Uncertainty

February 4, 2018

I do NOT do well with uncertainty. I never have. When I was a little kid, I wrote out schedules for myself with very specific details. 3:00: read Little House on the Prairie. 3:30 draw. 4:00 rest. 4:15 use the bathroom. 4:30 read dinosaur book, 4:45 play outside. You get the idea.

This probably has to do with growing up in a very chaotic family. Schedules made me feel secure. I’ve seen this over and over with my students, although they usually weren’t as obsessive as me about scheduling.

I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of security over the last few years. I’ve had a breakup, my friends continue to get married and have kids and move away so I don’t see them as much, and I’ve had one housemate after another. But I’ve gotten to live in the same house.

I love this house. It is an old Victorian split up into four units and I have the main floor unit. It has 12-foot ceilings, a gorgeous marble fireplace (see the photo!) and a backyard.

So when my landlord told me he was selling, I was devastated. I felt like my whole world had ended. Because this was my security and my security is gone.

I really got very depressed and very distraught. I didn’t think I was going to be homeless but I thought I was going to have to live in a horrible box that I hated. I felt lonely and alone and like God had forgotten me.

I’m still a little bit in that space. I’m doing better now, and I am a little more able to see that I am not forgotten and that this might actually open up options. But it really felt like a crisis. It felt terrifying. I think i’m Still feeling the aftermath of that.

 

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Solo Travel

January 15, 2018

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I went on my first solo vacation two weeks ago. It was actually half solo and half friends but I was pretty worried about the solo part. I wasn’t worried about the travel part – I was in Mexico and I’m very comfortable with that country and speak Spanish – but about the loneliness.

I’ve spent a lot of my life equating being alone or being bored with being depressed. Because every time I was alone or bored, I was depressed. Really, horribly depressed. To the point where I couldn’t get out of bed and didn’t know how to keep going. In fact, when I was really little, I used the word “bored” to mean “horribly sad and lonely and don’t know what to do.” But nobody knew that or understood – I didn’t even really understand, so nobody could help me.

My trip started out rough. I took a red-eye flight, which apparently I can’t handle as well now that I’m 42. I was exhausted and recovering from a cold. My ears hurt and I couldn’t stop coughing and all I wanted to do was sleep. Instead, I was supposed to try scuba diving the next day and I did my best to talk myself out of it.

Since I culdn’t get my money back for scuba, I decided to go and just tell them I wasn’t feeling great and see what they said. They were very understanding and said I could get out of the water at any point if I wanted.

I LOVED IT. It was meditative and amazing. I loved being down there with the sea life and not on top. It was magical.

That was only half of one day out of the four days I was alone. I read a lot, knitted a lot, sat on the beach, and talked to service workers in Spanish who were used to tourists just speaking English really loudly to them.

I was there over New Year’s and that was the only day I really had trouble. I woke up on New Year’s Day and felt really sad. Not because it was New Year’s – I’ve never cared at all about that. But because I was remembering traveling with my ex and how well we did together. I was remembering snorkeling holding hands and loving being in tropical warm water together.

That pushed me into staying in my room and sleeping much of the day. When I finally got up to eat, I had a realization. I was staying in an incredibly beautiful place. I could eat what and when I wanted,  I could read, I could knit, I could sleep, and I could lounge in a hammock or on the beach. I could spread my stuff out all over the room in a way that would make other people crazy.

After that, I had a blast. I want to travel by myself more often, all over the place. I want to spend more time alone. It was incredibly healing.

Now I want to go back.

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Empowered to Take Up All My Space

December 14, 2017

It took a LOT of courage to do this, but the person after me doing the poem with the drums asked me to partner with him and… I did it.

Here’s the text:

With sweat pouring off me, I’m stomping my feet and swishing my long skirt around me. I’m not quite on rhythm and I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror because I know my steps look nothing like my flamenco instructor, but I feel free. I’ve taken dance classes before – ballet and tap when I was young, swing and salsa in college and as a young adult – but flamenco is the one I want to continue with. Even more, it’s what I want to be a metaphor for my life.

When I took ballet, it was always about trying to be graceful, staying quiet and in my place, and – even as a young child – not being too large. It took me until I was about seven or eight to lose my baby fat and slim down, and my ballet teacher poked at my belly and told me that I ate too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and that I needed to suck in my stomach. I was five.

Ballet dancers look beautiful and I admire their hard work and dedication. But I also know the sacrifices they make for their art – the long, unbroken lines come from brutally carrying their weight on the tips of their toes, something the human body is not made for.  The slim physique of ballet dancers comes from strenuous physical activity, but also, too often, from disordered eating or substance abuse.

Flamenco, on the other hand, embraces whatever size, shape, or age a woman is. My flamenco teacher is constantly telling us to “take up all your space.” It’s about being stable on your feet and your hips, using all the body that you have, and learning the technique in a way that you can impart the dance with all the soul and feeling needed. You are encouraged to land heavily on the floor, to lean into steps with all your weight, and to use your hands and arms in large, sweeping movements. You are also encouraged to make noise.

Another thing that draws me to flamenco is how empowered the women look. There is a specific look cultivated with this dance, and empowered really is the best word I can think of for it. Women keep their head up, look proud, and don’t lower their eyes for anyone.

There’s also the stomping – which is clearly not the official term and my flamenco teacher would be angry with me for using it – that is so cathartic. I found the perfect description from the unlikeliest of sources, Wikipedia.) “El baile flamenco is known for its emotional intensity, proud carriage, expressive use of the arms, and rhythmic stamping of the feet.” Female flamenco dancers often use large, colorful scarves and skirts, taking up all their space like proud tropical birds, but fiercer.

I keep going back to these dance lessons because they remind me that I want to live like that. Not proud in a narcissistic way, but proud in a non-apologetic way. I had to spend so much of my life apologizing for who I was, in both words and actions, that I didn’t get to have that proud carriage. I still feel so often like my spirit is broken and flawed in an irreparable way that it’s hard for me to accept that I have the right to have a “proud carriage.” I come off as empowered to many people because I’m opinionated and not afraid of public speaking, but that’s not how I feel. I want to have the empowerment inside too.

I also want to feel like I have the right to take up all my space. I don’t want to try to be smaller or shrink into spaces that don’t quite fit me. I want to take up the space that I take up and stomp if I need to. Not to be angry and reactionary, but to be myself, proud, expressive, and fighting for my rights. I want to express myself in stomping if I need to. I want to stomp because I am beautiful and persevering and have learned to hold my head up high.

 

 


My Team Showed Up

November 28, 2017

Today was a rough day.

We’re four days post-Thanksgiving and rapidly approaching Christmas. My family was totally fine this year – only very very minor blips. I had a great time with the kids (two nieces and a nephew who are the light of my life) and no arguments. But *I* felt not good enough. I noticed I was single, I noticed I don’t have my own “little family” as my siblings say. I was my own worst enemy in my head and my heart and I haven’t been able to shake that off. I feel like I am not good enough.

Christmas is coming up. I loved having Christmas with my ex. Actually, the last two men I’ve dated; we’ve had our own little rituals and not a lot of presents, but thoughtful ones, and our own ways of celebrating Christmas. Last year, my ex and I met up with my family on Christmas Eve (his is not local) and brought lunches to homeless people and cleaned trash on the beach on Christmas, ending with watching a gorgeous sunset over a clean beach. I miss that so much — someone you can build traditions with.

I’ve been working way too much. Every day, at least a little, and frequently 10-12 hour days. I love my work but I’m exhausted and emotionally depleted. I had some housing drama today that I won’t get into but I feel unheard and treated unfairly and it triggered everything in me about security (housing, financial, emotional) and unfair treatment (I was the scapegoat in my alcoholic family. I always felt like if I could just find the magic words to explain how things weren’t fair, that someday my parents would actually GET IT. But they never did)

I also had a reading today in a new venue, reading something that I’ve read once before but it’s not my usual subject. I usually read my writing about my students, about education, about social justice, and those sorts of things. Occasionally I veer out into reading about depression, which is tough.

This piece was about being a beautiful empowered woman with my head held high. If there was an opposite of a beautiful empowered woman with her head held high, that’s what I was feeling today. I was feeling like a broken, defective, ugly, guilty woman cowering in bed.

But I had promised and it was a partner reading and I went. I got dressed up, I put on lipstick and sparkly earrings, and I drove to BART and took BART to San Francisco and took Lyft to the venue. The housing drama was escalating on my phone as I went and I was fighting back tears. I don’t even know what exactly the tears were about except that they were about everything.

When I was young, I had undiagnosed asthma and most of the people in my extended family were smokers. I had (and still have) trouble breathing at all near smoke, and when I was near them, I would say I couldn’t breathe. They’d laugh at me and the drunker ones would blow smoke in my face. I said my throat hurt. They didn’t care. I switched to saying my teeth hurt, no idea why, but it made sense at the time. Nobody cared. I started saying that my EVERYTHING hurt. They still didn’t listen, but I felt like it was true. My everything hurt when I was around them.

This is how I was as I walked into the venue. My everything hurt. My everything was making me cry. I looked around for the one friend who had said she could come and found only a text saying she had to work late and wouldn’t make it. I felt completely alone there.

Then, people started showing up for me. These are people from my writers’ group who were there to support the group (there were four of us reading), not specifically me, but they were also there for me because I’m part of the group.

The person who had asked me to partner with him in the reading asked how I was, and I didn’t say fine. I said I was having a hard time. His partner came and asked me how I was and I said the same thing. I didn’t lie. I told people it was a hard day, that Thanksgiving had been hard, that I feel less than everyone else, that I was having drama/misunderstanding with someone which felt awful, and that I just do not feel good enough. And that I feel alone. And single. And alone. (I wouldn’t mind single if I didn’t feel alone).

They didn’t run away. They didn’t get scared. They listened to me, I cried a little, and they told me how excited they were to hear my piece again and how maybe it was just what I needed to do tonight.

I listed to the other readers and tried to fight my thoughts and feelings. My throat hurt from trying not to cry. My eyes burned. My heart hurt. Because my heart always hurts when I feel worthless. My everything hurt.

And then it was my turn. I haven’t watched the video yet but I felt good about it. I felt like my words were what I needed. I explained why I loved flamenco dance even though I’m not good at it (that photo is not me) and how my experiences with ballet had made me feel worthless. I told the audience how flamenco is empowering with beautiful women dancing who are stomping, who have a proud carriage, and who don’t lower their heads. I told them that I felt irreparably damaged and like I wasn’t allowed to take up all my space or be empowered. And I told them that I want to live my life with my head held high because I am beautiful and empowered and strong.

And these people, who I dont know well… these people were there for me. It wasn’t the support I wanted. I wanted a partner to drive me there, to buy me flowers, and to take me home and congratulate me. But it was a whole team and they got what I was saying. They were present with me. I hadn’t known how much I needed their presence.

I had a whole team with me. My team showed up and I hadn’t even known they would be there.

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Down Time

November 6, 2017

CA6877DE-825E-4712-97AC-3FC2A51EA7B8I’m having a hard time relaxing. That will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me or knows anything about me, but it’s becoming a problem. Or maybe it has been a problem and is becoming more of one.

I am self-employed so I work as much as I can, for a couple of reasons. First of all, that’s how I make money, and the more I work, the more I make. I live in an area that is really expensive and I love to travel so I work as much as I can when I’m able.

Secondly, and this is the real problem, I don’t feel like I’m worth anything if Im not being productive. I dont’ have a partner and I don’t have kids, so I feel like I myself am pointless if I’m not working.

I really do see what a sad statement that is, to be relaxed or to have down time is to be worthless. But I feel it. And I know this goes back to not feeling like I’m good enough by myself. I don’t know how to change that.

And I know this isn’t good for me, to feel this way. But I still try to schedule my life down to the minute because down time is frightening.


Here We Go With the Darkness

November 5, 2017

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The time change is tomorrow and, while many people are happy about it because they don’t have to get up for work in darkness, I am… not. that’s a bit of an understatement. Darkness affects me very, very strongly and always has.

Although I’ve been depressed in every type of weather and light, warm and sunny is best for me, as for many people who suffer from this. Dark is hard. Cold is hard. Obviously the two often go together and I tend to lose hope.

I know people who like the fall and winter. “Enjoy sweater weather!” they tell me. “It makes me want to die,” I don’t respond. Because people really start to worry when you tell them that out loud.

Some years are better than others, and this is a better one. I’m struggling hard with being single but I’m expanding my friends and community and that is really joyful. But it’s work. I have to actively be aware of all this.

It’s just that for far too much of my life, the dark cold night (and of course, I live in California so I’m a wimp) feels like a manifestation of what’s going on inside me.

We’ll see how tomorrow goes.


Well, This is Just Ridiculous

October 31, 2017

5BF5F0AE-BAF5-40D3-9C51-5D0809968CFEI’m feeling super sad and lonely today and I caught myself being really upset that I’m going to be alone on Halloween (tomorrow). Halloween is not a holiday I have EVER cared about and it’s not a holiday that feels like a real holiday to me. It’s just a Tuesday when I have less work than usual.

But the sadness and loneliness is real. I don’t want to be alone; I’m sad about being alone. I have a bunch of invitations to parties but I don’t want to go to a party. I want to be with someone and pass out candy like we’re partners, or a little family.

This feels ridiculous. I really never have cared about Halloween, never. I’m just sad. And it’s cold and dark and people are celebrating and I feel alone.