Ready or Not

It is an important life skill, I think, to learn how to be your own sounding board. I wonder if you know that to be true, and I wonder if you’ve ever thought well yes, but today I’m tired of being my own advice columnist.

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Let’s talk lists first. What else is on yours?

Mine includes things like having half a clue as to how to begin sewing a button back on and a pretty solid handle on which seasonings will ultimately spell “curry.” Cruising around in no particular order, there is also: knowing when it’s time to break up with someone. Knowing how to extract yourself from a friendship that no longer feels very good. Knowing when it’d probably be smart to start looking for another job. Knowing when the moment has come to cut your losses and bail, on a new city. And there, scribbled in small script at the very bottom: knowing when it’d be perfectly advisable to grab a blanket, curl up in the fetal position on the floor, and engage in a good old fashioned ugly cry. Wait until most of the sobs have slowed to sniffles, before rolling over to speed dial Mom.

I think we need to take inventory. What’s making us feel good, and what’s making us feel bad?

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Last week I wrote about Tinder, no-harm-no-foul. This week…oh man, this week.

I could just go on the two dates I agreed to and then delete it forever and ever, amen. Or I could simply be honest, and message those probably perfectly nice people and say: I’m sorry, apparently I’m not quite as ready as I thought I was.

Because I am a coward, and I am afraid to go meet someone I don’t know, have never seen. Someone who has judged me by my headshot and 108 of my least meticulously chosen characters. “A meet-for-coffee kind of girl. Holding out for the one really nice guy equally eager to get off this thing.”

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It makes me feel hollow, to spend so much time discarding people. I know you’re not supposed to take any of it too seriously, but I can’t help it. Anyone with a shirtless mirror selfie is an automatic no. I flick through those photos and think: could I be imperfect with you? No, no I could not.

Attraction is a funny thing. I can look at a picture of a good-looking guy and think he’s cute, but only in a very detached sort of way. Apparently all of the PNW likes to drink coffee and do outdoorsy things (with puppies and small children, check) so I don’t need to wonder about that, but…what does his voice sound like? How quick is he to smile? Does he put me at ease? Does he give a good hug? (Is he going to be okay with just hugging, for a little while?) What does his aftershave smell like? What does he want, in life? How thoughtful are his questions? Can I learn something from him? Can I build something with him?

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It’s been a while since my stomach has done a loop-de-loop. Since my palms have started to sweat, my heart has started to thud, my cheeks have warmed inexplicably, et cetera, et cetera. But I can’t seem to want to settle for less.

I want it to happen in a glance, the way it always has. A real-life, held-for-just-a beat-too-long glance, so I can circumvent all of the nerves that come with having engineered a meeting. It must be so hard not to disappoint, or be disappointed. And then you have to deal with gently letting the other person down, or being on the receiving end of someone essentially saying, so I know I indicated I was interested but now that I know you better, no, no thanks, and that just sucks.

They say you find love when you’re not looking, when you’re least expecting it. Online dating feels like looking for it, to me. Does that make sense?

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But you’re right; it has not all been bad. It’s been incredibly encouraging to see how many people in my age bracket are also new to Portland. I did find that after the first few days, I became a little more reckless about smiling at strangers on the street. Hey, you never know, they could be single too. A lot of people are, as it turns out. And it’s been a good reminder that everyone has something they’re self-conscious about — whether it’s how tall they are or where they are in their career or how unruly their cowlick is or where they live at the moment.

I know nobody is perfect. But I don’t want to even try to seem perfect anymore, and it feels like an awful lot of people are looking for perfect. It feels like an awful lot of people’s top two interests are healthy food and fitness. I love lifting and hiking and cooking, but I guess that’s not primarily what I want to talk about. I don’t want to sell myself that way anymore. I’d rather be someone who quietly does those things because they make her feel good, but doesn’t eat/sleep/breathe them, and need you to know it, too.

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I like myself for being able to say that and mean it. But I don’t like myself for failing to override/ignore the sudden impulse to lose weight. Just a little bit, and maybe someone will love me again.

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I’m mad at myself for not being done, so done with all of this, a whole year of therapy later. I’m mad at myself for being so stupidly insecure. I’m mad at myself for this week’s half of a pasta dish, quarter of a brownie, and bite of a doughnut, after having done so well for so long. I’m mad at myself for saying no to a spontaneous lunch out, for losing sleep over Blue Apron portion sizes, for stretching a fistful of rice Wednesday-Thursday-Friday.

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I’m mad at myself for giving in to the temptation to have less, less, just a little less — not restricting, just not really very hungry! — before a weigh-in I’m now sure is going to go terribly. I’m mad at myself for being so incapable of not shying away from feeling it all, feeling everything. Why would anyone ever want to feel this much? Yes, things are good when they’re good, but they’re also brutal, so brutal, when they’re bad. I don’t like the swing between; it slices.

Mostly I’m mad at myself for continuing to buy into the belief that appearance is everything, when deep down I don’t believe that. I don’t believe it when I look at my friends — so pretty when they smile, so undeniably magnetic when they let loose and really laugh.

I must just not be quite ready to meet somebody yet. I told myself I’d get through this whole thing without attempting to hook myself to someone else. I don’t think you can prevent yourself from sinking or get yourself to stop simply treading water by asking a boyfriend to do you a quick favor and throw you a life preserver. That’s what therapists are for. And moms and brothers and friends. Although there is a part of me that says that life is messy, and it will be highly unlikely that I will wrap up recovery and then just magically meet someone I could love, perfect timing.

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When I do decide, I guess arbitrarily, that I am ready, maybe online dating won’t be the way to go. I hadn’t thought about this before last week, but online dating is yet another reason to be online. Check Gmail, check Instagram, check Weather.com, check Facebook, check Tinder. The less time I spend online — the less time I spend hunched over my laptop and squinting at my cell phone screen, comparing myself to other people — the happier I am.

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“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” -Isaac Asimov

{Watercolor via SangtheSwallow on Etsy, latte art via @aguynamedpatrick, silhouettes via @monascherie, maple leaves via @niki_pike, Mt. Rainier #1 via @alexbaileypdx, waterfall via @matt_kuma, sun shining through via @monascherie, and Mt. Rainier #2 via @bethkellmer — all on Instagram.}

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2 thoughts on “Ready or Not

  1. “The less time I spend online — the less time I spend hunched over my laptop and squinting at my cell phone screen, comparing myself to other people — the happier I am.” Yup, yup, yup. I deactivated Facebook this week and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

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