Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wanted: Partner With No Past

I’ve been assured that one of the things that makes me both rare and possibly valuable in the “relationship market” is the fact that I’ve had so few relationships before. Supposedly people really like their partners to have very little or no baggage, and no ex-partners to have to contend with. For me I’m normally really aware of the lack of experience I have at the more complicated partner things, thereby making me feel all sorts of lost and confused a bunch of the time. But according to those who know better than I it’s rarely the problem I think it is. And for no ex's to worry about? Apparently awesome...

T.E., being a pretty amazing person, has ex-girlfriends. Well of course he does. One could ask “if he didn’t then wouldn’t you wonder what’s wrong with him?” (and then I go “but I don’t have hardly any. Does that mean there’s something wrong with me?” and then they go “no, but that’s because you’re really unique in that way.” and then I go “so then him not having girlfriends wouldn’t be a bad thing either if he were really unique.” and then they would get uncomfortable with this awkward conversation and pretend their phone rang and go somewhere else. Far away else.) Technically I have absolutely no problems with the fact that others have loved him before I got my chance. Technically I also don’t think of myself as a jealous person.

(Tangent: I know I’m not normally a jealous person, and here’s how I know: the
crappy dude I relationshipped with before was known for wandering and lived far
enough away that I couldn’t possibly keep track of his activities and people
even told me point-blank that he cheated on me and to this day I STILL don’t
suspect anything nor did I ever have a single jealous twinge. So there.)

And yet there is this one “Ex” of T.E.’s that seems to magically create buttons I never had before and then dance on them in swanky, foreign stiletto heels. We will call her “Aussie Girl”. (because she comes from there. I don’t have to be creative when I’m naming Ex’s)

When T.E. and I first connected he was also connected to her. In fact they were pretty tight, and he was really invested. She was exotic and exciting and dramatic – things to which I definitely could not lay claim. T.E. was totally upfront with me about the fact that there were other people with whom he was also connected at the time and since it was just flirting and fooling around between us I never questioned that. As we got more serious, he and I, things between the two of them seemed to hit potholes, but I had decided that I had no business having opinions about his other interactions and I stuck to it. I ignored those things that weren’t he and I, and I got pretty danged good at it.

Finally he and I spent our first weekend together. It was astoundingly good, and much more than just fooling around. I knew then that my level of investment was higher than I ever expected it to be, and I kept my walls in place, but became much more aware of them. So it was with a certain amount of (totally inappropriate and kind of bitchy) glee that I learned from him that things with Aussie Girl had crapped out. In a word: she’d disappeared. She’d forfeited the game, thereby giving me the “win” and I wasn’t at all sorry to hear it. I tried to keep my catty remarks in check, but inside I did the happy “I win!” dance full stop.

But then she came back. (and how dumb was I to not have considered this possibility when I’d had the win in the first place? If you win because they go away, you run the risk of losing if they come back. It’s simple math, people…)

She didn’t stay for long. (She’s exotic and exciting and dramatic, sure, but she’s also flaky and scattered and maybe a wee pinch crazy-ass-nut-bags, so…) I got my “win” back when she vanished again, but this time I knew how weak a win it was and it took me a while to get over the sense of impending “she could come back at any time” doom.

Still, a big bunch of time passed and she stayed good and gone. I got more confident with what he and I shared. He got more invested in me. One morning he said three words to me that I’d never heard from a partner before, (I'm really hoping you know which words I'm talking about, but I'll also expect snarky cracks in the comments) and in that split second the last of my self-doubt went up in a puff of smug, triumphant (pink and sparkly, smelling of jasmine and hot dogs) smoke. This was a “win” I felt like I’d earned all on my own and wore it like a goddamn badge of “ain’t I somethin’!” honor. Heck, while he was here during the holidays his phone began singing (iPhones – they sing. Have I posted about my total and complete love for my iPhone? I haven’t? Good god, what is this other crap I’ve been wasting words on! Soon, my pets. I will gush about my iPhone soon…) and when I grabbed it to bring it to him I only slightly flinched at seeing it was another ex. Because CONFIDENT! STABLE! NOOOO JEALOUSY! He’s MINE and I’m HIS and everything else is just noise.

Last night we were Skyping, as we are wont to do on… well on pretty much all nights actually… and he said suddenly and from nowhere “Oh look. Aussie Girl just popped up.” After a little more chatting they settled that they’d both like to at least try the “being friends” thing – an idea that I’ve always supported. In the abstract. With people who are not "MINE." Now what I should have thought and felt and all was “oh really? Tra la la, who cares? Because ever so confident and stable am I, and did I also mention that I am impervious to the feelings of “jealous” and such?” I even thought that was how I was thinking and feeling at the time. I was proud of my reaction! ‘Just look at you,’ I thought to myself ‘bein’ all fine and not caring.’ I may even have mentally punched myself in the mental shoulder, all ‘nice job!’ like.

So it was a pretty crappy kick to the shins when all my dreams that night seemed to be various versions of “and here’s how you lose the whole shebang…” Dreams where his attention wandered or his interest waned. Where I found myself helpless and lost and sometimes even sad. I seriously resent being sad in my sleep! This is a total miss-use of sleep and I won’t stand (-er, lie) for it!

You’ll be pleased, my people, to know that I did raise the subject with T.E. I set boundaries for what I could and couldn’t handle, and to his never ending credit he assured me repeatedly and emphatically that she was a pool of crazy he had no interest in diving back into, that he wasn't even sure the friend-thing would work and that he loved me. I don’t doubt his veracity at all – he’s honest with me; he’s someone I know I can trust. However I also know that relationships of ANY kind tend to evolve, and I’ll never totally understand what the appeal was the first time around, so how can I know what sort of appeal might come through again. I’m nervous. He’s told me he’ll sever ties if I want it, and though I love him for offering I feel like that would be a fail on my part. I don’t want to be that chick. I just don’t like being nervous either. Wish me luck with my own bag of crazy, people.

(I mean come on. How could someone with a super-cool IPHONE be nervous? It just makes no sense…)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Getting on Top of the Pile

I’ve mentioned a couple of times now that I changed jobs during my time not posting. Without going into too much detail about my old job, leave it to say that the job challenged me in all the ways I didn’t want, but didn’t challenge me in ways I craved. I felt stuck and stranded and when someone offered me a change I jumped at it.

I’ve been at the new job for about 6 months and while it did fulfill all the promises made at the outset I think it may be OVER delivering. Because even though I work too many hours and scramble through my work day like I’m racing someone and have lists 2 pages long of “to do” items every danged day I still end most days feeling like I’ve failed. Or like I can’t do anything but.

Part of the frustration for me is this feeling that the target moves on me constantly. Whether it be priorities or goals or even expectations I just can’t seem to get my sights set correctly. This leads to a few things, not the least of which is a general sense of panic every day. A few months ago I took part in an executive coaching thing. Now normally I go into such things with a very LARGE grain of salt, and this was no exception. But as opposed to so many that are ‘here are 20 questions – answer them and they will tell me everything there is to know about you.’ this was just me and a guy chatting for an hour, followed a week later by me and this guy chatting for another hour. The first hour our chatting was all about him asking me questions. The second hour was all about him cracking open my head and reading me the contents in a most freakishly psychic fashion. He NAILED it.

The big “aha!” moment of that for me was the a revelation about how important it is for me to have clarity. I need to clearly know what is expected of me; what is happening around me; what my targets are. When I have this clarity I go forth and make it happen; I engage people and they will follow me, oh yes they will! Without that clarity I flail around trying to make anything and everything happen; my energy gets manic and frankly I drive people away. I have felt the panic from the lack of clarity but never understood it for what it was. Unfortunately now I should be able to see it when it happens and all too often I know I’m feeling something bad, but I don’t know what.

I think I can do this job. The part that everyone else seems to boggle at – namely the people management – is the part I KNOW I can do. But where I’ve begun to worry that I’m failing, or doomed to fail, is the other stuff. The scope of the job is more than I can do – this much I know for a fact. Since the start of the new year I’ve been on a never-ending quest to get the picture clearly defined so I can even understand what the whole scope is, but even that seems beyond me. For the first time in a very long time I’m worried that I’m about to get officially dumped, and no amount of hours or scrambling seems to be able to make the difference. What’s more, as the days and weeks go on I find myself resenting the job more and more because it’s not achievable yet achieve it I must.

But in the end the realization I’ve been making is that at some point I’m going to need to stand my ground with those above me and draw a line. Say to them “I cannot work more than I am, nor can I do more than I have been. If this is not enough then you either have to hire me an assistant or leave me the fuck alone. Or fire me, but I don’t think you’ll find anyone else to do it any better.” Wish me luck when the time finally comes! (and if you have an awesome job that requires less than 10 hours of work a day let me know, ‘kay? I might be in the market soon…)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cracked Mirror

The last time I had a serious relationship (or actually any relationship at all really) one of the big, BIG mistakes that I made was not being me with him all the time. I became more and more bogged down in being what I thought HE wanted me to be, or wanted from a partner. While it sure seemed like a good idea at the time, especially because my self esteem was a little lacking at the time so being me seemed like a really BAD idea, in the end it was pure catastrophe. Because eventually “me” kept bleeding through, and every time it did it pissed HIM off. Hard to blame him, really, because it was me that kept changing the rules there. When all the chips had fallen, along with a great deal more tears than I’d have preferred, I promised myself that if I ever had another chance at trying love I would be very sure not to make that mistake again.

I’m proud to say I’ve stayed true to that promise so far (knock on wood). In fact, T.E. and I kind of fell into a rule early on that we are always honest with each other. Always. Even when the truth is harsh or sad or what have you, and it has been all of those things at one time or another.

But what I struggle with this time around is when I’m being me, but I don’t particularly like who “me” is in that moment. I have the harder time with our honesty rule, not because I don’t want to be honest but because there are times when the truth of the matter is one I’d rather not admit about myself. Case in point was tonight.

Managing our communication when we have an 8-hour time difference is not an easy task. More often than not it’s T.E. that ends up having to keep late hours to make it possible, and I appreciate his sacrifice always. For a while we honestly indulged too much, resulting in not a few days or even weeks where he was going to bed only a few hours before I was! While that was fun it was really hard on his life and finally saner heads prevailed. We set rules and boundaries on our time, saying that we’d only be able to connect for a couple of hours each weekday night. But we also made ourselves a bargain that the weekends we could go crazy. Stay up as late as we wanted. Who cares if we slept all funny? Who cares if the rest of the weekend we played catch-up? It was worth it to be able to put in some quality time together when we could.

One of the things that I’ve come to understand about myself is that I don’t respond well to surprises. I’m not a spontaneous gal. I like to know what’s coming, and especially true if what’s coming is disappointment. So tonight when he climbed into bed at our weeknight curfew of 2:30am (his time) I was a blue roo because I didn’t know it was coming. I felt like I’d been doused with ice water, and felt those stupid chin tremors starting to come up. And with them those feelings of “ok, now you’re just being stupid…”

T.E., as I’ve said before, gets me. He knows when my sentences have become clipped, or when I’m letting the silences last a little longer than normal. After a while he sensed something was up, and he checked on me. He asked how I was, and I said those 2 words that I always say when the real answer is “I’m shitty” but I don’t want that known: “I’m fine.” But I also know him, and I know that he’s on to me and my standard answer, so I quickly covered and changed it to “good. I’m good.” And then I wondered if I was breaking our honesty rule.

I wasn’t fine – I was blue, and kind of irked that I’d expected the reward after a long week and diligence on our curfew to be a nice, long evening together. But I didn’t like how I was reacting, and so didn’t want to share it. I didn’t want him to feel responsible for the pouting that I was just barely keeping at bay. It was my damage and I wanted to be damaged by myself, so to him I was “good”. Even when I wasn’t.

So now I’m trying to figure out if I broke our rule. If the rule is “honesty all the time” but the honesty feels like something private is it still wrong to keep it back? Sigh. This relationship stuff is hard. I think it would be much easier if I were only a little bit perfect. Maybe I’ll work on that next instead.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Battle of the Bulge -- Now With Dinner Theater

So here at my shiny, new apartment complex there’s also a shiny, new workout room. It’s… petite, but it suits my needs. Now instead of my bike rides 3 times a week I can take bike rides 5-7 times a week. Rain, snow, sleet or falling frogs, I can still take my bike ride. Which is very, very shiny. (Well, as shiny as anything that sweaty can honestly be.) Plus also there’s this added advantage of being able to read a book while I bike. This, I can assure you, is much more difficult on moving bikes, as there’s that whole thing about needing to watch where you’re going and balance and stuff. So in the “reading while I bike” department the stationary bike in the workout room is a VAST improvement!

Most of the time there’s just me in there. I tend to head down there fairly late, so as to not have to share my panting and wheezing with others, but most of the time there’s someone else trotting on the treadmill or… something with jaunty elliteration on the elliptical machine. I just sit on my bike, pedaling away. But the other night was odd. I’d been zooming along for ten or fifteen minutes when the first guy walked in. He is most often the one who shares my sweat-space, so we did that silent nod-greeting thing and he jumped on a treadmill and took off away from me. (Except of course that on the treadmill you don’t go anywhere. And besides if you DID I’d totally have caught up on him on my non-moving bike, so…)

But after a couple of minutes another guy walked in. And in fact this guy was two guys. And these two guys jumped on the other two cardio-machines, one treadmill and one elliptical, and away they went. From my spot on the bike I had, in those moments when I looked up from the book, this funny little view of a trio of strange hineys bouncing down the road away from me. An amusing enough site that I admit I looked up more than once. A couple three or four times actually. And on the third or fourth time my middle hiney guy started to flap.

Yes, flap.

He was running along, treadmill flying under his feet, and his arms started to flap. Arms straight out to the side, hands palm-down, away he flapped. So enthusiastically I had to look down to his feet to make sure they weren’t coming off the ground. My funny, runny stranger flapped and flapped as he ran and I felt the first giggle coming up kind of like a tequila burp. But be proud of me, my people, for I stifled.

Then the fourth guy showed up.

First of all, there’s never been three, so you KNOW there’s never been four. So that was surprising enough. And yet I was fully committed to ignoring and getting back to my book and disregarding the unprecedentedness of a fourth guy. Still, out of the corner of my eye I noticed that he was headed to the weight machines. I also noticed that he was a little guy. Not short, but more slight. Spindly even. So it definitely caught my attention when he decided to lift so much weight. Because it really was a lot of weight. Frankly, it was pretty much ALL the weight. I’ve never even looked at the number on that bottom weight because I knew I’d never see that come off the ground ever, but I know that some of the numbers above it include combinations of 8’s and 0’s. Mr. Spindly pushed up this big HEAP of weight. Probably a whole 4 or even 5 times.

He then moved to another weight machine and once more lifted all the weight. Numbers of 8’s and 9’s going up into the air another 5 or 4 times too. And then he rearranged the weight to pull from here rather than there and pulled yet again all the weight! With the spindly arms!

After the fourth pile of “all the weight”, though, Mr. Spindly looked dejected and grumpy and wandered back out again. At this point I realized he’d been killing time waiting for someone to step off of a cardio machine, but flapper and his two buddies never even looked back. And so off Spindly left.

And right after that my flapper stepped down. He was done treadmilling, and therefore done flapping. The guy on the elliptical also stepped down, and stepped out, and I knew the show was coming to a close. I felt kind of bad, because it had been a big night in the workout room. And then, as if he heard my mental cries of “Encore! Encore!”, flappy gave it up for one more big performance. He began high-stepping his way across the floor. Not nazi-style, mind you, but more along the lines of “can I knock my own teeth out with my knees? Can I?”-style. Step, step, step he went, first east to west and then back the other way, back and forth across the room twice. I watched, holding my breath and the guffaws contained within that breath, as his knees came higher and higher.

And then he was gone. And it was all I could do to not applaud.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Meeting Our People

When my sweety (wait, what are we calling him again? Right, The Englishman. T.E.) was here around the holidays we went back home to Hippyville and he had the joy panic-driven fear-fest experience of meeting my people. Practically ALL of my people. Family, the Royals, and even the ‘rents. I give him BIG credit for throwing himself to the wolves like that, and he passed with FLYING colors. Witty, friendly, classy and the snazzy English accent can’t HELP but impress.

The big worry was really meeting the parents. Because let’s face it – parents are scary. Even uber-cool parents like mine are scary because HELLO! They’re the PARENTS! And the funny thing was that my Dad, who has always been the very picture of “not your average guy”, went very much into average guy mode when he got the details of my relationship with T.E. He did ‘posturing’ and ‘glowering’ and even a little ‘he’d BETTER be worried about me!’ I honestly waited for him to grab his dick and spit, so dude-like was my Dad all of the sudden. So I was mostly worried that this new-found dudeness was going to spill out when he and T.E. met and I was going to have to splash them with perfume and a hose to break things up.

But to my “yay!!” everyone was on their best behavior at the first, and that segued nicely into just being the cool guys that they actually are after a day or so. No competitive hand-shaking or ceremonial dick-measuring necessary after all. I was very proud of both of them.

Since I don’t go to London (there’s reasons for that. It’s not like I don’t WANT to go to London. It’s LONDON! There’s rain and pubs and a place where words like “bangers” and “mash” describe FOOD! Logistically it’s just complicated is all. But I digress.) there isn’t the same opportunity or requirement for me to meet his people. So I’ve been sucking up long-distance. I sent his parents a Christmas gift – one that actually reflected what I’ve been able to glean about them from my sweety. This seemed like truly high-quality suck-upping! And it seems like it payed off, as I’ve been promised a “thank you” email in response. (yes, I am this excited at getting an email. Shut up.)

And then tonight T.E. introduced me, via crazy swinging Skype party, to his very best mate. After the ‘rents T.E.’s best buddy (who we will call The Romantic, or T.R.) is really the most important person in his world, so this was a big deal to me. It came w/out planning or warning, so I had all of about 30 seconds to consider the idea, prepare my most fabulous anecdotes, do the virtual breath check, etc. In the end it was pretty much an accent-fest, with these two FABULOUS-sounding voices bouncing back and forth like a sexy tennis match! A good time was had by all and according to T.E. I passed muster with the buddy too. If we like each other and our people like each other what else is there, right?