Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The real reason I just told the story I told...

In my last post, I talked about BJ's ex... But, I want to make it clear... I judged her. My judgment may or may not be accurate. The accuracy of my judgments doesn't really matter. What matters is the way my judgment has motivated me in the past, and still motivates me.

In other words, this isn't about her, it's about me... and the way I think... and how that affects my daily life. And I didn't realize all of this while I was writing that post... but I am starting to see things more clearly...

I don't want to hurt him. I don't want to be selfish or self-centered. I don't want him to ever feel about me the way he felt about her. I don't want him to ever feel like his wants, needs, feelings, or thoughts don't matter. I don't want him to ever feel like he belongs to another person and especially not to me. I don't want him to feel obligated. I don't want him to feel controlled. I don't want him to feel like a slave.

That fear... of hurting him... or of being selfish... is a strong motivator. And it sometimes still gets in my way. I don't allow myself to have the healthy and happy relationships I want, because I am afraid that if I want, that want will somehow become abusive and controlling.

I don't know what else to say about it - because I am still working through the emotions and the false beliefs that have driven me for a long time. So... stay tuned? I will continue to work through my stuff and I plan to write about it as I do...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The story of us from the perspective of me

Yesterday, BJ's sister and sister-in-law both asked to hear "our story". They only knew the gossip, and what they had observed, but they wanted to hear the story of how we met and got together from my perspective.

So here it is, just a very short version of "our story" from my perspective.

I have felt loved by him from the first time we met. It wasn't a love specific to me, but I felt genuinely loved and cared for. There was something about him that I just knew I could trust him.

I have loved him since the first time he apologized to me, but maybe I need to back up just a bit.
Many years ago, he started calling me into his office regularly. He sensed things weren't quite right, and he wanted to help. He kept asking me questions, and wouldn't accept my lies. (I knew they were lies, but it took me a long time to finally talk about the things that were hurting.) Once I started being more honest, my life fell apart. Eating disorder took over. I told him about that, and he offered to be someone I could be accountable to.

Eating disorders are scary things, and he had no experience with them. He read and researched and tried to learn, but he ignorantly said things that made it worse for me. For everyone else I knew, I didn't dare tell them when their words or actions caused me pain, but I told him. I don't know why, or even how, but I told him he didn't understand and he was just making things worse.

He apologized. He told me I was right, he didn't understand, but he wanted to. He said he was sorry for making things worse, and asked what he could do different. I told him. I told him how I felt, and he listened, and we talked. We talked about what he was feeling. He was afraid. He was hurting, because he felt sad and helpless.

I walked away from the experience thinking, "This is how it is supposed to go. I've never experienced it like this, but this is how it is supposed to be."

I couldn't help but love him, and be VERY grateful for him. We could make mistakes around each other without forever damaging our growing friendship.

We continued to be friends. He was there for me. I listened to him. We shared things with each other that we had never dared share with anyone else... When we shared with each other, it didn't hurt like it had in the past. We could listen and validate and understand each other in a way I had never experienced before. His friendship filled a loneliness I didn't even know I had. (And although this isn't his story, it's mine, he has said the same thing about me.)

We were both married. Both of our marriages weren't good. We both had the goal to make them better. It didn't work out that way. The more I healed, the more I knew I couldn't stay married. BJ eventually got to the point where he couldn't take the way she treated him, and he left.

Did I know then that BJ and I would end up together?
No. I didn't plan on it. I just thought we could be there to support each other in the interim.

So, when did I start to know I wanted something different?
Two years after he had left his ex, she asked to meet with me. I didn't want to. She told me she needed to talk to me in order for her to find peace. My friends and support system said she was being manipulative with that statement. I felt like I had no choice... I hoped that maybe if I met with her, and she found some peace, she would treat BJ better. I had to do everything I could to try to make things better for him. It wasn't my responsibility, but I hated watching him be hurt by her over and over and over again. I would have done anything to ease his suffering. Meeting with her for a few hours seemed like a small thing to do.

She brought her journal, and a printout of my entire blog: highlighted and with notes taken on the sides. She wanted to tell me all of the things that I had said that she didn't agree with. I listened for a long time. She blamed me for her marriage ending. (Actually, she continues to blame me. The story now is very different from the one back then, but it doesn't matter. I am still the villain in her story.)

At the end of the four hour meeting, she told me that all she wanted was another chance. She asked me what I would do if BJ decided he wanted to start dating her again. I answered honestly, "I would support him. I love him, and I want him to be happy. I trust him to know what he needs to bring him happiness."

She thanked me. I was dying to ask her if she could say the same. If she loved him enough to want him to be happy, even if it meant he would never ask her on another date. I didn't do it. I felt like I knew the answer.

I felt angry at her. How could she be so selfish and self-centered? How could she think that he would ever want to go on a date with her when she had been such an ass to him? How could she want him to spend time with her when he had repeatedly told her how she hurt him? How could she keep insisting that he was wrong - her actions and her words didn't hurt him? Why would anyone want to spend seven seconds with someone that treats them like that, let alone an entire evening? Why didn't that woman care about anyone but herself?

A few days or weeks after that encounter, my mom asked me a question... or said something... I don't remember what it was... and I fell apart. (I do remember, I was driving... and I pulled over and sat in the car and sobbed next to the lake. I remember feeling relieved that it was winter, so there wasn't a million people around.)

Did I mean what I had told his ex? Did I love BJ and want him to be happy, even if it wasn't with me? Would I support him in whatever decision he made? If he wanted to start dating his ex again, what would I really do?

I would support him. I DO love him and I want him to be happy. I DO trust him to follow his path. AND I also wanted him to want to be with me. That realization caused a complete meltdown.

It didn't matter that he DID want to be with me. We had a great friendship. We loved fishing and riding and talking and just watching TV together. I knew that he loved being with me. He loved the conversations we had. We lived in the same house. We worked together. We were pretty much together all the time, but I still was so afraid...

I wasn't afraid that he wanted something different than what I wanted, I was afraid that I wanted something. I was worried that my wanting something suddenly made me selfish. And in my mind selfish equaled horrible human being.

I couldn't handle it. I couldn't handle knowing how much I wanted to be with him. It was obvious to my mom, my friends, and BJ, but not to me. I had judged his ex as selfish and self-centered. Was I any different? If I wanted to be with him - how was that different than her wanting the same thing? I had watched her hurt him over and over and over... I didn't want to do that. I didn't know if it was possible to have wants of my own without treating him the way she treated him. It terrified me to think that I could use or abuse him the way I had seen her. I wanted to run away, but then I was aware enough to know that running away from him would also hurt him.

It took me many months to get comfortable with the idea that I wanted to be with him. In those months, we continued spending a lot of time together. Fishing. Riding. Hiking. Snowshoeing. Snowmobiling (I didn't like that as much. Too noisy. And smelly.) Camping. Traveling. Reading. Talking. Eating. Planning the future.

We went to Montana to visit his sister and her husband. It was a great trip, and once again I realized I wanted something. I liked being around BJ and family. Up until this point, BJ had met my parents and family. I had met his, but we didn't do anything together. My parents had been telling me for years that BJ was always welcome in their home, but I hadn't passed that message on to him. I made excuses to my family as to why he couldn't (or didn't want) to come. I didn't want it to be like that after I spent those days with him and sister.

While we were in Montana, my brothers called and asked if I wanted to go to Alaska with them. Of course I did. I wanted BJ to come, and I wanted us all to be together. I decided it would probably be good if they got to know him first. So, I started inviting him to dinner at my parents' house.

Gradually, things shifted, and I got more comfortable with the idea.

We went to Alaska, and it was awesome. When we came back, things had shifted again... We spent time together with each of our families. We slept in the same bed. We even use the label "girlfriend" and "boyfriend" occasionally. (Although, I still like the label of friend best.)

We spent the holidays with each other, and with our families. His kids came with their spouses and kids, and we had dinner and celebrated together. We went to my parents and spent time with my siblings, their spouses, and their dogs.

In preparation for Christmas plans, my mom asked me if BJ was a part of the family, and I answered the only way I could answer, "Yes. BJ is family now."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I remember, and I never want to be there again

Recently,  I was talking to a friend about her business. I thought her products were all "weight loss" products. She corrected me, and wanted to tell me the story of a girl that she'd helped gain weight.

This girl had been very sick. She couldn't keep any food down whatsoever. It wasn't a choice she made - there was something wrong with her body. She'd eat, and then seconds later it would all come back up. If she kept the amounts small enough, she MIGHT be able to digest the food. Doctors didn't know why. (They told her to just stop throwing up.)

K pulled out the pictures of this girl.
She looked so thin, so sick, near death. After taking K's supplements, this girl put on weight. She's been able to keep food down ever since.

The part of the story I want to share is what I felt as I looked at her pictures.
There was once a day when my body looked like that. I know what it feels like to be nearly starving to death. Many people with an eating disorder (myself included) WANT to look that frighteningly, sickeningly thin. It doesn't make a lot of sense, even to me.

BJ, knowing my history, asked me if I was okay.

So, I shared with them both.
There was a time that I looked like that. The reason I looked like that was different, but I remember how it felt for me. I remember feeling so hopeless that I just wanted to die. I remember knowing that if I didn't do something different, I was going to die, but I couldn't understand why I would want to live. I remember how it felt to feel unworthy to even exist, so I tried to make myself stop existing - or at least take up the smallest amount of space possible. I remember how much it hurt emotionally and physically.

I remember what it was like to be there.
I remember how it felt.
I remember, and I never want to be there again.

The realization itself was huge. Do you know how far I've come? That I don't feel a desire to go back, only a sadness that I was ever there? I don't feel guilty for living and existing. I don't feel like I am less strong because there is meat on my bones. There was a time when I would feel those things and so much more.

I don't like remembering what it was like, but sometimes it's nice to be reminded how far I have come.

Umm... This all sounds messed up, even to me... but it didn't sound messed up two hours ago

In the therapy world, there is a skill called "Opposite Action". Generally, it's a good skill to use in coping with depression, anxiety, and other intense emotions.

Basically, the idea is: Do the opposite of what you feel like doing.
If you feel angry, serve the person.
If you feel tired or depressed and want to stay home in bed, get up and go to a party.
If you feel sad and want to cry, watch a funny movie and get yourself laughing.
If you feel anxious and afraid, do what you are afraid to do.

It's a pretty good skill to have, and is effective if emotions have no justifiable reason to exist.
It is not very effective when there's a good reason to feel angry, sad, tired, sad, or afraid. I lived most of my life always doing the opposite of what I felt like doing - pushing myself to do things I didn't want to do, because that was the "right" thing to do. Combine that with ill-applied advice from therapists, and I'm a mess.

This morning I should be at orchestra rehearsal. I love rehearsal most of the time. I go because I love being there. I love playing my part. I love hearing all of the parts come together to create music. I love spending time with other people who are there just because they love the orchestra and being a part of it. And yet, the mere thought of rehearsal this morning made my head spin... and forcing myself to drive there anyway was causing a melt down.

But I HAD to go...If I didn't go, I was letting depression win. I was letting my stand partner down. I was letting the whole orchestra down. (And now as I write this, I think, "Ridiculous. I'm a second violin, and not a very good one at that... And my stand-partner is out of town for the next two weeks. My guess is few people will even notice that I wasn't there...") I usually love going to rehearsal, and because I don't want to go, there must be something wrong with me. I HAVE to go so that I can fix what is wrong with me... How can I get back to enjoying it if I don't make myself go?

The roads were icy and snow packed. It was foggy. I was having a melt down that included teary eyes and hyperventilation. Luckily, this time I could think clearly enough to know it was dumb to drive in these conditions.

So, I came home.
Once again, I realize that forcing myself to do things is very rarely the best answer for me. I was afraid if I didn't go to rehearsal, I would never want to go back. I was afraid if I didn't push myself, I was lazy and weak and "letting depression win".

In a moment, I will go out in the 5 degree weather to shovel shit out of the horses' shelter, give them hay, and try to give them water. Not because I have to, but because that sounds like a wonderful way to spend my Saturday morning. Later, I'll go to work because I want to get some new products up on the website and to work on what our display will look like for the next trade show. Again, not because I feel like I have to but because I am excited.

And tonight, I plan to finish decorating the Christmas tree and play games with BJ...
I've lived in a world that has told me my own inclinations, wants, desires, even needs are not okay. When will I learn that it is okay to just do what I want? Life holds a lot of joy if I just let myself be joyful...