Friday, February 28, 2014

Life is messy but how to be approachable anyway (hint: don't lose your shit)

This morning on the radio:
Girl: So he told me the reason he broke up with me is because he didn't want to be exclusive anymore. And then I found out that he's planning a trip to see an ex girlfriend. Why did he LIE?! I need to uncover the truth. I need to know what's really going on.

DJ: But it sounds like he tried to do the honorable thing. So he wouldn't cheat on you.

Girl: But he told me he didn't want to be exclusive. He didn't say he was going to sleep with an ex! I mean, I knew this whole past year that he didn't really want a commitment so I let him off the hook. But now that I know this, I should NOT have been easy-going.

DJ: What would have happened if he told you the truth?

Girl: What do you mean?

DJ: What if he'd said, "I still have feelings for my ex and something in me needs to explore that."

Girl: Well we were exclusive, so that would not have been okay.

DJ: That's why he didn't want to be exclusive. So he was honest in that way. He was probably trying not to hurt your feelings. What does it matter what the real reason is anyway?

Girl: Why did he have to break it off? I feel like there should have been another option, like he didn't really need to do this.

DJ: But he did, because of the way he was feeling.

Girl: But we were a couple!

DJ: You have to accept his feelings.
I thought about this conversation the rest of the way to work. How hard it is to tell people how you really feel.

You don't want to hurt their feelings but NOT sharing what's really happening inside you leaches out some of the intimacy away from your togetherness. It's not okay to say so many things. Their reaction will be terrifying, maybe. You care. You're a decent person who doesn't want to be a monster that hurts people that are important to you.
But real life is messier than that.

So what if he still had feelings for his ex? If he was going crazy wondering what might have been? What if he decided he needed to see what that meant? Maybe he felt that the risk of losing his current girlfriend was worth the try. He'd either learn it was a mistake or that it was what he needed to do; valuable information either way.
The unspoken words he could not say: I had to dip back into the past to know where I wanted to be in the future.

Why is that not okay? Why is it okay to try out a job and realize "I thought that would be great but it really wasn't" but you can't do that in love?

I get it. It hurts like fuck. No one wants to be either on the receiving or relaying end: either you're the callous ass selfishly slashing your loved one's heart to ribbons or you eat your truth.

Can't there be a third option: loving honesty?

I mean, if you have that kind of open connection with your partner, you probably wouldn't want to leave. So why not establish a safe place to listen and be heard in your relationship?

Ever since I have been learning more about the principles of Nonviolent Communication or NVC (an intimidating term to describe a really nice idea: listening in a way that isn't scary to the one in the vulnerable spot of sharing their feelings), I notice communication breakdowns everywhere.

Every time someone loses their shit at another person? Breakdown.

You can get the other person to "behave" but at what cost? Loss of closeness, which is the opposite of what you wanted in the first place.

You establish trust by inviting truth. And you invite honesty by, well, not losing your shit. There are some things that are *really* difficult to discuss though. 

Things that are unacceptable to tell your partner:

-- I'm not as attracted to you because [you've gained weight/gotten a terrible haircut/have bad breath lately/etc].

Something's changed.
Crushing to hear. How could you not cry your eyes out? I don't know that there is a gentle way to be honest about things like this but this is why it's important to take care of yourself.

If your partner isn't responsive to you anymore, you can open the door by saying, "I miss you and I wonder what we can do to be closer. Is there something I could do? Think about it and let's talk some more in a few days." (Hug.)

Give them time to consider how they'll word something this difficult while broadcasting your receptibility -- a conversation like this needs to unfold over time.

-- I don't like the way you [perform intimate act].
Like this letter says, "Now she does not tolerate anything....  This is a problem since I thoroughly enjoy getting her to the heights of pleasure, and she previously enjoyed it multiple times." 

If one partner doesn't like something, it's usually because it doesn't feel good. 

Now, maybe it doesn't feel good because of bone-splitting fatigue or illness. Or because you've been fighting and it doesn't feel comfortable to open up. Or maybe the "technique" is coarser/harder/softer/faster/slower/etc. than preferred. There are numerous reasons why someone may not be receptive but you won't find any of them out if you don't make it okay for them to share their feelings.

I once asked a girlfriend how to handle mismatched chemistry and she said you can say to your partner, "can I show you something I really like?" and then demonstrate. Good communication is a key part of chemistry. 

-- I'm not happy with the way you maintain your [car/house/portion of the housework/financial share/body/desk/sink/etc.]." 

I just cleaned it yesterday!
You may want to say, "Clean up your shit!" but absolutely do not. Try saying, "I have some thoughts about ________*, can we make time to discuss them?"

-- "You're drinking/eating/popping painkillers/playing video games/fooling around on facebook/etc. and I don't like it." 

My hands are tied! How else am I supposed to eat?
 I bring all these examples up because even if this is precisely how you feel, do not bring it up harshly.

Issues present choices: accept them or don't. How you feel is key. Not everything in a relationship is perfect.  70% of a couple's problems will not go away but they know how to be happy anyway. It's not the problems that tear you apart as much as the loss of friendship. Practicing NVC is just a fancy way of saying, "Be nice."

NVC: how you know you're doing it wrong.

1. Practicing Nonviolent Communication, or, how to not lose your shit so people will like opening up to you.

2. How to have difficult conversations.

3. A squirrel.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Do You Have A Happy Marriage? (Article link)

The comments alone are wonderful! Lots of people who were married before seem like they want to be married again - it's less scary than if you've never been married, maybe, because you remember how nice it is to share your life with someone (and you learned what went wrong before so you can keep it from happening again).

(Sent from my phone)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

This song has been in my head for three days

This isn't even a song I am crazy about but it's been in my head for three days now:
"I don't want to be
Anything other than what
I've been trying to be lately.
All I have to do
Is think of me
And I have peace of mind."

--Gavin DeGraw (vid below)
I am really enjoying being single lately! Crawling into bed with all my books around me... absolutely delicious! In fact, I need to do just that in a few minutes. February is an awesome time to be alone if you're an introvert at heart. It's a month that begs you to cozy up with a good book. Today I left work, drove to an exercise class while eating leftovers on the interstate (I'm so classy), hung off a ballet bar for 45 minutes until several tendons popped (that's how you know you're "done" -- kinda like cooking), ate the rest of my leftovers on the ride home and then had the following text conversation:
Me: Considering starting a photo collection entitled "Things I Have Accidentally Dropped Into the Bottomless Abyss Between My Driver's Seat and Center Console" featuring countless selfies portraying the look of horror on my face while innumerable items have slid out of my grasp into oblivion. Yesterday it was sliced beets, today it was sweet potato skin. 

Friend: Sliced beets, really? Most people drop quarters or pens. 

Me:  There's quarters and pens down there too.

Friend: at least it's staying healthy down there
I can explain the sweet potato thing.

So, I peeled off all the skin and savored the juicy insides and then while I was carefully exiting the car with the refuse, my roommie zoomed past and rolled his window down frantically. I stopped in my tracks lest I step into his unpredictable path.

His head swiveled wildly as he surveyed the street. "Can you move your car up so I can fit behind you??"

Since he was in a rush, I dove back behind the wheel but in the frenzy, the container popped open and potato skins went flying everywhere. Somehow they ended up in that goddamn black hole next to the seat. (Whoever invents an impermeable center console can charge an extra $5,000 -- I had JUST vacuumed it over the weekend!) But I guess that's what happens when you need to eat food fast and refuse to eat fast food.

Bed beckons. Night!

Here's The Best Advice From A Single Guy Who Spent A Year Interviewing Couples (article link)

“One woman in Georgia gave some pretty amazing advice. She and and her husband have been married for over 60 years, and after being asked what her best relationship advice would be, she paused and said…‘Don’t be afraid to be the one who loves the most.’”
"If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me."
- WH Auden

(Quote cited from user22013 on the original Reddit thread)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sharing the process means sharing the road

Not sharing your inside process sure makes you look a lot stronger and more capable. A friend of a friend who just landed an amazing job understood this. He applied for 400 positions. The 399 rejection letters crushed him each time, but he didn't share that part. When the offer finally came in, he announced the great news on Facebook and received countless applause. 

Would he have been more accessible, more... *human* if he'd said, "I keep trying and failing" during the process? It took him almost 2 years  but no one knew how many setbacks he faced, how many times he lost his own confidence or will.

Same with the marathon trainer, people see your intent and then your result. If you don't talk about the in-between, everyone thinks it's seamless. 

That's why I have mixed feelings about this blog. I want to seem strong, to announce things when they're cemented but I hate the kinds of false pretenses society teasingly invites, erecting walls between us instead of inspiring the journey. (I hate to sound new agey but it IS a journey, isn't it? We may not always get what we hope but we learn things along the way, why not share the road?)

(Sent from my phone)

How to Choose a Mate: Psychology Today article

Behavior is constantly in flux in a feedback loop. "[The way] behaved toward the women, which in turn drove the way the women behaved toward the men." Good article:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

19 Questions You Wish You Could Ask Their Ex

I saw this article in my twitter feed right after I woke up from a dream in which I had a conversation with my ex's ex, and she was so sweet to me. Whyyyy I dreamt of this, no idea! We never met in person but I like the nicer questions in this list:

19 Questions You Wish You Could Ask Their Ex

(Sent from my phone)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bagels and locks

When my mom first moved from NYC to the (then) sleepy suburb she later started a family in, she went to the supermarket to look for bagels and lox. The store was small and she was used to moving quickly but a fast scan yielded no sign of the ingredients needed to make her favorite tasty sandwich. She finally decided to ask someone for help.
"Excuse me," she inquired of the man at the register. "Where are bagels and lox?"

He looked at her and without missing a beat, replied, "Bagels are at the bakery and locks are at the hardware store, miss."
I wanted a bagel & lox today but alas did not leave my house - another snowpocalypse hit the region and work was closed. I had the next best thing, however: a giant leafy salad. I must have been a rabbit in a previous life. (Do rabbits eat lox?)

I planned to spend the day relaxing and perhaps that very attitude is what spurred the redesign of one of my websites. I'm shifting gears all over the place, personally and professionally, and it feels so good to dive into a creative project! (Now how many more chances for snow will we have left this winter?)

I'm in significantly better spirits than the tone of my last post implied - for one, it's not midnight and I'm not thinking of my failings (not a great pastime, it turns out -- who knew?), AND I got to have fun, for like, 4 hours straight. The old saying used to be that salt water cured everything: sweat, tears or the sea but I think that should include creative sweat.

(Sent from my phone)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


They're starting to think fibromyalgia is a disorder of the nervous system; that pain is perceived because the brain's perception is hypersensitive. The nerves are so raw that normal stimulation hurts. The state of sensitivity has existed so long that the brain has almost forgotten how to process anything any other way.

Maybe this is what happens after a terrible life change. Life rubs off the protective outer layer of your heart and you walk around raw and wounded, aching at the slightest brush. The Cyclist had his arms all wrapped around me and had fallen into a peaceful sleep but I lay awake, just like that Springsteen song, a freight train running through my head, barreling through the peace I'd felt earlier in the theatre while spooning both the armrest and the handsome boy next to me.

I knew sleep was miles away and so I twisted my body in the other direction, reaching for something to read so I could fill up my thoughts. Occupy my brain. Shut the gates, I don't want to think right now. Close the goddamn dam.

Of course, he woke up when he felt me shift and, thoughtful, sweet soul that he is, sleepily asked if everything was alright. I wanted my happy, secure voice to come out. "Fine," I wanted to say, and mean it. "Go back to sleep, sweetie," I wanted to say. But what came out instead was a squeak that betrayed me, and dammit if even half-asleep he's got that fucking radar that all men seem to have when a woman somewhere within a 50-foot radius is about to cry.

I had been lying there in the dark thinking about how I talk too much about my past, it is still too alive. I haven't put it away yet. I don't know how. But I've been rude, it occurs to me. And oblivious. How could anyone understand how important they are with such shadows looming overhead? Why wasn't I stronger? Why couldn't I move forward?

I didn't know how to share all this and what came out was some version of maybe I'm just broken; my hopeless, pitiful side hungry for air time. He hugged me anyway and said all the right things, his voice soothing, enveloping me in a calm compassion and I laid still, listening, absorbing his words. He brought me back to the present slowly and kindly and soon I was able to drift off to sleep.

But the shadows are still there.

Maybe it's the upcoming anniversary.

Winter reminds me of that time I threw open the door and invited the north wind in to blow the house down. The cold that seeped into my bones then, hollowing them out with a loss that has made it impossible to stand upright since. I chose diminishment because I didn't see any other choice. It's about 4 years ago now but each year, the season seems to sneak up on me in surprise.

Daniel Jones Modern Love - Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (With the Help of 50,000 Strangers) - Marie Claire

"Daniel Jones edits the Modern Love column in the New York Times. He says that after reading 50,000 submissions over the course of a decade, he realizes that the best way to be fulfilled in a relationship is to settle for imperfection and focus on being your best self."

(Sent from my phone)

Who Is the Perfect Partner? | Psychology Today

"Psychology Today describes the best romantic relationship as not necessarily with the partner who has the best traits, but rather the partner who allows you to grow into your best self. "

(Sent from my phone)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

And so it goes

I don't always write about stuff right when it happens, and last week I wasn't sure how to pen this. A friend and I briefly conversed about seeing if there was a spark -- for the second time -- and I shut it down before it started. It feels shitty to do this but the worst part is being on the receiving end where it feels nonnegotiable. You don't even get a chance to find out why. I'm so sorry. :(

I asked about this in my "dating" class and the instructor said cheerfully, "Rejection is a gift! It allows the person to find someone who can be what they want & need!" but it sure doesn't feel like that when it happens.

When I'm on that end (we've all been on both ends -- like when Alex ended it, saying, "we eat too differently, it's just not going to work," I slumped, pulling out the small knife in my heart while composing a cheerful "oh no worries that's fine!" reply), I try to imagine that people are like clothes. A gorgeous sweater won't fit everyone the same way.

And so it goes.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Little boy tears up over "Say Something" (same song that gets me too)

Today while driving, I heard, "Say Something," a song that's so beautifully melancholy I cannot turn it off even as it sends me inward. After the song, a DJ commented, "Did you see the video of the little boy crying over this song? Check it out on our website!"

When I heard that, I was annoyed. Isn't a kid's privacy not worth violating? Let him have a cry in peace, for heaven's sake, why would anyone post such a video? (Then again, I guess people do this with babies all the time and I don't think twice about that, so where's the line? I'm not really sure, but I wanted to see the video anyway to see what everyone was talking about.)

Once I watched it, I felt less judgy. I'm not saying this is what I would have done but why should a glimpse of humanity be shameful? Sadness is not something we should have to hide. Obviously this little boy hadn't been through a breakup but even he can understand the pain of loss at that deep, wordless level the song transports you to.

I think it's beautiful that even though the song made him sad, he still wanted to hear it. There's something compelling about wanting to stay with a feeling through your depths and not running away: this is what it means to be alive, to be human... this range of emotion that can at times feel like a curse and yet binds us all no matter our differences. And isn't it touching to see this small example of a sweet little boy you can imagine will grow up to be a kind man?

Original song:

Say Something by A Great Big World

Say something, I'm giving up on you
I'll be the one, if you want me to
Anywhere I would've followed you
Say something, I'm giving up on you

And I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all

And I will stumble and fall
I'm still learning to love
Just starting to crawl

Say something, I'm giving up on you
I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you
Anywhere I would've followed you
Say something, I'm giving up on you

And I will swallow my pride
You're the one that I love
And I'm saying goodbye

Say something, I'm giving up on you
And I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you
And anywhere I would've followed you (Oh-oh-oh-oh)
Say something, I'm giving up on you

Say something, I'm giving up on you
Say something... 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Nailed it.

From the Huffington Post
List of boyfriend rules 
Compiled by two little girls, aged 6 & 9
(From the Huffington Post)

1. Nice hand writing
2. Cuteness
3. Likes parents
4. Not living with parents
5. Good manners
6. Good artist
7. Dresses well
8. Takes you to nice places
9. Nice place
10. Likes children/wants children
11. Nice jewelry
12. Listens
13. Don't pick your nose
14. No kissing on first date
15. Marry someone who respects you
16. Smart
17. Good cook
18. Has a good job
19. Always happy
20. Clean
21. Respect different religions
22. Last name not weird
23. Very fun
24. Makes you laugh
25. Eats healthy
26. Takes care of body
27. Doesn't tattletale
28. Brushes teeth and floss
29. Likes YOUR job
30. Take care of pet

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kicking sweet tooth to the curb

When you're on the third day of anything, it sounds pathetic. "It's our three-day anniversary!" "I've been getting enough sleep for three whole days!" "It's the third day of my diet!" "I've been over him for THREE days now."
So happy for you.
Why bother mentioning anything? Just bring it up when it's actually a success. Nobody needs to see the whole process.

Well, it IS the third day of my diet but I still want to mention it because ho, this is haaaard.
Do not want.
I'm supposed to avoid sugar for 8 weeks!!

Did you know sugar is in almost every fucking salad dressing? I also have to avoid sucrose, high fructose corn syrup (any form of fructose, really, including hateful bananas), simple carbs (because your body is all over that shit and starts digesting it before you even finish swallowing), sugar alcohols (goodbye, sugarfree gum), juice, ALL of it. I'm walking around with a jar of anise seeds in my purse so I could chew on those instead of gum. (Seriously, that is the allowed substitute.)

Why am I doing this, you might ask?

This one minute clip explains it:

I have tried to avoid sweets before but could never really pull it off long-term. After a not insignificant amount of reading about sweets (sugar lights up the same areas of the brain as heroin, FYI), willpower, and health, I decided to attack the issue at its source. I wanted to not want it. I do great at avoiding what I don't want. Like, veggies are awesome, I eat them all the TIME. But that's because I want them.
Source: Thug Kitchen!
But as much as I love veggies, they do NOT replace the yawning chasm of need for chocolate with peanut butter. Sure, you can eat a fudgesicle instead but if you're trying to actually lose weight, cycles of leptin and ghrelin, the satiation & hunger hormones, can get outta whack because eating sugar causes more sugar cravings. No one ever finished a gargantuan tub of ice cream and said, "welp, I'm good for a decade!" Nope. You want it again. Maybe even 5 minutes later.
Anyway, the idea is, spend 66 days cementing this because that's how long it takes to form a habit. Then, when sugar is reintroduced, the sweet tooth should be much more sensitive, leaving it possible to be satisfied with much less.
Yesterday I had a low-grade headache all day but someone said those were part of the withdrawal symptoms. Physical symptoms from withdrawal of sugar? Huh. I expected cravings and hunger but that's about it. Anyway, that's what's new. Stay tuned. If I'm in a bad mood for the rest of February, now you know why.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

"Homework" from dating class: list of traits

The next bit of "homework" from my dating class is to establish values and traits that are important when choosing a partner. Non-negotiables are what someone needs to have to even consider dating. Nice-to-haves are bonus extras. Not dealbreakers, but something I would like to have in a partner.

  • No drugs
  • Good job (I want similar ambition to me)
  • Close in age (ideally -3ish or +7ish)
  • Available (physically and emotionally) (no one who's in a relationship or just out of a marriage)
  • Nonsmoker
  • Faithful, not a player
  • Mutual chemistry
  • Treats me well
  • Similar give & take / reciprocity
  • Comfortable together
  • Easy (no fighting or drama)
  • Fit & pays attention to health
  • Kind
  • Easygoing
If a dude has all those things AND the following two more, I will marry him:
  • Crazy about me
  • BFF
As I have shown, I will date someone who isn't crazy about me as long as they treat me well and there are other really nice things about the relationship but I will never marry someone without those two additional qualities. I need my partner to be head over heels about me (as I will be about them). I've experienced it before and know what it feels like, thus will not settle for anything less when settling down.

  • Jewish
  • Funny
  • Calm
  • Happy & content
  • We are both givers and enjoy giving to each other
  • A family man, someone who centers their life around their partner, a man who values his home (because I do and I am good at paying a lot of attention to my man)
  • Fun/playful

What did you learn from making these lists?

That my non-negotiables are more about how someone treats me and how we feel about each other than about what they look like or their personal habits or preferences.

Why is it important to be crazy about the person you decide to get serious with? Isn't it enough to just work really well together?


As put by a friend:
"You could compare the current dating biosphere to a bad high-school prom. The music sucks, the punch is lame, and the cool kids and hotties knew not to show up in the first place. What's left is everyone who had nothing better to do on a Friday night. You got anything better to do? No? Then, eh, sure, date the guy across the hall. It sounds like it would go fine. You'd settle in together. Combine possessions. Comingle finances and other practical and sensible things for people heading towards a lazy commonlaw marriage. Apathy makes it all happen, eventually. And someday, after years of eating the same dinner every Tuesday at TGIFridays, you'll look over and see two young people in love, absolutely crazy in love with each other, it's like they're on fire and don't even know it, and you'll wonder, Huh, what's that like? Meh. Whatevs. Why is my burger taking so long?"
 And also, good advice from the Psychology Today blog: How to Pick a Better Boyfriend or Girlfriend. It's all about the traits that actually matter, long-term, not anything in a list; check it out.