Some thoughts.

On Tuesday night I was talking to a friend and told him that I was trying to recall a time that I felt so sick, so lost, so heartbroken. It dawned on me that it was over a year ago when I was breaking up with someone I loved deeply who had also hurt me deeply. Watching the states go red I felt that same destitute, lonely feeling, the, “What do I do now?” that ran through me when I thought of a life without my partner, my best friend, my often emotional abuser.

Times like that, and times like these, are risky for a person like me. I am empathetic to a fault and it can oddly make me seem quite cold. As my brain fires on all cylinders and my emotions course through me quickly, fiercely, dangerously, I struggle to find the words to explain to someone how what they’re feeling makes me feel. Sometimes I say nothing or I say what I know is the wrong thing. Often it’s because I haven’t begun to make sense of what they’re going through, often it’s because I don’t want to seem ridiculously involved in their situation, taking the ownership away from them. In the past two days, however, I’ve been anything but cold. I sat on my couch on Tuesday night, into Wednesday morning, and cried. They weren’t the full body sobs I have experienced at other times in my life, they were quiet tears, a slow mourn. And I knew I risked falling into a hole I would not climb out of for days, an emotional whirlpool, and I was thankful for having booked Wednesday off to take care of myself and have space to think and feel as needed.

For me, the new President Elect of the United States of America is a figurehead, representing everything that terrifies me in this world. Xenophobia, bigotry, racism, misanthropy, misogyny. He encapsulates the hatred I try to live my life without.

Hillary Clinton, to me, represented hope in the same way Barack Obama represented hope. I am thankful I had the chance to see the Obama hope come to fruition. I deeply feel that the Clinton hope will do the same, at some point, in the not so distant future.

As a Canadian I did not cast a ballot, sitting on the sidelines watching it unfold. At one point during the evening, after ten and before one, I said out loud to only myself and my cat, “Does the world really hate us this much?”

“Us” were the people of colour, those that identify as LGBTQ, women, immigrants… the list goes on. Marginalized groups. The people that have fought and are still fighting to be viewed as equals.

In between tears I thought of years ago when a man I thought liked me looked me up and down and said, “You’re surprisingly smart, given how hot you are.” I thought of every time I’ve gotten myself in trouble for speaking up when someone has said something sexist or misogynist as if I were an inconvenience. I thought of when my ex-boyfriend’s drunken, unwanted advances would have to be fended off as successfully possible. I thought of my niece and the other brilliant young girls I am lucky to know. I thought of the people I know and love in the States, especially the women. I thought of the women in my family who have fought for their children, their families, their professions, their own lives.

I will never pretend that my preference for Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with gender but it was not simply because she was a woman. Yes, she represented an ultimate shattered glass ceiling. She represented recognition of years of hard work. She represented overcoming obstacles that only marginalized groups face. But she was also up against a man who is everything I fear when I walk home alone, everything I remember from my most terrifying moments in my past, everything that worries me when I think about how far we’ve come and what we face to get where we need to go. And she was qualified. Incredibly qualified.

Comparatively, for me, it would never add up.

But that’s all behind us now. We don’t have to like it. We can stop at tolerating is because we are so seasoned in tolerating we know we can do it and we will do it again.

But it also doesn’t mean we have to stop. We won’t stop.

The women and men who came before us didn’t stop. They didn’t stop when their friends were beaten and murdered. They didn’t stop when they were wrongfully incarcerated. They didn’t stop when they stood up for justice and were laughed back down.

Now is the time we hug our friends. Now is the time we make our voices heard, louder than ever before. Now is the time we dry our tears and wear our labels with pride, louder than ever before.

A way has begun to be paved. The opinions have started to sway.

I refuse to hate anyone who voted red in this election. I want to understand. I would love to know the reasons why because I don’t believe that everyone who voted that way is what that man represents to me. I would also like to know why he seemed the better option to the qualified woman running against him.

Until I get that chance it’s time to dry my tears and stand up tall. We have work to do.

A Sporadic Note About Life and Getting Nearly Hit By A Car.

Tonight on my bike ride home I was six inches and a quick swerve away from being taken out by a car. They were turning left, paying attention to whether cars were coming but not to me. They didn’t see me until it was almost too late, our combined efforts of brake slamming and wheel turning saving me from hitting the pavement (or their windshield).

I was five minutes from home and I spent the rest of that time shaking. I could feel it all bubbling up inside me, everything deep down in there, rising to the surface, making its way to my throat. I started breathing deeply, focusing on my building appearing in my sights. Focusing on the road ahead of me. The cars around me. Anything but how I was feeling.

I walked in to my apartment, slumped against the wall and cried. My cat sat in front of me, meowing, staring, wondering, as everything I was trying to swallow down came to the surface. Sweat dripping over my skin, tears streaming down my cheeks, my breath nearly uncontrollable.Six inches and a quick swerve away from inconsolable.

Lately I’ve had a lot of things come to the surface. I’ve thought about things I hadn’t thought about in awhile. I’ve remembered moments that I wanted to bury forever. I opened up, I let in, I was shut out. I understood but after everything, after it all, I don’t know.

It seems fitting that I nearly got hit by a car.

My only aim in life is to be good. To be true. To be real. To be honest. To be loving. To be there.

If I can make it through and say I had been those things most of the time then I think I’ve been successful at living.

But some days it’s really, really hard.

Some days you want to throw it all away like my shoes that I ripped off my feet ten minutes ago and threw at the closet. Some days you want to slump against a wall and sob because you almost got hit by a fucking car and the only thing that made you feel is sorry for everything that came before.

I’m living my best life right now.

But some days it all comes flooding back and you wonder to yourself, “How did I ever make it out of that?”

And you hope to god you never go back.

And that you don’t get hit by a fucking car.

 

balance and health and bikini bodies and happiness.

I’ve been writing this post in my head for days. For weeks, even. I suppose ever since I tried to put on a pair of pants that I could effortlessly slip on a year ago and they didn’t make it past my hips I’ve been writing this post. I’ve been going over the differences in my body from when I could put those pants on and to this point in time, when I cannot.

The problem is, is that I don’t see any.

Maybe it’s not a problem. Perhaps it points to a level of self-confidence and comfort in my body that is difficult to come by. But we’re in the middle of “bikini body ready” bombardment from advertisers and bloggers and general pressure of the world. I’m trying to figure out how I could have gained approximately fifteen pounds and still feel bikini body ready despite what the world is telling me.

For the last few years I’ve become much more conscious about what I’m putting in to my body, on my body, and how often I’m making my body move. I’ve found a love for exercise, vegetables, balanced meals, and using natural almond oil to wash my face. I read motivational, level-headed blogs that promote wellness from all sides. I surround myself with people that encourage not only me but also themselves to be happy. Last year I was in the gym approximately five days a week for months at a time, motivated to get that body I always wanted. Last year I was also in the middle of a tumultuous, drawn out ending of a relationship that was wreaking havoc on my mental and emotional health while I was doing everything in my power to take control of my happiness and well-being.

Apparently I got the body I always wanted. I was wearing size eight pants and shorts. I was able to slip into size six dresses with no muss, no fuss. People kept saying, “Wow, you look great!” and “You’ve lost weight, amazing job!” And I was all, “Yes, yes, thank you, thank you.”

But I couldn’t see it.

I saw no difference between the body I started with, the body in the size six dress, and the body I have now (which is closer the former, to be honest). When I looked in the mirror I saw a body that needed to change. I saw hips that were still too big, thighs that still weren’t toned, skin that was still too dimpled, a stomach that was still too round. While everyone around me was applauding my success I was struggling to understand what they were talking about. And as I slowly gained weight back over the winter I still saw no difference.

Full disclosure: even after the concrete evidence of not being able to wear half of the pants I own, I still don’t see a difference.

Wellness sites and blogs talk a lot about your “happy weight”. It is exactly as it sounds: it is the weight at which you are healthiest – in all ways. You’re not obsessing over your gym sessions lest you gain ten pounds. You’re not feeling the crippling guilt of having had a cupcake at a bridal shower. You are still relatively active and eat fairly well – but you are truly balanced in your life. You have found the weight at which your body, and your mind, can say, “Yes, I am happy. Good job, me.”

I thought my happy weight was twenty pounds lighter and two sizes smaller. I was happy with how far I could run without feeling like dying. I was happy with how strong I felt in warrior sequences during yoga class. I was happy with the fact that everyone noticed I had lost weight. But I wasn’t happy.

I was going to the gym to avoid being at home. I was going to the gym to make myself more attractive to someone who didn’t want to be with me. I was going to the gym because it was easier than noticing the glaring gaps in my mental and emotional health elsewhere in my life. I was going to the gym because it was easier to do than go out with friends and lie to them about how amazing my relationship was. I was going to the gym because I felt strong and capable there.

When that relationship ended and I moved out, my deep-rooted need to work out lessened. I still enjoyed going for a run and riding my bike, but the gym wasn’t the sanctuary it had been. My home was. I could walk through the door at the end of a work day and feel welcomed by my room, my books, my music, my own existence. I didn’t need to worry about what was greeting me when I came in. I started to watch the shows I wanted to watch. I started to listen to what I wanted to listen to. I started to connect with the people I hadn’t connected with, open up to them about the things I had hidden.

And I’ve been happy. So, so happy.

Happy even as I gained fifteen pounds and lost the definition I had worked towards.

Happy as I ate dessert without worrying about someone making me feel bad about it.

Happy even as I was sad, because I knew I was in a better place.

So is this my happy weight? I don’t know. They say that life is about balance and I can fully admit that my scale has leaned a little too far to the “enjoyable but bad for you food” side in the past couple of months. But it’s also leaned to the “works out by doing what she enjoys rather than what will get her the ultimate body as soon as possible so that she can finally feel complete” side pretty hard, too. So I guess what I’m saying is that I should eat a little less sweet stuff and a little more of my veggies again, and maybe then I’ll have the balance I’ve been searching for.

Maybe I just need to admit to myself that I’m always going to be a curvy girl and my natural size is not where it could be but where it should be, you know? Because I look in the mirror and see the same person I saw six month ago. Apparently she’s bigger but she’s also healthier and happier in so many other ways. And she’s bikini-body-ready, since she has a body that a bikini can go on.

I’ll let you know in a couple of months how it’s going. I’m biking to work again (a measly sixteen kilometres round trip), doing yoga, and even started horseback riding again. I’m excited to see how my body changes in the coming months because I know that where it settles, while I’m living the life I want to live, is where it’s going to be happiest.

feel it.

Haven’t you ever just wanted to scream in the middle of a public place? It doesn’t matter where you are or how you’ve been triggered – what matters is that you’re feeling pent up and you need to let it out. One half of your brain is telling you to give in to the feeling while the other half is trying to keep you rational. It takes all you have in you to keep it in.

I envy babies and very young children for their ability to let it all out. They don’t care why they’re crying, they don’t have the sensor in their brain to differentiate silly triggers and serious triggers so they just cry. They wail and scream and break down, completely giving in to the emotion. They also laugh with abandon and say whatever they feel necessary to say. The adults around them respond to these displays of passion, giving them what they need in order to feel satiated be it food, sleep, or a hug. As we get older, however, it is deemed inappropriate for us to act in such unhinged ways and we are slowly taught to display our emotions in a calmer fashion. At some point we are taught to display them as minimally as possible.

I find it funny that we still enjoy movies and books and songs that rely on us responding in an emotional way. We need to connect to the characters, the words, the notes, in order to get something out of it. We need to allow our emotions to be handed over for awhile and manipulated slightly for enjoyment. In a world where it is often frowned upon to open up freely, this form of entertainment seems like it would slowly be taken away.

Or maybe we just enjoy that we can watch someone else be the crazy wailing bitch for one hundred and twenty minutes and live vicariously through her unrefined emotional nature.

I’m not saying we should all be a crazy wailing bitch every time we feel the need to be one. I know firsthand that screaming and yelling and crying are not conducive to healthy, productive discussions. But you can’t deny that it feels good to give in sometimes, right? Once in awhile you just have to crumple, letting the weight of everything you’ve carried and felt press you down until you feel flatter and smaller than you’ve ever felt, letting it consume you in its power. Once in awhile you have to respect your emotions and the way you feel. It might last a minute, it might last an hour, it might last a few days, but on the other side you feel better for it. You need to process it, feel it, let it run through your veins and become you. Once in awhile you just need to scream.

Lately I’ve had every type of emotion run through me at full force. I’ve been sad, angry, lonely, elated, and desolate. I’ve had people around me who have been there without question, there to pick me up, there to be a friend when I least expected it. I’ve had that because I’ve given in. Because I’ve said that I’m sad, angry, lonely, elated, or desolate. It’s shown me that, when you ask, people are willing to let you scream in a public place. They’re willing to let you feel it. They’re willing to let you crumple. The world isn’t as hard as we make it out to be. It’s full of lovely, willing humans with lovely, willing hearts. And I know I’m going to be okay, not just now but for the rest of my life, because I know that one reassuring fact.

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when you break up with someone you love.

Sometimes things simply end. That’s all there is to it – no fault, no blame, no harrowing experiences, just an ending. You try to go back through it all, trying to pinpoint the moment where your trajectory changed, the sentence or action that caused everything to come crashing down around you, but you can’t. You look for it, seek it out for some sort of closure or understanding, but it’s not there. There are times when, no matter what you did, no matter how hard you tried, it was never going to go the way you thought it would.

Over the last month and a half I have run the gamut of emotions from anger to denial to blame to emptiness. As I have watched a relationship I thought was going to be forever slowly end, I have done my share of thinking. I’ve done my share of yelling. I’ve done my share of blaming. I’ve done my share of everything I could think of to avoid feeling what I actually feel: sad. I don’t know why it’s so difficult for me to admit sadness, I have a tendency to lash out in anger instead, but right now that’s what I am. Pure and simple.

I suppose that’s the natural state when your breakup is the result of two people growing with each other very solidly for awhile and then all of a sudden not. And that’s all there is to it.

I’ve never had a breakup where I still loved the other person. I’ve never had a breakup without a dramatic catalyst – lies, deceit, betrayal. I’ve never had a breakup like this. And I think that’s what makes it the hardest.

It feels like around every corner is another reminder of the life we once had and the one we used to work towards. The other day we went grocery shopping and as I watched Sam walk down an aisle I thought about how, before we moved in together, we used to talk about how excited we were to grocery shop together for the rest of our lives. I started crying in the middle of the store thinking of those two people, the ones who were so sure and so full of hope. I was happy for them but sad for us and I felt so much older than I ever have. In a lot of ways I am.

As I pack up my life in preparation for moving this weekend I’m finding things that remind me of how happy we were. Those red cups, remnants from parties we had with friends. That metro card from New York City, that trip Sam took me on for my twenty-fifth birthday. That silver ring, the one he found in a drawer and gave to me as a promise ring. The notes and pictures and little gifts that only meant anything to us. And they used to mean everything.

I’m grateful that, for the most part, my time as Sam’s girlfriend was one of the happiest times of my life. To be able to love so fully, so honestly, is something I am grateful to have been given. But now, as things start to wind down and I’m realizing that this is really ending, it’s becoming very hard. Every day I come home from work and realize I’m one day closer to not seeing his face on the other side of the door. I go to bed at night and look at his side, realizing that soon there will no longer be a need for sides at all. I wonder who I’m supposed to turn to when my best friend is also the boyfriend I’m no longer with.

And so I’m very sad.

I know this decision is for the best. Our relationship became, as Sam called it, untenable. Our emotional differences became too difficult to manage. And I know that life will still be okay without him.

But it hasn’t made me love him any less. Naively I thought the amicable nature and mutual understanding between us would make this the easiest breakup I’ve ever had but it’s quickly proving to be the hardest. We laugh and talk and hug like the old days, rapidly moving towards new, uncharted days.

I don’t know what my life is going to look like six months from now. I have faith it will work out and things will make sense, but I’m not sure when that will happen. For now I have to carry on, and poor Sam has spent more time sitting beside a weeping woman than he would probably care to, but that’s just where we’re at now. We’re making this work as simply, and lovingly, as we can.

And that is simply the nature of things that end with as much love as possible.

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don’t save me.

My Disney movie preferences as a child were quite simple: give me a little bit of song, human involvement only when necessary, and as many animals as you could reasonably fit into the story. 101 Dalmatians was (still is) my jam. On a first date five years ago the guy asked me what my favourite movie was. I responded, no hesitation, with, “101 Dalmatians.” He followed up with, “I meant your adult favourite.”

Okay, see ya, bro!

(Just kidding – in true Caitlin style I went out with him again, and maybe a few more agains after that, because I didn’t understand the difference between lonely and alone yet. I was young, okay?)

I have always wondered why the princess movies never resonated with me like they did with other little girls. Jasmine had a tiger, Ariel had some aquatic friends, I could get my animal quotient and still enjoy watching women find their destiny, right?

Well, I guess so. Until I got older and more independent and so utterly wise it hurts that I realized my problem wasn’t the animal-to-human ratio or that the songs weren’t my cup of tea (Pocahontas sang some catchy shit), it was that the destiny these princesses found was in another person. In the animal movies there was always someone that needed to be saved, some relationship requiring mending, but they always did it with a strength of self that the princesses didn’t seem to possess.

I didn’t want to be saved by being married. And I certainly didn’t want to be told by an entire town that I was a total knob for reading a book when I could be bedding steroidal, megalomaniac Gaston. My family likes to remind me that I was a miserable infant, crying whenever I got the opportunity to cry, a baby who certainly didn’t seem to be enjoying her time alive like her older sister did. Then I started moving around on my own and I was still totally obnoxious but much more comfortable with life. I didn’t want people doing things for me, from birth. So why would I have enjoyed a movie about some girl being saved by love?

The only animal movie that crosses a bit of a line into the princess theme is Lady and the Tramp but I’m not as quick to dismiss it into the, “girl meets bad boy, bad boy is actually a good boy, girl gets saved by bad boy” category (it has dogs in it so obviously I’m not going to be unbiased here, okay?). At least Tramp showed her that she could break out of her little box and have a little fun. I’m pretty sure Billy Joel wrote “Only The Good Die Young” after watching Lady and the Tramp, just saying. And in the end they compromised, had a bunch of mutts, and lived a nice, respectful life together.

But she certainly wasn’t passed out in some tower, therefore giving the green light to some random to come along and kiss her. Maybe she was out a little late the night before. Maybe she needed that nap. Maybe she never wanted you to be the one to save her. Ever think of that, Mister Lipsmacker? No? Didn’t think so.

What I’m trying to say is that maybe I should have been paying more attention to my Disney movie preferences all long. It’s not that I’m not made for love – I love love, and I love being loved – but it has taken me too long to realize that love isn’t there to make me better. It’s not there to fix me or save me or complete me or destroy me. It’s there to compliment me and make me happy and make me feel safe and make me feel comfortable and feel good about someone else. The only person I’ve ever needed to come along and save me was myself. And every single ditch I drove myself into along the way was another attempt at life trying to show me that.

I’m not Jasmine or Belle or Ariel (despite the ginger hair). I have a good life and a lot of people who love me already. And I love them.

So no, I don’t want to be saved. I’ll do that myself.

Perdita being a badass bitch who don't need no man but took one because she wanted to and then fought for her babies like a boss.

Perdita being a badass bitch who don’t need no man but took one because she wanted to and then fought for her babies like a boss.

love and loss and coping.

I don’t know what you believe in. Sometimes I don’t know what I believe in. I suppose I believe in fate, in karma, in a sort of universal power. For some that is too much and they prefer a bigger power-free world. That’s okay, that doesn’t bother me.

Today was a terrible day. I’ve struggled today to look on the bright side, to maintain a positive outlook. I have cried a lot. I don’t want to go into what has caused this onslaught of emotion, that’s not the point of this post. Just know that my mind has not stopped all day and I’ve had to do a lot of deep breathing.

In a sudden rush of emotion resulting in me absolutely not being able to stay in my apartment one second longer (I get that way sometimes when I begin to get very anxious – I need to get outside for some air or I start to feel swallowed up by my indoor surroundings), I took a walk. I didn’t know where I was going at first, but halfway through I knew. I was heading to the cemetary where we scattered my grandma’s ashes two years ago, a ten minute walk from me yet never visited since.

My grandmother’s death was really tough on me. I’ve had bouts of mild depression before, nothing more serious than what many of us experience from time to time, but this was rough. It was the first and only time I knew the debilitating effects that utter emptiness can have on you: exhaustion along with insomnia, numbness along with pain. To protect myself I ignored all of my pain from this and other losses in the family as soon as I could.

So you could imagine why I never wanted to come back and visit that scattering garden ever again.

Today, though, was the day. Today I needed to face it, I needed to feel it, I needed to say hello again. The sky was grey and threatening rain as I was walking and I wondered if I made a mistake in not bringing a jacket or umbrella. As soon as I found the garden and sat down opposite it, however, the clouds parted, the sun came out, and a warm breeze ran over me. My music switched songs and Swim by Jack’s Mannequin came on, and I started to cry. I cried until I could smile again, all the while feeling the sun on my skin.

The whole time I felt conflicting feelings of sadness but also hope. Hope because even here, even at this low moment, and even though she was gone, I had to believe that she was looking out for me. She looked out for all of us, would never have wanted to see us saddened by anything to do with her.

And so while I may not believe in a God or religion, I believe we get what we need and the universe has a way of giving it when we most need it. It’s the same reason I woke up from a dream the morning of my birthday this year where she had called me to wish me a happy birthday. It was the first time I had heard her voice in over two years and I knew, I had to believe, that she had done what she could to reach me.

Maybe this is all too voodoo mumbo-jumbo for you and that’s alright, I’m not offended. But I just wanted to say that if I’ve learned anything about life and loss and coping, it’s that the easiest route isn’t always the best route. And sometimes you need to let yourself feel awful, simply face it all, to feel not so awful again. I was so scared of feeling pain for so long that I bottled it up and got angry instead. I wish I could go back and deal with it all a little better.

Just know that in its own way, the world will take care of you when you don’t think you can. And sometimes the hardest part is the part you need the most.