Thursday, April 23, 2015

Use Somebody

As I was driving down the highway at a brisk 85 around 10 o'clock I was composing this blog post in my head...And yet, I've no idea how to start it.

Well, here it goes anyway.

I am not extroverted at all. In spite of my two extremely extroverted parents, I've somehow always managed to squirrel most of me away from interested eyes, merely mimicking the characteristics of an extrovert. Mysterious. Elitist. Enigmatic. I've been called many things, and in spite of how often I tell the truth nobody seems to believe me. The truth is, I'm just afraid, or rather, I've spent most of my life being afraid. But being afraid is ennui; nothing good happens when you live by fear, but nothing bad happens either. At a certain point, you get so tired of staying still you feel you're going to scream; you're waiting for anything, anything to happen.

But sometimes you gotta make it happen for yourself. And that's sort of where I am now.

It's no surprise to y'all I'm lonesome; I tell you all the time. And even when I don't, it's like two locked hands in my throat, keeping me from saying my truth, even if I don't speak it, doesn't make it less real. Speaking it into existence, to me, has always been a show of weakness and self-centered thinking; nobody owes me their company, nobody owes me their time. But what if I could give someone a little of mine? What if I could give a little of the fear, a little of the mess of me to someone else in exchange for some of theirs?

That's where friends come in. I don't have very many. In fact, my parents round out my top five. I know it's not about quantity, but quality, and I've hit the jackpot when it comes to the people I surround myself with. They're loyal, and kind. They let me be myself, whether I'm mournful or jovial, whether I lash out or pull everything in. Lastly, they're a reflection of myself, or rather, the kind of friend I've been to them, which is dope to think about.

So it happens that I work in a place full of people (le gasp!), and hadn't talked to too many people at all about myself. In fact, very few people their even know who I am; I'm a wraith, a passing figure who holds open doors or elevators, who makes a quick joke and disappears. Or I was. Lately, tentatively, I've been reaching out, revealing little tidbits of me here and there.

And see, there's a guy that works with me. And before you go there, I know; for me there seems to always be a guy and isn't that the kind of thing I'm trying to get out of and yada yada. Shut up. Hear me out.

The guy has been there this whole time I've been at this job. Not pushy, or super duper Stepford friendly, but not stand-offish or cold. We traded a few jokes and interests back and forth, offered music and food suggestions and kept it moving. Until recently. The side effect of my new confidence, I think, is giving my shy self a push. Coaxing my damned self to take a risk here or there, to do something different, to try to be somebody different.

I made up my mind to be his friend, or at least to try. He's sort of really cool; he does things that I wish I was doing, like going to concerts and making his mind up on a dime to go out of his comfort zone. He's got kind eyes and a laugh that draws you in. He's got the kind of voice that makes me feel like I could tell him anything and nothing and whatever I say would be cool, that it'd all be safe. And most important, my mind that's usually super quick to "ship" shit and spin every little thing into a "maybe..."is just not doing it; dude is super cute, kind of bordering on hot I'd say, but it's never at the fore of my mind. Thankfully, I am not stressin or obsessin. The short of it is, he's somebody good, the kind of good you can just tell, and the fact I'm not actively trying to sleep with him is great. Is that what maturity is supposed to be?

It's not like he's getting the short end of the deal either. Once you get to know me, I do my damndest to make sure I'm one of the best people you ever met. Secrets stay secrets with me (because who do I have to tell for one, and for two...who tells secrets? Are unspoken promises not even like, "things" anymore?), and I'm there for my people even if it kills me. Plus, atop the myriad of great things about me, I'm funny as shit.

Filling a void, using somebody, isn't the worst thing a person can do. I've learned the worst thing somebody can do is not try to spread the good in themselves around (and no, that's not a euphemism). The worst thing somebody can do is deprive themselves of something they need because of how it makes them look or seem. The worst somebody can do is not attempt.

Is the guy my next best friend? I dunno. That's gonna be the fun of it. And if he is, I'll be grateful. If not, it's not the end of the world; it's like that old adage about seasons and leaves on trees or something - some folks ain't meant to stay. You can hope, you can try to keep em, but if they're not meant for you, they just aren't.

Doesn't mean I won't enjoy wherever the ride goes, though.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Amy

On a mild day, four or five years ago, I was hanging out with a friend in another friend's truck bed. We were talking music, as he and I often had, and watching clouds drift across one of the bluest skies I remember seeing. Somehow in the conversation, he'd made the assertion that I was like Adele, and best friend W was like Amy Winehouse; we both came from the same place, both had a certain strength, and were pretty much foreign to the folks where we were at the time.

When bringing it up to W, it's more than obvious to her and I both; she's Adele, I'm Amy.

There's a sweet mournfulness about Amy that resonates deeply with me. She's the tragic romantic, the honest and raw antithesis to what a "lady" should be, while encompassing all of a lady's vulnerability, softness and elegance. She's no role model, but admittedly as far as role models go you could do worse. She's broken and whole, she's happy and sad, she's full and empty; she's me.

Even in my happiness, even in my joy, there is still the sadness. I don't know how to explain it to friends without feeling like a whiner, or like I'll be lectured on "living my best life" and being "a strong, independent woman who don't need no man" and other such bullshit. Because yes, it's true. I AM a strong, independent yada yada, and yes I AM attempting to live my best life today and shit, but at the same time, I'm a lover without someone to love, or without someone who'll love her back the same. Nothing anybody can say can fix that.

And so, I drink down the stress and the loneliness. I line the wine bottles up next to my bedroom door, labels front facing, as a reminder of sorts of my problem, but not as an indicator of when or if I should stop. I write poems and journal entries, I sing her songs and think about my life and where I am, about how fucking happy I am. About how fucking beautiful I feel. And about how God damn lonely I am most days.

If nobody else gets me, Amy gets me. Her songs, be they jazzy and uptempo, or cheeky and sampling hip-hop, are a mirror into what or who I am. Please, no "Rehab" jokes.

I think the quintessence of the parallels I draw come to a head with "Wake Up Alone." Sorrowful and stripped down, she sings about trying to focus on being happy, on being above her drinking, her obsessive thinking, her loneliness. She sings about waiting for her him to come and he does (or they do) and yet she still wakes up alone every day, wishing he (or they) would love her as she wants to love them. Like, shit...if that's not me I couldn't write a better song for myself.

But, and here's the most beautiful, and in my opinion the worst part of it all; above all, she is hopeful. Just because she's waking up alone now, doesn't mean she always will. Just because she doesn't feel loved and completely whole now, doesn't mean she never will. Sure, she may not say so, but the warmth with which she sings, the smile you can hear in her voice, let's you know it's not all over for her, not by a long shot.

Or maybe that's just me.

Xo

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Shameful Confession: One Direction

Shameful confession time - I am a rabid Zayn Malik fan which by proxy makes me a rabid One Direction fan. It happened accidentally; after finding out he left the band and seeing all the hysteria surrounding it I wondered what all the fuss was about. All I knew of the band at that point was that they made infectious pop that teen girls everywhere adored and that they were a few dudes led by a dude named Harry.

Needless to say, I get what the fuss was about now. Not only was Zayn, in my humble opinion, the most handsome (like, Oh my God) but he has a great voice suited more for R&B I think that the dizzying pop the group is known for. Hopefully, he continues on solo because a voice like his is interesting enough to want to take heed to; plus, since Craig David, when have we had an ethnic UK crooner hit the US charts? Just sayin...

Fan-girling aside, their music taps into the part of me that is, above all things, optimistic and happy. After a long day, I may drive home from work, windows down playing "Clouds" and dreaming of the day I keep driving past all my troubles, past all my doubts, into a new city, a new life, a new me. I may play "What Makes You Beautiful" while getting ready for a date or when I'm having a quick elevator dance party (what? I'm not the only one who does those, right?).

I don't remember a time in my life where I've felt as confident and as happy as I do now. And it's not anything really specific that's caused it. I'm (finally) off the mood stabilizing meds, which for a time was a hard adjustment to make. I'm at a relatively new job that I do exceedingly well at. But I think what's happened is I decided to be happy.

How odd is that? That you can decide how you'll feel about something? For so long I thought I needed something, an unattainable X factor to make me feel happy. I felt like I needed something outside of myself to motivate and generate warm feelings. Truth is, I have it in me all the time to be jovial and just never tapped into it, thinking that the deeper or sadder feelings were the ones that needed my attention, the ones that needed to be "solved" in a way. But, you feel how you feel for a reason, and sometimes for no reason at all; in the instances where there's no reason at all, why not try to feel differently, think differently? What can you gain, really, by being unhappy all the time?

That's not to say I don't have bad days, sad days, and I-just-wanna-be-mad days. I still do. But I think about why I feel the way I do, and if it's something I can change. If it is, change on. If not, why worry?

Now I know you're wondering "The hell does this have to do with One Direction?" Here's the thing; I hear them, and my inner 16 year-old self jumps up and down and squeals. Their music makes me happy. Raisinettes make me happy. Driving on the highway makes me happy. Trying new things makes me happy. Why deny myself those things? Or why put those things off?

My discovery of their music has just spurned me on, in a way, providing a soundtrack for me to chase down what makes me happy and just immersing myself in it...

Don't judge me, yo.

Xo

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Be Selfish

Yesterday I did the dumbest, bravest, most painful and wisest thing I've had to do: I said no to something I really wanted, but couldn't keep...and then proceeded to get drunk off my ass. Seriously; there was Epsom salt on my spice rack when I woke up this morning. But, the drunken blog is next - I digress.

So the story goes, a big-hearted girl with stars in her eyes finds comfort in a sweet, kind friend after admittedly the hardest year of her life. And he stays around for it all; her stress and worry, her doubts and fears, as well as her triumphs and joys and little victories. He makes her laugh when she wants to cry, he encourages her to do the best she can. He tells her she's beautiful so much, she actually starts to believe it.

Attraction builds, and is mutual, but homie doesn't want a relationship - just a little friendly fuckin. Our sweet, naive heroine believes she can do non-committed sex even though she knows (and he knows, and everybody nose) that that isn't what she needs or deserves.

Y'all know how the story ends. Hell, some of you are or have been the heroine in the same story; she succumbs to the moment and ends up hurting more than she thought possible, with nobody to blame but herself. She settles, because deep down she doesn't think she deserves more. She thinks that she asks for too much; surely if she were worth it, if she were everything the men of her past said she was, they would stay - they would want all of her, not just pieces. If she were worth anything, they'd be with her, they'd love her the way she needs them to.

Besides, she's done it before, quite a few times. She gives all of herself, everything, to people who wouldn't and couldn't give her what she needed with the same intensity. She's naturally selfless, this heroine, and always pays the price for it, bruising and cutting up her heart with her feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing. But this guy cares about her; maybe he'd change his mind and want more. Maybe if she went through with it she would change and become the type of strong, confident brassy broad who can have sex with no expectations happily.

But she...I am not that kind of girl. I may not always feel worth it, and I may still cry my heart out some days wondering why nobody wants me. But I can't do that to myself again. I can't set myself up for that kind of fuck over. I have to look out for me, and know and respect myself enough to say what I want, and when enough is enough. I'm a chick who needs commitment. Opened and closed case.

So as shitty as I feel for backing out, and not getting what I want, I told my friend, whom I adore, that sex couldn't happen without commitment. He knows me, better than most people in fact, so he knows why, but I know he's disappointed, and I understand that. What I hope he understands is that it was hard as hell to stand up for myself in this way. I hope he knows that he's still one of my best friends on Earth. More than anything, I hope he knows that this change, this tentative assertion of my worth and confidence, wouldn't have been possible without him. And if he ever changes his mind...

Being selfish and changing the narrative is hard, but needed. If you won't and don't care for yourself enough to not willingly go into something that'll hurt you, how can you expect anyone else to care enough not to hurt you?

Am I disappointed? Have you ever returned a box of unused, pristine, damn-near-no-finger-prints-on-the-box condoms? That kinda frustration is enough to make a woman cry. But..I'm still proud. A little bruised up about it, but not as much as I would've been had I laid down some A+ Circle Swirl for so little in return. I'm not only proud, I'm glad I was able to change my story.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Inner Child Is A Little Disappointed

And I don't blame her.

Today at work, between the many ticky-typing finger strokes and mildly concerned "Mmhms" murmured into my headset I had time to consider the following:

My eight year old self is looking up at my 24 year old self and she asks me the two questions that mean the most to her at that age: are you happy? Why or why not?

How funny is it, that in the sixteen years that have lapsed between then and now how little has changed. How intriguing that those are still the same questions I ask myself at least weekly. Does that just mean I'm more in touch with that child-like part of me, or that I've never grown up? Do any of us really ever "grow up" in the sense that we have all our shit together and are fulfilled? Ah, I digress.

If posed that question by my 8 year old self, pushing her glasses up on her nose and watching my face intently, waiting for an answer....what can I tell her?

Yes and no. I don't know. Are those answers good enough for her? Are they good enough for me?

I had a very long day, ticky-typing and "Mmhmm"ing. I had a very long day of researching for primary mental care physicians, and looking into college registration and course work. I had a tiring day of looking at all I've yet to accomplish and trying to convince myself I could do it all. And that's where 8 year old me gets disappointed.

Not at the ticky-typing job. Not at the "mmhms" or the studying and copious amount of information collecting, because even back then, that was pretty much her personality too. No, she's disappointed that I don't believe in me anymore. When did that happen? I used to be able to say, confidently and with a bright, crooked smile, "I can do anything I want." Why can't I say that anymore without tears of frustration and and fear building up behind my composed front?

When posing these questions to myself, for myself, the answers I come up with are so flimsy. Well, y'know, there was working, and depression and bipolar, and more work and bills and...what the hell does any of that mean anyway? Moreover, why do I let that extraneous stuff effect my inner self so much? None of those things, the bills, the work, the stress, none of that defines who I am. Those are all things that I have to handle.

So, today, after work and family time and a little gym time, I decided to make my younger self proud. I decided that "I can do anything" is the way children think (and incredibly hard to live up to), but that "I can do this," is the way a woman thinks and can be as easy as "I can get up and go to work today," or "I can go to school for a degree" or "I can give up McDonalds...but not the fries though (because "fries" was literally my 4th word so...hell no.)."

Today, I looked inside at my younger self and answered with an honest, "Sometimes, but I am trying to make it more like 'most of the time'." And after that I danced around in my boxers to my new favorite song, petted my pet snake George, and resolved that me and younger me, no matter what, were always going to have this symbiosis. Making her happy makes me happy. So if that means dance parties after work, if that means an occasional dinner of ice cream and french fries, if that means taking better care of me and listening to myself more than I do the stresses and the extra stuff...doesn't seem like such a bad compromise.

*inserts disco ball emoji*

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Depression Hurts - Revisited and Revamped

I think the year I acknowledged something was wrong was the year I turned 18. I was working at my local chicken shack (happy as can be, mind you, because every night at ten we could take the chicken home with us), going to school, participating in chorus. I was fine, better than fine, I was happy. Until  one day I just wasn't anymore. Suddenly, I was going to school, going to work, coming home, and laying motionless in bed for hours. My participation in extra curricular activities dropped drastically. I stopped bringing home excess chicken. And I stayed in that state for maybe 8 months. (Until, like a light switch being turned on, I was "back," faster, brighter and more engaging than ever.)

My parents blamed puberty, or teen angst and rebellion for my sudden disinterest and brazen disregard for rules and during a tough time, my mom sent me to live with my dad in North Carolina. The depression resumed, but in a new setting. My room was always dark, shades drawn and lights out. My only companions were some guy on the internet who was weird but always there and a pug-nosed dog with oily smelling gas I named Nuu-Nuu (even though her name was Peachez...Yes, with a "Z."). I spent months in that dark room, putting forth lack-luster effort to learn guitar, learn chess, exercise...putting forth minimal effort to be "normal."

Then I started school. Met my best friend W. Had the best year of my life, even with all the ups and downs of new friendships, new responsibilities and doing much of the household upkeep on my own as my dad and his wife were military and not home much at all. Again, I was "back" it seemed. I was having fun. I felt alive. I felt real. And then my parents moved me again.

And the cycle started over.

And it took years from that point for me to enter therapy (after a particularly ugly nervous breakdown) and get a diagnosis.

Hey. My name's Testorshia. And I have Bipolar II disorder.

For awhile, I denied it. For all my studying of random points of interest, I had very little idea what bipolar disorder was. I had heard it used as a punchline, an excuse for a sudden change of mind or outburst, but never would have equated the symptoms to myself. Not only that, I found that my anxieties, which I thought were abnormal but expected, signaled an anxiety disorder that coincided with the bipolar. Something was wrong with me. Something was wrong with me. That's all I could think for so long; I had to be fixed. There had to be something I could do. I wanted desperately to fit in, to be "normal" and not feel like some sort of sideshow of emotions and nerves, some sort of carnival of depression and mania.

I fought it. I didn't take the medications. I didn't write the journals. I didn't do the homework my therapist gave me. I was normal, damnit. I was gonna keep on being normal. This thing wouldn't change me. I wouldn't let it.

And then, tired of fighting, I accepted it. Therapy, after I stopped being so stubborn, was a break-through. All the things I'd been telling myself for years were neither right nor wrong. I was normal. I was fine. I was also ill. And so not fine. There's a grayness in life, I learned, where you can be both and neither, some, few and all, all at the same time. Life's ambiguity, life's malleability had eluded me for so long. I had always had such strict ideas about what I should be doing, who I should be impressing, who I should love, failing to realize that those points can and most times do change except in this way: I should do what I want to do, I should impress me, I should love me.

There are some days I hate my diagnosis. Days where I feel the medication clouds my creativity, blocks off the parts of myself that are so vibrant and full of wonder, I am almost mad at myself for being ill in this way. Yet other days, I am proud of how far I've come: from that girl laying in bed thinking of lying down on a busy highway at night, to the girl sitting on her balcony in a blanket blowing bubbles at the moon. My diagnosis, my illness, for all the hell it's given me, has also given me peace and clarity. It's given me a voice, a perspective, I couldn't have dreamed would be my own, but here I am, living in it, or at least trying to, with some semblance of grace and self-sufficiency.

Here I am. All broken, and whole, all sadness and joy. Here I am, all of me.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I'm Mad at the Internet

It came to me in the tub actually. I was soaking and mellowing out to a "Night" playlist, candles lit and lights out with my favorite bubble bath crackling around me. I do my best thinking in water, and without my glasses, so all the shapes and colors and shadows blend and my mind can focus inward.

I'm mad at the internet. That's why I don't write. It's why I don't tweet as often (except Thursdays because Shonda Rhimes, obviously). It's why it's like I've disappeared from the communities that I used to draw inspiration and strength from. It's not that I have nothing to say, it's just the opposite. I've got so much to say, but I don't feel like this space is my own anymore. I feel like I'm shouting into a void of darkness with no echo, no sound returning.

It'd be easy enough to blame Tarzan. I sort of relinquished Twitter to him; we follow a lot of the same people and talk about some of the same things and it was easier for me to forget the loneliness left in his wake when I'm not constantly seeing him on my time line. The real real is that I'm mad at me.

I am still so open. I am still so tender. And I'm still so hurt. I tell myself all the time, it was just a break up, shouldn't you be done with this by now? The tender side of me responds that it was the first, it meant the most, to be told I was great, but not great enough to keep. The tender side of me knows what the logical side doesn't; it's all internalized. Mostly, I miss being in love, and sort of blame myself that I'm not anymore.

I don't miss being in love with the guy. Looking back it was...something that I'm glad happened but we're not simpatico. Even back then, I don't think we really were. I miss the clarity that being in love gave me, the fullness of heart and the cure to the loneliness that was running rampant in my spirit at the time. I miss being able to be open sexually and sensually with someone who wanted me. I miss sex (like, OH my God...) and meaningful touch... But because of the internet, I don't trust my judgement much anymore; I mean, I put it out there, got an answer and...here I am, alone again.

But back to being mad at the internet. I rationalize not writing because no one is listening, but I know that's not necessarily true. People are listening; maybe that's what I'm afraid of. The internet gave me something I felt I was missing for a long time, and then...well, I don't have that thing anymore. I am myself, in everything I do, in everything I write. I'm afraid it'll happen again; I'll be the girl in love, the girl saying all the things, and working her ass off just to end up alone.

It's irrational. I know it is. And yet...I don't allow myself the freedom of expressing myself outside of the journals I keep for myself. I don't talk about myself much at all anymore. I don't create worlds anymore. I don't shout my dreams into the void and wait for an answer. Because sometimes, you get an answer back. And sometimes the answer just leads to more confusion and more questions.

So, because of the internet, I'm back to being the girl sheltering her heart. Back to being the girl afraid to be heard. But I miss it. I miss the feeling of keys under my fingers. I miss writing it all out and looking at it; it's like an acknowledgement of myself, because this blog is attached to my name - this blog is me. Facing your truth is one of the tenets of enlightenment, isn't it? If not, it sorta should be.

XoXo