Monday, January 02, 2012

Ok, Maybe I DO Get Overenthusiastic

I wrote this essay in October and think it is worth sharing.

I would recommend that anytime you stop seeing someone in a romantic sense that you sit down with that person and have a chat about it. The things you can learn are quite useful, and it goes a long way to soothing hurt feelings. Some of you are aware that in the past couple of months, I have felt terribly wronged, misled, and otherwise lied to by someone. Names are not important (and please do NOT call out any names in comments). Suffice it to say that this person finally agreed to sit down with me one-on-one and talk. I think the talk went very well, and had I had talks like that with previous exes (although this person didn't last long enough to be an actual "ex"), I could have saved myself a lot of self-torment and heartache.

In this conversation, I was able to provide my perspective of what went on between us and to explain where my thought processes led me, even when the conclusions were in error. About a month ago, I had become pretty drunk and for the first time in my life, I was an ANGRY drunk. Never before had this happened, and I hope it never happens again. I don't remember what I said to him, but I do remember the overwhelming sense of rage. It's the kind of rage I've only felt a couple of times in my life, and never drunk. It's never been pretty. I'm fairly slow to anger, but when I do lose my temper, it can be volcanic, and I can say some of the most vicious things imaginable. That's why I try to always recognize when I'm getting angry and to deal with it immediately rather than let it fester or grow. It's a strategy that has worked pretty well for me. Apparently, Angry Drunk Jason unloaded on this guy for about an hour (via text no less). Then I switched to depressed, morose, self-pitying drunk Jason. Luckily, this guy deleted the whole ugly scene, as did I, before I passed out.

Anyway, what led up to that unloading of venom does not in any way excuse it. I made that clear when I started asking him to sit down and talk with me after that incident. I wasn't sure he'd actually do it, even after he said yes. After all, he'd stood me up before, but to his credit, he did show up. I spent a lot of time talking, explaining things about my background, and why I thought the things that I did. It wasn't a monologue, thankfully, and he provided feedback along the way.

What I learned is that I tried too hard, and made him feel like I was pushing him toward a certain "boyfriend status" ahead of the timeline he was comfortable with, so he just shut down and backed off, basically avoiding me like the plague. Why not just tell me I was being too intense to relax or back off? Good question. He says he didn't know what to say, so he said nothing. It's a bit of a cop out, but one that rings true to me. He knows that this course of action simply made things worse, and lead me to believe that he'd been telling me a pack of lies which infuriated me. Nothing will send me into orbit more quickly than giving my trust to someone and having them betray it.

I have trust issues with men. There's no way to get around that fact. I've had therapy to work on it, but it's a very slow process. My first experiences with having my brain soaked in "love chemicals" which produce the unique sensation of falling in love with someone with it's euphoria, the sense of fireworks exploding in the sky, etc etc did not go well. In fact, they have NEVER gone well. After a particularly heinous period in my early-to-mid-20s, I simply vowed that I would never allow anyone to hurt me like that again, to rob me of my sense of self-worth and feeling that I was loveable and worthy of being loved. The result was that I built a particularly strong and effective wall around my heart so that a person could get pretty darn close to me, but not close enough to do real damage. Flash forward a decade or so, and this strategy certainly kept me from having my heart broken again, but it left me completely alone with no prospects of that changing.

Over the last several years, I've learned that if I don't want to die alone (a thought which has haunted and frightened me since I came out of the closet in 1994), I have to be willing to take risks emotionally. I have to be willing to open my heart to being broken again if I expect someone else to do the same. The crappy thing about that idea is there are no guarantees that it'll work out. You expose your heart to pain, and you're likely to get hurt, even if you find love. The people we love can be the ones who hurt us the most sometimes. So I could either grow old and die alone, but heart not being risked again, or I could learn to tear down that wall I'd built and take a risk that could REALLY pay off or it could end up in heartache again. But if I didn't take "enter the game" there was no way I could win. Besides, *I* get sick of hearing myself complain about never having a man; I can only imagine what my friends think!

Anyway, why this guy ended up being the person to unleash the love hormones in my brain, I don't know. He's not the type I usually go for, and had he not expressed interest first, I probably would have never paid him a bit of attention. But he did express interest first, and I was intrigued and then really liked what I saw. Next thing I know, by the end of the first date, my brain was pumping out dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin (the "love chemicals" of the brain) in apparently large quantities. Spending the night together soon after only put production of these chemicals into overdrive. What can I say? I don't share my bed often, but when I do, it's very much a bonding experience for me. It's why I don't do overnights casually in the sexual context. Sharing a bed on group trips does not have the same effect ;-)

It had been over a decade since I'd experienced anything close to these emotions, and I have to admit it frightened me. Even though I'd been "in training" via therapy for such an event, when it arrived, the terror started to rise in me. Because I have never had a good experience when I have felt these emotions, my rational mind equates them with impending doom and heartbreak. I had to fight very hard against that fear when I spent time with him. I knew I had to force myself to remain emotionally open and completely honest, even though that felt like surrendering all the power. It was terrifying, but I managed to do it. What I found was that I became somewhat obsessed in making sure that I wasn't putting forth all this effort in vain; that I wasn't being "played" or used. I was so afraid that if this guy turned out to be a douchebag, that it would undo all the effort I'd put in to being willing to take a risk.

So I definitely became over-enthiastic. I couldn't help myself. The ironic thing is that he wasn't the only person I was spending time with, getting to know. But he was definitely in the lead just based on brain chemicals alone. I did seek too much reassurance, tried way too hard. It would have helped me come back to earth had he just pointed that out and been honest about how much it was driving him nuts. When I started to get information that indicated he was playing me, that's when he chose to start avoiding me, which led me to conclude that my information must be correct since actions speak louder than words.

There are other details that don't really matter, except for one. He admitted, and apologized, for lying to me about stupid things. The chief one being the night he simply stood me up when I was supposed to cook him dinner and then gave me some crap excuse about his phone dying being the reason he couldn't contact me until over 24 hours later. Had I had an ounce less of those damn brain chemicals flowing in my head, I would have never spoken to him again after that. It stands out as the single rudest thing that has EVER been done to me. He also lied about text messages not being delivered, all of which I knew. Not only did the lying anger me, the notion that he thought I was stupid enough to buy his pathetic excuses insulted me to boot. I was pleasantly surprised that he owned up to it, and that he apologized. I told him that empathy for other people is not a sign of weakness or a bad trait. The truth is always better than a lie, especially when your lie is so transparent.

Another thing about this guy is his charisma. I've seen him work that charisma on other people, and it's pretty amazing to see him switch it on and off so quickly. His level of charisma rivals the best politicians I've met in my life, and I've shaken hands with Bill Clinton! This guy can, and does, turn his charisma on and off at will. When he's turned it on in your direction, he's very hard to resist or with whom to remain angry. Some of what he told me was probably self-serving, especially his misunderstood bit. What he told me about his experience of my behavior, though, was very useful. I *do* get over-enthusiastic when there seems to be a mutual attraction. I blame it on the fact that I'm basically starved of romantic love, so when the opportunity looks like it will arise for me to experience it, I'm like a starving man at a buffet. I'm sure it scares people off, like it did this guy.

I'm not sure how to control that response. Do I warn future prospects that this is how I get, and to please tell me when I'm coming on too strong since that is not my intent? I'm not getting any younger. I need to find good answers, and a good man who will love me quirks and all. I'm still scared that such a man does not exist, and that if he does, it's certainly not in the metro Atlanta area. I don't know how to beat that fear down either.

Where's a mail order husband when you need one?

I'd like to leave you with this quote that explains perfectly why I have tried to tear down my inner wall and why I am so determined not to rebuild it:

"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could." Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum, p247

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