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.

A Different Kind of Christmas

I don’t mean to sound like a grinch or a curmudgeon, but I generally kinda hate this time of year.

I didn’t always. When I was little, Christmas was my favorite holiday. Of course. Then, across my teenage years to early twenties, it became somewhat lackluster. I didn’t HATE it; I just found the “magic” of it to be unimpressive.

When J and I were together, there was a resurgence of the splendor. I made home-made cards for everyone each year, I decorated our home, we put up a tree. I loved wrapping gifts.

Then, my sister got engaged right before Christmas. She had been with her man a way shorter time than J and I had. J and I had been together for years. I was disappointed, naturally. A year later, right before Christmas, J proposed. That was a great Christmas; unfortunately, the jealousy spiked after we were engaged (seems counter-intuitive, I know) and he sabotaged our relationship in the following months.

Since then, I have celebrated three Christmases and this year will be the fourth. The first Christmas was great; I was dating someone new and went to his house to be with his family on Christmas Day. It was the next two years to follow that have made me entirely skeptical of the Christmas season.

For the past two years, absolutely horrific things have happened right around Christmas. I’m not going to get into the specifics of the events, because they are very private in nature, but both were severely traumatizing and heart-wrenching.

This year, I experienced yet another traumatizing event right after a good friend passed away. I reconnected with a man who made me forget everyone who’s ever hurt me, and then I sadly ended things with him at the end of summer. Of course, we are not very good at staying away from one another, so that’s a whole other thing. Then, my cat unexpectedly passed away, a friend’s mother passed away, and other friends have been experiencing a lot of upheaval in their own lives.

This Christmas? Despite all of that, it seems way better than the last two. It’s amazing what a little perspective will do. My roommate and I put up the tree on December 1st. I have decorations out. I have no money to purchase any gifts for anyone this year, because I am in quite a bit of debt from my cat’s vet bills, but I am not fearful of the day of Christmas, itself.

I don’t know if I’ll be waking up alone Christmas Day. I don’t know if I’ll be spending it alone this year. Strangely, I haven’t really thought about it too much. And New Years? I haven’t even made plans yet.

I’m still struggling and having a hard time with things. It’s been a very emotional year, but I don’t feel the overwhelming devastation of years past. What I feel is a want and a need to reconnect with myself in an even deeper way than I have been for the past year. To become healthy again. To write, write, write. And anything else that happens in between, well, we’ll see.

Sometimes, not really having expectations is a healthy mindset. Going with the flow of things has never stabbed me in the back.

This year, perhaps, I just have to “be”.

 

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.