#TopTenTuesday – Summer

I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday in a long time.  But, seeing as this is the last Tuesday of August and I’ve had a pretty wonderful summer,  I thought it time to share my favorite things of Summer 2016.  It started out where I was a little stressed, a little restless, and a lot sick of cold, but it’s turned out to be a summer where I’ve truly felt loved and blessed.  So here ya go.

Top 10 Favorite Things of Summer 2016:

1.  Fourth of July.  This is always my favorite holiday, spent with my crazy family at my aunt and uncle’s cottage.  This year’s theme for the boat parade was “Anything Goes,” and since my uncle is the Loon Ranger for their lake, this happened.  Oh, and one of the flags fell off the back when my aunt wasn’t paying attention, my cousin-in-law started playing “Taps” on his phone as it sank, and I jumped overboard to pluck it from the mucky bottom of the lake.  Pretty standard times.

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2.  This little girl entered our lives!  My parents used to raise Weimaraners when I was a kid, but we’d been without one in the family for far too long.  Ghost is probably going to be a bit spoiled as a result.

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3.  My bridal shower.  I hate being the center of attention, but that wasn’t a problem considering we had 19 kids staying.  My mom’s side of the family hadn’t all been together in like 3  years, so I was happy to be the excuse.

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4.  I’ve read a lot of amazing books from fellow authors.  I also beta read more than I usually do (meaning I read an advanced copy of a book an author is preparing to release into the world), which was a great opportunity.  You can see some of these books I’ve read here:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/16027170?sort=date_read&view=reviews

5.  I moved to a super cool apartment that is slowly but surely getting filled so it’s less echo-y in here.

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6.  The Fiance and I celebrating knowing each other for 2 years.  Honestly the first thing to remind us was Facebook.  He was training for an upcoming Ironman all day, I was working, I went to McDonald’s to get us dinner…  It was “special” but worth noting.

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7.  My bridal crew helped me pick out a wedding dress.  Now, I’ve had a deal with my mom since I was 7 years old that I would elope.  However, since the diva groom wants a wedding, that means I had to find a dress.  I didn’t cry when finding the dress, but it meant more to me that these people were there.  (Our little Dutch souls did cry at the great deal I got, though.)

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8.  Reviews from authors I respect.  I’ve been slacking on the whole “book promotions” thing, but it’s been wonderful to have occasional kind words come in about my books.  It especially means a lot to me when other authors whose work I LOVE have something nice to say.  Here’s one:

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9.  The Haymarsh Benefit Shoot.  For almost 2 decades, our family’s hunt club has hosted a benefit shoot for a local facility that helps families with their needs.  It’s always a time I use to catch up with my many adopted-uncle-types.  It’s also a time when my dad, my brother, and I frantically prep to get things ready.  This year was no different, and it’s nice some things never change.

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10.  I found a quiet peace of heaven.  Our apartment doesn’t have a balcony, but there’s this weird private courtyard down the hall that leads to open sun, open air, and astroturf.  It’s the quietest place you can imagine while living downtown, and it’s great for relaxing and unwinding…which means reading.

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My Last Valentine’s Day as a Single Person (Knock on Wood)

FullSizeRender (20)A year ago today, I was in Key West with my boyfriend.  By mid evening, in a Key-West-inspired stupor, I mentioned that he didn’t have to do anything for Valentine’s Day for the next 3 years because I appreciated the trip so much.  Conveniently for him, this is one of the things I’ve said that he actually remembers.

So here we are a year later, at home, spending Valentine’s Day pretty much the same way we spend every Sunday… Me working in pajamas; him on the bike trainer.  We’ll probably lounge around and relax all day, maybe feign some work on wedding planning.  Later we’ll attempt to cook a decent meal.  We ARE adding the romantic event of changing my car battery at some point, but I expect that to be the highlight of the day.

And all of the above is exactly what I want.  Nothing about this relationship has been over-the-top mushy.  We’re a little goofy.  And it works.

As he wrote for our wedding website:

We first met at a local brewery in Grand Rapids, all thanks to a dare.  After that came a year’s worth of movies, board games, hiking adventures, and a few trips to Florida.  Finally on a warm November day the question was popped, and in true Sunny and Pat fashion one of us didn’t know that the other was proposing.  While far from the storybook romance, it couldn’t be more perfect.

Now, here’s the thing:  I was a perfectly happy single person.  Granted, a lot of this happiness was because it was a better reaction than horror to the options involved in my love life.  But I really was just fine on my own.  I’ve always thought that it’s important to be a complete, self-fulfilled, functioning person on your own without trying to make some other person make your life “whole.”  Granted, maybe this made me a little picky when it came to choosing anyone to share my life with.  But I think it’s better to be alone rather than being with someone just because you feel you HAVE to be with someone.

I’m marrying Pat because he was finally someone who brought more to my life than I’d ever have had on my own.  I don’t know if I believe in “The One” because that makes it sound like fate has nothing better to do than limit our love lives to only 1 option.  But, I know he is THE person I want to share my life with.  He’s unpredictable and possibly more quirky than I am, and the fact that I’m constantly on my toes makes for a fun life.  The fact that our “Brangelina” name is “Punny” is all too appropriate, though I try not to focus on the fact that he and my father have the same sense of humor.  He can stand up to me, which (let’s be honest) is something I needed in a mate.  Best of all, I loved my life before, and Pat fits INTO it without making me feel like I’m settling or changing myself.

I’m so glad I waited until my life was full, THEN accepted the perfect person for me. If Pat hadn’t come along, I’d still be happily single.  But he’s the one person who makes me even happier together.  I’m glad I took that dare of joining Match.com, and I’m glad he  responded to my not-taking-this-seriously message of “The Sting!” in acknowledgment of his favorite listed movie.  A year from now, if all goes as planned, I’ll be his wife, and that’s pretty great to think about as I sit here in pajamas finishing work on Valentine’s Day.

Where Have I Been?

Sometime early this year – winter, most likely, when I was stir-crazy with cabin fever – I had a very weird night of prayer.  I basically told God, “Okay, look.  I need something to happen, but something GOOD this time and not something that’s just going to be drastic and unwanted and make me spaz.  Things gotta change here.  Let’s say by…October.  Deal?  I don’t know how this is a deal exactly, but can ya do that for me?”  And in that moment, I felt a very weird but familiar calm as an answer.

I kind of forgot about this through the spring and summer, which were nice and pleasant but not particularly exciting.

Then, mid July, through a series of “Don’t tell me what I won’t do!” moves combined with my obsessive need to prove I’m right, I took a friend’s challenge and signed up semi-incognito for Match.com.  (At this point you’re thinking this post is going in a different direction, but stay with me, because this is only a minor point.)  Hilarity ensued, and I very much proved my point that my options around here are terrifying at worst, sad at best.  …I might have made a collage of pictures from the worst candidates.  And yes, that might seem mean, but seriously, men – you can do better than taking selfies in your bathroom mirror when the toilet seat’s up behind you.

I told my friend that I would willingly go on 3 dates to “take this more seriously.”  Dates #1 and #2 were fine but further convinced me that I’m pretty much dead inside.  Then I remembered a guy I’d talked to earlier about movies – literally that was all we talked about, and if you know me you know that’s kind of enough.  So I agreed to meet date #3 at one of my favorite breweries with the idea of “Hey, at least I get to drink, and we’ll probably talk about movies.”  About 10 minutes in, I found myself thinking, “Damn it, I like this one.”

So, my friend who sent me to Match in the first place became a big I-Told-You-So as I subsequently began to spend more and more time with Date #3.

Then around September, my apartment complex informed me that my lease was up in October and that my rent was going up by over $100 every month.  THIS finally reminded me of that prayer/deal God and I had made, and I might have gone, “What the hell?!”  However, since my brother also was looking for a new place, we decided to gather our eggs ($$) and get a place together, somewhere more downtown and bigger and cooler.  This meant spending hours and hours house-hunting and planning and finally actually moving.

Through all this, I tried to keep up at least with my reading and reviewing.  I managed okay, but quite frankly WRITING was the thing that got put on time-out.  I flat out just didn’t have time to write anything other than the occasional review – no blogging and definitely no novel…ing.

So, for those who’ve been wondering why I haven’t blogged in forever, the sum-ups in bold above are why.  For those who’ve asked how my 4th novel is coming along and then wondered why I respond with “meh,” the sum-ups in bold above explains how it’s coming along – it’s not.  (And for those of you in real life who haven’t seen much of me in the past few months, I promise things will calm down now that I’m living out of only one location.  And maybe I’ll finally let ya meet Date #3.)

 Now…

It’s October.  (Okay, it’s a few days into October, but 10/10 has a nice symmetry to it.)  As I sit here typing out this blog in my new little office nook, I’m pretty happy with where October has brought me.  This is DEFINITELY a lot of change from where I was last winter.  And it’s all pretty good.  I really should have known better than to give God any kind of challenge, because obviously He thinks He’s funny and enjoys throwing me for a loop – kind of like how telling a certain someone “You’re not going to circle around and around in the roundabout, are you?” means that of course he’s going to drive around and around in the roundabout.

Anyway, it’s October and I’m settling down again to play with all these new life changes.  I also hope to get back to the one constant activity that I’ve missed and finish this stinkin’ book series.

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#YesAllWomen

I haven’t really properly blogged in a long time, but I’ve been asked my thoughts on the whole #YesAllWomen movement, so I figured I’d write my response here.

 First, a few reactionary thoughts…

 I’ve read a lot of grumblings against #YesAllWomen, saying that it seems to be blaming all men.  Many of us have loving brothers, fathers, uncles, male friends, etc. who are NOT assholes.  Well, good.  Of course not EVERY man is the problem.  I don’t think the point of #YesAllWomen is to imply that all men are the devil.  The point, it seems to me, is to bring to light what IS the problem.  And there IS a problem, even if the men in your life are all saints.  If you don’t identify with this, that doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t.  There are things men do that are offensive which they might not ever realize are offensive.  There are things we women do that men don’t understand the reasons behind.  The point of acknowledging all of these things is to strengthen both sexes’ understanding and work towards solutions…at least I hope that’s the goal.

 I’ve also read the arguments that #YesAllWomen is a media trend feeding off the tragedy from Santa Barbara.  Some say that it’s belittling actual victims of real abuse – like women stoned in Pakistan or enslaved Nigerian girls.  Okay, some guy smacking my ass as I walk by is not on par with either of those situations. But it’s a part (granted a very small part) of the overall problem.  Different women in different places experience different symptoms of the same sickness.  I would assume most of us realize that we have it better than many, many others.  But, again in order to work towards understanding, talking about our individual experiences can contribute to finding solutions.  And when you tell any woman that her problems and fears and painful experiences don’t really matter, HOW THE HELL IS THAT HELPING?

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 Anyway, here’s a brief overview of my experiences and opinions about this whole issue:

I’ve never particularly thought of myself as a feminist.  I grew up as a tomboy, as a daddy’s girl, as “one of the guys.”  In a weird way I guess I always was a feminist, even if I didn’t realize it – everything I did and everything I believed about myself stemmed off of an assumption that I was just as good as my male companions, just as full of worth, just as important and equally deserving of respect as a human being.

This underlying belief of equal worth (what I think feminism should be about) was passed onto me by my parents.  I was a daddy’s girl, so in a large way I owe my “feminism” to my father.  I don’t remember him ever telling me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl.  He taught me to think for myself.  He taught me to stand up for myself.  My mom also played a big part in my self-confidence, and I learned from her example that you can be kind, loving, generous (“feminine,” in short) but also have biting wit and an internal drive that spurs you to succeed in whatever you’re tackling.  I blame my hyperactive self-esteem on too much good parenting, honestly – I was encouraged constantly by their belief in me, and there were never limitations because I was a girl.  (Growing up, the only way I was treated differently from my brother was that I wasn’t allowed to run around with my shirt off or pee behind trees.  Whatever.)

I will say that even my “perfect” childhood was tainted by a very minor episode of what so many more unfortunate girls have experienced.  I thank God that I’ve never been truly abused, raped, assaulted, etc.  But there was a time when a creepy older boy wanted me to do something I wasn’t comfortable with, and I tricked him and ran to tell my mom.  My parents never spoke of it again, I’m sure hoping/assuming I’d forget about it, but I remember even then realizing how scared other little girls must be who didn’t have anyone to tell. This episode, however minor, at least taught me sympathy for girls who found themselves in situations where they had no control.

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Growing up on a hunt club, with scores of men around all the time, was an interesting education in how men treat “the fairer sex.”  I truly believe that a lot of men from older generations honestly don’t understand why women get offended.  To them, it seems natural that women do the cooking and cleaning.  It never enters their minds that it makes us uncomfortable when they put a hand on our back to guide us through a door.  I don’t know what can really be done to change older men’s understanding of “feminism” honestly.  My deceased grandfather (whom I did love dearly despite infuriating moments) would be horrified to know I’m still single at 32, and he just never understood that a girl could be happy and alone…for example.

  •  I remember the first time a man didn’t believe me about something and thought he should ask my little brother. (I immediately thought of that part in “The Boxcar Children” where the one sister isn’t allowed to use a knife and instead they give it to her little, 5-year-old brother, because he’s a boy.)
  • I remember the well-meaning assistance when men assumed I couldn’t lift something heavy, which always made me feel put in my place…and a little defiant.
  • I remember older men telling me I was pretty when it had absolutely nothing to do with our discussion, which I always thought ridiculous because my brother’s looks never had anything to do with anything.  (I still get annoyed when interviewers comment on my looks…as if that has anything to do with how I write sci-fi.)
  • Then I turned 18.  Some – and I must stress that this was not the majority of hunt club members – started treating me differently.  I remember a few times out on the Sporting Clays course when I was honestly very uncomfortable. Once I was wearing shorts and a tank top, and so they laughed at me when I said I wasn’t interested, telling me I must “like the attention” – never mind that it was 95 degrees outside and I was doing physical labor.  Sometimes I would be a little afraid to be out in the middle of the woods with these men.  If they ever wondered why I walked so quickly back to the clubhouse (where my dad was), that was why.

And here’s something:  I’m a tough girl.  I grew up on a farm so that I’m strong enough to usually feel I can defend myself if I have to.  Still, there are times when I’m afraid around men.  If I feel that way, I can only imagine how powerless some other women must feel.

Another thing:  I read in another #YesAllWomen post about how men submit and back off when another man is involved.  I never thought of this as a pattern, but it makes sense.  Back with those creepy hunters, they would back off and act like they didn’t even notice me the second my dad was around. (I think THAT is actually a big part of why I’ve always preferred the idea of eloping, honestly.  I hate the idea of my dad giving me away – I’m not HIS.  No one should have to ask his permission to have me. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but it’s all a part of the same thing in my head.)

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In Detroit, I worked for a while as a model scout.  This whole time period was a personal experiment to study people anyway, and the ways men treat women was certainly a key part of that.

In another #YesAllWomen-related blog, the female writer talked about how she and her boyfriend were watching a woman at a bar.  A creepy dude sidled up to the woman and talked to her, obviously making her uncomfortable, but the woman gave bare minimum responses and chuckles. The writer’s boyfriend said something like “I can’t believe she’s putting up with him. You’d never do that.”  The writer admitted to thinking, “I do it all the time.” There is so much truth in this.  As a woman who’s been hit on at bars by many, many creepy men, you learn that the safest and easiest response is to…put up with it. It’s awful and feels like you’re encouraging bad behavior, but the truth is that sometimes you just don’t know how a guy is going to react to a flat out “no.”  Putting up with it until he takes the hint, gets disinterested, or goes away is quite often the safest way to go.

Also during model scouting, I again saw the truth that unwanted “suitors” (the most polite term I can think of at the moment) would back off if another guy was around.  A good friend of mine knew my “get over here and help me” face.  Whenever I couldn’t get rid of a guy, I would give my friend that look and he’d come over and stand by me protectively.  Every single time, the creepy suitor would bow out immediately.  I HATE needing a guy for that.  But it always works – men will hear men say “no” every time.  It’s infuriating to not have that kind of power yourself, as a woman.

Here’s a problem:  We women do like SOME attention.  Being told you’re pretty is nice when it’s said respectfully. We do not, however, like to hear “You’re hot!” when shouted from a dark alley.  This doesn’t mean girls are fickle or teases or leading you into some kind of trap where we’re going to shut you down after you buy us 3 drinks.  I have been accused of being an Ice Queen, but I’m perfectly willing to give someone attention who treats me like more than a piece of meat – WHY IS THAT SO DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND?

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Here’s the pretty basic bottom line:  Respect people.  Respect women, not because they’re women, but because they’re people.  Respect men, not because they’re men, but because they’re people.  If we want equality – acknowledging that there are differences, but equal – then just treat everyone with the same level of respect and decency.  And understand that women put up with a lot that we can’t control.  Sometimes men can be offensive without even realizing it.  Sometimes we’re outright afraid of men, and there IS male behavior that is sick, misogynistic, and needs to be addressed.  Some of my favorite feminists are men who are working to change the way men understand their behavior in relation to women.

I for one choose to see that as the purpose of #YesAllWomen – acknowledging that we all need to work to fix the gender issues that affect all of us.  Even me.

You and You and You Complete Me

They say your 20’s are meant for finding yourself and your 30’s are for sorting out and getting comfortable with what you want in life. Personally, sitting here in my 30s, I’m finding that what I want most is good relationships with people in my life.  If you knew me in my teens, this is probably kind of shocking – back then, I had a handful of people I could tolerate, let alone love.  But I’ve never been vocationally driven, creatively over-ambitious, or heard a biological clock ticking to the point of deafening every other thought.  As I’ve moved out of my teens, out of my 20’s, and now into my 30’s, PEOPLE matter most to me, and my relationships are what push and pull me in a hundred different directions so that I feel like I’m getting the most out of life.

I’ve always hated the line “You complete me.”  Part of this may be because I was on the Rolls-Eyes-At-Tom-Cruise bandwagon before there was a bandwagon.  Mostly, I just think it’s a horrible idea because no one person can ever completely fulfill you.  It’s a dangerous, romantic idea to invest all happiness and well-being on one person (think “Twilight” style).  That way disappointment lies.  And resentment.  Anger.  Often, divorce.  No one, no matter how wonderful and no matter how much better they make your life, is perfect all the time.  Putting that kind of pressure on a relationship of any kind – marriage, BFFs, doctor/patient – can be disastrous.

And that’s why I’ve learned that I have to let relationships be whatever they are, not what I might want them to be. You can’t  make some work, no matter how hard you try to invest and make someone an important part of your life.

  • That cool girl might not want to be your BFF, but she could be someone you enjoy immensely whenever your paths cross.
  • That person you worship as a mentor might not have time to take you under their wing, but you can still learn from what they can give.
  • That guy might not love you like you wish he would, but he could be a great friend who cares about you.

I’ve learned to let relationships be what works.  You don’t need to throw people away if they don’t completely fulfill you.  That one person might be great in one specific area that everyone else misses, so let other people be the rest of what you’d want from that person.

The reverse is true too. I’ve found I often fall into the trap of trying to be everything for someone.  I want to give someone whatever they need from me, whenever they need it.  But that can be exhausting and relationship-ending too. I grow resentful, even if I am kind of encouraging them to be emotional vampires.  Some of these relationships I’ve learned I have to back off from.  I can’t complete people all on my own any more than anyone else can complete me all on their own.  But I can be something for them – just not everything.  I can still give advice or support when an emotional vampire really, really needs it.  I can still send a joke message to that awkward friend when I find something I know he’ll enjoy.  I can exchange low-maintenance emails with that girl who’s life has moved in a different direction from mine. I can’t force these relationship be what they once might have been, but they can still mean something to me, each in their own way.

Of course there are different levels of connection, and some people complete us more than others.  I have an amazing family, and I have a close circle of friends I love dearly who feed me and love me and get me – we all have these people, I hope.  But even in this group of people who fulfill me, it’s a group effort. I get different things from different people – the strain of fulfilling a person’s needs is best passed around, I think.  I don’t go to my girl friends for advice I know I’d respect more from my parents, for example (that might seem abnormal, but there it is – my parents are awesome).  I likewise don’t expect my parents to understand memes about “New Girl.”

  • I have a friend I talk to about hairstyles.
  • I have a friend with whom I discuss religion.
  • I have a brother with whom I share more personal life angst than I dare expose anyone else to.
  • I have a friend who shares my hermit/introvert problems.
  • I have a childhood friend who gets my past and how it still affects me today.
  • I have someone I met at a party who is more supportive of my books than anyone in my day-to-day life.
  • I have an author friend who knows the writing headspace and also knows that sometimes I just need a break where we have stupid conversation for an hour.

It’s good to have people to count on.  Everyone in your “inner circle” shares something unique with you, probably. It’s good to have go-to people.  It’s good to know who can handle what level of your crazy.

For me, I also know that, no matter how much I love the people who fall into the categories above, I’m always going to need new people too.  It’s not that I get bored with people in my life too often… but it’s nice to bring in new blood and see more of humanity.

One of my favorite quotes:

“Sometimes you run into someone, regardless of age or sex, whom you know absolutely to be an independently operating part of the Whole that goes on all the time inside yourself, and the eye-motes go click and you hear the tribal tones of voice resonate, and there it is – you recognize them.” – Anne Lamott
 

Also, this:

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And it’s these “ah-ha” kindreds, as well as these people who have something that makes them completely stand out, that maintain my faith in humanity.  I think you also have to let these people just be what they are without forcing these “single serving friends” to mean more than they can.  If you meet someone on Twitter who shares your love of Supernatural and you go on to become BFFs, great.  If someone shares a great moment with you and you never hear from them again after that day, that can be great too, if you look at it right.  Let it be what it is.

I guess all this boils down to letting go of control.  Control of other people.  Control of relationship definitions.  Control of what you think you need and what you think you need to be.  Let everyone in your life have their own space that is just theirs and don’t demand they fit the mold of some idea in your head.  With less pressure, less expectations, who knows?  You might find fulfillment from a thousand different sources.

Hermithood

It’s that time of year when I typically have had it with winter anyway, but today I’ve spent most of my time eagerly anticipating the moment when the wind is going to finish tearing off my neighbor’s screen door so that it joins the blowing snow, which just doesn’t seem to want to fly down

I miss the color green.
I can’t even remember what dirt smells like.
I remember what birds sound like only because of TV.
I’m sick of being cooped up and having way too much time to think and consequently freaking out about every life decision I’ve ever made.

 But here’s the thing: Despite the weather, despite hating being cooped up (yes, I could do things outside, but I’m not a crazy winter person), I really don’t mind this winter causing me to spend so much time alone.  I would like to be out, at the park, at the beach, among the living, etc.  But I’ve gotten pretty good at doing these things by myself.  Maybe it’s part of being a writer, but I like to be out in the world and just observe.  I like having great stretches of time where I can think without having to entertain anyone else. Selfishly, I like doing things my way.  Less selfishly, I like not making other people accommodate me into their plans.

Of course I like spending time with my family and my friends.  Most of them.  Many of them.  Some of them.  Sometimes.  It would be absolutely detrimental to my mental wellbeing if I didn’t interact with people regularly. I genuinely love meeting new people.  I’ve had a job in the past which required me to be more social than any of you probably will ever be in your life, so forgive me if I smirk a bit when you get all judge-y like I can’t be social.  (Okay, that started to get specific…) Anyway, yes, I like people.  I’d say I need people.  I may be an introvert, but people feed me creatively, spiritually, etc. in ways that neither I nor Netflix can.

But my usual, comfortable state involves a table for one.

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The natural question most people ask is, “Don’t you wish you were in a relationship so that you’re not alone all the time?” My first reaction is usually to find this insulting.  My second reaction is to take a deep breath and try to make the person understand that I’m quite happy being single.  Well-meaning relatives and friends of course try to “help.”  My usual response echoes Liz Lemons’s “No, thank you, please!” Okay, being in a relationship wouldn’t be a bad idea, but having some guy in my life usually just exhausts me.  If someone wants to see me more than once a week, I start to feel claustrophobic.  Maybe at some point someone will surprise me, but I don’t NEED someone to make me feel content.  I think that’s a much healthier space to be in – hoping to be surprised – than dating anyone/everyone in the hope that I won’t have to be alone.

If I’m being honest, most of the time it’s probably better that I’m not around people.  Usually in public my verbal edit switch IS clicked to on, but I apparently have lost all ability to control my facial expressions.  While I might really, really want to spend time out with friends, after a few hours that enthusiasm is likely to wane and I’d rather be back enjoying Sammy (my TV) or else writing.  However, this time of year, I think everyone has had it with being stuck inside and so we’re a bit more likely to enjoy each other’s company just for the sake of being in each other’s company. I can be okay in public, and this time of year even I am willing to give it a go.

 On that note, I have to go get ready to leave my apartment.  Good luck to everyone dealing with me tonight.

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