88 / by vanessa

While waiting for my clothes to dry, I grabbed my journal and a book and headed across the street to the bakery for some tea. I sat down next to two women having a conversation. I couldn't help but eavesdrop. Well, I suppose I could have moved, sure, but I was captivated.
Woman 1, I'll call her Jelly so you can follow, was waxing neurotic to her friend, Woman 2, whom I'll call Mustard. Jelly was recounting in painstaking detail the history of her quasi breakup of some nameless guy. I say quasi, and I'm being generous here, because really it was a break up but she didn't see it that way. Apparently they were dating for four weeks and then they had a fight of some sort and he said he needed his space, and so they broke up. Her friends at work were telling her not to call him but she was so freaked out so she decided to email him instead. He responded the next night (which for him was fast since usually he'd take two days to respond to emails and in the past she would ask him if he got her email and he'd say yes and she'd tell him she didn't like it when he didn't respond and he would tell her he was busy and now she really hates email). He responds and he was nice in his email so she called him. And he was sweet on the phone. And she thought because he was so nice on the phone that he'd call her but he didn't so she waited till like Monday and called him. And he picked up and why would he answer if he didn't want to talk to her? And so they saw each other on Thursday (and everyday between Monday and Thursday she was freaking out b/c she hadn't heard from him and what was he doing?). They had a great time, apparently, and then came the talk: Jelly told him that she thought they had an amazing connection and she's really only felt this way like two other times in her life and they shouldn't let a connection like that go; they should at least try and work on it. To which he said he couldn't.
You'd think that'd be the end of it, right? Of course not because they would still talk on the phone occasionally or email and well he was sweet, but what does that mean? and she's been thinking about him constantly and she's miserable blah blah blah. Jelly's friend Mustard sat there, listened, then helped her friend keep up the lies she tells herself by analyzing Mr Big's moves along with her.
I wanted to tell Jelly to stop reading into the intonation, stop reading into the emails, the phone calls. Even if he seems sweet, he's telling you he doesn't want to work it out and any mixed signals he may be sending are not an indication that he wants to work it out -- they're indicators that he doesn't know how to break it off completely.
Let me be clear: I am not making fun of Jelly. I identified with her insanity. She is like most women I know and I'm guilty too.
It got me thinking about when it was that we lost our centers? Did we ever have them? When was it schooled out?
I suspect that men are not sitting around wondering when you're going to call nor do they spend four hours wondering what you *really* meant when you said "I'll see you later". And yet this is how women spend their lives. My guess is that many of the ones who say they don't are in relationships they feel secure in and I would venture to guess that if they didn't have the insulation they'd do the same.
I'm not hatin' here. Nor am I calling for the other end of the spectrum -- the male bashing/f**k you/no one can hurt me/game playing kind of approach that a cynic might assume. You don't have to be a hater to get what you want.
The other only option is a balance between softness and hardness, feminine and masculine, the yin and the yang that is in all of us. It works on a sliding scale and sometimes needs calibration.
Pain blows -- so naturally we try to avoid it. The problem I think, lies in the approach. One tendency when we've been hurt is to put up a wall and assume hyper-masculinity in an attempt to avoid being hurt again. These are the "he's not worth it" types. The thing is, it's NEVER about the other person. And, unfortunately this short cut to finding our own strength isn't really a shortcut at all since it leads to nothing more than uhh, more pain. It's a mask whose shell will crack.
Another trait I've seen is that when we've been hurt, we just find someone else to replace the person who hurt us, quickly, so that we don't have to ever really know what it's like to be alone. It's a slow drip of morphine. The problem of course is when the morphine runs out, and it always does, the pain is cumulative.
And then there are those who may not replace Mr. Big with Aiden right away, but resist every motherscratchin minute of being alone. Ahem. Is it warm in here?
Eventually we realize that this kinda life isn't working anymomre. Suicide is lame and duh, unnecessary. Lasting relief is just on the other side but you have to dive deep into the unknown, without holding on. Finding our own center - the perfect balance of strength and receptivity -- can be found when we resist the temptation to shut others out or numb ourselves. Why does it matter? It matters because until we've found our own center, the actions of others will always govern our emotions. Unfortunately this doesn't just mean in romantic relationships -- it spills out into our life, professionally, personally, socially. All things transitory e.g. people, jobs, possessions, CANNOT sustain our own happiness because by their nature they're temporary. It doesn't mean you'll lose your house, your job, your marriage. It means that the original high that comes with the acquisition will fade as the reflections of our own shortcomings are revealed to us through these acquaintances. Huh? Kinda confusing, I know, so - simply: they can't make you happy, period. But, within yourself, knowing what you want and what you don't want, acting on what you want, living without fear that you have something to lose, well now we're getting to what it means to have balance and the power of your own strength.
Here's the catch. There is nothing to change -- you can't will yourself into strength; you can't force yourself to be open. The act of trying to change or trying to stop habits only fuels them. It's not breaking news to say that repression causes neuroses. Or worse. It's the simplest thing and the hardest thing to do all at the same time -- you do nothing but notice when you're being defensive, when you're being needy, when you're being fearful, when you want to be right, when you're gossiping about someone else. You notice when you are overanalyzing what someone said or did or when you're feeling anxious. You just notice and that's it. It will be very tempting to notice and then add commentary. Don't. Judging or labeling your thoughts as bad (or similar) only perpetuates those types of thoughts. Simply noticing is the hardest easiest thing in the world to do.
I'm sleepy. I'm always sleepy. I can't tell if I've wrapped this up clearly or not so apologies if I've left the twine loosely attached.