2nd Date

What a strange sensation. To feel so happy and eager to see what the future holds. I can’t even remember the last time I felt like this. I’m really trying not to get my hopes up. I know that just because I am feeling good now doesn’t mean that things will work out in the end, but even so I can’t help myself. I’ve never been very good at stopping myself from getting carried away by the possibility of happy times to come. Today has been the best day I’ve had in such a long time.

Today I went on a second date with my new vegan friend. Once again, considering the pandemic, we opted for another hike, this time at a local state park. We even planned to have a little picnic with some wine. I am still in disbelief about how cute it was. The weather was absolutely perfect. I got to wear shorts for the first time since last summer. We spent an hour or so exploring the woods together, stopping to examine different wildflowers as we went. We have so many things in common and so much to talk about. It never feels like we have enough time to say all that we want to say.

Once we were finished with our hike, we found a picnic bench under the shade of some tall pine trees to have our lunch. He had prepared everything for us so nicely. He had a cooler and a picnic blanket for us to spread out over the pine needle covered wooden table. I brought some apples and snap pea crisps for us. He brought some fresh berries, hummus, veggies to dip in it, and of course a lovely bottle of red wine. In addition to all of this (as if it wasn’t perfect and adorable enough already) he handed me a bouquet of tulips! In the past, I haven’t really been a fan of being given flowers for holidays and whatnot, but as a spontaneous surprise, it was just too precious to resist. I don’t know if anything like that has ever happened to me on a date before today.

It was so nice to see him relax more and more as we sipped on our glasses of wine. This was the first time I really got to look at him while we talked, given that until now we had only really talked in person while walking. I really enjoyed looking into his pretty blue eyes and examining the details of his handsome face. He even has one of my favorite male haircuts. I really wanted to kiss him when we parted ways this time, but unfortunately did not. It’s awfully strange to date during a pandemic. I’m never sure if he doesn’t want to kiss me or he’s just being respectful and considerate. On my somewhat long drive back home, I kept kicking myself, fearful that it was the former.

I have been on so many dates in the past that ended up being the last I heard from the person. Now that I had decided I really liked him, I was so afraid this would be another one of those instances. But just like after our first date, he messaged me as soon as I got back home telling me what a lovely time he had. Past disappointments have made me so wary of romantic optimism, but I just can’t restrain my excitement. I really like him a lot. I feel so lucky to have met such a wonderful, vegan man. Especially given that he is from the city. It’s a mystery to me why he would even have any interest in seeing me, given that I live an hour away in the middle of nowhere. I’m sure there are plenty of lovely vegan women closer to him that would be more convenient to date. Nothing against him, but I doubt I would make the same effort if my area wasn’t such a veritable vegan desert.

Maybe it’s just the wine, but my heart feels so soft and gooey right now. I can’t help contemplating all of the fun activities we could do together this summer. I already have so many more interesting date ideas that I can’t wait to try. There are so many things I want to tell him and share with him about my life. There are so many questions I want to ask him about his own. I’m so interested to learn all there is to learn about him. He was reading a freaking book while he waited for me to meet him at the park for crying out loud!!! It’s all just too much for me. I’m swooning.

I had nearly forgotten what it feels like to have a crush on someone. For years now, I was only able to associate romantic feelings with regret, sadness, frustration, confusion, and pain. Even writing this post right now gives me a nostalgic feeling of being a love-struck teenager again. It’s so similar to when I used to gush about boys in my diary. I genuinely never thought I would feel that way again. After all, it has been nearly a decade since I have.

I know it’s still an extremely new relationship and that there is still plenty of potential to get hurt, but for the first time in a long time it feels like it’s worth the risk. And even if things don’t end up turning out well for us, I want to have this post to look back on and remember to be grateful for these feelings and this moment that I have right now. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on how things are moving along. Hopefully after our next date, I’ll finally get that coveted first kiss.

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Hyping Yourself Up

The other day I was texting a friend of mine, and we began to playfully tell one another about how good the following day was about to be. We were saying things like, “tomorrow is going to be incredible” and “we are going to have such an amazing day.” At the time I didn’t really think much of it. We were just messing around. It was almost bordering on sarcasm. However, I noticed something about that “incredible” day that came after. It truly did end up to be one of the nicest days I’ve had in a while. I felt calm, happy, energetic, light-hearted. My anxiety didn’t seem to be bothering me as much as it normally does. I thoroughly enjoyed my day at work and the company of my coworkers. There was so much laughter, so many smiles.

I genuinely think this day was a direct result of that conversation my friend and I had the night before. Even the words alone, without much belief or intention behind them, were able to have an effect of my reality the next day. To me, this was a shining example of the power of mere words. How often my inner voice has the opposite effect on my reality. Without even noticing it I have been ensuring my own discomfort in many experiences. I look towards the future with apprehension and fear. I tell myself that everything that lies before me is going to be so unpleasant, so difficult, so unwanted. Then I end up unconsciously affirming my own expectations.

Since that talk with my friend, I’ve been trying to intentionally get myself excited about my life. I’ve been trying to wake up early and exercise before work the way I used to instead of wasting my whole evening with workouts. Even though I dreaded the idea at first, as I was falling asleep the night before work, I visualized my alarm going off the next morning. I didn’t just imagine the motions that I would go through. I pictured myself waking up feeling well-rested and excited for my renewed morning routine. I tried to feel exactly how wonderful and happy I was going to feel when I woke up. I was somewhat surprised to find that it actually worked. I have been doing this thought exercise as I’m drifting off to sleep each night and this week I have easily been able to accomplish my goal of waking up earlier. And I have thoroughly enjoyed it every day.

I would like to start utilizing this newfound mental tool for the other events throughout my day as well. Rather than dreading the boring, tedious things I do each day like driving to and from work, making coffee, feeding my pets, doing my makeup, I am going to start using visualization to make each of those normally humdrum experiences enjoyable and meaningful. I figure that if I am unable to stop myself from thinking about the details of the future, I might as well start at least changing the way I think about them. I’m working on shifting my internal dialogue from “oh, god I have so much to do, I don’t want to do this” to “I am so excited about being able to do all the things I have going on today.” Even during the times that I really don’t believe it.

I used to view this type of thing as useless self-denial, as a form of lying to myself. And some days it does still feel like a lie. Some days are much harder than others. But that’s okay. I am going to keep trying anyway. Because I’ve realized that emotions are not something that are true or false. They are not solid, immovable facts. They are things that I get to create and interpret any way that I please. The ability to interpret our own reality is one of the most miraculously powerful things we have in this life. I want to train myself to make the most of it.

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Amped Up By Good Energy

The other day at work I had the pleasure of meeting a very lovely, interesting, intelligent young girl. As you may already know, I work at a child advocacy center. At centers like ours children come to disclose physical, sexual, or other types of abuse. After their interview, I spend time with the child in the waiting room while my team members talk with the parents. Even though normally this is one of the highlights of my job, I still get very anxious about being left alone with anyone, let alone a child. I consider myself to be a very awkward person and am not very good at making small talk with the teenagers. It’s usually easier for me when it’s a toddler or a child that just wants to play while we wait.

Some days end up being extra special though. There are certain older kids that I have an immediate connection with. We seem to have a lot in common and find a lot of interesting things to talk about. This is always an extremely pleasant experience for me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet so many awesome kids and have a positive impact on their lives.

The only problem is I’ve noticed that even excited energy is very similar to being anxious to me. Even though I was really enjoying my conversation with this girl, I still felt somewhat panicked. I felt the urge to run, to escape. I found myself hoping that my coworkers would hurry up so that this girl could go home sooner. I’ve noticed feeling this way when I’m happy and excited many times before, but I have absolutely no idea what I can do about it. I feel compelled to avoid not only negative situations that make me anxious, but positive ones that excite me too much as well.

Even after the family had left, I found myself overwhelmed with excited energy. As a child I used to shake or flap my hands/ arms when I was really happy. When I’m alone, I still can’t resist the urge to flail my hands rapidly at my sides in an attempt to disperse or use up some of this energy that has no where to go. I know this is often something people on the autistic spectrum do, which is one of the many reasons I think I’m autistic. I would love to talk to a specialist or another person on the spectrum to see if they are doing these types of actions for similar reasons. Maybe I’ll look into finding some books about autism from people that live with it themselves. I’m sure there are plenty interesting books like that out there.

Physiologically I think that anxiousness and excitement are pretty similar. This may be the reason that sometimes my mind can struggle to differentiate between the two. Whatever the reason though, I want to find a way to manage this phenomenon. Strangely it doesn’t seem to have the same effect if I am excited about a solitary activity. It is only social excitement that tends me make me feel panicked. Perhaps I am just afraid of embarrassing myself or worried that I’ll somehow mess things up and lose this person’s approval. Maybe it’s just scary to feel seen by someone. Or perhaps it’s that unconscious belief that I am unworthy of positive attention, that by making this person like me I have somehow tricked them into believing I’m someone I’m not, that if I accidentally reveal my true self they will be angry or upset.

I’m probably just thinking too much into things again. In the end, the real problem is not the feeling, it’s my concern and distressed reaction to the feeling. I just need to reassure myself that I am worthy of positive attention and friendship. It is normal for someone to like me and for me to like them. And if for some reason they should change how they feel towards me, well that’s okay too. Maybe my mantra for today will be: It’s okay to feel excited.

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Excited for Change

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As with everything else in this life, our perception of change is something that we get to choose. I think for most people we have a tendency to fear change or view it as a threat. Humans are, for the most part, creatures of habit. We become comfortable in our routines. Even if the routines themselves aren’t always pleasurable or good for us. We like to know what to expect from one moment to the next. Even when we are expecting the worst.

Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t

Try to remember back to when you were a child though, before you were set in your ways and developed all sorts of expectations for the world and the other people in it. Change was exciting! Curiosity was a more powerful force than fear. We were desperate to learn and experience it all.

I’m not sure what precisely the ancient yogis intended when they created the phrase “beginner’s mind,” but this is what I imagine it to mean. A child’s mind. A mind that is open to everything, curious about everything. If only we could have all held on to that. Even so, just thinking back to my child self is quite pleasant and nostalgic. I used to be so happy and excited about the littlest things.

For example, I used to love to clean and organize. I even loved washing dishes the first few times I helped my grandmother with them. I paid attention to each little detail. The warm water, the white soap suds, watching the dirty pile shrink as the ones that were clean and drying grew. The satisfaction of completing a simple task. Whereas now my mind is a million miles away as I frantically scrub away at the glass and ceramic, trying to be done and on to the next thing as fast as humanly possible.

We tend to lose that presence, that mindful, curious wonder at everything in life as we grow older. And I think this is why we begin to fear and hate change. We don’t want any changes to force us out of our daze. We worry what these changes will mean for the future. We fear we’ve lost something, leaving our old ways behind in the past. We avoid being present and curiously examining change as it comes.

We take for granted the way things are and forget that we need change. Lest we fall prey to stagnation and decay. Change is the inevitable, beautiful, unfolding of life itself. A constant current that we are a part of. Something we should remember to be grateful for when we get the chance to witness it.

One of the ways I plan on preparing for a new year full of change is to adjust the way I perceive it. I’ve been thinking, “I’ve got to make these changes starting next year” or “it is going to be so hard to stop doing x, or start doing y.” From now on, rather than that, I am going to be thinking “how exciting, I get to try something new” and “won’t it be fun to see how these changes play out, to challenge myself?”

Even now I am getting excited by these thoughts. I am imagining my inner child, eager to experiment, to play, to learn, to experience something new. What a beautiful thing to know I have the power to write my story any way I like. We all do. So if there have been a lot of changes for you this year, or you have a lot of changes to face in the next, get excited! What a dynamic and interesting existence we all share! Let’s be present for it. Let’s enjoy it.

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