Last week, I had this awkward moment of running into an ex (read: very brief fling) in an unexpected public place. We didn’t speak—just eye contact and awkward silence. The next morning, Facebook Memories reminded me that it was three years ago that day that the fling had happened. The next day (and for the next two) Facebook reminded me that it was a major milestone anniversary with a different ex, tossing pictures of Vodka-soaked memories at me like Molotov cocktails. Somewhere in the midst of that, yet another ex made his presence known.
The Parade of Ghosts has begun.
This time of year marks the beginning of a couple of months of incredibly difficult anniversaries, from multiple relationships. Some days are reminders of more than one relationship—sometimes more than two—and the memories are not always kind. Yes, it is reminders of the hurt from other people, but it is also riddled with reminders of the choices I made and their lasting impact.
But I’m also riddled with reminders of who I was, of the transformation that occurred over the course of two years. I am plagued by pictures of myself from those times, and then I see myself now.
And I weep.
I know. In the last three years, I finalized my divorced, worked three part-time jobs (and then no part-time job) while going to school full time, while finishing one degree and continuing to finish another, while now working full-time and schooling part-time, while winning a huge award, while establishing a new relationship, and while raising two sons with very little help from their absentee father.
And it turned out my body was revolting but I didn’t know it, hence the extreme fatigue and hormonal issues and weight gain. Followed by an injury that has kept me out of the gym since October and that culminated in surgery last week.
Reasons not excuses.
In my heart, I feel like a fucking fraud.
None of the other stuff matters, because I got fat again. Because I regained part of the weight I spent three hours a day, for fifteen months, fighting off. When I was a stay-at-home mom who had to rely on a distant and emotionally-inconsistent husband for everything.
So right now, I’m fighting not just the ghosts of my exes and my former life, I’m battling the ghosts of myself, and they are bitches.
They are snarky and blond, with thinner thighs and less sag and a tighter ass. They are unapologetic for their choices, even now when it’s me who has to face their implications. They remind me that they warned me, that I wrote openly about how I couldn’t relinquish control of my food and weight for the rest of my life, how exactly this would happen. (I told you so!)
How maybe if I hadn’t made some of those choices along the way, I wouldn’t be in this emotional predicament.
So for all of my talk then—hell, even this talk now!—who the hell am I to tell myself or anyone else anything??
In so many ways, it feels like I’m back in the summer of 2010, in chronic pain and uncomfortable in my own skin, struggling to keep the house and the kids together and still give Stephanie time to breathe and enjoy the things that make her soul feel not dead. Not even alive. Just not dead.
I have come to accept that things are often outside my control. Really, I’m good with that. This doesn’t even feel unmanageable, just unmanaged.
So I take a deep breath—I don’t have the luxury to get real high—and try to make the mental list of what needs to be done. I tally projects and plans and intentions and expectations in an ongoing psychic To Do list, and then I am overwhelmed by it all and I just want to crawl in my bed and go to sleep.
But I can’t. There’s too damn much to do.
And even if I could sleep, my goddamn ghosts are there, just waiting.
It’s like my own production of No Exit starring Stephanie as Garcin, Inez, and Estelle simultaneously.
Existential crisis, indeed.
Today, I have no swarthy internet wisdom. I have no words of encouragement or really anything else. I can’t find the out, not yet. I know I will eventually scratch my way through the dark, along the dank wall, and claw my way out if that’s what it takes. But there’s no door opening today.
Those most I’m getting today is dirty fingernails.