The Inevitability

I really do try to warn people when I feel like we’re getting close.  They don’t always believe me.

Don’t believe the mask you see.  I am not what I appear.  In the long run, you are going to find me too needy, too clingy, too sensitive, just generally too much.

Looks like I did it again.  Overstayed my welcome in the first place, and then attempted to get my needs met which I always do HORRIBLY wrong, and looks like I may well have blown it once more.

It’s so hard when I’ve finally allowed myself to hope that, JUST ONCE, things might be different.  And I really tried not to, because I know that hope only ever ends in despair for me, but it crept in around the corners.  You saw me at my worst (or so I thought) and handled it.  And of course, me being me, I still managed to find a way to drive you off.

This is the inevitability of my life.

(and yet people wonder why I don’t date? when things “just” with friends go this badly for me?)

Coppertone, Baby

So, I’ve been tanning recently.  Never in my life thought I’d ever see the inside of a tanning booth (unless it was on TV, like that episode of Nip/Tuck), but I think I’m glad I changed my mind.

Backing up – work has been really bad of late.  And by “of late”, I mean all of 2012 so far.  I only had 41 hours in January, all of EIGHTEEN in February, and had stalled out around 40 in early March.  I’ve been hunting for a second job I could do part-time and getting absolutely nowhere.  Add in the weird weather and the fact that I still have a hard time with the short days and total lack of sun in the winter (coupled with how much less UV is in the sunshine even in the summer) and I was losing my mind.  I mean that fairly literally – I was one very short step up from suicidal a couple of weeks ago.  I was starting to wonder if tanning would help – it does boost vitamin D and serotonin levels and stuff, and it’s useful for Seasonal Affective Disorder (which is one component of my depression).  During the week that I was spinning so violently out of control, I happened to be discussing it with Diana, and out of the blue she turns to me and says “Okay, I know it’s horrible for your skin and you prefer natural things and such, but have you ever thought about tanning?  I think it might help…”.  Kind of blew my mind, having this come totally out of the blue (I hadn’t told ANYONE I was pondering tanning).

So I started looking around at different salons.  Attempted to google, first, and discovered that NOT ONE SINGLE TANNING SALON will EVER put their prices online.  It’s bizarre.  And there is a HUGE range in prices – and in pricing structures.  So I started schlepping around to see what I could find.  First place I went is literally around the corner from me, $38/month unlimited tanning… but is basically a nail salon with a few tanning beds.  I wasn’t super confident that they really knew much about tanning.  And heaven knows that I don’t, so I really need them to!  Still, gave me a baseline price to refer to.  Went to Islands Tanning next – and learned more about the “typical” pricing structures.  Different prices for the different beds, different prices based on how long of a contract you sign up for, and a high-pressure sell. *sigh*  And he didn’t listen to me AT ALL.  I made it clear from the start that I was looking into this as a way to help combat my SAD and boost my vitamin D and such, NOT for color or “spa time”.  He tried very hard to sell me on the other amenities (hydro massage bed, sauna thingy, infared bed, this hot body wrap thing to help you lose weight, etc).  And he tried even harder to push me into the higher-priced plans (of course) by going on and on about how the high-pressure lamps give you more color, and faster, than the basic bed.  Um, hi, what part of “I don’t care about color” are you not getting?  *sigh*  When he finally got that I DON’T HAVE THE MONEY, he started trying to push me into a longer-term contract instead.  Which I kind of get, because the longer the term, the lower the monthly payment.  When he found out that I was looking at the place that charged $38/month, he undercut them.  Took the plan (which should have been $49/month) down to $30, which I loved – but for 18 months.  I can’t guarantee 18 months of enough hours to pay an extra $30/month.  You can freeze your account – but that doesn’t stop the payment.  Just that you can’t tan during that time, and the time is tacked onto the end of your plan, so you don’t lose out if you can’t tan, or just don’t want to, for a chunk of time. 

The cool thing is that he did give me a short free session.  I’m glad it was short – it was in one of the beds with stronger lamps and I have NO pigmentation at this point in time (and there are parts of my body that have NEVER seen the sun).  Also, I’d applied my body butter that morning – which I’m thinking is a no-no when it comes to tanning.  Because, you know, oils…  They intensify such things.  I didn’t burn, not even close, but my skin did get that kind of tight and tingly feeling you get when you got just a little too much sun.

Aside from the physical though – holy CRAP it felt good.  Physically too – it was a little too warm, and I don’t usually respond well to being too warm, but it felt so amazing on my skin.  And *I* felt better after.  Could be placebo, but I find it unlikely since I did not expect to see any emotional results for about 2 weeks.  But I found myself feeling more like, well, myself – able to have some hope, able to put things in better perspective, more giggly, more positive, not suicidal…  Good stuff.  It was amusing, though, coming out of the salon into the snowfall.  My body was very confused – “Wait, weren’t we just at the beach?  And now it’s snowing?  WTF?” Went to dance on Thursday night – don’t usually go to that class (being on call and all), but it was the last time Diana was teaching until after spring break (she left early), so I wanted to see her and do the dance we’ve been learning (which is super awesome) and stuff. She starts out her warm ups with “Alive Again”, and I found myself laughing a bit inside. Feeling alive again, in very deed. I hadn’t realized how much it was affecting me, to still be so down during dance class, when I’m used to dance being what pulls me out of that state. Being there and NOT feeling like I was drowning… it was huge.

Since I got the free session, I figured I’d wait on exploring other salons until a day or two later, just in case I got any more free sessions. 😉  Heard there was a labor on Thursday, so didn’t go anywhere, plus wanted to give my skin time to heal.  Went out Friday (after using lotion instead of body butter, lol) and checked out Tan Republic.  You don’t *have* to be on a contract with them – but holy crap, if you’re not it’s nearly EIGHTY BUCKS a month for the most basic bed.  Longer contracts of course give you cheaper monthly fees, never went below $49 – and again, I DON’T want a contract.  I want control of what months I go and what months I don’t, since I don’t plan for this to be all the time, just in the winter.  Less of a high pressure sell there, but still focusing on how the higher quality beds give the most color – and again, I don’t care about color.  Nice place, but way too pricey for little me.

At that point, I was starting to think I should just go with the place around the corner, because they were all going to require contracts and stuff, but figured I’d keep going – I had one more to check out seriously, plus a coupon for some free tanning at another that I was sure would be too pricey, but hey, can’t beat free.  Last serious stop was SunsUp – and I am so glad I didn’t skip them.  They do a “membership” instead of a contract – per month fee like the place around the corner, but it renews automatically.  You can freeze it ($5 fee) if you don’t want to tan that month, or cancel any time (no cancelation fee) with a written request.  By far the cheapest, only $22/month for unlimited in the basic bed, and I was far more impressed with their knowledge and such than the first place.

Best of all?  The gal at this place LISTENED TO ME.  Once I mentioned SAD and vtiamin D and stuff, she flat-out told me that the higher price beds won’t make ANY difference for that kind of use, so she was only going to talk about the basic beds with me unless I wanted to know about the others (which I didn’t).  Gave me a very low-pressure pitch, and also offered me a free session.  This one was a bit longer, but my skin didn’t mind it – probably because a) lower power lamps, and b) no oil on my skin.  Still felt AMAZING.  At that point, I didn’t even bother going to the last place – it’s further than I’d want to drive anyway, and based on their name and website and stuff, seemed safe to assume they would be more expensive.

She was of course talking up their lotions as we got my account set up – but again, once I told her that I couldn’t afford it, she stopped.  Never any high pressure sales from her.  I have a friend who also has an account with SunsUp and she’s had the same experiences, at an entirely different branch.  They’re just a nice, laid-back place.  They’re open 7 days, while a couple of the others are closed on Sundays.  Being on call on Thursday and Saturday, i love the idea of tanning on Sundays, it’s very relaxing.  They bill on the 15th, which is so much better with my pay structure anyway, so I got this month pro-rated.  You have to buy goggles, they don’t provide them (though I got some disposables for my free session, of course), but that’s a one-time thing – still cheaper to pay $22/month plus a one-time $6 than $38/month with goggles provided.  Plus I don’t have to worry about how well they’ve sanitized them.

Still feeling more like myself after yesterday’s session.  Looking forward to going back tomorrow.  Planning on every other day for the time being, until I’m a little closer to functional.  Figure I’ll go regularly through April and then see how I feel.  Don’t plan on going in the summer, especially if I can actually *gasp* get myself outside to do some reading in the sun, but then pick it up again in the winter and see if I can stave off the worst of this.  Thing is, looking back, I have been having just a little harder time every winter.

I’ve been reading about Vitamin D today.  It regulates so many things, several of which (inflammatory conditions, asthma, blood pressure, weight gain) have been slowly getting worse since I’ve been up here.  Makes me suspicious.  I wish I could get my levels checked now, before I’ve really gotten started, then compare them in a month or so, just for my own curiosity.  I wonder how low I’ve gotten.  It would be really nice if I could get off of my inhalers again.  It does seem suspicious that Vitamin D has been implicated in asthma, and my asthma has been sub-clinical up until now, when I’ve been up here for 7 years – maybe it took that long for it to make a difference.  I’m sure there are a ton of other factors too, so who knows if anything will really change, but it will be interesting to find out.  For now, it will be enough to not be in such total despair and on the brink of suicidal ideation.

And yeah, it would be nice to get SOME color.  Even if that isn’t the primary goal. 😉 (especially in my legs – it’s to the point where I’ll shave them and it won’t even look like I did because the skin is so pale and the hairs are so dark that the hair below the skin surface looks like unshaven stubble)  I never knew I was *this* white – living in California, I always carried a bit of a base tan, even when I thought I was all winter-pale.  Had to stop using my foundation, even before I got into more natural things and less makeup-happy, because my skin got several shades paler.  It’s WEIRD.

Memo to self, need to get some more lotion.  Haven’t bought any in ages, since I’ve been making body butter and such, but no oils in the tanning beds (it’s bad for the acrylic surface too).  But not dropping another $60-80 just on a small bottle of lotion there – gonna get something cheap at Rite-Aid. 😉

I am a freak

I can’t even believe that this is taking up so much of my attention at this point in time, given everything else that’s going on.  But I can’t stop thinking about it, so I’m going to post about it and see if it helps.

I don’t think I’m as straight as I thought I could be/have been trying to be/etc.  If you don’t want to know, then read no further.

I have very little basis for determining much of anything, and I don’t know where to start.  I had a very brief relationship in college – all of 3 months, of which nearly a month’s worth was the two of us away at home over the holidays.  It was during that time that I figured out how bizarre our relationship was and decided to break up with her.  Yes, I said her – it was with another woman.  I was at a women’s college and it was actually a fairly accepted part of the culture, unlike out in the “real world”.

Backing up a little further – I was sexually abused as a child.  Initially by my mother, later by an older boy.  I find it interesting (if very odd) that I tend to feel safer with women, since my mother was anything but safe – but I also had to believe that she was perfect for the vast majority of my life, in other to survive growing up, so I assume that’s related.  Who knows.  Being “awakened” at the age of 8 or so was unfortunate.  It’s far too young to realize how incredibly different it feels to be touched by someone other than yourself.  I wound up with this lovely complex – a craving for sex, terror of giving in because I was too young and would get “in trouble”, a terror of intimacy, a craving for the taboo (since my “awakening” was in a situation where I felt trapped, powerless, and disgusted, and that all got wired together)…  It’s a mess.  Oh yeah, and TONS of shame around anything even remotely involving sex.  But only as it applies to myself, of course, or I could never do postpartum care. 😉

I spent most of my life single and untouched.  Had that girlfriend in college, but that was it for there.  Turned fairly slutty in my late 20s, but at a remove – messing around with people, just no relationships.  Men and women both in that time frame (and at the same time, once or twice).  Continued this a little bit after my move, but mostly went celibate again.  Became a Baha’i at one point, and they have strict rules – no sex outside of marriage and no homosexuality at all, period, end of story, so I figured “well, I’ve messed with both, and I’m equally slutty either way, so it should be no problem to play it straight”.

Had a VERY brief fling with dating through an online site – which I suspect may have played a role in my anorexia rearing its ugly head last year.  Somehow, the only guys I met were all still living with their mothers, which is very bad considering the state of my apartment and how I’m ashamed to have anyone here – and frankly is a little scary in our 30s.  I did quite like the last guy I was seeing, we dated several times and I enjoyed being with him – but we had NO chemistry.  And there were some specific issues I had, but it did make me wonder a bit.  But I was busy being anorexic, so I didn’t do much more thinking on it at the time.

In the past few months, it’s been much on my mind.  I already really don’t consider myself to be a Baha’i anymore – though I haven’t discussed that with any of my Baha’i friends.  Because I’m a big giant chicken.  Sigh.  One crisis at a time.  What I have been noticing of late is a definite trend in my fantasies – when I fantasize about men, they are always faceless, and at the *ahem* peak of the fantasy, I have a major rush of shame and the fantasy dissolves.  When I fantasize about women, they can be women I know (no, nobody who reads this, so don’t get all freaked out, I am not flirting with any of you), and there can be fantasized conversation and cuddling after – and while the inevitable rush of shame still shows up, it’s slower and weaker.

So what does any of this mean?  Who knows.  How much is related to my actual sexuality as opposed to my messed up emotional state.  Who knows.  I still don’t *want* to deal with the social ramifications of having a girlfriend (though that’s less of an issue in this metro area than in many other places), and of course I really don’t want to try to explain ANY of this to some of my Baha’i friends (though some won’t care at all, after the initial startlement).  Recently kind of came out to a friend of mine.  Mostly by accident (didn’t double-check all of my pronouns before I clicked “send”).  She recently turned standoffish – and I can’t help but wonder if it’s related.  Who knows; in the meantime, I also started completely losing my emotional balance, which she does not tend to handle well, so hard to know what was a factor and what wasn’t, and what is just me overreacting in the first place.  But none of that really matters because neither my current financial nor emotional states will even begin to permit me to pursue anybody of either gender.

But seriously, if I could, how does one even start?  “Hello, I have no idea if I am or could potentially be attracted to you or your gender in general, I’m just experimenting, even though we are now many years out of college – want to be my science project?”.  I think my pick up line needs work. :/

How the hell does everybody else figure this stuff out? (of course, for starters, they don’t wait until their mid 30s to make a START)

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?

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.

FML

Here’s the thing. My parents didn’t just leave me wounded. They fucking broke me. My level of reaction is completely ridiculous. Most recent case in point: random issue at the studio, some parent took offense (and I can’t even think of what I said!) and Diana absolutely bent over backwards to make sure I knew she wasn’t angry and keep me from feeling scolded. And of course I still have to lose my mind – because it really has nothing to do with what’s going on, it has to do with what it’s triggering inside of me. First, of course, the level to which she “had” to go to keep me from feeling attacked sets off its own set of stuff, because of course it was made very clear to me that it’s never okay for people to have to go out of their way to be careful of your needs or feelings. I, of course, must do everything in my power to be careful of theirs, but it’s horribly selfish for them to have to do so for me.

So, let’s see. There’s the generic terror of authority figures who are, or even vaguely might be, angry. When the slightest infraction is followed up with an hour or more of screaming, looming in your face, and being slapped if you try to defend yourself at all, you do pretty much anything to prevent people from getting mad at you. Never thought I’d see the day when I would rather have done just about anything than face *Diana*, of all people – and it wasn’t even about her, I trust her to a level that I don’t trust hardly anyone else.

Then there’s the unbelievably deep-seated conviction that I will never be able to be “worth” the amount of trouble that I cause to the people I love. This is what drives my desperate need to be useful to everyone. It’s like I need to earn peoples’ affection. This is definitely connected to the part where, whenever I got in trouble, I also got a litany of things they shouldn’t have done for me or given to me – because of course, screwing up meant that I did not deserve to have had anything nice happen, ever. And of course, screwing up in a way that could potentially reflect negatively on her professional life? END OF THE WORLD. So since this was about a complaint from a mother, which could in the very worst case scenario cause someone to leave the studio (omg so not even remotely not that big a deal, but my brain always has to go to the worst case scenario), clearly what I “deserve” is to have Diana be ready to kill me, regret any kindness she’s ever shown me, revoke any and all privileges I have, and basically not want me around anymore.

Of course, all of my shame has to get triggered too. And having that happen around the studio, which has been my place of refuge, is massively fucking with my head. That’s the real reason I didn’t want to go in today. Which is even more bizarre considering that Friday is my favorite day this year – getting to work with Diana for all of my classes, feeling like I actually *can* do most of the stuff we’re working on… Diana had to call me out to be in the front today, once we came off the barre in ballet, and that’s usually automatic. After class, I usually grab the cleaning stuff and go straight to work, since on Friday I work on the back studios and the lobby glass. Tonight, I had to stash the stuff in the back and head home until Diana was due to be done with her private lessons – because there was no possible way I could face whoever happened to be in the lobby. I was even prepared to lurk out front, once I got back, until after she called the mother in to watch as she usually does at the end of a private, so I could sneak into the back without having to fave anybody. Would have given Diana an out too, she could have left without having to deal with my drama if she would have preferred. However, the receptionist had left early and the front door was locked when I got there (best-laid plans, eh?). I could have knocked, Diana would have come and let me in, but that kind of thing is beyond me on a good day, strikes me as rude, but especially tonight – not going to happen. I think I have figured out what it was that happened, and if I’m right, it was the mom who was there at the end of the night tonight who is upset with me. Which of course makes her the very last person I want to see – hence why I was SO desperate not to see her. Her daughter is a neat kid, and she has a fun sense of humor, and we tend to chat and joke during class. I couldn’t even look at her today, and I think I actually snubbed her a couple of times. Hope that didn’t wind up hurting her feelings on top of everything. On the other hand, maybe seeing me shamefacedly sneaking in at the end of the day will make the mom feel better (if it was her) – maybe she’ll think I was there for Diana to chew me out or something. Who knows.

Seriously, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to emulate an actual functional adult. This is the main reason I’m keeping my profile on the dating site hidden. If I can’t stop overreacting like this, I have absolutely no business subjecting someone else to my insanity.

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