What’s in a name?

First assignment in my Creative Writing I course. Describe one’s name (first person – goal is to work on our narrative voice), what it means, how we feel about it, etc. 1 page max, double-spaced.


My mother was adamant. I required a name that sounded good in both English and French. I was to be a bilingual baby. A post-referendum baby, freely moving between cultures in Montreal. I was to have a name that allowed for easy integration. “Nicole”, she decided. A tribute to one of her dearest friends, and an excellent French author. A perfect name. Perfect until my father tried to say it with his American accent. “Ni-coal”. As though Father Christmas had permanently registered me on the naughty list.

How I then ended up with the name June is unclear. It does not translate into French: juin. Not a beautiful sound, nor an acceptable name. Growing immersed in the French culture in Montreal, all through schooling and career, I’ve become resigned to having my name massacred. Zhooone. Dgoane. Jane. Painful. What is your name, they ask me. “June, comme le mois. Yes, the month. That one. April, May, June. My name is June. Yes, unusual. Yes, I like it too. Thank you, how kind of you to comment.”

The reasons for this unusual choice are multiple. Saint June was the first female apostle – something my mother proudly reminded me of: of course the Catholic Church didn’t recognize her as a saint, but that was because they were not as open-minded as the Orthodox Church, obvi. The Catholic Church for centuries claimed that she was in fact a he, creating a Latin male name Junius that does not exist in any Roman records other than in Latin translations of the New Testament. My mother solemnly explained to me, aged 4, that navigating the world as woman wouldn’t always be easy, but that a strong woman always managed to eventually have her story recognized, if she didn’t live to tell it herself. I listened, but really I just wanted to eat a cookie. Little did I realize that the feminist notions my mother preached to me as a preschooler would shape my entire life, and that I would tirelessly campaign against gender bias in the workforce before it was cool for people my age to do so. Saint June probably fist-pumps me from up in Heaven, while she hangs out eating cookies with my Ma.

June means youth. My mother prayed I would never have cause to lose my innocence early, that I would always retain the wonder with which children view the world. While I cannot say that I have, I can say that I am grateful, always – my spirit feels young despite some of the heavy blows the Universe loves to dish out haphazardly throughout life.

I was a pre-teen when it dawned on me that my father’s eldest brother’s ex-wife’s name was June. They divorced right around the time my parents got married. My father was frequently called upon to babysit my cousin, a toddler at the time. He refrained from taking sides during the divorce… except not really, apparently.

June: a name of feminism, independence, youthful gratitude mixed with enough spite to avoid naïveté. It suits me just fine.

I have the best family and friends

Like, really tho.

My paranoid brain might be waging a full blown war against me, and Mimi is taking an extended nap, but I still have a few weapons up my sleeve, in the form of the greatest friends and family ever. Their love is like a magical spell that never fails to put a smile on my face and make me feel centered.

My Quebec cousins. When I visited them at the end of August, I was still recovering from the shock of my discovery – something I had not shared with them, as I was too ashamed to admit what had happened. All they knew was that I had been involved for months with a guy who wouldn’t commit and who, in their words, often made me look “spent and exhausted“. They were, to put it mildly, not the biggest fans of Beaut. At one of the activities that we did that weekend, I wanted to take multiple pictures with my iPhone, but of course, lacked space. #iphoneissues On impulse, I deleted my entire 10-month text history with Beaut to free up memory. Upon hearing me mention that to my cousins, the boyfriend of the youngest cousin exclaimed enthousiastically, “Fuck yeah!” The thing is, I only met this boyfriend once before, and had obviously never gotten to the point of intimacy where I confided any part of my dating life to him. I realized that he was up-to-date on my Beaut saga from briefings from my cousin/his girlfriend. My cousins obviously discussed my dating life between them. As an only child, I was completely unused to having my business so freely shared, not having any secrets. Yet, I was incredibly touched that my story mattered so much to them, that even their boyfriends cared that I find happiness. My almost-sisters. My darlings.

The eldest cousin has an email subscription to my blog, and reads every post the day it comes out. Yesterday morning, she called up her sisters, and read my last post to them. Together, they plotted and planned how to execute an intervention from a distance. And whether it might not be worth it to jump in a car and drive down to Montreal and “screw his head off”. Qc cousin #2 took matters into her own hands and naaaaaaaagged me to unfollow Beaut on fbk: I could continue to occasionally look up his profile, but I needed to stop over-investing myself in his life and concerns ASAP. As she put it, if I wasn’t willing to do it for my own well-being, could I please do it for her and her sisters? They were fed up of seeing his name pollute their news feeds. Oye.

Dynamo. Of all my friends, he was most tolerant towards Beaut throughout. He understood that sometimes, you can’t chose who you care for. During all these months, did he encourage me to ditch Beaut? No. Did he ever rant that Beaut wasn’t treating me well, that I deserved better, etc etc? No. He accepted my assurances that Beaut, in his broken, limited way, truly cared for me. He accepted that Beaut was living through a firestorm. He pointed out to me that if my goal was to be a true friend to Beaut, and accept him as he is, then I needed to accept that his actions, and his words, amounted to him saying “I can’t make space for you in my life” – not that he didn’t want to, but that he was incapable of it at the present moment. Dynamo suggested that a true friend should accept others’ limits, and not impose oneself – that would result in me being another source of stress and inadequacy in Beaut’s life, which is not the contribution I wanted to make. Dynamo gave me a framework to work through my confused, hurt emotions that didn’t involve my usual narrative of being inadequate, or unlovable.

When he found out last night that I had unfollowed Beaut on Facebook, he uttered a guttural war-cry, danced a little jig and double high-fived me. In a crowded movie theatre.

DD. Similarly to Dynamo, she never judged my willingness to invest myself in a guy who wouldn’t commit, nor did she ever judge Beaut for his incapability to commit. She trusted me to evaluate whether this friendship was producing a net positive in my life. She was the first and only person I confided my shocking discovery to, because I knew she would handle my shame with care. Which she did. She advised me to impose serious boundaries in my friendship with Beaut, if I was determine to continue it. It took me 4 weeks to listen. I expected her to say “I told you so”. Instead, she said “Halleluja. I knew you’d get it sooner or later. I’m glad you’re investing in your well-being.” That might be the least sarcastic comment I have ever heard her utter.

Allie. One of my dearest friends, other than Dynamo. She’s just moved back to Montreal, with her fiancé, after living in New Zealand for 3 years. I’ve missed her awful – she has asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding next year, first time I’ve ever had that honour. I’ve been spending a fair bit of face-to-face time with her, and getting to know her fiancé, because any man that is deserving of Allie’s heart is a man worth knowing. The morning after spending a quiet evening with them at their place, Allie wrote to me to let me know that her fiancé wanted me to know that I was to consider their condo as my second home – that I was welcome anytime, always. We were soon to be family, anyhow. He’d noticed that same exhaustion my cousins hated – despite me not talking about any part of it.

And so many others. It’s hard to feel unlovable when the second I stumble I’m surrounded by ppl offering me a hand to get up and brush myself off.

 

I’m going on a peniscation

Update – Sept 27: I just found out that in March, a girl Beaut was sleeping with reached out through social media to “all the other girls”, including Main Girl, to advise them they were sharing the same man. Not me. Because apparently my dating him was so low-key nobody knew about it. I wanna throw up. I’d asked him, more than once, if he was sleeping with anyone else, for STD purposes. If I needed proof that I and my health are not worthy of consideration in his eyes… I most definitely have it. Yeah, no, maybe the disclaimer isn’t true afterall. I dunno. WTF.


Disclaimer: I wrote this post because the hurt was festering inside me, poisoning everything. Is it the whole truth? No. Is it logical and fair? No. Is it how I feel? Fuck yeah – some of the time. I still care about the boy, and believe that we might find an equilibrium that allows for the true friendship that was always present to flourish once again. But that can’t happen until I carefully work through a lot of the feelings below. Step 1 of that process was to write about it.

This is a story about Beaut.

The concept of space – a beautiful post, yes? Heartbreaking, heartfelt and sad. Beaut thanked me for it: it gave him the feels, it was beautiful and touching. How nice.

Until that point, from when Beaut and I stopped properly dating back in March, and my August post about space – a realization and acceptance of just how impossibly fucked up he is – I’d been perplexed by the successive demotions I’d been experiencing.

  • A few months of wonderful friends. He did some Dynamo-esque actions for me. Helping me out, when I didn’t even ask. Caring. Was there some sex involved? Yeah, obvi. He brought me joy. When I read through what I wrote during that time, I remember how happy he made me.
  • A few months of close but unhappy friendship. The sex became infrequent. I thought it was because of the legitimate clusterfuck he was living through. Guy was close to depressed, just trying to make it through every day. He confided so much in me – he trusted me, when he trusts close to no one. We talked almost every day. I was a good influence for him, during a time of trial and tribulation for him.
  • A gradual shift to purely platonic friends. I almost didn’t notice it was happening. I wrote the “concept of space” at the end of June/beg July, when his behaviour was increasingly distant and sad… but was scared that publishing it would make it come true. So I held off until we had a conversation in August which convinced me he was broken beyond repair.

We never talked about any of these shifts. They just happened. They hurt, but I assumed they were related to the shitstorm he was living through, which was objectively awful (it is still ongoing, but currently less intense). I thought my role, as his friend who he frequently told me he valued and cared about, was to give him space and support.

Well, 2 days after publishing The Concept of Space, I stumbled on Facebook information made it clear that another one of his close female friends was his Main Girl. Not a girlfriend, because Beaut still refuses to be in a couple with anyone. I’m still working out the overlapping timelines, but now, I realise my demotions had nothing to do with his shitstorm, and everything to do with Main Girl gaining in importance in his life.

I wish I could say I had no idea. But that isn’t quite true. I could see through all their facebook activity how close they were, and how flirty they were – behaviour Beaut never exhibited with me, even when we dated. I just naively refused to understand, during all those months, what was happening. And Beaut was ok with that. It turns out Main Girl was aware of the overlap: +1 for her. I was never entitled to that courtesy. I got the talk of “You & I were just friends. I’ve always said she was my friend. So, it was on you to make the link of what my interpretation of friendship includes. I didn’t lie. I’ve always said I don’t want a relationship. She and I aren’t a relationship.” He and Main Girl reached levels of almost-relationship that I never got close to: +2 for her. Main Girl is a great girl, who I enjoy and respect, and is a positive influence in his life: +3. He has met her friends and family: +4. He even took us both out on an activity together back in June. WHAT THE FUCK.

Since this discovery, I’ve been a mess. I cannot reconcile the Beaut that was sweet and caring with the Beaut that knew I suffer from mental health issues, yet chose to let me live through months of confusion and insecurity, rather than tell me the truth. I cannot forgive him for that.

I tried to salvage the friendship. For the sake of what was. Because I believed him when he told me repeatedly that my friendship was special to him. But I was too hurt. So I started pulling back. Not reaching out to him as much. Not asking him about his day, or talking through his issues and listening to his rants. And sure enough, he hasn’t noticed. At salsa last week, he flirted with a girl in front of me, and when I got really mad at him – for the first time, I swore at him, and used distinctly rude language (“WTF is your problem, reminding me to my face that I was incapable of holding your attention for very long. You owe me more respect than that. You’ve been a shitty friend to me.”) his answer was that what! a man isn’t allowed to talk to a woman anymore and that what was I trying to say – of course he is a good friend to me: he listens to me when I talk.

He listens to me when I talk, does he? Well, he doesn’t know what I do for a living, other than I am an accountant. He tells me that I am smart, yet if I challenge his opinions he ends the conversation. He has yet to accept any of my invitations to integrate him into my wider social circle. He knows almost nothing about me other than what is on this blog. Because I rarely get to talk – I listen to him work through his shit, and he makes no effort to get me to talk. In response to my comment of his unwillingness to compliment my physical appearance, he admitted that he has never really been drawn to me physically, he felt more of an intellectual connection to me. I wonder if the fact that I am an intellectual absolves him of the responsibility of not hurting my feelings.

All my love. All my affection, patience, and friendship. Turned to ash. He burned through it all. I’m left with bitter memories that were once joyful. I’m left with shame for having been so naive. Shame for effectively having been forced into the role of a Side Chick to a Main Chick. Shame for believing him when he said he loved & valued my friendship. Sorrow for my loss of innocence. This one hurts more than the last jackass who forgot to tell me he had a girlfriend: that one never cared for me, nor I him. He viewed me as a consumable, and lets be honest, I viewed him similarly – a nice dick with some pretty abs. But Beaut? I let him see all of me, and my reward was still to be treated as a convenience. My humanity was not enough to merit respect.

20 months of therapy: undone. My paranoid brain tells me I deserved this. That I am unlovable. That I bring this upon me. That this is the reward for attempting vulnerability. I have no response. No fight left in me. Even Mimi is silent.

Salsa sure will be fun, for the next while. Yippee.

The missing piece

Friday, after writing this little nugget of rage & grief, I spent my afternoon in a walk-in clinic. I got my prescription for my ADD and in a breath-taking piece of irony, I had my first-ever blood-pressure reading that was not normal – solidly in the pre-hypertension category. Disclaimer 1: one BP reading does not a problem make – there needs to be multiple readings over a year or 2 before the problem is deemed real. Disclaimer 2: I do not care about disclaimer 1, I AM FREAKING OUT. I’m 32. We’ve established my ma’s heart history was shit, yeah? Fun fact: her father died of a massive heart attack before the age of 60. I knew I was at risk of inheriting their lovely genes. I didn’t know that I’d already start showing small hints of it at THIRTY-TWO. FML.

The good news is that my abnormal reading was the 2nd (smaller) digit, the diastolic blood pressure. That’s the type of BP that is most influenced by lifestyle. WOO HOO. The bad news is that I AM ALREADY FREAKING HEALTHY. I have a healthy body weight. I exercise. I eat clean 80% of the time: fruits, veggies, fish, red meat 2x a month, no added salt, rarely any prepared foods. I don’t drink except occasionally on weekends, in moderation (I avoid getting tipsy). I get 7-8 hours of sleep daily. Fine, I have stress from work and life, but not unmanageable levels. I refuse to take up basket weaving as a career for the purposes of tricking Fate into letting me live past 60 years old.

Needless to say, I was not in a good mood after that doctor’s visit. So I handled it by embodying a female stereotype: I went shopping, and only bought ONE pair of shoes that I really wanted needed, for real, I swear. I suppose, in the circumstances, I should be relieved that I didn’t indulge in the 2nd most common female stereotype of drowning my sorrows in icecream, cookies and cake.


Ever since quitting boxing to pursue my more artistic interests in my quest to fully realize all of my self and learn happiness, I’ve had some nagging doubts as to the wisdom of my decision. Its been over a month, and my physique is still quite lovely despite some changes/weightloss (#vain), but I miss the physical exhaustion of pushing my body to the limits. It has translated into a fair bit of pent-up frustration. As my boss pointed out last week, “Vanilla, ever since you quit boxing you are so GRUMPY!” #fact. Even though I was still moving 5 times a week, only 2 of those workouts were intense (weightlifting and conditioning with Coach). Salsa, kizomba and ballet are so very staid – I barely ever broke a sweat, and never had an elevated heart rate. I didn’t get the endorphin high that boxing gave me. I was dissatisfied with my choices. Coupled with my impending BP issues, I felt I needed to incorporate at least one more intense workout a week, to keep my heart and my mind healthy. But what? I hate running most of the time, and usually the lazy takes over and I skip my solo-workouts.

Well.

Yesterday, I went to the open house at my dance school. I tried kuduro, which is a form of afro-beat music and dancing. It is intense, and exhilarating – I had to take breathers, and was often reduced to a puddle of sweat, gasping for air. Hard to believe that a month ago I considered myself an athlete. THIS is the dancing I was craving when I decided to quit boxing to pursue dance. Self-expression at its purest.

(p.s. That’s me in the turquoise/green sneakers, black leggings, and black/white T-shirt, nearish the front, behind the AMAZING girl with short blond hair, who is my newest girl-crush dance idol.)

In one fell swoop, I’ve found the activity that will bring me joy, and help me achieve a happy heart and a happy mind. I signed up for the weekly kuduro classes and I am SO PUMPED. I love how it is just my body, my emotions and the music. Every move can be imbued with all the complexity of my emotions in that moment. In the video above, this is what I was communicating through my body:

  • The thrill of feeling alive and feeling my heart beat hard. BP & scary family genetics be damned.
  • An angry rejection of all my self-imposed restrictions on my body and my sexuality. White girls can’t dance? Being sexy is vulgar? Bite me. Imma shake my hips and pound the floor with unabashed glee.
  • Freedom from the hamster-wheel of negative thoughts in my brain
  • Irrepressible joy in the face of the grief that had weighed me down all weekend.

I can’t wait to discover what parts of me will gain expression in each weekly kuduro class. But for now, I’m so relieved to have found the missing piece in my identity. 32 years was too long to wait to give a voice to the dancer part of my soul. As it now stands, I am no longer a boxer, but I am fast on my way to becoming a dancer, as I learn to express myself through salsa, kizomba, ballet and kuduro.

#bliss

Forgiveness is bullshit – a story about my mother & Quebec’s healthcare system

“Forgive and forget? No, that’s being gullible. Forgive, sure; but never forget what that person did to you, and make sure they never have the opportunity to do it to you again.” – my aunt, one of the few women I know who has broken through the glass ceiling in her male-dominated industry (electrical engineering).

Let me tell you a story. But first, I invite you all to read this post. I want you to imagine me, sitting on the kitchen floor, as my father tells me what happened. Imagine a grown man, sobbing so hard, he is almost inarticulate. Imagine the two cops standing in the hallway hearing every word, uncomfortably aware that they have to do a minimal investigation to ensure this wasn’t a homicide, and probably desperately wishing that the coroner would show up and sign the damned papers so that they can give privacy to what is clearly an innocent family tragedy. Imagine my best friend, standing next to those cops, unsure of what to do, willing himself to be deaf and not hear the following.


My beloved mother was a walking pharmacy. She had bazillion different illnesses and conditions, each requiring medication, and requiring her GP and pharmacist to be expert jig-saw puzzlers, as they worked to ensure none of her medications were incompatible with each other, or worsened any of the side-effects. Without revealing all of her medical history, it is pertinent to this story to disclose that she had a heart condition, suffered from fibromyalgia and a complicated chronic pain condition as well as a rapidly worsening spinal stenosis. For anyone that doesn’t know that those terms mean, or the pharmaceutical implications, it means she was on medication for her heart, and dangerously high levels of different pain medications.

She took the controversial medication Lyrica. Look it up. Some of the side-effects include depression and suicide. It causes a lot of strain on the heart, which is why it is strongly recommended (big Pharma slang for “do this, or else you will get fucked but you can’t sue us because we warned y’all”) to keep dosage constant, and if for wtv reason the patient decides to stop taking it, it must be done extremely gradually, over months, by diminishing slowly the dosage, to avoid over-straining the patient’s heart.

In the week before her death, my mother realised her supply of Lyrica was low, and worse, her prescription had run out. Of course, Murphy’s law dictated that she was living through a bad phase of pain – leaving the house was too hard. She missed the first day of her GP’s drop in clinic that week. She (barely) managed to show up on the Wednesday, a few minutes before it closed. Her GP refused to take her, she didn’t want to stay late because she was leaving on vacation that evening. Having been my mother’s GP for over a decade, she knew my mother’s file inside out. My mother attempted to plead with the receptionist, but the receptionist was frazzled and overworked, and my mother found standing up too painful, so she decided to just go home and lie down, without getting the prescription. Her Lyrica ran out that night.

Thursday, her state worsened. My father was worried to leave her and go to work, but my mother convinced him that she’d be ok – afterall she had tons of morphine and other opiates as backup pain medication. Thursday night, my father was panicked, because my mother was wheezing more than normal, sweating, and was clearly in an unmanageable amount of pain. Friday, my father took time off work, and waited at the local pharmacy until the head pharmacist, who has known my parents for over 30 years, arrived. Crying, he explained my mother’s situation and begged the pharmacist to sell him some Lyrica, without a prescription, to tide over my mother until her GP’s return from vacation. Let us be clear: he was asking the pharmacist to do something illegal, that could cost him his licence and career. God bless that pharmacist, he agreed because he deemed the risks to my mother’s heart, given her heart condition, to be too great. Unfortunately, he did not have the particular dosage that my mother required. So he sold my father a weaker dosage of Lyrica, because that is all he could provide.

My mother had been off Lyrica, cold-turkey, for 36 hours at that point. She started taking the weaker dosage on Friday night. My father didn’t sleep that night, because he was too frightened by her moans in her sleep and labored breathing.

She died in her sleep Saturday night.


The coroner determined that it was impossible to determine whether her lungs or her heart had stopped working first. He acknowledged that the yo-yoing drugs most likely played a role. He did not deem there to be sufficient cause to investigate anything further. He confirmed something which we already knew – my mother’s health was a ticking time-bomb. So many precarious, interrelated factors, held together in tenuous equilibrium… if it hadn’t been the Lyrica prescription, it could have happened a few weeks later due to something else.

I made all the calls to friends and family to advise them of my mother’s death. I refused to notify her GP, because I knew I would be incapable of doing so in a socially acceptable manner, and I was incapable of breaking the news to the pharmacist. My father did so, a few weeks later, when he returned all of my mother’s medication to be disposed of safely.


Why tell this story? Why now, on this sunny September day, that is not an anniversary of anything note-worthy in either my life or my mother’s?

When I moved out 10+ years ago, I stopped being a patient of my family doctor (same doctor as above – maybe that isn’t such a bad thing, afterall). After 2-3 years, I found a GP. She changed medical practices, and I didn’t get my act together in time to follow her. I didn’t have a doctor for all these years, until this fall, when a new clinic opened up near my place, and I got accepted as a patient. My relief was profound – I am getting to an age where I am starting to have worrisome question marks, and have a family history that is scary, on multiple fronts. My new GP helped me transition back onto Ritalin, for the first time in years. We had more work to do to tweak my dosage, and she required me to book appointments in 3 month-intervals, for the next year, until we got things just right.

I called the clinic this week to book my next appointment, only to find out that my doctor had decided to go back to school for the next 4 years. She did not transfer my file to any other doctor. I’m back at square one. I still have my question marks. And a prescription for a controlled substance that I currently cannot renew.

Rage. What I feel is rage. I have not forgotten. And I do not forgive either our shit healthcare system, backed by anonymous bureaucrats and passive/corrupt/indifferent/naïve/I-frankly-don’t-give-a-fuck-what-the-right-adjective-is politicians or the doctors that forget/don’t care that their actions change and sometimes end lives.

Try keep up

One of the main things dissuading me from stopping boxing was an overwhelming fear that I’d lose my hard-earned figure. I’ve only learned to be proud of my body, for the first time in my life, within the past 12 months and even at that, my relationship with my body is fractious at best. Yes, I am vain. Deal with it. Being proud of my body is VERY important to me.

I was aware that cutting the number of weekly intense workouts in half would have an impact on my body. I hoped that by continuing to lift very heavy things & do brutal circuits with Coach twice a week, I could maintain most of my muscle mass, and athletic shape. Sure, I anticipated that my body might change, and my overall fitness levels would drop, but I told myself that all the benefits of pursuing new activities, and developing the creative/artistic side to my personality that has been neglected for far too long would outweigh the physical downsides. Rationally, I still believe the trade-off to be worthwhile. Emotionally, however… I’m finding this hard. Its been a month since I stopped boxing. So far, by carefully adapting my dietary requirements, I have avoided putting on any weight. Work stress has acted as an unanticipated appetite suppressant. I’ve actually lost 5 lbs, without noticing any significant decrease in my strength and lifts. This is good news, yeah? Well…

Yesterday, at salsa, I looked good. Tight red pants, black high heels, fabulous top. I was feeling the music and ALMOST wiggling my hips. Until I noticed Beaut observing me with a perplexed air. “Vanilla… I think… I’m pretty sure… your butt shrank.” Impossible: since birth, I’ve been blessed with a lot of junk in my trunk. I am proud of the booté. I work hard for the booté to be perky and pleasant. “Ok, maybe I am wrong Vanilla, and it is just the cut of your pants… but nope. I’m pretty sure the space occupied by your bum has decreased.”

Y’all. Do you know how hard it is to dance salsa while peering into the mirror to see all possible angles of one’s posterior chain? I totally crashed into my partners, multiple times, because of my distracted, upset state.

During a break, I confided to Beaut that not only did I think he might be right, but that this had totally overset me. “Vanilla, what did you expect? You stopped training. Your body will change.” I admitted I had lost weight. “See, good! It shows! This is a good thing, right? You decreased your training, and have kept your weight under control! Nice.” Well, no, not if I am going to have a flat-ass! Consolingly, he reminded me that some men do like skinny bitches. #helpful

Later in class, our salsa teacher showed us an optional move where the guy lifts up his dance partner and spins her in the air. Beaut announced to the class that yeah, no, he would only be trying that with the wee tiny girls. Turning to me, “you’re way too stocky for me to lift you. Don’t even suggest it.” I gave him The Look. “Vanilla, you are 5’9”, and weigh at least 150lbs [I actually weigh 160lbs]. I’m not going to risk injuring myself! Be realistic here.” Beaut noticed my face redden with ill concealed rage (meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye, I could see Teacher watching our interaction with glee – all that was missing was a bucket of popcorn, and Teacher’s entertainment would have been complete), “Women! YOU ARE SO COMPLICATED. First you are upset that I noticed you lost weight and are slimmer and now you are upset that I said you are too heavy for this move. MAKE UP YOUR MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIND.”

I did make up my mind. I made up my mind to NOT chose him as my next dance partner. Hmph. But when we did dance together a few songs later, Beaut surprised me by attempting the move, which we executed with the grace and skill of two hippos dancing on pointe.

So yeah. I definitely reinforced every man’s knee-jerk reaction to tread very carefully whenever mentioning a woman’s weight. When it comes to navigating my body’s changes throughout this period of transition, Imma be THE female stereotype. #noshame #ridiculous

I'm one step away from being this girl...

I’m one step away from being this girl…

 

Grateful to have a headache 

Every morning for the past month, I’ve woken up with a headache. It’s awful. Take your normal “I don’t wanna get outta bed” and add the physical sensation of being nailed to your pillows through your forehead. Is it any wonder that I’m always late for work?! The first 10 days of waking up with a marching band in my skull were scary. I became convinced I had brain cancer, because what other explanation could there be? It wasn’t dehydration, because I was drinking enough water to fill a bathtub. Obviously, it must be cancer. I’ve always felt I was destined to die young.

At a girls night with DD two weeks ago, I was bitching about work, and this huge project I’m leading, and I mentioned my impending death from brain cancer headaches. DD, who knows me inside out, and is extremely well versed in my anxiety and depression struggles, stared at me. “Vanilla, I’ll come to your funeral if you die from brain cancer, but have you considered that *maybe* these are stress headaches? You don’t exactly manage your stress well in the best of circumstances, so now that your work has levelled up and you’ve quit boxing, avoid being a drama queen and explore plausible causes for your headaches, why don’t ya?”

Lesson learned: DD cures cancer with her wisdom and sarcasm.

So yeah. Stress headaches. Knowing that’s what I am dealing with doesn’t make them any more pleasant. I am under a lot of stress. I am the lead on some big deal high-profile projects at work, and am scared shitless. I do breathing exercises at my desk at least once a day, to stop myself from having a panic attack. If I fail, the consequences for my company and my career are… unpleasant (how’s that for not being a drama-queen, hmmm? Such tempered, moderate vocabulary! Go me!) There’s a permanent vice grip around my heart, relentlessly reminding me of the stakes at hand. It will only disappear once the projects come to term before the holidays.

But here’s the thing: deep down, I’m elated. Because, you see, I haven’t felt this level of work-stress and terrifying fear of failure in 2 years. It has been almost 26 months since I last took on a challenge at work, the kind where there is a solid 40-50% chance I might not be able to pull through and deliver, where there is no safety net because I am putting everything on the line. I hadn’t taken anything on, frankly, because I couldn’t – I was just dialing it in, professionally. I hadn’t adequately recovered from my last depression: I ran away from any pressure because I felt like a fragile glass pane – I was technically keeping it together, but if the load got too heavy to bear, I would shatter. The fact that I am even capable of handling what I am handling is the ultimate proof that I’m back. I’ve missed this version of myself: the smart, ballsy, efficient professional. I’ve missed feeling deep pride in my work. I’ve missed the gnawing fear – because that fear is proof that I am stepping up, and making a real tangible difference. I’ve missed knowing that my work was of a sufficient quality that I can be trusted by senior leadership to plan, develop, implement and successfully roll out a project with no supervision. I’ve missed having my brain as my ally.

Sure, these headaches are a nuissance. I didn’t have them pre-depression. They are a reminder and a warning that I need to manage my mental health seriously: my brain is like an elastic band. Every depression has a cost – I might recover, but my brain loses some of its elasticity. But goddamn, am I ever grateful to be healthy enough to have these headaches.

#iambackbitches

#vanillathebadassprofessional