Archive | October, 2013

Learning to Be Vulnerable

20 Oct

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Last Friday morning I was in my car, parked on the street around the corner from work, trying to get my emotions under control.  I had tears streaking down my cheeks, runny mascara, and a splotchy face.  I wasn’t crying because something horrible happened.  Those tears weren’t bad at all.  However, I’ve been conditioned to feel embarrassed by tears and to put on a happy face all of the time.  That’s part of the reason I was crying.  They were tears I’ve been holding back for who knows how long.  Maybe most of my life, in one way or another.

Every so often I get a comment from someone telling me that I should drop the “mess” part of my blog title.  I have extracted myself from the most apparent mess in my life, but there’s still a lot left.  Besides the fact that I’m a horrible housekeeper (as Tony can attest), I’m a mess in other ways as well.  Crying alone in the car before work is one of those ways.  Actually, isolated somewhere behind a closed door is just about the only way I let myself cry.

My upbringing and personality and the circumstances of my life have left me with a very thick outer wall.  I’m incredibly sensitive and emotional and sentimental, but I’ve trained myself not to be.  I’m the oldest child.  A woman in a man’s industry.  The daughter of a father with no empathy and grandmothers with no filter, tact, or “warm fuzzies.” I am the product of a household that was full of countless rules, one of which was something like “suck it up.”

My youngest sister was deemed “the sensitive one.”  I was the smart one, the tough one, the tomboy, or “the mouth.”  I was instructed to hold my tongue, stay in line, and do what I was told without question.  I was constantly reminded when I failed at those tasks. Disappointing my parents felt like the end of the world, yet I seemed to do it often. A large part of that was my own perception and pressure from inside to be perfect, a goal that I now know is impossible to reach.  87629344_XS In an effort to fix myself and hide my “flaws,” I made myself be the strong one, the positive one, the rational one. I tried to always be in control of my emotions whether it was with my family, at work, or just in general.

Those are difficult patterns to unlearn, and hard roles to break free from. I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had with a wonderful man.  He loves and accepts and understands me.  He makes me laugh, he surprises me every day with his intellect and creativity, and he’s very caring.  We talk about all sorts of things.  Subjects or conversations that would have been awkward or caused jealousy or fear in the past are comfortable and natural.  Still, I find myself falling into negative patterns of holding back, putting up a front, or concealing my feelings.

I have managed to share this blog with Tony, although it was a very scary thing to do.  The first few moments after I gave him the link I felt cracked open, exposed, and incredibly vulnerable. Those are emotions I don’t handle well. But I wanted to give him this important piece of myself. Writing is very cathartic, and I can express myself so more fully with time to consider (in fact, I’ve been working on this post for more than a week now).  Things also come out that I didn’t realize or understand before I put them into words.

After my last post about meeting his parents, Tony texted me that I don’t have to hide what’s going on in my head or be afraid or embarrassed of telling him how I feel.  At first I wasn’t even sure what he meant. Internalizing is so routine that I don’t recognize how much I do it.  I have a filter inside that automatically blocks off emotions, tells me that I’m wrong or silly to feel the things I feel, and covers those perceived flaws with a mask of confidence and happiness. After a moment of considering his comment, I realized how incredibly true it was.

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That mask, which I’m not even aware of wearing because it has become so comfortable and commonplace, slipped. I was driving to the office after visiting a new store location, and I had to pull over. As we continued to text, tears were silently falling from my eyes. He told me that I don’t have to worry about packaging my thoughts. I expressed how that goes against basically everything I was taught as a kid and years of punishments for saying things that I shouldn’t have (by someone else’s standards).

I texted that I’m working on worrying less and opening up more, but when I’m a complete mess it feels safer to pretend I’m more confident than I am in the hopes that I’ll convince myself it’s the truth. It feels weird to be vulnerable and expose my insecurities because I’m still halfway convinced that he’s way too good for me and he’s going to realize that any day. He told me to unconvince myself, and to talk to him when I feel that way. I said that I try to be the person I want to be and that he deserves instead of the ugly dork with no social skills that no one liked, which is what I was growing up and how I still feel a lot of the time.

Then he said something that really made the waterworks flow. He told me that I don’t have to try to be anything with him… To just be. That it’s the whole point. I was nearly sobbing by then. I put a lot of pressure on myself and hold back my emotions most of the time. It was like a valve releasing those pent up feelings, and they rushed out at once, with great force. It was also astounding to be accepted and loved exactly as I am. That is something I’ve rarely experienced, partly because haven’t allowed myself to expose the things that I dislike. To be encouraged to show my perceived flaws and have someone love those things, which I can’t even do for myself, was overwhelming. Knowing I have someone to reassure and build me up, even at my worst, gave me permission to let go and be a sap, even for just a few minutes.

It also scared me because I wondered if I even know how to do that. The next several hours the question kept rolling around in my head, “Do I even know who I am if I’m not trying to be something else?” At first, I panicked a little because I wasn’t sure. I could think of a few words to describe myself: loving, honest, funny, sexual, genuine, intelligent, talented, and definitely insecure.   Those seemed generic and flat as a descriptor of who I am because they are just a little portion of who I am.  So many other things began coming to mind… I snort when I laugh, forget names, and talk way too much.  I’m a people-pleaser with a deviant streak, and a stubborn, emotional mess.

All of that and more makes me who I am. As Tony pointed out, those less than perfect parts are what make me human. And interesting. And he loves me for them. Despite my efforts to put on a mask and polish over the rough spots and pretend to have it all together, he sees me. The real me. Sometimes maybe better than I see myself. It’s my job to let him, and I’m going to keep practicing.

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Meeting the Parents

10 Oct

Last night I got to meet Tony’s parents.  He’s met mine.   We did dinner out with my Mom and step-Dad followed by a night at the fair (and a rodeo) a bit later, and dinner with my Dad and step-Mom.  He met my grandma when my band was playing at the State Fair last weekend.  I’ve met his sister (twice), her boyfriend, and a cousin during a very fun day/ evening.  His parents were on vacation during some of that time, but this week we set a time for dinner.  At their house.  Where Tony and I would cook.

I was really excited and glad to get to meet them.  I was also kind of a nervous wreck.  I left work early so that I could swing by my place, pick up more clothes (not content with the original selection I brought), and go to Tony’s house to shower and get ready.  By the time he got there after swinging by to pick up the steaks for dinner, I was mostly done.  I was freshly scrubbed and plucked with minty breath. My hair was dried and straightened with a big round brush.  I had on the perfect amount of make-up that made me look fresh, rosy, and bright-eyed.  I had on a touch of jewelry (earrings and my watch).  I had my shoes and jacket picked out and standing by to be put on. I appeared fairly calm and confident.  For all he could tell I only changed once before we left (just switching for a different shirt).

What to wear

In reality, I had already tried on what seems like 100 outfits.  It wasn’t quite that many, but I got started at lunch.  I was having a hard time finding something that was not too casual, not too dressy, not too formal, etc. that I could cook in without looking awkward or like a sloppy mess.  It’s funny how on days when I don’t try or even care I can put together a killer outfit, but when it’s something important I can’t seem to find a damn thing that looks halfway decent.  I tried on several dresses (which I discarded as not practical with three dogs in the house and cooking to do), jeans (which I decided weren’t quite right), countless tops and bottoms, and something like 5 different pair of shoes before settling on an outfit that was comfortable but probably still a little too much (dress slacks, a printed top with 3/4 length sleeves, and boots).

Outside I looked okay.  Not spectacular, but definitely passable.  I think I even did a pretty good job of hiding my nerves.  In theory.  I actually reached out to several friends and my Mom throughout the day for reassurance.  In fact, there was a whole pep-talk going on in my head.  It went something like this:  “I’m sure that they’ll like me just fine.  I’m sweet and smart and kinda funny. I know how to talk to people, I’m pretty engaging, and I don’t think I’ll say anything offensive. Plus, I really love their son.”

In my heart, I didn’t think that they would hate me or anything.  But he’s a really special guy, and he’s close to his parents. I knew they’d be evaluating me to see if I’m good enough for their baby, at least on some level.  I’ve also never done the whole “meet the parents” thing.  It was completely new to me, so I had nothing to base it on.  The real reason I was nervous, though, is that he’s very important to me, and I wanted to make a good first impression.

In the end, I don’t think I did anything stupid. I met his parents, who are incredibly sweet, their adorable dogs, and his youngest brother. We cooked an amazing dinner, had good conversations, and it was very comfortable. I didn’t feel awkward in the least. It actually felt more like it could have been the 100th time I’d been over there, and I was just part of the gang. It was wonderful, and I’m still floating a little.

When I found this picture today, I had to laugh, though. I had something similar float through my mind (not about his nipples). And I did much more than that when we got home. 😉

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The Wait is Over

7 Oct

There are at least 10 other things I should be doing right now, but I wanted to post a quick update.  I have heard from my lawyer and confirmed with the court that my divorce has officially been granted.  Yay!  I still haven’t gotten my decree in the mail, but just knowing it’s done is fantastic!  I even took a screen shot of the website in the meantime:

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As you can see, I’ve actually been totally free since September 25th!  It took almost a year, which I still find ridiculous given that it was supposed to be only 6 months.  The separation/ divorce process was actually 1/3 of our total time being married.  It was also the best part of the whole thing.  I take that back – having it completely over and being able to move on is the best part.

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