People are my problem and my solution

I have a people problem, always have for as long as I can remember. People were certainly part of my traumatic history, and that set me up for building walls around people without even realizing it. I can walk by people without even acknowledging them, even if I know them. My instinct is to not be noticed. It doesn’t always occur to me to say “good morning” or “good night” to folks. I grew up trying to get by without being noticed because being noticed often meant trouble.

It’s taken me years of observation to figure out that my natural way of being does not serve me well. A few years ago I was visiting with a Mexican family that had young children. When company would visit the kids knew they were expected to say hello and greet their guests. One day I was there when one of their young sons just was not in the mood for it, and his mother told him, “Saludale! (Greet them). And later I heard her privately explain to him that it’s considered rude not to greet guests. And in that moment I realized this child and I were learning something important, that you greet guests! So simple, yet not always present in my awareness that I need to do this.

Many of the friends I have made in my life have come from other more outgoing friends making introductions. Meeting my future wife came out of an outgoing friend introducing us with no preamble before she did it, and I often wonder if it’s because she knew I would have foolishly fled the scene if I knew an introduction to a stranger was on the horizon. When I ask my would be cupid friend if she introduced us this way on purpose she just gets coy and smiles, never giving me a straight answer, which just adds to the joy of the story.

I instinctively run from people, yet I need people in this life. And I often disadvantage myself all on my own in this realm. I have to make myself say hello and good night to folks. I have a colleague who can be very effusive when she speaks with folks, and I thought to myself that cannot possibly work. I thought surely people would find it a bit much. But I tried it on during interviews I facilitate in my job, and oh my, it works. Tell a person that you are so thankful they set time aside to meet with you, and you are happy to have a chance to speak with them just works wonders with getting folks comfortable. You would think I promised them the universe. Much to my surprise, as I express gratitude more and more during these interviews I’ve found myself truly feeling gracious for their time.

I have learned that I need to continue to watch and observe those that are more successful with people than me because I do not know crap about how to interact with others. I like to think I do, but I do not. I only know how to speak clearly, calmly and directly. It’s became painfully clear to me that I cannot trust my assessment of how to interact with others. My instinct is to stay home all day and speak to no one, that is my default mode that I fight every day.

Life on life’s terms

My life has changed tremendously since I last blogged. I married my lovely wife in May, and I’ve moved to a different part of the country so that we can live together. The hardest part has been quitting a job, a job I loved, that was in a toxic place. So here I sit in Starbucks in a new city with no job. Of my own accord I quit my job to be with my wife. It’s wonderful sharing daily life with her, rather than one of us getting on an airplane every month, sometimes twice a month, to be together.

Though it is stunning to voluntarily place myself among the unemployed. I didn’t plan it this way. I’ve been actively applying for jobs since May, yet this is where I am. It’s rather humbling, and scary. For many years, my identity was wrapped up in my career. I stayed at terrible places for a multitude of reasons: too scared to leave, cared too much about my cases or people I worked with, resignation that nothing out there was better, etc. It was sobering to realize that my place of employment was not worth the suffering.

Even with the disastrous workplace that it was, it was still hard to leave. In any work environment, there are always good people to be found. I will miss the gals I worked with, and the accidental mentors that materialized for me.

Who knows what comes next for me. It could be something completely different. I’ll try to be open to it, and not let my trauma history take over my actions and mind-set. Sending out a prayer to the universe that work will come my way when my bank account needs it.

a little hope

I woke up this morning to a message from a friend who asked if I was still blogging. And to my further stunned surprise, she said she missed it. It was another one of those many life moments for me where my perception of myself and what others may perceive do not match. I am infinitely stunned by moments where my presence in this universe is not something to avoid, like ticks on a hike.

After countless months I still feel the cold fear of writing. But I want to move through it.

Life has taken a turn for hope and slivers of sunshine. And the bizarre thing is that though I’ve always wanted these blessings, a job that won’t destroy my soul and a partner I adore, they feel fleeting. It’s as if they will slip out of my hands if I allow myself to be too happy, let my guard down in the laughter and serenity. I used to think if I could just have one of these things, a job that wasn’t toxic or a loving partner, my life would even out, the bumpy roads would be fewer, and my swaths of time spent in dire sadness and anxiety would largely cease. There are fewer bumpy roads, and life has shown me lovely peeks of sunshine; however, the sadness and anxiety have a trigger that’s a different side of the same coin -fear of loss.

I freeze and get stuck in moments that are genuinely happy, like the time my partner and I danced to Lady of the Harbor by Brother Sun. That is so not a dancing song, but it felt so right to dance and sing to the hope and love for humanity in that song with my favorite human being on the planet. And in that moment, all I can think is, “I do not deserve this beautiful, kind soul who can gently hear me out when I get upset, and will say to me, “You’re entitled to your feelings.” She will say this to me,  grouchy me with my too-hard-on-people ways. In that beautiful moment we shared that song, the prominent thought in my brain was, “Will I mess this up? Don’t mess this up. Don’t be a jerk, drop that stupid defense mechanism.

Before we admitted our feelings to each other my now partner asked me, “How did we get to our age and not find people we could be our true selves with?” I said to her, “The DID was a wall for me with people.” And then we both got teary after that.

And here’s the moment when I thought that maybe, just maybe, she also had feelings for me, she said this to me one night via text before we were together, “You’re a whole messy human who’s willing to let us in. I’ll take the bad with the good. It makes you you.” She won my heart in that moment.

And when I find myself losing hope I think back to our text conversation about me sleeping on the back of my family’s gold Montego when I was a kid, with my blanket in the desert night, the long back of the Montego was perfect for sleeping under the stars. The stars gave me hope for a better tomorrow. I said to her, “The stars are full of hope.” And she replied, “They are – they burn bright for millions of years. Beacons of hope.”