samedi, juillet 30, 2011

Is his (potential) kiss on "my list"?

I'm beginning to wonder what it is that I'm looking for.

Here's what I thought helped a guy "make the cut."

I wanted a guy who was well-educated, who had a cosmopolitan perspective. No, not a Cosmo attitude (although a bit of boldness now and again probably wouldn't hurt).

But someone who digs deep inside the stories, someone who cares about what's going on in the world, and someone who can debate without getting irate could be pretty cool.

I don't do well with a man who thinks in bumper stickers. I guess if you are quoting Sophocles or some Stoic, perhaps you can sound intelligent with a snippet -- but sometimes that's all we HAVE of those old dudes! Read the book, not the aphorism.

Emotional intelligence -- that's a good thing.

A fit body or an interest in becoming fit -- important.

Someone with a meaningful job -- I can't figure out why so many people my age are retiring. Fie on that.

Thanks, but I can leave the Harley, the yard sales and vast swaths of the Jersey beaches to others.

I also don't care about how much money he makes. Wealth doesn't impress me.

Part of my dilemma is that I worry about hurting the guys I am meeting who do want to see me again.

How can they feel a spark without it warming me?

Boy, it is way possible that I am over-thinking this.

I look at my list of "prerequisites", and think -- what the heck?

If there's a spark, will I care about all these "qualifications?" What if he drags me to a neighbor's yard sale, or a meeting of the royal order of Harley owners now and again? Will I be this fussy?

What if we go to WILDWOOD? Will I insist on Cape May Point?

Or maybe I should venture way out of my comfort zone -- the significantly younger (more than ten years) or the high school graduate or the conservative Republican.

Actually, I've got a few Republicans on my list. I met one today. And I think I want to put off meeting the others until after August 2. There is almost nothing they could do right now to convince me they are right.

Or maybe I'm just a sore loser.

More guys this week. It doesn't work if they ask you out for coffee and you find a reason to be a home reading a novel.

In the meantime, I'll just appreciate the hot 39-year-old fitness guy who viewed my profile today -- and told me I had a great body.

I told him he had done his good deed for the day -- and he emailed back "lol."

Ah, the generation gap. Good thing I'm too old for him -- texting in bed would get awfully tedious after a while.


jeudi, juillet 28, 2011

The Bait

"I write a lot about myself, and topics that interest me -- but rarely do I go into details about challenging times with my kids. I'm getting into a more sensitive area this time, because I hope that what I'm learning (trying to, anyways) may be helpful to someone else. Also, I have the vague hope that perhaps someday my daughter and I will actually laugh. Even if, right now, that seems about as reasonable as getting published in the Economist. Yeah, I aim high.

She climbs out of the car, spitting fire like the monster from the latest Harry Potter movie. Thank God, Route 401 wasn't backed up too badly this morning, or I might have gone out of my mind.

Her last words, before she leaves for her job as a counselor, are something like: "I know I'm not the daughter you wanted...but you aren't the mother I wanted, either!"

For the past 20 minutes, I have clung grimly to the steering wheel, absolutely determined not to respond in kind. It's been pretty much non-stop -- why can't she live with her father, she and I fight all the time, he knows how to negotiate...

I've heard pretty much the whole thing before. And up until this past week, I could recite to you my whole speech -- the threats, the tears, the occasional tantrum.

We had a script. And, like old Broadway actors in a melodrama, we would stick pretty closely to those lines. Fie on Hamlet's "each man in his time plays many parts" -- just let us do the assigned ones!

But (cue "adult in the room") I'm trying to do something a little differently. It's not because I'm just that intelligent. It's because it's been pointed out to me that reacting (which my kids call "overreacting", WHY is that?) doesn't work. Consequences, structure, predictability -- they do work. Mutual respect - that's not a bad thing to work on, either.

This is called behavioral therapy. I've seen the stats. I know that it has been proven to work. While I'm irked that so far I'm the only convert in the family thus far, I know that it's the best way to get some distance on the guilt I tend to wear as a mantle -- and yes, the disappointment.

If you are in a situation where someone else is baiting you (the workplace, at home, a friend) you might consider, just consider, not taking the bait. Do not try to respond in kind (just meaner), or feel laden with guilt. If you have responsibility, own it, try to do your part -- and then let the other person deal with his or her feelings without using you as a butt for their arrows.

They can only do that if you let them.

Don't give them the power.

That's what I'm learning -- it isn't easy. But, right now, it's the best hope I've got of changing the dynamic between us.

Good luck to all of you engaged in similar work. If you need a virtual hand, I'm here.

mercredi, juillet 27, 2011

I dreamed of you... before I slept

I confess, it was not a good night.

Wandering among the avatars of the righteous left and the equally convinced right, I felt lost, irate, distressed. So much rhetoric. So little time.

Will we awake before it is too late to find the common good, a way to reach across the seas that part our dreams?

Today was also burdened with the realization that my larger family, which includes the man with whom I no longer share board and bed, will have to face a medical drama that will take pretty much everything we have -- and possibly a bit more.

And then, there is a child, the one who slips like water between my hands. Sometimes abstracted, sometimes defiant, sometimes happy, often dour, she continues to evoke tears, and fright, and the worry that keeps me awake when, as now, I should be sleeping.

Tonight I, who wear my independence like a falconer's glove -- I opened the door a crack to imagine a person who might be out there, looking for someone like me.

Someone who would understand, if not share, the burdens I carry. Someone to receive a quick email as the clock ticks toward midnight, explaining -- and send a supportive and caring one back (all I want, some nights).

Someone to meet for a quick glass of wine or a run.

A man who can make me laugh at myself when I take myself way too seriously. A man who needs me without being needy.

A person who loves me in those spaces where I have opportunity and motive to be loved.

I dreamed of you -- and then I put the vision on that messy shelf where my romantic visions dwell. I dare not often give them form, but I suppose, at least, that I know what I miss.

Tomorrow I will have, I hope, more strength to walk this path alone -- and shall see this longing as weakness, the fruit of a tired mind and bruised heart.

Or maybe not. There is a part of me that still believes in magic.

I just don't let it face the night too often.

mardi, juillet 26, 2011

Crazy for you - not.

I've made a resolution.

For my own mental health, I'm going to try to avoid crazy people.

This principle might seem like common sense.

But it's actually harder to do than one might think at first. At least for someone who is curious, inexperienced, and a journalist. It's really a combination guaranteed to bring me in touch with crazies.

At the most basic level, that of definitions, it seems hard to define "crazy" except with the ol' obscenity aphorism: "I know it when I see (read, hear) it."

Anders Breivik -- crazy.

Voldemort -- crazy.

Yeah, I gave you two softballs.

Far-right House Republicans who oppose their own Speaker's hyper-conservative deficit plan? Are they completely nuts? Probably not, or they would not have been elected. Does their ideology blind them to reality? I can see an argument for that.

But once you get out of the realm of the delusional, craziness becomes a lot harder to box.

Take me. I'm so glad Freud came up with the idea of neurosis (or took it from somebody else) because I inhabit it more or less happily, at any given time. I get anxious. Stressed. Lack self-confidence. Haven't accomplished as much as I think I should. I'm easily (try me) guilted as a parent, and my children take advantage of that on a regular basis.

But all of those character flaws don't make me nuts.

I've run into folks who are not too healthy, or not fully mature, in some areas, from sex to money to relationships. Sometimes their problems are a serious bar to being the "adult in the room" or even the "second adult in the room" -- but that doesn't make them crazy.

We all have areas in which we need to continue to improve.

And yet...and yet... my social networking, and my work have brought me into contact with other folks -- people I strongly suspect ought to be on medication. Fulltime. People who need a DSM code, and therapy. People who are equipped to hold down jobs, but inflict damage on others with whom they are in relationship.

I've rarely met the crazed and never been really close to them - it's tough to get that close to someone whose grasp on reality is tenuous. Most of what I have discovered about mental health on the abyss is from secondhand stories from friends, and from a few purely online connections that turned ugly or ended in bizarre ways.

As I was thinking about the thin line between sanity and no-sanity today, I shivered. I've spent years trying to get inside the minds of some of my less than stable acquaintances, as though I could rationalize their behavior.

They need help, help that I'm not really qualified or in a proper position to give.

Yet this may be the time to send a note of gratitude to all of the rest of you -- my friends, my acquaintances, those who follow me and those whom I follow. I can say with a fair degree of accuracy that I have no crazy friends on Facebook (and probably on Twitter, though I can't swear to that). Each day I read your words - and, whether I agree with you or not, there is little distance between the person you seem to be, and the person you are.

I don't need to "get" psychopathology" (until I am a clinician). I don't need to understand it all. I don't need to follow my curiosity if it leads me to dark places in the human psyche -- unless I can find a way to get my work published.

I'll stick with you neurotics for now -- if you are a club that will let me join!

dimanche, juillet 24, 2011

Limerence, love and the whole darned thing

An email from a friend tonight got me thinking about falling in love --and what that can look like in someone my age.

Yeah, I know I sound a bit clinical. I have issues with that -- too much time in the head, and not enough in the heart, when it comes to love.

More on the email later.

I was already, for a number of reasons, thinking about limerence. As I understood the term, it's that euphoric state that couples go through when they first fall for one another. It also, apparently, can become a psychological disorder -- well, so can eating too many cookies.

Actually, I'm not sure about the cookies, but I suspect they have a DSM code for that one.

I hate it when science takes the fun out of the activities we enjoy, don't you?

Limerence -- I don't know much about it. Did I ever encounter the beast? I'm not sure. I asked my daughter, and she says she's recognized it in sixteen-year-old boys. Which isn't very helpful in figuring out what love (the type that lasts) looks like among men and women long past their high school years.

If that "in-love" feeling, which is about identification with the beloved, walking on air, and daydreaming about the future is one end of spectrum, the "gotta work at love" philosophy is grittier, more practical, and, frankly, more boring.

Communication skills (yawn). Balance (give me a break). Figuring things out step by step (have I put ya to sleep yet?).

In that respect, I'm more conservative than Michele Bachmann.

I've come to realize that I'm probably too cautious -- and perhaps too closed off to the possibilities that come with being willing to take some risks.

There's a fine line between rational and scared.

I know that barren place better than I'm willing to admit -- except here, of course.

So back to that email. After a frustrating encounter with a jerk she met online (which she wouldn't have had if she wasn't willing to take the risk of actually going out with him!) a friend stumbled into a situation was that seems entirely, graciously, and incredibly serendipitous.

Out of an unplanned meeting ( I am blurring details to protect her privacy) came another meeting. And a dinner...and eventually, a real relationship -- one that continues to evolve.

To get to THAT place, however, she had to be willing to meet a number of guys -- and to work with a lower set of standards. Upon reflection, that seems to be a very good idea.

Her new love affair involves compromise, and change, and work.

Of it, she wrote: "It's good, Elizabeth. And real. And astonishing. And passionate. And hard."

I like her blend of engagement and realism. To me, she's hitting the right notes. And her story is both a warning and an inspiration to me.

A warning that standing in one place doesn't get you anywhere but where you are...

About the inspiration? It's possible that opening my mind, and my heart, may take me places I've never seen before -- only in the company of someone else. I'd like to know what that country looks like with someone who can push hard when I pull back. A guy who can get me laughing -- particularly at myself. A guy I want to see first thing when I get up, even if it's to argue about religion, or politics, or the best picnic venues in Chester County.

E with a crush. Gosh, I'd pay good money to see THAT.

All I can commit to is maybe...