My Walden Pond

Growing up, there were two types of kids- the kids who opened their eyes under water and the kids who didn’t. These same kids also somehow seemed to be blessed with the immense and enviable courage it took to flawlessly master the high dive.

I, not surprisingly, was a didn’t. As a kid, despite my brother’s constant nagging to “just do it” I was the kid who did not open my eyes under water. Not even with goggles. I was too scared water would leak in. This led to a lot of near death experiences when my brother would confirm I did not open my eyes and subsequently try to “drown me” by holding me under in the deep end just to scare the bejeezus out of me. Additionally, this meant I was definitely not a swim team contender.

During the past few weeks, dealing with a break up has meant having a lot of time to refocus on me. I was focused before, but I think that’s something people who go through break ups say. “I’m finding me again.” “I’m putting me first”. “I deserve better”. “It’s better to be alone than with xyz.” For the record, I will never say these things about this relationship and never have. But life is life and things “happen for a reason.”

Anyways, with this free time I decided to invest a lot of my energy into working out. Working out has always been a way to cheer myself up when nothing else could, or at least clear the dark thoughts in my head. As part of my new exercise regimen, I decided I would learn to swim laps, and … I did! At first, I attempted to do the breast stroke in a way that could only be described as arms projecting out and about in sort of spastic Macarena and legs … scissoring? Either way, each day I added five more laps to my routine and with the help of some YouTube videos, was able to improve my technique just a bit and get up to 30 laps.

Despite my embedded sarcastic tone in the phrase’s last use, things did seem to happen for a reason, as I found myself being annoyed about having to fly to Boston for a continuing education course to keep up my law license. Somehow, however, my flight was just a day after said break up. So a day of continuing education turned into 2.5 week’s of Boston fun and escape. And it has been.

Most of my time during these past couple of weeks have been unplanned and spent spontaneously catching up with friends and wandering various neighborhoods and enjoying the beauty of Boston/Cambridge. The one must on my list, however, was a visit to Walden Pond.

Walden Pond, for most of you, is likely the physical written manifestation of Thoreau’s imagination and historic prose. For me, it is a beautiful escape that I never knew existed. Growing up in Houston, we did not have these natural beautiful ponds or springs to swim in. When I came to New England and discovered with awe the beauty of these natural treasures, I was hooked. I have visited Walden Pond several times over the years, and I knew it was a must during this visit.

Yesterday was the day. My beautiful friend who graciously let me crash with her for the past 2 week’s drove the 30 minute drive to Concord, where we finally turned left into the wooded parking lot and then crossed the street, walked down the steps and across the beach to our somewhat shaded (for her) and somewhat sunny (for me) spot we would claim on the beach. I laid down and it was just as beautiful as I imagined.

Now, I’m pausing here to tell you that there is no use of metaphors in the creation of what is to follow. Why, you ask? The experience was simply too beautiful to create a metaphor. It’s beauty was too true to be a metaphor. Too literal for comparison. It was the metaphor.

(Con’t…) I don’t remember the specifics of every time I have visited Walden Pond, but I do know that my time in the water is usually minimal and spent within the confined areas – not in the designated free swim area. The free swim area was where experienced swimmers could swim across the lake and back. Warning signs upon entry stated in no uncertain terms that those who ventured out were on their own. Well, yesterday when I grew restless in my half shade/half sun spot and read those words, only one word came to mind: “perfect.”

I walked into the water and kept walking. I kept walking until my toes no longer touched the rocky bottom and I was floating. And then I was “swimming” and then I wasn’t swimming, I was gliding. Flawlessly. I was being pulled towards what can only be described as the beauty of another world. Eyes closed under water, but open as I reached the surface with my eyes only on the beautiful clouded wooded horizon with the sun somehow coming through the trees in a way only seen in paintings. I now understood the term breathtaking.

Taking no notice of the distance I now was from the beach of the lake, I yearned with each scoop of water to bring myself closer to this masterpiece. It’s a freedom they write about in the classics and proclaim in the movies.

As I came closer and closer to the center of the lake, The most incredible thing was, I think, was the quiet. For the first time in my life, I felt peace. The only noise I could hear was the calming ripple of the tide interspersed with the sole voice of my own thoughts. There were no voices in my head but mine. No currents pulling me in different directions or pressure pushing me down. I was floating and I was soaring. For those minutes, however many, I was where I needed to be and it was majestic. I was floating towards the beauty of another world.

As the tide turned I noticed a woman about 10 yards away. I was no longer alone. There was an intruder. Without glasses I could not make out much of the contours of her bobbing face, but from what I could see, we looked eerily alike. No longer gliding, we both were facing each other with our confused heads bobbing in unison. My peace was gone and the beautiful moment though captured, was finite.

I suddenly became hyper aware of the fact that if I kept gliding, we would collide. She wasn’t moving, so it meant that I either need to change directions or stop moving myself. The tide quite literally turned and I turned with it. My eyes opened to the tiny figured on the beach and, struggling to find the energy, I swam towards shore. With each awkward stroke, more cries of babies could be heard and even worse, complaints from teenage beauties about their “flawed bodies.” My knee scraped a rock and I was forced to stand. My time, my moment was done. And I was incredibly sad. I am incredibly sad. And truth be told, this was this first time i had felt remotely sad since the breakup because I had felt it was the right thing to do.

My mind, just a few minutes before completely at ease was racing a mile a minute. That experience, what was it? How had it suddenly become so easy? Was this what the brain of a “normal” person feels like? Was this the outlook on life the prescribed tablet I take like clockwork every morning was supposed to give me but has failed to do so? Was this calm other people’s equilibrium or would it have been as incredible to them? You see, when you deal with mental illness, I think people forget that you have as many questions about how other people, the normal ones, experience life as they have about someone like me.

I sit here now, reading the notes I took right after the experience, full of hope that I could go back in the water and recreate the experience. I couldn’t. I didn’t.

I lied. But I came by it honestly, I promise. I did not set out to have a metaphor, but I suppose I’ve had a revelation in the midst of typing. Well, not a metaphor, let’s say a comparison. I can’t decide if I’m happy yesterday happened. I am filled with anguish today that I know that sort of experience exists and, though fleeting, I experienced it. Just as fleeting, it’s now gone. With my breakup, I am just as torn. Is it really better to have love and lost than to never have loved at all? I hate cliches, but seriously. Every other break up I’ve had, I’ve had so many major reasons to dislike the person, the relationship, etc. But this one, this person, we knew it wasn’t right in the end. But during it, the experience, it was beautiful. I might not have had perfect form, but I felt like I was gliding. I experienced a beauty and a peace that I did not know existed. And now it is gone and I don’t know if I’ll ever experience that again. With that experience comes new expectations and a different kind of unrest.

It’s easy to accept not having something when you don’t think it’s attainable. When you cannot experience it – never have, never will. Right now, wish I never experienced it. Wish I never glided towards the unknown without fear.

So what do you do. And please don’t tell me Bumble.

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