vulnerability

When my memoir came out, I stopped sleeping. Well, I stopped for about a month before it came out, and then luckily it came out sooner than I expected so maybe that shortened the Epic Time of Unsleeping, overall?

It felt endless, so I guess it doesn’t matter how long it actually was.

I was excited about the book, and proud too. I had always wanted to be a writer, to publish a book, to stop lolling around whining about my DREAMS and actually do something about them and I did, I did that. I wrote an entire book and found an agent and sold it to a wonderful publisher and I was so so excited and thrilled and feeling lucky and good.

And all of that excitement, I think, that long road from idea to manuscript to book-in-the-world, obscured that last bit. That the book was going to exist outside my head. It would be something that people could pick up, and read, and have opinions about.

It is probably pretty common, that bone-deep urge to stand over someone who’s reading something you wrote so you can explain to them what everything means and why you said X and what Y means and look how funny that joke is and here is the opinion you should have about it (even if in real life you would actually hand someone your manuscript AND FLEE FOR YOUR LIFE).

With a memoir, it felt like that times ALL OF IT AND EVERYTHING. I don’t have just my writing and my careful selection of just the right word as if it were carefully arranged fruit on a decorative plate. It was my life there. Me. All the mess of me, and the truth of me, and the stupid things I had done and thought and the decisions I made. Just sent out into the world defenseless.

People would pick up the book and inevitably not just have opinions about the writing but ABOUT MY SOUL. Or my reasonable approximation thereof.

What it boils down to: Publishing a memoir makes you feel insanely, madly, horribly, painfully vulnerable. It is a little bit terrifying. It is completely strange. It’s kind of exhilarating. And if you don’t just say, you know what screw this I have no control over what people think let’s just let go and let Goethe, you go crazy.

So I went a little crazy for awhile.

I got better, though.

But this feels very similar, here waiting for my episode of In Deep Shift to happen. It was an amazing experience, strange and wonderful and crazy and enlightening and it changed me completely. That week of filming shook me awake and slapped me around and pushed me back into my life. I gained a tremendous amount of bravery and hope.

I moved forward after years of stagnation, trying to figure out what was next. I moved to Madison, and I found the courage to pitch a YA novel that tackles the bullshit politics of weight and happiness and self esteem and I started to figure out how I could be a writer, all the time full time and it was good.

And Jonas filmed the awkward, halting start of that. Tears and terror and dopeyness and reluctance. He put his hand between my shoulder blades and kept gently propelling me forward. He helped me recognize the incredible support network I had around me; he helped me find faith in the possibility that I could be a support for myself, too.

It’s all on tape, and I feel so incredibly vulnerable and completely exposed and a little scared. Here I am again, laying it all out to be picked over.

But I’m braver now, and a little stronger and a lot smarter and I’m pretty proud of myself for saying yes to the experience and yes to the opportunity to talk about the bullshit fairytale of weight loss and the incredible struggle to find happiness and solidity in your own skin. I wrote the memoir because I wanted to tell people they weren’t alone, tackling body image issues and anxiety and unhappiness and I did this episode for the same reason and I’m scared to be so vulnerable but I think, I think it might be worth it.

I’ve been sleeping okay.

next steps

utah
When I was 17, I fled from Pennsylvania to New York, because there was nothing there for me and I couldn’t imagine having a future in a rural place where the grocery store was a 20 minute drive away. But you know, I say fled, but really I was heading toward college and a life I chose for myself by god.

When I was 26 or thereabouts, I fled to San Francisco because the relationship I was in was toxic, and he wouldn’t let me break up with him. He wouldn’t move out. It sounds so absurd now, so absolutely absurd—what the fuck are you talking about, he wouldn’t? You call the cops if he won’t get the fuck out of your house. You make him leave. But I was scared and I felt trapped, and I had to get out.

But I was also heading for grad school to get my MFA and be the writer I always wanted to be but could never quite manage. I had never finished anything I wrote, ever, not once, until I went to grad school. In grad school, I wrote a book—not a good book, but a whole book, from front to finish. I found friends who are some of the most important people in the world to me. I started heading toward the person I wanted to be, someone independent and smart and creative. I started to believe in myself and it was the most amazing feeling in the world.

When I was thirty four? Something like that. I met a man and I loved him and he loved me and I chose to move to Utah, forward into the possibility of our future etc. and also to a place where I could afford to just be a freelance writer. To see if we could have a life together, and if I could make a living from things I made up. And we did, and I did. It was a really beautiful life, for a really long time and it was good. He and I grew up together in a lot of ways and took care of each other in a lot of ways and it is a sadness that it did not work out. But we have left each other better people, and that is such a good thing.

In Utah I have met some of the most amazing people in the world. In Utah I have found people who know me and love me anyway. Utah has been such a good place for me.

But I am done with Utah. This is the most beautiful place in the country, maybe, and it has been a gift to have the trails at my back door and the mountains shouldering up against the sky and there is so much that is good here, but I can’t stay here any more. It is redder than I can stand for much longer, less diverse. So small in too many ways. There is much that is wonderful here, but it wears on you, it does.

Last year, in the fall, I started to think it was time. Not to flee (maybe it felt a little like fleeing). But I needed mostly to find a place I chose very carefully and very deliberately. To find my chosen home. At first I was ready to go anywhere and everywhere—back to San Francisco, to New York where my mom and brother and his family are. To Portland or Seattle or. I don’t know. Somewhere.

My friend Karen said, wait. Wait, come to Madison. Come be with my family. It ended up on the short list. Because it’s beautiful, and green. Fresh water lakes instead of a fetid sea-monkey broth. Midwestern-kind and polite, but still sophisticated, or sophisticated enough for me. Because I realized every time I went back to SF or NY or Chicago that I was kind of done with big places. Maybe Utah ruined me. Maybe spending so many years in Pennsylvania planted a small-town seed. Something.

I chose Madison for family—so many people I love in a small radius, from right in Madison to Milwaukee and Green Bay and Chicago and Minneapolis. Closer to the east coast. A walkable neighborhood again, oh thank god for I have missed being able to walk to the corner for milk. Colleges I can teach at and a lake I can run along the shore of and put my feet in and a big open horizon. I love the mountains, but I have missed the horizon.

I made the decision to move last year, and to Madison before the year ended, and have always planned to move, maybe by the fall, definitely by the fall. On the burner—maybe a side burner. It depended on work and my house and family. But then, suddenly, everything came together, with work and my house and a place to live exactly where I want to live that accepts dogs and suddenly I was moving in just a month, a few weeks. I’m moving this weekend, to Madison. In the middle of a shower of insane things happening and travel and work and other work and everything that has kept me from sleeping these past six months.

My problem is that usually, I think people can read my mind. Or they know everything that has happened with me and to me and in my life. Or more accurately, they don’t care that much. That is something I have always struggled with, remembering that people want to know these things. I have told some people and not told others and I never remember what and who. And probably I should get better at saying, for instance, oh hey, I’m moving to Madison.

whole-hearted

6698400309_17aee309e9_b
Someone once said to me (someone who really ought to know better): enthusiasm. That’s your best quality. They meant: The way you throw yourself into things. The way you are all-or-nothing. The things you try, they are done and dusted. The people you care about, they know you care about them. The cliffs you fling yourself off, that is some full-fledged epic-style flinging and it is kind of amazing how you have not yet ended up a splash on the boulders far, far below the sane people way up above you, dude. Or words to that effect.

Which is nice, right? That’s nice. But it doesn’t change my argument in response—that it is also a kind of brokenness. That what it actually feels like it means is that the regulator that normal people have is out of whack in me. Gone missing entirely, maybe. Though I suppose if it were missing entirely I really would be a chunky splatter, metaphorically speaking. More so than I usually feel.

So this regulator that I imagine—very steampunky, lots of gears, makes some kind of whistle or clanking noise—I think it’s the thing that lets most people be adults. Make smart decisions. Consider things carefully. Be less dangerously impulsive. Beat down those essentially self-destructive urges.

It is, this imaginary bit of machinery inside me, the thing that ought to have helped me not gain 100 pounds because I was afraid if I didn’t eat all the cake, there would never be cake again. That should have made me carefully consider the fact that there were consequences to eating all the cake. That there were other things to think about beside “not having all the cake.” Instead, what I did was eat with an impulsive and reckless abandon while my regulator clanked and whistled uselessly and disregarded.

Weight loss surgery cuts into that, physically speaking—you can try to circumvent and that works to an extent. But it hurts. And eventually Pavlov is pleased to note that the association of pain with overeating becomes an effective way to curb that reckless consumption. It’s not cured—it’ll never be cured. It becomes contained.

And yet it feels kind of like a whack-a-mole, because other impulses have gone and reared up their ugly heads. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because how many articles have I read about weight loss surgery patients suddenly developing impulse issues? Compulsive spending, gambling, drinking. But that didn’t apply to me because I am not stupid.

And then Ben and I broke up and I bought a bottle of wine and I thought, oh. This is much better, with this bottle of wine in me. I hardly even notice that I’m crying all the time and that is so awesome you guys, who is going to the store for another bottle?

It was okay, though, right, because it wasn’t like I was doing a morning shot to wake up or keeping a flask in my desk or getting drunk at lunch. I wasn’t drunk all the time! So no problem, right? Here’s the problem: when it was there, I drank it. When there was wine, I’d have a glass, and then another. And I’d keep saying yes until it was all gone. Because there was no reason not to. Because if I didn’t drink it, I’d never have alcohol again. It didn’t feel like I was drowning sorrows—but it was nice to not think. It was nice to be cheery.

It felt better than bingeing ever had.

And it helped when I’d panic. In social situations where everyone expects me to be an extrovert, I can do that for you if I’m drinking! Let me give you what you need the only way I think I can. I didn’t think anyone noticed I was anything but totally charming and not tipsy at all—but of course people noticed.

And then those nights when we’d have a bottle of wine in the house, those nights were getting hazy. And then the nights when there wasn’t a bottle of wine in the house, I started to go out and buy one. Or two. And it was becoming a problem—no, it was a problem. It was full speed ahead into reckless abandon, it was a pattern, it was throwing all caution to the wind and saying fuck it, I do what I want. I can drink if I want. I can drink until we run out (echoes of I can eat everything and anything and all the things, and let’s see how fat I get).

God, do I ever learn?

I do. I do learn, eventually. So I got that going for me. And I’ve quit drinking for awhile. Easy-peasy. Except it was hard the first day, and I was mad. And then I thought oh, yes. Yes, that’s why this is a really good idea, if you’re getting mad because you can’t have a glass of wine (and then another or two) with dinner. That’s why this is possibly the best idea you’ve ever had.

It has been fairly simple since that first couple days—see above, re: whole-heartedness. When I do a thing, I do it well. Ladies.

It is frustrating though, to feel so broken. To feel like I have this tiny little flaw in me that can rupture in new and unexpected ways at any time. Like I will be spending the rest of my life being mindful, being vigilant, being afraid that I will find a whole new way to fuck things up and lose control and maybe that’ll be the time I don’t catch it and everything just falls apart. It won’t and it can’t because I won’t let it—I get better every time at beating it back. But that vulnerable feeling never quite fades and the worry never quite dissipates and that’s probably, in the long run, a good thing?

I think, when I’m being not-so-hard on myself, that it’s what makes me who I am. That these moments of weakness have made me incredibly strong. They’ve helped me define who I don’t want to be and who I can’t be and who I refuse to be ever again.

I’ve always been so, so ashamed of my vulnerabilities—and believe me, the fact that it manifested so patently and physically in my size was such a source of self-aware misery. But I’m learning achingly slowly that being vulnerable is no terrible thing. Letting other people know you are vulnerable and flawed won’t leave you alone and lonely, the way you’re terrified it might. Though it has taken me really so ridiculously long to learn that.

And I’ve even figured out that, if you can forgive me for being sincere here for a moment (which is another of my vulnerabilities, the way I come over all unexpectedly sincere sometimes): it’s where our vulnerabilities meet and mesh that helps us understand each other and fall in love—true love, all kinds, not just the romantic—with the most important people in our lives.

And this flaw of mine, this vulnerability of mine. This bright and brash and slightly mad part of me that sometimes erupts? It also manifests in adventure and taking chances and being brave and trying things because it is a sadness, to be afraid. It manifests in loving people hard without being afraid. And wanting their happiness as much as my own and saying the things that matter even when I’m scared. And from that, the good things in my life, so many of them in all arenas, have come. They’ve come from closing my eyes and flinging myself at the things I want, the things I want to experience, the kind of person I want to be.

It is still incredibly, painfully embarrassing sometimes. Both the good side and the bad. But I’m getting better at believing, whole-heartedly, that the truth of who you are, both that good side and that bad side, can’t, shouldn’t, won’t ever be hidden, and is probably loved. Hopefully.

talking

8629219055_4bee14c66a_o
The kind you never, ever meant to do on an airplane at 6 in the morning. When it’s too early to be alive, and there is not enough coffee in the world, not even if they turned on all the coffee-making machines and constructed a complicated funnel that poured it all into your face. When you’re nervous about where you’re going. When you notice that your seatmate kind of looks like the pretty version of Keira Knightley. Only cooler, and probably sleepier. But you’d never say so because what kind of animal talks to her seatmate on a flight? But then she says something offhand under her breath about the flight attendant and makes you laugh. And you say something in return, and she laughs. And somehow, you don’t stop. The kind of talking that carries you through a two-hour flight and sleep giddiness. Her fiancé and your quiet hopes. Jobs and careers and life choices and the kinds of hearts it takes to make specific decisions. And you exchange contact info when you both head off to your respective layovers and you remember talking about the wonder of this digital world that is so ridiculous and awful and keeps everyone in touch and you’re glad for it.

The kind when you’ve known each other for years. So many years. All the years, and through all the worst of it, of both of you. You know each other’s most horrible hopes and very worst dreams and evilest deeds. You have seen each other at your ugliests. And yet. The kind of talking that never changes but is always exactly right and comfortable. You say the right things to each other, and it’s always a gift. He’s got a beer and a shot and you should have a Manhattan but instead it’s a glass of wine with your lunch and you’re talking about the vagaries of life and the absurdities you always talk about and you are aware that this is when you are your most relaxed, when you have to talk. You are so much better at writing than talking. But this talking is as comfortable as talking to yourself, only funnier.

The kind of talking you do in a room full of people you graduated with, the instructors who taught you how to write and about what kind of writer you wanted to be. Who kicked your ass and saw how bad you could fail. Who are proud of you because you did okay in the end. To the writers in the room who are on every single point of that spectrum, to both sides of you. Talking about fear and success and ability and hope and possibility and change. Talking about this book you made and how it’s in the world. Talking about how strange it is. Talking about how proud you are. Making that admission, because you can in a room full of writers. That is what you can talk about.

Talking when you’ve known each other for years but only recently, only recently realized that you should have really known each other, really for years. Too much time not noticing that you had so much in common and why aren’t you friends? Why not yet? Because there is so much to talk about. There are all the things to say. There is not enough time to say them, ever, even over the oysters you’ve been craving since oysters crawled up on land and became frogs or whatever. Oysters and writing and how exhausting it is. More oysters and the complexities of relationships. Navigating love and navigating friendship. Tangling and untangling the threads that lead you through the maze but not to the maw of the minotaur, you hope. But the problem is you always worry that there’s a minotaur, and you always worry that the thread could—can, will, might, whatever the fuck you can’t think about it now—break and it is a wonder that sometimes you can go on hoping and keep creeping ahead.

The kind of talking in a car that smells like fried onion ring chips and garlic potato chips and pork rinds and all the other awfulnesses you’ve swept off the shelf with one arm to carry along with you on a long drive up (down? You always forget which way) to the next place where you have to do more talking—about yourself, about the book you wrote, and why you wrote it but you’re trying not to think about that. The kind of talking you do with someone who so important to you but has been so far away for too long—have you ever lived in the same city? Have you ever had more than a handful of hours together? But every time it’s like there wasn’t all those miles though there is a moment of pressure as you push through the funny and the glib and you fall into the real part of your friendship, the true part that makes it so important and real. And you talk about things that range along that scale, from butt jokes to the construction of consciousness, from friendship and fear to the kinds of words you backspace because that’s how much respect you have for them. It’s like a Kinsey scale you’re playing, only the nakedness is all emotional and it is the kind of talking that feels good. Invigorating. The kind of talking that makes you remember who you are and even more importantly who you hope to be. Of who this person in your life is, and how long you hope to keep them.

The kind where you know each other so well, and so strangely, and so strangely well–but not at all. Where you are texts and phone calls, but not people yet to each other, with head and hair and heartbeats and facial expressions and a smile that stops you short just for a split second because you didn’t know that’s what it looked like and now you are so glad to know. Where there is so much that is familiar, like a song you heard once but only once and only a long time ago but you know you liked it. You know it has stuck with you for a reason. And it’s coming back to you while you talk and you realize that you are talking and this is different and strange until it isn’t any more, and it’s just talking about everything, some of it important and some of it not and you’ve walked three miles through the city without noticing and that’s the kind of thing that happens when you know someone, and now you do, or you’re starting to and it is a happiness. That kind of talking.

The kind of talking where you’re panicked. Where you’re in the spotlight and being called upon to be poised, smart, articulate. And do it on television. But you have to be poised, smart, and articulate off the cuff, on the television, about something incredibly personal to you. Something that scares you a little bit when you think about it, makes you feel vulnerable even though by now, my god, aren’t you over that yet? Even if you aren’t totally confident and secure you should be able to fake it, am I right? So you fake it. The kind of talking where you smile and you keep smiling and your mouth moves but you’re not sure you’re saying the right thing but you keep talking because it is sink or swim, honey. That’s just the way it is. That’s the way it always is, really, and you feel like you’ve learned a valuable lesson when you collapse afterwards, just glad you lived through all the talking.

And then, the kind of silence where you realize you haven’t spoken to anyone all day, not out loud. You can’t ever stop talking with your fingers—your brain is wired directly to your hands and ha if that’ll ever change. Where it is a relief to be quiet, for a little while. A silent spot where you realize you’ve always been terrified of talking, out loud, to people. Strangers and not and semi-strangers. And that you’ve lived through that too. That the more you do something, the better you get at it. That it’s also really nice to be quiet for awhile.

may fly

8629223669_859aaee162_o
This is something I forget sometimes: I have a lot of love in my life.

Like, a lot. I am lucky to be liked, loved, cared for, considered carefully and well by a significant number of people. I am important. I mean something to their lives and to their hearts. Sometimes, more often than I know, usually when I don’t realize, I am in their thoughts. Sometimes when they go to the grocery store or they’re driving or on the subway or sitting on the couch making noises at their beautiful baby, they think about me the same way I think about them. My heart is full of them, and their hearts have room for me too.

I am an incredibly lucky woman.

I forget that, sometimes. And that is selfish. To think you are invisible? To think that you don’t matter? It is unfair. All those kilowatts of heart-power going wasted? It could power a small city, the love you have in your life. I promise you.

It’s taken me so many years to figure this out. So many! Too many! Really a ridiculous number of years. My god, I am the worst learner in the world. I never remember anything for more than the space of approximately five minutes. I am a May fly. So I have to keep relearning, over and over, and it is painful every time, the cycle. I can forget in the instant of a bad day, or it can be ground out of me over the course of a long week and then I have to figure out all over again why I feel wretched, why that wretched feeling is a lie, why I am utterly crazy, why I need to stop doing this, for the love of god.

Some day it’s going to stick, I swear.

Right now, right now I remember because I have palpable reminders that I am loved. Every time I go to the fridge there are the cards, the beautiful families of my beautiful friends—mo pie and the cute brigade (a jug band), Trixie and Penny and the geese who bite, Magnus the littlest tattoo artist. There’s the desktop photo I try to remember to look at every couple of hours, my little bright-faced nephew tucked into the arms of his dad, one of my favorite people on earth.

There’s the leatherwork pencil case on my desk, stamped with my name and perfect for a writer, from A. The utterly gorgeous, painstakingly hand-painted matroyshka dolls from Karen that made me burst into sobs the moment I unwrapped them. Each one is perfect. Each one is the work of hours and thought. Each one is utterly humbling.

I forget that being overcome with sincerity is no bad thing. I forget that I am loved as much as I love.

happy birthday to Rod

This is a blanket fort made from a very expensive couch.

Yesterday was the birthday of my oldest friend in the world. That’s right, I don’t know anyone older. He was here when the sun sparked into life, and he greeted the dinosaurs as they hauled themselves out of the swamps and lay heaving on the sun-baked mud of the shores of the primordial sea. He welcomed the development of civilization with great enthusiasm, because with the advent of advanced and advancing culture, he knew, comic books and bad television shows wouldn’t be far behind.

He cried a single crystalline tear when Twinkies were invented, and inside the creamy sugar filling of every single spongy cake there was a little piece of his heart, because the first Twinkie factory was one of his horcruxes. (When he witnessed the demise of Hostess and everything it meant to the world, he felt the first shifting of the sands of mortality beneath his weird-smelling feet.)

When video games were invented, he knew he was witnessing a singular transformation in the brain development of human kind, but he wasn’t there to see it because he was too busy sucking at Duck Hunt and Mario Bros. Later he would go on to suck at Metroid, Contra, most fighting games, and a wide selection of first-person shooters, but he kept on playing on, because that is the kind of fortitude he possesses. Fortitude or laziness—only his biographers will be able to make that final call for us, the ones left behind when he finally expires of extreme age and various heart-related issues that can occur when you replace the blood that pumps through your veins with Twinkie insides and refuse to engage in physical activity because it is hard and your cartoons are on.

When his roommate is out of town, he builds blanket forts, and no matter where his roommate is he never wipes down the kitchen counters or sweeps the floors. He spends a lot of time “relaxing” because life is very difficult and I think we can all agree that relaxing is a strange but possibly legitimate full-time hobby to have, even when it drives every one around him slightly mad.

Rod will be remembered but not fondly for his sophisticated whining-based alarm system that made attackers not know if they wanted to punch him in the face or escape immediately, and I think that will be his legacy when he finally passes from this mortal plane as he is likely to do soon because of his advanced age and his inability to regulate the setting off of his personal alarm system that many major governments are considering adapting for their super-secret, incredibly deadly military programs.

So let’s raise a glass to Rod, our old and lumpy friend who tries very hard except not really, who is beloved to those who have a lot of patience, whose head is enormous and whose heart is too.

Happy birthday, dude. Don’t die in my basement.

introversion


Four nights in a row of social activity and I am broken. I mean, I’m happy, and I love my beautiful and talented friends who have excellent personalities and are delightful. My life is, in general, an awesome thing filled with awesome and topped with awesomesauce.

But this morning I am also a tiny little shell-shocked smudge on the couch, sort of staring at things on internet without really processing them and getting vaguely annoyed by articles that are slide shows that shouldn’t be slideshows you have to keep CLICKING through because they should JUST BE ARTICLES.

I’m so tired. Everything is sore in my everywhere. And that includes my delicate spirit and my sensitive soul, which is regarding the idea of going out again tonight with just the tiniest bit of dread. Every time I doubt that I’m actually really and truly an introvert because I can turn on the bright halogen spotlights and be Personality Plus! (or Minus, depending on your feelings about my personality) at a social event, when I come home and curl up tight in a tiny little ball and cover my head with a pillow and two dogs and shake for awhile in a dark room, I am reminded that maybe I do have a little introvert in me.

And then I am utterly useless the next day. There is so, so, so much I have to do, and somewhere deep inside me I am panicking in a high-pitched keen, but I am inescapably an inert lump, a pudding, a sugar-glazed zombie who is very cross with the person who turned up the gravity because it’s getting really hard to get out of bed and walk around in here, buddy. And I can’t make myself stand up and take a shower or put on pants and if I could crawl from the bed to the couch (or better yet, summon some manly young meaty thing to carry me gently and tuck me in and press a warm soft kiss on my forehead and caress my cheek and whisper, “you are so lovely” and then quietly, politely back out of the darkened room and leave me the fuck alone while I nap and a Doctor Who I’ve seen a thousand times plays in the background) I would.

Four days of makeup and dresses and shoes with heels higher than anyone with my (lack of) grace should not be attempting to wear in public and trying to be charming and staying upright and talking and being talked to. It’s like I’m trying to kill myself. At least I will leave behind a nicely-made-up corpse in good shoes. Bury me in my silk kimono in a plot way out in the back and behind a tree or under a rock or in a basement or shoot me out into space where they’ll never find me. And take a short but meaningful vow of silence in my memory.

second chances

I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You, written by and illustrated by Yumi Sakugawa
So I wrote this book. It’s this book here, in fact (coming March 2013! Available for pre-order now! Etc!). Primarily it’s about the myth of weight loss as a magical fairy tale dream come true, and struggles with body image, and weight loss surgery. It’s about how I was fat and getting fatter, and how I thought that was what was wrong with me. It was the source of all my problems. It was the reason I was unhappy, and my relationship at the time wasn’t perfect.

I thought it was the reason I was a bad friend. I thought being fat was why I was so difficult to love, and difficult to deal with, and too deeply unhappy to manage the necessary and varied upkeeps of friendship and too sad to keep my promises. I lied a lot.

So weight loss surgery cured me of all that! Now I am a glorious glimmering beautiful blessed angel with happiness in my heart shining brighter than the sun! Except not really. I lost a ton of weight, and I found that, expectedly, it is easier to be on the skinnier side than on the fatter side, both socially and in a concrete physical sense, in terms of actually fitting in the world. But it didn’t make me a better person.

Man, was I pissed.

My friends there, in San Francisco—they are amazing women. But I was still a crappy friend, and a depressed person, and I didn’t know how to mend everything I had broken so badly. In fact, I was pretty sure I had broken everything so thoroughly and so well that it would never be fixed and they were too polite to tell me. I am fully aware that part of the reason I agreed to move to Utah, when E and I discussed who should make a break for it so we could have a relationship in the same state, was escape. Escape from having failed so badly, and having made so many mistakes with no idea how to fix them. From people I wasn’t sure how to apologize to, or if they even wanted me to because it would all just be terribly awkward and weird. I am, it should be noted, a generally awkward and weird person. It is a gift and my burden. It was not cured by weight loss surgery either.

So I fled to Utah, and I was terribly lonely for a very long time, and ashamed of all the messes I had made. I had E and his roommates and they were wonderful, but they weren’t exactly precisely my friends with whom I’d have adventures because they were all boys and they smelled kind of funny. And I was still broken and sad and weird and I still hadn’t figured out how to be the person I wanted to be, who was strong and reliable and worthwhile.

But achingly slowly, painfully gradually, things started to click. I started to really understand how and where and what I wanted to be. And I had the people that are far away but have always felt tucked behind my heart for good, who supported me hard and lovingly from a distance that the Internet makes so much smaller.

And then I started to meet people here. Emilie was my first real friend in Utah, I think, and she is lovely and smart and mature, stalwart and responsible, an amazing woman, and I was grateful for her and I knew I wanted to keep her and I thought maybe I was starting to get this friendship thing.

The incredible women of Indie Ogden and their beautiful faces and beautiful hearts, they are true friends. The amazing people I work with—I am lucky to know them. Sarecakes and cocktails and an amazing Thanksgiving dinner. Amy and all the wine and IKEA couches and ehrmergherd sci-fi feminism. They are the kind of gorgeous, astonishing, honest and true people that make you feel like you could be astonishing, honest and true. That you could be a person that works hard to make your friends always know that they are loved and cared for. That you could keep your promises, be steadfast and honest, trusting and trustworthy. Feel feelings. I am feeling feelings right now this very second. I am very lucky.

fling

My cat, who is named Fang, is fat and round, neurotic, a little retarded, cuddly and dog-like. My cat Fang is the greatest of all cats. He is the platonic ideal of cats, and without him I would never get any work done because he sits and supervises very carefully and puts his paw in my face if he senses I am slacking off, or if he wants to put his paw in my face.

I lucked out in the cat lottery, and because of that I am not afraid to sing the praises of my sweet little man, to acknowledge that I am a Cat Person, possibly verging on Crazy and Lady, if I’m going to be honest with you. I am crazy—about my cat (see what I did there?), to the point where I will talk about him on the internet without shame, and I will tell you also that he worries me.

He is not independent and brave and strong; he does not prefer the solitude of his own company and greet me as a tolerated interloper when I return. In fact, he gets very lonely, my sweet cat. He yells a lot. He tells me how sad he was and begs me never to leave again. He is a tragic figure, all big yellow eyes and sad round head. And then he grooms my nose until it is red and raw and I don’t know if I am being loved hard or punished roundly.

For the longest time I thought that the solution would be to get him a friend. I don’t want my fat little buddy to be lonely without me—I want him to be happy and fulfilled and Captain Purrs Contentedly of the Happiness and Tuna Brigade. Since his preferred solution is off the table—sometimes I need to shower and experience unfiltered daylight under the sky—I thought mine was a reasonable compromise. A kitten! A little pal who is fun to be with! Someone he can teach and mentor and love and cherish and cuddle and boss around and talk to! Someone to keep him occupied and alert and active! I am a genius.

Somehow I never got around to getting a kitten, because it involves a lot of planning and responsibility and an upturning of established routines and it is kind of expensive, a kitten. And what if I got a kitten and they didn’t get along? That is what stopped me from snatching up and hosing down the stray that appeared next to E’s house last year. What if it was a really bad idea? You’re not going to believe this, but sometimes I have really bad ideas.

When Jayrad asked if I could babysit his friend’s kitten while he went away on a romantic mountain biking weekend with his buddy, I said okay! Because I am a good person who likes to help, and because I thought trial kitten! A kitten trial! Fang is going to be so excited!

Fang was the least excited I have ever seen him. Fang was, in fact, the unhappiest cat you’ve ever seen. From the moment tiny, beautiful little Zoe the Glamour Cat entered his life, he considered it entirely over. He paced the length of the apartment mowing. Mow, mow, mow, mow, mow mow. I am unhappy. I am still unhappy. I CONTINUE TO BE UNHAPPY WHAT IS THIS TINY ORANGE THING I CANNOT EAT I AM UNHAPPY.

Zoe was unconcerned. Zoe was a tiny sweet kitten who rolled over and exposed her belly for love at the slightest opportunity. Zoe was made of love and cuteness. Zoe wanted to be your friend and my friend, Fang’s friend and the couch’s friend and the friend to everyone everywhere. Zoe was a Love Cat and Fang was unimpressed, and something inside me did not care because HOLY CRAP KITTEN.

Kittens are cute, you guys. They have big eyes and tiny paws and you want to eat them on a stick. They bounce! They play! They are in love with the world, and you, viewing the world through their big, wide eyes, fall in love with it all over again! Suddenly I understand May-December romance, and am ashamed.

I returned Zoecakes to her rightful owner last night, and Fang is as happy as if the Kitten Interlude had never happened. He is lying on my forearm as I type, making it difficult to hit the shift key. He will soon roll over and put his feet in my face, and then fall backwards, recover ungracefully and groom my nose studiously and with great concentration. We will neither of us discuss the kitten, because it is better that way. And also he doesn’t remember five minutes ago, let alone last evening.

valentine

I can’t keep up with whether it is cool to like Valentine’s Day now because it celebrates the universal spirit of togetherness we must embrace in order to make it through these dark times and to honor our renewed spirit of national hope and optimism, or cool in the spirit of irony and the embracing of dorky things like Care Bears and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, or uncool because it is cliched and commercial and who really needs another pair of edible panties and it is exclusionary of those not in relationships and also cheesy or lame.

My personal stance, my plank in the platform, is that I am very fond of Valentine’s Day. I am a fan of love; I am glad that there is a day that honors love, in all its forms, filial and fornicatory, penetrative and otherwise. I am cheesy, and okay with that, a little (lot) sappy, and okay with that, and I enjoy the people I love and want them to know that they are adored and there’s no need to be okay with that–it is just a true fact.

I don’t need flowers or chocolate (though I enjoy flowers and chocolate) and I don’t require the perfect romantic evening that starts with a candlelight dinner and ends with passionate, gazes-locked, whispered-pledges lovemaking on a bed of velvety rose petals. Though of course I do not judge you if that is how your Valentine’s Day must be conducted otherwise everything is ruined and your sweetheart never really loved you.

Our plans involve garlic and DVDs and for me, anyway, general, overall qualities of happiness and contentment, possibly because of the Oreos but maybe because I am a little cheesy and a little sappy and kind of crazy about this guy I’m seeing. But also I will call my mom, and my brother, and my best friend, and also I will tell you guys–Happy Valentine’s Day! Take my love. TAKE IT. You have no choice, for it is yours. But don’t tell me what you do with it.

photo via chicks57