I Am Not

I am the first to admit that I have my fair share of issues. And, I’d be the first to admit that those issues make things that aren’t a big deal into something much bigger and more drawn out simply because I can’t get a hold of myself.

Today has been no different.

I get severe anxiety (PTSD aftershocks!!) when someone with whom I’m in a relationship goes to leave and I’m unsure when I will see them again. The rational part of my brain knows this is ridiculous–this person is someone who cares about me and lives around the corner. I know I’ll be back soon.

But today, for some reason, when my boyfriend said he had to head out for the day I panicked. He’s heading upstate to see his mother. I have work. Not a huge deal. I might not sleep over tonight because I have other things I need to deal with. I work tomorrow. He does not, but I’m sure I can come over tomorrow night. I know all of this.

Yet, as he put his jacket on, an annoying voice in my mind screamed out, “He’s leaving you!! He doesn’t love you!”

I tried to ignore this voice as it was a monster just a few days ago and my boyfriend was awesome enough to talk me through it and calm me down; but, it lingered. He left and my first thoughts were to gather the few items I have in his apartment, take them with me, and threaten never to return. Like it was my goal to make him hurt the way I was hurting even though the pain I was feeling was entirely self-inflicted.

I took a deep breath and sat back–my anxiety doesn’t own me. I am not my anxiety. I do not have to succumb to its demands or irrational logic. It doesn’t have to hold me back. I can freely let it move through me. These are all things he said to me as he held me the other day and I know he’s right.

And now I’m sitting here drinking cold coffee, writing this blog on his computer because I like his keyboard way better than I like mine. Because I like his space. Because it calms me. I left the few items I have here in their places because I don’t want to hurt him and scare him into thinking I might not come back. I don’t want to lose something I value because of my anxiety. I don’t want to frustrate this man who makes my world better by giving into the irrational voices in my mind. I don’t want to lose myself in all of that.

I am not my PTSD. And I am certainly not the anxiety that comes along with it.

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Two Life Lessons for the Price of One

I’ve been learning some pretty important lessons lately and I’m enjoying each an every one of them with an open heart.

First, let me say that I have learned that women envy me and men really enjoy me. I know, you’re reading this and thinking I’m entirely self-center and conceited. You might be right, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true.

I have always had trouble in life making female friends. They seem to want to keep me down. I am confident person, especially since I lost weight. Even before then, though, my personality was generally one of laughter and goodness. I think men misinterpret my extreme laughter and goofiness for, “I want to sleep with you.”

The thing is, when you’re genuinely you, people are attracted to you. When you’re a young women, people are usually men. Some women who are deeply self-aware will also be attracted to you and they are my dearest friends. This is why most of my friends are men. They are drawn in by my laughter, smile and free-spirit. This intimidates the fuck out of women, who, in turn, bad mouth me. The few female friends that I do have are also free-spirited and goofy, so they get me.

So…this brings me to just a few hours ago. I made plans to meet an old coworker for dinner and drinks. He’s married. I’m married. I knew this. He knew this. I told my husband where I was going and who I’d be with. He did not do the same with his wife. We met up and just over an hour into our chats, which were mostly about him and his wife and their relationship, she showed up.

I don’t know how she found. Tracking on his phone maybe. I don’t particularly care. She was livid and rightfully so. He said he was out with a bunch of coworkers at another restaurant. So…that happened.

She stood there seething. I invited her to sit with us and apologized for the misunderstanding. She didn’t really seem to care. In those moments I could see that they were both unhappy and why this guy was out with me instead of home with her. I realized that his intentions were maybe not as innocent as I had once thought. I was mad at myself for not realizing this earlier…for letting him interpret my laughter and smiles as something more than ‘You are a cool friend and I’m glad to know you.”

She sat down and I introduced myself and tried to explain that we were actually talking about relationships–theirs. She didn’t care. She asked if my husband knew where I was. I said yes. She wanted me to call him. I decided I didn’t owe her that. Her distrust in her relationship isn’t a refection of mine. I get it, though. So? What do I do then?

Is it my fault that he lied to her? No.

Is it my fault their relationship was at a point where she distrusted him enough to follow him or track him or whatever? No.

Is it my fault that he thought maybe something more would come of our time together? No. But I can be more careful in how I handle myself around men.

And so, no more married men. Ever. I don’t know why I think those things can work out, but they can’t. My mind works so differently than others’. I try to find the best in people. I believe that when someone wants to talk to me it’s because they are interested in me–the person. I get it wrong sometimes and it never feels good.

So, there’s my first lesson(s): Be gentle with how I talk to men and how I carry myself, and, don’t talk to men who are married unless it’s directly related to work things.

What’s lesson number two then?

Well, my own marriage feels a bit dead lately. My husband and I are in two very different parts of our lives and I feel like I should have seen this before I said ‘I do’ but I didn’t and I can’t go back now.

Seeing these two people in front of me tonight was a huge wake-up call. I don’t want to be bitter and angry with my husband in twenty years. I don’t want us to hate each other. I don’t want him to be checking my GPS or vice versa.

If, at this early on in my relationship, I’m miserable, who’s to say that it can really be fixed? I feel like I got this glimpse into my future and I hated it so much.

Claiming Property

It’s been a while…quick update: I work some place new and I’m not terribly happy in my relationship. Moving on…

Work has been crazy. We’re doing that thing retail jobs have to do where they count everything in the store. It’s ridiculous, but sort of fun.

So, my bosses all had me prepping yesterday. It was lovely. I was hidden away and didn’t have to deal with too many customers. Of course, my lack of training meant I had a few questions. I ventured in and out of the office a couple of times, but one time really sticks out in my mind.

I head in armed with a question and find my boss isn’t there, but this other woman is. I look at her back and realize that somehow I’ve never met this woman, despite having worked there almost 3 months already; but, I know she answered one of my earlier questions so I go for it.

She answers it but before I turn and leave, (which I really should have done), I notice she’s listening to one of my favorite songs. I say such to her and she actually looks up at me and says, “Hi. We haven’t met. I’m Julie, Paul’s wife.”

After she says this, I pause. Women only introduce themselves like that for two reasons: one-they’re at an event with their husband and that’s how other guests at said event will draw the connection or two-they are claiming their property. She was claiming her property.

How do I know? Well, Paul is great. I’ve been working with him for weeks–he’s been training me on some things and we’ve had a great time of it. I am certain that people have said things. We laugh a lot back there. We make eye contact. I’m not dumb. I can feel the energy of people when I share their space.

I have never felt compelled to introduce myself as my husband’s wife. I didn’t take his last name. I don’t belong to him and he certainly doesn’t belong to me. This makes it even funnier to me when women try this strategy.

Here’s what I wanted to say: “Hi, Julie. I’m Sara. That sounds like a challenge I’d gladly accept.”

Here’s what I said: “Hi, Julie. I’m Sara. Nice to meet you.”

Ten points to me for practicing using my censor. And ten points to Julie for knowing her competition.

Keep Your Sign at Home

We got a new boss at the beginning of the year. Which was nice because I wasn’t super fond of the old boss. The first big ‘motivating’ speech New Boss gave to us contained winning lines like:

I don’t want to interfere at all,

Just go ahead and pretend like I’m not here,

and

I didn’t even want a President position, but you are the best campus in the region so I figured it would be easy to step in.

Obviously, after welcoming lines like that, I couldn’t wait to have New Boss step in and support me. 

So, as the weeks have passed by, he is actually doing more than he claimed he would. It’s nice because he is observing and when I tell him something, (When was the last time you ran this report? I’ve never run that report), he doesn’t fly off the handle. He just writes on his (growing) list.

So maybe we’re not the most organized, rule-following campus after all.

Overall, I was feeling more at ease with him UNTIL New Boss moved his personal affects into his office. Then this wooden sign started glaring at me. And my anger started boiling over.

 

Okay. First, I’m glad New Boss’s kid thinks he’s a great dad. Assuming his kid bought this for him.

The problem I have with this sign is the message it conveys to me (of course.).

Either it says I’m not a good kid because my dad wasn’t great, or it says my dad is great, (if disowning your child on more than one occasion constitutes greatness). This sign does not leave room for gray areas. You are either every good kid or you’re not.

This shouldn’t be up in his work office. Why?

Because we work in school with a population of disadvantaged students. Students who have come from rough backgrounds. Students who might not have had the privilege of growing up with great dads. Students who struggle with self awareness.

Which is why I think he should keep his sign at home. Whether or not he’s aware of it, New Boss is putting a gap between himself and much of the student population. While I can separate his kid’s goodness and his greatness from my own situation, there is a high chance that many of our students read that and it triggers a drop in self confidence and a strain on their relationship with New Campus President.

Much of our life challenges, especially those who take visible leadership roles, is to understand what we do (or have in our space) that triggers people. And we do a lot of things every single day that trigger others. Good leaders know they can’t avoid all triggers. They also actively try to create a welcoming environment.

New Boss is definitely struggling to find his place in our community. There is a gap that time will hopefully bridge. That is, if he decides he wants to step into the position of Campus President…which he clearly stated wasn’t something to which he ever aspired.

Vastly Loving

Love feels different than I thought it would when I was younger. It’s more vast than I imagined, too.
Perhaps we’re taught by society about a narrow type of love. A love that consists of one other person we’re not related to and then lots of people to whom we are related. Parents, siblings, children, etc. Potentially there exists a love between two friends, but it must be a long term friendship for it to be justified.
As I’ve grown, I disagree vehemently with that concept. I believe there are layers–depths–to love. Different loves. Different experiences.
Once, I met a man and fell in love with him the same day. The first thing he said to me, “I’m not much for bar banter.” We talked for hours about meaningful things. No bar banter. For two weeks we had a long distance relationship. I loved him. I love him still. I will probably never speak to him again. I don’t love him the way I love my partner or my best friend or my mom. But, for the two days we were together, I could actually see our souls dancing and playing above us. Like two children being reunited. Maybe the conclusion of years of trying to connect.
I’ve spent a good portion of my life feeling suicidal/depressed. I had the great privilege of having an instructor who saved my life. I wrote him a letter to tell him that information. I hope he still has it. He changed me. He changed how I saw the world. We haven’t spoken in a long time, but, unlike the fast, conclusive love I wrote about above, our love is deep and will span lifetimes. The love the professor and I have for each other is mutual, but incomplete. It did not run its full course this life and we are still connected. I know we still think of each other in a very plutonic way, but it is loving. There is no doubt. Again, a different type of love.
Love is sometimes heavy. It is sometimes freeing. It can be physical or truly not exist in the physical world at all. Love can be immersive. Brief. Soul-awakening. All or none or things yet discovered.
The love I have for my partner is expansive. It is deep. We met many years ago when we were unable to love each other wholly. So we waited. And waited. Until it clicked. I love him unlike any other partner I have had previously. Much of our love exists because we don’t need each other–we respect that we are separate people who have come together to share our lives. It is beautiful because of that.
The trouble is that sometimes we aren’t allowed space to experience love because of how society requires it to fit into boxes. After being friends with someone for ten years, I’ve just recently told her that I love her, despite knowing I’ve loved her for years. I love to experience love. I love how love lifts me.
I meet people for only brief moments and I feel love for them, but don’t tell them. I know people over lifetimes and still can’t tell them. The constraints are oppressive. Unnecessary. Love is perhaps the only pure and true feeling and we are constrained to whom we can say it.
And yet, each day I am blessed to feel love for many people on many levels.
 

They’re Progressive Lenses

I was cleaning out my wallet today when I found a reminder card for an eye doctor’s appointment in mid-March. I made it a year ago, after the conclusion of what was probably one of the saddest moments in my adult life (exaggeration).

Glasses became a fixture in my life when I was about 5 years old. I probably didn’t need them at that age, but my best friend got a pair and I really, really wanted to have everything she had. Back at that time, glasses were large, round, and metal-framed. After I saw my best friend’s pair, I was determined to get a pair for myself.

I asked her what she felt like before she got glasses. Headaches from squinting were what got to her. Armed with that information, I sat down in front of the television with my parents and started squinting.

‘What does that say? Mom, I can’t see that very well.’

She didn’t buy it. Smart lady. But I wasn’t ready to give up.

I complained about headaches at school. I claimed I needed to move closer to the front in order to see the board. Not too long after that, the school contacted my parents to tell them they felt I needed to get to the eye doctor. At this point, my parents couldn’t refuse a visit to the eye doctor and I had succeeded!

I squinted and squirmed on that chair, excited to be like my best friend. I said I couldn’t see things that I probably could see if I wasn’t squinting to pretend I couldn’t see. By the end of the appointment, the doctor concluded that I had a slight problem seeing distances–nothing too serious, but if I was getting headaches, he would give me glasses to correct the issue.

I picked out my frames, (huge, metal, round…goofy looking). I wasn’t aware that I would walk out of the office without my new glasses. I guess I thought they could do everything right there. I was disappointed.

That was the start of a lifetime of decreasing vision and people asking me if I’m blind without my glasses on. When I go to the eye doctor’s now, I pray that she will say my vision hasn’t changed despite knowing I’m having more trouble seeing. I pray that I can just keep the frames and lenses I currently own and pay for only new contacts. That has never happened. Every single freaking time I go to that wretched place, the eye doctor proclaims my eyes are worse and I need a new prescription.

Also, to answer your question, I’m not blind without my glasses. When I take my glasses off, instead of the world going black, it just gets out of focus. It’s very, very out of focus, but I can still see outlines of things that aren’t too far away. Thanks for your concern.

Just under a year ago, in mid-March of 2013, I went to the eye doctor for the worst day of my adult life. I did not have insurance before then (from 2010 to 2013), so I knew I was way overdue for things. I had been wearing the same pair of contacts for over a year (I know! Sooo bad for the eyes!). I sat down, took all of the eyes tests, and discovered how much my eyes had changed over the previous 3 years.

After the exam part was completed, my doctor pulled her chair up over to me and broke the bad news that I could sense about 2 minutes into the exam.

‘Your eyes have changed a lot since your last prescription. I, honestly, don’t even want you to wear your old glasses anymore, but I know you need to. Never put those contacts in your eyes again.’
I nodded.
‘Here’s the thing, I think it would be best for you if you get progressive lenses.’ She paused. ‘Progressive lenses help you see far away, medium, and close up. So across a room, a computer screen, and a book.’
I pondered that over. ‘Wait, trifocals?!?’
‘No, they’re progressive lenses. There are no lines.’

She could try and call them whatever she wanted. At a ripe old age of 28, I was getting trifocals. I wanted to cry. Maybe this was my punishment for faking my first eye exam. I picked out frames and chose the right type of lenses for my shitty eyes. The receptionist ran my debit card for almost $600 with insurance. I wanted to be sad about how much they cost, but I couldn’t get over my trifocals disguised as progressives.

I called my mom. She told me horror stories of people who got progressive lenses and couldn’t adjust to them. I told people where I work and they told me horror stories. I felt the horror. I sat in the horror. I tried to laugh.

A week later, the office called me to pick up my new glasses. Despite the terrible horror stories I heard, I found them easy to adjust to and I could see again. My eyes stopped hurting and my headaches disappeared. I could see better driving at night.

Unfortunately, however, just under a year later, I’m starting to have trouble seeing again and am dreading that expensive eye doctor’s appointment coming up in two months where, despite my prayers, I know I will need new glasses again.

A Woman of God

Over the last two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure (?) of two interactions with a woman who claims she’s a woman of God. I believe what she means by this is that she goes to church regularly and then picks and chooses what parts of the Catholic faith are meaningful and helpful to her each day, then disregards the rest.

As a spiritual woman, myself, I find it incredibly challenging to deal with people who claim to be religious, then do things so out of line with what the religion calls for as ways of acting. I once felt that religion would destroy humanity, but spent two years at a Catholic university. There, I learned and study the true meaning of Catholic Social Thought and my faith in most humanity was restored. Of course, what would anything in the world be if there weren’t some people hell-bent on ruining things that most people enjoy? And that’s where Woman of God comes in…

Her first phone call to me came late on a Friday night. While the call caught me off guard, I genuinely wasn’t surprised by it. Over the previous month, I had developed a close relationship with her husband. He wasn’t happy with her for many reasons, and I was struggling to find connection with someone since my own relationship had been rocky. Naturally, we connected. He is into gaming. I am into gaming. He is into futuristic technology. I am into futuristic technology. He needed an escape from his reality. I needed an escape from my reality. You get the picture…two unhappy people drawn to each other. Nothing ever really happened, (fine, one kiss), but we spent A LOT of time talking to each other. Woman of God found out.

I answered the phone as calmly as I could. Immediately, she flew off the handle accusing me of things that never happened. During my time at my Catholic University, I was taught to treat every person and every situation with love–especially those situations and people that seem least deserving. That is what I did in this situation. I never raised my voice. I never got angry. I never assumed or accused. I listened and offered my viewpoints, but nothing more. Woman of God (I didn’t know this about her at this point in the conversation, though) continued to take her anger out on me, and I graciously accepted that role believing that the Universe put me here at this time to ease her pain.

Finally, when it seemed like nothing would break me and that I clearly wasn’t as deeply affected by her anger as she hoped, she announced that she was a Woman of God and that, as a Woman of God, she hoped and knew that God would do something as awful to me as I had done to her by stealing her husband. I may have snickered at this, I don’t remember. I even had to restate her statement to her, “Are you saying that you, as a Woman of God believe that God is spiteful and is going to harm me?” She responded with a yes and that I deserved it. I remember thinking that at my university we were never taught that God was vengeful and always believed that he was forgiving of others who wished to receive forgiveness. I also remember thinking that I didn’t actually break up her marriage and that she just blindly accused me of things without accepting my responses. I briefly wondered what God thought of all of that.

After 35 minutes on the phone with Woman of God, she hung up. I put the phone down and waited for applause to start. I just spent 35 minutes listening to Woman of God with as much love as I could muster despite her accusations and curses from the heavens. But, alas, no applause greeted me. Some of the emotions I suppressed during the conversations arose and I felt myself begin to shake. I let the emotions wash over me, then I let it all go.

Two weeks passed without incident. The guy told me he wanted to work out his relationship and I agreed that I wanted to do the same in my own. I guess our experiences were different. Where I found a renewed sense of enthusiasm, I suppose he found mistrust and misplaced anger because on our first day back to work together (yeah, forgot to mention that additional piece of messiness), she was calling his phone like crazy. As soon as he sat down to do something, it rang and he got up and disappeared to take the call.

Then, as any good Woman of God would do, she called me at work. She must have called the main line and asked to be transferred to my extension. I picked up the phone and before I even completed saying my name, Woman of God berated me for still talking to her husband. Now, my desk is out in the middle of the work area and she was yelling quite loudly. The good thing about it all was that it took me so long to register what was happening that I couldn’t even come up with anything to say back to her. This was fortunate because  I was able to use my dumbfounded expression as a cover for staying silent in the office area.

She found more emails, (consequently, they were the old emails that prompted her to call me the first time, but she was so enraged she couldn’t look at the date to see when they were sent), and felt the only thing a Woman of God could do was to call me at my place of business and threaten to come down to where I work and beat the shit out of me. She actually threatened to beat the shit out of me twice in our short interaction. Then she hung up.

It was only after the loud echoes of her voice emptied from my head that I recalled she was a Woman of God and felt that I could laugh at whatever flawed logic allowed her to call me and threaten my life and still go to church feeling justified due to some old junk emails I sent back in March of 2013 that contained links to coupons for a computer game.