Monday, November 12, 2018

Making Excuses

The die was cast with Adam and Eve.  Kicked out of paradise and she took all the blame.  She had to.  Safety was the coin of the realm, and the outies had that market cornered.  The innies had to suck it up.  Play along.  Until the innies screamed that they'd had enough of that world, and blew it the hell up.  -  Plum Kettle

She says no.  He says yes.  She says no.  He says yes.

               It happens so fast, so easily you almost miss it.

                              A no ignored, a sexual assault.  Over in seconds.  

                                             Afterwards, he asks her if she wants to sleep over.

There was a warning at the beginning of Rad Fatties, the 8th episode of Dietland.  So I knew at some point in the episode it would come.  Somehow, the thing that burrowed deep during that scene wasn't the rape itself.  It was the complete matter-of-fact, mundane, quiet everydayness of the whole thing.

He pushes her, she says no, he backs off just enough to make her feel listened to.  He pushes her and I know what's going through her head.

Is she crazy?  Is this okay?  Is she being stupid?

He's telling her he likes her and the deep down longing to feel desired, worthy, even just enough is making her unsure.  He's telling her she's stunning, and how can that not feel good?

She says no, and he's telling her he's sorry, but he's not.  He's telling her it will feel good, and it does, does that mean she wants it?  She wonders if she is overreacting.

But she ISN'T.

That rock inside her stomach, that floor-dropped-out nausea telling her to run, it permeates the screen and settles inside me as I watch.

The look on her face as he takes what he wants... it's not pain.  It's not fear.  It's not shock.  It's resignation.

That thousand yard, half lidded stare says, for a moment I forgot, but now I remember.  I am an object.

The lack of obvious struggle as he tells her he loves her fat ass is a clear indicator the light of hope that this one was different has been snuffed.

The deadness in her eyes says, oh.  This again.  Because it happens again, and again, and again.

Women make excuses for the men who rape them.

All the time.

We talk ourselves down from self-righteous worthiness.  We convince ourselves that what is happening to us isn't that bad or that lots of people have experienced worse.  We bury our real, very valid feelings under a pile of things we "should have" done to prevent someone else's abhorrent behavior.

Because the alternative... it's almost unfathomable.

I didn't want to hurt his feelings.  It seemed easier just to let him do it.

The alternative is that as women, we walk in a world where the monster under the bed isn't imaginary after all, it's your date, your boyfriend, your father, your pastor, your brother, your friend.

The alternative is that we have been conditioned to believe that we owe any man a reason why we don't want to have sex with them.

It is hard to explain the emotional labor of judging every man you meet and trying to decide how likely he is to be the one who will rape you.  It happens every moment, every day.

This is not hyperbole.  This is just.... reality.

Jack was like a red flag factory, but he wanted me, you know?

We ignore our instincts, gut feelings cast aside by hundreds of years of programming telling us that we are meant to be grateful to be the object of a man's desire.  If you are fat, you can add the extra pressure of years of being told no one will ever want you, that the idea of someone desiring you at all is a joke.

How is to possible that we can simultaneously be so used to something that it doesn't surprise us, yet unwilling to share what happened because speaking it aloud shrouds us in a shame so heavy it might suffocate us?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

In Darkness

My return trip from Orcas Island was supposed to be in the light of day.

I would drive the winding island roads, wind in my hair and peace in my heart.

I would reach up to my chest to feel the cool metal of the key where it rested.

I would pull over to take pictures of sheep in the fields, and the sun would be warm on my skin.

I would arrive at the ferry and wander down to the little shop to buy some trinket or treat for my children.

I would stand on the bow of the ferry, my ears and nose growing cold in the boat-wind, and look for elusive whales and admire cormorants on the pilings.

But more often than not, it seems would and supposed to are pipe dreams.

Instead I find myself gliding in darkness through the curves and turns of the island, my body electric with the panic of something wrong.

I huddle in my car, first in line at the ferry, in too much pain and feeling too much desperation to be sad yet about missing the final morning, the breakfast, the plunge, the goodbyes.

I manage to fall asleep on the ferry ride, relief comes finally, and though I momentarily wonder if I could have stayed, I know I made the right decision.

I go to the doctor the next day, and though they tell me that my urine sample is "rock solid," four days later the results come back as an infection from the lab, and I am relieved to know that I was right the entire time, not crazy, and not unjustified in my return home in darkness.

It's been five weeks since that unexpected journey, and I'm finally coming back into myself.  My time in that sanctuary of my soul ended so abruptly, I don't feel like I've been able to process it or dive back into the thoughts and writing and experiences I had there.

I've barely written since I got back.  October was a blur of the infection that cut my time short and recovery from surgery, then having my period for the first time in four months.  I missed the ease back into reality from the beauty and magic of Doe Bay, I missed the building of paths in my brain forming and re-wiring and inspiration crashing over me like waves.

It seems like I'd feel sad about it, but there was no other way for things to be.  So instead of sadness, I just feel sort of numb and... annoyed, I suppose.

I want to change it.  I want to figure out a way to capture the inspiration, the fullness my soul felt before my thoughts fell apart and all I could think of was home.  It's down to this: I think about writing more than I write.  I feel and then I think "I should write about this" and I think of the things I might write, but by the time I sit down to actually do it, the moment has passed, or worse yet, I just never sit down to do it.

So, here I am on a Saturday night, in between things on my to-do list, hot cinnamon-tea in my cup, carving out the time.  An hour here, forty-five minutes there.  Intention.  I set it here, glancing out the tall glass windows, and tonight, in darkness, I begin.




Tuesday, November 6, 2018

November 6

I feel numb and torn apart all at once.

I see the Facebook statuses, the emails from everywhere - the place I volunteer, the school district, even Tinder, a reminder on Google's homepage.  Go vote, I voted, please vote, it's election day, instructions for how and where to vote, reminders to return ballots, instructions on what to do if you are turned away at the polls.

I looked yesterday at some numbers, and unbelievably, this might all be closer than we thought.  I have never cared so much about a midterm election.  I have never paid so much attention.  I have never had so much hope and fear about how things would turn out at the end of the halfway point of a presidency I never, ever thought could last this long.

Often on Monday or Tuesday morning, I listen to the main segment from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on my way to work.  Night before last, with the midterms imminent, Oliver decided to deliver a reminder of one of the most abhorrent policies that's been put in place in my lifetime - family separation.  If you're feeling brave or need a reminder of how vile a situation it was is, you can read about/watch the segment.

I was doing okay until Oliver highlighted a documentary (The Separated) that highlights the damage and trauma caused to kids by this cruel, unnecessary legacy of Trump.  I watch Jenri, a 5-year-old from Honduras, cry to his mother about how he wants to go back to the jail and how she doesn't love him anymore.

And. I. Am. Undone.

It's not just a week, just a month, of separation.  It's a lifetime of trauma, recovery, broken trust, emotional wreckage.  Done by OUR GOVERNMENT.

An hour later I sit at my desk, my eyes brimming with tears, my heart raw and wide open.

I don't know how to shake it.  I don't think I should, either.  This is important, this is an example of who we are becoming.  It's not who I am, but it's all around me and I don't know how to make it stop.

I sent in my ballot weeks ago, I voted.  But it doesn't feel like enough.  It feels like our country is in an abusive relationship, and I know that the damage and trauma caused by this presidency will be years, maybe decades, in the undoing.  The scars will be deep and they'll never completely go away.

I don't know how I'm going to work today.  I feel like I could sit here and write for hours and still never capture the brokenness of all of this.  All the feelings from that November two years ago, the disbelief, the disappointment, the full, heart-exploding grief, it's bubbling and returning.

Here we are.  I pray, I weep, I hope with all that is in me that today, something will change.

November 6.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Home

Art by Rissa KayDee
Almost always, I slip beneath the covers first, pulling the blankets up high under my chin and letting my tired body sink into the pillowy mattress.

When he slips in beside me, I turn to him, and every night it is the same.

His arm lifts, an invitation.

I slide in close, that place that exists between shoulder and chest is my pillow.

His skin is warm under my arm.  He brushes my hair back, his hand gentle on my head, and his beard brushes and tickles my skin.

I close my eyes in the dark and sink into the rise and fall of his chest.

The world fades away as my breaths fall into a deep and even rhythm.

Words exist, but they are not enough.  His breath is soft comfort.  His heartbeat is my anchor.

His arm tightens around me, and I am safe, not just tonight, but into the stars and dreams and places where forever is real.

Sometimes I wake in the night and we are apart, but I don't remember moving.  Sometimes I turn over and he sleepily moves in behind me, his arm pulling my back against him.

He is warm.  I am home.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Tendrils

Words teeter on the edges of my mind, thoughts plump and wavering, waiting to drop in tandem with the tears on the edges of my lashes.

The world goes quiet.  Smoke in the air has created a strange, unsettling day, and when I walk I'm sure I'm moving slower than I usually do. 

Some days I wonder, is this just what happens when you get older?  It isn't a surprise, the spreading cancers.  It's no longer a question of how or how surprising, but a question of who now and how long until.  These are the times when your soul screams at you, do something, but there is nothing to be done.  The unimaginible manifests, and we stop wondering how we can survive it because there is no longer any choice. 

I don't know her but I've known her for years.  Through these words she weaves, beauty and poetry and inspiration and camaraderie, raw and vulnerable, she has shared herself with the world.  In her sureness and unsureness, she has given so many people hope and made us feel less alone.  

Before I knew in my heart of hearts that my own story, narrative and memoir, was the spine that holds me up in this world, I knew her words touched me for reasons I couldn't fully understand.  She has captured the magic of connecting through experience, a magic I now see sparks of in my fingertips and am learning to nurture.

Ten years ago, I met her, the only time we've ever been in the same room, maybe the only time we've ever been in the same city.  She was the first blogger I knew who wrote a book, and it was beautiful.  She showed me that this weird but heartfelt virtual place IS for real writers.  Rockabye sits on my shelf still, her signature scrawled inside the cover.  So much has happened in those years.  

Her family is like a fairy tale, magical, and full of so much love I can feel it states away.  She is the kind of parent creating the children we will be thankful for when they are the ones in charge.  I think things will be better then.

My heart is made of vines.  Some of them grow and encompass those closest to me, but in this digital world some tendrils have shifted and blinked and become virtual, ends opening in faraway places to people I somehow love without physical connection.  I think giving away pieces of my heart is part of how I experience my humanity.  

Her words are poetry and beauty, they are raw and unwavering, her own vines are reaching and spreading into so many hearts and they come into me, touching me in that longing, black hole part of my soul where the desperate love and sorrow live side by side.

My star stuff is a glitter and dirt mix of empathy and longing and love and strength, black dust of the times when it was dark, specks of light from the future I'm building, and a spattering of loss that rises and falls within like oil in water.

I love them and my heart aches for them, these faces that seem so familiar of children I have never met, these hearts dear to the hearts that are dear to me, these mothers, these sisters, these lovers.  My words are my gift, my soul, they are all I have, so I write.  I pour myself like hot wax and they leave their impression, and I know I am not the only one forever changed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Trying to Begin

It has been almost seven years since the summer that I lost myself.  I find it hard to keep track of the years now, when I think about the darkness, then the roller coaster of trying and separating and something in between.  One summer of despair, one of moving forward then stepping back, one lost to medication as I floated on a foggy sea of excess spinal fluid.

I have been trying to begin.

I know that I have a story to tell, I have so many stories to tell.  Even turning the word over in my mouth, memoir, it speaks to me, it feels heavy and weighty and like it will nourish me.  I try to find a starting point, but it feels like so much, then I am stuck, stagnating in the too-muchness of it all.  My ideas swarm, alighting on my mind then slipping into the ether, feelings and fragments of sentences left to ruminate then forget.

Sometimes, I still dream about us. In my dreams we seem to be living together or moving in together, but even as we arrange furniture and cook dinner I have these nagging thoughts that I thought I had already left this behind. Remnants of that in-between time stuck somewhere in the recesses of my memory work their way into my sleep, and I wake unsettled and unrested.

Parts of the story I have to piece together from emails and journal entries, like painting the negative space instead of the object.  No one remembers every moment in their life. No one remembers everything that’s ever happened to them. But not remembering good times feels different than not remembering bad ones.

What happened?  In those last few years between the pregnancy and birth of my second baby and the ending of all I knew, there is a well brimming with lost time.  I have gathered testimony in a file nearly 120 pages long, emails I wrote him, emails I wrote my family, Facebook posts, journal entries.  My eyes scan, and I volley between memories that evoke a sick panicked feeling and the blankness of a total lack of recognition.

My brain doesn't remember, but my body and soul do.  I read the words and I can feel them, my stomach turns, I feel like prey being hunted by a predator made up of fear and self doubt and hopelessness.  I know these moment happened.  They fit with the narrative, with the other moments I remember.

I am not sure if this is true disassociation, or something else.  It's hard for me to read about the things that happened.  There is a part of me that finds it entirely unbelievable that things were so bad, that I allowed them to get so bad.  How could I have lost myself?  Despite knowing that it can happen to anybody, I still find it unbelievable that it happened to ME.

I have words, but they surge inside me like animals in migration, moving and shifting and driven.  They come out in fits and bursts, blog posts, three pages of handwritten musing at a women's retreat, thoughts in the shower that come and disappear before I'm dressed.  How do I tame them?

I am trying to begin.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Revolution, Revelation: Living in Dietland

This weekend, I met Plum Kettle.  With some time to myself, I decided to try out Dietland.  I devoured the first 8 episodes like I would devour Plum's chocolate layer cake were it in front of me right now.

Plum's experiences and feelings hit incredibly close to home.  The heart and soul connection to Plum was almost immediate.  How could I take my eyes off a character I can identify so strongly with?  Finally, she is here.

Finally, a show about being fat that isn't about either using size as comedic relief or a plot device centered around weight loss.

Finally, a woman I can root for, really root for, because there is so much about her that is me.

Finally, a woman who decides to break the mold instead of shrinking to conform to it, a woman who is real and who is learning to be unapologetic about existing.

Plum on the bed in the throes of her withdrawal from antidepressants rolls over and her shirt rides up, exposing the soft skin of her stomach.  It is a revelation.  Such a small thing, but so overwhelming, to see skin like mine, there as part of the full scene, a moment, just a piece, not exploited, not for humor, not to shock, just a matter of friction and movement but so unheard of on TV.  Or anywhere.

I am fat.  I won't apologize for using that word, even if it makes some people uncomfortable.  Fat is not a bad word.  It's a description.  It is not the antithesis of beautiful or of healthy or of worthy.
Plum: I don't want to be a glamazon. I just want to get on an airplane and not have to apologize to the person I sit next to. I want to go to a bar and get hit on by some bald guy, and I want us to argue whether said bald guy is actually into me or whether he just wants to get laid.
Steven: I know.
Plum: You don't, Steven! You can't! Going off Y, I got my feelings back, and it made me remember why I wanted 'em gone.
This is my life too.  Talking to people who try to understand is like walking into a glass pane and expecting to go through it, the way seems clear but you are unable to proceed.  You may sympathize, or even empathize, but the feeling of sitting at my desk listening to coworkers half my size talk about how they want to lose weight just to be more fit, not for looks and about which diets work and the "science" behind them is one I cannot explain to you.  The feeling of friends 100 or 150 pounds lighter complaining about being fat or their pants not fitting is dehumanization.  It is confirmation that I am outside the circle of normal.  I am not a part of this conversation.  The world tells me that I should not exist this way, that I am what acceptable people are afraid of, the worst fate they can imagine.
Everyday I walk around in this skin people look at me like I have the plague. They act like I'm a stain. They stare and laugh and yell, and worst of all, they tell me I have such pretty face and then they lecture me on how I can fix my body because how I am is wrong. - Plum
When someone doesn't like something I've done, they don't just call me a bitch.  I am a FAT bitch.  When I deny a man's advances, he decides I am an ugly cow, no one would want to fuck me anyway and I will die fat and alone.  The words curl, smoke, and stink of disgust and vitriol, they hate what I am, they hate the body I walk in every day.  How do you survive in a world that bombards you with that, and not start to hate yourself even just a little bit?

In the museum of my life, there is an entire wing made up of paintings and moving pictures of my wrongness, the snippets are burned in my memory for always.

This frame holds the moment I first asked for a seatbelt extender on an airplane.

This screen replays the exasperated defeat and disappointment in finding that the "plus" department only reaches size 24.

This photo captures me sitting alone, knowing that my blind date showed up and left because they did not like what they saw.

On this wall, a photomosaic of the faces of the men who've liked me because I was fat, not in spite of it, the BBW fetishists who mask objectification in a paper thin layer of desire.  The man who rubbed himself on my belly fat before I knew what was happening, and to whom I was too shocked and ashamed to object.  The one who disappointedly says "you've lost weight" when I get naked, even though I haven't.

On this screen, I walk in to the eye doctor I visit annually for a checkup, as I have been doing for 30 years.  I got my first pair of glasses in 6th grade, then later contacts.  I had Lasik when I was 25 or 26 and still have 20/20 vision.  Five years ago, I was diagnosed with a condition that affected my vision and optic nerves.  I have been asymptomatic for several years now, the condition has resolved.

And yet.

He tells me to lose weight.

The heat creeps over my skin, the neon sign in my brain flashing "evidence based care???" so brightly I'm surprised he can't see it and explain himself.

He has me come back a month later for a visual field test and an OCT.  When he walks into the room, he makes a pleased-sounding comment about how I'm losing weight.

(I'm not.)

Everything looks good.  Normal, even. But at the end of the appointment, he tells me to lose weight.

Despite the fact that he is an optometrist, and not my general practitioner.

Despite the fact that I do not show any symptoms of the one condition I've ever had that it would be appropriate for him to comment on.

Despite the fact that when I was at the height of my illness, I DID lose weight, on an awful, miserable meal replacement plan, and it didn't affect or improve my condition in any way.

Despite the fact that for all intents and purposes, I appear to be completely in remission.

Despite the fact that I am a 37 year old adult woman, and surely he cannot think he is the FIRST PERSON IN THE WORLD to remind me that I am fat and that's not okay with people.

Because it's "really important."

To whom?

To him?  Is this not my own body?  Does it matter what I want, how I feel, whether there is any evidence that losing weight would make me less likely to have too much spinal fluid once again?

To the world at large?  Because I am offensive?  Because if you are fat and sick, you must be sick because you are fat, and if you are fat and not sick, it's just a matter of time?

Instead of saying any of this, I nod my head in compliance, my nerves burning hot under my skin as I walk out the door.

This is one day.  This is one image in the museum.  This is bullshit, and these are the moments I choose to leave this wing whenever I can.  Like Plum, my self-doubt has largely turned to anger.

Plum:  I hate being like this.
Verena:  What if it’s not you that’s the problem?  What if it’s everybody else that needs to change? What if it’s not you that’s wrong, it’s them?

The path I walk is not the path of least resistance, there are switchbacks and there are snares.  I surround myself with people who are like me, and we grow and learn together, they inspire me little by little to believe that I am worth more.  I try to believe in myself, and some days I can do it.

Other days, I look around me, and all I see is Dietland.