waving not drowning

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What I did was promise my little dog I’d always come home for him. It didn’t cure anything. And I still want to–I won’t say die, because dying is messy, and scary, and painful and ugly and terrible.

But I don’t want to be around any more. If that makes sense.

Unfortunately, since there are few other options for “not being around anymore” (unless cryogenics has advanced past preserving Walt Disney’s head?) I think I should probably cut the shit and just admit that I’m suicidal.

I’ve been arguing about it. The therapist asks, “are you suicidal?” and I scoff. Actual scoffing, with a scoff-face and scoff gestures and scoffing my head all around scoffingly. “Pfsh,” I say, which is a scoff noise. “No. Geeze. I just–you know. Want to be dead. But not die. That’s totally different.”

“Okay,” they say slowly, gently. “Okay. Well. Do you have a plan?”

“Pfsh,” I say. “I would if I wanted to die. But I don’t. See?”

“Okay,” they say nodding, pursing up their lips, wrinkles forming on their forehead that I want to smooth down for them. “Do you feel safe?”

That always makes me think of Gandalf. IS IT SECRET? IS IT SAFE? But I don’t laugh because this is a very serious conversation.

“Yes,” I say.

Which is true. I feel safe from imminent death. And I also feel like that’s a bit of a disappointment.

Mostly I feel sad, and exhausted, and broken into shards that are too sharp to touch, and rubbed thin, almost transparent. I feel sick and anxious and thick with dread. I feel stuck. Unsaveable. That this is the how it is and this is just how it goes and my voice is too small and weedy to shout it all down.

Shouting is hard. Right now I’m not super good at hard things. Which includes planning to die and then the actual dying.

I think, though, that I don’t want to die. I don’t want to wish I were just not around. I don’t want to give in, and every day that I don’t is a really good day, a non-zero day, and that’s something.

Sometimes I resent making promises, even to a dog. It doesn’t seem fair to be beholden, because who knows what’s going to happen and maybe there will be nuclear war and I’ll be horribly radiation burned and–I don’t know. The metaphor doesn’t seem funny any more.

This isn’t a cry for help, or a bid for sympathy, or a notice, or a warning. I think I never really process anything until I talk myself through it with my fingers on the keyboard and the words showing up on the screen, sometimes surprising scary ones and startlingly deep ones and deeply, deeply stupid ones.

I didn’t expect to write this. I am hesitating about posting it. But you can’t deal with something until you look right at it, is what they tell me. You’ve got to stare it in the eye before you can punch it in the face, set it on fire, stomp it out. Eventually. Baby steps.

Naps. Reeses peanut butter cups. Breathing, not dying. I can do that.

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.

me + Oprah = bffs

indeepshift

Honestly, I don’t really remember how it happened. And that can pretty much be said about the entire process, start to finish.

It was not too long after the memoir came out, I remember that. And I was still reeling from the whole process—interviewing and public speaking in public and the crazy, unexpected opportunities (Good Morning America? Sure okay!) and other crazy things that just totally fell through but mostly the fact that PEOPLE WERE ACTUALLY READING THE BOOK.

(also PEOPLE the magazine!)
People Review

The only way I had managed to finish the thing, and send it off to a publisher and let it be packaged and published and shipped out into the world where just anyone could pick it up and have an opinion about me was because I managed to completely suppress the fact that this was the inevitable result of, you know. Publishing a book.

So I was a little crazed at that point. When someone (my amazing publicist at Seal? An email from the ether?) contacted me and said Hey, there’s this documentary show on the Oprah network? It’s this guy Jonas Elrod, right, who had this extraordinary experience once, and documented his transformation.

Now on his new show, what he’s doing is traveling to people who have also had transformative experiences and talking to them about what they’ve gone through and what they still need to do, in their lives, to be happy. So we think maybe you’re a transformed kind of lady and we’d like you to be on an episode! And I said oh yeah, sure cool, that’s cool.

Nothing happened for awhile, I remember that. And I pretty much forgot about it, but then there was a flurry of phone calls, and conference calls, and a video chat with the host/creator and some other people (and I think I actually ended up buying the professional version of Skype right in the middle of it because we kept having connectivity issues) and then there was a great silence again, during which I pulled my shoulders back down from my ears and sighed a great sigh of sort of relief because the whole thing seemed very complicated.

But news, occasionally—they’re deciding on candidates! We’re running it by Harpo! They really like you! They’re still talking about things and the business! I think at some point I realized there was a small possibility that Oprah her own self had maybe actually possibly said my name out loud and I closed my eyes tight and wasn’t sure how I felt about that.

I mean, you know how the story ends—they chose me for one of their stories. An hour-long episode. They’d come to Utah and hang out with me and my friends for a week. They’d interview family. They’d bring along ideas and tools and have people for me to talk to and adventures for me to have and it would be a blast, they said.

And then they showed up in July, and it was one of the most surreal weeks of my life. I took them thrift store shopping. They took me to a dojo to learn how to reconnect to my body and also be fierce and join a ninja club. The dojo master and his students were entirely welcoming, generous, and just crazy talented.

We did karaoke! We threw an enormous fourth of July shindig (that could not have been even half as great without my incredible and talented roommate Sare), went to dinner, went on a nature walk with a lovely therapist, went on a run through the mountains at sunset, did so many interviews, learned my favorite new joke of all time ever, met the cutest dog in the world outside of my own dog, bewildered the neighbors, laughed like a loon, and hung out with some of the warmest, coolest, kindest people on the crew ever, ever.

Oh my god, it was—it just was. It was everything, every day, all day.

Every time I wasn’t on camera I was upstairs in my bedroom, hiding under the covers. Quite literally. My friends, my gorgeous, so-lucky-to-have-them friends, they rallied. My best friend flew out from San Francisco to support me and local friends all came to hold my hand (and be on television) and do karaoke and remind me that this was cool, it was awesome, it was an amazing experience and it was overwhelming but it was wonderful, right?

It was pretty wonderful.

And now the episode is on its way to the television screen. In Deep Shift premieres on February 6, and my episode airs on the 15th. And I am filled with glee and excitement and panic and worry and gladness and–oh, just all sorts of things.

I don’t think I can watch it. Being there, inside my head, experiencing the entire week, that was pretty astonishing. Watching myself wander around wide-eyed and doing my best to not fall over for 52 minutes? I can’t do it. You watch it for me! Don’t tell me how dorky I look.

and that was the year that was

birthday lurve
My god, this year. This fucking year. 2013 was amazing and terrifying and so very, very bizarre and wonderful and weird and I feel like I forgot half of what happened because it was an overwhelming tide of all the things.

It started pretty terribly—right off a long string of the world’s most awful OK Cupid an eHarmony dates, sitting at a table in a terrible bar across from couples making out sloppily and wondering exactly what my life had come to. My ex was off on a NYE extravaganza with the girl he was crazy about and I was happy for him so happy very happy irritated because it wasn’t fair that I didn’t have anyone I was crazy about, okay? And I was ready for whatever was next, now, soon, hurry, please.

I spent a lot of the Summer of 2012 wondering what the hell I was supposed to do. At the end of the summer, I decided I was heading out of Utah. In late fall I had decided on Madison.

In January, moving felt so horribly far away—a job, a place to live, packing up my house. Logistics, too many of them. Being stuck in Utah, too real. My god the terrible dates I kept throwing myself on to distract from Worries About The Future. The awkwardness and the creeping sense that I was the problem and they were just a series of ghosts as described via A Christmas Carol, coming to me to point out all my flaws and errors and then leaving me psychologically broken (and sometimes feeling slightly violated because SERIOUSLY FINGERS THERE ON A FIRST DATE COME ON).

I might still have Feelings about this. But not many—because in February my book came out. My book came out! My book, it came out. I wrote it, all the pages in it. My publisher put it inside a cover that was more stunning than I could have hoped for. And it was released into the wild in February, a full month before it was supposed to have been, and that was when I stopped sleeping altogether. Terror subsumed everything.

Throughout the whole process, the copyedits and the proofing and the cover selection and etcetera and the other thing, I was so proud I had made a book and I thought it had turned out all right and I hoped people liked it in a vague and general sense. Then I realized that once it was out in the world there where people really could read it and would know all the worst parts of me.

God, the feeling of vulnerability. The raw, painful open woundedness of it, of my book in the world, of me totally naked and begging you to love me, out in the world. Of course I couldn’t sleep.

In March things started to happen. My book launch party—completely packed with so many people I love. My brother and my mother came. My best friends came. I was a little late starting the talk because I walked into the room, saw it was entirely full of people there for me, just me, oh my god there are so many people and they’re all going to look at me, and oh, I lost it, just a little bit.

It was a weird and stomach churning combination of gratitude for all the love I have and bewilderment about it too and fear because Jesus Christ, I am the girl who spent three years of grad school dreading class participation. I transferred out of community college to a four year school instead of graduating because I refused to fulfill the Speech class requirement. And then I walked into the front of the room and I breathed in deep and I was talking, and a little teary-eyed sometimes, and I lived through it.

March was a busy month. I still wasn’t sleeping. My book got reviewed in People, and then I wrote articles for the New York Post and Refinery 29. The Refinery 29 article got picked up by The Daily Mail, where I accidentally stumbled upon my very first Shitty Internet Comment, as well as Yahoo! Shine. I found out about Yahoo when my Brazilian waxer texted me to tell me I was on the front page, and that was a new threshold for weirdness.

Then Good Morning America called in the morning to interview me in the afternoon and I raced home to clean the house and change into something reasonable and I forgot to put on shoes. The film crew spent a lot of time fixing my stove. I felt awkward and said rambling things. They cropped Crom out of the final story that aired, and the headline said that losing weight had made me miserable, and I didn’t care because oh, the surreal madhouse my life had become, swirly eyes crazy brain etc etc etc.

And I felt so lucky, too. I did phone interviews and radio interviews and text interviews and some other interviews and I think I was generally saying reasonable things that were worthwhile, but I have refused to listen to or watch any of them, to this very day.

At the end of March there was a talk show in Chicago, and I visited Madison and looked at the neighborhoods I wanted to live in. There was my San Francisco book launch full of more people I love, who made it perfect. I coughed and tried to lean against the wall except it wasn’t a wall it was a banner thing and I almost fell down. It’s possible I fell down; I don’t remember it very well, because coping mechanisms.

In April an editor at Harper Collins said, we heard you’re writing a YA book; we want it. I got that message while I was on the train between San Francisco and Utah to go read at an alumni event and I cried a lot in public. I wrote a proposal and they wanted it. They wanted it. They wanted it. Oh god, they wanted it. I still wasn’t sleeping.

In April a documentary program on the Oprah Winfrey Network said okay, we are considering having you be one of our subjects and I said SURE OKAY without even considering what that meant. They put me through a series of Skype interviews. They kept telling me it wasn’t any kind of guarantee. Then they scheduled the filming of my episode for June and I said SURE OKAY.

Stranger Here became an audiobook in June; My company said, “you are the center of our business strategy” and I said, okay so can I work remotely? They agreed, and suddenly moving to Madison was going to be possible. Impossibly wonderful friends helped me find an apartment. The film crew came to my house and had me do Judo and run in slow motion and cry a lot in interviews and talk to therapists and it could not have been stranger. Every time the camera turned off and they said I could take a break, I went upstairs and got under the covers and trembled a little until they called me back.
They were lovely and kind and loving and supportive and I loved them and I was so glad they were gone. I went and got a prescription for a sleep aid because I was going a little crazy.

In the middle of July I drove from Utah with a little dog and as many possessions I could fit into my Hyundai because U-Haul lost my trailer reservation. I got to Madison and I looked around and then I panicked because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, how I fit into the lives of my friends here, how I was going to get the rest of my stuff out here, and worried, so worried I had made a mistake.

But I was happy. Every morning I went down to the lake with Crom and looked at the water and realized I was really genuinely happy for the first time in a long time. I was living so close to some of the most important people in my life, and my Utahn importants were not so far away and my family so near and I was happy.

In August I wore a bikini in public like it wasn’t no big thing (it felt like a big thing). In September I signed a book contract, in October I dressed up as Harley Quinn in a skin-tight costume I made myself and was full of self-doubt and insecurity and I wore it out anyway and it felt so good. In November I turned 40 and wore a very extremely super sparkly dress that was short AND low cut because hell yes do not go gently into that good night. I was surrounded by some of the most essential people in my life and we drank champagne and I was so happy. Later there was the stunningly gorgeous Thanksgivingkuh with stunningly gorgeous people and was filled with light and love and happiness. In December I got to see my nephew turn one year old.

Tonight I’ll cook and watch movies and play video games and it will be a very good night and a very good way to end the year. All year round I have been grateful and scared and excited and awkward and happy and panicked and such a lucky, lucky person.

Happy new year.

Madiversary

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And now I live in Madison.

Most of my things still live in Utah. My trailer reservation, U-haul went ahead and lost it. And I threw my hands up on that Saturday, the day before I was supposed to leave, and I said fuck it. Fuck it, I’m just going. I am going to fill up my little car with all the things it can carry and I am going to drive twenty hours across twenty states (was it twenty? It feels like twenty) and I am going to move to Madison with a few boxes filled full with random things and a heart full of determination and some slightly wild eyes and someday I will have my things but not now, because I am so ready to go, do you understand me? I am ready to leave now.

I left, and now I live in Madison.

I love this town. I bought an air mattress; I brought some pillows and my little dog. My apartment is the smallest apartment in the world, though probably not. When people walk in, they say, “Oh, this is a very small apartment” and they are not wrong.

The first week: I walk miles, across town and around. I walk down to the lake just three blocks away. Every morning Crom and I go. He discovers the visceral pleasure and eternal excitement of duck chasing. He learns to swim, and there is very little better in the world than watching a little dog swim very earnestly and determinedly, paddling fiercely but not well. He gets over his fear of putting his face in the water when he realizes it’s the only way to retrieve his ball, bobbing on the surface. Someday he will catch a duck and it will be the greatest day of his life. Every morning I watch him chase his dreams and they are very good mornings.

I swim almost every afternoon except for the days when it’s raining. It rains a lot, and it thunders a lot, and I’m going to have to get over being worried about thunder and flinching at lightning because I think it is not going away.

Every night I find a place to eat on the Capitol—I’m just a couple of blocks from Capitol Square, and everything happens there, and on the streets that radiate out. In walking distance there are all the restaurants and bars and cafes and coffee shops in all the world. There’s a lot of sushi, and most of it is good and some of it is great. I meet people randomly, because everyone wants to talk.

Almost every day I run into the friends I have here because it is such a small town. People I love are just minutes away and I’m still getting used to the fact that we don’t need to have long protracted goodbyes because I live here now and really they are just minutes away that is a literal, factual fact.

There’s a concentrated energy and it feels like everything is going on—I know not everything is going on. I know this is a small town, but that is what I love about it. It is small but it is vibrant. That’s the word for it, it really is I swear to you. I know how stupid it sounds; I feel a little stupid using that word, because who the hell uses the word “vibrant” except for writers for New York magazine and old ladies in caftans. But I am a little giddy with it. The vibrancy, okay? I do not own a caftan yet though. YET.

The second and third weeks are the farmer’s market and the concerts on the square and trying to settle into a routine. But I’m having trouble finding a routine. I’m a creature of routine and this is a terrible thing.

It feels like I am unmoored. It feels like I’m a little out of place. Sometimes, I feel a little lost even when I know exactly where I’m going. I know my neighborhood now, all the blocks miles around. I’ve walked down Willy street and loved it best. I’ve walked down Monroe street and loved it best. I love the whole town best. At my favorite sushi place they call me the redhead and they know which lunch special I’m going to order—they don’t bring me a menu anymore. I am trying to be stable and secure. I am trying to settle in. To fit in and figure out how I fit in my friends’ lives.

The fourth week, the fourth week I lose my mind completely.

It’s not surprising. The giddy energy dissipates a bit and that is to be expected and what’s left is uncertainty. Insecurity. A weird loneliness that I can’t figure out. A strange kind of panic. I know I’m where I want to be, but I am suddenly terrified that it’s not where I’m supposed to be and no one wants me here. I want so badly for someone to tell me what I was thinking please. Tell me I haven’t made a mistake.

I go and buy a dresser. I buy a desk. I hang some art up. I buy flowers and I cook in my tiny kitchen. I breathe in and out and follow up on the volunteer applications I submitted at the library and the YWCA and Planned Parenthood. I breathe some more and I go swimming a lot. I am satisfied to see that every time I take my dress off I am less worried about what random people think of me in a bikini. I don’t care. Crom chases ducks. I do some writing.

The giddiness is gone, but the panic is gone too and in its place is—not quite contentment. Not complete security. But more routine and with it, feelings that feel more honest. Worry, because I always worry. A feeling of hopefulness because I am always somehow basically optimistic or maybe just not so bright. Or maybe because things are going to be okay because I love this town and I am happy here, very basically very happy or basically not so bright and those are generally the same thing.

And it’s going to be okay because this is a very good place to be.

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

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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.

insomniohno

bed
About a week ago, I got dental surgery. And it was probably among the best days of my life so far I am not even kidding. I have actually had a series of fun-time whiz-bang surgeries and they have all been swell.

Because what they do, my dental surgeon and his merry band of mouth manglers, is feed you a Valium. Then, they feed you a drug the name of which I forget but which makes everything get pretty hazy and then the world kind of disappears though apparently you are still ambulatory and say many amusing things. Then, they sit you in the dental chair, strap a faceful of nitrous oxide on you and you lose all consciousness all together while they draw dicks on your face with washable markers and eventually get around to surgerizing.

It may be a little bit overkill, there, with the drugs and the business. But I love them for it. I love every pill they give me and how they crush up tablets and pour them under my tongue and how they make sure the mask is nice and tight on my face and how I remember little to nothing past the moment I sit on the couch in their cozy waterfall-surrounded waiting room and swallow that Valium. Usually I manage to stop texting before the drugs kick in.

And I’m gone. Someone I love, who loves me back, will then come to pick me up from the dentist’s office. I only know that because I usually wake up at home in my own bed instead of under the receptionist’s desk. There will be a bottle of antibiotics, and a bottle of pain pills, and a bottle of water and a stern note to take both of them or I will be beaten with sticks.

But usually I am not in pain. Usually I am so happy and that is because finally, finally, I have just slept a solid 16 hours, which is more sleep than I’ve gotten in the full two weeks prior. And I did not dream and I did not wake up and roll over and slip into that twilight where you can feel time passing achingly slowly and you think about how you are trapped in a nightmarish hell where your limbs are weighed down by nightmare demons and this is how you will spend eternity and then that’s what you start dreaming about until you wake up and roll over yet again.

It used to be that I was the most solid sleeper you have ever met. I could fall asleep anywhere. I could stay asleep forever. Sleeping was my magical superpower. Nothing woke me up because I was unwakable, which is going to be the name of my next movie. It’s about a superhero who takes a lot of naps. She is, I have been told, a very annoying superhero. And now I understand why.

I remember exactly when I stopped sleeping, and knowing that isn’t helpful. I know why I’m not sleeping, and that’s not helpful either because I can’t unpublish my book. I hate how crazy not sleeping makes me. And that’s really super extra unhelpful, because it just makes me a little bit crazier.

More dental surgery! Developing a cuddle buddy system because I can sleep when there is someone in bed with me. Volunteers have so far been so patient with a tiny tired little ball curled up against their backs (but really soon I will run out of volunteers.). More running (but really how much farther can I run?). Less caffeine? A hammer, maybe.

very very very fine

house
So it’s going to be three years ago this fall that Ben and I bought this house. After months and months and some ridiculous number of listings. Because we hated all of them, because they were weird. And of course every once in awhile we considered settling but we didn’t because we are stubborn. And maybe a little stupid. But mostly stupidly stubborn. And we kept looking.

And eventually, once in a while, one would come close—but only for one of us. Ben wanted the one with two bathrooms back to back. So you could pee separately, but with a sense of camaraderie! That’s not why he wanted it, but it was among the reasons I hated it. We made an offer, though. And it fell through because they wanted really way too many dollars for a house with back-to-back bathrooms.

We offered on a house with an honest-to-god pirate fort in the backyard. You could tell by the pirate flag. The owner rejected our offer and then counteroffered 15 grand above the actual list price and we said yes of course! Except we couldn’t afford it not even for a pirate fort and my heart broke into three pieces that day. S

Then we found the two-story place with the horrible kitchen and the worse bathroom and the creepy man-cave downstairs, with a wet bar and a hand dryer. An honest-to-god hand dryer in the bathroom. We saw it twice. He said, “come on.” I said—okay, fine. And we bought a house.

This house. With the creepy man cave and the hand dryer and the wet bar and the industrial tile. We bought it, and we realized we loved it. We loved this weird house. It was our house, and we nested. To be fair—I nested. It’s what I do. I’m fond of talking about how I moved to San Francisco with all my belongings in two suitcases, but what I actually did was immediately buy two thousand dollars worth of IKEA furniture to fill up my new studio apartment. To pin me down, maybe. To make me feel a sense of solidity.

I nested. And we tried to decorate together, but what we did instead was fight about paint colors and I cried because I am insane but seriously, if someone insisted that you had to paint the living room walls cobalt with lime green molding and orange trim, wouldn’t you maybe burst into tears too? We argued about furniture and decorating. We argued about every single decorating decision and finally he said, you decide. You care more than I do.

For a really long time, it was the most important thing in the world to me—making this house perfect. And I wanted to make Ben happy too. Because happiness is important; because I felt guilty. Look this is your favorite color and I know you want a couch that you can stretch out on and I know you want a big table so we can have people over and I know these are things you like and I’m trying very hard, here.

He didn’t really care one way or the other. He wasn’t aggressively apathetic. It just. It didn’t mean to him what it meant to me. He loved the house as much as I did, but it didn’t mean the same things to him, I think.

So when we broke up, he said, the house is yours. The house has always been more yours than mine and I said no, wait I wanted to make you happy too, but we both knew what he meant.

It’s a big house. It’s huge, actually. Two stories plus a finished basement. Three bedrooms upstairs, three bathrooms, a dining room. We thought we needed something huge because at the time we were both working from home and each needed an office. Because we thought we needed the biggest house possible. Because we were flush with the power of a double income.

It turns out when your income is halved you have about half as much buying power, even if your mortgage stays the same. It used to be that I could weather the occasional late freelance checks or a dip in work and it would always be okay, but that couldn’t happen any more. Except it did. And kept happening, a long and unexpected dry spell at the worst time possible.

Suddenly I was in trouble, and having a roommate helped but it was still a struggle and there’s a special kind of panic that happens when you think maybe you could lose everything, just because you didn’t think things through and a special kind of fury at yourself when you realize what you let happen.

Selling the house would have meant a loss, my broker told me. So I went and got a desk job, and that was useful. And now, this weekend, one after the other, there are two more roommates moving in.

I am so happy to have them—they are people I love, and people I trust and respect and if I had to live with anyone, it would be with them. We will have a good household and we will cook and talk and retreat happily to all our separate bedrooms and not talk for days and it will be good but our house, and then my house, the house the way it was. It is all gone for good now.

It’s okay—it is better than okay. It’s something I’m glad we’re doing, but look, okay, a part of me hates it. Hates it so much. A part of me still harbors so much of that fury at myself. At the way things turned out. At my short sightedness. At luck and also free will. I love my house, and I am so glad to keep it and grateful to have found such a good way and I am going to miss it so much.

spring spring spring spring spring

fireworktree
It’s spring, it’s spring, it’s spring. There was sunshine at 6:30 in the morning, and it lingered. It swept the lawn and broke in through the windows and sat on the couch and crawled into beds and woke everyone up. It was warm and it was substantial—you could actually feel it on your skin. Touches on your face and neck and hands. This wasn’t that watery, thin, almost-clear sun that makes you a little high in the winter. This was—is—spring sun, almost-summer sun, the kind that you have to push through, the kind that slows you right the hell down to the pace of pure and essential candy-like happiness.

Pure and essential candy-like happiness is one of the harbingers of spring. It would be the best of all possible horsemen of the apocalypse but that is probably asking too much of current world religion.

It’s spring and there is sunshine. There are tulips in the yard and they are loud. They’re the best color red there is, the kind you want to put in all caps, RED. That color. The color of spring except the real color of spring is when the trees are exploding everywhere, in white and purple and pink and green. The trees are fireworks, and the fireworks don’t stop they hang suspended as you pass slowly and it feels like this could be endless, spring. Especially after endless winter. But you hardly even remember what winter felt like any more, because spring, you guys.

It’s totally spring. And in thirty seconds it won’t be, any more, despite how slow the sun is and how pure and essential the candy-like happiness is and despite how the firework trees look like they’re going to hang there forever, and that is okay because blah blah the cycle of life and blah blah the nature of change and blah blah the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind and etc. You know all about that.

It doesn’t matter, though, what any of us know because there’s not a lot we can do about it. And there’s a comfort in that, a real comfort when it doesn’t send you spiraling into mad-style madness where you go totally mad because free will and also the simultaneous lack of it—and it is comforting how the series of tiny eternal compromises that consciousness is sends us rattling away from that idea whenever we get too close. Because we’re easily distractible, especially during spring spring spring spring spring.