Molting

I don’t make New Years Resolutions. I have never managed to keep them.

But every year in like November or February I usually come up with something I want to change and get on it. I usually manage to stick with these little changes.

When I was like 14 I decided I wanted to stop biting my nails. And I did.

Last year in March I decided I was sick of gaining weight after throwing out my back so I decided I was going to get healthy. I started going to the chiropractor, started working out, got my nutrition in line.

I am today 56 lbs lighter than I was. I fit in a pair of jean shorts I bought in high school when I was swimming 3 hours and dancing 2 hours a day. I can do more pushups than my brother. I’d say it was a success.

This year, my goal for myself was set back in early December.

I wanted to reclaim myself. That wasn’t the goal, really. It was far too vague, but it was definitely on my mind.

When I was younger I was wild. I tried out for bands, went dancing alone (or with friends), stayed out all night walking around Hollywood, then drove to the beach on the way home to watch the sun come up. I played drunk kickball with my friends in the park near our sorority house after midnight then hiked to Denny’s for pancake puppies. I stalked musicians on twitter and “bumped into them” outside restaurants.

I wrote short stories and played guitar.

I sang in the shower and danced around my kitchen.

I went to art shows.

I crept around the library like a ghost at night just before it closed and consumed 20 books a week.

I was social. I met new people all the time.

Even at my saddest I was on fire for life. I would use depression and anxiety to create something new.

In December I didn’t know where that girl went, or quite when she went. She was just gone. I wanted to find her, but I’m just SO afraid of everything these days I didn’t know where to start.

I’ve been an Agoraphobe since Junior High, if we’re being honest. Walking the halls was too much for me so during break and lunch I’d stay in the library, tucked up by the window watching everyone else, or reading. When I hit my stride in high school, I never really let it bother me as much. In the 16-20 range I worked through it easier. It just seems that whenever the joie de vivre left me, the phobia crept back in.

I decided that this year, now that I’m healthy and more confident in myself physically, that its a good time to start putting myself out there again. Maybe if I started going out and doing things with other people, I could start reclaiming my joy. As I’ve mentioned multiple times, now, I took up social dancing, and even got my roommates into it. As a result I’ve made new friends who are encouraging me (whether they know it or not) to go out and try more new things. It’s begun to feed into itself.

After a night out dancing, I would feels so good. Confident. Happy. I could take on the world if I had to. The sucky bits of work sucked less. I slept well. I jumped into my workouts with more gusto. Everything was better the days following a Blues dance. I called it my dance high.

That high has been lasting longer and longer each time I go out.

I looked at myself the other day and realized it might not be a dance high. I may just be happy again.

I’m dancing again, that goes without saying, but it’s not just blues. I listen to music again. I EXPLORE music again like I haven’t in years. I was always the girl who knew the underground, indie, new comer, up-and-comer bands and artists you HAD to listen to. I had a lyric for every moment. The perfect song for anyone. I’m getting there again.

Instead of listening to Netflix or YouTube while I cook or clean, it’s music. And I find myself dancing. All arms one moment. Jazz hands! Disco arms! Other times I’m swaying like a leaf, drifting on a summer breeze.

I’ve picked up my guitar again. An acquaintance from the Blues scene wants to form a band and I want to try out.

I started singing in the shower again some time before Dee moved in with us.

I’m a huge fan of adult coloring books.

I read before bed instead of watching Netflix and I’m back to finishing off 2+ books a week.

I’ve started writing again obviously. It’s not just this blog, either.

I dusted off some bits of fiction I workshopped in college and then abandoned somewhere in the mix. They’re lovely. I don’t know why I let them go.

..

What I’m trying to say in all this is that my life has color again. Hope.

I don’t set resolutions in definite terms because it doesn’t work that way.

If I had set a resolution to pick up all my old hobbies, it would have flopped. I would have stared at my short stories and lost faith that I could ever be creative again. I would have picked up my guitar and not had anything I cared to play. I would have played the old songs I knew and got irritated that I couldn’t play them like I used to.

Instead, I started doing something different. Something I knew I could do. Something I had support for. Something that would make me happy and get me out of the house and start me on a new trajectory.

Everything else fell back into place.

Its not the activities that matter, it’s how you feel.

Right now, I feel good. Not all the time. But in general, and most of the time, I feel great. Feeling great feeds into itself just like feeling awful does, so if I continue on. If I set attainable goals for myself I can keep moving forward and putting myself on the right path.

And I plan on doing just that.

Have you ever…

Have  you ever dreamed you were performing a strip tease to weird warped versions of stuff you listen to in real life for someone with no face, just a body and eyes? But not in a horror kind of way, just in a not-recognizable as one person or another kind of way?

But you still have a sneaking suspicion who they are?

And you wake up and are like “damn, I’m hot” abut then realize you’re wearing a 3XL batman tee shirt you stole from your brother and your morning breath may be the reason the cat is under the bed instead of in it?

And then you wonder what you must have looked like dreaming that dream.

And then that sneaking suspicion from your dream comes back and you think you know those eyes and you’re all I’M DREAMING OF HIM??? WHYYYYYYYY???? 

And you replay the whole thing anyway because you WERE actually kind of hot?

No?

 

Cool, great, me neither.

Why my dignity & I will be alone this weekend.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t understand dating, men, modern “romance” (if that’s even a thing and not just some oxymoron that’s been flying under the radar this whole time).

Since it’s Valentines Weekend (and I had to resist the urge to put a gif of a cats horking up a hairball after that bit because I’m a petulant child) of course I’ve had about 4 separate conversations today about what I’m doing and what/who my friends are doing. One of my friends went to see Deadpool last night by herself and came away with some dude’s number. They’re going for drinks tomorrow.

So he’s either a unicorn or an ax murderer because NO ONE actually meets someone they’re going to date by chance out and about anymore. As such, I reminded her to bring mace, or a paring knife. She reminded me she has a concealed carry and I told her to have fun.

IS THIS WHAT LOVE HAS BECOME?

If you couldn’t tell, I’m single this V-day, which if you’ve read the story of how I accidentally told someone I love them last year may be a surprise, but that is long since over as far as I can tell. Long story short he started taking advantage of my feelings for him and kept “rescheduling” dates (including my birthday dinner)  until:

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He made a few paltry excuses. I didn’t back down. My dignity and I will be dogsitting for my parents this Vday.

Shocking.

I have run the dating gamut. I’ve done the high school sweethearts thing. All sorts of online dating. Classmates from college. I dated a frat boy when I was in sorority. Even dated a totally drop dead gorgeous English kid for a couple years when he was here for auditions. More recently my married friends have started trying to set me up with their husbands’ buddies. It’s all terrible. ALL of it!

It’s awkward. Dating is bad enough; I don’t know who pays, or what to do with my hands. But it’s got to the point where just meeting guys I might POSSIBLY be interested in is just as awkward as a first date. How wide should I be smiling? Should I be telling him I’m interested? When is it appropriate to offer my number? Should I ask for his? Is slipping someone a card still acceptable? When did that stop being acceptable. Am I the only one with cards in 2016? If I can easily find you on Facebook, can I add you and continue things from there? If you’re interested in me, should you have found ME on Facebook by now?

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD someone tell me who makes the first move? What even IS the first move? Because last weekend I deliberately sat down directly beside my (insert cat horking noise here) Crush and initiated an adult conversation and somehow no one I’ve talked to thinks that counts for anything.

Apparently getting to know someone counts for zilch, but freaking swipe right on a dating “app” and IT’S ON.

Side note: I just had to look up which direction meant “I’d tap that” on Tinder.

I’m THAT lost.

In my defense I was brought up on fairy tales and Judy Blume. There used to be a code for these things. I make eyes at you across the room and blush when you say two words to me. You scale the palace walls, slay the dragon, and then give me your Letterman’s jacket.

Man code for “I like you” is much less easily deciphered these days.

Is it “can I have your number” or “do you wanna do something sometime?” Is it looking flustered when I compliment you or is it when you reveal you’d been watching me dance with other people?

Can I show interest by choosing to sit next to you when we don’t know each other well and there are other places to sit? Are you showing interest by asking me to dance more than once when there are other, better, dancers around that you haven’t yet touched?

A friend of mine was asked to a movie by a paramour with a group of couples but he made it sound deliberately casual. But they’ve held hands. Where is the line?

I can think of dozens of examples. All of my friends have stories like this.

To pipe up for gender equality, I don’t think it’s entirely one sided. I think men and women are equally lost or this wouldn’t be the issue it is. I’m sure being a man these days is horrific as well. Deciding whether holding the door will be seen as chivalry or a personal affront on ones independence and security as a woman would absolutely RUIN me in social settings.

But something needs to be done. It is hard enough for me to put myself out there without trying to decode interactions with the opposite sex.

We need a new code. Update the etiquette? Is there a new Emily Post out there?

Get on that, will you?

In the mean time I’ll just continue the awkward internet stalking and such.

But armed with wine.

And Happy V Day to all my fellow socially awkward penguins out there.

Barefootin’

I hate shoes.

If we’re being honest I hate clothes, and were I not so self conscious I would join a nudist colony. Okay, maybe if I weren’t so self conscious AND if I hadn’t read David Sedaris’ account of his time as a nudist colony in Naked. Just not my cup of tea. But I digress.

Shoes are awful. Real clothes are awful. Fortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, I work in a shoes and pants optional sort of environment, also known as my apartment.

Now, I have a certain routine. Every day, at the same time, I use my hour lunch break to work out. I pound a protein shake on the walk to the mailbox as my cool down before a quick shower and more interviews.

If you were me and you spent your whole day barefoot including your Piyo workout and then you were just nipping out for 90 seconds to get the mail before a shower, how likely would you be to go find shoes before crossing the threshold?

“Not very” is the correct answer here.

I live in a warm climate, so it’s not like I’m risking frostbite. Our apartment complex is well paved, artfully landscaped, and maintained twice a week by an excellent team of gardeners. Nothing is going to hurt my feet. My feet aren’t going to hurt anything. And I do this every. single. day.

So tell me why every single person I have ever passed on the way to the mail box looks from me, to my feet, and back like in the space of their gaze shifting I suddenly grew an extra head?

There are people who run MARATHONS barefoot. There are philanthropy events that have people walk everywhere without shoes. So why is it so shocking that I traipsed out of my apartment to literally circle the building on a clean, paved, walkway and grab the mail.

Especially when you saw me do the same thing yesterday!

“Where are your shoes?!” our leasing manager asked one day.

They’re in my apartment. Where they will stay.

My feet aren’t offensive in and of themselves either. They’re usually clean, toe nails neat and polished. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I have very pretty feet (weird compliment, though, right?).

I have a pretty significantly sized tattoo of a monarch butterfly unfurling its wings across the top of my right foot, I figured by now people would assume I’m just the resident hippy and move on. But every day it’s the same.

Now on a few occasions I get it.

The day I went out in shorts and no shoes in the rain, deliberately splashing my feet through puddles and wiggling stray leaves from between my toes, THAT was weird (and delightful, highly recommend) and I deserved the look the old guy from 240B gave me. I could read just how badly he wanted to tell me I’d catch my death of cold across his face and the struggle to bite his tongue since he doesn’t know me and I’m old enough to sass him with impunity.

He couldn’t know I’d just finished a round of InsanityMax30 and my skin was practically making the rain sizzle against me on impact.

Most days, though, I feel it’s perfectly acceptable to step out of my apartment barefoot. The few steps to the mailbox, the laundry room, the pool especially are all acceptable to cover without shoes.

There is an awful lot of “free the nipple” hooplah going on these days. I honestly don’t think it’s going anywhere if we’re still afraid of people without shoes.

My nipples can stay tucked away as they are, just let my feet be free!

 

And you should free yours. It feels great and it’s good for you to walk outside barefoot. No really, I learned it in college. Earthing! It’s science!

The Perfect Dance

I had an epiphany Sunday, driving home alone at 2 in the morning after a night of Blues dancing.

I had the perfect dance.

That wasn’t the epiphany.

In almost the same moment I thought I had the perfect dance it struck me that the perfect dance wasn’t perfect.

But it was.

And not just because it was with the Viking of a man who so enchanted me the time before.

The dance was sublime in ways I would have sworn only happened in literature. It was intricate, it was joyous, raucous, sensuous, it meant everything and nothing. It was in turn light, fun, playful: clapping with the beat, call-response movements, disconnected hands, taunting steps.

We’re following the lead-er, the lead-er, the lead-er… 

A heartbeat later it was serious: deeply grounded synchronized steps, lunging surges of movement, an embrace so closed our arms could have completely circled each other. His arm around my waist. My weight giving him leverage for a sliding pivot, his weight buoying me up and back towards the mirrored wall of the dance hall. His arm dragging mine ’round his neck. Serious. Intimate. Breathless.

There is no way to describe the heady feeling of giving in to the dizzyness that comes from being spun like a top between two large, warm hands.

I learned to spot a turn as a baby ballerina. Eighteen years practice and in the space of a breath I somehow lost the crack in the mirror that staved off the dizzyness. Somewhere in the shifting momentum, spinning faster, faster, again and again, I let go. My head spun and I embraced the maelstrom.

Blues is nothing like Ballet.

Ballet puts no one between you and the hardwood.

The Viking will not let me fall. It is a truth spoken with simple matter-of-fact confidence.

I’ve had dances with equally experienced leads, where I executed equally fast, equally complicated movements but felt like some sort of clumsy puppet, tossed around like a rag doll. Drowning, casting about for any way to steady myself. This was not the same.

It was intuitive. My feet fell into a seamless grapevine, my hips snapped around exactly the right way without more than a shift in the incline of my Lead’s body. He lunged and my spine bowed, a perfect arc over his arm until my ribs protested the bands of their cage, trying to loose my heart and lungs. The mirrored wall reflected me suspended there, draped like silk over his arm.

With every other Lead I have a moment where I know I’m about to be dipped (you should always know, or they’re doing it wrong). I have a moment of doubt chased with the acceptance that I may very well be seconds away from a concussion and trip to the ER. With anyone but the Viking I am just waiting for the fall.

He won’t let me fall.

This instinctive trust both unnerves me and frees me while dancing with him.

So there is the fairy tale end of things.

It was perfect.

But I stumbled.

I’m still a beginner at best. I don’t know all the fancy footwork. I don’t know any tricks. There were shuffled steps, turns I interpreted incorrectly, a moment where I laughed in self deprecation at how UTTERLY lost I was in some intricate movement he tried and admitted “I have no idea what we’re doing.”

The dance was still perfect. I messed up right and left, and it was perfect.

In the classes I took with Jo a while back, an instructor talked about dancing “on the same level.” At the time I asked how to communicate that you can’t dance on the level of someone with 11 years experience. How to say “I suck” with your dancing so you don’t wind up getting flung around.

They said to get heavier. Resist and slow things down. Dance deliberately at your own level until your Lead catches on.

Screw that.

Inherently the Viking is on a level head and shoulders above mine. He was dancing at his level, but in a way that encouraged me to rise to meet him.  I don’t feel like he was dumbing himself down for me. I went with it, I matched his intensity and pace and just interpreted in the best way I could. I feel like I DID dance at my level, but I also danced above it.

Intuition took care of the rest.

So despite a lot of missteps and nervous laughter, it wound up being a truly singular moment.

The perfect dance was not made perfect by somehow magically knowing the choreography: that’s never going to happen. Social dancing is not choreographed. Like blues music its made mostly of improvisation.

I cling to control, safety, staying inside the lines. It seems to be why I struggle with Blues. I have to let go, and in this one dance I may have found the key.

The perfect dance became what it was because despite the VAST expanse between my own Blues experience and that of my Lead, (and I state this as the same simple truth as “he will not let me fall”) he ENCOURAGED me. Like the rest of what he did in the dance, there were no words, nothing overt telling me what to do, the encouragement was just there.

He’s never said “I won’t let you fall” or “don’t worry” or “let me show you” or “like this” but its there. Without thinking I respond and the dance that results is electric. Transcendent.

And now I’m in trouble because I thought the Viking was handsome and likable BEFORE I discovered this weird intuitive dance connection.

Its also a good thing this is anonymous because this whole “dance zen” vibe I’ve got going on would earn me some SERIOUS eye rolls.

MBTI: the new dating profile!

I have this friend. He’s a new friend. He’s a guy friend.

If we get really specific he’s a friend of a friend I’ve danced with a few times.

He messages me every day trying to get to know me and his game is obvious, even for your favorite Queen of Insecurities here. He flat asked me out once but I legitimately was out of town that day (unlike this other time, with this German kid, sorry, story for another day).

Sadly, I have no interest at all. I would like to keep him neatly packed into the friend zone, but he messages me every day without fail and apparently everything he hears just makes him more persistent. He follows me on every form of social media and whenever I post something new, I get a message.

“Hi Tais. I noticed your post on IG where you posted a Bastille lyric under a photo of your cat. What kinds of music do you listen to?” (He hasn’t actually sent me this exact message, yet, but I have definitely posted my cat on Instagram with a loosely related Bastille lyric for the caption. I AM that girl).

I answer him, and try to be brief as possible to help him get the hint, but I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

I don’t want to ignore him, that’s rude and also just REALLY obvious. And rude.

I also don’t think continuing to answer his questions is doing us any good either.

So because I’m a fail, this will probably continue on for a while yet, but the point of all this is not how hard I fail in the old romance department.

The point is, the other day one of his questions was, out of nowhere: Tais, what’s your MBTI personality type?

In the words of Dave Barry I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

I copy and pasted it from Facebook (minus my name) to make sure it was identical, punctuation and all!

Is that a weird question for anyone else?

I studied Psychology for a while so to me, it seems hyper-clinical and invasive and just a weird thing to ask of someone you weren’t actively head-shrinking.

For those of you unaware: the MBTI stands for “Myers Briggs Type Indicator” and its a questionnaire that categorizes your personality into one of 16 types based on how you use your perception and judgement. You can read more on it here and take a free version of the MBTI here. Its fun.

Sorta.

If no one is demanding that you share your type with them.

The two times I’ve taken the MBTI, I never shared my results with anyone other than my best friend and that was because she knew me so well she could guess or probably answered everything on my behalf with the same results.

Sharing a personality indicator to someone who is mostly a stranger? Horrifying. Not doable.

Where is the line of appropriate when it comes to trying to date someone?

I used to get snippy when people asked my race at bars.

It’s apparently an acceptable pick up line. “What are you?”

I’d get confused, they’d explain “well clearly you’re mixed but what are you?”

I’m sorry mofo, last time I checked I’m a human being and don’t really see any reason to give you a freaking lecture on my genealogy. Especially since you’re too drunk to appreciate it.

So my usual takeaway from that line is “Does my face look THAT weird?” Which I’ve yet to ask anyone. But I may some day. Would THAT be inappropriate?

I’ve had guys tell me I have a dimple in my cheek and it’s a good place for a dimple. Which isn’t offensive or intrusive, but is still pretty weird.

The list of weird approaches to hitting on girls goes on and on and I just do not understand the process behind most of them.

Maybe I just don’t understand men.

I mean CLEARLY I don’t understand men, but basic social convention was something I thought I had a handle on.

Psychological profiling as courtship, though?

Not the way to go in my book.

Agoraphobia

I am an agoraphobic wreck.

I have a lot of problems, but I’d say this is the one I have the least amount of control over.

For those of you who don’t know how agoraphobia works it is defined by the DSM as “anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult (or embarrassing) or in which help may not be available in the event of having an unexpected or situationally predisposed Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms. Agoraphobic fears typically involve characteristic clusters of situations that include being outside the home; being in a crowd… (Etc.)”

For me, this means that normal everyday situations like going to a class, on a date, grocery shopping, ANYWHERE is a problem for me and generates varying levels of anxiety. This anxiety often intensifies if I am situated in the center of a large open room, or become the center of attention. The place I feel safest is lying curled in a ball, in the bottom of an empty bath tub, in a locked bathroom. If its an en suite bath within a locked bedroom, even better.

Fortunately for me I work from home and have a Prime account through Amazon so my interaction with the outside world is minimized. I don’t have to venture out unless I’m feeling up to it and my social interaction is negligible.

Unfortunately this means my social interaction is negligible and as a result I spend periods of time profoundly lonely yet unable to connect to anyone without retreating to the tub.

I honestly don’t know how I’ve survived this long with so many blatantly conflicting personality traits. Seriously, I’m as surprised as you. Anyway.

Agoraphobia, like most phobias, is irrational and wholly incurable. But it can be treated.

My goal for the past few months has been to rehabilitate myself (mainly because therapy, where I get help from people with degrees shinier than mine, just doesn’t work for me, but that’s a whole other thing).

I have been working on my phobia mainly with the help of my friend Jo and my local blues dancing scene. Social dancing is a surprisingly welcoming environment where for the most part I can convince myself I’m totally safe and in control while simultaneously meeting people and participating in things outside of my apartment.

And if we’re being honest, I’m good at feigning knee and back injuries to get out of dancing with people once I’m at my social limit for the night.

AND, I mean, there’s always a bathroom to hole up in if things get really out of hand.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a perfect environment. Going dancing is hard for me in a lot of ways (that I may touch on at another time) and the first time I went I had heart palpitations so hard and fast they hurt and we left 90 minutes early. But I’ve been gradually working myself up and this last weekend I brought 2 friends with no blues (or in Kay’s case, dance. period.) experience to an event and STAYED THE WHOLE NIGHT.

Not only that, but I danced with someone who TEACHES blues and lindy hop (thank God I found this out LATER or I would’ve been too busy hyperventilating to take his hand in the first place), who is tall and handsome, and just altogether intimidating as can be to someone like me.

The point is, though, I succeeded.

BUT, because I’m human, I also have setbacks. The biggest one has probably been something no one noticed.

I haven’t posted a blog in 3 days and that one was pre-written.

I was good about posting each day until that point. Now this probably isn’t agoraphobia related persay but I’m in charge here, and so the internet counts as “places or situations from which escape might be difficult”. Blogging causes me a certain amount of anxiety as a result, so, shush. It counts.

I have a bad habit of writing things and then not posting them because “no one cares” or “it sucks” or “what if they hate it” or “I’ve reread it ten times and have built in spell check on all things I type on this computer but there could still be a typo.”

I have 5 separate posts in varying stages of “postable” saved as drafts here and in the last few days I couldn’t work up the guts to post anything. In my jubilation from the weekend, I became very delicate and couldn’t handle “failing” at this to ruin my high.

Yeah I know, who fails at blogging?

This is essentially the online equivalent of my mumbling to myself in public.

But still, I’m afraid I’ll fail. So instead of posting one of the thousand ideas I’ve had over the last 3 days, I sat at my computer and clicked through my five drafts before closing the wordpress window.

I’d come back to the site an hour later and repeat the process. Finishing nothing.

So here we are: a step forward, a step back. Me in a nutshell. NO MORE!

 

So here’s a post, a filler really, proving to myself that I can do things. And maybe someone like me will see this and decide to do whatever thing they’ve been putting off out of irrational fear.