I’ve been home sick for the last few days, working here and there in between days off that I didn’t expect (and didn’t plan on), and getting ready to finally get rid of that pesky thesis. Alone, mostly, because the roomie is back East. I’ve also not been sleeping because the neighbor’s dog has been barking for three days straight. Let’s just say I’m a little punchy and restless right now. It’s also been really cold, finally, after one of the mildest winters ever. I was still not wearing a coat to appointments, so the change has been pretty rude.
It’s kind of been a strange few days because of all of that. I’ve been playing a lot of Trivia Crack. Most of my losses occur after 2 am. I’ve also been talking a lot to cats. I’ve been avoiding people, too (heh…nothing new!). And watching shows about murders interspersed with sappy romantic comedies and period dramas. (I saw Jane Eyre and literally swooned).
It’s been quite a while. I forgot how satisfying it is to just be a girl and swoon at the heartache of it all and then cry big sap tears when it’s all fixed and beautiful.
After an unexpected after-work nap, I decided to put on pants and go get the mail. New insurance cards are coming, after all, so that will be exciting. The idea of putting on pants, fixing my hair, and maybe putting on makeup pained me. My hair was doing this weird pushed in-lopsided thing from sleeping on wet hair. (Yes, my hair was still wet from this morning’s bath). And when my hair is short, when it goes rogue, few things can convince it to be a good little mouse. So, I decided I’d wear a bright pink hat. I couldn’t find any pants, so I threw a dress over my head. Both things made me look extremely pale–especially because of being a sick person for weeks. I thought about putting makeup on. I live in a building full of judgmental old ladies, sweet old men, hot boys with dogs, and weirdo grad students. I usually bump into a few on the way down to the lobby. I decided to be a rebel and embrace my Casper. I also decided to buy chocolate from the gym vending machine since mine went stale (the Hell!).
I got down there, and there was barely any mail at all. And the vending machine had zero chocolate I wanted to consume. So–I decided to just walk down to Colfax and get dinner. It was almost nine. I went to Chipotle–which I always forget is there. It was stupid cold, and I didn’t have a coat–of course–but I did have my hat. And my cheeks matched! Coordinated.
All I kept thinking was–I put on pants for this?! Seriously.
It was good to get out and be really cold. I lingered a bit before power walking home and collapsing in a breathless heap on my bed–Fogg looking at me like I’ve lost my mind.
Being an adult is hard.
I was going to write something different today. More of a reflection, really, about the new year. But I woke up with a bad head cold, so I spent most of today in bed instead. I felt like my body had been telling me to rest for a while, and when I didn’t, it decided to knock me on my ass. So, I was smart and listened.
Today wasn’t a total loss. I had a random thought in my head, so I decided to work on the thesis again. I’ve redone it a million times by now, but this one feels like it might stick. I have a month or so to get it done, and as simple as this should be, I know not to procrastinate. So, I got some organization in and realized–if I stick to this plan–I have about half already written. It’s just filling in the gaps and making it sound pretty. I emailed my prof and editor to get feedback. It’s so stupid simple I can’t imagine there’ll be many criticisms–except for, well, that.
Despite that, I had a bear of a time putting it together. Even this skeleton version of what was. I found myself still wanting to follow class guidelines and still being torn about not fitting the examples. The good girl-perfectionist-people pleaser inside me felt wrong–like the project was a total crapfest and I’m headed for doom. The rebel adult in me said, “Eff this–I’m doing it my way.” Yet another battle between six year old me and 26 year old me. Yet another round of shame, anger, and not feeling worthy. It’s the ultimate tug-of-war, and I don’t have time for this shit. Luckily, it happened after I finished what I was doing. But I know it’s going to follow me until it’s done.
I’ve honestly never felt like this about a project. Especially one where I’m so competent. I’ve never been one to pick cookie cutter things, but for whatever reason, this thing is blowing up the parts of me I haven’t yet healed. Recently, I discovered that everything bad in my life comes from a core feeling of unworthiness. The idea that I don’t deserve anything good. I didn’t know it was still there. Or ever was there. Not for things like this.
After feeling all of that, I basically just reminded myself of my boundaries with this thing. No matter what, I am committed to finishing. To doing something every single weekend till it’s done. But I found myself wishing I could disassociate at will. Ha. Turns out, that crappy childhood was how I got through it all those years. But, now, when I want to do it, I absolutely can’t.
So, I’m kinda forced to deal with it. But I’m learning I can’t wait for the triggers to happen. I have to systematically start figuring out what tools I’m missing and do the work to acquire them. And just put my head down and work when the gremlins aren’t biting.
One of the interesting things about feeling triggered is that you get random insights into how you actually feel about things. Tonight, I started noticing something. Something not good. And it made me think/feel/whatever that maybe school is not the best choice for me. At least not right now. I am absolutely finishing this stupid thesis, but my plans to get a PhD might be changing.
I have a complicated relationship with academia. I don’t feel part of it–though I’m smart and usually good at the art of being a student. I don’t like the rules and the whole system of it, really. But I love learning. I like the structure and the safety I feel while I’m in it. Being a student is something I understand. When I was a kid, it was the only thing that made sense. Learning was the only thing that I could do to escape. Knowledge was the one thing that would never abandon me–the one thing no one could take away. I could count on being valued there.
So much of my identity and self-worth came from school. From observing and mastering the rules. From winning the approval of teachers and the envy of peers. I worked hard at it, and it was fair. That’s probably why I kept going back to it when my life felt scary or when I couldn’t make choices. It was a way to hide from things I didn’t understand or wasn’t ready to deal with. But it was also a way to numb out–to focus on what I thought instead of what I felt. To abandon big parts of myself and have ways to weasel out of situations that made me hurt.
School gave me legitimate reasons to avoid dealing with my life. And something that could make me feel good about it. No one could fault me for focusing on my future–my dreams. Even I couldn’t.
But I guess school started feeling bad as I started getting better at living. At feeling. The rules felt stupid. I knew all of them, but–suddenly–I was just unwilling to do things on those terms. So, I started rebelling by not taking it seriously. By procrastinating. By focusing on life instead of that pillar of everything that was before. Like some child abandoning its mother.
So, I’m thinking really hard about what’s next for me. I’ve wanted to get my MSW and PhD for a while now. But I don’t know if doing that is going to just recreate the misery and dysfunction in my life. I don’t know if it’ll just feel like this felt. And if it does, I know I won’t tolerate it.
I’ve planned to take a year off, anyway, so I think I’m going to just try living this life instead of waiting to work on future lives. Lord knows I have enough shit to do. I have a decent life now. No need to rush to change all of it–as I have been. It’s not actually broken, unless I keep treating it like it is.
I think I need to start doing the things represented in that life. No–I can’t be a therapist without credentials. But I CAN work in my community. I can be more loving to my friends. I can work on living a better life more reflective of what’s inside. I can do all those things I dream about–without credentials–without doing them for a living. And if those things bring me joy, maybe that will be the confirmation that the next step needs to happen. But until then, I think I’ll just postpone that decision until it needs to happen.
It’s about time I started worrying about, and living in, now.
(My afternoon. Real life, yo. If they spoke English).
Rilly: Mama, I needs the foods. You had the foods.
Me: Mama has to work, Rilly.
<Rilly whines pathetically. Fogg yawns and licks her paw–then my arm–till it’s raw.>
Me: Do you want the chickens?
<Rilly jumps up in lap. Gobbles chicken treat.>
Rilly: More chickens!
Me: Okay, fine.
Mumfy: I can haz the chickens, Mama?
Mumfy: Oh, I just lick it. Rilly can haz.
Me: Mama gonna call nice man now. Be quiet please.
Mumfy: MAOOO. MAOO-OOOOO.
Fogg: Ah-choo. Mama–I need the pets. I’m sick. Can I have maple stuff?
<I grab the lysine and let her lick it from the tube.>
Rilly: Mama! I want the food. I’m dying. It hurts. My belly! The foods. PLEASE!
Me: Mama has to heat up her food. She’ll make the foods soon.
Rilly: But! But! Hungry! I hit the brother.
Mumfy: Oww. He hit the brother. I’m gonna hit him now.
Fogg: Yawn. You guys are stupid. I wait and watch.
Rilly: What’d I do?
Mumfy: Heh. I hit you. Boing.
Me: Stop hitting your brother…
<Puts food in microwave. Turns around.>
Me: Who barfed on the mat and the bowls?
Rilly: A ghost. Or Mumfy.
Mumfy: He’s a liar! MAO OOOOOO.
Fogg: It was him. I saw him.
Me: Aww, man. It’s dried on. When did you do this?
<Scrapes cat bowls and mat for an hour. No, really.>
Rilly: Hungry, hungry, hungry.
Fogg: I gonna run with my mousey toy. Oh my god. It’s so fun!
Rilly: Stop running. I’m getting dizzy. Ooh, okay–I run.
Mumfy: MAOOO OOOOO.
Me: Good God. I’m working as fast as I can.
<Finally done cleaning.>
Rilly: I’m gonna sulk. You’re never feeding me. I’m gonna die.
Fogg: I love the mousey toy. It’s my friend. I call him Felix. I eat him and rub my butt.
Mumfy: I’m so happy. I love you, Foggy. Oh, hi, Mama. MAAOOOO.
<Opens can. Rilly stampedes.>
Rilly: THE FOODS!
<Jumps up on counter. Runs down the hallway and back to the counter.>
Me: Good God. I’m working as fast as I can.
Mumfy: Oh, there’s food.
Fogg: Oh, that smells good. Can I haz some?
<I grab all the bowls and balance them like a pro diner waitress as Rilly jumps on my legs.>
Me: Here’s the mat. Keep it clean. And yum yums.
<Rilly eats from each bowl.>
Fogg: You pig. I want some.
Mumfy: Can I haz some? Mama, help me?
Me: Rilly, move. Foggy–come here. Mumfy–come on. Come on.
Yay, yum yums.
<Grabs food–now cold–from microwave.>
Me: This tastes like cat food. Ugh.
Fogg: I DONE! Let me rub your face with my face. It tastes like TUNA. YAY!
Me: Eww. Fogg. GOD!
20 minutes later.
Rilly: Mama! The foods! The foods! I’m gonna die.
Me: What the Hell, Rilly?! You just ate.
Rilly: I’m starving!
Me: No more yum-yums. We’re out.
<walks to sink…almost steps in lake o’puke.>
Me: My God. Did you even chew?
Rilly: I ate mine and Foo Foo’s, but then it went splat.
Mumfy: He’s bulimic.
<cleans it up>
Me: You’re going on a diet tomorrow.
(Happy New Year from me and the three little silly kitties).
Several days ago, I went to see my rolfer for a session. My fifth (?) in the ten series I’m taking. It was pretty unusual for a few different reasons. One–I’d just gotten resolution and a real break from school. Two–it was an evening session on a weekday (not my normal Sunday). And three–we talked. A lot.
It may have been the caffeine from the splurge mocha I had just before. (It was disappointing–sigh). Or maybe I was just decompressing. Finally. After weeks of feeling like a cornered animal on the verge of meltdown.
I don’t normally talk–except to tell her when I’m about to cry out from pain. Rolfing is not exactly relaxing. It’s work–for her and me. I have to be in weird positions at times. She’s all up in my fascia. It’s strange, even with clothes on.
This particular session hurt. A lot. We’d moved to more core things–like my legs–which are particularly troubled due to injuries throughout the years. Your body keeps records, and moving things around? Not a pleasant time. She also did the chest area–which is awkward because: boobs. And holy oww painful. I’ve learned that, while I have okay posture, my natural thing is to kind of hold onto myself. A friend once noticed it in pictures I took of myself. I’m self-contained that way, but it’s because I sort of curl inward. I have a lot of problems with breathing deep, so one thing she’s done involves opening up my chest. It’s amazing when she’s done because I can suddenly breathe like a normal person–instead of like the anxious asthmatic I am. I even sit taller when it’s over. But man, it hurts.
And I talked the entire time.
About life, mostly. Education. A lot of education–and how schools fail to prepare people for their actual lives. How we need better advising and mentoring. It was on my mind, I guess, because of how I’ve felt about school lately. Rolfing brings things out of you–emotional crap just comes out. I’ve never cried before, but some people do. I mostly just feel really happy afterwards–lighter.
My rolfer is awesome because she’s adaptable and a quiet presence. Great for when you just want everyone to shut up. But friendly and interesting to talk to. She indulged my chatter. It was nice. At some point, I asked her about Christmas and her plans. I knew she usually went home to Chicago for holidays. Honestly–as weird as it sounds–I like hearing about other people’s plans. People don’t share these things with me most of the time because they think it upsets me. It doesn’t. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate Christmas.
In fact–recently–I’ve come to the conclusion that I like Christmas again. Don’t get me wrong–we’re not besties. I will probably always loathe December 24th and dread its existence–want to fast forward through the whole damn thing. But I’ve found evidence recently that I’m more okay with the holidays now. Funny how that happens when you just accept where you are.
So–I was asking. And she told me about her boyfriend. How he has to work every year. How his company has a party at the end. How she goes and visits and drinks with him. How they tipsily ride bikes home. And then do nothing. And it sounded perfect to me.
It was interesting because–for once–I stopped feeling shame about not celebrating Christmas the way I used to. A subtle shift happened inside me, and I realized something big: The way I celebrate now (or the non-celebrating as I’ve thought of it) is actually completely normal. The stuff from my childhood was fantastic–but many people don’t do that. And I finally stopped judging myself for doing it like I do now. And I shared my plans with her, and we agreed it was exactly as it should be. For who I am now. For what my life is now.
I’ve felt more at peace this year…like the joy I used to have for this season was more accessible. Friends came to my apartment building (unbeknownst to me)–caroling–and I found myself humming along with glee. Completely in the moment and grateful for the seemingly random visit. Later, I found out my friend did it because he knew it’d bring some light to this grief season.
I’ve had these random moments a lot lately. These things that remind me that the girl I used to be didn’t disappear.
Today, I’ve found myself bristling at various things–as I’m apt to do as I search for distractions so I can forget and be anything other than sad. The biggest one has been people complaining about the ways in which they’re lucky. I’d do anything to be that burdened. And I wanted to yell at them–tell them to count their blessings and be grateful.
But I didn’t. I instead realized it was about me and dug deeper. Found compassion.
We all have ideas of what the holidays should be. And this is where we find ourselves in moments of ungratefulness. Where we stop being compassionate. Where we beat ourselves up (and everyone else). Where we focus on things being perfect.
I realized that these people who were aggravating me just a few minutes ago are in pain. Not the pain I have over lost parents, no. But pain, nonetheless. And that pain isn’t all that far from mine. It’s still loss. Loss of what you hope could be.
I realized that there isn’t a typical holiday for anyone, and nothing is perfect. Some people eat Chinese and watch Game of Thrones all day. Some people have big, warm dinners with family. Some have big, arduous dinners with family. Some have two people over. Some have friends. Some are alone. Some have cats.
All perfect and imperfect, all at once. Painful and joyful, all at once.
The only difference really is what we accept.
If you grieve for things and focus on that grief, nothing will feel okay or enough. And it’s so easy to focus on what isn’t rather than what is…to say you’re abnormal. To miss the things that you think will fix it. When the reality is–it can’t be fixed. Just accepted and acknowledged as being the reality you’re in.
And that just takes time. Sometimes, a long time.
For me, ten years. Maybe longer. It’s another thing to feel and release.
I’ll keep trying. But for now, I keep remembering that this is my new normal. Christmas is whatever I want it to be. I’m the one driving what happens here. I don’t have to keep fighting this enemy that doesn’t even know my name.
The last month has been a little bit of a rollercoaster, but–then–December has always been like that for me. This year, however, I sort of feel like a tree standing in the middle of a tornado–still holding on to all its leaves as everything else shifts or blows away. Odd that it’s that image that comes to mind when I consider that I refer to the year of mother’s death as the year of the cyclone and that this week, it’ll be 10 years.
I very much do feel like that lone tree. But despite all the insanity that goes on around me, there is something eternal lasting in me. A strength and resilience I didn’t know I had 10 years ago.
As tornadoes go, this month’s version was tiny…leaving few broken things to clean up. Just a mandate to try something else. Still, tornadoes are unsettling. They change things and make you question what your life has been. Suddenly, certain paths are unpassable. So, you decide if going still is worth it.
I’d share more, but it’s not really my stuff to share so much. And the paths for what’s next are still being forged. In any case, I will keep making plans that still–always–will change. By choice or by fate.
This month has also been interesting because–as always–anniversaries matter too much to me. Dates on calendars, numbers. Completing things and making new beginnings. This year feels more important, somehow, than years past. Maybe because it’s been a decade. Maybe because I’m finally doing the things I set out to do–all without her. Maybe because I’m simply fed up with the status quo–with the ways I still refuse to change–despite all my intentions and best efforts.
I took a workshop the other day with one of my most favorite teachers. I’ve taken things with her before, and it’s always a light bulb sort of feeling. It came at the right time and was exactly what I needed: a kick in the ass with support. It helped me reconcile and understand the reasons I sometimes don’t follow-through. I started looking at the core issues behind my major issues.
The major roadblock for me, in most things, is an inability to let go of things. I have an innate fear of being left behind or forgotten–of not being important. So, I often hold on to absolutely everything–whether it serves me or not. Whether I want it or not. When things are constantly taken away–when you’re struggling to survive–it’s hard to get rid of even the crappiest things. You learn to hold on tight.
There are all kinds of things that behavior does to a life. I won’t go into all of them, but let’s just say I have a lot of stuff in my life that’s holding me down. My wings are too heavy–so no matter how hard I try–I can’t fly. I’m never truly free. Everything is hard work. Everything.
The workshop taught me that it’s not about knowing what you need to do. I’ve known about, and tried to break free of, all of it for years now. Every time, beating myself up for not being successful in following through. I’m clear now that the reason I didn’t follow through had to do with emotions and a lack of skills. I’ve been working on the emotion stuff for a while now. But I’m still lacking the skills. Simply put–I don’t have the tools to let go. I don’t know how. No one taught me how. How do you speak up about things that don’t work? How do you find the courage? How do you deal with fear in healthy, empowering ways?
I still don’t have the skills, but that just means that’s my next step. So, I’m starting with a project. One that won’t kill me. One that can only free me. I can’t disappoint anyone except myself, really, and if I’m successful, it’ll fuel me. It’ll create space in my life so I can tackle the bigger things.
So, for the next few weeks, I’m going through my home. I’m getting rid of anything that I don’t love, need, or cherish. Whether it’s food, clothing, toys, old pictures (so hard), boxes…all of it. Gone. I’m giving it away to people who need it far more than me or I’m selling it or I’m burning it. I started yesterday, and while it wasn’t the most fun thing ever, it feels good to have a little bit less. I’m even going to do it with my digital life. I plan to pare down things everywhere. Every day, I will tackle a little piece of it. No matter what.
I’m excited to see where this challenge leads and how it’ll support me in the near future.