Solo Me

Solo Me::♥

by Cris Gladly on April 22, 2012

image source: A Colorful Mind.tumblr

For the last two months,
I have been on a quest to figure something out.

So earnest have my efforts been in this pursuit that
I, quite by accident, morphed my little inquiry into a self-led,
very unscientifically conducted,
yet, as it turns out, wildly fascinating, full-blown research project.

(I’ve been calling it Solo Me::♥/em>)

“What is your research about?”
people ask me.

“I’m not really sure,”
I usually reply.

This seems to frustrate the hell out of most people.
But it’s the honest answer.

The impetus for the project came about a couple of months ago,
when I found myself in a very, very dark place,
genuinely and worriedly wondering…

“Jeez! Are there any good men out there?”

Because from my vantage point at that time,
the answer was a resounding “no”.

And for a woman with a heart full of love to give,
that answer broke my heart.

photo by Sandy Manase

To make a long story short, let me sum up and share that
I arrived at this despairing a good man is hard to find lament
on the heels of some seriously bad dude juju manifesting in my world:

To begin, an emotional betrayal on the part of one of my trusted male friends
started a domino effect of me preemptively retracting and/or extracting my Self
from a number of other suspect male friendships in my life.

Simultaneously, the U.S. seemed to be losing its damn mind,
as conservatives launched a witch-hunt like nation-wide attack
on female reproductive rights, or more accurately, on female sexuality itself.
To my shock and deepest disappointment, a startling majority
of so-called “progressive” men did NOT utter even a peep to speak out against it.

Then, e/S half-talked me into trying online dating
{cue eyes rolling}.
I resisted mightily, then acquiesced in the spirit of trying new things,
only to delete my profile 10 days later before even completing it.
(Note: only completed enough to let the matching algorithm do its job
but posted no personal photos. Hell no.)

The first four batches of “highly compatible” male profiles sent to me,
yielded not one guy I would even remotely find “compatible”.
I fully concede that these men might be absolute treasures for someone else.
They just, you know … really, really, reeeeally were not for me.
(I could not delete that account fast enough.)

By the end of this two month period, I was wrenched by all of this.
And a resulting fear and distrust of men
and dwindling faith in ever finding someone to love was rapidly settling in.
Mindsets I normally abhor and that are 100% counter to who I am as a woman.

Feeling that hopelessness was devastating for me.
My heart does not hold such things well.

Photo by Dallas Nagata

But then, I saw a picture.
A photograph that changed everything.
A snapshot of a friend and her fiancé (now husband)
and in that image, I saw the essence of everything I want.

And hope immediately blossomed back to life again.

Sorry, I can’t show you that photo
(it is my friend’s semi-private image).

But what I realized in the moment that I saw it
(after first getting chills all over my body and tears in my eyes)
is that: (a) what I want in love and from a man does exist
and (b) that if I don’t have positive examples of that possibility
in my every day life, then I need to endeavor to find examples
and flood my very world with them.

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” 
Yes! + Yes! + I couldn’t agree more.

So, I messaged my friend in the photo and basically said (although not verbatim):

{hahahaha!!}

Right?!! …  I am such a total lunatic!

Luckily, Nomad is a lovely soul, as is her new husband,
and they were both flattered and have cheered me and my pursuit on
with amazing support and genuine we so wish a world of love for you regard.

Turns out, people who have finally, finally found true love themselves …
they remember what it felt like before they had it.
And this makes them infinitely generous. And merciful. And empathetic.

image source: We Heart It.com

And so it was that my SoloMe::♥ project took form.

At first, I didn’t realize there was a deeper underlying reason
for wanting to do this project.
That was not revealed to me until after the project started,
when the very first man I interviewed gently called me out on it.

I’ll tell you about that striking moment in a second,
but at the start of things,
I just thought this project seemed like a way better idea then Match.com

If you want to draw something to you,
create the essence of it in your life, yes?
If I want a great love, I need to understand the nuances of great love.
If my heart aspires to love and be loved by a great man,
then I want to understand the discerning nuances
that make a man, by my definition, great.

So, I scrolled through my mind to identify men I actually know
who I feel like (a) treat the woman in their life with deep care and total reverence
and (b) possess at least some of the qualities I would be seeking in a man myself.

And then I thought: okay, I’ll just invite these dudes for coffee and talk to them,
ask them some questions and see if I can figure out what’s different
about the way they choose to relate to the woman in their lives vs.how other men do.
Awesome! Perfect! I started setting those conversations up.

I then decided I also wanted to talk to some women.
So, I sent up a flare to my global tribe of female friends
and within 72 hours, I had over 20 commitments for interviews
with women in several countries around the world who aligned with my focus criteria.

In the case of the women, I am interviewing only those who self-identify
as feeling uniquely seen, cherished and deeply cared for
by the man they are in relationship with AND
that they themselves feel “completely in love” with their partner in return.

I am now a month into conducting this research.
And, I must say …
it has been nothing short of heart transforming!

photo by miixxxx

My research is conducted in 90-minute interviews,
either by phone, in person or via Skype.
The content is confidential. The vibe is casual. I simply ask questions.
The interviewee just responds honestly with whatever comes to mind.

That’s it. They talk.
And with all of my heart, I listen.

To what they do say. To what they don’t say.
To what their voice, expressions, and body language convey.
No judgment. No expected outcomes.
I just listen … and notice.

I cannot tell you yet about the actual insights gleaned
(and there have been so many) nor can I share the specific questions I ask.
I won’t reveal any of that until all of the interviews are conducted,
and that may take awhile (as more have been added since I first began).

I will say, that to my delight, thus far, the men are kicking the ladies’ asses.
All of the respondents are giving great heartfelt answers
but wow, when it comes to deep emotional courage,
the men are showing up big.

= My faith in the existence of great men is fast restoring.

image source: Shadow Photography

And it seems that shift in mindset is “working” for me
because on the rare occasions that I have ventured out in the world since research started,
I have been on the receiving end of all kinds of male attention.
From smiles and head turns, to flirtatious attempts to chat me up and get my digits,
to the most delightful “I so enjoy your company, Cris” lingering conversations.

(So suck on that Match.com!!!) haha.

But actually, what’s odd about the attention is …
I am totally averse to dating right now.
I have zero interest.

Which brings me back to the deeper purpose of this research project,
which I didn’t see at the beginning, until the first man I interviewed
called me out on it at the end of our conversation.

At the start of our interview session, he asked me for a bit of my background
to better understand where I was coming from around the subject of love.
(A fair request since I was, after all, asking him, a total stranger, to spill his guts.)

After the official questions were all gone through,
he told me that he admired my project
and could tell that I bring a very genuine heart
to my efforts to truly understand men and love.

But then he said, “but Cris, you are also hiding.”
And then he gave me a sympathetic smile
and said something else that broke my heart right open.

He said that he does not think I am trying to avoid the “bad men” at all,
finding some asshole guy is not really a concern,
I am far enough along now to know how to avoid the likes of them.

He said, “what you are really afraid of is finding another LAkh.”

And when I heard this, I just closed my eyes for a second and thought:
‘F*ck! Do not cry in front of this man! Do not cry in front of this man!’
because I knew as soon as he said it, he was right.

image source: findyourself.tumblr

None of us are really afraid of finding an “asshole” .
In fact, this is why we are drawn to them, the male and female variety,
because the hurt they bring is safe.
We know what it looks like already.
We therefore can see the fall coming.

The far greater risk (and therefore bigger fear)
is finding a person you truly want to open your heart up to,
the one who makes your soul light up
and floods your heart with joy for awhile
because with them, we let our guard down.

With an asshole we can always say ‘whatever, no real loss.

But when it’s someone you let yourself really care for
and someone you believed truly cared for you,
and the gift of that love is taken away while you still hold it dear …
that is the hurt that breaks us into pieces.

And yes, I am afraid
of standing in that space of vulnerability again.
It’s not from regret. I am truly so happy I had that experience with LAkh.
It’s been nearly a year since then, and he is still a memory I cherish.

But, the experience did, indeed, leave me afraid.
Because I didn’t see the fall coming.
And that left me feeling like a giant, open-hearted fool!
I didn’t even realize how much until this kind man had the courage to
call me out for hiding and said to my face: “Cris, you’re afraid.”

Wow. I really am afraid. Very much so.

I looked back at this stranger who was sharing so generously with me
and I just quietly nodded.

He said, “You have to get back in the game.
Finish your project, but then get out there and try again.
No more hiding.

True, if you don’t play, you’ll never lose.
But, if you don’t play, you’ll also never win.”

And he’s is right … And I know it.

image source: favim.com

If I want great love,
I have to be willing to dare greatly.
Like I did before.
I wasn’t a fool for trying to give love earnestly.
That was bravery.

And so, I am stepping back toward love again
tentatively at first, but with increasing courage.
The heart of this open-hearted girl begins to reopen.

And so, my research continues …

How about you?
Are you hiding out from love?
I send you epic tons of open-hearted bravery!

{ 9 comments }

Water Attracts Water

by Cris Gladly on November 14, 2011

Photo by: Maggie Lochtenberg

I called TDH crying last night.

It was late.
And he’s sick.
And I’m sick.
And as I dialed I thought: ‘you know everything he’s going to say to you already’.
But I dialed anyway.
Because the space I found myself in felt too vulnerable
and the wound I’d struck upon felt too tender;
I needed someone to stand present with me while I looked at it.
And TDH is my guy for that.

He answered.
“What’s up?”
His voice half-asleep and scratchy sounding.

My own voice was no better,
breaking and cracking
over tears and my own illness thrashed throat.
I asked:

Have you ever had a moment …
where the Universe lets you glimpse back at where you’ve been …
and in looking back, you can now see all of the mistakes you made …
all the dumb things you did without even knowing you were doing them …
and seeing that totally breaks your heart?”

TDH paused, quiet and thoughtful, and then replied:
“Yes. I definitely have.
But, what’s going on for you?
What brought this up for you?”

So I told him:
I had opened up my dormant Skype account
to prep tomorrow’s conference call with my client in Nepal.
I’ve never activated a Skype call on my own before,
so I was just taking a peek in advance to make sure I knew what to do.
And there it was …
sitting there … forgotten …
The transcript of my stupidity.

It was the back and forth message thread
of my communication with LAkh
at the point when our fast and glorious rise to amazing relationship potential
shorted out and rapidly fell apart.

To bring you up to speed:
Lakh was the first good thing to happen to me in the Love Department since I went Solo.

There was one other someone before him
whom I spent far too much time tripping and stumbling over.
Not time wasted; I learned hard but incredibly valuable lessons along the way.

But LAkh is the first and only man I’ve tried to fully open my heart up to.
After a lifetime of holding back, he is also the first person
I really wanted to generously care for and genuinely give to.
And in return, toward me, he was just … so … [swoon!]…
I have a heart full of the sweetest, loveliest memories thanks to him.

Things went awesome for awhile.
And then they didn’t.
And that’s how things go.
At least that’s how they went in this case.

My time with him feels like a gift.
And I am still learning and growing from my experience with him.
But I’ve also carried a sense of lingering hurt and loss there.
Because aspects of our ending brushed roughly up against a deep core wound I have.

And that is what I saw shouting back at me
in the Skype correspondence I stumbled upon.
Though my words to him were very kind, and gracious, and thoughtful.
Looking back at them now,
I can feel the weight of fear and panic behind them.
A self-protective urge to flee battling with a desperate holding on.

image source: pintrest

My words to him said that though I was disappointed,
I was okay with letting go, I respect you, let’s be friends …
blah blah blah
(lots of other articulate, uber mature things) …
But, from where I am now, what I see clearly screaming from behind those words, is:

‘No!!!! Please! Don’t take this away from me yet!’
Please! Not yet!
I love this so much!
I feel sooo excited and hopeful for the very first time.
I want what’s best for you, but please…
I want this for me.
Please … don’t take this away from me yet!’

I told all of this to TDH
with hot tears trailing slowly down my cheek.

I do not cry in front of people easily, not even TDH.
After TheX’s affair, I made myself stop crying so I could focus and deal.
I literally did not cry again for over 4 years.
Now I do, but I still hate the way crying in front of people makes me feel.
TDH knows this about me,
so he doesn’t mention it and just keeps the conversation going.

TDH asked:
“What’s coming up for you right now?”

I replied:
“Grief.”

“Grief that I wanted something soooo genuinely,
and truly thought I was in such a good solid place at that time,
thought that I was doing things so differently,
and yet I still made a mess of it.
Everything I said to LAkh was so heavy and just ‘ugh’ …
I re-read it and can hear myself freaking out!’

It’s just hard to look at.
The ways we self-sabotage without even realizing it.”

TDH said:
“You didn’t make a mess of it.
A lot of good came from that experience.
But you’re coming from a really low place to start with.
And one thing I know about you
is that you are not clear about what you want or your boundaries.
You are not clear where you will and will not compromise.’

image source: flickr.com

He continued: ’And here’s the thing:
Water attracts water.
Pour it on a board,
water will always pull toward itself.

Where you were good, you attracted the good in LAkh.
But where you were uncertain, you attracted his uncertainty.
And you will continue to do that until you know what you want.”

Me:
“Then, no matter how badly I want it …
No matter how much I want to be ready for it …
I’m just not?
I’m not there yet.”

TDH:
“Nope.”

Me:
Well how the hell do I get there then, TDH?!!
I don’t want to repeat this!!!
This Skype thread is ridiculous!
I don’t want to mess things up like this
the next time something good comes around again!”

TDH:
“And that’s what you’re doing wrong.
That’s what you did wrong with LAkh.
Stop trying to figure it out.
Stop trying to get there.

You won’t figure it out until you let go and stop trying to figure it out.
The water will carry you at the speed it chooses.
You can paddle frantically all you want.
You aren’t going to get there any faster.”

And then I saw it…
this image in my head of me paddling crazy on a river flowing slowly.
And I realized (once again) how exhausting it is
trying to get somewhere that way.
And damn it, haven’t I learned this lesson before already?

Here I am in this place again: resisting what is.
Resisting the in between.
Funny how often we end up revisiting truths we already ‘know’.

TDH:
“It’s a lazy river, Cris.
Relax. Float. Enjoy the ride.”

Photo by: Maggie Lochtenberg

Me:
“Stop trying to figure it out.
Lazy river. Float.
I like that.
That sounds nice.”

TDH:
“You’ll get there when you get there.
Use this time to relax! … and figure out what you want and what you don’t.
Use the time to love everything in your life that brings you joy.
And get rid of everything in your life that doesn’t.”

Me:
“Yes. Good plan.
I’m on it.
I like this.”

TDH:
“Good.”

Me:
“Dude, maybe you should be the one writing my stupid blog.”

TDH:
[laughter]

Me:
“TDH, thanks for answering the phone tonight,
I love you.”

TDH:
“Of course.
Let’s get some sleep.
I love you, too. Night.”

I curled up in bed feeling cared for.
And less embarrassed about the Skype thread.

I mean, it says something about where I am that the correspondence
strikes me as majorly ‘crazy train’, right?
I mean, if I’d re-read it and thought:
“Well damn, girl, you sure craft a mighty fine email!!”
Then we’d have cause to worry, right?
(lol)

It’s a gift to look back and see how far we’ve come,
even if it’s slightly painful to do so.
It’s also a gift of self-love to hold the places where we’ve struggled
in a space of  tender compassion for our own vulnerable humanity.

This post was not easy to write,
nor easy to share.
But this is what being real looks like.
There are days when we get it and we soar.
And days when hard moments sneak up on us.

How about YOU? Can you relate?
Have you ever looked back on where you’ve tripped up
and it broke your heart a little bit?

How are you doing on the journey?
Are you paddling like mad or chilling out on the lazy river?

xo,

Cris

{ 5 comments }

A Fan of ‘Feel Like It’

November 10, 2011

Just ’cause you want to …” Just for the hell of it … Just ’cause you feel like it … How rare it is that we allow ourselves permission in life to indulge in something simply … because. Last spring I decided to learn to run. I had a weird deeply entrenched fear of running my […]

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