Return to Port

I am not happy with my life.

I haven’t touched this blog in ages. It seemed wrong to put the negativity and utter loneliness that’s been weighing me down these past months into these pages and out into the world. I may touch on it later, and catch any hangers on up to speed, but safe to say I have been living a life of quiet, alarming, desperation and it has been stamping out each breath of creativity that has managed to rise to the surface.

But despite exactly how bad THINGS got, somehow I didn’t realize that I, all-caps-I, I wasn’t happy until this morning, driving home from a weekend cruise and thinking about fast food.

I didn’t sleep much on the cruise. Maybe a few hours a night Thursday through Sunday. It was something like a dance exchange for Blues, so with activities in the day and dancing at night there just wasn’t time.

Last night after the dancing stopped and everyone started going back to their cabins to pack and cram in a few hours of shuteye, I was aglow with the bliss of a perfect evening and excellent dances. I didn’t want the night to end, so when a new friend asked if I wanted to just stay up the 2-3 hours until we needed to start vacating our rooms I dragged a hoodie on over my dress and together we wandered the empty corridors of the ship.

Finally, we tucked ourselves away in a balcony booth in the empty theatre. In the warm silence, dimmed chandeliers made the heavy gold curtain on the stage twinkle softly and he read my palm.

As readings go it was vague but entertaining, and his hand on mine was warm and heavy and pleasant in the wee hours of the morning. It wasn’t the palmistry that pierced me, but the plain questions he asked of me as we continued talking.

We’d spent a good deal of the day together in a group, wandering the streets of Ensenada. I’d never been out of the country and the day couldn’t have been better. He led us away from the tourist traps and into a restaurant where weathered working men stood at the counter for a quick comida on their midday break. He brought us into a shop where the owners recognized him from years past and poured us samples of a more fantastic variety of tequila than you could imagine. We sat in a closet of a dive bar, discussed and sampled sweet bread from vendors in the street and wandered in to giggle at “SEX BOUTIQUE” like the adults we are. We had a good amount of information on each other but other than a few minutes alone at breakfast the morning before, and a chain of exquisitely slow and close and intricate dances at the end of the night, we hadn’t spent much time one on one.

He asked “If work goes wherever you go, why don’t you travel?”

I couldn’t answer. It hadn’t occurred to me to just up and do something like that. I’ll work from a friend’s house so I can hang out with them, but hadn’t thought to go to any of the places I want to visit.

He asked what my goals are for my dancing and again, I had to give serious thought.

Driving home once we got into port I turned off the radio and drove home rolling over the trip. It was light and happy. I felt good, more pondering than dwelling.

I hadn’t slept and my vision was getting a bit fuzzy as I drove. I was also hungry, since I’d only picked at my breakfast between a growing hangover and preferring to doze in a booth with about six other dancers in something of a “cuddle puddle”.

Traffic was bad and I started considering the onramps coming up to grab something to eat. After 3-4 days of just going, grabbing and eating quality food, perfectly ripe fruit, and piping hot coffee, nothing sounded good. All my go-tos also happen to be “mexican food” chains and after the handmade tortillas, rich organ meat, sweet molé, and the cold, sugary cola of Ensenada, there was no way a “classic Del Taco” was going to pass my lips. I passed exit after exit and didn’t pull off. I thought of getting sushi (always my favorite) and couldn’t bring myself to.

The magic had rubbed off of the edges. The trip had been everything I’d hoped for and more. I was so caught up in what I was doing and seeing and tasting and feeling that I only took about 60 photos all told.

I think it was in trying to console myself or find something to look forward to that I had the realization: I am not happy with my life.

Again, though it wasn’t a negative thought, despite the fact that it came from my day to day being so hollow that I couldn’t find something to keep me going. It was freeing in a way.

I keep turning the theatre over in my head: my legs in the lap of a man I’d really only just started getting to know, his hand on my knee, my head on his shoulder under the low shimmer of the gold curtain, talking about learning to say yes to things. It should have been as far out of my comfort zone as I could possible get, but somehow it was just like the warm comfort of resting with an old friend. It was what I wanted. I remember the moment I decided that my goal for the cruise was to dance with him. I remember the moment I knew he would kiss me, and the moment I decided I wanted him to. I got to that moment by saying yes to the experiences I wanted and not worrying that my friends didn’t want to do what I wanted to do, or that I might have to talk to strangers. I felt fulfilled.

I’m not happy with my life. I am very lucky in a lot of ways, I know that. I have my needs met and have time for leisure, surplus for luxuries, and it’s steady. I am very careful to count my blessings and I think that somewhere along the way that morphed into some fabricated love of my job, and my routine, and what I’m doing and creating (or not creating) and putting out in the world.

I’m not happy with it, though. I’m not fulfilled. I am thankful, but not happy.

I can fix it, though. The things that I want from life I can take. I am not helpless in this. One of the characteristics of depression is feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. There are similar triggers for my agoraphobia and anxiety. The awareness that for once I can fix what’s wrong has been not just the silver lining, but the ray of hot, hopeful sun breaking through the cloud.

I want to write so I opened this blog again to talk about my life. I will give that novel outline a new look, rework my characters. I want to create. I will write a song about the beautiful man I met at sea with blue hair and mischief in his eyes. I will move that harmonica out of the top drawer, and play with it now and again. I will start covering the songs I like again on guitar. I will choreograph dances, and learn those routines that make me feel something when I see them online.

I want to express through my dancing as easily as I breathe; that’s the goal. So I’ll keep working. I’ll go to exchanges. I won’t skip weekends. I’ll go to venues I don’t like. I’ll dance with strangers.

I want to travel and eat and see. I want to ride horses and do acro yoga and keep getting stronger and watch the muscles ripple and glide no matter what other people think it looks like. So I will keep up my new program and work another one after. Work on pull ups. Keep working on floating my handstands.

I’m tired of complicated relationships with men who can’t commit or are missing something. I want someone I can be passionate about. Who has time for me. Who wants to adventure. I don’t want to get so caught up in finding SOMEONE that I take ANYONE. I see friends doing this and I don’t want that. I’d rather wait for someone who takes my breath away.

My job is nothing close to what I want or have planned for myself. While I’m not going to run out and start looking for something new immediately, I will start to take a more active part in my professional development. Our company is innovative and I know that if I put in the effort I can at least change what I’m able to contribute and create through work.

 

Productive therapy. I’m going to DO something about this. I deserve to be happy.

 

This all seems cliché in a very “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of way, but it’s how it happened. I’ve always wanted to travel and this trip reminded me that while I am afraid of a lot of things, I am also an independent person, and capable, and I think I may have forgotten until I made some decisions purely for myself.

It was also just a lovely adventure and I’ll probably be talking more about that later, and maybe playing catchup. I have missed this.

I hope someone reads this. I hope this puts something good out for others to consume. THAT is the hope perching just inside my ribs and I can finally hear it singing clearly.

Two Voices

I was on Facebook looking at my “On This Day” memories and came across a video I’d posted of me playing guitar and singing 3 or 4 years ago. This was at a time in my life when I was very VERY unhealthy but also skinny.

As I watched the video I noticed things I’d never noticed before. My arms were skinny, probably the best they’ve ever looked, my shoulders were cut and defined, my collarbones stood out like razorblades erupting from my flesh and my cheeks were sunken in harsh squares, a clean right angle from jaw to chin.

There are two voices in my head watching this video.

The first was horrified. Initially she’d admired the arms and shoulders, but the face so startled her that she drew back in the realization that she’d been admiring careful starvation. The video was in what I’d always thought of as my “recovery period” but I was so painfully underweight that, today, I’m thinking I may have overestimated my recovery. Or maybe, I just had a long way to come back.

The first voice wants to know how I had DONE that to myself. She wants to know how I could have missed the lank hair, the pallid face, the painful angles my skeletal structure made protruding against my skin. She remembers all the hours spent at the gym and wonders how I had “worked out” when I so lacked muscle, when I was skin and bone and not much else.

The second voice reminds me that fifteen more pounds and I’d be nearly in that range again and fifteen pounds is easy. A couple weeks of nothing but juice and an occasional handful of almonds and that face in the video could be mine again. My abs look like the after photos in BeachBody ads and yet I have this second voice telling me I could starve my way back to a thigh-gap.

This is the reality of eating disorders. They never go away. Even if you’re eating normally, and you feel in control. Even if you’re happy with the way you look. There is something in you that CRAVES starvation, purging, overexercising. The desire to punish yourself, mold yourself, shrink until you disappear never goes away. You just learn to ignore it.

I learned to get angry at it.

Probably not the most healthy reaction but finally I think I’m at a place where I can yell at that second voice to shut up. I can tell it it’s stupid and I’m fine as is, and that I do still have a couple pounds I’d like to lose, but that like the other 60 I lost, I’m going to do it the right way, so it stays off. So I can maintain. So I can eat cake on my mom’s birthday and sushi on a mini-vacay with Jo and not feel bad.

This is what being in control really feels like. I don’t know how I mistook hurting myself for control, but I did. Over and over again I took a backseat to my disorder.

I won’t do it again.

But this is today. There is always the chance of backsliding. The second voice doesn’t leave. It is patient. It waits for moments of weakness.

This is why we need to be kind to each other.

This is why media giants like Cosmo need to avoid posting unrealistic beauty goals like back and shoulder contouring.

This is why we need to remind our friends and family of the ways they are beautiful.

In hopes that it will help save others from this confusing pull in two directions over something that should be shallow and unimportant.

No one should have to choose between health and image.

Body Positivity Week

I guess this week is body positivity week. My Facebook has been absolutely bombarded with plus size models and inspirational quotes. The “Try Guys” from Buzz Feed put out a video on photoshopped images. My friends are all reposting BPW media and I see so much positivity being put out there but (because with me there is always a but):

I have an eating disorder.

And because it’s body positivity week, it’s somehow appropriate for all these people to come out of the woodwork and haphazardly post about how they “had” an eating disorder because society, the media, photoshop, etc. but how through some radical self love and a little gumption they managed to “cure” themselves.

It’s killing me.

You don’t cure an eating disorder.

You go into remission.

And you don’t get an eating disorder from watching too many episodes of America’s Next Top Model.

You develop an eating disorder through a myriad of deep seated personal problems.

Because of this, it’s not as easy as just up and deciding to love yourself.

It’s not ABOUT loving yourself or being “positive.”

Personally, I’ve got so many issues I couldn’t tell you which one it was that started me off. None of my shrinks have pinpointed it either, and that’s not how therapy works anyway.

Big picture? My eating disorder, like my agoraphobia, and a couple other things we’ve never talked about here on the blog, stems from feeling a lack of control over myself, my situation, my life.

If we’re being honest, here, I have a very selfish reason behind this rant, but I think my reasons are making even more clear the problems with this week.

It just so happens that the Monday of Body Positivity week dawned on the Monday I woke up and realized I’m no longer in remission.

I had a stomach ache. The deep, painful kind you get when you’ve actually overdone it and hurt yourself. I vomited three separate times on Sunday. On purpose.

And  I recognized as I walked to the bathroom, knowing what I was about to do to myself, why I was doing it. I felt out of control. Making myself sick has a method to it. There are steps. Steps I won’t list here because reading other people recount their dealings with eating disorders is how I kept mine under wraps the seven years I went without professional treatment. But there ARE steps and going through them makes me feel like things are okay.

I’ve had a rough couple months.

I’ve had very little control at work, in my personal life, at home.

I thought I was managing, but clearly I have not been. I have just been making myself feel better by rigidly controlling what I eat and when that gets messed up, just “adjusting.”

My nails are brittle, the inside of my mouth is full of raw patches and peeling skin from acid exposure, and I woke up so dehydrated Monday morning that I felt hungover.

It’s a problem. I’ve been able to look at myself rationally, now, so I’ve be able to stop, I’m two days clean, and I’ll eventually get back to a good place.

However, this body positivity week, a movement that is supposed to be helpful to people like me is hurting me. I can look at inspirational quotes and put the most negative spin on them or wonder what is wrong with me that I can’t seem to think as positively as “You’re not fat, you HAVE fat”.

I can look at a plus sized model and either feel bad because she’s actually skinnier than me, or panic because she is my size and I DON’T WANT TO LOOK LIKE THAT, or worst of all, even if she’s bigger, I’ll feel like I don’t measure up, or I’ll reverse it and feel like I’ve gotten too bony. My collar bones are too prominent, my leg muscles are too hard and close to the surface.

I can’t win.

Besides that, this week is so superficial. Love your body! Love yourself!

This week somehow equates the self with the body, overturning this Cartesian duality that I count on to feel human.

I do love my body when I’m able to be rational. When I am centered, and not struggling to feel in control, I love my body. I am strong. I am proud of what my body can do and how far it has come. I adore being able to dance and exercise and stretch.

My body suffers at the hands of my mind, though.

I cannot love my mind because it so often betrays me.

It makes me hate my body.

It makes me want to get so small I disappear.

It tells me I have to lure a man in with my body first and that if I am attractive enough he will accept the flaws of my mind. An ass that defies gravity makes my social anxiety more acceptable. A small waist makes it easier to deal with someone who still has tics from being abused. Toned arms and legs makes bursting into tears for no apparent reason endearing instead of disconcerting.

Yeah, I know it’s all crap. Rationally.

It’s not the media making me do this. It’s me. Just me. So to equate my self with my body brings on a whole other level of confusion that serves to push me farther out of the controlled center I NEED to function.

That being said, nothing the media puts out is going to help me. I just have to pick up and sort myself out again.

It’s very isolating, to tell you the truth.

The conclusion I’ve come to, is that Body Positivity week is for people who are already positive about their body or who want everyone else to think they are.

Because those of us who aren’t body positive know better.

I hope to god no one else is having a BPW like mine.

And if you are, I’ve gone nearly 3 days without starving or purging. I will celebrate that. I know you can do the same. We’ll take it one day at a time.

We know we’ll fall into old habits.

But we also know we can pull out again in an endless tiring circle.

 

Just stay strong.

The Fear in Knowing

I was talking to the Viking the other night. I hadn’t seen him in about a month since I’d been gone one week and then he had a couple trips he’d gone on.

After a hug on the stairs that lifted my feet from the top landing of the stairway where they’d been planted  and felt like the most cinematic reunion ever he followed me into the Blues room and sat with me for a while.

I’d come alone because Kay bailed to watch Civil War with her church friends instead and I’d had a rough week with a lot of things happening outside of my control so I was already feeling rambly and vulnerable.

He teased me gently about being a wallflower and then laughed when he realized I was wearing the very floral dress that started a bit of an inside joke of referring to me as the wallflower, or sending me Wall Flowers songs through facebook.

I explained I’d just got there and was still feeling slightly overwhelmed and he smiled and at the same time I started to say that I enjoy people watching, he said it. I mentioned coming out is always less horrifying for me if I have a friend to hide behind or use as a buffer between me and people. He said something about hoping he didn’t overwhelm me, but in a soft way, like he knew he wasn’t. I told him he wasn’t. That I know him, kind of. He smiled and looked away and tripped over saying “as much as two  people who see each other on a-” he paused and finished with something along the lines of on a regular basis as if he’d only just noticed we see each other at least once a week.

I nodded. We don’t really KNOW each other. Not like I know someone like Kay: her family, all her stories, her tics. “But you’re… familiar.”

The Viking eventually asked me to dance and we did and I could barely follow because he’s so tall and warm and I’d missed him and after a literal month of thinking of him he was finally touching me again.  I don’t remember the song that that was playing and I’d been making a conscious effort to do so since “Ray of Sunlight” solidified the last dance we’d had so perfectly in my mind.

The song ended, because we’d started halfway through, and he asked if I’d like to dance a full song.

So my hand stayed tucked in his and we picked up the next song.

Out of nowhere, really, he got a peculiar look on his face and asked if it was scary for me “being known by someone.” He floors me, sometimes.

It was an oddly deep question and its been all I can think about, since.

I asked him whether he meant in general or- and he followed up by saying, like we were talking about getting to know people and how we kind of see each other regularly and then in relationships, is it scary to be KNOWN by someone.

What I wound up incoherently rambling at him was something along the lines of big-picture, end-goal, no it’s not scary, its something I want. It’s getting there that’s scary. Then he wanted to know why. I rambled some more as we finished up the dance.

I don’t specifically recall much of what I said after that, but I do remember he put my name into the last line of the song we were dancing to and sang it in my ear. He sang my name to me and I don’t remember the words surrounding my name, because I was already flustered, and he confuses me, and it was such a sweet moment that all I can remember is those two drawn out syllables resonating in my ear.

The question remains though: am I afraid to be known?

After days of agonizing over the question I’ve come to the conclusion that like so many other things with me, its not as simple as I am afraid or I am not afraid.

There are stages of knowing someone. I happen to have a LOT of stages. If knowing me came in levels, I’d be like the stairs of some ancient French Cathedral: steep, winding and seemingly endless.

On the outside, I’m “the girl with the outfits” (this is actually something more than one person has called me out dancing because I’m apparently always dressed to kill AND its never the same dress). Watch the outfits long enough and you’ll notice I play at acceptable fashion. I know how to put an outfit together, but I like an edgy sort of comfort in my clothes. Start looking at me to make sense of my outfits and  I have a sunny personality, I laugh easily and appreciate wit and peculiarity. Talk to me and you’ll catch me swearing or letting out a morbid or innuendo laced joke. My humor leans towards violence and self deprecation. I can’t take a compliment.

If you make it to a landing, higher up the staircase, you’ll know I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder but manage it with diet and exercise and meditation, journaling, art therapy: anything to not be on medication. I am also an agoraphobe using social dancing as my exposure therapy. I manage my anxiety and panic disorders with breathing exercises, tapping, grounding, and the occasional self medication with a nip or two from the bottle. I’ve had an eating disorder since I was about 14 that rears its ugly head when I feel like I need more control in my life.

I used to self mutilate but haven’t hurt myself in a while and won’t again because I can’t stand that the last group of scars hasn’t flattened out and turned white but remains raised and ugly and purple for the world to see and judge.

I’ve been abused, stalked, assaulted, threatened- more than once and its left me with an awful lot of triggers and trust issues.

The ugly parts of me are so closely tied to what you find out first about me. They come out early on because a lot of things are triggering for me and I often find I need to explain why I reacted the way I did to something seemingly innocuous.

I’m difficult. I try to be as functional as possible, but I’m under no illusions. The jagged edges of my person are tricky to get around.

Still, it’s not being known that scares me.

I am afraid of being known halfway. I’m afraid of someone starting to know me and stopping before they get to the good parts. I’m afraid of being known only to the point of being crazy, and sad, and angry, and afraid of everything.

I’m afraid of not being given the chance to be known in all the ways that matter. That I’m funny and enjoy taking care of people. That I’m a good cook and like feeding people. I’m a loyal friend but will tell people they’re being unjust or overly judgmental. Dogs, horses, and small children inherently trust me. That I am afraid of everything but that it’s never going to stop me because I can make myself work through anything.

I’ve been hurt in many ways but I love deeply and permanently.

People who see the whole picture, stay.

Its just a rare occasion that they take the time to get that far.

So is being known scary? No.

Playing the crapshoot of letting people get into the gnarly stuff necessary before the finish line and hoping they’ll make it?

Positively horrifying.

 

And of course, because I’m still caught up in this silly crush, I’m stuck thinking of those earnest blue eyes locked on mine and that warm voice singing my name.

If I had to pick someone to let know me, I’d want him.

Desperately.

But I’m afraid to let him get past the charming exterior.

I went on a date…

What the heck, right?

Unless you read the last ramble about how I’m inept in the romance department. In which case you knew about all this.

So now like some weird, less fashionable, less horse-faced Carrie Bradshaw let me tell you about my experience.

The son of my high school History teacher asked me out last week. As I mentioned before, we have a TON in common and have been aware of each other for years, just never really spent much time together or really talked until he started being all up on my social media starting about a month ago.

My problem is this: I feel NOTHING for him. Cognitively I know we like the same movies and tv shows, our upbringing and families are similar. I was good friends with his sister in high school. He goes to church but doesn’t seem super serious about it, so that matches up. He work out daily, as do I. He likes animals. We can nerd out and drool over food together. It’s great. On paper, we’re perfect.

We had a great date on Saturday. We started out going to the Arboretum at our old university campus but it was closed off for some reason so instead we trekked all over campus revisiting the old sculptures put out by the college of art. We talked, we laughed. We spontaneously went to a movie. Then he took me to dinner.

I had a really good day. I felt happy. We work well, together. I had a very low level of anxiety being around him. HOWEVER, it seems to stem from the fact that I don’t care. Which is a problem.

I talked to all of my friends leading up to this date. I actually started thinking that maybe I should call it off. I don’t want to lead him on. I’ve been led on. I don’t want to do that to someone else. Everybody seemed to be of the opinion that I should give him a chance. That I might like him if I’d take the time to think of someone outside of my massive Viking-related crush. So I did. I resisted the urge to cancel the date and I had a good time.

We came back to my apartment and finished the last couple episodes of Daredevil and then I subjected him to Archer. He kissed me.

That’s all that happened. There wasn’t even any attempted second base action, just kissing, and hand holding; it was very PG. He’s a good kisser, aside from the fact he rocks one of those stubble-goatees so I kept getting jabbed in the face. He’s also very attractive. He’s athletic, with strong arms and shoulders, a hard, flat stomach, and that V that cuts down his hips and into his jeans(I’ve seen pictures, no live action, it was PG!); he’s droolworthy, really.

I just don’t care.

I started making lists in my head while kissing him, thinking of other things, other people, other places. I just zoned out.

I don’t want him. I know we’d make a good team but I don’t want him, no matter how hard I try to make myself and I don’t feel like wasting time with some distraction. I also definitely don’t want to lead him on.

I also don’t want to shoot something potentially healthy and functional in the foot without giving it a chance, though. So I’m torn.

HE seems really into ME, though. I’m having trouble keeping him at arms length.

Besides that I keep comparing him to the Viking.

I CARE about the Viking. I find little things he does so perfectly adorable I can’t put it into words. I stare off into space dreamily when I think of him and my friends notice. I feel safe with the Viking.

He’s not cut like an athlete. He’s older, and softer. He doesn’t have that metrosexual snappy-dresser thing down like my date. He’s sweet and funny, not dashing and charismatic. On paper the Viking should be inferior.

But I want him.

So I’m stuck and confused and this would all be SO simple if I could just flat say all this to the men involved and get straight answers and understanding out of both of them, but that’s not the way the world works, so I guess I’ll just suffer.

Hooray.

Affect(at)ion

All of my chill is gone and we’re officially in trouble.

I THOUGHT I was in trouble but now I’m REALLY in trouble.

I almost kissed the Viking.

Unconsciously.

Without thinking about it.

I freaked out when I realized I trusted him without thinking about it.

Now I am absolutely climbing the walls from how uncomfortable I am with myself and my feelings and instincts and the whole weird situation.

It happened on Saturday.

He showed up at an event he’d previously said he wasn’t going to. It was Fusion, and so far as everyone knew, he didn’t really do the whole Fusion thing. Then as I’m working the door he came up the stairs. I put a wristband on him and when I managed to get the sticky bit stuck perfectly straight on the band (which is a FEAT let me tell you), grinned “Perfect!”

He sort of murmured “Wouldn’t expect anything less” with this tiny smile on his lips and glowing in those baby blues. He walked away and I hid under the desk (literally) while Kay fetched my (vodka-laced) Powerade from my bag so I could knock enough back to hopefully stop my hands from shaking with anxiety.

I am such a classy broad.

So I work at the front desk for my hour shift and then Kay and I go looking for him. But subtly because we’re adults (I think). We find him in the Blues room and he’s dancing with someone. I go back to the Fusion room because I actually very much enjoy Fusion. I dance and can’t manage to get away for a while but I see the Viking poke his head in now and again, always retreating to the Blues room.

Evan comes in eventually and snags me for a dance but drags me into the Blues room to do it where the Viking is dancing with someone else. Evan and I dance and he nods in the Viking’s direction before saying in a tone usually reserved for oh la la “You should ask him to dance, I think he’s been following you.” He then wiggles his eyebrows at me.

Now I told Evan a secret on Thursday. Long story short he knows about my crush.

[Long story, medium Evan was playing “pick a boyfriend for Kay from the dance floor” on Thursday. She rejected all of his picks and then later, dancing with me he asked if she’d be into the Viking at which point I jumped at the chance to confirm whether a rumor from the previous Thursday that the Viking has a long-distance relationship with some swing dancer from Canada was true or not. Evan seems to think they broke up but either way “they’re not married.” He pressed on with setting up the pair and I was then stuck making lame excuses as to why Kay wouldn’t be into Mr. Viking until I finally just told him she wouldn’t touch him because she knew I liked him. Evan then pronounced himself Switzerland in the whole thing and nothing more was said.]

So then the whole night was spent thinking maybe Evan had mentioned something to the Viking (they ARE friends) and that THAT was the reason for the unexpected appearance. But after dancing with him that once I never got the change to actually ask him what he’d done.

I slipped into the Fusion room to calm down leaning against wall of the dance studio like a coward and not ten seconds later the Viking appeared in the doorway and casually leaned against the pile of dance barres next to me. We chatted, he said he’d seen me flitting in and out of the Blues room but never really staying. I said something about looking for songs I like and then mentioned I did go in a few times hoping to snag him for a dance.

I asked him to dance, we danced. He thanked me and disappeared for another hour until he pulled something similar and I found him back against the dance barres watching the Fusion dancers.

The wall was more crowded than it had been when he’d joined ME there so there wasn’t a ton of room. I grinned cheekily at him and told him to “budge up” so I could fit between him and the stack of barres. There was just enough room for me, he didn’t need to move, but it would be close quarters. He grinned at me and said “no.”

I wedged in next to him. resting my elbows on the higher barre build into the wall where his were. The line of our sides touched. Just enough to feel the warmth, but not the weight behind him. We talked. I cannot recall what about.

He had to lean down a bit to talk to me because he’s tall and it was loud. It meant his face hovered over mine. I was practically tucked under his arm. He could have shifted away a bit but he didn’t.

At some point in the conversation I found myself turning from the dance floor, smiling, and looking up at him and he was smiling and looking down at me and I just felt this tug I haven’t felt in a long time. Like a knee jerk reaction I wanted to lean up those last couple inches and press a quick kiss to his face.

I didn’t want to make out with him. I didn’t even necessarily want to kiss his mouth. But in that moment I instinctively, unconsciously, FELT that I should kiss him.

My mind or body or some combination of the two feels affectionate towards this man I’m just barely getting to know. Just like my mind/body/hybrid knows he won’t drop me when he sweeps me into a fast dip.

It makes sense. I was naturally at one point a very affectionate person. Leaning over to kiss someone, or slipping my hand into someone else’s was easy as breathing.  Hugs. Shoulder bumps. Brushing an arm.

Then I dated someone abusive who didn’t allow me to touch him without permission and certainly never in public and a couple emotionally distant people who wouldn’t hold my hand or otherwise touch me around other people. I now have a learned habit of deliberately, physically distancing myself from people.

It helped me recognize the sensation and squash it before I did something awkward like lean in.

But a small (very small, miniscule, really) part of me wonders if it would that have been the worse thing I’ve ever done. It may have solved all our problems.

I know he felt some sort of pause and the pink that found its way into his cheeks when we broke the silence and looked back at the dance floor before I asked if he wanted to dance some blues with me says its something along the lines of my complimenting him, saying he’s handsome or talented or witty.

So I almost kissed him.

My unconscious tried to kiss him.

Which means the crush and our growing friendship has turned to some rosy shade of affection, for me at least.

I am horrified and more anxious than ever before. But it’s also exciting, and I still don’t understand anything on his side.

 

The Golden Afternoon

I garden.

Not particularly well. But I plant, cultivate, and if I’m lucky things grow.

My parents had an enormous yard when I was growing up so in the Spring they would always clear out the flower beds and put in new plants where they were needed. For a while we had a fenced vegetable garden in the front yard.

I am one of the rare Millennials that knows the taste of a fresh sweet pea snapped straight from the vine. I always say I hate tomatoes, but that’s not quite true because if I can pull a wobbly, not quite spherical, fruit from the vine and eat it warm there is nothing better. Store and restaurant tomatoes are disgusting and NOTHING is worse than ketchup or tinned tomato sauce.

I don’t have a big house. I live in a teeny apartment with an even teenier triangular patio, but I garden.We got a lot more rain than expected this year, so a lot of my plants drowned but in general I grow flowers in little (and bigger) pots. I had a corn plant that I grew from a 6 inch tall sprout into  a stalk taller than me in pots of varying size until the wind took it and snapped it in two.

Since Spring is upon us, I thought I’d better start sprucing things up. So this weekend I went out and did some thinning and repotting, and pruning. In doing so, I realized I’ve learned a lot of things about life in general from my dabbling with my tiny urban garden.

I thought I’d share some of them.

Pruning: Pruning used to seem awful to me as a kid. You spend all this time putting so much effort into growing things. You tend plants through all sorts of weather and then with the change of season, or when they grow past a certain point, you hack giant pieces off of them. Sap flows out and it just seems like it should hurt or even kill the plant. Particularly the more severe pruning of trees or rose bushes. But it’s for the plants good. In life sometimes you can put a lot of effort into things and there comes a time when you need to strip what is dead or dying away from you. There are times when you need to cut out pieces that appear completely normal but if allowed to continue growing unchecked could become detrimental to your overall health, happiness, or well-being.

I have done a lot of pruning in my life. In college, I left my sorority for a while to focus on getting help for my numerous mental health issues. I lost a lot of “friends” that way. At this point I’ve paired down to a handful of women. Kay and Jo are two of them. I could have kept the lot, but I would not have been able to continue thriving.

More recently I cut a man out of my life who treated me well, was handsome, and talented, and passionate. He thought I was lovely no matter my mood, or weight, hair color or style. But ultimately the relationship was going nowhere. He wasn’t my boyfriend. He wasn’t going to marry me. We were great together but he wasn’t serious about us and as long as I was seeing him, I was going to keep shooting my every opportunity for a happy committed relationship in the foot. A snip with the shears and I’m free. It hurt for a bit, but I’m better for it.

You don’t even just cut away people. You can cut out Netflix before bed and start reading again. You can cut out Facebook status rants and start blogging or journalling instead. You can cut out meat. You can cut out refined sugar. You can cut out gluten if you want, but I think THAT just makes you an asshole unless you have an actual condition. The point is, sometimes people, just like plants, could use a trim.

Pesticides: I don’t use them. I feel like this says a lot about me as a person,  but I don’t believe in chasing away creatures who appreciate my plants. This doesn’t just go for bugs. Birds like seeds. Cats like wheat grass. Caterpillars REALLY like my Basil. I don’t believe in poisoning or shooing things away. I plant two patches of cat grass: one down (by the cat-castle I use as a garden shelf because it wouldn’t fit in our living room corner) where stray cats can easily get it. One out of the way, harder to reach, for trimming and giving to my cats or juicing into wheat grass shots (which I have only ever done once because they taste like a fart of themselves). I let my basil grow tall and then strip away a bald patch on the stalks midway up. Caterpillars munch the lower leaves and when they hit bare stalk, usually don’t venture farther up. I keep my birdfeeder stocked and no one digs up my planters.

In life I think this roughly translates to realizing that not everyone is out to get you. Not everyone is deliberately trying to ruin your day or be mean to you. They’re just trying to find their own way through life. So be kind where you are fortunate enough to be able to. Don’t take the easy way out and assume someone is just angry, or just naturally has some vendetta against you. And be creative with your solutions.

Patience: Kind of goes without saying. Things take a long time to grow. Waiting pays off. Waiting for home grown basil instead of using the weird flaky dried stuff from the supermarket is infinitely better. But harder. Just like waiting for the right person to come along instead of settling for serial dating, or someone okay, but not quite right. Or waiting to get to know someone before jumping head first into a relationship.

Endurance:  I have a tomato plant that I ‘d thought was dead until a single, tiny, red fruit budded and ripened from one withered vine last week. The thing was brown and barely anchored in a broken pot. A sudden storm that caused flash flooding and power outages got it. I let it go. I figured it would wither and then compost into the soil and be good nutrients for the next thing I planted. Then it flowered. One tiny white blossom and one green leaf dangled from a vine snapped almost completely in two, brown and twisted, and dry on a big brown plant so dry it rattles in the breeze.

Living things endure. The places you think are broken beyond repair can knit themselves together again. I’m a good example. I am made up, essentially, of scar tissue and fears. I went from not being able to walk with a back injury to dancing every weekend. I suffer from mental disorders that should be (and honestly still, sometimes are) crippling but I have a pretty busy social life and spend most of my time being happy.

BUT Some things are beyond help: Plants are really great at looking dead and then suddenly springing back to life with a little TLC – but some things are just dead and need to be left that way. Roots can rot. Fruit can mold. You don’t want anything that springs up tainted. People try to come back into your life and the interim has lessoned the pain they caused you and because you remember the work you put into the relationship you’re tempted to keep trying. Or something be it a person, a job, a hobby, a habit is dead and dying and clearly poisonous to you but again, because of the effort you’ve put into it and the positive memories you have like the first flowering buds have you hesitant to make a clean break. Trash is trash, rot is rot, and just because something once was strong, healthy, even beautiful, if it has molded and decayed, there is nothing to do but throw it out. Let the past be the compost for new experiences.

Being dirty feels good: Wait, no, hear me out! That is not what it sounds like!

Oh wait, yes it is.

Dirt feels good under my nails. Walking barefoot outside recharges me. Splashing in puddles or leaving footprints in the mud is fun.  Stiletto heels and a short skirt feel good. Unabridged fantasies of a saucy nature are delicious and make the workday go faster. Scandalizing your friends with an explicit joke is wonderful. Deliberately pressing your chest into your crush’s when they hug you goodbye creates a lovely little electric zing that lasts for days. Living a little and not always doing what everyone else things is right is a great way to make yourself happy.

Dirt washes off: Even the most rank fertilizer, darkest soil, and most pungent mulch comes off with water. It may take a little effort, a little scrubbing under your nails, or behind your eats (I don’t know how other people garden) but you will get clean again and be better for the experience.

Similarly even the darkest experiences in life are not permanent. You can come clean again. I have had awful experiences. I have done awful things and had awful things done to me. But I am whole.

It takes some effort sometimes to convince myself that I am whole. I will always remember that I once was broken. I still remember the stains from the rotten vegetables, insect stings, and black reeking compost that I’ve come into contact with, but I am not made of those things. I am something completely different. I am me. I am whole and separate and clean. It may have taken some effort, some heavy duty detergent, a scrub brush, but I am more than the dirt I have touched.

Dirt don’t hurt, possibly, the most valuable lesson I’ve taken from gardening.

(Though the caterpillar trick is a close second, tbh)