2016: A Love Letter

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Yeah. I know. 2016 sucked… except it didn’t. Not for us. For us, honestly, it was utterly amazing and magical. I can’t even begin to do it justice in one post but I’m going to try…

It started in late 2015, when we watched the new Cosmos series. It blew us away. We just fell in love with the science, the way of seeing the world. It turned Steve atheist for good, in a way that surprised me. It solidified so much of what I had felt for years and it turns out I felt the same as he did. We were transformed. We discussed all kinds of things we had never discussed before, even in all our years of endless conversation. We took an online physics class together. We started reading science and atheism nonfiction and were instantly mesmerized. We started listening to podcasts and religious and philosophical debates. And always, always talking to each other. It’s been fantastic.

This was also the year of the election. And, sadly at first, we found ourselves disagreeing. In some ways, we had veered off into opposite extremes and I was particularly stubborn about seeing the other side of things. We had a lot of uncomfortable silences when we tried to discuss politics – until we both got so frustrated with that reality (ESPECIALLY me) that we created a new one. We researched, we talked, we became willing to change our minds. And Steve shifted and changed and I shifted and changed, hardcore, and we met in the middle, where we remain, agreeing on everything. Through critical thinking, reason, and logic, we agree on everything. It’s incredible.

But the atheism and critical thinking brought something fearful as well, at least for me: the reality of mortality. I realized that not believing in a god meant facing finality. Not believing in god, while alive, is freeing and beautiful. But not believing in god or something after, while facing death… it’s been tough to comprehend and incorporate into my thinking. It’s terrifying.

I struggled for a good five months before I, with Steve’s help, was finally able to turn that fear into something useful, to grasp the reality of that and – instead of panicking or worrying about it – use it to value every single day that I have to be alive. Stop focusing on the things that really will not matter in the end: no more negativity, no more daily anger, no more low body esteem. And, most importantly, I have finally, truly given in to vulnerability – in every way, but with no one more than Steve.

I love him now more than ever. We are entwined and in love to such a deep degree, there really is no way to describe it. For the first time in almost 23 years, I love COMPLETELY, without fear, and with total raw openness. And all because of the atheist discovery. I mean, if I know this is all I have with Steve, there is NO holding back. No fear. No putting up walls. This is it. And so we are crazy for each other. Absolutely madly, deeply in love. After so long together. It’s indescribable.

And in the end, that is what this year has been most of all – an emotional and spiritual and intellectual renaissance with my best friend, the person I love the most in this universe. I only hope I get to spend the rest of my time in this universe – and hopefully other universes – with this person. The one with the best heart, best words, best love. Best.

I’m sad to say goodbye to this year. We will always remember 2016 as the year of transformation. Of something immense. No words I could write here would suffice. But I had to try to put it down anyway.

So much love.

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No More Numbers

I have stopped counting calories. I have not logged my daily intake since February 19 and I have deleted my Excel sheet both at work and at home. I am trying to stop myself from doing it in my head from habit/memory and am succeeding about 50% of the time right now. I’m sure that will improve with time.

I made a goal at the beginning of the year to:

“Care less about calories and about my weight. Fully accept that I am beautiful and perfect just as I am, even if I never lose that other ten pounds again. Steve has already been helping me with this one. So much.”

At the time, I mentioned to a couple of people that it was part of a bigger year or two-year long goal to stop counting calories. I didn’t think I was ready to do it yet. But, a few things changed my mind:

  1. Vacation in California. The inference here is that I was so content and happy that counting calories seemed insignificant. That was a small part of it. A bigger part of it was that I decided not to count calories while I was there because I was eating so much damn great food that I didn’t even want to know. Regardless of the reason, I went that week of not doing the counting and it was a decent kickstart to the process.
  2. Right at the end of my vacation, I got this Daily Om called “Throw Away Your Scale.” I actually threw away my scale years ago, but I read the entry with “counting calories” in place of “weighing yourself” and it was like a lightbulb went off. The fundamental truth is that I can determine how healthy I am by my own instincts, by how I nourish myself, my energy level, my mental clarity, my strength and agility. I do not need a scale or a calorie log to tell me what I already know inside.
  3. A reminder from the universe about what matters: my feelings about my body and appearance have been all over the place since my vacation. Not running doesn’t help, but I have been so exhausted this week that I have barely gotten out of bed to go to work, much less run most days. Then on Wednesday morning, as I struggled with whether or not to put on my running shoes and get out the door, I got this Note from the Universe: “Good looks, Melissa, have little to do with one’s body and everything to do with one’s mind. Here’s looking at you, The Universe. P.S. It also helps to get enough sleep, Melissa.” I swear that site reads my mind sometimes. I went back to bed.
  4. A gift from Steve: on Wednesday afternoon, we were having one of our after work cuddle and talk times and he was staring at my face for a second and suddenly said “you really are SO beautiful.” And I just went silent and smiled… aaaand then started crying. It was like, for a brief intense moment, I saw myself as he sees me – truly beautiful, just as I am, right now. And that is how I want to see myself.

Counting calories, worrying about my weight and appearance, berating myself for not running or for eating too much – these are all tied together and they are nothing but a big pile of meaningless garbage. This is no way to spend a life. My worth to myself and to others has nothing to do with any of that. I used to know this when I was young. It’s time I start living that way again.

 

Walking the Walk

So remember my post about vulnerability? And how at the end I said I am working on it? Well, Angel’s post this morning reminded me: I AM working on it. I wasn’t just talking the talk this time. This week has been proof of that.

For the fourth day in a row, I feel physically and mentally drained, tired, emotional, manic, and needy. There is no singular reason; it’s just been a tough, busy, noisy week. But miraculously, I have remained in a happy mood, every minute, every hour, every day. For four whole days. Not one moment of storm clouds over my head. I don’t know if any of you realize what a big deal that is for me.

And all it took was some conscious effort. Every time I felt the urge to hold on to the stress, to do that thing where I walk in tense solitude, letting anger, annoyance, and resentment build, then unleash it on Steve later, I have instead breathed deeply, remained calm, and articulated my thoughts, frustrations, and needs to him instead.

I have allowed him to be my leaning post and I don’t think I need to elaborate how much he stepped up to the plate. There is no question he is there for me. All I need to do is LET him be there for me.

Granted, this stuff is only one area of my life in which vulnerability comes into play. I want to become more okay with the words “I don’t know.” I want to be more fully ME with my friends, willing to be fragile and imperfect with them – and with you all here in this space. But the issues with Steve are the biggest and affect my day-to-day life the most. And if this week is any indication, my behavior is far from hopeless or unmanageable.

A step in the right direction.

Best Lunch Ever

Lunch today with Ryan. Look at that gorgeous lady. I mean, really.

I made us filthy burgers (beef, barbecue pulled pork, bacon patty), bagged sweet potato fries, and homemade chocolate peanut butter ice cream. She baked chewy chocolate chunk cookies (oof). Never a dull meal with us.

I swear, you guys, just when I think I can’t adore this human being more than I already do, we have an afternoon like this one: the first half spent in wonderful conversation with Steve, the second half spent in deep contemplation and emotional revelation with one another. I recognize myself more in her than I ever realized, and vice versa.

This is the best kind of friendship – one that keeps getting stronger, deeper, more open, more connected, more affectionate over time. I love her. And I am lucky.

Vulnerability

I have recently realized a painful truth about myself: I am terrified of vulnerability. Terrified to the point of being unable to articulate my needs terrified. And it is the source of all of my issues in relationships with others.

I think to some degree I give off the impression of vulnerability, at least in the sense that I am willing to talk about deep things, difficult things. But that’s all surface. It’s nothing more than ingrained behavior. My entire childhood was wrapped up in AA, psychology, therapy, and always, always talking about everything, no matter how uncomfortable.

But all that talking doesn’t equate to me being open. Really letting people inside, knowing my flaws and fears… well, I have yet to accomplish that in a meaningful way.

Five years ago, I wrote these words about Steve on my sobriety blog:

And I will allow him to help me, to help hold me up when I need it. Because sometimes I really, really need it. I don’t mean to “fix” me but just be… a leaning post. I walk in tense solitude too often and forget I have a safe and loving person to hold me if I need him to.

In five years, nothing has changed. In fact, I think I walk in tense solitude even more now than I did then. Even worse, my unwillingness to be vulnerable has developed into an intense form or perfectionism, which leaves me constantly judging myself – and everyone else in my life – by impossible standards. It’s exhausting. It has to stop. I have to do something about it, now, or I am going to end up cold, hard, unaffectionate, someone who rarely smiles and never laughs. And alone.

I have thoughts on why I am like this: fear of happiness and always waiting for the other shoe to drop due to long ago incidents of rejection and ridicule from those I believed were my friends and post-traumatic stress from my father’s sudden death. Years of learned behavior. Some of the perfectionism, I think, even sprung out of positives – quitting drinking and smoking, losing weight, and becoming a streak runner all set the bar really high; now, anything that falls short of that type of all or nothing achievement isn’t good enough.

Still, in essence, all those why’s lead to the same thoughts and actions.

I have to be perfect or else I won’t be loved or admired.

I cannot fail or falter in any way and if I do, I can’t show it to anyone.

I have to always be in control.

I have to be the best at everything I do, or at least pretend.

Honestly, I am deep down scared to death to let people see me: bare, open, silly, imperfect. Weak. Just typing that last word makes me want to cry.
I deserve better than this.

The people who love me deserve better than this, than me being annoyed, angry, defensive, guarded, and half present, always keeping myself at a distance. I want to be the kind of person who flows with others in shared joy and humanity. I want to lean on Steve, and on my friends, and I want them to lean on me. Even here, fellow tumblrs, I want to tell you more about my inner reality than I do. And I will.

All I can do is just do it. Breathe deep. Stay at peace. Open up and say genuine things. Be a genuine flawed human being. Beat the fear and anger. Every time I feel that horribly constant familiar feeling welling up inside my torso, every time I am tempted to lash out… breathe deep. Remember I am okay. That it’s okay to be imperfect. To not know things. To be weak, in tears, and in need of love.

Working on it.

Making the First Move | Tricycle

Great little article about making the first move – in friendship. Making the first move is difficult for me. I want to be genuine and open, but I struggle hard with vulnerability, most particularly with other women. But in my heart, I know the reward outweighs the risk. I would rather keep reaching out and trying to connect – even with possible rejection – than live a life closed off and lonely. Because what kind of life is that?

So after I read this yesterday, I finally reached out to a gal I’ve been meaning to ask out on a friend date for about six months now and we made plans for lunch in a few weeks. We may deeply connect, we may not, but it’s worth finding out.

Making the First Move | Tricycle

Unburden

Downtown Dallas, 4:30 AM.

One of my very favorite things about our weekend excursions to east Texas is the drive. What could be a boring three hours each way instead provides moments of exhaustion-induced hilarity, spontaneous singing, and deep emotional connection.

This last trip out was one of the best in that regard. I didn’t plan it that way. But my mind wandered as we drove. For weeks there had been a couple of issues weighing on me like bricks. It occurred to me that if I would only find the courage to unburden myself, Steve might be able to help.

This seems obvious, of course. Part of being a loving husband and wife is being able to help one another in this way. But I have a terrible habit of forgetting this. I try to bear everything alone.

This time I pushed past my panic and spoke. He listened. And somewhere in the listening and loving and gently encouraging, he transferred the weight of the world from my shoulders onto his and turned my whole perspective around. I was even able to have a few realizations about family issues that were so cathartic and eye-opening, they brought me to tears.

I was reminded, yet again, that he is the one I should always talk to – because if not him, then who? He is my closest friend, my best sounding board, my emotional safe place. All as it should be.

So, at times, these late night/early morning drives out are as much of a gift as the hiking or work. Watching deer scamper back into the woods as we drive farther into the country, seeing shooting stars, and stopping on the side of a dark road to gaze at the clear, breathtaking universe above our heads are all extra.