The Internet Killed Love

I’ve always had an intense fascination with people and watching how they interact with one another.  Even at a very young age, I would sometimes posit some random position on a topic to someone just to see what the response would be.  I learned when I was very young that you can say damn near anything to someone and they will take it as fact-based simply on how confidently you say it.  Before I ever studied propaganda and persuasion, I knew the basics of how it worked just on my own field experiments I’ve carried out my entire life.  So naturally, when the internet came along I was hooked on watching this virtual ant farm of people interacting with each other all at once. A cacophony of chatter all around the world done in complete silence.

Fascinating.

When I met my ex-husband in late 1996 early 1997 it was through an AOL chatroom.  This was prior to dating sites.  People still used personal ads and you paid for your internet time by the minute…over your PHONE LINE.  I thought to have a pink see-through pager was the shit, but now I could talk to people all over the world from the comfort of my living room?  This was awesome!  The age of the internet had truly arrived.

After our separation and divorce in 2009, I found that the world had changed a lot in terms of courtship.  People seemed to not want to wait to get to know you before they tried to sleep with you to determine if you were worthy of dating.  Facebook was still a fairly new venture, and it was there that I first began to receive private messages from married or otherwise coupled male acquaintances on my friend list.  I had never experienced anything like that before, but then I had married as practically a child.  What did I know?  I tried dating sites.  I would change up the verbiage in my profiles and would see how they would elicit different responses.  I was always confused most by men who would get so angry at me for either not responding, or responding but not responding the way they wanted.  I’ll admit, I’ve had a few scares.

In 2010, I went back to school for my Bachelor’s degree.  I chose Communications because my sister didn’t want me to go into Forensic Psychology.  She feared I would be placed for my preceptorship in a sex-offender prison.  After looking over the descriptions of other programs available, Communications seemed to be right up my alley.   Entering into a degree field heavily studied and mostly theory, I read and wrote a lot of research papers.  I began to use my experience online with men and with dating and then just social media as a whole and I slowly began to see a pattern over time; connections to things I studied and things that I experienced.  I delved into Computer Mediated Communications even more so in my graduate studies and what I’ve come away from all of my knowledge (which I will admit- I JUST got my Masters so no I have no delusions that I’m any kind of expert) was this:

The internet has stolen our happiness.  It’s stolen our contentedness.  It has stripped away and consumed what is real and beautiful about our lives- each other.

This isn’t just my personal conjecture, I actually do have some evidence to go by on this subject which I will try to explain as concisely as possible my theory on why this is:

When I was growing up, if you wanted to reach me to talk to me you had to pick up the phone to do it.  I might not be there.  You might have to try back.  If you wanted to go out with me, you had to screw up the courage to actually ask–in person–with your voice.  You could actually go places and interact with people with a modicum of privacy.  We didn’t have as many choices for coupling since we relied on proximity.  You typically dated or married someone you met through work or school or church or maybe a random encounter in your own city.  You had dreams and aspirations like anyone else, but they lived in your head and not in your line of vision.

Then the internet happened.

The internet is one of the single greatest inventions of mankind.  Think of it.  All of human history and the answer to any question you could possibly have all on a tiny computer you carry around with you everywhere you go.  I believe it is also one of the worst inventions of mankind.

When I was growing up, people had high school reunions.  They still do have high school reunions, but they are no longer about catching up with each other.  I imagine they are just largely ceremonial rites of passage parties we now hold for ourselves.  Lord knows, we all already know every single movement each other makes right down to announcing when our toddlers poop.  Facebook fixed the need for reunions.  Now we could paint any life that we wanted to be portrayed for mass consumption.  Studies have shown that those who are highly engaged in social media tend to be less happy overall in their personal lives.  (*I’m not going to cite this since it’s my personal blog, but if you want references please message and I can provide them.)  Those highly engaged in social media are constantly inundated with updates about other’s lives and when you’re constantly confronted with the success of your peers, you may start to compare.  You may start to self-censor.  You may start to make things sound better than they really are.

You might lose your authenticity by trying to make things seem more perfect than they really are.  I think what we have lost is the beauty of imperfection; the beauty of opening up to someone and being fallible and human with them.  We seek a reality that doesn’t exist, and we reject the beauty in our own existence.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, to circle back we used to meet people in our own communities, then our communities became global communities.  At first glance, one might not see the issue with this.  We are more connected to one another than ever before in the history of mankind.  What could possibly be wrong with that?

Well, we’re fucking with our personal happiness and messing with the delicate balance of how humans have expressed their sexuality and propagated for millennia.  Yes, I’m going to delve into human sexuality a little bit.

For centuries, we courted those we met through organic interaction.  We might have some choice in terms of mates (some having more choices than others as is the way of mammals in general), but overall the general pool of potential options was small comparatively.  Now we can literally date someone virtually on another continent.  We are overwhelmed with choice.   In a study that has been replicated with similar results using jelly, it was discovered that when two tables were set up with jellies- one with many choices, one with only a few- people were drawn to and perused the table with more choices available, but they made fewer purchases.  The table with fewer choices had a higher rate of purchase.  The idea behind this being that when we are presented with so many choices we agonize over making the RIGHT choice; the PERFECT choice.  Because what if it’s not perfect?  What if something better is out there?  Better wait it out and string this person along so I’m not alone; keep myself open to a better more perfect choice to come along.

In doing this, we often overlook happiness in front of us.  We overlook good choices seeking the perfect choice. We make ourselves miserable looking at what others have or say they have or could have. We compare our lives to others and we find ourselves wanting.  It reminds me of the line from Silence of the Lambs, “We covet what we see every day.”

This now brings me to our current state of affairs.  Tinder. Match. Grinder. Plenty of Fish. Facebook.  Instagram–( Yes, even Facebook and Instagram)– we live in a world of constant swiping left and right on people based solely on their photos and a few lines of their profiles (if we even get that far since we are so consumed with instant gratification of desires, because, well…the internet.)  And in my research for papers I wrote in college on the subject I found that when it comes to online dating sites, attractive people with low dating anxiety tend to flock to them because of the ease in communication and the magnitude of choice available.  Online dating for attractive successful people is like shooting fish in a barrel.  But what about Joe Blow who doesn’t have stellar genetics, has always had trouble talking with women and probably would have gotten himself a woman out of high school to settle down and marry and have kids- guess what?  He likes internet dating, too- FOR THE SAME REASON- ease of communicating with others.  However, those less attractive and successful with high dating anxiety are now left more so high and dry than ever before in history- and they’re kind of pissed about it.  For centuries a guy without the best genes could probably have secured himself a mate, except for the internet.  Now all the attractive people are not only taking up all the most attractive mates, they are also taking the potential mates of the not so genetically favored breeding stock.  This new subset of men who can’t seem to find women with which to procreate or at least practice have now become what they call “Involuntary Celibate” or “Incel” aka the “Beta Male”.

But remember we have global communities now, right?  And we can set the algorithms to show us only the information and opinions and things we desire or covet.  We can literally block out the rest.  We can seek out others to commiserate.  We form groups and forums and we bitch and moan about our problems or we argue with words on a screen.  In doing so we lose the non-verbal humanity that comes with communication.  We have hashtag activism and more support for women online now than ever, and suddenly Susie who never thought she was that attractive or valuable is seeing herself as empowered, and she’s not going to take the Beta Male bullshit anymore.

When I sit back and I look at it from the 50,000ft view, all we have done is plug ourselves into a matrix of perfection and seeing others as their political views or what they do for a living or how perfect their kids look or their houses or their vacations…

and we are making ourselves MISERABLE.

The other day I was sitting on my back porch drinking a cup of coffee.  As I sat in the morning air I saw a man walking a small child in a stroller through the parking lot.  This man “looked” like a stereotypical “redneck”.  He was an older gentleman, with an unkempt appearance, and I’m sure I could have made a thousand critical observations about who he was a person based solely on what he looked like.

But I paused and I really looked at him.  How nice of him to take the time to take the baby for a stroll in the morning air.  It was a nice day.  He obviously cares for this baby.  I always like to take my baby for a stroll when he was younger.  We are similar, not different.  There may be differences, but when you seek the humanity in others you will find commonality more so than not.

We live in a world where it’s honestly no longer feasible to disconnect.  We are caught in the web, and I have mulled this over in my brain for a long long time.  How do we get ourselves out of this mess?

By letting go of perfection.  By letting go of how you think it should be, and living the life that you are currently living.  By seeing each other as people again.  By getting to know each other again without the vitriol and labels.  By seeking first the humanity in others.

Life isn’t perfect.  No one in life is perfect.  In trying to fake our lives into perfection we build our castles on sand.

It’s ok to be a mess.

It’s ok to fall apart.

It’s ok to not be ok.

We need to stop searching for something that doesn’t exist and embrace the absolute beauty and perfection that is the imperfections of our lives.

Be more authentic.  See others with mercy.  You have to give mercy to get it.

We can take our happiness back.  We just have to cut the bullshit.

 

Crossroad

Saturday morning I woke up hungry.  I don’t usually wake up hungry or worry too much about it when I do, but there’s something about knowing there is nothing you personally can do about it- it makes the hunger that much worse.  I had just enough coffee left to make myself a weak cup of coffee.  As I sat in my living room listening to some Indie Folk mix Alexa found for me, I took a long look around my living room.

My life is so different now.  If you told me in January that this would be my life right now, I wouldn’t have believed it.  It’s like I woke up after a long deep sleep as someone else in a life I don’t recognize, and I’m having to catch up with everything that’s happened until now.  Everything that’s happened until now is so heartbreaking and difficult to look at and make peace.   I’ve made some great strides, and yet, it feels as though I’m standing at the end of a long road that ends in the vastness of everything.  Every way I look is a path I could take, but I stand paralyzed with fear of making the wrong choice again.  I’m overwhelmed with possibility.

All of those whom I called my closest friends have left me.  I do not regret them or begrudge them, it’s just a very strange feeling when everything is suddenly sucked out of your life.  It feels like the tide has been sucked out and the tsunami is coming.  The tsunami is coming and I don’t recognize my life or what direction to take it now.  I find myself more and more going through the motions of a life I used to find moderately satisfying considering the circumstances.  I had a circle of friends, a fun single life, and a compartmentalized old life I tried desperately not to remember every second of the day.

I plan.  I think ahead.  I find the answers.  I take care of things before they get out of hand, but I can’t see what’s coming now and it’s a blindness I’m not used to or comfortable.  Not having a plan makes me feel very vulnerable.

But…

The Universe speaks to me of patience every day, and I’m trying.  Patience is the hardest lesson for me to learn.  Humility I have in droves (regardless of what those who don’t know me may think), but patience has never been one of my virtues.  I feel like these last 10 years have been holding me back and I’m for the first time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel- but unlike Andy Dufresne at the end of Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, I have no master plan.  I’ve crawled through a mile of shit, and some days I still feel as much in bondage as if I were inside a cell.  I’ve become stir crazy in this life.

I don’t know the right choice.  Home doesn’t feel like home anymore, and that’s a very strange and scary place to wake up every day.

I’m at a crossroad, and even though it feels like the tsunami will hit at any moment; I know I can swim.  The chaos I can handle.   It’s the suspense that kills me.

Dear Daddy,…

This last month or so has been really rough.   (Hell, who am I kidding, the last 40 years have been really rough, but let’s just focus on the last month, shall we?)  I’ve been doing a lot of meditating.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  I’ve been really working on myself and the things I keep what feels like bottled up deep inside, but is really just beneath the surface.  Last night it just came to a head; a breaking point.

My father and I have always had a difficult relationship.  I was never a daddy’s girl.  Growing up my father was distant and rageful at times.  He could be cutting and cold.  Most of my memories of him are of his drunken rages.  I would stand up to him face to face and challenge him even though he terrified me.  He terrified everyone in the house at times.  Someone had to do something.  So I did, and because of that, I bore the brunt of a lot of his misery.

Yes.  His misery.  I honestly don’t know a great deal about my father and his upbringing.  I know he was the youngest of 5, with an older brother he adored who died suddenly when my father was in his early 20s before I was born.   I know his father died suddenly when he was 3 years old and that his mother fell into a deep depression.  I never even realized that he only had an eighth-grade education when I was a full grown adult.  He was so successful even with his addiction.  He was so smart; so good with math and mechanical things.  He could see it in his head.  My son shares that.  You wonder how someone could do so much with so little, and honestly, my father is quite phenomenal.  It makes you wonder what he could have had if he had also been loved and cared for as a child.

I came home last night with a heart that felt like it was a thousand pounds.  Holding onto hurt is heavy like that.  As I poured myself a vodka and Dr. Pepper to get through the evening, I lit my cigarette, took a sip and a drag and burst into tears.  Here I was numbing the pain just as he did.  Just as he so desperately tried to make the pain of his life experience easier to bear, I sat doing the same thing.  For the first time, I saw him with mercy.  For the first time, I saw him as broken.  For the first time I understood that even though it was chaotic and scarring, he was doing the best he could and what he knew; what he had probably always known.  He had loved me the best he could.  He had just never been loved the right way.

I cried harder.

I then pulled out my phone and sent him the following:

“Daddy-  I forgive you.

I know how hard it was for me growing up.  I expected more than you had to give because it hadn’t been shown to you.  Not the right way.  It’s hard to cope.  You turn to things to numb hurt.  I get that now.  I’m sorry you’ve had to wrestle so many demons.  I love you, and I forgive you.  Just know that.

Just know when I stood up to you I was only trying to do what I felt was right.”

He responded back, “I know.”

And then I asked him the question that has colored every relationship I’ve ever had with a man:

“Do you love me?  Even when I’m difficult to love?  Do you love me anyway?  Because you loving me is the most important.”

He responded, “Yes I have always loved you.  My love for you is unconditional.”

Even though it was text, my father has never said to me.  Ever. My mother was always the one to tell me “Daddy loves you.” But for him to say it to me; those words mean more to me than anything.  I think I’ve acted out relationships with the wrong people over and over and over in a way of trying to get my father to love me.  Desperately wanting to be loved and cherished.

I thanked him and we both said that we loved each other and left it at that, but I felt a huge weight lifted from me almost immediately.

If you are reading this and you are also hurting, work on surrendering your past to the past.  People can and do change all the time.  I’m not who I was 20 years ago.  I’m not even sure I’m the same person I was in January.

There’s a lot going on in the world out there right now that we can’t control, but we can control how we respond and hold onto things.  Lighten your load, my friend.  Forgive.

 

 

It’s the little things that get you

I’ve been trying to deal and come to terms with the emotions I have stuffed down and looked away from for so long.  I really feel that is the only way to excise the demon is to face the monster.  Sometimes it manifests in such strange ways.  Like this morning- I was thirsty and grabbed a glass from the cabinet.  It was a Shrek collector’s glass from right before everything shattered.  I remembered the day I  purchased it.  My son was still small enough for a car seat.  He was 4 that summer.  Our last summer.

As I took the glass down I heard in my head that cherubic 4-year-old voice excitedly saying, “Schwek da fird, mommy!”  I can hear it clear as day in my head and even now, a tear rolls down my cheek.  Part of coming to terms with everything I’ve pushed down and looked away is that I have to feel it, and I have to turn it into something that doesn’t hurt.  So through tear-stained cheeks I drank the glass of water and gave thanks that I had that time with him; that I have that memory of me with my Puss-in-Boots plush and my son with his Donkey plush on a hot summer day. We enjoyed the air-conditioning and the movie and the experience together.

I am grateful.  I have to remind myself each time.  One day hopefully the tears won’t come along with it.

I know what I have is PTSD from the trauma of losing him at such a young age and for no reason other than to wound me.  Little things trigger it.  Like a claw machine.  The claw machine reminds me of our last afternoon together before the culmination of the nightmare.  We had court the following day, and I knew that I had not had enough money to win.  I had no money, honestly.  I knew my child had been purchased.

Even now that is a crushing feeling that I haven’t dealt with yet.

I remember I had dropped him off at school that morning, and I came to work and silently cried and cried until my boss, a very kind soul named Joe told me to take the rest of the day and go get my baby, which I did.  I took him to the park, I took him for pizza, I took him to play putt-putt, and I let him play with the claw machine until I had no more money left.

That’s why I can’t look at claw machines without a pang of sorrow.

There are many things that I avoid to not have to come across a painful memory I have stuffed away, but that isn’t serving me.  I am thankful Joe let me have that afternoon with him and wherever he is in his life right now, I wish him all the best life has to offer because he is a good soul.

I want a partner in life.  I want REAL friends.  I feel this pain and sorrow and not dealing with it; staying stagnant in a place where too many memories hang on everything- it needs to go.  It needs to be excised.  It’s going to take time.

But I am grateful for the journey and the kindnesses I have been met with along the way.  I will work harder to pay that forward.

From My Father’s Table

Any time that I feel extremely stressed out or am unsure of my next step, I withhold food from myself.  It’s something I picked up in middle school and have never quite shaken.  Some people might see my food restriction as some sort of vanity, but for me, it’s about lessening the pressure.  I want to be smaller.  If I could just make myself smaller and in a way invisible, this will all blow over eventually.

My weight over the years because of this cycle has fluctuated drastically.  I’ve been very heavy and very thin at times.   Right now, I’m about 25lbs heavier than I would like to be, but overall I’m comfortable with how I look.

Still, any little stressor and the alarm bell goes off to make myself smaller; less visible.

When I was in high school, I could go for very long periods of withholding food or eating the minimum possible to maintain consciousness.  My father at the time was a chaotic and raging alcoholic.  I often fought with him because it made me want to claw my eyes out and tear my eardrums to hear my mother cry.  So at night, I would fight with him, and at school the next day I would drink a small sweet tea and maybe eat a chicken patty.  Maybe.

I wanted to be thin, but I also just wanted there to be less of me.  I wanted to be less noticeable; more invisible.  I wanted to disappear at times.  Sometimes I still do.

However, these things within us; these things we hold onto–or withhold from ourselves–they hold us back.  I’ve recently been meditating on removing any blocks I have that are keeping me from moving to the next part of my life.   All the old has fallen away.  False friends have left.  Ex-boyfriends have finally disappeared completely.  I am at peace with all of that.  Yet, just like the story of the Mengele Twins I mentioned in an earlier post- she didn’t need to forgive the Nazis- she needed to forgive Mengele.

My father is my Mengele.  My divine spirit who always knew this was my journey forgives him for all of his transgressions since they have made me who I am today and brought me to where I am in life.  However, the human side wants to see right and wrong, black and white; forgive/don’t forgive…eat…don’t eat.

The human side of me needs to purge this pain.  Avoiding it has not helped to heal it, just as avoiding food does not help me to function as a person.  I need to come to terms with the fact it was awful, it was at times terrifying, and now it’s over and there is nothing more that can be done to change it.  It has made me who I am.  It has taught me to fight things that feel bigger than myself for the greater good.  It has taught me persistence.  It has steeled me.  It also made me a warm and loving mother who could never say “I love you” enough or kiss or praise or hug in a way that felt like it sufficiently said how much my child means to me.  Being raised by a bad parent made me a better one.

I invited my father to my Master’s commencement.  It was the first time I had seen or spoken to him in more years than I can remember.  He’s a quiet man by nature, and never been one to be overly affectionate.  I imagine that’s all he’s known, and I think he loves me the best he knows how.  He came and watched me graduate.  He said he was proud.  He kept his distance out of respect.

I once said I would never forgive him for the things he’s done and hurt he’s caused; the things he’s said.  My father is a damaged fallible person and hurt people hurt people.  I don’t want to be like that.  Holding onto that may hurt him some, but it’s my burden to carry around and to be quite honest I’m tired.

I forgive my father.  I actually love my father.  I just need to work on liking him.

Release

I had a long time friend of mine whom I met through my ex-husband recently revealed to me that my ex-husband cheated on me the entire time of our relationship and marriage.  As he described to me how my ex-husband was able to hide his indiscretions I felt everything that I thought I knew about myself and my life fall blow away like ashes.

I thought I had been loved once, even if it was ever so briefly.  Even if it was just for that moment he lifted my veil to see my face on the mountainside we chose to marry: I loved him in that moment as much as I knew what love was at 20.  I had my misgivings, but I remember feeling joyful and happy and loving him in that moment.

But no.  He didn’t.   Apparently, the one who took the photos claimed to be the one who loved me that day.

I don’t think he loves me either.  I think he loves the idea of me.  He loves the memory of a naive girl who was well-spoken and had read a lot of books.

I confronted my ex, who of course denied it.  I cried fresh, deep, heaving, salty tears over a love that never happened.  In the course of life, things that happen to you become a part of who you are as a person.  For so long now, I thought I had been truly loved once, even if he couldn’t love me the way I needed to be loved.  I thought I had been loved romantically at one time.  Now, at 40 I’m finding out, no, I’ve never been loved by anyone.

It’s so easy to be bitter about that.  It’s so easy to sink into the despair of the hollowness the lack of love an companionship can sometimes bring with it.  Those are very heavy things for me to carry, so I’m going to put those down and forgive him for not being able to give me what I needed: Love and Faithfulness.  As hard as it hurts to now know, I must find gratitude that I am birthed anew.  I have the opportunity to be truly loved for the first time ever and, friends, that’s something to look forward to and be grateful.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons I learn from people I meet in life.  I learn from each experience good and bad, but I realized the other day how self-centered that was for me to only think about what I have to learn from others.  We are here to help each other, but we have to have something worthy to give.  Your pain could be another person’s saving grace.   We each are being molded, and I have often found the ones who have been under the most pressure and fire have the most beauty to give to others.

It’s ok to feel sad, or angry- do not live there.  Feel it, come to terms with what you cannot change and release it.

Release it, my friends.  Release it.

The Bending

One of my favorite authors is Khalil Gibran who wrote: “The Prophet” among other books of prose.  You would probably recognize some of his works as many excerpts of this book are read at weddings.  However, my favorite poem by him is “The Prophet Speaks of Children”:

“Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

It is the last two lines that often echo in my head.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

I got Mimi around 2 weeks after my ex-husband refused to drop our son off to me for the court-ordered schedule.  As sad as this may seem to sound, it had just been me and the cat, Duchess, ambling through our lives living for the moments when my baby would return.  Now my baby wasn’t returning.  I never dealt with that and how extremely painful that sorrow was (is).  I rescued a breeder dog Shih-Tzu.  I rescued another forgotten mother thrown away when she was no longer considered useful.  I poured all that sorrow into love for her.

That season of my life was around 10 years ago.  She was with me, as was Duchess.  As relations improved with my ex-husband and I saw my son again, I still had them both.  I had a family of sorts to take care of again.  Through the years I had to learn to live in two worlds.  One world, I was a single woman on my own, career, education, and a group of single friends to hang around.  I’ve dated…A LOT.   I’ve dated enough to know I don’t want to date anyone, at least right now.  The other world I was a mother trying to raise a good kind human being. I compartmentalized a lot.

When change comes about, it shakes things up.  It knocks you off your stance a little.  Sometimes people clear out.  Those aren’t your people.  It’s been a tough season for me lately, and people I thought would be forever-friends have cleared out.  I am at peace with that.

I am also at peace with the fact that my beloved little Mimi is gone, too.  I think she brought me to where I am supposed to be because I can do this by myself now.

I looked around my apartment yesterday in the silence of the waning afternoon sun and thought of the day I brought her home.  I had a little run-down musty apartment that we almost froze to death in that first winter.  I had a hodge-podge of furniture people had given me.  It looked like the home of someone who had never taken care of herself even though I was around 30.  When my son was gone, many nights I sat curled up weeping.

My apartment now is warm and comfortable and inviting and is filled with reflections of me and my personality and I love to come home now.  My son and I have fun-filled weekends of quality time where we talk and laugh.  She helped bring me so far.

He’s almost grown now.  She is gone now.  Our lives are changing now; again.  It’s time to come to peace with the fact I can’t change how things went.  It makes me sad, yes, but maybe he got more quality for the smaller quantity of time with me.

It’s ok to feel it.  It’s ok to feel.  It’s ok to bend.