Sh*tting Where I Eat; or Why I Am an Idiot

For years I have used the idea that it is a bad idea to date within the workplace as an explanation for why I am not involved with anyone.  I am sure that sounds like a leap in logic to many, but the fact is, I don’t meet many new people other than at work.  If I expected to develop relationships of any kind, be they friendships, professional networking, or romantic, where else am I going to find these people besides at work?  Not dating within the workplace is a viable explanation, indeed many will say it’s a good idea…  I think I will count myself among those people.  Many people also see not dating within the work place as an excuse for why I don’t have many relationships.

I broke the rule.

I didn’t even think twice about it.  He caught my eye on the first day.  More importantly, I caught his eye on the first day.  He’s sexy!  He’s funny!  He’s very outgoing and personable!  He was very affectionate, at first at least.  We talked almost every day.  Over the first few weeks we had many, many conversations in which as he continued to reveal things about himself, I continued to check things off my imaginary list of preferred attributes, things I would like to find in a potential mate.  We don’t work together, just in close proximity to each other.  I’m in Facilities and as such, technically, he is my client, but so is every other living, breathing soul in the building.  He hardly ever asks for anything from Facilities and when he does, our relationship holds no baring in the service I provide.  He was reticent, he said, because of the risk of dating in the work place.  I assured him that we were both mature adults and had the capacity to behave maturely and civilly, that there was no law that said that things had to end badly…  if they ended at all.

He continued to hesitate and eventually, I found out the real reason why.  His reasons, I’m afraid, are not something I can share here.  But in all that time, all the things he told me about himself, things he was insecure about, things he thought were negative attributes, things he was sure I would not like about him, in all that time, he told me exactly one thing that I could not live with.  But I was hooked and I was convinced that the one thing I could not live with, would change.  No that I could fix him, or that I could make him change this one thing, but that the one thing would change, organically, because it would be worthwhile to him… because I would be worthwhile to him.

He said he couldn’t do it; a relationship was not in the cards.  He acted like a relationship was all he wanted.  And being a sucker, I paid attention to his actions and not his words…

Actually, I paid attention to the actions I liked and explained away the ones I didn’t.  “He’s struggling with the idea.”  “It’s just his background.”  “He’ll work it out.  I did!”  “I just have to be patient.”  In many ways, we have very similar backgrounds and I really do understand a lot of what he is going through.  And then there’s the ways in which our backgrounds are completely different and I have no way of understanding what he’s going through, and the more I look at it the more I realize, he is not trying to get through anything, he is just coasting along on auto pilot.

But I didn’t want to see those things.  I didn’t want to admit that I was the one with the problem.  I convinced myself that I was not allowing the mitigating factors to impact my behavior…  And I’m still pretty sure of that.  But I have to consider the possibility.

You see, I have always known that I was going to be alone.  For the rest of my life, I will be alone.  I don’t like it, but I’ve come to terms with it.  I’m not the dating kind.  And I’m not someone with whom people make the first move.  I never have been.  And honestly?  I don’t even want to be.  Dating is awful.  It sucks and it’s a huge hassle, and it’s full of pitfalls and heart ache and I don’t want to have anything to do with it.  I do want to be in love and I do want to get married (now that it’s finally legal), but I don’t want to go through all the bull shit it takes to get there.  Can’t have one with out the other.  I know that.

No, I’ve always known I would be alone and yet, when this guy came along (it only took 38 years for pity’s sake!), I disregarded that knowledge and dove in head first.  I knew it was a fluke.  I even knew it was very unlikely to be forever, but I allowed myself to believe that it would last for a while; that we’d have some fun together; that I’d have my share of experiences with another person that I can’t have on my own…  And then eventually he would leave me, because, really!  Knowing all that, I went for it anyway.

I am an idiot.

Things were fine for a while, except I’m certain I was in a different place than he was.  I believed he would come around.  I even convinced myself that he was making strides in the “right direction”.  And then I pushed a little too hard and it all came crashing down.

I should never have allowed this to happen.  I should never have allowed myself to take the chance, especially knowing it couldn’t end well.  for once in my life I set my historical wisdom aside and allowed myself to hope for something better than I had a prayer of getting; better than I deserved.  And I got burned.

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What’s So Bad About Being Alone Anyway?

I had my bi-weekly therapy appointment today.

It never ceases to amaze me how some weeks I feel worse when I leave than I did when I got there.  It’s not always like that, but sometimes it is, and today was one of those times.

Our conversation started out awkward as I told her I wouldn’t be able to pay her until our next visit.  Too many automatic bills on the same payday as my rent is due.  It’s out of my hands… Only it’s not really, but I don’t know how to control it… yet.  I couldn’t help feeling like — I don’t know what, really.  Deb said it was almost like I was afraid I was going to get into trouble.  Maybe she’s right, I don’t know.

It’s not like she has to worry.  She knows I’ll pay her for both sessions next time.  It’s happened a few times before when the timing was bad and I’ve always made good on my bill.  I’ve never given her any reason to worry that I’ll skip out on her.  I feel guilty though, because she’s self-employed and relies on the payments from her– what am I a patient?  A client?  I don’t really even know.  But I can only assume that, unlike me, she is not living paycheck to paycheck.

I don’t know.  Maybe I wanted her to tell me exactly how this would affect her, or more specifically, how it would not affect her.  Maybe I wanted her to let me off the hook when in truth, I’m the one who had me on the hook in the first place.

From there our conversation turned to my relationship with money and what I lacked growing up and my need to fill the void.  I talked for a bit about the financial lack I grew up with and how earlier in my adult life (not so terribly long ago at all, actually) I had a bad habit of frivolously spending money and then not having enough for the things for which I needed it.  I’ve made significant improvements in that respect; thinking carefully about how and on what I’m spending my money and whether or not it’s worth the expense, whether I can truly afford it.  I’ve learned a lot and done a much better job of controlling my finances each pay period and what I’ve learned is that I now need to work on effectively managing my money on a monthly basis, carrying over funds from one pay period to the next as needed to cover expenses that the next check won’t be big enough to cover.

This whole being a grown-up thing kinda sucks.  I really hate “I can’t afford it” being the thing that holds me back, the thing that keeps me from doing what I want to do.  But it is and it does.  Being a grown-up kinda sucks.

Then Deb said she felt like we weren’t just talking about money, lacking material things.  She thinks there’s a relevant connection between the lack of material goods that I’m apparently trying to make up for (or at least I was) and the lack of emotional provisions I grew up with.

This is an old song, and if you’ve heard it before, please forgive me and skip down a few paragraphs.  But here’s the thing.  My parents split up when I was two years old.  I’m the youngest of three with a sister three years older and a brother five years older than I am.  My Father cheated on my Mother and ultimately left us for the other woman.  I saw him on two week-ends a month (sometimes less) and the other two watched him come to the house and take away one of my siblings and leave me behind.  (He thought he was doing a good thing by spending one week-end alone with each of us, and then the fourth one with all three.)

My mother was clinically depressed and had nothing to give her children in the form of emotional support or availability.  She didn’t manage her money well and left her family lacking in material possessions and good food on a regular basis.  She was always “too tired” to deal with her children.  She never helped with homework, she never “played” with her children.  She never even wanted to listen to us.  Oh, I could tell you stories about her inability to be available, but suffice it to say, she wasn’t emotionally available and she wasn’t paying attention enough to know what that was doing to her children.

My brother hated me.  He used to beat me regularly.  The world is a different place now, but if we were kids today, we’d have been separated and taken out of my mother’s home by now.

My sister and I got along OK, but she’s three years older and there came a time when she was more interested in teenager things, and her friends outside of the home, than she was in me.

I was unpopular and relentlessly teased in elementary and middle school.  And in middle and high school, my mother never approved of the people who actually did want to be my friends.  She wouldn’t let me go out with my friends.  She’d yell at me to get off the phone with them after 15-20 minutes. And they couldn’t understand what the situation was.  Eventually, she drove a wedge between me and each of them, until being my friend was just too much trouble for them to go to.

I was alone all the time, even in a room full of people.  It sucked, but I got used to it.

I truly believe I have worked through most of the anger and pain that I felt for so long over the lack of emotional connections growing up.  But despite working through those things, I don’t know how to “undo” the damage.  I’m working from a deficit, here.  I don’t know how to do emotional connections and I’m not at all convinced that it’s worth learning, even if I could.

I told Deb, “I don’t know how to fix that ‘lack.’  I don’t have any control over that, so I just focus on what I can control; money, things.”

And then we stared at each other for several agonizing seconds, like we were in some sort of Mexican stand-off.  Maybe I was trying to convince her, maybe she was waiting for me to reconsider.

People are so afraid of being alone.  They’re so afraid to be alone that they’ll stay in bad relationships, years after they’ve stopped being any value at all.  People hop into bed with the first person who shows interest in them, all in the name of emotional connection; trying to fill the void of love left by their parents or other significant figures.  Only it never works and people hop out of that bed and into the next one, over and over, just trying to find something that can’t be found in the first place, and for what?  So that they won’t be alone?

But I’m used to being alone and it’s not so bad.  I’ve got no one to answer to. No one to fight for the remote, or argue over what shows to watch.  No one to clean up after.  No one to be dissatisfied with how much, or how well, I clean up after myself.  No one to hog the covers at night or squirm in the bed while I’m trying to sleep.  No one taking up space in the closet or dresser.  I go where I want to go, do what I want to do, watch what I want to watch, listen to what I want to listen to.  I deal with my own problems and I don’t have to listen to anyone else’s.

So really!  What’s so bad about being alone, anyway?