What it’s Been Like for Me to Write in this Blog for a Year

We recently celebrated our first anniversary of our blog (like a few days ago). Happy birthday to us! Writing in this blog has brought up quite a few things for me over the year, and so I thought I’d post what it has been like to write a blog for a year, and as such, what it has meant to me.

1. It’s often changed the way I think about events or experiences. Especially at the beginning, but even today (like literally today), I’ve thought in blog terms. I’m not sure if this makes sense but my point of view or “author voice” has popped into the way I’m viewing my daily life. I sometimes think in blog posts. I think that makes me a better writer and more reflective about the meaning of experiences at times versus just going through the motions.

2. It has been frustrating at times. The hardest part of writing a blog is my desire to be authentic and wanting to write about what’s hard. There are still many things I haven’t written for fear of context. There have been things that have been taken out of context. I have had to deal with family and friends questioning what and why I wrote what I wrote. I sometimes write posts and delete them for fear of what others think. I sometimes have great posts in my head that don’t materialize into a post because of the same reasons. The thing is, the more your audience grows, the more impact you potentially can have – which is both a blessing and a challenge. If I have a wish of what the next year will bring, is caring less about what others think and more trusting and caring for myself! And yet at the same time…

3. It’s been so damn liberating at times. Although, there are times I “censor” myself, for each of those times, there is a time I wrote about what hurts and what is joyful and what is me, despite what others may think (although sometimes I do things to decrease the reach of a post). I’ve been able to put into writing abstract thoughts that are hard for me to sometimes say to people. I’ve shed some of the mask and have been vulnerable. I have written about things that make me human, but bring me shame. Sometimes that shame disappears or decreases after writing. That is liberating.

4. I’ve reconnected more with one of my first loves – writing. Many people who know “post high school LeAnna” do not know that I wrote poetry and short stories all through grade school and won a few district wide prizes. Few people probably know that actually. I’ve always wanted to publish a book, I’ve always wanted to publish my poetry. I think in poetry and flowery prose. But due to unfortunate circumstances and some shame, I tucked those dreams away. Writing here as made me write more and want to write even more. It woke up that sleeping dream, tapped me on my shoulder, and my pen has found a voice again.

5. I’ve had the ability to connect with other people on a different level. The best parts of my blogging experience are “me too” texts, “you get me” inbox messages, and when people tell me to continue writing my story, that my vulnerability makes them feel less alone. I have a few purposes in my life, but I know one is to connect deeply with others and to help them through various parts of their journey (often not through a very specific piece). Counseling, teaching/education, and activism, have all been vessels for this purpose, but never did I think my writing could be. Those comments make me want to write more and boldly. They make me want to not censor, to be fully human in order to connect with other humans.

6. It has made me reflect and connect more pieces of the puzzle known as myself. I started out only thinking I’d talk wittingly about my dating escapades. That quickly became something else – about who I am, my spirituality, the way I see the world, the toughest things I deal with on a daily basis. Writing here as made me think about and explore the angels and demons of what makes me. It’s made me evaluate what’s important at times. Writing for me is a process of discovery, and each time I write something here, I discover a little more about me. I’ve always been this way (see above) but I somehow lost this as an adult. I’m happy to be returning.

Blogging has been a fulfilling, but not perfect experience. I have had so much fun, and sometimes doubt, sharing a little more in depth piece of my soul with you. We have grown to over 75 followers, and tbh, that’s more than I ever thought. I hope you enjoy our thoughts and continue to follow us. I’m excited what two years of blogging will teach me.

Happy birthday A Tale of Two Cities followers!

I Downloaded Tinder…Again…

Tinder Phone

(Dislcaimer: Some slight sexual language ahead)

After being in DC officially for a month, I’ve decided to put down the “hookup” apps (Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d, etc.) and decided to go into the more traditional “dating” app route (Tinder, Match, etc.).

I can hear the Straights already; “Wait, I thought Tinder WAS a hookup app?”.

And yes, for straight people it is, but in the gay community, Tinder is used more to actually get to know people. Well, at least that’s what I use it for. You know, try and find friends, go on dates, etc.  However, yes it can still be used to hook up, but Tinder tends to move more slowly.  So when you have apps out there like Grindr and Scuff where you can literally tell if a horny guy is standing next to you, primed and ready, why would you use Tinder to hookup when you have that?

Anywho…

I’ve been using the “hookup” apps to kind of get my feel for the type of guys who were in my area.  I mean, I was using them in Charlotte for the last three months I was there, and it worked out pretty well, so i figured why not continue.  But in DC….I was not ready.  And this is an understatement. In a phrase, these apps in DC is major sensory overload and the way my personality is set up, it became very hard for me to deal.  You see, in Charlotte, where the gay community is vastly smaller than DC’s, you would maybe have about 50 guys (if that) close by on a good day.  Which, they would still message you, but it was manageable.  In DC, there’s probably 1000s of guys (exaggeration) within a mile (maybe closer), that are spamming your inbox with “Nice”, or “Hey handsome”, or “Damn you sexy”, or “Looking?” and it gets to be a little much for this timid, anxious Southern boy who just wants to browse around and admire guys unnoticed, you know.

With apps like Grindr, anybody (that you haven’t already blocked) is able to send you a message whether you want them to or not. There isn’t any “swiping” or “matching” so you basically are like 1 meal on a grid of 100, looking like a buffet of dick and ass just waiting to be devoured.  And let me just say, if you want to be devoured, go right ahead, I’m not judging. But, to add to it, you also have a general idea of the vicinity that someone is located in, which sounds scary at first, but it’s not. It’s pretty much a normal thing.  But yes, you’re bound to get some kind of message in your inbox that leads to you having to make a choice.  That choice is either to respond to Horny McHorndog, or ignore. Being that I’m not the typical sexually frustrated man that just wants to get off, I tend to ignore, or explain that I’m not there to hook up, and a lot of times people will get the point. But I’ve had my fair share of jackasses who were determined and didn’t take no for an answer. Obviously you can block these people, but this could still seem a bit scary or frightening, but then you remember that this guy is literally begging a stranger for sex on an app and then you get over it.

So yeah, I came to the realization today that my personality can’t handle this and does not belong on these kind of apps in this city. I need to slow it down, like, A LOT. So Tinder is the solution,  for right now until I get tired of it. Maybe I’ll bring back The Tinder Experiment (lol).

Honestly, if I could stay sane without any interaction with humans I probably would ultimately just keep to myself, but even I need some kind of face to face interaction at some points. Most people reading this would probably be like, “why don’t you go out to a bar or something?”. The number one reason is MONEY! Life ain’t cheap yo. lol.  But no, going out to a bar would be fine, but I don’t take random compliments or flirting very well (I’m very aloof and oblivious to strangers), and I end up just looking at people all awkwardly (I’m a mess).  I’m most comfortable when things are planned out in advanced.  It’s a part of that slight social anxiety thing I have.

So with that said, hello Tinder….again (groans).  Maybe this go round you can help with some lasting connections; Or maybe I’ll just delete you in a month just like every other app…

There has to be an easier way…

The Anxious Case of Malcolmin Button

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So for most of you who really know me, you know that I suffer from social anxiety. I used to mask it a lot by just calling it being introverted, or shy or whatever, which I am introverted but a tad on the extroverted side (when I’m in a “safe space”) and a lot of people tend to not understand how that works. So when they see me out here on Instagram living my “best life”, they think “oh, he’s such an outgoing guy. What does he mean he’s ‘shy'”. Well, it’s a very multifaceted thing, and it has layers. So I’m going to try and outline how my brain works for you all.

Anxiety affects people in different ways. My anxiety plays on some of my biggest insecurities. Be it, how I feel about the appearance of my body, my teeth, if I actually sound like an idiot when I talk to people, if I’m talking to much, if I’m actually interesting… The list goes on and on; and the basis of my being introverted is because these thoughts run through my head consistently when talking to friends, family, people I’m meeting for the first time, etc., so it causes me to shut down, and stay in my safe space.

Well, having social anxiety in a new city is not great at all, lol. And when I moved, I knew this would be a big thing that I’d have to encounter because even though I do have associates here that I can hang with, the dynamic of those friends/associates are totally different than what I’m used to. Another anxiety fueled thought I have regarding this is “those guys have their own circles and I don’t want to intrude…”. And I’m sure that’s beyond the truth, but I just can’t help it. My anxiety causes me to feel like I’m a burden to people sometimes.

So, with that said, I made a decision a week or so ago try and be better about my anxiety. Basically, I want to try and manage it better; and for those who follow me on Instagram, you have probably noticed, I’m doing a lot more than when I first got here. And I won’t lie, the first two weeks I was here, I was a hermit. So much so that I lost 5 lbs because I didn’t want to go anywhere at all. Didn’t want to eat out at restaurants (the social gathering pastime), or go to a bar to party. But that is totally different now as I’ve been getting my feet wet being social with new people.

This is how I’m working to fight my anxiety:

1. Talking about it

Be it a therapist, or a friend, or even some of the new people that I’ve met, I’ve been super open about my social anxiety. One reason, is because I don’t want people to feel rejected or dissed when I do certain things regarding social situations, and two, it lets people get a better understanding of how I operate. Talking about my anxiety with people sets the stage on how comfortable I am when it comes to making certain decisions down the road.

2. Having a pet

OK this one depends. I know that everyone is not a pet person, or can afford a pet, but I thank whatever magical being responsible for my dog Sora. She’s very outgoing and playful and loving and she just makes getting out and doing things very easy. Even if I’m not necessarily being social, Sora has to go on her long walks. She loves seeing the other dogs in the neighborhood and enjoys the people too! So walking around with her allows me to get out of the house and enjoy the world outside which, in turn allows my mind to focus on other things and not my anxiety.

3. Doing things even though I don’t want to

So I was invited to a new friend’s place for a game night over the weekend. Knowing of my anxious tendencies he was understanding if I didn’t want to go, but he was also very pushy about it. Saying that I needed to go and meet people and whatnot (which, I mean, yeah ok). However, I was invited like on Monday, and the thing wasn’t until Saturday, and my brain was already processing the “questions” about how will people react to me even being there. I did go though, and I had a good time.

4. Not being afraid to say no

OK so I know this sounds contradictory, but just as much as you should let yourself step out of your comfort zone, you should also respect it. So when I find myself trying to “do the most”, I have to realize that I am an introvert that suffers from social anxiety first, and that I need to slow it down a bit. Take it back a few notches. Because when my social battery is completely drained, paired with the anxiety of being social, I tend to blow up and it’s not pretty.

5. Having friends who respect my anxiety and help me with it

Having understanding friends is key, because they should understand what you need when you need it. I know I touched on this before, but friends should be helpful when you talk to them about it. They should help you overcome it, as well as help you when you need to slow down a bit. This will be key in forming new friendships here in DC, and I can’t wait to get out there.

So yeah, these are the main keys of how I’m trying to overcome my social anxiety, and I feel like it’s working. For now, at least. I hope to continue to not look at this as a “problem” per se, but more so as another layer to my awesome personality. I may always have anxiety, but I am not going to let it run my life.

Advice for When You Feel You Have Nothing to Offer the World

Lately, I’ve felt that I have little to nothing to offer the world. That there is nothing of substantive value that I can give and that I’m more of a burden to the world, friends, and family than anything else.

It is not a fun place to be in. I’m also a ruminator, which means once I get that in my head, I spend hours and sleepless nights coming up with thoughts to support that notion.

Have you ever been there?

I spent last night and the night before engulfed in nightmare after nightmare (some real horror shit too) in which I just failed person after person. I saved no one and in many cases caused their pain or demise. In one, I even ended up becoming one of the monsters after being unable to save them from an inevitable death, because I realized (the monsters reminded me), “you’re just one of us anyway” as they casually played video games.

I was definitely in a bad headspace. I went into work today, to meet 8 college students that will work in the department I direct, thinking I ultimately fail everyone, how can I ever provide them anything? I felt hopeless and empty.

I walked in ready to fake it, and my office manager tells me how much her teen daughter loved meeting me for a brief 15 min this weekend. She told me that she thought I was funny and beautiful and really cool.

And then the 8 pairs of eyes and my two professional staff eagerly awaited my opening remarks this morning. I made them laugh. The staff enjoyed the breakfast I brought in. The students warmed up to me. Slowly, the day became a little brighter and little more hopeful. I laughed. I didn’t fake a single thing. I was in my element even for a few hours today and it felt good.

I am not sure if this is the last time I will like I have no value, but even the thought that I could impact a young woman with a simple interaction or serve as a good leader to my staff helped me to find a little ray of sunshine today. The universe knew I knew I needed to feel valued and loved. The universe delivered. She hadn’t forgotten me. I rejoiced at knowing that.

If you feel sometimes that you have nothing to offer, I challenge you to look for small incidents that can affirm that you absolutely are where you should be. Don’t be afraid to relish in those moments a little longer on days you need it most. Forget what people say about pride or boastful ways – sometimes it is an act of absolute survival to really enjoy every single affirmation of circumstance and belonging, no matter how seemingly small they are. None of this is a coincidence; you are here for a reason, exactly where you are, as you are, as imperfect as you stand.

And maybe that reason is for a 14 year old girl to look up to you and think you’re cool. And as seemingly small as that is, it could be inspiring the next generation after all. You are part of something bigger than yourself and you were no accident. You’re not a burden. You have so much to offer and you offer it all the time. You are time and place imagined today, at this moment. Do not give up.

With love always.

Joy

She is a tower of strength

Her beauty coveted and unparalleled

Clothed in robes of gold,

and warming and welcoming in ways

we wish wearily for.

They call her Joy.

We spend our lives searching for her

in empty homes

Seeking to fill heartless holes

we call it happiness

But Joy evades us

Joy is a Black woman

(all things full of creation are)

basking in the beauty of beautiful rainshowers

smiling and singing

about the sun that succumbs to the necessary downpour

Daring to wet her coiled, kinky, cocky locks

by the tsunami of cleansing

that begets around her.

Joy is pancakes after sleepless nights –

The knowing that sustenance from the sweet syrup

sticks to your soul

and invites sleep on slow Sunday mornings

As rest is refreshing whenever it agrees with us.

Joy is running

Running forever

Barefooted

Broken

Beautiful

Backed with the strength of our ancestors

who softly whisper “freedom”

as you run zig zag through fields of familiar and forgotten wildflowers.

Joy is

Hard

Hell overcome

Hope mainfested

But mostly,

Joy is

the crossroad of acceptance and liberation.

 

Behavioral Patterns of a Cow

Disclaimer: I am writing this after getting a solid 15 minutes of sleep. I may feel differently when not sleep deprived, but since these thoughts are what kept me up, I’m not sure.

“Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free.”- Anonymous

Last night I laid awake, not in my own bed, tossing and turning while contemplating this saying. After what has become a pretty routine night of tv, cards, recapping the day, and genuinely great company, I could not fall asleep due to the realization that…I am a cow.

No, I am not beating myself up for my weight struggles. Yes, I have done that this weekend as I failed at what was supposed to be the easiest way to lose weight ever. This is not that post.

This post is a realization that it’s me, I am the problem. I have always been the problem.

Let’s be clear, I’m not out here acting crazy, keying dudes cars, calling girls phones, throwing fits and generally being a terrible person. Most men that I’ve dated have noted that I’m wonderful, amazing, and exactly what they should be looking for. Should being the key word. They aren’t, but they should be, and if they were, I would definitely be on the top of the list. Often times when they think they are looking for it, they pop back up. I’ve come to realize that even then they typically still aren’t. No matter how many chances you give them.

I can’t fault them for it. Everyone is entitled to their own level of readiness. Everyone is entitled to their own version of commitment. I’ve decided that the trick is finding someone who wants a version as similar as possible to the version you want. Until now, I didn’t realize how it important it was that they want that now and not later.

I am well aware of my dating history. I was there for all of it. I made all the decisions with a clear mind. I was not under the influence of any sort of drugs or alcohol. The only thing that clouded my judgment was the hope of love. For me, this is quite possibly more powerful than any drug.

And that’s the key to this whole thing. I have the tendency to dive head first into things, all for the chance of love. My entire life I was lead to believe that that was the way things go. You grow up. Along the way you meet someone. You vow to spend your life together. You have babies and you live happily ever after. Granted, I have done things out of order, but that doesn’t seem to stop other single moms from finding love. So I hold onto hope. And at a potential sign of possibility, I’m all in. It’s not healthy but it’s the way I am. The reality is, however, I’m 30, single and in yet another situationship.

Situationship: a situation that looks like a relationship but for one reason or another is not actually a relationship no matter how much you want it to be. Usually results in one person getting everything they want without much commitment and the other constantly questioning their self-worth.

I am always the other, and lately I’ve been struggling with the thought that it’s probably because I am the cow. I am giving away the milk for free. There is no need to buy.

What is the milk:

Someone who listens and genuinely cares, someone pretty to look at, laughter, entertainment, easy going, little to no drama, home cooked meals,tasty desserts, stability, maturity, consistency, friendship, acceptance, support, and sometimes, what people think of first when they hear that saying, sex.

To me, I am not giving these things away without thought. If someone is getting them it is because I can see it leading somewhere and I am choosing to share these things with them. As mature and consenting adults I figure that things can grow into something more. I have hope.

I am a hopeful cow.

What I’m coming to terms with today is that while all of that may be true, it still doesn’t mean that the other consenting adult has to have hope as well. At least not for this situationship. They are completely allowed to accept the milk with zero intention of buying the cow. It is my job as the cow to determine their intentions, listen when they tell me their intentions and decide if this is a situation I want to be in. I may be a cow but I am a free cow. I am not required to remain in any one pasture giving away milk if I don’t want to. I’m also not required to avoid a pasture just because it doesn’t look like the pasture that people in my life think it should be. I’m also allowed to change my mind about what pasture I am in or what type of pasture I want to be in, at any time.

Lately I have been a happy cow. I’ve gone on dates, I’ve had fun nights in, I’ve felt comfortable being myself, I’ve learned that it is possible to be broken by a narcissist and recover and not have all future relationships tainted as a result, I’ve felt safe, and stable, and secure. I’ve laughed and joked. I’ve had good sex. I’ve practiced listening to myself above all the noise of everyone else’s opinions.

I’ve also given away probably some of the greatest milk I’ve ever produced…for free. A conscious choice on my part. One that I have checked in with myself about regularly since making it. One that kept me up all last night.

I don’t know what it means. I don’t know what I’m expecting from writing this other than getting it out of my head. I don’t know if anything will change.

I know that there are things that I want in life. Being a lonely hopeful cow is not one of them. I want to be loved. I want to be in a committed relationship. I want someone to be proud and excited that they get to have all the milk, and the cow. I don’t want to forever give myself away for free. I want to be shown off. I want to be enough. I want to know what kind of hitler-esque asshole I was in a past life that seems to make these thing impossible. But most of all, right now, I want a nap.

100 First Dates Only to Realize You’re the Problem

I have admitted to being a first date queen, followed by a good second dater, but not really more. I have always thought I wanted a marriage and a good man. But after 100 first dates in my life (exaggeration, I surely have not had 100 first dates), I am not sure that I want nor necessarily deserve that.

I have met a guy a little over a week ago and on paper he seems to be what I want. I’ve been down this rabbit hole before, thinking it should be what I want, but then I’m not sure. And the few times this has happened, they have seemed very sure. And for me, surety after a week is a bit much for me. I know I run.

I easily feel suffocated. I’m learning I can be a selfish person, but recently a friend told me maybe it is ok, maybe I’m just human, and maybe sometimes you have to be. I think she’s right, but I also wonder if that makes me a good person for a relationship. Remember when I wrote that poem about the garden? A substantial piece of that was my need to be free and uncontained. I dont know if that is fair for another human, who has especially been socialized in the context of our society to have deal with. I also come with a lot of baggage too. While the thought of someone helping me to unpack it all is lovely, I have found many men to unknowingly, unintentionally, but still confidently judge the things in my bag. Or try to fix it all. I understand why. I think it is sweet. I do not like it. Yet it’s unfair to come to a place with this and not expect them to have opinions.

Giving up weekends and all my nights has never been appealing to me. I like to choose carefully with whom I spend my time and how. I need days to myself. I need freedom to pick up and go. Men have lots of expectations of children (I get it, babies are prized in our society), women’s place in their lives and behavior… and while I fit bits and pieces, I rarely fit that picture enough for me to feel comfortable in that either they’re settling and will eventually become unhappy as I open up more or that I am minimizing parts of myself to be more appealing. I understand compromise. But I will always be a f bomb dropping, not really wanting children, womanist, with a free spirit. I can improve my character, but these are part of who I am.

Another friend told me that this is just the product of being single too long. You have to learn to share your space and life again. Maybe. Yet I watch others able to navigate this. I fear that the real issue is that deep down I dont really want this or worse, I am not cut out for relationships. I know less than two weeks is too soon to be jumping to conclusions, but if someone else knows, shouldn’t you? I didn’t used to be this person. I used to fall fast and hard. And occasionally, when the chemistry is so strong I do (this has happened once in the past couple years, but I fear he was ambivalent as I am in this post).

So some may say – maybe this guy just isn’t the right match for you. But there is this gnawing fear that if I hang this up, I say no, I step away, that I will be saying to the universe, “please don’t send me anyone else.” That it isn’t that he isn’t right, but it’s me. And that I will be deciding then, I’m not cut out for this. Which may be the answer. But maybe I’m not ready to admit it.

I also think online dating adds this additional pressure. You meet someone and the objective is do we want to date or nah. I miss meeting people in real life and then building a connection and feeling that chemistry just serendipitously.

Lastly, I wonder if my heart has not been fully healed from love past. I wonder if someone is still holding onto my heart and my heart to theirs. I wonder if that is at play. Could be romantic, could be a familial or platonic wound. Trauma period is probably playing a role.

Until I figure it out, maybe just one more date.