emotions

Blond depression

I attended a fundraising event yesterday in honor of a foundation that is dear to my heart, founded, managed and run by a quartet of fearless women, friends I’ve known since uni. There, I ran into a friend that I’ve known since 2009. She has seen me go through ups and downs and my various reincarnations, from kickboxer to boxer to dancer. She commented on my blond hair, and asked me if I’d been having more fun.“Oh definitely. I mean I am depressed, but even so, I’m having way more fun than when I was a brunette. Blond depression over non-blond depression, any day. There is no going back. I can smile even though inside I feel like death.” She laughed, telling me that there would no doubt be a new entry into the next edition of the DSM – blond depression, the cuter, flirtier version of normal depression. The version of depression guys still wanna fuck.

Am I depressed? Yup. Without doubt. I wrote Rough Patch on November 19th, almost 3 weeks ago. Since then, I’ve displayed all the symptoms associated with a Major Depressive Episode, except for suicidal thoughts. Although, I might not have suicidal thoughts, but I do most fervently wish I could fall asleep and never wake up. I consider with a twisted mix of admiration, pity and marvel those people that are capable of ending their misery. It’s not any form of virtue or morality that stops me from doing so myself. It is just that my apathy and fatigue are so deep I cannot summon the wherewithal to come up with plan that doesn’t seem like too much effort. #silverlining

I’m failing at keeping my shit together. My performance at work is alarmingly bad. My bosses wonder, irritated at my inability to deliver anything, be it so minor as to show up before 10am, or answer 1/3 of the emails I receive in a 72 hour window. I think we are all hoping that if I can just somehow make it to the holidays, a 4 day break with no computer might do me good, and I’ll return, miraculously cured of wtv it is I am going through. I wake up every day at 7am, and it takes me almost 2 hours to talk myself into getting out of bed. So really, 10am is a remarkable achievement, but not exactly something imma boast about.

I withdraw from everyone. I cannot keep up any sort of social front. I collapse into tears at the smallest comment, and frequently have headaches from trying to not cry in public. I am deeply worried about work, but somehow that worry never translates into anything, because I am so exhausted by trying to appear normal in public – which I am abjectly failing at – that I cannot concentrate on anything.

I cannot blog – I have no words. Nothing worth saying

I cannot read.

I cannot watch a TV show.

I try coloring, and I panic at the choice of coloring pencils – what if I get it wrong?

The number of horrifying social meltdowns at work and at dance are multiplying. I sense people withdrawing from my negative cloud. She’s such a drama queen. Crying, again?! What are you, a child? You do realize that if you keep acting up, people around you will reach their “fuck it” stage, and fade from your life? Why do you think you are so special – everybody’s got shit to deal with. These are not my paranoid thoughts. These are comments coworkers and my dance team have said. I remember now why depression is such a taboo. While all of these comments fail to demonstrate any compassion or kindness whatsoever, they are not wrong. People do tire of vortexes of despair. Public meltdowns are drama. Employers do expect a certain level of productivity. Everybody does have shit to deal with. I’m trying my best, I swear. Nobody wins a participation medal for life. Life is like the Olympics or boxing. There are winners and there are losers, and there are better winners, and there are bottom of the barrel losers. Who and what you are matters.

And right now, I am nothing but an exhausted miserable mess.


I know my close friends and family will panic when they read this. Please don’t. The panic just adds to the guilt and feelings of inadequacy. I am not suicidal; I am depressed. I can be depressed and still know that I am loved. Unlike the previous depressions, I am no longer ashamed of that love. This is my 4th depression since 2010. If they can sustain this rate of mental health bullshit, I believe that they won’t recoil in horror, be disappointed or bounce.

I can be depressed and still recognize moments of kindness. A guy at the gym last week told me, “Hey. I read the last few posts. I won’t ask if you are ok, because you know you’re not. It worried me, but I know you’ll work through this. I’ve been there before, it sucks, so I want you to know I care, and I’ll be cheering you on as you fight that shadow.

I can be depressed and want to be alone, yet know that Allie & William, Dynamo, Coach, DD, my squad, my darling cousins, my uncles & aunts, my father, my godmothers, love me dearly.

Why blog at all if it is just going to cause alarm? See? There she goes again being an attention whore. SO much drama! I blog because depression feeds off shame. When my brain tries to steal my words, replacing them by tears, silencing my voice, writing, no matter how uninspired or non value-added this post might be, is a way to tell my brain to politely fuck off.

This isn’t my first rodeo with depression. I know the ropes. I will get through it, not unscathed, but I will get through it nonetheless.

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Rough patch

I was supposed to spend the day working, but instead I had a full-blown meltdown. I have a dehydration headache: I’m on hour 5 of crying. I hope I’m wrong, but I think I might have just crossed the line from funk into a real depressive episode. It feels mighty similar to the last episode in summer of 2014: over a period of 3-4 weeks, a sharp increase in frequency of rage blow ups, tears, hearing a few too many phrases that hit close to home (Robin Williams’ death), and then on the drive home from a vacation weekend in Qc city, I started crying, and cried non stop the whole way home. My poor father. 3 hours of driving next to a silent watering pot. Not fun.

What set me off this time? An innocent remark from a friend who witnessed my interaction with an Apple store salesperson. “Vanilla, you are so intense. You talk too much, often about shit that you don’t even know much about. You set up people’s backs, because you give the impression of talking just to hear yourself talk, you think you are so smart. And when you DO know what you’re talking about? You make suggestions that sound like orders. You might mean well, but you are too aggressive. Chill out, girl. You don’t need to have the answer, always. Especially if people didn’t ask you the question.”

Sometimes, the truth fucking hurts.

I do set up people’s backs. Often, especially at work. I’ve a long history of it, and no matter how hard I try, I haven’t demonstrated any noticeable improvement over the years. I don’t know how to avoid it. I listen to people based on their demonstrated intelligence (which I feel I am smart enough to evaluate for myself) and their capacity for problem solving. I mean, that is what we are all paid to do. Deliver. So if I feel I have relevant comments about delivery, yes, I will say them. I AM BEING PAID TO DO SO. Yes, my comments cover a broad range of topics, beyond accounting. Yes, I am fucking smart. No, I don’t start every sentence that way. Yes, I ruffle feathers. That is my job. I come across as some sort of machine, stripping people of their humanity, judging them for not being able to keep up with my brain.

But here is the thing. Fundamentally, I don’t believe in my own humanity. I am nothing more than an excellent accountant. I have nothing else. Literally.

  • I am 34, I have a roommate, I live in an un-decorated apartment, my fridge broke down 7 days ago, and I haven’t even started to look into buying a new one, because I have no time, and I never cook for myself. Hate cooking, in general, cooking for 1 is the most depressing thing ever, and I am never home, either working, working out or dancing.
  • Almost 8 years single. I’ve totally given up on dating, especially online. The guys that I have met in the past 3 years have been rather adept of stripping me of any self-respect, using me for my pussy, my brain, my useful problem-solving skills, my low-key easy company, never expressing any desire for any commitment whatsoever. If I did meet a guy who wanted commitment, I’d assume he was a liar. I wouldn’t know what to do with him, bc I’ve stopped believing anyone would find me worth investing in. My track record proves it.
  • I have no savings, because – and this is not an exaggeration – I spend thousands of dollars a year on Ubers, because that is the only way I can get my ass to work before 10am, because I am so exhausted by work and from keeping up the appearance of being normal. No, I don’t want a car, I don’t want another thing that I won’t have the time or energy to take care of, or the stress of rushhour. Yes, I might have to get one, just from an economics perspective.
  • I spend my free time working out. 5-15 hours a week. Kickboxing, boxing, dancing… the specific activity might change, but the habit is the same, the talent rather unexistent. As my cousin once wondered, someone who avoids being home that much is probably running away from their life. It’s not quite that. It is that I need the endorphins to keep my poisonous shadow at bay. And also, what else can I do with my time? Work more, sure, but even I get fed up of being a work horse. All my friends, my real friends, are busy with their lives, married with babies. I see them 3-6 times a year.

That’s it. That is all. I have nothing else, other than this tiny blog, which reminds me that I have a voice. The only thing I have going for me is my brain. So yes, I make suggestions, good ones, pertinent and on point. I speak up. I hold on tightly to the belief that in some capacity, I must be of use or valuable to somebody, be it only the corporation paying my salary. #howsthatforhumanity

But here is the even bigger paralyzing fear, the same one as in 2014. Every time work hits a certain level of pressure (60 hours, week after week), I can’t sustain it for very long. My brain short-fuses, and I spiral down a road of complete misery. The shadow takes over, the meltdowns increase, the number of bust-ups with people multiply. I slide into depression, a miserable existence that robs months and years of life from me.

My identity, the only purpose I serve in this life, is to be an accountant: it is contingent on my brain. And my brain betrays me when it matters most. I had hoped, so much, that going on medication for my ADD would help. But it doesn’t. I can’t handle the pressure levels required of any top-level professional… even by giving all of myself. Literally. My place is a disaster, my finances are a disaster, I have no personal life, no kids, no husband, no friends. All I have is work, and I can’t keep up.

I quit my job in 2014 because of my depression. It broke my heart. I loved my job. But I couldn’t bear the misery of my life and hoped that by opting for something less stressful, I could still fulfill my need of being a valuable, smart accountant, without putting myself in an environment that would eventually push my shadow to kill me. I changed the entire course of my career to accommodate my sick brain.

Here I am 3 years later, and despite making lifestyle changes to keep my brain happy (regular exercise and medication), despite a job that I love so much… I can’t keep up.

So where does that leave me? By every humane metric, my life is a complete failure. My sick brain, yet again, seems keen on sabotaging my career.

Hour 6 of crying.

 

How you doing? Oh, just like Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto

“So, how’ve you been doing? Whatcha been up to? What’s going on in your life lately? Anything? Nothing?!”

I hate those questions. They suck. They are only ok to answer if you have something to boast about, when your life is all gold stars, rainbows and unicorns. My first half of 2017? I LOVED talking about my life. I visited 5 different cities, and went on the most transformative trip of my life (Dubai). Work was exciting, dating was ok, dancing was incredible, I was happy. Then my shadow woke up from its nap, and the 2nd half of 2017 sucked, despite some pretty sweet moments:

“Everytime I wanna know what is going on in your life, I just read your blog.”

Ok, so then why are you asking me what I’ve been up to? I have not been up to much, although the above list of blog posts proves that I witnessed a fair bit of other people’s lives. If you read my blog then you should be aware I’m struggling with depression these past few month. Yes, still – that is what depression does, it robs one of one’s capacity to live for months, if not years. Reminding me that I am still stuck in this garbage zombie state isn’t doing me any favors. At best, I feel equally irritated and anxious about my inability to prove that I am living life in a manner worth living, in accordance to wtv standards of the person I am talking to. At worst, I feel shame, and my shadow goes off on a rant about how much of a fucked up train-wreck I am, still with nothing to show for all my talent, intelligence and privileged opportunities I’ve been given, just a disappointment to everyone, really. It is taking most of my energy to survive, and still be a semi-useful employee, worth employing. Just because I blog about my struggles doesn’t mean that I want to talk about them all the time. I am a depressive – I fucking hate vulnerability. Talking about my depression, unexpectedly, face to face, with acquaintances or not close friends? Ummm, no. And if y’all don’t read my blog… then I am just as unlikely to say “Oh hey nothing really has been going on, just fighting my way through my latest bout of depression. How about you? Still happy as fuck? That’s nice.”

“So, how you doing? Whatcha been up to? Work, work, just work? Anything else? Dating?”

Look, bro, I know at this point you are just fishing for a topic for conversation to make this less awkward, but I am not gonna make this any less awkward. YES. WORK. THAT IS ALL. THIS IS AWKWARD BECAUSE PERSONAL QUESTIONS ARE IMPERTINENT. Didn’t you ever read Miss Manners??


How’ve I been doing? Ok-ish. Work has been nuts – I am on my 3rd consecutive week of 65-70 hours. It feels nice to be given a challenge, and to feel myself stepping up. Just in time, too – my funk noticeably affected my performance at work from July-September. I really don’t have much time for anything else. I’ve been trying to stay semi-constant at the gym, my happiest of happy places, and manage to squeeze in 6-8 hours of dancing a week, down from 15+ in Sept-Oct. Work, with its series of definite goals (Nov 25, Dec 22, Jan 23) gives me structure. Every day is a new day, must continue moving forward, one step in front of the other, no time to think or feel too much.

Except that of course, I do. Feel.

While working yesterday, I put on some classical music (latest coup de coeur: Max Bruch’s violin concerto no.1). Youtube is a wonderful concept, really. One beautiful piece after another, old favorites, reliable staples. And then… familiar notes, forgotten from my youth. I stopped working, and listened from beginning to end.

To try limit my mother’s “favorite” piano concertos to less than all of them would be hard, but without doubt one of the top contenders would be Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. Rachmaninoff wrote it after a serious, almost career-ending depression that lasted 3 years. Friends and family urged him to seek professional help, which he did reluctantly. His therapist, an esteemed expert at the time, used hypnosis on Rachmaninoff with success. The result, a few months later, was the 2nd piano concerto. Rachmaninoff dedicated it to his therapist, and credited the man with saving his career and life. My mother always felt that the origins of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto could be heard in the score. A tormented first movement, an awakening of hope in the 2nd, and a verve, readiness and capacity for life in the 3rd.

An awakening of hope, she thought. “It sounds like a blind man seeing his first sunrise on a new day”, she would say. Then why does it make me weep with sorrow? Every time.

How’ve I been doing? I’ve been doing as good as the 2nd movement of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. In theory, I am headed towards a happier ending, but right now there is more sadness than joy.


It doesn’t help that this weekend was a true fall weekend. Cold, rainy, grey, with winds that cut to your bones. Bright leaves falling, turning into damp rotten mush on the sidewalks. Just as in years past, as the leaves fall, grief bubbles up, and I miss my Ma terribly. I suppose it is only fitting that I listen to Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto on loop. Memories of sitting in the passenger’s seat of the car, listening as it played on the drive home from the Pointe-Claire library (her favorite place ever – her body prevented her from physical travel, so she found solace for her mind by reading everything. No joke, she never borrowed less than 5 books at a time, every week). Of sitting parked in the driveway of our home, till the concerto finished. Of her sigh of contentment. Of the click-clack of her canes on the pavement, as she climbed slowly up the front steps of our home, while I carried her books for her.

I’ve not been back to Pointe-Claire library since her death 5 years go. A place I spent thousands of hours in, growing up.

“So, how’ve you been doing? Whatcha been up to? What’s going on in your life lately? Anything? Nothing?!”

Oh, nothing much, just the usual weeping whenever I hear a piece of music I strongly associate with my mother. That’s all.


Here is a recording of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. Although Arthur Rubinstein is primarily known for his Chopin, he does a brilliant job. Jack the volume up, make sure you have surround sound, and enjoy.

 

 

Depression and exit strategies …….. the holy grail of depression sufferers

I went for drinks with some friends and friends of friends last night. One dude, who I’ll call OG, recounted a story of how he broke up with his ex after her 2nd suicide attempt. How he’d felt trapped and tricked. She’d looked so normal for the first 2 years, emotionally volatile, sure, but normal. After the first suicide attempt he learned she’d tried other times, before him. This was a recurring mental issue, one that might kill her and would inevitably derail his own life. He felt he had no choice but to make the best decision for his own life and future, and leave her. Leaving her freed him up to focus on building up his own life, success and well-being. However, almost a decade on, she still refuses to talk to him. One of his friends hypothesized that his ex felt shame, “Sometimes, when you’ve acted in a way that was just too awful and unacceptable, you can’t face any reminders of that, the shame is too painful.”

I stayed quiet throughout that conversation, which I regret.

I didn’t say that I suffer from depression.

I didn’t say that OG’s comments confirms one of my deepest insecurities: anyone who gets to know the real me, and meets my shadow, will run, will deem me unworthy the effort of loving, I come with too much baggage.

I didn’t say that this is why I’ve chosen to remain single for 7 years now. I don’t think I can survive another instance of giving all of myself, working through the terror of vulnerability, attempting to build a life with someone, only for it to fall apart because the burden of my shadow is too heavy to bear. I chose a life of loneliness, limiting how much I inflict my depression on friends and family, rather than face the unbearable pain of being rejected. I also chose loneliness because I don’t ever want to be the reason someone holds back on living their life, choosing to stick with me & my sickness out of loyalty. My shadow stifles my dreams and happiness. I don’t think I could accept if it stifled anyone else’s too. I completely understand and respect OG’s decision to leave the girl.

I didn’t say that they’d gotten it all wrong. The shame is not derived from the “unacceptable” act of trying to take one’s life – only someone who has never suffered from depression would think that suicide is unacceptable or selfish. Without ever having met the girl, or been present in that decade-old saga, I would argue that the girl deems OG’s actions as concrete proof that she is unlovable, something to be abandoned once her true self is revealed. A depressive spends all day every day trying to survive, look normal, hide the mess from the world. On the rare occasions that a depressive reveals their true self to anyone – something incredibly traumatic and shameful – being rejected gives their sick brain all the ammunition necessary to convince them they are worthless. Having to face a reminder of that? Unbearably painful. I too would be incapable of facing such a reminder.

I didn’t say that I admired the girl – 10 years is a lot of years to put up with a sick brain, good for her for still being alive.

#weallhaveexitstrategies

black dog

I was speaking to another “depressive”(someone who suffers from depression – usually with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and possibly Stress thrown in for shits and giggles — I might have just made that word up, but it seems to work, so I am going to leave it there) a week or two ago and we were chatting about shit and things and really playing catch up.

We had not seen each other in quite some time, so it was a very nice catch up and we did spend a lot of the time laughing, and snorting.

The conversation took a turn and we started speaking about the fact that we both suffer from Depression — not the “here take one pill and call me in the morning kind” but the sort that takes you 13 years of therapy to really understand what it is you are working with.

Years of enduring…

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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:

“Kizomba will change your life”

So says Teacher. Teacher is prone to grandiose and/or hyperbolic statements, and teaching kizomba is his life’s work, so this is a reasonable comment coming from him. But I’m an accountant, y’all. His world and my world have little in common.


I’ve never made friends easily. Social situations still trigger the same bewilderment, dismay and hurt as an adult as they did when I was a child. I mostly blame ADD: it is very difficult to assimilate all the inputs into my brain and organize coherent, timely responses. Cue apparent inattentiveness and impulsiveness, which is not helpful in social settings. I’ve developed 2 public personas: 1) aloof, reserved, polite but very standoffish professional who keeps convos brief and to the point 2) the social butterfly, stopping to say hello, but flitting off to welcome the next person before a full sentence has been uttered. Both personas have been extremely useful in masking my ADD and periodic breach of manners. But they are not helpful in making friends.

My close friends (Dynamo, Allie, Coach, DD, Blond’Fro) have been made through the persistent efforts of these individuals, at university, work and gym/boxing. Through frequent and repetitive interactions, they saw past my 2 personas and got used to my quirky self, while I grew to trust that they will treat me with kindness even when I mess up. I make friends despite myself, very very gradually, over years.


I started dancing kizomba about 9 months ago. What I thought was a rejection of the sexy (I walked out of my first kizomba class after 15 mins, so uncomfortable was I by the proximity of my dance partner, a guy I’d happily danced with for 2 months in salsa class) was in fact a rejection of the necessary state of vulnerability for two dance partners to connect and dance. It’s been an arduous journey to embrace the connection between me and each dance partner, and it’s something I still struggle with regularly, especially in the midst of this funk, much to my partners’ frustration.

Earlier this month, the presence of the Vermont franchise of Teacher’s dance school was requested in Montreal, rather unexpectedly. Chatting with one of the members, I learned the VT crew was having difficulty finding reasonably situated or priced accommodation on such short notice. On impulse, I offered them floor space in my apartment: if they brought their gear, they could camp chez moi for free. It would involve some planning, as I was not going to be home – it was Allie’s bachelorette – but as long as they came to find me and picked up my spare keys, I was totally cool with them setting themselves up in my absence.

Y’all. Hosting 4-5 ppl, whom I have met a handful of times over the past 9 months, chez moi, in my space, would have been outside the realm of possible realities a year ago. And yet, when I think back to all that’s happened in the year that I’ve been dancing under Teacher’s tutelage:

  • December 2016: Teacher convinced me (after 3 months of dancing) to attend a huge festival in Madrid, where I knew nobody other than him and his dance partner, and I crashed in their hotel room with 2 other ppl I’d never met before – incidentally, that’s the weekend I first met one of the VTers: all the other VTers I met in 2017.
  • March 2017: Dubai. Attending a festival alone. Forging deep friendships with several strangers over that 4 day period. Fast forward to June, my annual birthday workation in France, and why not stop by Toulouse, and meet up with Froman? 4 days in Dubai has translated into a legit, real friendship. The list of ppl I met in Dubai that I hope to cross paths with once again, and still keep in touch with, is long. Some are regular readers of this blog. Kinda blows my mind.
  • May 2017: I went camping (first time in my adult life!) with Blonde, a guy from our dance squad, and 2 other strangers. I slept in a tent (words I never expected to write during my lifetime) with Blonde who I’d known for less than 4 months at that point and a dude I’d known for less than 12 hours. And I enjoyed myself while camping with these ppl.
  • August 2017: Opening up my apartment to my VT colleagues. It was an absolutely lovely weekend. I had so much fun showing them around my neighborhood, eating coffee and breakfast sandwichs in the park next to my place, and getting to know them. We danced too much, laughed a lot, and when it came time to say our goodbyes, one of the VTers told me “that was nice. I liked you before, but I like you even more now.”

All of this would have been impossible 12 months ago. 2 years ago? Laughable.


Clearly my life has changed since taking up kizomba. And it all boils down to vulnerability.

So this is what I learned. We numb vulnerability — when we’re waiting for the call. It was funny, I sent something out on Twitter and on Facebook that says, “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?” And within an hour and a half, I had 150 responses. Because I wanted to know what’s out there. Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married; initiating sex with my husband; initiating sex with my wife; being turned down; asking someone out; waiting for the doctor to call back; getting laid off; laying off people. This is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.

And I think there’s evidence — and it’s not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it’s a huge cause — We are the most in-debt … obese … addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is — and I learned this from the research — that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin.

You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle. (…)

But there’s another way, and I’ll leave you with this. This is what I have found: To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen … to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough” … then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

Brené Brown, The Power of Vulnerability

To dance is to (attempt to) embrace vulnerability. And just like you can’t selectively numb emotion, I don’t think I can selectively embrace vulnerability.

I’ve become more vulnerable, and as a result, my capacity to connect to people off the dance-floor has completely changed for the better.

“Kizomba will change your life.”

Fact.

When a post about toolboxes turns into a post about constipation

Step 1 to fighting my shadow is always going back to Coach and his workouts at the gym. His nick-name is Dr. Booté (as explained here and here) because he is “good for the booty and good for the soul.” Which is 100% true. How many ppl do you know who have this much fun while suffering?

 

I went once last week. I felt immediately more stable. That gym tho. It truly is a remarkable place. A safe haven.

I went on Tuesday, where we lifted very heavy shit, and did a circuit to end all circuits.

I went yesterday. I had a knot in my left thigh. Coach massaged it, I did squats, and felt a 2nd knot forming. By the end of the workout (which included another circuit to end all circuits – Coach is extremely creative in his methods to make us suffer and sweat!), I was pretty sure my leg had transformed itself into one giant knot. No muscle, no fat, no bone, just knot. Today, I woke up and apparently I’ve put on 5lbs overnight: water retention, my body’s usual reaction to brutal workouts as it attempts to heal itself. Also? I’ve been constipated for the past 3 days, my body’s usual reaction to extreme stress. Am I stressed at work? Yeah kinda, but really? my body is stressed because IT THINKS I AM DYING FROM BRUTAL PHYSICAL ASSAULT.

Who said going to the gym was good for you? I am a bloated, constipated cripple.

Yet…

I really do feel better. While I’ve been abiding by my therapist’s orders to move almost every day for at least 30mins, bc of all my dancing, I now realize that isn’t enough. I need the next level release of endorphins which come from Coach’s brutal workouts. The fact that those workouts come with friends and a lot of laughter? Can’t hurt. Except for the extreme muscle soreness. That part hurts a lot.

So yeah. My body feels like it has the flu, but my mind feels better.

Also? I discovered adult coloring books.

 

My shadow is a worthy opponent, but it ain’t gonna beat me this time. Coach + coloring books. I’m all set, apparently.

Now about this constipation… How can I convince my body I am not dying, I put myself through those hellfire workouts on purpose?

#thestruggleisreal