Good at goodbyes.

My parents divorced when I was six. I was the youngest of three kids, and at the time, I felt like everyone’s favorite. Certainly my father’s, and I was doted on – as much as one can be – by my older siblings.  When the separation occurred, I was given over to my mother, and my dad took the two older kids with him to another state and then, for a time, another country.

At that young of an age, I had to get good at goodbye. It was too painful, otherwise, and what I learned was to just shut people out so it didn’t hurt as much.

My mom and I moved a lot when I was growing up. I changed schools several times. My siblings came to visit now and then. My dad remarried and had another kid so I was no longer the youngest or the focus. I occasionally went to see them, but the trips were few and far between.

All of these things kept me good at goodbyes. I got good at moving and not getting attached to any one location. At last count, I’ve lived in over 32 homes in 44 years. I can pack like no one’s business. I got good at disconnecting from friendships, or just not having any real close ones to begin with. I went to two elementary schools, one middle, and four high schools (two in GA, two in TN), so I got good at saying goodbye to familiarity, to the potential for building relationships, to stability.

Aside from two notable exceptions in Portland and Minneapolis, I – perhaps subconsciously/intentionally – dated a lot of less than stellar men (UNDERSTATEMENT), because it was easier when it (inevitably) ended, regardless of who did the ending.

As an adult, I continued to move from apartment to apartment, city to city, state to state, because I either didn’t know how to stay put or I didn’t want to, out of fear of getting too close. Easier to just say goodbye and go before the stakes got too high. The vast majority of my closest friends live in other states; it’s not by design, necessarily, but it makes it a whole lot easier to chalk up the lack of close contact to distance, rather than anything I might have going on inside, you know?

Every year or so into a new job, I start getting the itch to move on to something else. A minor frustration, an irritant of some kind, spurring me on til I have myself convinced that there must be better somewhere else, something MORE: more money, more responsibility, more challenge… I don’t ever really know, but it’s always been easy to just pack up and go, because “screw this place anyway.”

All of these things, all of this life, helped make me who I am: someone good at goodbyes.

Until now, that is.

Over the last year and a month, I’ve had to say goodbye (or, “so long for now”) to C. a lot, because he travels for work. At first, it was a bit of a relief, because I’d gotten so damn good at being alone, I wasn’t sure how to handle someone else’s steady presence. But that changed. Somewhere along the way I let him all the way in, and now, when he leaves, I’m a little out of sorts for a time, not really sure what to do, a little awkward in my movements to stay busy and keep living while he’s gone. I think that means I miss him; it’s a new thing, to let myself miss someone and to be affected by their absence. To admit that I miss him and like life a whole lot better when he’s home. All the more reason I’m so excited to call this man my husband, come September.

For the last year and a half, I’ve worked at a place where I’m fully connected to the people with whom I work. They’re good people, doing good work, and it’s a great opportunity to build my own knowledge and experience. I’ve been given a lot of leeway, grace, and room to grow, I basically wrote my own job description, and I get to take that in some pretty great directions. So when presented with a really difficult financial situation, one in which I’ve had to consider finding a different job in the for-profit sector in order to comfortably pay the bills without C. having to stay out on the road… it’s not an easy task. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I don’t actually want to leave. I want to figure out how to make it work so I can stay.

My thoughts keep returning back to friendships, and I have to admit that I’ve just never been very good at them. At least, I don’t feel like I have. A life of goodbyes and disconnections keeping everyone at arm’s length. There’s something inside that gnaws at me, though; some sort of preconceived notion of what friendship is supposed to look like, telling me I fail on the regular. I suck at reaching out, suck at making plans, suck at making myself vulnerable enough to risk… whatever it is I think I risk by reaching out. Sometimes I think I want it too much, and sometimes I think I’m just fine. I sit at home in my pajamas instead of making plans; I keep myself entertained and sure it’s good enough. I think about people a lot and wonder how they are, but then forget to actually ASK them. I’m so happy spending time with C. when he’s home that it’s sometimes a challenge to force myself to reach out and hang with other people… but I’m always really happy when we do. I don’t actually know that I’m as terrible at it as I think I am; certainly, I compare my insides to other peoples’ outsides, and assume they’re all doing things together all the time and I’m not. But it feels like one of the last hurdles of this whole deal, and I guess it’s gonna roll around in my brain a while until I figure out what’s next.

It’s a nice realization, though, that I’m no longer all that good at goodbyes. Connection is a hell of a complicated, important, wonderful thing.

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Giving Sunday Thanks.

In lieu of the ThxFriday I missed this past week, and in acknowledgement that I’ll probably keep missing those “deadlines” without Facebook forcing me to find the good because otherwise the site might suck my will to live… I find myself feeling especially grateful at the moment and figured I’d take the time to write about it.

First, I’m grateful for a month off from school. I’m about a week into the month off, and it’s just now sinking in how GLORIOUS it is to have a Sunday with nothing pressing and nothing due. I mean, sure, I have a pile of work to tend to at the office tomorrow, but that’s tomorrow. Having no homework means I can take the day easily, and so I have: C and I had breakfast with his kids before he set out on the journey to get them home; I went to two grocery stores; I’m on the second load of laundry; I’m done cooking food for the week; put away the inflatable mattress we had out for Friday night; and now I’ve got a few hours to relax before heading over to my mom’s house to make dinner for her. I might take a nap; it sounds pretty fantastic. But none of this felt like work, or like it was panic-driven in order to get ALL THE THINGS DONE BEFORE MONDAY. What a gift.

Last weekend was the Maypole party, and I got to take C with me to meet some more of the gang. So good to see familiar and friendly faces, as well as be reminded of times (and friendships) past. We had the best time. For the last four years, that party has signaled the season of emerging from winter cocoons, spending more time outside, friendly gatherings with lots of food and drink, and just an overall sense of optimism and happy. Celebrating the love of two friends and their anniversary, seeing people you haven’t seen in a while, enjoying the weather (whatever it may be)… it was good.

As for C… I don’t even know where to start, but I do know that not a day goes by where I don’t marvel at what a perfect fit we seem to be. He pays attention, and he knows when something is off. He’s not afraid to ask, either. Or listen. Or talk through things that maybe aren’t easy for either one of us. And, too…he told me yesterday that he loves being able to make coffee for me in the mornings while I journal, loves making the bed and doing the dishes while I’m getting ready for work, because it feels like he’s helping me be the person I want and need to be. And he MEANS it. And he IS helping. These are the things that look and feel like love to me, as much as anything else you could name.

This past Friday night, we were driving back from Chattanooga, late, and the front tire blew out. It had been a long, somewhat stressful and cranky-making drive down there to pick up his kids, so it was past midnight and we were all wiped out when we heard the *POP* and his car indicated loss of pressure in that tire. At that point he was in the far left lane on the interstate, but he very calmly and carefully made his way over to the right shoulder, where he proceeded to change the tire – and was good-natured about it the entire time. Last night, he told me that as soon as he realized what happened, he was about to get upset/angry, but he immediately had the thought that three people he loves most in the world were in the car, and he needed to do everything he could to keep us safe; that calmed him down and allowed him to be – and stay – rational throughout the entire thing.

Thing is? He meant that, too. Bearing in mind how new this all is, of course, it feels like we’re laying a solid, healthy, loving foundation for something pretty fantastic. We had a great time with his kids this weekend, we’re spending most of our time together these days, and there is great friendship there, as much as there is love. There is honesty, truth-telling, vulnerability, and soul-baring, just as there is laughter, silliness, affection, and… well, everything I’ve always wanted, and then some.

I’ve admittedly been struggling in a few areas, like exercise and eating well and all that (mostly because work has me SPENT by the time I leave every day – is it June 6th yet??), but even those feel okay and manageable. It’s amazing how life goes when you spend your days feeling loved and adored. Allowing yourself to see you through the eyes of someone who adores you can open up a world of self-love and acceptance that was otherwise hidden by walls of past experience and conditioning.  You know?

Anyway. The only other thing I have to report is that I’ve been rethinking my career path a little. In the last few months of covering for my supervisor while she’s on maternity leave, I’ve been managing a lot of the IT stuff for our agency. We have a company that provides tech support, but when there are problems or new users need to be set up, I’ve been the initial point of contact… and I like that. A lot. It hearkens back to my time as 1st level tech support for the housing agency, as well as the few jobs I’ve had in IT departments for architectural firms and others. So I’m wondering if there’s a way to combine my obsession with mental health and my interest in information technology, security, and systems into one big awesome job… more to come on that.

Life is good. I’m trying to remember to be grateful for it – all of it – as often as I can.

ThxFriday, Back in the Gratitude Saddle Edition.

Navigating a Friday night work emergency with relative ease; house and dog and turtle-sitting in the comfort of a lovely home; the horrible and tasty discovery of BOOMCHICKAPOP; Saturday night fires and wine; a beautiful day of walks and books and naps and later-night homecoming visits; dinners with my sweetheart and our teamwork in the kitchen; the glory of beets and goat cheese in salads; perfectly-timed appreciation flowers; remembering to breathe and crowd-sourcing support; working from home and all that was achieved; waking up in my own bed once again; acknowledging the silly in the stressors (fire drill nightmares, anyone?); some very much needed time with friends, and the very much welcome reminders of things; and today, with the shine of the sun and the promise of good things to come.

I’d gotten way out of the habit of revisiting all the good from the prior week, and I can tell and feel a difference in mentality and perception. Gratitude needs to be an active practice; it’s way too easy to fall into the negative otherwise, because of how I’m wired. With all that goes on, between work and school and navigating relationships and friends and wanting to prioritize good health and wellness and and and… these posts remind me to just breathe and appreciate and remember the good. That way, I can stop going into work and announcing that people aren’t allowed to talk to me unless they have something positive to say. (That may have happened last week, ahem. Navigating ends of ropes and boundaries is fun!)  🙂

Unfriending Facebook.

Over the last few years, and this past year in particular, I’ve thought (and posted) a fair amount about my love/hate relationship with Facebook. It seemed to weigh heavier on the “hate” side – increasing on a daily basis – until finally I came to the conclusion that it was time to sever ties completely. And so on January 1st, I did. At the risk of beating a dead horse, since I know there have been myriad articles and think pieces and studies published about the topic as well, I’m finally diving into writing about why I’m so much happier without it.

2015 was, for me, filled with some good, but mostly a whole lot of toxicity in the form of other people; I’ve done a banner job of simply cutting all of that out and moving on and away. Deleting my FB account was like the final step, because there was something toxic about that site, too. It may have been my own personal experience and interaction with it, it may have been my own inability to moderate usage, it may be due to my own sensitivity to overload, it could be a hundred things that have little or nothing to do with the site and everything to do with my reaction to it… but whatever the case, I can’t tell you how much lighter, happier, and clear-minded I feel as a result of no longer being connected in that way.

Before the advent of social media… how did we stay in touch? How did we interact? How did we connect and STAY connected to the people we loved and the ones who mattered? I mean, were we okay with not staying in touch with that one kid you knew in 6th grade? How on earth did we survive without knowing everyone’s opinions on EVERYTHING? The internet provides a forum for everyone’s thoughts, opinions, attitudes, beliefs, etc., and while this can be a good thing – I’ve met some amazing people through the internet and wouldn’t trade them for the world – this can also be a really, really bad thing. Have you read a comments section lately? It’s like the floodgates opened and everyone’s inner ugly got conjured.

What Facebook turned into for me was a place where people were inflicting everyone else with their thoughts, opinions, pithy quotes on photo backdrops, political discourse, and what basically felt like no one listening to or actually TALKING to each other anymore. It was all just noise, and it seemed to feed into peoples’ misguided belief that everyone else wanted to hear it all, or cared, and that their opinions on things – no matter how ill-informed or bigoted or small – were paramount to truth or the art of active listening. “I don’t care what you think or have to say, but here’s what I think. About everything.”

Everything wound up feeling overwhelming. Superficial. Empty.

Full disclosure: I had over 400 friends on there. Most of them were people I’d gone to school with at some point, worked with at some point, met somewhere along the way in my pinball ricochet moves around the country… only a very small handful of them were/are people with whom I am maintaining an active friendship or relationship. Family, too, but mostly it was people I wouldn’t otherwise be in touch with. Not because they aren’t good people (because they were, otherwise I wouldn’t have added them in the first place – or I would have deleted them, which happened pretty regularly once true colors came to light), but because I just don’t have the emotional or mental bandwidth for maintaining that many relationships or interactions. By being connected to a person on Facebook, I felt some kind of responsibility to try and maintain active contact. Otherwise, what’s the point?

A lot of the people with whom I’d reconnected when I first moved back to Nashville had mostly faded into “acquaintance-land” for reasons I won’t get into here (I’m not sure I could do it justice from a one-sided perspective, anyway), but staying connected to them on FB meant I had access to see all the things they were doing, places they were going, and lives they were living that no longer involved me. This is not a condemnation, because it was a mutual (albeit unspoken and passive) parting of ways. It probably would have benefited from calling it out and owning our parts, but at the same time… eh.

Anyway. All of that to say, it simply reinforced the feelings of “apart” and lonely to which I have always fallen prey, especially in conjunction with my ongoing experiencing of anxiety and depression that crops up in wintertime; FB did a banner job of exacerbating all of that and extending the life of the struggle well beyond the winter months. Instead of being happy for people that they’re out there living life – at least, the little bits they were portraying on FB – I found myself falling into feeling left out. So by deleting those reminders and effectively removing myself from the mindset of being “left out” where I’m sitting at home looking at everyone else living life, I’ve made it so that I’M living life, too. In person, out loud, and I’m no longer being presented with reminders of what I’m not doing and who I’m not seeing. Who needs those reminders, anyway? People with whom I am not actively engaged in relationship of some kind are really none of my business… just as I am none of theirs.

Which leads me to the flip-side of it all, where people had access to me, but hadn’t earned (or no longer had) the right to be there. One major event: someone I thought of as a friend decided to delete me from all social media without saying anything to me about it, and then, in a private group in which we were both members, made multiple comments about how she’d removed two toxic, triggering people from her life without saying anything to them and how it just had to be done for her own sanity (YO I’M SITTING RIGHT HERE). While it sucks to realize and own that sometimes you’re a trigger for other people, it sucks worse when you bear witness to them calling it out, knowing full well that some folks in the group know it’s you, and no one is saying anything. Mind you, I didn’t say anything either – I just left the group, because it wasn’t worth it to me to pursue; I’m happy to let everyone have their own experience and give whatever space is deemed necessary.

And then there were some overt, extensive, and extended attempts at manipulation from a few people with whom I no longer engage, one person I hadn’t seen or talked to in over 6 years sending me some unexpected, nasty, off-base words (someone I wasn’t even friends with on there, mind you), and a whole lot of other messy stuff… done. No thanks. People sometimes use the internet – and especially FB – in a lot of terrible ways, and I was tired of being on the receiving end of that, even just a little.

Not to mention the manipulation of Facebook itself. Controlling who and what you see, how much of it you got to interact with, the push for advertising to infiltrate your timeline, and all the ways they were trying to make themselves an invaluable and irreplaceable means of staying connected – or at least convincing you that you NEEDED the site in order to stay in touch, social, and relevant…

NOPE. Nope nope nope, and nope.

At the end of it all, there were maybe two things I knew I’d miss. Pictures of far away family or friends and their kids, and the occasional big life updates from folks I care a great deal about who only seem to share that stuff on FB. Also, occasionally hearing about cool events going on around town. So, three things I’d miss. But those three things are manageable and surmountable. I can poke around online to see what’s going on in town. I can reach out to friends & family and get them to send pictures via text or email, or if they’re local, I can actually, you know, make plans to see them in person. Picking up the phone, firing off a quick text or email, hanging out in person… it all works for me just fine.

I knew there were people who enjoyed the things I’d share and write about on FB, but all of that – or some of it, anyway – gets posted here, too, for anyone willing to follow a separate link. Otherwise, I way prefer to update my people on my life in real time and in person, because that’s how you engage and build connection. By having a conversation. And while I’m overloaded with grad school homework, I can just reach out to let people know I’m thinking of them.

When was the last time you did that in some way other than on FB? When was the last time you sent an email, or hell… wrote a letter, or sent a card or postcard, or picked up the phone to call someone and hear their voice?

By deleting FB, I’m no longer on information/opinion/social media overload. I can hop on Twitter for the occasional 140 characters from smart people I want to learn from, with links to articles I might not otherwise see. I can peruse the Instagram accounts of my friends for a quick peek into their daily lives. I can write here, and if folks want to read it – and even respond to it – they can.

I guess it all comes down to priorities and boundaries: prioritizing relationships with those who are important to me (and, honestly, the people who show that I’m important to them, too, because the effort shouldn’t all be mine), and erecting some real and serious boundaries with the rest.

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who love having contact with/access to hundreds of people, but for me, it was just too much. By deleting Facebook and severing unnecessary ties (as well as eliminating the weird expectations that come with them), I’ve effectively right-sized my social circles and interactions, and have begun making the transition back to real life interactions and in-person connections. It’s really been nothing but a huge relief.

Kicking it old school, y’all.
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Update (later that day):

After writing all of this out, the conclusion I finally reached is that ultimately, Facebook was doing nothing to encourage or enable me to be my best self. Instead, it was enabling me to get lazy with my efforts at friendship and family connection; it was enabling me to let the FOMO get out of control; it was enabling me to beat myself up with all the presumed lost opportunity; it was enabling me to maintain one-sided engagement and espouse my beliefs and thoughts mostly unchallenged. So, it really had little or nothing to do with everyone else; it was all just me, not being the woman and the human I want to be.

With all the other major steps I’ve taken toward cutting out the unhealthy influences in my life, this was just one more step in the right direction.

ThxFriday, THUNDERSNOW Edition.

Friday night family time girl time fun time; early morning auditions and leisurely afternoon lunches; new running kicks and muscle rollers; afternoon naps on a different couch in a warmer house; celebrating a dear one’s 40th at one of my favorite (old) haunts; realizing it’s been more than a year since setting foot in that joint; systematically replacing old associations and memories with new ones; early morning store and coffee runs (er, not those kinds of runs, FYI) and getting right back in pajamas afterward; when your favorite team is beat out by your second favorite team so it’s all gonna be okay (go Panthers!); surviving the chaos surrounded by kindred spirits; boot camp enthusiasm, even with the shin splint onset; knowing well enough to take care and take it easy; taking advantage of restaurant week, and being rewarded handsomely for the slush-braving efforts; the return of regularly-scheduled awkward; and the unexpected work reprieve (which translates into: study break) resulting from the equally unexpected 6-8 inches of snow currently occupying my outside space. Working from home means jammies, cookies, and now… naps. Heart: FULL.

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