Last night I went to bed early. I woke up early, around 1:30 AM or so, after futile attempts to get some much needed rest I picked up my phone and started reading. A friend of mine has been dealing with the fallout from a non-relationship she had with a guy. This past summer she started calling me her Romance Coach as a joke. She's romantic, my idea of romance is tickets for Two along the third baseline. At work we have a second floor area where you can walk outside and sit down on patio furniture. I called it the terrace, she called it the roof, we had some good times up there and now that the days are shorter and the nights darker earlier, I'm grateful for those memories because we had some times when it was just us girls and I don't have a lot of women in my life that feel like friends who want to spend time with me.
Today my middle sister sent me a text out of the blue, I was sitting upstairs with this friend when I just couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't stand one more minute of her self absorbed guy narrative, but since I couldn't be assertive or open, I sat there in stony silence until she finally asked me what was wrong. My plan was to get out of work as fast as I could, but on my way out I realized I had forgotten my water bottle downstairs. A woman I work with gave me a pair of shoes, I gave them back to her without an explanation and now I feel terrible about that. I drove to the library, started typing, told a friend what had happened, and then tried to apologize, but I was so scared and upset I'm sure it came out awkwardly. I hate hurting other people's feelings, especially when they have been good to me.
I've hated my face for most of my life (more on that at a later date). I can't even tell people exactly why, but I look in the mirror and instead of loving the person I see, I feel like, it depends on the day, sometimes I hate her, sometimes she confuses me, other times she's my friend and we get along. People tell me I look like my mom, I personally don't see it and wonder if my daughters hate hearing that from others about their mom the way that I cringe whenever someone who knows my mom recognizes one of her children. I wonder if people look at me and see the cold, competitive, workaholic that my mother is in me, but since I'm not her I don't walk to work, have crazy gardens, knit like a fiend, or have an impressive job where I make a reasonable amount of money for what I do there.
But to return to this summer; I started reading articles on men and dating as a way to try and help my friend. I started taking my role as her Romance Coach seriously, devoting way more time than was sane to it. That was understandable, but totally stupid. I was fed up with hearing about this guy long before the Romance Coach crap started, I think I saw it as a 'if you can't beat them you might as well join them' strategy that eventually blew up in my face. She liked one guy, I kind of liked another, but he could read my feelings and that was terrifying to me. I cut that short by saying something I probably shouldn't have to a healthcare practitioner, and that was pretty much the end of that.
The summer went on, I hurt my back, sprained my ankle, got bit by a dog, and then my dad died. I wrote a note to the people who ran the kayak station and they were pretty cool about it. My physical therapist had told me to go sit by the lake, it sounded like a throw away comment, but I took his suggestion and I'm so glad I did. Water was therapy for me, bringing back memories of the summer the girls took sailing lessons and my mom let me borrow her pass to the Milwaukee Art Museum. I love to drive, I love to get in the car, listen to great music, and let the road take me where it will. This summer I drove from Oconomowoc to downtown Milwaukee which seemed like a great idea because of the way it made me feel; relaxed, secure, safe, optimistic, but when I looked at how much I was spending, I pulled back, dropped my kayak habit, and cried instead, feeling sorry for myself instead of focusing on my blessings.
One day we were very busy at work and I ended up working with the new guy. To my surprise we worked incredibly well together. He was calm, he was efficient, and he didn't ask me too many questions. I especially liked that. Not long after that we were scheduled to close, I gave him a couple of books, he thought his mom might like some of the recipes in there and I told him he was more than welcome to keep the books since I had recently moved and wanted them to go to a good home. We left and I sent him a text with book titles I had since he had mentioned wanting more information on other subjects. I learned he wasn't much of a reader and then I felt bad for him since I've largely taken for granted the ability to quickly and easily read most of what I come across.
I gave him some very short books, I can always see potential in others, but whether I do something with this information or not depends on how much I respect someone else. He had made a comment about school, I wanted to ask more, but was cut short by the ridiculously short break periods we have at work. At work I prize efficiency and sales ability. Customer service is a nice sounding term, but if you can see that it's an opportunity to retain a customer you get high marks in my book. I also really like people who are very curious. I view it as a sign of intelligence even when I hear that old tired cliche about it killing the cat. I'm the curious sort myself, it's fun to see someone else experience new things, it gives me hope for the future, like maybe someone else will be intrigued by the heart and sweetness of dragonfruit the way that I am.
Worrying about money is an issue for me. When he made a comment in response to something I had said about acquiring an expensive habit I had a flash of illumination. I have expensive habits and that was a problem I keep circling around. Something about him intrigued me. I have a daughter who is extremely quiet and introverted. We were discussing it one day, I'm an ambivert, I ride the line between introvert and extrovert and sometimes it feels as if I am always in the wrong mode at the wrong time except for those occasions when I manage to hit it exactly right, that's exciting for me and I ride this emotional high because of the positive feedback loop. I liked this guy in a casual work related sense, but I worried about him to the point where I felt like I had to take action of some sort.
Writing about suicide when you aren't sure what the emotional state of the other person is can be tricky as well as foolhardy, but I thought the poem struck a balance between me exploring the idea that people can be sad or depressed without being suicidal, and the fact that sometimes people think about things we wish they wouldn't. I wrote about another person I had known who went through with it, and closed with saying something along the lines of him hoping that he thought the whole thing was ridiculous and laughable. He sent me a text and said he was fine. That felt like a lie. He was always fine or okay, but his entire attitude at work told me otherwise. You can say that it's work and maybe he just hates his job, but I think there's more to it than that.
I wanted him to feel better about himself. I sensed that he was deeply insecure and that felt so wrong to me. Here was a guy who had tons of potential working part time at a grocery store, I had heard what other people said and I disagreed. I didn't like their assessments and I went on a selling campaign to show people what I saw in him. It was effective to the extent that a manager agreed with me when I shared the effective sales part, and ineffective because I didn't realize I was setting myself up for some serious failure in the future. Had he been a woman I would have gotten away with it, I gave him a pair of socks along with a shoe horn and a nail file, I gave a woman I work with a pink and white bag that cost more than I spent on him, but the incident came back to haunt me.
We have vendors at work who come in to talk about their products. I enjoy good working relationships with the majority of them, one woman I will probably write about in the future, others are lovely and help me forget about people like her. It was just before my youngest daughter's birthday when the card people came in to visit. I had set up the appointment myself, they gave me a card for my daughter, we stood around talking while they stamped it for me, and then to show their appreciation for my encouragement they gave me another card. I stuck it in my locker when I got upstairs and didn't think about it until the Sunday where I worked with the new guy and I could tell that he was in a terrible mood. Having grown up in a home where moods were unpredictable I learned to feel as if it was my responsibility to help people turn their moods around. I left the card for him along with a trial size tube of toothpaste because I wanted to see him smile again.
There were times when it felt like he wanted to talk to me when I was at work. That made me uncomfortable although sometimes we did run into each other. It's a small company, and like I said, I was curious. It seemed like he was doing better and what I really noticed that was very impressive was how he talked to customers, specifically women who went through his line. I heard a couple of conversations that way, he was polite, he was genuinely interested, and he listened unlike almost anyone I have ever known. That is a very great trait to me, I talk too much and don't listen intently enough, he set a gold standard at work and I felt like he increased customer satisfaction and loyalty because he went far beyond the usual platitudes about hoping people had found everything they came to the store to buy.
He felt like a project to me. I was bored, my hours had been cut, I hated some of the women I worked with, and I was mad that people pointed out his flaws when I could see that some of the things they were complaining about were untrue. Obviously nobody is perfect, but I don't and didn't think he was lazy and one of the powerful drivers in my life is calling attention to social injustice. This problem went way beyond him, a friend of mine who eventually quit told me she felt unappreciated, there's a strange power structure at work and I felt bad for her and the other people whose gifts weren't being utilized or compensated for appropriately. I thought he would go back to school in the fall, but he didn't and that made me feel bad too. Then he sent me a text saying that he felt like I wanted to be more than friends and I was absolutely furious.
The next day I froze him at work. I wouldn't look at him, speak to him, or acknowledge his presence. I was sure that this was an intelligent way to prove that I wasn't into him and that I could be professional in a work related setting. His shift ended before mine, that felt like the longest day ever at work. I was working over by the spices when I heard him greet me. Without turning around I asked him how he was. He said okay, and I left it at that without speaking to him further because I was still mad and I wanted him to know that it's not cool to approach a woman who is displeased with you without a better game plan than saying her name when she can't see you. That really scared me and I was also like, you sent me a text telling me to chill out and back off, now this??? It felt like a game, I didn't want to go out with anyone that moody, I'm moody myself, I felt played and was volatile in an icy way.
That night I walked out into the parking lot only to be stopped by a couple who wanted to know what time the store closed on Tuesdays. I told them what they needed to know, kept ignoring him, and drove home furious with myself, and him. The deep freeze at work went on for a while until finally I got the idea to talk to the woman who had told me he asked her out. She reads people well, I felt like her insights and advice were solid. When I apologized he said he was fine with a fresh start, maybe he said starting over, I can't really remember and don't care. Everything changed after that. I started seeing him as more than a sex object, opened up to him about a couple of things, and got to know him as a real person. I was super confused by myself, I didn't want to go out with him, but I was really drawn to him. Instead of just admitting my feelings had changed, I thought I would ask the woman who knew him much better than I did what to do.
She said he was way too immature for me, she said some other things and I still don't know if writing him another poem (this one was much lighter, but I tore it up so I can't reproduce it although I can probably replicate it fairly closely) was what triggered this next incident, or it would have happened regardless. He had told me he was allergic to cats. I'm allergic to cats, and so was the woman standing in line next to me. It was a conversation between the three of us that made me laugh, he's an incredible conversationalist and he made me feel like it was okay to have what other people have described as every allergy under the sun. He mentioned that he liked sampling things so I put a bunch of samples together for him and my friend, I felt like she had earned them more than he did, but he had given me the idea so I split them up and gave her more than him.
Not long after that we had a health fair, I was not feeling well, the weather was unseasonably warm and I had not slept well. The women I work with were taking advantage of my willingness to run around and talk to people, but I thought I would give him the poem I had written anyways. He gave me a strange look and I could tell something significant had happened without knowing what it was. He didn't want the poem and I didn't give it to him. He said he was scared so I left, got home, and apologized via text. Then I sent him another text which was a thoroughly idiotic move. The next day when I went to work I got called upstairs and reprimanded by management. I didn't say anything to incriminate or defend myself that I know of, and that I'm glad about.
I could tell they wanted me to say something, but I kept silent. I didn't know if I was going to be fired from my job, I didn't know what he had told them, part of me felt like I deserved to be punished, a separate part of me wanted to explain myself, a third part remembered the advice an attorney friend of mine had given me, I had the right to remain silent and that's what I chose. It didn't sound like he had given them much to go on and he had neatly absolved himself from any part in the drama. Rather than get into a big 'he said, she said' runaround I took the blame feeling like I had an icy vacuum where my heart had been. I've been scared before, this was an entirely new level. I left early that day and many days after that. I cried a ton of different kinds of tears, I couldn't handle being at work when he was there, it was a hideous combination of fear, anxiety, heartbreak, and exhaustion. I can't believe I didn't kill myself because I thought about it.
One day turned into another. I made it through the shifts where we had to be on the schedule together and I still don't know how I did that. Last night I read a bunch of very good blog posts on emotionally unavailable people. When I got to one in particular my blood started boiling because this author spelled out exactly how an emotionally unavailable person will react when they feel threatened by a potential romantic interest, it could have been an autobiographical post and I was beyond livid, both at myself, and him. Some of my wrath is justified, some of it is me being and doing all the things that women get a bad rap for and now I get it.
My mom is emotionally unavailable, I am, he is, my friend is, the guy she likes is, I have a collection of damaged people in my life, and I feel like either the ringleader in a circus where nobody is direct and up front about how they feel (apart from the time where I told him he was sexy and charismatic, but wouldn't sleep with him, needless to say, that was also a mistake, but I don't particularly regret that since it was and is true), or I'm some sort of sideshow freak, maybe I'm the sane one. I checked out a book from the library on sex and intimacy because I know that the only person you can change is yourself, and clearly, I have issues.
Today he froze me and it hurt. It hurt a lot. Doubtless I will get over this, his mom came in this morning, I didn't know who she was, I didn't even really see her, just out of the corner of my eye because I was talking to someone else. I caught the tail end of a conversation between her and another woman I work with, and I would have liked to have heard the rest of her comments about babying him. This guy scares me. Some people are afraid to be hot. They are scared to let their inner beauty and tenderness out of the little box they have inside of them that they may call a heart or a soul or feelings and emotions. I know how he feels if this is his problem. It isn't enough to have others think that your face possesses something of interest.
It isn't enough to be organized, efficient, smart, confident, etc..., as long as you keep your emotions under lock and key you are going to have serious problems in life. I am fucked up and it is time to get unfucked emotionally. I need a plan so here goes: tell people some of what happened. This is my beginner attempt at that. I feel better having gotten this off my chest. I stopped by PT to check and see if I could get in, I confessed everything to the receptionist who is a friend of mine and shed a few tears there. She couldn't have been nicer to me and that made things worse. I know how to deal with people treating me like shit. I expect it, I anticipate it, and I don't even try to prevent it because I can't think like they do. I need some exercise. I need to make my children accountable at home.
I need to do my dishes, cut myself some slack, I need better and more sleep in a bad way. I have to be brave enough to admit that I purposely tried to shove someone away because I was afraid my smile had conveyed too much. It was a moment of weakness, and you might be thinking, what the heck Jess, it's just a smile, relax, chill out, but that is not who I am and that is a big part of the problem. I want to be held, I want to be loved, I want the emptiness to go away, I want to erase the past, get a new job, and forget that I ever met this freaking guy whose life would undoubtedly be much better without this ridiculousness.
Ugh. I need to get in and see my therapist. I need to remind myself of the many beautiful people in my life who love and care about me. Our issues did not play well together. We both need help, and now that I've kind of met his mother, I have some insight into what his home life might be like. Very early on he told me that there were people in his family who repressed emotions. That was common ground, I told him I did and my family members did too, it wasn't a serious conversation despite the subject matter. These were facts, we both know we need to work on this and I thought it was good that we had this knowledge.
I know that ultimately I will be okay. I got away from good habits like eating well and into bad habits that led me down a path I never intended to travel. That happens, it's called life and I can't be too hard on myself for making some of the mistakes I did, however I can still hold myself accountable. Hating yourself and others is never the answer. Loving yourself is tough, I can put on my brave front and go to work, maybe I am too good at masking my inner insecurities, maybe I'm not very good at all and people see right through me, I really don't know and have no way of finding out. Feelings are hard for me.
I'm going to go home, take some anti-anxiety medication, and try to get some sleep. I can text my therapist and tell her I need to get in or schedule an appointment with someone new. I can go back to PT, sign up for a yoga class, manage my money better, realize that I am human, I am a perfectionist, and letting go can start right now. I fucked up. I will fuck up again. He fucked up, he will again. I hate that I can foresee that a certain guy will be good in bed when there is no possibility of going there with him. I used to think that other women could do this too, but apparently they either can't, or don't. Sometimes I can tell right away, other times it takes longer. It's crazy mad fun when you first get that thrill, but it comes with a high price tag when I try to minimize my emotions.
I can't decide if I want to talk about this with others. I'm afraid they will judge me harshly, but I also realize that I did cross some lines that shouldn't have been crossed. I have a right to be angry and upset, I can also still love (in a humane sense) and forgive him because I am strong, and I know he is sorry for what he did although I don't know to what extent. I wish I could just disappear, but I can face this music and more. It could be a lot worse and I'm grateful I didn't reveal my feelings for him (whatever they are, and I don't even always know) to a larger group of people. Private agony is more easily born than public. Hopefully this will teach others what not to do and others can learn from things I did, but sometimes we have to do things the hard way in life.
That's where I'm at right now, I keep doing things the hard way instead of just telling people how I feel. I don't say it because I either don't know or fear that my emotions are so intense others will be driven away or I will somehow be persecuted or punished for having and experiencing what I do. Men get a bad rap for objectifying women, but I do that to men. He was a hot body and that was it to me. I didn't want to go out with him or get to know him. I thought he would be a blast in bed and I bet I gave off that vibe no matter how many times I told myself that a one night stand with someone I work with may quite possibly be a very bad idea.
He hurt my pride so I struck out and tried to hurt him worse than he had hurt me while protecting myself from future attacks. What I really wish is there was a way past this. I wish I could apologize sincerely and receive one in return. Sitting down and talking is out the question, I doubt we would have much to say to each other since he's made it clear he wants nothing to do with me and in a way, I don't blame him. Psychological safety is super high on my list of priorities. I've tried to find another job and will continue the search, however, I'm also not going to let anyone else bully or intimidate me where I work because I have a right to work there and contribute what I can where I can. I feel like this is dragging on and it's so draining because negative energy bleeds into other areas of your life and people I work with are being pulled down with me.
Optimism is a choice. Lots of people do stupid things and go on to lead better lives. There doesn't seem to be anything I can do to fix things, that's what my mode has been in the past, try and solve a problem where there doesn't appear to be a solution. Not everyone is meant to be in my life or I in theirs. I'm looking forward to the day when everyone can breathe easier, gets help, and we all live happily ever after, don't laugh, it could happen, and if it could, it might, and if it might, I'm going to do my best and try my hardest to get there. Hopefully you will too.
All my love,
P.S. I am so grateful for the library and my friends.
P.P.S. On a lighter note it's amusing to me that I'm still on my Jane Austen kick. She would understand all of this.
Update - I called PT and got through to my former therapist. He took my number and date of birth after I told him the business was his if he wanted it, but I didn't want anything to be awkward. Sometimes I'm really proud of myself and wonder what took so long. I wouldn't go out with him if he was the last man on earth, but he changed my life and I'm excited to be going back even though another part of me is scared. It kind of feels like I'm scared of practically everything except driving too fast, drinking too much, and slicing into a major artery, but this feels like progress despite my shaking hands.