She’s looking at me again. I don’t know what she’s thinking, nor do I want to know. It’s too early in morning, and I’ve already got a laundry list of stuff I need to take care of–she’s not on that list.
I never look at her long enough to feel her fatigue, just enough to know that she’s not going to break…yet. She doesn’t deserve my empathy or compassion–at least, not now.
I know she won’t say anything. That’s the way she is. She just stares. Maybe later, if I bother to ask, she might say that she “feels tired,” and “wishes that this could all stop.” She complains a lot. That’s why I never ask.
I meet my partner, and we talk about how difficult things are between us. They always are. We complain that we’re tired and that we wish that this could all stop between us. We complain a lot. That’s why I decided to ask her.
I get home. I look at her. She’s still staring at me. I can tell she’s breaking now. She’s been broken so many times–I’m not sure how I’ll fix her this time. I’m starting to think that it’s too late now. That’s why I decided to ask her about her thoughts, her feelings, her needs, and her wants. She says…
“There’s nothing to fix. Just recognize me. Be with me. Own me. I am you. You are me. How long will you deny your fragility?”
Another grey summer day in Japan and life continues on. I wake up to a wall of clouds outside my window, the sounds of money being earned with each passing car, and the hazy whispers of my partner. It’s barely 6 AM.
I consider 24 hours earlier: I was standing in her apartment, face unwashed, clothes disheveled, emergency backpack straddling one shoulder, and wondering if this was our last moment together–North Korea had launched a missile towards the north of Japan.
A few months earlier, I arrived in Japan with a baseline plan of refocusing myself, laying the groundwork for accomplishing future goals, surviving earthquakes, and embracing the unknown.
I am moving forward with writing, with loving, with being loved, with enjoying the simplest aspects of life while appreciating how complex life can be. For now, I’ll return to daily blogging, sharing my thoughts about life in Japan, how I’m managing my fibromyalgia, and whatever else that comes my way.
There is nothing more sobering than experiencing significant loss, especially when that loss hits very close to home. At those times, knowing what to do can be challenging, and finding support may prove difficult. These are the moments that can have the greatest impact on how you define yourself and your relationships with those around you and the world as a whole. More importantly, significant loss forces you to realize that you may be, after all, alone in this world.
There are some who will disagree with the following statement: when you experience significant loss, the likelihood of becoming a social pariah increases dramatically. You don’t have to look very far to see the truth of it. Just look at the rise and fall of celebrities.
The fact is that when you have everything or are seemingly rising to the top of the social strata, you will find yourself surrounded by more people, for good or ill. Conversely, when you lose everything or are seemingly hitting rock bottom, there will be fewer people remaining by your side. It’s a harsh reality, but a truth that each person going through or who has been through significant loss has to face: you might just be very much on your own.
I decided to write about this because of my observations and personal experiences since becoming ill with fibromyalgia. As I have written many times, having fibromyalgia means experiencing significant loss, especially of self. However, you gain a great deal alongside that loss. You find out, for example, who your true supports are and what really matters to you in life.
Fibromyalgia forces a mental housecleaning (if you allow it) and life cleaning. It forces you to question the reality that you have chosen to live and then asks you to prove the worth of that reality, i.e. is your reality one that is worth enough for you to fight for it?
While you attempt to answer that question, those around you will have to answer this one: is this person worthwhile to keep in my life? Of course, the question may not be so direct in nature, but that is what it comes down to: your worth = potential benefit in their lives. If you worth is diminished, so is the benefit that they experience.
Whether or not anyone wants to agree, the fact is that, for some people, relationships are based on benefits. There are relatively few relationships that I have observed that function solely on selflessness. Some people care as long as there is something to benefit from giving that care. However they define benefit doesn’t matter. The key thing is whether or not they are still capable of receiving that benefit if they maintain a relationship with you.
I have found that having fibromyalgia or any chronic illness can make you become completely self-focused because you are having to, maybe for the first time, expend a lot of mental energy on understanding how to improve your health and how to survive on a daily basis. During that period, your ability to care for your relationships, work, and other commitments declines. However long you spend during that period of uncertainty has a direct impact on your relationships, work and other commitments. Given the recurrent and potentially severe nature of fibromyalgia symptoms, you may will find yourself repeatedly going through this experience.
After some time, you may find yourself friendless, jobless and uncertain of what to do next. Perhaps you are already at that point.
Keep faith and do not despair.
There is a flip side to losing everything, to hitting rock bottom, and to being utterly uncertain. Beyond choosing to remain where you are, there is the other option: gaining everything, reaching for the sky, and becoming driven.
All it takes is deciding to see yourself in a new person.
Too often we get bogged down in the identity that we have created or accepted for ourselves. To truly move forward after losing everything means accepting that you are no longer who you used to be. It means shedding your old identity.
It doesn’t matter what age you are when fibromyalgia entered your life, you can still reinvent yourself. In fact, I think the older you are, the more important it is to choose to reinvent yourself. No matter how difficult it may seem.
Reinventing yourself is what I call a process-decision. It’s an ongoing experience of deciding and allowing for various internal and external processes to occur to manifest change. It begins with simply stating to yourself that you are have already changed and are constantly changing.
Of course, there are many practical steps that you can take to begin that process now.
Look out for Part 2
Check out my latest Vlog post on dealing with depression and anxiety.
You’ve probably heard about these dating sites: OkCupid, Match.com, eHarmony, Tinder (mobile app), and Plenty of Fish. With millions of daily users and new subscribers, these sites are the standouts in online dating.
As of 2015, approximately 15% of adults in the US have used online dating to find all levels of romance: from the meet-and-sheets to the celibacy makes the heart grow fonder and keeps away STDs. After all, just with a click your dating pool can extend as far as…the entire world.
Isn’t that awesome? Well, definitely yes and possibly no.
Although online dating can provide more options in finding a potential partner, it also comes with the drawback of potentially exposing yourself to predation of all kinds: particularly romance scams and even physical violence.
Of course, this isn’t to create or increase fear. Being aware and taking precautions, however, diminishes risk. In fact, I have been an advocate of online dating for some time, especially for LGBTQIA* community–you just have to be smart about it.
Written by online dating expert Mark Brooks, the guide is very user-friendly and uses tabs for easy access. It covers the above-mentioned sites as well as others that are lesser known or geared toward a niche market (e.g. JDate, ChristianMingle, PositiveSingles, Geek2Geek, DatingforSeniors, etc.).
For most sites, Brooks has included his own review at the bottom of the site page, providing important facts, such as search algorithms, email network systems, location and language accessibility, and target audience. Moreover, beyond expert reviews, the guide includes user reviews, when available, for each site: Match.com alone has 1,859 reviews.
About the reviews…well, they are quite direct. Some online dating users are quite disgruntled: some complained of scammers and limited dating pool in their areas. Still, there were those who were satisfied with their experiences.
I think it’s a matter of what you’re seeking, which brings me to being single.
I have used online dating for over a decade: from PlanetOut (defunct) to OkCupid. I owe a major thanks to Match.com for my marriage and POF for disillusioning my belief in both meeting someone online or in-person.
Still, I have been very successful with online dating. The shortest relationship (OkCupid) lasted just over a year. The longest (Match.com) was 5 years. So, it’s possible. 😉
If you’re interested in online dating, but don’t know where to begin or wish to see what services are available now, check out ConsumerAffairs’ guide:
Valentine’s Day, 2014, a not-so-little Indian restaurant in the heart of Rome’s Monti district, a solitary woman dressed in bright colours walks in and asks for a table–alone. Already the front room is crowded with couples, but there is one table tucked away in a corner where the woman can sit…completely observed. It’s perhaps not the strangest sight that the diners will see for the night, but it’s definitely contrary to what’s expected. Where’s her date? or Is she waiting for someone? or Has she been stood up? they might wonder. Nope. She’s there on her own, taking herself out for Valentine’s Day.
Of course, I’m not the only one who does this. I’m sure many people do, regardless of gender/sex. It’s just not what others apparently expect. What they seem to expect is that you ought to be at home, complaining to fellow single friends about your single status, drinking your sad singleness away, pining after an old lover or unrequited love, shoving a ton of chocolate down your throat, and then chasing it with a tub of your favourite Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream (or gelato if you’re in Italy). What they don’t seem to expect is that you can celebrate Valentine’s Day all on your own and love doing it. If you’re single, then help me to disspell that misguided notion.
After all, let’s consider what Valentine’s Day really is: a day dedicated to Saint Valentine of Rome, who was executed just outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269 for refusing to renounce his belief in Christianity. His feast day is February 14th, hence we celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Moreover, he’s not just about candies and hearts. Saint Valentine is the patron saint of “affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people.” (Catholic.org)
So, this brings me back to being lucky. I’ve been lucky because I’ve never really had the thought that Valentine’s Day was something do with my receiving anything (be it candy or flowers). It was always a day about my remembering someone special to me and showing them my gratitude for their existence. Being single doesn’t change that. Valentine’s Day continues to be a day that I remember someone special and that I show gratitude for their existence…it just happens to be me. 😉
This Valentine’s Day, try to remember that it’s a day to:
honour your faith (if you are Christian)
remember a saint (if you are Catholic),
thank the universe for the existence of bees (if you are bee keeper),
ask for relief from suffering (if you have epilepsy or fainting spells or the plague),
pray for a safe journey (if you are a traveller),
embrace your youth (if you consider yourself young),
say hello to people around you (if you are not alone, and if you are, then go find someone to say hi to),
remember that someone has decided to put up with your crap (if you are engaged),
remember that someone has been putting up with your crap for some time now (if you are married),
work on having great sex (if you have a lover),
and love yourself and those around you (if you aren’t already doing it).
So, what will you do this Valentine’s Day? I know I’m looking forward to going to church (since it falls on a Sunday–lucky!) and thanking the universe for all that I have. To top it off, I’ll likely have a piece of chocolate, give my mom a hug, make plans to travel in the near future, and wonder about the beauty of bees.
I’m burnt out. Absolutely. Utterly. Completely. My entire being is spent. I assure you that this is far from the ideal way to begin either Mother’s Day or a blog post. Still, this is where I am physically and emotionally.
So, beginning with the obvious: I’ve not been writing. Period. Full stop. End of story.
The fact is that when I am this drained, it is enough just getting through the day. Still, this isn’t about my being drained. The point is that I am sorry for my inconsistency as it goes against my own goals and (possibly) your expectations as my readers…then again, if you’ve followed this blog over the years, then you already know about my consistent inconsistency. 🙂
I’ve already apologized to myself and so to you, I’ll state it again, “I am truly sorry.”
I shan’t go into the details of why I am so burnt out, but I will give a summary here: 3-month visit of my mother, 3 moves, decision to leave Rome, health issues, work issues, life issues, etc., etc.
Still, it is Mother’s Day–which I already celebrated last Sunday, believing it was Mother’s Day–and I plan to spend it doing what I think is most important on this day: being a good mother to myself.
I think oftentimes we forget that we need to ensure that we have internalized a “good parent,” especially if we lacked that growing up. In my case, I didn’t really grow up in a family, and lived a total of perhaps 12 years with my mother and never with my father (at least not in my memory). To add to that mix is the fact that I have older siblings, who are twins. Unfortunately in my experience, living with twins who were significantly older (6 years) meant that I was on the outskirts–they had each other and I could not relate to their experience.
Growing up without parents and without siblings can be and was challenging. To be frank, I have zero concept of what family means in a real sense (of course, I understand it technically), much less have any particular feelings around Mother’s Day or any other family-related days (birthdays, marriages, etc.).
It’s a sad thought to have on this particular day, especially when I have my mother so very close by, which is not something I had for the most part of my life. So…
Where does this leave me? Hmm…back to the understanding that on this day, Mother’s Day, also means taking care of one’s self. Regardless of your situation, remember that to enjoy this day means enjoying and celebrating who you are, what you have done in your life, and recognizing those who have supported you towards those ends.
So, Happy Mother’s Day to everyone! Please, take good care of you. 🙂
Object Permanence: it’s a topic that I never imagined that I would write about…at least, not in relation to myself.
I’m still uncertain about how much I would really like to share about it. So, please, bear with me.
First, if you are unfamiliar with the concept of object permanence, here is a definition by Kendra Cherry, psychology expert on About.com:
The term object permanence is used to describe a child’s ability to know that objects continue to exist even though they can no longer be seen or heard. If you have ever played a game of “peek-a-boo” with a very young child, then you probably understand how this works. When an object is hidden from sight, infants under a certain age often become upset that the item has vanished. This is because they are too young to understand that the object continues to exist even though it cannot be seen.
This ability to understand that objects continue to exist even after they “disappear” is something that is successfully learned by most infants. What happens, however, if there is an interference in the development of ability?
Photo by Gabriella Di Bari, edited by D. Blake
As a therapist, empathy is an important aspect of the client-therapist relationship. For the most part, I considered myself to be quite empathetic, except in one regard: the experience of missing.
For a very long time (and even now), I have struggled to understand what it means to miss. I miss neither place nor people. They are simply present or absent. Whatever feelings I had attached to them when they were present disappear when they are absent…as though they never existed at all.
Why am I writing about this? I’m writing about this because I imagine that I cannot be the only person who struggles with object permanence issues.
What’s the big deal? Well, in some ways, it’s not a big deal.
To be frank, in many ways it has a been a major positive in my life because it has allowed me to transition from one place to another with ease (because the other place/life simply ceases to “exist”). Also, I am forever in this moment, not the last, which makes practicing mindfulness a breeze. 😉
On the other hand, it has meant that I struggle with maintaining connections (or even knowing that I should). More than relationships are lost. Memories do not yield nostalgia, and who, how or what I was before loses meaning because that version of “me” no longer exists.
For now, I’ll wrap it up here. I would like, however, to open up a dialogue about this. Do you struggle with object permanence or with attachment? Have you ever had experience with someone you think does?
Until Next Time,
Young infants do not yet possess the ability to remember or even think about things they cannot see. And this ability actually goes beyond ‘out of sight, out of mind’ because to them, if they cannot see it, it simply does not exist.
In other words, their entire world is only what they can see at any given moment. Or to use a spiritual terminology, young infants live completely in the NOW. Past and future doesn’t exist as conscious concepts. – Positive Parenting Ally.com on Object Permanence
After four years of living in Rome, I’ve learned a bit about dating, especially as a Black woman. In this video, I offer up my thoughts on possible dating experiences that Black women may meet while living abroad, the (ir)relevance of beauty standards, and reasons for travelling abroad, including cultural expectations.
Hope you enjoy it! If you do, please “like” (thumbs up) the video. Thanks!
Hmm…It’s Valentine’s Day. I’ve yet to venture outside to witness the parade of couples flaunting their love–no, I’m not bitter or anything like that. 😉 I simply don’t celebrate many special (any) days.
Still, I thought I would do my part by sharing some words in Italian and Englishi that, were I in a relationship, I would use instead of having to say “I love you.”
Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone!
*Yes, I made a decision not to use the imperative in the first line, which would have been: Amore, non legarmi alle parole piccole…
I’m still undecided whether or not I will change it. 🙂
Amore, non mi leghi alle parole piccole, insensate, indefinibili, ma inebrianti. Le parole volano, ne sai, quando sono parlate.
Invece di cercarle nella voce mia, cercarle nel mio comportamento, cercarle nei miei taciti pensieri, cercarle nel mio cuore che batte ogni respiro fino alla prossima volta quando ci incontriamo,
e cercarle in questi occhi che non ne avranno mai abbastanza di vederti e vogliono bruciare l’immagine di te nell’anima mia per l’eternità.
Search for them
My love, do not bind me with little words,
meaningless, indefinable, but intoxicating.
You know that spoken words are fleeting.
Instead of searching for them in my voice,
search for them in my behaviour,
search for them in my unspoken thoughts,
search for them in my heart that beats each breath
until when next we meet,
and search for them in these eyes that will never have
enough of seeing you and want to burn
your image within my soul for all eternity.