An introvert reflects on long-distance love

Just came across this and I don’t know why I didn’t publish it. I’ve made no alterations because I like its candor. Written March 22, 2014.

I’m not pretending to be the expert on long-distance relationships/friendships, but I have a bit of experience with it. Not only did I long-distance date a man while I was in Peace Corps (and swear never to do it again), but now I’m doing it again and the love of my life is off in Afghanistan every other month. My best girlfriend lives 13 hours away. Fold the USA in half, the majority of my family lives in the crease and I live on the edge of the paper map. Maintaining all these long-distance relationships can be challenging.

All that space between is difficult, especially because I’ve been facebook sober for 14 months now. I’ve found other ways to bridge the space between. I actually think about my loved ones more than I ever have. I call my parents more frequently than I did when I lived in the same city as them. I write my grandmother more. I text and email my cousins. All that space has actually been a blessing for someone who finds daily maintenance of hundreds of relationships exhausting. 

In the past couple years, I’ve begun to embrace my introvertedness. Most people find it shocking that I’m an introvert. “You’re so outgoing!” Well, giving away all my energy leaves me depleted at the end of the day. So I need to recharge by reading, or going to yoga, or practicing my choir music with no obligations or expectations from other people. 

When A and I started dating, I thought it would be terrible having him gone for 32 days at a time! Parts of it are–I miss cuddling and holding hands. I miss laughing with him about the dumb thing that happened on the bus, and then grabbing a drink after work. I miss hearing about his day on the day it actually happens. A phone call cannot replace the loved one. However, I relish those 32 days he’s away. I have time to recharge. Time to reflect on how lucky I am. Time to improve. Time to anticipate his return. Time to be a better partner to him when he’s home.

 

Space (in moderation) is a good thing. It’s weird to say that I’m very happy to be far away from my family and friends, and I think it makes me a better daughter, friend, and partner. 

Maturity is knowing when to shut up.

I try to be an honest person, sometimes to a fault. I can come on
strong like a Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Robust Dark Roast in the morning.
I’ll kick you straight in the teeth and probably offend your senses the
first time we meet. I figure people should know what they’re getting
into right off the bat, so if they can’t hang, they can make a speedy
getaway no questions asked.

I am open and like to tell all my secrets, thus having none. I thought
this was a good thing. People in my life never have to wonder what I’m
thinking or how I feel about them. My face will show you everything. If
you omit no information, you are being completely truthful. Honesty is
the best policy, blah blah blah.

Until yesterday.

Enter Tuesday.

I kept my mouth shut about something. Not a huge something. But a
something that Friend A would not need to know. A detail of my life, a
passing something that Friend A would not benefit from knowing about
Friend B and me. In a couple months, we will have forgotten this speed
bump like we have forgotten all the other unremarkable ones in mall
parking lots.

That moment of omission was when I flashed through my ol’ rolodex. I
remembered all the times my older friends or parents had had the words
on their lips, they took that sharp intake of breath, sighed, then
turned away, and did the thing that until yesterday I was unable to do
— I zipped it. 

It’s pretty simple, really. You just don’t say the thing. The sharp
intake of breath and light sigh are incredibly effective tools at
locking one’s lips. Way to model good behavior, mom and dad!

Remarkably, everyone in my life doesn’t need to know every, tiny thing
that happens. In fact, I felt better and older for not saying the
something.

In conclusion and after much debate between the house (my brain) and the senate (my heart), I’ve decided to change my policy on honesty to include much more shutting up.
Effective immediately.

Midnight musings

(It’s late and I should be sleeping, so tread lightly through my brain cobwebs. I totally get that this is not scientific.)

I like to think about my soul. I imagine it as a hot, gaseous, ball of yellow light that resides just below my heart, but still behind my rib cage. It’s fuzzy around the edges. It’s warm, but not hot. It pulses with the ebb and flow of my mood.

Ten years ago my soul was more of a tightly-wound, hard-shelled red ball. I was closed off. Selfish in my worldview and solely focused on myself. I was described as intimidating by some. I used to V my eyebrows when I walked the halls of my high school, avoiding eye contact with everyone, not because I was too cool, but because it was easier than letting others see me, the true me.

Presently, I try to make eye contact with people on the street. Strangers. Not even people I shared 2 periods of German and Choir with, but people I may never see again. My fuzzy around the edges soul is more open. I want to have life experiences that permeate my soul, to enter in and create a softness and a kindness–an osmosis of experience. The kind of experiences that will make me wise when I am old. Not arrogant or tired, but wise and understanding. I want to grow old and have a soft soul.

All this really stems from another failed attempt at a relationship. The course of my ‘relationships’ seem to become shorter and shorter time periods as I tally up dealbreakers. Camo? Nope. Homophobic? Nope. Said “I’m not a racist, but…”? Nope. Bad kisser? Nope. Doesn’t trim his monobrow? Nope. The list is long.

But what I cannot bear is someone with a hard rubber shelled soul. The kind that is tough and does not allow the softness of kindness and thoughtfulness into its vicinity.

Some people believe in good or bad energy, some people may think of souls as sinful or sinless, others think we possess chi, can open and close chakras, can find nirvana. I don’t know what it is, but we’ve all been around someone who allows us to feel safe and comfortable. We know someone who is caring and kind, but not naive or dumb. These people have souls like the sun. Hot and gaseous and permeable.

I want that for myself. I want that in a partner. I’ve tried the red rubber ball soul, shutting out the knowledge provided by others, focusing on my self and my own needs, and it didn’t work for me. I’m much happier with my sun-like soul. Maybe someday I’ll meet the other half of my binary star.

Birthdays are for lovers

I’d say the most predictable thing about me is my birthday. It happens
every year on the same day. April 25. This year is no different, and as
Thursday rapidly approaches, I’d like to reflect back on the year. 27
was a good year for me. A new job, city, house, neighborhood, coffee
shop, a new commute, new obstacles and challenges, and new friends.
That last one is always my favorite to analyze.  Who have I managed to
keep close to me? Who are the new characters in my life? How did we
meet and become close pals?

Thursday evening, nine people will graciously sacrifice the NBC
Thursday night comedy line-up to eat greasy cheesebaby’s and drink
science-themed cocktails out of beakers with yours truly. All of these
dinner guests are incredibly special to me and they’ve all come into my
life in unique ways, whether their old or new pals.

First off, my sister–I can honestly say this was the most elaborate
meeting, and took many months to do it right. She still manages to
shock me and make me collapse into fits of laughter no matter what
comes out of her mouth.

Two are dear friends from college–they give great hugs and even better life advice. She’s crafty, he’s tech-savvy.

Surprisingly, I met one of these crazy kids through my ex. She moved
here from Indiana and our blind date went so well that we have a
standing Thursday date night, usually at a creepy bar that we stumbled
upon on yelp!. I adore her boyfriend who croons like Ol’ Blue Eyes at
karaoke and has a generous spirit.

I met another of these friends while volunteering. We both wrote “I
promise I’m not a creeper, but you seem cool and can we please be
friends” emails to one another…she just sent hers out before I could
muster up the courage. Her boyfriend who likes to josh me about my
love/lust life, and uses the tag line “good job” whenever it’s
deserved.

Two helicopter pilots (1) I met through a coworker. He parkours up
mountains instead of hiking up them, can turn anything into a
ridiculously good time, and everyone loves him. (2) He’s in Seattle
temporarily due to a crazy set of circumstances. He’s reserved, but has
an incredibly kind heart, a biting wit, and a smile that can flip your
heart upside-down on the rare occasions he lets it shine.

There are so many people missing from this guest list–my parents, my
family, my bb, JPC, CC, game night friends, LB and her parents, DS,
RPCVs, Swaz, SG, Smash, JK, etc–but I’m so excited because everyone
coming on Thursday has shown me a kind of friendship and love that
rivals even my long-term besties.

When I was ridden with homesickness in Fiji, I had a recurring dream
where everyone I loved was sitting around this huge,
elaborately-carved, wooden table. The table spanned the entire length
of a long hall, so everyone could fit. The lefties not bumping elbows
with the righties. There was a feast spread with all the foods I craved
most–garlic mashed potatoes, Ghirardelli dark chocolate caramel
squares, my dad’s pulled pork and my mom’s bbq sauce, Mrs. Miller’s
chocolate chip cookie bars, Aunt Diana’s chicken noodle soup, Aunt
Faith’s stuffing, grandma’s Christmas cookies, Domo sushi roll,
Concannon’s maple bars, etc–and we were all laughing and eating.
Gorging ourselves on great conversation and love. I always woke up
feeling incredibly renewed and famished.

When I blow out the candles this year, hopefully atop a a bleu cheese
burger with jalapeno-salted tots, I will wish for that table surrounded
by loved ones. I will wish for many more years with those sitting
around it. Maybe if I’m really lucky, I’ll conclude my 27th year with a
dream of a GOT-worthy feast and a mahogany table with another leaf
added to accommodate a couple extra chairs.

Vulnerability

I can’t do camel’s pose. I can never really commit to it, and I unavoidingly end up back in child’s pose, resting. I blame all this on my T-6 and its inability to stay in line with the rest of its spinal cronies, but it’s more complicated than that.

Saturday morning hot hatha is my favorite class. Jo, the instructor, is kind and her class is challenging. She blessed me today by pulling me deeper into my bow. She laughed as she complimented my “cute onesie”, and then connected with my lower back as I released. I was glowing. However, this still couldn’t get me to commit to camel. After 80 minutes of intense poses, the last thing I wanted to do was fall into a dizzying back bend. I skip it every class, and it wasn’t until this morning that I knew why.

Camel exposes my chest, neck, and throat to the world and puts me in a very vulnerable state. Camel opens my heart and forces me to feel. That vulnerability brings connection with my heart center. Today, like every day, camel was a struggle and frustrated tears fell from my eyes as I reached back, opened up, and quickly came back to child’s pose, shaking. Not today. I can’t be vulnerable today. I won’t be vulnerable during my me-time. I wanted for once in my life to be completely closed.

I’m always looking for connection and I find it daily. I am open and willing to tell my story. I am worthy of love and connection. I also have the courage to be imperfect. Because of all this, I can be my true self with loved ones and strangers. Many of my best friends share these quality. People recognize that realness, and in turn, share their stories. Sometimes I don’t share anything of myself other than the receptiveness for connection. I turn on my vulnerability and people pour into me.

However, this early Saturday morning I couldn’t be vulnerable any more. I’m exhausted by fostering many-month relationships with men who refuse to trust me, refuse to be vulnerable, and thus refuse to connect with me. I no longer have patience for that nonsense. Many of my romantic relationships have been imbalanced in this way. I trust easily. I don’t necessarily have the same expectations of others, as I know others develop trust in their own time. Yet, there’s always that moment when I realize this imbalance of vulnerability in my relationships. I’ve put everything out there and trust that person completely, but I’ve been waiting too long for something raw, something real, something true and deep, some actual connection from this man that knows so much about me. And then the clarity that the whole relationship is going no where. Sigh. Time to delete numbers out of my phone, and detoxify my heart. Today is that day.

I suppose I could close off. Tighten my boundaries, bring my walls closer to my heart, shut off all opportunity for connection. Yet, if shutting off my vulnerability means I have to give up those spontaneous moments of truth with people, and my deep, long-term friendships, it’s not worth it. I will finish these dead-end relationships and be more careful about choosing partners in the future, knowing now that I cannot compromise on my potential partner’s ability to be vulnerable.

I refuse to stay in child’s pose for the rest of my life. It’s time to camel.

Check out Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” on Ted Talks. She will change and/or deepen your perspective on love, vulnerability, and human connection.

Usain Bolt has nothing on Seattle daily commuters

At some point, you will run for the bus. It will inevitably be through Westlake Tunnel Station.

One of my favorite memories is of two giggling girlfriends in Westlake. They saw the 101 coming through the tunnel and both looked right at each other, that knowing look. They grabbed each other’s hand and ran the hundred meter dash all the way from one end of the platform to the other. The taller one was pulling the shorter one through the crowd, hysterically laughing the whole way. Their blurs of pink tights and braids caught that bus, and I watched them high five and collapse into fits of giggles and their seats.

Early on in my bus adventures, I would snicker to myself when I saw strangers look over their shoulder, spot a bus down the street or coming around the corner, squint to realize “oh that’s me!”, and start the sometimes jog and sometimes dead sprint to the stop. I found their desperation comical.

However, no matter who you are, how impractical your shoes are, how heavy your grocery bags are, or the sexy date you are trying to impress that night, someday that dead sprinter will be you. You mis-timed your departure or you stole one more kiss from your beloved before descending the steps into the tunnel. You know you’re going to miss it. You can just feel that you’re going to miss it. You hear the squelch of the brakes and spot the glowing number that you wish would be 2 minutes late just this once. Inevitably, the platform is packed, that hundred meters feels like an eternity and you’re weaving in and out and saying excuse me excuse me oh sorry and a million thoughts are running through your head, none of which includes regret for that last kiss–totally worth it. Everyone across the busway and that you’ve just sprinted past is watching you and sending silent go go go go go messages to you from their own commuter hearts and wait wait wait wait wait to the bus driver who has her hand on the door switch…….The spell breaks as you reach the door. There is almost nothing as satisfying as crossing that threshold and hearing the familiar ‘boop’ of the orca card reader. You mutter a breathless thank you to the driver as a heavy sigh escapes your lips and you gather yourself and try not to trip as the bus pulls away from the curb. All the commuters glance up at your relieved face and instantly go back to their handheld electronic devices. Sometimes you’ll share a victory nod with the old man sitting in the first row.

No matter how many times I see a parent/businessperson/tourist/student/athlete take off on that hundred meter dash, I wish them on with all my heart. Many days that’s me doing the oh crap that’s my bus hop skip to full sprint, with my hair flying behind me, dignity be damned, heels clickety-clacking on the pavement, and I count on my fellow strap hangers to hold that bus the 9.8 seconds it takes me to run down the platform.

Dedicated to perfect timing and/or the gracious man who yelled “HOLD THE BUS” from the end of the block as I jay-ran across 3rd, in front of a cop car, to catch the 4. I share that delicious victory with you, unsung hero.

White Elephant in the Room

random insight from an unwanted houseguest

Feminequality

One 20-something woman's perspectives on race, class, gender & what I ate for breakfast