on codependency...

I get so excited when it is time for me to seriously sit down and write.

Journaling and writing this blog have been so therapeutic for me. I love writing. I remember when I was in third grade and our teacher would give us creative writing assignments. She would give us a prompt that we were supposed to go off of to write a page or so. I would write multiple chapter novels about random things… like a cowboy boot that had magical powers. My over-the-top effort earned me a raised eyebrow from other classmates but my teacher was awesome and totally encouraged my enthusiasm. I didn’t realize until recently that even early on, reading and writing were so important to me to be able to let my mind wander, explore other realities, work through my problems, etc. I got away from that somewhere along the line in favor of sports because they're fun to play and being good at basketball gained me way more praise from the men around me than reading books did. Yes, I like getting attention. Don’t we all? This brings me to the topic I had in mind when sitting down to write this post, co-dependency! 

Since I was in Kindergarten I’ve loved boys. Even though church and stuff made it seem like you’re not supposed to feel that way as a kid, I thought it was BS. Still do. If anything I think kids feel real emotion stronger. They haven’t been forced to suppress and control their feelings in order to appear “normal” and survive in society. They don’t understand that they are “too young” to be in love with someone so they just love. It isn't about being sexual and it isn't about picking a logical life partner. When you're a kid, you just like someone’s vibe and want to sit by them and spend time with them. 

That being said, I was incredibly insecure and thought no boys would like me because I was taller than all of them. Then I got chubby and knew no boys would like me. Instead of forming any real friendships and connections with boys, I found myself intimidated by them. I wonder sometimes why I was so obsessed with finding a male partner for so long. I think it probably stems from feeling like I didn’t get to see my dad enough because he worked a lot, but I also (like so many young girls) watched tons of princess stories. Romantic TV shows, movies, books, songs… I remember thinking that if there was no such thing as boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives then there wouldn’t be any music! Literally every song I ever heard seemed like it was about how much the singer loves, misses, needs, wants some other person. I was like, “I have to get myself a husband or I'm clearly going to be alone and sad forever like these country singers!” Then religion adds in this creepy element of being eternally bonded to your spouse. “I’m going to be a lonely tall fat corpse in the cemetery with no husband to share a tombstone with! I’M GOING TO BE IN HEAVEN ALONE!” Not even kidding. I thought these things. A lot. Thanks Catholicism. 

So when I finally found my first boyfriend, I was pretty into it. I was head over heels in love with Matt and thought I would be with him forever. It was at this time that my lack of relationship balance really established itself. I was incredibly possessive over his time and wanted to be with him 24/7 if possible, granted a lot of the time that was mutual. I stopped putting in effort at school and sports. I almost completely stopped hanging out with all of my other friends… and when he wanted to do something without me (like snowboard) I felt actual fear. Like he was my whole world and if he found something else outside of us, he wouldn’t want to be with me anymore cause I was too boring and wimpy. I did not seek any means of making myself happy. I literally had no idea how to self-pacify let alone let my creative energy flow. I couldn't stand being alone with myself. This obviously did not manifest itself well in our relationship, not that our basic compatibility stood the test of time anyway.  Our love for each other as humans and dear friends, as well as my (you guessed it) codependence, saw that relationship through 7 years before we decided to go our separate ways. 

Enter next co-dependees! (I’m not sure if that is a word) This phase of my life was defined by my obsession with working out and incessant need to run everything by my girlfriends at the time. INEEDED their approval. This, of course, was completely in my own head. I felt like if I did something that they thought was stupid, they wouldn’t want to be friends with me and I would feel even more alone. I say more alone because doing what I was at the time, hanging out with guys that just want to be friends that hook up, is like negative points on the warm and fuzzy scale. My self-worth was at an all time low. I still didn’t have a way to soothe myself, because believe it or not exercise didn't give me that feeling. What I was getting from it, other than being in great shape, was the communal aspect. Like going to a dance class or playing with a band, I enjoyed moving in synchronicity to awesome music with cool people. That alone is gratifying. But that doesn’t help for the other 23 hours of the day when I’m like, what else does Jess do other than lift weights and flirt with boys over text message?

The next relationship that I found myself in was short, intense, powerful, and life changing. When I met Micah I felt somewhat good about my appearance because I was tan and in good shape in Hawaii, but I felt terrible about just about everything else. I was working as a server after graduating with my bachelor’s degree and spent my off time working out and chasing boys on Tinder. I was racking up credit card debt and missing student loan payments. I felt like a real loser honestly. But Micah looked at me and thought I was the smartest, most loving, beautiful person in the whole world. He looked at me and actually saw me. He saw the person I wanted everyone else to see and I loved him instantly and fiercely. We became so caught up in our love for each other, and I fell into old patterns. I wanted to hold on to Micah so tightly so that he would never leave me. He was a free spirit and trying to get him to stay at home with me was not what made either of us happy. He defined the term Social Butterfly. If it were up to him, we would have constantly been surrounded by friends new and old, drinking PBRs. 

My need to possess his time and be with him constantly stopped me once again from being able to seek out means of making myself happy. My physical appearance reflected the desperate emotional situation I allowed myself to fall into while worrying I would be too boring and lose him. Nearly a year into our relationship as both of us were finally working to get healthier and discover better versions of ourselves, the Universe decided that Micah’s time on earth was over for now. Nothing will make you violently aware of your codependence to someone like having them drop you off at work and then never seeing them again. I remember thinking that morning that I just wanted him to know how much I loved him before I got out of the car to go to work as he dropped me off. I gave him extra kisses on the cheeks for what I didn’t know would be the last time. 


That’s when it really hit me that I need to figure out how to be okay with just Jess.

 

So imagine my surprise when I met Adam not too long thereafter. I was sure it would take me a lot of “work on myself” time before the right guy for me would walk into my life. But I was wrong.  I did the “OMG I’m in love and don’t care about anything else” thing for a while with Adam, too. We were mutually obsessed with each other and just liked hanging out and talking and loving on each other for the first few months. I knew from past experience that that would wear off and a new normal functioning partnership would have to form in order for us to work out long term. We both woke up from the sushi/booze/netflix coma that we had been in for the first four months of our relationship at about the same time and decided that was over. When we moved to the Pacific Northwest we both started slowly getting our shit together butI don’t think it was necessarily something we planned. My transition to being vegan and Adam’s love for photography and the outdoors worked in beautiful harmony to completely transform our lives. We are now both full on vegan outdoor junkies with a deep love for photography and spreading our passion for life to others. 

 

Let me talk about what has helped me to work through my co-dependence:

  1. Realize that nothing is permanent. Even if you do everything “right” and your partner is in LOVE with you, they can still disappear. People die, so enjoy the shit out of them while they are here. Hug them. Look them in the eyes. Listen to them. Make them feel important. Soak in every bit of them while you can and don’t worry about if they will be there tomorrow. They're here now. Adam has done so much to bring to my attention how much of the present I miss by worrying about the future. I miss out on hearing his funny jokes or gleaning his wisdom when I’m distracted wondering if he thinks I’m pretty enough or interesting enough. Anxiety does nothing to help anyone’s cause. 
  2. Find a sense of purpose. I feel strongly about a lot of things, but spreading love and happiness through veganism, the outdoors, photography, and writing is the passion that I have found calling me. This mission gives me purpose as an individual. I know what Jess does now other than just being someone’s supportive girlfriend. 
  3. Figure out how to enjoy alone time. Now that I know what to do with myself when no one is around, I actually look forward to the quiet times when I get to just write. Or meditate. Or cook a meal. If Adam called and said he would have to be in Portland for a week to help his Dad with a project, I would have plenty to do to be productive and have a good time by myself. This has been huge for my confidence and sense of self. The time I have spent alone in conjunction with the life talks that I have with Adam have helped me to grow immensely in the past year. 
  4. Screw societal norms. I long ago decided that I was not living my life based on any religion. Since becoming vegan and removing things like fluoride from my consumption, I feel confident enough in my ability to perceive the world around me that I don’t need to follow an exclusive guidebook. I don’t believe in soul mates. I don’t believe in happily ever after. I don’t believe that marriage bonds us for an eternity in the eyes of one mighty ruler. I don’t believe I have to have kids to be a whole, self-less person. I don't even think being self-less is something to strive for! I think that we attract people into our lives based on our energy. I think that we keep people in our lives based on our energy. Adam and I can choose to grow and build our lives together or not, and it certainly has nothing to do with whether or not we throw and expensive party to kick it off. I’ve seen plenty of people living together because of a contract, yet are on completely separate pages in every other way. I want to grow our love and happiness and create a beautiful life and I believe that comes from being fully invested in the present. Putting our phones away and sitting together and talking about our dreams. Not worrying about what other people expect from us or from me. 

Healing myself of my codependence is an ongoing endeavor, among others. I think that is what life is all about though, growing. I love the lessons that my life has taught me so far, and I wake up every morning excited to see what the day has to show me. 


And I feel so much better after writing this down.

-Jess