It’s Complicated

Why am I doing this?

Hmmmm. Posting my first blog entry here and am wondering, how much do I say?

I suppose I can start off with what happened. What lead me to blog.

I quit my job.

I’m 40, single, a woman and one day, I just thought, fuck it.

No, that’s a lie. I’d been thinking about it for a while. See, I knew I was being passed over for promotion. I had known for a few months and

My thinking finally caught up with my feelings, I guess. So, this past March after all the promotions were announced and I wasn’t on that list, which I knew I wouldn’t be, I left.

I didn’t even bother to go in. I had stayed home the day before because there was an impending snow storm and the company had figured out from previous snow storms, that it was much more productive to keep everyone at home. At least, the senior managers wouldn’t have to hear from the more junior managers about how onerous their trek in was, how heroic an effort they made merely by getting into their car and onto a train. And, the junior managers won’t have to figure out how to get work done when half of their workforce was pretending to be stuck at home.

I know, I know. The cynicism is unhealthy. Which is why I quit. Which is why I’m taking the summer off and traveling to Laos and Bali. I will find myself there! Or at least, slough off seven years of corporatitis and un-cynical myself.

Don’t know if that’s possible, but let’s see. And hey, I’m done with my first post.

Thinking about love

It came to me last night, watching some late night videos on YouTube, that what I really want is to find someone who can love me as much as I can love him. Simple enough a statement, yet I felt many things kept me from feeling like it was something I could do.

The biggest obstacle was fear, trauma, from my bad relationship with my father. It kept me from believing that someone could love me so. I think because I loved my dad with a child’s heart, fully and wholly, yet he loved me only partly. I grew up feeling hurt that I did not receive the same love in return and came to resent him. Now as an adult, I can see the imbalance that was our relationship and that I did not mean as much to him as he did to me because to children, our parents are our whole world. In this, I am unlucky.

I’ve long denied this, which has kept my heart in a prison of sorts. A prison of abandonment, of his making. Yet, it must’ve been obvious. I remember a trip he took me on to Bali, as a graduation gift from college, and one of the old ladies in the tour group told me, “your father really loves you.” It sounded not like an observation, but a rebuke. I think perhaps she sensed the distance between us, sensed a separation I felt from him, and wanted to help heal it. Yet, blamed me for it as well. All I felt then, was that she was wrong. I wanted to tell her that you’re only seeing him now with me on this fancy vacation. I wanted her to know that she would judge differently, if she could see how he was not with me all the other days of my life.

I was watching a video of a dancer, full of passion and depth of feeling. And, I wasn’t sure why I was so drawn to him, besides the obvious physical attraction, and it took me a few days to work it out. I think I could maybe see in him someone who is able to love as deeply as me, feel as intensely as me, and give himself as much to someone, as me.

I feel I’ve worked through some block in my heart. Something that kept me engaging with men who were not like this dancer. Men who I knew could not love me so deep, so fully. Except perhaps, maybe my first boyfriend, who did have a deep capacity to love, but was probably similarly blocked from doing so like me. For that, I feel sorry for us both.

Thinking on that relationship, I realize now that I could not love him then as well as I could now. That my love for him was limited, and shallow. That in the end, he was someone I could leave because it felt vital that I be able to do so.

I feel that now, I wish to find someone I cannot leave. Someone who through all the pain and the anguish, I can be with. Someone who will be by my side, as I will be by his. Someone who loves me as much as I, him.

Self-exploration, self expression

It should not come as a surprise that I do not know all of myself. Having the parents I had, under the circumstances of my upbringing, I was not given a whole lot of attention nor acceptance. I am not alone in this, yet it struck me as sad that I did not know something so fundamental about myself for much of my life.

I said to myself this morning, I want to know myself. I want to know me. Know who I am, why I feel a certain way, what I love and what I dislike. It is, I feel, important, at least to me.

When I quit my job, I had the intention of writing something – a book – about my life and experience. In some way, I wanted to encapsulate my existence within a body of work. Explain myself, perhaps so that I can understand myself.

After this was done, I would return to my “normal” life, working a 9-to-5 job, earning my way to retirement. I realize now that maybe, this is not what I want anymore. It is not who I am.

Perhaps, this drive towards self-understanding, self-acceptance, and self-expression, cannot be done in one go, one thing. Perhaps, it is a way of life for me. That, my purpose, is to be known.

I’ve always thought that my purpose in life would be to get a good job, a good husband, have good children and do good for the world. I think perhaps, this is a distortion of my life growing up with parents who raised me to be who they wanted, and not who I was. That living this way, was living for them, not for me.

My parents are not had people. They do not know this about themselves. While they would not be able to acknowledge that this was their intention. Yet, neither would they say that it is more important to raise someone to be authentic, rather than good.

I am a creative person, I know that. It is time, I think, to work in an area that fosters my creativity.

Putting the two fears together

In thinking about my past failed romantic relationships some more, and re-reading what I’ve written about my fears of abandonment and commitment, I think maybe the two are related and my fears of commitment is a derivative of my fear of abandonment. That is to say, my trauma of feeling abandoned by my dad causes me to also be afraid of being trapped in an abandoning relationship.

Backing up a little bit, I first started thinking about what it must’ve been like for the guys I dated when we broke up. There were feelings I had, which I now know to be the trauma from my childhood abandonment, that lead me to feel disconnected from my partner, causing me to blame them for the disconnect. Behind every fear there is a desire, I was told by an old roommate, so behind those feelings of fear, of not being loved, of feeling rejected, of feeling neglected, was a desire for separation.

To make real the feeling of disconnect that I felt.

I think it must’ve been hard to relate to me when I was acting like that, because it’s confusing. If what I wanted was more connection, then why did I feel that the answer was separation? I remember one break-up in particular, where I thought things were going, not great, but ok, and in a split moment, I went from asking if we had a future to saying that we should just let go. I can remember that feeling of fear, and wanting to retreat, which was so so intense, then.

It felt intolerable.

I also felt like it was the right thing to do because that part of me that felt disconnected, that part was real. And, there was no way the guy I was dating could relate to that because it was overshadowed by my fears. And as long as I feel afraid of disconnection, I will never be able to live with the feeling of disconnection, much less resolve the issue causing the disconnection and be understood by someone else.

I wish I had better ability to see myself in the present. It is only with time that I can view my actions of the past as it was experienced by the other person. I think in that moment, all I could feel was the hurt and trauma and fear and wanting to get away, to a place of safety, as quickly as possible. And while I was in therapy and knew I had issues with feelings of abandonment, it is only in hindsight that I can see how it manifested itself.

I wish I could properly see how regular the guy was. How my fears, though based off of real concerns, felt overly large because of my past trauma. How impossible it felt for me to be in a relationship because I was re-living my trauma and that kind of pain is difficult to endure. How that makes me afraid of commitment.

Like a shadow that has followed me secretly, felt, but is out of reach. I can see how it took over me and hijacked every relationship I had, or even could potentially have. How it numbs all other feelings I might have towards the other person, or hopes that I might have for the relationship. How it dims every joy I feel from being with the person, and being in a relationship. How it robs me of the ability to address my real concern, whatever triggered the fear, in an effective manner.

I should’ve just asked, why didn’t you invite me to your friend’s party? Why do I sense hesitation there? Instead, I left for the weekend and asked where he thought things were heading. I felt insecure about one thing and made it about the whole relationship.



Dealing with narcissism

“I’m glad I’m not you.”

My mother said that to me this morning, in another episode of mother-daughter self-esteem slaughtering. Trying to wound me to the core of who I am, rejecting me as much as she feels rejected.

I’m sure I’m not the only one with a narcissistic mother and an abandoning father, and certainly there are many others worse off than me in life. However, as I was sitting there trying to eat a breakfast for which I had already lost much of my appetite for, I realized this is why my self-esteem is so low. This is why I feel so unconfident about myself.

I tried talking to my mom about what happened this morning, how her angry mood brought on the fight that lead her lashing out at me. Then, as I was processing what I felt, I realized that what I needed to say was –

“I’m sad you don’t love what is different about me. Part of me feels hurt and devalued. But, I’m ok because that’s who you are and those are your beliefs. I like who am and I’m happy with myself as a person. I don’t need you to like me.”

And, I said it. Funny thing was she then tried to hug me and I couldn’t fathom how she could think I’d want her to touch me.

I used to have this imagery of me falling over a cliff and another me holding on to keep me from falling. I feel like that’s what must’ve happened to me a lot as a child, feeling rejected by my mom. The parts of me she didn’t like, didn’t appreciate and tried to devalue. But, I guess there was always a part of me that valued myself, held on, even as I fell over. I am glad that I could stand up for myself today and no longer let my mom push me over the cliff.

I get that she was lashing out because she was feeling bad about herself. I just don’t have to let her drag me down as well.

Two things

There are two things I am thinking about right now at the start of 2018. One is the continuation of my thoughts on my fear of abandonment. The other, the changes in my life that started last year.

It’s my birthday and I note the absence of happy birthday wishes from my father, who I have a fractured relationship with. While I did not expect anything from him, I cannot help but feel the absence of a father figure in my life. It took me a long while to see this relationship as it really is, and not what I wished it was (and wasn’t). I think hearing his silence is the most heartbreaking thing ever. And, the heartache and sadness I feel, is there.

I have always pitied myself for having this feeling from such a young age. That no girl should have her heart broken by her dad, like mine was. Sometimes, I feel I cannot forgive him for his passivity, his cowardice, his lying heart. And I wonder, is this why I have failed relationships? Is this why I am unable to step forward when I need to, pull back when I need to? And instead, chase and withdraw when I don’t need to?

I feel I have an out of tune heart that continually beats the same sad song. A sadness that keeps people away and me imprisoned in some dark cave and I wish I could replace it with one happier.

I am glad at least, that I can now understand that this is what it’s like for me to have the father that I have. That, I would be made to run after a love I desperately want, but have since been lost. That while my dad perhaps felt powerless to keep this family together, nevertheless didn’t try very hard and felt he was better off moving on. That my chasing after a phantom father and a phantom relationship, just wears my own heart out.

It is a hard thing for me to say that I don’t want my father’s love. Which child doesn’t want the unequivocal and unconditional love of their parent? Perhaps it’s better to say that I don’t have my father’s love. Not a lot of it, anyway.  Perhaps I should look on the positive side and say, I have a little of my father’s love.

I don’t want this. That the love I feel from him is so shadowed by the pain, I can scarcely feel it. It’d be accurate to say that I do want his love, but not the pain that comes with it. And if the two came together, I’d want neither.

I worry this will carry into my relationships with men. That at heart, there is an answer and it is ‘no’. That I will never feel at rest, at peace, content with someone. I suppose this means that my relationships in the past with men have been defined by this, which I feel sad about. I do not wish that my life be defined by this. Not anymore.

And on the Flip Side…

I must be feeling sentimental now during the holiday seasons, especially being down with food poisoning and having to spend my days in bed. Going through my photos from 2013 to 2017, I can trace a broad arc from when I felt hopeful and confident about life, to being side-swiped by events beyond my control and an eventual withdrawal into myself. I looked at pictures of friends I stopped seeing and feel the distance between where I really was and where I thought I was, then.

I contemplated texting one of them, one that I thought I’d be friends for life with. I was close to him and we had many similar interests. I became alienated from him I suppose, because in the end, it was too much sharing for him and not enough for me. I re-read our old text messages when things went south between us, and felt once again, the betrayal of someone I thought I could turn to for support.

In the breaking of our friendship, I was piecing together a relational pattern of mine and I think I was right in thinking, and saying, that he was also part of that pattern. That some people I befriend cannot offer the kind of friendship and support, that I offer. The kind of people who cannot be emotionally available for other people, who are hurt and suffering, and who bury it so deep down inside that they cannot see the needs others.

I have always felt I was a mirror to them, but not like them. That I, too, have been hurt and have detached from my own feelings of pain. Compartmentalized and shunt them into the deep. An imprint of a special kind of emotional make-up. A reflection of my father’s unavailability, but also his kindness. Wounded by him, but not him.

In the case of my friend, I would not have treated a friend in crisis, a friend spiraling down, as he put it, like the way he did me. I would not have pushed a friend away, avoiding him, saying mean accusatory things. I would not have denied him an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and a heart to understand. I would not have asserted how much the friendship meant to me. Never questioning how little it meant to him. I would have reached out, asked questions, be there. That was the difference.

In saying that and revisiting these events in the past, I have come to realize that on the opposite end of my fear of commitment, is my fear of abandonment. But, not so much that I fear abandonment, but that am afraid of feeling all the hurt that I’ve buried, from being abandoned by my father as a child. I have this emotional baggage called abandonment trauma and I have to treat it. I have to let it stop guiding the relationships I make. I have to emotionally stop working around it. It is only in confronting the past, that I may heal.

Part of me wonders if by not reaching out, I am acting wounded, perpetuating the pain. I don’t know. Part of me wonders if I were healed, I’d want this friendship. I think not, but I don’t know for sure. I wish I knew. I wish I was healed.

Ruminating on an old emotion

There was a period years ago when I was drinking wine with my new roommate on a summer’s day on our rooftop. He had just moved in and we were getting to know each other. We were talking about marriage and commitment and I wasn’t sure how we got on that topic. He was very different than me and liked to discuss these things, life and the importance thereof. It felt a little too personal, a little too intimate, given that we had just recently met and were roommates together. Not to mean I can’t have personal and intimate conversations, just that I’d want to have them with people I have a deeper relationship with. I always felt like discussing these topics should really be with someone I wanted a bond with, and not just be a matter of exploration between strangers. But, I suppose that was my own limited understanding of people different than me. I think it is only now, later in life, that I am beginning to understand these kinds of differences.

Anyway, I was talking to him and wandering where the conversation was going, feeling a little uncomfortable. Plus, the topic was a little too close to the nose. We were both single, and established that we were both looking for someone…and? And what? There was a gap there of what he was feeling and his intentions. Part of me thought he might be hitting on me, part of me felt it was weird, and part of me felt curious.

I think I was the one who asked him what he thought about marriage, and he said something quite profound. He said he thought it’d be like the joining of two rings, forever linked, but each complete on its own. He was talking a lot about inter-dependence and so on. But, all I remember was feeling a strong sense of panic. When he locked the thumb and forefinger on his right hand together between those of his left, I literally felt like it was prison.

Mentally, I knew what he was saying made sense and was fine, but emotionally, a flood of panic came over me. And so quickly did I want to escape, I think I suggested then that he should meet our neighbor, Amanda, and that I would introduce the two of them.

So, I was very confused about my feelings then, towards him. Things became very complicated when I developed an attraction to him, though the feelings were never reciprocated.

I don’t know why I thought of it now, but this morning, I did, and reflecting back on that feeling…It’s weird because I only just realized how strong that feeling of panic was. The feelings from all the drama we had were never as deep as my feelings of panic imagining marriage with him.

At the end, he accused me of harboring deep feelings for him and wanting something romantic, which might have been true, but was not true as well. I’ve stopped crushing on him by then but I couldn’t deny that I was fond of him. I didn’t want what he wanted. Does that make sense? Somehow, I felt a coward.

I’m still not sure today, whether it was because I was deep down, not ready for commitment, or if it was a reaction to him in particular. I think I can mentally commit to many things easily, but perhaps emotionally…not so much? Maybe I have a fear there, that needs addressing. But today, as I replay that moment in my mind, I can still imagine feeling – not awesome about it. I do not wish to be bound, I think. But, isn’t that what commitment is? Why don’t I like that feeling? My heart cringes at the thought. Yet, isn’t that what I want?

My sense is that this is maybe one reason why I am not in a committed relationship. That while I protest that the person I’m dating is not committing enough, perhaps I am just masking my own feelings of protest against commitment. If I am to be honest, I can say that almost every break up I’ve had, there has been this feeling there in one form another. But always manifested, for my poor unfortunate partners, as an accusation of their inability to commit, to give more, and even more.

He never did ask me how I felt about marriage, but if he had, I would’ve answered that to me, I’ve always imagined two amoebas whose ins and outs matched one another, whose curves fit just well enough. That it would be a joining of two together and instead of only being able to move in one direction, together we’d be able to move in many more directions and see and do, more than we previously could.

Is this really that different than his version? It is, I know it is and the difference matters the world to me.