Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Best Work of Art

Day 83
282 Days Remaining
"The human body is the best work of art." - Jess C. Scott
Something weird has been happening to me since I started this dating hiatus thingy.

Now don't get me wrong, it's not weird in a bad way; quite the contrary, in fact.  It's something that really surprises me, and at the same time pleases me tremendously.

You see, I've begun to like my body.

And by that I mean, I like it.  I look in the mirror and think, yeah, that looks nice!  I don't criticize, or scrutinize the parts that have always bugged me to see whether they still look as bumpy or as saggy as they used to, or scowl at my reflection.  I catch a glimpse of the Lisa in the mirror and think she is a pretty darn nice-looking girl with a decent body that I want to make sure I keep taking care of.

As far as I can tell, my body has not changed at all in the last 82 days.  Maybe it's gotten slightly thinner in some places or a tiny bit heavier in others, but all in all it's basically the same generally pear-shaped, small-breasted, wide-hipped body I've been living in for a long time.  My chest - long ago deflated from breastfeeding three children for a mind-boggling (for me, at least) total of 44 months - hasn't suddenly ripened into Partonesque proportions, and my jiggly rearview parts slightly south of the border still resemble a rather generous portion of Jell-O.  My knees still look somewhat bony and my calves could perhaps be judged too slender to be proportionate to my thighs; my ears still stick out further than I'd like; and the curve of my belly pooches out a little further than what I'd say is ideal.  But here's the thing: to my eyes, now, it is beautiful.  I actually even felt comfortable enough with my body to venture out without a bra (those of you who know my insecurity about my bosom will understand why this is such a big deal - I pretty much don`t have a bosom without the padding from my brassiere) because it was in character for my Halloween costume.

What has changed?  Why am I suddenly able to look at my own body with the objectiveness that I've long been using with everyone else (remember way back when, in my 43Things list, I wanted to find something beautiful in every person), and see it differently?  I've been wondering this for the past couple of weeks as I've gradually come to notice that a) I'm not finding the need to look in the mirror as often as I used to, and b) when I do, I'm not picking myself apart.  Is it because I don't have a boyfriend or husband, and no one is looking at my body?  Is it because I'm not as concerned as I used to be with how I look to other people?  Or is it because my ideas of what beauty is have slowly been changing?

The fleeting thoughts of why have been answered as I've slowly come to realize that when I look at other people, the things that I see as beautiful in them are the things that show me who they are, and what they've been through.  I look at the wrinkles around the eyes of a ninety-year-old woman and see that she has spent many, many years smiling.  The puckered scar of a gunshot wound on someone I once knew was beautiful to me, because it was proof of what he had been through, and evidence that he was strong enough to survive a traumatic experience.  Even a gummy smile of a toothless person I might see on the street is beautiful, because no matter what, she is still finding something to smile about.  For most people - even lacking teeth - a smile transforms a face, and brings to it a radiance that means you can't help but answer with a smile of your own.

On the outside, nothing has changed.  If I really wanted to start picking myself apart, I certainly still could.  I wouldn't have any trouble finding things on this body that don't work as well as they used to, or don't live up to the standards that society seems to hold as the norm.  If I really wanted to start looking for things on my body that were "flaws", of course, I would see them.  I do see them.  The difference is that instead of seeing my flaws as something that makes me less attractive, I see them as brushstrokes in the complete picture of who Lisa Grace is.

My stretch marks are beautiful.  They are representative of the four (one little one did not make it past 13 weeks' gestation) children I nourished inside me; they show that my amazing skin was able to stretch to accomodate the growth of the miraculous organs that cradled each of my babies.  Even looking at them without thinking about what caused them, their snaking patterns across the skin are interesting, their silvery color nearly iridescent, and the slight indentation of them in the darker pink of the surrounding tissue is fascinating to run your fingers over.

My little sticky-out elf ears are beautiful.  I see them reflected on each of my boys, and this slight proof that they emerged from me, that they share my DNA, that these growing young men are still a part of me, makes me love my ears.

My hips are beautiful.  They curve out from my waist and remind me that once there was someone who loved to slip his hands around my waist and pull me close, and that maybe someday there will be someone who will wrap his arms around me and never let me go.

My scars are beautiful.  The scar on my chin from when I was dropped on my face at a high-school Air Guitar competition gave me a great story to tell people.  The scar on my knee shows that when I fell up the stairs (yes, you can do that, apparently) as a child and tore my knee open, my dad (who was at the time without a vehicle) loved and worried about me enough to race me to the Edmonton emergency room on the back of his bicycle.  The scar on the heel of my left hand reminds me that at one time I was an overzealous prep cook who attacked a ten-kilogram block of cheese with such force that the back of the knife went through my hand.  And of course, my most recent scar - the still-healing second-degree burn on my left arm - is evidence of how quickly life can change, and how we need to be present for every second of it.

The reason that I can see these things as beautiful is because I have finally learned to really love who I am.

The stories that have come out about these gorgeous, amazing young people being bullied and taking their own lives just tear at my heart.  I want to reach out to them to tell them how incredible they are; how every part of their body is a miracle and everything within them is worth applauding.  I want to say it to you, all of you readers out there who celebrate my successes and weep along with my tears, or any of you who may have stumbled across this blog: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.  I want you to feel it and I want you to say it.  Go to the mirror and take the time to find the beauty.  Look at your eyes and see how deep and lovely the color is; how they're not quite the same as any other pair of eyes you've seen.  Mess your hair up and then look at how shiny or how dark or how long or how curly or how kinky or how BIG it is.  No one else is just like you.  YOU ARE AMAZING!  Take off your clothes and look at how all the parts of your body work together; how your skin bends around every curve and muscle; how your freckles or your moles or even your body hairs make a distinct map across your arms and back and face.  Smile at yourself and look at those teeth.  Maybe you've got a gap between them.  Maybe some overlap each other.  Maybe they're straight and maybe you're missing one or two.  SMILE!!!  Look for your scars.  Trace them with your fingers and see how even reminders of past wounds can have their own sort of loveliness.  Find the beauty in who you are!

I know you`re beautiful, even without you standing in front of me right now.  And I guarantee that if you were standing in front of me, I would find a thousand things that show your beauty, and I wouldn`t hesitate to point them out to you.  You wouldn't be able to shut me up as I told you every little gorgeous thing about you.  Think about it: you`d do it for me, wouldn`t you?  Do it for yourself too.

Don`t look for the imperfections.  Look for the stories, those already lived and those yet to come.  And then rejoice in them.


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Beginning the End...The Story of HB (Part III)

Day 82
283 Days Remaining

May 2010

It had been almost six months, and things were going well.  HB and I had such a comfortable, relaxed and easy courtship, and I couldn't believe how easy it was to be around him.  He met my children, and even they - always extremely protective of their dad and hating the thought of anyone "replacing" him - seemed to like him.  My youngest, especially, had a great rapport with HB, and they had begun their own special friendship, and when the three of us spent time together they would chase each other like they were both little boys, making up games and laughing uproariously.  Seeing HB and my little one together was often the best part of my day; I loved that they enjoyed each other so much and was looking forward to a future building our little family.  I knew HB would happily include my three children in his life.
I hoped we could build a family together.
I was learning little bits and pieces of Mandarin, and we spent our times together going to movies, out for sushi, and watching TV series together at either his place or mine.  I had found a cute little basement suite and HB and I quickly made it our home base; he loved to be pretend it was "our" place when we were there together without the kids. This particular evening, I was looking forward to HB coming over, for I had bought a new dress for a wedding I planned to attend the following month, and I wanted to see his mouth drop open when he saw me in it.

Unfortunately, as soon as I opened the door, I knew the evening was not going to go the way I had planned.  HB did not grab and kiss me with his usual loving intensity, although his face did light up slightly as he took in the dress and my long legs in their high-heeled shoes.  "Hey," he said, "you look amazing."

I kissed him and thanked him and drew him into the apartment, ready to pull him into the bedroom and snuggle up, but the look on his face made me worry. “What's going on?” I asked, and he answered with those four deadly words: “We have to talk.”

This is probably part of why it's taken me so long to get around to writing the full story of HB that so many of you have been asking's difficult to really express and explain our entire conversation without feeling like I am betraying HB.  I know that the things he brought up that night were incredibly important and real to him, and although several of my friends have spent hours over the last few years listening to me go through it over and over again, I still don't feel right about exposing him that way.  I feel it's important to keep his fears and worries private, and in the long run, why he said what he said that night doesn't matter...the fact that he said it at all – and the long years that followed his words – is what is important.
Let's just not.
The long and short of HB's need to talk that night was this: he had concerns about our relationship, and didn't believe that we were meant to be together for the rest of our lives. He didn't want to end things, or so he said (and believe me, he showed it over the next two years), but although he loved me and couldn't imagine not being with me, he thought that it was best for us to end our relationship because it wasn't what was best for either of us. He cried as he talked, and for me it was bittersweet, because it was the first time HB had ever said he loved me.

- - - -

We lay in the dark in his room, laughing and whispering together. His eyes crinkled in the endearing way that had captured me during that first coffee date, and his fingers threaded through mine as he brought my hand to his lips for a kiss. Suddenly I couldn't keep it in any longer.

I love you,” I said, searching his eyes for his reaction, my heart pounding.

 He grinned and kissed the back of my hand again. “You can't,” he said matter-of-factly.

Amused, I squinted my eyes at him. “What do you mean, I can't?”

You haven't known me long enough,” he said with a shrug.

I laughed. “Oh, okay then. So when will I have known you long enough to love you?”

He pondered this, then gave me another grin. “A year sounds about right.”

All right,” I responded. “Let me know when it's been a year, so I'll be allowed to tell you. But until then, I'll still love you, even if I can't say it.”

He winked at me. “I know.”

- - - -

Now, a few short weeks later, and six months short of what I had been sure would be our first anniversary, he finally told me that he was in love with me too...but in the same breath he was telling me that our relationship would never get to that year marker. I was heartbroken.

I did everything I could to reassure him that his fears – although valid, and, I knew, extremely real to him – were surmountable.  I offered scenario after scenario of how we could overcome those obstacles that he was so sure meant we should not be together.  I cried, he cried; I beat my fists on his chest and asked in tears how he could do this to me, he held me in shaking arms and wept into my neck.  But in the end, I remembered how Stringer and I had kept coming back to each other after every fight, and how I had reasoned and justified and pushed him to come back to me.  I didn't want HB to be with me because I had convinced him to be with me; I wanted him to be with me because every part of him wanted to be with me; because he couldn't imagine living a life without me in it.  I decided that he could walk out that door, and if he truly loved me, he would be back. 

And now, you know what HB stands for. He is my Heart Breaker.

That, however, is not the end of our story.  In fact, and as hard as it may be to believe, it is very nearly the beginning.

HB could not let go of me. I absolutely would not let go of him. We continued to spend time together, with nothing physical between us, and no longer in the role of boyfriend and girlfriend.  Neither of us dated anyone else, and as “friends”, we still enjoyed many of the same things that had bound us together, but no matter how much we both tried to pretend that we were not in a relationship, we still were in love with one another.  After two or three months of that, we had settled into our comfortable routine again...the only difference was that we did not kiss each other, or hold hands as we walked down the street, or anything else along those lines.

I didn't worry about how it was going.  The weeks of loving time together and the way we drew closer to each other every day had me convinced that we would end up together, despite the fears that kept HB still at the very strange “arm's length” that he was trying to keep himself at.  I knew that our relationship was so much more than the physical, and that the labels of “boyfriend and girlfriend” were the least of what made us who we were together.   I hoped, prayed, and believed that HB would eventually see that.

Eventually, he did. And it scared the crap out of him.

July 2010
We were – once again – lying on my bed watching whatever TV series we were making our way through at the time: I think it was Battlestar Galactica (I never would have watched something like that on my own, but sharing it with HB was another one of the things I now found so enjoyable). I lay on my stomach, facing the TV, while he leaned up against the headboard of the bed.  HB absentmindedly reached out with his hand and stroked the back of my calf affectionately.  I luxuriated in the gentle feel of his hand; I craved his touch any way I could get it, and I looked back over my shoulder to give him a smile.  He smiled back, but as I turned my attention back to the television, his hand stilled on my calf.

Without warning, he jumped up and started moving out of the room. “I can't do this,” he muttered.  Startled but somehow having recognized the inevitability of this moment, I followed him as he grabbed his motorcycle jacket and shoved his arms into the sleeves.

“What's the matter?” I asked, scared to hear the answer I already knew was coming.

He reached for his boots and turned to me.   There was pain and confusion in his eyes.  “I thought that if there was nothing physical between us,” he began, “I would stop feeling the way I feel for you.  I thought it would make it easier for us to just sort of...drift away from each other.”  Dropping into a chair, he yanked a boot on and began angrily lacing it.  “ feelings for you now are so much stronger even than they were three months ago.”

I was strangely calm, though my heart once again was rhumba-ing in my chest.   I nodded.  “I know,” I said softly.  “I knew that would happen.   What's between us is so much more than physical.”

“I can't do it!” he cried.   His boots securely fastened, he scooped his helmet from the table and moved as though to jam it over his head, then stopped and looked at me.   I was sure he could see the loss in my eyes.  “I'm sorry,” he said in a strangled voice, then moved to the door.

I struggled to get some words out before he disappeared from my life.   I love you.   I need you.   Don't do this.   Don't you understand what we have?  So many thoughts and feelings, but I had resolved to learn from my past relationship mistakes, and once again, I could not reduce myself to trying to convince him to stay with me.  “I can give you everything you need,” came brokenly from my mouth.   I was keenly aware of how desperate I sounded, but the promise forced itself out.

He looked as though he was going to cry again, his eyes incredibly sad.  “You already do,” he told me.   And while I stood pondering the strangeness of those words when compared to his actions, he once again - not for the first time, and not for the last - walked away. be continued...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Starbucks & Sushi: The Story of HB (Part II)

Day 74
291 Days Remaining

November 2009 - February 2010

Once HB and I met in that Starbucks restaurant, things took off quickly.  We sat and talked over coffee for an hour, marveling at how many things we had in common and how we saw the world, and it was instant camaraderie.  As our conversation continued, one of us mentioned sushi, and spontaneously we decided to go to Azuma for some sashimi.  Since he had brought his motorcycle to Starbucks and I had my car, we decided we'd go together in my car and I'd drop him back off at the coffee shop when we were done.

We spent another two hours laughing and talking over the raw fish dishes and green tea, sharing our own thoughts and memories and getting to know each other.  I remember looking at him sitting across from me in his big-shouldered motorcycle jacket and wondering what he looked like underneath, and I was rewarded when he removed it to show that he filled out his T-shirt with a set of very masculine shoulders and the nicely-developed chest of someone who takes good care of himself.  I was very attracted to him.  I loved the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled; the salt-and-pepper in his dark hair, and the attentive way he listened when we were talking together.

There was one thing, however, that I needed to check with him: his profile on PoF had said "Other Religion" in the space where it asked for a description of belief.  For me, I don't like to specify whether I am "Baptist" or "Lutheran" or "Pentecostal" - all of which are churches that I have attended at different times - so I had often considered putting "Other Religion" in order to keep from making too specific a reference to any one denomination.  I was curious as to what "Other Religion" defined for this man.  I had already been through too many relationships where we did not share a faith, and I wanted this one - if it was the right one - to start off on the right foot.  I asked him what, exactly, he meant by "Other Religion".

He frowned and wrinkled his forehead in thought.  "Well, I'm...what do you call it...Protestant?" he said slowly.

All I heard was "Protestant".  All I cared about was that Protestant was a Christian denomination, and I was overjoyed that I could start a relationship with this lovely man, since he believed what I believed.  My subconscious very deliberately chose to ignore the fact of his hesitation and that he didn't seem to know what "Protestant" actually meant.  (I found out much later - when I was in way too deep and had already fallen in love with him - that he thought being a "Protestant" meant that you "protested" the very idea of God.)

When I pulled into the Starbucks parking lot after our sushi date, I turned off the car and we grinned at each other in that self-conscious way people have when they aren't sure if the date is going to end with a kiss or not.  HB smiled at me, his eyes crinkling up in that way that was already so dear to me, and said, "That was the absolute best first date ever."

I had to agree.  There was a moment where we looked at each, smiling dazedly, and then he leaned in.  My heart beat faster - he was going to kiss me!

His lips got closer, I closed my eyes, and - he kissed my cheek.  Then he kissed the other.

It was so dear and respectful that I nearly melted.  I opened my eyes and cleared my throat.  "Well," I said, "How continental of you!"

He laughed and let himself out of my car.  "I`ll see you soon," he promised before closing the door and strapping on his helmet.  With a wave, he mounted his bike and roared off.

I drove home with a stupid smile on my face, and before I had even reached my driveway, my cell phone pinged announcement of a text message.  At the red light, I opened it.  Continental, it said; lol!

I grinned and texted back.  Stupid thing to say, I know!

No, it was great, he replied, and I was happy to see that he texted in complete sentences.  Texting shorthand has always bothered me.  Then he sent: I wanted to kiss you but I wasn't sure if I should.

Next time, I typed, hitting Send before I could change my mind.  And indeed, the next time we saw each other, he kissed me properly.  And it was good.  Better than good: it was perfect.  I was falling fast.

Our instant click of attraction and mutual interest meant that we immediately began spending as much time together as we could, seeing movies, taking walks, just hanging around together. By the end of that first week, I could introduce him to people as "my boyfriend".  When a friend of mine told him that he was making me "one happy girl", he smiled proudly and said that I made him one happy guy.  I was so happy to have found him and couldn't believe how well we fit together.

HB had a dream: to be a police officer.  My dream was to be a nurse, and both of us had been working toward attaining these goals: me for a year or so; him for several more.  He had received his Associate's Degree in Criminology and was working on applying at different police departments.  His time teaching in China had given him a masterful command of Mandarin Chinese - which was thrilling for me to listen to, and fun to learn as he taught me a few words and phrases - which he hoped would make him more in demand with police departments here in Victoria or in Vancouver, which has such a large Asian population that it is often called "Hongcouver".

Trying to get to know each other wasn't difficult, but finding privacy was: HB had temporarily moved in with his family after his roommate suddenly left their shared apartment, and I was living in my grandfather's basement at the time, and he didn`t want me to have male visitors at the house.  HB and I basically had one room to hang out in.  "Just imagine," HB said dreamily to me one day, as we lay on his bed watching Dexter, "how amazing it's going to be when I`m a cop and you`re a nurse.  We can buy a big house and everything will be awesome."

We had been together three months at this time, and everything was - as far as I was concerned - already "awesome", despite the cramped space we had to be together.  We went out to movies and sushi constantly, we never seemed to run out of things to talk about, and everything just seemed to get better.  I was myself with him, completely, and it reminded me of the complete ease of self I had when I was with Black Luke.  I knew HB cared about me just the way I was - in fact, he thought I was pretty amazing.  He often told me that I was the best girlfriend that he had ever had, and he fast became someone that I couldn't imagine not having in my life.  I often dreamed of our wedding day:  He would stand at the front of the church, waiting for me to walk toward him, and his eyes would crinkle in that way I loved so much when he saw me in my bridal finery.  We`d go through the ceremony and say our words of love and commitment to each other, and the minister would pronounce us Husband and Wife.  HB would lift my veil and lean forward...

...and kiss one cheek, and then the other.

"How continental of you," I imagined myself saying up to him, with a smile. be continued...

Friday, 19 October 2012

"But Don't You Miss SEX?!?"

Day 71
294 Days Remaining

Whenever someone hears that I am on a dating sabbatical for a year, I usually get one of two different reactions: either the person nods their head and says "Good for you" and looks thoughtful (ah yes; I may have some converts...heh heh heh [rubbing fingers together in glee]), or she (usually it's a female) gets the most panicked, wide-eyed look and exclaims "But don't you miss SEX?!"  What follows is often a torrent of different exclamations of "I couldn't do it" and "I'd be going crazy".  I'm always slightly surprised by women's reaction; society seems to have this idea that women don't have that same base, animalistic sex drive that men are always assumed to have, but many of the women I've talked to immediately see a yearlong dating hiatus as a dry, starved, seemingly endless desert of no sex.  And apparently that is enough for them to never consider doing it.

Sure, of course I miss sex.  We are made to enjoy sex, and our bodies - for the most part - seem to react to it exactly the way they were designed to.  However, this year off is not a year off from sex, and it often surprises people when I tell them that I've gone much longer than that without it.

Lest any of my readers of other faiths cast dispersion on my ideas here, and dismiss them as simply those of someone of Christian faith who doesn`t believe in sex outside of marriage, I`m going to talk about this completely outside of the Christian perspective.  It`s not about being told not to do something; we as humans are by nature going to rebel against "rules", and I certainly have gone against rules many times.  The biggest thing for me at this point is this: I've had enough sex without love in my life; I'm at the point where I would rather have love without sex.

No, my ovaries haven't dried up and no, my hormones have not stopped working.  I am nowhere near menopause (wait; maybe I am...hmmm, gotta look into that) and I have just as much of a sex drive and physical urges as anyone.  Of course going without sex is difficult at times, just as it's sometimes very easy.  But as much as I have those moments where I just wish that I could get the urges out of my system (c'mon now; who doesn't have those moments?), I have to stop and remind myself that I`ve been there and done that, and that for the most part it was wasted time, and more often than not, made me feel worse instead of better.  Outside of my dating hiatus, I`m not interested in spending any more time doing something that makes me less of a person.  Momentary satisfaction followed by immediate guilt is absolutely not worth it to me.

If you`ve gone through people like Kleenex, searching for something that you hope can fill you up (no, I`m not being gross; this is just as much for men as it is for women!), you may have found - like I did - that instead of finding that perfect soul mate in your journey through the meat aisle (okay, yes, that was kind of gross, but I had to do it!) you feel even more unfulfilled.  More often than not, he`s been using you to find something just as much as you`ve been using him, perhaps without even realizing what you were doing.  Some people can compartmentalize easily and just shrug it off, with no emotional connection whatsoever, but physiologically, once you`ve slept with someone, there is a bond created that does last.  If the other person finds it easy to break that bond and you don`t, you`re going to let yourself in for a world of heartache.  I'm just not interested in doing that any more.

So, you say, what about in a relationship?  Of course when you're in a relationship, sex is a natural part of things.  I will agree with that; it certainly is natural, but it shouldn't be the basis of a relationship.  Those bonds I mentioned are created when two people sleep together, and they create an unreal feeling of intimacy that really has nothing to do with how well you know each other, or even whether you like each other or not.  If you sleep with someone too soon, you may not even know that person, yet suddenly you feel this warm feeling of affection and intimacy.  That feeling is false.  I'm not just talking through my hat here.  This is all stuff I've experienced myself, and isn't the whole point of my blog to reflect on what I've done incorrectly so that I can apply it to a future that's healthy and real?  I advise people to wait when they are beginning a relationship.  I know that I can't tell you what to do, but I hope to give a bit of food for thought from my own experience.

Girls - especially the younger ones, who are just coming into recognizing their beauty and physical charms - often use sex as power, holding it over the male in order to get what they want, which is sometimes a relationship, sometimes material things or money, and sometimes just plain attention.  This power doesn`t last forever, and it`s a terrible basis for a relationship because the partners are not truly "partners"; they are not on an even playing field.  The female who is using her sexuality to lead the man on ends up being trapped in a cycle of needing her sexuality in order to keep him.  She can't ever just relax and be herself, because she's set herself up in such a way that he expects her to be beautiful and charming and sexually available at all time.  That's not a real relationship.  Who's the one with the real power then?  And why do either one of them need it?

I've been in relationships where sex was where they began.  They didn't last, and they weren't particularly satisfying.  I've been in a relationship where there was no physical intimacy whatsoever - we did not even kiss - and that relationship was one of the best that I've ever had.  You know why?  Because we didn't fill our time together giving in to physical urges.  We did a lot of things together, we talked, we listened to music, we built a foundation.  That time with him made me realize that this is the way I want to build a relationship: I want to truly know the person inside and out.  Ultimately that relationship didn't work out, but I don't regret not having slept with him.  Sometimes I have moments when I really wish we had kissed - argh, yes, that was incredibly difficult sometimes - but in the long run, the fact that we were not intimate with each other meant that we could easily melt back into being friends when we knew for sure that our relationship was not going any further.  I can see him and spend time with him and it's not awkward in the least, like it may have been had we just engaged in a sexual relationship.  If we had continued with our relationship and gotten married, our first time together would have been amazing because we had built such a strong basis for what we had.  I adored him, and that love and affection that was building up would have reached amazing heights by the time I was finally able to express it in a physical way.

You know what I do really miss?  Intimacy.  That is not the same thing as sex.  HB and I did not have a physical relationship for much of our on/off time together (and yes, I know I haven't filled you in on all of that - I'll get there!), but we had developed such a huge level of intimacy between the two of us that I have had with very few other people.  I miss the little things like an affectionate touch of the hands as we`d pass by each other in the hall.  I miss how, when HB and I would lie together in bed watching a movie, he'd cross his ankle over mine just so that we'd be touching in some way.  I miss knowing that I belong to someone, like when my husband occasionally brought me flowers while I was at work and they would sit on the desk all day like an announcement that someone cared about me.  I miss the way that I could look across a crowded room at the man I loved and he would instinctively turn to wink at me.  I miss the casual "Love you"s that Stringer would throw at me as I dropped him off at school and he ran through the rain to his class, or watching HB serving tables in his crisp white shirt & tie and knowing that he was all mine and no one else's.  Those are the things that I miss.  Those things are not defined by or earned by sex.  Sex is, or should be, an extension of that intimacy, and I want to take the time to build that intimacy before we launch ourselves into that expression.

So, although I am on a dating hiatus for 365 days, I already have a lot more than 71 days under my chastity belt, and it will likely be a lot longer than simply once the year is finished.  When and if I meet that right man for me, I want to do it the right way for me, which means taking the time to build a foundation, and falling in love before the hormones of sex trick me into thinking I already have.  I look forward to that tense and exciting moment when someone who I care about is leaning in for a first kiss and I am wondering what his lips will feel like on mine. I think I deserve to feel that again, and I don`t mind waiting for it.


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

In My Weakness I Am...Still Weak

Day 69
296 Days Remaining

I know several of you have been waiting anxiously to hear more about HB, but I`ve had a really hard time writing about him.  It seems like there just aren't the right words to express the enormity of my feelings toward him, plus so many things about our time together are precious and special and I feel the need to keep them private, so it's difficult to know how to edit things to be truthful while at the same time protecting what we had.  I was talking with a friend yesterday about it and she suggested that because I am still so wrapped up in him, it's making it difficult, and I suppose that must be true. So, while I promise I will continue on with the story, please bear with me as I work through some other things that have occurred recently.

I feel very lost today.  I have been struggling through a lot of things recently - my plate is so full that I can't see the bottom even when I dig down deep.  Part of the difficulty with blogging is that I want to be able to show my strengths and what I have already learned, and it's hard to admit that I am not always strong and that I am having a hard time with things.  Well, I have to admit it.  I am sinking under these huge burdens.

Last month I had the surprise of all three of my tenants (I sublet rooms in my rented house) all giving notice at the same time.  I had to give up my home but I didn't let that get to me and I've been doing whatever I can to put things in place for my future.  I had to deal with going to court regarding custody issues that were ongoing six years after we separated; I got through it and felt very good about the outcome.  My daughter had surgery and I was worried about her; I (and she) got through that too.

Balancing full-time school with part-time work and three children takes a lot of effort and energy, but it's important to me, so I've been working hard on that - and succeeding - as well.  This is midterm week, so I've taken a lot of time to study and try to prepare for them.  Even though I still hadn't found a place to live, and there's still that huge balancing act with studies and work and kids and finances, I've been getting through and I've been proud of myself for how I've been managing.  I lean on God, my family and friends, and my church family, and I know that He and they will help get me through somehow. 
Then two days ago, I had an accident.  While I was making myself a cup of tea, the plugged-in electric kettle got knocked over onto me and my left arm was completely drenched in water that had just reached its boiling point.  I immediately got it under cold running tap water and called 911 (in shock and in hysterics), and the ambulance took me to the hospital where I was treated for 2nd degree burns from my shoulder to my elbow.  I had to call my work and my school, both of which were extremely understanding, but this week is midterm week and I am missing out on taking those, not to mention the fact that my financial situation is shaky and not being able to work for a week will make it even shakier.  My family and friends have once again stepped in to help and encourage, but now I'm sitting at home in this empty house, and I alternate between being extremely glad that the roommates are all out and I can be alone in my suffering, and being incredibly lonely and sobbing.  Every time I go to make a cup of tea I start crying when I look at the kettle.

My arm is damaged and I feel my will draining from me bit by bit.  I definitely feel God holding me up, but I don't feel like looking at the bright side right now.  Even though I know that it is a blessing that the water didn't hit my face or my chest, I still can't help but feel destroyed inside that no matter what I do and how hard I try, and how much I overcome, these things just keep happening to me.  Why?  Why can't I just have a normal, boring life? least they don't keep you constantly on your toes.
I am vulnerable and I am sad and I am scared.  I called HB from the emergency room in the hospital - I did not care about our "deal" to not speak to each other; I did not care that it might set me back or that I have resolved to work toward getting over him.  I needed him and I was going to take that one moment in time to feel protected and loved by him.  Fortunately for the moment - perhaps unfortunately for the long run, but I don't give a baboon's purple ass right now - he answered and I was able to cry to him.  His reassuring words and encouragement were exactly what I needed as I sat there in the wheelchair, my skin hanging off my arm and my clothing drenched from the water I had been using to keep it cool.  He told me that he wished he were there with me to hold me and take care of me, that he loved me, and to call him when I was home to let him know how it was.  Hearing his familiar voice calling me Baby was what I needed at that moment.  After I hung up, I felt better, and I haven't had the great need to talk with him or to have him here with me since then, which I think is a step forward even if I did slip backward into needing him when I was in great distress.  My mom and my sister and my friends have been wonderful...even Stringer has been here for me in ways that I never would have expected way back when...and although I do long for HB to be here, I am finding that just that few minutes in contact with him was enough for me. 

I'm scattered; I apologize.  I just feel like no matter what I do, something keeps hitting me over the head.  Eventually I'll just be left for dead.  Don't worry; although that was definitely a tad melodramatic, I'm not suicidal and I'm not lying around bawling my head off...I'm just finding today to be a very upsetting day.  And I guess that's okay.  Soon enough I'll find my strength again.

I and my injured arm are off to rest now for a while.  I promise I won't call HB again, okay?


*For those who are curious and not squeamish, I have posted pictures of my arm here: Day 1, me bandaged up, and today, Day 3 (warning: I just clicked the links and the pics themselves are pretty huge!).

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Tales from the Dating Archives: The Story of HB - The Beginning

Day 63
302 Days Remaining


My cell phone is ringing.

I glance down and don't recognize the number.  For a moment I think it looks slightly familiar and have the thought "it could be HB..." but since I've got ads up to sell some furniture I shrug off the idea and assume that it's someone calling about a couch.  Nevertheless, I take a deep breath and try to sound casual...just in case.


And the moment before he speaks, I know it's him.  "Heyyyyy, stranger!" he sings happily.  His voice, even though some part of me expected it, still hits my heart hard.  I close my eyes as his image floods before them.  I know him so well that I can picture him sitting there right in front of me.  I want to hear his voice in my ear forever, but I know that I don't want to start this cycle all over again... 

November 2009

It had been a few months since Stringer and I had finally called it quits, and I was feeling great about myself.  I had a sassy new haircut; I'd finally gotten around to piercing my nose; and I had started working toward getting into nursing school by enrolling in an evening Biology course (I had three high school courses to upgrade before I could get on the waitlist).  At that time, also, I started my first blog, in which I began a new experiment.  Here's an excerpt from October 2009:
"A friend told me today that you have to date thirteen people before you’ll find “The One”; some psychologist mentioned it somewhere and she is sticking to that notion (not for her – she’s happily married – well, married anyway – but for me).  Now, I am enough of a skeptic to think that this formula is not necessarily going to work, but I am also enough of a romantic to like the idea of trying. ... So this is what I will do: I will commit to dating thirteen men (either from or the Real World) and see what happens.  I’ll blog about it here and we’ll see what we come up with.  Is this truly the magical formula for love?  If it is, maybe I’ll find out, and if it isn’t, maybe I’ll have some interesting fodder for writing."
You can date thirteen men, but preferably not all at the same time...
So I made the commitment that I would date thirteen men and see what would happen.  It was an interesting challenge, and fun for the first few dates, but soon it stopped being fun and just became depressing.  I wasn't finding the kind of men I liked; I was getting chosen by men who liked my photograph and wanted to see if they could get me into bed.  I wanted that "spark".  Bored with the idea, and not really interested in carrying the experiment further, I gave up on my "13-Man Quest"...but I still hoped to find a partner.  I decided it was time for me to make myself "invisible"...I hid my profile, and did an "Advanced Search" based on what I liked in a man.

One profile stood out to me.  I didn't really like the picture he had up; it seemed a bit arrogant and "heyyy...come and get me", and he was wearing a sleeveless shirt that looked suspiciously like a wife-beater.  However, he had posted a link to a video he had made while teaching children English in China.  I clicked on the link and watched and my heart melted.  For any single mother, watching - or in this case, listening to, as he was behind the camera - a man interact with children is going to be a heart-wrencher.  I liked his voice; I liked the way he talked to them in Mandarin; I liked the gently teasing tone he adopted as he reminded them to speak in English and the way his voice broke slightly as he attempted to sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat".  He obviously wasn't a singer, but he sounded kind, and I decided to send him a message.

We arranged to meet for coffee.  He texted me asking what coffee I drank, and I gave him my usual long-winded order (I have one hot drink and one cold drink that I order at Starbucks...I can't be bothered to trip over any more words or try to figure out any more flavor combinations than that!).

I pulled open the door and walked into the coffee shop.  My eyes were instantly drawn to where he sat, my drink patiently waiting in front of him.  I recognized him from his photo, but fortunately, he didn't really resemble the "arrogant" man I had imagined from that two-dimensional picture.  He had short-cropped salt-and-pepper hair, green eyes, and stood a couple of inches taller than my five-foot-eight.  He was handsome, but more importantly, he looked like he was the type of person who cared.  About other people, about issues; I could tell he was someone who was kind.  Our eyes met and he stood, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he smiled.

There was a spark.  An instantaneous spark, but oh, so much more.

Something happened that moment, as we looked at each other.  As strange as it sounds, as as tripe-y-romantic-novelly as I'm being, there is only one way to say it: my heart recognized him.  It was as though we had known each other for a hundred years.  I stood smiling stupidly, filled with hope and excitement and relief, because all that I could think was, Oh, there you are!  

He greeted me, drew me into a hug, and we stood for a long moment in each other's arms. It felt right.

He was HB.  I was home.

For a moment I'm shocked; the next, I'm wondering how to respond.  Not wanting to be overeager - and really not sure how I am feeling about this phone call - I settle for a "'t expecting to hear from you!"

"I know," he says.  I sit back in my chair, heart hammering against my ribs, as he continues, his voice softer and laced with fondness.  "I had to call...I just had to tell you that I'm really missing you...and I think about you a lot...and...I hope to see you when I come back to Victoria."

"Are you planning a visit?" I ask, attempting indifference and succeeding in ignoring the other more tantalizing parts of his statement.

"Well..." he says slowly, hesitant.  "Originally when I came over here I said that I'd spend five years here, but...well, now I'm thinking I'll come back after one."

"Wow," I say, because I have absolutely no idea what I am supposed to say to this.  Part of me screams No! I'm just starting to get over you! but the rest of me is thinking I can't wait to see him and be in his arms again.  He doesn't need me to say much, apparently, because he continues, telling me how expensive everything is; how he doesn't even like the city; how he doesn't have the people he cares about and the job isn't as great as he had thought it would be.  Then he delivers the low blow.

"I want to come back.  I miss you.  And...I was hoping that when and if I come back...we could find a place together." be continued...

Monday, 8 October 2012

What I Am is What I Am

Day 60
305 Days Remaining

When I was a young teenager there was a song on the radio by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians called "What I Am".  To this day I can sing along with that song any time I hear it, which usually is only when I listen to the "oldies" stations.  Every time I think about doing a blog post about who I to describe myself...that song comes back into my head.  It's swirling around in there now and I'm trying to make sense of the lyrics, which I don't think I've ever really done before.

I'm not aware of too many things
I know what I know, if you know what I mean

When it comes to thinking about who I am and what I am, it can be difficult to really get a grasp on what is real and what is just something that I've allowed to seep into my belief system.  Am I someone who talks too much, or is that something I worry about doing, so I tend to ascribe it to myself as a personality trait?  Am I flighty and un-centered, or has someone told me that enough times that now I believe it about myself?
Philosophy is the talk on a cereal box.
Religion is the smile on a dog.
I'm not aware of too many things,
But I know what I know if you know what I mean.

Here is what I know to be true about myself.

My first name is Lisa, middle name Michelle.  I hate my last name - which happens to be my maiden name, not my married name, but I am waiting until our divorce is final before I change it officially.  The last name that I've chosen is Grace, and I didn't choose it; it chose me.  I am a mother, a deep lover of people and of God, a musician in my soul -which only successfully translates to reality about half the time - a writer, a voracious reader, a healer and a caregiver.  I was told once by someone in church that I have "healing hands" and that has stuck with me.  I believe my hands have the ability to calm, comfort, and pleasure (now don't get dirty thoughts in your head! I'm talking about therapeutic massage!), and that ability is part of what led me to nursing in the first place.  I am loyal.  I am loving.  I am a bit of a neat freak but also have the uncanny ability to completely ignore a towering pile of laundry for weeks.  I am strong.

I'm a paradox.  I'm an angel and a devil at the same time.  I long to do what's right and will go out of my way to avoid crossing someone`s lawn, yet there exists inside me a huge desire to buck authority (or sometimes - especially when I`m hormonal, hungry or tired - I`ll substitute an "f" for the "b" in that word!) and to be wild and unpredictable.  I have a tattoo and want more, but they have a lot of meaning to me and are not just a way of decorating my body.  I have a pierced nose and sometimes wish I had the nerve to pierce many more things.  One of my best friends is covered in tattoos and piercings and has wild hair and clothing, and I always like to say that she is on the outside what I am on the inside...but I would always be too worried about what people would say if I were to be that outwardly wild.  My mind wrestles with my desire to fit in, to wear the "proper" and "cool" clothes, and with my longing to express my creativity in crazy ways.
Sometimes I wish I was brave enough...but the kids would hate it...

Choke me in the shallow water before I get too deep.
What I am is what I am.
Are you what you are - or what?

Part of what I hope to accomplish with this blog and this year of reflection is to have the nerve to be who I really am, no matter what people would say about it.  It's a struggle I've had for years.  Two years ago, after Stringer and I broke up, I decided to do what I had wanted to do for a long time and cut off all my hair.  I wanted to see if I could pull it off.  Soon after, I got the nose piercing I always wanted.  I loved the way I looked with short, sassy hair and a diamond stud in my nose!  I felt like I was finally expressing myself, rather than keeping the long hair because someone else (read: A MAN) wanted it to stay long.  I ended up missing my long hair, so I've grown it back (and wow, is it ever healthy now that it had its chance to start from scratch; this hair has never been touched by chemical colors or straighteners, and I love it) but I recognize that I could chop it all off any time if I wanted.  No one can tell me how to wear my hair!

I am heading toward forty (thirty-eight on my next birthday) and don't feel it in any way (except on those long days when I`ve had school, then work, then not enough sleep...).  I feel like I`ve gotten stuck around twenty-five, except now I`m the twenty-five that perhaps I should have been then.  It`s almost unfair that maturation has to happen by growing old!  I`ve worked through all kinds of difficulties in my life and come out into the light.  I was flighty; I was "crazy"; I was emotional; I was not a good wife nor a good friend in too many terrible ways; I was unsettled and had no direction.  But I have overcome those tendencies and am working toward a much better ending to my story.

I walked out of my marriage six and a half years ago with nothing and rebuilt my life.  I've done everything I could for my children, made the decisions toward a better career and stuck with it, taught myself control and discipline - oh, except with money...yikes - and become a better parent.  I've learned how to be a good partner and still be true to myself, and I recognize that what others have to say about me does not matter as much as what God sees in me and what He has brought me to see in myself.  I have value; I have lots to offer; I am a good person.  These are things every person should see in themselves.  They are things I did not believe about myself, but things I have learned the hard way. 

I'm not aware of too many things,
But I know what I know if you know what I mean.
Philosophy is a walk on the slippery rocks.
Religion is a light in the fog.

I am an actress, a singer, a performer.  I want to make people feel.  I want to have an effect on the world in whatever positive way I can.  I love pregnancy, babies and children.  If I could be pregnant again, I would be overjoyed and thrilled to do so, but I have to be content with living vicariously through others - hence working toward becoming a Labor & Delivery nurse.  I am a doula and that has been an amazing experience.

So, so very precious..
I am a nurse.  Although I have four years of schooling ahead of me, I've been working toward it for the past four years...once I realized how fiercely I wanted it.  I had to upgrade grade 11 Math and Chemistry as well as grade 12 Biology, and this girl who once hated anything to do with the sciences ended up getting As in all three of those classes.  I work in healthcare and those who I care for receive all of my empathy and skill.  As I learn, as I practice, my skill set grows.  

I'm not aware of too many things,
But I know what I know if you know what I mean.
Choke me in the shallow water before I get too deep.
What I am is what I am.
Are you what you are - or what?

I am proud to have come through what I did.  I am who I am, and I like that person.

What a nice thing to be able to say.


Sunday, 7 October 2012

Another Little Piece of My (Grateful) Heart

Day 59
306 Days Remaining

Well, here we are at Thanksgiving, and tomorrow I reach a milestone day in this dating hiatus: yup, I'll be at 60 days tomorrow.  Soon enough we'll be counting down in the 200s.

It hasn't felt like a huge sacrifice to me for these past two months, although I've definitely had my moments when I really had some feelings of temptation.  They are fleeting, however, and although I'm sure it will get more difficult as more days and months roll on, I also find that I am feeling stronger and happier in my decision to remain single and not to look for a man.  I really recognized that the other day when I was on my way to school, and I noticed my ring fingers were bare.  This is not unusual; I`ve been without a wedding ring for over six years now, and since HB and I made the decision not to continue communicating I also have taken off the ring that he gave me (we exchanged rings two Christmases ago, ones we had made for each other from a design I created myself, and I have worn it on my right hand ring finger for the majority of the time since).  I wore a purity ring on my left ring finger for a while as well, but in health care it`s better to go without any rings, so I`m now generally bare-fingered.

Sometimes it`s strange; even now, six and a half years after my husband and I split up, my thumb will automatically go to my ring finger to spin my wedding ring around, and I`m surprised not to feel it there.  It`s like a phantom limb after it`s been cut off: it still itches and aches and you want to scratch it and then you`re startled when it`s not where it felt like it was.  That's what it was like the other day as I was driving.  Stopped at a red light, I absentmindedly moved both thumbs toward the familiarity of my rings and felt that shock of reminder that they are no longer there.  No symbol of marriage on my left hand; no tie to HB on my right.  Often when these moments happen I feel an ache, as though I want a replacement, a sign on my finger of someone`s devotion and commitment to me.  This time was different.  I tried to picture a ring on my wedding finger, and it felt wrong.  At least for now.  I almost felt a sense of panic at having something like that tying me down, as though the huge sense of possibility I am currently feeling about my life and the direction it`s headed in would be cut off if I made a commitment like that again.  I am happy being single.

That was a momentous realization.  I am happy being single!  I, who always based my life around the person I was dating; who would remember historical dates and events by who I seeing at the time; who always felt as though I couldn`t be worth anything unless there was someone there to tell me that I was.  I am happy being single, I am happy being "alone" - although, of course, with the support network of family and friends that I have, I am never really alone - and I am not in any rush to find someone with whom to spend my life.  I do want it again; I would love to share my life with someone who cares about me as much as I care about them and who respects and loves me, but I won't ever settle.  EVER.  God will bring the right partner for me in time - heck, my dad has finally found his true love in his 70s - and I want to be ready.  I want to be really me, completely comfortable in my skin, and find that person who rejoices in my differences.  Never again will I conform myself to someone else`s ideals, or my ideas of what their ideals are.

To that end, I`ve been thinking a bit more about that list of Dealbreakers I need to make before I start dating again.  A good friend - if I may quote her here - had this to say about it:

"Make that list of 'deal-breakers'. Also make a list of 'not quite deal-breakers'. And a list of 'I'd rather not'. And maybe even a list of 'annoying but tolerable if there is only one or two'. And a list of 'must-haves'. And a list of 'I'd really like". And 'wouldn't it be great if's'. Make sure your deal-breakers and must-haves are truly those. Those mean you will NEVER talk to the guy again. No matter how cute, sexy, funny or wonderful he is in other ways. So make sure those lists are completely accurate. And take your time making those lists."  [bold emphasis mine]

I love that this friend challenges me to live up to my own expectations.  I`ve been thinking a lot about those Dealbreakers and in my observations of the world over the past couple of weeks, I've come up with two things that are absolute must-haves on my "No" list.  These two Dealbreakers are as follows:

- He is not a Christian, and
- He smokes, does drugs, or drinks to excess [clarification needed here, as pointed out by the friend who reminded me to make this list: This means no cigarettes or drug use whatsoever.  I hate what it does to people.  "In excess" was ONLY relating to alcohol, by which I mean that if he drinks socially (as I do) or as a wind-down at the end of the day and not to get drunk, doesn't need it in order to be able to relate to people, isn`t a wild partier and does not make a habit of getting very drunk (although occasionally, like once every few years, happens!), I find that acceptable and tolerable.  One or two beer every night I find excessive and I would cut anyone off immediately if he were drunk in front of my children.]

If I meet a man (after my yearlong sabbatical, of course!) and think he`s pretty darn great, and then discover either of those things about him, then I have an obligation to myself to throw him to the curb.  Not in a mean way, obviously - yikes, I need to develop a thicker skin about how to let people down properly, rather than worry so much about hurting their feelings - but firmly.  I have to remind myself that these two things - so far - are things that I absolutely need to have in my future partner.  I`ve tried to ignore them before, and it hasn`t worked.  No amount of other "wonderful" things about any guy could make up for their lack.  It is so difficult, especially when it comes to the issue of faith, because I've known - and do know - so many amazing people who are not Christians.  I don't hold Christians to a higher standard than other people, but how can a relationship really work when they disagree on something so fundamental?  At least for me, my faith is a central part of who I am.  When I was with HB, he was tolerant of my "religion", as he called it, but in some ways he wasn't respectful, and instead of him trying to meet me halfway, I found that I was often holding myself back from talking about anything that was related to what I believed, whether it was the fact that I went to church that morning, or saying grace before a meal, or telling him that I was praying for him.  I was hiding a huge part of who I was from him.  What kind of partnership is that?  I want my boyfriend/husband/partner to celebrate with me in the things I find joyful, not for me to tamp down my joy so that I don't offend him. 

Tomorrow is Day 60.

On Day One, did I think I would still be working on this dating hiatus two months in?  Perhaps.  Did I think I would still be blogging about it, rather than abandon the first few entries to cyberspace as with any other blog I've attempted?  Not really.  But knowing that I have the support of my family, friends, and all of you as readers who faithfully follow my journey, keeps me on track.

I'm grateful for this journey.  I'm grateful for my family, for my friends, for my school and the love of learning that has been ignited in me this year.  I'm grateful for the insight that I'm gaining into myself, and for the gift of reflection that allows me to grow and continue growing.  I am grateful to God for never leaving me through all of my crazy soap opera life, and I'm excited to see what He continues to do in me.  And I'm grateful to you for reading and for encouraging me.  Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Thursday, 4 October 2012


Day 56
309 Days Remaining

I know you don't want to read a depressing blog.

That being said, you may also not want to read an “inspirational” blog...a blog that shows the triumph over adversity or lectures you on how to get over your own “issues” or problems, or appears to brag about how the writer managed to get past her issues and is now “SUCH a wonderful person”.

This blog is none of those things, although I am sure it has its share of such moments (oh yes; I can brag about my accomplishments with the best of them!). This blog – if you are just joining us now – is about how I came to recognize that I needed some time off from dating, and how I decided to take that time in the form of a 365-day dating hiatus, or sabbatical. I had hoped that there would be some funny moments; some touching moments; a “yuck” moment here or there; and a few stories of my past dating experiences and what lessons they taught me, and I was certain that I would make mistakes on occasion and have to 'fess up. I want to entertain, to share, to encourage, and to learn.
So, if you came here to laugh, or cheer me on during these 365 days of no-kissing-no-dating-no-looking-at-boys-oh-my-goodness-how-much-longer-can-I-stand-it, and were reading along happily when all of a sudden you were hit over the head with two fairly serious posts about borderline personality disorder, you may be wondering what direction the blog is headed now.

Fear not, dear readers! For this blog is not turning into the Diagnostic Center for Psychiatric and Chemical Disorders, nor am I playing amateur psychologist. Yes, I was diagnosed with BPD in 2009. Yes, I fought hard to work with the chemical imbalance in my brain and yes (and this is a big, huge, fist-pumping YES!!!!), I have managed to get past it and learned how to deal with it, and no longer meet the criteria for a positive BPD diagnosis. However, one of the hallmarks of BPD is "a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation" and as you may have gathered, this has had a huge effect on my love and dating life. As this blog is about my dating life, the issues I've had with it, and the lessons I hope I've learned and mistakes I hope not to repeat, BPD has played a big part in it. I suppose we could have done a “Tales From the Dating Archives: The Story of BPD” blog post...borderline personality disorder has been there all along, sitting quietly in the background wreaking havoc on the best-intentioned relationships. 
Every date will end in disaster if BPD is along for the ride!

This being the case, I want to make a few things clear, and then you'll know enough about my experience with BPD to see how it has worked in the background and the minor effects it still has on me (my children sure know all about avoiding me when I'm hormonal – oh boy, does that chemical imbalance know when to strike!).  I am sure there will be lots of moments in the future when I will suddenly be fighting off the feelings that tend to rise up in me from time to time.  

For those who wondered, yes, technically, I am cured - if one can ever be "cured" of BPD.  The best news for me about the disorder was that it is not treated chemically, like BP (bipolar disorder), but instead people with BPD go through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to learn new and better ways of dealing with the problems that BPD can create in their lives.  For me, who was worrying about needing to be dependent on medication for the rest of my life, that was great to hear.  Another thing about BPD is that people can, in fact, effectively "grow out of" it; as one ages, the chemicals in the brain that cause the disorder change and a person can end up no longer meeting the diagnostic criteria for BPD.  As well, a lot of the coping methods used to combat BPD can be learned as a part of maturing.

Inspired and encouraged, I worked very hard during that first year after realizing that there was something really wrong.  I read a lot, prayed even more, wrote down everything I felt, and allowed myself the time to feel what I was feeling without letting it take over my life.  I learned to accept the emotions and ride through them, rather than let them grasp me tightly and shake up everything I was working on.  By the time I managed to get an appointment with an intake counselor for the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy group, I had already worked through a lot of my issues and learned new ways to deal with the feelings whenever they threatened to overwhelm me.  My meeting with the counselor was great, but after speaking with me, she basically told me that the DBT would not do me any good; that I was "already further along" than she would expect from someone who had completed a full course of DBT.  While this was good news (good?  That was GREAT news!) I still worried that I would get overconfident and slip up; that my control over the disorder would falter if I gave it even an inch.  She reassured me that I could always come back if necessary, but asserted that "the very fact that you are worried about that shows that you're already so aware and in control of what's going on inside you".

She was right.  I kept working on it; obviously, my menstrual cycle and the accompanying hormone surges still had a huge impact on my control over my emotions - and that is still an issue - but I managed to get the huge emotional waves beaten into submission, to the point that it is largely unconscious for me now.  I have learned many methods of coping with the swells and surges of feeling, and the day I marked my three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth big red X on my calender - marking one year without having lost control of my emotions - was a huge celebration for me.  A few months later, I double-checked the criteria on the DSM-IV and realized that I no longer felt "unstable" about my sense of self.  I no longer - or not as often - made "frantic attempts to avoid real or imagined abandonment", or had chronic feelings of emptiness, or as much impulsivity in spending or other potentially self-damaging activities.

I didn't meet seven out of the nine criteria anymore, as I had when I first learned of the disorder.  In fact, I no longer met even the five out of nine required to make a diagnosis of BPD.

Borderline personality disorder no longer ruled my life.  I had gained control.  And now, three years out, I have managed to hang on to everything I learned, so that when I have those moments when I feel empty, or want to spend money that I don't have, or have attacks of anxiety or panic, I am able to utilize the tools I have learned to deal with the feelings in a more positive way, to lessen their effect.  This fight has been part of my learning and growing, to becoming the best "me" I can be.

And now, back to our story...