Dating and Analysis Paralysis

November 29, 2008

Lately, I have been reminded of a friend of mine named Sarah.  I met her in 2000.  We were both hired at the same time by the same person, who, as it turns out, was getting ready to leave her job.  We were barely introduced around before she announced her departure.  We were too new and dumbfounded to ask many questions.  We spent the next year-and-a-half doing the best we could to salvage the project.

I was in unfamiliar territory with a new job, new responsibilities, and a lot of new experiences.  I responded by being anxious and trying to figure out all of the details in advance, but stress is never fun.  Then, I learned something important from Sarah.  I learned to let go.  I learned to think less.  I learned to have faith that everything would work out.  We travelled around the country together for work and sure enough, everything had a way of working out. 

That is where I am at in this new relationship with Harley.  My tendency is to be anxious and to try to figure out everything ahead of time.  But, I can’t.  That’s not how relationships work.  I want to know what will happen next, but I don’t.  And it drives me nuts!

I had forgotten how much I rely on routine to make my life manageable.  I keep my life pretty simple…and predictable.  The downside of that is that my life has been pretty basic and not very social.  My weekly routine revolves around parenting, working, sleeping, cleaning, and running errands.  When I am solidly in a routine, I exercise regularly.  And I write. 

Lately, I have been spending a lot of my free time with Harley.  The weather has been colder and rainer over the last month.  Between that and the shorter days, my exercise routine has completely fallen to the wayside.  Same thing with the writing.  But the thing is, I need to write now more than ever.  I need to make sense of all of the thoughts and emotions that come up.  And I have to remind myself to relax.


The Neediness Monster

November 17, 2008

In my recent bout with PMS et al., my inner needy monster came out to play.  I’ve noticed that once I get into the honeymoon period with a guy, I start to flip out (at least inside my head).  Everything is great…so when is everything going to blow up and go to hell in a hand basket? 

When is Mr. Nice going to turn into Mr. Jerk?  When is Mr. Generous going to turn into Mr. Selfish? 

They say it takes 21 days to create a habit.  I think there is a 21 day rule with dating, too.  At least in my experience, people’s true colors start to emerge somewhere between day 14 and day 21…or the moment you start falling for them…or whichever comes sooner.  I’ve dated guys where the change seems to happen overnight.  I’ve also dated guys where the change is very, very gradual.  He starts out very charming, full of interesting stories, cooking amazing dinners…then one day you notice he stopped trying…but you’re not sure when.  It’s x months later and now that your lives are fully intertwined, he’s a jerk.

Well, that’s my experience.  So, like clockwork, with Harley, my unconscious brain was going tick, tock (no, that’s not my maternal clock, thank you very much).  When is he going to say something rude?  When is his other personality going to take over?  When is the act going to end?  Is it going to happen slowly or quickly? 

My body remembers every time I have felt this way.  Every time, I have ended up hurt, disappointed, and lonely.  For every up, there is a down.  For every honeymoon, there is a…rude slap of reality?  Well, sheesh, to make a long story a lot shorter, I’ve been waiting for Harley to turn into the Antichrist.  And, uh, he hasn’t, but I did.  All of my anxiety and fear and worry got the best of me.  I turned into a pathetic, needy mess…and Harley rode it out like a champ.

Thankfully, the neediness monster went back to sleep.


The Worst PMS Ever

November 13, 2008

Last weekend, I had the worst case of PMS…and then some.  Years ago, murderous thoughts were one of my premenstrual symptoms.  Fortunately, Prozac does wonders for PMS (and apparently hot flashes too!).  The point I’m trying to make is that I haven’t been that hormonally crazy in years.

Of course, I was doing all the wrong things…I haven’t exercised (well, except for sex) in the last three weeks, I’ve been consuming more caffeine and alcohol than usual, and I’ve been getting less sleep and down time than usual.  Talk about a recipe for disaster.

Harley and I haven’t had any “arguments,” per se, but we came pretty close on Monday.  I managed to upset Harley, which is no easy feat.  He told me that I was “shutting him down.”  He said he walks on eggshells around me because if he says the wrong thing, I get angry.  He feels like the only way I am happy if he just nods and agrees with whatever I am saying.  When he responds to something I say, I accuse him of being mad, which he says he is not.

To me, an argument connotes people losing their temper.  Neither one of us did that.  We both were very stressed out, but at the same time, we both value what we have built so far.  I calmed down enough to really listen to and contemplate what he was saying.  Clearly he and I were having two very different experiences of the same conversation.  His experience of our conversation and interaction was clearly not what I was intending him to experience.

We managed to create temporary peace at the end of that particular conversation.  We continued talking later that day.  I felt like a new person.  My PMS was gone.  Harley told me to stop apologizing, so instead I thanked him for his patience.  I tried to tell him what I am about to write, but I could have said it better…in writing.

I am a writer.  Harley is a speaker.  He communicates better verbally than in writing.  For me, it is the opposite.  I express myself well through writing, but I struggle to express myself verbally (unless I have had the chance to write in advance).  The reason I was getting frustrated when I was talking to him was because I was not able to convey what I wanted and it was frustrating.  He was not understanding what I was trying to say and I was frustrated because I didn’t know how to say it any “better.”

In the days since, I have watched my son and I have the same conversation.  Salaar will tell me something and if I don’t understand what he is trying to say, he quickly explodes in frustration.  I am realizing I do a slightly more mature version of what Salaar does.  He did the same thing when he was much younger and his fine motor skills weren’t as advanced as his mental intentions…he would have a temper tantrum.  In his mind, he knew exactly what he wanted to do, but he didn’t have the degree of control over his body to make it happen.  This gap between wanting to do something and being able to actually do it is frustrating.

So, I learned something about myself this week.  After being single for most of my adult life, someone has finally been able to point out to me a really basic (and counterproductive!) communication habit I have.


Giving

November 7, 2008

I quickly recognized that Harley is a better listener than I am.  I didn’t realize that was possible.  I think I’ve gotten lazy and/or distracted over the yeras.  There just is not enough room in my brain to remember all of the details.

As it turns out, he’s nicer and more considerate than me, too.  I knew he was nicer, but I didn’t realize how considerate he was being to me and how I have already begun to take him for granted.

I am so used to dealing with self-absorbed men that I have failed to recognize the extent to which Harley accommodates me.  Harley is “me” in relationships…giving, anticipating needs, doing things without being asked.

It’s strange to realize I am the person who is oblivious and therefore (sometimes) unappreciative of the generosity of another.  Giving is such a quiet thing.  It’s interesting how easily things can fall out of balance.  What I have figured out, at least with Harley, is that he always seems to be putting me (and everyone else) first.  I have to remember to take the time to do nice things for him.  And I have to be persistent!

One night last week, he was really tired.  He had been helping his nephew lay a tile floor.  I asked him if he wanted a massage.  He said, no, that’s okay…you’re tired too.  The other day, as he was dropping me off at my house, he mentioned he had a headache.  I offered to bring him some ibuprofen and a glass of water.  He said, no, that’s okay.  Now that I realize he is being “difficult,” I am starting to do things for him anyway.  So, the other night, I gave him a massage.  I didn’t ask him first.  Success!

It’s such a relief to be with someone who is so attentive.  I finally realized I deserve to be with someone like me.  It will take a little bit of getting used to, but in a good way.


Non-Kodak Moments

November 5, 2008

ihasasad

Since becoming a parent, I have begun to refer to what I call “non-Kodak moments.”  These are the moments that occur between photographs; the times when you would be mortified if someone took a picture.  I have learned to accept the inevitability of the non-Kodak moments.  My goal is to maintain a balance between the Kodak and non-Kodak moments.

This applies to dating as well.  I think this is one reason people struggle with relationships, whether it be a parenting or romantic relationship.  We feel pressure to live up to impossible standards of perfection and happiness and contentment in relationships.  The thing is that there are always rough patches.  That is what helps us appreciate it when things are going well.

The beauty of blogging is that it provides a venue for sorting through all of those moments. 

The first difficult conversation Harley and I had was about my dogs.  His dogs are outdoor dogs.  In the wintertime, they stay in his heated garage.  My dogs are indoor dogs.  Since I adopted them all several years ago, they have spent one night outdoors and one week in my parents’ garage last winter.

The second difficult conversation we had was last night – about his children.  They have been what I consider “over-sharing” details of our relationship with their mother.  If they need someone to talk to, that’s one thing, but I seriously doubt that is what is going on.  I think they are trying to get a reaction out of her, which they have already succeeded in doing.  Now Harley is getting unpleasant phone calls from his ex about me and his relationship with me.

I was so ready to ignore this and not play into it, but yesterday my feelings got hurt.  Harley thought I was mad at him, but I wasn’t.  Intellectually, I know I shouldn’t take it personally, but it hurts me to be used as an object to manipulate, hurt, or get a reaction out of someone.  I take pride in living with integrity and doing my best to treat people well.  Sometimes I mess up.  I’ve already been mean to Harley a few times.  The last thing I need is to be thrown under a bus for something that has nothing to do with me or who I am as a person.


The Wild Child

November 4, 2008

put-my-heart-back-2

Harley’s youngest daughter is 14 and is like him.  According to Harley, he used to be “buck wild.” 

Last night, Harley picked me up from work.  His daughter was with him; they were on their way to drop her off at her mother’s house, where she currently lives.  For some reason, her mom did not want her to come home, so we went back to Harley’s house together.  On the way, she was teaching my son how to play solitaire on the computer.  It was so sweet.  At one point, she was telling him how important it is to do well in school.  I turned my face away to make sure she couldn’t see the expression on my face.  I have no idea how she does academically, but I’ve heard stories about all the trouble she causes at school.  Lands, of course, reacted in a very animated fashion and I burst out laughing.  We all laughed.

Harley’s kids have been through a lot.  They have no shortage of attitude.  And, of course, they are teenagers.  I’m not a big fan of their behavior at times, but I definitely appreciate the tender moments.


The Brady Bunch

November 3, 2008

Oh, how embarrassing…that’s me front and center!

I have one child and Harley has three.  Mine is 11 and his are all teenagers ranging from 14 to 18.  I have three dogs and two cats.  Harley has three dogs.  That’s six people, six dogs, and two cats.

We have already begun the process of blending our families.  Part of me can’t believe we are blending our families, but that is exactly what we are doing.  That is what is happening.  That’s the interesting thing about my relationship with Harley.  I have always liked him, from the moment I first saw him.  I knew in my heart he was a good person.  I felt at ease around him.  It just happened to take me 6 months to realize that the perfect man was right in front of me.

Everything that is happening feels right.  It feels right when I wake up in the middle of the night with him next to me.  It doesn’t feel right on the few nights I wake up without him next to me.

He already knew my son from the days I bring him to work with me.  I met two of his kids the weekend before last.  He asked me if I was ready for “this” as he took me to his house.  Without hesitation, I said yes.  The five of us went out to dinner together.  Apparently, his kids have been encouraging him to date, but for the longest time, he didn’t want to…until he met me.  I guess it must have been obvious to his kids that he had met someone.  His mood had improved over the previous months.  Then, suddenly, he started staying out late and not coming home, which was completely out of character for him.

Thankfully, they are older and want what’s best for him.  We live 20 miles from each other.  I live closer to work and I rent my house.  He lives further from work and owns his house.

This past weekend, I met his youngest daughter.  I was kind of nervous to meet her.  I had been told she is a handful, and they weren’t kidding.  She is a young, female version of Harley.  She even physically resembles him more than the other two.  To my relief, she has been very nice to me.

Our kids all like each other.  Actually, his kids don’t act like they like each other, but they like my son and my son likes them. 

The really weird thing is that we are the adults!  It is so strange to be around kids and be the “parents.”  At this moment, I’m realizing why Harley laughed when I said that…since I have been a single parent since day 1, I have never been in this position.  Up until the last week, I’ve never kissed a man in front of my own kid or in front of their kids.  As a matter of fact, I just answered the phone 10 seconds ago and said, “hey, baby” only to realize his youngest daughter was calling me to tell me he is on his way to pick me up.  Oops.  That would explain the few seconds of dead silence before hearing a young woman’s voice 🙂