Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Road Back to Houston

I hung up the phone with my mother (I was using a headset) and stretched. Glanced at the gas gauge. And then I did a double-take: the low fuel light was on. On my 2005 Pontiac Vibe’s gas gauge the low fuel light goes on with an arrow indicating the percentage of gas left. This time it was at the very bottom. And I could feel the lightness of the car; it was handling strangely, and accelerating hesitantly. Shit. I was stuck in traffic between Austin and Houston, on I-10 E. That stretch of the road where there’s just nothing but ranches.

I picked up my iPhone, and asked Siri for directions to the closest gas station. Siri said behind me 5 miles. The second closest one was more than 20 minutes away. So, reluctantly, I eased out of traffic and onto the Frontage road and crossed over I-10 to head back West. As I lurched down the highway, I fixated on that light and mumbled a few prayers. Just brush and cows, and me, and the landscape that I’d been admiring almost moments before. 4 miles. 3.8. I imagined walking those miles, there and back, with no shade in the 95 degree Texas summer heat.

As I gratefully approached that exit, I did a double-take at the GPS. Glanced up, and down. I pulled around to one side of the highway and then the other, but saw nothing apart from a chipped and rusted abandon building. Panic rising in my throat, I continued to drive, before pulling into the lot of a farming supplies shop right behind two impatient pickup trucks. I shut the car down and sat for a moment, smiling.

Sigh.

A little conversation with myself (out loud) later, and I called up Google this time to check for a nearby gas station (seriously, Siri, this is the second time you’ve screwed me on the gas thing…) 25 minutes away. No… I hadn’t thought I’d make it 5 miles. I hadn’t thought I’d make it into this farm shop’s driveway. And I-10 was barely moving. After an “are you fucking kidding me?” directed skyward, I shrugged and banged a U-turn out of that gravel driveway and headed back to I-10. My new plan was to get as far as I could before I had to pull to the shoulder and call someone.

Stopped behind a Kia on that blasted I-10 E, I narrowed my eyes. Then I swerved and took my little car over the grassy divider back onto the Frontage road. If I was going to run out of gas, I wasn’t going to do it passively.

“Siri?” I asked “If you’re about to run out of gas, is it better to drive fast or slow?”

Siri answered: “I wish you wouldn’t.”

Thanks. Fast it was. I turned on some music and began to sing along. No point in dwelling on it. 24 miles. I played through my current favorite song twice (it captures some of… what catches up with me when I’m still these days). 20 miles. I pulled around a turn and up a hill, and I could feel that the car didn’t want to move. Would barely accelerate. I prayed some more.

I could see the exit. And as I pulled into that Exxon station, the car ran out of fuel, and coasted gently to a stop right in front of the pump. I climbed out, and the man in the pink cowboy hat with the muttonchop sideburns stared as I laughed until tears came to my eyes.

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I was still smiling even while using that bathroom, in a part of Texas where the graffiti said that Obama is the anti-christ, and a woman with a pronounced Texas twang told her kids “don’t you touch nothin’. this place is nasty” in the other stall. As often as I want to get out of my car and scream until I fall to my knees these days, I am lucky. I am so often so very lucky.Image

I Know What the Problem Is

I promise someday I’ll go back to telling funny anecdotes about people and talk about my misadventures as I’ve tried to “save my sanity” this year. But I have to get something boring out of the way first, as a series of notes to myself.

I know the root of 95% of my recent problems is.  I’ve got monophobia- I’m afraid of being alone. I honestly had no idea until 2014, although I started to suspect around 2012. “I’m an introvert,” I thought. “A total homebody! I have a social anxiety disorder. How can this be possible?”

But I can see now how it has driven most of the decisions I’ve made in my life.

This is very true, from zenhabits:

“Does learning to be OK with being alone mean you can’t be in a relationship? Not at all — but if you aren’t OK with being alone, then being in a relationship is going to be fundamentally flawed.

Why? Because you become dependent. You need the other person, not only to pay bills and help you manage, not only to protect you and provide for you, but for emotional needs. You need the other person to pay attention to you, to give you validation and comfort and love. Now, all of those things are nice, but needing someone else for them means you become needy, desperate, and those aren’t attractive qualities. Who wants to be in a relationship with a needy, desperate person?”

Or, as RuPaul says: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?

—-
In my heart I know about people almost instantly. I know whether they’re real or fake, good for me or not. I feel them acting upon my nervous system immediately. When I try to force a relationship (friendship or otherwise) with someone who, for whatever reason, isn’t relating to me genuinely and openly, it causes me so much pain (angst!). In particular, I respond very negatively to people who are deeply afraid, but in denial about it, because something in me picks up on the torment.

I now know what I have to do, but whether I am able to do all of it or not is questionable.
1. I need to not date (how many times have I had this realization? BUT I am adding a caveat)… unless I encounter someone who really feels right on a deeply instinctive level. And that hasn’t happened in Houston.

2. I need to figure out what I can change about this house to make it more me and less us. I don’t know if this can and will happen, because in a lot of ways it’d be easier to just discharge almost everything when I make the permanent move in a year or less, then redecorate when I get where I’m going.

3. I need to see if I can find a house-sitting gig somewhere outside of Houston that will allow me to bring an incontinent elderly dog (London) and one who is now confused about where potty goes (Mei) because of his illness. It’d have to be free lodgings or I’m still stuck here. But house-sitting… yeah. The odds are about as high as that makes it sound.

I don’t know, my inner voice is still telling me I need to go, but I’ve had to be strong and patient in the past. This may be no exception. I do have things keeping me in the HTX, but I’ve learned this year that even what seem like inflexible barriers can be worked through if a thing is important enough.

Hmmmm thoughts thoughts thoughts.

My Fear is a Liar

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Flying into PA. Flying back to Houston

I’m in the Charlotte airport, by myself. I seem to end up in the Charlotte airport once every few months, in the same terminal by the Starbucks. The flight next to mine is going to Munich, not Houston, and I’m considering going AWOL, jumping aboard.

In a departure from the beautiful crisp summer morning I left behind in Newark, it’s pouring here. It’s raining hard enough that it’s temporarily become the primary topic of conversation in the B terminal. Our flight has been delayed 2 hours. (*Later it was cancelled altogether.)

I didn’t think I’d be going back to Houston today.

Yesterday my anxiety disorder was winning, the trauma of the past few years had caught up with me again. I was so afraid I could only lie around and cry, and hug pillows. In those moments I admitted my darkest fears to myself and insofar as I can, to my sister and mother.

Fear looks like forever. It colors my work grey and meaningless (at a time when I have doubts about the value of most academic work). It tells me that I can never break up with anyone because I will never find another person to date. Logic says otherwise, but my life has thus far been governed and sabotaged by fear. Because I have listened to the fear above all other voices.

My sister asked me what my instincts were telling me. I think that’s the same as what my friend (and dog-sitting buddy) Sera refers to as the soul, and listening to the soul’s voice. My soul was telling me that E wasn’t really right for me, but my fear was telling me that I didn’t have the time to keep looking for someone who might fit better. I never did lose my feelings of high anxiety around E, because he was too close-lipped about himself, too concerned with his facade, too concerned with managing himself and the people in his life according to some corp-speak philosophy intended to deliver him maximum return on his investment. Perhaps needless to say, he was a salesman for a living– viewing people in utilitarian terms was his job.

When I hit my social limit, which doesn’t take long, or (that one time) objected to being abandoned (meaning he announced he “had to go”) at a party where I knew only him, he urged me to “network”, because “you never know who you’ll need, when.”

We weren’t a match.
But he was incredibly kind, and chivalrous, and called me “sweetie” and “babe”, which were firsts for me. He was ex-military, he was ripped (fit), and these were firsts for me too. I was fascinated by him.

I didn’t sleep again last night, but somewhere around 3AM, the fear ran out of materials to burn. Soul says I need to change therapists. Check! Soul says to find a good acupuncturist. Check! Soul says to focus on my work, and really examine whether I truly don’t enjoy it, or I’m currently just suffering from the malaise that comes with being in the middle of a massive project. Soul says to not actively look for a new partner. The latter is the hardest for me.

I told my sister something I deeply believe: I am happiest in a relationship. I want to feel taken care of, and like I have someone watching out for me. I pick one person at a time in the world to trust, and throw my trust into them almost entirely … and immediately. I feel like I’m drowning without that person because I don’t know how to take care of my own emotional needs. I would do anything to preserve a relationship with my chosen person, even when it proves to be a poor fit. This is why I was married for so long. Does this sound like any of you?

The fear is chemical. It is illogical. And it is wrong. It whispers to me that I’ll have regrets, that I’m doing everything wrong, that I have to hurry, that I’m not safe by myself. My fear is a liar.

I have read that distracting oneself from fear is misguided, that it means one isn’t dealing with one’s feelings. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. When the terror grips me I will continue to spiral illogically downward if i don’t intervene with aggressive distraction. Or talk it out.

I have to trust more than one person. This has been a big theme of the blog lately. I mean enough trust to text them when I am freaking out, and believe that they will tell me when it’s a bad time, and they can’t talk, trust that I will not “bother” them.

This is what I’m trying / have tried:
-Meditation
-A house purifying ritual from Mrs. B’s Guide to Household Witchery
-Acupuncture
-Group Therapy
-Individual Therapy
-Reading some good books- I think when going through a crisis, books for pure pleasure are as important, if not more important, than “constructive” books
-Yoga (of course); also volunteering at the yoga studio to meet new people.
-Getting a housemate – this makes such a difference to my sanity.

Tell me, what helps you keep the fear at bay?

A Woman Walked By

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I was walking along River Road in the sun, staring at nothing. A little old woman with snow white hair, a blue blouse, and a pair of cropped khaki pants stood by the narrow road side, around one of the sharp turns by the narrow bridge. She regarded me with blue eyes that reminded me of my own. She said “Hello.”

I said Hello, and moved to trudge past.

She said, abruptly: “What would make you happy?”

I startled, visibly. “What do you mean?” My voice was trembling. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. They’d been shaking all day, since I’d been up most of the night with the fear returned to me so strongly that I thought I was going to die of it again. Or need to turn myself into a mental hospital for oversight to keep myself safe.

She waited, looking at me directly. “Honey, you know what I mean.”

I could feel the tears in my throat. “I just want to be happy.” I corrected myself, “But that isn’t what you asked me. I’m sorry.” I wanted to break down, just collapse onto the ground and wail until my voice gave out:  “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Instead I whispered to her: “Why am I never good enough?”

Her facial expression didn’t change. “You’re always good enough.”

“I just watched Fellini’s 81/2 last night,” I told her “One of the characters said two things: ‘I feel like I’ve made a mess of everything in my life. And my work.’ and ‘I’ve always forgiven everything in the men I love.’ Both of those things are true for me.”

She nodded. “So what would make you happy?”

“To be loved by someone who knows how lucky they are to have me. I’m tired of being the only one who knows that.”

The woman scoffed: “You’ll always be unhappy so long as you’re waiting for someone else to make you happy.”

I looked at my feet. “I know that. But …”

“But you don’t feel it right now. I know, I know. But you need to focus on your soul. And your fate.”

I must have made a face unwittingly because she continued:

“I know, I know, you millenials don’t like to believe in fate anymore. But-“

“I’m 35!”

“Same thing. But I assure you, you have a fate. You have a destiny.”

“No, it’s not the same thing,” I cried. “I have made a mess out of everything. I’ve ruined everything. And I’m already 35 and I want a do-over.”

“Well, aren’t you melodramatic. You sure like torturing yourself, don’t you?”

“…”

“This mess you’ve made, you needed to make it in order to get to your destiny. Now you need to figure out what would make you happy, without involving any other souls, and do that.”

She turned to walk back down the gravel path to the farm house, while I stood there in the sun, listening to the wind in the leaves, shaking harder.

What Do You Say to Someone?

What do you say to someone who tells you the reason they want to break up with you is that your family has a history of mental illness, and they don’t want their children to be mentally ill?

Apart from how ridiculous to think that one can ensure that their children won’t have any mental health issues by mating with someone who has never themselves been to therapy? Apart from giving them the speech of your life about control, fear, and being an asshole in general?

And If you’re me, you also flee to your parents house across the country to think, to grieve, to remove yourself from the situation, etc.

I wrote him a long email on the plane that said everything I’d wanted to say but that it took me 48 hours to begin to articulate. I am so incredulous that someone would break it off with a person their friends all love, who is a great girlfriend (I am, no joke) because of something that may be a non-issue. What I do in situations like this is I keep talking. I want to write to him endlessly and keep articulating all of the things that pop into my head uninvited all day.

But I shouldn’t, right?

I shouldn’t write to his friends and tell them what’s going on, knowing that they’d intervene, right?

I feel like the world will never let me find peace, will never let me feel sane again.

At the same time, I wonder whether I forced the issue by chanting a kali mantra (om klim kalika-yei namah), which has the following intention:

“This mantra can be used to bring one very quickly into balance or alignment with regard to a specific situation. The results can be dramatic and even unpleasant, even if they are ultimately the most compassionate. For instance, if you are having problems with a relationship and you use this Kali mantra to invoke her help with the problem, the relationship may end abruptly, even though this is not the outcome you desired.”

Indeed, universe. I should have tread more lightly. When I started chanting this, thinking I was shoring up the relationship, we started having problems.

He hasn’t officially decided yet, but I am tired of being dicked around, particularly by someone who either thinks this way or uses this kind of thinking as a bandage for fear.

Desperate Times

It’s 1:35 PM on a Sunday and I am lying sideways on my sofa with my eyes held closed as tightly as I can. My limbs feel like lead, and I am shaking a bit. I can feel my heart beating irregularly, in violent bursts. I can’t recall what my doctor told me this is called, but it can happen when one consumes an excess of caffeine, and also as symptom of a chronic overload of cortisol (stress hormone) in the system.

I think I’m about to be broken up with today. Again.

We’ll see in an hour or so.

In the meantime, my stress has reached peak levels. I can feel the noise in my brain, the pressure in my skull. Having an acute anxiety disorder + shit that would stress anyone out + PTSD = kind of untenable physical state.

I was broken up with in the past, in part because I’m “too old” (35). He wants kids, and my being 35 means we’d have to rush it. He’s 35 too. It’s not fair.

And I think I’m going to have to take my coping strategies to another level as a result. I’m looking at tickets to Philly (my parents’ house) for tomorrow. And I’m thinking of trying to go to San Francisco in July. I’ll keep up my dissertating pace, as the only thing that will get me out of this current stalemate is graduating (or perhaps spontaneously making great strides with my enlightenment).

I am sitting up now, and turning my head every time I hear a car drive by. I am afraid of him arriving. I had initially planned to let him message me first, but I woke up crying and shaking, and knew I couldn’t spend the entire day in a state of tension. I need(ed) to know, and so I wrote: “Can you come over? ”
He replied: “Yeah – let me run first and then I’ll head over!” And me: “Awesome, thanks”

Last night, when I didn’t understand why he’d walked away from me and gotten in his truck to go to his own place for the second night in a row, I texted him: “I wish I knew what is going on. My heart hurts.”

He thought I was referring to my house, at which my new housemate told me there had been an attempted break-in that night. Or perhaps he was avoiding my question. He replied with a query about the house. My heart hurt more. In the dark I held a pillow close to my chest and breathed.

While I was driving home, at 2AM… later than I’d wanted to stay, (but I’d stayed because he was there and I was afraid that leaving would mean I’d be the one walking away prematurely),  I saw something amazing. A shooting star, vivid and bright in front of me on the road. I was surprised at how clear it was against Houston’s light-polluted skies. I wished with the full force of my heart, trembling a bit as I did.

Sometimes I wish I could trade a little of my social anxiety, my awkwardness, my difficulty opening up for some of the cheery natural extroversion I see around me. I envy people from whom love seems to pour freely (and not so much the ones who are just loud and effortlessly social). But I’d have to give up some of my sensitivity in the bargain, I think.

I wish I could freeze my age, and not continue aging until the current chaos in my life had sorted itself out. It doesn’t seem fair to waste life on pain. (I know, I know.)

I am about to be broken up with. By someone with whom I am in love.