Escape, please.

I’ve been dreaming of Ethiopia. I haven’t traveled since February, and my next short trip isn’t until May. Maybe it’s a travel bug?  (Also, whoa is me- 3 months between trips to see friends). What I loved about Ethiopia was being among a new culture, yet able to hide in my familiarity among 2 other Americans when feeling a little too out of place. I remember the joy and happiness I witnessed in Ethiopia, as well as the poverty and limited opportunities.

I read an article today about how long marriage actually is. The article was the perspective of a woman that wanted a life in a different place- she had dreams of daily hikes while living in Holland, of  spending a few months in Arizona on her own because she could. But her husband told her no, because she was married and she needed to be with him. I don’t think of commitment as cutting my wings, but it seems like a mirage of unconditional love that seems better described in books and movies than in everyday life. It’d be cool to have a partner that would escape the normalcy of regular life with me.

Traveling is great, it’s the perfect way to avoid reality.  My reality in Denver is feeling maxed and burnt out with my job. Feeling like I’m never good enough for my salsa team. Being away from my family in Chicago and numerous thoughts that I want be there, but once I arrive not feeling like I fit in the same way I remember. I’m unhappy with the shape of my body, yet days of yoga and running for 2 seconds haven’t seemed to make a difference.

Soooo, my current escape is to take a mental health day off work. Thanks, boss!

 

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

Advertisements

Where do we go now?

My therapist and I are on a break. Which means success, right!? I can manage my own thoughts and emotions. I’m healthy!  My parting words to therapist included, “I’ll see you after my next break up.”

I previously had major setbacks when I went on a sub-par date, compared myself to others, or felt like I had to defend my single adult lifestyle. I felt so in tune with those depressed feelings and low moods, it was easy to identify. Now that I don’t feel that frequent sadness or anxiety, what am I in tune with? Happiness? Stability? Calm and tranquility? Restlessness? Is this stability boring or exciting? I have questions. And that means…self exploration!

I’m looking for new ways outside of talk therapy to manage my stress and levels of outward craziness. I have my massage therapist lady, who told me I look like a cat person. I tried acupuncture, which I’m still on the fence about. I’ve visited friends in other places, and recognize that Colorado is a very beautiful place. The sun is so damn bright here. What’s next? Crystals? Reiki? Holistic nutrition? (I’ve googled all those, so reminder this is serious for me!)

To celebrate the anniversary of a friend’s LCSW, we went to a delightful breakfast followed with a vedic astrology reading to learn about our life cycles. Last time I did this, the mood reader told me I will have an “old soulmate,” then corrected herself to say “wise soulmate.” That made for some great jokes about the gray haired men in front of me in line at Chipotle. This time she told me that I can communicate and talk all day, but I don’t actually express myself. She told me I will find love, if I am open to it. Then emphasized, “if you are open to it.”

Er mah gawd. Doesn’t that sound like a threat?!?!

Do you ever get hit with the same message over and over again. And right when you think you’re doing better, you’re told you have confusing body language. Or you give mixed signals. Or all you do is make jokes. Or you’re the office bully (sob).

Last boyfriend made a point to tell me that I’m “too emotional.” That he only wanted to engage with happiness and joy, and anxious Becca or sad Becca could take that emotion and come back later. He taught me not to express my real, raw emotions that show my vulnerability. Not to be needy. He would stonewall me until I was finished. And so now, I don’t share those emotions. I control them, and I come back later. It’s hard to unlearn those things I believed was the worst thing about me.

I didn’t learn how to express myself in therapy. I learned to show up in my life and embrace the uncertainty. I learned to challenge my thoughts, to be aware of my behaviors. I learned to make changes to live my life differently. How do I learn to express myself? Whyyyy vulnerability, whyyyyy. How will I know when I’m expressing myself, when I thought I was doing it all along?

All these questions make me feel like Carrie Bradshaw.

Work that social work

In high school I read an article in a young person’s magazine, probably Teen People, about activism and inequality. I told my mom I wanted to be a human rights activist, her only response was to not end up in jail. While this lead to my vegetarian phase and habit of watching videos on PETA’s website, I like to think it led to something more.

When I decided I wanted to be a social worker in college, it seemed pretty natural. I remember learning about the challenges people face based upon the school they attend, a disability they have, or the language they speak at home. I  worked hard the next 10 years to push myself out of my comfort zone, I thought that would make me a kickass social worker. I needed to witness how others live.

This has carried me along. I’m not currently at my dream job. I always wanted to work with immigration. With violence. With Spanish speaking families and survivors. I don’t really want to be an outpatient therapist and the thought of having a private practice seems frightening. So what do I do with this expensive degree and license I’ve acquired? I don’t want to live in a marginalized society. I’m not a fan of oppression. But I also don’t want to do case management, or policy work. I don’t know how to be a community organizer. Am I being too picky?

A coworker and I were finally given the green light to pursue our LACs- to work towards becoming addiction counselors. While I’ve only attended 1/10 trainings, I think it’s exactly where I need to be. Our trainer repeats the phrase, “What is so painful that someone would sacrifice joy?” The reason that pushes people to turn to substances as a way to numb. Finding themselves losing their past self.

I had a few clients this week that were exactly who she was talking about. Often, at the point that someone willingly goes into therapy, they’ve hit a point of acknowledgement. And usually shame. Both clients I’m thinking of were vulnerable, curious, and paralyzed by their use. I respect their openness with me, a vulnerability I previously couldn’t find in myself. Seeing another person’s pain, hearing their hurt. Standing alongside without judgement. Maybe this is the social work I’ve been looking for. In the past, I didn’t think this was enough. Now it feels pretty powerful.

Things he said to me

I heard through the grapevine some of my posts make me sound depressed and in utter distress. Here is a disclaimer to say I don’t currently need anyone to fly out and save me, however I appreciate the sentiment. My work wives, friends, CBT, and positivity are serving me well.

My first blog post was about a poetry slam I went to about 2 years ago. It gave me inspiration to write a poem about the crappy things I’ve been told by men. I’m not quite a poet, so I simply made a list. I threw in some happy quotes for those of you worried about me. I also respect my happiness, so these are memories I am comfortable reliving and do not include painful research.

Here goes:

 

I can’t love you the way you want me to.

This is your fault.

I don’t have time to invest in a relationship right now and it doesn’t seem fair to make you wait for that to change.

I had fun with you tonight. Have a good night.

Fair enough. Well I hope you find what you’re looking for and I wish you all the best.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, but I’m looking for something else long term.

I blow everyone off.

To be honest I’m really busy right now with work. I shouldn’t have tried to set anything up under those circumstances, my apologies for any inconvenience.

I’ve never seen you look so alive!

When you broke up with me, you did it so nicely. Can you give advice on how I should break up with my girlfriend?

You’re actually pretty funny.

This is why I left you, you’re too emotional.

I didn’t see us staying together in the long run.

Take care!

I’d be totally down to see your face right now.

You know I thought about it one day but I’m so bad at reading girls sometimes. Lol. And now I would but I started dating someone. I will come visit though.

Caring about you is getting in the way of me being able to care about myself.

Are you trying to tell me that I objectified you, Becca?

Whatever….well I was gonna delete that and sent send.

I always get this way for a few months in the winter. I don’t talk to anyone.

This just isn’t working, you know

See you soon?

Your license plate is 007.

I was hoping that summer would mean I had more time to spend with you, but it’s actually been the opposite

I think you’re really fun, but we don’t have compatible interests.

You seem happy. You seem like Becca.

 

Hey men out there- did I miss any???!

 

Reading me

The therapy chronicles continue! This time part therapist, part coworker. These are not new thoughts for me, but rather a (mini, please so mini) shout out for accountability. Warning- The words that follow include in-depth, exhaustive internet Googling research.

I was told recently that I am “hard to read.” This got in my head, in a curious way. AND THEN OTHER PEOPLE AGREED. Ok, I’ve received that feedback before. But I honestly thought I had been so forward with that person. I know my sense of humor, that sarcasm thing, can make me come across a certain way. I’ll acknowledge that when my blank face is on, I don’t express emotion. I did some googling, because I really don’t know what to do different. The internet said “hard to read” means I hide my feelings.

The internet also said:

“People act like they want to peel away your layers, they want to piece you together because if they do, it takes away the fear of the unknown. On the rare occasion that someone does genuinely want to know you, you’ll show them every quirk and crack in your carefully constructed persona because when the time is right, it’s thrilling to be that vulnerable.”

This is sounding like a John Legend song.

I’m thinking “hard to read” isn’t the whole picture here. Lets focus our inquiry on sarcasm.  Extensive internet research tells me that sarcastic girls like me are rarely serious, say mean things when displaying affection, and sometimes regret things that come out too quick. Also, texting is hard. Sarcastic women have good judgement to read situations and are basically emotional superheroes.

And then the internet said:

“Sarcasm is likely a defense mechanism to keep that huge heart of ours protected, or it’s a coping mechanism because sometimes, even the most confident people freak out over meeting new people or working a room. Don’t let this one, very strong, overbearing personality trait overshadow the entire person, or her ability to love. It just means you’ve found a woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Just know that when we do give you sweet compliments, they are genuine. In the end, life’s too short not to rub salt in the wounds. Let your life dance lightly on the edge. We all enjoy being kept on our toes a bit. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not a ballerina, and I won’t dance on pointe forever.”

But I WAS a ballerina (in training) and I WILL make you dance forever! Cue evil laugh. Can I blame this on being a Scorpio?

Ok, serious now. My perspective leads me to believe I’m avoiding rejection, avoiding vulnerability, avoiding shattering the emotional stability I’ve found. Distractions veiled with humor. I make anything into a joke. I can laugh about things instead of being upset or embarrassed.

This is different than oh say, a year and a half ago when I (in my opinion), expressed my emotions without hesitation. I reacted to my emotions quickly. And now I feel more content, cheerful, and I don’t need to react. I can “soften, and ease through it,” as therapist has quoted countless times. I have to be serious at work all day, in my personal life it’s nice to keep people on their toes, be lighthearted, enjoy. And when I’m positive and funny, I’m not sad and depressed. It’s a one sided human experience.

I’m getting stuck on this. I really thought I’d been acting transparent!

Well, what the hell, Becca?  What do we do? Coworker said I need to step up my game. Therapist said I need to pause before using humor, and look at what I’m avoiding in the face of laughter. Fine, I’ll try it. That’s where the accountability comes in, my friends. There is no way I’m practicing unveiled honesty without some help.

Full Circle

“I’m proud of you.”

An awesome emotion to express, an awesome statement to receive. Connie is one of the first friends in my life to tell me she’s proud of me. When I read a text like that from her, I feel loved. I’ve been listening a little harder when I hear about pride.

Ethiopia felt like a selfish trip until I arrived.  Wonderful in so many ways, but also challenging. In making the choice to volunteer, I did what I needed to do to make it a reality (3 years in the making). Coworker pointed out these positive patterns in my life, and at first I brushed him off.  I listened again.

Today Coworker gave me a gift of Dr. Pepper. The best. A sweet and unwarranted surprise. He said he was proud of me for the work I’ve done in my life recently. And then I forced him into a personal reflection, which left him reeling on the ground clutching a pillow for a few minutes.

I’ve come to call 2016, “the year I was depressed.” Sometimes I think of it as a year I wasted with feeling down, sad, dwelling on things out of my control. Losing Ron was awful. Losing him the day before a break up made it harder. I wanted to talk to Ron about my relationship whoas, and I wanted to process Ron’s death with a person I could no longer rely on.

I remember a moment in therapy when I was crying and frustrated he couldn’t see he was making a mistake. One day he would realize I was right, that we could make things work and our relationship was worth it. I was worth it. I don’t feel that way anymore. I’ve worked hard to grow as a person, develop confidence, and accept myself in my life.

Yesterday was finally the moment when I could have yelled, “I told you so!!” Pointing my fingers and proclaiming I was right. But when he told me the words- it was not your fault…I took it out on you…you are an amazing person…there is nothing wrong with you… I felt almost nothing. Because I already knew those things to be true (thanks therapist). And I found it in myself, I didn’t need to hear it from him. I didn’t need to hear it from a friend, those weren’t the lost words Ron would have spoke. It took awhile but it feels different, it feels good.  I am proud of myself.

I’ve worried this euphoric happiness since Ethiopia is a sneaky cover for something hidden beneath. Coworker said maybe it’s not… it’s just me.

A couple of thoughts.

Don’t you hate it when you’re going through life, doing fine, and then you’re confronted with those emotions you’ve packed away for a rainy day? It must have been raining in my therapist’s office Tuesday night.

I felt like I didn’t have much of meaning to talk about when I first sat down. She scolded me for not giving “available” guys a chance, and getting stuck and attached to “unavailable guys.” That bugged me. I told her she was wrong. Maybe she is right. 20 minutes later the tears came and I’m reminded of the familiar question, “What’s wrong with me?”

I have many thoughts and feelings about my upcoming trip to Jimma, Ethiopia. I told therapist it will be nice to have something else to care about, other than myself. In Jimma I will give myself to caring about my fellow volunteers, the new community and culture I’ll be in, and care about the camp we’ll have with kids.  I care about making this a meaningful experience.

It’s not that I don’t care about things in my day to day life, it’s just most of my caring has to do with myself. Being single means my life revolves around…me. I care about my friends, but we’re not dependent on each other. I care about my family, but my parents are in Chicago, my brother in California, and they’re living their own lives. I care about my job, but I hang up my therapist scarf at 5pm and need a break.  I’m good at caring about myself; now what?

I’m very tired of being consumed with my lack of a relationship status.  There many other things in life I want to care about. Therapist said we can work on that when I get back. I like my life, I’m very content. But I’m starting to feel stuck. I was pretty down about that. My coworkers (my work spouses) get a lot of my emotions. I so appreciate them, and this week they taught me it’s not about getting down, but rather getting ready to shake things up. (Because it that unmarried, child-less life- you can!!)