Posted by: Marie | November 20, 2014

(962) The dance of intimacy – Part 5 of 5

Post #962
[Private journal entry written on Friday, September 14, 2012 about a therapy session – continued from previous post]

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Me: I didn’t pay attention to what time we got started . . . how much time do we have left?

Edward: Oh, about 15 minutes or so . . .

Me: Okay . . . so, how would you like to utilize our last 15 minutes?

Edward: Well, in our last session, we talked a bit about the “parts” of you . . .

Me: Oh, yeah . . .

Edward: You so thoughtfully sent me a link for the post in your blog that described the parts as you had identified and named them a few years ago . . . I did read that blog post, but I’m having trouble recalling the parts’ names you used in the post . . .

Me: (Laughing a bit) Yeah . . . I’m having trouble remembering the names, too, so I wrote them down . . .

————–

I reached into my bag and pulled out a piece of paper on which I had made some notes . . .

I pointed out to Edward that, in the blog post, I had called one part “Mother”; however, at some point after I wrote that journal entry, I renamed that part to “Healer” because I found the idea of calling myself a mother figure was uncomfortable for me.

We spent a few minutes trying to map the personas and characteristics from my blog post to the framework of parts with which Edward is used to working. It was an interesting effort at first . . . I thought I might gain some insight from learning about his framework. But, I quickly lost interest as the part names and descriptions became more and more complicated . . . we quickly abandoned the effort and reverted back the names I had used in my blog post . . .

————–

Edward: I’d like to ask you do to something . . . I believe I can make this request of you without taking us back into the conversation about your feeling hopeless around dating . . .

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Photo by Martin Chen

Me: Okay . . .

Edward: If you are willing to do so, could you imagine what the “healer” part of you might believe about dating? It might be challenging for you to hold the space of the “healer” and to think and feel from that perspective, but I’d like you to try to do that . . . if you are willing . . .

I’m not asking you to take it on as truth and to integrate it into your belief system; rather I’m asking you to imagine what might be possible.

Me: Sure, I can try to do that . . .

Are you wanting me to imagine a possible explanation for what has happened in the past or to describe what might be possible in the future?

Edward: What might be possible in the future, according to the “healer” part of you.

Me: Okay . . .

(I thought for a moment before answering)

Me: Basically, it would be a relationship like what I have with you . . . a relationship in which I feel safe and respected . . . and loved . . .

So, it would be a relationship like ours except it would be one I could take home with me . . . and we could get naked together . . . there would be sex that we both enjoy . . .

I mean . . . I don’t want to freak you out by saying that what we have is what I’m looking for in a dating relationship . . . I mean, I’m not trying to move our relationship into that realm . . .

Edward: I understand you mean that our relationship serves as a great model for the foundational components of a potential romantic relationship.

Me: Yup, that’s what I mean. . .

Edward: So, tell me more about that . . . what makes our relationship an ideal model?

Me: The most awesome part of our relationship is that I feel very safe . . . I can show up less than perfectly – for example, in my sweats and no make-up on – and I don’t feel judged and I know you won’t reject me because of that. Of course, I also am not trying to be sexy for you . . . I’m not trying to maintain my appearance enough that you’ll find me attractive enough to want to have sex with me . . . I don’t have to worry about that with you . . . so there is a freedom in our relationship that wouldn’t exist in a romantic relationship . . . in a dating relationship, I’d always feel pressured to be “sexy” and physically attractive.

Edward: In what other ways do you feel safe with me?

Me: I can say shocking things that might cause me to look bad . . . like unstable or without morals . . . and I know you will still hold me in positive regard . . . you won’t reject me because of what I say . . . there are no standards I have to live up to in order to be in this relationship.

I mean, there are boundaries, but the boundaries are part of what makes me feel safe with you. For example, I know there will never be a sexual component to our relationship . . . of course, I’m fully onboard with that . . . but, to answer your question, I feel safe enough with you to show up as the “real me”.

(Long pause)

Me: It’s hard for me to play with this possibility because I know it’s not going to happen . . . it hurts to think about it . . .

(Another pause)

Me: (Shrugging) I just can’t imagine a quality guy ever wanting to have a relationship like that with me.

Edward: The “healer” part of you did just imagine what that would be like. So, you are capable of imagining it.

Me: Yeah . . . however, unfortunately, my life experience has more influence than imagination on my beliefs about myself. I don’t want that to be the case, but it is when it comes to men and dating.

Edward: I understand what you are saying and I hear the frustration and pain it causes you.

————–

It didn’t feel to me like he was giving me a hard time or judging me during this last part of our conversation; it felt like he was trying to give me a way out of the psychological bind I’m in concerning dating . . . I’m so bound up in my hopelessness that I can’t see any possibility of a different reality. He was just trying to give me a doorway out of that impossible bind.

Unfortunately, I can’t walk through that doorway. My beliefs don’t allow for that. So, I’m working on accepting that I’m in for a life of being alone.

So be it.

At any rate, that brought us to the end of our time together. I had the sense that there is more he would like to do with the parts . . . maybe we’ll do more in another session.

We wrapped up the session and said our good-byes . . .

I found myself feeling a mix of emotions . . . I felt settled around the issue with Melodie, but sad around the dating thing . . . and I was also feeling very emotionally connected with Edward which always leaves me with a pleasant warmth inside . . .

As I was driving home, I got to thinking about the relationship I have with Edward and how it serves as a model for what I’d like in a romantic relationship . . . except that a romantic relationship would additionally have a sexual component . . .

Historically, it has always been the sexual component that made relationships unsafe. So, it is a bit of a paradox for me to imagine a romantic relationship in which I feel would safe but that would also encompass a sexual component . . . that would be a new and interesting experience . . .

Of course, it is an experience that I still believe I will never have. I wish I didn’t believe that, but I do. It’s the brick wall I keep smashing into whenever I try to move into that space of possibility. It sucks.

Anyway, this evening, I was scheduled to have a piano lesson with Bella. I didn’t send a reminder email or text because they showed up last week with a reminder, I was hoping they would show up tonight without a reminder . . . I figured I’d give it a try . . . I really don’t want to get into the business of having to remind my clients when they have committed to showing up for a lesson.

About 15 minutes before the 5:30 lesson time, I drove over to the studio, got the A/C and the lights all turned on, then sat and waited . . .

At 5:40, ten minutes after the scheduled start time, I called and left a voicemail on Kris’ cell phone asking what happened to our plan to have a lesson . . .

At 6:00, I gave up, closed up shop, and drove back home . . .

At 8:30, I received a text from Kris: “Omg we missed piano I’ll pay for today just slipped My mind so sorry. I’ll come by mon and make payment”

I didn’t even bother to respond . . .

Part of me is thinking that I have no reason to complain . . . I spent the same amount of time waiting for them as I would have in a lesson had they showed up . . . I earned the same money I would have earned had they showed up (assuming she really does pay me for the missed lesson) . . . and I got some administrative things done while I was waiting . . . so, what’s the big deal?

Another part of me feels very disrespected when someone doesn’t keep a scheduled commitment with me. It’s a respect thing. That bothers me more than the money part would, had they not showed and not paid. It is important to me that people keep their promises to me . . . that they show up for me. That’s what I value more than time or money.

So, anyway, I’m thinking we won’t be doing business with each other for much longer . . . I’m about done with trying to help her get in the swing of things . . .

And so, that was my Friday . . .

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Posted by: Marie | November 19, 2014

(961) The dance of intimacy – Part 4 of 5

Post #961
[Private journal entry written on Friday, September 14, 2012 about a therapy session – continued from previous post]

————–

Edward: Does that mean that you could find a romantic partner if you lost weight and got into great shape?

Me: No . . . I don’t think that would make a difference. I think it would create the possibility of more dates, but it would not create the possibility of finding a life partner.

Edward: Why not?

Me: I don’t know . . . I’ve never been able to figure that out. I believe there really is no possibility for me to ever be in a healthy romantic relationship regardless what I might do to become more attractive and more marketable . . . I don’t know why that is the case for me . . . but it is my reality.

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Photo by Martin Chen

Edward: Do you think the concept of organic unfolding could change that perceived reality?

Me: I think the concept of organic unfolding is very powerful . . . life-changing, in fact, for me. I think organic unfolding can be part of any and all of my relationships . . . professional, platonic . . . and it could be part of my romantic relationships if romantic relationships were a possibility for me. But, I don’t believe they are a possibility for me. So, that means organic unfolding won’t be a part of a romantic relationship for me because there will never be in a romantic relationship . . .

Does that make sense?

Edward: I understand what you are saying . . .

Me: Based upon recent experiences with married men, I’m learning that I have value as a person . . . that men value my company as long as there is not a romantic component in the relationship, as long as it is clearly a platonic-only relationship, as is the case when the guy is married.

But, single guys run from me . . .

(A bit of a pause)

Me: I believe that there are good men in the world . . . men who would be an ideal partner for me. However, for whatever reason, those men are not interested in me romantically. I don’t know why they are not, but they aren’t. I’ve tried to figure out why not, and to fix whatever the problem might be, but that hasn’t changed anything. So, I’ve come to believe that a romantic relationship is not an option for me. That’s just the way it is . . . I have to just accept it and build my life accordingly.

And that’s the same thing I’ve told you before . . . I don’t know that there is value in rehashing this same issue over and over again.

(Edward watched me thoughtfully for a moment, then he shifted the angle of approach . . . )

Edward: From where do you think you first received the message that you are unlovable?

Me: Well, of course, from my dad.

Edward: Tell me about that . . .

Me: One of the things he harped on a lot is that he believed I needed to be less independent. He said that men don’t like independent woman and my being so independent would make it very difficult to find a husband.

Edward: So, you were supposed to be obedient and compliant?

Me: Yeah . . . exactly.

There was a point in my teen years that I realized I had a choice to make: I could be compliant and less independent, which would more likely allow me to become a wife and mother . . . that would make me attractive to a guy . . . or, I could be who I naturally was . . . a free spirit and out-of-the-box thinker, and not attractive to guys.

I chose the latter . . . and I accepted that the price of that choice would be that I would be alone – un-partnered – for my entire life.

Now, as an adult, I can see that my dad was wrong . . . well, he was correct in saying there are guys who would have been more attracted to me if I were submissive, but I most certainly would not have been happy in a relationship with a guy like that. But, he was wrong to encourage me to show up in a way that is not natural for me. And, he was inaccurate in his indicating that all men want submissive wives.

However, there were a lot of years between the time I made that choice and the time I figured out that my dad was wrong. During those many years, I lived under the powerful influence of his teaching. The belief that I am unlovable because of who I am is deeply engrained . . . due to my dad’s teachings on the matter and due to many other experiences that have influenced my perception of my worth as a person.

The belief that I am unlovable and that I will never enjoy the companionship of a life partner is so deeply engrained that it feels impossible to shift that belief. And, my life experiences, including my present-day experiences, provide overwhelming evidence to me that the belief is accurate.

I’ve played with the idea of “faking it” until I “make it” . . . in other words, as I interact with men, I’d behave the way I’d behave if I did believe I am lovable. Then, I wouldn’t appear desperate . . . and maybe that would help me attract a romantic partner. I doubt it would work, but it’s the best plan I’ve been able to come up with so far.

But, even if I could pull that off, it would eventually come to light that I believe I’m not lovable. As soon as that came to light, the guy would lose interest, I’m sure. There is no way I could keep up that charade for very long, nor would I want to.

So, I feel pretty hopeless about the dating thing . . . I see no way to shift my current experience. I seems less painful to simply not encourage myself to hope for a different experience. I believe it will be less painful if I just accept my reality and create the best life I can despite my reality.

Edward: Ouch . . .

I can feel so much pain underneath your words . . .

(I nodded my head)

Me: Yeah, there is a lot of pain there – a lot of hopelessness. But, I don’t think talking about it in therapy is going to help anything. It’s just something I have to deal with, so I’ll deal with it.

Edward: Am I understanding you to say that you don’t want to talk about it anymore today?

Me: Yeah, you’re understanding me correctly . . . I don’t want to talk about it anymore today . . . or for that matter, any day. There are better uses of our time together.

(Edward again studied me carefully for several moments as I stewed in my frustration, staring at the floor and flicking the rim of my coffee mug with my thumbnail. When I was sure he was going to leave the topic of dating alone, I glanced at my sticky note and realized that we had covered everything listed on it . . . )

Me: We could move onto a new topic . . . we’ve covered everything I wanted to cover . . . what would you like to talk about?

Edward: We can move onto a new topic, if you would like . . . I most certainly will honor your preference to stop the discussion about your belief that you will never find a romantic partner . . .

Me: Thank you.

Edward: However, before we move onto a new topic, I’d like to check in with you concerning your emotions. I’m sensing that so many strong, raw emotions are coming up for you. If you are willing, I’d like to take a moment to tend to those emotions, which we can do without returning to the discussion about dating . . . may we tend to those emotions before moving onto a new topic?

————–

Edward’s gentle and caring attention to my uncomfortable emotions broke the hard shell I had defensively put in place during the discussion. Once again, I felt safe, and I felt deeply connected with him. My defenses simply disintegrated and, in an instant, I felt my heart bloom open again.

I think this ability to generate such a deep and authentic sense of connection is what is at the core of Edward’s effectiveness as a therapist. It blows me away every time that sense of connection is renewed between us because it is something I’ve never experienced before in my life, at least not at this level.

That sense of connectedness is what my soul longs for . . . and it’s what I get to experience with Edward on a regular basis.

Of course, my tears welled up in response to his tender care. We paused our conversation so I could sit with those emotions for a few moments . . .

After a bit, the intensity of my emotions faded a bit, and I got the tears and snot wiped off my face . . . we sat without speaking for another moment or two. Then, I glanced over at the clock . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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Posted by: Marie | November 18, 2014

(960) The dance of intimacy – Part 3 of 5

Post #960
[Private journal entry written on Friday, September 14, 2012 about a therapy session – continued from previous post]

————–

(Edward waited patiently as I thought my thoughts . . . then he checked in with me . . . )

Edward: Where did you just go?

Me: I was processing what you just said . . . that you are disappointed in George’s response . . .

Your being disappointed validates my disappointment. It makes it “okay” for me to feel that way.

Edward: It is very “okay” for you to feel that way. Your disappointment is very valid . . . and appropriate.

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Photo by Martin Chen

Me: (Nodding my head) I’m beginning to understand that . . .

(Thoughtful pause)

Edward: How are you feeling about that validation?

Me: It feels good to me.

Edward: Is there anything more you need for me to say or do to support you in the process of embracing that validation?

Me: No . . . I’m still processing it, and I don’t need anything further from you right now around it . . .

Edward: Okay . . .

Me: Would it be okay if we moved to the next topic on my sticky note?

Edward: Sure!

Me: I wanted to give you an update on the CASA stuff . . .

Edward: Oh, good! I was wondering about that!

Me: So . . . each year in July, I set up my teaching schedule for the upcoming school year. In order to arrange my schedule around the CASA training next fall, I’ll need to know whether I’ve been accepted into the training program no later than July 1st. The CASA volunteer coordinator told me that I would need to turn my application in by May 1st so they have time to process it by July 1st. So, that’s the plan.

Edward: Are they going to be able to create an alternative training schedule for you?

Me: No . . . they are still saying there is no wiggle room in the schedule. I’ll just have to take a hit to my income for those three weeks. It’s okay . . . I’ll find a way to make it work. The volunteering won’t impact my teaching schedule, just the training. It will be a one-time deal and then the volunteer schedule will work well for me. I can live with that.

Edward: It seems they could meet you partway, at least . . .

Me: They say not . . . but, it’s okay, I’ll figure out how to make it work.

I know that there will be some challenges around being a CASA . . . not just the time demands, but also dealing with what I will be witness to as I work with the kids. I’m sure it will be triggering for me, maybe even traumatic for me.

So, in order to be prepared for that, there are some things I want to have in place by the time I turn in my application on May 1st . . . some self-care practices and some additional structure in my business . . .

I’ll need to save up some money so I can withstand the loss of revenue next fall . . . I’d like to have $1,000 saved up by then. That means I need to have $500 of it saved up by May 1st. If I don’t have that much saved up by May 1st, then that will be a cause for concern about my ability to be ready to start the training program in the fall.

I also need to have some things like exercising regularly, eating well on a regular basis . . . healthy coping strategies in place that I use as a replacement for the binge eating I do now . . . those things need to be in place – really integrated in my daily life – by the time May 1st rolls around. I don’t think it would be wise to think I’m going to magically put those practices in place once I start the training . . . I feel they need to be in place by May 1st, otherwise it may be wise for me to delay submitting my application until they are in place.

And, there are some things I need to accomplish in my business before I start the training . . . I need to streamline my business and teaching processes as much as possible, and there are some piano techniques I need to develop some more in myself before I start volunteering . . . I don’t think I’ll have as much time and energy to dedicate to my professional development after I become a CASA, so I need to get a lot of it done before then.

Edward: It sounds like you plan to be very busy between now and May 1st . . .

Me: Yeah . . .

————–

I noticed that Edward’s response was rather noncommittal. Sometimes his feedback will indicate that he fully supports what I’m planning. Other times he’ll express concern. But, this time, he did neither.

That causes me to wonder if he thinks I’m being unrealistically ambitious with my plans. Or, maybe he is taking a “wait and see” attitude . . . maybe he is thinking he’ll be available to support me in whatever way it turns out I need to be supported. I’m not sure what he is thinking . . .

————–

Me: I’ve already starting taking some of these steps . . .

I know I’ve told you about how I’ve gotten triggered when I’ve tried to implement healthy habits in the past . . .

(Edward nodded)

Me: Well, I’m finding that I’m not getting triggered this time around. I think it is because, before, I was always trying to improve myself so I would be “attractive enough” to be able to date . . . you know, to have a fair shot at actually getting asked out on a date.

This time around, I’m doing it so that I can be in a better position with my physical and mental health as I take on additional challenges and stresses. I’m not doing it in order to become a “better” and more lovable person, I’m doing it for myself, for my own health and comfort. Having a more grounded motivation seems to remove the triggers. So, I’m having an easier time with making some lifestyle changes this time around.

Edward: Tell me more about what is triggering for you when you attempt to implement healthier habits for the sake of becoming more suitable for dating . . .

Me: I believe that, in order to attract a man, I have to be nearly perfect . . . I have to be an ideal weight and I have to be in great physical shape . . . my appearance has to be “pulled together” and polished anytime I’m in public . . . and part of being “polished” would likely involve wearing at least some make-up . . . I hate wearing make-up . . . it feels so fake to me* . . . I’ve pretty much decided that I will never wear make-up again . . . well, other than what is needed to cover up my acne . . .

*(Editorial note: If I were a guy, I’d probably refuse to wear ties for the same reason . . . I’m just saying . . . )

Of course, in order to date, I’d have to get my skin care routine perfected. And, I’d have to have the binge eating and the skin picking under control . . . and it would be a waste of time to enter the dating scene until I have all of that “fixed” . . . and I had better have it all so much under control that there is no danger I’d slide back into my old habits after I started dating someone . . . because then the guy I’d be dating would no longer be attracted to me and would bail . . .

I get triggered because I know I’ll never be able to live up to that standard . . . and yet I ache so much to be in a relationship that I’m willing to keep trying . . . I know I will never be able to live up to it . . . but I keep trying because the only other option is to give up on dating all together . . . which is where I’m at with it right now, anyway . . .

But, with CASA, there is room for me to be imperfect. The kids I’m working with won’t care how heavy I am and they won’t care if I have a zit on my face . . . the judge I’m reporting to won’t care if I binged on ice cream the night before . . . I’ll still be accepted as I am. So, any improvements I make to how I care for myself is only for my own good . . . to improve my own quality of life. I can still be effective at being a CASA even when my practices falter, and the kids will still want me in their lives. There will be room for me to be imperfect.

Edward: Do you think that you really have to be so “perfect” in order to find a romantic partner?

Me: It seems that many people find really awesome partners despite being anywhere near perfect . . . but, in my experience, men are only interested in women who are sexy . . . as in skinny, well-dressed, well-groomed . . . they only want to date women who are really attractive. As long as I’m overweight, I’m invisible to men.

So, while I logically know my belief is not so realistic, it seems to be realistic in my situation.

————–

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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Posted by: Marie | November 17, 2014

(959) The dance of intimacy – Part 2 of 5

Post #959
[Private journal entry written on Friday, September 14, 2012 about a therapy session – continued from previous post]

————–

I told Edward that I wanted to give him an update around the concept of “organic unfolding” that he had presented to me at our last session. I told him that there had been many “ah hah!” moments for me since then – points at which I caught myself doing exactly what he had described – researching potential beaus, classifying them as viable or not, deciding what characteristics I could tolerate and which ones I couldn’t, creating a plan of action around what I would have to “become” in order to be “good enough” to attract them . . . oh, my goodness . . . I do it all the time! I haven’t been in the habit of just enjoying the company of these men, not worrying about what should occur next and how quickly it might occur . . .

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Photo by Martin Chen

Edward commented that my relationship with my dad had not allowed me to learn how to interact with men in a way allowed for that organic unfolding – that I had had to orchestrate my interaction with my dad very carefully in order to psychologically survive my childhood. I agreed.

I went on to tell Edward that I’ve been taking a more playful stance in the way I think about interacting with potential beaus and it is opening up a whole new way of being for me. It also is affecting how I’m interacting with my students . . . I’m being more conscious about giving them my full attention, listening carefully to their stories before we settle into their lessons (like I wish my dad had done with me) . . . and I’m finding I’m enjoying the company of my students even more than before (if that is possible).

I asked Edward if he remembered the email I sent to George and then forwarded to him (Edward) in which I had written a relatively casual email asking George for the opportunity to get to know him a bit on a personal level. (I had written it with the concept of “organic unfolding” in mind.)

————–

Edward: Did George ever respond to your email?

Me: No . . .

I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed. It would have been fun to sit down with him, one-on-one . . . I mean, it would have been fun to try out the “organic unfolding” stuff with him. However, he never responded . . . but, I’m not surprised.

Edward: Tell me more about that . . .

Me: I guess my disappointment is tempered by the fact I never allowed myself to develop much hope. I knew from the git-go that he probably wouldn’t respond . . . I knew the chances I would ever get to sit down and have a meaningful conversation with him was pretty much zilch.

Edward: Did you really not have any hope?

Me: I had strong feelings for him . . . or, for the person I thought he might be . . . but, realistically, I knew there was really no chance anything would ever come of it. So, I really wanted something to develop, but I knew there was no chance it ever would.

Edward: So, why did you bother sending the email to him?

Me: I had nothing to lose . . . and I was hoping I could prove myself wrong. Because I knew there was no chance, I never let myself have much hope, which means that there isn’t much disappointment now, either. It’s just . . . well, it’s just par for the course.

(We sat without speaking for a few moments . . . I think Edward was waiting for me to say more, but there really isn’t more for me to say . . . this is just the way things are . . . what else can be said about it? It is what it is. I really don’t have more to say on the subject beyond what I’ve already said in the multitude of conversations we’ve had about it . . . I truly don’t have anything more to add.)

Edward: Is it possible that your beliefs around what is “par for the course” are inaccurate?

Me: Of course it is possible. I think it is most likely the case that my beliefs are inaccurate when applied to most people’s circumstances. However, I think my beliefs are very accurate when applied to my circumstances.

Edward: What causes you to say that?

Me: I have decades-worth of evidence.

Edward: Such as?

Me: Such as what happened with George . . . and what happened with Luke . . .

Whenever I try to connect with someone I think I might like to date, the same thing happens over and over and over again. I have no positive experiences to help balance out all the negative ones. It’s not like I just need to wade through the 90% of the experiences that are painful to get to the 10% that are healthy and healing and uplifting . . . there is no 10%. There is no 5% and there is no 1%. There’s only 0%.

(Long pause . . . )

Me: I understand that I’ve created a belief and now I’m going through life looking for evidence to prove that my belief is accurate . . . I mean, I understand that is the explanation that shrinks use to explain how I’m framing this. And, by seeing it that way, I should be able to frame it in a different way and hopefully generate different results.

However, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, and it does so for 35 years, I don’t think I’m crazy to call it a duck because it probably is a duck . . .

Edward: A very old duck . . .

Me: (Cracking a smile) Yes, a very old duck.

(After a thoughtful pause) Sometimes you have to just call it as it is. At some point, you just gotta stop pretending things are someday going to be different. You can waste a lot of time and energy pretending something is going to change when, the truth is, it’s not going to change.

How many more years do I have to continue pretending this is going to change for me? Isn’t it okay for me to just accept things as they are and quit fighting to change it?

I was just hoping that I could have an experience with George that was different from what I’ve always experienced with men. He seemed like the kind of guy that could – would – interact with me in a way different from what I’m used to.

At least I now know what kind of guy he is . . . that he wouldn’t be careful about how he relates to me. Even though I had hoped for something better, at least now I know the truth about him.

Edward: I, too, am disappointed that he didn’t respond to your email, even if was only to say that it wasn’t feasible for him to get together with you right now. I’m disappointed that he didn’t at least acknowledge your reaching out for connection. I, too, thought he might be someone who would be responsive to you at least at that level. I’m surprised that he didn’t respond at all, and I’m disappointed.

————–

When I heard those words from Edward, I felt a wave of surprise come over me. It took me a moment to figure out why I was experiencing surprise . . .

Then, it dawned on me that I have been carrying a belief that it was unreasonable and silly for me to hope that men might acknowledge my attempts to connect with them. I’ve been carrying a belief that the norm is for men to ignore less desirable females like me and that I was living in a fantasy world to think that they might actually see me and respond to me. I’ve always believed that I’m desperate, and that my attempts to connect are ignored because that is the normal, expected response to desperate behavior.

However, Edward’s words indicated that it might be reasonable for me to expect men to respond to me in a way that acknowledges my efforts to connect and that shows appreciation for my efforts. His words indicated that such a response would be the minimal behavioral standard, that a man who ignored me would be behaving in a disrespectful and boorish manner, and that it is reasonable and normal for me to feel disappointment in response to that disrespectful behavior.

In other words, the problem is not in my reaching out for connection, the problem is in the quality of men’s responses.

Wow.

That took a moment to sink in.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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Posted by: Marie | November 16, 2014

(958) The dance of intimacy – Part 1 of 5

Post #958
[Private journal entry written on Friday, September 14, 2012]

Today was therapy session day . . .

So many things have been happening lately and I found myself wanting to tell Edward about all of it. Some of it is not so critical to my healing and therefore using my precious session time to tell Edward about it might not be the best use of our therapy time. But, I see him as a friend, not just as a therapist. Because he is a friend – maybe even my best friend right now – I want to share the details of my life events with him.

I know, I know . . . thinking of my therapist as my best friend is probably treading on dangerous ground. But, that’s the reality of the situation. I think it is okay as long as I keep in mind that it is a one-sided friendship with an incredibly unequal power distribution, and a friendship that can never exist outside of the therapeutic dynamic.

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Photo by Martin Chen

I get all that . . . and yet, I still say that he is probably my best friend right now. And that speaks more to the state of my social life than it does to the appropriateness of my feelings towards him. I’m far more concerned about the former than about the latter.

But, I digress . . . so back to the therapy session . . .

Because there were so many things I wanted to talk to Edward about, I wrote them all down on a sticky note and took the sticky note into the therapy session with me.

At the start of the session, Edward and I went through our usual greetings routine. I asked about his Labor Day weekend and he stated he had spent the holiday weekend with his wife’s family. Then, he asked about my trip to Red Cloud with Melodie. I laughed as told I him that the trip was the first item on my list of many things to cover today . . . I showed him my sticky note and the all the topics it listed . . .

I shared the highlights of the trip with him, and told him about my frustrations with Melodie . . . and I mentioned that we had hit a deer and that I had slowed down before we hit it due to my premonition, which allowed for there to be no damage to the car.

As is usual whenever I talk about my paranormal experiences, I worried that Edward thinks I’m loony for believing I have these experiences. I guess I’m still testing the waters with him . . . I always approach such topics with hesitation because I’m always watching his reactions for any sign of disbelief or patronization. But, he showed none; rather he simply showed genuine interest in my story.

After sharing the more superficial details about my trip, I swung back around to the topic of my relationship with Melodie. I told him a bit more about the efforts I had made to build a stronger emotional connection with her on the trip . . .

————–

Me: She is good about listening and providing emotionally appropriate responses back to me, but that’s as far as it goes. She seems to have nothing to contribute along the same vein. I think she doesn’t operate at the same emotional level as I do . . . I wish she could participate at that level . . . but, she can’t, it seems.

So, here’s what I’m struggling with . . . I’m wondering if my relationship with her is one that I should continue . . . as in, is it serving me well? Is it worth the time and effort?

(Thoughtful pause)

Me: I guess I don’t know how to go about making that decision.

(A longer pause)

Me: The value of our relationship is in our shared history rather than in our present-day experiences . . .

She is a good friend . . . she has a big heart . . . she is very generous . . . we laugh a lot when we are together . . . you know, we get silly sometimes . . . and I need moments of silliness in my life . . .

I enjoy the trips we take . . . we do stuff we both like to do . . .

(Another pause)

Me: When I think about cutting off that relationship . . . actually taking steps to end it . . .

(Suddenly becoming emotional) I just can’t imagine doing that . . .

She’s been in my life forever and ever and I really love her . . . I love her like a sister . . .

(Smiling a bit through the tears in my eyes) Well, like a really annoying sister . . .

Obviously, my proactively ending the relationship would be painful for her . . . but, it would be painful for me, too, because I value what we have had in the past.

Edward: (Softly) I can clearly see why you would be hesitant to end it . . . and why you might want to continue it . . .

Maybe, instead of thinking of it as either continuing it or ending it, you could think of it in terms of allowing it to continue while acknowledging its limitations. She obviously is a good friend, the relationship obviously has significant value to you, and you love each other a great deal. However, it’s a friendship that is not able to meet all – or even most – of your relational needs. And, that is okay. It doesn’t have to . . . no one relationship can meet all of someone’s relational needs.

Me: (Raising my eyebrows in agreement) Yeah, you make a good point . . .

(We sat without speaking for a few minutes as I digested what he had just said. His words settled easily into my soul . . . his suggestion felt “right” . . . in fact, it felt so right that I could feel a sense of resolution start coming over me.)

Me: Yeah . . . that makes sense . . .

You know . . . all of this has caused me to become more attuned to what is important to me in relationships . . . I really do value having that kind of two-way exchange of emotional expression in my relationships.

I wonder why she doesn’t have the ability to operate at that level . . . maybe she just doesn’t experience strong emotions like I do . . . I mean, maybe she doesn’t struggle with depression and feeling over-whelmed . . . maybe her emotions are just more mundane and stable. Maybe she doesn’t struggle with her emotions.

Well, she does have strong emotions at times . . . not surprisingly, she was very upset when her mom died and when her sister died . . . but, mostly she is just excited about the little day-to-day experiences that she has . . . she’s always talking about social events or outings with her husband . . . or a neat movie she watched . . . she always has stories to tell . . .

Edward: Do you think she doesn’t periodically experience uncomfortable emotions such as frustration . . . or maybe loneliness . . . or anger . . . ??

Me: Apparently not much . . . maybe some in passing . . . it seems like she has dealt with stuff from her past and that she is in a really happy and content place in her life. I don’t think she is lonely . . . she and her husband are like two peas in a pod, they seem really content together.

Edward: Obviously, I don’t know her, but I’m guessing that she is not as happy and content as she makes it appear. I suspect that she is hiding her true emotions . . . maybe from others and maybe even from herself.

Me: I guess that could be true . . . I guess I’ve always assumed she was happy and content.

Edward: How would you describe her life?

Me: Well, they have everything they need . . . they have each other and they have the time and money to do enjoyable stuff together . . . she has a cushy job that she enjoys . . . they have a pretty relaxed and cozy life . . .

But . . . it does seem . . . well, her behavior with me would indicate that there is still some unresolved stuff going on with her . . . something is driving her to be hyper-vigilant around me, always wanting to take care of my needs, to find ways to prove to me that she is smart and capable and valuable. She is always watching for my approval and/or disapproval . . . and that stance cannot be comfortable for her.

And, when I did put some boundaries in place during our trip, she became even clingier and she became defensive . . . and that indicates some unresolved stuff . . . so, yeah, she probably still experiences pain around whatever is driving that behavior . . . she just never talks about the pain.

I’m guessing that she hasn’t resolved whatever in her childhood created that behavior, and she is now recreating the same dynamic with her husband and with me. And that means she hasn’t matured much beyond what I experienced of her in college.

Edward: So, there’s a significant difference in the rate each of you is maturing emotionally.

Me: Yeah . . . but it’s not like a snobbery thing . . . that I’m better than her or anything . . . I’m just further along in the maturation process . . . but, I’m not better than her . . . I don’t mean it like that, for sure . . .

Edward: I know you don’t mean it like that.

————–

We paused again to let our thoughts settle . . . then I asked if he was okay with me moving onto the next item on my sticky note . . . he said that would be fine . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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Posted by: Marie | November 9, 2014

(957) Those with whom I share space

Post #957
[Private journal entry written on Monday, September 10, 2012]

First, an update on the ant situation . . .

Within a few days of putting down ant traps, the ant superhighway tapered off to nothing. They are gone.

Yippee!! No more ants crawling on me while I’m trying to sleep!

I guess that means poison trumps cinnamon.

————–

On Friday, Melodie called me and told me she had been diagnosed with shingles and that she was in a lot of pain. She said she begin feeling the first symptoms on the drive home from Red Cloud. Then, the next morning, she woke up with a major rash, a few blisters and major pain. She immediately went to the doctor, but even with the meds the doctor gave her, it still got pretty bad before it got better. However, the symptoms and pain were starting to quiet down and she was feeling better on the day she called me.

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Photo by Martin Chen

Her main concern was that she had exposed me to the shingles virus. I guess she did, but I had chicken pox as a kid so I already have an immunity to it. So, no big deal.

Although I didn’t say anything to her, the thought did cross my mind that her getting sick might have something to do with whatever is going on with my leg. I don’t know what is going on with my leg . . . it started as a rash . . . but, I never had the pain that would be present with shingles.

After we hung up, I searched on the internet to see if the two issues might be related, but I couldn’t find anything that would suggest that. And, I had been super careful about keeping my wound covered, about managing my used bandages and about washing my hands. I was sure I hadn’t exposed her to whatever is going on with my leg. So, I decided to not worry about it further.

Speaking of my leg . . .

While I was in Nebraska, the rash got much worse. I’m assuming it was because of the ever-present heat while we were there. The day after I returned home (Tuesday), it was better. Then, on Wednesday and Thursday, it got bad again. Then, Friday it was better . . .

I had decided that, if it wasn’t remarkably better by today (Monday), I was going to go to the doctor. However, over the weekend, it healed up almost completely. So, again, I’m not going to worry about it. I’ll just give it time to finish healing on its own.

————–

On Saturday, I spent the afternoon and into the evening at my mom’s house. We were working on getting all caught up on Quickbooks data entry for my business. She fixed supper for me, so we got to visit about non-Quickbooks stuff as we were eating . . .

She brought up the topic of her plans for living arrangements as she gets closer to the end of her life . . .

She showed me some information about her investments and what she can afford to do and not do. And, she showed me the legal documents concerning power of attorney and management of her estate once she is no longer able to manage her own estate.

I mentioned to her that I have been loosely planning to live with her – at some point – and care for her as she gets older. I think it might allow her to stay in her own home longer.

I didn’t say this to her, but I’m concerned about how I would be able to teach piano lessons in my little town while caring for her in her town, with the two towns being a 30-minute drive apart . . . I guess maybe we could have nursing care while I’m at work and then I can care for her at night . . . I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there . . . so many things could happen between now and then that it is hard to know how to plan . . .

At any rate, she said she thought the two of us living together would be a good arrangement, if I really were open to it . . . I assured her I am.

I’m glad we had that conversation . . . she has been acting like she wanted to talk about these matters with me. I’m glad she finally did.

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Posted by: Marie | October 28, 2014

(956) Deep conversations

Post #956
[Private journal entry written on Thursday, September 6, 2012]

So, first off . . . an update on the ant situation . . .

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, the ants had moved their superhighway over a couple feet to avoid the cinnamon. So, it didn’t stop them, it just caused them to have to travel a bit further.

After some pondering, I decided that I needed to apply more cinnamon . . . my hope was to make it such a pain for them to walk all the way around the cinnamon that they would decide it was not worth the few crumbs they might find.

First, I moved the microwave and carefully cleaned the area all around it, then I put the microwave back in its place. Then, I sprayed a huge section of the wall around the window with water mist and sprinkled all of the cinnamon that was remaining in the bottle onto the wall – the bottle had been almost full when I started – so I ended up with a whole lot on the wall.

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I could see that they had moved their superhighway over a few more feet, but they were still committed to the job of hauling microscopic crumbs back to their nest. Apparently, cinnamon is not the answer.

So, going against my preference, I bought poison ant traps and put them out. I was worried about the cat eating the traps, but he wasn’t at all interested in them – that’s good. I’ve decided that spraying poison is not an option since the cat would surely get into the spray . . . and I don’t want to be breathing it . . . so traps seemed the best solution.

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Photo by Martin Chen

This evening (Thursday), I can see that there are many, many ants walking in and out of the traps. It seems they really like the poison. The idea is that they will carry the poison back to their colony, which should kill off the entire colony within a few days. I’ll believe it when I see it . . . it’s been more than 24 hours since I put out the traps and I swear there are more ants than before . . . I’m thinking the entire colony has invaded my room . . . and they all look very alive and very healthy. I guess we’ll see what happens . . .

Fortunately, they haven’t ventured much beyond that one area. There’ve been only a few times that I’ve woken up to a solitary ant walking across my face or on my arm.

————–

Today, I had a lesson with Jeff, the psychiatrist. We always take a bit of time before his lesson for general chit-chat. So, today, I told him a bit about my frustrations around my relationship with Melodie. I told him that I do value her, and that I value the history we have together. I told him about how much I struggled to be around her this weekend and how disconnected from her I feel . . . how little in common we seem to have now.

I told him about the times I’ve tried sharing meaningful experiences with her . . . she listens, she seems to understand what I’m saying, and she empathizes . . . but she has nothing from that level of meaningfulness to share about her own life experiences. I think she simply doesn’t operate at that level.

I told him about the conversation I had with her concerning suicide and how she had asked me if I would call her if I ever got to that point . . . and how my answer had been that I wouldn’t since calling someone for support would derail my intended plans. Jeff said he totally could see how it is most likely I would not ask for help or tell anyone, that I would just go do it.

I’m sure he was listening carefully to my words to determine if I was at risk for suicide right now . . . and I assume it is obvious to him that I’m not at serious risk of that right now.

Anyway, I told him about the trip Melodie and I are planning for two years from now (Labor Day 2014) and how I cannot imagine not making these trips with her . . . I think it is good for me to take vacation time, and I’m not sure I would take it otherwise. And, I can’t imagine her not being a part of my life. That led to a discussion of what he and I value in friends and partners . . .

So, this evening, I’ve been reflecting on my conversation with Jeff. I am struck by how much I enjoy talking with him about meaningful topics – deep topics. I truly cherish those conversations and I cherish what he contributes. He often says things that give me fuel for later pondering. We’ve talked politics, religion, music, how each of us has recently begun to identify as musicians and writers, how we’ve both worked towards emotional healing . . . lots of different meaningful topics . . .

I’ve had similar conversations with other people, including James and Cindy, and other adult students . . . with my friends from the conscious business networking group . . .

And yet I don’t have that with Melodie.

I’m vacillating between wanting to totally bail and wanting to preserve the relationship but in a limited way . . . it’s not like I spend much time on our friendship . . . I talk to her for an hour on the phone every six or eight weeks, and then we do this trip every two years. It’s not a big time investment . . . I think what I do have with her is worth that much of my time and energy. And, I can’t imagine I’ll ever get to the point where I’d just cut her off and tell her I want nothing more to do with her . . . she doesn’t deserve that.

I think I’m okay with the level it is right now. I think I’ll just continue status quo.

But, all of this is causing me to realize how much I value deeper connections. I think it would be prudent of me, going forward, to be careful about with whom I cultivate friendships. I can afford to be selective. And, I think that would apply to a romantic partnership, as well . . . I can afford to be selective there, too . . . actually, I can’t afford NOT to be selective there.

Anyway, on a related side note, I called Ardis in Red Cloud on Tuesday and reserved their rental house for two years from now. Ardis laughed and said she would be sure to tell her daughter since there is no guarantee that she will be alive in two years from now . . . at least her daughter will know our plans, either way . . .

I passed along that bit of news to Melodie via email and she responded that she is on-board with that plan. So, I guess we’ll return to Red Cloud in 2014!

————–

On Tuesday, I had a lesson with Renee. Since she came straight from school, she didn’t have an adult with her. I hadn’t had a meaningful conversation with her in weeks, so I felt it was appropriate to allow her to “just talk” for the first half of her 45-minute lesson. It seemed she needed to talk, and I felt a need to check in with her to see how she is doing, in general. And, I think doing so will help develop her trust in me.

She started off by telling me she suspects that her step-dad is having an affair and she thinks it is her fault. Now, I’ve watched a lot of Dr. Phil over the years . . . he always says that kids have the unique ability to make everything their fault even when it clearly is not. So, with Dr. Phil’s words in the back of my mind, I asked her how it would be her fault . . .

Renee: I don’t know . . . maybe because I’m not really part of the family . . .

Me: What do you mean when you say you aren’t part of the family . . . ??

Renee: Well, I isolate and I don’t try to be part of the family . . . I just stay in my room when I’m at my mom’s house . . . maybe if I tried to be part of the family, then he might want to be part of the family.

Me: Renee, let me be really, really clear with you . . . adults make their own choices . . . how they choose to behave has nothing to do with you . . . they have the choice to respond to any situation in a healthy way or in an unhealthy way . . . we all have to decide how we are going to respond to life situations, and how we respond is our own responsibility.

It’s not okay for him to have an affair. If he is having an affair, that is his choice. Nothing you could do could make it your fault. He’s going to do what he’s going to do. He has a choice of responding to whatever you do in a responsible way or an irresponsible way, but that choice is his own.

And, furthermore, you are the kid here. They are the adults. So, if there is an issue around how the family is operating, it is their job to figure out how to fix it and to talk to you about it. It’s not your job. And his behavior is not your fault. You cannot cause him to have an affair and you can’t prevent it. It is not something you can control.

(Pause)

Me: So, what do you hear me saying?

Renee: That I’m not responsible for what he does . . . and that me isolating is not the reason he’s having an affair . . . or might be having an affair . . .

Me: That’s right . . . it’s not your fault.

She thought about all of that for a moment, and she nodded . . . and then, she sat up a little straighter and her eyes lit up . . . and she took the conversation onto a new topic . . .

She told me that she is proud of her mom for staying sober for a whole month . . . and she is proud of her 12-year-old guy friend at school for staying clean for two months. She told me about how she met this guy over the summer through Facebook, and how he had had a really rough life. I asked if he was talking to the therapist at school and she said he was . . . it sounds like he is getting some much needed help.

I asked Renee if she was seeing the school therapist now that school is back in session. (She hadn’t been seeing a therapist over the summer.) She said no. When I pressed for a reason why not, she just shrugged . . . I asked if she was seeing a therapist outside of school . . . again, she said no. So, that concerns me . . .

Anyway, after talking for about 25 minutes, I stated that we should turn our focus to the matter of music. She laughed and agreed . . .

She jumped right into the lesson material . . . I didn’t see hide nor hair of her helpless act. And that is a big deal. I’m so tickled.

We worked on a piece of pop music that she really likes. I showed her how to do the chording for it and she caught on quite quickly. I told her that it would be easier to sing the melody line rather than trying to play the melody line while also playing chords . . . and I invited her to try it . . .

She giggled . . . and she told me that she is capable of singing . . . and that she thinks she sings quite well . . . but that she didn’t want to sing in front of me, at least not this time. She giggled again and told me that she would sing to herself inside her head. I assured her that was fine . . . and I let her know that I would be tickled to hear her sing, should she ever be willing to allow me to experience that . . . she giggled again . . . she seemed pleased that I was interested in her singing . . .

We ended on a playful, fun, lighthearted note. It was a good lesson and a good exchange . . . I’m really proud of her progress!

Quotes 027

Posted by: Marie | July 14, 2014

(955) Alone and loving it

Post #955
[Private journal entry written on Monday, September 3, 2012]

Well, I’m back home.

First thing this morning, we took Melodie’s car to the car wash and scrubbed it clean . . . so her husband wouldn’t have a fit about how dirty it was, and so we could check for damage from the mishap with the deer . . .

We couldn’t find any damage, even with a very close inspection on our hands and knees in bright sunlight . . . and so Melodie thought she might not mention the incident to her husband . . .

I told her that I didn’t see how he could be justifiably upset with us if she did tell him . . . it’s not like we were out tearing around at high speeds and being reckless . . . in fact, I told her that I had been going five under the speed limit . . . and I was watching closely for the deer . . . had that not been the case, it would have been much worse! I would think he would just be glad that we are okay and that I was able to avoid damage. But, she told me he might not see it that way.

I didn’t know what to tell her . . . I mean, stuff happens . . . it’s a waste of energy to get unnecessarily bent out of shape over it . . .

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Photo by Martin Chen

Anyway, while we were out and about, we put gas in both cars, then we returned to the cottage where we packed the cars and cleaned the cottage . . . then we walked up to the main house to say our good-byes to Ardis and her husband . . .

And we fired up the toaster oven to broil the steaks for our last meal together . . . it was only 9:00am, but we decided that big juicy steaks were fine for breakfast, LOL . . .

We didn’t have any seasonings for the steaks other than salt and pepper, but the steaks were so good that they didn’t need more than that . . .

As we were cleaning up from the meal and packing the last of the last supplies into our cars, the topic of our next trip came up . . .

Despite the misgivings I’ve been having, I decided I would go ahead and plan another trip with her. I want to believe that things will get better . . . that we will find a way to relate better to each other . . . I can’t imagine not having her in my life . . .

We debated about who would plan the next trip. She planned the first two trips and I planned this one . . . so, technically, I owe her one . . . but she said she didn’t care who planned it . . . she is happy to do it . . .

I wondered to myself if we would both be happier if she planned it . . .

We finally decided to settle the matter with a coin toss . . . and the coin decided that I shall be the one to plan the next trip . . .

Then, we hugged . . . and cried a little . . . and climbed into our cars . . .

We were on the road by 10:00am, so that was a good start . . . and we drove one behind the other for 45 miles until Hastings . . . and there we waved again at each other as we headed in opposite directions on the interstate highway . . . and I allowed a few tears to run down my face . . . and then I sighed a big sigh of relief . . . I finally had my blessed personal space again . . . I felt like I could breath . . .

The trip home was uneventful . . .

As I was driving home, I gave some thought to our next trip. I wondered if Melodie would be willing to go back to Red Cloud . . . we could go back to Franklin and try again to find the graves of my ancestors . . . and Melodie had mentioned that she would like to spend more time in her mother’s birthplace of Sylvan Grove . . . and my dad was born about 30 miles from Sylvan Grove, so maybe we could stop there . . . and maybe we could do more of the Willa Cather stuff . . . or at least maybe I could do more of the Willa Cather stuff while she does something else . . .

I think it would be neat to go back to Red Cloud . . . it almost feels like I have unfinished business there.

Anyway, when I got home, Erik and Susan were home . . . Erik was sitting in his recliner, watching TV . . . Susan was sitting close by him, working on her computer and watching TV . . . I brought the first two loads in from my car . . . I struggled to keep the screen door from hitting me in the back as I came through the front door, not 10 feet from where they were sitting . . . and I had to balance on one foot while, with the other foot, I held the dog back from escaping out the door . . . Erik and Susan didn’t make a move to help me . . .

I quickly realized they were not going to offer to help me unload . . . which ticked me off a bit . . . and I decided I wasn’t going to ask for help . . . if they didn’t want to offer, they probably really didn’t want to help . . . and I sure don’t want to ask them to do anything they don’t want to do . . . I don’t want anyone helping me when they don’t want to be helping me . . . (Or, for that matter, helping me when I don’t want to be helped . . . LOL.)

I brought the remaining eight or so loads up to the front porch (keeping the front door closed), then I stood in the open doorway and moved the stuff from just outside the door to just inside the door . . . by standing in the doorway, I was able to keep the dog in . . .

Then, I shut the door and carried each of the remaining eight loads down the stairs and stacked them in the common area just outside my bedroom suite . . .

And the entire time, Erik and Susan kept right on doing what they were doing. They never once even acknowledged that I was unloading my car or that I could use some help despite the fact I literally had to step around them as I walked past with each load . . .

I was going to write here in my journal that I would have helped them if our places were switched . . . but, to tell the truth, I’ve started not helping them just because they very rarely help me . . . and I’m feeling a bit stinky and mean-spirited about that.

I’m also realizing, as I’m journaling, that it is very possible that I’m short-tempered and that I have a bad attitude about interacting with people right now because I’ve been deprived of my personal space for the last four days . . . and I’m used to having lots and lots of personal space and lots of peace and quiet and solace . . . and I need lots and lots of personal space and alone time . . .

Chances are that I’ll have a better attitude in a day or two . . .

But, anyway . . . once I got everything from my car to the basement, I picked up my suitcase and carried it into my bedroom . . . as soon as I flipped on the light, I noticed a very strange mark on the far wall, underneath one of the windows . . . it was a wiggly gray line that extended from the corner of the window at an angle towards what used to be my desk (I now have a microwave sitting on that table).

As soon as I set down my suitcase on my bed, my cat leapt into my arms . . . I took a minute to love on him . . . then, still holding and loving on the cat, I walked over to get a closer look at the gray line . . .

It only took me a few seconds to figured out what it was . . .

It was ants! Hundreds and hundreds of them, all packed into a single-file line going up the wall and a single-file line going down the wall . . . a super highway of ant transportation . . . and they were transporting the crumbs that have gathered underneath my microwave . . .

Oh, my . . .

I took a deep breath . . . I decided they could wait until I got settled in and unpacked a bit . . .

So, I unpacked a bit . . . and loved on the cat some more . . . got a bite to eat . . . and then I turned my attention to the ant super highway . . .

I searched the internet for a more natural remedy . . . and many sites recommended cinnamon . . . fortunately, I had a bottle of cinnamon in my kitchenette . . .

I got the bottle of cinnamon . . . and stood in front of the wall with it . . .

Hmmm . . . how exactly does one go about sprinkling cinnamon on a wall? Maybe by flinging it in small, controlled flicks of the wrist . . . ??

Hmmmm . . .

I tried it . . . and despite the wall being heavily textured, the cinnamon quickly slid down the wall to the floor, leaving only a faint trace of spice on the wall. The ants paused a bit to sniff at it, and then they neatly stepped over it.

I formulated a Plan B . . .

I got a spray bottle . . . and I put a light mist of water on the wall . . . and I flung some more cinnamon at the ants . . .

It stuck on the wall! Eureka!

I sprayed some more water, and sprinkled some more cinnamon . . .

The ants started paying attention . . . they acted confused . . . and turned around and went back in the opposite direction . . . they started looking for a non-cinnamon-covered route . . .

Okay . . . this might just work! I guess we’ll see in the morning how many ants are still around . . .

So, anyway . . . after dealing with the ant situation, I looked up the cemetery in which my ancestors are buried . . . it turns out that Google Maps has two different cemeteries in the same vicinity labeled with the same name. Upon further investigation on other websites, I discovered that they are really two different cemeteries with two different names . . . and we went to the wrong one. Of course, we couldn’t know that when we were looking it up on Melodie’s phone.

I shot off an email to Melodie yet this evening proposing the idea of returning to Red Cloud. I’ll see if maybe she’d be interested in that now that she knows what is around there. I made a point of saying that I’d really like to stay close to Red Cloud and not drive all over the place . . . I really emphasized that point.

If I make a big deal about the not driving all over the place right from the start, maybe her thinking will be more in alignment with that on the next trip. If nothing else, I can be better prepared to set limits beforehand, which will put me in a better position to enforce those limits in the moment. I guess I feel like I didn’t make a big enough deal of it beforehand this time . . . like maybe she didn’t understand what a big deal it was for me. So, I’ll make sure she knows next time.

At any rate, I’m going to bed now . . . I’m exhausted and I have a full workday tomorrow. It’s time for me to relax and enjoy my alone-ness . . . well, I’m not totally alone since the cat is cuddled up with me . . . oh, and, not to mention we are sharing space with hundreds and hundreds of ants . . . but, other than that, I’m so very alone . . . and loving it.

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Posted by: Marie | July 12, 2014

(954) Zigs and zags – Part 3 of 3

Post #954
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, September 2, 2012 – continued from previous post]

Thump!

That was all . . . just a thump . . . well, a thud really . . . we caught his hind legs with the corner of the bumper as he slipped past us . . . and he continued running off the road, across the ditch and into a thick stand of trees . . . apparently he was no worse for wear . . . he seemed okay from what we could tell . . .

Melodie flung open her door and started to jump out to check on the damage . . .

I hollered at her to get back in the car because we were stopped in the middle of a hilly highway at dusk . . . granted, there weren’t many cars on the road; nevertheless, we really didn’t want to get run over by the one or two cars that were in the area . . .

We pulled over and got out to look . . . we got down on our hands and knees and looked very carefully . . . neither of us could see any damage, not even a little bit. The only evidence of the mishap was two deer hairs embedded in the bug guts on the bumper . . . there was a ton of bug guts plastered on the bumper resulting from driving many, many miles . . . we wondered if we might see damage if we cleaned off the bug guts and were in better light . . . but, in the moment, there was nothing more we could do. So, we got back in the car and resumed our travel plans . . .

It took us an hour to travel from Amboy to Randall (including the time needed to examine the car bumper). By the time we reached Randall, the sun was on the horizon and it was getting pretty dark. Melodie really couldn’t take worthwhile photos, although she did try to take some of an old gas station . . .

In the gas station’s bay, the shop floor had collapsed into the work pit. Tools and tires and other supplies were still in there like someone had just walked away a few decades back. There was a side garage that had an old car in there, covered with a ton of dust . . . it looks like someone was working on the car 40 years ago and then just walked away.

The town only has about 65 people living in it now . . . it has declined from about 100 people ten years ago . . . it is a town that is continuing to fade away. Apparently, it was a livelier town 100 years ago . . .

My experience of Randall was that it was not as impressive of a ghost town as some of the other ghost towns we’ve seen over the years. But, it could have been because it was too dark to really appreciate what was there . . . or maybe I was just tired of chasing ghost towns. However, Melodie seemed to have the same impression . . .

At any rate, we headed back to Red Cloud . . . maybe I was extra tired from a long, hot day . . . but Melodie was really getting on my nerves on the way back . . .

For the 14th time this weekend, she “helped” me adjust the temperature on my side of the car . . . and for the 14th time, I explained that I didn’t need her help . . . and then I said . . .

“Please do not touch the temperature button for my side of the car. Just don’t do it. I’m done being nice about it . . . now I’m going to be blunt . . . don’t touch it again!”

“Well, alrighty then! I won’t touch it again!”

“Thank you.”

We sat in silence for a few moments. Then, I asked her where the dimmer switch was for the headlights . . . and she told me where it was . . . I thanked her for the information . . .

We drove in silence for a few more moments . . .

As an oncoming car approached us, she reminded me to dim my headlights . . . I didn’t need to be reminded, I just hadn’t dimmed them at that point because the car wasn’t very close yet . . . I gritted my teeth but let it slide . . .

A few miles later, as another oncoming car approached us, she again reminded me that I needed to dim my lights . . . again, I let her annoying behavior slide by without a comment . . .

The third time it happened, I told her as gently and as patiently as I could that I didn’t need her to tell me when to dim the lights . . . I had it under control . . .

She didn’t say anything as we met the next several oncoming cars . . .

Then, about 20 minutes later, as we met a car, I forgot to dim the headlights until we were fairly close to them. As soon as I realized my mistake, I dimmed the lights and said, “Whoops! Sorry!” out loud. Of course, Melodie grabbed the opportunity to give me a hard time . . .

“I saw it happening, but I didn’t say anything . . . you said you didn’t want me to help you . . . so I didn’t say anything. I didn’t help you. You don’t want my help, so I’m not going to help you!”

“It’s not that I don’t ever want your help, it’s that you seem to think I need help with EVERYTHING, even little things that I’m fully capable of handling. I get tired of you trying to help me do things when I don’t want or need help. But, there are times that I do need help . . . and in those moments, I will ask for help. I just need for you to allow me the opportunity to ask for help and not just automatically give it to me whether I want or need it.”

“No problem. I won’t help you anymore.”

“I’m not trying to take it to that extreme . . . “

“It’s okay. I won’t help you anymore.”

So, there is a price I have to pay when I enforce boundaries with Melodie. Instead of working with me to find a reasonable middle ground, she “punishes” me by taking it to the opposite extreme.

I’ve never enforced boundaries before with her . . . in fact, enforcing boundaries is something that is fairly new to me. I was not aware of my preferences and needs and boundaries until the last couple of years. I didn’t know that I even had the right to honor them. So, of course Melodie is reacting strongly to the new way I’m showing up . . . it probably is threatening to her. But, I’m not going to not establish boundaries with her . . . and she doesn’t have her own sense of boundaries around what is generally respectful and what is not.

I still love her, and we have a long history together . . . and she has been a good friend in the past. But, I am questioning the viability of the friendship in the present. That doesn’t invalidate the value of our friendship before now . . . she has been very important to me in the past. It’s just that I’m growing and changing, and that is uncomfortable for her. And the way she is showing up does not support who I am becoming.

I guess the bottom line for me is that I would struggle to justify investing this much time and money in a weekend that is not enjoyable for me . . . a weekend that I have to spend defending my boundaries . . .

But, I can’t imagine her not being my best friend . . . I can’t imagine removing her from that position . . . but that’s fodder for another day . . .

So, anyway . . . it was pitch dark when we got back to Red Cloud. We tried to find a car wash so we could clean the bug guts off the bumper and get a better look at it for possible damage . . . we knew there was one on the north end of town . . . we finally found it . . . but it was locked up tight. We decided we would come back to it in the morning.

Then, we finally returned to the cottage . . . and now we are heading towards bed . . .

Whew, it’s been a long day.

(025)

Posted by: Marie | July 11, 2014

(953) Zigs and zags – Part 2 of 3

Post #953
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, September 2, 2012 – continued from previous post]

We ate a mini-lunch as we drove back (we had a cooler full of easy-to-eat food). We got back to the cottage at 1:40pm. Then we cleaned up a bit and changed clothes, and were back in the car by 1:45. (Low maintenance chicks, ya’ know!) We made it to the Opera House by 1:50pm. Ardis and her husband had seats reserved for us . . . the chairs were arranged around circular tables instead of rows, which made it nice . . . we were able to spread out as much as we cared to . . .

The artist was Sarah Arneson and she was accompanied by George Kern, who just happens to be her husband. Now, I’m not fond of operatic music where the vocalists sound like . . . well . . . when their voices are anything but sweet. I’m not sure how else to explain it. I was really hoping that this soprano’s voice would be more on the sweet side . . . as opposed to the harsh or shrill side . . .

Opera House

Opera House

Thank goodness, her voice was reasonably close to the timbre I appreciate . . . close enough that I found the performance very enjoyable . . .

She performed opera pieces composed by Mozart, Schubert, Wagner, Dvorak, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Cilea, Charpentier and Massenet. It was an awesome concert . . . or, well, it could have been . . . would have been . . . except . . .

Melodie did not enjoy the concert . . . not at all. In between every single piece, she would loudly whisper some comment like, “It sounds like she is dying” or “It’s just like fingernails on a chalkboard” or “Her voice gives me the willies . . . “

I invited her to go do something else . . . go walk around town and take photos . . . go shopping . . . I assured her it would not offend me. But, no, it was too hot, she would prefer to stay in the air conditioned auditorium. I then invited her to go back to the cottage and sit in front of the air conditioner. I promised her that I would call her when the concert was over and then she could come and get me. Or I could ride home with Ardis and her husband.

But, no, Melodie said she would rather just stay . . . because that is what people do for the people they love . . . they do things they don’t want to do for the people they love . . .

I then asked her to not comment negatively on the music because it was bothering me and the people around us. So, instead, she put her elbow on the table and propped her head up as a physical demonstration of how bored she was. Then she would sigh dramatically . . . and roll her eyes . . . and slump over like she was going to pass out . . . like she almost couldn’t keep herself upright . . .

It was embarrassing for me. And I was embarrassed for Ardis and her husband who were sitting with us . . . and with some of their friends . . .

About halfway through the concert, Ardis and her husband suddenly exited the auditorium. They didn’t come back. So, Melodie decided to go check on them, and she didn’t come back for about ten minutes. I had my fingers crossed . . .

But, no, she came back. She whispered that Ardis had felt a little ill and they were listening from the lobby . . .

And then Melodie again launched into her drama . . . I just turned my back to her and did my best to ignore her.

We suffered through the concert and then we headed back to the cottage to eat the lunch we had prepared this morning . . . and to sit in front of the air conditioner while we waited for the heat of the day to pass a bit. As we ate, I spoke to Melodie about her behavior at the concert. As kindly as I knew how, I explained to her that I really, truly wished she had not been there because her behavior embarrassed me and sucked the enjoyment out of the experience for me. I told her that what she did is absolutely NOT what people do for the people they love.

True to form, she tried to mock me and crack jokes about it, but I stayed serious and she finally backed away from her deflective position. She finally listened . . . and she got it, I think . . . and she apologized . . . I mean, she authentically apologized.

Wow. That was big.

So, anyway, as we were chilling in front of the air conditioner, we discussed what to do with our last few hours of our weekend together. Melodie had two more ghost towns on her wish list . . . and we would only have to travel 110 miles (177 km) roundtrip to visit both of them. I looked at the map . . . it looked like there would be about 2½ hours of travel time involved . . . if we left around 6:30, we could spend about 45 minutes at each place and still be back to the cottage by 9:30pm. And, the fuel would cost each of us about $8 . . . and I decided I could live with that.

RandallMap

So, at 6:30, we took off again . . . and she let me drive . . .

The first place was Amboy, and it was only four miles outside of Red Cloud. It was a milling and railroad town that grew to its highest population of about 100 people in the early 1900′s. The remaining structures included a huge abandoned mill, an abandoned schoolhouse, and about five houses, some of which are occupied.

The railroad track runs right along side the mill, and a train happened to come by as we were at the mill. It made for a really cool photo opportunity . . .

Mill at Amboy

Mill at Amboy

We stayed in Amboy about an hour. Then, we started zig-zagging another 50 miles to the southeast en route to the second ghost town: Randall, Kansas.

As soon as we left Amboy, I got a strong premonition that we were going to hit a deer . . . and that there was nothing I could do to prevent it . . . it was destined to happen and it was going to happen. (Yes, what a lovely feeling to experience . . . not!)

The possibility of hitting a deer was actually pretty strong, especially since it was dusk. When we were driving the last miles of our trip yesterday, we saw several deer along the road. And, we had seen several just in the first few miles of this trip.

About 20 minutes after leaving Amboy, as we crossed the Nebraska-Kansas state line, the feeling intensified. I knew it was going to happen very soon . . . I even knew from which side of the road the deer would be coming . . .

Given normal conditions, I typically drive five miles an hour over the speed limit. But, once this feeling intensified, I dropped my speed to five miles an hour below the speed limit. The level of anxiety I was feeling was very intense. I didn’t want to say anything to Melodie because I didn’t want to freak her out . . . I just kept my thoughts to myself . . . but I did slow down . . .

Sure enough, here came the deer . . . he wasn’t a full grown one . . . maybe half-grown . . . and he jumped into the road right in front of us, and then he jumped side-to-side, back and forth . . . you know how they do . . . like they can’t quite decide if they are coming or going . . .

I hit the brakes hard . . . and the deer changed his direction and zagged straight towards us . . . I heard Melodie gasp . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

(Yes, of course I’m going to make you wait until tomorrow to find out what happened with the deer . . . would you expect anything else??? LOL)

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