I’ll be moving soon. Still staying in Texas, but moving to a different city. After two years in my apartment complex, it was time for a change. After searching and perusing, I found a lovely new area that I’ll share more about in a forthcoming post. But before one moves, one must pack.
Read this if you need a reminder about how I feel about packing, especially when it comes to moving.
At the end of this month, I need to be ready to go. Ask me if I’ve done single thing to prepare for this timeline. Go ahead, ask me. Did you? Good. The crickets you hear are your answer.
I’m reminded of when I was in college. Knee-deep in essays and homework and my on-campus job and my off-campus job. When there was a deadline for a paper, I would write that thing at 2 in the morning the day it was due. Typing furiously on the computer in our basement at some ungodly hour. And I would, nine times out of ten, score high. Naturally, I started to believe that my waiting until the last minute to complete my homework was the key to my excelling; the last minute fear and adrenaline was somehow resulting in amazing theses statements and sentences. It had to. (What can I say? Youth.) Anyway, procrastination became a bit of a crutch. My younger brain theorized that waiting until the last minute met success.
Enter adulting. I do my best to get things done on time. Emphasis on my best. No worries: I pay my bills on time. But when it comes to a project at work that has a loose deadline…
Were we talking about packing?
I haven’t packed. Haven’t moved a thing. Empty boxes and crates crowd my living room, waiting to be used, calling out to me. We have 18 days…
One of my characters in one of my stories makes reference to not dousing her hope with her usual brand of doubt and cynicism. I am her and she is me. (Incidentally, one popular writer-related question I get is, “who are the people you’re writing about in your fiction?” I am them, they are me. What writer isn’t writing about themselves in some way? Anyway, digress. Back to the outside of the parentheses.) The truth is: I am terrified of hope.
We need hope. We thrive on it. It keeps us going. I hope in a lot of things. In a brighter future. In seeing my father again. In finally living what the Scriptures describe as “the real life.” But there’s one giant aspect of life that I hesitate to hope in, for fear of repeatedly breaking my own heart and spirit: love. I’ve discussed my track record when it comes to relationships. I’ve yet to meet my Person. The pathway to said Person hasn’t been easy; it’s been sad, disappointing, weird, head-scratching, and just ultimately completely unfulfilling. Naturally, when this happens more often than not, the wall builds itself. Brick after brick of solid, hard doubt. And when hope tries to poke her head in (could this be…?) I nudge her away and steel my chest for what realities may hit me in the face.
Admittedly, it stinks to look at things this way. But can you really blame me? Without the benefits of preserving myself, my sanity, my heart, I’d be in a corner somewhere, rocking back and forth and worse off than I already am. Of course, we must then discuss self-fulfilling prophecies. A good friend, more often than not, has reminded me that I tend to manifest negativity when it comes to finding my Person and finding love. She’s called me out on statements such as: no one wants me anyway, and whatever, I probably won’t find him, whomever he is. Regardless of whether my comments were made in jest (they were, on the surface), in her estimation, those comments end up becoming self-fulfilling prophecies: if I am expecting these things for myself, then I’m basically writing my own future. I’ve agreed with her and have promised to work on not pronouncing such negativity for myself. Deep down, though, I’ve struggled to communicate that those comments and related, unspoken thoughts come from a fear that believing the opposite and resting in hope will just leave me completely wounded, waiting, and disappointed. And so I frame things in dry, deprecating humor, hiding truths. (I try to avoid the whole self-deprecation thing as a rule, especially since I’ve done so much work to not relegate my own self to zero status as I did in the past. But old habits rear their heads when we’re talking about fear.)
Where is the balance, dear reader? How can I be both hopeful and realistic? How can I stop submitting to fear by way of self-deprecation and be mindful of what I say/nurture my own self, without appearing as if I’m on a one-track groove whenever it comes to talking about my personal life with my friends?
For four years (and really, for many years before, since I was an avid reader and was already consciously and subconsciously doing this), I analyzed plot lines, characters, meanings, subtext. I did this in everything I read. I did this in art classes, in play writing classes, and most certainly in the plethora of psychology courses I took. Looking for meaning. Looking for rationale. Looking for archetypes. Identifying and explaining symbols. Breaking everything down. And I did it well, to toot my own horn. And I loved every minute of it, too. I was one of those people anyway, like I mentioned before. Listening to music was always an adventure, for example, when it came to lyrics. What does it all meannnnn? I’d like to thank Led Zeppelin, by the way, for Stairway to Heaven and the Eagles for Hotel California–I spent many a sweet hour researching and looking for the meaning behind those intriguing pieces of music. (I still don’t know.) Anyway, my point in saying all of the above: when you’re already looking at the world that way, it makes it hard to not look at the world that way. I’ve discussed trying not to psychoanalyze and overthink things to death before. It’s a constant struggle. It’s a constant struggle to not look for underlying subtext and motives. This becomes even more difficult when it comes to relationships. When it comes to potential romantic relationships, to be specific.
Sometimes a hello is just a hello. Sometimes a touch isn’t more than a touch. Sometimes a look is not meant to communicate anything other than the natural progression in someone’s attention or line of sight. Logically, I know all of these things. But when you have someone in waking thought, and you want to find meaning, and you want substance…all those perfectly natural things become potential somethings. Plus, I’ve read fiction my entire life. I’ve written fiction my entire life. I’ve read the lovely pairings designed by authors. I’ve done the same. I want that for myself. So I recognize now that my search for meaning and depth in seemingly simple things is coming from a place where I want there to be meaning and depth–and those things may not be there at all. A mess.
But This Square Peg, you lovingly say, maybe there is something there. Maybe. But I can’t look for a symbol here. I don’t want to. I just want the real thing. And my nine year-old bratty self wants it now. But that’s another post. (That nine year-old though…she asserts herself during the most inopportune moments.) I’m just working on taking life and people at face value. That becomes more difficult when I have a writer’s heart and an English major’s brain, all of which long for 1) meaning and 2) control. And love. Actual, true, real love. Yes, I just went way, way deep on you.
So: what does it all meannnnn?
Let’s leave that question unanswered for now.
Talk to me in the comments about whatever you like, but specifically, if and how you deal with overthinking and unnecessary analysis.
This post is inspired by a very moving and honest post on In My Sunday Best, where blogger Sade openly discusses her experience with relationship rejection. Read it and reflect; I appreciated her candor and discussing the inspiring lessons she learned about herself. As I read it, it reminded me so much of my own journey. A journey fraught with rejection.
Before I go on, I want to thank my tried-and-true readers for hanging with me in this little corner of the webverse. I’ve always considered This Square Peg to be an online journal. And in a journal, you talk about the highs (loving my natural hair, my writing, my adventures) and the lows (managing my depression, emotions, and the various disappointments of life). Thanks for supporting your Square Peg through it all, with your comments, your follows, your reading.
My first foray into admitting my feelings for someone and the rejection that came after happened in the 8th grade. At the time, I didn’t necessarily feel rejected; although my declaration of “love” was by no means mutual, I still felt that the object of my affection and I became somewhat friends after all of that. Nevertheless, it started the ball rolling. The combination of movie fantasy, being a romantic (more on that later) and an intense desire to be loved/be in a relationship were usually the catalysts. Despite being a shy girl, something came over me during those moments–being bold and expressing how I felt meant more than anything. Throughout my 20s, it happened time and time again. Meeting a guy, finding myself attracted to him, eventually opening up and telling him how I felt. I continued on despite the pain of rejection; somehow, there was a degree of hope that one day, the person I was meant to be with would cross my path. But hope isn’t steel. Eventually, it all started to affect me: what was so wrong with me? Why didn’t they want me in return?
After this happened, I was officially done. I told myself that even if I was attracted to someone, the weariness on my heart and the embarrassment of putting myself out there with no mutual return were simply things I no longer wanted to risk. I was also suffering from what Sade eloquently described as “rejection as reflection.” Their rejection of me had translated into seeing myself with incredibly negative eyes. Unworthy. Unpretty. The rest. By the time my 30s came along, although I became committed to now loving myself and repudiating that negative self-view, there was no way I was ever going to put myself out there again when it came to relationships and matters of the heart.
These days, I continue to remain stalwart in not approaching a guy with my feelings; I’m fine with the menfolk doing some work. However, I also don’t believe in coyness or not being open if I share his feelings or his interest. I don’t believe in stringing people along. But that man hasn’t shown up.
Let’s talk about that word, yet.
A friend recently described me as a romantic. Deep down, I balked at the description. Something about that word completely turned me off; I imagined treacly women who were hopelessly waiting on fairy tales and other unrealistic, rose-colored wants for a relationship. Sure, I believe in love and in falling in love, but I’m also not naive to the uneasy parts of relationships. I lived in a household when things got all too real, at times. Never doubting that my parents loved each other, I was equally exposed to times when things weren’t so pretty and escape, by all parties, seemed ideal. So being described as a romantic wasn’t my favorite thing. But it’s me, folks. I had to analyze why it put me off so much. See the previous sentences. I associated a romantic nature with a weak nature. Weak and unrealistic and living in a total fantasy world. But that’s unfair. A romantic person who believes in love and wants it for herself can also be a realistic person who has her feet squarely planted on the ground. So yeah, I’m a romantic realist. It is what it is. Thanks to that friend who got me thinking and ruminating.
So, to wrap rejection and the yet in a pretty bow: not allowing my history with rejection to douse me with negativity, cynicism, and a belief that love will never come is something I’m trying to balance. I don’t want to give in to mentally throwing away the idea of love because it hasn’t appeared, or base my feelings on things not working out in my past. Like Sade reasoned, none of those guys were meant for me. Looking back, I can make that statement with absolute certainty.
Honestly, sometimes the hardest part of my life is the inertia of the day-to-day. The routine. The same ole. When you add to all of that the desire to share my days with another person…everything is compounded. Don’t get me wrong; I’m pretty sure inertia sets in with another person in the next room, too. No rose-colored glasses here. But it’s still a feeling, it’s my feeling, and it’s not easy. But for the purposes of chasing down positivity: there are plenty of people who aren’t here. So opening my eyes to another day, however drowning in the same ole, is an enormous blessing.
I plan on also chasing down some of the things that brighten my days, things I haven’t done in a while because the emotional and physical energy was thoroughly absent. Museum afternoons. Exploring new cities and places. Getting back to me, one step, one day, at a time.
I love that Jhené Aiko posted this on her Instagram story. (Courtesy of The Shade Room.)
I love that she was raw, open, and honest about the depth of her feelings.
I love that she sat with her feelings instead of running away from them and resorting to old, toxic habits.
I love that she spoke purely of the fear she felt in that moment.
I love the hashtag. Because it means that things can be going well, life may improve, darkness may give way to light, pain may dissipate–but a trigger is a trigger. And triggers can happen at any time. And they can push you to back to a place that’s all too familiar.
Which is when it’s time to speak on it, as Jhené did. Release it, find the words, and try very hard to say what you need to. Even if those words are covered in tears. Even if you’re sitting in an empty room. The walls can take it.
You really do. When you know that a friend, family member, or someone in your life is going through a pretty difficult time, you want to help them however you can. Believe me, your concern and love is highly welcomed and appreciated. However, because of lack of understanding, empathy, or just not knowing what to say, there are certain statements that don’t really help. It happens to all of us. Speaking as someone who has shared concern and needed concern, here are some statements that, honestly, can remain unsaid.
Is it really that bad?
This question minimizes what the person is going through. It’s almost as if you’re weighing acceptable levels of pain and misery. Pain is pain. Misery is misery. It’s not up to any of us to define what constitutes as either.
Have you prayed about it?
If you know your friend or family member well and you know them as a person of faith, this isn’t a question that needs to be asked. Nine times out of ten, they’ve turned to their Creator for help, solace, and endurance. And even if they haven’t, prayer is personal. Instead of asking this particular question, assure your friend that you’re praying for them.
Try to be happy.
They’re trying. Most folks don’t want to be down, blue, or depressed. But this is what the person is going through. Or their chemical wiring. Just support them.
Don’t think about it so much. (Or, if you stop thinking about said thing, it will happen.)
This is an interesting one. Definitely well-meaning. And I’m all for re-focusing energies. I’m all for looking for ways to direct your attention to things that will keep you fulfilled and busy enough that you don’t have the time to think about your current situation. Here’s the reality about me: I can have 100 things to do, but my brain is still going. This is me. Maybe it’s you. So rather than investing in the plethora of ways I can fool my mind into not focusing on my current situation, just be there for me during the times when it’s quiet, my mind is racing, and I can’t focus at all.
How long is this going to last?
Is there a defined length of time that a person is supposed to feel what they’re feeling? This question implies that you feel that there is, and it stings. Redirect: I’ll be here, however long you need me to be.
No one is perfect, certainly, and no one provides support or empathy perfectly. I know I’ve inserted my foot in my mouth several times in my attempts to offer support for the people in my life. But everything is a lesson. With all the amazing ways I’m presently being cared for by my friends and family, I can pay it forward when someone needs me. And at the end of the day, shouldn’t we want to be the persons we needed at a certain time?
“My sadness doesn’t take away from anyone else’s happiness and my sadness isn’t minimized because someone else has a sadder situation.”
I saw this quote a few minutes ago from Today show anchor Dylan Dreyer as she discussed her ongoing issues with infertility and sadly, a recent miscarriage. Contextually, it was just announced this morning that Dylan’s colleague, Jenna Bush Hager, is pregnant with her third child and that her other colleague, Hoda Kotb, adopted a new baby last week. Looking at the environment she’s in, then, you can imagine how her words struck me. I felt for her. Because those words are the absolute truth. Because those words are my truth.
~My sadness doesn’t take away from anyone else’s happiness~
Having longed for a partner and a love for many years now, I have shared in the utter joy of being present for friends, family, and others who have found their persons and their loves in life. I have smiled, cried tears of joy, cheered, whooped, encouraged, and have experienced every iota of their rejoicing. I have also experienced mind-boggling levels of sadness, loneliness, fear, and discouragement. I have cried tears of pain in my very private moments, supplicated my Heavenly Father for faith, love, and the power to simply go on, and have struggled to not drown in questions of why not me, why my person remained unseen and elusive. And I know I’m not the only one. I’m sure, whatever you’re going through in life, you’ve been there, as well.
~my sadness isn’t minimized because someone else has a sadder situation~
But I have another personal truth, something else that Dylan’s words spoke to, something I need to change: I tend to minimize my emotions when they escalate, believing that my sadness is nothing compared to what some other folks are going through. It’s my way of not drowning; whatevering it all and trying to think of others who have it worse. I even go as far as trivializing how I feel: how can wanting a love compare to the sheer suffering I know some people are going through? (We engage in a variety of things for self-preservation, don’t we?)
Anyway, let’s try to help each other, because my struggles continue, and I’m sure yours do, too.
As Dylan pointed out so well, you can be happy for someone and sad at the same time. It’s the duality of life. To me, we were wired to juggle, not just work and tasks, but our emotions. You can be genuinely thrilled for someone and still feel the pangs of your own personal distress. It’s life.
Don’t dismiss or whatever those difficult emotions. (I’m also speaking to myself here.) The world is large enough for plenty of people to feel what they feel. If someone is having it worse in life, pray for them and pray for yourself, too. You both need the same thing–relief–despite the differences in what you’re individually enduring.
I said it before and I say it to all of us and I say it to myself: please continue to hang on.
It’s been rough, mi gente. (One thing that characterizes the year so far is my newfound interest in watching Spanish videos on YouTube. Go figure.) Anyway, I’d love to say that my year has been going well, but…it hasn’t been easy for your Square Peg. I won’t go into too much detail. Just know that loneliness and sadness and painful self-reflection and unfulfilled expectations have been so real. So vividly real. Are you going through it? Life and all of that? I’d love to say that I’m handling it and healing but…it’s a slow-going process. Even writing has been hard. Even writing this brief post is difficult. Because I don’t have a desire to do much except lay on the couch these days.
But despite the slowness of the healing, there is some of it going on. What’s been working for me?
Prayer. I deeply believe in the significant presence of a Creator and a Heavenly Father in my life, and I see and recognize that He’s watching over me.
People. Because He’s been ensuring that my closest friends and family and confidantes continually reach out to me and check up on me. And I’m a private person when it comes to personal pain. The fact that I’m confiding in a few folks about what I’m going through is hardly random to me.
Pause. My desire to permanently be on my couch notwithstanding (I realize that I’m dealing with depression and the loss of interest in doing anything that comes with it), moments of deep rest have been helpful.
Whatever happens, if you’re having a hard go of it: speak up. Say something. And try very hard to hold on. Even if it hurts.
(One more thing. When you pick up on empathy in your life, really being understood, the presence of true compassion: these are the people that should remain confidantes and listening ears. Not everyone has this capability. Not their fault; to me, empathy isn’t a common thing that we all own and can share with others. I’m working on it myself. Anyway, when you see empathy and feel empathy, move in that direction. And own the right to not share your heart and confidences with everyone, and certainly with those that will never truly understand or don’t know how.)