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.

I Was Just As Bad

[some adult language]

I remember it clearly: me, sitting in our old apartment bedroom by the desk; he was on the bed, facing me. The lights were out, but it was afternoon. We were arguing.

J pointedly says to me, “I had all the money saved, but then you acted the way you did, and now the money has been spent.”

In hearing these words, I burst into frantic tears–he was talking about the money for my engagement ring.

That was probably about five or six years ago. Some things you will never forget.

To what he was referring (with my behavior) was something completely fabricated, because J had paranoia issues and was very manipulative with his words out of fear of abandonment. He thought that the next door neighbor and I were bumpin’ uglies, when I was not even remotely interested, nor had I ever been. I only had eyes for J. But because it was so real to him and he felt the magnitude of the indignant righteousness, all of the money put aside to keep his promise to me went to drugs and cigarettes. Maybe a toy for himself or some magazines. I don’t know what he did with his money.

That man knew how to bite hard. The term “mind bullets” accurately fits how he would fight, because he was scathing and unforgiving in his choice of words. But to say that we argued would be misleading. I never fought back.

As part of my healing process over the past three years, I have divulged a lot about his and my relationship that, previously, I kept a secret. I’ve needed to in order to accept that it happened and to realize that I was taken advantage of emotionally. However, I am no saint. Not perfect or all-knowing when it comes to relationships, in the slightest. Part of the reason for our failure was my fault.

I never fought back. I never stood up for myself. I let him whip me over and over with his nastiness and sat there silently, tears leaking from my eyes. Some days, after the pain had been too much and I no longer felt it, I shrugged at him with a straight face and walked out of the room.

I was inactive.

Part of it was because I felt as though no matter what I said, he would twist my words. I felt manipulated. That’s true. Yet, most of it was fear of losing him. What did I have to lose? I was naive and didn’t recognize that I had already lost my integrity and sense of worth. Without excusing him for his behavior, I see the magnetic attraction to someone abusing something that is cowering in the corner. That’s how it works. I never asked for it to begin, but I allowed it to continue.

Sure, I could play the victim role, especially since I experienced emotional abuse from multiple partners–some of the things that have happened in the past year, alone, are enough to garner sympathetic hugs from listeners. Screw that, though, because no one ever gains forward momentum or breaks out of the cycle by the mere recognition of victimhood.

I am an active party in my life.

Shortly after the breakup, J called, harassing and hurting me. Every time I tried to speak up, he would cut me off. I yelled into the phone, “SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!” His response was one of glee: “Finally! I have been waiting years for you to say that to me. Good girl. Good for standing up for yourself. You tell me to shut the fuck up. Do it.”

What? Yeah, that’s right. Not that it was ever okay to begin with that he was controlling my emotions, but he respected me the moment I gave it back to him. Things were different after that day.

angry

I finally had a voice. I finally had nothing to lose.

Unfortunately, I had to lose everything with J to find my strength to stand up for myself to him. Sometimes, that’s how a lesson is learned. I was no longer afraid of him, because he wasn’t mine.

Since then, I have the integrity to fight back. I never play dirty, but I communicate, and sometimes, fervently or with anger. I express what I need to, and I don’t worry about the other person pushing me away, because if they do, then that is a demon within themselves. It says nothing about me as an individual.

To gain this personal responsibility, I had to accept that I was part of the problem. I contributed to my own abuse by letting a man destroy my happiness and mental state for five and a half years. I could have left at any point; I could have stood up for myself. I didn’t.

I may not have asked to be abused, but I have a voice and two legs. I can speak up and get out whenever I need to.

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.