Category Archives: fat

I don’t regret a bite

I was talking with a work colleague last week at lunch and at some point it came up that I’d been a lot heavier (225 lbs) than I am now (currently 180 lbs and 5’7”, so, more or less a US size 12).  They expressed the usual amazement that I had lost all that weight, etc., and stated the usual platitudes about how I must feel better to be “healthier” now.

I didn’t get in to all the gory details of it with them except to say that what mattered more to me than the weight loss was the other changes I made that have made it possible to stay in a weight range that lets me do all the things I want to do— snow shoe, garden, give my niece piggy-back rides, hike, yoga, and otherwise shoulder the weight of taking care of a house and an aging parent who would prefer to avoid carrying laundry up and down cellar stairs.  I don’t care so much about fashion beyond a basic level of vanity in fitting in to a range of size 10-12 clothes where I don’t feel ashamed of my body; I am lumpy and I have the start of a wattle.  That is ok.

What I also didn’t get into was that for me, weight has always been NOT about food (which I love), it has been and always been about love, whether my life is feeling manageable, and whether I am practicing decent self-care.  It’s taken me 40 years, more or less, to figure it out.  I will never look like a supermodel. So what? I didn’t get into the details, because they were male, it was lunch, and I didn’t want to get heavy (hah).  But I’ve been thinking about it (again).

I love food.  I love eating.  I love the act of cooking and feeding myself and others. I love creating something from scratch.  I love growing food and coaxing things out of warm dirt and onto the plate.  I love the meditation of chopping.  I love the alchemy of how butter, eggs, and onion become an amazing perfume. And even though I have been both far heavier than I would choose, as well as skinnier than I would like between bulimia and other illnesses and medication reactions, I don’t ever regret any weight fluctuation that happened as a result of any food that I ate.  I don’t regret a bite of it, ever.

Weight, however, is not about food.  Weight is about weight— it’s about the world crushing you down, and no one around you doing anything to lift it off you.  Weight is about you being Atlas, and you not being told, either at all or effectively, so you can hear it from people who are supposed to care about you, that you don’t have to carry it all.  In my case, between being bipolar and being an Adult Child of two bipolar parents who tried but had their own stuff and just often were not successful, it took me a long time to figure out that I was eating to feel full in the middle and push out against the weight and anxiousness and chill pressing in from outside, and all the people who weren’t doing anything to lift the world off of me.  It took me a long time to push back and say I was not going to carry it all, and that I was also not going to finish everything on my plate just to make others happy.

It took me a long time to realize that in maintaining my weight, in finding my metaphorical and literal center and in feeding myself, that meant I should only eat what I wanted, and that this was both an enormous privilege (in having money and choice, both of which I have gone without) and a burden in that I’d have to speak up for myself and do the work.  I would eat— or not eat, if I wasn’t hungry— what I had prepared for myself, but I’d have to make it.  I would not have feel grateful for food I hadn’t asked for, or eat things I expressly disliked, or have to put up with something that someone plopped down on my plate and told me to finish or it would mean I didn’t love them. Because really, if they’d been paying attention, why would they shove that weighty glop on me in the first place?  But first I’d have to say– no thanks.  I’m full.

Button-pushing, compliments, feeling heard, body shaming & how to ask– how are you?

Trigger, kneejerk, hot-button– whatever you call it, we all have them, mental health diagnosis & crappy life experiences or not.  It’s our choice, once we become conscious of those hot topics, to decide how we react when other people start mashing those buttons, on purpose or not.

Sometimes it’s easier to control your reaction.  Sometimes it’s not.  Sometimes you can have a conversation with the person who’s pushing your buttons and ask them to stop, take another approach, whatever– fill them in, ask them to be mindful.  And sometimes your hot-button “do not want mentioned around me” topic is their “I have to talk about this all the time” issue, because for them, it’s a life-or-death issue they need to be active around.  And sometimes, they’re objectively reasonable, or just subjectively trying to keep their head above water.  In either case, if you’ve said your piece and they aren’t going to mute themselves, it’s time to start tuning them out.

It all comes down to making sure you feel heard, feel seen– and if you’re feeling ignored, you need to do what you can to protect yourself from feeling unworthy of being heard, of being seen.  You are visible.  You should be as loud as you want.  And you should distance yourself from whomever won’t let you be yourself on your terms.

Either the person you’ve talked to about respecting your own buttons is going to notice & back off, or they’ll get hurt, get angry, or leave you alone.  Maybe they’ll even be enraged that you don’t care about them.  But wait– didn’t you already have that conversation about how for you, the mention of their “have to mention it all the time” issue is hurtful to you?

Right.  That.

I give myself permission to walk away once I’ve had the conversation and the person continues in the problem behavior.  I’m not going to fight with them, but I am also not going to waste time trying to make people understand further.   If they’re someone I mostly deal with online, well, thank goodness for filters– I can interact with them about things other than the hot button where possible.  If they’re someone I work with or live with, well, I just walk away from that conversation. Excuse myself, every time.

Food & weight are something I have kneejerk reactions around.  Both my parents are emotional, unhealthy, really overweight eaters who eat whatever’s in front of them and directly contrary to their explicit medical diagnoses, even to the point of it landing them in the hospital, and their pathological “eat everything on your plate” and “eat your feelings” attitudes have made me really fucked up when it comes to not feeling like I have to finish everything, and making healthy eating choices.  At 39, they still criticize me for not finishing everything on my plate, or serving a meal that doesn’t have meat in it even if 7/8 of the other meals in the week have animal protein.

Add to that the fact that I was bulimic in junior high so that I could find a way to stop being the fat kid no one wanted to be friends with, and that none of my family or “friends” noticed except to say I looked “great” and that it took getting sick from Lyme disease and then uncontrollably losing weight as a result (and still being told I looked “great”), and I not only have a lifelong aversion to chef’s salad (my food of choice at the time, and it now tastes like vomit) but have a distrust of anyone who compliments my appearance, because it reads to me as only a surface read.

When I got fat again after law school and then lost weight through a combination of low-carb/PCOS diagnosis and then having no control over further weight loss because my anticonvulsant bipolar med made me anorexic and have active revulsions to most foods, a lot of people told me that I looked “great!”

I felt pretty shitty about it, to tell you the truth.  None of my clothes fit, and people who’d never paid me any attention were flirting with me as if I was some new magic person.  I wasn’t.  Just thinner. There was only one person who asked during all of that time if the weight loss was something I had intended, and listened sympathetically– thank goodness for her.

My sister-in-law, who was an objectively physically attractive lady no matter her weight & couldn’t hear that,  had her own self-identified weight problems and had never been sympathetic (or maybe willing to acknowledge the reality of) to my mental health issues.  She even joked that she was going to get antidepressants if getting skinny was the result.  Since at the time I was seeing a nutritionist to try to put weight back on, the comment wasn’t appreciated, but arguing with her was like bashing my head on a brick wall.  My husband was mostly non-committal along the lines of “mm-hmm, if you think it’s important,” when I tried to talk about it with him, though toward the end, when I’d moved out of the bedroom and into the back bedroom, almost a YEAR after I’d started having weight issues, he caught me wearing a towel coming out of the bathroom and said, offhand, distracted– “oh, you have lost a lot of weight, I guess.”

Talk about being invisible.

Living with my dad now is its own struggle because he’ll eat everything in the house, and if I bake a treat he will eat anything I don’t hide.  He is dismissive of anything that wasn’t a real thing when he was in college (food allergies, medical diagnoses, etc.) and we’ve had a few screaming matches, but at the end of the day he knows, at least, not to poke me because I will poke back even harder, and he at least knows that my tongue is sharp, because I learned it from him.

“Are you putting on weight?”
“I don’t know, I still fit my clothes, so I don’t really care.  What’s it to you?”

“You should finish everything on your plate.”
“I’m 39, I’ll leave leftovers if I fucking want, the refrigerator works and we still have tupperware unless you have something to tell me.” (Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t swear but sometimes I will.)

“Why isn’t there meat in this?”
“Because dozens of human societies manage to thrive without it.”

At work now, in my health-oriented (obsessed) natural foods & organics oriented grocery store, there tends to be an, ahem, bias, toward healthy eating and fitness among the leadership, even as we sell cookies, chips, cakes, desserts, all kinds of healthy junk food.  It’s a contradiction I find not funny at all.  There are certainly less than Olympic-level fit members of leadership at all levels of the company, but there is a definite thread of anti-fat, anti-meat, pro-veganism, anti-dairy, pro-youth, almost fat-shaming in peoples’ private hearts in the company, and at the store level, it’s a dangerous thing in one-on-one conversations– something I’ve tried to correct when I hear it, one “you know, I’m a fat kid on the inside” conversation at a time.  It usually works, and people are usually shocked to find out I’ve been fat, because at 5’6″ and 170 lbs for age 39, I look “normal” or “good,” or “hot” and they “never would have guessed” I was my age, much less had ever been “fat,” but that’s the point, it’s all that external judgment again.  I point out that it’s none of their goddamned business what I look like as long as I am 1) in dress code and 2) able to perform my job, and that they need to get out of the game of deciding whether or not someone looks “good,” because not only is it a violation of our harassment policy and going to get their asses sued one day or another when they can’t keep their traps shut, but it’s also just straight out psychologically scarring and hurtful.

Dear world.  No one else needs your validation.  Ever.  And if you feel compelled to give it, compulsively, I suggest you seek professional counseling because there is something wrong with you that makes you feel the need to go around handing out gold stars.  (Let your counselor give you yours, and stop assessing the goodness of others.  The world has enough problems getting through the day.  Leave everyone to their own messes, okay?)  None of my less than skinny colleagues need validation of their looks, either, because they come in and do awesome jobs, and to be judged for anything other than that is just crap.  Starting in on “but they’d be happier if…” and “they aren’t healthy when…” is infantilizing.  DID THEY ASK YOU FOR HELP?  No.  Did you offer it once and they said no?  Ok, then.  The conversation’s over.  Forever.  The end.

I have lots of curvy-and-proud ladies of non-white backgrounds and heavyset dudes from all over who love their mom’s/spouse’s/their own damn cooking, and one of these days one of my skinny (to me, malnourished-looking) vegans or musclehead Latino bois is going to put his or her foot in it because no matter what they might think, there is no one dietary right way.  There’s a lot of science out there.  The minute you start getting religious about it in the face of someone else’s disagreement, it’s time to shut up and reassess why you’re so angry about someone else’s disagreement.

When it comes to diets and “healthy” eating, there is what works for you and makes you feel happy.

“Good” is so laden a word– not just physical attractiveness but value as a person– stay wide of it. Be specific if you feel the need to make compliments as small talk.  “You did a great job today.”  “It’s nice to see you!”  “Have a great weekend!”  “Hey, I like the new t-shirt!”  Focus on the things people do, that come from their hearts and their brains– not from their shapes.

Bodies and the food we put in it should be about love and pleasure, not substitution for the love & pleasure you don’t get elsewhere.   Food should be an opportunity for creative expression and fun, for sharing and an outlet at the end of a day of paper pushing– it should be whatever you mindfully want it to be.  And your body should do all the things you want it to do.  If you don’t want it to run a marathon, then no one else should judge you for that.

On any given day you have NO IDEA why someone is the weight that they are, heavy or thin.  Maybe they’re heavy because they’re happy that way.  Or struggling with a medical condition.  Maybe they’re thin because they’re having a medical side effect and working hard to gain back the weight, and are feeling pretty out of control about their appearance & body.  Maybe they do NOT feel like they look good at all.  Offering your unsolicited opinion on their physical attractiveness is not the way to validate their existence as a human, and in fact may be a pretty shitty thing to do to that person because you’re just mashing their buttons about how they feel about their out-of-control body.

Do you really want to be helpful?

Say hello.  Smile.  Ask someone how they are, and mean it, and stop long enough to actually listen if they don’t just tell you they’re “fine.” Maybe they’ll even tell you.

And if you ask them to participate in something and they say no, please respect the fact that people don’t owe you their whole medical or personal history just because you have a cause you’re interested in that has some good reasons behind it.  Their no isn’t a rejection of you.  It’s an affirmation of them.

Ways of measuring progress

I saw an old friend I haven’t seen in almost a decade this weekend, and in between all the catching up, etc., she was remarking how good I looked– weight, demeanor, etc.  She, too, looked better– despite us both being older and having some smile lines a little extra padding around the middle, both of us were lighter than we had been when we were younger.  Lighter in heart, lighter in body, lighter in significant others (or lack of)– all around, lighter.

I was feeling a little sorry for myself yesterday after a health screening we had at work because my BMI was a little higher than our strict BMI range to get an extra discount over our usual employee discount.  Granted, I knew my weight was 15-20lbs more than I wanted it to be– it’s been a stressful winter and I stress-eat– but seeing it confirmed made me bummed anyway. I’d resolved to treat the results as a benchmark to work from in terms of cutting back on starches, on increasing all those good things I should eat, etc., to decrease my at-work snacking and do better about bringing my lunch in, and I’m still going to do that.

But I was reading something this morning on tumblr– one of those semi-joke, semi-serious memes about how it sucks to be an adult and any small victory should be celebrated (I am a dragon, I am an adult, I have my 401(k), I breathe fire, I regulate my fiber intake!)– and it made me rethink my disappointment in myself as I drank my 8 oz. of water, ate my yogurt, and drank my plain, un-sweetened, un-be-creamed coffee, since I’ve decided that lactose may be one of my problems.

Right NOW, I happen to be 20 lbs heavier than I want to be– but my blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol all would have gotten me the next-to-highest discount.  And I still fit my pants, albeit a little bit tight.  There are ups and downs in my mood & my introversion & ability to socialize, sure.  But– measured in the larger scope of things, I am 80 lbs lighter than the last time I saw my friend 7 years ago, have kicked a legal career that was eating my soul, have found a job where I am truly happy, have eliminated some unhelpful or toxic folks from my life, and am exploring ways to enjoy my own company pretty well, thanks– all things I didn’t do, then.

In a larger, more geological sense of my life, that’s huge.  (Unlike my waistline, which is still a size 10.)

So, yeah, I’m not going to be hard on myself.  Instead, I’m going to think of a more not-now way of measuring progress.

I am an adult.  I am a glacier.  I carve rivers and mountains, and leaved uncovered layers of life no one knew about before in my wake .  Sometimes I make more risotto and eat more cookies than really I should.  But I keep moving forward, and I’m pretty damn cool.

On fat-positivity, body image, and self-driven notions of shame

I’ve written before about boo-hoo, I was a fat kid, and boo-hoo, I was bulimic and my fat parents didn’t notice and I had to figure it out for myself and did and boo-hoo, I’ve always had issues with weight that continue, though the last couple of years I’ve steadied out (along with my current mood stabilizer, no coincidence, I think) into a weight range with which I’m mostly comfortable.

Given that I am 1) 38, 2) essentially lazy except when it comes to doing something with purpose like cleaning the yard or taking a photo walk or setting out stock, 3) allergic and/or metabollically intolerant of sugar, wheat, and carbs so that a plant and protein diet is pretty much the only thing that keeps me in the healthy range for my height, you’d think that I’d have found comfort with the way that I look.

In abstract ways, I have.  I know I’m not ugly.  I actually broke up with a friend who constantly engaged in negative, self-hating behavior and not only wouldn’t accept my praise and reassurance but got angry at me and told me I was nuts, multiple times, when I said she was good-looking (because being alone = ugly), because I’ve had enough criticism and self-hate around and even though hers isn’t directed at me I can’t participate passively in her hating herself.  (I did write her a note and say I was sorry and try to explain the particular whys.)  But I still get upset and flustered when someone flirts with me.  I still get defensive when my (fat) father criticizes how short I cut my hair or how “plain” I wear my clothes.  And I do start to freak out when my body starts to push at the envelope of the sizes I’m comfortable owning, having gotten rid of the clothes that were bigger than I want to allow myself to get ever again, at which point it’s back to cheese sticks and hard boiled eggs for breakfast, black coffee, seltzer to drink, salads with chicken and more and more salads with protein until that 10 lbs. comes off.

In abstract and also specific ways that have nothing to do with me, I will defend anyone else’s bodily shape until everyone else backs the fuck down.  The curvy ladies at work get complimented by me when they rock it, because what’s attractive is self-esteem and a sense of Go Get It, Girl.  The same goes for anyone who’s thin but who’s self-possessed & all that.  People’s definitions of “healthy” vary, and what’s attractive to me, what makes me compliment someone was a sense of– they’re taking care of themselves.  That’s not measured only in weight.


Back to me. (This is a personal blog.)

I was reading something the other day for a friend, proofreading, in fact, and this friend writes, ahem, steamy things.  I am pretty sanguine about all kinds of things, so I stick to grammar and realism assessments, note where something is being really trite or trope-ridden or full of plotholes, indicate whether something seems anatomically possible and most of the time, don’t care about the particular kink because eh, it’s a spare income.

This, however, was the first time this person had written a chubby!kink, which, if you’re not aware, involves one person being sexually attracted to someone else because they’re overweight, and in extreme cases (wikipedia is always your friend) encouraging the weight gain by feeding the object of desire. Apparently some of the tropes in chubby!kink erotica include issues of body-shaming, humiliation kinks, fat-positivity and self-love, and how sometimes all these things uncomfortably co-exist in one relationship, because pro tip: erotica is popular because it highlights something most people don’t want to admit: feelings are messy.

I got maybe a page into the feelings of the person sexually admiring the chubby!beloved and just– nope.  Nope.  Nope.  I hit save and backed the hell out of the document and there it has stayed on my Google Drive, a shut and half-finished editing job that testifies to the fact that apparently, my own thoughts about me being desirable if I’m not trim & thin are more complicated and less “I LOVE ALL MY FLAWS” than I’d thought.  It’s all hypothetical, since of course I’m not even divorced yet (need to get on that) and not contemplating dating anyone else, nor has anyone asked, but the mere thought of relating emotionally to a piece of fiction that had a sexually attractive fat person as a subject had me backtracking so fast I might as well have thrown my laptop across the room, for how mature my reaction was.

And then of course we were eating supper a few hours later and my dad kvetched about how I didn’t finish all of my supper.  I did tell him to fuck off, in not so many words.

I have a hard enough time finding time to eat lunch when I’m at work, because 1) it’s busy 2) it’s busy 3) I’m a workaholic 4) I don’t want my leftovers that are healthy but I shouldn’t go downstairs to buy delicious, fatty pizza 5) I’m cranky because I didn’t even get to finish my breakfast, it’s been so busy– and then I wonder why I feel so wiped out and why I feel so much better when I come home and make a protein & vegetable supper that I eat a TON of, but it’s full of salad and medium-rare cooked meat and enough fat and lots of seasonings and crunchy nuts and bits of minerally green things and it’s the first time I feel human all day.

It’s enough, in light of the surprising reaction to a kink that won’t ever be mine, to make myself think:  am I really alright with the way that I look right now?  Or am I still punishing myself, somehow?  And if so, for what?

I expect the answer is the same-old, same old (you’re alone, you’re unloveable, you’re unlovely, don’t make yourself even more unloveable = fat = ugly) but it’s funny (peculiar, not funny ha-ha) to note, after all of this time, that maybe I don’t think I’m alright after all.


The great ones

You look great.
I know what that means.
With rare exception,
great is polite for wow, 
you’re not fat anymore.
I don’t pretend to believe
that it really means great,
sexy, pretty.  Desired by the beholder.
There are other ways to say that,
unaccompanied by that particular tone,

(If it were true, someone
would have already said it.
I might even believe it.)

The strictures of being polite
dictate no questions– no asking:
how did I do it,
what’s my secret–
none of that stuff that’s the lifeblood
of supermarket tabloids.
And the surprise is so great,
great, there’s that word again,
another word meaning large,
that few think to ask–
something so drastic,
different from the great assumed
by the knee-jerk.  The radical ones,
they might ask, wow, are you okay?
(One of them did.  It still makes me cry.)

I’m not great,
I suppose I would say
to anyone who would either
dare to be rude (I would rather
that, frankly, than white lies
that smell like bullshit).
I suppose I would say no,
in a small voice
that is not as small
as exclamations about how great I look
make me feel.

I know how I look now,
(more or) less.
I’m only eye-catching
when I haven’t been seen,
not in a while.
And isn’t that the whole story,
whether or not I’ve been seen?
Seen myself, let myself be?
I’d rather not look.
If I fit my clothes,
make it up stairs,
can carry my baggage
wherever I go,
then whether or not I
mind the reflection
matters even less than what
you, oh great ones,
think about whether
you’ll have what I’m having.

(Crushing depressions are not the
recommended treatment for becoming slender.)

There ought to be a word…

Clavage, n.

The span of ribcage and collarbone displayed over a tank top or other low-cut shirt by a woman with very small breasts.  Said woman may even dispense with wearing a bra on occasion.


“Dude, check out that clavage on the chick with the Browncoats cami.  She’s pretty cute.”
“I don’t know, man, she’s kind of skinny.”
“Nah, man, I dig a gal with visible ribs.” (ed. I originally wrote something crasser here and then changed my mind… it’s my blog, I can write from my id if I want to…)

Alt. usage:

“I love that new sequined tank from Old Navy on you.  It really shows off your clavage.  You have such nice skin.”
“Thanks.  I really love your new jeans.  They really show off your ass(ets.)  That cute girl over there is checking you out.”

She Curmudgeon: attempting to embrace her skinny minnie look in 2012, buy pants that fit, and displaying lots of clavage at a bookstore somewhere.

I like to keep my issues strong.

The temptation to be That Chick who just posts statuses on Facebook that are YouTube links to the Soundtrack of her Really Sad, Tragic Life is really strong these days, but I’m 37 and I like to hope I’m a little too old for that stuff, even if I do kvetch too much and need to trim my friends list of a few ex-boyfriends and high school people who seem to have contacted me simply because they have noticed that “Married” is not an active part of my profile– and also people who really no longer active parts of my life– for whatever reason.  I have a hard time letting go, though– I am nothing if not romantic and sentimental, idealizing my relationships with and expectations of people and hoping for better outcomes even as I pretend at being pragmatic and then being disappointed and bitter and keeping it all to myself only to explode– or implode depending on the mood of the week/day/minute.

(Except, yeah.  I’m just going to do it.  Most of the links here are my self-pity soundtrack.  Feel free to ignore them unless you’re looking for emo-dump songs.)

Still, though– I try to keep those posts to a minimum (for me and my blathering fingers) and I remember I have a blog.  So, I start to write a post.  It then devolves into something I hate– or more specifically, someone I hate, by which I mean me, and then I just let the thing linger in my hard drive while I stare at it and mull and just let the thoughts spiral– then go downstairs and bake something for work.

I figure it’s active, even as I know it’s full-on sublimation, thank you.  My compulsion to feed people, because I can’t just say “Thanks for putting up with my shit, for telling me to smile and telling me that I look pretty today, for telling me to breathe when I look stressed, for understanding implicitly and explicitly that I am horribly, horribly depressed about something that was my own damned decision.”  It’s a bed I’ve got to lie in and I’m thankful they don’t push me about it, tell me horrible-funny stories about their divorces, go drinking and dancing with me, and are as much misfits as me in their own special ways and so– baking– yeah.  I can do that, sometimes, and when I can’t, there’s always clementines or the Gluten-Free and Vegan baked goods aisle at the Whole Foods at the start of the plaza.  (People really like clementines, I have found.)  I may not eat the baked offerings myself– sweet things taste pretty disgusting after half a cookie unless it’s the store’s red velvet cheesecake, so bad for me but I eat it, regardless– but I can at least bake for somebody else and they can say mmm and aah and I can feel loved, at least for a bit.

The fact is, I feel like crap.  I feel physically crappy, exhausted from work because it’s physically tiring, arthritic because of the change in seasons and the lack of fat padding/weight loss (as well as because I’m being really self-sabotaging and not taking all my supplements and anti-inflammatories, nor am I eating right and avoiding all the gluten I should, even though my wheat intolerance really does seem to be blossoming into full-blown Celiac, complete with nausea after a wheat-containing meal)– and just when the store rebuild seems like it’s done our DM has one more idea (and there’s more to be done after Christmas) and of course, I’m relatively new at my job, so I screw things up.

I hate, hate, hate that I’m not doing things right.  Hate it.  Hate me.  Hate everyone, really.  I cannot describe the depths of loathing and nausea and anxiety dreams I have about a store that is at the same time my happiest place.  I’m used to being the Smartest Girl in the Room.  We’re too busy (like, 10-20% over planned business and understaffed most days busy) for my co-managers to explain things to me and I feel stupid and useless and I get resentful and we don’t always have the best groups of personalities working together even as I really do like all my co-managers– but … a thousand times but.  Everyone’s human, everyone’s stressed, I’ve got extra issues on my plate that I bring  in with me, and I’m hair-triggered to want to curl into a ball and just … slit my wrists or take all my medication at night because I set up an endcap the wrong way or someone moved my cheese mission table to a different part of the store.

I feel badly that I will occasionally go off and work on a project and pout in my way and bitch about whoever’s “earned” my wrath du jour, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it in the moment, from needing to do it– teary-eyed, usually still pretty productive, inclined to be brusque and slam things, and as my co-worker said in effect yesterday, “I can always tell when you’re upset, you stomp really loud.”  I demurred in my way, made some crack about being Stampy the Elephant reincarnate (doesn’t it all come back to the Simpsons, that or Monty Python?) but– that didn’t stop him from making jazz hands and trying to get me to smile on the way out, he who’s even more of a grump than I am.  That there’s a Frank Sinatra CD on constant replay in the store that’s full of songs my husband used to sing to me and at some point, the singing, it stopped and I never asked why until later, too late– well.  It hasn’t helped.  (What? Me?  Make teary-eyed retreats to Receiving every time “Fly Me to the Moon” or “Come Fly With Me” comes on to break down some boxes or hurl something into the dumpster out back?  I don’t know what you’re talking about.)

I know that I’m really fooling no one.  Everyone, from the co-workers I don’t get along with to the ones I go drinking and dancing with, all know exactly how messy and graceless my heart is.  They’re just kind enough to play along because everyone there, they’ve got some kind of story, you just don’t always know what it is.  The store is full of people who get up and come into work and are on second careers or on “I never finished college” or “I’m taking a break from X” kind of trajectories (career pauses? ask me about being a lawyer, really!)– we don’t ask, we let each other tell.  I try to give thanks and praise for jobs well done (or hell, even completed, it’s one more thing off my list) if I can stop long enough to take a breath (and sadly, my friend who used to tell me to breathe got promoted out of the store and now I’m feeling doleful because I have to remember that, too.)  We try not to be too hard on people who show up five minutes late and sometimes flake on their shifts so long as they perform when they’re here and they’re trying, goddamnit.  Sometimes I feel like we’re the last Isle of Misfit Toys and if we can’t be kind to each other among the inter-familial snarling and sniping brought on by dumb customers and Just Too Much Work, then there isn’t any safe place.  I have other friends, outside of work, who have also been wonderful– real rocks, but I don’t see them every day.  I need to remind myself to reach out more but damnit, every effort’s hard, like slogging through cement.  (And yeah, every teardrop’s a waterfall, too.)

I know I’m depressed.  I upped my meds so the passive-to-active like a turbo-charged racecar suicidality would regress a bit but… that done, I still feel lots of sadness, regret, self-loathing, doubt.  All of that shit.  Anger– at me, my husband, every stupid customer who can’t write the name of a book down or keep their toddlers from hurling toys or just watch where they’re going, much less stop offering to hold my food while I’m on break so I can go fetch them a book rather than wait the two minutes it’ll take for someone to help at customer service.  It’s the usual short temper  (exacerbated on occasion with a little manic-depressive rage, but hey, I’ve got pills I carry for that) of someone who’s terribly lonely when it’s her own doing and she doesn’t feel like making her bed anymore.  (Or of doing much anymore, frankly.  My therapist asked me what expectations I had of my meds, of other people, of hopes for the future… I had to answer– “Not much.”  Still, I do try to get out, make plans, try not to go to bed before 9, and sometimes, I even have fun.  I understand the concept of Faking It Until You Make It, Smile Like You Mean It, all that Oprah-esque shit that still holds some water.)

I was talking to my husband the other night after a party I decided I would try to go to– I lasted ten minutes, right until someone asked me how/where he was, and then I had a panic attack as I answered that he and I were no longer together.  I always tell people that we both had changed and weren’t able to find a way to reconcile those changes– when I called him like the stupid hysterical melodramatic Movie Cliche that I am prone to being these days (in the car, on the drive home, no less) and asked him how he handled those questions, he said he usually took the blame.

It made me feel awful, even more awful than I usually feel, because as much as there are days when, if we ran into each other on the street (and I felt even more awful when he said he’d seen me driving and I hadn’t seen him, as wrapped up in getting to where I was going as I had been), I’d throw hard objects right at his head because I am so fucking lonely and exhausted right now and just want someone to give me that ridiculous, unobtainable Unconditional Love (oh, and on-demand cuddling and footrubs and an adorable cat and lots of backrubs and sex and a sack of unmarked thousands while we’re at it) and be psychic and know all the things that I am still incapable of articulating (this writing, it’s easier than the talking, almost always, except when I can’t even write, but still, even then)… the fact is, I really do believe what I said, which is that we both changed and that we couldn’t make it work out once we started really talking– something that took us too long to do, for reasons so complicated that the Gordian Knot’s a cakewalk, even without that pansy sword shit.

I don’t want to just be ok (though that would be nice).

I want to feel silly, stupid, ridiculous goofy love and not have to have the bittersweet worry and wonder I know now by heart.  I don’t want to wonder if we’re going to stay together until we die.  I want to let myself have romantic faith in my partner, learn what that might mean.  I don’t want to look at or unpack the sentimental things I almost randomly chose when I moved (and I’m still mooning over the things I miss but that I left behind for my husband, since I was too choked up at the time to ask what he might want, since I was afraid that the answer was All or Nothing, nor did I want to be That Evil Bitch who took everything), nor do I want to feel this dumb and maudlin and swoony forever.  I have to look away from the pictures my Dad has of us up in the halls because I’m not ready to ask him to take them down, even when this was my choice– I would still rather be alone than pretend that everything’s alright.  I’m scared as hell– I may never figure it all emotionally out, may never get my financial feet under me ever again, may be a retail wage slave forever.  I feel hopeless and hapless and stupid most of the time, and I know no one said it would be easy, but I didn’t know it was going to be open-heart surgery without anesthesia every day, either.

I look in the mirror (when I look in the mirror at all because I don’t like to, because I don’t know what I see there, morphologically, emotionally, all of that shit) and I never know the answer to “What are you doing?”  I don’t know when I will know.

I know fully well I am flawed.  Broken, even, maybe beyond repair for the sake of being with anyone, much less my husband.  We thrashed through to a point where it became clear that the things that I think that I need are things that he just can’t do, not and be who he needs to be.  That isn’t an issue of fault, whether he believes it or not, even if it is an issue of both of our flaws and not being able to make them mesh any more.

I know I am fragile, prone to hair-triggered reactions, that I can’t take criticism at all because of the way my Dad rarely had a nice thing to say when I was a kid, that I can’t accept people taking or offering to care of me because my mother’s narcissism made all her caretaking attempts about her and therefore inherently useless and suspect, that I avoid confrontation and would rather cut off a limb than get into a fight with someone I love because of the way my parents fought (unless I’m in a real or imagined position of power and then, ooh, watch out for my mighty powers of condescension).

I know that my need to try to be perfect and my need to make things perfect and to avoid being seen as the flawed, occasionally really crazy and often lacking-insight-into-my-feelings person that I really am contributed to the way my marriage fell apart– I know that I take on too much over and over until I just crash, my responsibility and nurturing kinks crashing right into my resentment over having to “always” be the one to take care of myself and everyone else.  I want someone to just psychically know the things that I need– I don’t want to ask, because my emotional history “tells” me that even if I asked (and understated the need for help, more than likely, because years of not getting help has trained me to only ask for a little help and do the rest on my own…) I wouldn’t likely get a response.

But the fact is– still remains– that I really don’t feel like it’s his fault.  It’s ours.  Just like our marriage was ours.  (And yes, he knows about this blog.  He might read this, though there are times in the past where he treated this blog and earlier versions as “private” to me, one of many differences in our understanding of one another that we couldn’t resolve.)  There were a million things I could have done differently if I had been wiser, braver, bolder, known myself better at a younger, saner, something-er point in our marriage.

But we don’t get do-overs or slingshots around the sun or Tardises, do we?  Just regrets about fights, confrontations, fuck-yous, fuller-soul searching I could’ve, should’ve done at some earlier point before I thrashed my way through to a realization that I didn’t feel like me any more, just some fake, plastic, worn-out version of a simulacrum wife that had to get out or she’d lose whatever vestige of herself was left and try to either find some old joy or make some new version– and in the meantime, trying to work it through with my husband once he agreed there was something to work on and half the time feeling enraged for his reactions/inactions during the process and half the time feeling like I was the villain and putting him through torture. He said as much– therapy wasn’t his thing, the talking cure was like bamboo under his nails, and I regret like hell that it took me so long to figure out how unhappy I was and that I couldn’t make it any cleaner than it was, though who knows if it’s ever possible to be clean about these kind of things?  Anyone who had a heart would turn around and break it, it turns out, even as I’ve got him deep in the heart of me and any attempt to move on would be a disaster even if that was something I wanted right now.  I don’t know what I want anymore.  I only know what didn’t work anymore, and that we couldn’t agree on anything else.

It was all I could/can still sometimes think about, cry about, rage about– and my urge to confess to everyone all the time was something I squashed except to a few friends because how tedious, really, how fucking pathetic.  I also hate/d being the recipient of the looks of pity, frankly, preferred the looks of interest from people who only saw my whittling waistline (they didn’t know I wasn’t eating because I wasn’t taking care of myself and my mood stabilizers make me anorexic, yet at the same time was so relieved when some friends expressed concern and asked if I was okay) and the haircut I halfway got because my husband said not to get it and fuck him, I’d cut my hair if I wanted and I’d enjoy the Gaze I would get at work and soak up the compliments/flirting and dress up for my co-workers until it became uncomfortable and I felt awkward because– yeah.  I don’t know what to do with this body because nobody’s done anything with it in so long, including myself.  I hate it– me– more than a lot.

I left when I did in large part because I wanted to go before I started to feel something like hate for my husband.  I wanted to leave while I still felt love– compassion– only occasional anger– for him and all of our problems.  So far, I’ve been lucky that that’s been the case.  Whether it makes a difference to anybody but me– to his family, to the adorable nephew I no longer see– well.  It’s my problem, really, but hey.  Most of them are.

So for now, every day– I’ll take my meds.  Comb my hair.  Eat my breakfast.  Go off to work.  Know this is changing me.  And hope that it will save me.  I would take back hurts to my husband and his family that I’ve caused by accident or on purpose because I do love my husband– miss him– still care.  It’s so easy to remember how we started as very good– really, best friends– and how we’ve laughed over the years, but as for the rest– I’ve got to learn to stop beating my dead emotional horses, even as they feel like wild ones that want to stampede me or make me swim until I can’t see land.  And maybe, just maybe, one of these days, I’ll get it all figured out.