Women’s March in DC

Well I didn’t die yesterday. No crazy bombers blew up the Women’s March. In fact, it was an amazing, positive, inspiring experience that I’m grateful to have been a part of. It reminded me that I am part of something much bigger. I am not alone.

People from all walks came together to show solidarity and support one another. Organizers expected 200,000 people, and instead over a million people showed up in DC. And they didn’t just march in DC, but around the world. Everyone was friendly, smiling, cheering. People said “excuse me” when they bumped into each other. Every now and then you’d hear a few people chanting nonsensical chants, such as, “Let’s start the march now,” at the beginning after we’d waited for an hour to start marching. Turns out it was too big for anyone to move for some time, and we ended up going everywhere, off route, because there were just too many people. Towards the end, everyone was walking in different directions, and it didn’t even matter because we were there to show support for each other.

Some of the signs were funny. One sign read, “Don’t turn back time. Let Cher do that.” Another sign read, “There’s too much shit to put on one sign.” Quite a few signs read, “We shall overcomb,” with a picture of Trump’s combover. Oh, and one more: “Melania, if you need help, blink twice.”

I saw a few police and military people, but they were not unfriendly, and one police officer had classical music playing from his van. People were climbing on towers, trucks, bleachers, and no one minded. People were standing on the balconies of buildings, holding signs, wearing pink “pussyhats,” pink t-shirts, scarves. It was a sea of pink.

My mother would’ve LOVED it. I like to think she was there in spirit, shaking her fist in the air in the feisty way that characterizes her personality.

Most of my pictures from the march didn’t turn out so well, so instead I’ll link to this New York Times article with pictures from around the world.

Peace and love,

TCH

Advertisements

Love

This may sound crazy, but I feel I should make this public somewhere, and Facebook isn’t where I’d want to post this. First of all, I don’t think anything will happen. And I do not have a suicide wish. But if something terrible happens today, ie, if a crazy person bombs the march, and I die, please know that I died with hope and love in my heart. I love you all.

Finding Joy

Miracles are starting to happen. I can feel it.

Yesterday I woke up feeling sad, but I did what I needed to do, as time dragged by. I had the day off, so I did some writing, went to Zumba, talked to two friends, did homework, laundry, and then I went to class last night.

The class is called Foundations of Health and Wellness, and the school recommends that we take it our first or second semester, which I didn’t do because I wanted to focus on the hard classes without the distraction of busy work from fluff classes. I’d thought of it as a fluff class, designed to make us feel better, because eventually we’d be taking chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, etc. As students, we stress out about how much of this we’ll need to remember for our clients, and we question how much we can retain—even those of us without a science background.

The professor, who I’ll call Joy, was like a ray of sunshine on a stormy day. She’s just cute. She wore this cute little hat wrapped around her head, with white hair peeking out the front. An unrecognizable accent, half Australian citizenship, half American. She wore a beaded necklace of turquoise with a crystal in the center, and peapod-looking things for earrings. She just laughed at everything. And she was funny. I would write more but I live in the DC area, and I’m going to the Women’s March today. Joy’s going to the march too.

The focus of this class is self-care. How to do it for yourself, and how to offer it as a tool for your clients. She talked about the importance of attitude, and what a difference just a smile can make in someone else’s life. She talked about the contagiousness of laughter, and showed us the video at the end of this blog post. It was true. Her cheerful attitude was infectious. I thought to myself, I want what she has.

Self-care places importance on finding balance in life, and making equal time for sleep, fun, socializing, relationships, exercise, and spirituality, in addition to work. She showed us a pie chart of all the different aspects of life, and said that we need to make equal time for each slice. One student asked what I was thinking, which was how we could make equal time for each of these. And fun? What is that? She’d said most of us make too much time on one of the pie pieces, and I couldn’t help but think of how my whole pie consisted of my relationship.

When I got home I spoke to my friend who I’ll call Molly on the phone about our plans for the march. Her voice was crestfallen, devoid of the excitement I felt at participating in such a historic event that signifies, for me, hope and change. Four years ago, and the four years before that, I could’ve gone to the Obama inauguration but I didn’t, because I didn’t feel as passionate then. I felt like the world was a safe place and the good things we deserved were happening and there was no need to take action. Someone else was taking care of it; I didn’t have to do anything. Now life is different. If you want positive change in your life, you’ve got to make it happen. Be the change you wish to see. And pain inspires change. Not living a comfortable, easy life. I’ve had to hit rock bottom before I tried a different way.

The negativity of my friend’s attitude I took personally. Now she’s in a bad mood, I’m not going to have a good time today, I don’t want to deal with this. The other friend who I’m meeting today posted on Facebook that she guessed she’d be going alone to the march because all her friends and family had backed out. What’s up with the pity party? We had plans to meet there. What is she talking about? Is it just me, the friends I choose, or a combination of the two? Molly’s attitude reminded me of my ex-boyfriend. Everything seems exciting and fun, and then out of the blue it’s a catastrophe. I absorb it like a sponge. Where are all the shiny, happy people? Do I change friends, or do I change my attitude? Or both?

Regardless of who the President is, today will be a day of hope and gratitude. I’ll tell you what Joy told us last night: you have to laugh at life. If you don’t laugh, well then, you know what your other option is. I will find peace and joy from the pain. You can, too.

Waiting

No matter the outcome of this particular phase of my life, I must know that good will come of it. If I rely on my higher power and trust that good will come, I can find serenity and strength. Life may not turn out the way I think I want it to right now, and if so, later it will become clear to me that better things were in store for me.

These are the words I tell myself as I wait for my ex-boyfriend to decide if he wants to get back together or not. If he cannot get over his anger and hurt, and he can’t forgive me, then maybe it’s just not meant to be. I don’t want to be with someone who can’t forgive me. It’s a terrible feeling to feel so unforgiven. To feel that you fucked up beyond repair, that you destroyed something really beautiful, to feel that no matter how hard you tried, you could not be perfect. All I can do is surrender. I cannot be perfect. I will make mistakes. I will hurt people, and they will hurt me. We’re human, and that’s what we do sometimes, even when we don’t mean to.

If we get back together, it won’t be the same. When the honeymoon period is over, hopefully something deeper will develop, and in this case, that’s a big question mark. I told him I want someone who can tell me that they’re willing to work with me on this relationship just for today, and he replied that wasn’t too much to ask, not realizing that’s exactly what he’s not doing right now.

If he decides he wants to get back together, is this what I want?

Yes. Do I think that means it will work out forever? No. There are no guarantees, and I have no idea what our relationship will look like if we get back together.

I can’t help but remember how I’d cheated on my first husband, and he forgave me, and still wanted to get back together. Couples do that sometimes after infidelity, and in this case, I did not cheat, yet this man struggles to trust and forgive me. I had to explain to him for an hour and a half that he’d misunderstood something I’d said, and afterwards he felt better, but I did not.

Whatever happens, I can and will heal. If we don’t get back together, maybe it’s for the best. As much as I want this relationship to work out, it’s not really up to me to decide. As much as it feels like it’s my fault, that I ruined it, I have to know that I did not singlehandedly ruin this relationship, that if he cannot forgive me for something that isn’t even true, then it wasn’t meant to be. I can and will grow stronger from this.

I just want time to hurry and pass, because this is so incredibly painful I want to take some extreme action, like leave the country.

Maybe it’s for the best if he can’t forgive me. He’s losing out because he’s unwilling to do the work it takes to be in a healthy, loving relationship. If he decides to stay, maybe it will bring us closer, and maybe our love will grow deeper and stronger. If not, maybe something else amazing will happen, and I will simply become stronger. I’ll become stronger either way.

Live for Today

A miracle will need to happen for me to finish this semester and return to school for good. As of this moment I’m sure I’ll collect my student loan money and then withdraw from school to focus my free time on self-care and writing. The worst that happens is I don’t get published, and if I decide in a few years to get training of some sort to do some other type of work, or maybe I just apply to some other better-paying jobs and actually get one, then I’ll do that. For now, I don’t see how I can focus on all the things I want to do while studying. When I was in school every free moment was spent studying, and I cannot do that right now.

My sisters won’t agree. They’ll think I’ve given up, that I’ve given in to depression and maybe they’ll worry that I’ll never do anything. I cannot worry about that or what anyone else thinks. I must follow my gut and do what I know I need to do.

What really needs to happen is for me to make this decision and be okay with it. To stop putting pressure on myself to do something, to do anything but write this book I’ve wanted to write all of my life. And I don’t want to put pressure on myself for that either because then it will never happen.

There is only one thing I’ve ever wanted to do for my entire life, or since I was eight years old, and that is to become a writer. (And I’m aware that my blog posts need to be edited, but the desire to get the word out surpasses my discipline for the time being.)

One of my co-workers, who I’ll call Rashad, told me the other day that I remind him of Dolores on “Westworld.” Either he is extremely perceptive, or my life is an open book, because I relate to her character so much. One of my favorite lines from her is this one: “There aren’t two versions of myself. There’s only one. And I think when I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”

I’ve probably talked more to Rashad than most of my other co-workers, apart from my friends in my own department. He’s the one who I first told about Mom dying, mostly because he’s the first one I saw when I returned to work, and the horrible nightmare I had a week or so after her death. We’ve talked about God—mostly just that there is one—and I know he’s a recovering addict and budding actor. He knows I’m divorced and used to have a very different job. But I don’t recall telling him that I don’t know who I am, or that I’m on a journey to find myself. I didn’t know he could see me so clearly. And if he, a near-stranger, can see me that clearly, then how transparent am I to the rest of the world?

It doesn’t really matter, though I feel vulnerable. The funny thing is, I’ve been like this my entire life. And it’s been obvious to anyone with eyes and ears throughout this whole time. My identity is wrapped up in finding myself. Seems ironic, like a dog chasing its tail. In high school and college I wore different clothes and hairstyles as part of the quest. After that I looked inward. Then I just tried not to let anyone else know that because I felt ashamed and hopeless, and often I gave up, and tried to pretend to be like how I thought everyone else was.

It has always been a mystery to me, how people do this thing called life, especially those who seem to have it figured out. I call bullshit on them. The ones who walk a straight path to their destination—those people I don’t get, and I imagine they’re in denial, dead to the real grittiness of life. Who knows? My own path has been messy, winding, a roller coaster at times. Hitting rock bottom, crawling out, taking baby steps sideways to find peace. Before you know it, life becomes beautiful, and it starts to feel like you’re winning, that everything will be okay, and then life slams you with something like death. You hit rock bottom again, thinking it can never get worse than this, and then it does. But then life gets better again.

My boyfriend and I have started to talk again, and I feel that we will be getting back together. Baby steps though. He’s talking to his therapist today, and then we will have a talk some time after that. In the meantime he sent me a few sweet texts, so I decided to text him early yesterday morning. I didn’t hear from him by the end of the work day, so I texted again. Still nothing after a couple of hours. So I emailed him. Still nothing. So I called him, twice, and still nothing. I imagined he’d changed his mind. Then I thought maybe he’d died. Perhaps he’d committed suicide after contemplating this relationship. He felt doomed and decided to end it. But no, he wouldn’t do that, as depressed as he can get, because he loves his kids too much. But then, I’d thought that about my friend who either committed suicide or overdosed by accident last year—to this day I don’t know how she died. Maybe my boyfriend had had a heart attack. He could have been dead all day in his bed, alone in his basement apartment, and no one knew it. That’s what happened to my co-worker last year. He woke up and got ready for work, then sat down in his living room chair and died of a heart attack. He was found by the store manager the following day after not showing up to work for the second day in a row.

So maybe it sounds crazy that I got dressed and got in my car at eight o’clock at night and started to drive to my boyfriend’s house. But when people just die all of a sudden, when everything seems normal, but then you realize you got a text from your sister two hours ago asking you to call her, that it’s urgent, and you see that she’d left a voice mail before that, but you hadn’t checked your phone in hours because you were at work and trying not to be on your phone, trying not to be obsessive about whether or not your boyfriend had texted, and then you find out that your mother had a stroke and isn’t breathing on her own, that there’s absolutely no hope of recovery–well, I guess you get a bit of PTSD. I did, anyway. Maybe I’d have been that way anyway. I do have an active imagination.

Anyway, I barely got out of my driveway when I saw that he’d responded. He’d been asleep all day with a bad cold.

That’s when it hit me. This is how it is. This is how I am. I catastrophize. I project into an unknown, doomed future.

Living with uncertainty—that’s the real task. There will never be a moment in which I have it all figured out. Period. This is life, now. This is it. This.

Even now, as I’m writing, I’m realizing that I have no idea what I’ll do, and that’s okay. Today I will go to class, and see how it goes. There’s no need to decide today what to do for the rest of my life, or even for the rest of the semester. All I can do is live for today. Learning how to focus on that is the real challenge. Although I know it intellectually, and it’s a lesson I learn again and again, the challenge to live one day at a time is an ongoing lesson for me.

But that’s okay. Just remember: one day at a time.

Finding Courage

Last night I dreamt of Mom, that I was crying and hugging her, telling her that I loved her and missed her. We were standing inside the hardware store, but in my dream it was my work, which is appropriate because she worked at Sears for 30 years, and I now work in retail myself. The dream tells me I can acknowledge that I’m still grieving the loss of my mom, that I don’t have to judge myself so harshly and tell myself that I’m acting like a spoiled brat who wants attention. At the same time I know I’ve reacted out of self-centered fear towards my boyfriend and jealousy over his daughter. In other words, I can be gentle with myself for my feelings and even for my actions, and at the same time I can forgive him for expecting me to go to his dad’s for Thanksgiving. Because it wasn’t so much him asking me to go to his dad’s as it was that I felt like he was telling me to get over my grief and now be there for him.

Thanksgiving was the catalyst for all of this conflict with my boyfriend. Or ex-boyfriend, whatever he is. I became blinded with self-centered fear over the audacity of him to ask me to go to his father’s for Thanksgiving after my mom just died three months prior, and I wanted to visit my sister and stepfather. But did I really want to visit my sister and stepdad? I felt obligated to, even though they didn’t ask me to—I didn’t even know what I wanted. What I really wanted was attention, the attention my boyfriend had showered upon me when my mom first died, because I still felt sad, and I loved the attention he gave me. Then I held on to that resentment and let it grow. Underneath it all throughout our entire relationship has been a deep-rooted fear of abandonment on my part. And on his part too, though he shows it in a different way.

Yesterday I sent him a long, heartfelt email explaining how I felt:  afraid, resentful, jealous. That I reacted out of self-centered fear, and I want to try to work this out, no matter how hard, but that we must start on new footing. That I love him.

And he replied that he misses me and loves me, that he is terrified it won’t work out, but he hates being apart, and he wants a few days to consider it. He brought up my mom, and I remember thinking, as I read it, that he was just feeling guilty and beating himself up for something I was being a brat about.

But then I had this dream, and it tells me that yes, of course I’m still grieving, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean I should try to manipulate or control others into doing what I think they should do, but it does mean I can be gentle with myself and acknowledge that this will take time.

I just really miss her and wish I could talk to her. I want to introduce her to the world so you can all see how beautiful and wonderful she was, warts and all. And maybe I will. Maybe I will write a book about her. I would love to do that, to have the energy, passion, courage, and perseverance it takes to write a book. I don’t know if I have it in me.

Thursday I start class, and I worry that I’m wasting my time and money on such a thing, when I could be following my true passion as a writer, that I could be writing a book about Mom. Or I could be at the gym, at a support group meeting, out with friends, or doing any number of things to support my personal growth. But my therapist pointed out that I don’t like my current low-budget lifestyle, and I want to be able to get my own place and buy myself nice things. Doesn’t everything take work? I’ll have to work for this nutrition degree, just like I’ll have to work for anything else, and I’ll still be writing and working on my personal growth in the meantime regardless. And I can see myself as a nutritionist helping people with eating disorders, or diabetes, or whatever. I would be the nutritionist who didn’t try to change them but who gently guided them to make healthier choices and not to beat themselves up for eating a cookie. My mom had an eating disorder, and as a recovering alcoholic and someone who eats emotionally at times, I can understand what that might be like. I’ve never been overweight, but I felt like an ugly child, and that feeling of insecurity never really disappeared.

There’s no way of knowing what it would be like to be a nutritionist until I do it, just as there was no way of knowing what teaching would be like until I did that. A part of me feels like if I could just somehow go back to doing that and get used to being in front of a classroom, if I could just work hard enough to get more than an adjunct position (which was very hard, by the way), maybe I could do that and write. Another part of me says to just take the nutritionist route, and at least I’ll have a well-paying job, and I can find any number of jobs in different areas. In the meantime I’d still be writing, because I write to survive. Then there’s the me who wants to just stay where I am: the easy, low-stress route, but of near-poverty, working at the grocery store, while writing in my spare time.

Regardless of what happens in my relationship, I need to stand on my own. It would be easier to do without a boyfriend. At first I thought it would be easier to do with a boyfriend, because I had this idea we’d live together, and he could support me while I do what I want. But this is work I need to do, for myself.

For now I’ll go to class this semester and see how it goes.

As for my relationship, I feel that he will come back to me, but that it won’t be easy. My hope is that we will start anew, each of us focused on our individual growth while maintaining a healthy relationship. The thing is, we don’t know what that looks like, or if it will work.

I am scared to death. But all I can do is walk through it, one day at a time.

On My Own

When I was part of a couple, my idea of the future included a plan of moving in together, eventually to North Carolina. I’d find a job making more money, and maybe I’d go back to school. I didn’t know what would really happen, or what it would look like, but I had all these ideas about what the future held, and I felt safe. I felt safe knowing I had a partner to walk through it with together, a supportive person by my side. That’s all changed now, and I have no idea what the future holds, and no partner by my side. I have to walk through it alone.

This time I don’t want to find a partner. As hard as this feels like it will be, I want to get my shit together before I get involved with someone else.

I suppose I could take this time to look at the positive: I’ll have more free time. More time to spend building friendships, more time to study, to write, to focus on some kind of career. To go to church, do community service, go to Buddhist meditation, work out, go to support group meetings. I have only myself to focus on. No need to worry about what someone else is doing for dinner, or the weekend, or the holidays.

Balance is one thing I’ve always struggled with. When I had a partner I felt I had little time to do these other things because I preferred to spend that time with him. How other people have careers, relationships, and kids on top of that, I have no idea. I have time for only one out of those three.

I had hoped I’d be able to find myself while in a relationship with someone else, that we’d spend all this time together for a year or so before settling down to focus more time on ourselves, but with the knowledge that we’d be there for each other. I’m disappointed that this doesn’t get to be my story.

In my blog the other day I’d written about how my therapist suggested that I can find another man who doesn’t have a mental illness, implying that she believes there’s something wrong with that or that those with mental illness cannot be in relationships. But I don’t think that. It just takes more work that some of us, both the mentally ill and their partners, cannot or will not do. For anyone who hasn’t had this experience, for me it was about more than just the mood swings, but what the mood swings produced. If he wanted to stay in bed depressed for a week, that would be one thing. It would make me sad for him, and I’d want him to be happy, but I’d be okay and do my own thing. But he didn’t just do that. He became cold and distant, like a different person. He’d lash out at me and refuse to speak to me. He’d say he hated relationships and should be single. He felt like the world, including me, was against him. When times were good and he felt exuberant, he made promises he later forgot. I believed, and still do believe, the good parts. I believe he wanted to keep those promises, and I know he loves me and wants that life for us. But right now he just cannot do it, and maybe he never will. For him I think it’s about having been damaged so badly in childhood that he needs more growth before he can move forward. I believe he can do it if he puts in the work, but it doesn’t look like I get to be his partner during or after that. Maybe he can’t do it, and maybe he won’t put in the work. I don’t know. I really don’t know anything for sure.

A few weeks ago a man came into the store asking for help with some supplements, and during our conversation he said that I looked familiar. I’d noticed too, but hadn’t said anything, because I see people from the rooms at work all the time, and some of them wish to remain anonymous. But then he remembered it was from online dating, which must’ve been from over two years ago. We’d never met in person because after a few phone conversations he’d said something creepy about his interest (swinging), so I told him I wasn’t looking for that and never talked to him again.

Last night he came into the store again, and I realized he’s been shopping there for a long time and I’d never noticed before. He’s a good-looking man, and for a few dark moments I entertained the notion of eventually dating this man. Maybe he would take care of me.

In a corner of my mind I’d been feeling sorry for myself because it snowed yesterday, and there’s no one in my life to check up on me to make sure I’m safe. My family doesn’t live here so they didn’t know I was at work and afraid I’d be trapped, or worse, that I’d later get stuck on the road. It’s up to me to buy windshield de-icer, shovel snow from around my car, and make the decision to stay or leave work. Not that none of these decisions or actions were mine before, but just that I wouldn’t be getting any texts from my ex asking if I was okay, nor would I be getting any phone calls from my mom making sure I had all the supplies I need.

My co-worker, who I’ll call Barbara, was there, and we discussed what to do. She and I have grown closer over the past several months, and she reminds me of someone my mom would like. Barbara is a 60-year-old divorcee who lives with her daughter and autistic grandson. Her life is colored with a troubled relationship with the daughter and a lack of her own personal space. She was worried about driving because she had a long way to drive on back roads that probably wouldn’t be well-plowed. As a single mother of grown daughters who sound to me very selfish and inconsiderate, she doesn’t have anyone to check up on her. She’s been on her own for most of her life.

We’re each on our own in different ways. Each time it’s snowed like that, even when I was married, my husband at the time didn’t call with concern about my safety. I’m a grown woman and he assumed I could take care of myself. And I can.

So this idea that this creepy man from my past could take care of me was a moment of desperation in which I felt lonely and afraid of an unknown future that I will ultimately die alone in a nursing home. But the thing is, to be with some creepy dude in our house and to die there, I’d be alone there too. Maybe even more alone, because we can feel alone in our relationships. I felt more alone than ever in my first marriage.

The other thought that occurred to me was that there I was feeling sad that no one was concerned about me, when I have a friend who was disowned by her parents a couple of years ago, who’s single and poor, and with no one but herself to care for her. Who calls her when it snows? And it occurred to me just now as I was writing this, that I could reach out to Barbara to make sure she was safe. How about my friend Beth, who lives alone, a widow and cancer survivor, who has no family here either? Probably no one calls her when it snows either. But I can be that person. I can reach out to my friends and make sure they’re okay. And now that I think about it, my boss/friend texted me later to make sure I’d gotten home okay, and had also texted me to tell me she’d made it to work okay. So yes, we’re on our own, but we have each other, I can think of ways to be there for my friends, even if it’s just to say I care. And no, I do not have to become dependent on some creepy dude who’s not looking for real love and friendship but rather empty pleasures. And no, I do not have to go to sugardaddy.com as was disturbingly suggested by my acupuncturist’s assistant, because I am not a victim.

I am a survivor. A fighter. And I will get through this.