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.

Chemical Cocktail, Please

His hand is outstretched with an ornament in his palm; he says, “Do you want to hang this one?”

A week ago, Bryan and I put up the Christmas tree in my living room.

With the new Gilmore Girls Series playing in the background, we spread all of the ornaments across the floor and began to hang.

It was a home-made ornament from my co-worker Heather with one of my favorite photos of Zen and me on it: I’m in my thread-bare bathrobe, snuggling him in a deep embrace while smiling.

me-and-zen

I immediately broke out into tears. Big alligator tears.

I don’t know if it was that I was completely taken by surprise or that it was the beginning of the week where my hormones get all wacky thanks to my silent passenger, PMDD. It probably was a combination of the two, but I was a tiny ball on my living room rug, crying hard while apologizing through snotty wails.

Losing Zen a month before Christmas last year was such a whirlwind that I had erased from my memory that I ever received that ornament. And unfortunately, it wasn’t the only one. After I recovered myself, we continued to hang ornaments, and minutes later, Bryan finds another customized Zen ornament that my sister had made. Another one I had forgotten about. He hands it to me, and once again, I am on the floor, tears streaming down my face.

I have always been “highly sensitive” and “overly emotional” since I was a child. In the past few years, it has intensified. Recently, I’ve discovered I have what is labeled as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, where my hormones go hay-wire for approximately a week to a week and a half each month, usually during ovulation.

So, it makes me wonder, was I really that distraught over my deceased cat or was it just my crazy hormones acting up?

Knowing that I have a hormone imbalance and being able to regulate it with birth control and natural remedies, such as exercise, dietary changes, and herbal supplements, has basically saved me from losing my mind and firing off at people with no self-control. Yet, it has also enabled me to use it as a crutch or an excuse when I do act ‘roided up on emotions.

That bothers me, sometimes.

Some of the magic of life’s moments are blanched when I have the knowledge that a specific combination of neurochemicals and hormones are having a rager in my body and that’s the reason why something makes me wistful, depressed, nostalgic, deeply affected, or impassioned. Things like my libido and emotional acuity can be altered with the application of a pill each day.

However, I cannot deny that PMDD is a real thing and I can actually see the signs of it now that I know what it is. It’s not just a made-up crutch with which I scapegoat my behaviors. I’ll come home from work and have that “I just want to go to bed now” feeling that I used to attribute to laziness and always gave myself a hard time about, but I know now that it is the onset of PMDD. Knowing that helps me get through it and actually motivates me to go to yoga, start cleaning the apartment, or make dinner. These subtle signs always happen during a specific time of the month, providing some proof that the chemical cocktail is coursing through my body.

Crying over Zen was unexpected and real. It may have been heightened by my levels of hormones in that moment, but I love and miss him fiercely.

I refuse to let the knowledge that we’re all varying mixtures of chemicals ruin the incredible luster that is cherishing a lost one, smiling because a memory with an old partner feels painfully beautiful, or hurting because my heart is breaking. It might not always be a fun feeling, but it’s me.

It’s always been me.

Chicken Little

I finally told him.

I told him and the sky didn’t come crashing down as a feared Chicken Little might have suspected. I wasn’t engulfed by volcanic ash. No earthquakes shook and rattled tall buildings to the earth.

I don’t know why I told him. The only purpose it served was so that I no longer had to hold it in, pressed against my gums all the time, wanting to be released.

I have come to the realization that saying it isn’t the scariest or hardest thing in the world. I’ve said it in the past and not had it returned. I’ve been laughed at and rocked back and forth in an embrace of confusion and patronization.

I survived.

The most arduous undertaking is knowing that it needs to be said and not expressing it out of fear or self-preservation.

I didn’t say it because I wanted him to say it back. I didn’t tell him because I wanted a hollywood romance moment, where all the messy pieces of my life are placed exactly where they always needed it be. I wasn’t attempting to bargain him back into my arms. There was no ulterior motive.

I declared it because he deserved to be told.

Disintegrating

I am sitting on my couch, alone in my living room, thinking about all of the people I care about and how I haven’t seen most of them in so long that I can’t remember their voices or how they smell.

My heart is breaking into a million pieces.

It might be my overly active hormones at play, but it is still real just the same.

My chest aches and my lower lashes feel the kiss of tear drops, because I miss these people. But it is more than that. I am proud of them. Real damn proud.

I think about acquaintance friends with whom I haven’t visited in many years—how they are married now or having kids. I can watch them through the filtered screen of social media. I see their lives growing and changing.

My old best friend from grade school is a successful fashion consultant with her own company in NYC. I was just visiting her website and admiring how professionally and elegantly done it was. My old best friend has accomplished so much. I can hardly believe the magnificence of humans, sometimes.

The first man I said “I love you” to recently got engaged.

Everyone’s lives are just branching out like a well-mannered fractal into outer space. These lovely branches curving and splitting, and my heart just wants to burst with genuine excitement and joy in the happiness that is others’.

I don’t know if my mind is searching out these longing memories tonight because my hormones are peaking for a window of time due to PMDD, or because I’ve experienced loss so near in the past.

I might not have another Tuesday night with my best female friend. Tuesday was our day. She’d come over with beer or wine and we’d sit and talk or watch a girly movie. There’s been a rift between us, and I haven’t even had the chance to explain myself or talk to her, because she has protectively boarded up her emotional walls and shut me off like water lines in the middle of winter, so the pipes don’t burst.

I said goodbye to a man I have loved fiercely and passionately for over a year. I don’t know if I’ll ever smell his hair again or try hopelessly to get him to open his eyes wide enough to stare into mine for more than two or three seconds.

And he—this man—has accomplished so much. I haven’t been able to be there for any of it, but I’ve cheered from the sidelines and been supportive from the other end of the phone. I’ve pushed him to fight for what he loves, and I’ve lost everything I could have ever had with him to the gamble of his potential success, hanging out there in the future like an amorphous, looming question mark.

I want to take this palpitating heart of mine and shred it up into tiny fibers. Little thread-like viscera. I want to connect myself physically to all of those people who have ever mattered to me. The friends I haven’t forgotten. Loved beings who have amazed me all this time.

Yet… I can’t.

I can’t, and that’s why it’s paining me. To have to stay whole when I want to be a part of everyone. To have to continue to live my own life when my memories dredge up nostalgic yearning to be close to others. To walk my own path, knowing I could never see any of these people ever again. And that I would just have to be okay with that.

Who can always just be okay with that?

Not even the strongest person is truly at peace with the reality that something they love so much might never be close enough to them again that they can just reach out and touch it; embrace it; breathe in the essence of it, whether it be their voice, their graceful demeanor, their smile, their laugh, or just the comfort that is silently acknowledged between two people when they are relieved to be in another’s presence.

And since I am only little Amanda and possess no tool set to cope with this massive sense of loss—this deprivation of familiarity—I wrap up into myself in the fetal position in my bed and cry. I write. I love everything and everyone I can while I can. I hug tightly, say I love you genuinely, and kiss like I’m nominated to win an award for it.

My body is the glue that holds me together, while my thoughts and tears scatter across time.

Not all of these people, or even most of them, probably know how much I hold love for them still in my heart.

One knew. He told me so. I whimpered to him through desperate, emotion-laden declarations that for so long I was afraid to tell him how much I loved him. Right then, he cut me off and said, “You didn’t have to say it. I knew.”

There’s a calming feeling that comes with the knowledge of his heart knowing my heart so intimately all this time without me ever having to verbally confirm that what we felt was real.

For those I’ve lost or not seen, and may never see again, if they could know my love is expansive and unyielding in its many forms, then I am connected to each, instead of my fear of disintegrating into a pile of ash, like every time the one I love steps out my front door.

Get the Trump Outta Here!

Okay. I’ll just say it (because we all already know it): Trump is a dick, man.

I am not a journalist, nor am I writing to bring factual information about the election to light.

I am writing about humanity and common f*cking decency.

I was sitting at my local pub on Tuesday evening after a rigorous yoga practice, while scrolling through my facebook feed. An NPR article popped up that piqued my curiosity. It was about Trump and his audacious behavior, naturally.

Everyone by now probably has heard about Trump yelling at a baby for crying during one of his speeches. He used his typical lexicon (pure idiocy) to say it was “beautiful” that the baby was crying. Everything is beautiful to him. I think it’s one of 10 adjectives he knows.

He began by saying it was okay. I didn’t hear the speech, so perhaps his tone was sardonic. As the baby continued to do what babies do (not driven by their ego, but by their actual necessity for survival), he outright scolded the woman for sticking around with a weeping infant.

I’m not saying Obama’s any saint, but given the same situation, he probably would have gone out into the crowd and patted the baby on the head. I mean c’mon.

Trump surely wants that woman’s vote, and he’ll take it by figuratively grabbing her infant and smacking her over the head with it. Because verbally abusing and belittling people is how you get them to love you, right?

He’s that guy in high school who had no clue and said really awkward things during class. So unaware of the people around him or their feelings because of his own ineptitude to emotionally connect.

I’m not here to bloviate about the Presidential Election, because that is not my schtick at all, but what I do care about is how people treat others. For me to be writing about anything even remotely related to politics means I’m peeved.

I am frightened, like literally scared, that citizens of the United States can watch this facade and charade unfold in front of their eyes, where Trump has disparaged women and other races, stuck his foot in his mouth countless times, and with the grace of an ox, delivered inarticulate and platitudinous speeches, which not only scrape my ear drums, but make my stomach churn and my soul deteriorate–AND they still want to elect him President.

Do we really want someone who is nasty to others to be guiding our Nation?

What did we learn in preschool and Kindergarten? To be kind to others. To share. Not to use words that hurt. We teach compassion and the value of friendship to our youth, because it is the keystone to raising an intelligent, informed, and selfless society that truly wants to benefit all members out of a sense of responsibility that when one part of the tree is damaged, it needs nurturing, so the friggin’ tree doesn’t grow fungus or uproot and fall over.

In my honest opinion, no politician is appropriately suited to bring our Nation to where it needs to be. Politics, although necessary in the way we currently run things, are dirty. Trump, however, is by far one of the most ill-representative of what I believe the United States wants to be seen as.

Why would we pick a jerk to decide how to run things? We don’t like jerks, do we?

Trump was quoted at one point during his campaign as having said that he was humble; in fact, he said,

“I think I am actually humble. I think I’m much more humble than you would understand.”

This statement makes me want to douse myself in gasoline and light a match. It’s that painful that I’d rather blisteringly burn to death.

I wouldn’t want that person as my friend, I can say that much. Who wants to befriend someone who is that full of themselves? You can’t trust them, because they can only view the world as they are and how the people in their lives bring benefit to themselves. If I can’t trust you, I also do not want you running my country.

I don’t need to hear the particulars of his sloppy campaign speeches or know all the details of what he allegedly will do for us.

I trust no one to run this country without scruples and sincere compassion for others.

Love may not be able to pass laws or give us tax breaks, but if I am stifled by the mere presence of another human because their behavior and words have indicated nothing other than nescience, rudeness, and total disregard for others, then I can have no part.

Based on his reputation, as fueled by the evidence of his actual ignorant and arrogant behaviors in seeming perpetuity, I say that Trump should get the hell off the stage and relearn common decency. Maybe even redo preschool.

Let Him Down Gently

Familiar phrases such as femme fatale or man-eater pop into my head when I think of how women are described if they have any bit of gumption in their bloodstream.

In June, on a two-hour drive home from upstate New York with my best friend, Rachel, we fervently discussed how men treat women if the woman is disinterested. It was quite a lively, spirited conversation, which was much-needed, since I had stopped drinking at the wedding a couple of hours ago, and we were stuck behind a Wal-Mart truck going below the speed limit on the winding roads of the Berkshires.

My best friend said that sometimes she’ll get called to at a gas station by a man, saying, “Mami, Mami, you’re looking fine today!” Rachel will ignore him, naturally, and then he’ll yell back, “You whore! You’re probably a dumb slut!” All because she didn’t acknowledge his misogynistic comment and slander.

Just how is a woman a slut if she won’t give you the time of day?

A week later, I was having a conversation on my deck with a friend, who told me how if she’s disinterested in a man on this dating site she’s using, she’ll sometimes receive charged comments blatantly calling her a cold bitch who is full of herself.

Again,

Just when did it become okay to manipulate and verbally abuse women for not wanting to have sex with a man? Are men so fragile that they cannot bear the crushing reality that a woman doesn’t want his scummy dick near her?

The answer is clearly and obviously yes.

This isn’t all men. I know many respectful, amazing men. I am referring to those who treat women this way.

Girls have been taught from a young age that boys will tease them on the playground if they like her. We learn that we need to soften the blow for men and “let them down gently” if we are not interested. Like it is our duty to protect their egos.

Aren’t we allowed not to be interested!?

I grew up believing this. I have had guys falling head over heels in love with me ever since high school. All through college it was a theme, and again, in my thirties, I am still “letting men down” who want to pursue me.

Yet, the whole time, I have this latent guilt about it because of the way society raised me.

I’ve always thought to myself that life is much easier when I have a boyfriend. This is simply because then I have a valid excuse to give to all the men who want to date me.

A couple of months ago, I was on a subway in Brooklyn when a fifty-something year old man began hitting on me. I am quite introverted and anxious in social situations as it is, let alone, this was my first subway ride by myself, but I told the man after he asked me for a hug that I had a boyfriend (a lie) instead of telling him to fuck off.

Why did I do that?

Because women know this will generally work. Saying you aren’t interested tends to generate animosity, and even saying you aren’t interested in dating ANYONE dredges up opinions on behalf of the man. In my experiences, a man will keep trying even if I say no but don’t have a “valid reason” (as if not being interested isn’t valid enough).

If I have a boyfriend, then I am a woman who has adhered to the role of society to be scooped up by a man, and therefore, the propositioner is more likely to back off. Also, my imaginary boyfriend has big muscles, so he’ll beat you up!

I recently got into an argument with a friend, who basically followed the exact pattern of things aforementioned. One of the points I made to him was that if he cared about me so much, then why would he want to make me feel uncomfortable by pressuring me?

This is still a question I’d like answered. Do men think this works? It doesn’t.

I no longer want to behave and feel like it’s my responsibility to ensure that men are being “spotted” when I deliver a crushing blow. It’s okay that I don’t want you; I have never owed you anything.

You are not really the type of respectful man I am looking for if I have to catch you when you are knocked over by my rejection and let you down gently.

If a woman says no, then there’s nothing more to discuss. Ever. No really means no. Get outta here. Beat it.

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.