Yesterday was a bad day. Nothing happened to make it a bad day. Nothing except creepy old demons popping up in full force. I’m soooo over the demons. Being a “silver lining” kind of gal, there was one moment that was really positive. I had a good idea. (Insert Sports Night joke here…)
I’ve read a lot about habits and patterns and trying to change them. The one big take away I had from that line of study is that habits exist in three phases: trigger, behavior, reward. One of the worst habits I’ve picked up lately is delaying getting out of bed. But I don’t hit the snooze and get a few more minutes of sleep, I grab my phone, pull up Netflix and turn on an old rerun of some show and lay in bed, slowly waking up while listening to something I’ve certainly seen before. Yesterday, in a moment of clarity, I thought – fine, keep the behavior, but start your day with something better than old 30 Rock reruns. Grab the phone and pull up a Ted Talk. Start your day with a new idea, someone talking passionately about their life or how to make the world better. Trigger: waking up, behavior: watching something while consciousness seeps in, reward: staying in bed the extra few minutes.
Keep the Ted Talk thing in mind while I tell the next part of the story.
(But first, a note. Because I’m about to talk about still being all blue and broken from the last relationship. What I have done a bad job at, and maybe because I didn’t even know how to verbalize it myself until recently, is explaining exactly what is wigging me out so completely. I don’t want the ex back. I broke up with him for reasons and those reasons solidified and multiplied with his behavior since the break up. I’m wigged out because I am shocked at his behavior towards me. The other disservice I’ve done to myself is letting myself near any electronic device after a couple of drinks. Because what I tend to email or text to the ex is the end of a thought or conversation I’ve had in my head – and without the logic that got to that conclusion – he assumes I want him back. The thing that wigs me out so much is that I became the villain in this story. I wanted to get married. I was willing to make sacrifices and compromises and live a life very different than the one I had imagined for myself because I loved him that much. He wasn’t in love with me. He wasn’t ready to talk about that kind of future. I could tell. I could tell in his pulling away. I could tell in his avoiding certain discussions. But he wouldn’t man up and break up with me so I did with him. I couldn’t love him as much as I did and have to find enough to love me as well. It was honest and brave – to break up with a man I still had soo many feelings for, soo many plans for… What wigs me out is that he couldn’t be as honest and brave back. He had to turn me into the villain and himself into the victim so he could avoid taking responsibility for any part of this. We could have parted amicably. He could have said, “Sarah – this is so hard. You are so great and it’s been amazing to get to know you better. I understand that we are both trying to be active and present in our lives and our current long distance situation does not facilitate that. ” Or something like that. Instead, for the last five months I’ve been carrying around the broken love and broken plans and broken pictures of us in the future AND all the blame, when his actions are what led to the break up. He was relieved I did it and he didn’t have to. Why can’t we just tell the truth about this? I’m wigged out by him not being at all the man I had hoped he was. That he said he was.)
I busted out my trusty copy of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert a few nights ago. There are a few passages that have become like a best friend’s advice for moving on and dealing with my stuff, especially when it comes to men. One of her most famous passages by now is the conversation between her and Richard from Texas about soulmates. Recently, Gilbert was with Oprah on some kind of speaking tour and I ran across this snippet, where they talk about that passage:
She says in the clip (if you didn’t watch it – which you should – it’s 2 minutes) “Whatever they fired up in you, you might have needed fired up, and then they need to go.”
If I look at the last relationship through that lens, it helps. I loved D so much that I looked like crazy to get a job in Ohio. I wanted to be closer to him. It was going to take something that massive to drive me from the pretty comfy life I had in St. Louis. To leave my family, to leave my perfect apartment, to leave my park and Farmer’s Market and Claire and Ex Hubs and my routine… I landed in Ohio just fine. Maybe his job was just to bring me here, where professionally I’ve had more opportunities than I could have imagined in St. Louis. I’m better connected to the work, to things that challenge me.
So – now you have the habit/Ted Talk part of the story, and the Elizabeth Gilbert fan girl part of the story. This morning, after my rough mental health day, I woke up, grabbed my phone and pulled up her latest Ted Talk. She just did this one a few months ago.
I just love her. Watch the video – it’s about 8 minutes long. Recently I wrote about the purpose article and how it struck me, and I think she has some of the same lessons. What are the yearnings, what makes you forget to eat, what kind of crap can you put up with because putting up with that crap is better than not doing what you love. “I loved writing more than I loved failing at writing.”
She goes on to say that after the success of Eat, Pray, Love she was struggling with creativity and felt a lot in common with her unpublished diner waitress self. This bit spoke to how I felt yesterday. For some reason, by last night, I was back in the worst place about this silly break up. I knew it had to be more than about not having the guy anymore. First, he was a nice man, but he’s not for me for the long haul. Logically, I know that. Second, I’ve been through break ups before. Why was I back in the worst emotional place?
It’s because I feel empty.
For about a year surrounding my divorce I felt I was in a place where all I did was take. I took energy from the universe, kindness from friends, all the pity I could get and I gave nothing back. I tried to right that the next few years. I thought of the first half marathon I ran as part of that atonement. I was raising money for the disease my cousin died from. I ran 13.1 miles because I didn’t love it. Because I knew I needed to do something outside of me. It’s hard to explain, but I feel I had gotten to a great balanced place. I was giving a little more than I was taking and I was happy.
Then I moved to Ohio. And I gave a lot. I gave all this love and energy and attention to someone who I thought was deserving. I put a lot of my own wants aside to be what I thought he needed. And I would have kept doing it if I hadn’t bought a house that needed someone to stay and work on it over the weekends. I would have continued to go up there most weekends, plan and pay for trips, make special dinners and special plans, compromise some of my key values because they were very different from how he lived, get Cleveland Browns t-shirts… the list goes on. And some of that is okay – some of that is relationship stuff. But I failed to get what I needed back. I continued to show up and ask “how can I be nice to him today, how can I make him feel special and loved and important?” I never got that back. So, sure, I had this coming, right? I saw what was happening and I let it happen. I could have broken up with him for any of those reasons too, but I didn’t because I loved him. And I was making choices.
And now I feel empty.
There’s an emotional bank, right? Have you heard this metaphor? There are going to be days that are emotionally hard hitting. Days I hurt someones feelings. If I’ve made deposits in that person’s emotional bank, then hopefully the withdrawals can be weathered. By making me the villain in this story, by not acknowledging and validating all the efforts I made, there were no deposits made in the ole emotional bank. But I kept spending.
And now I’m empty.
Back to the Liz Gilbert Ted Talk. What do you love more than you love yourself?
I like helping. (You were wondering where that title was coming from, yes? No? Moving on…)
After my semester in Disney, I realized I wanted to go into hospitality because I loved answering the tourist questions. I loved being the person with answers. Even in what should have been a dark time after getting let go from the casino in 2011, I had these part time jobs that let me help people AND talk about food all day! I loved helping them pick out chocolate and master the mandolin (cooking one, not the instrument one). I got a master’s degree because I wanted to help organizations be what they were supposed to be. I love when strangers stop me on the street and ask for directions, and if I don’t know, I stand there and google it for them! I offer to take pictures of families in front of land marks so they can all be in the picture. I like helping. This is the thing at the core of me.
I feel empty and it’s hard for me to help anyone right now. I gave a lot this year. But at least I feel like I’ve finally figured out what the demon is that I’m trying to slay. I need to find a way back to helping.
From my pal Liz Gilbert (because I really do feel we are pals) and her Facebook page:
Maybe this is just a year that asks questions.
Quinn and I will just have to figure out the answers.