, a student, a fiance, a daughter, a sister, a friend, etc. You get the idea. I may be haphazard in my daily life as far as being clumsy and a bit scatter brained but when it comes to my relationships, significant or minor, I am incredibly hard on myself. I am always striving to be better, I will never be satisfied with what I am giving. I will always want to give more, do more, be more.

I do this to myself, there is no one to fault but me for the pressure I am constantly under. It is difficult at times. An example of this is the many “speed bumps” I have encountered as a returning student. More plans have fallen through than those that have worked out and when this kind of thing happens my immediate response has always been to go to a place of self-doubt. This week specifically I found out that there is a chance I will have to add a class to my work load next semester ( a class that I am not naturally good at and will require quite a bit of effort on my part to do well in). The initial thought of this sent me into a bit of a tail spin. I will be working full-time at a demanding job (emotionally as well as mentally) while already taking one class I do not excel in easily. Finding out that I may have to add another very demanding/difficult class to that already heavy emotional/mental load made me feel scared and unsure of myself. My first thought, “I can’t do it”.

I am embarrassed and frustrated to admit that was my basic gut reaction to such news. I have never been blind to the fact that I beat up on myself in this way. I have never cared to work on it though because as bad as I may make myself feel at times this negative inner voice is also my constant drive to be better, do more and give more. After a day of processing this new information I had a complete attitude adjustment.

Here is my conclusion:

First off, what is wrong with me!? When life throws a challenge my way my gut reaction should be “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!” in a roar of a voice. Not, “Oh I can’t, I want to give up”. I am ashamed and with all the other positive changes I am making in my life this should be at the very top of my list!

In addition, I realize my drive has always been to be better because I have never felt good enough. Even coming from a negative place this attitude has produced incredible results in me. I have a huge drive and am always pushing myself. Going forward I need to be striving to be better knowing that I am already good enough but there is always room for growth. That seems like a much healthier attitude that will produce the same great results.

Finally, when I feel that pang of “I am not good enough” or “I can’t” coming on I need to remind myself regularly that I am doing this as we speak! I have changed my entire life and way of thinking in the span of three years time. I have a vision of the person I want to be and I am taking all the right steps to get there regardless of how difficult the path in front of me is. At the end of the day I need to remember that I can and I am already doing this. I am capable of anything, this is corny and cliché I know but shit it’s true.

Last night Todd and I talked for hours about everything herein. I fell asleep feeling strong and sure. I just needed to pause for introspection and really see where I was wrong and how my attitude needed to change. Now instead of feeling fear or anxiety about next semester I am ready take it on and prove to myself once and for all, I can handle it and I am absolutely good enough.

She was intelligent and reserved

Yesterday was another girls night, not in the traditional sense, however. My Aunt has a Bunko night once a month with a group of girlfriends and this month my mother, my sister-in-law and myself were invited to join. It was themed, “pajama party”. So there we were, 22 grown women, in our pajamas, rolling dice for money. It was a good time. It was a rambunctious pack of women though. I looked at my sister-in-law when we got there, a fellow introvert, and whispered, “Energy suckers, the whole lot of them”. I was right, by the time I got home last night I crashed, my energy level was zero.

I went to my Mom’s house before Bunko in order to spend time with my niece and nephew as well as ride with my Mom and sister to the party. I was sitting at the kitchen bar talking with my Mom and sister while my Mom was making dinner, we were talking about my Mom’s Mom, Nana.

Nana died when I was 9. It was my first exposure to death and although I handled it OK in the moment there were repercussions. It was September I think, my Mother and I were “back to school” shopping. This was in the time of pagers when cell phones were new and next to no one had one. I am not quite sure how the nursing facility got a hold of my Mom but some how they did because our Mother-Daughter day was canceled and we bee-lined it over to the facility. My Mom didn’t want me to be there, Nana had taken a turn and was fading out fast. When we got there she tried to call Daddy but he and my brother were driving back from a camping trip and did not have a cell phone, she left a message on the machine at home hoping he would get home soon and come to pick me up. Auntie was already on her way. With no other alternative Mom and the nurse sat me next to Nana’s bedside and told me I could hold her hand and talk to her (Oh my God, why did I just start crying. You think you have moved past something and then suddenly it surfaces)…

So, I remember the nurse telling me that I could talk to her, “she can still hear you”. Mom had to go and make some calls, she had no choice but to leave me there. That was OK with me. I didn’t fully understand what was happening but I wanted to sit with her. Her eyes were fixed on the ceiling, I remember I didn’t know what to say, I think I just said “I love you”.

Dad did eventually come for me and we left. Mom came home later and sat my brother and I down to tell us she had died. It didn’t mean much to me, I didn’t really get it. That night we already had plans to get together with Auntie and the family to celebrate birthdays and they decided to keep the plans. Primarily because my Mom wanted to be with her sister I think. I played with my brother and cousins like always, I was fine. It was on the way home that I wasn’t fine anymore. I started to understand that dying means I don’t get to see you anymore. I was angry and confused and could not be consoled, I feel bad for my Mom. She just lost her mother and as strong as she was trying to be, how do you keep it together when your 9-year-old is hurting and doesn’t understand? I don’t know how she was strong enough to not break down with me. I don’t remember it well but I know they had me meet with a counselor or someone from hospice a few times after to help with it all.

The thing about my Nana is that I didn’t know her well. Even when I was 9 I felt cheated. My Mom doesn’t really talk about it but there was some distance in their relationship that kept us from seeing Nana for a few years. When Nana got sick Mom and Auntie swooped in to take care of her and we got to start spending time with her again, but I didn’t know her. My memories of her consist of the night gowns she wore and how her hands were always cold. As an adult I have always wished I knew her better as a person. I feel like it would shed light on so many things.. My Mom has told me stories but nothing that ever made me feel like I knew her any better for it, until last night.

We were talking about the wedding and my upcoming 30th birthday and just life.. In this I explained how I can feel the page turning in my life and I as this happens I am working towards other changes (outside of getting married, pursuing my degree and turning 30) to ultimately become the person I want to be. I was talking to them about trying to be more deliberate in my life and living with purpose and how one thing I am currently focusing on eliminating is gossip (as I explained in a previous post). Like I previously explained nothing is coming from a negative, catty place but in general I don’t want to fill any time with frivolous talk. This kind of thing is not in line with what I am working towards as a well-rounded adult. This got us talking about Nana.

Mom explained that there were some women involved in the church that Nana stayed away from for this very reason. All they ever did was talk about each other and it wasn’t just the typical “Did you hear who is dating who?” gossip that I am referencing but the hurtful talk that can be quite damaging. Mom said that Nana would not involve herself in it, “she was an intelligent woman and was reserved”. Apparently because of her decision to shy away from such nonsense she would, at times, become the fodder for such gossip. This did not sway her.

I felt a beam of pride surface in my belly. For the first time in my life I felt able to relate to this woman whom I have never known and always wanted to know. I had a picture of her in my mind with her head held high against the nonsense, not allowing herself to be sucked in or affected by it. It made so much sense to me. My Mom has always been my bible on how to “rise above” in difficult situations. She knows what it means to be a lady in this sense of the word, and how to take the high road. Well she had to have learned it somewhere, right? Maybe Nana never sat down and said the words to her but through her actions as a classy, sensible woman she taught my mother what it meant to be this way. In this I have found my missing connection to my Nana. The lessons she taught my mother are the very lessons that have helped me persevere in trying times and they are the same lessons that will one day help my daughter. Maybe this is her legacy.

After listening to my Mother’s story about her mother I was left hoping that one day, when I am gone, my daughter will remember me the same way.

Because we are real people, that’s why!

Girls night was just what I needed. We went out to my favorite bars, one of which I have not been to since 2007 and now I am wondering why, it was a blast. Any night that includes me getting to dance to an M83 song gets an A in my book.

While sitting having a drink at my favorite bar my two girlfriends got into a heated discussion. A discussion that I was oblivious to because they were playing The Labyrinth in the bar, at that point I tuned everything else out. (Side note- from around 6 years old to about 8 or 9 I had an enormous crush on David Bowie as the Goblin King. I get teased for this when I admit it but there was something about the tight pants, crazy spiked mullet and “dance magic dance” song that did for me. I don’t know.)

My attention was only brought back to my girlfriends when they needed me to settle their dispute. Topic of argument which needed settling, “Who are the better twins, the Olsens or Tia and Tamera”?

You’re kidding me right? If anyone heard us talking about this they would think we are a trio of vapid ninnies and we would be booted from the bar, rightly so. As I don’t care about either set of twins I quickly settled the debate by naming the Olsens the better twins based solely on the fact that I don’t hear much about them anymore and they don’t have a dumb reality TV show about nothing. I tuned back into the Labyrinth as the subject changed to how stupid celebrity reality TV shows are and just in time to see the Goblin King pursue Sarah around the ball room.

Tonight we watched a small portion of the red carpet coverage of The Emmy’s. Even though neither one of us watches award shows we wanted to see the hosts interview Aaron Paul, we both really like him. While being interviewed the host asked him, what we both thought was, a weird question, “If you and your wife had a reality TV show about your relationship what kind of stuff would we see?” He was clearly caught off guard. Todd and I just laughed. I paused the TV and said, “could you imagine a reality TV show about our relationship?! Um, embarrassing!” I think Aaron Paul must have been thinking about the same thing, you could tell he didn’t want to divulge anything. I mean not everyone wants to exploit their relationship, it is intended to be a private thing really.

Todd and I laughed back and forth about the kind of nonsense that would show up if our true relationship was ever exposed, and no I am not sharing the nonsense. We agreed we were never meant for reality TV stardom, as we are real people with real embarrassing life moments. After all, everyone knows there is nothing real about reality TV anyway.

Comfort Level: Singing

When we were driving to my parents house yesterday we were listening to Pandora, as well always do when making the long drive to their house, and I was singing along to every song I knew, as I always do because I just can’t help myself. I was mid-way on a verse from a City and Colour song when I stopped and turned to Todd, “You never sing”. He replied simply, “I know”. So I proceeded to ask him why.

I knew he liked the song too and I couldn’t understand what was stopping him from belting out the lyrics with me. He explained what stops him, and it was about what I expected. It is an introvert thing and a comfort thing. Even though none of this surprised me what I hadn’t considered was that there was still a piece of him that is not completely and utterly comfortable with me. I asked him if he sings when he is alone, “Yeah, sometimes”. It made me a little sad, like I am missing out on a part of him, a secret, special part. I have heard him belt out Foo Fighters before but he was quite intoxicated, it isn’t the same. Todd has told me so many times before how he is comfortable with me in a way that he has never been with anyone else before. I agree with him completely. We share parts of ourselves with each other that we have never shared with anyone else. Silly, intimate, vulnerable parts. They are like secrets that only we get to know about each other and I know we both love that so much.

I told him that it was fine that he does not sing and I that I didn’t want him to feel pressure. I explained that my goal for our relationship is comfort level singing though. I would like for us to be as comfortable with each other as we are when we are by ourselves. That may be an unrealistic and completely unattainable goal, but it is just a reminder that we can always be doing better. As great as things are, we could always be at comfort level singing.

A night for the girls

Sexandthecity1

Tonight I am having a long over due girls night.

Our weekends have been busy since the summer and although I have been hanging out with my girlfriends via double dates, baby showers, lunches, etc, we have not had a night out in a while. I haven’t minded much but when one of my best friends asked about this Friday my immediate response was, “Yes Please!”

When I was single almost every night was girls night. My friends and I went out a lot. Every weekend consisted of concerts, downtown bars, dancing, road trips, sleep overs, beach trips.. Girls night was a non-thing really, it was always just the girls. Going out was about either concerts or dancing usually. It was a great time in my life and I am glad my best friends were part of it. We refer to our single summer as “our summer of 69”. We made a lot of good friends, met a lot of cute boys, saw a lot of good bands and danced ourselves skinny (literally).

The motivation behind a girls night changes as we get older I have realized but having them is still important. With all of us getting married, having children, being home owners and career women our roles have changed. A night of female bonding and general silliness is important. The same goes in reverse. When we go to Chicago I always hang back so Todd can have a few guys nights. Men and women are different, I love him but there are things about me he will never fully understand because he is a guy, plain and simple. That is where my girlfriends come in. Girls get each other on a level men can’t get near, it is important to maintain the female relationships in your life even after settling down. I learned that lesson years ago. Being single after a difficult break up would have been a whole other ball game if I had not had my best friends to get me out and back on my feet. Now it’s more about having the empathy from another female who understands what you are currently dealing with in a way only another woman can.

I don’t look at our nights downtown the same way I did 6 years ago (crazy its been that long) but I am every bit as thankful for the nights I get with my best friends and am very aware of their value.

 

(image from lipmag.com)

To Err is Human, so is Vulnerability

– I am long-winded, I know this about myself and I apologize. I rarely edit myself, I just don’t feel right if I do. So this is a very long post about admitting a mistake and correcting a wrong.

Remember all that fancy talk yesterday about ” I make myself vulnerable quite often, it doesn’t scare me the same way it does others..” Yeah well not long after I submitted that post life came around and knocked me back down a peg.

I have said before how when I make a mistake I own it, yesterday I made a mistake and today I would like to own it. Who was I kidding, “it doesn’t scare me the same way it does others”?? This is when blogging is tricky. Had I had this initial conversation about vulnerability with Todd rather than posting my feelings and thoughts straight to my blog I would have had immediate feedback. I would have had someone to scoff at me and say ” No dear, you are a scaredy cat just like the rest of us”. Instead life stepped in and scoffed at me and showed me I am every bit as afraid of my vulnerability as everyone else. In this, like everything else, I am not unique.

So, how did life play this trick on me you ask? Well, yesterday after I posted to my blog I got up and went about my day. Later in the afternoon I had some downtime, I was piddling around on the internet, reading postsecret, playing on Pinterest and reading a few of the blogs I follow. I also clicked over to my stats to see what my traffic was like and found it was a bit higher than normal. Nothing crazy for a small timer like me but out of the norm enough to make me curious. I scrolled down to see one of the referrers to my blog was Twitter. I was befuddled. I don’t have a Twitter account, how would I get any traffic from Twitter? Further research showed that my blog posting about vulnerability ended up on a Oprah Fan Club Twitter page that boasts of 13,000 followers. I suddenly felt ill.

How ironic that the very posting about my comfort in being vulnerable suddenly made me feel so uncomfortable. I felt… vulnerable. After taking a moment to process this I had to laugh at myself, that’s what I get.

Allow me to explain my reasons for the initial feeling of discomfort..

When I started this blog over a year ago I had an expectation, as so many people do when starting up something like this. The idea of a blog was posed to me by a girlfriend I worked with at the hospital. After I gave my notice she and I were chatting one day at my desk and she mentioned that her cousin (I think it was a cousin) was going to be spending some time in Europe and started a blog for the people back home to follow her journeys. She suggested this idea of starting a blog as a returning student 10 years later to record my experiences for my friends and family to read. I had this idealistic vision of being able to look back at this blog after finishing my degree and having all my memories right there in front of me. So that is where this all started, just a conversation between friends.

So my expectations were low in the beginning. I sent my blog link to my friends and family and posted to my FB account (I was still a member at the time) and to my Pinterest account. I was in no way trying to hide what I was doing but I never for a moment thought that anyone other than those close to me would be interested in anything I have to say, and I wasnt even sure those close to me would care much. So in truth, with almost zero expectations I started writing for myself.

I have really enjoyed it. I have always loved to write and this gives me a platform to formulate ideas, a place to vent, it has been a release. I am sure people like Todd have appreciated my having an outlet as well because otherwise everything I write about it would be nonsense filling his ears on a daily basis. Not to say that I don’t talk to him about most of what I write about, I do, some of it I leave on here though.

As time went on I started picking up a few followers. I remember feeling flattered but surprised at first because I genuinely with my whole heart felt that no one would be interested in what I have to say other than my own family. In my recent talks with Todd he agrees that my initial expectations were reasonable but I should have known that there is always a possibility of others reading your ramblings, after all I am putting it on the internet! “Right, right. I should have thought of that. I just never entertained the idea because I just didn’t think I needed to.” I appreciate those who read my blog and those who follow me, it is always nice to feel understood, to feel related to, to feel that sense of camaraderie.. “Hey this guy gets me”.. You know? I assume that those who take the time to read, my often long-winded, ramblings do so because they share common ground with me on something, even just one thing.

So my discomfort does not come from knowing strangers are reading my blog but knowing that suddenly 13,000 people have access to your thoughts by just clicking a link.. Yeah, my initial reaction is terror. Self doubt starts to creep in, fear of judgement, fear of inadequacy. I am not a blogger, I feel like there are all these rules you have to follow to do this right and I don’t. I just get on and let the thoughts flow out of me. That’s it. I am just one nobody with some ideas.

I talked to Todd about all of this and he was able to ground me, as he always does. He is the rational thinker in our duo. I stand by what I said in that I do make myself vulnerable quite often. I don’t edit myself, I put it all out there. Not just in this blog, in life. What I take back is my statement about not being as scared of vulnerability as others. I am every bit as afraid of my vulnerability as everyone else. I am terrified of it really. Guess I am not so tough. As I said before though, this is how I approach everyday life, that is not changing. I just wanted to go back and acknowledge how wrong I was about vulnerability. It is a wonderful but very scary thing and I am humbled by it.