I finally quit Facebook, meaning I can cross off item 17 on my Manifestation List: “I don’t waste time on social media!”
I didn’t delete my account or deactivate it like I normally do, but I quit needing it. I think the switch happened a few weeks ago. Suddenly, I just found it all very boring and I stopped checking it in my idle moments. The app is off my phone and I cleaned my Timeline of all my stupid self-indulgent posts about vegetables and yoga and vacations and self-deprecating memes. Now I only use it to sell things on Marketplace.
Plus, after one of my best friends from elementary school got engaged a few months back and I never received a wedding invitation, it hit me that none of it is fucking real anyway. Have a great wedding. You’re welcome for the “like” on your announcement. Back when Tyler and I considered having a wedding, she was going to be a bridesmaid. Am I that out of touch with reality? Damn. I need to get it together.
So here we are. I didn’t think the day would ever come, but I’m at that point where I can passively keep an open account without actually using it. It is nice to have all my friends and acquaintances in an alphabetical list for my future reference, but other than that I’ve released myself from its 10-year grasp on my time. It’s liberating. And also odd, because while I feel digitally refreshed and at peace, the rest of my life kind of feels like shit right now. Except for one other massive life improvement: all 3 of my cats now use the litter boxes.
That need to present myself as some model of perfection is also gone. I am done pretending that I experience nothing but success, or that I have it all together or that business is going well or that my days are super productive and filled with endless healthy choices and matcha lattes and 5AM wakeups. Because none of that feels very true.
Take this blog, for instance. I’m at a point where I’m finally ok with being totally real. As Elizabeth Gilbert urges in Big Magic, which I finally read last month during a serious reading binge, writers must write for themselves and nobody else. I’m paraphrasing here, but she talks about how we must write for ourselves and for our own cathartic release, not for some imagined audience. There is nobody to impress or teach or guide. That is what it means to be genuine. And people connect with genuine. So here I am. This blog is henceforth for me.
I spent last week in bed. Depressed. Curled up. Avoiding everything. I canceled both chiropractic appointments and my last personal training session. It was measurement day and I didn’t want to face the fact that instead of doing my reps at the gym, I chose to eat entirely too much cake and not enough greens. I got out of bed Tuesday to go to work, but only because I need the professional reference after I leave. Next Thursday is my last day of work and I’m trying not to burn any bridges. Quitting jobs isn’t always graceful but I am determined to make this one good.
I don’t know what it is. Applying for jobs is goddamn demoralizing, but it’s not that. Even though I haven’t received a callback or interview from any of the 40+ jobs I’ve applied for, I still have unwavering faith that whatever I end up doing next is going to be a special opportunity. I’m very lucky like that. Things tend to fall into my lap because I let them. And I believe in the power of self-fulfilling prophecies too much to think anything else. I have to believe that something will turn out because it’s that belief that I lean on when all evidence says otherwise.
So maybe it’s just That Time of Year. Christmas. It’s sad and stressful because my family hasn’t been together for the holidays since all 5 of us were still living at home. Has it been over 10 years? The number of times we’ve all been in the same room since then is 0. We almost had all of us together in 2010, but my brother didn’t come. It feels like we don’t belong together anymore. And what remains of our independent relationships with one another is reduced to texting and occasional phone calls, transmitted from thousands of miles away. For a few of us, we don’t even have that.
So these days, the holidays default to my in-laws and their traditions. But no matter how much I’m told that I am part of that ridiculously nice and loving family, I won’t let myself feel it. I don’t like belonging to a group and I don’t want to be forced into one, no matter how kind or accepting they are. I don’t like maintaining relationships. It’s hard to love people. It’s hard to get close. Growing up with a periodically absent father makes it nearly impossible for me to value relationships or miss people or count on people. It feels like I am programmed to function alone, without close ties. I have my mom and my husband and (finally) my sister. And that’s enough.
But the holidays are just part of what’s going on right now. Mom sent me a photo album for Christmas, along with an envelope stuffed with old photos that I’ve been meaning to go through. One of the reasons I will never shave my head again or cut my hair short is because this year I finally realized what I was really doing: self-sabotaging. Just like laying in bed all last weekend eating cake. Picking through the photos, forced to confront previous versions of myself, I felt the urge to eat more cake. Except I didn’t because my jeans are already tighter than I’d like, and I happen to have a modicum of self-control. But fuck. I’ve never liked how I look and I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere. I’m in the middle of growing out my hair right now, desperately trying to reclaim my right as a woman, but I struggle with this. And after hours sorting through the keepers and the trash of all the photos of my life, it hit home. In the last 29 years, there hasn’t been a single time when I’ve been the full physical expression of who I am, whoever that is. I’ve never been comfortable.
I got mistaken for a boy growing up. It was the hair and prepubescent frame. But as a woman with a shaved head, both at 19 and 21, I also got mistaken for a man. I have one of those androgynous faces and if I’m wearing baggy enough clothes or carrying just a few extra pounds, I can pull off the full androgenous body as well. I’m not sure where I am going with this. Except to say that I spent way too much of my 20s looking butch and wearing cheap clothes and denying my femininity. I never wanted to inhabit myself. Or I wouldn’t let myself. I shaved off all my hair and wore men’s jeans to prove to myself that I was somehow above my womanhood. That I was choosing to not be me. Does that make sense? I’m trying to make sense of why I chose to look so not me.
For the years I did have long hair, I also had unfortunate acne or experimented with makeup in a way that someone should have stopped me. Or hid behind unflattering clothes. Or tried too hard with skin-tight jeans and shirts, only to accentuate the few extra pounds I let myself hold onto because I refused to be one of those skinny girls. Or is this some perversion of body dysmorphia? It can’t be. I know full well how much macaroni and cheese I ate after dinner. Or how much weed I smoked that resulted in midnight bakeoffs. All those years, now captured only in a handful of pictures, were lived out by a very unhappy girl, hating the part of herself that was a woman, ashamed to embrace it, desperately grasping at ideas of what it meant to be herself, and waiting for something to fall into place to show her who she could be. So this morning I felt a bit depressed again. I looked in the mirror and forced myself to love what I saw.
I own a single tube of mascara and wear it when I calculate that it will help my odds. For example, I once read that women who wear mascara to job interviews have something like an 8% higher chance of getting the job compared to those who don’t. And women who wear makeup to work are taken more seriously. Is this true? I didn’t fact check it because who cares. But it’s why I own a single tube of mascara and strategically wear it. It’s calculated femininity. Otherwise, I can’t be bothered. I’m not sure it’s part of who I am. I am not feminine in that classic sense, and that is something I have embraced. But I still wonder if I avoid the girly stuff on principle? At least I wear women’s clothes these days.
Last weekend while I lay in bed with my three cats and Kindle, Tyler spent time with his family in Elk Grove. At some point, I guess the entire family sat him down and had an intervention-style talk about how they felt sad about how they don’t see us very much (we live 2 hours away and I swear they forget to factor this in when deciding to be upset about how we didn’t show up for whatever event). And also some of them had specific problems with me, that, without going into detail (mostly because most of it is incomprehensible to me), boil down to disliking my fundamental personality and character traits. In other words, things they just need to deal with, the same way we all deal with everyone else in the world who we can’t (but would probably like to) change. People don’t fucking change. Unfortunately.
And now I have to face them all for Christmas, knowing the last time they probably thought about me was during a vent session about how I (inadvertently) hurt their feelings by saying things they “can’t remember.” Great. Happy holidays to me. The thought of my in-laws all talking about me unfavorably in my absence is humiliating. I know I said I don’t want to belong to a group or be a big part of it all, but I don’t want to be ostracised or disliked by one either. Why can’t I just float on the peripheral, unassuming and blandly liked for being polite, like I always do in close groups of people? I thought I’d finally achieved that with this group. But apparently, I’ve been actively pissing people off for the last 4 years.
That’s my life right now. But did I emphasize how unemployed I am? Wait, it’s ok though. That part will work itself out.
But being unemployed lends itself to spending a lot of time in my head, obsessing over things like how I managed to pull off looking totally unacceptable in every photo ever taken since 1988, or how my family doesn’t exist as a unit anymore, how my mother-in-law and sister-in-law likely hate me, or how I have no actual reason to get out of bed in the morning except to scoop cat poop. I’m exhausted by it all and ready to let it all go.
I’m not in a funk deep enough to keep me in bed anymore, but apparently, I am in one deep enough to feel kind of sorry for myself. I need to get it together and I hope I can summon the energy to do whatever it is I need to do to do that. I need to suppress that inner Scrooge, or maybe even abandon it altogether. Stop eating cake just because I want it. Embrace my femininity and blossom into that version of myself that’s been dormant all these years.