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Word Vomit

I haven’t posted in weeks, not because I have been intentionally neglectful, but because the post that has been floating around in my brain feels impossible. I’ve started and trashed a ton of times. While venting this frustration to some friends, I summarized what I wanted to write about, and after thinking it over for a few days, I’ve decided to just go ahead and post what I told them, so that it is at least out there. I need for this post to be outside of the confines of my anxious brain. When I have something rattling around in my brain and know that I need to spit it out to Mike, as messy as it might be, I warn him that I need to word -vomit. So here goes: 

When Mike and I met, he was polyamorous, but not seeing anyone, really. He had a friend who used to be someone he dated, but they had pretty much ended before we met. He hadn’t had a date in 4 months, and I wasn’t looking for serious, so it seemed like it was going to be fine: someone to hang out with once and a while, but casual. I had naively thought that knowing he was on a different wavelength would keep me from getting too invested, and thus, keep me from getting hurt. And then, we ended up liking each other way more than expected, and got so close. And it was so easy. Except for the poly thing. I understood it and had no problem with it from a theoretical standpoint, but to think about it in practice was another story. I was falling in love. And so was he. He wasn’t seeing anyone else, so that wasn’t an issue, but there were questions to work out and insecurities to face that are different from relationships between two people who are only interested in monogamy. 

Over the course of our relationship, Mike has fielded a LOT of questions. It comes down to this: when single, we both had assumed that we wouldn’t find someone who would check all the right boxes, but our solutions were different. It worked for him to have several relationships that each fulfilled different needs. I had just assumed that I would find someone to date, maybe, but no one would really ever “get” me. When we met, we didn’t have a roadmap for working it all out.

He seemed nervous because he was increasingly comfortable with monogamy with me. I have a big fear of comparison and am terrified of not being “enough.” There have been times where the general feeling is “holy shit, I’m so happy I can’t breathe, but I still don’t know what to do with this feeling or that feeling.” We’ve worked through a lot of it, and continue to do so. 

For me, the hardest part is that in some ways, I’m figuring it out on my own. There aren’t many cases where someone polyamorous chooses to be in a monogamous relationship, so there really aren’t a lot of people saying “yeah, I’ve struggled with that, too, and here is what helped me.” 

There are advantages to Mike having the experiences he’s had. It has helped our relationship in ways. Having to explore my own reactions and feelings has been really helpful. He has since adjusted his label to ambiamorous (which, admittedly, I made up), because he is not strictly poly, where he is only happy in multiple relationships, but is capable of being happy and fulfilled in a wider range of situations, from some polyamory to monogamy. And he knows that I have no desire to ever open our relationship, and he doesn’t consider that a problem.

So that’s what I want to write about: about figuring out a relationship that really doesn’t fit into most boxes. But I don’t know how to do that without ending up with people either 1. Thinking less of him because polyamory is still largely taboo, or 2. Giving me a long list of reasons why we will fail.
What I have learned in trying to figure out how to write this damn post is that while our situation is pretty unique, the experience of working through something as a couple is really common and vital to the health of any relationship. Couples everywhere work through challenges like blending families, religious differences, or a million other things. In each of those cases, there tons of reasons that a relationship might fail. 

At the end of all of that, my conclusions are this: 

  • I am ridiculously happy in my relationship, and that does not depend on anyone else approving of it. 
  • Anyone who thinks less of it, or especially of Mike, can go to hell. 
  • Anyone who tries to give me crap about it better be prepared for me to respond. 
  • Our relationship is very healthy. We have pretty effortlessly worked out a lot of things without it ever feeling like work, and when we do need to slog through a tough conversation, the overriding desire for both of us is to come to a conclusion where we are both happy and know we are loved by the other person. 

I guess that is it, for now. I’m happy. Mike is happy. And my brain feels less stressed out by having all of this on the outside of my head. If you have questions, I’ll answer them, as best I can. 

And maybe, someday, I’ll tell you about the dinner party with my grandmother’s crystal. 

Crazy Happy

A few weeks ago, I lay in bed with my head resting on my boyfriend’s chest, arm thrown across his torso, and we spoke in circles and tangents about a bunch of things, and at one point, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He said he wasn’t able to think of anything because he is in a place in life where he doesn’t really pine for objects. His desires are largely related to his comedy career. He paused, laughed, and said that the Mike of a few years ago would not recognize his present self.

I laughed and said that the old me wouldn’t recognize me, either. My own reflection would seem foreign.

Two years ago, I did not see myself in this town, job, apartment, or with him. I could not have fathomed it at all. I would not have anticipated the way my faith and religion would change. Maybe change isn’t the right word, but there isn’t another that seems to for either.

At no point in the first thirty-three years of my life did I see myself as happy, either. I was so certain that happiness – lasting happiness – was something that other people got to have. And then my life exploded and fell to pieces and floated back together in a completely different arrangement.

This kind of happiness is new, and sometimes scary. I am often terrified that it will vanish. That fear becomes anxiety, and a couple of times, I have found myself trying to explain it to him.

How do you explain anxieties to someone without sounding like you are crazy or messed up? I don’t really know, but I know this: his response has been breathtaking. It’s like someone gave him a cheat sheet that lets him in on how to listen, reassure, make me laugh, and redirect, all in the right amount and order, so that I come down off the panic ledge. It doesn’t take long, and I find myself back to normal – my new, happier normal.

Last week, my brain was pickled in hormones and it responded by making me feel like every minute was a swing between wanting to cry and rage. This is really unusual for me, even with hormones involved. For a week, my brain latched on to everything it could find as evidence that I wasn’t happy, that all the good things happening are ending, that I didn’t deserve to be happy. I knew it wasn’t true, but knowing that doesn’t mean anything when anxiety is involved. It made me feel like I was going crazy.

And for a week, whether he knew he was doing it or not, he helped me hang on, believed in me when I didn’t, loved me even when I didn’t feel like myself. It’s no wonder I love him to pieces.

There are a few things going on in my life that make me feel like I am at the start of a new chapter. It’s exciting, terrifying, overwhelming and exhausting. That has meant some bumpy days, but good days, too. It’s a new chapter in this weird ass adventure that has become my life. He is farther into his adventure than I am, but we get to figure it out together. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Beautiful

Every so often, Postsecret publishes a secret that could be mine, and this week is one of those times. I didn’t have the above mentioned dream, but when I read it, I found myself thinking I get it. I’m never told I’m beautiful, so… I get it. 

I’ve written before that I rarely feel pretty. Feeling beautiful is almost a foreign thought.

I am occasionally told I “look nice” if I have dressed up and put on some makeup. My mother tells me I’m beautiful, but she’s my mother, so that doesn’t reach all that far.

I remember the first time I’d felt pretty in years. It was the day my baby cousin got married in 2013. I had a new dress that I loved, my makeup looked pretty good, and I was happy. It was still while I was at my heaviest, but I remember looking in the mirror and feeling pretty. I saw pictures and was amazed that I managed to look happy amidst the darkest months of my life. Even as I started losing weight and working on being happy, the pictures from that day reminded me of a turning point: I had the potential to be pretty.

Then, a few months ago, my father tried giving me a compliment, but in the process, I was devastated. I know that he was trying to encourage me by noticing the changes I’ve made, and the work I put into it. In doing so, he pulled up a picture to show me just how bad I used to be. It was a picture from that day, in that dress, smiling in that makeup. I know my dad loves me, and I know what he meant, but what it felt like was someone saying What you thought was beautiful is something to be ashamed of. I could barely respond to him. I know he didn’t mean it that way, but damn if that didn’t cut pretty deeply.

I don’t get told I’m pretty very often. Definitely don’t get told I’m beautiful.
But sometimes I like to feel like I might be.

Fat girl clothes are expensive. Pretty fat girl clothes cost a black market kidney. 

For most of my adult life, I have been poor, required to wear a uniform of some kind, or both. Especially when I was in seminary and ministry, the opportunities to be frilly and feminine were scarce. When I tried to take advantage of them, I got grief about it from people who didn’t seem to realize that their little jokes and comments about “who I was trying to impress” made me feel foolish for bothering to wear a skirt. So I did what I could: I bought pretty underwear and bras.

Standing in front of my dresser, deciding what I wanted to wear under my uniform was the only time I got to wear something that fit my mood. Lace? Satin? Polka dots? Snowflakes? No one saw them but me, but I felt just a little bit better knowing that there was something pretty there.

That habit hasn’t changed now that I can wear pretty much whatever I want. Wearing boring, plain, cotton underwear makes my day feel less spectacular. I could be wearing the prettiest dress I own, and if my undies are lame, I feel it. I’m willing to spend more on what I like, on what is better quality fabric, cut, etc., because when I wear it, I have a little more confidence. A little more oomph.

When I wear it, I feel like even if I’m not pretty, at least something I’m wearing is. So give me Calvin Kleins, bikinis with lace so delicate you hesitate to touch it, cottons so fine that they feel like magic.

Today, I read that the average person has just twenty-one pairs of underwear. I found this astounding because I own sixty if I own one. I commented to a group of people that I was shocked by this, and the conversation got ugly. I was mocked and laughed at for having so many pairs, and for spending money on something they see as unnecessary. I explained that pretty underwear changes my attitude a little and makes me feel pretty, but what they heard was that I thought they can’t be pretty in regular old Hanes (I didn’t mention them at all). I was told that the things that make them happy are more meaningful: a husband who helps out, kids who do what you want them to do, etc (I don’t have a husband or kids, so those aren’t even options). I tried explaining again, but that didn’t help. I was told it was petty and pointless, and that I needed to get over it. I don’t care what anyone else wears, but it stung to be mocked and told that what makes my day a little brighter is ridiculous. I was defensive and hurt as I cried most of the way home.

It’s so damned hard to feel pretty when you don’t fit the common description of pretty, and as much as I try to be above it, I want to be pretty. And not just wear pretty underwear, or a pretty dress, or manage to braid my hair in a way that impresses people… I want to be beautiful. I want to hear from someone other than my bff tell me that I’m gorgeous, but that has never happened, in 34 years. I want to turn a head for once – in a good way. I’m slowly starting to have more moments when I feel almost pretty. I’m getting there.

And Christ Almighty, if it takes a bit of overpriced lace from Macy’s to help get me there, I’ll go with it. Because chances are, my own voice looking at that scrap of lace is the only voice I’ll hear all day that associates me and beautiful in even the most indirect way.

Sunday Night Spiral

For the last few weeks, I’ve had really good weekends, with the exception of Sunday nights. Sunday nights have been spirals of anxiety as I come down from the fun I had the rest of the weekend. Tonight, in an effort to cut that spiral shorter, I’m going to focus on what I am thankful for, in no order whatsoever:

– English muffins
– A really good pillow
– My dog, who loves me despite having been gone so much
– My job
– Having my own place again
– Red lipstick
– A few partial days with my brother
– Coffee and my programmable maker
– Halloween candy (especially KitKats)
– Old books
– Mike
– Quiet
– The lesser level of stress I have now
– Clean bedsheets

There are tons more, but now I’m getting sleepy and I better take advantage of that before my body decides it needs another English muffin. Good night, everyone. If I haven’t told you in a while, I love you.

Some highlights of the last few weeks:

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Me and Mike in the city

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Me and my little brother, whom I almost never see

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Darth Vader Cheaterpants, just after he won King of Tokyo

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With old, old friends at Lissa and Wayne's baby shower

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A day when I felt pretty, something that used to never happen

It’s My Month! ….Unfortunately.

Everything has a “month” these days. Breast Cancer Month. Polar Bear Month. Nuclear Nonproliferation Month.  Left-Handed Ginger Month.

Unless we’re talking about Donut Month, there is a limit to how many tweets I can read about it. It’s just too much to be weighed down with everyone’s “month” sometimes. Compassion fatigue is, well, exhausting.

In addition to being the month for a number of other things, May happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month. Aw, crap. This is where it gets really annoying because it means it’s kind of “my month,” when the thing that runs my life some days gets a little more spotlight.

I sobbed because there was no more ketchup.

My daughter spends days overwhelmed with depression and won’t get out of bed.

I probably would have taken my own life by now if I hadn’t gotten help six months ago.

He is just so mean to me, and I get so upset that I end up cutting my legs just so that it doesn’t feel like he hurts me as much.

These are just a few of the things my friends have said in the last few weeks.
It is sometimes the ultimate test of will to just get out of bed some days.

I still have times when I am suddenly afraid because PTSD is unpredictable. It almost cost me my horrible job two weeks ago.

The thought of living with my parents and working in this job for much longer makes me hyperventilate.

These don’t even skim the surface of the list of things I would tell you if I was brave enough. I don’t tell you because I’m a horribly prideful person who hates the thought of appearing weak in any way. The universe has a sick habit of pointing my weaknesses out, despite my best effort.

The graphics on Pinterest and Facebook blather on about how mental illness is not a weakness, and I get what they are saying, but they are kinda full of crap, too. Mental illness is a real thing, and it doesn’t diminish someone’s worth. But it does weaken you.

When you can’t focus, or you lose memory function, or your relationships suffer, or you start having physical manifestations of the problem, your strength just isn’t there. I think the problem comes when we expect to put on a brave face and function with strength that isn’t there. I don’t know about you, but having to operate outside my resource limit isn’t effective for very long.

We don’t like to ask for help. We fear it, so we look for solutions that don’t seem as obvious to others: alcohol, food, “essential oils” (my sister once saw a brochure for an oil that promised to help lessen the horrors of domestic violence), whatever. Just don’t let someone hear me mention a therapist or a pill, right?

I’ve always had generalized anxiety disorder, and developed PTSD a few years ago. The latter is far less intense or problematic than it used to be, but it still shows up once in a while. The prior is a beast. A nasty, ugly, lying beast that I deal with all day every day, to varying degrees. The last almost two years have taught me a lot about how to cope. Timeouts, “kindnesses,” cognitive behavior therapy, and sometimes medication are needed, and I’m getting better at using them at the right time.

An unofficial cousin recently wrote about how getting treated for a diagnosis that included anxiety has saved her life. She had thought that her misery was just how life was, but now, it’s like a new universe altogether.

I get it. Nearly two years ago, my baby cousin got married, just two days after I got my prescription for my anxiety meds. The first day on them was OK, but it was a pretty normal day. When I woke up and got dressed for his wedding, I was full of the “normal” anxiety I had before anything like that. They didn’t really want you to participate in the wedding. They only asked because they felt sorry for you. You better not embarrass them. Or yourself. There will be hundreds of people there. Just think of how fat you are compared to all the rest of the people who will be on stage. I took a pill as the personal berating I was accustomed to continued.

On the way to the wedding, it got quieter. It was like I forgot to hate myself, forgot to be fearful of judgment. By the time it started, I wasn’t thinking about me, I was thinking about how grown up he is, and how happy he looked. By the time I got to the reception, I was a “me” I didn’t know existed anymore. I wasn’t afraid to talk to the people I’ve known all my life. I didn’t hold my breath when I considered approaching someone. I danced (terribly). I had forgotten that life could be like that.

There are days that still suck. When hours last eternities. Moments when I forget all my coping options and start to close in on myself. But thanks to professionals and the occasional (appropriate) pharmaceutical, good days happen, too. Hours that are so much fun that I wish they wouldn’t end.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Most people I know have experienced some variation of depression, anxiety, or other tribulation at one point or another. Some of you have been at this longer than I have. At least a few of you are likely to be where I, and millions of others, have been: drowning in an invisible tide of stress, fear, and depression, at the end of your rope, not sure how long before you let go. If not for your sake, get help for my sake, for your children’s sake, for whatever reason it is that will save you. If knowing that feeling better will help you be a better dog owner, take that and run with it.

It sucks to feel weak, and it’s humbling to ask for help, but there is hope and light and a whole lot of beautiful on the other side. I promise.

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This

Holy balls Batman, it has been one hell of a week for my anxiety. Friday, I got to see friends who were passing through town and stopped to see me. Thank you, Jacob, Melinda, and kids, for your ministry of presence, time, and conversation. On Saturday, I celebrated the thirteenth birthday of my twin niece and nephew and got to see cousins for the first time in years. I don’t care who you are: when someone’s pants split totally wide open at a family birthday party, there is no laughter that rivals it (as long as it’s not your pants). On Sunday, I went back to my sister’s to do the annual Easter Egg hunt for the kids. They are so grown up that I want to just scream at time to slow down because it’s moving too fast… But they are still little enough that Caleb sat on my knee when there were too few chairs at the table, and Elijah was quick to share a Twizzler, and I was just overwhelmed with how sweet they still are.

Like anyone with anxiety knows, three consecutive solidly good days come once a millennium, and are certainly followed by a devastating crash. I tried very hard to keep my head above water. Some very patient and sainted friends listened when I needed it. The universe provided an abundant supply of pizza, which I have discovered is my fall back food (some women have Ben & Jerry’s; I have pizza).

I think I’m coming out of it, and because I really like lists, I’ve made one that I’m going to hold on to for a while:

1. I am who I am on purpose. I am not going to change that to make my boss happy. My brave friend, Steve, says “it shouldn’t be so hard to be who you are,” and he’s right. I’ve discovered it’s harder to try to be someone else all the time than to just be me and tell the haters to go fly a kite.
2. I am going to keep trying for better jobs because I am capable of far more than this.
3. I am going to celebrate all the people who stay with me instead of dwelling on the ones who have moved on.
4. I am going to spend more time with my dog. I miss her.
5. Emotions suck, but it’s better to have them than not.
6. Five days is too long to not go to the gym. It makes me crabby and stabby and moody, so I will get back into my habit of nearly every day.
7. Some guys are stupid. Really stupid. Really really stupid. But there are also guys who send me Empire Records quotes all evening on Rex Manning Day while I’m stuck at work. He might turn out to be stupid, too, but I’m choosing to be hopeful.
8. Hope is dangerous and nonsensical. Do it anyways.

Kudos if you are still here. I know it’s not profound or anything, but it’s honest and a kinder response than the first few I wrote.

Blame

She is merciless
As she stomps throughout her day,
Shouting her frustrations and anger
At me, blaming me for everything
That has gone wrong and
Pointing out every failure.
The sorrow in Sudan? Because I
Do not care enough.
The election of corrupt people? All due
To my apathy.
The recently puffy nature of my damned ankles?
If I wasn’t so weak and lazy, they
Would be fine.
I try to reason with her, but I
Don’t know why I bother anymore.
No matter how often I remind her
Of my redeeming qualities, and the
Lack of control I have over
Things like traffic patterns and Ebola
Outbreaks, she only uses them as reasons
To find more fault. More blame.
I’ve tried everything.
But the bitch in the mirror just won’t shut up.

Dancing Fool

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The super dark, sole picture of Brandon and me from last night.

Brandon was trying to point out a guy who was behind me, just off the corner of the lit up dance floor. He spun me once, twice, and then whoosh, I had spun maybe half a dozen times, as fast as my feet could go. My pink skirt flared out and I’m sure more of my thighs were visible than have been in years. My eyes were shut tightly after the first spin and finally my glittery shoes found a place on the floor again, my arms flung around his neck as I laughed and tried to find a steadiness again. The strobe lights made his face look like a stop motion picture while he laughed.

And we kept dancing. One of my oldest and closest friends, he doesn’t care that I can’t dance. I mean really can’t dance.

I’ve mentioned a few (hundred) times that I feel weird about my body, having shrunk quite a lot in the last eighteen months. I’ve always been clumsy and uncoordinated, covered in bruises and Band-Aids and more than a few Ace bandages. It’s little surprise that I haven’t exactly spent a lifetime on the dance floor. I am uncertain, anxious, and almost unbearably self conscious about dancing in public.

Last night was a friend’s birthday party. We had dinner at the best pizza place in the world and then headed to the gay bar that he and his friends have gone to for years. While I know that gay bars aren’t exactly intended to host us straight people, no one has seemed to mind me tagging along. For a straight woman with anxiety, it is easier to be somewhere where I feel like I can totally be myself without worrying about impressing anyone. These friends are as unashamedly themselves as it comes, and they beg me to be as honest, too. There is no room for bullshit with them.

Admittedly, it takes me a drink or two before I let Brandon drag me onto the dance floor. The other guys we go with don’t dance, it seems, so it’s me and Brandon. While I think I can tally my lifetime of dancing hours on my fingers and toes, he has spent decades working on mastering how his body moves. A state-winning athlete as a kid, and then years dancing and in the gym and… Yeah, it’s safe to say that he doesn’t look like the fool I am on my two left feet.

He dances with me anyways. And I’m slowly getting to where I am not as terrified to go dance. I mean, I still am pretty awkward. I am still convinced that everyone else is judging me cruelly when I dance. I fear knowing how many people see my fat jiggle and the sweat start to collect at the roots of my hair, and how pink my cheeks get. I tense up and am certain that everyone else is wondering why on earth my hands are on his hips or his arms on my shoulders, given the fact that it’s a gay bar and we aren’t the most likely of couples on the floor.

There were a couple times last night when anxiety peaked and I thought, “Oh man, I have to stop. Someone find me a corner and a beer,” but then the song would change and he would be excited to keep dancing to the next one. Or I would check myself and remember that most people were ignoring me as much as I was ignoring them. Or, at least once, I thought “screw it, I’m having fun, even if I look like I’m seizing.”

Altogether, it was a really fun night. A few birthday shots, a few beers, a few kisses, a ton of laughter. It was precisely what I needed after a long and miserable week at work. It was another mark of progress, too, since there was a time when no amount of alcohol, or smiles from Brandon, or any promise of fame or fortune could have gotten me to dance.

I did dance, though, and had fun doing it. I was brave, in my own way. And if anyone was hating or judging, they can shove it up their heinies.

Weary Progress

“All at once the world can overwhelm me.
There’s almost nothing you could tell me that would ease my mind.
Which way will you run?
When it’s always all around you
And the feeling lost and found you again,
The feeling that we have no control?”
-Jack Johnson, All at Once

A few weeks ago, I started communicating with a guy I’ll call B, and we exchanged messages for probably two weeks, and I liked him, despite the unlikelihood of me picking him out of the bunch. He’s a few years younger, for one, and, perhaps more intimidating is the fact that he’s more attractive. He made the first move. I thought it was going well, and then he stopped. I was a little bummed, but it’s not like I can force someone to communicate.

Yesterday, he messaged me and said he was sorry, had gotten really sick and kind of receded until he felt better, and wants to keep getting to know me. Seems fair, because I don’t want to be bothered when I’m sick, either. We texted for 4 hours last night. He asked me out, and I said yes. We have plans for dinner on Sunday, since I have plans with Brandon and Grant on Friday and he has plans for Saturday.

I’m excited. And terrified.

Melissa asked what I was going to wear, and I have no idea. Because my body doesn’t make any damned sense anymore. I’ve lost so much weight and my body has changed so much fat into muscle (with a long way yet to go) that I am more awkward than a middle schooler. I don’t know what to wear anymore.

Two weeks ago, I met with my trainer for the first time. When we talked about what I do, and where I want to be, and he said “You’re doing everything right. Why am I here?” To which I honestly replied, “Because I’m bored with it and need someone to show me new things and help me keep at it. I’m only happy when I’m miserable.”

It’s like he was sent by Satan himself to give me the most horribly, wonderfully miserable routine possible. Balance work on the Bosu ball. Hill climbing. The pull up machine. Um. Do I look like I do pull ups? To paraphrase the great John Pinette: I don’t do “ups.” Up defies gravity, and gravity is a law. I obey the law!

But because when it comes to the gym, I am happy when I am miserable, and I do it. “Don’t go by what you weigh, go by how your clothes fit. You can weigh yourself once a week, if you feel like you have to,” he said.

Well, OK, Ryan, after one week, I’d GAINED three pounds, and after two, I’m back where I started but now my work jeans don’t stay up even with a belt and while my shoulders are starting to look like real shoulders, the increase in upper muscle means I have bat wings like never before. So now I can’t wear my magenta dress to the gay bar with the boys on Friday because it’s sleeveless.

And I have no clue about what to wear on Sunday for my date with B.

My body has been changing for 18 months now. It is exhausting. Totally and completely exhausting to constantly have to reevaluate how I feel about my body. It’s overwhelming to try to find continual acceptance of it. I’m forever noticing that my left thigh is thinner than my right, but my right ankle is thinner, and some days I have cheekbones but other days, my face seems puffier, and on and on.

Tonight, I am weary of it. I’m anxious about meeting B and disappointing him somehow, despite the fact that he has seen pictures. While freaking out at the gym, Brandon tried reassuring me that the things I don’t like, like my bat wings, are “just battle wounds.” He’s incredibly accurate, but it’s a war fought entirely with myself. The wounds are deeper because they are self-inflicted.

I’m trying to not be too anxious, but I’m losing that battle at the moment. Even though B texted me about two paragraphs into writing this. It’s both nice and more pressure.

Before I think myself in too many more circles, I’m going to leave this here, and text B and listen to Jack Johnson for a little while before I fall asleep. And try to be kind to myself.

Give Me Shelter

When my family and I first moved to our home in Ludington, MI when I was a kid, I didn’t expect that the previous kids would have left not one but two snow forts in the back yard. That was a major bonus for a kid like me who lost interest shortly into projects as lengthy as fort building. One even had a tunnel. It was nice to have somewhere that hide during the snowball fights.

Around the same age, my friends and I would beg and plead for the chance to build blanket forts when we were indoors. Stretched over sofas and pinned under kitchen chairs, the blankets gave us the illusion of separation. As long as we were in the fort, no one could hear us whisper or see how many Milky Ways we shoved in our mouths.

As adults, my friends and I joke on tough days that we are going to revert to our younger selves and hang out in blanket forts, only this time with KitKats and bottles of wine. There, we can forget about grown up things like boyfriends/husbands, credit scores, and whiney kids. The only place that will exist will be that little pocket of the universe, tucked inside bedsheets and buffeted by couch cushions. Safe, worry-free, no stress… Sounds lovely, eh?

Of course that never gets to happen, in part because we live so far apart. We dream though. Little moments when we close our eyes and exhale.

I’ve been up for 38 of the last 42 hours, and the sleep I had prior was very limited and restless. Work was needlessly stressful today, I spent almost five hours on the road to pick up my sister from the airport. In my exhausted state, I started rethinking my financial plans for the next few months. I tried sorting out a major emotional dilemma – something I can’t do when well rested, let alone now.

I’m overwhelmed. I want to be in a blanket fort inside of the snow fort, protected from whatever comes flying this way next, and apart from the rest of the world. It’s just a temporary feeling. One that will be gone after tonight’s sleep and tomorrow’s coffee.

While I might not get the fortress I want right now, I am reminded that I have the shelter I need: a physical one that keeps me out of this horrendously cold weather, and the shelter of friends who love me. Friends who stand as shields and who crawl in and hide out with me, depending on the day. Sometimes, on nights that seem dark and long, I find shelter in knowing that while I sleep, friends from here to New Zealand and back are up and moving around, sometimes praying for me. The affection of friends is the most effective shelter there is against the overwhelming anxiety of just being.

With that comfort, I’m going to try to sleep. I wish you a good night, or day, depending on your hemisphere, and promise you that should you need a fort, I’ll bring the blankets and KitKats.*

*Unless, you know, that’s logistically impossible; in that case, they will be symbolically delivered via Messenger stickers.