Now that I spoil myself lavishly, I understand how small of an effort that is for me. I know how it feels to treat myself this way and I want to do it for those I love. When I get less than my small but constant expressions of love, and I’m willing to give so much more, I can see where I’m wasting my efforts.Read More
Modern dating tends to include texting, messaging, and social media. It’s really hard to not stalk social media or hope every text or call is from the only person you really want to hear from. When my kids are home, this is easy. I can get into housework, or yard work, leaving my phone on vibrate in my purse. It takes a huge amount of effort to not search for a profile, hoping to see a smile or what he’s up to.Read More
I don’t need to say what I will or won’t take in a relationship just as I don’t need to say I’m in charge. It’s in what interests me. It’s in the authority I live in. It’s in how easily I give things a hard pass or what boundaries I set up. It’s what I allow to happen and how I allow others to talk to me. I don’t feel like I need to make myself a certain way.Read More
I had a set of in-laws when I married. Some made me feel loved. Others made me feel tolerated. I don't plan to focus on them. The idea of this post is more about the family of the men I'm into.
Learning How to Cook New Foods
When I was younger, my boyfriend's moms always invited me into their kitchens. This is how I learned to make tamales. There's something about a girl willing to cook for a son that makes a mom want to give you affection. The first instinctive act as a mom is to feed her child, and here is someone else willing to do so. It was a time for me to learn, but a time for them to learn about me. Do I mind getting my hands dirty? Will I clean up after myself? Will I jump at his every whim and how else will I undo all that she taught him. Will I treat him poorly?
Someone That Understands and Still Loves Him
My favorite in-law bonus was the built in fan club. I have a gift for finding men that are more selfish than selfless. They tend to be stubborn and not easily coached into a shifted perspective. They tend to be dominant and aggressive. Of all the men I dated, not one escaped a moment of me thinking, "seriously? Is this what I want in my life?" At these times, I always knew that their family would get it. No one else would see selfishness or poor hygiene and still love the man I'm into like I would. Except maybe his mom.
Deeper Understanding of His Past
No one can bring out both the best and the worst in a boyfriend like his family. Typically, he's going to behave in a way that usually makes me feel like he wants to keep me. When his family is around, he's likely to be at his friendliest and happiest and in the very next phrase uttered from a sibling, turn into an angry person you've never seen.
There's a gift to being the new person in the history of a family dynamic. I can step in without the past clouding my judgement of the present. I can see the most benign comments as innocent where my boyfriend would see something said by a sibling or parent as instigating and malicious. I don't have history to mar the future like a sibling that has seen you with pimples would.
You Get to Glimpse into the Future
There's also a bit of fortune telling involved. You see their kid pictures, but you get a real life experience of nieces and nephews. You see how their siblings raise their kids and you can see echoes of what your boyfriend was raised like. Parents learn from their parents, or work really hard to unlearn what their parents taught and it's so clear when you watch your significant other with their siblings, nieces and nephews.
Will he have a receding hairline? Will he repeat the same jokes? How does he act around his family? Does he treat his mom well? Is he respectful to his Dad? How does he describe his family to you? Is it an accurate description or does he see things entirely differently from the rest of the world and is this a good thing?
Where Do Loyalties Lie?
How honest are they? Will they tell you when you're too good for the sibling they know, or cover every sin and fault he is capable of.
Looking in the mirror, I can't deny the ways in which I favor my Dad and my sisters. I never felt my emotional needs were met, and I'm almost paralyzed as a parent, trying to meet that need for my children. So much of who we are is reflected in the relationships we have, and the family we're given is so much more telling than the families we choose.
I’m still learning. When I wake up and get ready to face my day, I get to decide I don’t have to know what it will look like or how it will feel. The hard part is realizing the many ways I need to unlearn an existence. I was a wife for 15 years. I made meals I never ate. I rubbed sore muscles and washed laundry for someone that wasn’t my offspring or me. Dishes were washed and bathrooms scrubbed as the last thing I would ever want to do with the consistency of someone suffering from severe depression. The stench of urine never went away because teaching my boys to use a toilet when I didn’t have a penis as an example means it was a poor lesson and it often failed all over the seat and floor. (New lesson: bleach will make my skin reek and burn my eyes but after a while, the chemical scent fades and with it the smell of stale urine only a barfly could appreciate.)
I dated when I was younger. It was a goal to be someone that might become a wife one day. I wanted to be all that would make me a wife. Even to the point that I would put my desires behind someone else’s. I was a chameleon for love, as it were.
Fast forward to nearly two years ago and I’m suddenly single again. A year ago I started to enjoy being single. I’m doing what feels good and exciting to me. I go where I want and stay out as long as I want and it’s about making myself happy. I’ve gotten really good at buying myself flowers and discovering Victoria’s Secret for myself. I eat what I want and enjoy the epicurean delights of self-satisfaction. I love being single because I get to be selfish without feeling selfish.
Then lightning strikes and there’s a man. Just one. There’s a boyfriend and I get to unlearn being a wife to learn how to be a girlfriend and no longer a single woman.
There are moments of joy because I love the way I feel when I’m with him. There are moments of doubt. I have FOMO (fear of missing out) just like anyone else. Is there someone else? Could there be someone better? I have moments of telling myself to relax and enjoy each moment for the spontaneous gifts of our time together. Our times together are amazing enough that I want to learn to be an us when I was so happy with just being me. And moments where I feel like I don't deserve him. They coincide with moments when he tells me he knows there isn't another me on this planet.
I found myself rushing home after work to be by his side and in his arms. On a kid free day as a single woman, I would normally just explore the area I work in or drive to the ocean for a while until traffic was a straight shot home and into bed.
I keep turning the thermostat slightly lower to accommodate his comfort rather than my desire to comfortably walk around naked at home.
I would normally have a light dinner or a non-existent one on a kid free night, and I wonder if I should cook for him or how that should look as his girlfriend that isn’t hungry and he surprises me by caring for my needs and being self sufficient. I have moments that beg for a lifetime in spite of my fear of what that could look like. I wonder if I want more and I ask why can’t I have the more he’s offering. And there’s happiness and contentment and moments that shock me and rock the certainty I almost lived in. (I'm certainly adaptable.)
I find myself trying to remember how I am supposed to behave and care and not rely on him. Can I rely on him? Does he ask that of me and why does that scare me. Around that time, the reality of being abandoned shows up and I see how I keep holding him at a safe distance, without accounting for the fact that there is no safety in what we have and that is the thrill I have a right to embrace.
I’m learning what drives him and where his passions are. I’m learning to see the new patterns of who we are and not place the heavy burden of the old (my past) on top of him.
When I met my ex, it was on the heels of a superficial relationship with someone else. He introduced me to a song that I in turn introduced to my ex. We played that song over and over on our honeymoon. I kept wondering if I should just tell him and pick a different song. I heard it on the radio this morning and it was interesting how the memories of it were layered by two different men. I heard another song with a similar scenario and two different men, and again, the significance and memories cascaded in a way that felt so confused and beautiful. There was a moment with my current boyfriend. There was a sweet emoji he texted to me (and so help me, I’m embracing smiley faces and I don’t feel like an asshat doing it). He sent a picture that reminded me of my ex and I let his expression color the picture in a different light. Like brush strokes on a canvas, we are offered a gift in our expressions and it was a moment to shift what I saw and how I felt and rather than dwell on what it was, I was able to bask in what we’re making it. And that moment is his and mine and has nothing to do with anyone else.
My kids on the other hand . . . Kid1 isn’t in love with my dating one person. (He might have enjoyed the idea of me being a player or hard to keep because that meant I was so picky only his Dad was worth holding onto and that means only my kids held my attention. He isn't rude but refuses to engage. Kid2 is indifferent. Kid3 (at 10 years old) has moments where he likes the new boyfriend and moments where his anger is palpable. He tried breaking my car window after watching me, watch him pee all over the toilet seat on purpose. I withheld my smirk and laughter at how visceral his need to be territorial was. And there I go with that bleach lesson again. We're all learning.
Yesterday I was walking past a Dad with his children. They were taking turns and jumping onto and swinging from his forearms like he was a living jungle gym. There was laughter and love and a gentle reprimand to one of his other children to not run through the halls because we were in a building that isn't really a playground. In that moment I felt so much tenderness for a person I have never met. He reminded me of my Dad and the times I could run at him like he could take all I could dish. I thought of the times I was on all fours with my children on my back and wrestling with them the way my Dad used to do with me. I walked away remembering the times I would spar with my Dad and he would teach me to block a punch and his love for "tiger claw," which was fierce with his long talon like nails. I remember as a little girl, sitting on the toilet seat and watching my Dad shave his face. He used to have a mug with soap in it, and use a brush to lather the soap up and slather it on his face. He would stretch and pull his face in different ways to get a clean shave and I would watch every time. He would rub Aqua Velva or Old Spice between his hands then slap and smear it on his face and neck. Then I'd watch him button up his shirt and wrap and tie his tie around his neck.
As I've gotten older, the ideal Dad I imagined gave way to the one I have. I stopped trying to place the image in my head on top of him. I realised he has always done what he felt was best for us and he's always shown love, even if it wasn't in the ways I wanted him to. It was my need to put a premium on the love I gave that dictated the value I saw in what I received. That sounds vague.
I have learned that the ways in which I saw my Dad as not what I wanted are the ways in which his PTSD have shown up as he's struggled with it my whole life and I could see the outward expression of his inner demons. I can no longer hold him accountable for the way his survival looks.
I get my bravery and courage from my Dad. He has moments of posturing and trying to assert his dominance. He does it with any man that wants to spend time with the women in our family. He says it when he feels the need to meet and approve of any men we might be dating. It shows up as the choices he makes and the ways we live those choices out.
Yesterday he had heart surgery. In his 7th decade of lapping our sun, it's his first and he's doing really well considering how epicurean his tastes are. I was trying to figure out how to be present for him while also living in my authenticity. I realised I couldn't sacrifice myself for him because I wouldn't be engaged with him. I would be torn. I had an office party on Thursday that I went to. I had a great time. Once I left, I picked up a few things for my Dad and went to visit him.
He wanted to shave and insisted he could stand over the sink and do it himself. I saw his gown was stained and helped him change out of it. He was surprised at my understanding of easing him out of and into a new gown but I reminded him I was hospitalized for a month with the twins I carried as a surrogate mother. I was upside down in the trendelenburg position for a week, eating meals and going to the bathroom in this 45 degree, feet above my head position. Two years later I was hospitalized again for pulmonary embolisms. I understood his discomfort and how to get him dressed, taking advantage of the way the gowns are created. I brought him a basin and washcloths and watched him shave.
He relies on a mirror far less than he used to, familiar with the stretch and pull of his face and the ways his skin folds with the wrinkles offered to him through time. He handed me his razor to swish and shake through the basin of water. He tried washing his hand in the water, and I showed him how effective a damp washcloth could be. When he was done, I used a fresh, damp washcloth to wipe his face gently. We talked. I encouraged him. He encouraged me. He wanted donuts but I only carry suckers and I left without one, once I got approval from his nurse. He wanted me to go to work and not wait for him during surgery but visit him after he was out. He knows my job doesn't pay me when I'm not there to work and he knows I need to care for his grandsons.
During his surgery I was having a hard time focusing on work. I was present. I was engaged, but it was easy to rabbit trail my thoughts else where. I hoped the boys could have stayed with their Dad so I could spend more time with mine, but they couldn't and in accepting the situation I was in, I saw that this forced my visit to last exactly as long as it needed to for my Dad's post op. I checked on my kids, and picked up my sister to go see our Dad.
He was tilted in the way he needed to be. He was starved and able to eat but only in that position, so I fed him. Bite by bite, I have to admit it was more satisfying than feeding a baby that is learning with solid foods. I helped him find his things as he was moved and had no control over where his belongings were. He was on really good drugs and not really aware of his limitations or why he needed to have them. I helped him get situated and after a short while we left.
There was something so humbling about helping him because I have always seen him as a powerful man. It was a moment of being able to give him my love in a way that was an offering and not a request of his. It felt like a gift to be able to offer my love through service and have it received so completely.
While life still happens at the speed of existence, I was still able to jump from conversation to conversation with catfish and real men alike. I was able to paper tiger through work orders and purchase orders in the magic that is my pre-invoice. Facing and correcting errors created during my training. I was able to be mom and sister and daughter, and I was gifted with being able to support the man who has made me the woman I am today. I'm often asked how I'm doing because that is how we reach out to others with minimal risk. It was a great day to be me, and this is what it looks like.
In spring of 2006 I was still majoring in geology, so I was still struggling through college level algebra. I was newly pregnant with Kid3 and exhausted with my full college course load. I took out a student loan. I opened a checking account without telling my ex or at the time my husband. Without getting permission I did this secretly and he found a receipt. Most of that loan went to groceries, but I knew what I had done was wrong by the laws of our marriage and I knew it was an act of rebellion from the way our finances were controlled and handled. I knew my email accounts would be searched next and I was freaking out. I just had a venting session by email with a really great friend, and realized my ex was in the process of uncovering one of my lies. I had my friend go into my email account and change my password. I didn't at the time see this as financial abuse. Venting was about frustration, but it was also about my not trusting him to be able to handle or address my frustrations. I didn't trust him to do what I wanted, and never gave him the opportunity to prove he could. It's not something I would suggest. I was a faithful wife, but not necessarily obedient. And I'm still figuring out what normal and healthy look like.
In my frantic call and the fear I felt over the situation, this friend of mine was that voice of reason. He pointed out the many ways my life was crazy and he did it in love. I remember saying to him, "I know he's giving me his very best but I know that will never be good enough for me." That was a profound moment for me and it was followed by a choice. Knowing I felt this way, I decided my marriage was a choice that I would keep choosing. I decided I could find ways to be fulfilled and do what made me happy. Without trying to upset him, I chose to find little victories for myself while still being his wife.
Today I was talking to a co-worker and friend. I brought up that idea again. You should hold it a minute. There will be people in your life that offer you their very best, and you get to recognize that the best they can offer is still never going to be good enough for you. This has become an old concept for me that really strengthens my resolve to learn to love unconditionally. I want to give from my heart without attaching a price to that love because some people could never afford it, but what happens when my perspective shifts a bit?
I find myself shattered and humbled because I really appreciate the concept that I will offer my best to someone and it won't be a shadow of what they have earned through the patience and love offered to me. I'm often trying to pay attention to what my physical reaction to a person is, and I carefully look at how they treat those around them, but to someone else, I'm held under that same critical gaze and not measuring up.
As harsh as that may be, I'm at peace with it. I had another friend ask if it would be okay to post a picture of me. She wanted me to see it and get my approval. I don't really care. For the most part, people will love or hate me (there's rarely anyone that falls in between) and it won't matter because I love me and I love how I look.
I was having this moment of doubt and fear as I'm standing in the idea of what it feels like to accept someone's attention. I'm feeling the stretch and pull of what it means to consider a relationship that is meant to grow beyond company. It's not love I'm afraid of. It's the idea of feeling profound and deep love again and having it disappear. It's the idea of falling in love and planning a future and having that fall through. It's being vulnerable so I'm no longer in control and rejecting others. It's being in a space of accepting that I might be rejected.
Do I run? Of course not.
I face my doubt and fear head on. I live each moment in the moment, without latching on to the past or grasping for a future. I exist for the sake of breathing and nothing in love exists beyond that. One day it may take me so far away from solid ground that I will be lost and I get to remember to stay afloat. I will love fully, without expecting anything in return as a barter and I will embody unconditional love. This is how I face that fear. This is how I embrace what could be.
There was a moment when a playlist was born today. I tend create music playlists that are about an encouragement I'm in need of. They speak to me in ways that build me up. When I no longer need that message, I will create a new list. This one was different. It wasn't about motivation. I started a playlist a week or two ago based on a someone else's list that I fell in love with, but there were a few songs that in the last couple of days made me think of a man I have been chatting with. He shared songs with me today and I heard them with new ears. With a perspective shift, I went from giggling to blinking away tears. This playlist is all about one person. It's about wanting music to remind me of him and manufacturing emotions close to what he makes me feel. I haven't done that since the man I was into right before the man I married. My first thought was, "what the fuck, miss? I didn't order a side of feelings with my fries." Then it hit me in all the terrifying ways.
I've been this unfeeling, uninterested person, content in the superficial distance I kept everyone at. I had fun left swiping and going out alone. For the first time last night I wanted specific company and it was new and sticky and not my normal.
I was a faithful wife and the idea of having feelings for someone wasn't something I was interested in. I had a first crush in 15 years in January. It was entirely one sided and silly. But the idea of being open to looking at someone that wasn't my husband was a huge deal. My second was in May or June. He was sweet and fun to obsess over, but with both men, I never imagined introducing them to my kids. They were never more than a silly distraction. They were safe and meaningless. The feelings I got to play in today are very different and in some ways I haven’t felt this way since high school. There's something almost pure and so far from predatory. In being me and the ways he's okay with that, I forgot about an endgame and there isn't one. It's a free fall and I didn't realize I floated off the ground.
These feelings are everything I hoped for when I started dating in May, but the out of control feeling and the hope that came with it was a lot to process. It was entirely unexpected. What I wanted looked like more than what this is right now and that was big. I don't normally want more than the moment and since I started dating as a single mom, I never have imagined more than a playmate for me that would never meet my kids. I imagined him spending time with all of us.
I mean, he's seriously beautiful but I'm not objectifying him for you because it's secondary to what he makes me feel. And there's a proprietary shift where I have no interest in sharing what I want to be only mine. There was a man running on the pier last night and I usually appreciate that, but only noticed that I didn't care about a topless man running past me until he had already passed me by.
I realized it's easy to love unconditionally when you aren't in danger of falling in world shifting love. When the risk is a reality rather than some vague ideal, it is hard to remain present in the moment and take it for what it is. I imagined all the ways I wanted more and the many reasons why I could never have it and the anxiety of a loss I haven't experienced was something I was already feeling the pain of. Within 3 minutes, I imagined a really great relationship was dead and as crazy as that was, it felt real and intense. (Overthinking everything intensely is a superpower. We know this by now, right?)
Love is an intense emotion. I'm a firm believer that we make a choice to love or not love, and the feelings follow. We make a choice to let someone in and to find the ways we are similar and how we can relate to them. We look at who they are and how their paths fit with the ones we've walked in life. I don't remember choosing but I did at some point.
There's a free fall. There's a moment when the emotion is too strong to fight and we fall freely, hoping that there is someone rising to meet us. We love the feeling and can't get enough. We want to be surrounded by love and covered in its warmth, seduced by its smell.
It's an addiction. We will do what it takes to have the love we need. We sacrifice our time and dreams and alter our goals. We give and shift what we don't have to make it work. We make love into our god and when this deity removes her favor, we are lost in the abyss of all we expected, showing us how far from the earth we've floated and the crash that is coming can be delayed but is inevitable.
I had to remind myself I was overthinking it, and missing out on the present moment of joy he was offering me by being open to my transparency.
It's a short playlist for now, but it's growing and I'm going with it, whatever this becomes. Even if it doesn't. It'll run it's course, big or small, and I will welcome being changed by it. What fun is living if I am too afraid to share my life with someone so easy to share with? Sometimes just knowing desiccated areas of your heart can be revived is enough.
- CALLmeKAT, Toxic
- Boyce Avenue, It Will Rain
- Boyce Avenue, Just Can't Get Enough
- Jasmine Thompson, Like I'm Gonna Lose You
- Lo-Fang, You're the One That I Want
- Lotte Kestner, Halo
- Ortopilot, Make You Feel My Love
- Lukas Graham, 7 Years
- Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Growing Up (feat. Ed Sheeran)
- Drake, One Dance (Feat. Wizkid & Kyla)
- Drake, Controlla