I don’t even know what rhymes with “ukulele”.

Here we are, once again, in the midst of The Week of Awesome Decisions. Deciding things isn’t really my specialty, this is pretty known in my circle of friends. But once I decided to get married. That was May 22nd. That didn’t work out. Years later, I got proposed to, and I decided to say “yes”. That was on May 24th. The wedding was on May 26th. And look at me now, not married. See? Not my thing. (Also, to be clear, I’m not mad about the no longer married part. I’m just saying I have a shitty track record.)

I originally chose to try to celebrate this week by focusing on the good decisions I make. Or making small ones and taking a moment to bask in that glow (don’t judge me, you people that always know where you want to eat. Some of us need these tiny victories).

A while ago, I decided to actually deal with things, rather than continuing to cram them into a smaller-than-comfy space, and pretend they didn’t exist. While this sounds like a hoot, it means that while I do (and it takes a fucking long time) this shit is right on the surface. So there I am, minding my own business, when someone says something that sounds like “ukulele” and OH MY GOD THAT REMINDS ME OF THAT DOUCHEBAG I MARRIED. HE HAD ONE OF THOSE. I BOUGHT IT FOR HIM. HE WROTE ME A SONG WITH IT AND PLAYED IT WHILE HE PROPOSED. THAT WAS 4 YEARS AGO TODAY. GOD FUCKING DAMMIT WHY AM I ON THE FLOOR IN A BALL NOW? Except I’m really not in a ball on the floor (what a twist!) I’m sitting on the couch next to my adorable boyfriend, who has already suffered through too many “hey I was married to a psychopath once” stories. I want to pretend it doesn’t bother me, but that’s not who I am, and I don’t think that’s who we are, so I’m confused, and I just stare at him. Saying nothing.

It’s too much. I don’t know where to begin. Mostly because I don’t want to begin this fucking story again. It’s over. I want it to be done. But this week, man. This fucking week. How do I look at it and not feel like I’m unlovable? How do I not see that I am the common denominator in all of these failures? How do I not tell this sweet, loving, hilarious man on the couch to run far, far away?

I decide to just breathe. To give myself space to be hurt in. To remember that there was abuse, and that doesn’t just go away magically. That my story is mine, and if others are tired of hearing it, that’s fine, but I’m not going to be shamed into silence with myself, again.

I wanted to make this fun and upbeat. I wanted to stand tall and declare myself victorious over those decisions that previously haunted me. Maybe tomorrow. For now, I’m just going to sit on this couch, now by myself, wrapped in a scarf the adorable man left for me, and watch a sappy movie. And remember that I’m not just lovable, I’m already quite loved.

 

 

I’m only brave when I have to be.

The first time someone told me they admired my strength, I was 15. It was after the communion service at church camp, which was always a moving ceremony. This year, the planning team had us stand silently on a hill, with our arms spread wide, eyes closed, as they wandered around “spitting” on us (they really just flicked water on our foreheads and made the noise simultaneously) and calling us names. The point was to get a new perspective on the crucifixion, and it had quite the impact on me. One of the planning crew, an upperclassman, came up to me afterwards and told me that she was moved by how I stood there, perfectly still, tears running down my face. “You weren’t ashamed,” she said. “You didn’t try to hide that you were crying, and you never made a sound. You just stood there, head held high. You’re so strong.” I was still trying to overcome my shock that she knew my name, finally managed to smile and thank her quickly before scurrying away.

When other people told me as I got older, I usually assumed they were talking about someone else. I didn’t correct them, I just smiled appreciatively while trying to remember who I was next to in whatever situation they were citing that they might have me confused with. I’m not strong. I don’t save the day, I’m not a hero, I’ve never pulled a car off someone or saved them from an oncoming train. I don’t stand up for myself often, I don’t have unwavering morals that I will die defending, I can’t even tell you where I want to fucking eat most of the time. I’m just… me.

Then, a line in a song* broke through my stubborn wall of self-depreciating thoughts. “Tell me how do broken hearts get strong?” The first time I heard it, I immediately thought, “You just go on.” Wait… I know an answer to this? But… so that means… I am… strong?

Holy fuckballs.

Maybe being strong isn’t about how much you can carry, or being the bravest. Maybe it’s about continuing, when you really don’t want to. Or recognizing when it’s better to scrap it and try a new path, even when that thought is more terrifying than staying. It’s just… going. Slowly, sometimes, and usually with a bit of fear. But still. Going. Doing. Carrying on.

It doesn’t mean suffering in silence, either. Though that image is what started this whole bit of self-discovery, I’ve since learned that it’s even tougher to ask for help than it is to silently bear my crosses. In this lesson, tougher usually seems to equate to more worthwhile. Though it’s true that I’m hardly ever silent, I’m not always saying things that have a lot of meaning. That opens a person up to being vulnerable. As it turns out though, I already was. When I stand up and say what I mean, no matter the consequences, I have more control over just how vulnerable.

My son was having an issue with school a couple weeks ago. When we began talking about what he needed to do to fix it, he started shutting down and I could see him telling himself he couldn’t do this, that he wasn’t capable.

“Hey,” I told him, “this is going to suck, probably, but you can do it. Know how I know? Because you’re strong. Even when you don’t want to, you keep going. You do what has to be done, and you always come through the other side. Know why I can see it? Because I’m strong, too. This is who we are.”

I might not rush into a burning building anytime soon. I can’t lift things over 9 pounds over my head. I’m not heading up any committees to actively change the world, and I probably won’t be giving any noteworthy speeches in a town square in the near future. But I will keep going. I know I’ll make it. Because this once broken heart has made it through every single thing life has thrown so far, and there’s no way we’re stopping now.

 

 

 

 

 

*For anyone wondering, the song is “Drink You Gone” off Ingrid Michaelson’s newest album, It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense. It’s a lovely song… other than the line “… just like you ate my heart out.” which makes me slightly uncomfortable. But that’s a me thing. Contextually, the line makes perfect sense.

Consider yourself warned.

So, I go to therapy. At first, the plan was to go to couple’s counseling. When that seemed to be more talk than action, I started going by myself to see what I could figure out. We attended one session as a couple, then I went back to going it alone. Turns out I like things better this way.

Last time I was there, I was talking to her about my thought slut tendencies. As well as sporadically babbling here, I also spam various unfortunate friends with texts and selfies throughout the day. I know I’m an adult, but I’m completely obsessed with selfies. The weirder and more unflattering, the better. As I was telling her about this, I got self-conscious, lowered my eyes and muttered, “I do it because I want attention.” and waited for her scathing judgement. She nodded and said, “sure!”. Then she waited for me to continue my story. (There is actually never judgement of any magnitude delivered from her oversize chair, it’s my insecurities that assume it’s coming.)

Wanting attention isn’t bad. It’s not crazy, it’s not weak, it’s not pathetic. It’s human. We all have a need to connect with others, and sometimes it comes in the form of tiny bursts of attention. I don’t always want to have a deep, meaningful conversation. Sometimes, I just want someone to tell me that my ridiculous face made them laugh. I don’t want to discuss my new journey with everyone, but I do want to be seen by people. There isn’t anything wrong with that.

It does make a person vulnerable, though. That part is rough, and in my case can lead to some serious self-doubt and overly critical thinking. It’s hard to put yourself out there, and then just patiently wait. That time between the text about my bathroom habits leaving my phone (Not even kidding. Sometimes I even have to tell someone that.) until the moment I hear the comforting notification signaling a reply, I’m filled with anxiety. What if it’s a bad time, or they don’t find me funny today? What if they’ve hated my random texts since the beginning, and I’ve finally pushed them too far? What if they never speak to me again? WHAT IF I JUST SENT A TEXT ABOUT THE END RESULT OF MY TACO BELL FOOD BABY TO A DUDE INSTEAD OF MY BEST FRIEND??? Alright, that last one is a bit more rational, and luckily I have yet to cross that particular line. But part of being vulnerable is having compassion and empathy for yourself. A constant theme in my therapy homework is to find ways to be kinder to myself. Allowing room for error. Saying nice about myself instead of rushing to point out all my flaws before everyone else does. (I always think it will hurt less that way, but it doesn’t.) Finding joy and even a little pride in the ridiculous facial expressions I make, rather than being ashamed that I don’t look like the world’s standard model for beauty. Admitting that I just need someone to pay a little attention to me.

Another part of my homework from this last session was to post my silly selfies here. I’m still working up to that one, and that’s perfectly fine. The world isn’t ready for my special brand of cartoony, Muppety goodness just yet. But you best get yo’self prepared, because it will happen.