Spotting Emotional Unavailability

A friend of mine texted me yesterday…”New blog topic: how to identify when someone is emotionally unavailable.” How the hell would I know? That’s the type I fall in love with over and over again. I texted back, “Haha…I would have to figure it out before I wrote it. Well, maybe I see if they are attracted to me. If they are, they are.” I’m not a psychologist, but I love talking about this stuff, and I write a blog, so I guess I’m the one who needs to do the research.

Like all good researchers, I first googled “What is emotionally unavailable?” I don’t know why. I know as much about it as anyone on the internet does. And, by the way, I think I’ve googled this topic about 1000 times, so I already know what’s out there. There’s a picture of my second husband…that’s emotionally unavailable. (I know…that was a cheap shot.)

In my mind, emotionally unavailable is someone who is unable or unwilling to invest the time and energy into building a relationship. Sometimes people are emotionally unavailable as a character trait. These are the ones that have no idea that they are emotionally unavailable or even that there’s a term for it. I went out with a guy from Match one evening. I asked him what his three…yes, three…ex-wives said about him. He said they told him he was emotionally unavailable. I said, “Well, are you?” He said, “Probably.” That was one of the easier ones to figure out. Duh. I wish they were all that easy to spot.

I know I’m attracted to emotionally unavailable men. I married two of them. At the time, I didn’t know that was the case. They were workaholics and chronically depressed. Now, I was depressed, too, and I would assume that meant I was emotionally unavailable as well. How can I invest time and energy in a relationship when I am struggling with depression that won’t go away? And, with depression, my filters wouldn’t allow me to have a good view of reality, so I couldn’t really be present and engaged. So, we were perfect matches. In reality, I think a lot of people, both men and women, are emotionally unavailable.

What are some signs? Like I said, I’m not a professional, but this is what I look for:

  • Addictions like chemical dependency,  workaholism, gambling addiction, sex addiction, pornography addictions, untreated codependency
  • Eating Disorders
  • Untreated depression or chronic illness that occupies a large chunk of time and energy
  • Married, in a relationship or just out of a significant committed relationship
  • Overwhelming life responsibilities

That being said, some people are emotionally unavailable right now. I knew that I was emotionally unavailable for two years after I divorced because I was consumed with grief and was dealing with some significant personal growth work. I needed to make myself emotionally unavailable in order to heal. I totally walled myself off from potential relationships except with women who were also in a healing process. It was an incubator of sorts, I guess. I slowly let myself become more emotionally available in the third year, and it probably took me another year to test relationships enough to feel safe in being vulnerable and to invest myself. This is another reason that 12 Step Programs tell people not to make major changes or get into a relationship during the first year of sobriety. A person just can’t emotionally invest in a relationship and do really tough things like kick an addiction. The energy and focus has to go somewhere, and usually its going to go to the “easier” thing.

The problem is that most people are not aware enough of their feelings and their limitations to realize that sometimes they just need to take a break. Or, they are so unaware of their feelings and limitations that they don’t realize they are not capable of a relationship. Others are chronically emotionally unavailable. They don’t know they have feelings because all they do is use relationships to distract them from looking inside themselves. A person is just a substance to use to make them feel better. Still others have numbed out so much that they are just drifting through life, and relationships make them feel alive. There are so many reasons, but they all lead to emotional unavailability.

For a long time, I said it was hard to spot. It’s actually not that hard to spot. It’s hard to say “off limits,” especially if you like the guy. They are going to say they are available, they want to stop working so much, they just need to find the right person, etc…. So, I will start making excuses for him, and listening to what he says instead of watching what he does. My second husband was still married when I met him. Yes, he had been separated for over a year, but he was not divorced. He told me that he was “spiritually and emotionally” divorced. He was just waiting on the legal piece. I already really liked him, so I let it slide. If I met him now, we wouldn’t make it past the first date. First of all, he had no long term friends. Anybody that is healthy emotionally has some friends. Relationships are important to them, and they know how to work to keep them. This is now a deal-breaker for me.

It’s not hard to spot a person whose work is out of control, who is using alcohol or drugs excessively, or is not consistent in their behaviors if I am looking. When I was younger, I wasn’t looking. I didn’t know I needed to look. Now that I’ve felt some pain because of this, I pay more attention. I ask more questions, and I don’t give my heart away so quickly. I know some people can schmooze you and lie and con you. That does happen. But, for most people, they are so unaware that there is anything wrong with their lifestyle, they will tell you. I’ve heard all of these in the last two years:

“I’m a workaholic.”

“My ex-wife told me I couldn’t have porn in the house, so I subscribed to Playboy to spite her.”

“I’m a prick.”

“I’m not looking for anything serious.”

“My wife died last month. My friends told me I need to get out here.”

All of these are code for, “I’m not available for a healthy, committed relationship.” Now, they may be available for sex or dating or friendship, and that may be just fine. I have to be honest with myself, though. That’s as far as it will go. When people show me or tell me who they are, I listen. I honor them and myself enough to accept reality as it is. If I don’t, both of us may get hurt or angry or both. So, the question I have to ask myself is whether or not I am emotionally available and want a relationship. Because, if I am and I do, I wouldn’t want this. If I’m not and I don’t, it might be a perfect fit.  I have to live in reality.

Girl Talk: The Lyrics of Female Love

Jill, Me and Shelly before the Half Marathon this weekend.

Women talk. We talk a lot. Sometimes when I’m around a lot of women, even I get overwhelmed from all the talking. I remember when I went to Hawaii for a week with 17 women, I got so sick of all the talk one night I went to bed early. I just had to have a break. But, it’s the way we communicate. You can see it in little girls. They learn early on that talking is the way to relationship. Women are driven by relationship, and talking is the primary means by which we relate, especially to other women.

I just spent an entire weekend with two very good friends. The premise was that we were running a half marathon in Nashville. But, essentially, it was a girls’ weekend and time to talk. I’ve known Jill for 16-17 years. We met working at Whirlpool. We’ve never actually lived in the same city. We were members of a team that traveled to field branches, and we often were together at meetings and at work functions. The true gift of that was it sped up our bonding process. We would be in a strange town with only each other for company. So, we hung out together. In addition, there were no boyfriends (neither of us were married) or other friends or other life responsibilities to keep us distracted. We just spent a lot of focused time together. I’ve known Shelly for only about 5 years, but we just recently became friends through our running. We are really just starting to get to know each other as women. We also met at work.

It’s interesting how connection happens for me with women. I usually experience an initial “small talk” time where we sort of catch up on what’s going on, how they feel physically, or any variety of things that on the surface are happening in their lives. Sometimes we may stay at this level, and that’s okay. Some women can’t move past it out of their own fear or because they are just not in a place to get vulnerable. We can usually sense that from each other, and it’s not a problem.

Totally hot guy that I had just had to flag down to take a picture.

“So, what did you buy at the expo?” …….”I bought  two bras. I loved the ones I bought last year, so I bought some more. And, of course, I bought more headbands, haha…you know, if you buy three, you have to buy four to get that free one.!”

“So, how are your kids?”

“How’s work? Are you working less these days?”

Most of the time, because women are so moved by talking, we start to talk about deeper things, funny things, sad things and all the other things that bring up feelings. We are so emotional, and talking is the vehicle that we use to access our feelings.

“Do you still have your cats?”…..”I had to put my cat down last year. It was really hard. Brian was out of town, and I had the kids. It was really hard making that decision. I just never knew if I was doing the right thing. It’s hard to know.”…..”Yeah, I had to put my dog down a couple of years ago, and it was so much harder than I thought it would be. He was my dog before I got married, so it was the last of my stuff. It was really hard for me. I didn’t expect it.”

“So, are you still really hot for your husband after all these years?”…..”Yes, I mean I have to let go all of all the life stuff that’s going on, but, when it’s just me and him, and I can get in that place, he really does it for me. (giggle)”

“I feel like I’ve lost myself. I’m trying to get back to who I want to be. I just don’t know who that is.”

“I never thought I was attractive. This is the first time in my life that I’ve ever let myself feel this way, and it’s so much fun!”

“I remember realizing one time when I was pregnant that I was crazy. I just was really cognizant for a moment that I felt insane.”

Beautiful Jill

The talk goes on and on. It gets really deep and tense and emotional, and then we laugh and lighten up to ease the tension somewhat. It often feels like a roller coaster to me or like music the way it swings so high and low and fast and slow. It’s spiritually connecting, and it can be intensely bonding. I have had women friends whom I’ve barely known tell me things that they’ve never told anyone else on the planet. When it feels right, we say it. And, we don’t apologize. If this happens with a man, it usually gets really awkward for a minute, and they will use humor or minimizing to erase the tension. Women don’t really do that. Some do, but most are more comfortable with emotions.

And, the laughter is the most fun. OMG…We laugh until we cry. My face hurts after a weekend like this one because of how much we laugh. Everything is funny, and we tell stories and make fun of everything that happens. We tell story after story of when we were together the last time, what happened with old boyfriends, what happened with their kids, and so on and so on. I usually cry at least once, too. I know I cried this weekend when I was reading my blog “The Gift” to my friend Jill. If she was a man, she would’ve run for Kleenex or apologized for making me upset. Not women….we just witness each other’s tears. They are so normal, and sometimes we cry with them. That’s the best!

We went out Saturday night, and I felt so sexy and fun. It had nothing to do with my outfit or the men I met. It had everything to do with my time with my girlfriends. There were several bachelorette parties out this weekend, and we talked about how young they were. Were we ever that young? They have no idea what they are about to do. They can’t know. It dawned on me that I didn’t “get” it at that age, this connection with women. I remember thinking that alcohol could make me feel sexy and fun. Then, I thought that finding the right man would make me feel that way. What I’ve learned is that it’s not something that can come from the opposite sex no matter how kind they are. Those feelings come from the inside. They come from tapping into my feminine energy and becoming a woman that is sexy and fun. My connections with women build that in me. Those connections help protect me from the men and the substances that take away from my power. I’ve often heard that “men become men in the company of men.” It’s the same for women. We become women in the company of and in connection with other women. It’s important. It’s life giving.

I drove home from Nashville with a huge smile on my face. I wasn’t thinking about the dancing the night before or the great boots I bought or the race I ran, although all of that was fun. I was thinking of the words we shared, of the bonds we forged on this weekend. The three of us…so different in so many ways… but so much alike in our words, our lyrics, the music we make in life…I can’t wait ’til next year. There will be so much to share through the lyrics that we sing.

 

 

 

Living: Sticking it to Me

I’ve shared that I struggled with depression for many years. My depression has actually turned out to be one of my most blessed gifts. I know that may sound weird, but it has forced me to take care of myself, and the fear of it coming back keeps me motivated to continue living a healthy life. I know that my depression will come back if I don’t continute to exercise, keep my stress level low, treat my anxiety, minimize my intake of coffee and sugar and get acupuncture. I wouldn’t have discovered acupuncture if it hadn’t been for my depression.

My first acupuncturist was at East Wind Acupuncture in Chesterton IN. I went to her to try to get off my anti-depressant. She taught me a lot about Chinese Medicine and the difference between it and Western Medicine. I believe that both have their place. I use acupuncture to keep me healthy and prevent health issues. Once I get sick, I use Western Medicine as an intervention unless its something mild like a cold or stomach virus. Acupuncture works really well on colds and stomach viruses. I went initially for my depression, but I continued because of all the things acupuncture does for me.

This is the way acupuncture works. The needles stimulate the “chi” or “qi” which travels along the meridians in the body. Don’t ask me what they are, I just know they have some charts that show the meridians and the acupuncture points on the wall in my current acupunturist’s office. She, Marlene Bair, can probably tell you the scientific reasons it works better than I can. I know that when my chi is blocked in a certain area, and she sticks a tiny, hairlike needle in there, I can feel the chi jolt into action around the pin prick. It does hurt,  but it stops hurting as quickly as it started. If I get regular acupuncture, I find that I have more energy, I’m drawn to healthier habits, I crave healthy foods, and I have less pain.

I think acupuncture is pretty amazing. I had an upper back injury for about 5 years from lifting weights the wrong way. Keeping the pain at bay was one of the reasons I did yoga. One day when I was having an acupuncture treatment, I asked my acupuncturist if she could do anything about my back pain. She said she would try. She stuck a needle in my right hand. Within 5 minutes, I could feel the pain melt away….AFTER FIVE YEARS!!!! I couldn’t believe it. I literally felt the pain melt away as if it was butter dripping off an ear of corn. She told me that I was holding my emotions in that spot. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do believe that we hold emotions in our body, and I was going through the grieving process during my divorce. Whatever it was, it stopped hurting and didn’t come back.

This is what you can expect if you go to an acupuncturist. They will ask you a lot of questions about your emotional, physical and emotional life. In Chinese Medicine, they believe it is all connected. You will go to a quiet room where you can lie down. The practitioner will come in and place needles in a variety of different points that they deem necessary for treatment of your specific problem. Typically, I get stuck with about 5-10 needles. Then, I rest for about 40 minutes to an hour. The practitioner comes back and removes the needles. During the session, I get very relaxed. Some people sleep, but I rarely ever do. When I’m done, I always feel very balanced and centered, no matter what state I was in when I got there.

The best way to get an acupuncturist is to get a recommendation. There are a couple of websites where licensed Acupunturists are listed, but if someone you know has had a good experience, that’s the best recommendation. I recommend my acupuncturist to everybody, and I’ve never had anyone that was disappointed. I have sent people to her for menopausal issues, menstrual problems, depression, food issues, addiction problems and anxiety. I’ve heard it can help with infertility but I’ve had no experience with that. If you are in the Houston Area or in Memphis, I recommend Marlene Bair. She’s awesome and is really good with women’s issues. She has a gentle style and works with diet, herbs, aromatherapy and Reiki.

My friend Rachel who sees Marlene said, “I’ve never recommended acupuncture to anyone that they didn’t get some benefit from it. I know, for me, it keeps my pain and my fibroid problems at bay. I couldn’t work without it.” Thank you, acupuncture…anything that alleviates pain and promotes wellness is a gift to me.

The City of Bridges: Pittsburgh

The view of the city from Mt. Washington

I lived in Pittsburgh from August 1984 – June 1985. I moved there because my first husband had the Steelers beat for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It was the first time I had ever lived in a big city. I loved it! I’m doing some training in Pittsburgh this week, so I thought I might share some of the facts of the city with you. It is really a lovely place and has an interesting history. In the last decade, it has been consistently ranked among America’s Most Livable Cities. Pittsburgh sits at the intersection of three rivers:

  • Allegheny River
  • Monongahela River
  • Ohio River

The cleanup of the rivers is an interesting story unto itself. But, I’ll focus a bit on the city here in this blog. Read this story if you want to know more about the greening of the Pittsburgh rivers.

In the early part of the 20th Century, Pittsburgh was a steel manufacturing city. I had some relatives who lived here, and my Uncle told me that you couldn’t wear white shirts downtown because they would be gray by the end of the day. The pollution and ash would be all over you. In the 1970s and 1980s, the steel industry went overseas, and Pittsburgh faltered. I moved there in 1984, so the city and its people were in the middle of that struggle. I remember talking to several people whose husbands had been out of work for years. The economy was depressed. There was a major effort at that time to retrain steel workers to be technology workers. The city visionaries wanted to make Pittsburgh a technology capital. Today, that dream has been realized. Google, Apple, Microsoft and numerous other technology leaders have offices here.

FedEx Office in Moon Township

I came here to train some IT Managers from FedEx Services. The headquarters of FedEx Ground is located in Moon Township, PA, right outside of Pittsburgh. It’s a beautiful facility and houses about 5,000 workers. It is constructed of glass and steel. Large, open areas take advantage of an abundance of outdoor light. The feeling is one of spaciousness and modern design. FedEx has found a place in Pittsburgh’s economy. The Great Hall at Heinz Stadium (the new stadium built when Three Rivers Stadium was demolished) was named The FedEx Great Hall just last week. The FedEx employees here were pretty proud of that.

Pittsburgh is a big sports town now and in 1984. The Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins are the big professional teams locally. All of the stadiums sit in the midst of the downtown area. The city is nicknamed the “City of Bridges”. Legend has it that there are more bridges in the city than any other city in the world. At last count, there were 76 bridges in the city limits. Wikipedia has information on Pittsburgh’s bridges if you are interested.  It is truly beautiful. I remember seeing icebergs for the first time floating in the rivers in Pittsburgh. That was pretty impressive for a Louisiana girl who was lucky to see a large mud puddle freeze over in the winter. I was astounded that rivers could freeze.

My first wedding was here.  Our small wedding party had a celebration dinner at The Le Mont’ Restaurant on the side of Mt. Washington that overlooks the city of Pittsburgh. I remember it being a fabulous view and a very wonderful and romantic evening. For a young 23 year old hick from Louisiana, it was pretty impressive. I was on top of the world, literally.

One of my favorite places to eat here was Vincent’s Pizza Park. We called the pizzas Vinnie’s Pies. OMG…that was the best pizza ever. I’m sorry, Chicago pizza fans, Vinnie’s beats you hands down. But, I’d love to have them side by side and judge a contest between the two. I remember going there with another couple we knew and stuffing ourselves with Vinnie’s Pies. I thought about finding the store tonight, but, apparently Vincent’s Pizza Park abruptly closed its doors in May of this year. Dang….I guess I’ll just have to remember it.

Heinz Stadium

Some of my favorite movies were filmed in Pittsburgh. Groundhog Day with Bill Murray was filmed in the city and in a small town outside of Pittsburgh. The Deer Hunter was filmed here and, of course, Flashdance. Locals here told me that Pittsburgh is a big film location now. The Dark Knight Rises is one of the more recent big name movies shot in the City of Bridges.

Famous foods that started in Pittsburgh are Clark Bars, Klondike Bars and Heinz Ketchup. The owner of Heinz, Henry Heinz, bought all of the products of a local competitor and sank them in the Allegheny River in the 1880’s. Clark Bars were started in 1886 on the North Side of town. Klondike bars came from a local grocer named Isaly’s.

I loved Pittsburgh. Maybe it was because of the excitement in my life when I lived there. Maybe it was because of the city itself. It could have been because of the rolling hills and the four seasons that were new experiences for this southern girl. Whatever it was, I loved it and have fond memories of this city. Maybe you can visit here someday to see if you would enjoy it, too.

Information on visiting Pittsburgh:

Imagine Pittsburgh

Inspiration: Acceptance is the Answer

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It never ceases to amaze me how I need to hear something, and somebody else will say it. I decided today to write a blog about a topic that someone else recommends. Initially, I had decided to write on acceptance because I’ve had a few things happen in the last day or two that are challenging my “acceptance” skills. What do you know? The first person that answered my challenge said, “Acceptance.”. Damn…

My first sponsor drove me crazy having me read this passage from Page 449 (first 3 editions, pg. 417 in the 4th edition) of Alcoholics Anonymous or The Big Book as it is widely known:

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.

Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

It never failed that whenever I called her about some really big issue in my life, she would tell me to read this page. Damn….

I left my iPad on a plane last night. I’m really embarrassed about it, and I’m really mad at myself. It’s not new thankfully, but that thing was expensive. I’ve been doing things like that in the last few years. I just can’t juggle as many things and remember everything. Something gets lost. Usually it’s my keys or my phone, but I generally find them in a short period of time. But, this time, something really got lost. I had already boarded the second leg of my flight when I discovered it was gone, so I had to wait until I got to the next stop to check on it.

I was coming out of my skin on that plane wanting to change the fact that I had left it. I kept thinking through all the scenarios that could have happened to prevent me from leaving it on the plane — as if that was going to help. Then, I just got mad at myself and how stupid I was to leave it. Why did I even bring it? I said all kinds of mean things to myself. When I realized how tense and angry I was getting, I started to tell myself to accept the fact that it happened, I may never get it back and that people lose stuff, even me. It took awhile to talk myself down off the ledge, but I got there. By the time I got to the baggage service area and talked to the woman about filing a claim, I was pretty calm. All I could do is just do the next right thing and accept the outcome. The horse was already out of the barn.

Accepting things as they are has not come easy to me. I grew up with a false sense that I could control the outcomes of situations, how people react and even how I would feel. It was a way for me to feel safe to think that I could control things. But, this is not reality. There are lots of things I can’t control. In fact, there are more things I can’t control than things I can. And, that’s not easy for me to accept. Right now, my flight is delayed to Pittsburgh. The problem is the weather, and I may not get there tonight or I may get there really late. Either way, it’s going to be a pain because I have a training there tomorrow. But, I can’t do a thing about it unless I have the power to change the weather and open the D.C. airport. And, I don’t have that power. So, I may as well use the time I’ve got to write about acceptance. Who knows, maybe somebody else made a big mistake and needs to accept the reality of their situation. This blog may be the venue for them getting what they need. That’s how recovery works, doesn’t it? Oh…and my flight just got called…I’m on my way. 🙂

Counting to Three…My Siblings

Our family a long time ago…

There are four of us. I have three siblings. I am the oldest. I have a sister, Susan, who is 14 months younger than me and two brothers, Sammy and Terry, three years and five years younger than me, respectively. I saw my brothers this weekend on the occasion of the death of one of Momma’s siblings. The death of Aunty Shirley really made me think of the importance and uniqueness of the sibling relationship.

I had lunch with Momma and her sister, Aunt Carol Ann, and her brother, whom we call Uncle Bumpy. I have no idea why he is called that, but I’ve called him that all my life. Maybe that calls for a little research…but, that’s a blog for another day. As we ate lunch and discussed the death of their sister and the recent deaths of Uncle Bumpy’s wife and Aunt Carol Ann’s son, I thought of how significant it was to lose a sibling. For the first time in their lives, their sibling gathering was not four people. For the first time, they were three.

Me and Susan in our thirties

I know things about my siblings that I will take to my grave. Those are their stories to tell. And, it’s not that these are secret stories, they are just stories of growing up and learning things the hard way, the way we all learn them. They are stories of intensely personal events that  took place within the walls of the immediate family home. My siblings know stories about me that no one else knows. We have experienced some of the same events as children, but we all have our unique interpretations and reactions to them. I can tell the stories of my childhood to others, but my siblings lived them. I don’t have to tell them anything. They already know.

My sister and I shared a bedroom. So, she really knows a lot about me. We even shared a bed when we were really little. We played together, argued, fought and cried together more times than I could ever count. We’ve been through times when we were not close, and we’ve been through times where nothing could separate us. We look alike. We look so much alike that people  can’t tell us apart. After the wake Sunday, Susan called me. She said she could hear people whispering to each other, “Is that Susan or Sharon?” She giggled. Things never change. I answer as easily to Susan as I do Sharon. And as much as we are alike, we are totally different. Susan chose my Christmas presents by looking for something she hated. She knew I’d love it. We had totally different styles.

Me and Susan

I was grown and gone by the time my brothers were in high school, so I missed a lot of their growing up years. I just remember being a tomboy and playing baseball with them in our backyard. Terry was sort of my favorite because he was the baby, and everybody picked on him. He acted like he was tough and was always willing to fight, but I got the sense that he was very sensitive. I really tried to appeal to that side of him. Sammy was athletic and a great student. I think I just thought Terry needed me more.

We are a family of writers. Even though none of us except Daddy wrote for a living, we all write. And, we are all good writers. For my 50th birthday, each of my siblings wrote me letters. It was then that I started thinking about the sibling relationship and how unique it is. Every one of them wrote at length about the time I moved out to go live in South Texas and work for a newspaper. I was the first to move out and get a job. For me, I was just going on with my life, and it was very exciting. But, for the ones left behind, it was different. My sister said, “I was inconsolable. I cried for an entire day.” WHAT???? I had no idea. She said she knew I would be back, but things would never be the same. And, she was right. Both of my brothers watched me launch with great interest to see how I would fare. They both described this at length. They wanted to see the first one of us go out and make a life and see if it could be done. I do remember that time being scary for me. I didn’t know if I could make it on my own. But, apparently, they were watching, too. If  I’d known they were watching, maybe I would have been a better role model. But, then again, I did the best I could.

Me and Susan before we went out on the night of my high school graduation

As rewarding as the sibling relationship is, it is just as difficult. As we are growing up, we have a drive to be special. It only makes sense that we often form our personalities in opposition to our closest relationships, our siblings. I see it in our family. I joke that one day my brothers will run against each other in a heated political election. They have such differing views on the world.  These differences, natural sibling rivalries and other natural relationship stressors can sometimes take a toll on sibling relationships. For every pair of siblings I know that are close, I know a pair that haven’t spoken in years. And, in each of those breaks, there is a deep sense of loss even if there is nothing more than can be done to repair the divide.

As I lunched with Momma and her siblings this weekend, I realized what a loss it must be to lose the first sibling to death. Aunt Shirley is someone Momma knew her entire life. She was the oldest so she was there when Momma was born. They were friends until Aunt Shirley died. How do you walk through that first day and the following days without someone who has always, ALWAYS been there? For that set of siblings, it must be really hard to realize now that they are three…and one is forever gone. It really made me think about my siblings and what that would feel like. I just can’t imagine the loss. In fact, I asked Momma how she was doing, and she said, “This is harder than when Momma died.” I believe it.

Sammy, Susan, Me and Terry at our cousin Eric’s wedding a couple of years ago.

If things go in a logical order, I will go first. But, of course, it rarely happens that way. There will be untimely illnesses, accidents and other things that may screw up the natural order. But, if things do go in order, what will it be like for my siblings when they are three? Will it be like when I went off to another place after college? Will I be blazing a new frontier beyond the veil?  After all, since I’m the oldest, I will be one of the very few people they have known every single day of their lives….until the day I’m gone. I just hope its a really long time before we ever have to count to only three.

Girl Talk: Ahhhhh…Those Boys

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Man Warning: the intended audience for this post is heterosexual women. You are treading on holy ground if you choose to read this! 😉

So, let’s talk about boysmenguyshotties…eye candy…whatever you want to call them. Men—they are that undeniably frustrating, hard to understand, totally irresistible opposite sex. After both of my divorces I went through a period of time where I was totally uninterested in men. I just wanted my life back and didn’t want to share it with anybody. But, eventually that urge to find that hard body to snuggle with, laugh with and yes, get naked with starts driving me back to the dating field.

I don’t know if men really understand how scary it is for us to date. First of all, we are so driven by our emotional life. If we start to really like somebody, it’s scary to let ourselves go there because it hurts like hell if we get dumped or if we have to hurt him. I know there have been times in my life that I haven’t dated specifically because I didn’t have the energy to deal with the emotional fallout. If I finally get over that hurdle, which is a big one, I then have the physical safety issue to worry about. There are so many dangerous men out there that I don’t even mess around with anybody that seems unsafe anymore. How do I judge safe men to date?

For me, a man is safe, emotionally and physically if:

  • He honors my boundaries and doesn’t try to talk me out of them.
  • He has some awareness (and preferably accountability) of his part in his past relationship failures.
  • He is consistent – that “come here, go away” crap is emotionally unsafe for me.He has at least one strong, long term male friendship, preferably more.
  • He is at least a year from a divorce or live-in relationship.
  • He has no active addictions to substances, pornography, gambling or sex. Workaholism and untreated codependency are big yellow flags as well.

Once I get past the safety issue there aren’t a lot to choose from…just kidding…well, maybe! I’m trying to be hopeful! The rule I try to follow is “If you are not into me, I’m not into you” – PERIOD. I’ve always been attracted to the “come here, go away” type all my life. My last experience was so horrible that I run from it now. I usually have to have some other woman chasing me so I’ll run, but I can’t do that again. It destroys me emotionally. It is
way too much work. Give me a guy that’s just who he is and is into girls and me in particular, and I’ll be happy as a clam.

So, what do I love about guys that keeps me coming back for more? Well….let me count the ways.

I love the way they are obsessed with their toys…not THAT toy….their boats and motorcycles and garages, etc. On Match.com they have pics of themselves with their cars and fish and motorcycles. I chuckle affectionately every time I see one of those pics.

I love the fact that they are little boys inside. If they ever let you get past that ego and fear driven rough exterior, they are so sweet and vulnerable and insecure.

I love masculine energy and focus. It’s so much more focused and driven than my emotionally driven feminine energy. I just love it when a man takes charge and takes care of things. Oh, and give me one that’ll stand up to me when I’m wrong – that will steal my heart forever.

I love a man that likes women. I don’t mean one that likes to bed women…-although that would be part of it. I mean one that likes the fact that women are different and they can’t figure us out. I love a man that’s fascinated by the opposite sex and really wants to know the particular woman they are dating.

My favorite…Tim McGraw

I love a man that likes to kiss. If a man can just enjoy kissing, it tells me that he can wait..he can be patient…he can enjoy the moment. That’s what sex is, right? Being present and enjoying the moment? For that matter, that’s what life is about, isn’t it?

And my Achilles heel is a man that is intelligent and has a way with words. This is the one where I can start lying to myself about reality.

“Well, he drinks a little too much, but it’s not that bad.”

“Yeah, he’s still married …….. but only legally.”

“So, he wears a red suit and a cowboy hat to cover up his horns…it’s just a fashion statement.”

The fact is that being with a member of the opposite sex is difficult because…well… they are opposite us on a variety of levels. But, the gift of that work is that it has stretched me to appreciate my femininity more and to appreciate people who are different. When I was younger, I couldn’t tolerate differences very well. I hope as I’ve become more experienced that I can tolerate the differences better and accept the fact that everybody has shortcomings. Who knows? I’m an imperfect work in progress.

Doesn’t every little girl dream of being Scarlett O’Hara that day at the BBQ at Twelve Oaks, surrounded by all the young bucks in the county? Every one of them posturing for a dance with her…..her giggles and smile being the focal point of all that beautiful masculine energy…ahhhh…that’s the stuff that life is made of.

But, then there was the war, and they all ran away, leaving her to take care of the damn house.

Reality bites, Scarlett….

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Living: Homemade Chai Tea

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I am a coffee drinker, pure and simple. I like it as black and bold as it can get with lots of half and half. No sugar, please, I’m sweet enough. 😉 My email address for many years was “coffeefreak@hotmail.com.” I worked at Starbucks in Indiana. I love the stuff; always have. So, when my acupuncturist told me to cut out coffee, she may as well have said, go home and cut off your arm. But, I trust her.

She told me that the coffee was contributing to my depression. It took me 6 months to cut it out, and it was really hard. I would have a cup every now and then to be the rebel that I am. I started to see that when I was coming down off the “high”, I did get depressed. How much of my depression was the aftermath of all that coffee I was drinking?

I switched to chai green tea for my morning drink. Green tea is good for you. It actually improves my health in a lot of ways. It’s great for my skin, anxiety and for energy. The ginger is great for combatting inflammation. So, if you are an aging athlete like me with sometimes creaky or painful joints, drink this on a regular basis. I can tell the difference in my body when I’m drinking it regularly.

The chai spices quench my taste buds for a bold flavor. I serve it in a big mug with soy milk or almond milk. If I have a sweet tooth, I will add some cane syrup or honey. I keep a couple of gallons of it in my refrigerator, and my friends are always looking for it. Its really yummy. It can be made on the stove or in a crockpot. Enjoy!

I drink it as tea but also use it:

As a cooking broth
As part of the water when cooking oatmeal
For the liquid in smoothies
To spice up anything I’m cooking

Green Chai Tea

2 gallons of water
1/2 lb. unpeeled (or peeled) coarsely chopped fresh ginger
9 tea bags: black tea works as well as green
Whole black peppercorns, about 10 (optional)
Whole cardamom, about 6-7 pods (optional)
2 sticks cinnamon (optional)
8-10 whole cloves (optional)

Break the spices -except the cinnamon- in a mortar and pestle or with a knife on the counter. Boil the chopped ginger and the spices for 10 minutes in the water. Turn off the heat and add the tea. Let the tea steep for one hour. Remove the tea bags and steep the rest of it for 3-4 hours. Keeps for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Crockpot version: I throw it all in, slow cook it on low for about 6-8 hours.

Bon Voyage Aunt Shirley

The three Fair sisters…Aunt Shirley, Aunt Carol Ann and Momma (Linda Kay) at my cousin Eric’s wedding a couple of years ago. It’s the last photos I have of the three of them.

I got a call from Momma this morning. I could tell she was in tears. She left a message and told me to call her or my brother Terry back. I called Terry because her line was busy, and I said, “What happened?” This year has been a tragic one for my family, particularly my Mother’s side.

We lost Aunt Rose to cancer after a long, long battle. My first cousin, Jerry, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident this summer. It’s getting scary now everytime the phone rings and a relative’s name populates on the Caller ID. Statistically, it’s not always going to be death announcement when they call me, but emotionally that’s what I’m always fearing, especially when the call comes before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night.

Terry said, “I don’t know. They think maybe it was a heart attack.” I’m like, “Who??? Terry, who died?” It was my Aunt Shirley, my Mother’s oldest sister, the matriarch of their remaining family.

I have nothing but great memories of Aunt Shirley. They had a camp down the street from my parent’s place in Pierre Part, LA. So, I would run into her every now and then when I was down visiting. The hard part about living away most of my life is that I don’t see extended family much. I get together with my immediate family as regularly as I can, but seeing extended family is much more difficult to do. In recent years, Aunt Shirley inspired me by “living her dream” and traveling and just having a ball with the other “widowwomen”, as Momma calls them. If I remember correctly, she even went to Italy in the last few years after my Uncle Cecil died.

My Uncle Cecil at their camp on Graveyard Island

My favorite memories of Uncle Cecil and Aunt Shirley are at their place on the Amite River. When I was small, they lived in Denham Springs but always loved the river. Their family was always the cool one that water skiied and had the older teenaged kids. There were four kids in their family, too. They moved to a house on the Amite River sometime in my pre-teen years. It was a beautiful house sitting back from the bank a little but close enough to get a view. There was a little beach, and we always hung out there. Aunt Shirley and Uncle Cecil knew how to have fun. They were always the ones throwing the party. We had countless family reunions in their yard with badminton and homemade ice cream. I can still hear Aunt Shirley’s laughter after the alcohol had started flowing on the adult side of the house. I can never remember having a dull time at Aunt Shirley’s house.

Aunt Shirley’s immediate family was gathered at her house this morning, doing the usual things that have to be done after a death. The kids that I knew are now grown and have kids and grandkids of their own. But, both of their parents are now gone. I can’t imagine what that is like. My cousin, Bonni, said Momma called to tell her the news. That surprised me. I guess I never thought about who would announce the deaths in a family once the parents are gone. Bonni, in her sweetness and grace, felt so bad for Momma because it must have been difficult to deliver that message to her sister’s daughter.

My Aunt Shirley and My Aunt Rose are captured in this photo at Eric’s Wedding

There have been three funerals in my family this year. I was not able to get away for the other two. Time will tell if I can make it to this one. Even though I’m not there, I know the scene. I know the faces. I know the ritual and how it will flow. The rituals are there for us, the survivors. The loved ones are gone and are in a better place. I imagine that Aunt Shirley and Uncle Cecil are somewhere among the stars catching up right now. I would imagine they are having a cocktail even if it is only noon. It’s time.

The Act of Surrender

Someone told me about the concept of a God Box a long time ago. I don’t even remember when I first heard of it or who told me. I heard about the concept long before I really needed one. A God Box is a tool to help me surrender those things I can’t change. I write down the things that I keep obsessing about and ritualistically “give them to God” by putting them in my God Box.

I looked for the right box for a long time. I just never found anything that grabbed me. One day at the Pink Palace Arts Fair, I found a potter who had made this heart shaped box with a cross on it. It was natural-looking with its earth tones, heart-shaped, and it just felt like my God Box. I brought it home, and it sat empty for awhile. I knew I had things to surrender, but I couldn’t do it just yet. But, when it got bad enough, when I was hurting enough, that little box was there, patiently waiting to do its work.

The hardest thing I ever let go of was my second marriage. It wasn’t so much because of the man. It was because of fear. The biggest fears I had back then were of being unlovable, being alone, being single and being rejected. They were all deep-seated fears related back to a lifetime of hurt. For some reason, I had this silly notion that if I stayed in this marriage, and if this man could accept and love me as I was, I would finally prove to myself that I was lovable. Today, I thought it might be interesting to look into the God Box and see what I was thinking five years ago when I started giving these things to God. Equally interesting would be to see how they have been resolved and/or forgotten.

So, I took the lid off the God Box and started to unfold these tiny pieces of paper with my handwriting scrawled on them. They are all about grief and fear of some sort. There is grief about the passing of my youth. Several reveal the sadness about what happened in my marriage and my fears for my husband’s health. There was one about sadness for a waiter that was really sweet at J. Alexander’s. I wrote about my fears around my anxiety and insomnia, what other people thought about me and what my ex might be telling our old friends. There was one about my job and whether or not I liked it. There was fear about my inability to to sustain a romantic relationship and fear about my future financial security. I still have some of these fears but most of them have gone away completely except for the memory of how debilitating they were at the time. I remember obsessing and crying over all of these fears until I could finally write them down and put them in that God Box. The duplicates are reminders of how I kept having to surrender over and over again.

What I love about my God Box is it sits on my altar in my house with all of my other meaningful treasures. My altar is in my yoga space, and it is on the mantel of the sealed coal burning fireplace. I have a lot of meaningful treasures on the altar, but the God Box is the one treasure that really contains my biggest fears and insecurities. The rest of the things on my altar are healing or connecting or symbolic of special relationships in my life. Some are hopeful or are remembrances of spiritual work that I’ve done. But, the God Box is the container for the pain, for the hurt, for the loss that I just couldn’t relinquish at some point. It contains it so that I can move forward in my life. It contains it so that I can make room for the healing and the hope that the rest of my life and world bring to me. It is symbolic of God holding my fears and my grief and containing them, containing me, until I can really, truly surrender those fears and grief.

How do you let go of things?

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