maybe, you’re not so normal

I’m going to preface this by saying I am probably the most exhausted I maybe have ever been in my entire life–including the time I took care of my dying Mama and the time when I almost died and was recovering from surgery. We’re talking deep in the bones, soul-level exhaustion, y’all. Here’s the thing–when you’ve been unemployed for a while, you start compiling a long list of things to do. With COVID, that list got very unfocused and long. Staying inside, the house got messier. The pets seemed to do more bad things. We acquired hobbies and stuff. So much damn stuff. And we hadn’t ever addressed all the crap that happened when we moved here because we’ve all literally been going nonstop and then boom–this bizarre detour–that came with hefty mental health burdens.

Needless to say, a lot of the stuff I wanted to do while unemployed, I just didn’t do. They ended up being practical things like finally unpacking all the crap in our living room and organizing my bedroom–both of which have been incredibly stressful things for me, taking up massive mental real estate. Just the thought of them–things I have to step around on the daily–makes me want to hide or run to Aruba.

I don’t really regret how I spent my time, mostly because it’s why I’m probably still sane–but I do wish I had more time to address these practical things. That said–when it became clear that I was probably going to be getting a couple offers–and the time in process moved very fast–I tried to get a jump on these practical things–which was exhausting and I was also sick–with a sinus infection that I’m still dealing with. (It’s not COVID). Anyway, I kinda failed–miserably–and now, I’m in a familiar place of feeling extremely overwhelmed.

Here’s the deal: I just finished my employment law class on Sunday night (which has inspired me to look into law school for civil rights law after my counseling program ends–what??). I just started a really really really demanding job that makes my last job look like preschool; there’s a VERY high learning curve and high expectations–and the person I backfilled left a mess–and I’m still not trained–but doing the damn job. I’m 5 days into a 10 day antibiotic course for the sinus infection from Hell. I haven’t slept well in about 3 months because I was in a brief (and now defunct, but friendly) international relationship with an avoidant comic book artist. My damn ex who keeps coming back came back again. I’m back online dating and actually having better luck–imagine that. I’m dealing with my cat, as always, and transitioning her onto new treatments. (Going well). Trying to stay sane while California never gets its COVID vaccine shit together. Trying to clean the house and organize and finally make this place feel like home. Become a plant mother. Paint shit because I bought all the paint. And establish a cooking routine because I have no time to go anywhere for food because of this job. Oh, and in the course of all of THAT? I think I might have ADD.

Now, this is not necessarily a new might. My roommate–who has ADD–has suspected it for a long time, and a friend actually said he thinks I’m a fucking case study in ADD. (HAHA). But I have always unilaterally rejected the very notion…mostly because all the ADD folks I thought I knew were men, and I’m not like them in their ADD ways. But it was the damn executive function stuff that started me thinking–whoa–maybe I am. The thing is a lot of my supposed ADD symptoms are things that are easily attributed to my chronic illness and my mental health challenges (namely, PTSD and the anxiety that goes with it). Trauma is very rough on a brain. So, I always thought my shit was more about those things–not ADD. But I found out that my best friend has it–and she’s on medication–and talking to her–I was like–Holy whoa. That could be me.

My symptoms seem to most impact my executive functioning ability–and my ability to take care of myself–which has ALWAYS made me feel worthless and like a horrible failure at life. And man, is it ever impacting me right now. It’s gotten to the point where I know I can’t do it by myself the way I have been. My life is too chaotic now–even with a 2 month break from school. The thing is–I learned a lot of coping skills from being a female and from being a people pleaser. It helped that I had a very supportive mother who also was anal about routine and cleanliness–so mine never spiraled in the ways it has for my roommate, for example. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t need help.

So, I am looking into finding a psychiatrist to get tested–formally–and hopefully get treated. It’s daunting and crazy for me to think about–and I have no idea if it will even help–but something has to change.

eleven and a half

So, I’m not even going to explain or apologize or whatever. (Why do I always feel like I should?).

Honestly, I haven’t felt like writing here. Tonight, I did. If only to mark a milestone–as one does. Today came confirmation that I had passed all the everything and am officially amongst the employed again. Almost a full year since the betrayal that ended one other chapter. It’s mildly sweet to not only have exactly what I need from a job, but to also have had two wonderful offers–for the most money I’ve ever earned in my life–and the ability to do something new and challenging. My self-respect feels like it’s leapt tall buildings–but mostly, it just feels good to be seen. To not have to hustle. To just be me.

I’m damn good at what I do. I start Monday. I’m nervous, but excited for the open doors and the freedom this new chapter will afford me after such a nervewracking year.

I’m also excited that I’m volunteering as a guest poet for a favorite nonprofit. I’m still pursuing the death doula stuff, on the side–though that’s more challenging than I ever imagined it would be. I’m halfway through my MBA program and thinking about law school. I still have plans to become a counselor–though, with the new job, that becomes both easier and harder.

Love continues to be both ever-present and elusive. I continue to be frustrated and hopeful–but also impatient. As always. And whenever you’re too big for your britches, you end up dropping a huge bottle of rose on the floor–while lugging a heavy cat–somehow not soaking her–but dousing yourself. Then cutting yourself on a rogue shard you somehow missed and making your bedroom look like a damn crime scene. There may have also been a separate incident involving a cabinet and my head as well as a giant tub of au jus.

Oh, bother. I’m alive. So are you. We might just make it, after all.

all of it is you

Monday was a weird, tough day for me. I couldn’t sleep at all and was feeling off all day. Then, one thing after another happened. I got a lot of small things done–important victories–but I felt this kinetic shittiness in my body–the kind that used to be a daily thing in my world before I started therapy. It was this nondescript stress in my body–this physical need to cry or scream.

It’s not entirely unusual for dead Mama week, but it hasn’t been a thing for me this year. This year, I’ve been this even keel. And it didn’t require me to numb or disassociate–though I definitely have had moments of those.

To be honest, this off feeling started several weeks ago, right before my ex showed up again. I was so down–that kind of down that makes it hard to crawl out of bed. I had this sense of him–this inner knowing that he was going to appear when I least expected. The calls would come, and I wouldn’t answer–afraid to–but knowing it was him–knowing what he wanted–knowing what would happen if I answered and if I went. Deja vu. But worse–choosing your own groundhog day.

The night he called, and I answered, was a particularly rough night where I felt I had nothing left to lose. I was in such a dark place, and I couldn’t crawl out of it–so much so that the self-respect I’d fought for after our last meeting went right out the window and I justified it. I justified being a fool. I justified using his body as a way to forget. And it was exactly what I needed–but when it went as it always had–I found myself losing a bit more respect for myself–though I felt so much better. Feeling better was what allowed me to finally make better choices–but not before I gave others choices they didn’t deserve and I found myself right back where I started–this neverending cycle of me bashing my face against walls.

###

Earlier today, I watched this tarot thing on YouTube because of the whole Saturn conjunction thing. I’ve gotten into tarot a lot this year, out of some way of tapping into my intuition. It’s been part of a whole course of things I’ve tried to feel things because I felt my brain shutting shit down. So, I’d go on road trips so I could smell the ocean and forests. I’d sign up for virtual meetups. I’d take workshops. I’d dance any which way I wanted. I ate whatever the Hell I wanted too. A few weeks ago, I started writing in a journal–physically writing up exercises I concocted or finding them. I started meditating and doing whatever I could to tap into my own wisdom and move the energy. But a few weeks ago, I sort of stopped that. It happened when I stopped that torturous friendship and when I met someone new. I stopped even bothering to get up and do things. I gave myself full permission to eat all the sugar and sleep in all day. The household chores would wait. Granted–I WAS injured and also had a bad sinus infection–but this was a pattern. I recognize it now–but even though I knew I was off–I couldn’t drag myself away from doing it. I realize now that I was punishing myself for giving up. For choosing something that made me happier.

Anyway, the tarot thing today was spot-on. Warned about something I’ve suspected and called out my part of the nonsense. And I realized something about this year. This year has been the Universe testing me…who are you, really? Are you the girl you’ve always been–the girl you say you don’t want to be–the girl you don’t respect? Or are you the woman you’re claiming? The one everyone else thinks you are? The one that all your dreams and hopes require you be? And that is what has kept me stuck. That same girl who dropped everything to feel something? She’s what I’m afraid of. Because if I really am that girl–I can’t do anything of those things.

Here’s the thing, though–something I’ve learned after boatloads of therapy…that girl I dislike so much–that girl I don’t respect…the one who is pathetically allowing this shit to continue when she has full power to stop it? Like it or not, there will always be a part of me that IS her. And I can’t bully her away. I can’t will her out of existence. That’s been me this whole year–trying so hard to be “good.” To manage her–I have to let her feel all the damn feelings. I have to let her make the dumbass mistakes. I have to self-destruct a bit, sometimes, too. I have to love her and value her–because she isn’t all bad. She’s the hopeless romantic who never gives up. She’s the nurturing caretaker. She’s fun AF. But she can’t take over because she’s not who I’m becoming. She can’t be where I live. But to do that–I have to allow her to exist–but make it safe for her to exist. Meaning–she can be all those things–but only for the right people. And the right people will love her too. So I have to listen to her–acknowledge her–give her managed bits of what she needs–and then take back my power–because I don’t live there anymore. Because I don’t want to. And that’s not my path. It was a path that was chosen for me. And it’s time to make better choices.

###

My Mama and my Daddy loved each other. Of this, I have no doubt. And in some ways, they were good for each other. But she always felt he saved her, when–in fact–she saved herself. He just threatened to leave. He just gave her an ultimatum. The whole drama triangle is alive and well in their story. The codependent dance I learned so well–and the one I’ve recreated my entire life–in almost all my love relationships.

But never once was I fully me in any of those relationships. And coincidentally–I never once felt actually loved. Which makes sense, I guess, because I was never me. I was always some watered down version. Some crafted person. Some thing I thought they needed or wanted or expected. Some stereotype of who I thought I was. Never ever fully me.

I never respected my mother in love. I respected her in her life–as the strongest–best woman I knew. But in love, she was stupid–she was lesser. She showed none of the strength or the backbone I admired so much. And I vowed to never be her. And yet–just like her–I’ve dated people with addictions–men who cheated and lied–men who needed me to be less than. Men who avoided. And I’ve been that dumb fucking girl who keeps going back.

But it started breaking this year–even as I repeated that codependent nonsense of all the shit I’ve always been. It started breaking with my ex. Even though I let him come back–I didn’t make it easy. Even though I wanted to hate him–I didn’t shut down. I opened up–I accepted him instead of trying to change him. And I showed the fuck up–being vulnerable in ways I never had–maybe foolishly–but he knew me. Maybe better than anyone ever has–and maybe that’s why I kept letting him. Convincing myself it was something about him, when–really–it was something about me.

Maybe I opened up because I finally knew myself. Maybe I finally accepted myself. Maybe I finally owned all of it–the good and the bad and the shit I hated.

With the near miss–same–only opposite. I didn’t accept that my experience of him had to be my experience. And yes–that made me stubbornly disbelieve he was that person–but it also meant I spoke up–loudly–when I was mistreated. I didn’t let it go. I didn’t jump on the grenade. I walked away often–I just didn’t stay away. Until now.

I’ve somehow managed to stay away from these people who baffled me all year. These people who I connected with because I was more connected with myself. And I’m realizing that it was never about them. They were never the point.

Lately, I’ve been getting to know someone–and for once in my life–I feel like me. Not because I’m trying to impress or trying to make something be something. But because the me I am now bubbles out–even when I’m off-kilter and flailing in the life I’m fighting so hard to live. Maybe all of it is me.

fresh air

For the most part, 2020 has been a year of chasing storm clouds and engaging ghosts–being pulled back into traumas I thought I long ago healed.

December, typically, is a month that grabs me by the throat. At the beginning of this December, I gained some momentum–after weeks of nonsense and feeling like the woman my mother always was in her relationships–a woman I never quite respected. I remember the turning point came after the last time I saw him–when I realized how much I missed him and how much it wouldn’t matter. When I noticed he didn’t say he missed me. That’s when I decided I’d stop. Except I didn’t–because some part of me would do anything to believe the lie. And then I did the stupid thing and it all poured out of me. And that was the start of something important.

A few days later, I was trying–once again–with the near miss. Trying to believe he was the goodness I saw in him. Trying to prove to myself that all the other times we’d been together weren’t really him. That this abusive interplay wasn’t actually true. Except I’m not a liar, and no matter what I did that day–the Universe was hellbent on showing me exactly what was. So I let go of the rope that had been my noose for so long, and almost immediately, something else entered my life. A complete and utter surprise to this perpetually broken-hearted girl. I never saw it coming. Not even for a minute. And even as it was right in front of me, I somehow didn’t question anything about it. I just accepted it for what it was–and doing that allowed it to be what it was.

When someone really sees me–when they show up the way I show up–when they engage me and catch my ball–fill in my blanks–after so many days of feeling like these things would never happen–not for me–it’s hard not to push it away. And yet–I can’t. For some silly reason, my heart is open. And it’s because of who I’m dealing with.

It’s interesting to finally feel like maybe I’m getting what I deserve. Even if it’s all so unlikely. Even if I don’t really know how we’re going to make it all work. I have hope, for the first time in a very long time–mostly that the story I’ve lived doesn’t have to be forever. That maybe there’s some other forever waiting for me.

Soon.

turning around

It was a rough weekend.

My feelings about the friendship with my near miss has been all over the map. When I wrote that last blog post, I felt a little cracked open. I think I realized how much I’ve been protecting myself and blocking connection with people. But I didn’t really know why, and now I think I might.

I’m someone who tends to give what she gives–meaning–if someone is vulnerable and kind to me–I tend to match them in intensity of feeling and consistency. Part of that–simply put–comes from trauma. I have a unique ability to read a room and become whatever the room needs. It’s actually a survival tactic and why I’ve been called a chameleon in the past. It’s also how I hide and fit in–how I learned to be valued and liked–and not too much. Fairness and balance of interaction really matters to me. Which is probably why I get triggered when I’m ignored or when people just don’t show up for me. Because, when they do that–for whatever reason–it means I’m at risk. It means I’m the vulnerable one in the interaction. So I best push them away. Anyway, that day that I wrote that last post, I’d been particularly out of my comfort zone–pushing myself to be me–to risk being hurt.

I put myself in the line of fire of people who have consistently hurt me. People I knew would hurt me again. And that was a bit of crazymaking–even if I didn’t see it in the moment. To me, it was mending fences–not the form of self-abuse it actually is.

I don’t regret doing it, really. I said what I meant and I was known, at minimum. But I put myself in an unsafe position. When it comes to men, I do this all the time–and I suspect it’s a root cause of a lot of my trouble with men.

Anyway. Some of it was good. There was necessary dialogue. But some of it just confirmed what I already, secretly, knew: that these people don’t care about me and maybe never did. And that was just a fact and that it was never ever about me. And for the first time maybe in ever, I really saw them and the situations for what they were–outside of that hurt lens of my childhood and who I was when they were mine. And it was pretty clear what needed to happen–with everyone except that near miss.

My vulnerability with him surprised me–and his response back surprised me, too. But it took a real turn after, and there was a clarity–more and more–that this was very much a codependent interaction. It was mostly coming from him–mostly him asking me for things. And me feeling very uncomfortable about it because I knew how unhealthy all of this was. I am a helper, at my core. I love caring for people. But this was a grown man asking me to do things for him that he was completely capable of doing. And I realized it wasn’t about his ability to do these things. It was about him attention seeking and needing me to prove I cared about him. It was one of those big red flag moments that don’t happen very often because–to be honest–in the past–I would have jumped on the chance to prove I was good. To be needed. But I’m much healthier now than I used to be. So, I sort of let him fall on his face and take care of himself. Which led to tension. At one point, I sort of asserted my independence because I felt so uncomfortable–but it wasn’t in a mean or terrible way. It was very carefully done, and I’m proud of myself for the control I had there. It was met with some major reactionary BS and silent treatment. The next day, I tried to talk about it–when he pretended nothing had happened. I tried because it mattered, and I knew–if he couldn’t own his shit and acknowledge it–there was little chance I could keep being his friend. He met it with hostility and defensiveness again. So, it was clear–he was incapable of self-reflection and accountability. And that’s basically the only things I expect for any relationship–of any caliber. Given that whole thing, I started inching away. It’s not the first time. So, when I started doing it, it was very intentional. I knew that I’d easily get pulled back in. I even turned off my phone.

After hours of silence, I finally check my phone and he had messaged me saying he was ill and suicidal. It immediately felt manipulative to me because he knows–from witnessing my interactions with another ex who was suicidal–that I will drop everything in that instance and will show up–no matter what. I remember, when that whole thing happened before–I was mid-text convo with the near miss and the ex showed up after days of silence and I literally abruptly said–I have to go. I explained it later. But it made an impression, I’m sure.

The reality is that–as much as I felt he was probably being manipulative–I just couldn’t be sure. And I don’t take chances when it comes to friends and suicide. I’ve lost friends to suicide. And there were times I could have stopped it had I taken them seriously. So, I immediately swooped in–enabling the pattern–and I knew I was doing it–but I couldn’t abandon him. I talked to The Canadian about it–mostly because he’s an impartial party and knows me very well–and is also very logical and level-headed. Calm. He felt it was all a ploy and that I should say no. He felt the whole interaction with this guy was abusive and bad–told me I wasn’t responsible for him.

And I get that–right? I do. But we are all responsible for each other. Isn’t that also what I believe? Which is a hard little crapfest to deal with.

Anyway, I decided to show up and even offered to meet up with him–but I couldn’t do what he wanted to do because I’m still injured. I had to say no and put in boundaries (thank God for broken bodies). He didn’t like that–it was clear–and got a little haughty–pushing me away again. The next morning, I woke to a text asking if I’d like to meet up on Saturday. The truth? I was relieved that we didn’t meet up the night before, and I wasn’t too keen on this Saturday meetup either. I reminded him that I still couldn’t do what he always prefers and put limits–boundaries–on the interaction. If we did it, we’d have to drive somewhere–and it would have to be early in the morning. I used Fogg as an excuse, but really, I wanted to get it over with and limit it and knew if it was later, I’d dread it and be anxious. I was surprised when he agreed. The night before, I had this intuition that I was going to be punished for having those boundaries, though. I really really didn’t want to go. But I got up at 5:30 am, determined to make the best of it. I went and got us both breakfast and he seemed to be in an okay mood. I made the long drive out to him–which was tough on little sleep–and as soon as he walked up–I could tell I was in for it.

Two minutes into him being in my car–it was like a rehash of all the bad moments we’ve ever had together. I asked him to please stop because I just wanted to have a good day and I wasn’t interested in fighting. But he was like a dog with a bone. I felt belittled and bullied. We were barely out of his neighborhood and on the highway–a significant distance–but just barely starting the trip–when I’d finally had enough and turned the car around. Mid-way there, I was so fed up that I said–“maybe I should take you home–maybe we shouldn’t be friends.” I’m not someone who threatens relationships unless I mean it. The fact that I got there that quickly said a lot. It was one of his tactics–something he’d done many times–and I hated him for it every time. I don’t play with that kind of thing. I was dead serious. I don’t think he realized that. I think he thought it was just another spat in our endless spats.

So, the whole way back to his house–which seemed to take forever–he tried to “understand” why I was mad–tried to rescue the shambles of the friendship. But it was really just more angles to poke at me. It felt very abusive and bad. At some point, I realized he really didn’t want to understand–mostly after I explained and explained–quite clearly what was wrong. After enduring more jabs–and being told I was crazy because I wouldn’t let him belittle me. I realized then that nothing I did or said would make a difference. So I shut down and that seemed to really get him going. Me not engaging him or responding. He made me the bad guy and kept trying to drag me back in–successful at times–because I did want to work it out–but eventually there’d be another jab. At some point, I realized–he’s manipulating this, too. It felt like typical narcissistic abuse. But more than that–he was using me to confirm all the things he thought about himself. And at times, I was so angry–that he got his wish. I said some blunt–but completely true–things–that I feel bad about now. But I think he needed to hear them–whether he absorbed them or not. I could have said them in kinder ways. That’s what I feel bad about.

When I finally dropped him off, it felt like some non-goodbye–him leaving the door open–saying he’d let me reach out–and me completely sure I never would. I haven’t spoken to him since–though I’ve felt the urge to apologize. I’m learning that my entire childhood set me up to blame myself for other people’s shitty behavior. That I always exonerate people. I always fix it. I always forgive the unforgivable. And maybe that needs to stop. Maybe that’s what this entire year is about. Me actually feeling the ways I’ve been injured and not making them feel better about injuring me. Me actually claiming my hurt and my own role in creating that hurt for myself. I don’t actually feel that hurt, right now, to be honest. I feel relief. And that tells me that letting go–finally–is the exact right decision.