Conversation Hearts

This box of Conversation Hearts was calling out my name. “Converse with us!” they cried. The first one slammed me with the embarrassing question: What would have to change for me to become my own “dream date”?

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On a trip home to the States over the holidays, during my one-and-only (but I must admit, ridiculously pleasurable) trip to the supermarket, I came upon some individual boxes of Conversation Hearts. The very same candies we were dropping in each other’s brown paper bags in third grade!

I grabbed some off the shelf and ended up giving them to my kiddos, and a few as mini-gifts in France. This morning (a bit belated, but what the heck) I decided to dedicate the last remaining box to myself.

conversation hearts, candy, valentine's day, self-love, self-respect, self-care, self-loathing, self-denial

Eating its contents is not of much interest (I’d much rather candy corn, sweet-tarts, or something with peanut butter) but I did realize that these little traditional Valentines sweets were calling out to me:

We are not just for eating! Have you noticed what we’re called?

I am here today to give this box of candy the chance to live out its purpose: we are going to have a conversation!

I picked 4 hearts to converse with.

#1— Dream Date

I picked this one for how uncomfortable it made me feel reading it. I mentioned in the first post that I’ve got a heap of ex’s. I didn’t mention, but I might as well, that I’m a serial relationship-seeker and I’m also a serial break-upper. I do not feel proud saying this aloud but it’s true.

My relationship-hopping will surely be studied in more depth on this blog at some point, but for now I’ll just say that this phenomenon has meant that I’ve pretty much never “dated”… I’ve never “put myself out there,” had a profile on a dating site, or known what it is to meet man after man and never quite find that spark. I wish I found fewer sparks. There’s never been a dearth of sparks in my easily inflammable heart.

So, the very idea of dating makes me nervous! I’m truly not much of a conversationalist (except with candy); my humor gets loosened up when I’m with people I know; I appreciate all things naked, but there’s something about a date (I imagine) where both parties are trying to figure out what’s really “behind the facade,” trying to expose each other in a short amount of time. Either that or trying to say the right thing so the person sitting across from you will like you. I don’t like it. It feels like a recipe for disaster either way.

But… I digress, because I don’t think that’s what the ‘Dream Date’ conversation heart was asking about.

I think this is the question hiding within it: What would have to change for me to become my own dream date? Put another way, what are the qualities I am hungry for in a dream date, and why couldn’t I start by seeking to embody those very qualities? Why do I need someone else to be what I need? Shouldn’t I be more concerned with being what I need?

OK. So if I close my eyes and imagine my dream date, that phantasm of a “perfect guy” I’m always chasing after, what is it I see?

  1. He’s physically strong (could carry me on his back and not just for 3 steps) with muscles I can ogle
  2. He’s the (my) epitome of healthiness (no worrisome cravings, has a balanced diet and exercises regularly without freaking out if he can’t get to the gym)
  3. He’s real (OK with sharing who he is, how he feels, what he’s been through, and quite importantly, what he thinks, even when it may contradict my thinking…)
  4. He’s passionate about at least some things & people (I know this does bring us onto the potentially shaky ground of extremes, but I just can’t take a lifetime of mild)
  5. He and I share some of the aforementioned passions!
  6. He has a huge heart—he’s not one of the millions of men struggling to embody empathy and compassion
  7. He’s got a twinkle in his eye from which I occasionally get tingles
  8. He makes me laugh deep from my belly
  9. Oh and last but truly not least: He’s figured out how to accept (and love?) himself so that I don’t have to compensate by loving him to a Herculean degree.

Ha! It’s a tall order, I’ll give you that.

If we apply this checklist to me (assuming that it’s a good thing to try to embody what you’re searching for) I’d say my real weak spots are 1, 2 and 9. And it’s not surprising to me that when I start envisioning “the guy” my first and foremost concerns are strength and health.

This list in indeed a good indication for me of what to pay attention to. If I could feel truly “healthy” and “alive” in this body, it would clearly change everything.

#2—Be True

I’m taking this one as a strong suggestion from the candy to Be True to Myself.

It’s much harder than it sounds, of this I’m pretty certain.

A people-pleaser is, by definition, better at tuning into, and granting, other people’s needs/wishes. Being a mother, at least for me, is more of the same.

Therefore, the people-pleaser/ mom-of-three that is myself must start practicing turning that dial back and forth, very slowly, listening very carefully, until I find the frequency that is mine.

Once I find it, and tune in, I’ll begin to get a better idea of what Being True to myself actually means. This is right there at the heart of my inquiry… so often I have felt confused, and devoid of ideas, when someone suggests I should honor my own needs and practice loving myself.

It has become clear that before I can do any such thing, I will need to figure out what those needs are (we all have some common ones, but we each have our own, too).

Living in France (19 years and counting…) and having wanted so badly at first to blend in, learn the ways, speak like a native, etc., may actually have led me further off the path of knowing myself and tuning into my own frequency.

I recall a time (curiously, it was the same trip during which my famous “cow patches” – otherwise known as vitiligo – appeared all over my arms ) when I was visiting my sister in New Mexico. I was so confused as to who I was, and how to blend in with her cool hip/hippie/hipster friends, that I reverted to my Russian accent (think “Red” from OITNB) and didn’t let go of it for the whole trip (BTW that was not the successful technique for blending in!).

#3—Sweet

I’m choosing to interpret this Conversation Heart, “sweet,” to be about my food cravings and compulsive eating of late.

I won’t go into the nitty gritty of that now. But I am curious about something I’ve heard people (this may be sister Emily again, or maybe Katie Silcox) suggesting: the idea that someone who is craving sweets may well be lacking sweetness in her life.

And whether that means

  • I’m not being sweet enough with others,
  • I’m not receiving enough sweetness from others, or
  • I’m not being sweet enough with sweet self…

…or ALL of the above, probably doesn’t matter so much. I’d probably be safe starting with the last one and there’s a good chance the rest will follow. Cookies and cake (and Lord, please spare me those disgusting French pastries and sorry-excuses-for-cookies!) will start materializing metaphorically all around me. Won’t they?

#4—Hug Me

This is a biggie for me.

Whenever I’m feeling sad and lonely, I walk around my life wishing for hugs. The irony of it all is that I may appear to be so cranky that those closest to me want to flee rather than open their arms to me. And that’s the biggest bummer of all.

So then I go around longingly eyeing strangers who look like they’d provide the kind of hug I’m looking for. Once, I lingered way too long at the farmer’s market in Caen in front of an organic vegetable and dairy stand because I was in desperate need of a hug, and this somewhat stout, jolly bearded fellow behind the stand appeared to be the ideal candidate. I never got up the nerve.

I was talking to my friend Virginie the other day. She’s a seeker too. We often find we’re exploring the same questions or challenges in our quest to feel whole, healthy and content.

While discussing the predominance of my “inner judge” (too critical!) as well as my need for big soothing hugs, she shared with me that a simple meditation/visualization that had been infinitely comforting to her.

She had called forth her “higher self…the me that’s made of light, and love,” she explained. And that Virginie made of love and light had taken the small, suffering, mortal Virginie in her arms and rocked her. While she saw this happening, she also felt this happening, and the tears flowed like when your Mama rocks you at just the right time.

This all sounds great but I will admit that connecting with the “Higher Isabel”, the one that is made of Light and Love, still feels like a foreign concept to me.

I don’t know how to go about it, I don’t feel I really “know” that facet of me, and the last time I tried, I felt like I was calling out in the dark and hearing no response.

But given the powerful cravings I have to be held, and given the fact that I am 6 months into my self-given challenge of 12 months (minimum!!) of remaining single, and given the fact that this is France, so even some of my closest friends just won’t be comfortable hugging me all day, I do need to pursue this avenue of free, ridiculously cathartic, magical hugs that I can orchestrate all by myself.

Amazing how much can be inside of one tiny candy heart.

Speaking of which, I have some candy left — any takers? Still not spoken for: Real Love, Cool, One Kiss, Call me, Nice, Smooches, Love, So Fine, One I Love.

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