Hey, sugar sugar.

It’s been far too long since I’ve written here.  Back in February, a friend mentioned that she missed reading my posts.  That touched me and stayed with me.

Life and my brain have blocked me…until now.   The last two years have been a wild ride.  I’ve gone far afield of much of my bucket list but there’s still been tremendous growth, change, and happiness.

There’s also been some incredibly (though thankfully temporarily) soul-crushing pain, more moving than I wanted to do in the span of two years (the count is up to 5!  Whooooo…..), and a lot of confusion and fear.

Through most of it, with a few months of notable exceptions, I turned to sugar.  It’s not good that I did that, I know.  It should be a giant fucking red flag that a) one’s immediate response to stress is CUPCAKE and b) upon eating that cupcake a palpable, physical feeling of release.  Like, whole body relaxing, unclenching, winding down.  I rarely get a sugar high like I used to when I was a kid.  I get a sugar calm.

Yes.

I know.  This is bad.

(Side story that will totally be in context in a moment.)

I can’t eat Reese’s peanut butter cups (or anything Reese’s).  Not only can I not eat Reese’s ANYTHING, I can not eat chocolate and peanut butter together.  You’re probably all, ¨WHA???¨  And I’m all, ¨INORITE?¨   Here’s what happened, in all the embarrassing glory.

My big sister was selling candy for choir when she was in high school.  I ADORED Reese’s peanut cups.  And suddenly, there were BOXES of them, cases of the best, most magical candy god and man even teamed up to make.  I swear, at that point in my life, I thought unicorns had something to do with their production because there was no way such a delectable candy could only be made by god and man.  All attempts to tell me that these were solely for my sister’s choir to raise money for them to go sing somewhere far away and it was very important that I stay away from the box and if I ate any mom and dad would have to pay for it so ask them first turned quickly into blahblahblahblah because seriously?  THERE WERE CASES OF REESE’S IN MY HOUSE.

Not only would I be the most popular kid in the world, throwing parties like a rap star, eating Reese’s on the deck of the pool while ladies dances around me and fed them to me, but I WOULD BE EATING REESE’S OMGALLTHETIME.

So stupid, stupid seven-year-old me stole a box.  Not only did stupid, stupid seven-year-old me steal a box, but she ate it.  All of it.  In the course of a weekend.

Remember that time a few paragraphs ago when I told you I can’t have chocolate and peanut butter together?  That shit’s been going on for THIRTY FUCKING YEARS now, ever since that wild weekend in the crawl space under my front porch when I was mainlining Reese’s.  And it set something up in me, and here’s where we dovetail back into the original post.

Sometimes, if I want to give up a type of food, I overdose on it and then won’t eat it anymore.  Perfectly healthy, right?

(Please don’t all hit me at once.  I may be a masochist, but I also don’t want to be knocked unconscious.)

Well, over the course of the last two years, I’ve gone in cycles of knowing I need to eat healthier and trying various ways to periods of eating sugar because fuck it, I can’t keep going on this stressed and unhappy and right now is All The Stress.

And sometimes when I try to get over the sugar addiction, I eat a LOT of it and then magically, for a few days or so, I won’t want any. Which is enough momentum to ride through the initial cravings and helped me give up sugar for a little about two months last year.  Go me!

However, it didn’t last.

But it’s entirely possible, and scary if so, that my body has come to a lifelong point of my having eaten far more sugar than I should’ve. Because now?  Now I haven’t binged on anything and I still have to think, HARD, about where to get my sugar fix when things are stressful.  Cupcakes are tasting too sweet.  Candy just makes me nauseous. Ice cream leaves me feeling cold. (HA!  No, but really…) I bought unsweetened yogurt the other day because my body wanted it more than all the other flavors.  So this is just a weird place to be.  Who knows if it’ll last, but I think I’m being told that enough is enough.  It’s time to figure out how to cope with life without sugar. This oughtta be interesting…

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“Can the child within my heart rise above?”

Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

It was pointed out to me that everyone I’ve expressed interest in or who has expressed interest in me, relationship/dating-wise, lives about 1,000 miles away.  A very astute observation.  The same person also pointed out that I’m where I need to be.  Another astute observation.  However, the latter was actually made before the former, so I’m not sure if that denotes a subtle shift in opinion regarding where he thinks I belong or not.

Yes, the people I actively have feelings for all live 1,000 or so miles away from me.  Which is probably for the best.  Because right now?  Not a good time for me to be a in a relationship.  I feel too weak, too damaged, to scared, and honestly too ambivalent (on some days) to be a good partner.  My baggage is poorly packed, my heart is making a bloody mess on my sleeve, and I’m not at home in myself anymore.  Not a good partner in any shape or form.

My minister, when I first went to see him a few times before I had a therapist, asked me what in me makes me think I deserve to be treated the way I have been.  He recommended that I read Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood by Wayne Muller.  To be frank, while I did plan to give it a look over, I really thought I had healed from the shitty childhood I had and wasn’t expecting much beyond blaming and shaming poor parenting, and really, I’m just done with that.  I’d had the requisite years of therapy, some stellar and some sucktastic.  I am (mostly) able to write about painful things in my past without breaking down.  Talking about horrendous episodes had gotten much easier.  I was fine.  I AM fine.

FINE.

Then I started reading the book.

You know what really sucks?  When you’re not as fine as you really want to believe you are.  Not nearly as fine as you think you should be after all this damn time.  That some scars may’ve stopped hurting but that’s not because they’ve healed but because they’re kind of numb.

It also really sucks when you read a book that exposes the coping mechanisms you’ve gotten so good at they almost felt like they were just normal, healthy parts of living, all the empty spots that you’ve tried to fill in various ways unsuccessfully, and those myriad ways you feel inept, unwelcome, and unworthy:

“When we doubt our own belonging, we grow desperate, and we learn to grab almost anything – a job, a sexual partner, a lifestyle – and make that our place of belonging. In our desperation we lose both our serenity and our sensitivity to the needs of others. If I need your company to feel that I belong, then I am more concerned with how I impress you than I am with your particular needs and desires. You become merely a vehicle for my belonging, an agent to my comfort, no longer [someone] with your own hopes and dreams. As I approach you, it is not you that I touch, it is my own desperation.”

And it’s simply amazing how painful things that happened long ago can translate into adult lives:

“When we are convinced how little is a available for us, we feel confused about how much is enough.  How much can we ask for, what can we hope for?  When we resign ourselves to a life where love and joy will never come in abundance, we reduce the depth and breadth of what is possible for us,  making our lives small and sparse.  ‘Ask and you shall receive’ rings hollow in the heart that has grown to expect less and less.  There will never be enough for us; why bother asking at all?”

These passages both hit me like a hot pink brick truck.  I’m too desperate, hungry, and raw to be a good partner.  I’ll either wind up giving everything (or simply more than I should) away again, trying frantically to phoenix my way through it, and be left wondering why I’ve been reduced to a smoldering pile of ashes, or I’ll go in selfishly, aggressively trying to get everything I hadn’t gotten in the past, ruthlessly making demands, and being disappointed at the inevitable shortfall and fallout.  I have things I need to sort out, one of which is not being afraid to ask for what I want.  Yet also finding a balance between my desires and those of a partner.  There’s so much that goes into maintaining a relationship that right now, the thought of doing it again exhausts me.  Of course, I just have to think about a hug, a look, a tone of voice, a gentle surprise, a touch and I’m reminded of why it’s all worth it…once I get my head and heart back on straight.

 

Disquieting thoughts

The last few weeks have been incredibly tumultuous. My work schedule has been upended, but I still don’t make enough to move out on my own yet. I just came back from a business trip that spanned two states and new experiences, as well as seeing my estranged husband and ex-girlfriend for the first time in four months. On top of all this, I’m beginning the paperwork for divorce, looking for more work, trying to schedule the work I have, all while trying to figure out my life in terms of what I want relationship-wise.

Most recently, a very dear friend asked me to remove the phrase and/or theory that I “wasn’t/am not good enough” from the equation and then delve into why my marriage to my ex-husband and ex-wife didn’t work. What it taught me. What I would do in hindsight. He suspected these were things I hadn’t fully answered…only scabbed over. He acknowledged that it would be hard (if possible) to answer. But that it is also a piece of me that’s missing and without having a better grounding in that piece, I won’t be able to make sense of the other pieces I’m struggling with pertaining to current relationships.

He’s right. As he frequently is. I’ve been thinking about it.

One of the things that’s kept coming up for me, for over a decade, has been hard to articulate. But this blogger hit the nail on the head with a recent post:

At the same time that I have an intellectual appreciation for the approach of polyamory, I think I still have the emotional approach of monogamy. I don’t know whether that’s because I’m naturally more of a monogamous person or because I’ve been socialized to think of intimate relationships only within the bounds of monogamy. In either case, though, I find that I am emotionally attracted to the idea of loving one person more than anyone else. Of having a favorite. And being someone’s favorite.

I’ve been really hesitant to admit that, even to myself. I’ve converted to polyamory, after all. Anything short of the ideal is weakness in myself. I can’t allow jealousy to rule me. You know? I hate being weak. I hate not being able to follow my convictions.

And I am afraid of the idea that polyamory may not be right for me. If it’s not, then what am I doing with my life? What will I lose when I change course? It’s almost too scary even to contemplate, which now that I say it out loud, I find very interesting.

I know I can love more than one person. I do love more than one person. I have, for many years, loved more than one person. Even right now, not technically being in any romantic relationships, I love more than one person. But for me, the practicality and reality of being in polyamorous relationships haven’t…worked out as well as I wanted.

The triads I’ve been in have short-circuited my brain and heart in one way or another. The second could’ve been because I didn’t fully heal from the ending of the first. And also that it imploded spectacularly from a direction I didn’t see coming. But it also could’ve been because I’m not wired that way. Not sure.

I dated a few people, with permission, while I was married. One person was also married, himself. The other person didn’t have a significant other. It sometimes felt that the relationship with the person who didn’t have a SO got a little imbalanced. She wanted a SO and might’ve wanted me to be hers, but that wasn’t what I or my husband and wife wanted. But still, both were good for their duration, yet I wound up ending both to focus on my marriage. A friend once told me he thought I might be looking for things I wasn’t getting at home in outside relationships. So I redoubled my efforts to invest in my marriage(s). Two months later it(they) were over. They’d been ending for a while, but still…it was kind of like a mega blow. Within two months, four relationships were over. God, I’m not sure I ever put those numbers such plain terms. Two months after that, I was laid off. Two months after that, I moved halfway across the country. The first half of 2012 was all about change. The latter half was…fuck, the latter half was just as change-driven as the first. New jobs, new loves, engagement…and now we’re 2/3’s of the way done with 2013, and I feel like I’m just catching my breath and actually looking at things. Finally processing, finally trying to make sense of things instead of hurling myself headlong into the crazy winds of change.

And what I’m coming up with is all over the damn place.

I’ve read many essays on more egalitarian and less couple-based polyamory, which made sense. This one, especially, by sexgeek railing against “polynormativity” got to me. Hit way too close to home. I began testing in my head that maybe I didn’t have to do couple-based, hetereosexual(ish), hierarchical, rules-laden poly. Maybe I should truly do what the authors of The Ethical Slut preach and “let each relationship seek it’s own level” without imposing my own desires and possibly fears on them. I spoke with some close friends. Asked them how they “do” poly. A friend who expressed interest in dating me (after I’d had proper time to heal from the boatloads of upheaval) mentioned that he thought I was more heterosexually inclined. The pansexual poly chick in me bristled. No. I love everyone. Boys, girls, girlyboys, and butchie babes, trans…whatever. It didn’t matter the body you were in. I typically like a balance of male and female in the people I’m attracted to.

However.

It seems that my track record says something different. It seems that my current desires say something different.

There’s a likelihood that I just haven’t given my new thoughts and ideas enough time to take wing.

Another possibility is that I’ve spent and continue to spend so much damn time searching for answers and solutions to problems that might be solved if I were more honest with myself.

I’m not sure which it is. But I’m leaning towards the latter.

Which means that my first marriage(s) might’ve ended partly because I was constantly trying to make the relationship be something that it clearly wasn’t. And when it clearly wasn’t, instead of coming to the conclusion that I didn’t find it fulfilling and I also didn’t feel comfortable or fully engaged, alive, loving…nor like I was being fully engaged or loved, and then instead of acting with grace and dignity and leaving, I stayed. And continually tried to make myself fit. Many times I checked my grace and dignity at the door to try again and again. “We’re working on some issues” became the subtitle of my love life. My sister finally said to me a few years back that relationships do take work, but they shouldn’t constantly be so much work. In the end, she was right.

But what was it I wanted? I wanted a primary relationship with my then boyfriend, turned husband. I wanted to special. I wanted to the be favorite. And I wasn’t. Or at least I quickly became not. There are some even further difficult implications this has that are hard to admit. It may not be anyone’s fault. And maybe the fact that I was looking for that meant that I wouldn’t find it. I don’t know. But this knowledge is really fucking disquieting. I don’t know what to do with it right now.

“Take a closer look at what it is that’s really haunting you…”

“Digital Ghost” by Tori Amos

It’s odd when you finally hear something that you’ve been waiting to hear about. That you’ve been morbidly curious about. That has the power to cause so much pain, and has for so many months. An event that destroys something you thought was pure. That brought you such happiness and hope.

Humans want details.

There’s an anticlimactic nature. A band-aid ripping off. Oh, look. A wound. Of course I knew that was there. The bandage was covering it. Bandages, whether they’re real or emotional, cover places that hurts. That’s what they do. So…of course there was a wound there.

Questions:
Are you sure you want to hear this?
Yes. No. I want to not have a “this” to hear. But it’s too late for that, isn’t it?

Why doesn’t this hurt more?
Oh. Numb. Right.

Oh GOD, why does this hurt so much?
Please, dear god, make it stop hurting.

Please.

Please?

Being a better person, lobster love, and connecting more dots

Lobster-love-print-newdayprints

Nifty image from newdayprints on Etsy. Check them out. They’ve got hundreds of cool, affordable, unique prints. This lobster, however, is sold out.  I was sad, too.

Cracked.com is known for its incisive, edgy, and trademark snarkiness. Right now, this particular article detailing “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person” has knocked me for a loop.

Because they are kinda harsh.  And they are true.  (And really funny once your ego understands that it’s about to get a kick in the ass.)  Here are the aforementioned 6 Harsh Truths, though you really need to read the article to fully understand the awesome that is Cracked.com.

  • #6. The World Only Cares About What It Can Get from You
  • #5. The Hippies Were Wrong
  • #4. What You Produce Does Not Have to Make Money, But It Does Have to Benefit People
  • #3. You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything
  • #2. What You Are Inside Only Matters Because of What It Makes You Do
  • #1. Everything Inside You Will Fight Improvement

It’s about action.  Connecting dots in life.  And what impedes action.  And how you need to find a way to connect the damn dots anyway.

A few days ago, I reviewed the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  In it, there’s a precept/theme that one should always be a little kinder than is necessary.

Because kindness is something you do.  Sitting down and eating lunch with someone who’s eating alone.  Calling a friend when you know they’re going through a rough spot. Giving leftovers to a homeless person. Contributing to a food bank.

Love is also something you do.  And I’m not talking about sex.  I’m talking about the activities, day in and day out, that make a relationship work.  While it’s nice and necessary to have dreams and ideals in a relationship, they only happen if you work towards them every day.  As a friend astutely observed, “we march towards dreams in the day to day. ”

Or, to put it in a less poetic way, I was chatting with another friend recently about how much my impending divorce hurt, because I love my husband.  My friend replied with, “I love lobster.  It doesn’t put a lobster dinner on the table.”

That packed a punch.  I had been shelling out the old adage “sometimes love isn’t enough” but not fully comprehending why.  Because of lobster, that’s why.  Because you can love something, but love alone doesn’t make a relationship.

Or, if you prefer more a more poetic, musical rendition, check out Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra’s music video to “The Bed Song”:

The same goes for friendships…minus the bed.  (sometimes.) Lately I’ve been ruminating about friends I’ve drifted away from.  There are various reasons I could attribute it to: geography, differing interests, some are exes and that can get awkward, unresolved fights, trust issues, growing apart.  But really, it boils down to the fact that we’re not doing.  The friends I’ve drifted away from, when looked at it one on one between each friend and I…neither of us are actively being a friend.  Facebook likes don’t count as much as I thought they did.  Hell, Facebook comments don’t count as much as I thought they did.  They’re all just little offshoots of a bigger part of trying.  Actual contact.  Directly writing to, talking to, spending time with another person.  I’m going to try and change what I can and see if any of those friendships can be salvaged. Because these people I’ve lost touch with…they’ve connected many dots in my life.  We’ve shared incredible things that I still remember and cherish the memories of.  And perhaps all I’ll have left of those friendships is the memories, but I won’t know if new experiences and memories can be had if I don’t try.

In her amazing keynote address given at Grub Street’s 2013 “The Muse and the Marketplace” conference (transcript and video can be found here on her blog), Amanda Palmer talks both about connecting dots and what makes someone a writer.

i asked my twitter feed last night if there were any writers out there, and, it being a friday night, there were thousands ready and waiting.

and i asked: WHAT makes you feel like an actual writer? was there a moment. answer however you want. and hundreds of responses flooded in, and i looked for themes. some people said”

“when i first got paid”
“when i first got published”
“when i got my first real review”

…but a LOT of people said:

“when somebody told me that my writing moved them. that was the moment.”

some of these people wrote blogs, some wrote books, all different styles…the format didn’t matter.

what mattered is that they’d moved another human being. nobody said they felt authenticated when they got their first negative blog comment, or bad review. (well there was one girl who said that her boyfriend insulted her for calling herself a writer because she never spent any time writing. so she quit her job and started writing. that was a happy ending, more or less….)

but mostly: we’re strengthened by those who nod at the dots that we connect.

And she sums it up nicely when she says, “if you’re putting down words to connect the dots, you’re a writer.”

So here I am trying to connect my own dots.  Trying to be a better person, writer, lover, friend.  I know the first time I wrote something where I had unsolicited, unknown to me people comment and say that I touched them with my writing, I felt amazing.  When a random audience member I’d never met before told me they were moved by my singing or dancing or acting or directing, I was on top of the world.  Not necessarily because of the praise, because a fire gets lit under me when someone criticizes me, too.  No, it’s the fact that when I created something and someone reacted, we connected.  Dots were connected, people were connected.  It was like a hug, but without the physical proximity.  It transcended miles, time, race.

Yes, there are times, like the Cracked articles says, everything inside me fights improvement.  And there are times I succumb to that vortex of sucktastic self pity.  And then there are other times, like today after reading the article, I went upstairs, did some dishes, threw in a load of laundry, ate a good meal, and then came back down here and started writing.

My life is not a yard sale.

imageFor the second time within about a twelve month period, I’m reading “It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken” by Greg Behrendt & Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt. Cozy that this husband and wife team wrote a breakup book. Makes me want to throw up a little. Which won’t kill the deep ache inside, and I hate throwing up anyway, so nevermind.

It’s a helpful book. Must be, since I’m re-reading it again, as another marriage has fallen apart.  The things I underlined and the notes I made are interesting, in that tragic kind of way.

For instance, I admit to laughing out loud when I got to the page on the left again.  If you don’t know who Virus the Clown is, go here right now.  And brace yourself for awesome.

Anyway, it can seem like it’s trying too hard every once in a while.  There’re only so many times I can be referred to as a Superfox, Saucy Girl, and Smart, Happening Lady before it gets a little too cheeky.  But the balance is right on the line, so overall I’m good.   And it still packs a nice little punch for being contemporary:

“The first rule of the smart girl’s breakup is NO CALLING…the same goes for text messaging, instant messaging, BlackBerrying, blueberrying, or any other form of communication. “

And also funny enough to make me smile a bit during a time where it feels like my heart is the new rehearsal space for STOMP! the musical:

“You want to burst through this experience with dignity, grace, strength, and whole new set of windows” (from the “Breakover”) section.

It’s also chock full of good advice and things to think about:

  • “Putting down that pint of ice cream may not FEEL like the right thing to do, but if you change your behavior first, your feelings will follow.
  • “When a marriage or any significant relationship collapse, the sadness and grief can be overwhelming.  In the midst of all this heartache and pain, you have to comprehend and adjust to the idea that your whole universe has been upended, even when you know it’s the right thing.  Going through a breakup is awful.  It’s a full-body experience.  Every nerve ending feels it constantly, and every second feels like an eternity in your head.”
  • “Actions speak louder than words and his actions have led him to have a naked party with someone else.”
  • “Try shooting for feeling ‘different’ instead of ‘amazing,’ or ‘less depressed’ instead of ‘all better’.”
  • “How can it be over?  Because it is.”
  • “Take off your victim pants.”
  • “When you feel the urge to crawl into bed, you need to call a friend and make a plan that forces you to get out of the house.  Instead of sitting around feeling sad and broken, you want to be doing something that makes you feel strong and resilient.”
  • “It doesn’t take that much self-control to set boundaries for your grieving process that are as simple as ‘I’m not going to lose my shit in public today and I’m going to wear something that makes me look good’.”

And while I don’t want to use this journal as a place to be all waaaaahhh about my life, I think it’s justified to explore a little of the pain so I can also record the growth.  The tagline is, after all, “recording goals, happiness, encouragement, & growth.”  Here’s some growing.

For instance, I haven’t taken part in any of the overindulging I did when my first marriage split up.  Though I try to hide it, straight up Nutella gives me the dry heaves now.  I’ve tried to get over it, because Nutella is just so damned awesome.  But much like the Reese’s debacle of my youth, I got too cozy with Nutella during my first divorce.  The fact that I haven’t been downing pints of ice cream, jars of Nutella, or bottles of wine shows me that I’ve grown.  (Go me!) And I’m glad for that.  I’m actively trying to make better choices; plus, I can’t afford bottles of wine.

So I take trips to the library and the local bookstore, just to soak it all up.  I’ve accepted subbing gigs at work even though the last thing I feel like doing is being peppy and working out.  While I was there, I also took a class this week, thanks to the benefits of my free membership.  I eat at least one meal a day, go to choir rehearsal, read, try to eat with my family, drink plenty of water, write, talk to my friends (who’re AMAZING), and do freelance work as my brain allows.  None of it’s easy.  Most of the time it sucks. But somehow, I will get through this.