Beginnings Before Endings

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I find it irritating that I am this old and I continue to see the same tired, old thought patterns that I have beat to death a million times. 

Wait. Before I continue please know- I am happy most of the time. I make reasonably good decisions more often than not. I have pretty good coping skills and I can almost always pick up on unhealthy attitudes and thoughts pretty quickly and I can work through them. I have had LOTS of therapy. I’m okay. 

Now, where was I? 

I am in a new relationship. It is so good, even if some parts of it are hard. For one thing, he lives two hours from where I am currently working on the East coast. Quite a trek to Texas, which is where I live. Happily. We are both very busy with our careers and our family. Working as a Locum means I don’t always know what my next move is going to be. I don’t even know if I have shifts in this area next month. So, I don’t have a concrete date for when I will see him again. This is stressful for me. 

Despite these irritations, I am excited and feel like this is a good relationship. He makes me so happy. Stupid happy. Giddy and giggly. Warm and fuzzy. Content. 

The problem is my tendency to get inside my head and allow past experiences to color the way I feel when I am not distracted by the real world. Frankly, this most likely stems from my relationship with my father. I had finally started to trust him and open up when I was banished from his life. I know, that sounds dramatic… but, that’s pretty much what happened. I am no longer his daughter. He has not acknowledged my existence in two decades. Yes, I have reached out. Multiple times via various methods. Nothing. It’s like I never existed.

 I know. It has nothing to do with me, it’s his shortcoming. It doesn’t mean I am not a good person or worthy of good things. I know that intellectually. I can explain it all in so many ways. Most of the time it works too. This is the benefit of all the therapy. I know how to deal with the negative thoughts

Look guys, whether it is intentional or not, when the one man in the world who should love you unconditionally turns his back on you, it leaves a mark. It’s almost as if it changes a girl on a molecular level. She may learn to appreciate all her good qualities and she may have other father figures who step in, but it doesn’t change the fact that she was inherently not worthy of you. She may learn to cope with the loss. She might even have a reasonable, healthy attitude about the situation. Unfortunately for her, there is always that little piece of her that is scarred. She will always be susceptible to feeling like she isn’t enough. Even if that is the most false statement in the world, she is at risk to always be searching for a way to earn love. Love will never be something freely given. She may never be able to simply accept it. She will always be watching for the ground to become a fault line and crumble beneath her feet. I’m not sure if anyone will ever convince her she can trust them. She will always know she was not good enough. She may overcompensate and become more successful than she ever imagined. She may do a phenomenal job at hiding her flaw, but it will always be there just under the surface threatening to expose her as the fraud she must be. It will be the most real thing about her. 

Despite all the good therapy and coping skills, and despite the knowledge I am indeed a good person, I am plagued by insecurities. I attempt to manage them by being selective about who I let into my life. I am quick to walk away and protect myself from being hurt. I have perfected the art of avoiding real attachment and intimacy. I even convince myself I am happier because of it. I sneer at people who are “in love.” Suckers. I tell myself I am too smart to depend on someone else to make me happy. I pride myself on the fact I do not need to be in a relationship. 

Nothing good ever comes from being vulnerable. Occasionally someone gets in, but mostly I fight it. I certainly don’t allow myself to be vulnerable in romantic matters. Nope. No way. Not me. If I find myself developing feelings for someone I promptly identify their sins to justify ending things. I am only interested in people I have no chance of being able to rely on. I never get my hopes up. I struggle to believe someone will not hurt me. I do not get invested, despite my feeble attempts to convince myself otherwise. I am not running, I am simply avoiding disaster! It’s called being smart. It’s not me, it’s you and I have all the evidence to prove it. 

I thought I had found the magic ticket. Date lots of people and avoid commitment. You can have fun and still not risk rejection. Don’t you dare hope for a happy ending and you will never feel cheated. Bingo! That was such a great idea. 

Until it backfired. 

I met someone who makes me want to be different. I find myself telling him things I don’t tell anyone. I laugh at his stupid, I mean hilariously clever jokes. I don’t find it intrusive when he contacts me. I don’t want to avoid him. He doesn’t get on my nerves. I like him. I enjoy him. He is brilliant, witty, sexy, funny, strong, reliable, clever, warm, caring, handsome and the list could go on… but you get the point. As a side note: he is often exactly right. I mean to the penny. It’s like he knows everything! 

I don’t want to spend time with other men. I only want to be with him. A lot. 

Admitting that was hard at first. I was scared he would not feel the same way. What kind of man would want to date only me? It’s funny because I was the one who insisted I was not interested in a relationship and he agreed to my terms. I mistakenly thought I had simply added one more opportunity for dinner and adventure. Ha! The jokes on me. 

So, now what? Remember that scar? It’s still there and I can’t hide it if I want to actually be present in this relationship. I have to own it and accept the fact that even if my father’s rejection wasn’t my fault, I am still affected by it. I have to acknowledge I am working to overcome my own defenses. This doesn’t mean I get  to keep the walls up. It will never work if I don’t allow myself to believe him. All I have to do is pay attention to his actions, which are completely congruent with his words. I just need to trust the way I feel and act accordingly. I need to focus on the situation as it is now. I don’t need to project what I think might happen at some unknown point in the future. 

So, I am going to enjoy this great guy. I am going to have an open heart and trust myself. I am going to own all these wonderful and fun feelings. It is time to stop trying to convince myself I am wrong about him. I am allowed to have optimistic hope. It’s okay to be excited. I don’t have to fight happiness. 

Today I get to be enough. I am not going to miss the beginning because I am too busy crafting the end. I’m going to celebrate where we are. It’s a good place to be. 

Packing

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I am terrible at packing. 

I am mailing home books and some scrubs because my suitcases are too heavy. 

One more week until I go home for a bit! I can’t wait to see my kiddo, my baby dogs, and my kitties! 

I have no idea what my next move is going to be. Hoping it works out quickly. This is the only downside to working as a Locum, I never know what is coming next. I always feel like I am hustling for the next opportunity. I have to admit, the chase is kinda exciting. 

Grown Up Relationships

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If I read all the crap on the book of faces I would determine this man is going to break my heart or manage to disappoint me. 

If I paid attention to the message on all the rom-coms that I have allowed to influence my views on romance I would be so sad right now. He’s never chased me through an airport or train station, and I travel all the damn time. There is really no excuse for this. 

If I let Dateline scare me into singledom I would be missing out on this amazing experience. If it is too good to be true, he will murder you. No one meets the man of her dreams. Shout out to my momma! 

If I listened to the voice in my head that tells me I am not cut out for relationships I would still be swiping right and looking for the next fun distraction. 

If I read blog posts about “true love” and healthy relationships written by 23 year olds I would decide he’s just not that into me. 

If I thought about the difficulties navigating a long distance relationship I would give up before we have even gotten through the new stuff. 

If I used our complicated schedules and last minute obligations as an excuse to run I could be so far away right now. 

Instead, I make a decision to focus on the reality of our relationship. I redirect those pesky insecurities. I shush that stupid voice. If I listened to her, I would be a wreck. She doesn’t like me at all. I really don’t know what her problem is. She needs to get a grip. 

I am so happy, even if this is hard for me. I’m not going to pretend I am good at relationships, but I know I have never wanted to be better at them more than I do now. It’s worth the effort. The good stuff is so much better than the hard stuff. 

What About Love?

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I used to believe I was inherently flawed. I mistakenly thought I was incapable of falling in love. I suppose I needed to reconsider my definition of love and throw away my useless ideas of finding my Prince Charming.

Wait, was it Price Charming? Let me look it up. No! It was Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty. He was so dashing and adorable. He battled a dragon to save his one true love. 

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Now, I realize I don’t live in a cartoon. Sigh. Oh, and I am not blonde and my name is not Aurora. If we are being honest my favorite Aurora is from Terms of Endearment and I am most certainly no Shirley MacLean. She is way cooler than I am. 

I am left to my own devices when it comes to falling in love and I have realized it has nothing to do with other people at all. When I am open to being honest and actually experiencing things in the moment, I can fall in love a million times a day.

Love is not a pit you fall into. It is the moment your heart speeds up from excitement and expectation. It is the mysteriously simple joy from a stranger smiling at you with his whole face. You make eye contact and you both allow your joy to be evident without speaking a word. You may never see him again but for that one moment you fell in love. Unless you are a crazy stalker, you will never see him again. Do NOT follow that poor man. He did not even say a word to you. Keep walking. Keep walking. Ahhh. That felt nice though. 

*I wrote this back in August. I was quite grumpy those days. I was working at a job I hated, and I was bored and lonely. 

Things are better now. I am actually working at two different jobs that I like. I’m getting to know, dating, seeing, I don’t know how to define it, a great guy who seems to like me as much as I like him. It’s nice. No, it’s awesome. And… I think he may be my boyfriend. I am not certain of the rules, I think needing labels is silly, but we all know I love labels. 

So, he’s my boyfriend. 

Don’t jump to conclusions. That’s my job. I still tend to worry about imaginary problems that may happen in 3 years. I just can’t help myself. It takes a concentrated and repetitive effort to stay in the present and enjoy this as it is right now. 

Ready for the good stuff? 

He’s good at this. He doesn’t make me feel ridiculous for being exactly who I am. He knows how to be affectionate across the distance. He has managed to convince me I am important to him. 

He makes me laugh every single day. It’s amazing how even when I am laughing at him, he is still such a grownup. He is sensitive and thoughtful, all while maintaining a refreshing masculinity that makes me feel like he can probably handle anything. 

For the first time I find myself not only willing but wanting to be open and even a little vulnerable with him. I am not afraid to make an effort. He knows how to acknowledge and appreciate where I am coming from. He likes it! What the hell? What kind of guy likes this stuff?

Well, this guy likes it. He likes me. The me I am today. I don’t feel like he is waiting for me to somehow become a better, more awesome chick. 

I’m totally into him. I love that he calls me when I am getting on a plane. I love that he is interested in my day. I laugh when he sends me ridiculous selfies. I like it that he is challenging and opinionated. I like the way he values those same traits in me. 

He is so much fun. 

I love how he is confident, sensitive, and sexy all at the same time. The way he treats me reinforces my confidence. He leaves me feeling like I am worth the effort. There is nothing about this relationship that is convenient, we have to work at making time for each other. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

So, I’ll continue to get to know My Spy. I’ll continue to make the effort. He’s worth it. 

Safety in Numbers

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“Swiper, Stop Swiping!”

I can’t help but wonder if perhaps Dora the Explorer had a crystal ball and could see the danger awaiting us in the age of Tinder. 

Notice, it’s Tinder, not Tender. I get the benefits of a photo, age, and distance between me and my potential paramour. Date, booty call, one-night stand, relationship, potential love interest, however I choose to use it. It is a good tool for finding some company when I travel because it doesn’t just match me based on my homebase, it works on my actual location. It’s akin to a bar living in my phone. There is frequently a sense of ennui to my swiping. A detached boredom with no expectation. I am simply window shopping. I might try a few things on, but I really have zero intention of buying. My wallet is empty, and I don’t have that much credit. 

Unfortunately, the absence of alcohol, dark lighting, and loud music promotes a strange sense of intimacy. I  have to use words to communicate. Sorry honey, your cleavage isn’t going to buy you company tonight. Words easily trap me. I lose all sense of reality and fall into a hopeless fantasy. I can convince myself this is safe, because it’s not real. I am in no danger of falling in love or getting trapped because it’s Tinder. Somehow I talk myself into dropping some of the walls I use to keep everyone at a safe distance. I recklessly engage in mutual sharing of hopes and dreams for the future. I shed a little of the prickly “f*ck off” persona I adopted so long ago. I even have a few photos that are apparently “hot.” I think it’s the lighting and red lipstick. Maybe the angle. I managed to catch a pensive yet not angry expression. It wasn’t easy. It was one of many, many bad ones. I’m not showing you, because now that I mention it I am more than a little embarrassed and should probably delete this whole aside. 

I pretend. The safety of my little blue screen gives me a sense of confidence and I become charming and flirtatious. The awkward parts of my personality are hidden a little. I’m not afraid of being myself, because it doesn’t matter what these guys think of me. They aren’t real. I honestly have nothing to lose. I’m just passing through. 

I find myself saying things I would never say IRL. I match and unmatch with an abandon usually reserved for women more beautiful than I am. I am picky about who I choose to meet. The conversation has to be lively and interesting. I eschew the men who start of asking my bra size. I know my bra size. It’s not interesting to me. Somehow I feel like I am in control in this situation. If you irritate me, I can just stop talking to you. Unmatch, block, ghost, ignore, I have a plethora of tools at my disposal. 

Sometimes I am pretending to pretend. I allow myself to get caught up in the excitement of foreign experiences. I start to look forward to our interactions. This is probably because I am so picky about the men I choose for communication. Really, it’s easy to dislike boring, unintelligent men. 

I’ve become friends with a few of these men. The ones I go out with are generally quite attractive, educated, clever, and age-appropriate. They tend to have a way with words. I find myself intrigued and at times more than a little attracted to their electronic personas. 

That doesn’t diminish my fear of intimacy. It doesn’t ease my distrust of the whole prospect of love and happy endings. I firmly believe (well, I tell myself I firmly believe) there are no fairy tale endings, and there is no Prince Charming. All that is waiting for me is a lifetime of disappointment and resentment. Who needs that? It’s far better to never get your hopes up. Don’t get attached. Don’t expect anything from anyone. You are the master of your own happiness. It’s not lying within another person’s grasp. They will only let you down. 

When I first discovered the possibility of dating for “fun” I thought I had found the perfect solution. I would be honest from the beginning and demand these men play by my rules. It was great. 

Except I forgot the rules. I found myself daydreaming about one man when I was out with another. I just wanted to be with him. I did not want to see the others. 

What is the punishment for self-imposed and perhaps misguided infractions? 

I know! I know! Let’s overthink and concoct imaginary slights to punish him over. Except let’s not tell him how I am feeling. I will just quietly seeth with resentment and start judging him much more harshly than he probably deserves. I will not discuss this with him because it makes me sound crazy. 

I have turned into “that girl.” 

There is safety in numbers. I don’t have to risk getting attached. I can pretend. Until I start pretending to pretend. Then the real danger starts. 

Diner Conversations

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The waitress is looking for a screwdriver. A Phillips screwdriver in particular. Thankfully, there is a group of what can only be described as “good ol’ boys” sitting behind me. One of them gets up because he has a screwdriver in the truck. 

The day has been saved. 

Now one of them is regaling the group with a horrifying story of a seventeen year old “punk” who shot and killed a Marine. Apparently, when the boy was questioned he had a “shit-eating grin,” and then he confessed. The boy’s parents were charged as accessories to the crime. There is something about a car that was stolen. This car is now “sitting on my lot.” 

These guys are now discussing the price of holding a car in impound. Apparently, it costs $111 to hookup to a car and only $18 per day. If you are overcharged you have to pay the bill then turn in the impound lot that overcharged. 

Now, the story is starting over and his friends are loudly telling him to “shut the hell up.” They don’t remember this incident and I don’t think they are buying his story. 

Now they are discussing John and Adam Walsh. This is proving to be a pretty interesting conversation. 

He got sidetracked. He wants to talk about Dan Brown books now. This is apparently the most literary conversation these guys have. 

Wait for it…. He just said “I shit you not.” 

My day has been made. 

PS: forgot to post this back in August when it was relevant. So, now it’s just a hilarious memory from Oklahoma. 

Forthcoming

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I know you will never believe this, but I am not good about talking about feelings. I am even worse at listening to someone else talk about their feelings, especially their feelings about me! Of course I am struggling with this now. It’s not surprising that I am completely in my head and not listening to the words he’s saying. I’m not noticing his actions. 

No, of course not. I am too busy thinking about my thoughts. I am too busy listening to that damn voice in my head. The one I am listening to right now. 

How many different ways does this guy have to tell me he likes me? What hoops do I need him to jump through? It’s not like his actions and his words don’t match up. He’s being perfectly consistent. He likes me! He tells me this. He shows me. All I have to do is pay attention and believe him. 

So, I have to talk myself down off the ledge and make a decision to calm down. I have to tell that voice to back off and be quiet. Not that it is going to listen. But, I am not going to stop trying. 

And the adventure continues. What a ride…

Positive Reinforcement 

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My work life has not always been wonderful. I have struggled to learn how to deal with coworkers, patients, and teachers fairly frequently. Maybe I should have read that damn book my Grandaddy gave me when I was 8. Carnegie reportedly had all the answers for how to get along better. I’ve read it since and it basically boils down to being nice and considerate of others. 

I have a rather polarizing personality. You either like me a lot or you can’t stand to be around me. I don’t inspire much apathy. It has taken me years to mellow out and stop carrying a chip around on my shoulder. I also had a horrible inferiority complex. I knew I was different than other people and I assumed that was a bad thing. I never felt competent, nevermind successful. I just knew I was not good enough. 

So, I worked hard and tried to prove myself. Well, actually I turned into an insufferable asshole. People thought I was judging them, but the person I actually despised was myself. So, I overcompensated. I was a jerk. A completely unhappy jerk. 

It made work difficult. I own it. I made lots of mistakes. I just wanted to be better. I wanted to be worthy. 

I was shocked when my dream job didn’t solve the problem. All the people I had pissed off throughout my career were not impressed. All they saw was an asshole who apparently thought she was special. Little did they know I was wracked with self-doubt and insecurity. 

I loved my job though. I wanted to be good at it. I wanted to make the people who had invested time and energy into teaching me proud. I just wanted to deserve their respect. Unfortunately, I had left a trail of people behind me who remembered the wreckage of my feeble attempts to prove my worth. So, they were watching and expecting me to fail. They viewed every single thing I did through a lens clouded with disdain. There was no way for me to earn their respect. Who the hell did I think I was? So,  my insecurity grew. It became a cycle. I cried a lot. I think the most confusing part for me was the incongruity between my sincere love for my job and my misery. 

I suffered from mood swings and my attitude was completely unpredictable. I was either sullen and snarky or overly sweet and disingenuous. I reeked of insincerity. I was moderately paranoid that everyone was out to get me. To be honest, some were. Not all though. I was losing my mind. I could not understand why getting exactly what I wanted had not made me happy. 

I don’t mean to make it sound like it was all bad. It wasn’t. I had some people take me under their wing and coach me until I was actually pretty good at my job. There were many times I was included and made to feel like I was a valuable member of the team. I had people give me their time and expertise freely. They didn’t have to do so much for me. The physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers who invested their energy in developing my skills are the reason I can do this job now. I am so grateful. I hope they know how much I appreciate them.

Fast forward past a very dark time when it became apparent I was not going to be able to overcome all the challenges associated with the job I loved so desperately. I started working as a Locum. I love a lot about this lifestyle. I get to decide when and where I work. I get to move on when I am bored. I have met people all over the country. 

I think I have gotten better at my job. I am able to walk into new situations with confidence. I am not competing with the imaginary person I think I should be anymore. This is important. This confidence has allowed me to stop trying to prove myself constantly. It’s a relief. I allow myself to talk to my patients like they are people instead of patients. I am so much happier. I am a better provider because of it. 

I wouldn’t trade my past for anything. That experience was wonderful and painful at the same time. Now there are times I miss my old job. I miss the familiarity of being with people who have known me for all these years. Sometimes I feel untethered and unattached. So, I keep in touch. My former coworkers have not left my life, they just have a different role. They are my friends. A couple are my best friends. They have seen me at my best and my worst. They are on my side. 

It feels weird to receive compliments, especially written ones. This patient and her family were a joy to work with. It was an honor. This little note gave me some positive reinforcement to keep doing my best. Not because I have a past to atone for, but because my patients, coworkers, and I deserve my best.