On My Own & != Too Much
This has been an incredible year so far!
Since January 1st, I’ve met brilliant co-workers, made new friends, traveled to five countries (9 cities), reconnected with old friends, met someone special, and danced – danced – danced. For someone who has become accustomed to copious amounts of silence and solitude, all that has been considerable stimulation and emotion in a relatively short amount of time (especially for an HSP with C-PTSD like me).
Earlier this week during a very emotional time (yay menopausal hormones; intense, new, confusing feelings; and a full moon…all at once!), I was listening to Les Miserables “On My Own” (the ultimate song of unrequited love) and “I Dreamed a Dream,” trying to convince myself that my current tears were the direct result of having hope, of opening my heart again, of daring to feel new love and desire. I lamented being on my own, fully feeling the exquisite agony of unrequited, impossible love until the sadness naturally passed.
I started writing a blog post about being “too” — too much, too sensitive, too intense, too verbose, too needy, too emotional, too loud, too nice (critique, not compliment), too fat, too thin, too weird, too insecure, too dramatic, too fill-in-the-blank, as I’ve been told far “too” many times in my life.
As I struggle to find a balance between keeping protective boundaries while deepening new connections, sharing my life without over-exposing myself to the point of dangerous vulnerability, I remember my promise to myself: I will not minimize who I am to make someone else comfortable. A special person once told me that I should use my intensity as a filter. If someone couldn’t deal with the depth at which I experience life and love and joy and sorrow, then it’s best they’re not in my life, or at least keep their distance. I’ve learned that by minimizing myself, I become more susceptible to harm, in part because I am injuring myself by believing those toxic utterances that I am “too ____.” Sometimes I still believe it, and sometimes I still apologize for it…
It’s a process.
There have been two moments in the past two weeks that have (once again) validated that this “too” business is utter nonsense. First was the first date I’ve had in years. Although it didn’t work out for a second date, he was a nice enough guy (I suppose, at least over coffee). During the date I said something about being “too intense” but then corrected myself. He said he didn’t like that word “too,” which I thought was very kind.
The second was a conversation I had with a co-worker, one who (I’m thrilled to say) is becoming a dear friend as well. During our remote chats, I write about 5x the amount of words that he writes. This is not uncommon with me (just look at the length of this blog post), but I felt embarrassed about it. I apologetically typed, “too many words from me again.”
He responded, “
too many words.”
That really touched me.
Now…I digress with
too many words.
So after I cried that night over being “On My Own” and my (soon-to-be-former) husband, plus all I’ve survived, I remembered that I was pretty damn good company on my own! The mutual admiration I share with co-workers reinforced that belief. My growing number of friends reinforced that belief. My deepening friendships reinforced that belief, too.
Even more importantly, I didn’t need those reinforcements to believe it. All I had to do is look at how far I’d come, on my own. Although sometimes I’m “on my own, pretending he’s beside me,” other times I’m very content and happy to just be on my own.
A few things really stand out in the past few weeks on top of what’s listed above (yes, there’s
too much more!). These things were not about the pangs of disprized love, the ending of a good marriage, or the elation of a budding friendship. These things were about independence, bystander response, and self-protection.
When I was dancing with a dear friend and a new friend last weekend, some entitled ass kept trying to dance with my new friend, taking her by the hand and spinning her around. She was polite, as we women are socialized to be, but I was not. Fuck that. I was protective and proactive. For I have absolutely no patience or respect for a man who won’t take no for an answer, and she said no several times.
She said no by turning away. She said no by withdrawing her hand. She said no by moving someplace new, but he didn’t want to “hear” her no. Because, as all predators and other men who are blinded by their own privilege, none of that mattered. What mattered was he wanted her. Full stop.
I got between them several times, dancing closer to my new friend to punctuate her lack of consent, but he persisted. He got down on one knee in a mock proposal (in the middle of a crowded dance floor) to punctuate his desire, which I found utterly repugnant. I leaned over and shouted above the music in his ear, “Dude, she’s not interested. Go away.” He said (and I kid you not), “I don’t care. I want her.”
Ultimately I stood directly in front of him, between him and her, and told him into his face over and over to go away until his friends came and got him and led him away, apologizing for his behavior.
I was proud of myself for that.
The second time was when some plans changed in a way that would leave me alone at night with a man I barely knew. With few exceptions, I don’t feel safe alone with men yet, for I know they can do anything and no one would believe me. This guy was very nice. Probably perfectly safe, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I didn’t feel safe. It wasn’t about him, who he was or wasn’t; it was about me protecting myself and feeling safe. It was about me choosing my own safety above the possible hurt feelings of another. My heart began racing as the fight or flight kicked in, the closest thing to a panic attack in over three years.
But I handled it.
Within the hour I was packed, called a cab, made my polite apologies and believable excuses (so as not to hurt feelings), and got a hotel. After I was settled in my room with both locks bolted and shades drawn, it was still another hour before my heart returned to normal.
I told four close friends about it, grateful to have them to turn to. Two of them were women, and they certainly understood, since they too live as women in rape culture; and the two men were also sympathetic. They (I truly hope) didn’t take it as me being afraid of them (as there are two of the exceptions I mentioned above, and was alone with one of them most of that day), but saw it for what it was: a rape survivor needing to feel safe.
I got lost in my great job until my growling stomach distracted me enough to search for food. Without a second thought to price, I ordered room service with a complimentary glass of wine, thanks to my Hilton Honors Gold perks. After I ate my delicious pizza and drank the bittersweet wine, I went to the mirror to soothe myself, but I found I didn’t need soothing.
Instead I congratulated myself. I rejoiced. I stood in wonder at what a fucking great life I have! I rode my own white horse. I rescued myself. I was safe at a Hilton enjoying room service and drinking wine in England, and I wasn’t (for the first time in my life) stressed about the cost. I have good friends who cared for me and well-being. I’m valued and fulfilled at work.
I am living the dream, and I got here on my own.
Four years ago, had you told me that would be an integral part of an amazing team, I would not have believed you.
Four years ago, had you told me I would be traveling around Europe, moving from beautiful place to beautiful place, meeting so many wonderful, kind people, I would not have believed you.
Four years ago, when I was suffocating, choking on torment, grappling to just make it to the next moment, when I was cowering in the corner crying day after day, I would not have believed you if you told me that in four years I would be thriving, happy, and fulfilled.
I would also not have believed you had you told me my beloved husband was lying to me and would leave me before shutting me completely out, and that I would be relatively okay in spite of that monumental loss…but here I am, no longer just surviving.
I’m thriving in a way I would never have believed.
Since January 1, 2016, I’ve learned that I can trust myself. I can care for myself. I can support myself. I can soothe myself. I can protect myself.
…and I can do it all on my own.
That is too awesome.