Someone like me

Once I was asked, “Why don’t you spend time with people like you?”

To my surprise, there were two answers.  I thought compromise was part of every relationship and no relationship could be smooth-sailing. And secondly, I honestly didn’t believe there were people like me.  I didn’t feel as though I connected with more than a handful (read less than or equal to 5) of people in my life.  Every other relationship has been strained with substantial, almost daily chafing difference.
A similar question of why I was spending my time with people I didn’t even like, was a result of similar reasoning.  I had been trying to accommodate myself to fit school friends, college boyfriends, and later, all sorts of random people.  My mother once asked me why I was trying to get back together with a boyfriend I didn’t even like.  It was a pretty revelatory statement that opened my eyes to the truth: I didn’t want to be rejected, even by someone I otherwise wouldn’t want in my life.

I spent so much time trying to be someone else for others.  While complaining of others’ failings and my attempts to live with these people, I was asked, “Why don’t you just live according to your own standards?”

Again, the answer surprised me. I didn’t think my standards mattered as much as those of the people I was trying to change myself to be accepted by.  I didn’t agree with their standards, so I always felt tension in the relationships. But I didn’t leave, armed in the knowledge I was being true to myself. Instead, I sunk to ‘their level’. I lived my life according to the principles and behavior that I myself disagreed with.  And why, oh god, why? Because I didn’t think there were people with my values and that I had to compromise to have any friends and not be lonely.  I was desperately lonely. I found interpersonal connection hard to create.  I didn’t find people who I felt like I could be myself around.

So now, self-aware of these insights, in a romantic relationship I want to be true to myself and find someone like me. With the same professed values, interests, humor, and lifestyle.  As a friend once said, “After you marry, the relationship will stay the same or might get worse. But it never gets better.”  But combined with a ticking clock, loneliness, and less than stellar self-esteem, I find myself in my same old habit of trying to wriggle into a fit with someone. 

Anecdotally, I often try clothing or shoes once very quickly and decide it fits. I purchase it, cut the tags and then wear it for an entire day, at which by the end of said day I am very uncomfortable or in pain. The item doesn’t fit right.

I find the same in relationships.  I get so excited initially at what I see as a great fit with a glamourous new man (and rarely, a woman).  Then, within weeks, I realize this person is very different from me. I have just jumped in the deep end of infatuation and desperation and now I am drowning, trying to figure out how the relationship can be managed to fit.

Clearly I need to be more patient, discerning, and selective. It would help if I could catch a break and finally meet someone that’s really similar to me.  That’d be lovely.

“I really like you,” he said.

He really likes me. That’s what he said.

He said I was beautiful.

He said I was smart and interesting.

He said he wanted to get to know me better.

He said he wanted to see me again.

And I told him I wanted to live in Asia.  And he told me he didn’t want to live in Asia.

So, that’s it.

Great listener, sweet, accommodating, chivalrous, interesting and passionate guy that I don’t want to see anymore.  He was also tall.

But I have dreams to ride the subways and bullet trains, eat food from stalls and food carts, visit the beach, sing karaoke, walk the little alley ways, shop at the street fairs, visit the temples, drink fancy teas and lattes in the eclectic coffee shops, and feel the strangeness of a world apart from ordinary.

It’s like out a movie: drying clothes on the balcony or roof on a line, walking everywhere on paved roads and sidewalks, quietness on the mountainside, clean and clear taste of green tea, the furniture and design of the homes, seeing a rural house of wood in the old design, and a crane on the river.

I miss my adventure.  I miss the excitement of the first six months in an utterly foreign environment that has the same blue sky.

So, do I want to give up the one goal I could accomplish?  Do I let my dream die to not be alone?

Or am I willing to be alone now to not give up on my dream?

I used to want to be with someone no matter how I had to change. I believed in compromise and adjustments.  But I was alone anyway.  Romantic relationships didn’t last.  The person I truly am was not loved.  I wasn’t even considered seriously.

But now, I want to hold onto myself.  I want to value my feelings, hopes, successes, failures, beliefs, and self-respect.  Joan Didion wrote, “However long we post- pone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously un-comfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.”

And so, in the end, we are all alone in ourselves.  I have to sleep by myself at night.

tracing lines on a face

People come and go out of all of our lives.

But some make an especially strong impression.

When looking at photos of a special someone I used to know, I trace the lines that build his face, eyes, mouth, lips, and hair.  I wish I had more photos of his back and torso, legs and hands, the rest of his body.  But I am thankful at least that I have photos of his face.  I can remember at least his face, even if the rest of him fades away as memories dull.

Actually, just such a fear prompted me to ask him to make a voice recording for me.  I had deleted a previous one where he read some encouraging statements I wrote to remind myself that life could go on and that I could become a different person.  That I could become a happy person or happier than I had been beside him.

However, this second voice recording was genuine, his own words, slightly goofy and sweet and included his natural intonation and even a cough.

That brief message and so many photos from our life together: these consist of the evidence of a history I may someday forget.

But for now, I can’t forget or move so far away. Instead, I trace lines of his face in my favorite photos.  I trace the lines of a face of someone I used to know.

A Period of Grief

I remember, after a religious conversion, seeing the sky.  It was blue.

It was as if the world had suddenly burst into vibrant color.  I was Dorothy and I found myself in Oz when previously I had only known sepia Kansas.

I took this as evidence of the correctness of my new religion.  Years later, upon reflection, I realize that I had found something more powerful, although more vague and mysterious: hope.

My life prior had been fully greedy, violent, resigned, and  indifferent.  My life changed at this time and I gained some freedom. That freedom gave birth to a fragile hope.  And the world bloomed in color as it became more beautiful than I had ever known it could be.

The world was the same, of course,  but I had new eyes.

But the dark world of my past came back to haunt me.  This time it was more menacing, powerful,  and hellish than I had ever felt before.  It was a long time of grief.

Again, the reality we interact within and share remained as it is and I was the change that threw my life into chaos.  Whether stolen, forgotten, or abandoned, the result was the same; my hope was gone.

The bright blue sky, same wherever it is visible-no matter where you are-was fading to some pale gray tinged derivative.  I would still try to find that perfect sky from five years ago: tropical beaches, small boats on the ocean, fields with distant horizons.

But my hopeless was gray.  The weather was brutal winters.  The kind that bite deep into your bones.  Or it was dingy, soaking rain with no umbrella.  Or oppressive heat that sizzles and bakes away energy and time.

The places around me were full of ugliness and cruelty.  Or indifference to me, as I became isolated from life.

I saw joy and love others’ experienced from life as if separated by a thick panel of glass. It was clear. My vision didn’t seem distorted.  And the scene was somewhat familiar.  But even if it had been strange, it would have been radiant still, beautiful still.

My life on the other side of the glass was dark.  Trapped in this small cage, I couldn’t find any way out.And as days, then months, passed, my energy started evaporating.  Trying was harder as hope died.  As it was dying, fear crept in.  After fear made a home named anxiety in my heart, resignation settled in.

Isolated, in pain, hopeless, despairing-that is how I existed.  And the days and months added up to years.  As I moved geographically, my despair and grief packed up and moved along with me.  I was chased across the world, through time zones and countries, by a dark shadow only I felt.

Myself was dead.  Somehow, while I was drowning in intense pain, who I was became less than a memory.  It was as if she had never existed.

The conscious moments were I chose the wrong instead of the right had led me somewhere inescapable.  My mistakes that created despair that radiated outward to everyone in connection to me.  I was only sobbing, messy, dirty, and disgusting.

And because hope had already died, anxiety taken rooted, and resignation crowned, this hell was the only reality possible.   That glass wasn’t one-sided.  Those who looked back at me felt as helpless as I knew I was.  No one could help, many tried, the only ones who survived were the ones who gave free gifts of love over and over to an unchanging, unrescued prisoner.

This grief is called depression.

This was the darkest depression I had ever felt in my short life that had already many times been tainted by darkness.

Something Broken

My heart might be broken.

I cry sometimes.   I have been sad for a long time.  More than a year, more than two or three.  For a very long time, I have been very sad.

So there are times when kindness I witness or experience causes me to cry.  Friendly words, strangers’ smiles, and much needed hugs from acquaintances all bring tears to my eyes that spill down the cheeks of my face and drop off of my jawline.

Wondering why unwarranted kindness makes me cry.  The most beautiful thing: generous love, kindness to strangers, undeserved and unreserved affection – the world made better by people giving their best to someone else merely crossing their path by chance.

And it hurts me enough to make me cry.  It aches.  Worst than bruises or a swollen head, this kindness -this thing called love – makes some crack in me that gushes out pain and the symptom is a torrent of tears.

Maybe I have a stone heart.  It would make sense.  I don’t have hope, don’t want a reason to keep breathing for more than a few tomorrows.  I want to give up on futures, let go of hope.  Let go of myself because I can’t stand the hurt I endured by refusing to let go until now.

If kindness reaches in, it will make cracks in this stone heart of mine.  But even with a stone heart, I can still feel the pain.  Wondering why there is this queer pain, perhaps there is still a heart of flesh and blood underneath.   Maybe my heart’s hardness is just an exterior of stone.  And if kindness comes inside and the stone is broken apart, my heart will begin to pump hope and love into my life once more.

I’m not there yet

I am ready to be in the next thing.  I am ready to be starting something new.  Something that will make use of all the horrible experiences I came through.

But I’m not there yet.  I’m just in-between: not in abuse anymore but not recovered yet.  I don’t even know what the future will hold.  The possibilities of the future are too bright for my eyes right now.  I can’t see what I want to do or what I can do because what I see is blinding light.  I was in the dark too long to be able to see in sunlight.  For now, it is all painfully white.

Thankfully, I am feeling my way towards somethings and people keep encouraging me to stay in the place where I can’t see because of the blinding light.  They hold out the promise that eventually it won’t hurt so much and that it won’t be so overwhelming.  That eventually it will be my new “normal”.  After, that is, my perception adjusts.

Fireworks

In the TV show Glee, when Finn and Quinn kiss, they experience fireworks.

Is that normal?

Well, I guess there was a guy that made my heart beat fast when we kissed.  Our kisses felt more magical than just pairs of lips meeting.

But then again, Glee is just TV.  I mean, when Finn kissed Rachel he had an orgasm.  And that is certainly explosive.

I love fireworks.  I like the whistling sound they make before the explosion.  I like the colors.  I like how they expand and fade. I like the play of shapes and patterns different fireworks can make.  I like the music the play to match fireworks.

I feel happy watching fireworks.  I sit, and I don’t speak, and even being alone, I love to watch fireworks.

I go to the beach, by myself, even sitting through rain, and I watch big explosions in the night sky.  I see light and fire and smoke.

My ringtone is even the sound of fireworks.  It scares my friends’ dog.

So, why do I love fireworks so much?  Why do people love fireworks so much?

Sure, they are beautiful, but why go to see them in person rather than just watch on TV.

I guess I feel hopeful seeing them.  It’s part of a transcendental experience.  I sit there and I am bigger than myself and so small and surrounded at the same time.  I see fireworks and they are both near and far and I am completely aware of the moment.

Fireworks remind me what people can create together, what dreamers can imagine.  Fireworks symbolize hope and the optimism of the future.  They are a celebration and extravagant and fleeting and lovely.

So, enjoy the fireworks!

Grieving 1

Come to Terms With Your Grief

  1. Accept The Loss: It is natural to protect yourself from the full impact of the loss by holding on to the deceased’s belongings. Although it may take time, being able to release those possessions is a positive sign of acceptance and reorganization.

  2. Feel The Pain: Recognize and experience your emotions. Crying helps, since it allows painful feelings to be expressed.

  3. Talk About It: Talking about the loss and reminiscing helps you to accept the situation. Expressing regrets, fears, and anger is helpful. Do not take the attitude that “it doesn’t help to rake it up.”

  4. Take One Day At a Time: Do not try to sort out everything at once. Grieving takes as long as it takes – there are no fixed time limits and it cannot be hurried.

  5. Take Care Of Yourself: Get plenty of rest, eat well, take time to retreat, and time to talk. Try not to become isolated but seek out social support.

  6. Adapt To Change: This may mean taking on a new role, learning new skills, or learning how to live on your own.

  7. Let Go: When you are ready, let go. This does not mean forget.

©Powell,Trevor. 1997. Free Yourself From Harmful Stress. New York, NY:DK Publishing, Inc. www.dk.com

Grieving is a process about dealing with trauma and loss and recovering.  And apparently recovery takes time, effort, change, and new thinking.

Which is depressing because if there was a pill or shot for that, then we could be really inhumane and get over things instantly.  Although, it might turn out like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  And that is frustrating and depressing.

So here’s to recovery.  Good luck everyone.  We apparently all need it.