Thursday, August 18, 2016

Officially Four Years ( or I Just Want to Ramble About Myself For a Moment )

It's been four years.

Officially, four years.

I woke up this morning, earlier than I wanted to wake up. ( But, honestly, it's always too early for me. ) Took the dog for a walk, and as we were on out walk, it dawned on me...

It's officially been four years single. Four years since I ended my financially stable, good enough, safe relationship because it wasn't quite right. ( Not to mention his blatant disregard for my privacy and lack of ability to just talk to me about things, but that's besides the point. )

And that's what it really was, it wasn't quite right.

* Brace yourself. This gets cheesy and cliche from here on out. If you're allergic to that stuff, stop now *

Eight months earlier I had begun a sport which would start me on a journey of self-discovery, self-awareness, and a profound shift in how I see not only myself, but the world.

Roller derby. How the hell did I even get past the recruitment night? I spent more time on my ass than I did up on my skates. ( And I honestly do not think I am exaggerating at all on that point. ) At the end of it, I had convinced myself that this sport wasn't for me. How could it be? I couldn't skate. I was so out of shape that I was winded after just a few minutes out there.  ( Full disclosure: I weighed in at around 320 lbs at this point. ) I was painfully shy and lacked confidence in a sea of strong, confident women. But, what made me return was one simple exchange between me and a couple veteran skaters as I was about to walk out the door at the end of the night.

" Are you coming back? " She shouted at me.
" I...I don't know, "
" You should. You have the perfect body for derby!! "
" Yeah! " The skater sitting beside her says " We'll teach you how to use those hips, "

Never in my life had anything about me ever been described as perfect by anyone other than my mother. Never had I ever been told by anyone, after I spent a whole 2 hours effectively failing at everything I tried to do, that I had a potential that needed to be encouraged. I was 30 years old and had never experienced encouragement and acceptance like I had that night, in the one quick exchange. Those two skaters' names I cannot recall anymore, possibly Knox and Betty Something, but their faces are etched in my mind.

And I went back. Took me five months to get there, but I went back.

Six months later, I left my job and started chair renting. I was self-employed. An incredible achievement for me.

Eight months later, four years ago today, I left my relationship, less than two months before my wedding date.

This was an incredible shock to most people in my life. How do you answer the question " What happened? " when nothing really happened. How do you explain that it just wasn't right? How do you explain that your heart sank when he asked you to marry him? How do you explain that you couldn't justify to yourself at that point why you shouldn't? It was the perfect proposal, after all. On a bench, after a picnic, in the park on Pont Neuf in Paris, part way through our month long European adventure.

Truth be told, I didn't even answer him. I just cried. I allowed him to think it was out of happiness. I never actually said yes. I couldn't. I couldn't get that word out of my mouth. I'm not proud of that, but I rationalized it by telling myself that I was just too shocked to answer. ( It was completely unexpected. ) And I thought that when the shock wore off I would be thrilled! I texted my best friend, Ron, later that day to tell him. The text read something along the lines of " So, Ben asked me to marry him, " Ron says he knew immediately that this wasn't good, that I wasn't happy. I'm convinced that man knew me better than I knew myself at the time. A decade of friendship will do that. ( And I miss him dearly nearly every day. )

I wasn't thrilled.

The more planning that went into this wedding, which ended up being far more than I wanted, the more that sinking feeling in my stomach grew.  ( In his defense, my ideal wedding is a little chapel in Vegas with Elvis as the officiant. A desire I had expressed previously, and since, but I don\t think anyone takes me seriously when I say it. For the record, I am dead serious about this. ) I have never seen marriage as a goal in life, and therefore, having a wedding is not something I care much about.

I continued to tell myself that it was just those pre-wedding jitters. All brides get them. As a hairdresser, I had been around enough brides to know that nervousness and jitters is completely normal. But, I knew it was more than that. I tried to broach these feelings with a few people. Most told me to was normal. Only a couple suggested I think about this a little harder. Christina and Josh ( or Klutch. Derby names die hard. ) along with Ron, were the only three, out of a large group of people who even hinted that something wasn't right here.

I kept putting off the planning. Save the dates and invitations never got sent out. I barely told anyone. I arranged for a friend to make my dress, but never really pushed for fittings. I did ask my brother to be my maid of honour,( Yeah, you read that right. ) but stalled on getting him names of friends for my bachelorette party. I still wonder what he would have come up with for that.

( You know, brother, you could just throw me an awesome party, any time you want, for no reason. )

And it was this day, four years ago, that I returned from supporting the men's derby team in Calgary to my fiancee telling me that he had looked through my phone a week or so prior while I was in the shower. Why? He claims it was because he knew something was wrong and wanted to know what it was. But, I call bullshit on that.

He thought I was cheating on him.

I wasn't.

But, he did read some texts stating my hesitation and being unsure of marrying him.

He did read my personal conversations with friends about fears and my feelings.

He violated my trust and my privacy.

I left that night, stayed in a hotel by myself.

And never went back.

He accused me of cheating. Of being a gold digger ( because I asked for the down payment I put on the condo back, and the 3100$ I had just given to the condo board a couple weeks prior to redo the windows.This was after he had gone through my phone. He knew something was up and still allowed me to shell out that money! )

He called me useless. He told me I contributed nothing to the relationship. That I was entitled to nothing. He questioned whether I had even put money into the down payment. He told me that I owed him for the trip to Europe ( I paid my own way. )

He blamed his debt on me. He blamed everything on me. He said a whole manner of things to and about me.

He lied to me.

I lost the deposits on the wedding venues, I lost my down payment on the condo. I lost that 3100$ for the windows. I walked away with virtually nothing but my dog.

I lived with my younger brother for seven months. I had nothing. I was broke. I had a new business that I was just trying to get off the ground. I took part-time work just to make ends meet. I went from driving an '07 Monte Carlo to a '97 Chrysler Neon. ( I still miss the engine in that Monte Carlo. )

And I threw myself into roller derby. I fell and they picked me back up, time and time again. ( Metaphorically and literally. I fell, and still fall, a lot in that sport. It hurts. I always hurt. ) I yelled, I screamed, I cried. I threw things. And those people still accepted me. Still held onto me, and still supported me.

And I thrived.

A year later and a half later, I had my own apartment, supporting myself by myself on my self-employment income.

A few months after that, I took up power lifting. I had no idea I could be that strong.

A year later, I made a decade long dream come true and traveled to India, and trip that completely altered my perception of life. I came back more compassionate, more introspective, and no longer willing to sit back and let the world go by without me.

I became a warrior.

Two months later, I bought my business.

Four months after that I bought a motorcycle.

And eight months after that, I bought my house.

I learned to take fear and use it. I learned to use disappointed to make me better. I learned to challenge expectations put on me, but not only others, but by myself.

My dad said to me the other day " I never doubted that you would find your own path in life. "

I doubted it. I doubted it most of my life without even realizing I was doubting it. I doubted myself.

I never thought I'd be single at 34. I never thought I'd own my own home, my own business, a motorcycle. I never thought I'd actually get to India. I never thought I'd be in a position to help my friends when they need it. I never thought I'd be as loud and a vocal as I am in the face of injustice. I never thought I'd be directly politically involved, that that I could count politicians and people making a real difference as friends. I never thought I'd be called an inspiration, strong, real, or a role model. ( Descriptions of me I am still far from comfortable with. ) I never thought I would figure out what it truly means to be me.

And I know I am strong enough to handle anything.

It's officially been four years to the day.

Four years since I took that first step and found my own path.

And I'm better for it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Too Opinionated Maybe ( or The Last Man Standing )

I was born and raised in Brandon, Manitoba. I left when I was 19. Bad things always happen to me when I go back there. But, I go back because I adore my cousins and I love seeing them get married. This time it truly dawned on me...

I'M THE LAST MAN STANDING. ( So to speak. )

My single status doesn't cross my mind too often, at least not as something to be worried about, or to even seriously think about. ( It does however cross my mind when I've got my leg propped up on pillows with an ice pack on my ankle, a process which takes a while to set up, and I realize I forgot to bring my bottle of water with me!!! )

But, it always crosses my mind when I attend weddings, And at the wedding last week ( which was incredible, really. It included fire works that put the Canada Day ones in most cities to shame ) I realized that I was was the only unattached person left of my generation. Not all were married, but of the ones who are not, my older cousin  has two kids with his girlfriend and they have lived together for years, my brother and his girlfriend I suspect are going that direction, and my youngest cousin is talking about moving in with her boyfriend ( and my cousins don't tend to move in with people they don't intend to marry. ) All the others, my three other younger cousins, are married, as are my two oldest cousins ( half-cousins if you want to get technical. Although my two oldest (half)cousins are closer in age to my parents than they are to me. I'll explain it to you someday. ). This is not to mention the majority of the other guests and family members were also attached, and if not, were a fair bit younger than me. We're talking six or seven years younger at minimum.

And no one asks me anymore when I'm going to find someone. I think they've all given up.

This of course starts me thinking.... Why? Why am I the last one? What is it about me that has brought me to this point, the point of being the last single one left, with no real potential relationship in my life?

I some times as people about this. Guys I've become close to but which things haven't panned out with. Men I have been close friends with over the years. Female friends, family members. I've asked them all. And the response I get is always the same....

" It's not you, it's them. "
" It wasn't you, it was me, "

Even when I have point blank asked them why they didn't want to take our friendship a step further, I get the I just wasn't ready answer. Which is bullshit because three weeks later they end up in relationships with other people.  Does three weeks make that much of a difference? Really? I don't believe you! ( The not telling the truth here bothers me, but that's a rant for another day. )

The only one who gave me even an inkling of an answer was my father.

" Too opinionated maybe, " 

And this is where I become incredibly confused.

I was raised during a time when  young women and girls were being told to be strong, speak out, be independent. My mom was a single mom who worked three jobs at times to make ends meet. I grew up watching her struggle, but beyond one man whom she nearly married, didn't ever rely on a man to help her. She raised the two of us virtually on her own. She dated here and there, but she was predominantly single. She encouraged me to express myself, be honest with my feelings, and to be true to who I am, and to not rely on anyone. She allowed me to colour my hair, wear weird clothing, and do all the strange things I wanted to do.

I was an odd kid, to say the least.

My father influenced me in ways I don't think he realized. He is the reason I am so interested in politics and I never saw my dad back down from a good debate. My father almost always offered his opinion on a subject or a person, whether it was wanted or not.

* Wait, didn't you say your mother was a single mom? Yes, my parents were divorced. Again, I'll tell you the story some day. *

At no point did I ever feel that I was to be quiet, meek, or hold my opinions back. My father and I may not always agree on things ( almost never, to be honest ) but I have always been encouraged to voice those opinions. And voice them I do.

And now I hear " Too opinionated maybe, "

Too opinionated? Too opinionated for who? For what?

It's not that he said " You're very opinionated and that can be tough for some people to deal with, ". He said " Too opinionated, " And the implication of that statement stunned me.

" Too opinionated maybe, "

The implication is that no one is ever going to want to deal with me the way I am.

The implication is that I'm not deferential enough.

The implication is that I need to just shut up and keep my thoughts to myself. 

Because no man is ever going to want someone with strong opinions like me.

And those three words have been on my mind every since. They keep playing over and over in my mind, along with a few words my mother said about a year ago:

" Men want to be needed."

The context was a discussion about need vs want. I firmly believe that wanting someone to be a part of your life, yet not needing them, means far more than needing them. A need is something you must have, you get no choice in. A want is a choice, through and through.

I NEED to drink water. I WANT to drink cold water.

I NEED to eat. I WANT to eat tasty food.

I don't get a choice in what I need, but I do get to choose what I want. I can't choose to get rid of what I need, but I can choose to get rid of what I want when I don't want it anymore. In my thinking, continuing to want something or someone means so much more because I have the choice.

Those words from my mother have been rolling around in my head since she said them. The implications just as stunning as the implications from the words of my father.

The implication is that I shouldn't be as independent as I am.

The implication is that the only way a man is going to want to be with me is if I need them to look after me in some way.

And the implications of both of these things are worrisome and incredibly confusing for me.

How do I reconcile then things I was taught growing up, with the reality I am experiencing? How do I reconcile what my parents told and showed me as a kid with what they are saying now? How do I scale back my opinions, my personality, my independence and the life I had built so a man can feel comfortable in it?

Is that what I have to do to be able to share life with someone? To have someone hug me when I cry? To have someone to make breakfast for? Is that what the requirement is for a life of loving, traveling, laughing, crying, arguing, making out, eating, hugging, smiling, and all the other things one does in life, with?


Because I don't know if can measure up to that requirement.