Sunday, February 16, 2014

Getting Messy...A Cigar Is Just A Cigar


I had a hard time writing this week.

First I started a piece that reflected how last week's irritation at two Sunday Boyfriends has turned into frustration. But, honestly, it was a downer...I deleted it.

Then I went even further down and started scripting text about death and loss. Seriously, Katie? In the "Comfortable. Always there for you." world of Sunday Boyfriend, death isn't so comfortable. So I deleted that one, too.

This is the time I usually grab the nearest box/bag of anything chocolaty and become a beagle. In this state of mind the word willpower has no meaning. I don't know how to stop. Unwrap. Insert. Chew. Unwrap. Insert. Chew. Unwrap...you get the idea. Sure, I had that short endorphin rush during the first five minutes of my sweet feeding frenzy, but inevitably that short-term exaltation turns into long-term chocolate remorse. Now I feel even worse...shit.

Man I wish I could shake this off.

Problem is...I am frustrated. Frustrated, yes, at the aforementioned two Sunday Boyfriends, but also frustrated at myself. It seems, despite my serious attempts to change my reactions to these Sunday Boyfriends, I am still irritated. Did I mention I'm not a very patient person. This is a serious flaw of mine. So while I understand this change I'm undertaking won't happen overnight, I still want it to happen as quickly as possible.

But my issue isn't about change then, is it? It's about control.

Jesus, this is about control? WTF? Now what?

There is no quick fix for control issues. Believe me, I've looked for it. The only way to curb my need to control everything and everyone around me is to slowly embrace mess and disorder. And you know what? Thinking this way makes me want to tell myself to, "Fuck off!"

This is going to be a major undertaking.

But here's the thing I keep telling myself: If I recognize mess and disorder exist; if I recognize mess and disorder just "are;" then it's entirely okay for me to be messy and disorderly. Really? From what I remember from my Venn diagrams...really. But how do I get comfortable with mess?

I am going to have to practice.

To start, with my College Sunday Boyfriend, I am going to be good to myself and focus on what direction I would like move forward rather than trying to balance what would be better based on a best guess of his motives and behavior. I'm going to stop thinking he thinks I'm an idiot with what he proposed and just move forward as I see it. I can't keep fighting what I want in an effort to avoid a mess. If it gets messy, it gets messy. So be it.

Second, I'm going to do my best to really listen to what my Foodie Sunday Boyfriend says, rather than guess there is some hidden meaning behind it. As my significant other likes to say (for all you anti-Freudian fans), "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

In our last communication, I did my best to express my viewpoint to my Foodie SB in an effort to remedy what I saw as a miscommunication. And that's all I can do. I can't keep guessing what his motives are behind a continued no response. If he doesn't want to respond, then he just doesn't. I can't go on auto-pilot and start my crisis-mode way of thinking in an attempt to remedy any issues that may (or may not) be happening. I make excuses all the time that I'm not hearing from him because he's fully entrenched in work. But honestly, I have just as much on my plate as he does to keep me busy. So rather than continually pausing the things in my world to send a message to keep the relationship going, I am going to let it, as I see it, get messy.

I honestly don't know if these practice steps will help me with my control issues. Nor am I "in the know" if these tactics will help my relationships. But what I do know is I can't keep going as is. And I suppose that's progress. Messy...but progress.

Here's hoping we all can find a place of comfort in a sea of messy chaos.

As always, stay comfy; and be good to yourself and all your Sunday Boyfriends.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Irritated: Trying to Bounce

 
Irritated. Man, I hate that word and feeling. Nails on a chalkboard. The shirt tag that lightly rubs your neck. Finding out you had a piece of green food stuck in your front teeth for the last four hours and no one told you. Realizing you’re going in circles arguing with stupid people. Telling your cashier you are in a hurry and then watching her continue to tell jokes to the bagger while you stew and frantically watch the clock because you now only have 10 minutes to pick up your child from school. Doing the same thing over and over (which is the definition of crazy, BTW) and getting nowhere. Promises not kept.

Irritated.

How do I cure irritation? Did you know I get irritated having to think about how to not be irritated?

Phooey!

Okay, so after I get done pouting and sulking, I try to watch anything that will turn my mood around. Something funny…either ha, ha funny or the kind of funny that makes you think. It doesn’t really matter; just as long as there is some “funny” element to it. Tonight I caught the last few minutes of the movie, Midnight Run. DeNiro, Grodin (whom I just learned was banned from SNL since the late 1970s), and a slew of the same clunker, boat-like cars I drove in driver’s ed. 1980s movies tend to pick up my spirits because I notice all the things that have changed since the movie's debut; talking on pay phones (or HUGE cell phones), smoking on airplanes, waistlines and hairlines. Ah…good stuff.

But I needed a bit more “funny” to shake things off and get perspective. So I caught an online clip of Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweets bit. It’s where celebrities read mean tweets written by mean people and react to said tweets. My favorites are when the celebrities react somewhat unexpectedly.  The fact these celebrities, these people, can not only laugh off these bile-filled wastes of words, but turn it into a burn makes me giggle. Bill Murray and Sarah Silverman’s reactions are especially good. Have I ever mentioned I like Sarah Silverman? If not…now you know. The way she throws people off is just…it’s just free. Her letting go of what is expected and turning it around into a double take style always makes me think about how and why I hold things back rather than letting it go.
Now I’m not advocating you go into your boss’ office tomorrow and have a take-this-job-and-shove-it-moment; nor am I giving the green light to spew atrocities to strangers (or loved ones). Ah, no. Sometimes words are hurtful, just like the Kimmel bit texts are hurtful. I am not promoting anyone should go out and start using words as weapons. No. Let me repeat that…NO! I’m just saying that in some cases it’s better to shed your fear of what your thoughts and ideas could lead to and be free and comfortable with who you are. Now mind you, not everyone will like your ideas, thoughts, or you…but don’t let that negativity turn you off to what you have to learn and be on this journey. Sometimes that negativity can be a learning opportunity, so don’t shrug it off. Just do what some of these celebrities (people) did and turn it around to make you the bigger person.

So, this bit, whether it intended to or not, provided a lesson in not just thick skin, but bouncy skin. It shows how most of the celebrities (people) can look at an attack and shrug it off, turn it around, or let it bounce right back to the attacker. So it’s funny because it shows how ridiculous verbal attacks can be when the intended turns the intention around and makes it laughable. The lesson: Be resilient. Be bouncy. Be better than that.

Anyhoo…

Those mean tweet reactions helped me get rid of a little irritation. Not all, but a little. I have a ton on my mind lately and I have a tendency to become consumed with only my perspective. That’s easy to do, right? Becoming so entrenched with what is going on in your world that you find it hard to move out of it and see the other things going on in the world. I usually tell my significant other he has blinders on when I see him do this…but this time I have the blinders.

It’s a bitch when your words come back to bite you…isn’t it? I’m not just talking to you tweeters.

So yes, while you may have guessed already, I am irritated at a couple of my Sunday Boyfriends. Before I get into some of the stories, I should disclose that I am a planner. My brain is hardwired to be in problem-solving mode 24/7 to avoid such anxiety-filled scenarios as the one I mentioned earlier with the cashier during checkout. I am constantly five steps ahead in my head in order to get to my desired end result. And I tend to be a bulldog about it…a relentless get-out-of-my-way-until-I-solve-this kind of bulldog. This may sound all well and good; “be prepared” is a revered motto, after all. But the problem that always occurs with this way of thinking, is that not everyone thinks or reacts to issues the same way I do. Shocking, I know…yes, I’m talking to you cashier.

But seriously, I have a difficult time understanding why others don’t jump on a problem, tackle it and want to solve it as fast as possible as I do. I always ask: Why do you want to sit in all that discomfort? Why not do something to change it? Coming to an understanding that some folks let issues linger, sometimes forever, makes me irritated. I just don’t get it. I am doing my best to become bouncy…to shake things off and turn it around. But this is difficult. Type A much, Katie? Yeah…I get it. But cut me some slack, I am really trying to change the way I react to things. I have become aware my same reactions got me nowhere over the years (remember that crazy definition) and I’m trying to turn it around so I can stop being so irritated all the time.

That said, my College SB, who used to respond to a note from me in hours, hasn’t touched base in more than a year (including missing my birthday…which he hasn’t missed in nearly 10 years). And I don’t understand why. I’ve reached out multiple ways (text, email, voicemail); multiple times to get to an answer and heard nothing. Yes, I realize he took on a lot this past year with a new job and a new baby, and understand how much joy and stress that can be. Heck, I had a breakdown this summer, so I seriously understand how stress can put blinders on you and take its toll. But I also recognize when friends are reaching out to help and at least communicate back. A “yes,” “no,” or “fine” would have sufficed. So after a year of reaching out, offering to help, and getting nothing in return, I finally sent the WTF note to explain why he has been off the grid. I even included an “easy out” for him to end our friendship if that’s what he wanted. I got two sentences back. Yep. Two sentences that included the words,” …just busy.” I communicated back with some dates to have a discussion. And again…nothing.

Irritated.
I’ve come to a place where my desire to rid myself of irritation coupled with my desire to become more bouncy and have decided to let this go. If he responds, I’ll be here to listen. But if no response, then I’m letting it, and him, go. I can’t keep reaching out, over and over, and think he’s eventually going to respond when the past year has proven otherwise. That just makes me continually irritated and uncomfortable and that’s just crazy to do to myself. Time to let it/him go. Coming to this release wasn’t easy. He has been in my life for a long time. He was a great friend to me when I needed him the most and I loved him for it. So sure…there is hurt. Big hurt. But coming to this release makes it easier to know what to do next. The whole situation doesn’t have me in a headlock-type hold anymore. It doesn’t have as much power anymore because I’m not putting so much energy into it. Funny how that works, huh?

So what else?
Well, I’m getting to that familiar irritated place with my Foodie SB. If you’ve been reading my posts, you're already aware my Foodie SB is not the best communicator. He goes in spurts. Sometimes I hear from him all night and other times it’s weeks…or months if I get too close. I have come to an understanding that this is how he is and am doing my best to be bouncy about it. Seriously, I'm trying.

Because my significant other and my Foodie SB share similar work experiences, I think my significant other can relate and likes to give him the benefit of the doubt when I become frustrated over the silence. Sometimes I think my significant other is rooting for my Foodie SB to come through and prove him right (and thus proving me wrong). Regardless, my significant other is constantly trying to give me some perspective during my Foodie SB’s silent times. Relatively recently, I shared my frustration over these silent times with my Foodie SB. I explained a one word "yes," "no," or even "busy" would suffice. He promised he would do a better job with getting back to me. I told him I took promises to heart, which he acknowledged.

Which is why I am even more irritated/hurt. This week I received some potential bad health news that gave me pause. Things are still in the subjective unknown at this point so I am trying my best to be positive. “Could be any number of things,” I keep telling myself. But my brain has already gone five steps ahead to problem solve the worst-case scenario. And I won’t lie…the worst-case scenario is scary. And I’m nervous. I shared this news with just four people: my significant other, my mother, my East Coast SB, and my Foodie SB.

There is an air of uneasiness, but my significant other has been extremely supportive, which I truly appreciate. My mother did her best to be supportive, but she couldn’t hide her concerned face…which is okay. I know it’s coming from love. My East Coast SB, who has been battling his own recent health scare (but I am happy to say he is on the mend), shared his concern and encouragement and said, “We make quite the pair.” To which my response was, “Isn’t it rich?” But I have heard nothing from my Foodie SB. Granted, I also didn’t hear back from him from my earlier notes in the week, but still… This time, this note wasn’t one I send every day. And as each day goes by with no word, I am getting irritated.

Did I already mention I hate being irritated?
To be fair, I already know this irritation is fear. As far as I am concerned, too many years of no communication have already passed between my Foodie SB and me to warrant any further silence. I put forth a lot of time and energy into several personal campaigns over the years to find my Foodie SB after we lost touch due to my depression after the deaths of my father and grandmother. Keep in mind I started these crusades before there was the Internet to provide clues. I sent letters to people with the same name and didn’t know it for years (I just thought he wasn’t responding). I got encouragement from same-named people via email who told me, “I hope you find him.” My point…I kept trying because he matters that much to me. So to not hear something now, after all the years of no communication, after reconnecting and getting to a comfortable place, after sharing this news…well…it hurts. Yes: he could be busy. Yes: he could have lost his phone…again. Yes: he could have fallen down a well (Lassie where are you?). Yes: he could be in the vice-like grip of his workload (complete with blinders on). But it still hurts.

Irritated.
To be bouncy, if you read my last post, I started sending Valentine’s Day notes to my SBs…including my Foodie SB. My thought was to proceed with my original plans and let this non communication status be on him, not me. We’ll see how this goes…

Here’s hoping we all (including me) can get to that bouncy place of letting the things that try to irritate us fall back where they belong and not waste so much energy.
As always…stay comfy; and do your best to be good to yourself and all your Sunday Boyfriends.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy Sunday Boyfriend Valentines



Okay folks. I had a lot of great feedback, and time to sit with that great feedback, since my last SB post. You know, the one that features that sassy photo of Johnny Cash and dives into my push back from misunderstood SB criticism? Some of it was thanking me for the post and insight; the other was again telling me I need to look at how having Sunday Boyfriends (or Sunday Girlfriends) could hurt existing significant other relationships.

I get it.

Honestly, I get where all the folks who want me to look at the potential down side of having Sunday Boyfriends are coming from. It's from projected fear. It's also from misdirected care and concern, but make no mistake, it's projected fear. Fear of cheating. And cheating is scary. Scary because of all the hurt that it can cause. And I'm not just talking about physical cheating. That's bad enough. I'm talking about withdrawing; about not contributing to the growth of a relationship. That, ladies and gentlemen, is cheating. Cheating yourself and others out of the potential to grow. And everyone...EVERYONE fears being put through that hurt. And make no mistake...I am not promoting cheating. Rather, I am promoting confidence, that leads to security, that leads to comfort, that leads to more happiness.

Having one, let alone several Sunday Boyfriends is not for the faint of heart. It is not for those who aren't confident in themselves or their relationships. Because if you are faint of heart, if you aren't confident, you already carry a fair amount of fear. And fear in Sunday Boyfriend relationships leads to disaster. If you have a significant other and enter a Sunday Boyfriend relationship based on a fear you are missing out on something, then you need to step back and look at yourself before moving forward in either relationship. Because trying to fill a void inside of you with someone else isn't the solution. Look to your gut to find the answer. It's there. But trust me...your answer isn't going to be inside anyone else, so stop looking outside yourself.

I have written several times that all of my Sunday Boyfriends are, at the core, my friends. They just happen to be good friends that I connect with a tad more strongly. The Sunday Boyfriend motto is, and has always been: "Comfortable. Always there for you." And that's what all my Sunday Boyfriends fulfill for me: an always there for me, comfortable relationship. I hope I provide them with the same. And what is so scary about that?

It's only scary if you are already filled with fear. Plain and simple. If you go into your Sunday Boyfriend relationship with the confidence that you are both caring and responsible adults, then you have nothing to worry about. But if you're worried, about anything, then you need to have a very important conversation with yourself and ask: "What am I afraid of?" 

That said, Valentine's Day is coming. A day devoted to celebrating the marketing world's love of selling love. Jaded much, Katie? Maybe a little. But mostly because I think there should be some celebration of love shared everyday, not just one of 365. Because getting just one day of love affirmation can make even the strongest of relationships head for a tailspin. Regardless, if you have a Sunday Boyfriend and aren't sure if you should bring it up or not, let me ask you this: What are you afraid of?

Remember, having a Sunday Boyfriend means you are (mostly) fearless...fear of spiders and heights notwithstanding. You are in a comfortable relationship and that comfort starts with you. So don't be afraid of, or stressed out by, Valentine's Day. Rather, allow yourself to be comfortable with it, or not. Break it down into a choice, not a feeling to be over examined. If you want to send your Sunday Boyfriend a cute note, then send a cute note. If you don't, then don't. Either way, it will set the tone for not only who you want to be, but who you are. It doesn't get more easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy than that.

What am I doing?
Good question.

I will be extending a Happy Valentine's Day note to all of my Sunday Boyfriends (with the probable exception of one, but that's a long story for different post) because I want each of them to know how much I appreciate their friendship. Am I worried about sending these notes? No. I am totally comfortable. Am I worried how any of them will react to my said notes? No. I am comfortable knowing I cannot control another's actions. Am I worried how my significant other will react to these notes? No. We are comfortable. Am I worried I will receive a note before I send a note? No. In fact I hope this will be the case. Bottom line: I am an adult. They are all adults. We're all friends and have had conversations that make us comfortable. Plus my thought is this: There's nothing scary about sharing a caring thought. More of us should do it more often for a happier world.

Here's hoping this Valentine's Day is just one of many days where you shed the fear and stress that hold you back and start living in all that joy you're spreading.

As always....stay comfy; be good to yourself and all your Sunday Boyfriends.

And if you like SB (or not), your feedback is always welcome...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Defending My Sunday Boyfriend Relationships...One Irksome Pushback at a Time


The past few months I've been an introvert. Not because I enjoyed keeping to myself. On the contrary. I found myself missing "me" quite often. Two recent conversations hit me with ideas that put some of my philosophies to the test. They gave me pause and irked me so much that I needed to gain some perspective away from Sunday Boyfriend in order to really process. While on my hiatus I found many little things irked me. And the more I was irked, the more I realized I needed to continue sitting and sorting through these ideas before writing another post. But now...now I'm comfortable.

So what were the ideas?

First...I was approached with the idea my Sunday Boyfriend relationships are really emotional affairs; distractions I reach for to escape my daily life. Um...okay? Now this was presented to me in a non-threatening tone, by someone who cares about me, so I was open to listening to this perspective.

While I see this point (that some unhappy folks look outside their relationships to fulfill their intimate needs, rather than talk to their significant other), I reject the notion that my Sunday Boyfriend relationships are in any way cheating on my significant other. First off, while my significant other and I have our issues (like every couple on the planet), we are able to voice our differences in the safety and comfort of an established relationship. Which really means we have been together for so long that we get each other. We take comfort knowing we are different people, with different perspectives and needs, and respect those differences. Plus, my significant other and I are open with communication. I'm not a big believer in surprises, so my motto is to share. Secondly, if I was sleeping with any of my Sunday Boyfriends (which I'm not), then yes, absolutely that would be cheating. Cheating goes against a core belief of mine, which is fairness. There is nothing fair about having an affair. Not for anyone. Trust me on this.

My question is this: Why is having a friendship with a member of the opposite sex seen as such a threat to another relationship? I am an adult. All my Sunday Boyfriends are adults. We each get something we like/need/enjoy out of our relationships and, hopefully, help bring out the best in each of us. And my significant other is not only fine with these friendships, he encourages them because he is secure with himself, our relationship, and sees the value of what my SB relationships bring to me. And I do the same for him.

How can discovering everything about yourself, and sharing who you are, with people you care about, be seen as a detriment to another relationship? Aren't you supposed to want your friends, your significant other, to grow and learn in order to be the best they can be and get the most out of this life? It seems quite ridiculous to think all women have to stay in one friend corner and all men in the other with no comingling.

I would argue Sunday Boyfriends and Sunday Girlfriends, as I define, provide needed perspectives that actually help and strengthen significant other relationships. Let's face it...the male and female minds are different. Am I saying all women and all men think exactly the same? Ah, no. But there are enough shared experiences each gender brings to the table that it is beneficial have a SB or SG to call when needing advice about a communication issue with your significant other.

I have said in the past that I don't believe in the fairy tale notion of one person being your "everything." It is unrealistic. And if you really take a moment to think about it, it is harmful. Putting all that pressure on one person to be your entertainer, your counsel, your friend, your lover, your go-to-expert on everything is just setting yourself up to be disappointed; and turning the person you care about into a thief who will take all you give and not be able to return all you need. Why do that to someone you care about? Why do that to yourself? It is a recipe for failure.

This journey we are on is meant to be full of experiences. And how can you honestly say you are being true to your journey if you deny yourself the chance for learning and growth just because you are afraid of what society says if you have friends of the opposite sex? Let's stop weighing so much on a relationship's appearance and focus more on what relationships accomplish. Let's stop being so afraid to care for people because of whispering, fearful naysayers. We don't live in a world of one, we live in a world of many...so let's not think there is only one way of doing things. Happiness is a state of being, not a goal with many rules to adhere to in order to achieve. Am I saying it's okay to have an affair? No. Affairs are hidden, hurtful information and actions. There is nothing comfortable or supportive about affairs. I am saying friendships come in shapes, sizes, and genders that shouldn't be defined by unknown fears.

Full disclosure: I used to be one of those ridged sees-the-world-in-only-black-and-white type of people. Honestly...it was easier to approach life this way. There was a right or wrong, a yes or no, for every scenario. You didn't need to put much thought into any decision because the answer was already made for you. But in reality, there is grey....a lot of grey. It's harder to live in and accept the grey for what it is: an individual place of comfort. I say it's harder because most people think there is only one way, one path, one cookie-cutter answer to achieve personal comfort. But life doesn't give you everything you need just because you dotted all your "i's," crossed all your "t's," and played by society's rules.

Happiness doesn't have a quota you need to hit before it comes to you. It just doesn't work like that. And if you think it does, just ask any person who has been affected by a tragic, unexplainable loss what they think of this philosophy. Unfair. Yes. Life can be unfair. There is nothing any of us can do about that balance. Random exists. But, we can chose how we honor our moments of grey by realizing we can control how much weight and energy we give each random moment. Sadness and despair only take over your life if you let it. Don't let it. Believe me...I know this is easier said than done.

Okay. Okay. I have baggage. I admit it. Like everyone, I have my own set of experiences and perspectives that brought me to this Sunday Boyfriend philosophy. While sifting through this unwanted-yet-perplexing "emotional affair" advice, I thought about the moments that lead me towards a life with, and writing about, Sunday Boyfriends. I kept coming back to the same story...Brian.

Brian was my first love and first broken heart. I wrote about him in an earlier post, but the cliff notes version is this: We met in college. Became friends. He pursued me with relentless love notes and flowers for months. He won me over to start dating. He slept with someone else six months later leaving me broken hearted. This didn't help my, already just-another-girl-with-daddy-issues, problems trusting people.

Brian was so sure of what he wanted...until he got it. In all fairness, he warned me. He told me of his "deep blue funk" mood swings and history of wandering off...all before he swore I was someone who made him think/feel differently. I was young, naïve, and head-over-heels. Surely this time it would be different. Over the years I have learned to be grateful that he told me of his actions immediately and didn't drag out our breakup. But when he told me he had slept with someone else, it was a shock. I didn't say much. In fact, the only thing I remember saying was, "I'll be fine," in response to his question, "Are you okay?" But I wasn't fine. I then walked home from his dorm, thanking heaven it was raining so it could mask the steady rivers falling from my eyes. I didn't know those would be the last words I would ever say to Brian.

After our breakup, anytime I saw Brian on campus I became icy...mostly out of place of deep hurt. I avoided him like the plague. In reality I was avoiding my feelings. He tried to say hi to me once, all right more than once, but I always said nothing and walked away. I'm sure he thought I was a bitch. But really, I was deathly afraid the words coming out of my mouth would be trumped by a bevy of tears that could not be controlled. And I didn't want him to see how much I was hurting. Heck, I wasn't allowing myself to see how much I was hurting. I replaced it with anger. And remember anger is really fear.

Because of all my avoiding, I couldn't get past the hurt. In fact, if I'm going to be brutally forthcoming, I couldn't get past it for a long time. I carried my "Brian experience" with me when entering any new relationship. It was an anger chip on my shoulder. It was fear of being hurt again. I was sure there was going to be a moment when the butterflies turned into the dreaded "shoe dropping" and I would be left feeling hurt and disappointed. In some cases I suppressed the butterflies just to keep myself safe from any bothersome relationship that was surely to end in my broken heart. Yes. I seriously did this. I missed out on experiences because of fear.

So why bring all this up?

Over the years, in trying to let go of my "Brian experience" (in order to let good things and people in), I toyed with the idea of contacting Brian to have that closure experience. Toyed...but never did. I thought there would always be time; always be a moment. But that was never meant to be.

When I saw Brian's name in our alumni magazine under those 'In Memoriam,' it was devastating. I no longer had the opportunity to say things I needed to say; hear things I needed to hear. This random and routine moment of looking through my alumni magazine turned into an awakening more life-altering than our breakup. I was pushed into a place where I wasn't afraid to make contact in order to find out what happened. After a reconnection with his sister, I learned Brian fell into a deep depression after some traumatic life events and he made the decision to leave this world. She also told me that shortly before his death, she and Brian had a conversation about me. She said he was "wistful" at the mention of my name. My heart sank. All the suppressed feelings in my "Brian experience" bubbled over in a heavy hearted release...I was ready to have that conversation, but it was too late.

From that moment on, I decided to not be so afraid to learn what I needed to know, say what I needed to say, in all my relationships...those that I currently had and those that I wanted to have. I began fearlessly propelling myself into making the connections with people, especially my Sunday Boyfriends, that I always wanted to have so I wouldn't have any more regrets. I will always have a heavy heart when it comes to Brian...always. But I am thankful I now live with this regrets-free decision making that makes me more comfortable in my own skin and brought wonderful, caring people back into my life. And it's for this reason I disagree with my friend's "emotional affair" opinion.

So what was the second idea?

A very close friend of mine told me that I should quit my Sunday Boyfriend blog because, to her, it wasn't good for me. Really? To be fair, I listened. But I also was/am aware of her own issues and situation and took everything with a grain of salt.

Don't get me wrong. She is a loving and caring person whom I have known forever and love to death. But I know her patterns. When she makes it through a rough patch (which she just did), she is strengthened in her resolve and wants to solve all her loved ones real (or not) problems. Often times her delivery comes off as judgmental, but this is how she shows love. I get this. I am grateful I figured this out, but it doesn't mean I have to like it.

I thanked her for her comment and then tried to change the subject.

If she would have said this a little further away from my other friend's opinion, I probably wouldn't have been so bothered by her comment. But this got under my skin and soon I was irked...again. Phooey!

What is it about my blog that makes her think it isn't good for me? Sure, each post exposes more of my nitty gritty that I have to take time to examine before I make the decision to write it out. It is a two-fold process. It's one thing to write it, and another to share it. Know that I sit long and hard with each post, and even have my significant other read each one, before I get to a place of being comfortable enough to publish it. And I am comfortable with each and every post. Even the ones that make me feel emotionally naked.

Sure, the first time I wrote a more revealing post, it took a long time to get comfortable to share it. Each time I put myself out there, I would get feedback from those I know and total strangers. Most of the time it's positive. In fact the only negativity I received was from two people very close to me. And that's okay. I'm not saying everyone has to like what I write...despite my earlier Sally Field (you like me, you really like me) post. I'm not writing to please everyone. That would be just as harmful a process as thinking only one person can make you whole. My point is that I am thankful to be able to write and thankful to those who have extended their opinions on what I write.

So this got me to thinking...maybe some of my posts make my friend uncomfortable; uncomfortable enough to tell me to stop writing. But this would be a projection of her, not me. Knowing the issues she's been dealing with the past few years, this certainly could be the case. I don't know for sure. But if she is uncomfortable with what I write, I would have hoped she would just choose not to read it, rather than tell me not to write anymore. Because throughout the years, the amount of sharing the two of us have done, I would have thought she would applaud me for getting to the point of living out loud in the here and now rather than sitting in a quiet corner, wishing my life would start.

Loving and getting hurt by Brian marked me. Learning of Brian's tragic end changed me. I wouldn't be me without either experience. When my time comes, I want to be comforted by the knowledge I gave everything I had to be true to myself, said and learned everything I could in each of my relationships, and took every opportunity to tell my family and friends of the joy they brought to me.

Here's hoping we all can shed the fear that keeps us from being the best Sunday Boyfriends, Sunday Girlfriends, and significant others we can be to one another and ourselves, and be able to experience our journeys regret free.

As always...stay comfy; and be good to yourself and all your Sunday Boyfriends.

Friday, September 13, 2013

LIVING IN SUNSHINE: REVEALING SHAME


Revelations are never easy. They are preceded, usually, by the nervous butterflies in the stomach; the constant questioning of scenarios; and my favorite...the umpteen pros and cons lists.

Revelations are a release. An exhale that lets go of the things we, more often than not, feel ashamed for feeling/knowing/having. And think of all the energy it takes to hold on to that shame. It's like trying to hold your breath...uncomfortable, painful. And why do that to yourself when all you have to do is exhale to feel better?

So, here it is. My exhale. The reason I have been off the Sunday Boyfriend grid for a bit is because I, like everyone else, have issues. My issues stem from a multitude of sources that fall under both the nature and nurture paradigms. But the bottom line...I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and found myself in a serious tizzied state. By sharing, it means I am no longer a prisoner in my own thoughts about it anymore. It means I am comfortable. It means I can use more of my energy moving forward in sunshine rather than standing still in the shadows.

All the years of thinking I was just an über type-A; an always wound-too-tight type of person, should have clued me in... but, alas, I just kept taking on more when I should have been letting go, exhaling. The more I fought my anxiety, the more damage I was doing to my physical and mental health, as well as my relationships. My feeble and misguided attempts to "be normal" and hide my thoughts/condition/reality, helped create my recent fall.

But this wasn't my first time falling down. And we all fall down in our own ways, right? Life makes sure we all have these tumbling moments so as human beings we can relate to the shared human experience. So we not only sympathize, we empathize. Being able to empathize is a characteristic you should not only look for in all your Sunday Boyfriends, but in all your close relationships...including the one you have with yourself.

My first downward trip was 20 years ago when my father passed away, my grandmother passed away, and I graduated from college...all in less than three months. All that loss was too much and I retreated inward for the better part of a year.

Ten years later...I was in my early thirties. I left a job I loved (although the stress was eating away at my health), I ended a bad relationship (that in reality was a blinder preventing me from tackling my issues), and moved in with my mom after giving up my apartment to move with my ex to support his new job. For a self-described go-getter, all this change (loss) was, again, too much to take at once. I felt defeated. I felt lost. I didn't trust myself. I wasn't in a position to process or make good decisions. I wasn't exhaling because I didn't know how. I didn't tell any of my friends of the state I was in. In fact, I huddled myself in a solitary place from most of the world and did nothing more than sleep and cry most days. I fell smack dab into a stifling depression. And I was on this dark, confusing, and lonely road for a year and a half...which feels more like a blink once I was well and balanced and can see it in hindsight. But the reality was: I lost precious time.

Unless you have suffered from depression, it is a state-of-being that is hard to explain. Once I finally admitted to some of my closest friends and family what I went through, many asked what depression felt like. I can only come up with this: you feel isolated, in a deep, dark hole, with no light, no air, no hope, and no desire for anything you once loved. It's as if The Nothing from The Never Ending Story movie was taking over as the protagonist in your life.

After months in this dark place, during my lowest moments, I did contemplate suicide. And by admitting that, I am again letting go and exhaling. I am in a much better place to share this once closely guarded secret because depression is not only something that strikes many people, it is a condition that many have conquered with proper help and treatment. People, including myself, need to be open about tackling it so others suffering from it know they aren’t alone and have choices to get back to the land of the living; land of the loving; land of sunshine.

So let's get to what set off this latest belly-flop...

It started three days before Christmas when my significant other and I made the fateful decision to end our 12 year-old pooch's suffering and cross the rainbow bridge. Our Oreo Cookie was a beautiful blue heeler pound puppy rescue and had the sweetest of souls. He was high energy, smart, and sat at my feet every time I cried or needed a hug. He had been suffering from Hepatocutaneous Syndrome, a rare liver condition that affects the skin. It was taking its toll on Oreo Cookie's paws to the point he was walking less and less. On that fateful day I called him to come over for a belly rub, he struggled to sit up and gave me "the look;" the look all vets say you will see when the time comes. My heart sank.

Three days later, on Christmas Day, I witnessed my mother fall at my home. I watched her foot come out from under her and her legs scissor kick in mid-air. Her head not only hit, but bounced on my hard basement floor with a smacking thud. I thought I witnessed my mother die. I screamed. I ran to help her. She was in pain and had a goose egg the size of a baseball on the back of her head. I called 9-1-1. I tried to reassure my mom she would be okay, even though I was frightened, shaking, and wanted to throw up. When help arrived, it was clear she needed to get to a hospital. This meant she had to be carried out of my basement on a stretcher, with a neck brace, and fully strapped down for safety. Now all of this is enough to send anyone's anxiety through the roof...but there was another hiccup.

My mother carries issues from her past that, when triggered, revert her to painfully, emotionally scarring times. And this was one of those triggers. So, I had to tactfully communicate these issues to the wonderful 8-10 caregivers that were now in my basement, and also be the voice telling my mom she would be okay at the same time. An emotional juggling act to say the least. But then I had to remember the other side of the moment that required crucial details: Where was her wallet with her insurance information? Where were her shoes and coat? Where was her phone to call her sister with updates? Where was my phone to call my sister and family? Would my family be okay with me leaving with my mom in the ambulance? I didn't have time to process my own feelings. I had to be in charge. How I was feeling had to wait.

But my frightened feelings had to go somewhere. They ended up in the same, familiar place all my stressed out feelings I don't want to deal with go: in a box in my mind's bad juju room. But as we moved further away from the incident and my mother made a full recovery, the less I wanted to open that box. She was fine, so I told myself I was fine...but I wasn't.

I couldn't go into my basement for weeks.  Every time I did, I saw and heard my mother falling. I couldn't turn it off and felt panicked every time I set foot on my basement floor. I knew that box in my bad juju room was rumbling and wanting to be let out and faced. But I didn't want to process it. It was too scary. So I pushed it back to be dealt with for another time and did everything I could to avoid going into my basement while the box kept rumbling. And...I missed my sweet Oreo Cookie and his doggie hugs for comfort.

To shake these feelings off, I focused my attention on something else. My idea: Train for my third half-marathon. If you are a runner, you know how addicting those endorphins can be. And I wanted those fuzzy-feel-good endorphins rather than deal with bad juju boxes. So I chose a run that was relatively soon and in a city that allowed me to see two of my Sunday Boyfriends. And seeing my Sunday Boyfriends provide me with similar endorphin-like feelings. It was, in my mind, a win-win plan.

All the endorphins did help...a little. But, if you read my last post, you know my trip and run didn't turn out exactly as I had planned. I developed a bad reaction to an antibiotic that was prescribed to help an ill-timed sinus infection. The reaction hindered my abilities to run (although I did finish the race...thanks to the encouraging words of my East Coast Sunday Boyfriend) and my ability to spend quality time with two of my Sunday Boyfriends. Because I had deemed the run, and the time with these two great people, as a pleasurable counterbalance to the painful boxes I was avoiding, the let down from too highly-set expectations left a mark. They didn't cover up the box I was trying not to think about...it added another box to my bad juju room. A box of disappointment.

Sometimes life throws bad apples at you. Sometimes it throws semi-trucks full of stinky cheese.

The bad reaction to the antibiotics didn't go away. It stuck around for months. Turns out my stomach, and its protective lining, didn't care too much for these meds. The result started as terrible, double-over in pain, and lingered into daily nausea. It was frustrating and annoying at the same time. I never knew when it would strike, so I never felt free to eat without worry. It soon interrupted my sleep and left me in an accelerated anxious state most of the time. Because let's face it when you don't have enough sleep, even the best of us turn into bears.

I met with several doctors to try and find a solution. And while on this journey, I had bad reactions to two other medications. I now had no trust in pills to make me feel better and was losing hope that my condition would get better. I was trying to step forward, but was now five steps back from where I was and gathering more boxes in my bad juju room. The stress and anxiety were at work. I was uncomfortable all the time.

And I'm pretty sure, if I wasn't thrilled with the borage of worrisome thoughts that flooded my mind on a daily basis, others were probably finding my company taxing as well. Because while I did my best to keep my anxiety, and its manifestations a secret, I find it hard to believe that some of it didn't spill over and make others uncomfortable. My significant other did his best to understand, but he had his own work challenges to keep his focus and wasn't fully aware that I was struggling.

So I again turned to physical activity to try to turn my bad juju around. I decided to visit my old stomping grounds and signed up for the Famous Racing Sausages 5K at Miller Park with my family. It had been ten years since I left the front office and job that was literally killing me, but I thought enough time and healing had past to give it a go. So I was attempting to exhale.

The morning of the 5K was hot. Beastly, beastly hot with jungle-like humidity. I have never done well in heat and humidity, so I was a tad worried before we started. My whole family in tow, we began our walk around the park and on the Brewers' field. My significant other and I took turns pulling the 100 pound wagon that held our two, young boys. (I have purposely kept my kids away from my Sunday Boyfriend writings because I wanted to keep my family separate. But in order to give the full picture, they must intersect for this post.)

Although I had plenty of water on the walk, I could feel the weather conditions taking their toll on my body. When we reached the finish line, I was pouring bottles of water down my shirt in order to get cool. But it wasn't working. My significant other had to leave to get to an event at work, so I was left to get our boys saddled up to go home. But the boys wanted to meet the Hot Dog, so I pulled the shaded wagon towards the costumed characters. And that's when I saw my friend, Mary.

Mary and I had worked together 10 years earlier. She had the same welcoming smile. But this time she took one look at me and said, "Get over here, Katie. You don't look good." And I wasn't good at all. Mary pulled the boys and me into the shade and started asking me questions that I found difficult to answer. Not because I didn't know the answer, but I was so exhausted I couldn't think clearly. I was having a heat stroke. But Mary knew what to do. Before I knew it I was meeting with the team doctor and being packed in ice. Mary and another volunteer entertained my boys so they would be at ease. I managed to call my significant other and he came back to get us. When he arrived, he found the three of us in the back of an air-conditioned ambulance. I thank God for Mary. She saved me and my boys from a dangerous situation. Grateful doesn't even begin to cover my feelings.

This health episode only added to my anxiety. When I began to feel the sun on my skin, my brain told me I was going to have another heat stroke and I started to have panic attacks. I became fearful to go outside and made excuses to avoid any outdoor activity just to save myself from another panic attack. But this is hard to do when you have kids who love to play outside.

Sometimes life throws semis of stinky cheesy...sometimes those semis run over you.

Less than a month later, while at an out-of-town birthday party for the daughter of my best friend, my oldest son broke his arm.

I was helping his younger brother across a balance beam at the indoor party play place when I saw my oldest running and crying in pain. I ran to him and asked what happened. He was in shock and unable to tell me. Because my significant other had to work, he was not with us to help. But with the help of my friends, we went to an urgent care facility and had X-rays. When you have to hold your screaming-in-pain child down for X-rays, while your younger son throws a temper tantrum that three nurses couldn't cure (the kid was screaming at the top of his lungs that I was, "Not a nice mommy," because I tore his Crayola-filled, exam room table paper masterpiece so he could continue working on it while his crying brother had X-rays. "Seriously, kiddo!" is what my brain kept telling me), your anxiety can escalate. And mine surely did.

Does anyone else hear, Pressure, by Billy Joel right now?

But I had to set aside what I was feeling and be calm for my son. Both my sons. The docs on-call couldn't determine if it was broken or not and sent the X-rays to a pediatric oncologist for further review. They treated his arm as if it was broken and gave him some pain meds to ease his pain for the two-hour car ride home. More boxes were put in the bad juju room to be processed later.

I got the call before we got home...it was broken. My anxiety was at levels way past Spinal Tap 11.

It turned out to be a bad break and even worse experience. By the time we met with doctor number five, 10 days had past and we finally got some answers. While playing at the party, my son balanced himself on a large exercise ball. I did see him do this. But what I didn't see was his attempt to become a ball and roll with it down a padded incline plane. When he lost his balance, he tried to stabilize himself with his outstretched left arm...but the acceleration and force caused him to basically snap off his elbow. The news from doc number five was this: I have only seen this type of break 10 times in more than 10 years. He requires surgery to give him a shot at having a functioning elbow.

Did I mention my son is only five years-old?
Do I need to say Spinal Tap can't count high enough?
Did Billy Joel just get louder...or is that just me?

I tried. I really tried to keep it together. But those rumbling boxes had enough. If I wasn't going to open them, they were going to spill out and make sure I knew they needed attention. It manifested itself in a tightly wound pain wrap through my stomach and back, followed by a series of more panic attacks. Because my anxiety was at a high level for so long, and because I had so many negative health encounters over a short period of time, my logical thinking went out the window. I was convinced I had every serious aliment known to man and would never get better. Basically my body and mental state broke down at the same time. After two visits to the ER, two X-rays, a CT scan, a slew of meds that didn't work, and visits to a series of doctors, my primary doc gave me the diagnosis: general anxiety disorder. He prescribed Lexapro.

Well...that turned out to be a bad idea. Yep. Another reaction...this time it wasn't just bad, it was scary.

Lexapro is a drug used to treat anxiety and depression. It has helped millions of people...including at least one of my Sunday Boyfriends. But it can also put some people in an even further, dangerous depression. And yes, I was one of those people. At first, Lexapro made me feel disconnected; spaced out. But then it put me in a dark place I was familiar with in a matter of days. This time I knew I needed to speak up to get help. I had to have people with me at all times because I was frightened of the state I was in. I couldn't eat and lost ten pounds in four days. It is scary to think a drug can have this kind of extreme negative effect. My doctor quickly took me off Lexapro and started suggesting other drugs. But at this point, after reactions to four different meds in less than six months, my anxiety was out of control and I was more than leery of taking any medication, I was downright terrified.

I discussed my fear with my doctor, therapist, and my significant other. Together we came up with a plan that included new medications and therapy techniques to not only get me back to kilter from the Lexapro reaction, but also help me conquer my battle with anxiety. I am grateful to all three, but especially my significant other who kept telling me, "We are a team. We will figure this out." I also reached out to two of my Sunday Boyfriends to let them know what was going on and to seek support.

I was nervous about shedding my protective anxiety shield and letting myself be naked with my revelation. But I suppose if I didn't care so much about both, the nervousness wouldn't exist. The number one item on my pro list: it will create a stronger friendship. The top of my cons list was: it will result in an ended friendship. But my sunshine was calling. I needed to share. I reminded myself that if they didn't respond, or no longer wanted a friendship, it was a reflection of them, not me.

If you read SB, you know my East Coast Sunday Boyfriend spends his free time taking jaunts around the world, snapping photos of wildlife. He was on such a trip when I sent my note. His immediate and kind response, while he was in his paradise, continues to reinforce he is the type of person who can not only empathize, but comfort. He exceeded my pro list. I am a lucky gal to have him in my life and I am forever grateful.

My Foodie Sunday Boyfriend took a long time to process. This is what he does so it didn't surprise me. I knew this was going to happen when I sent my note, and sent it anyway. I am a person who puts it out there because I honestly believe it is better to shed light on the real rather than guess in the dark. I was offering a lot of trust. Stronger friendships aren't one sided.

When he did respond, I was taken aback by the depths he was willing to reveal himself. If you'll recall, my Foodie Sunday Boyfriend has a difficult time expressing how he feels. Every now and then, I have learned, he will open up...but he circumvents a direct way to say what he is feeling. After 20 years, I still haven't cracked his entire code, but I pay attention enough to know there is one. It is usually subtle; hidden in subtext. But not this time. This surprise was worth the wait. I'm not sure if he knows just how much of a rock he is to me. Since I'm as subtle as a sledgehammer, I'll just say Gibraltar only stands when the foundation is solid. Pro-list.

As of today, I am making strides and getting back in balance. I decided to revive my yoga practice after a year-long sabbatical. It is helping along with my other treatments. Having given up soda three plus years ago, I have now also given up coffee to rid myself of unnecessary stimulants. My oldest son had one surgery and is scheduled for another, plus physical therapy through the remainder of the year. He is hanging in there, but has frustrated moments...as any five year-old would have when told he cannot ride a bike, play on play sets, and must sit out from gym and recess. But at his core he is an old soul and knows it won't last forever. I know my condition won't last forever either. We'll get through it together.

If you made it this far, thanks. Seriously. Thanks for hanging in there and reading the whole thing. This was a long post with some not-so-great stuff. You're a trooper for sticking it out.

Here's hoping we all have the support of some amazing people, Sunday Boyfriend or not, when we find ourselves in the bad apple and stinky cheese times of our lives. Know all it takes to get to the land of sunshine is letting go of the fear that can control us, exhaling, and offering empathy to others.

Stay comfy; be good to yourself and all your Sunday Boyfriends. I will do my best to heed my own advice.


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