Category Archives: Portland

Joy

Two years ago, things blew apart with Wash. Hurting, and lonely, and facing a quiet summer without him, I turned to the modern lonely hearts club, the Internet. And I found on Twitter a sweet and funny guy who was bored at work and wanted to chat about all sorts of things. And we became close friends, and pretty soon, my day didn’t feel right if I hadn’t heard from him in the morning. And I’d go on dates, and would leave them feeling unsatified, because the person I wanted to be dating wasn’t them. It was him. 

And I was deeply unhappy, not realizing that the Bitch had snuck through a crack in my defenses and ravaged me again, so stealthily this time, I didn’t even realize it happening, instead blaming my marriage and my breakups and my job for my deep sense of sadness and dread. I couldn’t sleep in my bed, so I resigned myself to uncomfortable nights in the couch, further eroding my closeness with my husband. I felt friendships begin to crack, and even though I had a new job that I loved and wanted very much, I felt like I was failing, drowning in the darkness.

The bullshit thing about mental illness is how your own brain lies to you. The Bitch will tell you that you are fine, that everything else is fucked up, and convince you that the problem belongs to everyone else and it’s their job to fix it. 

The Bitch whispers sweetly in your ear that you are alone, that you are doomed to fail, and that no one cares anyhow. She convinces you that fighting is pointless, so why bother.

Something in me was strong enough to realize that I needed to fight.

And I couldn’t do it for myself. It had to be for someone else.

There used to be a spot I drove past, every night on my way home from work. There was a break In the fence, there, and no guardrail, and every time I drove past it, I would think of how easy it would be to drive off the road, drop the many feet down to the freeway below. I could see myself doing it, see the crash scene, the emergency crews, everything. But then I would see my husband, widowed, and trying to explain to the kids what happened. I’d see my mom, losing another child to mental illness. I’d see my kids, my sensitive and gentle son and my daydreaming wisp of a girl child, and I’d keep driving. I’d spend another restless night caught in invasive thoughts of falling off cliffs and bridges, waking to a panic attack and wanting to vomit. 

Heavy stuff for a blog post titled “Joy”, but bear with me here.

I realized a few weeks ago, that I had always fought for other people. I needed to beat my illness for them, for my husband and my kids and my mother, because they counted on me. My mental illness, the depression and anxiety and ADD, was something I needed to overcome because they needed and deserved a healthy mother, wife, daughter, friend. 

I didn’t think I was worth fighting for, on my own. My language was never that I deserved to be a healthy person. 

Last year, that sweet and funny Twitter friend flew up here to visit me. We’d never met in person, and I was scared of what might happen. I was scared that the spark that was online wouldn’t exist in the real world; I was more scared of what would happen if it was. I was in a new job, a position I had coveted and worked hard for.

I was miserable.

Everything hurt, all the time. I barely slept. My marriage felt, to me, like it was falling apart. I felt like I was under-qualified for my new position, and I badly missed my children and my friends. The spark was there with my new partner, and the Bitch was right there with it, telling me he’d never come back, that the happiness I’d felt with him would be snatched away too. Finally, a romantic weekend I had planned with my husband had fizzled. I spent it sad and weeping. My depression snatching away another chance at happiness. 

That week, I went to my doctor. I started medical treatment.

And, I just realized recently, that was the very first time in my life that I made the decision to get well, to fight like hell, FOR MY SELF. 

I finally realized that I was a whole person who deserved to be healthy and well and happy. I realized that I was the best person to fight for. That I deserved a shot at joy.

This year, I had the strength to go to a con, with my partner, Ziggy.  We went to Furlandia, here in Portland, and It was amazing . We had a magical weekend together. My husband and his new parter took the kids to the coast that weekend, and we all got together for dinner that Sunday night to share stories and celebrate Ziggy’s birthday.

And I was awash in something I hadn’t felt except in brief glimpses through the worst years of my illness. 

I felt joy.

I see the pictures of myself from the con and I don’t recognize me. My body is relaxed, comfortable, not twisted and tense from pain. I’m laughing, hard. That weekend, I danced. The joy is there, in every line and freckle.

And in my falling dreams? I no longer wake sweating and shaking, bracing for the fall. in those dreams, a breeze catches me, and I grow wings, and I soar.


Long Distance

So, it seems I am in a  relationship again.

It’s been a different experience this time. We met online, in the fallout from my breakup with Wash. He had some questions about the poly lifestyle; I had answers, and a great big hole in my life. We started chatting through Direct Messages, sending sometimes hundreds of messages a day. He lived several states away, in the southwest. We started chatting by phone, and eventually through Skype. And always through Direct Message, until my day didn’t feel right unless I had heard from him.

I wanted to fly out and meet him, but was unable to do so.  The messages flew back and forth, most sexy and playful, but more and more often they were serious. We talked about everything and nothing,  often for hours. I opened up to him about my depression and anxiety, and when I was having a bad day, his first response was always to ask if I needed him to call. My girls at work would tease me about my younger man… he’s 11 years younger than I. I realized that I got my first job when he was in preschool.

We finally met in person in July. I was horribly nervous; clinging to my phone and obsessively reading facebook to keep a hold on the panic in my body. This was someone who’d never touched me but had seen me naked; who’d whispered in my ear dozens of times but had never held me close. 

I was scared. What if the spark we had online wasn’t there in person?

Even scarier; what if it was?

An online relationship is almost easy. There is a barrier in between you and that other person, a safety net made of the screen and the keyboard. It’s easy to whisper about your terrors and demons to someone who lives a few thousand miles away. You don’t feel as accountable, almost, because that person is so far away they almost don’t seem real. 

And suddenly he was real. He was walking past security at PDX and we were getting dinner at New Seasons and we were holding hands and laughing together. He was in my home for a magical week, and then gone again. He held me when we said goodbye at the starbucks near my work, and promised he’d come back. And at the end of August, he did. He found a job and moved up here, to a town 2 hours from Portland.

And I’m learning a few things… long distance relationships are hard but they are worth it. Two hours by car is far better than two hours by plane, and if your lover lives at the other end of a national scenic byway, the drive is quite pleasant. Stocking up kisses to hold you over til the next visit almost works. Snuggling up with your iPad after online sexy times is not nearly as satisfying as snuggling up with your lover after real-life ones. Teaching crochet via Skype is challenging but can be done.  Having the house to yourselves because the roommate is gone is pure bliss. And always charge your phone before a phone date, or it may crap out during something important. 


At the Lighthouse

I want to write, but my heart is so full right now, and I don’t know where to start.

Mr Awesome and I visited my dad today. We made the long drive NorthWest from Portland to Cape Disappointment. We stopped for Snickers bars at a gas station in a small Washington town and had a lovely long conversation about everything and nothing, the way we do when we get together without the kids.

We had packed a lunch, and parked at the base of the trail, and hiked up, past Dead Man’s Cove and through the forest to the cliff face overlooking the Pacific.

There’s been some changes, in the past fourteen years. A fence around the Coast Guard station. Trees lost to coastal winds and storms. Erosion has
shaved some distance off of the path, and eaten the sign with the poem on it that I have always loved.

But he’s still there. My dad. Watching the ocean, laughing with the other old sailors, and listening to the voices of the children who visit this historic site daily. I could feel him there, still at peace.

And I leaned into my husband’s arms and cried.

We watched the ships cross the bar, and the waves strike the jetties, and the dragonflies chase each other. My mom will never make it up there again, to be near him, so I took lots of pictures to show her later this week. And she and I will probably cry together, and laugh, and miss him. I cherish this time with her… I know she hasn’t much time left, and soon, in a year or a few, I will be an orphan. No parents, no sister, no grandparents, no ties to the child I was, no people to tell me the stories of way back when.

And I look down, as I type this, and realize the hands I have are the hands I remember my mother having, except I have all my fingers, and I am the same age now as she was when she had me. She was 35; my father was 50. An age difference that seemed impossible, when I was small, but seems so much less so as I look at my own dating history, realizing the last date I went on was with a man thirteen years my senior, and somehow, we had a lot in common we could talk about.

My mother’s light is flickering now, not as steady as it was even five years ago, and I realize it’s my turn to carry the torch, so to speak. To tell my children the stories of Portland-that-was and the world that used to be before 9-11 and technology and economic collapse and everything else that makes their world so much different from the one I knew. It’s up to me to fill their amazing brains with stories of the grandfather they will never know, so he isn’t lost, so the world will carry him for just a few more years. To let them know that when they see the ocean, he is there, with them always, laughing at them and loving them from wherever he is now.

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Fat

“Based on your height and weight, we think the best coaching course for you will be the weight management course. Let me just get you signed up for that one so we can help you reach your weight loss goals.”

Simple words. Likely a script, considering my husband got the same statement when he called our insurance for his wellness coaching.

And enough to hurt, and throw me off for the better part of the day.

I’d been weight shamed.

Because I’m fat. Big. Curvy. Chubby. Heavy set. Bigger girl. Zaftig. Hefty.

All my life, except for a few brief years in high school and college, I’ve been fat. The only reason I was skinny then was because of my anxiety disorder. I literally couldn’t eat. Any time I tried, it all came back up. And I went from 170 pounds in 7th grade to 125 in eighth grade, which, oddly enough, didn’t scare my parents enough to listen to me when I tried to tell them that something was wrong and I needed to see a doctor.

Working for Cascade AIDs Project helped. I learned that I could, in fact, eat, and that I wouldn’t throw it back up. I learned to breath through panic attacks in front of 36 6th graders while holding a dildo in one hand and a fist full of condoms in the other. I met Mr Awesome when I was 17 and he started to teach me the pleasures of eating with people

And the weight came back.

Full breasts, wide thighs, big ass, soft belly.

By the time I got pregnant with our son, I weighed 200 pounds. I held steady for a few years at 245. Currently I weigh 268-ish. It fluctuates.

But here’s the crazy thing. At 268, and facing my 35th birthday, I’m healthier than I ever was at 20, when I weighed 165. I’m far healthier than I was at 25, when I was steady at 245. And let’s not even talk about the skeletal 17 year old me.

If you look at my numbers, the blood sugars and cholesterol and all that other stuff, I’m “impressively healthy despite being morbidly obese”. That last bit is a direct quote from an actual doctor.

But yet, often my health problems will go ignored. My fingers hurt, all the time, yet the doctors will push Weight Watchers pamphlets at me and tell me to cut back on soda (which I rarely drink). Talking about my depression and anxiety issues leads to a discussion about my weight, as if my weight is the sole cause of all my ills. Thankfully, my current doctor isn’t of that school. You see, she looks at my numbers. How much I work out (several times a week, weights and aerobics, plus an active job), how well I eat (Very), and tells me to keep it up, that my weight actually doesn’t matter.

The first time she said that, I cried in her office.

I work in retail. Women’s plus sizes to be specific. And I’m loving it. I love being that strong, sexy girl who looks younger at 35 than she did at 25. I love being able to lift the mannequins all by myself and carry them around like the weigh nothing. I love telling these women who have heard the same sad stories and useless advice all their lives that they are actually beautiful and worthy. I love playing dress up in the new clothes and seeing how the pants hug my big ass and how the shirts taper in at my small-for-my-body waist. I love that weight lifting has given me toned and sexy muscles that move beautifully under my tattoos and allowed me to tone up and still keep my big breasts that I love.

Realizing this year how amazing my body is has been a revelation. I am strong. And beautiful. My body brought two amazing human beings into this world. My body did that! And I have the c-section scars to prove it! I have hundreds of dollars of beautiful art on my skin. I have thick strong legs that propel me up mountains and along city streets… walking like a person who is worthy of being there.

So it shouldn’t have bothered me, that day, that call. But it still did. It still does. Because we still live in a world where my six-year-old daughter is scared of growing up to be fat. Because the shame and embarrassment is still there, in every magazine and on every tv show. Because the only fat entertainers that are allowed credence in our society are male. Because sometimes when I see my tummy, I don’t see the soft pillow that my lovers love to stroke and cuddle. I don’t see the resting place for my babies’ heads from the time they were infants. I don’t see the strong core muscles underneath.

Sometimes, I still just see fat. White and blobby, with little blue veins. Fat that won’t be contained by clothes. Fat that gives people a reason to judge me before I even open my mouth.

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This post has been in my brain for a long time… at least since I went back to work last October. I want to change people’s thoughts about fat. I just don’t know how, exactly. Other that how I’m already doing it. One lady at a time. One suit or t-shirt or dress. One conversation in the fitting room about healthy being the most beautiful thing in the world. I welcome comments and ask you to please share this, if it resonates with you. Thank you.


Presence

My ghosts have been near to me again. A word, a song, a book… and they whisper again in my ear, inviting me to remember, to let them back in for a moment or two.

Someone near to me lost her brother this week. Drugs. It seems it is all too often drugs when it is someone gone too young. I saw her yesterday, young and sad and scared. I hugged her and invited her out for tea and told her I was willing to be a shoulder when she needed it. And grieved again my own sister, lost to me, though likely still alive, judging from the collections notices we still get in her name.

I indulged today and played hooky from Faire in order to hit reset, to take a break. Velah and Mr Awesome and the kids could go, and I’m sure will be full of stories when they return for dinner tonight. I drove into the city, to walk anonymous on the sunny streets and browse the dusty stacks at Powell’s books.

My ghosts followed me, though. A copy of “The Ghost in the Closet”, a book I bought at about age 14, and I think, my introduction to lesbian fiction. Back when it was just the “Gay Studies” section of Powell’s, and they kept it in the green room. The thrill of reading about Jackie, the butch Black cop with her bulging biceps, and the distant hope that someday, I’d find a funny lady with short hair and a take-charge manner.

Funny, isn’t it, how I became that lady, instead of finding one to date…

In the manga section, a copy of a book that Wash really wanted me to read. Several titles, in fact. When everything fell apart, he was trying to turn me into his anime buddy. And I was left with the niggling sense of something missing, something not quite healed, like when you have a cut and it is better and the scab has fallen off but the new skin is still sensitive and tight and doesn’t quite fit over the old hole correctly, yet.

The memories come, fast and strong, the current of them sweeping me into the past. My mother went to Powell’s, once, maybe twice. She took my sister and myself there, and Steph bought several Stephen King books; I forget what, if anything, I got. And in the same room as King’s multitudes of stories is another prolific author, Philip K Dick, and I recall how much a former lover wanted me to love his books, just like he does. “I’m really into Dick!” he proclaimed once, and I dissolved right there, in bed with him. He looked confused for a moment before he laughed along with me.

I think all of us have our ghosts that live in the corners of bookstores and thrift shops, little things that remind us of where we came from and who we used to be. Who knows why they brush our shoulders when they do, why the make their presence known at some times rather than others.

I’m just glad that sometimes, they do. Because sometimes, it’s really lovely to visit with those people we loved and the selves we used to be. Sometimes, it’s nice to have the reminder of where we came from, and where we don’t want to return.

Sometimes, it’s just nice to feel once again the presence of a person we loved and lost, and to feel for a brief moment, the warmth of their soul near our own.


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