About a month ago Deena and I had one of our marathon phone chats. These started when we were teenagers and our parents would yell about astronomical charges on the bill. Over the years, our conversations have run the gamut from boys to clothes to cats to work. In this particular conversation, we were back to boys. Specifically, we talked about TV characters we would date/not date.
It started when Deena said she would date Jim Ignatowski from “Taxi.”
Moxie: Wait, what did you just say?
Deena: I would date Ignatowski. He’s fun. I would date Kramer [from “Seinfeld”] too.
Moxie: Yeah, Kramer’s crazy schemes would keep things interesting, that’s for sure.
We then proceeded to name sitcoms and other shows from our youth, picking the characters we would have dated. For “Happy Days,” she picked the Fonz, but when I asked who she’d date out of Richie, Potsie, and Ralph Mouth, she picked Ralph. I picked Potsie. “Richie was too uptight,” said Deena. “Ralph would make you laugh.”
Then there are the TV dads. When I asked her to choose between the “Family Ties” dad or the “Growing Pains” dad, she picked Steven Keaton from “Family Ties” right away.
Deena: He was funny and compassionate, and I liked it when Mallory or Jennifer would do something f***ed up and he’d get all flustered.
Here’s another post that originally started in July 2011. It’s undergone some heavy editing, but the core idea of joy and love remains.
A few years ago I had a couple single folks tell me that a divorcé(e) is someone who was once loved enough to have had someone marry them. My mind is still boggled by this logic, because it seems to discount the possibility that love wasn’t even a factor in getting married. Some marriages happen because “we’ve been together for [insert number] years, I guess I owe him/her,” “he/she asked and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by saying I wasn’t ready,” family pressure/expectations, a pregnancy. In some cases, marriage is used by abusers as a way to gain control over a partner. Those things don’t constitute love. Obligation and fear, yes. Love, no.
Part of the issue here is that society and the media can really screw with our notions of what makes for a healthy relationship, what constitutes a good, loving marriage, and what love is. I know I’ve had some wacky ideas for a number of years about love and relationships. Personally, I blame “Love Boat.” I should have never been allowed to watch that show. The story lines basically went like this:
boy and girl meet, flirt, sit at the Captain’s table for dinner
boy and girl fight on the Lido deck the next morning over some crazy misunderstanding, with the girl stomping off, nearly flattening Jill in the process
boy gets sage advice from Isaac the bartender, while girl flirts with Doc and realizes she can do way better with whats-his-name from the night before
boy and girl reconcile and leave the ship arm in arm, telling Julie the cruise director and Gopher they’ll be back on their honeymoon
The truth is more like the Supremes’ hit song “You Can’t Hurry Love”, or Frank Sinatra’s “Nice and Easy.” Love needs time to grow roots and blossom. Rushing to get to the good parts rarely leads to a loving, supportive relationship, much less a lasting marriage. You want all of that? You have to work for it – and it starts with working on YOU.
I try to be compassionate to the men & women I know who want to be married, or in a long-term relationship. But so often the conversations descend into whining and bitching over the dating pool and a big honkin’ glass of self-loathing. Sometimes the self-loathing is couched in “I’m totally fine being single” or “I’m happy with my life,” as if that negates all the whining and bitching. Sorry, I’m not buying it.
Because here’s the thing: if you truly are happy, you’re not going to throw any energy at those moments when your phone isn’t blowing up with OKCupid messages or when the person you thought was Mr./Ms. Perfect (and potentially Mr./Ms. Right) turns out to be emotionally unstable, a philandering narcissistic asshole, or worse. If you have faith that, at some point in your life, you’re going to find the perfect partner, those instances of dealing with nitwits will be like a SnapChat image in the big Smartphone of Life: it will (ideally) disappear within seconds.
How do you get to that level of happiness? I recommend a three-step process.
Shut the hell up. Drop the bitterness and the attitude problem. Stop telling the world how upset you are with online dating, with the guys/girls in the town where you live, with navigating relationships. Even if you feel that way, stop talking, tweeting or posting about it, because you’re putting all this negativity out in the world and it’s harshing any possible mellow you could achieve.
Fight your demons from the inside out. Y’all know how I love analogies, so here’s a good one: some of us have nasty demons or dragons inside of us, put there by unfortunate circumstance or choices we’ve made over the years. These creatures demand food and attention, and can be so unruly that often we don’t know how to tame them. Work with a counselor or therapist if necessary to do one or both of the following: a) find your sword that will slay the beasts; b) find compassion to turn those monsters into docile pets.
Open your heart, even if it’s just to the smallest things. Maybe it’s working with those in need, such as shelter animals, disabled veterans or the homeless. Maybe it’s being compassionate to friends and loved ones who are struggling with personal challenges. Whatever it is, opening your heart and filling it with light that comes from being kind to others is the best way I know to show the universe that you’re in a space where joy and love are welcome.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll end up married if you follow these steps, but at the very least you’ll feel better about yourself. That being said, I’ve seen enough friends find the relationships they were longing for, all because they stopped working against their own best interests and started loving.
Note: This morning I discovered I have 24 blog post drafts in various stages of completion. I decided to start going through them and see what was still relevant and interesting enough to me to finish and post during NaBloPoMo. This post is one I started writing in July 2011. Since then, Ms. Chick found her Mr. Right and married him. As for me, well…you’ll just have to stay tuned.
Earlier this year I met local blogger Ms. Chick. She writes some very funny posts about online dating and life in general. But she also writes about her frustration with her search for Mr. Right.
While I’m not focused on finding Mr. Right, or even Mr. Right Now, at this point in my life, I do understand the frustration. I think many women go through phases when it seems as if all their peers are hooking up, shacking up, getting married, engaged or having babies, and they are left holding the Party of One sign. I’ve been there. It’s actually part of the reason why I left SoCal: everyone I knew seemed to be moving on to coupledom and I wasn’t even dating anyone. After one incredibly disastrous relationship and a couple blah ones, I was done with trying to find a good partner. I also believed that if I stayed, I would feel pressured into dating much more quickly than I was ready for, just so I wouldn’t be the odd-woman-out at gatherings with my friends and their significant others.
Spending the summer of 2010 in a small college town didn’t do a hell of a lot for my social life, but it definitely helped me get some perspective on who I am, what I love and what I want. The answer became clear very quickly: I am someone who loves to laugh and entertain, and who loves being laughed at (and with) and entertained by others. I love helping people connect in ways big and small. I want joy and peace of mind, body and soul.
A few months ago I asked Ms. Chick what gives her joy and what makes her laugh, really laugh from the pit of her stomach. Because it’s my belief that it’s when we focus solely on finding our joy, everything else falls into place: relationships, career, home, health. All the wrong drifts away and we’re left with all the right – including finding, dating and coupling up with Mr./Ms. Right.
It’s hard to get to that place, though. We’re all so conditioned for wrongness, whether we are feeling wrong or trying to make others feel wrong, intentionally or not. And looping on our failures can be affirming even when we claim we want things to be different. As this letter from Miss Information at Nerve.com says:
Failure sucks, and is frustrating. But really listen in: even when you’re pissed at yourself, there is often some perverse pleasure in it.
It’s emotional self-flagellation, really: we beat ourselves bloody for our failings and never quite fix them. T-Wizzle calls this “beating yourself with the Wrong Baton.” Because fixing them means honing in on key beliefs and attitudes we have about ourselves, seeing which ones are unhealthy and unhelpful and working hard to replace them with helpful, healthy beliefs.
I’m not suggesting that in order to find love, you need to become Pollyanna and drop the jaded, cynical tones. I’m saying that in those moments when the bitterness and anger is threatening to ruin your day (and maybe your life), acknowledge its presence and agree to disagree. (Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing feelings, deal with it.) Let the angry, cynical ego self be what it is and choose to do something that brings you joy.
Note: I am cleaning up files on my laptop and found something I’d written for the blog back in December of 2008. As far as I can tell, I never posted it on the blog, and it still holds a lot of truth for me, so here you go. – Moxie
Tonight I had a conversation with a friend of mine about relationships. A mutual friend had broken up with someone because he’d gotten too serious too fast. “This is what happens when someone who’s never been in a long-term relationship gets involved with someone who has been in one,” my friend said. “The long-term person just wants to get back into that comfort zone.”
It really made me think about my own relationships and what I’d been doing, and maybe why nothing has really worked out since the end of my marriage. I had a great friendship with Mr. X and that’s the main thing I miss in not having a long term relationship: the close friendship portion. The part where you can just look at each other and know what the other person is thinking. The part where you have private jokes. Even the part where you know exactly what buttons to push so that the other person’s head explodes. I miss the good and the not-so-good parts of being friends with the one you love.
With Joe*, I was so quick to get back into that relationship groove that I completely lost sight of the fact that it takes time to build up the friendship element. You can’t forego that time period and expect the relationship to be something long lasting. I must have known, though, that deep down there wasn’t enough there for us to really be friends. We were way too different on way too many levels.
But sometimes I think it can go too far in the other direction, too. There are some friendships that are so strong that you start thinking, Hmm, maybe we should be dating. The romantic portion kicks in and while it’s nice and easy because you know the person so well, it’s also – how do I put this – dull. So then what do you do? Do you give up the romantic/sexual element, knowing full well it may sacrifice the friendship? Or do you continue with it, thinking it will eventually work out? I’ve been in that situation a few times and it never seems to work the way I want it to, or the way I think it should.
This all leads me to believe there’s a happy medium, a place where you have a good friendship yet you know when to detach. I’m good friends with one couple who seems to do this so easily, and yet I have a feeling they have struggled to get to this place with each other. Their comfort zone is palpable to all of us that know them and it gives me hope that I can create that, somehow, someday, with someone who’s really ready to get in the zone with me.
*The man I was with in 2007. The relationship ended horribly.
On Saturday night I found myself in Ms. Chick‘s bedroom.
Wait. That didn’t come out right.
See, she’s been having a dry spell with dating, and I wanted to see if I could help her out.
That still didn’t come out right. Or my mind is just constantly in the gutter.
Some background: several years ago, T-Wizzle turned me on to feng shui, the Chinese art of living in harmony with your environment. She had met and worked with Karen Rauch Carter, author of Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life, a practical, easy-to-use feng shui guide for people who don’t want to be bothered remembering a lot of details about what belongs where. I bought a copy of the book, figured out how the bagua aligned with my current apartment, and started moving my crap around. I had been having serious issues in different areas of my life and wanted to do something physical that might help change things.
And my life did change. I started dating, my relationships with family members improved, I made some great new friends. I found a new home for Angel, my cat who was aggressive and miserable living with me and my other cat, Mossimo. I bought a new car that I absolutely loved. I gave feng shui a lot of credit.
But the truth is, I had been feng shui-ing my head as well. I had started using affirmations and other techniques to help reset my brain to stop being so negative and cynical and nasty and being more open and compassionate and fun. And it made a huge difference. Because I’ve learned that there’s no way changes can take place in the real world until you change the way you think about the things that bother you.
I can’t sum up everything I did to feng shui my head in one blog post. But here are my basic suggestions:
Write down on a piece of paper what’s not working in your life. I have an old list that reads: “My love life is nonexistent. My new friendships are not as nurturing as I would like. I don’t feel motivated to write or be creative.”
Write down on another piece of paper what IS working. Love your job? Have a great bunch of friends? Car running beautifully? Write ’em down.
Go back to the first piece of paper and consider what attitudes are behind those not-working items. The key is to make sure you stay focused on yourself. For me, my love life was nonexistent because deep down I believed I was unattractive and undesirable because I am fat. It had nothing to do with the men I was interested in or had dated in the past. It was all about me.
Install mental updates. Your internal self-esteem software obviously needs a bug fix, so it’s time to fix that. Write some affirmations about your inner and outer beauty, make peace with your inner child, get a close friend to help you work out your shit. I spent a lot of hours on the phone with T-Wizzle working out my shit – and in turn I helped her work out her own.
While you’re working on these affirmations and feeling super positive about yourself, start moving stuff around in your home. Carter’s book is a great starting point. Some folks may need a professional consult, which can be expensive but if you have the money it’s well worth it.
Back to Ms. Chick and her bedroom. She had an empty laundry basket in the Love & Relationships section. I pointed at it and said, “That needs to go, unless you want to continue having nothing happen with your lovelife.” (If it had been full of dirty laundry I still would have said she needed to move it, because then she’d be dealing with – you guessed it – guys with a lot of dirty laundry.) She moved the basket and according to a tweet I got from her tonight, things have already started shifting. But I’m willing to bet she started shifting her attitude about dating, too.