the swell and the breath.

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 12.52.29 PM i've never really been of the belief that happiness is a choice.

there was that one summer i went around paying lip-service to it--to the belief. that one summer i wanted so desperately for it to be true that need eclipsed sense and i wore the phrase heavy around my neck.

i should clarify.

it's not that i don't think happiness a choice, it's that i think the choosing only goes so far.

it's part choice, part fight,  part smidge of luck, some indeterminate amount of divinity, a hell-of-a-lot of hard work, part ritual, part mystery, part getting out of bed in the morning. and when all is said and done, you offer those things up. like a prayer, you offer them up. and then you wait. you wait to see if they're enough.

because the blue is big and the blue is deep.

and some days, some weeks, some indeterminate stretches of time, they're not .

and sadness swells and breathes like an out-of-tune accordion.

i watched it approach this go round. watched as it appeared on the lip of the horizon. watched as it slowly, steadily, hurtled toward me. and i got out of bed each morning, and i payed homage to the ritual and the mystery, and i had my morning coffee, but the sadness took hold.

that hauntingly familiar sadness filled and unfurled. settled in.

both hollowing and hallowing is that blue.

and in the space it created, i with flailing arms and pitiable grace, groped for meaning.

two days ago, on the train, i began to cry. while reading a short essay about a father's love for his son, i wept.

i wept not because i was sad but because the words were beautiful and simple and wholly solvent.

and in doing so, in weeping, there was a thought:

here i am.

here i am, the girl moved to tears by the love a father not even my own.

and the meaning--the reason for this stretch of time--while still unknown, is somewhere in there--there, in that moment.

that is what is known, the boundaries of this swath: the reading of an essay on a train. and the human response.

and for now that is solace enough. for now, that is the salve that will heal.

claiming the land.



i hated new york this week.

hated the long subway rides. the assault of smells. the brush-bys by men who should not be. that. close.  

hated that i've taken to hiding in the stairwell when i see that one particular neighbor waiting for the elevator. (26 brings maturity, don't let anyone tell you different). 

hated that the guy at the corner store knows me. has for near two years now. hated that he knows when i'm eating well. and when i'm not. hated how his hand always brushes against mine when he hands me the change. no matter how i place my hand--inviting the dropping of the coins, he brushes up against it.  and since i have this theory (or strong-held-personal belief) that all intimacy begins and ends in the hands i find this action invasive, intrusive. 

and yet. he knows me. let's me cut the line when i'm just getting my chocolate covered pretzel. i hand him the dollar and he gives me a wink and a smile. he knows my name. always offers kindness, even when i don't deserve it. 

but this week. oh this week. 

this week i was lonely. 

seems to me as i cycle through emotions some, at certain times, are harder to admit than others. and why is that? sometimes i can't admit sadness. i'll claim everything else, but don't ask me to reveal the underside of that cloak that falls heavy on the shoulders.

this week loneliness sat heavy and oppressive on my chest. this week loneliness curled up under the two highest rib bones, wrapped itself there and clung.

and i considered writing about it. but upon the realization that somebody might actually read these words--oh god, people actually see this?--i evaded, ducked and missed the words all together, which was the first real mistake i made.

it's been harder to write, lately. as though it costs more. takes something from me. a wise friend suggested it's because my life has more value now--or i value it more, so yes, writing from this place is quite literally (metaphysically) more expensive. a side effect of getting better i did not anticipate and certainly do not welcome.

loneliness.

i thought about giving it all up this week. my lease ends in six months. i could sell my furniture. or put it in storage. take three weeks to travel around europe (because it's been suggested to me that three months would not be financially sound) and then move to seattle. or portland. and no i've never been to either of those places but i've  just this sense that i was meant for the pacific northwest. for the gray skies and massive pines and the water. for a pace of life that differs and bends.

i think i would thrive there. i have not reason to think this, no basis for this thought, other than it seems many a good musician is there now and some damn, fine writers as well, so maybe there's something in that water? and maybe that something would do me some good.

if i'm going to be lonely, might as well really be.

might as well go to a place where no one can ask me if i'm acting--if i'll ever, because no one will know me as such, as an actor, as a person who used to act. i hardly know myself as such. no one will know me at all. blank slate. fresh page. page turn.

and just as i'm having all these thoughts, just after having gotten off the train, and having passed quickly through the corner store, i look down at the bottle of sparkling water in one hand and the yam in the other. and the lack of bag, this quick purchase on the way home--it seems so very new york to me. and i love it. and i love new york for it. and just as soon as that thought passes, i pass the local restaurant and wave at my good friend from college who's perched at the end of the bar. and there is a love for that moment.

i'm trying, god help me, i'm trying to feel it all: the dislike and discomfort. the loneliness and wanderlust. the snippets of love i feel for this corner, this home. the in between-ness of this time in my life. because i know it will pass. i know this time, too, is sacred and important. i am changing now, becoming the grown-up version of myself. but oh, how the pushes and pulls make me sick to my stomach.

but again there comes that call--that push: remember this. remember this.

that's the great comfort: all things pass. sadness and loneliness. seasons of our life and slivers of time. and happiness too. and it cycles back only to move on again.

so, okay, before i rid my apartment of all my things, before i take off for europe, i'll enjoy this--this latter  half of october, when, heaven help me, i'll feel loneliness, really feel it. i'll live with it and study it and know it. i'll stake claim to it, plant flags in it, delineate territories and identify tributaries. and make it mine.

if only for a time, if only for a time...


image
via.

before the scream.


i have an unbelievably slow reaction time.

i take time to process things. quite a bit of time. maybe too much time?

at one point in utah i came out of a friend's bathroom, rounded the corner, and found myself face-to-face with a very tall man. in the dark. he jumped in my path. i stood there. for a second. processed it (kind of). felt the adrenaline pulse through my body (you know that wave of heat that hits?) and proceeded to let out one of those screams that girls are known for: high, loud, and truly terrifying.

and then i laughed so hard i nearly wet my pants. because i knew the very tall man. i knew him as a friend. a friend trying to give me a fright. and i was aware of just how delayed my reaction was.

in fact he joked that before my departure he'd succeed in terrifying me and then making it out of the room in that bit of space before the scream.

the thing is, my reaction has always been slow. and yes, laughably so. i remember my brother jumping out at me when we were kids. he'd pop from behind a closet door. a bedroom door. a tree. the laundry hamper. and i would stand there. stare for a second. and then let loose a cry of such terror my parents would come running.

i'm slow to react. and i'm a late bloomer. and quite often the uptake takes me just a little-bit-longer than everyone else.

such is my cross. my burden to bear.

someone recently apologized to me. said they were sorry my time in utah wasn't everything i hoped it would be. and i thought, they must have known more about my expectations than even me.

because i didn't know what to expect. that was the beauty of it--i who attempts to control all things (again, my cross) relinquished, gave up, said let's try. what will be, will be (a very unusual moment of courage on my part).

and then another friend recently remarked that for something i dubbed "my adventure in utah" i certainly didn't have much to say about it. to which i replied, because it was precisely that: my adventure. my experience. and at the end of the day it was just for me.

so you want to know why i went? really, want to know?

because after almost five year of struggling to recover from an eating disorder that nearly destroyed me (and no i'm not employing hyperbole) i was happy. and healthy. and i thought, why, the hell not? to go to utah and play juliet and act for the first time in two years because someone sent me an email, because one person happened upon my blog one day and though i might be able to do it? it's too odd, to unusual a twist in my story to say no to.

and so i went.

and the eating disorder resurfaced.

it became clearer, came into focus a bit more, but steamrolled me nonetheless.

and so for the three months there, while yes i learned invaluable things, i floundered. and the eating disorder chipped away at me.

and my parents patiently told me i'd be fine. it was just a hiccup. i wasn't back at the beginning.

but it felt like the beginning.

you see, recovering from this ghastly addiction has been a marvelous progression--varying shades. but the addiction itself has always felt the same. the beginning is the middle is the end.

and so when i slip, it's like moving through a portal of time and space. and suddenly i'm nineteen and a first-year in school. and i'm twenty dealing with unbearable depression. and i'm twenty-one barely getting through the day and twenty-two finding out what it means to have the bottom fall out.

on normal days my body fogs over certain memories--protects me from myself. whole years fade away. but when in the grips of the eating disorder i am at the mercy of a memory all too potent and all too cutting. a memory that colors everything so clearly i can no longer distinguish between past and present. in fact, past becomes present as the preceding five years play out. all at once. inside a body struggling to know... well to know anything. just one thing. to know just one thing with certainty.

so for me, my adventure in utah proved more portal than anything else.

but the miraculous thing--the reason i wouldn't change any of it--the reason i'd do it all over agin--is: i rebounded. and quickly.

the rebound--the great gift of utah. the reason my gut pushed me to go.

my reaction time? hugely diminished. the space between the fright and the scream? nonexistent.

i've always been afraid of those moments of slipping--those moments where my partial recovery is more eating disorder than health. because i know that i tend to stay there for a while. it takes quite a bit of time to recover, to come out of the funk.

but this time. well this time i came out of it. and quickly.

and now i'm not so fearful of those hard days. because i have so much more information and knowledge and experience.

and the funny thing (the counter-intuitive thing) about experience is that, good or bad, it adds value to one's worth.

and suddenly my cross (crosses) don't seem so heavy.

utah


it was about three weeks in when my face puffed up. it was ever so slight. hardly discernible to others, i'm sure.


but for me. i knew. i knew it was the signaling of the slipping to the other side of the line. you know, that slippery line separating happiness from oh-er-not-quite.

i was twenty when i first slipped. when i first became sad. and i have spent the subsequent five years working my way back. fighting for both air and light.

i have made lists. reminding myself to get out of bed and brush my teeth. to lock the door behind me and bring a book for the subway ride. to turn on music and turn to those who love me despite my many failings (and flailings). to sing in the shower (or try. to try, at least).

and oh the progress i have made! and oh the work that has been put into it. the choices made day after day. conscious. with great effort. until they became habit. the constant movement of kicking legs under still water. effortless. (or something like it).

but three weeks into utah my face puffed up. and i slipped again. and i watched as the happiness that i had fought so desperately for--that happiness that took near five years--that happiness that was more often thought than experience--more hope than faith--slipped through my grasping fingers. and. it. was. agony.

i think it might be harder the second time. because you know the path. and you know just how terrifying that trail can be.

and the thing was, i was happy. before i left--just a mere three months ago--i was really happy.

something happened at the start of this year. my tangled string of thoughts began to organize itself. and the thoughts became manageable and efficient. and this base level of happiness rolled out before me. and i met a guy who made me feel beautiful as i hadn't in quite some time. and life rolled on. gloriously. because there was sense. and feeling beyond sense. transcendence. even in my directionless, haphazard life there existed a little bit of bliss. and when some version of what always happens happened, and the guy became not-the-right-guy, and my heart broke just a little, i was still okay. yes, there was sadness, but it was passing. of a different plane. and because i was still okay, i was buoyant, even as i cried myself to sleep at night.

and somewhere not long after all this i got a little message. asking me to come to utah. to give acting a whirl. and because it was the absence of happiness and its accompanying companion (the eating disorder) that had driven me from theatre, forced me to take time to focus on those aforementioned little things like getting out of bed (and making said bed) i thought, why not? of course. i am well now. i can do this. i can see if i'm ready. to go back. to resume my path.

and so i went. and so i watched. as that happiness--that hard-won, hard-fought happiness slipped and slid away.

and i wanted to die. i wanted to get down on the cool, wet, utah grass, under that heaven of a star-lit sky and disappear into the ground.

because i didn't think i had the fight left in me for a second-go-of it.

but here i am. i survived (or some version of that). and there's always a little more fight. right?

it's just gonna take some time.

i know there must be a reason for all of this. that it's just another turn on this tricky little path. it's a patch of mud--a little muck, that's all.

i'm sure that before i know i'll reach a clearing. and things will get easier. but until then... well, until then, i suppose i'll just keep making lists, and getting out of bed in the morning.

and maybe i'll be wrong. maybe this second time will be easier. and much more meaningful.

yes, more meaningful. let's go with that.