Heart and Brain

I love this comic. I hope you do, too, because it is awesome. 

My heart and brain are currently having the following discussion:

Heart: I miss the Backpacker. Maybe if I didn’t send him that angry text he would have apologized for cancelling our date last-minute by actually giving a reason. And maybe he would have gotten better at communication if I was clearer in my communication needs. And then we could have had great sex and also maybe become adventuring buddies.

Brain: He was a terrible communicator and he was not making an effort to see you.

Heart: He had hiked the Pacific Crest Trail! He knew about the 5 lb pancake challenge in Seiad Valley. He likes hiking off trail and he packrafts and has a beautiful, oversized dog he takes backpacking! He kissed my hand when he was holding it on our last hike. And he cupped my face in his hand when he kissed me. It was the best kiss ever.

Brain: You don’t need him. There are other guys out there who would treat you better.

Heart: But…

Brain: Here. Open up your Tinder app. See if there is somebody else you might like.

Heart: Hey, swiping is fun…

Heart: None of these guys seems as great as the Backpacker.

Brain: Oh, Heart… Come on. Let’s go get the laundry out of the dryer.

Heart: I have to get up? And shoes?

Brain: Yes. You will like it. 

Heart: I dunno… But can I eat some cheese from the fridge now? And oatmeal. Can I have some sugary oatmeal since we are out of interesting food?

Brain: *Sigh.* Go for it.

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That’s the end of that

As I type I am sitting in the ER with my toddler, who had bad tummy pains last night. It turns out he has early stage pneumonia and will be kept for observation until at least tomorrow morning.

Writing about my dating life feels very superficial of me at this moment, but we are (updated) sitting in a room in pediatrics, watching tv and there is nothing else to do right now.

Last weekend I met the Backpacker for a short hike, and it was lovely. We also kissed and made out a little, which… You know, I have no idea what is fast or slow for most people, but I’m not going to be embarrassed about it. When we went our separate ways I said to him, ‘Why don’t you plan our next meetup.’ Because frankly, me planning everything has been driving me nuts. Before our second date I was getting such mixed messages from him that I had even backed off and said I understood if he wasn’t interested in getting together, and that I didn’t want to be pushing too hard …just, as a parent, pre planning is important for me. He assured me he was interested, which was a relief. I can handle rejection but vagueness is harder.

To his credit he nailed in a day to meet up for the third time fairly quickly. His texts also turned sexual and basically nothing but sexual. I can’t say I didn’t encourage it some, and when he asked if I wanted our next meetup to be active like hiking or more intimate, I said either. But although I participated a little in the intimate texting he was initiating, I was more reluctant. When it felt like too much I found ways to deflect or put him off… For example, sending a picture of my kitchen chair’s seat and legs instead of pictures of me. I am not so willing to have photos of myself out in the world like that… And Backpacker certainly wasn’t putting himself out there. After about his fourth mention of photos of my legs I decided to ask him for a basic head shot, and he sent a photo of himself outdoors wearing a balaclava (face covered). Huh. I had long since sent him photos of my face. Little things like that just felt off. Also, sexting is not something I am used to, and while I was willing to be somewhat openminded to the idea, I was not thrilled with the constant focus on the one theme. I found myself missing our earlier conversations about things like dogs and hiking and wildlife management.

The one thing the Backpacker did not nail down for our third date was a location. And really the exact times were up in the air a little, because I had given him my window of availability for Friday evening and that was where communication stood until Thursday. On Thursday I also texted him twice asking where we should meet up and he completely ignored the question both times, deflecting back to sexual talk. Friday morning I asked the question a third time, feeling annoyed but trying not to show it. When he responded, ‘Greenbelt?’ I asked him what part (it is well over 20 miles long), and he responded, ‘Where’s your favorite walking / getting teased part?’ Which was a big ol’ WTF on several levels. When I said I wasn’t comfortable with a lot of making out in a public space like that and asked (very nicely) if we could slow down on the sexy talk a bit, he said okay, and that he understood, and we would just do a walk (which section of Greenbelt was still unspecified). But his messages seemed a little more terse and a little less friendly. And the next thing he wrote, three and a half hours later and only two hours before I was scheduled to drop my kid at the sitter, was, “Sorry to do this pretty much last minute but some stuff came up and I’m going to have to cancel tonight.”

At the advice of my sister I simply wrote back, “Okay. What came up? Everything all right?” When there was no response over 20 hours later I finally told him what I really thought:

“There is probably no point in me writing this, but I’m just going to put it out there. Setting aside the way you cancelled on me yesterday, do you know how demeaning it is to be sexted at for a week solid and then to be told, at the absolute last minute, “Let’s go make out on the Greenbelt — you choose the location”? I say this as somebody who loves the Greenbelt! Even the obvious booty call invite of ‘Why don’t you come over to my place and we can watch some Netflix’ is more respectful, and more appealing.”

The honest truth is, I wouldn’t have minded a Netflix booty call invite, and given the tone and content of the Backpacker’s recent conversations, that is what I would have expected. To get an invite to the Greenbelt felt a lot like him saying, “I want to make out with you but I really don’t want you to know where I live.” Overthinking? Dunno. But shortly after starting my new job I had asked him if his work office was the one a few blocks away from mine, and as with so many of my direct questions, he never answered. Suspicion builds over time with crappy communication like that.

I did get one final message back from the guy: “This goes without saying but since I had a death in the family which I am now out of town for that definitely takes priority over you and since apparently according to you my actions had made it to where we both have lost a lot of respect for each other then I see no point in continuing talking. Best of luck to you.”

My ex and my sis have been following my progress with this guy a little more than anybody else in my life, and they had slightly different takes on the situation. My ex, who has a more jaded mindset, insists that the Backpacker was lying in his last message and says I was right to call him out on acting like a jerk. I too have my doubts about the family death story, but in the end I went with my sister’s more level-headed advice. I messaged the Backpacker one last time to say I was sorry to have sent an angry message when he was dealing with a loss. I explained how the combo of his sexting and lack of planning effort had made me uneasy, and that his cancelling our date felt like a direct reaction to when I said all the sexting was too much too fast. I apologized for misjudging him and said that it seemed anyway like our communication styles were incompatible. I also wished him the best, and in a nicer tone than he had written to me. And that was that.

I was sad for a while, but the combination of talking to other people, particularly my ex, and then writing this blog post has left me feeling a lot better. The Backpacker may potentially have been a decent guy with lazy communication and planning habits, but those habits made interacting with him a constant struggle. At worst, he was a secretive guy who was unwilling to be honest about who he was and what he was looking for. I am better off without him, even though he is a great kisser who shares my love of long distance hiking.

As one final thought, interactions like this make me less a fan of texting than before. Assuming Backpacker was the least offensive version of the person I have been trying to understand, talking on the phone would have minimized a lot of the frustrating aspects of our communications. And it would have eliminated a lot of misunderstandings when he cancelled on me. Which brings me to my final question – at a time when a lot of people dislike receiving and making phone calls and texting is the normal way to be in touch, how can I go against the trend without coming across as weird? Maybe it is just a matter of self confidence and discretionary use of calling on my part.

Oh. Also…. Another time, I am going to make a better effort, not to hide my frustration with another person, but to spell out my frustration in a less emotional way. My one regret about my conduct with the Backpacker is that I didn’t say to him, “You know, when you do / don’t do ____ I feel hurt because ____.” Had I sent that instead of my angry message, communication might have had a shot at improving. It would have been an invite to more open conversation. My actual message was a pretty solid communication shut-down.

Why am I Blogging at 11pm?

First week of the new job is behind me now, and I feel like I am settling in well. In my personal life, I have been contemplating 2017 goals, but mostly just staying busy. In the past week and a half I have met up with friends at a board game night, met a friend at the zoo, and gone to dinner with some people I haven’t spent time with since the fall. I did all this with my toddler along, and it worked out pretty well. I also went to a local developed hotspring with only the toddler on Superbowl Sunday (I am not a sports fan), and it was really nice to just enjoy hanging with the kiddo. Tomorrow I am taking him snowshoeing with some friends. Then on Sunday I *think* I will be meeting the Backpacker for a hike, sans kiddo. (Update: Yes I am. It’s finally settled.)

Speaking of the Backpacker, he is maybe the most frustrating text communicator I have ever met. Here is the shorthand version of the conversations we have had since our first in-person meeting:

B: I like you. I look forward to getting to know you better.

Me: I like you. Definitely interested in meeting up again. Hike, maybe?

B: Would like that a lot but won’t be able to see your beautiful self until next week. About to head out to the field for work.

Me: Okay. BTW, just got offered the job I interviewed for!

B: That’s great, sweetheart. I’ll have to give you a big hug and kiss next time I see you.

Me:  🙂

*The evening of the day Backpacker said he would be back in town…

B: Just got back. Congrats again on the job

Me: Thanks! Hope to hear more about your trip! Want to go on a hike, now you are back?

B: That sounds lovely

*A day later….

Me: Want to hike on this specific trail on one of these three days?

B: I am interested in a hike. *Shares opinion on location.*

Me: Great! How about location on Sun morning….

B:I like you

Me: 🙂

Me: ….. (Thinking, “was that a yes?”)

I could go on. And it did go on for a while. Backpacker showing enthusiasm but leaving big gaps when it came to actually making plans. It was a lot harder to pin something down than it should have been. But in person he seemed like a really great guy. Hope I agree with that judgement after this next date.

Adventures

First day at the new job today. I am really excited about the position and think it will be fun and challenging work, surrounded by a good group of people. As a person who has turned away from a natural resources career and toward education, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be able to teach kids about nature. 


The downside to this job, if I have not mentioned it before, is the very limited time off. I suppose it is comparable to a lot of other jobs in the US in that way, and I will have a somewhat more flexible weekly schedule than most people could hope to have. But as somebody who used to take jobs with 8 days on / 6 days off schedules (or 4 on / 3 off), I know the value of a real weekend. 2 days off is enough to do some things, and I will embrace the schedule I have for the next couple years. But I daydream about an education job that will give me summers off. I wish there was some in-between… Environmental Education and a 4 on / 3 off schedule? I don’t know…


The part of me that wishes for free time also is looking at this thing with the Backpacker… And not even just the Backpacker himself, but the kind of guy the Backpacker represents: Well-traveled, regularly challenging himself with new outdoor adventures. He’s ambitious about the outdoors in a way not unlike I used to be, and we hit it off largely because we both have the same enthusiasms about hiking, and we both have an internal voice that says, “Adventure is not the result of avoiding inconvenience and discomfort; it is the result of embracing those things.” But… I have to plan for myself and a kid, and I do not have a job that will let me roam around the west for weeks at a time the way I used to. Even with compatible mindsets, there is a world of difference between what the two of us can logistically accomplish. Today at work I learned about a potential new nature teacher who could be working under me. I haven’t met her, but she apparently teaches skiing in the winter and is looking to do environmental education in the summertime. She could be the definition of the kind of girl the Backpacker and other outdoorsy guys look for: adventurous, unlimited in her ability to do … basically anything. It makes me feel a little sad, and old. (And yes, I know… I have value too.)


The only way I can combat these blues is to start coming up with some challenges for myself this year. Not just challenges — Bucket list activities. They don’t have to be things I have never done before; they merely have to represent my best use of the time I have to find adventure. More on this to come.

Employment Upgrade

I got a job offer today, and I accepted it. All this school year I have been working as an elementary substitute teacher, and I have started studying for my alt route to certification teaching exams. Everything has been going decently well, though my income as a sub is not quite enough to get by on. In addition, I have felt a little adrift since I stopped pursuing land agency work. My biology degree has felt — not useless, but not well-used. I figured (and still think) education is the right course for me, because I want to have summers and holidays that match my kid’s holidays as he grows up. I want to have time to go on big outdoor adventures, like I used to do for so many years. Teaching public school is a path to that dream. Right now, though, I am taking a detour… I will be working as an education coordinator for a local conservation-type organization. It is year round work, FT, and should enable me to pay my bills, even though the pay is not high. This will give me stability for a few years, give me some work experience that will *hopefully* make me a stand-out candidate for a public school position, and allow me to take my time in choosing what job to jump into next. I will not have that adventuring freedom, but …one step at a time. This job is a blessing. And the people I will be working with seem really nice.

This weekend I am taking my toddler to family day at a local hotspring as celebration of the new job. Between feeling cooped up with winter weather and exploring the world of online dating, I have been distracted in his presence this past couple of months. I realize how much when I do give him moments of full attention and he opens up immediately with smiles and giggles. I don’t want to take this time with him for granted, or to lose sight of how important he is to me. I don’t think I really forget, but when I am struggling to make space in my schedule for a simple coffee date and I talk to a cool new guy who has the freedom to travel and have adventures like I used to do…. It does make me wistful. Though I was there once, looking at the different life paths, and I knew parenting was an adventure I wanted to experience in my lifetime. So — am I wistful? Yes. But I do not at all regret my choices.

Backpacker is in the field until next Tuesday, so I have a little freedom from thinking about guys for a while. I could see his schedule and personal travel plans (frequent as they are) as a bad sign for somebody I am interested in, but I don’t. My ex and I adventured everywhere together for years, just the two of us, and it was lovely and I would never trade in those experiences. But we were so tight that we had nobody else, and I am really enjoying my independence as a divorcee. If Backpacker and I work out, I think some of that independence and breathing space would not be a bad thing. Of course, it is too early to know anything about where this might or might not go.