No Shame

I felt excitement. Genuine excitement. I didn’t need drugs or alcohol for a high. I wasn’t recovering from the titillating heart palpitations after a passionate entanglement under the sheets. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas Eve.

For the past year, and perhaps even longer than that, I have been mostly quietly drowning in depression. I get the winter blues, but I felt it in the summer and spring, too. I had always been able to bounce back from the lows, but something shifted in the last year. I just… couldn’t anymore. For possibly the first time ever, I believed that my happiness wasn’t completely under my control. Sometimes it is hormones, sometimes it is chemicals.

I, honestly, realized this a little sooner. Maybe three years ago, or so, when after two years of hysterical fits, suicidal thoughts, and crying jags that lasted hours at a time, I learned that I have PMDD (a hormonal imbalance condition that can be treated with birth control). After attempting to hurt myself, I finally took steps to take care of it. My hormones could change how I behaved.

Once again, here I am, realizing I am in desperate need of help.

A few weeks ago, I started seeing a therapist. She’s not the kind who prescribes medicine, but we are starting to form a relationship as I unravel details about my past.

She has been encouraging me to take small steps to reach attainable goals. She suggested I get a physical. I haven’t had one in probably eight or ten years. I get terrible night sweats, which might be related to the hormonal imbalance, but it could also be something else. I have an appointment in a week.

Last week, she gave me homework to write a letter (I will never send) to my ex-boyfriend about everything that hurt me and made me angry about him and the relationship. I’ve been living the last several months in a pained sadness, missing all the wonderful things, like a wonder-starved child seeking pleasure in dreams. And although I know that won’t go away, because there truly were remarkable things about our relationship, I am still recovering from the arguments, mistrust, and just the broken-heartedness of someone who lost a man with whom she saw a future. I’m allowed to dispense my anger in a way that won’t hurt anyone and can only help me. She is helping me to see this so I can gain back some of my self-esteem. So I can enliven some of the courage that has been hibernating deep within me.

She also mentioned that tanning during the wintertime often helps people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have been stubborn against considering this an option, because of the obvious risks, and I don’t advise that it’s for everyone, but I was running out of hope and ready to try anything that could possibly help.

The past week has been pretty hellish, with the New Year starting with some intense anxiety attacks and insomnia. I dealt with most of it surreptitiously on my own, only telling a couple of people, because I was so ashamed at my inability to pull myself together as an adult. I felt terrified, swaddled in heaps of blankets, sweating and moaning for days in between the random moments of unconsciousness and the blank hours of feeling absolutely nothing inside except a tightness in my chest. I can liken it to the book I’m reading, “The Last Unicorn”, where once caged, the iron bars hissed at her mockingly because the unicorn had no power of her own to escape. It was a place I wish not to return to.

Last Saturday, I overheard a couple, who live beneath me (and whom I have never met), have a very intense fight that lasted hours. It occurred directly below me in their bedroom. I was already in bed. She screamed and sobbed for an unending amount of time, and his dampened murmurs indicated that either he was trying to rationalize with her or had already given up. She screamed with desperation that she was sorry over and over. Finally, it stopped, and I was able to sleep. I worried about the two of them for days. Prayed for them. Welled up with tears in my own eyes as I imagined her grief over something I didn’t know. But I could feel it. Deeply. And it has stuck with me.

I’m pretty sure that none of this has been very helpful with my mood.

So today, one of my closest friends and I went to a tanning salon she’s been to in the past. We decided to dedicate Sundays to “girl time”. I told the lady at the front desk I would start with 12 minutes since the full 15 made me nervous; even though I am olive complexioned, I haven’t been out in the sun for a while. I shed my clothing and climbed into the inviting glow of the tube.

I imaged ocean waves and the sounds of plucked ukulele strings, as a warm breeze swept over my face and the heat of the lights made my body feel as though for a short period of time I was lying on the beach in Maine at my parents’ condo, or in San Diego, visiting my sister. I felt summertime penetrate my skin.

When it was over, I put my clothes back on and we got in my friend’s car. I told her I still felt warm and toasty, and she agreed that she did, too. When we got back to my apartment, we laughed, listened to music, tinkered with the piano, and played childhood board and card games. I taught her the strategy to one of my favorite logic puzzle games, and even after she left around dinner time, I was still filled with happiness and energy that I haven’t felt in months.

I don’t know if it was the placebo effect of going tanning or it was the actual UV rays, but today has been different. I have not wanted to move off my couch for over six months, and today I ran around my apartment in excitement, needing to show her games I had, and I actually wanted to play them.

Before I sat to write this, I started reading a new book. I have not willingly participated in activities like that for most of the past years with a few rare days of clarity and energy that perforated through.

I hope this isn’t a fluke, and I know it takes more than one day of tanning to become the whole person I used to be. However, I am dually frustrated I waited so long and so relieved I’ve finally taken the steps.

Living your life as if you’re waiting to die is no way to live, but I had become comfortable with that. I miss the woman who enjoys her own thoughts and loves being creative. I am hoping that I find her again through all this searching and recovery. I am seeking happiness with a side-effect of a nice tan for the winter.

The Rat Race vs. The Ride

I’m here doing these things I’m told to do everyday and I don’t even know why.

You ever think about why you’re taking out the trash or buying patio furniture at Ocean State Job Lot? Why are you doing that versus living in the woods, cut off from society completely? Why aren’t you in Uganda, volunteering your time to help those less fortunate than yourself?

Of course, some of us are.

The rest of us are following the paradigm set out for us since birth: go to school, get a job, furnish a home, find a partner, create new life, raise new life, vacation, retire.

I’m not trying to be pessimistic here, because I’m a generally content person who has meaningful connections with others and believes I have a purpose in being on this planet, but sometimes I get so caught up in the daily monotony that it makes it hard to see the big picture.

If my life is just going to be doing this every day, I don’t know that I want to sign that contract.

I think that’s why I’m kind of differently lately. I mean, really, I’ve been different for the past four years, since I started my new life after relationship death (aka my break from my fiancé).

How am I different…?

I like adventures. This could mean anything. Taking a spontaneous trip to Sedona, Arizona with a mystery man or jumping out of the car on the side of the road to pick wild flowers. Building blanket forts of epic proportions in my living room, or convincing the most gorgeous man I know to get in his car and drive three hours on a Sunday night just so we can hold each other and make-out for another three.

I love alone-time. Alone-time is not bored-time. It is relished, thirst-quenching me-time! I have found that a lot of people do not know how to be by themselves for a duration longer than a few hours. Think about it: whenever we’re out shopping, other people are nearby. We go to the movies, play mini-golf, drink at bars… We take public transportation, we work in offices, we go to Church. We are around people even when we don’t want to be!

I am fortunate to have a schedule quite opposite from that of my roommate, and I spend a lot of time alone, writing, watching movies, petting my cat, crying, lounging, eating, playing guitar, singing, or doing a random arts ‘n craft project. Doesn’t really matter much what I am doing as long as it’s mindful and appreciated.

I am grateful. I “pray” every day. I’m not religious, but I am very spiritual in the sense that I energetically feel connected to everything in the Universe. I believe in the Law of Attraction; I feel watched and cradled and listened to. I write in a gratitude journal most nights before bed. I see the good even when the walls are painted in cow shit and all the windows are stuck shut.

I am filled with hope. I was talking with a friend Saturday night about how my mentality is to refuse mediocrity. We both have been in abusive relationships of varying types, and he more recently than me. I told him people have asked me how I can keep opening my heart to others, and it’s quite simple, really: You have to continually have hope. The second you lose it, you might as well give up. Hand in your key-card for life and resign.

I don’t think too much. I’m a thinker–a philosopher, at heart. My brain never really ceases to have thoughts. That’s not exactly what I mean when I say I don’t think too much. I have stopped over-analyzing every little detail. I go with the flow more and let the powers that be dictate how things will progress. I tend not to get my hopes up over situations by investing so much mental energy in them. I’m more accepting of whatever is, is.

I am getting healthy. Maybe it’s a thirties thing. I’m past partying all the time. I got getting shit-faced all the time out of my system after the years of deprivation from social interaction I experienced being with my ex-fiancé. I think it’s “cool” to quit smoking cigarettes and eat salads. I adore and look forward to my yoga practice, and my idea of a good time lately is listening to music in my kitchen on a Monday night while figuring out how to make a homemade quiche crust.

I feel it all. I let myself cry a lot. If I’m angry, then, I’m angry. Sometimes, I’m elated, and when I’m elated, I dance in my living room and sing so loud that I’m hoping I hear my neighbors applaud when I’m finished.

Feeling blah or numb will happen occasionally, but I don’t want to live there. Living in complacency is like living in a home with no windows. No sunlight comes in. You can’t hear the rain beat against the glass during violent thunderstorms. A thick mat of dust covers all things due to lack of air circulation. The environment has no atmosphere. It is stagnant and un-evolving.

I might have to pay my absurd electric bill or rotate my tires, but I can do those while indulging in the things I love, like music, nerdy podcasts, sudoku puzzles, and avocados.

I love hard. This one’s probably the most important. I believe love is the single-most important thing in the Universe. I make sure my friends and family know they are cherished. I feel ardor for my hobbies and interests. I shriek and throw my phone when someone sends me a ridiculously adorable baby animal picture. I sing annoying songs at work to lovingly piss off my coworkers. I walk around naked in my apartment when my roommate isn’t home, because the air passing over my tanned skin feels amazing, and I take selfies when I look cute.

I compliment myself. I praise others. I love with a heart whose protective case has been smashed open like a poorly designed, knock-off Otterbox. Fully exposed and vulnerable.

If you had to purchase a one-way ticket and you had a choice between the warrantied, safe and amenable race to the finish line or the undisclosed, off-roading adventure, which would you pick?

Most of us have to be a part of the “rat race”, regardless. If we have to travel that well-known, dead-end path, we might as well take as many detours as possible to all the scenic routes to extend, brighten, and give purpose to our daily motions.

Sweet 16

I remember being sixteen years old, tightly stuffed into a friend’s basement in Worcester, MA, feeling higher and happier than a child chasing a trail of pearlescent bubbles.

It was New Year’s Eve, 1999.

I was there with my sister, mutual friends, and the boy with whom I was completely infatuated from the first moment I saw him that summer. I wore black vinyl pants and remember my crush saying to me on the ride to Worcester, “I can see myself in your pants. No, really. It’s not a pickup line. I can see myself in your pants.”

He braided me an aluminum foil bracelet as we stood by ourselves in the kitchen, tucked away in a corner, where we rubbed noses and giggled about how Eskimos and gnomes kiss.

I remember hanging out in one of my friend’s van outside listening to DMX and Dr Dre. I vaguely recall our friends’ band playing that evening in the tiny basement. I also remember eating peanuts while chewing gum, and realizing as my gum dissolved and slid down my throat, that that’s why people use peanut butter to get gum out of girls’ hair. Epiphany. I was hopped up on illegal substances and the world was my oyster.

As the ball was on its descent into the year Y-2-K, we all joked about how the internet would shut down, chaos would ensue, and the beginning of the end would follow thereafter.

None of that happened, of course, but when the countdown reached zero, I grabbed the boy and kissed him so sweetly. It was my first New Year’s kiss and I was on ecstasy.

Very early on the morning of New Year’s Day, I went back to the boy’s house and he laboriously peeled the black vinyl pants off my sweaty body. I lay in the boy’s bed, while he tried to do sexy things to me and I was coming down. I was tired, and it just wasn’t working. Frustrated and selfish, he broke up with me; I was mostly naked in his bed and trapped at his home without a ride.

Later that morning, forgetting what he had done only hours earlier, he in naive slumber, curled his arm tightly around my waist and pulled me in to snuggle. I just lay there and cried silently.

Happy New Year.

That boy became the man with whom I reunited seven years later and almost married.

Now, sixteen years after that emotional bumper car ride, I am sitting here in my favorite, thread-bare bathrobe in my cozy apartment. I am thinking about how many dull years have passed. How many of them I spent being a normal, young adult with a relatively stable existence. How many of them I spent with that same boy, and how many I have spent without him since we split. How so many of those years since we broke up were anything but stable or dull. How grateful I am to be where I am sitting today.

One thing that has always been consistent in all of my teen and adult years is my struggle with love. Oh, I find love, I just can’t keep love. The last three New Year’s Eves have been spent with friends, doling out hugs and cheek pecks at the ball drop.

Four years ago, I experienced something akin to my sixteenth year. I told the new guy I was dating since J and I broke up that I loved him for the first time. On New Year’s Day. It wasn’t planned. I wasn’t trying to be romantic by choosing a special day; it had just been six months together and fifteen years total since I had known him, and it came out of my mouth as we lay in my bed after drinking several mimosas and fondling each other. He reacted poorly. Understatement. His reaction was the worst reaction anyone could possibly have to being told they are loved by their girlfriend.

First, he laughed nervously. Really hard. Then, he pulled me in for a hug and swayed us back and forth for an extremely uncomfortable amount of time. It felt like three decades. We both silently shared a cigarette on my porch, and then, abruptly, he told me he had to go.

My New Year’s track record is excellent.

This year I feel good, though. I’ve been taking a lot of time to focus on organizing my life and my home. I have been writing a lot. I don’t really go out or drink very often at all and am in bed by 10 or 11 each night. I cherish my girl cat and lavish in all this extra time I have to be near her because I am not out getting messed up. I am yet again reconnecting with me, my favorite person to hang out with.

I cannot predict how the year will progress nor do I really want to. There are a couple of projects in the works that will keep me focused on my hobby and love for writing and editing, and I am finally loving my body and taking care of her needs.

Coming from the girl who always has put others before her, I am no longer content to be that person who lies there, quietly stifling her tears, while men abandon her right as a human to have her own fears, feelings, and thoughts.

And while I may be romancing someone currently who makes me swoon, blush, or feel dizzy, he is not the center of my world–he is just a very lovely and enticing piece of it. I like my life and I damn well should. It is mine after all. No one else’s. I live it for me and those who come into it, like my friends, family, or this romance, are all just enhancements and embellishments to the steadily polished bowl I’ve been working on for nearly thirty-three years.

I used to repeat the mantra, “I am happy; I am healthy; I am wealthy; I am wise.”

I think as I move into this new year of 2016, I am going to focus on the simple sweetness.

There’s a calm radiating throughout my being, because I’ve been chasing the metaphorical dragon for years and am finally ready to be me. To be the girl renewed from years of bad relationships and abuse; to be the girl strengthened against giving herself to men just to feel wanted; to be the woman who is comfortable in her new shape but still yearns to feel healthy in body, mind, and spirit. But mostly, to be Amanda, the person I know most intimately.

Amanda loves to read. She loves cleaning. Her home is an homage to the things she cherishes most: her cats, her friends, and music. She is nostalgic and loves to read her old journals (and then immediately shred them upon completion). She is sappy and enjoys eating popcorn by herself while watching comedy romances. She puts herself to sleep each night by petting her cat and listening to science documentaries. She writes in a gratitude journal. She requires time to herself every day to feel whole. She loves writing and making music more than she loves most things, and she gives her heart freely and generously to the people who mean the most to her. She does this not because she has to, not out of guilt, fear, or obligation, but because when Amanda feels like Amanda, she is a resonating channel of love.

From what I know of Amanda, she is sweet. She is kind, caring, and sweet. She’s snarky, sarcastic, whiny, and selfish, too, but no one likes a perfectly polished bowl, now, do they?

May I only hope that 2016 simply holds that presence of free love, if nothing else. It might just be the sweetest sixteen I’ve had yet.

Destined for “Almost”

My quiet, slightly messy apartment on a Saturday afternoon looks like a picture of mild chaos. Nothing is really disorderly, but there are way too many empty bottles in the kitchen from nights and nights of drinking, the carpet is coated in debris and cat hair, and my bathroom counter is scattered with the careless rushing of half-assed morning preparations.

I’m “this close” to getting the things I want: returning all of the bottles and having a clean place to cook; dismantling the computer desk–but first, to find places for all of the things on the desk…

I’m “this close” to going back to the gym. What’s my excuse now? I’m done with my writing apprenticeship; I have the time. I’m “this close” to writing a new song on guitar. I just need my muse.

Do we all tend to live in a place between chaos and order? Is that what makes us thrive, ultimately?

When things are too good, it’s boring. When life is a mess, we break down. But when the sine-wave of ups and downs form to create a rolling pattern of predictability, we find reprieve.

We need just enough chaos to keep us moving.

If that’s the case, then why do I feel like I can never catch up? Why is my mind pummeled by inhibiting thoughts of “never enough”?

I took on a writing apprenticeship to hone my skills in editing and writing. This is the first time I have felt inspired to write since it ended a week ago. I applied to continue with the program as a teaching assistant and was not chosen; I contacted them about being a volunteer editor and heard nothing. I need to keep trying–but my initial reaction is: Why am I not being heard?

This is my calling…or so I thought.

Everything in life that I have ever wanted I have wanted so ferociously.

A thousand pages of script written manically with sweat dripping off my brow; My soul being pulled through my mouth thread by thread until a pile of invisible karma lay in my palms, as I present it to my lover; The pounding of musical notes and harmonies reverberating into the cosmos… Everything I do is with utmost passion.

And yet it never quite seems to do. Everything just sort of slips through my hands at one point or another.

I have learned to let go so well that I’ve reached Zen Buddhist Monk status by now.

All of these things haunt me to a degree, still, as I am only human. Is it possible to be both a respected writer and musician? Do I have what it takes? Am I lovable enough to be worth committing to?

The most painful aspect of all of this wondering is that I am really scared that I am just not destined to have the things I want. I don’t want much, really. I want my words to be heard, I want to be a good friend and thought of respectfully, and most of all, I really want to be loved. I want to be loved so much that they cannot imagine a life without my presence. I want to be that precious to somebody.

I always put others first and not myself. I negate the things for which I long in order to compromise or give happiness to others. And it seems, in life, that others are totally fine with this.

Totally.

I am told I am so special. I am told so many other things than that, too, and yet I feel I’m not enough. And I know, truthfully, that I am not enough.

I am almost enough.

Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Way

[some adult language]

I was speaking to a friend the other day, and she said something to the effect of, “Change sucks!” It made sense that her sentiment was as such, since she had recently broken up with her boyfriend.

Normally, I am not a big fan of change. Having a lot of anxiety naturally, I become very uncomfortable in new situations or when something suddenly shifts and is not what I was mentally prepared for or expected. Life lesson, Mandy: Things never stay the same.

But lately! Oh, lately, I have been lavishing in change. It is all around me like swift zephyrs of refreshing air. I love the way it tousles my hair and forces me to inhale deeply and think: This is new. I can handle this.

What changed my attitude? What’s that line from the movie, Idiocracy? (One of my favorite movies.) I think it goes something like, “Either lead, follow, or get out of the way.” I was definitely tired of following, and I had been getting out of the way for so long I was surrounded by suffocating vines of depression, stagnancy, lost motivation, and self-loathing. My only choice was to finally lead my own life.

Although I’ve hated change whenever it meant I was losing something I loved or was comfortable with, I also knew in the back of my mind that something good would come out of all the pain, inevitably. You have to prune the tree to get new growth. It’s just the way of life. However, recently, the changes have been so positive! I can get on board with these kind of changes. Heck yeah!

I have made decisions in the past month or so that will change things for me drastically:

  1. New roommate moving in, in July
  2. Writing apprenticeship, which is taking up ALL my free time
  3. Purging, purging, purging

Number three… This one is mainly because of number one. Why am I getting a new roommate? I have been living alone for three years, and I love it. I really do. It’s pretty amazing, and I suggest that everyone do this for a period of time at least once in their life. However, I want to save money. I miss companionship. It helps out my friend. So, this will be a massive adjustment, but I will make it through.

I need to get rid of things, to pare down my material existence, so there’s room for my friend! I have been putting this off for three years; what better time than now? I truly believe that emotional baggage is directly correlated to physical baggage. I have been donating, throwing out, and giving things away, and already, I feel mentally lighter. Some of these things were related to my old existence with my ex fiancé, and it just really was time to let go.

The biggest change of all is my attitude. I was tired of being a prisoner of my own negative thoughts. I am determined to take the dying plant and prune the shit out of it until it has no choice but to soak up the radiant sun and luscious water and GROW.

Being in a romantic entanglement with someone from another state forces me to be busy. To be positive. To be focused. I cannot dive in head-first and get lost in him, because he has his own life, too! This is a good thing for me. Really good. I like this change from the last relationship I entered, where all I wanted was to see him. I had the ability to see him whenever I so chose, but guess what? He chose to back-burner me a lot; I was lost in a neglectful relationship, which harvested a very negative self-image and worth. Ugh! How did I let myself get there?

This is the season for change. It is now. My mom always reminds me that I am in my Saturn years (it’s an astrology thing), where the choices I make now will impact the next thirty years of my life. I was drowning myself in alcohol, being lazy and unmotivated, and fearing I would never be loved. Is that what I want for my future? Fuck no.

So, I changed.