Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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As It Should Be

If you  have followed my blog over the last couple of years, it is no secret that I find dating to be a nightmare. Navigating and balancing all the dynamics is not for the faint of heart and I could give you names of thousands that would agree. When someone asks me what I am looking for, I used to say a full-time partner. Now I just say someone who I might want to go on a second date with!

We (those of us in the dating world) do a boatload of mental gymnastics in order to make sense of the nonsense that occurs regularly in the that world. Some of that is necessary because we all need to adjust our expectations sometimes. But every once in a while, something GREAT occurs and you have to shake your head at all the months/years of the stuff you put up with, thinking you were hoping for too much. Seeing as I tend to blog about the negatives, let me share some of the very refreshing things that I have experienced lately.

For example…

1. When you send a text to let him know you are thinking about him but you are worried maybe you shouldn’t have.

What you expect: You usually don’t get a response for several hours. Maybe not for a day or two. Or maybe they never text you again. Ever. Or you might be seen as needy, over-anxious, desperate, pushy.

Instead: He sees your text and he calls you because he wants to connect with you.

2. When you say something sappy like, “Happy Anniversary” and are worried maybe you shouldn’t have.

What you expect: “I don’t do anniversaries” or you might be seen as needy, over-anxious, desperate, pushy. Or they outright laugh at you.

Instead: He says thank you and tells you how much he has enjoyed getting to know you. He even talks about how much he is looking forward to continuing the journey with you.

3. When you tell him you wish you could see him more.

What you expect: He doesn’t feel the same way. He thinks you’re smothering him. He ignores you and continues to make you feel like you aren’t a priority.

Instead: He tells you has the desire to be with you, even if the schedules don’t allow it. But he “embraces the emotions” that you obviously both have that are causing the desire to see each other to begin with.

4. When you go to his house and hope maybe you can stay over (even though you can’t because you have a son at home).

What you expect: “I can’t share my bed with anyone. I can’t sleep if someone is here.” Or “I haven’t had anyone spend the night here in years. It is going to take me a long time to be comfortable with that.”

Instead:  He says, “You know, you can stay as long as you want. I just want you to be comfortable.”

I could write pages more of examples, but the point is, the “instead’s” are as it should be. I think I am finally at the point that I would rather have one week with someone like this, then weeks or months with someone who isn’t. That may sound like common sense to you, but there were times when the loneliness was so bad, I would have taken the bad over having nothing.

You don’t ever know how long something will last, but for this moment? It’s as wonderful as I have always dreamed it would be. Knowing I am respected and wanted does amazing things for my ability to get through the hard days. There are never guarantees for “forever” so you just relish each moment and day, and hope there are more. And more. And more.

 


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Darren

Four years ago when I started writing, Brigette told me I had to get on social media. I didn’t even know what a blog was. I had no Facebook page. Twitter. LinkedIn. Yikes! I’m still not up on everything and I’m sure I don’t use them as effectively as I could. One of the coolest results of that though, is being in touch with people I would probably never have been otherwise.

One day a couple of years ago, I got a notice from Darren. He wondered if I was the Darcy Thiel that was his roller skating girlfriend from seventh grade. I immediately remembered his name and that whole time period came rushing back. We used to ride our bikes to meet each other because we didn’t go to the same school.

That was about thirty years ago. We had a brief relationship (under six months I think) and then no contact for thirty years. Slowly, our contact began to increase. It was absolutely amazing that after all that time, our friendship picked right up like we hadn’t skipped a beat.

He’s on the West Coast now, married with almost grown kids. Every once in a while, I have a moment of feeling completely baffled by something. I have lots of close, intimate friends. Some of them know me extremely well, and almost all of them are supportive and loving to me. Sometimes though, I just think in some situations, no one completely understands what I am saying. Then I remember Darren.

He does monumental things for my self-esteem. It appears that he and I are emotionally wired in almost the same way. He has achieved a different kind of insight than I have, and seems so very, very wise. He truly believes, without an arrogant bone in his body, that we have a wildly intense, but insanely deep emotional connection to ourselves. (Jeeze, I hope I am being accurate. If I misquote you Darren, forgive me!) While this is a massive gift, it also leads to incredible loneliness at times because so few people relate on the same level.

This intensity has always felt to me like a blessing and a curse. But when I talk to Darren, I feel so incredibly special. It feels so much more like a rare gift than when I am left to my own inward devices. He will tell me that he admires my tenacity, especially when it comes to the dating world. He assures me when I am pounding my head on the wall in confusion, that I have articulated my feelings, needs, desires, (whatever!) in a completely sensible, accurate, clear manner. It is just the listener who is a bit handicapped to catch what it is because of their own level of self-understanding.

One time he recently told me that I have a rare ability to feel intensely, but manage to keep things compartmentalized and in order. Whether it is familial relationships, sex, friendships… I am able to separate layers and levels and know what they are about for me.

None of that, of course, changes our inability to connect sometimes with others. But at least, for a few moments, we have connection with each other.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still have moments where I think that maybe he and I are just both neurotic and crazy and have concocted all this nonsense to feel better about ourselves. Even if that’s true, I can accept that…LOL.

But it explains so much. It explains how I can be effective as a counselor, even when I am falling apart in other areas of my life. It explains how I can be crying in the parking lot and then walk into a venue and give a moving lecture like the professional I am. It explains how I can be heartbroken over some guy that I haven’t even known that long. It explains how I can be so heartbroken but get back on the horse and try again a few hours later. All of it is genuine and 100% me, but I move in and out as I need to.

Anyhow, thank you, my friend. I appreciate you (and all your many parts) more than I can express in words. Your faith in me always rescues me in my weakest moments. Someday, I hope I can return the immeasurable favors.


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Yay!

In a month that has been filled with a lot of difficult situations to deal with, I am also grateful for some sweet moments as well. There has been a mending of relationships which has made my heart smile broadly, which I could desperately use more of these days.

Sometimes the relationships don’t look exactly the same as they did before, but you can experience healing none-the-less. One was a more recent experience that occurred about six months ago. It was a professional relationship. It took some time, but eventually heartfelt apologies were offered and things are going to eventually resume on a professional level when some logistics are taken care of. I had been hopeful this would eventually happen and I am glad to say it did.

The other was of a more personal nature. There was a professional component to it as well, but the real nature of the wounds were quite personal for both parties. This one has been a bleeding wound for over six years. Sure, time made some of it heal, but every once in a while the scab would get agitated and the pain would resume. I wasn’t sure this one would ever get better.

For a couple of years, I thought it would be impossible to feel better unless there was a complete acknowledgement of every piece of the infraction between us. I didn’t think I could ever move on unless I got some sort of assurance that I had been deathly wronged and there was deep regret on the other’s part.

When I asked for this meeting, I was greeted with a polite, “I don’t think it’s a good idea” type of answer. I knew though, that after six years I was in a much different place. I wanted desperately for us to be able to move on without re-hashing everything, without apologies for things we really couldn’t apologize for in a genuine manner. I don’t really think you can forgive without “repentance” entirely, but I do think you can heal regardless.

I knew the risk. Meeting and trying could make it worse. It could do the opposite of provide closure. It could make the original wounds even worse. But deep in my heart, I knew it was a risk I had to take.  The relationship we had before the rift was of such high value to me, it was a greater risk to leave it unhealed without trying.

Six years of waiting. That part of our conversation, actually probably only took about 20 minutes. I set the tone by reassuring him that I had no desire to re-hash the past, I just wanted to move forward more comfortably. I knew we would never have the same relationship again, but I was hoping that somehow it could be better than it currently was.

He admitted that what I had intuited over the years was indeed accurate. I just didn’t understand fully why. He explained that I hurt him as well. He explained why he stopped trusting me. Once I heard him out, it made sense to me. Not to over-simplify a complex situation, but in some ways it was truly a misunderstanding. He thought I meant “A” and in actuality, I meant “B”.  In fact, “A” couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I think the corrected perception helped immensely, but we both knew it didn’t change the hurt it caused when it originally happened. And it didn’t change the last six years when that perception remained in place for him. At the end of the conversation, he actually thanked me for intiating the meeting. Big shift from being hesitant to even talk to me.

The future will tell how much healing occurred between us. I do know that for me personally, a very heavy burden was lifted. There are still scars. Those don’t go away. The relationship is still forever changed. But some of the very significant pain has been altered in a favorable direction.

Life doesn’t always go this way, but it confirms the challenge to myself and to all of you – I want to stay invested. I may need to invest more wisely in my life at times, but connection, love, relationship, respect, care… they are worthy of our time and effort. Tonight, I will breathe just a bit easier, with six years of weight significantly lessened.

Big, big sigh. Not of annoyance, but of relief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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More Ally McBeal

I’m starting my last season of Ally McThiel. Oops, I mean McBeal. The second to last season is the one with Robert Downey, Jr.. It’s so sad because the childhood love of her life (Billy) dies, and then she meets Robert Downey, Jr. (Larry) and they seem so perfect for each other. I’ve seen the series before so I knew what was coming.

Larry is planning on proposing to Ally, so he starts acting weird. Ally notices his odd behaviors and thinks it is because Larry is planning his exit. She knows that Larry is scared to death of being close to someone, so she erroneously misreads his intentions. Larry gives the engagement ring to a waiter, who stupidly puts it in the wrong dessert and delivers it to the wrong table. (Just added fun fact: that table is a couple where the guy IS trying to break up with the girl. Big oops on both counts.) Larry decides it’s an omen and then does, indeed, leave Ally.

Now, some may watch the show and criticize Ally for assuming the wrong thing. I don’t criticize her at all. She is astute to know that his behavior is noticeably off. If Larry had the ability to communicate with her, she would not have misread it. And in the end? She was correct. He did leave her. He was unable to sustain intimacy.

In an earlier episode, Ally talks on her birthday about how she has dealt with loneliness as one of her most gut-wrenching struggles throughout her life. She made a statement that struck me as I’ve heard other of my married friends say it before. She said being WITH someone and still being lonely, is much, much worse. It’s a whole other level of lonely.

In discussing the show with someone, I made the comment about Larry’s intolerance of intimacy. That really took my friend by surprise because he had never heard that expression before. Unfortunately, both professionally and personally it is a concept I am quite familiar with. Sometimes, no matter what the heart wants, a person (man or woman) finds they cannot sustain intimacy for long periods of time. You can protect yourself from intimacy in a number of ways.

Probably the easiest is to select partners (usually unconsciously) that also can’t tolerate intimacy. There might be lots of built-in ways to keep enough distance. Maybe it’s a job where you travel a lot. Maybe the person emotionally withdraws. But if you stumble upon a partner that IS capable of intimacy, in spite of thinking you have wanted that your whole life, you may sabotage the relationship because you just can’t sustain the closeness. It triggers too much fear.

Anyhow, I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this (seems to be a theme in my blogs lately) but suffice it to say that even on the second run, I still get Ally McBeal. I get what it means to be in a relationship and still be lonely. I get what it means to taste love and then watch it disappear. I understand her. She’s certainly not perfect, but I understand her sad (yet happy), quirky, clumsy self. I get it in my forties as much as I did in my thirties (or was it my twenties?).

Larry made a big mistake walking away. Just saying.


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Patience

Patience is a virtue. Not sure who came up with that. Google has a variety of explanations offered as to where the phrase originated. I’ve certainly heard it all my life. And most of my adult life I have possessed the self-awareness to know that patience is definitely not one of my better virtues. My passion is often at odds with my patience. True to my nature though, I try to remember that and keep my patience in check when life calls on me to do so.

If you follow my blog, you have probably read a thousand times that I believe everything in life has a plus and a minus, a loss and a gain. Everything. It may not be equal 50/50, but there is an element of both sides. Yes, patience is an admirable quality, but I have also sometimes seen the essence of what it is supposed to be misused. Not everything requires patience. Sometimes asking people to have patience is a fancy excuse for bad behavior.

I took the plunge a couple of months ago (after a two-year break) and attempted to be in a relationship again. The ironic thing, was that we both stated several million times how we both hoped at our ages to not have another failed relationship under our belts. Sometimes hoping just isn’t enough.

We had several conversations about time. I guess when you think about it, time is related to patience. When is the right time for this or that? When is something too early? Or premature? As a relationship counselor, I get asked some of those questions frequently. I’ve watched many friends navigate questions like this while dating. And as a divorced woman, then as a widow, I’ve certainly had my own share of personal experiences to draw from. Like most things in my life, the older I get, I find there are less and less formulas and “right” answers to draw from. People live their lives in various ways. I’ve blogged about that before. The raw truth is, most relationships end. Most people don’t marry the first person they date. Lots of daters stop before they make a permanent commitment. Eventually, some find the person they want to “spend the rest of their life with.” So it’s impossible to decide what is the “right formula” to make a relationship work. Countless numbers of people approach time and pace differently. The statistics are the same for however people approach time in their relationship. Most of them end, some eventually find their lifetime significant other.

Wow, I can really go off on a tangent sometimes. I think that is relevant, but not the point I was making.

It’s my opinion (professionally and personally) that while there are some things we need to make allowances for (absolutely NO ONE is perfect!) and while there are some things that have to be developed over time between two people, there are also things that should be in place before a person really should be in the relationship at all. Asking a person to “be patient” for things most would consider to be just common respect or basic manners, does not seem appropriate to me. That’s not about patience at all.

Expectations becomes a dirty word in psychology sometimes, but I really have rejected that in my own life and in my practice. To me, expectations are part of the human condition. No one is truly capable of being void of expectations. The more healthy question is, are my expectations reasonable? Fair? And again, sometimes the answer to that question can change based on how long the relationship has been existent. And again, sometimes the length of time is irrelevant. Some expectations are reasonable with a total stranger, so how much more reasonable for someone you actually care for?

Anyhow, I don’t really have an end point to this, or a funny story to make you chuckle like I like to do. It’s just some thoughts I’ve been giving a lot of time to lately. In my eyes. From the world according to Darcy. Fortunately though, I’m actually kinda smart about this stuff. Really 🙂


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Madame Secretary

I only watch two TV shows- The Big Bang Theory and Madame Secretary. Pretty opposite ends of the spectrum. I don’t usually get to watch either one of them when they air, but “on demand” works fine other than having to sit through the commercials. (Yes, I am the only woman in America that does not have a DVR.)

This morning while Frankie was getting ready for school, I was finishing watching this week’s episode of Madame Secretary. They are all usually pretty riveting, but this one was an especially dangerous story line. There was an explosion I wasn’t expecting so I jumped and let out a small scream. Then I was teary-eyed. Frankie thought it was hilarious. He’s such a guy. “Mom, it’s just a TV character. It’s not real you know.” Simple for him.

He got on the bus and the next ten minutes I full-out cried for the rest of the episode. Didn’t even bother trying not to, I was just so moved by the story and the characters.

I love that show. Mostly, it’s because I love Elizabeth. She is the Secretary of the State. Now I know less than nothing about politics, but I find it fascinating anyhow. The politics are interesting, but the real snag for me is her persona. She is a brilliant- I mean brilliant- kick ass woman. She takes no shit, thinks outside the box, and comes up with solutions that are no less than genious. Yet, she is still somehow completely feminine and warm.

I love her marriage. Her husband is total eye candy. (That never hurts.) But they have the coolest marriage. They are total partners. They can completely disagree sometimes, but most of the time they are on the same page and they back each other.

I love their kids. They have three and one of them is usually in some sort of crisis. But I love watching the five of them mill around the kitchen. In this episode, she was saying goodbye to them. No one but the husband knew that she was going on a dangerous, life-threatening mission. He stood in the corner, watching his wife kiss her kids goodbye, knowing full well that she knew full well that it might be her last interaction with them. It was ridiculously intense.

It was nothing crazy. But the way they walk by their kids and just touch them, the way they can give them a hug… I’m so incredibly jealous. I wonder if Frankie even has a thought in his mind when he watches a scene like that. I wonder if Colin ever thinks twice about it. Because I do. Our home is NOTHING like that. There is hardly any interaction, no family time, and most certainly no touching or affection. If I even brush up against Frankie, you would honestly think I burned his skin.

Now in a way, this show is so totally unrealistic to 99% of the population. We don’t work in the White House. We don’t work in the CIA. And yet, I feel like I’m totally at home watching them. They all seem so completely normal. Not perfect, because that would just make me mad that another media message is going out to sell the impossible dream. They all fight, have conflict, etc.. But at the end of the day, you totally respect the adults, and their kids respect them too.

This particular episode, our heroine survives (of course!) but what was moving was watching all of the different characters see her come safely home. There were no words, just music. But words weren’t needed. Her beloved staff sank into relief. Her husband gets the phone call that she is safe and he breaks down sobbing with his kids. Shit. I’m crying again, writing about it.

There are lots of good people in the show. She isn’t the only one. But seeing the impact she has on everyone around her, knowing how highly respected she is, knowing how deeply loved she is- she is a worthy heroine to me.

I think that is why I love it. In one way, it touches a deep sadness inside of me. But in another, it makes me want to keep fighting. Damn it, that is possible. And I want it. A truly loving partner, kids that love me, the respect of my co-workers and peers. Knowing I make an impact on the world. I may not ever get it, or maybe just not all of it, but I’m going to go down trying! That’s the kind of woman I aspire to be, the kind of life I seek to have.

Great show… you should watch it.


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Knights in Shining Armor

This week’s blog is inspired by a comment that was made on my last blog “Sisterhood.” The comment was “we can’t believe there’s a knight in shining armor that will come swooping into our lives and take all of our stress away. I think if we believe that, no man will ever have a chance or be capable of providing that to a woman.”

I couldn’t agree more and I thought I had kind of indicated that in my blog about my widow friend. She still grieves and aches, even with a special guy in her life.

One of my strengths is that I’m pretty self-aware and honest about where I am. I can be brutally honest and hard on myself, which then becomes more of a detriment than a strength. Anyhow, throughout my life in my quest to experience love, I generally haven’t suffered from looking for Mr. Perfect. I’m relatively realistic about people and relationships. I have no misguided aspirations of someone swooping in and I certainly have no vision of having a stress free life. If there isn’t a man in my life, it isn’t because I have held up impossible standards that no man could possibly live up to.

Having said that, it is possible for a loving man to relieve some stress though, and most particularly the stress of loneliness. When examining many of the failed relationships I’ve had throughout my life, and especially those since Tim’s death, there are always those “hindsight is 20/20” things that stand out. For Frankie, there are two that stand out to him and every once in a blue moon he opens up about them.

The first man who touched his life, was the first guy that I dated after Tim’s death. Here is how some of that conversation goes. “Frankie, he definitely loved you. The two of you had a great relationship and he was really good to you. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very good to me. As much as I loved him for you, I couldn’t stay with him for that reason.”

Then there is guy number two. He was only around six short weeks, but they were powerful ones. That conversation goes a little differently. “Frankie, he definitely cared about you. You had a great relationship with him and with his son. He was good to me, too. He fit in with our family almost perfectly. But he left us. We don’t really know or understand why, but he didn’t stay with us.”

Other conversations with Frankie reveal more of the pain he feels. He talks about how he doesn’t want to know anyone, male or female, because people just end up leaving. That’s when I want to punch that guy. No one can blame someone for not wanting to stay in a situation they are unhappy in. No matter how happy Frankie and I were, I would have never wanted someone to stay with us that didn’t want to be with us. However, there are better ways to leave than others.

In reality, he was like that knight in shining armor. Not because we were living in an unrealistic cloud nine state. Things were just smooth and they fit. We felt grounded. I experienced contentment, possibly for the first time ever. The problem I have, is not having a clue as to why he left. And even more bizarre to me is there was no attempt to try to correct whatever it was that was bothering him. He just ran. No real explanation. No real goodbye. But even worse, there was no goodbye to Frankie. There was no goodbye between Frankie and his son. His son was probably fine with it. But then his son has a living father and mother.

That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable standard to have for someone. Is that not something that a man should be capable of providing for a woman? If you are going to enter into our lives, then at least have the decency to leave with some sort of closure. After what Frankie and I have been through, a loss like that was cruel.

In my mind, the knight in shining armor became much more like the cowardly lion. How disappointing.