I am Gumby (again)

So a while back, Diana suggested that I try “walking down a wall” with my hands, to work on my backbends. Because I’m so close – but those last few inches might as well be a mile. Tried it once before, a few weeks back, only to find that my spine wasn’t warmed up anymore (it was more than an hour after class, and the studio heat had been turned off – I was cleaning after closing) and I stopped halfway down. The last thing I want is to injure my spine. Figured tonight would be a good time to try – I had a few minutes to wait before I could get into the final studio I needed to clean, there were people in there (just in case I managed to fall on my head or something equally graceful), heat was still on because classes are in the morning tomorrow…

First time, I got to where my hands were just above the baseboard and the final “step” would be to the floor – and freaked out. No clue why. “Walked” partway up, flipped over, couldn’t even get out of it gracefully. Did that another couple of times, which was super frustrating. Took a break to stretch my back the *other* way and contemplated what was wrong – couldn’t come up with anything other than fear. Decided that if I let myself chicken out tonight then I’d never do it and just bloody *did* it. The first time down, that last “step” to the floor was actually physically hard – not sure why. Then I couldn’t figure out how to get out of it – if I’d dropped down the usual way, I would have hit my head on the wall, lol. I honestly don’t recall how I got out of that one, but I tried it a few more times and those times I “walked” back up the wall – that final push-off to standing isn’t easy, lol. But I would LOVE to someday be able to stand up out of a backbend, so I figure I should practice in both directions – at least give my muscles a chance to figure out what I want them to do.

Sure, TINY baby step. But it’s exciting in my world. 🙂

Success?

Tap today.  I am still feeling deeply ambivalent about this class.

Erin is an awesome teacher.  And the style of tap she does (rhythm tap) is quite different from the usual “showy” stuff that I did as a kid (and you probably did too, at some point or another).  No big flashy arm movements, no “shuffle off to Buffalo” – the moves are small, the rhythms are complex, it’s seriously cool.  And freaking hard.

And I’m in the level 5 class.  Geez.  A little over my head, but I think I’m holding my own.

Thing is, Erin doesn’t consider me part of the class.  At all.  She considers me a drop-in.  She specifically told me I’m not allowed to be in the recital with them.  Of course, they’ve already started the recital piece – I’m learning it anyway, and it’s fine for now ’cause they aren’t in any kind of formation, but it’s gonna get really weird at some point when they’re all lined up in specific ways and moving in specific ways and I’m the creepy old person in the back, trying to figure it out while staying out of the way.  Especially if the ONE other adult student doesn’t keep coming.  She’s pretty inconsistent with her attendance, I don’t know what to expect.  And beyond that, Erin just doesn’t seem to *want* me there.  She never gives me any kind of feedback – praise, correction, nothing.  I got my fill of that when I was in Kaitlyn’s jazz classes.  I loved her as a person, but she only paid attention to a small handful of our GIANT class, and the rest of us might as well have been invisible.  I’m getting that from Erin.  If I try to respond to things she says in class, she kind of looks through me.  The other week, when we were working on the dance, she’d added a few 8-counts on to what we’d already learned, and I was struggling with one of the transitions.  Now, I have this tendency that when I’ve been wrestling with something, and it goes well, I look to Diana (she teaches almost all of my classes this year…) with a grin, hoping that she’s seen it – and often she has and I get a smile in return.  Such a small thing, but it makes a huge difference in my outlook.  Well, we ran through it once more and I GOT IT.  Had no trouble with that transition, or any other.  Automatically turned around to catch Erin’s eye – she was looking RIGHT AT ME.  And couldn’t look away fast enough.  The barest minimum smile possible for the sake of politeness.  It did NOT feel good.

We haven’t had class for the past 2 weeks.  First competition this past weekend and the teams weren’t ready, so she was using our class for team time – since me and the other adult are the only two in there who aren’t also on the team.  I got my hands on the song we’re using and rehearsed the piece a few times each week, while I was there cleaning, because I knew the girls would all forget it – they were focusing on team stuff – and even Erin tends to remember the rhythm but forget the details of the steps, on occasion.  And each time I ran it, and spent 10 or 15 minutes working on various sections that were giving me trouble, I’d have this bizarre combination of satisfaction and anger – like “hey, I’m finally getting it – and why the hell does it even matter, if she won’t even acknowledge me?”.  Sigh.  And it’s weird – I work just as hard on jazz pieces that I know we’ll only do for a few weeks and will never be performed.  But I guess the difference is twofold – that this WILL be performed, just not by me, and also that at least now in jazz I get some kind of feedback from Diana.

Needless to say, I found myself really not wanting to go to class this week.  Lost track of time, didn’t get showered/shaved/ready to go until the last minute, didn’t get my laundry done in time (almost had nothing to wear), all kinds of subconscious self-sabotage.  Also, while we weren’t having class, I had an extra tuition hour that I could use some other way, and I got to go to the Thursday lyrical class instead (since I basically don’t have a job anymore) – and I found that I kind of preferred it that way.  Sigh.

Sucked it up, decided to act like a grown-up and go to class.

And tonight… was really different.  Erin met my eyes.  Responded when I responded to things she was saying.  Gave me a correction in our pullback exercises.  I was starting to feel like “who are you and what have you done with Erin?  And whatever it is, would you keep doing it so you can stay?”.

Then came time to work on the dance.  She decided to run us through it first, see who remembered what, before jumping into review.  At the end of the run through, there were exactly two of us who proved to remember it.  Both of us are the type to kind of hide in the back of the room, too, which was amusing.  When we finished, and I’d NAILED IT, I turned to her – not for acknowledgement, this time, but almost defiantly, like “you don’t want me?  Really?  I’LL SHOW YOU!”.  For a minute, I even thought she might ignore me and just review.  But no – she pointed the two of us out as the only ones who knew it, had us come to the front of the room for the rest of class so the others could watch our feet (supplanting one of the girls who essentially TAs that class because she’s so good – but SHE hadn’t remembered the dance), and even consulted with ME a couple of times to be sure she was reviewing it right.

I have NO CLUE what changed between this week and the previous… few months, actually.  If it had just been the past few weeks that had been like this, I would have blamed it on the stress of the competition coming up.  But things have been weird since classes started this fall.  So, not the VAGUEST idea why tonight was different.  And, me being me, I’m not allowing myself to believe that it will stay this way.  But damn, it felt good.  Feeling like an outcast in class is pretty miserable.

Insane In The Brain

Seriously, guys, there is something wrong with my brain.  That’s all I can figure.

I dreamed about being raped last night.  This was a standard feature in my nightmares when I was about 19-25, but I haven’t had one in several years.  Until last night.

Now, let’s be clear, I have never actually been raped.  For which I am grateful.  There has been sexual violence in my past, but not in a long time (since I was 13 or so), and *never* to the point of rape.  So where my brain comes up with this?  I have no clue.

At least this time I didn’t dream the actual rape itself.  That only happens… maybe half the time I have these?  Something like that.  I knew he was coming for me, and that he was going to rape me, and I was trying to escape on horseback.  But the horse was exhausted, it had just been in an endurance race, and the only way to get away was up this steep mountain path and it couldn’t run at all or anything.  He had a fresh horse, overtook us, jumped on me to drag us both off the horses – and then it skipped ahead.  I was in some kind of lodge, and there were people around, but nobody I knew.  Someone had called the police and I was waiting for them, huddled in a corner of a couch.  I desperately wanted someone to come give me a hug, but everyone was staying away – like I was somehow contagious or something.  Which felt horrible in and of itself.  I was like, dude, I need someone to reassure ME, and here I am having to reassure YOU that you can’t “catch” having been raped.  Not worth my energy, I’m just going to huddle here on the couch and cry and cry.

You know what was even more fun?  The part where the dream started repeating itself.  Yep, variations on a theme – at different times, I’d be able to get further away before he caught me, sometimes he caught up and my horse would kick his, or my horse would put on a speed burst, once we found a hidden path and I was *sure* I’d be able to get away *this* time – but it didn’t matter.  Nothing mattered.  No matter what changed, I still wound up getting raped.  And each time, I *knew*, from the start, that it wouldn’t matter and I’d get raped.  Must have replayed the scenario 4 of 5 times.  And each time, there was no comfort for me afterwards, either.  Once or twice there would be someone I knew coming along with the police, but usually one of my “medium” friends – someone I quite like, but am not quite to the level of “wanting them to hold me after I’ve been raped” in the relationship.  Once it was one of my closest friends – but then I suddenly realized that something had happened (car trouble? something) and she wasn’t going to be able to get there.

Needless to say, dreams like this don’t exactly make for a *restful* night.  They tend to leave me feeling freaked out and vulnerable for a few days after the fact.

When I was working at the studio tonight, I wound up being there later than usual – because I was talking to one of the moms, I have nobody to blame but myself, lol.  But we had a really interesting talk.  Anyway, it’s *not* a great neighborhood.  As I was starting to mop the back studio – which is like a fishbowl, it’s just windows all along both walls, and one set of windows doesn’t even have blinds – I saw someone pull up in front of the studio.  I was instantly suspicious, but I figured that it was probably either the teacher or the mom who had closed up a little while ago, having forgotten something.  Yep, it was the teacher, who is also a friend of mine – she’d forgotten her iPad, lol.  As she was leaving again, we noticed a man rummaging through the dumpster.  She got pretty worried about me being there alone.  She decided to drive around and go out the back way, which would take her by him.  I noticed (through the millions of windows) that she was going VERY slowly – and then she looped around and pulled up on the front side again, right by the door.  So I went to see what she had to say, and she was telling me that he’d gotten into a truck parked behind the studio.  I’ve been seeing this truck a lot of late, always late (after the studio is closed) – been wondering if it’s someone who’s homeless.  Jessie hadn’t known about this, and she was definitely concerned.  As we were talking, he got in the truck and drove away – which made us both feel a *lot* better.

Given this stupid dream, the creepy guy was exponentially creepier.  Even though I’m fully locked in when I’m there alone, there are SO many windows… in that studio, in the other studios, in the lobby, all of them floor-to-ceiling… if someone really did have any burning need to get in, it would be easy to break in.  Needless to say, with rape on the brain, this is not a comforting thought.  I was glad he’d left.  I bet that he saw Jessie going so slowly and obviously following him, got nervous thinking that we thought he was up to no good, and went somewhere else.  He hadn’t come back by the time I left (which was pretty soon thereafter).

My brain, it is fired.  I have no clue why it does this to me.  My usual nightmares are bad enough, but these dreams?  Are just Not Okay.  Seriously, what is wrong with my brain?  WHERE does this crap come from?

Just Call Me Gumby

I did a backbend on Friday. With a spotter, sure, but still – first time I’ve managed to do one from standing. If you had asked me a few years ago if I thought this would be happen, I probably would simply have given you a blank look. Me, backbend? At this weight? Hell, I couldn’t even do one when I was a kid! I could bridge up from the floor, but I always fell on my head when I tried it from standing. Sure, I didn’t understand about hinging then, and I do now – but now I am a lot taller than I was at that time, and we won’t even TALK about how much heavier.

Then I started taking classes with Diana – who has us bridge up in warm ups as a matter of course. Usually more than once. It’s actually a great ab stretch, after all the crunches she makes us do. The first time I did her warm ups, when she had us on the floor on our backs with our hips up and I heard her say “now push up to a backbend!”, I was certain that I just hadn’t heard her correctly. But no, everybody (including her) was up in a backbend. That was a SERIOUS struggle – my shoulders were really not strong enough and I really barely had enough flexibility in my spine. I had barely managed to get UP when she was getting us down and moving to the next thing.

Well, I’ve been in classes of hers for 3 years now. I’ve gotten some strength back in my arms and shoulders, and a LOT more flexibility back in my spine. I have gone from barely even being *able* to bridge up, to getting up all right but having it make my lower back ache, to having it feel pretty darn good and looking forward to that part of warm-ups. That progression is already blowing me away.

I *always* wished I could take tumbling, growing up. I still burn to take a tumbling class, but between my age, my height, my lack of strength, my weight, and my injured hip, I don’t think it’s a possibility. I’ve never asked Diana outright, but mostly because I don’t want her to say no. I can still do a cartwheel (only on one side) and I can bridge up to a backbend from the floor, and I did do a handstand (with Jessica to spot me) a while back, but that’s it.

In the advanced jazz class, Diana also has us do these drills for standing backbends. 3 or 4 times through just bending as far as you can, then (in theory) on the last time going to a full backbend but landing palms *up*, and sliding through the body and out to laying flat on your back. Now they’re also supposed to then slide back to their feet (so legs are bent) and arch themselves back up to standing, without hitting full backbend on the way. Needless to say, I don’t do any of the final part – I just do one more bend back as far as possible. In recent weeks, I’ve noticed that “as far as possible” has gotten a lot closer to the floor. I brought it up with Diana, and she thinks I can do it – she thinks I have the strength and flexibility to pull it off. I just keep hitting this point where I’m *sure* that I’m going to fall on my head. Probably in part because I’m afraid of everything (love that anxiety disorder) and probably in part because I fell on my head plenty of times when my friend tried to teach me when we were kids. Who knows. She sometimes spots the kids so they can complete something that’s had them stuck, and I’ve gone from being glad she ignores me to wishing she’d offer to spot me too. This past week, there was a new girl in class, and she happened to be standing next to me through warm ups and backbend drills. Diana came to spot her, and then turned around and asked if I wanted a spot too. Aside from the part of me that automatically screamed “you’re too fat! Diana would break herself trying to spot you”, I was really glad that she had. She kept a tight grip on me (she wanted me to feel safe – she knows the head games I play on myself), so I definitely can’t claim that I did it on my own, but still – I achieved a backbend from standing, and got my head and shoulders to the floor – then my shoulders got stuck and I couldn’t complete the slide out, but who cares?

So we’ve been talking about it. Bless her heart, I email her a *lot*, and she somehow finds the time for my rambling, even though she’s super busy. She suggested that we try it again this week with a lighter spot and see what I’ve got.

She was a gymnast before she was a dancer, and she teaches *all* of the tumbling classes herself, so I know she knows from spotting. And I’m finding that (so far) I’m not even worried that she’ll miss it if I get almost there and then can’t control it – though we’ll see how I feel about that when we get closer. I’m just really hoping that this won’t become yet another thing that I chickened out on, let my anxiety keep me from doing, and regret for the rest of my life. I really almost *need* to do this, to prove… I don’t even know what. To prove something to myself. That I *can* still change, maybe? That even if I can’t “beat” the anxiety that I don’t have to let it paralyze me? That it’s okay to trust someone, even after too many years of being let down too many times? That it’s okay to trust *my body*, even though I constantly fret about my weight, how out of condition I am, etc? I don’t know, really. All of that and more.

On the trust front – it was a very interesting experience. Now, to begin with, I already trust Diana implicitly. But I also outweigh her… probably by at least a hundred pounds, likely more. She’s got 4-5 inches on me, but she’s so lean! I do know that spotting is more a question of leverage than brute strength, and that she is also very strong, but it still makes me nervous. I think some of my own insecurity got in there, too – I know that I am, on the whole, far more needy than anyone wants to deal with, so I spend much of my time trying to keep myself from overwhelming people. This is much the same concept, only rendered on the physical plane instead of the emotional. And yeah, it would be like me to make that connection (though subconsciously – this only came to my conscious mind as I am writing this). Of course there was a piece of me that was dreading failing and/or making a fool of myself in front of the kids. But… that all hit a back burner more easily than I would have expected. I did have to say something like “are you sure I won’t break you?” – honestly, I have no idea what she actually said in reply. I just know I looked in her eyes and my crazy brain quieted down. And then she held me and I just did it. Just like that. Piece of cake. Didn’t even think about the girls (who, guaranteed, would all have been watching). Didn’t think (any further) about breaking Diana, or landing on my head. Just did it.

And there was this very interesting moment (if deeply fleeing) when I hit the point where I normally would feel like I was going to land on my head. Actually – I couldn’t identify that point. Which was a relief – I was slightly worried that it would be related to being at a certain angle of my head or something, rather than the actual physical reality of the distribution of my weight and balance – glad to know that I was wrong, there. But anyway, there was this sudden instant of realizing that, for once, I *didn’t* feel like I was going to land on my head. And, in fact, I *knew* that I was *not* going to land on my head – and that in this case it was because Diana had me. And I know I can trust Diana absolutely. It’s a serious warm-fuzzy kind of a feeling, to have that kind of trust in someone (literally putting your physical safety in someone else’s hands is not easy to do!), and to find that it’s completely justified.

That part was AWESOME.

Dear Santa,

I have tried to be good this year. I know I blew it many times. I figure this is part of why I haven’t seen you in many years – on the whole, I’m not doing that great on my own. No hard feelings, I know you have to have your standards. I’m hoping that I did better this year.

Just in case, I’m putting in a wish. This year, what I really want for Christmas is a family. Tall order, I know, but you’re Santa! I know you can do it.

Love,
Me

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So these are the kinds of things I fantasize about when I’m staring into the dark (don’t worry, this is one that’s safe for public consumption). Names have been changed to protect the innocent, since they’re real people and all.

I gently drift back and forth on the swing, leaning against the chain on one side, staring at the Christmas lights on the surrounding homes. Tears keep leaking down my cheeks, though I’m too worn out for any more dramatic emotion. I hear voices off to my left, and look to see 3 couples walking together. They’re wrapped up against the cold, talking and laughing – clearly family out to walk off the feast and enjoy the neighborhood lights. I feel a stab of longing so sharp it’s physically painful. Almost as though sensing it, the woman at the back of the group raises her head and looks around. I drop my gaze, not wanting to stare and appear rude, but I know she’s looking right at me. Voices murmer, and when I glance up again, she is coming my way while the rest of the group walks on. She has looked familiar from the moment I saw them, and as she passes under a streetlight and I see her red curls, my suspicions are confirmed. I’m in a pool of shadow, so it’s not until she’s quite close that she recognizes me – though I’m sure she had her own suspicions. After 3 years in her ballet and jazz classes, I’m sure she’s as familiar with my body and postures as I am with hers. She settles onto the swing next to mine and looks closely at my face.

“Hey there, miss Pip. Are you okay? What are you doing way out here?”

I’m trying to blink back my tears, but to no avail. “Michelle? Fancy meeting you here. Yeah, I’m fine. I just… Christmas is especially hard, you know? I just suddenly couldn’t stand sitting in my apartment, staring at my Ramen noodles and feeling sorry for myself, hearing all the families in the nearby units, smelling the turkeys and everything. I just had to get out. I picked a direction and started walking. Killed the battery on my iPod a while ago. I don’t even really know where I am at this point, though I think I’m fairly near my friend Leslie’s house. I’m exhausted, and my feet are killing me – I think I took some skin off with all the walking – so when I saw the swings, I figured I’d rest a bit. Once I get some energy back, I figured I’d follow the traffic noise until I came to a larger street, then call Leslie and see if I could get a ride home. It’s way too far to walk back tonight.”

She thinks a minute, taking in my clothing. “So when did you leave for this walk?”

“Around 11, I think. Maybe quarter past. Somewhere in there.”

She blinks. “It’s after 8 now. You’ve been walking for the past 9 hours? And you haven’t eaten since 11 am?”

That makes me pause. “Actually, I didn’t think to eat before I left either.”

She stares at me.

“I often don’t eat until late afternoon, maybe even into the evening if I don’t have to be at the studio. I know, it’s awful, I just don’t think about it, then I get lazy…” I shrug. You know how it is, my body language says.

Michelle shakes her head and stands up. “Come on.”

I take a deep breath and push myself to my painful feet. Michelle frowns when she sees how much I’m limping and puts an arm around me. I gratefully lean into her wiry strength, also enjoying the warmth of her nearness.

“Next time you decide to go for an extended stroll in the dead of winter, maybe you should think about a coat,” she remarks to me.

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t planning on being out for more than an hour. Two at the absolute outside. And it was sunny when I left. None of this was exactly intended. Just figured I’d walk until I felt better.” I catch my swollen, painful foot on some uneven pavement and struggle to suppress my cry of pain. Her arm tightens around my waist.

“We’re almost there, it’s just the next house down,” she reassures me. I bite my lip and limp on, trying to keep my strides short to minimize the rubbing of my feet against my shoes. This is easier said than done since Michelle is so tall. She is trying to match her stride to mine, though, for which I am deeply grateful. I figure she’s planning to drive me home, and I’m entertaining fantasies of hot baths and hot apple cider – my jeans and sweatshirt were barely adequate when I was walking in the midday sun, now the sun has been down for hours and I’m frozen solid. I stopped shivering an hour or so ago, which I know is not a good sign. As lonely as I’ve been, though, I am enjoying this moment of closeness with Michelle. Despite the pain in my feet, the cold, and my crashing blood sugar, I don’t really want to arrive. However, as she said, we’re almost there, and in a moment we’re walking up to the front door. Even in my bedraggled state, I admire the lights on the eaves and front bushes. I’ve always loved Christmas lights. We step into the front hall and I am enveloped in warmth and light, the smell of the Christmas tree, the smell of the dinner, the sound of voices deeper in the house… The stab of longing is back, stronger than before, and after one longing look at the tree, I close my eyes tightly and bite my lip, firmly squashing the new upwelling of tears. I wrap my arms around myself as Michelle steps away, determined to make the most of this glimpse of holiday cheer while she goes to grab her keys and whatnot. Instead, I hear her coat unzipping. I open my eyes again to see her shedding her outer layers. A moment later, she places her hand on my shoulder and draws me forward.

“Hey guys, look what I found!” she calls. The others I saw earlier come into the room. “You remember my guy, Michael? I’m sure met my sons, Jason and Thomas,” each of them nodding as their names are listed. “I know you know Sarah, Jason’s wife. Have you met Tom’s girlfriend, Colleen?”

I’m a little overwhelmed by all the faces, but I’ve met all of these people at least once, and taken a handful of Zumba classes from Sarah, so I’m fairly well able to get faces and names sorted out. “Colleen? I met her briefly once at the studio, but we’ve never really interacted.” I extend my hand. “It’s nice to actually meet you.” I start to move forward into the room, drawn like a moth to the warmth of the fire crackling in the fireplace, but I land wrong on my painful foot and nearly fall, wincing and crying out. Michelle’s strong arms are there, supporting me, and she leads me to the couch.

I start pulling off my shoes, so I can tuck my feet up on the couch with me. I am surprised to see my socks have red patches – I didn’t realize it was to the point that I was bleeding! Michelle sees the blood and turns to Colleen. “Hey sweetie, you’re a doctor – can you take a peek at this?” I’m embarrassed to be the center of attention, but the concern feels nice. At least the guys have wandered off – I hear dishes rattling, and I figure they’re cleaning up the remains of the meal. Colleen moves to help me ease my socks off and takes a look at my poor feet. “Michelle, do you have anything she can soak her feet in, and any kind of bandage materials?”

Michelle nods. “Of course, come with me,” and the two of them bustle off. I ease my feet down on top of my shoes – it hurts, but I don’t want to get blood on the carpet or the couch.

Sarah sits next to me and gives me an enthusiastic hug. “Merry Christmas, Pip! How fun to have you join us! Holy cow, girl, you are FREEZING! Jason, would you grab her some hot cider?” Her energy and enthusiasm are contagious, as always – Sarah can always make me smile.

“I had no idea I was in Michelle’s neighborhood, and I wouldn’t have dreamed of intruding on your holiday, but it is so nice to be here with you guys.” By now my tears are fairly well buried and I’m able to return Sarah’s infectious grin.

Michelle comes back with a large folded blanket, and I hear water running. “Colleen is heating water to soak your feet, Pip. In the meantime, I thought this might help.” With that, she unfolds the blanket in her arms, and I recognize it. It’s the one I knitted for her for Christmas 3 years ago. It’s huge, worked with two strands of chunky yarn – warm and heavy and comforting. She drapes it over me and I gratefully tuck myself up. I’m so cold that I don’t know that a blanket will help, I feel like it will just insulate the cold, but the choice of it touches my heart deeply. A few minutes later, Colleen comes in with a large dishpan full of warm water and with some kind of herbs floating in it. They look familiar, and it smells good. She sets it on the floor near my feet, then moves my shoes aside as I lift my feet and slides the bath under them.

“I threw some comfrey and calendula in there. They’re both good for inflammation and promote healing,” she explains, carefully arranging the blanket to stay out of the water as I gingerly lower my feet. It feels hot and I suck in a breath through my teeth. She looks sharply up at my face. “I didn’t make it all that hot, but you’re pretty well frozen, so it may feel hotter than it really is.” I nod and keep my feet in place, even though it feels too hot. I trust that soon enough I will enjoy the warmth on my frozen feet. Jason comes in and passes me a steaming mug. I take it as Sarah gets up to give him a hug, eagerly wrapping my cold hands around it and inhaling the wonderful scent. This isn’t the powdered stuff – this is real apple juice, simmered with spices, and it smells heavenly. Michelle comes back a moment later – I didn’t even see her leave, but she has a plate piled high with holiday feast for me. I’m starting to shake, both from finally warming up a bit and from lack of blood sugar, and she gently rescues the mug before I can spill the cider, which is too hot for me to drink just yet, setting it on the coffee table and settling the food on my lap. The guys have come back by now, and everybody settles down – Michelle taking the spot next to me on the couch, with Michael beyond her. They start talking – places and people I don’t know, but it’s fine since I’m tucking into my food anyway. I’m making a conscious effort not to just inhale it – I don’t want them thinking I have no manners, plus I know that slamming my stomach full after not eating all day will have unpleasant results. So I slowly work my way through the food, bathing in the physical warmth of the room and the emotional warmth of the people in it.

By the time I finish eating, the shakes from low blood sugar are gone – but now I’m trembling hard from the cold. I carefully set my plate and silverware on the coffee table, retrieve my cider (now cool enough to drink), and lean myself against Michelle’s shoulder. She gives me a concerned glance. “How come you’re shaking so hard now when you weren’t before?”

I shrug. “It has to do with your body trying to conserve energy. There comes a point where you’re so cold that you are using up more energy with the shaking than you are generating in heat, and then your body stops shivering. It’s a bad sign, when you’re so cold that you stop shivering. So it’s good, really, means that my core temp is getting to a safer level.” She puts an arm around my shoulders and starts rubbing my arm as I snuggle closer, enjoying her warmth. As I lean, the water sloshes in the foot bath, and Colleen gets up.

“You’ve probably soaked long enough, and that water is probably getting cold by now – let me see about those poor feet of yours.” She settles on the floor by my feet with a towel, and for the first time I notice a pile of bandage materials and a small jar of salve on the table. I do a double-take at the salve – I made that too, and shared some with Michelle ages ago. Apparently she still has some left. Michelle looks to Colleen. “Do you want some Neosporin too? I have some someplace.”

Colleen seems to be considering it, but I speak up. “I put some Usnea and Oregon Grape root in there, along with plantain and some other antibacterial herbs. Shouldn’t need anything stronger – and it’s got some good soothing herbs in it too, so it’s definitely going to help my feet feel better.”

Colleen nods. “Those are some good herbs, and these are shallow abrasions. Fairly wide, and probably painful, but shouldn’t have too great a risk of infection.” As she speaks, she gently dries my feet and begins salving and bandaging the wounds. It hurts, but I’ve got a high pain tolerance, and I know that it’s going to feel a lot better once she’s done and the salve has had a chance to take effect. She finishes with the bandaging and gently slides some slippers over my battered feet. I hadn’t seen them either, but they’d been warming at the hearth and felt divine. With my feet free again, I tucked them up between myself and the arm of the sofa, leaning into Michelle’s embrace. She pulled at the blanket, tugging it out from between us and over herself as well. I’m glad of that – it’s more than big enough to share, and now her warmth is much more accessible to me. I slip my arm around her waist, with my head on her shoulder, feeling my body shivering harder than ever. She holds me closely and speaks over my head. “Colleen? Should we be worried about how hard she’s shivering?”

Colleen shakes her head, as she’s cleaning up the bandaging materials. “No, as she said, the fact that she’s shivering now is actually a good sign. I saw no signs of frostbite when I was working on her feet. A hot bath might warm her up faster, but being tucked up with another warm body is the next best thing. She’ll be sore and exhausted when it passes, but she’s fine.” I can feel Michelle nod, and I am pleased. It gives me a legitimate reason to snuggle up with her for a while – as with everyone, I’m far more touchy-feely than she is, and I am enjoying being held. Colleen has returned to her chair, and she gives me a concerned look. “Not like it’s my business, but how did you wind up hypothermic with your feet torn up on Christmas?”

I close my eyes against the new upwelling of tears, while my mind races – lie? Tell the truth? How much truth? I take a deep breath, squelch the tears, and go for truth, though without the full round of self-pity. “Christmas is hard for me. I don’t have a family, most of my friends don’t celebrate, and sometimes I just get sick of being alone. I went out for a walk and wasn’t paying attention, guess I was out longer than I planned to be.” I toss out a “no big deal” kind of smile. Everyone goes quiet for a minute – not really any good response to that comment.

Sarah breaks the silence. “Well I’m glad that Michelle found you! Clearly you need a little Christmas; we can help with that. Who’s ready for pie? We’ve got pumpkin and cherry!” She gets counts of who wants what, with or without whipped cream, and she and Jason go to serve it up. Thomas gets up and starts “setting the mood” – dims the lights, puts on some holiday music, makes sure the tree lights are on, lights some candles… Before I know it, the room looks absolutely magical. My shivering is finally starting to subside, leaving me exhausted. I’m full and warm and safe, curled in my dear friend’s arms, in a room that is made of Christmas magic, and for a fleeting moment I feel that elusive sense of belonging. My Christmas wish just got answered.

Dreams

Had some interesting dreams the past two nights. Both about people from the studio, which is interesting considering what all has been going on in my crazy brain about that this past week.

Two nights ago, it was about Diana. I was at the studio. It was the end of the day – but sunny out, so maybe it was a Saturday? I don’t know. Everyone was leaving and I was going to stay and clean (as happens a lot IRL), but for some reason I decided that I needed to learn to do a cartwheel on the right side – with right hand going down first/left leg kicking up first. Don’t know why, but it was suddenly super important. This is actually true, IRL I can only do left-sided cartwheels. So in this dream, it was suddenly really important that I get this figured out. So I try to do one – but it’s like my body got confused by it. As soon as my hands hit the floor, my arms gave out and I collapsed on the floor. Hadn’t kicked my legs off yet, so I can’t even use the term “fell”, it didn’t hurt. I think I was giggling about it. Diana had popped in just then to turn off the lights in the room, and of course asked what I was up to, if I was okay, etc. I explain that I’m trying to learn to do a cartwheel on the right side, and she thinks for a moment and then decides that she’s going to teach me. She grabs one of the tumbling mats and pulls it out, while she’s telling me that she doesn’t want me messing with tumbling on my own, especially after everyone has left, because what if I got hurt and nobody was around? But not upset or scolding-like, and in fact it felt really good that she cared enough to worry. So she gets a mat out and we work for a while. The only thing I remember clearly about that part is one attempt where I tried to kick off with my right leg first, like I do in the cartwheel I know how to do, and of course it totally didn’t work and we cracked up.

I guess I got it, at some point, because a little while later we were on the road. I think the teams were going on some kind of vacation trip, and I got to go along as a chaperon. We were going to Club Tahoe, which is again linked to real life – my family had a time share condo up there, a ski week. In the dream, we were in the Bay Area, so it wasn’t far to Tahoe (this may have come from catching up on Dance Moms – they were in Tahoe for the national competition). Everyone was on their own to get there, but I got to ride with Diana and her boyfriend. He was driving, she was riding shotgun, and I was in the back with… their golden retriever? LOL. No idea where the golden retriever came from, Diana does not have a dog. The dog decided that it didn’t want to ride in the other seat, it wanted to ride on my lap. So I’m behind Diana, with the dog curled up sleeping on my lap… we weren’t even talking about anything in particular, nothing would have been deeply memorable about that moment if it had been real, just this sweet moment of connection and belonging. Woke up feeling happy and relaxed and loved – which is unusual for me, but I liked it.

The other one was a little more typical of my dreams. A little darker, a little more disturbing. This one was last night, and it featured Jessica. For some reason, I had gone home for Christmas. Yes, home. As in, Bay Area. As in, the parents I haven’t spoken to in 5 years. Even in the dream, I couldn’t recall having *started* speaking to them again, and I didn’t know why I was there. We were talking, at least, but everything was uneasy. I couldn’t get a break, since my friends are all up here and I had no place to go (apparently I couldn’t get out to the library or anything). It was Christmas Eve and we were bringing the presents down (in our family, they don’t go under the tree until Christmas Eve). There were piles and piles of them, as there always were (my family loves Christmas) – but only one was for me. And it was a tiny little thing, small and flat, shabbily wrapped in newspaper with no ribbon or anything, amidst all the finery. It wasn’t about greed, but it HURT to just have that one crappy little package (and I think it was from Grandma and not from them anyway). It was a crystal clear message that after all this time, they didn’t WANT me back. But of course, nothing was being said – everyone was acting pleasant, but everything was quiet and strained and awful. Cut to Christmas morning and for some reason me and Dad and my brother are all going a movie, taking some kind of public transit. Like the Max, except that they don’t have that there. Like BART, but that’s not in the South Bay. Whatever. Oh, and there was snow on the ground. It DOES NOT snow in Saratoga, but hey – my brain is an odd place. Anyway, so we’re heading for the train station, on foot, and somehow I know that we aren’t all going to be able to be on the train – like there’s not enough space or something? Why wasn’t clear, and wasn’t the point. I told them to go on and I’d catch the next train, it would still get me there in time for the movie. There’s some desultory argument, but the train is leaving, so they get on. The minute it’s out of sight, I start walking away. I’m not even going anywhere in particular, I just feel like I’m going to explode – and I have no intention of going to the movie with them. I don’t want to go home either, because Mom is there. I’m just randomly walking, and crying my eyes out – there aren’t many people on the street, and even when I see someone, I’m too brokenhearted to stop. Then I hear a familiar voice, and I look up, and Jessica is there with her family. Her older son comes and gives me a hug (which I can’t even imagine happening IRL!) – oh, and in the dream, he’s taller than me. He and his brother and their dad then keep walking while Jess comes to hold me for a minute. Without any words exchanged, she somehow knows what’s going on and why I can’t stop crying, and I somehow know that she’s going to have me come stay with them until the holidays are over and I can come back home (to Oregon) – because she can’t stand the thought of me staying where I’m not wanted and where I’m hurting so badly.

Now, I have no clue why my brain put Jessica and her family in the Bay Area when all of the rest of my friends were up here. Maybe because I know she used to live down there – heck, I saw her in a few musicals when I was in high school, though I didn’t know it at the time. Woke up in a strange blend of deep grief over being so thoroughly rejected by my family and yet a sweet feeling of being loved and supported by my friend. Made for a strange day – I think I’m just as glad that I didn’t get called in.

Needs

Talking about sex. Y’all have been warned. I’ll try to minimize the TMI factor.

So according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, sex is on a par with eating and breathing. Makes me wonder about the fact that I’m 33 and living like a nun. Coupled with the fact that my sexual partners have been VERY few and far between and I literally have not been touched with any kind of intimacy in over 5 years. I know that sex can do great things for one’s anxiety levels and general emotional state, so it does make me suspect I might be healthier if I wasn’t celibate.

It’s interesting to me how much we emphasize at work how infants need skin-to-skin contact – but it’s so bloody hard to even get a hug in this society. This is part of why I get massages whenever I can – not only do I need the stress reduction, but I just freaking need to be TOUCHED sometimes. I swear that I get as much benefit simply from the touch of her hands on my body as I do from the actual manipulation of my muscles.

I have a strong suspicion that most of my sexual issues, at this point, can’t really be solved without actually being in a sexual relationship. And yet a large part of why I can’t handle being a relationship is related to the degree of shame I have around sex. Quite a catch-22, there. I also don’t have anything even remotely resembling enough emotional maturity (or ego strength) to handle a relationship, so the point is moot anyway, but it’s an interesting conundrum. Right up there with how I suspect sex would lower my anxiety – but my anxiety is too high to handle the thought of sex.

My friend has been loaning me books in a series written by Ilona Andrews. Just read the one where the protagonist finally got her relationship with the lord of the shapeshifters started. I skimmed over the sex scene (very tastefully written, I did note), but what really caught my eye was a bit later in the book – when she’s in the bath and he joins her. They have sex later, but the part that really caught my mind was just the concept of her laying against his chest. Just that moment of connection. Not sexual, just intimate. THAT’S what I really want. Connection, contact, intimacy… That’s what made me long to be her, for just a second (though no longer, since she’s constantly fighting for her life – or someone else’s).

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