After years of driving past The Cave of Wonders, curiosity pulled me in. I stepped inside and magnificent gems encircled me. A sweet caramel and white pitbull named Bella shadowed me as I perused the stones. I showed Bella a black, shiny piece of tourmaline and explained its energy-absorbing properties. She sniffed and licked my hand, confirming my selection. I picked up a piece of smooth, rose quartz and felt its coolness and weight in my hand. The bin’s placard announced that it decreased stress and brought love into one’s life. Sign me up for that! I added it to my growing collection and continued browsing. Bella grew bored of examining my treasures and parked herself in the front entrance to greet unsuspecting humans.
When my stone collection overflowed the reaches of my palm, I decided to check out. I had gems to help me grieve, avoid negative energy and stress, and bring love and prosperity into my life. Yep, I was covered in the happy life department now. The shop owner handed me a complimentary marble-sized garnet – the stone of the week. He gave me a handout describing its properties and meanings. Garnet brings successful business, cures depression, makes a person popular, adds constancy to friendships, increases security level, cleanses and purifies and increases sex drive. I hit the jackpot! Now I could start a successful business, be happy, popular, confident, clear negative energy and be a sex goddess!
While the garnet claims appeared exaggerated, I think we all hope at times that one special thing or person can provide fulfillment, safety, and happiness. We all have experiences in which we wish a garnet could cure all our troubles. Simple fixes are attractive but no replacement to feeling our way through life. I keep the garnet in my purse to remind me of this fact. If life hands me a lesson, and I choose not to accept the challenge, it comes around again. The times I find myself wishing for a “garnet fix” are typically the times I want to avoid painful emotions.
Where in your life do you find yourself wishing for the garnet fix? What do you need to feel your way through?
I recently joined some yogi friends at a trendy all-vegan, organic restaurant. After enjoying delectable appetizers and a few glasses of wine, someone suggested we do a clearing activity. (Hey, what do you expect from a bunch of yogis after wine?) The yogi leading our exercise asked, “What have you not forgiven yourself for?” He added the caveat to only share that with which we felt comfortable (i.e., “don’t share shit that is too deep”). I thought, “can’t we start with an easier question . . .say what is your favorite color? . . .dog or cat person?”
The authenticity of my dinning mates created a sense of safety which encouraged me to share something beyond, “I need to forgive myself for using the last of the toilet paper at work and not telling anyone.” Themes which emerged from our conversation included forgiving oneself for . . . negatively comparing oneself to others, not meeting cultural standards of success, putting one’s self-care first . . . As the sharing continued, I felt more endured to this lovely group of individuals. Hence, my toilet paper response seemed, forgive the pun, crappy. Hence, I took a deep breath and summoned my courage. “I need to forgive myself for feeling guilty about setting boundaries with people who are suffering.” I went on to explain that I have a history of swimming out to drowning folks with life jackets and holding them above treacherous waters. The feeling of saving others feels good. However, in the past, I lost sight that treading water contributed to sheer exhaustion.
Now I’m learning to set healthy boundaries, so I don’t drown in my quest to exercise compassion towards others. I used to think this process was selfish and mean. However, I now know this process is incredibly caring. I cannot help anyone if I’m lying lifeless on the bottom of the ocean.
What do you need to forgive yourself for today my splendidly imperfect friend?
I made the mistake. I had the fortunate opportunity to practice Bikram yoga on a 90% humidity day in sunny southern California. For ten years I effectively tolerated the 105 degree, 60% humidity environment of this yoga. However, this day I entered the studio, unrolled my mat, and instantly transformed into a human water fountain. Sweat gushed from every pore in my body despite the fact I laid silently in savasana (i.e., corpse pose)! The teacher entered the room and announced, “Rise and shine it’s yoga time! I know it’s a hot day, but you’re not going to die in the yoga room.” I stood up and thought, “I’m f*&#ed!” My body boiled. Probably, because I was standing DIRECTLY under the red glow of a radiant heater. Given room was packed with sweaty yoga bodies, I could not escape the heater’s radius. During the second breath of pranayama, my mind raced, “It’s too hot . . .I’m dizzy . . . I have to pee. . . I want to run out of this room . . . what if I run out? . . .I’ve never run out. . .what’s wrong with me? . . . everyone else looks ok . . .this absolutely sucks . . . I should have slept in . . . I will be dehydrated . . .my stomach is on fire . . .why did I eat garlicky hummus before class? . . . breathe . . . breathe . . .breathe.” I eventually calmed my mind. However, my body fought to stand. My stomach knotted and the room spun. I surrendered to my mat until the world stilled. Then, with a big deep breath, I stood up and tried again.
By virtue of our human-beingness, we experience moments of intense emotional pain. We question whether we can tolerate another excruciating second and feel pulled to flee the room. We numb . . . with reality TV (goodness knows I’ve watched way too much Teen Mom), busyness, material objects, and substances. We do everything in our power to escape that radiant heater, because it’s tremendously uncomfortable. We gain momentary lapses of relief only for the heat to blast us squarely in the face. If we surrender and breathe, the perspiration pours from our bodies. The toxins leave, we cool, and oxygen replenishes us. We stand up and try again. When the intensity of the heat overwhelms you, lie down, breathe, and recover. Then, get up and try again. If you run, pain will follow you right out of the door.
If emotional heat has left you face down on the floor, I recommend reading Brene Brown’s Rising Strong. This wonderful manuscript reminds us that signing up to live whole-heartedly involves falling, and she gives us a formula for rising up.
During the 1940’s, many pilots perished trying to break the sound barrier. Sadly, the jets handled differently in the outer atmosphere and would frequently spin. In order to regain control, pilots would jerk the controls in every possible direction in hopes of righting the jet. Tragically, this approach often resulted in crashing and burning. As Chuck Yeager’s rocket-propelled jet transcended the edge of the atmosphere the powerful G-forces rendered him unconscious during a spin. When he came to, his hands were off the controls, and the forces of the universe righted the jet. He communicated this experience to the other test pilots, and letting go of the controls became part of their training. On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1. Pretty awesome, right?
As a recovering perfectionist, letting go of the controls is incredibly counter-intuitive and frickin’ hard. My mind tries to protect me by rehearsing for tragedy, putting up armor, and getting ready to run. Regrettably, it loves to do this procedure at night when I would much rather be sleeping. Many years ago I served as a fact witness in a legal hearing. I was selected for this “honor,” because my employer felt my skills and speaking ability were well-suited to this task. I performed well; however, the opposite party was not pleased with the outcome and threatened to sue everyone involved, including me. While I knew I had nothing to fear regarding be negligible, I was in the process of applying for another, and very important, position. I feared losing this opportunity. I castrophized and thought of the worst case scenarios, one which resulted in my being homeless. I lost sleep, my appetite, and at times my sanity. I wish I could tell you I let go of the controls and found my peace. Nope, I learned all my worrying did not ward off or produce a particular outcome. Fortunately, the lawsuit never came to fruition, and I was able to secure the job I desired. This outcome still would have happened without my ruminating . . .
Yesterday, I went to a new carwash which required pulling the car onto a platform, shifting it into neutral AND taking my hands off the steering wheel. A warning sign specifically said, “DO NOT try to steer.” I thought, “Humph, universe you’re really testing me on this letting go of control thing, even in a carwash!” I took my hands off the steering wheel, and the conveyer belt pulled my car forward into the washers and suds. Initially, my heart rate increased, and I thought, “I don’t like this.” Then, I took a deep breath and thought, “This is pretty awesome. My car is getting washed, and I don’t have to do anything but sit here and breathe.” What controls do you need to let go of today?
Like many recovering perfectionists, I pride myself on being productive and doing things independently. I enjoy being the “helper” not the “helpee” . . . Well, the universe lovingly sent me a lesson to smooth out this jagged growing edge. I had a fabulous start to my spring break vacation. I connected with my dear friend from graduate school and my mom. I very much enjoyed my visitors, but also looked forward to five days of me time. Time for ME, ME, ME – yoga, bike riding, writing, reading, and closet-cleaning. I would finally catch up with life until tonsillitis caught up with me. . .
Following a negative strep test, my primary care physician (PCP) informed me there was nothing he could do for me. He sent me home, told me to rest, gargle with salt water, and drink Theraflu. Forty-eight hours later ambulating and swallowing became herculean efforts. Sadly, my tonsils resembled something from Aliens – red, pus-filled, sacs which invaded the space I once called my throat. I sent the wonderful man in my life (WMIML), a dramatic text, “Something is really wrong, I feel worse. I need help. Come.” Fortunately, he came and convinced me to go to urgent care. I greatly appreciated his concern and patience as I attempted to pull myself together. This scene falls far from my best self. Fortunately, WMIML’s compassion eclipsed my pitiful pageantry.
WMIML: Where is your sweater?
Me: (Tears falling) I don’t know.
WMIML: Is it hanging over there on your coat rack?
WMIML: (Kindly brings it over to me and helps me put it on). How about some shoes?
Me: It’s too cold to wear shorts out. I need to find some pants (snotty nose blow).
WMIML: (Picks up the pair I’ve been wearing the past two days off the floor.) How about these?
Me: They stink. I need clean pants.
WMIML: Ok. Where do you keep them?
Me: Over there. (I pitifully point to a dresser drawer).
WMIML: (Pulls out a pair of jeans). How about these?
Me: Ok. Thank you (sniff, sniff). I can’t even find myself a pair of pants. I’m a mess.
WMIML: Yes, that’s why we need to get you to urgent care. Go put them on and let’s go.
Fortunately, the wait was short, and the compassionate physician complimented my coming in promptly. He gave me antibiotics and pain medication on the spot. WMIML drove me home, helped me into bed, and kindly took my sweet doggie out for a potty break. Ahh, back to the land of the living until . . .
I finished the 10 day course of antibiotics and the tonsillitis migrated from the right tonsil to the left. I felt demoralized as I trudged back to my PCP. Now, I was on antibiotics round two. No improvement after several days. WMIML returns to drive me to urgent care. I have not washed my hair in four days and given my malaise the idea of dreadlocks sounds somewhat appealing. I throw on a t-shirt, jeans and manage to corral my oily locks into a hair clip.
PCP: Given you haven’t improved and it’s been three weeks we should try a steroid. It’s like a “miracle” you should start feeling better right away.
Me: I want a miracle. Give me the miracle. Would it be inappropriate to hug you?
PCP: The miracle will involve a shot in your bottom.
Me: I don’t care. I want the miracle.
The nurse comes in and promptly administers the miracle. She mentions it “will burn.” What she failed to declare is that it will feel like a wasp stung you on the ass and reduce your stride to a pitiful limp. I texted WMIML that I received a steroid shot and swiftly hobbled out of the exam room. He politely tried to stifle his laughter to no avail. I was a sight, and I knew it. We climbed onto the elevator with another woman, and his snicker broke into full blown hilarity. I joined him because the only alternative was crying and rubbing my derrière in front of a stranger. She just smiled and commented, “we all have those kind of days.” I nodded in agreement.
After I tried to inconspicuously massage my bottom while waiting on my prescriptions in the pharmacy, I limped through the parking garage while WMIML tried to remember where we parked. The song This Sex is on Fire by the Kings of Leon echoed in my head. Except the word “ass” replaced “sex.” I hummed while I hobbled until the burning overcame my entire backside. I halted and yelled to WMIML, “time out!” He ran over, placed my arm over his shoulder and helped me stagger to the car. I felt guilty for monopolizing what could have been his enjoyable weekend. We had a trip planned for stargazing in the desert. I kept running through scenarios of how I could repay him. However, an African safari or a seat on the Virgin Galactic space shuttle to Mars was slightly out of my budget. I opted for an Amazon gift card.
Why do we find it challenging to be vulnerable and soak in the compassion of others? I know if the tables were turned I would have gladly cared for WMIML. I probably earned a B- during this vulnerability lesson and more will likely come. In the meantime, I’m going to go wash my hair. I wish all of you well and challenge you to embrace a smidge of vulnerability this week.
I apologize for the tardiness of this post. Ironically, the day I planned to post this blog, I got sick. However, I am delighted to share this piece with you by my dear friend and guest blogger Taylor. My response to Taylor’s piece follows below. Enjoy! ~Amelia
I have lived with back problems for many years. If I am not careful, I can easily agitate old wounds and truly injure myself. Yesterday, I was leading a class on crisis intervention and slipped on a slick floor (And yes, I am aware of the irony in this situation). I immediately knew that the minor slip was going to create some stiffness and pain later. However, I had no idea what the extent of it would be. In preparation for what was sure to come, I went through my stretching routine, took some meds and iced the area of concern.
Only a few hours into a restless sleep, I was awoken by an all too familiar shooting pain in my lower back and legs. I got up, took another hand full of ibuprofen and tried to go back to sleep. With little hope of actually resting, I decided to get up and try to stretch a bit. As the night creeped forward, I could feel the magic of the ibuprofen waning. I went to the medicine cabinet and pulled out the big guns which quickly put me back to sleep for a few hours. When I woke up again, I managed to get to the shower and partially wash the nightly grime off my now stiff and achy body. Toweling off was an exercise in futility as my body groaned at every attempt to bend beyond a few degrees. Breathless and fatigued, I made one final effort to dry and clothe myself. Unable to even get my underwear on, I simply collapsed under the weight of this damp, naked cleaning tragedy.
Now, at this point, I don’t know if it was the stress, the ridiculous nature of the circumstance, or the muscle relaxers, but I couldn’t stop laughing. These were no ordinary run of the mill laughs. They took on a maniacal quality that drenched me in a feeling that was otherworldly. I felt disembodied yet somehow grounded to the moment. Each heaving laugh, was married to a pain so intense, I started to sob uncontrollably. What made this whole situation worse, was that I started imagining what the text would look like if actually had to call someone to help me. “So Amelia, how good of a friend are you? Well, I was wondering if you could come over and pull my underwear up over my bulbous backside? Also, there is some homemade ice-cream in the freezer if you want it. Thanks.”
These are the moments that truly test your resolve. Who did I call on to help me? Well, I called no one. Now this is not to say that my friends wouldn’t have come to my rescue if I needed it(And laughed their asses off as they would have surely retold the story a million times). In fact, the knowledge that support was available was enough to push me into action. I pulled myself up off the floor, kicked off the underwear that was trajectory wrapped around my ankle and went back to bed for 8 hours. I awoke in a bit less pain, but with a renewed sense of resiliency. Even in the toughest of times, we can surprise ourselves with the strength that resides within. Indeed, I had climbed the mountain of Motrin and seen the promise Lumbar support land.
– Taylor F. Alvarez
Had you texted me, I would have come, found myself consumed by your infectious laughter, pulled up your pants and then eaten your ice cream. Why is it that we hesitate to reach out for help during times when it is abundantly clear that we need it and others would love to provide it?
Like Taylor, I too live alone. Several months ago I contracted strep throat. I knew I was in for a turbulent ride when the chills hijacked my body despite wrapping it in a wool jacket and blasting the space heater. Miraculously, I negotiated the last three hours of work, crawled into my car and made my way home. In a zombie-like state, I trudged up the stairs to my apartment, opened the door and collapsed on the couch. Several hours later, I awoke to darkness and the realization I lacked the energy to move from the couch to the bathroom. Tears rolled down my cheeks as my sweet dog licked my hand to say, “I would help if I could.” I prided myself on fierce independence and now I truly needed help. For a few minutes, I threw myself a fabulous pity party. If only my ex-husband had done x,y & z I would not be alone right now. I quickly realized this party sucked and I best bounce before I woke up with a misery hangover. I picked up my phone and began scrolling through my contacts. Relief washed over me as realized I had several amazing people in my life who would come to my rescue. I would only be alone and dejected if I chose to be. I called a friend who graciously brought over coconut water and a thermometer. She also called to check on me the following day. Love is all around us. We just have to invite it in and trust that we are worthy of it.
Hello Everyone! Happy New Year! I realize it’s been . . . ahem. . . a couple months since I last posted. Upon reflection, I initially framed this sabbatical as a time of self-growth and actualization. Then, I went home for the holidays and realized I have a long way to go in this department. During my hiatus, I summoned motivation to re-enter the blogosphere. I signed up for a “Get Published Now!” class. Unfortunately, and ironically, it was postponed until next week. However, I am undeterred!
When I returned home from the holidays, I surveyed my cozy apartment. I thought, “I have too much s*#t in here.” I am by no means a pack rat, and I keep my space fairly neat. However, my gaze gravitated to items I no longer needed. Following my divorce I moved my sectional sofa and over-sized chair into a tiny, new living room. I knew the chair overwhelmed the space. However, it matched the sofa, technically fit, and served as my splendidly imperfect dog’s favorite napping space. I rarely sat in it (or dusted under it for that matter . . . eww). I knew it needed to go. I considered consigning it, but this option seemed burdensome. I decided to email my local friends and inquire if they were interested in or knew of someone who could use the chair. A few minutes later I received an email from my yoga instructor. She shared that one of my classmates lost everything in a fire Christmas Day. I made contact with this classmate who expressed interest in the chair. When she saw it, her eyes filled with tears. She commented that it looked remarkably similar to the one she lost in the fire. That evening some friends came over to pick me up for dinner, and we had some time to spare prior to our reservation. They kindly helped me re-arrange my furniture which made my living space open and inviting. Moving the furniture independently would have likely resulted in an exorbitant chiropractor bill!
A couple of days later my sweet sister told me she had a pretty rough day and just desired a hug. On her way to the metro station, she saw a homeless man outside her office building. She had seen him several times, and he never asked for a handout. She stated she felt called to give him a few dollars and wish him a good day. This deed resulted in her missing her usual train. However, while waiting on the platform, she unexpectedly spotted a friend who greeted her with a big hug. She would have missed him had she caught the earlier train.
Love finds us when we make space for it and give it away. What things do you need to let go of? Make space for? How can you show your love today? (Commenting on my blog is one way if you’re struggling here. . . or calling your Mom . . . the possibilities are endless.)
As I write this blog, my splendidly imperfect dog, Frankie, clings to my leg like Velcro. He’s terrified. . . of the garage door opening below. I am not sure why he has this fear. I guess, from an evolutionary perspective, a garage door opening in the wild would offer a significant reason for a dog to pause and get the hell out of dodge. So I acknowledge he’s scared; however, I do not reinforce it by petting him and saying “it’s ok.” Petting dogs when they’re scared is like saying, “yes, please go on being scared.” Instead, it’s best to show the dog you’re okay, the world is not falling apart, so they are ok too.
In the spirit of Halloween, one of my favorite holidays (Btw – I am dressing up as Scarlett from GI Joe, because she is a red head that totally kicks ass), I am writing about fear. We all have it. In many cases it serves a good purpose. We should be scared of snakes, because a bite from a poisonous one is bad news. We should be scared of jumping out of a perfectly operational airplane for fun . . . what if that parachute (and back up chute) does not deploy? We should be scared of shopping at Target on black Friday. Fighting for an x-Box at mid-night with a group of determined mothers could end your life . . .
However, Fear shows up when it is not really needed. Our “fight or flight” system gets activated – our heart starts beating rapidly, blood rushes to our extremities, our digestive system shuts down (definitely should not be munching on Doritos when in dangre. . .actually best to avoid Doritos altogether), our thought process narrows to the ultimate goal of escaping danger. Interestingly, the majority of our greatest fears result from the stories we tell ourselves versus reality. As I reflect upon my life, my worst experiences were not the nightmares that I dreamed up in my head, they were obstacles that landed unexpectedly in my life. Once they disembarked, I had tasks to do, things to figure out, breaths to take . . . Fear certainly showed up in those moments. Fear said some pretty awful things, “you’re broken . . . people are going to think you’re pretty f’d up . . . no one else you know is in this kind of mess . . . stop crying . . .everyone is going to see how scared you are . . .” Initially, in these moments, I felt compelled to hide Fear . . . kind of like when you realize you’ve worn mismatched shoes or earrings. You do what you can to direct attention away from these flaws. However, I discovered the more you try to silence Fear, the more Fear speaks up and says, “Hey, you should be damn scared right now. You are all alone and all you’ve got is me. No one is going to understand how terrified you are like I do.”
I have made peace with the fact that Fear is going to show up from time-to-time. I also acknowledge that Fear kept me safe and saved my life several times. When I was quite young, my parents did everything in their power to keep me safe. However, outside of their loving care, I encountered situations that were dangerous and where being in a state of fight-or- flight served me well. As an adult woman, these dangers are no longer present in my life. However, certain situations trigger Fear, and we need to have a talk.
Me: Fear what in the hell are you doing here? I don’t need you right now. What do I need to do to make you go away? Seriously, you’re getting in the way of me being present to life.
Fear: I am here to help you. What if something really bad is around the corner? I can protect you. You know that. We can think of all the possible scenarios which could harm you and then come up with a plan to avoid them. We’re good at this together.
Me: Thank you for showing up during the times in my life I really needed you. I don’t particularly need you right now. If you want to hang out with me, you need to zip your lip.
Fear: Ugh, that’s so hard for me to do. I’m so used to talking with you all the time. Particularly when I’m worried that someone is going to hurt you.
Me: I know, but I’ve got this now.
Fear: I’m worried about you.
Me: Is there anything I can do to make you feel better about leaving me alone?
Fear: Connect with people who love and care about you, so I can know you’re safe or conversely they can help you shut me up if I am prattling along.
Like my sweet, scared, splendidly imperfect dog, it’s best to show Fear (when not needed . . . this does not apply to being chased by a Zombie . . .you totally need Fear to help you out with that one) you’re okay, the world is not falling apart, so they are ok too. I invite you to tell unneeded Fear, “Hey, zip your lip. I’m trying to attend to life at the moment!”
My closest friends will tell you I frequently say, “put that intention into the universe,” followed by, “who wants to order dessert?” Intention/goal setting, prayer . . . whatever you want to call it, involves identifying what you desire in your life and living in a way that brings it to fruition. Yes, I recognize this idea sounds a bit spiritually foo, foo, but we have plenty of psychological research supporting the effectiveness of this process. To me, it involves the combination of rewiring your brain to look for evidence of that of which you seek and also spiritually informing the universe, “Hey! I totally want X in my life, so if you could help me out with this one, I would greatly appreciate it.”
Recovering perfectionists struggle with the key to intention setting . . . letting go of how and WHEN it manifests in one’s life. Holy moly, I STRUGGLE with this one!!! I often find myself saying things like, “Hi Universe. It’s me. Amelia. . . um remember me? . . . I’ve been really good . . . working hard to be a loving, caring, confident person . . . I picked garbage off the sidewalk today . . . I called my mom . . . I stopped wishing ill will to Mr. Scum Bucket (see Successfully Failing Online Dating) . . . can you please respond to that intention I set a few days ago? . . .Trying to trust you here, but questioning if you’re on a Carnival cruise or something . . .” Here’s the paradox of intentions/prayers/goals – one must set them and then completely let go of being attached to a particular outcome. THEN, one has to live life like the intention will happen. At this point, you’re likely thinking “Amelia, WTF?” (Mom please message me later, and I will decipher WTF for you. Also, I apologize upfront for using WTF.)
Here’s a simple example. In September, a friend from yoga class invited me to a party on the roof top of a posh hotel. I had no idea what to wear, so I turned to my best fashionista friend for advice. She instructed me to text her pictures of my cocktail dresses . . . yikes! I consigned my fabulously large collection of two cocktail dresses after a “come to Jesus” with my closet months ago. Hence, I made an emergency shopping trip to Nordstrom’s. I had 6 hours to find a dress. With text support from my fashionista friend and my sweet sister I found a gorgeous cocktail dress, along with an adorable price tag. The price did not justify a one-time wear. However, I said, “Hey universe, this dress is stunning, and I would like to wear it again to something really special. . . I love going to weddings . . .I am happy to don this for a future party . . .” My sweet sister encouraged me to wear it to as many semi-formal events as possible, and I invited the challenge! Two months later, my dear friend Sara contacted me to inform me that she and her boyfriend were engaged and throwing an engagement party in February. I responded by saying, “Congratulations! I’m so excited for you both! I have the perfect dress for your party!” (BTW- I’m wearing the dress in the picture on the “About Me” page. If anyone needs a date to semi-formal event, I would love to wear it again!)
Sometimes the answers to our intentions do not come exactly in the form we xpect. Be careful what you wish for and be open to what comes! During my recent visit to TX, I complained to my kind host, Steve, my feet were cold. . .
Me: Hey Steve my feet are freezing. Can I borrow some socks?
Steve: Good lord girl! It’s 85 degrees outside . . . at night.
Me: I know. . . can I please borrow some socks.
Steve: I have something even better.
Me: (Steve returns with what appear to be two, stripy dishrags, sewn closed on each end with an elastic casing along the top.) What are those?
Steve: They’re dishrag slippers. My Mah-Mah in Louisiana makes them. She’s 92 years old. Hey, didn’t you want some guy to bring you slippers? (see F’ing Honest.com)
Me: This is not exactly what I had in mind . . .
Steve: Well Amelia, you need to be a little more responsible with the intentions you throw into the universe and be grateful for what you receive. You are bordering the line of high maintenance.
Me: Point well taken . . .
“Hi Universe, It’s me. . . Amelia . . .again. . . umm thanks so much for the slippers . . .they are super comfy and nicely complement my heart-print pjs . . . I should have been a little more mature regarding my intention for love . . .so here it goes . . . I would like to find the love of my life when I’m ready and you think the time is right . . .and if I could also wear my cocktail dress again that would be fabulous . . . not necessary though . . .but a bonus. . . Love, Amelia.”
“It’s not so much that we force the hand of God, as we become willing to be who we need to be in order to manifest the intention.” ~ K. Woodward Thomas
I started online dating approximately four months ago (please see Vulnerability Hangover for my launch into online dating). Thrusting a recovering perfectionist into the dating world comes with its share of unique challenges. Currently, I feel like playing it safe and holing up in my apartment with my sweet, splendidly imperfect dog. However, I am not a quitter. I hold tight to my desire to be the most imperfect online dater possible.
The scene from Vulnerability Hangover continues when the elevator doors open and I walk up and meet Scott* (*all names changed to protect the men who provided me with so many beautiful F*&$ing Opportunity for Growth moments). Looking back on my short, but seemingly, painfully long, four month online dating history, I feel grateful that Scott was my first online failure—a total kind-hearted gentleman with an endearing east coast accent. Given I dove feet first into the online dating ocean, the waves tossed and pulled me under. Hence, surfacing to a kind soul like Scott provided the sweet relief I sought. I grabbed on and felt safe. Great guy, light, adventurous and fun . . . I thought, “I can totally do this online dating thing.” I declined dates from other men . . . too complicated . . . I liked Scott. Then, I lovingly opened-my-mouth-and-inserted-my-foot. . . While on a double-date his friend asked me about my online dating experience, and I replied, “all-in-all my experience with online dating has been fairly positive except for the men clearly on a wife hunt.” Usually, overly sensitive me would have asked Scott what brought him to online dating. (First learning curve in online dating, quickly discern if you two are on the same page in regards to what you seek in a relationship!) Yep, I officially earned my place in the scum bucket; and Scott may have appropriately tossed me there. However, in an extremely classy and kind way he initiated a conversation about his desire for a serious relationship and aptly stated that “I was not ready yet.” I truly hope good things are happening for him. Genuinely a remarkable catch, temporarily snagged by an imperfect red-head trying to re-learn her casting skills after an incredibly, heart-breaking divorce.
After this failure, I let the last couple weeks of my three month online subscription run out. However, I recognize that I need to go on a “date-o-rama.” I have to build my confidence, put myself out there and be uncomfortable. I go (with dread and a supportive girlfriend who shows up late) to a “meet up” event and connect with a nice man from the mid-west. My confidence climbs. Hence, I take a leap a few weeks later and sign up for a year-long online dating subscription. Yikes! Honestly, I receive some of the most outlandish matches I can think of . . . seriously, Plano, TX is WAY out of my SoCal geographic region! No, I will not date someone who takes his picture with a tiger, or Hooters waitresses or no shirt. Yes, I will make peace with the fact that I may spend more Saturday nights on the couch in my PJ’s with Frankie (my splendidly imperfect dog).
The moment I embrace datelessness, dates start coming. No sparks or fireworks but some really nice wine and appetizers and exposure to cool wine bars. After a phone call with a seemingly nice man I met online, I take a risk and accept his invitation to dinner (I usually keep a first date to drinks). My expectations remain cautious. However, my date turns out be witty, funny, intelligent, open-minded, handsome . . .my luck is turning . . .I am looking forward to future dates with this guy who may be Mr. Right. It all looks promising. I review all the signs that a guy is into you . . . check, check, check . . .it was so much fun . . . who knows where this will go . . .until three dates later he drops off the face off the earth! Terribly confused, disappointed and anxious, I call my go-to online dating expert, my friend Sara, who met her husband online after several grueling years of online dating.
Me: Sara, Mr. Right disappeared. He was so communicative and took me out on three dates within the span of a little over a week. All the “signs” were there that let me know he was enjoying my company. What did I do wrong? All I did was send a text after our third date, “Thanks for another fantastic evening. Have a great week!” Why has he not communicated in several days? Isn’t that weird? What’s wrong with me? I’m going to be dateless forever!!!!
Sara: He’s not Mr. Right . . . for you.
Me: How do you know that? I mean he met all the qualities on my list – kind, hard-working, intelligent, witty, open-minded, affectionate, handsome, chemistry, etc . . . he even got the “bonus” of enjoys dancing. I am SoCal’s next Ginger Rogers!
Sara: What you listed should be the bare minimum. Mr. Right stays in communication with you, because he is super excited to spend time with you. He would not think of ignoring a text from you, because you are worth staying connected to.
Me: Why would he go out of his way to spend so much time and money on me in a short period of time and then nothing???
Sara: Who knows. All I know is he got a bargain for the pleasure of your company and you should think the same way too.
Me: Hot damn! I need to add good communication skills and consistency to my list. Can I officially wad up his profile and dump it in the scum bucket?
Sara: This is a good “test” for you . . . you know that right?
Me: I know that, but it still stings. When you get hurt, it’s because something brushed up against an area that is already hurting. . . ugh FOG moment!!!!!
Sara: I know it’s hard. Go ahead move this one to the scum bucket, so you have plenty of space for Mr. Right to come into your life.
Honestly, I wish I could approach my online dating with a bit more of a Buddhist mentality such as I wish Mr. Scum Bucket* peace, happiness and ease of being. However, in the interest of protecting my tender-heart at the moment, he is relinquished to the scum bucket.
Although I cannot embrace loving kindness towards Mr. Scum Bucket right now. I do find comfort in welcoming a positive psychology perspective to my experience. For all the difficult, lonely, painful and challenging online dating moments here are several sweet, wonderful moments no one can take from me:
- Dining at many fabulous restaurants which were novel to me.
- Learning how to bake pasta from an Italian chef in a cooking class.
- The sweetest first (post-divorce) kiss I could have asked for.
- Several hand-in-hand walks along the beach.
- Golf lesson.
- Learning about finance and accounting (all my dates happened to be in the industry). I can tell you all about the Sabanes-Oaxley Act. (You say “SOX accounting” if you want to sound in-the-know).
- Wearing my favorite outfit multiple times, because date #2 does not know I wore it when I met date number #1.
- Kisses under the moonlight.
- Rock climbing.
- Feeling attractive to someone.
- Recognizing most of us dating online experienced some tough shit and bad dates.
- Gaining discernment between a sweetheart and a scum bucket.
- How many amazing people I have in my life to pick me up when I experience dating setbacks.
In fact, I am planning to visit some of the aforementioned amazing people in Texas shortly to celebrate my birthday. Hillary Clinton once said it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to support an imperfect online dater. I hope to stumble upon the future love of my life when our shopping carts accidentally collide in a grocery isle . . . or we get stuck on an elevator together . . .or we find each other with a click of a mouse . . .or we happen to sit next to each other on a plane . . . or (universe please feel free to insert an option I did not consider.)
For all you amazingly, imperfect, wonderful online daters, please know you are not alone and should not settle out of fear . . . I would love your comments.
Learn the alchemy true human beings know.
The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given the door will open. –Rumi
The scene . . .I arrive early to yoga class and place my mat in my beloved spot. (Yes, I know I should relinquish having MY spot in yoga class . . . desire nothing, suffering nothing . . .another blog.) I situate my towel and lie down in savasana. I close my eyes and focus on my breath. . . until something brushes my arm and the biting aroma of Old Spice highjacks my nostrils. I turn to see a neophyte yogi lying approximately 1.5 inches away from me. I spring up and move my mat a couple inches away. He proceeds to spread his beach towel over his mat and in the process covers half of mine! Does he politely move his towel from my mat. No! My inner perfectionist thought about quickly correcting him, “Hey you! Newbie! Move it to the back row! No beginners in front.” However, this statement was very unyoga-like given yoga means “union” and all that jazz. I discretely scoot his towel off my mat and push my mat flush to the wall. New yogi begins doing a series of stretches that remind me of a 1920’s calisthenics class. He also keeps crinkling his water bottle . . .now he’s snoring in savasana. Holy moly, it’s going to be a long class.
I return to savasana and attempt to refocus on my breath. However, my mind wanders into a bad neighborhood . . . what if his Old Spice only intensifies once he starts sweating? . . .it is heated yoga after all . . . where is his flinging sweat going to go? . . .oh yeah, on MY mat and body . . . . ewww . . .why did he have to put his mat next to mine . . . how did he get past the yoga teacher? . . .why didn’t I do the earlier yoga class?
STOP!!! Let this be a FOG (f$%*ing opportunity for growth) moment . . . If I can tolerate adversity in the yoga room, I can tolerate it anywhere. . . I should show some love and gratitude towards this gentleman. . .It takes a lot of courage to come to heated yoga for the first time . . . he was probably trying to be polite by wearing Old Spice to cover up post-yoga stink. . .I am curious what brought him to yoga . . .I imagine that I’ve encroached on someone’s space in yoga . . . I’m sure that I don’t always smell like roses in class . . . I’m glad my classmates are gracious when I sweat on them and lose my balance and fall into their space . . . breathe in and out . . . send some yoga love to newbie yogi now doing windmill toe touches.
I quickly dash into the bathroom before class begins and come out to find an extremely handsome Marine lying partially on my yoga mat! Obviously, the teacher encouraged an experienced yogi from the back row to trade places with the new yoga student. Yay for the power of acceptance! This yogi, along with the entire class (including newbie yogi), have an amazing energy. We worked as a team in a very hot and humid room to stretch, strengthen and heal. Yoga is frickin’ awesome! After class, I call deep on my courage and approach handsome Marine yogi (HMY). . .
Me: I hope I did not encroach on your space during class. It was pretty crowded.
HMY: Oh no worries. You have a beautiful yoga practice. Your energy kept me from sitting out a few tough postures.
Me: (blushing) Oh, I’m glad I could help. You have a strong practice too.
HMY: Hey, I was going to grab a bite to eat at the market. Would you like to come?
Me: Sure, I was planning to stop by there too.
Ok, the conversation didn’t exactly go like that. It was more like this . . .
Me: It was pretty crowded in there. I hope I did not sweat on you. (Smooth pick up line right?)
HMY: Oh no worries. I was dying in there.
End of conversation.
I love this amusing, little story of how accepting a difficult situation can lead to a positive outcome. However, I own several heart-breaking tales in which acceptance and open doors did not come swiftly. My delay in finding open doors was partially due to staring at closed ones too long. We cannot avoid pain, discomfort and adversity. It is part and parcel of human being-ness. When we resist this pain, it only adds suffering on top of our ache. Accepting an arduous situation does not mean we like it, think it’s fair or deserved. It simply means telling oneself, “Given this is my reality, how do I move through it in a way that ultimately leads to a place of peace and does not cause further suffering?” If you are staring at a closed door right now, be gentle with yourself as you . . . take a deep breath . . . stop jiggling the door handle in hopes it opens . . . find the courage to turn away, and begin looking for a new entrance.