Friday, August 31, 2012

Stories of gratitude (link to most amazing post of the day)

I don't often like to make posts that are just links to other posts -- I mean, just read the other blogs then, right? It's inefficient. And here I have two in one day! But the stories of hardship & gratitude on this "What am I grateful for" post have me moved to tears. People have been strikingly honest in their submissions and it is absolutely incredible.

What does "being in love" mean to you?

I thought this column was interesting: Very different takes on being in love, from 4 different men.

What does "being in love" mean to you?

Monday, August 27, 2012

The shady web design project

All names have been changed for this post. Any names you see here have been made up. But the story is real.

Jumping in...

So, I do web design for a living: officially by day but I also freelance at night.

One day I get a call from a very nervous-sounding gentleman.
Dude: "Hi. Um, I'm calling because I need a website designed. Will you do it for me?"

me: "Tell me a little about what you need." (my standard response).

him: "Um. Well. I just called like 10 other designers but no one else will do it. They just won't. They hear what I do and they hang up. But it's not like I'm doing anything bad or wrong, it's just um, an unusual business."

me (thinking hmmm, he must have seen the disclaimer on my website about how I will not consider any job whose ends or means are unethical; and yes, it's there because I have been asked): "Well, what type of business is it?"

him: (sighing loudly) "Um. It's a male entertainment company. But just until I get back on my feet! I'm only doing this right now while I'm out of school."

me (flicking imaginary cigarette in boredom; like I care why he chose any given profession): "Well, I don't do websites that aim to swindle money out of people but tell me more about what kind of site you need and I'll see if I can help."

him: "Well, I'm a male dancer. And I want to set up a simple website with just a few pages that tells people about my service and has pictures of the dancers. But don't worry! They will all be wearing clothes. At least bottoms! No nudity. Well maybe the rear will be exposed but that's it. No frontal nudity! I promise."

me (now amused): "Well, I require 1/3 down to start, 1/3 at the halfway point and then 1/3 when the job is complete."

him: "YES! That sounds AWESOME. Sign me up."

me: "Ok, let me get some information from you then." I pull out a notebook to begin my client checklist. "What's your name?"

(note: names changed! But this is very close to the, um, essence, of how the conversation ensued.)

him: "Richard Hard."

me (not noticing odd name): "Ok, what's your address?"
I jot down all his information. Yeah, his name may have been unusual but whatever. I didn't really even think about it -- the world is full of the oddly-named; like "Gaston Feeblebunny". So I barely register this and continue moving through my list. One last question before I'm done.
me: "Ok, and lastly, what's your email address?"

him (coughing): "Um. Ahem." (voice lowered, hand cupped over mouth) "**" (**not a real address).
I started laughing. "Alright, RICHARD. When would you like to meet, RICHARD?"

I still don't know what the dude's real name is. He paid me in cash and money orders so there was no real record of his name. But I built him a site. It's still out there, even though I dropped him as a client years ago when he started to seem shady.

So this is me during the design stage; pulling images into photoshop to design a template.

This WAS a fun project.... though I like working on science & educational sites much better, they don't make for quite as interesting of a story...!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"I did three things yesterday! Now I'm supposed to keep doing things? It's like the things never end!"

Po Bronson wrote, in an introduction to his book on relationships, "Why Do I Love These People" about his own divorce. He talked about what life was like right after he separated. He said he went to a rooming house and fell off the edge of the earth. For months. He holed up there, retracting from the world into a tight, unpenetrable ball, not communicating or responding to anyone.

I felt like this a lot in the first year especially, after my marriage broke up.

Just dealing with the logistics of that huge change was incredibly draining, not including the taxing whirlwind of thoughts and emotions constantly whipping at me.

I thought to myself then there are important lessons here, this won't be the first time in your life that you'll have to reinvent your definition of yourself; that will happen with every loss. Or change.

Maybe the only constant in life is change.

I thought those things and breathed and made it through another day.
"I'm doing pretty well! I can breathe and beat my heart like a $#*@(& champion!" - Hyperbole & a Half

"I did three things yesterday! Now I'm supposed to keep doing things? It's like the things never end!"

At some point, I finally realized I needed to just allow myself to wallow in huge amounts of space until I was ready to resurface. It happened in increments, it seemed.

It's nice to feel farther away from all that now. I did FOUR things today and the system didn't crash!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

That's what she said.

A conversation with my body. We prioritize differently but she's stronger and usually wins the fight.

me: Good morning!

body: No.

me: C'mon, get up!

body: That was only 4 hours. I require 8.

me: Too bad, there's no more time. We have to get up now.

body: You will pay for this. I WILL get my other 4 hours.

me: Whatever. You can sleep late tomorrow. Let's go!

me: Good morn!

body: That was only 8 hours!!

me: I know, isn't that awesome?

body: But... ::sputter:: what about yesterday? I'm still beat.

me: Nah, let's get up and write. The day is young!

body: Nooooo!!

me: Pffft. You are SUCH a wimp.

[writing happens]

body: (ahem) um, excuse me?

me: I'm busy. What's up?

body: I'm tired.

me: So? I've got things to do. You can sleep tonight.

body: But it's Sunday. You have no plans.

me: Right, but look at this LIST.

body: Juuuust a half hour? Please? Pretty please?

me: Oh alright. Fine.

[laying down]

body: Ah ha!! Bitch slap!!

me (struggling weakly): Wait, not so fierce! A LIGHT nap.

body: Fuck you. This is MY time.

[an unspecified period passes in blackness]
me: nnngggghhhh.
body: Good morn! Take two. :)

me (fumbling for watch): How LONG was that?

body (beaming): 4 hours.

me: FOUR HOURS?? You NEVER nap that long!

body (flexing): heh. That was awesome. I had to knock you out but you know, all's fair in dreams & sleep. Feed me?

me: You are an endless bag of demands!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Old chat conversation

me: hey guess what??? Important news!

friend: what?

me: You can't tell ANYONE.

friend: of course I won't..  what's up?

me: I am stunned.

friend: huh?

me: Like, my jaw is on the floor. I don't even know how to write this. sigh. I'll just say it.

friend: ok

I think you could roll with it.

you there??

friend: yea, I'm here...

me: Don't leave me, I need your support on this. Do I have your support and everlasting friendship?

friend: ok

me: no, not "ok" - I need to know you'll be there.

friend: well, depends.. 

me: No, no, you have to promise. So, you on board?

friend: what do you think.  yes

me: sigh. ok, here it goes.


friend: I swear I'm going to punch you in the mouth!!!!
Then I called my friend, laughing so hard I had to wipe the mascara from my cheeks. I took a deep breath. "Um, I actually don't know who Liam Hemsworth is." 

"I started to sweat!!" they said. "You really got me nervous!"

Friday WIN.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My life as a cartoon.

Last night I was calmly standing on line to buy embarrassing things -- which, btw, is why I was using the SELF-checkout: so no one has to see me holding a tub of feminine products -- when the evening got exponentially more mortifying. (BTW, who names the drugstore products that are so embarrassing you can't even buy them? HERPECIN, VAGISIL, LiceX, and ANUSOL?? I have always wondered how those board meetings go.)

Anyway, so what is more awesome than spending your Friday night in a drugstore buying feminine supplies?


I was scanning my items when I heard this distant mumbling and realized oh that's my PHONE.... and then I realized I had butt-dialed him. FUCK! We're not supposed to be talking!

I hung up immediately and texted an explanation so I could interrupt him having sex* to explain haha, isn't life funny, I am really not stalking you -- that whole thing where you just heard me scanning a box of extra large overnight pads with wings, that was unintentional, really. Pinky-swear!


*yes, he was having sex, I am sure of it, because once partners become exes, their lives become one big giant orgy where not only are you not invited, but it is a well-known scientific fact that the need for sleeping, eating or working is replaced with the need for sex with people who are not you.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Three things for a happy relationship. Just three!

I am doggedly convinced happy relationships have 3 components, not just love:
  1. Compatibility: This is where you get to write the list of personality traits you want in a mate and gush about how you fit together. It includes love, passion, friendship and whatever else you wax on about.

  2. Communication: How well do you communicate? Both partners must be extremely skilled or it won't work. Can you express your feelings without shutting down? Can you do it without making your partner defensive? Do you know how to use "I" statements like "I notice" or "I feel"? Can you try your hardest to listen in a way that they feel heard? This component is all about relating, the fundamental part of a relationship. It is where each of you must give 100%.
  3. Quality of life: Your every day routine should be as easy as possible. Life will have enough difficulty without adding to it -- work, family demands, health crises, etc. will all seek your time and energy at various times throughout your life. No need to add to your burdens. Living in a house that fights you to remain dirty and broken = stress. Broke and can't afford the lifestyle you want? Stress. Responsibilities and duties that loom larger than what restores you? Also stressful. No time to get enough sleep or care for your physical health? Gah! Stress. Take care of yourself and your environment or your relationship will pay. 
A breakdown in any one component can put undue strain on the bond, which can bend (because stress will happen regardless) but if it stretches too far for too long, it may break. Notice when you're feeling stressed. Think about what changes you can make to ease the load. You may not be able to realize it right away -- change is rarely fast -- but planning can lead to eventual implementation.

So this is what I'd wish I'd known way back. Sometimes I write posts just to remind myself, yup! It's not just about love, yo. How you're living & relating will matter too.

(Summary: when life is shitty, it's like DEATH BY SPOON! 10 min vid, but short recap is... a bajillion tiny thwacks add up!)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Relationships where your partner is fantasizing about other people are shitty relationships and I don't care if that makes me close-minded

During the first "something feels off" conversation we ever had:
him: I might see like 10 women a day I want to have sex with.

me: Oh, uh, maybe that's an indication that this has run its course then?

him: Oh no! I was like that when I was married too and I was crazy about my wife. It's not a marker of how much I like someone.
Well, that's reassuring.

Note to any dudes reading this: we GET the wandering eye thing. It's your biology, it's how you're made. I'm not intimidated if you think other women are hot, just, you know, be respectful about it. You don't have to MENTION every chick you mentally undress. Please? Besides, that's kindof the opposite of the "make your partner feel special" rule that contributes to a healthy union. Thank you!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I knew a man who was once stuck. (AKA how criticism traps)

I knew a man who was once stuck in a relationship devoid of affection and riddled with criticism.

He apologized for himself constantly when I visited him and his spouse.

"How are you?" I'd ask, and he'd look humbly at her, smile sheepishly and say, "Not bad! But my wife is a little impatient with my _____" [insert: broken leg, insomnia, job, family, etc.] -- whatever wranglings a typical person deals with in a typical life.

Their roles were well-established. He postured self-effacingly and she rolled her eyes. When she added her share, her voice was prickly, tinged with snappish tales of the difficulties of living with someone so inept.

Over time, her irritation grew and she didn't hide it.

Soon he became a castaway in his own life, his lost soul visible to any who glimpsed inside the blue ocean of his eyes, witnessing the man within adrift. A dark cloud of negative feedback hung over him, tantalizing with the promise of lifting. Of course she would stop nagging. As soon as he stopped [whatever]. You know, when sleep returned, monetary pressure lifted, vacation started, kid obligations were released, Uranus opposed Saturn, the house was fixed, etc. The magic elixir was always seemingly in sight but somehow remained unobtainable and the murk lingered.

I saw this man recently. Years had passed. He'd divorced and found someone new. Someone who loved him unconditionally. And I was astounded by the change in his demeanor. He still juggled the vagaries of life but he looked happy and strong now, like a robust plant sprouting in the sun of his new wife's loving gaze.

I always knew criticism could still ardor, but had never quite noticed the effects in myself the way I had this man. But having experienced much negativity in life, I knew what it felt like internally.

Sometimes people start off lightly offering opinions. Maybe in the guise of help.

There is a saying:  

"If it can be fixed in a few minutes, mention it. Otherwise, refrain, unless specifically asked." 

So, yes, tell someone when there's a stray koala on their face but not that they're fat.

But what if the judgments grow? What if they turn into impossible standards which you still try to meet? You'll both know you fall short.

Soon your self-esteem will suffer.

If you're healthy, you'll address this when you first recognize it happening. Either you will leave or go to counseling together or demand better treatment. But if you've been put down before, you may miss early cues. Maybe you'll even feel inexplicably comfortable with the dynamic and settle into a situation that can damage your sense of self or turn into verbal abuse.

Here are all the things that can happen if you been living under a smog of criticism:
  • You become conflict-avoidant. You may either quickly compromise or pre-empt conflict (which is also a compromise).
  • You will feel you are not good enough and this may spur a hunger for external validation.
  • You will think it's your fault because they tell you so. If they blame you instead of taking partial responsibility or presenting the issue in a neutral light, you may be quick to seek faults in yourself and accept this blame even when you're not completely at fault.
  • It is extremely draining to disappoint someone constantly; this can sap you of the energy for creative, nurturing pursuits.
  • You may become too understanding of poor excuses and situations.
  • You may start to lose trust in people because you may unconsciously think they'll hurt you.
  • You may avoid getting close to others, fearing being exposed will lead to an assault of your vulnerabilities. 
  • You may put others on pedestals because you don't regard yourself well.
  • You may not recognize when your boundaries are being crossed or you may allow people to cross them easily because you don't have a sense where healthy lines should exist.
  • You may feel as though you don't have permission to express your feelings because the other person will react negatively.
  • If the other party is moody, manipulative, controlling, depressed, or emotionally high-strung, you may lose the ability to gauge your own worth because their view of you swings to extremes (e.g.: from pride to disappointment, etc.) and is not consistent.
  • You may learn to be ashamed of yourself, your feelings, your background, your taste, your looks or anything else that is criticised.
  • You may hyper focus on your own shortcomings and fail to give the good stuff as prominent a place.
  • You may seek relationships where other people have more control, believing yourself to be less capable than they or by reenacting old roles from childhood.
  • You may think you are not worthy of pure love.
  • You'll find it easy not to be a priority.
  • You will try to seek approval by "doing the right things," becoming extremely motivated by approval.
  • You may choose people who are broken or wounded because you were trained to gravitate towards relationships full of drama -- maybe you are unconsciously seeking to right past wrongs or maybe are just used to the dynamic.
  • Your craving for appreciation may make you take up with people who require you to jump through hoops to win their approval.
  • You may expect unconditional love from an unlikely source or try to get love from someone who cannot meet your needs.
  • You may end up with a skewed idea of what a relationship should be and choose poorly because your self-esteem is off, and these poor choices further erode your ability to trust your own judgment.
  • If you don't believe you're good enough or loveable, you will act like you're not good enough or loveable and participate in situations that reflect this.

Any of this ring true? If so, think carefully about how you feel in any given person's company. Do you give them too much power? Do you hang on their judgment? Do you feel like you need to prove yourself or win them over? Do you feel valued? Your body will know if you can't tell. Listen to it.

By the way, it's not good enough to feel good sometimes, you need to consistently feel appreciated. Cherished, even. Everyone is deserving of unconditional love. I'm not saying there won't be conflict, but the quality of communication is key. Change your environment and you may change yourself, like he did, above.
"Give love and unconditional acceptance to those you encounter, and notice what happens." Wayne Dyer
Give that same love and unconditional acceptance to YOU too. (I'll start today if you do!)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

This past weekend

I met a cousin in person at the wedding:
My mom: Asplenia, this is [name].

Me: Oh, hi, nice to meet you! How do you know the bride & groom?

Him: Um, I'm your cousin. We're Facebook friends.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

a gentle respite

Several weeks ago, when I'd woken from surgery, I was suddenly aware of a terrible pain gripping my body, steel claws wrapped around my torso, piercing within. I writhed, unable to speak at first, and a nurse who'd been quietly standing by commented, "You're getting squirmy there, miss." In my sedated, woozy state, it took all the strength I had to speak and so I could only murmur one word: "PAIN."

"Ah, we've got something for you," she said. She fumbled with my IV line and seconds later, I drifted back to sleep. When I came to the second time, I felt like I was in a cloud. The blankets were swathed gently around me, warm air enveloped me and special devices on my feet squeezed rhythmically -- it all created a cozy, euphoric bliss. I had that feeling you get when it's snowing hard and you don't have to go anywhere and the house is full of food and everything is okay. The pain was completely gone, replaced by happy contentment.

I've seen such psychic pain after my marriage ended that if I could have taken emotional morphine, I would have. My most recent breakup reopened the rawest parts of me.
Me: Universe, I can't take it anymore. Please. It hurts so much.

Universe: Okay, but this is only a temporary fix. I will send you someone you are already comfortable with, already know. The last two times I sent him to you, you turned him away. Don't do that this time. You two can help each other heal. You're both in a similar state, heart entwined in complex pieces of the past. He's not available either, like you, but he is a gentle person. You won't hurt each other.
And that is how I considered reopening the door for the Dark-Haired Boy.

I first wrote about him last October. We intercepted then only briefly but it was the comfort that stuck.

This morning I went out for a brief run and found myself near a lake with the sun gently warming my body and I stopped to look at the water. It was the closest I've been in weeks to having a sense of well-being again. We make our own medicine when we must.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

what if?

Him: What if you just believed everything would be okay eventually?

Me: What do you mean? I don't.

Him: No, I mean, what if someone could tell you that they looked into your future and they saw it was good. Not just good but like, really great.

Me: Well, if I could think "well, things suck now but they will only suck for a bit and then they'd be awesome," then yeah, sure. I wouldn't feel bad at all. I'd be able to relax and just enjoy the time to myself.

Him: So why don't you just believe that?

Me: Huh?

Him: I mean, tell yourself that will be the case. And you'll feel good. And that's what matters, right? To feel good?
Hmmm. Just believe it will be okay? Really? Could that even work?
“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope.”