fear

Today is the day. I feel apprehensive.

August 15, 2018

10:27 am. I saw No Caller ID flash on my cell. Y’all. I hate phone calls, even from friends and family. Especially unexpected ones. Why call when we can text? Unexpected phone calls from strangers? Hell nah. Besides, I had an important meeting at 10:30 that I couldn’t be late for. I let it go to voicemail.

12:01 pm. Get back to my desk. Catch up on emails. Place a few work phone calls that left me grumpy. Deal with a few emergencies. Check my cell, answer the texts from friends. Eat lunch.

12:36 pm. Remember that I had that phone call in the morning, sigh, check the voicemail.

Bonjour Mademoiselle Vanilla, it is Mme. L’infirmière from the psychiatry department at the Big Hospital. We received the recommendation from your family doctor that you required a psychiatric evaluation. I have 2 openings. Please call me back at your earliest convenience if you would like to take advantage of this opportunity.

12:37 pm. Call Mme. L’infirmière back. Get her voicemail. Spend the next 43 minutes biting my fingernails, an anxious miserable mess, convinced I had lost out on an opportunity I’d been waiting on forever, because of my dislike of answering unexpected phone calls and my new found productivity at work. Stupid stupid me. This was proof I should have my cell phone on me every second of every day.

1:21 pm. Jump 3 feet into the air when my cell phone rings. Mme. L’infirmière confides in me that there was only 1 of the 2 spots still opened, and she had purposefully blocked it off for me for 3 hours, to give me a chance to reach her. I’d called her back just in time.

1:26 pm. I burst into tears at my desk. I had a massive headache from sudden and deep relief.


February 27th 2018

My GP identified me as being in the midst a severe major depressive episode, confirmed my diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, and referred me for a psychiatric evaluation to rule out the possibility of Bi-polar disorder. I was put on a waiting list. Quebec’s lovely public healthcare system is such that the waiting times to see a psychiatrist are between 2-6 months, depending on the urgency of each patient’s case. Given that I was still employed and not prone to self-harm, I was not deemed an emergency.

August 23rd. 9:30 am. 4 days shy of the 6 month mark, I will finally be seeing a psychiatrist.


August 23, 2018

Here I am, at the hospital, 15 mins early for my appointment. Me. We have established that I am the least punctual person and the opposite of a morning person.

I feel apprehensive.

I’ve tried to write out my emotions for the past week, but couldn’t formulate anything coherent. Same thing at work. Racing thoughts, zero productivity. Fear.

I’m worried that they will determine nothing is wrong, at all. No ADD, nothing. “Mademoiselle Vanilla, clean bill of health. You are just incompetent at the whole adulting concept. We recommend you grow up sooner rather than later.” Most of me knows that isn’t true, my depressions were real, I’ve had too many friends and family and professionals and coworkers notice the difference between “healthy” and “off” Vanilla.

My blog helps. I reread all the posts of the Great Depression of 2017-2018. I’ve not been fully myself for a YEAR now. And it isn’t because of my issues with Hickster. I thought it might be. But then I reread the rest of my posts, going back to 2014 and there are whole stretches of misery that had nothing to do with any boy. My blog keeps me accountable. There’s been a whole lot of tortured anguish this past decade.

I wonder if I will get the answers I need today. If maybe I will soon be able to live in a reality where I know what’s real, and what’s the product of my sick brain. Where I know what emotions are mine. Where I can access the potential I know exists inside me but I never seem to manage to nurture into daylight. Where I can see the sun shine brightly. Where I can love and not inflict the burden of my volatile and unregulated emotions on my close ones, or experience so many episodes of cognitive distortion.

I wonder if soon I will finally have the tools to level the playing field. To know peace. To have a break from my shadow wants me to give in to despair.

I wonder. Maybe, maybe, I too can one day access happiness?

Maybe there are explanations. Maybe there are answers.

Maybe there is hope.

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Parisian flashback to a Portuguese situation

Friday morning, on my last day in Paris on this work trip, I took a detour. A 30 minute walk, from my hotel to the Canadian Embassy, to take a few snap shots of the building. This was important to me, something I’ve been both looking forward and dreading the entire time. A pilgrimage, of sorts.

Let me tell y’all a story.

June 1, 2017. Teacher and his dance partner (Q – short for queen) were traveling to a dance festival in Lisbon. While waiting for their connecting flight in Barcelona, their backpacks were stolen. Passport, wallet, credit cards, money, ID, everything. Gone. If that had been me, I would have died from dehydration from endless crying. Teacher? Attended the dance festival because 1) Canadian Embassies are closed on weekends 2) he was gonna be short on money in the near-future, so might as well earn his last paycheque for a bit.

June 6, 2017. After 4 days of hard-core partying and dancing, Teacher dragged himself to the embassy to sort through his “situation”. Teacher is famous for his flamboyant style of self-expression (#realtalk) but even so, his update alarmed me: “Vanilla, I’m fucked. They say I have to pay $500 CAD and go to Madrid to a visa office and then if I have more questions I can email this email address for the Canadian Embassy in Paris but I can’t call because that office doesn’t have any phone lines. Oh and I need to provide my leases for the past 5 years. I need a drink. FML.”

June 8, 2017. After 3 days of Teacher and Q visiting the embassy daily, me reading up online on proper processes to follow in their situation and calling the local government helpline, we knew what needed to be done. For Q, easy peasy. She is a Canadian Citizen, the Lisbon embassy completed her application for a new emergency passport same day, all she had to do was sit back and wait. For Teacher? A little more compliqué. Teacher is not a Canadian citizen; he is a Canadian Permanent Resident and must apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) through Immigration Canada. Fun fact: not all embassies offer immigration services – the closest embassy to Lisbon to do so is in Paris. Fun fact 2: the government of Canada has outsourced all Immigration cases to 3rd party Visa Application Centers (VACs) – the 2 closest VACs to Lisbon are in Madrid and Paris. Fun Fact 3: Teacher cannot cross borders with no ID. The application for a PRTD is rigorous, requiring that the applicant demonstrate that they’ve lived in Canada for the past 5 years by submitting proof such as leases, tax returns, bank statements. Standard stuff to carry with you when travelling to Europe. Teacher started the painful process of trying to gather all that documentation. From a distance.

June 15, 2017. It was obvious that it would be impossible to gather the required levels of documentation. The standard application time for PRTDs is 66 business days – from the moment documentation is complete and accepted by Immigration Canada. Meanwhile, Teacher and Q were stuck in Lisbon, with no sources of income, no credit cards, nada. Sure, he was hustling, networking, landing some small gigs here and there, sure his students across the world were organizing fundraisers to try help them out, but this was clearly not a sustainable situation. I happened to be travelling to Paris for work on June 20-23. I offered that Teacher appoint me as his representative, so that I could physically go to the VAC and Embassy and intervene on his behalf, since he couldn’t leave Lisbon.

June 19, 2017. Q’s passport was ready for pickup at the Lisbon office.

June 20, 2017. Q flew back to Montreal, to resume teaching dance classes at Teacher’s school, to alleviate some of his financial burden.

June 22, 2017. I visited the Parisian visa office. I took a number, sitting in a stuffy non-air-conditioned office, with very Parisian employees. It was upsetting see them speak disdainfully to people with similar problems to Teacher’s, just trying to get into Canada. To the extent a person didn’t speak French? Oye. Spoken to like a retarded toddler, and dismissed. Boom. Casual derailment of somebody’s life. My turn. I waved my Canadian passport, smiled, and spoke in French. Initially, the conversation went smoothly. Then the clerk asked me if Teacher had his passport with him. Umm, no, it was stolen, that is why I am here.

“But mademoiselle, without a passport he cannot apply for a PRTD.” K, lady, you realize that makes no sense?

“Mademoiselle, if you are going to doubt my explanations, you can always read on your own time Immigration Canada’s website.” I already did. That is why I am here. Because there is no way that Teacher needs to first apply to have a new Angolan passport reissued, in order to then apply for a temporary PRTD so he can reenter Canada.

“Mademoiselle, I am not responsible for international flying regulations. Without a passport he cannot fly. If you doubt me, please make your way to Charles-De-Gaulle airport, they will happily explain to you the required documentation to board a plane.” LADY. You are pissing me off. Let me show you the document I need for this visa office to reissue, so we can be sure we are talking about the same thing, and then move onto the practical aspects of how we can get Teacher home before Christmas. As I reached for my cell to show her a picture of Teacher’s stolen travel document, the clerk stopped me.

“Mademoiselle, it is prohibited to use your cell in our offices. Please turn it off immediately. If you have something to show me, you must print it and present it to the front desk. No, we don’t offer any printing services: you must come prepared. Yes, I know it says on our website that we offer printing services, but we don’t. That is isn’t my problem. Come back another day. Mademoiselle! I insist that you shut off your cell phone immediately, you are violating our security regulations.” I lost my temper. I replied that she was Parisian, she should know from recent experiences that terrorists aren’t typically white blond girls, with Canadian citizenship, so could she stop being a bureaucratic zombie, and help me help my friend avoid destitution and make it back to Canada?

And that is how I found myself escorted out of the Visa office by 2 security guards.

I was SO mad. But I was also scared. Very scared. What if I couldn’t do this? What if that had been my only chance to help Teacher? If I failed, who else could help him? I sat down unceremoniously on the sidewalk in the middle of Paris and collapsed into tears. I called Teacher, waking him from his nap, sobbing incoherently on the phone about how he would have to spend the rest of his life as an illegal alien in Lisbon.

I had 1 more hour of free time before heading back to work. I decided to try my luck at the Canadian Embassy even though, at the time, the Canadian Embassy was not open to the public, functioning as an administrative office only (since February 2018 it is now open to the public). I showed up, tear-stained face, visibly distraught. I pleaded with the security guard on the sidewalk, showing him on my cell that infamous pic of Teacher’s stolen travel doc, “Please, it’s been 21 days, he is stuck with no money, he cannot travel to Madrid or Paris without ID, I am only here for 1 more day, I cannot skip work in order to be kicked out of visa offices because I forgot to print one miscellaneous paper out of the 457 required docs. Please. I just want to talk to someone to gain clarity on how we can solve this. Please. My friend needs help. Please help me.”

Y’all. Men and tears. It’s a thing. The security guard urged me to calm down – crying in public is not dignified, healthy or Parisian. He disappeared inside the embassy. I sniffled on the sidewalk, waiting. He reappeared 5 minutes later with a coworker who asked me further questions about Teacher’s file. This 2nd guy ushered me inside – success! He brought me water and kleenex, and reassured me that everything would be ok. Finally, the Immigration Guy appeared. He listened to Teacher’s story and was particularly outraged by my treatment at the Visa office – “anyone would have lost their temper, mademoiselle, but perhaps, next time, refrain from using the word terrorist? That is a sensitive topic here in Paris.”

Immigration Guy was SO helpful. We went through the required documentation vs what Teacher had managed to gather over the previous 2 weeks, and determined what could be waived vs the absolutely necessary requirements. I called Teacher as soon as I left the Embassy, gave the news, and went back to work. By midnight, after a flurry of phone calls, we’d completed his application.

June 23, 2017. The day of my flight home to Montreal. I returned to the Embassy to review & submit Teacher’s application with Immigration Guy. Immigration Guy validated it as complete, approved it and classified it as “urgent” which reduced the processing time from 66 days to 14 business days + mailing time.

July 23, 2017. Teacher received his one-time entry into Canada document (PRTD).

July 30, 2017. Teacher flew back to Montreal from Lisbon. 2 months after having his documents stolen. 2 months of lost gigs, minimal income, trapped in a country, relying on strangers and friends generosity to survive. TWO MONTHS.

That’s a story.

It remains one of the most stressful experiences in my life. I’ve never before felt such crushing responsibility to not fuck up, painfully aware that someone’s life was dependent on my ability to successfully execute the mandate I’d been given. I am amazed and perturbed at how much luck played a role in the happy outcome of Teacher’s Portuguese situation. What would have happened had I not happened to travel to Paris for work? Teacher’s life had been derailed for almost 1 month at that point, and with no clear solution to his problem, and no ability to intervene directly on his own behalf, he was trapped. Helpless. What do other people do?!

Lives change in a moment, I guess.

Vanity, dentists and drugs – part 2

On Monday, I had my wisdom teeth removed. Leading up to the procedure, I was a tad nervous. Anxious. Panicked. Hysterical. I convinced myself that since I am very vain, the Universe would take this opportunity to smite me by giving me facial paralysis. Obvi. Because that is the kind of thing the Universe does. Jackass.

Well…

Instead what happened is my dentist took my request to give me all of the drugs – ALL OF THEM – very seriously, such that I fell asleep in between each tooth, and left the clinic with a woozy smile. Allie picked me up, and brought me to her home to take care of me. I promptly passed out and bloody drooled all over her fluffy white pillows and blankets. Oops? For 2 days, she prepared me smoothies and home made soups, made sure I remembered to take my meds and we worked from her home in comfortable companionship. Monday was also my mom’s birthday, she would have been 65, so after I woke up from my drugged up nap, Allie bundled me into her car, and drove me to the cemetery, so I could wish my Ma a happy birthday. Really, I am the luckiest girl ever to have such a friend. Her cat tried to eat my laptop, a totally understandable impulse, and pawed at me until I gave her cuddles. I felt loved.

Behold, a pic taken immediately after the extraction at 9:30am. 10 hours later, the swelling had already significantly subsided.

By Wednesday, when I went back to work, there was no bruising, and hardly any swelling. I have a ridiculously high pain threshold, so I didn’t even feel much discomfort – I just noticed that I was exhausted, bc that is how my body manifests pain. I’ve been cleared to do light exercise, so I went dancing on Wednesday, and am really looking forward to seeing my #squaD at the gym tomorrow.

So instead of punishing me for my vanity, the Universe rewarded me with a supersonic recovery. Biggest inconvenience? Not eating real food, and not being allowed to drink while I am on antibiotics! Even that has a perk, because I am noticing my taste buds getting a tune-up: I have a newfound appreciation for the simple things like fruit smoothies, lentil soups and porridge with maple syrup. I can’t remember the last time I lasted 5 days without eating at least 3 cookies, or consuming a pound of chocolate over a week.

This is me dancing on Wednesday. 2 days after dodging facial paralysis. Not bad, eh?

To add to what feels like a windfall of ridiculous good luck, I got asked out on a date from a cute dude (not the cute one in the above pic) that was at Wednesday’s dance class. Originally, Cute Dude proposed we go for a drink once I am all done my antibiotics, which was nice, but I am not a fan of delayed gratification. But luckily for me, I realized that I have not yet had any ice cream, either to welcome the sunnier weather or as part of my recovery diet plan, and we all know that ice cream has magical properties that make the world a shiny, happy place. So, apparently, I am going for ice cream with Cute Dude this weekend.

No facial paralysis.

No swelling or bruises.

No serious pain.

2 days of blissful cuddles and love with Allie, William and the cat.

A renewed appreciation for healthy simple food.

A potential date.

ICE CREAM.

Had I known that pulling my wisdom teeth would be such an awesome experience, I would have done this years ago!

 

Vanity, dentists and drugs.

I’m getting all of my wisdom teeth removed tomorrow morning. 8:30am.


My parents spent thousands of dollars on orthodontal work to get me to have a functional smile. From grade 3 till grade 10 I had all kinds of hardware in my mouth, expanding my jaw to make room for my teeth that were growing in all directions.  Had my parents not spent that money, I would’ve looked like a shark. Given that I am inordinately vain, especially about my face – I think I am rather pretty – I am extremely grateful that they spared me from that shark fate.

I moved out in 2005. I failed at adulting, too busy trying to learn to survive on my own, not declare bankruptcy, figure out school. Typical early-adult struggle. I didn’t go to the dentist, because I didn’t particularly like dentists and I could feel one of my wisdom teeth growing and I didn’t want to hear that it needed to be removed. #denialskillsonpoint

2010. Two of my wisdom teeth had made an appearance. One became infected, really painful, causing the entire right side of my face to swell. Unacceptable! Emergency appointment at a high-end dentist downtown who prescribed antibiotics, took an X-ray, and advised me that not only are my wisdom teeth growing, they are growing in all kinds of shark-like directions, and one of them has its roots wrapped around the nerve that controls facial expressions. This would be a high risk surgery, because the risk of nicking the nerve and causing facial paralysis was extremely high. See a specialist, stat.

Excuse me, what? Facial paralysis?! I took the antibiotics and never called the specialist.

18 months later, I was due for a cleaning, and as Murphy dictates, my wisdom teeth were irritated and painful. Reluctantly, I dragged myself back to the dentist, mainly in the hopes that he’d prescribe me more drugs. He yelled at me for not having my wisdom teeth removed in the meantime. “Irresponsible! SO irresponsible. I told you. There are only 2 specialists in all of Montreal with the skill-set to remove that tooth. And they are busy. I told you. You are at risk of paralysis. And if you don’t get them removed, and the nerve gets infected, you are at risk of even more problems. GO SEE THOSE SPECIALISTS AND HAVE YOUR TEETH PULLED.”

So, I did what any adult with inadequate coping mechanisms would do. I pretended the problem didn’t exist, and tried my best to forget about it. I’ve done a fairly good job at ignoring it, despite sometimes having almost unbearable pain, and being unable to eat solid foods. But hey! At least I was still pretty and not paralyzed.

These past few months, as I’ve been struggling to get my health back on track, I began to consider going to a dentist. After all… not seeing a dentist for 6.5 years is not really best practice. But I felt I was at the limit of how many problems I could face, I didn’t want to hear that I had 45 new cavities, so I promised myself that I would deal with the dentist in the second half of 2018, once the rest of my life was under control.

Then I chipped one of my teeth eating a scone. Cue a hysterical meltdown. “I’m a terrible person, undoing all the money my parents spent on my teeth. What a brat I’ve been, I wonder how many cavities I’ve self-inflicted due to cowardice. OMG WHAT IF THE NEXT TIME ONE OF MY TEETH CHIPS IT’S A FRONT TOOTH?!”

That isn’t hyperbole. I ugly cried for 30 minutes, as I Googled the best ranked dental surgeons near my home.

That is how I found myself a few weeks ago in a dentist’s chair one block away from my apartment. The hygienist blinked when I told her it had been 7 years since I had a cleaning, rolled up her sleeves and got to work. She did a quick run through, and told the dental assistant that she’d have to do some cleaning before determining where the fillings were. I mumbled I didn’t have any. She stopped. “No fillings? And you have only seen a dentist twice in 13 years?” Yup. I told her of my previous experience with Dr. Doom-n-Gloom. She laughed. “Don’t you worry. Dr. Dentist here has pulled out thousands of wisdom teeth. He has seen it all. He will tell you if you are actually at risk of paralysis.” I nodded. She told me to open my mouth, so she could get back to world. I nodded. She waited. I told her I was scared my teeth were so fucked up she would chip them while cleaning them and then I would be disfigured. Twice I made her stop the cleaning. She thought it was because it was hurting me, or I had sensitive teeth. I explained that nope. Didn’t hurt at all. I just was so scared, I had trouble breathing. I needed time outs.

Dr. Dentist examined me. He looked at the X-ray. Good news: other than the molar that is next to the messed up wisdom shark tooth that has turned into a monster-cavity, I don’t have any cavities. I’m lucky. So we made an appointment for my wisdom teeth. Tomorrow. I told him I was really nervous. I asked for all the drugs. All of them. Knock me out, render me unconscious, because otherwise I will not survive this ordeal. I will have a heart attack from the fear that the Universe will use this opportunity to force me to deal with my vanity, by rendering me paralyzed. How could it resist? Even I find it funny, as a concept. And terrifying. I explained to Dr. Dentist, “Sir, I’m still single, you have no idea how brutal it is out there, nobody gives a shit about your personality, so if I am already having this much trouble while I am pretty, can you imagine how brutal it will be if I am paralyzed? Please sir. Please. Don’t paralyze me. I’m too young to be relegated to a life of loneliness and solitude. My face. You’ll take care of it?” He promised. He also admitted that usually he motivates his patients to take care of their teeth for health reasons, but in my case, he could see that I could best be manipulated through my vanity. And so, if I was so vain, surely I could see that smiles with receding gums were not attractive, so perhaps I would consider taking up flossing on a regular basis?

I’ve flossed every day since that visit.

He prescribed me all the drugs. All of them. Including a sedative so that I sleep tonight. Which I appreciate, except that now I have anxiety that I will sleep through my alarm and miss my appointment.

#vainestanxioustrainwreckever

Me & Prince Harry: same

Last week I wrote about my constant struggle with my mental health issues (ADD & depression – diagnosed; anxious personality) and my reluctant return to therapy.

Writing it was hard. Those aren’t easy, simple or pleasant emotions to unravel. Posting it to Facebook? Excruciating. I was ashamed, and I feared people’s reactions.

Feared their contempt for being:

  • Vulgar. Airing my dirty laundry in public. Ew.
  • Dramatic. Happiness is a choice, obviously. With my life, wtf is my problem thinking I have the right to be discontent. There are children being gassed in Syria, you know. THEY should be sad.
  • Lesser. Mental health is icky. Only weak people have mental problems.
  • Incompetent. The disappointment to my close friends and family that I still don’t have my shit together like I should, that I still underperform, that my inability to do regular adulting activities with consistency causes problems for others, professionally and personally.
  • Crazy. Any emotion, reaction, opinion that doesn’t coincide with theirs is obviously the result of my unregulated mind, and should therefore be discounted. Vanilla is crazy – don’t listen to her.

My coworkers, both above and below me on the corporate ladder, read my blog – would I lose their respect? “I’m not sure we should consider Vanilla for that promotion, her mental health is too fragile.” Boys I’ve dated, boys I have crushes on, boys who might one day date me, read my blog – would they find me less of a woman? “She’s cool and sexy, but I dunno man. All that mental health shit. No, thank you!”

Knowing that yes, it is quite possible I will suffer consequences for posting this, makes me mad. I refuse to let myself drown in self-imposed shame. I feel compelled to write about this, own it, and post it publicly. The ONLY way to get rid of the shame – so unnecessary, so poisonous, so destructive – surrounding mental health IS by talking about it. And if my approach is too brash, well… hopefully I’ll polish it over time, which can only happen if I take chances and try this open approach.


Record number of likes on Facebook. People reaching out to me privately, to commiserate with the incredible burden that is the shame associated with mental health struggles. To ask me more questions because having read my blog they wonder if they/their child/sibling/parent/best friend might have X health issue, they never considered that as a possibility, they’ll approach the struggles differently, with greater empathy and understanding. To say they too have Y mental health issue. To compare resources they’ve used. To thank me – they feel less alone in their struggles; they always thought I was one of those ppl, “so happy and smiling and friendly, fit, has her shit together”. They realize now that no, I just have (mostly) mastered the art of faking it, at huge personal cost.


A few days after my post, Prince Harry made the news for admitting he’d been in therapy for the long-standing, serious repercussions stemming from his inability to process his grief following his mother’s death. Anxiety, aggression, all had negative impacts on his royal duties, and professional and personal relationships, and culminated in him seeking professional help to work through his issues. (*)

Even at royal engagements, he said, he had found himself battling a “flight or fight” reaction without properly 
understanding why. Once he started opening up to friends, he added, he found those same friends felt able to “unravel their own issues”. (…)

“I know there is huge merit in talking about your issues and the only thing about keeping it quiet is that it’s only ever going to make it worse,” he said.

YES.


I told my boss. I wanted to warn him that I’d recognized the blips in my performance, and I was taking steps to rectify them before they further deteriorated. Was that the right thing to do? I dunno. It was risky. I’ll find out the next time I am up for a promotion if it paid off.

As for boys… I tell myself, the blog doesn’t really make a difference – they’d find out first-hand about my emotional messiness anyhow, live. Best they find out via the blog and move on, than find out gradually and make those hurtful comments to my face.

I don’t have the energy to pretend anymore. I don’t see the point. Life, adulting, is fucking hard enough without pretence.

None of us should feel ashamed for our struggles.

Sometimes, silence is overrated.

#OkToSay

 

(*) Check out their Royal Highnesses‘ work on mental health, through their charity Heads Together. I think it is brilliant.

 

Turns out I’m still very vanilla thankyouverymuch

My gym is located in an interesting area of Montreal. As a refresher, in the past 2 years:

  • 2 dudes attempted, and failed, to mug me at the nearby metro station (story here);
  • I got offered a really good deal (no sales taxes) on a underground artist’s music album because I am white (story here);
  • I got the most colorful cat-call of my existence, in front of one of the many strip-clubs of the area, on my way to a wedding reception (story here).

Yesterday, as I exited the metro station, and started the short walk to the gym, at the reasonable hour of 7:30pm, a homeless man walked beside me and repeatedly asked me for $5, alternating between English and French. I politely smiled and refused several times, in French – because growing up in Quebec, I’ve long accepted that it is just easier to speak French to strangers to avoid triggering words of abuse about being an anglophone and a hater (not that those unpleasant episodes happen frequently, but still. I prefer avoiding hateful comments whenever possible. And really, it doesn’t cost me anything – I speak the language well, and enjoy it. I just wished I had learned to enjoy it without the context of discrimination and sour politics. #naive #wishfulthinking)

The homeless man walked alongside me, crowding me, until he abruptly stopped right in front of me, showed me his cigarette and whispered,

C’est parce que j’ai vraiment envie d’écraser ma cigarette dans ta face.

Which translates charmingly to:

It’s cuz I’d really like to stub my smoke in your face.

He stayed there, standing in front of me, with the burning cigarette 2 inches from my face just long enough to make sure I believed him, and then he walked away.

While he did that, the full irony of the situation (I was on my way to boxing) was not lost on me. Yet I stood frozen, and scared, not sure how to handle the situation. As always, afterwards, I was left with the uncomfortable feeling having been too passive, too accommodating, too female. Wondering how I could have handled it better and more assertively.

I also wondered if any of my feelings would have been shared by Marie-Antoinette, long ago. Poor scared little (relatively) rich white girl, and all that.

#stillvanilla

All of the blankets

Boxing is a perfect analogy for life. Cue Rocky’s words of wisdom:

I’ve written before about how much I subscribe to those cheesy statements. And I do. Except I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how to keep moving forward when I get hit (either in life or when in the ring). And I most definitely have not figured out how to believe in myself.

Case study: a hairy criticism

I got a fabulous haircut this weekend from my talented hairdresser. I now have very short lesbian hair: a pixie cut. I think I look beautiful (yes, I am extremely vain). And so far, the feedback I’ve received supports my belief. Yippee.

At work this morning, I noticed an asymmetry in the cut of my hair around my ears. I pointed this out to my coworker, remarking how I couldn’t unsee it and I was doomed to be bugged by it all day.

Co-worker: “Ben voyons donc! Pourquoi qu’elle a faite ça, ta coiffeuse?” (Translation: “Geez! Why would your hairdresser do that?”)

I suggested that my hairdresser did not intend on leaving the asymmetry, that it was most likely a mistake.

Co-worker: “Mais c’est sa job. Me semble que vérifier la longueur, c’est la base!” (Translation: “But that’s her job. Checking that the length on either side of the head is part of the basics!”)

All kinds of memories surged up in that moment, jumbled in my mind. Like how my hairdresser ran after me, scissors and brush in hand, after I’d paid, because she’d noticed something not quite right, and she wanted to fix it. Like how she apologized for not being chatty because she was concentrating on getting my haircut just right. Like how everytime I show up at the salon, she’s waiting for me, with a portfolio of haircuts she thinks would suit me, and she’ll spend up to 40 minutes discussing what I want, what she’ll do, to make sure we are aligned in our vision. Like how she once confided that even after 13 years of experience, she gets really nervous when doing bridal parties because she is scared she’ll disappoint the bride on her big day. Like how often my boss has sighed in frustration when I’ve made a mistake at work. Like how often I’ve cried because my best has not been good enough. Like how hard I try ignore my inner voices that criticize me just as harshly. Like how often I’ve skipped social functions because I was morbidly afraid someone would say something harsh and I’d melt down in tears publicly.

And so my response was, “For goodness’ sake!! Why must you always be criticizing everybody?”

Unsurprisingly, my coworker was extremely offended. Nor did she particularly care to hear my apologetic explanations for why I’d overreacted.

Rocky wouldn’t understand: his hair is always perfect

“It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.” A careless comment by a coworker feels like a hit. Going through a day is exhausting, because the amount and variety of these little tiny jabs is endless. I keep moving forward, in that I still show up to work, and to boxing, but I can feel myself getting worn down, and retreating into my little corner. And just like in boxing, where you can’t win without taking a few chances, I can feel myself winning less and less at life because I’m less and less willing to take a gamble and throw a big punch. If I find tiny jabs painful and exhausting, how could I possibly expose myself to the big body shots? 

After a year of therapy, I am no longer depressed, and I’ve taken one big risk (singing in public and surviving). Those are both good things. But when I consider the path I’ve yet to travel to be able to live a life that isn’t crippled by fear and anxiety, I am dismayed, and I wonder just how much of my therapist’s retirement fund I’ll end up financing.

I wish I could retreat into my safe zone under all of the blankets in my bed. That right there, my friends, is a real fighter’s attitude.