the body electric

Two days ago I squeezed into a floor length white dress, the scalloped bottom scraping the floor. Standing on my tip-toes and sucking in, hard, I twirled around.

“It’s pretty,” agreed my sister.

My mom said that I probably shouldn’t wear white to a wedding.

I tried on ten other dresses, all the same size, and almost all impossible to zip up my back.

“Fuccckkkk,” I moaned, continuing to suck in, sweating my ass off.

(But not so much that it didn’t pucker the material above and underneath the swell of my butt and thighs, pulling tight over what I think may be ten more pounds that I haven’t been considering.)

My sister and I have always fretted over our bodies. She even took it so far as to have a couple eating disorders in high school and college. I never had that self-control.

This weekend my mom told me that maybe I’m no longer the same size I was in high school, which brought me to knees. “Yes,” I sighed into the skirt that cut deep into my breath,  “I am.”

The thing about body image is that it doesn’t matter what your body looks like. That’s why starving, stick-thin women look in the mirror and think, “fat.”

It’s usually pretty boring to talk about your body, your self-image, your self-worth. I think most women feel the way I do, sucking in, twirling, wondering if the last few months of carbs were worth it. Polishing off a bottle of wine two hours later.

I think it’s important, though, to acknowledge that we feel this way. Maybe it’s just important for me to get it out. I’m not the same size I was in high school. I’m not the same size I was a year ago. If I worked really hard at eating a lot less, I could be.

So what’s it going to be?

Yesterday we tried the dress thing again. I squeezed into more sequins, crying out, “help!” as one dress got stuck, scratching my back as my sister yanked it off.

I found a dress. It’s one size bigger than the size I’ve been wearing for the last few years. It’s long and chic and I look pretty fucking good in it.

I celebrated with a bottle of wine.

Maybe next week, next month, next year, I’ll celebrate with a diet or a tortuous exercise routine.

Right now I’m very okay with a reasonably priced red.

 

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good soil

I found an Anaïs Nin quote the other day, “You live out the confusions until they become clear.” I printed the quote from an Etsy shop, the words scrawled across the page in calligraphy. The printed page was heavy with black ink and I had to cut away the edges so the little numbers along the top and bottom didn’t show. I folded the quote, put it in an envelope, and mailed it to my friend, Ellen. She texted me this weekend, “loved your note! thanks for thinking of me!”

I did think of Ellen when I saw those words, knowing that she was struggling with her boyfriend’s recent move to another continent and the general shittiness of her job (which is what jobs are, often, anyway). And guess what? The same day that I mailed that letter Ellen posted a picture on Instagram with her co-workers, “Thanks for a great two years!” Ellen left her job the day I thought of her. She has a new job and while we haven’t talked about it yet, I think it’s a big improvement from the old one.

Ellen lived out her confusions without my help.

So now I think of myself. I was walking around a frost-covered field this morning, feeling the cool crunchiness slowly start to seep into my tennis shoes. Cold and wet. I walked in circles as my dog ran in circles.

Yesterday, as I walked out of my office, the sun setting and the sky streaked with that golden hour light (airplanes leaving white streaks through the sky, like shooting stars that linger) I noticed a hump of grass across the street. I say hump because it’s kind of an ugly word, and this was kind of an ugly hump. The dirt and weeds were covered in something lovely, though. Red and yellow flowers stared at me in that golden hour light and I thought — Oh, shit. Yes, yes.

Those flowers wanted to grow in the middle of an empty roadside field because they said, fuck it, the soil’s good.

The soil’s good.

Recently I’ve been trying to force things: relationships, story ideas, hobbies. I push against my initial resistance and I think, “If I stick with this, it will get better.” You see, if you stick with some things, they do get better. In fact, that’s how you generally live your life. But sometimes it hurts more than it helps.

The clarified epiphany goes something like this: if you tend a garden, it grows. But some things won’t grow in certain climates — there are some seeds you should never even plant.

I’ve been living out my confusions, stirring in my discomfort, swinging from contentment to grumpiness to complete and utter befuddlement. And it’s only 8 a.m. Living this way feels organic, I’m not intentionally pushing myself into the purgatory of a Tuesday. (I would probably prefer the certainty of a Thursday evening.)

You get what you need when you need it. That’s my secular version of, “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle.” Sometimes life (and God, if that’s what you prefer) throws you something that knocks you to your knees. You know that crippling feeling — we’ve all felt it, if only in our imaginings of what a more terrible world would be.

If you don’t feel like that, then you’re just having a Tuesday morning. And anyone can live through that.

nostalgia used to hit me

Like a sack of bricks. A word, a smell, a song — I was on the floor, wondering why time passes and how much I’d pay to go back.

Nostalgia is tricky, of course. After a while a memory that was just okay in the moment becomes sweeter and sweeter in your mind. It could be because nothing else is getting better. It could be because we miss what was once familiar. It could be because we’re too damn sensitive.

(I’m too sensitive).

This weekend I went back to Charlottesville. The last time I was there I was covered in dirt and paint, moving out of the tiny cinderblock room I’d lived in for a year. Back then I had a serious boyfriend, an English degree, and no clue what I was going to do with either one.

I made out just fine.

But in those two and a half years of figuring shit out, I never once thought about returning to my alma mater. I couldn’t face it. There were too many memories — some sweet, some not so sweet. I wasn’t enough of any future self to handle any of that.

But I went back this weekend and nostalgia hit me. Not hard, but softly, like a cool fuckin breeze. I was in love with how I felt. I still am.

Charlottesville is beautiful. It is hilly and if you drive far enough it is mountainous. It is streams and pedestrian pathways and burnt orange leaves (ok, only in the fall). I used to take classes on the lawn, in buildings lined with bricks and columns. Idyllic? Nothing but.

This weekend my friends and I sat around a table, chugging wine like we always had. We hadn’t seen each other in two years either, but we were easier to come back to. People are softer than places.

We reminisced a bit but mainly we planned. We talked about our current lives and our dream cities. We aren’t done moving. Where do we go from here? I think we feel more capable now than we have before. If you can survive those first few months of post-college no mans land, you can do anything.

People would ask me, “Why haven’t you gone back?”

And the answer, in some form or another was, “I don’t want to.”

I don’t want to remember the pain of not knowing. I don’t want to walk the street corners where I would sit, defeated, confused. I don’t want to feel the way I felt the day I graduated — entirely lost, partly sad, mainly angry.

You don’t have to love college. You don’t have to love anything, really, if you’re in your 20s. I hate that I think, sometimes, that I do. Why don’t I love this just a little bit more.

I wonder when I’ll stop growing. When will I wake up and say, last night I had a dream about a field of puppies. Instead of, you know, terrifying sagas of work, relationships, the future.

Nostalgia is nice because whether it hits you or just breezes past, it has already come to its conclusion. I sat on the lawn this weekend and I finally appreciated it. I wasn’t hurrying off to be someone else — I was in that place.

Time is the only cure for a sack of bricks. You can’t think your way out of that blow. You can’t sleep your way out of it either. (I’ve tried both).

I hate, sometimes, that I’m living and living and living and then months have passed. What have I accomplished.

I turned a sack of bricks into something I can handle. For now, I don’t expect to draw any more conclusions than that.