Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself

I had an Arbonne business for a few years in my twenties. It was natural skin care and other health products and went into people’s homes and did skincare parties.

I learned a lot from that business. I learned a lot of skincare tips, which are fantastic. But more that anything else, I learned a lot about running a business and the importance of positive self talk.

Maybe it sounds crazy, but I have really active self-talk chatter. It is almost a constant in my brain. I have been consistently meditating for about three months now and the more I observe, the more I am in tune with the actual messages that I am saying to myself. And I need an overhaul of what I am constantly saying to myself.

I made a promise to myself if I catch myself saying “should” that whatever follows is just an obligation and I need to slow down and look at the situation. Ask myself what is compelling me to feel like I should be doing a certain thing. If I should be doing it, that means I’m not actually doing it, so why not? Why am I resisting? Why do I feel obligated?

Should is usually a spotlight on exactly what I should not be doing. Should is a silly word and usually brings guilt alongside it.

So when I was getting ready for bed last night after a date with Unexpected Date guy, I found myself will all kinds of self chatter.

“I should back off. I shouldn’t like him as much as I do.”

And immediately sirens went off. What was that all about?

And, dear reader, since I consider us to be fairly close now that you’ve seen my booty and read some of my innermost thoughts, I hope you are ok with me working through my thoughts.

Unexpected Date guy and I had just discussed that we are both ok with taking it slow, with hanging out and making out. And that’s it. He was up front about what was going on his life that made him feel like he wasn’t completely himself and he doesn’t have anything to give in a relationship. I told him where I was, and why I feel like I can’t completely bring myself to the table either.

We both felt relieved to be on the same page and to be open and honest with each other. He said he was worried about rushing into anything because he had done that before and would hate for me to “catch the Feels.” (ugh, I will be unpacking THAT phrase some other day, I really hate it)

But when I started “shoulding” at home, I realized how much I actually like this guy. Which was the opposite of “not catching the Feels.” (shudder… I need to stop writing that phrase, it really bugs me!)

Which leaves me where exactly?

One option I have would be to completely leave. To say “I like you a lot, I see where this is going. And neither of us can go down that road right now. So I’m hitting the breaks hard.”

The other option I have is to continue as we have been. I can say “I really like you. And I am willing to ride it out and be patient. Let’s be friends right now.”

But if I take a step back, that doesn’t feel true. Even just writing that I am willing to wait it out and be friends, I have a reaction in my body that tells me that I am forcing something. My body stiffens a little bit like it is bracing for an impact.

That’s not a good sign. I shouldn’t be making choices that my body is interpreting as an impact.

I suppose that leaves me with letting this fish go and throwing the bait back in the water for someone else. Which is a disappointment, yes. But I can’t blame the guy for wanting to straighten out his life. It is a bit complicated and messy and, in the end, I don’t really want to be a part of messy. So I appreciate that he is saving me from that.

And there will be someone else that is less messy and a better fit for me. I truly believe that.

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“Sweetbitter”

I just finished reading the new novel “Sweetbitter.” I had seen a profile of the author in the New York Times and I was intrigued. She was my age, divorced, with a book that was coming out and everyone was buzzing.

She had worked a year in a swanky restaurant in Union Square, and the book was a fictionalized version of her experience. She was extremely knowledgeable about wine, and that is something I yearn for.

There is a part of her life I covet. Something about being that confident about picking a wine. Having a style the way that she does. She’s gorgeous, in my opinion. I was hooked.

So I got the audiobook from the library and I DEVOURED it. I couldn’t stop. The actress that read the book sounded naive and experienced at the same time. Her character work was excellent and I absorbed it all. The author was incredibly poetic. It was an experience of reading about someone that had a life that I craved but I could never see us actually being friends.

She was honest and it shone through. Whether the stories were true or not didn’t matter, it was a novel. The soul of the story was true, and that’s what I latched onto.

I couldn’t exactly relate to her experiences directly, but that wasn’t the point. It was the language. The living vicariously. The emotion of being young and naive again. The spirit of throwing yourself fully into a new experience and learning everything you can. The experience of making new friends as an adult and the dodgy terrain of dating.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I think it is definitely more for women than it is for men, but I do wonder how men would respond to it.

There was a moment that just lit me up, because finally it felt like passing wisdom from the author to me. It was a conversation between a lesbian and the narrator. The lesbian had at least a decade more experience than the narrator in work and in relationships. But she didn’t often share advice, she usually facilitated a good time. When the narrator was falling hard for the bartender (and lord knows, I could understand that) and he was obviously bad news (again, I could relate).

The conversation went like this, the lesbian spoke first.

“‘Good sex isn’t a big deal.’

‘What is?’ I asked.

‘Trust. Intimacy.”

I was driving when I was listening and I nearly pulled over. Woah. Yes. I completely agree. That is putting words to something I have been dancing around.

One of my fears is that I will never find someone as great in bed as the last guy. If I actually looked at my history, I have never had a problem finding a great lover. But I was always afraid that this was the last great one.

But… It. Is. So. Not. True. The guy isn’t the last great one, there will always be another. And it’s not even the biggest thing in a relationship. The lesbian character hit it on the nose. It is so much bigger to have trust and intimacy with your partner. The sex is great, but I would be that it will never be a constant. But trust and intimacy are things that can be built and worked on as a couple.  Those are things that can be reliable and constant.

I wanted to put that out in the universe. I wanted to put that down in writing that good sex isn’t the most important thing. The foundation, which is also the scary part for me, is the crucial, important part. It’s the part where it requires me to be vulnerable over and over. I’m willing to do that.

The Pain of Self-Sacrifice

My last relationship ended for a whole list full of reasons, but it all boils down to the guy needed a lot of help that I was not qualified to give and he wanted to do it alone. There were patterns of addiction, and it manifested itself in various ways from the obvious to needed validation from everyone around him including another woman.

It is some deep, troubling baggage that he needs to unpack and work through. And I know what any logical person would say “Thank God that’s not your problem to deal with anymore, Single Gal.”

And I would agree. Thank God indeed. Thank God he did not want my support because then I was given permission to be selfish and to look after myself first. But that isn’t what I wanted to do at first.

When I put all the pieces of his bad behavior together and saw the really big problem, I offered to help. I offered to be there as a support if he was willing to do all the hard work to get better. I basically said “I see you stuck in the hole down there and you are stuck in a pile of shit. I will jump down there with you and hold your hand if you are willing to get yourself out. I will go be stuck in shit with you, for as long as you need me to.”

I didn’t do it to be valiant or a martyr. I did it because I really loved this person and I cared so much about him being healthy that I was willing to put myself through hell to help him get to the other side.

I am so grateful he turned my offer down (which is actually very much in line with my understanding of people that suffer from addiction. He pushed away the person that could see the truth so that he would be allowed to live his lie longer. He would rather not go through the pain of looking at and changing his behavior which is a shame). I am so grateful because in the months after the breakup I have made huge strides forward in my life because I had all this extra space and energy that I could create with. My mind was not distracted with his major problems and my energy was not drained by supporting him.

My situation is an extreme example of choosing someone else over myself. If I had gotten what I thought I wanted, who knows where I would be right now. In the last 6 months I created a play and raised funding to take it to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. That took up so much of my time and energy, and I don’t know what would have happened if I had someone around that I felt responsible for.

I have recently met a man that I more than I knew I could ask for in a guy. And I don’t know where that path is going but I never would have met him if I was dating someone else.

I think about how easy it was for me to choose him over myself. And maybe that I partially why he turned down my offer, because he recognized that I shouldn’t have to go through that shit with him. That he was the only one that should deal with it and that I had more important dreams for my life. Maybe he knew he couldn’t let me make that sacrifice by choosing him over me.

Apparently it is something women do very naturally. We put the needs of others before our own. It’s is actually a really big problem because every time we do that we are programming our brain to work against ourself.

Luckily this can be rewired. Part of the rewiring process is doing exactly this. Bring attention to when you chose someone else instead of yourself. Look for triggers and patterns. Where can we make a different choice next time?

I know that something like regularly choosing myself is going to feel unnatural at first. I will have to make a conscious effort to do it, and I am probably going to mess up. Big change can be hard, but not impossible. But I am confident that choosing myself has the biggest payoff in the end and I am not willing to sacrifice myself any more.

Sometimes Love is Just a Short Story

A good friend of mine supported me through my breakup this winter and then two months later she had her own. We both found ourselves in very similar situations. We compared situations about our breakups and couldn’t believe how similar they were. And how similar our reactions were. We both knew the breakup was ultimately for the best, but we were still mourning it deeply and we were frustrated we weren’t moving on faster.

I would say I am 90% healed. She is probably 70%. I saw her for 4th of July weekend and we had a number of heart to heart talks. She kept referring to the relationship as a failure and as something bad. It wasn’t sitting right with me.

I had a mental shift and it really made a lot of sense to both of us, and it helped us embrace the sadness that we felt when the relationship ended instead of resenting that we felt sad over something that we should be glad about.

I realized that the relationship is not a failure because it ended. Let me say that again because I need to take it in, and I bet you probably do too. The relationship is not a failure because it ended.

A relationship can still be a success even though it is over. Successful relationships do not have to be defined by whether or not it ended in marriage. There is still a lot that can be learned from relationships that don’t last forever. And often there is still a lot of love in those relationships.

The way I said it to my friend was “Some relationships are just short stories.” And that shifted both of our thinking. Not every story has to be an epic “War and Peace”-like tome. We can still love and appreciate the short novellas or the essays just as much. They are still valid contributions and can move us deep in our souls. So can poems. It doesn’t make them lesser than only because their length is shorter and there are fewer words on the page.

I think we need to redefine failure in relationships. Failure in relationships is staying in something long after it is over rather than leaving when you stopped growing. It is not serving either of you to stay if you have grown all you can from the relationship and there is nothing else to gain. I’ve been there many times. Thinking that if you try hard you can force it to be what it’s not. Accept it, let it go. That’s life.

A failed relationship is one where you deceive yourself or the other person intentionally. That’s not a relationship. That’s just not being honest and that feels gross all around. You can’t even have a relationship if you’re not being honest.

A relationship is a failure if you manipulate or make the other person (or yourself feel small). We have relationships so that we can grown and expand as human beings. So we can become better versions of ourselves. We are able to grow in a different way with another person by our side, it’s why we are wired for all kinds of relationships. But if you are in a romantic relationship with someone and you are intentionally causing pain, if you are trying to manipulate the other person, or if you are putting yourself or the other person in a box then it is failing to allow you to grow.

I’m writing a little off the cuff on this topic to really fully explore this idea of changing the idea of a failed relationship. Removing that label feels so good, it feels like I can expand a little. It removes the self-pity of having another failed relationship. I don’t have a failed relationship. I have a relationship that came to its completion. It ran its course.

 

The Difference Between Needing and Wanting a Relationship

I think one of the most exciting thing about being single is that anything can happen. I made some new friends (Hi Katie, hi Karen!) this week and they are both married and have been with their husbands for a while. Both love their husbands dearly, but it’s the same guy all the time. They said they both like to live vicariously through their single friends.

Well, I ought to hold up my end of the bargain and give you some of the ins of what I’ve got going on!

In my experience there is a distinction between needing a relationship and wanting one. Needing implies that you are not whole without a relationship, that you need that other person to “complete” you. I’m sorry Jerry Maguire, but nobody completes anyone. You have to be whole as yourself in order for there to be a healthy relationship.

The only exception. If you are a donut and a donut hole, you may say you complete me.

The only exception. If you are a donut and a donut hole, you may say you complete me.

So what is the difference of wanting a relationship? Why is that ok? I think that it is perfectly natural for a person to want to be in a relationship. Having a companion can be fun and fulfilling.

A whole person (or donut) can recognize his or herself as whole and still want to be coupled up. There is nothing weak about that. A person standing fully on their own two feet and being with someone that is also standing on their own two feet.

I am a long time sufferer of codependency. It takes a lot of work for me to develop a strong sense of self so that I do not lose that in a relationship. And I mentally know the difference between expecting a person to complete me and standing on my own two feet, but practicing that is much different.

It’s so easy to talk the talk, and I can spout all the different ways to be an independent woman. Walking that talk is a harder task.

What about you? What do you do to keep yourself standing on your two feet, and not lean on someone else?

“Friends, Lovers, Or Nothing”

I don’t know how people are able to be friends with an ex after they break up. I asked the question a while ago, and I decided that I’m just not ready for that, or maybe I’m just not capable of with a guy that I deeply cared about.

I have a great friend that blurs those lines all the time. Friends than lovers than back of fiends, sometimes friends with benefits sometimes just friends. She seems happy so more power to her!

I could never understand how she could do it, and keep sane all the while.

After endless nights of picking her brain over glasses of wine, I decided to chalk it up to being two extremely different people. She is excellent at compartmentalizing, and I am not (although I can fake it for a while and I can be pretty convincing).

I realize I am All or Nothing in pretty much every part of my life. I am all in or I make it pretty clear that I’m not interested.

I make quick decisions about work, people, relationships, books, wine…you name it. I continually work on developing my intuition (not that I am always wise enough to listen to it…) so that I can learn to trust my gut and go with it.

Even beyond that, when I am dating a guy I know pretty quickly what category I plan to put him in. Is there a short shelf life on this guy? Am I just going to date him as long as it’s fun? Is he worth sleeping with? Is there long term potential here?

For better or worse, I make these decisions pretty fast. Maybe I move good guys into the expiration file too fast, but if I’m not interested why fake it for a while? Life is too short to be around with people that may or may not blossom over time.

If I have put the guy in that long term potential category I am all in, fully invested, I want to make this work and give it it’s best shot. And if it doesnt work, my heart is broken for a while, but there is no crossing over into the friend zone.

I have been able to do this once, with my college sweetheart. But he left the country for a few years and we didn’t speak for probably five years, so there was plenty of time for it to transition.

But to do that transition in just a few months? Or weeks or days, like my friendship? No way, not happening.

I had this realization about myself a few days ago, and it put things into perspective. I have always wondered why I want to rush the initial dating stages with guys I really like. I just want to get to the good part, where you’re settled and in love and happy with each other. (Yes, I know, it’s all the good part with the right guy, but in the moment I sometimes just want to fast forward to the part where we know each other inside and out)

I often look at my flaws and try to find how I can improve myself. But I don’t necessarily see this as a flaw. I see it as an opportunity to be aware of myself so that I can be better person in relationships. An opportunity to be completely honest and open. I have a sneaking suspicion that this may be just who I am and it’s not going to change.

Whenever I discover something like this about myself, I get excited. I think that the more I know myself, the better I can be when I show up for the people in my life. I can be honest about my expectations of myself and others. And it helps me sort through the guys even better, because I know if I am not accepted for who I am (all of me, even the flawed parts) then I can wish the guy well as he exits from my life.

It’s why I don’t feel bad for calling a guy I’ve been dating and suggesting a date, even though I know they should always do the chasing in the beginning. I tell people how I feel, I express my opinions, and I show my vulnerabilities. If they don’t like that about me, then they are probably not someone that would fit well in my life.

Here is the video of the John Mayer song that inspired this post. It has inspired an idea for a playlist that I am currently working on, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you!

I Need Your Opinion!

Dear Blog Readers,

I need your help and your opinion. What are your thoughts about being friends after a breakup?

I think it is important to hear different opinions and stories about people that have tried to make this work. Has it worked? Did it turn into backsliding? Is it awkward?

Yes, I’m thinking about being friends with my recent ex.

I’ve made it work in the past for some. Actually, I am really only friends with one of my exes. And it was my college sweetheart and he left the country for a while, we’ve both dated other people, there has been a lot of water under the bridge.

I have one ex that we just sleep together when we see each other, and that’s just part of the relationship now. It’s a mutual established respect that we have for each other that allows this to continue in a way that keeps us both ok in the arrangement.

Oh, I consider the sailor a friend. But we only briefly dated and he lives in California so it’s ok.

So my most recent ex and I had the most civil, mature, and caring breakup that I have ever had. We talked and listened to each other. We allowed each other to ask questions. He asked me what I needed, and I asked him in return. He asked to be my friend, when I was ready.

The ball is in my court. I have the power to decide.

I miss his friendship. We were great for each other. I felt creatively inspired because of him, he is what really lit my passion for writing into a roaring fire. He got me in a way that few people did. I understood his passion, his jokes, the dark parts of who he is.

Sure the sex was great, the romantic aspects of the relationship were stellar. But I don’t want a relationship right now.

I am so happy being single right now. I realize my posts may not always seem that way, but I hope you understand that writing is where I vent emotions. It’s only a slice of the whole pie.

I realize a big part of this is keeping my ego in check. That voice inside me that wants to try to control the situation. That is trying to manipulate it and say “look at how great he is, be his friend so that maybe he will date you again in the future!”

I’ve done enough reading to know that voice isn’t truth. It’s just my manipulative ego trying to control what happens. I know I can’t control it. I know that something better is coming along. I don’t know what, but in the meantime, I remind myself to let it go and I listen to one of my favorite Tristan Prettyman songs again:

 

So all this to ask you- what are your thoughts on friendship after dating? Is it possible, or does it just not work?

Is When Harry Met Sally right?

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I Raised The Bar Because of The One That Got Away

I heard this song lyric in one of Tristan Prettyman’s songs the other day. She said something about “being in love with a memory.” And it struck a chord for me.

I don’t know if anyone else does this, but the last year when I got dumped, I  lingered. I mean, I have let my feelings hang on for a bit too long.

Let me explain what I mean.

The breakup story:

I should have seen the breakup coming because this guy was super busy with work.  It was a new promotion, they transferred him to Baltimore for it. The stress was worse than he expected. I wouldn’t see him for two weeks, we barely talked.

I should’ve seen the breakup coming. Things weren’t working.

I was convinced that I could make this work. This was the nicest guy I had dated in a long time. We cared about each other. The situation was what was wrong.

So I did the typical things I used to do after a breakup. Lots of wine, lots of chatting with friends. Probably too much.

I spent all my time remembering the good things. All the things that made him an amazing man. Why he was different from everyone else I had ever dated.

And the friends all swooned and agreed. I thought it was helpful. Every other time they had pointed out the faults.

What went wrong:

There it was, the validation that I was looking for that this was a great guy.

So in my head, I was hearing what other people said and I interpreted it as validation for continuing to feel so attached to this guy.

This guy  was too busy to call or text when we were nearing the end of the relationship. He wasn’t perfect. But I kept loving the good memories.

I went almost an entire year hung up on “the one that got away” even though I was trying to rebound and date other people.

And TV, movies, and music all continue to validate this, too. It’s the great tragic love story- two people in love torn apart by circumstances beyond our control. We were meant to be!

I have a vivid imagination.

What changed:

I took a Me-Cation (a vacation for just me).  I felt a fire light inside me. I needed to move on, and I was going to do it NOW. I wrote an email to the guy and laid it all out there. After all this time, I still wanted to try to make it work. I asked him to reply if he wanted to stay in touch. Or if he didn’t reply I’d drop it and leave him be.

I never heard from him.

That was all I needed to shake it up. I moved on. I decided to move on, rather. The decision is the part that mattered.

I stopped tcrying over the great memories to friends. I stopped making him the hero. I’M THE DAMN HERO OF MY OWN STORY.

Here’s my tip if you’re going through anything similar: Do not make the one that got away the champion. Don’t romanticize him. Don’t wax poetical about the happy memories and make him out to be the only great man there will ever be.

Those happy memories are a part of the past. Not the future.

Sure they were great. But in the end, the guy chose to walk away.

When I decided to move on, I decided that I was going to use those happy memories to set my bar higher. That guy made me feel great, now I don’t waste my time with guys that don’t make me feel that good. He did special things for me, he planned dates and put thought into it. He was into me, and made sure that I knew it.

I make time for men that make me feel amazing and that treat me the way that I deserve.

Thank god that guy walked away. I don’t think that his behavior of not calling me would make the cut now.

 

Laugh, dammit!

There is nothing more important to the healing process than laughter.

Actually, I have a list of a few things that I would rank as pretty darn important for repairing a broken heart, but I still think that laughter may just be number one.

There is a lot of scientific evidence that supports why laughter is important to your health- it relaxes your body and reduces stress, it boosts your immune system, and it improves your mood. But the mental and emotional benefits that I’m really interested in is that is eases anxiety and enhances emotional resilience- plus it is known to strengthen the bonds between the people laughing together.

Screw science. I know for a fact that when I am laughing I can’t be thinking about missing my relationship or the guy.  And I feel a hell of a lot better.

I lucked out after my breakup. I had agreed to stage manage Dracula for a theater company that I work with. I usually swoop in at the end, right before we go into the production and I run all the technical aspects because that is what I am good at. But this time, I agreed to do the whole shebang from the beginning of the process. And I am so glad I did. I signed on to spend 18-20 hours a week with a group of the silliest people I could have ever asked for. 5 nights a week, I was laughing until my sides hurt and tears streamed out of the corners of my eyes.

Even last night, when I am past the hard part of the breakup and I am well into scabbing over the wounds, one of the actors was reciting his lines as a pirate while we were designing a tiny little hat for another actor to wear- a la Kate Middleton.

Yes, I was lucky to be put into this situation. It’s a lot easier than trying to watch 30 Rock reruns alone in my apartment. Yes, that would have me laughing, but I would still feel alone. So what do you do if you get dumped and you’re not signed up to work on a play? Seek out a group atmosphere that will get you laughing. Here are some ideas:

  • Sign up for an improv or stand up comedy class
  • Take a drawing or painting class where there is a nude model (you can bond with fellow classmates over the awkwardness of it all)
  • Try a dance class- physical activity + laughing over two left feet = lots of endorphins
  • Volunteer at an organization in line with your passion- I volunteer with a radio station because I love music. You would be surprised at how many places would be open to taking a volunteer. Get creative and explore different options.
  • Plan girls nights, or dinner parties with friends, or anything that will get a group of people together that will be low stress and high on fun and silliness.

Here is the trend for you to create your own ideas- group atmosphere, don’t take yourself seriously, approach with an open mind, be open and silly in someplace out of the ordinary routine.  Those are just a few ideas, what would you do if you needed to get a good endorphin high?  Post your ideas below in the comments!