Sunday, July 30, 2017

Finding Friends

Have we came to a place where we need to spy on our partners to sustain our own sense of security? Has technology helped give rise to our increased insecurities and sense of distrust? 

I have seen a few videos where jealous females have hired, or been lured by, people to test their boyfriends’ loyalty-all of which was recorded on hidden camera. In one situation, a young man was in a gym and an attractive female personal trainer (who was in on the stunt) offered to help and after a while it was a bit obvious the boyfriend was aroused by the attention. The girlfriend was livid; after all, she was watching all this on camera. So, he sported an erection. BFD. At least he didn’t return the passes the trainer was making at him, though when she did offer him her phone number-for professional purposes-he did take it. In another video, the boyfriend was waiting on a street corner for his girlfriend to show up when an attractive female-also in on it-stopped and asked for directions to a place a few blocks away. She claimed she was new in the area and asked if he could take her there. He stood his ground and said no, that his girlfriend was due there any minute, and that the pretty girl had better leave before his girlfriend arrives because she has a mean temper. That girlfriend was very pleased. But, using a hidden camera team to test your boyfriend’s loyalty? Seriously? Granted, these were all twentysomethings and trust and security are qualities we need to develop. And that happens over time.

Recently, I had a conversation with two gay male friends which left me a bit overwhelmed and left my friends quite perplexed to put it mildly. I was even startled at the vehemence with which I responded. 

Both my friends had recently suffered losses of relationships-one due to a death, the other to a disastrous breakup. Both had started dating again and one couple had reached a point in their relationship where the new boyfriend suggested they use the “Find Friends” app available on iPhones.  

(This is an app that allows people of any relationship-family, friend, partner, etc.-to connect and then see where each other is through GPS.)

Friend 1 reported his boyfriend had said something like this, “I want you to know where I am. If I say I’m at such-and-such place, I want you to see that that’s where I am. I want you to know you can trust me.” (I'm thinking to myself, “Let’s start with trusting and don’t give a reason not to.”)

The other friend commented he thought that was great that they were having that conversation and that his own therapist had suggested to flee from anyone who refuses to use that app.

Something started stirring in me. It was a deep uncomfortable rumbling, not unlike the first waves building to the major jolt of a massive earthquake. And before I could stop myself, the epicenter ruptured.

“What a massive invasion of privacy!” (I believe a few expletives were also uttered but, honestly, I can’t remember.)

My friends were quick to explain that they didn’t see it like that. They used the app to let their partners know where they were. They wanted transparency.

Friend 2 continued, “I want my partner to be able to see when I am leaving work.”

“Why not just call him and tell him? A voice call is much more endearing and shows more effort in the relationship than simply relying on him to check in on you,” I countered. 

“There’s terrible reception with my carrier where I live.”

“Okay, a text then.”

“This just seems to work for us.”

“Well, I just don’t like it for me,” I said. "What if I decided to make an unscheduled stop at the mall to buy Potential Future Boyfriend a surprise gift? He checks in on me, questions me when I get home and the surprise is spoiled.” I was not comfortable with this idea at all. 

And, I know myself. I’d use the app to find out where Potential Future Boyfriend was and if I discovered he wasn’t where he said he’d be, questions would arise; they’d percolate, ruminate and stew in my mind, and his fidelity would be questioned-especially if he were in a gay place. And even if he were faithful, my self-esteem would be shaky. “He said he was going here, but he went there instead, he wasn’t telling me the truth, therefore I’m not good enough.” And I’m out of there. Or, at least the seeds of doubt have now been sown. Yes, I am a tad insecure. Especially in the beginning.

Plus, I respect myself. I am responsible; I am dependable, trustworthy and loyal. (I sound like either a Boy Scout or a Great Dane!) But, if someone can’t trust me enough to take me at my word then that person doesn’t deserve me. If trust is part of his baggage, I will help him unpack it, but in a more traditional, conventional, less invasive manner.

I understand trust is a huge issue in relationships and maybe more so in the LGBTQ community, but spying is not the way to build it. At least not in my book. And it needs to be built over time. Using this app from the very beginning is like handing someone a ready built escape hatch. One slip up and it’s over. It is tantamount to going through a person’s belongings looking for evidence of infidelity, which we sometimes find when it really isn't there.

And I see too many holes in the plan. The plan works only if the phone is with the person and turned on. I’ve gone off for a quick run to the store, leaving my phone at home. And once or twice I'd accidentally forgotten it when I was running a bit late to work. My phone is at home, but I'm not. Oops. (But, there’s an easy fix for this flaw. Simply implant a tracking device into each potential partner and voila! Problem solved!)

Let’s say your partner works from home. They send you off to work with a kiss, and tell you to have a nice day. They know how long of a day you work. Possibilities for rendezvous are endless.  But, wait, you're at work, and the app says they're at home alone. Or are they? (Here's a fix: install security cameras. Aren't there apps to connect a phone to a camera?)

And then there’s the self-saboteurs. Those who sabotage relationships because they want to end it, but don't have the courage themselves to do so. They leave breadcrumbs for you to follow, like Hansel and Gretel. "Here catch me cheating, so you will break up with me, so I don't have to do it."

I think what bothered me the most was that a licensed therapist was suggesting to base the potential of a  possible relationship on whether or not a particular partner would agree to use a Big Brother type of app. What happened to the idea of building a foundation of trust? “If he won’t use this app, he must have something to hide. Run! Run like the wind!” For me, it would be like starting off a relationship where I'm already considered guilty of a crime which was built on potentially circumstantial evidence that may never even exist and I may never commit. And this from a therapist? This adds an extra level of work to an already difficult relationship. Who needs that extra shit?

To be fair, I do see some value in the app:
  1. Parents can keep track of their children, or perhaps of an aging relative who has medical needs;
  2. Or, in the case of an emergency, like a real earthquake, tornado or nuclear attack, you can quickly track down family members.
I’ve come to believe that technology has taught us to distrust our own feelings, to avoid open and honest face-to-face communication, and to nearly detach from society at large as more and more people hide behind keyboards. Couples connect, and then break up via technology. My own ex-husband emailed me that he wanted a divorce while we were both in the house at the time. Technology made it easier for him to tell me, rather than talking to me face to face. 

I will concede that some people can handle this app. I obviously can’t. I value my integrity and my moments of privacy far too much.

For me, this app is an invasion of both.

Einstein apparently didn't say this, but the picture says a lot. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Glass Jar

As I continue along this Dark-Night-of-the-Soul/Twin Flame journey of self-discovery, self-awareness, or whatever it is, I recently had an epiphany. Or maybe it was just an idea. 

The articles I’ve read and online support groups I follow regarding DNotS/TF journeys all suggest one thing; as difficult and painful this journey through the Darkness is, it will end. And there are moments of Light while on the journey. "We can’t appreciate the stars without the darkness.” That’s true. The stars are out during the day, we just can’t see them until darkness falls. After all, there's too much sunlight during the daytime.

I once attended a community event at the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, where amateur astronomers had set up their telescopes. Many were focused on where the moon would soon be rising, but one gentleman had his telescope pointed in an entirely different direction. He asked me if I wanted to see Saturn. Now this was late in a summer afternoon, approximately 4:30, so the sky was still quite blue. Sure enough, I was able to see Saturn-rings and all-through the telescope in a bright afternoon sky. We just don’t think of the stars and planets being out there during the day, but they are. We can't appreciate them until we can see them. For ourselves. We just trust they're there.

So, I should appreciate those moments of light I do see while surrounded by the Darkness. Or, conversely, I should appreciate the Darkness, because it reminds me the light is always there, even if it is temporarily obscured. Maybe both points are equally valid.

Many comments on these articles and groups suggest the readers and members are afraid of the Dark Night. Yet, a few commenters reply that without the night we will never truly find our Authentic Self. We must go through the Dark to find the Light. “It’s always darkest before the dawn"; "Every night has its day", etc.

So, I will get through this and emerge on the other side. And all will be better.

I recently had a down day. I have been learning to trust that the Universe will assist me in securing what I need for my greater good. Plus, I’ve been learning to surrender to the what is. And I felt I was in great place in my trust and surrendering. I've been trying to remain positive regarding a complicated situation, hoping it would work out for my greater good. After all, I had seen many, many signs and synchronicities supporting my hopes and beliefs. Then, I came across something that brought me down; and, all of a sudden I was filled with doubt. Darkness filled me once again. But, I was able to catch myself before I sank into a full-blown depression again. I simply allowed myself to be down without attaching to it. I was able to acknowledge where I was, what I was feeling/experiencing. This incident simply reminded me that I am human. I may try to live trusting that everything will work out for the best, even if the “best” isn’t what I perceive it to be for me. My marriage failed, and I’ve come to realize it has been the best thing for me. So, it did work out for the best, even if I didn’t think so at that time. But, I also have to face the fact that I am human and am subject to those pesky, but necessary, emotions. And they will be with me forever.

So, I have decided to embrace this Dark Night stuff.

Many psychologists speak of our Darkness, our “shadow self”-that part of us that we don’t like to acknowledge; our deepest fears and those ‘negative, undesirable’ traits and we all possess. These are the subconscious traits that can lead us into trouble. Someone who has been cheated on a few times might project that onto any future relationship. Someone who has been the victim of abuse might project a feeling of unworthiness onto themselves. In order for us to heal and make better, healthier decisions, we need to honor our own Darkness, or shadow selves.

I don’t necessarily mean just honor it and know that it’s there. No. I mean embrace it, and maybe address it in a way that it is somewhat controlled, but not invisible.

I’m going to put my Darkness in a little glass jar somewhere in my mind. I’m going to set that jar on a shelf and let it be. I may take it down, look at it, and return it to it’s place on the shelf. Because if I hide the jar in a closet, or drawer, I might forget it is there and get a shock when it springs out unexpectedly. If, however, it is in a glass jar and visible, I can still see it, observe it and know it’s ever present. And I can keep my eye on it. 

If I put it in a can or a box, I might forget what is inside and just ignore it, likewise forgetting what is in there. But a glass jar is transparent, I can see the Darkness in the jar. (I’m kind of picturing it as a misty blue fog. I don’t know where that image came from, but it works for me.)

While making a mental image of the jar and storing it on a mental image of a shelf in a corner of my mind is indeed an acknowledgement of my Darkness, it's still a bit abstract.

But, what if it weren't abstract? What if it truly existed? What if it were actually on a shelf in my house? What if I wrote down those Dark qualities I'm working on and how I turned them around? 

For example, I recently stood in line behind an elderly couple in a casual ethnic restaurant. It became apparent they had never been in before and had lots of questions regarding the food. And being elederly, they had health concerns: cholesterol, sodium, foods they can't or shouldn't eat. I'm hungry, I want to order, they're indecisive. I'm impatient. I have two choices here: 1) allow the impatience to build, then frustration sets in, and my mood alters and I get upset thereby having a worse afternoon; or 2) recognize they are in a new place and allow them their time to make the choice appropriate for them. They are elderly, I'm on my way there, and I can give them the respect they deserve at this time in their lives. I chose to accept the situation as it is; after all, I can't change it. Why allow something to affect me that I have no control over?

If my jar were set up, I then could go home and write down a brief note for my jar: "Today I chose patience over impatience when I was in the restaurant behind the indecisive elderly couple. I had no control over their actions, but only of my reaction to the situation." Or something like that.

I'd just have to keep up on it.

And learn to recognize when the Darkness is creeping in on me and how to turn it around in the moment.

This could prove very empowering.

Or, at the very least, enlightening.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Judgments vs. Assumptions

We all make judgments and assumptions about others. But what exactly is the difference? And I'm not talking about legal judgments, either. 

To me, a judgment carries an emotional connection/reaction whereas an assumption is based on supposed evidence or experiences in the life of the one making the assumption. I think of it as a heart vs. mind matter; judgments are made from the heart, assumptions from the mind.

In thinking about this blog, I am reminded of a story arc in an episode of one of my favorite shows, Friends. One of the characters, Phoebe, is dating two men; Vince is a firefighter while Jason is a kindergarten teacher. Through the development of the arc, we get all the traditional comments about hunky firemen and their lack of sensitivity. We also see the sensitive side of the teacher as he comments on how wonderful it is to make an impact on a child’s life. Phoebe decides that a sensitive man is better in the long run, and chooses to break up with Vince. He doesn’t take it well, says he has more to share and sulks off to write in his journal. Phoebe then decides to break up with Jason, as she has just discovered Vince’s sensitive side which is now an added bonus to his “burliness.” She then goes to break up with Jason, who is working shirtless in his apartment when she walks in. He turns around revealing washboard abs and a nicely developed chest.

Assumptions usually lead us to making difficult and often regrettable decisions. And we all know what happens when we assume.

I remember a judgment I’d made as a teacher. One day, a new student was brought to my second-grade classroom. She had long, brown unkempt hair, a dirty pink sweatshirt, and a torn skirt. My heart went out to her because of her appearance. Her sense of unease suggested a lack of schooling, and my teacher-heart told me I’d probably retain her. Yes, I judged her based on her appearance and behavior, all in the first five minutes of meeting her.

She entered the room and I found a place for her to sit. In the diagnostic tests I administered to all new students, she did indeed test very low for a second grade student. Throughout the remainder of the year, she continued to struggle with basic concepts she should have mastered in Kindergarten or first grade. It seems my initial judgment was correct. Perhaps it was also based on experience, plus I did feel a sadness for her at my first impression.  So, I began the procedures for retaining her.

I also recently made an assumption while out grabbing a bite for lunch.

I entered the establishment and, while waiting in line to order, I quickly scanned the crowded dining room. This was a ‘fast-casual’ place where you order at the counter, they give you a number and then bring your order to your table. As I scanned for a place to sit, preferably inside as it was a very warm afternoon, I rested my eyes on a very handsome man. He had a full, dark brown, neatly trimmed beard, very broad shoulders and chest which stretched the t-shirt he was wearing.  He also had cantaloupe sized biceps. So, he obviously worked out. A baseball cap rested on his head and he appeared to be in his mid- to late-30s. He was seated with a group of men, so it appeared they were on their lunch break. 

I feel that some of the assumptions I made were justified-the size of his chest, shoulders and biceps were clear indications he worked out. The time of day, approximately 12:30, and the busyness of the restaurant clearly indicated a lunch rush was on. He wasn’t alone, so he was probably on a lunch break with his co-workers who seemed more involved in their conversation than he was. 

However, I also made some assumptions about him that were not necessarily justifiable. Yes, I was drawn to him based on his appearance, but I also came to the conclusion that 1) he probably wasn’t gay, and 2) if he were, he probably wasn’t the sensitive type.

Let me explain. First, I can’t be completely sure he wasn’t gay. My gaydar has been so broken lately, it’s not funny. But, it was just a feeling I had. Just because a man works out doesn’t make him one way or the other. There are plenty of straight men who are bodybuilders, too. But, very few of my gay friends wear baseball caps. His being rather withdrawn from the conversation with his co-workers doesn't define his orientation, but gay men are usually a bit more animated than he appeared to be. Plus, my experience with muscle men has been that they aren’t as sensitive as I like my men to be and they seem to be after just one thing. 

I'll never be sure about Muscle Man, as I’ll probably never run into him again because I rarely head down to where that restaurant is. So, I’ll just let it all go for now.

As for Phoebe, both guys ended up dumping her.

As for my student, I discovered she’d already been retained once, so I could not retain her again. I can only hope that somewhere, somewhen, everything clicked for her.