No, I am not doing "something controversial" for ReQuest 2018.

Sorry. Unfortunately people will treat and judge me personally because of it, and it's part and parcel of the anti-social media presence that I'm starting even more to abhor.

Last night I dreamt that I was by myself at work. Instead of the upper level being where it is now, it was in the back of the store. My former PT came in with a couple of other people, since nobody else was around I decided to help him out. When I saw him he had several facial piercings and I was really surprised to see them. It seemed as if he was working with underprivileged youths, but I don't remember him buying anything for them. When the transaction was completed I had to give him his change which was $.88. Instead of grabbing the appropriate coins I picked up two dollar bills and asked if I could talk to him. We walked away from the front, I showed him the money and explained that I had made a mistake. I told him to keep the dollar because I couldn't get back into the register and $.12 wasn't a big deal if my register was off by that much at the end of the day. I thought it was strange that nobody else was working on the lower level, but ran up the stairs to tell my friend that he had just been shopping at the store since we thought we would never see him again.

There was either a transition part, or I had another dream about work. This time the store was huge and had a very industrial feel. I was wandering between the aisles where things were stacked on pallets when I saw my boss. She was kneeling on the floor, I stopped to say hi, and then she told me that the next person she was going to get rid of was our Assistant Manager. In my dream I was happy that a long standing injustice was going to be corrected, but instead of that happening, she pulled me into a set of rooms and scolded me for not cleaning. At work we have these blue and white containers of premoistened germ killing wipes. I hate them and wish we could find an alternative, but I'm not in charge of this so they keep getting purchased and used to clean surfaces that nobody touches and don't need to be germ free. My boss grabbed the wipe she had been using and swabbed my cheek with it. I may have screamed out loud, my cheek became fiery red and I couldn't understand why this was happening. We had a woman I had never seen before in our department. She was on the computer that was in one of the aisles when I saw her.

She had said that she was working on her will, I told her that she needed to do things like that after work, then I went to talk to my boss about it and she was upset that this was going on at work. The new woman, and the two women I don't care for were sitting on these couchlike things in a room talking. One of the women said something, I said that work wasn't getting done, and I couldn't wait until the Assistant Manager was gone so the abuse would stop. I was expecting this to go nowhere, but then the other woman agreed with me. The Assistant Manager sat there for a while. She tried defending herself, I had been waiting for an opportunity to escape, apparently my car wasn't far away, I ran out of the room, got into my car, and drove as fast as I could away from there. When I saw the gas station part of me wanted to keep driving, then I realized I didn't know where I was or how to get home. I pulled in, went inside, and this guy said 'Wow' to me. He was creepy and I didn't want to be there either. Other people came in, I saw people outside, I went back to my car, saw the signs that said Highway 41 and knew that was the road I needed to take.

***

With your arms around the future, and your back up against the past. You're already falling...

I'm not sure I will ever see him again, but these are some of my thoughts that I would like to share in story form:

Years ago a friend of mine told me I should get a job where I work now. I immediately dismissed the idea because I didn't think it would pay enough. It wasn't worth it to me. I was much smarter than that, working at a grocery store wasn't beneath me, but if I was going to go back to work I wasn't going to make the same mistake I had done in the past which was accepting lesser jobs because I tend to interview well. People have generally regarded me as smart, but I've learned that brain power can only take you so far in life. After my second interview I told a friend of mine I didn't get the job, but that was untrue. I was welcomed by my manager, but right away the Assistant Manager let me know that she was in a position of greater authority and I quickly saw that I was dealing with a bully. She tried very hard to get me into trouble, she wanted me to acknowledge the power that accompanied her title, but those were just words and I've never been impressed by them since I know that personal power, dignity, and a cool head are important life skills. 

She couldn't work harder than I did, she was nowhere near as efficient as me, I was a threat to her and she set out to make my life as miserable as possible by writing notes that didn't need to be written, trying to tell me what to do, and how to do it when my approach was frequently much more logical than her own. I grew up in a home where it seemed like someone was always angry. Sometimes it was the red boiling anger that got my face slapped, other times it was cold measured icy white rage. People snapped at each other, my dad was critical of my mom, she was critical of me, so I learned to be very critical of others. It wasn't enough to read books, they had to pass a certain quality standard. You didn't have to win games, you had to leave the field knowing that you had put everything you had into the attempt. Art and music were appreciated. Perfection was the standard and my imperfect parents were hypocrites, yelling at us for things that they didn't do themselves. When I first met my friend that liked you I thought she was kind of self absorbed and silly.

I heard more about you than I wanted to, I didn't know what kind of a judge of character she was until I had a chance to meet you. I could see that the relationship was dysfunctional and unhealthy, you were smart, you seemed like you knew what you were doing at your job, so when I hurt my back you were the rational choice. We had just hired someone new at work, I went to a chiropractic facility where I had been a patient before, I knew my new chiropractor was trouble as soon as I laid eyes on him. He offered to carry my bag and I wouldn't let him even though by that point in time my back was screaming at me. I told my friend that it seemed like he could tell exactly how I was feeling and it was more terrifying to me than many of the things I had gone through previously. He tried to nurture me and I rejected that by doing my best to keep him at an icy distance. Then one day she came with me to an appointment. We were laughing and joking around together, then I found out that they knew each other. After that he treated me completely differently. He stopped trying to be academic and solicitous and started being flirty.

You had a very different approach. You made me believe that I could do some of the things you saw in my future. I listened to what you said, I thought about what my friend had told me about you, and I decided that she was wrong. You made sense to me, and she didn't. I wrote her off as hysterical and emotional, I didn't think the two of you really had a future, but I saw potential, and a challenge. It was clear to me that you were asking about her when we had conversations about work. I figured you knew that I knew what you were trying to do, and since I was trying to help the relationship along, I told you some of the things you wanted to know about her. When I asked if you were interested in a suggestion you said you were, I told you to work on yourself before getting into a relationship with anyone else. I told you that unless you address some of the underlying issues you are going to run into the same problems you had now, Maybe the words I used were somewhat different, but that was the essence of what I said and I could tell that you were startled by this type of information.

Time went on and because my friend had someone who was telling her how I thought that you think and how to handle herself around you, things became more stable. I told her that consistency was the key to a guy like you. It was critical that she stop mirroring your emotions and started showing you where she wanted to go. I sensed that when it came to her you were a people pleaser. She wanted conversations, I had heard you talking to others and I noticed that you were in control of what was said. You were loud, you were a bit cocky, but there was the confidence that came from knowing that you were a member of a very elite group. I admired you, I respected you, but I also saw some of your flaws. My friend thought you were the greatest thing since sliced bread, I thought you were cool, but when we were talking about men who knew how to handle women I told her that one of the guys we had just hired knew more about women and how to treat them than you ever would, and she had to agree since this is an area where I have a degree of expertise that you apparently lack.

I can't even tell you how many articles I read on romance, dating, how to get the guy, etc..., I watched videos with her, I ran into some interesting pieces, but for the most part, either they were so out there that I found them comical, a source of humor I hadn't expected, or they were the kind of repetitive common sense things even a child knows; dress to impress, be confident, read his body language, make him want you with this one weird trick. One of the advantages I had was knowing that you liked her. This is still debated by some, but during our first conversation we both turned to look at her when we were finished and that was it for me. You were trying to show her, look, I can talk to your friend, but I'm keeping it work related and I'm coming back to you to gauge your reaction to that interaction. After my first couple of visits you stopped coming to the store and you treated her differently. A bunch of women at work asked my friend if I had said something to you that made your behavior change, and I was stunned when she defended me. She asked, but she also said she knew that even though I had a wild reputation, I wasn't going to jeopardize a relationship I had worked so hard to preserve.

She was a typical woman and I thought you were a typical man. I told her that you were never going to be the things she wanted, but you were going to be even better in some areas. I saw the fit as natural and beneficial, you were going to help speed her up, and she was going to teach you how to slow down and relax. You would have your differences, you can run intellectual rings around her, but I thought that you wanted to get married and have children, she's wife material and in my mind a guy like you would go after her because you could see that her warmth would be a positive if you did have children together. It was like I could see the wheels turning in your head. You had her waiting for you at lunch, you had her very close friend coming to you as a patient, and I tried very hard to do the things you had asked because it was helping me, and you. I told others about you. I got to know your receptionist better, then one day I came in unexpectedly, and you gave me a side hug. That told me more about you, but I could never convince her that the feelings I could see so clearly were actually for her.

I don't know what went down in your head when you decided to stop shopping there. It made perfect sense to me, I even told my friend that you were done, but then you made a liar out of me by shopping there for another week or two. Maybe I had missed my target, but I had predicted the future in her eyes and I could never explain how I had been able to see that coming before the actual event. It was actually really easy, all I had to do was ask myself what I would do in your situation. I had been friend zoned by someone at work, they were alike, we were, and the next time I worked with him, I treated him like he didn't exist. The door had slammed shut in my mind because he had broken the rules and I was punishing him for that. They had both made the same mistake, you and I both have a lot of pride, we see value in ourselves to a certain extent, they used feelings and our insecurities to get to us, but they didn't understand that we didn't care about the friend zone no matter what sort of a beating our pride took. Our pride lets us use rejection as fuel to become better. The friend zone wasn't a bad place to be, it was much safer than the places they thought we were trying to go.

She likes to say she didn't lie to you, but she said one thing and did another. She friend zoned you and then tried to flirt with you. I think that you and I are very similar in this respect, if words and actions don't match, we go by what people do rather than what they say. Had they come to us and said, hey, look, you're scaring me, I'm uncomfortable and insecure, you're too intense for me, I don't know how to handle you and I need some time to deal with these uncertainties, we would have been fine with that, but they tried to make us the bad guys by implying that we wanted more of a relationship than they did. The friend zone was a lie. They did like us, or at least their behavior indicated that they did even though their words said otherwise. I wasn't born yesterday, and I tend to read men well in one particular area. I have a lot of sex drive and I bet you do too. People are sexual creatures and we want to indulge ourselves, particularly during times of stress. Sex makes us feel better about ourselves and everything else around us. It gives us that break from thinking that we need, only neither of us got it, and we were okay with that because we both go after people who can't give us what we need. We're wired to chase whoever is unavailable because it's a fun, and very safe challenge right up to the moment where your heart is in more danger than you ever thought that it could be.

We are harder on ourselves than we are on others. We can't stop, we don't rest, we keep on going until we start burning out. Then we get stressed, melt down, act all crazy, and people wonder what happened to the person that they used to know. I write, you exercise, neither of these things are bad, but they are forms of abuse and escape that we turn to because they've worked in the past, but every coping mechanism has its limitations. We think that if only we can run faster, write better, lose that weight, work harder, be better with our money, we think we have to do to earn love when what we need to do is learn how to accept and receive what is already there. People love us because of who we are at our weakest, saddest, least positive and optimistic moments. The things that hurt us hurt them and vice versa, everyone wanted the other person to become vulnerable first. I told her one of you had to let down your guard, and you wouldn't be the first. I wasn't going to be that person either, but as I read about you, I learned about myself. Then I realized, I'm a pretty awful person and this is why I'm still single. I don't deserve anyone because I am a very cold, selfish, and uncaring person.

My future would have been very bleak without my unicorn friend. I still don't know how she did this without really saying anything to me about it, but somehow she was able to bring two hostile parties around. I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about the friend zone. I view it as a very special form of selfishness where the friend zoner is essentially telling you, please continue to provide me with the benefits of this relationship at a great emotional cost to yourself. I do not friend zone people. I make it crystal clear that I am not interested in any sort of romantic relationship with this person I don't like that way that I think likes me, and one day I even went so far as to reveal the name of the person I do like because I was that scared of someone else at work. The other day I purposely avoided someone because I think I have an obligation to discourage that type of investment in me if it isn't going anywhere, and it was very disappointing to learn that he probably has a girlfriend because he's treating me the way that he should only treat her. You can't control who you like, you can control how you act around others. 

The friend zone is exploitative to me. I would rather keep my distance and have this person's feelings hurt by me being cool toward them rather than put them through the humiliation of a friend zoning. I don't care who you are or how you deliver it, that type of dialogue or communication is hurtful even when you think that you're doing the right thing. If you think someone likes you, or you know that they do, to me it is far less painful to let your behavior show them you aren't interested rather than try to save whatever friendship they thought might be there that probably wasn't. While it's true that feelings can change and deepen, I don't think friend zoning accomplishes what people intend it to and once words are spoken or written, you can't call them back. The other possibility is that your feelings, or theirs may change and then you have a new obstacle which is what you went through with her. She did like you, the friend zone was an artificial construct and no wonder you were confused by her. I told her that she had lied to you, she has changed, I think you and I have too.

I think one of the best things about her and me is that we both have the capacity to forgive. I don't hold grudges unless the behavior persists and then I don't view it as a grudge. I forgive you even though my ankle still hurts and I know that if I would have gone to you it would be less painful and stronger than it is now. You trying to protect yourself cost me and I want an apology for that, but I doubt I will ever get one from you. Not only did you lose a woman who loved you, cares about you, and wants you to be happy and more carefree than you are now, you lost her friend who understands you and made your work environment better. You make more money than both of us put together. We'll never be where you are athletically. You have power, prestige, an intimidating mind, you have a lot going for you, but you also have the emotional maturity of a teenager and some days I think that's being too generous since my daughters aren't going through this roller coaster of chaotic emotions. I thought you were worth trying to help since someone helped me and I was and will always be eternally grateful for that.

Perhaps the difference between us is I admit that when it comes to feelings I'm pretty lost and clueless. I thought I was being brave by asking guys out myself, but my therapist told me it was a way to deny intimacy which is a process that builds over time. It took me a long time to realize that. I tend to want to shut people down, I'm like that song where the singer says I'm too good at goodbye. I think everyone can tell who I like and then I'm so careful to avoid revealing my emotions that he probably doesn't even know and that's really immature as well. I can't be mad at you because we're too much alike. But I know that if I can learn some of these lessons I should have when I was much younger, you can too. You have to stop relying on your brain and intuition and start learning how to partner with others who can fill in the feeling pieces for us. We have to stop and reflect once in a while, sit back, enjoy what we've accomplished, and realize that we're going to die with goals that we have yet to achieve. You're a beautiful person, but you have a lot of room to grow. My hope and prayer is that you would find that inner peace that remains so elusive.

Recently I learned how to paint. I failed seventh grade art, that and square dancing were my two failing grades that year. I couldn't figure out art, my teacher was a bitch, she intimidated me, and then I was given an F in square dancing because I refused to dance with a partner who creeped me out. Even at that age I could see that there was a way for a guy to take advantage of me by getting too close and touching me when I didn't want to be touching him. I didn't care that there was a room full of other students and two gym teachers. I didn't tell them this, I thought that they should know why I was refusing that contact, but they viewed my behavior as insubordinate and uncooperative so I was given a failing grade. My mom dances and I'd like to learn, but every time I hear the word 'dance', I go right back to being that terrified seventh grader who was labeled as defiant and willful instead of scared that some taller and stronger person was going to use what should have been a harmless and fun activity in gym class. I love sports, but I don't go for the athletes, I go for the thinkers because unless you bring your brain along to the playing field, your power is going to be limited.

I want you to see that love is out there for you and you don't have to do anything to earn it. Love is there for the taking, but you are so used to being the giver that being the recipient is scary, awkward, and makes you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable rather than complete and delicious. I love you and it has nothing to do with your body, your brain, or your beautiful blue eyes. I can see two futures ahead of you. In version one you continue to be the way that you are. In the second version, you admit you need help, you reach out, you cry some of your repressed tears, and you start that long slow healing process. Think of it as PT for your soul. It will suck, it will be harder than competing in the Ironman, but this feeling will last. It will be life and game changing the way that you telling me to go to the lake was. It says, I'm worthy of love simply because I am flawed and human. None of us is any better or any worse than anyone else. The younger you are emotionally, the harder the lessons seem, but the more quickly they impact your life. The first painting I did was so bad the only person I could give it to was my mom.

In the past she's been critical of me. When I wanted to be a history major she discounted the long string of A+ tests I had gotten back. She wanted me to get a more practical degree. She discounts my footwear advice, she thinks she knows more about nutrition than I do when she can't tell anyone the basics of what vitamin A does in the body and why it's important to take it with food for maximum absorption. She tells me I need to save money instead of spending it, to come to family events because she wants me there, she has this perfect family idea in her head when going there is pretty much guaranteed to make me sick or stressed because she's never taken the time to educate herself on celiac disease. I have your email address, but I know that if you received something like this from me, you would freak the fuck out once you were done reading, and I don't know if you could finish it either. My mom doesn't read things I've written, I don't expect you or anyone else to either, but I feel loved when someone takes that time. I learned how to override the idea that I don't deserve love and now I can feel it from across a crowded room which is totally wild, unexpected, and awesome in a way I wish you could experience.

I think my mom still has ceramic pieces I did when I was in college. At the time I told her to throw them away. I almost tossed the piece I did for my sister, it's not what I envisioned, I was scared to show it to anyone, but the women at the art studio saw potential that I didn't. They told me that I was my harshest critic and that they were glad I had challenged myself that way even if I know it could be better. I did some neat things in that piece and if I throw it away, I lose a recording of that growth process. I think that dream was telling me not to let go of you, but for now, I have to take a break. I never would have learned what I did about myself without you so I thank you for that. Today my mom can be supportive of me creating art. I don't know how to process this because I spent 42 years trying to find a way to crack her maternal code and get the type of love and acceptance I think a child of hers is owed. Writing is free so I thought she'd see more value in that as a hobby, art is expensive, the piece I gave her is way too complicated, but it taught me how to get simpler which is a lesson I needed to learn.

You can simplify your life by learning how to get in touch with the emotions you don't know how to feel or label. I want this for you. I know you can do it. You tell me you're always good and that it's a hundred percent mental. I agree and disagree with that. I think you do a lot of repressing, exercise is good for you, but it can be the trap rather than the freedom to fly, crash, burn, and patch up the pieces once you've been wounded, and you will be, again and again and again until you get better at figuring out who you can trust with your most sensitive side. I see right through you and you probably see more of me than I would like. I know we have this connection because we shouldn't have been able to wave to each other the way that we did when I was on the treadmill. I feel bad for you, but I'm also happy that we met because I think we are a good team and we have potential together. I'm going to give you a break, I'm going to give myself some time. When I decide that you need a boost, or a break, or I think I can walk back into your place and get another hug, maybe then we'll see each other again.

Until then, be well. You're cool and I admire what you bring to the table. Much respect...

Jessica

P.S. If you ever need me, you know where to find me. I know you won't reach out, but that's on you. I'm around and I don't hold the past against people. I catalog it, reflect on it, learn from it, and move forward armed with greater knowledge. You've been forgiven, stop beating yourself up, there's plenty of other people around to tell you how much you still need to be doing. Listen to the cheerleaders in your life. You need them and I do too.

Much love,

jj

***

I never did finish January 17, 2018, but I'm okay with that. Call it knowing when to stop for my own safety. I can always tell when I haven't taken my vitamins. My writing is totally different. 

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