Sunday, 30 September 2012

Borderline Genius

Day 52
313 Days Remaining 

When I was first gathering all the reading material I could about bipolar disorder, trying to figure out if this was indeed the problem that had been plaguing me for so many years (see "Admitting It Is the First Step"), I had come across the term "borderline personality disorder" on a few of the accounts I read.  It was referred to fleetingly and in terms that almost made it seem as though it was on par with being a psychopath.  I thought I knew what was wrong with me, so I continued to research bipolar disorder (BP) and felt a sinking despair when I read about the many different cocktails of chemicals that were used to treat the disorder.  A chemical imbalance in the brain could only be treated by introducing new chemicals that could counterattack, right?  Most of the texts mentioned that no single drug was used to treat the disorder, and that it could take a while to find the prescription that would work for each individual.  Often, a BP patient would have to be on one particular drug for a long period of time, side effects and responsiveness closely monitored, before they would try another one.  Most would take a long time to show effectiveness, although the side effects - such as weight gain, irritability, thyroid problems - which I already had - stomach irritation, and memory or concentration problems, would often show up quickly.  The books did not paint a pretty picture.


The idea of chemical treatment was not one I enjoyed.   Lithium, in particular, worried me, as it often presented with all the side effects mentioned above and more, and was usually the first drug of choice to treat BP.  With my family history of thyroid problems and my recognition that if I did have BP, it would probably be classified as "rapid cycling" (as I mentioned in my last post, my elevated emotional reactions did not last for weeks or months at a time, but instead moved quickly from one to the next with no necessary nor, sometimes, apparent cause), I was not looking forward to that initial prescription I was likely to receive.  Lithium, they said, is often not effective on rapid-cycling BP, and often takes a few weeks to reach effectiveness.  It worried me that I might have to try it and that there was a great chance that it would not work at all.  I also worried about becoming dependent on any chemical, although I recognized that if it were something that could control the behavior and the mood swings, it would be necessary.  I reasoned that if I had diabetes, I would take insulin; if I had cystic fibrosis, I would take antibiotics and steroids, in both cases to help my body - and brain - function the way it was unable to on its own.  I resigned myself to a future filled with prescriptions, but knew that if it got me out of this endless cycle, I would accept it. 

Two months after my doctor suggested that I may have BP, I finally got in to see the psychiatrist that she had referred me to.  Let me tell you, if I disliked the idea of going on antipsychotics, lithium, or antidepressants, I liked the idea of going to see a psychiatrist at the Eric Martin Institute even less.  When I was growing up, the EMI was the place where all the "crazy people" went; if someone was acting in a strange manner we'd all call them nuts and joke that they'd "end up at the Eric Martin" - essentially, the "looney bin".  
I pulled in to the parking lot with my heart beating a mile a minute, but it wasn't just from the stigma of potentially being spotted by peers who would make fun of me; more important was the fact that I was getting closer and closer to a diagnosis.  I would finally know what was wrong, finally have a name for it, and finally be able to work toward getting better.  I was at over 50 days "rage-free", marked on my calendar with those big red X's and ever-increasing number count, and I hoped that this psychiatrist could help me continue the streak.  I put aside any worry of being judged and faced the music with hope that I could start down the path toward a healthy future.  Of course, I had already started when I made the decision to seek help and began jotting down notes of what triggered me and different ways of helping myself deal with the reactions, but I was still under the impression that I had BP and would require medication to continue healing.

The psychiatrist was great.  He listened as I recounted my experiences and asked a question here or there.  When I had finished telling him everything I could think of - and of course I soaked through a few Kleenexes - he asked if I had done any research on bipolar disorder, and asked how well I thought the description fit what was going on with me.  I explained how a lot of it seemed right, but that it had niggled at me that my so-called "manic" and depressive episodes could switch in a matter of moments.  Everything else, I assured him, seemed to point to BP.

He sat back and appraised me.  The gesture was so like that of the stereotypical TV psychiatrist - although his glasses were not low on the bridge of his nose, but firmly pushed up - that I would have never allowed any character I wrote to act that way, for fear of it being dismissed as "too cheesy".  I nearly expected him to pull the glasses off and stick one temple bar in his mouth as he leaned against the black leather of his creaky desk chair.

Instead, he rummaged below his desk and came out with a book.  Its cover featured a close-up black-and-white picture of a young girl staring into the distance.  "Get me out of here", it beseeched the reader, with the subheading "My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder".


"I want you to take this book and read it," he urged, "and the next time you come back here, I want you to tell me if any of it resonates with you."  I recalled the few words I had read about borderline personality disorder (BPD) and my impression that it was a psychotic disorder - in short, that I really was crazy - and that meant I would be ostracized and abandoned.  Nonetheless, I nodded, and I took the book home with me that day.

I lost myself - and then found myself - in Rachel Reiland's true story of how she had suffered as a teenager from extreme emotional imbalance.  I read how it carried over into all her relationships, into her marriage, with her children, with her family.  I read how she couldn't control the immensity of her feelings and wondered what was wrong with her for years; how she alienated people who cared about her because she would lash out at them in rage; how she felt that no one understood her, that no one could possibly understand her.  Everything in Rachel's story resonated with me.  I felt as though I was reading my own life on those pages.

The book brought me to some online research, where I found a list; the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition) had certain criteria with which they confirmed the existence of BPD in an individual.  Of the list of nine presenting criteria, a person could be classified as having the disorder if they exhibited five of more of the symptoms.  I exhibited - and had for years - seven of the nine.

I told the psychiatrist as much at our next meeting.  "Yes," I said; "this makes sense.  Everything here is me.  I have experienced everything that she went through."

"Well then," he told me, "that's it then.  You've just diagnosed yourself with borderline personality disorder."

Characteristically, I burst into tears.  Relieved, terrified, feeling justified that there was a real reason behind all that I had been through, and absolutely desperate to fix it now that I knew, I sat in the psychiatrist's office and sobbed my heart out.  But I had already started down the path to healing, and from that point on, it got better every day.



From the DSM-IV list of BPD criteriaBORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER: A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:  

  1. frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. 
  2. a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation. 
  3. identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self. 
  4. impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).   
  5. recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior 
  6. affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days). 
  7. chronic feelings of emptiness 
  8. inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights) 
  9. transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Admitting It is the First Step

Day 48
317 Days Remaining

Imagine that you walk outside into the gorgeous morning sunlight.  The birds are chirping, the sun gently touches your skin, the cool air greets your cheeks with a kiss.  You feel alive, well, and happy.

All at once, the sun brightens and continues to brighten, getting slowly more and more radiant until it becomes hard to look anywhere without the rays blinding you.  You shade your face, trying to make it go away, but you can feel the heat and light of the sun beating on you, no matter what you do.

Then, the gentle chirps of the birds begin to increase in volume.  The light background noise becomes louder and louder until you can no longer detect individual sounds.  It blurs into a cacophony of sound that is louder than any rock concert, forcing you to your knees with your arms pressed tightly against your ears and over your eyes, trying to protect yourself from the onslaught of sensory information.

While you are still crouched there, desperately attempting to shut out all the glare and dissonance, the gentle wind that you had felt on your cheeks picks up, catching your hair in a tight grip and whipping it around your head.  Your clothes are pulled at, and you feel the swirling air flowing around you, madly clutching at you as you try to stay steady in your crouch.  With the deafening sound pounding your ears, the intensity of the sun breaking through the filter of your lids, and the sudden whirlwind thrashing at you, you can no longer stay upright, and you are knocked, sprawling, desperate and in pain, to the ground.  Yet there is still no escape...even flattened to the cement, you are battered by the wind and assaulted by the sun and noise.  There is no escape.

This is what living with borderline personality disorder is like.


Instead of light, sound and wind, try to picture living with emotions that are experienced to their most heightened extent.  Everything you feel, you feel to the extreme.  Happiness is bursting.  Sadness is desolate.  Fear is all-consuming.  No matter how much you try to ignore or control them - and, when this is the only normal you know, you may not even realize that they should be controlled or ignored - you cannot escape from the grip of the way your own brain experiences life.  It affects everything you try to do.  It takes over.

You may have heard of Bipolar Disorder, all too commonly (and erroneously) called Multiple Personality Disorder.  In a lot of ways it is similar to BPD, especially in that emotions are experienced to their very extreme.  The main difference is that with people who suffer from Bipolar Disorder, their manic stage (defined by theefreedictionary.com as "an abnormally elated mental state, typically characterized by feelings of euphoria, lack of inhibitions, racing thoughts, diminished need for sleep, talkativeness, risk taking, and irritability") stretches on for a long period of time, sometimes weeks or months, and then alternates with a similarly lengthy period of depression.  With BPD, there is no stretch of one heightened emotion or another; you are bounced back and forth between them with no warning nor necessarily any particular real reason for the change.  Imagine trying just to function normally with even just one of those factors (wind or heat or noise) assaulting you.  Then picture trying to skateboard through a park where the wind and the heat and the noise all take turns throwing themselves at you without warning, sometimes two at once.

Most people feel one or two of these at a time, and at "normal" levels
From my early teens, I suffered from borderline personality disorder, and had no idea what was wrong with me until I was nearly in my mid-thirties.  For twenty years I fought through my emotions, realizing that the way I felt and experienced things was not normal to other people, and constantly vowing to find a way to get a handle on them "next time", but never finding a way to do that.  My marriage was extremely strained - and although of course I realize it takes two to make a marriage work, and I am not blaming either one of us more than the other, but my emotional excess definitely played a part in it - my relationship with my children suffered after our separation because I absolutely did not know how to get a grip on the pain I was feeling, and I too often found myself seeking absolution in the wrong pair of arms.  I did see a counselor following the breakup of my marriage, but her "yes-man" techniques did nothing to help me work through my issues; she basically told me that I should just do whatever "felt right".  Happy to be given permission, I did.  It went wrong, as did so many other things I attempted.  Then a particularly bad fight with my boyfriend led to my realization that there really was something wrong with me.  This kept happening.  It couldn't only be that I chose the wrong people to be in relationship with (although that was, likely, a factor); I could feel deep down that there was an issue that needed to be addressed once and for all.

I made a visit to my family doctor, who had been with me through my entire marriage, three pregnancies, and a lot of ups and downs, and after a lengthy session (full of tears, naturally!) she suggested - gently - that I may be bipolar.  Although it hurt to consider that there could be something very wrong with me, I accepted it because I knew that once I finally had a diagnosis, something could be done to attempt to rectify it.  My doctor told me she would work on getting me in to see a psychiatrist, and in the meantime, I should read up on the disorder.

I did more than read.  I took dozens of books out of the library and worked through them diligently, filling my head with as much information as I could.  I began to make lists of what triggered my extreme emotional reactions, because as they say, "Forewarned is forearmed."  If I was prepared for how certain things would affect me, I would better be able to stop the emotions from getting out of control.  I wrote reminders to myself: "It is okay to feel this right now."  "This is a real feeling, and you are allowed to feel it...just watch what you do with it." "You are in control of your feelings; they are not in control of you."  I began putting that big red X and a number beside it on the calendar for each day that I did not have an extreme emotional reaction.  If I slipped up and reacted in any way that was outside the accepted norm, I had to start counting the days over again.  Everything I had read about bipolar disorder sounded right to me, except for what I mentioned earlier: I did not have long periods of mania followed by long period of depression.  I could have a "manic" episode that lasted half a day, then watch a sanitary napkin commercial (all floaty and misty and mother/daughtery) and burst into tears.  I could be feeling like it was the end of the world one moment and then be dancing to music and baking chocolate chip cookies the next.  There was no rhyme nor reason to my emotional roller-coaster.  Nonetheless, I assumed that my doctor knew what she was talking about - and everything else seemed to fit - so I looked forward to the day when I could get in to see the psychiatrist, and could be given a diagnosis and perhaps find a course of treatment that would finally help.

And in the meantime, I continued to read, to practice practical and acceptable responses to emotional situations, and to mark those big red X's on my calendar.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tales from the Dating Archives: The Story of Stringer (Part II)

Part II
...and what I learned from it.

July 2007 - July 2009:  If any relationship could be described as "passionate", it was the one I had with Stringer.  Both of us attacked life with gusto, and once we accepted that we had feelings toward one another that were more than just friendship, we threw ourselves into the courtship wholeheartedly.  We both knew that it was too soon after things ending with Black Luke for us to be getting in deep, but affection developed quickly.  Stringer knew all about the intensity of what I felt for Black Luke, and, wanting to be there for me as I continued to work through the difficult end of that relationship, he listened to my weeping and crying and soul-searching as I tried to figure out what had gone wrong.  It was, in a way, very strange that I was talking to my new boyfriend about my previous one, but Stringer had also become my best friend, and he was patient and caring as he continuously offered me his shoulder.


Stringer didn't tell me until much later how difficult it had been for him to hear me cry about another man, but I can only imagine what that put him through.  He was falling in love with me and he could see that I was still in love with Black Luke.  My feelings for Stringer were different from what I had known with Black Luke, but they were no less real.  I remember talking to him about it at the time: how Black Luke had told me that he loved me, and that perhaps the word "love" meant something very different to each person.  Black Luke telling me that he loved me might have meant a certain type of affection that was nowhere near the all-consuming comfort and desire that I felt for him.  I found a quote in a novel that I was reading at the time that seemed to sum up these thoughts neatly, and I shared it with Stringer:
"Do you want to hear an interesting fact?" said Jo. "Eskimos apparently have over fifty different words for snow. Snow's really important to those guys - I suppose it's because sometimes the difference between one type and another can mean the difference between life or death." She paused and laughed self-consciously. "You know they've got words for dry snow and wet snow, fluffy snow and compact snow. They've got words for snow that comes down fast and for snow that comes down slow - they've thought of everything."
"That's a lot of snow," commented Rob ... "So, what's your point?" ...

"Well, its like this," replied Jo. "If Eskimos can come up with fifty words for snow because it's a matter of life or death, why is it that we've only got one word for 'love'?"
- Mike Gayle, Brand New Friend   

Thereafter, as my feelings for Stringer grew even stronger, I would look at him and begin to feel the urge to tell him I loved him.  Remembering how that had ended up with my last boyfriend, I shied away from it, but when I would look at him and see his eyes soften with affection toward me, I wanted so badly to tell him how I felt.  I knew it was a different type of love than what I had felt before, but I definitely felt it.  When I shyly explained it to him, and he acknowledged his own reticence to speak those slightly terrifying words, we began our tradition: rather than saying "I love you" when that strong urge hit, we would simply say, "Snow."  It was our secret language, and no one in the world could know what it meant to us.  I called him my Snow Prince; I was his Snow Angel.  It was lovely to mean so much to someone again, and to feel the same way about him.


The things we had in common seemed, at first, to outweigh our differences.  We loved to watch movies, to listen to music, to play music - him on the guitar; me on the piano - and we laughed so much together.  The small taste of heavy metal that I had gotten during my time with Black Luke became something that I learned a lot more about, and I discovered that I actually enjoyed the intricacies of metal music (as long as it had clean vocals - I still wasn`t crazy about the "growling"!). Our time was precious and limited, as I had the kids a lot, so when we did see each other we didn't waste much time.  Although I worked hard to figure out the schedule (I would write down everything, between my work, his work, and my kids, so that Stringer would know exactly when time would allow us to be together), it was hard on him to share me with them.  I didn't want them to meet him yet, and he didn't really want to spend time with me with my kids.  I think it was easier for him to forget our age difference if he didn't see me in that role of "Mom".  He wanted me to be younger, less experienced, with less responsibility, so that we could pretend that we were just starting out on life together.  Reminders of my other roles in life rankled him.  He felt as though we had been cheated by being born in different decades; he wished he had met me as a teenager so that we could grow together, so that my kids could have been our kids, and he didn't have to be reminded that I had ever belonged to someone else.  Add to that the fact that I was still dealing with difficulties with the kids' dad on a daily basis, and spent a large part of our two-year relationship still working to get completely over Black Luke, and it was a strain.

We had fights.  As passionately as we felt for each other, that passion bled into the other parts of our lives.  When either one of us felt strongly about something, we reacted hugely: Stringer usually with anger; me most often with tears for fear of losing him (hey, Tears for Fears - I never got that before!).  He would yell; I would cry.  Then I would yell and he would get defensive and more angry.  We wanted to be together desperately, and every time that was threatened, we didn`t know how to contain all our emotion.  He would back away from the conflict - sometimes very literally, leaving the house and storming down the street in an effort to walk off his agitation - while I would follow, desperate to fix whatever had gone wrong.  He needed space to work through how he was feeling and to calm down; I was terrified that any separation would become a permanent one, so I hounded him until he was feeling even more agitated and upset.  It left both of us exhausted and emotionally wrung out, and as time went on, it happened more and more often.  After every conflict, we would rush back together, filled with apologies, explanations, and hope for the future.  I looked for signs, in him and in the world, that we would make it work, despite the age difference, but deep down I think I always knew that it wouldn't work out the way we wanted.  He was just starting out in his life, and I had already lived so much of what was ahead of him.  The balance just wasn't there.


We spent nearly two years entrenched in this passion - loving each other, frightened to death that we would lose each other, railing against our age difference and the fact that where we were in our lives just couldn't mesh.  We broke up, we got back together, we finally decided that we were done...and then raced toward each other again.  It was as though we were magnets that were constantly changing polarity - being forced away from each other, then inexplicably drawn back.  This blog post does not touch on the ever-increasing intensity of our fights and breakups, but through it, I felt like I was going crazy.  I acted crazy.  During one of these particularly bad fights, Stringer let it fly: "You're crazy!  I honestly think you are crazy!"

I felt as though he had punched me in the heart.  He had hit me where I was most sensitive: the truth that I was most terrified of.  Memories flooded back.  High school, when I had huge rages triggered by nothing much worse than being disciplined by my parents, where I would writhe on the floor as I screamed before curling into a corner and sobbing that no one understood me, while they stood helpless and bewildered.  All the relationships I had been through as a teen, going from one man to another in order to feel less empty inside, never feeling right, considering suicide when I was betrayed yet again by someone I cared about.  Days of wandering around unable to feel much of anything, because I had thrown a huge emotional fit where I screamed until I felt like I had broken inside, then snapped and walked around unwilling to speak, unable to focus, undone.  My marriage had been more of the same, marked by massive emotional disturbances on my part, huge overreactions to little things, days when I punched holes in the wall with the enormity of my pain and frustration.  All my attempts to fill the spaces inside with destructive behavior, throughout my teens, my single years, and my marriage, hoping that something would click and I would finally feel whole, and right, and loved.  And here I was again, throwing a fit and unable to contain the depth of my emotion and the strength of my reaction.  Stringer must be right.  I must be crazy.  Despite the fear of being stigmatized, it felt like a puzzle piece settling firmly into just the right place, and it didn`t upset me...it just created a strong need in me to figure out what was wrong with me, and how to fix it.

This could not continue.  I didn't want to find myself in another relationship that was ruled by warring passions, and I knew that a large part of the blame lay within me.  I began to make lists of what triggered these all-encompassing, hugely reactional episodes, so that I could be on guard against them.  I went to my family doctor and explained my issues, and, based on what I described, she thought that perhaps I may have bipolar personality disorder.  I began to read up on the disorder, wanting to understand what had ruled me for so long.  I began to mark a giant red "X" on my wall calendar for each day that passed where I did not have a "rage" reaction.  Slowly, the calendar began to fill with red.  Stringer accompanied me to sessions with a counselor, where we tried to piece together what could be wrong with me.  As my need to discover why I was the way I was grew, I was more and more able to see that my relationship with Stringer wasn't working.  We were no longer making each other happy, and the disturbing, overly emotional reactions on both our parts were happening more frequently.

After a tumultuous and eye-opening two years, it came to an end, although it did not die easily.  The relationship was over, but Stringer and I both still clung to it.  Finally, we let it fade, and I continued working through what I had come to recognize was something that would affect every relationship I attempted from that point on if I did not attend to it now.

What I learned:  Stringer's pursuit of nursing as a career inspired me to change careers, from insurance to health care, and he helped guide me through the process to get to where I am now.  I am grateful for this every day when I go to work, and now that I am in the nursing program at school, I am reminded of those first days when I would drive Stringer to school and drop him off with a kiss.  I don't know if I would be in this program and working toward maternity nursing if it weren't for Stringer's encouragement and inspiration.


I also learned that red flags are important.  Stringer and I probably lasted a lot longer than we should have; all those breakups would have been unnecessary if we had stayed broken up the first time.  I'd like to think that I learned that once you recognize a relationship is irreparably broken, you should leave it and not try again time after time, but in the context of my rather drawn-out breakup with HB, I would have to say that I did not learn that lesson.  Age difference wasn't necessarily the killer of my time with Stringer, but the fact of us being in such different places in our lives - and a certain level of maturity disparity - was part of what did it.  When you're 49 and 38, eleven years probably doesn't make that much difference, but when you're 32 and 21, you feel it.  I knew that from the beginning, but I didn't listen.  Part of me wanted to beat the odds.  Hey, my grandparents had a 15-year age difference (Grandma was fifteen years older), and they met when Grandpa was 21.  He never looked at another woman for the rest of her life, and hasn't since she died five years ago at the age of 92.  I looked at my grandparents and thought, hey, it could happen.  But, at least for me and Stringer, it didn't.

And, of course, near the end of my time with Stringer, I learned that I had a personality disorder, and I learned how I needed to begin to deal with it.  But that, dear readers, is a much longer story, and one for another day.

L

Monday, 24 September 2012

Tales from the Dating Archives: The Story of Stringer (Part I)

Part I
 
July 2007:  Two months after the ending of my relationship with Black Luke, I was still deep in mourning for what we had lost.  I poured out my feelings into a spiral-bound "journal" of sorts, where I wrote letters to him whenever I felt like I needed to talk to him or email him.  It was helpful; as I have said, writing is cathartic for me, so I felt as though I was able to get out my feelings, and even if he never read it (though I still had hope that eventually would), I could work through things a little better than just lying on the floor in despair.  That was my first realization that life would go on even after a loss that feels so huge: you can't just stop everything and fall apart, especially when there are children who depend on you.  For the first few days, my mother had come over to help me with the kids, because I was so overcome with the loss of Black Luke that I literally couldn't speak.  Overdramatic, certainly, but most things in my life tend to the dramatic.  I'm working on it.  At that point, though, all I knew was the enormity of my feelings.  With time, though, it got a bit easier, so that by the time the end of June came around, I was functioning fairly well.



So when I heard that Black Luke's band was going to be playing at a local nightclub, I decided that I could handle seeing him, and planned a night out.  I don't know what possessed me to go alone; I like to surround myself with people I know, and the fact that I decided not only to go out to a club I had never been to on my own, but to face a man I had huge feelings for and who had broken up with me, with no support or backup, strikes me now - looking back - as incredibly brave.  That, or insane; I'm still not sure why I did that.  Maybe I knew that if I talked to any of my friends about it, they would discourage me from going.  All I was certain of at the time was that I had to see him and I wasn't about to let anyone talk me out of it.

I walked into the club fairly shaking with adrenaline.  Black Luke was somewhere around, and I was going to see him.  My eyes immediately scoped the room; there he was, up on stage with the band, getting set up.  My heart beat a little faster knowing that he was there, and then, suddenly feeling very alone and vulnerable, I decided that I needed to find someone that I knew.  A couple of Black Luke's friends, whom I had met during our relationship, were there, and we chatted for a few minutes, but they were clearly in their own group and perhaps feeling awkward about talking to me, so I wandered off and found the pool table, where four guys stood around playing.  One of them had longish, curly dark hair, a bit like Black Luke's, and amazingly beautiful green eyes, and feeling a sudden surge of affinity toward him, I took a deep breath and walked closer.


"Hi!" I called out brightly to the four pool players.  They looked up as I came near.  "I'm Lisa, and I'm going to make friends with you now!"

To this day, I am still not sure how I did that.  I got up the nerve to talk to perfect strangers, and say something so absolutely ridiculous, and I really didn't even care what they thought of me.  I basically put myself right in the middle of their group, and somehow - probably largely due to the curly-haired guy and his instant acceptance of me - it worked.  He came close with a big smile and said, "Well, if we're going to be friends, then we should hug it out!"  He opened his arms, I walked into his hug, and that marked the beginning of my relationship with Stringer.

We chatted a lot during that concert, and I thought he was a nice guy.  I was shocked to find out that he was only twenty-one; he was amazed to discover that I was thirty-two.  My driver's license was demanded, procured, and passed around as an object of incredulity.  By the end of the night, still vibrating with the intensity of the performance (Black Luke and his band did a great job), I felt we were fast friends.  Stringer told me all about his plans to become a nurse, and further down the line, a nurse practitioner, and I complimented him on his career planning, saying that I wished I had known what I had wanted to do with my life when I was his age.  I looked at him as a kid at that point, and when he asked if he could have a ride home (the friend he had come with had left for another party location), I agreed.  We chatted all the way to his house.

When I pulled into his driveway and set the parking brake, he looked at me with a smile and thanked me.  "You`re welcome," I said; "Anytime."

You know that moment when you first feel that shock of attraction to someone?  That >pang< in your heart that makes your breath catch and your mind race with possibilities?  I looked into Stringer's incredible eyes and felt it.  Just like that.  I could tell by the way that he was looking at me that he was feeling it as well; the pheromone level in the car rose instantly.  He stuttered over a few words and gave me a shy smile before he got out of the car and closed the door.  I sat there for a moment, stunned, and then shook my head.  Oh, no, I thought to myself, you're not going there with a twenty-one-year-old.  

"I think I like you!"

By the time I got home, he had already added me on Facebook.  I stared at my screen with a stupid smile on my face, accepted his friend request, and then - ignoring the voice of reason inside my head that was trying to remind me I had already decided not to go there with a twenty-one-year-old! - sent him a message.

Lisa:  You want to know something weird?
Stringer:  Sure.
Lisa:  When I dropped you off, I kind of felt like I wanted you to kiss me. 
Stringer:  lol that's not weird.  I felt it, too.  That's why I got all awkward.
Lisa:  lol

I said, "lol", but my heart was racing and I knew I was definitely getting in deep already.


Stringer and I had our first "date" later that week, driving out to Elk Lake and trying out the paddle boating (it didn't work very well, but we enjoyed our attempts...and the ice cream we bought from the tumbledown snack shack nearby).  I was the one who kept insisting on calling it a date, although I know he wasn't ready to call it that.  Maybe part of me was trying to force away any residual thoughts of Black Luke, trying to move forward into a new relationship so that I could forget the last one.  I do know that a huge part of was just excited about seeing what could possibly happen with Stringer, and although I always had that little niggle at the back of my mind that he was wayyy too young for me, I pushed forward.  As our relationship developed, we both tried (on the outside, at least) to ignore the fact of our age difference; in fact, we vacillated between saying it didn't matter and saying that we couldn't be more than friends because of it.  In the end, we decided that age shouldn't be a factor; we enjoyed each other's company so much and laughed so hard when we were together.  He made me happy, and I wanted to be around him.  I knew it probably wouldn't last, but I hoped that, somehow, it would.

...to be continued...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Weekend = Weakened

Day 45
320 Days Remaining

My daughter and I went to Vancouver this weekend for a concert (Jason Mraz/Christina Perri - absolutely amazing!) and some shopping with some great girlfriends, and it was a great trip.  We've been planning it for months, and of course I was looking forward to it.  I really wanted some great time with my daughter; I love music in general and those performers in particular; and I knew I'd have fun shopping in downtown Vancouver.  A pal of mine booked us a hotel and also gave us a gift certificate for the Pan Pacific Hotel so that we could have a bit of a fancy dinner while we were there.  There was so much to look forward to in Vancouver.
Pan Pacific Hotel, Vancouver
And of course, there is one other thing in Vancouver that is consistently on my mind - a certain man we have been calling HB.

HB and I, although our relationship has been rolling with the waves over the past nearly three years, had finally decided that this on again-off again thing wasn't working for us, and that his move to Vancouver would be a perfect time for a clean break.  Despite the fact that we care about each other deeply, and continued to see each other about once a month and texted daily after his move, we had a talk about six weeks ago where we agreed that it would be best for us not to talk anymore.  It was time for us to stop hanging on to something that won't be.  (I fight against impossibilities - I am of the opinion that love should rule, and for me it does, but I can't control how others see it nor how they react to it.  Darn it.)  So we hadn't spoken nor texted for almost five weeks.

There was a slight issue: HB has my spare car key.  My daughter is thisclose to getting her driver's license and wants to be able to use my car once she has it, and it would make life so much easier if she had her own key.  Besides, why should HB need my spare car key anyway?  My good friend Red has been trying to contact him (she lives in Vancouver) to get the key back for me, but he ain't so good with replying.  So I decided (with a little help from Red and Stoney as to how I should approach it) that I would send a perfunctory text saying that I would like my car key back, that I would be in Van on such-and-such a date, and would he mind leaving them at the front desk for me to pick up while I am there.  Simple.  I wrestled with it, because I knew that opening the door to texting or talking with HB again might be difficult for me, but in the end I managed to compose a very succinct, not too emotional but not too distant, text, and sent it off to HB.  I had a hunch that he would be more likely to respond to my attempts at communication than he would be to Red's.

Sure enough, he replied almost immediately, and we texted back and forth a bit.  Now, I knew that I should remain withdrawn and distant, not inviting too much intimacy, and to a point I think we did manage that, but I also know that I was avoiding saying the exact words "leave the key at the front desk".  I believe I said "drop the key off at my hotel", which could be open to interpretation.  I told myself that I would see if he replied with something along the lines of "can I see you while you're there?", and that I would be able to decide whether I would be strong enough to say "I don't think that would be a good idea".  I don't think that would be a good idea.  I know that I would very likely fall apart inside if I saw HB in person.  But part of me so wanted to hang on to the possibility of seeing him.  It's been two months since I've seen him and I used to see him every day.  We lived in the same house and cooked meals together, watched movies together tucked into his bed, and supported each other in our daily struggles.  Of course I wanted to see him.

I imagined texting him the room number and telling him to leave the key at the front desk.  I envisioned sitting in our hotel room after the concert, all dressed up with hair straight and shiny (the way he likes it), glowing with excitement and happiness as my daughter and I chat about everything that had happened, and hearing a knock at the door.  I could clearly picture myself opening the door to find my darling HB smiling widely, and rushing into his familiar and comforting arms.  I knew none of this would happen, but I certainly can admit that a huge part of me wished it would.  I still care about him immensely and miss his place in my life, and I can't just wish that away.  I've been trying to deal with it, but three years doesn't go away that quickly.  I can still have my fantasies, can't I?
Am I the only one who dreams of a knight in shining armor?

HB didn't ask in his texts whether he could see me or not, and I was left to wonder how he interpreted my messages.  I assumed that he thought we would see each other; after all, we had not agreed to cut off communication completely, and me being in Vancouver would be a good excuse to meet briefly and have that minute re-connection that I know I crave (and I had hoped he did).  I also knew that he would never expect me to be strong enough to just say, "No, HB, I'm sorry; I can't see you while I'm there."  And he's right - darn it, he knows me all too well.  I knew if he wanted to see me, that I wasn't going to say no.

As I was on the way to the ferry, I texted him to let him know when I would be arriving.  He said he had plans to go to a movie that evening at 6:30, so "I won't have much time to see you :-(".  There was my confirmation that he did expect to see me while I was in town, and I was too weak at the thought of actually laying my eyes on him after two months without that I did not say "that's okay; just leave the keys at the desk"...what I said instead was "It's okay; my concert starts at 7. Do you work in the morning?  Would it be better then?"  Argh.

That was when I really had to think about this 365-day dating hiatus and what my rules were.  I knew that if I saw HB over the weekend, and he hugged me and showed any interest in kissing me, my third and sixth "Don't"s ("no hooking up with an ex" and "no kissing") were going to go right out the window.  As much as Aries thought that he should be an exception to my no-dating rules, HB truly is the only person who could make me break them.  I would want to so badly.  I also don't want to let myself down.  This inner struggle really symbolizes my entire "life after HB".  Technically, we haven't been a couple since early 2010.  Emotionally, I'm still completely involved with him.  It's bad for me.  I have to stop.



Circumstances conspired so that I did not, in fact, get to see HB at all.  I also did not get my key back.  I was so frustrated with how that part of the weekend went down that it took a while for me to actually find the relief that I hadn't had to tempt myself with the physical presence of HB.  Instead, I got upset that I wouldn't get to see him when we were so close in proximity to one another, and mopey because I hate that he now has this entirely separate life from the one we shared, and a little emotional because I still miss him and I had really started to look forward to holding him.  Even just for a minute.  But after the disappointment died down, I did heave a sigh of relief that I wasn't faced with that temptation in person.  I went back home feeling all right, sent him a text that re-closed our suddenly open communication, and now I'm writing about it, which always helps me process.  I hate the way things with HB have ended up, but I have to work with them the way they are.  I can wish all I want that things would be different, but I can't force it.  I hope this is one more little step toward me letting go of him for once and for all.

I guess I need to go to my Toyota dealer soon, and get a new key cut.  I'm not going to keep pursuing this.  If he wants to hang on to my key as some way to stay connected to me (as Red suggested) then he can have it.  And, I suppose, I still feel that way myself...as long as he has my key, he still has some part of me.  I'm trying to take my heart back; he can keep the car key.

Wish me luck.

L

Saturday, 15 September 2012

It's That Katy Perry Time of the Month

Day 36
329 Days Remaining

I wish I knew then
What I know now
Wouldn't dive in
Wouldn't bow down
Gravity hurts
You made it so sweet
'Til I woke up on
On the concrete
- Katy Perry, "Wide Awake"                                

Has it really only been 36 days since I started this dating hiatus?  It feels like a lot longer than that.

True, I haven't been in what could really be described as "a relationship" for quite a while prior to halting my search for potential husbands completely, so I guess that could be why it feels as though I haven't had a cuddle or a kiss for an extremely long time.  When I look at that looooong 329 days stretching ahead, it seems like they will take forever to get through.


I'm basically trying to break it down into manageable pieces: I'll get through today.  I'll get through this week.  I'll celebrate when I'm into the "200s" on that "Days Remaining" counter.  And, usually, it isn't a real problem; my days are so full, what with full-time school, work three evenings a week, and the kids filling every moment of the time in between, that I don't really think about the lack of a partner in my life or the fact that this is what I have chosen for myself for the foreseeable future.  It's times like today, when I am hormonal, weepy, tired and actually have some time to breathe (it's the weekend!  Hurray!) that I start to feel that old refrain of "I'm never going to find anyone who will just love me for myself" and "I'll be alone forever..."  Yesterday morning I was on my way to school, aiming my Yaris down a long and winding country road, and listening to the radio.  Katy Perry's "Wide Awake" came on.  Now, I'm not a Katy Perry fan in general.  Her rhymes bug me (seriously, rhyming "Make 'em go ah, ah, ah" with "as you shoot across the skah, ah, ah" is pushing it), her subject matter is often vapid, and I don't like the way she yells the chorus in "Firework". (Okay, apparently it's just that particular song that really bugs me.  But trust me, the only other song of hers I've ever liked is "E.T.")

This Katy Perry song, however, is a good one.  It touches me.  It reminds me of my relationship with HB and all the struggles I went through to try to get past him (yes, I know I haven't posted that particular Tale from the Dating Archives yet, but don't worry, I'll get there).  Now it's been nearly six weeks since we last talked - although last week we exchanged some brief, businesslike text messages; he has my spare car key and I need to find a way to get it back from him - and it does get easier every day.  When I am hormonal, however, it all comes flooding back.  That stupid song had me bawling all over the steering wheel, doing the whole sad-movie-heroine thing of trying to sing along as I choked on the words and wept and hiccuped.  At one point I grabbed the steering wheel and shook myself and actually yelled out loud "I HATE HAVING MY PERIOD!"


Of course, hormones being the fickle things they are, by two minutes later I was singing happily along to a completely different song, and by the time I got to school I was fine.  And then again last night, sitting and having a glass of wine with my roommate and having one of those oh-so-serious roomie discussions that happens occasionally, we got on the subject of HB, and I got weepy again, and this time I did something that I definitely shouldn't have done.

I called him.

Not allowed.  Completely, one hundred percent the wrong thing to do when you are trying to get over someone.  It's bad enough that we texted regarding the car keys, and that now I have to decide whether I can handle seeing him when I go over to Van next week, or if I should just tell him to drop the keys off at my hotel front desk for me (I'm leaning toward that as the best option, but so much of me wants to see him...just for a few minutes...), but picking up the cell phone, scrolling to his name, and hitting Send was absolutely what I should not have done last night.  My roommate, knowing that I wanted to call him, had even threatened to take my phone with her when she left the room, but I convinced her I would be fine.  Then, of course, I snuck into my bathroom and dialed him.

The phone rang.  It rang again.  My heart was racing.

"I just love you sooo much...and you're a total jerk for leaving me...and you better come back here right now on a white horse and make everything all better again...no, of course I haven't been drinking!"
I checked the time.  It was past 11pm, but that doesn't mean anything when it comes to HB.  I haven't been keeping track of his schedule (anymore), so I am not sure if he's working or not, and if he is working, whether he's doing day shift or night shift.  If he's asleep, he doesn't even hear the phone, so I wasn't worried about waking him up.

I asked myself what I would say if he answered.  I imagined a hushed conversation, both our voices subdued and tinged with affection and regret, and sadness that this is the point in our lives that we are reduced to.  "Hey, stranger..." he would open with, having recognized my number on the Caller I.D.  His tone would be cautious, wary of revealing too much, curious as to why I would be calling him, yet hopeful and pleased to hear from me.  "Hey," I would say softly, trying to put every ounce of feeling into that single word.  "Just wanted to hear your voice."

And that was true, I realized; it really was all I wanted.  Just to hear his voice.  I didn't have anything to say to him that hasn't already been said in many repetitive conversations over the past three years.  I just miss his place in my life as the other half of me.

His voicemail picked up, and I listened to his familiar message of greeting with a smile.  I love you; I miss you; I wish things were different, I mouthed into the phone as he wrapped up.  The tone beeped; I hung up without leaving a message.

I feel like I made half a mistake.  I called, which I shouldn't have, but I didn't leave a message, though there are so many feelings in my heart that I long to express to him.  It happens.  I might happen again.  I'm not going to freak out over it.  And I do miss him, and I do still love him, and it will take a while to get past that.  So right now, the goal for this week is to get through this Katy Perry time of month without calling him again.

One step at a time.

L

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Date That Wasn't (Part II)

Day 34
331 Days Remaining

It's very difficult to blog honestly when you know that the subject of your post will very likely read what you have to say.  I've struggled with this, but ultimately, I decided that the whole point of a blog (besides humor and the occasional a-ha moment) is honesty, especially with one's self.  So I have decided that I will tell my story, as I experienced it, and not to try to sugarcoat something that the subject of today's post already knows.  So, on with the story:

I felt ridiculous as I hoisted my backpack over my bare shoulder and hobbled into the cafeteria to do up the straps on my shoes.  My goodness, I have gained weight since last summer...that dress felt like a sausage casing, and the thigh-high slits revealed quite a slice of cellulite on either side.  I fastened the shoes and yanked the dress down, trying to cover myself, and in doing so inadvertently brought the top of the dress down so that my strapless black bra peeked over the sides of the halter.  Disgusted, I threw the cardigan on over the dress and wrapped it around myself, securely tying it behind my back.  The bra could show all it wanted if it was covered in soft black cotton.  At least now my legs were (mostly) covered.  Once again, I lifted the backpack and strode (as much as was possible, as striding tends to cause the dress to creep back up my legs, and if you remember the end of my last post, you know I didn't want that dress getting any higher than it needed to be) down the concourse to the parking lot, where I sat down near the fountain and set the backpack on the bench next to me, wedging it against my exposed thigh so that I didn't get pecked by any passing seagulls who might mistake my leg for a cottage cheese sandwich.  Oh yeah, and of course I didn't want to show Aries that much leg, either.  I was really regretting having agreed to this fancy dinner, and feeling very stupid for not having tried the outfit on beforehand.  (And I was also admiring my shoes.  Oh, they are gorgeous, and made my legs look three miles long.)
These are not my shoes, nor are they my legs.  
Aries drove into the parking lot in his rented BMW, and I struggled to stand up without exposing too much skin.  I was grateful that I had thrown the wrap cardigan into my bag at the last moment, because I would have felt extremely uncomfortable if I hadn't had it. He exited the driver's side and placed his hand on his heart when he saw me.  I assumed this was a gesture to show me he liked how I looked.  I just felt overdressed and uncomfortable with his affection. He himself looked very nice, in a nicely pressed and tailored shirt which I assumed was expensive, as he has expensive taste, and nice silver-colored cufflinks (which I happen to think look really cool when I've seen men wear them).  Folding myself into the driver's seat, I smiled back at him, and we took off.

We went to Vista 18.  The restaurant is lovely, and the view was amazing.  Unfortunately, with every passing moment, the more it felt as though we were on a date.  The corner window; the candlelit table; the sun beginning to set...it all would have been lovely and romantic if it really were a date.  With someone who I really wanted to be with.  As it was, although I had moments when I really enjoyed Aries' company (no, not the company he runs, although I am sure he does a good job of that based on how much money he is able to spend and how much he likes to talk about how much money he is able to spend), for the most part I just felt as though this whole thing was wrong.  I tried to relax, but – on my part, at least – conversation didn't come easily.  I was awkward and ill at ease.  This was a man who, despite our past relationship (which, to continue in this vein of honesty, was based mostly on the physical way back then), I didn't really know.  I wasn't really sure that now, during a year when I am on a dating hiatus, was a good time to attempt to get to know him, and the more time we spent together, the less sure I was that I really even wanted to get to know him.  I reached for the drink menu (I really wanted one of my favorite martinis) and was relieved when I saw that all the martinis had names based on classic lines from movies.  Here was a game I could play!  I read the lines aloud (“Here's looking at you, kid”; “I'm not bad; I'm just drawn that way”; “I'll have what she's having”) and Aries would guess the movie and – if possible – the character and/or actor.  The drinks arrived, the movie game was fun, and I began to enjoy myself.  I even completely forgot that I wasn't wearing any underwear, and the tablecloth covered my slit-to-here dress so that I didn't even worry about my cheesy thighs.
That's my kind of time-waster, all right.
I have to give Aries credit for his effort; he did a great job with the setting, the ambiance, the organization...but it felt as though he was trying a little too hard for something that was supposed to be just a casual dinner between friends.  I know the expensive restaurant did merit clothing that was a little on the fancier side, but he didn't need to do the whole wine-swirling-and-sniffing thing (apparently it had “a good nose”.  He held it out for me to sniff.  It smelled like wine) or be quite so obvious in his attempts to charm and impress me.  Out of all of the things from the few occasions that Aries and I spent time together during his visits, a few things did impress me: his willingness to spend time with me even on short notice (I told him when he first got into town that I was headed to WalMart and if he wanted to see me, he could join me. He did); his apology during the night of our first dinner; and his ability to laugh at himself when he didn't get the lines right during our guessing game.  But there were more things that didn't impress me, and, in fact, turned me off.

The longer we sat there, the more I felt like The Bachelorette, forced to go out with a man she wasn't interested in.  The very fact that he seemed to be poking fun of what is, to me, a very serious thing, by continually calling our time together a “non-date” and then carrying that through to “non-wine”, “non-food” and “non-view” made me feel as though he really did think that he was special enough to break my self-imposed rules for.  When we got into slightly serious conversation (about HB, who is still on my mind quite a lot of the time) and I opened up enough to speak of my hope to someday have a husband or a loving partner in life, he would none-too-subtly wave as if to say “I'm right here; it's me!” and then, when he saw my discomfort, laugh and say he was just joking .  He talked continuously about how much money he made, how much he liked to spend it, how he could get pretty much everything that he wanted because he had the balls to ask for it, and how good-looking he was (actually, he said that we were good-looking, and that we would make an excellent couple, but I caught the immodesty there).  It bothered me that he was trying to convince me that he would be good for me, when I don`t want to date anyone.

As much as he thought he was honestly trying to show me that I was important to him, and as honest as he was trying to be with me about his feelings (and I do have to say that there were some very real moments when it appeared he was attempting to communicate that I am somehow important to him and that he would love to have me in his future) , I felt disrespected.  I had told him clearly where I was coming from, that this was not to be a date, and still he persisted in flirting.  When I told him flirting wasn't allowed, he told me that I was flirting with him, which I wasn't in any way.  He used language that I did not appreciate.  He tried to hold my hand.  I pulled away and said, "I need my hand."  The longer the evening went on, the more irritated I got that he was pushing something I had already stated I did not want.  On a couple of instances I actually snapped at him, although I am not sure if he interpreted it as me being frustrated. 

I didn't have a horrible time - in fact, parts of it were very nice, and I am sure Aries enjoyed it - but I left feeling as though there wasn't much left to salvage from whatever relationship we had in the first place.  It felt like a date - and not a very good date, since he was so pushy with things I didn't want or need - and that sort of felt like I had cheated on this 365-day resolution.  He dropped me off at home and did not try to kiss me goodnight.  I was glad that I didn't have to try to fend that off.  The next day, I made sure that he knew that I was not interested in any relationship with him, even in the future, beyond my dating sabbatical.  That ship sailed for me long ago.

Lesson learned: don't try to please other people.  Don't always give them the benefit of the doubt that they understand what you want, don't want, or are trying to accomplish.  Don't worry about hurting someone's feelings a tiny bit in the short run if it means you are saving them from bigger hurt feelings in the long run, and especially if it means you will be stressing out in the interim.  And, of course, the biggest lesson of all:

You can go bare-assed in a fancy restaurant all night long with no one being any the wiser.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Date That Wasn`t (Part I)

Day 32
333 Days Remaining

Long, long ago, before I was ever married, or a Christian, or any of the many things that I now am, I was young and naive.  And I met a man.

This man and I began a relationship, and the relationship was not a good one.  He didn't always treat me the way a man should treat a woman he cares about, and - despite my attempts to hang on and to change him into the person I wanted him to be - the relationship ended.  And that was that.

Until Facebook.
The world has gotten smaller
A few years ago, after nearly two decades, this man and I found each other on Facebook.  I can't remember who found who first, but regardless, I had long since let bygones be bygones, cultivated myself some self-esteem, and moved on, and - as I so often do - I was willing to put the past in the past.  He lived out of town, so it seemed fairly safe to conduct a long-distance tentative friendship.

A few months ago he came into town and wanted to take me out for a fancy dinner, something I very rarely get to do.  I accepted - HB had just moved to Vancouver and I definitely needed some cheering up - and he took me to a very lovely restaurant, where we shared a few glasses of wine, a delicious meal, and some nice conversation.  In the course of this conversation, he apologized for the way he had treated me in the past and asked for my forgiveness.  I gave it and was grateful that he seemed changed and as though he had grown out of the selfishness of youth into a generous and interesting man.  We had coffee together the next day, and he expressed interest in pursuing a relationship with me, but I made it clear that I was still completely immersed in HB, despite his move to Vancouver, and that my heart had no room for anyone else.  He accepted that, went back to his own town, and I felt as though we had accomplished something.  Let's call this resurgent from my past "Aries".

Does "dinner for two" always imply romance?
Aries was planning to come back in to Victoria again this month, and contacted me to ask if we could go for another dinner.  I agreed, having enjoyed the time we had spent together, and always happy to have the chance to be treated like a queen (Aries was insistent that I deserve to be treated as such, and as this is and has been such a rarity in my life, I can be honest and say that I love the idea of it).  Then this whole Dating Hiatus came up, and Aries emailed to ask how that affected our potential dinner.  No worries, I reassured him; appointments which were already made could be kept, as long as he understood that it was not a date; there would be no funny business, and that as soon as I worked out my Guidelines we would see how he "fit in" to my sabbatical.  I wasn't worried that he was looking for more - or, at least, that he would push for more - as I had made it abundantly clear that I was not interested when last he came to town.  He made a few jokes about how he should be the exception to the rules, but I was firm...although it niggled that there seemed to be some honest expectation behind the humor.

Yesterday, we had our "non-date".

I have to admit that in the few days leading up to our dinner plans, I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable about dressing up to go out for dinner with Aries.  No matter how firm I was in my statements, he still seemed to brush aside my concerns and reminders as though they shouldn't apply to him.  Part of me felt as though I should cancel, but I didn't want to disappoint him, and I knew I was strong enough to say no, should he try anything.

Aries was going to pick me up directly after my classes, so I had to bring my evening clothes with me to school.  I grabbed some lovely heels and a halter dress that I had last worn a full year ago and jammed them - along with a strapless bra and my makeup bag - into my backpack.  At the last moment I thought I should probably have something to cover me up, so I also threw a wraparound cardigan in the bag.  I didn`t bother trying anything on; it felt as though if I tried too hard, it would somehow turn this not-a-date dinner into something uncomfortably like an actual date. I had no interest in spending hours debating which dress was better or what color of lipstick to wear or how I should do my hair (this is coming from someone who spent way too much time and money on a) a haircut; b) hair straightening; c) eyebrow wax & tint; d) a new outfit; and e) a bikini wax, all for a less-than-24-hour visit to Vancouver to see HB a couple of months back).  I suppose I have my priorities (and for the record, it rained, so the hair was a washout.  Literally).
After class, I undressed myself in a cramped bathroom stall and wriggled the dress - yeah, a bit tighter since last year - over my head and smoothed it over my hips.  I stuck my feet in the heels and tottered out to regard myself in the mirror, realizing at once that I had not given any consideration to what kind of underwear I should wear with a dress this form-fitting.  The underwear I had taken from my drawer that morning had some kind of lacy frill along all the edges.  Said lacy frill was now creating strange and unattractive bumps around my hips through the smooth lines of the dress.

I stared at myself in the mirror.  I knew I shouldn't care what I looked like - it was just dinner with a friend, after all - but I just didn't like those lumpy-bumpies.   There was only one thing to do, and it certainly wasn't something that I would normally do...but I had to.  With a sigh, I wriggled out of the underwear and stuffed them in my backpack.

So there I was, ready to head out on my non-date...panty-less.  This non-date could appear altogether too "date-like" - especially with a man who quite clearly wanted to push the boundaries with me - if I let it slip that I wore nothing under the dress. 

I shook my head at myself and thought, Whatever you do, do not let him know about this.

...to be continued...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

I'm Going on a Date...with...?

Day 30
335 Days Remaining

So, I am under orders to go on a date.

I don't think this date will break my rules, though (see The Guidelines); it is a date with one of my senses.  I'm not quite sure yet how I will go about taking my sense on a date, and in fact I'm not even sure yet which sense I will be heading out with.

As English class assignments go, this one is interesting.  I was intrigued when she first brought up the concept: she feels it is important for us to fully engage our senses, as writing is largely description, which is based on - of course - observation.  Unfortunately, we tend to not engage our senses often enough, nor fully enough.  I love the idea of just taking the time to really focus on one of your senses and see how much you can observe that you might normally not notice, or that we generally take for granted.

My sense of taste is generally quite well developed.  I am a bit of a "foodie" - I love food, both cooking it and eating it.  Quite often I will take my sense of taste out for a date without prompting from any professor!  I find that I love having the time alone to just really enjoy my food, to figure out what might be in a certain dish and to see if I could possibly replicate it at home.  I will often also bring a book and just enjoy my own company.  So, I don't think I'll be taking my sense of taste on a date this time...in fact, I just did the other night, so my wallet wouldn't like that either.
One of my absolute favorites...the tuna tataki at the Cactus Club Cafe, Victoria
So that leaves sight, hearing, touch and smell.  I love the idea of taking my sense of smell out for a date.  The main reason I'm so excited about that possibility is that the only way I can think of doing that is by going for an aromatherapy massage!  I've thought about inquiring into booking a massage and asking them to leave the room completely silent - with none of that wonderfully relaxing spa music and water sounds, and definitely with no chatting by the massage therapist! - and to blindfold myself.  I would ask them to use as many different essential oils as possible, so that I can focus individually on each one and see how the different smells make me feel, as well as attempting to identify each scent.  This is probably the idea that I am most focused on at this point.  Does that not sound like an amazing date to you?  I bet my sense of smell would totally come back to my place with me after a date like that (ha ha).  Of course, the sense of touch is involved there, as well, but mostly on the receiving end.  My time with that particular sense would involve a lot less passivity, if I choose to take touch on my date.


Sight.  I could walk down by the Inner Harbour and people-watch, something I tend to do a lot anyway.  I could stroll down Dallas Road and try to see the ocean, beach, boats, trees, people and ever-present dogs that I have seen so often in my twenty-five years of living here, with new eyes.  I could possibly go to the museum, or, specifically, an art museum, which is something I have never done before.  This is another sense which I feel I exercise quite often and well; I do tend to always look beyond the surface as much as I can.  I think that has a lot to do with my work and the fact that I see a lot of elderly people, who perhaps aren't as beautiful (in the strictest, society-based sense) as they once were.  It is amazing to look beyond the wrinkles and stooped shoulders and gray hair to see the lovely person beneath (see my "Value Village" theory on this in #25 of 28 Things).

Hearing.  A concert?  I am going to a concert with my daughter later on this month (Jason Mraz and Christina Perri, one of my all-time favorite artists, mostly because her lyrics really resonate with me), but this assignment needs to be done long before that, so I won`t be able to use that for my date.  Thinking about taking my sense of hearing out for a date reminds me of lying on my floor with Black Luke and listening to every single track in my iTunes library with our eyes shut and ears open.  Hearing is also one of the senses I really exercise a lot, especially when it comes to music.  I`m also trying to exercise it in class during lectures, and in church during the sermon...both of which can be tough if you`re not finding the subject matter completely engrossing!
How to take my sense of touch out for a date..?  I'm a very tactile person, so with those I know and care about, I do tend to show my affection with touch (but don't worry; generally I have to know you pretty well before I start grooming you or stroking your face!).  This is probably in direct contradiction to my instinct as a health care professional to avoid unnecessary touching and to search out a sink and some soap, or a hand sanitizer dispenser, immediately following said touch.  Perhaps a visit to a fabric store, where I can get a few samples of different types of material, blindfold myself, and really pay attention to the diverse weights, softness, and durability of each (although it would likely be a deterrent to potential customers of the store if they walked in to see a woman with a blindfold on stroking all the merchandise).

I think I've pretty much narrowed it down to between smell and touch, as those are the senses I don`t engage as fully most of the time.  What do you think?  I have to get on this assignment fairly quickly, so I'd love some feedback as to which sense I should "entertain", and any suggestions on how to do it would be much appreciated!

L