Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dad and Dating

I think I’m a pretty lucky girl to have a dad like mine. Sure, he does all the things you expect a typical dad to do, such as teaching me how to drive a car and having patience when I back it into the side of the house. Or helping me move more times than I can count, co-signing student loans without batting an eye, and coaching me through several exhaustive and expensive career changes.

And then there are the unexpected, extra special things my dad does, such as sending a care package consisting of random nuts and bolts, screwdrivers, an assortment of pens missing their caps, hot pink fuzzy dice, a can of Hamm’s beer, and a hand-written note saying:

My Dearest Vanessa,
The love a father has for his daughter is a special one. It’s high up on a shelf somewhere that can’t be touched, and any guy who comes into your life is going to have to be pretty damn special to reach that high.
All my love,
P.S. I know this care package isn’t like the ones Mom sends, but there are just some practical things people need around the house. You don’t know when you’ll need what’s in this box, but you will.

A unique relationship
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized the relationship I have with my dad is not your standard variety father-daughter bond. I can talk with him about almost anything, he’s one of my best friends, and he understands me better than almost anyone I know.

In our many conversations about life, the subject of dating and love has come up more than once. My dad’s perspective on this topic is always interesting to hear, and no matter how broken of a heart I have or how frustrated I am, I always feel better after talking with him.

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked with my dad about this subject. Mostly because my schedule is much busier than it used to be, which means we don’t get to talk as often. Then, out the blue, he emails me today with an uplifting message as if he had a sixth sense about how frustrated I’ve become with guys and the whole dating scene lately. I won’t go into those details right now, but what I will share is an exchange my father had about me with his best friend from high school.

The dating game
Yesterday I posted a link on Facebook to a blog post titled “5 things you should know before dating a journalist.” While I’m no longer a journalist, I still hold many of the same qualities. Once you’ve been in the trenches as a reporter, your outlook on life is never the same.

My dad decided to share this link with his friend whom I’ve never met, but I gather knows a great deal about me. He tells his friend the blog post does a great job in describing the type of person I am, then adds, “Which probably explains why she has had about 30 boyfriends and most of them have broke it off with her.” (Yes, I inherited my unabashed bluntness from my father, but I digress.)

This past week I’ve pondered the topic of why guys and I just don’t have staying power. The reflection came after a remark an older, wiser woman made to me at a wedding when she learned I was 30, single, and have never had a serious relationship that’s lasted longer than six months.

“I can tell you’re a girl with standards,” she said. “Perhaps, without realizing it, you’re the one pushing the guys away because you know they don’t measure up.”

The words hit me like a Mack Truck. Me? Push guys away? That’s laughable.

Then all of the sudden previous conversations with other older, wiser women in my life washed over me. I could hear echoes of the same sentiments in all of them.

With my perspective of dating completely flipped on its head, I started re-examining some of my more recent relationships. I became unsettled in the truth I was seeing. I do have standards. Pretty high standards in fact.

Not settling for second-best
In the last two years, I’ve become much more discerning about the guys I choose to date. Perhaps it’s because I’ve learned from my past, but I think a lot of it also has to do with knowing that for the first time in my life I’m ready for a long-term commitment (despite my hands trembling a bit as I type those words).

This re-examination of my dating life had been going fine, but then I started second-guessing myself thinking perhaps I might have set my standards too high. That’s until I received my dad’s email today, which included the following response from his best friend (my translations from French are in brackets).

Père [Father] Casavant,
Very entertaining — the article on dating a journalist. And well written!!
However, I would offer the following:
Daughter Vanessa had a mind of her own LOOONG before she first took up the pen of a scribe.
Her insistence in high school that she settle for nothing less than going to New York to study theater, right out of high school, took incredible courage and determination. Staying there, FOR SEVEN YEARS, once she arrived, is yet another HUGE accomplishment and testament to perseverance. Finding a way, enduring one audition after another after another and not being called back tests the ego of the best of any who make that journey. Dealing with the dining customers of New York will certainly give one an opportunity to stand one's ground — with a smile!
She has every good reason to feel good about herself. She succeeded and chose — on her terms — when to leave the city. She was not thrown out, replaced, chewed up and spat off the stage scene.
Taking that type of personal success to an occupation in which she is given the freedom to chase down "just the facts ma'am" must be an exhilarating challenge each day. Making the story factual, actual, verified and passing muster of an editor or two must be a genuine sense of "nailing it" when seen in print.
Yes, mon amie [my friend], she would try the patience of any man of thin skin and a lack of convictions. But, oh, happy is the man who is strong in his sense of self and happily, gainfully employed and can wait for Miss Vanessa!

So there you have it. My standards and I are just fine!

Miles ran: 2.5
Time: 34.08

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dear Anonymous,

Unlike you, I do not to hide behind a shroud of anonymity. I have nothing to hide. So I am addressing your attacks on my character and intelligence in a public forum.

Yes, I removed your spiteful comment from blog. It’s not because I’m unable to respond, but because you made it on a post completely unrelated to your hateful ranting.

In fact, I find it interesting you decided to attack me on a post about overcoming the physical and emotional side effects of 9/11 and the recent loss of my grandfather. In addition to being blinded by rage, you seem to also lack a certain amount of common decency.

On March 8, 2010, you wrote:
I'm posting a response here to something I saw on facebook. I don't want to reply on facebook for reasons that will become clear when you read this. I think you're a really smart girl, you know that? So smart that you realized a long time ago that you wouldn't have to actually use your brain and learn how to take part in a logical debate, because all you have to do is accuse your opponent of being racist, and (in your mind, at least) you win. As a conservative, I have plenty of ways to logically disembowel Marxism and its numerous noxious contemporary offspring without having to resort to throwing rhetorical sand in my opponent's eye. You, however, don't even make an ATTEMPT at discussion, preferring instead to draw attention from your own ignorance by pointing a finger and crying racist. Let me explain something to you- just because you loudly proclaim (to every man, woman, and child that will listen to you) that you're an Obama supporter, that doesn't magically give you the right to use the race card. Your people didn't spend hundreds of years enslaved only to spend a hundred more as second-class citizens (most of the time, at the hands of Democrats). The most "liberal" thing about you is the use of the race card, and it's not yours to use. See, I AM black. And I wasn't raised anywhere as pastoral as North Dakota. Who do you think you are? You don't know what it is to be black, and if you automatically think conservatives are racist, you're just as ignorant as the people you claim to despise. It makes me sick to see people like you USING my ancestry and the history of my family for political gains. Shame on you.
Response one
I find some of your facts in this comment to be very interesting because it means you’re a friend of mine on Facebook. I know this because my privacy settings are at the highest level, meaning only friends can see what you’re referring to in this rant.

So, not only are you a friend, but you’re a friend who is African American that didn’t grow up “anywhere as pastoral as North Dakota.” This reduces the number of people who you could actually be to a fairly small amount, which makes me suspect you aren’t who you say you are.

I am very protective of who I friend on Facebook. So, I’m fairly certain if you’re indeed someone left in this small pool of people, you wouldn’t have chosen to lambast me anonymously on a public forum such as my blog.

Also, in being my friend, you would know that your argument about my people not spending hundreds of years enslaved as second-class citizens is wildly inaccurate being that I’m Native American. So, if you want to talk oppression. Let’s talk oppression.

Crazy-pants rant kick-off
Furthermore, I believe what you’re referencing as seeing on Facebook is a heated conversation that transpired three days before your comment on my blog. That conversation, much like this one, was also started by an off-topic rant. Only that rant came from a childhood acquaintance named Justin who grew up in North Dakota and has since unfriended me.

In the pursuit of full disclosure, let’s review that heated, off-topic conversation and see the eerie similarities it has with your comments. You'll see I never once played the race card. In fact, the accuser doth protest too much, methinks.

And, for the sake of posterity, here is your most recent comment that I haven’t taken down.

On March 10, you wrote:
Hahaha! I see you removed my comment. Racist. That's typical of a lefty. You can't call me a racist because I'm black, so you quickly delete my post because you have no ammunition. ANYWAY I was having a look at your blog...Do you ever use the words "in my opinion" or "my point of view is" or anything of that sort? You seem to profess on and on as if what you're saying is gospel, without ever exploring the possibility that you're outside the extents of your knowledge.
Response two
Now who’s calling the kettle black? Also, I'd like to point out that being this is my blog and my voice, the words “in my opinion” and “my point of view is” should pretty much be a given.

So Anonymous, whoever you are, here’s your chance. Crazy-pants rant away! The world is watching.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I’m back! In more ways than one . . .

First, if anyone is still out there checking this blog for updates, thank you.

Where I've been
The demands of a new job and elected duties with the 43rd District Democrats forced me to curb my extra-curricular writing for bit. I’m happy to report though I’ve started to find a little more work/life balance. Something I’ve always failed at doing, but have now committed myself to finding.

During this time away from blogging, I’ve reflected a lot on what I want out of life. There’s nothing like a triple whammy to get the mind thinking. Last spring I was faltering professionally with a seemingly inevitable layoff, and personally in dealing my mother’s ailing health and the unexpected loss of my grandfather.

I pride myself on being a survivor with the ability to rise above when my world starts crumbling. This time things were different. The crumbling never gave way, and soon I found the fight within me being beaten to nothing more than a withering pulp on life support.

I had so much of my self-worth and identity tied to my job that the prospect of losing it made me feel like a complete failure. Combining that with the loss of one of my greatest beacons of support, my grandfather, and preparing myself for the possible loss of another with my mother, heartbreak had been redefined.

In the months leading up to my 30th birthday, I had settled into a pretty deep depression accompanied by a series of mini panic attacks. I was finding it harder and harder to get out of bed, much less out of my funk.

The only other time my emotional perseverance had been tested to this extreme was in the aftermath of 9/11. During a truth-telling reflection over beers with my best friend in Seattle, I examined this period of my life. I discovered there was one solid difference between then and now. I had running as a coping mechanism.

At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center, I was well on my way toward accomplishing a lifelong dream of running in a marathon. Despite putting my marathon dreams on hold so I could focus on healing, I kept running. I pounded the pavement harder than ever, escaping all my anxiety and depression through a constant rush of natural endorphins.

My pace and endurance eventually started diminishing until I got to the point where I couldn’t even run a mile without becoming completely winded. Severe asthma had set in from breathing six to eight miles a day worth of horrid air at Ground Zero.

Protecting myself from the fierce blow, I shrugged off the loss of not being able to run by telling myself I was luckier than the thousands of others who didn't survive the attacks. I refocused my life and started putting all of my energy into my career. I thought it was a healthy obsession at the time, convincing myself that as long as I was on a path toward a great career nothing else mattered. I could fail at everything else, be it personal relationships or running, and I would still be a success.

When I found myself on the verge of being without a career, reality hit like a crushing wave stinging every inch within me. I had sacrificed time with my family and given up all my personal dreams for nothing.

That’s when my friend, who helped me make this discovery, reached out and gave me a gift that would change everything. She signed me up for a class with Beth Baker of Running Evolution. It was a smart and sneaky move. I couldn’t very well return the gift, and it forced me to not give up on myself at a time when I wanted to the most.

Where I'm going
My first time back on the pavement in almost eight years was terrifying. I felt overwhelmed by how much of myself I had let go, both emotionally and physically, when I was diagnosed with asthma. In facing that fear by putting my running shoes back on, I was able to start rebuilding the fight within me.

My confidence started combing back, and so did my energy for life. Before I knew it, I was filling out job applications like crazy and recommitting myself to making family and personal time a priority.

On the day of my 30th birthday, I started the new decade of my life on a high note, quite literally. I was on a plane flying to a work conference in Washington, D.C., for a dream job as a content strategist with a federal project. More importantly, I was basking in the glow of knowing this job was just the icing on the cake for rediscovering myself, my relationship with my family, and what I wanted out of life.

Jobs will come and go, but how I live this life is what will define me.  I can only hope that by the time I am reunited with my grandfather, my gravestone will read: dedicated public servant; loving wife, mother, and grandmother; accomplished marathoner and writer.

Miles ran: 1.5
Time: 19.5 minutes

(As a side note, I’m going to end every blog post with my miles ran and time for that day to keep myself committed to my goal of running in a marathon. I’ve shaved two minutes off my MPH average since starting to run again, but I still have a lot of work to do in building my lung capacity and endurance.)