Hotter Than A Pepper Sprout

I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole tonight (as is my wont once I decide I just NEED to hear a song), and somehow got from Joan Armatrading’s “Drop the Pilot” all the way to a video commemorating June and Johnny Cash’s epic coupledom. (OK, I’ll tell you how I got there – it involved The Cowsills, Joni Mitchell, The Grass Roots, and Seals and Crofts…yeah, no, it makes no sense unless you’re me, lol.)

Anyway, I guess I’m just thinking about love vs. codependency, and new relationships when the old ones can’t be so easily pushed aside, for any given number of reasons. I don’t know that I have any solid wisdom to impart here. But I’m trying something very new (for me) lately, and that’s just trying my best not to worry, not to push myself, and to let things unfold as they see fit. In the last 12 years, I’ve learned numerous lessons, but lately, two of them are pushing themselves to the forefront. I’m trying to listen, learn, and avoid duplicating the pain.

Lesson #1: Saying “I love you.”

I’ve dated a lot of people. It might surprise some of you, since I’ve been in long-term relationships for pretty much as long as the Internet has been a serious thing, but before 2006, my longest relationship was three months. I made up my mind quickly, and moved on if things weren’t right. I never told people that I loved them, or talked about a future together, mostly because I was smart enough at 20 to understand that there was a lot of future left, and the odds of making a lasting connection with a guy my age were extremely low. I took every day as it came, and life was pretty good. There were a couple of heartbreaks, but overall, it felt like I was succeeding at the dating thing.

Then I met the guy I assumed I was going to marry, and stopped dating other people for eight years. It might as well have been a marriage, just no paperwork. But it was unhealthy, and eventually I LOST MY EVER-LOVING MIND. Well, that’s the face value…in reality, the people closest to me could see me cracking years before I gleefully blew the whole thing to smithereens.

Here’s the thing – I could have told you in 2006 that there was a problem, even if I couldn’t have given you a name for it. I knew there was a problem as soon as he told me that he loved me, and I thought, “I love (*insert Universe-sized pause here as the non-math person does complicated calculations…*) your family.” I didn’t say that, of course. I said “I love you, too.” But the split second between his declaration of love and my return of the sentiment stretches an eon in my brain. It wasn’t that I didn’t love him, or that I didn’t think I loved him at that moment. That’s not it at all. I did love him. It’s just that when I thought about being with him, it was in conjunction with his family – and his family held more weight in my heart. We had a good run, and I can do the coulda/woulda/shoulda thing all day long, but in the end, it was really super wrong for both of us. I mean, it was a pretty epic mistake, in retrospect. He wanted a different kind of life, and I let myself disappear under the weight of his ideas.

The thing is, in that split second after he told me he loved me, I knew that my understanding of love was somehow flawed. I knew that I was going with “solid” instead of “amazing,” because I was worn down by “amazing” turning to “shit” within a month or two. He had all of the rare ingredients that I’d been told I should look for: he was attractive, dependable, and responsible. And his family – I really did fall in love with them. They kept me going for a few more years than I should have endured, if you want to know the truth. I miss his parents so much. I cherished being taken in by a group of rowdy New York Italians, of having someone’s dad keep my special brand of coffee stocked in the house “just in case,” of having an aunt pull me aside to ask for a recipe (still a high point in my life, if you want to be honest), of hearing all of the family stories, and feeling like I could live on forever, with this kind of close-knit family. I’d never wanted children, but all of a sudden, I thought how nice it would be to give my mother-in-law a grandchild to pamper. In other words, my life shifted to accommodate everyone but myself. Classic INFJ.

In the end, as things were drawing to a close, I started to find that my mouth didn’t want to make the shapes required to spit out “I love you.” I was unsure at the beginning, but at the end, I KNEW. I kept waiting for it to pass, to figure out how to reboot it somehow, but it withered and died. And you know why? Because in eight years, we had never really talked. We’d been saying things to each other, but we were never speaking the same language. Here’s what I have learned in years since, about what I was saying, and how I should teach people to interpret my words and my actions. “I love you” isn’t about romantic love, though it celebrates it. It’s not about sex, though it acknowledges it and revels in sharing a healthy physicality. “I love you” is about seeing the person in front of you for who they are, and celebrating that flame for having the courage to flicker. It’s not about wanting them to be better or do better, or envisioning who they could be, or who you could be when you’re with them. It’s about seeing the space between you, and realizing the steps you each take to bridge it, fling open the doors, and welcome the other into your weirdness, every damn day. Loving is easy, but building a relationship where you can love and be loved, that’s a daily commitment, requiring constant renewal.

Right now, love for me feels like that moment of zen when you take a breath and soak in your physical surroundings and state of being, and take note of the person’s presence in your sphere, and think, “Oh, this is good. I could do this more.” If you can meditate in the presence of the person you love – if you can trust enough to breathe freely and look how you look and think how you think and never ever worry how they might have misinterpreted you – and if you can appreciate all the same things about them in that moment – then saying I love you is right for now, and you will never regret saying it, even when now is no longer.

Lesson #2: To Be Continued…

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Glow

Lately I’ve been getting out of my comfort zone a little bit – and realizing that what I thought was outside of my comfort zone is actually far inside my comfort zone, as long as I’m accompanied by the right people. The difficult part is finding the line between being open to change and connection, and feeling overly emotionally vulnerable. Classic INFJ issues.

The one thing that this is teaching me is that I want so much more for my life than I’ve been allowing myself to have. I deserve so much more. I owe myself more. I just don’t know how to get there. I know that there are walls I still need to scale, but I can’t see them. It feels like the walls are moving around, but it’s probably more like when you’re lost in the woods, and it feels like everything’s moving around on you, when in reality it’s just that your perception is completely askew.

Anyway, the only way to move forward is with deep breaths and clear intent. The only person who can get me there is me. I refuse to be preemptively sad or anxious over imaginary failings. I am OK. I will be better than OK. I need to keep in mind that when things are scary, it’s because I’m taking the risks that I should have always been taking. I am safe. I am whole. I am fully capable of walking this tightrope, with or without a partner in crime. I will thrive. I deserve nothing less.

Intensity

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I have zero chill. Well, except for that it’s the opposite. “Chill” in the vernacular sense means “relaxed and cool” but my version of not calm is frozen. Does this mean I am so chill that it’s come back around?

I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, exactly – I know those people, and they freak me out – but I do find myself overthinking things to the point of nervous breakdown. Left to my own devices, I’ll dig myself a hole and fill it full of alternate realities. My stomach churns. My heart feels compressed. My vision starts getting dark at the edges. I need to breathe. I can still smile and participate. You’d never know that inside my head, I’m a freezer-burned Hungry Man meal, two years past expiration. It’s a shame, really. I love Salisbury steak day.

I’d like to say that I’m learning something, but aside from being unable to pull a full breath, the biggest lesson so far is that I’m scared, I’m uncomfortable, and I’m not really built for temporary. I need trust, and I need to be trusted. I need to know things. I don’t like blind spots or dark corners. I don’t care if there are sharp edges, or spiders, or clowns. I just need to know about them.

 

Ugly Little

I wish I knew how to never feel jealousy. I know that it’s not very nice, and that it’s something to fight through. I know that you look stupid when you let jealousy get the best of you. I despise people who take their misgivings out dramatically on those they supposedly love. I did once throw a drink in someone’s face after he admitted cheating on me, but that’s about the extent of my ability to pitch a fit – public or private. I’m better at taking a breath and walking away.

The problem is my imagination. Logic normally helps me work my way through any questions or suspicions I invent, but I’m also a natural born storyteller, so I can’t help but draw up scenarios in a second. Luckily, as quick as I am with spinning a yarn, I can also think in opposites, build myself a healthy thing to believe, before I jump into any feelings that I won’t be able to jump out of. I’m good at doing my research, remaining skeptical, not rushing to conclusions. I can nearly always find a way to explain away whatever has me feeling green.

But the work involved in keeping cool and calm is exhausting. And you can never tell other people when you’re feeling jealous about something that’s going on with them. I mean, sure, if the person is your best friend in the world, and the jealousy has to do with a major life change, then you *might* have the leeway to go ahead and speak your mind in a constructive manner (I’ve done it, it worked, it was awkward, but it helped and I didn’t damage any friendships in the attempt). But most other jealous moments in life need to be handled carefully, quietly, and alone – especially if you’re feeling jealous of something that has to do with your romantic interest. I’ve tried being honest before, and it’s backfired. One partner just brushed it into the huge pile he was building of “examples why Anna’s nuts” (any time that I expressed emotion, or requested to work through, well, anything with him). Another partner told me that he found jealousy to be distasteful and unattractive. (I mean, no shit dude! So do I. But feelings must be felt, and worked through, and released. Shaming someone for having an emotion and expressing the desire to work through it is pretty distasteful and unattractive, in its own right.)

So yeah, anyway, I’ve got some jealousy, and nowhere to put it. It’s silly. There’s no reason for it. I’ll ask some questions, get some explanations, and I know I’ll have no reason at all to feel like I’m standing on shaky ground. But for the moment, this thing is rearing its ugly little head, and I have no way to make it go back to its cave. I just have to sit here, looking like a mean girl, when all I want is to have the information I need to be my normal pretty-decent-human-being self.

Right Now

As of the moment, I’m failing at keeping this blog running. After years of writing relatively faithfully, sometimes multiple times a day, it’s odd to find myself having nearly run out of words. I tend to think that it’s a low-level case of writer’s block, brought on by emotional distress, coupled with exhaust from my job, and probably polished up nicely by how closed off I’ve been feeling for the last year. Anyway, all this goes to say that I’m not stopping in with a really juicy post with lots of great information or funny stories or anything like that (even though, strangely enough, I’m finding I have a few things to say as of late). Really, I’m stopping in to leave myself a reminder, something to read and remember at a later date. Also, Grandma, I know you’re reading this, so I figured I’d throw in a tidbit for you. Nothing like a bit of gossip to add spice to life, right? 🙂

I probably shouldn’t say anything at all, since too much info is how things tend to go awry, and I’m loath to be the cause of dissolution. But I just have to say it somewhere: I’ve met someone. He’s tall, handsome, decent and kind. He has working hands, and a creative streak. He cooks. He loves his family, is great with plants, and has a soft spot for animals. He enjoys wine and goes to yoga, and doesn’t think my obsession with finding the perfect NC BBQ sauce is the least bit strange. He has gorgeous hair. We are not overly similar, but we have a lot of good things in common. I don’t have to explain myself (though you know I do, I must, emphatically, ad nauseam, or else my brain would overheat and my engine would explode). He walks through spaces with a lovely mix of kingly comfort and shy self-awareness. He enjoys small space living. He makes the best asparagus I’ve ever eaten. I spilled a glass of wine on this sweet quilt his mom made him, and he didn’t hate me, even the littlest bit. He played me a song, though I didn’t let on that I knew. The signs are thick. Owls, antlers, amethyst, airstream.

Anyway, I don’t like to say things like, “It’s early days,” because that says you anticipate for there to be late ones, and that feels either incredibly prideful or just inviting of disaster, I can’t figure out which. But we’ve only just met. So I’m endeavoring not to think too hard or be too weird (it’s kind of funny that I just typed that, because literally the definition of Anna is “thinks too hard, and is pretty weird”).

One thing that I can say is that I have a strange thought in my head, and I’m not sure if I manifested it, or if he is just good at making me feel it, or what. But from the first time that he made me feel comfortable and adored, my brain shouted “YOU DESERVE THIS!” I like that. I intend to hold on to that feeling. It hasn’t happened often in my life.

It’s late, and I’m very tired. It’s time to cuddle with my cats and call it a night.

 

Tidbits

I quit my second job on Friday night. I just couldn’t take a second more of their bullshit. Walked in, saw the customer service nightmare that awaited me (all entirely preventable drama created by the megalomaniacal, drug addicted owner) and decided that I needed to choose myself for once. So I walked out, and do not regret it. I’ll find another way to make that extra $700 a month. I’m really going to miss working a front desk, though. I genuinely enjoyed all of my little interactions with travelers. One day I’ll get back to the front of house.

Of course, the day after I quit, I ended up breaking my cell phone. It’s almost four years old, and way past its warranty, so I went ahead and ordered a new phone. I’m rationalizing it by telling myself that I’m probably going to be making up some of the difference in my income by going back to marketing part-time, so it will be more helpful if I understand new technology. Plus, I’ll take better Instagram photos. OK, that last part is just something that I love – and that’s OK. I deserve to have fun now and then. What good is life, otherwise?

I’m also moving forward with having my teeth professionally straightened – again. I already had Invisalign about eight years ago, but was never warned that my teeth would move back if I didn’t wear an aligner. It sucks, but my teeth aren’t straight anymore, and it sets me apart at work. As much as I’d love for it not to be the case, people in my profession need to look pulled together – and I don’t. My teeth are just one small piece of the puzzle, but they’re a piece that I can start with, thanks to great dental insurance through my company. So here we go with getting my fangs set to rights.

 

Pieces

I’m working a lot lately. My life is all work and sleep. I don’t even cook at home anymore. There’s a cafeteria at my day job, and I eat lunch there. If I stay late enough into the evening, there’s dinner, too. I’ve lost 15 lbs. this year already from just not having any time to drink a glass of wine or feed myself junk food. Haven’t even exercised. Just started eating salad at lunch, and don’t have the time to wait for Domino’s deliveries at night.

You might have noticed I’m not writing. For the most part, that’s due to work, but not all. I don’t really have the brain power for it right now. Of course I’m tired, but I’m also feeling set apart from other people (I wouldn’t call it “lonely” but I am alone more than not). I also feel like I need to just think and be right now, and soak up what I learn from that. Under all of this is me, still feeling hurt by my breakup. I’ve found that if I keep my mind busy, and avoid anything that reminds me of him, I’m generally pretty safe. I’m at the 6-month mark now, and in some ways it’s not as bad. In others, it’s worse. But that’s the game, I guess. You keep walking through the pain, and eventually the pain is just a little part of who you are, instead of the thing that used to threaten to stop you.

It’s annoying, because I’d like to be able to say that I didn’t care so much, didn’t think about him, didn’t wish I had some solution to the problems that made the relationship impossible. And barring that, of course, it would be great to magically feel ready to move on. I’d really love to be able to have a little romance in my life. I’m not getting any younger, and it’s been way too long since there was the hint of physicality in my dating life. But I’m not ready emotionally. So I’ll hang out with my cats awhile longer, I guess.

Luckily, that date that I went on a few weeks ago (the one that didn’t work out) had an unexpected result. I made a new friend. We’ve hung out a few times, and since he’s literally the only person that I’ve had a social engagement with outside of work in weeks, I feel like he’s a godsend. It’ll be sad to see him move on next month, but it’s always nice getting to know new people. Plus, we’ve been hanging out at my favorite cafe, so he’s helping me get to know the baristas more. I like that a lot.

I paid off a credit card today. Part of me is excited – it was the one with the highest APR. But then I remember that there are four more to go, and I think of how many more 80-hour weeks I’m going to have to work to make a serious dent in that amount, and it’s a crushing realization. But there’s nothing much that I can do. Just gotta keep walking. One foot in front of the other. Eventually we’ll get there. Eventually.