Relief

I can’t even begin to tell you the immense relief I felt when I woke up this Sunday morning.

The anxiety, the trepidation, the overwhelming sadness I have been struggling with for 2weeks seems to have lifted. I literally feel lighter.

I didn’t understand what was happening to my mind and body the past couple weeks. I was really afraid I was internalizing the dating rejections worse than I was allowing myself to believe since that’s a typical trigger for me.

But it wasn’t. Everything I wrote about lightbulbs and a better understanding of myself is true. The gears have shifted.

Then, I thought, how could the one incident with my boys send me flying over an edge and free falling to the point I felt crazy, hyper and needed an emergency call to the therapist.

It didn’t occur to me until I woke this morning, happy and peaceful. I lie in bed trying to understand what felt different. I was sleeping in my sisters home after a big birthday bash for her the evening before and I was definitely nursing a little hangover. I had this feeling of emptiness and joy, literal lightness.

I started to think about a few things since my brain seemed to be less foggy and muddled. I felt something within my grasp but couldn’t quite articulate it. It wasn’t until I had a almost 3 hour drive home that my mind cleared the way for me.

It was exactly 1 year ago on September 7th I had my elective surgery. I had come through, what I thought was, the most debilitating period of my life and was in a long, painful spiral downwards. The surgery was meant to give me a reset, to take back one thing in my life that I could control. Of course, we all know that’s not how it worked out for me. My emotional breakdown turned almost fatal.

I know, very well, I buried Mexico. I don’t think about it. I don’t want to think about it. I buried it in a chest somewhere deep never to be opened again by anyone. Ever. I mean it. I don’t want to discuss it or go back to it. It’s such a dark period for me that I just know I will never want to revisit it and experience the pain again. I have always been good at pushing things away and I can keep this one buried deep.

So what’s left when you don’t address the pain? Shame, embarrassment, guilt, sadness and a whole bevy of other assorted negative feelings.

The biggest and most painful of those is shame. Shame for what I did to myself. Shame for what I put the ones I loved through. Awful, terrible, gut-wrenching shame. It’s one of the few feelings I don’t often experience. I never felt shameful about my affairs I don’t think I’ve done much in my life to be ashamed of. I believe the past two weeks my mind is trying to dig up / relive / let-go of something from that time a year ago. Because it’s so suppressed it manifested as physical warning signs.

It didn’t dawn on me until I woke up from from trepidation and anxiety that I had been harboring so much shame within, but I know now that’s the feeling I’ve been struggling with. Shame is such an ugly word and it feeds the inner voice that says “I’m not worthy and I’m not loved”. I had just finished listening to a Brene Brown book where she spoke about shame – she says – in order to cut shame off at the knees you need to talk about it.

When that little nugget of advice came back to me I knew that was exactly what was about to happen. Somehow my body knew before my mind (it always does I just never quite understand it). I felt so loved and cherished and adored being around my sister and her family and friends (and my birth father) that shame had no room to keep corroding my every thought.

To make sure I kept shame at bay I also spoke to my sister and her mother. I explained that I had been feeling shame for the past year and that what I did cast such a shadow over the happiest time of her life (she got engaged the day I had surgery). I was so disgusted by feelings of shame that it was making me weak and ill all over again. They both reinforced how much I was loved, forgiven, and an important part of the family. That I wasn’t bad, I had just done something wrong.

My body was telling me it was time to move from shame to guilt. Guilt is ok. I did a bad thing. But I am not a bad person.

I cannot change what happened, but I can make reparations and take a new path. A path to a stronger, better me. A better parent, sister, friend.

I’ve been taking all those steps and doing so quite consciously. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished and even more proud that I just squashed some shame like a bug.

I’m still relieved, even 2 days later. No more panic and anxiety.

I knew something big was coming.

Unlocking myself hasn’t been easy, but I’m getting there. Reducing shame to guilt is a big step forward. I kept thinking something was going to happen TO me, but instead, something happened because of me.

Down in the Dumps

This episode with my kids knocked me way, way down.

And I’m guessing it’s obvious to my friends, or I’ve gotten them scared to death, because they are checking, checking, checking on me a couple times a day.

I can’t knock it.

First, the physical. I feel like I want to cry, like really cry. Get it out. I can’t. I just can’t for some reason. My insides are still buzzy as if they are in high alert. I don’t like this consistent feeling as it signals to me I’m waiting for something bad to happen.

Next, the mental. I’m playing some sort of waiting game. I don’t even know what I’m waiting for but that’s how it feels. I feel like I’m looking for something that’s coming and I don’t know when or how. A couple weeks back, when this feeling started, it felt positive a like great things around the corner. It’s turned into something else, like dreaded anticipation.

I have forgiven my kids and myself for the argument. I made an appt with the therapist for the 4 of us and all of them are angry and rebellious about it. They have some said things that I attribute to their Dad, but I find myself questioning if I really am “that person.” One son said “get a boyfriend already and take the pressure off of us.” Another one said “you expect too much from us and you’re always disappointed”. My toughest guy told me that no one will ever love the way I love and that’s a direct quote from his Dad. I can’t figure out if they are sort of brainwashed or if this is how they see me through their “adult” eyes now. It’s really upsetting me.

I haven’t heard from Mike which admittedly unbalanced me, but I know there’s nothing I can do about it.

I’m upset my sisters mother doesn’t want me to have a plus one at the wedding AND the fact I don’t even have a plus one to ask. I feel like the next 3-4 months of family events that I am ALONE in capital letters.

This feeling of being alone is bothering me. I’ve said it many times but I just want a relationship of some sort already.

I do see, at least, how to help myself beware of my anxious attachment. I think it takes practice as I’ve still gotten little hurts along the way.

I don’t understand exactly how my mind works in terms of the attachment. Tom and Charles were pretty close to “getting it right from go” but my mind selected Mike above them in a way I’ve been able to disconnect from Tom and Charles easily, but less so from Mike. And before anyone says much, this is me in my head, I’m not acting on anything – there’s nothing to act on. In my opinion anyone who says “we’ve been on two dates” just drew a clear line in the sand that I’m not on his radar the way he might be in mine.

My friends think I have more on my plate than I am acknowledging and it’s slightly reminiscent of last summer. Kids, men and work all culminating into concerns at one time and layering on the anxiety. I truly don’t think I’m built for the same level of intensity I was able to put out before, I don’t feel that drive that makes me so strong. Not consistently.

I will write about work in a separate post but at the moment I can’t seem to pull myself up out of my depression.

Crap Travels Downward

The day passed as most do at my new role, uneventfully.

But not in my head. In my head my world seems to be be suffocating me. My body is anxious and disturbed.

On Mikes advice, I try to speak to the x. I knew this wasn’t the right advice for me but I want to try anything at this point to feel better.

What a waste of an hour. This man doesn’t even know his own child. I can’t deal with his stupidity. Even worse, he says he can’t take care of all 3 kids because he doesn’t have the room, he’s busy renovating his mothers basement and he has a life. This lit me right up. I’ve had those kids for 2+ years full time. I need a break and you better fucking figure it out for a few weeks. His answer: no, let them stay “home”. I was livid.

My answer to him was “not my problem you live in a 2 bedroom apartment for 5 years and don’t have space, that’s been your decision, for now you need to parent all 3 of your children together”.

I know I shouldn’t be. This is a man who only cares about himself, his mother and his own satisfaction. A mother who needs a break from a full time adult child has no choice but to care for her child or they are on the street because their father basically rejects his parental responsibility.

His answer: they are 20. Well, two of them will be twenty in a week, but our youngest is 16. Either way, we are responsible for them until they are out of college. He doesn’t see it that way. Nor does he care. He’s got a girlfriend and he’s got a sleepover on Thursday so my son has no where to sleep.

Their Dad is ok telling them to get lost that he has plans.

I am not ok with that. I am not that parent. He knows this so I am left with full time care of 3 kids while the father lives his life and I have a nervous breakdown.

I am so angry. I’m so angry that I made myself sick today. I had to call the therapist for an emergency appt on the phone – that’s how worried about myself I was. I could feel the gently wrapped threads unraveling at a very fast pace.

I took another hour to speak with her. She was genuinely concerned and worried, but had little to offer at the beginning than “you are in a very difficult, nearly impossible, situation”. Yes! I know that! But I’m calling you for answers and strategies!

Eventually we got there. I got a script together for my next steps. It’s not what I expected but it makes sense to me.

I really couldn’t function properly the rest of the day.

The sexting with Mike had me feeling regretful for some unknown reason and the behavior I had with my kids was just leaving me unsettled.

I did tell my group what’s going on with me. Closest friend took me out for drinks and listened. She’s single and in her 40s not much she can add in the way of parenting. But she was there for me when I needed her. Another friend thinks the boys deserve strong consequences (read punishment). When I asked her what she would do differently she couldn’t come up with anything different but insisted she would be tougher than me. This friend is the antithesis of me – never wants to be in another relationship as long as she lives, including parenting her children or being obligated as an adult child to her mother or sisters. She does it better than anyone I know but literally hates it. Again, she was there for me.

I hate that I feel like I need a male partner to support me. Is it because I didn’t get any male parenting while I was a child and haven’t ever seen my x parenting our children? I think there may be something in there. I need male validation and partnership because this has always been a void in my life.

That evening I made another mistake texting Mike while I was at the bar 2 solid glasses of wine in and starting the third on an empty stomach. It started funny and silly but then I made a comment that maybe he could be less distant and just more like the guy I met.

The response: you are really off base. I’ve been nothing but nice to you. We’ve been out twice. I’m sorry you had a bad day and a shitty x

Nothing like being put in your place.

I reread my text and I don’t know how he went from A to Z but he did. I apologized that he misinterpreted my request for him to just be flirty while I was having a bad night.

No mixed signals in his text, eh? When you remind someone you’ve only “been out twice” it’s pretty clear that’s all it was and all it will be. I knew that. Of course I did. I was the idiot who crossed a line because I should never have text him today AT ALL.

He would have come back when he was ready for more sex and not before. But my anxiety got the better of me. I was needy and went to the wrong person for comfort. I knew he wouldn’t or couldn’t give me what I needed but, yet, I still went.

After all – no one, not one person, could help me today. I wanted to go numb. I wanted to sit in a corner and rock and cry. That might have been better than trying to be strong. Maybe I should have taken the time to let it all out. I know that only I can help myself. If I had taken the time to walk through today’s scenarios calmly in my head I would never have made the call to the x or to Mike. I can only help myself. I know this and continue to fight it.

Now I am on a bus home, sitting next to a man who (if he bumps into me once more) I might punch. Dreading the fact that I need to have a conversation with two of my kids when I get home. It can’t wait.

The other kid is with his Dad but I don’t know what he will do Thursday and Friday if his dad kicks him out.

Is getting upset over the x and some dumb text to Mike the end of the world? No. However – I’m always concerned about losing control now. It was the same for a long while with the exercise, I was so afraid to miss even one day I exercised myself into oblivion. It was very, very hard to adjust to less exercise and not crucify myself when I missed a day for good reason. This little derailment is the same. I lost some control, I knew it what happening, I took mostly the right steps to correct it and I will get myself back on track (I think).

I’m obsessing at the moment and I think that’s pretty standard process for me. My mind has to flip everything over and beat it blue before I let go. I get into my head and spin myself into an endless loop that I have quite a bit of trouble breaking. I analyze over and over to see if different actions would have different results. It’s like replaying a horrible highlight reel.

I read an article that helped with post conflict redirection through mantra, and while this helps, I need to find one while I’m in the conflict (or on the brink of making poor decision or exhibit bad behavior)

I know I cannot Define myself by what happened. It’s a bump in the road and I will inch forward and recover. I’m writing as the outlet to help stop the rumination.

I need to reinforce to myself that I am valuable. I am worthy. I am god enough, strong enough, and smart enough. I need to establish a mantra I can repeat when feeling dating or kid anxiety. Mantras cut through the noise in my head and create peace and space. I’ve learned this from almost daily meditation but I need a short and sweet one I can put in my pocket and put on repeat.

I’m just struggling with this pit in my stomach I can’t seem to move past. Then I worry the pit is there for a reason I haven’t acknowledge and that scares me. My intuition is so sensitive and not often wrong. I’m not trying to ignore it I just don’t know what it’s telling me right now.

At the moment I am trying to repeat:

Whatever is meant to be, will be.

There is a time and place for everything.

This too shall pass.

I am still healing, learning and growing.

Everything happens for a reason, even if don’t understand that reason today.

The only thing under my control is me. Deep breaths. Chin up. One foot in front of the other.

Lightbulb Moment – Charles

I haven’t written about Charles yet, but the outcome is more important than the path taken to get there.

Charles was the last of the three frenzies swipes I met around the same time on Tinder. He was engaging immediately. Super interested. While this used to be my absolute favorite reaction in the past, now I proceed with caution. Anyone who tells me that I’m “all that and bag a chips” before they even met me now concerns me. Charles is really into me. I get it, I must be his type. But he’s already too smitten and I feel myself backing up before even getting started.

Charles checks all the boxes, just like the last few. Tall, handsome, educated, super-fucking-fit, intelligent and communicative. Kids similar ages. Nice parenting style.

He is handsome and fit on a level that I haven’t actually come across before. I would say men like Charles haven’t generally been interested in me, I was always too heavy.

Like Tom, he’s another talker. I can’t get a word in edgewise. He’s not interested in me, he’s interested in the idea of me. A beautiful, fit, intelligent partner. He’s described several of my physical attributes more than once so I know exactly what he likes. For him it’s all physical, I’m not really even sure how much it matters to him that I’m intelligent, a Momma, or have a career.

Sound like anyone you know?!

This light bulb hit me so hard when I realized that’s exactly how I process people!

The idea of someone. Not the person themselves. Do they check my boxes? People take time to get to know. I’m so busy checking all my boxes I overlook the actual connection or, more than likely, imagine a connection is there when it probably isn’t.

The next thing I realized: I am ALWAYS going to see myself as heavy/bigger. Always. It ain’t gonna change. I was curvy slim and athletic through my teenage years. Gained too much weight in college but lost it all in my 20s through 30. I didn’t grow up as a heavy kid or young adult so I don’t carry the same baggage as someone who has been heavy all their life. But once I had my 3rd child 17 years ago, the weight skyrocketed. Sometimes it also went down, but mostly I was well heavy for 10 years. The last 7 years somewhat less heavy. As you know, the weight seesaw finally tipped me over the edge. I was done with it. Being slim suits my perception of myself. I am more comfortable and confident in my own skin. What I’ve come to realize was the weight-shaming I thought I felt all those years is a real thing. Men talk about it to me now because they assume that I’ve always been fit and skinny. I can’t believe some of what I’ve heard from them – and now these are the men I attract.

I am under 130 pounds these days and way to skinny for my own taste (as well as anyone who knows me) but I’ve got health issues I can’t control. My bones are out but are now tightly wrapped in sinewy muscle. As long as I don’t move a certain way, you can’t see the loose skin (and there’s plenty of it everywhere).

Here’s the thing – never, have I ever, in my life been called skinny, lean or thin. Never. Maybe once before I got married. Maybe. But every bride loses weight before their wedding. Now I attract men who like skinny, toned women. That’s what they look for. Skinny. I can’t reconcile that word with me. And all of them, John, Mike, Tom and Charles speak about their dislike of heavy set women. They speak with disdain as well – they don’t understand how these people “let themselves go”. Guess what? I get insulted.

Even though I hated being heavy, fought with weight issues my entire life and chose a weight loss surgery, I still feel insulted by their discussion surrounding weight. And comparing me as a sexy, fit woman who takes care of herself as compared to “those heavy women”. Little do they know.

They have all touched my arms, shoulder and hips with delirious attention because the bone and muscle are most prominent on those areas. You would think I like this after all I’ve gone through to get here, but I’m finding it a bit repulsive in its own way. I can’t exactly explain. I believe I feel shame for being heavy and making the decision to have weight loss surgery and it’s not something one speaks about in early days of dating, if ever.

This all feels weird to me and is a side effect I could never have anticipated.

That was a long meandering way to explain the light bulb. I realize I am never going to tell my whole story to someone until I’m pretty solid in a relationship. Maybe not even ever. Im starting to subscribe to the thought that not everything needs to be revealed from my past. I’m too concerned about what a man thinks at the same time I’m trying to find a confident way to explain my wounds. I have no doubt – and maybe I’m wrong here, but this is my gut check – that a man who is so visually attracted to my “perfect thin, muscular body” (their words and it happens all the time now) is going to find issue when the clothes come off because I’m not what they expect.

The good news, I guess, is that the feeling of being insulted also makes one a bit defensive. I’ve started to think “fuck you and your ideals about a woman’s body because I am so much more than my scars”. To the point, with Charles, I found a way to tell him what was under the shirt he hadn’t lifted.

I’ve just explained so much without even telling the Charles story!

I suppose I better do that in a separate post.

I’m going to be living with my wounds, my history, my mistakes for the rest of my life. They made me the person I am today and will shape the better woman I am still becoming. I can’t revise history, but I don’t have to have verbal diarrhea anymore either. My interaction with Charles made me realize there are going to be people along the way who don’t deserve the story from me by way of explanation of my wounds. I cried in front of John when he asked what the bandage was about because of my own insecurity over how it would impact a yet undetermined future relationship with him, totally emotionally presumptive on my part and, ultimately, entirely wasted on someone who wasn’t going to be invested anyway. Charles wasn’t going to get that from me and nor will anyone else. I am glad it happened with Charles first because I wasn’t invested and I got to have a bravado I don’t often have.

We all have our preferences. I get it. John, Charles, Tom and Mike are all similar – very invested in physical appearances. I can’t allow this to bring me down any further than I already am about myself.

So Much on my Mind

Right now I feel like a could write a book. I’m no good at short versions of anything and so much has been churning inside of my head lately I wish there was a way to get it out as the thoughts happened and into the blog. It all seems so logical when I’m thinking of it, but when I go back to write it, so much seems to slip away and I end up not knowing where to start.

I felt like light bulbs have been turning on all over the place lately. I know it’s all tied up with my current situation in dating. I’m having a moment like I haven’t had in a very long time. My libido is back in full blast and it absolutely wreaks havoc on my good intentions to have better behaviors while dating.

The difference is – now I know it. And I realized I can do something about it. Maybe not the something some might prefer me to do (not drink, not have sex, not date kind of thing). I now realize if I decide to do the things I do, all I need to do is accept responsibility for what they are at face value and stop putting so much more time and wasted effort into wanting them to be more than they are

I’ve simply got to learn to accept that I can have sex, drink, be ridiculous and WALK AWAY once it’s over.

I’m going to stop feeling bad about myself after I make questionable decisions. Berating myself and becoming more anxious is serving no purpose. I need to own it.

The pressure my attachment anxiety puts on me in these dating situations has to stop. I’ve started having conversations with my anxiety similar to the way I would speak to Trixie if she ever materialized (god help us all).

Sound silly? Maybe. But if talking to myself is what it takes to own my behavior and course correct then so be it.

My dating cup is running over and I’m letting it. I feel like I’ve uncovered something big and want to see if I can put thought into practice.

My whole life has been spent looking for male approval. I didn’t get it from my father. I didn’t get it from husband. The first time I felt really and truly solid about myself the “approval” came from the wrong place (married men). In hindsight, I don’t know if that matters to what I have learned. I don’t think the man himself or the situations make any difference to what I took from them. In hindsight, I learned so much about myself and what I needed to feel good in relationship. If I had been more capable of controlling my emotions, these could have been all positive experiences. Maggie and Nichts recently have me thinking about how to reframe what I’ve been through and how I see my past. In all my recent writing about dating, and digging through my past, I finally realize I can stop needing a man to make me feel worthy.

I actually do feel worthy now. I feel alive and powerful more than ever in some ways (and weaker in others). Maybe I didn’t arrive at this place from the traditional “self-love” approach. Maybe I just filter things through my male-approval lens to understand them because that’s how I’ve always seen the world. I think I needed a solid round of decent dates, some quick turnover, some great sex as well as some rejection to realize I’m actually ok. It’s a normal cycle to be rejected one way or the other in dating. I never learned to accept it and still find myself worthy.

I realize I can. I can own the rejection and move past it. I can own the sex on first dates because I wanted it. I am doing my best balls-to-the-wall to push away the anxiety.

I don’t even know if I am making any sense. Like I said, it all sounded so solid and so crystal clear in my head and getting these thoughts into words has proven difficult.

I know I’m going to be fine. It doesn’t mean I won’t struggle with learning how to slow down, not push for more at the wrong time or with the wrong person. It doesn’t mean I won’t obsess a little or overthink situations. Those are just things I do. I just don’t need to overdo them.

Each man / situation gave me a light bulb moment this week so they will each get a post: Mike, Thomas and Charles (yup a new one!).

I can honestly say I’ve never had this kind of clarity around dating before. I feel like I’m seeing myself for the first time. Somehow I think I’m on the edge of something bigger that’s yet unidentified and in front of me. I feel in control in a way I have never experienced before.

It’s good to be on the edge. It’s liberating. It feels like Trixie level excitement without the crazy. Is that a thing?

I guess we are going to find out if it is or not. And hope I’m not feeding myself lip service.

Big Words: Desperation, Communication, Attachment (part 2)

I’m sure this has happened to everyone here at one point or another….you write a post and it’s a long one you’re super proud of…and it disappears into the ether.

Ugh and double ugh.

Luckily the WordPress gods got half of the post and I only have to get through the second half. I’m bummed because I think it was one of more well-written posts and I had jokes. Ha.

Yesterday I intended to write about the 3 huge words that can mean different things to different people under multiple circumstances.

I’m confident in my evaluation (of myself) in regards to being desperate (I’m not, even if it seems that way sometimes) and having anxious attachment syndrome (I do, working on that).

The last part of the post was probably another 1k words addressing that last big word: communication. Maybe WordPress saw fit to give your eyes and head a rest from my babbling for a couple hours!

I’ve really been thinking hard about communication since the John match some 5/6 weeks back. I am always open to feedback on my communication style since it’s probably the single biggest challenge I have had in my entire life.

Clearly, I don’t lack the ability to communicate well. I’ve always been intelligent, articulate and well-spoken since I’ve been able to speak. My issue is always in delivery. Pace, body language, facial expressions and in particular, tone. My character is not well represented by my tone of voice and I often, including in writing, leave a bad taste in people’s mouths or they misunderstand the message I am trying to communicate because I don’t deliver in a way they can understand.

How you communicate is almost more important at times than what you communicate.  You need to know your audience.

After a lot of heartfelt soul searching and, believe it or not, I looked backwards for my answers. They were pretty clear.

I grew up in a time that the word “hyperactive” wasn’t a word applied to a child’s  behaviors. I was a very busy and over active child needing a whole lot of attention. A mother who was too gentle beyond words, a disinterested father and an era where the only label that could be applied to me was “bad” did not provide the healthy outlets I needed for all my energy.

Why was I so overactive? Why couldn’t I sit still and keep my mouth shut like other children? I must have learned very quickly that they preferred to ignore me and I began yelling and screaming for attention I wasn’t getting. I probably didn’t know how to explain as a small child what I needed or wanted. So, I acted out. That netted my mother taking me to doctor and doctor to “fix” me and calm me down. Ultimately, since there was no solution for my “badness” they put me on a drug that my mother told me was reserved for the criminally insane: Ritalin. Since then, based on the research I’ve done, I think my mother made that shit up to tell a better story, or make me feel bad, who knows. The drug was prescribed as an ADHD drug for “maladjusted children” long before the ADHD was mainstreamed.

My mother quickly took me off the drug. I went from a vivacious, active, verbal child to non-verbal and staring at walls. She would rather have hyperactive. Her hippie cousin (this is the 70s remember) suggested a “natural” type of doctor who might help and my mother was desperate at this point. Today we would call that doctor a nutritionist! He told my mother to stop feeding me so much sugar and for rewarding good behavior with candy. He also suggested my mother put me in activities to burn out my energy rather than expecting me to comply to the “children who are seen and not heard are good children” belief.

My mother found relief. I was active, involved and out of the house most of the time doing my activities. She would drive me to Timbuktu if it meant she got an hour of peace. We still couldn’t see eye to eye because I became independent quite quickly – she wasn’t expecting that and definitely didn’t like it.

If it sounds like I understood any of this as a child, I didn’t. This was how she told me the story for as long as I can recall.

I learned to communicate by screaming, yelling and making a fuss because I didn’t get the attention I needed from my parents.

Doesn’t that sound like Trixie has been around for a hella long time?  Yup.  I thought the same.

I didn’t improve my communication techniques for a long, long time.  It took many, many negative outcomes and scoldings before I really understood how to behave, and how my parents expected me to behave.  When I didn’t behave, I was beaten.  Spoon, belt, hand, basically whatever was closest.  This physical abuse didn’t stop until I was 16 and I recall the day quite clearly.  It was the last day my father laid a hand on me.  I don’t recall when my mother stopped cracking spoons over my head.

Years later, when I recounted these stories my parents reply was “If your father ever really hit you, you would be in a hospital.  Those were nothing more than love taps.”  Eventually they denied it ever happened and said I made it all up.  Perhaps the first time I knew I was being gas-lighted (before gas-lighted was a word).

I didn’t begin to understand I could control my tone until I started to work.  Again, it took a lot of mistakes before I began to understand the difference between assertive and aggressive tones, how not to be bossy but authoritative.  But, learn I did, and very well.  I learned how to take what I perceived as my biggest failure as a child, my worst possible trait, and make it an asset and my ultimate strength.  This is how I became successful, I now had the communication style to communicate my ideas in a way that moved me forward instead of hindering me.  I became a valued employee and a really good leader.  I gained some pride.

Of course, there was still the personal component.  My parents style didn’t change and I married a man who was both my mother and my father combined into one.  Looking back, I married for familiarity and because I had anxiously attached.   Even then, my life was sort of pre-planned in my head and the x checked my boxes.  I didn’t understand that I never really saw him for who he was until we were already together for over 18 years.

When I look back, I believe the only romantic relationship I ever had that wasn’t from an anxious attachment was my first long term boyfriend, Randy, when I was 15.  Every relationship after Randy was formed in anxious attachment.

When children came along, the tension between the x and I as well as my inability to always control my tone, led to  my children often calling me mean.  Of course this is quite upsetting to a mother, but I am sure it is true.  Nowadays I try and explain what they hear isn’t always mean.  They have taken their fathers approach of zero confrontation whenever possible (which is probably common among teens).  They are just beginning to understand that when they ask for what they want/need, with confidence, they may be able to change the outcome.  They still don’t like my tone most days, and certainly don’t like when I go up like a bottle of pop and yell at them for one mess or another they have made.  I’m still learning how to be a better parent and communicate in a language I don’t really comprehend (teenage boy).

I view my inability to communicate appropriately as a young child and through to adulthood within my personal life as the outcome of anxious attachment.   That’s where it all started.

So here I am, at 51 years old, basically in the same situation.  I am crying out for attention and I am not communicating appropriately in order to eliminate, or at least avoid, my anxious attachments. I feel like I have never had a solid foundational relationship in my life that wasn’t founded on anxious attachment and that may be the reason I feel such a deep emotional hunger that I have to make my needs known loud and clear in order to get what I need emotionally.  I am most likely perceived as clingy because I am seeking a sense of safety from someone who isn’t able to ready to give it to me.

And then there was this in one of my google searches:

“While it may seem that an anxiously attached person would seek out someone who was nurturing and available, oftentimes they wind up being drawn to a person with an avoidant attachment style who has trouble meeting their emotional needs. While this sounds paradoxical, their intense emotions complement the missing, actually suppressed emotions of the person with avoidant attachment.

They reinforce each other’s adaptations in the painful dance of their interactions. 

Although it is painful to re-experience this insecurity, people often feel compelled to recreate the emotional climate of their childhood.”

So how do I manage my communication and behavior in order to get where I need to be?  How do I learn how to have Secure Attachment when I don’t recall ever feeling that way in my entire life?

This ain’t gonna be easy.

 

Big Words: Desperation, Communication, Attachment (part 1)

Morning my friends!

Many thanks to all of you who take time to give me insight and advice. I always love the feedback, I never construe it as negative and, in general, unless you are consistently poking at me, I don’t take any offense.

In particular, Jana’s comment from last week resonated with me and I had vacillated between replying directly to Jana’s comment and writing a post reply.

Obviously the post reply won.

First and foremost Jana, thank you. I always appreciate everyone (my whole tribe of faithfuls: KDaddy, Sassy, Morava, Gone, Nich, Maggie, Ann, NBrat) who takes their own time to thoughtfully comment on my blog. It means a lot to me.

So here goes – not everything is in direct response to Jana’s post, but it’s where the seeds were planted for this post.

Quite some time ago, someone on my blog identified anxious attachment syndrome. The first time I heard that on my blog I didn’t know what it was, so I did some research. There is no question I have anxious attachment. Much later, when I went to my therapist, it was one of the first things she identified and wanted me to work on getting back to my inner child so I could determine why and where the anxious attachment syndrome started. I didn’t want to do that work with her at the time. My focus with her then was all about healing, letting go of Tony, learning to be a better parent and building back my confidence. We didn’t ignore the fact that my inner child was crying for help, we did talk about root cause often, but I struggled – and still do – with therapy that makes you go back to childhood to view situations you can not change. Especially when it involves my dead Mother. I do not want to change my perception of my mother because I can no longer discuss any of it with my mother.

I know I am not willing and not ready to take this backwards view. I may never be.

My therapist and I spoke about that. Would I forever be damaged if I didn’t find the roots and forgive myself and the people around me for why I developed anxious attachment? Would I be able to forgive a depressed and anxious birth mother for being miserable her entire pregnancy and affecting my gestational period? Would I be able to forgive my father for loving my mother So obsessively he accepted the fact she wanted children or she would leave him, so he conceded but had no desire to actually raise a family? Would I forgive my mother for the fact that she gave up her life to deal with a depressed and mentally unstable and demanding mother as well as a hyperactive child (who in the 70s was undiagnosed and considered “bad”). Can I forgive them?

Yes. I have already forgiven all of them.

Do I want to think about and try to better understand how those forces built an anxious attachment in me that was created in childhood and then cultivated over 22 more adult years in marriage?

No. I don’t.

I know I have anxious attachment syndrome. But I also believe, as did my therapist, I don’t have to go back to move forward.

I do have to learn my triggers, understand the signals my body gives me and stop neglecting the small voice that says “you are not enough and you deserve less”. Or, more often, “you’ve done something wrong.”

I think, if nothing else has ever come across clearly on my blog – the one thing that has always cut through is my direct and transparent honest about myself.

With that said, this blog is an actual real time blog. I blog entirely top of mind and you all get to look first hand at my craziness, happiness, depression, anger, joy, elation, confusion and frustration. I put it ALL right here in the best words I can find to share with you. I don’t edit myself. I write what I think and how I feel.

Does it come across as desperate many times? Yes.

I am not exactly desperate anymore. I’m sure of this. Do my words sound that way? Sure, I can see that.

But you get a birds eye view of how my mind is churning through every available path and avenue. The choices I can make. The roads I should and definitely should not travel. You’ve seen where Trixie (and her friend Tricia) live. You watch me fold and unfold and refold the same towel a thousand times – fueled by my nervous anxiety.

I felt I needed to be clear about where I am today. I am in a better place than I’ve ever been in my life. My life has taken the best path since February 11th, 200 days ago. I am a drug addict, I have to count the days my head stays straight on my shoulders and I continue to make better choices for myself. I know this.

Right now, I do not believe any man is going to derail me. Do I get sad and frustrated and angry and write about it in the moment? Yes, I do. Because you help me suss out things I didn’t want to see when I wrote the post. Coming back to the comments is like revisiting the crime scene. I have to go through the action again (in my head) in order to reply to thoughtful comments. When I do especially “bad” things – I write about it because it’s the last way I have to hold myself accountable. It reminds me I wasn’t listening to my better senses.

I loved my therapist. I think she did an amazing job in the time we had. I was a big fucking nut to crack in under 4 months. She cut across and gave me tools to manage my family, Tony, getting back to work and developing new relationships. I wish I had more time with her but – as life is – I don’t have the time or money to see a therapist. In place of that, I’ve been educating myself and consuming self-help books by the handfuls, like MMs. It would be ideal to have the resources I needed to stay in therapy for a good long while. It’s just not going to happen right now in my life. I have time for one dedicated “activity” outside of work – my choice is fitness over mental health (assuming there was a therapist who worked in the evening or weekends). This is my choice in life. I’ve learned not to swallow a whale right now. Trying to fit any more in (structure) is going to be too stressful for me. Therapy shouldn’t be stressful. But trying to find the time and money right now would cause even more anxiety. I am fully comfortable with my choice.

There are two very divided schools of thought about how to manage anxious attachment. I always thought this to be be super interesting because the tactics are so opposite one another. And you all definitely reflected the two schools of thought in the comments!

One thought is figure out how to love yourself first.

But the other is – practice. Date as many people as you can and practice identifying and managing the anxious attachment.

Do I love myself? I’m trying. I’m absolutely in the best place I’ve ever been. I consciously work on positive self talk and creating good habits. I will probably always struggle with some form of “I’m wrong, I’m not good enough or please love me and don’t leave me” but I am working on my three worst fears that create my anxiety. Am I desperate? No. I’m not. I experience desperation and rejection within the dating scene, but I am not desperate. I can be alone. I have filled my life with healthy and happy people and habits.

So, along with the agreement of my therapist, we discussed allowing me to practice managing the anxiety through dating. If it became overwhelming I was to stop. And I did – for short periods – if it wasn’t serving me. And now, twice in 200 days I had two back to back events I wrote about that got my goat and I became frustrated. I experienced the anxious attachment in its full form and for the first time in my life I RECOGNIZED my behavior and subsequently controlled it.

That’s a win in my book.

Should it be controlled from the start? Yes! I hope to make that happen. But in the meantime, I’m super proud I had maybe 2 24 hour periods where I worked through it and acknowledged what I felt. I sat with it.

post script: somehow, half this post was cut off and lost. I will try and re-create the second half tomorrow so I can address what I’ve discovered about communication.

Less Angry, More Thoughtful

After John I absolutely went into an angry swiping frenzy. Ended up speaking to too many men at once and got over it in about 24 hours. I know better.

What I learned over the weekend of angry swiping and needless chatting:

1. My match really needs to have been married with kids. I have yet to find one man who wasn’t that truly understands how important parenting is….unless they want their own family and then we are not a match anyway.

2. My match needs to be aligned socio-economically. I’ve spoken to a few teachers who have off the summer, earn lower-pay, and are generally less ambitious (not saying all, just the ones I’ve spoken to). I’ve been asked a couple times if the career and long hours made me happy. They just don’t understand corporate mechanics. I’m a 30 year corporate veteran, it’s partially what drove me to the success I achieved – there is never a good (or right) answer for “was it worth it.”

3. My match needs to have a desire for “more.” What’s more? I’m not exactly sure but I do know it means not complacent with what you have and where you are for the rest of your life. I’ve spoken to many who have their summer homes on a beach and that’s all they want to do with the rest of their lives – sit on a beach. That’s not for me. Ask me again when I’m 70.

4. On the other hand – My match can’t be hyper-active! I don’t ski, surf, hike, Climb mountains, SUP, scuba or CrossFit. I do exercise every day and have the energy and strength to do more active outdoor activities but I’m never going to be a go, go, go girl. Balance works best for me.

5. My match can’t be too obsessive about my “sexy, thin” body (a common comment pretty consistently now). When the clothes come off, the scars are real. I’m still not convinced it wasn’t what tipped John over the edge so quickly. The man needs to be committed to health and fitness, but not body obsessed. I have also noted that now that I have been with more fit men and am more fit myself, I am less tolerant of someone who doesn’t work out at all. I want to keep this practice so I need someone who is committed to it as well. My life has changed and fitness must remain an important part of my well-being.

6. The man needs to show interest and intellect pretty quickly. I perceive this as someone who knows how to balance a banter with serious questions and is interested in knowing about me and my life and how it matches with his own desires and interests. They will ask about my job, family and children unprompted. When the man is focused on my beauty and we don’t have anything in common, it always feels forced. I avoid the physical match like a plague now.

I’ve realized my long, long list of attributes pretty much shortens to these 6 things (excluding a physical attraction of some sort which always included height). If I can find these 6 things in the initial match and conversation, I will move on.

The other things I want like: kindness, emotional intelligence, travel, trust, honesty, respect and good sex all follow after meeting. I don’t try and dig for these things early in the conversation. If little hints don’t flow naturally, I become disengaged.

As I was thinking about this over the weekend, because I started up too many conversations, I realize that I am quickly drawn in by a natural conversationalist who is quite comfortable in their own skin. All the men I have liked, even a little, post Tony were very successful, ambitious men. I also realized all of them were serious athletes at some point in their lives – which creates that competitive edge I love so much. They were all extremely handsome -even if physically, all very different. And not necessarily handsome to everyone, but absolutely to me.

I have at least narrowed down the characteristics that I am initially attracted to. The ones who meet these criteria, but can’t or don’t back it up with humor and great conversation just fall off the radar.

So who did I speak to this weekend in my swipe craze?

1. Paul – I really liked so much about him, until he told me he was a recovering alcoholic. I actually thought about this for a while and considered if a person who had their own damage might somehow better understand mine…but then decided it wasn’t for me (I’ve been there already). Coupled with the fact that while he has lived apart from his wife for 3 years, he’s still married. We spoke and I sent a text as a follow up to disengage.

2. Eric – handsome and seemed positive until we moved to text. He is a teacher and more than once told me I had “a good life” and questioned if I was happy working the way I do. His text were so dry that it never got off the ground. He was also entirely inconsistent with his text and was boring.

3. Chris – haven’t written him off yet. Handsome (and big which I love!) and divorced several years with a daughter college age. We hit it off and moved to text. He would engage somewhat but never really got inquisitive. If he comes back for another round he will need to show he’s more interested. If not, that’s fine too.

4. Joe – just boring. Nice but boring.

5. Jeff – handsome and interesting but once we began talking and said he had 3 small children, I was out. No more ball games and carpools for me.

There were at least 3 others. All nameless in 24 hours.

I made my excuses to each of them and politely exited.

I am bummed about John and it’s eating me. I felt like “finally” someone! Yay me! And then, nope. Of course it leaves me questioning myself. And blaming myself. For 24 hours I almost let Trixie out to see the light but she never got far…I know my bad behavior (which is why I deleted John from every possible deceive systematically). I know I can not indulge my bad behaviors because it doesn’t really feel good. It’s a temporary fix.

There’s a part of me that is going full force with the negative self talk: it’s something about you they don’t like, you’re too pushy, you’re too relationship orientated, you’re scarred, you’re loud, you’re just it right and you’re not enough for me to want to stick around and get to know you better. I have not resolved this negative self talk and I don’t know how to – I do try, all the time, but inevitably when something like John happens, it comes out again in full force.

Being alone is wearing on me now, I admit. I just don’t think I’m built to be alone. But I am getting better at not wasting my time or anyone else’s with sheer nonsense. When I need the therapy I can’t afford I will write here, meditate, or listen to one of my self help books. I have plenty of down time to exercise and care for myself on weekends. I am focused on keeping myself as positive as possible, but this threw me for a loop – and the others I’ve dated didn’t have this affect on me.

I Realized I’m Just Super Frustrated

It took a day for my head to clear, but I realize I am just plain old angry and frustrated because of John.

Not at John.

There’s a huge difference there from my past behavior.

He was perfect on paper, we had a super fun night and it’s the best sex I’ve had since Tony. So what he wasn’t ready for more, he was just a jerk for not saying so sooner because he got caught up with the fun. I’m over it. It’s too bad and move on because there is nothing to dwell on.

But dwell I did. I wanted to figure out why was I obsessing. It occured to me that it wasn’t about him at all – it was about the idea of finally finding a good man for a relationship. My brain placed him squarely in the “absolute potential mate” bucket. The previous guys have been “let me test this out to see if he can be a potential mate, so far so good”. That’s what went wrong – I made a decision long before a decision was warranted.

Why? Because I know I want a partner now. I’m tired of being alone. I’m tired of being with married men. I haven’t had the experience post divorce of having a boyfriend. I realized I never had to do that walk of shame – I always knew where I stood the next morning when I was with a man. I want someone to talk to, someone I can confide in that loves me and wants to be there to support me. Friends are fine, but they are not a partner.

I want to feel the way Tony made me feel about myself with someone who is free to do what he pleases when he pleases. Overnights, weekends, road trips, family affairs and just watching a movie together. I just want a boyfriend already and it makes me nuts that I can’t find one. (Although let me say – even at this level of frustration I won’t date someone short, period).

This situation with John just brought my level of frustration to the top. I realized it when I was swiping like mad in the dating sites today – hoping “he” would pop up. My perfect man. Any man, that I found attractive, really. I felt the desperation. I caught myself. I got into a project at work that distracted me. Then I thought about why I was going through this cycle.

I’m glad my brain is more clear than it used to be and I known my meds are doing their job with reducing my emotional outbursts as well as clearing the cobwebs. When I thought about John, really thought it through, it didn’t matter anymore. Sex was really good, but not anything I would write home about. I enjoyed the actual date more than the sex – he was just fun to be around. I just wanted that feeling of being desired, feeling good about myself, and laughing out loud with a man – to continue. I was angry that it ended. But that has zero to do with John.

I did something yesterday that I’ve never done. I deleted him from every possible form of contact so I wouldn’t have that phone number handy for text or calls. He’s not blocked, but I doubt I ever hear from him again and that’s ok. I’m glad I removed any opportunity to reach out to him in the future.

I had a headache all afternoon from my frustration. So I plan to get home, relax and have a glass of wine. I have fallen into the pattern that Thursday is my off night for working out. I will meditate before bed, but that’s about it for Thursday. I’m going to sit on my deck and have my wine and maybe some Advil until it’s bedtime.

I may even swipe a little more slowly and keep making good choices.

And Now We Wait?

Leaving his apartment was awkward. I thought for sure he would walk me down to my car, but nope. Out to the door and then a finger pointing to the elevator.

That was the moment I knew it wasn’t going any further. Could I be wrong? Sure, it’s possible. However, after all I’ve been through I’ve promised to listen to my inner cues – and they are generally not wrong in the beginning of a relationship.

After a date with a man that was a great date I always knew if they would call. I had no idea if I would hear from John again, despite his repeated words of being a good guy and being so aligned with me. It was a good chemistry but it wasn’t the kind that kept me awake at night. Tony, Bobby, Andrew, Brix (who I flew to CA for), Dan and Dave all come to top of mind as being really excited to seeing them again.

I realized I really wanted to see him again, I wanted to talk to him more and I wanted sex again but there was something stopping me from the “over the top” reaction I normally have. I absolutely had a little butterflies but it was quite moderated.

He had asked me to text him when I arrived home. I knew he was going to see his son for the weekend and we were due to see each other Sunday afternoon (which would have been the first date). But since he didn’t mention Sunday at all, even when I left (no “See you Sunday”) I already felt Sunday wasn’t going to happen.

This didn’t totally eliminate the feeling of being let-down when the conversation had turned into this:

That sounds like a “I won’t be speaking to you today” text.

I was sad but couldn’t help myself so a bit later I started:

No reply to those last text Saturday night.

I woke up feeling like he was going to ghost me and I was both parts angry and sad. He had so much promise and I just want a boyfriend already. I just want to date someone who isn’t attached and who matches my life cadence and he had hit all the right buttons. I was willing to even overlook cock size! 😂. I was so let down this wasn’t getting off the ground and started assuming it had to be me.

What went wrong? Was it the tears or not getting undressed? Was it the bandage and discussion of my surgery’s (which was light and not detailed). Was it just him – he didn’t feel an intense chemistry? I knew without a doubt there was sexual chemistry because we had morning sex and it was great.

I couldn’t let go even though my better sense said stop texting. I didn’t text on Sunday because I felt he was obligated to let me know if he was coming or not if he didn’t want to be a complete waste of a man (I was a bit angry and hurt).

Here’s what I got midday:

As you can see, no further response Sunday evening. I felt mildly better he had at least be kind and text. But this wasn’t the man I was talking to for a week by a long shot. I tried again Monday am with a simple god morning:

And that’s that. Do I believe him? Maybe. Does it matter? He reminded me of Tony in this instant where Tony couldn’t manage me and a drama with his kids sometimes so I would get shut down. Happens that John is exactly same age as Tony and their birthdays are 2 days apart. Is it a Leo characteristic?

I am let down. I had a couple turns in my gut of feeling jumpy to have him text and sad that he wasn’t.

I’m still wondering today but the bottom line is that he knows he needs to communicate with me to Continue. There’s no point in me texting him again.

I do worry it was my scars. That’s going to haunt me. Every man now says I’m so “hot” and my body is so “thin and sexy” and “look at those arms!” And I get it. I look super fit, toned and strong now. It’s appealing to a man who takes care of himself. And a very close friend said my scars would potentially be a dealbreaker – she’s very vain – and she doesn’t know how she would feel. But it’s ugly. And it’s tormenting me.

So there you have it. My “I need to know” is killing me. My tummy gets a little twisty when I think of it – just because it’s the first time in OVER A YEAR I’ve met someone who was a potential.

I do feel lonely now. I do want a partner. But I can’t change the things I want to have in a relationship if I want it to work for me, so that means sit and wait for the next potential and avoid poor choices.

I am sad I haven’t heard from him and it does bother me immensely – perhaps because I see nothing glaring at me that would cause him not to want a second date.

I sent a last text this morning because it’s eating at me. I don’t actually expect an honest reply. But he will likely reply with something.

I probably shouldn’t have sent the last text – when does anyone in these situations tell the truth? But as I’ve been thinking about it I remembered that both August and Tom had the courtesy to say “Thanks, but no thanks” to me and I always say it to a man. He just didn’t strike me as such a player and I guess I missed the cues in there somewhere.

I’m lamenting more over the prospect of an actual match than John himself – which should say something to me. He hit my list attributes one by one and it felt something like a miracle! I will live. It was one date, a great date, and great sex. It also made me realize that no matter how long I wait to sleep with someone my scars are never going away – so I better get that first story/explanation under control for the next time I need to deliver it so I’m not so emotional about it. I would like to believe that someone who really likes you wouldn’t be bothered by my ravished body, but I do think it’s highly possible and I’m going to need to accept when that happens as well.

Adding this at 10am this morning. Pretty clear and straightforward:

Good morning Madeline. Yes, I absolutely owe you an explanation, and every day that passed made it harder to send the message, so thank you for your message this morning. What happened with my boys this weekend just made me think about relationships in general, not really you specifically. You just happened to be here at the time. The bottom line is that I’m not interested in going fast and furious at this point. The communication we had last week wouldn’t have happened if I was here. I was half a world away and the time difference and my free time made it easy and I got caught up. It was really nice though and I enjoyed Fri. I know all this sounds like bullshit, and I would think the same thing if I were in your shoes. I have a million other thoughts but they’re not really important, I’m just not ready for a full blown relationship. I should have said something proactively earlier, I just didn’t even know what I wanted. I’m sorry, you’re really sweet and you deserve the best in the future.