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An open letter to my significant other: Thank you.

For staying when I know it would be easier for you to go. For telling me again that you’re not going anywhere, that you want to be here for me. You don’t care if it will never be easy to be with me.

For being patient when one day I can’t stop smiling when I look at you, and the next day I pull away and refuse to look you in the eyes.

For not holding grudges when I come home angry at you and everything, and it’s not your fault. When my thoughts get so tightly wound up that I can’t unravel them, and I can’t tell you why I’m frustrated or sad or angry. I just am. And you stay to witness or bear what I can manage to get out.

For being happy with me on the good days. When the sun has been out just long enough. When I’m not stuck on my butt at a desk fueling self-loathing by florescent lights. (You’ve always said I’m like a flower. I open up to receive the warm light, and close up when the gray clouds return.) When I’m not drained by stale small talk with people who are only interested in me because they think it gets them what they need and I’m too stupid to catch on to it. When I’m not spinning out on a self-righteous tirade about humanity’s lack of morals. Usually brought on by driving in rush hour traffic.

For coming back when I tell you maybe it would be better if you left. For putting it away for another time when I say maybe I’ll leave and never come back too. But I couldn’t leave the cat.

For sometimes not listening to me. When you know I’d over-analyze something until I couldn’t act unless I answered the 5,000 questions that weren’t there before and won’t be there tomorrow when it’s all done.

For staying when I’ve been a corpse. A mind and soul detached from my body since the car ride away from you, even though we’re back together now. I can’t explain why. I don’t know if I’ll ever float back into myself to stay.

I watch above myself on the outside. Directing myself by waves in the air hoping the energy from my movement will move my body along. I perform routine for weeks. I forget entire days. The time spent within them too meaningless to remember. You stand beside me, waiting for the days when my mind and soul float back into me. Those days I smile, I feel love again. I try to ignore my guilt as I wonder how ungrateful I must be to forget the other days together. To forget them as if the life we’re trying to make has no meaning.

For loving my cat. For helping me treat her like our family. Like our more grateful, less poopy child that will never be able to speak English and won’t destroy my insides. For loving her anyway, even though she’s stolen most of my already divided attention when I’m home.

For struggling to make things better for us. For being more than I can see or more than I can be kind enough to acknowledge most days.

For seeing the beauty in me and trying to help me find it, when I’m blinded and disgusted by my own blindness.

For being there when I wake up at night scared and calling out for you. In the early morning, when you kiss me goodbye before I have to wake up, you are all I need. I don’t remember money or work or the things we’re missing, all I can recall is how much I belong here with you.

All I can give you right now are the good days. I don’t know what’s happened to me. Maybe I’m just a little older and more jaded. Maybe I just need to stop taking synthetic hormones.

As long as I still smile in the morning when you kiss me, as long as you’re still here to see me smile, everything is going to be ok.

 

 

 

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It’s never too late or too early for gratitude.

Maybe this would have been more timely at Thanksgiving, but I was busy Thanksgiving weekend being not busy. It was excellent. I read 100 pages of The Prometheus Deception, by Robert Ludlum and snuggled for whole afternoons with my kitty, Medea. (Every once in a while, I like a bestseller list thriller. I’ve got everything on my bookshelves from Shakespeare to Cher’s Guide to Whatever. I make sure to maintain a good sense of humor.)

What got me thinking about gratitude now, aside from Christmas coming up, was that I was angry about something. Something that I have limited control over. Something that is unresolved and that I can only do so much to resolve. Something that I don’t understand and won’t be able to explain.

So instead of staying angry about it, I decided that I needed to find things for which to be grateful. I didn’t want to give myself a headache and my shoulders are already stiff from clenching my way through 45 burpees (the non-pushup ones) on Friday morning.

With that in mind, I thought tonight I would make a list of the things I’m grateful for in my life. I recommend you do the same, even if you don’t post it publicly or write it down.

  • I can take deep breaths and smell fresh air through my porch door. And delicious fajitas being cooked somewhere nearby.
  • I have clean, running water in which to take a hot shower after a long walk.
  • I live with my two favorite creatures in the world–my boyfriend and my cat.
  • I have a supportive and generous family who have helped me through just about everything difficult in my life.
  • I have a job and I can pay my bills without sacrificing much.
  • I’m in good health and I can treat what hurts my body when I need to.
  • I have a very, very cozy bed.
  • Pizza is in my belly. How I love pizza.
  • I realized life has no rules and I get to do what makes me happy.
  • I have very low maintenance hair.
  • I can now get through 10 burpees in a row before my legs turn into jelly. Progress is slow and steady.
  • I have the sweetest cat in the world. No seriously. She is sweet enough to be on the list twice.
  • I met a new friend.

I could continue if I wanted. But I think my point is made.

Life might be throwing some shit at you right now. Be angry, be frustrated, be sad, and get clear on how to deal with it. Then let it go when it’s done. It’s only your life you’re wasting if you stay angry. Never too late or too early.

 

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Part 2: Ok, I’ll talk about Christmas.

This is a continuation of my post last week. I didn’t get to #2 on my list of things I’m cleaning out. #2 being: “If I don’t start making decisions based on what I think, and not the opinions given to me (usually unsolicited), I’m going to ruin some things I really want in my life.”

Like my sanity at Christmas.

I heard this announced the other morning on the radio. Did you know that in a recent Gallup poll, the average amount Americans expect to spend this Christmas on gifts is $830? That figure decreases as the individual income of the people surveyed decreases. $460 is average by people who earn less than $30,000.

Still. $460 when you’re only earning, let’s say, $28,000 after taxes is at least a month’s worth of groceries and restaurant outings. Damn. I really hope who you’re spending that money on appreciates what you’re doing for them.

Then there are the more subjective values. How much will it cost your health to stress about paying bills after the gifts are given?

Is it really worth it?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m perfectly happy to participate in consumerist Christmas celebrations. I spent several lunch breaks last week searching for Christmas gifts in my budget and making a list of who I want to buy for.

But this year what I’m doing different than other years is asking myself, “Is it worth the money and time and stress? Will some of these people really care if I don’t get them something? Would it be ok instead to just show up to a Christmas party with a tray of delicious baked goods and a grateful attitude?” And that means I decided to prioritize the things I need to take care of in my life over the chance that I disappoint someone.

And you know what, I highly recommend that you do the same. Don’t put yourself in more credit card debt because you’re afraid someone will be unhappy you didn’t get them a gift. Don’t stress yourself out come January when the next set of bills are due.

You know what’s a really awesome gift? Being around someone with such positive energy that the other person can’t help but feel happy.

And if a person wants to get disappointed that you only baked for them, or you just said you were glad to see them, that seems to me their problem.

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Doing some cleaning out and I am so not sorry: Part 1.

The last few weeks, I’ve realized a few things. Some of it crashed in on my consciousness. Some of it came upon me sweetly, untying the knots in my chest and shoulders.

  1. Holy shit. These evil hormone pills are making me depressed and anxious and impossible to be around.
  2. If I don’t start making decisions based on what I think, and not the opinions given to me (usually unsolicited), I’m going to ruin some things I really want in my life.
  3. Well. No one died. Looks like I’m going to be ok after all.

I’m only getting to #3 and #1 today. The second one has a story all on its own.

I’ll start with #3. I can’t go in to much detail about it, and I don’t want to anyway. All I can do is roll my eyes.

I was recently in a car accident. The particulars of this situation generally made me hate humanity for a few weeks. I’m thinking we should amend the old cliche to, “Douchebaggery makes the world go ’round.”

Anyway. No one died. My boyfriend has decided it won’t be so bad to hang around and help me deal with whatever will happen. I’ve accepted that I have no control over other people’s decisions. And it looks like I’m going to be ok anyway.


As for #1–and maybe this will only reach the ladies–but do your research on several different methods of birth control when you need to use it.

Also, listen to your own body. If you feel like something is off, it probably is.

For about a year and a half I’ve felt like I’ve had ZERO control over my emotions and ability to reason. Mood swings all the time. I’m an anxious person by nature, and bouts of depression are not out of the ordinary for me. But this stuff, I really had to try hard to explain it away. Dealing with it…well, I kept it all contained as much as I could until now. Until I looked at myself and realized I had no fucking clue who this person was and when the hell did I decide to stop enjoying life?

First I thought I was adjusting to living with someone. We have a small apartment. It’s expensive to live here. We’re still trying to figure out who does what in the relationship. Then I thought it was stress from my job. Politics, dealing with the general public, taking on a big project at work that may have been too much for me. Then I went back to thinking it really was my relationship. We need to split everything 50/50. I’m being used. He doesn’t care.

Then I was able to re-direct some of my time at work to the big project I took on. I made a new friend at work. I found ways to work out what I needed from my boyfriend and we were able to talk about what we needed to improve as a couple.

I would still wake up feeling disgusted with myself.

And I did not get passed up for my promotion at the Krusty Krab. Or spend a night getting wasted on Goofy Goober sundaes.

So after seeing a therapist, and noticing my mood, anxiety and depression tended to improve on my placebo pill days, I decided to do some research on depression and anxiety and birth control pills. Long story short, the way a woman’s hormones fluctuate throughout a month can have a huge impact on our moods and emotions. I’m not just talking about the infamous PMS. Everyone will react differently to all the types of synthetic hormones out there, but taking a pill that throws off your hormone balance can cause a whole lot of issues.

I read through a lot of articles, but these are the two most helpful articles I found online about hormones, birth control, and mood:

  1. Out of whack hormones.
  2. All about hormones!

There have been medical studies on the link between birth control pills and mood, but it would be difficult to prove that a certain hormone pill directly caused depression or anxiety for someone with how much our hormones naturally fluctuate. In my case, however, the one I’m taking has increased symptoms that were already there. I re-awakended some old habits I had in bouts of depression past.

Now I know I can take care of problem. I can try different methods of birth control, and take anxiety medication if necessary. I’m getting my sense of stability back. My ability to talk myself out of negativity and self-loathing is coming back. I feel like it’s time to start the last year and a half over. But at least I have a place to start now.

So I guess I’ve learned to let some things go lately. I’ve learned where to start listening and what to stop doing.

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The anxious bakes: Apple Oat Muffins

And actually, it’s one of my most peaceful routines. Sunday mornings are so happy for me. I wake up at 8 or 9am to a warm, snuggly kitty sniffing my face and mewing at me for her breakfast. We slip out of the room together quietly to not wake the sleeping bear next to us. (It’s my boyfriend. I don’t have a pet bear or something.) I pick her up and give her kisses and ear and neck scratches.

Snoozing on last night's pizza boxes while I bake.

Snoozing on last night’s pizza boxes while I bake.

She purrs. I love to listen to her purr for a while. I lay my head on her shoulders and listen to the soft beats travel down her neck and into my ear. We have to give a little love, but by the time I’m sipping on my coffee my stomach starts to grumble. Time to feed the beast.

This morning I wanted to bake something. No biscuits or pancakes. Muffins. Apple muffins. With cinnamon. So I did a little searching and I found Apple Oat Greek Yogurt Muffins on Running With Spoons. A blog with a bit of food and a bit of health advice. I appreciate the balance.

This recipe has all the comfort and nom’yness of an apple pie, sans butter and oil. And a lot less sugar. Apple pie has its place, of course. But usually it’s not at breakfast. (Mostly because I prefer chocolate pie for breakfast, when I indulge.)

I had to modify it because I didn’t have some of the ingredients, or I was running low. I also made my own applesauce, only to discover afterward that I had a jar of apple butter in the fridge I could have used as a sub for applesauce. Oh, well. Any chance to use the food processor is not a waste.

Here is the original recipe by Amanda at Running With Spoons with my modifications in parenthesis:

Ingredients
  • 1 cup plain flour–(Used biscuit mix instead.)
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats–(Used 1/2 cup of rolled oats and 1 packet of maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal.)
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder–(Skipped this since it’s in the biscuit mix already.)
  • ½ tsp. baking soda–(Skipped this too for the same reason as above.)
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon–(Used 2 tsp.)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt–(Used 1/2 cup of plain, non-fat yogurt and 1/2 cup of cottage cheese.)
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce–(Used my own made from fresh apples.)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar–(Added 1 tsp. of agave nectar instead.)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract–(Broke the glass bottle and spilled it everywhere a while ago. No vanilla today.)
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and grated–(Used the rest of my applesauce, 1/2 cup.)
  • ½ cup raisins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a muffin pan by spraying cavities with cooking spray or greasing them with oil. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, (if you aren’t using the biscuit mix) cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Beat egg in a separate bowl. Whisk in yogurt, applesauce, brown sugar (or agave nectar), vanilla (don’t break the bottle), and grated apple (or your own applesauce), stirring until well-combined.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mixing gently until just combined. Fold in raisins.
  5. Divide batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups, filling almost to the top. Add a sprinkle of oats if desired.
  6. Bake muffins for 20-22 minutes, or until top is firm to the touch and toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool in pan for ~10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.”

My favorite parts of this recipe:

The smell of these while they are baking is amazing. They smell like hugs from your grandmother. Or like you stepped back into a 1950s black and white TV show. Your neighbors have an apple pie cooling on the kitchen windowsill and you can smell the hot apples and cinnamon as you walk by.

As you can see, I made quite a few changes to the recipe. Which means, 1. It’s hard to screw up, and 2. It’s a good basic recipe to keep in your books for any time you want to make muffins that are on the lighter side.

The significant other’s verdict was, “These are probably the best thing you’ve made out of all the healthy recipes you’ve experimented with.”

My least favorite parts of this recipe:

They took way longer than 20 minutes to bake. I finally had to take them out at 40 minutes so the tops wouldn’t get crispy. The middle still was a bit squishy. However, this may have been because I used a full 1 cup of applesauce, instead of 1/2 cup of applesauce and the grated apples.

Pairs nicely with,

A lack of self-control and a love of breakfast.

Thank you to Amanda at Running With Spoons for the inspiration and the delicious breakfast!

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Send the textbooks back for editing: we have two puberties.

A few nights ago, I had a tipsy group text conversation with two long-time friends. This was my inspiration for this post:

Friend 1: “It would take 15 years to explain over text what happened.”

Me: “Good thing we’re still in our 20s.”

Friend 2: “Not for long!”

Me: “Whatever. Our 30s have got to be better than this awkward shit we’re going through.”

Friend 1: “Yeah. Your 20s are like puberty for your 30s.”

So, my friend is the clever one. I just got to writing about it first.

And that’s exactly what being 27 is for me. A second damn puberty. I may as well be repeating the first puberty, because each version of hormonal contraceptives that I take makes something grow and something else disappear. It’s like Russian roulette: birth control version. Pick a pill! You never know what you’re going to get! Except not getting pregnant. That’s been a consistent result. (Woo!)

And I’m dismayed at how difficult it is to document and study this second puberty, unlike the first. We walk headlong into it equipped with bromides to guide us. Many years worth of our lives get stamped onto pieces of paper, then we gather ourselves up to find an answer to, “Well, what now?” Society and family have put you through schooling and training and given you time to comprehend growing responsibility. They’re all waiting. Their hands are out, shoulders are shrugging. Well, get to it.

I’m angry, disinterested, annoyed and delighted at myself and life all in the same day. Just like being 14.

I can only manage a few meaningful relationships. Just like being 14.

I still over-analyze any social situation, sometimes to the point of paralysis.

Now I just take different medication.

And I still don’t have an answer to, “Well, what now?” I just have no fucking idea.

One day it was enough that I loved to immerse myself in literature and I loved to create stories of own. That could be life. And now, it’s not enough.

Now I rarely have time to fully focus on something, even at work when I need to be focusing on something. Much less write something meaningful in the one or two hours before I need to wind down for bed in my daily life. (You’ll notice I really only post on the weekends.) And I don’t have unlimited access to amphetamines to stay alert constantly. (I’m looking at you, Ayn Rand. You brilliant, crazy woman.) And I’m under no illusions that this blog is profoundly meaningful. It’s my weekly bitch session. It serves its purpose, and my mental health is all the better for it. But this was never my dream for my writing. And I never wanted or needed any other dreams for myself.

With the responsibility of independence came the imposition of needing money. It is unavoidable. It is a need that I have become ingratiated to. It is one that has put me under illusions, and disillusioned me again. All I have is to be frustrated and to try to change my strategy to one that brings me something happy. I’m not a successful enough philosopher to suggest and implement any other system for us. The study and thinking is still fascinating, nonetheless.

So we stumble along the decades until we find something that brings us peace. We see a different way of thinking. We find a different opportunity. New love, a different job, new friends, or some part of your past life that you need to let go. This has never been much comfort to me. I’m impatient. And I don’t have religion. I prefer not to mess with alcoholism or illegal drugs. One or two bottles of wine a week and what little patience I have will just have to do.

I’ve got a few more years of this second puberty, it looks like. Although it feels like the uncertainty and frustration will last forever. Contrary to popular U.S. female sentiment, I’m actually looking forward to being 30. I hope I’ll be wiser, happier and unafraid.

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For those of us who just need it: The 4 types of introvert

I had to turn the music with words off again. And even now this strange classical music meets rock remix of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is distracting me. Partly because I’m not a big fan of Nirvana, but also because I know what’s coming next, so I can’t help but listen. Even if I don’t want to. I’m taking it in. I’m trying to ignore the sound of Cobain’s raspy whines in my head, while the piano tinkles out his unwanted grunge hit. I’m wondering if my cat is depressed because she sleeps so much. I’m thinking about the hour and how I still need to pluck my eyebrows and how that probably won’t happen before work tomorrow. I’m stifling the feeling of dread that soaks my chest when I remember I have to pick my boyfriend up at the airport tomorrow. Not because it’s him, but because it means sitting in rush hour traffic, going to a place with which I’m unfamiliar, and not being home to unwind after work until it’s time to go to bed. I haven’t practiced sketching all week. All I did was watch “Magic City” all weekend. By the way, I don’t think it needed that much sex in it to be interesting, but what should I expect for a cable TV show?

Well, I didn’t watch “Magic City” the whole weekend. I had an accidentally extended lunch with someone I’d been neglecting to see for some time. (Oh, goodness. Now that I read that over it sounds so mysterious. She’s a close friend.) We met at 1pm and finally parted ways at 5 or 6pm. It had been so long since I had seen her, I referred to her as a Random Lady.

We did our catching up, commiserating, laughing. And as it does frequently with the two of us, we got around to talking about our introvert troubles. How we can talk for hours to one person, a person who we trust, but send us to a party and the painted cinder block walls are far more interesting and less overwhelming.

It is much easier to be with another introvert if you are one too. You can call your militia to retreat. No one is going to tell you you look unhappy or attempt to make small talk with you. You’re both just going analyze and over-analyze your thoughts together. You’re going to admit your faults and not fear judgment. Then you’re going to analyze and over-analyze those faults. You’re going to scoff at the people who insist on sitting at the table right next to you when there’s a whole damn restaurant full of open seats. What the hell?

And, in the end–I’ll only speak for myself, although I bet my friend would agree–I’ll still feel like I have no idea how to not feel trampled on by this aggressive, extrovert-loving world we live in. How to not be exhausted already at 8:30am during the week because I just spent 3 hours doing everything as fast as possible just to get to work. So I could hurry up and sit in a corner desk and try to remember what the hell the goal was of anything I was doing.

And if I imagine my life slower, doing anything otherwise, I feel guilty. Like it would be wrong. I would be afraid. Afraid of being dependent. Afraid of living so far removed of a life from most of the people I know. Then again, aren’t I already in my head?

My friend made me curious about the gradients of introversion. The socially awkward one. The anxious one. And I’m not the only one who sees this. Psychologist Jonathan Cheek, et. al. have come up with four types of introvert: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained. I took this handy little introvert quiz on nymag.com in the article that explores the terminology a little, “So Apparently There Are 4 Kinds of Introversion.”

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So, I’m more of a social, thinking, anxious introvert. I prefer to socialize in small groups. I’m thoughtful and self-reflective. I prefer solitude because I feel awkward and painfully self-conscious in social situations. Well, that’s all about right.

So what do I do when I know the way I am frequently means I get ignored? At times, even made fun of. (I started to tell myself at one time that it was me allowing them to make fun of me. And then I realized it’s not just me. It’s the way I respond to how they treat me. And it’s just that person is kind of a pain in the ass.) It’s really no one’s direct action, with a few exceptions. I’m just the most quiet, reflective person I know. Again with a few exceptions.

What do I do when the clearest way to peace is to just retreat? To start over, to do something new. These are the people who have consistently made me feel like there is something defective in me. That my introverted nature is somehow inferior to someone who enjoys being immersed in a crowded room.

Well, here’s my call to all the introverts. Maybe you’re sitting somewhere quiet scouring through blogs. Maybe you’ll come across mine. What do you do? How do you manage being an introvert in a extroverted world?

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