Becoming a hermit again

Once again I’m feeling my hermetic tendencies taking hold of me for a variety of reasons. It’s like my will to say no for dumb reasons is totally taking over and I try not to let it because once I say no it’s hard to stop. Some of the rules I set for myself for this project are that I won’t say yes to anything that’s dangerous to myself or others, that I won’t say yes to an activity if I haven’t slept enough because I want to keep being healthy, and that I won’t say yes if I don’t have the money for an activity because I don’t have savings or a way to bail myself out if I overspend.

But this is about more than that:

  • Living in Argentina economics are a big deal. Inflation here is rampant and it’s hard for me to say yes when the people I care about can’t, because then I have no one to go with me. I start to feel guilty or ashamed. I realize I have to work on this. There is no fun in life when you’re ashamed to have fun.
  • Dating. I haven’t quite put myself out there and after dealing with so many issues with men, past relationships and an abusive guy (well, he was verbally abusive), I’m relearning how to do things. My judgement around what flirting is has totally been impaired. I don’t know what to do anymore. Still, since the person I like doesn’t like me I decided that when I get paid I’m going to splurge and buy myself a copy of Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her because perhaps Yunior will help me better understand myself. And because at least I can say yes to me when no one else can or will.
  • Writing, art, and other creative hobbies. I’ve just hit a slump.

This project is teaching me a lot about my flaws. I’m trying not to feel guilty for any of them because no one is perfect. I’m trying to work on things that I just never dealt with, but overall. For many years my heart was like a really closed oyster–it’s just hard to open up, but dammit I’m trying.

On small adventures

As a society we’re taught to look for big things, big thrills, big wads of cash. Or maybe this is just something I learned growing up in the USA. I know that for a long time I felt unsatisfied with life and even my own achievements because nothing I did seemed big. 

I still haven’t finished editing my short film or writing my feature scripts. I still haven’t sold a lot of copies of my poetry book, had a large art show, or written an article with thousands of shares. I still haven’t found the love of my life, finished paying off my car, or my student loans. I still haven’t gone to Iguazu or other parts of Argentina as I wish I could. But if there’s one thing I’m learning more about is that in our search for big things, big loves, big moments and big dreams we lose track of the beauty in the present moment. Life’s big moments are made out of the seemingly ordinary and “meaningless” ones. I’m slowly learning to enjoy these.

Here’s a celebration of a few small adventures that seem like nothing to most people, but mean a lot to me:

  • I made spring rolls for friends who seemed to enjoy them even though I was terrified that the peanut sauce would be too much for my friends.
  • I showed a few new girlfriends around Barrio Chino even though I consider myself a terrible tour guide.
  • A friend told me about a Couchsurfing meet-up in La Plata, Argentina, a small town south of here. He didn’t go. I went and made a few new friends I wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t listened to him.
  • There were a lot of leftovers from the spring roll/international food event I had on Sunday and I invited people over the whole week. I got to actually talk to my friends without actually having to cook and it was a lovely pre-Easter week.
  • Some friends came from Mexico and I offered to show them around. We had a great time today.

Maybe to some these small things seem rather boring, but cherishing my friends is a small way of saying yes to me.

P.S. Eating meat, especially processed meat, still kills my stomach.

 

Losing my fear of men: dating in Buenos Aires

There are tons of phobias out there: arachnophobia, agoraphobia, and although I have never seen a professional for this, I know androphobia–fear of men–exists. I didn’t grow up with my father, one of my uncles was an alcoholic, one of my aunts married a man who abused her, and one of my cousins married a serial cheater. It didn’t help that the abuser in the family was also a pervert who would sexually harass my mother and I since as long as I could remember.

The beginning

For many years I wore a shell to protect me from men and after a short-lived, but bad relationship I found myself feeling completely torn to pieces. I had never thought I’d date someone who was verbally abusive toward me or who would disrespect me that much, and when it happened I felt absolutely stupid. It took years for the damage to undo itself. Sure, I went out on dates and had occasional sex but there ways no way in hell I’d ever let a man ever hurt me that badly ever again. I never let anyone in, even if I liked them.

Sometime around November 2015 I realized I was dying inside and felt the need to make myself live again. So before anyone asks, one of my main motivations for this year of yes is to lose my fear of men. I’m afraid of meeting men who are abusive, I used to be terrified of men I met at clubs, bars, or other social situations. Having grown up in a religious household where many women also ended up being nothing punching bags, I was especially afraid of men I met who were extremely religious.

When I came down here, I really only intended to work and had no thoughts of staying and didn’t care if I had fun. I had been processing other issues: financial problems, a broken heart, and extremely low self-esteem. Meeting a guy was just not a priority and even though there have been nice guys here in Buenos Aires despite the constant complaints I’ve heard from women here, I decided that one of my motivations for this project would be to confront this fear. To do this, I would simply trust my gut.

The thing about instincts is that many women and children are socialized to be nice to everyone even if he’s a creep. Granted, I know not every guy is perverted sexual harasser, but the ones who are give us a feeling in our gut that we should follow. Nice guys, as it turns out, also give off a nice vibe.

Buenos Aires men, or my experience with them, anyway

There have been instances here where the frankness of men here has scared me. I’ve had several instances in which men here just literally grab my face and kiss it. Only two of these instances was consensual, and I’m only friends (albeit an aloof friend) of one guy, whom I shall now refer to as The Guy from the Bus Stop.

The Guy from the Bus Stop is someone I met at an American-themed bar here in the Palermo neighborhood sometime around September 2015. Before I continue with this part of the story, let me explain how my life was around September 2015: I had just gotten over two consecutive bouts of bronchitis and for many months now, had barely been making enough to make ends meet. To top it off, I made the mistake of moving down here while still paying off my car and my bank account was consistently in the red. I worked very hard teaching English classes, dealt with many issues, lived in a house that I hated, and was just extremely unhappy.

Back to The Guy from the Bus Stop.

When I spoke to him he was very sweet and we talked for a bit, but I didn’t think much of it. I decided to go home and so did he and he offered to walk me to the bus stop. It was about a 15-20 minute walk and kept talking the whole way. Talking to him was distracting me from all the issues I had to confront when I headed back home.

Somehow as we were waiting for my bus he just kissed me and since I wasn’t prepared and was at a time in my life when men, or finding love (or just plain old getting laid), mattered to me I didn’t think much of it either. But I let him keep doing it. He eventually asked me to go home with him and I refused. The issues I mentioned before were a big factor in my decision, but frankly, my fear of men was an even bigger factor.

I got on the first bus that headed near my house after saying “no” and felt I did the right thing. I didn’t feel I would ever see him again. I felt a little bad, but I was too depressed to even remember his name. Mostly though, he reminded me of the men in the past who had abused my family members. He had asked me to go home with him even though I was a stranger, and I was sure he didn’t see me as a person.

We kept running into each other in group settings and as I would speak to him, I never got the urge to hide and never felt uncomfortable. Slowly, I realized I misjudged him and made a mistake, but it was probably too late to change his mind, so I never tried even though I developed a small crush on him. Although we’re not close, I consider him a friend and someone who is always welcome at my house.

I don’t recommend just randomly making out or hooking up as therapy. You might not be able to befriend someone after you reject them. I feel that I changed my mind about The Guy from the Bus Stop when I started to change my mind about my own circumstances. I started to make a bit more money and be able to socialize.

Around November 2015 I started being able to afford my bills–something I had seldom been able to do before then. Now that I was able to survive, I made the decision to work on my own issues because no one should be rejected solely because of them. I learned this from The Guy from the Bus Stop, and I’m grateful for that lesson and for his kindness to this day. I’m sure I won’t say yes to every guy I meet just because of this experiment but I will never say no to someone ever again from a position of fear. This decision has been a very liberating one for me.

The Guy from the Bus Stop made me realize I had been wrong for so many years. In many ways, it’s a story with a happy ending even if it never became anything else than just one kiss.

Couchsurfing and men

Since beginning my year of yes I’ve gone out with four guys from Couchsurfing and have made it a point to initiate conversations with people who seem nice. I follow my gut. I don’t consider any of these meet-ups to be dates, but they’ve been a good opportunity to meet nice men that I know I won’t be afraid of. Things only ran afoul with one of these people, but by then I was able to see that we just had no chemistry. The one guy ended up liking me for real and I just didn’t feel it even after going out a few times.

I’m not really looking for some end result with any of this, except to lose my fear of men in a healthy way and forming healthy friendships with the opposite sex. We live in a world in which women are taught to be objects of desire. We’re taught to be ashamed when we say yes and no to men and what they want from us, and so I hope to slowly combat those prejudices and challenge those fears in myself–one friendship at a time.

 

On crushing

If you take food as seriously as I do, then you know you’re crushing hard if you think about said crush more than you think about food.

OR you know you like a guy when you’re eating really delicious food and you’re thinking about him more than enjoying said meal.

Enough said.

It began on December 21, 2015

foto (35)I began my year of yes on December 21, 2016 because that was the first day of summer here in Buenos Aires, where I currently live. At the time I had left my crappy house and moved into a nicer apartment because a good friend had to return to the US. After two years of earning barely enough to get by, having deficits in my bank account and not being able to do much because of my terrible wages I was finally in a place where I could earn better money and afford a few more comforts.

I wanted a change.

One of my hobbies is to watch silly videos on YouTube and I ran into one in which Shonda Rhimes discussed her book about her own year of yes. As I heard her speak about this endeavor I felt I could totally relate. Since moving to Buenos Aires I had been too busy thinking about my problems (mostly financial) and hadn’t really been present. Most of the time I could barely afford my basic necessities and found myself saying no–not just to going out, not just to trips or vacations, but to new friends, new possibilities, and even nice men who had no idea how broken I was at the time.

The weight of “no” began to feel like a heavy weight on my shoulders. I would spend days and nights wondering “what if.” As I examined my life I saw that this was simply a pattern of mine. There could be many root causes of this. I was teased as a child and born cross-eyed and for many years wore a mask of stoicism to hide from the world. I would reject people before they had the chance to reject me. I would reject men before they could see that I felt I wasn’t good enough, beautiful enough, or fun enough. Then I wouldn’t get hurt.

But I was tired of not getting hurt, because for most of 2014 and 2015 I felt absolutely nothing. I would laugh, but wasn’t sincere. I barely smiled. Social media was also a constant reminder that I was missing out on life. I was standing still in a moving world, so as I heard what Shonda Rhimes said, I felt I needed to do something to change my life.

I couldn’t just move to another country and expect a change á la Eat, Pray, Love. I had already done that when I packed my bags and left the USA. I couldn’t just pray the pain away because I grew up in a very religious Christian family and was already praying too much about it. I couldn’t just eat because I was already a well-known glutton among my friends. None of these things would ever help me: so I began to say yes.

Now that I’ve been in Buenos Aires for two years I have almost daily deja vu moments. So when I walk down the street I see the bars I didn’t go, the birthday parties I didn’t attend because I had no money for drinks, the potlucks I didn’t attend because I was too mired in my own depression, and street corners where I met nice guys (some of whom made very strong declarations about wanting to take me home with them, telling me how much they liked me, etc) that I simply said no to. And so, I would wonder about what would have been, and could have been now that it never happened.

When you consistently say no, you’re not just denying something to someone else. You lose a bit of yourself in the process. When you wear a mask to front strength the person you really drain is you.

In the past three months I’ve met a lot of new friends, have gone out and been a part of many new experiences. For many, these experiences are ordinary, but for someone who previously had no money to socialize these things are a big deal. I’ve begun to slowly feel things again. I don’t know where my new experiences or friends will take me but I’ve slowly begun to feel less afraid of life, of taking risks, of meeting new people, and I’m even losing my fear of falling in love.

Even this blog is a “yes” that I gave to a friend of a friend. I didn’t realize how many other people–especially women–want to challenge their own fears and themselves. I feel as if men are socialized to take charge and ask important questions, while women are taught to say no to ourselves, to our dreams, even our most basic desires. So I hope to write things here that will help others who may want to do something to change their own perspective. I will probably make many mistakes along the way, but I hope I and others learn from them.

When I began this experiment I set a few ground rules: I can’t say yes to anything that would hurt or harm someone emotionally, physically or in any other way. If I feel unsafe around someone who is asking me to do something with them, I’ll say no. I also say no if I’m extremely tired. I made the mistake of saying yes to absolutely everything during my first two weeks and barely got any sleep, which made me cranky. I also have to have the economic means to partake in any activities. I don’t expect anyone to cough up the costs of me saying yes to something unless they explicitly say it’s ok with them or it’s their idea. It’s why I made the drawing you see above. It’s in my room remind me of my core values during this journey.

Over the past few weeks, I feel my intuition has gotten better as a result of this experiment. It makes me realize how much I was losing out on life from saying no to things that scare me, because I was losing myself in the process as well. I hope never to have to go through that again, and I hope to find that inner voice, and to be free.