Digital Limerence

Cyber-romance can be quite satisfying, if you don’t mind a diet of nothing but empty calories.

As someone who has been crashing into virtual doors and falling into large virtual bodies of water in the virtual world of Second Life for over a decade, I am quite familiar with limerence. It’s such a lovely sounding word, isn’t it? It sounds like what happens when limericks and romance collide. Like lime green hearts.

And limerence feels good. It’s the best drug in the world. It floods your body with some awesome chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine. But in the end, it usually brings you nothing but pain and regret. That’s why in recent years I only go into Second Life twice a week, to catch up with friends.

Limerence is often mistaken for falling in love. But it’s love on steroids. It’s butterflies in the stomach writ large. It’s when you crave the other person. You ignore all the red flags. You fantasize about them when they’re not with you. They have all the power to lift you up or tear you down. It’s not steady and solid nurturing as real love will be. It’s dramatic and unstable and exciting.

The internet is rife with limerence. It’s a state that thrives when you don’t really know the other person. The more blank canvas they present you with, the more you are able to paint in what you really want to see. You turn them into the perfect purveyor of all your unmet needs. Your mind convinces you that your beliefs about this person are real so that it/you can continue to be flooded with those awesome chemicals.

Second Life is full of such stories. I knew a guy who spent money he did not have to fly from Australia to the US, thinking he was going there to meet the love of his life, only to find out that the person waiting for him was… a person. She was not the gorgeous voluptuous avatar that he danced with in ballrooms every night in virtual reality, without a care in the world. And for that matter, he couldn’t afford a tuxedo in real life, and neither of them really knew how to dance. Their happily ever after crumbled like the house of cards it had always been.

You can draw limerence out in a virtual world for years. It’s a heady experience. As long as you both continue to play the unspoken roles that each has subtly laid out for the other, you can binge on the testosterone and estrogen for as long as you want, even if your real body is too old or too unhealthy or too married or too far away to actually consummate your connection.

Cyber-romance can be quite satisfying, as long as you don’t mind a diet that consists of nothing but empty calories.  But when it starts to crowd out your real life, it can be trouble. If you use up the bulk of your time daydreaming about the object of your limerence, that’s a problem. If it gives you an excuse to not work on establishing or improving a real life relationship, it’s unfair to your real life partner. When it worms its way into your psyche and starts nibbling away at your mental health, it’s toxic.

And while you are in limerence, you assume that the other person is putting in as much effort and being just as vulnerable and honest as you are. But so many of my friends have been lied to in virtual reality that it stuns me that anyone indulges in it anymore. You can be whoever you want to be in a virtual world, and if you don’t truly care about the person behind the other avatar, you can make up all the stories you want.

You can falsify your sexual experience and proclivities. You can experiment with other gender identities than your own. If you identify as male, regardless of what your birth certificate says, it’s cruel, in my opinion, to role play that you identify as female, because you’re role playing with someone else’s emotions. Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with role playing. Just be up front about it if you’re engaged in a cyber romance. I really never understood people who delight in catfishing others. It’s heartless. No relationship can thrive if it’s based on deception.

And it boggles the mind, the number of people in there who are miserable and lonely and lying about their marital status. For many, virtual reality seems to be the land of quiet desperation. You don’t have to be you in there.

You can pretend to be successful or rich or even (for a short time) intelligent, when in fact you are none of those things. You can be utterly incapable of feeling real emotions, but you can make them up as you go along. You might even cut and paste dialogue from other parts of the net if you can’t think of anything to say yourself. If you’re a teenage boy, you can pretend to be in your 30’s. If you’re an old woman, you can pretend to be a model. If you’re four feet tall and wheelchair bound, you can pretend that you’re 6 feet tall and a professional dancer. If you’re a sinner, you can be a saint. If you’re a convicted felon, you can pretend that you are a commodities trader on Wall Street who lives in a brownstone in Manhattan instead of someone sitting in a trailer wearing nothing but an ankle bracelet and a bathrobe, on the outskirts of Detroit.

Again, all well and good if you’re not playing with someone’s heart. But don’t lie to someone as you both suck on those hormones, baby, and you convince yourself that you’re the happiest you’ve ever been in your life. What a rush! Until the truth comes out and you devastate the other person.

While it feels better than anything you’ve ever felt before, limerence is an illusion. And it keeps you in thrall as your real life begins to atrophy from the sheer neglect. And then one day you get slapped back into reality, and you have to start all over again.   

Love enhances you. But beware of limerence. It depletes you. Check out these articles for more information.

Now is the perfect time to stay at home and read a good book. Try mine!


Persecution Complex

“I can see that they don’t like me, therefore I’m correct.”

Recently someone accused me of being “willfully defiant” and “intentionally non-cooperative” toward him. And there’s no point in trying to defend myself from these accusations, because apparently, I’m also a liar. This verdict against my character actually took me by surprise. Usually, mature adults don’t place those labels on mature adults. That’s something you might say about a tantrum-throwing child or a troubled teenager. But the most surprising thing about it is that it was obvious that he sincerely believed his assessment, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. How strange for two people to be living in such polar opposite realities.

Clearly, this guy does not know me well. In general, I’m a very low-energy person. I’m proud of myself when I get the bare minimum done for my survival on any given day. The dust bunnies under my bed can attest to that.

The thought of sitting around, plotting and scheming and following some rigid plan to… what? Make someone’s life miserable for the pure hell of it?  That seems like an enormous waste of my limited energy. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

It’s also rather startling that someone actually thinks that I focus my attention that much, either positively or negatively, on someone who is not a loved one. I mean, I have never socialized with this guy, and I never will. I don’t know where he lives or what he likes to eat. Frankly, I have to admit that I’m not even certain of his eye color. Brown, maybe? Blue? I’m not sure.

The truth is, I don’t care about this dude unless or until he decides to do something that affects me. The bulk of his life has absolutely nothing to do with me, and that’s as it should be. If we were drawn as a Venn diagram, a tiny sliver of our circles would just barely overlap. Go on about your business, man. That’s what I’m trying to do.

We do have a lot of philosophical differences. Neither of us seem inspired to try to alter the other’s politics or religion, so frankly I couldn’t care less. Where we seem to butt heads is in regard to how things should be done that will impact both of us.

If he comes up with a great idea, I give credit where credit is due, and I adopt the policy without question. Sadly, he doesn’t seem to have kept track of the times that I have done that. Had I but known there would be a test afterward, I’d have taken notes.

On the other hand, if he floats an idea and I see potential problems therewith, I point those out. But I do that with everybody. By no means am I singling him out for such treatment. But if what he does will impact me as well, I feel I have the right to weigh in. In fact, I genuinely believe that I would be remiss in not mentioning the pros and cons of the concept.

Now, what he chooses to do with that information once it’s provided is up to him. I’d want someone to point out potential hazards in my plans were the positions reversed. That way I can be confident that I’m making an informed decision.

Instead, his idea of feedback is vague and uninformative, and usually a tad condescending. “Your pet project is a waste of funds.” The only thing that informs me of is his general disdain for me. It causes me to explain how I could get around the funds issue, which he then interprets as me being argumentative.

So there you have it. We don’t like each other. The difference, it seems, is that he thinks I’m actively out to get him, and only him, and that it’s my reason for being. But actually, I just think he’s a jerk with poor communication skills, but I know for a fact that he’s that way with everybody. I don’t think I’m particularly special, so when I am the beneficiary of his lack of tact, I know that I’m not the only one. I don’t think he’s smart enough or evil enough to rise to the level of plotting against me. I don’t believe that I take up the amount of space in the world that would inspire someone to give over their every waking moment to destroy me.

And I am truly confused by that mindset. What am I supposed to gain by being willfully defiant? I don’t see any possible motivation for behaving that way. Personally, I prefer to avoid confrontation whenever possible. If my character and/or reputation is attacked, I will speak up about it, mind you, but I certainly don’t go looking for fights.

I’m an introvert. Human interactions exhaust me. So the last thing on earth that I’d want to do is go out of my way to make any necessary interactions hostile. I would much rather exchange pertinent information and then get on with things. Preferably alone.

I made a new friend recently, and in an effort to understand this confusing situation, I told him about it, and he said, “I bet that guy was bullied a lot as a child. He sure seems to have a persecution complex.”

Wow. Perspective. I’d never thought of that. He does spend a great deal of time documenting the most minor transgressions that he sees in all of his coworkers, and then conflates those things into a major crisis. He has a reputation for throwing people under the bus, and I don’t think he truly understands just how universally disliked he is because of it.

He seems to be incapable of allowing for human error. Someone puts a key in the wrong place one time, he will professionally shame that person. He documents it as a safety issue, which it would be if it were a habitual error, but we’re talking one incident as compared to the 125 times that person has put the key in its proper place. What a crisis! No one else at work goes from zero to catastrophe like this guy.

He has said that things would be so much better if he were able to discipline me. And he has absolutely no clue how creepy that sounds. It is beyond me how someone can be so certain of his own self-righteousness that he gets frustrated when he isn’t allowed to mete out justice to everyone around him.

Okay, so let’s face it, we’ll never be inviting each other over for Thanksgiving Dinner. Big deal. But I genuinely do try to understand people, so I decided to read more about persecution complex, to see if it truly fits him, and if so, come up with some coping skills for when I’m faced with his paranoia.

The frustrating thing about persecution complex is that the bulk of the articles out there seem to be discussing only Fundamentalist Christian persecution complex which happens to overlap with Republican persecution complex. It seems that the best way to hold onto your outlandish beliefs without having to defend them is to think that the only reason your beliefs aren’t universally held is that some person or group is out to get you. They’re trying to shut you up, prevent you from spreading the truth. So it’s not your fault. It’s theirs.

How convenient.

I don’t even know if this guy’s a Christian, and while I suspect his politics might make me want to puke, I can’t be certain, so these articles weren’t as helpful as I hoped they would be. I did pull out a few nuggets of information once I stripped away all the religion, though. Here are a few:

  • If you feel like someone is persecuting you, you can convince yourself that somehow that means you must be doing the right thing, so you get to pitch your tent, forever, on the moral high ground.
  • People with a persecution complex find it all but impossible to differentiate contradiction from persecution. (And that, in a nutshell, describes my situation with this guy. I disagree with an idea, and he sees that as the attempted murder of his very essence.)
  • People with this complex think that their beliefs are magically validated if they are hated for expressing them. Further, the more extreme they become, the more they feel they hold the truth in their hands, because martyrs would not die for nothing, right? Their flawed logic tells them, “I can see that they don’t like me, therefore I’m correct.”
  • People with persecutory delusions can’t recognize reality. They believe that someone or some group is trying to harm them. These beliefs often look bizarre and unrealistic to the outsider.

Yep, all these things apply to the guy in question. Does that make me feel vindicated or triumphant? No, actually, it makes me feel sorry for him. He has a sad little life, and that is painful to see.  Another upsetting conclusion I have drawn from my reading is that many people who have a persecution complex either had traumatic childhoods or are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for some other reason.

I can imagine he was bullied as a child, and no one deserves that. I can imagine he’s been through some horrible stuff to have so much self-loathing that he believes he must automatically be completely loathed by others. But he’s taking victim-hood to new depths. He once told me that if his marriage fails, it will be my fault, such was the stress that I put on him by pushing back all the time. And I couldn’t even pick his wife out of a lineup.

So, now I have a better sense of what I’m dealing with. I hope that some day he will realize that I care entirely too little about him to pose a threat. Dude, I didn’t push you down the stairs in high school. This monster costume you’ve put me in makes my scalp itch. It’s time for you to let me take it off.

It must be really terrifying to think you’re surrounded by irredeemable demons whose sole purpose is to hunt you down. But I suppose it’s preferable to looking at yourself in the mirror and admitting that you are your own worst enemy.

Sources: (This crazy video allows you to see persecution complex in action.

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Welcome to Elsewhere

Elsewhere is an elusive place.

For much of my life, in times of strife, my default response was, “I wish I were somewhere else.” Abuse, loneliness, danger, poverty, extreme heat or cold, even just a general feeling of being a misfit would cause me to feel this way. If only I were elsewhere, things would be so much better.

Dorothy may have decided that there was no place like home, but I always thought that Oz looked like a lot more fun than that dreary farm in Kansas.

But it’s a dangerous thing, assuming there is a geographical solution to all your problems. It often gives you an excuse to avoid solving them. Because Elsewhere is an elusive place. If your solution lies elsewhere, and elsewhere is just out of reach, well, then you’re just out of luck, aren’t you? You may as well hunker down and be miserable.

Wishing you were somewhere else also means that where you are right now is never going to feel quite good enough. How can anyplace compete with this fantasy world that lies just on the other side of the rainbow?

But on the other hand, I do honestly think that life is what you make it, and part of choosing your path in life is deciding what destination you want to strive for. If I hadn’t opted to pack all my stuff and move 3100 miles across the country, I’d probably still be miserable in Florida, dreaming about elsewhere.

Instead, I live in the Seattle area, with a job that pays well, an amazing man who loves me, and a home for which there is no place like.

Lucky me. I finally found elsewhere. May you find your perfect place, too, dear reader, and may it be a little closer than 3100 miles from where you are right now.

somewhere else

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Sugar and Spice? Not.

If I were a kid today, I’d be pretending to be Hermoine Granger.

One of my regular readers, Linda, whom I now consider to be a friend, sent me a link to an article entitled “Stan Lee Taught Me How To Be Amazing” by John Pavlovitz. It is a great read, as is all of his writing.

But my friend made an excellent point. This article was definitely written from the male perspective. As Linda said, “I never once dreamed of being powerful like Spiderman. There weren’t even female superheroes back then, although they did add some later.”

That made me come at the article from a different angle entirely. I love that Pavlovitz could imagine that he was Spiderman when he was growing up. I’m sure that did wonders for his self-esteem. But what was I, and most of the girls of my generation, thinking about back then?

Being rescued.

We were Cinderella, or Rapunzel, or Snow White. I doubt many of us related to Wonder Woman, as she was hypersexualized to such a degree that she seemed way out of our leagues. I read Archie Comics. Betty and Veronica weren’t exactly something to aspire to.

There was a lot of damage done to the women of my generation. We weren’t given as much to dream about. It’s not nearly as bad now. Now, we have intelligent, spunky and brave characters, like Ariel and Elsa and Mulan, Elastagirl and her daughter Violet, Fiona, and Hermoine Granger, just to name a few.

And the little girls of today have more ability to connect and learn about some of the amazing kick-ass women in real life, such as Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, and J.K. Rowling.

Lest we forget, there have always been amazing women out there. Anne Frank, Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Joan of Arc, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart… But my generation wasn’t taught much about them in school, except as afterthoughts and footnotes to the “real” heroes. And we didn’t have the computer access to allow us to track them down ourselves.

Now, at least, girls have more access. Now, at least, animation is catching up with our awesomeness. (Although the sexualization part still tends to rear its ugly head. There’s still a lot of work to do.)

If I were a kid today, I’d totally be out in that back alley, pretending to be Hermoine Granger. Wingardium Leviosa!


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The Curse of Summer Vacations

The reality of summer never fit with my fantasies.

Holy moly, it got up to 88 degrees here the other day. If I were back in Florida, I’d be thanking my lucky stars for that nice, cool respite. Here in Seattle, the land of no air conditioners, 88 degrees is pure, unadulterated hell. It’s really hard to sleep when it’s that hot. People start getting cranky and acting crazy. Welcome to summer.

When I was a kid, I used to long for summer. I’d daydream about summer vacation while sitting at my school desk. (I daydreamed quite a bit. I was usually about a dozen lessons ahead of my classmates.) School was tedious for me. I could have moved much faster along my academic path if I didn’t have to drag all that dead weight behind me.

So summer vacation, for me, meant freedom. It was a time of lightening my load. It was my idea of Shangri-la.

I have absolutely no idea why I felt that way. The reality of summer never fit with my fantasies. I came from a hard working, very poor family. It’s not like we summered in the Hamptons or something. My mother had to work. If we went anywhere, we rarely went far, and we didn’t stay for long.

The reality of summer for me was lots and lots and lots of horrible daytime television, interspersed with the escape of library books, and naps. Blessed naps to break up the suffocating boredom. Often by the end of summer I was sleeping all day and watching TV all night.

It’s a wonder I didn’t lose my mind. Maybe I did. Because as soon as school started back up again, I would revert back to counting the days until the next summer vacation. It took me years to stop looking forward with miserable longing. Now is where it’s at, baby.

summer vacation

When the Love Spell is Broken

Love is like a drug. When you’re deep in it, especially in the early stages, it’s hard to see flaws. Red flags just look like a pretty splash of color in your world. You want to bask in the fact that you seem to have found evidence of perfection, and that perfect person, against all odds, thinks that you’re pretty darned amazing, too. Such bliss.

It’s a heady feeling, that perfect love. The problem is, it’s pure fiction. Everyone has flaws. It’s a rare person who doesn’t have the scales fall from dazzled eyes at least once in his or her romantic life. It’s profoundly discouraging to discover that the prince you’ve been kissing has been a frog all along and you’ve just refused to see it.

I think the reason we try to cling to the fantasy for as long as we can is that we’ve been raised to believe that true success means we must be part of a couple. It’s as if those of us who don’t go around two-by-two have somehow failed at life, and should be ashamed. What a steaming pile of horse manure. In modern times, one can do quite well on one’s own.

Yes, it can be lonely. We are social animals. But it’s possible to be social without being joined at the hip. I think it would be easier for many of us if we didn’t have so much societal pressure to take paths in life that we are unable or unwilling to walk down.

But if you insist, know this: True and enduring love is not ignoring someone’s flaws. Neither is it settling for the intolerable. It’s finding someone whose flaws you can see clearly and live with and still maintain a modicum of self-respect as well as respect for the other person. I understand that that picture isn’t quite as pretty, but it’s a heck of a lot more realistic.


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My Own Personal Pleasantville

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the movie “Pleasantville”, I highly recommend it. A boy from the 1990’s is obsessed with a sitcom from the 1950’s called Pleasantville. It’s your typical show of that era, showing a world that never actually existed, in black and white, where the mother wears pearls and high heels to do housework, the father gives sage advice and is highly respected, and the children are well mannered and, well… pleasant. But when 1990’s boy suddenly finds himself in Pleasantville, he starts to realize that perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I seem to be living in Pleasantville since I recently bought my house. It’s in an isolated little valley where all the neighbors know each other, and everything feels safe and clean and drama-free. Everyone has a dog. I’m even on a first name basis with the mailman and the local convenience store clerk. It’s this oasis of calm, with each of us in our very own cute little houses.

At a time when the wider world seems ever more chaotic and scary, I love going home to my little valley. It’s like taking off shoes that are two sizes too small. Finally, a chance to wiggle my toes.

I love living in this fantasy land, and I’m going to do my best to maintain it for as long as I can. Are cracks forming in the façade? Well, yes. A few people in the neighborhood drink probably more than is warranted in certain situations. But so far, they’re happy when they drink, and I like them, and it’s really none of my business. One neighbor is passively aggressively critical of my benign neglect of my yard. Oh well. And I can’t get a decent cell phone signal to save my life.

But you know, in the overall scheme of things, those are problems I can live with. I love my little neighborhood. Just don’t expect me to wear high heels while I do housework. In fact, wouldn’t even count on me doing housework on a schedule that makes sense to anyone other than myself.


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During my most recent trip to Canada, I had the opportunity to visit Whistler, which is the ski resort mecca of British Columbia. That was a surreal experience. Everything was clean and well-manicured. Even the concrete looked somehow artificial. It was like being in Disney World without the rides.

That is, if everyone who visited Disney had a six figure income. The second I stepped on the promenade, I felt extremely out of place. People kept looking at me as if they were outraged that I didn’t arrive through the service entrance. I swear that rich people can identify a poser by some pheromone or something. I definitely wasn’t supposed to be there.

I have no doubt that I could have eaten their overpriced food off the sidewalk and would not have caught a single disease. I also could have scotch-taped my money to my behind beneath a sign that said “steal me” and it would still have been there when I left. I stuck my head into a few shops, and quickly retreated. Everything was so outrageously priced that it seemed tacky to me. The whole place is a monument to crass consumerism.

I walked past several young men with chiseled jaws who were wearing watches that were worth more than I earn in a year. You couldn’t have slung a dead cat without hitting a designer label of some sort. One little blonde girl with very expensive hair extensions asked us where the “Olympic Ring thingy” was, and when we pointed her in the right direction, she ran off as if she was afraid her coach was about to turn into a pumpkin.

Is that what it’s like to be rich? Do you live your life in some sanitized bubble of a fantasy world, where everything is safe and predictable? Do you wander, care-free and entitled, from one vacuous place to the next, your only worry being the need to marry well?

I’ll pass. I’m glad I went to the rich people zoo once, just to say I’d done it, but I won’t be back. I prefer the real world.


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Trying on Houses

I’m a writer (obviously) so I have a fertile imagination. I spend a great deal of time picturing what my life would be like if this or that person were in it, or if I lived in Paris or Milan, or if I had any number of different jobs. Like my blog description says, I have entirely too much time on my hands.

So you can guess what my brain has been doing lately. As I mentioned recently in my Plea to Seattle Home Sellers, I am house hunting. It’s kind of frustrating in this cutthroat market, but even more so when you are as prone to flights of fancy as I am.

The first step, naturally, is looking at houses on line. I read the descriptions. I look at the photographs. I check out the neighborhood on Google maps. And off I go.

I imagine how my furniture, such as it is, would look in each room. I picture the view I would have. I think about my commute. Most of all, I wonder if my dog will enjoy playing in that particular yard. Will I have to do a lot of yard work? Will I feel safe? Could my new neighbors possibly be as cool as the ones I have now? (Waving at Paula and Kevin and Jackson.) Will I enjoy peace and quiet or will I be shouting over the phone to drown out jet engines? Can I walk to the library? Before I know it, I have my entire life plotted out in my head.

And then I go to see the place. Often, it doesn’t look like the pictures. They’ve used a wide angle lens to make rooms look bigger. They’ve photoshopped the lawn to make it actually look green. They’ve neglected to mention the big blue tarp on the roof.


That, or it’s everything I’ve imagined, and apparently everything everyone else has imagined, too, because the bidding war has jacked the price up 60k beyond my means. And there you have it, another dream crushed. Ashes of a future in my mouth.

Sometimes being creative is a curse.


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Are We the Stories We Tell Ourselves?

It’s always rather disconcerting when someone else has a different version of a memory that I’ve been invested in my whole life long. Which version is correct? And if my version is wrong, how did it change over time?

This is particularly unsettling when I’ve told a story time and time again to explain why it is that I’ve come to be the way I am. Have I been molding myself out of pure fantasy? But it feels so real…

Memories, it seems, can take on lives of their own. That kind of makes me feel as though I have nothing on which to hang my hat. The solid foundation I thought I had, as poorly constructed as it may have been, now seems to be built on quicksand. Scary.

And here’s the kicker: the older you get, the more memories you have. And the more they tend to fade. And yet you’re still you. Aren’t you?

Or are you?


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