“When it’s closing time and the night is young, do you need a friend to help you on?
You can lean on me and I’ll carry our bones home
As the stars explode in the sky above and the pieces fall back down to earth
If you lean on me then I’ll let you feel my heartbeat beat, let you feel my heartbeat”
— “Let Them Feel Your Heartbeat” by A Silent Film
A friend who is a life coach has started me on a new way of thinking. We originally were talking about external relationships as we’ve both made the past mistakes of falling for guys who were emotionally unavailable and/or narcissistic. She saw what I was going through lately and knew exactly what I was going through, down to the same exact bull**** moves that I hadn’t even told her about. It was like something out of Groundhog Day except what she experienced yesterday is what I experienced today. And going through our dating pasts, she’s put me on the path to be able to break the cycle and finally get what I want: a lifelong meaningful relationship with a true 50/50 partner. Don’t expect results if you don’t do the work though. As she said, I just need a bit of polishing.
So this is going to take a little bit of work in order to get myself ready to be in that kind of relationship. I’ve started doing some reading on relationships that has expanded my mind in how to think about them. Looking around at how we go about trying to find a partner, most people have it all wrong. I’ve had it wrong all this time. Online dating sites try to match people based on profiles and statistics and in person most people try to find someone based on personality fits. The rates of break-ups and divorce are extremely high though. Why is finding the right one so hard? Well, you can’t find the right one if you’re looking in the wrong direction. One of my favorite quotes is “Our soulmates seldom appeal to our personality — our ego. That’s why they are called soulmates rather than egomates.” by Carolyn G. Miller. The most successful relationships I’ve seen are the ones where couples love each other not because of their partner’s talent, creativity, athleticism, success, artistry, determination, goals, etc. but because of their partner’s heart. The heart is the base of everything that we do. Loving someone’s heart is loving why they do what they do, not what they actually do. Two people can volunteer to help make dinner. One does it because s/he wants recognition and people to like him/her while the other does it because s/he wants to help out others and contribute thanks or no thanks. Both look the same on the outside (helping to make dinner) yet the reasons behind why they are doing it are completely different. The former is for selfish reasons while the latter is coming from love for others.
As Carrie Bradshaw once said “I pick the wrong men.” There is some truth to that. We focus on the wrong aspects of looking for a partner. We have all these ideals of what our partner should look like. I had to write a list of partner’s qualities years ago that I thought would make me happy. I’ve realized since then that all of that was complete and utter crap. I’ve dated men who fit some of those and realized that those qualities weren’t really that important and learned there were other deeper qualities that I needed more that weren’t as tangible. Personalities are what you see on the surface of someone when you meet them. What makes them tick though? That’s the heart and requires knowing someone much more intimately. While some still commend an ex-boyfriend for taking care of me after my surgeries, what many don’t know is that it wasn’t genuine love. He held that against me in every way imaginable and tried to make me feel guilty for not meeting HIS needs during my recovery process. He was abusive saying that if I really loved him then I’d have figured out a way to meet his needs also while I laid in bed with a broken pelvis. This horrified several of my closest male friends who said that if their partner was recovering from surgery, their own needs were last on the list of things to attend to no matter how long the recovery process was. So even though in the surface we looked like a good match, our hearts and souls were completely different. When we broke up, I felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders and knew that I wasn’t 100% of the problem in our relationship like he claimed. I was 100% responsible for staying in that relationship longer than I should have though.
One fellow cyclist I dated (after of course saying “never again”) and I appeared on paper like we were a good match and had similar interests. The heart behind our activities were extremely different. With cycling, he was happy with 90 minutes of cycling per day as it was just exercise to him. Me? Completely different. It was very social for me as I did it with friends and we downright enjoyed cycling for hours on end and sincerely loved being on the bike. Like the time that my friend Liz and I said “f*** it” and turned a 50-ish mile ride into a 95 mile ride when we got close to Livermore (after starting in Oakland). We’re looking at doing a double century in March. The guy I had dated asked once why would anyone ever want to do a double century. It wasn’t a personality mismatch, it was a heart mismatch and what drove us to do a on-the-surface activity like “cycling” was completely different.
When people talk about my Catalina swim or my swimming general, very few ask why I do it. Why do I swim? Why do I swim open water? Why did I swim Anacapa Island to Oxnard? Why did I swim from Catalina Island to San Pedro? All swimmers swim for different reasons. Many assume it’s for exercise and/or we’re nuts. It’s not exercise to me. I never think afterwards “damn that was a great workout!” For me it’s about the journey and the experience and what I’m going to learn about myself by going through it. When people told me after my Catalina swim that they don’t think they could swim 17+ hours, I always respond with “I didn’t either!” Why do I swim in the bay? Because I feel connected to the Bay and the city I love when I swim in it. It’s another connection to “home” for me. I don’t feel a connection to a pool therefore have little to no drive to swim in one. My heart isn’t into it. That’s not who I am.
So while I am working on reprogramming my brain on how to look and feel about relationships that I have with people I’m choosing to start with the most important one: myself. I’ve flailed a lot in things I promised to myself in terms of my own health and household. I’ve said that I’m going to lose X pounds (or fat), eat better/healthier, exercise more, get my finances back on track, remodel my place, etc. over the years. I don’t feel like much has changed though. Like the typical midnight snack scenario, I get weak moments and say “ah screw it” and let myself go. Bad idea and why I’m not getting anywhere. So I’ve decided to recommit to myself for everything I promised myself that I’d do for me in the past. My friend Brandon has recommitted to his own nutritional health which inspired me to do the same of preplanning my meals and deciding to stick to them. I’ve decided this past weekend after a week in the lovely Midwest with the “omg..people eat like this??” Midwestern diet to go to a total whole foods diet for the next 2 months. So far I’ve survived 7 days on it and haven’t been regretting it, aside from when I eat celery. It’ll help me get through the holidays also with avoiding all the cookies and cakes and pies that’ll start parading and congregating around town. In the process, I’ll be rebooting my physical body.
Rebooting my mental and emotional bodies will take some work also. I had a very long talk with my friend Erika a couple of weeks ago while we were out riding. I was having a hard time as I was slower than usual since I haven’t been riding on a regular basis and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me as my heart wasn’t into it. I had an easier time dragging myself up Mounts Tam and Diablo last winter when I was first learning how to ride because I didn’t have any expectations. It was just one pedal stroke at a time and who cares how long it took me to get up that mountain as long as I made it up there. Now after almost a year of riding I had expectations on how I was going to perform on the bike. Expectations were attacking my soul. I had to step back and reboot how I approached this in my head. I’ve started hitting the gym and spinning classes more with the mentality that I’m going to get myself back in cycling shape no matter what. My quads, glutes, hamstrings, and lungs will burn and hate me in the process yet thank me later. I need to accept the fact that I’m a slower cyclist now and the important thing is that I’m still a cyclist. I am not going to get any faster again by not being on the bike. The girls will wait for me and it’ll be one ride at a time to get myself back up to speed (pun intended). Drop the expectations as that’s setting oneself up for disappointment.
Here’s to rebuilding a bigger and better heart and soul. No way back from here (cue Dave Grohl).