on breakups

Two years ago I wrote the following. I did not stay gone that time; I returned to that relationship. I'm not sharing this to express deep regret about that, or to reflect on what I should have done differently. I'm grateful for that extra time with my ex, even though it ended (again). 

I suppose I want to share this because I mentioned one day writing some sort of guide to breaking up. And I think I unwittingly began doing so that day with this post. With radical honesty about ambivalence and leaps of faith and sorrow. And I want to share it here. For those who have been unsure. For those who have ended relationships and then gotten back together and then broken up again. Maybe many times. For those who know in their bones what the next right step is, but don't take it. And for those who do.  

"i am sitting cross-legged on the floor of my childhood bedroom. i'm slightly pink after taking a two hour hike by myself this afternoon. i thought i might enjoy spending time with my thoughts, but i listened to an audiobook the whole way up and down. sometimes you're not ready to feel lonely.

if you are experiencing a breakup, there are entire loads of information available to you. books and websites and first and second hand advice. there are friends who will take you out for drinks, and parents who will check on you in the first days and weeks after it happens.

not much can be done about the devastating task of moving your things out of your old apartment. sorting through what is yours and what is hers. not much can be done about telling your ex you are seeing someone new. and not knowing if she is, too.

and i hesitate to use the word devastating right here, because a lot of devastating shit has happened lately. to everyone. but that is the best word. that is the best way to describe the wall you hit when you are both numb and flattened with grief.

here's the thing. there are entire loads of information available to you about breakups, but not so much for the person who is initiating the breakup. and more, if you still very much love your partner. if your partner is very much a good person. if you do not fight very often and share similar values. there are not very many people who say, in the face of all this evidence that your relationship is a good one, leave. leave because staying is impossible. leave because your life is yours alone. leave because you will be better for it and she will be better for it. leave because you still want to live alone in a tiny, old studio apartment in the city. do not stay until you are fully able to articulate why you cannot stay. trust it will come, but do not wait on that.

when you tell your friends, "something is off, but i don't know what," they will not read your mind and say, "end it now, before it gets harder. trust yourself." they will say, understandably, "it's hard for everyone. you two are great together. maybe you are stressed out."

perhaps one of these days i will write the guide i desperately wanted when contemplating ending my relationship. but i suspect it would mostly include links to this dear sugar column and this book by ann patchett. my ideas are not so original.

i can only speak from my experience. that leaving and then staying gone was the hardest thing i've ever done. because i wasn't just hurting myself, but her. i was making this monumental decision for both of us. i sure as hell did not want that responsibility. and yet.

and yet. today i hiked up a mountain. and sat at the top and looked over the edge and felt okay."

the unexpected event of falling in love

Many days--most days--I love being a therapist. But if I had the resources, the freedom, I'd write for a living. In my fantasy I'm live in a cottage at the edge of an Italian town, and I've developed a passion for biking and picking wildflowers and cooking from scratch. That world appeals to me as achingly simple. But after some time I'm not sure what I'd write about. Here, in this life, there's always much to sort through. And oftentimes I have to remind myself to be brave enough to really think about this life and to be bold enough to share my work. To bare it to the world, human and flawed as it is. As I am.

Several days ago I rediscovered an old document labeled "Favorite Quotes," and I can't stop thinking about this one:

Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.

David Foster Wallace, of course. (Author many things including the brilliant commencement speech I recently re-read here.)

If I'm being honest with my stubborn and indecisive and highly anxious self, that quote is the story of my life. Because I am fearful. And I am loyal. And I hate to be wrong. And I hate to stumble. And I hate to disappoint. And I hate to look foolish. And I love hard and fiercely. And change can be so exciting and also so terrifying.

Is there any relationship worth its salt that has ended without claw marks?

At different points over the past few years I went to this article for reassurance around how absolutely crazy, confused and sad I felt when breaking up with someone. And I never hesitate to point someone newly heartbroken to it, too.

This is my favorite line: “ . . . and you will will will will will will will love again.” Although I must say that is an excerpt from a tremendously great paragraph, and it’s worth reading in its informal and raw entirety. Really, it is.

Among the questions I repeatedly asked my parents and friends months ago was, “Will I ever be in love again?” And they would always say, “Yes, of course. Of course.” I would ask, “Will anyone ever love me back again?” And they would always say, “Yes, of course. Of course.” And a little part of me knew it, too. And a big part of me wasn’t entirely sure.

I’ve written quite openly on the Internet for several years but there’s something about this new season of my life that I want to hold close to my chest. I want to honor privacy, and I want to be gentle with myself and others. And yet, I heal out loud, through this keyboard of mine. And so I am compelled to write and share just a bit, for the sake of processing. And celebrating.

My instinct here, as it so often is when I want to talk about something tricky and emotional, is to write about it as I would in a letter to someone else. In this case a slightly younger, exponentially more terrified me. So here goes.

Dear Me (seven months ago):

She will be tall. You’ve never dated a woman taller than you, and you will marvel at how perfectly you fit together, holding hands or lying next to one another.

Let’s go back. At first you will fuck around. You’ll go on a bunch of dates, throwing your expectations out the window along with your old wedding invitations. You don’t know what you want from a partner any longer and so you try on people like shoes. Courteously, one hopes, but with the assumption that most, if not all, won’t fit.

This isn’t about an urgency to date. Not about desperation. It is curiosity. Who are you without your ex? What is it like to be excited about someone new again?

The night you meet her you’ll get to the bar first. You’ll order a drink and turn around and she’ll be standing there. You’ll think: No way. She’s too pretty for you. And yet. You’ll talk for a very long time. In fact, you’ll convince her (easily, I think) to go dancing. You’ll end up making out in front of your apartment building, your back pressed against the brick wall. Someone will pass and joke, “Get a room!” And you will both laugh and collapse into each other, like giddy teenagers discovering the electricity of touch, the marvel of gravitation towards another person.

Upstairs, alone, you’ll pull off your dress and wash your face and climb into bed. You’ll take out your journal and try to write, to pinpoint how that night with her was different from so many other first dates with new people. You’ll tamper your excitement. Only a first date. It’s okay if that’s all there is. Your stomach will be in delicious knots for days, waiting for texts and carefully deciding what details of your life might be worth sharing with this endlessly fascinating woman.

There will be a second date. A third. More.

It is all unexpected and intoxicating, as so many love affairs are.

Falling in love again doesn’t fix everything. It doesn’t make all aspects of ending a long-term relationship easier or less painful. There will be grief and guilt. A lot of guilt. Two people about whom you now worry. You must unlearn how to carry sorrow for someone else.  

And so it will be messy as you try to balance the fact that not so long ago you were in a serious relationship and that perhaps now you ought to be more carefree and unattached, with the fact that a person of tremendous substance is standing before you, miraculously willing to be with your fractured self. Here's the truth: You have been on many dates, met many people. You know the difference between lust and love and nothing. And this is not nothing.

No matter the timing, this is special. This is sacred.

Here’s what I want to say: You will love again. You will be loved again. You will, you will, you will.

Love,

You

the layers of it

After our breakup I wrote the following:

“the missing her has been seeping into everything.

when i say i miss you it sounds finite, as though i'm describing how i'm feeling in that moment, or for that day. i wonder if it is understood as the ongoing, ever present thing that it is.

i am missing you always. 

it is at the edge of every experience, every conversation. it is seeing things that were part of the old us and seeing things that i would have wanted to share with her. the familiar and unfamiliar, you see. inescapable.

and in some moments, like now, i'm allowing myself to half touch it. but most of the time i try to keep it as far away from my conscious mind as possible."

---

In the early days after I moved into my new apartment I would sit in the dark and listen, cry, and mumble along to the song “Reminders, Defeats” by Jesse Merchant. This was not a particularly important song in our relationship, nowhere close to those that we listened to on repeat and claimed as ours. The songs for which we would always, always dance barefoot in the living room.

Which is all to say, it’s hard to know why this song felt so important to me at the time. I do know it reminds me of the series Parenthood, a family drama my mom turned us on to a few years ago. “Reminders, Defeats” was in one of the episodes and I loved it right away. Nowadays listening to it brings me right back to those evenings spent watching TV with my ex, sitting side-by-side on my parents’ couch when we could watch Parenthood with my mom, or at the dining table in our old apartment, eating dinner and squeezing in a new episode before one of us had to leave for a night class during our grad school years.  And the song reminds me of being in our kitchen, me quietly singing along while cooking. Taking advantage of the unstated rule that the cook gets to choose the music, slow and sorrowful as the song may be.

---

I could mark my progression through breakups by how much I start to enjoy music again. In the early season of grief I limit myself to just a few safe songs, and perhaps a musician like Jesse Merchant when I needed to fall apart. But mostly I would listen to audio books and podcasts. Dumb morning shows. Anything to distract this wandering, ruminating mind from panic and grief.

As things have gotten better, as I’ve healed, music has wound its way back into my routine. I can spend entire car rides spacing out to my favorite songs, singing along.

---

A post I drafted in the winter of 2014:

“so here's the truth of it. one night we fought. we were staying in this gorgeous hotel in downtown boston, and we had just finished swimming in the pool and trying to breathe in an impossibly hot steam room (she was braver than me). and then things shifted, as they do. unsaid expectations filled the space of our room, and it became harder to breathe like we were still in the sauna, and i knew that we were entering that state when one cannot say something offhand without a bit of a snip in their voice. when one retreats to their side of the bed, and pulls out their book or iPad, and attempts to distract themselves from the outrageously obvious fog of anger. and at some point, one of us said, what? just like that. what?

and i burst into tears, as i'm apt to do when i'm overwhelmed and angry and hurt and, above all, tired. and i tried to stop them, but when we turned out the light and there was still that heavy fog over the bed, i kept crying.

that's the truth of it. in the same day that we took pictures in a stunning city, which i posted on instagram and facebook and this blog, on a day that was both bright blue and, for an hour, movie-perfect snowy, we fought."

---

A few days ago I was listening to “Reminders, Defeats” in the car and I finally noticed this line: “I’m done drowning in the ways that I can’t escape.”

And I wondered, Where am I letting myself sink, with no hope of escape? Where ought I get up and walk away and be done with the struggle? And where I am grateful I fought, even though things didn't work out? How am I stronger for the drowning?

---

Several weeks ago I was in Portland and saw a panel including Cheryl Strayed, Sarah Hepola, and Lydia Yuknavitch. The topic was about sexuality in literature, specifically writing about it from a non white male perspective. I was bowled over by the whole thing, nearly in tears with excitement when I realized I could squeeze in this event before leaving for Seattle. At the end of the panel a young, college-aged woman stood up and asked each panelist to share some life advice. One of the guests was Steve Almond, an author and the first Dear Sugar columnist, whom I've heard give truly wonderful advice each week on the Dear Sugar podcast. His advice was so simple, so elegant, that I immediately memorized it:

Do what you can and forgive yourself the rest.

---

Yesterday I heard someone say this about a tragic death of a family member: "I wish someone had told me that it was okay to stop being sad."

Here's what I've come to know:

It's okay to be grateful that my break-up happened, even though at one time I missed her so fiercely my world shook for days on end. Even though for long stretches of time we were in the trenches together, battling it out to make our life together work. The fights weren't for nothing. It's okay to say, "Enough now." It's okay to reclaim a song and label it as mine. It's okay to move on, to fall for someone new. It's okay to disappoint someone I once would have apologized to over and over, sick to my stomach at the thought of hurting her. It's okay for someone once central in my life to become a just part of my story, the character's trajectory changed. It's okay if none of this was planned. It's okay if all of this was planned, if a part of me knew from the beginning that this was how we were fated to end.

This relationship will never be rewritten as simple. There will always be layer upon layer of history and anger and love and familiarity and distrust. But there is no longer ambivalence. I've done what I could. I'm forgiving myself the rest.

dear 22-year-old me

 

part one

Dear 22-Year-Old Me,

You've been ruminating on how many opportunities you think you missed in college. You will clench your fists with the certainty that if you could go back to school, you'd do it all differently, and in doing so, it would be perfect. You'd be out as queer, on the right dose of medications, and you'd have that damn eating disorder under control. You'd totally be over that ex (or two). You'd feel you belonged, in classes as well as social groups. You'd have the wisdom you have now, at 22, as a 17-year-old. 

But know that at 26, you'll go to your five-year college reunion and realize you didn't do a thing wrong. You didn't do anything wrong. You will sit in the grass and get sunburned and eat pad thai with a group of women you secretly envied in college, who seemed very much together and secure all along. And every last one will talk about having felt a bit outside of everything good and cool, just like you did. They'll all say that even now they feel unsure about their careers and their relationships and that they have regrets about college, too. And you will breathe lighter than you have in years because you will realize you aren't alone. You didn't do anything wrong.

You've probably just put a Human Rights Campaign sticker in your rear window. Gay marriage isn't lawful in Washington State yet. Just wait. One day you will stand in the rain at the entrance of Seattle City Hall and weep fat, joyful tears as you watch same-sex couples emerge, legally wed. Finally, finally. And a few years later, you will be in the car for a sunny, long weekend away with your own same-sex partner when you learn that marriage equality has been legalized nationwide. You will be stunned. You will turn up NPR and cry and gasp and exclaim Holy shit again and again. An unfathomable history of violence and intolerance crumbling like sand through your grateful hands. A new story rising before you. You’ll think of all the brave LGBT people who have helped make this happen, and how you, too, will need to be brave. Because, sweet girl, things are still far from perfect and regression happens and to many people, far too many people, it is still a wonder that you fall head-over-heels, deeply and messily and beautifully in love with women. Prepare to be brave.

You are still learning how to inhabit your body after years of discomfort and strain in your skin, and perhaps it would surprise you to know that five years later you still catch yourself in the mirror and can be taken aback simply by your face. Apple-cheeked and angled. Adult and healthy. You notice there’s nothing quite like wearing a bathing suit or having sex that makes you so completely aware of the entirety of your body. Those moments when it’s so tempting to check-out, to give a handful of so-called imperfections enough power to cast you into shame and regret, forgetting about the possibility of gratitude and presence. But no matter how often you turn away from yourself, still your body softly says, “Here I am. Will you love me?”

At 27 you will be laying by the pool in Palm Springs on a family vacation and you’ll find yourself running your fingertips up and down the stretch marks on your thighs. It would be a lie to say that even now those lines are wholly welcome, that you wouldn’t use a fancy product to smooth out the skin should it become affordable and reliable. And yet, sitting there in your bikini, you’ll move past judgment and instead marvel at your body’s resilience. Battle scars, those lines. Your skin devotedly working alongside you as you grew feminine hips, and mending itself through those years of being ill. How miraculous that the body holds all of this. And here’s the thing. When you change your story from one of sorrow and bitterness to wonder and pride, the flaws matter so much less. They are no longer flaws. And slowly, it will feel less tragic that this body seems to remember and record it all--every growth spurt, every binge, every desperate diet, every time you looked at yourself and thought Not enough and You don't get to take up this much space in the world. It will actually feel like a little miracle.

moon

I go in cycles with my job, at times palpably sensing things shift within patients towards recovery, and at other times feeling utterly hopeless and helpless, not only in the work I personally do but with the concept of treating this delicate population in general. In wild moments I wonder if people ever get better, although of course many do. But what about these kids, for whom I show up every day? Some seasons I am certain recovery is just a crap-shoot, and that no matter how often or well I teach patients skills essential to both recovery and life, it doesn’t mean much at all.

So, too, with my personal life. There are times when I feel carefree and content with life as it is. Able to find some dark humor in what happened over the past few months. That girl who called off her wedding? That’s me! It’s very Rachel Green or Pam Beasley. My TV obsessions have rubbed off on me. And in those times I’m able to see clearly that things, whatever they may be, will work themselves out. But of course, there are stretches of time when I am heartbroken and bewildered that’s all there is to it. In a fog and it’s all I can do to remember that such haziness has lifted before and will again.

A few weeks ago I'd been teary all week, taking deep breaths in the break room waiting for my coffee to warm and finding myself unusually upset by patient crises occurring around me. That Friday night I walked through the door, dropped my purse on the floor, and crawled into bed, lights off. I sobbed into my pillows and into the darkness and thought It’s not fair over and How humiliating and Fuck over and over.

That Saturday night I babysat for a sweet toddler until 11pm. Back home at my apartment I glanced outside and saw the most astonishing moon. Giant, dark orange, and low on the horizon. I turned off the lights and curled up on my couch and looked at that moon, all the while weeping quietly for the contrast between the beauty of the moment and the wreck of the past week and months.

--

This is somehow related.

I pressure myself to do something constructive and real with this free time. I should be socializing, exercising, seeing family, taking trips, getting therapy. I should be exploring this gorgeous city and getting out of it, too—hiking and skiing and so on.

When I was partnered I worried I held my ex back from living her own version of a joyful life. She is so much more adventurous and productive than me. I slept in; she woke up early. I opted for pizza (again); she cooked something intricate. I craved an all-inclusive resort; she wanted to hike the PCT. She was faster to get restless on a quiet day inside--something I so need from time to time. And although we lined up in many ways, the discrepancies piled up and after a time I felt a certain guilt for not meeting her needs, never quite meeting her where she was at.

Now that the only person impacted by my temperament is me, I’m not sure why I still judge myself so harshly for it.

---

Just a few minutes later the moon was covered in clouds. I lit a candle and opened a book and thought about how lucky it was that in that moment I looked out the window. How glad I am that I took every moment of it in.

Perhaps that's the way to grieve past relationships. Grounded in the reality that love and fulfillment with another person can come and go, but damn if I’m not lucky that I’ve experienced it. That gratitude is the most healing concept of all.

Creating a life after a four-year relationship ends necessitates carefully sorting through the pieces of yourself--your beliefs, your habits--that you intend to keep or discard. Deciding what will serve you best in this new season. That night I decided I could give myself permission to be still. I told myself, If this is all I do right now—sit on this couch and quietly marvel at the moon—that’s enough.  And so I was.

 

neda week

Fuck anyone who looks at your stomach or your arms or your perfectly human body and says you better quit trying to look like a girly girl and act like the fat, sexless supporting role you were born to be. Fuck people who'd rather you look like what they want to see or else not be seen at all. Fuck that nonsense because it's too late. I exist.

Kelsey Miller, Big Girls

As soon as I hit "Save & Publish" on that lost post, I began to panic. The ending didn't work quite right. It felt disjointed, unsatisfying. It didn't feel wholly true-- I do miss my ex in a big, aching way quite often and loneliness is something that can hit me anytime, not infrequently in a room full of people. I do sometimes worry that by not dating anyone right now I'm losing precious time to meet other singles, as outrageous as that sounds. So I read and re-read that post and eventually the words all blended together and I knew the best thing to do was let it be. Because I was never going to get it quite right. I could never touch upon every angle in a single post.

So, too, with writing this in honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness week, which kicked off February 21. I've started about five different drafts, some brand new and others from my previous blog, with a bit of an updated twist. The more I meddled with the words, though, the farther I get from my point. Which is that it's important you know I'm recovered from an eating disorder and that I have some big thoughts on health, food, and our bodies. And I won't stop believing--and talking about-- how we are all wasting too much precious time equating thinness with health, food choices with personal value and virtue, and waist size with worth. Here are just a few thoughts on the matter.

I think about how much money the diet industry would lose if everyone woke up tomorrow and liked themselves. I think about how much power women in particular could claim if we finally decided our appearance was the least interesting and important aspect of our amazing selves, and if we didn't live to avoid being recognized as inevitably imperfect and blessedly different, nestled on a spectrum of body shapes. I think about how confused I was to see Oprah's commercials for Weight Watchers, which indicated, yet again, that one of the loveliest, wisest, wealthiest, and most successful women in the world isn't happy enough because her body's set point is above society's ideal. It's sad and it's bullshit. As writer Caissie St. Onge from Vox wrote, "If Oprah can't do permanent lifelong weight loss, maybe it can't be done." I simply don't believe Oprah would be any more worthy of our collective idolization if she achieves and maintains this new weight loss. And frankly, I was bummed that empowering, feminist Oprah (who admittedly isn't responsible for being a perfect role model in every way) bought, literally, into this outrageous industry that insists women need to look a certain way in order to live well. An industry that insists diets work.

They don't. They don't. They don't.

Here's one important point: Diets fuck with our hunger cues. They put us into deprivation mode, inevitably leading to "pig-outs" that seemingly reaffirm we need this diet because look! We are so very out of control with food. In reality, that's our bodies doing exactly what they were built to do--make up for scarcity. When we live from a sense of plenty (plenty to go around, plenty to eat) we're far less likely to go nuts over even the most fun food. There's much more to be said about how diet culture is insidiously sold to us and totally ineffective, but I'll get off my soapbox and get personal, because I suspect that's where the magic is.

In my eating disorder life revolved around bingeing--where to get the food, how to buy it or transport trays of it out of the dining hall without people noticing, where to eat it without anyone watching (I was the epitome of Tobias when someone walked into my dorm room mid-binge), how to discretely dispose of wrappers, and so on. And it revolved around dieting-- which fad to try next, how to make my increasingly too-small clothes fit, how many minutes I needed to spend on the elliptical before I burned off just a tiny fraction of the serious eating, how to choke down black coffee, how to handle low blood-sugar dizzy spells, and so on. It was exhausting. I was never so selfish and secretive as when I was in my eating disorder. I hated the way I looked and I loathed my behaviors. I was deeply, deeply ashamed. And yet eating disorders just want to keep living, and so I unwittingly crafted a life that let it thrive. I stayed lonely and tried never to discuss it, despite disordered eating being something we often wear on the outside (noticeable weight gain or loss). It matters not whether one's particular issue is with restricting, purging, and/or bingeing, or any other behavior related to controlling our bodies and food intake. What we have in common is a core sense that if people really knew us, really saw the lengths we go to maintain and disguise the eating disorder, people would think us revolting. We worry that if we did nothing to try to control of the beasts of our hungers, we'd be a thousand pounds. Or perhaps, we'd be average. Nothing extraordinary. A waste. And, importantly, many with eating disorders worry life will be intolerable without these extreme coping skills. We teach ourselves over and over that the only way to navigate the confusion and pain and even joy of living is to channel the energy and feeling into things we can seemingly control--food and our bodies.

The best reflection of my progress through the eating disorder and into recovery is not my weight. My particular eating disorder, coupled with my age, genetic predisposition, and other health and environmental factors, all lent itself to losing some excess weight as I developed normal eating patterns again. I didn't weigh myself daily. I didn't measure out dishes, considering proteins versus fats versus starches. I didn't count points. I didn't quite know it at the time, but in my exhaustion from years of dieting I was simply letting my body eat what it wanted, when it wanted it. I slowly, slowly learned to trust that days would even themselves out. That I didn't have to atone for any one indulgence because my body would do the work for me. That by legalizing all foods, I didn't have to stuff myself every time I ate a "bad" food, because there would always be more of it around. Importantly, I learned how soothe myself in ways beyond eating.

I believe in comfort food. I believe in deep red wines and full-bodied cheeses. Chunks of flaky, warm bread torn apart and smothered in salted butter. I love crab and this particular kind of flank steak my parents have perfected. I believe in squares of dark chocolate and spoons dipped directly into cartons of Ben & Jerry's (as I type, I have a couple pints in my freezer). I also believe in long baths. A few extravagant, delightfully chosen candles. Enthralling books. I believe in reaching out to family and friends when I'm upset (and when I'm happy) and stating what I need from them in order to feel supported. I believe in therapy. I believe in writing to process and understand myself better. I believe in the power of a soft blanket, sweat pants, and a favorite show to reset a bad day. I believe in walking outside, getting fresh air, listening to a favorite podcast. Life is so big and generous in the ways it can calm us, entertain us, celebrate with us, and mourn with us. 

And I will acknowledge that although certainly not model-sized and indeed generously hipped for easy baby-birthing and such, my set weight range allows me a certain amount of "thin-privilege." One less obstacle to tackle on the way to body acceptance, although surely society would prefer less cellulite and a thousand other adjustments before I'm on the cover of Vogue. Oprah's set body weight is simply heavier. And that's hard, isn't it? When the only option is to surrender, to acknowledge that there's a part of ourselves that simply won't change. That we've been aching for a future that isn't genetically meant to be. But god, it feels good to let go and step out of the pointless, painful struggle when we can because life is too short. And beauty is an ever-shifting social construct. And we happen to live in a time when a certain look is valued more than others, and do we really want to spend our lives trying to meet some artificial, temporary ideal?

I forget this. For all the times I've reminded my clients that they are allowed to look exactly how they look, that weight loss doesn't equal control, that traditional beauty doesn't ensure a perfect life (and I say those things many times a week), I forget that's true for myself, too. I'm not an exception. (I often tell my clients something like this: You see your friends out there? How they are so clearly interesting and funny and lovely exactly as they are? That's true for you, too. You aren't somehow the boring, dumb, unattractive accident in the group. You aren't the exception.) But this remembering I'm worthy thing is work. I surround myself with reminders. For example, I've stopped following anyone who makes me feel like shit to see and read about, including celebrities and even old friends. I can always re-follow people but for now my sanity, self-esteem, and one less excuse to get stuck in the comparison trap is a good thing for me. Instagram profiles like Recovery Warriors and Isabel Foxen Duke have been a couple of recent favorites. I listen to podcasts including Call Your Girlfriend, Food Psych, and The Lively Show, all hosted by strong, inspiring women who challenge norms and make me feel, well, normal (in the best way). I refuse to spend time with people who are mean, competitive, and judgmental.

I can't truly say what's right for Oprah or anyone else when it comes to food and weight. I can only share my truth, the little bit of it that I can encompass in this single blog post. I did the dieting thing for so long. I really, truly believed in such thingas the perfect body since I was a kid. And yet. Nothing satisfies me the way living freely does. I've always loved the scene in Good Will Hunting when Robin William's character says, "We get to choose who we let into our weird little worlds." I say, who and what. I may not always remember this, but in my moments of clarity I choose freedom over Weight Watchers or any other diet. I choose a healthy, curvy body over deprivation. Ican blame my body or I can do the work. I can pile all my hopes and dreams atop a body I may never achieve, blame rejection or frustration on my appearance, or I can show up and be vulnerable and risk that someone won't like me for who I am. But that's where the magic happens.

We get to choose. Choose and choose again. Dear friends, let's choose to live.


the day after christmas

I drafted this post the day after Christmas.

---

I’ve been moving all day. We lived in such a tiny apartment, hardly cluttered. But there are so many boxes of things and I didn’t expect to feel so overwhelmed. The toiletries and the clothes and the kitchenware. Books upon books. My instinct is to go online and order it all anew so as to avoid hauling them the eight blocks east to my new home.

---

Tonight I pulled on my nice sweater and black boots. Stood in front of the mirror in my foreign, barely broken-in bathroom lining my eyes dark and curling my hair. Anticipating going back out into the city, interacting with people I haven't seen in some time. What do you do now? How are you handling everything? And my stomach ached and I sat down for several minutes and stared at the wall and finally texted my family that I couldn’t go. Sometimes I can't put on another performance. At some point I realized that no one else would take care of me but myself. No one would say, Enough now, darling girl. You can rest. I will fight like hell for that.

---

The day after we called off our wedding, I typed in the notes section of my phone: "To name it. To say it. 'It's over.' To type it and express it. To wail it and whisper it. To be bowled over by it."

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Do you know how many texts and emails and calls you get after ending an engagement? Do you know how many different ways people ask if you are okay and how you are doing and what they can do to help and are you still together and just what happened?

And the problem isn’t the love and community, of course. As I write this I'm thinking about the loads of messages I received that were so beautiful, so simple, so comforting. The very best said things like, “Me, too. I’ve been there, too.” Thank you, thank you.

But inherent in sharing difficult news, to the extent you want to be somewhat real, is having to tell the story over and over and over again. But it's also having to redirect the conversation, to talk about the new job or to say, “I’m fine. Really, I’m fine!” because you can’t, you can’t cry again that day. Or because it’s comforting to hear yourself say that. It’s hearing from an old high school friend that they found out third-hand about the wedding getting cancelled. Confirmation that you are a topic of gossip, perhaps pity. How unfair it feels, to know that your most private, painful moment to date is casually thrown about. 

I’ve done this to people after hard things have happened to them. Oh, how little intentions ultimately matter and how badly I feel about it all. I’m trying to remember that if nothing else, this tough, bruised heart has softened for others. With each new chapter, I’m learning to be kinder. To consider the cosmic repercussions of casual hearsay.

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I keep trying to picture that moment in the future when I realize I’m glad this happened. When I see that it was one of the hardest things I’ve done, one of the foggiest, messiest things, and say, Thank goodness I did that because now I am here.

That here ought to be somewhere good, I think. It will be a small moment, probably. Maybe driving down the highway by myself. Maybe she will be there, too.

But now I’m still in it. Up to my knees in it. And all I can think is:

Sad.

Sad.

Sad.

A beating heart of the word sad.

And the grief, while crucial for piecing one’s self together and forging ahead, is cruelly disorienting. It’s hard to trust in a joyful future that every movie and every friend and every parent and every advice columnist insists exists, and has existed for me, too, before.

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Over a year ago I typed this out:

She held me today while we napped, and I felt her pressed against me, and I thought of how solid she is. Arms and core and racing heart. It put me right to sleep, her body.

The fact of a person. 

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I see now that this will ultimately be a quiet unfurling of small endings and transitions. In the weeks and days leading up to it, still unsure it would happen, I tried to prepare myself. I pictured telling everyone I knew about the misery of calling off the wedding. I pictured myself with loads of sympathy, messages of support, and drinks bought on others' tabs. I pictured it all like a firework show. An arc to it. A climax that, for a bit, outweighed the sadness.

I see now that where the work is concerned, I must do it alone, and I must do it quietly, and I must do it following my own, soft intuition, and I must do it without letting anyone push me, and I must do it in my own time. If I must be profoundly sad, I must be profoundly sad.

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After I took off my boots and sweater and wiped away my makeup and put my hair into a bun and sat in a bath with my knees pulled up to my chest, I decided to paint my nails. I hesitated for the briefest moment—But the smell? Then realized there’s no one else here to be bothered by it.

But you know, she never really was. Or at least, she never told me it bothered her even though I knew it must have. 

She gave me so many things. And she gave me that. 

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On one of the last nights we slept together in our bed at our apartment, after we whispered in those silly voices that make us both laugh, I said seriously that I wanted to remember this day for our courage. 

I can't fathom her dating again, but of course it’s also at the forefront of my mind. I don't have clear answers for you, friends. We are sorting things through, mostly gently and carefully, sometimes chaotically.

But when I think about this future, make-believe woman she might date, I try to think of her with love. Not because I am somehow superior and above jealousy, but because it's simply easier on my heart that way. And I imagine the questions this someday-woman might have about me. She may or may not think me pretty, may or may not appreciate my humor, may or may not find my career interesting. She could be intimidated by me or she could wonder why we were ever together. But please, I beg. Let this new woman hear our story and at the very least, think me brave.