4/04/2014

My Discernment is Unreliable

I saw my counselor today; the same one S and I were seeing when we were together.  It felt great to share some residual feelings I had from when S and I were stuck and fighting, as well as the final rounds of processing we did and insights we had.

Two of the main ones that I don't think I shared here were that:  One,  I agreed with S that, yes, I do have an edge around being sympathetic when my partner is whining or being pitiful (ok those are totally judgmental words showing my lack of sympathy. ha).  I want to grow in this area and be "softer" and more responsive and loving when my partner is feeling small. Two, at a certain point a few months before we broke up, he GAVE up and, when we were fighting, he wasn't coming from a place of love and trying to reconnect. He was just fighting, and this felt so painful and crazy-making.

I'm well over the relationship and moved on, but it was good to share these insights with someone who knows us both and is compassionate.

Looking ahead, we talked about some initial guidelines to follow as I am dating and getting closer to someone, to help me discern if they are available and capable of the type of relationship and intimacy I want.  She mentioned that feeling "familiar" is different than feeling "comfortable," and that we can feel a person or situation is familiar when it resembles a situation from childhood, even if that situation carried anxiety or insecurity.  Concrete guidelines I might use to reflect on a new dating relationship might include asking the following questions:
  • Can I be myself?  Do I feel comfortable expressing the different parts of who I am?
  • Does he want me to "shine"?  Is he excited about, and supportive of, my success and development?
  • Does the relationship feel mutual? Is he meeting me in the middle or showing willingness to try?  Is he willing to work with me to meet my needs within the relationship, as well as his own?
  • When we "fight" or when he is expressing unhappiness with me or something I did, is there a sense that underneath it all he cares about/loves me and wants to get through the difficulty and return to feeling close?
It feels good to have initial guidelines I can use to back up my own decision-making process, which to be honest, I don't completely trust.  I am afraid of ending up in a painful and loveless relationship for any length of time again.  I don't think I ever could, with the consciousness I have now about how that happened with S - including my coping mechanism of shutting down emotionally, which I think contributed to our being stuck as long as we were.  I still feel some fear and shakiness around it, however, and so appreciate having some concrete "checks and balances."

3/20/2014

EOL and Dating

My fifth out of six EOL leadership weekends was the best one yet in terms of the experience of being there and how I feel coming out of it.  One remarkable thing that happened was that I asked one of the men for feedback on when I shared the vulnerable experience with the whole group the prior weekend.  I had felt very raw coming out of that and realized that I needed to receive reflection and reassurance that what I shared would be honored and held with care.  I received all that and more, including his perception that all the men in the circle were tuned in to what I was saying and trying to hold space for me, and that what I shared mirrored a thread of what they had shared in the men's circle.  It was a truly wonderful and generous conversation and met all my needs for reassurance and care.  I feel so grateful.

Another significant insight was that I often feel the need to be "on" in my life and am scanning everyone looking for a connection.  This is exhausting, as is working to have everyone - including all my students - like me.  Not everyone will like me!  And I don't need to connect with everyone as I move through my day or walk across campus.  No wonder I come home from work and need to crash!  So my intention is to, as corny as it may sound, befriend myself and let myself off the hook to some degree.  I want to be my authentic self, and that includes being "on" at times and tuned in to my students, being playful, as well as being more quiet and inward at times - taking opportunities to be alone and "recharge" my energy.

On a lighter note, we also crawled, skipped, galloped and ran all around the property in our pod groups acting like various species of animals exploring nature.  It was silly and playful and there was lots of laughter.  At one point, we crashed in the grass of the meadow and exclaimed that being an animal was exhausting!  For the rest of the time, we just made animal sounds from a reclining position, including those of fish and sharks.  I am definitely feeling comfortable and a sense of trust with the "village" now that is really wonderful.

In ongoing dating adventures, I let the last guy I went on a date with know that I didn't feel there was quite enough attraction there to continue seeing each other romantically.  Not surprisingly, he wasn't interested in the friends track.  I have also been emailing with a couple other guys, both of whom seem more attractive and interesting to me.  I will likely talk to one of them on the phone today or tomorrow afternoon.  He suggested we talk on the phone after I asked him a couple questions about something he wrote in his profile about "8-hour parties," attending Burning Man, and being bohemian, as well as having a more regular Joe side.  I happen to know he works in strategic planning/public policy and is not a total flake, but I'm not sure what he means when he says these things... he recently went to a wedding in LA and said his group of friends hung out by the pool talking and did some dancing, so it didn't sound too crazy.  You just never know here in the Bay Area. :) I'll let you know what I find out and whether we end up meeting this Sunday.  He also surfs, which I find trés sexy...

The second guy is very cute, has a Ph.D. focusing in part on psychology, describes himself as athletic... and, comes with his own issue of possible concern: He says he has food/other allergies and gets migraines on a regular basis which somewhat limit his activities.  Kudos to him for being up front about it, but it's a little worrisome to know from the start that your partner is limited in the activities they can participate in with you.  He said in his profile that he would encourage his girlfriend to go do things with friends, but companionship in life - including in social and cultural activities - are a big part of the fun of relationship for me.  So, I also look forward to learning more about this topic when he and I meet next Wednesday.

Other than that, just generally enjoying Spring Break this week and the gorgeous weather we're having!  Hope you all are having a good week, too.

3/09/2014

Wondering who is reading...

After I wrote a lot of deep stuff in my last post, it is making me consider how my own transitions affect my current blogging focus and readership.  I love and appreciate my few faithful readers who comment (and I read and comment on their blogs too) but am curious about the rest of you.

If you read regularly but haven't commented before, will you consider commenting and introducing yourself?  I'm imagining most readers are arriving through the SMC or infertility/pregnancy channels but would appreciate knowing more specifically who is out there.  Thank you! :)

p.s. I went on another date yesterday.  He was interesting and had depth, but unfortunately the chemistry wasn't there.  He followed up to ask me on another date, and I'm not sure what to tell him...

2/23/2014

Epiphanies

This Ecology of Leadership program is turning out to be as much, if not more, about inner growth as it is about our projects in the outer world.  I want to share my accomplishments so far, but especially want to share a very recent and significantly healing epiphany I had last week related to my reproductive past and future.

Working within the structure of the monthly weekend intensives - I had my fourth one last weekend - our monthly "buddy" pairings, and our regional program "Pods" that meet a couple times a month, I've had many accomplishments, including:
  • Clarity and planning around my goal of forming a Social Change Theatre Troupe
  • Integrating new routines of "Sit Spots" - sitting out in nature for 15 minutes, five days a week - and regular journaling into my life.  I've journaled before but had slacked on it for a while.
  • Having surgery and relying on community, including EOL friends, to support me.
  • Lots and lots and lots of self reflection and visioning, focusing on six chosen areas of my life, including drawing complex and evocative "mind maps" of my visions in these areas.
  • Supporting a couple dozen other people - of diverse ages, genders, and cultures - in the process, and opening up to let them support me.
  • From an ecological perspective, focusing on healing blocks in the "roots" of my inner life and unconscious, so that the "canopy" of what I show and achieve the world can be full and thriving.  Various processes around this over the weekend intensives and individual work in between.
To the last point, I had a huge shift, or epiphany, in this last week!

As background: Going into last weekend in Bolinas (the place where we meet is gorgeous and very special - used to be the site of Native American ceremonies and includes gardens, meadows, hills, beautiful trees and forest areas, and a short walk to cliffs and beaches of the ocean), I had experienced a revelation around my theatre project.  Reflecting on my vision and needs coming up around it, as well as just how long I had held this deep longing to be part of a troupe, I realized that most of my vision was directly carried over from a theatre troupe I auditioned for and desperately wanted to join a couple of decades ago.  Even though I knew they were specifically looking for men of color, I took it personally when I was not accepted and was devastated.  I just knew they would see my passion and abilities and welcome me into the group.  It was not to be.

In any case, I think I was looking for control around something I had not a lot of control over, and I took up this longing for a troupe and carried it with me.  I have done many theatre projects and collaborations in the non-profit, community, and activist sectors but haven't managed to form an ongoing troupe, which felt like a failure.  What I realized is that I am already getting a lot of the needs met that I hoped to meet through the troupe "right now" through my InterPlay and dance groups!  These include creative expression and collaboration within a "sacred space" or space of exploration and acceptance.  And community is coming in other ways, too, through EOL and InterPlay, so the main desire I have and that might be met through the troupe is regular creative contribution; producing educational/outreach performances and self/community development workshops that make a positive difference for individuals and the community.  I've never had this level of clarity AND I have a partner in this endeavor who is totally on the same page, my friend K.  I didn't mean to get that detailed about the theatre project but it IS a big deal for me. :) So back to the weekend....

I came with that insight, expecting a lot of focus on our projects, but instead we dove into women's and men's experiences and issues.  We divided into two groups by gender and talked about our feelings and experiences around men and being a woman in this culture.  Not a small topic.  Lot's of very deep sharing, crying, bonding, supporting.

During this experience, I shared about my abortion two decades ago when I was involved with an ex who was unavailable.  I shared about that on this blog before and reconnecting with this guy three years ago or so.  So, I knew that was a deeply wounding experience for me, and I tried to work through residual pain in various ways over the years - writing letters to my unborn child, crying, getting angry, talking to the guy about it and how it affected me, etc.

But there was more there.  The emotions were combined with a cognitive aspect, as well.  I realized through talking about it in the healing container of the women's circle and in three emotional conversations since - in the larger group, with my housemate, and with my "buddy" - that not feeling like I had choice in that situation contributed to the energy I brought to trying to have a child on my own.

* As a caveat, I absolutely know that having a child as Single Mother by Choice is a wonderful and valid choice, so it's not about the validity of that, it's a very personal realization that I brought energy and compulsion to it based on the lack of choice I felt I had back then around the abortion.

At the time, I wasn't able to hold a space for myself to reflect and consider all options, and he, who was several years older, was not able to hold that space for me or himself either.  He was driven by his own fear and desire for self-preservation and immediately shifted into convincing me that an abortion was the only valid choice.  And I, unfortunately, was addicted to him and his love and approval of me and couldn't say no, hold on here, I need to think about this, maybe see a counselor.

That's not entirely true... For a short time when I first found out, I do remember considering and telling him that I could go live with my birth mother's family in Oregon (I was pretty sure my immediate family would disapprove and likely reject me), but he argued against that.  I couldn't imagine myself, a recent college graduate at 22/23 years old, raising the child on my own and couldn't imagine losing him either.  I have thought so many times that I wish I could go back and make another choice, but that's coming from where I am now.  Now, I am able to hold space for myself.  Now, I am able to raise a child on my own.

So, I feel compassion for myself back then, and I am even finding compassion for him in his immaturity and fear, which, unfortunately, he never really outgrew.  I also feel angry that he couldn't help me - couldn't open up to my needs as well as his own.  But mainly, I just feel incredibly sad that we were both so limited in our capacities.

So the epiphany is that, cognitively and emotionally, I've been letting that experience, in part, drive my decision making around having a child.  I actually don't regret trying, though I might not have tried quite as often or in as many ways.  I don't regret trying these past couple of years with S, though I think it made us stay together longer than we otherwise would have.  If I don't have a biological child, the possibility of which is growing increasingly dim, I might have really regretted not trying.  But I brought a belief that I needed to control this situation; I needed to have a child to heal my past experience, in part to forgive myself for my past and not being able to hold that space to reflect and clearly choose what was right for me.  To take that choice back.  But by bringing these emotions and beliefs along with me, I realize now that I was actually limiting my choices and continuing to be controlled to some degree by that experience.  Does that make sense?

Which brings me to now.  Going forward, I want to let go of this pain and regret, and anger and grief.  I want to forgive myself, and, yes, forgive him, to the best of my ability.  I want to relax and trust myself to hold space for reflection and clear choice.  At this time, I am not on solid ground to pursue having a child on my own.  My finances are not at the level I would like, and my living situation is uncertain as of May or June when my housemate moves in with his fiance.  Plus, I am still immersed in EOL and would like to focus for now on community and relationship.

To end this long and intense post - thank you if you read the whole thing! - I want to share how this epiphany and healing has rolled out in the past few days.  So I had a date on Friday, and a short time into this date (which lacked chemistry to begin with), the guy starts yammering on about having kids and how women around 40 get fixated on that, and then asking when I decided I was not going in that direction of having kids, etc.  OMG, I felt revolted.  I couldn't have felt more clear that we were in completely different developmental stages of our lives.  He was 51 years old, but I know there are guys that age out there, like my housemate and like S, who are interested and open to having a child or another child.  Other things this guy said showed how insular and closed minded he was, like when he goes out in nature he can't wait to get back home.  I could not get out of there fast enough.  I went home and changed my profile to be MUCH MORE CLEAR that I am interested in having a family in some way and that I would like to meet someone who is similarly open.

I will also say that the door is open to pursuing becoming an SMC again in the future, when life circumstances change.

So this epiphany, rather than closing me off to having a family, seems to have empowered me and brought more confidence, clarity, and choice about how and when, and in what circumstance, I move forward.  Feeling so grateful for this healing process and it's impact on my life.  Would love to hear your comments, thoughts, and experiences...

2/04/2014

Surgery and Post-Op Report

Farewell, fibroid!!!

The surgery went very well and took a bit less time than anticipated.  I have been recovering for the last few days and appreciating the pain medication.  The first couple of days were the worst in terms of pain and not being able to move around and get up and down very well.  Basically, any movement that engages your abdominal muscles hurts. 

S was a Godsend the day of the surgery and stayed with me until the next morning when he left for an activist retreat.  He came back that evening for dinner and the following day for the Super Bowl and was really supportive and there for me. 

But then, yesterday, that support felt like it was abruptly cut off when he didn't communicate all day.  I wrote him a report before I went to bed, and he briefly responded and suggested we talk in the morning.  I imagine he was feeling fear around the physical and emotional closeness of the time we were spending together, though he says that's not the case.

Ironically, the way we were together over those couple of days was what I had wanted, or imagined I wanted, the last few months we were together.  Being able to just "be" with each other and relax, hang out in casual way.  Maybe we didn't do the most exciting activities - pretty much eating and watching TV and movies - but we talked some in-between, legs intertwined and holding hands.  It felt comfortable and reassuring.

Clearly, I got a little too attached because when he went AWOL yesterday, it hurt my feelings.  Now, as I regain my strength, I'm trying to let him go with love and not be angry that he couldn't offer that closeness in the context of relationship.  I could not have gotten through this surgery without him, but we are not together anymore, and it's time to move on. 

To take it a bit further, perhaps the difficulty we are experiencing now is a gift in that I can clearly see that he still does not have the ability to communicate and take ownership of what's going on with him, and he still has anger issues right there under the surface, as well.  This is not the kind of relationship I want.  And, I still feel grateful for the support he provided at this vulnerable time.

My friends were also supportive and brought food for me Saturday and yesterday.  The lentil soup my friend (and current "buddy" in my leadership program) brought yesterday was sooo tasty and healthy, and I ate the leftovers today for lunch.  When you feel sore, tired, and dizzy, cooking is not the best choice of activity.  Two other friends are bring food tomorrow and Thursday.  I could likely prepare something by that time, but I very much appreciate the extra care and time to take it easy. 

Zoey was a trooper throughout it all.  She could sense that I wasn't able to physically care for her in the same way and adjusted her reactions to my signals.  Less jumping around and more independence; going outside in the yard by herself, etc.  She was a good girl.

In the big picture, I am glad to be rid of the fibroid - and the second small one she took out too - and look forward to the positive differences I will feel, once healed.

1/25/2014

Updates Shmupdates

In considering the content of this blog, I have a late New Year's resolution to declare:  In 2014, I will write six focused topic blogs.  Maybe there is a more proper name for these... what I mean, is that instead of just writing the variety of happenings and insights since my last post, I will explore a particular topic in more depth.  Many of you who blog do this, but it's been a rare occurrence for me.  In any case, I want to challenge myself a bit in my blogging, so we will see how I do.

But not today!  Today, I'm going to do the opposite and write a bullet post to catch up on work, ex-boyfriend, leadership program, and other happenings:
  • I'll start with work, since I left off there in my last post.  My class launched successfully!  I feel good about the content I have provided for the students, which has included lots of interactive exercises, an online college resources scavenger hunt, and a PowerPoint, peppered with group discussion and and activity.  And the most of the students haven't even received their books yet.  That's right, I'm not complaining though.  Folks on the East Coast are feeling much worse impact of the stormy weather than delayed books.  I have improvised and made do, and I was told they would arrive on Monday, fingers crossed.  Oh, and my "first big college class" is filled mainly with high school students, albeit more mature than average high school students.  My community college has an imbedded high school, the students of which graduate high school with an Associates degree - a pretty good deal.  So, after hearing a complaint from one of the "real" college students in the class, I've needed to talk to them about the noise level, but I'm happy to report they are adjusting pretty well.
  • My surgery is this Friday.  I found substitute teachers for my classes the week following and, with the help of my kind friend, I'm lining up a few visits and simple meal deliveries.  I'm just not sure how incapacitated I will be.  As mentioned, S will be taking me there and back and spending some time with me afterwards.  The main things I'm worried about are, in this order: Zoey care, food prep/bathroom trips, and pain.  I'm not more worried about pain because I assume I'll be given good pain medication.  Mainly, I hope I'll be able to do the minimum required to take care of necessities for the couple days post-surgery.  If any of you has gone through laparoscopic fibroid surgery, I'm interested to hear about your recovery experience, if you're willing to share.  As I think I mentioned, my fibroid is large - seven to eight mm - and located outside the uterus, near the cervix.
  • S and I have had three further talks now (two in person and one on the phone) and many tears have been coming out, which feels like part of the healing process.  Through some teachings in my leadership program, I've realized that after our fight pattern had had gone on for a while, I went into "faint" mode (out of the model "Flight, Fight, Freeze, or Faint"), which means I checked out or detached to some degree.  At the time, I thought I was being calm or "normal" and not escalating things, but I see now that I was not fully there.  I remember feeling like this "shouldn't be happening" and denying the reality of the situation.  I believe the sadness I'm feeling now is a release of feelings I didn't feel through the last few months, as well as sadness that we stayed stuck in that painful place for so long.  I've said several times to S now that I wish we had broken up instead of going through that for so long.  I wonder what might have happened if I had been able to stay present and express the sadness then?  I think either we would have broken up or something would have shifted in the relationship.  But I really don't think he was ready to shift, so I doubt the latter.  I'll confess that the first time we met, there was some rebound romance energy but not the second time.  I still remain clearly focused on what I want in a relationship, and that he's self-admittedly not capable of that.  I'm glad he will be there to help me around the surgery - it's strange to remember that I was about to get this surgery last Spring but then we lost Cobra coverage and could not go forward.
  • Finally, I had my third Ecology of Leadership retreat weekend (out of six) last weekend, and it was a doozy!  Our activities were primarily focused on "roots work," or looking at blocks or issues that are holding us back, as well as diving deeper into our Project work.  A lot of people shared deep wounds and trauma, such as family member's suicide, eating disorders, being rejected by a loved one, etc.  I shared more and released sadness mentioned above in our small groups and individually during an embodied shaking and tapping (it's hard to explain but it was pretty cool) exercise we did.  I made major progress in my clarity about Project focus on forming a Social Change Performing Arts Troupe that focuses on both inner and outer transformation.  Inner, in terms of the troupe being a safe place for the members of the troupe to look at their own issues, feelings, and perspectives in relation to different topics.  Outer, with regard to us creating performance vehicles we take out into the community to engage, educate, and hopefully transform those in the audience.  Both aspects are important to me.  And, guess what?  I set up a tent and camped for the first time in a decade!  I didn't sleep more than a few hours, but I didn't get too scared and made it through.  I won't be heading for the Alaskan wilderness anytime soon, but I feel it was a good step.
Tomorrow and Monday I need to get a lot of work done towards my class - grading papers, lesson plans for this week, and bigger picture assignment descriptions.  Looks like I might be at the computer a lot over the next 48 hours...

1/11/2014

Hitting the Ground Running

My mom received wonderful news yesterday - the three lymph nodes they removed, which were apparently "involved," were all benign.  At first my brother just told me that the three they removed were "involved," and I was quite worried thinking the doctor randomly removed three, all cancerous.  But no, apparently, they use dye in the surgery to see which are "involved" and remove them, and clearly involved doesn't mean what I thought (I still don't know exactly what it means, but I guess somehow connected).  Whew!  Relief.  Now praying the chemotherapy she starts this week goes well.

In other news, I have been stressed off my a$$ about my class, which starts Tuesday.  Not so much about the teaching part, but the preparation, or the "finally-receive-the-book-at-the-very-last-minute, cram-the-planning-process" aspect of the whole thing.  But last night, I finally took a big chunk out of creating my syllabus.  After another several-hour session tonight, I should be in tolerable shape with content.  Then, shine it up and get it printed by Monday.  I also still need to be entered as the instructor for the course so I can access student roster and other needed information, but I am choosing to trust all that will fall into place.  Basically, I won't leave campus on Monday until I have it figured out!

Oh, and I'm also giving a workshop tomorrow at the local bookstore on MBTI and career choice.  Why did I choose to do this right before my class started?  Honestly, I was NOT thinking clearly.  But luckily, I now have all the planning done for that, the workshop is only an hour and a half, and I'm facilitating with a friend which takes some of the pressure off.  I'll try to take a picture if I think of it.

It's just so shocking coming out of the lull of the holiday break into madcap action.  Is anyone else feeling this way?

I can also share that the joys of dating are alive and well... initial nervousness, looking for that spark of attraction, not really finding it, trying to be present for what IS there... which in the case of the second person I went out with in the last couple weeks, was that we had a LOT in common in terms of our education and work.  He was finishing a graduate psychology program with a cohort of folks (I did this a decade or more ago) and had done a lot of growth work, including counseling and 12-$tep, as well as gone through fertility treatments with his ex-wife at the same place S and I last went.

We went out twice, the second time down at Fisherman's Wharf (near the fertility place), which brought up a lot of feelings!  It should have been no shocker, but I just didn't think of it.  S and I going down there several times together - mainly to the Piers but once to the Wharf - and processing the treatments.  Getting in fights.  Or feeling excitement and hope.  In any case, for that reason plus the lack of attraction thing, I decided that would be end of the road for me and this guy.

S and I are supposed to get together now and finally exchange the presents we have for each other.  We haven't communicated at all since texting when I was in Oregon around Christmas.  I feel a little nervous and want to stay grounded in my vision for what I want in a relationship.  In knowing that it will never work with S unless there were a DRAMATIC shift in how we are together, which is unlikely.  I have no idea what, if anything, he has been going through mentally or emotionally.  I just know that he saw the counselor yesterday, and we agreed to get together around this time.  I will keep you posted.

Thank you to everyone for another year of connecting through this blog and through many of yours.  I hope this year brings many dreams to fruition. 

Finally, sending much care to those of you going through difficult times.