This is the post excerpt.
This is the post excerpt.
Today was a long day. I’ve been pretty sick for close to a week, and it’s really brought my mood down.
I was on my way to pick up my kid, and as I was driving I got a peek at the most orange, beautiful sunlight. It totally struck me with its glory, as goofy as it might sound. I took the above picture, and felt my heart swell, and decided to take a detour and chase that glow to its source.
The area I was driving is pretty thickly wooded, so it was an effort to find places I could see well enough to get pictures, but I chased it until I did.
The more pictures I took, the more beautiful images I captured, the more my heart soared. I’m not ashamed to say that by the time I was done, I had tears rolling down my cheeks, open and unapologetic tears.
I’m sure anyone driving by, watching me walk away from my car, clearly on a mission, taking pictures of the sunset and crying, would likely think I was a bit daft, and truth be told, maybe I am. But here’s the thing-a year ago, I was really struggling to see anything beautiful in my world. Everything seemed so dark and so utterly hopeless and bleak. The reflection of that orange sunset would have gone unnoticed last year. I certainly wouldn’t have followed those rays until I reached where the sun met the earth, and my heart wouldn’t have burst with joy to get photos of it.
But it occurred to me, as I held my phone up and peered through the lens, that if things had ended for me last year when I thought I wanted them to, I’d have missed this moment, I’d have missed this beauty. I wouldn’t have experienced this tiny moment of joy, or the hundreds, maybe thousands of beautiful small moments over the past twelve months. I’d have missed hundreds of sunsets, hundreds of brushes with beauty and wonder. I’d have missed them, and I’d have been missed. I have become someone who looks for beauty and wonder all around me, and, more often than not, I’ve become someone who can find it. I’m the girl who chases the sunsets.
I’m more grateful to be here than I can ever express, even if some rough anniversaries are rapidly heading my way. I’m so utterly joyful to be here, even if the going isn’t always easy, even if things haven’t gone how I thought they would. I am so happy for the people in my life, and for the beauty.
I am so glad I didn’t miss hundreds of sunsets, and thousands of small moments.
If you ever wonder, woman, whether we see your strength, your purpose, your worth-we do.
If you ever wonder, woman, whether your children see the sacrifices you make, the percentage of your heart and your world that they make up-they will.
If you ever wonder, woman, if you bring light to this world, if you contribute-you do.
If you ever wonder, woman, if we can see the pain that you so gallantly, so bravely, so proudly shield with a smile-we do.
If you ever wonder, woman, if you matter-you do. So very much.
If you ever wonder, woman, if you inspire other women, and other people, to be better, to be stronger, to be kinder-you do.
If you ever wonder, woman, if we are in awe of you-we are.
If you ever wonder, woman, if anyone lives for your smile, for your laugh, for the sound of your voice, for the way your eyes catch the light-someone does.
If you wonder, woman, if this was written for you-it was.
I’ll never be a flour girl.
Yes, I’m wholly aware how stupid that sounds-I assure you, I’m not drunk, and I haven’t finally and officially reached the end of my rapidly fraying rope. I just had that realization looking at the following meme.
So, besides the realization that Bob’s Burgers will *always* make me laugh, another thought came to me. I will never be a “Jessica”. I will never be bland, I’ll never be boring, and I’ll never be flour.
Now, let me clarify, in the interest of full disclosure. I suffer from depression. When the depression and anxiety tag team me, I become a paler version of myself. I hibernate, both physically (sleeping as much as possible, not socializing, etc) and emotionally (letting my emotions go into sleep mode-not just not responding to the feelings, but not letting myself feel them even.) It’s super duper OOPER hard to flip the switches back on, mainly because all of the physical stuff and emotional stuff back up and once I crack that door, those bitches are POURING out. So basically, at the worst times, I have “woken up” several pounds heavier, behind on bills, and feeling a constant onslaught of emotions and emotional shrapnel.
It’s not easy. Sometimes just staying in sleep mode seems like a vastly easier choice, a vastly less exhausting one.
And yet, every hibernation, I crawl my chubby bear ass out of the cave. Every. Damn. Time. Even if it hurts (which it inevitably does). Even if recovering from the hibernation is so full of the evidence of self-neglect and despair that it is the most daunting plan ever. Even then, I still pull myself out of it.
Why? Why do I not just give up when life seems so fucking awful?
I’ll tell you why. It’s because I’m not flour.
Look, the world needs flour. I love baking, and I’m not likely to bake a cake without flour any time soon.
But the flour doesn’t add the flavor. The flour doesn’t *make* the dish. The spices make the magic, my friends.
I showed that meme to a friend, and idly wondered what spice I would be. Her response was “a little cayenne pepper, touch of cinnamon, and a sprinkle of salt.” And I realized, after feeling goofily flattered, because I’m a dork, that not only was that fairly accurate (although, some days, it’s WAY more than a sprinkle of salt), but that that was why…
That heat and spice, that cayenne? That’s passion. I may not always be right, and I may not always make the right choices, but I have passion. I adore sooooo many hobbies, and movies, and songs, and sunsets, and hoodies. That passion is what gets me out of the damn cave. That passion is what gets me out of bed, and dressed, and moderately presentable when all I want to do is curl up and cry.
That warmth and comfort of the cinnamon? That’s love. I love as hard as I can, and I’m not shy about it. I was not raised in the most demonstrative of households. This, in turn, made me swing the complete opposite way. I am a big believer in holding hands, and hugs, and playing with my friends’ hair, and leaning on shoulders in the car. I LOVE my people, and I want them to walk away from every interaction we have knowing it. That love is what gets me out of the cave too. That desire to not hurt those I love, and also to be around those that I love, and enjoy them, and see them change and grow and evolve-that desire makes me get my ass up even when I don’t want to at all.
And that salt? That’s that stubborn, sarcastic, strong bit. I will always resort to humor and/or sarcasm, in any situation. I may be petrified, and heartbroken, and wish I could be zapped out of existence, but I get up and face the world, and try to make people’s day a bit better. I have been through some really fucking horrible things-everyone has. But I always make it through. Every time. I may come out of it dinged up, a bit dented, maybe rusted, but I make it through. That’s the salt.
Those are powerful flavors, and not everyone likes them. Sometimes, even someone who claims to like those flavors really wants to slowly add more flour to your mix, and dull the spices a bit. They want some of you, but they want it on 5 instead of the solid level 11 you bring to the table. Sometimes, they will use really sneaky, insecure, cruel methods to tone down those flavors.
I’ve been toned down. I’m done with that.
Flour has its place, but it isn’t what I am. I’m passion, and love, and strength. I’m fire. I am not for someone who is only interested in flour, and makes me feel like I’m not good enough because I am not flour, and will never be flour.
So, now that I’ve crawled out of the cave, yet again, it’s time to shake off all of that flour. It’s time to shake off the self-neglect, and the hurt, and the forced inferiority. It’s time to stop pretending that a relationship where I feel like I have to compete with others is at all acceptable. It’s time to go back to being the cayenne/cinnamon/salt cocktail (please don’t make that as an actual cocktail, because that sounds gross) that I am. And you know what? I think it’s time to kick the spice up a notch. Time to get the fuck UP.
A few years ago, I got a tattoo of a mermaid, with the words “Just Keep Swimming” above it. The mermaid was in honor of my dad (long story), and the phrase was one that I always need to remind myself of.
I’ve been going to counseling, every week for a couple of months. This was a move I knew I needed, but was ill-prepared for. My one disastrous attempt at counseling was a flailing, flaming failure. My first husband had asked for a divorce, and I basically begged him to try counseling. He was so checked out at that point that the therapist basically shrugged and said “Well, I think it’s time to accept that your marriage is over,” and that was that.
Oddly, I found this less than comforting.
But, a couple of months ago, things really hit a head, and I, quite frankly, was drowning. It wasn’t the quiet drowning that had been going on for months-it wasn’t a slow, steady slip below the waves, a slow, almost dreamy death. This was me flailing, and screaming, searching frantically for a lifeguard, begging to be saved, raging hard against the dying of the light.
I’ve struggled with depression for a very long time, as long as I can remember. I’ve tried a couple of medications over the years, but none of them were any semblance of a long-term solution for me. Maybe it was a matter of not finding the right meds, or maybe it was a matter of me being less open to solutions than I thought I was. Or maybe, for me, medications made me feel somehow muffled. I’m a naturally loud, colorful person, and on medications, I felt…boring. I felt like a rainbow painted gray. I felt dead inside.
I know this is absolutely not the case for everyone-for some people, medications are necessary, and have changed their lives for the better. But for me, it just made me feel…less. And that isn’t even remotely something I can handle.
Counseling, however, I can handle. And, in all honesty, I’m not sure where I’d be right now if I hadn’t made the choice to go. As I’ve said, it was a challenging, scary choice to make. But I think even the act of admitting that I couldn’t go it alone anymore was a small step in the right direction. I was getting to the point where everything seemed so utterly hopeless, and wholly bereft of joy and optimism, that going on seemed like an exercise in self-mutilation. I was starting to think it was time to be done with everything-I had lost so much, and I felt so worthless, so small, and so utterly disappointing. I felt like everyone would be better off without me.
That terrified me. My depression had never spoken to me that loudly, in that tone of voice, before. And it scared me that it was starting to block out the logical voice, the one that saw how my family and my friends loved me and cared for me. The voice that logically knew that my marriage failing didn’t mean I was a failure as a person. The voice that knew I could be happy, and have a great life, even without him.
So I reached out. I reached out to friends first, and let them know how bad I was struggling, and that I couldn’t do it alone anymore. And they were absolutely wonderful. I had worried so much-worried that they’d think I was crazy, worried that they’d think I was just being emo, just worried. But they saved me. They wrapped me up in a big blanket of love and care and shenanigans, and I will never forget the kindnesses they showed me, in a billion big and small ways.
Opening up to them made it easier to face the idea of opening up to a total stranger, which petrified me. But, again, to my surprise, it was vastly easier than I expected. My therapist is fantastic, and, beyond helping in this quest to save my own life, she also appreciates a good metaphor, which bonded us immediately. Some sessions hurt, like pulling a scab too soon, but some of them leave me feeling like literal weights have been pulled off of my shoulders. I walk out of the office feeling a little more free on those days, and it’s glorious.
I’m going to just keep swimming, and you should too.
If you need to talk, if you’re feeling like there’s no hope, reach out. The lifeguards can’t throw you a preserver if you don’t let them know you’re drowning.
The funny thing is that we never did Valentine’s Day. I had never been a huge fan of it, and he was very anti-establishment when it came to made up holidays designed to extract the money from your wallet. So, instead, we showed each other our love every day, then got ourselves fun presents when my tax refund came. It was a system that worked for us.
Yet this Valentine’s Day is looming, and creating tsunami-sized waves of sadness, anger, and anxiety. Why?
Is it because he stopped showing his love daily years ago? Is it because he’s giving someone else that love now, publicly, and expecting me to stick around, hoping he’ll toss me scraps? Or is it because this is the first Valentine’s Day in a decade that I don’t have a love I feel secure and safe in? Not sure. This is new terrain. I was never a girl to get upset about Valentine’s-I learned years and years ago, long before this marriage, that I’m not really a girl people make grand, romantic gestures for.
So maybe that’s the next thing I need to learn-I need to learn that I deserve sweetness. I deserve affection. I deserve flowers sent to my office, and foot rubs, and romantic surprises.
And the other funny thing is that his gestures were all bullshit. His declarations of undying love, his insistence that I didn’t love him “enough”, while he “gave me everything” were lies. Because while he was saying those things, he was hitting on my friends, hinting to his exes that I wouldn’t mind sharing him, and talking crap about me to everyone we know, after telling me I shouldn’t talk to people about our relationship because “what was between us should stay between us.”
So, I guess I’m going to have to be my own Valentine this year. This means I will be kind and loving and sweet to myself. I’m notoriously cruel to myself-I let myself get addicted to situations that will break me, over and over. So this Valentine’s Day, I will take care of me. Maybe I’ll soak in the bath, maybe I’ll have a movie marathon with my kids, maybe I’ll polish off that bottle of wine sitting in my fridge. But the bottom line is that it’s time to love myself, and not only because he’s too busy loving someone else to do it.
I don’t know how long it will be before I can let someone else love me-right now, becoming a crazy cat lady and utterly avoiding dating seems like the best plan. I have zero doubt I will eventually get romantically involved with someone else though-I love love, always have. But, before that happens, I need to figure out how to love me. I need to not be so starved for affection that I let myself be swept away. I need to not be so desperate for love that I let myself be treated like less than a priority by the person who claims to love me. I need to give myself some of the love that I keep trying to spend on other people. I deserve it.
And, when taxes come, I’m buying myself a couple of presents, and a couple for the kids. Why? Because we’ve all been through a lot in the last year, and we all deserve some love and tenderness and affection. I’m not waiting around for someone else to treat me well-I’m going to treat myself well, for the first time ever.
That being said, if anyone wants to send me flowers, PM me and I’ll give you my work address, because who doesn’t like getting flowers at work?