If you’re new here, my Monday musing is some loving guidance I send your way weekly to tide you over or top you up or get you through. I believe that shit happens but we can fix it and feel so much better when we do. Life doesn’t have to feel this hard. LOVE doesn’t have to feel this hard.
You know in The Sixth Sense (spoiler alert —if you haven’t see this twenty year old goodie you may want to skip to the next paragraph) how the little kid can see dead people and actually talk to them and it’s super scary until he figures out what they need from him and then it’s all peace and love but still creepy as f*#@, come on!? Meanwhile Bruce Willis, who has been trying to help the kid, is really a ghost, and he is actually helping the little kid in order to help himself resolve his worldly shit because he is so in denial he doesn’t even know he’s a ghost. Well, cue the eerie music and gasp, it turns out that you might be one too. Yes, a ghost.
Okay, maybe not you, but someone like you, someone who is like you, as in pretty GOOD at heart, maybe some days bordering on sainthood, some not so saintly but with such good reasons for not being saintly no one could blame you or your likeness, which at the end of the day is its own kind of sainthood, isn’t it?
Anyhow, you may or may not be a ghost, to someone somewhere, but how do you really know? Dun dun dun.
The phenomenon of ‘ghosting’ is one we hear about often in the digital age, and one that I have the treat of hearing about extra often in my daily. I say treat with sarcasm, not because I dislike hearing about it, but I am sad that so many of us go through it and so often. I am a bit of a ghost whisperer in this way, because I help you resolve your unfinished emotional business. As often as possible we do this BEFORE you or the object of your affection become a literal ghost. Yep, the advent of a figurative ghost now makes a spooky ghost into a literal one. Neat, hey? But I digress. On account of the prevalence of emotional death by zero communication, I find myself thinking there ought to be a seat-belt or related emotional safety device to prevent us from being on either the giving or receiving end of this disaster, and so I am inventing one today, in this very musing.
First my easy ‘me and Bruce’ reference guide to understanding how good people like you may leave someone hanging, unawares.
You don’t know you are a ghost because you have divested, or were never invested in the first place.
This one is tricky, because we all live inside our own heads. We meet someone either online or organically and fire up the mental software; is there chemistry, how much chemistry, is there potential whatever that means to us, do they check off our boxes for suitable age, lifestyle, interests, beauty, intelligence, humour? Do they make us laugh enough times a day and is it a good laugh from the belly or a reluctant groaning guffaw? Are there red flags? Pink flags? Are there striped and polka dotted flags? Do we feel a flutter, twitterpated, attracted, confused, confused in a good way or a bad way? We have a thousand antennas at work, and a thousand tabs open because it turns out that the business of love and dating is kind of a big deal, even if we wish otherwise. It impacts our lives. Are we sexually compatible, can we improve on whatever is or isn’t happening? Do they kiss with the correct amount of tongue? How are WE feeling? Is it enough? Are we in with a toe, or a foot or an entire appendage? AND what is the angle formed by ‘the thing they did that reminded us of you know who’ divided by how hot they looked in the red sweater and reduced by a factor of our own willingness to get involved in the first place? Because sometimes we just want to feel in control of ourselves and our emotions and sometimes we want to be swept up by a torrent of mad lust and adoration that makes every other little thing in our day feel like a fucking parade. Even the dishes my, friend, even taxes, and that is some powerful stuff. Sometimes, more often than we care to admit, we want both, at the same time! How’s that for messed up? Kind of like wanting to have our cake in a pretty glass dish on the counter, resist it in order to feel like a completely accomplished person, not need the cake in the first place —that is how much we have it under control, hullo! Possibly even dislike cake in its entirety, and simultaneously have it taste so damned good that we can’t help celebrate it, celebrate with it, and devour it in a passionate fervor while swinging from multiple chandeliers, never looking back.
And— I’m getting wild with this having/eating metaphor now—when we are uncertain of whether cake is a good choice for us right now, and we feel the urge to resist the cake, whether that resistance is actually serving us or not we won’t go into that math, turns out it is easier to do so when we don’t have to walk past the cake and look at the cake. It is easier to glance away, walk around, and otherwise dismiss the cake from our awareness until it turns to dust and blows away the next time Helga the cleaning lady picks up a Swiffer, or it freaking gets up and walks away on its own because it’s tired of waiting and living on our crumbs, flipping us the bird on its way out.
Whether or not we were right to resist that cake, in all the overwhelm of being tempted by what may or may not be right or good for us, it is easy to forget that the cake is ACTUALLY A PERSON, and that while we are feeling like we just dodged temptation, failure, the past, or a terrifying journey with pit-stops like emotional intimacy and communication, THAT PERSON may think that we in fact ‘take the cake’, and they may have been investing the whole time we were prevaricating, divesting or not investing in the first place.
If you’re following me still, and you haven’t ditched me for the bakery yet, there is always another person running their own dating or relationship math and theirs might not line up with ours. And the reason we don’t want to leave sleeping cake lie, is that if their math is different and we keep all of our math to ourselves, well then they will be left endlessly trying to line up their math and our math in order to understand and achieve their own divestment, but it will be harder for them, and unnecessarily confusing for them. And even if they are as cool and together and smart and healthy as any cake in the bakery, it will take them longer to sort it out, if they are the only ones doing the figuring.
We don’t have to have the equation solved, but a simple “I’m not up for solving this equation right now” will close 100 tabs right off the bat, and rule out some of the following miscomputations common to ghostees to explain why we have disappeared:
We are secretly CSIS agents and have been called on a mission.
We are secretly polygamists and are tired of supporting three families.
We are dying of a life threatening illness and want to spare them the suffering they don’t deserve.
We are actually heterosexual, or homosexual or not lined up with their sexual in some shade of grey.
We don’t like their pet hamster, or their sister Joan, or the creepy guy that lives under the stairs.
Kidnapping or related foul play. It sounds like hyperbole, but someone is going to think we have come into harm’s way before they think we ain’t into them, simply because no one is there to connect the dots for them. Hello, that’s our job.
A million other reasons that explain the trajectory from seeming interest to zero communication.
You’re not bad, and goodness knows it can be hard sometimes not to clutter your counter with twenty cakes you never have the intention of eating because you are saving your calories for THE ONE, but take it from me, you’ll be putting souls at ease, and all of those souls in need won’t be creeping around in your psyche anymore (aaaand we’re back to ghosts) when you give someone a gift of resolution.
Sometimes you don’t know you are a ghost because you are too busy to know. Life is an emergency room and though the cake looked lovely somehow it’s three in the morning and you have twenty emergencies waiting for 7am and you’re just going to have to try again tomorrow, or next year.
Sometimes you don’t know you are a ghost because you are singular in focus. You see a thousand pieces of information at a time and have to focus on one or nothing ever gets done, and like the emergency room, someone’s interest or demand or query or need for attention doesn’t always make it into your current focus. Frustrating for them. Survival for you.
Sometimes you don’t know you are a ghost because you are an asshole and all anyone can see is your giant assholery on display. I am JK here. Even if you are behaving in ways that others would scream and rant about, with less emotional maturity than your two year old niece, there are reasons for that. Most assholery is just deflection, and the reason for deflecting emotion is that you don’t want to feel pain. I will now hug you until the pain goes away while we wait for the light to come.
My point is, it can be HARD to manage dating and relationship decisions; to know yourself and to know if you’re doing it right. It can be tricky to find the sweet spot between avoiding past mistakes and avoiding love, and practice the vulnerability it takes to get in the mixing bowl with someone else.
Which brings me to my AMAZING solution. One way to prevent ghosting my friend, to set yourself up to avoid the trap of slipping out the back Jack, is to switch over to the CUPCAKE. It is to simplify the whole business of committing to a cake, and becoming so overwhelmed by the process that the only way out is to make yourself invisible and slink away or sink into the ether in a room.
Truly, we live in an age when we are overwhelmed with information all day long. And our coping mechanism is to shut it out. It makes decision making more complicated. There are more variables to consider always. And we get used to tuning out as a survival mechanism. But people are not profiles, or numbers, or stats, and we don’t want to cause them hurt, however unintentionally. And while we are not responsible for someone else’s happiness, we do have a say in our level of compassion, and participation in emotional engagements, and most of us want to give that compassion. We may just need some awareness to get there.
If you aren’t sure about the cake someone is offering you, if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed it’s okay to just ask yourself “can I commit to the cupcake?” In other words approach the business of dating and relationship with smaller more manageable pieces. Instead of pressuring yourself to make the perfect decision, is this my forever person, should I, can I, will I, until death do us part, ask “Am I willing to talk on the phone, text, have coffee sometimes, or have dinner? Or is that too much? It’s easier to say “I have space for this much interaction” right now than it is to take on more than you can manage and then disappear, on everyone.
If somewhere deep down you know you’re never going to want that cake, but it’s scary to face that, because it means no cake on the counter at all for a while, then I encourage you to dig deep and find some way to share; you don’t have to tell someone they are not tall enough, or pretty enough or smart enough or that they smell like Aunt Mildred. You don’t have to have all of the answers even. You can just say “I’m not feeling a connection” or you can say “I can’t seem to make space for this right now”. You can be as kindly honest as you want. “You’re so great that I wish this was right for me but it’s not and I can’t explain why”. Even an under explained “no” is better than three weeks of someone who likes you tiptoeing around to avoid disrespecting your space before looking for an answer when you have already crossed over to the other side.
And start paying attention to that sixth sense; the feeling that nags at you as if to say, something needs a resolution (romantic or otherwise). Often times a small response is all it takes to avoid being followed around by dozens of tiny ghosts of yourself, who need you to see them and accept that they just aren’t where they wish they could be. Tell them it’s okay, you love them anyway, so that glasses stop flying off the counter and everyone can sleep at night.
But also CAKE! Because my sixth sense is telling me that this musing should tie back to delicious layers of frosted sweetness for everyone, for the eating and the having. And I would not want to leave you hanging.
— Love Erin
P.S. 2021 I am bringing on the love. I’ll be featured in a podcast all about better loving, from healing your broken heart to intentional dating to creating a relationship that thrives, and I’ll be launching a sister site for all of you relationship and love enthusiasts, with all kinds of insights and offerings. Stay tuned!
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.