I Can Bring Home the Bacon, Fry It up in a Pan!
The Enjoli Woman as an Agent of Socialization
I Can Bring Home the Bacon, Fry It up in a Pan!
The Enjoli Woman as an Agent of Socialization
Almost three years ago, I underwent a total thyroidectomy to remove the second half of my thyroid gland, the first half having come out in 2006. During the intervening years, I was on a replacement hormone to help prevent the growth of benign nodules and to curtail the symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. But when a nodule expanded to almost 6 centimeters in diameter within about 6 weeks, it was time for the invader to go.
For more than a year, I have felt like crap. My GP said he thought it was the stresses of school and work and kids and divorce. My bloodwork looked normal. In reality, part of my thyroid was growing back, and I was experiencing all of the symptoms of hypothyroidism—fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, dry skin and hair—that come with Hashimoto’s.
Although my bloodwork looks normal still, my endocrinologist and I made the call to rid Glamazon Island of this invader force yet again. After a five-needle-stick biopsy, there’s still no definitive answer, though he thinks it’s benign, giving it only a 5-7% chance of being malignant. Either way, I’m not a surgical candidate—one cell left behind would likely regrow new tissue again—and thus I go today for radioactive iodine treatment.
The 2+ weeks of a low iodine diet have been difficult but manageable. No dairy, no soy, no iodized salt, no se salt or seafood or sea products, no chocolate, no egg yolks, no potato skins, no red dye #5, no rhubarb, only certain beans, and only 6 ounces per day of meat. A lot of fruits and vegetables, and a lot less coffee thanks to no cream, and I’ve lost almost 10 pounds.
I’ve also been a gripey, exhausted freak.
In the midst of that was recovery from last month’s wrist surgery and a cervical epidural injection and work and kids and school, though I dropped back my class load dramatically.
Rango has been incredibly supportive, even when I’ve been a raging lunatic. The fluctuating hormone levels have made me agitated and fatigued. But I get up every day and do what I have to do.
I’ve mostly made light of it, joking with Max about whether or not I will turn into She Hulk after this is over. In all fairness, if anyone would be excited to get some new superpower after radiation exposure, it would be me. But I’m getting the lowest possible dose for this procedure.
It still scares the hell out of me.
Talking to Queen Frostine yesterday, I finally came unglued.
“I’m scared,” I admitted through welling tears. “I know it will be okay, but I’m still scared.”
She, like everyone else, has offered to do anything to help, but there’s really nothing anyone can do. Rango is here to prepare food and make sure the cats are taken care of while I spend 72 hours in isolation. I’ll be locked in my bedroom for three days, and then I have to carefully clean everything I came in contact with, to make sure I wipe off any radiation-tainted sweat and skin oil. All I can do is hang out and watch TV and sleep.
I sent the boys for some summer visitation with their grandparents in Alabama, and I miss them already. The cats will freak out and bang on the bedroom door for the entire three days, I’m sure. And Rango and I will only see each other from at least three feet apart.
Maybe that’s what’s most frightening for me, really, the shutting down my life. I can’t do anything during isolation. I can’t clean the house or paint the bedroom or work on my computer, since I’ll just leave radiation everywhere. I can sleep and eat and watch TV.
I hate being still, but that not being still is exactly what contributed to my getting sick. The constant drive for the last three years to always be moving forward and being productive has left me exhausted and not well. Even after my wrist surgery, when the doctor recommended I take two weeks off from work to recover, I refused and demanded to be allowed back within a week, even though it meant doing everything with one hand.
But this is where I have to admit that doing everything one-handed is far easier than doing everything single-handed. I am forced to rely on other people at times, and I absolutely hate it. My parents and Rango and some friends who will help cover the boys over the next couple of weeks while I have doctor’s appointments. The boys themselves, who have to be prodded and pushed to do their chores, but who also seem to get that Mom will get sicker if she keeps doing everything herself.
I’m going to take a shower and go swallow a pill of radioactive iodine and come home and hole myself away like I’m supposed to. I will let the world go on about its business while I go one about my business of resting and letting the I-131 do its job so I can get back to doing mine.
So please send me good thoughts. Send me updates of what’s happening in the real world.
And in two weeks when I can go back on a regular diet, send chocolate. Please. For God’s sake, CHOCOLATE!
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.
I’ve been sick again.
I fell in October and injured my wrist, and it turned out the slip and fall gave me carpal tunnel problems. A steroid shot in February triggered a 4-day migraine and pulled two already-bad cervical discs back of position. An MRI ahead of what will be epidural #10 showed a growth on the left side of my thyroid.
Ultrasound showed three new thyroid nodules, but no isthmus of organ. It looks like the surgeon really did get everything he could; I just happen to be a freak whose super power is regrowing glands.
But for the last 18 months, I have felt horrible. I told my GP that I felt like my thyroid was crazy, except there was no thyroid left. My bloodwork always looks perfect. He suggested it was stress—from work and kids and school and GOAL—and offered to put me back on an SSRI.
I have written before about choosing to take a mild anti-depressant when they boys were little. As a new mother in 2001, I was paranoid that something would happen to my child. I was bordering on becoming agoraphobic. My then-obstetrician started me on a very low dose, and I felt better taking it than not.
But after ten years on the medication, I was heavier than I’d ever been. I was miserable in my own skin, and I was unhappy in my marriage. I was absolutely numb.
I stopped taking the medication, I lost a ton of weight, I felt better, and I got divorced.
But then I felt bad again.
Yesterday was wrist surgery, next week is a thyroid biopsy to get a read on the nodules that are as big as what came out in 2006 and 2013, and a cervical epidural is the following week.
Worker’s comp is covering the wrist treatment, which is great for my wallet, but payment for missed wages doesn’t begin until I’ve missed a week of work—all of which has to be covered by me with my own leave or unpaid. It sounds unfair, but that’s how worker’s comp law works in Georgia and most states.
The orthopedist won’t let me return to work for at least five days. I also need to make sure I have enough leave to cover my epidural day and the activities for Tricky’s 5th grade graduation. I am in constant neck and back pain because of the cervical damage, topped by constant weakness and cramping in my left hand, combined with constant tingling in numbness on the other side of the same hand because of my neck.
I’m a damn mess right now.
But through it all, I have to keep going. I am irritated and petulant that the doctor won’t let me go back to work today. I understand that I need the tendon in my hand to rest and heal properly. I scheduled this surgery during the break between the upcoming summer semester and the just-finished spring semester—which saw my third perfect research paper in a row (worth 100 points) and maintained my 4.0 GPA.
I don’t like sitting still under the best of circumstances, and this is likely to drive me crazy. Even in pain, I push through because shit just has to get done. Rango and the boys help as they are able, but most of the housework falls on me. My standards and expectations differ from theirs.
There is so much to do, constantly.
But for the last month, I have felt as bad as I ever have in my life. Lethargic and weary, like pregnancy fatigue, plus horribly itchy, dry skin and stomach issues and this intense brain fog that causes terribly dysphasia at times. It feels like placenta brain, but it’s not. I am still gaining weight.
It’s hypothyroidism with blood results that look perfect.
So my endocrinologist has changed my thyroid hormone a bit. Even after just a few days, I am feeling less foggy. They asked me in pre-op yesterday to rate my pain. My wrist was fine; my back was not.
So this physical pain will hopefully be relieved before I start summer classes, but I can’t sit still for the next two weeks, waiting for that to happen. I have to keep pushing through. When I was at my worst over the weekend, a quote from Rune Lazuli popped up on my Facebook feed:
Got it. Really.
This is a reminder that I have to slow down and take care of myself. I have to be still in this and just let it heal. No matter how much glitter I may trail across the world, it’s not magical—not like that anyway. It will mend my broken physicality the way I like to think it mends hearts.
So I’m going to post this and get the boys on their respective buses and pick up some things at the pharmacy and then watch TV and maybe read.
Because apparently, this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.
After a couple of intense days of more “discussion,” I took the boys out for the afternoon. It was a lovely afternoon with my men and Max’s girlfriend, Kiki, followed by a delicious if tense dinner with Rango. (The man is a great cook, by the way.) Rango and I excused ourselves to the talk privately, again going in circles about the same issues from the last few weeks. We disengaged, and he went to sleep on the couch while Max and I drove Kiki home.
On the way home, Max asked if Rango and I were going to break up.
“I don’t know,” I replied carefully.
“Well, I want you to do what’s best for you, of course, but I love him to death. I don’t want him to leave.”
And then I remembered exactly how much my relationship with Rango impacts so much more than just me and him.
By the time Rango came into our life, DH had been living out of state for four months. In the two years he’s been gone, he has seen the boys for 34 days. On average, they talk to him every 3-4 weeks. Max and Tricky have very little expectation of their father, other than 1) he will eventually show back up for a brief period and 2) he will buy them something when he does.
For Max, especially, this has been incredibly difficult. He has 4 extra years of memories with Dad that Tricky just doesn’t have. He was hit hardest by DH’s withdrawal. He is also the most willing to seek out a relationship with him, but he tends to do so guardedly, with hope but no anticipation of regular engagement. Having just turned 13 when the move happened, it came at a really tough stage in his life.
Enter Rango, who understood being a child of divorce, being the child of distant and difficult parents, and being a teenage boy in a way I just never will.
And while he fell for me, he also fell for my boys. They hit it off immediately, and he established a solid, loving, imperfect relationship with them that is entirely separate from me.
He did what a good stepdad should do.
They fight sometimes. They give each other shit. But he also brought Max out of his shell, showing him that it was okay to trust someone other than Mom. He is a steady, constant, loving, engaging influence on their lives.
And he does it because he loves them, not because he loves me. (Though he does, certainly.)
So is that a valid reason to stay in a relationship?
No, of course not. But it is a reason to re-evaluate the strengths and reasons for that relationship.
When I got divorced, DH and I blew the boys’ world apart. Max has said before that we are all happier and better off after the divorce, but it has also been really hard on my children. (see above) Rango is a large part of why and how it got better. (see above) And I do not want them to have to extricate another important, loving relationship from their lives. (see above)
So Rango and I have called a détente. We realized how scary this was for the boys, and that’s just not okay. We have issues to work through, but we have agreed to stop them in their tracks and move forward, together and carefully, because there is more at stake than just us.
I’ll be honest (surprise!): it still scares me. Choosing to rely on someone else means allowing for the possibility of disappointment. I’m not one to run from adversity, so why the hell would I choose to run now? In the end, the possible pay-off is much greater than the possible loss, and returns on investment don’t come when you buy high and sell low.
So there are still things to work on, and we will. This was a warning to us both, to remember the lessons of the past. I don’t want to repeat the past, good or bad, and it is unfair to compare Rango or myself to those times.
While I was out with the boys, Max bought me a gift. He saw it and thought of me, even before Kiki pointed out to him that it was Alice:
And on the drive home, he told me, “Just because something doesn’t go the way you want it to, that doesn’t mean it’s bad, even when it feels bad. You can’t appreciate what you have now if you didn’t experience the bad you had before.”
That boy is totally my kid.
After a couple of days—weeks, months, I don’t know—of intense “discussion” (as my grandparents would say), Rango has finally said what so many before him have: I’m too much.
I suppose I should clarify that. Initially, it was that it’s not me, per se, who is too much, just my emotions. My overt expression of exactly what I’m feeling at any given time, especially when it’s not in line with how he would feel or express something, or how he thinks best suits me to feel or express it.
And when my expression manifests in ways he doesn’t like or understand, it makes him uncomfortable.
There is absolutely no expectation on his part that I behave in a set, specific way. He just doesn’t understand why I am often so stressed, why I hang on to issues and analyze them into unrecognizable minutiae, and why I am so prone to outbursts of tears when I’m overwhelmed by emotion.
For more than two years, I have done my best to find some full-time/part-time balance of student and employee, plus being a full-time mom. In all but one of the two-dozen classes I’ve taken in that time, I’ve worked for and gotten an A. (Algebra is still the bane of my existence.) My first real job in 15 years is for a prestigious state agency, and it challenges me and engages me constantly. My ex-husband has been out of state for most of that two years, barely in contact with our children and leaving me to care for them while cleaning up his emotional mess—all while berating me bitterly and randomly, usually about money.
I try to explain that I am still trying to learn to stand on my own two feet, and Rango counters that I don’t have to do it all on my own, that I have him.
Without question, he has been a huge support since we started dating. He has been the constant male figure in the boys’ lives, and he has been incredibly supportive of my schooling and work and time with GOAL. He understands fully when I need to take a little time to myself or with the Castration Committee, like I did last weekend.
He doesn’t understand why I berate myself about having gained some of this weight back, about not having time to work out even if I were cleared for weights after a lingering wrist injury from October. Another apparent blown disc is reminding me every day of how far down that slope I have slipped. Seeing pictures from four and five years ago compared to pictures from now is devastating to my ego. My head knows I was living in misery when the skinny girl pictures were taken, and that’s utterly dichotomous to the pictures of me with the Governor or addressing the Georgia Senate.
I should be easy on myself for holding all of this together as well as I have, and I should be nothing but proud of the accomplishments I’ve made. But somewhere in my fucked up head, I am often embarrassed to be me, to see how far I fell down a hole I never wanted to think of again, and to feel the snap! of one tenuous thread and to know how that can bring the whole damn thing crashing down around me.
Even now, while I’m writing, I’m crying. There is just so much that needs to come out.
I’m writing while he and the boys are asleep. I’ll wake them soon to go about our busy day of haircuts and errands and homework and cleaning and cooking and hopefully going out tonight to see a friend’s husband’s band because I was too damn drained last night to do it. I also know I am choosing this time to write because I don’t want him to see me cry. I don’t want him to tell me again that it’s too much.
I also know I choose this forum, because he doesn’t read what I write. Like so many before, he’s not a reader. If I send him something specific, he will read it, but he doesn’t seek out that side of me. Truthfully, that’s part of the reason I haven’t written much in the last year or more. If I couldn’t get the approval of the only person whose approval mattered to me, then why devote the energy there? There was already enough to deflect my attention away; it wasn’t efficient or productive to waste the time and effort.
Except it never was a waste, was it? DH hated that I wrote, and that I wrote away from and about him. Like Absolem and Bounder after, he would tell me I was a good writer, that I should do it, but that I shouldn’t write about things and in ways that made him uncomfortable. I should steer clear of truths that made him feel bad.
It was too much.
I feel what I feel. I pull it out and examine it and play with it. I may spin it all around like a Rubik’s cube and put it back in, or I may hang it on a shingle for the world to examine for itself.
But it is mine, and I have my reasons, and absolutely no one ever gets to tell me otherwise. Not if they want to stay.
I struggle, and maybe I’m struggling more and differently than when Rango and I met, over drinks on a holiday weekend when my kids were having rare visitation with their father. But there is a lot more at stake now—logistically and legally and emotionally—and I will never again be content to let anyone else be my sole support. It’s not that I’m unwilling to let anyone else be supportive; I simply will not put myself in any precarious position where I am unable to support myself.
I appreciate that he sees me as beautiful no matter what, that the size of my ass doesn’t tip the scales out of my favor. But if it is the weight of my tears that are too much, I can’t help that. All I can hope is that, in the end, both weigh less than Osiris’ feather.
During an ongoing conversation with a friend about happiness, I asked him what it is in his life that keeps him from being happy.
“What does this elusive happiness look like? What do you believe will bring that happiness? How will it manifest—will you find it, will it find you, or will you make it? What are you struggling against, that you feel is keeping happy away for more than short bursts? What are you willing to change or eliminate in order to make room for this happiness?”
Of course, this banter comes on the heels of my own burst of unhappy this weekend. I have been frustrated that life isn’t necessarily how I want it to be. Since DH moved out of state two years ago, he has had very little interaction with the boys. Phone calls and email have been sparse, and visitation totaled 28 days in that two-year span. (Though I am happy that he has been making a much more concerted effort to rectify that, as of late. <fingers crossed>)
That has left me with very little time in which to connect with myself on my terms. His absence coincided with my starting college and work, so I have lived in the constant pace of mom and student and employee. Constrained by obligation and time and money, I have had to forego a lot of the time to be “free” I’d previously had when the boys were with their father.
Because the boys were getting older and more self-sufficient, I’d been able to take some time away from them, a few hours for class or work or the occasional (bad) date. Then I met Rango.
“Wow,” he said during our first date, “with so much going on, how do you find time to date?”
“If it’s important to me, I will make time for it,” I replied.
Eventually—especially once GOAL was added to my plate—I started to butt up against real limitations. There are only so many hours in a day in which to accomplish what needs to happen in our life. I had to make serious adjustments.
Of course one of the first things to go was working out. If the exhaustion isn’t enough to drop me in bed by 9:00, household chores or schoolwork keep me busy. Now that I’m at Mercer in a program for working adults, my day starts at 6:00 a.m. and often doesn’t end until class lets out sometime after 10:00 p.m.—plus the drive home and the unwinding before I can even sleep before I get up and do it again. Having the boys for nearly 100% of the year also added substantial additional cost; it turns out teenage boys eat a lot, and their school/social activities are time-consuming and expensive.
This week, again, Facebook popped up with my “memories”—pictures from that day in years past. This time it was from a specific night three years ago with Pandy. I looked at the picture and thought, “I miss my purple hair. And I miss my collarbones.”
Toward the end of my marriage, I rebelled against the domesticity I’d created. I felt trapped and struggled to find meaning or purpose that didn’t stem directly from my role as wife and mother. Never happy in the medium, I swung the pendulum so far in the other direction that it, at times, wreaked havoc on my life.
So while I desperately miss the freedoms that come with fully embracing the Sassafras O’Malley persona, I am also careful to remember the confusion and static and sheer craziness that often came with that liberty. Sassafras has a tendency to be where she probably shouldn’t be.
Right now I’m living the life I need to be living: working full time, taking care of and providing for my children, going to school more than half time in order to finish as quickly as possible, succeeding by everyone’s metrics, including mine. And I have the support of a life partner who helps with as much as he can.
But sometimes, I still feel unhappy.
While doing homework over the weekend, I read a quote by Simone de Beauvoir: “Those who are condemned to stagnation are often pronounced happy on the pretext that happiness consists in being at rest.”
Because I’m not able to do what I want, when I want, I often feel stagnant. I feel trapped by circumstance that’s changing far slower than I would like, given my incredibly impatient nature. Sometimes I feel resentful when that circumstance is to blame for the lack of freedom and the feeling of stagnation. And it doesn’t matter that my head knows better; my gut is screaming that it feels wrong, that it feels too much like my life before, and my heart gets angry.
When I feel those emotions, I have choices in how to react. I can scream and go off my fucking rails, which very people have ever seen. For everything I have experienced with Rango, he has never been witness to a full-fledge Stephie Meltdown. I can choose to hold it all in and just pretend it’s not there, cycling slowly through more resentful. Or I can feel it and acknowledge it and let it go.
Knowing myself the way I do, I usually choose the latter, but Rango called me out on my methodologies. He complained that I become cold and distant, obviously struggling with some emotion that I refuse to let escape the icy surface. He’s right. I eventually found that the quickest way out of my own head was to jump in, dropping into it as quickly as possible, and then use that downward momentum to push off the inevitable bottom, letting the pressure release as I rise back to the top in a stream of my own bubbles.
But as long as I feel like there are things missing or that I am bound by circumstance, I will still have moments of discontent. I will still have impetus to feel unhappy at times.
Maybe happy isn’t the goal. My former therapist told me once that happiness is a fleeting emotion and that content is likely the healthier alternative I am most likely to feel content when I am living my life on my own terms, in my own way and at my own pace. But because I have relationships with other people, especially those three men who live in my house, I am morally obligated to take their contentment into consideration as well. What I want is sometimes in conflict with what they need.
So for now, I’m trying to make the best of it. I’m trying to make those small changes I talk about in my GOAL speeches, to pick up the pieces I keep dropping and put them together in the ever-expanding mosaic that makes up my disco ball. For once in my life, I’m thankful to have these big hands that let me hold more than seems possible.
As I said a few days ago, I have been doing lots of writing away from Muchness and Light. Some of it is privileged work product, so you'll likely never see that, but most of it has been academic writing. A reading for my Women and Gender identity class set me off on a tangent, which is painfully apparent in my writing for that class this week.
It's something a little different, but I think it's still totally me and my voice. Let me know what you think.
It's been a while.
This has happened before, where I've been quiet for a while—for far longer than I'd like or intended. This time, though, I haven't been quiet so much as I've just been biting my tongue.
It's been almost six months since I sat down to write for me. Oh, I've been writing, just not for myself. I've written for school—I'm now a senior pursuing a B.A. in Liberal Studies with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. I've written for work—I'm now a full-fledged, employed paralegal for a prestigious state agency. I've written various speeches for speaking engagements around the state—I have three more months to go as GOAL winner.
All of those have kept me very, very busy and feeling very rewarded. I work myself into a tizzy sometimes from the stress. I am striving to be the best possible student and employee and ambassador and mother and partner. It's naturally a lot of pressure, and absolutely no one is harder on me than I am on myself.
I tend to work at a frenetic pace that is exhausting. I am exacting and demanding of myself, sometimes pushing myself to a breaking point. One tiny slip-up, one slight mistake, and it feels like everything comes crashing down around me. For the last few months, Rango has found me more than once in a sobbing, fetal pile in the middle of the bed.
I've often thought out loud that I needed to take the time to come and write. Almost every day, I draft some blog post in my head but never quite get around to getting it onto the screen. There's always something to get in the way—school, work, errands, chores, kids, life.
In reality, it is me that has been getting in my own way.
With so much happening, with so very many demands on my time and energy, I've let some things slide. I finally had to recognize that the house won't be as clean as I would like. Sometimes popcorn and apples make a perfectly acceptable dinner.
There has also been less time to work out. There's been less energy to devote to working out. In taking care of the boys and the house and our world, there's been less effort to take care of me.
With that has come weight.
By no means have I regained all of the lost weight, but it has been slowly creeping up. Queen Frostine has told me for months that I needed to cut myself some slack.
"Look at everything you have going on," she admonished. "Don't be so hard on yourself."
"You're beautiful," Rango tells me every day. "You're not fat."
Before the divorce, before I went back to college and work, I had time to devote to it. I could walk for an hour or two every day before I hit the gym. I could carefully plan and prep meals for a week at a time. And I knew damn well that the weight wouldn't stay gone just because I wished it; I knew I would have to work at it for the rest of my life.
But I didn't, did I?
Tonight, I was trying on ill-fitting clothes, lamenting my spreading thighs. Rango found me crying in the bedroom, again. He told me, again, that I'm beautiful and not fat. He reminded me that I am so much more than my physicality.
In my head, I know he's right. In my head, I know that my worth—whether to other people or to myself—should not come from the size of my ass. But it is hard to make my heart believe that when I'm struggling with clothes that are ill-fitting because I haven't been doing what I should.
And there is shame. There is self-loathing and self-recrimination. Not so much because I'm not a size 8 but because I let this happen, again. Because I built so much of my story and my identity around the self-transformation that came about because of and during the weight loss, and now it feels hypocritical to let that have ever been a part of my story.
Looking for hangers in the closet, I saw a dress hanging and thought, "That's from when I was pretty."
And it doesn't seem fair that I have to choose between being pretty and being smart. It doesn't seem right that anyone, including myself, would put such pressure on me to be a great student and be a great paralegal and be a great ambassador and be a great mom and be a (sometimes) great partner and be as physically perfect as I can muster, given my inherent limitations.
I get it. No one but me is putting that pressure on me.
But that is how I validate my own existence. I strive to exceed expectations, even when it means exceeding every possible and anticipated expectation before I have any clue what they are. Because if I am not perfect, then I am a failure.
Yes, of course, I know how utterly ridiculous this self-imposed craziness is. In so many ways, I am my own albatross.
And so, I have avoided writing for months, sidestepping my fears and evading myself.
But there is catharsis in writing for me. This is the space in which I am most likely to be truly, sometimes brutally, honest with myself. This is how I have worked my head out when my life has felt like it was unraveling. This is where I have found the stones to lay my own path.
So I'm writing again. I'm crying again. But I'm writing.
This is not a passive-aggressive request for encouragement. This is not my wanting someone else to tell me how special I am.
This is Stephanie edging her way back to where she needs to be. This is me finding my voice again, because it is mine and it is valuable.
So I will try to do better, to be more consistent and to be more open, to make the time to take care of myself in the ways that are healthiest and most vital for me.
I've never been fearless. I've been headstrong and dogged but absolutely never fearless in my determination. But they are my fears, and I am determined to face them again.
It's time to reclaim my muchness.
Looking for something else, I realized this week that I haven't written a blog post in almost two months.
Two months? Really? How can that be??
Well, the last two months have been incomparably busy. I finished my internship and my last fifteen hours of classes to complete my Associate's degree. I started classes this week in my Bachelor's program. There have been several speaking engagements as a result of my GOAL award. Somewhere in there were four cats, two boys, and Rango.
And I'm still on the perpetual search for a job.
An employment recruiter asked me a few weeks ago, "What do you want to do?"
I immediately answered, "I don't know."
It's not that I don't have any idea of the direction I would like my career to go. I went to school to become a paralegal, and I have completed an excellent program of substantive training for the legal field.
But the list of what I don't want to do is much better defined. I don't want to do family law or bankruptcy law or real estate law. Those are necessary areas of the legal profession, and I have friends and family who are successful in each of those areas. They just don't seem to be the right fit for me.
This uncertainty is not the I-don't-know of my 20s, when I blew my chance at college the first time, when all I wanted was something easy and comfortable to drop into my lap and push me in a direction—while hopefully letting me veg out on the couch all day.
It's not the I-don't-know of my new-mom 30s, when "I don't know" really meant "no", when I was too polite to say what I wanted and to truly be myself, afraid of what I might lose by defying other people's expectations.
And it's not the I-don't-know of two years ago, when the daily mantra was a tear-streaked "I don't know! I don't know! I don't know!", when I was trying to find a way, any way, to survive.
Now, "I don't know" comes from exploration, from having so many options, from proof that I am good at something and worth far more than I was led to believe. Far more than I led myself to believe.
"I don't know" means I want to try everything and don't know where to start.
The other question that invariably comes during job interviews is, "Where do you want to be in five years?"
If the last five years have taught me nothing else, I know that whatever plans I make will almost assuredly be broken. Something is likely to come along and divert my path, alter my journey, and that I have to be willing and open to the possibility that can come when I expect nothing more than uncertainty.
Last night, in my first class with my new academic advisor, I was asked what my plan was for my major and for any graduate work I might want to do. Because I chose a Liberal Studies degree, I have some flexibility in the concentrations I'll pursue, based upon both what coursework I transferred in and what my plans may be going forward.
"Combined concentrations in Criminal Justice and Communications," I replied very pragmatically.
But then my advisor suggested that maybe there's something else, something that will better suit my intentions for myself as I continue to explore just what those intentions may be.
He asked me to be open to the possibility of me.
I still want and need direction right now. I feel rudderless, honestly, without definitive projects and contributions to make to a world outside my home.
Lately I've felt like I am drifting along my path right now, rather than actively traversing. I'm having to learn to stop my own panicked thrashing and just float, feeling the warm sun on my face and the water splashing across my cheeks as the river carries me where it needs me to be.
I don't know what's coming.
What I do know is that it will not be something I've done before. There is newness and opportunity close enough that I can feel it within reach as I approach it.
Now all I have to do is grab it and hold on. I'm almost where I'm supposed to be.