Monthly Archives: March 2015

To Every Woman, A Set of Shelves

I was standing at the local lumber yard the other day waiting to order a chopped up 1 x4 and could not ignore the heightening sense of insecurity.  It wasn’t the upcoming lumber order, I don’t think anyone thought I worked in construction. It was just me. Standing there.  A single woman embarking on her own household project to build some shelves.

I have been wading around lately in a lot of emotions only now seeing the light of day after my breakup.  Lots of anger, at my ex but also at myself for staying in a relationship that had stopped being kind to me years before, and lots of inspecting. A memory will come up or a thought and I will stop and say, “well that’s interesting. I am feeling really pissed right now when I think about that. I wonder why…” or “That comment reminds me of the way I felt when I was little. What is that about?”  It is why I feel so strongly about holding off on starting to date again. This feels like the meat of it. The work that hopefully will help guide me toward a healthier relationship in the future.

Which takes us back to the lumber yard.  Although my fiercely independent self is slightly ashamed to admit it, there was something about being in a relationship that made me feel complete. It made me feel enough. Whole. Which is likely why I stayed for as long as I did. Because to let go of that relationship meant to let go of my wholeness. This might explain why there was always an unease at being single in the past. A rush to find someone and be okay. Even if I was alone in line, there was someone at home and that was pacifying.

The trauma of this breakup has been a gift, really. It has allowed me to see how much of myself was hiding behind my skirt, afraid to come out and take up space.  And finally when I was not performing for the sake of peace in the home, or shrinking to fit into the miniature space left over for me in the relationship, I got a glimpse at what had been waiting. And she is awesome.

I have a photo on my fridge of me from my second grade photo day. It reminds me how much of that second grader is still inside me and still waiting for the safety and assurance that didn’t come when I was young.  I think somewhere along the line I never learned that I was wonderful, just as I was. The message got skewed and my little brain got only, “perform and be rewarded” or “you’re dramatic and often too much but sometimes great.” The shipwreck of my former relationship continues to offer up lots of knowledge amidst the wreckage. And it’s helpful to stay mindful of the often untrue messages written within. For example, “You don’t know HOW to build shelves.” And the feeling that if ONLY I was dating someone he would be doing this. But the shelves were measured, built and painted- by my two hands alone. They hold my tea and spices and a growing sense that I am bigger than the little box I have tried to fit myself in to qualify as girlfriend material. That there is a beautiful, welcoming world out there for all of me.

Before:                                                           After:

                          IMG_2618                        IMG_2748

Taking Inventory

Yesterday I got to thinking. I was taking a bath and reflecting on all of the men I have dated in my life. I thought about the four year relationship, about the one year, about the months- long ones in college, about the series of okcupid dates I went on before I met my ex, and I had this somewhat troubling realization. In my ex audit, I realized that each relationship I was in, I wanted to be out of. That  somehow I lose myself in these relationships and my voice goes with it.

This is relevant because last week someone sent me the name of a man they wanted to hook me up with. This has happened several times since the breakup. Each time I have been adamant that I am not ready. And I’m not. But this guy plays the guitar. And I do too. And I was thinking it might be nice to just get together and play. As friends. And so, obviously, I googled him. And he’s cute, in a rugged professional gardner (which he is) kind of way. But almost instantaneously I was off, careening down this emotional spiral with a large burly hunk of anxiety as my wingman.  And my fears were so objectively irrational. What if he liked me and then we started dating and then I was stuck. Again. What if we started dating and then we had the same issues I had in my last relationship and I had wasted time dating him. What if he was boring or snored or was a vegan. All of these before even communicating with him!
In some ways, I  spent the last several years trying to get out of my last relationship…and the one before it…and the one before that.  Reading Huffington Post articles and blogs about relationships that are doomed and trying to compensate for the sinking feeling in my gut by burying myself in self-help books. My capacity for breaking up goes away after the first or second date (during which time I have a shameless ability to just drop off and not contact the person back) and then I just ride it out until it is very near unbearable.
I figure I can view this in one of two ways. The first is that it doesn’t bode well for future relationships if I’ve become afraid of even spending time with men. The second, and more realistic, is that I am in the middle of recalibrating. It’s too soon, maybe even to play guitar with a cute boy. And there’s work to be done on learning how I can reclaim my voice so that I will never again find myself in a relationship where I am not treated well, where I am not getting my needs met, where I feel stuck and where I am unable to initiate a frank discussion and if need be, walk away.

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The Gleaming Corner

I had heard the song before, but the words never resonated with me until I was curled up on my overstuffed chair sobbing into my shirt sleeves. The song is called “No Regrets” and captured exactly how I felt at that moment and many following. Here are some of the lyrics:

“Love is not a test
I know we did our best…
I wish you every happiness
Darling no regrets.”

Here’s the video if you want to listen.

After three weeks in Oakland, with all of my furniture in its rightful spot and my clothes hung up, art on the walls and food in the pantry, my new apartment is beginning to feel like home. And with this comfort has come the welcomed urge to get out of the house and explore a little. When I was in my early 20s I used to go to music shows and dinner, the movies and lectures,  by myself. And I really enjoyed it. I haven’t done that in a long time. For some reason in my last relationship when events came up either I went with my ex or a friend or not at all. Going alone felt lonely. But recently I’ve found myself excited about this autonomy. It means something somehow. This beautiful reclaiming of my independence. So when I woke up to an announcement on npr that Forest Sun, the same person who wrote No Regrets, was performing at a small venue in Berkeley on Saturday night, I knew I had to go.

And I went. No make-up, no dressy shoes, just me. The venue was tiny and the music was amazing. I didn’t shove my nose into the safety of my iphone or feel any discomfort. Even during the intermission I just sat there. Absorbing it all. There was a lovely couple around my age who arrived with wine and looked very much in love. And the feeling that came over me was not bitterness or resentment, but delight. Seeing people in love is a beautiful thing and I’m excited for that again one day. But not now. For now, I’m enjoying this broadening comfort at being just me. Remembering what brings me joy and how to be happy on my own. Someone recently said of this period, this time between relationships, that it is the most fertile territory for self growth.  I believe it.

The last month has been a whirlwind. A torrent of change. And with all of my fears and sadness and hope lashed to the bow, I decided to throw away the oars and just ride the current. And it has brought me here. To this new home and new job and new life. Four months after pushing off into the water, severing ties to the life that had held me for three years, I don’t regret any part of my breakup or decision to leave Sacramento. It has been so brutally hard. But also empowering and revitalizing and hopeful. And this weekend, as I sat there listening to Forest Sun sing about relationships and peace and new beginnings I radiated gratitude for what feels like the turning of a corner.