I hate the term holiday blues. I think that’s because when I was 19, December rolled around and I fell into a full-blown depression, complete with sleepless nights, loss of appetite and thoughts of suicide. The holiday blues sound like an uptempo jazz standard compared to the nightmarish thoughts blaring in my head. I’m hardly the only college student who has teetered on the brink of a breakdown. It’s practically a cliche to experience some sort of mental and emotional suffering when you’re that age. But at the time, it didn’t feel like a cliche. It felt like the fight of my life, the recovery from which, with the help of therapy, was an epic journey up from an underworld I feared I might inhabit for the rest of my life. Months later, sitting in my therapist’s office, trying to solve a Rubick’s Cube that she kept on her desk, I clicked one row of orange squares together and felt a spark of hope. I woke up the next morning and thought, What’s for breakfast? I knew I was doing a lot better — at least enough to begin to function again.
I’ve never suffered another episode of depression, but ever since then, I’ve never experienced a happy holiday season either. I know that this is a particularly difficult time of year for many people. Especially those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or those who are grappling with more tangible hardships like financial struggles or a death in the family. I wish I could say I had a definitive reason to feel so meh in December. It’s much harder to pin down my discomfort around this time of year because it’s not related to my external circumstances — I have a wonderful family, great friends, a happy relationship and a job I love. I have much to be grateful and joyous about and I know it. The thing is, I consider myself a more-or-less happy person — at least for big pockets of time year-round. I understand how to access joy more often as I get older — positive thoughts, low expectations, balance. Even still, at this time of year, despite my best efforts, despite all my blessings, I find myself hanging on tight and crossing my fingers that I don’t spiral into darkness again. Keep reading »
I have a couple of girl friends whom I really envy. They know exactly what they want — or rather, what they don’t want. They don’t want to have children. Two of my girl friends are childless by choice, which means that while they enjoy being involved in the lives other people’s children, they have no interest at all in becoming parents of their own. There isn’t a doubt in either of their minds that kids are not a possibility.
My own feelings on the subject are much more hazy. Keep reading »
A quick note on anonymity. Support group meetings like these are anonymous. The stories told by others and their names are not to leave the room and therefore all references will be very vague and general, with only a specific focus on my takeaway as it pertains to my situation. I’m also not attempting to evangelize for the 12 Steps and, in fact, don’t even discuss the actual 12 steps in this essay. I’m simply sharing my thoughts on my experience with the group, which may or may not reflect others’ experiences with it.
I think the first 12 step meeting is probably a little awkward for everybody. It’s already some level of uncomfortable to talk in front of a group of strangers, but to do so about such personal issues? Really weird. But even if you’re used to talking about your problems and showing your emotions to others, be it friends or family or a therapist, a 12 step meeting is different, in that nobody responds. Nobody interrupts, nobody asks questions, nobody gives advice. They just sit and listen. Usually in life, when we share things about ourselves, we look for some kind of reaction or feedback, those remarks or gestures from others that ease the story along. During a 12 step meeting, one person shares at a time and everyone else just listens; when the share is over, its someone else’s turn and so on. The conversation happens through the interaction of those individual stories as they are heard, received and understood by everyone else in the room. Pause, and it’s quiet. Stays quiet, until you’re ready to continue or conclude. I’ve found those moments to be the most transformational.
I am not personally an addict. But other people’s addictions have been a constant presence in my life, in some way, since I was born. Yet, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided to attend my first 12 step meeting for family members and friends of addicts. Keep reading »
One of the weirdest things that people say to each other about relationships is “When you know, you know.” It means that when you’ve found the other person to be your singular life partner, you’re practically struck by a bolt of lightening. You just know.
It’s a weird aphorism, because it’s so often untrue. Many of us know people who actually don’t know. They’re ambivalent about the person they’ve been dating, even for a long time, or they’re ambivalent about commitment, fidelity or the institution of marriage.
Then there are the other people who do know, who do find someone, and then they get proven wrong. They know someone is right for them, but life turns around and tells them, “Actually, you don’t know.” Keep reading »
The first time someone called me a derogatory name on an internet comment forum, tears stung my eyes like I just got sucker punched. “Drunken slut” was not something I ever expected to be referred to as simply for writing a well-intended, personal essay about my dating life. I was reminded of being blindsided at the mall in 8th grade by a girl in my class I barely knew. She rounded the corner of Sam Goody, and closed in on me with two of her sidekicks. “I’m gonna beat your ass, you whore!” she screamed in my face.
I had barely even kissed a boy. I wasn’t anywhere near ready to process, or even understand, her insult. I called my mom to pick me up and didn’t go back to the mall for two months. Keep reading »
When I decided to move to Nashville, celebrity sightings were pretty high on my list of “new city perks,” ranking somewhere between “high concentration of cute banjo players” and “existence of sweet tea.” Based on the blogs and gossip columns I read, it was impossible to go to the grocery store in Nashville without rubbing shoulders with Brad Paisley or exchanging muffin recipes with Taylor Swift. I loved how effortless it all seemed. How simultaneously casual and glamorous. I started pre-bragging about my anticipated celebrity encounters before I even left Portland.
“You’ll text me as soon as you see Carrie Underwood, right?” my friends would ask as they helped me pack up my kitchen supplies.
“Of course,” I would breezily reply, not mentioning that I had already looked up her preferred bakery and planned to go there every Monday afternoon to increase my chances of “accidentally” running into her and becoming her best friend. Keep reading »
When it comes to giving oral sex, or as one of my friends calls it, sucky sucky, women seem to fall into two camps: LOVE IT or HATE IT. When gossiping about sex, I feel this overwhelming pressure to declare that I go hog wild for head or loathe it so much that I’ve taken it off the sexual menu with the exception of special occasions, like birthdays. (I’ve never understood that, by the way. Why would you give the gift of something you supposedly hate?) On the subject of blowjobs, there is a subtle urging to take sides. “Too much work!” or “Yummy! Cock!” As I sit there, feeling terribly neutral about the act, I can’t help but suspect that women have been conditioned to have strong, polarized feelings about giving head — or at least to play up their feelings for effect. Keep reading »
So, I’m in love. This isn’t exactly unique — so many others would say the same. Love is an overused word, it’s commonplace, expected even. But to me, it couldn’t be a more novel, beautiful, fascinating thing. For most of my life, I was fiercely independent and ambivalent about relationships. My focus was on platonic friendships and tangible milestones, like my education.
So, it’s strange to think that now, I call someone “my teammate.” My boyfriend has become my refuge from the craziness of everyday life and encourages me every day to be the best I can be. He’s never too busy to make me laugh or to remind me to cut myself some slack. He tells me ridiculous stories of faraway places we’ve never been, wears the most adorable sweaters in the world, and confides in me candidly. He has taught me so much about myself and what I’m capable of.
The crazy thing is that he and I almost never happened. What we have now was one wayward text message and an ounce of pride away from never happening.In some alternate reality, there is another me, who didn’t give him a second chance. What is this other me doing? What kind of things has she missed out on? Keep reading »
“Don’t be afraid of the white canvas.”
I’m sitting in the Nashville community art center for my first art class in almost a decade. My art teacher is standing at the front of the room repeating this phrase over and over in her sweet, calm voice. She brought homemade cupcakes to class and brewed a pot of coffee. Maroon 5 is inexplicably blaring from a paint-spattered boombox in the corner. I’m surrounded by easels and a small group of mostly middle-aged women who have signed up to spend their next eight Monday evenings learning abstract painting. I’m nervous.
“Experiment,” my teacher urges us. “Don’t be afraid.”
I dip a fat brush in water and coat it with acrylic paint. Deep breath. I drag an exuberant wash of magenta across the smooth canvas. It immediately starts dripping. I’m surprised to find that I don’t care at all. The color is so joyful. I want more of it. I stipple the edges of the canvas with the same lively pink, then rinse my brush and switch to yellow. I use quick, diagonal strokes. It overlaps with the magenta and creates a fiery orange. This is awesome, I think. I want to do this every day! Keep reading »
“Why didn’t any of the guys you dated love you as much as I do?” my boyfriend asked.
The question hung in the air like foggy breath steaming up a cold windshield. It’s one of his favorite questions to ask. To him, it’s a mystery why other guys passed me over. It’s a riddle I love him for wanting to solve.
“I don’t get it,” he said.
“Me neither,” I shrugged.
These are the kinds of conversations you have four hours into a five-hour road trip, after you’ve listened to a Lorrie Moore short story on The New Yorker Fiction podcast and gossiped about people you know and stopped at an abandoned McDonald’s with one, lone carousel pony on display in the dining area. The pony looked out of place — like it was in search of its missing carousel. Keep reading »