Thursday, May 17, 2018

Manners Matters

Once upon a time I was a little girl, and I wore ribbons in my hair, delighted in shoes with buckles, and twirling around with abandon to get the skirts of my dresses to flare out and make me feel like a fairy.
I delighted also in being the solemn, mature eldest child in my family, and I glommed on to words I thought made me seem older than I was. I was especially conscious of being polite. It was so pleasant to trot up to my mother after attending a birthday party and listen to the parents praise 'Jessica's exceptional manners.'
I still recall the single time I attended my best friend Becky's birthday party and I was so excited at cake time I was sitting on my knees on the bench around the table while she blew out the candles on her cake. I wiggled my body with joy and completely forgot about the polite little girl who would sit in her chair patiently. Becky's father was a little bit older than my dad, and he reminded me of a mysterious old wizard. He had an office with an abstract chess set whose pieces were all made of twisted, heavy metal, and Becky and I used to attempt to play without really knowing which shape was what. Mostly we liked the clunking noise they made on the board and against one another.
He seemed very friendly, and so when he admonished me for not sitting in my seat properly, I turned and with an uncharacteristic flare of rebellion, stuck my tongue out instead of obeying his order.

To be fair, he was a total gentleman disciplinarian. He came over and asked me very sternly to come with him to his office where he told me it was very impolite to ignore the rules when you are a guest at someone's house, he also told me that he knew I was a good little girl and that it seemed odd for me to be so disrespectful.
I burst into tears and was so upset that even when he guided me back to the table with a kindly hand on my shoulder and got me a nice big piece of cake, I could hardly swallow a mouthful.
It should tell you a lot about me to say that on some nights when I can't sleep, after I've run through every stupid thing I've ever done and every time I've ever wronged anyone, this memory rises to the surface like the bloated corpse of a long dead manatee, and I still feel a curl of guilt in my stomach like an ancient thread of steel wool.

This being said, I think the emphasis on manners in my childhood had a great deal to do with being brought up by parents of the Commonwealth, in a country still under English rule. I think it also has a great deal to do with my being a girl.

Everyone likes a polite little girl. And I really liked being liked.

Of course, when I moved to America, the politeness thing made me stand out like a sore thumb, alongside my soft Australian accent, it was the most definitive thing about me, and it quickly got me shoved out of line for the bathrooms, laughed at during class discussions, and ostracized from most playground games.

But before you go feeling bad for me, let's get to the meat of this post.
Now that I am an adult, I feel that manners make for superior humans, of all genders, races, origins, and languages.
Being polite, especially to strangers, is the first vestige of kindness.
You are polite because you may never see the person to whom you are being it ever again.
You have no idea if they are having the best day or the worst day.

I cannot tell you how many times I was walking the streets of wherever I lived struggling with my medium to well done depression, and a small gesture made me feel like maybe I wasn't a worthless piece of shit.

Working in the service industry for most of my life has led me to interact with thousands of people in microcosmic conversations, and I can tell you with confidence that I know how a please, a may I, and a heartfelt thank you can completely transform a human confrontation.

I know this from being on both sides. I have single handedly moved someone's mood from absolutely dreadful to surprisingly pleasant with a few pleases and thank yous and the honest questions, "How are you doing? You having a good day?"
I have also been flattened by a crap person, who dismisses me, treats me like a moron, and then finds something to yell at me about because they are a small human with no power in their life other than to make someone they don't know sad.
It is a really awful feeling to know that a stranger thinks of you as a throw-away-person.

Because here's the thing,
we're all both throw-away-people and lovely humans to one another.

I can be a total bitch if I want to be. I know you can too.
I can lock eyes with a stranger, look at the way they hold themselves or park their car, decide that I am better than they, and cut them in line to the deli counter just like they can to me, but it is heinously rude, and genuinely makes me feel bad.

I believe that every action we do has a kinetic energy of either positive or negative nature, and it is possible to make both yourself and another person feel like the world is worth staying in by stepping back and saying the words, "no you go ahead."

I am always amazed when people blow through crosswalks, or jostle in lines, or make a big deal about getting somewhere before someone else because it really doesn't matter. I would rather take the extra four seconds to let an old dude cross the street than get to wherever I'm going.

In these times of frightening social distance, where we feel so safe inside social media as to say absolutely awful things to absolute strangers on the internet, I see people retreat from actual person-to-person interactions more and more.
Don't get me wrong, there's a lot more unabashed solicitation going on now that there ever was before.
I can't walk a block without a tall young dude asking if I have spare dollar for a bus, or an enthusiastic person in a beanie with a clipboard trying to get me to sign a petition, or a twenty something wearing nine hundred dollars' worth of make up and cologne asking if I'm happy with my pore size, mortgage interest rate, or data plan.

STILL. THESE ARE HUMANS. They deserve a respectful shake of the head and a smile, or if that doesn't put them off a, "I'm sorry, no thank you."
You don't even have to put in the I'm sorry if you don't like, but No Thank you, goes a really long way.
So does door holding.
Like, for everyone.
If you go through a door, just flick your eyes back and see if there is someone behind you, and hold it for them for the .25 of a second it takes for them to get to it.
It doesn't make you late for things.
It doesn't make the stranger think they can be your friend now, and if so, and you're not into that then say, "no thank you," and walk away, or if you're totally about new friends, then great! You have one!

Manners are the thing that evolve into kindness. They are the gestures that remind all of us that we are in this thing together.
Letting someone go ahead of you may be something you can do every day, until that one day that you really are late, and you really do need to get somewhere really soon, and YOU SHOULD STILL BE POLITE.
YES.
Because manners karma is real, and the more politeness you exhibit, the more it comes back to you.

I find people's wallets a lot.
I always have.
I find pocketbooks and purses, laptop bags and phones, and sometimes I just find money on the street.

And you can bet your sweet bippy I take the wallets and the pocketbooks and anything else to the police station.
Did you know that you can drop off someone's wallet at the library if you find a library card in it because their library account has a phone number, and the librarians can call them to return their shit?
Yes. You can do that.

I've called people and heard the relief gush from their voice when they realize that their stuff is found.
I've turned over phones and watched previously horrendous humans smile gratefully and say "Oh my god, thank you so much!"

And even if they didn't that's not the point.

The point is I know how fucking crazed I would be if I lost my phone or wallet.
I know I'd be a mess, trying to figure out how to replace all my cards, my IDs, cancel my accounts with every single goddamn thing, and then trying to remember new account numbers.

And you know what?

I've never had to do it, because whenever I've misplaced my shit, some kind human has found it and returned it.

Manners Karma, people.

Anyway.

I just wanted to impress upon you how small the planet is, how alike we are, and how it really does not hurt you to say those pleases and thank yous and to hold doors, and take a moment to turn in the phone you found in the bathroom of the coffeeshop because it is these small, every day moments, that make us all okay. They remind us that the world hasn't completely turned into a dumpster fire, and that we're all just doing our best to be human beings.

So thank you, for reading, and for that thing, you know, that thing you did for me that time.
Thanks for that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Poop City. Population: You

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about motherhood the other day.
She jokingly suggested that we change the title of mother to "fecal manager," because all we do is clean up poop, all the poop, in every form.

Yes.

This is really a post about shit.

So turn away if you are like I used to be, someone who might identify as fecal-phobic.

If you're still here, you were warned.

When you sign on to have a child, you are aware, in the abstract, that you will be forced, as a kind of payment for the amazing wonder of bringing a child into this world, to deal with their poop. You comprehend the idea, but you'd rather not think about it. You buy diapers and marvel at their smallness. You decide you want to do cloth diapers or biodegradable diapers. You've read that diapers make up some horrific percentage of landfills, and you refuse to be part of that problem.
You get up on that pulpit reserved for not-yet-parents and you sway with the conviction of your gospel.
You forget about everything else.

You forget you have a cat and that the cat poops.
You are allowed to forget that the cat poops because the cat poops into a convenient little box that you rake once every couple of days (or weeks if you're lazy). If you're extra lucky, you get to pass that task to your partner while you're pregnant because toxoplasmosis is a thing now.
You forget you have a dog.
In the world before you have a child, bringing yourself to pick up your dog's poop in a little plastic bag is the epitome of filth.
You place two, maybe three bags over your hand and you still shudder with revulsion as your claw closes around the turd. You scamper to the nearest trash barrel and fire it like a missile from your person.
If you're really honest, a lot of the time, you run off with your dog before anyone can notice she did anything.

You hate poop.
A lot.

When you have a baby, your entire view of poop changes.
The first few days you are concerned with the baby doing it at all, what they expel is important, the frequency with which is leaves them is also notable. The amount is comparable to what they pour onto sanitary napkins in commercials, which is to say, not much, and taken care of quickly and easily.

Then you leave the hospital, the changes are still novel, and you're still very concerned with them. You're surprised with how clinically you regard them actually, but there's this weird feeling that the baby is still part of your body, and watching its functions is akin to popping your zits. You're a little grossed out, but more fascinated that you produced something capable of producing other things. It's like a magic trick inside a russian nesting doll.
But it's also poop.
You don't forget that.
It just doesn't bother you as much...yet.

The bothering actually sneaks up on you.

It shivers through you when your partner returns to work, and you change a diaper blowout at 6:30am, which takes a while because there are washings and wipings and outfit swaps that must take place. You come into the kitchen and the dog has peed all over the floor because you didn't get her out early enough and your partner forgot, since you always used to get the dog out before the baby was born.
You feel extra skeeved out by cleaning up the pee because you have to do it while the baby is strapped to you.
What if a microscopic fleck of dog pee gets on your baby?!!! You wash your hands eight times.

You take the dog out and conveniently forget to pick up her poop because you've already had to deal with enough today.

Then a couple of months later, as you're dragging the dog away from her latest deposit, trying to adjust a larger baby in his sling, attempting to juggle the leash and the house key and your phone as well, a woman comes out and yells at you for not picking up your dog's poop. You point at your baby. She says, "I don't care."
You clumsily use your shoe to kick the poop off her lawn into a storm drain while she folds her arms and watches.
You hold the tears back until you are back to your driveway.

A year later, your kid is wearing the horrible landfill diapers like every other kid.
You gave up on biodegradable after the six-blowouts-in-one-day day.

You're a bit more of a poop warrior now.
You've had it in your hair.
You've washed it out of so many shirts, you've stopped buying nice shirts unless you have to go somewhere, and you have three "going out shirts."
You've sieved turds out of your bathtub and tied onesies like shit-filled balloons and lobbed them right into the trash along with the diaper inside them because there isn't bleach enough in the world for that mess.
You've dealt with a stomach bug that ripped through you, your kid, and your husband and left you retching into a toilet, while you held your kid away from your face, and through it all, you thought about the diaper you would have to change when it was all done.

Oh fuck.
Someone has to clean the cat's box now, don't they?

And it's rancid when you get to it, because you genuinely forgot it existed until one June morning it smelled like ammonia and death and you were suddenly acutely aware that you didn't know the last time you bought litter.

You tie a rag over your face like you're in a dystopian movie and you wear gardening gloves, and the curse words you utter while the baby lumbers around his pack n' play in the other room, are the filthiest most offensive things you've ever said.

Another year goes by.
You've begun potty training the kid, but the dog is very old and doesn't make it outside at least once a day and relieves herself with no discrimination on the linoleum.
You're child knows to stop when he enters the kitchen and to point at whatever's desecration the floor. He can identify it by name even while you stoop to wipe the spot with antibacterial wipes, or scoop up the matter and then run a mop across the surface.
You clean your kitchen floor more times than you change your kid's diaper now, and you refuse to go barefoot into the room anymore.

Your potty training child has suddenly decided to lie about when he has to poop so you have to take your chances with diapers versus underwear, swimtrunks versus pull ups, or tarp versus hose.

Sometimes you use all of it, and there's still fucking poop in your hair.

You feel like you have to model good, responsible behavior for your kid, so you scoop up the dog poop every time you take her outside.
You clean the cat's box every thursday, which is trash day, and you haul a bag of landfill diapers and litter to the curb and apologize to the sky for fucking the planet up, and then stand there a minute and wonder what you used to do with your amazingly poop-free youth before your partner sends you a text that says,
Are you coming back?
It almost sends you into an existential crisis that question, and you have no answer for it because you'd be lying if you hadn't just considered running down the street in your pajamas and bare feet, running until you were far away, alongside a highway with your thumb out squinting into backseats to make sure there's no duct tape and chloroform waiting for you, but instead you return. You sniff your fingers, because you are convinced now that you smell of poop, everywhere, all the time.
You wash your hands.
You wipe the kitchen floor. You watch your red-faced son squat over a plastic bucket shaped like a frog and you have a canister of m&ms you shake him encouragingly.

You find yourself saying, "Come on, sweetie! Poop for Mummy!" with the kind of enthusiasm reserved for high school cheerleaders whose boyfriends have just miraculously recovered from cancer in time to be quarterback for the big game.


You sometimes look longingly at a bottle of wine at two in the afternoon, wondering if you have a glass if you'll turn into one of those moms from tv, and instead you lock yourself in the bathroom, ironically, and cry while your child watches some pixar monstrosity in the next room. You hope the emotionally manipulative soundtrack drowns out your heart wrenching sobs.

Then you sigh, and wash your face, and go back out there, and he greets you like you were gone for a thousand years, and you get kisses and hugs, and his little sweaty fists balled up into your armpits and ribcage and everything falls away for a little bit.
You sigh and you stop thinking about the future for a second, and you relax. Maybe you think about the fact that there are parents who would trade limbs to have their babies back with all the shitty diapers they could make.
Maybe you think about that time your parents talk about, when as a baby, you painted the walls of your crib with a booty blast to frighten for centuries.
Maybe you just close your eyes, and sniff your baby's little head and remind yourself someday, someday very soon, he'll be grabbing an apple after school, pecking you on the cheek, and running out the door to some mischief or another, and by then he should be potty trained...probably.

Then a little wistfulness mixes in with the sweet, hay and milk smell of baby hair and you think how odd it is that wistfulness smells so much like ammonia, and goddammit, when did you last buy litter?




Friday, May 11, 2018

What was and the Mother

Last night, I took ten minutes.

I took ten minutes, and I realized she is still there.

The woman I was before I had a baby.

In here, pushing through the jungle of guilt vines, choked with responsibility mosquitoes, thick with the oppressive humidity of doubt and the anxiety of everyday darkness. She's in here. She's still here. She's okay.

I worked from five thirty in the evening until nine thirty making cookies like I do every tuesday and thursday in the cafe a block from my apartment. I worked with the twenty four and twenty five year olds that I work with regularly. They played music from video games that have hundreds of hours of story lines and from bands whose members weren't born when I graduated high school. They talked obsessively about how stressed out working at a cafe made them, about how they were the only things keeping the place together, about how they "couldn't handle much more of this."
I smiled and kept doing their dishes.
I got my cookies made. I listened to them whinge about dating and apps and being single and being an introvert because apparently everyone's an introvert now, and they know their Myer-Briggs label, and they practically wear it as a t-shirt or use it as the heading on their resume. It's always been cool to be broken, but now it's cool to tell everyone your diagnosis and compare meds.
No shame...maybe that's a good thing?

It's all the same though.
The vocabulary is different.
The music is unfamiliar, and the technology has changed things a little, but it's still pretty miserable to be twenty. All the internal conflict, and an endless amount of energy to fuel the self doubt and discovery.

The night wore on. I listened. I thought about the rest of the day, how I'd been cleaning up the geriatric dog's accidents, chasing the baby, trying to get him to eat, taking my Dad out to lunch, getting myself to a dentist appointment, and making the baby and my husband's dinners all before I headed out the door to my shift.

I thought about how four or five years ago, when the compound housed all my closest friends, and we all worked in cafes and bakeries, how we used to waste time like it was an olympic sport.
Entire days were spent doing whatever we liked.
I could come and go as I pleased, go to the beach and change my mind halfway there.
Still, I would worry.
I would obsess about restricting and over-exercising and not getting fat.
I would obsess about reading books and being at parties or bars or seeing people and being clever and funny and looking like I had my shit together.
I wanted people to think I was a big deal so badly.

But so much of the best times were just sitting around with my friends, drinking coffee and listening to music and talking. Or sitting out on the porch having a glass of wine and singing along as my best friend strummed her ukelele. Or even taking slow wanders around the cemetery or the beach, working through the fogs of our emotions and forgetting to feel the breeze on our skins.

One of the things I miss the most since having a child, and the forced isolation it incurs, is the casual ways I could always access my friends.

I struggled so much with the feeling that I was being left behind.
I was anchored to my couch for an entire year, nursing and cleaning and finishing my masters degree.
Then I was stepping gingerly away from the couch and the baby, overwhelmed by how reluctant I was to leave him even for a couple of hours, confused as to who I was now that my priorities were so different from my single or child-free friends.

It hurt.
I know, right?
It doesn't make any sense.

It hurt that I had changed so much I could barely stand to leave my kid with his dad for a couple of hours and toddle down the street to see a jazz band play. It hurt that I skipped parties so much that I stopped being told they were happening.
It hurt that couples I had introduced were no longer texting me to come to their backyard bonfires or that the times I saw them were alway incidental, and I missed them, and they missed me, and we'd make promises to call each other for a drink, knowing as we walked away that we were never going to follow through.

Most days, I am spent by seven pm. I've spent twelve hours caring for my kid while his dad's away at work, and he's a magical joy of a human being, but he's also more exhausting that I ever fathomed another human could be.
It's surprised me how working a couple of days at the cafe has helped expand my perspective.

Last night, I came home from my shift, and I was tired, and I was hungry, but I was also kind of flying.
I'd made an absolute ton of cookies in a very short amount of time.
One of which was an experimental riff on oreos, and I'd never made them before, so when the results turned out spectacularly, I was over the moon.
I walked home and it was a surprisingly mild night.
I'd forgotten my coat, and barely missed it.
One of the blessed twenty somethings had handed me a third of a bottle of rosé that they couldn't serve, so I poured it into a glass when I got home, and I sat down on the porch.

It was almost ten, and my husband texted me, "Where are you," and I lied. I said I was taking out the dog, but instead I sat out under the stars and watched the blossoms from the apple tree in our yard shed all its petals like snow.

I sat out there, and I took sweet sips of the wine and breathed, and I realized it's all still here.
The parties, the books, the beautiful nights, the walks through the cemetery, the long talks, the fires, the coffee, the music, and the laughter. It's all still here waiting for me whenever I'm ready.
I sort of thought I'd been swallowed by motherhood, and that there was no coming back, and in a way, that's true.

I finished the glass of wine, and a breeze that smelled like someone's laundry steam floated by and was criss crossed by one that smelled like ocean. The petals floated by and settled into dimples in the grass and asphalt. I lifted my hand to move a stray hair off my cheek and my knuckles smelled like buttercream, and I smiled because I'm still me.

She's here whenever I am still.



Friday, April 20, 2018

The old adage: No news is good news, bothers me, because for me it is outweighed by another phrase, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
This is an odd discovery at 36 years of age, but with everyone and their mom suddenly proclaiming whether or not they're an introvert or extrovert, taking myers briggs tests, and spending hours on buzzfeed answering arbitrary questions to find out what kind of a cake they'd be if they were in fact  a cake, it feels like something worth addressing.

I, like so very many people, struggle with anxiety/depression.

This is the part where you say, "GIANT DUH."

My Beard and I frequently talk about this because he is one who suffers from this too.
Honestly, everyone does. I think there are two conditions to this statement.
1. You are more prone to be anxious or more prone to be depressed and this affects your reactions to stress.
2. You can either manage it alone, or through a variety of wonderful measures (therapy, medication, journaling, long spousal conversations, in-patient care, etc and any combination of these).

Firstly, there is no wrong way to have anxiety/depression.
Secondly, certain environmental factors will nurture a whole population to simultaneously experience heightened symptoms of their condition, however it manifests.

All of this to say, when I am depressed, one of the biggest tells is that I stop writing. I stop reading. I stop talking to people. I retreat because I don't have anything good to say, so I don't feel worthy of talking.

Hello, I am there, guys.

The last six months have been so fraught with illness, storms, and the general fuckery of the world, that I feel like I am drowning.

There hasn't been a single holiday since Halloween  that hasn't seen us punished with sickness.
Thanksgiving-Dreadful cold and ear infection for the baby, dreadful cold for Beard, Strep for me.
Bastian's Birthday-another cold for all of us, the baby with a fever high enough to take us to the ER.
Christmas-A norovirus that laid us out for six days.
New years-Another cold
The week after new years-the bomb cyclone that marooned us in Boston and cancelled our trip to see Beard's family.
Early March and Jess's big trip to a Florida writing conference- 2 giant storms, delayed flights, and finally an allergic reaction to a bug bite that landed me in a Tampa emergency room.
(sidenote, I still attended the panel I was on, but I was FLYING on benadryl).
Middlemarch-two more storms, and Bastian hitting his head and passing out for a second which was one of the scariest things I've ever seen.
My birthday (last day of March)/Easter-another stomach virus that laid the whole fam out for 8 days.

And here we are.

I have had many conversations with people about how lucky I am.
I am so grateful for so many things. I know we are beyond fortunate. Things could have been so much worse.

But it's okay that I'm also really struggling.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Progress is for Lovers

Last night, I got home from my four hour shift at the cafe where I bake cookies a couple of days a week.
It was 9:30pm, and I wasn't sure if I was hungry. You know that weird space where you just can't tell if you are actually hungry or if you just think you should eat something? That feeling.

If you have ever struggled with disordered eating, then you know this feeling is torture.

It's the devil.

The big fuck you.

If you aren't comfortable with talking about this stuff by now then you should probably just bugger off. I know there are literally 1.5 people who read this thing, and they're probably just bots, but I keep writing it because it helps me, and well...who knows...maybe someone who needs to see this will see if at exactly the right time.
Anyway,
so having disordered eating of any kind means you are constantly in a tornado of confusion, guilt, distrust, and bodily function.
Your body is doing its best to just keep you alive, sending you its signals to eat, pee, dance, sleep, or whatever, and your ED is taking any information it sends you at all and making it all about your worth and food. It's trying to make the organic, complex, messy balance of sustenance some kind of puzzle you can solve and then miraculously be thinner and by virtue of that thinness happier, wealthier, more confident, blah blah bullshit.

After years of this abuse, you get so out of touch with your body's signals that any feelings of hunger and fullness can have all kinds of emotional significance.

If you had peered into my life three or five, or even thirteen years ago, you would have seen a person absolutely twisted by conflict upon returning home from work.

Let's unpack this.

I used to always skip breakfast. In fact, every morning was an opportunity to see "how long I could go without eating."
And every goddamn day, I would make it to a certain time, sometimes noon, sometimes four p.m. sometimes ten thirty in the morning, and I wouldn't be able to go any longer.
And the binge/diet mentality would take over and I would eat everything in sight. Then I would be overfull, uncomfortable, and guilt stricken, swearing up and down that I would not eat for longer, that I would exercise to burn it all off, atone atone atone.

A few years back, coming home from a late shift was permission to eat everything in my cupboards. It was the perfect scenario. Nobody else was awake to see me do it. There was a hollow ache in my gut where, even if I had eaten a normal amount of food during the day, I was already anticipating the next day's restriction, so I would feel like I HAD to eat in excess to survive it.

Inevitably I found myself engaging in the most damaging behaviors, shoving food down my throat that I didn't want until I felt full and nauseated, crying and raging at my failure at the restriction and control I so desperately sought, and then crawling into bed to feel bloated and ashamed for a night of fitful sleep. Only to start the whole cycle over again the next day.

I would refuse offers of bites of cookie from friends at cafes, only to come home and eat row after row of oreos so I wouldn't feel deprived.

I would order the salad, or the lightest possible option at a restaurant, load my plate with vegetables at barbecues, skip desserts, and smile virtuously as others split the key lime pie slice, only to go home and scoop out half the peanut butter jar using cheez its as spoons.

Finding myself in last night's position to begin with, would never have happened.
















Yesterday it was beautiful out.
The unseasonably warm weather, made going for a long walk seem entirely delightful. There was nothing about it that screamed "punishment" or "atonement." It was just beautiful, and I wanted to enjoy soaking up the vitamin d with the baby.

I had a smoothie for breakfast, I made it with spinach, banana, cherries, and milk. I sprinkled it with sunflower seeds and I ate it with a handful of salted peanuts. It was filling and delicious.
Then I went for my walk with the babe.
We ended up going further than I'd thought we would because it was just so pleasant to be outside after being trapped indoors all winter. On the way there, we ate some barbecue potato chips and a big coconut water because eating salty chips while walking is treaty and nice.
We walked for close to two hours, and then spent a third bouncing around a playground.
When we came home, it was four in the afternoon, and we were both ravenous.

Rather than trying to put off that hunger, push it further, like I used to, I sat down and made vegetarian nachos with crackers instead of chips. I piled them high with black beans and cheese and salsa. We shared them with our hands and they were great! We laughed a lot and licked our fingers.

Then we went into the other room to play.
Shortly after getting in there I realized I was still a little hungry, but I also wanted something kind of sweet.
I got up and made a thick piece of toast with peanut butter, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a handful of chocolate chips. I also recognized that my impulse to eat in a binge kind of way was there, lurking, like it often still is when I eat more than what my ED brain is programmed to think of as "a healthy portion." I am still training my brain not to have those associations. It is taking time.

One way that I battle this is by getting a glass of water when I get whatever it is I am craving at that time, Ice Cream, Peanut Butter, Chocolate, all those things that I used to make myself sick on, are still a little nerve racking to eat, so I bring a glass of water, and I drink it when I am finished with my snack, and then, if I am still hungry or still craving that thing, I have some more, but a lot of the time I am satisfied.
One thing I NEVER DID while bingeing was drink water. I knew it would take up space in my stomach that I was planning to cram full of food, so I avoided it like the plague, as a result, not only was I often really uncomfortable, but horrendously dehydrated both during and after a binge.

I ate my toast, and the baby helped me eat some of of chocolate chips, so I got up and sprinkled on some more. I drank my water.

It was totally nice.

Of course, when the time for my shift came around, I was reluctant to go, but I also really enjoy having time away from the baby now (full disclosure). It reminds me to miss him, which is very necessary after spending a day chasing him, getting bopped on the head by him, cleaning up after him, rescuing him from tantrums, etc.

So I went to my shift, and I made cookies, for four hours. Since I was adequately fed, I didn't feel crazy around them, which is SUCH A HUGE DEAL.
I drank a couple of cans of seltzer because I'd had a lot of salt, and I was very thirsty.
It wasn't until about 8:30pm that I took a few bites of a chocolate chip and marshmallow cookie I made as an experiment and a rice krispie treat sprinkled with sea salt. They both turned out really well, and I was pleased, but I didn't feel like I needed more than a bite or two to tell how good they were. I didn't want more.

I CANNOT TELL YOU WHAT A FUCKING CRAZY THING THAT IS TO WRITE.

As recently as three years ago, I would have been sobbing if you told me I could ever take a bite of cookie and then leave the rest. My brain was so rewired to believe that one bite was equal to the fall of the roman empire that I would have presumed a binge was inevitable. I would have forced myself to binge, fulfilled my own prophecy, because I didn't know how to forgive myself, I didn't know that there was nothing to forgive.

So I came home, and both the baby and the husband were asleep, and I was alone, in my kitchen at ten o clock at night, the most dangerous time for me to be in those circumstances.

And I stopped and I checked in with my body.

It went like this.

Hey Body.
Oh hey.
I know we had a couple of bites of that cookie at work, but it's been a good five hours since you had a meal. Are you hungry?
Uh...I'm not sure actually. I'm not starving, if that's what you mean, but I don't know if I'm good to wait until morning before I eat again. Do you want me to wake you up in a few hours?
No. No Body, I really need my sleep.
Oh. Okay, so what should we do then?
Well, how about we have a bowl of cereal and see how we feel after?
Oh yeah, that sounds nice.

And that's what I did.

I didn't keep cereal in my house for ten years.

TEN FUCKING YEARS.
Because it was a trigger food.

But a few weeks ago, I realized that it was perfect for occasions just like this one, where I wasn't hungry enough to eat something big, but I needed a little something to get me through until I was really hungry.

So I poured out a bowl of Cinnamon Life, which is my current jam, topped it with a handful of sunflower seeds for salt and crunch and protein, and I sat down and ate it while kind of defragging from the night.
I didn't look at my phone. I didn't mindlessly shovel it in as fast as I could. I didn't need to. I enjoyed it, and about halfway through, I realized, I probably could eat more. I probably could eat about three more bowls of cereal, maybe with chocolate chips thrown in, and peanut butter, and and and...

But that was just my old ED/Binge voice trying to get its say in.

So I rinsed my spoon and cup, brushed my teeth, and said.

Hey Body.
Hmm?
Are you hungrier or sleepier right now?
Mmm sleepier for sure.
Cool.

Because I knew if it was hungrier, it would wake me up, and i could eat again.


There are no more starvation nights. No more days devoted to trying to control my will power.

There is just a soft, gentle conversation between me and my body, and I am so grateful to her for being here and doing her part, after so many long years of abuse.

And believe me, if I can get here, Fucking anybody can.


Nobody was so certain that she was beyond broken, fucked, and unrepairable than I was.
And sometimes it is still a struggle, and I slide backwards, and I binge, and I restrict, and I mess up, and that's okay.

I breathe, and I keep talking to her, and she keeps talking back, and we listen.










Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Very Temporary Toddler Reality

Right this moment, i am able to put my fingers on a keyboard and type sentences because my 26 month old son is only requiring me to intermittently make wadges of play dough turn magically into marbles between my palms.
We are now stoutly in the times of the toddler, and so my days are the least my own they have been since we first brought the baby home from the hospital.
At any given moment he is climbing, hiding, running, hopping, smashing, thieving, masticating, harassing, exploring, touching, and generally using every other verb that exists.
There is no stasis, no time to recover, only time enough to use my adult logic to guess at what he's headed for next.
At the library we cannot make it through storytime without at meltdown that ends with me bundling up his thirty three pounds in my arms and marching out of the room as he squalls and flails.
On walks, he picks up pebbles and chunks of asphalt and tucks them happily into his pockets for me to retrieve later and throw out my front door lest he get the idea to swallow them at some point.
His favorite words are buddy, mama, and no.
He likes reading books but not nearly as much as he likes watching Trollhunters (the cartoon on netflix), he loves peeling bananas but only eats them about half as much.
He hugs everybody, but sometimes hits, and he roars with utter abandon.

He is wonderful.
I love him harder and more ferociously every day, but I am also so thoroughly exhausted by him and in desperate need of a break by five o clock than I ever was when he was a small milkfed pudgeball.

It's a mutual sadness my beard and I muse over constantly, how it is possible to love him and be so delighted by him while also so infuriated and fatigued by him.
Is this why parents scream so much? I wonder. Is this the place that we all get to when our kids reach perception and is it why our first memories of our parents are their tyrannical rule?

It's neverending, the catching and protecting and worrying. BEfore you can pour milk in your coffee in the morning, the little fingers have stuffed the plump cheeks with dogfood that you must first pry out of the mouth and then hide away. Then provide some substitute, some consolation, and another activity of a less gravel chomping nature, by which time the coffee is cold and the milk is tepid.

Still this is the age of magic.

And it is flying by.

Each day he grasps more and teeters on the edge of lucid understanding of the world around him in all its awe and horror.

I find myself relying on an afternoon movie every day to assUAGE SOME OF THE MADNESS. LIKE THE FACT THAT HE HAS NOW PUSHED THE CAPSLOCK BUTTON AND I CANNOT TU`RN IT OFF.

IF THE WEATHER WERE BETTER, I TELL MYSELF, WE WOULD SPEND THIS TIME OUTSIDE, PARTYING IN THE MUD, RUNNING ON THE BEACH, COMBING THE SAND AND THE GRASS FOR ACORN CAPS AND PEBBLES, SUCKING IN GREAT GUSTS OF FRESH AIR AND SINGING THE MADE UP SONGS OF HAPPY GO LUCKY CHILDHOOD.

BUT THANKS TO New England's nasty late winter days, we are more often than not just about frantic by 3pm, and in order to not scream cry in front of my child for the following two hours, I put on the muppets, the trollhunters, the disney cartoons, and berate myself for the shit job I am doing as a parent.

In those brief moments of respite, it is possible to remind myself that this is the briefest time, and it will feel so sad and ancient ten to twelve years from now, when he is running out the door with his friends and shooting me judgey looks over the dinner table. In five years when he's seven, he'll already be so different from the sweet, cuddly tornado he is now, I will probably have already forgotten how I used to stress cry in the bathroom while the Fraggles sang, or drank a glass of wine at four pm on a Friday just to remind myself that I was an adult and got to treat myself once in a while.

Which is why, in the ten minutes it has taken to write this confession, the play dough has lost its spellbinding powers, and I am now forced to abandon it without anything close to a resolution.

Time as they say and Toddler, wait for no man.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Very Raw and Truthful Account of What It Looks Like When I Backslide In Recovery TW: ED, Restriction, Bingeing.

Something happened in December that threw off my recovery.

For some people, this might be an intense family gathering surrounded not only by the food that you're "supposed" to indulge in all while under the scrutiny of the people whose opinions if not matter the most, certainly are expressed most vocally and irrepressibly.

For others maybe it's not the family that's triggering; maybe it's the office party where there's all this pressure to bring something indulgent, but know that if any of your coworkers see you snacking they'll all be talking about you in the bathroom.

Who knows...there are tons of triggering moments. None more so than the fucking diabolical launch of all the New Years' Juice Cleanse, Slim Quick, Paleo bullshit diet plans and the relentless flogging of gym memberships and fitness classes as methods by which we "atone" for anything so human as enjoying food for a little while.

Anyway, all of this is to say that these have been triggers for me in the past.

But not this year.

This year, I was bamboozled by six weeks of illness starting the week before Thanksgiving.
Having a two year old, and beginning to work with the public again after a reprieve from exposure to their unwashed masses meant that starting November 15th, there was a cold in our house, and one of us had it, in some form or another, FOR A GODDAMN MONTH.

Somewhere between the antibiotics, emergency room visits for skyrocketing fevers, sinus infections, pediatrician appointments, buckets of used tissues, sacks of cough drops, chicken soup and pots of tea, Thanksgiving and my son's second birthday happened.

Neither of which we could celebrate because one or all of us were so under the weather.

And then the week before Christmas, we thought we were in the clear. We figured a month must have done it, but the germ gods had other plans.

I came down with it first.
A 24 hour stomach bug that put me on the toilet with a trash pail in front of my face for the better part of 8 hours. It was so bad and so sudden, I had to ask my husband to stay home from work because after a night of mandatorily evacuating my body, I was too weak to stand, let alone care for our agile and vigorous toddler.

And he was amazing.
My Beard brought the babe to me to nurse and cuddle because he was frightened and confused by his prone mama. After the six hours of chills, shakes, and crippling stomach pain that followed in the wake of the horrors, he took the babe away and brought me gingerale, pedialyte, and later, saltines and pepto bismol.

It was a rough bug, but a quick one, and I was surprised at how much more human I felt almost exactly 24 hours after the symptoms came on.
Of course, as I was settling into bed with my son at that exact moment of relief, the toddler came down with the bug and began his six hours of bodily voiding.

I was surprised at how competent I felt considering how weak I was, but my husband had to go to work the next day, and so I immediately became dedicated nurse locked in until the 24 hours had had its way and finished with my child.

As I'm sure you can imagine, freshly absolved of the bug myself, getting our little guy through that with which I had so recently tangled did not make me want anything more than the few crackers I managed to help him eat before we went to bed that night.
When we got up the next day, I was more concerned with getting the baby to eat and drink than I was with putting anything more than a cup of weak tea into my system.

Then...suddenly it was the afternoon, and I was alone with the baby, and I realized it had been almost three days since I'd eaten more than a piece of dry toast.

I checked my stomach for feelings of hunger, and there was nothing.

And here I was, triggered, triggered harder than I had been since I had the baby.

I knew I had lost weight.

I knew I was probably the thinnest I had been since I had my baby.

I knew if I looked at my body what I would see.

And here's the shitty thing.

I looked anyway.

I looked and it made me even further divorced from my actual bodily feelings.

There was suddenly an ease to this starvation thing.

I mean...I'd been so sick...I didn't feel like eating, and now my stomach was so small, even a few pieces of toast filled me up to the brim.

I could hear the nasty whispers of that voice I had spent so long trying to silence.
You know what it sounds like.
You know how it wheedles and promises and tells you that just by listening to it over the cues of your actual body, you can get everything you ever wanted.


Fuck.

I admit...I didn't handle it well.

It scared me.

I ate pizza that night.
My first real meal in three days, and I didn't binge, but it did feel weird and wrong and uncomfortable.

I tried to sit with those feelings.

And then my husband came down with the stomach bug.
And then it was Christmas, and we were too weak to travel, so we got rescued by my parents, who took us up to their house, but the baby wasn't recovering as quickly as I had thought, and so meal times were interrupted and aborted. I ended up having to miss several meal times and scrape together my sustenance from leftovers carefully wrapped and put away by my mother who chittered and worried about me the whole time.

And here's the ugly truth:
ED's LOVE THAT SHIT.

They love that nagging from loved one's
"ooh you're looking a bit thin, dear."
"Did you get enough to eat? You can't afford to miss a meal!"
"Is that all you're going to have? Are you sure? Wouldn't you just like a little bit more?"

And it's like a high, the control, the power, the repetitive, "No thank you. I'm good. No thanks. I'm all set. No. No. No."

I can't speak for anybody else, but for me, in the grips of the ED Voice, the inquiries as to whether I'm eating enough, the commentary on me being thin, the constant asking if I'm okay...

That's what I'm missing in my life, and that's all I want.

I want to be cared for.
I want to be worried about.
I want it to matter to someone that I am struggling.
I want my depression, anxiety, fear, and worry; my suffering, my sacrifices, my martyrdom to be written all over me, so somebody asks me if I'm okay.

It makes me feel like i matter at a time when I am incapable of asserting to myself that I matter at all.

To be noticed...it's huge.

And it makes sense. I mean, here I was, caring for my child, my husband, taking care of myself as best I could, dealing with sickness after sickness in these unrelenting waves, and all I wanted was somebody to take over. I just wanted an adult to come in and take care of things so i could have a day where I didn't have to be the strong one.

Except we don't get those in real life, not as parents, not as adults, and the closest I could get, was getting thinner and getting worried about, and then getting the privilege of saying no no no, and the satisfaction that maybe they'd keep worrying enough to check in on me again, in a week, when I didn't know if I'd be okay yet, when I was certain, I'd need checking in on.

I told you it's the ugly truth, but it's pulling it out and examining it under the bright, unforgiving light that takes away its power, because here's the thing.

The body fights back.

Here we are, two weeks after my parents' house.

Life is still doing it's thing.
There are blizzards that bring all travel, work, and plans to a halt.
There is a cabin feverish child brought to frenzy by being stuck indoors for weeks on end.
There is holiday burn out and aftermath and packages to send and cancelled deliveries, and every other thing that makes you tear your hair out this time of year.
And everybody else is dealing with it too, so nobody's asking if you're okay anymore.

The pendulum always swings back.

All of a sudden, you find yourself engaging in behaviors you haven't done in months, maybe years.
You're waiting until nobody's around and then eating half a huge bar of chocolate in great big gobbles. The gluey sweetness fills your mouth but you barely register the flavor. You swallow as fast as you can. You're halfway through the bar, which is maybe a pound, and you realize what you're doing and it scares you.

Your kid is in a high chair watching, and though he's not old enough to understand, he's soaking it all in. The strange behavior. The way that Mummy doesn't eat like Daddy, doesn't eat like anybody else.

You're flooded with shame and guilt, and the binge feelings you worked so hard to quell are surging through you alongside the sugar rush, telling you how worthless you are, what a terrible mother you are, what a horrible example. It's all connected. It's all fused into one terrible cycle, and you're as stuck inside it as a lost swimmer trapped in the curl of an undertow, being dragged out to deep water.

That's how it feels.

But you prepared for this.

I mean I prepared for this.

I am not the weak, struggling girl I was ten, five, even two years ago.

I know this game.

I recognize this tide.

I know if I change the direction of my thoughts, I can escape it.

So I wrap up the rest of the bar of chocolate and I put it away.
I take three deep breaths, and I pour myself a glass of water.

I'm not ready to drink it.
There's too much going on, and my body feels all kinds of crazy, so I just take it with me, like a safety blanket or a life preserver. This glass of water is going to make me feel better in about an hour, when my body is struggling to metabolize the binge, and I need to be ready to take care of it, to tell it, that it's okay, that I am working on it, and we are going to get out of this together.

Later, I drink the water.
It took more than an hour for me to feel like I had room enough for it in my belly.

It was about three and a half hours later, as I was lying in bed.
The darkness was there, and the baby was asleep, so it was just me, alone with all of the confusion.
The ED voice screeching as loud as ever about "making up for it tomorrow" about "worthless lack of self control" about "you deserve everything bad that happens to you because look at how disgusting and pathetic you are."

And I drink the water and I quietly tell it to go fuck itself.

There is no point in saying, "what's done is done."

What's done is what haunts me and drives my actions.

So instead, I breathe, and I keep drinking the water, which is a very small, very pointed way of getting out of this. I tell myself it's okay. I forgive myself over and over. I remind myself that my body went through shock recently.

It went through a period of almost three weeks of starvation, and its natural response was to get as much into it as humanly possible when it finally got past my ED.

It was scared that I was going to starve it again.

It was trying to save me.

When I realize this last part, I feel the hot sting of tears behind my eyes, and I tell my body, with my hands on the soft mound of my stomach, "I'm sorry."

That's all.
That's where this began, and it's where it continues.

No matter how many times I slip backwards on this journey, I start with the apology to my body.
"It's okay."
"You did the thing you were meant to do."
"I'm sorry, and I will do better by you now."

I manage to fall asleep, and I keep breathing, confident that I have slipped lose of the undertow, and can begin swimming back for shore. I know I can get there. I just have to keep going.