One Bite at a Time

When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.

It seems that’s a good rule of thumb for a lot of things in life, isn’t it?  Often I find that if I look too far ahead and try to think about all my upcoming deadlines and plans and stresses, I get overwhelmed and just want to curl into a little ball and watch Gossip Girl.  (Sidenote: actually, I think I might be giving up that show.  It’s just mildly depressing to watch a show about teenagers who have way more sex than me.  Not that that’s hard, since I am not having any.  But you get my drift.) 

But anyway.  Like I was saying, looking too far ahead can make me panic.  But if I break down what I have to do into bite-sized portions, it seems much more manageable.

And so it goes with therapy.  My last session was two weeks ago (because of a Labor Day hiatus) and that was the day I really had my eyes opened to how much work I have to do in being able to express my emotions.  And my first reaction was omething along the lines of “Fuuuuck!”

But my friends and dear readers reassured me that this is something that we all struggle with, that in a relationship I will work on this with someone else, and that it’s a process.  My friend O. said she didn’t want me to feel like a “ticking time bomb.”  And yeah, I guess that is honestly how I felt.  So one bite at at a time it is.

Still, it is a hard path to figure out how to make little changes and alterations, day to day.  Sometimes I feel like not only do I have a hard time expressing my feelings, I don’t even know what that means.  Today my therapist was asking me about the guys I have been seeing and was asking me about my dates with guy #1.  I told her that we had good conversations.

So have you talked about your feelings with him?  I don’t mean your feelings FOR each other, but just in general.

Well…not really.  I mean, that’s hard to do early on, we don’t know each other that well.

It isn’t always hard.  It isn’t hard with everyone.  So what did you talk about on the hike, besides the plants you were seeing along the way?

I don’t know.  I guess I don’t know what you mean by talking about feelings. 

Well, like happy, sad, etc.  As opposed to talking about thinking things, like talking about Obama vs. McCain.   Though I suppose you could have feelings about that.

Oh, believe me, I do.

So what if a guy talks about his feelings?  Does that make it easier?

Well, yeah, I guess then I find it easier to open up.

****

Dear readers, what do you think?  What does “talking about feelings” mean to you in the first-few-dates context?  Do you talk about your feelings?  When, and to whom?

My “homework” for the week is to take notice of when I am feeling something and don’t express it, and then what happens with the feeling — where it goes and what I do with it.  I feel like I should start carrying a note pad around with me and jotting it down or something.

She also wants me to keep note of my dreams.  I haven’t had a dream I remembered in a long time, but I’m pretty sure the last dream I recall involved me having a long drawn out screaming fight with my mom.  My therapist’s eyes widened when I told her that — therapy pay dirt!! — but I told her that not only do I not recall the last fight I had with my mom, I don’t even remember the last time I felt angry with her.  (Mildly annoyed at her need to set me up with her students, yes.)  She explained to me that maybe the character of my mom wasn’t really my mom.  Okaaay…well, for now that is an unsolved mystery, I suppose.

In the meantime, I am off to the ominous task of feeling my feelings and – gasp! – expressing my feelings.  On the scary scale, that is pretty damn high up there.

But I know I’ll get there eventually….

One bite at a time.

Two Steps Behind

Last month, my dear friend S. got married.  (Sadly, she got married the same day that my BFF M. got married in England, so I had to miss S.’ wedding!  Daaa!)  Today I came home and in the mail was a thank-you card for the wedding gift I purchased for them, and it was a postcard with a darling picture of S. and her husband on their honeymoon.   So I put it up on my fridge.

Then I stepped back and surveyed my fridge.  Engagement photos, wedding photos, holiday photo cards.  My kitchen is a veritable scrapbook of all my friends’ happy relationships.  And I smile every time I look at these photos, because yes, I am a shmoopy person, and I love that kind of stuff.

But today I took a step back and thought, Wow.  I never thought at this age, I’d be here. 

I never thought that while I watched all my friends get married, I would be the anomaly.

I never thought that I would become the token single girl, entertaining my coupled friends with stories of my dating life.

I never thought that I would go to so many weddings without a “plus-one.”

I never thought that I’d be twenty-eight and be set up with guys by my mother.

All those things almost didn’t happen.  If I had stayed with my ex, we would be celebrating our 1st wedding anniversary on the 29th.  And I don’t wish that were the case, I truly don’t.  I know I made the right decision — he wasn’t the person I was meant to be with. 

But I do want that with somebody — the right somebody.  And I know he’s out there.  I know there are many people out there who I could be happy with.  And in the meantime, there are lots of great things in my life.

But sometimes, I just wish that the guy, whoever and wherever he may be, would just hurry the hell up and meet me already.

Letdown

I hope that my dear readers enjoyed a fun and relaxing Labor Day weekend — I certainly did.  Two dinners out, two hikes, two dates (with one boy), one Jack Johnson concert, one birthday BBQ and lots of time with friends. 

But tonight I am totally overwhelmed with an inexplicable feeling of blah.  I can’t tell if it’s just the post-weekend letdown, the dread of going back to work (even though I worked a good chunk of time today to try to make it easier for me tomorrow), some hormonal thing or what, but I’m feeling a level of sadness that I haven’t felt since some time before the England/Paris extravaganza. 

Whenever I feel this way — which had been far less often, and it scares me that maybe the perpetual feeling of malaise is taking root again — I start to question.  I wonder whether I am really at a place where i should be trying to date and meet someone.  Everyone seems to think that putting myself out there, as I have been doing, is the right thing to do.  And intellectually, when I’m feeling happy, I agree with them.

But then I start feeling this way and I just want to burrow.

Open or Closed?

***Navel-gazing ahead!! Consider yourself warned.***

I have plenty of happy things to write about, but then I had a thought-provoking session with my therapist today, and the things we talked about pushed right to the forefront of my mind. I’ve been purposefully not writing much about therapy, partly because it’s so personal and partly because recently, I have felt like she’s been exploring areas that don’t exactly feel relevant to me. But today, she really made me take a step back and evaluate myself.

She’s made comments in the past that while she sees me as being at a high level intellectually, that my ability to express my emotions isn’t very developed. Today she said that she can see in my face sometimes that I am upset and that my chin quivers a little bit, but that I never actually let myself cry.

“This is a safe space,” she said. “You always seem like you almost get there and then you pull yourself together.”

I know. I’ve just always hated crying in front of other people. Even my best friends.

Why do you think that is?

I don’t know, I’ve just always hated it. It just makes me feel embarrassed and uncomfortable.

Have you ever seen your parents cry?

Yes, yes, of course.

And did you think there was something wrong with that?

Well…no.

So it’s OK for other people but not for you?

…and so on. Then she asked me, “what about anger?”

When I’m angry I usually just bottle it up.

So where does that anger go?

Well…time goes by and it just goes away, I guess.

I explained to her that even though most of my friends are really good and upfront about telling people when they are upset, and I really admire that trait, I just have a block about doing it myself. I swear I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever yelled at someone.

And then it was as though my whole relationship life flashed before my eyes, and I thought how different some of my relationships might have been if I had stepped up and not been afraid to express what I was feeling, for better or for worse. I think of myself as being too emotionally available, but I feel like really what I’ve been doing is putting my feelings up at stake (in the sense that I feel things strongly) but not really being candid or emotionally open, because I so often keep inside what I’m really thinking or feeling.

I said this to her and she said, “well if you think back like that, then it makes you wrong, or it makes everything seem like your fault.” So, onward and upward I suppose. But if I am really as emotionally closed off as she suggests, how do I ever begin to change that?

(My ex-boyfriend A. called me tonight just to chat. When we hung up, I thought about my therapy session and almost called him back to say, “do you think I’m emotionally retarded?” before I realized that he was the last person who I would trust to answer a question like that. He is so non confrontational, he makes me look like a screamer. Anyway.)

I keep thinking that this right guy is just around the corner and that when he appears into my life, we will fit together like puzzle pieces and things will be — not easy all the time, of course, but basically simple and compatible. But what if …fuck, what if there is some fundamental thing that is keeping me from being able to be in a real relationship?

I guess this shouldn’t be such a shock to me. I’m in therapy, obviously there are things about myself that can stand to undergo a major change. But with this, I don’t know, it feels like a huge hurdle. It feels like a way bigger hurdle even than the unnamed sadness I was fighting for so many months, because that almost felt like something outside of myself that I needed to purge.

But this…this is just me. And frankly, I don’t even know where to start.

Is It Just Me?

As my dear readers know, on Friday night/Saturday morning, after an evening of barhopping in downtown L.A., some Jameson’s and some unsuccessful flirting with boys, I returned home and zipped off a nasty email to EHB.  It would require a lot more background to explain what led me to do this than I really want to go into here, but the short(ish) version is this.  As you know, we had a fabulous 1st date followed by several more dates.  These dates included him forcing, in a very backward way (by his “ask me anything” game), some heart to hearts in which I revealed some of my relationship fears.  Our dates also included a couple of memorable sleepovers.  Then, on our last date, last Sunday, at a concert I had brought him to with my co-workers, I asked him if he was dating other people and he said yes, he was dating other people but not sleeping with other people.  He wanted to talk more about our relationship but given the exceedingly poor timing/venue I didn’t want to.  Also at the concert, he was looking at the calendar on his BlackBerry, I joked about whether I could get penciled in for the following week, and he listed off activities for every night of the week except “maybe Friday.”  He had to leave early, and the next day (a week ago today) he sent me a Gmail chat saying “we’ll have our conversation soon! 🙂 ”

Now, I know he has been exceptionally busy at work.  But I also know that his BlackBerry is practically an appendage.  He has blatantly texted and emailed friends in my presence (much to my annoyance – can you at least try to keep that under wraps the 1st few dates?)  So I didn’t think it was too much to ask that he might send me a text or email during the week.  But no — the entire week passed with radio silence.  No “hey how are you,” no trying to make plans, nothing. 

So, bottom line is, I was pissed.  And I drafted an email.  The email said, in essence, that I was disappointed and pissed that after all the heart-to-hearts in which I confessed my fears and he told me he wouldn’t be like the others, he was EXACTLY like all the others. 

And I was tipsy.  And I hit send.

At the time, I really didn’t expect him to respond.  But sure enough, after not hearing anything all weekend, today I received a novel-length email from him.  I have grappled with whether to share this with the internets, but I decided it’s the only way I can get the reality check I want.   Here goes:

Hey SF,

I have been thinking for a while about how to respond.  I can definitely say that you are reacting differently than the situation warrants.  I have not “up and left”, (note from SF – I did NOT use the expression “up and left”), rather have been dealing with a hectic week (last week), workload, change in business direction, and have been having enough problems with my heart (SVT) that I’m going to see a cardiologist.  Last week while trying to exercise, my heart rate was 216 bpm after running about 30 feet. I can assure you I’ve had a lot going on.

So… having told me that you are pissed off really makes me wonder where you are coming from and what I have done to you.  I did not intend to hurt you in any way and in fact work with a therapist (as you know) in trying to understand the best way to operate in any kind of relationship  When I said at the concert that we both should be continuing to try to meet people, that is actually a very healthy thing to do (per expert advice).  It seems you took away from our discussion that I wasn’t interested.

You deserve a lot and you are a fantastic and intelligent person.  I think you have–just as I do–plenty of work to do in understanding your feelings in a relationship and knowing how to react to someone else’s actions and not make assumptions.  Your reaction and response below made me a little sad, but definitely speaks to the fact that if there is a kind of tension or some set of expectations beyond what we have ever discussed I cannot interact with you because it would be a negative situation for both of us.  We really hadn’t talked much about what to expect, so getting this cathartic email was a bit of a surprise.

I don’t know where this leaves us, but I do know that I have a lot of work to do, need to stay focused so work doesn’t keep stressing me out, get in shape and figure out my heart thing, and I’ll be traveling often in the next three weeks.  Take care, and if you want to talk later, feel free to reach out.

EHB

***

Ok, dear readers.  Time to give it to me straight.  Three questions: 1) Was I a total loon to react by sending that email in the 1st place?  2) Am I wrong to be thoroughly annoyed by his response? and finally 3) Do I respond and, if so, what do I say?

Pls help.  Thx.

I Give Up

Yes, I know that drinking + blogging = danger, Will Robinson.  In fact, drinking + internet usage in general = danger.  I know this because approximately 10 minutes ago, I sent EHB a nasty email that I’m sure I will live to regret.  But I had typed it up earlier today, saved it in my drafts to “sleep on” it, then my half-drunken finger had a mind of its own and pressed “Send” before I could even think too much about it.  Oopsies!  No matter, I know he won’t respond anyway (the email doesnt call for a response), so it doesn’t much matter what I say, right?  In fact, I wish that I had given up all self censors and just told him to go fuck himself, but I retained much more propriety than that.

Anyway, I just had one of those nights that makes me feel that 1) God, I’m old and 2) God, I need to get the hell out of this godforsaken city!!  I made the rounds of the bars in downtown LA tonight with T. and her fiance K. as my diligent wingpeople.  We scoped out any eligible bachelors, they encouraged me at every turn, and yet at every turn it seemed that I was kicked out of the game by girls more beautiful than I, who were 6-7 years my junior.   Could it get more depressing?

I know what you’re going to say: SF, why are you even trying to meet a guy in a bar anyway?  Well, I agree that’s not the ideal place to meet someone, but at the same time I think it’s just a microcosm of the dating scene as a whole, online dating included.  Why would a guy date me when he can date my younger, hotter counterpart? 

And I know pessimism won’t get me anywhere but I just can’t help but feel that he’s NOT really out there and that I am looking fruitlessly for nothing.  

I am almos t desperate to leave L.A.  But where, dear readers, should I go?

Style vs. Substance

This week I have had, dear readers, what you might call a relationship epiphany.  An aha! moment.  The lightbulb going on.  It’s both awesome and sort of troubling.  Here goes.

Between conversations with my therapist, N.  and with my informal, pro bono relationship advisers T. and M., I have given a lot of thought this week to what I have liked or been attracted to in the last few guys that I’ve dated, basically since my ex-fiance.  As I tried to think about what drew me to these guys I recognized an undeniable pattern.  All of them were guys I felt physically attracted to or felt chemistry with — in some cases, totally overwhelming, crazy chemistry.  All of them were guys who were really smart/witty.  But there was not a one — not a ONE, people — who I could say with a straight face is a truly sweet, kindhearted person.  And in theory (according to my online dating profiles, according to what I always think of when I think of my ideal life partner, according to what I say I want to everyone), kindheartedness is at the top of my list.  And yet none of these guys have been that person.  None of these guys have been someone about whom I could say, “Even if you took away the sexual chemistry and intrigue, this is someone I’d want in my life as a friend.”  In fact, when I erase the lust factor, some of these guys aren’t people that I like very much as people, at all!  What is wrong with this picture?

M. tried to get me to think about this months ago, to which I responded something like “yeah, yeah, yeah.”  She pointed out that I might meet a guy who is smart and sweet and kind and caring, and I might overlook him because he’s not the height I want or various other superficial things.  At the time, I responded, “yeah, but if I go for someone I’m not totally hot for, then I’ll just be settling.”

But I really think I get it now.  It’s not that I will end up with someone I have no spark with, because there has to be a spark (IMHO).  But I also can’t overlook people 100% because of superficial characteristics, and then simultaneously “settle” in regards to certain personality characteristics, which I have been doing.  With each of the last several guys there has always been something (pessimism, drinking excessively, what have you) that has raised a red flag or made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and I have just turned a blind eye because 1) I was attracted to these people in some way and 2) I wanted that badly to be in a relationship.

Well, dear readers, that ends here.  From now on, I am screening my guys for more than compatibility over cocktails or in bed.  I am going to look at the person and say, ok, I may be hot for you now, but are you the person I am going to want across the breakfast table from me in 10, 20, 50 years?  If the answer is no, then move along, please.

Which is a perfect segue to my update about EHB.  Unsurprisingly (sorry to those of you who have been rooting for him), I have not heard a peep from him since he promised we’d have our “conversation” “soon.”  My normal M.O. in the past when I feel like a guy is fading away is to 1) freak out and 2) reach out and text them, IM them, call them, etc to try to keep the thing going.  I would chase these boys till I was blue in the face, but never really think about why I was trying so hard to chase them and what i would do if I caught them.

So I thought about IMing EHB, and then I thought about what the outcome would be, and whether it would be what I want.  I thought about whether I even wanted what I thought I wanted — a relationship with EHB.  And I realized the answer was no.  I realized that despite some great early dates and some good chemistry, there were also some big red waving flags that I was stubbornly ignoring.  And why would I go chasing after that?  For the momentary intrigue, the excitement, the potential of some good sex (sigh).  But that’s it.  Not a compelling reason, dear readers, is it?

So I refrain, and I will let this one die the natural death that it should.  And in all honesty, I feel incredibly peaceful about it.

When I start freaking out about the next boy, make me come back and read this, will ya?