dating

Closure and forgiveness

A few weeks after Phase 6 feels like mourning and confusion, things with Hickster reached an all-time low. I’ve cut off +/- all contact with him, keeping just enough to monitor the situation from afar, because I sometimes wonder if it will one day go legal. Paranoid? Probably. But I am first and foremost an accountant aka #riskaverse and a business woman aka #riskmanagement. (Yes, I am those things EVEN in my personal relationships.) So imma consider the worst case scenario, and be prepared for it #justincase.

I’ve been working hard to not let this drama poison my ongoing recovery. As Dynamo once told me, about an entirely different guy,

So this is what you are gonna do. You are going to unfriend him from social media, block him, and never talk to him again. He lied to you. He has lied to others. He has repeatedly shown that he will hurt you as a side-effect to him getting something he wants. He can have all the good quantities you describe, all that is true. You have forgiven him, bc you should not hold hatred in your heart. But he is not a good friend. And so he deserves nothing from you. No time, no energy, no space in your life. That isn’t being a drama queen, that is choosing to control the levels of drama and happiness in your life. To chose happiness you MUST not choose drama.

And just like that, after 15 months, Beaut was back top of mind. I cannot work through Hickster’s gaping wounds unless I acknowledge the many parallels between the two relationships and the common denominator: me. I must learn all the lessons from these two experiences to make sure I never find myself in another harmful relationship. Which of my deep insecurities did these guys successfully use to their advantage? By being aware of them and working to address them, I can avoid repeating the same patterns in the future.

I’ve always found the action of blocking someone on social media and ignoring them in real life incredibly savage. Sure, when the hurt is just too much, it is better to deny a person’s existence than to obsess over them unhealthily, going mad with unhelpful comparisons, low-key stalking, self-inflicting worry and anxiety. Blocking Beaut was necessary for me to have the space get over him, but I found it incompatible with forgiveness. Continuously denying the existence of a person, even on social media, is a deliberate action. It is a choice to erase any memory of them in your life. It implies unresolved pain and an inability to handle the complexities of human interaction. About 6 months after blocking Beaut, I cautiously unblocked him. Seeing his posts flit through my newsfeed gave me satisfaction: he was still trucking along, trying his bumbling best. He might be repeating some of the same mistakes, but nevertheless, he was fighting the good fight. I’d forgiven him.

When I felt myself forced to cut off contact with Hickster, I had an overwhelming impulse to reach out to Beaut. Through his social media, I was aware that his relationship with Main Girl Girlfriend had fallen apart. I wondered. Was this some repressed need to self-sabotage and create drama? I sounded all areas of my heart, but found nothing twisted or painful. I invited him to join me at a dance event, at the same school where we used to take salsa classes together. When he showed up, I was so happy to see him. He was happy to see me. He looked good. We talked a bit, catching up on 15 months of life events, we danced a fair bit, and he eventually left after exchanging the customary and meaningless mutual noises of goodwill and keeping in touch. A weight I didn’t even know I’d been carrying for the past 2.5 years has been lifted. I’ve forgiven myself.


Petty post notwithstanding, I’ve been following Main Girl Girlfriend Ex-Girlfriend’s blog on and off since I first found out about it.

It started from a place of insecurity: what did she have that I didn’t? What made her sweeter, kinder, more appealing, better able to withstand the pain that came from dealing with Beaut? Was she a manipulator playing Beaut better than he was playing her?

Then, as my hurt began to fade, it continued from curiosity and a sense of being bonded to her. We’d shared the same guy for so long, had too many Facebook conversations on his wall (I cringe at how obvious I was in competing for his attention to anyone viewing his profile #nodignity), even meeting each other once, that our #funnynotfunny nickname for each other was SisterWives. I’d always liked her, despite myself – she was an AMAZING mother, full of love and compassion, funny, sassy, open-minded and kind. So I continued to read, wondering if maybe this time Beaut would get his head out of his ass and recognize the love of a good woman before he torpedoed the relationship the way he had with so many others. I hoped so, for his sake.

As I got embroiled with Hickster and began cycling through the rollercoaster of passion and emotional abuse, I continued to read. I recognized so much of myself in her: the doubts, confusion, fear, justifications and love. I hoped that her’s would be a much happier ending than my own. I saw the tell-tale signs of mental anguish and I felt our bond grow stronger. I continued to read, as I navigated my depression. One day this spring, she wrote about her love for her son and the letters she wrote to him on an almost daily basis. It squeezed my heart – I still cherish the handwritten notes my mother wrote to me growing up (here and here). So I left her a comment, to tell her as much. Some things are more important than petty appearances of indifference.

As Main Girl Girlfriend Ex-Girlfriend Bright Light began to write of her attempts to piece back her life after the breakup, it became harder to not comment. So many of her struggles and reflections were identical to the ones that I’d been working through because of Hickster. Eventually, I couldn’t stop myself. Her posts were a mix of confusion and shame. And if there is one thing I am familiar with, it is shame.

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

Me too, Bright Light. Me too. You got this. You will find peace, and you will forgive yourself.

She wrote recently about the similar feeling of solidarity she shares with me, and how my comments have helped her on her journey to healing. In that post, she renamed me Rainbows, fully conscious of my struggle to see the colors.

It feels like absolution.

On days where I am too confused, hurt and tired to continue fighting against my brain, I tell myself I owe it to all the ppl who have invested themselves in my recovery: the public healthcare system, my coworkers, my friends, my family, ICB and now Bright Light.

I got this. I will find peace, and I will forgive myself.

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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.

All of the colors in Paris

Sunday. Landed in Paris, took a quick nap, then off I went for a little bit of solo-sightseeing. Y’all. There are SO many tourists in Paris during the summer months. No, I do not think of myself as a tourist. I am an invited guest. A wannabe Frenchie. Obvi.

ANYHOW.

I stopped by la Sainte Chapelle for the first time since 2012 to stare at the beautiful stained glass windows. Then I skipped over a few blocks to attend Mass at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. An organ. A skilled choir. Pomp and circumstance. Mozart! A very French archbishop cracking very French jokes that only a small percentage of attendees understood, because Mass at Notre-Dame is packed with hundreds of Christian tourists from every corner of the earth. During Mass, Notre-Dame is no longer a historical monument, but a living breathing space where people find solace from their grief and pray for salvation. There is something very humbling about uttering the same prayers that have been said by thousands of people for the past 7 centuries. The current emotions mingle with those that fill the walls of that sacred place.

Sunday night, as is my habit, I went to the Louvre. The contrast of the modern art (pyramids) and the old grandeur is magical, preventing the Louvre from merely being a fancy building that hosts a vast quantity of antiques. It is anchored in our current day world.

That statue reminds me that this used to be a real palace with carriages and horses stomping their hooves impatiently amongst the bustling activity.

In case you are wondering, all the pics in this post were taken with my iPhone 8. And other than this pic and the next pic below, all pics in this post were taken solely by me. ICB helped me get the right composition for this one. Filters applied by me.

Usually, the passage way to the courtyard is deserted. On Sunday, there was a very talented cellist playing Bach’s cello suites. I stopped to listen for 15 minutes. The cello was my mother’s favorite instrument: my father’s wedding present to her was a cello + music lessons, which she never got to take advantage of because of her health that began to fail almost immediately after their marriage. It took her years to sell the cello. She liked looking at it, she said. What a mama. A mama that never got to see the Louvre. Who never got to see much, yet who gave me everything so that I could live my best life. Since her death, I’ve been sent to Paris 9 times for work. I felt so much joy and sorrow, standing in that courtyard, listening to that music, my heart tried to break through my body. Instead, I cried.

That is me, on the left, hiding behind the column. I didn’t want to distract the cellist with my tears. I was unaware that I was in ICB’s line of vision.

I’ve been listening to Elgar’s Enigma Variations on repeat this trip since Sunday night. #perfect #mood.


Monday, I stopped by the Jardins des Tuileries before (8:30pm) and after supper (10:00pm).

Unfortunately this pic doesn’t capture the brilliant blue skies, which I could barely see because of the bright sun.

Jardins des Tuileries is an oasis in the middle of Paris. Joggers at all hours, families with preschoolers, tourists, people taking naps in the lawn chairs around the fountain, business people taking a break for icecream, students reading books in the shade. These gardens are where Parisians find shelter from the hustle of the city. I’ve never seen it so quiet and peaceful as it was on Monday at 10:00pm.

That sky tho. NO FILTER. Let me write that one more time. NO. FILTER.

No filter AND so peaceful a pelican came and hung out with me.

Laters, dude. Also, would y’all LOOK at that sky.

As the pelican took flight to new discoveries, I decided it was time to lead ICB through Paris, to discover the Eiffel Tower. With the beautiful weather, and vivid skies, there would be many opportunities for spectacular pictures.


Spectacular doesn’t begin to cover it. It is a 40 minute walk from the Jardins des Tuileries to the Place Trocadero, according to Google. It took us over 2 hours because we kept stopping to take pictures. The number of times I heard ICB triumphantly exclaim, “That’s it! I am never taking a picture ever again in my life. Would you look at this shot? It is PERFECTION.”

That is Paris for ya. Perfection in beauty.

Oh hey, guess what. Yup. NO FILTER. Can you imagine walking by views like this daily?

As we walked, I talked. I told ICB of how Paris saved me following my mother’s death, when I was badly stuck in my grief. Of how I feel like I am coming home, every time I come to Paris. How I feel like I belong here, like a missing part of my identity is found as I walk through its streets.  How in Paris, I feel fully alive, being surrounded by such beauty encourages me to strive to find my own – because there is nothing more beautiful than being fully myself.

Paris is a CROWDED city. And yet, the power of it’s beauty is so strong that you just have to look around to see moments of peace and serenity.

We finally made it to Place Trocadero. We spent almost an hour there, in silence, soaking up the atmosphere. Sitting on the steps of the Place, listening to the talented street musicians sing pop songs in French accents, children laughing, adolescents flirting in the background. We ate box of macarons. ICB took 200 pictures of the Eiffel Tower, from every possible angle. As I sat back and watched him work, I felt deep contentment. Here I was, 24 hours from my birthday, seeing and feeling colors. All of the colors. What’s more, I’ve been feeling colors, intermittently but with increasing frequency, since beginning May. I am getting better. One year, day for day from the start of this vicious episode of depression, I am on my way to remission. I survived. Normally I feel depression strips me of so much of my life, time just slips through my helpless fingers, month after month, year after year. But as I watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle on Tuesday night, I felt gratitude. As Rainbow once told me, surviving deep pain and suffering opens us up to the capacity to see “all of the colors, so very brightly. It can be overwhelming sometimes, and tiring. But I wouldn’t trade the beauty that I can now see for anything.”

My depressions might steal from me the ability to see colors for long stretches of time… But my depressions make me kinder, more compassionate, and much more willing to take risks and live during those brief moments when my shadow is sleeping. Here I was in Paris, working at my dream job, accompanied by a guy I barely knew. Despite a bumpy start, we were having a total blast. I was enjoying every single moment without trying to determine anything about the future or what this means for “us” – who cares, really? This trip was a trip of memories and happiness, time well spent. I was taking the lessons I’d learned in Toulouse last year, and applying them in the best possible way.

I sat on those steps, under a sparkling Eiffel Tower, and cried tears of happiness and gratitude.


Yesterday was my birthday.

ICB surprised me with this present.

Vanilla, I know you slide into a world of no color, of black and white and grey. I know you find it hard, that it makes you suffer. Paris is your happy place, where you feel alive and see clearly. I want you to have this, so when things are not going well, you can look at it and remember those colors that you can and sometimes do see. I want you to remember the colors. I want you to see them.

Kindness, y’all. Wrecks me everytime.

There have been a lot of tears on this trip. For the first time in a long long time, these were the best kind of tears.

All of the colors.

All of them.


Previous Paris posts:

A Parisian pickle, ice cream melt and fatigued

ICB. Anyone who makes it past 3 dates gets his own page in the dating section of this blog. #doesnthappenfrequently

For 3rd year in a row, work is sending me to Paris for my birthday week. Yay! It just so happened ICB had a week off work at the same time, with no set plans. On a whim, I suggested he buy himself a plane ticket and join me. I didn’t think he’d do it, not really. He didn’t think he’d do it, not really. 3 weeks ago, he did it. We are leaving this Saturday. Imma work 12 hours a day, he will vacation 12 hours a day, and in the evenings we will meet up for a nice walkabout and a meal, and listen to each other’s stories.


Something is up with ICB. There’s been a sharp decrease in his texting over the past 2 weeks. I’d gotten used to his daily “Bon matin” texts, asking me how I’d slept. Last week he went 2.5 days without messaging me. I finally caved and asked him if he was ok. He had a lot going on he said, his silence was unintentional. 1-2 sentences later, he politely dismissed me. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is to never run after a guy. At best, they will allow the attention bc they are too lazy to refuse it (#freepussy #flattering); at worst, it will annoy them and they will ghost and whatever might have been is choked to death. So I accepted his dismissal and continued with my busy life. Friday, ICB called me at work to check up on me. Friday night, he asked to see me. We had a good time, although I did notice he was less chatty than before; he was tired from work, he said. Saturday, I told him how the silences of the week had made me feel – off balance, although I recognize he hates texting and has a lot going on. He agreed we’d find a better way. Ok. We would. Great.

Crickets this week. Unacknowledged messages of dancing events taking place in Paris. Hyperbolic delays in answering me. He’d warned me this would be a big week for him, but still. It’s hard to reconcile this version of ICB with the ICB who set an alarm for himself at 2:50am so he could call me to make sure I wouldn’t miss my 6am flight. My paranoid brain shakes herself awake. Reminds me of the time I convinced myself Beaut had a wife he kept hidden in his closet. Reminds me how it turns out I wasn’t far off. “Trust your gut” my paranoid brain whispers. I did tell ICB, in explicit detail, about my episodes of cognitive distortion. “Yes, yes it’s good you are so open about your mental health struggles. Best he find out now, so he can bail before either one of you gets attached. Because he will bail, it’s too much to handle.” I tell myself he can’t really be ghosting me – we are getting on the plane in 36 hours. “Yes well, now that he has gotten what he wanted out of you – a severely discounted trip to Paris, with a side dish of sex – why would he still pay attention to you? I thought you learned after the last dude that you shouldn’t try buy a dude’s affection. It never works.”

Y’all. I just wanted a fun trip to Paris. I don’t know how to raise this without sounding SO lame. “Hi, I know you dropped $700 to come hang out in Paris, but ummm, you don’t say Hi or pay enough attention to me.” I beg my brain to ease up just a few more days – I just wanted a fun trip. That’s all. One fun trip. I’ve been looking forward to sharing the anticipation of this trip with ICB. Watching his excitement of discovering a new city, my favorite city. Instead, we haven’t even discussed the logistics of getting to the airport tomorrow. At this point, I’m ready to sit back and see just how far he can take this. We each take our own taxi? Cross paths at the airport? Tempted to call the hotel and switch the reservation to 2 single beds. Then I feel bad: while this is the most extreme episode of shitty texting I’ve witnessed from him, he has always called or resurfaced. Maybe he is just busy. Maybe silence doesn’t mean an absence of thought about me – he can’t have forgotten about Paris, at very least. My paranoid brain smirks. “That is true. He cannot have forgotten about Paris. His silence means you are unimportant to him. Annoying. Just accept it. Your days of smiling are over.”

Seems like a reasonable approach to me.

OR… it could just be the FIFA world cup that is the issue.


I’ve struggled with my birthday for a long time. Adulting isn’t easy.

While I’ve always enjoyed being the center of attention, the past few birthdays have been very bittersweet, starting with my 25th birthday. Every birthday felt like a day of reckoning, where I realized just how far I was from achieving my dreams. With every additional year of reckoning, I felt increasingly stuck by how unsatisfactory my life had become. Sure – I had moments of happiness, but the weeks leading up to each birthday were filled with shame and regrets, as I accumulated years without any significant life events to validate that I was living life to the fullest.

Add to that the guilt and remorse I feel every year since my mother’s death:

My birthday and my mother’s death are forevermore linked in my mind, because on my 28th birthday, I couldn’t be bothered to find time to see my mother – I barely managed to squeeze in a phone call. She died unexpectedly 11 days later, on the day we were supposed to FINALLY see each other. I’m hoping that I’ll one day forgive myself for that. So yeah, the weeks leading up to my bday are also a period where I brace myself for the recurring wave of grief, of which my birthday is merely a foreshadow. It gets stronger the days following my bday, up until the anniversary of her death.

I can feel the increased volatility in my emotions lately, the familiar dread. Yes, spending my bday week in Paris has been a nice distraction these past few years, but the complicated emotions are still running in the background. It doesn’t help that my trip to France last summer was the catalyst to my slide into depression, that got progressively worse throughout the 2nd half of 2017. I am anxious to go back. I have many demons to face. I am hoping that by going to Paris I can close out the chapter of another year of my life stolen from me by my mental health. I want to start fresh. I want to celebrate. I want to hope that I can and will see life in color again, after living in a desaturated reality for the past 12 months.


At work, I’ve noticed a certain rigidity and intensity in my reactions. I am stressed, I am having trouble quietening my mind enough to be productive. I feel a little overwhelmed by my to do list. I am not remotely as prepared for my work trip as I should be and am behind on my Montreal deliverables. My boss has been checking in very frequently, asking me how I am doing and feeling. She typically only does that when she has reason to believe I am not ok. My little GAB sent me an email on Tuesday, asking if I was ok. I wasn’t – I was having a meltdown in the parking lot, hidden away, my favorite place to cry in summer months. GAB admitted to me yesterday that she could tell immediately on Monday morning that I was off, but generously suggested I seemed to be doing a bit better? Yeah, I suppose I am, but that is because I’ve lost the battle against procrastination. #cantwinthemall. I worry that the ppl in my life, professionally and personally, have to pay the price of my unstable mental health, which is unfair. I worry I am slipping back into my bad space of Oct-November. I tell myself that no, it is just a reasonable increase in stress from the fact that I am leveling up, getting better, and taking on more. This is the consequence of being healthier, my ability to take on more. And then I reread my post from December, and I worry. Maybe I bit off more than I could chew?


This is a lot to process. I need a lot of energy to handle all of these emotions. I need to give everything I’ve got.

I’m tired. So very tired.


Previous Paris posts:

Best start ever to a work trip

Other than when work sends me to Paris, which I definitely enjoy, I don’t particularly enjoy work trips. Especially solo work trips. Especially solo work trips to the USA: their politics frustrate me no end, and more importantly, I can’t handle the portion sizes at restaurants. Depending on the location, I’ve gone a week without eating any fresh vegetables because that wasn’t part of the menu at the restaurants. It’s not so much a question of gaining weight, even though I inevitably do during a week-long trip. It’s the bloating, and the constant feeling of fullness, and the icky digestion, that comes from eating in restaurants non stop. Add to that the time constraints that prevent exercising as much, if at all, as I would normally do at home, and the corresponding strain on my mental equilibrium… Work trips make me feel gross.

I was scheduled to spend 1 week in Tualatin (suburb of Portland), OR this week. I didn’t wanna go. For the reasons stated above, but also because these kind of mandates are rather stressful, and require good planning, focus and delivery. I haven’t been performing anywhere close to my normal output for the past 6 MONTHS. I might be doing and getting better, but I worried that this trip might be too much, too soon. I had never met any of my coworkers at the Tualatin office, so that meant a week of socializing with strangers. To make matters worse, my flight was at 5:30am on Monday (yesterday) morning. Y’all. I am the LEAST morning person EVER. EVAAAAARRRRRRRRRRR. 5:30am! The horror.

All in all, I felt nothing but dread for this trip.

Well.

Guess who called me at 2:50am yesterday morning, to make sure I woke up in time for my 5:30am flight? That’s right. ICB. (Yes, I am behind in my posting, so here is the abridged version: a handful more dates, and a 6 hour drive home from Boston that was one delightful non-stop conversation. He knows that I don’t cook. He knows I don’t drive. He knows I take medication for my ADD and he knows I have depression. He knows I failed out of engineering before graduating top of my class in accounting. He knows about this blog. He knows quite a bit about me, and has not yet run for the hills. What do I know about ICB? Some things, but not many, it’s true. He is a damned reserved man and I am enjoying every layer he peels back, bit by bit. I know that I feel safe with him. I know he makes me smile, so much, so often.)

So. Yeah. 2:50am. I did not hit snooze, I did not fall back asleep. I got outta bed and made my way to the airport. I made my flight. When I teased him as to why he would do such a thing, he explained that he is a lighter sleeper than me, so he figured he should put that to good use. Bruh. 93.7% of the world’s population is a lighter sleeper than me, but they ain’t calling me to make sure I make my early morning flight. Nice try.

Acts of kindness always take my breath away. At the risk of sounding like an autistic alien, kindness is not something that comes naturally to me, nor am I particularly used to receiving. Not sure why, possibly because kindness and vulnerability are siblings, and I do my best to avoid vulnerability always, keeping everyone, including friends and family, at a comfortable safe distance. That’s how I feel least threatened, normally. I’m prickly, like a hedgehog. And because I am prickly, I am not used to being cared for, even momentarily (e.g. Dynamo. Allie. GAB). I am used to clear transactions. Birthdays: gifts. Christmas: gifts. Favors for favors. But kindness? It doesn’t fit into my neat world of debits and credits. But… It fills me with gratitude. Bewilderment. Wonderment. And it makes me smile, so hard.

That ICB. Damn.

And just like that… my trip so far has been really enjoyable. My coworkers are friendly. The weather is beautiful. I’ve chosen to walk to and from the office to the hotel, a beautiful sunshiny hour long walk, each way. With geese.

My hotel is lovely, with a restaurant that has a fairly healthy menu. The portions are not toooooo crazy. I ate breakfast and supper today, skipped lunch, and I didn’t feel like I’d burst or gross.

The skies are the bluest blue. The walks are doing wonders for my mood, and allow me to see the unexpected like this totally non-ironic display of car husks.

2 days down outta 5, I am behind where I should be, but the work is going and I am not panicking. Each day is better than the previous, I am more focused than I have been in ages, and while I might not accomplish everything I should in the established time, I am very grateful to realize I am capable of delivering more than I could 1-2 months ago. Progress.

Not bad for a solo work trip I dreaded with every fiber of my body!

When it’s too cold for ice cream

I know. Not something I ever thought I’d write. But it happened nonetheless.

Two weeks ago, Cute Boy and I were supposed to go for ice cream, an essential component of my wisdom teeth recovery. But Cute Boy mismanaged his work schedule, and bailed last minute. I didn’t particularly mind as I’d fought a bad anxiety attack earlier that afternoon at dance class. I was too tired to feel anything but relief at the unexpected alone time.

The next day, Cute Boy apologized again and requested a second chance. He offered to come pick me up and take me to any one of the incredible ice cream shops in the city. Ok, then. I normally can’t bring myself to care about first dates, especially those that get off to rocky starts. But something about Cute Boy made me willing to take a risk. More importantly, I realized I was looking forward to it. I genuinely wanted to spend time on Cute Boy. I was attracted without being psycho, which is rare – when I crush, I crush intensively and overwhelmingly. Our connection when we danced was really good – I was comfortable letting myself be vulnerable with him as a leader – and he made me laugh. I wanted to spend time with someone who had made me smile. No stress, no pressure, just the expectation of spending a comfortable moment chatting with someone pleasant and easy on the eyes. My unfamiliarity with that feeling made me question it further. I realized the last time I’d gone on a proper date was with Beaut, to the Opera. Y’all, that was in November2015. Almost 2.5 years ago. 2.5 years of my life, spent investing in, and then recovering from, 2 successive dead-end situationships. (#1 = Beaut, blogged about in great detail, #2 = Hickster, barely mentioned because I’m still putting the pieces back together of my life after that destructive trainwreck. Some stories should not be told in real-time.) Two point five years. Approximately 900 days.

900 days since I’d last felt inclined to spend time getting to know someone.

Not gonna lie, that realization made me feel a little sad. Almost like grieving. A chapter of my life that was so turbulent, with so much personal growth, moments of love and thrilling happiness, and so much pain, betrayal and sorrow, was fully over. Not only had I moved on from both Beaut and Hickster, with their familiar yet toxic love, but I had moved on from the comfortable mix of pain and numbness that follows every breakup. Just like the odd disappointment at turning the last page of a good book, I was disoriented that the Beaut/Hickster journey was over. No more sequels, no more anything. I was done and had been for a while: I just hadn’t had the opportunity to realize it. Time for new stories. Time for ice cream.

Except we didn’t go for ice cream at all. It was FREEZING when Cute Boy came to pick me up, I was chattering from the cold, and he turned up both warming seats in his car to the max. We decided instead to go for hot chocolate. He brought me to Mr. Puffs, which is like Dunkin Donuts except a million times more decadent and yummy. 2 hours of laughing and chatter, and then he brought me home. I gave him 2 kisses on the cheek, and that was that (#stillvanillathankyouverymuch).

I had a smile on my face for hours.

It isn’t lost on me that this is a very concrete sign that I am doing better. Going on a date, even if it is with someone that I already know, is a form of vulnerability. Vulnerability is the antithesis of depression. This was a very tiny step, that meant so much.

Cute Boy promised to take me for ice cream when it would be warmer.

The show must go on

Moulin Rouge. Baz Luhrmann’s fantastical take on the novel La Dame aux Camélias & the opera La Traviata (my favorite opera). Nicole Kidman’s character is a blazée, beautiful cancan dancer who falls in love with a penniless but respectable writer (Ewan McGregor). Practical considerations (money) trap her in her lifestyle, subject to the patronage of a vain, occasionally violent, jealous, rich Duke. The decision to renounce her true love leads to heartache, and misery. She finally breaks free from the Duke only to die in Ewan’s arms from tuberculosis, contracted from a previous client.

Moulin Rouge is a movie about “truth, beauty, freedom and love“. It is also about the struggle to achieve each of those virtues, in the face of Life’s propensity to repeatedly sucker punch all of us. Those who dared to dream in this movie were rewarded by heartbreak or death. Watching it at 15 years old, I was swept away by the romantic pathos of it all. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that it is a very melancholy movie, albeit delightfully packaged with style, humor and dramatic flair. One particular scene that is not frequently cited (unlike Jim Broadbent singing Like a Virgin, or the brilliant/disturbing Roxanne scene) has always haunted me. It is the moment when Nicole Kidman gives up her fragile belief in her right to happiness.

Zigler: You’re dying, Satine. You’re dying. (…)

Satine: I was a fool to believe, a fool to believe. It all ends today. Yes, it all ends today.

Zigler: (…) You are a great actress Satine, make him believe you don’t love him. Use your talent to save him. Hurt him to save him. There is no other way. The show must go on, Satine. We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.

Satine & Zigler: Today’s a day when dreaming ends.

Zigler: Another hero. Another mindless crime, behind the curtain in the pantomime. On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? Whatever happened? We leave it all to chance. Another heartache, another failed romance. On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? The show must go on, the show must go on. Outside the dawn is breaking on the stage that holds our final destiny. The show must go on, the show must go on!

Satine: Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.

Zigler: The show must go on. The show must go on.

Satine: I’ll top the bill. I’ll earn the kill. I have to find the will to carry on with the show.

Zigler : The show must go on.

 

Watching it, 16 years ago, I felt an odd recognition – this scene captures how I see life.

“Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.” 

I didn’t know at 17 years old that my shadow would turn out to be my constant companion. But I did know how to appear normal, even though I felt anything but normal on the inside, like my heart was about to split open from the sadness it carried. As I’ve gotten older, this has become even more true: I’ve become an excellent actress so as to avoid vulnerability: nobody asks questions when it looks like you got your shit together.

“We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.”

A coworker asked me recently, after a few too many beers, “Vanilla, this is going to sound awful, I can’t find the words to phrase this properly, but you are a beautiful, sexy, smart, accomplished professional, with an amazing life ahead of you… why do you go for such losers in your dating life? Why don’t you find somebody with the same life situation as you?” My coworker was referring to Athletico, Beaut and Hickster. I pointed out that each one, although not as educated as me, nor pursuing a traditional corporate lifestyle, had risen to the top of his respective field, and was respected for his athletic track record; any athlete that can successfully monetize their skills has street smarts, dedication, perseverance, talent and work ethic. So however terrible their grammatical skills, they can not be fairly labeled losers when it comes to their careers. But my coworker didn’t mean that. He meant that they are living trainwrecks and haven’t mastered the concept of honesty.

It’s taken me months to figure out why I gravitate to these guys, and why I feel so alive in the boxing and dancing world. I belong. These guys all have good streaks, so much of their characters is worthy of admiration and respect. But they also have this dark side to them, and they are caught up in the struggle of their two sides. Often their dark side wins, causing them to act in ways that is harmful to themselves and those around them. I get that. Every day is an internal struggle -against my ADD, my shadow and the lazy, mean, irresponsible and cowardly Vanilla that constantly undermines the hard work of good, kind and sweet Vanilla. So many of my friends and coworkers appear to have mastered the whole adulting concept, lives cleanly scrubbed and responsible; while I kinda wish I could adult like them, I also know that I’d hate it. I love/hate the struggle, but it is my struggle. It proves to me I am alive. These men that struggle and periodically fail at realizing their best selves makes me feel less different. I relate. I too am a creature of the underworld.

“On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? Whatever happened? We leave it all to chance.”

I haven’t found my purpose. I drift through life, too exhausted by the fight against my shadow to dream, or pursue proactively my happiness.

“The show must go on.”


Disclaimer: I know my posts sometimes alarm my readers, especially friends and family. My funk is still firmly in place, but it is not spiraling out of control: I’ll take treading water over being swept willy-nilly by the current of depression. I’m doing my best to fight it, but it’s hard. I promise I am trying.

Recap of the current funk: