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.

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.

Fifty Shades of No Way?

[Spoiler Alert: Don’t read this if you don’t want some idea of what happens in the book/movie, Fifty Shades of Grey]

Okay, okay. I will admit it. I finally jumped on the bandwagon of Fifty Shades viewers and watched the movie. I had acquired the book on my kindle, because when someone says not to read something, it almost makes you want to read it.

I had heard mixed reviews from some of my friends that the movie does an injustice to the “kink scene”–as in, people who are actually into dom-sub relationships and specific fetishes.

I’ve read some of the book, and the writing isn’t very good–I’ll admit that–but the part that I thought was done with consideration, at the very least, was the subtleties of the art of seduction.

See, I’ve read The Art of Seduction, by Robert Greene. I’ve discussed the book with others. I’ve literally employed tactical devices within the book. Seducing men was never a problem I had; I’m what you’d call a natural at it, but I was lured in by the psychology behind the art.

In the book (as much as I’ve read) and the movie, Christian and Ana are in a constant “game” with one another to assert their dominance and have the upper hand–yes, even though she was characterized as the “submissive”. This might seem like something only relatable to the world of kinky sex fetishes and fantasies, but I assure you, it’s not.

Power plays occur every single minute of every day between all types of relationships, whether it be parent and child, boss and employee, friends, strangers, and of course, romantic entanglements. Humans are just naturally hard-wired to react and respond in ways which will allow our “status” to remain on stable ground.

Let’s say we go out on a first date with someone we really enjoyed. Obviously, we want to talk to them right away afterwards or perhaps even try to see them the very next day. Most people, out of a perceived level-grounded, almost nonchalant collectedness will back off for a few days. Or we get the text we’ve been waiting for all day from the person we care about and we don’t want them to know we had the phone right next to us. Seems too eager, right? So, we don’t answer for two hours.

These are all defense mechanisms, clearly, as are most embodiments of power plays. It’s important to have the winning cards, not only so we don’t get hurt, but also so that we sustain interest. That’s the part I’m most concerned with. I’ll attend to the former later on.

Interest.

How to entrap and intrigue the other party. How to keep them on their toes. How to, in the case of Ana and Christian, magnify the intensity to such a point that both parties are intoxicated and enamored beyond what they can any longer control. It starts to roll like a rock down a hill, and as it careens, it gains momentum. It does, unlike a boulder tumbling down a cliff, require maintenance and attention. But if the mystery and intrigue, the carefulness and affection, the let down and subsequent gentle caress are all there between both parties, then it piles and amasses until something like mind-blowing sexual chemistry erupts. Or complete infatuation. Or beautiful, romantic love.

It may seem like power plays are bad things, but they are not necessarily. If used with sensitivity and good intention, then they enhance and add flavor to our relationships.

In Fifty Shades, I see this occurring. There are the not so great parts–Ana continually wanting something she can never fully have; Christian being cold and emotionally distant due to an awful upbringing and abandonment from his biological mother. This is the part of the movie that I think (think?) critics take issue.

In having knowledge about the “kink scene” or dominant-submissive play, I know that respect, limits, pleasure, debriefing, and ultimately, a more bonded, intimate relationship are key elements. Does this seem to be missing from Fifty Shades? I actually don’t think so.

I think it’s a movie. In the book, there’s more elaborate description of what the relationship entails, but in the movie, like movies do, you have to gloss over a lot of that to make it engrossing.

Sure, there’s a business meeting to discuss the matters of the contract, but it’d be boring if it were just this mutual discussion with hugs at the end, or this ongoing play-by-play of every line in the agreement, complete with coffee and bathroom breaks, and phone call interruptions. This isn’t real life; it’s a movie.

The business meeting is, in fact, one of my favorite scenes in the movie, due to the tantalizing, empowering nature Ana suddenly displays when she teases the crap out of Christian and then leaves him high and dry. She didn’t do this to be cruel; she did this to pull him further in.

Well, it worked. There’s science in it. It’s like the dangling carrot in front of the chariot horse. What’s going to keep him running? What’s the prize? The ever elusive idea that he is *this close* to what he wants. Getting what we want is good too, we just have to know when and when not to give in completely.

This is the game.

In this way, I do not think the movie did anything wrong. There’s a constant give and take between the two of them for this attainment of “love”. Christian is also protecting himself–that’s part of why the idea of controlled, submissive sex and romance is so appealing. You cannot get hurt if you don’t allow anyone to penetrate your armor. He may have exemplified his guardedness and inner turmoil in a way that was not okay for a dom-sub agreement at one point, but we are all messy humans who continually blur the lines between what we should and shouldn’t do and with what intentions.

Having a degree in Psychology, I actually found this to be a natural (and cliché) path for the movie to take. A plot merely about fetishes with no depth: How are you going to make a box office hit? People like romance. We like protagonists and antagonists. We like movies that will our souls to seek change. We like anything we can relate to on a personal level.

I’ll come forward and say it: I related to this movie on a profoundly deep level. The movie itself wasn’t profound, but its effect on me was. No, I have never been whisked away by a stunningly beautiful billionaire, and I haven’t been chained to a wall in a “play room” (although it sounds fun). However, I know what it feels like to be entranced by an insanely gorgeous and charming man. I know what it is to have him forever far away, and often times, emotionally distant and protected. I know what it is to watch everyone around me go on dates with their significant others, and I know what it’s like to have plans broken at the drop of a hat because something career-wise has popped up and taken precedence.

I know what it’s like to be in the position of Ana, where it very much appears to be romance and love, and have the other person contradict it. I know what it’s like to be abused by the person I love, too. This isn’t all one person, of course, it’s a collective.

But I know.

In this way, I could so truthfully relate to the emotions felt, and as an “incurable romantic”, my heart spasmed when Christian confesses his fears and childhood trauma to a sleeping Ana, because he wishes he could tell her consciously.

I gasped at the scene in the elevator when their lust was first manifested, and I delighted in each passionate kiss Christian launched at Ana the second she walked in the door, because I know exactly how those things feel.

Christian is driven to say to Ana that she is everything he wants, and Ana tells Christian, choking through sobs, that she’s in love with Christian, which makes him recoil. I know what it is to feel as though I am everything that someone wants but never secure enough to say those three words.

When Christian smiles at the text Ana sends, expressing how she misses him and wishes he were there, was probably one of the most tender and painful moments for me, because every time I press send on the end of my phone saying the same thing to someone I care about, I am hoping, no matter how emotionally protected he may seem at times, that he is secretly smiling because he cares, too.

Fifty Shades, although not prophetic or enlightening, substantiated the art of seduction, the deeper, darker colors of humanity, which mold and shape our behaviors, and still kept present a hint of hope for change, which to every incurable romantic, is our raison d’être.

Sometimes Things Just Suck a Little & That’s Okay

[Some adult language]

My life has been something out of a story book, lately, so of course, it was only due time before it partially came crashing down on me. Don’t worry, everything is fine; I’m a bit down and a little stressed. Things just suck a bit.

For about a month now, I’ve almost steadily been on cloud nine with perhaps a day or two where I’ve felt a little bit grumpy or hormonal. Why is that? Well, my life is becoming what I want it to be. I have a new roommate, and things are going really well. I got a raise at work. I even have a new standing desk and have been going for walks at lunch time with my girls, so I’m feeling healthier. I also have an amazing connection with a truly beautiful man. He says things almost on the daily that make me swoon like mad. I am doing my writing apprenticeship and loving it. All ducks are lining up in their pretty, little row. Well, until yesterday and today.

Sometimes, things just suck a little. I feel far away. I haven’t seen this swoon-worthy man in over two months. He’s facing some difficult things right now, and I can’t even help him. I’m powerless, in the dark, and alone. I worry for him, yet have zero ability to actually do anything about it.

My first writing assignment for my writing apprenticeship did not come out exactly how I would have liked. I wanted better than that for my first submission. I have a hard time keeping up with all of the social media postings I have to do each day, and I turn down plans to be with friends. I probably spend well over the prescribed 12-15 hours a week towards working on this class, and that’s on top of a full-time job.

Most of the time, I don’t even mind these things. In fact, I love the alone-time. I like the pressure and challenge of my writing apprenticeship. But some days, and today is one of them, I am just worn down emotionally, and I feel like sleeping until all challenges cease to exist.

I want to be in the arms of a caring man. I want to keep my past in my past, instead of where it’s been creeping in lately, and I want to be the best goddamn writer I can be. In dire need to purge my household of extraneous physical baggage, I am constantly in a state of anxiety until that task is finished. It’s all a process.

Everything will be okay. At least, I think it will. I just need to remember that sometimes I don’t feel my best, nor do I act it. This is a sometimes thing, not an indicator of who I am in perpetuity. I am not perfect; I am only human. I falter, I take things personally, I feel shitty, and I worry excessively.

And some days, I rain love and affection in inspirational waves onto those surrounding me. Just depends on the day. Each moment is a moment from which to learn, and sometimes, you realize that you just need to get through the moment.

I was driving not too long ago, and as I crested the hill at sunset, so, too, emerged the brilliant, red-neon sun. It was only there for a few seconds before I made my descent, but it caught me off-guard. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the sun look so delicious like a sucking candy mounted in the sky. And that’s when I remembered that this is just another day. Beautifully radiant in its own way. Some good, some bad, some cherished moments, and some I’d soon rather forget.

There’s always tomorrow to try again. Sleep does wonders for the soul, as it washes away today’s stains and renews faith and hope. I wish it for everyone: for my friends, family, strangers, acquaintances, enemies, and for the man with the handsome smile, when he actually allows it to grace his scruffy face.

I cannot make others happy, because that’s not how life works, but I can make sure that I am taken care of, and that, in turn, allows me to be the reminder to those who need it of those blaring red-orbed days when there’s too much beauty to feel completely lost.