Exactly Where We’re Stuck

I’ve talked before about writing as an exercise in pulse-taking. In how-are-we-doing, why-don’t-you-climb-on-up. I get to skip the scratchy paper gown and sad attempt at a belt, but I don’t typically wind up feeling any less exposed here than I do there. Perched in an awkward half-sit, on top of that crinkly strip of sheet. Sweating.

Sometimes I hit publish; sometimes I don’t. But always, always, always: it feels good to have gotten it down, out.

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It helps to remember that no one’s out there holding up a stopwatch, timing how long it’s taking me to stop getting tripped up by the same old things.

I’m still anorexic. My fingers seem to type the words of their own volition. Looking at them there, floating at the top of my supposed blank slate, I’m quick to tack on: but I’ve come so far.

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And I have. But I’ve slipped, too. Over and over again, I slip. It would appear there are a fair number of switchbacks to this trail.

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Maybe this isn’t such bad news; maybe this is just what’s supposed to be happening. Maybe you’re finally supposed to get good and sick of going the long way and just start plowing towards the top. Head down, heart strong.

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I gain the weight, I lose the weight, I gain the weight, I lose the weight. I get so close, to this life where what I look like just doesn’t matter, and then I get too lonely and falter. Or too stressed, and all of sudden it becomes 10x harder to resist the urge to regulate what I eat.

I cut back on carbs and shy away from sweets and start throwing in the odd HIIT workout and almost immediately, I slim down. But I don’t feel better. I feel worse. Exponentially worse. I feel sad and small and scared — frightened in the face of almost all of life. I become anxious with a capital A. Not your garden-variety knot in the stomach, but the kind of running rampant dread/terror/panic that says hi, hey, hello, we want OUT, immediately.

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The irony is, if I am doing all of this in an effort to be loved, I lose all interest in meeting someone every time I lose weight. I retreat even more than I would ordinarily. I don’t want to be loved thin. (And I don’t feel lovable this way.) I want to be loved average and imperfect and sweet and sensitive and — have you met her?! — so much fun to be with.

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I don’t know how to get from here to there. How do you work on your self-esteem, so when your boss says you are so talented and you have so much potential, you believe him? Or so when a guy tells you you’re beautiful, you aren’t immediately suspicious? *Deletes app.*

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I don’t know. Sometimes I think I don’t know anything, except that I’ve had enough of trying to figure things out this way.

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There must be a way to be brave enough to give it all up, once and for all, and sit with however lonely full-blast loneliness is, and truly trust that it will not feel that way forever.

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I don’t want to keep going back into my little shell because the wait-and-see is too hard. I don’t want to be someone who is committed to comfort — to the illusion of safety and stability and sameness — above all and at any cost. The truth is, and I know this: exactly nothing stays the same. Nothing. Not our families, not our jobs. Not our living situations. Not our bodies. Not our best laid plans.

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What’s more: I don’t WANT things to stay the same. Even though I am afraid. Even though there is no guarantee. Even though there is no saying as to whether or not I’ll succeed — at living and loving, at working and enjoying, at being and doing. (I don’t know, what else do you worry about?)

Since we seem to be in the neighborhood of rhetorical questions:

1). What if you were to really be in Oregon? What if you were to put everything you have into making here a home. You’ve had one foot out the door for months, but what if you were to stop giving yourself an out? (I see you, Arizona. Maine, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Connecticut.)

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2). What if you were to stop reading romances, and check something slightly more literary out of the library? I know they’re feel-good books, but do they actually make you feel good? I think they make you feel like you’re supposed to meet the love of your life reaching for the same avocado in Trader Joe’s. I think they make you feel ripe for disappointment.

3). What if you were to keep focusing on friend-making? What if that’s what you hoped for, instead of those swoops in your stomach? What if you were to get out of your head a little more? Get to know someone, build them up, maybe put their insecurities to sleep.

4). What if you were to take all of the parts of yourself you’ve rejected over the years. What if you were to gather them up and clear a great big space for them. Your belly, your breasts, your thighs, your too-big heart. What if you were to arrange them at eye-level, out in the open, right where anyone could see. And what if you were to just let them sit there. Gather a little dust.

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__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Every time we don’t wear something, or eat something, or do something, because we think we aren’t good enough, or we don’t deserve it, we let a little bit of life slip through our fingers.” -Megan Jayne Crabbe

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“She was much too thin. She was serene, like someone accustomed to sickness, someone who laid back to back with it in bed.” -Helen Oyeyemi

“This was a little house, with a ceiling that kept getting higher and higher, a hot place with no windows. This was anger.” -Helen Oyeyemi

“Angry is just sad’s bodyguard.” -Liza Palmer

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” -Pema Chödrö

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“I think humans are only capable of small moments of honesty. Then they get tired and back away. It’s something to foster, this ability to keep it for longer. How to keep being honest and aware.” -Laura Pritchett

“There’s only one person you’re guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with: yourself. Don’t live the rest of your life with an asshole.” -Bill Murray

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.” -Anne Lamott

“I like your body. I like what it does, I like its hows.” -E. E. Cummings

“Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.” -Pema Chödrön

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“So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s something. That’s a big something.” -Pema Chödrön

“Come here. Let me love those bruises out of you. We’ll love like children with a box of bandages — we won’t ask where it hurts. We’ll just kiss all of it.” -Ashe Vernon

{Rainy lights via @idkpdx, Enjoy Life/Eat Cake via @twopeasandpod, Mt. Hood via @dllln, frozen falls via @naterayfield, escape route via @treasuretrev, Pittock Mansion view via @idkpdx, scattering birds via @loree1, beautiful bird via @eljackson, purple sky via @robbyzabala, Things Are Looking Pretty Darn Good via @letterfolkco, that PNW bridge via @tannerseablom, Oregon coast via @andrewgolesch, Alpine Lakes ripple via @rodtrvn — all on Instagram.}

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16 thoughts on “Exactly Where We’re Stuck

  1. I’ve just discovered this blog- such poignant and beautiful writing. I relate to it so much as a twenty-something who is always trying to figure things out, who never feels like she’s doing it right. Can’t wait to read more from your blog!

  2. What a great post and yes you are wonderful. We all are and sometimes the negativity around us can make us feel otherwise. Thanks for the encouragement here. You are your thoughts so think fabulous ones.

  3. Beautiful. Hauntingly familiar. Articulates the battle within us all. You have found words that escape so many of us X

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