Finding My Balance

Have you ever felt like the universe was trying to tell you something?  This morning I sat down at my desk and tore away yesterday’s page on my calendar and got the distinct impression that someone must be trying to send me a message.  Today’s Inner Bitch message was “The beauty of being in touch with your Inner Bitch means that you know what you know and you’re not afraid to say it out loud.”  It was especially timely after Tuesday’s voice lesson.  I recently started taking voice lessons again and one of the things my instructor talked about is the tension that intelligent women tend to carry from the many times they want to speak their mind and don’t. She explained it as part of a discussion about trying to release muscle tension in my neck that interferes with my voice.

Well, this makes perfect sense to me, mainly because I find myself editing my comments all the time. One of the reasons I started writing a blog was to give myself the freedom to express my thoughts outside of traditional social media where my friends and family inevitably judge my words. But it’s hard to speak up when you’ve forced yourself to stay silent for so long. Trust me, Tori Amos has nothing on my silent years.

I recently read that the average person has 318 friends on Facebook. I haven’t done a recent count, but I have a feeling my friend count is less than average. Don’t get me wrong- I’m completely okay with that. After all, it was by my own doing. Because every new friend equals the potential of further silencing my words. For example, I’ve done the online dating thing on and off for a while now. Every once in a while a guy I’m talking to will ask me to friend him on Facebook. I almost always decline. I joke with my friends that it’s because it would be awkward to post something about going on the worst first date ever when I know there’s a chance my date would see my comment. In truth, I’m only half joking.

I feel like I’m in a constant battle with myself.  On the one hand, I want to just say what I’m thinking, right when I think it.  On the other hand, I know the damage that words can do. Like everyone, I’ve said things that I later regret, and when I’m really upset, I can pretty much destroy someone with my words. I want to let my feelings out, but (usually) not at the expense of someone else’s.

To add to the confusion, there are time when I feel like I want to keep things to myself. Sometimes I need to wallow in my own sadness before I’m ready to put on my happy face for the rest of the world.  I get the same way about the really good feelings, too.  I feel kind of selfish and just want to savor those amazing moments–almost as if I’m afraid that sharing them might make them feel less vivid in my mind.  The end result is feeling like I’m on a roller coaster and I want to get off, but I just can’t actually bring myself to pull the off switch.

So here’s to finding the balance between my feelings and my concern for the feelings of others… to letting my voice be heard, not for the sake of being heard, but because I have something to say, and it’s time to say it.

I Think I Heard the Fat Lady Sing

Since November I’ve been hooked on watching Will & Grace repeats on TV. A couple weeks ago I watched the series finale and knew I needed to write this. I’ve procrastinated, I’ve let it stew, but I think it’s time.

The final episode of Will & Grace aired in May, 2006. I never watched the series when it was on the air, and maybe my feelings would have been different if I saw the finale in 2006 instead 2015. But I have to tell you that I absolutely, positively hated the way that show ended. And I know that the biggest reason I hated it was because as I watched it on the television screen I was also watching the same ending unfolding in my own life and it sucked.

I don’t think it was possible to watch the series without imagining Will and Grace being close friends forever. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work with best friends? Everyone always says that no matter what else happens in your life, you’re friends will be there for you.

Over the last few months I’ve written a few times about Dave. It’s fitting that he’s the one who got me watching those Will & Grace episodes in the first place. After all, he was the friend that would always be in my life. Maybe as a friend, maybe as more, but always there. And like Will and Grace, it appears that the time has come for Dave and I to go our separate ways as well.

I knew all along that a romantic relationship with Dave was a long shot at best. The catchphrase from The Hunger Games held just as much irony in that area as it did in the novels. The odds were definitely not ever in my favor. But I had no doubt in my mind that no matter what else happened, our friendship would remain intact. Until it suddenly didn’t.

Unlike Will and Grace, Dave and I have had no heated arguments or tearful fights. There’s only been stubborn silence and that empty void that exists whenever something happens in my life and I want to tell my best friend all about it, only to realize that he isn’t there anymore. No closure, no understanding of what happened or why. Just silence.

Being Able to be Wrong

Two weeks ago I hit a bit of a bump in the road. I’m not really ready to go into the details right now- the wound is still a bit raw. But for a few days around the start of the new year, I was in a bit of a funk.

What stood out during that time was when two former classmates reached out to see if I was okay. You see, I didn’t hear from anyone that I was close to in high school. Instead, I heard from two women who were acquaintances at best. And it humbled me beyond what I can probably put into words.

First, let me set the record straight: I am not one of those people who loved high school or considered it any high point in my life. On the contrary, I’ve often told people I couldn’t be paid enough to do those years over again. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends. I had a small group of friends, but that wasn’t enough to keep me from feeling awkward and like an outsider. I was bullied a lot in elementary and middle school, and while the bullying stopped by high school, that feeling of not really fitting in never went away. I suspect part of the reason I keep people away now goes back to how isolated I felt back then.

When Facebook began gaining popularity I was surprised by some of the friend requests I received. I couldn’t understand why someone who wanted nothing to do with me 15 years ago suddenly wanted to be my “friend” now. I accepted those requests, and figured that maybe some people needed a large number of Facebook friends to feel significant or validated in some way. Not wanting to share the ups and downs (and we’re talking a lot of downs) with people who ignored me at best, I began keeping many of my posts as vague as possible.

One of my favorite ways to keep a post vague was to just post some song lyrics. And that was what I did two weeks ago. I posted from the song “Moving On” by Asking Alexandria:
“I’ve never been so torn up in all of my life. I can’t believe I let myself break down… I’ve never felt so hopeless than I do tonight. No, I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m moving on.”
Melodramatic? Maybe a little, but it was a pretty honest description of how I was feeling.

I didn’t expect anyone to notice my post, let alone comment. I needed to get my feelings out in some way and that was my only expectation. But to have two women offer me positive vibes and a shoulder to cry on, well it was huge for me because I instantly felt less alone.

It also made me rethink all of my assumptions about my former classmates. I realized that maybe it’s time to really put high school behind me and acknowledge that just as I’ve grown into a different person, so have the people I know. So to all of my Facebook friends, I offer my sincerest apologies if I ever silently judged you or your intentions. And I thank you for wanting to be in my life, regardless of how big or small of a role you play.

Friends and Lovers, Part 2

About a year ago I wrote about my friend Dave (refer to the post Friends and Lovers). It turns out that a lot can happen in a year. On the other hand, sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Last year, I wrote about being unsure if it would be worth risking an amazing friendship in the hopes of turning it into an amazing relationship. Last year, the answer was a frustrating NO. There was too much going on around us, and Dave and I agreed that under the circumstances the odds were stacked a bit too much against us.

The sad truth is, when there’s a mutual attraction between two friends, any decision can alter the dynamics. In other words, deciding not to date someone because you don’t want to risk the friendship still affects the very friendship you’re trying to preserve. And I will absolutely admit that the whole situation was getting to me. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised that it was Dave who was present for Susan’s return. There are few things more frustrating than not being able to date someone who is every bit as interested in you as you are in him only because you’re both surrounded by people who would intentionally try to cause problems. Now understand that the first time Dave and I admitted our mutual attraction was 2007. You read that correctly. 2007. And even then, we basically acknowledged that those feelings had been there since we met three years earlier. It’s no exaggeration to say that I was near the end of my rope, even concerning the friendship.

Then the situation shifted several months ago. I took advantage of this shift and made a move (albeit with the help of some liquid courage). When something builds for seven years, it’s easy to start creating impossible-to-meet expectations in your head. After so much time, the reality is sometimes a disappointment because it’s just not as good as the fantasy. And yeah, it was just a kiss (or two or three…) but it somehow was even better than I ever thought it would be. Better yet, Dave felt the same way.

It’s still not an ideal situation, hence the recent posts describing my wanderings through the Marsh of Vague, Ambiguous and Uncertain. The old challenges have been replaced with new, different challenges. There’s still the fear of losing one of my best friends if this whole thing crashes and burns, but I decided that it’s a risk I’m willing to take right now.

Patience: My Least Favorite Virtue

I am not a patient person–never have been, probably never will be. I realize this particular “confession” surprises those who know me about as much as confessing that I am female. My Veruca Salt “Don’t care how, I want it now” attitude has caused problems since the day my grandfather had to carry me, kicking and screaming, out of Sears.

Nowhere does my impatience wreak more havoc than in romantic relationships, especially when partnered with my highly sensitive personality. I’m sure you can just imagine how it usually goes down. As an HSP, I have a strong tendency to fall hard and fast. Then the impatience kicks in as I wonder why my partner hasn’t fallen nearly as hard or fast. So begins the viscous cycle of questioning myself: I know I should just be patient and enjoy the ride, right? But maybe he never actually totally falls for me and I waste my time on someone who’s not right for me? Is there something wrong with me that he doesn’t feel the same? Should I speak up? Should I shut up? With this sort of internal dialogue, it’s no wonder I always kept those online dating profiles ready and waiting.

All of which leads to my current situation. To give a very limited history, about seven years ago I was speaking to a good friend and we admitted that we had mutual feelings for each other. Yes, you read that correctly- SEVEN WHOLE YEARS AGO!!!! Over these years we talked about it, we circled around it, but never acted on it (there are extenuating circumstances around this that I will not discuss here). Well, over the last couple of months, we started taking the very first baby steps…

Needless to say, the internal dialogue has already begun, albeit with slightly different arguments. On the one hand, I’ve patiently waited seven years, so really, what’s another few months? On the other hand, I’VE ALREADY WAITED SEVEN WHOLE YEARS, HAVEN’T I BEEN PATIENT ENOUGH?!?! Isn’t it enough that I’ve managed not to fuck things up for seven years? That seriously has to be a record for me- never in my life have I waited this long for something I want. Under any other circumstances, the ultimatums would have been flying about six and a half years ago. Even more out of character was my decision to not just hide, but to delete, every online dating profile I had. So we’re talking serious uncharted territory here. It’s no wonder the Marsh of Vague, Ambiguous and Uncertain never existed on my map of Sick and Twisted- I was too impatient to ever spend any time there.

In other news, I guess I just found the reason for my chronic insomnia.

All In (or Here Goes Nothing)

Despite my high level of sensitivity, I often joke about becoming a bit of a cynic. One of the lessons I’ve learned from all of the ups an downs is to always have a plan B and to never really let go of the ledge. As you can imagine, sometimes it can be difficult to tell if my hesitation saves me from difficult situations or causes them.

There is no better example of need for a security blanket than my refusal to delete my online dating profiles. Sure, I’ll hide my profile, or just ignore winks or messages, but I always know my profile is ready and waiting for me, just in case… It’s reached the point where I’m not sure exactly how to answer when a guy asks me how long I’ve been on a particular site. After all, I’ve only been looking for a few months, but technically I signed up in 2007.

Somewhere in between my posts about feeling too little and feeling too much, I realized that my self preservation instincts are probably running a little too high. They say you can only know real happiness when you’ve also experienced pain, but I’ve subconsciously opted for none of the above. Instead, just give me some superficial ups and downs and let me continue on my boring but blissfully unaware way.

After reading some of my old poetry a couple weeks ago, I could see “Life Lite” being the ultimate in self preservation, in the most literal sense. After the pill swallowing episode, I made a promise to myself that I would never again attempt to take my own life, almost entirely for the sake of my grandmother–I couldn’t bring myself to put her through that. It’s obvious that the pain was still there. My poetry was all written in the years following that episode. And then the poems stopped. As I stopped writing poems, I started writing a satire about my classmates and teachers at school (with the help of a friend), and that was the birth of my more matter-of-fact/flippant/sarcastic writing style. Where my words once channeled the extreme highs and lows I felt, now they reflected a carefully crafted persona. And to be perfectly clear: this perfectly crafted persona would never allow herself to be vulnerable to those crazy pesky feelings.

The question is: does art mimic life or does life mimic art? No matter if the chicken or the egg came first, the end result was the same: I learned to protect myself emotionally through any and all means necessary. But maybe that really isn’t the right answer.

And so we return to those online dating profiles (I’m sure you were beginning to wonder what they had to do with anything)…

I recently found myself in the situation of questioning if it was time to hide the profiles again. I’m not in a relationship, but I’m in a situation where there is a possibility of a relationship developing. A few years ago, I wouldn’t even be questioning- I would remain active on dating sites until I was very definitely in a relationship and then I would hide my profiles, where they could easily be dusted off if needed again in the future. And hey, maybe while I’m wading though the Marsh of Vague, Ambiguous and Uncertain I’ll meet someone I like better. (Note to self: must add the Marsh of Vague, Ambiguous and Uncertain to the map of Sick and Twisted, perhaps on the edge of the Forrest of Confusion?)

The only problem is, as much as I loathe Vague, Ambiguous and Uncertain (also known as the Great Maybe), there’s a part of me that wants to keep exploring and try to make it to the other side. And maybe there’s even a part of me that doesn’t really want to meet someone else right now, even if I might like him better. So today I did the previously unthinkable. I didn’t hide, I deleted. I deleted profiles; I deleted apps. I decided to let go of the ledge, and let myself fall, no matter what might await me when I land.

The Sensitive Writer: Some Thoughts on the Obvious

A few years ago, I purchased a book by Elaine Aron called The Highly Sensitive Person.  Based on the brief quiz in the front of the book, it sounded like the book was applicable to my life.  I will now confess that there are a lot of books that I buy that I don’t get to read right away, and this was one of them.  A couple weeks ago I finally started reading it.  Coincidentally, right after I started reading the book, there was a brief flurry of articles popping up in my newsfeed on Facebook about highly sensitive people, some posted by friends or former classmates that I never would have considered to have this trait.

In one of the chapters, Aron explained something that is probably obvious to most people–highly sensitive people (HSPs)are often creatively and artistically inclined.  In a way, she confirmed what I already knew to be true with my own writing.  Over the years, most of my best work has been written during depressive episodes.  It was always pain that inspired my writing and it was always the need for catharsis that drove me to write during my lowest moods.  This was no more obvious than when I spent an afternoon last week sorting through a box of my old short stories and poetry from high school (because let’s face it, high school was almost entirely one big depressive episode for me).

I had such mixed feelings as I read through those glimpses of teen angst.  Some of the writing was quite good for a 15 or 16-year-old.  At the same time, I saw my cries for help in those pages, over and over again.  Through my writing I began to remember the pain I felt back then.  I tell people all the time that I’ve blocked out most of my life before college, and it’s true.  In that sense, my old writing is similar to Dumbledore’s pensieve in the Harry Potter series:  it’s as if all of those old and painful memories were drained out into my writing.

The pensieve analogy is all the more appropriate as I consider my writing versus my moods.  Pain drives me to write–it’s like a compulsion to get the words out so that they can stop occupying a place in my mind.  Happiness and even contentment do not drive me to write in the same way.  In fact, I often find it impossible to work on my novel when I’m in a good mood.  I also notice as I work on the novel that I tend to skim over the good parts and draw out the bad stuff.  I’ve joked with people about being selfish about certain memories, but I suspect there’s more truth to that than I wanted to admit.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m subconsciously attempting to save those good memories out of fear that writing about them will cause them to disappear the same way the bad memories have in the past.

All of this brings me to a peculiar dilemma.  I really would like to start writing blogs more consistently again, and I’d certainly like to make considerably more progress on my novel, but I’ve been mostly happy lately.  I’m not saying I would rather be sad.  I’m only saying that I struggle to find the words when I still want to selfishly horde all of my good memories.