Returning and Resuming

I never intended to be a once-per-year blogger. I thought (and still think) that I needed a way to say what I think and feel as a tool for self-awareness and personal growth. I had envisioned frequent musings about life and friends and whatever, but I seemed to have lost my enthusiasm along the way; a handful of posts in as many years was not the plan.

So today I came back and read what I have written, and I was reminded that I do have things to say and feelings to express, so I would like to write some more about me and my life and the world and what I think. And other stuff. Welcome to anyone who is still following me and to anyone who finds me. This is my secret voice, the anonymous, introverted me who just needs a safe place to speak truth.

I hope that I maintain the desire to write more, and more frequently, and that my words will find their way to whomever would enjoy or benefit from hearing them. And may I myself benefit from expressing them.

I Belong Nowhere

I am pretty much a wedding Scrooge. (And Christmas too, but we have time for that later.) Frankly, all the googly-eyed mooning at each other and promising all that ’til death do us part nonsense is annoying. I know it’s me, not you, and I know I’m the one who needs to behave herself and applaud the sappy speeches and try not to roll my eyes during the vows. Thank God for an open bar.

But life events do occur, and I do have to attend one of these sideshows occasionally, like this past weekend. To be clear, I do not express my disdain for the institution of marriage (except privately with certain friends) and I absolutely know how to conduct myself in these social settings. I have been gracious with the bride and her family. So it’s not that I have offended anyone and caused the events to unfold as they did.

To keep it as simple as possible, I am a former step-relative of the lovely bride, having previously been married to a member of her family. A long time ago. My children, however, are, of course, still related to the family and participate in their activities. As they should. My problem is that I’m in this sort of weird position. I’m not family, but I’m not NOT family, because my family is in the family. I go to weddings, showers, funerals and other life events having to do with these people. And it’s fine; we ceased greeting one another with torches and pitchforks years ago.

My problem is that in spite of our detente, I really do feel like I don’t quite belong with them. And this weekend it was very evident that they did not quite know what to do with me either. It was a simple question, really. Or maybe not:

Where do we seat the ex-relative who is also a real relative of some of the relatives and a friend of some of the relatives’ friends?

The answer was, most unfortunately, being assigned to a table of assorted young people, presumably the bride’s or groom’s friends, none of whom I really knew or with whom I had anything remotely in common. Had I dutifully taken my seat, it would have been a most awkward situation. Ever see Animal House? Remember the scene at the frat rush party where the potential pledges were found to be undesirable for the esteemed Omega house? The two poor pledges were twice unceremoniously steered toward a couch on which were seated other undesirables, namely, “Mohammed, Jugdish, Sydney, and Clayton.” Take a look:

Not that these lovely people at the wedding were necessarily undesirable, but you get the idea.

The thing is, I have felt this way for a while. On the sidelines. Pseudo-included. Only this time it really bothered me. You see, not only have I been friends with the bride’s mom forever, but there were also a few high school friends there who are really fun (and with whom I decided to sit). The question occurred to me: why wasn’t I seated with these friends to begin with, or near my children and their spouses, or even with some other adults, for fuck’s sake? Why the kids table? And not only at a different table, but also in a different room than the one in which anyone I knew was seated. I really couldn’t even visit with my children. What was up with this?

The answer was that I didn’t belong there. And I believe that was the thought when the little calligraphy seating chart was made.

What do we do with her? Good question. The answer offered by the wedding seating chart hurt me. I wasn’t angry; I was just sad and I wanted to leave.

Overreacting you say? Maybe. So let’s assume it was unintentional. Subconscious maybe. Nevertheless, I felt that way just the same. Why did this bother me so much?

I know why, and I knew it at the time. Because not only did I not belong there; I don’t belong anywhere.

I don’t belong with my girlfriends, all of whom are married and have kids and/or husbands at home. Understandably, there is little time for a single friend.

And let’s not forget that because I am single, I am automatically excluded from many social activities. Don’t believe me? Try it sometime. Say what you will, but it’s easier for couples to socialize with other couples.

I sure as hell don’t belong with my family of origin. I have an awkward relationship with my mom, and no relationship with my father or brother. Our history destroyed anything more than this over the course of a miserable, violent, fucked up life.

I have my grown kids and they have their spouses and their other families now. And these are nice, normal, big, fun families who love each other and do things together. Except for a holiday here and there, I can’t be a part of that either.

And I have not had a real relationship in over 20 years. Too independent. Incapable of trust. Don’t have a clue what love is. Made bad choices and don’t want to make any more. And so on.

I am the extra person, the occasional companion, the last picked, the odd one out, the “friend” of the pretty girl you want to meet, the third (or fifth or some other odd number) wheel. I get that. I’ve always gotten that.

I just didn’t think it would happen in that setting. And I’m sad.

To Give In… Or Not

Any “Dexter” fans out there?

I usually start watching a TV show when it is well underway or long since ended, and Dexter is no exception. A friend told me I would love it, so I started watching it from season one on Netflix. And I most certainly do love it. I mean, a smart, nerdy guy who is cute in that geeky way I like, who does blood spatter analysis for the Miami Police Department by day, and then brutally kills bad guys by night? What’s not to love?

Anyway, in the show, the Dexter character refers to his having a “Dark Passenger,” that thing within him that makes him different, unable to fit in, and driven to be a serial killer, albeit one who performs a useful service. The thing to understand is that his Dark Passenger is more than just his need to kill. It is more complex than that; it is the deeper part of him that does not fit in this world, that makes him alien no matter what he does — work at a normal job, get married, have children — and that ensures that he sees himself as unlike the rest of the “normal” people in his life. As I have been watching the show (not done with all the seasons yet, so no spoilers, please!), I realized how much I can relate to this guy. Not the serial killer part. But all the rest of it.

I, too, have a Dark Passenger.

My depression is always looming, waiting for a weak moment to take over. It sighs sweet nothings like, “Wouldn’t it be nice just to crawl into bed? It’s so safe and warm. No one will hurt you here.” Depression acts like an old friend that urges me to let it put its arms around me and take me under. It’s a thing that calls to me and a place where the stress, worries and fears go away, and I don’t have to be strong anymore. It tells me that I don’t fit in; I’m not like those “other” people and I don’t belong here, wherever I may be at the time. Depression pulls me out of reality and experience, and stands beside me on the sidelines of life while I watch happy, normal people do their thing. It’s a soft pillow on which I can lay my tired head and finally, finally rest. “It’s okay, just for a minute.”

I want the people in my life to know this, but they never will and if I told them they would never understand. They would not see that I know I don’t belong, and that depression is right there to take me out of any situation if I need it to, if I give in to the sweet call to duck under and be safe. It’s always, always there. Even with thousands of pills swallowed and as many hours in therapy completed, it is my steadfast companion. Even when I am in a good place, it reminds me that it is just a moment away. Just in case.

It’s my Dark Passenger. And every day I make the decision not to give in.


Nothing More Than Feelings

So I’m feeling lonely today.

I’m having one of those days where it feels as if everyone but me is in a happy, loving relationship. Well, of course I KNOW it’s not true, silly, but I’m talking about how it FEELS. People say that feelings aren’t fact (God, I hate pithy sayings, but whatever), but feelings seem like fact when you feel them, right? After a lifetime of stuffing my feelings down with ice cream (among other things), today I try to honor my feelings. And it doesn’t really matter whether they are based on fact or not. Feelings are simply there.

So a couple of things have been going on. First, earlier this week I ran into a guy I dated awhile back and really liked, who (surprise, surprise) dumped me via text when he cancelled a date two hours before it was supposed to start. The reason? He had suddenly met someone with whom he wanted to be exclusive. Anyway, he now works at the same agency I do. Imagine that. I saw him in passing yesterday, and then again today in the hallway. I decided to actually talk to him; I mean, sometimes you just have to confront the ghosts, right? He acted nervous (as well he should have), but did say he felt guilty about the whole breakup via text thing. Although it was hard to see him and bring up what happened, I’m glad we talked, because now I can put it to rest. To celebrate, I finally deleted his contact info from my phone. So there is that.

In addition, I have been thinking a lot about my life when I was in my late teens and early 20s, and how bad things were at home and how negatively I saw myself. How little I knew myself then and how much time I wasted. This has been prompted by my recently coming into contact with several people who I knew at that time. Interestingly, all of them said I always seemed so happy and confident, and instead of thinking that was not the case, I am wondering if maybe I really was happy and confident when I was with those people. I mean, maybe it’s time to search for the happy times in my past and appreciate them rather than remembering it all as miserable. One guy told me he thought I was TOTALLY hot at that time, and I assure you I did NOT feel anything close to that. I was just a fat girl as far as I was concerned. Go figure.

The point of all this is that this contact with former friends and acquaintances has made me happy, but also sadly nostalgic and hence lonely. I think maybe I’m isolating too much. Not having enough fun. Stressing about work, money and life. But before I try to overthink things (as usual) or fix things (also as usual), I am going to let those feelings happen. The new me meditates pretty much daily, which has been amazing. So I am going to take some time to be quiet and breathe and feel whatever it is that I’m feeling. And then instead of panicking and being fearful that I am going to die old and alone (a constant fear of mine), I am going to see what happens, mindfully and without expectation. See where the feelings are coming from and what it’s all really about.

I will let you know how it goes.

What Fresh Hell Is This?

I guess it takes until about mid-February or so for all the post-holiday diet and exercise hype to settle down. And I for one will be grateful when it does.

Okay, to be clear, I am not against self-improvement. If you want to eat differently/better or exercise or juice or even get surgery, knock yourself out. People need to make the choices that are best for them. But, see, that’s the point. Make your choices and then shut the fuck up! If the changes are truly for your own betterment, do you really need to post a day-to-day account on Facebook of how many hours you log on the elliptical or the fact that you are subsisting on nothing but dried kale and chickpeas? Need support? Fine, text or email your close friends. I need support too, and I have some great friends who gladly offer it. Or join a group of like-minded individuals. If food is a problem for you, consider Overeaters Anonymous and get a sponsor.

My objection to all this nonsense goes further than this, of course. I began my illustrious disordered eating career at about age 7. Compulsive eating became my way of coping with things that happened to me that I did not understand and could not deal with. My family was fucked up then and is fucked up now, and I chose eating as my comfort, my way through the madness. Through it all, I was raised as a fat girl; my parents made it very clear that I was fat and was therefore flawed, unlovable and unacceptable. For those who think I am exaggerating, I assure you I am not. Families like this exist, and people like me exist, people like me with pain that goes way back and way deep and that takes a lifetime to address fully. Today I work to recover from this trauma and to abstain from compulsive eating. I do it on a daily basis, sometimes well, sometimes not so much. But today I am lovable and truly loved by many people no matter what size I am. I am learning to love myself. And I am learning how to accept and enjoy love from others without suspicion and fear. Learning, as in ongoing, nowhere near mastery.

At the age of 15, my (alcoholic and abusive) father sat me down and told me that the only reason I had friends was that they wanted a fat girl around to make them look better. They didn’t really like me, you see; I was simply providing a service. I carry that message with me today. It is permanently burned into my broken heart and my damaged soul. I can remember everything about that moment, the way the room looked, the chair I was sitting in, the cold, smug expression on my father’s face. The shame that overwhelmed me, the knowledge that I was so flawed that I was most assuredly unlovable.

So the point of all this is that I know that (most) people struggle with body issues, especially women. And I feel that it becomes almost a competition when people insist upon inflicting their diet and/or exercise success on others. It’s like what they are saying is, “I am better than other people because I don’t eat yummy food/because I ran 10 miles/because I have lost 4.35 pounds.” In our culture, it is good to diet, deprive, control, work out, restrict, and repress, so these people get thousands of “likes” and comments like “good job, keep it up!” Is this the goal, this validation? Why do people share the intimate details of their diets, workouts, etc., with the entire world if it is not to show that they are “good”? I get that this sounds harsh, but think about it. Will any of these people ever say, “Gosh, I meant to eat only beets and tofu today, but I failed and devoured an entire red velvet cake instead”?

But this behavior is not entirely their fault. To be sure, most are responding to a culture that insists upon a physical perfection that simply does not exist and cannot be attained by 99 percent of us. It’s not okay to be “real,” to find some exercise that’s fun and just do it out of joy and the love of movement, to find a food plan that nourishes and sustains us AND satisfies our desire for yumminess, to dress our bodies comfortably and well. To not be ashamed to be who we really are. In some way, all these people are the 15-year-old chubby girl who was told and internalized the fact that she was absolutely and unacceptably flawed and that obsessing about her weight and focusing on what others thought of her was her lot in life.

So do your thing, people! Juice, diet, fast, go vegan, run, walk, dance, whatever works for you. But do it for yourself, not to try to gain the validation, praise and acceptance of others. Do it quietly and mindfully, with dignity. Do it with grace and peace. Have fun and don’t forget that a life without chocolate is, well, too horrific to imagine. Make your changes, but do it with love for yourself and your desire to be the best you can be, not the best, or better than, someone else can be. Talk about something else, for God’s sake. Read, listen to music, and learn interesting things so that you can have more meaningful conversation. How many radishes one puts on one’s salad is a boring topic.

Whatever you do, do it for you, not for Facebook.

Is That a Light Up Ahead?

I am finally starting to really feel better. And this time I mean it. No, really.

If you have depression or anxiety or some such mess going on inside you, you know what those words mean. The meds appear to be the right combination. Your therapist has talked you down off the ledge. You are getting enough sleep and eating right. You can get out of bed and face the day again. Shower, brush your teeth, maybe even put on some makeup. For me, I know things are looking up when I dress nicely and accessorize, but hey, whatever works.

Awhile back, I shared that I was heading into the pit, and then shortly thereafter, that I was on my way out. Ha! Should have known better. It got a lot worse before it started to get better. As I write this, I am still hoping that I am not speaking prematurely even now. At least I am aware that the depression/anxiety monster is still (and always will be) lurking around, ready to pounce and bring me down again if I fail to remain vigilant. And so vigilant I shall be.

For me, the key right now is self-care, doing what I want to do and making that my priority. While I have a lot to learn about that, the steps I have taken are starting to work, and I plan to continue on this path.

I now realize, however, that this may mean more changes in my life, possibly big changes, and I am keeping an open mind as to how to approach the future. This will involve shifting my focus from what others want and expect from me to my own desires and expectations of myself. I may have to leave my job because of the toxic, unhealthy environment, which triggered this last bout of insanity. I know I need to be more in touch with my body, not to make it thinner or more attractive, but to grow to love it and make it healthier so I can snuggle my grandchildren (1 2-month-old, 1 on the way!) for a long, long time. I need to maintain safe boundaries with my parents and be careful about trusting them, and others. And to never, ever lose myself again in the madness that is binge eating.

More than anything, I want to figure out what brings me joy. To live in the present and find out what gives me pleasure and relaxation. To have loving, healthy, mutually supportive relationships. To have work that is meaningful and satisfying. To find my HP in the ordinary.

For today, for this moment, I am content and confident. And that is enough.