There are great lessons to be learned, even on Tinder.
Bet ya didn't think I was gonna say that!
Well, there is. For instance, I have recently learned that if I am too direct with men about wanting sex, and wanting it to be casual. For as much as certain men say they want a casual thing, they also seem to want me to be somewhat romantic with them in order to stir up the sexual tension.
But this is not something one can pull out of one's ass. This chemistry, this sexual energy either happens or it doesn't. There are plenty of people I will have sex with, but there are far fewer with whom there will be that spark. It is not that I am not attracted to these people, it is just that there is not that electricity that happens with some people that you meet. That's just the world. I didn't make it.
So where do you go from there, when the person(s) you are casually having sex with want you to act like there is some kind of unexplainable chemistry between you? I guess it depends on the type of person you are, but for me, I just can't fake that shit. It takes way too much energy and frankly, if I put myself in the position where I feel like I need to fake sexual chemistry just to get laid, I am going to be expecting a pay off which not many people will be able to deliver.
The thing is, there isn't a lot written about this stuff. Sure, there is The Ethical Slut, and a lot of what Dan Savage says about casual sex rings true with me, but it feels different to me when I am sitting next to someone who is telling me that he can't get excited about casual sex if I don't behave as if there is more there than there is.
The good news, depending on how you look at it, is that this is like anything else. I mean, you take the sex out of the equation and you're in yet another situation where someone is asking you to be different so they will feel more comfortable. It is the most ridiculous request to entertain in any context, but it happens all the time, in overt and subliminal ways, and if you are not careful, you could find yourself behaving in ways you would never dream of, just to make other people more comfortable.
It is the same when people tell me I am too manly, too hairy, too hippy, whatever. I never set out to be everyone's cup of tea, and it is off putting for people to expect me to be different so they can be more comfortable with me. Even more so when I don't spot it until I am in the middle of doing something I wouldn't normally do just so someone else can feel better about me.
The secret to my happiness is knowing that I don't need other people to feel good about me. Even if it does mean I might get laid.
Tthis kind of thing can be tricky to handle, so I have a list of responses Iuse when I find myself in a situation where I am asked to be different for the sake of someone else's comfort. The list goes from most extreme to least extreme. When someone asks me to alter my behavior, weight, personality or what have you in order to make them feel more comfortable, I simply say on of these many responses, depending on the situation and the individual:
That last one might come off as overly-sarcastic, but I find in these situations that this is the type of thing that works. The real point of this is to illustrate that it helps to have a list of things you can say to people who are incapable of accepting you as you are. Having these types of responses handy will do two things:
The best relationships are the ones in which you can be yourself, in which you can grow and improve. They are with people who accept you the way you are, are honest enough to tell you what they see, and compassionate enough to allow you to be who you are, even if it is shitty some of the time.
Practicing this with yourself, on yourself, will help you stand strong when the world wants to change you. Accepting and loving yourself just the way you are will condition you to expect that from others, and help you feel okay about not wanting the people who need you to change.
Life is too short to change your demeanor for another person. Your energy is too precious to waste trying to be someone else. Your energy is meant to be spent discovering, not covering, who you are.
Do you even TWEET? EVER? I understand. It is said to be a dying platform. So just go ahead and FB this bad boy. Copy and Paste or just like it. I sure do appreciate it!
This week I met two extraordinary people. I know, because I know life, that these encounters are not unrelated. Both experiences have left an emotional resonance that is vaguely disturbing, and simultaneously, it feels as if a great puzzle has been left at my door to figure out and incorporate into my life as a new and wonderful gift. The first encounter occured earlier this week.
On Wednesday, I spoke with an older gentleman about moving into a place he owns. He does not want to rent it, but allow someone to live in it in exchange for cleaning and cooking. He built this place, this cabin, by hand. Almost every piece of furniture within is something he made, and the cabin itself, except for the drywall, was all fabricated by him. It is lovely.
He calls the building next door, the large wood working studio and office, where he lives, his fortress. He calls it that because, he told me, he does not want to let the world in. As we stood in his office, on the top floor of that building, looking out the windows he made by hand, he pointed out to the bay, the ships, and the island across the way. When he told me about his desire to keep the world out, I told him that I was just the opposite; that I was the type who worked constantly to open wider to let more and more of it in.
If I decided to live in the cabin, it would have to be kept in pristine condition as I lived in it. None of my things could be left around, and I couldn't use the kitchen because he does not want to have to repair any damage I do. I could sleep there, write there, bathe there, but cooking would have to be done in the big building. Even the tea I drink morning, noon and night would be made in the fortress.
I ask, to myself, to the universe, but not to him, why would you create such a sweet space in which to live, and then allow no one, not even yourself to really live in it? Why make functional items if they are to serve time in a museum-type environment without the warmth of a human hand around them?
Today, I met another man. I met him virtually, on The Tinder, but still, I met him. I can say this because in the few hours in which we exchanged information, He revealed things about himself which made me feel a form of remorse and rage I do not remember having felt before. The experiences this man endured at the hands of other men shattered me. His stories of abuse are some of the worst I have heard. I in fact was so shocked by his stories that I feel like sharing them here might also be abusive. They are not my stories, after all...not mine to tell, except to say that I am not sure I would have the will to live if I had to endure what he did.
Yet, there he is, on Tinder, looking for love and whatever else, opening himself up to whatever heartache might want to find him next. In the time we texted, I was blown away, over and over again, that he could go through such torturous experiences and still have the guts, have the fortitude, to try and open up again.
And there it was. The contrast of the two men, staring me in the face. One, building a fortress of a life, creating objects for no one to touch, furniture for no one to use, and homes for no one to live in, and the other, a man who had been violated in almost every way possible, giving the world another chance.
The gift of these experiences is that I can know that it is a choice. It is a choice to open up or close down, and neither is right or wrong, it is just what you choose, depending on who you are and who you want to become.
Depending on how big you want your world to be.
So, how big do you want your world to be?
Short, but good, right?
Share. Especially if you think it might help someone.
When I was 12 years old, one thought dominated my waking hours: how I was gonna get my dad to love me. At this point, I look back, and I know he loved me, but at the time, his discomfort with showing it and my inability to believe I was lovable led me to come up with some pretty drastic plans to get my dad to notice and love me. Some of these plans were even heroic, but they also involved putting my dad in harm's way initially, so I had to throw those out.
Then, one evening during dinner at my Dad's place, he asked me if I wanted to work with him at his store. I could clean the furniture in his three-story antique store and all of the stuff in his apartment at the top of his building. Plenty of work to fill a day with. That was when I saw my in. I knew that if I could show my dad what a hard and dedicated worker I was, that he would love me. He would see me as the shining beacon of a human that I was and shower me with love and attention.
So I worked. Every Saturday, I would clean his store. I would also work his auctions once a month, and the estate sales he did on odd weekends. I worked my ASS off, hoping that he would recognize my dedication to the stuff he cared about. This did result in me seeing my dad more often, which greatly helped, even if it meant I also had to see his new wife, but he didn't really show any more affection than he had previously. In fact, there were times when I suspected he barely knew I was there. But to be fair, there were plenty of times when I actually was barely there.
That is why he kept firing me. Cleaning furniture gets pretty boring after a while, especially if the goal you are working toward achieving is more love. So, I would spend a lot of time sitting in huge, comfortable old rockers. Sometimes I would lie on the wood floors under the old mahogany tables and stare at the amazingly intricate craftmanship of the legs and skirts. On more than one occasion, he caught me, told me I was fired, and sent me home.
A week or two later he would give me another chance. In total, he fired me five times in five years...before he sold his store and moved to Maine. But it didn't stop there.
When I was 21, I moved to Portland, Oregon to live with my older brother, Robert, who said I could live with him until I finished my degree. I did just that, moved away when I graduated, then returned to Portland when I was 26 to go to art school. During this time, I painted his house, inside and out, did yard work for him, house sat for his in-laws, and babysat my nephews. Unfortunately, when the work ran out, so did the reason for connection. I mean, I love my brother, and he loves me, but if he didn't have a reason to call me, like needing help with his house or his kids, he just didn't call. And I didn't call him. We see each other now maybe once every few years.
At 33, I got married. I married a man I was so in love with I felt like I could burst every time I was around him. He was a carpenter. We bought a house and he said he would fix it. But he didn't. In fact, he didn't really do much in that house except build a grow room for his pot and punch and kick holes in the walls when he got angry. Over the course of our relationship, he did less and less, and I did more and more, hoping that at some point he might feel bad, join in and help. Maybe at the very least, be grateful. But I came to a breaking point before that happened when my parents died and I left him. It felt like I had been carrying a two hundred pound man up a mountain. I had to put him down.
Recently, I have been helping my fella's mom with his dad and with stuff around her house. This last summer I spent a lot of time there, helping her with some heavy lifting as well as teaching art when I could get the gigs. I love his mom. She is hilarious, stylish, and an incredibly nurturing individual. But just today, I was able to look back and see this pattern I have created of trying to earn the love of the people around me. What triggered this realization? I think it started a few days ago, when my boyfriend was telling me how amazed he is at all the work I do around his house, and then he asked, looking at me intently, with his hands on my shoulders, "you know I would love you even if you didn't do any of this stuff don't you?" I don't really remember what I answered, but it was something along the lines of, "of course I do!"
I get it now, what I have been doing. What I have been thinking! How I have treated myself. How I have treated the people who love me! All of the ways I have been wrong. I was wrong about being unlovable, wrong about feeling like I had to earn the love of the people around me, wrong for creating relationships based on my physical labor, and wrong for feeling resentful when the work (and the connection) ended.
I put myself in a position of being less than, and in so doing, proving to myself over and over again that I am unlovable.
It is interesting how simultaneously painful and wonderful these realizations can be. I know I must stop this, this self-fulfilling prophecy behavior. I can't afford to build anymore relationships based on my physical labor, I am not strong enough, physically or emotionally, and I have a suspicion that relationships built on other kinds of connection, like love, trust, and respect might just be more gratifying.
Weirdly, I am not sure how. I mean...I have always believed that I had to work for love. I have worked my ass off for love, and now, I am just supposed to trust that people will love me just for being me? It seems like a huge leap of faith to me. It seems like a lot to just go cold turkey.
I mean...if I am not intently straining towards love, how can I be sure that it will come to me?
I can't, in fact, I can't be sure of anything, except that I have to stop treating myself as if I am unworthy of the love I say that I believe in.
Do not worry, dear reader. All will be well. These things, these realizations happen.. They are gifts. The tricky thing is moving forward. I will report back. In the mean time, if you found this helpful, please do share. Tweet. Copy and Paste....I am going to be doing some introspective type shit for a bit....
"I have gained 15 pounds! I feel like a slug!"
"Don't worry, babe, you lose weight quickly, anyway, how do you know you have gained that much?"
"I have a scale!"
"But do you feel strong?"
"Well...yes...I really do."
"Then what are you worried about? And anyway, this seems counter to what you preach every week on your blog."
"I know. I am kinda a hypocrite...only not all the time."
"Well...no one is a hypocrite ALL the time..."
That is a text conversation which happened between me and my fella not two weeks ago. Interestingly, if I think back, I remember that I was 125 when we met. I am 125 now. I just happened to magically lose 15 pounds quite by accident when I was eating cake for breakfast every morning...so...I got used to that body...I LOVED that body! Mostly because I really didn't have to work that hard to get it...
But now I think about working hard to get back to 110 and I just get tired...and I know it is just a number...and I know I actually do feel great in my body...just as it is....AND I know that complaining about this makes me an insensitive twit. Believe me...all this, I know. But there is something about it....something about feeling that light that seemed different. I definitely could do more pull-ups...but that is not really what I would call a valuable life skill.
The life skill that is important, and why I have put you through this incredibly boring and shallow rant, is understanding what is meaningful. Knowing that the number reflecting up at me on my scale is random. Knowing how I look in my jeans is superficial.
The relationship I have with myself and with others, this takes precedence. So when I start going down the "I weigh too much" rabbit hole, I think back...when have I been the happiest, and why? Every time, I come to my relationships, with my friends, my family, with myself. Because that is what fills me. My connections with the people I love.
When I was 110, I was having intense flashes of rage that would come on and I could not explain them or control them...until I went to my naturopath and found out it had to do with my hormonal balance and lack of salt in my system...so, in a word, I was not happy. I was pushing away a man who really loved me because I could not control or understand my temper. Over time, I worked on my health and my angry flashes all but disappeared. So...was I happy? Well...actually I was kind of a nervous wreck a lot of the time...so...no. And because of that....my relationships were not as good. In fact...the most important relationship, the one I had with myself was full of hate speech...not because I was unhappy with my body, but because I was so ashamed of my behavior. It was so hard for me to even admit I was capabe of such things, let alone work through them.
Now I can say I have never been happier. My relationship with myself is solid, pretty honest, and I keep attracting new friendships which feed me, all the while letting go of the ones that have been damaging. As soon as I look at all this, what I have in terms of the people in my life, my weight, the tightness of my jeans...all that stuff kinda fades away. It starts to look like a distant spec on a horizon of thought I only glimpse on occasion.
So the question I come to is why the fuck do I do this to myself? I know, logically, that I am not less of a person. I know that whatever I weigh does not really matter in terms of the amount of joy I have in my life. I have to admit to myself, and now, I guess to you, that I am worried that sexually I will not be as desirable. I have long valued sex and sexual experience, and I decided when I was in my twenties that I would always attempt to put myself in a position where I could have lots of sex...until I couldn't. And when I gain weight, this is my fear. It is not really valid. I have never noticed any drop in sexual activity or attraction when I have weighed this much. Or, frankly even more.
But I, like so many of us, have been affected by the machine that tells me what I must look like to be seen as sexy. My experience tells me otherwise; that I am attracted to smart, funny people, often no matter what they look like. People have never complained about my body while engaging in any type of sexual congress with me, the most enjoyable sex I have ever had was with people who were confident and comfortable in their skin, and finally, in general, I don't value people according to their looks, but by the capacity of their hearts and minds.
All this, all of this experience I have had, and still, that freak out creeps in. If I am conscious of how it happens, I know. My thoughts do not lead to my feelings, but my feelings do lead to my thoughts. Very often, I feel the anxiety first, then my mind races to find something to be anxious about, and it can be anything. It can be my fella, my ass, my dwindling reserves of cash, it can be the state of the middle east, where my tax dollars go...but let me be clear, I have become acutely aware that my physical feeling of anxiety arises before my self-doubt.
So...what is there to do? Normally, I suggest the exercise I posted last week. But today, as I write this, I have recognized that all it takes on my part is simple recognition and a review of how much I actually care about how big my butt is or how much my thighs rub together. Not much. The only things I care about, truly care about, body-wise, is that I feel strong and healthy, and that can look like many different versions of Sara. All I have to do is recognize that the thought is my mind's way to explain a feeling, and then, excuse that thought and explore the feeling.
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? Sounds scary. Sounds like something that will take time. These arguments are all valid, but then I think about the alternative. I think about being controlled by untrue thoughts. I think about beating up on myself for no reason. I think about the time I waste trying to assign blame when I feel something, instead of just feeling it.
That is why I can do this. Because I know the option is a path that leads to more time wasted, my self-abuse, and inevitably, a calling back to myself to connect with my right mind.
So for me, it becomes a matter of what I would like to spend my time doing. I would much rather sit quietly, exploring my feelings than quickly blaming some external bullshit for their existence. I would much rather sit and get to know myself than damn myself to the hell of self-hate.
I would much rather allow myself to be human than shame myself for not being perfect.
How about you?
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