All, this blog is no longer updated. I have always loved having places to talk about about what is going on with me, but unfortunately my boyfriend’s ex-wife is obsessed with me and stalks me online. Given that, I can’t feel comfortable expressing myself and my feelings in a public forum. I also need to be more private due to the nature of my career, I’ve decided to close this blog. I’m back-dating this due to the fact that it hasn’t been updated in over a year anyway. Lots of love, Lady Lamia xxxooo.
Recently, I became a bit distracted by social media. I don’t mean my normal liking of memes on Facebook and looking at photos of people’s cats and meal prep on Instagram, I mean “I need to read every comment of this” distracted. Two people I know were involved in a disagreement that had made it on to social media, several venues in fact. When it was cooling down, one of the people said something along the lines of “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Lord, isn’t that the truth?
It seems that drama doesn’t dissipate with age. In my early 20s, I thought it was something that people grew out of but now, in my mid-30s, I realize that’s not always the case. Some people, it seems, have no real discernible personality. If they’re not gossiping, bitching about something, or starting shit, they have nothing to say. Neither of the people I mention fall into that category, but it did get me started thinking about those negative people. We all know someone like that: the coworker who only complains about the job, the other employees, the boss, as though they were obligated to work there and couldn’t find a job that disturbed them less; the parent who gives backhanded compliments and reminds us of any shortcomings their perception or otherwise; the partner who constantly worries about everything that might go wrong with the finances of what awful things might befall the children; the friend whose calls always begin with “OMG did you hear about ______?” The problem is, if you don’t thrive on misfortune, negativity, and drama these people are “energy vampires.” They drain the happiness and positivity from the room and even from us. If you’re an emotionally sensitive person or an introvert, there’s a pretty good chance that an afternoon or phone call with a person like this will make you feel like you’ve just run a marathon. Physically, mentally, emotionally, you leave the interaction worse off but the energy vampire is recharged! They’re full of all the energy they sucked right out of you. Many of these people don’t even know that they do this, the irony is that most of them profess to “hate drama.” They may not be self-aware enough or they may not care, as long as their needs are being met.
One thing I’ve long pointed out is that people who have to go out of their way to let you know they “hate drama” or want a “drama-free zone” or “won’t tolerate your drama” are always drama magnets. How do I know this? Because when something is not relevant to your life, you don’t need to keep mentioning it. I don’t make sure people know I “hate heroin” or make my life a “manslaughter free zone” because since drugs and murder are not a regular part of my life it would make no sense to specify that – it simply wouldn’t occur to me.
Sometimes we can’t escape these negative people. We don’t choose our coworkers or our family. Sometimes we might choose to have people in our lives who have some drama in theirs, after all many people are divorced and jave exes and children, a fair bit of drama accompanies those situations. How do we handle this drama or adjacent negativity in a way that doesn’t burn us out or drain the joy from our own lives? The trick is to limit the amount of time that we indulge them. If you know your coworker does nothing but bitch, change your lunch so you can’t eat with her. If you know your dysfunctional family becomes toxic, have an end point in mind – don’t spend all day Sunday with them, join them for dinner and then leave. If your friend’s constant gossiping brings you down, stop answering the phone and make some new friends. There is no one that we owe our own peace and serenity to; no one has the right to drain us emotionally, not even family members. Setting solid, immovable boundaries and sticking with them allows us to keep the people we want in our lives (because you probably don’t want to completely cut your family out of your life simply because they exhaust you) from ruining our day, or to keep the people we don’t choose (those coworkers and angry exes) from feeding on us.
Boundaries are miraculous things. If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, as many of us did, you might not know where those boundaries should be or even how to begin setting them. You may need to see a therapist but it might be enough to read a book. Boundaries: Where you end and I begin is just one of many you can find on Amazon. It is deceptively simple: when you start to feel bad, retreat. That gives you an idea of where the boundaries need to be. You’re allowed to adjust them as needed, they’re YOURS. They’re there to protect you and preserve you, so you get to decide where, when, and how they fit. Note of caution: often energy vampires hate boundaries. They either have none or have no respect for the boundaries of others. When you start to set limits, people push against them, so remember if they are to be effective you must enforce them. Not just once, but every single time someone attempts to violate them. Eventually they will get tired and stop but only if you stay firm.
By this point you may be thinking “There’s no way Person X is going to let me get away with this boundary shit.” The good news is that it’s not up to them, it’s up to you. Boundaries are healthy and normal. If they cannot respect your boundaries they do not respect you and if they don’t respect you then it’s time to decide if they need to have a place in your life. Energy is a resource, and we get to decide how we use our own resources. How people use theirs is up to them. So energy vampires, negative nellies, liars and drama queens?
Ain’t no body got the energy for that.
Lately, I’ve been reminded of a conversation I had when I was in my early 20s. It’s probably a conversation I had many times over the years, from teens to mid-20s. It went something like, “We may age, but we will never get OLD. We will still be out dancing on tables, seeing shows, staying out til the sun comes up forever. Even when we are 50! Let’s never get lame.” Like every teenager, I was always absolutely convinced I knew it all. That’s a theme that permeates pop culture, both then and now – don’t grow up. Keep the fire of youth burning inside of you forever.
I suppose there’s several reasons I’ve been thinking about that lately, one being that my oldest friend just turned 35. We have been close for over 20 years, that’s a very long time. I had some really amazing times in my teens and early to mid 20s. I saw concerts I’ll never forget; I traveled to Europe for the first time; I made incredible friends and had some pretty amazing experiences. I also worked a lot of shitty jobs; worried a lot about money; drank too much, and wondered what the f*** I was going to do with my life. My boyfriend of a year told me recently about a conversation he had with his 15 year old son. His son asked him, “if you could go back to any age, which age would you choose?” I realized that for myself the answer would be that I would not go back, or if forced is go back only a year or two. It funny how many mistakes you make when you still “know it all.” Truthfully, I look back on those conversations about never getting “old” and “lame” with amusement at our naivety. Why on earth would you want to be at 30 the exact same person you were at 20? Or at 40 the exact same person you were at 30?
How many missed opportunities must you have to have to go through you life without learning, changing, and growing? How much out and out resistance to growing as a person must you have to make it through a decade unchanged?
I have the pleasure of working every day with individuals who – for the most part – have identified that what they have been doing is not working for them and who would like to learn a better way to be. No one gets out of childhood without learning some dysfunctional ways to act and really unhealthy ways of thinking. For some those are relatively small things that don’t impact their lives greatly one way or another, but I think the vast majority of us are walking around with some unhealthy ways of thinking and acting. Especially in our teens and 20s! For some people it takes an incredible amount of bravery to say, “I’m not perfect” but good lord, who is? If you think you are, you likely only have yourself fooled. The rest of the world is probably on to you. Five years ago I was not a very happy person, but I was working on bettering myself and my life. I was about to finally graduate with an undergraduate degree and I wasn’t sure what my life would look like in five years. If you had told me that it would look the way it does today, I would laugh. In a short time, I worked hard and acquired many things that back then fell solidly in the “dream” category. Today, I am lucky that those dreams are my actual life. None of that happened by chance, the vast majority of it was through intention and very hard work.
I realized last night, as I sat in the car outside Baskin Robbins in my pajamas, waiting for the person that I love to bring me my favorite ice cream, that I am content. I am in a state of peaceful happiness in my life. That doesn’t mean there isn’t stress or bad days, but it means that overall there is much more good than bad and I am infinitely thankful for that. A lot of it looks absolutely nothing like I thought that it would look 5, 10, 20 years ago, and I realized that I am perfectly ok with that. I never thought that I would end up with a man, I never thought I’d be living in Mississippi by choice, I don’t know that I really thought I’d be a therapist although it was always something I was interested in. I’ve learned that the secret to having the life that you want is to both work very hard at getting what you want and also to be flexible enough to allow what you want to look differently than what you always imagined. I would have passed on several amazing opportunities had I not been willing to bend like the willow tree.
It used to be very difficult for me to really trust another person 100%. I don’t mean just lovers and partners but also friends. Trust, it seemed to me, was leaving yourself open for hurt. What I’ve learned in the last decade or so is that it is not trust that is the problem, but whom we open ourselves up to with that trust. If you pick the right people, listen to your gut, and never compromise your boundaries then trust is not a scary prospect. I don’t have to accept your bullshit to receive your love, and the same goes for you of me. As I reflect back upon the last year with Jon, at first I honestly can’t believe it’s been a year. It seems both shorter and longer, simultaneously. I suppose the best relationships always do, when you can barely remember life before them because it’s nearly impossible to image life without them. The irony for both of us has always been that it was only through learning and growing into different, better people, that we were able to finally find each other. The people we were five years ago would not have been attracted to each other and rightfully so!
I used to think that being independent was absolutely necessary in the sense that I should not allow anyone to do for me what I could do for myself, especially not a man. Aside from one cranky afternoon where I snapped at Jon, “I can pump my own gas!” I’ve learned that when both people give equally and both take care of each other it’s not an imbalance but a perfect balance. Every other relationship I’ve ever been in, even most of my friendships, one of us has given more and the other taken more. I think givers and takers are attracted to each other, because we fulfill so many unspoken needs in each other. Balance is difficult to find in one’s self, let alone in tandem with another. If I had decided to not grow as a person, I know without a doubt I wouldn’t have this kind of relationship with anyone. It was absolutely imperative that I grow for my own sake, or grow for growing’s sake, with no thought of whatever prize might be waiting beyond being the absolute best person I knew how to be. Now I have the ultimate gift of growing with someone else, and watching them continue to learn and grow as I do too. Jon has taught me so much over the last year, and I know I have taught him a lot as well. Not overt lessons that we set out to teach each other but simple revisions in what we knew to be true about life and love and happiness.
Here is what I know today that I did not when I was 25:
- Time is our most precious commodity. You can make more money, you can get more things, you can even replace people in your life with new ones but you will never ever ever get your time back. For that reason, you must use it mindfully.
- It is possible to be loved for exactly who you are, but who you are may not deserve that love. Try to deserve it.
- No one can love you if you don’t love yourself.
- You cannot ever truly know a person’s thoughts but it is possible to trust them so much that you don’t need to.
- There are mistakes that you can never, ever fix. There are things there is no coming back from.
- It is impossible to have a healthy relationship if you are not healthy first. It’s not possible to have a healthy life while in denial.
- Nothing anyone else thinks about you is your business, so don’t worry about it. You can’t change it anyway.
- You will repeat your patterns until you acknowledge them.
- Nothing is ever just one person’s fault.
- You control nothing and no one except yourself.
- If you cannot be alone with yourself and like what you see, change it.
- We often deserve much more than we accept – and we accept much less than we deserve and try to say that it’s ok to do so because of love. As though love was both tangible and finite.
And lastly, stagnation is worse than death. So dance on tables while you feel the need to, but don’t be afraid of getting older and wiser. If I don’t know more at 40 than I know today I will be vastly disappointed in myself.
Otherwise known as the “how to really freak out your boyfriend” post. 🙂
The holiday season, which seems to now stretch from Halloween through Valentine’s Day, is apparently a time when a lot of people get engaged. There have been plenty of really funny, viral photos that have to do with this phenomenon. While listening to the news on the tv as I did my makeup the other morning, I heard no less than 3 jewelry store commercials during one break and I thought “Oh yeah, Valentine’s Day is coming up. If you want to propose on the most trite day possible.” Sorry if anyone reading this was engaged on V-day, but it is pretty cheesy.
Then, I saw on facebook that an acquaintance who had gotten engaged around the holidays made it facebook official. I “liked” the post and forgot about it until a day or two later when she posted that she had to take it down because her parents objected to it. I didn’t ask, because um yeah that would be tacky, but I imagine that it was likely because she’s engaged to a woman and we all live in Mississippi. Whatever strides marriage equality is making in the United States, however the supreme court battle ends up, just being legal is unfortunately not going to make it any more legitimate in some people’s eyes. How sad, I thought, that two people, who have managed to find each other, who love each other, who already own a house together, who want to put up with each other’s shit for the rest of their lives should be begrudged that by anyone, simply because they happen to be the same gender. I commented some encouragement and I started to think about something I’ve thought about for the last couple years – I think I want to get married again… Someday. (Which is kind of funny because as I typed a title to the photo below, my fingers automatically typed bridge. I can’t even type bride.)
When my first marriage ended, I said that I would never get married again. I was 21 when I got married, and we split after 13 months. There were a lot of mistakes that were made leading up to that event, situations that made it clear that it would never last, and tough decisions that I couldn’t make at 21 that I would at 34. We fought all the time; he wanted kids and I didn’t; we were much too young and immature; and we couldn’t even agree on the details of the wedding. I wanted to wear a red dress but he wasn’t ok with that. I wanted to walk down the aisle to my favorite musician Tori Amos, he did not want that but I refused to be traditional and do the wedding march so somehow we settled on Charlotte Church singing “Pie Jesu.” I can’t even remember how that became the choice. I got a book about wedding planning and was horrified when one of the authors said that she used to sleep with her journals in a fireproof box near the bed, but now it housed her wedding albums – yet I let what Martha Stewart Weddings magazine told me that I had to do seep into my head. I didn’t even want to be anything traditional and suddenly I was worried about favors and spending way more money than planned on the small wedding in my hometown, where we didn’t even live. By the time the wedding rolled around, I didn’t want to go through with it but I felt like I had no choice. I wasn’t ready to break up with him, I loved him after all, and I felt like too much money had been spent and there was no way to get out of it. So I got married.
13 months later, my parents came up to Ohio to pack up all my stuff so I could move out of the townhouse that my ex-husband would keep living in until the lease was up. I was too much of an emotional mess to pack myself. I felt like I was going to die. I had never lived alone before, I had went from my parents’ house to my girlfriend Sally’s house to living with Kevin (the husband/ex-husband) and I was terrified of being alone. The year that followed was one of the most difficult of my life. It involved a lot of drinking vodka alone and watching Queer as Folk & Sex and the City and occasionally waking up on the bathroom floor where I had passed out. Ultimately, Kevin and I were both better off without each other, and can actually have friendly conversations on facebook now and then these days. There were a lot of things I had to face on my own to raise my self-esteem, to build my resilience, and to strengthen my bravery, living on my own was just the first of many things. I didn’t really see the point of getting married again though. Getting divorced was a pain in the ass and it was just a stupid piece of paper. Fast forward a few years, and I found myself back in Mississippi and getting involved in activism right around the time of the Prop 8 repealed marriage equality in California.
I found myself not only at some of the protests that happened simultaneously around the country, but later actually planning a protest outside the American Family Association (AFA) in Tupelo, MS, who had donated half a million dollars to help pass Prop 8. I didn’t want to get married myself, but I figured that I was holding those signs and chanting not for myself but for all of the wonderful gay and lesbian couples who absolutely deserve(d) equal rights. As a queer woman who mostly falls in love with women but occasionally falls in love with men, I have never understood why I can marry someone who is male, and that’s totally acceptable, but for me to marry someone female it’s an evil sin and we should all burn in hell. What’s the difference? Why does anyone care? As I continued to get older and wiser, I began to see the fight for marriage equality as both a necessary step and also a cause for the privileged. I think it’s important to have equality because it lends legitimacy in the eyes of the law and some people, but it’s just one tiny step in a journey toward true equality for the LGBTQ community. Marriage is a battle, not the war. I also realized that even though it’s still a stupid piece of paper, it’s still way more than that for anyone who is queer. Including me.
As a feminist, I know that marriage is a patriarchal ritual, a throwback to a time when women were property to be exchanged from man (father) to man (husband). An archaic reminder of when women couldn’t vote or own property or pursue higher education or work outside the home or make her own reproductive choices. I know that there’s really nothing special or that traditional about a diamond engagement ring (didn’t want one then, don’t want one now.) In fact, Salon recently reported that more heterosexual couples are choosing not to get married, but instead just adopting the terminology to reflect their commitment level. I reflected on how that’s something that gay and lesbian couples have done for years. As marriage equality has become the defining fight for LGBTQ equality in my lifetime, it has also morphed into something very different than its misogynistic history – it’s become one of the most tangible ways that gay and lesbian Americans are classified as second class citizens. It has led heterosexists and homophobes to believe that “rights” are something that they can give and/or take away from those deemed somehow lesser, that we don’t deserve to be treated as human beings. Some religious fanatics see us as walking sin, demons who choose to be different than the mainstream in order to lead children away from God, or some shit. It’s interesting to watch how for straight couples, rejecting marriage is just as revolutionary as it is for LGBTQ couples to marry. And it leads me to the conclusion that I have come to in my 30s – for people who are in love, how we choose to define our commitment should ultimately be up to us. I’m not sure why the world thinks there’s only one way to be – straight, grow up, get married, have kids, work a job, buy a house, retire, play with grandkids, die. Somehow anyone that deviates from that, or even wants to deviate from that, is regarded with suspicion. Even if you want exactly that but happen to be gay. I’ve kinda always been a weirdo and always will be, because ultimately I’m not just like the norm and it’s not because I’m queer, it’s because I define my life in ways that deviate from the norm.
Still, I am a romantic and I find something quite beautiful about wanting to stand up in front of the people that mean the most to you and tell the person that you love that despite the odds, you want to try to stay together until one of you dies. It actually makes me choke up a little bit. Because love, true healthy committed love where neither of you takes away from the other but gives, and where you’re somehow even better together – that shit is rare and beautiful. It deserves to be celebrated, however it comes into our lives, because it’s miraculous.
In one of my all time favorite shows, Sex & The City, one of the characters, Samantha, who is adamantly against the idea of love and marriage, tells the protagonist, Carrie, “wrong ring, wrong guy.” I thought about that a lot after my first husband proposed to me with a yellow gold ring. I only wear silver and white gold jewelry, and that he didn’t realize that seemed at the time to be a glaring warning sign that he wasn’t the one I should be marrying. In hindsight, it was one of many small things that was telling me that we were making a bad decision. I focused on something pretty inconsequential because it was indicative of something larger that I was frightened to admit, even to myself. The truth is, I never really wanted to get married, not even back then. I loved the idea of getting a beautiful piece of jewelry, I loved the idea of wearing a big fluffy dress and being a princess of a day, and I loved the idea of having a day that was mine where I got to be the center of attention and everyone fawned over me. I wanted a wedding for sure, but I never really wanted a marriage. I had no idea how to have a healthy relationship at all. Thirteen years later, I still love big fluffy dresses and pretty, colorful, non-diamond jewelry, but I think that I would like to have a marriage. Not a day where I’m the center of attention (and omfg why is it the bride’s day, not the couple’s day?!?! Traditional marriage is so fucked up when you really think about it) but many days where my life is made better by a person that I love and their life is made better by me.
I don’t know if I will ever get married again. I can’t see the future, and I don’t really want to. Mindfulness helps me live in the present and not worry too much about the future most of the time. I know if I do ever do it, I will be doing it for really different reasons than I did the first time around and I know that I won’t do it if I have any doubt at all. For me, it would be a truly revolutionary act. Not just because I’m queer and not just because I’m a feminist, but because I have struggled my entire life to get to the point where I can trust another human being enough to actually love them without reservation. To make a lifetime commitment to another person would be the ultimate exercise in actively trusting, trusting them and trusting myself. Politics and history aside, I can’t think of anything more brave than that.
Have you noticed, a lot of people really don’t like the holidays? For years, I was pretty much the only one of my friends that got excited about the holidays. I even had a way of somehow finding myself in a relationship with someone who really wasn’t into the holidays. My best friend who I also dated for a while especially does not like the holidays, for many really valid reasons. In spite of all that, I continued my relentless love of the holiday season.
It begins with autumn really, my favorite season. In Mississippi we don’t get much of an autumn, but in Ohio it was magical. The trees start to turn, it gradually gets colder and colder, and every little tiny town has a festival each weekend. The pretzel festival, the potato festival, the apple festival, and the biggest one of all the pork festival! Even though I’ve never really eaten pork, we would get up at 5am and drive out to the middle of nowhere, where a field had sprung to life with people and booths full of kitschy crafts. We would eat all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage, I would always give my sausage away, and then wander around for hours looking at all the stuff. Every year I still put up the snowman wreath that I bought there when I was about 20, so broke that I had to choose between the wreath and eating lunch and I chose the wreath. Then comes my favorite holiday, Halloween! I was not allowed to celebrate Halloween as a child, because of my mother’s religious beliefs, so as an adult I have tried to make up for not being allowed to get dressed up which is one of my all time favorite things to do. Then comes Thanksgiving which is fine, when I lived in Ohio I spent a couple years with my friend Sally’s family and a couple years eating alone and getting drunk, watching Harry Potter. Then Christmas. Christmas rivals Halloween for my favorite holiday, it’s a close second. I love all of the lights, driving down the road and seeing all the blues and whites and reds and greens. I don’t like those awful inflatable things but luckily only one out of every three or four houses puts them up. In Ohio, we would have had some snow already but if we were lucky there would be some snow on Christmas. I loved the songs; the cookies; looking around to find the absolute perfect gift for everyone I love; putting up a tree and decorating it with purple lights because purple is my favorite color; snowmen everywhere because I collect snowmen and didn’t keep them out year round because collecting snowmen is kind of an “old lady” thing… Wrapping presents and sparkling bows and silver and gold and glitter and ridiculously over the top things that nearly every one embraces just this one time of year.
I love to make candy and cookies and bake things for coworkers. I love carry-in luncheons and getting dressed up for office holiday parties and playing “dirty santa.” I love watching people’s faces when they open the gift that I got them, whether it’s something they want or something so awesome they didn’t even know they wanted it but they love it. Everything about the holidays was very, very me, and I loved it all.
As I got older, I did acknowledge that the holidays came with some hassles. Air travel, either for me or my sister or my partner, depending on who was living where and where we were going. Budgets that didn’t always allow for the perfect gift. Other people’s extended families. My family has never really done the extended family thing so while the holidays would often include drunk people with few boundaries, at least there were only four of us not fourteen. Then there was the stretch of time that I was alone – either single or in a long distance relationship. That was difficult, because I was usually a fifth wheel, my sister and her boyfriend at the time, my parents, and then me all alone. There were moments when I had to admit that I was lonely, that there was something difficult about being a single, childless adult during the holidays even without distant relatives asking when I was getting married and having kids. When I lived with my best friend for a time, she had two kids that we would have on the weekends and I truly saw then that the magic of Christmas is meant for children. Something I didn’t know I had lost, I found again during that holiday when we were buying the girls every littlest pet shop toy that they didn’t already have. Then there were better career-track jobs that didn’t leave as much time off around the holidays for family or travel. Slowly but surely, the glitter was wearing off and leaving a trail on the floor that I just had to vacuum up.
Then the last bit of the holiday season, New Year’s Eve, started to lose its wonder too. What I had always seen as the festive end to a year (and another reason to get all dressed up, of course!) and the beginning of a brand new year, full of infinite possibilities, started to become just another drunken night. It started the year I had a fight with my then-boyfriend that left him hiding out alone in the kitchen of the person whose party we were at, half hidden by the refrigerator. Then there was a series of NYE’s where I forgot that my Urban Decay glitter eyeliner always dislodged and ended up under one of my contacts, so I spent a couple NYE parties not really being able to see. Bad relationships, long distance relationships, there was no one to kiss at midnight and that started to seem rather sad. Or worse the realization that every year I was kissing someone different. Then, after a holiday season where my girlfriend that hated the holidays was particularly depressed, I texted her on NYE and told her that I couldn’t do this anymore. That was probably the saddest NYE since the night when I was in high school where my parents and sister were already asleep at midnight and I watched Tori Amos play “pretty good year” from the concert for RAINN and cried.
Here I am with my sister and a dear friend, that fateful first really awful NYE about 8 years ago.
Little by little by little by little, the holidays lost their magic. Three years ago my dad had us spend the holidays in New Orleans, thinking that we’d had such fun the previous year but refusing to listen when I repeatedly told him that the previous year we had gone before Christmas and weren’t actually there on the 24th and 25th. I made reservations for Christmas Eve, but got so frustrated that I just said “screw it” to myself when he insisted that “everything in the French Quarter is always open, even on Christmas” and refused to map out a plan for the entire trip. We spent Christmas day trying to find a restaurant that was open, and ended up at a fish place on Bourbon Street that was packed full of people because a lot of places are closed on Christmas Day. That was a two hour meal and the only meal I’ve ever had where the restaurant comped not just the food but the alcohol as well. The kitchen was so in the weeds that it took an hour for my mom’s steak to come out raw, and the manager said we were the only table that hadn’t yelled at him that night, so he comped the whole bill. Merry Christmas indeed. That was also the year that I was dating “the alcoholic” and you know where is a great place to take an alcoholic trying to stay sober? A place known for complete and utter drunkeness where you can carry open containers around on the street and it’s completely acceptable to begin drinking with breakfast. That year we all agreed, no more Christmases in NOLA.
Last year was the worst of the worst. My always volatile relationship with my sister, that was usually plagued by at least one knock-down drag-out, typically drunken fight every time we saw each other finally came to a head. She had become more and more difficult and demanding over the years, and I was at the end of my first semester at grad school. Arguably my most difficult semester of grad school. I had just been laid off from my job in October, and I was fighting a pretty deep depression. There was so much grief and loss, and I was having trouble seeing it getting better. I was beginning to feel like I could have my career together but I’d never have my life together the way I wanted it to be. I was profoundly lonely, having split from my girlfriend the previous NYE and although I’d continued hooking up with her in the beginning of the year, I’d put a stop to that unhealthiness. It was a really shitty, difficult year, 2013, and it had one last punch in the face for me. As was tradition with my family, on Christmas Eve we all drank and played board games. Then my parents went to bed, and my sister and I stayed up drinking which was our “tradition” of sorts too. An ungodly amount of alcohol was consumed (nearly a fifth of tequila and nearly a fifth of vodka, respectively). I woke up disoriented at 1pm on Christmas Day with a scraped knee and absolutely no memory of how it had happened or when/how I had went to bed. Bits and pieces of the night came back to me the longer I was awake, but I’ve accepted that I won’t ever remember everything that happened. I was in a blackout for some unknown period of time, but still walking and talking and apparently falling down and scraping my knee. I always have to detox after a holiday season with my family, because of the food and alcohol involved, but that year I decided I would never drink like that again. Ever. That night my relationship as I had known it with my sister was over. We no longer have contact.
In hindsight, I know that it was a very long time coming. We had both forgiven and forgotten things that the other had said and done that we never should’ve. We probably should not have been as close as we were, given the horrible fights and bouts of not speaking we had already been through. I often describe us as being like veterans of the same war, we had a bond because we had grown up together in an emotional war zone, and that bond held us together through a good bit of adult unhealthiness as well. This will be my first Christmas since my sister and I stopped speaking. She will not be in town this year. My parents went to see her prior to Christmas. My boyfriend Jon described himself as starting new traditions, and I guess in many ways I am too. Tomorrow will be the first Christmas Day in a long time that I don’t wake up with a hangover. I’m actually pretty excited about that. There’s a lot of pain and loss and grief associated with this day. Some I didn’t even want to acknowledge until I woke up this morning profoundly depressed and weeping off and on, getting out of bed only because I couldn’t fall back to sleep.
I feel lonely and alone but I know that I am not. While my family is down to just two members, my mother and my father (who I admittedly also have volatile relationships with), I do have people that care about me, and I will not be alone. The weird thing about life is that no matter how well you plan it, it’s never going to look like the way you envisioned because things happen that you can never predict. I suppose that’s why we are supposed to live in the present, not the future. I’ve baked about 9 dozen cookies this holiday season. I’ve eaten far more of them myself than I care to admit. So today I will finish the blog, pull the last batch of white & milk chocolate chip cookies out of the oven, shower, and go be with some people that I love who are charting new territory as well. Maybe the magic of the holiday season is something reserved for children. Magic doesn’t really exist, but at least as adults we do get a magical moment every now and then. I’m going to do my best to have at least one of those today.
Happy Holidays. If you’re reading this and you need help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is there 24/7 and you can call them 1-800-273-8255. You’re not alone. ❤
Balance is something that is essential in a healthy life. Everywhere we look, we see balance – in the seasons; the land bleeding into the sky; light and dark. The Chinese philosophy of yin and yang tells us that different yet complimentary forces that are interdependent on each other. (That sentence is pretty much lifted from Wikipedia, there was just no better way to say that.) In contrast, entropy tells us that disorder – or chaos – is much more common than order. Real Clear Science explains: “Put simply, entropy is a measure of disorder, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that all closed systems tend to maximize entropy. Reversing this ever increasing tendency toward disorder requires the input of energy. …However, the energy put into preventing disorder in one place simultaneously increases it somewhere else. Overall, the entropy of the universe always increases.”
Think about that for a minute. Even in chaos, there is balance. When we decrease the disorder in this place, disorder in another place increases. Balance, it seems, is an inescapable part of life in our world, but balance isn’t something that is easy for people with emotional sensitivities. All or nothing, black and white, bad or good, these are the extremes that we traffic in when we have BPD (borderline personality disorder). I love you or I despise you; you make me happy or angry; I’m elated or scared; I’m flying or falling; these are the places where the BPD mind and emotions live, but these are not places where we as healthy, functioning individuals can live. Life happens in places that are warm or chilly, not full on hot or cold. People aren’t simply bad or good, they are simultaneously both and that is really difficult to deal with when you have an emotional sensitivity.
I’m also a love addict, so being in a fairly new relationship I am extremely conscientious about elation. I can’t “ride the high” like I like to. I can’t even do it like a normal person does, after all studies have shown that love effects the brain the way a drug does so everyone gets a high off falling in love and new relationships. The high of infatuation wears off though, because eventually balance returns. Still, even when we are actively trying not to be swept away, love is a fucking awesome thing. It feels good to be around the one that you love. A bad day becomes better, a good day becomes the best day possible, the simple presence of the one we love is a powerful and moving thing. The problem is, that I also have an emotional sensitivity and as I grow closer to a person, I grow more frightened. Love, when one has BPD, is a weird, churning mess of wanting to be close while simultaneously wanting to make sure that the person doesn’t leave and hurt you. There’s a concept in DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) called “wise mind” which itself is a balance.
Wise mind is where rational mind and emotional mind overlap. It is not only feeling, but it is also not just cognition, it is combining the two, to get closer to what is rational. My feelings often take over and they make my thoughts irrational, feelings can seep through my thoughts like a poison. My feelings tell my thoughts that I need to be scared, not because of anything happening right now, but because of things from my past and possible hurt in the future. My feelings tell me to protect myself, to build walls, to withdraw, to force my loved one to “prove” their love for me over and over and over again in the hopes that I will eventually stop being afraid. Unfortunately, no one can prove to emotional mind that it’s safe to be vulnerable. It’s never 100% safe to be vulnerable, that’s what makes it so difficult. Conversely, rational mind tells me that I have a bad track record in picking partners. Rational mind tells me that I often ignore red flags and outright problems in relationships because it feels good right now. These are true statements. When I am in wise mind, my emotions and thoughts have to work together. My emotions tell me that I need to protect myself, my rational mind tells me that I have a track record of not protecting myself, but wise mind reminds me that I can choose when to protect myself based on real threats that are happening in the present. Wise mind asks me if I have a reason to start to build a wall of protection, beyond fear, beyond past experiences, because building a wall is not the way to protect one’s self – leaving the relationship is. If there are reasons to protect oneself, staying in a relationship while withdrawing isn’t the answer. If it can’t be worked through, the relationship should end. Wise mind is a really practical place. When it comes to romantic relationships, I am never in wise mind without concerted effort. Wise mind has become like second nature to me in other areas of my life, but wise mind is never the default when it comes to love.
There is no healthy existence in just emotional mind or just rational mind. Wise mind is a balance of the two. There is no peace in extremes, when it has to be all or nothing we can’t be at rest. Emotional mind tells me that safety exists in rigorously protecting myself from hurt, regardless of whether or not there is a legitimate need for protection. Balance is the only way that I can live in recovery. Without balance I am allowing myself to be controlled by my disorder, I am not making decisions but reacting like a frightened animal. It’s hard to live in balance, it’s probably impossible in fact. I sway back and forth, attempting to stay upright. I lean into rational mind and bounce back into emotional mind, overshooting wise mind completely. I stumble and lean back, toward wise mind. I dance a clumsy ballet on top of precariously balanced stones, trying desperately to keep it all from tumbling down. When I am scared, I want to live in emotional mind; it’s easier than struggling for balance. It’s more familiar, it’s almost comforting even though I know that it ultimately leaves me without intimate relationships. Today I strive for balance. As uncomfortable as it is for me to live as closely to wise mind as possible, I know that it’s the only way to live authentically, and at some point that became less of a decision as a blatant defiance of the disorder that is not me and does not have to control me.
Tomorrow, I am going to have a post with more info about DBT, for those that are interested in learning more!
Have you ever noticed that human beings are ridiculously awful at dealing with change? It’s ironic, because change is the only inevitable thing in life. That classic Benjamin Franklin quote about death and taxes should be revised to include change too. Death, taxes, and change are certain; sorry Ben, revision for the modern world. Even if a person resolutely vows to never change, if he or she resists personal growth, the world around will still change.
Loved ones move, or die; friends get married or divorced (or likely married and then divorced); people start having children; companies downsize; our neighborhoods grow or shrink; even our bodies change as we age – like it or not! It’s ironic that we have such a difficult time with change, when the world around us and even our own bodies are in a state of constant change. Change, whether we like it or not, isn’t always bad. Change can be very good in fact. I live in a neighborhood that is a thriving, growing arts district full of people young and old who genuinely love the neighborhood. When I bought my house, there was a farmer’s market at the end of the street, now that space is a barbeque and beer joint which is unfortunate for me since I don’t eat meat or drink beer. Even as much as I love my neighborhood and wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else in my city, I have moments where I question the change/progress. I love the addition of a woman-owned french patisserie, I can walk up the street and have a freshly made french macaron whenever I want, but I have moments of doubt about a boutique hotel proposed to take over a green space often used for community events like a pop-up dog park.
Like it or not, the world will change and our lives will change. Resisting it doesn’t stop it. We like to think that we have some sort of control over the world, but really we only have control over ourselves. Like the tall, sturdy tree that Bruce Lee talks about, if we don’t bend, if we don’t learn to sway in the wind then we will break. Change will come whether we accept it or not. If we want to make our lives more difficult, we can try to stop it. Who wants to make their life more difficult though? Surrendering to change is frightening, even for the best of us. Letting go of the illusion of control can be outright terrifying. Resisting the inevitable can only result in pain for us. Change will happen whether or not we accept it, so it has to be better to spend our energy in accepting change – to focus on acceptance of the change and give in to the beautiful chaos that is being alive. The alternative is not being alive and change is certainly better than death! Everyone, save perhaps the true bodhisattva, is going to have a moment where change is so uncomfortable that we want to rebel against it. While change is an essential part of the world, fear is an essential part of the human being. Fear lets us know that something is happening, that it needs a response. We tend to label certain emotions as “bad” and fear is often one that we think that we shouldn’t experience. Experiencing emotions is particularly scary and extreme for those with emotional sensitivity/borderline personality disorder, but the entire spectrum of emotions exist because we are supposed to experience them. Every emotion, every feeling, serves a purpose. Fearing emotion is as useless as fearing change; we are going to experience emotions both “good” and “bad,” wanted and unwanted.
In other words: Don’t be afraid to be afraid.
Swim in that fear, let it caress your soul. Invite it in for tea. Say, “Welcome, fear. Come in and sit with me.” Appreciate fear as you would appreciate joy. Feelings are a part of being alive and they’re going to come whether we want them or not, whether we are ready or not. So you can dance with your fear just as you would your joy, or you can fight your fear like an attacker but that will not make the fear go away. The only thing that makes your fear recede is to face it. Change is going to come – meet it at the door, and open it. Don’t bolt it tightly, pulling heavy dressers in front of it and piling bricks on top of that. Change will just come through the window. Perhaps the biggest challenge of life, whether you have an emotional sensitivity or not, is surrendering to it. There’s a saying in al anon, “let go or get dragged.” Surrender is not a passive state, it’s an active one. Surrender means acknowledging our fears, recognizing they exist for a purpose, and letting them sit until they have served their purpose. Surrender means seeing that change is coming and allowing it to effect our lives; be afraid of change – that’s ok. Accepting doesn’t mean liking, surrendering doesn’t mean enjoying; it means that we know that change is inevitable and we accept that we are not perfect, fearless individuals and that it’s perfectly ok to be afraid of it. We don’t let that fear rule us however, we don’t let that fear make us fight change. We let it roll through our spirit like a river, washing away whatever it wants to take with it, leaving us smoother, more polished, like a stone.