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.

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.

Ubiety

Y’know how when you ask someone how they are doing, you expect them to say, “good, and you?” even if they don’t mean it?

Well, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I can provide that customary answer with genuineness.

How are you?

Good, and you?

I am good.

I am doing well.

I am doing well, despite the tragically disheartening election (that is as political as I am going to get on this post-no bad vibes here), rapidly decreasing temperatures, and hasty intensification of menstrual symptoms.

I am doing well, without SSRI’s or therapy sessions.

I am doing well, despite the fact that my diet has entirely derailed over the past week or so and I have only been able to make it to the gym once. I’ve tasted chocolate and bread and beer and allowed myself to be filled, where a few weeks ago, I’d eagerly and dedicatedly attempt to purge it all from my body.

I am doing so well that those around me are starting to notice. I’ve gone from enduring my daily obligations to truly experiencing even the most mundane of tasks. I’ve been spending less time maintaining my continual presence on social media or allowing my hair style to dictate my mood.

I’ve been spending less time on the scale and more time in the quality assurance department of my social sphere. I’ve been smiling more, and not for the sake of selfies or snapchat. I’m letting out deep-belly laughs until my abs feel sore. My tunnel vision has broadened, and I’m seeing more and more of the bigger picture, I think.

I’m sleeping longer and deeper, and I’m truly listening when you talk. The air I breathe fills my lungs to capacity and I can feel it energizing my cells before I release it in an exhale. The anxiety cloud still lingers over my shoulder, but it trails behind on a longer leash. I’m nervous and scared and excited, but have shrunken these legitimate emotions to a reasonable and respectable proportion.

I’m doing all that I can now to prepare for later without sacrificing all that right now has to offer me.

I’m no longer allowing external expectations to dictate my personal development, morality, appearance, or cognitions. I have removed the shackles of arbitrary guilt, and traded them for a personalized air of humanitarian passion.

I pride myself in being a life-long student, and I am learning more and more about what the point to this entire living thing could possibly be, and as much as I hate to admit, the clichés are probably right.

It’s about the journey, not the destination. Blah, blah, blah-I’m annoyed already. But in all sincerity, I truly believe that the whole point of experiencing a life worth living is to learn how to be truly happy, and maybe help one or two others find their own brand of happiness while I’m at it.

In order to do this, though, sometimes you have to let go of obstacles that restrict you from doing so. And for myself, that means I have to ease off the gas pedal.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still the overly ambitious, in-over-her-head, millennial perfectionist you all know and love, but my pace has been altered.

One day, I’ll have that perfect bikini body featured on all of my fitness Pins. But today, I will munch on crackers and sip diet soda to alleviate my unsettled stomach, and perhaps go for a jog later.

One day, I’ll be conducting pharmacological research, aiding in medicinal advances that can one day significantly improve the quality of life of another. But today, I am going to leisurely study for the GRE and beg around for research lab experience to add to my Curriculum Vitae.

One day, I will leave my residence and immerse myself in a plethora of other cultures, and allow myself to marvel at all that I see, without regard to what time or day it is. But today, I will take scenic drives up the canyon and gape at my own backyard with true appreciation.

I’ve wasted too great of a portion of the one life I’ve been given being anxious, sad, and suffocated by self-deprecation.

I hope all of you have already come to realize all of this.

Here’s to actualizing personal fulfillment.

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irascibility

I thought I was over my self-proclaimed “angry feminist” phase. Boy was I wrong.

I am a sucker for a good podcast, and I scrolled upon one this morning featuring the topic of feminism, which naturally peaked my interest. The discussion participants included a male host, and a male political science professor at a notoriously problematic university (I won’t name names, but this particular university can’t make it into the Big 12 due to their some fundamental, problematic issues in the way they run their institution). You can listen to this podcast for yourself here.

Anywho, I was expecting this professor to advocate for feminism, and to support the progression of gender equality within society. You can probably guess from the title of this post that this was not the case. This political science professor spent his allotted interview time defending traditional gender roles. The take-away message he presented was that perhaps some of the things that feminists have (and will) accomplish are categorically good things, but come at a devastating cost to society.

Professor Bigot’s argument was that yes, women should obtain Bachelor’s degrees, in agreement with the counsel provided by the leaders of his church. However, if women choose to continue on to develop themselves academically, they are delaying childbirth, and neglecting to fulfill their divine roles in the home, even if they have no desire to become a housewife. He feels that a woman should spend the “prime of her life” reproducing and raising the resulting offspring. Ring, ring, the 1950’s called. They want their societal norms back.

He then later in the interview expressed that if it were his daughter that had a more “brainy” predisposition, he would support her in cultivating her fullest potential(presumably after she’d taken full advantage of her child-baring years).

This professor, full of contradictions, argued that one of the many problems with feminism is that feminists view women who choose to be housewives as inferior, and this makes housewives feel unfulfilled and consequently unhappy with their decision to become housewives in the first place. To the contrary, the feminism that I’ve come to advocates a woman’s right to choose for herself what her life will look like, whether that be a life of motherhood and domesticity, or that of scholarly study and professional development, or anything in between.

Because this man obviously knows what the female experience is like, he explained that women who devote their prime years to academia and professional spheres tend to experience a crisis at age 30 because they did not devote themselves to motherhood when they had the chance.

However, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that perhaps it’s the ones who did not pursue their interests because they felt obligated to give up what they really wanted out of their lives to set aside their desires and dreams to adhere to traditional gender roles. Multiple women that I know personally have shared with me that once they become empty nesters, they feel a sort of crisis in which their primary role as a mother has been fulfilled, and she is presented with this newfound free time in which she begins to contemplate the “what if’s” and feel remorse for not choosing an alternate path.

That, my friends, is my worst nightmare.

Now, let me make one thing VERY clear. I have no objections to a woman who willingly chooses to abide by traditional gender roles, so long as it is a conscious choice, made after years of serious contemplation. Additionally, I am the biggest advocate of education for all genders. This is an issue that I am extremely passionate about, perhaps due in part to growing up in a community where traditionalism was emphasized, and nonconformity was regarded as disobedience.

I have not been this upset in well over a year about the issue of gender roles, but this podcast tore open some wounds that I thought I’d partially mended.

I guess what it comes down to is the issue of control and power. I refuse to allow anyone, especially men, impose their myopic worldviews and values on the lives of women. Men of this type seem to think that they are entitled to control the opposite sex, and that their opinion on what women should be doing with their lives is somehow significant.

If you think about it, societal norms were implemented by men, and for men. I’m no history expert, but I am not aware of an active form of consent to traditional gender roles by women. Nobody asked us what we want for ourselves, they told us. And that makes me physically ill.

I will not be controlled by anything or anyone. The only thing dictating my life is my own cognitions. Women, what you want out of your life matters. In fact, what you want out of life should be your priority. We only get one shot at life, and there is simply no time for regret.

My views on feminism can be summed in one simple statement: Everyone deserves to live authentically and everyone else should mind their own damn business.

Enough with the pressure to conform to some silly, arbitrary role. This burning anger I’m experiencing this morning has revamped my drive for accomplishing my academic and career goals, none of which include any kind of adherence to a “predisposed” role that some have decided is a one-size-fits-all, but in reality has no consideration for individual differences.

I typed this entire post with shaking hands and burning cheeks, and my first draft had a much more colorful vocabulary, which I have censored for the children.

I know I’ve beat a dead horse here, but until society eases up on dictating peoples’ life decisions, I will not be at peace.

Down With The Norm, indeed.

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feline

“No Scrubs” by TLC came out 17 years ago, and boys are still hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, trying to holler at me.

In the past three days, I have noticed an upsurge in the frequency at which this phenomenon has been occurring. Whether I be trotting into my apartment from a night out with friends, into the grocery store to buy ingredients that I will attempt to use later in a meal that will certainly not turn out as planned, or simply embarking on a leisurely stroll, dudes with muscle cars feel the need to “holler” at me.

Rap music blaring, base bumping, and the unmistakable vibrato of a young adult male simultaneously make me jump and look over my shoulder on a too-frequent basis.

I shared my frustration with this cat-calling nonsense on Facebook the other day, as mature twenty-somethings do, and was even more annoyed by the responses I received.

The direct status I posted reads:

“Dear men,

Whenever you’re faced with the decision of whether or not to yell “nice ass” out your car window at a human woman, pick no. Every time.”

Sassy, a bit condescending, and moderately funny. My typical flavor.

And also a direct reaction to an experience I had just previously had, late at night, when I was walking from the sidewalk to my apartment, by myself.

One commenter pleaded, “But what if she has a nice ass?”

Great question, sir! And I thank you for asking. If she does indeed have a nice ass, notice! Glance at it as you drive by. We as humans are sexual beings. You can even fantasize about her ass in your mind if you want to! But for goodness sake, do NOT slow your speed, roll down your window, and shout at her when she is in a solitary state in the caliginous night. You will undoubtedly frighten her and leave residual paranoia until the sun rises the next morning.

Another (male) commenter asked, “Can I yell it at guy?”

This is a toughie. I am obviously not a guy, so I don’t feel qualified to offer a legitimate answer to this question. From my perspective, being shouted at, even if it is a “compliment” can be startling, if unexpected. In fact, I have lived my adult life with a tiny pink bottle of mace in my purse, just waiting to be used in the inevitable situation in which I no longer feel safe. But I don’t think guys typically emerge from their homes with a constant fear instilled in them by their parents that they could be assaulted while innocently walking the streets at any time.

Well, white, cisgender, straight guys, anyway.

In sum, I’d say don’t do it, regardless of the sex of the person you are hypothetically “hollering” at, just to stay on the safe side.

And my favorite comment, also made by a dude: “I would be flattered.”

Flattered, you say? In the exact context in which I experienced it? Late, late at night, as a 110-pound woman with next to no muscle mass, no company, and no mechanism of defense? As you’re walking maybe a few yards’ distance from your car to your residence with the intention of coming home and going to bed without being involuntarily degraded, objectified, and sexualized by a stranger driving by in his vehicle? You would be flattered?

“Nice ass!”

Flattered.

I can assure you, being cat-called summons a whirlwind of emotions within my little body, but “flattered” is certainly not one of them.

What do you guys get out of doing this? Is it to impress your buddies in the passenger seat? Is it because you feel like you’ll get something out of it? Get a rise out of us? Get our number? What? WHAT IS IT?

Sigh.

I have been fuming over this for the past few days, and my therapist has advised me to write out my feelings so that I can stop dwelling on them. I’ve done that, taken my Melatonin supplements, and now my nice ass will drift into a dreamy slumber.

Goodnight,

 

M.

 

 

Solicitude

Guess who’s back. Shady’s back.

Oh, and me.

It’s funny how I  attempt to maintain a blog during the school semester. Turns out, it simply cannot be done.

Today marks the conclusion of my first (and last) summer semester of college. That’s right-I voluntarily signed up to attend a 7:30 AM lecture twice a week at a school located 45 minutes from my apartment.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention I moved out?

I am now the resident of my state’s capital city. I have a “Maddie-sized” basement apartment in a cute, old-fashioned house near downtown. I live all by myself, though I had a beta fish named Brendon Urie for a time, but he died within two weeks. May he rest in peace.

Anyway, turns out moving out is really super duper fun. Nobody gets mad at you for listening to the same Twenty-One Pilots song on loop for three hours. Nobody makes you do the dishes or sweep the floor. Nobody tells you to put pants on. Or to do your laundry. Or to feed yourself.

Nobody except you.

Sometimes my dishes pile up. Sometimes my lightbulb burns out in my bathroom and I shower in the dark for 6 days before doing anything about it. Sometimes a spider emerges from the corner of the room and I spray it with Raid until it ceases to move. Sometimes my fridge is empty so I eat peanut butter for dinner.

C’est la vie.

Initially, moving out had done wonders for my anxiety. I felt like I had much more control over my life. After all, I’m an adult with my own place and everything that happens here within my own place is entirely up to me. Liberating, yet terrifying.

It turns out that you can’t simply abandon your anxious, perfectionistic self. When I moved, she moved with me. As I mentioned before, I was enrolled in summer classes at my university, in addition to beginning a program to become a certified pharmacy technician. As the end of the semester neared, my body decided that we were exhausted, and before I knew it, I was having a panic attack at work.

I was “processing shipment”, a term in the retail world that means taking clothes out of bags, putting sensors on them, and hanging them on hangers. Anyway, as I was doing this, the room gradually began feeling hotter and hotter. I broke out in a sweat, and found it difficult to breathe. I fanned myself, gasped for air, and finally retreated to the break room in the back, doubled over, and hyperventilating.

I sat in a chair, cradling my head in my hands, and tried to force myself to breathe. The air kept getting thinner, and the temperature kept rising, and finally, I ran out of my workplace-tears and mascara streaming down my flushed cheeks-and was on my way to the doctor’s office.

That was rock bottom.

Since then, I’ve taken some serious therapeutic action. As advised by my doctor, I’ve been exercising regularly, getting proper nutrition, and removing stressors from my life. I quit my job (the one that housed my anxiety attack) and moved to a much more flexible, relaxed one. I’m taking the fall semester off at the Uni (a concept that initially gave me much more anxiety than any school semester ever could) and now I basically get to work when I want to and attend Pharmacy Tech school.

Things finally feel manageable. Things feel comfortable. Suspiciously comfortable.

I’ve noticed over the past few days that just when I feel like I’m allowing myself to enjoy life, I am overcome with guilt. My brain buzzes with constant, self-shaming thoughts: “I shouldn’t be this happy, I shouldn’t have this much free time, I shouldn’t sit still or relax.”

And so I don’t.

The best way I can describe chronic anxiety is when your mind races so fast that it forces your body to attempt to keep up with it-an impossible task. From the moment I open my eyes to the time I close them for the night, my entire body is buzzing. That’s the best word for it.

Then you combine that with eating disordered thoughts, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. It’s been seven years since I’ve been weight-restored, and I still can’t eat a soft pretzel (one of my ABSOLUTE favorite foods) without mulling over it for the next three days, not resting nor sleeping until I perceive that I’ve adequately purged the calories from my system by means of vigorous cardiovascular exercise.

I want so badly to let myself be happy, but the truth is, I’m afraid of what that entails.

 

M.

 

 

 

Innominate

Due to a series of unfortunate events and frustrating assumptions being made about me, I’ve decided to become faceless here. I feel that right now, removing my identity will keep my blog a safe place for me to therapeutically express my feelings without backlash that will inevitably affect my personal life. Cowardly, maybe, but thou hast no right to judgeth me.

For my own sake, I am now going to put an assumption or two to rest. I used to share new posts on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, which granted access to both friends and foes, simultaneously labeled as “followers” on the Internet.

One individual, whom I can only assume was a dedicated reader of mine, concluded rather falsely that I am “struggling,” (in my faith, perhaps?) and felt the need to share this conclusion with a mutual peer. Because people talk, this got back to me and honestly, it angers me deeply that someone whom I haven’t spoken with in over a calendar year would have the audacity to assume that I am “struggling,” and then proceed to share his/her false conclusion with others.

Like I said, for my own sake, I am going to clear the air here. I am not struggling. If anything, I feel that I am becoming my most authentic self. I feel that I am approaching a place in my life where I am beginning to make peace with all of my contradictions and inner conflicts. If anything, I am flourishing! I am happy, truly happy, for quite possibly the first time in my life. I am accepting the pieces of me that make me different than most others, and embracing them. I am building a mature belief system by consciously deciding what I do and do not believe, what I am and what I am not, and am maintaining my integrity by not allowing anything or anyone to change me. I am in a good place. A strong place.

So, if you’re new to DownWithTheNorm, and have the time and/or interest, you can read my personal introduction here.

I’d also be delighted to receive an introduction from you! If anything, the purpose of this site is for me to be understood, and to understand differing viewpoints and learn from the diversity of humans.

If you’re a returning reader, it’s still me, and I am so grateful to all who take the time to read.

M.