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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lessons :: On achieving my secret resolution, and how I changed (or didn't)



"Birthdays have always been especially hard for me because I've always believed that by this one, okay, now by this one, I'll be my new self, and I never am, and there is a moment when I'm alone at my own party, in the ladies room or in the kitchen, where I am blinded by a flash of sadness for what I will drag into the next year, poisoning it and weighing it down. And then I dredge up the hope again and tell myself that this is the year, this one. By my next birthday, it will be different. That's what I say every year, and every year I believe it, and every year it is a lie." -Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines

I've always thought of a new year like a birthday.

I'd begin it a little older, a little wiser. Better, hopefully. Full of new dreams and ideas. I'd create a goal, or a whole list of them. And 2012 was no different. I made a list, and by the end of the year, half of it was crossed off. But there was one last thing I hadn't included, a secret pact I made with myself, goal number thirteen. I promised myself that 2012 would be the year I don't fall in love. For someone that falls in love with everyone she meets, this was a daunting task.

I was happy to leave 2011 behind. It was the year I quit my job and worked part-time for six months, forcing myself into the aftermath of debt. It was the year I broke up with my long-term, live-in boyfriend, forcing myself into the aftermath of mourning. I knew I asked for these hardships, but I knew that my decisions were for the best. I just needed to wait. And wait. And wait.

I slept through midnight on New Year's Eve. I was supposed to be at a sleepover with three of my best girlfriends, but I suppose the exhaustion of the year was more extreme than I realized. And, after that, I always wondered what I'd missed. Because after that, things were different. Two of the girls began to fade away and fall out of my life, and I kept trying to make plans with them, and they kept saying they were busy, but then I'd see their tweets about getting lunch and doing yoga together, and when I asked what was wrong they would avoid the conversation. And when I went through a traumatic experience on my birthday that resulted in PTSD and months of therapy, one of the girls told me I was being too negative, and the other dropped off a case of beer I'd left at her house months before, and I never heard from them again.

Clearly, 2012 did not begin well.

But the events that occurred only solidified resolution number thirteen. Falling in love, something I'd always loved, was bad; it resulted in pain; it was an addiction I needed to break. So I began making new friends, friends that didn't know my past or what I'd been through, friends that couldn't judge me because they only knew the bright, shiny, good parts of me. I closed myself up, taped my heart back together and locked it away, along with my secrets. I didn't need to tell everyone everything anymore. That scared people. Honesty, to me, was always a big part of love. But honesty is scary. I didn't want to scare people away. Again.

With these new friends came new men, men that I kept at an emotional distance, but physically close, so that I could entertain sexual needs while resisting my hidden desire for love. The hopeless romantic in me was still there, but I wanted to shut her up and tell her how stupid she was being, because didn't she see where love got me before? Didn't she understand yet? But once in awhile she would sneak up on me, and I would start feeling something for someone, and I'd lower the wall that I'd worked so hard to build up, along with my standards. And I would give someone a chance, and then a second one; and then I'd get hurt again, all of my fears justified. I'd then start from the beginning, motivating the romantic in me with my mantra: You are beautiful on your own, you are smart on your own, you are worth something on your own. You are independent. You don't need anyone. And it would work until the next time I was reeled in by a smile or a compliment or simply the sight of a beautiful face.

The truth was that I really was happy on my own -- but perhaps it was society or religion or friends or family that had been telling me or showing me my entire life that I had to have a partner, and maybe I didn't really want it after all. Maybe I was okay with being alone. Being alone was easy. It was fun. And when I started to like it, I started to feel insecure about the fact that I liked it.

The questions from others, both men and women, only made me feel more weird.

"Do you ever get lonely?"

"No."

"Do you even want a boyfriend right now?"

"Actually, not really."

"Do you think you'll ever get married?"

"I don't know. I don't know if I care."

In our society, being single is seen as negative. If a woman doesn't have a boyfriend -- or, as I get older, a husband -- there's gotta be something wrong with her. I was reading an article about Taylor Swift the other day, and the comments it received (from other women!) were disturbing. "She keeps dating guy after guy, and it never works out. Obviously she's doing something wrong if she can't keep one of them around." Yes, clearly it's her fault that she keeps getting hurt. And it's the woman's fault when she gets hurt physically, too, right? She must've done something. She asked for it.

That was sarcasm, if you couldn't tell.

But, maybe things weren't working out for me because I didn't really want them to. Maybe I was a hopeless romantic because I had been taught to be. Or maybe, just because it was fun to be romanced. Maybe that didn't mean I wanted a relationship, and maybe that was okay. Maybe I liked being a strong, independent career woman.

And I became that, so extremely, that a female co-worker told me that I look like I never cry. It was strange hearing that. I didn't know if it was good or bad. I didn't want to be seen as emotionless. It was then that I realized I had two extremes fighting inside of me -- that soft, incredibly romantic girl and the hard, fiercely independent woman. I was wearing a suit by day and a skirt by night, stomping in my work heels to the next meeting and then switching to stilettos for a date. I'd be so happy, so calm and carefree with my life, but then I would start thirsting for love or sex or just attention and I'd fall back into that world of drama and adrenaline and heartbeats.

"I get caught up in being liked to the point where I find merit in people who are all wrong for me but I push those warning signs aside because they buy me dinner and presents or tell me I'm the hottest woman they've ever dated, to the point where I gloss over certain aspects of my personality or beliefs in order to make myself more palatable or desirable, to the point where I tell myself I like someone when actually they're just someone who's incredibly fun to hang out with but I would never want to date." -Michelle, Antidotal Evidence

The thing is -- and it took me an entire year to realize this, but -- it's okay for me to be a mixture of personalities and emotions, and it's okay for me to want to be alone and it's also okay that sometimes I don't want to be. And maybe I'm not as weird as I think, but even if I am, I'm okay with that. People will judge no matter what, so I might as well be myself, whichever self I want to be that day.

In 2007, which was an important year in my life and one that I reference often, I made the resolution to lose 10 pounds. I achieved that, and upped it to 20. I ended up losing 35 pounds that year. And, you know, not much changed. Except for my size. I was still me. And I've since gained it all back, and I don't really care.

But every time I create a new goal, or list of goals, I think about that year and I'm reminded that I really can do anything I put my mind to. This past year, I managed not to fall in love, but that still didn't stop me from loving. It didn't stop me from getting hurt. I was still me, and I still felt things. I changed, a little, but for the better. I'm a little older, a little wiser. And every time I think that I've learned all I can, I'm taught a new lesson.

I know I'll learn even more in 2013. I'm nervous. And excited. And maybe I'll even let myself fall in love, or at least, learn to love the ones I used to love who let me down.

But, I'm still not quite ready.

Not yet.

At least not today.

19 comments:

  1. Wonderful post. I completely relate. You've inspired me as well! Good luck in 2013.

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  2. Loved this entire read! Hoping 2013 is even better for you!!

    awayaswego.com

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  3. Waw...again this is like reading from my own head. That guilt about liking independence really gets me too, everyone around always seems to add to it.

    Thanks for this post, it makes me uncomfortable, in a good way :)

    I like that you said falling not falling in love didn't stop you from not loving, I think that's a lesson I'm in the process of learning myself. It's hard like you said when you're a person who pretty much falls in love with everyone you meet because good intentions doe not guarantee one will meet good people, it sucks but its the world we live in :(

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  4. HURRAY FOR THE NEW YEAR! and wow reading this post--wow. you are an amazing writer and i can TOTALLY relate to the idea of being a hopeless romantic--i am for sure. I can't imagine shutting that away, it's such a huge part of me. It must be really hard! Here's to a better 2013--I know you can do whatever you set your mind to!
    Rory
    www.WearAboutsBlog.com
    Enter my Sammy Dress giveaway and check back everyday this week for ANOTHER new giveaway!

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  5. awesome ... honest ... real.

    may 2013 be fabulous

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  6. In all honesty, I cannot relate to a lot of the experiences you've been through, but I loved the honesty in this post so much, it's easy to connect with what you are saying.
    It seems (from a very outside view) that you are putting in a lot of good work or effort, so hopefully that will all come back around to you. Ya know, good begets good. Thanks for sharing, and good luck to you!

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  7. Girlie, I cannot tell you how much a difference this post made for me. Considering that there are extinct differences in everyone's lives and situations, I totally know what you mean. I'm so glad you posted this, and I'm glad I read it. It has really made a difference for me.

    Thank you.

    Christen
    http://www.anunordinaryhello.com

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  8. I don't understand everyone's rush into marriage, I'm only 23 and I have so many friends who are already engaged and married (also my age)! And here I am, I've only had....2 relationships...not lasting more than a few months. There isn't anything wrong with me though. And I don't sweat about it, it's everyone else around me who is pressuring me! What is wrong with the world! Anyways, happy new year Stephanie!

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  9. That's a lot of self reflection. Life is an ongoing learning experience.

    Vintagehoneybee.blogspot.com

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  10. I love this post. And I love your blog. Thanks for both. Happy New Year!

    Much love,

    Sarathehipe
    www.thehip-e.com

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  11. Wow, so much vulnerability in this post! It's so beautiful. And I like that you have identified something that humans really seem to struggle with - that no one is black and white, we are not one thing (hopeless romantic) or another (fierce independent woman), we are all a little bit of everything.

    It's just that in order for human brains to understand humans, we have to pigeon hole people by the characteristics we see most in them. Isn't it just a little bit wrong?

    You rock, I hope 2013 is amazing for you Kx

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  12. Great post, I've never thought of the new year as a birthday. I can see that! I am a firm believer in that "all things are possible." Here's to a brighter 2013! Happy new year Steph! xx

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  13. Very revealing post, I remember being that way when I was in my 20s. When I settled in and decided what I wanted for my future it all fell into place. I don't regret anything from the past as it has all brought me here with a wonderful man and two cool kids! Wishing you much luck in 2013 :).

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  14. I know how you feel, lady. Even being in a relationship again I miss being completely independent sometimes. I'm independent to a fault and not romantic in the least. I've been hurt before and I'm generally distrustful in a relationship. (My BF of 5 years cheated on me with my best friend in my previous one.)

    First it was hard to be single, I worked as hard as ever on personal goals and my work but I'd still cry from time to time remembering the pain from being cheated on. I didn't want a relationship or even sex. Then I gave in and had my no-strings-attached fun phase, but after a few guys I realized it was overrated and I was fine alone. Being a lone wolf is wonderful in many ways. Enjoy your time of self-discovery. And thank you for sharing your story. Good luck finding your way in 2013!

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  15. I think discovering independence is key. And when/if you decide to be in a relationship again it is important to maintain your own identity. This is a lesson I've learned in my own relationship and I am being reminded of again now with my daughter. Yes- there are other people in my life, but I still need to be my own person.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! I am wishing you an amazing 2013!

    xo!

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  16. What a revealing post...I wish you all the best in 2013. I'm glad you've realized you CAN be tough and sensitive and YOU, and sometimes that requires aloneness, sometimes companionship. People often think I'm a cold-hearted bitch, emotionless, because after people abuse the honor of my friendship a few times, I just turn off. But like you, I do that because I have to protect myself. And now that I'm an old bag at 40, I cannot suffer fools or liars.

    The only thing I will add, that I think you learned, is that you cannot have sex and not eventually feel an emotional attachment. You know that saying, "why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?" Well, even after decades of feminism, and modern courtship, it still rings true. Don't give that most intimate part of you away to just anyone, anymore. Keep it to yourself until you really get to know someone. Doesn't mean heartbreak doesn't happen but it's a lot less likely when you've spent two or three months with someone before you decide to bare yourself, both emotionally and physically. This is something we HAVE to learn as women. Guys will always try to put the moves on you, BUT YOU HAVE THE POWER, BABE! And when you decline, he will respect you, and if he is genuine, he'll stay the course.

    Don't mean to come off as preaching, but I know what it feels like, and I think you're at that turning point now, that you have the clarity to see that LOVE is OK and a natural inclination, and SEX should come after it, not before.

    Keep being you, let the proverbial beer b*tches keep doing their thing. Real friends, real lovers LOVE you, they don't leave you!

    Happy 2013, sweetie. You're on the upswing!

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  17. I want to hug you, first of all, so give yourself a hug and pretend it's from me.

    I have so much admiration for you and for the honesty you put into this. Having the courage to put this secret resolution out there by the end of the year, and to do so as candidly as you did, goes a long way, I think, to revealing just how far you've come. So that in itself is huge affirmation for the dedication you've given yourself this year. And I sometimes don't think it's about changing, but simply bringing something else into your life (i.e. self-worth, independence, feminism) and allowing it to push the other things into the perspectives where they belong. My biggest life struggle has been with anxiety, and the thought that used to constantly come into my mind was, "How can I manage to not be like this anymore?". But then I finally realized...well, that I love myself just as I am, faults and all. And I think my biggest reality check was when it hit me that I cared less about my quirks (being afraid of driving, for example) and more about how other people would react to them. That was sort of the last straw, that's when I finally asked myself why I worry so much about the approval of others. Was I really going to listen to the voice in my head going, "No one will ever marry me if I'm afraid to drive a car"? Lucille Ball said, "Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line." That's got such great truth to it. And I think when I finally came to the loving myself part I realized that all the things I categorized as "everything else" changed quite a bit - new things mattered, *I* mattered, and all the wants and wishes shifted a bit in my perspective.

    Anyway. The way I see it is that we're the only people we'll spend every day with, we're the only people we'll know in the most profound, intimate way possible; there are no other halves because we're whole in ourselves. Everyone else - all the good people who come into our lives, romantically or otherwise - are blessings, people to share our happiness with. Not "just" blessings, because blessings are tremendous and beautiful and miraculous things. But so are we. And it's more fulfilling to seek out the blessing of ourselves than to feel unworthy because a different kind of blessing hasn't come along yet. But to err is human, and that's what we do: we sit with roofs over our heads and clothes on our backs and food in our stomachs and we pine over a pair of designer shoes. But with time and practice and dedication our perspectives absolutely can change. I think yours is heading toward a very healthy, very happy place because you're celebrating YOU first. Keep doing that and you'll go higher and higher.

    Much love and another hug, sweets! Thank you again. xoxo

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