On the Guest List

Being brave isn’t something you do for yourself; it’s what you do for others.

When J told me that he had a fiancée—when he casually mentioned she okayed me coming to the wedding—I knew it wasn’t something I could back out of. Pragmatically, I was fine with the entire situation. I have never been jealous when he tells me about her. I don’t imagine them kissing and burst into tears or become disgusted. I haven’t had those kind of feelings for J since shortly after we broke up. But in the weeks leading up to his day of matrimony, my stomach began to tighten. It was anticipation of what I’d imagine would be an awkward day, and I definitely wasn’t looking forward to it. There would be no dancing or catching a bouquet. This was simply a favor for J.

I systematically wrote out the card and placed a personal check in the slot on the left side. I did this while filling a flask that I knew I would need. The night before I didn’t eat dinner, and I stayed up too late talking to friends.

On a sunny, humid Saturday morning, my friend came to pick me up and escort me to the wedding as his date. We also brought J’s and my old neighbor with us. I had cigarettes, good music, and liquid courage. I could do this just fine.

And guess what? I did.

There was no dramatic outburst at the reception, where I wept in the bathroom stall. I didn’t ignore his new wife or make things uncomfortable. I even had a ten-minute conversation with the bride’s grandfather; he told me about his dialysis while he forced me to eat grapes, because I wouldn’t eat anything else. I smiled big. I schmoozed everyone. Even J’s mom. It was just about all I could take, and then, luckily, it was an acceptable time to leave.

When I got home, I was met with indifference from my boyfriend. He was upset about something unrelated, and without the emotional stronghold I needed, because I had been brave for just a little too long, I crumpled into my pillow and I cried. I cried on my drive to my friends’ house after my boyfriend left to get food. I let my emotions overrun me the second I walked in their door, and when I got home, I bawled again for an immeasurably painful time. Not even my sister’s calming familiarity could soothe me. On the other end of the phone, she reminded me that I’ve always been this way. This emotional. And I knew it was true, but I couldn’t stop the outpouring. I eventually did expunge my tears, because there was nothing left in me, but it wasn’t because I ceased feeling awful inside.

There’s nothing pretty about being brave.

It feels raw and draining to pretend everything is okay and that I am not a human with normal emotions—that even though I haven’t felt romantic love for my ex fiancé in six years, it still wouldn’t rock my entire core to see and hear him say “I do” to someone else.

He and I once had picked out our own venue, standing hand-in-hand blissful that he would get to ride in on a quad, and I could have my barefoot outdoor wedding. I had tried on dresses and asked my sisters and niece to be my bridesmaids. I had the perfect ring, and I was making my guest list.

My braveness the other day was just a symbol of everything I am lacking in my own life: I do not have a husband. I may not ever. I probably will never bear a child from my own womb. J’s old promises to me were now wrapped in my own tissue paper and sitting on a table for a woman I don’t even know to tear open and write me a detached thank you note in a month’s time. And that’s it. That is all I have to show for almost six years of dedication to a man whose wedding I attended on Saturday.

Being brave felt like it was for everyone else, but perhaps it was my own stupidity. I don’t regret that I went, as I know it made J smile that I was there, but that really was the only reason why I went. To support him. He’s never been much for friends, and although we are ex partners, we’ve always been able to be pals. Yet, everyone I’ve spoken to about this past weekend has wondered how I even made it onto the guest list. They told me they would never be able to do what I did.

Does that make me foolish or does that make me brave?

Sometimes I don’t think there’s a difference.

Antidote

A few days ago, I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post about my ex’s brother and his girlfriend “in a relationship”. They have been dating since the summer but finally made it “Facebook official”.

My ex’s mother responded to the post: “The best thing to ever happen to this family!” Although I agree that his girlfriend is simply amazing and a genuine sweetheart, it stung. Why?

Well, because for years, I was the best thing that ever happened to that family.

I was the glowing spectacle in the eyes of his mother, brought in from the world into her undeserving son’s arms, hopefully to remain indefinitely. Obviously, he and I broke up. More than once, in fact, because at the time, he simply didn’t know what he wanted, couldn’t own up to his emotions, or wasn’t ready.

While I can accept that and know it was he who cast me out, why did it sting so much to read that comment?

It’s the phrasing; in particular, the word “family”. Why would she be the best thing for the family? Wouldn’t she merely be the best thing for my ex’s brother? Similarly, why was I the best thing that ever happened to the family and not just to my ex?

The thing is, I may have been the best thing that happened to my ex in years, but I also received so much warmth and approval from his family that it really felt like I was the new bulb replaced on the string of lights that made things once again bright.

I never had his affections and emotions in an open sort of way. He hid himself from me and rarely made me feel very loved or special, so having his family’s acceptance was part of what kept me going. I needed it to have the patience required to wait for him to shape up.

That’s why the comment scraped the inside of my heart: I was just as much in a relationship with the family as I was with my ex, and in some ways, more connected to them than I was to him, at times. Breaking up with him was breaking up with three other people all at once.

Now I have the devotion of a man who isn’t afraid to tell me how he feels. He tells me I’m beautiful, sweet, cute, and amazing every day. He even says I’m the “most beautiful” he’s ever seen. Although I like his parents, I don’t need them in the way that I relied so heavily upon the relationship I had with my ex’s family, because with Bryan, I am given more than enough adulation and support. I don’t feel like I’m wading in a pool of my own emotions for someone else, while they are on the shore holding the life raft, like I did with my ex. I was always waiting for him to jump into the depths with me or at least scoop me out to the beach to be with him.

In that way, I very much required the acceptance of his family, because without that, I was swimming alone in my love for him. Buffered by their love, I could be strong enough to hold on a bit longer.

That’s why it stung.

It’s completely personal and nothing to do with my ex’s brother’s girlfriend. She is beyond a blessing to be around. It’s nothing more than coming to terms with my own insecurity I felt in my past relationship.

Realizing that I am now submersed in the warm cocoon of a submarine barrack with a man who openly and unabashedly loves me gives me security. His acceptance is the one I need, and it has finally been found.

Picking Dandelions

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I am cleaning around the house, making mashed potatoes, and watching shows on Hulu.

Just like every Thanksgiving-themed television show, things do not go the way we want them to. Timing is never impeccable, and still, somehow, we learn to have gratitude in our hearts for those who invade our personal space and burrow into our lives.

This might show itself as an ex-boyfriend who realizes what he lost too late, or perhaps the perfect man, showing up in the midst of heartache and friendship betrayal. It might mean having to drive over three hours to pick up your mother the night before Thanksgiving because she doesn’t like highway-driving, and it could very well mean messing up your very first, ever, batch of garlic and herb mashed potatoes. (Let’s hope not!)

Maybe the tangled strings don’t all get tied into pretty bows like they inevitably do in sitcoms, but we know we have to accept the chaos, because those people in our lives are here to stay throughout the good, the bad, and the absolutely heinous.

Just about nothing has gone the way I would have liked it to in the past year. Although, when does it ever? Even though there’s been a tremendous amount of pain, loss, and having to say good-bye, I’m not sure that I would change anything.

Yes, I lost my male cat, Zen, a year ago very tragically. However, I would not have the capacity to love and appreciate my female cat, Aum, as much as I do had his death not occurred.

I had a terrible argument with my ex right before my birthday this year, which resulted in months of him hiding away and not speaking to me. If I hadn’t lost my sanity that night, I wouldn’t have sought out and received the help I needed to regulate my PMDD.

Saying good-bye to the beautiful man from Brooklyn nearly decimated my heart, but if I had not made myself completely vulnerable to him in our last moments together, then I would never have known that all this time he truly did love me.

Having a massive falling-out this summer with a good friend, who found many ways to betray and hurt me, led me to learn how to have true forgiveness for someone and manage to find a way to have him in my life in a redefined space. I realized I didn’t have to let go of someone for good, I just had to reconfigure how our friendship now operates.

My failed attempts at dating this summer, the agonizing disappointment of rejection, the yearning to move forward and move on with seeming difficulty—these obstacles literally led me right into the arms of a well-deserving man, who with his gentleness for my heart, has shown me patience and selflessness in ways I didn’t think were possible.

The events in our lives that don’t go the way we want them to, developing into hurt feelings, lost relationships, betrayal, and heartache, do serve a purpose. Sometimes, they help us to understand what we really need to do. They bring us to a patch of our lives, which has been neglected and is overgrown with worry, dampening sorrow, and unacknowledged emotional baggage.

It is here that we begin to sort through the clutter, pulling out the weeds.

We don’t actually have to toss them away, because unbeknownst to us, they can be brought into our homes and flourish what has become dingy and distraught.

Life is a pretty painful existence. It’s necessary to pick out the good bits, which usually end up being pretty flowers disguised as the weeds.

Little Earthquakes

I can’t believe I allowed myself to be in that situation again.

Everything was normal. Fine. Maybe a little too fine. When I first arrived, he was overly eager to give me a hug. Exes aren’t typically overly eager to do anything unless it involves inflating specifics of their life to make things seem better than they really are.

I was standing outside when I heard him say it. She was here.

Immediately, my gut wrenched. My body went into a post-traumatic shock, where all I wanted was to flee. To smoke a cigarette and flee. Against my body’s persistent urges to get in my car and get the hell out, I stayed, reassured by others that they would be there to support me.

Jello shots and whiskey helped ease the anxiety for a time. But only for a time.

“I don’t hate her or anything,” I said to my ex, standing in the driveway and pulling drags of his cigarette without his consent. “I just have zero desire to ever be around her again.”

“The fact that no one thought to tell me she’d be here is preposterous and really inconsiderate!” I added.

The avoider of all conflict reassured me that he would not ignore me or act differently. To please just suck it up for one day.

Let me explain what it feels like to suck up PTSD:

It feels like you constantly want to throw up. Your body is uncomfortable. There’s a littering of egg-shells in every direction you walk. Your mouth is duct taped. Censored. Your actions are bound. Censored. Your thoughts are rampant and sweating. Outwardly, you’re silent. Outwardly, you act calm, collected, and cool, because you don’t want to ruin anyone else’s time, you don’t want to cause a scene, and you can’t let people know how much you are hurting because they won’t take you seriously.

They didn’t feel the shockwave blow a hole through my body when I walked in on him and her kissing on the same day as one of my good friend’s funeral.

No. They could never know how low I felt as I scraped the snow off my windshield at two in the morning, wailing at the top of my lungs, after having an argument with a belligerently drunk dolt of an ex-boyfriend who would not assume responsibility for his actions, which ended in a fervent slap across the face from me.

Only my good friend, who heard me crying and came out to offer support, could know the level of messed up I was. I was actually traumatized. My system had had too much at this point. What with the passing and grieving of a friend, the assumed trust I shared with a man, and the broken friendship that stabbed deeper than any of the rest, I was a total heap of distraught. She had repeatedly told me I was way too good for him only so she could climb into his drunken arms, while I was asleep upstairs, because I was invited to stay at the house so I wouldn’t have to grieve alone after Isaac’s passing.

When I arrived home around 4am, I sat on my bed and drank whiskey straight from the bottle. I had no cigarettes and would have to wait until a gas station opened. I was wide-awake and completely rocked from what my heart, eyes, and body had just gone through.

I would never be quite the same again.

And then, they all just expected me to be okay with this? I know it’s been over a year, but would you bring an ex-infantry soldier to a movie about war?

I don’t really remember leaving, except to ask my ex for a cigarette.

I woke up at 4am with several texts asking if I was okay. I felt anxious, so I took half a klonopin and went back to sleep.

Today is Sunday, and the dust has settled. For now.

Come At Me, Bro

There’s a couple of things about me everyone who meets me should know: I’m not as innocent as I look, and I sure as hell am stronger than fortified steel when push comes to shove and I have to prove myself or survive.

My week started off great. No complaints whatsoever.

Sunday: Great company, mini-golf, and good conversation. Followed by a delicious dinner and wine Monday night with more flowing conversation.

Tuesday, things began to trail off, as I was asked last-minute to pick up my best friend from the bus station in Hartford that evening. I love her, but she knows my anxieties associated with sudden city-driving requests like this. I did it anyways, and, ultimately, it was fine, even if I parked in the wrong place because I get easily flustered.

Wednesday, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor to take my blood pressure. It’s been six weeks since my last appointment where my blood pressure was at 120/90. I’ve consistently been at 120/70 for years before I re-started birth control. She’s concerned about the sudden change, particularly because blood clots are a risk after thirty.

I quit smoking cigarettes six weeks ago. My appointment had been on a Friday, when the doctor told me smoking was probably raising my blood pressure. The following Tuesday, after Fourth of July weekend, I quit.

I started doing yoga 2-3 times a week in May. I routinely go running, hiking, or walking.

I don’t drink alcohol at all during the week anymore, with a rare exception for a special occasion.

A little over two weeks ago, I began a ketogenic diet, where I’ve cut out carbs and sugars. I’m taking a handful of vitamins suspected to help diminish PMDD symptoms, and I’ve lost about an inch off my waist and a couple of pounds so far. I feel like a million dollars on roller skates. There’s no stopping me…

My doctor charted my blood pressure at 120/82. Still too high, she says. She was going to take me off the birth control that day, but I begged her not to. I told her I felt anxious because the medical assistant’s vitriol about the possibility of me being pregnant (I’m not!) and demanding a pee sample shook me a bit. The birth control I’m on makes my period so light that I basically don’t get it anymore, so my doctor conceded and said, sure, let’s go three more months, but you need to chart your blood pressure multiple times a week and write it down for me. Okay.

I’m just buying time, at this point. If I’ve done everything right and my blood pressure isn’t going back to normal, then the birth control is negatively affecting it. My options are to stop birth control and go back to managing my severe mood swings on my own, try a different birth control, which won’t be as effective with mood stabilization (and could have potential side-effects, since I’ve had horrible luck with nearly every pill I’ve ever tried), take blood pressure medication, and/or go off birth control and try antidepressants.

Ninety-five percent of those options I refuse to do. I’m not going to pump my body with more chemicals that I simply don’t need.

Defeated isn’t even the word. I’ve missed every train, despite my best efforts to make it on time.

After coming home Wednesday, I found out my roommate doesn’t want to renew the lease. We have about a week to sign it and send it back. He waited until now to tell me he wants to move out at the end of September. I’m frustrated that that leaves me no time to either move or find a new roommate, so I am stuck paying over a thousand dollars a month again. This means I will have no life, because I will have no money. I can probably keep going to yoga, but that will be about the only thing I can afford to do if I want to try to save a couple hundred dollars each month.

Thursday was fine. Just fine. I didn’t feel normal, but I didn’t feel awful. All week, I’ve been irritable, having a bit of trouble getting to sleep, and generally pessimistic and down, but nothing like what I would feel without the birth control, in which case, I’d be writing this while crying and between cigarette and whiskey breaks.

I just want things to be easy. I did what I was required to do, life, now you uphold your end.

My doctor, with slight panic in her voice, said to me, “Don’t start smoking again, despite these results. You’re doing so good!” Don’t worry, Doc. Not my intention. My hormones and blood pressure might fucking hate me with the boundless rage of a sixteen year old’s first revenge after being dumped, but I’m not really the quitting type. Well, except for the time I quit doing all those bad things and bread, recently.

So, this is how my week is going to go? Okay.

I am into the weekend now, and the pessimism is subsiding a little.

I had a dream last night that I was eating bread. Years ago, when I had been a vegetarian, I dreamt about eating meat. After quitting cigarettes, I dreamt about smoking for days on end. Last night, it was carbs.

But I’m doing it. Each day. Yesterday, I thought about cheating and grabbing a small fry at McDonald’s in Bloomfield, since I had just stopped at the Jamaican bakery to buy coco bread for a party I’m attending this afternoon. I didn’t. I allow myself minimal cheats during the week, because I am striving hard for my goals.

Some people find it difficult to stick to a routine or diet. I was always one of those people, until I realized that my life depended on it, and the only person I was cheating was me.

My blood pressure might not be impressed by my recent changes, but my mental clarity and my overall physical health are giving me silent applause.

If my week wants to be a little bitch, she can. I’m finally finding the muscle to hold on a little longer, even if it burns every fiber of me in the moment.