The Strangeness Of Knowing

My romantic brain has picked this entire scenario apart. I remember the first time I saw you, unenthused, odd, apart. You were the first to point out to me that you had resting bitch face, but that was years after initially laying eyes on you at that mc chris concert. My eyes slid over your seemingly joyless expression, and I made a mental note of the unhappy man standing slightly to the back left of our always jolly mutual friend. I thought that maybe it wasn’t your kind of show. But the music started, and I forgot all about you as I sang along to my favorite songs. Where were you at the end of the night? Did we all get drinks after the music stopped? Not a clue.

The next time I remember seeing you was a year or so later when our friend asked me to be an extra in your movie. It rained that day, and all of us extras just sat around in your friend’s living room, watching How I Met Your Mother and waiting to be needed. My attention was evenly divided between the television screen and the hustle and bustle of the man in charge of our ragtag band. You were overseeing makeup in the kitchen, and periodically giving various crew members directions. I found something about you intriguing, a little off-putting. I don’t know if I put two and two together then, and saw that you were the same guy I’d met at the mc chris concert. You weren’t unhappy, though, so I bet I didn’t. It kept raining that night, and I never got to be in the movie, though I watched it a couple of times once it was released. I thought it was clever, and I was proud to have been considered for a part, even if it never happened.

What I really remember was my 30th birthday, and seeing you at the end of that bar. Feeling drawn to you, but resisting the urge to draw attention to myself. I was taken, and I’m not naturally very extroverted. It never made sense to me to try to make friends with guys when I was in a relationship. It seems a little too forward. What can I say, I’m old fashioned that way. But probably more important was that I could overhear your conversation from my place a few barstools away, and you just seemed too smart for me. I was very conscious of you that night, though. I can’t remember a single other face in the bar the way that I can see yours. When I got up to walk to the bathroom at one point, I was so self-conscious of my stride. Were you watching me as I crossed the room? I doubt it. But then I thought maybe you were. That was a particularly happy birthday for me, even though I was at someone else’s birthday party, and none of my own friends had shown up. I had an amazing time, just drinking by myself, taking selfies, talking to whoever sat down beside me. You and I did talk for maybe a minute – long enough for our friend to introduce us for what was at least the fourth or fifth time at that point in our travels. I left the bar that night feeling elated. Was it the beginning of falling for you? A hint that something could be different? Like I said, I have a romantic brain. I’m building a story in reverse. There was nothing between us then. You didn’t know I existed. But isn’t it fun to let your mind play tricks on you at a later date?

Then of course there came the afternoon at the movies when I snapped at you for not remembering me. And Knights of Badassdom, a completely unintended date. Then Neutral Milk Hotel, and the realization that you were made of magic. A comedy show a couple of weeks later, followed by one of the most intense makeout sessions I’d had since high school. You’ve had me hooked since the beginning, with the hours of sincere conversation, bouts of laughter, genuine concern for my wellbeing, a reassuring physical presence, those breathtaking kisses. You’ve become a necessary component. I could live without you, but I don’t know that it would be worthwhile.

Last night you came home later than I’d expected. You were out so late that I’d almost texted you an hour earlier to demand your whereabouts. Then I realized that since I wouldn’t be texting out of fear or jealousy, only a vague sense of irritation that my schedule was being tampered with, I should stop being ridiculous and let you have your fun. I’d only been asleep for maybe 30 minutes when the front door banged open (not your fault – since the painter gave it that last coat, we’ve had to heave ourselves into the door every time to get it to unstick from the frame). That didn’t bug me, but for some reason when you dropped your wallet on the end table a minute or two later, I was startled and my heart skipped a beat. I tore off my sleeping mask and stared accusingly at you, bathed in lamplight there in the living room, looking absolutely mortified to know you’d woken me. For a second I was angry, but it dissolved immediately as I saw your sweet expression, so pained at having caused me any discomfort. You walked into the bedroom and bent over me, staring deeply into my eyes, apologizing for coming home so late, and for waking me. Your eyes were so full of love, so warm, so joyous. You kissed me in penance. Once again I was overcome with how much I love you, and how happy you make me.

We are both struggling with life right now. Things aren’t easy. We’re trying to make our way in a world that makes so little sense, holding on to the parts that are real and right and true. For me, you’re one of those parts. I’ve still got a lot of healing to go, but you make my life a better place to be. Until that night last year when I realized my fascination was reciprocated, and that I seemed to have stumbled upon exactly what I was looking for, hidden in plain view, I always thought that old adage of “you’ll just know” was complete and utter bullshit. But now I get it. Everything just fell into place. Yeah, we’re not perfect. But we’re perfect for each other. And now I know what knowing feels like. It’s a strange and welcome sensation.

Back to Beautiful (You)

It’s been awhile since I last attempted a daily prompt from Beautiful You. At this rate, it’ll be a few years before I finish the book, but I guess that’s OK. I’m just going at my own pace. For those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about, Beautiful You is a daily guide to self-acceptance, for dealing with body image issues. Which I obviously have but am quite ready to be done with, thankyouverymuch. You can find out more by clicking the link above, which leads to the author’s website.

Anyway, today’s Day 25: Engage the World, and I’m supposed to be talking about what kinds of admirable acts I complete on a regular basis. The point is to get me thinking about things outside of my body that are worthwhile. Hmmm. This one’s a tough one.

Well, I guess the first thing that comes to mind is giving away all of my possessions. It’s probably not what the author had in mind, but I especially love exchanging books at the little free library down the street from my house. We have these tiny enclosed bookshelf structures in various places around the city where you can leave a book and take a book. Lately I’ve been trying to get rid all the crap I don’t need anymore, and I’ve been leaving 10 to 20 books each time I go. I pick up a couple each time, too, but it feels good to be helping someone find something fun to read. Maybe that’s weird, I don’t know. Who knows if they’ll even like my old castoff books or not? But I hope so.

I’ve also been getting rid of the extraneous crap around my house – all the clothes that don’t fit, craft projects that I’ll never finish, knick knacks that I love the look of but can’t house any longer, that kind of thing. The other night my neighbor invited me over to this weekly potluck he puts together called Neighbor Night, where 20 or 30 people from our neighborhood come over and socialize. I enjoyed hanging out with him, and I noticed that his house was a divine clutter of antiques and awesome ethnic art. So I brought him a few of the things I was going to get rid of that matched his decor, so he could have first dibs.

I don’t volunteer. Well, that’s a lie. I do volunteer my time as a marketer to this local sci fi convention. But I’m getting tired of getting nowhere. I was really hoping to do something great, to bring the con into a new era, but it’s so disorganized and I can’t get any of the info or input necessary to do even a half-assed job. I don’t like feeling like I’m being set up for failure, and I’d like to quit, but my pride is keeping me hanging in there. I don’t want to leave them in the lurch and then have people try to pin the failure of the entire thing on me. So I keep hoping that things will get better. I dunno. I think if I ever volunteer again I’m going to do something hands-on, preferably with animals. No more marketing in my spare time. I feel like I never get a break.

I’m also trying out for a local dance troupe soon. We’ll see what happens. I’d really like to be in a marching krewe/dance troupe. They have so much fun, and I’d love to have the reason to exercise. But I worry about the cliquishness of a big ol’ group of girls, and I worry about body shaming and ability shaming. I know that I’m a good dancer when I can get out of my own head, but that’s the problem, isn’t it?

I guess in general, I only feel REALLY good about myself in three distinct situations: hanging out with my boyfriend, walking to work each morning, and working out at my gym. All three both relax and energize me. I feel most like myself in these situations, where most of the rest of my life feels like a chore at best, a farce at worst, and generally somewhere between the two most of the time.

Hanging out with my boyfriend makes me feel great about myself because I get to laugh at his jokes, he laughs at mine, we share ideas and talk over new concepts, and we tell each other stories. I feel validated, and get to be completely honest about the things that aren’t going well for me, something I’m not even able to do here.

Walking to work makes me feel strong and capable. I love the competition of dodging foot traffic, and I adore my hiking sandals so much that just having the time to walk a couple of miles every morning makes my feet feel free and happy. Yes, I know that’s a very weird thing to say, but whatever.

And when it comes to working out at Iron Tribe, I love not having to think about what I’m doing. I just go in and shut down my brain for 45 minutes. It’s awesome to get to flip that switch, stop worrying, and start sweating. I also love that I’m finally starting to understand how awesome it can be to have lifting goals in mind. I’m setting PRs left and right, and even though they’re light in comparison to serious lifters, it’s a start. I love to feel strong, and it’s really neat getting to the point where I can mindfully isolate different muscle groups to help achieve my goals. It’s crazy to feel muscles in places where it was always just soft ol’ me.

I guess this is what I was supposed to accomplish with today’s post. I’m seeing a pattern. Simplicity. I crave it, and I thrive within it. We’ll see what happens next.

Emotional Cinderblocks

How are we alike? How are we different? Do you ever feel like no matter how much you try to explain yourself to the ones you love, they’ll never actually understand you? I have a decent handful of people in my life that I love dearly, but really only a few that I feel confident truly connected to, like we “get” each other equally. That’s not to say that I don’t listen and empathize with the others with whom I’m close, just that it’s different. There are people that we love because their borders blur with ours, and those that we love because we have to hop over fences to get to hang out with them. There’s a certain amount of attraction in both kinds of friends, but the effortless ones are priceless when you’re down on energy, and can’t bother climbing a fence to find the shoulder you need to cry on. Of course, sometimes we have friends who initially had fences, but we’ve taken bolt cutters or sledgehammers or a shovel along so many times that now it’s a lot easier to get through. And maybe I’m just not remembering things well enough. Maybe all of the people I love had fences, and the amount of effort it took to get through is what makes us feel borderless now. I don’t know. Do you?

At any rate, I’m thinking about this because I’m feeling weighed down today. I’ve spent the last two days avoiding throwing things out, and replacing the intended activity of purging home goods with bingeing on comestibles. But the eating came with a certain amount of soul-searching, and I figured out some things that I hadn’t known before. Namely, that it’s time to get rid of all of the things that are still surrounding me from my old relationships. It’s time to get rid of the girl that I’m not, to strip down, to build back up.

I’ve made so many life choices based on what I think other people want from me. It’s why I have a hard time talking on the phone, going in to work, keeping an exercise schedule. I HATE that I feel pressured into all of these things. It often feels like my life is not mine to control. I don’t want to live like that anymore. Part of finding that solid, delectable core of Anna (and yes, I’m fairly certain that “delectable” is entirely the right word) is scraping away all of the layers of bullshit that I’ve imposed on myself over the years to try to be more attractive to people that I wanted to like me. And part of it is getting rid of things that weren’t my choices, like furniture that I picked as part of a compromise, or dishes that I’ve kept just because I felt like other people would judge me if I had less pieces in my cupboard, or whatever. This life is mine. I’m tired of drowning in it. I’m tired of the weight of all of these emotional cinderblocks tied to my ankles.

Ignorance

It’s 1am, and I’m so very tired. I didn’t get to sleep last night until 4am (which is actually now yesterday morning…weird), and only slept until 10am, and have been up ever since. I went out for a drink with my boyfriend and a friend after work, with the intention of having one drink and then going straight home to bed after, but instead I came home and got sucked into Facebook drama. Now I’m only still awake because I’m operating on fumes of irritation and annoyance, due to the complete ignorance and lack of empathy flooding my Facebook feed at the moment. Oh how I wish that my career didn’t require daily checking of social media, so I could get away from it all for awhile.

I made the mistake of reading up on the newest Duggar family drama – in case you haven’t heard yet, one of their sons is a pedophile who molested multiple of his sisters and other girls outside the family. When the father found out, he “reported” the son to a family friend who was a state trooper. The trooper sat on the information until the statute of limitations ran out and the son couldn’t be formally charged with the crimes. Meanwhile the daughters and son received their own shitty version of homeschooling abuse counseling that makes me so angry I want to scream and throw things right now just writing about it. After reading all of this, I was upset, so I wasn’t thinking clearly. Had I been thinking clearly, I would have stepped away from the Internet and avoided all reference to the Duggar family. Like an idiot, I went to their Facebook page to see what other people were commenting. You see, I somehow forgot that the world is full of ignorant asshats (I know, I know, how is that even possible to forget? But I did. *sigh*) And of course their page is full of messages of support and love in the family’s time of persecution. *$#$@#$Q#$#%^^%^#$%@$%!#$!@#!!!!!!!!

(Taking a deep breath.)

Anyway, then I went back to my Facebook page, and proceeded to look at silly, lighthearted stuff to try to save my sanity. You know, dance videos, kittens, funny memes, and all that. Until I accidentally clicked on the feed of a girl I know from high school. She’d posted an inspirational story about a homeless kid who graduated with honors from his high school class. Awesome, right? Except she posted it with a message about how (I’m paraphrasing, here) every child in our country has the exact same opportunities, and anyone who says otherwise, or tries to make excuses for not making it out of poverty/graduating with honors/making something of themselves is just lazy and not trying hard enough.

You see, she and I both grew up in the same lower middle class community. We lived in the country. Our public schools were excellent by most standards – no violence, great class sizes, clean classrooms with plenty of light, good air, places to sit, space to be outdoors, quiet places to hide out in the library, no trouble getting books for every kid in the class, a strong community that worked together to make sure that every kid had a way to get to school, even though it was a good 20 minute drive from town, a selection of great electives, teachers that really loved us, plus plenty of afterschool activities to enhance our horizons. Even so, logically speaking, even an imbecile could see that we were not getting the same level of education that students at larger, better funded schools got. I find it difficult to believe that given that very small leap of logic, it’s difficult for this person (and every other person who “liked” and commented on her thread, agreeing profusely and looking pretty fucking bigoted in the process) to understand that her position that all things are equal for every person in our country is fundamentally flawed.

This being said, once a person realizes “hey, I bet some kids had it much easier/better than me because they lived in other places”, it’s not that hard to think of things from a different perspective and think “hey, I bet some kids had it harder, too”. Because they do. They have it MUCH harder. Children in disadvantaged communities often don’t have a safe route to school. Many aren’t receiving adequate sleep or nutrition at home, making it difficult to learn. Their classes are overcrowded and their teachers don’t have the time or resources to provide individual attention. Many schools lack the budget to provide each child with a textbook for every class, meaning that the children who’re missing out on extra help from a teacher still don’t have a book to take home to try to grasp the necessary knowledge on their own. Our educational system is run on a ridiculous system of testing that requires kids to memorize just long enough to test out, then start memorizing other things (which is affecting more than just the poor kids, but when you start to stack up all of these disadvantages from day one, how in hell does anyone expect these children to achieve?). The real wonder is that many do achieve. They’ve still got teachers there that love them, and fight for them, and some make it out. But not enough. Education is the answer to stopping the cycle of poverty and violence, but it takes money, resources, and above all, for the rest of us to stop hiding our heads in the sand and pretending that everything’s all rainbows and lollipops. As many have said, it’s hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don’t have boots to begin with. Here’s a great article on the myth of bootstrapping, by the way.

There’s no easy way out. I’m not trying to even pretend that I have an answer, or even a guess at an answer. But I’m not going to sit back and ignore the issue, and I’m not going to politely refrain from commenting when people post vaguely racist posts about how sad it is that “some folks” want to just complain and be lazy all the time, when “we all have the same opportunities”. Check your privilege. Get some empathy. Grow the hell up and start living in the real world. And people actually ask me why I don’t like to go home…

Too Much

In 2007, I got rid of everything I owned and moved to Chicago with just what I could fit in a rental car (an antique trunk full of books and knick knacks, two suitcases of clothes and shoes, and my cat). Ever since then, I’ve been slowly accumulating more crap. In fact, when I moved back to New Orleans four years later, my ex-boyfriend and I packed an entire moving truck AND a jeep full of crap. A little over a year ago, we broke up and I moved into a 400 sq. ft. studio apartment. Over the past months, I’ve been slowly making strides to get rid of the excess crap that I’d collected over the last eight years.

In my life, I’ve accumulated a lot of spiritual and emotional baggage, and though I’ve done my share of physical purges, the one I’m currently on is the biggest yet. I feel like it’s probably the most important one of all, too, since the last eight years have been particularly hard on my emotions, harder than ever before, and this has impacted my physical self in ways I never would have thought possible. Over the past year, as my physical self has gone into further decline, I’ve taken the time to get stronger mentally. You could say that I made the choice to take some steps backwards in order to get my shit in order, knowing that once I was healed I’d be able to make much stronger, surer strides in the right direction. And I finally feel like I’m almost ready to start making power moves.

My first big directive, starting this week, is to get rid of everything in my physical realm that doesn’t make my life better. Clothes that no longer fit or were never really my style, costume parts that see the light of day every other year, books that I’m never going to read again, craft materials that I’m never going to use…you get the picture.

It’s time to be honest with myself. Am I too fat for these jeans? Craigslist. Is this artsy fartsy thing that I just had to have five years ago just collecting dust? Ebay. Am I really ever going to use any of these years-old spices in the cupboard? Trash can. My apartment is getting painted at the end of the week, so I’m making it my goal to have all of the things that I could probably make money off of listed on Ebay by the time the painter arrives, and anything that’s just taking up space and squashing my chance at getting this place feng shui is getting kicked to the curb.

I deserve better. It’s time to make things better.

Holding Hands

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 8.54.14 PM

We like to imagine that we’re part of something. That there’s some group out there that accepts us fully, as we are, no compromises necessary, and that once we’ve joined hands, that bond will never be broken. And for awhile, that might seem like an option that could be true. For those of us who have families, those parents and siblings represent connections that we like to believe can never be severed. Some of us find those close ties with friends from school or work, or even through our extracurricular endeavors. But eventually school ends, office intrigue creates tension, our sports teams have to leave the field for the season. It’s then that we’re forced to acknowledge reality. We are alone. We’re born alone, we live alone inside our heads as we grow old and fat and begin to decay, and even if someone is holding our hand in those last few precious seconds of breath, we will die just as alone as we have been in every second that has come before.

Often these days I’ll be going about my daily business, renaming files or posting something on social media – something incredibly banal – and all of a sudden I’ll remember my boyfriend, and a hot flash of joy will splinter my thoughts for a second. It occurs to me then that he makes me happy. I remember how it feels to hold hands in the dark, and to open my eyes against the night to find that I can make out his eyes, also open, peering right back at me. I can’t see his smile, but I can see just a hint of a crinkle to the corners of his eyes, and I know he’s looking on me with love, a love that I’m beaming right back to him. I know that moment when it happens, and then I know it all over again when I remember it later, and I know it right now, as I type this. Most of all, I know that even though I am still alone, and will live and die alone as every other creature on this planet has since the dawn of time, I am not lonely. I’ll take that.

The Nightmare

After a few good, calm weeks, this morning I woke up with that familiar feeling in my chest. The anxiety is back. Maybe it’s because of the nightmare.

It was one of those ones that wakes you up and sits there with you, daring you to try to close your eyes again. You won’t like what you find, it says. You won’t, but I will. Nightmares like that just leer at you from their ephemeral hiding spots, somewhere between dream and waking, like the nearly invisible monsters that creep into their corners when you flip the light switch in the closet, or go searching under the bed for that box of sweaters from last winter.

My nightmare made no sense. It wasn’t even scary. But it did its job. I awoke with dread, and it’s grown throughout the day. Now that it’s time for bed again, I find myself near tears. Of course, it’s Sunday, and Monday morning fills me with much the same sense of dread, so it could just be the work week that makes me hate Sunday nights. Who knows?

I dreamt of elevators going up, and escalators going down. There was a painted owl, stolen from a thrift shop. Decrepit old ladies in kimonos danced their way through some odd version of a tea ceremony on the sidewalk of my dream city, spitting hot tea like fire breathers. A man kept a house of feral cats, supported on the donations of passersby. I brought them a giant bag of food, and some litter. For $28, I could have my fortune told, but the woman I visited was trapped in a hospital bed, a sheeted corpse in a wheelchair to her left. She said I had no future, that it was invisible through a wall of gray smoke. I thought that she wanted to kill me, to steal my soul. So I woke myself up and lay there in the bright light of early afternoon, heart pounding, stomach churning.

There’s so much to accomplish tomorrow, but I can’t remember any of my tasks. They’re all a jumble, swooping through my head, crowding the space around my heart. The dread hangs on. I’ve taken a couple of sleeping pills, just so I can relax enough to get past this and get a little shuteye. I should probably close the laptop so my brain can start to power down away from the backlighting. But I can’t handle the darkness tonight.

I need someone to hold my hand and tell me it’s all going to be alright. I don’t think it is. I try to peer into my own future, and there’s nothing but that smoke.