Grade A Effort

It has been so long; I almost forget how to do this.

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Still — I have my tea. I have the time. And after 3 months away, I have more photos than I could possibly squeeze into a single post.

I stopped blogging because:

  • This was starting to look like a sad space, which I worried might scare off someone new (welcome to online dating, where everyone googles each other in 5 minutes flat)
  • I was acutely aware of who was reading (to the point where I felt like I couldn’t write about what I wanted/needed to write about)
  • I wanted to examine my boundaries and make more deliberate choices about what to lead with/what to keep to myself
  • I was embarrassed to find I was leaning on writing the way I was longing to lean on another human being
  • I was doing more and more writing for work (so writing for myself was starting to feel less and less enjoyable)
  • I didn’t want to be in my head anymore; I wanted to go live life
  • My 26th birthday was rapidly approaching; I felt like it was “time”
  • I wanted to carve out space to meet new people and make “real” connections
  • I was coming closer to getting what I needed on a day-to-day basis, so writing-as-therapy no longer seemed so essential
  • I wanted to do some exploring and take some time to consider the circumstances under which Portland could work

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In an ideal world, in which I felt awash with love and Vitamin D and had family and friends and plenty of support all around, I would shut down this blog and spend my weekends doing what normal people do.

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I would press pause. I would find new ways to be creative. I would get outside of myself. I wouldn’t work so hard. I would find healthier ways to cope with uncertainty, anxiety, and stress. I wouldn’t regularly take care of other people’s needs at the expense of my own. I would have really rich relationships. I wouldn’t need social media. I would spend lots of time with likeminded people. I would stay the hell away from anyone who was dieting or seemed overly critical about people’s appearances. I would find some kind of community. I would stay up a little later. I would eat when I was hungry. I would rest when I was tired. I would get my period back. I would live somewhere that felt gentle and peaceful. I wouldn’t [still] be anorexic. I would feel like it was really, truly OK to just let go.

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I would feel safe and I would feel seen, and in this wave-a-magic-wand world, intimacy would not be reduced to an 8-letter word I’d only ever read about, heard about, dreamed about. Observed from a distance.

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How do people overhaul their lives? I want to know. And how do they make those changes stick? How do they develop new habits, and how do they re-wire the way they think? Not just for a day or a week or a month or a year — but forever, for good. That’s where I fail, over and over again.

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Looking back on what I’ve written so far, it’s easy for me to see that I’m standing in my own way. If I could just bring myself to ask for what I need, and if I could go ahead and gain weight, again, after having done it once and chipped all of that progress down to nothing, everything else might have a better chance of falling into place. Or, at the very least, I’d be better equipped to make a smart, rational decision about what to do next.

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Every stop and start is so painful. Each one reminds me that to be happy, we need other people, and despite 2.5 years of grade A effort, I am too isolated in Oregon. But here’s the scary part: I don’t know where else to go.

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Here is what I do know: I need to actually be needy. I need to say, I need somebody to be with me, every step of the way. I need to be able to confide in someone with a set of readily available shoulders. Clearly I’m still not in any shape for a romantic partner (unless that person were super patient), but I need someone. I need someone to cook with and eat with and be distracted by. I need someone to remind me that there’s so much more to life than this same sadness and these same stupid fears. I need someone to reassure me when I panic and show me that there are so many joys to be had. (So! Many!)

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I think I’m done trying to look a certain way in order to be loved. It clearly isn’t working. I’m so worried about how and when to tell the person sitting across from me that I have this awful thing, even if I have made a lot of progress over the years. To me it’s such an elephant in the room that I can’t even really feel like we’re getting to know each other on a level that means something to me.

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I don’t feel fun or interesting when I’m going to sleep at 7pm. I don’t feel healthy subsisting off of raw vegetables and lean protein and the smallest amount of carbohydrates and fats I can stand. I don’t feel athletic when my muscles aren’t able to recover and grow properly. I don’t feel feminine when my hormones are all out of whack. I feel weird and untouchable. It baffles me to think about sharing my body with someone else when I don’t even feel connected to it myself.

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Yoga makes a world of difference, on that front. I am going to yoga again, every Saturday. It is in my self-interest to find a way to be very tender. I should do everything I can that makes it easier for me to soften.

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This is an experiment — publishing a new post. It’s an experiment for me to be honest with myself and with you, and to stop pretending to be ALL BETTER, ALL RECOVERED, when I’m still struggling. I don’t know if this will wind up being a good move or a bad move or whether a judgment like that even matters, but I think I just caught myself healing.

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“I am afraid that if I open myself up I will not stop pouring. (Why do I fear becoming a river. What mountain gave me such shame.)” -Jamie Oliveira

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“If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.” -Brené Brown

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“Loneliness is like starvation: you don’t realize how hungry you are until you begin to eat.” -Joyce Carol Oates

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“You hurt. It’s okay. I hurt too. Hold my hand.” -Neil Gaiman

“In winter, some voices are like coats.” -Ahlam Mosteghanemi

“I hate that things are rough for you right now. But I know this — when your cloud lifts, you’re going to be someone’s greatest gift.” -Bruce Adler

“Believe me when I tell you everything is temporary. Everything. There’s not a thing in the world that will not change, including you.” -Alexis Smith

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“Life is moving. The healthiest thing for your heart is to move with it.” -Rupi Kaur

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“It is through risking being hurt that we gain the greatest love. There is this trust involved in giving and receiving love. May it come to the softened hearts, in the fullness of time, in the most beautiful of forms. May the form be one that our heart recognizes and needs.” -Omid Safi

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“What will make ALONE look good to you? You have to work on that. Because single life needs to look really, really good. You have to believe in it if you’re going to hold out for that rare guy who makes you feel like all of your ideas start rapidly expanding and approaching infinity when you talk to him. You need to have a vision of life alone, stretching into the future, and you need to think about how to make that vision rich and full and pretty. You have to put on an artist’s mind-set and get creative and paint a portrait of yourself alone that’s breathtaking. You have to bring the full force of who you are and what you love to that project.

And then you go out into the world with an open heart, and you let people into your life, and you listen, and you embrace them for who they are. You make new friends. You do new things that make you feel more like the strong single woman who owns the world that’s in your vision. You figure out who you are and what you’re all about. You forget yourself and take in the layers of experience that are buzzing around you. That last one is important. If you’re ashamed and distracted by the nervous noise in your head, you won’t be able to take part in the beauty of the world around you.” -Heather Havrilesky

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“It is never too late to start over. A painting is only finished when the painter puts the brush down.” -Nicholas A. Browne

{Mt. Hood sunrise via @robbyzabala, Cannon Beach via @jaysnipez, rainy PDX via @thestevenmyers, Trillium Lake reflection via @idkpdx, Abiqua Falls via @mlbourne, Cave Creek sunrise via @kturzins — all on Instagram.}

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