Mile High Blogging

So, I really have nothing interesting to say (what's new, right?), but at this very moment, my mind is being blown. Why? Because my AirTran flight home has complimentary WiFi (thanks Google Chrome). And that means I can do things on the Internet while flying. Like blog. About nothing. *giggle*

So, my so-so date from Friday (who insisted on TALKING through Harry Potter! I know, I should've kicked him in the balls) has sent a follow up email. I'll write him back...eventually. He wasn't writing to ask for a second date. Instead he shared that he still isn't sure if he liked Harry Potter or not. (I know, another kick in the balls is due.) Interesting. Doesn't really make this HP aficionado want to write back. 

But, in better news, I am currently heading home (On a flight! Right now! With Wifi!) for a week to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family for the first time since 2007! The last two years I've been at SCL's (one of the only good parts about this break-up is not being subjected to his parents on holidays), so I am really looking forward to warm temperatures (high of 77 today), cuddling with my Yorkie, and time away from DC. 

I'll probably be blogging some this week, but I can almost guarantee that anything I post will be even less interesting than what I've written here. 

I Saw the Sign

When I was choosing my undergraduate institution, when I decided to get my masters, when I met SCL, when I left school for a period of time, when I accepted my current job, there were signs--confirmations, gut feelings, a sense of peace, resolution, and certainty. I am hoping, looking even, for a sign in this time of discernment.

Fun and hilarious dinner with Date Me, DC!--sign I should stay? Horrible DC happy hour full of networking assholes--sign I should leave? Yesterday I even broke my own "no dating" rule and went out with someone. Even then I was thinking, "Maybe if we have a connection...would that be a sign?" (We didn't, by the way.)

I am a person of faith and I do believe that being in an open, receptive state can bring about clarity--either through signs, a gut feeling, or some other sense of rightness. I'm not going to get my answer in a pro/con list.  Believe me, I've tried that. Multiple times. The truth is there are plenty of reasons for me to stay in DC and reasons for me to go; reasons for me to move to North Carolina and reasons for me not to.

Some have warned me, "Don't make an emotional decision." As if choices that concern the heart are ever entirely logical--or that they ought to be. As if emotions are unimportant and valueless. As if this desire to make a change in my life is me just being emotional (sexist, much?). The heart is important, and so are our feelings, even as they fade and change and confuse us.

So, instead of indulging in fantasies about a new life or fixating on the things I dislike about DC, I'm trying to practice openness and patience, hoping that once again the answer will come in time. I truly believe it will.

Give Me the Green Light

If it wasn't obvious in my last post, I have been considering the possibility of moving back to Charlotte, North Carolina. Considering the possibility. Ok, that and indulging in fantasies about what it would be like to be able to afford a real grown-up apartment on my own.

In thinking about a potential move, the only real hang-up I could foresee was my job. Other than travel stories, I haven't shared much about my work on the blog (hello, relative anonymity). I'm a contractor for a non-profit. I telecommute (i.e. work from home) about 95% of the time and essentially I can do my job anywhere there's Internet and a good airport. But, since I do advocacy work, it is helpful for me to be in DC--to go to meetings, briefings, and the occasional visit with a member of Congress. So, while not essential and not part of my contract, being in DC, at least some of the time, is a good thing for me professionally, both for right now and for future work opportunities. (Although I'm really wondering if I want to stay in this rat race for the long-run anyway.)

You can imagine my relief, then, when I brought this up with my supervisor and she said, "As a contractor, I can't tell you where you can do your work. It's illegal! That and the most important part of your job is not the work you do on the Hill but the grassroots work you're doing in the field." Shew, ok! Not a barrier.Plus DC is just an hour's flight from Charlotte. Then she said, "Forgive me, I'm taking off my professional hat now and putting on the friend hat, but I do worry that you may be trying to run away from problems that are rooted in the internal, not the external."

Let me say that my supervisor/boss is like another mother to me. She's someone I've known for years, and I feel incredibly thankful to work with her now. She's wise, grounded, and an incredible listener. She knows all about my life, SCL, and my general feelings of unhappiness. And if there's anyone in DC whose perspective I would want, it's hers.

"I agree with you," I admitted. I know that I have a shit-ton of work to do on myself. Happiness and satisfaction come from within, and if I want to experience them, I will have to do that hard work no matter where I end up living. But my feeling is that changing some of the external things and improving my quality of life that way may actually facilitate doing that internal work. Right now I feel like my attempts to do the internal work are actually being hindered by the external things in my life here.

If you'll indulge me, here are a few of the external things Charlotte would offer.
  • Lower cost of living
  • Slower pace of life
  • Better weather (NC springs are the best) 
  • Within driving distance of my entire immediate family
  • Within driving distance of my best friend
  • Hub for other alums from my college 
  • Familiarity 
  • Distance from SCL (I mean, c'mon. It's tough living 3 blocks away from each other sometimes.) 
  • Good friends and mentors in the area

What I truly want in this situation is to feel like I have a choice in the matter.If I decide to stay in DC, it will be because I chose to. And if I decide to move, it will be a decision I am making for myself. Knowing I have a choice is incredibly liberating. Now I've got a lot of discerning, thinking, and journaling to do. But I believe in time I'll have my answer.

Friends in Low Places?

"All logistics aside, whom among your friends here would you want to be with you right now?" my therapist C asked.

Just minutes before I'd given her a laundry list of depression-like symptoms I'd been experiencing over the past several weeks: anxiety, inability to focus, excessive sleep, weight loss. Overall I felt like I was being pulled underwater by an undertow, or riding my bike uphill with a full-force wind gusting against me. No matter how much I fought, I could not seem to pull myself up. For a relatively competent, strong-willed person, this was proving to be...well, depressing.

Of course the break-up and subsequent flailing about have been tough on me. But lately it had begun intensifying, and the feelings of sadness were becoming more extreme and debilitating. I've had my bouts of gloominess and mourning at different times in my life, but never had I experienced the despair of feeling like I could not get out of bed, could not take a shower, could not function normally. And it was freaking me the hell out. Part of me was hoping she'd say, "Let's get you an appointment with a psychiatrist." Let me pop some pills, let me be abdicated of any responsibility. But the symptoms were relatively new. At least for the time being it was "episodic," a "depressive state."

In addition to feeling like shit, I was feeling isolated, too. At some of my hardest moments, all I wanted was some company, to be with somebody else. But when C asked me the question, "Who do you want to be here?" and I mentally went through my list of friends in the area, I could not come up with a single person I felt I could call to come sit with me in my puffy-eyed, unshowered misery. "I can't think of anyone." The truth killed me.

Somehow in the following days I managed to get my momentum going. I forced myself out of the house, to happy hours, to friends' houses, to the gym. I bought myself ingredients to make my favorite soup and cozy new sweatpants. I practiced the kindness to self that's so new to me. And by the next week I returned to my time with C feeling like things were getting back to normal again.

Feeling normal, that is, until my weekend in North Carolina when I was reminded of what it's like to be loved and known. I cried the entire six hour drive back to DC. I kept saying to myself, "Why am I torturing myself by living here?" Hell, even if I was just as miserable in NC, at least I'd have friends there who care for me just down the road and family close by. And since then I've barely managed to get out of bed. I'm back down in the valley and feeling more discouraged than before. How can I muster up the energy to pull myself out of this shit yet again?

I see now that what I really want is what I'm lacking most here. Not friends, not acquaintances, not social groups, not outings, not happy hours. It's the feeling of belonging somewhere. Of having friends who not only are up for a night out but are there in the dark places. Of having community, connection, realness. The person I have that most with here is SCL.

My friend L said it best: "It's like you are having to fight for every ounce of happiness you have there." That's exactly how it feels--a fight, a battle both internal and external. And I'm just getting exhausted. C says it's normal to feel like there won't be anything other than these feelings. I guess in that way at least I'm "normal" because I'm just not seeing a way out of this one.

Coming Home

Homecoming is one of those compound words I never thought about having actual meaning. I know, it's not that complicated: Coming + home = Coming home = Homecoming. But that's because in high school Homecoming was just an excuse to have a popularity contest with the whole queen thing, buy an expensive dress and pretend  you are having fun at an awkward dance. But this weekend I experienced a true "coming home" when I arrived on my college campus for the first time since I graduated in 2005.

Although I expected to feel out of place therer, especially in my singleness, I rarely felt lonely while I was there. Honestly the formal events--the receptions, the dinners, etc--were not that great. It's fun to have a glass of wine with someone from your freshman hall, but I could only take so much of that. Not the wine part, the bullshitting part. Especially when my Barbie doll roommate (aka "Blondeboobs") is there, making me feel all inadequate and shit. Most of my close friends are from grad school, not my undergrad.

But, I really made an effort to make the weekend my own home coming. Instead of booking a hotel, I stayed with the chair of the biology department who also happened to be my ballroom dance coach while I was a student. I met up with my major advisor for lunch and visited my voice teacher's studio. I even made a trip (nerd alert) to the library to "visit" my senior honors thesis, bound and with my name on the spine. I saw friends from other classes who now live in the area and all claim to love it. They're even working on me to move there.

The real highlight was a four-hour breakfast I had with my favorite prof A. She and I have the quintessential relationship that my alma mater brags about--in school she was my mentor, and as an alum she's my friend. A really good friend in fact. I've been on vacation with her family. We have phone dates at least once a month. When I got to her house, the first thing I did was dump an entire mug of scalding hot coffee on  her white place mat and her pristine hardwood floors, not to mention my own lap. In any other situation, I would have been completely humiliated. What'd she do? Handed me her favorite pair of yoga pants, threw my jeans in the washer, and told me she'd done the same thing just days before. If that's not love, I don't know what is. I heart friends you can be your own idiotic self with--and who insist that you are not an idiot even when you know you really are.

It was a fantastic, peaceful weekend. I definitely felt at home, relaxed, and completely normal in my messiness. I felt connected, known, and understood. If only I could figure out a way to feel that way in DC.

Carolina in My Mind

I'm packing up to hit the road, but this time not for work. Imagine that! Tomorrow I'll be heading down to North Carolina for my fifth year college reunion. I've been looking forward to this since last fall when life looked a lot different.

I haven't been talking about  my ex SCL on the blog much anymore, but he's been on my mind this week, mostly because of this reunion. This may be the last occasion that I'd really looking forward to doing together. My college is the one place I idealize, and I smiled at the thought of worlds colliding, of bringing him into my circle of friends and beloved professors and memories. I pictured the ring that would inevitably be on my finger by then, one like this, and how I'd get to talk with my old classmates about save-the-dates and honeymoon plans. 

It was a pretty picture. And now it's another loss. 
My college town is straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It's got a Main Street with an old-school soda shop. The town is manicured and picturesque  in a way that normally would irritate me. I love the city, especially for its diversity and realness. But for me this college town is my happy place, the one place I've forgiven all the bad and romanticized the reality. I think we all need something like that.

But, I don't feel like I'm going to fit back into that pretty picture. I see my classmates who seem to fit right in with their gorgeous wedding photos and chubby-cheeked cherub children. They will fit, I think to myself. But me? I feel like I've fallen behind on some understood timeline, that regardless of its ridiculousness does at times like these make me feel inadequate. 

As much as I don't want it to, I realize that this weekend may bring feelings of loneliness, of grief, and I should try to prepare myself for that possibility. It's an opportunity for me to practice that kindness toward self that I keep talking about, to allow for the space to feel what I'm feeling. And, I also know it's going to be fantastically fun to be back in my college town. I've already got three catch-up sessions with my favorite professors lined up! And of course I will enjoy seeing old friends and talking about old times.

So, it will be a bittersweet weekend, but one that I'm looking forward to regardless. It's just one of those times I really wish I could share with SCL.

Let the Sunshine In

What better way to defy the impending onset of wintry darkness than belting out "Let the Sunshine In" on stage at the Kennedy Center with the cast of Hair?

For those of you who haven't seen the show, it doesn't have much of a plot. As one of my friends said, it's more of a mood than a plot. And by mood, I mean drug-induced hallucination. But, it is a rockin', energetic show that engages the audience like none other I've seen. So much in fact that at the end, they invite audience members to join the cast on stage to dance and sing with them.

Now, I was sitting in the second tier (read: nosebleed section), and I was trying to figure out if I could get down there in time. My friend and I looked at each and then booked it down four flights of stairs, only to hear what we thought was the end of the music. Damn. Not to mention people were exiting the show, so we were going against traffic. But, at that point I was determined to get my ass up there.

That was when we heard them start "Let the Sunshine In." We rushed down the aisle, and were met by two cast members who took us by the hand, helping us on stage and took us right to the very front. It was the most thrilling experience I've had in a long time, being up there with hundreds of people all dancing and singing together. And when the music was over, one of the leads came over and threw her arms around me, thanking me for coming to the show! I couldn't believe how gracious they were and how connected I felt, how I was totally feeding on their post-performance high.

I'll admit, when I was up in the balcony, I was hesitant to rush the stage. No one else in our section was moving. But then I thought, Fuck it. I'm probably never going to get to dance and sing on the Kennedy Center stage again. And I'm so glad I didn't let that fear of looking like a fool get in my way.

The Freedom of Not Dating

I realize my posts have been less frequent, which is not because I don't want to write. I do. But with my new "I'm not chasing boys anymore" attitude, I don't have any dates to agonize over with you all. While I'm a little bummed about that, the trade-off is that I feel good. Really freaking good. Not all the time, certainly, but in general, I'm good.

What I see now that I couldn't see a few months ago is that many of my motives for doing the dating thing in the first place were fear-based. Fear that I wouldn't find someone. Fear that no one would want to date me. Fear that I couldn't possibly connect with another man. For someone who just got out of a two-year relationship with the man she thought she'd marry, that was to be expected. And I don't think it was foolish or dumb to jump into dating. I think it was my way of proving to myself that I could date. But, what I realized after the disaster with Dr. Not-so-much was that I'm not ready to date.

I'm not saying I'm closed off to the idea of meeting someone, but I'm certainly not going to make it my life's mission. For awhile there, I was expending most of my mental and emotional energy on men, which put me in a high-risk situation. High risk of getting my heart stomped on again. And I did.

But, once again my heart is healing. It's getting pretty damn good at that. And I'm experiencing a sense of freedom that I haven't felt...well, maybe ever. My mind isn't racing. I'm not being bombarded by winks and requests for communication and repetitive form questions in my inbox. I'm not swapping out my evenings with friends--or my quiet nights at home in my sweats--to try to pump myself up for yet another first date. Once I realized that it wasn't fun, I realized it wasn't worth my time now.

Of course I still hope to meet someone. But it's not the only hope I have for my life.

On Being a "Nice Girl": Week Thirteen of Therapy

I managed to pull myself out of the slump I was in last week through various means: Zumba class, Glee with friends, turning down dates, a Batgirl costume, and attending church. But the real kicker was the intentional focus on my self-talk and shifting toward being a better friend to myself.

I'm finding that like most changes, it's a matter of pushing through that initial stubborn, slow start where it feels as if it's taking all of my energy simply to get going. But once I've pushed over that hump, it's easier to maintain that trajectory. For example, I felt terrible when Mr. Tennis Pro, who'd been calling for weeks, finally asked me for a date and I turned him down. I hated the idea of disappointing him, even though we'd never met before.

And this is where the whole "Nice Girl" complex comes into play. C and I talked about this extensively in my session today, how girls often are taught to be nice, obliging others and putting their own desires and needs at the bottom of the list. In elementary school, I had a friend who always let me decide what we were going to play--if I were at her house, she'd say that I was the guest and that's why I got to pick; if we were at my house, she'd say it was my house and that's why I got to pick. Kind of a silly example, but I think the point is clear enough.

The remnants of the "nice girl" complex are alive and well in this 27-year-old. And I can see now how it's been a barrier to being something much better than nice--being kind. Especially to myself. I felt like Mr. Tennis Pro had been so sweet, patient,  and consistent--why wasn't I giving him a chance? I felt like I should give him a chance. But then I remembered, this isn't what I want right now. Yes, he was disappointed, but I knew that going out on a date with him was not what was right for me.

I can already see how I'm trying to change:  in my decisions to stop trying so hard in the romance department; to cut off ties with Dr. Not-so-much; to be more careful in what I choose to share on this blog (and spend more time in my personal journal); to ask for space in my office to get me out of the house more often; to let certain calls go to voice mail. It's a process, and like most things, I'm expecting a roller coaster, not a steady uphill climb. But, I do know that I am feeling infinitely better than I was just a week ago, not only because I've been doing the external things to lift my spirits but also because I'm getting a handle on changing the internal.

Heal Over, Friends

On a beautiful walk along the Potomac, Date Me, DC! and I discussed how while we are certainly feeling a bit down on this whole dating thing, our dear ones--our friends--are having even tougher times--lost jobs, broken relationships, and for one of my closest, the loss of her mother. I spent Saturday afternoon at her memorial service, in awe of this amazing woman's life and even more in awe of my friend, who read from the Gospel of John with such poise, passion, and insight. A true testament to her strength and faith.

During a much-needed nap, I got a text from my friend L who had visited last weekend, saying that she'd broken up with her boyfriend of six months--this after she'd just been through a divorce. I immediately called her, and my heart broke as she cried. All of the feelings, the confusion, the sense of "there's something wrong with me"--I got it. She didn't need to explain it. I was there with her. And I realized then how that is an internal battle we all face when the rug is yanked out from under us, and we are left with thousands of unanswered questions. 

I want to hold my friend close, to tell her in person that she is the most amazing woman I've ever met and that she deserves someone who will not leave at the first sign of difficulty. And I want it even more because I remember wanting her to be there with me when my inner critic was torturing me like that with self-doubt and self-hatred, so much so that I couldn't muster up the strength to tell it to shut up. 

I want her to know how brave she is to have trusted someone again, to have opened herself up after all of the hurt she's endured. That she is anything but a loser, despite her feeling that way right now. I want to cook for her and do her laundry, be with her as she cries and as she laughs again. More than anything, I want her to know that she will be alright. She will heal over someday.

And so will