Loved and Lost

Welcome to the Valentine’s Day edition of Down With The Norm.

To get into the spirit, let’s talk about the times that stupid cherub Cupid royally fucked me over.

My first was innocent and sweet. Dylan. I was fifteen, and so was he. I’d never kissed anyone before, and he graciously showed me how in his basement, my entire body burning red as he leaned me against the pool table and gave my eager lips their first peck.

The next one I remember is Alex #1. I met him at the Singles Ward. Neither of us took church seriously, and we’d leave early to make out in his car. It was something fancy, like an Infiniti or something that I was supposed to be impressed by. He was at least 5 years older than me, had pale skin and orange-red hair, and talked about working out more than he actually worked out.

Next was Joey. He showed me Fall Out Boy and the Oreo Cheesecake Shake at Sonic. A true emo boy who took his feelings out on a guitar. He had no idea how to follow through on plans, and, as Joey did, bailed on our Halloween date to go to a haunted house with his buddies instead. So I, desperate for somewhere to be, went to Alex’s (Alex #2, that is), who was just a friend, I swear. I don’t remember how that night ended, but the next morning began with a spinning head and pain in every place imaginable. Part of me blamed Joey, and we went our separate ways.

Somewhere between Joey and the next one was Brody. Brody raped me, and that’s all I’m going to say about it here because that horse was beaten to death four posts ago.

I knew Austin from high school. We’d lost touch until a while after he’d returned from his mission. He didn’t drink, but he brought me wine and insisted that I drink it in hopes that he could feel me up. He ghosted me after a couple of months, turns out he was married.

And then there was Joe. He was 25, and a brand new pharmacist. He was boring, but nice, and therefore deserved a chance. I gave him one for six whole months. I think he may have been my first breakup. I vomited both before and after, I have no idea how to handle disappointing people. Last I heard, he’s still friends with my ex-roommate. She had a habit of keeping in touch with those I’d left behind.

After that was Alex #3, because I hadn’t yet learned my lesson. Alex #3 was different, though. We met thanks to Tinder, our first date in a quaint European-style cafe for brunch. We eventually got kicked out after four consecutive hours of blissful conversation. He took me bowling after, and a month later, I was all but living with him. I invited him to a fundraiser gala where he’d meet my parents. He took me with him to Banana Republic to find the perfect suit. The night of the gala arrived, and I was dressed in an elegant, floor-length red dress, jewelry, and a face full of makeup I’d been working on since I’d gotten home from work. He rang the doorbell, and to my dismay, he wasn’t wearing the suit we picked out. Just jeans and a simple t-shirt and jacket. My face sunk into my throat, which sunk into my chest. He was breaking up with me. He said he’d coincidentally ran into his One That Got Away the other day, and decided he had to chase her instead. I closed the door slowly, gripping the sides of my gown, and sauntered to the gala alone, hoping that no one would ask me for an explanation.

This wouldn’t be the first time I’d be left for someone else.

Tim was somebody I’d admired from a distance since high school. He and his girlfriend back then had exactly what I was craving; a seemingly blissful, happy union between two blissfully happy dorks. He was a bleeding heart liberal, a D&D nerd, a motivated millennial with a master’s degree at 24. He only asked me to coffee because his girlfriend wanted to be my friend. It took me months to agree (thank you, crippling anxiety), and by the time I did, they were broken up. He and I clicked over iced coffees and side hugs. Our second date was at the cinema, and afterword, he declared his like for me. I was giddy, and proclaimed mine for him. And we swiftly became each others’ dorks. A few weeks later, he asked to come over. After skirting around the issue for a moment while petting my cat as an excuse for not looking me in the eye, he asked if we could not date anymore, as he was too anxious.

I found out on Facebook that he’d gotten into another relationship not 2 weeks after he dumped me.

Will met me at a Halloween party. He told me I had something “special,” something so alluring that he simply couldn’t keep his eyes off of me. (I was dressed as a PlayBoy Bunny, in true Elle Woods fashion, though, so that more than likely explains it). He was sincere, sweet, and genuine. The last time he attempted to see me, he had to work late at the Apple store, and he was terribly sorry. He waited until midnight on a Thursday to explain why he never showed. And now, it’s been two months since I’ve heard from him, so I presume that that’s over.

Then there’s the one that blindsided me. A Facebook acquaintance, initially, turned best friend, turned Cat Sitter, turned boyfriend all in a matter of a month. I panicked and withdrew, then reached back out again. He panicked and withdrew and begun a hiatus of which I see no end. But as soon as I get closure on that one, I’ll pass it on. I’m sure you’re dying to know, just as I am dying to get it over with so I can stop feeling like I’m about to fall off a cliff of emotions.

I’ve heard the “it’s not you, it’s me” bullshit a handful of times. The sting of being left for another girl only lasted a day or two, and honestly didn’t even alter my self-esteem. I’ve had terrible experiences with relationships and dating. I actively, deliberately, obnoxiously avoid them at all costs, but they evidently just happen sometimes. I keep using the excuse that I’m not ready, but I think that’s a lie. Relationships scare me because they require some degree of sacrifice of freedom. They confine me, suffocate me, and I inevitably either run, or make him run. They require vulnerability, trust, and communication. All things that I am still doing my damn best to develop.

Despite all this, or maybe because all of this, the weight of loneliness is getting heavier day by day. And sure, we can blame some of it on our society’s commercialization of love; Valentine’s Day.

Here I sit, almost 24 years old, with two cats and no idea what a healthy, meaningful relationship is, much less how to be in one.

I don’t need chocolates or flowers or teddy bears. I don’t need a date or a card. But damn would it be nice to be loved in the way I need to be loved for once.

Securely.

M.

 

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Pusillanimity

This is an open letter to anybody I’ve ever bailed on. And trust me, that’s quite a broad audience.

To the perfectly nice boy who’s been asking me to coffee for MONTHS, but I always seem to have other plans. To the girl from high school who wants to catch up over dinner, but my car keeps breaking down, or I have to go see my aunt who’s last night in town happens to be this one, and can’t we try again next week?

To my old coworker who cheerily invited me to go jogging with her week after week when I started complaining out loud about my general lack of fitness, but I was always “too tired.”

To the genuinely good and nice and warm people who did nothing but request my company, but I wouldn’t or couldn’t show. To the ones I ghosted; too much of a coward to even offer a fabricated explanation.

I want to start off by apologizing. My tendency to inconsiderately back out on plans that we’ve made together at the last minute has absolutely NOTHING to do with you. In fact, I want nothing more than to have followed through on those aforementioned plans, and gotten to know you and perhaps even have had a little bit of fun.

If I may, i’d like to offer a bit of an explanation of what is going on in this anxiety-ridden noggin that the good Lord gave me. *If there is one*

I never make plans with someone that I don’t 100% intend on following through on. My intentions are pure, I assure you. I’m always eager to meet people and create new experiences with them and so forth.

But then, as we near our time to meet up, my anxiety elevates. Gradually, at first, and I start to have doubts about following through on the plans I’d made. “What if he/she doesn’t like me?” “What if they hurt me?” “What I’m uglier/dumber/less funny than they expected me to be?”

I start to feel unsafe. Not because of the person I have tentative plans to see. Not that, at all. It’s like a reflex, a constant need to protect myself from an unidentified threat. A lump in my throat and a sinking stomach. Thoughts that move at the speed of sound.

I slowly stop responding to your text messages. I pop a Buspar (a fast-acting anti-anxiety drug intended to prevent panic attacks). I convince myself that I’m much too tired to engage with others now.

You send me a “We’re still on, right?” text.

I don’t even open it. I turn your notifications on “mute.”

“M? You okay?” you inquire.

Ignored.

I probably end up passing out at 8 PM, and waking up to one or two more messages from you, with an air of either completely justified disappointment or frustration. And I ignore it. And then we likely don’t talk again.

And I feel alone.

The worst part of it is that it’s entirely self-inflicted.

I hunger for human connection constantly. Watching other people grow and develop amongst each other is devastatingly painful, because I can”t seem to allow myself to do the same. And I end up frustrating people I care about and want to be around, but I keep standing right in my own way.

In summary, I really appreciate everyone who’s ever reached out and tried to make me feel included and wanted. Even if you’ve ever just asked me to go on a walk in the park or get an ice cream cone. And I’m truly, genuinely sorry that I was unable to follow through. I’m sorry if I made you feel sad or mad or frustrated because I flaked on you. It’s not you, it’s me.

I’ve found myself struggling with this especially lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to return to therapy, and stay compliant on my medications, so that’s my fix-it plan. If you haven’t entirely given up on me, I’d still like to get that cup of coffee or see that movie with you.

Wish me luck, friends.

M.

Itinerant

You thought I was done with this writing thing, did you?

Not a chance.

I’ve been spending a lot of time between now and January 23rd, my most recent check-in with you guys, making more mistakes, meeting different people, gaining new perspectives, and also attempting to learn a thing or two from all of that.

I’ve been graduated from college for a little over a year now, and I’ve been walking around like a deer in headlights ever since. It’s honestly adorable how unprepared I felt when I graduated high school. That was NOTHING in comparison to how I feel right now. Does one ever learn what the hell is going on in this whirlwind of experiences that we compile together and call “life”?

I turned 23 on Memorial Day this year, and shortly thereafter, experienced what I surely hope I can call a “midlife crisis.” You see, I woke up one morning and dyed my hair pink, and later pierced my nose. Two days later, I got the stud taken out of my nostril and began the process of vigorously washing out the color from my yellow locks. It could have been worse though, I could have gotten BANGS.

I’ve continued to draw further into myself while a part of me desperately tries to reach out. I’m a prisoner to my mind, a captive audience to a voice that chants, You shouldn’t be here. You don’t belong. You are not wanted.”

Sometimes, though, I do get over myself and defy my mean brain. I hide behind my sense of humor and cool demeanor as I interact with others, peeking from behind the sky-scraping walls at others whose intentions I may never know, may never trust.

Humans love an origin story. We want to know where we came from, what existed first. Chronology. But I can’t seem to put a start date on when I started feeling this way, which leads me to believe that perhaps I always have.

This isn’t a call for attention, or even sympathy. I don’t even feel pity for myself. Perhaps it’s an integral part of who I am. I’m comfortable in my solitude, acclimated to my loneliness. I am capable of making myself happy, and I do so often. It’s only on days that I fail that I wish I were different.

I guess the most I could hope for for myself is to eventually allow myself to be encompassed by those who help set me free from my malicious mind. I’m not there yet, though. So I sit in my quaint apartment behind a keyboard, attempting to assign words to feelings, transforming the internal to the external, so that I can get some peace and quiet.

M.

Passivity

I’ve lived my entire life thus far resigned to the excuse that I am simply incapable of saying “no” to people. I’m a pleaser. I’d rather run away to a new country and change my name than adult-up, face someone, and tell them something they don’t want to hear.

That’s 22 years of “oh, I don’t care where we eat!” and “yes, I can give you a ride even though it’d be COMPLETELY out of my way and quite inconvenient” and “no, really, we can leave the concert early even though one of my favorite bands hasn’t taken the stage yet!” and, most recently, “yes, despite my entire gut telling me it’s a bad idea, I will date you.”

This approach to interacting with others has left me unsatisfied, frustrated, annoyed, and taken advantage of. I have voluntarily taken the passenger seat of my own life for far too long. I’ve felt too afraid, and perhaps a little unworthy,  to grab the wheel and steer for once.

But the thing is, I know exactly what I want, in 9/10 situations. I do not resign myself to passivity due to uncertainty.  I definitely care where we eat, and I’ve probably been thinking about it for hours. No, it’s not okay with me if we leave the concert early-I paid money to be here and want to see the damn show. And lastly, I know EXACTLY what i’m looking for as it pertains to a significant other, yet I find myself accepting gentlemen’s advances, due to the mere fact that they are, indeed, gentlemen.

The problem is that I lack the voice to assert myself.

However, yesterday, thanks to a little push from my best friend, I did one of the hardest things I’ve probably ever done in my life. I confronted someone face-to-face about what I wanted.

And it was nauseatingly horrifying.

I broke off the situationship-turned-boyfriend that I’d found myself involved with for the past few months. In person.

You see, my default approach would be to shoot him a text saying that I was breaking things off, provide little to no explanation, and then hit the “block” button as fast as my little fingers could move.

However, I chose to take this opportunity to grow as a person, and decided to handle it face-to-face like a big girl.

Let me be clear, there was nothing particularly wrong with him. He’s a fine guy-nice, smart, well-mannered. Has his shit together. Pretty good “boyfriend material”, objectively speaking.

We hit it off in the beginning. We had plenty to talk about, had all sorts of fun together, and he treated me better than I probably deserved. But we just never had a “spark.”

I’d expressed this to him bluntly when we were deliberating whether or not to take our relationship to the level of exclusivity. I told him that my gut told me that this was a bad idea, and I didn’t think I’d find what I was looking for in a significant other in him.

Alas, he persisted. And so I gave in. He’s a nice guy-he deserves a shot. Right?

And I gave it a shot. I gave it my best shot.

He became increasingly clingy-freaking out when I hung out with a member of the male gender, needing to be in constant contact with me, declining to give me space when I deliberately asked for it.

Enough was enough. I panicked, and shut the whole operation down.

I invited him to my place, and explained to him that this relationship isn’t working for me, and that no, there was nothing he could do to fix it, and that I saw no reason to continue to see him, as it felt disingenuous of me to do so without having developed the feelings for him that he professed to have had for me.

I won’t speak for him, but I could visibly tell that I was hurting him with every word that came out of my mouth. And that was devastatingly hard to watch, especially as I watched him walk away from me for the last time, with his head hung, and his eyes down at his feet.

Hard as this experience was for me, I feel that I really learned a lot about dealing with confrontation and being honest and transparent about how I feel about things. It was uncomfortable, heartbreaking, and scary. But I’d rather feel all those things and say what I need to say than keep my mouth shut in the interest of not upsetting people because I don’t want what they want.

From now on, I’m the driver. I have a voice, and I am fully capable of using it. And I intend to.

I’m in charge of my life, and the direction it takes is up to me.

M.

 

 

 

Pieces

I find it notably paradoxical that oftentimes, I feel most lonely when I’m surrounded by people.

Interestingly, I don’t tend to feel this stomach-sinking emotion when I am all alone.

I think that I’m a fringe person. I dwell just on the outside; within arm’s distance of others, but never closer.

At work, I float around from clique to clique, managing shallow small talk and building bridges just strong enough to give me someone to eat lunch with in the break room.

Within my family, I am amidst most of the inside jokes. But oftentimes, I sabotage our kinship banter with annoyance or moodiness or an inability to just let myself enjoy experiences.

When it comes to anything relating to the male sex, sure, I’ve got a list of dudes that would likely be more than willing to spend an evening with me. They grace me with their attention and overdrawn compliments on the Snapchat or when I post a new selfie featuring my legs.

And I keep them around. Y’know, just in case loneliness sets in.

And for just an initial moment, I gain a minuscule taste of satisfaction.

Every now and then, I feel ballsy and decide to reach out. Give somebody a chance, if you will. But they say that there is no loneliness like the type you feel in another’s company. And they are right.

I’ve caught myself time and time again making the horrific mistake of trying to open up to someone and truly be understood. My cries for help are dismissed, and people come and take what they came for, and then they are back on their merry way.

Cynical? Perhaps.

That being said, I think I’m just intended to be a fringe person. And that entails drawing further and further inward, playing it all safe.

I’ve accepted this reality since the day the pieces of me shattered into too small of fragments that they simply don’t fit together anymore.

And so I carry on, broken and wounded from yesterday’s mistakes.

M.

Stuck

I typically try to be a little bit more eloquent and creative in titling my blog posts, but this simple, 5-letter word seems to be the most appropriate for encompassing the mood I’ve been in for the past, well, months.

Some nights, when I’m out inhaling the heavy summer air, enjoying the romantic landscape of a late night sunset, I feel carefree and optimistic, and completely in love with my life.

Other nights, and honestly, most nights lately, I feel a sobering sense of hopelessness- like I’ve dug myself into the ground, and there is no rope long enough to rescue me.

I miss who I was before I became who I am now.

I used to wake up every morning as a girl on a mission. I was charismatic, passionate, and a bit of a know-it-all. I knew where I was headed, and nobody was going to stop me. I knew I had a lot to prove, but I also knew more than anyone that I was more than capable. I was engaged in my everyday experiences, and I drank up every opportunity I had to learn something.

Even despite my history of trauma, anxiety-based pathology, body dysmorphia, and self-imposed tendencies to isolate myself.

But now, I am uninspired.

Or, perhaps, simply unconvinced of my own capabilities. Disenchanted with me.

I’m in a maze-no-multiple mazes at once, and I’ve hit a dead end in every one.

I chose an academic path that is insufficient for my career goals.

I chose to associate with people who were capable of more damage to me than I could have ever foreseen, and can no longer outrun the impact.

I am stuck in a body-a cage that I hate-and will never be able to mold into something that I can tolerate.

I am stuck in a toxic atmosphere, where I see real suffering by real people everyday, and am incapable of alleviating it.

I am stuck in a brain that won’t turn off, or simply even slow down.

At home, I feel like an intruder.

I feel distant from everything, as if I’m watching it through a glass barrier in a museum. Close-but not close enough to feel.

The best solution I can draft is the “clean slate” method. I want to run away-start over in a place where nobody has met me. Go by a different variation of my name. Become someone else. Someone better. Someone stronger.

A change of scenery is what I need.

And that, is the sole mechanism that propels me forward-the opportunity to never look back.

M.

 

 

 

Empty

There’s nothing like a solitary summer night drive to really get your feelings to surface.

But big girls don’t cry, and so I will write.

I spent the last hour coasting up the hillside in my car to the sobering melody of “Me” by the 1975, and thinking too deeply about how I got here. I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.

For starters, I genuinely like the personality I’ve developed. I like that I’m witty and weird. I like that I can talk about almost anything for hours and that I have posters of chemical formulas and DNA helices on my bedroom wall. I like that the people at work know me as a sassy-pants know-it-all who is a little neurotic about cats. I like being the cool girl that lets everything roll off her shoulder. I like the things I say, and the way I think.

I don’t like my body-it doesn’t feel like mine. I don’t like how my body is satisfying to men who have touched it, or thought about doing so, while I can’t even bear to look at it in the mirror sometimes. Or worse-that I can’t stop looking at it sometimes, and allow my thoughts to tear me apart, limb from limb, as I fight back tears of frustration and inadequacy.

I don’t like that I try so hard to be attractive. Even now, nearing the middle of the night, I sit here in a “waist trainer” that closely resembles the rib-crushing corsets that the ladies of the middle ages laced themselves into every day, in a desperate attempt to shrink myself smaller and smaller. I don’t like my freckles, or the fact that I can’t tan.

I don’t like how painfully aware I am of myself in space. I don’t like constantly trying to read others’ minds as they encounter me. I don’t like over-thinking every human interaction I have and anxiously hoping that I haven’t done anything wrong.

I don’t like living my life as though everyone is going to hurt me. I don’t like snapping at anyone who makes a pass at me-I’m practically biting their heads off all the time. I hate that I use previous unresolved trauma as an excuse for not allowing anyone within a five mile radius of me. I really don’t like feeling alone all the time, watching everyone else be, y’know, not alone.

I don’t like being considered an “attractive girl,” because that implies that my physical attributes are the primary cause that allures people in my direction. The “attractive girl” doesn’t seem to get what I want more than anything, which is the security of someone somewhere who understands me in all my flaws and contradictions, has seen me at my ugliest, and wants me to stay.

I don’t like holding myself to standards of perfectionism, and inevitably falling short of it every time-doomed to perpetual disappointment.

I don’t like that I’m still up writing this stupid post that will likely be deleted in the morning.

I don’t like thinking that things will always be this way.

M.