adulting

3 words that produced an emotional hangover

Rainy night. I picked up a bottle of wine. ICB cooked supper. In all these years since that ancient breakup in 2010, I’ve only had supper made for me twice. The first time was part of Beaut’s grand seduction. The second time, I figured out much later, was because Beaut felt guilty for neglecting me for Main Girl. All these years. All those dating stories. Not one guy felt like sharing a slice of his life with me, without an ulterior goal. Until now.

As usual, the conversation was all over the place: Cardi B, the Pope, feminism, boundaries/invasion of privacy, and then,

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

What is this, an interview? I dunno, I don’t really have goals. I have a dream so big I’ve stopped believing it will happen: moving to Paris. It keeps getting delayed because of my fear and because every time I start to get my shit together, another depression comes along and robs me of 1-2 years of my life.

Ok, fair enough, but if you aren’t sure that it will happen, why don’t you buy yourself a condo? That way you are investing in yourself, and if you leave, rent it out, and if you don’t leave, nothing lost.

I hate these questions. Because. I can’t adult.

What do you mean, you can’t adult?

I don’t have it together to take care of something of value. There is a reason why I don’t have plants or pets: I kill them through neglect and then feel awful. I know myself, I will NEVER take care of any form of real estate, big or small, enough to prevent a loss of value. It took me SEVEN YEARS to go to a dentist. Extrapolate that degree of neglect over the surface area of a small condo vs a few teeth, and you can see why I don’t wanna spend any money on what is gonna turn out to be a self-made bad investment. I live like a college student with a roommate, not because I can’t afford to live alone, but because if I don’t share my space with someone, I will live in a pigsty. Living with someone forces me to do the dishes, to occasionally remember that brooms exist, and most importantly, limit my un-tidyness, out of respect for the other person. But there is no interior decoration, you’d think I moved in 2 weeks ago instead of 3 years ago.

It’s just a matter of discipline. You can do this. Start small, it’s no big deal.

It is tho. I am 34, and this is the best I can do. It isn’t sexy. It isn’t admirable. That is what my shadow does, even when I am doing ok. It takes all my energy. All I have left is funneled into my job which I love, it gives me purpose and identity.The bit of energy I do have left, I use to try show up to my friends and family. I can’t do better.

Can we change topics now? I don’t like showing you the underbelly of my despair, boy. I am ashamed of it, and it is not attractive. I like you enough to want you to think well of me. Please. Let’s talk about the weather.


Helping ICB on a project of his, because I can, and because I love discovering the odd quirks and personality traits that come from watching him do something.

He disappears into his bedroom and reappears with a laptop bag. He takes out the few items stored in it. Checks that it is in pristine condition. Fidgets, nervously.

Vanilla, I’d like for you to have this. You lug around that big bag, it’s falling apart. See how light and lean this bag is? Look at the reinforced shoulder strap for when you walk home after one of your long days at the office, it won’t cut into your skin the way your bag does. All these compartments that don’t make it bulky, you’ll be able to store your books and notes neatly. I know you are very worried about an eventual theft of the confidential info on your laptop, so see how you can add one of those mini locks to the zipper? Your bag’s zipper is broken, you are walking around with a ginormous open purse. It’s not suitable for someone in your role. This bag is lighter and slicker. Yes? It will be good for you.

He waits. I look at my old computer bag, discarded in the entry. I bought it in 2012, a couple of months after my mother’s death, in anticipation of my first professional trip to Paris, the first of many trips to that city that always helps me see the colors. It is a tired bag, misshapen, with peeling pleather. I should have retired it 2-3 years ago, but I never noticed. It was still doing its job. I look at ICB. In that moment he reminds me of my Baba, who never let anyone she cared about leave her house without giving them something she thought could be useful to them, be it new or used. She was always on the lookout for ways to practically increase their well-being, in small ways. Humbly.

8 years. Not one gift from a boy. Flowers on a first date, once. No Christmas presents, no birthday presents, and never, not ever, an unbirthday present.

Sometimes “Thank you” is inadequate.


Time for me to leave. Kiss goodbye. ICB references the earlier convo.

Vanilla, if you think of your home as am extension of yourself, it becomes easier to care for it. Just like you enjoy taking of yourself, nice clothes, good style, jewelry, and making yourself pretty every morning, you’ll feel better if your home is beautiful.

Bro, you have it all wrong. I don’t enjoy making myself pretty every day, haven’t for over a year bc of the Great Depression of 2017-2018. I shower because I workout and sweat too much. All my clothes date from 2-10 years ago, bc shopping gives me panic attacks and anxiety. Yes, it’s true, I usually look well put together, but that is because I only buy very easy to maintain, well cut, flattering clothes – it’s worth spending a bit more effort/money when I do shop to make sure the clothes are solid, so that I don’t have to think in the mornings when getting dressed. I also can get away with minimal effort because I have a good silhouette – I’m in pretty good shape because I try (but have been failing lately) to workout 2-4 times a week for my mental health. So clothes look good on me. I’ve let my hair grow out, because it is much easier to do simple updos that look classy and neat but don’t require me to dry my hair or style it. Most days I remember to put on mascara, at the office, after 1-2 morning coffees. That isn’t me taking pleasure in my appearance – that is me doing the bare minimum to avoid looking too unprofessional or sloppy, and taking advantage of the fluke of my genetics to look better than I deserve. I’m way too tired to invest in my appearance, and it shows, and I know how it impacts people’s impression of me, but I just can’t find the energy to try harder.

Seriously, Vanilla, you are so hard on yourself. Believe in yourself a bit more. You know, from time to time, it helps to say “I am beautiful, I am smart, I am capable.”

His tone was light, slightly teasing. I stayed silent. How to explain that I get that it looks easy, but honestly, I am trying as hard as I can, and I. just. can’t.

Go on. Say it. “Je suis belle. Je suis intelligente. Je suis capable.”

Hoping ICB would let it drop, I laughed and said, “Bro, I am fucking smart”.

No, Vanilla. 3 words. Say it. “Je suis belle. Je suis intelligente. Je suis capable.” Say it. I want to hear you say it.

I couldn’t. I lost my words. I couldn’t say anything. And as I watched the smile in his eyes fade to concern, I started to cry.

No, Vanilla. Please don’t cry. Please believe it. “Je suis belle. Je suis intelligente. Je suis capable.” Go on. Say it. Please say it. Come with me – look at yourself in this mirror, don’t you see what I see? You are so beautiful, your smile is contagious. You are smart, your company invests in you despite your legendary lack of punctuality, your team loves you and looks up to you. You are competent, people are always coming to you for help. Look at yourself. Can’t you see it? Say it. “Je suis belle. Je suis intelligente. Je suis capable.” Say it with me. Please, say it with me.

My tears turned into sobs. ICB stood beside me, holding my hands, waiting patiently, comfortingly, repeating the mantra every few minutes. I don’t know how much time passed until, embarrassed that ICB witnessed my ugly cry, and really needing to blow my nose, I whispered “I am beautiful, I am smart, I am capable.”

Good girl. Say it again. Loudly. I want to hear it.

FFS. This is cheesy and awful, and dammit, as far as vulnerability goes, this SUCKS. I never reveal my bottomless pit of pain and shame to anyone, much less myself. I wasn’t even aware that it had such a grip over me. Fine. FINE. “I am beautiful, I am smart, I am capable.”

Like it was no big deal, ICB smiled as he watched me blow my nose thoroughly, gave me a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a slap on the ass and accompanied me out the door.


I feel hungover. Mildly concussed.

But as I enjoy some emergency recovery cuddles with Mimi, we both agree: ICB is good people.

Empathy’s the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.

Brené Brown, Listening to Shame, Ted 2012

I am still ashamed. But somehow, my shame feels less crippling than before.

Advertisements

I mismanaged my mush

If that isn’t the perfect blog post title, I dunno what is.

As I mentioned, the hardest part of having my wisdom teeth removed has been the lack of real food. I am not a fan of starvation. Despite a fully recovered appearance, my mouth remains extremely tender. I can only handle mush. And it turns out that mush requires a certain forethought. For someone who never cooks and only buys bougie packaged meals at the grocery store or the cafeteria, that is a problem. My entire approach to nutrition is based on making reasonably healthy choices at a moment’s notice, with whatever is immediately available to me. Now I am forced to not only think about it, but in most cases exert some effort in the preparation of the consumables. And yes, I consider adding a scoop of protein powder to a bowlful of yogurt to be effort – because that means making sure I have access to yogurt AND packing a serving of protein power AND finding a spoon. SO. MUCH. WORK.

Thursday I stayed at work late, missing my chance to go to the grocery store and get one of their delicious custom soups for lunch the next day. Friday at work, I ran out of instant oatmeal. Oye. I didn’t see the time fly, and by the time I made it to the cafeteria for lunch, they were closing shop. I got a bowl of their vegetable broth. Oye. By 4pm, I was light-headed from hunger. My coworkers offered me snacks, but no-go: granola bars, nuts, carrots and dip… non-mush. No bueno. By 6pm, I gave up. I had spent 3 hours typing a total of 7 sentences. The brain could not function. I admitted defeat. Time to go home and eat.

Convo with TooWhite on my way to the grocery store

It’s a well known adage to never do grocery shopping when hungry. But doing grocery shopping while hungry and UNABLE TO EAT ANY FOOD? Awful.

I settled on a lentil stew (not soup! Woohoo, big girl food!), some freshly pressed fruit smoothies, and for dessert, prune yogurt. I like prune yogurt. I find it tastes like what chocolate yogurt should taste like.

I inhaled the lentil stew.

2 fruit smoothies? Disappeared.

I was still hungry. I knew I was probably not THAT hungry, it was just my body refusing to catch up to calories I’d just consumed, so I drank a gallon of water.

Still hungry. 5 days of only liquids and mush, and my stomach wanted that full feeling of satiation that only happens from chewing REAL FOOD. Preferably with animal fat. #Icouldneverbeavegan.

I tried distracting myself by watching a Netflix special of my favorite French comedian, Fary (check him out, he is so deliciously sarcastic). Still hungry.

As I began watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, I ate a hefty serving of prune yogurt. Yum. So enthralled was I by the difficulties of a choreographed lip sync battle on roller skates with luscious wigs, that I didn’t notice that I served myself second serving. Then a third. The entire container of prune yogurt. In my belly.

I felt satiated for the first time in a week.

2 episodes later, I felt the apartment shake. An earth quake? Odd. Rumble rumble. Not an earthquake. My innards.

I will refrain from describing what happened as my body rid itself of the lentils and juice and water and prune yogurt. There were multiple supplications and exclamations to the Porcelain Bowl gods. Cold sweats. Shattered morale. A dehydration headache.

I definitely mismanaged my mush.

Maybe I need a selfie-stick?

Bc this is what happens when I try take a sexy selfie.


All of the puffy eyes and dark circles.

This workation to France (Toulouse/Paris/Nîmes) has been intense. My silence is caused by an excess of stories – some good, some bad, some very funny. Rather than say too much, I’m taking my time to work through my tangled jumble of thoughts and emotions; most of these stories merit serious consideration as to the appropriate degree of care, discretion and privacy required to avoid unnecessary drama and betrayal. I’ll resume posting upon my return to Montreal early this week.

However, lest you believe my silence is all bad, here are a few pics from this evening, my last on this trip. Nîmes, in the South of France has some of the best preserved ruins from the Roman Empire. Below, pics from Nimes’ Jardins des Plantes. These were take between 8-9pm. So bright!

 

Growing up in Canada, I always believed fans, of the handheld variety, to be decorations representative of a by-gone era. Imagine my surprise in Toulouse &Nîmes, seeing women AND men fanning themselves in the scorching, exhausting summer sun. Stores sell fans everywhere similar to how drugstore sell umbrellas in North America: the expectation is that people require one to survive the hot months.

I relied on my new fan quite heavily to survive my dancing nights in Nîmes.

Last but not least, my supper view:

It’s hard to write meaningful words when surrounded by such beauty.

Memory box

Growing up, my mother encouraged me to keep a memory box of all cards and letters I received from friends and family, because she told me I would cherish the memories one day. Because she was my Ma, and I took her word as Law, I religiously kept all such items as a child.

I became slacker in adolescence, and to my eternal regret, I stopped when I moved out at 19. There are some cards she gave me in my twenties that I would give anything to find again, but I lost them during all my moves, and my carelessness.

Tuesday, after my bad day, when I was desperately searching for something to comfort and anchor me, I opened up the Memory Box for the first time since she died. I found so many treasures there, including her letter to me, aged thirteen-minus-two and this one:

Jan 19, 1995

Good Morning Miss Bingi,

Shake yourself awake little girl!!!

It’s a new day and how hard you work now will make all the difference in your tests today. Wake me as soon as you need quizzing. Say “Ma, I need you! It’s important, my old mom.”

Yours truly,

Sosipatra Hoggstub

P.S. Nightmares Mimi is having tonight:

  • Oh no! MacDonald’s Mimiburger
  • Oh no! MacDonald’s Mimihotdog
  • What’s next? Mimi Pizza?

(For a full introduction to Mimi, my childhood bestfriend and teddybear, read When you are having a bad day… and Where I rediscover that Mimi is fidèle.)

I have countless such handwritten notes that she’d leave on the kitchen table for me to find when I’d wake up. Some are whimsical (Sosipatra Hoggstub?! Straight outta Harry Potter, before Harry Potter even existed), some are irritated, some are forgiving, all are written with so much love. Due to her terrible health and pain conditions, she often had trouble falling asleep, sometimes only dozing off at 5am, after my father had woken to go to work. Yet, she always wanted me to wake her in case I needed extra help prepping for school.

What a mama.


Today is my father’s 67th birthday. My old man is off gallivanting in Moscow and St-Petersburg with some friends. He is enjoying his retirement, which given how hard he worked his whole life… is a very good thing.

A tribute to my old man

Happy birthday, Pops!

Guess what? Watering pots are still not useful

I bet y’all thought I would rant and rave about Trump. I won’t, for now. There isn’t much to say. There is a lot to read, and I strongly recommend this and this article about macro factors that are changing the Western political landscape.

Nah, if I’ve been mostly silent, it is due to being over-worked, having little time to write about my very limited social life and too stressed to notice details and funny anecdotes. I have had a lot to think over in my personal life, but most of it involves others, and navigating both my feelings and the individuals’ right to privacy is complicated. Great opportunities for growth and development, but useless as far as blog material.

Still. Here is a short rant.

Remember Porcupine? My darling Porcupine, who reminds me of my mother? I’ve worked through my failures as a friend, my own mental health is stronger, so wtv hiccups previously polluted our friendship are now irrelevant.

I’ve often observed, in my own life and in others, that Life forces us through the same lesson over and over again, until we learn it, accept it and change. But with every repeat, the consequences are bigger, the damage to oneself and others is aggravated, there is a cost. Life loves to bring us to our knees and keep us there. At the time it seems senseless. But like a parent trying to discipline a child, for the child grow into the best version of itself, Life too disciplines us if we but are open to the lessons. Except unlike a loving parent, Life is a bitch, with no empathy. The link too between the change that needs to happen and the format of the lesson is often unclear and confusing – bad parenting, right there! Maybe that is why Life lessons hurt so bad, yet are impossible to forget.

Porcupine is now facing the fallout of a hybrid Life lesson & Universe Bolt of Bullshit. Not wee consequences, but big consequences. Electing-Trump-as-President-the-future-has-forever-changed consequences. It breaks my heart. His anger at the universe has disappeared. Now I sense remorse, grief and sorrow. Sorrow for the possible pain that this Life lesson might inflict on his daughter, his baby girl, the light of his life.

I can’t convey or convince you that Porcupine is a good man. One who has done things he regrets, like us all, just trying to stumble through life to the best of his ability. But he is a man that loves deeply and faithfully. Whose intentions are good and kind. His close friends are the sort I’d be proud to introduce to my parents, not because of any accomplishments, but because of their characters and values. I don’t know why the Universe is so intent on him learning this particular Life lesson, but to see him suffer, the kind of suffering that can only be done alone, makes me cry. I spent my whole life watching my mother suffer. She too frequently embodied remorse, grief and sorrow. She too was a flawed individual, yet she was undeniably a good, loving woman, who brought joy to those who knew her.

Apparently the Universe does not deem “bringing joy to others” as enough to exempt my mother and Porcupine from their share (more than their fair share?) of Life lessons and suffering.

Adulting sucks.

I’m still a watering pot.

Halloween vs a high school reunion: are they any different, really?

It is my 15-year high school reunion tonight. FIFTEEN. That’s a long time. I’m old. I’m old as fuck. OYE.

I am no longer friends with any of the girls I went to school with. This is a reasonable outcome from my experience in high school: I didn’t have any crazy close friends, even though I enjoyed several good relationships, nor was I made to be miserable by any of my schoolmates. Other than a rough start for the first 2 years (+/- = middleschool for all you Americans), high school was painless experience for me. Maybe because I had too much going on at home, with my perma crippled state and my volcanic teenage relationship with my mother; I kept my schoolmates at friendly arm’s length (even then, I was ambivalent about vulnerability!) and viewed school as a drama free space. All my friendships faded within 5 years of graduation. Still, I’m looking forward to catching up with the girls (I went to an all-girl school run by nuns). From what I can see, many/most of them are married with children. Social media lies, of course, but the ones I follow seem happy.

When I graduated high school, I assumed that by 30, I’d be married, probably with kids, a house in the ‘burbs, and some job in science. Turns out I striked out on all 3 counts. I don’t have much to show for my years, other than a solid career that is by no means stellar. I remember a time when such thoughts would have filled me with shame, but instead, today, as I reflect on my life these past 15 years, I feel pride.

And that brings me to last year’s Halloween. During that weekend, I met Strawberry who, in the subsequent months, played a small but pivotal role in my comfort with my identity as a writer (we still communicate regularly, and keep the acquaintance alive). I went to a boxing party where I spoke to Beaut for the first time. I went to another party where I made out with a guy, ending my 17-month sexual fast. Looking back on that weekend, it marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life. When I think of all that has happened since then… I am amazed. Beaut happened: for all the emotional roller-coaster, I don’t regret anything. His worldview challenged mine; it is thanks to him that I am pursing my writing with more conviction; he pushed me to take up dancing, which brings me so much joy. I travelled to Beirut, for my best friend’s wedding. I travelled to France for work and pleasure. I stopped therapy, after 20 months; and despite some tricky moments, and resurgence of some symptoms, I have been managing my mental health all by myself, with success. Lately, I’ve put my career back in high-gear; its been a thrill to realize Smart Vanilla is back. My friends are amazing, constantly reminding me that I am dearly loved.

For the first time, I can say that I live life to the fullest. I’ve had good and bad moments. I have made mistakes. But, after 12 months of taking risks, some of which paid off, and some didn’t, I can look back at what I’ve done and be proud that I tried. I might not have anything concrete to show for the past 15 years, other than the battlescars of life, but these scars remind me of the moments where my spirit almost broke… but didn’t. I’m still here and I am happy. I have my spirit and my smile.

Who’d have thought that a high school reunion and Halloween weekend would trigger such strong emotions of gratitude and contentment?!

A watering pot is not useful

As we all know, the Universe sometimes is a dick. Like, a Donald Trump kind of dick. In fact, Donald Trump’s very existence is PROOF that the Universe enjoys shitting on people for no good reason. Haphazard diarrhea, discharged over random people’s lives, at unforeseeable moments. Life is always a bit unfair, but sometimes the Universe really wants to make it very clear that life is nothing but a game of luck, and some people are just meant to drown in misery inflicted on them by the Universe’s twisted sense of humor.

Often, I think my mother was one of them. I mean, it was almost comical her unending list of painful, life-threatening diagnoses, from the age of 14 until her death, as though the Universe was trying to see just how much it would take to break her spirit and her will to live. The longer her spirit held out, the more cruel the diagnoses she’d receive. She never had a break, that one. Not once. There never was a woman less deserving of the fate the Universe gave her. After a life trying to break free of the confines of her crippled, painful, walking pharmacy lifestyle, the Universe just snapped its fingers and took her from us one night, with no warning.

The Universe was definitely a complete asshole, when it came to my mother’s life.

After her death, my therapist diagnosed me with mild PTSD caused by the stress of living with my mother’s health – the constant helplessness in the face of her health, the fear every time I’d see the caller ID flash at an unusual time, wondering if that would be the moment I got unspeakable news.

Well, one of my dearest friends, Porcupine, seems to have been designated as the newest lightning rod for the Universe’s bolts of utter bullshit. His is not my story to tell, but suffice it to say that at a youngish age (<35) he is on par, if not perhaps ahead of my mother, in the race of Absolutely Terrible Things Happening For No Goddamn Good Reason. I’m not talking about comically unfortunate things, like toasters that breakdown after 1 year’s usage, an abnormal number of parking tickets or perhaps plumbing issues resulting in a few insurance claims. I’m talking about out-of-the-blue betrayals – the kind of backstabbing that permanently changes the path of a career and leaves a significant financial burden; real racism – the kind that leaves scars; and other events that till I met him, I believed only happened in implausible, poorly scripted Hollywood generic movies.

As with my mother, I feel helpless, and heartbroken. Porcupine is a good man – sometimes prickly on the outside, as a reasonable evolutionary defense mechanism after all the Universe has thrown at him. But he is sweet, kind, and generous. I watch him fight with courage and perseverance against the injustices he is faced with, and I support and cheer him on, feeling irrelevant, and hoping I am not irritating him. I mourn when I see the scars forming in his spirit. When there are so few good people in this world, it boggles my mind that the Universe tries to wreck the ones that do bring sweetness and joy to others lives. Break Trump, why don’t ya? Leave Porcupine alone.

From a selfish point of view, I hate this. I hate not being able to help. I hate watching Porcupine, and my mother before him, suffer. I want to suffocate him with love, and am perpetually torn between the desire to shower him with affection, and the realization that really, that would only make ME feel better, and would probably irritate him, and be perceived as another burden – he’d have to reassure me, when really there are no reassurances for the stuff he is living through. Worse yet, I don’t want to give the impression I pity him – I don’t. So I sit back, give space, and hope that through his misery, my love and concern for him peep through – and if they don’t, I accept that really, that isn’t a big deal.

From a sentimental, superstitious point of view, I petition my mother to look out for him. Kinda like a Patronus Charm in Harry Potter, I hope she can shield him from the inferno of his life.

Life sucks. And my coping mechanisms (crying endlessly, like a watering pot) are inadequate.

#adultingisoverrated

#thisisshit