hashtags, parenthesis & patriots

After last year’s AFC championship game I rewatched this video about 1020930392 times. (Also this one because so many lols #soundon).

If you’re not feeling like clicking, basically the gist is this: the Patriots have a crappy start to their season. Everyone asks, as usual, “is this the end of the dynasty?!” Pats turn it around, as usual, and make it to the AFC championship game. And win, in overtime, 37 to 31. A nail biter, literally. 

My friend Tom (a girl can dream, right?) sums it up pretty nicely to my other friend Chris (still dreaming): 

“I’m too old. You’re too slow. We’ve got no skill players. We’ve got no defense. We’ve got nothing.” 

A casual nod to the haters from a team on the way to their eleventh Super Bowl. 

What, you ask, does this have to do with me? 

EVERYTHING, PEOPLE!

It was this game where I felt my turn-around coming. A little spark of life peeped out that night from around the corner. 

Honestly, the weeks before that game bad been particularly challenging. Between the first-holiday-season-post-divorce and post-holiday-season-blues, everything had piled together and I was in a serious funkkkkk. 

Right up until that fateful evening when I made the first crucial connections between my weird little life and my weird little football obsession. 

Bear with me, I swear there are parallels here and I’m not totally insane. Because, truly, my team had been in a funk too! And somehow, with The Patriot Way and a sprinkle of Brady magic, they had pulled it together. So much so that they were going to the Super Bowl.

It was time for me to pull it together too. 

Yes, maybe this emotional investment is something that happens when girls get involved in the world of sports. It’s also possible I’m just a nut. Whatever. I’m a human with a heart and sometimes these things happen.

Either way. Here we are.

This team and this game had proven a point: 

Great things can still come after great failure.

And yes, it’s possible that to some of you last year’s Super Bowl was one of the more boring in history.

It’s also possible I’m biased because A) I got to go (thanks Dad!) and B) we won, but still! The game was a defensive masterpiece; a demonstration of slow-moving, steady, sturdy, hard-worked winning. 

Maybe not thrilling, but maybe that’s not the point. 

In real life/football life we don’t always get to take the most exciting or problem-free journey, but sometimes, in the end, it doesn’t matter. We still get to celebrate. And that day, when that confetti came down, it was a celebration like none other. A celebration of resilience. Bounce-back. Community. Overcoming odds. Becoming stronger, more brilliant, more successful humans despite setbacks and criticisms and NOISE.

So HELL YA I took this season personally. Again, for emphasis: HELL to the YA. There I was, watching a team win that had overcome their odds, finally ready to overcome my own.  Ready to climb out of a headspace where I was forgettable, unwanted and uninteresting. Not smart. Not strong. Not desirable.

Again, parallels abound, and I’d like to remind any of you who’ve forgotten that the Patriots hashtag for last year’s season was #STILLHERE.

Fitting. Looks like I’m #STILLHERE too.

I will not be told I am unworthy. I will not be told I am forgettable. 

I will be respected.

I will be bigger. I will be stronger. I will overcome this mess and be the better for it.

I am going to win my own fucking Super Bowl.

Get at me.

#LFG

eating your feelings

I have stretch marks now, and not the good kind. Not the kind you get from making or feeding children, but the kind you get from eating stale crackers from the back corner of your pantry because nothing else is left to binge. 

This is uncomfortable; today’s conversation has less to do with what happened to me, and more to do with what I did to myself- the part I played in treating myself more worse than I deserved. 

A little melodramatic, maybe, when you consider the subject matter to be pretzel thins or Chips Ahoy, but it goes deeper than that. It might’ve started out somewhere small- ah, the innocence of the pretzel- until things progressed uncontrollably, an unruly monster, towards old tortillas or heels of bread or the last of the chips you don’t even like, on and on until you start to wonder if chia seeds are okay on their own or if dry noodles are any good.

It starts out with a casual glance into the fridge. Or maybe it started before that, at dinner with friends, when you realized the fun would end and you’d be alone again but and you needed something comforting to come home to. Then you’re standing there at the end of the day, in your oversized t-shirt and bare feet, lights off but for the fridge, waiting for something to look good enough to eat. And then you start. When those first good things are gone, the second tier start to go. After that, the rest disappears, slow and steady, until you’re ill. Nausea and bloating take over, followed closely by shame, self-loathing, disgust. And then it’s time for bed. Diet starts tomorrow, right?

These habits didn’t just spring up out of nowhere. I’d learned to treat food and my body poorly since childhood- sneaking treats was a fun adventure, comfort food was the norm, snacks to unwind were the go-to. Fairly normal habits to get into and not always bad. Food is a part of our culture and certainly an important part of an abundant, joyful life. However, less normal when I felt I couldn’t stop- more goldfish, more cookies, more chips. Matched by more work-outs, more diets, more rules. I always felt a little out of control in either direction and quickly learned how to feel bad about myself based on the food diary or the weight or the jean size. Easily done through middle and high school, easily reinforced into adulthood. 

College started out alright. I felt thin and pretty and healthy. I ate what I wanted but wasn’t too crazy, had salads and pizza and did just fine. I certainly had a distorted relationship with food and body image, but I coasted along for a while until it started taking a turn in the wrong direction. 

Trying to pinpoint the moment of decline is tricky, but I know I started gaining the most weight studying abroad. I’m not sure if it was the stress of being away from home, my involvement in an emotionally tumultuous relationship, or simply a shift in metabolism. Probably a bit of all of it mixed with Nutella and beer. When I came home, though, I couldn’t lose that weight again no matter what I tried. 

That semester the relationship I had with food and my boyfriend started growing stranger at the same time. There was a lot of arguing about why we weren’t having sex, the hot-and-cold games were picking up steam, and the withholding of attention increased. My jeans were tighter and my boyfriend was colder, and that was all I knew about that. I discovered I had the capacity to eat chocolate til my stomach hurt, and sometimes that felt good.

It worsened more rapidly once we were married. I suddenly lived in a military town where I knew no one and was alone for weeks at a time. There’s nothing more comforting than comfort food when you have no friends! And when you know your husband had time to call you but didn’t, you learn that chocolate chips never ignored you. Pizza never pretended you didn’t exist. Cupcakes never left you lonely.

And when he started leaving the house more often than work required, ice cream bars were still there. Coconut milk ones, though, because you’re trying to be healthy. Until you eat all five.

When he didn’t feel like going on a date with you, there was always the movies. Full of darkness and giant popcorns and candy and soda and no one to see you eat all of it. No one could tell when you dropped popcorn down your shirt or left grease stains on your pants; no one to see you and reject you for the forgettable cow that you were.

When he didn’t want to have sex with you, there was wine. Wine made you feel softer and prettier and took the sting off.

Last summer was the worst of all. It was easier to consume whole bags of chips, whole bottles of wine, tubs of ice cream then face a broken heart. Food was always there. Food was a reliable friend. Food made me feel good when my husband couldn’t. Or when he didn’t want to. Or when he didn’t give a shit anymore at all. And when I decided to leave there were still M&Ms. Still peanut butter. The grocery store was always there, ready to let me take home whatever company I wanted to keep. It wanted me back when no one else did.

When it stopped making me feel good, it started making me miserable, but that became okay. I was disgusting enough to be ignored, I might as well feel the part. I really was worth rejecting, wasn’t I? Crumbs and stains and bloat, out of clothes that fit, out of reasons to look in the mirror. Why would he want to look at me? I’m forgettable. I’m disgusting. I’m alone. Act like it.

At a certain point, it just got easier to feel sick than sad. It was easier to eat a whole box of cereal til everything hurt but my heart. It was easier to upset myself over brownies than him.

Congrats to me, I never purged. I thought about it plenty. I wanted to, still do some days when it gets bad again. I imagine it’d feel like a reset button on the damage I’d done to myself, a reversal over the control I just lost. Never did, though, because “purging is a sin.” 

What a strange little world I’ve cooked up in my brain. 

In the end, as much as it might seem like self-care and post-divorce care are separate topics, for me, they’re very much the same. I was in a relationship where I was treated as less-than, both by a man I loved and by myself. 

I’m ready to thrive in my own skin. I’m ready to start chipping away at a culture that allows us to treat ourselves, and allows others to treat us, with less than we deserve. 

It’s a tangled mess, I know, but thanks for being here while I try. I hope you know you’re beautiful. We all are.

a year of celibacy

Not exactly the most exciting anniversary in the world, but interesting, yes? In the absence of being naked with anyone but my GYN, I’ve been on a very educational journey.

For starters, I’ve learned some lessons in self-worth. The binge-eating misery of divorce (college/grad school/night shift) has re-shaped my body. While I am on my way towards healing my relationship with food, I am also finding that the size of my jeans should not correlate with how confident I allow myself to feel. I don’t need to lose weight to be happy, and whatever that number says, or doesn’t say, I deserve to take care of myself. If that means I don’t even know what I weigh, then that’s great too. 

Either way, I deserve to feel beautiful. And I deserve to buy some damn bras that actually fit.

Speaking of undergarments, the next time I let anyone else take off this fancy-ass bra things are going to go a little differently.

Next time, I will not allow myself to feel manipulated into doing anything I’m not comfortable doing. This is good bedroom behavior, but, not surprising, also applicable to daily life. I am not to be taken advantage of.

Some other tidbits I’m going to keep in the back pocket of my high-rise jeans:

Crying after sex means that things are no bueno. RED FLAG.

Sex should not be selfish. At my most open, most vulnerable, and most intimate, I should not be left feeling used.

I am worth the work. I am worth the time. I am worth the effort. Sex is good and it should feel like it!

Also good: being a woman. Women are homes. Soft places to land and safe places to hide, built on strong, durable, brave, unbreakable bones.

We don’t just exist to be attractive, and our femininity is not defined by our desirability. I am still a woman if no one sees me, wants me, or validates me. 

Of course, on the other hand, women are inherently beautiful. Beauty is good and our bodies are good. We are worth celebrating and uplifting and appreciating. This does not allow for casual use and degradation. Also to be avoided: gossip and comparison. Two very reliable thieves of joy.

Anyway, here I am, a year untouched, living in a body I’m finally growing to love. I’m grateful for this year of alone-ness in my skin, and I’m grateful for this Creator of mine Who was kind enough to take as much time on me as He did sunsets and oceans and wine. Maybe more.

How magnificent. 

possibly a touch of depression

These are the things I am trying to tell myself right now.

It’s okay if you don’t have it in you. 

It’s okay if you don’t have the energy to work out right now. If you can’t bike or lift or run, at least you can walk. That’s okay too. It’s okay to be gentle. It’s okay if you don’t feel like praying. If you can’t think of anything to journal. It’s okay if you you don’t feel like writing or talking to going anywhere. It’s okay when you get irritable. If you don’t feel as interested or as happy or as confident, that’s okay too. It’s okay if you need to take a nap. 

It’s not normal to wake up every morning and feel like your throat is closing because you have to do laundry/walk the dog/go to work/live your life. It’s okay to not want to feel like that anymore. Other people don’t have to live with that, and it is just too much damn work to keep up with. 

Also, it’s okay if you don’t get to the laundry/the dog/the work/etc., etc. 

It’s okay if you just ate a whole bag of chips. You aren’t bad, or ugly, or fat, or unlovable. It’s okay if you got a little drunker than you planned. It’s okay that you thought about hurting yourself but you opted for a whole box of cereal instead. Not great, but probably the better option. 

It’s okay if you need to take meds. It’s okay to want to feel like yourself again. You aren’t bad. You are good. God is good. He’s somewhere out there, helping you muddle through the fog. Also, it’s okay if you don’t know what choosing joy looks like right now. Maybe it’s just something less exuberant right now, like quiet peace. More like the rhythm of a lake than the roaring of the ocean. That’s okay. It’s all still wet.

Stop trying to go shopping to make yourself feel better/feel anything. Clothes aren’t fixing you. Makeup isn’t, bathing suits aren’t, bags aren’t, and food isn’t either. Food isn’t your only friend and isn’t the only thing that will make you feel good. 

Go lay in the sun. It’s warm. It doesn’t ask anything back. Just rest. Be held. 

Mostly, it’s okay to want to feel better, but it’s okay to sometimes not be okay. 

what i weigh

When I was born I was just over seven pounds. 

Today I weighed 207.6 pounds. 

When I was ten I was 105. When I was 15: 155. 145 after a breakup. 

Senior prom was 148. I cried, thought I was fat.

Freshman year of college I was 151. Junior year 175. 167 after a diet. Senior year 190. 185 after another diet.

The day I got married: 170. 

The day I ran my first half marathon: 165. 

When I got into grad school: 186.

Seems like I gained a lot of weight. 

Really, seems like it was my fault when he didn’t want to have sex anymore. Like I deserved it when it just stopped happening. Or when it started, but couldn’t finish. Maybe I should have stayed what I weighed when he met me.

On the other hand, maybe he shouldn’t have been calling me a manatee.Yes, they’re cute, I get it. And yes, I’m cute too, fine. But geez! The slowest, laziest, floatiest animal in the ocean? And when I turned around and asked for a new pet name, it switched to hippo? We saw them at the zoo once and they LITERALLY CANNOT GET BY without being supported by water. Because they are SO LARGE. And he thought that was just HILARIOUS. 

All teased, buried, smothered under a laugh and a hug. While the girl on TV/at the park/at the bar/in the movie was a dime/hottie/smokeshow/bangable, etc., etc., etc.

For some reason, before we were married, I was bangable too. I was hot. I was sexy and desirable. Fun. Dark-haired. Tall. Curvy.

And then we were married, I could be naked. I could be decorated like a damn lace Victoria Secret CAKE. I could have MY ACTUAL HAND DOWN HIS ACTUAL PANTS and STILL get turned down. WHY DID I HAVE TO TRY SO HARD TO HOLD HIS ATTENTION?

Maybe it was because I was 170. 175. 186.

All the while, I tried. Maybe this work out will make him want me more. Maybe he’ll think its hot that I can plank like a champ. Run long distance. Cook with quinoa. Or maybe I’m sexy now that I lost three pounds? That I cut my hair and got new jeans and I can rock some freakin’ heels? That my ass still looks great in yoga pants?

The thing about moving cross country, working night shift, and being a grad student is you get stressed. And tired. And heavy. 188. 190. 193. 204. The scale crept up, and our marriage started falling apart. Probably not cause-and-effect, but still a heart-breaking correlation.

Honestly, from the beginning, it’s all been heart-breaking. 

I learned how to stare at my body and pick the parts I hated when I was 10. I learned all boys cared about were butts and boobs, and I realized I was taller and littler softer than the rest of them. 

I learned in middle school I wasn’t worth looking at, with curly hair and glasses, while the other girls wore thongs above their pants. 

When I had to start buying size 12 jeans I learned how to call myself a “fat whore.” I learned not to shop at Hollister because I didn’t want to ask the sales rep for a ladder to the top shelf. I learned there was always bikini-season around the corner, and year after year that dressing room lighting didn’t get more forgiving.

I learned the boys liked you better when you were smaller. They liked volleyball uniforms and low rise jeans. I learned that when other people noticed you, that meant you were good. 

And then I got married. I learned how to hide when I was naked. I learned about how to be rejected at my most vulnerable. I learned that even husbands, who had once been ravenous, could simply turn away, pat you on the head, affectionately name you after fat zoo animals. I learned I wasn’t worth loving, I wasn’t good, I was disgusting.

Now I’m alone. Divorce, turns out, is more stressful than grad school, and leads to much more crying over bowls of pasta, bottles of wine, bags of chips. And now I tell myself I’m not worth looking at until I lose 50 more pounds. Who could ever be interested in me, ever again? 

I’m tired.

I’m tired and I’ve tried it all. Gluten-free. Paleo. Keto. Carb-conscious. Calorie-counts. Weight-Watchers. Nutrisystem. Optavia.

I’m ready to try something new. 

I’m ready to stop weighing myself every morning, letting the numbers set the tone for my day. I’m ready to stop punishing myself for my food, and stop measuring my day based on the success of my diet. All these days are worth more than calories consumed, and I’m wasting my life obsessing over it. I wish I didn’t know what I weighed on the day of my prom or my graduation. I wish I had just enjoyed myself regardless. I want that to end, and I want to enjoy my life for the rest of my life. Mostly, I want to stop letting the scale decide whether or not I think I am worth loving. Whether or not I am good.

So, inspired by various body-positive Instagram pages, I’m going to tell you, one last time, what I weigh. Because the space I take up in this world is more than what I can measure.

Today I weigh:

My heart. I am kind and caring. Sometimes I suck, but mostly I’m trying. Firm believer in growth and faithful prayer.

My mind. I am smart. I work hard. I’d like to think I’m a good nurse, too. 

My love. For humanity, for life, for color. For beauty. For swimming, dancing, laughing, drinking, eating, breathing.

I’m a little (lot) introverted, but I’m also fun. Even cool enough to go to the movies alone.

And I think it’s time I starting working out because it makes me feel good. Because I am strong, I’m mentally tough, and I have endurance. Because I am a damn boss. Because I am a woman, and I deserve to take care of myself. Because I am worth treating kindly, and I am not bad because I love pizza. 

Also, damnit, my ass still looks good in yoga pants. And I don’t need anyone to notice me for that to be true. 

a little feminism, a little catholicism

Let’s clear something up.

Being divorced does not make me a bad Catholic.

We no longer live in a time when women are meant to be white-knuckling it through years of misery for the sake of ‘offering it up.’ We are educated, independent, and now have the resources to pursue our callings in ways that generations before us did not have. There’s no need for us to settle for the facade of holiness when, in reality, our homes are flooded with backwater. 

That being said, you’re not doing anyone any favors, not even God, when you’re staying in a relationship just for the sake of what appears to be a straightforward Christian life. Better for God, and everyone else, to courageously move into the unknown. 

I’m not saying there is no such thing as objective right and wrong. I’m also not saying that love isn’t a sacrifice or active choice. I do believe that even the best of relationships face their challenges, and there will always be ‘offer it up’ days. Please stick around when the Cross is shared in love and the promise of Easter stands above you. 

For today, let’s consider those relationships built on such gravel they could hardly survive a breeze, let alone the storm of real life. These relationships are not going to make it anywhere healthy, no matter who says they hope it’ll work it out. They are plagued far beyond that run of the mill struggle straightened out in therapy. They are fundamentally unwell. 

I had a long, winding talk with a priest about this before I left my own marriage. He was honest, reminding me that God could always work a miracle, and I could stay and hope for the transformation of grace. He also told me that as a woman with intellect, I should feel free to make my decision based on the truth of what had been shown to me in the past and what was happening in the present. 

Based on the facts, our marriage was going nowhere, and had not been God’s plan for marriage from the start. According to this priest, and, I’m sure, Christ, I was made for more. I was made for joy, and freedom, and life. I needed to bravely look at what I believed to be true- all marriages are forever- and walk instead into foreign territory. I had to shift my framework, take a deeper look, and start a new life. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Whatever you believe, please don’t tell me you think I should be back with my husband because it says so in your Christian Marriage 101 textbook. I promise, nothing about what was going on there fit the Christian ideal. None of it was meeting the life-giving, holy-growing criteria of what a mutual marriage should be, and anyone thinking I should stick around for more of that is sick in the head.

Also, for the record, asking me if I discerned my relationship with my ex feels a little weird. Of course I did. I didn’t just wander into a marriage without serious consideration and prayer. I’m still sorting out why everything ended up the way it did, but assuming my lack of proper discernment is to blame for the dysfunction somehow makes it my fault everything sucked.

I did not wind up in this situation because I didn’t pray hard enough.

Basically, this is my long way of saying that staying in a place of decay just because it looks Christian is not always the right thing to do. And anyway, when was the last time we chose the Christian life because it looked good? We choose Christianity because it embraces what is actually good.

I can tell you that since I’ve left, I feel more like myself than I have in years. I am free. I don’t have to hide my faith anymore, and I don’t avoid going deeper into my relationship with God for fear of distancing myself from a husband who resented Him. I’m at a point in my life where I am free to take care of my soul, and I’d say that’s the holiest place to be. Not trapped in a life-sucking situation for the sake of what made me a good Catholic on paper. 

Let’s broaden our idea of what good Catholicism looks like. It’s not always going to be sweet domestic bliss, because life is not always like that. A lot of us don’t have that version of the dream, and even when we have something close, there’s something else lurking in our closets. There’s drugs and depression, scandal and abuse, broken families and loneliness and sin. 

That is the beauty of real, tangible Catholicism: it is for real, tangible people. We are dirty and hungry and walking a road through the valley of death. We are clinging to a God Who is merciful. He meets us, broken and poor, and invites us to a table with Him. He doesn’t ask us if we prayed hard enough or why the heck we are broken in the first place. He didn’t look at Mary Magdalene and ask her why did she became a prostitute, ridiculous and sinful woman. He got down in the dust with her and offered her a hand. 

Sometimes what is right doesn’t look the same as what we thought before. 

It’s time to shift the framework. 

sex and disrespect pt. v

What I Want You to Know

Your body is your home, and you deserve to protect it.

It’s okay to have boundaries. It doesn’t make you crazy, or too demanding, or weird. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing or what culture has bred others to expect in bed. I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but it only matters what you are comfortable with and where you want to go. You are not to be blamed for having too many rules, and you are not to take on guilt for making demands. You are a person to be respected, and physical intimacy is not the place to start making compromises. 

Your body is the home to your soul and you deserve to keep it safe. You deserve to choose who to allow into that home, when they are allowed in that home, and what they are allowed to do in that home. They aren’t allowed to make you feel bad for setting the rules there. 

Even when you’re married- when you’re opening up your home to another- that is not a license for your spouse to go exploring in rooms and cabinets that they have not been invited to. You are allowed privacy and boundaries and respect. You deserve to create a safe space within which it is fun to explore. 

And when you say no, it means no. Don’t feel guilty for that. Don’t compare yourself to what everyone else is okay with doing, because there will always be someone willing to go a little farther and get a little kinkier than you. That doesn’t matter. If your partner is there for you, to respect and honor and love you, they will do it in a way that serves that love. They will take no for an answer, and they will be okay.

That’s not to say that no isn’t frustrating. It can be frustrating as hell. Sometimes pushing the boundaries can be tempting, and it’s hard to remember why you had them in the first place. Sometimes you’d like to throw a big, crazy party in the place you call home, but you know there will be a mess and a hangover the next day so it’d be best to just avoid it entirely. So when your partner starts bringing in the vodka and the chips and turning up the music, its okay to ask them to stop. No, thank you. This seems fun, but I have something better-for-me in mind. Please go put those Doritos back in the car. 

A supportive and loving partner says okay, sure, I’ll put this away, and I’d love nothing more than a night in our sweatpants because I love you either way. I might be in the mood for a party but I respect that you’re working in the morning and had a busy day running errands. There is no storming out of the house to drink the vodka at a friend’s then blaming you for why you’re left at home alone. I know we’re deep into the metaphor here, but it makes the point. 

Struggle: OK. Abandonment and blame: Not OK. There should be a safe space to be vulnerable and enjoy intimacy without the looming fear of neglect.

So those blurry moments when you aren’t really sure if something is wrong but your gut doesn’t feel right? Trust that. When things are ever-so-slightly off, and you don’t think it’s bad enough to talk about and aren’t even sure what you’re trying to verbalize? That’s a flag. When you are feeling used, when you are feeling pushed, when you are feeling neglected, you aren’t crazy. You didn’t make that up in your head, and it might feel too vague to pin down, but you aren’t wrong. Someone might tell you you’re imagining things or overreacting, but that’s not right. You didn’t imagine it. All those little things you let slide and rationalize- the discomfort here, the odd word there, the ever-so-slightly excessive aggression there…They add up. They still hurt. And just because no one else saw doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. 

You are good.

Love,

Me