Of non-confession confessions and wedding dresses

Time for the not-confession confession because everybody knows what I’m going to say anyway.

It’s hilariously easy for me to let my life revolve around a boy.

That said, it has begun to work in my favor. A former fling showed up. We met years and years ago, then lost touch. It was the odd email on my birthday or “Hey! I saw this article and thought it was funny!”. We started talking more over the past few weeks. The possibility of a rebound started to percolate in the back of my mind. Guess what? He’s not single. However, he isn’t the kind of guy where that might slow him down, especially given the relationship status of his current lady. In the past, if he started something, I’d be like “Eh, why not? So what if he has a married…girlfriend…thing?”. No.

I don’t share my toys.

I know open relationships work great for some people. I’m not one of them. I’ve tried, but I’m not the kind of girl who is into that sort of thing. I don’t want a guy who is into that sort of thing. Said fling is a known entity. Been there, done that (teehee!), and there would be no surprises. Except that I’m not the only one and I know I’m not the only one. He may be okay with sampling a few other things from the buffet, but I’ll sit here with my same ol’ cucumbers and ranch dressing thankyouverymuch.

Yes, I do want to get married. Yes, I do want to have babies. No, I don’t want to do it right this second.

In both of my previous long term relationships, the word “marriage” has caused many a hackle to be raised. When I was in college, it was a status symbol to be engaged either right before or right after graduation. There was a small pond next to the dining hall and if you got engaged, you got tossed in it. Almost all of my friends had been tossed in the pond by the time we walked across the stage. I felt horribly left out. It happened again when I reconnected with all my friends from high school (and made a few more). The bulk of that group got married in 2009, so not too far removed from our college years. Again, I felt left out. If they didn’t get married that year, they married their partner at the time later on.

The fact that the guy I was with was pretty vehemently against getting married only made it worse. So I looked at myself, wondered what was wrong with me, and lied. I said I didn’t want to get married either. What’s the point unless you want children or joint bank accounts? The point is I want someone to stand up in front me, my friends, and my family and promise to be my best friend and love me for the rest of our lives. I really, honestly don’t think that’s too much to ask. However, I’m not going to bust my ass to find the future Mr. Emily. Ignoring the fact entirely I’m barely removed from the end of a 4+ year relationship, it’s not worth my time right now. I especially hate online dating. I’ve know people who’ve met their spouses online or seen otherwise successful relationships. I’m thrilled it worked for you. I’ll pass. The future Mr. Emily will come wandering by sooner or later.

The same goes for kids. I want kids. I don’t approach them with the same fear I did before all my friends started to have kids. Being a professional aunt has gotten me warmed up a bit. For as much as I fancy myself iconoclastic, I’m a traditionalist at heart. I’m not going to have babies until I have a husband. Ideally, I’ll have had said husband for a while. I know myself well enough to know that I don’t have the emotional capacity to raise a child. I’m far too selfish right now. I’m pissy when I get woken up at 3a because the cat stepped on my head. I’d be even worse getting woken up at 3a, then having to get out of bed, sit for god knows how long to get the small human back to sleep, then try and get back to sleep myself. Thus, also, why having a husband is damn useful. Babies also aren’t cheap. I like buying pretty outfits or spending money on my hair. I’m not ready for the kind of financial commitment that comes with one of those little buggers. I will, however, love the day where I can watch my father playing on the floor with his grandchild(ren) pulling the same shit he did with me when I was young.

Just by allowing myself to watch the bad habit start to come back, I was able to use it. I don’t want to just be another member of the harem. I don’t want to compromise my own feelings and wants because some boy is either too scared or too assheaded to take the next step. I don’t want to have to lie about any of it because I think that’s what someone else wants to hear. As my BFF has beaten me over the head with for the past month – never settle.

Now Former Boy would always throw a fit whenever I mentioned I preferred to know how a movie was going to end so I didn’t waste my time or money if I didn’t like how it ended. He said you can’t enjoy the ending unless you’ve gone through the story first. For argument’s sake, the above is how my story will end. Now how am I going to get there? I don’t know, but I intend on having a hell of a (good) time getting there. I may not even have to take up alligator wrestling or platform diving.

XOXO!

Of Letters and Our Former Selves (25th Edition)

Dear 25 Year Old Emily,

I know you’re angry. You’re angry because you don’t understand what’s going on. Just take this chance to listen to me and I’ll do my best to explain it all.

As I told 19 year old us, he called. Right? You agreed to see him to prove a point to yourself. All that happened is you listened to him go over his life since you broke up. He bought a condo. He finally got a car. That made you angry. After all those years driving his ass around, he finally got his own car. You have a right to be angry. He’s told you all about his new girlfriend. You don’t catch her name, but you do catch the fact that he goes out of his way to point out she has red hair. Red hair just like you have red hair. You don’t miss the fact he says he came with her for her Teach for America training. You don’t really say anything because you aren’t sure what to say. This will be, as they say, the beginning of the end.

You’ll meet more boys. You’ll get more tattoos. You’ll drink like there’s no tomorrow. All that time, you’ll be angry. You’ll hate yourself because you won’t know how to stop it. I understand. There are few worse feelings than not being able to understand what’s going on in your own head. Then you’ll meet a boy. He’ll be just another one in the line. Another stamp in the passport. After you have a fight with him and find yourself drinking, once again, alone in a bar, you’ll have a thought. You’ll realize you don’t want to give up on yourself. You’ll try AA for the first time. You’ll get one of your friends to go with you. She had been angry with you before, but she agrees to help you. You’ll be grateful you have friends like her. You don’t particularly like AA, but you’re not sure what else to do. It won’t end up helping you at all, but that’s another story for another one of us.

As you get to know the boy better, he’ll start slowly pawning you off on his roommate. You’re not sure why. When you ask him to do something to help you at your new apartment or even just to hang out, there’s always an excuse. He tells you to talk to his roommate. Then, one night after the boy has gone to bed, you’ll stay up all night talking to the roommate. You’ll be more honest with him than you’ve been with anyone in a long time. You’ll find out later that you were the first one he’d been that honest with in a long time. Then, in 24 hours, things really go to hell. You’ll be fired for what you think, and I totally agree, is an unjust reason. That night will be the first night you consider killing yourself. You’ll call your sponsor. No answer. You’ll call the boy. No answer. Finally, you’ll call the roommate. You’ll ask him to come over. You won’t tell him why, just that you don’t want to be alone. He’ll come over and stay with you for most of the night. He’ll tell you no. He’s the first one to tell you no. That will stick with you. He’ll be the one to ask the right question.

He’ll walk with you to your first appointment. He’ll sit and wait for you. You’ll meet a woman who I still see today. You’ll see he’s the polar opposite of Will and that’s what you’ll love about him. He won’t force you, guilt you, or bully you into something you aren’t comfortable with. He definitely wouldn’t invite anyone to watch. He’ll be patient with you. You’ll learn to be more patient with yourself. I admit, I haven’t gotten to the point I want to be either. Patience is not our strong suit. What is our strong suit is bouncing back.

After you’re fired, you’ll look for any job. You’ll find them. It’s nothing fancy, just some seasonal work. The house you’re living in will be sold. You’ll have to move back in with our parents. You’ll be resentful and angry again. Anger is the common thread through all of this. I suppose it makes sense. Our 19 year old self was so deep in denial, it stands to reason that you would end up the angry one. You refuse to give up, though. In your mind, giving up means he won. You’ll refuse to let him win. Of all the times to care about winning and losing, this will work to your advantage. Our greatest strength may also be our greatest weakness, but right now, being stubborn is what you need right now.

I don’t hate you, even if you hate yourself right now. You’ll get better. I promise.

XOXO,
30 Year Old Emily

Of watches ending and phoenixes rising

Might as well not beat around the bush:

Boy and I broke up on Friday (the 13th of all days).

The 2 weeks of being at my parents’ house was the beginning of the end. We decided to take a break, step back, and assess what was really going on. As of Friday, the decision was made to end it. We both knew it was coming. In all honesty, it should have happened sooner. I can’t speak for him, but I would get frustrated, work up the courage to do it, then talk myself out of it again. What makes it difficult is we don’t hate each other. It wasn’t a matter of slamming the door, yelling “Fuck you!” on the way down the stairs, and having someone else go pick up my stuff because I can’t stand the sight of him. I really do love him, he’s a great person, and once I’ve cooled off a little bit, I’ll help him where I can in the future.

My BFF put it the best. She, like I, believes everything happens for a reason. He came into my life at a time where I needed him. I was a blank slate for him. He was the one who asked the question that allowed me to put into words what Will did to me. That was Halloween night of 2010. He showed me that not all men take advantage of women for sport. He supported me through some truly horrible times. And now his watch has ended. I’m grateful for all he did for me and I’ll never forget any of it. There should be more men like him in the world.

All that being said, it allows me a certain amount of freedom. I haven’t been single and not looking (for anything be it a relationship or a quick fuck) since I was 19. That’s a long damn time. It’s a long time to put developing myself on the back burner. Any self improvement was done so with the undertone of “Will he like this more?”. It wasn’t done just because I wanted to fucking do it. Because that’s a completely healthy and rational way to approach life. No wonder my brain chemistry was so out of whack. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I’m not sure where I’m going right now. That’s okay. I can allow myself to not have all the answers. Of course, does anyone ever have all the answers? For the first time since I graduated college, I don’t feel the least bit ashamed of living with my parents. They have a big house. They don’t charge me rent. They like having another person around. Why should I move out only pay rent (therefore not saving anything) and live alone (which I absolutely hate)? I have proven to myself that I am capable of paying bills, buying groceries, and keeping a pet alive. I’m not going to be parading a different guy through here every night (or week, or month, or year…). My 30 year old self is seeing all the benefits that my 23 year old self missed. Of course, as we’ve established, she was sick and didn’t know it.

Laugh it up, but I see the whole thing as an omen. I genuinely started feeling better last Sunday when the time changed. Sure, the internal clocks were a bit wonky, but it signified the artificial change from one season to another. The relationship ended on Friday the 13th, a traditional day of bad luck. What’s to come is unknown, but there’s plenty to mark the beginning. If I want to chop off all my hair, I can. If I want to get another tattoo or piercing, I can. If I want to completely change up my whole style again, I can. I’m not going to do any of that, but I like having the option and not having to worry how a significant other would react. It’s time for me to be selfish. It’s not a negative thing. It’s me focusing on me for the sake of my own improvement. Though I’m still not sharing my Tagalongs. Get your own box, bitch.

Yet another shout out to all my friends who have listened to me cry in their ear or on their shirt, sent me funny videos or cat pictures, or just texted me back when I needed a few words of wisdom. I love you all and could not have gotten this far without you.

Watch what happens.

XOXO!

Of my beautiful scars and the ashes from which they rose

Captain’s Log: Day 13 (Guess who can’t count. Surprise!)

I’m still feeling good. My moods are relatively even. I haven’t had any wild reactions, positive or negative, to anything. I’ve been sticking with my to do’s and reporting regularly. To all of my stable ponies, if you’re reading this, I’m sure you’re sick of my texts. Thank you all, nonetheless. I’ve gotten a bunch of silly little things done that I’d been putting off. I see my neurologist on Tuesday. I’m still planning on discussing what happened, if nothing else to make sure she’s aware of it. The possibility of needed medication won’t be a complete surprise if it does turn out that I need it.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, things are starting to warm up. Instead of posting my annual “dos and don’ts” for tattoos, I wanted to share a story. When I got out of the shower last night, I took the time to study all of my tattoos. I paid special attention to the ones I don’t see every day, one on the back of my left arm right above my elbow [a stylized rose], the little one on my back [it reads “danse avec la vie” which roughly translates to “dance with life” in English], the one on the top of my left thigh [a cardinal sitting on cherry blossoms, a homage to my childhood state of Virginia], and the bottom part of my phoenix which wraps around my right elbow.

There’s also a quill and dagger in black and red on the bottom of my left bicep. I can only see it when I raise my arm over my head while looking in a mirror. I got that tattoo the day I met Boy. The tattoo shop I frequented had an event called “Man Day”. They would do discounted tattoos, then have a party at one of the local bars in the afternoon and evening. The picture of me attached to this profile was taken that day as well. August 14, 2010.

As I was taking the time to examine them all, outwardly, they’re a random collection of artwork. Inwardly, it’s a record of the toughest 4 years of my life. Just like someone who cuts, the more confident (for lack of a better term) I got, the bigger and more visible they became. My retirement piece, which I know I’ve mentioned, is my phoenix. At the time, I hadn’t anticipated that would be my grand finale. Part of me figured I’d just keep going until I ran out of skin. I had plans for the back of my left calf and more work on my actual back. Then as I started to get my shit together, it ended. I finished the phoenix in on my 26th birthday. I had my successes and my failures over the next 3 years, but I never went back under the needle.

For a long time I believed, and was told, that I was damaged. I’d ruined my body because of them. I would always be looked at and judged as a freak. Even the people who cared about me the most silently judged me. That didn’t even hold a candle to my damaged heart. I’m not damaged. I’m not broken. I can allow others to judge me and not feel obligated to defend myself. While the truth would definitely silence even the harshest of critic, I would be telling them out of sheer spite rather than because I genuinely wanted them to know the story behind them. I could get them removed, but the scars it would leave behind would be even more obvious. At this point, most of them are just part of the landscape. I’ll forget about them until someone points them out. I can’t forget the story behind them, but I don’t have to let it keep writing more chapters in my life. That chapter is over. Time to get on with the rest of the book.

Also, happy (early) Friday the 13th. I’ll have plenty of black cats crossing my path, but that happens every other day of the year. Here kitty, kitty.

XOXO!

Motivational Monday: Acceptance

The anniversary of the day I met Will passed this week. I didn’t even notice. October 2, 2004. It’s been a decade. When I realized it last night, I was flooded with a mix of memories and emotions. He was my first and I was his first. After, I was in the bathroom trying to figure out a way to stop the bleeding. Our first Valentine’s Day, he bought me flowers. It was windy, so he walked backwards from the train station to my dorm so the flowers wouldn’t be damaged. He took me to Mardi Gras. His parents’ house was literally half a block off the parade route. His sister hated me. His mom hated me. His dad loved me. His ex-girlfriend and I bonded over having the exact same birthday. His phone number is seared into my brain. If he ever called me again, I would know it was him. I remember his birthday. I don’t remember when we broke up. For all intents and purposes, the relationship ended after graduation when he moved back to New Orleans and I stayed here.

In the past decade, I’ve seen him once. He called me out of the blue in the summer of 2010. He said he would be in town & asked to have lunch together. I agreed. It was a really, really bad decision. He rattled off everything he was doing. His new girlfriend was in town training for Teach for America. He’d bought a car. He’d bought a condo. The car was particularly significant because he had been deemed uninsurable after being in 3 accidents in as many months. Apparently the state of Louisiana changed its mind and he was once again able to legally drive. During our relationship, I was responsible for all the transportation needs. Overall, it was a strange experience. We parted ways and that night I, of course, crawled into a bottle of vodka and stayed there. I drunk dialed him, left him a rambling message, & saw the next morning that he’d called me back. I was absolutely mortified. Two months later I met Boy. Three months later I made my first attempt at drying out. I haven’t heard from him again, in person or virtually. Sometimes I wonder what happened to him. If my phone were to ring right this second and it was him, would I pick up the phone? My stomach drops at the thought. I think that’s a pretty good sign that I should let it ring to voicemail.

The fact that the date passed without me noticing is significant in its own right. My uncanny ability to remember dates, times, places, and people along with their significance can be a blessing and a curse. This year, October 2 was spent calling in sick to work & cat napping all day. That’s the only reason it stood out. No anxiety. No pain. Nothing to otherwise distinguish it from any other Thursday. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that swatting at the past like you’re trying to get a bug out of your face does no good. I was reminded that he wasn’t all bad. He wasn’t abusive 24/7. That by no means absolves what he did. A reminder of our own humanity and the humanity of others is important. Yesterday I did what amounted to narrowing down what’s important to me right now. The results were a bit eye opening. My main focus is to self improvement and improving my relationships with those closest to me. I hadn’t really given it much thought recently other than in passing. That requires accepting our flaws, strengths, and quirks as part of a whole package. It’s never easy and sometimes far easier to ignore, but it’s worth it in the end.

Motivational Tidbit Takeaway: Be human

XOXO!

Of black dogs and dirty blondes

No matter how much therapy you’ve had or healing you’ve experienced, there’s a little piece of darkness always lurking around in your head. I happen to call mine Hailey. I haven’t heard from her in a while. Recently, she decided to pop in again. Sometimes it’s due to an actual stress and sometimes it’s just because it’s a day ending in “y”.

It started with the nightmares. Two full days of every time I closed my eyes, I had a nightmare. They ranged from mildly disturbing to waking up sweating making sure that I still had all my teeth and / or limbs. Then I started craving a margarita. Even in my previous life, margaritas weren’t my thing. If I happened to be at a Mexican restaurant or it was a Cinco de Mayo party, then sure. Left to my own devices, it was vodka or wine without a second thought. I could brush both of those off fairly easily. Then came the real kicker.

I wanted another tattoo.

I’ve been retired, as it were, for almost exactly 4 years. I started my final tattoo on September 11, 2010. That was my phoenix, a fitting end to that particular part of my life. I could picture the hypothetical new one in great and gory detail. It was a black and white line work tattoo of the famous Alice in Wonderland illustration with the Cheshire Cat. Mind you, I was never an Alice in Wonderland fan. It was on the back of my left calf, taking up almost the entire space. I saw it exactly how it would look completely finished and fully healed. That’s what jarred me back into reality. I wanted to hurt myself again. She was there, waiting patiently for me to see her.

Fighting her is like fighting a Chinese finger trap. The more I struggle to get loose, the tighter her grip becomes. Instead of pitching a fit and trying to beat her back into the dark recesses of my head, I talked to her. She presents herself very simply. She offers things that seem like simple choices, but are deeply destructive. It’s under the guise of helping me get through whatever it is that’s troubling me. She promises the darkness is a good place. After all, don’t gems grow in caves? It’s easier to blend in the dark. In the light, every harsh detail is visible.  Isolating myself from things and people I truly love is for the best. They can’t hurt me if they can’t see me. I listened to all she had to say before offering my response. She presents herself as a false goddess, offering the impossibility of a quick fix.

There is no such thing as a quick fix. She’s eloquent, to be sure. The darkness has done its part to shape me like a gem. I respect those solid crystals for what they are. It’s easy to hide in caves. It’s easy to shut down again. I won’t argue that point at all. I refuse to give up the light I’ve worked so hard to see. It’s not hers to take. It’s easy to take something from someone who doesn’t care. After all, they won’t fight you for something that doesn’t matter. It’s harder to take away something that matters. Of course, if that something is left outside after the walls have gone back up, she can take it and wander off without me being any the wiser. I don’t like that game. I’ve never liked to share my toys. Just read my kindergarten report card. I refuse to let her take away my light along with the people and things that I love. The wall has to stay down so I can protect what’s rightfully mine. It took a strong shake to see what she had already taken. In pieces, I can begin to take those things back. She and I will always coexist, for better or worse, ’til death do us part. All it takes is one little hole, one little rip, for me to walk away.

And then I cried.

I may have set myself up to be hauled off to the looney bin by giving my depression a corporeal form. At least I would be in good company. JK Rowling created the Dementors. Winston Churchill had his black dog. I have a green tinged, gaunt, greasy haired blonde named Hailey. For us, at least, it’s easier to discuss depression as a physical being. It’s also easier to communicate it to others who don’t suffer depression. Show, don’t tell. Perhaps the beasts of depression should have their own twisted support group as well.

[Disclaimer: Yes, I have spoken to my therapist and I will be seeing her next week. No need to fear that your faithful author will do something rash.  As always , this is a solely anecdotal story. I am not a mental health professional qualified to give advice regarding depression. I’m just here to offer the little bit I’ve learned.]

XOXO!

Of sobriety and the joy of not being my own boss

Happy (almost) end of the week fair readers. Today’s post is another aspect of my healing:

I’ve been sober for a little over 14 months now. I’ve lost weight and gained a hell of a lot of clarity. While I was drinking, I was a crappy worker. I would show up late, call out because of a hangover, and generally resent my 8 hour days. I dreamed of being my own boss doing something (writing, making jewelry, starting a hippie commune) that would allow me to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Read – drink and not worry about having to get up until I slept off the hangover. I actually hated drinking. It did nothing for me. It’s not like I stopped to savor the wine or cocktail in front of me. I downed that sucker as fast as I could and reached for the next one before the first one hit my stomach. It was a crutch. It was a loud and clear signal that something wasn’t right between my ears. I knew it. I had two unsuccessful stints in AA to show for it. I still hung on simply because it was how I coped while I was with him. Much like he was my first love, booze was my first “out”. It took a DUI, then an epilepsy diagnosis for me to let go.

I was given a very simple choice. Did I want to drink and risk having another seizure? Or did I want to stay sober and vastly reduce my chances of another seizure? Like hell I’m intentionally going to put myself in a situation that would increase my risk. Now I’m on time to work, give it my best, and call out only when I can’t even get out of bed. I function best in a structured environment. I don’t have to drag myself off the couch to write a blog post or the next chapter in my novel. I can go home, put on sweatpants, and plant myself on the couch for a marathon of True Blood.

I can’t put into words how grateful I am to all my friends who stood by me through the drunken tirades and poor life choices. They certainly didn’t have to. I wouldn’t have blamed them if they walked away. All in all, I only lost one friend over it. I said something intentionally hurtful and she stopped talking to me. I apologized, she chose not to accept it, and we moved on with our lives. I’ll periodically see things about her on Facebook. In my head, I wish her the best. It’s said you’re a combination of the five people you spend the most time with. If that’s true, then I’m way more awesome, forgiving, and patient than I give myself credit for. Whatever unhealthy coping mechanism is holding you back; be it drugs, alcohol, cutting, or an eating disorder, it doesn’t have to hold you back forever. Your healing won’t be the same process as mine. I certainly don’t recommend 7 hours in jail and a significant health issue.  You may be handed an easy decision which allows you to give it up easily. It may be a long, hard road before you wish it a fond farewell forever.

XOXO!