No Contest

One day I will feel the waves between my toes and the sand soft against my feet. One day I will run my hands over every curve so convex and think: afternoon full of belly-shaking laughter, rather than stomach stuffed with banana cream pie. One day I will know my way around an ice cream cone and, equally happily, my way out of a guilt trip. One day I won’t need to tip upside down in order to breathe. (Channel somewhere so serene.)

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One day I will remember what it’s like to nuzzle somebody’s neck. What it’s like to have every exhale come easy, so easy. What it’s like to feel my heart slow to beat with somebody else’s.

One day I won’t spook, when someone wants to cradle my hips. Cup the back of my head, trace the trajectory of my lips. One day I’ll wonder what on earth I’d been doing, waiting so long. Taking so long.

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One day I won’t wake up burning, tossing and turning, itching to get out of this skin. One day I will have left this part of my life behind.

Hope swells even as I type that — a big, shiny soap bubble in my chest.

But “one day” has not arrived. I’m still stuck at the part where dreams deflate so frustratingly fast, and tears spill over whenever it’s most inconvenient. Wherever it’s most embarrassing.

I’m hoping that you’ll tell me that you’ve cried at work. Or on a bus clearly over capacity, or in the 10-item and under line at the grocery store, or smack in the middle of a yoga class. Or on the first floor of the public library, or next to some stranger innocently sipping on his Americano, carefully avoiding awkward eye contact.

Yes? Yes to any of those, all of those? (I want to be friends. Why do none of you live in Oregon?!)

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Sometimes I sit here and wonder how I ended up way out here, with an eating disorder I can’t seem to shake. 60% of the time, it just doesn’t feel real. I wish it weren’t real. I wish somebody would hurry up, reach over to flick on the light. Cuddle me close, and say hey, hey. Easy. Just a dream. Just a really bad dream.

There’s nobody there in the morning. Just me, and the show the sky puts on. Every morning, even though so many sleep straight through.

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It’s the umpteenth reminder that we’re all lucky to be here, muddling our way through.

I am muddling my way — progressing and regressing, remembering and forgetting, all of the time.

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Taking care of ourselves means different things on different days. It doesn’t always mean waking up at 5am to go to the gym; it doesn’t always mean eating oatmeal with berries for breakfast. Sometimes taking care of ourselves is as small as brushing our teeth, as simple as combing our hair, as basic as putting on a new pair of underwear. (Even if we do plan to slip back into yesterday’s pants.)

In my case, taking care of myself means admitting when I haven’t been.

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You know that I’ve started working again. You know that it started out great, so promising. What you don’t know is that my composure has cracked — is cracking. What you don’t know is I’ve lost weight two checkups in a row.

What you don’t know is that I could have sworn I was still expanding exponentially — every morning more. What you don’t know is that I’m back to agonizing over it. Back to wondering how I’m ever going to tolerate gaining any more. And I have to gain more — more still. (Even though I know she’s right, it still sucks, so badly.) What you don’t know is I’m back on the meal plan, back to wondering if this is ever going to end. How this is ever going to end.

Recovery took a direct hit when I went back to work. That much is clear. All of the time and energy I’d been funneling directly into recovering got divided every which way.

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I knew that would happen, and I thought I was ready for it. I thought it’d be fine, after a rocky start, and it still might be. But it feels decidedly less fine, without a [real] support system right here. My support comes primarily from people I pay. The rest are too far away for the hugs I need and the distractions I crave.

I miss being able to pour so much time and energy into writing. Into connecting with people.

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But let’s remember what we’re really trying to do here.

I’m trying to be more present and less petty. I’m trying to forget how I looked before, and remember how awful it felt. I’m trying to be okay with 10 trillion feelings bubbling up, and 2 more pairs of too-tight pants. I’m trying not to be so small, so afraid. I’m trying to remember my red trench coat with the tie — the one that makes me feel sexy and smart. (Or 24 and trying, at least.)

I’m trying to remember that some days are bound to go better than others. That I should love the heck out of Oregon, for as long as I’m here, and try not to get too caught up worrying about where I’ll go next, and what will happen there.

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I’m trying to remember that I would much rather be friends with someone sensitive and sweet and so up for Sunday morning Shakshuka. I’m trying to remember that my heart has been bruised, not broken, and when you really care about someone, the nicest thing you can do is let them be happy, with or without you. I’m trying to remember that if you’re approaching 24.5 and you still haven’t met someone you want to move in with, it does not spell certain doom.

What else? I’m trying to remember to spend more time outside, where all of this stuff feels stupid and so insignificant and so gloriously far away.

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And I’m trying to remember that I can start over each morning. That when I protect myself from pain, I’m also sure to shield myself from every other feeling. Every other possibility. All of the ones that trump pain, no contest.

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{Crater Lake via @oregonexplored, Cannon Beach via @sliceofpai, Salton Sea via @kdkuiper, Rocky Coast via @leiferiksmith, Croatian Falls via @zachbresnick, Palouse Falls via @ngreener, Mount Hood via @robbyzabala.}

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