Perfectly Imperfect

Nothing in nature blooms all year. Be patient with yourself. ~ Anonymous (I think.)

Yesterday, I shared with a group of people that I struggled with being a perfectionist. That I was really damned hard on myself when I didn’t live up to my unreasonable expectations. That this second year of sobering up was so different from the first year—so less about white knuckling through cravings and so much more about the emotional muscle training needed to beef up coping skills that perhaps I never had in the first place. I shared that when someone tells me that “I am exactly where I need to be” I want to spit and cry. Dramatic as it may seem, I don’t want to die before becoming the person that I am meant to become.

Whoa, Nelly!

That is crazy thinking. If it is my time to go, today or many days from today, aren’t I already then the person that I am meant to become? Why this fear and loathing? Acceptance, young Jedi.

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Any Day Now…

It’s funny– not ha-ha funny– how fast inspiration can wane. How quickly the grind of life can sweep you up and pull you off track. How, perhaps, priorities shift from grand master plans to socializing and getting the laundry done. It seems that I get these colossal ideas, these moments or even days of what seems like clarity about the path I need to take, only to slip back into the mundane. The stuck even. But, I suppose that they say if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Still, we must have a vision, right?

So, several weeks ago, I was visiting some friends in DC and wrote the following:

For the past three days, I have been visiting some friends in DC that I haven’t seen in over ten years. For this couple, it has been a few moves, a few jobs, and four beautiful children later. For me, it has been a few moves, one job, one child, a divorce, and a difficult journey to sobering up. I am always amazed with those friendships that you can just pick right back up. Those people that have touched your life but you have fallen out of regular contact with, and after all those years and all of that silence, somehow still love you. And, you them.

I am also amazed at those people who seem to have lived a normal, fulfilling– perhaps sometimes challenging, perhaps sometimes stressful– healthy life. This couple has, for all intents and purposes, lived that very life. The bumps seem to have been those standard variety bumps, and the triumphs seem to have left the bumps in their dust. So, after an evening in which they asked questions about my last ten years (the last time they saw me was at my 2005 wedding), and I had tried to succinctly explain a decade’s worth of joys and hurdles in addition to my current dilemmas, I woke up the next morning with the sense that I am completely abnormal.

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Paths and Obstacles: A Journey Out of Inherent Misery

It wasn’t long ago, only a few years, not even, that I was a woman who bounced from crisis to crisis. I would come up against an obstacle or some sense of pain and instead of trying to come up with a solution or even manage my feelings, I would, in fact, create more pain. A poor choice would lead to another poor choice until my life basically consisted of an ugly, nauseating string of poor choices.

I remember, quite a few years ago when my marriage was falling apart, a friend telling my then husband that I was inherently miserable. When I confronted this friend, she didn’t deny saying it. In fact, she made it known that she believed that I was responsible for all of my misery. I was hurt. I was livid. She had no understanding whatsoever about what I was dealing with, who I was dealing with, what was being done to me! How dare she?!? The comments drastically changed the shape of our friendship, and I held a deep resentment for quite some time.

Until, of course, I realized that she was right.

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From Dunham to Kerouac to Love

I’ve been compared to Lena Dunham of the HBO show Girls fame on more than one occasion. “She’s cute,” they say. “She’s funny and clever,” they say. “She’s a writer.”

Yes, yes, keep it coming!

Yet, inevitably, the subject of her body must also be addressed. “She is so comfortable getting naked even though she doesn’t have a nice body.”

I imagine that Ms. Dunham gets as annoyed as I do at the repetitiveness of the commentary about her figure. Yes, it is, or at least has been, unusual for women with “imperfect” bodies to appear fully undressed on the screen, but why is it a constant focal point? And, why the need to point that out to me? I know that I have an imperfect body. I know that I am overweight. And, while that doesn’t exactly bother me, the comparison seems redundant.

And, I actually think that Lena Dunham has a great body. While by Hollywood standards she may be considered fat, she’s not, in my opinion, unhealthy looking and she is certainly not misshapen. Though maybe I am looking at her through a warped 21st Century American lens. Maybe I should be critical. Maybe it is as my son’s pediatrician stated “That’s what’s wrong with our society– overweight people look normal.”

As with so many patterns in my life, I can actually pinpoint a moment, or rather a brief personal era, that sent me in the direction of an insalubrious fall off of the healthy wagon that I was joyriding on. Twelve years ago—and I hate to admit that it was twelve—I was a vegetarian and an avid exerciser. I didn’t eat sugar save the occasional treat, and I baked all my own bread. Eating out was a rare luxury, and the mountains that I reside in served as my playground. Sure, I was drinking at least two bottles of wine a day, but who’s counting?

Yes, I was, if I dare say it, seventy pounds lighter. I like to think that I carry that extra fourteen bags of sugar with style, but I still feel the personal and physical repercussions of the fact that I gained the same amount of weight that my son has gained in his eight years of existence. Oddly though, and I have mentioned this before, I carry myself with more confidence at a size eighteen than I did at a size twelve.

So, and forgive my seeming excuse making, I, with all my energy and youthful ambition, decided to both go back to school (at one point taking nineteen credit hours) and to work two jobs. My boyfriend at the time co-owned an Italian restaurant and, though I originally criticized the abundance of fats in their menu selection, eggplant parmesan and garlic rolls slowly became my staple. I no longer had the time to bake my own bread, and the first thirty pounds settled on my thighs and hips rather quickly. Then, of course, came a child. (Though I did not gain my weight due to pregnancy, but due to a severe depression thereafter.) And, here I am, yet to slim down.

I believe that if I did it once, I could do it again. But, and here is a throwback to my last post, maybe it isn’t a priority at the moment. When I scarf down a tubful of carbs, I rarely have guilt, and if I do, I just remind myself that Lena Dunham is pretty darn hip and so, dare I say, am I!

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Natural Born Hater

And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate… ~ Taylor Swift

A few minutes ago, I walked into my kitchen and imploded a bit. My shoulders hunched, I cupped my hands over my face, and I let out a hefty sigh.

I just cleaned this shit!

(In all honesty, a friend just helped me clean this shit which makes the vile reality of my messiness even more difficult to bear.)

I am exhausted. After a day at a job that is stressful yet no longer fulfilling, between an hour of driving, an hour of my son’s martial arts class, and an hour of homework, I fixed dinner tonight. I have a small galley kitchen that looks “lived in” with even a few dirty dishes strewn about. And, by “lived in,” I mean lived in by trolls who can’t seem to distinguish the difference between a corner and a toilet.

Cue the familiar paralyzing overwhelm and that ever-ready inner critic who is always eager to dub me a complete loser.

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Good Bye For Now…

Do not start writing at midnight, I tell myself. Don’t do it. Don’t. I can rarely leave a post unfinished once I start. That will mean a 2AM bedtime. So, yeah, don’t do it. But, I fear that I must.

I have, like I imagine many writers do, a process. I vacillate between handwriting with a certain type of pen that leaves a certain type of ink in a large, line free, hard cover, thick paged sketch book and typing on my cheap laptop. I usually start by jotting down ideas and lines and paragraphs in the sketchbook and then type my more cohesive draft on the computer. As I write, I refer to the sketchbook, jot down more ideas, continue typing and then every few paragraphs I reread—silently or out loud to myself—my work. I then become inspired to write more and/or adjust accordingly.

I only say all of this because I am on the last page of a 200+ page sketchbook that I started writing in on September 2, 2013.

It is fitting that it should be the last page in this notebook because this might also be the last page that I publish on Life Unfurling for a while.

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A Still Small Voice

And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still small voice. ~ 1 Kings 19: 11-13

I have never started off any post, okay any piece of writing, with a Bible verse. Because it is new territory and seemingly uncharacteristic, I feel the need to explain myself, to justify, to flesh out my own vision and relationship with God. I am acutely aware that my concept of God may not be your concept of God. Yet, I like this verse and I don’t know that we need to be on the same page (though we might be) for me to reflect on it.

I should say, however, that all of my life I have struggled with the concept of a higher power. I struggled with dogma and religion and all the existential questions that believing in a higher power might bring. Without any spiritual foundation on which to balance on my wobbly, ignorant human legs, I made intellect and self-will my higher power. And, eventually, I made intoxication my higher power as well.

I guess, for a while, this reliance on my brainpower and my complete obstinacy seemed to work. For a while. Yet, I hit a point in which I realized that my high IQ and my stubborn conceit weren’t serving me, weren’t saving me. I hit a point in which I had to reach out to something greater than myself—be it community, be it the Universe, be it God.

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The Thanksgiving Deal: a Disjointed Post about Doing What I Love

It’s Thanksgiving Day and I woke up this morning and gave God a little shout out thanking him for all of my blessings. I try to do that most mornings—wake up with gratitude. But, it is much easier to practice thanksgiving when you wake up on your own time clock, when it’s quiet, when it’s a holiday, when you are sporting your most comfortable ugly pajamas, and when you have a 42 oz. bag of peanut M&Ms downstairs. Okay, the M&Ms aren’t really that critical to the thanks.

I started a post last night at 9:30PM and wrote until about 2:15AM with little pause. The first three paragraphs flowed out in about half an hour. The rest of the time, I typed then deleted, copied then pasted, then unpasted, then cut, then retyped words I had deleted, then stared, then drummed my fingers loudly and forcefully on the lap of my laptop. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant process, but I cannot complain. No. I am extremely grateful to be in a space and a position in which writer’s block and obsessive self-editing is an actual frustration. I am so terribly privileged.

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The Richness of Solitude

Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self. ~ May Sarton

It is just past midnight and I am sitting alone in the silence of my apartment sipping decaf chai and listening to the clock tick. I am wholly content.

It wasn’t long ago that a moment like this, let alone an hour, never mind an evening, would find me desperate and restless. The pit of my belly would swell with this intense sense of longing and I would feel a dull anxiety creeping through my body. I had no idea what to do with these feelings and it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend long periods of time sitting on the couch, phone in lap, staring at the wall and hoping someone would contact me.

This may sound pathetic and I do not care. It was just my way of pushing through another swell of loneliness, or more accurately, of stark emptiness.

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Vulnerability Hangover

I just spent a few moments looking for quotes about vulnerability that might speak to what I am feeling and have been feeling as of late. No such luck. I knew I would bump into the positivity of some Brene Brown, but I also hoped that I might find something that described the utter fear, insecurity, and disconnect that I have been stewing in for the last four days. Nope. I found quotes about courage and love and intimacy and catharsis. I even found a page dedicated to inspirational quotes by my seemingly constant companion, the late drunkard and writer, Charles Bukowski. Really? Really? I call bull shit.

You see, on Saturday I told my story—my life story!—to a small group of women. In a very honest but abbreviated way, I started from the beginning and shed a brief light on the past thirty-eight years. I focused both on healing and on pain. And, I felt great. Well, thought I felt great. Until my neck, shoulders, and jaw started to ache. Until I started feeling all second-guessy and insecure. Until I got depressed.

Mapping out the particulars of my personal Lifetime movie might not have been the only catalyst for this trip to the ledge. I have also been doing some work that requires me to face ugly truths about myself, and I have been triggered by some situations and little loving criticisms that have brought those truths to light. I could go on and on about my inability to communicate my needs and about my selfishness and self-centeredness and my constant state of denial. But, it probably isn’t necessary. You get the point.

As a writer and a frequent flyer at the therapist’s office, I didn’t think vulnerability would get to me. I feel like I often lay it all out on the line. I generally think that I am open and honest and raw. But, for some reason, this time is different. Scary different. I want to weld shut the hinges on my clam shell and hide in the dark with my long black tongue. I want to keep my mouth forever closed.

This, my friends, is (as my therapist refers to it) a vulnerability hangover.

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