officially neurodivergent

A few months ago, when I started my new health plan that came with my new job, I started looking into things again like acupuncture–which was now covered by my plan. I’ve been feeling a push, off an on, this year to get healthier. My mental health has been a big focus and continues to be. Considering all the nonsense in the world, I’ve been doing pretty well in that regard. But I noticed a repeated thing that was causing me a lot of misery–and it was absolutely my fault.

Or so I thought. Two things were happening on a pretty constant basis: I was procrastinating to an inch of my life and I was feeling constantly inept and overwhelmed by routine household chores–which was why I was procrastinating. The problem was that the overwhelm, which caused the procrastination, would spiral into this vicious cycle where things that were somewhat manageable truly became unmanageable and then I’d feel ashamed for being such a lazy ass. Things would be okay when life wasn’t too busy. But when I started my new job and barely had time to pee–let alone clean–it was a LOT. To the point that I would actually almost have a breakdown because I was behind on laundry. I’d even have nightmares. Then I’d feel paralyzed and would procrastinate more–feeling worse and worse about everything–like an utter failure. People would get mad at me because of my seemingly willful lazyness. And then I’d resent them.

I thought all of the above was just me being a person with two chronic illnesses that affect energy levels. And yea–some of that was probably why. But when I had to do something, I’d always do it. And I’d feel so much better. I noticed a trend about my overwhelm and my ability to get things done. If it was for someone else–if I was disappointing someone else–I always came through. But if it was just for me–or for someone very close to me–I’d always fuck up.

I realized this was a theme in my life. It was why I was such an overachiever in school, but had a hard time completing my own writing projects. It had nothing to do with desire to want to do these things. There were clues all over my behavior. But the thing I started going a-ha with involved executive functioning. Because I realized that–even when I had all the time in the world–I still couldn’t get things done. It wasn’t about being busy even. I wasn’t about energy–even if I slept all day. It wasn’t about not wanting to. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t even express why. It was like a block–some pre-verbal thing. So, I went down the rabbit hole (as I do) and started wondering–huh, do I have ADHD? People who had it–trusted friends–had told me many times that they thought I did. I had always poo-poo’d the thought because I wasn’t hyperactive as a kid. I was high achieving and quiet–obedient. The opposite of those spazzy ADHD kids. But then I read something about how it affects girls. And I became convinced I had inattentive ADHD. Suddenly, shit I dismissed as trauma related or illness related were seen in a whole new light. All my quirks. All the shit I could never explain. The reason I had such a hard time not interrupting people when I was excited. Hell, how I learn–how I’m excited.

So, I went on this quest months ago to see about it. There were no psychiatrists available, so I had to get on a long wait list. Finally, I got to see one in late July. He felt like I was probably ADHD, but it was hard to say with my illnesses because there’s lots of overlap. So, before trying medications, he recommended more testing–if I was comfortable–which could help inform what would help me most. We talked about me taking Wellbutrin and possibly a low-dose ADHD drug. I wanted to wait for the testing to discuss it more–mostly because I’m scared of meds.

Today was the day. I met with my psychologist, and we did a whole day of tests. It was interesting because I definitely struggled. I’m a smart person, and I felt myself strategizing to get through the exercises. At the end, based on the raw data, she said she felt that I have a mild form of ADHD inattentive type, and that I’m extremely high functioning. She said that my very high IQ really helped me and that she could tell when I was running mental gymnastics to get through things. She said–“sometimes, you did just fine–but you were clearly not happy and struggling very much–but you’d do it.” She said it was clear that I’ve really relied on my creativity a lot. At the very end, I felt almost comatose–barely able to stay awake.

I left feeling vindicated because I knew something wasn’t quite right. That things were always so much harder for me, and that I always felt so different. I always felt like I thought in ways the people around me could never understand. And I was right.

It made me pretty emotional, to be honest. And grateful. It made me wonder who I would have been had I always known this was me. It felt pretty big to me–as big as my thyroid diagnosis–and how it made me finally stop blaming myself for my struggles with weight and energy. I’m not lazy. I’m not a shitty person who lets everyone down. I just think differently, and I have actual inefficiencies in my brain that actually stop me from being “normal.” But those same things have made me a million other great things.

I was grateful because I finally had the means to take care of myself in this way. But also grateful that I know myself well enough–and am honest with myself enough–to seek out help. I was grateful for my parents who helped me with so many things and probably saved me with all the time they spent teaching me ways to live. These coping strategies allowed me to be high functioning, and now, most of the really problematic things only really affect me–and are things I can learn to deal with. It’s not fun by any means, but I’m not paralyzed routinely–all because they did that for me. It makes me wonder if both of them had forms of it–especially since it runs in families.

I’m going to set up an appointment with my psychiatrist in a few weeks, after the full report is available. I think I’m going to ask for a low dose med and try the Wellbutrin. I’ve never felt truly supported by anyone in my life, so maybe it’s time to allow this as an open door into bigger steps toward facing my own needs and asking others to meet them.

the hell yes of never no

When I first moved to the Bay Area, my “plan”–if I had one–was to go to school out here; get my therapy degree; and start private practice. I felt like the Bay Area had a lot of prestigious schools. Surely, getting a degree from a college here would set me up for life. I’m not sure what I was trying to do, exactly, with that–but I suspect a lot of it had to do with me always feeling like I had something to prove–like I wasn’t good enough–like I was incapable of things plenty of other mediocre humans do. I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome for much of my life–always doubting that I was actually valued–always worried people would find out I’m not as great as I appear to be. And I guess that was a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy because it led me to choose situations where I knew I’d be miserable–convincing myself each and every time that it was a good situation. There was never really a time in my life–other than getting into TFA when I felt I actually fulfilled the potential everyone always thought I had. I was never an underachiever. I was the opposite, actually: a woman with umpteen degrees who never failed at any job, but who always felt undervalued, underused, and under seen. Someone who was terrified of making any mistakes–who tortuously played it safe because stability was worth any cost–and who never felt like herself in her work.

Work was always this place to suffer–where I often felt like a naughty child getting away with something or teacher’s pet–becoming the standard for whatever. Moving here started a big chain of events that sort of forced me to see who I’ve always been. Part of that was I was sort of in this outsider world–like this satellite orbiting reality. In this land where overachieving was ordinary, I wasn’t anything all that special–even with my umpteen degrees and impressive track record. It all felt hollow, and there was nowhere to hide. I guess that’s when things started cracking–when the identity of achiever that I’d always had started disintegrating. I don’t think I’d ever felt more lost or clueless than that time.

I slowly started reclaiming something–some thing I don’t think I ever actually had, really, but something I remember being, once…when I was really little…before everything was my fault and my responsibility…when I was just a little girl who hated frilly dresses–that little girl who stood up in her stroller as Mama carted us across Broadway–that girl that wasn’t going to be contained by damn near anything–the girl who owned her space and let you know she was here.

At some point, in the last few years, I realized I actually know what I’m doing. I’m actually wise, in all kinds of ways, and the things I’ve thought of–the things I’ve labeled as stupid were actually not acts of massive stupidity, but acts of generosity. Perhaps, I was generous with the wrong people and things, but I wasn’t stupid for that. Maybe I miscalculated the true costs, but there was nothing timid about that. My only real fault was that I wasn’t ever thinking about myself. It was always a thought about someone else–about my impact. Never about me. And really, at the time, I was just doing what anyone else my age would have done, if they’d never been taught that something else was possible.

As I started realizing my value–because that’s what that journey actually was–that realizing I knew something thing–I started getting angry. And sad. But mostly angry. Mostly at myself. But eventually, I got angry at the people who took advantage of who I always felt I had to be. Yes–that was my choice to be that person–but it was also their choice to take advantage of it and use it to the full extent they could. The rage I felt was absorbed violence that had been inflicted on me from their abusive behavior. The violence I just accepted as mine because I didn’t know what else to do with violence except accept it. But it was also the violence of my own self-abuse in accepting it. Eventually, the violence you accept becomes violence against yourself. And eventually the violence you accept for yourself needs a place to go. Either you become what you know everyone else to be, or you hurt yourself.

When I was a kid, I used to spontaneously start bawling my eyes out over nothing. Like literally, I’d wake up in this mood–and there would be tears. I was always this kid that never bothered anyone, so these outbursts were not a little bit disturbing to adults. And embarrassing. Because there had to be something wrong with me. They were never really addressed except I eventually learned how to contain them. Writing helped. Punching things helped. Escaping to a fantasy land of my own making–flat out rejecting goddamn reality–helped, too.

A year and a half ago, it all culminated in me not taking the shit anymore. In an instant, my life was completely different–in a scary way–and it was so clear that this was right–no matter how terrifying it was. And it just sort of worked out. I had no idea what was going to happen or how it would work out, but I just sort of knew it would. And I was able to pivot so fast–in a way that felt fine.

Things were getting harder at the beginning of the year, so I pivoted again–and again–where things had been hard–it was easy. I found myself with two offers–one basically what was the epitome of all that I had wanted to achieve when I moved here. I went with that one. It wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be–but despite that–it’s shown me a LOT about who I am. It’s been sort of a crash course lesson in reality and boundaries. And while it’s been a lot of great things, it taught me exactly who I am…and who I am not.

A few weeks ago, some opportunities fell in my lap. Things came easily, but I found myself agonizing over the choices–to the point that any choice felt like a mistake–and was a massive burden. I had nightmares. I asked for more time, even though I’d made a decision. I doubted it and reexamined it. I kept going back and forth. Then I went on a drive to get coffee, and it was suddenly so clear. I had noted how I wasn’t even excited about the offer. How I wasn’t even trying to convince myself of the goodness. I was just trying to get through it–like a traumatic event. I noticed that what I felt was the same feeling of disassociation I had as a child. That feeling of none of it being mine. I started thinking about what I needed–like why was I even doing this work? And it was so clear. I was doing this work so I could stop doing this work. Because this job had just confirmed that no matter what I did–no matter how valued and well-paid I was–this work was just not mine–no matter how good I was or how much I knew. I was never going to wake up overjoyed to do it. I would always value a day off more than a day there. The only reason any of it mattered or was worth anything at all was that it would fuel me being able to do the things that came easy–that meant more–that felt like mine. So what did I need to make that happen? And it became very clear. And I thought–well, maybe I should hold out for that. And the next morning, I opened my email and that something was in my inbox.

A while ago, I read something that said, “If it isn’t a Hell yes, it’s a no.” I think it was Derek Sivers who said that. It really resonated with me. I don’t mind working hard. But if everything is suffering. If nothing is clear? That’s your answer. I thought about it and all the things I’ve ever done that were ever good things–things that mattered or that I felt grateful about–were things that always felt like yes. The only times I felt wishy washy were when they were things I should have avoided. And yea–there are lots of lessons to be gained from the things that you accept that should have been NOs, but sometimes, maybe the no would’ve been better.

And that made me think of something else–something really big, actually. The whole thing about me leaving TFA years ago–the decision to leave was never a question. The hesitation was putting myself first. My decision to not choose to be a writer or a zoologist? Taking the route I took was exactly the right choice. My entire life has not been one massive mistake. I was not stupid or wrong. It just wasn’t a yes. Just like those men I loved last year weren’t yes. No matter how many times they reinsert themselves into this life. No matter how much I wanted them to be yes. The fact that deciding was so hard was the answer. Because anything that’s mine couldn’t possibly ever be a no.

Ice cream is never a no. Ripe peaches are never a no. Cold, dreary coastal drives with redwood forests on one side and ocean on the other? Never a goddamn no. Colorado sunsets and sunrises? Never a no. Doing whatever it takes for Fogg? Never a damn no. Showing up for my best friend whenever she needs me? Never a damn no.

It’s important to pay attention to the things that require no effort–that are as simple and clear as breathing.

But all of that is also to say that the simple truth about something sometimes means that a path that is a clear no might have components of yes, and those things are also worth paying attention to.

Will kissing that guy with the sad eyes before I knew he was a NO a bad idea? If it was, it never would have happened. And sometimes you need to try on the dress before you know the waist is too small or that it’s itchy. The totality of something is not the same as the path you take to know the something.

So I will wait till I find my never NOs, but I will still try on my sometimes Yes and will figure out why they’re a Yes–because maybe that’s a clue of the path I need to follow.

shapeshifting

A few days ago, my therapist and I were discussing things that have been going on in my life lately when she brought up something that moved me in a big way. My hatred of reality. I immediately had big thoughts and opinions.

I’m not someone who has ever really accepted reality–to blazingly painful results. When shit was too real–when things were not how I wanted to be–I shapeshifted into something I wasn’t quite ready or capable of being–to bend the world to my whim. I learned to escape reality at every turn of my childhood. Except, for my parents, escape was through alcohol and avoidance. Whereas, for me, the ultimate reality avoider was ego. That lie that it was all mine to fix. That idea that I was so powerful. Which was more of a half-truth, really. While I was powerful and had choices–as a little girl–I was also dependent. And the very idea of being that superhero was never really a choice.

Rejecting the idea that the reality of the world applied to me was the most profound resistance to the bullshit that was my life. And it still is that thing. It’s why I’m a writer. Long ago, I learned the lesson that you can create for yourself the world that doesn’t exist. And if you delude yourself enough–for long enough–eventually it becomes a kind of reality.

###

This morning, I found out a friend of mine passed away at the end of May–after a stay in the hospital for CHF–one of the things that killed my Mama. He was a fixture in my life for all the years I’ve been an adult orphan–another orphan who often supported me and turned to me because we got each other. A single man who longed to find love. Who called me Ms. A and sweets. And truth be told–probably–likely–had a crush on me. Like many of the men I met back then when her loss was so new. It’s why we never met. That was me avoiding the uncomfortable reality that I might, one day, break his heart.

We were each other’s family in the land of misfits. The ones we could always count on–loyal to the core–despite all kinds of everything. I was his cheerleader when he escaped an abusive situation with his only remaining family, and I literally kept him alive when he was suicidal. But his heart was finally too broken to recover, and there’s a poignant poetry to that–for my friend, who wrote pretty things and would have appreciated this last tragedy.

A few hours before I found out, I had lamented about some of the things he often lamented about–and that’s why I finally checked on him–knowing it had been too long and he was too quiet.

The reality has felt a bit too cruel, but in a weird way, I am envious of him–getting to see our beloved parents again.

###

Several days ago, I finished watching WandaVision. I’d tried to watch it before, but I couldn’t get past the who oldie TV show schtick. I remember telling the comic book artist about it–him being the expert on all things culture. He somehow hadn’t seen it yet. I told him then that I’d probably revisit it. I’d hoped to watch it with him. But life is. And so, I watched it alone in one go on a weekend night, surrounded by my cats.

The whole thing was sort of a gutpunch when we finally made it to the end. A whole meditation on complicated grief. On how I chose to live my life for most of my life. Oh, how I could relate to Wanda. The all-powerful superhero who could create entire worlds just to avoid the stark reality of her life. Even if it meant controlling people and comical chaos.

###

A few weeks back–I noted that I collect things. Almost obsessively. That I want to know all the things. Have all the things. It’s like I forget that I can always get more. That there will probably still be more there tomorrow. Sometimes, the collecting means more to me than the actually absorbing and appreciation of the thing. In some ways, I’m like that with people too. There’s a part of me that wants everyone to like me–no matter what–no matter who they are–no matter why.

All of it is a way of controlling things, I suppose. Denying all the absurdities of reality. The cruelties. The things I can’t possibly ever begin to understand yet alone accept.

supposed to

The last few weeks have not been much fun. They’ve been a lot of hard work and a lot of coming to terms with reality–a reality that is sobering and heartbreaking all at once. Admitting things to yourself that you’ve known for a long, long time–but more than that–feeling the full breadth of the burden–facing it head-on–not pretending it wasn’t there. And realizing–man, I’m sorta crazy.

The gist of it–my life has inflicted all kinds of injuries upon me that I didn’t even know existed–and most of them came about, ironically, from trying to cope.

Things are better now, mostly because I know exactly what I’m dealing with and I did a whole lot of work in short order to deal with my nonsense. But there’s still a lot more and, even though things look respectable enough–even though they’re tolerable–there’s still that massive burden and that underlying panic I have that I won’t be able to deal with it–this panic that I’m always in all of this all alone. And the accompanying grief that all of it was distracting me from.

Some things are becoming much more obvious to me.

1) Things are big burdens to me right now. I crave simplicity in a way I never imagined I could. I’m tired of stuff and everything being harder than it needs to be.
2) More than just being tired of it, I simply can’t tolerate it anymore. I’m having to really admit defeat here–that my mind and my body cannot deal with complicated and difficult anymore. I need to heal, and there’s no healing when you’re always surrounded by shit that threatens to drown you.
3) I’m surrounded by people who are just as burdensome, and they’re committed to misunderstanding me. It has nothing to do with me, and it’s not my job to educate them or fix them. But it is my job to make sure my contact with them isn’t a burden as it has been for the last several years of my life.
4) I need actual meaningful help and people who will accept what I can and cannot give. Not people who want things from me or people hellbent on making me take care of them in whatever ways they deem necessary.
5) I’m willing to suck it up and pay for this help. And that means first admitting that I cannot do this myself.
6) How I help myself is no one’s business.
7) The same things within me that made me disbelieve my actual need for help also exist in the world as very real barriers, and it’s so easy to give up–to use that as a reason to embrace the old ways–but standing up and insisting is part of the healing work I need to do.

The past six months has allowed me to really see who people are and how–despite caring about them and loving them–someone can be toxic for you without any intention for it. I’m starting to appreciate the full gravity of my grief there by allowing myself to finally feel the disrespect I allowed and the actual pain they inflicted on me through careless actions and selfish behavior. And so many other things that have nothing to do with who I am and my value to anyone. Separating their behavior from who I am–not using it as some evidence of my fucked-up-ness–has been really hard. But it took experiencing ableism related to my chronic illness and my possible ADHD–from someone I deal with every day–to really bring home that I’m not bad or wrong. But the expectations they have for me are about their own feelings about how they’re good…and it takes me being their fall guy to make their self-image possible. It says nothing about me, except that I allow them to use me that way. And that has allowed me to see them for who they are: a person who is inherently unsafe for me right now–that I need to keep at arm’s length for my own sanity.

I’m starting to see how I’ve been used and how I’ve used others. And man–I’m just done with it.

I’m also starting to see what’s worth the sacrifices and what’s not. People and things and jobs. And all the things that go with it. So, I’m taking some breaks from things like dating and school and trying to conform to other people’s anything.

Instead, I’m doing my own work–cleaning up my own house–literally–and walking away from anything that makes me feel like shit.

#

I was supposed to get my hair done today. It was part of a bargain I made with myself when I was struggling to find motivation to do what I’d avoided for far too long. With good reason–it was fucking painful. In a weird way, it reinforced something. When things were at the good enough stage–or the as good as it’s gonna get by this deadline stage–which wasn’t mine–it felt like the reward wasn’t mine or wasn’t well-deserved…because it wasn’t done. But shit is never done, right? Nothing is ever perfect. It’s all maintenance and swirling out of control only to get back to center. It’s important to take care of yourself, and part of that is acknowledging when you’ve done something hard.

I got a facial on Friday, which was my day off, and it was nice–though these things never feel as kind as I want them to feel. I tried to rest as much as possible because I’m covered in bruises and feel dead tired. Emotionally and physically done. But I had a paper due, of course, and I overcomplicated–of course–doing that shit I do where I can’t just submit something ordinary. And my attempts at more make me unhappy with it because I’m too tired to really do what I want to do–and because this shit is the same shit I do for work–I wanted nothing to do with it. I felt myself phoning it in–even as I wanted to make it so amazing. I worked on it more this morning–finally allowing myself to make it good enough–knowing all I had to do was what was asked and it would be enough. But it irritated me, and that made me more tired. By the time it was almost time for my hair appointment, the thought of sitting in a chair–talking for four hours–in a loud salon–made me more tired. And then the stylist canceled with a two hour window, and I was pissed again–at the disrespect–not the burden–which truthfully I didn’t really want today. Though I’m sick of my hair and need it cut so badly.

I was irritated that I’d given them another chance–as I always do–even after an injury. That even though they treated me poorly, I still didn’t want to believe they sucked. So, for the second time, I wasn’t getting what I needed–and it was my fault because I allowed it.

A theme in my life for the last year. It’s hard to be truly mad at people who do just what you allow them to do, when evidence points to them being unreliable.

After the anger flashed its way through me, I was happy to settle into bed and watched WandaVision–a show I started watching months ago–when I first met him–because people kept telling me I should. I suppose I also watched it then because he and I just started our relationship. We used to have these long conversations about tv shows. I remember one of our first conversations was about Buffy. We’d talk about perfect scenes and characters. Being a comic book artist, he had all these thoughts and ideas about various Universes, and while I never really actively considered DC versus Marvel, I’m a woman who loves stories and characters. So, I guess it was a way to explore his world–one that I couldn’t quite explore because of COVID and all the shit that went with our complicated love affair.

I remember watching the first episode of WandaVision and being annoyed–because being me–I’m not so into black and white anything. I don’t really enjoy old sitcoms and I felt the whole thing was such a gimmick. I didn’t know how to react to it, really, and I tried to hang in there–I really did–because so many friends said I should. But that judgmental part of me just couldn’t. So, I left it at episode 2. He hadn’t seen it, and I remember ranting to him about it. I knew–at some point–I’d revisit it because that’s also who I am–never one to ignore recommendations from people I trust.

I wish I had hung with it more then because it’s really good. Odd and unpredictable and a whole journey I never expected. A world I didn’t know much about–except I knew all about it. I watched the whole thing today–and at the end–I sobbed. All day, I felt this chasm of grief I’ve been holding onto for months now. One of the reasons I love story is because witnessing the stories of others makes our own stories accessible to ourselves, all too often.

I wanted to call him and talk to him about the story and the characters and the world that existed. And then I realized I couldn’t. Well, I mean–I could…but he wouldn’t necessarily be there–and he would never be what he was then, even if he was. And that was another grief. Neither would I–and yet another grief. And did I even want that–or did I want some thing I made him out to be? That’s part of this whole story, too.

There’s still so much work to do.

days of my life

I didn’t mention this earlier this week, but I recently did something called a past life soul regression therapy session with an intuition coach I met a couple years ago, who I’ve worked with in the past–to great success. I know–crazy woo. This session came a couple days after I had a pretty challenging therapy session with my long-time therapist wherein I basically defined a huge part of my spirituality as rooted in scientific principles–but yet–still–completely woo and also quite Buddhist (which has mostly been self-discovered, rather than taught).

I don’t know why, but that feels important to say–to share–that I am someone who believes and is inspired by scientific ideas. How I see life and how I live life is molded directly by the things I studied over 20 years ago, and these principles hit me at my core–along with a lot of faith-based ideals from the Jesuits about how to be a critical thinker and a decent human.

I’ve always felt I contain multitudes, and often, these multitudes contradict and expand even as they retract. These are things that are mine. They may not apply to you and you are free to be whatever you want and need to be in my presence…and I will ask that you give me the same grace.

So, I’m going to share more about why I signed up for this–because I was a skeptic and wasn’t quite sure it was going to be beneficial. However, I trusted the practitioner–having had an amazing experience with her last year in workshops based on building self-trust. Those workshops gave me a sense of community with other women and also linked me back to the parts of me incredibly linked to writing. It allowed me to deeply support others and be supported–just by being me. It showed me what relationships could be with other people and has helped me deepen existing friendships and get over my own obstacles there.

But I’d done reiki before and had no benefits–thought it was possibly BS–though the person doing it seemed ethical and good at her work. Maybe it would have been different had I committed longer. Maybe I wasn’t in-tune or open enough to receive it. I also was not convinced I could be hypnotized because I have a hard time even staying in my body–my mind rarely shuts up–and even when I’m meditating–a big part of me getting benefits from it is just accepting that my mind is going to have a field day once I’m still. The timing also wasn’t ideal–but it was what she had open–and I had to accept it. Also, cats. So, I knew there’d be obstacles.

I did this for a few reasons–1) though some things are crystal clear and vivid in my mind, most of the time I spent with my Daddy as a kid is held behind some wall that was erected both by a head injury and emotional trauma. There are lots of things I just don’t remember, and I wanted to see if maybe we could access some of that. 2) I’ve had a lot of doubts in my life about my path–while I’ve always felt I’m here for big reasons–I’ve had such a hard time figuring it out. And I’ve had a hard time trusting myself in all ways. 3) I believe I’ve inherited a lot of generational trauma–and I wanted to see if there were connections there.

I was surprised by how easy it was to relax and noticed that being on camera was not conducive to that–whatsoever–so I asked to turn that off. I’m discovering more and more that Zoom culture isn’t for me–is not a way for me to stay connected and be present–so I am now firmly standing my ground and not doing it unless absolutely required. There’s something that gets activated in my brain that throws me out of my body and into analysis mode.

While I’m skeptical about many things, I pride myself on being open-minded, and I’ve done other supposedly woo-woo things that are now core parts of my healing toolkit. I tout them to anyone who will listen because they changed my life. I wasn’t sure what to expect–but my practitioner told me it might feel like I was making shit up because the same part of our brains responsible for imagination are activated in this process.

That said–it was super relaxing to spend 4 hours in a meditative state. I felt completely normal–though I did fall asleep at the very end. I guess I was expecting something quite different than what I experienced. It wasn’t like getting into a time machine. She’d guide me to wherever and then ask me questions–and every time–I felt this insane pressure to grab onto something in my brain. The intial something was peppermint–not a smell, but the word. And when I said that out loud, I was suddenly in my childhood home–and I knew it was that place because of a brown blanket on the couch. And then my mind sort of filled in the details. We talked about how my dad was making chili and hot cocoa and I was alone in the living room as my parents cooked. We didn’t interact with them at all. I didn’t see them–couldn’t smell anything–but I knew what was happening.

I won’t get into all of the things I experienced or that we talked about. But we went back to the womb and another happy childhood memory and we visited a past life in what I think must’ve been a Scottish town. There were all these familiar stories and details interspersed with things I am now pondering–that are interesting and connected to other things–but not in any obvious sorts of ways.

I don’t know if this was my mind just grabbing facts of what I know to be true–and then building worlds around them. It felt a bit like that–and it felt difficult. It was not easy to do this–and in many ways, it felt false to me. But I can’t deny that–whatever it was that I saw in this experience–my intuition was leading me there. And the insights DO have real meaning for me and it has helped me feel calmer and more sure of the decisions I’ve been making–and will eventually make. So, did I get what I came from–mostly yes–and I would recommend doing it just to experience it and see where your mind takes you. Is any of it actually true? I don’t know. It might really be something my intutitive mind just created so I could get where I need to be. It’s still worthwhile. I didn’t have new experiences related to my parents–it was mostly just confirmation of things I already knew and remembered vividly. Things like my home as a kid was welcoming and warm. That despite the challenges they had, my parents did their best. That I was a quirky ass free spirit and an artist. And I am still that person because they let me be that way.

I do feel like there are very direct connections between who I am now and the women in my life. That the act of being a woman in a world that wasn’t kind to women has been a big part of my life–and that I have never followed the ideals prescribed to me. I see very clear patterns of tolerating ridiculous suffering followed by escape and then transcendence. Meaning-making. And healing. But also a pervading loneliness and–even in connection–disconnection. I was left with a very clear message that I’m here to heal people–but also that healing people includes healing me–and that is very much rooted in community and other humans–which still proves challenging for me.

I’ve been struggling kind of a lot lately with where I am from a heart perspective. I feel as though I’m in a transition period of discovery and healing and growth where I don’t really know where I want to be–which is uncomfortable. I’m not afraid of discomfort–and am used to it, really–but I do like to know where I’m going…and it’s particularly hard for this reformed control freak to not know something. But I don’t because I haven’t experienced a lot of what I’m drawn to or what I think might be better. And until I do–I won’t really know.

There are some things I do know. Traditional forms of monogamy have not been working for me. And it’s not just specific to shitty men (though none of them were really shitty–just incapable of meeting my needs consistently). They did shitty things, often, sure–but I’m not apt to just throw someone away completely based on that. They are fine for others; just not for me.

When I was younger, I was taught that monogamy was it. The standard for love. And I grew up believing in it–believeing there was no other way. I also grew up being a jaded AF, yet somehow also hopeless romantic–which is something that probably destined me for much heartache. The relationships I saw in my world were not good relationships. They were toxic. They were tragic. They were codependent and heavy. And yet–they were also genuine and significant. So, I was taught two things–that love was worth every sacrifice–but that it would destroy you. My relationship history certainly reflects all of these things. There are boatloads of moments rooted in betrayals–from others, but mostly myself. But also depth and kindness and the kind of shit people write books about. And this is why I have these patterns that reflect the trauma I’ve been through–these waxing and waning dirths I go through where I’m in hibernation–hiding from the sun of love’s light–or I’m caught on fire–sacrificing every damn thing just to feel warm.

When I moved to the Bay Area, I thought a lot of silly things–namely that this place would reset everything. That a new place with new people would somehow allow me to get all that I wanted. It was silly because there was no self-ownership there. There was a lot of blame. Oh, the men in Denver are shitty. They’re this and that. I only found more of the bad here–with way more openness to nonmonogamy–which ironically closed more doors to me–the serial monogamist. And all the guys I liked either weren’t nearby or were nonmonogamous. Because let’s be real–few things about me are actually monogamous. Friends have joked about how I’m a flavor freak–how I have so many interests and passions and etc that no one can keep up. So, how on Earth will this woman ever just be okay–forever–with one guy?

And that’s not even accounting for the independent part of me that doesn’t even like sharing a bed with someone else–though intimacy is great. I just like to sleep, too, and I like things that are also just mine.

After my last engagement, it really became clear how out of sync these traditional things were with what I actually wanted and how I live my life. I kept thinking that had we not been monogamous–things with many of my exes would have ended much better–if at all. That the things things that tore us apart were not these huge unsolvable things–but actually things we were set up to do by a society that wasn’t made for us. And that I never really chose any of it. I just kept doing it because I didn’t realize there were actual choices.

So, living here has expanded that for me–what I thought was possible and what I thought I knew about myself. It took some doing to get there–another failed monogamist relationship that was particularly traumatic and gutting–and continued on up until a couple months ago–in its toxic crap ways. Because I was still sopping up all of that–I attracted more of that when I allowed more open versions of things to happen. So–I experienced more of the negative sides of the other way of being–and as I explored–many things felt wrong.

My last few relationships have run the gamut and have been uniquely challenging–to say the least. But on the other side of my last relationship (which was monogamous)–I am now back to thinking that maybe monogamy and conformity isn’t what I’m looking for at all. I never wanted marriage or children until a few years ago–and now that increasingly it doesn’t look like I’ll be having a kid of my own–I’m questioning my own beliefs more and more.

What it mostly comes down to is that I want a life built on community. While I want the freedom to choose to be independent and alone–because God, I sometimes love those things–I don’t want alone or independent based on other people’s definitions of it. Because–to me–it’s not about isolation. It’s about options and choices. What I truly want is deep connection–with literally everyone in my world. I have no patience for flimsy relationships–no matter who they’re with or the functions they serve. That is why I broke up with my ex. I want consistent, meaningful interactions based on choosing to be there–and respecting the person as just as important as I am. No obligations or unfair expectations or false idols. Just people caring about each other and showing up in ways that make sense for them. And I get annoyed by this hierarchy we have of our partners being the center of everything. Even family is somewhat toxic because it fuels this idea that we’re not all family. I want everyone to be my damn family. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all treated each other like the people we deem most important? Of course–families can be shitty, too. I get that.

So what does that actually mean? I’m not sure. Again–I haven’t ever experienced any of this in any meaningful way. But I think I’m going to start by rejecting behaviors where my needs are disrespected. I’m going to reject men who treat me like something they own rather than a woman capable of making her own choices. I’m going to be friends with men–and I’m going to share the things about the people I care about when I do because they delight me and it makes me happy to share joy with the world. And if that makes you jealous–please move along. I’m going to spend a lot more time honoring the parts of me that need attention instead of constantly apologizing for their existence.

I’m sharing this because I know I’m not alone, and sharing any of this is how others feel less alone. It doesn’t have to make sense because some of it doesn’t make sense to me. But it’s what I know to be true for me, right now.