Love Languages Pt 2 – The Giving Love Languages

In the first part of this multi-part series, I reviewed not only what the love languages were; I also showcased my love languages and explained why I think I received the results I did.

In this part, I wanted to answer a question that arose due to Dr. Gary Chapman’s own explanation.  As explained by Wikipedia:

He theorizes that people tend to naturally give love in the way they prefer to receive it, and better communication between couples can be accomplished when one can demonstrate caring to the other person in the love language the recipient understands.

In other words, if someone wanted to show affection to someone whose primary love language was, say, physical touch, the latter should respond very strongly if you hugged them.  If their lowest love language was gift receiving, and you gave them a teddy bear, they may not be as immediately or noticeably impressed.  Talking with them and understanding what means the most to them would help clarify this.

The important thing is to recognize your partner’s primary love language and appeal to theirs, not to your own.  I think this is one of the most beautiful, selfless and sacrificial acts you can provide, especially if your partner’s primary love language is a polar opposite to yours.

But I digress.  Back to my original conundrum and Dr. Chapman’s theory:

The love language you want to receive (let’s call it the receiving love language from here on) is the same one that you “naturally” project onto others (hereon called the giving love language) when expressing love to them, right?

But…what if it’s not?

My Receiving Love Languages

Before I go into my giving love languages, let’s recall what the test results were from my recent Love Languages Test for my receiving love languages:

10Acts of Service
8Physical Touch
8Quality Time
3Receiving Gifts
1Words of Affirmation

Pretty standard, right?  My primary love language is acts of service, followed by a tie between physical touch and quality time.  After that, it is a quick drop to my lowest preferred languages, receiving gifts and words of affirmation.

In summary, I mainly and most easily interpret love and affection when a person is physically involved. That being said, it’s not like I don’t like gifts or being told I’m pretty (far from either of those!  Seriously, if you just bought me a present, don’t return it.  And tell me I’m pretty and that my eyes are like chocolate drenched in emerald starlight.  Please.)  I’m not going to accuse a person of “taking the easy route” if they do buy me a thoughtful gift or text me a compliment.  The lower languages aren’t removed; I just don’t relate to them as easily or as openly as my top three.

Sound good?  Got the gist of receiving love languages?

Good.

Now, let’s explore my giving love languages to compare.

My Giving Love Languages

Remember that guy friend I mentioned in Part 1?  Well, about two months ago, I bought him a Nascar-affiliated souvenir baseball hat when my company’s gift shop was having a huge apparel sale. I literally couldn’t wait to see his face light up when I gave it to him.  He did not disappoint.

“Wow, thanks!”  He’d beamed and had immediately taken off the cap he had been wearing to replace it with the new one.  After a beat, he eyed me in amazement.  “This actually feels really good,” he said.  My heart had whoop-whooped in delight.

Yep.  Turns out, I adore giving people gifts.

Even as I write this, more examples rise in my head on how perfectly this fits as my primary giving love language.  Since I was child, thinking of gifts for birthdays, Christmases and other notable celebrations has given me so much joy.  The consideration on what would be the perfect gift for the person and the occasion makes me feel like Sherlock Holmes–for if I get it right, the case will be solved, and I will be able to brag to Watson that the police couldn’t have resolved the trouble without my help.

(I’ve veered. Back on track.)

I’ve even had put a budget on myself, because I will be that person who will forget I’ve only known a coworker for a month but I know she’ll be so happy to receive that solid gold Dragon Ball Z Goku statue collection.  When they lay eyes on the gift I’ve picked out, especially one that matches them so well, their obvious appreciation is almost a rush.

In short–I prefer giving gifts over acts of service.

My Giving Love Languages, Ranked

After much speculation and self-reflection, here is the order that I have determined make up my giving love languages:

  1. Gifts
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Words of Affirmation
  4. Physical Touch
  5. Quality Time

Notice someone interesting?

Dr. Chapman’s theory states that I should, by nature, want to express my love the same way that I want to receive love.  But I don’t.  In fact, my secondary receiving languages (physical touch and quality time) plummet to the last places in my giving languages.

True, my primary receiving love language is only secondary in my giving love languages.  But the order in full is still noticeably different.

Why Don’t My Giving Love Languages Match my Receiving Love Language?

So?  What is the logic behind this?  Why are my receiving and giving love languages so different in order?

I have two theories.

Theory 1:  Self-confidence

As I’ve mentioned many a time in this blog, I suffer through some self-esteem issues.  Part of the inner dialogue that ties in with these issues includes some of the following:

  • Why are you still at the party?  No one would notice or care if you snuck out now.
  • You’ve spoken for too long.  See how bored they look? Just shut up and excuse yourself.
  • You’re not that cool or important, B, and no one is listening to you.

Brutal, I know.  But let’s take this logically for now.

In my state of low self-esteem, I don’t consider it a blessing to give people my physical time and attention.  I consider it selfish to invade their space.  Therefore, ipso facto–I don’t consider it a viable or thoughtful language to “grace someone with my presence.”

This includes physical touch.  It’s hard enough for me to touch people casually–and in fact, I don’t.  If I do, it’s because I had to talk myself through the motion beforehand.  As I mentioned in Part One, I am highly conscious of when I am physically touched, and it is very, very difficult for me to hide my reaction when I am.  I love being touched — but, I am very sensitive to it.

I often assume that, if most people enjoyed (or even wanted) me touching them, they would respond as noticeably as I do.  However, I don’t see this reaction much.  So, I assume they don’t want me to and thus refrain from touching too much.

Usually, I’ll only initiate a touch if a person has touched me first per visit–say, 8 to 10 times.  Or, if I’ve known said person for, like, 20 years minimum.  So, pretty much just family.

And we don’t really touch a super lot.  Can’t imagine why.

Theory 2:  Perception of Majority

After years of disastrous romantic interactions, I’ve noticed a common trend with the guys I’ve dated.  A lot of them complained that, not only did they not know what was going on in my head half the time, they never felt appreciated by me.  In my 20s, I dismissed them as being unobservant and imperceptive.  How could they possibly miss my signs?  I was blushing and giggling all over them!

“Yeah, but you never said how much you appreciated my time or how good I looked at that party or if you noticed my new suit!” they accused.  “I wore it just for you!”

I’d retort, “Really?  But I clung to your arm, and you saw me staring at you at the party.  And I kept stroking your jacket sleeve and adjusting your lapel–with a smile!”

“Yeah, but you didn’t say anything!!!”

The first guy who said things like this got blacklisted as an isolated incident.  But then I kept getting the feedback.  And I realized–a lot of guys like receiving words of encouragement and affirmation.  It apparently impacted them much more than words impact me.

I already gave my explanation on my primary giving love language.  As for acts of service, I had received monumental feedback from my mother and older sister when I’ve helped them over the years.  Either I would enjoy their reactions first-hand as they stared, confused, at the resolved mess, or I would overhear them telling others about the fantastic jobs days later.  Their happiness, whether they expressed thanks directly to me or not, was palpable.  In turn, it made/makes me happy to know how much stress it would remove from them.

People in general like when stress is removed from them.  I like seeing people without stress.  So, I try to remove it.

I be simple gal.  I see problem, I attempt solution.

Conclusion

Re-reviewing the love languages only re-emphasizes how important they are in showing the people we care about, how much they mean to us.  If a person is nagging their partner to do something, they’re not doing it just to be mean (or rather, they shouldn’t be).  They’re doing it because a very vital love language is being neglected.

A wife not being told her hard work matters.  A man who wants to spend time with his daughter fixing the lawn mower.  One sibling who looks forward to that handmade birthday card her little sister gives her every year.

That being said, no one should be compromising their own self-love to make everyone else happy.  You as a person are not exempt from having your love languages fulfilled–not even from yourself.  The love and respect you give to yourself is just as important as the love you give out to the world.

Which brings me to a new question:

Have “self-love” languages been explored?

How do the five love language rank when considering how you best respond when treating yourself?

I performed a brief search on Google, but I did not see anything by Dr. Chapman.  Which means…

This is something to consider.

The Love Language Saga shall continue.  Maybe not next week, but someday, it will be back!

 

Do your giving love languages match your receiving love languages?  I’d love to hear if anyone else is also unique!

Love Languages Pt 1 – What You Want and Why

Let’s jump right in–I am fascinated by the concept of love languages.  They’re not just applicable to romantic relationships–oh, no.  Everyone you know and meet has a set order of preferences to their languages.  And if you can be perceptive enough to learn what that order is, you’ve possibly earned the faith of a family member/friend/coworker/mother/brother/child for a long, long time.

In the last eight months, I have met, engaged, networked, and interacted with more people than I have in the last three years combined.  For a so-called highly sensitive super introvert, this can come as…a bit of a shock.

That being said, I did find myself enjoying the interactions and learning that, despite the crap going on in the world, there are still so many absolutely amazing people.

It wasn’t just the new people, though.  After visiting my sisters, nephew, and mother during the Fourth of July and hanging out with my friends, I started thinking about how people express their love and affection to each other in different ways.  I once had a potential love interest who always wanted me to tell him how amazing I found him.  Sometimes, I just wanted him to sit beside me and enjoy a quiet moment.

Remember that Alanis Morissette line?  “Why are you so petrified of silence?”

Seriously, why are you so freakin petrified of silence?  If you’d just shut your trap for five seconds–

Ahem.

Long story short, that relationship didn’t last–for various reasons.  However, we might have assuaged the pain a bit had we both been more open and responsive to each other’s love languages.

What are Love Languages?

The first time I heard about love languages, my reaction wasn’t the most mature or open-minded.

Ron Swanson Fast Zoom
“Oh, look–another thing with a label.”

“Love languages” was coined in 1995 by Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, The 5 Love Languages.  After recalling a moment of emotional dissonance with his wife (which they thankfully resolved after his wife tearfully asked him to “just hold her”), Dr. Chapman explains that there are five major areas in which individuals give and respond to affection.  They are, in alphabetical order:

  1. Acts of Service (aka doing things for someone else)
  2. Physical touch (aka…physical touch)
  3. Quality Time
  4. Receiving Gifts
  5. Words of Affirmation (compliments, encouragement, etc.)

While we may generally appreciate from all these areas, each person has a unique primary and secondary language that triggers a higher, stronger positive response than the others. To determine a person’s order of love languages, Dr. Chapman developed a straightforward either-or quiz for single people and people in relationships.  Based on the answers in the quiz, the love language results rank by their tallied scores.

There can be various reasons for individuals preferring–or rather, identifying more strongly with–one love language over another.  Maybe your parents gave you an inordinate amount of a certain “type” of love as a child.  A lot of physical touching.  Calling you “beautiful” and “the most amazing thing ever.”  Perhaps you were deprived of a certain love language as a child, and it became the language you now long for in your relationships.

Reasonable Doubt

When I first bought The 5 Love Languages and read it years ago, I was still skeptical.  Love is love, I thought.  When people talk “love languages,” they’re just being nit picky.  They need the wordy definitions and the test results, because they feel like all their needs aren’t being met.

But then I thought back to that old boyfriend–and how he always had some poetic words for how he could see himself in my eyes or how nice my butt looked in jeans.  And then I thought about my response to his words–or rather, lack of response.

And I thought about the failure of that relationship.

And I realized, it certainly couldn’t hurt to take this more seriously.

My Love Languages

I last took the Love Languages Test in August of 2017.  That was my second time taking it, and I recalled that those results were different from the very first time I took it circa 2010.  I was curious to see if there was a difference in my results in a year’s time (it has been a crazy year), so I took it a third time, just before I started writing this entry.

Here were my results:

10Acts of Service
8Physical Touch
8Quality Time
3Receiving Gifts
1Words of Affirmation

The only difference between this time and last time is that physical touch and quality time have flipped–or rather, met in a synchronized second-place standing.  But that makes sense–because they are definitely of equal importance to me.

Quality time.  When I was a child, some of my favorite memories include me sitting quietly in the same room with my family.  One of us is reading a book.  Another one is drawing.  Yet a third, putting a puzzle together.  We didn’t have to say anything; we just knew that we were all there, together and content in each others’ presences.

Goose holding goslings in the rain

Physical touch.  As I’ve progressed into my 30s, my physical sense of touch has heightened immensely.  Maybe it was because I’ve been single and lived by myself most of the time, but I’ve become severely aware of when I’m touched–anywhere.  I don’t respond (too) awkwardly, but I definitely notice.

Handshakes become a world of concentration.

Hugs are breaking news in my head.

And when I’m reaching out to touch you?

Yes, I am giving myself a pep talk.  Doesn’t everyone?

What my Primary Love Language Means to Me

I can see why receiving acts of service would mean the most to me.  In the modern days of click-once-to-buy, ttyl, lol, G-ma, the feels, and other quickened, abbreviated ways of life, it seems like most people are simply in a rush for themselves. Not only that, but I’ve often lived alone and/or noticeably far from people I care most about.  When I find out that they performed some task on my behalf, it fulfills two levels of joy within me:

  1. In their busy lives, with so many wonderful people to care about…they were thinking of me.
  2. They slowed down to do something that they knew would make me happy.

I still struggle with my self-esteem–to the point where I often feel I am the personification of “out of sight, out of [everyone’s] mind.”  I push through this struggle by not wanting to put anyone out and thus taking on everything myself.  Ironically, I grow bitter at my own self-fulfilling prophecy and grumble under my breath, “Not like anyone would help me, anyway.”

Feeling Loved

A couple of weeks ago, I had my gentleman friend over to hang out for a few hours.  “Sorry about the mess,” I apologized as we wandered into my galley kitchen to see what we could find for snacks.  “I’d been meaning to wash the dishes.”

As I walked into the living room to turn on the TV,  I heard an odd noise behind me.  I ignored it at first, because my mind refused to believe it.  But the noise sounded again, and I turned to confirm what was indeed happening in the kitchen without me.

My guy friend was hunched over, half-hidden by the sink and the half wall dividing the rooms.  The duet of china and silverware played from somewhere between his feet.

Slowly, I approached the counter space that separated us.  I didn’t want to frighten this strange, domestic beast while it ventured within my habitat.  However, I couldn’t stop the perplexity from bursting out of my mouth.  “What are you doing?”

He shot up, a white plate in one hand.  “I’m loading your dishwasher.  Well, first I’m emptying it of the clean ones.  These are clean, right?”

I must have been staring, because he impatiently waved me back into the living room.  The plate glinted in the beams of the track lights.  “Weren’t you putting in a game?  Go on, sit down; I’ll be done in a minute.”  And then he watched me–until I actually left the room.

Love Languages:  Want vs. Give

Having (and letting) someone clean for me out of affection was a surprisingly sobering experience.  Even when I popped back in the kitchen a few seconds later to ninja-help, he promptly (albeit good-naturedly) ordered me back out.  No one had ever ignored my “Oh, you don’t have to do that” before.  No one had ever let me…not be in control before.

For once, I was allowed to rest while someone else took care of me.

To my surprise…I liked it.  I appreciated it.

I felt…loved.

According to Dr. Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages, a person’s order of preferred love languages isn’t just geared to what they want to receive.  It also connotes the love languages they like to give.  For example, if someone likes to receive words of affirmations, they’re more likely to give them to others, as well.

But I wondered–were there ever circumstances where a person’s preferred received love language was notably different from the one they preferred to give?  If so, why?  What could/would cause a difference?

These were good questions (thank you, me :3).  And I wanted to know if any of them held true.

This love language expo was not over.  Not by a far shot.

 

Click here to take the Love Languages test!  And feel free to share your results and your thoughts behind them.

How to Keep Yourself from Being Stupid Over a Crush

We all know that familiar scenario.

It’s a normal day like any other.  You’re wandering along, minding your business and doing what you know needs to be done.

You notice a guy nearby.  You’ve seen him around every now and then.  Maybe you didn’t notice him too much, no more than anyone else.  He’s kinda cute.

Every few days or so, you two pass each other casually or sit within the same vicinity.  Occasionally, you catch each other’s eye, but you don’t hold the gaze.  It’s whatevs.

Then, one afternoon, after a long day with your defenses down, you hear someone ask, “How was your day?”  The question and the familiarity take you by surprise, and you turn to find the guy looking at you, watching you.  Perhaps he’s smiling.  You strike up an impromptu conversation.  You part, the event a pleasant little light in an otherwise dark day.

A week passes, and the afternoon repeats itself.  To your own surprise, you light up when you hear his familiar greeting:  “How was your day?”  You talk again, longer this time.  He asks you about your job.  You ask him if he loves the outdoors.  He apologizes for bothering you while you read, but can’t help to ask another question.  You suddenly realize the pretty color of his eyes.

That now becomes your thing.  If you see each other at that same time, you find yourself eagerly anticipating the “How was your day?”  You’re smiling at him as you talk and think, “Why does he suddenly look so much hotter than before?”

And suddenly–

Oh, crap.

via GIPHY

You’ve got a crush.

It’d be one thing if you were still, oh, 10 years old.  Back then, the rush of endorphin is new, it’s exciting, it’s a feeling that you don’t remember feeling before.

And then the symptoms!

The flush of your cheeks.

The inability to think straight.

The classic brain mantra of, “Don’t.  Say.  Anything.  Dumb.  For the LOVE.  OF.  GOD.”

But that’s the thing.  You’re not 10 years old anymore.

You’re a grown woman.  A single grown woman.

And dagnabbit, you do not have the time or energy to let a man who at least might be a pleasant new friend, get away due to your fluttery behavior.

You might have already noticed that I just might be in this predicament myself.

Having always been shy in the first place, one thing that I have failed at was opening my mouth and taking chances that I absolutely should have taken when they arose.  I can (unfortunately) count the number of times I have let a (potentially) good catch slip through my fingers, and let’s face it — it is not a fun feeling.  If you’re like me, the regret can linger in the back of your mind for years.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve determined that I would “fool-proof” my crushing behavior by preparing a list of requirements and prohibitions to ensure that I don’t become a stuttering, desperate, annoying moron in the event I do develop an infatuation.  (Note:  creating this list is best done before the hint of any feelings begin, so I am a little late to my own party.)  Better late than never, though, so here we go.

5 Ways to Stay Sane During a Crush

1.  Always look good — for yourself.

I am a strong advocate for dressing for success and looking sexy.  But by all means, do not do it only for the crush.  By “training” yourself to dress for you and feel proud of your appearance, you avoid the stress of only building up those fashion muscles when you see someone cute.

2.  Get enough sleep.

I know, this one may not make a lot of sense.  For those that struggle with this, though, you know — you are antisocial, insecure, and stressed beyond belief when you are not caught up on those zzzzz’s.  And you most certainly aren’t showing your best face.  So, stick in that extra hour of beddy bye, and enjoy fabulous dream…guys.

(Heh — it rhymed.)

3.  Take a mental snapshot of your un-crushing self.

Remember that silly joke you made that no one laughed at?  What about when you danced the Can-Can in the middle of your office space?  Love to twist off the top of your Oreos and save the cream side for last?

Remember those things, and don’t stop doing them if the urge hits you. No man (or person) is worth compromising what makes you so wonderful.

People (aka me) are notorious for completely diluting themselves when in front of someone they only want to impress.  But think about it.  How did you feel when the guy you thought was hot absent-mindedly made a soft whooping noise every time he dodged someone in a crowd?  Exactly:  unique and adorable.

4.  Flirt with him.

Wait.  What?

You heard me.

Go ‘head on and flirt with him.

What did you do when you were young and you had a crush?  Again, if you were like me, you ran.  You averted your eyes, you snapped at him, and you kept your answers short.  Anything to avoid appearing as if you were interested.

Not only was this the stupidest trick in the book, but it probably only made things more obvious that I liked him.

I mean, heaven forbid anyone see what you are doing or saying to this guy.  They’ll…they’ll…

Not…care?

Okay, you’re probably thinking.  Maybe they won’t care, but the guy — the guy will.  And he will be absolutely…absolutely…

…flattered?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that there isn’t a man in the world who doesn’t appreciate a little female attention.  Even if they’re not attracted to you, per se, any decent man wouldn’t say anything too cruel to reject said attention.

(That aside, ditch the dude and the crush if he can’t respect your mature decision to merely enjoy his company as a friend.  You are too awesome to settle for anything less.)

5.  Let it go, let it go.

If or when this guy either stops talking to you or just happens to not be around you anymore…that is fine.

Maybe it was because of something you did, or maybe it had absolutely nothing to do with you.  Doesn’t matter.

As a coworker reminded me today, there are plenty of fish in the proverbial sea.  Pickins may be slim or harder to wade through, but there are certainly still pickins after this guy is gone.  Not only that (this same coworker told me), but if something is meant to be, it will certainly be.  The Universe is really cool like that.


Even as I’m writing this list out, I find myself relaxing.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the physiological responses our bodies unleash when we see a pair of sexy eyes or a nice smile or a pair of soft-looking…kissable…lips…

Where was I going with this?

Oh, yeah!  The bottom line:  a crush is a crush, and there’s no need to panic over having one.  Enjoy the sensations knowing you can still have them, and let things flow naturally.

And if you’ve got multiple crushes, the more, the merrier.

Like celebrity crushes!

Hello, Mr. HBK Shawn Michaels.  <3

via GIPHY

What Being Car-less Has Taught Me

On December 23, 2015, at approximately 5 o’clock in the morning, I was on the road in my trusty 2002 Grand Am, pushing through holiday traffic toward my mother’s home, seven hours away.  My radio was humming from my mixed CD, and the night around me glittered with the headlights of my fellow travelers.

Then, in the form of a fleet-owned semi truck ramming into the side of my car and veering me off the highway, my transportation world as I knew it changed forever.

Three weeks later, I received the fateful call from the fleet’s insurance company that they were totaling my car, that it was less expensive to just pay me for its value than it was to repair it.  I was mortified, devastated, and burst into tears in the middle of my office cubicle.

I have no car, was all I kept thinking as coworkers rushed over to make sure I was okay.  I live in one of the busiest, biggest cities in the United States, and I have no car.  I have no car!

Fast forward to today — more than four months post-accident, after multiple financial checks, several budget adjustments, hours of new and used car research, and one bittersweet car-buying seminar later — and I am still without a vehicle.  I must admit, I am exhausted.  I am tired, I am wound up, I am irritated, and I am annoyed.

But not for the reasons I thought.

That being said, the lessons that I have learned these last 4+ months have not all been easy — but they have certainly been helpful in how I have been changing my lifestyle.

 

1. I don’t need a car to survive.

The first month and a half after the accident, I was renting a car almost every weekend.  Enterprise offered some great weekend specials, and I used them as much as I could.  Even then, I was averaging between $150 to $300 for just two and a half days of travel.  Not bad for once every two or three months, but after about the fourth rental in eight weeks, I needed to find other means of food and personals shopping.

At first glance, being without a car in a place like Atlanta was terrifying.  Mind, everyone’s experience would also be very different from mine.  Home location, family size, and job location can all affect how this could impact a person’s experience.  For me — single, no kids or pets, living alone and probably more independently (*cough*reclusively) than I should — having no vehicle has given me much time to reflect on what I need and don’t need in my daily life.  It’s also taught me how many ways and opportunities I can to relax and enjoy myself in the comfort of my home — and that I can no longer ignore nor avoid that random pile of junk I need to sort through.

Hmm…guess I still need to get on that.

2.  Mother Necessity is a great provider.

Being raised as someone who was very selective about where she shopped, I would have turned my nose up at shopping for produce at a retailer like Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart was good for contact lens solution, multivitamins, frozen foods, cereals — and maybe yogurt.  But apples?  Bananas?  Ground beef?  Bah.

Fate would have it that my neighborhood sits behind a Wal-Mart.  Like, literally a five-minute walk behind it.  After my rental car revelation, practicality and one-stop shopping was going to work massively to my advantage.

At first, Wal-Mart tried to shut its automatic doors and lock itself up at 11:30 am when it saw me coming.  “Turn your nose up at me, will you?” it growled as I was forced to resort to entering from the underground labyrinth under the parking lot.

The aficionados who’d told me to only buy produce from farmers markets and small/local grocery stores would have probably cried silently as I piled my cart full of strawberries and oranges and spinach and…those odd little yellow mangoes and two pounds of chicken parts.  But you know what?  It’s close by, it’s accessible, and it’s convenient.

And those pre-bagged ambrosia apples might be some of the best I’ve ever had.

 

3.  People care.

As I always say (or complain; whatever), being a shy, anxiety-riddled introvert can, quite naturally, keep you to yourself at home and at work.  Your friends are very few, and you don’t tell everyone the whole story.  It keeps the conversations from being too long.

Despite my ways, word disbursed throughout my office that I was (originally and still) without a car.  The losing the car lost ground pretty quickly, but the subsequent car search breathed new life each day.

“How’s the car search?”

“Do you have a car yet?”

“Hey!  Are you—”[insert hopeful car-driving pantomime here]

At first, the new attention was extremely jolting, and I shied away from saying much beyond the stuttering, “Oh, you know…just…trying to figure things out.”

But then the questions extended as initial eagerness melted into concern.  “How did you get here today?  How are you getting home?  Are you traveling by yourself?”

The attention confused me.  Why were all these people asking me these questions?  What was their ulterior motive?  What did they possibly want from me?

Then, after a fairly close friend told me point-blank, it hit me.

People were asking me these questions because…they cared.  If they didn’t care…they wouldn’t have asked.

Depression can easily make you selfish and jaded.  You can forget that, somehow, your existence might matter to people outside your own skin.  For friends and coworkers who might have been wanting to find an excuse to talk to you for years, the lack of a standard necessity is the perfect opening.

For me, it’s like someone shining an LED flashlight into a self-created, windowless room.  You try to keep the shadows going, because that’s what you’re used to.  But then, you have the revelation:  you kind of like the light.  You can see where you’re going, and you like how thinks look in the room.  And then you think about other sources of light, their brightness and their warmth, and how you can see outside of the room, as well.  The shadows were getting old, and it can be so much work to keep them up.  And suddenly, not only do you want the lights to see you, but you want to know all about the lights.

So to speak.

 

4.  Time to put up or shut up.

One of the biggest decisions I had to make from the start was one of the scariest:  how was I going to get to work?  My job was in the lower midtown of the city.  The commute via car was between 30 – 45 minutes on a good day.  But I didn’t have a car.  So that meant nothing.

At first, I called my good-hearted Samaritan coworker who lived fairly close by, and we carpooled amicably for the first three months.  But then his schedule changed, and I was both too nervous to approach anyone else and, I guess, too proud to burden anyone any more than I already had.  So, after a head-in-hands session of resolution, I went back to the methods of my college ways, jumped online, and typed two words into the search:

Public transportation.

[I actually typed in “marta bus schedule near me,” but let’s keep the melodrama, shall we?]

The first couple of days were rough.  I had to wake up at 4:45 am to get ready and walk to the bus stop, which I then rode to the train station closest to me.  From there, it was a 25-minute ride downtown, where I then hopped onto my company-specific shuttle that rode me straight to the building’s drop-off port.  The total ride took me nearly two hours — and a lot  more human interaction and stimulus than I’m accustomed to.

But, like with anything, I adjusted.  I had to.  I am a healthy, combat-trained woman who (when she gets enough sleep) has a pretty solid-functioning brain and can (must) mold herself accordingly to get herself to work.  And I’m an adult, dagnabbit.  It’s how I roll.

Of course, my coworkers learned of my change in travel, and two of them who also live in my area have offered to give me rides home when I would like it.  I take them up on it on occasion, but I find I enjoy the mornings to myself and the surge of urgency as I lock up my house and race out of my neighborhood only minutes before my bus is supposed to reach my anticipated stop.

Works better than coffee.

 

Watch for Lessons 5 – 9 in the next post, where I garden, turn myself into a sail, and absolutely loathe all things car-related.

Square B, Round Hole

…the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re damaging the peg.”  –Paul Collins

It was a concern that I’ve been pondering a lot lately, but it lifted to the forefront of my memory when my friends and I were reviewing an old quiz that I had taken when I was in my early twenties.

One of my friends stared at me as the other read the choices I’d left written in pencil nearly ten years ago.  “ ‘You look forward to how you will be punished when you arrive late.’ ”

I covered my face with my hands and buried myself into the couch cushions.  “I can’t believe I wrote that.  I honestly don’t remember writing that!”

“Suuurre.” The second friend smirked, but not maliciously.  I had brought down my book Your Erotic Personality (we’ll just save that explanation for another day) for them to check out (again, for reasons I don’t think I can really explain).  At any rate, it was a refreshing evening of food, wine, and candid talk that I haven’t really had as much as I would like.

In fact, after they had left, I began thinking about how very little I was in the mood to have more.  It was an odd dichotomy, that:  wanting more, but being afraid of it when it was arriving.

I’ve lived in Atlanta for nearly ten years, and since being here, I’ve had a lot of firsts:  first big city, first love, first real heartbreak, first job firing, first retirement plan, first martial art, first black belt, first work-from-home, first road trip with a friend.

Atlanta was also the first time that I was able to label segments of my personality — why I tended to get snippy at times and why quiet was often an important — alright, necessary — part of my life.  Words that I’d never thought about surged into my mind.  Introvert.  Hypersensitive.  Anxious.

And then there were — and are — times that make me wonder.  Was I using words like “introvert” and “hypersensitivity” and “social anxiety” as crutches to keep myself from experiencing the world?  I’d experiment by going out to a party in a location teeming with people — loud, young, boisterous, defiant people — and end up shaking and silent in a corner by the time I arrived.  A friend or family member would ask me what was wrong, and unless they knew about my struggles, I simply lied and explained that “I’m just tired; I had a long day at work,” or “I just haven’t eaten.”

What’s worse, I’d lie to myself in the process.  “Oh, I just took my 5HTP too late.”  Or, more commonly, “B, you’re being stupid.  No one’s attacking you.  No one cares what you do.  Just chat with someone — anyone.  This feeling will go away.”

This feeling will go away.

What feeling?

The feeling that your head is being squeezed like a vice every time you’re surrounded by massive amounts of stimulus.  The feeling that, every time you’re about to make a phone call or order food or even just tell a joke to a cluster of strangers, you’re holding your breath and talking yourself out of talking for long.  The feeling that, as soon as you get home from work (especially Fridays), you just want to turn off your phone, flop down on the couch, and lie catatonic for at least two days straight.  The feeling that, when invited to a public event, you need at least a week (heck, make it two) to pep-talk yourself into believing you will have a good time, and no, you won’t have 30 people laughing in your face — and that if they do, who flippin’ cares??

Yeah.  That feeling.

Looking back, I can recognize that I’ve always enjoyed the company of myself or a few to the company of many.  Some of my favorite childhood, adolescent, and college memories include me writing for eight hours straight with no interruptions, taking 10-mile rollerblading excursions with my older sister, or treating myself to a live wrestling show (or two) where the crowds were shockingly respectful and refreshingly kind to me.

That being said, I have recognized a difference in my overall sense of self that did not exist before.  While there is an exuberance and hope for the future, there is also a fear and hopelessness of the present.  While there is calm that everything will be okay, there is my fear towards how it is now.

How do I finally relax?  How do I learn how, not necessarily to fit in, but to fit?

As a child, there was a strange, billowing, orange-warm aura of naivety that made me less afraid to reach out and try new things.  Now in my thirties, that aura has become thin and brittle, blue and icily aware of too much.  The next step is finding the happy medium — a sweet, calm, soft magenta that serves as the perfect filter to my inner world and the world around me.  Finding it, and being ready for the changes it will entail.

 

The Power of Perception

Last Sunday, while spending the day getting things done and taking time out for myself, I had the chance to talk to two family members on the phone.  While speaking to them (separately), I noticed an interesting difference in each of the exchanges.

Exchange #1

    • Family member 1:  So, how have you been?
    • Me:  Oh, you know.  Pretty good.  My back has been hurting a little today, but I think it’s cuz—
    • FM1:  Cuz you’re old?  [laughs]
    • Me [laughs]:  Yeah, with my grey hair and my bad knees and my bad back…
    • FM1 [suddenly exasperated]:  B, I was joking!  And you got all your grey hair from worrying too much.
    • Me [starting to feel a little annoyed]:  Well, I got the grey hair from Dad.  He went prematurely, too.
    • FM1:  No, you’re a worrywart.  You worry all the time.
    • Me:  ….
    • FM2:  …Anyway! How’s everything been?

Exchange #2

    • Family member 2:  Hey, B!  How’ve you been, sweetheart?
    • Me:  Oh, I’ve been good!  Just been running errands today, taking care of things.
    • FM2:  That is great.  Your father told me how beautiful your new house is.  Are you still kicking butt at that martial arts school of yours?
    • Me [a little embarrassed]:  Well, I’m actually taking a break from taekwondo, but I’m really looking into what my next big adventure will be.
    • FM3:  Well, just look at you!  Sweetheart, I’m so proud of you!  You’re just doing everything, and it’s all just coming up aces!
    • Me:  🙂 Aw, thank you!

Since these exchanges happened so quickly, right next to each other, it really gave me the chance to compare how two people who love you can so easily affect how you feel about yourself.  It also displays how some words, though meant without any ill intent, can hurt.  I mean, they certainly don’t help.

As for me, it’s something I’m going to keep in mind the next time I have a conversation with someone I care about.  If I’m really trying to be helpful with their self-esteem…I’ve now got something of a template.  🙂

Portrait of an Involuntary Hermit

“You’re probably hypersensitive,” my counselor told me two weeks ago.  “But, I just found out several months ago that I’m a severe introvert,” I thought.  “And, I suffer from anxiety and depression.  And, I haven’t regularly been around large amounts of people my own age since, like, college.”

If it wasn’t happening to me, I probably would have rolled my eyes at this seeming hypochondriac and told her to “suck it up and stop victimizing yourself.”  But apparently, that has been on the list of items that I had also defaulted into doing — beating myself up for not being…”better” at the things that came normally to everyone else.

And now, as I sit inside and type this blog entry, I sort through the list of items I have planned today versus the list of items that are actually happening around this big city.

Me:

    • Go for a walk.
    • Wash clothes.
    • Work on work.
    • Go shopping for shoes.
    • Attend a coworker’s promotional party and escape as soon as I can do so unnoticed.

The Big City:

    • DragonCon
    • The Decatur Book Festival (one of the biggest book festivals in the country)
    • College football games
    • Festivals out the yin-yang

Yes, my list is a little bit longer in length, but the difference in impact is astounding.  I browse on Google at the details of the Decatur Book Festival — the booths and the speakers and the clubs — and I know, as someone who wants to make a living as a writer, that I should be involved in all this.  I scan the DragonCon images and tell myself, “You love science fiction and fantasy!  Why are you not trooping downtown?”

Aaaaaand then the anxiety floods in.  Dagnabbit.

It’s one of those moments where you just sit and wonder, what in the world happened in the last ten years to make you into such a recluse?  Having been involved in my taekwondo school for the last eight years, it was easy to be busy there and feel that I was active and actively making a difference.

However, since I’ve taken a sabbatical from TKD to pursue my original loves, I’ve found it very…daunting to turn the next page in my life.  Oh, I want to turn it.  I want to shed every outdated and juvenile part of me and emerge bright as a sparkling new phoenix.

But what is the recipe?  How do I find the path that conciliates me without overwhelming myself?  Do acknowledge the hustle and bustle of the city, yet pick a few items at a time and gently acclimate myself back into my interests at a nice, even pace?  Or do I plow in, 100%, into the heart of 600,000 Labor Day visitors, metaphorically electrocuting my anxiety into maximum overdrive or supreme meltdown?

This requires more pondering.

But it’s also stuffy in my house.  So I think I’ll keep pondering out in the sun.

Down Days and How To Deal with Them

It goes without saying. I hate down days. What are down days? Down days are those times when you get into your own head over something trivial and stupid.  Maybe you forgot something at the grocery store, and now you’re going to be late to a party.  Or maybe a friend didn’t call you when you felt you needed their opinion the most.  Or maybe you’ve driven in Atlanta traffic too many days in a row, and you just want to get home. If left to fester, this little spark can ignite a flame that can kill your motivation to…