The Anxiety of Intimacy

My best friend and I have had many conversations about dating. She has walls up from past hurts, which is completely understandable. She does not want to let her guard down, does not want to be taken advantage of, does not want to seem vulnerable.

She gets frustrated with me, because I am so open to meeting people. I easily connect, enjoy hearing people’s stories, even like the cat and mouse chase. The writer in me enjoys the fodder it gives me for good laughs with my girls.

She worries that I risk getting my heart broken too much, but she is wrong. I never let anyone near my heart. There is so much scar tissue built up that it is going to take a skilled surgeon or hunter gatherer with a sharp knife to get anywhere near the actual organ.

I learned at a very young age that a man does not show up when he says he is going to, that he will pick and choose what is important in your life and you are completely at his whim. I remember sitting for hours staring out of my grandma’s window waiting for him to show up for whatever grand adventure had been promised, only to be disappointed while others made excuses for him. I stared out in crowds at pageants, awards ceremonies, graduation, hoping for some sign of support and approval. But all the crowns and trophies and scholarships and accolades could not make him appear. So I started making excuses for him, and I started blaming myself. I am not enough. I am never enough.

When he did show up, he made me feel like a million dollars, so I would try harder. And, hence, the roller coaster ride of emotions I have been on since I was born. I have got to be better. I have got to work harder. I have got to obtain some level of perfectionism, because maybe then he will say I am enough.

This very basic lesson in my formative years set the pattern for my adult partners, as I strove for fulfillment and acceptance in dysfunctional relationships, slowly chipping away at myself and building scar tissue around my heart until I married. As my dear friend Iris pointed out this week, that decision to marry was the only real mistake I have made as an adult, because it was the one in which I gave up and settled; but it made me a mommy and something about that woke me up to the vitality of life and the need for healthy, intimate relationships.

Only now, I am like a wounded animal. Friendships and casual dating I can do and I can do them well. I can give my all to my children. I can love my students whole-heartedly. Hell, I can love strangers and have a soul full of empathy and compassion.

But a truly intimate relationship with a man? It is completely foreign to me, because as soon as someone tries to pierce my scar tissue, I shrink away in anxious fear. I literally torture myself with the negative messages I learned as a shy five year old suppressing tears of rejection and disappointment. I beg my friends for reassurance, and then I close off and push away.  I try to stay so busy that I forget that I ever needed that affection in the first place. I shuffle quickly like my rescue puppy does when anyone tries to pet him, because he, too, has learned that love hurts.

I wish that I could wrap this post up with a pretty ending, but I cannot. All I can do is admit that I at least recognize my patterns and want to fix them. Iris insists it is as easy as replacing the bad thoughts with positive ones, like breaking my Coca-Cola habit last year. So, I am committed to praying and filling my thoughts with scripture, of acknowledging how much my children and students adore me and why, and counting the blessings that are my friends, every single time my inner dialogue says that I am less than. After all, the whole goal of this “Year of Yes” is a better, more full life, one filled with intimacy and passion and love. Finally, I realize that I am worth the effort of healing. I want more and maybe, just maybe, I have met someone worth the trying.

If you want crappy things to stop happening to you, then stop accepting crap and demand something more. —CRISTINA YANG, GREY’S ANATOMY
Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person   

I should say that this post is absolutely meant with no disrespect. I still adore him and crave his attention and approval. But I have learned to set boundaries now, another step in the healing process, and I hope one day to understand the why behind his behavior. If that does not happen, then I will have peace knowing that I at least tried. I have always tried. I just will not make or accept excuses anymore.

Sweet Home Alabama {The Year of Yes}

My students say that I am Reese Witherspoon’s character in Sweet Home Alabama, because of my stories about my small town Southern upbringing. There are worse characters to be compared to, I suppose, so I am okay with that.

Recently, my friend asked me to meet halfway for a night on the town. Since it’s the Year of Yes, I could not say no. Besides, it was Valentine’s weekend, and I was excited to have fun and be adventurous. We decided on Troy as our destination, and I messaged a former student who attends college there for recommendations.

Troy 2.jpg

The drive was easy, and I realized that I have sadly spent very little time in the Great State of Alabama. Troy is quaint and has a charming downtown square that I adored. I immediately made my way to the local boutiques and bought Valentine’s Day gifts for the kids. The selections were fantastic, and I loved how friendly the shopkeepers were. I even found adorable trinkets for my son’s sweetheart.

troy

For dinner, we ate at a local seafood shack and enjoyed a laid back atmosphere and people watching. Afterwards, we ended the night at an adorable wine bar called Sips, where we laughed and exchanged life stories before heading out and listening appropriately to Hank Williams and Hank Jr., while touring the town some more.

But it was one of my favorites, “Night Train,” by Jason Aldean that ended up on repeat, as we sang karaoke in the car. Something about that song just fit with the unseasonably warm, Southern Alabama evening, thick and haunting.

 

Duck Hunting

duck-hunting

A few weeks ago, my son M was offered the opportunity to go duck hunting with one of my former students. I was so grateful that Tyler thought of him and offered to spend time with him. It really touched my heart.

I was also anxious about gun safety, but Tyler assured me he would take good care of him.

My son is very introverted– at least I think he is; his teachers say otherwise–so I was surprised that he felt comfortable going by himself with Tyler and his friends. However, as soon as we pulled up at the pick up, with the boat attached, he had stars in his eyes.

Tyler checked in with me throughout the day, and he sent me pictures of them. He laughed, because M fell asleep. Tyler tried to snap a picture of him all snuggled up, but M woke just as he was taking it.

M had a blast! He loved spending time with the college boys, sitting in the duck blinds, and riding in the boat. He also loved going to dinner with them afterwards. He felt so grown; and he looked so grown all decked out in that camo and the water boots. My mommy heart ached a little seeing glimpses of a teenager in his face. My baby is gone.

Still, I am so grateful that he is learning to enjoy the outdoors and appreciate what it means to live off of and respect the land that God gave us.

 

 

 

Vitamin Sea

What is the perfect day?

Loading up in the Jeep with the top down and driving to the coast with a loved one, especially in the middle of January. It reminds me of home, when we would leave the muddy waters of the St. Marys River and head to Amelia Island every chance we would get to play at beautiful Fernandina Beach. It is funny, K and I both grew up in Nassau County, only we did not meet until we were in our 20s living in South Georgia. But we get each other and the our mutual need for the occasional Vitamin Sea.

jeep-and-beach-1

Jeep Hair, Don’t Care

 

That’s exactly what K, her husband and I did over MLK weekend, and it was glorious. We packed sandwiches and traveled east to the Canaveral National Seashore, so that they could fish and I could relax. I took my Kindle and a blanket and, within minutes, was asleep. I napped for over an hour, something extremely rare for me, entranced by the waves and breeze. The weather could not have been more magnificent.

beach-and-jeep-2

Cape Canaveral

 

jeep-and-beach-3

Canaveral National Seashore was amazing, because the barrier island provides both ocean and marsh. While I adore the beach, I also appreciate the appeal of Old Florida. And I love a good gator siting! K said there is usually a huge 10-foot gator easily seen just inside the gate. On that day, we had to settle for this little beauty.

beach-and-jeep-4

The Seashore’s website describes its appeal this way,

Since ancient times, this barrier island has provided sanctuary to both people and wildlife. Many threatened and endangered species find refuge here, including sea turtles who nest on its shores. Like first natives and early settlers, you too can find tranquility. Stroll down a wooded trail. Reflect on a pristine undeveloped shoreline – the way things used to be.

We finished the day by driving to the marshes to fish the brackish water there. It was breath-taking. I wish I would have had a better camera, but I took this shot of an area I sat and observed for several minutes in silence. I imagine it is very much like what my Florida ancestors knew as home for hundreds of years. It felt both familiar and peaceful to me.

beach-and-jeep-5

My Ride or Die in Orlando

The upside of culling people from my life is that my focus has become very clear. My vision has become razor sharp. I now work to see people, not as I’d rewrite them, but as they have written themselves. I see them for who they are. And for who I am with them. Because it’s not merely about surrounding myself with people who treat me well. It’s also about surrounding myself with people whose self-worth, self-respect and values inspire me to elevate my own behavior. People who require that I stay truthful and kind and not totally crazy. Not eating every single thing in sight. Not hiding. Not saying no. I want Ride or Dies who make me want to be a better person. ~Shonda Rhimes, THE YEAR OF YES

Sometimes you just need your best friend, and she needs you. You can hear that something in her voice that lets you know that she needs you to just be near her. No explanations are necessary.

What do you do when you have traveled to DC, to Middle Georgia, celebrated the holidays and your son’s birthday and your best friend calls and asks you to come for the long MLK weekend, too? You pack your bag, put money on your Sun Pass, load up your playlist, drive through Wendy’s for “Baconator” fries and a strawberry lemonade, and you hit the road for Orlando. Because it’s The Year of Yes and, frankly, she will not take “no” for an answer. K always gets what she wants! She has a certain mojo or swagger, and I am bewitched by her.

krissy-orlando-1

One of my favorite chapters in The Year of Yes was about finding your tribe– the people who are in your inner circle and are your “ride or dies.” I kind of like that there is an FSU association to be made there, but my Gator friends will not. K is one of them.

krissy-orlando-2

T, who I went to visit over my birthday weekend, is in the tribe. We were in the same kindergarten class. K is another. We are from the same place in North Florida, but we did not know each other at all until we became neighbors randomly at Wilkes Townhouse Apartments in Vidalia, Georgia.  She drove by while I was at the mail box with her Florida Gator tag labeled with our home county, and the rest is history. I knew she was going to be in my life forever.  It was her cooking that really lured me in, though. She never let me starve, and, Heaven knows, I was a horrible cook whose pantry was regularly stocked with peanut butter, chips and onion dip, and fudge rounds and not much else. There was also that time that she literally ran my boyfriend down my stairs and out of my house, because she did not like his way too charming toothy grin. No one did but, of course, I thought he was so niiiice. He never came back, poor guy. lol

K is psychic and she says the same about me, although highly intuitive is probably a more safe description. She senses things and is extremely tuned in to me and my kids. I love it! I think it is very provocative and reassuring, all at the same time.

krissy-orlando-3

So, Orlando it was, and it was incredible. As soon as I arrived, her husband sent us out to a local winery for dinner, followed by a memorable night at a dueling piano bar. Turns out, I do a sassy “Cupid Shuffle.” We laughed, we went live on Facebook, we caught up on our work lives and daily demands, we danced, and we reminisced about being in our early 20s, moving to rural Georgia, and going out to the local bar, Kerrigan’s Country, with all of our friends on the weekends, followed by the mandatory stop at the Waffle House for loaded hash browns and Cokes.

Then, K and I closed the piano bar down like it was 1999 again.

And it felt wonderful just letting loose and knowing that I could be one million percent Becky Jo, and she would love me for it, hold me up and hold my hand if she needed to. She is always completely in my corner, always has been, and she will not let me fail, even if it means being brutally honest and willing bad juju away. My tendency to see good in people drives her INSANE, and she is constantly praying protections around me. K does not see good in people, so we balance each other out. In the end, I know she makes me a better, much stronger person, and I am grateful for it.

Wide Open Spaces and The Year of Yes

I love country music. The Dixie Chicks are my jam, and my favorite song of theirs is “Wide Open Spaces.” I remember playing it on repeat driving all over South Georgia, in the years immediately after I graduated college and moved from home. I am playing it now as I write.

Roaming has to be in my blood. I am descended from Daniel Boone and his nephew-in-law, Benjamin Cutbirth, who, in 1767, was one of the four white men who made the first trip from east across land to the Mississippi River.  My dad, his brothers, and my grandfather are a line of car haulers, and my great-grandfather was a peddler who traveled from the Tennessee/Kentucky border down to Nashville to sell his goods.

Yet, I have never had the chance to travel much, other than car trips growing up. The first time I flew was in law school, after I was married. We traveled to New Hampshire and Boston to meet my ex-husband’s family. He was scared of flying, so we did not fly much. During one of my early jobs, I was able to travel quite a bit for work, but he was so anxious about it that it became miserable for me.

And, of course, traveling by plane is expensive. And we had pets and kids and we were too busy…

“Losing yourself does not happen all at once. Losing yourself happens one no at a time.”
Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

No more of that nonsense. I need wide open spaces! YES to roaming the great American frontier!!!

This fall, I was honored to receive a wedding invite from a former student. The event was in D.C., where my best friend T lives, and it happened to be my birthday weekend. Normally, I would have made my excuses, sent a nice gift and bowed out. However, I immediately booked a cheap flight out of Jacksonville, and sent my RSVP with T as my plus one.

I was nervous flying alone, but as soon as I got on the plane, I had a peace come over me, and I was overjoyed. It helped that I was seated by the most handsome man! He was funny and kind, and we just connected. We talked and laughed non-stop the entire flight, prompting the attendant to remark on what a cute couple we were. It was all innocent, but what an ego boost! We even had the same song playing on repeat on our phones– “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” by Mark Posner. The original version, of course.

A true gentleman, he walked me out to the gates to meet T and her husband when we landed. As we came around the corner, it was like a scene out of my favorite movie, Love Actually. I saw T’s smiling face under the lights of a gigantic Christmas tree and went running to embrace her. It was a moment that I will never forget, and I turned to see my new handsome friend smile and wave and continue on his way. T looked on in amazement, with a knowing twinkle in her eye. I felt young and free again.

christmas-2016

twins

wedding

I just love this RSVP card! My song pick? “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and, with that, I am showing my age.

rsvp

As for my birthday, well one of my favorite memories of the weekend was T’s husband taking us for a night out in D.C. We stopped in at the Willard Hotel, where the Mint Julep was famously invented. This southern belle with Kentucky roots could not turn up an opportunity to try one out, and it was amazing. And strong. M finished mine, but what a way to welcome in the new year.

the-willard