makin’ moves

I feel like it’s a common sentiment that a woman shouldn’t ever move for a guy. I don’t know where I picked up that impression but in different circles over the years it seems to be shared advice.

Twice in my life I have moved “for a guy”. The first time was in 2002, the second in 2011. Neither of these guys, for different reasons, are part of my daily life now, but I have no regrets.

In 2002, my father was transitioning to a new position that would be relocating him (+ mom & 2 brothers) almost a thousand miles away. I was old enough to not live with them never mind need to move with them. I considered that I wouldn’t. I’d get an apartment with a friend or two, keep waitressing, keep dating my boyfriend and just figure it all out. That narrative changed one morning as my father drove me to pick up my car. I can still picture us driving down route 1, near the Mexican restaurant where I worked, to the car dealership where the repairs were being done. He never said “you should …” rather, he told me all the things that I could be or do in a new place, without putting down what I wasn’t doing or being in that one. I remember when I got out of the car he told me to “just think about it” and in true me fashion, that’s all I did. Think it over, think it under, think it sideways, think it inside out. Every green light where a driver hesitated too long, I thought about Wisconsin. Every customer who answered my “Hi how are you guys?” With “diet coke” or “don’t we get chips and salsa?” I thought about packing my car full of the things I needed and following my family west-ish. Every time my then boyfriend didn’t call when he said he would “I could be doing this same shit in Wisconsin” – so I did.

I spent almost ten years living in Americas Dairyland. I met a lot of great people, finished my bachelors degree, got my first masters degree, dated and broke up a few times with a handful of guys, and eventually rekindled an old connection that turned romantic and had me back at my waitressing job thinking “I could be doing this same shit in Massachusetts” – so I did.

In 2011, I moved myself from Wisconsin to Massachusetts to share my long distance boyfriends apartment with him. We talked about it as a trial of sorts (even though we already trialed the summer before!) and gave each other permission to call it quits. We didn’t. I met a lot of great people, waitressed a bit, worked as a nanny, had weight loss surgery, some cosmetic procedures, learned how to manage my money better, got another masters degree, went on many outdoor adventures, learned about myself, started a career and learned, both unfortunately and fortunately, how to live alone.

Both of these men, and the overall experiences raised me; helped me get to the next trajectory for my life and I wouldn’t change a single thing about those moves.

If anyone ever tells you not to do something, consider the benefit of it to you in the long run and recognize that the persons reservations are likely about them, not you. Hell, I’m hoping to meet another guy to move for and find my next home soon! (kidding!)

43.

Today is the birthday of one of my long time friends. He turned 43 and in our text convo that started with my happy birthday message, he said 43 is the worst birthday, the most mundane and I should write one of my “blog things” about how awful it is. Dude, remember my dad died two weeks before I turned 43? Dumpster fire of a year.

He was just being snarky, but he’s right. 43 isn’t anything special. It’s the weird birthday between going “over the hill” and hitting 45 – which just seems cooler since there are so many cards and gifts for it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “Happy 43rd birthday” or “Yay, you’re 43” which makes sense because of its bore factor. Mundane middle aged stuff. The cards, in order to be accurate would have to say “Woah, you made it!” Or “This card is good for one free chiropractic adjustment” even “Sorry about your divorce but hey you’re alive, happy 43rd” Please. No.

This isn’t to say that a persons 43rd year can’t be their best – I mean, mine hasn’t been, but if we did a survey I’m sure it’s a fair split of good and bad for people. Life is what you make it blah, blah, blah …

43 for me, rolled in while I was standing on a hot airplane, bent between my seat and the overhead compartment waiting for my chance to escape. I was puffy eyed and borderline disheveled having just spent a week with my family after my dads unexpected passing. After not enough sleep, my then boyfriend took me to a boozy brunch, that I made more booze than brunch and then for pastries on the way home, where I had to sit in the car with a buzz and a grief hangover while he picked some treats.

I feel like the rest of the year was spent in that hazy grieving buzz. I gained twenty-ish pounds, learned about said boyfriends sexting hobby, didn’t drink enough water, cried a lot, worked too much, ended up living alone in a newly leased apartment draining my savings to pay the high for two people, never mind for one person rent, ended up quitting my job because of some sketchy and unethical stuff… cried a lot …. I mean, it’s been a year. But take out those big hits – mostly a snore fest – minus the independent licensure and meeting my current boyfriend.

My own birthday is approaching soon and I don’t know that I have ever been happier to see a year go. Looking very forward to the day I can kick in the door and wave in the 4 4.

confessions of a concession

I’ve talked, and written, a lot about how I made myself small over the years. How I would literally crouch my big body in photos or in groups to not be the largest person, to not call extra attention to myself. I have skipped events and not spoken up, for fear of taking up too much space, too much room.

I don’t do that anymore. Not in what feels like years. Now I fill up any space I am in, I embrace others, I invite discussion, attention, I sprawl myself out wherever it is I feel like I can. I am my authentic self and I push everyone to be. I spend almost every day encouraging adolescent girls to stand tall, to not take the shit, to not be ashamed about their body, to not be dependent on a man, to not make decisions for their lives based on the expectations of those men, to not make themselves small, ever, for anyone.

Imagine my surprise one April morning when I heard my own words to one of these girls, I heard myself saying things that were true, they were honest and heartfelt, and she believed me and hung on every sentence. What a fraud, I remember thinking about myself later in the afternoon. I am talking this talk and not exactly walking the walk, I think that I should be saying these things to myself.

When I met Steve, I was, small internally, but a whole lotta girl on the outside. I had a big mouth and a strong personality but my self-esteem was in the toilet. I didn’t like my body, I had no career prospects, I was financially unattractive and overall just floating (or sinking!) through life. Years before we were together, we first met and spent a few days across a summer hanging out and then we lost touch. He was the one who got away, I searched for him on the internet in it’s clunky early days, I wrote emails to his last known email, I called the old number I had for him.

When he resurfaced in my life, it was like coming up for air. I loved him instantly.

I don’t know what my thought process was like; this is 13 years, eighty pounds, a bankruptcy, a second masters degree, a dead dad and a professional license ago. I didn’t know who I was. We didn’t know who we were.

There were, I know now, things that I expected to have or experience in my life that did not coincide with the things he wanted or expected. I conceded. Unknowingly, unwittingly, but just the same, I moved as an us. I doted, I did the things that would keep us an us. I went along with most things, not out of pressure, honestly, but because why not, why not do XYZ, this is what a relationship is. We called ourselves ‘team awesome’, the ones who didn’t care about petty things, silly things, we went against the grain, non-traditional, cool kids. It was perfect. Until I was sitting across from my therapist processing yet another series of dead dad emotions. I was talking about how I wished my father had the opportunity to have done more these last few years, how life is short, how I hope he didn’t die with regrets … how I don’t want to die with regrets.

I spiraled, briefly.

Who am I? Outside of my relationship? I know what I have accomplished and what I’ve done, but this has been the last dozen years of my life, am I living and loving this life or am I going through the motions? Was I truly anti-things, did my statements reflect my own beliefs, or was I operating as part of a unit, what happened to my loud-mouthed autonomy? When people would ask about our relationship, about marriage or a baby …. we don’t want those things I’d say, or we don’t care about that. Did I care about those things? Did I numb things about myself for acceptance and love? Am I a fraud? Did I force it? Do I swallow it? Do I put it all out there?

What. The. Fuck.

I unraveled, briefly.

I am shining a light on all these parts of myself now, and of my relationship, our relationship. I have begun examining my role in my own disappointment and how that has impacted the relationship, and the person I care so deeply for. I started with one small concession, let’s say, not celebrating a hallmark holiday. I gradually let myself slip through the cracks and I share this not because I am proud, but because in an effort to have what I wanted, keep who I wanted, I made concessions – and they are not the same as compromises. In a relationship, they can be life-altering for both parties, so I guess it’s a cautionary tale of sorts as my deep dive into self-reflection has caused some waves and now we are both holding a flashlight.

Choose yourself first, every time. Not because you’re selfish. Not because you don’t care about another person. Not because you are the only one who matters. But because if you lose yourself, you can’t fully connect with another person, you can’t be authentic. Choose yourself before you give away the pieces, so you aren’t trying to fit them together years later.

You can’t be half of “team awesome” while you’re wearing the “team who the fuck am I?” jersey.

crying over pea soup

Every now and then I forget that I had weight loss surgery. I mean, I obviously don’t forget, but its been almost eight years now so it isn’t something that I talk about or even think about on a daily basis. What I have never forgotten is the support that I got from the few people who knew I was taking that leap. In fact, I vividly remember it.

Standing in the dusty elevator of my new primary doctors office, detailing the outcome of my first visit to my cousin via texts. Wearing my uniform of snug jeans, flats and a black blouse. Sharing with her, before anyone, that he had referred me to the Weight & Wellness program for a surgery consult. She followed up with kind words and heart emojis.

I remember driving home overwhelmed; Steve waiting at home to hear how things had gone since it was a new doctor and I went with a laundry list of things on top of struggling to lose weight. I remember feeling embarrassed that this seemingly shameful thing I might be embarking on also felt like such a relief. I can practically picture his face, from across the room, looking at me like an idiot about to squander an opportunity. In fact, part of his reaction after a chronological list of weight loss attempts and restrictions and diets that he had witnessed in the time we’d been together was “….you’d be stupid not to do it”

I have a memory of calling my parents and them maybe not fully being on board at first – but I can’t remember the details because before the end of the day, I was walking into the grocery store and my mom called back. We talked about all the ways our weights, or the perceptions we had or thought others had about our weights impacted so many small things in our lives and how exciting things might be on the other end. I remember driving in my dented and rusting car, home from work and talking about it with my dad. I will never not remember him saying “What? Why? You don’t need that, we just saw you, you look good” and me replying about how I felt and him saying “If that’s what you want to do” …. and then booking a flight for my mom to be there with me when it was scheduled. And then when it was postponed a few weeks before over some insurance timelines, he rebooked her flight and he came, too. He slept on an air mattress in our living room, the needles of the Christmas tree inches from his face. He treated me to my last “food funeral” – a meal of poutine and wings at the back corner table of Stones. He even came in the grocery store with me afterward to peruse the selection of Pepperidge Farm cakes in the freezer – and helped me eat one with nothing but forks back in the crowded living room. In the days following, when I could only have liquids, he offered to forgo some local eateries he and mom wanted to try – so I didn’t feel bad, or left out, or… hungry. He bought me an overpriced bowl of pea soup that I sipped.

I scrolled by this picture in my phone tonight. It was in the scads of photos I saved and took screen shots of the week he died. It’s always been a favorite photo of mine – his smile, knowing how happy he was to be there. It’s from the pea soup day, so maybe this memory and this support was part of why I’ve always loved this photo. And if it wasn’t, it certainly is now.

thankslosing

The only time in my life I have spent a holiday entirely alone was a Thanksgiving six years ago. It was the best and worst day. It wasn’t some sad story of being alone, but choosing to be by myself, for what could only be reflected on now as, the greater good.

Steve and I didn’t always have the chance to leave town for Thanks giving since one of us usually had to work Black Friday (please note this capitalized itself) Anyway, on this particular thanksgiving weekend, we were off and planning to head to his family for the weekend. A last hurrah of sorts since that Monday was my then top-secret weight loss surgery and my parents were coming into town for that. Emotional as I was about trying to see everyone and do everything and keep things normal, since I had no idea what was on the other side of Monday; we went through all the options. We batted around taking two cars, so I could come back early – or maybe my parents flying into a NY airport so we could all come back to Massachusetts together. We toyed with all the ideas until the nurse called a few days before to go over what to expect when I checked in. In that call she asked a very specific question about a cough, or cold or congestion and that if these symptoms were to arise they may have to postpone my surgery. Well, that sealed it, Steve was going, and I was not. It seemed too risky to subject myself to the coughs and sneezes or half sucked cookies from the mouths of children.

I’m fine staying home I say at least forty times; before finally believing it after fifty or so. We had a tearful goodbye (pretty sure the tears were all mine) with easily seven hugs on the way out where I insisted to help carry his stuff to the car. I was on the cusp of potentially changing my life (spoiler alert: totally did) and maybe a little resentful I had to sacrifice these last few days to do it. Which sent me into a resent spiral about all the choices I made or didn’t make and the influences I had (or didn’t have). After a brief pout/sob combo on the couch, I pulled up my (really) big girl panties and set out to get some groceries for one.

I wanted a normal thanksgiving dinner but scaled down to just me. I poked every fresh and frozen turkey in the store before settling on a turkey breast. I got a couple potatoes, some stuffing and of course, I got the food of the gods  – canned cranberry sauce complete with the lines. I got some wine. I watched bad tv and set the coffee table for my food funeral; my last gluttonous meal before I started liquids over the weekend.

The anticipation was thick and my mouth near watering…

The turkey was rubbery, the potatoes were weird and gluey as if I had never made them before – at least the stuffing was stove top, so you know it was great. I cried. Over food. By myself on the couch, at 278 pounds, I sobbed over the disappointment of this last supper. I cried while I scraped it into the trash. Tears flowed while I washed the dishes. Pretty sure I wiped my nose on my sleeve, drank more wine, and then plopped back on the couch and ate the innards of the pumpkin pie I made – because you’re not not going to make yourself a pumpkin pie on your last thanksgiving.

So dramatic. Last Thanksgiving.

I had no idea. I had no idea that the following year I would be able to eat the same delicious things I had always eaten on Thanksgiving, just less. I didn’t know that for all the years to follow there would be real turkey, brined by me and fluffy bowls of mashed potatoes and delicious stuffing (full disclosure: still stove top sometimes!) and wobbly canned cranberry. I didn’t know I would still be able to eat pie, and turkey-stuffing-cranberry sauce sandwiches on rye bread for days to follow. I wish I had known, to save myself the grief – I dubbed it Thankslosing: a small little pity party for all the things I thought I had to leave behind. Turns out everything I had to leave behind belonged there and helped me get closer to the life I have always wanted; self-awareness, a healthier body, which I don’t hate to look at; an improved relationship with food, a career path, a level of self-esteem I did not know I was missing and, of course, a heft of gratitude on days like this. Guess it was more like Thanksgaining.

(not) nice knowing ya.

In a recent conversation with someone new to my life I shared that I had a blog. I didn’t elaborate much just that it was about random life stories and weight loss journey and growth and well ya know, all that jazz. A week or so later she mentioned that she found my blog and read it, and commented on the lack of entries the last few months. I blamed graduating, my new job, the pandemic, but really that wasn’t it. I paused, one of those heavy sort of lingering pauses and then told her about the phone call.

Sometime in December of last year, I missed a call from a number that was not in my phone, but something about it was familiar. I listened to the voicemail and was instantly sick to my stomach. I knew the voice. I knew the name. Ugh. I hadn’t spoken to the caller in easily 8 or 9 years. I hated the way he said my name.

I told her about the person; someone I had a shared financial obligation with in the past and that was why he was calling. Honestly, that’s not the part that made me feel queasy. The obligation had morphed and changed and it wasn’t a big deal to me – I have done a lot of work around my previous financial shortcomings and don’t live there anymore. I don’t even want to visit. I ignored the call. I don’t know why I didn’t send a text acknowledging the message or confirming he had the right number. His message let me know that he wasn’t sure if it was still my number. I told my best friend and Steve about the call and went on with my day. I can’t remember if he called a second and third time, or just a second one; but a week later I got an email. It was a “new contact” email through this website. He ‘googled’ me. He couldn’t get me on the phone so he searched for me on the internet.

I went on to tell her how a few years ago I joked about wishing we could send updates to people from our past so they could see we were thriving or more successful, prettier, thinner, happier. Not this guy. I was happy to let him think I was a fat, sad waitress who needed his financial assistance at some point. I didn’t care what he thought about me as long as he stayed out of my life.

Let me be clear that this was someone I’d spent years in and out of the chase with. You’re probably thinking who cares about someone from your past showing up, this is your moment to shine – so shine. Well, I care. I told her what a shit he was. That he was abusive. Not in a push me around, physical way. Not even in a way I may have noticed in the moment. Lying, cheating, gaslighting. Offering morsels and expecting pounds. It was the voice, honestly. Hearing that voice. The same voice that once called to say he had an STD and confessed he had cheated on me. The voice that commented on my weight. The voice that judged my job, my education. The voice that lied. The voice that shouted when he punched the sunroof of my car in a fit of anger.

I told her that I think I stopped posting much because I didn’t want him to know anything about my now life. He could see this blog now, he could read years of stories he knew nothing about. My improvements, my growth. I thought that somehow him knowing the “new” me took something away from that. I didn’t want him to have any access to any pieces of me, he doesn’t deserve them. I laughed at the thought spiral, the weird trip down memory lane and realized he never deserved them.

The financial thing in question was a student loan for the final class of my first masters program. He helped me secure it because he “couldn’t marry someone who slings chicken wings.” Nice.

Anyway, saying it all out loud made me realize how lame that whole thing was. I stopped writing here as much maybe because of the pandemic, and maybe graduating and starting a new job, but it was the voice that made me stop before that. I’m so big and loud about who I am now, and how I got here and helping others get places and I am gonna be silenced by that voice? That google search? Nope.

I told her I wanted to write a post about it and get past it but that I felt bad, I didn’t want to make anyone look bad or make a thing of it and ya know what she said? “The stories you share belong to you, they are what happened to you and what you experienced and if anyone doesn’t like the way they are portrayed in them, they should have behaved better. ”

And you should have.

memory

Shouting over the espresso machine while making us lattes this morning I say “I think I’m going to stop telling people I used to be fat.”

He looks at me without responding because he knows there is more. “I don’t know, it’s weird, I’m not trying to pretend I wasn’t but why do people need to know that me when she’s not now me? People don’t tell you they dyed their hair once in high school or that they have a hidden horrible tattoo. Well, maybe they do. I don’t know I just think it’s weird, it usually comes up organically but is it possible I just don’t keep going with it?”

I hand him his latte, he takes a sip, “Well, I guess that depends on …” I don’t hear what he says because I am still in my thought spiral about how “talking about it keeps it relevant, and brings it into the now and with some people that can be helpful but really who gives a shit? and it was almost six years ago I mean, well I guess it was all thirty five years before that too … what was the point of losing all the weight if i was just going to carry it around with me forever anyway? The ghost of fat past … ”

I laugh. He waits. I shrug.

“Do you even need me for this conversation?” I stare at him “Yea, I need guidance, do you think this part of me should be included in every new person’s knowledge of me?”

He stares.

“I mean, think about it, people I knew growing up don’t know the me in this kitchen, they  just know chubby, kinda bitchy, not doing anything so great me, ya know?”

“Kinda bitchy?” We laugh.

This line of thinking is something I get lost in pretty often. Which you is in a story that someone tells? Is it the actual you? A version of you that you’ve outgrown? People have ideas and opinions about us all the time that may not be accurate, or are based on a bias, a first impression or something someone they kind of know said to someone who knows their mother’s cousins aunts uncle. What about when the opinion is based on something you no longer are? What’s the story someone is telling themselves about you?

Sometime in 2006  I was out for the night with a group of friends. There were about ten of us having dinner, and then drinks before a hockey game. We found ourselves in the path of a couple of drunk guys who spouted off and started trouble, only to be taken down, so to speak by a few of the guys in our group. I have told the story of that night; the banging of a guys head on the door, the dropping of keys in the river, the yelling and chaos of the six or eight minutes it lasted, at least a dozen times since it happened. I always wonder if those guys, or the girls they were with tell the story. If so, I wonder what it sounds like.

I wonder how people tell the stories that we are part of.

Its unlikely they tell them the same since their perception is their reality, as is ours. I wonder how I am represented by the stories I am part of, I wonder if I am left out of some.

I found myself wondering if that guy, whose name I still remember recalls making some snarky comment about me in the elementary school yearbook before someone caught it, or if he even remembers going to that school.

I wondered if the guys who invited me to dunkin donuts for coffee in college and squished me into the backseat of a car and took me for a ride two towns away propositioning me for all sorts of lewd things remember that night; I wonder if they talked about it at when they met up for one of their weddings.

I wondered if my neighbor who shouted at my parents about my faulty car alarm going off in the middle of the night still remembers that happening, or that we even lived there.

I wonder if the guy who I had a whirlwind relationship with and talked about marrying remembers that we talked about that, or that we talked about anything.

I wonder if the friend who couldn’t support the idea of weight loss surgery, so I stopped calling and interacting tells the story of me as a bad friend, a person who hurt her, not the way I saw it.

Then I wondered if they even tell these stories at all.

Maybe they don’t.

Actually, they probably don’t, not the us part anyway.

So many times we probably exist in a memory that is vague, or that we are left out of. A memory that isn’t ours. Nobody remembers what we said, what we wore, or that we were even there. Those memories, are none of our business.

Moreover, those memories are the reason we shouldn’t put too much stock in what others think now. We get one life, so we gotta live it the best we can and hope we are remembered well because eventually, everything becomes a memory.

destination addiction?

I recently saw a quote about “destination addiction”. The term was used to describe the idea that happiness is a place that we can find and get to somewhere else than where we are now. I was curious so I dug a little deeper and another article I saw referred to it as people who believe success is a destination. The most relatable, was what I saw in a Psychology Today article when I read a little further and it said that destination addiction was “a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner.” The article went on to say that until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.

Man, that’s familiar.

I don’t consider myself as ever having been an unhappy person. I was always pretty contented in most areas of life, and the company I kept. A little bitchy, over opinionated, easily irritated maybe, but not unhappy. I would have been more comfortable in a smaller body and with a better job or a career path, sure, but mostly I was good. I was good right up until I wasn’t.

I remember sitting with the counselor at the hospital for the weight loss program I was entering, during the psychological evaluation she asked if I was married “not rolling down the aisle in an expensive dress in this body” I responded, or when she said are you planning to get pregnant (this is a no-no for roughly 18 months post op) and I laughed, I don’t think think I can add the weight of a baby to this body. These are just two examples of things that I wasn’t doing because I thought they would be better and make me happier if I wasn’t fat. (Turns out that’s not why I wasn’t doing them but that’s another post) 

I know, and know of many people who think that their happiness is still out there, that there’s just one more thing they need to do to complete the riddle and BAM- HAPPY! Well, prepare to have your dreams dashed, kids, ain’t gonna happen. I can tell you for certain that losing weight, whether it’s 10 pounds, 80 pounds or 180 pounds is not going to instantly change your life and give you all the things you think you want / need / deserve. I can also tell you that getting married or having a baby isn’t going to fix your relationship, a new job may help your bank account and even your self esteem, but it won’t make you happy if the other puzzle pieces are still strewn across the table of your life.

I just thought of something someone said to me awhile ago that was laughable, honestly … they said “You don’t understand, you always get everything you want.” I am pretty sure I gasped aloud. Me? Everything I want? I feel like it took me until I was midway through thirty to even consider what I really wanted, and by the time it was in action I was practically forty.

That wasn’t the part though, it was that I GET everything I want that slayed me. I asked for a clarification, I said ” What’s this everything I get?” They did not miss a beat. “You didn’t want to be fat anymore, you’re not. You wanted to go back to school, you are. You wanted a newer car that wasn’t rusty and dented, you got one. I mean ….”

Ain’t having it.

“You mean what? I didn’t just get those things” “Okay fine, but you got them easier than I get shit.” This turned into a conversation about the hoops I jumped through to “not be fat anymore”, the doctors appointments, the embarrassment, the waiting room practically public weigh-ins, the re-learning how to eat, the surgery, while minimally invasive, was still surgical. I went on a tirade about sure I am back in school but not without applying to several programs, tracking down transcripts from a college I went to twenty years ago for less than a year that tried to say I still owed them money, letters of recommendation and applying for even more student loans. The car? Gimme a break, I traded in my car for pennies, and put the rest of the down payment on a credit card. (former poor credit use also for another post!)

I think that this person and maybe a lot of people don’t want, or can’t put the effort into certain things because what if they fail? What if the desired outcome isn’t achieved (BUT WHAT IF IT IS?!)? I didn’t tell most of my family I was having weight loss surgery, because what if it didn’t work? Even the people I did tell had opinions (both positive & negative), how about when I decided to go back to school, the opinions or the pressure to “get it right” this time. That shit sucks, but really, not as much as being in your own way, relying on some other person or event to give you this euphoria.

People preach self-love and self-care and these are important, but you gotta like yourself first, and decide what’s important, what life you are going to create for yourself, and do it. There’s your success, your happiness.

Anyway, what I gathered from the destination addiction bit is that we always think there’s something missing, and that something will miraculously “fix” or improve life. I half buy into it, because my life has drastically improved since weight loss (my personal destination) but not as a direct result of weight loss. My doctor wasn’t like, “Okay, that’s eighty pounds, here’s a graduate program, a career path and healthy boundaries, go forth with the happiness.” I had to do that.

I think there’s an expectation for these things to present themselves and when they don’t, we become discouraged and/or depressed, so we assume there is another next thing that will do it. It’s a cycle that just leads to disappointment, comparison and feelings of low self-esteem and even failure. Why wait on something or someone to make you feel that way, when it’s the opposite of what you want?

If I had to define myself as happy or unhappy, I would say happy; but it’s more than that. I am comfortable, in my skin, my life, my career path, my relationship. I feel validated and accepted by the people and places I assign value. I don’t subscribe to a societal checklist that measures my success or happiness by the things I do (or don’t do). I have also known people who have the big house, the marriage, the kids, the fancy job, all the material possessions and invites to everything social and they aren’t happy either.

Happiness isn’t a destination or posession, it’s comfort in knowing that you are living your best life in the moment it’s happening. Sure there are improvements you can plan to make, but they should enhance those feelings, not be responsible for creating them. So I say make yourself comfortable; not complacent and lazy, running through your Netflix queue hoping happiness will knock on your door. Truly comfortable with yourself; in your body, in your relationships, in your career, your family, your hobbies … get comfortable with who you are and what you want and see where that takes you.

ten

I was born at the start of the tenth month, and took my first breaths around ten thirty in the morning.

When I was about ten or so, my grandmother, in an effort to motivate me to learn my multiplications tables, promised me a “life sized” doll from the Woolworth’s on Main Street in Woodbridge when I could recite one through twelve.

I remember walking behind her one afternoon counting on my fingers for the ones I wasn’t sure of, and even though I’m sure she knew, that Walking Wendy-esque doll got buckled in next to me when we left.

I laugh a little thinking about how my grandmother also ended up being the person who picked me up from summer school after failing algebra my freshman year of high school.

Ten is also the number of years it’s been since she passed away. The morning of her funeral mass, as I limped, sobbing into the church held up by my father and someone else I can’t picture I made a pit stop in the vestibule bathroom. My aunt came in with me, and I choked out how this was the worst day of my life, she assured me it wasn’t, which was both comforting and frightening.

Ten is the number of months it has been since I have seen my parents; Ten is roughly the amount of years I spent living in Wisconsin with my family, (two thousand and) ten is the year I quite my job and weaved my way through ten-ish states to get to the apartment that I now live in and the person I have been with for ten years.

Ten has been a lot of little things that have contributed to a lot of big things for me.

Today, ten is heavy.

It’s sulking on the couch, taking forever to get out of the car, too much trouble to tie my sneakers heavy. It’s sports bra indentations hours after it comes off, dresses that won’t zip and shirts that ride up heavy.

Ten is the number of pounds I have gained in the last ten months, when I was still trying to lose ten more.

Ten pounds is nothing, I know, except it is the first weight I have gained in almost 5 years. I can make the argument, as others have for me, that my weight gain is related to medications and inability to exercise freely, or truthfully, even take the stairs more than one at a time … for months now. This doesn’t make it any less than ten and it doesn’t make it any lighter.

I just started a new medication that will hopefully lead to remission and I’ll be taking the stairs and walking around the park, hiking and yoga-ing and Zumba-ing my heart out again soon, but for now, I’m taking some solace in the fact that the first dose already has me feeling ten times better.

40.5, RA

Just over six months ago I turned 40. I was temporarily unemployed, buried in coursework and trying to secure an internship but feeling mostly optimistic about life. My parents had surprised me with a long weekend visit and treated us to meals and snacks and great company. I had no major life complaints. I mean, I couldn’t open the resealable Sargento cheese packaging without a struggle and I suddenly needed Steve to open what seemed like every jar or can, but mostly happy and complaint free.

Sometime around Halloween I experienced some aching in my wrist and hands that I attributed to more frequent driving since I had started driving for Lyft shortly before that. I used ice packs, heating pads, super duper extra strength tylenol, advil that’s generally off limits as per weight loss surgery and I got a little crabby about it. The pains and cramps came and went, sometimes I would wake up with them and they’d go away by lunch, sometimes they would linger all day, and invite my elbow or shoulder to join.

In November I clearly remember being bummed about how I felt and trying everything I could think of , including sleeping on my back so I didn’t crush my arms, or sleeping with my arms out straight when I slept on my side. Some nights Steve moved to the couch and so some mornings I felt even worse. I had definitely begun experiencing depression, which is not wholly unfamiliar to me, so one morning I got myself up and dressed and went to a nearby park. I walked about two miles around, up and down steps, listened to music, laid in a pile of leaves and confessed my depression to Instagram and felt like I was gonnna be just fine…. until 2 am when I was in excruciating pain now in my hips, legs, ankles, feet and I was home alone laying in bed crying and asking out loud what the fuck was going on and ice packing, heating padding and adviling myself back to sleep.

Before I knew it, it was December and now my feet hurt frequently, a lot like my hands. Both feet, in the heel and the ball and the arch, I was trying to figure out how to walk without putting pressure on any of those points. Well, I thought, you’re out of shape and maybe those sneakers aren’t a great fit. I tabled exercise and slowly anything that required me to exert much effort. I felt exhausted and sad and heavy and uncomfortable in my body. I started wearing the same pair of flats, to my internship interview, to Christmas with Steve’s family, to the grocery store all hoping nobody would notice how I was walking and that another advil might keep me looking normal. I’m not a hypochondriac, I truly believed whatever was going on was my doing, so I wanted to take all the steps to remedy it before I went to my doctor because there had to be something I was missing.

I put a lot of time into trying to determine what I might have done or what I was doing that was causing my body to ache and rebel in such a frustrating manner. I did a lot of reading, a lot of trying supplements and diet modifications; I gave up keeping protein bars in my bag or buying them at all, I considered going dairy-free, gluten-free, seeing how many things I could hide turmeric root in, I started drinking tart cherry juice, I read about inflammation, bought plantar fasciitis braces from an Internet ad, cried myself to sleep, took stairs one at a time at the pace of a sloth and finally, at the end of January, when I took my flats off and my ankles were swollen, and there were visible deep lines areound my foot from my shoes and my my feet were swollen and misshapen looking I called my doctor the next morning.

The appointment was three days later and I was so hopeful that he would have an answer, because after all my trying and suffering I didn’t. And I didn’t know how to explain what I felt to anyone, it was a burning, aching, sometimes restless, sometimes felt like what I imagine a broken bone felt like pain that produced anxiety in the simplest tasks – getting out of bed, getting into and out of the car, any number of steps with out without a handrail. I didn’t tell anyone really, unless they saw me and I (felt I) had to explain myself. Coworkers at my internship who would end up in the back stairwell I was trying to hide in while doing my  toddler steps up or down – and hold the door for me (so nice!) but also watch me and make me more aware that this wasn’t normal.

The upshot of the whole doctor appointment, if you read the last post was he ordered some blood and xrays and said come back in a week. They did images to check for arthritis and he said everything looked normal and he wanted to move on. I pushed for a referral; a podiatrist, a neurologist, a rheumatologist, anyone who might have a different view or specialized eye. He gave me the name and number of a rheumatologist and had me come back in 2 weeks. I made the appointment that day but they didn’t have an opening for almost 2 months, “ Have your doctor call us and we can connect him to Dr.’s secretary and maybe they can get you in sooner” so I tell my doctor this at our next meeting, and he says “You should be fine” and let me tell you, I wasn’t.

It was such a dark time in my heart and my mind and I couldn’t even talk about it. I started to question how much pain I was in, and others didn’t see it or know it because I still worked and interned and cooked and grocery shopped and wrote papers and did all the things I had to do. As my appointment got closer I started to feel hopeful and then anxious, what if he couldn’t help me, what if this wasn’t something anyone could identify? I got sad, rather than happy thinking about the summer; I can’t walk a mile on a rocky dirt road to go to the car rally we go to, I can’t sit on a plane for 5 hours to fly to Colorado, or a few hours to visit my family. I would think about going to the gym, even for the treadmill when I would feel less pained in the evening, but in the morning when I had to hoist myself out of bed with the help of my dresser and penguin walk to the bathroom, I gave up the dream on Zumba.

This is long and if you’re still reading, let me tell you, I’m okay. The rheumatologist was the right referral; it’s nothing I did or could have prevented, it’s an auto-immune disease. He said it was a great catch by my pcp and juvenile as it may be, I had to take that credit for myself.

Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis, what a strange thing to feel relieved by; an incurable, degenerative auto-immune disease –  but after six months, having my pain validated and labeled, and told there was treatment was the first time I felt hopeful in months. I got three prescriptions and he told me in a a few days I would start feeling better, and that a year from now I probably wouldn’t even remember the pain from this time. I asked if he thought I would have be able to Zumba again and he said “Totally” I called bullshit in my head but was grateful, and optimistic that, if he sees Latin-inspired dance routines in my future I can definitely live a normal life.

It’s been five days and I can’t believe the relief I have already started to feel, the way my mood has elevated, the way I just feel like myself again. I didn’t care that I chipped a nail on a can of seltzer, because I opened it myself, or that the first night I experienced a little insomnia because in my awakened stated I walked to the bathroom less like a drunk penguin. Maybe I’ll give that treadmill a try soon after all.