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Archive for April, 2010

a lizard brain

I guess there are other things I’ve been thinking about (in relation to the relationship drama) that are harder to articulate.

Things like, Penelope Trunk got married to a guy who dumped her almost 20 times. Or a prominent single mom blogger is getting married to a guy she’s been dating for the past year. And I wonder why I can’t do that. I wonder what it is that makes those situations impossible for me.

I would not let a guy dump me almost 20 times. Even now I’m not sure whether I envy, admire or pity her. What on earth makes her think he’s going to stop dumping her just because they got married? Single Mom Seeking is getting married despite her fears because the guy believes in her and in their relationship. And I don’t know if I envy or fear for her. Because hell, guys can believe in relationships for pretty stupid reasons. I don’t know if I’d be convinced.

Then I think, of course, this is why I find relationships so challenging.

The Red Flags can be deafening. The advice, the relationship books, the counseling, the lessons learned from assholes past, can echo so loudly in the present I can’t hear what’s going on. There is no following my gut. I don’t have a gut. Not anymore.

How We Decide says that for major decisions (any choice involving more than four variables) your emotions are a better guide to happiness than rational thought processes. But after all the trouble my feelings have led me into with relationships over the years, I can’t trust them, and keep falling back on the pros-&-cons, the Lists, the books. They all contradict each other. I don’t know which ones are right.

Rationally I know that what I have described in my head as acceptable for the purpose of inviting PP into it is so strict that nothing real could ever measure up. But I don’t know what else to do.

I get so terrified about being wrong again that I don’t know if I could ever recognize that I was right. I sat there listening to the Trader’s very detailed mea culpa and thought, why do I need to find the guy who has everything figured out already? I know perfect doesn’t exist. Why am I so scared of being with somone who needs to work on something? Doesn’t everyone?

Today is my last day at my very safe, stable, secure job. I am about to take a flying leap into something much riskier. And you know what? It’s fine! It’s scary but it’s good scary and I have no trouble embracing it. Do I know, absolutely, that it’s the right thing to do? That it won’t have any negative impacts on PP? That I won’t fall flat on my face? Nope. Not a bit. I’m just confident in my ability to make it work somehow, to learn and grow enough that it will be a positive experience no matter what comes from it in the short term. And yet I just can’t bring that same attitude into my relationships. I need to KNOW. I can’t know. So I sit.

I even have a motto–fail early, fail often–that I use when evaluating writing projects or professional risks. If I’m not failing a lot then I’m not doing things that are interesting or challenging enough. Failure is good!–with WORK.

After all this time I’m still holding myself responsible for believing the Ex’s lies for so long, and hold myself responsible now for not falling for it again. It’s a prison. The only way I can be sure of never getting taken again is never to trust again. And the only way I can never trust again is to never be in a relationship again. Otherwise I need to take the risk of trusting someone who does not deserve it, again, and it feels so intolerable. I could not go through it again. I could not put PP through it again. It pushes the bar of certainty so high I can’t reach it.

That’s not to say that the Trader is perfect and if I were sane we’d live happily ever after. Only that I have plenty of reasons of my own, why it is easier to break up than commit. Why it is easier to walk away than wait and see. If I walk away, if I quit, then I can never be wrong again. I don’t need to risk failing.

Why is it so easy for me to fail professionally and so hard to fail personally?

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You know … it’s only been three years.

It’s only been three years!

How is that possible?

In that time, I have separated, moved, found love, lost it, divorced, found it again, lost it again, got dumped twice, found love another time, lost it yet once more only to pick it up again, left my job to go back to school, left school to go back to my job, joined a poetry group, started publishing regularly, got my name into a couple of books, started volunteering more, found a new job and left the Evil Empire for good And I Mean It This Time (oooooh how my colleagues will laugh when they read another-another farewell email from me on Friday), and am moving again…. It feels like a lifetime ago, and no wonder.

I keep getting brought up by it. I’ll be thinking or talking about something that happened, and I’ll try to place it: “That was AGES ago, before I went back to school …. umm, I guess that means a year and a half?” Or “I was dating the SA at the time … so that would have been last year.” But it feels like excavating ancient history. Maybe because nothing stays the same for more than a few months in a row.

Should stuff stay the same more than a few months in a row?

I’m not sure I’d know what to do with myself if it did. Stability has just not been my experience. I have no practice at it. Even when my living situation was stable, when I was a kid, everything else was always changing. When I think about the past fifteen years…

Got married. Got divorced. Graduated. Got married again. Found a job. Bought a house. Got laid off. Found a job. Went on strike. Started working. Found out my husband was cheating on me. Worked through that. Found a new job. Started working on a master’s. Got pregnant. Found out my husband was still cheating on me because he’s a sex addict. Lather rinse repeat x 400. Told baby would have a birth defect. Over a year of medical goose-chasing looking for diagnosis; never found. Moved. Left master’s; no time. Then add in the separation part up to the present.

Am I being silly in thinking that some, even many, people have extended bouts of sameness and stability so that their last fifteen years don’t look quite so … full? I mean people do actually get married and stay married to that person and find a job and stay there and have kids who are healthy and normal in every way and watch them grow up in one or maybe two or three neighbourhoods and all that. Right?┬áThat’s not a fairy-tale or just the cover of some women’s magazine, is it? That does happen?

I’m not even sure I’d know what to do with stability if I had it. I try hard to provide it, or at least a reasonable facsimile, for PP’s sake, because I want her to think of her home and parents as stable, though certainly her experience thus far has been much less stable than many other children. But if I had it, a large part of me worries that I’d hate it. That I’d feel stuck, not safe, and blow it up.

Is this idea of stability that I have in my head just a pipe dream that no one actually lives? Or do other people manage it?

I feel like I should be at least sixty by now.

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aspiring to be zen

I would like to have my front page not be relationship drama.

Of course this means I will be replacing it with some other form of drama. Does house-hunting count as drama? I sent in the application for the house rental yesterday and haven’t heard anything yet and of course I wasn’t expecting to but I am so nervous about it. I need a place to live! Please let me have it! Oh, god, my stomach.

Rationally I know that even if this place does not come through I will find something else in time. Emotionally I know that it is not likely to be as locationally and aesthetically perfect as this one. So I want it. (sigh)

I think once I have a place to live lined up I will feel much calmer about the whole thing. The rest of it is just logistical details and a big to-do list, all of which will get done one way or the other. That’s not to say I won’t feel stressed, but I likely won’t be checking my email two dozen times while I’m at work hoping to hear something about this house and wondering if she decided to give it to the other guy after all without telling me and then where will we live?

I just want somewhere to live!

OK, that’s not true. I want a quiet, clean, private place to live in a nice neighbourhood with a good school and daycare that facilitates as little driving as possible so PP and I get more time together than we do now. And this place could be It so my stomach is a knot.

But apparently she has been calling my references so I will force myself to take deep calming breaths and Trust in the Abundance of the Universe (I read Oprah’s magazine today).

Oh heck. I’ll dig deep and pull out some plain Non-Drama, even if I am feeling like all of my nerves are playing the cymbals:

Moving Away Party for PP: the Magic Treehouse. Isn’t that perfect? It’s about adventures and quests and going to new and different places and she LOVES those books. I can put together little quests for her friends to go on at the party, collecting trinkets for Merlin or Morgan le Fey. I’ll take pictures of all of them to go in the scrapbook. If the weather is nice they can have their adventures outside, and it can be like a scavenger hunt.

Housewarming Party/Open House: Yay or nay? Was thinking a Saturday afternoon/evening kind of thing where people can drop in whenever they’d like, with kids or without, to see the new place and prove that it’s not so far away from the City as they might think. Quiet & low-key. When PP’s with her Dad.

Old Job: Having a hard time really believing that Friday is my last day. It’s … umm … wow. I have two days left. And I will probably spend them as I spent much of the past eight years: waiting for other people to make decisions so I can do my freaking job. Only this time I will end up leaving with everything still up in the air because no one in this organization can make a decision in less than two weeks. Oh well. I’ll have done everything I can do.

Next Week: Vacation! Hurray! Plan to spend at least part of it at the City shops it will be too hard to get to after I move. The rest of it, probably, packing and sorting and planning–assuming I know where I’ll be living. And writing, because I’ve been too distracted lately to get out and follow up on pitches. I want to get at least two out next week so I can let myself off the hook a bit while learning the ropes at the new job.

Breathe in, breathe out. Everything will work out for the best.

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So. Saturday.

I’m still confused and have no idea how to write this. What is the narrative arc here? Where is my climax? Or is it just … a bunch of stuff happened and now here I am.

We met at a coffee shop. He looked like he hadn’t slept in a week (as it turns out, for good reason). I was fine. I smiled. I was pleasant. I was wearing his favourite shirt (he doesn’t know that but he always had nice things to say about me when I wore that shirt). I sat down. He pulled out a notebook and opened it, and over the first several pages I could see dates listed on the left-hand side and beside the dates, notes. He said, “I went back and reread all your emails to me. I wanted to find out what went wrong. Since I haven’t been sleeping I wrote things down, I hope that’s ok.”

He then launched into the most detailed and lengthy apology I’ve ever heard in my life. It went on for most of an hour and a half. He said, “If you’ve been feeling anxious and tired, there’s only one place that could have come from, and that’s me.” And, “I was blown away when you said that you couldn’t be what I needed or wanted. You’re my fantasy girl. Why would I ever want you to change?” And, “It was only 8 weeks ago that I got you the ring and you were so happy. In January you told me you weren’t afraid of my temper but by March you were. It was me, wasn’t it? Seeing how angry I got at my ex and all of my stupid stories about my temper must have scared you half to death. But I’ve only ever lost my temper at my mother and my ex. I’ve never been that angry at anyone else. You don’t need to be afraid of me.” And, “I know I have to work on my anger at my ex. It’s not good for my son and it’s too heavy a burden for you and I don’t like giving her that power over me. And I’m talking to a counselor about it because I want it to change. You told me once that if your Ex had told you about what he was doing and really committed to changing it that you would have stayed. That’s what I’m doing, isn’t it?” And, “I know you’re worried too about moving to Beyond Bob and what that will mean for us and you don’t need to worry. We’ll figure something out. Maybe I’ll commute.”

About twenty minutes in I started shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. I couldn’t smile or speak. About twenty minutes after that I started crying. Dear Readers, it turns out I have absolutely no defences against such an apology coming one week after a breakup. I wonder if there are any rules I kept–I suppose, no arguing and no judging.

So we unbroke up.

(Ducking beneath barrage of … something. I dunno. Do you think I’ve lost my mind?)

There was a lot more. Over the course of an hour and a half there is obviously time for more than I can write here. Although, he did ask me specifically to share with the blog readers that at one point he said there was nothing I could do with my presence that could hurt him as much as my absence. There you go. He’s very proud of himself for that one.

Maybe I have lost my mind. The logistics of the relationship given that I’ve now committed to being in Beyond Bob for years will be a challenge and we are very different people and that sometimes makes things difficult. But he’s also a genuinely good person who genuinely wants to be a better person and that’s rare, in my experience. When things are good they are very very good. It felt like it was worth one more try.

You all have the right to say you told me so if it turns out to be a mistake.

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But I might have a house in Beyond Bob.

I’ve decided to rent. I keep thinking that even beyond the can-I-get-a-mortgage question (umm … not that I put it here, but it turns out I need to be out of probation to get a mortgage–which makes sense–but then that means I either don’t move which is impossible or I rent short-term which is too much hassle) I’m just not comfortable with putting all of my free money into a mortgage when I am just starting a new job. Just in case it doesn’t work out, I’d like to have the money free so I can pay the bills while I look for something else. Once I’m sure it’s stable and long-term I’ll feel better about borrowing a bunch of money.

Anyway, I went to Beyond Bob this afternoon and looked at a little house less than a block from an elementary school. The house has 3 small bedrooms, a nice backyard, a partial basement, a fifteen-minute walk to the new office, a bunch of parks and green spaces nearby, a neighbour with a large play yard in the back, and an absolutely stunning view. It is a short walk to the downtown, and in a quiet pretty neighbourhood with little traffic and lots of well-cared-for houses. The rent is a bit more than I wanted to pay but still less than I am paying for my current apartment.

The school looks good and has before-and-after school care.

The lady who owns the house is taking a two-year contract on another continent; the house is currently being renovated and has new windows, doors, roof, furnace, floors and kitchen, and will shortly be repainted. Needless to say, I really want it, and the landlady seems very happy that I really want it and disposed to give it to me rather than the other person who is applying (“Oh, I’m so happy to hear from you! I’m so pleased you’re interested in renting. There is another fellow picking up an application this evening … but … I really like you as a person.” How can one not be flattered?)

Keep your fingers crossed for me. How lucky would that be? First job I apply for in years and years I get … first house I go to see I get, and it does seem perfect in terms of location if a bit smaller and pricier than I would have liked. But just a bit. And since the nearby apartment buildings have waiting lists of interested tenants (!!!) it seems that I shouldn’t count on a bunch of nice things ending up vacant in the next two months.

I would have liked to buy–I would still like to buy–but this is a good place to scope things out for a year, see what’s available and figure out what I want to do.

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And I haven’t had enough time to sit down and properly think about it let alone write it out in any coherent way. And I might not for another day or two. But I didn’t do as good a job following my rules as I’d wanted to.

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The Rules

These are not the rules you would find published in any book in the dating section of the bookstore. These are my rules of engagement for this closure conversation tomorrow.

1. Look fabulous. Why shouldn’t he suffer? Why should I give him the satisfaction of thinking I’m suffering?
2. No crying. After his stories of the many hearts he’s left broken behind him and how his ex-girlfriends always expected he will come back and were devastated when he didn’t–and boy howdy, do I ever have a different hypothesis for that story now–I have no desire to be lumped into that group. Instead I will smile, be pleasant mostly and portray a convincing aura of someone who has used her week to good effect and is well on her way to moving on. It helps that it’s true.
3. No kiss goodbye. Don’t know if he’s planning one, but if he is, sorry.
4. No regrets. I know I made the decision, and he’s going to know that I know that I made the right decision.
5. No arguments. He doesn’t need to agree with my story about what happened, and I don’t need to agree with his.
6. No judgments. Yes he was hurtful and cruel in the way he chose to conduct that conversation. That happens in relationships. It doesn’t make him a completely evil person and I don’t need to cast him in the role of villain for this to be the right decision. He was hurt, he lashed out, and I don’t need to do the same to him.

I have my poetry group tonight. I don’t have a poem yet but I’ll fix that, and be able to bitch over whine to a group of supportive girlfriends about the perfidy of men. That should help. Tomorrow I will run, I will read, I will search for housing in Beyond Bob, I will talk to the Trader, I will almost certainly cry afterwards, and then maybe I will drive down to Beyond Bob and see what I see. It helps that everyone I’ve told about my move so far has had lovely things to say about what they think of the town. Sunday I have brunch with another friend. I will also do groceries. Monday I have off for a doctor’s appointment. Then I will search for a new place in earnest. PP and I need a place to live, pronto.

I’ve all but confirmed the daycare for August, and PP sounds excited about it. A big park! With games, and swimming, and canoeing, and crafts, and ARCHERY. I kid you not. Imagine PP with a bow and arrow. My goodness. I think she will have a great time and maybe meet some kids who live in the area and who can be new good friends.

A week works wonders, Dear Readers.

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