Tag Archives: body image

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.

However.

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,
disbelief.

(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.)

Friends & family

I’ve been trying, in a somewhat haphazard way, to piece together old friendships, relationships with friends & family that I have let slide as my attention’s been focused mostly on putting one foot in front of the other.  I’ve been trying to do this with the consciousness of several things all at once, or as the White Queen once said, “as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

It’s not that easy, and keeping all those things straight makes me feel very Down the Rabbit Hole-ish indeed.

In often contradictory order, those impossible things have been:

Thing One:

As someone bipolar and depressed and anxious and insecure as an adult child can peculiarly be (and all of those things do not always intersect, though sometimes they do, because they are separate pathologies/traumas whatever the emergent DSM-V might have to say), I can often be a self-absorbed and shitty friend who doesn’t hear when someone’s in distress and/or who drops off the face of the Earth during my own points of distress because I can’t handle social interaction, and so I miss important things in people’s lives, and if, as a result, people no longer trust me at all, or as far– they have that right, and my unreliability because of my crazy and perhaps maybe just because I am simply selfish, as well, can make me an undesirable friend.  So– if I reach back out to someone and get no response, or a chilly response, or an initial response and then a withdrawal– I can’t really blame them.

Everyone has a right to want people they can rely on.

Thing Two:

I have reached out to some of my oldest friends, ones who’ve disappointed me and I’ve probably disappointed in one way or another and gotten initial warm responses, only for them to fall off again.  People have babies, spouses, other things I do not, and those things are consuming, regardless of Thing One.  And the fact also is that people change, and our expectations of people aren’t met, whether they’re realistic or not.  I’ve found that with one old friend that I chafe under the old constraints of our once-friendship and old expectations about who I was going to be in that friendship– and I have the feeling that they didn’t approve of my leaving my husband despite the support I gave them during their breakups, a fact I find I’m really, really angry about.

Despite all of that, and because we’ve known each other so long, I reached out and got an initial more-than friendly response, and sent a birthday/congratulations on a momentous occasion gift not that long after that I hoped was well-recieved– but now it’s back to nothing again, not even a thanks for the gift, and I think at this point I’m just going to walk away, as sad as it makes me to say and think that.  They’re just– caught up in a life where there’s no room for me, and I’ve made attempts to visit and be part of that life(though not lately because: personal meltdown).  I don’t feel like it’s been reciprocal, though, (they’ve visited maybe once since their marriage) and I just don’t want to keep banging my head on that wall.  That’s ok, right?  To give up on a once-best friend because they just… aren’t anymore?  And to ignore them if they ever reach back because it hurts to try to be a person they want you to be and you aren’t anymore?  I know all of this.  I’ve told it to others.  It’s just hard to take my advice.

Thing three:

I find it very hard to tell people I’m friends with on less than a best friend level (especially ones that I’m conscious of having been a shitty friend to on occasion myself, despite the fact that it’s life, and even non-crazy people have ebbs and flows) that they’re bugging me because of X behavior and that I need them to either stop X or I can’t be friends with them anymore.  Partly, this comes from a long history of not speaking up for the things that I need and being afraid of confrontation, and partly, guilt for having been a shitty friend.  I have two different friends who this is a problem with, and both of them are engaged in shitty cycles of bad career choices/self-hate and want me to validate them– and I can’t.  I really can’t, because I no longer have patience for people who self-victimize (see: my Mommy issues) for years and do jack shit to change things, even if it means really painful retrenchment (see: I haven’t bought new underwear in two years, and don’t ask me about my sock drawer).  It hurts to see them flagellate, and I am angry and angrier the longer I spend time with them/talk to them and… I don’t want to be angry.  I have spent so much time being angry.  I feel guilty because they have been very supportive of me in the past, but at other times they haven’t gotten it, or have been poking at me when I have expressed a real desire not to be poked, and I just can’t be around them while they’re focused on feeling sorry and not doing bupkiss.

So– do I say that?  Do I withdraw and let them feel hurt?  Either way will result in hurt feelings, but my preference would be to be honest, even if it isn’t potentially “kind” to say that I think they’re being a moron.  (Not in those words, but still.)  I made a vow to myself when I left my husband that I was going to be honest and stand up for myself and not put up with people who couldn’t meet me halfway.  Keeping that promise is hard.

Thing four:

I’m really fucking lonely in my regular, in-real-life life.  I love my dad, but he doesn’t like to talk about feelings.  Getting over his alcoholism and keeping a job is what he can manage, and that’s about it.  He is my friend, in his way, but he also drives me batshit and I can’t talk to him about my crazy thoughts except in a clinical “I am feeling kind of manic/kind of suicidal, please poke me occasionally” way when I have that level of lucidity.  And I do that, and he does, but beyond that, it makes him twitch to talk too much about feelings.  My brother and I are not close; he and I can talk about Traumatic Family Shit when my mom’s acting up or my dad’s in poor health, but he’s not a talker to start with and I find it hard to tell if he likes me at all beyond family “of course” obligation.  Of course, I’m scared to ask.  I am sure he is worried he’ll melt down like me.

I have some married friends from law school who all have kids and spouses and jobs and it’s erratic how often we get together– and I have a feeling my most recent drop-off-the-planet stint pissed one of my female friends in this group off to the point of no return, which makes me sad, because she is sarcastic and smart and refreshing like a beach breeze, even though we don’t see each other all the time. I need to send her a card and tell her I miss her and I wonder if I did something to make her mad, even though I worry that it’s clingy, because I won’t know unless I ask, and if it’s clingy, well, I guess I can’t make things worse.

As to the others, well– there’s a married couple and I need to balance them because I enjoy their company in different ways as well as their dynamic together, and they’ve been kind and moreso to keep me after I broke up with the husband.  They have wonderful kids, are busy with that and professional life and their pack of married/kids/friends, and I can’t help but feel a little bittersweet every time I spend time with either or both because we used to do couple things with them and now it’s just me.  And I have another local law school friend who’s going through a rough patch who I’m trying to be available for, but he’s in a needier place than I am and I need to conserve my energy (aka, I need to watch all my spoons), too– so while I am grateful that I have more kindness and patience for him than I used to (I was a horrible bitch, at times, in law school, I like to think it’s not just the meds that have changed me)– I can’t spend too much time with him or I get exhausted, because while he’s a good resource for getting my Geek on, it’s more of a me giving than a reciprocity thing.

There are other friends with other commitments, and it’s hard to keep track of them all, because: everybody has lives/lives at a bit of a distance/I haven’t sucked it up to apologize yet/it’s been a really, really long time/we only talk on Facebook.  They are none of them best friends.  But they are all of them friends.  And I need to work harder, even if it does wear me out.

Thing four:

I am feeling shy about making friends at the new store, both because of my role there– professional secret keeper of personnel files, etc., disciplinarian helper, etc., etc., and therefore The Last One to Know– because I’m older than a lot of the others, if only by a few years, because I’m experience-older than others by a few years– and because I’ve been burnt by people at work who I thought were my friends before, only to have them either backstab me or drop off the face of the Earth once I left an old job, in spite of all their  “keep in touch!” and “<3 u!” protests.  Some of them hurt less than others when the attempts to get together (some initiated by them, some by me) slide off into nothing.  Still, it hurts.  (I feel like that should be my real memoir’s title.)

I should know better.  I do know better.  And yet, still, I’m hopeful.  It’s either a sign of psychosis, uncurable sentimentality, or something else that has yet to respond to medication.  And yet, I know that same soft-heartedness and “I just want everyone to be OK and happy (and also for people to like me)” thing is what makes me a good middle manager and good at my particular job, because my job is to figure out people’s emotional tone & be helpful in a caring, kind, neutral way.  Which I can’t always be if I’m all entangled in messy friendships with people.  I should probably talk with one of the other people in my particular job group outside my store about my TOO MANY FEELINGS about the job and how to/whether to make any friends aside from the three people at work more or less on the same level at work with whom I’m passing from friendly to work-friends– at the very least (and gee, duh, that may result in making some friends there, too).

At my last bookstore, I didn’t push for activities outside of work except for one or two people– and even those fizzled, either because of significant others or I-don’t-know-what-dysfunctions.  It’s rough, mixing business with pleasure.  In short, as much as I really, really like all these folks I work with and have a lot more in common with them in terms of cooking! reading! progressive social issues! political thinking! geekery! the fact is, I’m still kind of an old lady and in an uneven power dynamic with a lot of them, so whether or not they like me as a person and think I am competent or moreso at my job, it’s probably not a good idea to try to do more than be friendly and helpful.  Which makes me sad, because see: fucking lonely.

Thing five:

My brother and his lovely wife are having a baby any minute now, and while I am really looking forward to being an aunt, and as much as it seems like my sister in law seems to be looking forward to my being a competent babysitter, it’s AHOY, MIXED EMOTIONS.  At one point, I wanted kids before I got married, and was pretty baby-crazy.  And then the husband didn’t.  And I was crazy, and angry at my mother and everyone else, and didn’t want to pass on my crazy to anyone else.

Then my husband’s brother and his wife had their son, and he is amazing.  I love him.  I miss him very much, his parents too, and my husband’s older sister’s husband (funny, that, which in-laws you want to keep, despite everything) and the family dinners we used to have.  I was uploading pictures to a fancy photo-editing program my brother got me and got chest-punched with feelings from old photos of some of those dinners with the nephew and my mother-in-law, may she rest in peace and roll her eyes at my drama forever.  (And also, do I email those photos to my brother in law, and try to have no expectations of any response, even a thanks?  I should send them, just because they’re good pictures, good memories, and any good picture of my mother in law is worth having.  But the brother-in-law kind of sat on the sidelines while my marriage dissolved and I can’t help but resent that, and my resentment clouds how I think about him, even as in general, I want nothing but the best for them all.)

Still, when my nephew was born, I started to think… hey, these baby things are pretty fucking cool, but at that point, there was a shadow of awareness at the back of my head that it wasn’t working out with my husband.

And now I’m single, if not yet divorced.

(Also, background, when my mother was moving to California, years ago, one of her prefatory declarations of why was because I wasn’t giving her grandchildren anytime soon. Thanks.  Thank you, mother, for reaffirming my conviction that your narcissism runs so deep that my use to you is limited only to your expectation that I fulfill those roles you had of yourself and failed at.  She is thrilled, however, that my brother is providing a grandchild and plans to come visit that grandchild on as much of my brother’s dime as he will spend as soon as they will let her come, and incidentally, she may spend some time with me.  No, I haven’t had this discussion with her.  It’s like kicking a retarded puppy.  They’ll still piss on the rug, and they’ll whine even more loudly than they did before you kicked them.)

I am really looking forward to being an aunt.  Again.  And this time, to getting to stick around.  (I don’t know what would have happened if I’d tried to maintain a relationship with the nephew-in-laws, but it would have been awkward for the husband, so I chose not to try.)  I do want to be helpful to my brother and sister-in-law, and not just because I’m fucking pathetic and need to be loved whatever way I can get it, even if it’s just competent cook and babysitter.  I want to be that sarcastic aunt who gives my niece all the cool books and takes her on hikes and teaches her to take pictures and shows her how to make a mean steak and a salsa verde and shows her how to install telephone jacks or whatever passes for handyperson skills when it comes time for that kind of thing.

But now I am thinking about– is there any possibility of me, mother-me?  It’s a hilarious thought, considering that I just had (just, literally, as in last night just) my first sexy dream about anyone in two years.  My sexual self has been on the back burner for a long time, and I still have Incredible Moments of Awkward where I don’t know someone’s flirting with me or I get embarrassed because they are and I have no idea how to respond because it’s been … IDEFK because it makes me cry too much to think too hard about it, six plus years since I’ve had someone else want to have the sex with me.  I am no longer used to feeling like I am sexy.  Attractive.  At all.

There is no timeline in my brain for dating again, though I know it’s something in the aspirational undefined future.  I don’t know about pregnant/foster/adopt.  But I look at babies and toddlers and think for the first time more than just cute/adorable/give them back.  I think… mine.  Maybe.  Even if the idea of who/what I might do that with is as nebulous as things they aim the Hubble Telescope at.  (And about as far away.)

Thing six:

I have made a lot of really good friends on the internet, some of whom I’ve then gone on to meet in real life.  Some of them were through this blog in its various url-incarnations, some of them were through writing/fandom sites.  Some I’ve let go because they were toxic, some I let go because I began to associate that community and what I was writing (once I’d looked it over) with the falling-apart of my marriage and I needed the distance to sort out why the hell I hadn’t seen it sooner because I had this erroneous idea that I was beginning to get a handle on shit.

Hah.

Now I need to try repair those friendships I’ve neglected, and suck it up if people don’t reciprocate anymore because I’ve let things go too long, not given enough of a heads up, not apologized enough.  I need to understand not everyone has to understand, because everyone has their own shit and they can decide that even though I have mine, they don’t have time for it, and that if they let me back in at all, I have to accept it on their terms.  I have to apologize in not too abject terms, try to be straightforward and honest and say all the whys while not getting all TMI with the gory details– and if they respond, then I am lucky and blessed and they are generous and kind and I have to work hard not to waste it again, knowing that there’s a good chance I will anyway.

Thing seven:

I have given all this advice to other people.  I need to reread it.  I need to reread my own blog and stop committing Santayana on myself.

Thing eight:

I’m having a bit of a comedown from the initial high of the new job as we settle into the real everyday problems and I’m being a bit of a drama-llama and insecure and feeling depressed as I come off the high, which could be situational or neutransmitted or both.  But I want glitter and flowers and fucking unicorns, okay?  I just do.  It’s unrealistic and I still want it.

Thing nine:

I want a cat.  But– we have a feral one who will attack any other one we bring in the house– I don’t want to bring her to a shelter to kill her just because my father couldn’t be fucked to tame her and only fed her and changed her litter for the four years before I moved in.  But I want a cat who will sit on my chest and love me me me me, because people-friends and lovers and all the see: above shit to the side, animal comfort is no small comfort in deed.

It’s enough to make a girl want to hide under a mushroom and wait for someone to tell her what to do, no matter what nonsense they might happen to spout.

Armor, costume, mirror?

I got rid of most of my suits when I stopped being a lawyer.  First, I’d lost so much weight they didn’t fit anymore, but second– I didn’t want to be that person, whoever she was, any longer. I knew I wouldn’t go back.  There was no point in hanging on to the accoutrements to that profession, not once I knew I was done.

I got rid of more clothes when I left my husband– more on the “I haven’t worn this in a while/it no longer fits” basis, at least, that’s what I think I did (mostly).  I did just shove my wedding dress deep into a rubbermaid box, with a “No,  nope, not going to deal with it now.”  I’ve left it there, still.

I bought a corset and an antique kimono not long after, and while I don’t wear them, often, they’re aspirational clothes.  I’ll wear them, someday.

I have a few sexy or form-fitting clothes I wore from before that I’ve kept, that I’ve worn, that I’ve been admired in, and I have no qualms about wearing them.  Still.  There’s no baggage attached to them, ha ha.

Now, though, I’m unpacking spring’s clothes and I’ve got these two pair of silky pajamas, ones that for whatever reason I’ve come to associate with my husband– or with the absence of him, while we were married, in bed, in his not coming to bed at the same time as me, in our sex life and lack of as our marriage progressed.  I don’t know why I associate those particular items with him, because I think I actually owned them before we got together– but the fact is, I do.  I associate them and their silky feeling with– the feeling, whether he meant to convey it or not, of me being the only person touching myself, or of him admiring their feel and nothing more.  That I, under the clothes, was not admirable.  Touch-worthy.

I can’t decide now if I want to go to the bother of reclaiming the clothing (and what’s underneath?).  Someone else won’t recall the same taint, and my flannels (not associated with him, though bought at his urging, isn’t memory strange?), put away until next fall, can leave me head-room for cotton tshirts and shorts, room for me in my own skin until something else, something new comes along– even if it’s just me, figuring out a different different costume– one that mirrors what I want to feel, not what I think I’m reflecting from somebody else.