Today is the extra day in the year that only happens once every four years. I remember being amazed as a kid that there were people who didn’t have birthdays every year because they were born on a leap year. I think back to the last February 29th in 2016 and I was totally in a different space. I had just started a cubicle job and was wondering how long I would be able to make it because I knew after only three weeks on the job that it wasn’t a good fit for me. But I was excited to finally have a stable job and the opportunity to see what corporate life was like. I was reminded today of how disconnected I’ve become from some of the aspects of my life that previously held such great importance. Since then I’ve finished school, held several jobs, relocated multiple times, and got into a relationship. It’s been quite an eventful four years and I’m hopeful to what the next Leap Year will bring.
I’ve always been somewhat of a hopeless romantic. I love the idea of a grand gesture for the holiday where someone declares their undying love and affection. This year has been pretty low key but also better than previous years. I spent quality time with my significant other without the hassle of trying to outdo anyone or prove that the actions of one day are an indication of the level of commitment of both partners. I saw a slew of v-day posts on social media and this year I was particularly annoyed with the amount of meaningless advice that attached women posted and addressed directly to “single women.” The “wait and see” approach to finding a significant other is outdated and is rarely ever effective. One thing that I’ve learned is the importance of letting go of comparisons to other relationships. Everyone is different and there’s not a “one size fits all” approach to relationships. It’s important to build your relationship the way that you and your partner want it. Create your own personal definition of fidelity and commitment through discussion with your partner and be ok with the fact that it may look different than other relationships. There’s too much at stake to not be honest with yourself about what you want and what you expect from a partner.
Sometimes I think that it’s easier to process through writing than it is through speaking. There’s the opportunity to delete, revise and edit in the writing process and talking out loud doesn’t come with those same privileges. I remember either hearing or reading somewhere about Reason, Season, and Lifetime people and I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in my own life. It’s fairly easy to meet seasonal people. You cross paths with them while doing routine activities like going to work or attending a class. Being in a familiar place again has been eye opening and also challenging in a way that I had not anticipated. There’s something to be said about feeling the push and pull of relationships that seem to hover between the Reason and Lifetime. It’s one of those grey areas that can be a bit anxiety provoking because you don’t quite know what the outcome will be. There can be emotions that catch you off guard because the process is full of surprises along with disappointments. While you may have a preference, there’s not guarantee that the cards will play out the way that you want them to. The process isn’t linear because relationships and emotions aren’t linear and they rarely fit into a nice neat little box. The perfect solution in your head is at odds with the conflicting emotions in your heart. There is no easy answer because the questions are too complex. It’s almost like making a house out of cards and wondering which card will crumble the whole deck. One thing that I can appreciate is that the process makes you take an honest inventory of yourself in the context of relationships. Time can often be the deciding factor of which category the relationships will land in.
One thing that I enjoy doing (at least most of the time) is working with couples. It’s a different dynamic than individual counseling and there are a lot of moving pieces. I was reflecting on how long I have been doing therapy and I realized that it’s been almost 8 years since I’ve started. Over the years I have started to notice patterns and the process has become more intuitive as opposed to theory. I like encouraging couples to build a new relationship and helping them to negotiate new rules and guidelines. They have the opportunity to ask questions and to be intentional about building something that provides each partner with a sense of security. It’s rarely straightforward but there’s nothing like witnessing an “aha” moment when things start to come together. It’s stressful to hold all the emotions in one place but I have learned that it is important to compartmentalize and to take breaks when needed. Many times couples get together without truly knowing what role they want the relationship to play in their individual lives. It’s up to each couples to establish a new normal and to find something that works for each partner.
I started to read some of my older blog posts around Valentine’s Day and honestly really nothing has changed. This year it came and went and I didn’t mind at all. There wasn’t any sense of loss or mind numbing loneliness that once permeated the day. It was lovely. While I can’t say that I don’t care anymore I can say that it matters much less to me than it used to. I’ve had the opportunity to accomplish many of the goals that I set for myself. I’ve traveled internationally twice already this year and I still have a few more places that I plan to visit. One thing I’ve learned is the importance of creating a life that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be fancy but it should meet your standards. So many times we define our lives by the presence or the absence of a person and that isn’t always the best thing to do. At the end of the day you have to live with yourself and the choices that you made. You owe it to yourself to make good ones.
I’m always inspired by people who go after what they really want to do and who live life on their own terms. I’ve always had a love hate relationship with work. Don’t get me wrong I like helping people, but doing it constantly just drains me. And while I don’t have a bad attitude and I don’t snap at people when I’m tired, it’s just exhausting at times. Unfortunately human need isn’t confined to normal business hours and it’s hard for me to leave something without a sense of completeness. Working in the healthcare field adds another layer because there’s literally always something to be done. Even leaving after a long day of work means that there are still things that have to be done. Today I felt inspired as I received several phone calls from recruiters regarding open positions and I was strangely comforted as those phone calls reminded me that my job is definitely needed. I spoke to a colleague of mine who only takes one contract job per year and spends the rest of her time writing and doing talks on things that she’s passionate about. Having a purpose in life is so important and I think that it’s good to balance helping people with also taking care of yourself. I definitely need to do better.
I ran across this gem written by Mindy Kaling. She describes in detail what she wants in a significant other and it’s accurately hilarious. I could absolutely relate to her wishlist. You can read it here.
Not too long ago I ran across an interesting article and immediately shared it with a friend who also agreed wholeheartedly with the author. You can read it here. As a therapist I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve talked to clients about accepting themselves and not basing their happiness on the presence of another person. But let’s admit it, we all want acceptance, companionship, and validation. The author brings out a good point when she talks about a strange sort of contentment in doing your own thing 100% of the time. You don’t have to consult with anyone or let someone know where you’re going when you leave the house. It’s like settling into a homeostasis of sorts. You aren’t obligated to constantly think about the welfare of another person. If only you could order a significant other as easily as one does an Uber or Lyft. You could specify various characteristics that you wanted and then request. As promised, a companion would suddenly appear on your doorstep, the epitome of all your hopes and dreams. No heartache or second guessing because you’ve just met your soulmate and you know that you’ll live happily ever after. Let’s be real, there’s a certain amount of selfish that is perfectly acceptable being a single person that just won’t fly in a relationship. You can’t get your way and never compromise and still expect to have a successful partnership. The author brings out a good point when she discusses the constant self-analysis and diagnosis that happens when you try to make sense of a phenomenon that is supposed to occur within a certain time frame. I have to say that I agree with her conclusion.
As my birthday draws a bit closer I thought I’d do a throwback story from way back in the vault on one of my first romantic interactions. Growing up, I was homeschooled so there wasn’t a lot of time for meaningful interactions with the opposite sex. While my parents were active in a church, dating was highly–and I mean HIGHLY discouraged. Needless to say, nothing notable happened on the romantic front during high school. Fast forward to the summer after my first semester of college. I did a youth scholarship program to raise money that consisted of going to the DMV area to sell books (door to door, parking lots, and businesses). While I learned a lot, it wasn’t easy being rejected on an hourly basis but I survived. I went with a group of other college students that included a few guys. There was one in particular who was interesting. He was very headstrong and not the most mature like many 18 or 19 year old freshman. Living with a group of people for two months straight has its pros and cons. We all got to know each other really well. The guy and I became pretty cool. Not close, but cool. We had some good conversations but nothing remotely romantic in nature. Fast forward to the end of the summer. The group disbands and we all go our separate ways. Not too long afterwards he contacted me. We talked for a while and then he confessed that he had had a crush on me during the summer when we worked together. He talked about wanting to get to know me better and spending more time together when we went back to campus in August. I was surprised but somewhat agreeable to the idea. He got off the phone with a promise to call the next day. The next days rolls around and I get a call from him as promised. This time it’s a very short call. He’s made a mistake and he’s sorry. He wants to take everything back about getting to know me better and doesn’t know why he said that but he still thinks I’m a good person.While it was surprising, it wasn’t crushing. I didn’t have much of a reaction. I pretty much said “have a nice life” and hung up. And as expected, I never heard from him again…
Getting to know someone takes time. It’s not something that happens overnight or without some sort of effort. As a hopeless romantic of sorts,I love the idea of a whirlwind romance. But as a therapist, I’ve worked with couples who got together without taking the time to get to know each other. Relationships aren’t always easy to maintain and I think that distance tends to make them more complicated. Of course with modern technology you can communicate and see the other person on a frequent basis but it’s not the same as having the person be physically present. It takes a lot of time and energy to be in a relationship with someone that you don’t see often. I remember reading an article somewhere that said long distance relationships can work when they are for a specified period of time. They become harder to maintain when the time apart (weeks or months) is undetermined. I think that it’s especially hard if the relationship started online because you don’t have the experience of the initial chemistry in person and the process of building trust with someone you’ve never seen in real life is difficult. It’s not hard to feel alone in a long distance relationship and find yourself seeking out companionship that lives locally. I read a quote that said,”if you aren’t with the one you love, you’ll end up loving the one you’re with.” I think that’s a great example of how some relationships meet their demise. Absence can make the heart grow fonder but it doesn’t happen all the time.