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Monday, March 31, 2014

From the Inside Out

So, being 20 years behind in the dating game is incredibly hard. I am most literally up a creek without a schema. Until recently, I’ve never had a romantic relationship. I’ve had potential relationships, usually one date and we, either/or, decide that nah, we’ll move on. I’ve had a few online relationships--which are just basically a lot of texting. But those usually end with a disappearing act or him going back to his ex. Oh, and then there are the guys who send random penis pictures and trust me, I do not request them! I also have a knack for setting potential suitors on the path to their “real true love of their life”. It seems just by meeting me for coffee, I set the fates in motion. I am a powerful woman!

In May of this year, I’ll be 43 years old. To have had one, solitary, all too brief relationship in the span of over 20 years of adulthood is a little abnormal, let’s face it. It’s also a little depressing.

There are times that these facts fill me with regret, but then I remember that all of our experiences throughout life, good or bad, make us who we are. And who we are is important. I have some not my finest moments moments. Things of which I am definitely not proud, but overall I believe I am a strong, loving, kind and resilient person. I’m creative, I believe in my talent and my tenacity. Most of all, I like my brain, even when it replays the things that I regret over and over in an effort to keep me up at night.

Having said that, I am UBER-HYPER-SUPER AWARE of every one of my thousands of flaws and shortcomings. That in itself is a shortcoming when you are trying to become an us. 
But that's who I am. Very self-aware, most of the time.

I’ve spent most of my life just observing people. The upside to observing as opposed to participating in life is that I think I have a deeper understanding of what’s important in life and to me than a lot of people. For instance, I see couples arguing all the time about who should’ve emptied the garbage, who loaded the dishwasher wrong, who forgot to pay the bills. Yes, bills need to be paid and dishes need to get done, but stop bitching at each other about it... SERIOUSLY! Do the dishes yourself (both of you) and don’t complain if they aren’t done the way you’d do them. Be done with it, it's not important!

In my last relationship, my significant other took the garbage out for me. We didn’t live together, he had just come over to see me, so this definitely wasn’t his responsibility. He hadn’t contributed to any of the garbage in the bag. But when he took it out, I didn’t ask-he just did it, I almost jumped up and down. No one had ever taken out the garbage for me. EVER. I seriously appreciated it so much that I wanted to do something, anything for him. Not because I wanted to pay him back, but just because he had been so thoughtful.

It seems simple to just appreciate each other. Look for any little thing each day for which to say thank you. Don’t get lost in the stress and chaos of everyday life and lose those little moments that you’ll never forget. Trust me.

Here’s the thing... Until 7 months ago, I had no idea what it even felt like to sit on the couch with someone and snuggle through a movie. Now I do. Now that my relationship is over, it’s actually a little painful to think of those moments, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Those moments made me feel real, they made me feel loved. And that is something that made my life whole.

My analogy is this... when you're blind, sound, smell, touch become amplified. They say that your other senses compensate for the lack of sight. Lack of touch and belonging are kind of the same thing... When you go 15 years without touch, touch becomes more intense. Almost overwhelming at times. Your heart leaps with joy when someone simply holds your hand. You belong.

For the most part, this is a blessing. I have learned to appreciate the kindness and joy that defines you when someone hugs or snuggles with you. I don’t care what kind of car you have or job you do. I’m just happy. In fact my heart thumps with joy at those little things.

But it’s also a curse. It’s a curse because a lot of people, those in my dating age range in particular don’t really feel the same way. These gestures have become routine, casual, almost absent-minded. They are anything but that to me.

My first relationship has ended and I haven’t completely worked through the grief of that. I have to admit, its hit me like Thor’s hammer. I cared deeply for this person for many reasons. Loved him with all my heart, in fact. At this point, I can only hope that someday I will be able to move on. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone will ever compare to him. It’s not that he was perfect. He had just as many flaws as me, I just didn’t care. None of them bothered me. He was the first person I truly wanted to let in. The first person I would kick Hairy off the bed for.

But I will continue to hope that I can move on eventually. I’m mostly hoping that I can move on before I hit my sixties, because let’s face it, it’s all fun and games until someone breaks a hip!

But when I am ready, I would like him to know this:
  • If you don’t think I’m “the one” within a few weeks, you never will, so please let me go, do it in face-to-face and try to be kind about it.
  • Be patient with me. I still don’t really know how these things are supposed to work and it’s so hard not to be terribly insecure about that.
  • Tell me when I’m over-compensating. I know it can seem a little smothery, but I can't help it.
  • Carry something for me without asking. If you ask, I will say “I got it”, and usually do, but the truth is that I would do anything for a little help.
  • Don’t call me honey or hug me, or make any romantic gestures until and unless you mean it. I will think you mean it and I will be terribly confused when you yell “psych! I just wanna be friends!”
  • Send flowers and only to me... unless it’s your mom or sis or niece. You get the idea.
  • Kiss me hello every time you see me!
  • Kiss me goodnight when we're together.  If we're not, tell me goodnight instead.
  • Just kiss me... a lot... if you’re taller than me, lean down. Standing on your tippy toes is awkward and I’m a clutz. I'm likely to kiss the bottom of your chin and then I'll feel like a dork and over-compensate some more. Also, I'm an awkward hugger, just saying.
  • Hold me when I’m upset.
  • Most of all, talk to me. Talk to me about anything, but especially when something is wrong. Please. Talk to me instead of just walking away.
  • Please don’t take me for granted. I’ll put up with it longer than I should, but then I won’t...
  • Don’t say “I love you” unless you mean it forever.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Chapter 4: My Troll Doll Can Beat up Your Barbie!

Just before I turned 40, I had changed one of the things about my life that I didn’t like. My car. This seemed like an easy thing to do and fairly trivial. Something that I didn’t have to think much about. Just figure out what you like and go find one you can afford. But that seemingly little change actually lit up a slew of other issues that needed to be dealt with. You see, the elephant that I was ignoring was my “hideously ugly” complex. I’d ignored it for a very long time, and let’s just say, elephants have a way of getting noticed... eventually.

It’s not that I didn’t know I had this issue. It’s that I never treated it as being at all serious or even relevant. At some point in my nature or nurture, I became convinced that I was hideously ugly. That became my fact and no one really disputed it. I’m not sure exactly where or when it happened. It just was. It’s part of the reason I hated mirrors so much and also part of the reason for my panic attack during the first topless Jeep ride.

Let me say this... knowing something isn’t rational and letting go of that belief are two totally different things. But fate has a funny way of slapping you in the face with something just when you’re convinced your denial is impenetrable.

My 40th birthday was just a few days away now and God knows why, but I decided I would take the day off from work to treat myself to a massage and then spend the day with my dog.

I’ve never had an actual massage before, but I decided part of this new life should include at least acting like a was a normal woman and doing "woman" things. One thing that normal women did was to pamper themselves on occasion, right? I had learned this from watching “Dallas” and of course from listening to the women I work with.

Also, a few months before, I had started seeing a brilliant Chiropractor whom I called Dr.
Hannah. I’ve had this theory that I was in constant “fight or flight” mode for quite some time
now, but Dr. Hannah confirmed it. Clench your fists as tightly as you can and hold it. Now
imagine your whole body feeling like that for years. Turns out that this kind of stress can affect
a lot of body systems, including digestion. Wasn’t that interesting? Turns out that digestion is what
computer people would call, a secondary or non- essential system. That means, when you’re in
danger, it gets turned off basically to conserve power. If you’re in constant stress mode, like this
fight or flight thing, well, your digestion is FUBAR!

In the same office as Dr. Hannah, there are massage therapists. I made an appointment with one. I figured my muscles could use the attention and frankly, so could I. I was, however, quite worried about how I could possibly go through with it. I was still around 340 pounds and I would have to be at least partially naked. The mere thought of that sent me into a little state I like to call Catatonia. I purposefully set that thought aside. I could panic later. I was simply making the appointment today. One tiny step at a time.

Massage Day, aka My 40th Birthday: The day started off alright. I was trying hard not to really think about actually going through with it. I turned on my internal auto-pilot and the Jeep and headed to the appointment.

When I arrived, I made my way inside and checked in. There was paperwork. There was
ALWAYS paperwork, wasn’t there? I completed it and handed it over. The only way I was going to get through this was to tune-out, right? "Tuning out" was something I used to do a lot. If I simply turned off my emotions, nothing could hurt me because I was numb. In fact, "tuning out" was so second nature that sometimes I didn't even realize I was doing it.

Sitting in the waiting room, I was scared to death and desperately trying to look normal. But inside, the fear was mounting. What was I thinking? Why did I ever think I wanted to do this? I could picture the massage therapist cringing in horror at the sight of me and running from the room screaming at the top of her lungs. It was inconceivable that anyone would want to touch me even if I was paying them to do it. It's why I hadn't let anyone touch me for nearly 15 years. It would be too humiliating to deal with, of that I was sure.

I honestly don’t know how I made it from the waiting area to the room, let alone disrobing and getting on the table. Inside I felt horrible. I felt ugly. I felt defeated. What a way to
spend your birthday, you idiot.
There’s that little voice again.

But then, Dana came into the room and started chattering away. In fact, she talked so much, I didn’t have to. This isn’t normally what you'd want in a spa experience, I’m guessing? But I was grateful. She asked me a couple of questions and I nodded or shook my head depending on what was appropriate. This actually made me laugh a little considering I was face down in the head rest-y donut thing in the massage table.

“Have you had a massage before?” Dana asked. I shook my head. “Well, she said, some people like deep tissue massage, some don’t. If at any time I’m pressing too hard or it’s uncomfortable for you, you just let me know, okay?”

I nodded.

So far, I loved Dana. She was a little chatty Kathy, but thank God for that! She was busy telling me about her job and her recent dates and I thought maybe she’s so occupied with her conversation that she won’t even notice how hideous I am!

Then she put her hands on my shoulders and started working on my back. Oh my God. It was all I could do not to cry. It didn’t hurt. Not physically. I’m not sure how to describe what happened to me in that moment. I wanted to thank her, to hug her, to pay her mortgage. It wasn’t anything sexual, far from it. It was a validation of sorts. It was like in the act of touching me, bare hands to bare skin, she
acknowledged that I existed. It was honestly the first time I hadn't felt completely alone in the world. How could I ever think that wasn’t important? How could I have ever think that I didn’t need it? How had I lived without it for nearly 15 years?

A few tears fell, but I had to stop them or I would be blubbering and snotting into the pretty spa pillow and I couldn’t have that. So, for the rest of the massage, I concentrated only on the sensory experience and when that was too overwhelming, I concentrated on Dana’s chattering, bless her heart.
When it was over, I held it together long enough to drink my obligatory water, pay the bill and get myself to the Jeep. Then, I promptly broke down. Right there in the parking lot, I let myself feel what had just happened. I let myself absorb what it felt like to be touched again by another human being.