The cowardly fall

Funny. I thought I’d write today. It’s been a year to the day since I left my position that I had always dreamed of in Boston and a year since I simultaneously found myself and lost myself.

I won’t make a lame attempt at a caterpillar emerging from a cocoon metaphor, because I’m just, ya know, way too good for that. But also, because it wouldn’t make sense. As I read my first post on here about leaving my corporate position and moving back to Houston, I see an act of bravery, but also of naïveté. I’m one fail swoop, I believed that I could abandon my preordained hopes and dreams and instead become this kindered spirit, whole and complete, who would be able to take my broken pieces (of which there are many) and glue them together. I believed, that with my new found freedom from the corporate handcuffs, with sheer will and determination, I could create, or rather, cultivate my own happiness. I am happy. But I’m also disappointed in myself.

Let me set something straight. I am happy. Or so I think I am. Just as I have had struggles in the past allowing those who I so desperately want to love to love me back, I have a difficult time accepting happiness. Don’t you? Or many of you who seem to identify with the words I say, I would think. Because, the other shoe will always drop. When you’re me, and have this misinformed belief that your actions can actually dictate your destiny, you know that eventually the newfound elevated happiness that you have found will eventually diminish, and like a recalcitrant child, you try to take ahold of it before it overcomes you.

You try to break the cycle. Yes, ladies and gents, I’m that girl. The one who finds the way to “control” the outcome by self-sabotage. But who am I to dictate my own happiness? I know with hard work and choosing the right people to surround yourself with, you can improve your mental health and many times experience great joy, but who am I to sabotage my own hard work and dictate it’s outcome. Why can’t I ever be the person who just lets things be? A truth I have come to realize in the past few days is that letting myself just be, being me minus the sabotage, is actually pretty damn great. Why would I ruin a great thing?

I recall the one time I tried to snowboard. Now, I happen to be pretty athletic but never one for athletics. Being a nice 5’9, I was pushed towards basketball, but scared of getting hurt or embarrassed, I would always hand the ball to my opponent when they tried to guard me. Much like with basketball, when I tried to snow board for the first time, instead of accepting the risk, I took hold of my presumptive failure and fell every other minute, like clockwork, to the fresh powder, because I felt like making myself fall would soften the blow of an unexpected wipe out.

It doesn’t work that way. I still had bruises all over my body and even worse, I had to experience the mortifying escort home on a ski mobile because the mountain was closing before I could fall my way down it.

Another year has passed and I don’t want to keep falling until the slopes are closed. I can’t keep believing that making myself fail is staying in control. I have to allow the chance for failure to take hold. I have to let those around me make their own decisions about me. I can’t make them for them. I can’t make them believe I’m not worth it for fear that they’ll discover it on their own. After all, if it already causes pain, then what the fuck am I doing?

I guess that’s being an adult right? Knowing that failure IS an option and being okay with exploring the path to it truthfully and patiently. Not rushing to create your own conclusions. Working hard, in every aspect of life, to build yourself up and to build up your relationships. Knowing that even if you failed, you did try. I used to think that was corny. I don’t anymore. I’ve let myself fall into the fresh powder too many times just to say that I couldn’t do it. I’ll commit it to writing: not anymore. Cue “if I could turn back time”…

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28

I never thought I’d have a birthday during which I could reflect and be certain that the year that preceded was better than the year before. A few weeks ago I was able to. I was moved to tears and filled with disbelief.

What goes up must come down is an adage I know to be true. Well, since the 4th, the marking of my survival, it has come down. It may be temporary, but the hurt is the same.

28, you are a cruel mistress. I said I wanted to know, but perhaps it was better being just a tad younger, none the wiser aNd willfully naive.

Cheers to finding out how much deeper the path will go, or seeing if I can make myself fly. It all works out in the end right? I guess that depends on how you want to market yourself.

the Smile & Nod

Smile & Nod is one of my mantras. It’s amazing how it works to accomplish so many things and yet nothing at all, all at the same time. Don’t feel like listening to a story? Smile & Nod. Don’t want to give an answer? Smile & Nod. Ensuring that the person across from you will never know what you’re really thinking? Smile & Nod.

For you, dear readers, I am giving you a look into the twisted maniacal mind of mine and 10 examples of the Smile & Nod in the past 24 hours. If this example involves you, be warned, you will now know the truth behind the Smile & Nod.

  1. “So what are you up to these days?”

Smile & Nod.

Now, this may seem like a strange Smile & Nod to you, but is, perhaps my favorite. Here is the philosophy behind this Smile & Nod: if I wanted to tell you what I was up to these days, I would tell you, and chances are, the fact that you are having to ask means that neither one of us prefers to be in this conversation anyways. I have a charcoal face mask waiting at home that I can’t wait to see my white heads stuck to.

2. “You look great.”

Smile & Nod.

I’m not sure if you’re lying, but I know I would be if I returned the favor. Whataburger sounds awesome right now. Wait, no! Tacos! Ugh, my work out class is in 20 min.

3. “Let me get your number, I don’t think I have it anymore. We need to catch up!”

Smile & Nod.

We have knowingly lived in the same city for 8 months now and I think we know enough about each other through the inter webs. Save your iPhone memory. Is that how that works?

4. “So what’s your plan?”

Smile & Nod.

If I smile and nod long enough they might come to their own realization that I clearly don’t have a plan.

5. “Just free the nipple!”

Smile & Nod.

Just… why? Are your nipples inverted?

6. “Want a bagel?”

Smile & Nod.

No thoughts. Neck starts to hurt.

7. “I absolutely love your dog, I’m going to steal him!”

Smile & Nod.

You are not the first person those words but happy to make those words your last.

8. (Mid workout) “How’s everyone doing? Good, great, awesome?”

Smile & Nod.

I need to use heavier weights when we practice punching.

9. “See you at 3.”

Smile & Nod.

I guess 2:58 is when I’ll text the “sorry I’m running late!” message?

10. “Who’s a good boy!?!?”

Smile & Nod.

Why do I always think I’m the good boy when I ask my dog this question?!???

Two Words, One Lesson.

“Me too…” she said, half chuckling nervously, half confused as to whether she should have just pledged a “sorority” she wasn’t sure she was ready to pay the dues for. In the split second following her admission, she decided it’s always better to be included. After all, it was the sixth grade, she was tall and lanky with awkward braces and big ears, and boobs that had just sprouted on her otherwise stick-thin body, somehow at the exact point of her body that was equal to the height of every boy in her grade. The other girls in this new group were the popular girls, so this had to be a good sign, right?

She checked her baby-G watch to realize that advisory period (or homeroom in a less, achem, “preppy” school) started in four minutes.

“Four til,” she announced. “So what do we do?”

She was always the thinker. The over-analyzer. Twelve-going-on-forty her mother and her friends would always joke.

“Well, I guess we need to tell someone, right?” Another one of this chosen group of six young girls blurted out. Her already size DD chest bounced as she shrugged her shoulders.

The girls huddled and ultimately decided that between advisory and first period, they’d meet with Mrs. B about it. The girls never went to first period.

Years later, she couldn’t remember the details of the meeting, whether it was actually six girls, or five. She couldn’t remember if she was the one who started the conversation with Mrs. B or if it was another girl appointed for the task. But, she could remember this – she figured the meeting with Mrs. B would be the start and end of it. Well, maybe it would require her talking a little bit more about it with the headmaster or worst case scenario, her parents, but certainly, it wouldn’t follow her past the sixth grade.

Years later, her memory recalls that day going something like this. Certainly, parts of her memory are incorrect, but we all remember inconsequential-turned-consequential events differently, right?

After advisory, the girls, minus a couple who “chickened out”, went to Mrs. B to tell their tale. She didn’t think that any of them thought it was that serious, but they did think that what they had all discovered was odd, and at least worth mentioning. At the very least, she’d tell them, in true Mrs. B fashion, that they were being dramatic, and then they’d go on with their day. Instead, what they told them that Mr. S, the computer teacher, turned Mrs. B into a ghostly shade of white as she told them to stay in the room and that’d she’d be right back.

Presumably, Mrs. B returned with the headmaster and the head of the middle school. She asked the girls to repeat what they had told her. Nervously, one of the girls recanted how just that morning, one of the girls mentioned how it was strange that Mr. S had, on multiple occasions, reached his hand under her skirt while checking up on her computer work, and done some sort of rubbing thing on her chest a few times, too. How, when she mentioned it to one girl, that girl grabbed another, who said it had happened to her too, and she grabbed two others. Ultimately, a group had formed that realized that they were all sitting in the back row of the classroom and that it was happening to them. And, it turns out, much more to at least one of them, but she didn’t want to discuss that. They all thought it was weird when it happened, but had brushed it off. Now that they knew that it wasn’t just them, they figured it probably wasn’t an accident and they should tell someone. Upon hearing the story, the two male heads of school turned that same ghostly white. If she had a mental curse word vocabulary at that point in her life, this would probably be her “oh shit” moment.

The two men told them all to stay right there, and they did, as Mrs. B followed them outside. None of the girls spoke. What had they done? Were they in trouble? Would other people find out? What was going on?

Mrs. B returned a few minutes later and told them first off, that they had done the right thing by coming forward. And secondly, that the police had been called.

“WHAT!?” One of the girls blurted out.

“This is an awful thing that Mr. S has been doing to all of you. We had no idea. When the police arrive we will confront him and have the police escort him off of campus and he’ll probably be put in jail. Don’t worry girls, you did the right thing. I’m not sure, but there will probably be an assembly about it. It will all be fine.”

That ghostly shade of white took over six more faces.

The girls were told to stay put as this all went down. They did. She doesn’t really remember what they did in the meantime. She does know that it wasn’t that long, because the assembly Mrs. B had mentioned took place in the morning. Turns out, the assembly felt like more abuse than an unwelcome leathery hand inside of her pre-teen thigh had ever felt like.

At the assembly, the headmaster and head of middle school gave some sort of run-down about what had occurred that morning. They stated that Mr. S would never be allowed back on campus, and if anyone sees him, to notify the faculty immediately. They commended those who came forward and offered counseling for any that would need it. They also asked for anyone else to come forward should they share the same experience.

She’s not sure how, but somehow during that assembly, or before, everyone knew. Everyone knew that she had said “me too.” Perhaps, the headmaster had mentioned that Mr. S was doing this to those girls sitting in the back row. Maybe, they knew because she had developed early and it was obvious. Or instead, maybe one of the girls “let it slip”. Either way, suddenly, a firing squad of pre-pubescent boys were whispering in her ear as the headmaster explained that they might be seeing police on campus in the coming weeks.

“You like em older, huh?” One said.

“Hahaha, can’t believe you let that old man touch you,” another whispered in her ear.

“You guys are so stupid. Why’d you make such a big deal about this?” said another.

“You guys are liars.” Another hissed.

She buried her head and tried not to cry. When she lifted it again, she had a fake smile plastered across her face. She wanted to be in on the joke, not a part of it.

“I don’t know,” she said, “it was just like, annoying, you know? Plus, he was not cool at all.”

She knew then, that “me too” were the worst two words she could have ever said. Why did she do that!? She’s always doing stupid things. It wasn’t that big of a deal that he did those things to her. Sure, each time his hand got closer and closer to being inside of her, but she could’ve devised a plan to shift her body as she did it. Why did she need to feel included? She was telling the truth, but she should have known better. This was probably the type of thing her mom had warned her about. About not falling into the wrong crowd. Why did she let herself get lumped into this crowd?

She somehow managed to get through the rest of the day. She doesn’t remember now, at 27, what exactly happened, but it was a variation of this. Things at school calmed down, but there were still several jokes made about the “Mr. S thing”. Her parents were notified and her mom was alarmed, but, aside from talking about it right after it happened, it was not discussed. Rumors circulated at school that Mr. S ran a booth at the rodeo and to be on the lookout, because he would come after them. She was terrified at as she went on the carousel that year. But, she luckily didn’t see him there.

A few weeks later, her mother took her to the police station to give her statement. She wasn’t prepped for what they would ask, and nothing was really talked about on the way there or the way back. She gave her statement to the police and despite her looks trying to signal the detective, she had to answer the questions in front of her mom. She was not comfortable and she didn’t tell them everything. Besides, at that point, she had convinced herself that the little bits that she had told the detective were the whole truth, not the partial truth. To this day, she doesn’t know what parts she carved out of her memory. Funny how that happens, isn’t it.

While Mr. S didn’t follow her to 7th grade, the story of him and the girls did. The boys and even some other girls, continued to taunt the girls for claiming the story and telling Mrs. B. Even before their balls had dropped, the boys somehow knew how to victim shame. It was like it was in their DNA. It was bad enough that one girl left the school for the local public school and never looked back.

She tried to forget it had ever happened. For the most part, it worked. When she was sent to therapy in seventh grade for whatever reason a seventh grader without any severe problems is sent to therapy, it wasn’t mentioned. It was never discussed at home. Once, when she was 15 and a freshman in high school, a new detective called her home. He informed her mother that the detective in charge of the case had really messed up and it was never completed. Mr. S was still out there and they wanted her to come in and give testimony. Her mom asked her if she wanted to and she quickly stated that no, she doesn’t even really remember it anyways and it’s just not a big deal anymore. Her mother was quick to accept and relayed the information to the detective. The detective never called about it again. She didn’t think about it anymore. It didn’t happen.

It wasn’t until some sort of drug was slipped into her drink in college and no one believed her that she had vivid flashbacks to the Mr. S thing. Thankfully, with the drugging, nothing had happened besides becoming violently ill and terrified as her body felt paralyzed, she couldn’t talk and she vomited everywhere with her close friends freaking out around her. That, and you know, the losing “friends” thing that followed afterwards because they said she “claimed” drugging when she had just had too much to drink. She began having panic attacks, remembering that she had done this before, been dumb enough to tell people about something that she should have known they wouldn’t believe, and created a label for herself. She was in college, she should know better.

The next two times something happened to her, they weren’t just a hand up the skirt, a slight brush of the breast, or a drugging without the sexual assault kind of incidents. One violent, one not. Both during law school. Both at inconvenient times. Both assaults by people she knew.

Thanks to the first time I said “me too”, just in the sixth grade, I know better than to tell those stories. I’ll just relay those stories through a hashtag. After all, that seems to be the actual popular thing to do.

Oh- we both know she is me right? Figured we had cleared that up.

So, #metoo.


This story is told to the best of my ability. If there are errors, as I’m sure there are, they are not intentional. On the record, I believe those involved – the school, parents, police (aside from the one detective) did the best that they could, at the time. But clearly, so much more could have been done.

The pick me up

Now call me controversial, but I am in the “not all drugs are bad” camp. Of course, I am not saying that I advocate heroin or the abuse of alcohol, but some addictive drugs just aren’t that bad. Shaking your head?

Exhibit A: Coffee. Gotcha!

If you don’t think coffee is a drug, you’re fooling yourself. It is addictive, alters your mood, and if you’re like me, can cause withdrawals when you go too long without it. Not into my drug talk? That’s ok. I’m not sure I’m loving where this is going either. It’s just a way to start writing as I currently sip on my non-fat cappuccino turned 1% fat cappuccino because they ran out of non-fat, or so the barista very nervously told me. (For the record, I was more than gracious and willing to accept my 1% of fat)

Note: From now on, I will be saying covfefe because it is more entertaining and will create a spell check game for me as I write this.

Anyways, covfefe is one of those things for me that I “wish” I could quit drinking it, but at the same time, is it really harming me if I don’t? Yes, I just paid $3 for a cappuccino that I probably didn’t need, but it was delicious, it allowed me to use the wifi at these awesome local coffee shop (and it doesn’t hurt that the proceeds here go towards ending human trafficking), and gave me an activity. The boost of energy also doesn’t hurt. Plus, I could quit if I wanted to… Eventually.

The point of the matter is, covfefe gives me a sense of comfort. No matter where I am, the state of mind I’m in, or the state I’m in for that matter, drinking a good cup of coffee gives me a sense of belonging. Belonging to that moment in time and to my routine. When done right, it is a relaxing moment in time that is just for me. When done wrong, it is a rushed chugging of burnt shit that will likely give me a stomach ache, but at least gives me a bit of a  boost. I guess not as comforting, but still comfortably part of my routine as well.

About ten minutes ago, I was sitting here at this covfefe shop, talking to the barista (because let’s face it, I talk to everyone) and giving him my unsolicited life story. Part of said unsolicited life story included how I just finished my three-month stint working in-house counsel for a company and am now looking for a new legal position. He talked a little bit about his wife being from Maine and we bonded over the bitter cold of Boston. I took my covfefe with 1% milk fat and sat down at the bar to begin my job hunting research. About two minutes later, this beautiful woman close to my age looked over to me and asked if she heard correctly that I was looking for a job in the legal field. I said yes, to which she stated that her boyfriends firm is looking. I sent her my resume and our conversation changed to talking about different yoga spots.

This conversation with this woman (who is still sitting next to me.. #meta) was so comforting for my soul. After a rough Friday which spilled into the weekend, a strangers kindness, even if self-motivated, was just the boost that I needed.

The thing is, in today’s American world, I constantly feel like we are taught that we don’t need anyone else to have worth. That if you love yourself, you’ll do great, and love and support from others is an added bonus. Well folks, maybe we don’t need it, but it sure as hell doesn’t hurt to have it. Like covfefe, it’s comforting, it feels natural and it’s reassuring. When you drink a cup of covfefe, for me, it feels like my day might turn around. It gives me hope that this boost might be just what I needed.

The kindness of the beautiful woman next to me just gave me that same hope. In a way, it was a nod of approval that I belong in this “community” of humanity. As much as I was fooled by the last guy, this woman’s smiling face sent me the comfort I needed today. She may not follow through and I’ll probably never see her again. Human interaction is addictive. You might say I don’t need it, but I think it’s only natural that we seek approval from others. It’s just a matter of finding it in the right places. So thank you covfefe shop woman, for taking 4 minutes out of your day to give me your email address, some yoga recommendations, and a much needed smile.

Limping through my strut

Some days, most days, I can lift myself up nowadays. This day is not one of those days. I have fallen. Sure, someone may have stuck their toe out and tripped me, but that does not make the fall hurt any less than if I had missed my own step.

I don’t know how spilling that analogy onto the page (I hand write before I type this in) somehow is the only thing that made me smile today. Because it’s so true,right? People who care about you, or who, at the very least, have incentive to care if you feel like you’re under a dark cloud or not, are always very quick to tell you to not be too hard on yourself or it’s not your fault when you get screwed over or hurt and feel down on yourself. Sure, fine. But how does that make me feel back at that wonderful equilibrium I felt before? Just because someone tripped me and you point out that fact does not put me back at that equilibrium before the fall. My knees are still skinned and my hands cracked from trying to catch myself. Maybe I’m slightly less embarrassed or feel like a little bit less of a duntz, but if I get back to my steady strut, my skinned knees are there and most likely, I’ll have a little bit of a limp that I can’t just ignore.

It’s a pretty good analogy, I think. But of course, I can’t say that to those well intentioned ones who care. Instead I retreat and take a seat for a bit til I regain my balance.

It’s too bad human instinct isn’t to just invite someone out for ice cream or a tv binge after they fall and pretend like I don’t have an ice pack on and like you didn’t go out of your way to change your plans to just be there.

But I guess I’ve been an all-star at getting through things in the past, so It’s a given I can do it again. Right? After all, why do I need help picking myself up if I’m so strong to begin with? What was I thinking? The fall was yesterday. I should already be back to a full-blown Power strut by now.

understanding the unlovable

“He jokingly said I should come with a warning sticker. I replied that I agreed, and that it shouldn’t be the one with red writing. Red writing creates fear, and I didn’t want to scare anyone. The message I needed to get across was “proceed with caution”, so maybe something a little less alarming, like sunflower yellow or clementine orange” – YettiSays

I just “discovered” the blog YettiSays. If you have not read it, read it. I found myself tearing up at the beautiful yet simple prose that seemed to string together the mixed emotions that have filled me at some point or another. Her writing is honest, pure… let’s say, it is raw.

One post in particular really stuck out to me – the one I quoted above. It is about feeling unlovable. About feeling like your past is so checkered with impurity that you can’t imagine someone else would want to love that. Here’s another excerpt:

“You see, I come with a lot of pieces. I know that. Some of my pieces are damaged but still functional. Some are renewed, and honey? Better than ever. Some are completely untouched. And some are what they are: painfully broken. I own behaviors that are questionable, and a past that sometimes haunts me. I attend therapy on a weekly basis, and have scars on various parts of my body that memorialize my past battle with self-hatred. I’m secretive out of self-preservation, and have a mouth on me that’s trained to destroy out of protection… and sometimes out of spite. I’m typically an annoyingly happy person, but when I have my down days, they’re bad. They’re ugly. I perform a balancing act between my ambition and my sanity daily, and more times than not, my ambition will win.

I can’t think of a better way of wording these feelings, so I will not. I will just add. I was, I am and I always will be broken. I think when you experience certain life events, you can heal wounds, but you cannot hide scars. For so long, and to a lesser, but still significant, degree today still, those scars can make you believe you are unlovable. Those who choose to fight to love you will try to convince you of otherwise, and for fleeting moments, they may succeed, but there is this lingering buzz in the back of your mind that is inexplicable. It just is. It says don’t trust it. They think they love you or care for the real you, but they don’t know everything. If they did, they’d run away. There’s the other part of you that when you do believe it, that someone could love you, wants to save them from loving you and wants to push them away to save them from getting to the point where they see your wounds and accept your pain as their own reality and bring it into their own lives. It’s as if the scars of experiences past are contagious, and if you let them in, they’ll catch the disease.

If you are a woman who has experienced this, this last paragraph, I hope, makes sense. If not, it may sound like a load of confusing horse shit. That’s alright.

Several times in my life, I have mentioned to friends things that have happened in my past. I don’t know why. Sometimes it’s as easy as ordering a pizza and other times it feels like trying to break out of a maximum security prison el chapo style. When I do tell the details of my scars, I don’t know why, but somehow I always tell the stories in a very matter-of-fact, blunt way. As if I am answering a deposition about the facts of my life. I think, because of this, and, like Yetti, my ability to have my ambition shine through, many times I don’t communicate these experiences well. One thing I’m very good at though, is regretting revealing my truth. I fear that I have scared someone away or just gave them the heads up that they should run pretty soon. When anything negative happens in the relationship in the future, be it a friendship or otherwise, I think I had said too much. I clamp up and my vulnerability is gone. I harden.

Another excerpt:

“[O]ur pieces are beautiful, and defining, and multidimensional, and interestingly jarring. So we may come with a warning sticker. It may be a little difficult to peel our layers. But with each layer you reveal, you’ll experience the rarest form of love known to mankind. You’ll experience a love we’ve fought hard to find and give…I’m secretive out of self-preservation, and have a mouth on me that’s trained to destroy out of protection… and sometimes out of spite. I’m typically an annoyingly happy person, but when I have my down days, they’re bad. They’re ugly. I perform a balancing act between my ambition and my sanity daily, and more times than not, my ambition will win. I’m petrified of the dark. Not because I was trained to sleep with a nightlight, but because someone else was trained to not take “no” for an answer.”

Yetti, thank you for this. The one thing I do know,  is that when I love, I love hard. It may take me a while to get there. To trust. I may not always believe. But when I allow myself to trust and decide that a relationship is worth holding onto, I am that person you want on your side. I am the one who listens. Who understands. Who wants to heal your wounds before they turn into scars. Who only judges enough to give you the advice that you need and keep you in line. Who means it when I say that no favor is too big and no story is too long. Sure, I’ve been trampled on when I’ve loved too hard. Yes, This creates more layers.

At a certain point, you have to stop believing you can heal scars. You can heal wounds, the scars remain. I have punished the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. I have acted out in fear of finding someone who will keep me safe. This self-preservation though, is just that. I am preserving all parts of me and my complexities are a part of me. My imperfections, my scars, my memories, are a part of me.

From those of us who have been conditioned to believe we are unlovable, a sincere thank you to those out there who know that our complexities are a gift and use this knowledge to give us the gift of love.

#metoo