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Good job!!!

19 Jul

Good-job

I’ve been studying this summer, very intensely, which is why I haven’t been writing lately. All in all, I can say that things are going rather well.

I ended it with B, the sensitive yet macho Argentinian broker I’d been seeing for the past three months. It just didn’t seem like it could go anywhere, and as much as I liked the notion of living for now (and as much as the sex was spectacular), it’s just not me to invest emotionally in something that I know in my heart has no future. I feel good about ending it. I mean, it sucked breaking up with him. And I was a terrible coward and did it in a very long WhatsApp conversation. But it was a good thing ending it. And he actually seemed to take it relatively well. I had been sending signals. He’s a smart sensitive guy, he saw it coming.

The main thing that was difficult about this breakup, was the fact that he really cared about me. He thought I was beautiful and smart and fun and a good mom. I got loads of affirmation from him on a daily basis. And I realized suddenly how difficult it was for me to give this up. It’s the best thing in the world to feel loved, isn’t it? But there was more to it.

In the teacher-training program I’ve been taking this summer, we’ve been talking about positive reinforcement. Everyone’s always talking about the importance of giving children constant positive feedback. In my 6 years of teaching, this is something I’ve always made a point of doing, and have been very good at. I give a lot of positive reinforcement to my students, as much of it as possible, and never empty compliments – but rather actual concrete feedback about things they’ve done.

Well, I’ve been reading my Maria Montessori, and apparently, according to her, us adults basically just have to shut up. Let the children do whatever it is they feel compelled to do, to follow their instincts, their “inner guide” that will lead them to meaningful learning, without needing to be taught, without needing us to tell them how well they’re doing. If we constantly give them feedback for their work, how will they ever learn to give feedback to themselves? Huh. Good point.

Most of my life I was utterly unable of giving any feedback to myself. Well, that’s not entirely true. I was horrible to myself. I was always criticizing and scolding myself for not being thin enough, pretty enough, quick enough, knowledgeable enough, fun enough and so on and so forth… It took a baby and a painful breakup to get me to finally acknowledge my own strength. To finally be able to tell myself: Good job!

I still don’t do it often enough. It’s still super difficult. And I yearn, constantly for the approval of others. But I’m learning. And maybe I’ll try to hold back a bit on the positive reinforcement with my students this year. And maybe next time my son builds a spectacular Lego tower and admires it in awe, I’ll just smile, and let him clap for himself and tell himself, with his limited vocabulary, how awesome he is.

He’s Here and He’s Good to Me

24 May

There’s a new man in my life. Unexpected, it seems to me, predictable as hell if you ask my friend M.

M says I don’t know how to do casual, and she’s probably right. Here’s something I realized recently: I started dating B slightly under two months ago, and from the start anyone who asked me about him received the same answer: It’s fun, but it’s not going anywhere. B is nothing like me. We are drastically different in our occupations, interests, preferences, lifestyles, our mother tongues, our cultures, in the way we manage our interpersonal relationships.

Oddly enough though we are eerily alike in spirit. We share similar personal experiences. We’ve been hurt in similar ways. We have similar self-constraints. We’ve overcome similar obstacles. We take pride in our (sometimes overly) high self-awareness. We both basically think we know everything there is to know about ourselves and it takes us by surprise if someone manages to point out something we’ve overlooked.

And there is another striking similarity: We are both fearless. I don’t mean that we know no fear. At least for me, fear is an emotion I have gotten to know rather closely these past two years. But I don’t let it run my life, anymore at least. On the contrary, I am often aware that if something scares me to death, it may be just what I need.

So last night, when I said ‘I love you’, and I felt like I might faint, I knew it was probably a good thing. I could feel myself starting to think fast. What the hell am I doing? I hardly know this guy. He’s probably going to hurt me. Anyway, I’m not looking for a serious relationship now (I bet M will laugh as she reads this).  Why can’t I be a little less impulsive? Why can’t I keep my mouth shut? I bet he’s not going to say it back.

He did, though, about fifteen minutes later.

As we lay in bed hugging after a session of mind-blowing post-I-love-you sex, I remembered suddenly that I was sure things with SG would be casual. I had no intention of falling in love with him.  But what’s even more interesting is what I remembered next. Meeting my friends after a 4th date with BD, nearly 15 years ago. Describing our relationship as a ‘casual-summer-fling’. Telling my friends we were going to take things slow.

So M may be right. I guess I don’t do casual. I guess I’m easy to fall in love. I don’t know if that makes me easy, or overly accepting. Is it odd that the first guy who hit on me after my breakup, became probably the greatest love of my life? That it was more difficult to overcome my breakup with him than with my husband, father of my son? That thinking about him still triggers emotions that I haven’t felt towards BD in years? And is it odd that as soon as I was ready to start something new, the first man I dated, that I intended to lure into bed after months of unbearable loneliness, was able to provoke similar emotions in me? Being as different as he is from me? With all the little things about him that I find almost intolerable? His dog-eat-dog profession? His work stories that make me cringe? His incomprehensible taste in music? His freezer, crammed with frozen pizzas and low quality non-dairy ice cream?

But there we were last night. Laughing about something in bed. It’s so nice to just laugh sometimes. I do that a lot with him. He asks in Spanish how I feel, and I answer ‘bien’ and he asks me that every so often when we’re together, because he really wants to know. He always wants to know how I feel. He respects my boundaries: the things I cannot do, or promise, or say. He remembers what I like and dislike, and it matters to him. He’s here. He’s good to me. So I feel entitled to love him, even if it means nothing more than stating what he makes me feel.

I guess it’s true, I may not be capable of casual. I may be prone to falling in love. But am I capable of just being? With someone who is kind to me? With someone who is there?