About the Experiment

Friday, February 13, 2015

Part 1 of 2: Strangers, The "Crazy," and Why I'm Single

Ah Valentine’s Day, my least favorite holiday. The first time I had a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, at sixteen, my boyfriend told me at lunch that sometimes he thinks he’s gay.  He wasn't breaking up with me or coming out (we’re still Facebook friends and he’s not gay), it just somehow came up in conversation.  Being a teenager can be rather confusing.  So if you think that being single for Valentine's Day is the worst, I'm here to tell you that sometimes you're better off being single.  I still kind of dread the holiday, but my friend Keir’s Valentine’s Tune always cheers me up a bit!  (Warning: song contains NSFM language)

It's been a while since I've written and there's been so much on my mind I've made this a two-part entry!

The Old: I’m still not dating anyone, and rather disinterested in online dating.  I meant to de-activate my OkCupid account but kept forgetting. The inbox is full and I deleted the app off my phone, so it’s achieves the same end (not having to check messages) but I know I should actually deal with it sooner or later.

The New: I've been forcing myself to talk to strangers in real life, especially cute guys, and it’s getting easier!  I was at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for about five days, in LA for about 2 days, then in Panama for a week on vacation with my family.  I learned you really can just walk up to a guy and say hi, and got a little Sundance-mance out of it!  I went from snow to the tropics in a matter of days, saw movies and talked to lots of people about my film, then swam in the ocean, kayaked in the jungle and fed a monkey.  And now I get to refocus on running a business and making a movie.   Life is good, and busy.  And still sometimes, a bit lonely.

During my travels I started listening to the podcast Strangers, because a friend who also recently went through a breakup recommended the episodes called Love Hurts (parts 1-4).  At first I thought, “The last thing I need right now is to listen to something called ‘Love Hurts.’”  But I downloaded an episode and was instantly hooked.  In these episodes the host, Lea Thau, is trying to understand why she’s been single for four years.  She interviews guys she’s dated, a guy who wanted to date her but the feeling wasn't mutual, a Love Coach, and an author of a book about being single.  Although she has some different circumstances (she has a child, and is in her early forties), there is a lot that I relate to.  As the episodes progress, she mentions reactions to the episodes: some people say it’s so uncomfortable to hear about her dating struggles, but many people are saying that it’s great to hear because it makes them feel less alone.  Perhaps that’s the most ironic thing about loneliness: we tend to think we’re the only ones who feel it.

I'm reading Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly and in her research on shame she found that the best way to combat shame is to talk about it.  So after a few months of hiding in my Cave of Solitude, I decided that Valentine's Day was a good time to write about what I've been learning from/about heartache and heartbreak.  It's easy on Valentine's Day for happily coupled people to see other happily coupled people, but it's also easy for unhappily single people to feel like they're the only ones.  You're not alone, sunshine, even in your loneliness.

The truth is: the breakup with Bachelor #9 was tough. The actual breakup wasn't bad, as I said in the blog post at the time, it was probably the healthiest breakup I’d ever had. For a few days I was amazed at how ok I was. And then I spent about the next two months under a dark cloud. I often wore all black or grey, even when I tried to convince myself to wear colors. I could not get myself to care about dating at all. I was rather depressed, and ashamed that I was depressed. We’d only dated for a month, and I knew it couldn't work long-term (aside from his existing relationship which he is committed to long-term, I don’t know if we really have enough in common) so what the hell is wrong with me? I could remind myself of all the reasons that we’d broken up, the main reason being that I found polyamory too difficult and wanted to create space for a monogamous relationship. Part of my brain understood the reasons and would repeat them over and over when I missed him, trying to make the reasons bigger than the sadness. But another part of my brain would remember how I felt when he held my hand, or the way he used to look at me, or just how much I enjoyed spending time with him, and none of the reasons mattered anymore.

This started to make me feel crazy.  I felt out of control of my feelings, my thoughts, even the colors I wore.  He and I didn't talk for a month, but that didn't help.  I felt like I was holding my breath for a month, which is not usually what "moving on" feels like.  When we started to talk again, I've found being friends is tougher than I expected.  Some friends have told me to cut all contact, which I don't want to do, but then I feel like I shouldn't tell them when being in contact with him is difficult.  And I realized, this is why I'd been single for so long: I'd seen this "crazy" side of me before, and had wanted to avoid it at all costs.

When I was a senior in high school I started dating a guy and we quickly fell deeply in love with each other.  I was so happy, as long as we were together I didn't care what else was going on.  I'd never felt that way about anyone and it was incredible.  For two years we had a very loving but tumultuous relationship.  We broke up a few times and got back together, so it took me a while to realize that the last time we broke up, it was for real.  And then I literally thought I was going to die of heartbreak.  For two years, I didn't date or get involved with anyone.  When my heart finally healed I thought, "Been there, done that, never need to do that again."  And I haven't been in a serious relationship since.  That was almost ten years ago, Lea Thau, if that makes you feel any better.

I've dated, been in relationships that we didn't call relationships, I even had a boyfriend for a few months (a summer romance, six years ago).  I thought that if you aren't officially together you can't really break up, and if I didn't have breakups I couldn't get my heart broken.  Both of those are false, and I was even more ashamed to be upset over a breakup of a non-official-relationship.  I've even fallen in love (though never told any of the guys that I loved them) and had my heart broken.  But almost all of them were relationships I knew could never work long-term, so if I let myself fall it was my own damn fault.  I should have known better, and controlled my feelings better (hah!).  I wanted to avoid that bone-crunching level of heartbreak so I tried to not get too close to anyone, or cut it off if we were getting too close.  Even with B#9, I ended it because I had fallen for him.  At the start our relationship I hoped that I would learn that I could have a meaningful relationship, it could end, and I would be ok.  Instead I landed at, "I Should Never Date Anyone, Ever."

My "crazy" isn't even all that crazy: I don't stalk people, I don't send lots of text messages or call repeatedly, or other stereotypical "scorned woman" behavior.  But I stew about things, talk to my friends about it, and generally just drive myself crazy.  For example, when B#9 took several days to respond to a text (post-breakup and post-month-of-silence), I did not send him angry texts or emails or call him demanding to know if he was ever going to respond.  But I was upset about it and after a (male) friend gave me a "He's Not Into It" talk I cried on his couch until he convinced me to go drink the sadness away.  And I hate being that person, someone who needs a "He's Not Into It" talk, who panics if a text message isn't replied to in 24 hours, who can convince herself that he never actually cared or meant anything he said.  I hate knowing all the reasons I shouldn't want to be with someone, yet part of me still wanting to be with that person.  In the rest of my life I'm not that person, I'm level-headed and calm under pressure, and it often surprises people when they see this other side.  It even surprises me sometimes, and I don't think anyone likes feeling "crazy."

More on trying to understand the different parts of me and parts of my brain in Part 2!

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