Friday, December 22, 2006

Shedding my Persona

When I first got into 12-step, I heard people sharing about "shedding their persona." I was terrified. As a love avoidant, my primary fear in relationships is a fear of losing my identity through enmeshment. This fear comes from having a mother who has enmeshed with me throughout my life. So I thought to myself, how is shedding my persona in this program different from losing my identity in a relationship.

There is a reason that the 12 steps are in the order that they occur, it seems. The steps happen to me as much as I work them. During the fourth step (made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves), my character defects (steps 5 and 6) became immediately apparent:

-melodramatic / lie through exaggeration / attention-seeking
-self-righteous indignation / entitlement
-victimization / self-pity
-anxious / fearful
-insecure / vain / self-absorbed
-manipulative

I have clumped them together where I see they overlap in my life.

Neither Steps 6 (were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character) nor step 7 (humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings) refer explicitly to having a persona, but there is a correlation for me.

It has now been over ten months since I broke up with my ex whom I'd lived with for over ten years. We hadn't seen one another in nine months. She finally agreed to let me visit with our dog this past weekend. She supervised the visit.

I cried on and off for over 24 hours after she left. Throughout the visit, it was clearly apparent that she didn't trust me. In fact, as she performed a physical exam on my cat to determine whether or not I was taking adequate care of him, I recalled that she hadn't trusted me with the animals even when we were together. This lack of trust was incredibly painful to experience.

The night before this visit, my new boyfriend (of almost three months now) said that he is having trouble trusting me because of the stories I've told him about my life and my prior relationships. We also talk in program about letting go of stories - Stories and "persona" seem to be clearly connected. How do I cultivate a persona without telling my stories?

This visit with my ex helped me to understand why I might want to shed my persona. Here is the chronology of persona cultivation.

1. I tell stories about my past which create an image of what kind of person I am (my persona).

2. People come to the conclusion that I am a "bad girl." I do not use those words in describing myself, but it never fails that is the impression they develop. The payoff to having this persona is that there seems to be some sex-appeal to this persona. My ex told me she liked that I was a "bad girl." My new boyfriend told me he likes that I am a "bad girl." The last guy I dated stated the same. Without my using those words, they have each labeled me a "bad girl."

3. The flip side to being viewed as a "bad girl" is that these same people have trouble trusting me. It is very painful to feel I can't be trusted.

My great-aunt died over a year ago. During our last conversation, while she was on her death bed, she, too, asked me, "What was it like to be a bad girl?" I was shocked and greatly disturbed by her question. I grieved over this conversation and felt very angry at her for a year after she died. My response at the time was to clarify, "Do you mean 'what was it like to be viewed as a bad girl?'" I refused to accept that label as a self-identity.

As I have strengthened my spiritual practice through meditation, surfing, art, and daily prayer, I am now starting to see a visual representation of this persona. I see my inner, wiser self as a bright white light and my persona "baggage" as shingles from a roof haphazardly tacked over top of this beautiful white light, obstructing its radiance. Perhaps I am finally coming to believe that I am inherently good and beautiful, even with my human imperfections.

Prayer for the end of this post:

God, please help me to shed this "bad girl" persona. Help me to love myself enough to trust I am likeable and lovable without needing to cultivate sex appeal.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New Love Interest

I have neglected this blog, as well as all of my blogs, for that matter (yes, I'd started a few). But perhaps I should get back to it. Today I am feeling the need to write a little about what I'm going through again.

So... Things with R did not work out. Sadly. Though I have started dating other people again and in the process I'm getting an even greater perspective on how things can go well, as oppose to how they went wrong with R. It doesn't have to be such a struggle to be in a relationship with someone. Of course, I'm coming up with some of the same feelings I had with R, namely, fear and anxiety. But they seem much less acute in my new relationship. I hedge in calling it a relationship, as we've only been on three official dates. But things have moved along rather speedily. Perhaps too speedily, in fact. I have a bottom line of not having sex with someone before the 12th date. And well... I did not keep it. On the third date, that bottom line got thrown out of the water.

The question now is where do I go from here? On the one hand, it really *feels* okay that we did what we did. I don't feel guilty. I don't feel addict-y. I don't regret what happened. It felt quite natural. But as a program friend asked me, "Well, why do you set bottom lines?" And of course, the answer is, "To determine my sobriety." The implication being, if I do not follow them, then I am not being sober. Hmmm... I *feel* sober. But then again, if I knew that my bottom line was not to have sex until the 12th date and I did not follow that bottom line (without consciously changing my bottom line before acting), that implies my behaving impulsively. So... am I sober? If not, how do I regain my sobriety? Must I go back to my initial bottom line of not having sex until the 12th date or is it kosher to modify my bottom lines in retrospect? Probably not modify them to say that sex on the third date is okay. But perhaps to say that sex is okay when other parameters have been met. I mean, honestly, the number seems a bit arbitrary. With some people, I would certainly want to wait 12 dates - time to build intimacy. But with other people, like A (the new love interest), we have been building intimacy much more rapidly. And can you really control the speed at which you develop trust in someone? It's a rather organic process. But then again, am I just justifying my behavior here?

Ah... So much food for thought.

A will be going out of town next week and we will likely not see one another for two weeks after that (I work intensive hours the first few days he is back in town). So we'll be forced to take a bit of a "pause," as he calls it.

Also... My therapist has instructed me to date 12 people before I get into a new relationship. I have dated 7. On the seventh date, I felt like I was wasting both my time and my date's time, because I like A and thus am not really emotionally open or available to anyone else. In fact, going on dates with other people already is starting to feel reminiscent of cheating. And cheating in relationships is the problem that got me into my program in the first place. So... I'm not sure what to do. I will certainly have time to date other people while A is out of town. But I'm not sure I really *want* to.

[sigh]

So many decisions to make. For now, I am just sitting with them and waiting to see how the answer presents itself. There is uaually a little voice within me that speaks my truth once I am able to sit quiet enough to hear it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Break Up Blues

R and I broke up 18 days ago now. I'm in too much pain to write a post, so instead I'll throw in some song lyrics that speak to how I'm feeling right now.



...I said goodbye to someone
that I love
It’s not just me, I tell you
it’s the both of us
And it was hard
Like coming off the pills that you
take to stay happy
Someone above has seen me do alright
Someone above is looking with a tender eye
Upon her face,
you may think you’re alone but you may think again
If I could do just one near perfect thing I’d be happy
They’d write it on my grave, or when they scattered my ashes...
Things fall apart, I don’t know why we bother at all
But life is good
and “It’s always worth living at least for a while”
If I could do just one near perfect thing I’d be happy
They’d write it on my grave, or when they scattered my ashes...
If you think to yourself “What should I do now?”
Then take the baton, girl, you better run with it
There is no point in standing in the past cause it’s over and done with ...

-from "If She Wants Me" by Belle And Sebastian


Guess what I'm done
Writing you songs...
So this is the first verse
It's not very long
But I'm ready to move on
Guess what I'm done
Writing your book
The ending got twisted around
But for all the hell that it took
The electrical wires
They'll hum in the walls
In the room that I rent now without you
I've got friends who
Will help me pull through
The spaceman that can't get high...
So guess what I'm done
Drawing your pictures
I'm dulling the day with a drink
In a parking garage by the theatre
We met for a movie
Every scene was a sign
We made out through their meaning
Well I've got friends who
Will help me pull through
The spaceman that can't get high
...Guess what I'm done
Writing you songs
I'm far too unstable to settle
I doubt that the doctors are wrong
So I'll wait by a palm tree, a palm tree, a palm tree
Well I've got friends
To help me pull through
The spaceman that can't get high...

-from "La La Lie" by JACK'S MANNEQUIN

Monday, May 22, 2006

Moving Forward

Things with R are going very well at the moment. I feel like we really turned a corner this past weekend. We went out of town together and really gelled.

At the same time, I have had increasing concern about acting out again. Being in a relationship again brings up some of the same concerns I had in my last relationship: fear of intimacy, fear of abandonment, fear of betrayal, insecurities. I am wary of making the same mistakes. But so far, I don't see how that could be possible. R and I have a level of honesty that far exceeds what I had with C. I want to say new insecurities are coming into the light, but really it's the old insecurities that are simply coming out from under cover. I have a new relationship with myself, as well, which makes all of this fertile ground for personal growth.

Things are different this time around. This is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. I want to proceed ahead, despite some degree of uncertainty and a lot of fear.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

One Month Later

Monday marked one month since I told R that I was attracted to him.
Sunday had marked six months since I'd last had sex.

Today marks the first day since I've started dating R that I've felt the desire to contact my old qualifier. Funny: it took me several minutes to even recall my qualifier's name. But I thought an email to/from him might cheer me up. [Don't worry. I didn't give in to this fleeting impulse.]

You see, R isn't my boyfriend yet. And this may sound innocuous enough. But I feel like I've been rejected by him repeatedly. First, he's refused sex for the past week or so since I've felt ready. And now he's refused to accept the label "boyfriend."

I don't feel safe.

At the moment, I want out.

I want to withdraw and disappear. Better yet, I want R to disappear. I want to have a life I can retreat into that he isn't a part of. Thus the qualifier's appeal.

But instead I've prayed. I've taken program calls offering others support (interestingly this helps). I've asked someone new to step in as my temporary sponsor. My most recent sponsor is having trouble hearing about my relationship issues because she recently went through a breakup and she's outright asked me not to talk about the relationship with her - thus the need for yet another sponsor - my third in nine months. I wear them out fast apparently. :-)

I wear myself out fast.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Date #6: The STD Question

We've now had six dates (R and I). I really like him very much. I'm feeling really comfortable with him and would like things to progress on a physical level. It feels like an extension of how I feel for him, and not an escape. So... the question came up on our last date.

R: I don't have any STD's. [Implied question: Do you?]

Well, as a matter of fact I do. There is the cost of sex addiction for you - a chronic, lifelong STD to have to disclose at such opportune times as these.

[sigh]

I am suddenly struck with shame and fear and sadness. Shame that my promiscuous history has bared its mark on me. Fear that R will decide not to pursue things any further with me because I am "tainted." And sadness that even if he does decide to stay on in this relationship, I do not know how I will feel knowing I may potentially infect him (if he is not a asymptomatic carrier - just as I am - this STD was detected in a pap smear without any presenting symptoms).

Alas, I am just trying to sit with these unpleasant feelings. I keep saying the serenity prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (the fact that I have an STD and however R feels about that)

The courage to change the things I can (love and accept myself - even with my "faults")

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Date #3

Yesterday, R and I had date #3. We went to lunch together and for a walk in the park. It was very nice and relaxing. R was looking super cute and clearly had put some thought into his attire, which charmed me immensely. These details reassure me that he must like me, despite how slowly things are progressing.

[There is perhaps a dual meaning to the slow progression - I have been fraught with frustration over how slow things have moved and have been wanting them to move faster while simultaneously I am still anxious, nervous and scared around him and need things to move at this slow pace. These opposing twin desires have been very difficult for me to endure simply within myself. And somehow his seeming patience with this slow progression has elevated this feeling of frustration.]

We still haven't kissed again since our first date. Although on yesterday's date, I told him we shouldn't kiss because I had a sore throat and didn't want him to get sick. Of course, a part of me was hoping he would insist on kissing me anyway. But I am now relieved that he didn't. Today, what started out as a sore throat is now a sinus headache and sneeze, so it's turning into more than just a sore throat. And I'd hate for him to be sick on Sunday, when we have our next date planned. Hopefully I will be better by then myself.

In the meantime, an interesting thing has happened. I am feeling a shift inside me.

I spoke to my old sponsor yesterday for the first time since I started dating R. I admitted to her that I have been feeling symptoms of withdrawal whenever R and I hang up the phone and whenever we part ways after a date. I had been afraid to admit that to anyone for fear they would tell me I needed to stop seeing R. But now that I have put a voice to it, it seems to have lifted quite a bit. Or perhaps enough time has passed that the withdrawal has subsided to a degree. Who knows.

In any case, I am feeling much more centered today. Part of this may be due to the fact that I'm sick. I'm wanting to pull back some and just take care of myself until I feel better physically. Maybe the timing of this cold has a larger purpose in the scheme of things.

Up until today, I would feel great annoyance whenever R would tell me, "I can wait." He would say this after we'd agree not to kiss for awhile or when our schedules prevented us from seeing each other for a number of days. My annoyance came from a place of feeling like *I* could *NoT* wait. I didn't want to wait. But now, I think that maybe I do. And thus, I am glad that R said he could wait. Because I may need to count on and trust his waiting after all. It is odd to now feel grateful for the very same thing which had been causing me so much irritation and annoyance earlier.