Thursday, September 30, 2010

144 cans of black beans, just in case.

I tweeted:

"Last week's date said he had 144 cans of black beans at the ready. What does this say about a person?"

Reply, from @kylecassidy: "That you want to be with him when the zombie apocalypse happens."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

well, that was short. Deleted dating profile.

So, I deleted my online dating profile Sunday.

I'd gone on date #2 with the guy I'd met just a couple days earlier. He was warm and nice and easy enough to talk to, and so even though the date seemed too soon, I thought fuckit. Whatevs, just go and have fun.

We had a nice time. I felt more awkward than I expected but granted, he was still a complete stranger and comfort levels take time to grow. I did feel a little like I was auditioning for a part in a screenplay. He wanted to know all about me. Did I like to cook? What are my flaws? (Quick, tell all so I can see if they're dealbreakers!) What did I do in my spare time? I answered each question and he warmly smiled and said "Aaand?" like he wanted more.

Over dessert, he looked at me, puzzled. "Hmm. You look different in different types of light."

I nodded my head with resignation. Yeah, different flaws are accented from different angles, blahblah. I know this.

"I want this one!" he kidded, pointing at me and exclaiming that the lighting overhead was particularly nice, better than the bookstore.

This is the female brain: "He noticed the hideousness!! Well, there goes any daytime activity."

Still, the date was good enough. He's a genuinely nice guy. I had a sense of appreciation for being able to meet a stranger and, for an evening, enjoy eachother's company. These experiences, though brief, do feel enriching in some way. Letting someone into your life, even temporarily, is a gift in itself and I appreciated his company for the evening. Something inside me was shifting towards friend-zone though; maybe it was that he was pushing too hard for a level of familiarity we didn't have.

But I sympathized; I know what it's like when you want something bad enough that you hope to mold people to fit the shape of the hole that exists inside. Having heard his story and his honest admission in realizing he'd been looking for a replacement for his wife, I could see the remnants of these desires at his edges. I could also tell he would make a wonderful companion for someone. I didn't know if it would be me just then -- was still operating on my multiple-date-before-judging rule -- but he seemed like a genuinely good guy.

The end of the date was awkward. He asked if he could kiss me on the cheek and I suddenly felt uneasy. I said yes -- I mean, so what? -- but it was an uncomfortable moment. I was suddenly more acutely aware that he wanted to move quickly forward. I'm aware that I sound prudish but whatever, I can't change those feelings.

All week, he's been sending nice messages and texts, asking me to call and text and email back. I've been polite and formal but cordial. It takes time to click, right?

Saturday I went out with friends and we shared dating sagas along with additional stories of unrequited love (proven to be mitigated quite nicely by steak on a stake and funnel cake, I might add). It was a lovely, relaxing afternoon; a wonderful break from the flurry of fast-paced dating activity.

The next day, I met up with a friend of a friend for what was to be a study session and suddenly something else inside shifted. I didn't want to do this anymore, this meeting of new strangers and working at conversation. Comparing actual easy conversation with what I originally thought was easy? Wow, what a difference. I'd rather just be alone then and hang with friends.

And so I deleted my profile.

I told myself I would carry through the two future dates I had planned so as not to back out, and also that I would see each guy again (there were three) again. If nothing else but friendships developed, yay! Enriched life. But no more new people. It felt right.

next: date #3.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Love, the meaning of life and everything, including our inner toothpaste-wielding brat.

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about relationships. What makes a relationship successful? What preconceptions do we carry with us into one and burden our partners with? How could we improve and become better people?

I think this boils down to two very simple concepts: I want to treat my partner with the same appreciation and wonder felt during courtship and I don't want to drape my burdensome agenda over their shoulders (instead embrace them for who they are).

This sounds simple but how many times have you seen couples exhibit contempt for each other? Ugly behaviors like eye-rolling and snide remarks -- would those work as pickup tactics? No. Why, then, do people feel free to unleash unkindnesses on eachother? I know they say familiarity breeds contempt but why? We have control over how we act; there's no need to be mean. Those things erode trust which is the entire foundation of a relationship. How can any of us feel safe with someone who has hurt us or continually hurts us? Repairing what is broken is never as easy as preventative maintenance (a concept that works with both engines and people) and so it seems imperative to remember these things.

About the agenda thing. Say I want person A to pay more attention to me. How do I get what I want? Maybe I ask. Maybe I unconsciously pout. Maybe I unknowingly set up conditions. But if it's something that doesn't come easily or naturally to the other person, my request isn't quite just. When people care, they want to please but is it really fair of me to demand that they go outside their comfort zone for my sake? Then I'm trampling their needs to advocate for my own but when did mine become more important?

I want to remember to look out for other people's well-being the way I would a child: unselfishly (which is really hard as my inner id is also a child who may even happen to be throwing a tantrum right that very minute involving a large banana, a box of crayons and a tube of red toothpaste). The brainpower I have for self-examination during times of stress or perceived threat is exceedingly small and so I want to remember simple rules of appreciation, gratitude and acceptance.

To be truly thoughtful, I think I owe it to be honest to those around me. They can't know what I need if I don't say it. But I also need to ask in a way that isn't scary: there can't be conditions or heavy emotion. (How terrifying would it be if a pilot screamed "HAND ME THAT!!!!" while pointing wildly at something instead of coolly requesting said item?) Method of delivery is everything, right? I feel this is so important. And so I'm trying to pay attention to how I express myself.

Also, I need to give those around me the freedom to be honest without repercussions or they will shut down.

If I ask for what I need but they can't deliver it and then I get upset, then I've just made them feel guilty. They want to make me happy -- don't we all want to please those we care for? If we can't, maybe it's because of some frailty or timing or something, but it's not on purpose. I've never disappointed someone out of sheer vindictiveness.

Like right now: I'm supposed to call a relative who expressed feeling neglected, but I'm exhausted and fighting a cold and really just don't feel like being on the phone right now. It's not her, it's me. Intent is everything, is it not? Our entire legal system is based on it; the sentence someone receives from killing another human being hinges largely on intent. Why shouldn't our closest relationships also benefit from similarly charitable consideration? I'm not picking up the phone, but I still love her and hope to explain tomorrow.

I also think healthy people pick partners who show signs of being available in the ways they need. It's easy to replay toxic patterns learned in childhood but it's not productive. This is why I'm a huge advocate of mental health and why I feel it's so important to continually and rigorously undergo self-examination.

What do you do once trust is breached? Misunderstandings DO occur. A relationship without conflict is a relationship without intimacy. The reward of being emotionally close is enormous, however; I'd never want a union that just skimmed the surface. To truly know another person is a wondrous gift. If you take away our ambition and our skills and our work and our money and our health and our time (we will lose all these things anyway someday) what matters -- what's left -- are our connections. However, I don't really know what to do once trust has been breached. It's awfully hard to regain. It's inevitable though, given that only those closest to us can wound us so deeply and so despite the difficulty, we must try to heal. I think it's important to understand what led to the breach (harder than it sounds), then we can learn from it and forge a new path paved with compassion, forgiveness and mercy.

Which brings me back to the first point: treating loved ones with appreciation and reverence.

I want to remember how lucky I am to share my space on this earth with those I love, how their simple presence has brought me joy and changed me. What a beautiful gift they've given by leaving a mark on my heart.

It's hard to feel that way in the midst of hurt and pain but when time has gently smoothed the frayed edges of souls, are we not a richer fabric from our experiences?

Friday, September 24, 2010

letter to self

So I tried an exercise. I split myself in two, the hurting part who's trying to get over someone, and the part that loves her hurting friend and just wants to wrap her arms around her and hold her. And tell her it will be ok. And it helped -- I am actually feeling better. Today is a tough day but I am handling it with as much grace as possible. It makes me feel some measure of hope to think that what is now isn't what always will be.

Dear self,

You are a beautiful and worthy human being. You are sweet and kind and genuinely care about people. Yes, you are hurting now, but you should know that one person's reaction to you doesn't define you. If there is anything that is your fault in that painful scenario, it is in believing that someone else's frailties signify your worthiness. Your own frailty is in hoping that love and will alone is enough.

This is a painful process, this putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. You don't know where it will land. You've successfully embodied the teachings of buddhists who say "live in the moment!" to the point where it's hard to imagine a future in which you will be in love again and feel loved back. I know it feels like that will never happen, but you are doing the hard work now that points to being in a stronger place later (the magic 8 ball says "all signs point to yes").

Some days all you can do is breathe.

So, breathe.

When you are in a place where you can climb again, you will... put one foot in front of the other and attempt to ascend this mountain.

You are now building a life for yourself where you get to call the shots, you get to decide what you want it to look like. In the past, it was defined by others. Now it's defined by you. That's scary, you don't know how. Having never quite done just this, you're unsure of your footing, but that's ok. You will make mistakes and learn from them. Like a baby learning to walk, you will fall down and get up and try again and again. It's not the falling down but the staying down that matters.

So fall, often.

Love, as much as possible. If the love isn't returned, well, you loved irregardless of it being returned, right? You gave it because you could not help it, you felt that way and it was a beautiful gift, it shows that you are a person capable of deep caring. Don't be scared to do this over and over again; one of the most beautiful gifts we can give in life is to truly care about another person. That doesn't make you bad. Yes, it hurts, but that you were able to experience that kind of depth alone is worthy of recognition. One day your efforts will be returned to you and you will be surrounded by the kind of love you can freely give. It's hard to picture now -- you don't know what that will look like, but it will be there. Because if you can give love like that, some of it is bound to return.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

dating and the interview process

Fuckit, I can't sleep so may as well write.

Tonight's date was originally supposed to be just coffee but he pushed for dinner so, fine.

This whole exercise was supposed to get me feeling hopeful again, to be part of the healing process after a breakup. I didn't expect to actually like anyone right away. I told myself that I wanted to be feel special, to be cherished. I *said* those things because I think they're important, but I don't know that I believed I could have them, that I was worthy or that I really even understood what it meant. But here is someone who looks like he might be capable of having a healthy relationship and fuck, he even looks like he could be into me. And I think this terrifies me.

I'm not done mourning the loss of my previous relationship; accepting that it's over. So this makes me simultaneously realize how attached I am to someone else and also how much work I have to do on myself in order to have a relationship.

But there was something in his eyes that grabbed at me. Maybe it was the warmth, or maybe it's something that reminded me of my first love all those years ago. Whatever it was, it shouldn't have shaken me awake but here I am trying to sort out the mess in my head.

In any case, a simple look is not enough to tell about chemistry, not enough to shake the bonds that already tie me, not enough to predict compatibility or even if I will feel anything the next time I see him. But it was, apparently, enough to rouse much thought. I'm not quite sure what to make of it all.

First impression?

This date reminded me of the time I applied for my current job.

I'd almost backed down from submitting my resume, having had an existential worthiness crisis the morning I planned to drop it off.

I called the girlfriend who'd been coaching me through the application process and said, "Thanks for your help but I'm not going to apply." She was shocked. "Why not?" I told her I didn't think they'd hire me. I fought back tears; I thought I was being realistic. I'd read the list of what they wanted and then read my resume and felt woefully inadequate.

She gently encouraged me to apply anyway. "Let THEM decide if they don't want you." And so I relented. I dropped off the whole application packet and fled, hoping no one saw the red-eyed girl flinging an envelope into the giant IN bin before vanishing.

Fast forward to the morning of the interview. I was terrified. The only thing I felt sure of was my general suckitude and so I told myself to just look at the whole experience as practice, since I am at least fairly certain that, although I suck at many things, I can get better if I try hard enough. I didn't think that day was here yet though and so my expectations were very low. I at least enjoyed my current job and, if nothing else, this was a useful exercise.

Then I remember a funny sensation coming over me during the interview. I started to feel comfortable; something that had never really happened before. I almost forgot that I was being judged. My sense of time and space melted away and I just, was. Talking felt natural.

It was then that I realized I should be paying as much attention to how I felt about them as they were about me. I knew logically that chemistry in the workplace is important; I'd turned down jobs before that'd been lacking, but never had the experience of being comfortable. It baffled me.

They offered me the job and to date, it's been one of the best jobs I've ever had.

So last night, sitting at the table chatting over dinner in my "on" state as if I were with a business client, I suddenly realized I was actually comfortable. Relaxed. It wasn't difficult to be present; something that can be rare for me sometimes.

I go out and do things, sometimes to make myself get out of my comfort zone, to expand. It's not necessarily easy, especially emerging from a shell of shyness, but I instinctively understand it's good for me. And so I socialize and do things that are hard for me all the time. It's draining, and so I need much down time, but rewarding because I constantly feel like I'm growing. And it's getting easier.

People who meet me think I'm extroverted and friendly but really, I do work at it. It's fun work; I genuinely like people -- establishing connections offers huge amounts of meaning -- but does take effort.

So it's surprising to me that meeting this new, strange person felt so effortless. It caught me off-guard.

A followup date is already scheduled for Friday. That's maybe too soon, but whatever. I don't have a map and I don't really know how I'm supposed to be doing this and so, here goes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

pick your username wisely. Just sayin'.

Something I've learned about myself recently: I am biased against usernames. I mean, did these guys seriously think these are good choices?
  • I_need_it_bad
    (if you need it that badly, go buy it because I don't operate under pressure.)
  • Raoul_the_wolfboy
    (are you aiming to consume dates? I'm just not sure what to make of this one.)
  • dashing-gourmetchef
    (if you say you're "dashing" then I think "not humble" and that's not very dashing at all.)
  • DoMe
    (no thanks.)
  • NiceGuy7
    (if you SAY you're a nice guy, are you really?)
  • ADateWithYou12
    (this just reminds me of the zillion dates you go on.)
  • 2gether4ever
    (ack! I've got cold feet just glancing at your username!)
  • IHavePowers
    (Well, maybe the powers one is alright. I would laugh at someone named "I_have_skillz": cue Napolean Dynamite.)
Also a turn-off: mentioning how much sex you want or how sensual you are in your profile. That's so highly private and really a chemistry thing to be uncovered privately between two people. Really guy? You're going to broadcast that?

And another thing. Don't IM me, after reading that my profile says FRIENDS first (meaning don't touch me) and say "a date with me comes with a kiss!" And when I reply that I'm not so much into that type of thing, respond: "Relax. You need to loosen up." ::BLOCK::

This whole process has been very, um, interesting.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

aaand... online dating commences

So, I *know* where the goddamned aquarium is. It's only THE central point of the most central part of Baltimore.

But I was so nervous when heading there for yesterday's blind date (my first in what FEELS like a lifetime) that I somehow veered off the exit ramp in the wrong direction.

No problem, right? I have a phone with a GPS, I can recover.

I plugged the coordinates in to backtrack but somehow neglected to notice that I requested the "walking directions" option and thus got lost again and somehow ended back up on the highway.

Fine, no biggie. I figured I'd get off at the next exit and turn around, only the Universe hates me and planned to make this clear. EVERY ENTRANCE RAMP was closed due to some kind of inanely-planned construction doom and I could not get back onto the highway without slowly snaking through traffic-snarled streets via circuitous detour. Clock ticking all the while as I grew later and later for a date I was already delayed to in the first place.

I hate Baltimore.

(Really, I hate myself for having absolutely NO sense of direction AT ALL... at least not when nervous.)

Also, I realized when I left the house that I hadn't eaten yet. Not a single bite since the previous night. It wasn't a food-oriented date and I began to worry that I'd pass out in front of the jellyfish, so I grabbed a can of chicken soup and figured I'd drink it in the car since I didn't have time for proper care and feeding of myself. Yes, you read that correctly -- soup CAN be consumed while driving (IF in the proper to-go container). However, I was less than graceful when I tried to remove the revolting layer of fatty globules floating on top and somehow smeared chicken fat onto my passenger seat.

Beginning date FTW.

Fast forward, through the stages of anger, denial and acceptance over the chicken fat incident and misplaced spatial lobe incident: I parked, gave the lot attendee a bag of gold coins and the rights to name my firstborn and headed to the agreed-upon meeting spot.

I saw him leaning up against a brick building and wondered if he'd recognize me. I only have one photo accompanying my profile and it's an indistinct one at that, evidence of the halting manner in which I began this process. But he waved right away. The mantra I'd been obsessively turning over in my head for the previous 24 hours ("pleasedon'tgooglemepleasedon'tgoogleme") proven predictable.

He googled me.

(You can do that, you know, with just a phone number.)

But at least he didn't call off the date. I worried he would have but surprisingly, he said it helped him feel he somehow understood me. I was uneasy. "What did he see? How much?"

Note to self: stop living life out loud.

(P.S. to self: you know you won't.)

(P.P.S. I'd like to point out that beginning another blog about an even more intimate aspect of life, like dating, isn't particularly well-aligned to the above-named objective.)

Anyway, back to the date.

He was a perfect gentleman, laid back, entertaining, polite, easy to talk to, everything I would have requested for a perfect entry back to the dating world. This means that the rest of this blog post gets boring, since the only thing wrong with anything in this scenario is (as usual) me.


I left the date with a full head, processing much. Do I like him? Did he like me? Do I really want to do this again? Why do I feel so shut down inside? I knew why but I didn't like it. My brain begged for the respite of sleep but I had evening plans. So I hiked up the music and began a long car ride happy to at least have the time to think.

I understand this much about myself: most of my great loves have started lukewarm, and so I have made an internal agreement: I will give a date followup time before dismissing.

Later that night I wanted to send a followup email thanking him but wondered wait, wouldn't that violate some unwritten protocol of not seeming eager? I hesitated and then thought fuckit.

I didn't care if I ever saw him again, really. If my being polite turned him off, whatevs. I sent a message and promptly fell into a deep sleep.

I woke to a nice return thankyou. So he's not playing by unwritten rules either, which is nice. He appreciated my note. Whew. We can have an honest, real dialogue, at least. If nothing else, it's the foundation for a friendship.

I still don't know what to make of all my complicated thoughts though -- I'm trying to follow my gut, but it is groggy and half-asleep. Still, me and my impaired intuition march on.