After ten days of solo travel, one hell of a podcast interview, and once again being contacted by many sexual trauma survivors, I am feeling free, sad, compassionate, burdened, happy, grateful, and like I need more coffee.
I would like to give a HUGE shout out and thank you to Paul Gilmartin for having on his podcast, The Mental Illness Happy Hour. The segment is called, "Trading Sex for Love", and we discuss my essay, I Was a Promiscuous Teen: An Open Letter to All the Men from My Past, including sex, objectification, consent, alcoholism and many more totally uncomfortable topics. Paul is a generous listener and wonderful interviewer and his podcast can make me laugh and cry within the same 30 seconds. Download the Mental Illness Happy Hour app or listen on the website: https://mentalpod.com/archives/5168.
A few days ago, I was exhausted, sprawled on the sofa, tears running down my face. It was the worst bout with anxiety I’ve had in a few months. I’m not naïve enough to think that the anxiety won’t return when it has stayed at bay for as long as it had, but I suppose I’m still waiting for the day that my awareness of my anxiety causes it to feels less powerful. It is still as powerful, but because I now know the cycle, it doesn’t come with the side of hopelessness that it used to come with.
I caught a few waves and had a great time, but at about an hour in, I could no longer feel my hands or my feet, and I was having trouble talking because my lips were numb and didn’t work anymore. I thought I was tough, but that water was DAMN COLD. As I was walking back to the car, a gentleman who was about to paddle out asked me how it was. I went to say, “It was fun” but what came out was, “immwuzfn”. That was about what my lips could articulate. Did I say it was cold?
Some paintings have an identity that comes out fast and strong. When this happens, the painting resolves itself quickly. It feels amazing because it’s as if the painting just flows out of me and onto the canvas, without question. I hardly need to pause to make decisions in color or composition. It simply becomes.
Once, I was at a little league game when another Mom, who is also a friend, asked how I had quit drinking. When I told her that I had to go and get a few years of help, the smile on her face dropped into one of concern. She immediately began waving her hands in front of her in a cease and desist motion, and said in a hushed voice, “We don’t have to talk about it.” It was though the subject had passed over a line, from “friendly self-help topic” to “things not discussed in public”.
There I was. Painting/dancing, high side-pony whipping this way and that, yelling/singing the song Leavingby Yes, when I turned to notice my 17-year-old daughter had walked in and totally busted me in this state of artistic genius/madness.
How is it that I desire attention and simultaneously want to run from it? I have told myself that I must be the most self-conscious, arrogant person in the world. I thought that this dichotomy made me weak and wishy-washy, as if it meant that I didn’t know myself enough to be solid in either role. However, I now see that both sides serve a purpose that allow the other to live and flourish.
While I do think that there is a time and place for comfort food/Olivia Benson therapy, I know myself well enough to know that this past Tuesday morning, shutting down was not the solution. It would only be delaying the inevitable and that in itself would just create its own additional stress. However, the circles I was walking in were gaining a frantic speed that I can only compare to the Looney Toons Tasmanian Devil. I wasn’t making progress. I was moving just to move, trying to trick myself into thinking that I was being productive. With every step, a new worry popped into my head. I had to go to the beach.
Thanks to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Lady Gaga, Tarana Burke, Daisy Coleman, Alice Stone Blackwell, Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem and countless other amazingly strong and revolutionary women, we are where we are. We have a right and more importantly, a responsibility to continue to stand up. ALSO, we can be fabulous, both inside and out. All of us. Always.