Friday, October 31, 2014

Dating is a Lot Like Car Shopping

Growing up my dad was very anti-dating and insisted we travel (and socialize) in packs. So the majority of my teenage years were spent “chaperoning” my sisters on their group dates. When I was finally out of the house and ready to date I really didn’t know how.I was completely at sea until I met my dating expert. My friend Reb had dating down to a science and had developed a very simple philosophy that she passed to me.

Dating is a lot like car shopping.
When you shop for a new (or newish) car there is a process for finding the right car. It involves research, test drives and quite often a third party to set you up with your new car. Dating is not that much different. High school and college are really all about research. As you socialize in large groups and wander from class to class you are able to observe how different personalities interact and react to those around them. You formulate your personal understanding of what your type is – dependable sedan, flashy convertible or sporty Jeep. 

From there you move on to the test drive or casual dating phase where you figure out if the person you are interested in is the right fit for you.  If the answer is yes, you move on to the relationship. Often the test drive phase is aided by your friends, family or co-workers who set you up on blind dates (hopefully based on your personal likes and dislikes). 

When I decided to begin my dating career, Reb set me up on my first blind date. She had met a nice guy who owned his own business and was single and she had given him my number. Sounds great right? Wrong. The Denny’s Guy as I like to call him had been completely misrepresented to me. While a very nice guy, he was short, badly dressed and hadn’t bothered to clean out his truck which was full of old fast food containers. During the course of our date he told me he had thought about bringing me flowers but his friend couldn’t hook him up with free ones. As for the small business owner part of the story, this had happened entirely by accident when he had been fired from Taco Bell for ”allegedly” stealing from the register and taken a job as a window washer. After leaving the matinee showing of Batman, he asked me “if I was drive thru hungry or sit down hungry”. Um…. How does one even answer that question? His version of “sit down hungry” was a corner booth at Denny’s where he ate so often they knew his name and he was able to point out that the prices had recently increased by .06 cents. Sigh. 

When I asked Reb what she was thinking, she explained another of her dating theories which I have since dubbed “The Practice Date”. You see, first dates are tricky and nerve wrecking under the best of circumstances but if you are just starting to date or haven’t dated for a while they can be especially stress inducing. So in order to get in the groove, you go on a Practice Date with someone that you really wouldn’t be interested in. Because you really don’t care you are free to practice your witty banter and fine tune your flirting. It’s like learning to drive a station wagon before you test drive a Maserati.  Denny’s Guy had been my station wagon, my Practice Date.  It was another year and a half of Practice Dating before I was ready to move on to the sporty convertible that was B. And another 9 years after that to find JB. Through it all these dating theories have worked well for me and helped me to retain my sense of humor. Cause if you can’t laugh, then what’s the point.

Friday, October 17, 2014

We All NEED to Belong

Recently, JB and I were sitting at the airport waiting for our flight to Portland. This was the big “Meet the Family” trip so I was admittedly nervous. To pass the time we started having one of our random conversations about the people around us. We like to see if we can figure out what their stories are. About midway thru this little game JB says something along the lines of “Isn’t it interesting that humans have such a driving need to pair up”.  This started me thinking about where that need comes from. It really is just our desire to belong. 

Most of us are born into families, belonging in a sense to our parents, our siblings. As we grow, we join groups at school, form attachments to our friends and extend our family circles. For most people life is a series of “belongings”. For some there is always that feeling of being on the outside, being just a little out of step with the people around them. Those people who a good portion of their lives trying to fit. I was one of those people.

I was born into a huge, amazing, interfering, lovely, loud family. My brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents are some of the best people I know. They all love each other and me unconditionally. We joke around that we are The Bravermans, you know from Parenthood. We get into each other’s business. Drive each other crazy. And fight to the bitter end to defend anyone who needs it. I love being a part of this mayhem… now. I have come to understand my place in the collection of personalities that make up The Clan. But growing up, I always felt like an odd bird. I was never quite sure where I fit or if I really did. I saw things differently than everyone else. I had different experiences. It always felt like I was wearing shoes that were a size too small. 

Now this was not my families’ fault. As I said, they loved me unconditionally and unreservedly. I just didn’t always see it in my quest to find my place. My search to belong had me focusing on all the reasons I didn’t. I was looking only at the gaps.  Moving 1200 miles away helped me to see that while I may not “fit”, I still have a place. Being just a little bit different means I add flavor to the mix not that I’m an unwanted ingredient (cooking metaphor).  Understanding that has helped me find the million little things that only I can bring to the group. In finding that, I found my place, in life, in love( JB) and in my family. 

I love you guys!

Friday, October 10, 2014

We Need to Stop Comparing

I find that my thought/growth process runs in cycles. The past few weeks I have been mulling over the ways in which comparisons can affect us. Trust me. This isn’t me “theming” my blog posts but the natural progression of my conversations leading up to my Friday writings. During a phone date with one of my cousins we were discussing the habit we have of shrugging off our problems because they are nothing compared to someone else’s.  She dropped the phrase First World Problem and said that in comparison to other people’s struggles she had no right to complain. 

While I agree with the foundation of this phrase, I’m not fond of where it has led us. So many of us are convinced that we can’t have an open discussion about what we are struggling with because it sounds like we are complaining. The fact that we have it so much better than other people should not negate the fact that every single one of us is working thru or dealing with something. Yes, it may not be starvation or Ebola or civil unrest but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. Your pain or frustration or confusion is real and it matters. To believe otherwise leads to feelings of guilt and ultimately it locks us into place. We can’t progress from where we are because we can’t be honest about it without feeling like we are whining.
About 15 years ago when I started to talk about the abuse I endured as a small child I found myself downplaying it with statements like, “But it wasn’t as bad as what happened to D, so I really should be grateful.” I was in essence saying that because my experience was less horrific than my friends, I should suck it up. To a degree I felt guilty expressing my pain, anger and humiliation because I knew people who had endured far beyond what I had. This was counterproductive and hindered my ability to talk thru the hurt.
Eventually, I came to understand that we cannot use another person’s experiences as the measurement of our own. Comparing your life to someone else’s and saying you can’t cry because it is nothing compared to what the person next to you is experiencing will paralyze you. I’m not saying you should fall into The Pit of Despair (Princess Bride reference) when you have a bad day either.  Our goal should be to find the middle ground. We need to start by being honest about what is going on in our life, understanding how it affects us and then deciding what we can do to move thru it and grow.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Learn To Have Healthy Expectations

I have been thinking a lot about expectations this past week, namely the expectations we have for ourselves and the fact that there are healthy and unhealthy expectations. Healthy expectations help you to set boundaries, accomplish goals and look towards the future. Unhealthy expectations generally lead to frustration, feelings of failure and even physical pain. So how do we know if our expectations are healthy or unhealthy?

Being one of 5 kids I was expected to pick up after myself, make my bed, do chores, get good grades, be well mannered. As an adult, I’m expected to pay my bills, work hard, be prompt and responsible and be a good human being. These are GOOD and HEALTHY Expectations. But I am also prone to not so healthy expectations for myself.

Like the time I decided to become a runner.  Sounds healthy right? Get in shape, exercise regularly, and run a marathon in just four months.  I had never run in my life unless I was being chased and suddenly I expected to be able to run a marathon.. in Honolulu… up a volcano. I had a plan, joined a running group and was off to the races (literally). There were people in my running group who had started the same way and were marathon ready. The stories were inspiring and the training regimen entirely doable… for someone else. See I was setting my expectations for myself based on the capabilities of the people around me and not on my own abilities. I had forgotten to factor in some key details, not the least of which is that I have asthma. More to the point, I have Exercise Induced Asthma which is a fancy way of saying I wheeze and gasp when I work out aerobically.

For the first month or so I was able to keep up. I ran. Then I walked. I puffed on my inhaler and ran some more. I made progress and was able to run/walk 8 miles of hilly terrain before my lungs crapped out. I had refused to listen to the warning signs and pushed them too far. For the next two months I couldn’t even walk across the room without wheezing. My lungs hurt when I was sitting down.  I had to carry my inhaler everywhere. It took months for me to be able to do more than walk swiftly without stopping to catch my breath. My not so healthy expectation (become a marathon runner in 4 months) had done actual physical damage to my poor lungs.

This is how I learned (the hard way) that expectations are personal and should be based on your life and circumstances. They should never be about the abilities of the person next to you.  Yes, it is important to have expectations. They are the first steps to having dreams and setting goals.  But it is also just as important that your expectations be realistic. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and failure by expecting more from yourself than you are capable of and definitely don’t decide to run 26.1 miles when you have asthma and have never run before.