Intruder

Why do you still seep through my subconscious
and sour my dreams with your familiar scent?
even when I finally feel sure I can let go
your phantom reappears to pierce my heart

Months of black void nights suddenly ended
with blurry images and emotions on fire
still razor sharp after all these years
bleeding out onto my white sheets as I sleep

Even the me inside my mind has grown weary
of your semi-frequent infiltration
last night I told you I wished you'd never
have come back into my life at all

Even so, there is something distracting
about the way nothing else feels real
after our unconscious encounters
everything else becomes hollow

For this reason some part of me still savors
the sweet drops of pain you produce within me
a reminder of the tender stirring I once felt inside
a stark contrast to the silence that now smothers

When You’re With Me

I start to get frustrated when you're away
I forget all the reasons I love you
seeds begin to stir inside my subconscious
spinning stories of mistrust and cynicism

I fill the space between us with thick shadow
unshakeable doubts that make me shudder
cringing at my own incompetence in communication
afraid of looking foolish in the face of disinterest

Prepared to push away when you pull me in
rehearsing my preemptive rejection for self-protection
perpetually surprised when I immediately melt
and let you fold me tenderly in your arms again

Set at ease by your soothing, sultry smell
the stability of warm skin under soft fingertips
stilling the tumultuous tide churning deep inside
replacing it with gently waving fields of sweet grass

Stay with me a little longer
let me linger in this sacred, silent connection
let it seep into my cells so that I cannot forget
the simple, supple harmony between our hearts
 

Teach Me How to Know You

I so desperately want to know the delicate details that make up the lives of others. The small, seemingly insignificant instances that strike us all, the strange stiches that have sown us into who we are today. The utterly unique patchwork pattern of experiences that compose every individual. Intimate, private memories that stand out and tangle up our hearts with hidden meaning. I don’t want to know how your day is going. I want to know who you are.

Small talk has always been one of my deepest frustrations, a tedious trial to be muddled through with the intention of reaching the real conversations that lie beneath it. My jaw clenches at the impossible effort it takes for me to navigate this fragile transition. Some people seem to open themselves to my curious soul like the mouth of a river into the ocean. Infatuation, fascination, true connection. The inexplicable, spirit quenching rawness of seeing behind the curtain of another person’s consciousness. The conversations that feel like pure creation.

Other people remain forever closed to me. Infuriating mysteries, staring at the bare walls of an empty room. No cracks to peer through, no insight to be uncovered. I can’t think of the right questions to break through blank stares. I know there is so much more inside, behind those unknowable eyes. Everyone has the depth that I hold within, an entire galaxy of thoughts, perceptions, and memories. But how do I learn to unveil the inner world of others? I can’t just ask them who they are. This gradual uncovering must come organically. Yet patience alone isn’t enough to draw it out.

The more often I find myself unable to crack the complicated code of true connection, the more I surrender to inner solitude. Giving up is what I know best, especially when it comes to other people. When I can’t see someone, I can’t believe that they see me. The smothered shouting of my soul demands a real witness. Demands to be drenched in the bottomless black water of knowing another being.

Pulling Away

If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.

Dalai Lama

It feels like this sentiment has received a lot of backlash in recent years. People are offended when you suggest their lack of self-love somehow eliminates their potential to love other people. This quote is at the back of my mind a lot and I’ve thought about it in different ways at different points in my life. I believe both perspectives have validity to them. I don’t think it’s impossible to have love for other people if you don’t love yourself. I know the love I receive from the people in my life often makes it more possible for me to show myself love and compassion. But I don’t think that was ever the message trying to be conveyed. The message to me was that you can’t love others fully or as much as you would be able to if you loved yourself.

Relationships of any kind are very difficult for me. I do think it stems a lot from the way I love myself, or rather the way I don’t love myself. Throughout my life, all the relationships that have stuck were with people that are extremely open, loving, caring, and communicative. These people are the easiest for me to connect with, because I feel safe with them. And I guess to a certain extent, maybe they have the self-confidence and self-esteem to not take it personally when I am in one of my anti-social moods.

I’ve recently noticed how a lot of my other relationships break down over time. If the other person is not always openly expressing their good opinion of me or how much they value me and our friendship, I slowly start to convince myself that they don’t care about me. Because of this often mistaken perception, I pull away. They notice me pulling away, so they pull away. My suspicions are confirmed, and the friendship/relationship is dead. Without the presence of a palpable and verbalized unconditional love, I don’t ever feel secure enough to maintain a relationship with someone.

This stems directly from the way I feel about myself. I don’t believe I deserve friendship or love. It makes more sense to me that someone wouldn’t like me. I seek out cues to reinforce this belief whether they are there or not. It takes a LOT of weight and evidence in the opposite direction for someone to counterbalance my negative self-perception. Which can understandably be an exhausting dynamic for anyone without the predisposition to interact that way.

This is what I think it means when someone says you have to love yourself first. No, I’m not incapable of having meaningful, loving relationships. I’m fortunate enough to have several that I deeply value. BUT I would be available for forming close bonds with many different types of people if I had a higher amount of self-worth. My self-loathing makes it far too painful to be vulnerable with anyone that I’m not 100% certain will receive that vulnerability with positive regard and support. I’ve already rejected myself to such an extent that seeing that reflected by another person, whether real or imagined, is unbearable.

I don’t think you have to love yourself to love other people. But it does make it a hell of a lot easier.

Conflict

Conflict breeds closeness
a concept I've never quite understood
how can fighting foster connection?
I've always favored a clean break

Torn, tired muscles
grow back stronger every time
I suppose this is the principle
I've never applied

Emotions too big to express
evaporate on my lips
speaking out signals vulnerability
it's safer to pretend I don't care

Always held at arm's length
trading isolation for immunity
from all the messiness
wound up with others

Relationships aren't worth the risk
this mantra once protected me
always alright, but alone and uninspired
sometimes it feels too late to change

Attachment Style & Love Language Overlap

Observing and researching my own attachment style and preferred love language over the years has taught me a lot about myself and the types of partners that I gravitate towards. When I read about all of the different attachment styles I always end up classifying myself into the fourth and arguable worst form of attachment: anxious-avoidant attachment. Perhaps this is normally expressed in a more self-destructive and unhealthy way than I exhibit, but nevertheless none of the others seem to fit the way I feel. Here a short breakdown of the four basic attachment styles and how they present:

  1. Secure: This is the ideal attachment style. You love and allow yourself to be loved freely with little to no inhibition and typically have healthy, well-balanced relationships with others.
  2. Anxious: People with an anxious attachment style constantly fear being abandoned and need endless reassurance and affection from their partner. These would be the “clingy” partners.
  3. Avoidant: The avoidant attachment style leads to people being aloof or resistance to forming close emotional bonds with others. They prefer to remain independent and have a hard to being vulnerable and trusting others.
  4. Anxious-avoidant: This style is considered a disorganized attachment style. It is a mixture of the anxious and the avoidant styles. People with this style oscillate back and forth between fear of abandonment and fear of commitment.

I identify with the last style because I do feel that while I desperately want to be loved and to be close to someone, I’m also terrified of that idea. In some ways this leads to a lot of self-sabotage in my personal relationships. One day I will feel horrified at how much better my partner is than me and feel certain they will leave me and I won’t be able to bear being without them. The next day I feel chained to them and find myself searching for ways to escape the relationship/nitpicking all of their tiny flaws.

Another thing I’ve come to understand is my love language. It’s always been harder for me to pick up on subtle cues and appreciating the meaning behind physical gestures. That’s why I usually gravitate towards partners that are very vocal about their feelings for me. I love to be constantly complimented and praised and sweet-talked.

However, only very recently have I begun to notice a pattern in this. Sometimes I feel very lovey-dovey with my current partner and have no problem showering them with affection. But in the next moment, I will feel insecure and as though my feelings are not being reciprocated. When this happens the avoidant side of my attachment style takes over and I feel the need to push them away and prove to myself that I don’t need them anyway.

I asked myself the other day why it is that I often feel unsure of his feelings for me, despite having no real reason to doubt him. I believe the reason is that he does not really explicitly state his love for me with flowery, adoring language (words of affirmation). He says that he loves me of course, but he does not dote on me the way I am used to. When this is the only thing I am looking for to confirm his affection, I start to doubt. Yet, I’ve come to understand that while he may not say what I want to hear, he shows it more than any other partner I’ve been with (acts of service). And isn’t that more important?

While I always believed the undying praise past partners have given me, it seems like in the end I feel betrayed when their actions contradict those words. It may feel nice and exciting to be flattered, but flattery only takes you so far. If your actions say the opposite of your words, your words don’t really matter as much. While at first I may prefer to be spoken to lovingly, at the end of the day, I think actions speak louder than words when I’m willing to listen.

It’s much easier to exaggerate your feelings through charming words. The significance of your actions far outweigh this, and are much harder to fake. When I reflect on someone’s feelings for me, my natural inclination is to recall what they’ve said to me. I have been omitting all the things my partner has done that show me the way they value and appreciate me. When I also include this aspect, I find that I feel much happier and loved than ever before. Despite my inclination to worry and mistrust, over the last year, my partner has proved to me again and again their consistency and loving commitment in a way I’ve never experienced. I am so grateful to be learning to accept this new, reassuring form of love and start to recognize it more and more. I will do my best from now on to show my love in return as well as speak it, and to allow myself to trust again.

Positive Pain

Pain makes me brave. Pain makes me honest. Pain makes me face the world with everything that I have. Sometimes it takes pain to show me what really matters, what I’ve been missing, what I’ve been taking for granted. When I’m comfortable I get bored. I become afraid to make any change at all. Even when it’s a change that needs to be made. I’m so afraid of shaking up the status quo that I’ve become accustomed to that sometimes “comfort” can be transformed into something worse than pain. Like a frog slowly being cooked alive in a tepid water that gradually begins to boil. I don’t realize how bad I’ve allowed things to get until it’s too late.

When something abruptly smashes into my comfortable complacency, there is fear, there is agony, but there is also opportunity. I am forced to change direction. I am forced to gather up the pieces of my life and create something entirely new. I am forced to be my own ally again. There is a haunting, fierce, indescribable beauty in pain. There is strength and resiliency and the birth of new hope after the fall. There is even a sense of surprise and pride in finding out just how much we are actually able to take without being broken. There is something awe inspiring when we lift our head from our tear-stained hands and realize, “I’m still here. I’m alive. This isn’t the end.”

There is great freedom in the feeling of having nothing to lose. There is a boldness that emerges, a confidence, even an urgency to go after what we truly want. Pain brings clarity and curiosity. Everything feels a little more real, a little more defined. Pain is the springboard for passion and creativity. It is a necessary evil. These are the reasons I find myself having a very complex relationship with pain, grief, and loss. Part of me finds a strange comfort in pain, an odd feeling of safety after losing it all. The burden of trying to hold it all together, the burden of grasping and clinging on to life is lifted for a moment. This brings a twinge of pleasure that blends into the pain. For me, pain is always bittersweet.

I’ve come to realize that the reason communication and confrontation are so hard, is not because I don’t know how to articulate my thoughts and feelings. It’s not that I don’t know what to say or how I feel. I’ve never had any issue explaining myself to a third party. But when I find myself facing the person I really want to talk to, I become so consumed with fear that I can’t focus. My mind becomes clouded with thoughts of what they will think or how they will respond to what I’m saying. Are they going to look at me differently? Are they going to be upset? Will they leave? Will our relationship change? Will they misunderstand me? Will I be able to respond adequately to whatever they say back to me? These concerns are so overwhelming that I tend to stay silent instead of having some of the most important, necessary, and intimate conversations. It is only once I feel as though I’ve already lost someone, that I find the courage to be open and honest with them.

In an instant our most painful experiences can become our greatest sources of strength. I look back on some of the darkest moments in my life with a sense of compassion and a knowing tenderness. It’s only much later that we gain the perspective to see the ways in which the harrowing experiences we go through are the very things that strengthen us, give us courage, and provide the pivot we didn’t even know we needed in life. Yes, pain is hard. Loss is hard. But it’s been said that anything worth doing is hard, and pain is always worth it in the end. Something even more complex and beautiful and real rises from the ashes every time. Be patient.

Sorrow Rising

Sorrow rises like smoke
from the ashes of a dying love
it wiggles and writhes through the air
mimicking my desperation to avoid 
to postpone these violent pangs of pain
could things really be different
should I reconsider this decision
or am I just searching for relief
from this reality I do not want
which self should I trust
the one that has been unsatisfied
the one feeling frustration and misunderstanding
or should I trust the self that feels this parting
as a small death, as a gaping wound
in the end I'm left wondering
watching the fading embers
with fear in my heart
unsure of whether to keep watching 
or try to stoke that flame, that love
that was once my life

Devotion

It’s an incredible feeling to be devoted to someone or something. There are many causes that I feel passionately about: environmentalism, feminism, veganism, etc. There are far less people that can illicit that same feeling of motivation and energy in me. When those people do come along, I am captivated by them. There is nothing more spectacular to me than having a relationship to such a magnetic, awe inspiring person.

I think part of the reason that these charismatic figures in my life take my breath away so easily is because of the comparison to all the other people I encounter. It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of the human race. I find our species to be particularly vile in most aspects. In addition to that, the vast majority of the population seem utterly dull to me, exhibiting no personality whatsoever. So when I meet someone that draws me in so completely, I can’t help but be amazed.

In general, I view myself as a pretty spineless, selfish, stingy, resentful person. I usually do what’s best for me and don’t feel compelled to help others unless I have a good reason. This small group of special people that have been sprinkled throughout my life have a transformative effect on me, though. It’s as though they inspire me to be who I’ve always wanted to be. I genuinely want to go out of my way to be of service to them in any way that I can, despite any personal inconvenience. The mere thought of their acknowledgment and praise brings me such pride. It brings me immense pleasure to be positive and helpful to them. But somehow it’s even more than that. It’s honestly a sensation that I can’t adequately describe.

I am so grateful to have known even the handful of these people that I have. I am grateful to have a few of them in my life right now. For someone that has a difficult time relating to most people, it is a special kind of joy that I feel in response to these deep, meaningful bonds. These relationships are some of the most cherished parts of my life. Few experiences rise above them. I feel there is almost a spiritual, cosmic connection that we share. Something so genuine, so unique, simply beyond words.

I am so moved by my encounters with these people and the devotion and admiration that arises in my heart for them, it makes me reconsider my perspective of human beings all together. I’ve been considering the way that some people view Pit Bulls as viscous, violent dogs that should be banned. However, just because some Pit Bulls are trained to fight, and all have the potential to cause severe physical injury to others, does not make them inherently bad dogs. This seems so obvious to me and I have nothing against Pit Bulls due to the ones that have been raised to be aggressive and dangerous. Why then is it so hard for me to apply this same logic to my own species?

Why do I hold humanity down to it’s lowest common denominator rather than it’s highest potential? I guess I’ve just been raised to give more agency to a human than a dog, despite now knowing that we are all equally a product of our genetics, environment, and experiences. When it comes down to it, even human beings have very little choice or “free will.” And this is just another area in which those I am devoted to help me strive to be a better person.

It’s inexpressible the gratitude and appreciation I feel knowing that these important people accept me for who I am. They’ve seen my many flaws, but I never feel judged by them. It feels safe to be imperfect. I feel seen and understood and empathized with in all of my complexity and eccentricity and idiosyncrasy. The idea that anyone could ever see who I really am and still love and respect me moves me so deeply. It makes me want to extend that same grace, that same compassion and forgiveness to others. To learn to see the good in everyone, rather than focusing on, and condemning them for what they lack.

At the end of the day, these rare people light a fire inside of me. They help me grow in so many ways. They help me see the world with fresh, loving, curious eyes. They give me hope. They make me yearn to some day be able to extend all that they’ve offered me to another person. To someday be that spark, that object of inspiration and devotion to someone else. To give someone else that same feeling of being seen, of being appreciated, of being understood, of coming home.

Emotionally Immature

I don’t understand how other people deal with difficult emotions and confrontations in relationships. No matter how much I try, I always seem to be blind sided by my own reaction to things. It feels like my emotions twist around my vocal chords like vines and leave me speechless. I utterly shut down like a child. I could totally imagine myself crossing my arms and dropping down onto the floor where I was standing. I pout! A twenty-eight year old woman and I can’t keep myself from pouting about things that don’t go my way. It truly feels beyond my control.

On Friday when I thought I might have Covid, part of me was really happy that I would have to miss the dinner my boyfriend invited me to with his family. I even somewhat enjoyed not finding out until a day after I was supposed to. I hesitated to tell him my results because I wanted some more alone time. Then when I did tell him, I happily began preparing for him to drop everything and come see me. When it turned out he wasn’t going to do that, offering to hangout for just a few hours the next day, I was furious. I wanted to not respond at all. It took me tremendous effort to write back a short, passive aggressive reply instead. If I couldn’t hang out with him that night, well I didn’t want to see him at all. Very mature. After that brief message, I proceeded to ignore him for hours. I nearly made an excuse to avoid the Facetime we planned earlier too. One small thing, and I am ready to throw our whole relationship in the garbage out of spite. I genuinely don’t even know why that made me so upset. I enjoy being alone anyway.

It’s so embarrassing confiding these instances to my friends and family as well. Hearing them all echo back “just talk to him about it” or “tell him what you just told me” makes me feel even more childish than I already do. I can’t explain why I’m not able to just express my frustration with the person in question like I am with unrelated individuals. Not only am I afraid of how they’ll take such a conversation, I’m afraid of what I might say. I can get pretty hateful in the heat of the moment.

The longer I sit on these things, the worse it becomes. I add each succeeding irritation on top of the last, until explaining why I’m upset when something small happens becomes nearly impossible. My anger and frustration is also compounded by the fact that I’m just as mad at myself as I am at the other person. My instinct is to scrap the whole relationship rather than work through and face these nasty feelings.

I’m painfully aware of what low emotional intelligence I have, but I don’t know how to improve it. Certainly avoiding all of these encounters isn’t working. I managed to go through with the Facetime call last night and ended up enjoying talking to him. But it feels like I either blow up and destroy everything or drop it and pretend I wasn’t bothered. I did the latter yesterday. When I’m in the depths of my emotion, it feels too unsafe to acknowledge it, but when I calm down, I don’t want to dredge it up again.

All of my mindfulness and yogic practices go right out the window when it comes to interacting with other people. Just trying to take deep breaths when I am left alone in a room with a new person is a great challenge for me. Trying to calmly articulate what has me upset with someone? I might as well try to speak a foreign language fluently. My emotions just feel so big. My prefrontal cortex is short circuited and my aggressive little lizard brain takes over. And I don’t know what to do with that. I truly become unable to find the words that I need. My only options appear to be lash out or recede into myself.

Maybe today, I’ll try to find some kind of exercises to improve emotional intelligence online. Even that idea makes me laugh at myself though. I always want some kind of textbook to teach me how to be a person. When in reality, what would really probably help me more would be to make an effort to stumble through my messy emotions and actually tell my boyfriend how I’ve been feeling. I’m always so afraid of embarrassing myself or seeming stupid that I avoid all of the life experiences that could help me grow. I need to accept that some things must be learned through practice, trial and error, and taking the chance I may look silly at first.

No one else expects me to be perfect besides myself. If I were a baby again, I’d never learn how to walk or talk for fear of those initial trips, tumbles, stutters, and babbles. I must continuously remind myself that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s necessary even. There is no cause to hold every personal error against myself. I’m the only one who cares. Once again, I’m the only thing holding me back.

Emotional Intelligence: 10 Things You Must Know