Unchartered Territory

In yoga class, my teacher tells us to breathe in our “intention”, and then, exhale and let it go through the mouth.

I imagined a ball of green light filling up my stomach and reaching to my extremities, like the way contained lightning looks inside one of those glass bulbs. I visualized black smoke leaving my lungs and mouth, as I pushed the air and unheathiness out of my body.

My focus lately has been completely that of regaining mental, physical, and emotional health. Along with that process comes spiritual brightening, a sense of reconnectedness with my surroundings, and an overflowing bowl of love that supersedes the compassion I have felt in the past several years.

The last few months, my process has been to chart everything, whether it be literally or mentally:

I have charted weight loss; I evaluate my emotions and insomnia during ovulation to see if the birth control is curbing my PMDD symptoms. Carbs are slowly being reduced from my diet. I bought a bunch of vitamins and supplements and line up pills each afternoon after lunch, as I swallow them down with seltzer. I add up hours of sleep I’m gaining; I keep track of alcohol consumption and have greatly reduced my intake. I am aware of my breath in yoga and keep tabs on my exercise regime. I celebrate each day cigarette-free; Whitening my teeth has become a twice-a-day routine. I regale in numerous hours of solitude and count back from 100 as I drift off to sleep.

I chart my life. My new life.

My new life is structured, balanced, and healthy. It needs to be for now. These promises and habits I’ve allowed myself to receive are saving my life and I can’t take that lightly.

It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since I quit smoking cigarettes. It’s hardly been a struggle at all, which is making me wonder why I waited so long? What’s harder is that I am now battling an over-active appetite as well as water retention from taking the pill. The 7 lbs I lost in the last month or more have seeped back into my fat cells. Or maybe I gained muscle? We can pretend that’s what it is.

I don’t think I’ll always be so stringent with my habits, but this is part of cultivating the healthier me who deserves to feel good about herself. I’ve wanted whiter teeth for eons; what’s stopping me? I rapaciously lap up each second of my yoga classes, often on the verge of tears and slipping out small smiles, because I missed peacefulness and inner and physical strength so damn much.

I’m a chronic body obsessor. I have very obsessive-compulsive thinking patterns, and sometimes, behaviors. I think I have body dysmorphic disorder. Have thought so for years. So, I battle these evil thoughts constantly. Most people just don’t know this about me, because although I will blurt out a complaint or ten about my appearance, I don’t seem excessively worried. Inside, I am terrified of my body, all while appreciating it and loving it, too.

It’s a boomerang of feelings, but I do my best to realign my focus more on my physical health than my physical appearance, and I think I am kinda kicking ass at it.

I’ve always been a person who has massive amounts of self-confidence all while hate-shaming my body and worth. Many times I’ve referred to myself as a “self-loathing narcissist”.

Although I have been abused and neglected by men, fucked over by friends, and feel uncomfortable in clothing, I do really love myself. I think it’s rather self-evident in the radical changes I’ve made in the past couple of months without a second thought, because I knew I had to in order to get my PMDD under control and ensure I wouldn’t try to hurt myself again.

I’m almost done with month three of the pill and this week is the time-frame when my emotions usually become overwhelmingly intense and my motivation to move nose-dives. I have become teary-eyed and sensitive a lot over the past several days. I don’t feel incredibly unmotivated, however. I feel sort of sad or wistful, but not in a depths of despair kind of way. I am longing for someone to hold me more than usual; I am nostalgic for lost moments, and the ache that always lurks in the precipice of my darkly-rooted traumas is ever-so-present. It always shows its face during this time of the month. But instead of being anchored to my couch, crying and paralyzed for hours at a time, I am observant of it, processing it, feeling it, letting tears out where needed, and remaining positive.

Birth control didn’t fix my PMDD; it is only helping me while I figure this out.

As I place trembling feet into unchartered territory each day, all of the confident steps I’ve taken to bring equilibrium and salubrity into my life coach me and make every mile a little lighter and easier.

The Girl Most Loved

Throughout my entire adult life I have been this girl who men have chased and fallen flat on their faces in trying to reach.

I have gingerly nudged their finger tips, peeling back their grip on the edge of a cliff with my foot, and watched them plummet.

I have dodged their advances towards me, tucking myself away in a dark alley of some unknown city street.

Yet, I have also scripted beautiful accolades to men who were able to seek and capture my wild heart.

And, I have continually been shut out by each and every one of those men.

I am the girl who appears to be in the lead–running gracefully with my smile. Not even breaking a sweat.

Really, I am the girl who comes in last place every time.

running_away

Being beautiful or loved is not exactly a situation about which many are sympathetic. It’s something that isn’t really easy for me to talk or write about, because how can you without coming off as completely narcissistic or conceited?

This is the best way I can describe what it feels like to have everyone and no one want you all at the same time:

When I meet men, I have to be super cautious, because when I am just being myself, not even trying to flirt with them, they fall hard. I’ve been told it’s because there just aren’t women like me. That I pour out the Universe with each breath. That I exude genuineness.

Since I was about sixteen this has been the way it is.

What that feels like is that I’m strangely so special that I am no longer special. If so many feel that way about a person, does that any longer give them uniqueness?

I longingly stare at couples at the altar who maybe didn’t have the best dating record throughout high school and college, but then met that one person, and that person didn’t run away.

Mine always run… at Olympic speeds.

Rarely, I will meet a man who does completely enrapture me. It’s happened a handful of times in my life. When this occurs, all the other men in my life get pissy and jealous. They idolize the man I have “chosen”. They either back off or vie for my attention even harder.

I am completely loyal, however, once I have been swooned, and that man will have my adoration until he “flees the scene”, which he always does.

It feels isolating. I’m terribly lonely sometimes even when in the same bed as a man, knowing that I’m either just being coveted for my sexual appeal or I’m being held away at arm’s length.

It hurts so scathingly deep to be told I’m “perfect” and know they are either just talking about my flesh or abilities in bed, or they truly think I’m amazing and unlike anyone they’ve ever met but abandon me anyway.

I remember one boyfriend I had, where we made love and I said I love you for the first time. It was over ten years ago. That’s the only time I’ve ever been able to say that while intimate with a man and not be mocked or left in silence, with the exception of my ex fiancé, who, although loved me fiercely, abused his power over me and ultimately squandered our union.

There have been times when I have wanted to say it, and I just look at my lover with this reverent and passionate stare, hoping they can read minds or something, because I dare not say it again.

I’m honestly fearful that I will never be in a meaningful relationship again, because the men who fall for me (that I feel anything back for) live far away, choose career over me, have other relationship statuses, or are completely commitment phobic, self-sabotaging humans.

Why can’t I love one of the twenty men circling me for my interest? Sadly, it just ain’t how life works.

The girl most loved is the girl most desired. The girl with the nicest skin, prettiest smell, tastiest parts… The girl most loved is the girl who gives her whole heart only to find that no one really wants it.

I have literally (and I actually mean literally) been abused by multiple men who have claimed that they love me and I am their favorite human in existence. I have been denied; I have been sworn at; I have been verbally battered and emotionally neglected. I have been invited in and then thrown away.

I don’t want to be the girl most loved.

I want to be the ordinary girl who meets the guy–maybe the only guy who will ever be interested–and he only has eyes for her and always will.

Here’s to Health (Update)

I’m a smoker and my doctor has warned me that pretty soon I would have to stop, because once in your thirties, your risk for blood clots increase if you smoke.

I had my follow-up appointment on Friday to see how the birth control (that I’ve begun taking two months ago for my PMDD) is going.

For the first time in my life my blood pressure has elevated. It’s still pretty healthy. I think it was 120/84. She said according to all my records, my blood pressure has pretty much always been 120/70.

Well… she’s pretty sure the cigarettes are causing the increased blood pressure, and if, in 6 weeks, I go back and my blood pressure is still going up, she has to take me off birth control.

I really, desperately do not want that.

For the first time in a few years, I am starting to feel more normal during that one heinous week of each month where my emotions and depression become monsters with their own agendas.

I do not want to switch to a different method, such as an anti-depressant, because the side-effects are greater, and I feel fine most of the month.

After this weekend, I have to try hard not to smoke anymore.

This is something that should have happened a long time ago, anyway; I just never had a “good” excuse to be motivated enough to quit.

If I don’t quit, I could be compromising the positive changes occurring in my life, and that would be foolish.

So, here’s to health!

Premenstrual Dysphor–What??

About once a month I kind of lose my mind.

For the past two years, I’ve been experiencing bouts of depression, crying jags, insomnia, irritability, suicidal thoughts, fatigue, and complete lack of motivation. The thing is, I experience this for a few days to a week, once a month, around the time that I’m ovulating.

Unfortunately, it took me until just this year to realize there was a pattern and maybe the things I were experiencing weren’t because I’m really emotional, have a lot going on, or am just a depressed mess.

It seems as though I have something called PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder).

After a really bad argument with an ex (who is still a friend) a few months ago, when I threatened to harm myself, I realized something was really wrong. I was fine two days later. I scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist to discuss what I believe to be a hormonal imbalance of epic proportions.

I have not taken birth control in approximately ten years. I kinda really hate it, truthfully. I have tried several types and have had some kind of adverse reaction to each one. That is part of why I’ve put off this self-diagnosis for so long. One of the first measures a doctor will suggest is birth control to regulate the body’s hormones. And, well, once you come to terms with the fact that you could have really hurt yourself, you’ll do just about anything to feel like yourself again.

I’ve only told a few friends about my attempt to harm myself, because, naturally, it is something that typically angers and worries friends; it’s something that makes me feel guilty and ashamed.

At the end of April, I had my appointment with the doctor on the same day I was going to NYC for the weekend with a female friend to visit some of her friends and the guy I’ve been emotionally attached to for the past year.

The amount of relief I felt as I stepped out of the doctor’s office was amazing. I wasn’t better–but I was finally out of denial and making the first step to being a healthier, happier person.

Fast-forward to the next day, where I am sitting on a patio somewhere in Brooklyn with this gorgeous man who’s holding my hand as I swallow my pride and tell him that I’ve finally decided to do this for myself because I have a problem. Instead of scoffing at me or telling me that PMS isn’t real (ways I fear people will react), he said he thought it was great, that a lot of people won’t come forward and confess they have had “bad” thoughts, and that I shouldn’t worry about silly things like side-effects (bloating) from the birth control.

I started the pill a few days after returning from NYC, and it’s been one month and a few days of shutting off my phone alarm at 8pm and swallowing a tiny, pink disc packed with hormones.

So how am I feeling?

It’s not a panacea. At least, not yet.

Week one was terrible. Every side-effect I could have from the pill I did. Nausea, indigestion, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, headaches, and my period lasted for 13 days or something ridiculous like that.

Then, the side-effects began to level out. However, around the time I would start ovulating–week three or so of the pack–the familiar feelings of sadness for no reason started creeping in. I recognized it right away. Nothing was going negatively in my life (at least, not more than usual) and I was doing good things for myself like going to yoga and spending more time writing, yet when I got home from work, I wanted to go to bed immediately so I could just restart again the next day.

Commercials would make me cry, I would get snappy. I had trouble sleeping at least one of those nights. Although, I will say, it was less pronounced. The symptoms after only being on the pill for a few weeks were already beginning to smooth out.

In a little less than a month, I have my follow-up appointment with my doctor, where we’ll discuss if this is working for me. I’m on month two, and am feeling better already.

This isn’t all unicorns and daisies–Feelings I didn’t even know I had began to surface after the first few days of taking the pill:

  1. I can’t have children
  2. What happens if I stop taking the pill?

I am 33 years old and am not in a committed relationship. I have wondered if I would ever have children at this point. After beginning the pill, this massive fear came over me that I might never have children if I’m already 33 and I’m going to be on the pill for a while.

Of course, there’s the counter: What happens if I stop taking the pill, because, by some miracle, a man wants to spend his life with me and we decide to spawn life? Will I spiral into hormonal imbalance? Will I have postpartum depression? Do I need to take the pill for the rest of my life to feel sane?

I’m trying to heed the advice of my friends and take it one day at a time, and focus on the immediate and getting better now.

I have also begun to think of my intake of birth control as a temporary aid.

There are so many other healthy adjustments I have made to my life after years of alcohol use, late nights, and drama:

  1. I have a regular exercise and yoga schedule
  2. I spend at least a couple of nights a week completely by myself, sober, and choosing positive activities, such as cooking, chores, reading, or writing
  3. I have separated myself from situations/people who were making me unhappy
  4. I am eating better
  5. I am reconnecting with my spiritual self

All of these things are natural ways to enhance serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. They are also probably things that will help naturally regulate my hormones.

Once I’m feeling good enough, perhaps I can try going off the pill again to see where I’m at.

But for today, and in approximately two hours, I will punch that tiny pill through the foil, swallow it down, and feel comfort in knowing that I don’t have to suffer.

Name Ten People

Overly emotional doesn’t even begin to describe me.

No, I am the Casablanca of feelings.

I am the girl who says prayers for roadkill, puts insects in plastic cups and releases them outside, rather than squish them, and can’t watch the news because it will ruin her day.

Most days are fairly rote: I wake up, go to work, see friends, exercise, eat, sleep. But not all days transition like an endless loop of the movie Groundhog Day.

Some days, you wake up and see your newsfeed on facebook and find that a friend from your childhood has passed away in a car crash. Or, you learn one of your best friend’s family members was just diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve lost a lot of friends in the past few years. Some of them were people I hadn’t seen in years and some were closer friends. Since, I have felt like this seemingly solid and functioning world around me is more like a spider web, succumbing to a heavy gust of wind and splintering apart. Or the floorboards beneath my feet are breaking away and disappearing with each footstep like some glitch in the Matrix.

I have an unnerving restlessness and fear dwelling inside me.

I have been told by others that my unnecessary falderal is unproductive. It’s irrational to worry and think that everyone you care about could suddenly disappear at any given moment.

But couldn’t they?

The same person who told me that almost died a year or two before I met him. He had to have brain surgery. Just recently, he gave me another scare by telling me he had some tests done. I had no idea that was even going on, and while I sat there completely distraught on the other end of the phone, his calm, emotionless words popped up on the screen, reassuring me there was nothing to worry about.

I don’t think he has any true concept of a) how much I worry about things and b) how much he means to me.

Later that afternoon, I had told one of my good friends that I was “idiotically” upset over the fact that something horrible could have happened to this person I care so much about and I wouldn’t have even known. My friend then told me to name ten people I knew and something that had happened in their life recently. Um, okay…

After successfully listing ten people and events, my friend says, “See? Look how many lives you are connected to in a meaningful way. You might feel disconnected at the moment from that one person, but you are connected to so many.”

I got his point, but the fear part of my brain goes, “Oh, great. Just ten more people who would greatly affect me if they suddenly meet their fate.”

Deep down I know my friend is right. Feeling connected and creating intimacy with others in meaningful ways is kind of the bread and butter of existing. Without it, our days are rote and, indeed, void of tragedy, but the enjoyment that comes from reaching far into another’s heart and learning about what they yearn for and care about is more rewarding than never stepping a foot outside our emotional barriers.

The only solution I can come up with to assuage some of the fear of losing those I love is to ensure I tell them all the time what they mean to me. It won’t keep them out of harm’s way, but it will fill their hearts with love, which is the whole reason why we’re even here at all.

 

Ex-Lover

I look at my bookcase and see my ex-lovers, lined up.
They haven’t been touched in months; some, years.

Stiff and neglected.

I hesitate to press open the pages and hear that crack the binding makes.
That means I have to commit.

The more time that passes, the easier it is to walk by without guilt.
It’s like I never knew them.

Inside of my heart, amidst the clutter of other small tragedies, lies the reality that I am no longer the generous lover of collected words.

I am the girl with a shelf of skeletons who remind her of her failure to follow through.

Coming Home

I removed my shoes and placed them slowly in the cubby below the fabric-covered bench outside, as I reached the top of the stairs. Apprehensively, I pushed open the door to find a common room with two Latina ladies. A small-framed, curly-haired woman walked in from another room and greeted me through a smile.

I told her it was my first time.

I just attended my first yoga class in approximately two years. And if you really want to count, I haven’t had a steady practice of any kind in over four.

I have been making excuses for a long time for why I wasn’t ready to go back to yoga, and part of it, honestly, was because I really wasn’t ready. My body didn’t crave it; my heart wasn’t in it; anxiety and depression had won the war for years over what to do with my body, and it mostly consisted of alcohol, stress, partying, and avoiding exercise.

I filled out the introductory waiver at the front desk and it asked me what my level of experience with yoga was? I wasn’t a beginner. I have years of experience, including teacher training and advance level classes and workshops under my belt, so “some experience” didn’t seem to fit, either. I checked off “advanced” but then felt it necessary to scribble in “but I haven’t been to a class in years!”

It’s like the shame of my absence of a practice or my billowing breasts that don’t fit sports bras or the stereotype of a well-toned yogi were making me question my validity to be there.

Once in the practice space, I unfurled my mat—my beautiful, deep brown mat—which had been sitting in the back of my trunk amongst clothes donations and bags of bottle returns for years. I think it breathed as much a sigh of relaxation as I felt walking bare-footed to grab my favorite props: a bolster and a blanket.

At the start of a typical class, the teacher usually prompts you to set an intention. Mine was simple:

Enjoy the class.

We began with some qi gong practices with which I was familiar to warm up the body. I remember the teacher’s voice saying, “Don’t even think about the motions; let it be part of who you are,” as my bare arms fluidly moved through the air in a wide arc in unison above my head and then back down. It felt like gossamer threads of energy were trickling across my skin.

It felt like the movement was part of me.

Through each pose, I instinctually remembered how to adjust my body for perfect alignment and total engagement of the muscles. It was like I have practiced every day for the last four years without a single break. The movements are ingrained in my muscle memory. Yes, I am weaker, and my endurance is certainly lacking, but I had a small smile that continually crept onto my lips throughout the entire class because I felt like I was home again.

The teacher encouragingly told me my poses were beautiful and so open, and I could only think about how it was because I am an out-of-shape, albeit, advanced student in a “Gentle Yoga” class full of mostly beginners who have never been the flexible types nor have they studied alignment the way I had. But if I were in a more advanced class, I would be the one taking breaks, slowing down, breathing heavily, and feeling my limbs shake. I’m not about to get cocky about this now.

Towards the end of class, while I rested my forehead on the floor in front of me during pigeon pose, I thought about how I was so thoroughly enjoying class, I couldn’t wait to come back in two days.

During savasana, where you lie on your back for total relaxation at the end of practice, I was trying to keep my mind steady. It wasn’t. But, it was happy. Elated, even.

The teacher read a short poem titled something like, “Let It Go”, and the words of it really spoke to me in that moment. Let go of your preconceived notions of how you thought things were going to be. Let it go. This is what it is.

A few tears of joy actually well-up in my eyes before we sat up to say Namasté.

I was anxious going to a class in a new building where I didn’t have my posse of yoga friends I used to see each week. I was worried about how I looked in yoga pants, or if I was going to be too ill-equipped to do the class. I was feeling like a beginner.

Those were my preconceived notions walking into class. Just like each day I wake up and think about how things were so different a year ago with the man I adore, or how my body looked when I was twenty-six. Humans tend to fixate.

Being in that spring-toned room, as soon as my two feet were planted hip-width apart and pointing forward, I felt like I was suddenly in an old life again. I had rekindled my bond with my body and the familiarity of one of the greatest loves of my life: yoga.

I was not a beginner at all. I was reincarnated but left with the old sensations of what I used to feel like before I let my life fall apart.

I walked out of my first successful yoga class in two years knowing that my intention had been fulfilled. Not only did I enjoy my practice, I smiled the entire drive home.

My Fight for Love

What is it?

Stringing madness. An inferiority complex. A clichéd, struggled kiss in a summer rain on a city sidewalk. Grandiose? Multi-syllabic.

A truculent desire to rip humanity’s vulnerability from their throats, which persistently mislead with humor and misdeed.

A gentle susurration pressed into my cotton pillowcase. A fear of flight.

No.

My fight for love is not poetic. It does not want to be noticed. It does not need to be spoken about. No monumental or maudlin displays.

It simply wishes to be lived.

How often are we stuck in a purgatory of stagnation? We come up with words like “saudade”, which means we long for something that has been loved and lost; a decaying, former lust. We pray for change. For society to wise up on its own. We plant trees in hopes of new growth. We remain obstinately optimistic.

But optimism and pride never delivered us to the doorstep of truth. Not once.

Words and feelings never have, either.

I’ve done this wrong my whole life. Pleasantly grateful for each opportunity to learn. Degrading my human worth based on the lack of others’ affection or approval.

Love is not about us, while being entirely about us. It doesn’t want to be praised or pedestaled so high it’s out of reach. It doesn’t want to be looked upon by sympathetic and horrified eyes like a beached and bloated creature.

It wants to be lived.

Caviling each other’s motives with complete disregard for their capacity to love. Commending our intelligence when we make decisions that break us from the bonds of romantic or familial anguish. The human condition.

To live love is to be love. Not to find it or create it. Not to write about it or decorate it. It’s not apocryphal like we believe. It is because we want it that we cannot have it.

Love has always been there. It just doesn’t fit the mold of our ego’s view. Askew in our perceptions, it is like the man who couldn’t fathom three dimensions because he lived in two.

It is not a decree of promise, nor recordings of random acts of kindness. Love is only asking that you stop talking about it and start doing it. To cease being a demimonde of lovers and become warriors of life. Proliferators of humanity and the ethereal cosmic entity that encapsulates our silly stories and lofty ideals. Not to be so serious all the time, but to know that the only reason why we all struggle with winning love is because we fight for it all wrong.

We get to choose how and why we fight for love. So many styles, all the while, some are successful, some needlessly tormenting. While love should be appreciated, it never needs to be more than in the moment, radiating floridly, with impression not intent.

If I am love and live like I am love, then I never have to find it. Living love is a fight each day when pangs of animosity and malign atrocities tear up entire cities, render human hearts to tenderized meat, pumping life through us we wish we didn’t have to wake to see.

But there’s bravery in living love, which is why it is a fight for which I will armor myself, will never give up on, no matter how many times I think I might.

A fight is only a good fight if it is done right.