Category Archives: self-awareness

Hello, world!

Hello, world!

….If anyone is still out there.

It’s been a busy, exciting, and sometimes stressful few month behind this blog. I’ve been taking an unintended, but much-needed break, and once I got into the non-momentum of not-posting, no post seemed worthy of being the first post…of the new year. After a 2….3….4….month hiatus. Or what-have-you.

But I miss the blog (I don’t miss the columns, as I never quit them, of course) and the only way to pick up again is to just do it, eh? So here we go–easing back in with some good advice from Carolyn’s chat today. She’s stated this philosophy in various forms many times, and I think it’s important, so for today will just share it with you:

You know, it’s okay to choose not to do something just because you don’t feel like it. I don’t advise making a habit of choosing this option, but if you’ve baked for the last three bake sales, for example, it’s okay to say you’re sorry, this isn’t a good time, and you’ll be happy to make something next time. And your unspoken definition of “isn’t a good time” could really, justifiably, be that you’ve been looking forward all week to sitting on your butt and watching a movie.

I see getting comfortable with the word “no” as a multi-step process, especially if you’re starting from a point where there’s a sense of personal risk attached to every “no”–as if everyone will hate you or think ill of you for letting them down. The first step is paying attention to when your feelings turn resentful–that’s the advice you’re referring to, I assume–and recognizing that’s your body’s way of telling you that you’re giving to the point of giving yourself away. Accordingly, you start to step back gently from there.

Once you get comfortable with that process, I think you’ll start to make out patterns–of things you like to give and don’t, of people you like to give to and don’t, or situations when it’s okay to extend yourself and when it isn’t. The second step is to put those patterns together: You’ll see the beginnings of an outline of who you are. You’ll see which are your healthy relationships, which are your passions, which are your vulnerabilities, and what just drains the life out of you. Seeing these clearly will help you say “yes” and “no” to things based on anticipation of how you’ll feel, instead of just reacting to how you feel in the moment. That means you’ll be able to make plans–and decline them–with a growing sense of confidence.

Sometimes you’ll mess up, sure, and overextend yourself here or blow off a worthy cause there. But even those aren’t the end of the world, they’re just life.  One lazy /selfish/entitled decision does not a lazy /selfish/entitled person make. That’s step three, fine-tuning your ability to recognize when to offer help and when to look at the ceiling and whistle and hope nobody spots you. As long as you’re at peace with the cumulative result, you’re fine.

Figuratively Speaking….

What’s your favorite type of figurative language? After hyperbole (which I invoke like a million times a day without even realizing it), I choose the analogy. I’m always looking for simple yet profound ways to express to others how complex and difficult situations are exactly like driving, traveling, shopping, sleeping, and any other number of much easier tasks. This drives SK nuts since it tends to derail our more difficult conversations:

him: why are you so upset?
me: It’s exactly like we’re making cookies, and we didn’t have walnuts so we used pecans instead, but we forgot about the fact that the one person we really want to enjoy the cookies hates pecans.
him: It is not like that at all.

Anyway, that’s why I’m doing an extra long post featuring TWO of Carolyn’s “adapted from online chat” columns: because in the second one she has a fabulous analogy that (unlike most of mine) I think really works. So here’s the situation:

Dear Carolyn:

I’ve been seeing this guy for about three months. It’s going great. Well, it WAS going great. He is getting wooed heavily by several big companies, and thus being flown to different cities. Add that to a busy work week and I haven’t seen him in two weeks.

He’s texted (in response to my texts) but that’s it. After not hearing anything for several days, I wrote once that I knew he was busy but I was feeling nervous and a bit like a convenience. He responded that he understood and that we’d talk about it soon. He also said he wanted to stay with me, but if he moved he didn’t know.

I scare easily, and he knows this. My corporate friends say it’s common to lose touch for a few days. I say you eat meals, sleep and commute: There IS time to drop a line if you want to.

I’m not mad; he IS a nice person. He’s been great at every exchange. But I am coming to the conclusion that maybe it’s over. I’m shutting down and don’t know that, when I DO see him, I’ll be able to jump back to where we were.

I have a history of walking away when there are bumps in the road — single is comfortable for me. This seems like the end of the road, not a bump. Should I give him the benefit of the doubt? I’ve already deleted his number.

Pull the Trigger

It looks as if you just want to end it officially before he has the chance to.

You’ve been dating him for three months; that’s not long enough for you to have become part of his emotional core, and yet you’re taking his actions (or non-) personally, as if you were supposed to be in his core but aren’t.

Please breathe, take his travels as an opportunity to focus on your own well-being, and wait to see what happens when he gets back.

It is, of course, entirely possible he’ll get back only to break up with you. However, his doing that will be a near certainty if you view every non-text he sends as proof of The End.

Whenever you start to panic, remind yourself that he may be preoccupied, or thinking of you and not texting, or not thinking of you because he’s just not as into you yet as you are into him. Since the last seems fairly certain regardless, it might make sense to accept and adjust to that vs. expunging him from memory.

Each one of these possibilities can reflect him as much as it reflects you. Screw up your courage and give things a chance to play out.

[The following is input from the fellow chatters, known in Carolyn chat land as “the peanuts.” I’m sure this is derived from “peanut gallery,” but it’s sort of funny to picture the chat participants as the nuts themselves, not the little boys throwing them]

For Pull the Trigger:

When work and travel get to be a pain, about the last person I want to deal with is one who needs lots of reassurance. If instead you are a source of comfort to your partner, then he’ll be seeking you out.


And Carolyn’s comment:

I wouldn’t advise her to fake it if she can’t be this calm for real, but it is something to weigh, and work toward. If she’s bugging him, though, certainly he should speak up.

Tomorrow: Business trip, or just the business?

Let’s find out….

Update from “Pull the Trigger,” two weeks after her first question (in yesterday’s column):

Dear Carolyn:

I tried to reach him and got nothing. I became worried and swung by his apartment. The doorman said he had moved. Moved! Four days after the last time I saw him!

I’m beside myself. I can’t imagine that he’d have the capacity to do this. We’d had the conversation about not seeing other people.

If he’d told me he was moving I would’ve bought him a beer and congratulated him. Why lie about checking in when he got back?

Moving forward, how do I ever know someone is decent? I was nervous and anxious before and I don’t date much because I have a hard time letting my guard down.

Pull the Trigger Again

[Before we get to Carolyn’s words of wisdom, I’d like to raise the point that one of the ‘nuts on chat pointed out that a doorman will say anything you want him if you slip him $20–this guy may not have moved at all, but just been looking for an easy way out. Carolyn, however in her wise way, acknowledged this possibility but emphasized that either way, her advice to this woman is virtually the same. So here it is:]


When you’re up to it, your next step is to figure out what you missed. Was he a really good liar? Or did you deceive yourself?

I would also work on holding your own balance, both with someone in your life and without. Your neediness was making you miserable. Remember, you wrote in knowing something was off. That means you’re seeing enough, you’re just short of the kind of confidence that can help you interpret what you’re seeing — before it gets to the point of unreturned calls.

Hi, Carolyn:

I am TOO comfortable being single. I know myself and there are no complications. Getting me INTO a relationship is usually difficult.

All he ever showed me, up until the business trip, was kindness, support and involvement. Early on he had the boundless enthusiasm about me, and I was extremely cautious.

I am usually right on the money. This was out of nowhere.

Pull the Trigger

You did say in your original question that “single is comfortable for me.” But you also said, “I scare easily, and he knows this.” And now: “I was nervous and anxious. . . . I have a hard time letting my guard down.”

So pleasure-in-singledom isn’t motivating you. Fear is driving this bus — trust issues specifically.

You may know yourself, but I don’t think you trust yourself. It’s like saying you’d rather cook your own meals — not because you prefer your own cooking, but because you want to be sure you won’t be poisoned. [There it is! Isn’t it beautiful?] Is that the way you want to live?

Your need for reassurance from this guy suggests both that you want the pleasure of others’ company, and that you’re profoundly uncomfortable handing over any of the controls. That’s the problem, not this particular guy.

When you’re jumpy and distrustful, it may seem as if you’re better able to spot danger. In reality, though, I think looking too hard for one thing leaves you open to missing another.

Please concentrate instead on finding the internal strength and flexibility to take life more as it comes, and not as the quiet, uncomplicated thing you retreat into when you’re scared. These grow from trust not in others, but in yourself — to handle it when a dream winds up in a ditch.