here's what i want you to know

i have completionist syndrome. i must finish something before i move on to the next thing. i can’t tell you how may banal books, boxes of tasteless healthy cereal or rolls of the “wrong” kind of toilet paper i’ve suffered through, refusing to believe that i can just stop doing, reading, eating the awful thing and move on to something better.

“you know you are an adult, right?” jeff says. “you can do whatever you want to do.”

“but then this unfinished thing will be wasted and then it’ll just be there, starting at me, serving as a reminder that i failed.”

“wait, wait, wait.” he put both hands up, palms facing me. “do you really think it’s a failure to not finish that disgusting box of kashi go lean fiber pellets?”

“well,” i thought about it. “it’s wasteful. that’s failure.”

“who did this to you?”

“all signs point to my mother,” I reply. “at least that’s what therapy tells me.”

i sat down in front of my bowl of cereal, fiber pellets and all i can think of is rabbit poop floating in a murky grey sea of almond milk. all i can hear is the voices of the starving children my mother often waived as a weapon against waste. i scooped up a spoonful.

“don’t do it,” jeff shook his head. “ don’t do it. what happens if you don’t do it?”

but i quickly shove the spoon into my mouth before he can say anything else because really, i am my mother’s daughter.

who doesn't appreciate a good deal?

my roommate was moving out.

the idea of having a stranger move into my home was exhausting. it was san francisco so it’s pretty much the norm to be well into your 30s living with people don’t know so you can hold onto your rent controlled apartment until the day you die.

but i was done. i was no longer willing to learn the hard way the strange social ticks of another human being. jeff lived alone in a three bedroom shotgun a block away from a sunny park, a fancy grocery store and the best ethiopian food in the city. he had a back porch lined with plants and I had imagined setting up a hammock for reading outside on warm days. i had to convince him i was a good deal. who doesn’t want to cut their living expenses with someone they’re sleeping with?

“I’m fun!” was the first thing i had said. i’m not sure if it was the best lead in, but that’s what came out. “I’m so much fun! i own half the amount of shoes other girls own, i like cleaning, i’m good at reading the room so i know when to leave it, give you space, let you do your own thing.”

it was then i realized how good i am at being small how that was the take away from all my past relationships, what those i have loved loved about me.

“you’re barely there,” greg had said once. “you pop in. do something nice and then leave like cinderella running away from the ball. what is that? that’s not normal.”

it was such a small thing.

in san francisco i bought an overpriced jar of some sort of moisturizer from kabuki springs because it smelled like fresh cut grass. i was standing in a skinny hallway lined with products waiting sadia to finish her treatment, slathering testers all over myself. 3 days in a hotel room with its dry heat had sucked the life from my skin leaving me feeling like a walking slab of turkey jerky. i looked at prices of things and made use of them in the moment. a $60 jar of manuka honey. i rubbed its expensive contents onto my cheeks and face feeling like i was getting away with something.

sadia came out of an unmarked door looking like someone had told her the world wasn’t ending and everything was going to be alright. i wished i had booked a massage.

“what are you doing?” she asked. “you look…shiny.”

“I need this,” I whispered. “my skin is dying. it’s going to fall off and i’ll just be this mass of walking meat. i can’t anymore.”

“are you ok?”

i handed her the jar that smelled like blue skies, mowed lawns and long days.

“don’t judge me,” I replied. “i need this. it’s february in portland. by march i’m going to question the existence of the sun.”

$20 for a thimble full of sunshine. how san francisco.

i miss the city.

my friends tell me, “let me remind you why you don’t.” and “do you miss seeing human feces everyday? or do you really like setting money you don’t have on fire?”

they’re right.

i miss them. i miss the idea of sunny park days and the feeling that anything is possible.

portland feels unsafe right now and i hate that.

things I might want to write about

the time i climbed into the tub and pulled the shower curtain closed because it was the last place to hide.

the time my parents let us know that they were pregnant and my sister asked if we could put it back.

how much fun it was to give the baby slippery ice cubes.

making it rain shredded cheese over the dogs and watching their faces light up.

the 25 minute walk to the convenience store one block away in 3 inch heels without dying.


the time i raised my arms in the air and wiggled my body in a wave while hissing and called myself bacon and he thought i was a snake.

my first cigarette.

the time we test rode a tandem bike and my control issues refused to let me sit in the back and my fear oddly resulted in my inability to turn right.

the time i drunk purchased an eames chair.

eating scrambled eggs in a stale hot dog bun because I had $3.50 until payday.

crying because i was too young for all my shoes to look this orthopedic.

the time i bleached my hair at home because i was bored on my day off and no one was home to stop me.

the one time i tried to wear a thong and deeply regretted it.

the year of failing/falling underwear and losing weight.

the time i called josh on mushrooms to tell him everyone was having dinner and i could hear all their conversations.

hungover and trying to eat a cinnamon bun on a bus in chicago.

all the times jake called me selfish.

playing hungry hungry hippos with everyone’s prescription meds instead of the white marbles.

watching alix clean the apartment in her underwear and realizing that heroin could make me just as thin.

realizing that was awful but true and i thought about it.

the time we slept under tablecloths thinking they were blankets.

the time gloria showed up with $50 worth of popeye’s fried chicken and the room exploded in cheers.

the time i loaned my cellphone to a stranger at a coffee shop and he called his boyfriend. i listened to him break up with him then he handed it back to me while he cried.

the time the assistant at the vet hospital carried my dog out into the waiting room and called out, “Mother of Pancakes? Mother of Charlie Pancakes?”

the midnight panic attack about loneliness and the filipino nurse who drove me home because no one else could take me.

the time i called out of work hungover and my roommate set off a flea bomb in the apartment not knowing i was asleep.

the time i went back to the office after a miscarriage like nothing happened.

laying on the floor of josh and ryan’s kitchen ear candling and frying pickles.

losing feeling in both arms because we all fell asleep in a pile.

writing heavy metal band fan fiction in spiral bound notebooks.

i thought i knew what i was doing

set the alarm for 5:30AM to make the 6AM bus to make the 6:45AM spin class

protein shake with almond milk and cold coffee

office at 8. no one here yet

i thought i knew what i was doing

busy myself. look stressed even if i wasn’t. make stress look apparent when i was. if you don’t show it they won’t know how hard you’re working for your paycheck

say no when offered a cigarette. go outside with them anyway. be social. act like you belong though you know you’re just an interloper. you do not wear enough makeup to look like you’re not wearing any. your shoes are entirely too comfortable for you to be one of them

tofu and steamed greens, doesn’t matter what veg. say no to the 3PM coffee run even though you want it

make sure you change into gym clothes before leaving the office so people see you. linger long enough and someone will pat you on the back. explain to them what HIIT is. mountain climbers and plank jacks and burpees until you almost throw up but you stop. rest. do it again. it’s good for your heart. if you do it and don’t throw up, it’s good for your heart

1/2 a protein bar. hardboiled eggs. i hate salads. i eat salads. 13 pistachios. 8 blueberries

8 oz of protein. i like prescriptions. they make someone else happy because i’m really good at conforming

get enough sleep. 64 oz of water. the internet tells you you’re not hungry, you’re just dehydrated most of the time. this will help your skin. keeps you young

i thought i knew what i was doing

rest were yoga days

i thought i knew

nothing was ever completely restful. even the naps my body demanded

i thought i knew

be social just enough. bootstrap. be clever but not obnoxious. switch to green tea. learn to drink your whiskey neat. be mysterious but open. unattainable but likeable

i thought i knew

eat just enough in public so no one questions. there is a right way to do everything. this is clearly the right way

i thought

wild writing - what the living do

this is the everyday. most days i don’t set an alarm. bean wakes me. he has the breakfast shakes at 7:30AM. even on sundays and i wished he understood what weekends are. i don’t bother putting on pants to go downstairs and feed him. drop the food in his bowl with a handful of cooked green beans because i am now that person who cooks for their dog. i drink some water. i contemplate more clothes but upstairs is so far away, i let the dog out and stand on the back porch in a t-shirt and underwear in the dead of winter grateful for tall fences. clothes are too complicated in the morning. i make caffeine happen. i open my journal. i write the date. i write one line. i’m here. i’m still here. this is good news to someone i’m sure. i close the book. i drag my feet. i brush my teeth while bean licks my naked calves. i finally figure out pants. reluctantly. i watch my husband sleep. his arms overhead like the inflatable waving balloons outside of car dealerships. in 10 years of being together we’ve never had a car. we’re city people. bus people. i think about how this has shaped me. i rode the bus in los angeles in 1999. i took it from hollywood to west hollywood every day for almost 2 years and left the city after being pushed off the bus by a homeless person. i spilled onto the street, out onto sunset blvd like a bag of trash. this was probably not a good place for me to be anymore.

i sat on the sidewalk for awhile. that’s the thing with falling. i don’t remember how i got to the ground. what shapes did my body make on the way down. i can only imagine the cartoon banana peel way of falling, all arms flailing in circles but i’m sure mine was less flail and more bracing. and the impact. knees scraped, one worse than the other. palms, gravel embedded. i rolled over onto my butt and sat, taking stock of the damage. i didn’t even notice for awhile that the driver had gotten off the bus. not to help me, but to wrestle the homeless guy to the ground 10 feet away from me. both of their necks and faces were engorged. red. sweaty. i couldn’t make out what they were yelling. did i hit my head? i don’t remember. it didn’t hurt. my hearing felt muffled and underwater until a shrill voice coming from the bus pierced through like i had broken the surface of a lake. a woman with too much makeup on had opened a window and her shiny fire engine red lips were moving.

“You!” she yelled. “Do something!”

no one else was outside. just me and the two men fighting next to me. that’s the thing about LA. no one was ever outside on the sidewalk. cars were safer i guess. she must have meant me. i had just tumbled out of the #2 on sunset like a piece of wayward luggage and she was looking at me like i was the only person in the world who could do something. i will never forget the throbbing vein in her neck, showing through the thin crepey skin of her throat. people were so angry here. i was so angry here. i never should have moved here.

what would you do if you weren't afraid?

it used to be, wear a 2 piece bathing suit.

i’m now 3 summers of my white b-shaped belly making the rounds in rivers and kiddie pools and oceans.

my body is no longer scary to me. we’re getting to know one another. we’re taking it slow though. we have tea and talk about what hurts. and as if by magic, it hurts a little bit less.

i still don’t want people to get any ideas about us though. we’re not trying to change each other. we’re trying to make it easy, starting with real butter on toast and whipped cream on hot chocolate. and now we’ve made it to bikini status. maybe one day we’ll say ‘i love you’ to one another as we slowly caress each scar. ‘it’s ok. i love you.’ to each inch of dimpled skin, the curve of each calf, each fine delicate eyelid. ‘you’ve done so much for me.’ to each rounded finger, each jagged bitten fingernail. ‘and i appreciate you.’ running our hands through our slick hair.

we’re going to be fine.

where i'm from

today I’m from a place that’s slow moving and tired. this place where coffee doesn’t make a dent. i have a thing for bad coffee, gas station sludge or the weak kind you get for free at hospitals or waiting rooms. i make coffee at home but it’s bad in a way that isn’t bad enough, but i make due. i like synthetic tasting sugar free creamers. i like all these things. it’s not the fashion. i know i’m judged for my want of east coast convenience store 42 hour bottom of the barrel rocket fuel. that’s the stuff. i’m from new jersey. none of this should be surprising. i’m all greasy bags of chips, snacks that turn your fingers unnatural colors. i’m all hot dogs, you know, the kind with the cheese injected into them. i’m all carnivals, rides that should have been condemned, all death defying, it’s a wonder i’m still alive.

i moved to california. for awhile i was all avocado and sprouts on sprouted grain bagels, on a good day, a slice of tomato. for a moment i was all $9 green juices, carrying my yoga mat around in my athleisure. i was full messenger bags with spin shoes and sweat towels and en extra pair of socks. i was all smoke and mirrors, like maybe i could really fake it until i make it and the big reality show reveal i’d come out in a body con dress and i’d be effortlessly beautiful and white.

i’m all low grade anxiety on the daily about my double chin and the clunky way i get up from the reformer in pilates class, the springs and carriage all clanging, like humpty-dumpty and the wall. i’m all egg shaped and weird. i’ve left california but i’m not quite the well worn jeans and complicated facial hair of portland. i’m anti-umbrella. i’m covered in dog hair and oversized sweatshirts. i’m top knots and fraying fading teal hair and cbd tinctures. i’m the aging raver in leg warmers and black leggings with a husband who works in tech. i’m the ex-vegan who eats spam because it is her history. powdered milk and corned beef and garlic fried rice for breakfast. the colonialism present on my plate, my people didn’t invent canned meat.

these days i’m anti-salad, pro ice cream in the winter and not interested in eating leftovers because i’m spoiled. i’m all recovery from catholic school and forever fag hag. i’m all carbs and wearing hoodies as winter coats and black lives matter. i’m all therapy and failed attempts at a meditation practice. i’m 32 flavors and then some and every singer songwriter you can remember from the late 90s.

J broke up with me after I bought him dinner.  I always bought him dinner because he worked in a grocery store and I worked in an office that paid me decently.  He had access to food but never brought any over to cook so I bought him dinner.  J was a butcher and the one time he actually did bring over pork chops from his natural foods store he only brought enough for himself.  This should have been a sign. 

J broke up with me on McAllister Street outside the pan asian restaurant that was just ok but close to my home. After dinner, after sharing short ribs and rice and spring rolls and noodles.  After he ordered three beers to my one.  After it started to drizzle and he opened his mouth and told me that he didn’t think this was working out and that he was going back to Texas for a few days and I stopped listening. I wanted to go back inside because it was raining. I wanted to go back inside because maybe it would rewind us for a little bit so I could be more prepared or maybe he could revise what he was going to say and say something like, “Thank you for dinner. Do you want to go get ice cream?” or “Goodnight, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

J started to follow me as I turned around to start walking home.  I didn’t know what to say although my mouth kept opening and closing, all start and stop.  Nothing was coming out so I just started walking because everything was shutting down. I could feel my body sink into itself, like it was deflating and I needed to a soft place to land.  Home. Walk the two blocks home. Get directly into bed. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. J was still talking but I had no idea what he was saying.  The rain started to soak through my jacket, my shoes. My toes squished with each step.

“So you’re not going to talk to me? Is this is?”  He asked.  I turned back around. His glasses were wet and I couldn’t see his eyes.

“You’re going home to Texas,” I said. “You’re not going to come back are you? Are you seeing her when you’re there?”

“Well, we’ve only texted. I might meet her for coffee.”

“You don’t drink coffee.”

He didn’t reply. Laura. She dumped him before he moved to San Francisco. She had the J who had health insurance and access to his meds. She had the J who didn’t need a 40 of miller high life to go to bed every night or he’d freak out and think he’d lose his job and become homeless and then die within a year. She had the most functioning J there ever was and she dumped him.  I had J of the 40 oz. J. who rationed his klonopin until it ran out. J who hid in a bathroom for three hours at a friend’s party. J who had broken up with me before in a drunken haze then woke up with no recollection that he had dumped me.  I had this J and I stuck with him.

He pulled out a pack of Basic’s from his pocket and started to pack them, smacking them against his left palm.  He would never be able to get one lit in this rain.  He was looking for something to do to take up this silence.

I turned around and started walking home again.

“It’s not what you think!”  he called back out. “We’re just catching up!”

I whipped myself around. He had taken one step towards me.

“I don’t care!  I don’t know what to say to you! I need to go home and I need you to stop!”


“Stop what?”

“Whatever this is! I need you to stop so I can go home!” Before I start crying. Before I start thinking about wasting time on something that was so harmful to me. Before I start listing all the awful things about me that are the cause of you breaking up with me. Before I start thinking about Laura who is thin, Laura who is white, Laura who I’ve only seen myspace pictures of. Laura who had the good version of you and threw you away when I was the one who had the dysfunctional version of you who couldn’t bear to let you go.

He put the pack of cigarettes back into his pocket.

“Go home,” he said. “I’m sorry. I still want to call you when I get back. We should still talk.”


I turned again and made my way home, wet, heavy, throat tight, wishing I had taken his pack of cigarettes as a parting gift, wishing that my roommate wasn’t home so I didn’t have to explain anything, wishing I was someone else altogether because being myself sucked so bad.

 

well then THAT happened - 2018

what if i told you the highlight of my year was the Janet(s) episode of The Good Place?

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like, i’ve watched it twice and can watch it another 5-10 times if need be as some sort of reset button when i feel like i’m glitching out and can’t even. my anti-glitch resource used to be listening to ‘Magpie to the Morning’ by Neko Case on repeat while re-organizing my underwear drawer and re-balling my socks over and over again. i think watching this episode of The Good Place, or any episode of The Good Place (oooh, the Derek episode!) is an upgrade from balling and re-balling my socks (which apparently is bad for the elastic in your socks but whatever).

January started off with an exhausted groan. shoving a lot of travel into the end of 2017 made new years an uneventful thing. I baked a cake. I declared this year the year of cake and passed out before midnight.

Knee surgery was looming and it was giving me horrible anxiety. I had a dream that someone broke all 4 of charlie’s legs and i woke up crying and couldn’t stop crying and even thinking about it right now typing this out my eyes are welling up and my chest is tightening because i think that’s probably one of the most horrific things that could ever happen and i’m so so so sorry to have even shared this if it brought you horror and pain as well.

that’s the state i was in prior to knee surgery.

jeff likes taking pictures of me under the affects of anesthesia for some reason. one might think he hates me.

jeff likes taking pictures of me under the affects of anesthesia for some reason. one might think he hates me.

January and most of February can be described as

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i spent most of my time like this in a full leg cast to keep my knee as straight as possible.

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i started PT. PT was all I remember of February. Maybe some snow. Working from bed. Sleeping downstairs in the front room of our house because stairs were out of the question.

March rolled around with more mobility and my first foray back into movement was a Fat Kid Dance Party class with Bevin who was on a mini tour.

We decided to foster again with OTAT PDX and had a great couple of weeks with this big baby

otis was the best foster non-fail

otis was the best foster non-fail

i took him out on a solo walk and we ran into neighbors i had never met before and they fell in love with him at first sight.

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the best thing is we still get to see him and his new family since they’re close by. we get to dog sit him and his brother Kuma and they’ve gotten to dog sit charlie and bean.

i started to volunteer more with OTAT and get more involved because as the year in politics and existing in this world became more exhausting the more i found dogs to be my saving grace.

OTAT Puppy Feta

OTAT Puppy Feta

i continued to struggle with knee issues but i kept on working at it. i continued to struggle with my body and feeling like it was failing me because i am inherently a failure but i kept working on it. i continued to go to therapy. i continued to spend time with other fat folks who weren’t trying to change their bodies. i went to see sonya renee taylor and jess baker speak and read. i thought about cutting out food groups and then didn’t. i entertained the idea of diets but then didn’t. on my worst days i called my body garbage and went back to the idealized version of me i always imagined i should be. when i realized this version of me was always white i realized that there were so many more things i hated about myself that had nothing to do with size.

I KNOW, RIGHT?

therapy is horrible and awesome and painful and helpful and shitty and necessary.

i started taking a writing class.

i was still working at the same time. the OTHER kind of work. the paycheck kind. it was starting to make me a horrible person to be around.

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i started to entertain the idea of writing more and working less.

i deleted facebook and instagram off of my phone and then re-installed them because i am human and because local friends are sparse.

i recorded a podcast with IRL friends and it reminded me of bad decisions, sloppy living and how much that can bond people when you survive the worst times and the best times of your life with a group of people.

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i finally finagled an appointment with winston the whale and committed to the largest tattoo i have.

people ask me for meaning and significance and really, it’s a head in a book. a tribute to my inner nerd and nothing too deep.

spring melted into summer and instead of getting up at ungodly hours to go to the gym i’ve found myself going to a monday night dance class that has made me completely rethink my old relationship with movement.

i continued to dismantle all the old ways i used to think that were slowing killing me while the outside world crumbled around me. immigrant detainment. children in cages. this proposed wall. the privilege i currently have along with the truth that if i do not open my mouth and speak perfect english something bad could happen to me... it all played out in how i was living my life and spending my days.

existing anyway. waking up every morning and going about my life anyway. being and thriving in this marginalized body anyway is a political act. understanding the privilege i have being a smaller fat, being a less brown race, having opportunity and choice which means it is my duty to listen and help those more marginalized than i am in whatever way i can.

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i decided to stop working and talked to my company about taking a break to write. i couldn’t keep doing what i was doing. i have been needing to get off the hamster wheel for a long time now.

melissa moved back to the bay. when your local friend contingent consists of 3 people that’s a pretty significant loss.

bean misses squishing his head between our shoulders after a morning at the dog park.

bean misses squishing his head between our shoulders after a morning at the dog park.

i stopped working and i thought i’d be a writing machine.

typical day

typical day

i clearly wasn’t.

in true ME fashion, i slept. for like, a thousand years.

between naps friends came to visit.

we spent time in large bodies of water.

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and tiny bodies of water.

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i kept doing the work.

some days i felt cute.

somedays i did not.

this mirror will always be dirty

this mirror will always be dirty

more bad shit kept happening to BIPOC.

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i kept writing. and reading. and going to therapy. and going to dance class.

the most accurate description of doing the work

the most accurate description of doing the work

photo by Lindley Ashline of Representation Matters

photo by Lindley Ashline of Representation Matters

i went river tubing for the first time ever and got stuck in various places which reminded me of several important life lessons.

  1. people want to help you (people i had just met that day were willing to come take a dangerous route to fish me out).

2. i am also capable of helping myself out even when i feel like a hot mess.

3. next time, bring a paddle.

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i had a birthday. i contemplated this step closer to the end.

i still gladly order chicken fingers 90% of the time they are offered at a restaurant.

i still gladly order chicken fingers 90% of the time they are offered at a restaurant.

I went back to San Francisco with Jeff for the first time in over a year and a half. I mostly went for the friends and the food.

at ChaYa our favorite veg restaurant that has managed to stay alive in the constantly changing Mission.

at ChaYa our favorite veg restaurant that has managed to stay alive in the constantly changing Mission.

I continued to not work.

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i wasn’t writing like i had anticipated. it came and went in spurts in between a plethora of appointments. P-DTR. PT. Acupuncture. General Practitioner. Therapy. Pilates. Dance. Yoga.

I was busier than ever and I had no idea how it happened. This writing sabbatical turned into a healing myself in all ways possible sabbatical.

I realized the more I wished things were different the worse I would feel.

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I got another tattoo.

two in one year? who AM I? (by the awesome Lindsey Strong @ Equinox Tattoo)

two in one year? who AM I? (by the awesome Lindsey Strong @ Equinox Tattoo)

I made it to my third Portland Bookfest/Wordstock in a row to see Lindy West and Abbi Jacobson. Chef Ed Lee and Sam Sifton and a whole slew of other writers.

in which my phone wants to turn people into ghosts

in which my phone wants to turn people into ghosts

i wrote notes to myself on bus rides.

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there was more of this

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and this

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i also got to go to England with Jeff to spend time in London

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drink coffee with my sister in a former public toilet

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and see these lil guys who are growing really fast

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and despite the long flights there and back it was worth it

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the rest of december has been quiet settling and the acceptance of this concept

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and trying to keep the voices at bay that tell me i should do this, i should do that, i should, i should, i should…

It’s January 1st. I slept in as much as Bean will let me (before he gets the breakfast shakes). I pulled out the journal and wrote a bit. I lounged a bit. I made breakfast and ate it with Jeff. I settled down to write this with the fear it would take up most of my day and it has but the sun is still out and I still have time to put on real pants, possibly a bra and run a brush through my hair…or not. I still have time to bake another cake or finish coloring this while listening to podcasts (which is a whole new level of “things that bring me total joy”)

from the Liberty Fabrics coloring book

from the Liberty Fabrics coloring book

this year has felt like a lot of this

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but i’m still here and so are you and most people i love. i don’t know what this year will bring. i typically like to throw out some message of hope and joy and whatever but this year it feels more appropriate to tell everyone that if you need to feel shitty, you should let yourself feel shitty. feel all the things. the hopelessness and the darkness and the fear and despair. feel meh. feel angry. feel all the uglies you need to feel. all of this is ok. don’t cover it up with “love and light”. don’t let yourself think your feelings are ridiculous or uncalled for.

then give yourself some grace.

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know that you are loved even if you don’t feel it at the moment.

it’s just a moment.

find your own reset button. the Janet(s) episode is a good place to start.

you can try and categorize your moments with an app (like i do and i DON’T KNOW WHY I KEEP DOING IT)

lifecycle

lifecycle

but know that you contain multitudes.

i love you.

  I remember heartbreak and it feels like a wrung out washcloth.  It feels like numbness and rage and deep sadness all at the same time. It feels like flaming hot Cheetos dipped in sour cream and washed down with orange juice.  It tastes like your mouth after throwing up, like you’ll never be able to taste normal again. Like your mouth is the deep pit of Mordor. Like everything inside of you is black sticky tar and you wonder who will tell your parents that you are now a useless slug of a person, an empty husk who can barely pick up the phone to call in sick for the 3rd day in the row. Like there are not enough hot wings and beer and ice cream in the world to fill you up, your insides a cavernous void, a black hole. You miss being human. You miss your friends even though they come by to check on you but all you can do is listen to them talk about movies and their jobs while laying prone on the couch taking up way too much space.  You imagine playing out the rest of your days playing candy crush and spending money on games designed to make you spend money and you hate that you’ve become one of those people who falls for this scam but $14.99 for another 10,000 coins or bubbles or upgrades or whatever sounds reasonable if you could just keep playing until your battery dies and you need to get off the bed to find a charger because the one on the nightstand has a bent cord that no longer wants to work. Like you. Like how you no longer work because someone bent you. Someone used you so haphazardly that you broke and now you’re all glitchy and weird and need to be replaced.

when invited to a cocktail party

i want to praise things that cannot last. i’ve stopped pulling out my phone to take pictures. i’ve stopped feeling the need to interrupt whatever is happening in the moment so i can chronicle, meals would go cold, moments missed, all for a subpar shot of a fancy pasta dish or an indistinct blur of the moon in a dark sky. there are people who are experts at this and no iphone will make you ansel adams. so i keep the device in my pocket or on the coffee table and i eat my fatty carbonara and let the fresh peas pop between my teeth and i can imagine my own netflix cooking show in my head with perfectly curated shots of silverware and wine glasses and i laugh at bad jokes in my own version of a cocktail dress which is really a summer sun dress, hot pink in a sea of black lacy numbers and impossible looking shoes and eye makeup i don’t understand. i keep my phone in my pocket even though i want to capture the fireplace and the old tufted leather couches with furs and velvet blankets. even though i’m tempted to curl up on the cowhide rug like a restoration hardware spread. i want a photo of what this feels like, like you could smell the whiskey and smoke and glamour of it all and in the middle of it, me and my green hair in a top knot, garish pink frock and sensible shoes.

"6 Self Improvement Hacks to Instantly Improve the Way You Live & Work"

Please let me tell you something you already know, wrap it up into a simple bullet point list telling you that meditation and gratitude will improve your life. that being present and not juggling too much stuff (some call it multi-tasking) will lower your blood pressure. that eating well balanced meals and having friends and family will make everything better.

this is not a life hack.

i want to tell you about the several times i’ve failed, even with a meditation app. how i can’t rely on doing something 5 minutes a day every morning because life happens. how multi-tasking is the only way some of us get anything done. how i don’t trust what people tell me about how well balanced is a balanced meal because everyone has an agenda to make me smaller.

no carry on luggage.

but what if i am all of my baggage?

what if i’m just a collection of experiences, reactions, memories, wrapped up in a skin suit, this bag of spaghetti and bones.

but feelings, i leave those out. so fleeting and fickle and something that can change weight so quickly.

i want to bring just the important stuff. like that one perfect day where both my knees were functioning well enough i could take our dogs for a long walk. that batch of cherries from Bi-rite in 2013. the first and only bite of a patty melt at the pine crest diner at 3AM where i was drunk, it was raining and i had fallen down in the tenderloin but it didn’t matter because my friends picked me up and we ate french fries and drank coffee and i took one bite of the most perfect patty melt before pushing the plate away saying, “I can die now. This is life, you guys.” slurring and sloshing beverages around without care. opening up all the windows in the cab to my driver’s dismay because i wanted to be rained upon.

those moments all stuffed into a suitcase haphazardly, too many of them i have to sit on top to get the zipper to move. i want to pair it down to the essentials but i find myself grasping onto more of them. these tokens of what love looks like.

ice cream sandwiches on front stoops, sticky fingers, melting everywhere and not enough napkins. bike rides at midnight to the 24 hour safeway. pizza and youtube videos. naps in the park. throwing paper airplanes off of josh’s balcony in fox plaza, high above market street.

i think i need a bigger suitcase.

***

there is nothing tidy about my life. everything is always spilling out everywhere no matter how hard i try to keep it contained. it is this mess of stuff, all story, none of it is random. do you know what the heaven beetle is? can i show it to you? can i tell you why it’s important?

i seemed to have stopped purging. it was great once upon a time. i always wanted to get rid of the old so i could continue making room for the new stuff that the new me would want. there was always a new me on the horizon. old me is so 1998. current me is never enough and is always in flux. current me was never real me but new me, just you wait. she’s fucking tidy. she goes to the gym often but not too much, she puts more vegetables than fruit in her smoothies and isn’t a “dessert person”. she can have cocktails on a weeknight and still make it to a yoga class in the morning before starting work at her job in a young office where she can meet deadlines and still take fridays off. she has a capsule wardrobe and only purchases an article of clothing every 6 months and never changes sizes so she never has to replace anything. she has 4 pairs of shoes, one for each season because you know, she doesn’t really need a lot of stuff. she doesn’t like having stuff. it’s all boiled down to the essentials. like an ascetic monk…but aesthetic. an aesthetic monk.

fuck. i hate new me. i mean, why don’t i want to be this current me with too much of everything and underwear in 3 different sizes and clothes that are either too big or too small and 25 pairs of black leggings all in various states of disintegration?

sometimes i see friends and family members who have children and i wonder if the distraction is a blessing or an even heavier thing to carry thinking about the shitty world we’re handing over to them to deal with while we get alzheimer’s and get old and forget that cd’s don’t exist anymore. while we talk about telephone radio alarm clock combos that plugged into the wall and paying for things with checks and learning things about your friends organically because there was no facebook.

current me needs to get off the internet and take a much needed shower. her ‘natural’ deodorant is failing her or 3 days is the limit on days she can remain unshowered. current me thinks showering takes too much work, wishes breakfast sandwich delivery was more affordable and is mad teleportation hasn’t been invented yet.

i write because i like re-reading old journal entries. i write because i like looking back on memories i’ve forgotten that i get to put on again, briefly

so my fingers and hands can remember the feel of wet sand and the tide washing over them and the first taste of salt water taffy. the disappointment that it wasn’t any good and how the adults loved it but i wanted fudge and i swore that when i was an adult i wouldn’t lie to kids about candy and what is good and not good.

i write because i if don’t no one will know about all the secret cigarettes i used to smoke out my bedroom window

or the time i pocketed the body of christ at mass so i could take it home and look at it to see if it was really special in some way, huddled over the wafer, locked in the bathroom. the disappointment in seeing it was just like the flying saucer candies, like thin edible styrofoam and i popped it into my mouth in a panic because my mother knocked on the door.

i write because i want to remember and catalog all the times i’ve locked myself in a bathroom to do anything other than its’ intended purpose.

to hide from an ex at a party.

to examine my underwear the day after a miscarriage.

to eat a thanksgiving meal after my aunt had told me i gained weight.

to eat an unsanctioned snack of cheetos because i was subliminally taught that it was the only place to eat unsanctioned cheetos.

to hide in the bathtub from my parents because i refused to change into a dress for a party.

because it’s where i go when i want to be an asshole but not hurt anyone’s feelings.

i write because it’s easier than talking to people and i want people to know that i love them but i don’t want to hear what their reply would be.

i write because one day i may need to remember in specific detail all the horrible things that have happened to my body, by others, by myself, with good intentions, but maybe not. i write because the brain has selective amnesia and will do what it needs to do to protect you, so you can function in daily life without being haunted by trauma, but the body knows. the body knows.

loser

the thing about having asian parents…

there is never an action i do where i do not think, “is this benefitting you or advancing you in any way shape or form? if not, then why are you doing it?”

i think this as i individually pick up dried water beads with my finger tip and scrape them off into a container. i have been doing this for the past 30 minutes. i really have no reason to keep these things and quite honestly it feels unhygienic to keep and reuse them since i have thousands of them and they were $10. i have 45 unread books scattered around me, a novel i haven’t started writing, meal prep to do, clothes and dog toys strewn around the floor, an unmade bed, a bunch of PT exercises i haven’t done in days, a piano i haven’t touched in a month and here i am picking up itty bitty beads and putting them into a jar while all these other bigger things go undone.

the thing about asian immigrant parents, if you don’t accomplish their version of success then what are you and what did they sacrifice for?

there is no room in my life to breathe even as i make this choice to waste time on a mindless task that benefits no one. each minute is saturated in guilt. i should be writing. i should be reading. at the very least i should be cleaning the house or making dinner. at the very least i should be making a budget of some sort so i can find out where we can save money. i have that same affliction samantha irby wrote about. that “i grew up poor so now that i have money expensive useless things like special face wash make me feel good about myself.” and while i’ll take my addiction to toiletries that don’t do anything to make me look better and insulated hydroflask water bottles over an expensive purse and/or shoe addiction any day i still don’t feel that great about it. ideally, i wouldn’t be addicted to material things. ideally, i also wouldn’t be wasting time dehydrating water beads by the handful on my desk.

i walked out of hilary’s office and limped down the steps (as a person with chronic knee pain often does) and out onto N Williams Ave thinking about how i spend an hour a week trying to figure out why i think i’m a lazy garbage person with privilege she doesn’t deserve and how do i stop feeling this way because i really can’t be all that bad of a person. i’ve never killed anyone. i say please and thank you and often god bless you when someone sneezes. i hold the door open for people even if they’re far away and i never let my bag take up a seat on the bus.

one theory is that i’m lacking mirrors. i’m lacking people in my life who reflect back to me and reinforce my inherent goodness. i have my husband. i have my therapist. but all my friends live all over the place and i don’t have that daily interaction with people who know me and can provide this positive reinforcement.

being an introvert and an empath and an adult who does not have to go to an office everyday i’m faced with the impossible task of making friends.

i’m so not good at this.

so i continue to keep my life insular. i pet my dogs. i do the mundane useless task. i buy an expensive shampoo. i feel like a failure. i kiss my husband. i contemplate if it’s a “me” character trait or a general Cancer (sun sign not disease) thing. i wonder how other people do it.

but i dare not ask the internet. i’ve shared some of my frustrations and anxieties via intstagram stories and have been met with one part heart emojis and one part “have you tried cutting sugar from your diet or intermittent fasting?”

wtf people.

get your shit together. if you’ve been paying any attention to any of the content i put out there you’ll know that your suggestion of occasional controlled starvation is not wanted or tolerated.

i can’t depend on social media interactions to be my mirrors because i don’t trust it when it sends me shit like this from people who only vaguely know me.

i need some IRL friends which feels impossible to make while i continue to think and act like i’m a complete loser.

i have nothing good to put into a poem this morning.

i am all stomach gurgles and questionable breakfast choices.

i am the instrumental music that comes on when the medical office puts you on hold and you’re on hold for five years.

i am the jack in the box that opened up after your favorite falafel place closed down.

the 24 hour diner with the lights shut and locked door at 2AM.

i am the tone of your mother’s voice after you’ve ignored her last 3 calls

the friend who wants to talk to you about carbs

the hairdresser who aggressively combs out your earrings

the person who cuts in front of you in line casually, like he had been there all along when he was really over two feet away flipping through US Weekly

the smaller city Target that doesn’t have anything you want or need.

i’m the truck who won’t let you get in the right lane

the stained plastic take out container you can’t recycle so you can feel good about your environmentalism.

i’m the starbucks that opened in italy.

the disappointing salad you spent $15 on

the medication that gives you explosive diarrhea.

the leftover goo stuck to a bottle after you removed a label.

the ghost booger you have while you’re waiting in the lobby for a job interview.

i’m over lotioned hands that won’t let you turn the doorknob

the lego embedded into the bottom of your heel that you’ll still be feeling days from now.

please don’t ask me how i’m doing today.

i blow the candle out because i don’t want to remember. it’s not the right time. funny how the brain does this, starts closing the sliding door to that room. no, it’s not time yet. you’re not ready. it’s too much. the mechanisms your body has to keep you alive. your body wants you to thrive even though the world is shit and people can be horrible selfish creatures, even though you can’t think of good things to put into a poem this morning, even though you are surrounded by moments that are loving and earnest, even though you can’t see them right now, they’re here, they’re happening and the brain shuts the door to the really dark stuff because even the grey stuff is too much right now.

being filled with too much from the outside world. the people who love you are worried about you.

dehydrating water beads you need to spread them out. they dry out quicker the further apart they are from one another. the ones that stick together remain full the longest, pulling life from one another, like living things, like if they could create a raft of themselves they can keep themselves afloat for much longer than if they were alone.

IMG_3445.jpg

i want to thrive.

please don’t give up on me. i don’t want to wither alone.

i write to remember

I remember the night we cobbled dinner together out of all the things I needed to eat before I left Boston. 5 mangoes leftover from the box Fred impulsively bought at Haymarket. A cup of cereal leftover in the box. 2 packs of ramen. A box of mac n cheese. Leftover Rice a Roni in a tupperwear in the fridge. Fred gathered the mangoes in his arms and carried them like a baby in his arms.

“I got these,” he said.

“You’re going to be shitting yourself for weeks!” Jesse laughed.

“I know,” Fred replied. “It’s going to be epic.”

I finished the cereal in one handful to the mouth.

“What’s next?” I asked, still chewing.

“We can do the mac and cheese with water.” Jesse grabbed a pot out of a box, like magic, nothing ever appears that easy in an apartment full of boxes and trash bags. all soft sided things were thrown into hefty extra tuff garbage bags. everything else in brown cardboard pilfered from the market down the street. it makes sense that my last winter in boston was the coldest and our heat was broken for most of it. i remember throwing matches at the pilot light, willing to risk life and limb for working warmth. at first, leaving boston felt like admitting defeat, a failure of sorts. I had told myself that there was nothing left for me there.

I could have stayed. I would have eventually left Lawyers Weekly and gotten some other office job. I would have fallen in love with someone else, someone who wasn’t Fred. someone who wouldn’t insist on eating 5 mangoes in one sitting. someone whose pants i didn’t need to mend on the regular. I would have found an apartment with working heat and would have never let my constitution go soft like it did in sunny, warm LA. I don’t remember who ended up with all my winter gear, the grey wool men’s coat i found a thrift store, the only thing that ever fit me from a thrift store. the fleece gloves that you couldn’t hold shit with if you were wearing them. the duck boots from LL Bean. the flannel lined jeans. none of it came with me to LA and now I want them back just so i can smell them and remember what boston in the winter smelled like.

***

three starts. three assignments. no editing.

#1

things that don't suck. my cholesterol. surprisingly. i think even my NP was surprised and a part of me wanted to be like, "Ah ha! I got you!" like i'm wearing a fat suit  and all of a sudden i shed it. surprise!  fooled you into thinking this thing about me which is totally untrue! but...

this is not a fat suit.

the realization that comes with a lifetime of being in this skin, my viscera, the way my hair thins in  this one spot. these moles, the fact that i keloid, my scars becoming puffy little masses, like they're raising their hands saying, "I'm here! I'm here!"  the secondary chin that pops out to say hello when i'm tired and i let my head nod forward. my fading tattoos. my inability to jump upright out of bed, the ay i can feel my bones scrape against one another, my juicy days are far behind me.

these things suck. sort of. mostly.

the miracle of walking my dogs after 2 knee surgeries. finding the best recipe for buttermilk pancakes. the warm pocket my husband leaves in the bed when he gets up. the ability to live anyway. to do anyway. to be happy anyway. to keep it all wide open despite it all.

that doesn't suck.

#2

no thank you. no it's ok. i'd rather do without. i know already that i didn't feel better when i looked like that. no thank you to eating disorders and treadmills. i'm saying goodbye to that. she. her. she never served me. she was always a means to an end. she was the promise of love, relationships, of acceptance, success, of normalcy. she was the end of a 90 minute rom-com, all lilting acoustic guitars as the credits rolled over an image of a sunset over the bay. she was a shiny gold thing, all coveted sparkling gems.  she was all ease. at least that's what everyone suspects.

no thank you to her.

there used to be tremendous effort to day goodbye to her. she's just an idea. she's not even real and i can't help but sit here looking at my hands in wonderment at this dream that was sold to me so long ago that i believed it was my own doing. my own fault.

no thank you to accepting blame for everything. for doling out forgiveness to every space i walk into, issuing apologies before anyone has noticed me. i'm so sorry i'm like this. i'm do sorry for asking for anything. i'm so sorry i'm not her.  

#3

there is a certain kind of trouble with this kind of harsh light.

exposure therapy. it's a thing, right? it feels relentless and unforgiving. 

it's in my own control right? i'm doing this thing. opening the wound over and over again.

i don't turn on this lamp for a reason.

i read at night in low light. i prefer the darker months of the year. when the world get a little too cold for comfort. where the outside is wet and saturated and the sun is nestled into a cloud pocket. this kind of grey is nice. the neighbors stop grilling and we all go inside for warmth. we all do the things we do to nourish ourselves to the ultimate cozy. 

i'm all over the place when the seasons transition. i'm wondering how long i can be barefoot in the house. i'm unsure if i should wear pants outside. i look at weather apps and it's like a completely foreign language i refuse to read correctly. it's never right and i want to wear dresses and flip flops with scarves and hoodies. everything is uncomfortable. the temperature of a room takes up way too much real estate in my brain, pushing more coherent thoughts. what was i talking about again? am i running away from something important? filling in the uncomfortable gaps with talks about the weather? is my brain tricking me? protecting me from myself?