1000: Even deeper than I thought I’d go

I began blogging on FetLife (a kinky social media site) close to three years ago. Today I reached the milestone of my 1000th post there (many of which began crossing over to this blog about a year ago). That’s the context you need to have the post make sense.  Carry on. 

When I first started writing on Fet, it was in the wake of heartbreak and renewed hope. When my writings first started getting noticed on fet, it was in the wake of even more heartbreak and lost hope.

The more I exposed my pain and vulnerability, the more tenderly I was received. It was a light in a dark tunnel, and I followed it through.

But there came a time when I realized I was perhaps exposing too much. I don’t exactly recall how I came to this conclusion – but, it was (at first) a suggestion made by someone else.

That someone turned out not to be compatible for friendship, but nonetheless – their suggestion remained present in my mind. I was able, eventually, to recognize there were some unfortunate consequences to my oversharing, but they ran deeper than the ones I’d been warned about.

I’m not having a good day.

In fact, I’ve not had a good couple of days.

Relax: I can handle it. It’s okay for me to have bad days. But, it’s been a while since I’ve felt so low. I am experiencing emotional doomsday feelings where my mind travels to the worst places, and drag up memories of the most helpless moments of my life. I am also experiencing physical manifestations of the anxiety that has been dragged upward – the choke-sobbing fits and the acidic ache in my chest and knotted pains in my belly that won’t seem to pass.

I feel, at any moment, like I could give in to the bubbling emotions just beneath the surface and go into a full blown anxiety attack. And for teetering moments at that edge, I almost want to do it – if only so I can let it all out and find myself in a state of dulled emotional capacity on the other side.

Though it has been some time since I’ve been in this state, it is one with which I am familiar. Reverse back a few years, and this is a shadow of what I used to experience on a near weekly, if not daily, basis.

I know what this is.

I also know why it’s here. Not just the obvious catalyst for its arrival, nor even the underlying essential motivations, but deeper down to the fathoms of my existential being, – the stuff I think most people don’t access on a regular basis – I do. I’ve got my number.

1,000 posts ago I’d have shared those details. I’d have given you, the anonymous reader, all of the data: the catalyst, the motivations. I might have, by the end of the essay, drawn a line toward my existential conclusion.

And the reason I’d have done that? I’d have painted you a word-picture of my pitiful state for the purpose of gaining your tender support. It’s a form of manipulation, but not in a nefarious way. After all, writing and story-telling of any kind is a form of emotional manipulation.

So yes, I’d have explained the who, what, when, where, and why of my despair and swam in the soothing elixir of your concern.

It’s what I needed then. But, over time, I became dependent on it. It became a crutch without which my emotional limp would heal but never reach maximum strength.

Now, 1000 posts later, you’re not so anonymous. I know who many of you are on some level.

I also have, for perhaps the first time in my life, an understanding of who I am independent of my relationship to anybody else, (including family, friends, lovers, husbands, stepchildren, or colleagues).

I exist as a person on my own. The people in my life closest to me that inspire love and affection provide an enrichment that I’d never want to take for granted, nor mistake for the emotional equivalence of oxygen.

What’s this got to do with my bad day?

Well, that’s just it. It’s my bad day. I know why it’s here and what caused it, and I’m well aware that it will be fleeting.

So, while I feel the urge to tell you all about it – to dive into the details of the why and how I’m feeling the way I feel – I also now know that the resulting concerned feedback does not help to achieve my purpose.

I just want to share. I just want to to share my truth. I want to illuminate that even one with a charmed life can sometimes struggle – not for the purpose of eliciting your pity, but in an attempt to narrow the chasms that sometimes separate us.

We all suffer, in varying degrees and for different reasons – but we all suffer.

I don’t want to feel separated from humanity. My current (and admittedly temporary) state of despair should not serve to isolate me when, in fact, it has so much potential (and history) of doing the exact opposite.

I want to tell you that you’re not alone, because – in doing so – I remind myself that I am not either.

Addendum to the self-improvement manual

Are you trying to make a change in your life?  Acknowledged some bad habits and are doing the work to address their sources and make adjustments to overcome them?

There’s something that’s not in the “self-improvement” manual that I think you should know.

There are people in your periphery who are going to be hard-pressed to acknowledge that you’ve changed. I’m not talking about those closest to you who are witnessing your efforts, cheering you on, and providing support along the way…

…I mean the ones that you call “friends” but are really more like acquaintances.  These are people in your life you would not call upon if your car broke down at 3am, but you would have a conversation with them at a party.

They took a mental picture of you back when you first met, and filed it away in a folder with your name on it. That is who you are to them – no nuance, no complexity.  You may be a three dimensional object but you are static, not dynamic.

This is a normal thing.  You do it to people all the time. There was a woman when I was in my 20s who was in her late 30s that didn’t realize I’d overheard her when she said to a mutual friend “I don’t want phi to tag along, She’ll take all the attention away from us” when we were making plans to go out dancing in a group.  Later that afternoon, she feigned a migraine and told me our plans were cancelled. I filed her away as “jealous, petty, insecure, lying bitch.”

I’ve not seen nor heard from her in 20 years.  In that time she might have changed completely and become the sweetest, most charitable, and kind-hearted grandmama you’d ever meet – but I wouldn’t know it.  If I were to run into her today I still think of her as the woman who lied to me because she’d created a competition in her mind that wasn’t there.

“Ok, so people won’t believe I’ve changed.  Who cares? I don’t care what they think.”

Well, to an extent, yeah.  Except for a lot of us, our self-worth and self-acceptance is wrapped up in how others treat us. Many of us are programmed to seek validation from others in order to feel secure about ourselves.  What happens when there are a bunch of people who still treat you like you’re the town drunk when you’ve been six months sober?

You start to feel like that hard work you’ve put into self-improvement has no payoff.

THAT’S what’s not in the manual.

The idea of self-validating *is* in the manual; at least, it was in mine.  I was given that piece of information early on by someone who was a friend and is now in my periphery.  He said I had to learn to stop seeking external validation.

I didn’t understand why, or how to do it – but I did know that it was part of the changes I would have to make.  What I didn’t know is that nearly every one of my successes now can be traced back to my learning to self-validate.  To disassociate my self worth from the value set OTHERS placed on me.

It’s not the same as saying “I don’t care what people think.”  I do care. I take it into consideration when I look at myself and ask “are they right?”

If I believe they are, then I ask “am I okay with that?”

And if I’m not, then I’ve got a new challenge to take on.

Schrodinger’s Baggage

(This post originally posted on FetLife on 4/27/2015)

There’s a thing I’ve heard said, when it comes to dating someone in his/her late 30s or older who has never been married or had any children: what’s wrong with them?

It’s not really a fair statement to make. First of all, marriage is not the end-game for everyone. It used to be for me, but it’s not anymore.  There’s a decent chance an unmarried male in his 40s is that way because *he wants to be.*

There’s a guy that approached me two weekends ago on OKC.  He had the best intro email I’d ever received.  Our back and forth that day was full of wit, personality, laughter.  He’s attractive, local, available – all the pieces fit.

But he hasn’t pulled the trigger and asked me out. (Oh, but why don’t you ask *him* out, phi? Simple. I want to know he’s got enough Alpha in him to do it himself.  Then I’ll know he might have what it takes to give me what I want down the line, should it get that far).

My guess is that guy has never been married because he never asked.

There was a really great post on the topic of “baggage” recently. Some people carry their own baggage, and some people pawn it off on others to carry for them.  That was the gist of it.

My baggage is odd. It’s Schrodinger’s Baggage.

I’m 36 years old.  Nearly 37, actually.  I have been married.  But I’ve never been divorced. Widow is a weird check box to tick. To declare myself “single” or “unmarried” feels like I’m not acknowledging an important part my identity for a significant chunk of my life. I don’t have the baggage of a messy divorce, and while I am still carrying the load of having suffered a major loss, I think I’m handling it very well.

I don’t have tethers to exes. I’m a clean slate.  And I’m not.

My husband had a daughter.  I had been an active participant in her life from 8 to 17.  She’s 18 now.  I helped raise her. I went to the track meets, dance recitals, helped her with her homework, and attended all the open houses I could.  But she and I aren’t that close since he passed away. I haven’t had contact with her since her birthday in February.

There’s that weird spot again, between being a mother and not.  I’ve never given birth. I’ve never changed a diaper. But I know what it is to worry when your child has a need and you’re in charge of providing for it.

I’m a mother (albeit a step-mother).  And I’m not.

And when it comes to emotional baggage, well…  I mean, I’m closing in on 300 blog posts on Fetlife alone – many of them fraught with emotion. I carry a ton of it, but here’s the thing.  I don’t carry it alone. I have friends. I have readers. I have family. I have an ability not to stuff my feelings deep down where they’re hardest to carry. Through my writing, I’m able to free up so much of that dead weight.

And it’s not like the emotional stuff is that horrific. Just your run-of-the-mill I can tongue-in-cheekly blame my parents for everything stuff; but have been through enough therapy to recognize my triggers and learned coping mechanisms that don’t require a pint of Ben & Jerry’s anymore.

Communication about how I’m feeling, when I’m feeling it, and why I’m feeling it is the key to my being able to maintain a level head most of the time.  *Most* of the time. Nobody’s perfect.

I am ruled by my emotions. And I’m not.

It’s difficult to be objective about oneself.  When I take a look at who I am today, I have to admit I’m a fan.  There are some things about myself I’d like to improve, and some flaws that I’ve learned to accept as “character enhancements.”

The more comfortable I become with admitting that I am worth a whole lot better than I’ve allowed myself to accept over the past year, the easier it is to feel content with my current status:

I am a single, childless, emotionally healthy individual.

I am also a married woman with a teenager and a whole lot of back story.

I may have some baggage, but it’s the kind with wheels.