Take a Walk

The stress of the last week has been pretty intense. On Thursday evening, at 11:15, I sent an update email to my students’ parents. I worked non-stop trying to get teaching online up and running. By Friday morning, I really needed a break.

So while I checked in with my students during the day, I did a lot less work than the rest of the week. And most importantly, I went for a walk.

The moment my feet hit the road, I noticed that my chest was super tight and my shoulders were up by my ears. As I walked, I consiously tried to release that tension. And by the time I arrived at the lake, I felt more relaxed. My mind wasn’t racing. I could hear the birds and enjoy the crisp March air. I stopped at the lake for a while and enjoyed the fog rising before I turned around to head back home, feeling significantly more at peace already.

As I was walking, I was reminded of my daily walks after X left. Before he left, it had been such a struggle to even get myself to go on a walk. Part of that was due to the physical complications I had from my pregnancy and miscarriage – walking was a bit painful. But that pain had subsided quite a bit just before he left. At that point, I just had all I could do to get out of bed every day and go to work. But when he left, I felt such anxiety that I literally HAD to move.

The walks helped then, and they are going to help me now. With this COVID isolation, I’m going to be completely alone, save for some kitty snuggles. It’s going to be hard not to numb out, not to get off schedule with my sleep, not to overeat. When I’m struggling, just as I did when X first left, I’m going to take a walk!

What Day Is It?

Like all of you, I am in the middle of locking down and sheltering at my house to protect myself, loved ones, and strangers from getting sick or even dying from COVID-19. On Sunday, we learned schools were going to close for at least three weeks, starting immediately. Monday and Tuesday we planned a whole new digital delivery system with almost no guidance. We prepped materials for parents to take home. We figured out how to use Google Classroom. We filmed ourselves teaching lessons and greeting the kids. And today we launched remote learning. I spent the very long day responding to parents’ concerns and questions, cheerleading kids and parents to just do their best and try again tomorrow, and packing up my car with possible things I would need to teach from home for the long-haul. It seems very possible that the three weeks will be extended.

I’m exhausted. My anxiety levels are through the roof. And I’m scared. I’m scared for my kids, who will miss the structure, support, and friendships of school. I’m scared for my family and friends who are at high risk for getting very ill from this virus. And I’m selfishly scared about being home alone for a long time, without a hug. I know I can chat digitally. My co teacher and I are going to meet online every day for an hour, in addition to multiple texts and phone calls I’m sure will happen. I will talk with family every day, hopefully with my Portal. But it still isn’t the same.

I’m worried I’ll fall out of a routine and start shirking my responsibilities at work. That I’ll eat too much and move too little. That I’ll fall into bad habits and struggle to take care of myself. That’s I’ll move backwards.

I’m so tired I don’t know what day it is. I don’t want to lose “normal.” I don’t want to lose the progress I’ve made since X’s abandonment.

My plan is to stick to a schedule that includes a lot of self-care, including a daily walk and pilates. I plan to practice gratitude every day, and say what I’m grateful for when the anxiety rises. (I did it many times today.) . I plan to do art and play my ukulele. I plan to read and write and cook healthy food. And I plan to get creative with my teaching online. I think the kids will easily lose motivation if I don’t mix things up. So I want to do weekly themes, take them outside with me to study trees. Set up science experiments with them and host morning meetings and digital lunch visits on Fridays. I want to use this as an opportunity to get creative in my teaching again.

I can make this work, just like I made the last year and a half work. I’ve got it in me to push through this. I know there will be an end, even if I don’t know when. I can do this. So can you. If you’re lucky enough to be home with others, hug them every day. And check in on those of us that are alone. Sending you warm wishes for health and safety. Take care of each other!

Crushed by a Crush

Over the past couple of months, I’ve had a crush on a guy. And the amazing thing was I was getting signals that he might actually like me back. I was really excited. The best part was I really believed he could see me for me. I felt like it was possible for someone to see that I am amazing and beautiful, even though I’m fat.

This is one of my biggest fears. I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons X lost interest in me was because I got heavy. I know that’s not the only reason, but I do think it was a factor. My therapist reminded me that, if that’s true, it’s evidence of how shallow a person he is. And there’s definitely other evidence he is shallow. But the idea that no one could love me because I’m fat is pretty embedded.

Then I found out the guy I liked was just looking for a hook-up. That he has a reputation for this. And, while I already had felt a little put off by a couple of our interactions, the knowledge that he didn’t really see me the way I feel, or want to be seen, was a bit heartbreaking. I thought I had evidence that I could be seen for me, fat and all. I know intellectually this doesn’t mean it’s not true. But I do feel sad with that evidence gone. It’s making it hard to hold on to the belief that I am lovable.

Taking Back the Woods

When X and I first started dating, we spent a LOT of our free time at a nearby state park. It was a very popular bouldering spot and since he was a climber, that’s where we went. I loved it. I loved watching him climb, I loved being in the woods, I was content to sit and hike and read. I also loved these particular woods – large boulders in the shade of pine trees with a small brook trickling through. It was magic.

Since returning to NH, I’ve wanted to go back to these woods as a way to reclaim them for myself. This past weekend I finally was able to go. My dear cousin went with me, which turned out to be really helpful. Of all the places I’ve returned this one was the hardest for me. Driving up, I had physical memories, of the feeling of being in the car with him, us, together, and how much I felt like I belonged to someone.

I had more memories in the woods. The woods felt familiar, though somehow smaller. What was so wonderful was that my cousin was there with me. I got to share memories at each spot along the way. I got to talk through things. It was healing and helped soften the memories. It helped them not feel so strong.

I don’t miss X. He really was a selfish partner. But that memory of belonging hurt.

I don’t know if I’ll go back, honestly. I thought I wanted to reclaim these woods. But I don’t know if I can. It’s possible that they just need to stay a memory that I leave behind. I didn’t belong with X. It was all lies. I need to go find my own woods.

Valentine’s Day

Last week was Valentine’s Day. It’s not a holiday I really care about. Honestly, I think it’s more for elementary school parties than anything else. I don’t feel sad that I don’t have a partner right now. Certainly not because everyone is advertising chocolates and flowers. It’s just a day, and it doesn’t define me.

And yet… I found myself feeling blue. I was a bit mopey and low energy. I kept catching myself having little fantasies of receiving flowers at work, or a cute little valentine from a secret admirer. I even wondered briefly what X was doing for the twatwaffle.

This brief, and now rare, wondering reminded me of all the Valentine’s Days we’d had together. How anti-climactic they were. How I always wanted more.

By the time I left school, I got in the car and had a good cry. Then I drove home and spent my evening moving slowly in the house, writing and thinking. I though a lot about how expectations from outside, from society, about what Valentine’s Day is really do seep in, whether you want them to or agree with them or not. But I also thought a lot about why I always felt let down by this holiday with X. The conclusion I’ve come up with has to do with the other 364 days of the year. I think I always put my hopes on the holiday for a grand gesture, because gestures throughout the year were few and far between. Because I always felt last on his priority list. Because so often I felt like an afterthought.

The holiday seems to have some weird, lurking expectations for me. I spent the day trying to work through them. But in the end, it was just a day and I moved through it the best I could. Next year, hopefully I’ll be ready for those sneaky expectations.

The Mundane In-Between

I reread my last two posts and, clearly, I was feeling a bit angry when I wrote them. Sorry for all the f-bombs! (Although, I have to say, it’s a very satisfying word to say!)

The truth is, yes, I still get angry, or hurt. I still feel the weight of what happened. But these days those feelings are really intermittent. They don’t come that frequently, and they don’t last very long. I actually wrote both of those posts on the same night, as writing was helping me move through the tough feelings.

And that’s the thing about healing. It really does get better. I don’t hurt as much. I’m content a lot of the time. This weekend, I ended up spending the whole day yesterday reading Evvie Drake Starts Over. I read the whole thing in a day – started in the morning and finished at bed time. And it was glorious! Laugh out loud funny book, characters I cared about, a love story I very much related to. Then today, I got some, but not all, of the things done on my list. I cleaned a bit, did some laundry, did some school work, and went for a walk.

The weekend’s challenge.

It’s nothing exciting or profound. It’s the mundane in-between of the hard parts, and really, they aren’t that interesting to write about. I’m healing! It’s pretty cool.

Feeling Beautiful

I started curling my hair a month ago. This is actually a big deal for me. I’ve never really cared about my hair before, preferring to dry it in the air vents as I drive to work instead of waking up a half hour earlier to do it with a blow dryer. But, I started using styling product, drying my hair with a blow dryer, and then curling it. I’ve been experimenting with different styles, and I am loving it. I feel beautiful when I do this, and that’s really what I need right now.

Because, I recently realized, X never told me I was beautiful. Maybe a few times in the beginning of our relationship, but certainly, in the last five years, he did not say this to me. Sometimes, I would ask if an outfit looked ok, and he’d say, “Yeah,” or even, “It looks nice.” But as I gained weight, I got less validation from him and so internalized that as me being ugly. I was ashamed of myself, thinking he was ashamed of me. I grew to believe I was ugly, and treated myself like I was ugly.

I’m not doing that any more. Honestly, fuck him for not seeing how beautiful I am. How full of light and joy I am. How that radiates when I smile and laugh and dance. Fuck him for not seeing how shiny and thick my hair is, the curve of my lower back, and the way my eyes crinkle when I smile. The softness of my lips.

I see these things. I see them now. I am beautiful and I am determined to treat myself that way. It started with waking up a bit earlier and curling my hair, but I keep going. I’ve started doing Pilates. I am trying to walk every day and while I’m not there yet, I’m still trying. I am trying to put nourishing food into me. I’m getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Because I deserve these things. I am beautiful and I deserve to be treated that way, by any future partner, yes, but most importantly, by me. More and more, I am feeling beautiful.

Pulling Over

Tonight I left work feeling rejected. A small hope I had about an encounter I envisioned in my head with this guy I have a crush on didn’t materialize, despite my efforts. There are a myriad of reasons why that might be, so many that are not about rejection. But there I was having anxiety over it, right in my solar plexus, a gut punch.

This is the impact of X’s betrayal. Here I am, trying to put myself out there, just a little. I really think it’s possible he is actually trying to put himself out there a bit too. And the smallest thing feels like rejection, even when, objectively, it wasn’t.

As I drove home last night, I began to cry. And those tears turned into sobs. I began yelling at X again, like in the beginning of this mess. I was yelling about how he did this to me. How he stole from me companionship and confidence, how he stole my dream of a family. It was so intense, I had to pull the car over.

I sat for 20 minutes and cried. I texted a friend to say outloud what I was feeling. I got my bearings and was able to drive again. And by the end of the evening, I had genuinely calmed down.

I decided I was going to continue to put myself out there, even if I do get rejected, knowing that when that happens, it’s going to hurt a lot, more than makes sense. I made this decision knowing that these feelings are going to be big at first, because X did cause damage. What he did was intensely hurtful. But I decided that there is absolutely no way I am going to let this small, coward of a man shrink me any more, or make me stop living a life that I can create.

And when the feelings become outsized, intense and irrational, I’m going to pull over so I can get my bearings again.

The Snow Blowing Fallacy

We got snow this week. On Thursday, every town in a 70 mile radius had school cancelled, except my district. We didn’t even have a delay! The drive was rough and when I got home that night, I still had the driveway to deal with.

When X first left, it was the dead of winter and I had to figure out how to operate the snowblower. A few days after X left, on the phone with my dad, he walked me through using a choke and how the levers worked. Then, I set off alone, in the dark (because it was always dark) to clear my long, hilly driveway. I repeated this feat at least once a week, often more, as snow continued to fall throughout the winter. I got good at it. I developed a rhythm with it. For me, it became a symbol of my ability to do this alone, to pick up the pieces of the life he shattered and keep moving forward.

On Thursday night, I had to tackle the driveway again. And let me tell you, I absolutely didn’t want to. I was tired from the day and the idea of having to do more work was exhausting. But then I spoke to a friend and in that conversation told her, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” It was like the version of me clawing my way through the first horrific months after X left, reminding myself over and over that I’ve got this. And so I ate a quick dinner, put my gear on, and went out to tackle the driveway.

I still don’t quite have the rhythm of my new driveway. I messed up in the fall and didn’t rake all the leaves and now when I go over them, the auger picks them up along with the gravel underneath and flings the rocks. I also haven’t figured out the path that is most efficient, so each time I’ve been experimenting.

Anyway, as I made my way up and down the driveway, trying not to send flying rocks toward the house or my car, I thought about this next chapter of my life. I thought about how I am starting to open myself up to the idea of dating, but really, to the idea of being vulnerable with someone, to trusting again, ever so slowly. I’m starting to open myself up to the idea that relationships can look different from what I had with X. That I can have an intimate relationship with someone and still have my own life, and be my own person. So I made a decision – no matter what happens, I’m going to continue to do the snow blowing. It’s my symbol of independence. I’m going to hold it close, to remind me that I can do it.

Powerful, right?

Well the universe seems to think that’s funny. I woke up this morning and I have injured a muscle running from my neck down my spine, stopping at my shoulder blade. It’s so painful that when I turn my head a certain way, or lift my arm, the pain is so sharp I gasp. And the kicker is we got more snow last night and I need to snow blow again, but I can’t. My back hurts too much. Shoveling the deck is definitely not possible today. I do not want to ask anyone for help. The idea I can do it all alone seems to be a fallacy. I feel like the universe might be sending me a message here. Something about not being too rigid with my expectations of what the future may bring? Or a healthy relationship means you both do your part and you can lean on each other? I don’t know. It appears life has no user manual. I’m going to be slowly feeling my way through this next chapter as well, with no certainty of anything.

My New Dishes

I’ve been looking for the past year for a new set of dishes. Our old dishes served their purpose – Fiestaware, bright colored in the dark winter, sturdy and easy to clean, cheerful and practical. But it feels strange to continue to use them. While I have some still, I resist using them unless I have no other option.

So the last few weeks I began actively trying to find a replacement pattern. Then, I discovered Macy’s was having a massive sale. I knew I wanted white/cream. I knew I wanted a little bit of detail, but not a lot. I knew I prefer classic to modern. And I knew I wanted them to have a bit of weight to them.

After narrowing it down to three patterns, I made the final call and ordered myself six settings of Villeroy and Boch’s Manoir pattern. They came yesterday and I am over the moon excited for them.

Just unpacked! Don’t they look great against my dark table?

I love the color. I love the size and the weight. I love the touch of detail that isn’t too much, but just enough. Mostly, I love that they’re all mine. I picked them out. I bought them for myself (and got an AMAZING deal on them!). I get to look at them and use them and enjoy them every day, without the added weight of them feeling sadly familiar.

I love my new dishes. I’m proud of these little ways I keep letting go of the past and moving forward. The old dishes have been moved out. The new dishes have been washed and put away in the cabinet. Don’t they look pretty?

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