precariously lost

pre-car-i-ous, [pri-kair-ee-uhs], adjective:

  1. dependent on circumstances beyond one’s control; uncertain; unstable; insecure: a precarious livelihood.
  2. dependent on the will or pleasure of another; liable to be withdrawn or lost at the will of another: He held a precarious tenure under an arbitrary administration.
  3. exposed to or involving danger; dangerous; perilous; risky: the precarious life of an underseas diver.
  4. having insufficient, little, or no foundation: a precarious assumption.

It’s no coincidence that I named my blog after an Emily Dickinson poem.  And if you’ve been following me for the last year, you know how apt a name it is.  But I have been feeling particularly precarious of late….

There is nothing wrong, exactly.  In fact, there is plenty that is right.  As I sit here and contemplate my life, I can tick off nearly every aspect that is just about as good as I could possibly hope.  But something is definitely wrong.

Work right now is amazing.  I am spearheading a project for which I have no past experience, no staff, minimal training, and minimal resources.  Should I mess it up, the repercussions would be serious and long-lasting, generate terrible negative publicity, and could (possibly but not likely) result in expensive lawsuits.  But my colleagues seem to have unwavering confidence in me, and that is enormously gratifying.  I have attacked the project with a focus and determination I had nearly forgotten I possessed.  I have found myself calling on knowledge and skills I haven’t reached for in 10 years or more.  And so far, I have it in hand.  It has been a wonderful reminder that there are some things in my life that I truly do well.  And if that wasn’t enough on the professional front, I even received an award last night.  At a community dinner in the small town in which I work,  a “community champion” award was bestowed upon me.  How’s that for external validation?

At home, I have sunk myself into my children in the last two months.  We three girls have played more games and painted more nails and done more cooking than usual.  We’ve had more heart-to-heart talks and cuddles on the sofa and shared jokes.  I have felt closer, more connected, to my children than at any time since right after my separation.  They have confided things to me and asked me tough questions and engaged with me in ways that have made me feel like I must be doing something right in this whole mess we call parenting.

I have been putting my house in order, quite literally; ticking items off my to-do list and re-visiting projects that I abandoned in the chaos that was late December.  I have been running on my elliptical.  Doing yoga.  Reading for pleasure.  Re-connecting with friends.  Going to my favorite church. Puttering in my little yard.  Writing in my journal.  Getting sleep and taking vitamins and eating well.

In short, I am doing all the things that a person should do to feel grounded and safe and connected. But I don’t.  Not at all.

I feel, lately, as if I am merely moving through my life, rather than really living it.  I’m apparently doing an excellent job moving through it, though, for what that’s worth.  I suppose that, in much of life, just showing up is the point.  And I am definitely showing up.  No balls being dropped over here.  No mistakes or flubs or crises in my life right now.  Oh no, I’ve got it all under control, thankyouverymuch.

Except that I have found myself quite often teetering on the brink of tears for no apparent reason.  I sleep well and deeply and have pleasant dreams, but awaken feeling sad and… stuck.  I no longer have certainty in some of the cornerstone ideals that have guided me my entire life.  New, less promising and less optimistic futures play about in my head and create fears I have never, ever known before.  And something about this last break-up demolished my confidence in my appearance; I can barely stand to look in a mirror these days and the thought of getting naked in front of a man leaves me cold.  This is true, despite the fact that I have actually lost weight in the last two months and bought a smaller size jeans today.  Go figure.  Finally, and perhaps most disconcerting, I have started and abandoned a handful of posts for this blog… the words, the ideas, the concepts are not there.  And when I run out of words…. well, that is a bad sign, indeed.

There have been multiple times in my life during which I have felt as if I am holding it all together through the sheer force of will, and looking damn good while doing it.  I remember, in particular, a time in law school when I felt as if I were faking my way through every single day — juggling a full-time courseload at a rigorous university with a nearly full-time, incredibly demanding job and some vague semblance of a social life.  I felt like an utter fraud, because each and every day I wondered if it would simply all fall apart.

I feel that way again now.  Collecting my award last night was surreal.  I was acutely aware of what my image is to my colleagues and the townspeople, how they perceive me and respect me and experience me.  As I returned to my table and handed the award to my daughters (who promptly began fighting over it), I wondered at how much we conceal in our hearts.

Were I less encumbered with children and financial obligations, now would be the time that I would make a drastic change in my life to shake myself out of this place.  Something on the scale of moving to another country.  As it is, I am not certain of what to do next.  In fact, I find myself, for the first time in many, many years, quite frightened by the thought of what “next” will look like.  My greatest fear is that it will simply look like more of “now.”

My brain knows that this is not possible; that the only constant in this life is change.  Whether you’re happy or sad, you can be sure that it will change.  So, presumably, at some point, change will come again, and possibly it will be good change that chase away my feelings of mild melancholy.  (I am well aware that it could also go in the other direction and change could come in the form of a major health crisis or terrible emotional loss or financial ruin, but we’re going to pretend that those possibilities do not actually exist.  Just because I want to.  So humor me, please.)

My touchstone these days is this: A small patch of crocus and tulip and narcissus bulbs that have begun to push through the top soil and reach for the weak sun that bathes my courtyard.  Each day, I go out and check on their progress, for they are my harbingers of change, a tangible representation of what I so desperately need right now:  life in bloom. I allow myself to imagine that by the time they are actually blooming, things might be different in my heart.  Perhaps my soul will have recovered its old buoyancy.  Maybe my faith and hope and optimism in the future will have returned.  Or maybe I will have learned to be contented with some new version of my future that presently seems scary and foreign to me.

Time, in its inevitable march, will surely tell.

And until then, I’ll keep moving forward.  Precariously.

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19 Comments

Filed under general musings, personal growth, relationships, sadness, single mom

19 responses to “precariously lost

  1. Well you certainly are not alone in feeling this way. I have a wonderful life, making goals and achieving them. Have an outstanding relationship with my children. Career is going better than ever…yet I have occasional bouts of sadness. I know why, and where they come from. I hate to admit it is souly because I need a mans validation. I have been directed to read wired for joy by laurel Mellin. It does help…but it’s not what I want. It will have to do. Keep moving forward and I’ll join you.

  2. You know, I don’t think you should feel bad about acknowledging the cause of your emptiness, and I think you do yourself a disservice when you say that you need a “man’s validation.” Maybe what you need is a soul partner? Is that so wrong to aspire to?

    I have friends who strongly believe that our souls come into this realm to experience different things in different lifetimes. For some people, that means needing solitude or peace. For others, it might mean needing to experience financial security or professional success. And for others — possibly most — it is needing to experience and learn from a heart connection with other humans.

    Psychologists and psychiatrists have long understood that we need to be comfortable with ourselves and possess a love for ourselves and what we have to offer before we can offer that to someone else, but pop psychology has mutated that into some kind of rationale that we should first be completely happy and fulfilled alone. That’s jacked up, if you ask me. People who don’t need or seek deep emotional connections are what we call emotionally unavailable; indeed, at the furthest end of that spectrum, we label it autism.

    So I don’t think you should feel bad about admitting that you want a partner in this life. There is nothing noble in being alone and not caring that you don’t have a heart full of love for someone. I happen to believe that we (especially women) are being fed a load of crap that we’re buying whole sale, without recognizing that there is a difference between being happy WITH yourself and being happy BY yourself.

    I don’t know what the answer is. If I did, I wouldn’t be so weepy, now would I? 🙂

  3. You just said a mouthful! Happy with yourself vrs happy by yourself. I think you hit the nail on the head. While being emotionally connected to our children is valid, there are things we need as adults that are inappropriate to expect from your children even if they are adult children. A soul partner is a good term for it. More thinking ahead for me but this was definitely a lightbulb moment! 🙂

  4. I can certainly relate; to your post and the comments. In my younger days I almost thrived on stress; whenever I was going through a crisis of some sort people would come up to me and ask what I’d done to myself because I was looking so good.

    Now no one says anything but I think I just look old. I’ve never had a problem feeling sexy and never felt self conscious getting naked with a man (probably that is a contributing factor for a few mornings where I wish I’d kept my clothes on). Now all of a sudden I’m not even sure I know what to do with a man and can’t imagine ever wanting to get naked, or God forbid walk around naked; in front of a man.

    And the thing I hate the most is; I am afraid; of what I don’t know exactly; the future, uncertainty, doing it alone, or not being able to do it alone.

    When I was younger I was so eager to jump in with both feet confident that no matter what happened I would get through it and if nothing else it would be an adventure. Maybe I’m afraid because I’ve learned how bad things can get, and now I know what worse is when people say “things could always be worse”.

    I don’t want validation; I don’t want any one to take care of me, I just miss knowing it isn’t all on my shoulders, a miss the chest to lay my head on and the arm around me and knowing “we’ll” be ok.

    I’m happy to know I’m not alone in this funk I’m in; and don’t you know just saying that made me cry. Damn it! Not even 8 am yet! Lol good post PG. I’ll be following you; literally and figuratively forward.

    • When I read this: And the thing I hate the most is; I am afraid; of what I don’t know exactly; the future, uncertainty, doing it alone, or not being able to do it alone. I thought to myself, BINGO.

      Fear of the future, of what it might hold and what my place in it might be, is a truly foreign concept to me. I’ve never been hard-wired that way. But now….

      I miss the same things you miss. In fact, I started a post the other day entitled “Things I miss” that covered that kind of ground. 🙂 I think, bottom line, I miss being part of a “we” that had promise and hope and a sense of history and future.

      Oh well. Onward forward, right?

  5. I could have written this post. I think I may actually have one like this, way back in the early days of my blog (I think it was the Mojo post here: http://tikktok.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/mojo/).

    This is not about a man (I have a wonderful one; he is actually my soulmate).

    This is not about occupation or doing stuff.

    I go through much of my life, too, feeling like a fake because I don’t have the depth of feeling. And it’s hard not to worry about it.

    Honestly- I think this has something to do with the age we are now, and quite possibly, hormones. I know, I know, it sounds like a lame excuse, but really, so may of us get there, and there is no logical reason behind the feelings.

    More times than I can count, I have found myself thinking, “Really? Is this all there is?” Because I’ll tell you, I’ve followed the rules- I have the husband, the kids, the house, the dogs, etc. Life is pretty damn good.

    A while ago, I contemplated and starting searching for a job. As in, “what do I want to DO with my life” kind of thing. I can’t justify going back to school, and honestly, the thing I would want to do (hospice nursing) is not available here for schooling. I did come up with that, though, based on prior experience, so I suppose that’s something.

    But as I was looking, it struck me that I don’t actually know what I would want to do, even if I had every door open to me. When I was younger, hands down, it would be the performing arts; no doubt about it. But now, older and {hopefully} wiser, I don’t really see that as meaningful, you know? I mean, really, people get paid a lot of money to lie. Bottom line. It’s fun; it can be challenging to see if you can totally convince people of the character and the tale you are telling, but it’s not real.

    And I am pretty sure I want something real. I want to matter, without having the burden of someone else’s success or failures heaped on my shoulders like it was before.

    So, I’m still there. Feeling like a fake; feeling like the person people think I am is way better than the one I actually am, and hoping someday to live up to that image. In the meantime, I am trying to make a more concerted effort to be truly grateful and content.

    The being content has probably been the biggest thing for me. I want to move. I’ve spent the last 16 years here wanting to move away. Now I’d be happy to get in a different house with better space and acreage.

    Some days I feel more antsy than others; some days I’m content to look out the window and just watch.

    For the first time ever, I am more content to not try to leave town at every opportunity. And now I’m sure you’ll think I’m totally off my rocker, but the thing that’s made the difference has been my chickens. Yep. My chickens.

    I think everyone should have some. 😆 It seems, though, that you have your one thing- your flowers. That’s all there- growth, change, metamorphosis; reaching full potential, all the while being able to go along for the ride.

    I don’t have any real answers, but I can tell you it’s not about a man or anything else external. It’s totally, completely, 100% internal, and until we sort through that, nothing else is going to “fix” that in us.

    Maybe we just need to hit menopause so we can get on with getting to the crone part of our lives….. 😀

    • Tikk, this time I’m going to slightly disagree with you.

      I think that, for some people, it’s all internal. But I think for others it’s not. And here’s why: I think it depends on where you’ve done the lion’s share of your work thus far in your life. If you’ve spent a ton of time on the internal, then it’s probably natural to crave some of that external connection. And if you’ve spent a ton of time cultivating the external, then the internal may need some attention. See what I mean?

      I think age has something to do with it — there’s research to demonstrate that the hormonal shift that results for that women in their 40’s causes them to be less focused on everyone else’s needs and finally more focused on their own. So, I think that translates to some women needing to feed the internal and others discovering the emptiness of the connections they have.

      I agree that being it is important to be mindful of the blessings we DO have rather than focus constantly on what’s missing. When I worked in the music industry and watched some people achieve their wildest dreams, I still saw them struggle with the same antsy-ness that we’re talking about. It can be very easy for any of us to see the gaps in our happiness, rather than the solid parts. And again, there is certainly ample evidence showing that people who are grateful are also happier. 🙂

      I suspect that, like most aspects of life, it’s all about balance — having some kind of work that is meaningful, friendships that are meaningful, familial relationships that are meaningful, romantic relationships that are meaningful, etc. Even with all that, some days definitely feel more balanced than others, but the sense of fullness, of completeness, is there.

      I’d like to know that feeling again some day. 🙂

      • Really good comments! Tikk you made a lot of sense as does Precarious. My mom got all weepy during menopause and there is no one I know who has a better life than her. But she couldn’t pinpoint it at all.

        I have been through menopause, I don’t know if it caused more crying and depression because I was in such a horrible relationship at the time I always had good reson to be depressed.

        I know part of my problem is I am used to being somebody’s; you know when you get introduced or introducing yourself. “I am Carrie, so and so’s wife, then I was Kristofer’s mom, and then JC”s wife. This is the first time in my adult life I’ve been just Carrie. Which fine but it’s kinda an empty nest thing I guess.

        Tikk you said something really interesting.

        So, I’m still there. Feeling like a fake; feeling like the person people think I am is way better than the one I actually am, and hoping someday to live up to that image.

        I often feel like that, that people are going to figure out that I’m a fake, not all that nice, or smart or whatever they think of me. I thought it was because JC discovered all these mysterious flaws of mine that he couldn’t live with.

        • I definitely think that lots of really amazing, accomplished women muddle through those feelings of faking it and wondering how long everyone will be fooled. Maybe we’re all so busy wondering when everyone else will figure us out that we’re never really going to notice that everyone else is faking it, too! 🙂

          • I wonder why that is. I don’t think men feel that way, or do they? I know I’ve been hesitant to say it out loud because I thought people would think I was nuts. But I know Tikk isn’t nuts so I feel a bit better

      • It may be that there are those for whom this struggle isn’t completely internal, I agree. My point is that is that it should be. 😀

        I strongly feel that no one’s mental health and perception of well-being should not be reliant on someone else. Period.

        Sure, having someone else in our lives is great, no doubt about it. But my happiness should not be dependant on whether or not I have someone else, or how that person is treating me.

        Our base happiness needs to come from within. It may sound cliche, but really- if we don’t love ourselves and if we can’t be happy with ourselves, there is no way we will find anything sustainable with someone else.

        People are fickle. No matter how great another person is, they don’t have the capacity to sustain our mental health. I have seen SO many people struggle for years, looking for the “missing piece” to “make them whole.”

        And the pattern is this: new person is found. Love/emotion soars. Person is content and “feels whole; feels complete.” Life is great. This is what they’ve been waiting for their whole lives. Now they know what “living is.”

        At some point down the road, things begin to change. Which I mean, of course it does- nothing stays the same; everyone changes, even if the change is subtle.

        When that change hits, feelings begin to change. (this is why the stuff we think is cute about someone greatly annoys us at some point in the future…..) And the quiet, discontent begins. This might even progress to deep and profound unhappiness; maybe even depression.

        Quite often, destructive behavior begins. This doesn’t have to be anything big, or necessarily bad, even; just something to help along (subconsciously) the demise of the relationship. Sometimes things come unraveled quickly; sometimes it takes years or even decades.

        And then the person finds themselves in a similar position; deeply unhappy and searching once again.

        Now, without getting all religious on you :lol:, I will say that I think the contentment and fulfillment needs to come from within. It needs to originate and center around ourselves, and not someone else. There is truth to the saying that “you can’t love anyone else if you don’t love yourself.”

        It still is surprising to me how much self loathing there is, and how it’s hidden from us. It may not even be overt; most of the time it’s not. Because really, this feeling of faking it- that’s part of self -loathing, or at the very least, self-dissatisfaction.

        Now, if we want to go and get all Freudian, we can say that this all stems from childhood, and from the relationships and bonds formed then. I think this probably has a grain of truth in there. I know for certain my parents and they way they parented me messed me up for a good many years.

        We often joke and say that Hunny re-raised me, but honestly, there is a HUGE amount of truth in that right there. He allowed me to have the space and the actual unconditional love to reprogram and reset all those internal buttons and responses. Much of our responses are conditioned, really. I think when we recognize this, we can make a conscious effort to pay attention to our triggers and our subsequent responses.

        At the end of the day, we can’t rely on anyone else to meet our emotional needs. We can’t count on anyone else to “fix” us. The only things we can control are our own responses. I’m not saying it’s easy to do that, because it’s not. 😆 That’s quite often the inner struggle to change our Pavlovian responses.

        I really think Maslow was on to something big with his theories of self-actualization. This here http://psikoloji.fisek.com.tr/maslow/self.htm is a pretty good synopsis.

        Anyhow, that’s my ramble for this morning. 😀 I’m off to read your new post! 🙂

        • Dang that spell check and getting rid of my formatting!! Eeek!

        • Tikk, I agree with you on all accounts. We all (or most of us) have some baggage from our upbringing and beliefs about ourselves that may or may not be true. I have many years of counseling dealing with some negative programing from my parents and for the most part I can self talk myself through any negativity that seeps in but who you are with can either feed those insecurities or starve them. In a healthy relationship like you have with Hunny, he fed your self confidence and starved the negativity which is what we all should do with our love partner. If a person gets involved with, say a narcissist who feeds your insecurities and continuously and subtly eats away at your self confidence before you know it they are controlling your self worth and your emotions.

          JC used to say I should not let his moods affect me (but he was again placing blame on me for his actions, his moods were volatile) in a healthy relationship if my partner is grumpy I am not going to take it personally but I am going to try to avoid making it worse.

          In an ideal world we nurture our relationships as with you and Hunny. You may not need him to be complete but there would be a huge hole in your life and I am sure you would feel a great loss if he were to die or leave you.

          I think some times we get too self absorbed, too self sufficient and as soon as the blush is off the rose and we discover our partner farts and leaves the cap off the toothpaste we think I don’t need this and bail.

          I think yes we have to feel complete, not feel that we HAVE to have someone in our life but that doesn’t take away the natural instinct of wanting to share our life with someone. No matter how complete you are when you first fall in love you are going to feel more beautiful, more vibrant, more “complete” and in a healthy relationship you are in a way because you complement each other. That will wear off and then you need to need the person enough to stick it out through the lean times.

          I haven’t checked out the site you posted Tikk but I have studied Maslow a bit, his Hierarchy of Needs is a theory I see directly associated with the homeless and why it is so problem that isn’t going away and where services are lacking in helping people get back on their feet. Subject for a post for me:)

          • Absolutely, there would be a huge hole in my life if he weren’t in it, particularly after spending the last 20 years with him. 🙂 Our lives are built around each other being in it.

            In each of us we have the id, ego, and super ego. Let’s expand that to say child, parent, and adult.

            In any relationship, not only do we have ourselves making the shuffle to deal with, but we also have the other person doing the same. Think about what happens when both end up in child/id mode (“This is all YOUR fault!”)………. or the unbalance of child/parent (“Who do you think I am? Your mother?”). Parent/parent (ego/ego) can still end up with the blame game, but the best bet is when you are both in adult (super ego) working it out.

            When we look at needs- and if you have ever encountered someone with DID (dissociative identity disorder), one thing you learn real quickly is that the best place to begin the healing and integration is with the child- you have to start at the base and work your way up. If you can’t heal the child, you can’t heal the adult, etc.

            Kind of like what you were saying with the homeless- until you meet those very basic of needs, you can’t expect for anything else to stick.

            It took me a long time to realize that my inner child was not just wounded, but damaged. And while my parents are good people and their parenting worked well for the biological children, it didn’t work at all for my older sister (who was also adopted) or for myself. It has taken me a LONG time to reconcile all the crap, and it’s one of those things that is an ongoing situation for me. (and maybe I’m thinking more about this because my parents are going to be here on Saturday for a few days)

            So ya. That hierarchy of needs actually does exist, in multiple ways, imo. I’ll look forward to your post…. reminds me of a book I read (one of my recent reviews, actually) where a character was all gung-ho about getting the homeless to have better nutrition, and the response to that was more or less “nutrition isn’t even on the radar- eating is.” Yep. You really need to write a book and protect your writing, lol. 🙂

        • I think I kind of disagree with a lot of what I think you’re saying this time, Tikk.

          Not a lot of time to write, so I’ll have to keep my points brief:

          1. I think true happiness is always internal, but is dramatically influenced by the external. You acknowledged this in citing Maslow’s hierarchy, but also explicitly argued that it should all be internal. I’m not sure you can have it both ways.

          2. I guess I thought I was clear but maybe wasn’t in that I definitely think that people need to love themselves before they can deeply love another; thus the “being happy WITH yourself” part. I think it’s the stuff we don’t accept and embrace about ourselves that creates fear and insecurity in relationships.

          3. I have to say — and I hope that you know that I mean this with all due respect — that it’s very easy to tell others that they should spend time alone with you’ve not been single in decades. I have noted, in 30 years of having relationships, that single people do not often give this kind of advice to other single people. In fact, I have never been told this by another truly single, un-coupled person (unless that person was practicing solitude for reasons of religious devotion), but I have heard it from married and coupled friends. I was also guilty of delivering that platitude when I was married, even when my relationship with my husband was bad. There is a big difference between being alone and being coupled. Just as I realized when I was married that I couldn’t take much advice about being married from someone who never had been, I’ve realized as an again-single person that there is an enormous chasm of experience between my current experience and that of people who have not been single in middle-age.

          4. Finally, I think there is real value in “aloneness” and “silence” and I’ve written quite a lot about my experiences with that here. It can be uncomfortable and even painful, but I think those times offer us a real chance to know ourselves in ways that we never can when we’re plugged into all the various distractions of the modern world 24/7. But I think, after you’ve done some of this, the concept that it should have killed the desire to have a partner is kind of strange. Getting in touch with yourself doesn’t mean negating a need for human contact and connectedness. You pointed out that you have your husband and a best friend… that makes a whole world of difference. I have a handful of great friends, but, since breaking up with James, I don’t have anyone to talk to when I wake up at 3:00AM worrying about Sabrina’s health. I lie there in the dark, with the weight of parenting on me and no one to hug me and reassure me that it will be okay. I’m not sure you can appreciate that…. I know I couldn’t have 4 years ago…

          But thanks for the comments. As always, they are insightful and thoughtful and well-spoken.

          • Oh no- let me clarify #3 first, because this is kind of the crux of it all- I absolutely don’t think people *have* to spend time alone. I’m saying that being in a relationship and having someone else is not going to “fix” us, or plug the hole, as it were. And that for some people, they NEED to spend some time living by themselves, as a means of resolving issues that prevent them from having relationship success.

            And as it applies to self-worth and happiness and not feeling like we’re faking it- I don’t think a relationship is going to fix that within us (as in, because you can still be married and in a great place in the marriage and in life and still have those feelings…………)

            But (and we knew this was coming, lol) when someone is “broken” or has issues that need to be sorted through, they need to FIX those issues, or at the very least acknowledge them and get to working on them before they can expect a good relationship to stick.

            So often, people jump from one relationship to the next to the next to the next to the next, all the while trying to figure out what they are doing wrong or why relationships aren’t working. More often than not, they don’t look inward, and want to blame everything else (bad timing, faulty communication. psychotic exes of the new interest; our psychotic exes, etc etc)

            At this minute, I’m thinking specifically of my sister. She’s been married 3 times; the last time they were married for 16 years before finally throwing in the towel. They got married because she was pregnant; she had to get divorced from hubby #2 before they could get married. (you can see where this is going…..) She’s what- 43?

            She was lonely (all those years, with those husbands). She wants companionship; someone to spend time with; doing things with and with whom there were sparks. She was really convinced that if only she could find the right man, her life would be great. She had/s a good job (she’s a social worker), but her personal life wasn’t leaving her happy.

            This last time, she actually did live by herself for close to 6 months before moving in with the new man (someone we’ve known since we were kids, and who I was good friends with, and who actually is a fantastic guy- my concern is more for him than for her…)

            She had been going to therapy literally for years- nearly a decade to work on her issues. Numerous therapists stressed the importance of sorting herself out, before jumping into another relationship, so that she would have a good foundation upon which to build. No idea where this is going to land them, but they built a house together and have been together for almost 2 years and still have not gotten married. Time will tell on this one.

            And that, I think, is what gets people into trouble, imo. Because they haven’t fixed themselves- because they aren’t working on their own issues, it’s unlikely that a relationship with someone else will work long term, because they are looking at having a partner as being the “solution” to their problem(s).

            I think your approach is different in that even when it doesn’t work out, you still see value in the relationship and you process it all; integrate the good stuff and move on. So may people don’t have the ability to do that, and get stuck in their own non-productive patterns.

            I have also seen numerous couples, married for 20 plus years whereby one or both parties feel completely alone and are terribly lonely. The point being that being in a relationship is not the be all, end all, and isn’t going to “solve” personal issues. It can solve a loneliness problem, sure.

            I absolutely don’t think that that just because someone ends up being single that means they are defective and should have a set amount of time being alone. 🙂 I mean, really, there are assholes in abundance out there, and sometimes, we make bad decisions (remember, I was there, too!) and need to make course corrections. It can take a split second for us to identify the reason behind our bad decision (in my case, it was parental influence) , make a course correction and move forward.

            But for a lot of folks, time alone (and this doesn’t mean not in a relationship; more so being on your own and independent instead of cohabiting with another person and relying on that other person to meet your emotional and other needs) is critical and well-spent, working on their internal issues.

            1) I think this is perception. I get what Maslow is saying, and I totally get what you are saying, too. Here’s the thing for me- the external stuff is an influence, but we are totally in charge of how we process it.

            This is an old concept for me (one my parents have preached as long as I can remember) in theory, but in reality, the putting into practice part is slow to come, because emotions can really get in the way. (And often, hormones and body chemicals do, too- marginally low thyroid? There you go- that will mess you up!) Most of the time, I’m pretty good at looking at it logically first; emotionally second or only if it warrants it, and making decisions based on facts and not feelings.

            WRT the hierarchy, the stimuli is external, I agree. The difference is what we DO with it- how do we process it? Are we able to twist it around and approach it from another angle that is beneficial to us? I don’t think most things are black and white; either or. I think there is always a third option, and it’s my “job” in life to find it. If I can find it readily, can I influence something to create one? None of us exist in a vacuum; we are by default products of our environments, BUT, it’s what we DO with the stimuli, imo, that makes the difference wrt self-actualization.

            2) I totally agree with the idea that it’s the stuff we don’t accept about ourselves that creates the issues. I think we can go a step further and add to this. I think a lack of skills can come back and bite us in the butt, too. Primarily, I think a lack of communication or miscommunication contributes to this. I mean, you can do “all the right things” and still have problems. Both people can do “all the right things” and still have problems. People can make an huge effort and still come away empty.

            And here’s why I think that is- we’ve all heard “Men are from Mars; women are from Venus.” I’ve not followed John Gray in depth, but what I take away from his stuff is that men and women communicate and think differently. Brain studies confirm this is the case.

            One of the better books in this regard is The Five Love Languages (Drs. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell) because this totally makes sense to me. Once you can figure out how your partner communicates, things can really change for the better. (and then I think you need to apply the logical thinking skills to this as well, fwiw.)

            We can apply that to other adults; to our children, and to learning styles, too. There is so much that is variable; there is no “one size fits all,” but so often we are fed the line that there is a right way and a wrong way, and who wants to be wrong?

            4) I totally agree that it’s weird if being alone kills the concept of being in a relationship. Although, I will say, thanks to a certain other blog out there, it is appalling to me the number of men who absolutely have shunned women (particularly American women), and have made it clear that they would rather die alone and lonely than subject themselves to another woman. 😯 I don’t think being alone is the biological norm, although it seems there are a good number or people making that choice; which I, personally, find tragically sad to make that conscious choice, but to each his own, I suppose.

            I actually can appreciate being alone at night with no one to talk to about concerns. I know couples who are married and still have this sentiment. 😦 I know I hit the motherlode with hunny, because HE is my absolute best friend; confidant; and soul mate- even before we were a couple. I can’t completely identify, because you are right- I’ve not had that issue since I’ve had kids.

            One of the things we go out of our way to avoid is travel, because neither of us sleeps well when the other isn’t there, and it’s not just a matter of kicking someone else’s legs off your side of the bed. 😉

            And, btw, I totally agree with your sentiment on those in counseling positions with regard to track record- one of the things I never understood about the Catholic Church, for example, was why they would think a never-married man was qualified to counsel couples; or why someone would go to a repeatedly divorced marriage counselor, for example, whose personal track record didn’t reflect this kind of success.

            Arf. Sorry for making this so long. 🙂 Humans and their relationships are endlessly fascinating to me. 😀

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