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What strange thing is going to happen to me today? February 5, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Dating, Friendship, Relationship, Unemployment.
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2 comments

Some of my graduate colleagues and I in Cincinatti

There was a time in my recent past that I would wake up in the morning and think to myself, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” I was in what I call my “transition period” at the time. I had left a good paying secure job for a chance to better myself with an opportunity that I could not say no to – a free education in the form of a graduate assistantship for a prestigious graduate degree. I was living in a small studio apartment by myself and totally immersed in engaging, exciting work with 30 other students on a day-to-day basis. We were a close family. We ate together, we worked together, we drank, danced, laughed, cried, obsessed and even slept together (overnight study sessions – that’s my story and I am stinking to it 😉 ) When people experience an intense part of their lives together, they become very close. Those ties are never broken and I will always consider them my brothers and sisters. Thank God for Facebook since we are now scattered around the globe.

I know. I got off track there but the fact is that I was experiencing an incredible time full of friendship, opportunity, hope and promise.  I miss waking up in the morning and thinking, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” It just doesn’t happen anymore.

Today was different.

We would gather after class at a local brew pub

I already knew it was going to be an unusual day. I had a very important meeting this morning and the anticipation brought back that feeling of opportunity, hope, and promise.  With it was also the waking thought of, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” – and something strange did happen…

So I am driving to my meeting and my phone vibrates. It is a text from a number I don’t recognize…

“Hi! It’s just me. How is it going? Is the wacko still screwing with you? You ok? Well, let me know.”

Just me?  Who is just me?  When I was in my transition period, I was also in a relationship. It was intense and horrible at the same time. It was a toxic relationship and I was blind to the effects of it and the damage that it eventually did to me. This toxic lover would always start a voicemail or text with “hi, it’s me” and for a minute I stopped breathing thinking that this text was from her. But in this case, the wacko would be her so this text didn’t make sense.

I text back…

“Who is this?”

“Don’t be silly, u know who it is! U r the one that keeps calling me. U think u would forget after these years and all u did to me. I didn’t look u up.”

I am now thinking, ‘oh my God, it is her! What does she want? Wait a minute! I have not been calling her. I have not called this B&%#h in well over a year. This can’t be her.’

I text again…

“I am sorry, none of this sounds familiar. I think you have the wrong person.”

She simultaneously returns…

“Gerry, look at the pic I sent you. You’ll like it ;-)”

Whew!  It is not my previous toxic lover!  I am not Gerry. Wait!  Now I wish I was Gerry. I wouldn’t mind seeing that pic!

She obviously gets my last text and responds…

“Gerald Sr. and Judy you r still nosy fuckers. Why not just put your adult son’s phone down!”

Ok, now that I know I am not Gerry, this is getting very interesting.

She sends a second text…

“And while you r at it tell him not to call me or bother me anymore too! I’ve got my fiancé and my 3 girls and life and don’t need him fucking shit up for me!”

Ouch!  Here is a woman who is trying to respond to some previous lover and she is engaged to be married with three kids? What a tangled web we weave!  Yes, this is getting very interesting indeed.  Now, I could take this conversation into the land of impropriety and irresponsibility pretty quickly but I have had my share of that in my life, so I decide to go the route of the gentleman…

“That is all fine and good but I am not Gerry, Gerry Sr. or Judy. Sorry, I hope things work out for you.”

She comes back with…

“Whatever. He called me from this number. That’s how I got it in the first place and I called it too and Gerry left me a voicemail. So whatever, Teresa”

Well, at least I know her name now. This implies that she now has some doubt about whom she is texting and that I am gaining her trust. I will continue in that manner. After all, I know her. My toxic lover of the past was very similar to her.

“Hi Teresa, this number is 607 244 XY02. I have had this number for many years now. I am not sure how that is possible. Sorry to disappoint you. I hope things go well for you”

She now realizes her mistake…

“Sorry, but someone was screwing with me and it’s YX02, not u. I apologize – Teresa”

“No problem, sorry for your troubles, we all have them. “

We were like family

It was a full day of living in the feeling I had when I was a full-time student working with people I love, learning exciting things and engaged in collaborative work – a day of opportunity, hope and promise. Even with the huge relationship mistake I made during that time I truly miss that feeling. Even though I feel for Teresa and her situation, however warped it may be, she completed my day today; Something strange did happen to me today as well.

Thank you Teresa.

Happy Holidays November 26, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Friendship, Life, Love, Spirituality.
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5 comments

To all my WordPress friends,

Have a wonderful season. Enjoy connection with your friends and family.

Love and Peace,

Steve

What are you thinking? November 23, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, Friendship, Life, Love, Relationship.
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Marry me, NOW!In an effort to give you research-based viewpoints on complex life issues, I also want to never shy away from opposing views. Previously I posted and postured on a theory that explains why there seems to be a high success rate with interpersonal relationship building through computer mediated communication. This not only includes online dating sites but also mediums such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and e-mail. Today you will hear a different view from me and how maybe, virtual dating is causing an epidemic of failed relationships.

We want everything quickly these days – from fast foods to instant movies online. That is all fine and good, however when it comes to intimate relationship building, slow down! What is it with people these days? They are so quick to jump into the fire. It makes me wonder what the underlying force is that creates a nation of microwave marriages. Could it be that online dating implies urgency? God knows.

I have seen several cases of this hit close to home in the past few years. I have both a niece and a nephew that followed the just-add-water formula for finding mates. Both ended with charred results. The nephew came home with his finance after a weekend partying with buddies, the niece found her “match” through an online dating service and accepted his engagement ring inside of four months. They only saw each other face-to-face twice during this span of time. What the hell were they thinking? An even better question is, what the hell was their mother thinking?

First let’s look at the cold hard, sleeping-alone, facts. Depending on if you are looking at the Census Bureau’s statistic or the National Center for Health Statistics, marriages will fail between 42 to 50% of the time. Remarriages fare much worse. Psychology Today’s predictions state that remarriages will fail 60% of the time. After 10 years of marriage, the incidence of failure becomes far worse (if a second marriage will even last that long!) Research also shows that the possibility of a second divorce increases astronomically if the couple has been in a relationship for less than a year.

These are cruel statistics. So why are people ignoring this and jumping into the fire so quickly?

It comes right down to the fact that many people marry for the wrong reasons.

In first marriages, there are the traditional errors that we all are aware of, but still make: Marrying for money, family pressure, children (tick tock goes the biological clock,) even marriage for the wedding! I know women who actually have a ‘wedding scrapbook’ where they collect articles, swatches, pictures, contacts and phone numbers in order to plan their future, picture-perfect wedding BEFORE they even have a boyfriend!!

Erroneous second marriages have a different set of miscues. Loneliness is a deceptive motivator. Self-image needs to be fed after bleeding. It can be very difficult to think with a clear head. It is very easy to fall prey to irrational thought.

Because of this, there seems to be a sense of urgency to finding a relationship for people who have recently been thrown into unplanned singlehood. Whether it is for regaining self-esteem or showing the recent ex that “I can be a player too,” or even the fact that being alone in a bed is so foreign and the dog just ain’t doing it for them.

Slow down for God’s sake! You have to find out who YOU are before you can understand how you will relate to another.

In all this irrational chaos, there are people who seem to get it right.I recently had the opportunity to have a discussion with a wonderful woman I met right here in WordPress. She is a divorced single mom who refers to her significant other truthfully and honestly as her ‘friend.’ They share the same attitudes about relationships and life. They stay together by choice and without formal commitment. Their whole relationship is based on friendship, appreciation and trust. In that respect, she will tell you that marriage is unnecessary. They stay together for all the right reasons not because a simple ceremony and piece of paper tells them to.

Friendship first. Isn’t that really what matters? If you are going to position yourself in an agreement of “death do us part,” you better have the foundations laid for that. That takes time. That takes a gradual unveiling of understanding, openness, acceptance, respect, and trust. Well, being a good kisser is important too 😉

The Internet is full of convenience. It has the power of rational connection with wonderful people but also for unnatural expediency with intimacy. Use the powers for good. Stop, look, and listen before hitting send on that next message. You don’t want people like me to post on their blog… What are you thinking?

You’ve Got Mail (And very possibly a whole lot more!) November 21, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Friendship, Love, Passion, Relationship.
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2 comments

SIP that messageYesterday a colleague came into my office and waved her hand around in the classic move to have me admire her newly acquired engagement ring. After all the pleasantries were played out, I asked her, “So how did you two meet?”  Her story is not an unfamiliar one in these times –  “We met online.”  In fact, according to Online Dating Magazine (2007) there are over 120 thousand marriages that occur every year as a result of online dating.  That statistic does not even take into account free dating sites such as Yahoo Personals and other computer mediated communication (CMC) sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and old-school e-mail.

So what gives here? How does this all work?  You would think that meeting someone without the advantage of visual cues, voice inflection, and eye contact would certainly be a deterrent to developing an intimate relationship. And what about that assumption of being “physically attracted” to a person that gives us the incentive to strike up a conversation? You don’t get that with e-mail baby!

There are several communication theories such as Social Presence Theory and Media Richness Theory that explain CMC as the absolute worst medium for interpersonal relationships to begin and grow.  These theories are based on the concept that the less “cues” a person has available to them for communicating, the less effective the medium will be. So what gives? If these theories are correct, wouldn’t the online marriage statistics reflect that? That doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, the online dating industry has seen financial growth of over $642 million (Jupiter Research) and continues to grow.  Zoosk, one of the newest online dating services (affiliated with Facebook) has more than 40 millions users as of October 23, 2009 (Internet Dating Industry Weekly News.)

What is going on here?

Well, think about it this way. Let’s say you have a fine French Bordeaux wine in your hand. How is the best way to enjoy it? Would you chug it or would you gradually take your time and sip it gently as you savor every smell and flavor. Cornell professor Joseph Walther states in his Social Information Processing Theory (appropriately acronymed as SIP) that communication can be savored in the same way – The slower the intake, the more flavorful the experience. People can gain the same information needed to develop relationships through any medium, it will just take longer with CMC. This may seem to be a disadvantage, but in fact, it is one of the parameters that make CMC so effective in relationship building. The players have more time in between encounters to ‘process’ information – savor it, so to speak. I think that we can agree that in all things ‘intimate’, slower is better!

Other characteristics are in play here as well. In related empirical research, Walther discovered that CMC-specific elements, which he labeled Chronemics were a positive factor in relationship development. For example, time stamps on an e-mail can signify affection simply by when it was sent. A late-night message is considered more amorous than a mid-afternoon note. Response time is also an indicator. Quickly returned responses early in the relationship can signify liking and excitement and the frequency of responses reflect attentive priority. Face it, we know that sipping can be tantalizing, but we love to gulp!  CMC holds us back and disciplines us to taste lightly.

Probably the most effective element for relationship building in CMC is the ability to send and receive messages at different times. The very fact that CMC can be used asynchronously can be a tremendous advantage. Think about it. There is a sense of urgency when communicating face to face or on the phone. Both parties need to be available to be “in the moment.” In today’s fast-paced world, it is a challenge to build a relationship when there are busy schedules, careers, and children involved. When an e-mail is sent, there is an assuredness that the other party will receive and read it at a convenient time. And remember that this also contributes to the ‘sip’ factor – savoring the moment. It can also come in handy if there is a mis-understanding or argument. The writer can take their his and carefully construct a message, hopefully after the emotion of the moment subsides.

The 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail” is a classic rhetorical case study for Social Information Processing Theory. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks slowly build a relationship though their computers much in the same way that Walther describes SIP Theory. I can name close to 20 friends of mine who have a significant other that they originally met online. I can name another 20 who are active in online dating sites. Is there something to this madness? Think about this, Computer Mediated Communication works in just the same way as pen pals of the last century. How many of your parents and grand parents developed or maintained a relationship through the mail?

My grand parents did.  Read their correspondence to each other in 1937 on The Philadelphia Letters

Have you got mail?

Mountains and Molehills November 14, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Friendship, Life, Relationship.
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3 comments

Mountains and MolehillsI recently had a light discussion about need with my good friend Nicki. The discussion centered around how difficult it is for a friend to admit that they need a friend in their life. I am one to tell it like it is. You have heard me say it before in this forum. I need friends. I need connections and I am not shy about telling somebody that I need and want them in my life. However, last night, I discovered a whole new dimension to need. It is one thing to need people in your life; it is another to be needed.

By circumstance or by divine fate, a friend of mine reached out to me last night. She was in crisis mode and needed me. I new the signs very well because I have been there myself. It was just a struggle for her to cope in the moment. Breath to breath felt like an eternity. She reached out and I was there. Sometimes a friend just needs someone to listen and that is enough. I felt needed. During that time of connection with her in this struggle, I lost myself and my mountains became insignificant little molehills compared to the pain that she was in. I became immersed in the pain with her. I was one with her. By the end of the evening she found ground and re-emergence of time and place. For the time being, her struggle was manageable. I felt honored that I was a part of bringing her back to this world and in this, my own struggle had taken a hiatus.

I have not felt this way in a long time.  Lately I have been wrapped up in my own need for connection but have not had much opportunity to be and feel needed. The two don’t come close to having the same emotional effect. Feeling needed by someone will trump the need for someone every time.  It instantly makes your mountains turn into trivial little molehills.

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”