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All of who I am

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Do I even like all of who I am? I know others don't. Others think I should be more fun. More engaged in my life. More active. More involved- with men, with adventures, with a new career, with a new look. It is exhausting just trying to keep up with who others think I need to be- or should be. And it distracts me from letting anyone see all of who I really am. Including me.

New Year's Eve two years ago I met a boy... at a bar (different boy than the boy I met... at a bar... when I was wearing a purple sequined Santa hat...Ha!) while I was out with my little sister. This boy and I exchanged phone numbers. He seemed nice enough although a tad tipsy, a lot of tad tipsy. As we were cashing out our tabs, we started talking, solely because we had matching credit union bank cards from the Valley (crazy coincidink). My sister and I had just spent our New Year's Eve talking mostly to each other- and being talked at by a few other very drunk less-mannered boys. So as he left with his friends and we got in our cab he sent me a text that he would like to see me outside of a bar, you know- maybe to go for a hike or show me around Bend since I was fairly new back to Central Oregon. I wasn't really sure about the whole thing. Yes, I thought I might be ready to meet someone, but I really wasn't sold on the idea of meeting a boy... at a bar. But I reminded myself that it was New Year's Eve and if there is any time of the year that you could meet someone at a bar... who was drunk... and it was okay or even excusable- then it had to be on New Year's Eve. Lies I tell ya!

Anyhoo... we started to text back and forth to get to know each other a tad and that is when it started to dawn on me that I really didn't have a lot to say about myself. Here is a guy who literally knows nothing about me- or my past, and I have this open canvas to paint myself on. Even at 48 years old I really wasn't schooled in how to do this part. You dig up a lot of yourself when you spend five years in a recovery program- but that is not really the stuff you want to splash on your canvas when trying to impress a guy. And recovery really wasn't so much about how to date, or how to find a mate, or how to forge ahead in new romantic relationships. Recovery was much more focused on how to pull myself out of that foul pit I had fallen (or climbed) down into and how to forgive and love myself forward. And, of course, how to build friendships with other females. It just didn't really dive into the deep end of the dating pool- especially for someone at my age who has an extensive dating- or rather, non-dating and marriage- or rather, divorce history. So my options were to either go slow, share very little, and gloss over the truth- or to just share what I share when I share it and not apologize cuz it is what it is, right?! I mostly did some of both (can ya blame me?). For the rest of my days I will be grateful for the years I spent in my recovery program. It helped me to learn that my past is my past, that it cannot be changed, and that the lessons I learned and the changes that occurred because of it, have made me who I am today. And that is not just a good thing, that is a truly wonderful thing! And the truth is, even though I accept the 'facts' of who I am- that does not mean that everyone else will, especially the male population. I cannot change the fact that I have been married twice, divorced twice, that I have two adult children, and that I have no uterus. Those are 'facts' that I am okay with in my life today. I used to cry about it, covered in shame, convinced that those 'facts' somehow made me an unloveable person. That was no way to live... or to think. So, when this guy started to ask to know more about me, I shared these 'facts' just not in such a bullet-point format.

Although I haven't waded in past my mid-calves in the dating pool in the past almost 8 years (I know, I know... WTH?!) I will tell you that it is not like it used to be way back when. A lot of guys today (notice I didn't specify men) are just looking to hook up. They have very little interest in really moving past that part in a non-relationship. Oh, they may profess their deep and honest desire to meet the right woman, to fall madly in love, to have babies, and to have that sweet little picturesque house with the white picket fence and a family dog romping happily in the front yard. But, and I repeat, but... they really just know how to sling the words that gals need to hear, and their guards come down. I want to be real clear, I do believe there are men out there who are sincerely looking to meet someone to share their life with. Men that have the right heart, the right intentions, that know what respect means, and that have actions that follow their words. But, I also know that today those men are far and few between. Our world has become so corrupted with instant everything that it leaves most men- and a lot of women, with no reason to be upstanding or to have a shred of integrity. Our society has lost respect and value for committed and faithful relationships. There are dating site apps for anything- literally anything, with no-holds barred. Personally, I find it disgusting and degrading, but to each his own. My point being, how is anyone supposed to navigate this 'new' dating world without a friggin' guidebook?

So back to the boy. We decide to meet, to actually meet in person, at.. you guessed it- a bar. You could argue that McMenamins is not a bar but rather a Pub, a Brew-house, a historic hotel, a music venue, a theater pub... but no matter, it is still a bar. Mind you, I have nothing again McMenamins. I have some very good memories of the times I have entered the McMenamins world, all but one. So we meet for dinner which turned into a shared pizza and beers. The convo went good, we laughed, I felt my sarcastic self surface (which is a very good sign), and we stayed to watch a Beatles cover band. After, he took me to tour the hotels secret rooms which I have to admit was way more fun than I expected it to be. I felt very relaxed, entertained, we laughed, we joked, we shared little glimpses of ourselves- that usual pressure to impress just wasn't there. Ah, but I digress. I failed to mention that before we met for pizza I felt this pure terror rise within me. Can I meet a boy for a date when I haven't been on a real date in over five and a half years (I know... Yikes!). Will I know what to say? Or how to act? Or how to order- is he supposed to pay or am I supposed to pay for my own? My head was reeling with what if's. And my anxiety... well, it was a bit off the charts. I wanted to shut it down with just backing out on the date all together. Turns out, he texted that we could just think of it as a non-date, just two people meeting for dinner and a show just see if we like each other first. I gotta admit, that banked my anxiety and helped me to focus forward without that crushing fear. I got dressed, made sure I had money on me, and headed out the door. There are times when you look back at seasons in your life and find your favorite snap-shot moment. That non-date was mine. It was a fun time, without expectations, when I felt more like myself than I had in a very long time, and it was before the downward spiral happened. That part, I don't like to remember so much.

We met up again not long after that first non-date. You guessed it... where there was alcohol. The time after that... where there was alcohol. You would think after spending five solid years in a recovery program, especially with my drug of choice not being alcohol or chemicals- but addicted men, that I would watch his two drinks to my one with flashing lights and sirens going off. But nope- there was only this little nudge of awareness. I easily explained that little nudge away with it being the weekend, or after a long hard day at work, or the getting to know someone new jitters. It's funny how you can work so damn hard at learning about what denial is, how to spot it, how to recognize it's many faces, yet... nothing. I instantly gave in without so much as a fight. I saw- and I chose, to make excuses. I would like to say it was because I was feeling weak, and maybe I was, just a little. But it had way more to do with the fact that I just had let myself get too lonely. And that can be a very dangerous place to be. I had just spent the past almost six years without physical touch, attention, or affection from a male (other than that one kiss at a bar... in a purple sequined Santa hat) and that loneliness allowed my guard to come down. By the second time we met up and he said he was starting to have feeling for me, and that he wasn't sure what to do with those feelings, that should have been another one of those flashing lights and sirens going off moments. But again... nothing but the smallest nudge of Hmmm... since he had been pretty clear from our first few texts back and forth that he wasn't really looking for a 'relationship', especially with a woman who was older, who had adult children, who couldn't have babies, and who had been divorced. By the third time we met up, he asked me if I wanted to stay over. I did not- even though parts of me really wanted to. I can look back now and see that was the recovered me trying to surface and make the right choice for me. But by the fourth time we met up... yes, again with alcohol involved, I did say yes and I did stay over. I won't say that I regret the whole experience. It was the first time in more years than I could count when I felt like I had the power to make a decision for myself- and my body, of what I wanted. Would I change any of it if I could? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no.

One valuable thing that I took from recovery is that there can be a valuable lesson in all things, both in the good and the bad. The good lesson was that I found out what it feels like to be in charge of my own body, to now allow someone else to dictate how and when I should say yes- or say no. That was a good take-away. And, although I did have sex outside of a committed relationship, I realized that that was between me and God. He didn't stop loving me because I let myself get a little too lonely. If anything, I grew to have a much deeper understanding of what mercy is. The other valuable lesson I learned from that close to six week involvement, notice I do not refer to it as a 'relationship', is that all of the old patterns, old mind dialogues, and old self abuse behaviors surfaced without much conjuring. And it was very important, if not necessary, for me to see that. In different seasons of my life I have been known to use and abuse drugs and alcohol. I was never an alcoholic or addicted to drugs. I was though severely addicted to men that were alcoholics and addicts. Spending time with a guy who could not spend time with me without drinking alcohol began to push that old stuff to the surface, and not in a good way. I found myself drinking socially at first. Then as the 'I have feelings for you but I don't want a relationship' began to take place, I found myself drinking not only socially but out of a fifth of Vodka at home, alone. That quickly turned into two fifths. I began a pattern of drinking to numb how lousy I was feeling about myself, to hush the voice of reason that was trying to warn me that my self-respect was going down the toilet, to find some way to laugh when all I really wanted to do was cry. I began to eat less and drop weight, to drink more especially at home alone, and to give myself away just to feel wanted by someone... even someone who made it painfully clear that he only wanted to be friends who 'messed around'. When I look back now, I can see how easy it was to slip into those old patterns. Those old patterns were how I had survived years and years of becoming tangled up with boys and men who didn't think I was worthy of respect, kindness, honesty, or decency. Those old patterns are what made it possible to look at myself in the mirror, or to rid myself of all of the yuck I felt inside and out when someone decided they were done with me. I felt a whole lot of yuck that first day after I stayed over with him. Instead of a text telling me how great I was, or how great our time together had been, I read through a very long detailed text of how that night made him realize with certainty how he wanted to meet someone special, to meet a girl his own age, to get married, to have babies and all the magic that went with that. It flattened me inside. A tiny tiny part of me wanted to tell him to go get f**cked, and I kind of did- but then he apologized for being insensitive, that he didn't mean to hurt my feelings, blah, blah, blah. And I forgave him. The nice guy came back, we hung out some more, we played around some more... he made clear we were just friends having fun, and I actually believed that I could do this. That at 48 years old I could play around, not get attached, and have a very 'adult' relationship with a non-committal guy. That. was. the. loneliness. taking. over. I just couldn't, or rather wouldn't, let myself face the truth of it.

You might be wondering what it actually took for me to open my eyes to this dead end dude. I would love to say I just looked in the mirror, remembered I loved me more, and gave him the old heave-ho. But it didn't actually play out like that. It pains me to admit that I may have allowed it to go on much longer just to have someone tell me they think I am pretty, that I am fun to hang out with, that they love to kiss and cuddle me. No matter the men who have shared my past, the one thing in all of the addiction, abuse and violence that kept me there was the affection, the kisses, and the cuddles- even if they came after something truly traumatizing. I just wanted (and needed) to feel wanted. It was no different with this dead end dude. Funny thing is, the last time we texted he was quick to make a comment to the effect of 'has someone been drinking Vodka again?'. Self-righteous coming from the jerk who had to drink his two and three to my one! I asked him if he had thought about coming over just one more time even though we had decided I wasn't able to handle the non-committal thing. He told me he didn't think that would be a very good idea. Rejection! When I snapped back at him, he went silent. Really silent. Ghost silent. And he was gone. That's when I learned what ghosting is.

What did it actually take for me to open my eyes to this dead end dude? It was crossing paths with him unexpectedly in the grocery store less than a couple of weeks later- and he acted like he didn't even know who I was. This was the guy who had pursued me. The guy who had initiated texting, invited me to meet him for dinner and a show, and then to meet up again. And again. And again. This was the guy who knew I had not been out on a date in over five and half years. This was the guy who knew I had waited almost six full years to be intimate with someone. And this was the guy who knew how I struggled with making that decision to get naked for the first time in almost six years- and not just naked by taking my clothes off. Coming face to face with him in the grocery store, and him not even acknowledging me... that was when my eyes were opened. Oh, believe me when I say I had all kinds of things I wanted to say to his sorry ass, but I didn't. I have even had three separate opportunities- in the same store no less. In the end, I decided he just wasn't worth it. When I went face-to-face screaming and crying hysterically in front of the man who raped me when I was 39, he looked me right in my eyes and said, 'What can I do to make it up to you?'. What. a. Mother. F**cker. I'll be damned if I let some dead end dude ever have that kind of power to cripple me. Remember when I shared before about how easily the old patterns, old mind dialogues, and old self abuse behaviors surfaced without much conjuring? It was, and has been, very important and necessary for me to see that. It showed me just how easy it is to let loneliness set in. How easy it is to allow your guard to be brought down when some guy you hardly know proclaims he is starting to have feelings for you. How simple it is to step back into a liquor store after years of next to no drinking and to let the old numbing agents work their magic. How quickly self-respect can slip through your fingers, and how dull the flashing lights and sirens can become in the background of your mind. I waited and worked on me for almost six full years and just handed it off to some guy who didn't even have the common decency to be honest to my face. That, my friends, is a lesson learned. Was the experience painful? Damn straight. Were those weeks something I wish I could take back. Sometimes. Would I ever give that guy the time of day again? Not on your life! I mean more to me.

Do I still believe that there are honest, and decent, and respectful men out there. Absolutely! Do I still believe, even after all this time, that God has someone hand picked just for me? Without a doubt! Do I need to give myself away just to find him? Never. All of who I am is meant as a gift to someone who is deserving of that gift. And right now, that someone happens to be me. Being single is not a bad thing. In fact, I have been a much better me being single than I may have ever been in a relationship. I like to spend time with myself, I like to take myself to dinner, I like to take myself to a movie, I like to buy myself something nice, I love to make myself laugh, and I can make myself happy. Having a partner would just be an added bonus. So if you find yourself somewhere in my story, don't settle for less than you deserve. No dead end dude (or back alley gal) is worth losing yourself over. All of who you are is meant as a gift to someone who is deserving of that gift. Even if, right now, that someone happens to be you <3. #alcohol #addiction #hookup #selfrespect

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