living out loud

we’re all treats, darlings.

that's a gourmet cupcake, y'all. with a prize in the middle.
that’s a gourmet treat, y’all. WITH A SURPRISE IN THE MIDDLE.

This has been a hard, weird year. I am not talking about 2016 thus far, though 2016 thus far is proving to be stupid enough already (David Bowie…Alan Rickman…Victoria Wood…and now Prince. What the hell, 2016?!?! Get it together. That list should be Donald Trump…Charlie Manson…those kinds of people. Why not take THEM, 2016?? Good god, you are not even on the same page as all the rest of us, are you?).

At any rate. I’m talking about June 2015-present day. THAT year. I still have 2 more months to go until I’m officially at Year One of My Big Life Change. What a wild ride, Internet. Want to know a secret about me? I am not really a fan of those. I mean, a gentle roller coaster once in awhile. But I don’t like the upside down loopy ones or the ones where your legs dangle or you can’t see what’s coming at you.

I’ve made some less than stellar choices this year. I’ve been at rock bottom (though hang on – I’m sure I will find myself digging a bit more at some point). On the upside, I’ve learned quite a lot about who I am, what I actually DO want, and where I eventually want (or hope) to be. One of the things I know I eventually want is to actually write real stuff. And be published. And have a really, really thick skin for when the roaches crawl out of the woodwork and start, you know, roaching. And stuff. On me.

Yesterday, I got MORE good news (after getting sad/happy news the day before – still shaking my fists at you, JG…but hugging you with joy), and work is just going swimmingly now. Not perfect, but I am back where my heart has always been. And my boss told me I’m a strong teacher. I really needed to hear that, after the last few years I’ve had. Big Data makes you doubt your strengths, constantly, and I am by nature a big self-doubter. I don’t know that I necessarily want to change that, actually, because I think self-doubt keeps you on your toes, constantly seeking growth and ways to be better. I find people who tell other people they’re awesome at something usually suck at it. I’m not saying don’t ever high five yourself; if you’ve genuinely put good work you’re proud of out into the world, you’re allowed to say so. But self-doubt is cool because it reminds you there’s always someone out there who knows more than you, that learning never stops. But listen: It’s nice when someone in charge of some Big Data does note that you’re strong…in spite of what the data says about you.

Do you want to hear something really astute, from the mouth of someone who could quite possibly run the USA far better than Donald Trump ever could? It melted my heart, but also snapped me to and I got real with myself, really real.

The other day, Miss M and I were out and about, and she told me about an argument she had that day with a friend. Oh my god, you guys. Little girls and their dramas: “No I’M the princess. No I’M the PRINCESS! NO!!! ME!!! I’M THE PRINCESS!!!!!! YOU’RE JUST THE POOPY HEAD!!!!!!!!!!!”….Those kinds of dramas. (And eventually they’ll both decide there’s room for two princesses and the world is shining bright again less than 24 hours later, sometimes within minutes.)

However. That Princess Throw Down was a doozy. It was one of those terrific, 48-hour long, magnificent tiara flingings, and holy sheet was Princess M mad. As in Princess Mad, which is quite different than Regular Mad (listen to me: if you ever have a choice? ALWAYS choose Regular Mad). So I told her some girl drama stories from my childhood. (Confession: I totally made these up. I literally have no girl drama stories from my childhood, because I wasn’t into Barbies, princesses, or other little girls in general…all three were stupid and I liked books.)

Then we started talking about how to treat other people when you disagree with them or they do something that hurts your feelings or really upsets you. This whole long conversation I don’t feel like typing out here. Anyway, the most important part was at the end, when M said, “So what you mean is that it’s a treat to meet me. If someone gets to meet me, it’s because they’re nice and I’m a treat.”

Oh, my darling. Yes. YES!  You ARE! You are a treat, sweet girl. It’s a treat to meet you, and I know because my WHOLE world got better when you came into it. (Except you are NOT a treat when you’re raging at me or sulking, but you do that because you’re a princess…99.99 times out of 100, you are most certainly a treat.) …That was my inner conversation. Out loud, I high fived that little astute observer. She gets it from her father. For real. I don’t even notice what date it is, typically.

I love that. Only nice people get to meet me, because it’s a treat to meet me. You! Whoever you are, wherever you are: it is a treat to meet you. You are a treat, and it is a treat for nice people to meet you. Don’t you ever forget that.

Some other things I have learned this year:

Self-respect. Oh my god, you all. The past 10 months have taught me there are some truly, TRULY effed up people in the world. It is not a treat to meet them…well, actually it is in a weird, kind of sour-tart kind of way. If you’re into sour-tart flavors. Which I am most definitely not.

Know who you are, to your very core, and be awfully brave and stay stoically strong, because if you run into sour-tarts…holy freaking moly. You’ll spend gobs of time on the Internet, time you could be doing so many other far more important things, looking up atrocious human personality disorders, scared to death you may have one because someone who’s NOT a medical professional and so clearly messed up they couldn’t even find their way out of a box said you do. The Internet is a scary place, Internet. Lots of opinions. Lots of misinformation. Rampant with lots and lots of a-holes.

So I’ve learned for sure who I am at my core, and because of what I was put through I’ve started to grow a really hard diamond around that inner core. I’ve learned not to go backwards. Focus on the present, and keep going forward. The past is done, the future isn’t certain, but you know what you’ve got in front of you. And so  you take a step. And another. And another after that. And then you’re in the future, but now it’s the present. Don’t look back.

And you know what else I don’t want? To be anyone’s option. Because my 7 year old just taught me: I am a treat, I realized: well, goddammit, yes. Me too! In fact, I’m the cupcake AND the icing. I am not sprinkles or a cherry on top. Though if I can say so myself? I AM pretty colorful like sprinkles and I’m certainly as sweet as a cherry…if you’re not a sour-tart douchebag.

So at this point in my forward motion progress, I don’t want aaaaanymore people, particularly men who seem to be notorious for this, to get the impression I’m cool with being thought of as sprinkles or a cherry. I’m a first-rate priority you need to work hard at, not a convenience. I’m a girl you spend the rest of your life with, not the one you party with til you’re bored. Oh, I’m for sure fun and all, but once I figure out what we’re doing is playing the cherry-on-top game? Playtime over, sir.

I also want to be with someone who makes my heart melt and challenges me, but in a good way. I don’t want a dad; I already had one of those. I want a man. And also. I like it when men call me terms of endearment like love, dear, and (omg, my knees) darlin’ (Southern USA) or darling (UK). I’m a strong feminist, but still a girl. Plus, I’ll do it back to you if I like you enough. Because I like gentlemen. And I like gentlemen who have an edge. But I don’t like misogynists, even if they act like gentlemen. Women and men are equals; the only thing women can’t do that men can is pee standing up (and even then, I think there are some women who’ve mastered that). If you think a woman’s place is behind her man and the man should be in charge? You’re boring, bye.

I will confess I don’t know how I feel about marriage anymore. I know I just said I’m the girl you spend the rest of your life with, but quite honestly other than doing it for tax and insurance purposes and possibly if you have children together, marriage feels like a trap. Just…can’t we just have like a quiet ceremony with some burning sage or something? A quaint exchange of: You are only for me, and I am only for you and maybe some kind of fashion accessory exchange as a symbolic gesture. Followed by a hedonistic party with a bonfire in the background and beating drums to celebrate a shared commitment that the NSA won’t ever know a thing about. Beaches seem nice to do that on.

I’ve learned I give and adore freely, once I decide I want to give and adore you. I want to be with someone who isn’t afraid of doing the same for me. And PDA’s: I like ’em. I will share with you (at risk of upsetting C) one of the many reasons my marriage death spiraled was a lack of physical touch. I’m a hugger, I’m a toucher. If you stop telling me you love me and you stop touching me, I start to think you don’t love me. I remember, way way back at the beginning when C and I moved into an apartment together, he’d say I was like a cat. This is just what I do when I can’t get enough of you – I become cat-like, and you become basically my human pillow. (Caveat: Not of strangers, but of people I love. Strangers, you stay over THERE. My space, your space.) (And caveat part 2: I am just as guilty as C was of not saying I love you/physical touch…when couples grow apart, this is what happens. C and I, for some reason, never figured out how to get over that even though we talked about it again and again. We never fixed it. And that was where the spiraling began: the fact neither one of us ever decided to do something about fixing it. We both kept waiting for the other one to make the move, and the other one never did and sooo…this is what growing apart looks and feels like.)

Yet I also don’t want to be smothered. Oh my god. If you need to talk to me every single minute of every single freaking day? Something is very wrong with you, seek help. No human adult who is emotionally mature operates this way. Everybody needs space. Everybody needs privacy. Everybody needs to breathe. Everybody needs to go out with friends and you’re not invited. Everybody needs to go hiking alone or sit in a coffee shop with ear buds in or lie by a pool in silence pretending they’re the last person on Earth. If you’re an introvert like me, you crave being able to do these things like nobody’s business.

anger

Anger. I’m not angry anymore. Holy crap, Internet, I was so goddamn angry for so many many months. I can’t even tell you. I mean, as recently as February I could snap in magnificent ways. Last night, on Twitter, I posted something about Kelly Ripa being disrespected and a strange man came in and started mansplaining to me and I just wanted to start ripping into him…I could literally feel it rising. It was the mansplaining. If there is one thing I cannot deal with, it is mansplaining. Do not do it to me, gentlemen. Do not mansplain to me. I will be on the other side of the screen wishing you death while taking deep breaths. Deep deep breaths. Which is what I did with that dude last night – I have learned to save that anger for someone who actually deserves it, not some random on the ‘Net. (I also experienced stalking PTSD – one reason I didn’t unleash on him is I am terrified of being stalked and harassed online again…every time I interact with someone new, and it’s less than positive, I immediately think two things: did HE send you?? and are YOU going to stalk me too??? It sucks. And I don’t feel a single bit guilty about blocking people on social media now if they give me the creeps for ANY reason.)

Nowadays, I feel much calmer, in control, with the anger thing. This summer well into the winter was bad. Baaaaaaad. What the heck was wrong with me, you guys? What I do feel, some days, now, is more of a tiredness, a sort of sadness. Kind of a:  Really? REALLY???? An annoyed incredulity when I realize something disappointing about someone I didn’t realize before. If I am already in love with them and think they’re worth it, I just find a way to work through that. People are complicated, which is why love is expansive. I’ve learned people and relationships matter more than my petty little expectations and ego. Just work through it with them or figure out how to deal with it and move along to the next phase of things. Nothing is permanent here; everything changes.

On the flip side, I’ve learned if someone’s shown me repeatedly it’s not safe to work through things with them, then it’s perfectly okay to let go of them permanently, even if they pitch a fit like a spoiled, psychotic child. I just now know I’ve learned it’s not worth it to me in the long run to keep getting angry about someone else’s inability to regulate their emotions like a mature adult, because anger is exhausting and unproductive and I’ve literally got 10 billion other things in my brain to keep track of and worry about. I want the rest of my relationships with men (and women) from here on out, without any question, to be the grown up kind. I’m not saying I want all my relationships to be uber serious and boringly grown up; I’m saying handle let’s handle our business like grown ups. Manage your own emotions. Clean up after yourself, if you make a mess. Be authentic. Be honest. Don’t do to someone else what you wouldn’t want someone to do to you. Be real. Don’t lie about what you actually want.

I am in a very, very, very different place mentally than I was when I struck out on my own, and a very, very different place than I was this winter. In other words.

What I want desperately is to feel safe with someone. And I want to be someone who makes someone else feel safe. This is a crazy ride on this planet we’re all flying through space on together, y’all. If you’re going to give yourself to someone, you’ve got to be with someone who’s got your back. You’ve got to BE someone who’s got someone else’s back. You need to be ready to go to the mat for them, but not in a psycho way. I mean, don’t get arrested. Just be chill, but firm. We are all cave people still. But with technology. And social media. On which some of us let our cave person run amok. Which is why we need to have each other’s back. In a chill way, but firm.

I’ve learned  I don’t owe anyone, besides Miss M, a damn thing. I don’t owe anyone an explanation for decisions I make, and besides…trying to explain myself to other people is futile. Most people come to conclusions about who you are and what you do with very little evidence they’re actually right, so save your energy. And I’ve learned no one owes me either. People who insist other people owe them things aren’t quite getting how humanity and the planet actually work. The world isn’t here to make you happy, and neither are other people. If someone does make you happy, that’s a gift. If you make someone else happy, that’s a gift. You’re treating each other. Two treats together, a couple of gourmet cupcakes in the box of Life that found each other. Be amazed. Enjoy each other. And know nothing lasts forever; eventually somebody’s going to eat one of you and if you’re the one left behind and without your cupcake, you better be okay with that. Eventually someone will eat you, too, and it’ll be all over.

(Here, I wish to pause and say: when I started typing, I did not realize this was going to turn into a winded Desperately Seeking online dating profile, and also I apologize for all the food talk. Particularly the cupcake references. Clearly I need a cupcake. And now have a strange desire to sit and eat one while binge watching Cupcake Wars with Miss M, who’s already a big fan.)

I want to be strong. I am told that I’m braver and stronger than I know. (If you are reading this, thank you so much, S and A for saying those words to me last week – I’m tearing up right now, just thinking of them. I so needed to see them, and I go back to those simply-put, elegant comments from you both frequently, just to remind myself.) Being strong and not knee jerk reacting to fear is so hard for me. So, so hard. So now I’m learning not to run from conflict, which historically is what I like to do. But it is still so hard. I don’t like awkward, I don’t like people yelling at me (I cry) or being mad at me (I get mad back). I am so very careful not to make people mad at me…but maybe I need to bring out my bull in a china shop once in awhile. Just for the conflict practice. And the bravery building.

I am regularly overwhelmed in large crowds, I’ve always known, but por dios I’ve learned how much I do love humanity an awful lot in spite of itself. Even though people can truly suck at times, I still believe in their inherent goodness. I continue to believe in Love. I will never, ever give up on Love. There were some scary, tipsy moments for me back there, particularly this fall/winter, where I really thought I’d turn into a combination of Dorothy Parker (who I really heart a lot, actually, for her biting, acerbic wit) with a little bit of extreme Sartre thrown in, like Sartre if he’d been on crack. But I think I’m okay now. I like you again, People of Earth. I know 95% of you are trying to do the right thing, just like me. I am back to being sweet Anais Nin, loving most everyone, believing in most everything.

….except way down deep in the middle of me, Parker and Sartre are hanging out, making caustic, existential Knock Knock jokes, ready to whip out the sarcasm whenever jackassery presents itself. And, oh. Jackassery will surely present itself again soon.

But mostly I’ve learned I’m a cupcake. A gourmet, decadent, chocolate AND vanilla cupcake, with a surprise in the middle. And I wanted to make sure you know that you are too. So live your life in a way that you can look yourself in the eyes, every morning, while you stand in front of the mirror brushing your teeth. Don’t let people who can’t look themselves in their own eyes try to tell you you’re not a treat. Don’t let people with sour middles infect yours. And don’t ever ever think you’re only the sprinkles or the cherry when you are the whole freaking dessert. You’re a treat, darling. But also don’t be too sugary sweet: I’ve learned to make sure your surprise in the middle is something that’ll bite back, and break teeth – they may bite through your outer layer, but jesus god make sure you’ve got something rock hard on the inside protecting your precious core, dear one.

And when you find someone who actually WANTS that precious core, and you know for sure they’re going to be like a Fort Knox safe with it? And that they’re not afraid of Parker and Sartre’s bitter observations every now and then? Oh my god, do what I plan to do and just give it to them. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and fall backwards into their arms. And take a really long nap there. Rest your tired soul. It’ll be a treat.

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