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Falling In Love Is So Hard On The Knees

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If you’ve ever fallen in love with a narcissist, you are intimately familiar with that rush, the relentless yet skilled release of love bombs finding their target. It’s an emotional blitzkrieg; boom, boom, boom, as you fall back under the force of an unyielding assault. When the action pauses just enough for you to gather your senses and survey the new landscape, you realize you’ve fallen hard. And you really can’t see much beyond that. It’s a heady feeling, but like any mind-altering drug, there is always a hangover waiting in the wings.

One would think that the hangover would be enough to create a narc-proof barrier. But like alcohol, love bombing is designed to prey on our weaknesses while simultaneously soothing our wounds. It’s that double-edged sword of injury by association and nurturing that makes love bombing so nightmarishly effective. Just as there are few people who can look back on their life and claim only one hangover, one emotional eating binge, few can claim only one relationship with a narcissist.

The sad truth is, if you’ve had multiple romantic entanglements with their kind, you’re probably an empath. And as an empath, your reward for being exceptionally loving, giving, nurturing and compassionate is to be surrounded by more narcissists than your average Joe.

Most people who have worked in the child welfare arena have heard the term “broken picker” casually thrown around. I once used to nod knowingly, but now I hear the term and it makes me cringe. I don’t know why people tend to want to blame the victim, but we see this in so many areas of life. We laud bullies while blaming the bullied. We don’t hold the narcissist accountable, we blame the loving and kind person who fell for their onslaught of lies and manipulations. Empaths aren’t any less able to detect malevolence than the average person. In fact, a skilled narcissist will fool nearly everyone in their orbit, at least initially. Empaths aren’t targeted because of their ignorance, they are targeted because they don’t give up on people, and thus will endure behavior that other people who are more self-focused will not tolerate.

Narcissists need an endless supply of fuel to simply exist. Without it they will collapse; a most pathetic sight to behold. So they will put on whatever mask their empath du jour most wishes to see.

Is it any wonder the empath falls so quickly and so hard?

You’ve Got To Get Up And Try

About a week after my marriage ended, a new singles group sprouted in our community. The timing was in many ways a lifesaver for me, I was barely among the living, and I’ve met so many truly amazing people and had so many wonderful experiences. Some I almost wish I could skip, and yet, I needed them to remember what living even is. What can I say, every cherry has a pit. You just need to pay attention to the reality, not avoid the experience entirely.

Being a romantic at heart/incurable empath, I love watching new couples happen. It fills my heart to see love blossoming, and gives me hope that good things are still real, still possible.

But it’s not an uncomplicated road, not even during the best of circumstances. I remember meeting some friends at a happy hour, being my typically oblivious self, and I happened to notice two friends, who share a passion that completely informs their very clear vision for their future. I noticed him squaring up to her, his arm protectively around the back of her chair, and the unmistakeable look of admiration on his face, and I thought, wow, how often do two people who want so many of the same things in life even meet? Clearly he’s interested.

So I in my one-drink (Denver strong) addled state tried in my never subtle way to throw them together. And she, being badass and perceptive and as blunt as I am ripped me a new one the next morning. I told her what my thinking was. Unbeknownst to me, she had already expressed an interest in him, but she had every reason in the world not to trust love. We talked a bit and a few weeks later I learned they were a couple. My heart soared. Falling in love with someone who is that kind of kindred spirit doesn’t happen every day. Few people get to experience it.

Sometimes I worry that the realities of life and the world around them with destroy something so incredibly precious and beautiful. I hope not. Because love is nothing but growth opportunities interspersed with reality and occasional moments of unspeakable bliss.

This weekend I’ve been helping a new friend of mine navigate the heartache of missed opportunities with an old friend of mine. This new friend knows mistakes were made, and they are sincerely regretted. But sometimes you’ve gone too far and you can’t rebuild what’s lost.

So today I’ve been sobbing my way through one hell of an emotional hangover, because he fills a need for her that ordinary never will, and she inspires him to new heights. But we live in a world where if it doesn’t work we throw it away and move on. And I’m surrounded now by so many people who want love, but chase everything else.

My heart is breaking.

Sometimes I just want to grab people by the shoulders and make them face  what they keep choosing to turn away from.

Lately I’m Foolish, I Don’t Do This

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That first week was a whirlwind of texts and dates, and spending our first night together.

I’m generally someone who operates at turtle speed, but he had this way of getting under my skin. We talked and texted endlessly, and it was all so easy. The fun, flirty banter, the drives, the long, intense conversations in my car, the kissing… It all felt so natural and right. There were moments, little blips on the radar, but they were almost reassuring in a way. The conflicts, oh so fleeting, were the only signs of normalcy amid the dreamlike clouds of fantasy.

Or so I thought.

They weren’t signs of normalcy, they were warning shots across the bow.

Not that I saw that at the time, they lulled me into a false sense of security. It was only when I was finally ready to look at the situation as a whole, when I finally reread the novella written over the months we spent together that I recognized them for what they were. They were the tests that I passed; before the ones I “failed”.

At the time I was just happy. Not just to be embarking on this journey, but because I knew that healing hearts was what I did well. I thought I had something to offer him, something that would help him find a happiness I knew we couldn’t share. I could never give him all the things I wished for him. But I thought we could share a moment in time and both come out the other side ready to take on the future, healthier, happier, and stronger.

The problem is, what he wanted from me was not what I was ready or willing to give him. If we both had been clear about the realities, we could have saved each other a whole lot of time and trouble. Maybe. Maybe the trouble is exactly what he needed to get what he really wanted. I hate to think that, it’s too nightmarish to contemplate.

It’s a reality with ample precedent.

At the time, I was too lost in the fantasy to see the entirety of the truth. My gut was yelling endlessly. I didn’t ignore it, but I wasn’t willing to walk away from someone so special without some evidence. Evidence was not what he was selling at the time. What he was selling was fairy tales. Potent ones.

Resistance in the face of his relentless onslaught was laughably futile. I could barely catch my breath and he knew it. He planned it. He capitalized on the confusion he created.

Miss Independent

There’s a woman in our singles group that I can’t quite figure out.

I don’t get why she’s single.

It’s as if a winning Powerball ticket were alive and walking around in the world and nobody stopped to claim it.

It baffles me. It’s confusing as hell. And it’s the surest proof that everything we are told about relationships, desirability, and being loved is bullshit.

I think we’ve all known that woman, right? Unspeakably beautiful, successful, intelligent, fun, caring, truly the total package. And sometimes women will talk about men being intimidated by them and I know a lot of people think that’s just ego talking, but I don’t know how else to explain it.

Are men truly that threatened by a woman who knows her own worth? Who insists on being treated like the Queen she is? And if that’s the case, where have we gone so horribly wrong? Because she’s exactly the perfect embodiment of what every man claims to want. And there she is. Still single, (and not upset about it at all, BTW. Because she is a Queen).

Some part of me wants to shake every man within a certain radius and tell them to wake the hell up, your dreams are waiting; right.over.there! so why aren’t you talking to her? Part of me instinctively knows the futility of this.

I don’t know what else to do so I pray. I hope. I wish. I want to believe. And I wish her to have all the happiness she spreads to others so effortlessly.

But on a fundamental level, this whole phenomenon just challenges my concepts of life and love in some really difficult ways.

I don’t know where to go with that, or how to make peace with it.

I Will Try To Fix You

There are moments when I look at all the incredible women in our group and I feel so confused. I’m not sure why they are single. If I were a man, there really isn’t a one I wouldn’t find remarkable and want to get to know better, so why? Why are there so many men who just sit on the sidelines?

In those more jaded moments I’ve joked that I should create an app called trophy wife rehab. Maybe all we need is a man with the means and a high novelty seeking quotient to get us back on track. We’re badass, cute as hell, maybe a little nip/tuck, a personal trainer and a chef to come in a couple of times a week to shop and prep healthy meals, and we’d be set. And if the guy moves onto the next woman, who cares! We’re already right where we want to be.

Yes, it’s ridiculous and a little sexist and highly offensive. But I’d probably jump at it (or better yet, a marriage proposal from a nice Canadian gentleman, because appropriate health care is really all I’m after). Every woman I’ve mentioned it to laughs and says “sign me up!”.

It lifts my spirits in the moment. It’s always good for a laugh.

But there’s an undercurrent there that I’m very uncomfortable with, and terribly confused by.

I wonder, in a world where all anyone wants is to be loved just for who they are, why do we chase such superficial relationships?

Why do we demand for ourselves what we refuse to offer to others?

Am I the only person flummoxed by this dichotomy?

You’re One Of My Kind

I always joke my type never asks me out.

This is my type (my apologies to his lovely fiancee, and best wishes for their future).

I’m usually asked out by this type.

Which, cool, how someone looks is pretty darn close to the bottom of my list.

But I know there must be the male equivalent of me out there, who’s list of priorities is a lot more about the quality of time we spend together and a lot less about conventional ideals of beauty.

At least in theory.

The thing is, where exactly would one find such a person? Tinder? Right. Pretty much all dating apps are out, and they are a narcissist playground anyway. Speed dating? Probably not, for many of the same reasons. Our singles group has been a great blessing, but Denver has all the image/body consciousness LA gets accused of, and little of the diversity or body positivity. I love watching love blossom all around me, I’m open to finding it for me, and yet it’s highly unlikely in that group.

At least not the kind of relationship I’m holding out for.

I had been caught up in this cycle of dating just to keep honing my “be more social” skills but I just can’t anymore. I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t think the benefits outweigh the costs.

But it begs the question, in a world where so many of us are average, why is it that most resources are directed toward the already extraordinary? Why do the rest of us feel the need to sideline ourselves as if we don’t belong? As if we don’t have just as much right to pursue happiness?

What nonsense.

Be loud and proud, folks. Whatever your quirks.

Everyone has them.

Let Me Stop You There

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The other night I picked up a couple from a club. They were both chattering up a storm, and then started to talk about him getting hit on by some gay men at the club. They both went to great pains to reassure me they weren’t homophobic. But these men were being rather disrespectful to his lady friend, and painfully forceful with him.

We talked about it a bit and he just kept circling around to “they just wouldn’t give up, no matter what I said, or did, they would not stop hitting on me! I’m not a piece of meat and I’m just not interested!. Find someone else!”.

Finally the irony was too unbearable, “So in other words, you, a straight, white male have just been initiated into the world of catcalling/rape culture.”.

Stunned silence, and then they both start laughing.

“Omg! She’s right! You know what it’s like now!”.

“For real, that’s crazy! So that’s what it’s like?”

Then more seriously: “Wait, that’s what it’s like?”

Yes sir.

That’s exactly what it’s like.

I think we may be on to something here…

Picture Perfect Memories

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When do you know? How do you know? Is finding the love of your life a one-time thing? Does lightning ever strike twice? Do the beautiful memories fade enough to allow a new love to take root and flourish? Or do you simply learn with time to value new things, and stop missing the old ones?

I was with my husband for 22 years. We still live together. We still co-parent. And because I can’t risk anything but comprehensive insurance coverage, we are still married. Not ideal to be sure, but for us, it works. By virtue of a complete fluke/utter disaster, we are able to be friends again. It’s great. We’re all happier. Our kids are far happier. They have their parents who aren’t constantly fighting, angry, defensive, or in my case, traumatized. The downside of that is I’m remembering what I used to love about the man I used to love, and it makes dating unbearable. Every new opportunity leaves me awash in memories, acutely aware of what’s missing.

There were ways I connected with him that I have never connected with anyone else. Without that, is intimacy even worth all the work? Because after one nightmare (whatever the hell it was, I can’t really call it a relationship) and what has become a bad habit of serial dating, I’m beginning to think friends with benefits is all I’m capable of; and it’s depressing as hell. I want love. I want all the good stuff in my marriage back;  I just don’t want the trauma.

But I have yet to date a man I can imagine spending an afternoon in bed with, my head on his shoulder, drifting towards sleep as we talk the day away. That for me is not negotiable. That’s like the best part of my day/week/what have you. That’s the moment I finally let down my guard and relax.

I miss the way we circled the wagons as a family whenever adversity struck. The way we pulled together as a team and got through it all. You mean that’s over? Forever?

I miss remembering special days, our wedding, the birth of our children, without seeing them through this ugly veil of tarnish. I miss those memories being dear and beautiful and unblemished. Now I can hardly bear to remember them. Someone please tell me this phase passes.

Learning that your entire adult life was a lie, well, I’m pretty sure they haven’t invented a word for that yet.

Fearing that you’ll only love like that once is… Yeah, there’s no word for that either.

Breathe

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There’s a song that encompasses this wild roller coaster ride of a year that is soon drawing to a close. In fact, that song sums it all up too well.

But that second verse… That second verse is all him, almost to a T. I used to be a singer, and I used to sing this song every time I heard it, but now I get to that second verse and fall silent, because it hits a little too close to home.

One thing I heard repeatedly was your first post-divorce relationship will be a disaster. So when he reached out to me, I tried repeatedly to sidestep him. I knew I wasn’t ready. It was less than a month after my husband and I split, and I just didn’t have it in me. After more than 20 years of having my ego used as a punching bag, I was… empty. I’ve never in my life dated anyone younger than me, I wasn’t really interested in starting. I joke that I have daddy issues. It’s really no joke, it is probably true. I’ve dated (much) older men and never thought twice about it. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have sons, and even thinking about some older woman preying on them sends my maternal instincts into overdrive, or just some cultural norm, but the idea made my skin crawl.

He was a persistent little shit, and my resistance was MIA. So I gave in. I figured having some fun wasn’t a bad idea. I am a firm believer that when you’re stuck the important thing is not simply to move forward, it’s to just get moving again. If you worry about moving in the right direction you’re likely to stay stuck. You can always correct your path, but you have to be moving to do it. So I did something I rarely do. I threw caution to the wind.

I miscalculated, on multiple counts. The worst of which was seeing a little too much of a me that no longer exists mirrored in him. Someone once believed in me before I could believe in myself, and I’ve always knew I’d pay that forward someday. I thought I could do the same for him, but you can’t help someone who thinks there is no downside to the choices they make. He always blames the fallout on the nearest target. I tell my kids all the time, people don’t change until change is the least painful option, but when you’ve convinced yourself that you aren’t the cause of your own pain, you’ve made yourself powerless to change it, to even connect the dots, to see the cause and effect.

I will probably be haunted by that realization for the rest of my life.

But as someone who is rather obsessed with cause and effect, I used the whole experience to learn, to connect some dots I’ve struggled with for years. It’s a strange thing to say, but couldn’t be more grateful. It could have been a disaster; but somehow I came out of it stronger, healthier. I’m ready to take these next steps I’ve been avoiding for years, because I was terrified of making the same old mistakes.

I’ve spent the last few months testing hypotheses and trying out some new skills. So far so good. If you can walk away relatively unscathed and with some new weapons in your arsenal, that’s a win.

But the feeling I can’t shake is I’ve seen this movie too many times, and I don’t like the ending. I had hoped I could help him rewrite it and then we could both go our separate ways, ready to own the future.

The kindest thing he’s ever done is shut me out of his life. I hate that ending and I hope I never have to watch it again. It’s too heartbreaking. There are no happy endings. Nobody makes it out alive.

Tragedy isn’t my genre of choice.

Who The Eff Is This?

I’ve been both a “paid” and hobby blogger before. It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve written, and much longer than that since I’ve written on a regular basis. Other than being a lousy grammarian, which tends to make me feel like a bit of a fraud as a writer, writers block has always been the bane of my existence. I think the thing that holds me back is I struggle with a massive case of “who cares what you have to say?”.

I guess I think it takes a level of hubris for me (not anyone else, everyone else is amazing, me, I’m just ordinary, says my negative Nelly brain) to write a blog. I mean I tell myself this is therapeutic, and that’s true. I have passengers that have haunted me, friends who I find to be so remarkable they need lauding, and life experiences/dots unconnected that I sure wish someone would have explored in a more approachable way before. The therapeutic aspect is why my gut wouldn’t shut up, I could not get some stories out of my head until I wrote them down (pro-tip, some are still there, but at least they’re a bit less noisy).

But if all you want is catharsis, there are millions of blank journals just waiting to have their pages filled in every store that sells books.

You only start a blog if you want people to read what you have to say, and that’s where I start to squirm.

I have many loved ones who have supported me in my years of what can only be called folksy storytelling. Some people seem to relate to what I write, some people seem to appreciate the way I string words together. And all of that is nice, I can’t lie. But the only way I can justify writing this is my life is at some interesting junctures, all at the same time. I’m writing from a perspective that is realistically more than half of my life expectancy. And I guess I’m hoping to Hansel and Gretel a trail of crumbs for others to follow. That’s what my favorite storytellers tend to do, they lure me in with entertainment and then one-two gut punch me with lessons.

So I hope you’ll indulge my hubris and maybe find something meaningful here. I’ve always understood struggles to be opportunities to serve others. Nothing would please me more than for my blunders and foibles to light the way for someone a little less clumsy.

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