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Suck-cess

I am one of those semi-freaks you hear about who’s infinitely more afraid of success than failure. For me, failure has always been comfortable, mainly because it was familiar. There’s a reliability in failing: you don’t get what you want (which you knew all along you weren’t deserving of anyway) and you disappoint the people closest to you. It’s an all-around good time, failing. There’s something comforting about it – and hey, it’s universal. It’s something we all do at one time or another. (Except for Jesus.) I always thought of myself as a failure, and the cool thing about it was, I was probably better at it than you were. BOOM – I win at failing.

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But when my ass got sober, it was probably the first time in my life that it truly occurred to me that I could do something right. That I had some sort of say-so in whether or not things turned out my way. It’s an extremely simple theory — that you can take charge of your destiny — but nevertheless, one that seems incredibly hard to grasp. So when I got sober (and I’ve managed to not fuck that up for seventeen months & six days) it occurred to me that maybe there was some other shit I could do successfully. That maybe my tendency to always fail wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Maybe.

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I haven’t known what to do with success though.  For all of my desire to achieve it, I haven’t the foggiest goddamned notion of what to do once I get there. I am uncomfortable with succeeding. I am the JD Salinger of the general public: if I do something noteworthy and astonishing, and receive accolades, I almost immediately contract paralysis-by-analysis and crawl back into the hole I came from, not to be heard from again, because I don’t know what to do with myself.

For one thing, I detest praise. Well, let me clarify: I love attention…I just don’t know what to do when someone starts heaping praise on me. I automatically think they’re shitting me, number one. (After all, I’ve been known to blow smoke up people’s asses on occasion, so what’s to say I’m not on the receiving end of that myself?) Number two, I feel unworthy of it, like it’s being wasted on me. And number three, it instantly goes to my head. I used to beg a tennis instructor of mine not to use positive reinforcement with me.

“What do you want me to say, then?” he asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “You say nothing.”

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Because almost as soon as he uttered a, “Wow, that was a beautiful backhand!” I’d get giddy, lose my focus and boof the next shot. Praise was a bad omen.

Maybe it stems from not coming from one of those gooey, “we know you did your best, sweetie and we love you so much anyway” types of households.

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If I messed up, I absolutely was going to hear about it. Criticism was meant to *do* something — wear you down, humiliate you, put you in your place, bring you down to size, trip your inner resolve, whatever. Soft-spoken praise was somewhat rare and seen mostly as superfluous. You made good grades? Goddamn right you did; that’s what you were supposed to do anyway. What, do you want a cookie? Actually, scratch that, you don’t need a cookie — it’ll make you fat.

Best advice from Dr. Phil youre fat dont sugar coat it cause youll eat that too

And after 18 years of that, I of course decided to enter the creative writing realm of higher education, thereby subjecting myself to seven consecutive years of workshops, where if someone was feeling a bit asshole-ish that day, you and your precious darling of a story could get eaten and shit out sideways.

Someone's reaction every day in grad school.

Someone’s reaction every day in grad school.

You learned to toughen the fuck up or pretend like you had.

Conversely, for as much as I don’t deal well with praise, I haven’t exactly developed a thick skin after all this time, either. I am one of those infuriatingly empathic, sensitive types, and I take everything personally. (Because hey, everything is about me. Because hey, alcoholic.) Maybe because they’re kissing cousins, but being rejected feels as normal to me as failing at some endeavor. I sometimes don’t know how to let people love me. And if they tell me they do love me, and even show me, I am still in a constant state of suspension, where I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. (Yes, it’s as exhausting as you think it is.) Alex, who is so sweet and so attentive and so demonstrative with his feelings for me, has gotten a taste of this trait of mine. Yet somehow, maybe because of who he is or what he’s dealt with in his life, I think he understands this side of me. Instead of chiding me for it, he just sticks around and keeps loving me.

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I guess the good news is, I’m aware that it’s there, this hypersensitivity, this expectation of future rejection. And even better news, I am trying to remedy it. (Reading a super book called Unworthy by Anneli Rufus, which bears the tagline: What would you do today if you didn’t despise yourself? Go get this. Read it. Grow. Heal.) It’s become clear to me that my self-esteem is for shit. When and how that started seems less important than reversing it as best I can. Like all personal and spiritual challenges, the remedy will not be simple or easy. But a remedy does exist, and I’ve chosen to (try to) take it.

I mention all of this shit because of my weight loss. Since I’ve been sober, I’ve lost 65 lbs, 25 of which has come after my surgery in April. People at work are noticing. (I have noticed only in that my clothes fit better. I still look at myself in the mirror and sigh.) The thing is, though, that I’m forever comparing myself to someone else’s progress. I have a friend who lost 50 lbs in her first three months after surgery; I will be hard-pressed to be down 35 in that same time frame.

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Friends are telling me what I already know but need to hear anyway: stop comparing yourself to what everyone else is doing. You’ve lost 65 fucking pounds, and you’re going to continue losing. You are doing what you need to do to feel better, get around better, have more energy, sleep better, look better, work better and live better. Your weight loss, they tell me, is a success.

Eeesh. There’s that word again.

Because yes, I have a fear about weight loss, which is a sought-after success of mine. My fear about it is deep, and not spoken of much, but it goes something like this: what if I lose weight and it’s not enough? What if people still don’t want me around them? What if I’m still not desirable or good enough? Because then it’s never been about what I look like, like I thought it was; it’s who I am that is, in and of itself, undesirable. *I* am undesirable. Me, at my core. Who I am…is unwanted. That’s a bitch of a message to receive. Talk about taking a toll.

 

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The adult in me understands that I am not, nor will I ever be, for everyone. No matter what you do, there’s some (to utilize a common colloquialism of the younger crowd) hater out there who won’t like you regardless. The guys who think Kate Upton is fat. Or that Mark Zuckerberg is a dumb dipshit. Or that Malala Yousafzai really should pluck her brows. You can’t worry about your detractors, because you’re going to have them. It’s a fact. There will forever be at least one person out there who would get in line to tell the world what a seething shitbag you are, whether they even know you or not. Because this phenomenon seems hellish to some (*raises hand*), there are those (*hand again*) who then spend an inordinate amount of time in overdrive mode to prevent this very fact of life. And that, my friends, is an absolute exercise in futility if one ever existed.

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An oldie but a goodie.

I have always secretly admired the women who did what they wanted, how they wanted, and if someone didn’t like it, they’d hurl a big fat, “Fuck you, then!” and go about their business as usual. Haters? Poof, begone.

To me, it’s always been more inspiring to see a woman do this than a man, since — let’s face it — women tend to get shit from all directions: each other, males and society in general. Anyway, while walking my neighbor’s dog the other night, a gust of wind came by and blew up the corner of my new summery dress. I caught a reflection of my chubby knee in a glass window and winced. Immediately, my mother’s voice came into my head: That dress is a little short, JP. I don’t think I’d wear that again. Or maybe her go-to favorite: Too clingy. But just as quickly as that voice piped up, I heard another. I’m not sure whose it was, but it said, “Fuck it. It’s summer, it’s hot, and I’ll wear what I want. I’ve lost 25 pounds and I look cute as hell.”

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That, in a nutshell, has been my battle: to quiet that shitty inner-voice that is actually heavily influenced by the voices of others. (It’s not even my voice. I’m not even sure what that would sound like, actually.) To feel deserving of success, love, praise, affection, admiration and compliments. To acknowledge my accomplishments for what they are. To be proud of my progress. To not feel like one kind word will over-inflate my ego and cause some sort of mass casualty. Honestly, you couldn’t over-inflate my ego if you had a fucking air pump the size of the Chrysler Building.

I don’t want to get stuck because of success (Oh, I’ve arrived! Now I’m done!) but I am tired of being railroaded by doubt and failure, too. Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, I will have to work on a happy medium. I know one exists. I know it’s possible for me to start undoing 30 years of horseshit — possible but not easy.

Awwww. Look at your little Arrogant Ass blogger, folks. She’s growing up so fast.

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*Puts cake and vodka on a boat, lights it on fire, pushes it out to sea, cackles maniacally

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Look, I’ll tell you my main reason for having this gastric bypass procedure: put simply, I was afraid I would taco-and-donut myself right into a motorized scooter. That I would be puttering around the Wal-Marts, putting as many boxes of ho-hos and bricks of Velveeta into that tiny little basket and probably (unwittingly) mowing down an innocent toddler in the process. And that just wasn’t cool with me.

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It’s not like I have something incredibly wise or inspirational to say here. And in my darkest, chubby moments, that’s what I wanted: I wanted someone to say something completely profound, that would resonate with me and finally be the ah-ha moment I needed to climb out from under this shit. I had a lot of false starts. Those moments where you tell yourself, “This is my rock bottom. Now things are going to change.” Problem is, I had dozens and dozens of those moments, and none of them stuck.

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If my alcoholism has taught me anything, it’s this: until you are really, really ready, you aren’t going to do jack shit. No coercion, no nagging, no ultimatum, no threats, no shaming, no half-hearted efforts will do a damned thing for you. You have to say to yourself, “To hell with everyone around me. I don’t care what they do or don’t think. This, by God, is for ME. This is so I can have a life.” You’re not doing it to get society off your back, or love interests, or family members or employers. Facing and managing an addiction is the most selfish thing you can do, because you have to rewire your life in order to do it. It’s not convenient, easy, fun, or cheap. But for me it was necessary. I knew after I was sober for a while that I had a next step to take, and it was to do something about my weight.

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As most of you know, my weight has always been the albatross around my neck. My weight, my eating, my obsession with eating or not eating or throwing up what I ate — were the topics of bajillions of conversations I never asked for but was roped into anyway. That’s the thing about being overweight: everyone sees that shit. I could walk into the post office and be a raging alcoholic and no one would know. Walk in a fatty? Everyone knows. You cannot hide. What’s worse is that people feel perfectly fine about starting up conversations with you about your weight, since it’s just right out there for the taking, and other fat people want to wink-wink, nudge-nudge you because hey, you’re both fat, so your stories must be the same. My weight garnered me a lot of unwanted attention. I just wanted to stand on a rooftop and holler, “Quit fucking talking to me about it! Did you ever think I didn’t want to be THAT person you engage about all your eating difficulties and body image issues?”

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A friend of mine who had gastric bypass (GB) is very open on social media about her journey, and I admire her for it. She looks amazing and has worked her ass off. But she’s braver and more outgoing than I am.  I don’t want to be a poster girl. Not for anything: not for recovering alcoholics, not for weight loss surgery, not for cat ladies, not for anything. The reason being is that I’m scared shitless it won’t work. That I’ll fall off the wagon. That this surgery, like my Lapband, will be a miserable failure. I’m always wary of people who say, “Never again.” I prefer the AA motto of,  “Just one day at a time.” Less commitment and a much more manageable chunk of time.

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All of that being said, I’m beginning to feel the need to speak now. To tell my story without any bullshit or sugar-coated rah-rah cheer. I feel the need to be a voice I didn’t hear from much when I was at the height of my disease. If someone had said things the way I want to say it now, would it have made a difference in my journey? Maybe not. But it’s possible.

I’ll say this:  my alcoholism and my weight both had something in common — they were going to kill me if I didn’t do something about them. They were going to significantly fuck up my life, possibly beyond repair. But the thing was, in the height of my addictions, I didn’t want to have to change anything. I wanted magic. I wanted to get to this zen place I am now…but without doing anything different. I wanted the prize without any of the work.

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And I certainly tried to find it. I didn’t want to give up booze or food, but I would read self-help books, thinking the answer was in there. I’d jump from anti-depressant to anti-depressant, thinking one would finally perk up and make me feel fan-fucking-tastic, even though I was drinking like a sailor on leave and eating like a fat kid at sleepaway camp. A new shrink here or there, a very special episode of Oprah. And none of it worked. In short order, I came to realize that the only thing that was going to make any discernible difference was if I gave up the sweet nectar and delicious shit.

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I can’t tell you if there was one thing that brought me through the doors of AA in January of 2013. I think it was a culmination of things. I’d had a lot of “bottoms” and barreled right through them. At the point I got sober, I was just fucking exhausted. To the core. Exhausted. The way I was going was not sustainable.

Same thing about getting healthy. I’d had high hopes before, since I’d done Atkins and Weight Watchers and had the Lapband. I had many “this is going to really be it” moments. I’d like to think a lot of my problem then was that I was still drinking when all of those diet attempts happened, and it’s hard to consume 1500 calories of vodka a day and lose weight. Getting sober had to come first, and I’m glad it did.

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I’ll say this: everything about this GB process is ludicrous. Almost laughably funny. It’s a laugh-or-you’ll-cry thing. When I went to the mandatory seminar in January at my surgeon’s office, I looked around at the prospects around me. Ever the vain shitass,  I immediately felt like the Kate Upton of the group. And there were some sad sacks in there, to be sure. People for whom the motorized scooter had become a stark reality. People with oxygen machines. People who couldn’t get comfortable even in the double-wide size chairs.

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There were lots of consultations, my favorite of which was the nutritional counseling with the dietician. I don’t know if I’ve ever expounded on my extreme hatred for dietitians and nutritionists, who I’ve always found to be the most dull, humorless, useless fuckers on the face of the planet. I actively dislike them, if for no other reason than they’re also always painfully thin. Just once, I’d like to find one who had her “fat”  before picture up on her desk. This particular seminar was with two other prospects, who were both just begging to be smacked in the face with a closed fist.

I almost felt sorry for the dietician (almost), for having to field some of the questions these two mental giants threw at her. Without even consulting the clear-as-day list she’d just plunked into their fat, sweaty little palms, they proceeded to ask some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.

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YOU’RE HAVING WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY. Of course you can’t have gravy on your mashed potatoes, you horse’s ass. And did you hear her? She said no potatoes, period. They’re on the avoid list. Can you read, motherfucker? One of the prospects was one of those types you remember from school, who *lives* to ask a question of the teacher to a) hear himself talk and b) to take the opportunity to demonstrate his knowledge to everyone in earshot.

“So you say walking is good. I mean, I walk all the time. I walk like five miles a day. Should I do more?”

Oh. SURE YOU DO, BITCH. I’m sure that’s why you’re in here asking about bariatric surgery, because you’re so fucking active.

The other one couldn’t get past the fact that gravy, ranch dressing and mayonnaise were snacka-non-grata after this surgery. “What if it’s Light Ranch?” I was half-hoping the dietician would throw her hands in the air and say, “Yes, absolutely. In fact, eat as much Light Ranch as you’d like. I recommend a cup a day.” If all these people could focus on is what they could still find a way to weasel back into their eating regimens once this surgery was over, I got news for them: you might not be the best candidate for this procedure. Because that’s how I thought when I had the Lapband in 08. And guess what? That procedure, for myriad reasons, some beyond my control but mostly IN my control, was not a success for me. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. The doctors should have been able to pick up on that immediately. Hell, maybe they had and just didn’t care. But I can assure you, if your biggest question after a class with the dietician is, “What about sweet tea, can I still have that?” you’re going to be a fatty mcfatterson for the rest of your life, boo.

It's pretty damn American.

It’s pretty damn American.

I think this ties into the idea that having weight loss surgery is the easy way out. I’m here to tell you, there hasn’t been one easy thing about it. From the pre-op tests, pre-op diets, the procedure itself (my first cognizant thought upon awakening after 7 hours was to side eye the recovery nurse who was talking too goddamned much, of course), the physical pain, and being on a liquid only diet for 3 weeks — this is not easy. By the end of that 3 weeks, I was ready to go outside, chase down and throttle a squirrel and eat him raw.  I told Alex that only crazy people must opt to have this surgery. I paid someone to mutilate my body and make my stomach into the size of a thumb. That’s almost like opting to have a lobotomy. This surgery is irreversible. WHO DOES THIS NUTTY SHIT?!

I do. Because there wasn’t anything else that was going to help me. I had to physically make it impossible to be able to eat the way I had been for 30 years. It was the most drastic, permanent solution I could take, and in my opinion, I was the perfect candidate for it.

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I am truly amazed at how much my life has changed in the past 16 months. It is completely unbelievable to me. I could never have fathomed this. I was unprepared for the happiness, hope, and love I would receive, not to mention a lot of dumb luck. To have clarity, peace, some hope for a future I never thought I’d have — is truly mind-numbing. I can’t wrap my head around it. How did all this happen to me? And not only that, but to find Alex (my hot Viking) in the red-hot middle of everything and for things to be going well with us — it’s really stunning.

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It’s still not going to be easy. My entire lifestyle has had to change, both where alcohol and food are concerned. I told Alex that my three main coping mechanisms are forever lost to me: smoking, drinking and eating. Now when I feel anxiety or a panic attack coming on, it’s either a Klonipin or I’m up shit creek. In other words, I have to deal. I have to probably walk through that anxiety and experience it now. It’s going to be different. And not fun.

But here’s what I *do* look forward to doing that would have been out of my grasp had I not gotten sober and had this surgery. I’ll remember things vividly. I won’t look at the ground when I walk into a room anymore. I won’t wake up in a panic, wondering what I did the night before. Plane travel won’t be torture. I won’t need to sleep for 12 hours a day. I’ll save a shit-ton on groceries…and spend all those savings on new clothes that aren’t purchased in the women’s department. I can wear high heels again. I’ll look forward to trips abroad and not worry that I won’t be able to keep up. I might actually get married and have a healthy baby and be able to chase the little dumpling around without wheezing. I might start hearing, “You’re so pretty,” instead of, “You have such a pretty face.” I can go to a restaurant and not worry if I can squeeze into the booth. I’ll be able to sit in lawn chairs. Alex and I can go on long walks. I can ride a bike. I might even try rollerblading one day. I want to play tennis again. I want to take yoga and pilates. This whole new wonderful life is opening up to me. Not without a price, but the price was so worth it, because now I can have something I truly never even imagined.

Surgery and Vikings

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It may sound like hyperbole, but it’s safe to say that the last two months have been the most mind-blowing, life-changing ones I’ve ever had. I’ve been sitting on an assload (to use a precise, government-approved measurement) of material mostly because I just wasn’t sure how to present it…or even if I wanted to. Sobriety has brought out a bit of decorum and modesty in me (imagine that), and my incessant need to tell everyone everything has, right along with me, dried up a bit. (I mean that in an alcohol-related way, not a vagina-related way. Annnnnd now I’m back to oversharing. Thank you. Thank you very much.)

 

I think the rose is a nice touch. Also, never Google "vaginal dryess" images.

I think the rose is a nice touch. Also, never Google “vaginal dryess” images.

So, look: I had gastric bypass surgery two weeks ago. And a month before that, I met who I am certain is my future husband. How’s that for 60 days?

Over Christmas break, I decided — with the blessing of my family — to have gastric bypass surgery. Well, *first* they had to remove the jank-ass, regrettable Lapband…THEN they would covert what was left of my poor stomach into a pouch the shape of a thumb. (At this point, my elusive, detail-curious side came out. “But whose thumb? Mine? Because I have a tiny-ass thumb. Or, like, Shaquille O’Neal’s thumb? Because that’s probably fair.”)

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That’s a big fucking thumb.

I won’t bore you with the details, but Blue Cross Blue Shield decided to be complete twat waffles and not cover a damned thing. Even though my surgeon made a personal appeal on my behalf, since my Lapband had been causing acid reflux and vomiting for years because — ta da! — that useless motherfucker had slipped out of place years ago. (DON’T EVER GET THE LAPBAND PROCEDURE, FOLKS. HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE.) BCBS told me to eat their ass and so I was left to find funding on my own.

Also do not Google images of "eat my ass." Trust.

Also do not Google images of “eat my ass.” Trust.

Thankfully, I had two willing financial backers (hint: I slid down the birth canal of one of them) who agreed to help me out. Without that, I would be sitting my fat ass at work, woefully eating a glazed donut and eyeball-deep in raging pity. (And yes, I wonder daily why God didn’t test me on that one. I’m sure it would have made a good lesson somehow.)

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So I return to the Big City after Christmas break, fresh with the revelation that I’ll be having this surgery sometime in the next couple of months. And I’ll be damned if, on January 1st, I don’t hear from someone I mentioned on this blog about 3 years ago: Alex. You may not remember him — he was the Swedish-speaking (actually it’s Norwegian — hello, Vikings) Facebook crush of mine who asked me out right after Brodkey and I split back in early 2011. Back then, things never panned out. We talked about going out and then it just fizzled before it even began. I didn’t hear from him for 3 years. (3 FUCKING YEARS.) And all of a sudden, this January, I get a message from him on Facebook.

Mmmm. Vikings.

Mmmm. Vikings.

Our first meeting, which was to happen in late January, didn’t go well. Because it didn’t happen. Again, details — but when our first date fell through, I found myself relieved. It’s just as well, I told myself. This is for the best. I didn’t believe it when I said that to myself, but I said it anyway. What I didn’t — couldn’t — realize at that point was that yes, it actually was for the best. Someone much wiser than I was orchestrating all this. The timing had to be just right.

Cut to 2 months later, in March. Alex and I began communicating again. This time, more intensely. Talking for hours and hours at a time. Then he gobsmacked me.  Let’s just meet for coffee, he said. And for as much as I wanted to — from the depths of my loins, you have no idea — I initially told him no: no coffee. Maybe in a few months. Maybe in like six to eight months, I told him. I just have a lot going on right now. The timing is horrible. 

Axl Rose was keen on this sentiment as well.

Axl Rose was keen on this sentiment as well.

Because here I was, on the eve of having this surgery, and I wasn’t feeling pretty. At all. I felt revolting and the last thing I wanted to do was show up and finally *finally* meet this guy — a guy who’d caught my attention long ago, who I’d never been able to quite get a hold of. A guy I couldn’t shake, even if it had been years since our last communication, and even if we hadn’t seen each other in almost 20 years (and even then didn’t even really remember the other one because of our age gap). In fact, when he asked me to have coffee with him, via text, I was sitting in the bathtub, and I vividly remember beginning to sob as I read that text. I asked — aloud — WHY? This is the worst timing ever. Please not now. Please, please not now. Some other time. 

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Of course, it’s moments like that where I think God gets a good case of the wheeze & chuckles. We’re so human. So short-sighted. Everything has to be on *our* time. If we can’t fathom or see it, it must not be right. It’s an arrogance, really.

Eventually — and in short order — I relented. My curiosity and undying 3 year fascination with Alex won out over my vanity and fear, oddly enough. So we agreed to meet for coffee, and in the meantime, we kept talking our asses off to one another. There was something I really responded to about him. We had a lot of similarities: some nice but by no means crucial (“Oh you’re a Libertarian? Excellent? And you love cats? This is perfect, please keep talking!”) and others that hit on a much deeper level. Like having an instant rapport. Like having like-minded ideas and morals and life desires. Like having certain life events in common.

So we met up…and it was horrible. Our first meeting didn’t go as planned. It happened, but not how either of us anticipated. And because of one little kink (not that kind of kink, bitches), the whole thing came so close to completely, irrevocably going south. It should have, actually.

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And yet. There was something there. We both knew it. There were a couple of things we didn’t know how we were going to overcome, but we both sensed we had to, or we’d be making maybe the biggest mistake of our lives. Yes, our connection was that strong. He knew it, I knew it.

So after 3 years, fizzled conversations, years-long breaks, a botched first date, and a shitty actual meet-up, Alex and I finally happened. It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been without some anxiety. But it has absolutely been worth it.

Because I had lamented to a friend of mine, shortly after I decided to have this surgery, that I sure was sad that I couldn’t have met my future partner before I slimmed down and got all sexy and shit. They’ll never know, I told her, what I was like before. They’ll never have loved me this way, at my worst. How will I know if they really love the whole me? 

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And yet, here was Alex, loving me anyway. I was upfront with him almost immediately about my plans for surgery. I was candid about this being a horrible time to start a relationship, because I was going to be in such a transitory state for a while. But somehow, he remained undaunted, and even better, terribly supportive. He was there the day of my surgery, from pre-op until they wheeled me into my room 11 hours later. He sat with my mom in a waiting room for most of that time. He has loved on me, kissed me, smoothed my hair, reassured me, dealt with my mother, helped out, been patient, and shown me respect and love. I never, ever could have imagined this.

Because honestly? Alex was kind of my dream guy. My pie in the sky. (Mmmmm. Pie. I haven’t had a solid fucking bite to eat of anything since Easter night, and let me tell you pie sounds delicious. Hell, the cats’ Fancy Feast is looking mighty appetizing at this point.)

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Someone I’d always thought about and hoped for, but never thought would actually happen. I mean, even at best, I thought we’d maybe be friends and one night he’d let me give him a beej or something, but not THIS. This is just beyond anything I had even fathomed. What Alex and I have is different from anything else I’ve experienced, hand to God. It’s just off the charts. It’s…well, it’s real. Only took me 37 years to get here.

Anyway, my surgery went well, and I’ll be writing some posts about how things went and are going on that front. It’s a scenario ripe with humor, trust me. Because at its core, this surgery is ridiculous. The reasons, the method, the prerequisites, the recovery, everything. It has high elements of the absurd all over it. I could write an entire post just on what it was like to have to sit through a “nutrition class” (and I use those quote marks purposefully) with what I can only assume were two of God’s slowest creatures. (“So are you saying, like, I can’t dip my french fries in mayonnaise anymore? What if they’re sweet potato fries?”)

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But for now, I am recovering nicely. Have one more week off work (woo-hoo!) and today, I should be able to move to eating pureed foods. Honestly, I’d kick a toddler in the face for a scrambled egg, no lie. I just want to actually have to chew something.

I’m scared to say it out loud, but life is really good right now. Maybe the best it’s ever been. (Definitely the best it’s ever been.)

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“You are delicious,” Anxiety whispers in my ear, as it eats me for lunch

It’s funny, but when I feel an anxiety attack coming on, I almost always have the same consistent word pop into my head: Shitburgers.

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It’s sort of an adults-only derivative of my favorite South Park character, Butters, and his frazzled battle cry, “Hamburgers!” And yet, for all of my word-love and English major nerd eloquence (“Since when are you eloquent?” – you all), “shitburgers” seems to nicely sum up my mental state going into a full-on anxiety attack. And I like to imagine that it will stick around, acting as a kind of bat signal for my future partner. What did you say? Did you just say shitburgers? and all of a sudden, he’ll start clearing a pathway for me like he’s a goddamned aircraft marshaller.

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These wands have a dual purpose… know what I mean?

I don’t mean to sound obtuse (Note: I am about to totally sound obtuse), but some stuff has been going on lately that has deep fried my nerves so much I half expect them to be the feature staple at the 2014 Texas State Fair.

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In future posts, I might ease into what exactly that is, but I can go ahead and say it’s nothing deathly or horrible. Just something complex and difficult, but with potentially happy end results. (And no, it’s not electro-shock therapy, though that might not be a bad idea, considering.)

But ironing out the painstaking details (and I am not a details person) is for someone with a lot more patience and sobriety than I currently possess. Unfortunately, it’s in my constitution to get completely cocked up over the details/waiting-game stage and just go completely off the rails. Which I have done gloriously in the last week. I go around with an expression on my face that probably looks like I drink human souls for breakfast.

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Kunty Karl is displeased at being placed in such close proximity to a picture of fried food. (His inner fatty is secretly delighted, however.)

Perhaps offering my services to a timid co-worker today was a bit much. “Send that motherfucker my way,” I told her about an unruly office mate of ours. “I’m in the mood to shank someone.” Even an AA friend, after casually asking me tonight how I was, pulled away and said, “You look like you either want to eat my face or cry. Or both.”

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Because I feel like I am about to break. It’s probably NO BUENO when you’re driving home from an AA meeting and fantasizing about how good a vodka cranberry would be right about then. I mean, I could almost taste it. And I drove extra-slowly past one of my old liquor stores. I stared at it with as much longing as I would a totally naked Alex Skarsgard helicoptering right in front of me.  I could have been in and out in two minutes with a handle of vodka and no one would have been the wiser.

Still, while that crosses my mind, that’s all it’s doing right now. Because at the end of the day, I kept driving past that liquor store, and my idea of a fucking treat tonight was two extra fiber gummies, not a vodka cranberry. Today, I did my part: I went to a meeting, I talked to other alcoholics, and I didn’t take a drink. I don’t have to worry about or make promises regarding tomorrow. I just had to take care of today.

So, this Unnamed Future Event that’s coming up — it’s going to be rough. A lot like getting sober again, as far as the emotional investment. But then, I’m one of those pussies who thinks *everything* about life is hard. Things that normal, well-adjusted people do every day and have done for years just takes a monumental amount out of me.

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I’m just muy incómodo when it comes to crying on the daily. In fact, that’s very much why I drank. And before I could drink, it was why I snarfed fattening delicious shit, and why I eventually would have done all the drugs: I detested the anxiety.

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I live to be soothed. I hate chaos and conflict. I want my life to be a big ball of comfort. Even watching all those apocalyptic zombie shows and shit, I’m always all, “Who in the fuck would want to live in a world where you have no air conditioning, have to walk everywhere, and your occasional reward for not getting devoured by the undead is a commercial sized bucket of expired pudding?” (Unless I was nailing Daryl. Then I would hang tight and my will to live might possibly stay intact.)

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Knowing all this mess was coming, I set up an appointment with my shrink and told her ass in no uncertain terms that I needed some medicinal help for this. That I had God, and AA, and a sponsor, and friends, and a talky therapist. But that there ain’t no shame in a good benzo to calm a bitch’s tits every now and then. She switched up a few things and is trying some new (non-addictive) add-ons that I hope will help.

Screen shot 2014-03-12 at 11.14.52 PMThe thing is, I will be okay. There are going to be a buttload of times when I’m going to feel like things are very NOT okay. But that’s the trick: to outthink this thing. If you can convince yourself that it’s not as real as it feels, and that it will pass, then you stand a much better chance of getting through it. Am I  still going to sob silently in bathrooms? Yes. Will I hyperventilate while taking Mr. Teefs to the vet to get his anal glands expressed? Yes. (Safe to say: he was also unhappy.) Do some anxiety attacks hit me like a metric ton of bricks, while others slowly, sinisterly creep up over the course of a day? Yes. So — I will cry. I will be out of breath. I will feel like my chest is in an ever-tightening vice. I will get tunnel vision. I will want to hide. I will hide when I can. But I will get through it.

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This is my dance space, that is your dance space

While white-girl shoulder shimmying to Keith Sweat (on my “I’m So Embarrassed” Spotify playlist), I started thinking about boundaries. (Because musical boundaries? I have none. That and Keith Sweat puts me in a philosophical mood.) 

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I think it goes without saying that I might have some boundary issues. But then most of us do, right? In fact, I’m less baffled by those with glaringly poor boundaries and more by those assholes walking around who draw wonderful boundaries in their lives. They’re like a living, breathing unicorn. I’m all, “How in the fuck can you be that well-adjusted? Why aren’t you as screwed up as the rest of us?”

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Because boundaries can exist everywhere. With family (durrrr), co-workers, employers, friends, strangers. I mean, any situation in which you interact with someone is potentially ripe for a boundary breach. Like when the little cafeteria lady downstairs managed to wedge her ideas about abortion into the 49 second window of my time where I’m paying for my lunch. It was beyond inappropriate and weird, and I left thinking, “Jesus. Overstep much?!” And also: “I hope you gave me extra cheese on my pasta.”

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Boundaries seem to go both ways. First, there are those you have that dictate what you will and won’t do in the world; and second, there are those you fasten into place to defend yourself from others. For myriad reasons, I’ve had a deficiency of both for most of my life. Pretty much anything that enters my mind is subject to leaving my talk hole at break-neck speed, which usually has interesting consequences. Conversely (and totally unsurprisingly), I was also always quite horrible at setting up boundaries for others. Anything you wanted to do or say to me wasn’t necessarily welcome, but regardless of my meager protestations, plenty of inappropriate shit has been lobbed my way and I ended up taking it like a low-tier porn star. I had a hard time telling people no.

So. Having not had boundaries up until this point doesn’t make me a victim; it just makes me late to the game. Because now? This bitch has started to set some boundaries.

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And it’s not like I *set out* to create some. But this whole “getting sober” —–> “giving a shit” —–> “taking care of myself” progression has just sort of naturally fallen into place. In fact, it reminds me of one of my favorite lines in the Big Book: We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. And having boundaries? Confounded the fuck out of me for 36 years. Truly. Perhaps I’m simple, but it simply never occurred to me that I could just be all, “No, this [insert particular unwelcome thing] isn’t going to happen.”

You Tina Fey/SNL aficionados will appreciate.

You Tina Fey/SNL aficionados will appreciate.

Of course, the kink in all of that is that you’re going to have people whose seeming LIFE GODDAMN GOAL is to cross any and all boundaries you have in place. Naturally, this can happen with strangers. Like the crazy who accosted me at PetSmart the other day while I was flirting with the adoptable cats. “Don’t get one of them things,” he said. “They got dirty mouths.”

“Well then, the cats and I have that in common,” I quipped back.

You know, strangers are fun. You get those who stand entirely too close to you when talking (“Thanks for eating a tuna sandwich today!”), or who ask inappropriate questions (unless you see the fucking head crowning, don’t ask a woman if she is pregnant — there are societal rules that dictate this). There are the cashiers who comment on what you’re buying (“Suppositories and the latest Men’s Fitness, huh? Looks like you’re about to have a great weekend.”) and the foot-in-mouth randoms who manage to say things that are simply inappropriate (“You look like someone who’s going to be alone this Valentine’s Day, too.”)

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To me, crossed boundaries get worse the closer to home they hit. Perhaps it’s a little-known co-worker who says or asks something inappropriate (“You’re what, a 38, 40 DD? I’m just going based on what my wife kind of looks like.”) or the brand new acquaintance who asks if you exercise often. (“Oh, all the time,” you want to fucking say. “That’s why I’m still shopping at Lane Bryant.”)

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But the most egregious boundaries crossed are undoubtedly by those who know you best and claim to do things, like love you. You know, a lot of really horrible shit can be said in the name of love, as it turns out. If someone knows you well enough, hearing them question your good intentions, your sincerity, your integrity or your guiding morals can be a crushing blow. Some people, if and when you let them, have absolutely no problem invading your very tender core and ripping you to shreds. Families are probably the worst about this, since they’ve known you since you were toothless and shitting yourself. There are usually dozens and dozens of years’ worth of material, and if you’re the enterprising type, you can ruffle through the undying file known as your mind and pull out a sensitive little kernel of information with which to gouge your target.

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For example, my foray into finally declaring, “Fuck it, Imma lay this boundary down whether you like it or not” came after I learned that my mother had my most recent ex, The Lawyer, investigated. Why? Because my parents didn’t approve of the 23 year age difference and supposedly were concerned with how fast things were moving. In that, he’d expressed his interest in traveling with me, and fell in love with me pretty quickly. (I don’t need to tell you that this was all information I had stupidly fed to her.)

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My mother’s boundary oversteps often sting. “Just too much moving fast,” she told me. “He was telling you he loved you and wanted you to go to Oregon with him, and you had already discussed children? Uh-uh. Something wasn’t right with him.”

My response: “I am 37 goddamned years old. For all of your claims about how quickly and often I fall in love, I’ve never taken that to the next level. I’ve never eloped, or gotten engaged, or moved in with someone, or gotten knocked up, or had a quickie divorce. So I don’t move too fucking quick.”

*Note: No, they found nothing criminal about The Lawyer. He was and is a nice guy.

Then, without even thinking much, I said, “Because you chose to have The Lawyer investigated after less than two months of me dating him, and because you were able to do that because I trusted you enough to tell you things, you will no longer hear about my love life. If or when I go on a date, you will not know about it. If I am seeing someone, you will not know about it until *I* deem it necessary. And that will be if and when I feel compelled to introduce you to him. So I hope you enjoyed yourself.”

Lots of catty shit followed, but I immediately felt vindicated. A little light had come on and sizzled in my head. “I can say no!” I can, to use a phrase, put the fucking smack down. When you freely give yourself away to people, you have to understand that not everyone will honor you enough to be trusted with the information they receive. Some people will use that information to take advantage of you, humiliate you, hurt you or one-up you. Putting down a boundary is a way to keep yourself safer. It’s a way to keep your dance space clear so you can…dance.

Of course, if you’re not vigilant, boundaries can quickly become walls. Perhaps if you keep those walls of a scalable size, then a few here and there probably aren’t bad ideas. Because there will be a panoply of people who won’t give a hot fuck whether or not you’re hurt, or feel bad about yourself, or feel violated. As you know, some people who are given an inch will take a mile. Those are the people boundaries seem built for.

It seems to me boundaries and self-respect go hand-in-hand. It’s about protecting yourself because no one else will do it for you. It’s about having a voice, sometimes without even using a word. It’s about a personal privacy. It’s about treasuring certain aspects of your life enough to hold them close.

Because even as I type this, I can tell you that I am coming up on something big. Like, life-changingly big. A friend told me I should write about it, and I very well might. But not right now. Right now I need to keep that boundary, because it just feels right. I might feel differently when things get further down the road, but for right now, you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that this is a good boundary to keep.

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This Bitch: One Year Later

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so eager to tell one year to bite me in the vagina as 2013…. For roughly the same reasons, this year was both the best and worst of my life. It was my worst because I had to get sober; it was my best because I did get sober. It was my best and worst because I fell in love…and had a shitty breakup…and fell in love again…and had a shitty breakup…again.

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I can’t think of a year that contained as many tears, as much joy…or as much wanton sugar consumption. Being the alcoholic that I am, it’s in my very nature to wonder aloud if my life now is what  life feels like for normal people, and I was simply missing that all this time. Alcoholics have such a warped fucking view of everything. “Normal” left our vernacular a long time ago. In fact, one thing I’ve heard on repeat in AA meetings is that we alcoholics always felt different, even as children, even before our drinking career began. There was a sense of dis-ease — an impending sense of doom, if you will — deep in our bones, perhaps there since birth. And the bigger it grew, the more we began to fracture. Drinking seemed a natural — and at times effective — solution.

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My life as a whole makes more sense to me as of today than it ever has. Because my alcoholism? Explains everything. Fucking everything. And, as the old saying goes, “There are a lot of alcoholics out there; just not all of them drink.” I was an alcoholic even when I wasn’t an “alcoholic.” For decades, I’ve wanted an ah-ha moment. So many assholes had talked about experiencing theirs, and how life-changing they’d been (THANKS OPRAH)

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and how those moments had propelled said asshole to new heights of greatness and wonder. Just where in the fuck was mine, I wondered. I became so desperate I even tried to conjure up a few, which, I don’t need to tell you — didn’t work. I was left feeling uninspired, at best. At worst, I felt like a freak who was incapable of making good things happen for herself. I grew despondent and progress-wise, my life grew static. To ease the panic that had begun to set in (to say nothing of taming the anxiety I had experienced since childhood), I found drinking to be a brilliant and socially-acceptable comfort. Nearly everyone embraced my drinking:  friends thought I was the Fun Bobby of the group (yes, that was a Friends reference), and my parents thought I’d finally grown a pair and graduated from drinking a diet cherry Coke come 5 o’clock. All was well. Until, of course, it wasn’t.

One of my favorite scenes from the cinematic masterpiece known as "Airplane"

One of my favorite scenes from the cinematic masterpiece known as “Airplane”

There are some things I’ve done *well* this year. My bounce-back’s certainly gotten better…but maybe that comes from not only being sober, but simply running out of fucks to give the older I get. I also got better about letting shit go. Don’t get me wrong: I still get mad enough to spit nails in the beginning of a bad situation (breakups come to mind). I can still rip someone a new asshole of gargantuan proportions. The difference between a year ago and now is that I think twice (or three times) before I actually do it. I have tried to be more judicious. I have tried to consider the shoes others stand in, and remember that as far as screw-ups go, I am one of the worst offenders, so perhaps compassion behooves me.

As previous blog posts clearly demonstrate, I used to be confounded by life. Ragey. Bitter. Indignant. Everything was, “Why me?!” I never focused on how many things I’d been given. How lucky I was. Even at my lowest, there was still goodness in my life, but I couldn’t see it. Today, I go out of my way to look for things to be grateful for. I have to — because it helps keep me sober. The truth is, even if you’re in a fucking Turkish prison, you can probably still find a silver lining if you look hard enough.

My second-favorite scene from "Airplane"

My second-favorite scene from “Airplane”

Because while I thought I had been bobbing around in a maelstrom of shit, I actually have what’s regarded as a pretty high bottom. (And this is the only time the term “high bottom” will ever apply to me, since my ass is as wide and large as a fucking tundra.) I am one of the very few people I’ve heard of in my AA tenure who didn’t go to rehab or some treatment facility. No one staged an intervention. I was never pulled over. I never got arrested. I never accidentally killed someone. I didn’t lose my job. My drinking never cost me a relationship. I know people who had all of those things and then some happen to them. And that’s what you learn — you all have war stories. You all have sob stories. You all have stories you think are so horrific and unique, until you share them, and then you quickly realize that that’s what you have in common with every other person in that meeting — you’re all sad. You’re all anxious. You’re all ashamed. You’re all manic. You’re all self-obsessed. You’re all insecure. You all have embarrassing moments you’d rather never discuss. The good news now, though, is that you don’t have to sit mired in your own rut, without any hope in sight. There is always light if you look for it…you just have to look for it.

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Now, just to keep shit real, this is all some touchy-feely horseshit that I would have scoffed and shit on a year ago. I was not into the idea of group therapy with a bunch of under-the-bridge drunks and society lushes. I didn’t want to hold any strange motherfucker’s hand and chant anything to anyone in particular. I didn’t want to dissect myself, dredging up all the things I did wrong, because hey, I’d already spent a lifetime raking myself over the coals. Wasn’t this shit supposed to be about healing? I didn’t want any part of their happy-go-lucky, fakey, intangible, talk-y shit. I just wanted to stop hating myself so goddamned much.

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And do you know what? For the most part, those things have happened: the pain is still pain, but it’s quickly put into perspective, and it’s manageable. I don’t know that I’m completely in love with myself just yet, but I don’t hate myself anymore. I am trying to treat myself better, to undo years of damage and hurt and suffering from not-giving-a-fuckitis. I set boundaries now, where I hadn’t before. I demand a little better for myself. My threshold for tolerating unacceptable behavior (usually from dick-owning humans) is shorter. There’s no perfection, anywhere. And I still hurt over things. But I am so much more likely to sigh when something doesn’t go my way and figure God has something better for me, or that He saved me from some fantastic sort of utter fuckery.

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I cannot say this enough: I never expected to make it here. A year ago, I couldn’t see this person, because maybe she didn’t even exist. A year ago, I fully expected to be dead by 50. A year ago, whatever personal reservoir I was supposed to draw from was empty. I had no idea how to do this. I was angry I had to give up something I loved. I knew my friends and family would never understand, and would admonish me.

Up until January 14, 2013, I had never done anything like this for myself. In every attempt I’d ever made at bettering myself, it was because other factors were involved. Get my degree? Society and family dictated that. Lose weight? Again, family and society. Work out? My doctor badgered me into it. But I got sober without a soul telling me I needed to. I got sober because I was tired of being in unbearable pain. I got sober because I wanted to see if I could maybe feel what it felt like to want to live.

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Full Circle

Over Thanksgiving, in between jonesing for a down-low cigarette and cursing my mother’s weak-ass wifi connection,

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(I feel you, bro. ‘Specially around the holidays, amirite? When Michelle’s mom’s in town?)

I got a message on Facebook. It was a mea culpa – a seemingly sincere overture from an ex-boyfriend of mine. Pushing me away, and letting me go, he said, was his biggest mistake. He’s thought a lot about me since we’ve been apart, and how I was (and I quote) the most giving, compassionate, loving woman he’d ever been with. And that he wouldn’t blame me if I didn’t respond, because he’d acted like a bastard who never deserved a second thought. But that he really did love me, for what it’s worth, and he doesn’t want to be on non-speaking terms anymore. He’d like to be back in my life again.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve dreamt about shit like this. Probably because it doesn’t happen, at least for me. Doesn’t everyone want this at least once in their life, to have someone pop back up, and get all The Notebook on you, and say, “I was emotionally immature. You were great. I regret letting you go.”

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Specifically him. We want him to pop back up. Anytime. Any where. In fact, my vagina would be a good place to start.

Because I? Will forever be the girl who hugged the wall at every school dance in 1989 while the boys I loved vertically dry-humped to Martika’s Toy Soldiers with the thin girls (WHO TOTALLY DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TITS, Y’ALL)…the girls with the perfect bangs and cute tiny butts popped perfectly into their Z-Cavaruccis.

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I mean, c’mon. I’m never the girl who gets the guy. No one comes back to me. I’m the one they get with right before the find someone else. Or get married. I have never been the girl anyone pined for. I’m always the one they get over.

Until now, apparently.

And while I won’t hold my breath ever waiting for it, this confession and daring reach-out wasn’t from Steven.

It was from Parker.

I’ll let that settle with you long-time readers for a minute.

For you newbs, Parker (and my breakup with him) was the impetus for this blog. Yes, when I was in the throes of guzzling the sweet nectar and raging against anything I could think of (concrete pylons, shitty drivers, empty paper towel rolls, people I loved),

Alec Baldwin gets aggressive with a Photographer in New York

Nothing personifies rage like an image of Alec Baldwin assaulting a photographer

my passive-aggressive act of revenge was to start this blog about what a shithead he was. It eventually evolved into what it is now: 5 years of reasons that I am forever alone, apparently.

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Not coincidentally, my birthday just happens to be this week.

When I got his message on Facebook, I hardly recognized his avi. And the name he used to contact me was different – because I had blocked him on FB as soon as I joined back in 2008. I had to do a double take. And my guts almost bounced right out of my ass.

Now before you all start chiming in, BITCH BE CAREFUL!, let me say that from what I can tell, he’s actually sincere. Perhaps fatherhood, and going through a divorce, changed him. He just sounds different. Like he had some come to Jesus, or reckoning. Who am I to judge?

The truth is, if he’d contacted me a year ago – or even 6 months ago – there’s a real good chance I would have gone crazier than a group of middle-aged women spotting Norman Reedus at ComicCon (trust me on that one).

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I mean, I was a mess, and my reaction probably would have corresponded accordingly. I was damn near incapable of handling any surprising situation with grace or aplomb.

Plus, since my split with Steven, I’ve been drinking as much of that Zen kool-aid (non-alcoholic, natch) as possible, because  the only way I can deal with life is to get all Yoda and shit. I found myself what-iffing about shit 30 years down the road the other day and I had to just Shut. It. Down. That kind of thinking doesn’t serve me; it gets me into trouble.

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So as is evidenced by God’s ever-exquisite timing, I was able to receive this news and not go DEFCON 3 over it. And you know what else?

I forgive him.

I’ve even tried to hide most of the nasty posts I wrote about him because it just doesn’t serve me anymore. (And because, let’s be honest, my funnier shit came after that.) I told Parker – and I meant it – that he unknowingly gave me a peace with his apology that I didn’t even know I needed. Because believe me, I may be going through the Steps and trying not be a white-knuckle dry drunk

but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to try to come to emotional grips with anything having to do with him. I was willing to just let sleeping dogs lie.

And yet, in the space of a single, heartfelt FB message, I was able to really & truly let go of some unhealthy horseshit that I’d been harboring for 5 long years. By putting his ass on the line, he helped me let go of something that I might otherwise not have.

As for now, we’re communicating. A bit of back and forth, to see where we’ve been over the past few years. All I can do is shake my head and laugh a little, because goddamn life’s surprising.

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