Let Them BE

About six years ago, I was sitting in my therapist’s office, discussing a new relationship. She made a statement to me that made NO sense to me at the time, and yet something inside of me believed it could be true, simply because of the fact that she was WAY smarter than me.

“The highest level we can achieve in our relationships, is when we have the ability to stand alone in the presence of another,” she said.

What in the whatity what? Like what in the actual heck are you TALKING ABOUT? I looked at her like as if she had grown two heads–this was one I wasn’t even going to ask her to explain. It was too…BIZARRE. And what fresh hell is this in re: to dating? You mean I have to stand alone even if I’m dating someone? I’d rather run away from someone than have to show up as I am and be alone in his presence. What is this crappy alternative universe she is speaking of and how can I make sure I NEVER GO THERE?

Those ⬆️ were my thoughts.

And yet..here is where I want to go with this today. Today is right now. 7:51 pm on February 19. I am thinking about this alternative universe my therapist mentioned, where people can stand alone in the presence of another, and I can still honestly say that it feels just plain WEIRD to me that this is even possible.

AND YET

… I now believe in different things: I believe in BEING STILL with the stupid negative feelings that come up. I am still sometimes afraid of pain or rejection or even intimacy, but I know I can tolerate them so I SIT with them and sometimes I EVEN SIT WITH THEM IN THE PRESENCE OF A FREAKING OTHER PERSON. Which is still not fun, but I CAN DO IT, which is the weirdest thing ever.

This is what it’s like: Here I am, living my life, joyfully, or sometimes not so joyfully, doing my thing. “Doing my thing” basically means BEING MYSELF. Showing up as me. And then, in the midst of me doing my thing, someone else tells me or shows me in his or her actions that he or she doesn’t like my thing-whether it’s the way I express myself or my belief system or even the way I look or show up to him or her.

And this hurts when they communicate this to me. Because that’s how I’m wired– I am wired to care about people and thereby I sometimes care a little too much about what they think.

But I can TOLERATE the discomfort of the disagreement. I can still stand as myself, being myself, allowing myself to be who I am.

And furthermore, I am allowing the other party involved to BE WHO THEY ARE.

And here is what I now KNOW to be true:

WE MUST LET PEOPLE BE WHO THEY ARE. LET. THEM. BE. WHO. THEY. ARE.

Let them BE who they are.

And know that you CAN still stand in their presence.

This is how this *could* look in various relationships:

Scenario 1: Pretend I’m married. My husband always forgets to turn off the coffee pot in the mornings and this drives me crazy. I keep telling him to do it and he keeps forgetting or maybe just plain doesn’t want to. Instead of continuing to get angry, I let him be who he is. I start turning off the damn coffee pot because it’s important TO ME.

Scenario 2: Pretend I have two kids who are angels. Then I suddenly give birth to a third who is literally hell on wheels. I say go left, he goes right. He is HARRRD to parent. But I continue to show up as I am in my parenting and exercise my beliefs and values in the way I teach him and treat him. He continues to show up as himself in his strong willed, yet sensitive nature. We butt heads, but we still ALLOW each other to be who they are WHILE still enforcing the boundaries and teachings that as parents we must enforce.

Scenario 3: Pretend I am dating a man who has a lot of qualities I like. And he has some other qualities, that, while are not deal breakers, are TRIGGERS for me. So that basically means that he’s a human being who is just minding his business and being himself, but then I text him something and he doesn’t respond to it, and I am triggered. It is at this moment that I have choices. I can text him in anger, asking for a response. I can text him with a humorous, playful tone, but still with the express intent of getting a response. (Which can actually be controlling since I am texting him as a way to diffuse my triggered emotion, instead of just owning that emotion MYSELF). Or, I can LET HIM BE who he is. And do nothing, unless I am sure I am responding from a place of love, instead of a place of being triggered.

You see, we ALL have our triggers, and we have to OWN them. Another wise person once told me, “What other people think of you has nothing to do with you,” and I thought that she had grown two heads too. But guess what?? She actually only has one head and she’s right. If someone doesn’t like how I show up in this world, that’s about THEM. If I don’t like another person, or if I feel “triggered” by them, that’s ALWAYS about me. It’s never about them. They are just doing their thing.

We have to allow the people in our difficult relationships to be who they are. And that may mean that we sometimes take a break from them, and that’s called self care. It’s also called “being still” until you are confident you are interacting in a spirit of love, instead of fear.

It’s a tricky thing. Because it involves being yourself 100 percent of the time and staying true to you, while simultaneously showing the utmost respect to a person who is 100 percent being who they are in this world.

If we could all do this… even just SOMETIMES. We maybe could teach others in our world what it’s like to respect humanity. What it’s like to be true to who you are, not betray your values, while also allowing someone to be who he or she is, and not taking his or her behavior personally.

This involves knowing ourselves. Knowing what rubs us the wrong way. And then digging deeper with that. What’s under that feeling? What thought or belief is behind your experience? Why do you feel that way?

While all the while, remembering that the highest form of relationship and love you can show to another person and to yourself is to be willing to stand alone and stay true to you, while still standing in their freaking presence. 😳

It’s so hard. Yet so easy. And I’m convinced it’s the best way. But you can disagree with me and still stand next to me and I will still love you.

(Picture in my house I look at every morning before I get in the shower. And I sometimes even pray, “Dear God, help me to love others just as they are. Just the way they show up, while still being true to me. 🙏🏽)

Sit Still, Look Pretty

Sometimes it’s hard to be a girl.

“Why do you not want to give me another chance?” I hear the boingy Facebook messenger notification sound, and look down at my phone to see this message.

I am confused by this question, because I already told him why, several months ago. We dated almost five years ago. He broke up with ME. 

Five years ago when he told me that he and I just “didn’t fit,” I drove with my then four year old daughter all the way up to Fort Wayne to visit my aunt and uncle to escape the pain I associated with this statement. But you all know what happens when you try to escape your devastation, right? Those feelings of devastation end up hijacking your body. They cause you to lean up against the kitchen counter in your aunt and uncle’s home and find yourself sinking into the floor because you can no longer stand. The feelings then cause you to crumble and get smaller and weep and suddenly forget that your very aware four year old daughter is looking at you, and tearing up at the sight of your pain. 

Your aunt and uncle distract your daughter by taking her into the basement to watch the Disney Channel. This is good, because you need to cry, and so you do. You sob, crouched on the kitchen floor, with your back up against the cabinet, until you’re tired. 

And then you wipe your face, drink some water, take a hot shower, and realize somewhere deep inside of you, that you are still loved and still worthy of love. The voice that tells you this is very quiet, but you still know it’s true. 

Fast forward to five years later. You receive the aforementioned message from this guy who broke your heart, and you remember sitting on the kitchen floor at your aunt and uncle’s house, and all you can say is what. in. the. f*ck. 

But I (because we all know I’m talking about myself, and not you), decide to provide an explanation. 

“Ummm, you broke up with me. So, I got over you. You didn’t like me getting over you, and you unfriended me on Facebook, which is fine. But now here we are: you are messaging me on messenger because you don’t even have my phone number, and you want to know why I’ve moved on. We are at different places. I don’t know what to say…other than I ‘just know’ I don’t want to date you.”

He is quiet, and confused. Not satisfied by my response, but accepts it. 

The next day I receive this message: 

“Are you just trying to make me feel like shit, talking about how I ‘dumped you’? None of it makes sense. I have far more to offer now than I did then, yet either it’s not enough for you, or an excuse. Are you actually saying to me that you can do better, and that’s why we’re not at the same point in our lives?”

I feel these words like a punch in my gut.  They feel like a snake bite, venom pulsing up my arm and into an artery* flowing straight to my heart. 

I choose not to respond to his message. I move on with my day. And yet, I’m clearly bothered by it. 

You see, I was taught from a very young age that you don’t say “no” to others, if it causes them pain. I don’t know if boys are taught this or not; but I know that lots of girls are. We are subtly taught that being kind means being small and pretending to be happy. We are taught that if we say no, we must say it nicely, and that if we offend or hurt someone with our “NO” that it is our duty to ameliorate that. 

In very subtle ways, we are instructed to be peaceful and pleasant and pretty. We do not rock the boat. We apologize when we forget this, and acccidentally rock it. 
When a girl begins to date, this translates to “don’t overwhelm guys by being emotional or needy” or “if he doesn’t like your personality, you need to tone it down” or “don’t ever initiate anything, ever.”

It all comes down to playing small. 

And the problem with playing small is that when you play small, you are never truly being you. And more importantly, you are never truly free.  

I want to be done with playing small. 

I want to be done with feeling guilty for saying how I feel. I want to be done with not trusting how I feel. I want to be done with not trusting my thoughts and my logic.

I want to be loud and take up space. I want to show my daughter that it’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to say no, if saying yes means compromising yourself–ESPECIALLY if saying yes means compromising yourself. And while being kind and respectful to others is important, HONESTY and INTEGRITY and BOUNDARIES are just as important. So when it comes down to being nice or being truthful, I will hope she chooses to speak wisdom and truth.

Telling the truth is fundamental to our development as people–into our development of WHO God ordained us to be.

And we were not ordained to be small. 

*(It is arteries that go to our heart, right? Or is it veins? I don’t know and I’m too tired to google it.)

The Time I Picked Up a Waiter

Last October, my friends and I decided to go out for dinner at a delicious restaurant called Late Harvest Kitchen. 

The waiter caught my eye as he came over to our table. Like, in a good way that made me blush. 😳

We started chatting. 

“I feel like I know you,” he said. 

“I feel like I know you, too,” I said, trying to figure out if we were just feeding each other flirty lines, or if we did, in fact, actually know each other. 

We began to ask each other questions to determine if we had indeed met before. One of the questions I asked him was for his full name. Cause, you know, I’m super nosey like that. 

“John David O’Connell,” (name has been changed of course) he said. 

We talked a bit further, and then he walked away from the table. When he was gone, I asked my friend, Terra, “What did he say his name was again?”

“John David O’Connell,” she said. 

“Good job,” I said, thankful that my friends have minds like steel traps.  

I got out my phone to look him up on Facebook to see if we, indeed, do, know each other through mutual friends, you know?  As I’m pulling up his profile and I see that we don’t, John David suddenly appeared, hovering over my shoulder. 

“Aahh!!” I yelled, throwing my phone across the table at my friends. 

“Don’t worry,” John David said. “I didn’t see anything,” he said. “Anything, that is, except for you looking at my Facebook page.”

“Oh my God! I’m so embarrassed! 😱😰” I said, covering my face with my hands. I now was apologizing to my friends for hitting them with my phone, while simulataneously over-explaining my reasoning to John David for why I was looking him up on Facebook. 

Thankfully, my friends know me and understood that my phone throwing was a knee jerk reaction. Surprisingly though, John David seemed flattered that I was looking him up on FB. 

“You know, ” he said. “You should send me a friend request instead of just looking.”

And so I did. And we continued to talk. However, we discovered we were, in fact, not a match, and pleasantly parted ways. 

But there was a reason for that interaction. That interaction was a reminder to me that there is no one else in this world like me. Just like there is no one just like you. And we have to just keep on being ourselves and having compassion for ourselves, even when we do ridiculous things. John David, in fact, seemed to find my ridiculousness endearing for some reason. Maybe because he somehow knew I was being the unadulterated version of myself. 

However, the story doesn’t end there. Yesterday, I saw my dear friend from college, Patty, at brunch. We were talking about embarrassing moments or something like that, and I brought up this story. As I was retelling it, I got SO into it that I, without thinking, began to actually act out the story. When I got to the part about me throwing my cell phone across the table, I–you guessed it–threw my cell phone across the table. Only this time, instead of hitting my friend with it, it hit the lady at the table next to me, and was traveling at such a high velocity that it bounced off her and hit her husband across the table.

“I…am so…sorry,” I said to them. “I was, um, retelling a story and I guess I was acting it out as well.”

“Yeah,” the husband said, straight faced, “I know. I feel like I was just there.”

Luckily his wife found it to be funny. 

I am Emily. I am a quirky, moderately  loud, storytelling, nosey nerd. And that is my power. 

No Love is Wasted

I had the opportunity several days ago to meet someone I deeply admire, Glennon Doyle Melton. And because I am touched so much by what she writes and the actions of her charity, Together Rising, I naturally burst into slobbery tears when I  met her: 

 

Glennon spoke at St.Paul’s Church. She spoke about love, kindness, vulnerability, and pain. While listening to her speak, I laughed and I cried. 

  
Oh, and I got to meet Mary. 

  
Mary was sitting next to me and my friends. She asked me two questions: 

1) Did I find Glennon on the Internet?

Yes, Mary, I did. The Internet is a simultaneously wonderful and scary place.

2) Are you and your friends millennials?

No, Mary. I’m almost 40. But I’m flattered you think I’m that young, so now you’re my best friend. 

Anywho, back to Glennon. Throughout her talk, and in the days that followed, I replayed the following quote of hers in my head: 

“And I do not judge a love’s worth by how it ends. I do not. I believe that NO LOVE IS WASTED…Love is worthy of the time and sweat and tears it takes from us simply because it changes both lovers forever—whether they stay or go.” -Glennon Doyle Melton

I kept pondering that quote, over and over again, because it gave me so much comfort. It’s a comfort, for some reason, for me to know that as I look back at my relationships with the men I loved or showed love to–NO MATTER the outcome of the relationship–that was NOT wasted energy. 

Because it changed them. And it changed me. 

After my divorce, I waited a year to date. Once I started dating, I had two relationships back to back. I was still not healed from the pain of divorce.  I was raw.  I was kinda needy. And I was just wanting to love someone–to give and receive love. Like, I picture myself at that point in my life both as approaching relationships with my arms wide open, but also wanting to not let go of the man who fell into my arms. 

Fast forward to today: now, I understand that there is much more freedom in love, than what I was allowing myself and my partner to experience during that time. I now understand and desire a healthy space from my partner while in a relationship. I know that for any worthwhile relationship to sustain itself, there must be both self love and love of partner present. If I practice self love and compassion, I’m much more equipped to give love away to my partner. 

That’s me now. (Yay!! Yay!!) I prayed and healed and did the work to get to where I presently am. But let’s go back to that other girl, five years ago. 

That Emily didn’t know these truths yet. I gave love away like it was nobody’s business. I baked cookies for my boyfriends and made mixed CDs for them and homemade lasagna and tried to twist myself into a pretzel so that they felt loved. 

And when I wasn’t loved back, I was devastated. 

Over the years, since this time in my life, I have thought to myself, “Geesh, you wasted so much time giving love to men who didn’t even love you. How did that work for you, Emily? HOW DID THAT WORK? Awful, Emily.AWFUL. Don’t ever give like that again to someone who doesn’t appreciate it.”

Now cue some Beyoncé music or something here.  

Because BOTH  of the men that I dated during that time recently reached out to me and told me: 

“I realize now that I’ve never had anyone show love to me in the way that you did. You were just so ready to love me. And I didn’t understand that and wasn’t ready then. But now I am.”

The following emojis describe my reaction to that: 

🤔😳🤓😱

I said to both of them, “I’m not that person anymore. I was needy then. I was giving love away with the intention of getting love back, and that’s not even real love. I’m sorry, but I have no desire to go back to that person I was or to our relationship.”

But they weren’t hearing any of that, and so I just listened. Because they needed to  reflect and remember 34 year old Emily, who was acting like 19 year old Emily, who was also acting like 12 year old Emily. I gave love because I was hungry for it. 

And so I let them have their memories. They reflected on our relationships as very happy times in their lives.  They remember me as someone who truly made them feel loved. And even though I’m not that same person anymore, I find great comfort in knowing I gave love away and touched someone’s life in a somewhat significant manner.

And you know what they gave to me? The gift of self love. The gift of “no.” When they told me they wanted to break up, I finally learned that I needed to take ALL that love I was giving to them, and pour it on myself. Give to myself, nourish myself, love myself. To quote the wise band, Def Leppard, I poured that sugar right on me. 

No love is ever wasted. Ever. ❤️

When a Blind Date Turns into a Therapy Session

One fine morning about two years ago, I met a guy on a blind date at Cafe Patachou.

We both ordered the omelet of the day and went through the whole “give me the clean, short version of your relationship history” spiel, which often occurs on a first date.

Then, we started to talk about random crap, which just so happens to be strength of mine.

I told the story of a couple I knew who had a larger number of children, and were continuing to have LOTS of babies, like seven kids or something. As I continued to tell the story of this couple, I found myself getting really fired up. And three minutes into this story, I was suddenly giving a scathing diatribe about how some people have babies just to fill a void or because they’re bored, and it’s at the expense of the children, when they aren’t able to provide the necessary support (emotional, monetary, etc.) that these kiddos need, and OH MY GOSH I JUST HATE IT when people do this, or something like that.

And the gentleman across the table thoughtfully looked at me and said, “it’s sounds like you’re really angry about this subject.”

“Yes, I am!” I quickly spat out.

And then I realized that I was actually exhibiting the physical symptoms of anger–I was tightly grasping my fork and my face had gotten unattractively puffy and red.

I sighed.

“I don’t know why this bugs me so much. But it really bugs me,” I said, a little bit more calmly.

“Perhaps it’s related to something in your own childhood,” he said.

“Who are you?? Are you like an undercover therapist or something??” I asked, trying to lighten the conversation.

“No,” he said laughing, “but I’ve been in therapy before and am pretty good at making an observation.”

So I did what he said. I began to think about my childhood. I began to think about some of my emotional needs that weren’t met, despite the fact that my parents were, and still are, amazing parents. 

I began to think about the times where I haven’t met the emotional needs of my own child, because I was exhausted or sick or distracted. I thought about how frustrating and upset I was about those times.

And then I thought about why I am so angry. And it’s because I’m afraid. I’m afraid when I’m not able to be the kind of parent my daughter needs at certain moments.

The truth is, no matter how great of a parent you are, no one is capable of meeting every single one of his or her child’s needs 100 % of the time. It’s simply not possible. We are not super humans. 

But, I realized that my anger at the couples who were having lots of children was actually fear–fear for their children. Fear that they won’t get what they need.

I am reminded of this story today when I find myself in a situation where I’m angry at someone–when I’m feeling judgmental about something they said or did.  I personally don’t care for the expression, “put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and try to see where he or she is coming from.”

Because sometimes you have NO FREAKING CLUE where the other person is coming from. In fact, you may think the other person is a complete idiot. You may think, “I can’t put myself in his shoes because I would never, ever DO what he did.”

So it’s during times like that, that I am reminded to turn inward–not out.

When I’m feeling judgmental or angry with someone, I try to be still. I begin to ask myself, “why does this bug me?” Or “what is happening or has happened in my own life that plays a role in how I’m responding?”

If I am not aware of my own values and the events or experiences which shaped them, I can easily become angry and judgmental towards others.

We are all SO different. Our stories have unfolded uniquely and our pain plays out in different ways. Empathy and/or sympathy are not easy emotions to access at times, especially when a person has hurt us, or we don’t like to see them making choices we think are hurting themselves or others.

But at the very least, if we can turn in–turn in and tune into our own experiences which have shaped what we believe about ourselves and others–it’s a start in the right direction. It’s an acknowledgement that there are prizes of STRENGTH and POWER and KNOWLEDGE to be won from our stories of adversity.

And now I’m going to stop writing here. Because it’s 4:30 am, and my insomnia finally wore off. ❤️ Back to sleep.

  

Do you have a boyfriend?

I am really sorry if you’re tired of hearing me pontificate on the subject of dating.  (Actually, I’m not sorry, but I’m trying to be polite, because I like you.) However, I  can’t get off my freaking soapbox yet, until I have driven this point well into the ground. With an ax.  Picture me right now, with an ax, swinging it up and down into the ground ferociously until I am so tired that I cannot speak about this topic anymore for awhile.  That’s what’s happening right now.  And my ax is humongous and metal and I love it.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” one of my former sixth grade students asked me the other day, while volunteering in my room.

“No, I don’t,” I said.

“Do you want a boyfriend?” she then asked.

“Now THAT is a million dollar question,” I said, laughing.

I told her that I am happy with my life as it presently stands. My life is chocked full of love from some pretty special people–my daughter, my family, friends, coworkers, students, and neighbors.

“It’s always better to be alone than with someone who isn’t the right fit,” I explained.

She nodded knowingly, and said, “That’s what my mom says.”

We changed the subject without me really answering the question.  Because asking me right now if I want a boyfriend is like asking me if I want to sell all my belongings and move into a yurt in rural Asia.  Would I do that?  If the right  conditions occurred to do so, then yes.  There are things about yurt living that I like.  There are things about rural Asia that I really like.  However, my life is pretty damn good right now.  So I wouldn’t change anything, unless the conditions naturally lined up for that to happen.

People say, “You know, there is no perfect person. You seem awfully picky.” 

And to that, I say, “You can call me picky ALL YOU WANT.  Pick away at me.  Pick, pick, pick. Pick at me with an ice pick. Because I have an ax.” I see myself as being specific in my desires.  I don’t want a perfect person.  I want a person who is a NATURAL fit to my specific desires. If something doesn’t grow ORGANICALLY, I don’t want to entertain it for another second. 

Forget dating.  (I really wanted to say a different word in place of forget, but my parents read this, so…)

I don’t want to “date,” in the sense of modern dating.  Modern dating is a somewhat forced/unnatural/awkward way of getting to know someone.  

But here’s the thing…do you know how WEIRD it is that these words are coming out of my mouth?  I wasn’t always this way.  I have become this way.  I used to pour energy into making ri.dic.u.lous. relationships work (both romantic and friendships).  I used to pour energy into being someone I didn’t want to be–someone who always said and did the right thing or the thing that people expected me to do. 

But that started to shift in me in a MAJOR way when I became TIRED.

I went to my doctor and told her that I was extremely tired. I had brain fog. I was having a hard time getting stuff done.

And after running a million tests on my body, she came back to me and said, “The main thing you need to work on is CHILLING THE HECK OUT.”

I was STRESSING my body out.  I had gained ten pounds.  I was lethargic.  I was not eating food I wanted to eat. My cortisol levels were up. I felt constant stress in most areas of my life. I had become accustomed, in fact, to feeling stress, which was very confusing to my body. I was not moving my body how I wanted to move it through exercise.  Quite simply, I was not living out my purpose in life because I was too freaking stressed, energy depleted, and TIRED.

 I was tired, because I was giving too much precious ENERGY to people and things who were ENERGY SUCKERS. 

Upon this realization, I became protective of my time.  I love being with my daughter.  I love teaching my students.  I love being productive in my home.  I love eating healthy food.  I love exercising. I love reading good books. I love spending time with close friends.  I LOVE WRITING THESE WORDS TO YOU.  But I could not do it, if I didn’t use my time wisely.

I want to have energy.  I want vitality.  I want to be a warrior who gets up everyday and conquers and savors life.

You cannot be a warrior who conquers and savors life, if other people want pieces of you-people who aren’t a natural fit for you. 

So the solution, I’ve realized, is to be unapologetically myself. That means if I’m around someone who tells me a joke and I don’t think it’s funny, I won’t fake laugh. It means if someone asks me to do something for him that feels weird/annoying/odd/inappropriate to me in even the slightest way, I resist the urge to second guess those feelings and won’t do it just to be nice. The cool thing about being this way is that many “new” relationships (friendships and dating) fall apart rather quickly…because I am no longer doing/saying things just to be polite. I am letting things happen naturally.

A few months ago (before I had my health related epiphany), I had another epiphany.  I was telling a friend some of the qualities I  wanted in a potential mate:  someone grounded, ambitious, emotionally strong, focused, passionate about helping others, goal oriented, intelligent, and purpose-driven.

My friend said to me, “Okay.  Well…do you think you possess the qualities you are looking for?  Are you grounded?  Ambitious? Emotionally strong? Passionate about helping others? Focused? Goal oriented? (My friend left out intelligent, well, because he assumed I was intelligent–silly him) Purpose driven?”

And I had to pause. “Ummmmm, not as much as I would like to be.” 

I suddenly realized that my ONLY job in life was to be THAT person I was describing. And I made it my primary purpose to become THAT warrior. I am not there yet, but I am getting closer. 

And as I’m growing into this person, I’ve found out I actually really LIKE this person.  I’ve become so focused on evolving into her, that I know how important she is in this world. I have a purpose on this planet that is quite BIG in fact, and I believe you do, too.

 I have FREAKING energy again-energy to keep up with this lovely. ❤️ 

 
Happy Thanksgiving eve eve. 

 

 

I’m Looking for a Warrior

I’m grateful to have cool neighbors. One of them is named Megan. And when Megan and I were talking the other day about men and what we are looking for, she said something that stuck to my brain like glue. 

“You see, I’m looking for a warrior,” she said. 

A warrior. And warriors aren’t a dime a dozen. A warrior is brave. A warrior has integrity. A warrior has character. Megan, herself, is a warrior. She is a hard worker–a highly intelligent, intellectual woman who speaks truth to those around her. 

I realized in that moment that I want a warrior, too. But in order for me to attract a warrior into my life, I must consistently work harder at being one myself. 

And the path to warriorhood includes saying a word more often that I’m not accustomed to saying: NO. 

I have a hard time saying no. Sometimes it’s because I don’t trust myself or my feelings. Sometimes it’s because I don’t want to miss out on fun. Sometimes it’s because I don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings. 

And sometimes it’s simply because I’m not mentally prepared. 

And warriors are mentally prepared. They are tough, even though they may actually be sensitive. They tell the truth, even though it causes others to be uncomfortable. Warriors care about other people, but also practice self-care. Warriors believe in their cause.

I made A LOT of mistakes this past year by saying yes to people when I should have said no, in particular in the realm of  dating. If a man asked me out, I said yes–especially if I were caught off guard. This led to a weakening in my mental strength. I digressed from the path of the warrior, that I had already paved.  

There was a trainer I went out with a couple of times, and then I googled him and found out he was actually engaged. #goodtimes, #thisiswhyicreeponpeople, #imaybeoldbuticanusegoogle

Then there was the 28 year old guy who worked from home, watched animae, went to video game conventions, and only would communicate via text. #idontunderstandanimae, #pleasecommunicatelikearealperson

Oh and I almost forgot about the cop who said he wanted to see me–yet never actually arranged an actual date beyond bringing me carry out from Taco Bell. Yet I continued to talk to him, even though his actions didn’t match up to his words. #sorrybutidontwanttokickitwithyou, #iliketacobellbutnotthatmuch

Oh and I didn’t even tell you about the Jimmy Johns employee who sorta stalked me and the Verizon Wireless dude who pretended that he didn’t have a girlfriend and kept asking me out. I didn’t actually go out with those two, but made the mistake of giving them my number when they asked for it in the spot, because I was afraid of hurting their feelings. 

On a side note, at least Jimmy taught me a new acronym.  

 

I think he meant to text “Gtk.” What I eventually had to do was draft a text to them like this: 

“Hey. This is Emily. I’m sorry I haven’t been more forthright with you from the get go. When you asked me for my number I gave it to you without actually thinking through the implications of it. I am not interested in dating you, and I don’t feel comfortable continuing to communicate with you.”

But all of that nonsense could have been avoided if I had already adopted a warrior mentality. 

So here’s the deal, friends. I am now mentally preparing myself to say no to any man that doesn’t strike me as a warrior, while continuing to work on being a warrior myself. I’m going to practice self care and integrity. When someone asks me to do something that doesn’t align with  my warrior path, I’m going to say, “Thank you for (recognizing me, asking me, etc), but I can’t.” I have found in life that it always helps to have a phrase prepared to spit out when you’re caught on the spot. I’ve already practiced standing in front of the mirror tonight and saying, “Thank you, but I can’t. Thank you, but I can’t. Thank you, but I can’t.” I said it 64 times so far. And it felt really good. 

Maybe you want to come along with me and join me on my path to warriorhood. Maybe you, too, are ready to be your authentic, brave, sincere self. Maybe you, too, need to practice self care. 

Say it with me, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I can’t. Thank you for thinking of me, but I can’t.”

I can’t because I’m practicing the courage to be who I am meant to be.

   
 

Being Alone 

I’m getting better and better at being alone. 

You see, I have this thing called an ego. My ego tells me that being by myself isn’t socially acceptable and that whatever my life is on the outside is all that it is. 

Thankfully, I’ve started listening more to my soul and my spirit–and less to my ego. 

I went through phases on and off during the last year where I had a few minor setbacks. I started getting impatient with being alone–especially during my “off” weekends when Aliana goes with her dad. I would fill up my weekends with trying to be out and about as much as possible–out with friends or on dates with men–instead of just giving myself time to be still and alone.

The thing is, being alone does not come easily for me. I am an extrovert–an ENFP on the Myers Briggs. I enjoy being around people. I thrive on connection and connecting with others. I have always believed that I (along with most humans) am wired to desire a committed, long term relationship. 

And so it is not in the nature of my ego to say what I am about to say; however, what I am about to say is something very important I have learned through some rather painful experiences. And that is this: I may be alone for the rest of my life and that is okay. I may never find a yin to my yang. I may never find my true love, my other half, my soulmate–or whatever term you want to use. 

And that is one hundred percent okay with me.

Because my life will not be measured on whether or not I have a partner or husband. It will be measured on the life that I have lived–the mother I am to my child, the teacher I am to my students, and the citizen I am of my community. 

I was put on this earth to make a difference–that is my truth. And I think that is yours, too. So that is the only thing I must do. I must do good, practice abundance, and bring life and connectivity to others. 

If along the way of my journey, I find a partner who understands my truth and can compliment my journey–then that could be an added bonus. But it is not promised, nor is it necessary for me to have that in order to have joy. 

I know the sadness that comes from choosing the wrong partner. It can rip at your heart. For that reason, I have learned to choose being alone over being in a relationship that isn’t a good fit.

I listened to a sermon online once from a pastor named Toure Roberts. In his message, he stated, “A soul mate is a person that God has chosen for you to complete each others’ purpose. Soul mates compliment one another’s goals, dreams, and most important–their purpose.”

So if I find any sort of “soulmate”–it will have to be that person that compliments my truth and my purpose here on earth. It will be someone who I have no doubt walked into my life for a reason. And although I am sure there would be love between us–there must be much more than love to sustain the relationship. There must be that aforementioned sense of purpose, founded in integrity, respect, and wholeheartedness.

All of these things I just told you are lessons it has taken me 38 years to learn. 38, long, freaking years. Years of an unhappy marriage and years of dating men who weren’t right for me. I spent time orchestrating relationships which got me nowhere. (I mean, I spent so much time orchestrating, that I’m surprised I wasn’t carrying around a baton and conducting the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.) I  have experienced bouts of sadness or anxiousness in order to learn these truths.  I learned them by walking through the pain.

I have the following quote saved in the notes of my IPhone. I think it came from one of the books in the “Boundaries” series by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend: 
“To be happy enough to pick the kind of relationship you desire, you must be happy enough without one. You must sustain being alone and get over that fear, in order to get the right relationship. Otherwise, you are just attracting the wrong people.”

And I’m so glad I got over that stinking fear, because there is so much peace on the other side.  

One of my heroes, author Elizabeth Gilbert, nails all of those words I just pontificated about in six perfect sentences:

  

“You are the Second One on my Love List.”

I found this letter in Aliana’s backpack during the last week of school:

  
My first question was, “Who in the heck is Steve?”

My second question was, “What is a love street, and why is he saying that you are the second one on it?”

I tried to ask these questions as calmly as possible. I explained to her that when you are seven, you are friends with everyone, but you don’t have “boyfriends” until you are much older. 

And then I paused to silently reflect on the fact that I actually had a “boyfriend” in both kindergarten and in second grade. (There must not have been any cute boys in my first grade class). 

My kindergarten boyfriend gave me a ring as a gift. When I showed it to my mom, she told me it looked too expensive to keep and that I needed to give it back to him the next day. When I told my boyfriend that my mom wouldn’t let me keep it, he confessed that he got it from his mom’s jewelry box, but that she “didn’t care.” I forced him to take it back, though, because I knew my own mother would be walking me to his house to discuss the ring with his family if I didn’t get rid of it. If my mom would have been the swearing type–she’s totally not–but if she had been, her motto would have been, “Do no harm, but take no sh**.”

Anywho, my second grade boyfriend wrote me a note and asked me to “go” with him. I said yes, and I thought he was going to hold my hand at the end of the year skating party until he chickened out. Then he moved to Florida. 

And then not a single boy expressed interest in me until the age of fifteen. Talk about a dry spell.

So I’ve tried to chill out about this letter I found, while simultaneously using it as an opportunity to talk to her about how important it is TO NOT SPEAK ABOUT BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND STUFF UNTIL I FIGURE OUT HOW TO OWN AND OPERATE A HANDGUN TO KEEP THE BOYS OFF MY PROPERTY UNTIL SHE’S 18. 

Just kidding; I’m a pacifist. 

But on a serious note, this stuff makes my head spin. It really does. Like my brain says, “This is way too freaking young to be talking about this.” 

But, then I remember that this very topic–like many others–is one that I want her to first talk about with ME, her mother. Not the kid up the street. Not some random adult from church. Not an acquaintance or even friend of the family–FROM ME. Because I’m the mama bear and I am the one who will be raising her and modeling for her how to have healthy relationships. 

So back to Steve. Freaking Steve.

Aliana proceeded to explain to me that Steve is a friend from YMCA Daycare and that when he wrote the sentence, “You are the second one on my love st.,” he was trying to tell her that she is the second one on his love LIST. Some freaking love list. 

“Love list? There’s such a thing as a love list?” I asked her.

And then I started having flashbacks to middle school when we would play MASH on notebook paper and list three boys we liked, and then three cars, and a bunch of other crap. 

So this love list is maybe kinda like MASH. 

But I got down on eye level with her, and this is what I said:

“You know that when we talk about loving each other in elementary school, we talk about loving each other as friends. There’s no boyfriend/girlfriend stuff. Got it?”

“Got it,” she said.

“But furthermore, when you ARE old enough to have a boy like you and he tells you that he loves you, but that you are number two on ‘his list,’ you need to say, ‘Oh I’m not number two, honey, because I’m removing myself as an option on this so-called list.’ Aliana, when it comes to love, remember this: never be someone’s number two. You don’t rank people or love.”

By this time, she was walking into the living room to turn on PBS Kids. She didn’t get it. And then I realized I was kinda saying that message to my own damn self.

When it comes to love, there is no number two. There is no list. Did you hear that, Emily? There is no number two. 

  

“The Toothpaste is Out of the Tube, Crap!” 

About three years ago, I went out on a few dates with a guy named Ian.

I met him–you guessed it–online. He had recently moved to the area from Baltimore to pursue a job in higher education. He was highly intelligent and a good listener. He tugged on my nerdy heartstrings with his knowledge of research practices and procedures. We talked on our first date about data triangulation. I was kinda starting to believe the stars had aligned and that God and the universe were celebrating our coming together.

And then I decided to google him. 

Being able to “Google” someone is still a novel concept to me. The Internet is just plain freaking bizarre. I mean I can type in your name and random things I know about you such as your city and profession, and a crap load of information may come up. It’s creepy and comforting at the same time to know that we have such information at our fingertips.

So when I googled Ian, a departmental newsletter came up that was two months old,  dated slightly before we met. In the newsletter, it welcomed Ian to the department and in his short bio, it stated, “Ian lives on the east side with his girlfriend, Tara, and their pet fish.”

  
Now, before I proceed any further with this story, I have a confession to make. I was uncertain at this point in my dating relationship with Ian, of whether or not I was physically attracted to him. I believe that physical attraction can grow. However, finding this newsletter just put an unpleasant taste in my mouth. 

I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I was fairly new to online dating at this point in my life. I was concerned that if I told him that I had found this information, that I would look like the social media stalker that–wait a second—THAT I REALLY WAS.

I went on another date with Ian, but didn’t have a plan of action in terms of how and when I would bring this information up.  This lack of planning took the date on an awkward turn, as I became passive/aggressive with him instead of dealing with this newfound information in a healthy, communicative way. 

Ian had decided to take me to the zoo. We entered the aquarium area first. We immediately passed by a fish tank with large, tropical fish. Ian, being his nerdy self, started reciting facts about tropical fish, when I suddenly interrupted him. 

“So do you have a pet fish?” I inquired.

“No,” he said.

“Have you ever had a pet fish…ever in your life?”

“Not that I can recall,” Ian chuckled.

“Okay, ” I said, feeling snarky. 

Later in the evening, he took me to a movie. Right before the movie started, I somewhat impulsively decided that I HAD to freaking bring this up.

“Okay, Ian, I need to tell you something!” I blurted.

“Sure, shoot!” he happily exclaimed, having no clue of the shit that was about to hit the fan.

I started introducing what I was going to say by giving him some WEIRDASS analogy about toothpaste being out of the tube. He looked confused, so I got right to the point.

I told him that I had googled him, found the departmental newsletter mentioning him and his girlfriend and the pet fish. I told him that I was trying to erase it from my memory and not bring it up, but I had to, because I couldn’t erase this information from my mind. I squeezed the toothpaste out of the tube, so to speak, and it wasn’t going back in. 

So then, Ian started explaining this relationship he had with this girl who was “very unstable.” He met her in a bar, they moved in together the next day, she had a pet fish (it was HER fish–not his), and that things were never serious, but that he mentioned her in the departmental newsletter so that she wouldn’t have her feelings hurt by an omission. 

“She was very, very unstable. Eventually, we broke up.”

And then he started to give me timelines for when they broke up, but they didn’t match the timelines when we had started talking, and then–

The movie started.

When it was over, I was nice, but sped out of there as quickly as possible and wrote him a kind email the next day stating that I appreciated him, but didn’t think we were a match. 

I tell you this story, because as WEIRDASS as it is, the toothpaste analogy is one of my favorites. Because whether it’s minty or fruity or Aquafresh or Colgate–it’s still toothpaste. It’s messy. You can’t put it back in. You have no choice but to acknowledge that IT’S THERE.

So many times in my life I have found out information that troubled me. However, instead of revealing it to the party it involved, I just let it ruminate in my mind and affect my image of that person. At times, the information I found wasn’t even VALID. However, it stuck to my brain in all its gooeyness and just wouldn’t get back in the tube. 

Until I finally acknowledged it by communicating it to the other person.

And that night, I had to tell Ian that all I felt with the discovery of that information was that I had been deceived. I understand that when two people get to know each other, they may not be fully honest of their shortcomings.  You want to impress your new crush. Perhaps I dismissed him too quickly, but my emotions couldn’t handle anything that sounded remotely dishonest, period. If he had fessed up and acknowledged the strangeness of the situation, it may have been salvageable on my end. But there was only an explanation. An argument and discussion of facts. No empathy in his response. Just more of a “this is what happened–it’s not a big deal.” 

Only it was for some reason. It was like a gigantic deal to that little heart of mine. ❤️ In life, I’ve had to make several judgment calls that relied alone on my heart–not pure facts. And this was one of them. 

My dear readers, I have more I want to say. But my LOUD NEIGHBOR is blasting some kind of weirdass music that prevents me from writing anything else on this very topic tonight. And I have already exhausted my use of the word, weirdass.
I am wondering if I should ask him to turn it down, or if I should maybe jive along. If I ask him to turn his down, then it means he will have free license to ask me not to blast Nelly or Coldplay or REM or Jay-Z or any of the other random music I listen to. 

So I will sit here and jam along.  And I may make this for dinner. Because I had a date that just cancelled on me and now I want to eat potatoes: