Sunday, May 26, 2019

You Get What You Deserve...Right?

I can't remember the first time I heard the actual definition of an introvert vs. an extrovert: the first one gains energy from being alone; the second from being with others. However, I can remember having a conversation with a long-time friend once who told me she thought I probably only really needed human interaction about once a week. Although that might be a bit extreme, it's true that I need a fair amount of alone time.

I've known for a long time that I am an introvert -- I can remember friends in middle school being flummoxed because I would constantly disappear at parties to be by myself for awhile. My introversion has become more pronounced over the years, and I think now that I teach after school Spanish classes a lot of the energy I have for social interactions is used up for work.

Over the winter -- when my introversion seems to get ever more pronounced and I hibernate like it feels like we're supposed to -- I started to think about dating. It's been a long time since I seriously dated anyone, and I decided to give it a go again. I set up a couple online profiles, then immediately started to stress out about the messages I got. I found I didn't much want to reply to these men who were writing to me; I found that I had enough going on and plenty of meaningful friendships. Trying to make room for a romantic partner felt like a huge burden instead of a joy.

Then I stopped a looked at that feeling. Why, exactly, was I trying so hard? What did I hope to gain? Certainly there are many things that a partner brings that I was missing...but was I actually missing those things? I am rarely if ever lonely -- in fact, I am much more likely to be excited to have a night to myself than I am by a lot of plans that other people get excited about. Intimacy? I have been working hard to have intimate relationships with a handful of people; I do not feel like I'm lacking in that department. Intellectual conversations? Same as the previous question. A need to care for another? I have a 13-year-old geriatric cat who loves to cuddle, plus nine classes a week of kids in my classes. I get plenty of caring in. Sex? Well, yes, having a regular sex partner would be great. I cannot argue with that, but it is only one of the many facets people seek in a romantic relationship.

When I really started to look at it, Invisible Audience, I realized something profound: I actually feel quite content. Certainly I have worries and fears and stresses, but when it came to deciding whether I wanted a partner, I discovered that the main reason I felt like I needed one was because people told me that I either needed one or that I deserved one.

Deserve. What a strange concept. I feel like I've lived most of my life following the rules, with the idea that if I did so I would deserve all the things I could possibly want: the perfect partner; a great job that you adore, that pays a huge salary and is meaningful; an effortlessly beautiful body; all the energy in the world; perfect children; financial stability; a happily ever after. I have spent many, many years resenting the fact that I have played by the rules and yet seem no further ahead than anyone else. In fact, if you're measuring my life by what I just named, I have been handed a shit sandwich instead. But life is not fair in the way that it has been laid out to us, is it Invisible Audience? I realized this winter that I had found a choice I didn't know I had: to resent that I hadn't found what I "deserved," or to step fully into a life that, actually, I enjoyed more than I ever thought I would.

As soon as I let go of the idea that I should have a partner, things got easier, Invisible Audience. I stopped being afraid I was missing a chance to meet someone. I stopped worrying about whether I was missing my one and only chance at happiness, wrapped up in another body that I had not yet met. And then something strange happened: I stopped wanting to socialize as much at all. I realized that, unconsciously, many of my interactions with others were based in the hope that through them -- or through being out and about, or meeting other people -- I would meet my invisible partner and my life could finally start. I stopped fearing that I was going to miss something and started enjoying what I didn't want to miss: blissful sunny afternoons in my hammock with a book; the sound of my feet on dirt paths climbing the sides of mountains; curling up with my cat for a long Sunday afternoon nap. It made my interactions with the people I did see even better, because I wasn't always looking around for that deserving man I had yet to meet.

Suddenly, I realized that I deserved to be happy, without it being wrapped up in anyone else but me.

Love and deserving kisses

Thursday, May 16, 2019

7 Truths and a Lie

Hello Invisible Audience,

I woke up in the middle of the night with such a deep desire to write that I found myself crying. I find it interesting: I write all the time, and can now say it’s my legit part-time gig that I use help cover the bills, but deep down in my soul I know the truth: the writing I’ve been doing doesn’t count. I mean, sure it counts in that it pays and it’s enjoyable. But it doesn’t count on a soul level; on an artistic level; on that fulfilling, earth-shattering level that it has in the past; that I want it to count for again.

So why haven’t I been writing? That’s a long story, but I’m going to try to condense it for you. I’ve already told you one truth; here are six more that perhaps explain my reticence.

1)   I’m afraid.
I’m afraid to write what really speaks to me: to bare my soul and write out loud. It has felt more difficult in the past several years than it did before, and that has stopped me. 
What am I afraid of? Oh gracious, so many things: that I will sound like a whiner, like a victim, like an ego maniac. That I will be flayed alive for what makes me feel the most vulnerable. Also, that unleashing myself could upset the delicate, hushed balance I have been trying to create and make life more complicated if I realize I don’t like this life I’ve built at all. 

2)   I want to be in control.
I want to control the responses to my writing, Invisible Audience: I want to control YOU. I want you to reach out and tell me how brave I am, but I don’t want you to advise me. I want a certain type of response, and that has stopped me from writing because once I’ve let it out into the ether I know that I have no control over what happens to my writing. If you decide to pity me because of what I write, or hate me or berate me, that is your choice, not mine. That knowledge has stopped me, despite a deep need to write. It has stopped me, despite the knowledge that there are always those you touch, and always those you don’t. It has stopped me, despite knowing, above all, that I need to write out loud for it to count.

3)   I want to look like I have my shit together.
I think every day about writing. I think about what I would write about; how I would present it; how I would state my case about the things that I think about and touch me every day. Then I think about how admitting some of those things will make it clear that I do not have it all figured out: that I struggle to feel like I have enough money, even if I always manage to pay my bills; that I battle with myself over whether I am justified to take the time, the money, the space that I need for my own self care. In this day of the curated social media profile, I struggle with admitting it’s not as pretty as it looks from my sparse postings.

4)   I don’t want to sound like a Negative Nancy
I recently learned a term I was in desperate need of: toxic positivity. This explains something I’ve long felt and haven’t been able to put my finger on. Every time I have a legitimate concern, struggle or distress, I get a voice in my head – through years of reading self-help books, I’m sure – that tells me that {sing song voice} I have to be positive if I want to have a positive life. This both enrages me and sucks the life out of me simultaneously. It has become yet another whipping stick to beat myself with. Life sucks sometimes. Change often comes to me as a result of taking a good, hard, honest look at what’s not working and making a change, not through Polly-Anna-ing around it and trying to live with it when it hurts. 

5)   I’m not saying this because I want to be fixed.
I’ve become weary of people offering up advice about how I can feel better when perhaps all I need was someone to witness my journey with me for a minute. I am not writing out loud because I’m seeking help. I have become very good at asking for what I need, and someone’s opinions on what I should do differently are not what I need when I write out loud. I do it for the same reason musicians decide to play and artists decide to draw or paint. It’s an art, and I want it out there. Maybe it will find and touch the right people, but mostly because it is not supposed to stay locked inside of me.

6)   Today’s world feels like sandpaper on my soul.
With all the things that are happening nationally and globally, today’s world feels hostile and hurtful. I am tired of feeling heartbroken, Invisible Audience. However, I’ve realized that closing off actually increases the heartbreak instead of decreasing it. Finding those that are willing to be vulnerable makes me feel better. The thing is, I need to show up as vulnerable in return to fully enjoy the exchange.

7)   I’m dropping everything that doesn’t speak directly to me.
To some extent, it feels like I’ve lost my own voice as I throw out messages and messengers whose words make no sense to me. I have been cutting out more than I’ve been adding in lately: I no longer believe everyone who speaks with conviction. It’s made my world smaller, although much more authentic.

So there are the truths; now here’s the lie that I am now trying to recognize and break through: the idea that I need to have a meaningful message before I can write. The idea that I have to be any different than I am to write to you, Invisible Audience. The idea that there’s anything wrong with me, or that there’s anywhere else I’m supposed to be standing, besides right here, right now, with you.

Love and truthful kisses,