Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Junking Relationships

This one's a tough one.

Over the years, I've developed a mantra for relationships that have become too toxic: Love them from afar. Seems cold, right? Doesn't loving your neighbor mean holding them emotionally close to you? Giving them your time, lending them a hand, turning the other cheek? What if, at the end of that meeting, you just feel as if you've been puked on? And what if that person turns out to be the one you're supposed to be closest to, say, a parent, aunt, child, friend? What if you've exhausted all options to improve that relationship, like therapy, talking to them, letter-writing? Turning the other cheek one too many times can quickly lead to an abusive and/or masochistic situation. I mean, you deserve love, too, right? You are your neighbor.

My psychoanalyst gave me a good exercise called "active imagination" to release myself of a toxic relationship. This exercise will be different for every person, but basically, it's imagining that person in front of you, ready to listen. Then, you talk to that person from the heart as if that person were actually there, and telling them your intention of letting them go in peace. Pretty woowoo California, but it has allowed me to move on with my life. I felt at peace afterward.

One of the most helpful things anyone has ever told me is, "I don't have to like everyone." For some reason, that was a lightbulb moment for me. I don't have to like everyone! It's so liberating! I can love someone from afar, wishing them well as a fellow human being, and still keep my dignity by loving myself enough to let them go on their way.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The (Virtual) Junk in My Trunk Part II...E-mails and Projects

Dude. I've got some clutter goin' on everywhere.

The great thing about Gmail is that I can usually find old emails with ease just by doing a search by a person or by subject. Still, I have stuff in my inbox from 2005. Why? I mean, do I really need to keep that delivery confirmation for a book from Amazon? There are some messages that I'd like to keep, but I suppose I could print those out or put them into a file on a pen drive. It's so easy to clean out my in-box. Just highlight all of the entries and hit delete. If only cleaning out hardcopy were that easy!

Now, I always have ideas for projects. I have a ton of beads and wire for my jewelry projects, vintage clothing for my on-line vintage clothing store, my dissertation still waiting for me to edit and publish, scores and background music for my voice lessons and future voice recitals, two blogs, and, now, books and articles about health and nutrition for my courses leading to certification in health counseling. I have TONS of interests. I always think it makes me an interesting person. For the most part, I'm pretty good at everything I'm interested in, but there are so many hours in the day to do all the things I want to do.

So, I've been trying to re-evaluate whether or not these projects still have value in my life. I know without a doubt that my voice classes and jewelry-making are hobbies I'd like to keep. They give me joy, and give me an outlet--along with writing--to express myself in different ways. However, what about my other activities?

Doing the vintage clothing business was fun, but what do I do with the clothing that I don't sell? Hunting for them, transporting them, cleaning, displaying, and photographing them takes up a lot of time, money, and space, so that is going to have to be shelved. However, that doesn't mean that I can't celebrate when I find a vintage piece that is perfect for me.

The dissertation is tougher. I think there are some good chapters in there, but for the most part, who I was when I was writing it is not the same person as I am now. What I want to say is similar, but deeper and maybe more complex that what I am interested in exploring at this point in my life. Having it sit for a while was necessary, though, after having lived and breathed it for 2 years. I just needed a break and a life. Now that I've moved on and have had experiences that have started my asking questions that are along the lines of my topic, it may be time for me to start on it again in earnest.

Last year, I decided to leave psychotherapy permanently because it didn't feel right to me anymore. I still love the theory, exploring it, playing with it, connecting it to different ideas, but I never loved doing psychotherapy, which, I'm sure, contributed to my feeling like a fraud. I felt that it was best for me and my clients to leave. However, once I found this program on health and wellness at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I realize that I don't have to give it up completely. It can just transform itself into something that feels more complete to me. I can't wait to start working with people now.

Keeping my life free of virtual, as well as material, clutter is a daily challenge, but one that helps me maintain a base level of sanity in my over-active mind.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Junk in My Trunk..and Closet, Desk, Kitchen Drawers, and... Part I

Clutter is in my genes.  For better or for worse, this habit has been gifted to me by parents, whose proclivity for acquiring stuff without purging has seemed to be growing every year.  Friends of mine have been witnesses to my own clutter and disorganization, which reached its zenith the few months before I moved to Argentina. 

Like a good American, I am very good at amassing things I really don't need.    My closets are bursting, and I'm positive there are a few things with tags still hanging on them that I would love wearing if I could only get to them.  I have shelves full of books that I keep restocking through Amazon (that I send to my Dad's house in the States, thereby adding to his disorganization and clutter), because a) I love reading; b) there's always something I'm curious about; c) I hate reading in Spanish; d) I will NEVER exchange the comfort of holding a real book in my hands for Kindle.   I've got papers and articles from research papers past that I can't seem to let go of.      

I have implemented a couple of solutions to help beat the clutter monster, though I haven't quite mastered not adding stuff to my virtual shopping cart.  Unsubscribing to all my favorite on-line stores' update emails would probably nip the problem in the bud, but...but...I'll get around to doing that.  Besides, I enjoy seeing what Amazon recommends for me, and I love seeing JCrew's new line. 

In the meantime, I have gotten pretty good sticking with the "One In, One Out" rule.  So, for example, if I buy a new pair of shoes, I make sure I take one out of my closet to give away.  Same goes for the books and the clothes. I also end up recycling any mail I have by reusing the clean backs of letters as scrap paper in the makeshift notepads I keep on my desk and on the table near the front door, or for printer paper. Usually, I end up recycling more than one article, which is always good for fighting the physical clutter in my life.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Does This Relationship Make My Butt Look Big?

The New York Times cited an article, published in the January issue of The American Journal of Preventative Medicine, that linked gradual weight gain in women with being in a relationship.  Researchers discovered that over a span of 10 years women with a partner and a baby gained about 20 pounds, whereas women with a partner gained 15 pounds.  Findings also suggest that this shift is due to "social and behavioral issues" rather than physiological issues, though they also admit that having a baby can also affect a woman's metabolic system. 

So, should we blame our partners for having to break out our fat jeans? 

I've gotta admit, there is something about being in a relationship that makes me want to break off pieces of that bar of Italian dark chocolate that's sitting in the fridge and cram it into my mouth. A committed relationship, whether gay or straight, is a warm cocoon of familiarity and safety, whether or not there's a baby.  The feeling is akin to being nurtured by a mother figure, the relationship being the mother.  Ideally, it keeps you all warm and snuggly in that nest o' love you build with your partner.  Ideally, it also accepts you just as you are, even as you're helping yourself to a second round of chicken cacciatore at the table.

Breaking bread--and pasta and dessert--with your partner or your family is a manifestation of that security and comfort one feels.   I mean, think about what women are like on a date.  More than likely, (if you're not me), you don't eat like a line backer on your first couple of dates.  There's a kind of mystique many seem to want to portray to their prospective lovers.  Maybe eating like a lumber jack just isn't attractive when your courting.  Maybe it would be like hanging out with a buddy, and who wants to roll in the hay with a buddy? (OK, don't answer that.) Then again, maybe it's just because we're nervous, and can't eat.

However, once that ice has broken, and the relationship has been established, something else happens.  We don't have to "behave" anymore.  We've got that person hooked.  Sharing curly fries with one's partner is sharing your love with him or her.  And if you have lots of love to give, then maybe that regular order of curly fries becomes a large order with two chili burgers. (Mmm...chili burgers.) Besides, eating is primoridally sexacious, an utterly sensual experience that could make for a very nice prelude to a post-prandial, horizontal workout.

The danger, of course, is complacency.  The truth is that people tend to slack off and begin taking their partners for granted after a while, which is not a good thing for keeping the passion in the relationship.  In the beginning, the prospective partner isn't yet there to take for granted. One is still in the process of wooing--isn't that just the coolest word?--the other, ergo, one tends to be on one's best behavior, to present one's best side, unless you're like me and decide to warn your prospective love muffin from the beginning that you tend to go a little homicidal once a month because of those wonderful female hormones.  The exception, of course, is when you start out as friends, or just don't give a damn, in which case that other person already knows or will know, damn it, that you like to eat Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream straight out of the tub in the middle of the night.

In my case, I've never had qualms about showing my partners how much I eat, or how often I eat.  Filipino blood dooms me to frequent meals, and large quantities of food, both of which are thankfully tempered by years growing up in California; hence, frequent meals become snacking every two hours on fruit or nuts (and don't be anywhere near me if I'm feeling hunger pangs because it will get ugly), and the large quantity of food consists mainly of vegetables and whole grains.  My downfall is pasta, which, if you live with an Italian in Argentina, is hard to avoid. 

But pasta is comfort food, and growing up in a Filipino household, spaghetti with tomato sauce was mysterious and exotic to me.  So, imagine free access to something mysterious and exotic, and you have a pasta whore.  It's like going to a secular, mixed-gender university after spending elementary school and high school in all-girls, Catholic schools.  You tend to go a little crazy.  And when my partner enjoys his pasta, and I enjoy my pasta with him, well, geez louise, it's just so much fun.  He also enjoys watching me have dessert, too, and, though he'll only have 2 forkfuls of a cake I'm eating--he's way more anal when it comes to sweets because of a history of diabetes in his family--, he gets his kicks from seeing me scarf that sucker down.  Eating together is a celebratory experience. 

The strange thing is, contrary to the journal article's conclusions, I have lost weight in this relationship.  One of the reasons is that my partner likes me at the the 52-55 kilo range.  He gets downright horny.  But before you think I do a weigh-in every morning,   After living in hyper-self-conscious-bordering-on-neurotic Buenos Aires, one can't help but feel overt or covert pressure to look a certain way, which is tall and skinny. To combat this, I realized that it would be to guage my weight by how I feel about myself, and how I look in my clothes, rather than what any person, culture, or clothing tag says.  As a result, I've become conscious about what weight feels comfortable to me, and, luckily, it hovers around the same range.  Anything less than 52 (quite low for me), and I look "peaked", a comment I got from someone when I lost poundage because I was going through some emotional drama. Anything more than 55, and I feel like a sausage in my clothes, and my face becomes a giant moon pie.  Besides, when stay within that range, I don't have to buy a whole new freaking wardrobe.

Most importantly, I feel good and healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I feel sexy when I take care of myself for myself, which makes my partner feel sexy, and makes him want to continue to take care of himself.  In the end, whether or not Argentine or North American society thinks I'm fat or average or skinny, or whether or not I have a partner, or whether I fit or don't fit into my "skinny" jeans, what matters is remembering to care for myself, and how I feel doing so.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Resolutions for Twenty-Ten

My partner and I were sitting in a restaurant in Rome on December 31 with 2 of his friends, and he made everyone go around to talk about his or her resolutions for the upcoming year. When my turn came, I admitted that I hadn’t really thought about my resolutions for the year. I told him later that I lived most of my life meeting deadlines and goals (usually met…a few by seeking extensions, like when I was half-way through my dissertation writing when my dissertation clock’s alarm was about to go off), and I didn’t want to live with deadlines or goals anymore.

Now, I realize, it makes me sound like a total slacker. However, what new resolutions would I actually need to list that I haven’t listed in New Year’s Eves past? I think I could boil all those resolutions into these few, simple bullet points:
  • Be a good person.
  • Don’t take yourself so seriously.
  • Exercise and eat right, but save room for the occasional scoop of ice cream or slice of cheesecake.
  • Love big.
  • Clear the clutter.
  • Save some money.
  • Be happy with what you have.
  • Be happy with who you are.
  • Be thankful.
  • Be kind to others.
I guess this would be my list for this year, except that these are things I try to do everyday. I guess I don’t think of them as resolutions. I think of them as my life’s guiding principles, most of which I fail to uphold most of the time. (Then again, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so maybe I’m doing better than I think I am.) But try, I do, and continue to try, I will. As the years go by, as I keep chipping away at this list, I’ll become a more perfect, imperfect moi.

Have a great 2010, everyone!