I’m Coming North! (And Happy Fuzzy News, Yay!)

I'm Coming North!  (And Happy Fuzzy News; Yay!)

THIS is Spring in Wisconsin?!?!?! Hellz yeah, I'll take it!!!!! Image credit: Phillip Billings, fineartamerica.com

Squee; I’m so excited!  Over the next week and a half, I will be travelling to three Northern areas of the U.S. I’ve never visited before.  So if you’re in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, or Sacramento…this is your chance to come see me do a reading/speechy-thingy and/or get your copy of The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness signed (personally addressed, even!  I love writing little special notes/doodles in copies of the book.  I like to shake things up).

Dates and times are now up on the Upcoming Events page.  I’m gonna be all over the place…several Fox Cities Book Festival venues in WI (a university, a couple of libraries), speaking to an awesome-youth-changing-the-world group (California Coalition for Youth) in Sacramento and marching with them to a rally at the State Capitol, and in Pennsylvania I’ll be at the Meeting the Challenge: Educating Homeless Children conference in Harrisburg.

It’s gonna be awesome.  I am SO stoked.  Come hang out with me  :)

* * * * *

OK, a little bit of juicy news in exchange/apology for being in absentia for so long.

I get a lot of people writing very kind letters to me expressing solidarity and asking how stuff is going for me, romantically speaking.  Seeing as how, if you read the book, it could be considered to have ended on something of a bum note (depending how you look at it). I also get a lot of readers telling me their own stories of failed/dramatic/abusive relationships and betrayal.  Which actually makes me feel less alone, and less stupid overall.  Because you know what?  That’s something that’s quite common among individuals who come from abusive/fundamentalist backgrounds.  You aren’t experienced at real life, relationships, and boundaries.  You don’t know what’s considered healthy or normal.  You’re likely to fall in love with the first person (or several people) who show you the slightest modicum of interest.  You’re vulnerable to unhealthy romantic relationships, more so than most.  So all you can do is sort of learn how to do better, bit by bit.

Relationships

Image Credit: QuickSprout.com

A blogger called “NimbyGirl” recently wrote a great, detailed analysis of feminism and chauvinism in The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness.  I was elated that someone GOT IT.  That she picked up on all those more subtle topics, and that the book wasn’t just about being homeless, but about trying to figure out and conquer all of these really socially advanced concepts, having come from a socially stunted background.

I really appreciated her last sentence:  ”She can do a lot better…and she will”.  THAT is exactly what I want to tell every person who has ever written me with his/her own story of love gone terribly wrong.

So this brings me to the juicy news.  I guess you could say that I’ve “done better”.

See, after the fiasco that was my last relationship, I decided not to date for a really long time.  And I stuck to my guns.  For two years, I focused on holding down my job, getting an apartment, spending time with good friends, reading a lot of books, and getting to know myself better.  Getting to the point where I felt comfortable and happy just being alone.  It was great to realize that I didn’t need to be with someone to feel complete.  Maybe I would meet someone, maybe I wouldn’t.  Either way, it was OK.  I now firmly believe that to be essential, no matter who you are.

Four months ago, I met somebody.  We’ll call him J.  I’m not going to give out his full name, so as to retain his privacy, and I probably won’t talk much or at all about our relationship on this blog again, so as to keep from jinxing our personal business, but here are the things that I can tell you:

I wasn’t looking to date.  Neither was he.  Neither of us had dated anybody in quite a while and were comfortable with that.  A mutual friend invited us and five or six other people to dinner.  It wasn’t a set up a blind date, but we sort of shyly noticed one another and ended up hitting it off.  The main thing we had in common, right off the bat, was that we were both raised Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we had both left around the same time.  He was actually a former Bethelite (volunteer at the Watchtower Society’s headquarters…tangential note here:  oh, the irony.  If my sister could see me now.  She always thought SHE would be the one to date a Bethelite, haha.  It’s a stupid prestige thing for the JWs…often titles mean a lot more to them than personalities.  You can be a terrible person, but if you’re an “elder”, “pioneer”, or “Bethelite”, the women will be racing to marry you; guaranteed).

A week later, he emailed and asked me out for coffee.  We took things slow, and are still taking them slow.  We seem to understand one another well due to our similar upbringings and share quite a few personality traits.  My experience with him has been that he is kind, patient, funny, talented, stable, and gregarious.  He is also a feminist (yay!)  Thus far, things seem to remain on an even keel…no unequal power balance, neither person is doing all of the heavy lifting, etc.  I’m increasingly feeling that this is the way things should be.

J. found out early on that I wrote a book, but at my request, he held off reading it until we got to know one another better.  I wanted him to get to know me as I am now, before having to take on all of my past baggage all at once.  When he did finally read it, and the book did not change his opinion of me, I knew that he cares about me for who I am, the good and the bad.  Sometimes I’m still nervous or insecure, due to my former experiences in personal relationships (both family and romantic).  He has been unfailingly understanding and reassuring, so the insecurity lessens day by day.  Learning to trust again, and all that.

We’ve had enough of the bigger conversations to know that we share very similar life goals as well as some of the same interests/and hobbies…though not all of them.  Which is awesome, actually.  We retain our individuality, our own circles of friends and our time to pursue our separate interests.  We hold a lot of the same positions on politics and social issues…but now all of them.  Every now and then we disagree, and I love that we can.  It’s never a big deal; we can discuss and debate this stuff amiably.

Who knows what will happen down the road.  Maybe things will work out and we’ll end up together.  Maybe not (always a possibility.  Always.  I don’t care who you are or who you’re with or how great things seem on their face).  But the best I can hope for is that if they don’t work, at least they not-work in a way that is, for lack of a better word, standard.  Healthier and less destructive.  It’s early days, but there has not been the slightest sign of any bizarrely gothic skeletons in J.’s closet, no secret girlfriends, and definitely no secret babies (we’re both child-free by choice), no bodies in the attic, etc.  Early days, but my experience with him has been, thus far that he’s unilaterally a wonderful person, and very bookish/low-key like me.  So we seem to suit one another.  And I feel that I can be reasonably secure in stating that no matter what happens with us as a couple, it will not end up with police pulling me out of a snowdrift this time  ;)

So there you have it.  If you’ve had bad romantic experiences like I have, I hope some of this helps somewhat.  Look for someone who respects you, who doesn’t manipulate you (even in small ways…what can seem like small and subtle manipulations are often the sign of much deeper problems looming on the horizon).  Look for someone who wants enough of the same things you do to base the foundation of a relationship on, but not so many similarities that you fall victim to the dreaded two-headed-person syndrome and lose all sense of individuality.

Better yet, don’t look for anyone, for a while.  Know yourself inside and out.  Realize that couplehood is nice and all, but you don’t need a man/woman to save you or make you complete.  Only you can do that.  Just have a good time for a while.  The world is an awesome and fascinating place.  Be a good person, do good things, make a difference, make new friends, get to know the friends that you already have even better.  Go to therapy and figure your shit out if that’s something you feel would be helpful.  Stop placing your expectations for happiness and a good life on romance (it’s twee and cliché to do that, anyway.  This isn’t Jerry Maguire.  Nobody’s gonna “complete you”).

Don’t expect happiness to equate to constant euphoria.  You’re still gonna have the same mundane everyday crap to deal with that we all do, and probably sometimes even more than that – more than your fair share.  But you’ll realize that you’re more practiced and better equipped at dealing with them.  You’ll know that, despite the problems we all have, you like and respect yourself.  Then you’ll be ready for a functional, healthy adult relationship if/when it does come.  And it will only add to the happiness that you already discovered was within you all along, right there for the taking.

J. and I are having a lovely time together.  He makes me so happy.  But it’s all the more meaningful because I spent a lot of time re-evaluating my definition of happiness, and then inching closer to obtaining it as an individual, before we ever met.

Comments

  1. Stacy says:

    So glad to hear that you’re doing so well and happy! While I love reading your blog, I love that your lack of posting recently is due to you being busy enjoying life.

  2. Mom says:

    Just wonderful honey …….. so happy about all of this xxx

  3. Beth says:

    Can’t wait to meet you this afternoon for the Fox Cities Book Festival! I’ll be picking you up at your hotel. :)

    • Brianna says:

      Yay, thank you! I’m so excited and I’m in love with Appleton already. Such a beautiful town! I look forward to meeting you :)

  4. I’m from Appleton, and while won’t be able to get to your talks today {job and kids…you know, the drill} but I am really, really hoping to catch you to meet you and get your book this weekend. While you be around for more than just today? {please say yes :) } I love your voice, and can’t wait to find out more of your story.

    • Brianna says:

      I’ll be in Appleton/surrounding cities today and tomorrow (Friday, 4/13, Appleton Public Library at 4:00 p.m.) Hope to see you!!! I’ve been here 5 minutes and I already think it’s so gorgeous in Wisconsin!

  5. Gracieanne says:

    Glad you’ve been so absent because you’re off leading your productive, adult, life. You sound happy and healthy. Enjoy!!!

  6. Joyce McGuire says:

    I will be seeing you in Harrisburg! :D

  7. Rosie says:

    I just now finished your book. It’s the first non Christian book I have read since I don’t know when. It jumped off the shelf at me at the local library. I wanted to thank you for sharing your story. I am so happy to hear that you were able to have some time alone to heal and find yourself. I pray continued healing for you. I am excited alongside you for all the beautiful adventures that lie ahead of you my friend. I can relate to so many of your life experiences and commend your boldness. From me to you: May you smile a lot, laugh even more but love the most!
    Kindred sisters, Rosie

  8. Jennifer Dugan says:

    Hello Brianna,

    I met you today at the Harrisburg conference and I must say that I felt your story to be extremely moving! I bought your book and had a discussion about homelessness with my 8 year daughter. She was very interested in your story. As I tucked her in to bed, she asked me what could she do to help children who are homeless! So, tomorrow morning we will make our list. Thank you for shedding light on this issue and helping me to be a better mom to my own child! God Bless!!

    Jennifer

  9. A. says:

    Hi Brianna!

    I was born and raised into that JW religion too and I know what you mean! It was pure hell! I remember the “titles” and the public humiliations if you didn’t turn in your “time”. I wasn’t allowed to think for myself or have goals outside of that “organization”. I finally walked away from that organization in 1990s and never looked back. To this day, I have a problem with getting involved with organized religions.

    I rebelled and got involved with a guy who turned out to be abusive, etc. I’m so glad I got out of that situation. It’s so true that when your parent is overly strict, it’s like twisting a rubberband and you know what happens next!

    Your blog speaks the truth! I wish you all the best!

  10. KtP says:

    I finished your book today and am just now digging deeper. I’m glad things are going well for you now, but I do have to critique one line of this recent post. You said J makes you “so happy,” but isn’t your point of the post that you were already happy(ish), and now you’ve found someone who can make you happIER? J, or anyone, wouldn’t be able to give you any happiness if you hadn’t already learned how to find it for yourself.

    That being said…wishing you continued happiness!

    • Brianna says:

      Yup, you nailed it! Sorry if I didn’t articulate that well enough :)

      Thanks for reading, too!
      ~Bri

  11. Jordianna says:

    Hi, I just finished your book today. And I have to say, you are an amazingly strong women to have endured so much and still have such a positive outlook on life and making such a difference. I very much enjoyed you book, and thank you for sharing you life with the public. I think you changed alot of peoples perspective of homelessness. I’m glad you found someone that enhances your happiness, and I wish you the best of luck! Looking forward to reading more about the work you are doing. Rock on and you deserve the best!
    -Jordianna

  12. lisa whittemore says:

    Hola Miss Brianna..I am an avid reader of all kinda stuff, but especially non fiction. I chose your book at random from the San Clemente library, and read it savagely within very few days..not an easy task while working part time, enrolled at community college, and chasing a wild man of 9 about..i expected simply an interesting, intriguing tale but was really amazed with not only your courage, perseverance, never give upingness, but your writing style. I have been wanting to contact you for a month or so now but have been plexing and plaguing on how I would sound, what you would think, and various other scenarios my crazy ass brain has formulated so today was the day I said aloud “SCREW YOU BRAIN…” and I bit the bullet and found your blog. Many of the comments are followed by “Brianna says..” so I am assuming that means you are in the habit of responding as well as reading. I was homeless from 1994-1997 in Venice, CA., my circumstances were quite different than yours..in a sense it feels as if I created, chose and/or deserved mine…I was a herion addict who just slowly lost all the shit..car, home, friends, job..and obviously all the emotional crap too. It was all so elusive..it just progressed in its own way and I adapted. I lived on the streets, I worked on the streets..the streets worked me too. I actually have a pretty amazing story of being ” kicked out of the trunk of a dudes car”..a new low..but I just “picked up me bootstraps” and carried on…it is truly mind boggling what the mind and body can become used to and endure. I now have 11ish years clean and sober, and am back in college wanting to transfer in about a year. I want to write, words are where I find my humor, my solace, my heart…your book gave me hope and inspired me that “it” can be done..I hope to hear back from you..rock on sista…lisa

  13. Skittles04 says:

    Hi Brianna,
    I finished your book a just few minutes ago, and i really want to tell you how awesome you are! you are amazing that you have stayed strong throughout all those crapload circumstances, and come out still fighting. good on you big time. i’m 15, and have had a rough couple of years, but your book already has put all of that into perspective for me, showing me just how lucky i am. i wish you all the best for forever- you deserve every bit of luck and happiness. good luck with J, and say hi to Fezzik for me!
    :)

  14. Kandie says:

    Hi, I just read you book and finished it tonight and I was in tears, because it related to me. I was divorced almost 4yrs ago and I was dancing in Vegas to get on my feet because I was married for 9yrs and never lived on my own before. I have two boys and when I first left my ex husband due to personal reasons. I left my boys with him because they were in school and I didn’t want to move them out of their home that they were growing up in. I seen them every other weekend when I first left because my ex husband wouldn’t let me see them more than that. When the recession hit in 2008 I ended up losing my house in Vegas that I was renting and my whole family and my ex husband all turned their backs on me when I was always the one to help anyone that ever needed the shirt off my back.. I lived with my best friend in the whole world when I lost my house and we had no where to go.. he was only 18 and I felt very responsible so I couldn’t let anything happen to him we lived in my car for two and a half months with no money or food to eat and we were lucky enough not to starve we both lost about 20lbs and could barely survive.. I never went and got public assistance because I felt the same way you did about other people being far worse than me.. you are truly a strong person because even though I didn’t face as many rough challenges as you did, I know exactly where you are coming from.. whAt dosent kill you really does make you stronger! If I didn’t face the hardships and challenges that I faced, then I wouldn’t have had the strength to be a single mother of two boys and still struggle but make it for my boys.. I took my boys back after only seeing them every other week for 7 months.. you have given me much more inspiration to keep pushing forward… I’m so sorry that you had to go through the miscarriage that you went through and the pain that Matt caused you.. I hope he realizes what he messed and and how badly you had to go through that all by yourself.. I hope one day I can meet and speak with you in person because I would love to shake the hand of a woman that has faced the tragedies that you have faced and you are still standing strong and better than ever! I live in Colorado right outside of Denver and would love to meet you if you ever come my way.. thank to foe sharing your story I didnt thank anyone else out there like me that has went through much I’ve went through and hasn’t given up on life! I hope have found or find in the happiness you truly deserve! Thank you for listening..

  15. Debbie says:

    Just finished your book tonight. And have to say that it was such a great read! Thoroughly enjoyed it. You are an incredibly resilient strong women. And I love what you say above – “That’s something that’s quite common among individuals who come from abusive/fundamentalist backgrounds. You aren’t experienced at real life, relationships, and boundaries. You don’t know what’s considered healthy or normal. You’re likely to fall in love with the first person (or several people) who show you the slightest modicum of interest. You’re vulnerable to unhealthy romantic relationships, more so than most. So all you can do is sort of learn how to do better, bit by bit.” I find that to be brilliant. I agree wholeheartedly. Rock on sista! laughter and happiness xx

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