alexandra ewing is on the internet.

twenty-something philadelphia-area online diarist comes home in the midst of a total breakdown and eventually makes good, to an electrifying soundtrack of '60s power pop.

it's the feel-good movie of the summer.

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~ Thursday, April 17 ~
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What’s right (or what’s wrong) with me

Don’t cry in class, I wrote in my notebook. Then I underlined it six times, the lines getting thicker and thicker, my hand growing unsteadier. I kept adding more lines even as I felt the first tears running down my face.

The rain was so heavy it caused flash-floods last night and between that and the sinkhole on the bypass that got it shut down, my professor delayed the start of class. Discussion of our papers first, then the quiz, then the mid-class break.

We didn’t use to discuss our papers at all. I don’t like the change. I never feel confident handing them in, even if I’ve received full marks on every one so far. When we go around the room and discuss what we chose to write about, mine never seem to be about the content; I tend to focus on the stylistic choices and the reasoning for them. (At least with this book. I guess I don’t feel comfortable analyzing character motivations in a memoir.) This week I couldn’t even manage that—I found myself so affected by the book that I wrote a far-less analytical paper.

I liked Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, but the last third wrecked me. There are long sections about fighting depression, about sinking into a hole, about fights with the other part of her, about her suicide attempt, and it all hit too close to home. When I was at my most depressed I remember writing a post here about feeling as though there were two of me, one weak and pathetic and the other acerbic and cruel, and I couldn’t be sure which one was seeing things clearly. I was the target of my own scorn. It was unceasing.

So when it came time to talk about the papers, I talked about mine, and a little part where Winterson refuted this idea that I loathe, this mythology of art being the work of the tortured, as if it is owed to that. And then this became a larger discussion about depression, even if she rarely calls it that. My professor pointed out her own sort of theory of overcoming it, which is to sort of let it run its course and your mind will reboot itself, and asked us what we thought. And I hesitated before I raised my hand and said I thought it was a little naive—that it worked for her, but she survived her suicide attempt, and for plenty of people the process ends there. That’s it. They’re dead. And though she never says it outright, she clearly thinks very little of medication, and for some people that’s a real thing. There is a component to this, a chemical imbalance in the brain, and that’s not imaginary.

One of the boys—men, I should say, these are people all around my age or older, he’s a man—said his piece after that, that he questioned the necessity of medication, and I felt a little tense, but then he gestured at me and said, “But you raise a good point” about the suicide, about how some people don’t get that second chance. He talked for a little while and he talked in circles, and I felt good about that, because I knew he had never thought of it the way I had until I said it, and I knew that he wouldn’t forget it either—that he would think about it and come to his conclusions, even if they weren’t mine, long after that moment. I like this man, W. I feel like he’s always aware there is a world larger than his own.

Then the boy—man—next to him spoke, and this is when I felt myself get sick, could no longer look at anyone, began to scribble intensely in my notebook. “I don’t think medication helps people,” J began, and it only went worse from there, because he explained that when people go on medication, they grow dependent on it, and that makes them lazy, and they stop trying to help themselves. In my head I thought of one of the presentations from the week before on Margaret Thatcher, how we talked about Reaganomics and socialism and welfare. He went on like this for awhile, and mid-way through was when I began to cry. My face grew wet. My nose started to run. I thought of rummaging through my purse for a tissue that I knew wasn’t there. At the beginning of his speechifying I held my hand up, but at some point I told myself not to make it about me, and took it down. Instead I concentrated on straight-line doodles, lines intersecting and perpendicular, all while feeling more and more upset.

When J stopped talking, my professor asked me if I still had something to say, and I didn’t even look up because I was so afraid of telltale mascara lines on my cheeks, just said from where I scribbled, “I take back what I had to say,” and the ones who didn’t know better laughed, and I felt good that I had apparently hidden it so well.

Then we took the quiz. I always finish first—it’s only ten questions, they’re always multiple choice, the first five are there to establish you did the reading (one correct answer, three things that absolutely aren’t if you even skimmed the book) and the rest basic vocabulary in sentences lifted directly from the work. My professor came to retrieve it, but knelt beside my desk. “Are you okay?” he asked. “Do you need to talk?”

"No," I said as bright as I could. "I’m okay. Thank you. No, I’m fine."

I waited for a moment to consider if I should get up and walk to the restroom to check my eye make-up, but then decided I had to, and crossed the room trying to seem as though I was fine. G, the girl who sits directly across the room from me—the student sit in a U of desks and we are the two points of the U, though neither of us was initially when the class started because we’ve had the people who were drop out—walked ahead of me, held the door when we left the classroom, held the door when we circled to the restroom, and I smiled and thanked her, before she slipped into a stall, and I turned on the faucet, wet my hands, then delicately touched at the faint black streaks leading to my chin.

I was just finishing up when she joined me at the mirror.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"I’m fine," I said. I paused for a moment, trying to think of what I wanted to say, and then I took a deep breath. "I’m anti-depressants," I said slowly, "and I hate the stigma."

And I’m not ashamed, I thought. I am not ashamed of this.

G stopped washing her hands. “I understand,” she said. “It all hit really close to home for me. Two of my family members committed suicide.” Her voice cracked, and I put my hand on her shoulder. “It’s not just something you can get over or think through. I had a hard time holding it together in there.”

"Of course."

"And that kid, when he talks sometimes…" She made a face of disgust. "It’s like he has no idea—"

"—how humanity actually works," I said. "I know! God, I know. I was thinking of your presentation on Margaret Thatcher when he was talking, like the language was exactly the same as the reasoning to not believe in welfare and I was just thinking like ‘God, can you not even see the parallel’" and she nodded vigorously and I felt so, so relieved, and not alone.

When I got back to my seat, as she went outside to take a call, I wrote in my notebook, You are much too quick to judge.

*

I told this to my therapist today, and she said, “Some people just don’t know, and you have to just step back and realize they have no idea what they’re talking about.” She said this with a sad, accepting smile, her palms open and raised wide. But all I could think was, Why do I have to take that? Why aren’t we angrier?

*

At the end of class, I struggled to get everything into my purse, fell behind, and only managed to get out of my seat and lay my paper on the desk to hand in after everyone else had made their way to the door. I wanted to catch up with the woman I sit next to, but instead my professor looked at me when I meant to say good-night and spoke.

"I want to talk to you, sometime," he said.

"Oh, okay!" I started, thinking it was about the paper due next week. I am stumped with this paper.

But he continued, “I want to know how you got here, what you’re doing here.” He sounded like I had been conjured out of the mist, and I admit I felt a little pleased to be unique, to be rare.

"I have time now," I said with a look to the clock. We let out early last night. "I have twenty minutes before my ride gets here."

He said that was fine, told me to take a seat, and I did, sitting across from him, but with a gap that felt much larger than its three feet between us.

"I just want to know how you got here," he asked, looking at me from what seemed so far away. I felt small, even though I am much taller than he is even without the heeled boots and wedge sandals I tend to wear to class. "I don’t usually get students with your level of verbal and analytical skills in my class, and I just want to know how you came here, what you’re doing, where you want to go in the future."

So I gave the basic facts: this is where I went to high school, this is where I went to college for a year, then I had a mental breakdown and dropped out, this is where I worked retail for awhile, then I went back to that breakdown, then I started seeing a therapist and taking medication, then I got a job in retail again, then I took a class at this college (“English 100? With [old teacher]?” and he shrugged to say he had no idea who it was and I said, “She was wonderful. She yelled a lot and my class really responded to that? It’s not really my style of teaching—” “Mine either” “—but it really worked, I think that class needed it”), then I stopped taking the drugs and seeing the therapist and went back to the breakdown again, then I saw a new therapist and got back on the medication again, then I started this class, I am still working that retail job, I am only taking this class, I hope to take more classes, then maybe transfer to Temple because it is close by and not expensive.

I said this all as calm as I could manage. Maybe even with a hint of detachment. I felt good saying it. I felt honest. And we talked about it for a few minutes, about what I want to do with my life, about a professor he recommended I take a class with whose name he wrote down on a corner of his legal pad for me and ripped out, about a trend piece about “grit” he read—“I haven’t read it, no, but I read something about ‘gumption’ in high school and I suspect they’re the same thing” “Probably”—and how stupid that idea is. We talked about a lot in fifteen minutes, actually, but what I will remember is this: when he stood up to put on his coat, and he said to me that he wanted to talk to me because, “when I see a student who doesn’t think highly of their abilities or isn’t aware of their capabilities, I want to disabuse them of that notion.”

And I felt like—I don’t know how I felt, just that I felt special, that I felt like something shining that had been roughed up and someone saw that part of me sparkled and still had value and I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. I said thank you though, a lot. I’m much better at thank yous now, and I imagine I sounded crazed with every time I said it, but I didn’t know how else to say to this man, You don’t know how much this means to me, you could never know how much this means to me, I am sure I am boring you keeping you here talking about things you don’t care about but I just want this conversation to never end, tell me I am better than retail some more, tell me I could easily manage graduate work again, never let this end, I want this moment to never let me go. Isn’t this what we’re all looking for, to be told we’re valuable? Maybe you already know you’re valuable, I hope you do. I didn’t cry then, but I am crying now.

I told him about Maria, who saw Jeanette Winterson do a reading of this at AWP, and we both admitted we’ve meant to read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit forever but haven’t gotten around to it, and then we parted ways in the hallway and said good-bye, and as I stepped through the lobby, saying good-night to the receptionist, I couldn’t stop thinking, Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Tags: 3a the in-between college
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~ Tuesday, April 15 ~
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Every week for this class we write a one-page response paper to what we’ve read; it’s supposed to be somewhat analytical and formal but I don’t think anyone writes it that way (except for me). We are finishing up Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? now. Last week I wrote about the creation of identity, and I remember a line in it precisely because midway through writing the paper I went back and changed it from meaning one thing to meaning its opposite because I realized in the course of crafting that the first conclusion I’d made wasn’t true. At first I said something about being the heroes of our own lives, but upon revision it became a bit about how we are all the protagonists of our own lives but not necessarily the heroes of our own stories, and how Winterson’s tried hard to be the latter, blah blah blah.

Anyway, now as I wrapping the book up, very close to the end, what do I see? “I have worked hard at being the hero of my own life.” I wonder if my professor will notice this and assume I read ahead. But I didn’t—I saw this and out loud I laughed and said “Oh, wow.” Oh, wow. I feel good.

Tags: feelin' good 3a the in-between college this book is too real sometimes
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~ Saturday, April 5 ~
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Teddy Roosevelt’s diary entry from the day his wife died. He never spoke of her death again.

I feel as though I see this on an irregular, cycling basis on my dashboard, and that last sentence is supposed to be evidence of the height of romance, but the reality is that they had a child together and he went on to raise her terribly because he couldn’t get over the death of his wife. And what I’ve learned from years of reading about this is that if I am ever in a committed relationship and expecting my first child, one night in bed I will tug my partner close and whisper: If I ever die, I want you to be devastated, I want you to be bitter and miserable, but only for a moment—because I want you to one day think of me fondly, and I want you to tell our child all about me, and I don’t want to be an unacknowledged ghost that lingers over her childhood, and one day I want you to meet someone else and keep loving and I don’t want to you feel guilty over that and I don’t want you to close yourself off from the world, because I want you to teach her through action that we are strong and we are resilient and our hearts are meant to broken but that they never stay that way and there are always sunny days to come after the rain and to know her mother loved her very much and I love you very much so much I never want you to think all the light has gone out of your life because there is so much more to come. Never be Teddy Roosevelt. Never be Teddy Roosevelt, because I love you too much.

Teddy Roosevelt’s diary entry from the day his wife died. He never spoke of her death again.

I feel as though I see this on an irregular, cycling basis on my dashboard, and that last sentence is supposed to be evidence of the height of romance, but the reality is that they had a child together and he went on to raise her terribly because he couldn’t get over the death of his wife. And what I’ve learned from years of reading about this is that if I am ever in a committed relationship and expecting my first child, one night in bed I will tug my partner close and whisper: If I ever die, I want you to be devastated, I want you to be bitter and miserable, but only for a moment—because I want you to one day think of me fondly, and I want you to tell our child all about me, and I don’t want to be an unacknowledged ghost that lingers over her childhood, and one day I want you to meet someone else and keep loving and I don’t want to you feel guilty over that and I don’t want you to close yourself off from the world, because I want you to teach her through action that we are strong and we are resilient and our hearts are meant to broken but that they never stay that way and there are always sunny days to come after the rain and to know her mother loved her very much and I love you very much so much I never want you to think all the light has gone out of your life because there is so much more to come. Never be Teddy Roosevelt. Never be Teddy Roosevelt, because I love you too much.

(Source: threeoverten)

Tags: 3a i wrote this out better in one moment and then i saved it but tumblr only saved the tag and nothing else wtf
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Once, twice

My brother and his new girlfriend broke up already—her fault. I detailed the whole thing to my therapist two weeks ago because it was on my mind when I saw her, because it changed his short-sighted plans to leave his job and move to Washington state (to my immense relief).

"That’s something we haven’t discussed," she said when I finished up detailing his agony. "Relationships."

"There really isn’t anything to talk about. I haven’t been in any," I said.

And so we talked about that for a few minutes—that it wasn’t by choice necessarily, that I participated in a brief experiment in online dating but only got terrible results and ultimately felt like I wasn’t ready for anything anyway, that it seems like a bad idea to seek one out now because you’re supposed to love yourself before you do these things and as much as I try I am not there yet.

"But I still one want," I confessed. "I just don’t know that I’ll ever have one." I found myself crying a little, to my surprise—a few tears spilling down my cheeks before I managed to stop. "I just feel so behind." So ashamed, so small and pathetic. I wanted to four people to walk into her office and fill the other empty chairs so I could disappear among a crowd.

She didn’t seem to notice, however, and smiled at me instead. “I think it’s important though, that you recognized you’re not ready for it. And like everything else we’ve been doing, you’ve had a lot that’s disrupted you and held you back, but it’s not always going to be like that. You’re going back to school now, and you’re looking for better jobs, and this isn’t any different. You’re going to date again. It’s not always going to be like this.”

I nodded, but didn’t feel any relief.

*

This week, she asked me about socializing, what I’ve done. “You went to New York last month,” she said.

"Kathy came home last weekend," I said. "And I’m going up to Pittsburgh at the end of April to see Maria."

"Now Maria. Is she a high school friend?"

"Well, I guess I met her in high school. We went to—the state used to sponsor these sort of academic summer camps? Like there was one for agricultural sciences at Penn State, and there was a technology one at Drexel, and one for the sciences at Carnegie Mellon. And we met at the one for the arts, which was in Erie, at Mercyhurst…"

And I got caught up in that for a little bit, explaining the application and the admission process, and the concept behind the school, and that summer—how the heat drove me crazy but never managed to keep me up at night, how much I loved being able to lie in the grass and squint for the stars, the games of Doubles Thirteen which utilized the elevator because Michael and I played on a different floor from Maria and Dana, being taught the proper way to applaud (which did warp me because I still think of that before every performance I attend), how when I left I thought I might never be happy again and wasn’t for months after.

She asked me about what I learned, what I was taught, what I came to know about myself, and I felt so light to talk about it—I always want to talk about it, but go out of my way not to most of the time. It was eight years ago, after all. I shouldn’t care anymore.

When she ran out of things to ask me, she looked at me for a moment in an assessing way, and then said, “I’m glad you told me about this. I feel like I understand you so much better. No wonder you feel so trapped in this job when you know all that you are capable of. Going to this school, going to [the old college], these aren’t easy things. You have to be intelligent, you have to have a gift—and that intelligence doesn’t just go away.”

I cried again this week, just a few tears, just like last week, except this time it was happiness, it was relief, it was feeling like there are good times yet to come.

Tags: 3a
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~ Wednesday, April 2 ~
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What’s it like

Sometimes I don’t feel like breathing. There’s a weight on my chest that will crush me if I give even the tiniest inch, the slightest sway of my breast, to an inhale. When I cry I hold my breath for fear of total collapse. I wait until my lungs burn before I exhale in a loud gasp.

Too easily I fall back into old habits. The thoughts that plague me run on repeat: I don’t feel like breathing, I don’t feel like breathing, I don’t feel like breathing. Then they become heated arguments with myself: You’re so insecure you have no right to be upset what you said was unimportant so of course it went unnoticed vs. I put myself out there and I was vulnerable and I trusted you to recognize that I was taking a step and you didn’t say anything. 

(Whenever I’m bad, it’s ‘You.’ And whenever I’m okay with myself it’s ‘I.’)

I’m never okay with myself for long. It always just devolves into a inevitable spiral of second person: You are so horrible. You don’t trust anyone and you’re a terrible friend. No wonder you find yourself in these positions—you deserve it. You’re worthless. You’re meaningless. You’re unimportant.

I don’t want to be like this but I don’t know how to stop and open myself up and believe that what I see as a rejection of me is probably nothing so sinister, but just an innocuous, unintentional moment of mistake, a late (not non-existent) bid to assure me.

In class we are reading Jeanette Winterson’s memoir of abuse. She says near the end of the first assignment that anyone can be taught to love, no matter how old. I wonder though if that’s true. I hope so.

Tags: 3a up too late fell asleep sitting up twice writing this so i know it can't be coherent but i am also too tired to proofread
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~ Saturday, March 22 ~
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143

I would like to be loved, I think. There is so much I want to add, but the words aren’t coming together because I’m tired. But I would like it, and I would be good at loving someone, I am fairly sure. I think I am good at seeking out all the soft parts of people, the tender vulnerable parts they are afraid of in themselves, and looking at those bits with warm eyes. On the last night I spent in New York, a friend cried to me and then later I cried to her, and both times I thought to myself, I see you, I see all of you, and you are so headstrong and confident and tough but you’re letting me see this and I love you for it, I love you, and I forget sometimes you are understanding and I forget that you try to listen and so maybe that makes these moments so much heavier, more important, but I see them, I see you, and I hope you know someone appreciates all these strides you take, the way you put yourself out there so unselfconsciously and selflessly, because I see you, I do.

If I can feel this way, wouldn’t it stand to reason—I’m not sure what. But isn’t this the evidence that I can love, that I can use all of my heart? I am always ready to consider myself broken or ineffectual or incomplete but I’m not. I’m just waiting for the time when someone says to me, I see you.

Tags: 3a up too late wanted to write something like this for ages but-- you can only open up a new text post and write 'i would like to be loved' and not feel pathetic once in a blue moon i think evidently nearly 6am on a saturday is my moment don't judge me too harshly i'm just emotionally always a 15 year old with a livejournal i guess
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~ Friday, March 21 ~
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He’s gotta go.

There was only one woman in the Dairy Queen, sitting at a table for four in the middle of the room picking at a sundae as my mother and I walked in from the rain. She looked up at us, made brief eye contact and smiled, then blinked away.

We got sundaes too, and sat down along the wall. For some reason my sundae was maybe twice the size of my mother’s for the same price, and even as I started scooping up the soft serve and savoring the hot fudge, I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it. I said as much, and I thought we were about to start talking about something but then—

"Pardon me," the woman said, turning toward us. "Do you mind if—what happened to your car? Were you in an accident the other day, what with all the snow?"

My mother started to explain (no, it was two accidents in a month’s time and they struck the exact same place, who knows how the insurance will work) and I thought that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t; the woman kept asking questions, kept talking to us. “What brings you here today? Did you need ice cream? I just needed some ice cream,” she said. She sounded a bit frazzled but she looked anything but: her hair was a convincing shade of box brown, and her skin pale and wrinkled in a way that made her look well-lived and not the victim of over-zealous tanning in her youth. Her raincoat was bright yellow, and her glasses slipped a little down her nose. She looked her age but in an understated and almost elegant way.

"We were shopping in the HomeGoods across the parking lot," my mother explained, "so we stopped in after."

"Oh, that sounds nice. Sometimes you just need to get out. My husband was driving me crazy at home and I told him I had to go. He just gets so angry. He had a heart attack last year."

"I’m so sorry," we both said.

"Yes, he had a heart attack last year, and it changed him. I read that it does that. He just gets so livid now. He shouts about everything and I tell him, ‘You already had a heart attack, and I’m not bringing you back if you have another one.’"

My mother laughed, hard, but the woman continued, all earnest, “It’s true! The EMT, when they came, he asked me if I was sure I wanted to resuscitate him. He told me he would be different. And I brought him back five, six times! But I’m not doing that again. I tell him, ‘Don’t shout, because if you have another one, that’s it.’”

My mother kept laughing, and I did too.

"It changes something in them, something about the brain. All those shocks—his bloodwork is good, everything is good, because I guess it kind of restarts you. But your brain can’t handle it. And I think about it and I think it must have been his time because now he just gets so angry out of nowhere, about nothing, and I think, ‘He’s gotta go.’ I just can’t take it anymore. He’s gotta go. I used to go out with my friends every week or two, get my hair done, go out to dinner, maybe spent the night somewhere, and now he always wonders where I am, why I’m not at home. He’s very possessive. It was the heart attack.”

"My husband’s the same way," my mother said.

"Did he have a heart attack?" she asked.

"No, he had a nervous breakdown."

"Oh," she frowned. "They never recover from those. Brain stuff," she added, more evidence. "What is it about men, that they get like this?"

"I think it’s just something about that age," I said to her. "I think they get old and they regress." My mother refers to this as my father’s transformation into Mr. Wilson.

"He’s just so controlling now. One of my dear friends, she’s Amish, and about a hundred, and she told me you don’t mess with this stuff when it’s time. When it’s time to go, you go. He’s gotta go, she told me, and I think she’s right. I just can’t handle it anymore. My high school is having a reunion next week and I am getting together with a bunch of high school friends  and staying overnight and I told him, ‘I need the break from you. You’ve gotta go.’"

"Yeah," my mother agreed. "He’s gotta go. I feel the same way."

(A woman in her thirties and her daughter, no more three, came in and ordered a sundae with lots of sprinkles. They sat at a booth by the window and I could tell the mother was listening to us all chat, and would tell her husband later that night how there were a bunch of bitter man-hating old ladies in the Dairy Queen today and she would tease him, saying things like “You better remember that, you better treat me right, because I’ll know if you’ve gotta go,” and laugh and kiss his cheek.)

"Do you mind if I ask—what did you husband do? Does he work? My husband retired but he was a doctor at the University of Pennsylvania. They actually gave him the all clear to go back to work today. I need him to go back, but he’s retired now."

"He was a lawyer," my mother said, and told the whole sordid series of events (private practice, nervous breakdown, didn’t work, spent through savings, let life insurance lapse, lost the house, stays at home watching old movies and makes dinner now).

"He couldn’t admit he failed at something," my mother says, worked up. "He couldn’t say he made a mistake. So he didn’t say anything, and we lost everything. We’ve got nothing."

"Well, I’m sure, a lawyer, that’s a high-stress—"

"No," my mother was adamant, "no, don’t feel sorry for him, he’s too busy feeling sory for him."

"Oh." The woman made a face all pinched at the lips. "They’re awful when they do that."

"They really are."

The woman started to pull at her things, and my mother stood abruptly, looking to make her exit. It’d been nearly an hour.

"Well, it was nice talking to you," the woman said, and my mother was already rushing the door even as she said her good-byes. It felt so rude, though I knew why she was doing it, and I turned and told the woman it was nice to meet her, and that I hoped things would work out for her, and then took my leave too.

It was raining heavily now as I helped my mother down from the curb, letting her lean into my arm.

"She was a pip, but god she wouldn’t stop talking," my mother groaned.

"Well, she’s a lonely old lady," I said, a little defensive. "And you made her day. She just needed someone to talk to. She needed some ice cream and someone to talk to."

"That’s true," my mother said. Then, "He’s gotta go," and we both laughed.

She made it to her car before us, and did a terrible job pulling out of her spot and honked before she went on her way, and we waved back.

"He’s gotta go," I said.

"He’s gotta go," my mother agreed. We drove through the parking lot, turned onto 30, and then made our way home in silence.

Tags: 3a i think my mother is maybe not fair to my father in some of this but at the same time he's done nothing to change my opinion so...
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~ Wednesday, March 19 ~
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Choose sides

It is easy to feel discouraged, and some days I do. I see jobs I cannot apply for because I do not have a degree. I look at myself and think, I’m already 25, and I won’t have that degree for years. Living at home can feel stifling. My job is killing me. I got declined for a credit card today because I don’t have credit… which is why I want the credit card.

But, and I hesitate to say this because I’d hate for it to backfire on me, I think I am happy. I applied for the credit card. I’m looking for other jobs. I am not paying rent. I’m working for the degree. I’m not trying to do this when I’m 30. This year I am planning to go places, to see people, to do things. For the first time in many years, I think I am living. I didn’t, for awhile—just curled up into myself and felt like there was nothing for me, wondered if it would be easier to die, tried to convince myself to not fear pills or a knife so I could just end it.

And now here I am, alive, and doing things, and sticking up for myself. I think a friendship is severed and I’m not especially sad about it. Last week one of my regulars at work—a mentally incapacitated adult who arrives as part of a group and is friendly but sleazy—hit on me in the way he usually does, then ratcheted it up by staring at my chest and calling me sexy and licking his lips and softly panting, and I knew from the way he was acting he was about to say things decidedly x-rated and violating in front of a whole bunch of customers, and in the past I would have ignored him entirely and acted chipper but instead I stared at him and said as firm as I could manage, “That’s inappropriate.” I decided I should start working on a manuscript of some of these posts if for no other reason than it would probably benefit my self-esteem to take myself seriously. I’m going to apply to that AMTRAK residency because why not me? I won’t get it but it doesn’t hurt to try.

I told my therapist before that I see every decision I make as a failure. Even if I can logically say that I make the right decision, I am so certain in my inherent bad qualities that I will manage to warp any good decision into a bad one by virtue of just being myself. I am so afraid, constantly, of being judged, of failing and falling flat on my face. Even here, I worry constantly that these posts are an annoyance to the people who follow me for reasons I do not understand.

But a friend said to me in a message this weekend, “Nobody has ever been accidentally followed in the whole time I’ve been on this site” and it never occurred to me before he said it.

So maybe I am not all bad, or even if I am, maybe it’s not a big deal.

I’m happy, I think.

I’m trying.

Tags: 3a should get a new tag for this series of posts that seem to end with 'i'm trying' no matter what i mean to do i really don't intend to end them all like this but it just keeps happening i guess it's my pep talk
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~ Friday, March 14 ~
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Follow my call

On Wednesday, in my therapist’s office, I let my eyes water but not spill over. “I just feel so numb,” I said. It’s March. It’s always rough in March. I remember my old therapist telling me that—even wrote about it here. “And because I’m numb I’m much more aware of my anxiety. It’s always there.”

"Describe it to me," she said.

"It’s an all-over tension, but especially in my shoulders, and I feel myself get stiffer and stiffer. I get very aware of my heartbeat. It’s as though something’s coming and I’m bracing for the blow." And that’s how I feel every second of the day.

"And what are the blow-ups?" she asked, not really getting it, and I didn’t know how to correct her, so I didn’t.

"Everything? Just… everything." I’m so afraid of being judged.

We talked it through, talked about how to react in these moments, to not give them power. I told her that I started looking at job listings online, that I don’t feel ready to apply yet, but I’m getting there.

Near the end of the session, she said to me, “But you know you’ve made progress, right? You started looking at job listings because you know this job has served its purpose. You’re tense because you know you’re ready for it and you’re still working at this place that doesn’t fix properly anymore. You’re making a lot of progress.”

Sometimes seeing her is hard, and sometimes I leave feeling intensely optimistic. Wednesday was a little of both—aching, wanting to curl up in a ball for a few hours and turn out all the lights, but a little lighter all the same.

*

My brother came up to me tonight and accosted me about applying for a job at his place of work, the place of work he plans on leaving in a terrible manner in the next few months. I say accosted because it came aggressively, and there was no warning for it.

"Okay," I said when he finished, feeling trapped between him and the sofa I sat on.

My father, who was present, grew exasperated. “Don’t just say ‘okay,’” he said in the way I hate, the tone that says I am a man and I am reasonable and I know best. “Promise me you’ll look at these jobs, okay? Promise me.”

I hate when he says promise me.

I took a deep breath. In that instant he seemed to sense, for the first time in his life, that it was absolutely the wrong thing to say, and he visibly moved back a bit.

"I don’t like the way you are treating me," I said to both of them in the calmest tone I’ve ever spoken in. "I don’t deserve that." I think that’s what I said. I said something like it, anyway.

My brother grew angrier, but my father seemed to realize this is not the tack to take with me, and in his own way told my brother to back off.

"Be nicer to your sister," my father said.

"No! Being nice doesn’t work with her," he snarled, and he grew upset, before retreating to the kitchen, only to come back and start telling my father about the jobs instead of me, pretending I wasn’t in the room, knowing I would be stuck hearing him talk, unable to move from where I was seated. (I always do that, during a fight. I stay glued to my phone or my book and pretend I am invisible while my face goes expressionless and the tears drip down my cheeks and my stomach clenches and unclenches in a furious rhythm. But I look bored. It’s my safety net.) Then he went upstairs and spoke with my mother for a long time, and I heard their voices drift down and wondered if they were talking about me, if she had put him up to that.

Much later, after my mother came back down and my father went to bed, and I laid my head on my mother’s breast and cried. “He was so mean,” I said, whimpering. “I try so hard to be nice to everyone, and I would never treat him like that.”

"I know. You wouldn’t," she said, rubbing my shoulder.

"And it’s so hard, when I see my therapist on Wednesday, and she tells me I’m doing a good job, and I’m making progress, and then he yells at me for not doing anything. I’ve looked at jobs."

"Well he didn’t know that. I didn’t know that."

"I’m trying so hard. You’re not disappointed are you?"

And she held me closer and I knew she wasn’t.

*

He came down again, later still. To apologize, I thought.

"I just want you to hear me out and not interrupt me like I know you want to," he said in a poor start to making it up to me.

"Okay," I said, still calm, but sad.

And he gave me his spiel, in his own version of my father’s insufferable tone. My brother’s says I am a man and I am the smartest person in the room and I know better than anyone and no one can tell me otherwise so SHUT UP. (My brother’s anger will be his downfall one day, I am sure.) Then he stopped.

I wasn’t sure if he was finished.

"Was that it?" I asked. He said yeah. "Okay." And then I waited to gather my thoughts.

"What’s with that?" He was snide now. “‘Are you finished? Okay?’" Mocking me.

I waited some more, before managing to start, “I try very hard to treat everyone kindly, and I have always been kind to you. So I was very upset earlier that you didn’t give me that same respect.”

"Well I tried being nice to you and I don’t know what else to do," he said, and I felt something furious in me, that he would admit he was being terrible and mean and cruel and then explain it was the way I needed to be treated whether or not I was smart enough to realize that.

"And I understand your concerns, but it’s not your job to do that."

And from there, I could see he had no interest in anything I had to say if it wasn’t agreement with whatever he said, and he stood up and began to walk away.

"This is what I mean," I said. "You’re not listening to me. You’re not respecting me."

We argued for a bit there, and I don’t even remember what we said, but nothing harsh on my end, I know that. I told him he was being mean without any reason, and he began to stomp up the stairs in a way that was both insulting (as though he was weary of having to ‘deal’ with me) and frightening (radiating his hatred).

"See, you’re not respecting me. I don’t deserve to be treated this way," I said as he made his way up.

"You deserve very little," he said without looking at me, his voice hard.

When I heard his door shut, I burst into tears all over again, but this time I was alone.

*

But there is progress. I am trying, and it shows. After I cried on my mother, I took a shower. A long time ago my therapist told me to think of a shower as a reward, as a way to relax, and I did just that, working the shampoo into my hair, fingers massaging my scalp. And then after the second incident, feeling like I was drowning in the self-loathing, I texted Maria and she called me and I cried and talked it through and just saying it to someone else made it seem so much better. And tomorrow I will wake up and not let it impact my day.

In the past, even earlier this year, those moments would have colored at least the next week. But now they can’t take over.

It’s progress. Little bit by little bit. I’m trying, I say that a lot at the end of these and often seeming apropos of nothing on twitter. But it’s true, and it’s what I need to remind myself. I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m trying.

Tags: i'm trying 3a
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~ Wednesday, March 12 ~
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The Ten Books Meme

Rules: In a text post list ten books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take but a few minutes, and don’t think too hard - they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you. Tag ten people, including me, so I’ll see…

I was tagged by sarka.

  1. How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer—this is a very white girl-coming-of-age book but I really, really love it. It is easily my favorite book. I found this through the inclusion of the short story “The Smoothest Way is Full of Stones” in an edition of the Best American Non-Required Reading, which I adored… until I read this book where it isn’t even the best story. I think my favorites are “When She is Old and I am Famous” or “The Isabel Fish.”
  2. The Year of Ice by Brian Malloy
  3. a number of Animorphs books—coming to mind are Visser, the Andalite Chronicles, Megamorphs #4, and regular series books #s 2, 6, 19, 20-22 (David arc), 23, 26, 33, 34, 35, 45-54 (final arc of series). It’s amazing how much these books shaped me; the ones I recall all have a lot to do with family and sacrifices made and not making unfounded judgments. A lot of these books I remember just for specific moments—in #2, Rachel eavesdropping and finding out that her best friend’s parents basically sacrificed themselves for their daughter’s ensured safety though she is completely unaware of it and thinks her parents don’t love her because they’ve become distant and cold toward her (completely against their will, of course); in #19 Cassie sacrificing her life to make a point about her beliefs; in #22 David’s defeat culminates not in his murder but in a fate worse than death; in #35 Marco convinces himself that he can kill a monster with his mother’s face only to realize at the crucial moment that he can’t, to his own disappoint and Cassie’s immense relief; in #45 Marco has the opportunity to reunite his parents by delivering a terrible lie to his father and he leaps at the chance with very little guilt.
  4. Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky
  5. Burn Collector by Al Burian—This is a collection of the first nine of his zine series also titled Burn Collector. I haven’t actually finished this, but it doesn’t even matter. I think he has a very good sense of humor about himself, and I can’t put it down when I get invested. I stopped reading this about halfway through a few years ago because of depression-stuff but I’m looking forward to finishing it soon.
  6. Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson—-"Or maybe that wasn’t the time it snowed. Maybe it was the time we slept in the truck and I rolled over on the bunnies and flattened them. It doesn’t matter. What’s important for me to remember now is that early the next morning the snow was melted off the windshield and the daylight woke me up. A mist covered everything, and with the sunshine, was beginning to grow sharp and strange. The bunnies weren’t a problem yet, or they’d already been a problem and were already forgotten, and there was nothing on my mind. I felt the beauty of the morning. I could understand how a drowning man might suddenly feel a deep thirst being quenched. Or how the slave might become a friend to his master."
  7. Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger
  8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  9. Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris—engaging, entertaining, informative, well-researched, well-written look at the 1967 Oscar race for Best Picture. I cannot speak of this highly enough. Seriously a must-read.
  10. When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris—Up until this book I was very up-to-date with Sedaris releases, but then this one came out and the reviews were not especially favorable and I put this one off for a few years… so it surprised me when I finally read it and this one became my favorite.

I would tag ten people but I don’t want to bother anyone with a sense of obligation, to be honest, so complete this if it interests you… but know that I just like to know what other people have read and loved.

Tags: meme 3a
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