Anti-Dating

I want more. Dating isn’t more, it’s why I stopped trying that.

My latest PTSD episode was a negative experience for both David and I. You can tell someone what it’s like, you can tell them what to expect, but they don’t understand until they experience it with you. Even then, they only see the outside. It’s worse when they think they’re at fault. This really is just about me and what goes on in my brain. I hate that it can hurt someone I care about… and that there wasn’t much I could do to prepare him. I got blindsided and was scrambling to understand what had triggered me. Not a very helpful place to be when you’re trying to communicate what’s going on. Add Xanax to the mix and I don’t even remember most of what I told him. It was probably better for both of us that we had a Christmas pause. I wanted to make a play on words and say Christmas break, but to his credit we didn’t actually break.

We hiked several miles yesterday in the cold to talk about it, without spending too much time talking about it. I knew it had affected him, I just didn’t know how much. I hate that something I can’t control just brought a really wonderful month to a sharp halt. I hate that I killed the fun. I hate that someone hurt me so badly that I have a negative neurologic response that is so severe it put a relationship I value at risk.

I hate dating. I’m terrible at it. So I asked if we could not date. Anti-date, actually.

Dating doesn’t work for me. I like to do what I like to do while living out what I believe. I like creative energy and being productive and dragging people into my schemes and solving problems and drinking good coffee and walking and talking and eating bagels on Saturdays. Once in a while I like to get hella dressed up and blow money on an amazing dinner. Most of the time I like to cook. I like heavy blankets and BBC Masterpiece and pretending I’m athletic. I like people who see the world differently than I and I like ridiculous high heels. I really like burgers that ooze cheese when you bite into them.

I like all of those things by myself. I think I’d like them even more with another person. I think I’d like them more with this person. I like to share things I enjoy with people I enjoy. “Dating” doesn’t seem to really fit that – or me. I want to live my life and invite someone to join me, not spend my time barely scratching the surface and deciding if we have enough chemistry to try to ignore the problems.

When you’ve been hurt deeply, when you’ve broken deeply and when you’re healing deeply, the surface barely registers. It’s not enough to make me look up from my knitting. I want more. Dating isn’t more, it’s why I stopped trying that.

Then average-height, dark and handsome shows up across the table from me and I think I have to date him because that’s what you do.

Until a scratch on the surface digs up something much deeper, and you have to tell someone they’re free to go for fear of what you might pull them into. I had to be painfully vulnerable to hold my hand open and accept we might not be the best thing for each other. Living with PTSD requires courage, and courage is painful.

I drove home in my three most-feared driving conditions – wet, dark and fast. I was so relaxed I was in shower thinking mode.

THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN. 

It indicated how far I’ve come in processing and putting to rest my car wreck. It’s taken two years, but I was on autopilot and concerned with more pressing issues. I’ve beaten it… So I can beat the next one… the one that’s still blindsiding me with trauma. That’s when I said to hell with it all, I’m doing this the way I want. The only way I know how to not run this relationship into the ground before we have a chance to see if we want this to work.

“Let’s anti-date.”

He said ok.

A Little Holiday Magic

Holidays are hard for those of us with anxiety.

I am a bucket of cliches right now. Dating during the holidays, stressed about getting everything done (just bought and began sending out Christmas cards today!), blowing off work to decorate and snuggle, everything is feeling merry and bright…it’s a hard turn to the right from where I was last year. Hell, it’s a hard turn to the right from where I was two months ago.

My aunt, who doesn’t know about David yet, sent me a holiday card with a cute bit of paper mistletoe, with wishes for holiday kisses. I laughed because she was so on point for me this year! I’m going to make good use of it too…

We’re in a bit of a sticky spot for the holidays this year with my family. My mom, who is still recovering from the trauma of my brother’s accident, is being a little grinchy. She isn’t really working right now, but what work she is doing is challenging because of some misbehaving employees. It stresses her out because she isn’t there to be in control, and it – along with a lot of other concerns – are smothering her holiday spirit. She didn’t want me to make cookies, she has been a bit mean about decorating the inside and outside trees, and I don’t want to upset her (and I’m still not sure what all of this is about), so I didn’t make a big deal about any of it and quietly went about tree decorating and light wrapping. She hasn’t been very appreciative, but then again she isn’t throwing any more fits about it. I’ll take it. My dad may not make it back from a work trip for Christmas, and one of my brothers was a no-show at Thanksgiving because of drama with his ex, so maybe she just isn’t in a place to make some effort that may not see the results she wants.

I’m trying to help my grandma through Christmas, and have the job of getting her new assisted recliner to her. My uncle dumped this on me, and she isn’t going to be happy because she doesn’t like new things or being old. It’s a lot of emotional energy to care for my grandma, and holidays are that much more work with her because she has gotten pretty negative about it. She can’t do what she used to, so she just doesn’t participate.

So where is the magic? It’s in me doing it anyway, in not letting my family take me down, in spending time with a many I deeply enjoy getting to know in the middle of my crazy schedule and taking time out to make Christmas a great thing for people who aren’t able to make that happen for themselves. Holidays are hard for those of us with anxiety. Holidays are hard for those of us who have survived trauma and who care for our families, for those of us who are surrounded by more negativity than joy. If you’re in that place, I hope you find some holiday magic to help you through. I’m so very grateful for mine.

Standing in Line During the Holidays

Well Merry Christmas, Mrs. Watson. You made my morning.

I was at the Post Office early this morning to send a package to a friend. I would not under any circumstances describe myself as a morning person, but I had already gotten my oil changed and hit up Home Depot before the mailman rolled back the steel partition, and I wasn’t the only person getting business done early. Those December lines, right?

I was wearing a beanie with my university’s logo emblazoned on the front, and the woman in front of me, for whom I had held the door, was wearing a jacket in the same color. Which I didn’t notice at first because I was on my phone, already avoiding eye contact and any conversation. When I’m with strangers in public, my default is Do Not Engage. Rude? Maybe, but I still get triggered by weird shit and I like to avoid that, especially at the start of my day. The two women in front of me were already engaged in a conversation soaked in negativity, and I was still thinking about the gorgeous sunrise I had witnessed while driving around town. No thanks, leave me out of it.

My hat was too much temptation, and the woman in front of me asked if I had attended the university I was promoting on my forehead. Yes ma’am, my first degree was from there. She told me her husband had also graduated from my school, and we started talking about football and coaches and salaries and fun things like that. She knew her stuff, and was interested in me and what I do. It made the line pass quickly, and she had her turn and slipped out the door to head home before I could tell her “Merry Christmas”.

Well Merry Christmas, Mrs. Watson. You made my morning.

 

Setting Fire to the List

Those lists of mine? They exclude too.

I like lists. They’re my comfort zone. I like checking the box, marking through the words, finishing a task and clearly stating the thing. Whatever a list is for, I like it. They’re also a crutch for me and they get in my way.

I still use to-do lists. I find that if I don’t I’m not as motivated or I forget. Since I’m a performance-oriented human, I dearly love to cross an item off my to-do list. I knocked out my entire list today and you’d think I’d found buried treasure. If I make a list of the things I want to get done in a specific amount of time (I’ve finally accepted I only write lists for that day and only write what I can reasonably accomplish that day), there’s some measure of sense to it. Do I have a work deadline? Meet the deadline. Do I need to wash clothes? Do that. Oh, haven’t made Grandma’s Christmas stocking yet, I’ll get that done tonight. If I have trouble fitting in yoga I write it down too. I even wrote down to bring my trees in the house (potted citrus and avocados that do not like the cold) to make sure I didn’t forget to do that today.

But lists are by their nature limited and exclusive. What happens when it’s not on the list? My favorite tool becomes a trap of sorts. Let me illustrate.

How many times have you heard a girl say she has a list of things she’s looking for in a guy, and the first thing on the list is that he’s tall? What the hell does that have to do with anything? The average height for an American male is approximately 5′-10″, and they declined to provide me with the standard deviation, but I’m guessing there is a lot less above 6′-0″ and a lot more below 5′-10″. And I’m not sure why it matters, because that’s something most people can’t do anything about. What else is on your list?

More importantly, what isn’t on your list?

When I was in design school I was the last year before design tools turned over from manual to digital. The process of design, which is limited by one’s ability to manipulate the communication tool used, became very limited by the steep software learning curve. The class two years after us couldn’t design a roof to save their lives because the software didn’t automatically draw a roof for the buildings they designed, and they usually left roofs till last, meaning they put no time into them. Their designs were shit, not because they lacked ability but because they were relying on a tool that excluded so much. Those lists of mine? They exclude too. They almost always exclude me time, things that bring me joy, spending time with people I like, things that will improve my well being and things that will help me be much happier as I knock out all of the things on the list.

I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions, but I might need to reconsider how I make lists and why I do it in the first place, and the timing is working out to make that change in the new year. And no, I’m not putting that on a list.

Late Nights & Lots of Crafts

I’m in my natural state – overextended.

I stay in a constant state of overcommitment. I still haven’t learned that I can’t do as much most days, so I do what I want to do, rather than what would be a better balance. I really love to give my time away. ALL OF IT.

I have zero space for dating, because I hadn’t planned on it. Now I’m dating, and it’s making for some late nights on the phone because that’s when we can catch up and focus on each other.

I am working with my lovely if occasionally annoying group of kids to make crafts to sell at my city’s massive Christmas Stroll this coming weekend in support of an orphanage near Monterrey, Mexico. It’s beyond giving to the less fortunate, it’s about providing for the most vulnerable people – impoverished and abused children. We heard about the booth and promptly offered up all of our creativity and spare nights, and we have been busy. It’s a great bonding time, but sitting on a tile floor painting for 3 hours last night is not without its consequences for me this morning as I creak around. My grouchy old bones are not as willing of participants.

This is on top of work, caring for my grandma, running the house, my brother starting to open up to me, various other holiday commitments for care packages and gatherings, my pro bono work, my volunteer work, and at some point starting to make Christmas happen.

Can I not adult today?

But it’s so worth it. Sacrificial giving is such a fulfilling thing. Not the giving from excess, but giving from having little. It’s part of my practice of gratitude, and I have rest planned as soon as I finish my whirlwind of commitments. I will be grateful for that too!