Struggling with Isolation

I was in bed at 11 and have been up since 3am.  Dove into reddit for a bit.  Then some clash of clans.  Can’t sleep.  Thought about going for a run.. but I hate running.  I’m struggling here.  Grabbed my laptop thinking maybe I would work one out and de-stress.  Ended up here instead.

I grew up surrounded by friends.  Whether it was me and a best friend adventuring around the city as kids, or me and the crew hanging out at my place on a Friday night playing video games over beers.  Not so much these days.

Normally I’m good with alone time.  But this has been different.  I separated my shoulder a couple months ago so I haven’t been able to play sports.  For the most part, basketball twice a week was the only time I would still see the crew.  The cost of living has kept them living with their parents, and me on the outskirts of town.  Even eating out is too expensive these days.  I miss those guys.  Those guys understood me through and through, never held anything against me, or I against them.  I could always be myself with them and not have to stress about it.  Times have changed.

Earlier this year, one of my closest friends (I was the best man at his wedding) decided that I had pissed him off enough to stop talking to me.  Never even told me why.  Just stopped texting me back or taking my calls.  The last interaction we had was when I had invited him and his wife over for dinner.  He called me a couple hours before hand and said he and the wife didn’t feel like driving out to my house and suggested that I bring the supplies over to their house and cook for them there.  I laughed it off and said that I wasn’t a personal chef and that we could reschedule for another time.  Eventually, I told him that my business was starting the process of hiring a new GM, a role which I had lined him up for since the beginning – and that if he still wanted to be involved, he and I needed to sort our shit out.  He responded quick enough, but basically said that I had pissed him off by disrespecting him and his wife (who’s also a close friend).  He started to make it sound like she had been upset about something and he was upset that she was upset.  I racked my brain so hard to figure out what it was that I had done, and the best that I could come up with is that they were upset that I declined to drive to their house and cook for them when they declined to drive to my house to let me cook for them.  We’ve since hung out a few times and things are mostly back to normal.. but we still haven’t tackled that topic.

Being injured and not being able to play sports and then having one of my closest friends pull that shit was tough.  It made me feel isolated.  I had also reached out to an ex-girlfriend back in December which didn’t go all that well.  I was excited to show her the ways in which I had grown since we dated last, as she was part of what inspired that growth.  She was working on her MBA in Singapore and kept saying that she would love to chat in real-time and catch up.  I kept saying sure, that would be great.  She kept not getting back to me after that.  In the process, she made it clear that she had assumed I hadn’t changed, and wasn’t all that interested in changing her perception or reconnecting in any way.  Fuuuuck me.

This is all along the backdrop of work, where I’m dealing with two founders who are under a level of stress that they’re not dealing with very well.  One founder snapped at me for not letting him proof read an email to an investor.  He’s never proofed my anything to anyone, nor would he have even understood the subject matter of the email even if he did.  Not to mention I told him specifically what would be in that email a few hours earlier at our weekly meeting.  He’s bugging out for other reasons, but this is how it’s showing up.  Then you have his wife, the other co-founder who, at times, almost looks for reasons to be upset with me.  With her, I can’t help but think that I carry all the tribal markers of someone she’s learned to feel threatened by… straight white male with a background in corporate finance who drives an SUV.  I’ve probably experienced more prejudice in this relationship than any other I’ve experienced.  Ironic, because she’s very far left.  Or maybe that’s not so ironic these days.  Both are good, decent people who with a clear and positive state of mind are very, very good to me.  But those moments can be the exception when they’re under the stress and pressure of a company which is growing beyond their ability to run.  Fortunately, that’s why they brought me in, but now they’re struggling to give up that control.

I find myself craving to be understood and accepted.  And connected.  I’ve always been understood and accepted by the crew, but they’re not around so much anymore.  I had that with my buddy, until he decided that whatever I did was enough to cut me out of his life for a few months but not enough to talk to me about what had happened.  Initially, I had that with the co-founders who had brought me into their start-up, until they started to let their stress levels get the best of them.  I had a deep sense of acceptance and being understood with the ex-girlfriend, but since we had dated and then stopped talking, she seemed to have lost all interest in showing it.  My dad would’ve been my go-to in these situations.. would’ve gone to his place for dinner.. told him what I was going through and he’d feed me, give me some advice, and send me on my way.  I miss him.  Don’t have that relationship with my mom.. siblings are in another country..

*deep breath*

When I see this happening around me, the first pattern I notice is that I’m the common factor.  It must be me.  It probably is.  I often joke around that I’m an ass, but I know I’m a good person who treats others well, even in the worst of conditions.  The harder life gets, the more I focus on not letting it affect how I treat others.  If anything, I let it motivate me to treat others better.  Asking the cashier how her day has been, striking up a conversation with the disabled guy who handles the shopping carts at my local grocery store, or hitting the pedestrian crossing for a car stuck at a flashing green light.  If life is going to be shitty to me, at least I can still brighten up someone else’s day.

The other pattern that I’ve noticed is that the people are running from the ideas that challenge their reality, and I do that often.  I know the value of having your reality challenged, it keeps you accountable to the truth and helps you avoid the bullshit in your life.  But it can be uncomfortable.  It can make you feel shitty when it happens, even if it’s what you need.  I’m all about delayed gratification so I’m all about embracing the shit.  But I’m starting to sense that I’m one of very few who’s interested in taking that approach.  As the world has become more challenging and confusing, I can’t help but think that people are retreating to their comfort zones and someone like me is not welcome there.  I live perpetually outside of my comfort zone and I embrace the challenges and growth that come with it.  Do I keep encouraging others to venture outside of their comfort zone?  Or do I allow them to be complacent within their belief system?

A few weeks ago, I reached out to a girl I had dated briefly a few years ago to wish her a happy birthday.  We started texting a bit and with us both big into super hero movies, I asked if she wanted to go see the new Black Panther.  She was pumped.  Until she ghosted.  She apologized, something about her schedule.  So we rescheduled, and she ghosted again.  When we dated the first time, she did something similar with a big event and I wasn’t having it.  My pride let me walk away from that in a hurry.  This time around, I was frustrated, but wanted to understand what was happening more than I wanted to punish her for wasting my time.  We spoke about it more candidly.  She asked why I had messaged her beyond the happy birthday and I was honest.  I had done a lot of growing up, but it left me feeling more awkward and misunderstood than ever.  Life was a lot easier when I was set on being the person that everyone wanted me to be.  Turns out being me was not so easy.  As beautiful as she was, she was no stranger to being awkward and misunderstood, and I thought maybe we could be awkward and misunderstood together.  I figured it was at least worth a date.  Had it happened, it would’ve been my first time being anywhere near a woman in more than a year.

She liked the idea, said that she understood and had decided that she really did want to spend some time with me.  So we scheduled another date.  This time she was feeling under the weather.  Fair enough, so let’s reschedule for a few days out?  Yes please, until she cancelled again for still being sick and heading out for a work trip in the morning.  0/4.  Fuuuuuck me.  Trying to be understanding.  Trying to be considerate.  Asked her what was going on, and not from a place of anger.  I told her that it sucked, being excited to see her and spend time with her, only for her to cancel over, and over, and over.  I told her I don’t think I can keep this up.  She assured me that she was very, very interested in seeing me and spending time with me.  If someone were to read our text conversations, you’d be optimistic this would go somewhere.  But it hasn’t.  She had some reservations, and some social anxiety… things I wanted to support her though.  She wanted me to support her though them as well.  But maybe I’m missing something.

She took off for her work trip Thursday morning, and we’ve texted a bunch since.  But as she got closer to coming back, the texts dried up.  Pretty much nothing on Saturday, she was driving back for most of Sunday, and yesterday was a quick text in the morning and nothing all day.  Even typing this, I feel like it comes off as needy but there’s more to it than that.  There are patterns hidden within styles of communication.  This is not the pattern of communication of someone who wants to spend time with me.  Or maybe I’m jumping the gun.  This is remarkably frustrating and confusing.

I know she has some social anxiety issues, I know she was super awkward around me when we dated before and while I adored her anyways, it’s still on her mind.  I know that she’s a good person with good intentions, but I don’t know if she’s capable of actually making this happen.  After she asked to reschedule date number 4, I did my best to help us figure things out.  I gave her every out, and she was still 100% determined to try and make this happen, and appreciated my understanding.  I told her that I still don’t know what that means.  It could mean what I hope it means, but it could also mean that as much as she’d like this to happen, she’s just not ready.

If I was in her shoes, and really wanted to see me, I would’ve tried to put something in the calendar for as soon as I was back.  She’s barely texted me at all in the last few days.  Normally, I wouldn’t overthink this but the messages she stopped responding after are not the types of messages that you leave hanging.  It’s probably the biggest reason why I couldn’t sleep tonight.  I told her I was under a fair bit of stress right now and while I was probably handling it well, it was tough.  Later in the evening, I sent her a video game meme.. still nothing.  In an age where people check their phones more often than they look at the time, seeing those messages and not responding is a message in itself isn’t it?  It was a pattern of reduced communication the closer we got to seeing each other… It’s a big part of why I couldn’t sleep tonight.  I wanted to send her a text that would basically say…. I don’t know what it would say.  Something to the effect of this sucks for me.  I keep putting myself out there and you keep running away.  I don’t want to keep doing this.  But I weigh that against being understanding of what she’s going through, and the possibility that if we could just get within physical distance of each other, the dynamic would shift and it might be everything we wanted it to.

I avoided sending anything her way, especially out of a state of frustration.  Maybe she lost/broke her phone, maybe she’s playing catch up with work, maybe.. maybe.. maybe. It doesn’t make sense to assume I know what’s going on here, but what’s my breaking point?  I know I’m not compromising who I am, nor am I allowing myself to be played.  I’m very aware of the situation and the younger me would’ve let his pride dictate my actions.  It’s exactly why she and I stopped dating before.  But had I allowed my pride to dictate my behavior this time around, I would’ve saved myself a lot of grief.

I often hope that my tendency to put myself through these things, and my ability to survive them will leave me a more balanced, humble, and appreciative person for when things do go well.  But my patience is being tested.. perhaps now more than ever.  My entire life seems to have been an effort of delayed gratification.  It’s not easy.  Down right shitty when I have to go through it alone.  But I refuse to let the situation define me.  Instead, I choose to define my situation.  It is not her who is standing me up, but me who understands and appreciates the challenges she is going through, and me who chooses to be patient with how she’s working through this.  But even so, at a certain point, I need to start respecting the impact this has on my emotional state and accept that she’s just not ready.  I’m right up against that edge right now and I guess the next 24 will reveal the rest.

 

 

I made a point of not putting this entry up when I wrote it.  It was an incomplete thought being pressured by my emotional state.  I didn’t have enough information to understand the situation at the time and I’m happy I waited.  She texted me back the next day, saying that things at work had become quite challenging and that she had been ignoring her phone almost entirely as a result.  We’re heading out for that date today.. probably some Ready Player One and some homemade sushi.  I’m cautiously optimistic it might actually happen.

Loneliness

I noticed a pattern in my dating behavior recently.  Actually, I think I noticed it a few years ago but suppressed it, afraid it might be indicative of something that I might have to deal with.

I think I’m good at being single.  I keep myself busy with work, friends, and sports.  I enjoy my alone time.  Sex outside a relationship doesn’t do much for me.  And for the most part, I don’t crave to be in a relationship.  Yet every year, I enter the fall a single man, and exit the holidays in some kind of relationship.  Maybe not every year, but close enough for me to see a pattern.

In 2016, I met a Harley Quinn at a Halloween party and we dated until the spring of last year.  Before that was Max, who I met in the fall of 2015.  We dated until the spring of 2016.  It’s been almost a year since I’ve been anywhere near a woman though, and I’m starting to bug out a bit.

As great as my last girlfriend was, I came out of that relationship thinking that I might be asexual.  She was all kinds of awesome, and I was all kinds of uninterested towards the end.  It wasn’t her fault as I had some things I needed to work through.  In that regard, I suppose I’m not very good at multitasking.

Harley and I broke up in the spring.  Women weren’t on my radar at all.  The summer came and went and I still had no interest in women.  I was open minded to the idea that I just wasn’t suitable for a relationship.  I was also open minded to the fact that I might be a touch asexual as I noticed myself getting bored of sex within the first few months in most of my relationships.  I loved exploring, I loved figuring out where her buttons were, and I loved introducing her to new things… but as soon as things became a bit repetitive, I would lose interest.

In the fall, an ex messaged me.  We chatted for a bit and I could see she was angling for something physical so I told her she was probably barking up the wrong tree.  She took it as a challenge and basically took it upon herself to turn me back into a red-blooded male.  I thought it would be an interesting experiment.  We were supposed to meet up one weekend after she wrapped up at some kind of fancy party.  I told her earlier in the day that I just wasn’t into it.  There’s an interesting test that I think most men (and perhaps women?) are aware of: If you still wanna hang out with them after you jerk off, then they’re worth hanging out with.  That was not the case with her, so I eventually told her that it wouldn’t be right to use her to work out my own issues.

On Monday, I downloaded Tinder.  Or perhaps I should say that I re-downloaded Tinder.  I’m probably the minority but I’m a fan of the app and have used it to meet several quality women.  This time around, I’m feeling a bit lost.  My last profile was a head shot of me in a 3 piece suit, talking about working in finance and dabbling in venture capital.  As effective as that profile was, it seemed a bit douchey this time around.  It didn’t reflect who I had become over the last year.  I really didn’t know what kind of girl I was looking to attract, or even what I would even want from them.  I just knew it was different from before.  But Tinder isn’t the place for me to work this out.  I had the app for 2 days before deleting it again.

But I’m playing back into this pattern aren’t I?  Give or take a couple months.  Do I want to be in a relationship?  Probably not.  I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  Am I open to one?  I think so.  Maybe what I’m hoping for is to meet someone new who can teach me a few things about the world and myself.  Or maybe I’m feeling the void of someone who’s already taught me so much.

I probably went through more personal growth in the last 12 months than any other period of my life.  The last time I went through this much growth was when my dad died.  I learned to appreciate the true diversity of humanity.  I learned that embracing what made me different, and being true to myself wasn’t only going to be my greatest comparative advantage, it would also lead to my happiest self.  I learned the importance of not suppressing my emotions and the value of learning how to process and communicate them.  I learned why it was important for me to embrace the parts of who I am which I had neglected, thinking they weren’t necessary in my career.  I learned a greater appreciation for prejudice and the survivorship bias.  I learned to be far more grateful.  And perhaps most importantly, I learned a tremendous importance of keeping an open mind.

Keeping an open mind can be important for a variety of reasons, many of which I learned last year.  Of all those reasons though, one is very important to me.  I had the opportunity to learn all of this when I was dating Max.  She was a few years younger than me, but she had a handle on all of this stuff.  And the things she didn’t know, we should’ve been able to discover together.  Instead of keeping an open mind and seeing her as someone I could learn from, I saw her as a challenge to the path I was already committed to.  Where she embraced her diversity, I was telling her to mind her P’s and Qs.  Where she tried to encourage me to explore, I would tell her that I didn’t have the time.  Where she pushed me to have a better awareness of my emotions, I bought into the myth that I was all robot.  Where she encouraged me to be more grateful, I insisted that I had worked hard for everything that I had.  When she tried to assert herself as an equal who I could learn from, I basically told her that between our age difference and the life that I had lived, there was a good chance that I knew better.  I dismissed the wisdom in what she was trying to help me learn, for the sake of being right and being able to continue along the path I was on.  It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever done to anyone in a relationship and I still feel pretty rotten about it.

In a year where I’ve had more personal growth than at any other point in my life, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Max.  Over.  And over.  And over.  It wasn’t even about wanting to be back in a relationship with her.  It had everything to do with wanting her back in my life. But she wasn’t.

So I found myself thinking about her more and more.  I started playing some of the music she had turned me onto (Phantogram).  I made a half hearted attempt at stalking her social media (largely unsuccessful).  I started to wonder if we would still be compatible (maybe?).  Eventually, I even found myself tossing and turning in bed, wanting her to be within arm’s reach.

When we dated, we fell hard and fast.  Within the first few weeks, we were in love.  Within the first month, we were talking about moving in together.  A month later, we were joking around about having alpha-babies.  Infatuation aside, there was also a deep compatibility that I hadn’t experienced with anyone else.  But she only got half of me.  The other half was career oriented at all costs, and had picked a terrible career to be committed to.  I don’t see an alternate universe in which she could’ve convinced me of that.  I was subscribed to the philosophy that if failure was an option, then you had too many options.  A painful lesson, but perhaps invaluable to my future.

When I think about her now, the word that I can’t get out of my head is ‘equal’.  In the grand scheme of things, I think that we’re all equally valuable to the universe.  But Max was equal to me.  Or maybe I was equal to her.  Or maybe I’m just in awe of the situation and can’t help but hold her in such high regard.  I don’t think it’s that simple though.

I’ve spent most of my adult life hoping to find a partner.  I’ve also spent most of that time not knowing what that person would look like.  I think I have a much better idea now, though it seems incredibly hard to articulate beyond being with someone who’s my equal.  I want to be able to learn from them as often as they learn from me.  I want us to be able to keep an open mind when exploring the unknown together.  I want someone who can hold their own when debating something we disagree on.  I want someone who is valuable to me as I am to them.  And for each of us to be the most valuable person in each other’s lives because we’re committed to bringing out the best in one another.

Maybe that’s what’s going on here.  I have this fixation on becoming the best version of myself.  Seeing the influence Max had on me, I can’t help but think of her as an asset.  The key to my best self.  As romantic as that may sound to some, I don’t think it’s a very functional or realistic way to approach this.

With all the growing up I’ve done, I’m confident that I would make a far better partner for her than I did when we were dating.  Considering the potential we both saw in each other when we did date, I can’t help but be interested in knowing where that would take us today.  Maybe not much further than before.  Maybe much further than before.  I think that would have a lot to do with who she is now.  And therein lies the reality of the matter.

We were in touch over email last week for the first time in about 2 years.  She’s on the other side of the planet working on her MBA.  She’s out there doing her thing, as I always hoped that she would.  Which means I either gotta go get her, hope that she comes to me, or put it out there in the universe and see what happens.  And I’m going with option 3.

I’m sure there’s a romantic, fairy-tale way to approach this… and I wouldn’t put it past me to try something crazy like that.  But I’m still not sure how much of this really involves her.  Had it not been for our most recent communication, she wouldn’t have a clue any of this was going on in my head.  Not to mention there’s always a chance that she’s already dating someone.  Maybe she’s found her soulmate and I’m just being a needy ex.

How much of what I’m feeling relates to the fact that I haven’t been intimate with anyone in almost a year?  How much of this has to do with me usually being in a relationship at this time of year?  How much of this has to do with the loneliness I experience when I don’t have anyone to share my inner-thoughts with?  How much of this is the loneliness that comes from a modern society that’s so connected yet so divided?  How much of this is the loneliness that comes from a world where it costs money to hang out with your friends, but where everyone is struggling financially?  And how much of this stems from the fear that I may have found someone who I could truly build a future with, and may not find another?

The logic in me says that there are a finite amount of people in this world who would make for a suitable partner.  That Max may be one of them, but that she wouldn’t be the only one.  That given where she is, and the phase of life that she’s in, I would probably have better odds looking elsewhere.  Or maybe as the odds play out, I end up with none of them.  The logic in me says appreciate who she is, be grateful for what she’s helped you learn, and focus on the things in your life that are a little more tangible.

But then something else inside me says, what about Max?