Saturday, 29 December 2012

Goodbye, HB: The End

Dear HB,

I am done.

I don't think you have a clue what you have been doing to me all these years, because I do believe that deep down in your heart, you think you love me.  The problem is that you really don't understand what love really is.

When you say you love me, you mean this:

"I love how you make me feel."
"I love the things you do for me."
"I love knowing that someone cares that much for me."
"I love that you are always there for me."
"I love that you let me be myself and do not ever pressure me into anything."

For the past two and a half years since you told me we couldn't be together, you've had your cake and eaten it, too.  You had me: you had someone who loved you wholeheartedly and would do anything for you.  You couldn't make the commitment, so you could go out and do whatever you wanted with whoever you wanted, knowing that you had told me that "we can't be together", and you were off the hook when it came to being there for me.  You could go straight from saying you loved me to avoiding my lips - but that's all right; we weren't together.  Never mind that you lived in my house and made meals with me and went grocery shopping with me and helped me discipline my children - we weren't together.  Never mind that you constantly told me I was the most important person in your life, that you didn't know what you would do without me, that you couldn't imagine there ever being a time when I was not in your life - we weren't together.  And you could just go off and do whatever you wanted to do, because you knew that everything in me was completely wrapped up in you, that I would always forgive and forget everything as long as I knew that you loved me.

I should have cut things off that first time you told me that we had no future together.  Why did I allow you to stay in my life?  What did we have, really? - a sexless, kiss-free relationship where I still did everything I could to show you that I was the perfect woman, so that you would eventually come to your senses and realize that you couldn't live without me.  I spent the last three years in a ridiculous roller-coaster of emotions and you sailed through in blissful obliviousness, knowing that I loved you and that I would still be there for you no matter what.  And I'm aware that none of this was done to hurt me - you just were completely unaware.  In a way, your complete ignorance of how much it was hurting me is actually what hurt the most.

But I'm learning a few things.  I'm learning about me, and I've realized that I've loved you too much.  I've given you too much and allowed you to do whatever you wanted without thinking about how much it was affecting me.  True, I broke it off (although how you can "break off" a nonexistent romantic relationship is questionable) several times, telling myself I needed to be without you and that I would be better off jumping than staying on this crazy train, but I always hopped back on.  One smile from you; one kiss; one small sentence that hinted at the promise of a future, and I was right back in there: hopeful; naive; the romantic in me always craving the possibility of a moment when you would look at me and declare that this up-and-down and back-and-forth was just as stupid as I've always known it was.  I thought somehow that I was hopeless in the face of the great love I had for you...really, I was just caught in the grip of my addiction to you, and you, somehow thinking that in this craziness, we were loving each other properly, let it continue as long as I still wanted you.  I don`t want to enable you anymore.

How many times can I do it?  How many times can I keep thinking, this time he's changedThis time we're on track and we're going to end up happy and secure together?  So many times you've talked of a future, only to pull back.  You say that eventually, no matter what, it's going to be you and me, together...but why is that "happy ending" so far in the distant future?  If it can happen then, why can't it happen now?

All my friends know you so much better than you think they do, because they are the ones who have had to pick up the pieces every time your thoughtlessness tore me apart once again.  My family all knows, and although they like you, they don't like what you've done to me - what I've let you do to me.  Even my ex-boyfriends - yes, I've talked to them about you, because they know me the way that you know me, and they know what it's like to be on the receiving end of this very forceful, fiercely loyal love that I've been throwing at you for so long.  It's hard to believe, but some of the best advice I've gotten has been from Stringer, and from Black Luke...and I've come to see that they truly have my best interests at heart.  They want me to have what I deserve, and although you claim to love me "so much" (I love you so much, Lisa...), I believe that they - now - love me more than you ever have.  Because that is what love is, HB - love is wanting what is best for the other person.  Love is wanting to be the best person that you can be around someone, and wanting to help them to become the best person that they can be.  It's encouraging, and supporting, and sometimes, letting the person you love make their own mistakes in order to learn some important lessons.  My friends, my family: they all can see that caring for you makes me unhappy, and have been gently encouraging me to let you go for a long, long time.  I keep trying, and I keep losing the battle.

But now, after this last visit, I can see that this really is it.  There is no hope that you are going to magically, suddenly, somehow, recognize that I am the girl for you.  You are not going to stop being so selfish in your love that you start doing things that would benefit me rather than yourself.  You are not - ever - going to be with me.

Do you know how I felt when I opened the door and saw you there?  So happy, and so scared.  Scared that I was going to fall right back into the pattern I was in for so long before you left town, when I've just recently started to get past you and move on with my healing and my growing and learning.  And you wrapped your arms around me, and you held me, and it felt safe because it was so familiar.  Five months since I last saw you, and it felt like home, like it always has.

Yet, I could smell the cigarette smoke on you, and it flashed through my mind - dealbreaker.  You started smoking again, and I hate it.  You know I hate it and you know I worry about your health.  Smoking is probably your vicious cycle, like you are mine.  But maybe one of these days you will finally break the habit, like I`m breaking the habit of you today.  Our visit this last time was brief, and enjoyable in its familiarity, but when you left, I felt that old familiar feeling that I had done something to make you not want me - that panic that I had to immediately text you to remind you that I exist.  How awful is that?  When I'm with you, I feel I am the best, most beautiful person in the world; as soon as you leave, I feel as though I am not good enough for you.  How could I ever have thought I loved someone who makes me feel as though I am not good enough?  And that lingering smoke smell (although of course I brushed it off like it didn`t bother me) was a continuous reminder that this is not the man I want...YOU ARE NOT THE MAN I WANT.  I thought about how selfishly you`ve acted - though of course you have given me so much, you`ve also only given what is comfortable for you, and kept back the things that you didn`t want to give.  I don`t want a selfish man who takes what he can and gives only what doesn`t hurt him to give.  Even if you changed completely, it`s too late.  There`s too much water under the bridge for us now.  Stringer told me once (and it has never left my mind) that if someone keeps bringing up reasons why something can't happen, as you have always held fast to your reasons that we can't be together, it's because he doesn't want it to happen.  You don't want us to happen - you never have - yet you clung to the security I provided for you...and now, I'm the one that doesn't want us to happen. 

I'm not playing these games anymore, HB.  I'm done. 

I've erased your number from my phone.  I've deleted you - and your mother and sister - from Facebook, and taken the photos of us together off my Profile Pictures.  Tomorrow my friend is coming over and we are going to spend some time in prayer together, asking God to break the spiritual ties that have kept me so bound to you for so long.  This is the last time.  I'm not going to call you and tell you, and I'm not going to send you this letter, because truthfully, I don't want to talk to you again and take the chance that I'll get sucked in.  And although I know you said - you promised - that you would come and see me within the month, and take a few days to just spend with me, I'm not holding my breath.  I've learned that you'll regret making that promise, and I don't expect to hear from you about it.  If I do, I will ignore it, like I should have done long ago.

Sincerely, and with regret for wasting so much of my own time,


Friday, 28 December 2012

That Which I Do Not Wish to Be

Day 141
224 Days Remaining

Have you ever heard the saying "Methinks thou dost protest too much"?

How about "That which you do not wish to be, is what you will become", or “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there"?

I'm writing a blog about not dating for a year.  I know where I'm going, and I thought I had a clearly defined road to follow in order to get there.  Yet somehow, in the process, it has become evident to me that I am writing a blog...about dating.  It is the Ironic Process Theory defined.

That which I do not wish to a person who is defined by her relationships.  Yet even in the course of trying to break that mold I put myself in, I have become someone who is still defining herself by the relationships she once had, the ones she is struggling to get past, and the ones yet to come.

I'm not saying that what I have written so far has no value; on the contrary, reflecting on the relationships I had in the past has been incredibly valuable to me and has brought me to the point where I now have a much clearer picture of what I want and what I don't want in a relationship.  The problem is that I still don't stick to it, I still hang on to the past, and I am focusing entirely too much on what I am trying not to do that it has, in a way, become all that I think about.

This blog shouldn't be about "not dating".   It should be about "finding out who I am", about "being the best Me that I can be", about "The Evolution of Lisa".  Lisa is defined by her relationships and by other peoples' perception of her - and why?  This isn't how it should be. 

Back to the Ironic Process Theory.  It's basically a positive feedback loop, illustrated most often by the instruction "Don't think about a pink elephant".  Of course, what results is exactly that: thinking about a pink elephant, and suddenly we're drunk Dumbo watching a parade of pink elephants dancing around our heads.  I'm trying not to think about dating, but instead, I'm thinking more about it.  Or, to be more specific, instead of just NOT DATING, I'm constantly thinking about, obsessing over, mulling through, strategizing about how to not date.  This is what Stringer and I had a very long and thoughtful conversation about a few weeks back, and I've been trying to get it all straight in my head ever since.  He's pointed things out to me gently but has let me come to these conclusions on my own.  I know I've had other friends try to show me the same thing for quite a while - and I already knew it, in a way, at the back of my mind - but I suppose I needed to be able to put it into words before I could start working on it.  I'm still struggling with it, I think; trying to put this blog post together has been difficult.  I've had it floating through my head for quite a while, but it's been hard to get it all down and make sense of it.  It's just a bunch of pink elephants dancing around until I pin them down.
So what should I be thinking about instead?  Stringer pointed out that I need to establish boundaries.  This is very true and is something that I am aware of, but I am very good at stating boundaries that are vague and malleable - probably so that if I am confronted with them, I can shift and manipulate them so that I can still get what I want out of a situation.  Then I feel guilty later.  (The situation with Fig is a prime example - I said I had boundaries, but I didn't fully establish them until after the fact.  In fact, they still aren't firm.)  I need to make sure that rather than say "I'm not dating" I have much more clearly defined boundaries, such as:

- I will not talk with a person of the opposite sex about dating or anything to do with men, other than to state that I am on a 365-day dating hiatus (or maybe not even that - maybe just a "no thanks" would do)
- I will not allow myself to become involved in any intimate conversation with a man (who is not already established as a good friend, has no danger of pushing my boundaries, and knows my history)
- I will not touch any males beyond a handshake

These may seem excessive but they are examples as to how I need to clearly state what I will and won't do.  I will push them otherwise.  I know myself well enough to know that.

My dating hiatus was intended to be a time for me to evolve, to become closer to God, to become more of who I eventually want to be, and to free myself from romantic attachments that have bound me for too long.  Instead, in some ways - though I have had many moments of clarity and I have learned a lot in the process - it has become a time of wallowing.  I am a wallowing pink elephant.

It is time to move on from thinking about men, and how I relate to men, and how men relate to me, and why I don't have a man, and what I can do to keep a man, and - even - what kind of man I want.  Although it is definitely important for me to know what kind of man I need to have in my life, and what dealbreakers I absolutely won't stand for, that's not what I should be focusing on.  It's time for focusing on improving myself and how I relate to the world.

But just before I leap into that, there is one more thing I need to do in order to move forward: I need to get rid of all the ideas that I ever had of HB and I living happily ever after, and I need to purge him from my life.  And I am taking this weekend to do that.  Wish me luck, and wish him good riddance, once and for all.


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Joy Can Fill an Empty Christmas Stocking

Day 140
225 Days Remaining

I had a similar feeling about Christmas this year as I did about my birthday: I had no expectations (well, aside of course from the video montage fiasco), and so I had no disappointment.  I still have the potential to be disappointed, as HB is in town and says he wants to see me today, and as much as I am trying not to want it or expect it, there is some part of me that will feel slightly let down if he doesn't follow through.  I do feel it would be better for me if I don't see him at all, but I'm not fooling myself into thinking that I really could care less.

I have to give myself some credit, however; when he first said he was coming to town for Christmas and hoped he could see me, I didn't jump at the chance and I didn't automatically assume it was going to happen.  I said that it would be nice and that I would enjoy it, but I know that putting it on my schedule and waiting with bated breath to see him would be just setting myself up for disappointment.  I told him I would leave it up to him to contact me when he got into town, and then I went ahead and made my Christmas plans without scheduling in any "just in case" time for HB to slot into.  If he happens to contact me today and wants to get together (he said he'd like to take me for sushi - it was always kind of our thing), I'll see what's happening with my day and what could work, but I'm not going to avoid doing things all day long on the off chance that he'll call.  I'm a little bit proud of that.

And what a Christmas I had!  I knew I was going to be spending Christmas Day without the kids, as they were with their dad and then at their grandma`s house for dinner and presents, and I was determined that I was not going to find myself alone, sad and bitter on Christmas Day.  This time last year, I was most decidedly not happy; the kids were with their dad, but I had both Stu and HB in my life at that time (although  not romantically) and had thought that having no children for Christmas Day would mean that I would have more time to spend with them - at different times, of course.  But HB was with his mother and sister, and Stu has the biggest family I`ve ever seen, so they were both busy.  I found myself feeling incredibly alone - I attended the church service and did feel uplifted by my lovely church family, but the feeling of emptiness on waking on Christmas morning to absolutely no one, knowing that everyone I cared about was off doing something with other people that were important to them, and seeing empty stockings hanging dejectedly, was more hard-hitting and debilitating than I had realized it would be.  I cried in church as I thanked the small congregation for being there for me.  Without them I didn't know what I would have done.

That evening, I went to work, and although visiting people in the community who didn't have much family, and giving them a reason to smile, was rewarding, by the end of the evening I went straight to the liquor store and bought myself some rum.  Rum & Coke and ripple chips 'n dip are my "go-to" comfort snack...when I have an evening to myself and want to celebrate alone time, I fire up a movie and settle in with my junk.  I was looking forward to doing that this particular Christmas Day evening and wasn't feeling too sorry for myself, until the moment I walked into the store.  At once, I was overwhelmed with grumpiness that alcohol was my date for the evening.  As I walked out and they wished me a good night, I turned, held up the bottle of rum in one hand and the bottle of Coke in the other, and said bitterly, "This is my Christmas.  Lucky me."  And I turned and walked back to my car.

The instant I slid behind the wheel I felt bad.  Not only had I played up my misery for no reason, I had shown the staff of the store - who were, after all, working on Christmas Day - a very negative attitude, and maybe made them feel either a little sad themselves, or disgust with the disgruntled lady who had just walked out of the store.  I almost went back in to tell them that I really didn't mind an evening with rum & Coke and chips 'n dip - that I was looking forward to it, in fact! - but I figured that would just make it worse.  So I went home and salvaged the rest of my Christmas.

So this year, in the days leading up to Christmas, I knew I didn't want to be miserable like I was last year; missing my kids; missing HB; missing Stu and just wishing someone would be there with me.  I put a plan into action.

I opened a Word Document, called it "Surviving Christmas Alone", and began to make plans on how I was going to spend my time alone.  Here it is: 


Christmas Day, Dec. 25th: 
8am: Wake up.  It’s a beautiful day!
o   Full makeup – you want to feel great today! 
o   Do your hair! 
o   homemade peppermint mocha (with whipped cream!) 
o   smoked salmon Eggs Benedict 
9am:  Eat breakfast while reading the Bible and having some prayer time. Readings:  Luke 2:1-20 
11am:  Meet Blazer, Stoney & Mey for lunch & Les Miserables 
2pm:  Bake something to bring to work with me! Mom’s cinnamon cookies
 4pm: Work - and enjoy your time with the residents there.  Be a light.
You will not believe how seriously I took this program.  Christmas Eve I went to the 11pm candlelight service with Stoney, which meant that after getting Stoney home, getting myself home, and then getting something to eat and getting ready for bed, it was past 1am.  Nevertheless, I ensured that I was out of bed early (okay, it was 9 instead of 8), and followed the rest of the list to the letter.  My smoked salmon Benedict was wonderful - although the peppermint mocha could have been better - and I loved going to the movie with the girls on Christmas Day.  Some baking and fudge making in the afternoon, a slow and eventless evening at work, and I had survived - and enjoyed - Christmas Day.  I had danced and sung all day and hoped that my enthusiasm would rub off on the lonely people I was around.  Driving home, I felt the need for R&C&C&D (get that one yet?) and I knew I had half of the makings of it at home, so I stopped at the gas station for some ripple chips and Coke.

While I was there looked across to the liquor store, and that is when I had the memory of walking in there last Christmas with misery written across my face.  I thought of how hard Christmas had been for me last year, and how I wished that all the innocent people who were excitedly spending Christmas with their families would tone down their cheer a little bit and realize that there are still people hurting at this time of year.  There are still people who are alone, and lonely, and confused.  Being absorbed in our own happiness doesn't lift people up out of their slump unless you involve them in it, too.

So I tried to be more sensitive to other people, rather than just hoping that my big smile and my whistling and singing under my breath would bring a smile to their faces as well.  I asked questions - after all, the woman behind the counter wasn't with her family on Christmas Day either.  It turns out that she accepted the shift so that the other worker - who has children - could be with her kids that day.  She was hoping for a family Christmas on Boxing Day, if her wife - and you learn something new about even people you see often, when you show interest in them - didn't end up stuck up-Island due to weather.  I wished her luck for a successful Boxing Day Christmas (something she and I shared) and tried to be a little more mellow on the way out.  For although my joy this year could conceivably be described as last year's misery turned inside out, I wanted to share it without rubbing it in people's faces.

It's amazing what a year can do.  It's amazing what God can change in your heart when you allow Him and when you are willing to do the work to be changed. 

After yesterday's fulfilling and fun Boxing Day Christmas with my family (and with Stringer's parents, who invited me to join them for Yule Log and coffee in the evening) I can truly say I am ten - twelve - heck, twenty times happier than I was this time last year.  So who knows where I'll be this time next year?  How exciting to find out.


Sunday, 23 December 2012

You Will Get a [senti]Mental Feeling...

Day 136
229 Days Remaining

Do you ever have those days where just everything irritates you?  I'm feeling so annoyed with everything right now...I try to do something fun and no one is going along with it, so I try to stifle my irritation and let them do their thing, but then just as I get settled with a big mug of apple cider (it is the Christmas season, after all) and am ready to spend some time alone, I'm infiltrated with children and their noise and their mess and their neediness...

Of course you all must know how very much I love my children and that I am always glad for time spent with them, but today and yesterday I'm just pissed off in general.  Little things that don't usually bother me are getting to me: Fig left a tiny mess in the kitchen (after I'd just cleaned it); I huffed.  The boys moved a desk out of one room into another so that they could put their desks next to each other for coloring; I puffed.  One child snarked at me for mentioning him in a Facebook post; I snarled.  The kids started asking for money to buy Christmas presents (which I've already given them) and then didn't actually buy any presents with it; I gnarfed (that's a new word I just made up to describe both the sound I made and the feeling that was building up inside me: I feel so GNARFY!).  Now we're home from the mall (let's not get started on what a person who is feeling generally annoyed at the world feels while in a shopping center the day before Christmas Eve) and I want to retreat into my room and be left alone for a while, but they are in here now.  Argh.

I wasn't sure where this irritability was coming from; after all, that Katy Perry time of the month is over for the time being, so my emotions should generally be on a pretty even keel.  But I noticed it starting yesterday. For a few days I've had this idea in my head that the household (me, my kids, and Fig and his son) could make a video for Christmas; you know, a music montage.  I could envision it clearly: set to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and featuring all of us having fun in various Christmasy ways.  Yes, I am a total sap, and yes, it is a long shot to think that any teenagers would be interested in participating, but I hoped that in some way I could round them all up to participate.  Fig was game and managed to convince his son that it would be fun, and my youngest (who is always eager to please, and can see fun in anything) was totally into the idea.  Can't you picture it?  Opening scene: glittering lights on a tree, boughs stretching across a multitude of presents, and me and my kids dancing with Fig and Young Fig in front of it.  Cut to a scene of my daughter and her friends laughing as they bake cookies, tossing flour playfully at one another.  Cut again to all of us sitting by the fireplace, gigantic mugs of steaming hot chocolate in our hands.  Other scenes played out in my head before I had even mentioned it to anyone: the boys handing each other presents and shaking the boxes as they tried to guess what was inside; all the kids sitting in front of a classic Christmas film like White Christmas or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; pulling hot cookies out of the oven and oohing and aahing over packed-full stockings hanging by the fireplace.

I had little hope that my older son would be interested in anything to do with it, but lo and behold, he wanted to film for us, so I began to think that this silly ridiculous totally Mom-type idea would actually come to fruition.  We filmed a scene of two of the kids and myself on the couch with the dogs, watching Rudolph, and then Fig - who has been nursing a very bad chest infection - came down and patiently sat by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate as the boys clowned around.  It was working!  Our Christmas video montage was going to happen and it would be great!

But as soon as I asked the boys if they would dance by the tree, it all fell flat.  My older son lost interest in filming and began sketching comics at his desk.  Fig was feeling so sick that all he could do was lie his head down on the breakfast bar and moan occasionally (although he made a valiant attempt to coax the kids to participate).  Fig Jr. balked at the idea of dancing and immediately hid from the camera, and when I asked him to help me bake some cookies (Fig was ready to grab some fast footage with the camera) happily did so, but frowned as soon as he saw the camera pointed in his direction ("Don't film me, Dad!) and soon scooted out of the room to watch TV.  My younger son, drawn in by his older's brother's art (you like what I did there?), meandered into the den and began his own drawing session.  I grumpily finished up baking a bunch of useless cookies and cleaned up, Brenda Lee still droning in my head, "Everyone dancing merrily in the new old-fashioned way..."

It was too much to expect of everyone, I know, but somehow I still had hope that it would happen and we could be the cheesiest family on the block.  I think part of me didn't really think everything would work out, but because people were actually showing some interest, my hopes were raised.  Still, I shouldn't have gotten so annoyed when they didn't all do exactly what I wanted them to do.

Once again, my expectations have led me to disappointment.  It's not their fault.  It's not anyone's fault that I got this idea in my head and hoped that everyone else who shares my life and my home would be as excited about it as I was.  I shouldn't have been surprised or disappointed that they didn't - that's just life.

I feel better now that I've written about it and had some time to myself.  The kids have migrated back downstairs and left me to my own devices, and perhaps wisely so.  I'll take a few more minutes to just breathe and relax, and then I'll move on and see what they would like to do.  Maybe we can find something that we'll all enjoy.

(And maybe I'll prop the camera up somewhere to record everything we do, just in case...)


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Reclaiming My Skin

Day 135
230 Days Remaining

Boy, did I have a great shower the other day.  I felt so fresh and clean and happy...I used the last of this wonderful bath product I got when my sister and I went to Chemainus - it's called Body Gelato and it smells like vanilla heaven and makes the skin SO super silky - and was reveling in how soft my skin was feeling.  I actually sat there after drying myself and stroked my arms and legs.

While I was feeling the heavenly softness that was my skin (I'm not exaggerating; that stuff really works) I was shocked when I suddenly realized that one of the first thoughts to cross my mind was "I should let Fig feel how soft my arm is".  A very close second (after I envisioned marching out of the bathroom clad only in a towel and demanding that Fig stroke me from elbow to wrist) was "That would be inappropriate, but I sure wish that I had someone to appreciate how soft my skin is right now".

Wow.  Have I learned nothing?

This is what I realized as I sat on the edge of my bathtub absentmindedly caressing my arms: I give too much of myself, too soon.  I always have.  I always do.  And while in some cases it is good - when I am at work, for example, and am able to care openly and easily; or when someone needs a listening ear, I am always there - in a lot of cases, it can be a bad thing.  I give too much emotionally; I give too much information; I give too much of myself physically.  I allow people to take what they need from me because I feel if they need it and it's in me to give, I should.  I worry that I will hurt their feelings if I say no.  I worry that they won't want to be my friend or be in my life anymore if I don't make them happy in certain situations.  My entire existence sometimes smacks of insecurity, and despite the fact that I have grown a lot, those little shaky growing stalks of self-esteem are weak and tender...and I've allowed them to be trampled a few times (sometimes by others, but mostly by myself).  I also give people more than they are able to handle sometimes, simply because I feel that I must share, share, share.
As ironic as it is that I am writing this in a blog for all the world to see, I have got to learn to hold back something of myself.  I think in some ways I do that a lot more now than I used to, but there is still something in me that feels I need to blurt everything out in order to be completely honest.  That's not true.  You don't need to know everything about me, do you?  Sometimes it's too much.

Why do I share so much of myself in this blog?  In part, it's therapeutic for me.  And I have had a great response to my blog; people have been really pleased to hear what I have to say, and I have had people ask questions for clarification on certain things.  I feel encouraged that in some ways I am encouraging others, because I doubt I am the only person in the world who has gone through and is going through things like this.  For the people who are important in my life, it's a way for them to get to know me better without endless coffee klatches.  For myself, it's a way to express how I'm feeling and a way to see things that I may not have seen prior to getting them written down.  I am a visual person, so once I see those words on the screen, I am able to more easily digest their meaning.  If a thought is flitting through my head, I need to pin it down.

I don't really feel that sharing of this sort is the worst thing I can do; people can choose to read it, or not.  Believe it or not, there are many things that I have not shared in this blog, and there are things that I absolutely refuse to share, and have since the beginning (for instance, anything to do with my marriage or my children's dad, I will not talk about: I want them to be able to read this blog eventually. if they so desire, and I respect their privacy and their feelings about their father).  But the need to physically and emotionally share myself with people is where I get in trouble.

Things with Fig would not have gotten to where they went if I didn't feel this constant need to have male attention in my life.  If I hadn't wanted to keep from hurting him by rejecting his advance (very subtle and gentle - with much room to take it or leave it - as it may have been).  If I hadn't ignored that little voice in my head that said "this [kiss] is not yours to give to him".  I want to save my kisses, my skin, my body, my feelings, my adoration and love, for the man who is to be my husband.  As much as kissing Fig made me feel as though I was cheating on myself (simply by the fact that I am on a dating hiatus), it also made me feel as though I had stolen something from a man I may not even have met yet.

So, is it time to reclaim my skin?  Why do I get up in the morning and spend time washing and scrubbing and shaving and exfoliating in the first place; is it so I feel fresh and clean in case anybody important smells me?  Is it so that my skin will be soft in case anyone touches me?  Why do I put on makeup and get dressed neatly; is it in hopes that someone will be impressed or tell me I'm pretty or want to be around me more?  I'd like to think that the reason I try to look nice and smell nice is for myself, but I do know that a huge part of me is still hoping that someone important will notice me and like me.

I'm going to try to remember that not everything needs to be shared.  Vital information, certainly.  Personal tidbits, at appropriate times.  Emotions, definitely, with people I have had the time to grow close to and who are willing to take on my feelings.  But my body?  My heart?  No...those need to be kept in reserve.  They do not belong to just any old Joe on the street.  Please keep reminding me of that whenever you see me teetering close to making yet another mistake. 


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Contentment Project, The Final Day: List #1

Day 132
233 Days Remaining

Well, now we get to the most fun - and in some ways most rewarding - part of The Contentment Project.  Take a look at List #1, the list designed to remind yourself what you have and how much there is to be grateful for.  Here's mine:

List #1: What do you have NOW?

1. My family and friends
2. My beautiful children
3. I am working toward my education
4. I love the house I am living in and my huge soaker bathtub
5. The library

So what do you do with a list like this?  Several things, actually: you should have already done this while you were making your list, but do it again now...look at each item individually and really think about each of them.  Take the time to reflect on how they make you feel, and what each of those items means to you. Think of how far you've come to be where you are now, and recognize how things have changed for the better.

I look at each of these things and feel amazingly blessed to have come through the last few years and gotten to where I am today.  My relationships with family and friends have strengthened in huge ways, and I have developed new friendships and made even tighter bonds with old ones.  I see how absolutely solid the people in my life are, and I am grateful that I know I have so many people that I can turn to when things get rough.  I know that there are people who truly love me and would do anything for me, and I feel the same way about them.

For a long time, I didn't understand the meaning of the word "love".  Or actually, to be more specific, I didn`t understand the meaning of the emotion "love", or its context as a verb.  In some ways, I'm still learning (aren't we all?), but in others, I have come to realize that I am worthy of being loved unconditionally and fully.  For too many years, I didn't believe that.  I could not comprehend how anyone could really, actually, love me; could care about me and what happened to me enough that my pain could cause them pain, or my joy bring them happiness.  I didn't feel as though I deserved it, and I couldn't really feel it coming from anyone (I "knew" in my head that people loved me, but I couldn`t translate that to my heart).  Once I really recognized what love was - probably sometime in my early 30s - I felt even less deserving of it.
But now, I see what real love is, and because I no longer have the same fears and self-doubts, and because I want to love people openly and freely even if they don't love me back - because true love gives of itself without always needing to take - I am able to love so much more deeply and in a more real way than I ever did before.  And, in those times when I feel a real need to be loved, I now feel so assured at all times of the love of my friends and family that I can give love to even those who don't receive it well.

My children are the most incredible thing I have ever done.  (Not that I`ll ever be "done".)  I have three beautiful, smart and funny kids who drive me absolutely nuts with love and, sometimes, with frustration.  I've made a lot of mistakes with my children, and we have all suffered for it, but our relationships are growing and I'm so pleased with where we are at.  My kids are amazing.  I am so proud of them and will brag and show them off as much as they let me!

The other things on my list are great, too; I know I am where I am supposed to be when it comes to education and career, and that's just one more thing that helps me to feel happy and content with my life. This is why this list is really the most important one: it helps you to remember that although there are things still worth reaching for, and things that you may need to discard from your life, there is still so much that you already have, right now.
So now, here's what I want you to do:  Look at your list, pick one (or more than one!) thing on it, and do something to show how grateful you are for what you have in your life.

I started working on this a week or so ago.  I knew what I was going to have to do with my lists for The Contentment Project, and I didn't want to wait.  I chose #1 - My family and friends, and decided to start that day showing them how grateful I am for them.  I decided that I would use Facebook - that vanity space - to bless other people rather than constantly talk about myself  (I do enough of that in my blog, don't I? - Don't let me fool you...I still talk about myself on Facebook.  Who doesn't?).  But I wanted to show everyone how very much I cherish, respect and love them.

I began writing a series of posts called "Things I Love About _________".  I started with my schoolmate Shotty, and listed several things about her that are wonderful and that make me smile.  The way she encourages me.  How strong she is in her convictions, how much she loves God and isn't afraid to show it.
How she is beautiful inside and out.  What a great study buddy she is.  And how she is very, very, VERY silly (probably my favorite thing about her - we can just go absolutely nuts being silly together!).  Each day since then, I have chosen someone randomly from my Friends list (I try to make it someone I don't see that often and who doesn't hear how much I love and appreciate them all the time) and make a Thing I Love list for her or for him.  I plan to keep doing it every day for a long time.

And what has this show of appreciation done?  It's helped me to remember how great these people are.  It helps me and the recipient of the list to focus on the positive.  It tells the world how much this person means to me.  My second favorite part of it is that, simply put, it makes people feel happy.  My favorite part of it is that others have seen it and been encouraged to start doing the same.  And having that sort of positive impact on even one person just makes my day.

Be content with your life.
Be grateful for what you have.
Help others to see what they have and how much you appreciate them.
Now go find a creative way to have an impact on another person today.  And tell me all about it!

L :-)

The Contentment Project, Day Four: List #3

Day 132
233 Days Remaining

Now we move on to List #3: Things I don't want in my life.  As I did with List #2 yesterday, I have to go through this list and choose the following three things:

1. Choose which one is the most important (and make a plan as to how I will work toward eliminating it from my life).
2. Choose which one is the least important (and let it go).
3. Choose which one I can easily do something about right now.

I think even as I was deciding what I would put on this list, I had already started working toward ridding my life of a few of these things, but I`ll still go through it and make sure I think it through and work through it thoroughly.  I can always benefit from a little more reflection.

LIST #3:  What is in your life that you DON'T want?

1. Men
2. Tension with past roommates
3. Worry, stress, and fear
4. Negative people
5. My job

Now, obviously, when I say I "don`t want" men in my life, that's completely opposed to what I said on my "wants" list, when I said I want a man to be my partner in life.  I love men.  But that's the thing: I don't want to need them.  And when I find my very important and necessary yearlong dating sabbatical being jeopardized because I am too needy and insecure to just let all the men I see on a day-to-day basis float by without thinking a second thought about them, and instead start focusing too much on a) the ones that have already shown me that they don't want me and b) the ones that I don't actually want that much, there's a problem.  It's why I started the dating hiatus in the first place: I need to learn who Lisa is and not derive my self-worth or self-satisfaction or happiness from a person just because he has more testosterone than I do (we hope).

So, as you can guess, I have chosen #1: MEN as the most important thing for me to get out of my life right now.  That means past men, current men in whom I may see some potential, and imaginary men.  Not good friends who are males (and, surprising for someone who has always managed to size up every guy she meets as a prospective partner, I do have several very good male friends who have always been platonic and always will be), and not people I go to school or church or work with...but in very basic terms, I must stop myself from seeing a possible partner in every man I meet.  I must stop thinking that perhaps things eventually will work out with me and HB.  Or me and Stu.  Or me and Fig.  Or me and the guy who cleans my gutters or the one who delivers my groceries or the one who happens to be sitting in a car next to me at a red light.

My plan to just be strong isn`t working, and I am aware of this.  Talking to Stringer, reading back over past posts and seeing how things have evolved between me and Fig just shows me that I am not making myself accountable enough.  So I have a new plan to help me during this next 233 days:

I`m going into counseling.

I`m going to see if I can find someone who specializes in relationship addiction, and I am going to go talk with that person and see if they can help me with some specific ways of ridding myself of this need for someone in my life.  I have already done a search and sent a message to a clinical counselor.  This is something I definitely should have done a long time ago.

As for which is least important on this list, I choose #2: Tension with past roommates.  They are gone; they are out of my life.  I don't need to worry about them or what they did or what I did or how they affect me.  If I get a piece of mail addressed to one of them, I can leave it under the mat and send them a text letting them know it's there.  I wash my hands of it.

And for the third choice, the one I can easily do something about right now, I choose #5: My job.  Unfortunately, I am not in the position to be able to completely let go of my job, but fortunately, it is a job that is extremely casual and I am not locked in to any particular number of hours.  While I've been at school these past few months, I have worked three evenings a week.  It was a bit of a stretch, but I managed it.  However, with this new semester coming up, I need to cut back a little bit.  And so, I am going to email my scheduler and cut my availability back to one to two evenings per week.  (And the best thing about that is, if I suddenly find myself with more time, energy, or need for money, I can always expand my availability on a temporary basis.  This job is too flexible to let go of at this time!)

So, open email; type; and...Done.  Easy.

And here's my list of things I need to get rid of now:

1. Men (in progress)
2. Tension with past roommates 
3. Worry, stress, and fear
4. Negative people
5. My job
So much smaller and easier to handle.  I heave a sigh of relief, and look forward to tomorrow, when we'll focus on List #1: What I Have Now.


Monday, 17 December 2012

The Contentment Project, Day Three: List #2

Day 130
235 Days Remaining

We're going to put aside our first list right now and focus on the last two.  What's important here is to take a look at what we've written down and work toward narrowing our focus even more: we've committed to paper some things that we want and don't want in our lives, and now we need to see where we can go from here.  It's not enough to just know what you do or don't want; taking steps toward getting to where you want to be in life is what's necessary now.  So I'm going to take a look at both of my lists and, from each one, I'm going to choose three different things:

1. Choose which one is the most important (and set a goal as to how you will work toward it).
2. Choose which one is the least important (and let it go).
3. Choose which one you can easily do something about right now.

It's not about which one you want the most - because heaven knows I want a trip to Mexico more than just about anything right now - but about the one that is really most important in the grand scheme of things. 

I'm going to take a look at my second list, the one about what I want:

LIST #2:  What do you WANT?

1. I want to go on a real vacation
2. I want to get good grades in school
3. I want to have the house, my food, my health, and my studies organized
4. I want to feel back on track with my dating hiatus
5. [Eventually] I want to find a man to be my partner in life - but I want to be properly ready for him when I do. 

When I looked at my list and had to choose which one was the most important, I immediately gravitated toward #5: wanting a man to be my partner in life.  This is such a big want for me and has been for such a long time.  But then I had to remind myself of what I just mentioned: it's not about what you want the most; it's about what is really the most important.  When I look at it that way, I had to choose #2: I want to get good grades in school as my most important thing on this list.

At first I thought that getting good grades in school was one of the lower priorities, because I don't want to push myself so hard that I run myself into the ground and have expectations that are way too high or perhaps unattainable.  But if I look at it from a "long run" perspective, it leads to so many other things: if I have good grades, I can get into the overseas practicum next year (doing our clinical practice in the Philippines or Nepal rather than in a long-term care facility or hospital here in town), and that is something that I really want to work toward.  If I have good grades, I can get into the ESN (Employed Student Nurse) program more easily, which means that after finishing 2nd year, I will be able to work as a nurse while still going to school, and that is both practical (since I would be getting paid more than I get paid for my current job; I will begin building seniority hours; and I will be making contacts for job possibilities once I graduate) and exciting (I'd feel like a real nurse and get experience that other people may not!).  Also, I could earn bursaries and will definitely find it easier to get a good job once I am finished, if I keep my grades up.  I may want a partner, but I may never find one, so I have to work toward setting up a good and solid life for myself.

So, I will continue to work toward getting good grades in school - not pushing myself too hard or to the point of exhaustion, and not expecting straight A's of myself, but doing my best.  Getting and keeping everything organized will make a big difference with that.

Now: which one is least important?

I think I will cross off #1: I want to go on a real vacation, as least important.  Yes, it is important that I get a vacation, but not essential right now, and certainly there are great ways for me to relax and recuperate and get feeling rejuvenated and pepped up without actually shelling out for a big trip away somewhere.  I still want it, and I still think it will happen (eventually, or soon), but right now, I am not going to focus on it.  
After my reasoning and justification for not choosing it to be the most important, I did think that #5 ("needing" a man) was somewhat less important than some other things, but seeing as I added the second part to that item ("I want to be properly ready for him") and that part is essential to The Evolution of Lisa, I can't throw away the whole item.  Building myself into who I am meant to be and being the best Me that I can be is really what's important about that part of my list.

As for which one I can do something about right now, I chose 3. I want to have the house, my food, my health, and my studies organized.  These are things that I know I can get going on immediately, since I am not on my Christmas break and I actually have time to organize, sit and think, figure things out, and reflect on what went well last semester and what didn't.  Since I made this list, I think I had already subconsciously chosen that one to work on: I've already started getting back into the routine of eating better (I bought a few hundred dollars' worth of fresh food the other day and cleaned out all the old, rotten food I've left untouched in my fridge for the last few weeks); doing my exercise plan; and putting away all the old school notes and getting ready to begin a new semester.  I've also managed to fold (and put away!) all my laundry (it's a miracle!), shop for most of the Christmas presents on my list, and blog again!  This week I'll be doing quite a bit of cleaning around the house - it's been so neglected in the weeks leading up to and during final exams.  And I'm hosting Christmas dinner here, so it had better be in shape quickly!

So, that's what you do with List #2 (and #3 as well, so if you want to tag along with me and get yours done before I move on to the next post, please do!).  Here's what my list looks like now:

LIST #2:  What do you WANT?

1. I want to go on a real vacation
2. I want to get good grades in school (in progress) 
3. I want to have the house, my food, my health, and my studies organized (in progress)
4. I want to feel back on track with my dating hiatus
5. [Eventually] I want to find a man to be my partner in life - but I want to be properly ready for him when I do. 

#4 and #5 are still important, and they are still on my list, but they can wait until I have gotten some work done on the other things.  If they happen concurrently (which actually is what seems to be happening), that`s great, too: the most important thing is that I feel as though I have made some progress and I`m not just sitting there wishing that I had certain things in my life.  The list is a lot smaller, and that makes it more manageable.

See you soon,


Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Contentment Project, Day Two

Day 128
237 Days Remaining

Seeing as school, work, kids, illness, and final exams all collided and kept me from focusing on much else (you should see the piles of laundry around here, and until yesterday, my fridge was a disaster area), I have not written here as often as I would have liked.  We had our FINAL final exam yesterday, so here I am, ready to write and focus on some different parts of my life.

Have any of you taken The Contentment Project to heart and made your lists?  I do recommend it; it's a good eye-opener and helps to refocus you on what you priorities should be.  I know that I do often need something to kick-start me back on track, so I'm hoping that with this winter season, Christmas break, and the new school semester to look forward to, I'll be revitalized and ready to move in a new direction.

So the first thing I will do is post my lists for you, so that you can see where I'm at when it comes to what I have, what I want, and what I don't want.  The next step will be Day Three, where I take each of those lists and do something with them.

LIST #1:  What do you have NOW?

These are the things that I am most thankful for in my life, "things" that I want to keep around and that enhance my life and benefit me in a positive way.  I think when I did the initial Contentment Project for my friend, I left this list to last, but I want to start with it because I think it's important to keep the most important parts of my life at the forefront of my mind.

1. My family and friends - I have the greatest support network anyone could ask for

2. My beautiful children - they make me so proud

3. I am working toward my education - I am finally doing what I`ve wanted to do for years

4. I love the house I am living in and my huge soaker bathtub

5.  The library - I can read anything I want at any time!

LIST #2:  What do you WANT?

The "things that I want" list was one that was initially difficult to begin writing...but once I started I found that I could come up with many more than five!  I think these are the ones that are most important to me at this point.

1. I want to go on a real vacation - I miss Mexico! I went for my sister`s wedding in 2007 and it is my dream to go back and feel as relaxed as I did for that week.  It was my first real vacation, and the first and last time that I have ever been fully relaxed.

2. I want to get good grades in school - When I did my Resident Care Attendant course back in 2008, I worked hard at it but I also found it relatively easy, so I managed to get straight As.  Likewise when I upgraded my high school in order to get into the nursing program.  I don't expect myself to get straight As, but I intend to do as well as I can - without burning myself out.

3. I want to have the house, my food, my health, and my studies organized - I was doing so well with this during the first few months of school but need to reorient myself; I think I did get overwhelmed with everything.  The past month or so I've been eating a lot of fast food. :-S

4. I want to feel back on track with my dating hiatus - I had a long talk with Stringer the other day, basically outlining where I feel I've fallen "off the wagon", as it were, and he gave me some helpful pointers.  I will share the results of that in another blog entry.

5. [Eventually] I want to find a man (a "MOG" as my daughter calls it: a "man of God") to be my partner in life - but I want to be properly ready for him when I do.  This is a long-term goal.

...and eventually, MOG and I can go here together...

LIST #3:  What is in your life that you DON'T want?

1. Men - still dealing with things about HB and Fig, and recognizing that I am totally off base where I want to be with each of them and with my expectations of myself when it comes to any men, from the past, the present, or in the future.

2. Tension with past roommates - I had three roommates (tenants, really, as they rented out rooms from me) that I got along with at first, but as time went on it got more and more uncomfortable, until they all gave their notice at the same time.  Any time I have to talk with them it is awkward, uncomfortable, and makes me miserable.  Every time I'm in the kitchen and reach for something that I realize one of them took with her (a constant irritant...grrrr...) it reminds me of that tension.

3. Worry, stress, and fear - I don't have a lot of this, but I do have mornings when I wake up and suddenly am hit with an attack of "Oh am I going to do this?"  Sometimes it's about money, sometimes it's about housing (we likely will have to be out of this house at the end of March), and sometimes it's about the kids.  I don't like those early morning wake-ups; they mean I can't get back to sleep until I figure out what comes next. 

4. Negative people - there aren't a lot of negative people in my life, but one ex-tenant in particular comes to mind.  There are also a couple of people on Facebook that post things that seem intended to get people down.

5. My job - this one surprised me, as I originally put my job on List #1, but then recognized that although I do enjoy my job, and its flexibility is wonderful with school and the kids, I also really wish I wasn't working right now so that I could really focus on school during the week and the kids during the weekends when we're off school together.  If I could go without my job, it would help a lot in some ways.

So, there you go - my three lists.  Has it encouraged you to make your own?  Soon I will post about what do with the lists...It's time to make some changes, and to be content with what doesn't change.

See you soon,


Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Contentment Project, Day One

Day 119
246 Days Remaining

A while back, I had a long talk with a good friend of mine who was at a place in his life where he felt stalemated: he wasn't content where he was, and wasn't sure exactly what was wrong, why he was in a funk, or how he could change it.  I wanted to help him in a practical way, other than just listening to him and being there for him, so I prayed for guidance and the ideas just began to flow.

In a series of text conversations, I developed a few ideas that evolved into what I am now calling "The Contentment Project".  It's a practical way to help us all recognize just how good we have it, and also to help us get rid of the things that are holding us back.  My friend took all the steps I suggested and worked through them on his own, and he said that they helped him a lot.  I'd like to share The Contentment Project with you, and over the next few days, I am going to try it out myself as well, since I've never done it in practice.  I'm not at a place of extreme discontent in my life right now, but I think it's always good to remind ourselves of these things.


You begin The Contentment Project with making a series of lists.  This should be fairly straightforward and almost right off the top of your head.

LIST #1:  What do you have NOW?

List five things that come to mind when you think of what you are most grateful for in your life right now.  Don't take a lot of time to work through it, or feel the need to change your answers if you think of something better; usually the first things that come to your head are going to be the truest answers.  (Of course, don't be afraid to change your list if you want; this is not an exact science, and no one is going to read it but you!  I'm not looking over your shoulder.)  These could be physical things like books; emotional things like crying at a great movie; or relationships with people, like your children or your spouse.

Make this list to remind yourself that there are great and wonderful things in your life that make you happy.  After you've made the list, look at what you have written down and take some time to think about each item on the list, thoroughly and thoughtfully.  Take the time to pull out a special memory that you have for each of those things, and reflect on them, giving each of them your full attention and respect and gratefulness for what they mean in your life.

LIST #2:  What do you WANT?

List five things that you want in your life, whether these are goals that you want to accomplish, material things, or anything else that you long for.  Often, we find ourselves thinking vaguely of things that we would like to have in our lives, but they are fleeting thoughts and we forget how much we want them until they pop into our mind again a week or a month later.  Think about things that you really want, and write them down.  Cement them.

Other things are constantly in our minds, and may have been for years.  Make note of them!  Simply by inscribing them on a piece of paper, you are moving one step closer to accomplishing or achieving them.

LIST #3:  What is in your life that you DON'T want?

List five things that come to mind when you think of what you most want to change in your life.  What things are weighing you down?  What do you want to get rid of?  What burdens are you carrying that you can no longer hold on to or that are keeping you from moving forward?  Again, I am sure there will be one or two that jump to mind immediately.  Make sure you keep your list to five things.

These could be things that you are currently doing (bad habits; a job you don't enjoy) or people who are holding you back or creating negativity in your life.  Make sure that you prioritize all three of these lists; you can start writing down everything you think of, but then go through it thoroughly and ensure that you limit it to five that are your top priorities.


Put each of the lists in a different envelope, and, for now, forget about them.  We'll visit them again on Day Two of The Contentment Project.

Happy list-making!