Dogs do it…

I’m very nervous this week. I’m going on a trip to spend time getting to know someone I don’t know well but like so far and while I’ve got a week and a day or two to go before I actually see him, so about a week before I should really be nervous, I am already working myself up into a nauseous ball of anxiety jusssssst about every morning.

And then a good 6-11 times throughout the day after that.

My parents (who I’m living with temporarily) have this rescue dog that was abused as a puppy and then turned out on the street. He was wild and absolutely TERRIFIED of people. As it turns out, that’s a horrible combo and he drove them nearly insane for the first year and a half or so of owning him.

He’s still difficult.

But he doesn’t cower when we pass strangers on the street anymore.

My mom doesn’t like walking him because he pulls, but I love running him around the block. He likes to stretch his legs and I like feeling safe in going outside with him by my side. We make a good team.

He wags his tail now. He never used to.

He’s also more receptive to my anxiety than any other animal I’ve every met.

Even when I’m outwardly perfectly fine. Even before the heart starts racing, and things start to feel off-kilter, he will come running and just delicately, like he’s afraid to touch me or doesn’t want to scare me off, leans in and sniffs my skin: in the bend of my arm, my wrist, behind my ears, along my hairline.

Then he’ll gently lick my face.

This is the only time this dog is slow or gentle about anything. He’s usually just a careening ball of energy.

Today I was starting to feel the nerves and he did this. When he licked my face I burst into tears (which he then licked up too).

He let me hug his neck for a bit (again, it’s rare to get him to hold still for a second, we can’t keep ANY weight on him at all).

He wagged his tail.

Without thinking I said, “How do you do it?”

And he looked at me because he doesn’t speak Human, and then ran to get his tennis ball.

I don’t understand. He had such a hard life before he came to live with us. His skull was fractured and he had stitches and scars when they adopted him.

Yet he wags his tail and loves on me and trusts me not to hurt him. I can’t do that.

I can’t do that.

I WANT that kind of starry-eyed cheer. I want to be able to look forward to spending time with someone great without automatically wondering how I’ll mess things up, or if they’ll hurt me.  Worrying I might be wasting time or doing something wrong.

My mom likes to watch The Dog Whisperer and after a bit, I remembered a segment of him saying that “dogs live in the now.”

That explains how Crazy (who I call Froedrick, or Frisky, or Friendly, or Dog-Dog because I find the name just a touch sad and offensive) lives the way he does.

I guess by that logic, he’s not living in the days his skull was fractured. He’s not worried about being on the street and finding food for himself. He’s not thinking about the man that hurt him whenever I pet his ears.

He’s thinking about the tennis ball in the yard waiting for him, how nice the sunshine feels at nap time on the porch, what I smell like and how it sounds when I say nice things to him.

I guess if I want to be like him, I need to stop dwelling on what could happen and what did happen and think about what is happening.

Which is really NOT going to help me when I get on a plane next week, but for the time being I guess I can think of the now instead of hyperventilating about “the next Friday.”

Nightmare

When I was a kid, I used to have this recurring dream that, at the time, scared me more than anything. I had the dream so often that I stopped disturbing my parents when I entered their room for comfort and would just stand alone in the dark, listening to the pair of them breathe, shivering in the cool air until I was calm enough to return to my own bed and the warmth of my blankets.

In the nightmare, I was alone in what I can only describe as a vast endless bayou or swamp. There was dark water all around me, murky, sweating into the air, humid and fetid, heavy. There were marshland trees far away, their roots coming out of the mud and into the water. Their branches were surely draped with grey moss.

I stood on a muddy sandbar of sorts out in the open: a protrusion of soft, wet, mushy ground that oozed under my bare feet. I was dressed in a yellow bathing suit, cut simply and polka dotted in white, a child’s boxy one-piece. I was not muddy when I dreamed this as a child, except for my feet. There were other protrusions like the one I stood on all across the water, not a far swim and they probably stretched to the shore, but there were gators in the swamp, under the surface, invisible to me but a danger nonetheless. I was trapped and frightened and clammy on my muddy little pedestal.

The worst part was the speedboat. It was red and so far off that I would always hear it before I saw it. Tiny and fast, zipping about, close to the trees along the shoreline. I knew it would save me if I could just get its attention. But I never could.

Eventually, I would decide to get in the water and swim from sand(mud)bar to sandbar and this is where the dream varied.

Sometimes I would wake just as soon as the massive reptilian jaws rose from the water before me, too close to paddle backwards away from. Sometimes hands or claws would wrap around my feet or ankles from under the murk. Sometimes the water was shallow and sludgy and I would begin to trudge across the ground before inevitable piercing my feet on hidden harpoons jutting from the mire.

A few times the speedboat turned just as I reached the midpoint between two perches and ran me down. Once I grew heavier with each kick or pull with an arm until I could no longer tread water and I sank beneath the surface. I’m sure there were more variations on how I met my doom but there was never a time I survived.

I had that nightmare from before I was in school, so approximately the age of 4 all the way up until I was about 16 years old. It recurred most frequently when I was a very young child, but I did have it at least twice in junior high and once in high school. My senior year of high school, I sketched the scene for an AP Psychology project and I still have the sketch somewhere.

There’s a certain significance placed on recurring dreams, particularly nightmares. They’re supposed to reflect the inner workings of your subconscious and are supposed to reveal hidden fears. I wonder what I could possibly have been afraid of, or convinced of, or so subconsciously fixated on as a child of four that I then gradually let go of over time.

Was it symbolic of my growth? My fear of being mired in the stresses of adulthood? Once I reached high school I no longer feared the adult world?

That doesn’t quite fit. I stayed pretty sheltered until I was at least 18.

Did I feel trapped?

That doesn’t fit either, as the only thing I’ve ever really felt trapped by during that period was the expectations of others and that didn’t kick in until I was at least 8 and by then the dream was less frequent.

Is it something else? Something I’ve missed? Has the nightmare really ended? Or is it lurking there beneath the placid surface of my current dream pool, like some scaled, jagged toothed reptile, waiting for me to paddle back into its jaws. Will I find myself in that swamp once more, a grown woman, breasts pressed high and hips squeezed by the now ill-fitting swim costume? Will the harpoons pierce the monarch butterfly tattoo on my foot? Will my flesh still be sweet to the gator’s tongue?

Have I perhaps grown too bitter to eat? Am I too wise to slink into the water willingly? Might I now devise a way to flag down the boat?

Is the nightmare even so awful now?

I think perhaps its become some sort of bittersweet dream. If I could slip back into it I might reclaim that effortless suspension of disbelief and in being trapped once more in a distant swamp, find myself free of the mundane bonds of my adult mind..

It’s the mosquitoes I should worry about.

Dehydration.

Starvation.

Who’s driving that boat and do I really want to flag them down, especially in the tiny yellow swim suit?

There are a thousand worse dangers than murky waters and alligators.

So perhaps the nightmare isn’t quite a nightmare after all.

 

{Written in response to The Daily Post’s Nightmare Prompt}

Civic Duty

I had Jury Duty this week.

I wasn’t really too upset about it because my work pays for a few days of it and I’ve never seen the inside of a courtroom outside of binge watching SVU. I got there and was selected for the jury pool for a case. We went in and the judge made a speech about how this is important and why jury duty is what it is and how if you think that the courts let cases off easy then you should WANT to be there making sure things are done justly. The buzzwords were citizenship, duty, fellow man, justice, community, service etc.

It was a remarkable and moving speech.

Then we went on lunch break and I went downstairs to the cafeteria and ordered a salad and some honeydew melon which came in crisp plastic packaging. I ate across from a handsome lawyer who asked if I minded before joining me. We sat and read together, me a novel, him some sort of ledger or file, in comfortable air-conditioned peace.

Then I went back upstairs and seated myself on a bench by the window outside the courtroom’s double doors to wait for role call, and court’s resumption.

I opened my book again (Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend, highly recommend btw) but I’d read well over 100 pages that day already, so I looked out the window instead of reading. Behind the courthouse, there was something going on on the ground. I couldn’t tell at first what I was looking at. It seemed like some sort of farmers market or something, which for my location wasn’t unheard of. The city the courthouse is located in is full of art walks, markets, craft fairs, etc. From 9 stories up, it just looked like a group of tarps.

The more I looked, though, the more clear the picture became and eventually I realized I was looking at a makeshift shanty town of tents and tarps. Homeless people trying to get out of the California heat any way they could. It was like a small city of downtrodden individuals right behind the courthouse in plain view.

The judge’s words about how being here was important came back to me. How giving up a workday, or our normal routine was so important. We had covered the case by that point and it was basically two men arguing over the terms of a contract and whether a fineable breach was made by one party.

Looking at that shanty town, and then turning to watch one of the two hard-faced businessmen stride back into the courtroom with his lawyer, in suits so clearly expensive that the cuff links could have fed all the people below me for a WEEK, I felt a roll of guilt and indignation in my stomach.

How can someone say that deciding if there was a breach in a business contract that didn’t result in losses significant enough to alter the course of a business, or anyone’s day to day wages or way of life be CIVIC DUTY and a SERVICE TO YOUR COMMUNITY while addressing starving citizens WITHIN EYESIGHT isn’t even on the table.

Don’t talk to me about civic duty when in plain view of city officials, lawyers, politicians, judges, POWERFUL men and women, every day people struggle just to avoid exposure to the elements and nothing has been done. In view of people who could ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING about it, people IN OUR COMMUNITY have suffered. They’ve suffered long enough that there’s a veritable VILLAGE of them grown up behind the building.

Like with a lot of my posts lately, there is no good answer. I have no silver lining. This is just an angry cry that something needs to be done, and a comment and observation of just how skewed our priorities are in this country.

Stanford (graphic content, sexual abuse trigger warning)

I’ve done a lot of crying the past day or so.

Its been on and off since I read the closing statements from the Stanford case. I can’t stand that that asshole is getting off with 6 months in county. He ruined someones life but because his  body holds value, “justice” has favored him instead of his victim.

That’s not purely why I’m crying.

I don’t think I’m quite that selfless. I read each new development in this case, and so many other women’s stories, and the nasty comments perpetuating rape culture and I cry for women as a whole who are in this place where they are violated and then revictimized every time something like this happens. I also cry for myself.

I was attacked at the end of my high school year. By my boyfriend. He was in the 6’2-6’4 range, taller than me even in my highest heels, and on the track and field team. Star athlete. Maybe thats another reason Stanford is so triggering for me. He was massive, six pack abs, in the gym 6 hours a day minimum, biceps like pythons. He could wrap both of my wrists completely in one of his hands and have a secure hold.

Our relationship had very clear lines. I was a virgin and didn’t want to have sex before marriage. He knew this. We’d been over it in no uncertain terms but after prom he pulled over his truck at the end of my street to kiss me good night and kissing turned to groping and when it went too far and I told him to stop, that night, he didn’t. My wrists went in one hand and the other hand found its way down, hiking the skirt of my gown. I remember my elbows and shoulders protesting the awkward angles they were put in.

At what point he opened his pants, I still don’t know, though I’ve replayed the night thousands of times. I could feel him shoving himself at me. That sensation of only having a thin, thin, seamless layer of pale blue microfiber between him and my virginity.

I can hear my voice, like it belonged to someone else. “Stop it, what are you doing. Stop, stop, STOP STOPITPLEASESTOPYOURHURTINGME” getting more breathless and shrill and scared with each syllable. I had got my hands free, but then he had me by the upper arm, the hip, I would slip free, he would grab me again, and one hand was clumsily trying to drag my panties to the side.

Ignoring me.

He was just so big. All those muscles I’d thought were so pretty were just, muscles. Weapons of my destruction. I am not a small girl, though I was a swimmer. I was lean but athletic and I’m tall myself. I wasn’t used to feeling so delicate. At one point it occurred to me that he could actually hurt me, break bones, bloody me. That had never been a part of my reality before: physical powerlessness.

At some point he released my hands and started grabbing my legs and buttocks. Trying to pull me onto him.

I remember his one solid thrust and my panties were still half covering me, so they mostly stopped him, but it still hurt. A sharp warning burn between my legs and I let out a squeal like some sort of pathetic piglet. I just kind of flailed at him. One hand, the other, both, my knee grazed ribs or a hip. He stopped briefly.

I sucked him off.

I figured it would give him what he wanted sex-free. And I could go home and lock the door behind me. And everything would go back to normal.

But it didn’t. When my dad asked how things went when I came in from prom, I lied and pasted a smile I hoped just looked sleepy and not scared on my face and said things went great. When I woke up in the morning I couldn’t believe what happened had happened.

The more I thought about it the more upset I got. I felt betrayed by my boyfriend. I felt scared. I’d never been physically overpowered before and until it happens you always think “I’d just kick ’em in the nuts.” “I’d just thumb-drag their eyes.” I watch movies, I’ve read articles on self defense. I should be fine.

It’s not the same.

I knew what he did was wrong. Without consulting anyone, I knew it was wrong. But I was a big reader. I love Alice Sebold. I owned a dog-eared copy of Lucky and I know what victims of sex crimes go through even when they’re clearly the victim. Even when the rapist is a violent stranger.

As a teenager I knew about victim-blaming. How women are accused of asking for it. Liking it. Bringing it on themselves. I knew because he was my boyfriend, and because it was prom night, because I agreed to pull over for a kiss goodnight, and because I agreed to oral sex in lieu of penetration that he would never be found guilty. That it would be my fault and all I’d do by coming forward would be to make it public knowledge. Everyone would know I was a whore.

So I watched the bruises on my arms and buttocks and hips and thighs fade with the burns on my knees from his car seat. I didn’t report him.

I was in dance, though, and my friends saw the bruises when I was changing and asked.

I told a few of them.

That was one of the worst parts to this whole story.

A friend, MY friend, told me I might be mistaken. She asked me if I was sure. My boyfriend was best friends with her boyfriend, she’d set us up in the beginning and she encouraged me to give him a second chance. She said she was sure he didn’t mean it “like that.” He’d never hurt me. He’s a nice guy. Maybe he was just drinking. She knew what kind of crowd he hung out with. Maybe that was the case.

So I stopped talking to people about it early on. I hid it. And continued letting it hurt me.

Fortunately he didn’t go to our school so I didn’t have to see him every day. Avoiding him was easy.

I told him I didn’t want to see him. That I needed to think. He tried to tell me it wasn’t like what I said, that he’d never hurt me, he loves me.

He showed up at my last dance show with a dozen red roses. Like ugly red flowers could fix what he’d broken. My friend and her boyfriend were smiling next to him. She wanted me to come get dinner with them. A double date. And he’d come by himself, so the drive over would give us time alone to talk.

I said I’d check with my parents.

I called my mom and quickly and quietly said: M_____ is here, he wants me to go somewhere with him but I don’t want to. I will explain later but can you come get me and pretend you’re making me come home? Please, please come get me.

She sent my dad. I remember I was wearing intentionally mismatched Chuck Taylors, one purple, one black, because I stared at my shoes as I tried to find words to explain things to my father. “At prom he tried to get me to do things I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to be alone with him. I don’t want to see him. I have to break up with him.”

I told my mom about the same thing. I downplayed. They still don’t know what happened.

He harassed me for a while after that. Would show up at the house. Text and call. Get friends to text and call. He got a new girlfriend and for whatever reason she started calling and texting. Telling me I was trash.

Because HE attacked me.

I felt like trash for a long time. Because of how the events played out I wasn’t sure if I still counted as a virgin. Something I’d planned on giving as some sort of preserved gift to my soulmate someday was tarnished, if not stolen. I struggled with this for years.

Between the lack of clarity and the PTSD-like symptoms that would happen any time I was remotely intimate with anyone I spiralled as I began college. I hung out with people who were anti-relationship. One night, drinking at a friends dorm with a couple friends, a guy got me alone in a room. He kissed me and I fell backwards onto the bed. He climbed on top of me and started groping me. He was heavy and my leg was bent under me. I couldn’t get the leverage to sit up. My friend was off with some other guy. I panicked.

He unhooked my bra, tonguing my cheek instead of my mouth, since I’d turned my head away. He was drunk and fumbling and didn’t noticed I’d frozen in fear when I realized I couldn’t get up. He didn’t notice the silent tears streaming down my cheeks á la PTSD. He hadn’t even noticed when I’d stopped kissing him. I choked a bit on a sob and begged “let me up.”

He said “oh, you wanna be on top, huh?” Even when I sat up and started backing towards the door he didn’t realize there was anything wrong. I heard “where you going?” before I shut the door behind me.

I ran, literally. Grabbed my purse, jacket, and shoes from the common room and didn’t stop to put them on. I dashed into the hallway and when the ding of the elevator startled me I bolted to the stairwell before the doors could open. I ran down the stairs and sprinted across campus before stopping to put shoes on my bleeding feet at an intersection, waiting anxiously for a car to pass so I could run on.

I lived off campus in my sorority house and I sprinted all the way home. Not far, but far enough that I pulled muscles in my legs and could scarcely breathe by the time I was locked behind the door. I was crying in the shower by the time my friends realized I’d gone missing.

I avoided men for a while after that. Too scared.

I also developed a bit of a phobia about being without my undergarments or wearing anything that wasn’t 100% full coverage.

The couple times I tried to date I either had a panic attack in front of them and they never called again. Or when I tried to tell them I didn’t want to have sex before marriage, the ensuing questions led to uncomfortable questions I didn’t have the right answers for.

 

Finally I couldn’t stand it any more. I was no longer clearly pure but I’d never had sex on my terms. I wasn’t dirty but I had a fine layer of dust. Damaged goods. I thought I may as well do it once for me and be able to give a straight answer when asked. Not being a virgin was better than explaining I’d been assaulted and because of the gory details wasn’t sure myself.

I just wanted to forget the whole thing. I would have sex with my next boyfriend.

My next boyfriend was abusive.

My next boyfriend left me with actual scars on my body and a fractured rib that never healed properly.

My next boyfriend thought dragging me downstairs by the hair, beating me with objects from his bedroom,  and then raping me was fun. My next boyfriend forced me to have sex with his friend.

My next boyfriend knew I had an eating disorder and would use his genitals to make me puke and then say he was helping me keep my figure.

Because I consented to being his girlfriend, to normal consensual sex, to giving him what was left of my virginity, to a little slap and tickle experimentation early on in the relationship before it got abusive. Because I stayed with him. Because we broke up and I went BACK to him more than once.

There’s not a jury in the world that would convict him for anything he did to me.

Because I grew up in a society that believes women are asking for it, I had no hope of help when I needed it and over the years I grew so damaged that I am still recovering. If I had any hope of quick and just action when I was attacked the first time, I would not have put myself in situations that damaged me further.

Because I live in a society that thinks consenting to a relationship is consenting to anything a partner cares to do to your body, I lost hope that I could successfully escape my abuser.

Because I live in a time where there are rallies held to legalize rape, a time where judges that will suggest that because a rapist is young, and an athlete and a scholar and has not raped before, he is somehow exempt from just punishment for his crimes, a time where men will pull my hair, put their arms around me, and make lewd comments about me either to my face or behind my back in public places, I find myself unable to sleep soundly or feel safe going through my day to day life.

This and more is EXACTLY why I feel like it’s a mans world and women like me are just living in it. We’re trapped. 
There is NO WAY to be the change I want to see here because I am not a man. I am not the active party in these scenarios. All I can do is wait for someone else to act or cross a line and defend myself. 
I don’t want to mark escape routes in every situation. I don’t want to carry mace or other weapons. I hate that I’m in the market for a handgun. I don’t want to carry my keys in the shiv position when walking alone at night.
I will give all the support and solidarity I can to survivors who are victimized over and over again by our messed up society, but I am so tired of being forced to.
I will celebrate every win, but it shouldn’t BE such a big deal when a rapist is found guilty. Justice being served should not be the minority situation.
I want change. I want justice. I want to feel safe in familiar places. I want the law to be an actual deterrent. I want real equality for women.
But it is so very very hard to cling to hope for the future with things the way they are.
I wanted there to be a happy ending to this post, but for the time being there is not.
We NEED a change.
But I see no clear solution.
So to close, my beauty in negative spaces is this: I am not in the situations I was in before. I am lucky to have survived. I am lucky to be looking BACK at what has happened. I have also grown a lot. I have grown physically stronger to better defend myself. I can knock a heavybag over with two punches or a single kick. Elbows and knees are better for defense though. I have gained coping skills to manage panic, and push it down long enough to either defend myself physically or verbally depending on the situation. I’m learning to value myself like I hadn’t before. I am damaged, but I am not completely broken. I still have use. I can still be functional.
It is taking a really long time but I’m coming out of this.
Most importantly I am talking about my past. Its therapeutic for me, and it educates and empowers others depending on the situation. I’m taking away the power that those events had over me, I’m taking away the power that rape culture had over me. I am using my voice. I was silent when I should have leveled charges at the men who violated me. I can’t go back and change that.
But I will not maintain the silence. I will share the distasteful things that happened to me and say it is not my fault. I did not ask for those things. I know the truth. I am blameless. I said no. I asked for them to stop. Their actions were their own. They have nothing to do with me. I will not forgive myself because there is nothing to forgive. I will accept that I have been wounded, and focus on the things that let me heal.
I will build up those around me that they may avoid similar hurt. I will support and nurse those who have been wounded. And I will hope and strive for a better tomorrow.

Begging for Thread

Stooped down and out  you’ve got me begging for thread to sew this hole up that you ripped in my head. -Banks

I’m in one of those rare low places where I can recognize that something is wrong, but I also have no way of getting myself out. I feel like I’m between several rocks and a hard place. I did not put myself here. I don’t like it. I’m about to lose my ish and all I’ve got is the reverberating refrain of “why?”

I realized this weekend that I haven’t been in a relationship in 3 years. The last official boyfriend I had was the abusive one and while I’ve dated and even got to the point where I seemed to be in a relationship it occurred to me that it never really got to that point and I’ve been single for over 3 years, now.

Which didn’t weird me out until I started talking to this guy who is crazy serious about being interested in me. He’s great. We like the same things, are from the same place, our families know each other… because his dad taught my history class in high school and I was on the swim team with his sister. We also were on opposite ends of a double date once in college. Suddenly he’s all over me and we have a date on Saturday because I like him and we’d work well together except for the whole thing is really weird and outside of rationally knowing we’d make a good couple, I feel nothing for him. So I’m worrying about being a terrible person for not outright shutting him down, but also worrying he might be the one for me, but also worrying that that’s settling because there’s a lot of things about him that make me say “nooooooo.” I’m also worrying because one of those things is that he looks like his dad and sister which is weird for me but feeling that way makes me feel shallow.

I am mentally climbing the walls with anxiety over all that already.

On the other hand I have this stupid crush on a man who  I see on a regular basis, who hugs me and tells me I look lovely and trips over his words as he flirts with me while turning the loveliest shade of pink in the cheeks. He also exasperates the crap out of me because one day his arm feels so right around my shoulders, and he makes me shiver singing in my ear and telling me I’m “trouble” in the dark of the Blues room and the next he’s using Kay as a barrier between us and won’t meet my eyes or even say hello to me.

Now besides that, he may have a long distance girlfriend which is game over as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been cheated on myself and had enough men swept out from under me that I would never do that to another woman. And of course there’s the everpresent ex girlfriend who attends all the same blues events as the Viking and me and follows him around like a lost puppy but doesn’t approach him.

That ex girlfriend has become the biggest rock about to crush me, anxiety wise, for several reasons.

First off, I knew it was going to be a problem because she runs in the same circles as the Viking. She’s everywhere. If anything happened with the Viking and myself it would be under her scrutiny as well as the scrutiny of the rest of the blues/swing scene. And for some reason being an inexperienced dancer makes me feel like I wouldn’t measure up to anyone’s expectations because they’re all great. And his ex was a good dancer, and his current-maybe-long-distance-gf teaches at a swing school, so she’s a good dancer too.  So there’s that.

Then there’s the fact that I thought the ex was walking around with a lost puppy look this whole time, and it’s been confirmed. A friend went on a blues-themed cruise and made her acquaintance and is just SO goddamned enthusiastic about her as a person that when she spilled the circumstances of her breakup with the Viking, I was told I should get out while I can.It was a normal breakup by all accounts. Not great, but definitely nothing that makes him a bad person.He said he wanted to work on himself and didn’t need to be in a relationship right now. Broke it off. Then started dating someone in Canada. She’s upset that he didn’t come right back to her (and on Friday I witnessed her flip off his car as it pulled away and say she was going to go off and stew) and is clearly not over the whole thing though it’s been over a year.

NOW. Here are the points that are eating me alive:

I have it confirmed. The ex is not over it and what’s worse, after this weekend it’s been demonstrated that she’s okay being really immature about not being over it in public. That spells out drama if anything went anywhere with the Viking.

In getting the story out of Brunhilda (what, it sounds like something you’d call a Viking ex, WHAT?) my friend spilled the beans that the Viking was flirting with one of HER friends and revealed that I have a crush on him as well. A SELECT amount of friends fall in the category of my friend’s friends and people the Viking spends excessive time with. If we were to draw a Venn Diagram it would something like this: Me, Kay, and a couple men who wouldn’t count because it was revealed that the crushing party was a “she” so THAT’S F___ING IT!!! Now Brunhilda doesn’t strike me as the sharpest tool in the shed, but she’s not completely daft and the MINUTE she puts things together it’s going to be ugly. This is now a ticking time bomb.

My friend likes Brunhilda. She cannot say enough good things about her. It’s making it really awkward to talk about him, now. So in my overly worried brain I feel replaced. I feel like MY friend has taken this partial stranger’s side over mine because they have a similar romantic history. That’s not how things are supposed to go. You’re supposed to be objective but supportive of your friend’s paramours. I feel like I can’t say anything about Brunhilda now, because she’s my friend’s friend. I can’t talk about the Viking because he dumped my friend’s friend.

To make matters worse, this weekend my friend pulled Brunhilda over to introduce her to each. Person. In. Our. Group. So now the clock on my time bomb has sped up AND I have to be cordial to someone I’ve been actively avoiding and could have continued avoiding had not formal introductions been made. NOW she comes over to our group to talk and each time she does my heart jumps out of its chest and I panic over whether I’m acting natural or not. I also feel really fake and terrible as a person when I’m trying to act normal around her. The thing I liked about the blues scene was that I didn’t have to fake my personality. Now I have to put on a face to deal with people. I have to be looking over my shoulder at all times making sure I’m not being too obvious with the Viking, or too talkative around the ex.  Worse, when Brunhilda’s around, the Viking avoids me/our group and outside of the fact that I have a crush on him, he’s funny and a good dancer and I enjoy talking and dancing with him. I wouldn’t have been friends with this girl otherwise, I was already his friend. Being friends with her is interfering with the friendship I was building. I feel like I had an absolute TON of choices made FOR me by other people and I don’t like it.

 

Outside of everything else my abusive ex is trying his hardest to get in contact with me and I want no part of it.

I also haven’t been seeing my family enough and feel like an awful daughter/sister.

I also haven’t been eating or sleeping well so my mood, skin, and weight are out of control.

 

All in all I feel like I’m losing what was left of my mind. I am completely out of control and I don’t know what to do. I wish the answer would just fall into my lap but that’s not how life works. So I’m writing, and playing music, and hoping I can muddle through all of this and come out okay.

THIS is how I’ve been single for 3 years.

No one stays for this.

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)

Oh, look, I’ve been Impaled

Is it too much to ask, that I be warned when someone’s planning on sticking something in my vagina??

Sorry, too much, too fast (that’s what he said…. I’ll let myself out… Sorry again) but REALLY. I feel like every time I go to the doctor for something innocuous I somehow wind up in one of those awkward gowns that don’t cover anything, with my feet in the stirrups, and someone prodding my organs around from the inside!

I had an ultrasound scheduled this morning and before you ask, no, not pregnant, but my lady garden may be killing me slowly, or trying to fuse itself to other organs. Given the choice, I’d almost rather be pregnant.

Now they gave me all my appointment info, the nurse explained I’d need to come with an empty bladder, it wasn’t like we didn’t have some conversation beforehand and this appointment was scheduled 2 weeks in advance. There was time!

I get there for my ultrasound, still nothing is said until I get into the room and then this very nice lady I’ve never met before hands me a robe and tells me my ultrasound will be of the internal variety, so to get naked and hop into the stirrups.

WHAT?

I don’t think this is okay. When I was told ultrasound, I figured goo on the belly, sticky for the next few hours, wear a cotton tea shirt, good to go. I was already anxious about having the test done anyway, since, y’know, I MIGHT HAVE AN ACTUAL MEDICAL PROBLEM. Then they wait until I’m in the room and have no mental prep time before they tell me I’m going to have a piece of machinery shoved up inside me.

I feel that as women, having been told since we were little that no one should see you naked and no one should touch your ‘private parts’ that laying back with your legs wide open and someone probing around inside you with a lubed-up speaker on a stick is uncomfortable at the very least.

Then add in all the sh!t we develop growing up into women, in my case general anxiety over anything outside my door and medical settings in particular as well as a history of moderate sexual trauma, surprise penetration is not welcome!

But where is the line? Who do I complain to? It’s not the doctor’s fault, it’s not really anyone’s fault. Anyone in that office is going to tell me that the ultrasound was standard for the sort of problems I’m having. If my lady garden is the problem, I should expect to have it prodded at from all angles. My anxiety and my mental health are a good half of the reason that such an apparently routine medical procedure has me fighting off tears and a full blown anxiety attack.  Any doctor is going to tell me that my physical health needs supersede mental health.

I don’t know what the big picture is here, but small picture, as far as I’m concerned, I need advanced notice if you expect me to take off my panties.

Come to think of it, that’s probably a good policy for most real-life settings.