Christmas Gifts? Christmas Cheer? A Rant.

“It’s not about the gifts.”

Someone will say this every holiday season. That Christmas isn’t about the presents. That it’s about Jesus’ birthday (my family is Christian), time spent with loved ones, gratefulness to be alive and blessed and loved, appreciation blah blah blah and all those other sentiments we should already have every other day of the year anyway. Kinda like Thanksgiving, the holiday whose name implies that we should be spending the day testifying to what we are thankful for, but all anyone really cares about is where they gonna be eating. Really. I suggested this year for Thanksgiving that we all volunteer at a soup kitchen as a family and mom’s response was “Well, what are we gonna eat?”

But then, come Christmas, that line of thinking gets the 180.

For the past few years, my family has invaded Christmas tradition, attempting to unconvincingly downplay the gift-giving aspect, while continuing to request $100+ items or cash on their wish lists. We created a new tradition the past 8 years or so, where my mom and sister and I shlep out with my aunt and cousins to my godmother’s house on Christmas Eve, so that we can wake up Christmas morning as one big happy family and do all the Christmas things together like decorating the tree, watching Home Alone, wearing festive gear, fancy eating and liquor imbibing, general merriment, reading the Bible, taking a walk around town, napping, eating some more, then basically doing everything possible to avoid the gifts under the tree until 5 p.m. on Christmas Day…

Wait…

Somewhere along the way, this new tradition went awry.  Because the elders decided that since “Christmas is not about the gifts,” we should do everything in our power to pretend they aren’t in the next room over-appealingly packed under the tree like some sort of Home Christmas Special edition magazine cover, and act like some of us (not me of course, I finish shopping early) weren’t just maniacally racing around stores trying to find the perfect gifts for each other the week before, like we aren’t excited to see our loved ones open the shit we stressed out to buy for them.

Three “elders.” Three “somewhat” adult-children (because in our family they still call us “kids” at age 30), and one teenager whose Christmas rights are stripped away because even though we’re spending Christmas together as a family to make everyone happy, much of the the fun, happiness, and excitement is being sucked out of the deal by Holiday Dictatorship.

Sometimes my family will suggest not gift-exchanging at all, but instead donating the $$$ you would have spent on their gifts to a charity. Nice idea, although let’s remember this contribution still remains a GIFT, and something you are GIVING, so I’ll forever need elaboration that they’ll never give on what exactly about the GIVING aspect they’re against. In the most logical, Devil’s Advocate-sense, are they saying that since the people you love are better off than those who really need assistance, this means we are less-deserving of receiving ANYTHING from them? Why not just give both? Last year, after multiple years of someone always throwing this idea into the mix, I said fine. Let’s NOT get anyone anything. Give my gift to a donation instead. My cousins were not happy with my acceptance of this idea. I honestly was so tired of hearing it that I really did not give a shit at that point what happened. I ended up breaking the family tradition entirely, and instead spending Christmas with my ex-narcissist so that he wouldn’t be alone. What happened? My family ended up coming to my house later on Christmas Day, WITH gifts that we’d agreed not to buy! When I asked WTF happened to the plan, the answer was “Well we had to get SOMETHING to exchange on Christmas.” Well then WHY THE HELL DID YOU SUGGEST WE NOT IF IT’S NOT ABOUT THE GIFTS?

*Note to readers: My family is cray and their odd, illogical thought processes that don’t quite add up are the reason I can sometimes only take them in small doses.

My philosophy on gift-giving is I don’t like to give gifts out of obligation. Even if you’re receiving something small from me, I likely logged hours hunting online, recalling our past conversations, a joke we may have laughed about together, or something you may have mentioned in passing that you love (if you weren’t one of the few close ones who gave me a list) to apply to the purchase. I’m definitely one of those tailor-the-gift-to-the-individual kinda people who didn’t run to the mall the weekend before Christmas and scoop up some generic sweater/shower gift set/pajamas/hat-scarf-glove ensemble to hand out to everyone so as not to come empty-handed. I also despise gift cards, even if they’re asked for, because they lack that certain originality and creative thought that comes with gift-giving. It’s really just a I-didn’t-know-what-you-wanted-so-here gift.

And you know what? Because I truly do love to give, all that extra work doesn’t bother me. The stress of taking into account a person’s preferences and likes and dislikes and truly trying to incite a delighted reaction on Christmas Day from them makes me happy when I do find that magical side-quest item in the end. It does not make me scorn gift-giving. Scrambling to find gifts for my co-working team and smuggling them with me to Argentina so I could present them in person was a jolly challenge for me. Being counter-surprise-presented with a hand-designed t-shirt from my boss, who put hours and late nights hunched over her project crafting them for us before the same trip was a special reward to me. Shipping additional little gifts I found to friends in different states and paying extra shipment fees doesn’t bother me because I’m sending a bit of extra joy and thinking of them during this special season. When my current boyfriend suggested a gift he could get for his parents and slap my name on it so it would be from me, I childishly exclaimed “NO, I WANNA DO IT,” and dove into an interweb hunt for selections from my heart.

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And maybe that’s the reason why the gift-giving part holds a certain weight to me on Christmas. “It’s better to give than to receive” is another of your common Real-Meaning-Of-Christmas quotes. Well dammit, I like giving, and opening the things I was given. How often are we really given a chance to dive into a spirited gift exchange? It’s one day a year. I’m a freaking 32-year-old woman who wants to open the gifts she got from everyone on Christmas morning, or at least not after the damn sun has gone down, and in turn, watch everyone open what she spent the past month (yeah, I start on Black Friday) putting some real thought into. It’s EXCITING! Sue me!

I don’t forget the one Christmas a few years back where, come mid-afternoon, we “kids” literally sat on the couch doing nothing until we fell asleep out of boredom. It didn’t feel like Christmas at all. It felt like any other day; except more boring, because even on normal days when we see each other, we do shit and don’t just sit around waiting for the time to pass until the “elders” FEEL like it’s time to proceed with the main event. Meanwhile, I constantly received texts from friends and family asking “Did you open it yet? Did you like it?”

“Nah, we didn’t GET to them yet.”

“What the hell? What are ya’ll waiting for??”

Nothing. The answer is we’re waiting for absolutely nothing but an antiquated idea that suggests if you care about opening Christmas presents on Christmas morning, you’ve lost the meaning for the season. Maybe one day my family will stop vilifying gift-giving before our traditions crumble. Even the past couple of years, someone has thrown out a suggestion that we all travel to a tropical climate for Christmas instead. While in the past, I would have been vehemently opposed, this time I’ve said I was down. Instead it’s been my mom who’s screamed bloody murder that this would “break tradition” because there’d be no tree, gifts, celebration etc…

But…

I thought it wasn’t about the..

Free picture (Christmas Candle) from https://torange.biz/christmas-candle-15000I give up, ya’ll. -.-‘ To all my Christmas buddies who ignore the nonsensical, judgmental rumination on Christmas-giving that my fam tries to bring to the table, thank you for keeping me sane, and keeping that old, little-girl, Christmas spirit flame alive and dancing.

Merry Christmas!!!

~Tael

The Tummy Troubles Tribe

You’re about to learn way more about my internal organs than you’d probably care to, and I apologize in advance for that, but I’ll try to “de-gross” it as much as possible. For the past few months I’ve been dealing with digestive trouble that has deeply affected my day-to-day life. I am no stranger to stomach issues. I was your typical problem-picky-eater child, which likely contributed to the constant stomachaches I had throughout grade school. I also found myself exceptionally prone to food poisoning, and motion sickness in cars, but not amusement park rides. Go figure. Once, in middle school, my stomach pains were so excruciating that I was sent to the nurse’s office. She correctly identified my lack of fiber and dehydration; I gulped down a few bananas and chugged water and felt welcome relief as I emptied myself in the school bathroom after.

Some time later, my tummy troubles evolved with enough severity to grant me my first trip to the ER. I couldn’t have been older than 14. A doctor probed my young, previously un-invaded anus with a gloved finger, to which I could not properly respond to his questions and prompts on whether the pain was exacerbated because there was a finger up my butt and I was 14, dammit. So he sent me to radiology for an ultrasound which showed…a whirlwind of gas? They explained that too much air was in my stomach; a combination of carbonated beverages, fried foods, and swallowing air while eating, most likely from talking at the same time. As a result, my bowels had become inflamed. Lesson learned. Even today, I find I still hold my breath sometimes while eating, in a subconscious act to ward off accidental air gulps.

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For awhile after, it seemed to do better, and was well-behaved throughout high school and college. It seemed I was finally outgrowing my membership with the Tummy Troubles Tribe. I tried to reward its good behavior in turn. The more I ascended into adulthood, the more I realized I should take more accountability for my picky eating if I wanted to be somewhat MILF-like and still be a ninja at age 60 (shout-out to Aunt Sandra). I had started incorporating gym sessions into my lifestyle, and learned that fitness and eating better were two-fold, so I’d have to step up my nutrition game as well. At the ripe age of 27, I cautiously waded into the world of vegetables, beginning with sweet potatoes and asparagus (shout-out to NerdFitness for the gateway veggie suggestion), eventually added kale, spinach, brussel sprouts (shout-out to Jo-Jo for that introduction) and got reacquainted with beans and lentils. I severely diminished the amount of processed fast foods I ate, bade farewell to quick meals from McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys, etc… (although Sonic and Dairy Queen still get a pass once in awhile) cooked more basic meals at home, stopped buying 2L soda bottles for the house just because they were cheaper, and drank more water. Candy bars in the front of bodegas and drug stores became invisible to me. Junk cravings decreased. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my cookies and cakes and I still indulge when the craving hits, but cleaner eating pulls me now.

Imagine my surprise when, after over a decade of smooth sailing and self-implemented gut improvements, my tummy troubles returned with a vengeance and landed me in the ER for the second time in my life. A debilitating cramp seized the lower right hand portion of my stomach after returning from a trip to Antigua. When it didn’t subside for 3 days, my ex-boyfriend pushed me to go to Urgent Care. After some gentle prodding and mounting concern that it might be appendicitis, Urgent Care referred me to the ER, a place I swear to never return to unless my limbs are dismembered or my intestines are spilling out. After 9 hours of unsympathetic nurses who hooked an IV to my hand because they couldn’t find the veins in my arms, inept doctors who couldn’t make a proper diagnosis, an ultrasound, CT scan, and physical examination by a surgeon later, I was told I had fibroids. While one of the earlier moron doctors had said that wouldn’t be the source of my pain, the surgeon confirmed that, yes, fibroids can absolutely hurt. And a quick Google search confirmed this, especially when they undergo degeneration. Millions of women suffer from fibroids and just as many of them experience symptoms as the ones who don’t even realize they’re there.

At that point, the ER felt like prison: they had not allowed me to eat all day, the hospital-grade pain meds through the IV hadn’t done shit so I had long since ordered them to disconnect it, and I wanted my real clothes again. I was relieved when they released me to go home with the diagnosis: fibroids + take ibuprofen. I was ready to suffer in the comfort of my own apartment. I medicated with Motrin and marijuana for the rest of the week until the symptoms drifted away. And all was well until a year later.

I first felt the crampy twinges in the same spot the brutal pains had occurred a year before, but on a much lesser scale. Instead, it was now accompanied by discomforting bloating and fullness. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t going to the bathroom as much anymore. Maybe once every 4-5 days and when I did, it was tiny pieces. My body wanted to release, but my booty wouldn’t. Google told me this was a constipation indicator. I tried all the recommended remedies. More apples, bananas and pears. More veggies. A spoonful of olive oil in the morning on an empty stomach along with jumping jacks. Coconut oil. Apple cider vinegar ingestion daily. I already log numerous Pokemon Go hours of walking and 2.5 gym sessions a week, so it couldn’t have been a lack of exercise.

A month later, with no improvement, I shakily told my current boyfriend, who proved to be incredibly supportive of my situation. It was time to up the ante. First, I pulled out the big guns and tried a laxative just to make sure, you know, it worked. It worked all right. Then we began a regimen of fruit and veggie smoothies blended each day with chia seeds. I began adding things I never ate. Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, peaches, carrots. I started drinking kombucha. Tried bone broth. Upped my probiotic count. Abdominal massages. Eight glasses of bottled water a day and I abandoned tap. I kept a food journal for a month and referred to the Bristol Stool Chart more than I’d ever had in life. Someone with a normal digestive system would have been glued to the toilet. I tried removing certain foods for testing purposes. One week I did away with dairy. Another week, seafood. Tried removing gluten for a week before realizing if you want to have a gluten test done to see if you have Celiac’s, you have to actually be ingesting it. Lame. But now it had been two months and I was still not consistently improving, so I scheduled an appointment with a gastroentologist to have my butthole probed again for the second time in my life. They did a bevy of bloodwork testing for food allergies, thyroid issues, diseases and imbalances. All negative. We scheduled an ultrasound to take a look at what was happening in there and make sure the fibroids discovered the previous year hadn’t become an issue. Unlike the last time I’d gotten an ultrasound in my childhood, this one didn’t produce much, except a growth on my liver that needed to be checked out via MRI. One MRI later, they said it was Focal Nodular Hyperplasia, a fancy term for a small, benign mass that doesn’t affect the function of its host. Along with the fibroids and the non-threatening lump discovered in my breast years ago, I’m accumulating quite the collection of benevolent tumors inside my body.

“So what’s wrong with me then?”

My gastro diagnosed me with chronic idiopathic constipation, which basically means, cause unknown. Over $1000 in doctor’s visit’s later (yeah, that’s WITH health coverage) and I get a diagnosis that says “We dunno why.” Her solution: go on Miralax long term. “It’s very gentle, you won’t get explosive diarrhea, and I even have babies on it.”

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True Life Feels

It will soon be 5 months since this new ailment has afflicted me and I am slowly learning to accept it. Something like chronic constipation may not seem like a big deal until it’s your body that’s not working the way it should, and until you need to rely on supplements and additives to be “normal,” you won’t know what it’s like to fear what will happen if their effectiveness fails. I am ridiculously thankful that I don’t have the pain or distention of severe sufferers; my liver is working fine, I don’t have the sort of fibroids that make me look 7 months pregnant, nor do they bleed when I work out. I’ve forgotten they’re there since my last ER trip. I’m blessed to be able to still live a relatively normal lifestyle, just one more centered around the bathroom. But at times I do feel like the universe has a very backwards way of rewarding me for attempting to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

Currently I’m operating well enough on a daily dose of Miralax, magnesium supplement at night (shout-out to Amazon for the Natural Calm), an almost-daily home-blended fruit/veggie shake and a double dose of probiotics. When I vacayed in Mexico, I saw TSA workers examining the powders in my vitamin containers, questioning my potential to be a drug runner. Some days are better than others. Staying active helps take my mind off the feeling of internal fullness that varies on a regular basis.

It’s slightly annoying when those close to me downplay the situation, even when I know they are trying to help. When my mom off-handedly comments “You and your bestie love to create problems with yourselves that aren’t there,” I answer back, “Yes, because I shelled out hundreds of dollars in doctor’s visits and endured multiple needles because something isn’t REALLY wrong with my body.”

Or if someone says, “Oh, just drink coffee! That always helps me go!” I would think if it would have been that easy, the doctors would have suggested it. But I doubt the COFFEE will solve what the fruit, berries, spinach, kale, chia seeds, flax seeds, oatmeal, olive oil, coconut oil, pumpkin seeds, and various fibrous additions cumulatively have not done, as well as hydration that makes my pee so clear, I could probably boil tea with it.

Google (as well as the doc) tells me CIC may vanish just as randomly as it crept in. But there is no way to know. Until then, I keep my stomach prepped for the day it might, by remaining active, increasingly choosing organic, maintaining increased fiber intake, continuing to drink probiotic drinks and include fresh garlic and ginger in my meals, as well as spices like turmeric and cayenne pepper. I practice stretches, abdominal massages, and even kegels, in the hopes that I can rebalance my body and guide my digestive motility back into submission at some point. Stressing about it multiplies the stress, so I try not to let it affect my day-to-day too much, pray over it and adapt to it, though it times it can get depressing.

I’m sharing my story because I’m not the only sufferer, and we need to talk about it. The docs don’t have a cure nor a reason for this condition, so it appears we are stuck in this tribe. If you know someone with similar symptoms, or if you have tips on how to manage CIC that have worked for you or another, please let me know, because the Internet is flooded with hopeless anecdotes on this condition. 😦 It is affecting more of us than you think.

~Tael

When The Towers Fell

How do I remember 9/11?

I was a freshman in high school. Sitting in history class. The teacher had left the room while we chatted amongst ourselves, taking advantage of her absence. When she returned, she mentioned that something had happened, maybe a bombing in the city, and that we were to sit tight. This was before the advent of smartphones; I didn’t even have my first Motorola flip handset yet. Laptops were barely a thing, and Facebook hadn’t been conceived so no one was rushing to check social media for news. Word of mouth was our link to the world.

More time passed and she returned and informed us that we were all being dismissed, released on our own pending parental permission. I found it a bit strange that our mommies had to call in to say it was okay for us to leave, after all, we were high schoolers now! But my mom was on the ball and had done so. Her job was only about 10 blocks away, so I made my way there to meet her with a group of downtown-bound students. All public transportation had been suspended, and the streets were teeming with pedestrians, even more so than normal New York standards, as if we were walking a marathon.

I met up with my mom at her job and we continued from 14th Street, down to Grand Street. I couldn’t see the smoke from where we walked. But at that point I’m not even sure I knew planes had crashed into the towers. The word currently going around was that the World Trade Center had been bombed. Again. I didn’t remember the first one, but that one hadn’t been SO crazy, right? The mood was cautious, yet spirited. With trains and buses halted, and an unknown looming threat to the city, New Yorkers stepped up in solidarity. As we walked through the streets I love, store owners offered bottled water to those journeying home. Apartment building doormen held their doors open, inviting folks to use their restroom facilities. Strangers exchanged friendly words of encouragement. I saw a long queue of bodies crossing each bridge in the distance. I felt for them, since I only had to walk to the bottom of Manhattan.

When we finally made it back home, we beelined for the television and the clarity it would bring. We didn’t even have to specifically turn to a news station. Every channel was broadcasting live and looping raw footage of the morning’s events. Two planes had flown into the Twin Towers, and our beloved buildings had crumbled.

We had just been there the weekend before. Stage Door Delicatessen had been across the street, with their confection-like pancakes. We’d discovered there was a little shopping center in one of the towers. In New York, you are always making new discoveries; you never truly know all the nooks and crannies of the entire city. I couldn’t believe those two towers, the icons of Manhattan that appeared in countless movies and that I’d always used as a directional compass, like the North Star, looking up in their direction to navigate, were gone.

Everything broadcasted was uncensored. The frustration, rife with profanity, the terror, the shock, the desperation, it was all there, unscripted. We watched as those trapped in the tower and resigned to their fate, soared from the windows to a guaranteed demise that was the lesser of two evils in their heads. The sticky web of stifling human emotion wrapped heavily around us, connecting the souls of all who watched. That day, we were all the same. We all felt the same things.

Back then, I was a chat room nerd, who went online every night at the same time to hang out with my Internet friends. That night, the mood was equal parts solemn and anger. There were no jokes and no discussing the latest episode of Gundam Wing.

“If they take the Empire State Building next, I swear to God…” someone typed.

It felt good to make empty threats against unknown (at the time) assailants as powerless teenagers. It felt good to simply expel the emotion we were feeling. Anyone who tried any troll-worthy comments that downplayed the massacre were punted out to the harshest degree. Methodus Toolz could do that.

The next day was a little less raw, but likely only for those like me who were less affected and less in the line of fire. I hadn’t lost a loved one or listened to a voicemail they left about how much they loved me and how they wouldn’t make it home tonight. I hadn’t thrown on my gear and dodged a barrage of concrete on foot to save anyone like the first responders did. My apartment building was far enough away from the debris and soot to affect me no more than some eye sensitivity for a few days after. But I still felt a deep bond with the people of my city, who had so often garnered a reputation for being rude, nasty and uncaring, who were embracing each other and offering helping hands or shoulders to cry on in the true spirit of support. For awhile after, we didn’t just pass each other in the streets. We checked on each other, gave smiles of encouragement and eye contacts of acknowledgement. We gave each other strength.

For months, even years after, I had the wildest dreams. Dreams of warmongers coming to assault our country on ships with motion-tracking explosive cannonballs. Dreams of terrorists hiding in plain view in bodegas launching rocket-launchers at my window. Dreams of an unknown threat eating away at our moon, threatening to plunge our world into eternal darkness because we didn’t have the resources to stop the source or save it. They prompted me to begin a dream journal to explore my subconscious. I hadn’t expected such an aftermath of rippling currents, expanding out to reach me with its tickling tremors.

When they first showed preview pictures of how they were going to turn the sites of the Twin Towers into deep waterfall reflection pools, I thought, “No way!” For some reason I didn’t think it was possible. But they did. They came through and I’ve visited the memorial multiple times and they are beautiful. When I go, I slowly meander through the site and never lose sight of the reason these pools are here in the first place. I touch a few names, gaze over the railings, and reflect. It’s important that I pay mental tribute when I visit, because I remember the collective trauma. Whatever the surrounding reasons behind it, so much human life was needlessly extinguished. I hope that fact remains respected, even over the passage of time.

My city is strong.

~Tael

The Silent Abuse Of A Narcissistic Partner

I used to think the term “narcissist” only applied to conceited, attractive (or those that think very highly of themselves) individuals who couldn’t stop looking in the mirror like the mythical Greek hunter who drowned in his own reflection. But during the healing phases of my last breakup, I researched how it has a highly toxic way of entering the relationship realm. And I realized, oh shit, it’s happened before. My family probably doesn’t even know about it, because I never really told them the story. Does physical or emotional abuse weigh more? For me, the physical abuse I experienced long ago was far more forgettable.

Back in college I dated your typical urban pretty-boy, obsessed with his image and having a girl on his arm who enhanced that. He was your textbook narcissist, so self-centered, his own sister once told me how much it bothered her. He spent more time in front of the mirror than I did, making sure his outfits were immaculate, the designer logos showing, the sneakers uncreased (I believe he even shoved MetroCards down the front of them to keep the wrinkles out) and that his du-rag was perfectly centered and aligned with his forehead.

He’d insist that I step up my swag, rock the latest sneakers, he’d take credit for sexy heels I’d wear, saying he bought them for me when he hadn’t, and constantly comment on how well-dressed and attractive he was. Lord only knows what his Instagram would look like now if he has one.

The stream of abuse trickled in slowly at first. He’d insinuate that I might be sleeping around on him, demand to check my phone (although he’d make sure to first delete anything off his in front of me before handing over his) and threaten to fuck both me and the mysterious man up if he ever found out. Then he’d use intimidation tactics, like invading my personal space, slowly getting face to face with me, and punching the wall next to my head. I have a certain sort of stupid fearlessness sometimes, so I never actually felt threatened. One night, after a party, one of my good friends observed him yanking me around in a parking lot during an argument and stepped in to intervene. He told him to get lost (my friend was a tank, so my ex couldn’t take him) and walked me home that night, saying he didn’t like the kid’s antics, and that I should rethink the relationship. Still, I thought it would all be fine.

The first night he put me in a headlock during a heated exchange, I forgave him. I knew he wouldn’t REALLY hurt me. But then it happened a second night, and this time the blows came with it. I don’t remember any pain. I just remember my spirit ascending from my body and looking down at my physical body, shaking its head that a smart girl like me had ended up there. When my spirt re-entered my body, I recovered my wits and grabbed an iron from under the bed, prepared to bash his face in. Before I could make impact, he released me and fled. I ended it the next morning.

Since then, I’d never even thought about the other kind of abuse; the emotional kind. The kind that comes from a Nice Guy Narcissist. They put their best mask on up front. The same one they show to everyone else on the outside, saving the Mr. Hyde underneath exclusively for you. With my last ex, it started small. I asked to please not continuously ask to borrow money from me, as it’s a certain thing I’m uncomfortable with, especially in relationships. My requests went ignored. Every paycheck he asked to borrow money from me, and eventually got abrasive when I’d remind him how much I didn’t like it. Eventually I relented and gave in every time because I wanted to make him happy. Maybe that’s where I went wrong, setting aside my deeply uncomfortable feelings in the name of love.

Eventually, I began to give in on more and more things that made me uncomfortable, convinced by him that I was wrong for feeling uncomfortable about it in the first place. Not only that, my discomfort BOTHERED him. It was no longer something for him to acknowledge; it became something I had to hide. And just like that, it was all turned around and the downward spiral began. I could no longer guess what about my normal self would randomly set him off and suddenly become a problem I had to take it upon myself to change.

On a trip to an amusement park, two girls cut the line in front of us and he flipped.

On me.

I took a laid back approach, because I was just happy to be on vacation with him, saying it would be alright, it happens sometimes and let’s let it go.

Triggered.

He said I wasn’t taking his side enough and proceeded to publicly lash out at me for the next hour, as passers-by looked on with concern and I gave them the reassuring eye-contact that said “I’m fine, I can handle this. I’m okay.”

This was after the night after I’d found myself hunched on a bench wondering why he was emotionally pissed because I’d asked, “Can we go to one haunted house first to kill time since the alcohol stand isn’t open yet?” No. We had to sit and wait until the stand opened and apparently, I hadn’t asked with the right attitude, so now he was upset at me. No compromise.

I could never call what would trigger his explosive reactions. If his friend did something I considered disrespectful and I got upset, he got mad at me for feeling and reacting disrespected. If I was too curious about a girl he’d hooked up with but was still friends with, he was resentful. If I got upset because I wanted his attention during an hours-long video game binge (unless I whipped out a vibrator and started pleasuring myself in front of him, that was the only proper way not to trigger it), he became incensed, then made it clear the game would come first before any tears or serious matters that needed immediate attention. If I was cleaning in the evening because it hadn’t been done yet, he’d feel guilty because he hadn’t done it, and demand that I stop and wait until he was ready. If I ran away from a bumblebee in fear, he’d get furious and say I would make it sting him, even though everyone (and the Internet) has told me bumblebees (yes, those giant furry, bear-looking things) are harmless and don’t sting. If he blew all his money on frivolous things and I didn’t want to bail him out when he suddenly needed an expedited passport or to book a cabin for his friends, it was my fault.

20180413_213120I couldn’t be sad. I couldn’t be pissed. I couldn’t ask one too many questions. I couldn’t bring up something that bothered me if 24 hours had elapsed already (although he could); it meant I was thinking about it for too long, which angered him. I couldn’t do what genuinely came naturally. I was only allowed to express happy emotions and say things that equaled praise in regards to him. If he had made me sad, it meant he had failed in all aspects and couldn’t handle it, which resulted in him lashing out at me or saying he may as well leave then. If I read a menu improperly in his mind, he had to devote time to explaining why I was wrong about it, until the food came exactly as I had depicted it would, then there was nothing more to say. He could do no wrong. The rules didn’t apply to him. He could be jealous but I couldn’t. He could announce when it was time to leave an event or outing, even if I wanted to stay, but we could never leave if I was ready to go before he was. I wasn’t allowed to point out any faults of his.

If I tried to say, “Here’s something that really bothered me and I need to talk about it,” instead of listening, he said “Well here’s something that bothered me a few weeks ago and we need to talk about THIS now and i’m angry!” Always overshadowing my needs. Always tossing what I needed to the side. If I tried to say, “Please, how do we stop this argument from happening,” I was accused of wanting things to end on my terms and being “over it”. If I remembered something differently than he did, I was crucified for not adopting his version of the memory. At times, he’d violently punch himself in the face or bash his head into the walls. I suggested a therapist, but he refused. I thought of secretly contacting his father on multiple occasions because of the fearful level of destructiveness he showed to himself. This was not normal. Once he knew that I was cautious about what I said to him, because I was afraid of the outbursts he might have in response, he grew angry at my fear.

One night, on a company trip, he locked me in our room and said he was going to go kill himself and that I had caused these feelings because I wanted to stay in a hotel that night. I had to escape by climbing over the wall of the outdoor bathroom. I was terrified to tell my boss. My friends later said it was better I hadn’t.

He blamed it all on anxiety. That was always the excuse for the lengthy, bitter reactions. He viciously battered me with harsh words as retaliation for bringing up my issues to him. Only in hindsight did I realize how ridiculous it was to pander to these temper tantrums time and again (God forbid I ever argued back that I felt I was right, it would have made the conflict last 48 hours instead of 24). I don’t believe anxiety should make you lash out at people. I have it sometimes, and it never makes me angry at someone, just scared. It never makes me want to attack someone. His anxiety made him interrupt my aunt while she was speaking to me one night, when she said she didn’t want us sleeping in the same bed at my grandparent’s house. I may reside on the social outskirts of polite normalcy, but I know better than to try and pull someone away from their mom or an elder family member because I feel my need to immediately speak to them is more urgent. Even I know that’s rude.

20180406_140443The amount of money he also borrowed from his father, in addition to me, showed me I might never get the the level of respect I craved. Because that’s someone who’s been there his entire life, and far nicer than myself, and I just popped up late in the game. The professions of marriage and kids seemed like the strangest thing coming from him, blurted in moments of drunkenness. He stormed away from me during every argument, even though he told me he hated when I did it (so I’d stopped, but he continued), multiple times, so the conflicts lasted even longer because a proper conversation couldn’t even be held. He’d admitted to me that whatever he didn’t like, he walked away from it. That was his M.O. in life. Which is exactly what he did to me. Straight into his ex’s arms the same night he left me. It was proof that whatever I had tried so desperately to protect, was flimsy and provisional. Why didn’t I see it before? Why don’t we ever see it? The abuse and manipulation runs so deep, you don’t even notice it hidden behind the emotion which equals passion which equals…meaning…? You don’t realize the bonds you thought were so strong were really transient cancers, and the longer cancer lasts the more it leaves you sick, ravaged and exhausted. After the breakup, I stumbled across posts asking “Were you dating a narcissist?” and the lightbulb flashed and grew in brightness. The selfishness, the need for instant gratification, the manipulative tactics when they don’t get their way, the sense of entitlement, the charming mask for outsiders, the table-turning.

Objects can hold energies, and with each one I threw out, I felt my heart cleansing. Only those who have been through an emotionally abusive relationship understand how tossing the articles that belonged to the abuser helps to purge the nightmares. So maybe that’s why my mom didn’t understand when I wanted to toss all the decorative pictures he’d put up, but she wanted me to save them “just in case” she might want them. I knew that she WOULDN’T, it was just a case of sticky-eyes at seeing something free, but if she wasn’t going to take it then and there, I couldn’t stand to have them in my house any longer emanating poison memories. “You’re a brat, you know that,” she said to me, in a cruel moment where I needed someone to think about me and my feelings the most.

I believe life wanted to remind me of my strength. I distinctly remember coming home from a night hanging out with friends towards the end of it all. He hadn’t wanted me to go. In fact, he had made plans with his father earlier in the week, so I had made plans after for the same night to avoid being depressed in the house alone. His father ended up canceling. Of course, my ex got pissed at me because I didn’t immediately cancel my plans. I told him this was unfair, as I really needed to talk to my girlfriends and I knew he would absolutely NEVER do the same thing in my position. Hell, he wouldn’t even drop the controller if I was distraught. He didn’t like me talking to my girlfriends about my relationship either. Well, he did in the beginning, when he still had the mask on.I came back that night with positive vibes, and he felt them, and said something very poignant. He said that he could tell after speaking with my friends that I had come back with a strong, black woman, no-nonsense mentality.

And I could tell it distressed him to say that.

Why wasn’t he proud of me? I had forgotten that’s exactly who I am, and I could never be ashamed of that or have someone, especially not a man, make me feel as if being a strong, black woman with a no-nonsense mentality is problematic. Do you want to know the hidden meaning behind my fifth tattoo? It’s not JUST my favorite Smash Bros. character on my leg. It’s a sign of strength. It is a reminder that I am strong, sexy, confident, regal, and a worthy soldier who holds her head high with a powerful stance for what she believes in. A narcissist will make you try and forget that. My head had been brought down so low, I almost didn’t recognize myself anymore. Now I have a permanent reminder when things get rough. Stand tall.

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The scars from the physical abuse over a decade ago were nothing compared to the mental wounds I was dealt as of late. But the beautiful thing about the mind is, while it can be cripplingly weak, it can be blazingly tenacious. We all may die a little sometimes, to be reborn from the ashes with renewed vigor, lessons learned and a vibrant healed wingspan, thirsty for flight.

~Tael

Platonicity

Ahhh, the age-old question: Are you capable of being pals with members of the opposite gender in a completely non-sexual manner?

OF COURSE it’s possible to “just be friends” with the other sex. And not just the non-good-looking ones either. Because, little known fact, you can actually acknowledge someone’s attractiveness without feeling any desire to sleep with them whatsoever. You know, like how a girlfriend can introduce you to her new lover and you rehash with her and the rest of the crew later about how cute he was. Cute meaning, you’re glad she has someone who’s not hard on the eyes, but not like you’d immediately like to hop in bed with him if he wasn’t off-limits.

Most can’t though.

I’ve seen a lot of people say, “Yeah, of course! He’s like a brother to me!” Then somewhere down the line they’re stammering an incestuous explanation of how they “accidentally” slept with the guy and “Omg, how did this happen??”

Depends on what your degree of platonicity was to begin with. Did you initiate a friendship with someone because they were cute and you were hoping something would happen, and it hasn’t happened yet but you’re still holding out that it will? In that case, you’d better damn well be sure your platonicity gauge is on point, because if they’re not feeling the same, you could be in for quite a blunder.

I have never seen so many previously-thought-to-be-platonic “lurkers” come out of the woodwork as I have the past couple of years. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t been single in so long that there hadn’t been an opportunity for them to send their darts flying. And miss the bulls-eye. But even DURING my last relationship, I had a long-time college buddy (over 10 YEARS!) basically ask if I would be willing to “entertain two suitors.” Newsflash: WE ARE NOT FRIENDS ANYMORE.

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My legit reaction to this request.

Not only was I extremely uncomfortable with this solicitation, but I was also highly offended! He’d known me for over a decade, had played Prince of Persia and Super Smash Bros. with me late into the nights, had been part of the circle of friends I’d embraced in my SUNY years, had shared numerous insights on sex and relationships as friends do, still connected occasionally on gamer memes and updates, and had NEVER made a pass at me WHATSOEVER. Now he was suddenly asking me to cheat on my boyfriend with him. This AFTER we’d had a lovely talk about our current romantic interests, sharing our stories about our feelings about them! WHICH WERE GOOD FEELINGS.

If you’ve known me for that long, you should know better than that. You should know my character. You should know that if we’ve been friends for THAT long, the sexual window has long passed and our relationship has solidified to an amicable closeness. And dammit your platonicity radar should be able to pick up the disinterest AND the discomfort as a result of the annoying, persistent come-ons.

It stings a bit when long-time friends are the ones making these requests. Because we believe those who’ve known you the longest should also know you the most. When I met up for drinks with yet another long-time buddy from college, one who I’d also spent hours with having deep conversations, gaming with, AND who had hung out with both me and my ex-husband together time and again, it was brought up whether I’d sleep with him.  I dunno about the rest of you, but I feel like most women have a deep appreciation for those situations where you can let your guard down with the opposite gender, connecting as fellow humans without fear of ulterior motives, like the sandbox days before we discovered the joys of sex. The comfort of an old friend with whom you’ve already established the boundaries of friendship and friendship-only so there’s no need to have the awkward “I’m not into you” conversation and possibly the lengthy “Okay here’s why I’m not and please stop trying, it’s not going to work” speech for the more aggressive pursuant, is a delight.

So when you have to push the old college buddy’s heavy, liquor-laden body off of yours as he leans in to make his proposition which, once again, has NEVER come up before now, you question these connections you made so long ago. The ones you thought were so secure because of the length of time you’ve known the individual.

Even one of my previously gay acquaintances (and I say “previously” because look what’s coming) of about 2 years admitted, as I was indulging him with my dating app tales, that he had always felt something for me and was interested in pursuing something now that I was single.

What…?

“I think you’ve misunderstood. I’m not GAY, gay. More like sexually fluid and attracted to energies.”

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NoOoooOoOoOOOOOOoO!!!!

Doushite? You can’t be my gay friend and then evolve to my formerly-known-as-gay lover. It can’t work like that.

Back to the friendships you created because you hoped something would happen. Maybe. I’ve done this. Twice. And I ended up in relationships with both of them. It’s great to be friends first before a relationship. However, my platonicity radar was on point each time. I felt the reciprocal feelings developing. But had I not, I was willing to take my feelings for them to my GRAVE. Because if the other person’s platonicity level is higher than yours, your feelings can become a wearisome burden for them. And if you aggressively try to push them, it’s even worse. So unless you’re a well-mastered vibe-artist with wizard-like intuition, and you know for a fact the buddy you’ve been into is also digging you too, DON’T DO IT…Don’t do it unless you know for sure where they are on the meter.

My cache of sandbox friendships with males runs low. Although I do know I can still count on at least one solid one who I’ve known for 18 years, who has been there for the relationship tears, the drunken chats, has met my friends and family, DESTROYS me at both Smash AND MarioKart (DAMMIT), who I probably suck unlimited hours of what should probably be paid IT work out of (gomen nasai!! >.<) and who seems to truly understand the bond of a comrade. And if he ever changes this, I will strangle him.

And while today’s social culture tends to burn the “friend-zone” concept at the stake, it makes me wonder…when did having a friend you didn’t sleep with become a problem? Why don’t we want friends anymore? Maybe I’m just getting old… -.-‘

~Tael

 

Do What You Want

Why do I feel like nobody says this anymore unless it’s in that passive-aggressive way towards a lover when you’re really not feeling their actions at the moment but don’t want to admit it? Today’s culture has become a very opinionated one. Or maybe it’s just because social media allows you to force-feed your viewpoint to the world, whether they want to hear your views or not. In the midst of witnessed heated debates galore on Facebook involving various topics such as gun violence, race issues, women’s rights, or what that rapper did, it’s like you can’t NOT give your opinion (well, I can…) and simply tossing it into the interwebs makes you somewhat of an expert over the computer.

What sucks is when you become entangled in the sticky web of suffocating perspectives from the world and forget that you too, have one as well.

“Follow your heart.” “Do what feels right.”

Those used to be really popular guidelines once upon a time. Now that everyone is an Internet expert on everything from politics, to relationships, to how to make the most out of life, have a fulfilling career, and make money from your couch totally legitimately, you rarely hear advice tailored specifically for the person being given the advice. Blanket recommendations repackaged and reposted for mass consumption are the norm, even though we’re fully aware that the same things don’t work for everybody. Even those you’re closest to may not offer you direction based on your character. For the past few years I’ve gotten encouraged to have a baby, despite my being divorced and without a stable father figure that would be around for the child, simply because I shouldn’t “wait too long.” I hear that “There are lots of single mothers,” and that, “Your mom did it.” Right, but why would I want to actively choose to be a single mother solely for the purpose of having a baby that you want me to have that I’m not even happy about making the decision of having? :/

I’ve never been the type to fear walking a different path from my family or friends. That’s the thing about pioneering. Someone has to clear that path that they didn’t find by following everyone else’s roadmap and set a new route. Sometimes you can’t give a fuck about everyone else’s opinion. Sometimes your opinion will be the unpopular one and that’s fine, because it’s your choice and it’s your life and you have to live it.

A few years ago I worked on Wall Street for an office that had just been bought out by a highly reputable, long-time respected company that brought us awesome health benefits, 401K options, and a stable future.

And I quit.

Poor management and extreme burnout severely diminished my mental quality of life. I would literally wake up every morning and think “This shit again…” Turnover was high, loyalty was non-existent, bathroom meltdowns by co-workers not uncommon. One day, shaking from anger and disrespect brought on by my manager on my lunch hour in an outdoor courtyard, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore, and that I’d rather venture into the unknown and learn a whole new set of skills than remain in my secure position clutching what little seniority I had with the company. So I sought out a startup with an uncertain future, took a pay cut, and haven’t regretted my choice one iota. In just a few short years I’ve surpassed my old salary in my current position, my company has gone remote, and my current boss is a wizard.

It’s a risk that many may not have taken. But having poured 7 years into my old job and endured the humiliating devaluation of my work ethic, I didn’t care who advised me not to do it. It was my life and I had to get out. Some risks are applauded and others are scoffed at until they pay off.

After a breakup, everyone tells you to “focus on yourself.” Which is stellar advice if you gave up everything you love in your relationship and forgot what it meant to do things you enjoy. But believe it or not, some people are fully grounded in who they are and don’t abandon their hobbies just because they’re with someone else. I didn’t hang out with my friends any less, and in fact explored new interests. My friends remain the same whether i’m in a relationship or not; married, with children, engrossed in graduate programs or simply living their own lives.

Maybe your circle advises you to stay single and sleep around (But I’m not too fond of casually sleeping around and prefer meaningful connections). Or don’t sleep around at all and do other things (But I LOVE SEX and I was doing those things anyway). So make new friends if your current ones are busy (Which is exactly how you meet new people and possible new romantic interests who pursue you). But don’t rush into anything (Have you tried online dating nowadays? First date — ANALYSIS. Second date — Is something gonna happen here? Third date — We sleeping together or nah?). I discovered I despise online dating because of the clinical and rapid pace you’re thrown into things. And that my mom’s dating standards are far different than my own, with car, apartment, and lucrative job weighing more than attentiveness, connection, and honesty (curse my Millennial-ness). :/

Despite what advice anyone has to give you, we are all going through life on our first try. Your own intuition should always be your best guide, while recommendations come second. Be bold and confident in this one life you have and wear that cheeky bikini or those short shorts, or that outfit that you second-guess whether it’s “appropriate” for your age (because apparently in non-American cultures, they dgaf). Go to cosplay parties even though you’re in your 30s, take handstand classes just because it’s random, bounce around with your cousins at a trampoline park until you’re exhausted even though it’s mostly for children, and take hip-hop classes because your family always told you that you couldn’t dance.

Fall in love as often as your heart allows, and don’t be ashamed at its capacity. You only have one life and you can spend it diving headlong into the unknown or tiptoe-ing the outskirts according to someone else’s standards. Take a spontaneous trip to Chicago for Pokemon GO Fest (WHICH I DAMN SURE WOULD HAVE DONE HAD THE TICKETS NOT SOLD OUT). Because sometimes you want to do something like fly out and get a hotel room for a night for a one-day mobile phone event. Yes, as an adult woman, you can travel with others who may not be the same gender as you that you met on Facebook, or Meetup, or Twitter. It’s okay.

And by the same notion, don’t do what DOESN’T feel right to pacify your circle or what the “Internet experts” encourage either. Ignore the pressures to cave to organized religion (because they discuss behind your back about how you should) or hop on the Brazilian wax bandwagon (because even bikini-waxing was too intense for my tolerance). Free-spirit your way through life without make-up and heels, and be the one in the family with the unconventional natural look, oblivious to trends.

The more life you live, the more you find that ignoring your intuition is a waste. Lupe Fiasco said you can’t take back words you never said, and the same goes for actions. You can’t take them back if you didn’t do them. If it’s going to make you happy and you’re highly sure you won’t regret it, do it. If everyone looks at you oddly because your decisions are different from what they would have chosen, good. That’s why they’re your decisions and not theirs. And individuals exist to operate outside of a hive mind. Don’t ever forget to be loyal to your true self first.

Because it’s not your best friend’s baby, or your co-worker’s relationship, or your mother’s job, or your family’s trip, or the world’s life, or the Internet’s happiness. It’s yours.

~Tael (Strong Intuitionist)

The Facets of Feeling

I have a problem with the term “chasing happiness.” It’s too simple. The past 2 years for me were a prison of black and white, upbeat happy or pitfall sad. In-between emotions weren’t recognized or permitted. Hell, even sadness was considered intolerable, and angrily acknowledged if it surfaced. The vivid spectrum of human emotion could not be fully accessed. The only emotion allowed…was “happy.” But denying your palate the varied flavors of life through emotional suppression only creates a disastrous recipe.

Happiness. We hold it as the most powerful, sought-after state of being for a healthy, satisfying life. But there’s a problem with those who ONLY wish to be “happy” and banish the other emotions to the dungeon-like doldrums. Happiness is just one shade. Satisfaction, for example, is not as surface-level as “happy.” Satisfaction can run so much deeper and give you a far higher sense of achievement when attained. Contentment, as well, is a warm feeling that echoes softly through your soul putting you in a relaxed state that “happy” cannot achieve on its own. Exuberance is an exhilaratory upgrade of happiness that heightens your mental state with a gripping thrill.

And then there’s the downside of the spectrum. No one wants to be sad. No one wants to be depressed. And no one should wish for it. But when it happens, sometimes you have to feel it deeply. There is no such thing as a “bad” feeling; there is only a poor way to handle it. Choosing “not” to feel it is one such example. You can never truly face your situation by running from the sentiment. If sadness happens to be your reality at the moment, then face it head on, grieve, and learn from it. Fleeing from feelings conquers nothing and produces 0 growth. It’s simply putting a lid on a pot that will continue to boil and erupt later with explosive, exponential intensity.

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It may feel like a curse to feel emotions magnified other than “happy.” If you’re like me and feel things very deeply (mood swings galore as a child), simple words with an odd inflection may cut you deep. Brutal anger may draw a curtain of red over your world. Unfair treatment might make you curl-up-on-the-floor-sick-to-your-stomach with resentment. But buoyant, spirited vibes resound within you, magnifying to a high better than any hallucinogen.

The individual you run into sobbing in public will be one of the most honest people you’ll meet. Unafraid of the world’s judgment, they are showing you their current truth in raw form, without a facade. That highly opinionated acquaintance who constantly vomits their viewpoints that everyone finds “inappropriate,” likely won’t be “two-faced” behind your back because they give you themselves without dilution. The stranger you’ve just met who heatedly shares his indignation at an injustice he recently witnessed is unafraid to display the passion in his heart. Fearless emotion is an amazing thing.

If your goal is to only chase “happiness,” how can you fully appreciate the facets of feeling? Like a brilliant diamond, there are so many glittering sides to experience that grant you new perception at different angles. Angles that illumine paths to reflections you may not have seen before. Paths that lead you to fellow humans who immediately and completely understand what you’re feeling because they’ve felt it as well. They’ve experienced that facet of the diamond themselves. They’ve tasted that emotion and overcome it before and now you’ve created a powerful connection through sharing and empathy.

We need the jarring rage you feel when a friend is mistreated, the sweltering indignance you feel when you’re spoken down to, and the simmering jealous awe that pushes us to climb and stretch for things out of our reach. Going through life cradling one feeling is a robotic pathway of monochrome imbalance. Celebrate the fact that you can feel a myriad of sentiments. Reactions that prove you’re legitimately interacting with the world and people around you. You hear them, listen, disagree, get angered by what they say, happy at their news, sad at their downfalls. Cry when you’re upset, stomp when you’re mad, yell when you’re frustrated. Shout beneath a waterfall like in A Quiet Place and let go of the composure. Embrace the wild freedom of being human.

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Be wary of those who are only ever “happy,” afraid to come face to face with any other emotion. Those are the ones who hide deeper currents that wash over their hidden truths and malfunction their mechanical myths behind the veneer they’ve put up. If your life is one emotion, you’re half-living, and not viewing the full panorama the human soul has to offer. If you haven’t fallen to the lowest point, clawed your way back out, coped through a mind-numbing loss, been picked up by the kindness of karmatic-hearted strangers, and even had your boss comfort you in the throes of devastation, you might not have truly lived yet.

The ending line from the Fruits Basket manga never resonated so well with me before: Repeat the good AND the bad. Do it all, and pile on the years.

Never be afraid to feel.

~Tael