Friday, January 23, 2009

That gratitude thing AGAIN - with a twist.

So I was talking to my sister tonight, and finally pried out of her that she's got herself a boyfriend. It was always one of those things that everybody figured, but nobody wanted to confirm - not because the guy's a shitheel or anything, but my family tends to operate on a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. We're not the most open of people because we were raised with a philosophy that if you're having issues, shut up and deal with it. Of course, I'm pleased for my sister. She deserves to be happy and this guy's a decent fellow. But of course, I went to bed in a foul mood and couldn't sleep for all the, you know, crying.

At the close of last year, I made a decision to remove all of my dating profiles from various sites. I spent far too much time sending out messages to various menfolk and receiving no responses in return, which only served to make me feel humiliated and idiotic. As I chewed on it and thought about it, I think if there's anything I've figured out, any kind of grand revelation I've had, it's that I simply do not have the mental energy to try and suss out what in the fuck men are looking for and why I seem to completely lack it. My grand plan for 2009 is coming to terms, once and for fucking all, that the universe has sent a very loud message, loud like an air raid siren, that I'm not meant for a relationship. It will never matter how much I may have in common with someone, it will never matter how well we get on, I lack whatever...SHAZAM or SHECLACKY or SHEBANG that seems to be key in turning over that particular engine. You either got it or you don't, and I'm someone who clearly don't, for whatever reason that I will go to the grave not understanding. It's a blessing that I don't have a screaming need to have children and haven't spent years daydreaming about a perfect wedding to the perfect guy, and I'm certainly able to take care of myself and I've never not done something because I'd be doing it alone. I'm more than capable of contending with the next however many years I'm left with on a perpetual solo mission. I know this, in my heart and in my brain and every other corner of my being.

So it's rather vexing to find myself sitting up at 11:30 p.m. ugly-crying about it...YET AGAIN. Because I'm supposed to be in a good mood. I'm on vacation, for Christ's sake. I'm going out of town Monday to Vegas to celebrate (well, cope with) my birthday, and it will be so nice to be someplace where it's 60 degrees instead of 10 below, and have the chance to kick back and relax and oh yes, do some--okay, a LOT of gambling. I'm going alone, by choice. And I know the second I land at McCarron, I will be delighted to be someplace I really dig, staying at a hotel I've never stayed at but have always wanted to, with plenty of books to read and plans to stretch my shit out and lounge. But I also know that corner of me, that corner of me that I would do absolutely anything to vanquish, to silence, to shut up once and for all, that corner of me that wants to be with someone and will not/cannot process why I'm not worthy of being loved, that corner that I want so much to STOP CARING because it is CHILDISH TO EXPEND ALL THIS ENERGY ON IT (and write about omg), will be scratching at me...gnawing. Knocking at the door like the fucking Land Shark, determined to remind me at every turn that I am not the girl that gets a happy ending, I am not the girl the fellows fall over, I am not going to be someone's have to have. To remind me that every single guy that has been tragically unlucky enough to fall on my radar, every single one that I've held my heart out to and said, "it's yours, fucking TAKE IT"--it doesn't matter. That's probably the most...maybe "galling" isn't the right word, but mercy, it's medicine that doesn't go down easy. That notion, that truth that it doesn't matter how much I loved, what I did, it meant nothing. In the big scheme of things, if I'm remembered at all, it's as a joke. An awkward moment they'd prefer to forget.

Now it's midnight, and I seem to be all ugly-cried-out (sing about that Lisa Lisa). The temperature in and around Chicago is plunging into Oh Hell No proportions, and I've realized that I've penned yet another blog entry that is not particularly Fat Acceptancey and more...brain-vomity. I do want to touch on gratitude, though - not being ordered by people to be grateful for all that I have, which I've bitched about before. No, I want to throw down an order to all the folks out there who are in healthy relationships with people who dig the absolute shit out of them - be grateful. Be so very grateful. Give them hugs and big old smooches (virtual or otherwise), let them know how brilliant they are, how much they rock. And if you're in a relationship that you know damn well needs to come to an end A.S.A.P. but you're terrified of being alone - living alone is heaps better than living a lie. You had the SHAZAM to get into the one you're in now, you'll have that SHECLACKY to get into another one, a healthier one, a happier one.

I wish I could summon up a really good, Go Team! message for those who are in positions similar to mine, some sort of "'sawright, we'll get froo it" like I'm some jolly old bat in a very British musical. It'd probably be disingenuous at best. I guess if I were to say anything, it's that it's okay to be pissed off and baffled if you've given it the good old college try and then some and still come up with naught. We just need to stumble and grasp our way to contentment at all costs.

For now, I hope to stumble my way into some sleep.


Meowser said...

I'm not going to tell you to get grateful. Hell no I'm not. If anyone had told me that when I was going through the same thing, I'd have had to suppress the urge either to bite them or tell them to bite ME.

There is nothing inappropriate whatsoever about wanting what you want and being upset that you don't have it. Nothing at all. What you're going through is difficult enough without telling yourself you should be above caring about all that. Says who?

People want to be loved, they want affection, they want sex. They can go a little whacko, in fact, without it. Some people don't, and good for them. That doesn't mean you have to be just like them!

And you have a lot more to offer than you think. Unfortunately, the process of choad-weeding can suck so bad it can convince you otherwise.

But I saw my mother, who was always thin and gorgeous and perfectly sociable, have the exact same problem with either not being able to get a date at all, or when a guy did want her, his turning out to be a giant shitbag. (Even my dad will cop to having been a giant shitbag when he was married to her. He thinks almost ALL men younger than maybe 40 are giant shitbags, for whatever it's worth.) So it's NOT you. I promise you.

Rebel said...

Here's what usually happens:

You get upset about being single for a while. You think about it in terms of "something is wrong with meeee" until you're so sick of abusing your emotions that you give up on it.

You come to terms with it somewhat, and stop overtly feeling like you NEED to be in a relationship. You realize that you're still totally worth it by yourself.

You meet someone randomly and get into a relationship that is slightly less scary because you have fewer big hopes. It may peter out or it may become long-term, but it'll be an affirmation that you actually don't have any problem finding a date.

Trust me. This happened to me.

The moral of this story is Do Not Worry. There is actually nothing wrong with you, and you are totally still worth it as a human being without someone else reporting to you on a regular basis. You can use the love you would aim at someone else on yourself, and it's okay because you actually deserve it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing what I've been thinking for years. And it brightened my day to realize it's the SHECLACKY I've been missing all this time!

I know Meowser wanted to make you (us) feel better, but even worse than being told to feel grateful for what I have is being told that "it will happen for me one day." All that does is make me feel all expectant-like - like, if I'm just patient enough, a guy will magically appear out of nowhere in the vast desert where I live and sweep me off my feet.

I'm in favor at this point of throwing away all of the mental baggage that tells me there is something about ME that I have to change. I'm done with that. I've done the self-reflection and cognitive therapy. I've carved out a life that is worthwhile and makes me happy. I am NOT doing something wrong that is leading me to a life alone.

Enjoy your birthday - it sounds like you've planned a wonderful little getaway.

Patricia said...

Dear Jane,
Your blog popped up on my google reader on "Notes from the Fatosphere."

I just wanted to offer some support. I've been where you are. Well, everyone's story is a little different (and I could tell you mine if you ever wanted me to.) I was always brought back to that old piece of advice that you have to stop trying so hard, that if you just love yourself and live your life, you will attract others. But that is hard to do when you are lonely. It's just a cruel irony that you attract people when you are NOT lonely.

After my divorce, in 2004, I spent my fair share of time on the dating sites. I live in a rural area in a southern state, and I had pretty much despaired that I would find anyone unless I moved. Also, I'm fat and I smoke. Who in their right mind would want me anyway?

I did meet someone, through a series of events, and was with him for two years, but it was not a healthy relationship, and we broke up last year around this time. (Skipping over that story.) I was not feeling desperate, and not really "searching" for another partner. I was ready to just focus on myself for a while. But I put up a profile on a dating site again, and just sort of left it there. I'd go in and look now and then, just to keep my activity current, but I was halfhearted about it and didn't really care much.

Well lo and behold, someone found me. Charley was not desperate or particularly lonely either. He would get his regular email of "new matches," go through them, read the profiles, discard them, and go back to work. Then he saw mine.

He was impressed because I could actually write. I'm sure you know from looking at the profiles how poor most of them are. People can't write or don't want to take the time, and they don't even READ profiles-- they just look at the pictures. In the past I had lowered my standards because I thought, "well, so he can't spell-- he could still be a nice guy." Or, "Perhaps he just isn't that great with written communication. I'm being a snob if I write him off because of that." WRONG. I got exactly what I settled for.

Well, Charley was "sick of stupid," too. He wanted a woman with a brain. So he wrote to me, to see if I would take the time to write some more. I did. And he wrote back, proving that he had a brain, too. We did not carry on a torrid written relationship, and I made sure to meet him early on, because I had gone down that road before too. He was two hours away, and we met in the middle. I wasn't expecting much. I figured we would have coffee and that would be it. But I was blown away. I had never met anyone like him, and could never have even imagined someone like him.

I've been seeing him now for 7 months. And yes, I'm grateful. I don't know if this is "forever," but it's growing. And yes, I am grateful. Of course he is not perfect, but he rocks, and every day I tell him so. He has had many women in the past. He has had beautiful ones. That's not important to him any more. He says he has "evolved." And this intense, intelligent, unusual man was in the middle of nowhere in a little southern town in Alabama.

So it can happen, and when you least expect it. And you don't have to "suss out what in the fuck men are looking for." It doesn't matter what "men" in general are looking for. You only need to be ready for the one man who is ready for you, and wants what you have, and has what you want. Charley would not have been attracted to me before he went through his "evolution" and I would not have been ready for Charley until I had done my own share of "evolving" through mistakes and misadventures and personal growth. I'm 48 and he's 54. Maybe you won't have to wait that long.


Anonymous said...

It is NOT you! There is NOTHING wrong with you. You do not lack shazam or anything else. STOP beating yourself up about this because YOU are NOT the problem.

I am speaking to you as someone who has never been on a date, never had a boyfriend, never had anything resembling a romantic relationship. I'm 34 years old. I have cried myself to sleep over this stuff more times than I can count, so I sympathize because I have written the same exact words more times than I have cried.


These words do not help. These words HURT. They dig little chunks out of your soul and tell you that you are broken, unworthy, deficient, LACKING.

I wouldn't be writing this to if I had not given myself this lecture already and seen it succeed. You are not LACKING within yourself. What you are lacking is beyond your control, so cutting yourself down for it is like cutting yourself down for not being able to give yourself a sunny day when you are on vacation. Those rain clouds suck, but you can't control them.

You can control what you tell yourself about who you are. You CAN make up your mind to not blame yourself for being lonely. Stop blaming yourself for not being able to get what you want because it isn't the kind of thing you have control over no matter how many articles you read about How To Find The Love Of Your Life And Keep Him.

You can't control what other people feel.

Not beating yourself up anymore is not going to cure your loneliness. Some days, I still cry myself to sleep because the ache wells up and swallows me whole. Same damn thing happens to married people. Same thing happens to everybody because we all feel a lack for companionship sometimes.

The reason you need to stop beating yourself up is because it makes the pain 1,000 times worse. Not only do you feel cut off from the companionship you ache for, but you are beating yourself down for feeling it and for not being able to control it.

You don't have to do that. It doesn't help. It only hurts more.

There's no magic way to stop. It just takes awareness, acceptance, and practice. It certainly helps to accept that you feel that way and that it sucks and you hate it.

Start there. Don't try to figure out how to stop it. You can't. It's part of life. It isn't your fault and it isn't a fault within you. Just sit with that.

Have a good cry. Write about how much it sucks and what you wish you had and whatever comes to mind and practice NOT indulging in self blame while you do it. THEN, after The Lonely has had a chance to breathe, you'll have some room to start looking for the best way for YOU to deal with it instead of choking yourself with self-blame.

You can't stop the bad feelings anymore than you can stop your body from storing fat. You can decide to stop beating yourself up for both of those things. When you aren't beating yourself up, you are in a position to build yourself up. It isn't a pretty answer, but it beats the hell out of being told that you can feel good all the time if you just do XYZ because you CAN'T feel good all the time. We're human. Feeling bad is part of our existence. Accepting that gives us the power to not blame ourselves for it. It doesn't make it go away, but it does remove a harmful part of the experience.

Anonymous said...

Word. I know what you mean and understand where you're coming from with this whole relationship business. I've never been able to hold down proper relationships, romantic or otherwise. I've always loved the worst people for me and have gone though periods where I thought that I wasn't good enough for anybody.

Maybe I'm not a relationship person. I'm a loner, always have been and always will be. I'm not completely aware of the ther-rapy reason behind it. It could be due to not wanting to be disappointed, or internal self-hatred or maybe I'm just too damn selfish to consider another human in my life. Whatever.

I do know that society does make you feel bad about being single, when it really isn't all that horrible. As a woman particularly you are told that the main goal in life is to find a mate, settle down and have a brood. Spinsterism is always looked down on. Unmarried older women are people to be pitied, as either cold shrews or work crazy bitches.

I can't be a swinging old lady with expendable income and lots of free time to do what she wants? I have to be married with a family to be considered a success? I can't contribute my time and money towards charities, community projects or humanitarian efforts? Bullshit.

I'm not going to jump into marriage with the first relationship that sort of works out just to avoid being "Unmarried". I'd rather suffer the societal slings and arrows of spinsterhood than enter into a loveless marriage where I grow to hate the person more and more each day. Forget that.

If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't then my path will not be an average one. You just have to take life as it comes and not try and mold yourself to fit society's standards. I'm sure you know that already but I felt the need to say it anyway!



Anonymous said...

All I can say is, thank you. Everything you have said here spoke directly to my head and heart, especially the resolution to accept the lifetime of being alone. As an added bonus, I always seem to attract friends that ALWAYS get the guy EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Of course, said friends give me well-meaning, but salt-in-wound advice such as: "You have to be more positive and confident, men love that!" I'm sorry, but I've wasted so much energy being upbeat and hopeful (just to get my hopes dashed OVER and OVER and OVER again), that I'm just plain drained of any positive thinking right now, mmkay?
I'll sum it up by saying I hate, hate, hate with a fiery passion when attached people pass unsolicited,overused, and useless advice about how they got the loveoftheirlife. Here's some advice for them: 99.99% of the time, the average perpetually lonely person has heard it all before, and most certainly does not want to hear it again. What worked for you has a very slim chance of working for someone else, especially if that someone else has a long intimate history with Teh Lonely. In other words: non-singles, stop it already, you're making it worse.

Patricia said...

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make it worse.


Jane said...

Pat, absolutely no need to apologize! No worries here. Part of what I really wanted to emphasize in my post (and probably communicated fairly horribly because it was late and I was all "bwuuuuuaaaggghhhh") was that I want those of you who have gotten involved in relationships that are good and healthy, etc. to celebrate it. And ultimately, when people talk about their relationships, how I react to it is on me, you know what I mean?

So don't worry. You certainly haven't offended or upset me, and I don't think anyone else is truly upset or offended, either.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jane. Pat, I was the one who wrote the (ranty) previous comment, and I really wasn't directing it at you. I just wanted to vent something that has bugged me in the past about the all too familiar 'buck up and suck up' speech I hear from those who truly do not understand. I do apologize if it seemed to be a personal attack, your advice was well intentioned. I also wish you a healthy, happy relationship.
To Jane, part of me is glad that I'm not alone in being alone, and part of me is sad about it because loneliness is something I would not wish on anyone. I can't really be of any consolation, because honestly...I can barely make myself cope with the bitter self-pity, and its bullshit companion, self-loathing. However, I can wish you all the best, and a happy and fulfilled life, regardless of your relationship status. In fact, I wish that for everyone on the planet who has to put up with this struggle every single day. There's so much more to life than being that 'better half'.
Again, thank you.

B13 said...

I totally get where you and some of the posters are coming from. I've had long term relationships, but nothing for years, and I've realized that to look for a relationship for the sake of having one isn't true to me. Being single isn't the end of the world even if it does get me sad little pity looks now that it looks like my little sister might be moving in with her boyfriend. Having a relationship can be great and is the right/best thing for some people, but being single means I get to live my life on my terms. I think women who are single and who want to live full lives anyways should band together. Who better than friends to share your life with, to dine with, to party with, to travel with, to talk with, etc.

Anonymous said...

*groans* God you sound like me. I've been through that moment so many times.

And I'd give a lot if partnered people would stop with the b.s. "It'll happen at the right time!" chirping. I think that's actually worse than the "be grateful for what you have" speech.

The last US census indicated 27% of the population is living alone now. That's a record. It's never been that high before in history. Some of it is elderly people who are widowed, some of it is young people fresh out of college, but that's still a hefty chunk of folks (pardon the pun) who are living by themselves. There are social and cultural forces at work there (women can choose not to marry and not face destitution as a result now, if they plan carefully), but it still represents a trend.

Some of us will not end up in relationships. I've never been in one, even short-term, and I'm 35. Am I happy about the prospect of living another 40 years alone? Hell no. But aside from those moments of total suck where you have to cry or rage (I tend to throw things) there's nothing to be done about it. And I'm sick to death of getting the "hang in there kitten buck up it's almost Friday!" bleating from other people, especially the "you have to be positive" rap. I'm not a positive person. I'm a viciously sarcastic, negative person. (And that, for the record, does not preclude me from being in a relationship on its own. A good friend of mine is very similar and he and his wife have been together for over a decade and they're very happy.)

I won't pretend to be something I'm not in a desperate attempt to not be alone. I'd rather snark on the Internet with my fellow misanthropes than lie like that.

I'm totally planning on opening a "Singles Only" retirement complex some day. All us terminally single people will move in and have wheelchair races and throw bedpans at each other when we argue and have parties all the time where we eat Jello because we lost all our teeth.


kb said...

I came here from notes from the fatosphere, and while I agree that the whole "buck up, it'll happen". is annoying, I also hate the whole "I'm unloveable and not meant to be in a relationship" trope. no, no, no, you're not. the only people who aren't meant to be in a relationship are people who truly don't want one. and that doesn't sound like you based on the story you relate. There might not be people around you want to be in a relationship with-ok, fair enough. You night have other things going on and not want to deal with the work required-ok, no shame in that. there are any number of reasons. no shame in any of them-you aren't a bad person, or broken, for not being in a relationship. However, you also aren't as unloveable as you say. and I don't even know you. I'm willing to bet that you've got friends who can be way more specific.

Anonymous said...

You know, Jane, I'm with you. I'm where you are. And I think I just got tired of the crying and shit, but really, emotionally, we're in the same boat.

But on a good day I think I'm going to finally find the love of my life once I'm 75, and I'll be a combination of blissed out to have found him and pissed off it took so damn long.

OK, this comment isn't really going anywhere, but I hope it at least made the corner of your mouth curl up just a little bit. said...

After years of mourning my terminal singleness, I met my husband and bada boom, we've been mostly happily married since.

However, I STILL miss being single quite often. If I could go back and tell my single self anything, it would be to be "so very grateful" for your single time.

I loved living life on my terms only, living alone, getting to know myself without the interference of someone else's expectations, and having only one "right" location for a loaf of bread.

I love being married. I have a good guy. But it's full of challenges and compromises and a lot of sacrifices. Somedays, I'd like nothing more than to "go home" to my own place.

Enjoy being single. :)

Premee said...

Good God, woman, get out of my head! I just did a post on my own webpage about the exact same thing. And for me, there is nothing worse than sympathy at this point - because it reaffirms that singlehood is something that deserves the pity of the connected and happy. I put out a man-repelling field that so far only lets gay men through. Which is good for shoe-shopping and... not so good for everything else.
All I can add to your post is: word. Word to the max.

Anonymous said...

You know what, I think that B13 and DRST are really on to something here. All perpetually single people should get together and socialize amongst themselves. I think that would be flippin' fantastic, because there would be that common ground for everyone, making the social atmosphere more relaxed and without the awkward pressure of having to explain relationships (or lack thereof)with anyone.

See, in my opinion, what makes being so lonely all the time harder to bear is the feeling that you have no one to talk to that really understands.(And when I say "really understands", I mean someone who is in the same boat as me, and won't put on a mini "There's someone for everyone!" pep rally.) I'm not even sure how many of us are truly aware of how many others are alone in this world. I guess it's because society can throw a hell of a judgemental pity party for anyone who isn't joined at the hip with a significant other.

That "Singles Only" retirement complex sounds utterly awesome. I seriously hope that something so utopian could possibly exist in my later years. By then, growing old alone won't really be so bad after all. *crosses fingers and eyes*

Chupacabra said...

Dear Jane,
I'm a little over a month late to this entry (sorry! I was flailing to meet deadlines), and you don't have to post this in the comments--I'm just writing to share something with you that helped me when I was beset by feelings of terminal unloveableness. Your mileage may vary, but I'm happy to report that there is no gratitude or "hang in there, kitten" stuff involved.

It's just this idea that popped into my head one day in the middle of a really, really, really bad couple of years (cyber-stalked by an abusive ex, bullied at work, chronically sick with walking pneumonia, and of course, single). This phrase landed in my brain like a telegram from the Department of Good Ideas:

"The harder the world is on you, the nicer you should be to yourself."

Doing this meant that when things were at their shittiest, instead of spending time brooding over why it was happening and what I could do or had done, I just did something that I knew would bring me happiness and pleasure. It meant soothing, consoling and distracting myself from sources of pain I could not control. Like a good parent, except with mind-reading capabilities so that there would be no chance of getting say, a hot water bottle when I really wanted a bubble bath.

Speaking of bubble baths, one of the first experiments I did in being nicer to myself in proportion to how shitty the world was treating me involved a bubble bath surrounded by candles, where I sat and read a book of poetry on my first post-divorce Valentine's Day. I was single and not happy about it, but planned the event with all the care and love I used to put into birthdays and dinner parties for other people. I rented a cool French Nouvelle Vague film I'd always wanted to see, made myself a "dinner" of chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne, and bought myself a couple of long-stemmed roses (one of which sprouted *roots* in the vase) and turned into a plant that is still alive and blooming!

It was the best Valentine's Day I ever had. Hands down. No contest. (And that's not a "be grateful for your singlehood" nudge--just an honest appraisal of how good one can make things for oneself.)

This led to a corollary inspiration--a follow-up telegram from the Department of Good Ideas:

"Be at least as good to yourself as you are to other people."

For someone who spend *months* preparing elaborate surprise gifts and parties for loved ones, the notion that that standard of care should represent a baseline for my treatment of myself was truly a revelation.

I don't know whether any of this will strike a chord with you, but your solo birthday trip to Vegas sounds very much in keeping with these things that took me til my mid-30s to learn.

So the executive summary here is: I think that if you keep doing stuff like the Vegas trip, and lots more, really throwing yourself into making life a pleasure for yourself to the degree that it's in your power, that will moot the question of being in a relationship. You may find a man you dig and who digs you(due to all that "positive energy" and "confidence" that comes from being happy) or not; the point is, you won't be suffering about it either way. And not suffering would be a good thing, n'est-ce pas?

All the people who wrote in to say "there's nothing wrong with you" are right. They were also right, in my view, to point out the simultaneous validity of your desire to be in a relationship and the absurdity of the "your life has no meaning without a man" messages that our culture heaps upon us.

I would only add that I think it's possible to bypass or transcend both the absurd social propaganda and the personal suffering by taking the love and care you might in other circumstances lavish on a lover, and give them to yourself. I'm not saying this has to be a permanent "solution" or that it's going to make it totally okay to be single forever; but I think it's safe to say that by giving yourself all the sweetness you would bestow on a lover, you can enjoy a really nice vacation from the self-blaming and social pressure. And just that temporary halt to the suffering might take you in some new and happy directions.

To paraphrase the sign-off of a wise friend of mine, I'm sending you love and light.


Lori said...

You're lovable alright. Never doubt it.