Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Clear Brain is a Dangerous Thing

A four-day weekend. Amazing. Actually, it was five days without kids. Thursday was full of planning and working, only in a coffee shop. With no kids. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were productive on a variety of levels. I finally started dealing with issues in my life and rooms in my house that have been often talked about, but rarely dealt with. Steps to change my financial future and employment situation were taken. Big steps. Brain-clearing steps. My office is at a point that I could sit at my desk almost all day Monday and grade until I was almost caught up. Good stuff. Brain-clearing stuff.

So brain-clearing that other issues moved up in line like they had been sitting in the waiting room, listening for their number for years. One of them must have cut in line, because I didn't even know it existed.

It's Saturday night. I'm on a date with a very nice guy. We have a lot to talk about, he has a great smile, and is employed. See? My expectations are not that high. Throw in a love of yard work and we're good to go. The conversation is moving a long nicely and we've moved into the past relationship topic. I'm silent, just listening to him talk. As he describes some of his past long-term relationships, I am suddenly disinterested, distracted and anxious to leave. I chalk it up to being tired from such a productive three days. A nice hug good night and I am off to my bed.

Sometime on Sunday or Monday, while still being hyper-productive in my office, I am struck by a realization. The guy from Saturday has texted me about going out on Wednesday. My anxiety levels skyrockets and I throw my phone on the newly cleared off arm chair. A strange fear creeps from my toes all the way to that dangerously clear space in my brain. Could the disinterest and anxiety have to do with a fear? Perhaps a fear of commitment? The more I thought about it, the more I recognized how my thoughts and comfort level changed with the change in conversation on Saturday. What was going on?

I'm the single girl who wants to be in a relationship. I'm the single girl who wants to find someone to share my life with. I'm the single girl who is terrified of being hurt again. That's what it comes down to. My most significant relationships, or the only guys I have ever called "boyfriend" have all ended up moving on for another girl. Whether it was a new person or left over feelings for an ex, all three have been for another girl. They weren't meant to be, time has taught me that. But it is still not a good feeling. And while those were years ago, many years ago, that  feeling or rejection hasn't been alleviated with time. In this brain of mine, a lasting relationship now seems to equal fear. How long have I had this phobia? Has it played a subconscious role in how I have dealt with other guys that I've dated? Who knew getting your office organized could lead to questions like this? Where is the off-switch?

Last night I dropped a friend off and was telling her all about this. She is getting ready for a very big weekend and I let her know that if she needed anything this week, to give me a call. I specifically mentioned today, Wednesday, the night I'm supposed to go out on date #2 with the guy from Saturday. Wouldn't that be a convenient excuse to get out of a date? My friend needs help, sorry. Crap. Clear brain space can be a dangerous thing.

So now what? How do you deal with this sort of fear? It's not one that you can easily face head-on if you don't happen to be in the right situation. Perhaps I can arrange for another four-day weekend to deal with this and clear some more brain space.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Thanks, Cupid, but your arrow missed.

I think I've sworn off on-line dating at least four times. When I get bored, I go back on and if I see someone interesting I might repost my profile. Might. Okay, I usually do. This just happened recently and I'm already considering taking my profile back down. I tried a new site this time, mostly because it was free. My initial searches found quite the variety of guys. This, I suppose could be a good thing, though it depends on the variety. There were enough guys, including two that I've dated (one of which I adore), that it kept my interest for longer than five minutes, and so I continue. I even go so far as to set up a profile, complete with picture and two of the seventeen questions answered. 

For the first couple of days, it's fun. Emails arrive letting you know that someone is "checking you out," or that someone has "chosen you" (Does this sound sacrificial to anyone else?), or the big one -- so-and-so has messaged you. I get the "message" email and check it out. There are a few. The first couple don't look too interesting. The third I respond to. His profile comments are clever and interesting, he's good looking, and single. My standards have really sky-rocketed, haven't they? Here is a brief overview of the "conversation" that took place over a couple of days. 

Boy: "Hi, I like your smile. It looks like we have some things in common. Want to hang out sometime?"

Me: "Hi there, Thanks! I like your picture of you in (insert vacation destination here). I would definitely be up for meeting. What do you like to do?"

Boy: "Great! How about we (activity), (activity), (activity), or (activity)? Does Friday around 7PM work?" (This is all taking place on Thursday, by the way.)

Boy: "Or Saturday works too."

Boy: "What do you think?"

Yes, this is a series of three separate emails from a guy I don't know. 

Me: "Sorry! (Lame, but valid, apology) This weekend is already kind of packed. I have blah, blah, blah, blah. What does next week look like for you?"

Boy: "No problem. I understand. Good luck and have a good weekend."

Well, I guess that's the end of that. Activate messages, goodie! Open next message. Slam computer screen after screaming in surprise. Ron Jeremy would have been proud of this guy's profile picture. Message deleted. Next, guy old enough to be my father. Thanks, but I don't have daddy issues. Delete. Next, face tattoos. Log-off.

You can't say I didn't try. You can say my heart wasn't in it, it wasn't. Looks like it's back to set-ups by family and friends and getting hit on in the check out line at Fred Meyer. Maybe I take up the bar scene again. Yes, I was laughing as I wrote that. Or maybe I just go get some cats and start smudging red lipstick on one of my front teeth. On-line dating, we're through. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Universe's Plan

At certain points along this journey, the stars seem to align on particular days. It doesn't always mean that things go perfectly. On days like Tuesday, many things go wrong; so wrong you consider punching a hole in the wall, but then you realize that would only require you to patch it up with a possibly broken hand. The small annoyances become saving graces that help you finish the day.

I don't use the word "blessed" very often because it makes me uncomfortable. The religious association makes me feel like I'm almost not allowed to use it. Tuesday's star alignment, I believe, has forced me to use it simply because I cannot find another word to express how I am feeling. I also don't like to think that there is a plan set up for me; however, sometimes, I find the thought comforting. Well, it's comforting when I am in a positive "things will work out" mindset. I've been working on listening to and following my gut. For those of you who run, this is vital during a workout or a race. Literally and figuratively. Where is that damn honey bucket? For those of you who date, this is vital to deciding whether a second date could happen or a kiss is appropriate. For those of you who are alive, this is vital to living your life aware.

Blessing #1: Living near the people I love.
The day started off with trying to find some control in the space I normally call home but currently call a disaster area. Two remodeling projects have taken over my Spring Break and I was beginning to lose it. When I needed a break, bathroom or mentally, I was able to pass through the gate that separates our yards and hang with three of my favorite people. Later in the day, when I was ready to put that hole in the wall with my fist, my mom came over. I was hesitant to have her come over because I didn't want to take out my frustration on someone who didn't deserve it. Wow, I really am growing up. By the time she left, I felt so much better. Not about the tile work I had done, but still calmer. The gut was right. It must have had a conversation with the Universe about what I needed at the moment.

Blessing #2: I love running.
During this manic episode of tiling and wanting to be destructive, I contemplated doing my track workout early. It would have been a good way to get some aggression out without eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's or breaking my hand. But, I waited. I knew that if I could hold out until 5:45 that evening I would have support, motivation, and inspiration. This group of women have changed my life. It is hard to put into words, but I am eternally grateful for the suggestion to go run with this group. It has taught me so much about myself and that I have potential that I didn't know existed. I love running and love the women I get to call friends and running partners. Listening to my gut, resisting an early run, and going to track...somehow the gut and the universe knew what was best.

Blessing #3: The male cleanse
My last post was about needing to take a break from men and dating. It lasted a couple of weeks. If I wasn't sleeping, eating, running, working, or getting ready to do one of those things I had no time for it. I still don't. A couple of friends came over for dinner and we were partaking in some girl talk. It covered the usual: men, dating, annoyances with our jobs, running, men, dating. I was talking about the cleanse and how I didn't even want to date and what a cathartic feeling it was. One friend, we'll call her Abigail, turned to me and said, "Tyler, you are in a relationship." I looked at her confused, and she finished the thought. "You are in a relationship with the Boston Marathon." I thought for a second, acknowledged that she was absolutely right, and then added, "And in a month we are breaking up!"

A few days later, my uncle called me asking to set me up with a guy he knew. Why not, right? Looks like the male cleanse might be on hold for a bit. Don't get excited people, it's been a week. The point is, that I listened to my head and my heart and, for once, heard them saying the same thing, "Take a freaking break!" I listened, reveled in it for a bit, and then got back out there. Gut + Universe = freaking genius

I am not the kind of person to read the directions. Yes, I get upset with my kids when they don't read the directions to an assignment. I am fully aware of the hypocrisy, but I blame myself, not the teacher. I like to figure things out on my own, sometimes reaching out for guidance, sometimes not. I'm learning to reach out for guidance, help, support, and to recognize when something good has happened to celebrate it. I'm also learning that when the stars aren't aligned I need to listen to that gut feeling and trust in the Universe's plan. When I get better at this, I might have a fourth blessing to add.

Here's a toast to the plan, whether it is a real or just a myth, living life fully aware and counting blessings. Yeah, I said it. Blessings.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Cleanse...of the Male Sorts

"You need a boy cleanse," states Margaret, one of my best friends.
"I need a what?" A cleanse? Like a juice cleanse? Do I give up dating for a while? What is she talking about?

We are sitting in my living room working on the final "session" for this class (mentioned in previous posts) that is supposed to help us see patterns in successes, and learn to apply them in other situations. It sounds a little cheesy, but I have learned a lot about myself. I've learned that I like order and simplicity in my life. I have have learned that I like to have new experiences to gain new perspectives on life.

During this last "session," Margaret (pseudonym) and I were choosing one tangible goal to work towards. Well, technically, we were choosing one of our listed goals and pretending that we had already achieved it. For example, my initial goal was to figure out what the hell I want to do with my life. Okay, I used the phrase "find a new career," but that doesn't have the same oomph. The point of the exercise was to spend a week pretending that you had already achieved that goal. So, for the last week I didn't bring home any work to grade. It was awesome.

Back to the point of my story. Margaret's suggestions of a "boy cleanse" caught me a little off guard. Initially, I was a little offended but quickly realized that was the result of knowing that she was right. I've written about my patterns with men before, but one I don't think I've ever mentioned, is that I hold on to hope a little too long. It's not always a hope that they'll change their minds and want to try things again, but hope that we can still have some sort of relationship. A friendship.

You may be reading this, thinking, "That chick be crazy!" Allow me to explain. When someone enters my life, I like to think it is for a reason. I strongly believe that when some people come into my life it is supposed to be for more than a two to four month stint. Please note I said "some." There have been plenty that two months, heck two dates, was all I needed. One of the "sessions" for this class required the two of us to ask people, "What do you come to me for?" Basically, what do you get out of being my friend? In considering a "boy cleanse," I have also thought about which guys I have wanted to remain a part of my life. I get something significant out of having some type of relationship with them. Just because our romantic relationship didn't work out, why is it so hard for people to understand that I want them to still be a part of my life?

Yes, it is one way in which I make my life more difficult than necessary. I feel extremely grateful to have these platonic relationships. And, while there have been a couple in which I did hold out hope for romance, I know the friendships are what were supposed to come of us meeting.

Through much thought, however, I think, okay I know, they have held me back. (Insert your "Duh" here.) If you happen to be one of these gentlemen, I am in no way saying that I want our friendships to be over. Just the opposite, in fact; I love being your friend and have worked really hard to get to this point. But there have been times when, after being friends for a while, it still turned my stomach to think of you dating another girl. This is where I get stuck and how I know Margaret is right. How do I balance keeping these friendships with moving on from the past?

Thus, the cleanse. Ideas and details are still being developed and discussed. The concept is truly still in its infancy. I am curious to see where this leads. I am feeling big changes. Good changes. This just might be the beginning of something.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Closet Space

In April, I'm going to have a roommate. I haven't lived with another human for almost 5 years. This is requiring stages of closet purging and quick updates to the house. These are all things I should have been doing along the way, but life tends to get in the way of all that. About an hour ago I found myself staring into the closet of the guest room and having a Katherine Heigl moment. I keep sweaters stored in there on those fabric shelves that hang from the rod. Extra linens and window fans share that space. The majority of the closet is consumed by dresses that were worn once, for, at most, 6 or 7 hours. The collection includes my prom dress, a couple of winter formal dresses from college, and 7 bridesmaid dresses. No, it is not 27 dresses, but still. What do I do with these?

For a long time, I figured that when I finally got married, I would have all those lovely ladies in my wedding, just like in the movie. They would get to wear the dress I wore for them, and we would have a grand time. The older I get without having found that person who will put up with me and the more obsessed I become with getting rid of stuff, the more I look at those dresses and think, "Uh, what do I do with these?" I try them on every once in a while to motivate me to take them somewhere to donate. I try to find a reason to keep them, an event or party I might be invited to someday. The truth, however, is in my reflection: Bridesmaid dresses are pretty, but they are bridesmaid dresses. From the length to color, it is usually obvious that particular dress was bought to match 3-4 other girls and a pair of shoes. Whenever I start to think that I could shorten them so they might be a bit more wearable in real life, scenes from "27 Dresses" come to mind. At least I can close my closet doors.

I wish I could say I'm not a pack rat, but I do have a difficult time getting rid of sentimental things. I look at each one of those dresses and am reminded of how much fun I had while wearing that dress, how much money I spent on it, and the fact that I got to stand up with a good friend while she promised to love and stay faithful to the man standing across from her. It makes me tear up a little bit. It makes me not want to get rid of them. I am able to justify keeping them for a little longer. Why am I such a wuss when it comes to getting rid of these things?!

Reminders of another person taking over the biggest closet in the house come to mind, and I know the dresses are taking up valuable closet space. That and good hangers! In the almost five years that I have lived in this house, I have only worn two of them an additional time. Yep, I need to get rid of them. But then, it happens. I find an empty garment bag. It is large enough for all of the dresses, minus the iridescent blue princess style prom dress. That's the solution! Whatever doesn't fit in the garment bag has to go! I didn't have that great a time at prom, anyways; that is a story for another post, another day. Consolidated in that single bag, I feel better. I feel good about my decision. I'm keeping the sparkly and puffy and just different enough colored dresses.

While I don't know if I'll ever have a special day for my friends to wear the dresses I got to wear for them, I know that they don't take up much closet space and I can look back on them and smile. Now for an event in which I get to wear them, and prove that it was a good idea to keep them...and a man wouldn't be bad either.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

We're gonna have a good day

Running has many purposes in my life. Yes, it keeps me in shape and allows me to eat whatever I want, but it does a lot more. It allows me to set ridiculous goals, that with hard work, and a shift in my mental fitness, accomplish them. It provides me with a healthy sense of control. Today I found a new purpose.

This morning was beautiful. It was one of those Portland mornings that you tuck away in a special place to be brought back out on the normally cloudy, gray, and wet winter days. We call days like today three-mountain days. Saint Helens looked like it was right across the river. Incredible. The sun was shining the whole time. The wind held off. Well, it held off for most of the run. We had a huge group and were headed up and over Terwilliger for 18 miles. Leaving the Lincoln track, there was a bunch of chatter. It continued all the way through the trail of Tryon Creek and down to 43 in Lake Oswego. Then, we turned around and back up the hill.

The return trip is a bit of a different story. It's quiet except for the increased breathing because of the elevation gains. The quiet allows me to be inside my own head for a while. I've always thought of running as a form of therapy, thus explaining the inexplicable tears that appear out of nowhere during taper weeks. The last couple of weeks have been tough relationship-wise. Not that anything earth shattering happened, but there was enough activity to send me into a slump for a few days. The last few years have been difficult in relationship-land and reality in general. If you have followed this blog, you've read about it. Today was a game changer.

A last minute decision at the intersection of Barbur and Terwilliger sent us back up, into the shade and hills. As we reached a particular viewpoint that almost makes those hills worth the effort, I noticed I was tearing up. I realized that these were happy tears, and as this realization settled over me, so did a sense of acceptance. For the first time in a VERY long time, I felt satisfied with my life. I felt like if someone asked me how I was, I could actually reply with an honest, "Good," instead of the safe, "Okay." As we descended the hills and returned to town, thoughts about all areas of my life flooded my brain. Even thoughts about where my "love-life" stands and my dissatisfaction with work, felt positive. Maybe this was a result of the elusive runner's high.

Our pace began to slow as we neared the end of the run. Conversation about Boston began and, again, those happy tears reappeared. A lap around the track in order to earn the 18th beep of all three watches, a little yoga, some time at Starbucks and that feeling of acceptance was still floating around my body.

Today's run was hard. But it was a hard run that made me realize I am doing what I want in many areas of my life. I can accept the areas that I need or want to work on, and I will work on them because I want my life to keep improving. Today's run somehow allowed/encouraged my brain to finally let go of some baggage and begin to move forward. I am hopeful that this was not simply a case of a runner's high because it has not faded. Okay, maybe it has faded, but I believe that is the result of the fatigue that comes from running 18 miles of hills. I am hopeful that this is a case of learning how to deal with the hand that has been dealt to me in a positive and productive manner. More importantly, I am sure it is a case of me understanding how much I appreciate this gift we call life and all that is included in mine...even including an often ridiculous romantic portion and a dog who drives me to the edges of insanity and credit limits. Today, running gave this to me.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Use or Sell by: (insert date)

I'm currently taking a class that is supposed to help you focus on the patterns that make you successful, and learn how to apply those ideas to all areas of your life. It has been surprising to see the that there are obvious patterns and connections between my personality and successes. I feel successful when things are simple and organized. Hmmm...why doesn't this follow into all areas of my life?

I think it is natural that when you are examining your successes that you also examine your failures. Shockingly, I zeroed in on my past relationships. Rarely, have they been simple and organized. The patterns that have showed up ever since college are generally chaotic, sporadic, and short. My first relationship (when I was in college...yes, I was a late bloomer) is still the most simple (It was, at least, while we were dating.) and longest lasting. I don't know what made it this way, but until we broke up, it always seemed easy. Maybe at that point we were still young enough to not have the baggage or experience that makes this stupid dating thing so complicated and frustrating. Ignorance is bliss...

Over the weekend, I was talking to a friend about dating. She mentioned that she feels comfortable talking to me about our dating lives (or lack thereof) because we seem to have similar experiences. The best example she gave was that we both seem to be the girl that is interesting/attractive enough to get asked out on the second date or get a second glance. After that second date, or as I'm now finding second month, the guy changes his mind and is gone.

This is not meant to be a "poor me" sort of post, but I do find some definite patterns in my "relationships" from the last few years. There is always something chaotic in one of our lives. It is the first relationship for a former drug dealer turned venture capitalist since serving at a federal work camp. I am really interested in someone else and so not completely invested in getting to know the person. He is just getting out of a complicated and/or long-term relationship. Maybe sometimes it is simple, we realize we just don't work together.

They also seem to last no longer than two to three months, usually the earlier. It's almost as though the universe issues a two month expiration date when I begin dating someone. I am apparently best used by or sold by (insert date two months after dating begins). What is it about two months that seems to be a turning point in a romantic relationship? Is it just enough time to get to know another person and foresee it going somewhere, or not? Is it just long enough for a person's quirks to surface? Or is it just coincidence?

Whatever it is, I feel as though I should come with a date stamped across my forehead as a warning to those give a second glance. Wouldn't that be great? Hmmm, something to consider. Positive or negative patterns, successes and failures. Life would be boring without those combinations. Sometimes, though, I wouldn't mind the combinations to separate and just let the positive reign for a bit.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Running, working, dating, running, working

I am tired. That tired you get from a productive day or a great run. A tired that makes you feel like you have accomplished something. You could go to bed, but there is a strange energy surging through you at the same time. This kind of tired seems to hit me in waves when I have a lot going on.

This last fall I was juggling a new school year with quite a few changes, many hours volunteering with one of my favorite organizations, coaching cross country, and trying to run a little on the side. Needless to say, I was a little stressed out. The tired I was experiencing far surpassed the tired described above. There were times I would be sitting on the couch grading, eating and trying to play with the dog after a long day of trying to impart wisdom on 12 year olds, plotting a route for Saturday's run, massaging my left calf and heating my right knee. During a few of these evenings I would start to think about how nice it would be to meet someone. Then I would snap back into reality and realize I didn't even have time to file my nails, let alone start a relationship.

Life eventually calmed down and I resumed a normal school-year schedule and started running again. I also opened up my dating life again. Each time I start to date someone during the school year, I remember how hard it can be to balance everything and make myself feel like I am doing enough in all areas of my life. Running has helped me learn how to balance all these different elements. It is the one area I can control. If school is crazy, I can calm down with a long run. If a boy decides he doesn't want to date me anymore, a run up to the top of Mt. Tabor can burn off some frustration/confusion/anger/sadness. It has become a regular part of my life and while I don't expect potential partners to understand it, I do expect them to accept it.

This time, I've been seeing a runner who is levels above me with speed and experience. It is such a different experience to not have to really explain to someone why you have to get up at 4:45 AM on a weekday to get your run in. Or why on a Friday night you need to be in bed by 9 PM and really shouldn't have more than one beer. The amount of energy I save by not having to explain these things is incredible.

My short (but growing) list of characteristics of a boyfriend continues to change as I grow into myself. This is, of course, in addition to loving me for the somewhat neurotic person I am, all of my quirks, blah, blah, blah. As of now, I believe there are only 5:

1. Prefer a runner...or at least someone who understands the need for barf-inducing workouts, Glide, and a short port-a-potty line.

2. Loves (or will at least do) yard work. I'll keep the inside clean.

3. Loves my dog for the sweet cuddler she is, and tolerates her sometimes erratic behavior.

4. Won't get mad at me for jumping on the couch and screaming obscenities at college football refs because that was not pass interference!

5. Will cheer me in at the finish line.

I'm still willing to experience the good tired to find all these things and keep myself sane and employed.