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.

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.

Calloused

I’m back writing again, and you all know what that means.

I’m in emotional turmoil 🙂

Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than succumbing  to my own humanity. Y’know, feelings and whatnot. Particularly the ones that make you appear vulnerable and weak.

I’ve developed into the classic “funny girl.” Ask anyone that’s had a 30-minute conversation with me, I guarantee I’ve made them laugh. Humor is arguably the most effective tool of deflection.

I guess this is my self-protective mechanism; my adaptation to the realization that i’m not safe out in the world. And it’s served me well, for the most part.

I want to be perceived as the comedic, confrontational, independent gal who couldn’t give two bothers as to what anybody thinks of her. And to my core, I am that person. And I love that person. But even she isn’t immune to the pain of rejection, betrayal, misplaced trust, and heartbreak.

And i’ll be honest, initially, things don’t really get to me. I can shrug off most anything, and I’ll probably even crack a joke about it just to assure you that I’m okay. But after a random duration of time, it all gets to me at once. Pain always catches up, no matter how far of a head start you have.

Today was one of those days where I felt the pain of the last decade all come crashing down on me at the same time. I happened to be at the gym, actually, when the lump in my throat began to build. Leg day was cut short so I could make it to my car in time for the water works.

I’ve been through a lot in the past 10 years. Puberty, anorexia, braces, high school, rape, the loss of friends and significant others, death, rejection, and the constant frustration that I’m the one behind the wheel, but my GPS keeps rerouting, turning me in unproductive circles.

And I really haven’t done a whole lot of feeling.

You can only suppress emotion for so long before you break, I guess. Being alive hurts.

A healthy, well-adjusted individual would probably just allow themselves to feel the pain in real time, give themselves time to work through it, and then move on. I’d really, REALLY like to be a healthy, well-adjusted individual.

Recently, I’d misplaced my trust in someone completely, allowing them to tug me around. They gained my trust and vulnerability far too quickly, and left me the fool. My initial reaction was complete denial that it even affected me at all, and then it turned to frustration. Granted, this person wasn’t in my life long enough to put me in the emotional state that I am now.

But there’s always a catalyst for this sort of thing.

And that lead me down the rabbit hole to every other instance in which I was forced into a vulnerable position, which turned into me driving home from the gym with tears dripping down my face and some Kanye song blasting in the background.

I would beg whatever supernatural forces that exist to take the pain away, but I think the point is for me to let myself feel it.

So i’m laying here, in a cuddle puddle with my two felines, doing just that.

Growth; it isn’t always pretty.

 

M.

Aloof

Want to hear another tragic tale about how yours truly embarked on a quest for human companionship and, in turn, got royally knocked on her ass again? Okay, here we go.

Today’s story starts where the majority of stories of this sort start nowadays: The Tinder.  It started with a mutual right-swipe of the finger, and an impressive pun in the form of a pickup line. For anonymity purposes, we’ll call him simply by his initials: “AL.”

No one is immune to the alluring power of a good pun, not even me. So I humored him.

AL was intriguing. The kind of intriguing that kept us talking for six consecutive hours on our first date-we even got ejected from the little diner that we were having brunch at for staying too long. He had a way of conversing that kept my mind firing at a rapid pace, and the conversation flowed effortlessly. He was genuinely interested in what I had to say, and would often push me to provide more substance to my answers in order to understand me better.

We talked nonstop, both in person and over text message. Our dates increased exponentially in duration, as well as in frequency. We’d spend an entire day together, visiting the planetarium, loitering aimlessly downtown, showing each other books we were interested in at Barnes and Noble. He even bought me one of the books I’d mentioned and gifted it to me the next time I saw him.

He was polite, respectful, a self-proclaimed feminist with hypersensitivity to consent and ensuring that I felt safe, validated, and comfortable at all times.

His friends seemed to really like me.

AL was also a pretty boy, in every sense of the word. He was muscular, had a neat, slick hair cut, scruffy facial hair, and dark brown eyes. He was a bit narcissistic, as well as greedy; money-hungry. He talked a lot about money, and how important it was to him that one day he’d be “loaded.” I didn’t fully understand or agree with this hunger for tangible wealth, but was encouraging and pleasant whenever these conversations arose.

Overall, AL was quite the stand-up guy. He was the type to send me a message after a date thanking me for my company, and expressing how sincerely he enjoyed spending time with me. He told me when he missed me. He was a forehead-kisser, as well as a snuggler. He owned stuffed animals, and wasn’t shy about expressing his emotions or love for Disney films. He’d heat up a rice bag in order to keep my toes warm in his freezing apartment, and offer to make me coffee in the morning before I went to work. In other words, and all-around sweetheart. And in other, OTHER words, too good to be true.

From one day to the next, the text messages went from engaging to aloof. We went from seeing each other all weekend and a couple times during the week to not at all. I saw it coming. Or ending, rather. Not that it was anything per se, our entire story lasted for a duration of a month and a half.

Then, on Friday, AL asked if I had time for a chat after work. My heart sank into my stomach, and my suspicions were confirmed.

He came to my apartment and flopped back onto my bed, his hands covering his eyes. He couldn’t commit to me, he said. He ran into a girl he still had deep feelings for downtown earlier that week, and he has to see what becomes of them. I bit my lip. Disappointed, but not surprised.

I shrugged and told him I understood. He apologized. Again, and again, and then again. Profusely. I wasn’t upset, but told him that I swiftly would be if he apologized again. I didn’t cry. I was stoic. All I wanted was for him to leave.

He wishes he’d ran into this girl a month and a half ago, before he’d ever met me. (Read: he wishes he’d never met me.) So that I wouldn’t become “collateral damage” to his devastating situation that forced him to “hurt” me.

The whole ordeal lasted an entire hour.

I told him that it’s his life, and he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. I told him that I’m more than fine, I’ve dealt with MUCH worse, and am actually quite comfortable going about life in a solitary fashion. He’ll go his way, I’ll go mine. Most people are temporary, including him.

That sounds so final, he winces.

But it was final. That was the end of our fling.

It’s disappointing because whatever we had escalated so quickly, and absorbed all of my time. It’s going to be an adjustment, the absence of someone I’d been consistently interacting with for over a month. But that will be that, and I will inevitably stumble upon another suitor that may or may not waste more of my time, and all of this will be but a blimp on my rearview.

I’ve never been “dumped” before, and it’s certainly not my favorite feeling in the world. I’d prefer to not allow people to gain positions in my life where they have the power to hurt me. And it will probably be quite some time until I do so again.

AL, you were a good guy. But not good enough to hurt me the way you probably think you have. You’re just another guy who tugged at my emotions for a short time, and then dipped out. There are dozens just like you, and I’m willing to bet that there will be more to come.

I’m not heartbroken, I’m not hurting. I’m not doubting my worth or likeability. But I am withdrawing into myself slightly further than I was before this experience.

M.

 

 

 

Me, Too.

Recently, survivors of sexual assault united in posting the simple words “Me, too” to their social media platforms in order to raise awareness of just how widespread the issue of sexual violence really is.

I’ve read the statistics. I’ve listened to countless stories of survivors tell their stories. I’ve sat through numerous lectures on how to avoid rape, which, by my avoidance, turns another into a victim.

All indicators of the alarming likelihood that it will one day happen to me.

And it did. And then it did again. And again.

The first time, it was Halloween. I didn’t dress up that year. I wore jeans and a sweater, and went to a friend of four years’ to celebrate. The next morning, everything hurt, and I was groggy and disoriented. I passed out in my grandmother’s kitchen, where I was living at the time, falling into her frail arms. I reported him to the Sheriff’s office, tears streaming down my face as I retold the events that occurred on my favorite holiday, and the cops showed up at his work to interview him. But my friend of four years refused to speak to them, so there was “nothing they could do.” We haven’t talked since.

The next time, it was a Tinder date. He was charming, blonde hair, blue-eyed, big muscles. We went to Fuji Sushi and then saw The Revenant for our first date. The next time I saw him, he invited me to his place to watch a movie. I warned him that I was not open to anything physical, and after being assured that he would not try anything with me, I accepted his invitation. He mixed us each a drink in his kitchen while I flipped through a Cards Against Humanity deck placed on his coffee table in the living room. Hours later, I couldn’t move my limbs. “CONDOM,” I tried to bellow, his body forced on top of me, my toneless arms and legs dangling off the sides of the bed. It was 5 AM when I finally came to, and I tried to sneak out of his house without him waking. Just as I had my hand on the doorknob, I turned to find him behind me. He wanted to know why I wasn’t staying till the morning for breakfast.

Round three started with a young man I encountered at the mall. I was walking, by myself, in broad daylight, and he stopped me, grabbed my face, and kissed me. We were complete strangers, but I found it somewhat charming at the time. We started seeing each other regularly, and one day, he came over when my roommate was out of town. I exclaimed that he was hurting me, and after he was finished, he tapped me on the arm and said “sorry for abusing you there” and left.

And then there was the time at my formerly favorite night club. My roommate and I were there for a friend’s bachelorette party. We entered the dance floor, bopping to the rhythm, and found a group of girls to dance with. A man in perhaps his mid-twenties burst into our circle, grabbed me around the waist, and turned me around. My roommate motioned for us to leave the dance floor, but as I was trying, he lifted my skirt up and grabbed my ass. He then spun me to face him, put his arm around me tighter, and proceeded to kiss me. I couldn’t shake him off of me until he’d stopped kissing me, and by that time, my roommate had successfully exited the floor.

I’ve dealt with sexual harassment at work. I’ve had men catcall horrific things at me while walking around downtown, sometimes men double and even triple my age-their malicious stares looking my body up and down as they lick their lips in preparation to tell me what they’d like to do to me.

Ever since that first encounter, I’d received the message loud and clear: my body was not mine. The words “no” and “stop” and “you’re hurting me” were a waste of breath.

I’m not telling you all of this to compete with the numerous brave survivors who came forward to publicly share their stories. I’m not telling you all of this in pursuit of sympathy. The damage has been done, and I am coping with it the best I know how. No amount of sympathy can reverse it.

However, I am adding my story to the record in order to provide examples of behaviors that lead to assault, so that we as bystanders, or even potential perpetrators, can begin to recognize them, and intervene before someone’s body gets violated.

Sexual assault happens to all demographics, so this isn’t even a lecture at the men to pull their shit together. It will take a societal change to eliminate rape culture, and replace it with consent culture. But it starts with recognizing concerning behaviors, and then DOING SOMETHING about it.

No amount of “rape prevention tips” will prevent a rapist from raping. We as a society must stop tolerating non-consensual sexual behavior.

I am not entitled to anyone’s body, and NOBODY is entitled to mine.

Say it with 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.