Light My Fire

Life scurries by us like a child who has stolen a cookie; rushes by like traffic during our commute home. It passes us during the hours we count down through our daily life. We live in a flurry of responsibilities, obligations and sometimes just functioning to make it to the next day. As I dwell in a time of year that has sorrowful significance for me, as well as the positives gained from surviving, I wonder if I’m doing it right. But don’t we all. If you’re not questioning, you’re not acknowledging. There’s not always a need to over-think, but there is a need to embrace the here and now.

No one wants to get to their death bed, no matter the timing, and wonder if they did enough. If they loved enough. Asking for do-overs and second chances. Because it comes upon us in the cycle it should.

As does the rest of our life. We don’t realize it at the time; but every move is defining who we are and what we’ll leave behind. I fear not enough are cognizant of this; including myself when I’m simply trying to get to the next day. Because it’s incredibly hard to stop and acknowledge.

I realize my introspection can be cloying; I don’t write mildly. I don’t live complacently. I’ve held the world for those who need me to, while mine lies at my feet. Conversely, I’ve had help with mine. An extra hand to keep it propped up while I rally the strength to keep it there. Those are the times when I realize we don’t get through this alone. Every person has their purpose and they come into ours like oxygen fuels fire. Quietly, subtly but with flickering, blazing outcomes.

Life is fucking hard. Let’s face it. Its trials, tribulations, rewards and gains. Losses and changes. I realize I make it all so grandiose. As though I neglect the smaller details. These thoughts come to me during the smaller moments, as much as the big ones. As I parent alone; two little boys whose life I’m inevitably shaping. While I work a job that is challenging and requires complete diligence to every detail. At night as I come home to fix dinner, clean the house, decide activities, get my kids ready for bed. Go back and forth between helping one in the bathroom (details spared) and giving the other his allergy medication because he can’t breathe through his nose. Already past bedtime and still answering question and giving hugs. The nights when I’m without them. Occupying my time, finding ways to thrive and sometimes just sitting in quiet or cleaning the house. Again.

I realize this doesn’t make me special. It makes me human. I lie awake at night and wonder if I was on my phone too much and if my kids watched too many shows. If we’ll get to later years and I’ll realize I’ve missed so much in the flurry of life. That’s just something I don’t want. We’re all going to have regrets. But if you can see them ahead of time, accept their purpose, not their misinterpreted negativity. You probably learned something. Gained something. Potentially lost when you were supposed to.

As I ramble in my typical way, no pre-defined message, I’ll say this. If nothing else, be kind. If you love someone, tell them. If you like them, make sure they know. If you want to hug someone, do it (but as I tell my son, ask first). If you’re unhappy, don’t let it swallow you whole. Do everything you can to not only survive, but to revel in all of it. Leave a trail behind that lets the world know who you are and make sure it’s someone you want to be defined as. Sometimes when you’re someone’s sunshine when skies are gray, it’s you that you’re actually shining for and it’s them you’re supplying the glow for.

We live for ourselves, but we live life for the pieces we connect. Find yourself so you can be wholly present for all those who dance in and out of our life. Sometimes staying for a while, sometimes leaving a memorable light we bask in like the fire that’s been fueled by what it needed.

Life’s going to kick us in the proverbial balls sometimes, grab it back when you have the chance.

 

Snippets…

Because by sharing pieces of my book, it’ll encourage me to keep going, here’s a snippet from my timeline entry style book that’s needed to take this long to write, but hopefully I’ll finish some day.

September 8, 2013

The call lasted for hours. The grape juice and vodkas I’d downed helped the process. But it was also because I was talking to someone I’d known forever for the first time. We were oxygen and fire. Feeding off each other. Ebbing and flowing. As is the way of the world; the digital playground of the internet had unearthed him. He was striking in looks. To me. His eyes. They held the world even in photos. Deeply. Dangerously I’d realize. His age a concern, but it seemed to be the path I took. Youth. At least when you were my age it seemed to be. Still in his 20s, even if nearly out.

I had no idea what I was looking for when conversation began over quick exchanges through the system’s limited abilities. Until we traded numbers and could converse on end. I was looking for something I’d lost. I’d left a marriage. I was one of those. No one plans for it. But as the world turns; and humanity evolves, we could be fickle or rather more in tune with changing together or apart.

I hated to be alone. Still. All these years later and I thrived on interaction. Touch. Caring.

We talked about work; made sarcastic jokes about whether we were each being catfished. And hours later, we realized we should probably hang up. We said goodbye and I floated for the rest of the night. There was electricity and something that was reaching me, whether preying on my vulnerability and lack of identity or simply meeting a longed for need.

We were going to meet. In three days. And it would all change forever. Indelibly.

Body Shame

I tore the pants off and threw them to the floor. Atop the other traitors. The pile that had already demonstrated my failure. Shown me that I’d never be okay with me. I struggled with the shirt around my midsection, tugging it away from the rolls I could see; the unsightly bulges I couldn’t hide or avoid. Nothing fit right, nothing made me feel like I was okay.

I’m honestly not sure the more difficult part of having an eating disorder. Actually being in the midst of it or getting through the recovered portion. The point when your body is out of control; your habits unrefined. No one looking at you would believe you that you’d much rather be waif-like; sickly. When you’re supposed to be “okay” and when the voices telling you every bite is a pound should technically be quieted to a level that’s not so distracting.

I feel like having an eating disorder makes me insensitive. Not intentionally; but in a way where I know I can’t ever truly admit to others how much I want to break every mirror; because those perceived complaints could be offensive to someone who struggles with their own weight. Callous in that the world has much bigger problems than how much I weigh. That the amount of time I spend with thoughts of my size taking over the world could be better spent on so much more. But I have no way to just shut it off. Make it go away. I’m not even going to delve too deep into the psychological aspects of it; but I can touch on the pure and utter self-hatred it inspires within me. The lack of control sends my mind reeling with how much better I could be doing. In the true foothold of the disordered thinking; this carries over to non-weight issues. If I’m no good at staying small, presentable, fragile even; am I good at being a decent person? Have I made other mistakes in how I’ve made it through the world? Do I have the ability to find enough pride in everything else that I can brush aside that fact I fear sitting when I’m feeling especially unsightly because I can’t handle how my stomach feels sticking over my pants.

I know. You could possibly be shaking your head at me. Rolling your eyes at my vanity. But there’s no vanity in purging. There’s no vanity in standing in front of a mirror and knowing the outline of your body will never match what others can follow with their own eyes. There’s no true perception of what’s there because I know that if my pants fit, I’m not doing the right things at all. Because baggy pants; too big and hanging from my hips is what means they’re wearable. If they fit, the sensation of the skin hugging the fabric is reminds me of my presence in its entire form. I can be just as uncomfortable in size 0 as I can in a 14 because I’ve been both of those sizes over the last 20 years. And each one in between.

I notice even the slightest fluctuation in my weight. Whether simply a food baby to an actual result of too much cake and beer (dinner of winners). Did that new vitamin I started taking make me gain weight? I should look into that and see… Did that flavored water the other night change my physiology and create puffiness? I should stop drinking that. How much did I eat yesterday? Did I miss a point where I ate more than I intended? Speaking of beer, that’s a lot of calories. That’s all what can go through my mind in a 30 second window.

But again the standard, stereotypical “I’m fat,” whines; the “my stomach is so big” complaints all seem so tasteless when to me they carry so much more weight than your average fat day. I struggle with not appreciating that I even have a body and just not being able to love the one I have, no matter what I do. No matter how many positive mantras I repeat; personal pep talks and perspective; deep breaths and looking again, they all come up against the wall of my sub-conscious. Reminding me of how thin I was six months previous. Or reminding me of when I was much larger and letting me know I’m headed right back that way. Those pants that used to fit. That shirt that wasn’t always quite so snug. Every morning of getting dressed and putting on something I haven’t worn in a while. The punch to the gut when the button doesn’t quite meet when conversely last time; they needed a belt. And to top it all off, none of this is evident to an outside observer; acquaintance, friend, etc. The one saving grace of this quietly screaming illness.

I see others who can easily and casually eat regular meals; like it’s natural. Easy. That it’s just obvious to them to do so. When breakfast terrifies me, because once I’ve failed that early; I feel set back in self-control. Lunch sounds great at times, but I just can’t do it.

It’s not only exhausting; it’s embarrassing. I’m a 35 year old woman. With good things in my life. Yet this just doesn’t seem to get better or to a point that I can relax. I’m not even “overweight” by society standards. I should like me. I’m not perfect, I’m certainly not saying that. I had enough concern with the previous statements that they would seem cocky or obnoxious. I certainly don’t see myself as better than anyone. Therein lies a component of the issue in that I struggle to find myself parallel. Being underweight is what I’ve been good at. How I’ve succeeded at an impossible goal; kept things in control. My outer fragility echoed some of how I felt deep down in a place I keep at bay.

I’m not even sure I can truly convey what I’m trying to express here. Just a glimpse of something that I know others struggle with in a variety of ways. That being human is sometimes so daunting; I wonder if I’ve just let myself be too fragile. That if I share it; I’ll see some message in what I’m trying to make known. That someday I’d like the half of my mind that fights me to come to a compromise with the half trying to fight back. I’m mostly normal; happy when I can be and as whole as a human is going to be. I just have this ongoing additional hurdle that blocks my path. I surpass it to be a functioning member of society; but I wonder how long I’ll have to keep moving it out of my way, only to have it show up again. And again.

Faulty Wiring

I have the lucky characteristic of empathy. I don’t mean that in a pretentious, self-touting way, because it can be just as detrimental as it can be positive.

An empathetic tendency means that emotions wrap around you like ivy on a building. And sometimes Ivy can make a building more beautiful and other times it can overtake the entire structure, visually suffocating what lies beneath. You feel the energy of the rooms you’re in. It’s overwhelming, and exciting and energetic and cloying. Tension makes you try to calm it, yet creates your own personal stress that bear hugs you. You’re constantly struggling to be the positivity because of how much you just want peace and happiness. Seeing other people happy makes you swoon from inside out, that sensation in your sternum that feels like you’re bursting, yet containing it in a small space.

If someone seems angry; you wonder how you can fix it. Because it actually overwhelms your thoughts in concern for their well-being; but also makes you dissect your thoughts to determine if you had a role in creating it. Simply and ultimately seeking an end goal of fixing it.

Memories carry with them more than the picture in your head, the passing graze of your feelings during that time. They carry the whole experience; muted, of course. But your sorrow, glee, confusion, etc.; anything you felt, taps you on the shoulder until you turn to see it and decide how and when to send it away. Past experiences can give you a complete grasp on how you want to feel, what you need to be you, but also endless limits of tolerance.

But my tolerance has a stopping point; and it’s unfortunately extreme. It’s like a tire. You can drive on a tire for a long time; the treads will wear and tougher terrain will wear it even further. If you keep driving on it, though, the treads can become threadbare; thin. And if you drive it long enough like that, at some point you’re bound to end up with a flat. You metaphorically deflate. The air rushes out; the situation, relationship, atmosphere takes the last bit you had to keep driving.

When I end up in these moments; I’m reminded that I’ve been here before and struggle to determine what lesson I’m fated to glean if I allow it. What this will contribute to my life story and how I’ll look back and perceive my handling of it. I get a little lost. I potentially think that I should write, yet am so defeated, I can’t see the point.

I sometimes see myself as abnormal, that maybe I’m not being a good grown up. That life happens and my intensity of feelings through it aren’t an excuse to let it engulf my mind. That there has to be a balance. I wonder if I should observe others and how they cope. How they work through these types of frustrations, sad moments, heartbreaks, and any other human experience. If I’m doing it right and conversely if it’s fair that I should have to ask that.

And yes, life can always be worse than that moment. But how do we learn to deal with the especially worse situations that will inevitably be a reality if we can’t see the small and medium sized ones for the challenges they actually are. For their roles in how we evolve; use our individually varying emotional intensities to decide how we live through every step.

Per usual, this is a bit of a wandering train of thought, but what I present typically emphasizes how the situation feels. Smooth, thoughtful or erratic and grappling. I translate my human experiences in hope that not only will it shed some light for me but perhaps offer a different perspective for anyone who reads it. In my empathy, I reach out. I turn to people, not only when they need it, but when I need it. I try to avoid burdening others with my mind dump of thoughts; but if I feel as though they can handle me, I try to seek answers and respect their take on guiding my directions when I can’t read the map. I spread kindness with no expectation of return; but rather in hopes it forges a mutual appreciation for everyone. And because not doing it just seems wrong. This leads me to wonder if baring my thoughts is selfish. If sharing how I’m feeling is obnoxious; obtrusive almost.

As I process being in a darker point as opposed to living facing the sun as I try to do; I wonder when my path won’t have as many broken bricks to step around. Yet that’s negating the fact that it’s going to happen and I can’t expect to not have imperfections through life. I wonder what I’ll see on the other side of this one; if my reflections of this time will-be accurate or confusing funhouse mirrors. If I’ll simply think I was being a fool. We are our own worst critics, ultimately.

While it’s unavoidable to not partially shut down, yet also feel raw, due to understanding that I have receptors that don’t quite work right, it is possible to work through the situation in the best way possible. I have mental oppression that’s not my fault and is just a bit of my own wiring that is faulty, and that’s okay. I aim to get through a dark hallway with just a match to see in front of me, than to simply give up and not work to get through to find a light switch. Plenty of times I’d like to say screw it, and just not continue to be me. To give up on myself (figuratively). But there’s plenty of beauty in life to offset the broken parts.

If you’ve treated others the way you want to be treated, you’ll never be alone. You might be disappointed, but you’ll always have someone when you’re not enough for you. Life is hard, but not really living it is much harder on your experience.  Make the most of what you have even if it feels like it’s not much. Sometimes I think those last statements are bullshit, I’m just trying to remember that figuring out why they’re not is how I realize I’ve made it through the struggle. Found some electrical tape to slap on those faulty wires.

My Book. It’s Probably Time.

I’ve been planning to write a book since I was, oh, 13. I’ve been told I should write since I was that age. And I genuinely love writing and it’s something I will always admit I know is a strong personal skill.

I just haven’t that drive to actually finish one. But I also had no idea how much fodder my life would give me for writing essentially a loose autobiography. If you know me well, you know I have stories for days, all true. All stories a great writer possibly couldn’t even make up. I feel like  now is when I need to write. So I’m looking for the push, the motivation to continue what I’ve started.

So I’m posting the beginning of the book I’ve finally started. The book I hope to finish. It could be next year; it could be 6 months from now. But I want to finish this. I’m looking for feedback. Would you continue reading this as a book? Does this draw you in? Should I hang up my keyboard and learn how to knit? Let me know. All opinions appreciated. And thank you for reading. :)

Here goes…

The moral of the story is that you might know where you’re going, but that doesn’t mean you know where you’re headed.

Because really. If you hear the moral first, you’ll search for the meaning as opposed to having it handed to you at end without time to process it.

But I digress. You’re here for a story. Mine.

February 20 2014

I stood at the back door. Smoke wafting out into the yard.  Clouds rolled by. There’s a beauty and a sadness to clouds gliding through the sky. Things change. Life changes. Nothing stays the same. At our base, kinetic energy will keep us going.

You never know the real story. You can hear it. Tell it. But living it is so much different. You don’t get to choose your own ending, until after the fact. By going forward.

We met online, as is our age and times. As more and more gravitate towards that questionable picture as opposed to deciphering body language as you interact with someone face to face for the first time. Basing judgment, applying gut decisions to some words and the perception that person has chosen for you via photo use.

He was younger than me. They all seemingly were. But he was different. There’s a magnetism in love that’s necessary for it to survive, but can also cause combustion should the draw be too strong.

There was no nervousness that first night. As is the way of online meetings, we’d already spoken on the phone and via text multiple times. I strolled in, sat down, we started talking and by the end of the night made out for an hour in a parking lot. He had me then. He owned my feelings. And I his.

But you don’t want to hear that part first. Let’s go back a little further.

June 10 1996

“Hey. Mind if I sit here for a bit?” I asked this guy with dark eyes and dark hair who appealed to me immediately.

I was at a party I wasn’t supposed to be at, with my best friend; doing what teenagers do. Getting drunk and doing things we knew our parents would be appalled at. A guy had been following me around, so I found my target. My savior. Sitting in his little Ford Ranger, listening to music and smoking a joint.

“Yeah, I do mind. Why are you in my truck?” he asked.

“I’m just trying to avoid this guy who has been following me around.”

“So you assume my truck is cool to sit in?”

Oh this guy was an asshole. I needed to know more. (Logical thought, right?)

I grew up in a small town in southern Michigan. High school is a field of landmines, mixed with prizes for those who avoid them. I’m not sure I ever found my spot; my niche. I liked everyone, had a mix of friends, and a mix of people I just knew. (Well, everyone knew everyone, to be fair.) Guys didn’t give me a second look, and I floated from group to group. When I was 15, I had decided that everyone else was having sex, I needed to take care of that step. When I want something, I go after it. So I met a guy at a neighboring school, had a two month relationship with him and succeeded at losing my virginity. Perhaps going into a relationship even that early on, based on who would pay attention to me and who would do what I needed is how I stumbled my way through future love and lust.

If anything, this night. This is when my adulthood started to form and take shape. I had grown up an only child, with very few rules. But this night. I can’t even tell you how the argument started. All I knew was that there was a party, and I suddenly had developed this new life, new friends. I was actually being independent. It was a different shift from how I had grown up though. I think it scared my parents who were never sure they wanted to be parents. They loved me, but had me late in life and I think parenthood was an afterthought. There was just this new human in their lives and they had to care for it. So when I reached a point where I was suddenly beyond being identified by how they knew me as their child and grasp for my own autonomy, it was met with resistance.

She told me not to go. But I’d never been grounded and it’s not as though I’d listen if I were. That she’d take my keys if I want. I laughed, because I knew there was never any way she’d get them. I stormed out that front door to my friend’s car, got in, my mom yelling behind me. Off to the party we went.

It was in someone’s backyard/farm. Partying next to a cornfield, as is small town life. Trucks parked in the yard, teenagers drinking, yelling, smoking and making out. Parties were exhilarating and I think that’s probably how I ended up chasing any high I could get later. That thrill. I lost my best friend among the group pretty early on, so just wandered. Talked and drank. This guy started following me around, and I humored him, though I had no interest. But he paid attention to me and I didn’t know how to say no.

And that’s how I ended up in that truck.

“You have a lighter?” I asked.

He pulled out a zippo, lit my cigarette, “How long are you planning on sitting in here?” he asked.

“Why do you want me to get out of your truck so badly?”

“I didn’t ask you to get in here.”

By that point, the other guy had found me. He came up to the passenger window and leaned in, “Hey, there you are. What are you doing? Are you with this guy?”

“Yes, he’s giving me a ride home later,” I said, looking over at this guy next to me whose name I hadn’t even gotten yet.

“She’s right. She’s with me.” He answered as he looked toward the guy leaning in his truck window, drunken confusion on his face.

I smiled. This was going to go the way I wanted. I would have this guy. His initial resistance just made me pursue it more.

“I’m Jessica,” I said, leaning in towards him.

“I’m a Giant Douchebag.”

Okay. He didn’t really say that. Not to get ahead of myself here, but he may as well have. Once I got his name, I should have second guessed my pursuit. Since his parents were apparently tripping balls on acid or huffing whip-its when they named him, he earned the moniker of Jocko. He went by his middle name, Ashley. A choice between mocking comments flung his way throughout school and just plain getting his ass kicked in high school by bullies.

As the night went on and he exuded his dirty, caustic charm I was smitten. In a teenage, needy way. I was someone who had very little experience with attention from boys, but craved it immensely. As we laid in the front yard, making out, I wanted to keep him. I wanted him to want me and I wanted him to own me. He finally did drive me home, and I just didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to leave this bubble of excitement, new experiences and the rush of lust. So we pulled over. Into a church parking lot. And proceeded to use his truck as a bed and desecrate the holy parking lot. Well on my way to embracing sexual freedom and embracing my choice to do what I wanted with my body. Oh, and also my propensity to sleep with jerks.

He dropped me off in my driveway, over two hours past my usual curfew. Said he’d see me soon and would call me the next day. I floated into the house, high on a combination of alcohol, weed and sex. I barely heard the words my mom spoke. Tersely and angrily. I drifted off to sleep that night, with immediate clinginess and relationship dreams enveloping me.

June 13, 1996

“No, he’ll totally be here. He promised he’d come over tonight, I told him I wanted him to meet my friends.”

I very rarely had friends over, and was not only excited to have people over, as though I was suddenly accepted and moderately popular. But there was very little to do at my house, out in the middle of the country. I had already given the brief tour and awkwardly tried to figure out how exactly having people over worked. All the while waiting on this guy. This magical, mysterious guy who had yet to follow through on his word and made me doubt my overall appeal. I had no idea how to navigate a relationship and simply made it my life. Three days in. As my anxiety grew over the embarrassment that he may not show up, despite my bragging him up to my friends.

They waited, patiently, somewhat mockingly. And waited. But they were teenagers and time is full of things to do as a teenager and waiting for a deadbeat to show up wasn’t exactly on their list of things that sounded exciting.  They asked if I wanted to just go hang out with them, but I resisted. I had to wait. He was going to show up. They could go. But if I left and he showed up, he might never talk to me again or like me. I would wait. I said goodbye to them and apologized for wasting their time. Inside I was feeling anxious to the point of not being able to sit still. Panic and self-doubt was taking over in a way I hadn’t experienced before yet would only come to know all too well. I fought back tears as the night got darker and the phone stayed quiet. I wondered what I had done wrong and if maybe he was with another girl, or if I just wasn’t interesting enough. I hadn’t been around enough to know what being used for sex was like, so that thought didn’t even enter my mind. I went to bed and hoped the next day would be different.

June 14, 1996

“Well, I didn’t think I’d actually said for sure I’d come over, and I was hanging out with James. We smoked and then we had to go pick up something at his aunt’s. Then I just forgot.”

I was accepting of this answer, he was probably right. Maybe I misunderstood. And who was I to assume I was going to take priority. I was just glad he had called me. I wanted to see him as soon as possible, he was all I could think about. He was dominating my mind, distracting my thoughts. I didn’t know what was normal and what I should be feeling. I’d had one other boyfriend and that was for a specific reason.

I realized I’d just thought of him as my boyfriend. This full immersion trend would follow me for large majority of my life. All in. Investing my entire self in a guy. Forgetting who I was and molding myself to be available. Perfect. Wanted.
We made plans to hang out the next day. I was working for the summer, part-time, so had to work with my schedule and his. I was giddy to see this boy. And that would be eventually be the trend that damaged me.