Processing

IMG_1047I’ve been processing a lot lately. I’ve been evaluating myself, my life, my relationships.  I’ve been looking at what brings me stress and what brings me joy. I’ve been focusing on my motivation and gratitude. I’ve made tough choices, I’ve made changes, I’m leaving myself vulnerable in ways I haven’t in a long time. It’s been scary and difficult and painful but I am moving in the right direction.  I couldn’t have done it without my support system, my family, my close friends.

I still have a long ways to go. I’m realizing that this world and all its ugliness is leaving my soul tired. It’s depressing and makes my heart hurt. It makes me want to run away, buy an island (like I have money for that), and never interact with the world at large again. Instead I need to be a force of change. I can’t run, I can’t hide. I can only do what I can to make the world a better place.

I have to let go of what I can’t fix because in truth, I want to fix anything and everything that brings me sorrow. I am accepting my limitations rather than dwelling on what I cannot change. I’m letting go and opening up at the same time. It’s hard, I don’t like to let go, but it’s a process and one I’m committed to.

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The Cost of Being an Open Book

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Mark Twain

”Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 10.32.17 AM

James E. Faust

A half-truth is a whole lie.”

—Yiddish proverb

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.”

—Robert Louis Stevenson

I’ve always lived my life out loud, an open book, oversharing at nearly every opportunity. I think because the quotes I’ve listed above are ones I’ve heard most of my life or at least some version of them. I’m also a chatterbox, as anyone who knows me in real life is aware. I’ve embraced the idea of honesty and openness perhaps a little too much.

I think it is important to be truthful and to share one’s story. I believe that by sharing our own struggles we give others courage and lend them strength. However, where does one draw the line between being open and oversharing? I’m trying to figure that one out.  You see, there is a cost to oversharing, of living your life as an open book. When you share every thought, feeling, experience or slight someone has caused you, the people in your life know this, hold on to this, and are slower to forgive than you are.

Personally I am famous for talking myself into and out of things on a regular basis. I flip-flop which means I could never be a politician, or could I? I take the people in my life on my crazy, twisted journeys as I figure out what it is I want. For example, if I am trying to talk myself into a situation, I’ll share only the good points about the situation whether it is a purchase, a trip, a man, etc. Then, when my mind changes, people may be mystified when things seemed to be “so good.” In order to explain I now divulge all the misgivings, doubts, and red flags I had but failed to mention before. Sadly, if I change my mind (again), those I love are now skeptical. Or sometimes I feel I’ve boxed myself in a corner and have nowhere to go because if I choose this path, after sharing all the dark and dirty reasons why I was against it, well…

Granted, the opinions of others don’t stop me too much. They may slow me down a little, and only if the opinion is coming from someone I love and value. Still, I’m working to find a balance. To live a life that is true, authentic, and open but without the oversharing. Wish me luck! This is gonna be one heck of a task!

Emerging From The Darkness

I am emerging from the darkness. I am once again feeling stronger. After a few weeks of being down, dancing between two emotions; numb or melancholy, the fog is lifting.

Every so often I slip into a low. As my mother puts it, it is like a blanket that covers me and keeps me from being myself. I agree with her, partially. It is like a blanket, or a fog, or a haze that descends upon me. The usual happy go lucky demeanor takes a back seat. I get introspective, contemplative, quiet, and yes- moody.

However, I am still me, this is a part of me. Is it mild depression? Is it just part of my personality? The need to pull back now and then and take stock of my life? I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me, not too much at least. It doesn’t bother me because it doesn’t last. The only time it ever lasted I was on the wrong meds/too strong of a dose. Then I withdrew pretty much all together and spent any time not at work lounging or sleeping in my bed. That is not where I am now. That is not where I have been for a long time. 

To me, there is a certain beauty to darkness. I think embracing it now and then is important. Is it painful? Yes, but it also leads to growth, to joy, to a stronger version of me. Embracing it, as long as it is not stopping me from fulfilling my responsibilities (much), or totally cutting everyone out of my life, or having suicidal thoughts (which I don’t), then I say, embrace away. 

Still, there must be a balance. The dark cannot overtake the light. I mustn’t dwell for too long. Life is too precious, too fragile, too beautiful to focus on the misery and the sadness for an extended period of time. 

I was sort of due for this little segue into the land of sorrow. Uncle John’s birthday was just a week ago. There are other changes going on in my life that I was not thrilled to hear about. I have not been focusing on maintaining a positive attitude. There are a few stressors that had been weighing me down as well. Mix that all together and it’s a perfect recipe to backslide a touch. 

Besides, if I get too comfortable in life, if things are going too smoothly, it makes me a tad uncomfortable. I spent so many years overwhelmed and miserable due to my undiagnosed anxiety disorder that peacefulness can actually be unnerving at times. Realistically I suffered from my anxiety issues for years (at least seven years totally undiagnosed, three of those years experiencing panic attacks that scared the bejesus out of me). Just as I began to learn about my anxiety disorder and seek treatment the health of several relatives went into decline, one right after the other. 

In some ways, I’ve had a rough go of it since I was 17 years old.To be clear, not as rough as many in this life but this is my life, my journey, and my issues to deal with. Sure there were pockets of calm in between but also a lot of chaos, a lot of stress, a lot of… well… a lot. Not to mention the amount of growth a person does in those years regardless of other factors. 

So here I am, learning to adjust to a new normal. One I never imagined but one that I am content with. A normal that sadly doesn’t include people that I assumed would be around a lot longer than they were. A normal that still battles anxiety and depression. A normal with more amazing friends than I dared to believe possible when I was younger. A normal that includes healthy relationships with my family. A normal that is all mine. Yes, I am emerging from the darkness once again.

Wine

My best friend and I just redrafted our rules on what was reasonable wine consumption for our girls night when I came across an article on Huffington Post Women about a love affair with wine. (Original article can be found here)  It struck a chord.  I read it and sent the link to my friend. Then I sat down at my computer and decided I need to write.

I was a very late bloomer when it came to alcohol. I honestly waited until I was twenty- one to drink. My wild birthday festivities included Chinese take out with my family and some Kahlua Mudslide.  After dinner I poured a small glass, took a few sips and passed it off to my dad. 

For the next couple of years the only thing I found that I liked was Mike’s Hard anything or Smirnoff Ice. I was mocked by friends when we’d go out for drinks, even sometimes teased by bartenders for my choices. Despite the fact Mike’s and Smirnoff were basically sugar water with a splash of alcohol I would have one or two at most.

By the age of twenty four I was working in a hair salon alongside women who were in their thirties and forties. These women drank and they would invite me out for drinks after work on Saturday. They’d have martinis or cosmos, or wine. I remember taking their advice and getting a lemon drop martini. About two sips into it I was clinging to the bar stool. I did not have the tolerance for this sort of thing but I was determined to learn. They seemed so fabulous and cultured, having a drink after work, talking about life and love.

To their credit, these women helped me to embrace ME. To realize that everyone walks their own path in life. Which is why I enjoyed our after work drinks so much. Over time I could have a martini (or maybe two) with them. It felt great to have female friends to go out and have a drink with and vent about everything and anything. While they taught me to drink martinis or other mixed drinks I couldn’t seem to embrace their appreciation for wine. I couldn’t get past the taste of it.

A few years, a couple of career changes, and a freshly broken heart later I started waitressing at an Italian chain restaurant. It was a requirement of all persons of age to sample our signature alcoholic beverages, including the wines. Somehow, having wine at 7am, something clicked. I suddenly liked the taste of it. I felt like I had advanced to womanhood: I liked wine. Granted I started drinking white zinfandel when I’d go out before graduating to Rieslings, Pinot Grigios and then Chardonnay. My girlfriends and I agree wine is typically a journey. Thanks to my best friend I moved over to reds and now mainly drink Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Wine absolutely become a source of bonding. To this day, my best friend and I can’t tell you how we became friends. We worked together and somehow that led to going out for drinks after work. When she left our mutual place of employment to go on to her “big girl job,” we agreed to meet at least once a week for drinks.  

Weekly drinks became a time of bonding. I can agree with complete certainty that alcohol is a social lubricant. After a glass of wine (or several) you find yourself spilling your fears, your deepest darkest secrets, your hopes. I can recall coming home after drinks playing back some of the conversation in my mind thinking, “I can’t believe I admitted to that.” I quickly shrugged it off knowing that confession is good for the soul. 

My story, my growth as a person, is intricately woven through countless hours and bottles of wine between friends. That comforting feeling of having just enough that breaks down inhibitions and frees the speech and mind. There is something so classy about having a glass of wine with friends.. 

When my grandmother passed away last year my best friend was over that night with a couple bottles of wine and a decadent chocolate cake. Every night for probably a week after her death my closest and dearest friends came over with wine and drank with me, allowing me to ramble about my grandmother. The funny stories, the sadness over her death. Wine was a coping mechanism and a bonding tool. 

The combination of girlfriends and wine has been my strength, my tool for growth, my source of comfort. It’s a delicate balance that has helped me to analyze heartbreak, dreams, failures, and realizing my worth. However, like all things in life, too much is never a good thing. Something that my best friend and I have had to draw the line with very recently. Somehow one bottle between friends was easily becoming two and scarily dipping into bottle number three. Honestly at that point I couldn’t even tell you that the wine made me feel good because it made me feel ill. It led to poor decisions. It led to us proclaiming “if it is just the two of drinking our limit MUST be two bottles of wine.” 

Our most recent girl’s night we did follow that rule but decided that is still one bottle too many. Two women, two bottles of wine still equals “I drank a whole bottle of wine on my own,” and that is far too much. The head ache and nausea the next day, the poor decisions, it sickens us both. So our new rule is: two people on girls night = one bottle of wine max. I know we will succeed because while we enjoy drinking wine together it is not a necessity. It’s a want, an enjoyment, a way of relaxing together and reconnecting. Wine may be a delicious indulgence but we all need our limits.

Lessons

I have been pretty MIA lately on my blog. The past four or so months I have been on a journey of self exploration. They always say the lesson comes when you’re ready. Evidently life decided I was ready and the lessons starting crashing down all around me. In fact I think they started beating me over the head. It is hard to believe that it has taken me so many years to see the light considering how intuitive and self aware I can be. However I guess I wasn’t ready until now. And now has been a rather productive time of growth.

Some of the realizations have been about myself and to tie it all together they brought me insight to the relationship I had with my one and only real ex and the state of limbo we’ve been in ever since our break up. While it has consumed my thoughts and my time, it’s been incredibly freeing as well. 

It started when I was driving to work one morning. I was suddenly hit with a longing for my ex, and for him and I to make things work once and for all. Ever since the ex and I broke up, he’s come in and out of my life, usually trying to convince me that things could work and I was convinced it wouldn’t. Somehow, I was now sure that it could work. I realized that some of the things I had doubts about were due to me assuming when reality was another. It had started to occur to me how similar my ex was to my dad and my sister. To people who were quieter than I, that operate in a way that is different from myself. 

I finally accepted that while I may have verbally agreed (numerous times) to try things again with him, I was not really open to it. I was passive aggressive and always setting him up to fail. When, of course, he did (self fulfilling prophecy and all) I would walk away confident that he didn’t deserve me. I was very self righteous and was putting 99.9999% of the blame on him. I was bitter.

Bitterness and being passive aggressive was preventing him and I from ever working. It was also preventing me from moving on with anyone else. I was still nursing old wounds. How could I not? I met a man, fell in love with him within days, was talking marriage within days of meeting, and then suddenly we broke up. In hindsight, and part of my growth has been to recognize that I was impulsive to break up with him. It was our first disagreement really and rather than calmly saying, “Let’s discuss this later,” I ended things. There were several reasons, reasons that were fair for me to be upset about. However the break up was impulsive. As impulsive as the start of our relationship. 

A few months after we broke up he married some other girl. Of course that was going to hurt. Especially when our disagreement had been over the fact he didn’t know if he ever wanted to get married again. All I could think was, “Why didn’t he want to marry me?” Granted this new marriage of his was a secret, one that to this day I’m not sure how much of his family even knows about. Big shock, it ended in divorce. Or maybe an annulment. I’m not sure which. Honestly, as painful as it was for me that he married this girl, I was sad for him when it ended. That was his second marriage to end. I’m sure that sucked for him. 

After that, I can honestly say when he would try to come back around part of me always punished him for the fact he had married her when he wouldn’t marry me. It was something I couldn’t let go of. It wasn’t fair to either of us. 

So when these realizations started to hit back in May or June, I reached out to him. I confessed where I was at and I started asking a lot of genuine questions about our past. I started getting my new suspicions confirmed. How much I had wrongly assumed of our interactions. It was freeing. Slowly the bitterness in my heart melted away. He was at fault. I was too. It always takes two. I was finally seeing the error of MY ways. Until we learn from the past we can’t move on from it. 

I tried for several months at that point to get us to reconcile. I just felt so sure that since we had cleared the air, things could work. I think part of me has held on to the idea we’d work out one day. Mainly because the night I met him I had an overpowering intuition that I had met the man I was going to spend my life with. I didn’t want to be wrong. So I’ve fought really hard to not be. That was usually the crux of why I kept going back or letting him back in. I believe in trusting my gut and that feeling that night was so powerful that it had to be true… Right?

The thing is, how many people are dead sure they met the person they are going to spend their life with, even get married, to have it end in a messy, painful, tragic divorce. I am finally accepting that that man I met that night was the one. One possibility of a man I could spend the rest of my life with. I fell for him completely in that week before he went back to California and then on to Iraq. I could see our whole lives together and when we broke up I had to let go of that dream. I had to mourn the death of a life imagined. 

So many times in the years since we broke up I felt like I was a place where I was over him, over us. Anytime we did try to reconcile I was struck by the fact we didn’t really have anything to talk about. He is obsessed with sports, I’m more philosophical or into reading. With him, it was the comfort of his presence. Somehow we just fit. It has always been natural and comfortable to be together, around each other. Yet, I’ve grown, I’ve changed. So has he. I want someone I can talk to, debate life with, etc. I want someone that will push me to be a better person. Don’t misunderstand, he is a good person. He’s served our country proudly, he’s almost done with college. He’s always been employed and takes care of himself and the people around him. 

However, the people we were when we met, that allowed us to fall in love, are long gone. We’ve grown up, we’ve changed. What worked then, doesn’t work now. I am confident, that the night I met him and had that intuition that I would spend my life with him was true. Except we changed. We both changed and the people we are now are not meant to be together in a romantic way. He is a friend and a source of comfort to me. That feels like enough.

I can’t promise that these feelings will stick. I am a firm believer in the never say never because Grams drilled that into me. I can say that I feel ready for my future though. I feel healed. In fact, I had recently been dating  a guy. I was actually into this guy. We went on three dates and had been chatting for a couple of months. While that sadly ended due to vastly different lifestyles, it ended on the merit that him and I wouldn’t work, not because of some lingering feelings for someone from my past. 

Yes, this summer I have learned a lot about myself. I’ve gotten better at communicating, at examining my own faults and challenges. I’ve let go of bitterness and accept where I was and where I am. And where I am now is a damn good feeling.