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Saturday, 30 July 2016

WEEK #156 - FOXES & UNAVAILABLE MEN

Faithful readers will recall that I have a habit of falling for emotionally unavailable men (The Ex, Kryptonite, anyone that I have gone out with more than 3 times…).  Since the new year, I have had a lot of time to ponder and explore the reasons for this.  In Feb/March, it dawned on me that perhaps I am the one who is emotionally unavailable.  Those who know me well said, “well, duh!”  But to me, this was a revelation.  It had never occurred to me that maybe it was me.  So, I decided to try an experiment.  I rejoined the online dating world (as I do every 3 months or so, with no success).  This time I laid it all on the line:
Strong, confident woman with commitment issues seeking friends-with-benefits-type relationship with intelligent, attractive man with a sense of humour.  Apply within. 
I got a pretty good response, but to my surprise every single one of my dates cancelled at the last minute – there were 6 in one week.  I had no idea what was happening.  That is what triggered all my abandonment issues and brought my feelings towards my mother to light, but that is a different post.

Now, I see what happened.  I wasn’t ready to commit, so I came across as someone easily dismissed.  Also, my goal wasn’t to have a bunch of random dudes that I slept with.  I wanted one person that I slept with regularly with no pressure to develop things into anything more than a close friendship.  It has not been until my most recent bout of online dating that I have finally been able to answer the question of “what do I want?”

What do I want?  This is a question that has been plaguing me for quite some time.  My friends, family, coworkers and therapist keep asking it, to the point where I get immediately defensive when I hear it.  My response has always been “I don’t know!”  But, as part of my therapy work (and a relationship with a friend that uses that phrase for every question you ask him), I have made a commitment to remove it from my vocabulary when referring to emotions.  At this point in my process, I do know what I want.  The words may not come easily, or be easy to say, but I know. 

I want a relationship that has the space to develop at the pace I need it to (aka molasses in winter). This is when the tattoos on my wrists came back to haunt me.  The longer I have them, the more meaning they seem to hold.  I have trust issues.  This is why I have to have it permanently etched on my body in a place where I can see it all the time.  To remind me that it is okay to trust; people, the universe, life.  It takes a long time for me to trust and when I start to feel myself becoming vulnerable to another person (or feel that person allowing themselves to become vulnerable to me), my flight mechanism takes control and I want to run for the hills (and usually do).  The best example of this was with the only successful online dating experience I have had.  It was with a guy I shall call, Irish.  (Side Note: We are still good friends and for two years he has lamented that he has never been mentioned in this blog, so he will be happy to finally have his story told.)  Irish and I hit it off like wildfire.  Everything was going really well, but he had just moved to the country and didn’t know many people and I could see that he was beginning to invest quickly in our relationship.  I was into it, but I had to move slowly.  Everything inside was telling me to run, so it took all I had to just stay where we were.  This caused “issues”.  It all culminated one night at a concert where we got into a big fight which ended in tears and him leaving.  Ultimately, I was crying because I couldn’t understand where I took the wrong turn that resulted in being 32 years old and crying over a boy at an emo concert for a band named Issues (I had taken my niece and her friend to the concert).  The main “issue” was he wanted to be more involved and I said I needed more time.  Not really sure how that resulted in breaking up, but it did.  We laugh about it now.

This is, at heart, the same story for all the “nice” boys I’ve dated.  They fall fast and I run.  Hence, the appeal of the emotionally unavailable man.  That is a relationship where I am in control.  They don’t fall fast, so I can take as long as I please to become invested.  The trouble is that they stay uncommitted.  So, what is it I want?

My other tattoo answered my question.  I want to be tamed.  I’m scared.  The idea of a relationship, though, in theory, is appealing, mainly fills me with anxiety.  I can feel the stress rising even typing about it.  The tattoo on my right wrist is the fox from Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry.  When the Little Prince meets the fox, the fox asks the Little Prince to tame him.  He explains, “You have to be very patient. First you’ll sit down a little ways away from me, over there, in the grass.  I’ll watch you out of the corner of my eye, and you won’t say anything.  Language is the source of misundestandings.  But day by day, you’ll be able to sit a little closer…”  That pretty much sums it up.  As much as I heal, there is a part of me that will always be that abused little girl, afraid to let anyone close.  The only way to overcome that is through quiet patience.  Ultimately, it would be nice to find someone who is just as scared as I am, so we can move slowly closer, together.  That way we would understand when the other gets a little spooked. 

So, that’s that.  After 34 years, I am finally able to put words to what I want.  It’s not fairy tales, it’s not a prince, it’s not big wild romance.  It’s quiet, it’s simple and it is slow.  Now, to find my fox… maybe he’ll be silver.  *wink*

Thursday, 28 July 2016

TWO YEARS POST

As I repeatedly try to write this, all my words seem false.  I keep coming back to the question taped to my keyboard “WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SAY?”  The answer is, I want to say that I’m okay.  I’m doing alright.  I finally feel whole, grounded and confident… most of the time.  And the times when I don’t, I know how to bring myself back to that place of grounding.  I don’t spend much time lost anymore.  I know my way through the woods and with each passing year, I know my way a little better.  Even as paths change, I can find those landmarks that will lead me back home. 

I want to say that I did it!  I fought all the demons and won.  That I am not alone.  That I will survive.  That I know love and have it in my life.  That I am worthy and worthwhile.  That I feel, deeply.  That after all that I have faced, I stand tall.  I did it.  I did it all.

It has been two years since this great experiment ended, yet my journey had barely begun.  I had only faced minor demons, despite feeling they were monstrous at the time.  This year has left me battle-worn.  The ultimate challenge was confronting my anger towards my mother.  I hadn’t realized that I had not possessed the strength to actually feel its weight until this year.  Despite being stronger and more grounded than ever, the emotions overwhelmed me and shook me to the core, manifesting in all aspects of my life until I broke down and couldn’t help but face it.  The Universe seems to like doing that to me.  It never lets me shy away from the things I need.  It will beat me over the head until I face the things I run from. (And heaven knows, I’m a runner!)

Monday, 8 February 2016

WEEK #132 - WAITING SUCKS!

Recently, I have been feeling particularly sorrowful at night.  I have spent a lot of time trying to find what it is, to limited avail.  Today, after some self-love, a thought came to mind, “I miss Kryptonite.”  (Faithful readers will remember Kryptonite was the person I was seeing just prior to the start of My Year Without Sex in 2013.)  I went back through old pictures to see if it was him that I was missing or what he represents.  Happily, it was what he represented.  I miss real physical intimacy with a partner. 

Kryptonite and I met while we were working together in 2007 and had an instant connection.  We maintained a distant friendship over the years, and in 2013 reconnected after both coming out of long-term relationships.  Our connection was magic and we quickly entered into a sexual relationship.  It is only now that I realize, he was the only person since The Ex that I have been able to be both physically and emotionally intimate with.  It is that relationship I miss.

The tough part of is that those type of relationships don’t come along every day.  They take time and energy to build.  So, even if the right person were to walk into my life today, I am still months (even years) away from the connection I’m seeking.  It’s a wee bit disheartening.  And, here comes my pessimist for a moment, every day that passes that I don’t meet that person, is one day further away from what I’m seeking. 

I know, I know, it could be that I’m one day closer to my match, but honestly, sometimes I just need to revel in the sadness for a bit, so please keep your happy, optimistic comments at bay.  The truth is, not compromising yourself is lonely.  Intimately lonely.  I have many deep, personal connections with people, but it’s different.  When I go to bed at night, I want it to be in the arms of someone I love.  I know that love is worth waiting for, but until then, it’s lonely.  So, sometimes I cry.  Sometimes I sob.  Sometimes I get frustrated with the world and scream.  But, eventually, I sleep.  I face a new day.  And I wait.  I have yet to be able to predict any of the magic that has happened in my life.  It could be today.  It could be never.  I wait.  I sit in the loneliness.  It sucks.

Monday, 1 February 2016

HOW SELF-ESTEEM KILLED MY SEX LIFE

As I lay in bed on the morning of New Year’s Day, I realized that I am 8 days away from six months of no sex (I did the math).  I laughed at this, because I remember how difficult the first six months were when I started “My Year Without Sex” and now it just kind of happened without my noticing.  I thought about joining Tinder, just to find a “friends with benefits” situation, but even that was met with a big NOPE by the voices that control my brain.  It seems that 2016 will be the year of the Cat Nun.

What has led to this self-imposed pseudo-accidental celibacy?

Well, let me tell you!  It is self-esteem.  But, how is that a thing?  Shouldn’t that help your dating life? NOPE.  I did all this amazing work on myself and feel self-assured, confident and worthy… and now I have no sex life.  For most of my life, I was only worth what a man would give me.  I my self-esteem was measured by whether a man was attracted to me or if I could get him to sleep with me.  Now, I don’t need that validation.  In fact, I don’t need a man (or woman) at all.  I’m happy on my own until I meet someone who can match me in my new-found power.  Hence, the barren wasteland that is now my love life – I’m still searching.
(I wish someone had told me this would be a thing three years ago, there were a bunch of people I would have loved to sleep with during that time! Jokes… kind of…)

For my group therapy intensive in November, we had to bring in a song that describes where we are at in our process.  My choice was Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler:


I need a hero; I don’t have room in my life for anything less.  So what exactly does this man look like?

He is a man who can match my strength, instead of being intimidated by it.  A man who can meet me at my most grounded and confident.  It’s a man who is not afraid to take a look at himself and expose his vulnerability.  He is a man that will share the good and bad in his life without making me responsible for it.  A man who owns his choices and moves confidently through his life in the direction of his passions.  A man who can say how he feels honestly.  A man who doesn’t hide, even the parts he may not like himself.  A man who doesn’t need me to make his life better, but wants me, because I do make his life better.  A man who doesn’t shy away from my bigness, but instead can meet me with his own.  So far, it’s been hard to find.

My friends tell me that I’m looking for a unicorn.  I say that’s why I’ve become a Cat Nun.  This doesn’t mean that I’ve closed myself off to the possibility of a relationship.  In fact, shortly after making this declaration (hours later), a man that I have been secretly-not-so-secretly in love with opened his heart to me (which messed me up for many weeks afterwards).  He’s not in a place to acknowledge his feelings, but he did show me what a unicorn looked like.  He taught me they are out there and I can find one.  I just need to be patient.  That’s my challenge for 2016 – patience.

Some friends have suggested “toning it down” at the start of a relationship in order to avoid scaring a man away.  To this I responded, if he scares so easily, it’s not going to work.  I spent many years diminishing myself for the sake of a partner and I’ve come too far to do it again, even a little.  No one should ever have to be less than they are for a relationship.  That is a relationship destined for failure.  I won’t be part of one.  I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that alone is better than almost right. 

I don’t know what the future holds.  I hope that one day I will have sex again.  From what I remember, I really like it.  It’s pretty awesome, actually.  But, then there is the part of me that knows I’m worth something, my body is worth something, and I don’t want to give that away to just anyone.  I want whoever it is I sleep with to actually see me.  To see how special I am, because chances are, if I’m willing to have sex with them, it’s because I see how special they are, too.  I can’t have it be empty anymore.  I need something more.  That’s why I’m holding out for a hero.

It’s going to take a superman to sweep me off my feet. ;)

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

BELL LET'S TALK - REFLECTIONS ON MENTAL HEALTH

When you spend everyday talking about mental health, what do you write on a day like Bell Let’s Talk, that you wouldn’t say any other day?

That’s been the question I’ve been grappling with all day, as I sit in the fort I built in my living room.  Maybe, that it’s okay to be you.  Everything that comes out of my brain seems clichĂ©.  But, it is the truth.  Find people who like to be around you in all your weirdness.  I sent my roommate a message last night that I was going to be taking over half of the living room with a kickass pillow fort and his response was “sounds awesome.”  That’s how I know he's a good roommate.  He accepts all my weird stuff.  In turn, I accept all his weird stuff.  And we are happy.

So, on this day of mental health awareness, I ask you to be aware of your mental health.  Do the things that you want to do.  The things that make you happy, which may not be the same as the things that society expects.  From my experience, society doesn’t know how to be happy.  There is no set of rules that apply to everyone and trying to get everyone to fit into the same box makes most people feel uncomfortable and crowded.  Stay out of the box!!!

So, here is my "out of the box"...  these are pictures of my kickass new blanket fort called, The Fortress of Soliloquy (because it is also my new writing office).  I’m 34 years old and it felt great to build.  I made plans and everything and I’m very happy with the result.  I shared these photos on Facebook and it was one of the most liked albums I’ve ever had.  It’s funny, all the things that I share that are really weird and out there get the highest response from people.  Doing things that make me happy, seems to make other people happy too.  Being brazen and confident about my eccentricities let's other people feel comfortable about their own.

And that’s really the heart of what I have learned in my own journey to mental health; when you take care of yourself, others are inspired/free to care for themselves as well.  I think that’s the real principle of the “teach a man to fish” parable – you can help someone with their problem, or you can show them how you solve that same problem.  You couldn’t teach a man to fish if you didn’t know how to fish yourself.  You can’t help someone love themselves, if you don’t know how to love yourself. You can’t make someone happy, if you are not happy with yourself.  Everything starts and ends with you.

That’s why mental health awareness is important.  Too often it is the voice in our own head that makes us miserable.  Our inner dialogue tells us that we aren’t good enough.  We haven’t done enough.  We aren’t worthy.  That is the demon we all have to face.  And the scariest part is that no one can change it but us (and it knows all our secrets!).  That’s why talking to people helps.  We get to know our demon when we give voice to it.  We can see how it thinks.  What it says.  How it feels.  Then we can begin to change. 

For me, therapy was the answer.  For others, it was yoga, or exercise, or writing, or art, or any countless number of things, but the important thing is to express whatever is locked away on the inside.  And to not be scared of the darkness.  From a very early age, we are taught that bad things lurk in the dark, so why would we want to look at the dark corners of our souls?  That’s where the bad things are, right?  Wrong.  That’s where we hide the things that hurt, but hurt is the other side of joy.  It is much like Newton’s Third Law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Every feeling also has an equal and opposite feeling.  That means until we look at our hurt, we cannot know the full extent of our joy.  We need both of them.  And if we’ve tucked all our hurt away where we can’t see it, then of course we feel empty, because we have no basis for the joy we know we should be feeling but aren’t. 

So, I ask everyone to shed some light on the demons in the dark.  When we look at them, they tend to be less scary than we think and in need of a little TLC.  Be kind to yourself.  Be forgiving to yourself.  Be honest with yourself.  And let yourself feel all the things your body is telling you you want to feel.  What you feel is right.  You are worth it.  You are good enough.  You are brave enough.  You are alive, and that is reason enough to try. :)

Also, check out my post written as a guest blog released for #BellLetsTalk, here.

Fort Life!

REPOST: ON SUICIDE: A LETTER TO THOSE AT THE EDGE

This is a guest blog I wrote for Everything But The Cat, which went online today.  I'm sharing it here, as well.  Please click here for the original link.

To My Fellow Traveler:

First, I want to offer a sincere apology.  I am sorry you haven’t  received what you need to stay in this world.  I wish someone was there to hold you now.  I wish someone would tell you everything will be alright.  I wish that was a promise someone could keep.  I want you to know you are not alone.  

It is for this reason that I’m writing this letter.  You have every right to choose to end your life.  I will not think any less of you if you do.  But, if you can find a way to stay alive, I ask that you try, because I need you.  I need you because there are so few people in this world who ever see the darkness that you see right now – and darkness is where beauty lives.  

So few people are willing to look at what you are facing right now: that raw, scary side of ourselves.  That side that is dark and hurts.  That side that we are always told to hide away, that people don’t want to talk about.  The ugly, raw stuff that is at the core of our being.  It scares people because it is not polite.  It is not nice.  It is not sunny.  But, I have to say, those people are full of shit.  The fear of their own darkness keeps them from looking at it in another.  That’s bullshit.  And it kills.  It kills our soul.

Only in darkness, can you experience the true splendor of light.  Much like our atmosphere during the day, the expectations of society create a false roof on our world.  You need to wait until the black of night to know the stars exist.  Don’t allow this cage to kill you.  It is not real.  There is so much more beyond what you can see right now.  You have set sail on the sea of night.  That is where the stars live; where infinite possibility lies.  

Right now, you feel like you are the only ship on an endless black ocean, but I assure you the shore is near.  There are people who know the darkness well and keep lighthouses burning for lost ships, like you, through the night.  They remember too clearly the loneliness of the sea.  I urge you to sail long enough to reach a lighthouse.  

You may long for death; I beg, don’t do it.  Do anything else.  Explode your life.  Run away.  Grab whatever you can and head out down the road into the unknown.  Leave everything and everyone behind.  RUN!  Start over – anywhere.  Do anything.  Just stay alive for a little bit longer.  Look for someone else who has seen the darkness you now see.  Find a way out.   Death never stops being an option, life is finite.  What do you have to lose?  If the alternative is always death, why not try anything else?  Just stay alive for one more day.  I need you.

I need you to join my legion.  A legion of people who have danced with death and lived to tell about it; walked the darkest depths of the underworld and come out the other side.  People who have known the extent of human suffering and survived.  It is through suffering that we gain the capacity for compassion.  How can we truly understand another’s pain, if we refuse to know our own?  This world is lacking true empathy.  Too few people can face themselves and live.  You stand at the precipice.  Just keep sailing.  Those people running the lighthouses have found a way through the night and are looking for you.  On this black ocean, we need as many sailors to reach shore as we can get – there are too few lighthouses, and fewer who know how to tend them.

I know what I ask isn’t easy, but neither is your other choice.  I don’t know what takes more courage, life or death.  Maybe they are different sides of the same coin.  Either way, you are brave.

Thank you for taking the time to read my plea.  I hope, one day, to meet you and talk about the darkness.  Hopefully, we can lessen the weight of it for each other.  But mostly, I hope that you find peace in your soul.

So, though we may not have met, may never meet, I want you to know that I carry love for you.  I love your darkness because it is the only way to see your light.  If you do choose to depart this earth, know that I mourn your passing and pray that you will find what you seek in the journey beyond.  May you wake to a kinder life.  

Much love and respect,
AJ Laflamme
xoxoxo

Thursday, 14 January 2016

BLAST FROM THE PAST: THURSDAY, JANUARY 13, 2011 - 11:54PM

Recently, I have been reading some of my old scrawlings from before I began my road to healing.  It has helped me understand how far I have come.  As a new feature on this blog, I will share some of these journals from the past that really describe the where I came from.

The first is from 5 years and one day ago, to the hour.  I am blown away at how opposite life feels now.  This entry epitomizes my journey.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 13, 2011 - 11:54pm
Each day I sit down at my computer.  To procrastinate.  I am so afraid of the future, it has become paralyzing.  Even when it stands before me, a hopeful shining beacon.  I am being dragged forward kicking and screaming by time.  I sit and wonder how I let fear become the most powerful force in my life.  I used to have such drive and motivation.  It all faded away in my years of waiting and now I am afraid.  My heart aches and I don't know if I can handle failure or rejection... or success.  Pain and solitude have become so welcome and familiar that I don't know how to live without them.  The thoughts of returning to China keep coming to mind, but I don't know what I hope to find there.  What I left behind has vanished with the passing of time.  My fairy tale is over and I should continue to look forward and not back.  The past couple of years have beaten me so, that I am weary and weathered.  My thoughts are scrambled and I find it hard to focus each day.  I go through the motions and appear where I am expected, but in body only.  Artificial happiness is all that comforts me now.  Or, as was pointed out, artificial numbness.  The absence of feeling, it is close enough to happiness to suit me.  To get me through the long and lonely days.  It does not battle the fear but it eases the pain of the solitude.  Perhaps it is the winter and being unemployed again (well, unemployed-ish!)  I do have many things to be thankful for, but I still find myself down in the doldrums.  There is the part of me that feels determined to make this year the best one yet and the following even better.  I will accomplish all my dreams.  I just need to keep persevering.  It becomes hard when it seems like the world is beating you down from all sides.  I wish people could see the pain inside.  I wish they could see the amount of will it takes just to get out of bed each day, just to wake up.  My heart is bleeding out and just when I think that I have mended some of the wounds, a fresh and deeper cut comes quickly and often unexpectedly.  Tomorrow is a new day, with new possibility.  I will try to take advantage of each one.  Oh, I also have to add, Thanks be to God!  His miracles never cease to amaze me each and every day.