gratitude, volume 1

i was asked by amanda a few weeks ago to participate in #30daysofthanks, which is a thing that goes around these grand interwebs every november. i didn’t answer, for a few reasons. the first is that i was traveling, which is not my natural state and not all that easy for me (so much worry, so many things to do and take care of). the second is that i’m pretty bad at gratitude (but that’s probably all the more reason why i should practice it). the third is that i have been really deep in the hole of feelings. i have a whole post written about that, and we’ll see if it sees the light of day.

today, however, has been a blessed reprieve. i have had a glorious brooklyn autumnal morning and early afternoon, and since we are ten days into the gratitude project, i can come up with 10 things i am grateful for. also, i like lists.

1. my king size memory foam bed. yep. this is shallow. i’m ok with that. every single time i travel, i am super grateful to come home to my bed which is made of pure awesome. the bouncer is bouncer sized and in order to avoid nightly smotherings i demanded a king size bed. when we came up with a memory foam for $500 on amazon, we were sold. at least three times a week, we audibly sigh with relief and joy while sinking into the bed at the end of the night.

2. my work, and my coworkers. i’m fortunate enough to have a job i really like, most days, with people who make me smile and laugh, all of the days. i love that i work for a cause, i love that my natural talents are involved in my work. there are days, especially recently, where it is astonishingly difficult to make myself get out of bed. it’s a little easier knowing i’m about to spend 8 hours at a place that i’m usually really fond of.

3. lessons and realizations, even if they are old news. most of the time, i’m pretty sure no one likes me. and you know, i’m kind of safe and comfortable in that place – i would open myself to disappointment if i did think that i was likable and then no one liked me, so it’s just much easier to presume the worst and get on with life. but i forget that we are not robots, i especially am not a robot, and that kind of life, it hurts all of the time. so when i step outside of a bar, where a very sweet and cool and nice person is hosting a meetup with lots of other sweet, cool, and nice people, and i look down at myself and think, “remember, you are not like them. you are different and they will never appreciate you, because you’re not worthy,” and i can reverse that and answer myself and say, “no. you are all living, breathing humans who work to earn money and laugh and have dreams, and you are not all that different, and you know, everyone’s been really nice to you so maybe your bullshit self talk is exactly that, bullshit.” this, this is a good moment, if i can believe this for a second or a minute or maybe even an hour.

4. saying fuck it, and moving on. some things are not worth your time. some actions are inexplicable, some cruelties will never be explained. we all experience this world differently, and sometimes you just won’t get why person x did thing y. and you know what? when that thing is mean, when it hurts you, when you even suspect that you aren’t worthy of that treatment, when you try to handle it the mature way with communication and openness and vulnerability and it just doesn’t work, you are so allowed to say fuck it and move along. as a matter of fact, i encourage you to do so. it’s freeing.

5. tea. what the hell did i do before i was a tea drinker?

6. the circumstances that conspired to have me in a 2,500 square foot mansion in beverly hills for a week. i mean, it took a lot to make this happen. one of the bouncer’s friends was getting married near LA. he was a groomsman, and so were many of his/our friends. hotels nearer to the wedding were pricey. blahblity blah. at the end of the day, seven of us booked this giant, five bedroom, four bathroom, fancy ass house for a week. there was a pool and a hot tub and a full set of wine glasses and truly, this was all i needed. LA would never have been on my “places i need to go” list, and i can think of more desirable to me vacations to take with the money i spent on this trip, but really, i had an amazing time in a new and fascinating place with people i knew but had never gotten to bond with. really, that’s pretty awesome.

7. my boyfriend. this is sappy and you can feel free to skip it, and i will not blame you because other people’s sap is usually boring. i am never going to be accused of being the easiest person to love or live with or hell, spend more than an hour with. in the past three weeks, he has held me when i’ve been sobbing, probably past the point when his arms fell asleep. he’s dealt with me going from fine to really not fine in less than five seconds (i am not exaggerating). he has managed my intense and irrational frustration and anger with grace. he has never even raised his voice, at me. he tries every single day to let me know how much he cares, he asks me every morning how i am feeling, and that means how i am really feeling, and he pets my head every night until i fall asleep. we are not perfect and we have our hurdles but god, i can’t imagine how my heart would fare without him. i can’t. (and this is not an easy thing for me to admit to myself or you, so).

8. fuzzy socks. IT’S BEEN REALLY COLD AND SOMETIMES SNOWY.

9. new york bagels. and maybe bacon cream cheese.

10. the internet.  fairly self explanatory, no? where else can i find new friends, buy household supplies and groceries, and look at cat videos?

 

maybe it’s been the heat holding me down.

this is a very old school style post for me – back in the day, i had xanga and a secret blogspot. i’m sorry if it’s not what you’ve come to expect, or enjoy. but it’s really all i’ve got at the moment. anything else feels way too false. also, it was written last week, and things are looking a bit up, so promise me you won’t worry. that’s not my goal.

i find myself staring at strangers, wanting to know all their secrets. it used to be a fetish of mine – i would play a tit for tat game of the exchange of information, i was desperate to understand how the pieces formed the whole. quid pro quo, doctor. i hardly thought of myself as a person so i gave up my facts readily but in a calculated sequence. i established trust, i targeted those who seemed neediest. i cared, but in a way i didn’t. it was a dark game. don’t worry, i haven’t done it in years. it was borne of an intellectual teenager’s angst, and if i’ve done nothing else, i’ve grown up.

and i think of how funny it is, that there are words that choke me when I’m talking to people who already love me, whom i already love (that’s a thing, i have no idea when to use who and whom. i apologize. i promise most of my grammar is very good). that i’ve never written the bouncer a love letter – it’s something i used to do but that part of me… i don’t know where it is or even if it still is. at all. i don’t, in many ways, recognize myself after the past seven years.

in most ways i write off my crazy as sort of a joke, just a quirky thing. it’s not, really, and i know that, but how else do you deal? i laugh loudly at the things that irk me, at how i can be so obsessive, but really i’m dealing with inexplicable body aches several days a week. i don’t know what to think they’re from besides constant worry. i tell people playfully about issues between the bouncer and i. no one really knows when i’m sobbing until 3am because of any one of several things that happened three years ago, that he’s apologized for over and over, that i can’t let go of. i say, i couldn’t sleep last night, but no one knows that i was standing at my open window at 1am, arms up on the sill, leaning, eyes drooping, wondering how the fuck i was going to deal with another day, exhausted.

well, now you all know. i promise, this isn’t a cry for help – i know there is help out there, i know how to get it. i know how this all sounds, but it’s not quite like that. i tell myself its not that bad. i just haven’t decided if that’s true or not.

believe me, i feel guilty. that i am not a ray of sunshine, that i don’t participate in the joyful beams of friendship that float around twitter and the internet – it’s just not me, but i swear, i’m not a black cloud. that i am just not as bright and shiny as everyone else. that i don’t cook the bouncer dinner so often anymore, or bake treats for him or my coworkers. i live with a lot of fear that you don’t like me, even if it seems like you do. i’m afraid that my side eyes, my waist size, my lack of religion, my layers, that they’re a thing that makes me hated. i wonder sometimes if the great majority of my social interactions are simply patronizing bullshit. i feel so guilty that i am me, and not a model of someone you’d like more.

it makes me sad and nervous to put this on the internet. my boss will probably read it, acquaintances that only know one face of me, people that might be shocked or uncomfortable. but if there’s anything we should all get used to, it’s that there’s always more than what you think to see. people are whole, and i like to believe that’s ok. and when all of the parts of a person maybe aren’t working together quite how they should, and they want to talk about it, maybe there shouldn’t be punishment for it. there’s precious little honesty out there – shouldn’t we treasure it?

i know this is scattered, rambly, and i wish it weren’t. i’m hoping fall brings me a new charge, a wave of refreshment somehow. i hope it has all just been the heat holding me down.

why the “choose happiness” obsession makes me ragey.

i promised this post on twitter and i was shocked by how many people responded saying they’d like to hear my thoughts. i know several in my circle are fans of this idea, and i don’t begrudge anyone that. but try, for a second, to see it from another point of view.

three years ago, i was deeply sad. i was coming off the loss of two important friendships, and my romantic relationship was rocky and troubled. my visions of love and trust were shattered, and i thought the next step was accepting the cold wasteland that lay ahead, learning to live without any real connection ever. i practiced. i tried every day to disconnect further and further from anything that resembled warmth. i believed in my deepest heart that i’d come to the correct answer, finally, that this was how life was intended to be lived. i frequently fell into intense bouts of crying, lamenting, and just hurting. the bouncer would tell me over and over to try to be happy, to try to reach out to new friends, to have perspective. i fought him tooth and nail, insisting that these were my FEELINGS and i could not change them and how dare he invalidate them.

i learned after a while that i was wrong, and this is not a thing i say unless it’s really very true. i was, yes, so sad during that time, and with good reason. but i recognize, looking back, that i wallowed, on purpose, and i didn’t make any real effort to improve my situation. once i started trying a little, things got much better.

so, i understand the value of “choosing” happiness. i understand the value of logical perspective. i understand the futility of believing any circumstance or hurt is forever – the only constant is change. i understand that while you may not have direct control over all of your emotions, it’s good to try to steer them sometimes, and do-able. i do understand that you can play an active role in improving your mood, your circumstance, your life. that you are very often the one standing in your own way.

that said…

a phrase like “choose happiness” is glib. it makes it sound easy, and it’s not. often, it’s one of the hardest things to do. darkness can be so comfortable because when light shines brightly on you, you will be seen and for real, that’s scary as shit. it makes it sound as though when faced with something difficult, you can just “choose” happiness and the difficulty of the situation will just vanish. and just, no. this isn’t the way anything works.

and let’s talk for a second about feeling things that aren’t happiness…

i believe all emotions are valid. i believe we’re being taught to be chipper animatronic little robots all of the time, and i believe it’s bullshit. i believe when your best friend unceremoniously dumps you, when your boyfriend ignores you, when someone is out and out cruel to you, you should be sad about it. slapping on a grin and going for a drink under the guise of choosing happiness is a destructive and ultimately ineffective answer, because i promise you, your unresolved shit is coming back to bite you. i believe the choice of happiness as a panacea for the “problem” of feeling anything negative is troublesome and problematic. we have a spectrum of emotions for a reason – we’re supposed to use them.

and then, maybe most importantly, we’re brought to the times when there is no choice…

i believe there is a significant portion of the population that suffers from valid and varied levels of psychiatric illness, and it’s probably more than you think it is. even if you swear it isn’t the case, i promise you that every day, you encounter someone who had a legitimately difficult time leaving bed, or will be choked and crumbled from panic at some point in the day, or fought a self destructive urge. it is hard to be a human, guys. for all of the beauty we are given in this world we are also given terror. remember what I said last week? we are beings working in shadow and light, always. sometimes, the shadow is stronger.

i have a history of depression and anxiety and probably other things that i’ve never figured out. i have had traumatic shit happen, and because i know that i am not a special snowflake, i bet you have too. i promise you that when i am reeling, it isn’t because i just haven’t chosen happiness hard enough that day. the very best I can do on some of these days is leave bed. believe me, i feel guilty enough about my occasional inability to participate in the world – telling me to choose happiness is a slap in the face. it won’t do anything anf furthermore, it shows a complete lack of sympathy, or even an effort towards sympathy

sometimes, no, it’s not a choice.

i get it, the idea behind it, i do. finding joy is about a search and a conscious effort. sadness can be so easy, and escaping it requires bravery, requires a concrete decision. you’re in charge of your life, you’re in the driver’s seat and you’ve got to act it. perspective is valuable. all of that acknowledged, a phrase like “choose happiness” is overly simplistic, and to me, offensive on several levels.

flatbush and fenimore.

there are women out there who reject the term feminist, and i just cannot understand why.

there was a time when i was semi flattered by passing compliments on the street. i don’t mean classy compliments – which i’ve only ever received once, a few years back, and it is a golden little memory that i treasure. but i mean the trashy, low class, sleazy comments. there was a time when i thought, “well, at least i’m pretty enough to comment on. i guess.” i was always, however, irritated by random strangers, usually men, insisting that i smile. “smile, it can’t be that bad.” dude, you know precisely jack shit about me and my life. you don’t know if i have cancer. you don’t know if i’m on my way to my mother’s funeral. you don’t know if i have a blister that really hurts and i need to get home and take my shoes off. you do not know anything, and perhaps you should keep your opinion of what i should be doing with my face to yourself. perhaps you should just leave me alone and let me be. i wondered if this attitude made me unfriendly, and if the smile army had some kind of point.

i didn’t understand until recently that the term for this behavior is street harrassment. i didn’t understand that it is not at all a comment on how attractive you are – it’s a comment on the fact that you, as a woman, are obviously there on the street for a man’s appraisal and approval at all moments. it’s a threat. it’s to make sure you know your place, you know that even running an errand or getting home from work, you are not safe from an unwanted advance. i didn’t understand that commands to smile are commentary on how women, to some, should always be pleasant and pleasing, and how dare i be anything but. i didn’t understand that this phenomenon is a direct result of institutionalized patriarchy and repression. now, i do.

most of the time, i know the wisest response, the thing that will not cause any ruckus, is to walk right on by and not engage. and you know, deep down, i’m just really not ok with that, not even the tiniest bit. that is a tacit agreement that this behavior is ok. that you’re somehow allowed to assert yourself in my sphere of existence in an offensive way and that i am somehow ok with it. i am not fucking ok with it. and so, i’ve taken to shouting back at street harrassers. it really depends on how frustrated or stressed i am with other things going on, how i’ll react.

today there was a group of 3 guys standing around on a stoop as i walked home from the train. i honestly can’t remember everything they said as i walked by, but the smile commanding was part of it. it’s rainy and the first day back after a long weekend and hot and humid and disgusting and yes, i shouted back. i asked them why they thought anyone cared what the fuck they had to say. i shouted at them to shut up. i kept walking, turning around to yell my replies through more and more raucous laughter and more and more comments. there was a woman walking next to me – i looked her in the face, but she kept her eyes dead ahead and wouldn’t meet my gaze. i accept that i possibly seemed like an insane person, but that too was a sad reminder of how alone i was in the moment.

i barely turned my corner before i was letting out small gasps to keep from crying. in my anger, i thought some nasty racist, classist things – that’s shameful and not ok, but it’s the truth. i thought about carrying an umbrella, or better, a bat with me every day, so i could stop ineffectively shouting and instead start ACTUALLY responding when these things happen. less shameful, but still a little shameful and also true. i thought that i would really like to get out of this neighborhood, and why don’t i have the money to do that? i felt disgusting, ugly, worthless, and stupid. i considered walking back to where they were, tears in my eyes and trying to explain why this is fucked up, why it’s not ok to do this to women, to anyone. and i realized i would look even crazier, and they wouldn’t care.

i walked in and tweeted a few things about it and several of my friends were kind and supportive in return. the bouncer came home, was surprised to find me so upset, and also seemed surprised when i told him this is not the first time something like this has happened, though it doesn’t normally escalate. he wondered why i hadn’t told him about any other time. and i answered, “because it’s just a thing that happens.”

he told me right away that if i feel unsafe we should not be here. and i don’t. i don’t feel like anything bad will happen to me and i don’t feel in danger. i am sad that i can’t just make my way home from work peacefully. i’m sad that the world we live in allows and and supports this bullshit behavior. i’m sad at how remarkably shitty it feels to be on the receiving end of it, when i’d love to just brush it off. i’m sad that my response, my anger, my disallowance of it is a joke to them. i am just something to be laughed at.

i’m tempted to, but i won’t apologize for how issue ridden and feminist ranty this is of me. maybe similar things have affected you and maybe they haven’t, but tonight, this tore at my soul a little.