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It’s So Hard To Find Someone Who Cares About You

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We’ve all seen the memes:

I want someone who looks at me like….

Yeah. That’s EXACTLY what I want. There are a whole lot of items on the “nice to have” side of my list, but the “must have” list is pretty darn short. I’m basically looking for my equal. In terms of successfully managing finances, hygiene, education and intellect, vision for the future. I am always a fan of someone who pushes me and challenges me, but I want someone who has my back the way I have theirs, who will prioritize me the way I do them.

My life is too full for mediocrity.

But everyone claims to want that, and yet when I look around me, few people seem to actually chose it. It’s confusing and a little bit scary. It makes me wonder if dating at middle age, particularly dating at middle age when you have extraordinary burdens, is a fool’s errand.

I’m a fierce advocate for believing that great things happen to good people, but the reality is, that isn’t always true.

Ultimately, I do love my life and I’m working hard to create one I love even more. But I’ve had a whole lot of experience being the person who looks at someone that way, who gives that kind of love, and not a lot of receiving it.

I want to believe that can change.

It’s A Sad Sad Situation

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Whether or not you’re a fan of Dennis Prager, I once heard him compare relationships to bank accounts. Something along the lines of some people are savers, and they will make deposit after deposit but rarely make a withdrawal. Some people will put just enough in to open an account and establish some credit and then will bleed you dry until you finally drop the hammer on them. He made the comment that those people were the definition of being “morally bankrupt”.

As helpful as that was, I’ve used the concept of triage in relationships, particularly friendships, especially those where there is an element of mentoring going on.

It’s not just about pouring resources into someone or something. The person or situation has to actually be ready, willing and able to benefit from those resources. By my way of thinking, if I continue to use resources for someone who isn’t ultimately benefitting from them, I’m actively stealing from others who may well be able to use what I have to offer.

As an empath, knowing when to call it quits has never been my strong suit. Having some kind of metric to help me make these decisions about gifts and help and relationships has been incredibly helpful. My instinct is never to say no to a wounded soul, knowing that sometimes it’s the person who says yes that makes the difference. I can’t say this metric has stopped me from making that first attempt, rarely is someone so far gone that I know they are beyond my help. It has taught me to be more measured in my approach, and more watchful for the ensuing response.

I’ll admit, I still struggle with this conceptually. On some level it feels heartless to be that… calculating about the welfare of others. But I have extremely limited resources, and as far as I can tell, the people who are pulled back from the brink usually turn into healthy givers when they get their own house in order. So the most efficient and effective plan is to give to those you know can be returned to solid ground. Thinking about the long term chain reaction helps soothe my empath soul a little bit, and keeps me focused on the long game.

But walking away is never going to be easy or natural for me. It’s at best a well-practiced skill.

She’s Got The Magic Touch

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“I’m a bitch, you know that, right?”

“Duly noted” I grinned at her; a little too adoringly.

Most of the time I can’t stand drama, pot-stirrers or other nonsense. I’m a little too earnest, a little too loving, and a little too free with my heart; so my only defense is to keep people who might abuse the privilege at, well, much more than arm’s length. Like, maybe a football field.

She’s the one exception. I love her, one might say worship. One wouldn’t be overstating things.. Maybe because she is who she is, and she doesn’t hide, lie, manipulate or play games. She’s completely comfortable with who and what she is, and she feels no need to pretend otherwise. No fucks given at all about your opinion. Ever.

But she’s fun and brash and has a rapier wit that she wields masterfully without being overtly mean. She walks that oh-so-fine line with precision and skill. She’s drop-dead-gorgeous which doesn’t hurt, and she has a voice like melted chocolate, a laugh like a room full of crystal during a toast, and this delicious accent that makes you wish she’d just keep talking. About anything. Weather, sports, beheadings, you don’t really care, you just don’t want her to stop.

This group is so jam-packed with extraordinary people that I could write a hundred love letters before ever feeling the need to write a “Dear John”, but when you walk into a room and she’s there, you know things just got magnitudes better.

There is no crappy week that can overpower her many charms.

Why Do You Love Me

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He used to ask me this all the time. Every time he asked, I was pulled up short.

I’ve been a number of relationships in my decades on this giant ball of crazy we call Earth. Never once has anyone asked me that. Perhaps because being the empath that I am, I’m usually bubbling over with effusive praise. Whatever I said clearly never answered the question though, because he’d ask it again and again, much to my surprise (which quickly gave way to annoyance).

The truth is, I didn’t really have a good answer. I told him often that I loved him but I wasn’t in love with him. I was not what I wanted for him, so I held part of myself back. But it’s an undeniable fact that I cared deeply for him. In love or not, I could never explain why, what it was about him that I had come to love.

In retrospect, nearly everything about our relationship and who he represented himself to be was a lie, so maybe that’s why it was such a hard question for me to answer. I’d probably find that easier to swallow if my gut hadn’t been screaming at me the whole time. For all his calling me naive and gullible, I wasn’t fooled. I’m just a firm believer that once you know you’re dealing with a snake, you’re under no obligation to declare that fact. I did miscalculate on a grand scale about the nature and severity of his issues, but I never bought all his BS.

And yet, the whole rationale behind the ridiculous affair was the spark of something special I imagined I saw in him.

Perhaps being unable to describe it adequately should have been the wake up call that might have saved us both a giant headache.

But I ignored the fallout and shrouded myself in the comforting blanket of fantasy.

When The Evening Shadows And The Stars Appear

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When the unavoidable discard was lingering in the wings, he finally told me the truth about some of his past relationships. I’m not sure if out of some rudimentary sense of fairness, or out of self-preservation. But up until that point, he had cast himself as the sad victim of all of life’s tragedies.

For an empath, there’s not a trumpet’s call that is more rousing than that one. We usually have a track record of nursing broken hearts back to health, of patching them together with liquid gold. We also have a multitude of stories of being raked over the coals and taken advantage of, but we generally know what it’s like to be misjudged. We’d rather commit the sin of loving too often than too infrequently.

As witty and charming and endearing as he was, that wasn’t what hooked me. In fact, that’s usually something I mistrust. It was the wounds, the allusions to past suicide attempts, the weary “I shouldn’t be alive” that I found impossible to resist. I’ve been given the gift of being saved from my own self-destruction, and I so longed to give it to someone else. I thought I saw a spark in him, something that could be fanned into a flame of self-preservation. I was wrong. Or maybe I was right in a way, and it was simply our definitions of self-preservation differed. I am more of a long-game girl, while he’s all immediate gratification. Maybe to him, it looked like a win, to build him up enough that he could put himself out there again, play the game and score some points.

But putting a few points up on the board was not what I wanted for him.

I wanted him to finally win the game; but lying, evading, cheating, manipulating? Those aren’t what win you the game. You can ask Lance Armstrong how that plays out in the end.

What I mistook for strength was nothing more than cowardice and false bravado. Where I thought I saw resilience, there was merely a predator who would throw anyone under the bus, friends, neighbors, coworkers, family; who would take and take from any and all, giving as little as he could in return. What first appeared to be compassion and concern was nothing more than twisted self-interest.

If you glue that back together with gold, you’ve simply created a more powerful monster.

Congratulations.  

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

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I remember the day my sister was born like it was yesterday.

I had just moved in with my Dad and Stepmom. Theoretically she was supposed to have been born before I moved in, but school was in progress, and she was making her entrance when she darn well felt like it (if you know my sister, you know that getting her to do what she doesn’t want to do is nigh on impossible).

So a day after I moved in, I sat on the floor at Mama’s feet, trying not to cry. I failed. Miserably. I wasn’t always the best at showing it, but I loved Mama dearly and seeing her in pain (no matter how skillfully or gracefully she bore it) was too much to bear.

For a kid who once asked Santa for a younger brother, having a baby sister wasn’t exactly all I’d wished for. She cried. A lot. Life got louder, the house got more chaotic. There was a lot less playing with cute baby than I thought, and when I did get to, it was less playing and more, yuck.

I was an utter ingrate as older sisters go.

Still I was utterly enamored.

Mama and our Dad divorced and we were not in contact again until my sister was 16. I was the married mother of a toddler, and even then, I was awestruck by her. In many ways, she was more mature than I was, and certainly had herself more together than I had yet managed.

As I’ve navigated my way through the complexities in life, particularly in the last 5 years, she has been my role model. Always reminding me what it means to be fierce, something she got in spades from her Mother. I don’t know that I’ll ever have the strength or resilience either of them have. I know I don’t have the drive, although it’s a skill I’m trying to learn, and they are my most dependable examples. I completely lack her confidence, or self-esteem. I often joke she’s the belle of the ball, and I’d swear on a stack of bibles she knows everyone in her town.

I’m still a work in progress, and she’s one of my main sources of inspiration.

As I look back over the last year, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come. I owe more of that to her than I’ll ever have words for.

Just Call My Name, I’ll Be There In A Hurry

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My Stepmom is 11 years older than me. My baby sister was born when I was 11. The symmetry of that always gave me chills. Her magnificence at such a young age did as well.

I can’t say that I was an easy child to parent, let alone to stepparent. How she handled everything I threw at her, intentionally or simply by virtue of being the hot mess of a little kid I was, I don’t really know. I know that she gave me a stability, moral compass, a sense of integrity, and a strong work ethic that I had never been so consciously exposed to before.

As much as I try to carry forward my mother’s legacy, I am always quick to say that I wouldn’t be who I am without my Mama.

We lost contact for so many years, and then thanks to a fluke/blessing I found her. Even then, it was not an easy road to finding the bond we now share. I was still trying to heal, trying to grow up, and trying to figure out life. She had been through more than any human should endure.

But she’s my rock. And for all the years I felt motherless, adrift, broken, it is the most incredible gift to know that I once again have a port in the storm, a safe harbor, and someone who unfailingly and unflinchingly has my back.

That she is someone my Mom so adored and respected is all the better. And Mama is always careful to never replace my Mom, to simply love me as her own.

Of all the blessings life has granted me, none mean more to me than my family.

I’m so lucky to have her in mine.

Will They Tell Your Story

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You’re going to get a very complicated picture of my Mom, here. My childhood was hell for the most part. She was a (very functional) drug addict (there are a lot of people who will refute that. They didn’t live with her). She was violent at times (same). Erratic and unstable (same, same).

She’s also one of the women  I admire most in my life.

My Mom could revive anyone and anything, like raising Lazarus from the dead.

She was brilliant and insightful and… fearless? On the surface, yes, but so many people’s fearlessness is born of their fears, much like a narcissist’s ego is born of their weakness. But she was undoubtedly courageous in the face of nearly every assault. There were no red flags about people that were big enough to keep her from trying to connect with them, extend them a hand, or simply share a moment with them.

I could write books about all the people she helped in ways ephemeral, and more concrete. My most poignant memories of her are of the times she would veer from our plans because she saw a heart in need. At the time I was always annoyed. Now I try my damndest to carry on her beautiful legacy.

She had infinitely more patience, grace, wisdom, and openness than I will ever have. I’m jaded and mistrusting and I don’t really like to let people too close to me. I’m learning and growing and want nothing more than to fill the enormous hole she left in her wake.

I fear that I’ll never come close, but it’s never stopped me from trying.

One of the things I’ve embraced from her example is to speak great truths with great love. The last years she spent working, were on a small military base mainly tasked with the production of weapons of war. An ironic job for a long-haired, pot-smoking, rabidly pacifist hippy. She had no compunction at all taking the officers on base that she worked with to task for the failings she railed against in our military. And these big, strong, uniformed men listened. With great respect and significant fondness.

When she died, they held a small memorial for her on base. Not quite the protocol for a civilian, but in spite of their differences, they cared, and they wanted to send her off with the respect she deserved.

I don’t really think in terms of my own legacy.

I’m too busy trying to grow hers.

 

How A Young Heart Really Feels

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We used to hang out at lunch, a whole huge group of us. I was introduced by my best friend.

It took him a while to talk to me, but pretty soon we spent most of every lunch sitting together.

It never occurred to me he might be interested. My best friend had kind of a thing for him, and she was everything I wasn’t, beautiful, smart, a good student, Catholic. They went to the same church, they had known each other for years. In my mind, they were perfect for each other and he in no way deserved the mess that was me.

Whether he deserved it or not, he wanted me to be his.

I said no. For months. Partly some girl code kind of thing. Partly feeling unworthy. Partly fear.

I finally told him he had to let her know he wasn’t interested, and then yes, I’d go out with him.

He wrote me letters literally every day. The three of us went to dances, we all went to summer school and spent a lot of time together. When he didn’t have to work he’d walk me home, hang out after, until he had to leave (or bolted out the back door the times my Stepdad came home early).

One night someone crashed their car into my house. He walked over after a long day at work to comfort me. I often couldn’t sleep because of the whole crazy Night Stalker thing going on at the time. He wrote more notes, lent me tapes of our favorite music to listen to while I fell asleep.

I never, ever, deserved anyone who treated me as well as he did. I’ve joked a time or two that he dodged a bullet, and he snarks back that he was a naive idiot. And yet in some ways he’s the model of what I hope to find someday. That’s really the only thing that would make a relationship worth it again for me. I give too much. I don’t hold back. I don’t know how. And I have a full life that I love, so compromising isn’t remotely interesting. On some level, I’m not sure I believe in love like that anymore. Or maybe I just don’t believe I can have it again.

My Christmas Dreaming

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Christmas has always been a treasured holiday for me. It hasn’t always been a happy one. My parent’s split on Christmas, my Mom and I almost never celebrated it, but I love it all the same.

I was a choir girl; and for choir kids, Christmas starts in the fall, in preparation for winter concerts. So I love the music, but also the baking, the lights, the magic, the pageantry. It fills that part of my heart that longs for dreams, romance and beauty.

As an adult, I’ve often hopped in the car to drive while listening to music. Singing at the top of my lungs as the dark road stretches ahead does me a world of good. It’s therapeutic. Cathartic. There is little that cheers me more than a travel mug full of something steamy, a container full of homemade Christmas cookies, and a collection of my favorite holiday music. It’s something that became a family tradition (one that sadly waned when we lived on our farm).

So when my first son was due on Christmas eve, I couldn’t be more excited. I felt like he was the most precious gift I’d ever receive (turns out he was one of three of the most precious gifts ever).

I spent many weeks before his birth driving around while listening to music and looking at lights, dreaming of the day I’d finally hold him in my arms, feeling a certain kindred spirit with Mary. I battled fear and confusion and insecurity my whole pregnancy, knowing that learning to be a good parent would be an uphill battle for me. Those drives brought me peace, and gave me a measure of courage to face what lay ahead.

And they provided enough inspiration to help me dive into the whole parenting experience.

Whenever I go on these holiday drives now, there’s always a part of me that remembers the joy, the intense love, the overwhelming protectiveness…I look back fondly, and  smile with immense pride at the young man that wee babe has become.

He exceeded my wildest dreams so effortlessly.

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