A Deliberate Deep Breath

Her voice is so soothing. It feels like someone is kneading my shoulders, drawing slow circles up and down my back. Wrapping an arm around my shoulder, pressing a kiss to the top of my head.


The room smells a little like eucalyptus. That minty, pleasantly pine-y scent I know from a forest green bottle my mom favored when I was growing up. It feels like the most natural thing in the world to take a deliberate deep breath.


I like knowing I can come here. No matter how crazy the workweek is, no matter how quiet the weekend is. We have a standing date. Every Tuesday at five o’clock, I can come here and close the door and fall apart if I need to.

I don’t need to, this week. (Or I don’t think I do.)


We talk about Valentine’s Day first. About how it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. There are some definite downsides to being alone, but there are a lot of upsides, too. Feeling a little at loose ends on Sunday morning isn’t nearly as agonizing as going through the motions with someone you’re ambivalent about.


She studies me carefully and nods. I take this as: letting me get away with this for now. We move on. Talk about work, work/life balance, boundaries, friendships, resuming any kind of dating (yes/no), Portland, exercise, food, money, family.


We don’t make food our focus this time. I’m back to feeling like it’s all going to be fine. Some weeks are just more difficult than others. I’ve loosened the reins again, and it feels good. To relax, and trust a little bit. Last week, an additional handful of granola felt good in the morning. This week, I want eggs. These eggs! I’m coming around again: I won’t always want to have identical amounts of the same things at similar times. That sounds very boring. (That is very boring.)


She does reintroduce the idea of exercising a little less, or at least taking it a little easier one of the days, and I’m on board. I am well acquainted with how it feels to overdo it, and I’m there. I did legs on Monday and was sore until Friday. Not good not good not good.

(Why don’t we go for a walk in the woods, today? Or better yet: just go to Milk Glass Mrkt as planned, and then take the day off altogether?) If I am lax about what I eat, then I’m more likely to be tightly wound about how much I exercise. I know this; I have to watch this.


We do talk about what I consider to be “the anorexic approach to life” and how interesting it is to see it pop up in other places. The rigidity and rules. The all or nothing, absolute/black and white thinking. Good or bad. Success or failure, except always failure. The “don’t need; don’t want.” The “do without; don’t deserve.” And the inevitable: now quick, punish yourself.

(Read: not a lifestyle you want to adopt any time soon.)

It’s not only a struggle with food and exercise. My desire to restrict, refrain, control, contain — just generally not need — seems to appear every turn.


When was the last time I really bought something for myself? Not because I needed it (i.e. electricity, i.e. groceries), but because I wanted it. I have no idea; I couldn’t tell you. I could, however, tell you five things I didn’t let myself buy, yesterday alone. A $7 dark milk chocolate bar with tahini that won all kinds of awards, a new blouse to wear to work, a white frame to make this (and get something up on my still-blank studio walls), a string of fairy lights to do this by my bed, a replacement battery for my smoke alarm. (What — batteries are expensive. We can eke it out a little longer.)


She just listens. I find it interesting that this week I’m not nearly as impatient to talk about work or work stress. I want to talk about other stuff now. Life stuff. The very essential things outside of the race for Inbox Zero.


She asks me what I do for play, and I stare back at her, puzzled. I ask if she can rephrase the question, and she asks where fun fits into my life.

Dead silence.

I can hear the clock ticking on the wall. I know this is an easy question with no possible wrong answer but I can’t think of a single one. I look away. Wrap my arms around my middle.

I tell her I’m embarrassed. Although I’m happy at work, although I smile and even often laugh, I can’t tell her the last time I felt truly lighthearted. As it turns out, I don’t often do things purely just for fun. Unserious, uncomplicated, unanalyzed fun. F-u-n.


I was much better at this before I moved to Oregon, I tell her. And before I moved to New York. When I was still in college, and I knew I’d get to go home periodically.


I can practically see her tucking that away for later. I break the silence to say: you know, it’s funny. Three years ago I had the relationship I’d always wanted but the rest of my life was a mess. I wasn’t lonely, but I was miserable because I felt underemployed and only quasi-independent. Now I have everything but the relationship. I have the things I thought were big and out of my reach then: a job I’m proud to have, a cute little apartment I pay for, a [slowly but steadily] growing 401k, et cetera, et cetera. But I’m so lonely.

When I think of the word “relationship” now, I don’t think only in terms of romantic connection. I devoted my entire year in NYC to making girl friends — to meeting dozens of people I only kind of knew for coffee. And although the ache for deep, intimate love never went away completely, I was really happy to be able to spend my weekends writing and seeing friends. (This was, however, during the time in my life when it was more important to Instagram something than it was to taste it.)


I shake off the memories and look up and tell her, rather triumphantly: I don’t need a boyfriend. She looks at me and says: what about friends? What about family? Do you need those? I have no idea what she’s getting at, but I do know I haven’t been leaning on my friends or my family very much. I keep thinking I can do this on my own, without asking for help. Without being too needy. I’ve always hated the thought of being needy.

She asks if I’m afraid to need people too much. If I’m afraid to need anyone at all. I don’t answer, but I do my own filing away for later. Swing my purse over my shoulder, take the shortest route home.


“When an introvert cares about someone, she wants contact, not so much to keep up with the events of the other person’s life, but to keep up with what’s inside: the evolution of ideas, values, thoughts, and feelings.” -Laurie A. Helgoe


“A very important thing is not to make up your mind that you are any one thing.” -Gertrude Stein


“Sometimes things aren’t as they appear. We all have hurts that we don’t show.” -Charles Sheehan-Miles

“There is no hard and fast line that can be drawn. Love is a gradual thing. With some it comes fast, with some it comes slowly. Sometimes one kindles from the other, sometimes both kindle spontaneously. And once in a tragic while, one kindles only after the other has already dimmed and gone out, and has to burn forlornly alone.” -Cornell Woolrich

“In the crooked question mark of my heart, he was the only one.” -J.S. Park

“A rush of panic comforted her with its familiarity.” -Patricia Highsmith

“It is our mistrust of the future that makes it hard to give up the past.” -Chuck Palahniuk


“Tonight the Internet seemed filled with versions of me, like a fun house filled with mirrors. Some of them made me look prettier, and some of them made me look uglier, and some of them chopped me right in half, but none of them were right.” -Leila Sales

“We are neither pure; nor wise; nor good; we do the best we know.” -Voltaire

“The emotionally mature individual should completely accept the fact that we live in a world of probability and chance, without any absolute certainties. He or she should realize this is not at all horrible.” -Albert Ellis


“There’s nothing more than to love and be loved.” -Sebastian Faulks

“I had that trapped feeling, like some sort of a poor insect that you’ve put inside a downturned glass, and it tries to climb up the sides, and it can’t, and it can’t, and it can’t.” -Cornell Woolrich

“The most transformative years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny. This is when things start to get interesting.” -Albert Ellis


“The moments that define lives aren’t always obvious. They don’t scream LEDGE, and nine times out of ten there’s no rope to duck under, no line to cross, no official letter on fancy paper.” -Victoria Schwab

“I love the concept of art as a daily practice. I often ask myself, did you write today? If not, did you do something worth writing about?” -Blythe Brooklyn

“The word poetry comes from the Greek word poiesis which just means ‘a making.’ So if you’ve made it, it’s poetry. Even if it’s breakfast.” -Unknown


“I want to be able to be alone, to find it nourishing — not just a waiting.” Susan Sontag

“You know who’s gonna give you everything? Yourself.” -Diane Von Fursenberg

“I won’t reject love and friendship. I won’t live alone on a frozen mountain peak.” -Henry Miller


“Don’t look for a partner who is eye candy. Look for a partner who is soul food.” -Karen Salmansohn

“To heal is to touch with love that which was previously touched by fear. ” -Stephen Levine

“You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.” -Unknown

“You’re still beautiful. A little more beautiful than ever.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald


{Ripple via @vadimverbelchuk, foggy mountainside via @theplaidshirt, heart matches via @javicalleja, Union Station via @kale_pdx, St. Honoré Bakery via @carly.e.diaz, sun-soaked woods via @theplaidshirt, bend in the road via @young.seeker, house portrait via @littlebrownfox, Bandon via @spudthesoundguy, misty road via @spencer.kirk, latte art via @stumptowncoffee, birdhouse via @ksuaviso, cardinal via @bythebrush, Diablo Lake via @monascherie, coastal rock formations via @spudthesoundguy, Tiger Mountains State Forest via @vibrancyphotos, heart pizza via @teamchomp, Mt. Washington via @adammckibben, river via @andrewgolesch — all on Instagram.}


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