Heartbreaks and bellyaches seem to be the name of the game as of late. But why shouldn’t it be? One always leads to the other.
I had my usual year-end binge in December and said I would do better in January. Don’t I always? Don’t we always? But the funny thing about making plans is every time I say I’m going to do better, I usually end up doing worse. It’s the conscious effort, the deliberate decisions that derail me every time. It seems I always do my best when I don’t think too hard about it.
After helping myself to Christmas leftovers, Valentine’s Day came around and I had to allow myself some candy. And by some, I mean 3 boxes of post V-Day clearance candy that I ate in as many days. I also had two new donut shops open up and Taco Bell has these new amazing nacho fries and I discovered a new coffee shop in the town I work in. I’ve also had various co-workers who wanted me to join them for a dinner out and how can I refuse the chance to go to a restaurant? It’s been a whirlwind of grease and cheese, fried chicken and Cheetos, ice cream cones and creamy parmesan noodles.
I’ve been progressively bingeing more and more and it’s getting so out of control that it scares me.
These new food discoveries and opportunities are just convenient excuses to eat, to soak up all my melancholia with a slice of fried bread. But my face is getting fuller and my pants are getting tighter, all following the familiar formula of sadness leading to overeating. My mother criticizes everything I do so I get fast food. My dad only talks to me when he’s drunk so I eat 20 snacks a day. My boss at work drives me crazy so I ignore my packed Lean Cuisine and grab a burger and fries for lunch. I’m bored on my hour-long drive home so I eat a bag of chips to occupy myself so I won’t sleepily swerve off the road. I’m lonely as hell so I treat myself to two desserts after dinner.
I try to walk a straight and narrow path and these people come along and throw me off course. They’re demeaning or dismissive, dramatic or deteriorating and sometimes I think they’re determined to throw their drama onto me. And I have to eat in order to balance myself out again. It’s the only way I know how.
But I also know it’s not the best way. I look at myself and see the changes, the way in which my lack of support system and sour opinion of myself are bloating my body, branching out into every aspect of my life, making work harder, making family more frustrating, and isolating me from the fun times I used to care about.
My tears are like the tide, coming and going and I have no control over the contents of the ocean or how they sway to and from the sand. All I can seem to do is sit back and watch and respond accordingly. I don’t have a choice, just a spectator to the mouthfuls of agony, awash in a fog that hovers over everything and steals all the scenery from me.
I could feel myself rotting. My skin was sandpaper. My heart a hunk of meat.
I was dead for a few years. Crushed beneath student loans, liars, and the realization that I’d lost all I’d built my life to achieve. I was no artist. I was a con. I was no friend. I was a fraud. Friends, Family, and The Father fled and I was left alone to bear the weight of failure. But I was not strong enough and succumbed to the stress, the shame, the disappointment of departed dreams.
It was an avalanche, crashing on top of me, propelling me to the floor, grinding me into the dirt.
And then I thought I was alive again.
Someone came along and gave me several months of mouth-to-mouth. They gifted me a breath that burrowed its way back to my desiccated body. But when they broke the kiss, that connection to life did not linger and I was left in limbo, teetering on a thin string between life and death, losing all identity of being alive and all the peace of being buried.
It hurts to be in the middle, to be torn between two realms of being, to not belong to the day or the dirt. A lot of times, I don’t care which way I fall as long as it’s a clear conclusion. I would feel just as comfortable in a coffin as I would under a comforter.
My heart beats every few weeks. It reminds me I’m alive again. And so does the pain. It’s not the kind that sinks into me like a hot knife but the kind that gently evaporates all my joy. It arrives through the doorstep, dancing silently, getting to work with nimble fingers, picking up pieces of me and peeling it from my being: art, writing, pets, music, and food. It’s a more subtle searing sensation that’s not visible to others. It lurks in a lonely mind when I’m not occupied with work or worry. It’s the pain of being scraped hollow. It’s the pain on looking back on a life that had no real value.
It is not the pain of what has happened but the pain of what has not.
My heart halted. My spirit stopped. But my body continued to age and so much time was stolen from me. It was a 7-year gap of gaping wounds and unheard screams. It was a failed book, a failed relationship, a withering of animals and blossoming animosity.
And when I think about the mess I’m still in, the darkness deepens, blinds me to any future at all. That crushing weight descends on me one more time. It pulls at my eyelids, lulling me to a glorious rest, a sweet promise of permanent peace. But bills and responsibilities to jobs and family keep my eyes open. I reluctantly fight the urge to lie down. I want to give into it. I want to welcome it. But I can’t. Not just yet.
I can laugh and cry and carry on with my day. I can scream and howl and binge eat and nap away my week. I can work hard and impress my bosses. I can listen to the worries and daydreams of others. I can construct a daydream of my own, a vision of a better time, a better life, a better opportunity. I can act like a living person. Because, in many ways, I am one again. But it’s only a temporary recovery. I was carried out of a pine box prematurely and I’m left to deal with the consequences.
My path has been lined with sour honey and I’m forced to trudge through the muck to face more agony. And on this day each year, the clock resets and I regress a little more. More dreams die. More people disappear. My outlets are drying up, including the divine. God does not listen to my cries. He’s only interested in dictating my direction, the ebb and flow of fire in my head, and the distractions and derailments that set me back even further. He’s a voyeur of the coldest kind.
It’s impossible to go back. It’s daunting to look forward. All I want to do is just lie down and sink into the sticky substance. To be enveloped in the bittersweet bath. To rest. Because I know, I’ve always known, that I just don’t want to be here.
”Sex is the one thing, more than any others, that makes you feel human.”
”Remember, your children can’t praise the Lord if they’ve got genitals in their mouths.”
-Nudist Colony of the Dead
I remember walking into my first college class, looking at my classmates, and thinking, “I’m probably the only virgin in this room.”
That was over 10 years ago and every time I walk into a new room filled with people, I still think the same thing.
Living in a small, religious town, I learned early on that the true “F” word was fornication. Sex before marriage was about the worst thing that could happen to you, besides being gay. That sentiment echoed through the church pews and school halls. But as I grew up, my friends realized other people’s genitals was about the best thing that could happen to you. Even the most devout got dicked eventually and their stringent sexual views began to relax.
Except for the gay thing. That was non-negotiable.
But it’s easy to change your mind with a hand down your pants. I never got that opportunity so I was able to hang onto my shame over sex for much longer than my peers. And the interesting part was I actually didn’t mind it that much. Although preachers and parents warned of the religious ramifications of sex, they also lauded the beauty of intercourse between two married people. And that was the message I chose to hold close.
I actually wanted to wait until marriage. I’ve always thought of myself as a romantic and the notion of me and my future wife saving ourselves for each other sounded pretty special. We’d be the first to have that intimate connection, to reach that milestone in pulsating unison. And so not having sex was not a big deal because, at the time, marriage was not on my mind, therefore sex was not either. But just because I’d made a no-copulation commitment to a stranger didn’t mean I wasn’t affected by sex.
I used to be a great listener and great friend. My classmates came to me for counseling. I heard all about their relationships and through their confessions, I learned that sex not only changed relationships but changed people. And it didn’t necessarily change anyone for better or worse. But it did feel like there was more at stake. Emotions were either heightened or deadened at the point of penetration. Some people could turn off their heads and hearts while others’ only grew heavier.
And just by growing up and living and being interested in people, I learned more about sex without actually ever experiencing it. It came pieced together from conversations, observations, and, thanks to the power of the Internet, research.
”It’s amazing how words can do that, just shred your insides apart.”
I’m in need of new glasses and I’ve been asking people their opinions on different frames I’ve been considering. While most opinions were constructive, one person said I should choose frames based on my face shape, which is lumpy.
I know I’m not conventionally good-looking. My face is asymmetrical, my teeth are crooked, and I’m losing my hair. I’ve struggled with my appearance for as long as I can remember but I’ve worked to make peace with my imperfections.
But as I was talking to an aquaintance, asking for frame suggestions, this is the feedback I received.
To get such a random, hurtful comment from someone I thought would be supportive, someone who should have known better than to say something like that, unravelled any progress I had made.
There was no hint of a joke or sarcasm. This person was serious. And although it’s been weeks since the insult, I still think about it and it still hurts. It was not a critique of my frames but of my face, an unprovoked insult intended to tear me down.
It reminds me that people are just cruel because they can be, that words are an easy way to wound. There is a distinct lack of decency in people and with so many bad feelings and bloodshed all around, we still choose to bash those close to us. We are all so blessed and yet we curse everyone we can. It doesn’t make much sense.
Maybe in this new year, let’s try to hold our tongues just a bit more. Let’s try to help instead of hamper. Let’s show appreciation, give credit and compliments, make someone laugh, preserve peace and reject negative energy.
We don’t have to turn into Ghandi but a few good words can go a very long way. The world is already hurdling toward hell. We don’t have to help fan the fire.
Last Wednesday, I was minding my own business when I felt a sore throat come on. This was odd because I usually wake up with it. But I actually felt it happen in real time. I wasn’t too concerned because I’ve had minor throat irritation before but it usually went away by the next day. But this one didn’t. The next two days passed by and I took some over the counter medication to try to nip it in the bud before it became too bad.
It didn’t get any better. My throat became so sore it was hard to swallow or even move my head around. I also lost my voice.
I reported to work like normal since I didn’t have many paid vacation/sick days left and I certainly didn’t want to waste them unless it was absolutely necessary. I only had a few days of work and then three days off, so I thought I’d be able to make it through and then take my days off to recover.
I made it through but things continued to get worse. I developed a nasty cough and a runny nose. I felt dizzy. I made an appointment to see a doctor. But that meant I actually had to get out of bed, get dressed, and go out in public. That thought usually pains me even when I’m not feeling like crap so it was exceptionally difficult that day.
Not only did I feel (and look) terrible but I saw a lot of old acquaintances while out. The nurse at the counter of the doctor’s office is the mother of my high school classmate.
While I was in the waiting room, one of my high school teacher’s walked in. My former teachers usually don’t recognize me so I kept my head down and she never seemed to notice. Even when the nurse called my name to be seen, my teacher didn’t turn her head in recognition.
And when the doctor came in to see me, he commented that he hadn’t seen me in about 5 years.
“I see on my notes here the last time you came to see me that you were studying animation,” he said. “Whatever happened to that?”
The dreaded question.
I had to explain that nothing ever happened to that, that I no longer felt passionate about animation, and that I had “retired” from drawing.
“What are you doing now?” he asked.
“Working retail,” I said. My already small voice had faded even more.
It’s always embarrassing to have to explain how my big dreams of being an animator fell through. And I always worry if people think I’m padding the truth, like I actually failed or dropped out. No, I graduated. I was just too much of a coward to do anything with my degree.
And when I went to get my prescription filled at the drugstore, I saw my former co-worker there. Hadn’t seen him in ten years. He asked what I was up to and I explained, in the same sad, small voice, that I was working in retail.
It doesn’t help that I’m also fat now. These people who haven’t seen me in such a long time now see me as overweight, balding, and working a crummy job folding shirts for pennies. The years haven’t been good to Bran. More like, Bran hasn’t been good to Bran.
I graduated from college about five years ago and that’s an ample amount of time to run into a lot of old friends and past acquaintances, to explain to each and every one of them of my shortcomings and failures. And it has sucked each time. And each time I have to explain that I’m basically doing nothing with my life, I feel that fire of shame in my chest. But over the years, the pool of former friends has dried up and I’ve had to explain myself less and less. But even after all these years, there are a few stragglers that still show up in my life and I have to bust out the explanations one more time and feel the fire again. I hate it and it’s just another reminder of my pointless existence. As if I needed a reminder.
It’s all perception. I know I’m harder on myself than anyone else is. I’m sure the doctor and the co-worker probably didn’t think twice about my life update. Sure, I’ve gained some weight since they saw me last. Sure, I’m not in the best occupation right now. But does that make me beneath them? Of course not. And did they think that? I’m sure they didn’t. But the paranoid part of my brain felt like they did look down on me. I always have this suspicion that everyone thinks I’m trash and I hate having to confirm it every time I see them.
One of the annoying things about living in a small town is it feels like I’m always on top of everyone else. Or, more specifically, it feels like everyone else is always on top of me. It’s suffocating. There’s no privacy or anonymity. Everyone knows me and my business. I just wish I could have sneaked in and out of the doctor’s office and slipped in and out of the drugstore, ninja-style, and then nose-dived into the safety of my bed, and cuddled up to the comfort of my penicillin and pillows.
I wanted to get out of the house to do some quality writing. Sometimes, there’s too many distractions at home. It’s too easy to space out and go two hours deep into Buzzfeed or Cracked. And it’s just so comfortable at home. It’s easy to be lazy when my bed is unmade and my cat is lying there, purring. It feels like the most right thing to do just to slip in the sheets and take a lengthy nap.
I felt the call of a coffee shop. I know it’s kind of douchey to go to a coffee shop and write but I can’t help it. They give good vibes. The atmosphere is chill and the music is mellow and it’s not as rowdy as a regular restaurant.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any available places to write in my town. There are no coffee shops or even sit-down restaurants. I have to travel at least 45 minutes away to find a place to go. I don’t like using that much gas if not necessary and plus it takes a lot of effort to go far away. To justify the lengthy ride, I usually try to stay gone all day and being gone for long periods of time tires me. But with recently decreased gas prices and an inflated level of pain pulsing through my head, it felt worth it to make that trek.
I drove to a cafe-bakery but waited until lunch time in hopes it wouldn’t be busy inside. As much as I like to get out of the house sometimes, my anxiety makes it difficult for me to be in public.
So, I stepped inside and it wasn’t too crowded. I picked up some soup and after I found a seemingly secluded place to sit, I set up my iPad for writing. Not five minutes later, a college-age girl clad in a thick hoodie and sweat pants plunked down at the table across from me.
The anxiety spiked a bit but it wasn’t too bad. “I can handle this,” I told myself. I focused on my soup and tried to relax. A few minutes later, another girl sat with the sweatpants girl. Anxiety spiked again. I turned back to my soup and tried to forget about the thoughts that sprouted from my brain.
“They are going to judge me. They are going to make fun of me. What if they Snapchat a picture of me and include some snarky comment like, ‘Look at this fat loser sitting by himself slurping soup. Lame! LULZ.'”
I’m stuck at 17 years of age and it’s depressing.
I feel like I’m getting too old for social media. I’ve really gotten into Tumblr recently and I don’t know if it’s just the type of followers I’ve accrued or if they are representative of the majority of Tumblr users but most of them seem to be young, high school/college-age kids. And I’m a post-college pudge ball who can still relate to their emo musings and pubescent longings. It makes me question my emotional maturity.
I think there might be something to Freud’s idea that we get stuck in certain stages of life while we grow up. I’m not sure about all the creepy sex stuff but I think there are certain rites of passage most young people go through on their way to adulthood. It’s the ups and downs, the lockers and lip-locking, the friendships and failures. Really, it’s about the experience. Each event is a potential lesson that serves to mold you into a well-rounded character.
But I haven’t experienced much, all through my own doing. But even lack of experience can shape you, although sometimes, as in my case, it hasn’t shaped me so much as it has flattened me out.
I never felt like I got to be a regularly teenager. I spent the majority of my time eating and watching television in my room. I was fat from the beginning so I had that complex hanging over my head and that crushed my confidence from the start. Being a weird artist didn’t help matters. I couldn’t relate to the jocks and cheerleaders. Football was a religion and I was an atheist among the athletes.
I went to very few social gatherings. I wanted to talk to people. I witnessed my peers mesh with ease and I wished that could be me but my belly formed too big of a barrier.
I mustered up enough will to attend the homecoming dance and prom but I didn’t have anyone special to go with so I went with friends and at the end of the night, instead of going to the backseat, I went back to my room and to my bag of chips.
I didn’t make out. I didn’t hug or hold or give anyone my class ring. I didn’t have many friends. I was lonely a lot. I was also full of acne, which increased my desire to dig a hole in my bed and wallow in it for all of eternity.
And without being taught by my parents, I learned about art and God on my own. Homophobia and racism and misogyny never made any sense to me. And frankly, neither did church. But I still put effort into God because I felt it was the right path to take and I felt the difficult into finding God must have had something to do with what all the preachers said about how terrible we all are as humans. But I didn’t need a preacher to inform me of my shortcomings. I knew that all by myself.
My kitchen is in ruins.
My mother decided she wanted to redo our entire kitchen so last week, she had a business come and take out the cabinets, counters, sink, and dishwasher. We still have our fridge and stove but that’s it. Never one to be without coffee, Mom set up the coffee maker and microwave in the dining room. Every time I go for a cup, I feel like I’m in a hotel room. And I feel like I’m camping when plating my food on foam plates and eating with plastic utensils.
Mom estimated it will be like this for another week or so since the company is still building the replacement cabinets and need to put down new floor covering. Mom’s also started painting the kitchen so it smells like plastic and fumes.
All the cutlery and other dishes are stacked in the living room, which makes it hard to move around in there. Things are piled on the dining room table and in the corners. It makes the room a little bit smaller. It feels like my world is closing in.
We’ve been eating out a lot. It’s just easier. The problem is I was going to start dieting around this time. I told myself I would get back on track once I went back to the retail job and stayed there for about a month to get back into the swing of things.
I gained a lot of weight, all the weight I lost in 2012 specifically, while I was at the finance job. I was stressed and food soothes me. But I knew once I went up two pant sizes I needed to get myself under control.
But I don’t even want to.
I enjoy greasy fast food. I know it’s horrible for me and the calorie count is absurd but I don’t care. I’m still stressed because the retail job is slowly tanking. Our hours continue to get cut more each week and we are in the midst of a serious shoplifting problem. With the hours being scaled back, we are understaffed. There are entire departments that are not covered, which allows shoplifters to literally go in, take what they want, and leave completely undetected.
I honestly felt okay about the job when I went back. It was never my intention to stay there forever but I was okay with not trying to find a new job right away. I thought I’d work there while I focused on publishing my book and then once that was done, I could focus on a job search. But at this point, I should probably be looking now. I just hate looking. It’s so discouraging to go through all the classifieds and online job postings and not find anything interesting or attainable.
I feel like a smoker who knows the habit is bad but enjoys smoking and doesn’t want to quit. Every time I bite into a double cheeseburger, I know it’s going to make it harder to button up my pants but I’m all about that instant gratification and future consequences be damned.
I’m stressed about work and I’m stressed about my book and I’m stressed about not fitting into my clothes anymore and I don’t have the money to buy new ones and I’ve also been struggling with other stuff like being lonely and disconnected from society. It’s a lot to try to deal with so I eat to help me not deal with it.
I hope to one day get myself together again. I just don’t know what that will take. I’ve been on this journey so many times before and it’s both exhausting and exuberant. But each time, there’s a little less joy and a little bit more concern, wondering when I’ll slip again. Because I always do. Even when I bounce back, I always do.
A couple of weeks ago, after a long, stressful week of work, I treated myself to some deep fried sushi because I have no friends or self-control. I called the order in and arrived at the estimated “ready to eat then hate yourself” time but the nice Japanese lady behind the counter said, “You come here for order? You sit here until order ready,” as she guided me to the bar area, which consisted of three stools behind a shiny plank of wood.
I watched The Weather Channel on the giant flat screen TV above the bar. It was muted but had the closed captioning turned on so I read the television and wondered how long it would take. I was tired and ready to take my pants off.
A guy walked up to the bar and sat at the last stool next to the wall. He took out his phone and sipped his bottle of beer. This was taking way longer than the lady told me. I thought about taking out my phone to pass the time but I already did that in my car while I waited the 15 minute cook time the lady quoted over the phone. Plus, I didn’t want to be one of those people who are always on their phone.
After a few minutes, the guy looked at me. “So, where ya from?”
I was around 19 when I lost 40lbs for the first time. All my old shirts swallowed me up and I needed to get something that would fit my smaller frame.
Even though I looked better than I had in over 5 years, I still felt the pangs of insecurity tap at my spine when I saw all the pretty tanned people walking by with their paper shopping bags in one hand and their partner’s hand in the other. I was still big. And it was at that moment I realized the weight had gone away but the worry hadn’t. I still felt gross, ugly, fat.
And now, nearly 10 years later, having lost and gained those same 40lbs, I know the worry is still there and will never go away. Even at my thinnest, thinner than I was at 19, I hated the way I looked.
It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror and know between the ages of 11-13, you ruined your body for good. To be so young and so damaging and so unaware is absolutely frightening. From the first stretch mark, you have damaged yourself beyond repair. When the skin doesn’t bounce back the way it used to, when you do hundreds of crunches and the back fat just won’t go away, you know you are ruined.
But at the time I just needed to dress myself.