C got ahold of a movie that he wants to watch with me tonight when he gets home. In the midst of packing and cooking and studying and dealing with my poor intestines... it is most welcome. I've been looking forward to it all day.

It's a romance/musical. Go figure the guy likes romances. (Which I'm happy about, because I loooooove a good love story! And a good song and dance number.)
Well, I guess you could say I'm having sleep problems. The interesting thing is, though, that after prying myself out of bed, I have a surprising amount of energy to make it through the day. The back and forth pendulum is so odd... to go from "I can't get enough sleep, I'm so lethargic all day" to "I can't fall asleep, I just keep going and going even if I'm tired, I'm practically wired". It's odd.

Actually, part of my problem right now is sleeping in a bed. I have begun to notice a pattern. First, I started having a difficult time falling asleep without C in bed with me. Then, I began having a difficult time falling asleep in bed period. If I went out into the living room, say, or if we hopped in his truck to go somewhere, I'd relax and get sleepy in no time. But when I tuck myself between the blankets and sheets... I'm wound up again.

Could this be a part of the larger scheme of my body revolting in odd ways? Joint and muscle aches, undue tension in odd places, aching teeth (but only on one side!), headaches... etc.

Nearest thing I can figure is that, because I'm dredging up the past (again) and trying to work through stuff, the old associations are coming back? Most of my molestation did happen when I was in bed, alone.

I made a little nest on the floor out of blankets last night, after tossing and turning for over an hour. I was asleep very quickly, though C did have to wake me up and move me to the bed when he retired for the evening (I had all the blankets). Even after that, though, I crashed almost instantly, for the duration of the night.

Even sex has become more difficult for me. Not flashbacks, per se, but emotional flashbacks or triggers or whatever... but I just make it a point to keep my eyes open and watch C, to focus on the present and remind myself that I'm safe, that those gross feelings will pass, and that what I'm doing is good and enjoyable and no-one is going to harm me. I haven't told C about this one, yet... but I may.

I've got my first counseling session tonight. A bit apprehensive. C doesn't think I should be, but I am, because I am afraid that this is going to "ruin my life". Every time I touch this stuff, it explodes all over me... like lancing a boil and winding up covered in pus. Grossed out? You should be. It's gross.

And it makes it very, very hard to function. I just want to be normal!! Yet I know that I have to put the work into recovery to get there... but I think I'd rather just skip the recovery part and go straight to normal, thankyouverymuch.

I guess what I'm really afraid of is that going back to having a hard time will somehow negate all the good I've done and learned recently... that it will prove false any happiness I might have gained. Or, worse yet, that I'm an emotional hypochondriac and there's nothing actually wrong with me except that I don't know how to cope with life. Like all those years I spent going to doctors only to have them tell me I was fine, when I knew that I wasn't! I could play crazy, if only for the validation...

Ahh, but I'm going to Yosemite with friends tomorrow, and there is much preparation to be accomplished. I have to leave in 2 hours, so I'd better get skeedaddle-ing.

Also, my sister K may or may not be going into pre-term labor. She's at the doctor's as we speak...

Shadows

Quite possibly my favorite song of the moment.


Gratitudes


  • I have food in my pantry.
  • I am able to go on a trip to Yosemite with friends this weekend.
  • I am passing all my classes with good grades!
  • I found my wedding shoes.
  • I was able to go for a good walk two days in a row.
  • I had enough money to buy a few little extra things this week.
  • I got into the free counseling program-- 6 free sessions of counseling for the next six weeks, starting tomorrow.
    • The supervisor who will be in on the sessions knows many of the practicing counselors in the community, and after seeing me around for six sessions will probably be able to give me a spot-on recommendation for who to see on a long-term basis. Reduced trial and error!
  • My Essential Sciences professor called me "one of his shining stars".
  • I was chosen by my math teacher to be a group leader-- one that helps other people understand the math we're doing.
  • I was able to explain the math that we're doing.
  • Our group was one of the only ones to finish the worksheet in the class period.
  • The HJ got a large donation from a local Indian tribe-- I'll be getting paid!
  • I'm getting married!!!!
  • I'm in a loving, stable relationship characterized by mutual respect and appreciation and the freedom to be myself.
  • I am freakishly smart. (Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but I am intelligent!)
  • I am learning balance and contentment with my life.
  • My Essential Sciences teacher encouraged me to pursue the counseling (even though I'll be 1/2 hour late to class once a week) because it's better for the long term to deal with your demons now.
  • There is a strong possibility that an accelerated massage course will begin in January, meaning that I won't have to wait until next fall.
  • I'm getting an education!
  • The freedom to nap. (Which I will probably avail myself of today.)
  • Hot baths.
  • Pain receptors. (No, really. Pain is important!!)
  • A clean house when a boatload of people came over last night unexpectedly.
I think this whole "sleeping" thing is over-rated. I mean, really. 9 hours a night? What a huge chunk of time that I could totally spend on fb! (Sarcasm. I jest, I jest.)

I'm sitting on the bathroom floor because S crashed on the couch and C is asleep in the room, and I don't want to wake either of them.

I'm so looking forward to when C and I have a place for just the two of us. Maybe it's all part of the balancing act, but I just have been... annoyed, I guess... with having to expend the energy it takes to interact with someone other than C throughout the day. (And he's either asleep or gone most of the day.) It's like... when I get home, I just want to be alone. Don't talk to me, don't bother me... just leave me alone. But S is social, so he wants to talk. And for a while that was fine. But now I feel a little bad, because I feel like I probably come off brusque for now apparent reason. Sorry, but I just don't want to deal with you.

On a related note, I do not like mead. Too bad, because I thought that I might. Nope, it tastes horrible, as do most fermented drinks. (I even have a hard time with kombucha.)

WARNING: I NOW TALK ABOUT BOWEL MOVEMENTS. If you're squeamish about that type of thing, now would be a good time to quit reading.

I ache. Part of the reason I'm up so early. My knees especially, my ankles some... just like old times. And my colon hurts. I'm actually waiting for my chamomile "tea" to cool down so I can do an enema. I skipped last week, which was a mistake, because my poor colon got all irritated. (I could tell by the size and frequency of my bowel movements. Classic IBS status. And the liquid ended up sloughing off large amounts of bloody mucous. Blergh. I chose chamomile specifically for its soothing qualities. Hopefully I can get a handle on this irritation.) If it's the "first time" (i.e. if I skip a week or two), then the rest of the week is pretty miserable. Constipation. Bloating. Distress and pain. But if I do it regularly (once a week), then my bowel movements even out and get regular, and I just feel a whole lot better.

Couldn't sleep. Finally dozed off somewhere after two a.m. (and I'd been in bed for hours, thankyouverymuch), woke up at 5-ish. At six, I finally got up to get some peppermint tea and get this ball rolling.

I'm still doing good, I think. I just hate hurting. And I hate being gypped on sleep.

I think it has to do with addressing issues. This kind of flare-up/feedback is not uncommon for me... at least these days. The past couple of months.

Seems like I've got a mix of new health probs and old body memories comin' back at me.

What a mix.

It's too bad I don't like mead. I could drink my problems away.
I found my wedding shoes today. I'll put up a picture later. Got them for eight bucks at Goodwill. I'd been searching the interwebs for acceptable shoes, knowing that I wanted something elegant but quirky... scouring the thrift stores... and finally, there they were. Thank you, Jesus.

I'm going to have to make some adjustments on the budget, cut out some more unnecessary things. I'm thinking that, rather than buying disposable tablecloths, I might just hit up Goodwill during one of their 50% sales and buy a bunch of regular white tablecloths. The mismatch would be cool, and it would be less expensive, probably by a full half. I checked out the regular prices today-- about comparable. So a half off thingy would be perfect.

C and I resumed the conversation about wedding planning a little last night. I asked him if he would give me "permission" to plan the wedding, and he said that I should know by now. I countered by saying that he should know me by now and know that I need things blatantly stated out loud. He laughed, agreed, and gave me explicit permission to plan our wedding. Yayyyyyyy.

And, today I bought the fixin's for fall decorations. Just some paper leaves, a bare wreath, and some fake flowers. With my glue gun, though, it will soon be transformed.

I've stopped feeling guilty about spending money on things that aren't essential to my survival. I think it's cause I'm not in debt anymore. I don't feel that "Oh, I could have used that five bucks to pay off a bill" anymore. What a great feeling!

Also, ran into some church friends at the store. More musings on that later. Probably after my walk after class.

(Also, quick note: after a little research, I have found that this brand of shoe retails for no less than $50/pair on the cheap end of the spectrum, and also that these shoes don't exist anywhere else other than my closet. Excellent...)

When I read C the post about not needing an engagement, he assured me that I'm not bullying him into this. Also, his extended family will be coming. Also, I deduced that he doesn't feel fully firm on the date yet, and wants to be sure it's totally solid before handing it out to people who will be asking for time off of work. The reason? Money. He feels like we may end up postponing it because we (I) can't afford everything we've got planned.

I told him that if we can't afford favors, then screw the favors. If we can't afford tablecloths, then fine. If we can't afford centerpieces, oh well. If it ends up just being him and me under a tree with a pastor, then that's what'll happen, just so long as he and I end up married at the end of the day. Our family and friends can be there to wish us well and help us party, but all I'm concerned about is marrying him. Yes, I want the pretty things, and I'm working towards that, but those things are not what matter.

He looked me in the eye and confessed that he doesn't care about all the stuff.

I then asked him if he were cool with just running off and getting hitched in the courthouse next week. (Jokingly! Remember, I do want "the stuff".) He said his folks would be disappointed, since they would want to attend a wedding. I agreed that my folks would be disappointed as well. Then he laughed and flipped to a section in the Star Wars book he's reading.

It was a Mandalorian couple exchanging wedding vows. Basically, they repeat the lines together and they're married. That's it. No ceremony, no nothin'.

I looked up the English translation (C had explained what they meant, but not verbatim), and they're actually really cool. (I'm wondering if I can get them engraved on the inside of his ring or something.)

Mhi solus tome.
Mhi solus dhar'tome.
Mhi me'dinui an.
Mhi ba'juri verde. 

We are one together.
We are one when parted.
We share all.
We will raise warriors.

(Good gravy... I am marrying into nerd-dom. And wholeheartedly, at that.)
Yes, I'll admit, I stole that term. It is oh-so-fitting, I couldn't just leave it alone and coin my own phrase. (Did I mention that I'm pretty enthralled with A Practical Wedding? That's where I got the term.)

I did some thinking about this on my walk tonight. It dovetails so perfectly with my recent themes of balance, contentment, and joy that it seems... I dunno, almost providential?

I went through a little bit of the pre-engagement crazy this spring. C and I had gone through premarital counseling (pre-engagement, really) and knew that we wanted to get married. I, of course, am of the let's do it now! persuasion, while C is not. He's got that whole level-headed thing going on.

While I was in Id, I was so sure that he was going to propose. I was practically obsessed with it. I guess I felt that being engaged would lend credence to my choice, would solidify the relationship and make it so that it was for sure not going to end again. I wanted security, I wanted assurance, and I wanted a ring on my left hand.

Yeah, so that didn't happen. I got a ring, but for my right hand. It's beautiful. It's actually the restored version of my engagement ring that was crushed under the S's rig's tire a couple winters ago. I wear it often, and it usually brings a smile to my face when I look at it. It represents so much of the history that is woven between C and I, and it represents the future that we have yet to create together. It's the past, restored. It's the future, unwritten. It's... perfect, in its own imperfect way.

But security within a relationship does not come by rings alone.

Now that I'm actively planning the wedding, it's calmed down some. My personality type is that of once I've decided to do something, then do it! Pursue it until you run out of steam. And always, always looking forward to the "next thing". So simply being in a loving, committed relationship wasn't enough. Nope. Had to be engaged, had to be planning a wedding for it to mean anything.

There are a couple of factors in this one. One is that I know that a large majority of the crowd I've run with the past five years will disapprove of the match on principle. They don't know C, but that doesn't matter. Or, worse yet, they know that I left five years ago and would liken it to a dog returning to its vomit. So! If I'm married, then they can't do or say anything but ruefully shake their heads, and I'm fine with rueful shaking.

Aha, you say, aha! The sign of a guilty conscience! Turn back now, before it's too late!

Um, no, actually. I just need everyone to approve of what I do. The sign of a codependent.

As I'm growing beyond that, I find that I do not need the ring to give me the confidence in this relationship to withstand imagined guilt trips. I can stand on my own two feet and choose a right choice without fear of the repercussions from those who might not like what I'm doing. (This, by the way, will probably be inevitable at some point in your life. That whole pleasing people thing? It doesn't work out too well in practical application.)

The second factor is guilt. Yes, guilt. Believe it or not, there are a lot of cultural expectations and baggage that go along with relationships-- what's right, what's not, what's appropriate for certain time frames, what you should be doing by a certain point in time, etc. I feel guilty planning a wedding without the ring because, well... I'm not allowed to.

I know, I know. It's silly. But the message has been burned so deep into my psyche that it's almost irresistible. I am afraid that C will be upset with me now that I'm in the actual "buying things" stage. Seriously. I scored that neat-o cupcake holder/candle holder thing last week, but I was scared to show it to him. Why? Well, because I'm only his girlfriend. Like, by planning the wedding, I'm pushing him into something he may not want. I'm not his fiance. He hasn't asked me to marry him. Therefore I have no place planning our wedding.

(Nevermind the fact that he helped me set the date, that he's the one who helped me pare down my side of the guest list, that he's the one who found our invitations, that he... well, you get the point.)

As I thought about it, it occurred to me... do I actually need a proposal? Do I need to hear him say the words, "Will you marry me?"

And no. The answer is no. I do need to be reassured that I'm not bullying him into this, and I do need to be reassured that he does want to marry me, but... I don't actually need a ring on my left hand.

I mean, it'd be nice. I can't deny that. I love gifts, I love surprises, and I love romance. But do I need it? Nope. (Actually, edit that: I do really, really want him to actually ask me to marry him, but I don't need the traditional proposal, per se, or the "status symbol" of the ring. Does that make sense?)

Because I am content. I am secure. I am happy. I am loved. And I know that a ring on my left hand isn't going to change our relationship one iota besides giving me bragging rights and a story to tell. It'll change my title, but it won't change the way he looks at me.

I didn't realize it until today, actually, but I've stopped looking for the proposal. I mean, we're getting married in 6 months. Who cares?!

Back at the beginning of this round, during one of our lengthy, soul-revealing talks, I asked him playfully, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

You know what his answer was?

"Your husband."

That's my proposal, right there.
I was thinking about this last night as I took a walk (3.3 miles, not too shabby). And somewhat yesterday "morning" as C and I were at the range. And during the week, while I was laid out on the couch, sick.

Suffice to say that it's been on my mind in various forms a lot lately. :)

I feel like I'm finally learning how to do life well. Probably due in part to The Gifts of Imperfection and A Deeper Story, my mindset is changing. Imperfection doesn't send quick bolts of fear to my heart like it used to. (Um, okay, as much as it used to.)  My vocabulary is changing. I no longer seek the right choice, as though there were only one right way to do things out of the myriad of choices we are presented every day, but a right choice. I have come to believe that there is more than one right way to do things, more than one right choice. Maybe they vary in degrees of rightness-- I haven't gotten that far in refining my personal philosophy yet. But I'm breaking free of my black and white prison.

Probably part of it is due to my wonderful mate. (I almost typed husband! Almost... just 6 more months.) His no-frills way of approaching the world has helped me to be realistic, to take the machete of common sense to many of the briars that had grown up to choke my mind. It's not all briars, to be sure. I come across many valuable little plantings that I want to keep and nurture. And sometimes he disagrees, and that's okay. We have fun little clashings, interesting philosophical conversations that leave both of us shaking our heads because it's like trying to talk to a rock. (We're both a little stubborn, and too smart for our own good.)

Maybe it's because I have stability and safety, I can focus on the smaller aspects of life now. I can take the time to be good to myself, to speak my own love language, to be kind to myself. I don't have to be "on" twenty-four hours a day. And that is a huge relief and blessing.

Another thing I'm learning is to just let the day happen. Don't try to force it into a mold of what you think it ought to be like. Just let it go. Experience it as it comes. This is what I was thinking of yesterday at the range. I have a habit of looking forward to something being over even when it's hardly begun. Maybe so I can remember it and think about it, I don't know. It's like my chewing habits, but with experiences. I bolt down one forkful because I'm already looking forward to the next.

I think this "chewing thoroughly" thing is teaching me more than I'd bargained for.

Anyway, yesterday we went out and C taught me how to shoot his pistol. (I'm not good, but I'm not bad, either. If someone were coming at me, I'd say I have a 70% chance of hitting them, but odds are it wouldn't be where I was aiming!) (C is telling me that if someone is coming at me, I ought to treat it like the Renaissance one-shot pistols they used to use in sword fights-- fighting, fighting, take your pistol out and plant it directly against their chest. Did it go off? No? Then keep fighting with your sword! lol Apparently pirates used to do it that way, because it takes your chances of missing down to zero, and they already had to worry about whether or not the gun would actually go off, because the powder might be wet, etc.)

While we were out there, I found myself wanting it to be over, not because I wasn't having a good time (I rather enjoyed myself), but just because that's what I do. Fortunately, I caught myself, and I was able to focus and be more or less present for the rest of the few hours we were out there.

And as far as "planning my days"... I've more or less given that up. I mean, there are certain things I need to accomplish on certain days, to be sure, and I work on getting them done. What I mean is that detailed scheduling that I'm so fond of. "Okay, I'll do homework from one to three-thirty, at which point I should be done, then I'll clean the house from three-thirty to five, and then C and I will watch a movie, and then we'll do this, and then while he's playing SWOTR, I'll do this certain craft, and then..." Yeah, that's kind of boring. Plus it leads to frustrated expectations. What if C doesn't want to watch a movie, or cuddle with me when he gets home like I thought in my mind, or what if he wants to play SWOTR first and then do something with me, or what I if I don't feel like doing that craft? I think that dissective mindset was one of the things that led me to "soldier through" the day and activities, even if I wasn't feeling it. Like, I said I was gonna do it, so by gum I'll do it!

Allowing myself to take naps really shattered that. I can't exactly schedule a nap into my day, because who knows if I'll even need one, or how long I'll nap for, or... anything?

It's so much more pleasant to know what I need to get done and just let the day evolve as it will. There are times (especially this last week!) when I have to tell myself, Look, I know you want to quit this and do something fun. I understand, and I'm sorry. But this needs to be done, and you need to do it. Yes, you will be rewarded for your hard work, just not right now. Capice? So it's not like I just goof off and let my days fly to the wind. It's more of an "I'm not dead set on when this must occur, and if I don't get everything accomplished today that I'd like to, it's not the end of the world and I can get it done tomorrow."

I like this new way of living.

I like the little things that I'm free to do now. I like feeling free to buy myself a bouquet of flowers and decorate the jar that I put them it. I like being able to go to Michael's in the evening and window shop. I like being able to take long walks. I like being able to cook myself good food. I like being able to watch a movie, with or without C. I like being able to take a nap, should I so desire. I like being able to spend an hour or two Stumbling neuroscience articles, craft sites, and cartoons. I like my plans to decorate the house for fall, just because. I like being able to take time to just freak out if I'm dealing with stuff, if I need to.

I like my life.

I'm happy with it.

I never thought I'd be able to say that with such conviction and satisfaction.

Work

Okay, so I've got the wedding planned.

And HJ  money will be coming in soon (read: in a week or two).

However, since I quit leading the teen group, I will definitely NOT be getting as many hours in as I would have before. I have peace of mind but less pieces of money. A terrible dilemma, that...

Also, I'm supposed to work on Mon-Tues for a couple of hours, but E will arbitrarily cancel a day or two on me, so I really can't count on that steady of income from that. It's partly annoying, partly a relief. I like having extra time to clean the house or work on a craft project or get ahead on my homework.

However, I did get a check from the gov't for a few hundred dollars. It's part of my grant money, and so I spent it on something school related. I paid off the last few hundred that I owed SOULS. Know what that means? I'm debt free! (Uh, yes, except for the $30 on my credit cart. Heh.)

This means that any "spare" money I get now can be applied directly to the wedding. I'm done with that bill. With the rest of the money, I bought groceries. (It's gotten to a sad state where I feel guilty for buying groceries, for spending money on food. That's bad.)

So, how to supplement my meager income without swamping my frail nervous system? Enter Craigslist Gigs.

I have landed two "gigs" already-- one writing content for a few websites, and another as a model for an art project. I'm currently trying for another gig, but I really can't believe that I have even done this...

My rule, though, is that I will never strip for money, and I will never perform sexual favors for money. I've honestly contemplated it in the past (and the not-so-distant past), but... no. Just no. It's not worth it. Really, it's not. Especially after reading stories from ladies who have, and the atmosphere in such places, not to mention the fact that I'm encouraging those kinds of activities (which I do not approve of!). No. No matter how desperate I get, that's one of the things I will never do, along with selling drugs or alcohol.

However, I will model bikinis for money. No, it's not for people to ogle, it's displaying products for a website. Different, in my mind. I just never thought I'd get back into modeling. I'm not "out of shape", but I'm not sleek and toned, either. I'm a healthy looking average girl. Sometimes that works, and most times it doesn't. It depends what the person is looking for. In the case of the artist, it's just what they're looking for. In the case of the bikini saleswoman, I'm not sure, because she hasn't emailed me back yet.

Anyway, I've realized that the odd job scenario can work for me. Hopefully I'll be able to live off of what I'm making with HJ, and the odd jobs I do I can put towards the wedding.

Depending on my ambitions, I may even put a few craft items or paintings up on Etsy. If I can get ahold of a camera, I don't see why I couldn't.

Oh, yeah. My roomie and I (mostly my roomie) are learning to eat fire. If all goes well, we'll have street performance routine coming along within the next month or two, and can get some money that way. That'd be cool.
I found it. I've found my code of ethics.

You know, that set of "rules for living" that just resonates deep within you?

Yes, of course I lean towards the Christian set of ethics, but there are inherent things that just bother me... whether they be misunderstandings on my part or genuinely held ideals.

Anyway, while Stumbling today, I came across this gem: Native American Code of Ethics.

Read, and be inspired.
  1. Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.
  2. Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.
  3. Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.
  4. Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed and treat them with respect and honor.
  5. Do not take what is not yours whether from a person, a community, the wilderness or from a culture. It was not earned nor given. It is not yours.
  6. Respect all things that are placed upon this earth—whether it be people, animal or plant. Honor the Spirit in all things.
  7. Honor other people’s thoughts, wishes and words. Never interrupt another or mock or rudely mimic them. Allow each person the right to personal expression.
  8. Never speak of others in a bad way. The negative energy that you put out into the universe will multiply when it returns to you. All persons make mistakes. And all mistakes can be forgiven. Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism.
  9. Nature is not for us, it is a part of us. They are part of your worldly family.
  10. Children are the seeds of our future. Plant love in their hearts and water them with wisdom and life’s lessons. When they are grown, give them space to grow.
  11. Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of your pain will return to you.
  12. Be truthful at all times. Honesty is the test of ones will within this universe.
  13. Keep yourself balanced. Your mental self, spiritual self, emotional self, and physical self—all need to be strong, pure and healthy. Work out the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in spirit to cure emotional ails.
  14. Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react. Be responsible for your own actions.
  15. Respect the privacy and personal space of others. Do not touch the personal property of others—especially sacred and religious objects. This is forbidden.
  16. Be true to yourself first. You cannot nurture and help others if you cannot nurture and help yourself first.
  17. Respect others religious beliefs. Do not force your belief on others.
  18. Share your good fortune with others. Participate in charity. Be willing to give back to the people, so that People will live.
‎"It takes courage to live as your authentic self. Some people, even family members, may not want to accept the real you. But if you don’t live that way, you become less of yourself and less to those around you. Walking to the beat of your own drum allows you to use all your gifts and be there for others. Every choice you make contains the choice to be authentic. When you choose to live as who you really are, you become your best self." 
{Don Shapiro, Life Is A Fork In The Road}

(A friend posted this on the HJ fb page, and it was too good not to tuck away for posterity... and it totally reaffirms my "Contentment" post.)

BY the way...

...guess who's famous today? Just for one day, mind you. :)

I follow this blog called Espresso and Cream, which I thoroughly enjoy (the author lives in Iowa, where I was born!), and I submitted a post on 5 things that make me feel beautiful. Well, she ran it today, and you can check it out if you want. If not, at least check out Madison's blog. She's a food stylist (I think?), so the photos that go with her recipes are amazing. And the food's healthy!

Seriously. Just go.
I was talking with E while at work yesterday, explaining this odd "contentment" that I'm experiencing... and, of course, she asked how the wedding planning was going. And how C and I were doing. And I couldn't help but smile as I told her, "I love that man!"

And it's true. I do.

It's more than just loving him, though, because I've loved him all along. Even while we were separated those 5 years, even when I thought I'd never, ever get back together with him... even when I had demonized him and defamed his character and convinced myself that he had sold himself to the devil and would stain my soul with his mere proximity... I loved him. I've always loved him.

I did tell him many times during the first go-round that I didn't believe in love. I didn't, really... One of my mom's coping mechanisms (both emotional and economical) was serial relationships. I didn't know that a relationship could last for years and years and years. That's the kind of thing that happened to other people, not me. I didn't expect or hope for anything other than what I had seen or already experienced. No, that's not true. I expected and hoped for relationships that were not abusive. That was my benchmark. If he's not hitting me or the kids, if he's not molesting my children or raping me, well then he must be alright. And we'll go through it until we just don't want to anymore, and then we'll part, and then I'll find someone else until that's over, and on and on and on.

That's the life I knew. That's what I expected. Part of me hoped for a miracle, for a guy to sweep me off my feet and love me forever, but most of me didn't waste time thinking about it. I was young and focused on surviving one day at a time. I didn't have time to wonder about the future. Besides, I figured I'd be dead by thirty, anyway. Probably younger.

Also, I'd been let down so many times before by the men in my life who were supposed to love me but didn't. I had given up. I didn't believe in the "love lie" any longer. Why bother? You're just going to get shafted anyway. Yeah, the "in love" feelings were quite pleasant, and I had my share of crushes! But real love? Doesn't exist.

Much like an ROUS, though, it pounced on me without warning.

C and I were friends for somewhere around a year before anything romantic happened. I mean, I thought he was cute and all, but... not my type. Nice guy. Good friend. But anything else? Why?

Once we began dating, I realized rather quickly that I loved him, which startled me, because I didn't believe in love. So then I figured that maybe I sorta believed in love. Or something.

Eventually, I just accepted the fact that he made me believe in love again, as corny as that sounds. I told him that, too. But then... then I left. After all those years, all that built up trust and love... I left.

It was the right thing to do, I know it. I needed to grow into my own person, to get over some of my co-dependent ways, and just grow up. I needed to have my own adventures, to further develop my own opinions and passions and grandiose stories. He needed to do the same. (But without the grandiose stories. Hehe.)

And then... then we went to the Renaissance Festival together earlier this year. It's not like I hadn't seen him at all in the intervening 5 years. I did cut off all communication for a couple of years after the trial, because I wasn't strong enough to not be with him as long as we were still talking and seeing each other. But the hours we spent in the car riding up there, and how we ended up talking the whole night, and spending the day walking around the faire together (just like old times!), the car ride home... I just felt like he was the one I belonged with. The times I had seen him before were more about defensiveness, trying to prove that I don't need you! Look how happy and successful I can be without you!

And then it became I don't need you... but I want you.

Oh, but I still had doubts. So many doubts and misgivings. What if I was doing the wrong thing? I mean, I wanted this, so it's wrong, right? And he's not Christian like me, and we don't believe exactly the same way, and God's gonna hate me and my friends are gonna be horrified because I left him so long ago and they'll think I'm apostatizing and... and... and... Sure enough, the "what-if's" and the pressure from my Christian friends and family and the thought of losing my salvation were too much. I walked away again.

For like, two weeks.

And then I was pregnant.

So what do you do when you're pregnant? You talk to the baby-daddy, of course! It was in those long, exploratory, deeply emotional conversations that I got to see the real C. Not the one that I'd built up in my mind, not the one that I'd assigned virtues and vices and motives to, not the one that my friends told me about. No, the real C. His plans, his hopes, his dreams, his beliefs, his ambitions, his convictions... his heart. And I realized that I wanted what he had to offer, and that this baby could be the best thing that ever happened to me.

But then, when I lost the baby just a few weeks later, I was forced to look at the situation. With no child tying us together, did I really want to be there? Was being with C what I really wanted? Was it worth braving the disapproval of those I've known and loved over the past years?

The answer, I found, was yes. (Pre-marital counseling was really the nail in the coffin for me, I think... Combined with those heart-searching conversations of yore, I found that we are deeply compatible and even good for each other.)

How does all this tie in with contentment? Yeah, good question. It seems a little convoluted as I try to weave it all together...

The thing is, I still had a wall. And doubts. And fears. It's still so hard for me to trust, for fear of that trust being betrayed... or of losing the object of my trust due to forces outside of my control. (Think illness, injury, death, etc.) It's still so hard for me to love, to really love.

Not that I don't believe in love, because I do, now. I really do. But it's so difficult for me to put it into practice. It's risky. It's scary. And how much better would it be to just avoid that risk entirely by not loving? Am I right? (No, of course I'm not! That's a rhetorical question.)

But I've realized, while musing upon themes of contentment, while talking it over with E... I've let my wall down. When I say, "I love that man!", it's because I really, really do.

As we were falling asleep last night all tangled up and cuddly (my favorite part of the day!), I told him that I had realized something this past week. I realized that I no longer have any doubts or hesitations. I've had a wall for so long, but I've let it down, and I love him unreservedly. And I've realized that sharing my life with him... I am content. I really believe I'm doing a right thing. After every single sentence, he kissed my face, and when I was done he kissed me once more and said, "I love you, woman."

It meant a lot to him to hear that. I mean, think about it. It's hard to know that the one you love loves you too, but has doubts and isn't entirely sure about staying... especially when you're planning on spending your lives together! lol It's a little counter-intuitive.

By the way, super cute: he's a reflex kisser. What does that mean? It means that when I'm headed off to class in the morning, I give my sleeping beauty a kiss on the lips and a goodbye. Sometimes he's conscious enough to mumble goodbye back, but today he was fast asleep. When I kissed him, though, he reflexively kissed back even though he was sleeping. It's pretty darn adorable. Like a little kid. :)

So, long story short... I'm really looking forward to Mawwiage.

Thinking about it this morning... even if something horrible does happen and he (for instance) dies... it's still totally worth it to have loved. He knows how I feel, I know he feels the same. Would I rather miss out on this experience because it could end at some point? No way in Hades! I think that's the point he was trying to make when talking to me about D. Yes, he's dying, and I'm terribly sad. Would it have been better to never have cared about him at all, even if one day all I have are memories? No, not at all.

It's a strange feeling, this being content... Not an emotion, exactly, though it does manifest as deeply iridescent bubbles that break through and tickle my heart from time to time.

Emotions. I've had plenty of those over the past few days, weeks, and months. Anxiety, discouragement, pain, fear, hope, joy, love, betrayal, depression, doubt, relief, courage... the list goes on and on. My emotional life tends toward the turbulent. Even these past few days, I've swung over a pretty good area of the grid.

This "content", though... it's different. Associated with emotions, but not an emotion in and of itself. It's like, even after watching the movie and going through the inevitable "bad" feelings... the content was still there, underneath. It's like... I'm happy with my life. I like where I'm at, I like where I'm headed... I'm happy with the way I'm handling life...

I am having such a difficult time putting this into words!! That's unusual for me.

I guess it's just that I believe I'm making good decisions with my life, I deep to my core believe I'm doing the right thing, and maybe that's a little unusual for me to have that certainty. One of the worst things about Christianity was the whole "following God's will except that you don't actually really know God's will and you have to walk by faith but remember that the devil is walking about like a roaring lion and tricking people so be careful because even if something seems to be the right thing it may actually not be and by taking a leap of faith you might actually be playing right into Satan's hands but you still need to be in God's will so just... pray" thing. I was literally paralyzed with fear over doing the wrong thing. All the time. I couldn't make a decision in my life, hardly, and if I did I was consumed with worry that I'd done the wrong thing until something amazing happened that would reassure me that I had aimed right. It felt like trying to throw a dart at the period at the end of the sentence from eight feet away.

But now... now that I'm thinking through decisions myself, weighing the pros and cons and taking responsibility for the future consequences and ramifications of my actions, well... it's freeing, really. Going to school is a good decision. Being with C is a good decision. Marrying him is even better. You know what? Leaving church was a good decision. I know, I know. Heathen. Going to hell. Whatever. If you look at the fruits of a decision, you see whether it was good or not. Setting boundaries, interpersonal relationships with people of different convictions, examining my relationship with God, study about what and why I believe, re-examination of my self-worth and relationship to performance... contentment. Contentment that I didn't have while I was "in the faith". Fear robbed me of that. Fear and uncertainty. Fear of doing wrong, of being wrong, of rejection. Boy, have I ever had to face up to those fears! Seriously. When you're paralyzed by the thought of making a mistake and an entire subculture will unanimously stand up and declare you to be making a mistake, well...

No, I didn't leave church so that I could party without feeling bad. I left so that I could live my life without feeling bad, I think.

And thus I am content.

Bad stuff will continue to rock my boat. Stress sends me limping to bed some days. Finances leave me curled up and sobbing on the bed from time to time. Nightmares and flashbacks wind me up to tense and raging.

But underneath that all, once the storm clouds blow over a little... I still like who I am. And I still like where I'm at. And I still like who I'm with. And I still think that God and I, we're going to be okay.
I'm working on the HJ's newsletter, and I interviewed a survivor for an article today. I thought I'd share the finished article, mostly because she reminded me so much of Mom... not her personality, but her story, her decisions, how she fought tooth and nail for her kids and got them! She inspires me. Totally.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” -Confucius-

Statistics show that a woman in an abusive relationship will leave her partner an average of seven times before she leaves for good. For one domestic violence survivor “A”, it didn’t take seven times for her to leave for good, but it did take an extraordinary set of circumstances to open her eyes to what was truly going on.

Like many abusers, her husband did not start out overtly manipulative and controlling. After their son was born, however, he began to control her more and more closely, until it just became too much of a hassle to try to go out anywhere. Even after financial circumstances forced her to get a job in order to make ends meet, he obsessively monitored her whereabouts and timing. (Note that this is a common trait in abusive relationships. Isolation and control are some of the first red flags.)

She left once, in an attempt to change the relationship and get him to work on the issues she knew were there, but a lack of finances and support forced her back. It was a strategic move on her part, a way to get on her feet and be able to maintain the separation for good next time, but it was also because she lacked the knowledge on how to get out and stay out.

A year and a half later, she was still there. She still intended to leave, and she was working and saving money, but one thing after another came up... until her son was admitted into the hospital for a fractured skull. Though the relationship was definitely abusive, physical violence was a line that her ex-husband never dared to cross, and to this day the origin of the fracture is uncertain. CPS got involved, and the children were taken away.

It was a few days after this incident and being interrogated by police that a CPS caseworker called “A” into her office. She explained that this was a domestic violence situation, even though her husband had never hit her. The caseworker informed her that if she stayed with him, she was more than likely not going to get her children back, and she directed through the initial steps for leaving the relationship. “A” followed those steps, appearing in court to get a restraining order, moving into a safe house, and contacting the Sheriff’s Department and CPS when her husband violated the restraining order a month later.

In January 2012, she began attending the weekly domestic violence peer support groups offered by The Healing Journey. “From there”, she says, “it has been one progress after another.” There have still been setbacks and frustrations, as she shares, but the road has led ever forward. 

“It’s been rough. Many times it felt like a black hole, most days it felt like it was never going to get better. I definitely feel stronger now. The trials that I’ve had to go through with just that weekly visit has been a relief. It’s allowed me to brainstorm and bounce ideas off of others. Even if I felt it was doom and gloom and nothing getting better, I go to group and leave feeling refreshed, as odd as it sounds. It’s comforting to go into group knowing that no matter how bad my week has been, I’ll talk about it and it’ll be okay, then I’ll sit down and find a way to approach it and tackle the situation. It’s given me a lot of confidence I didn’t have when I started. I was an absolute train wreck! ... It helped give me the fight that I needed to.”

Fighting for the return of her children has been her focus, her own personal war. Aided by her support network and her assigned case workers, the war has been won! “A” and her children have been reunited and are rebuilding their family on solid, healthy ground. “A” continues to come to domestic violence support meetings, offering a valuable perspective on how this experience has changed her outlook on life.

“It’s hard to go from having a life and having your kids and having something to absolutely nothing. When you do have absolutely nothing, you treasure every single thing you have after that.”
Today, I worked on pricing all my wedding details and creating a running total. I've literally priced every single detail, down to the charcoal for the grills and the water we're going to drink. And the ice cube trays. Etcetera.

Anyway, the only things I have left to price are the cards for inside the guest book and the food itself (i.e. how much the meat will cost, how much the pomegranate juice for the tofu will cost, etc.)

So far, the running total for the wedding (without the cards and the ingredients) is $1,357. It seems like a lot, but... it's really not. Not when you think about how many, many of the items I'll be purchasing will continue to be re-used and repurposed throughout their lifetime. And also when you consider that the average cost of a wedding in this area runs between $17,000 and $28,000. (Goodness gracious, really?! I could get my bachelor's degree with that!)

I suppose that it seems like much more to me because I am a partially unemployed student with no savings to speak of. Wait, wait... I believe I have $5 in my checking account. And $3 in my wallet.

Yep. I remember panicking when I dipped below $100 in my savings/checking account. Well, those days are long gone. I haven't had triple digits in my bank account in months.

I didn't get the job I was hoping for because my class is at a critically inconvenient portion of the day for the employer. That's okay. I know it will all work out... HJ is picking up, and next month our grant money comes in, so I'll actually be getting pay on a regular basis. That'll be keen. Also, the hopeful employer extended the offer of babysitting in lieu of the nanny job, so I'll take that. Not to mention the "writing gig" that I'm trying out for. (You know, if only I could donate plasma, this would be a whole lot easier!!)

This week was really good for me in regards to balance. My mindset has shifted somewhat dramatically, and now I am trying to be intentional about acknowledging and rewarding the work I've put in throughout the day, as well as learning to break my tasks up into manageable chunks. Rather than trying to clean the whole house in one day (in addition to doing all my homework from all my classes), I'm breaking it up. Living room one day, kitchen the next, bathroom another day, vacuum another day, etc. I can still tidy things up, sure, but the in-depth doesn't have to happen all at once. Especially if I'm feeling tired.

Oh, maybe that's where the shift came from. I've given myself permission to take naps.

Anyway, this week went so well that I was thinking, Yeah. Maybe I can take on another job! I mean, it's part time... This could work. This could really work!

Tonight showed me just how fragile my system still is. *sigh* False confidence. Oh, well. I did really good this week, and I'm proud of myself. I'm just not invincible yet.

I watched a movie called Bastard Out Of Carolina. It's about a young girl's experience with abuse. I'd heard from so many ppl working with the HJ that I needed to watch it, so I finally borrowed it from E.

It was like reliving my childhood in a span of 2 hours.

It's grotesque how closely my experiences mirror hers.

I really don't even want to talk about it, suffice to say that, should you decide to watch it, you will be disturbed. Probably not as much as I, but maybe even more so. It depends on where you're coming from.

But it was hard. And I'm paying for it now, physically. Eating food sends my intestines into cramping spasms, and I know I ought to be sleeping, but I'm... restless. Wired.

I had to stop the movie several times, go into the room where C was, and just cry and talk stuff out. It was good in that it got us talking very in depth about methods of child-rearing, our philosophies on punishment and its administration, etc. (Again, we're still tracking right along together.)

He's going to be such a good daddy. No joke. I wish I could have been raised by him. (But then I wouldn't get to marry him, so I'll be content with my lot.)

There is a rape scene towards the end of the movie, and my reaction surprised me. I'd already been experiencing the same emotions as I did throughout my childhood... the fear, uncertainty, tension, disgust... the gnawing uncertainty is the worst, I think. You never know from day to day, from hour to hour, what you'll find. Inconsistency is a hard thing to endure as a child when all you crave is stability.

Anyway, back to the rape. I just... sometimes things come up that make me wonder if something didn't happen somewhere in my life that I have blocked out... if I wasn't raped in some way? Because my thoughts upon seeing it were, Oh, yes. That. Not, "Oh my goodness, that child! Someone stop that monster!" but rather, "Huh. Yeah. That's what that feels like, alright."

How do I know?

I don't know. I have no idea. But I just... I don't know.

It doesn't matter, I suppose, because even if it did happen, I don't remember it. And right now, I'm just trying to deal with what I remember... and it's not good. (Comparing notes with C... apparently my childhood was even more screwed up than I realized. I am so sad for the little girl that was me. It's not right, what happened. Even if G had never touched me sexually, the way he treated me--us?--was not right. Children should not have to live in that kind of environment.)

I'm sad about the past, and angry, too... but I'm looking forward to my future in a fresh, new way. Something about an impending wedding really helps you focus on the future, on your goals... on what life has to offer.

By the way, I'm super glad I'm American. I really am. Because it means that I can have goals, that I can strive for something better, rather than just suffering with my load in abject silence like so many women must. I am glad for the chance to heal, and glad to be in a country that supports this.
So in Intro to Essential Sciences (which I've affectionately nicknamed A&P, even though it's technically not), we're covering the central nervous system. If you know anything at all about me, you'll know that I'm in hog heaven!

It's amazing how the different parts of the brain connect and correlate and affect different aspects of bodily function. It truly is. When we were going over the basic building blocks of the body, I marveled at the intricacy found in function, and during the section on pain I was astounded by the efficiency and grace of our body's reigning systems. Fabulous. That's what we are. Every single one of us. Just by virtue of the way our cells work.

So anyway, I developed this hypothesis/theory during class last night. There are three major divisions of the brain; the cerebrum, which is the largest and what you typically think of when you hear the word "brain", the cerebellum, which is the second-largest and looks kind of like a low-hanging addition off the back, and the brain stem, considered to be the "ancient brain" and is in control of the centers for vital survival functions and reflexes.

The brain stem houses a few interesting little segments, such as the thalamus, the hypothalamus, and the pineal body. The hypothalamus is what I'm most concerned with at this point. This part of the brain does stuff like regulate blood pressure, peristalsis (you know, the muscle contractions that move your food all the way from your esophagus to your anal sphincter, the thing that I have so much trouble with!), appetite/satiety, pleasure, temperature, etc. In addition to all that, the hypothalamus is also the "crossover" to the endocrine system, meaning that it is in direct communication with the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland, in turn, controls the adrenals, the thyroid, the ovaries, the testes, etc.

So! Here's my theory. I've been wondering about onset, and I've been wondering about the difficulties that I have that I'm not sure can be ascribed to simple hypothyroidism or food allergies, etc. I've especially been wondering about onset, and why I got so sick so fast for no apparent reason. What if, in the accident of 2006 (see photo at the bottom of the post), when I got my head banged around so much and got that concussion (which always damages the brain, even if it's slight), I somehow damaged my brain stem/hypothalamus and that in turn caused my pituitary gland/endocrine system to go haywire, inducing hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency, in turn causing my body to attack itself (because, as an abuse survivor I'm already predisposed to autoimmune diseases) and thus making me very sick a year, year and a half later?

Seriously. I think it makes sense. Brain damage may also help to explain my vision and balance problems.

I know it sounds a little extreme... brain damage. Hah. I sound like a hypochondriac.

But, really, I think it's a viable hypothesis. The way to tell would be to get thee to a neurologist, I think... but I don't have the money for that at this point! When I find a good doctor, though, I'll be sure to bring this up.

Anything for an answer, right? :)

Here's a couple of pics of the accident. You be the judge. I mean, after all... it did cause me to go blind for a while.

 
Mom, picking our belongings out of the van a week or so later... 

 
BJ, helping to collect our belongings


 
The back of my head, where it was the worst-- the morning after (it was all squooshy and stuff, like a pocket of warm jello. Pretty cool)

 A few days into the hospital rigamarole, my head and neck started swelling. Probably not good.


  
Swollen head! Can you tell?

So anyway, we'll be celebrating our "anniversary" next month. I just wonder if I escaped as unscathed as I had previously thought?
The one (?) thing that's really annoying about dealing with your past history of abuse is this: all kinds of stuff starts surfacing in all kinds of ways.

For one, I start having sleep issues. That's not even cool. This woman loves her sleep, but lately I've fallen prey to insomnia, nightmares, restless sleep and frequent awakenings.

Monday night, for example, I just could not fall asleep. Two hours of tossing and turning later, I went out to join the guys in the living room at about 2 a.m. Almost as soon as I laid across C's lap, I was relaxed and sleepy. (I've noticed that I have a hard time sleeping without him.)

Last night, I fell asleep fairly quickly, but woke up about 3:30 from pain. I wasn't sure what was going on, but as I woke up more, I realized that it was colon cramps, attributable to the constipation I've been struggling with. (On a side note, I did a little research on restoring colon function naturally while I was waiting for the cramps to subside and to be able to fall back asleep, and I came across this website that talks about the health benefits of squatting for elimination. At first I was dubious, but upon reading the research I'm fairly convinced... enough so to give it a try one of these days. I won't be forking out $144 for their platform, though, when I can build my own. C agrees.) At about 6 a.m., I promised myself that if I wasn't asleep by 7, I was going to get up and start getting work done. Fortunately for everyone involved in the rest of my day, I drifted off before 7, but had restless, violent nightmares until I peeled myself out of bed a few hours later. *sigh*

I have noticed that I sleep better when C's with me. I have a difficult time falling asleep without him, and I think it's in part due to some of the stuff that's coming out. A good portion of my molestation happened in bed, while I was "sleeping", and though pretending to be asleep was a defense mechanism of mine, bed and sleep itself is not exactly a "safe" place. When I'm depressed, I tend to fall into hypersomnia, which is needing too much sleep, but I do know that when I'm distressed I don't like sleep. It's a complicated relationship.

I'm a bit sad, because sleep had been a safe haven for me for some time, but now it's all wacky. I think that the reason I sleep better when C's there is because I feel safe around him. Very, very safe. Without him, I'm vulnerable again. There's no one to watch my back, to protect me, and anything could happen. (Have you ever thought about how vulnerable you truly are while you're sleeping?) I didn't realize that I didn't feel safe until I felt the opposite, and the lack leaves me restless.

I've got this movie I'm supposed to watch this week, but I'm hesitant. I'm hesitant about working on anything abuse related, honestly. I mean, I want to heal, yeah, but... most of the time it doesn't feel like it's really worth stirring up all the junk. I mean, I'm trying to live a life, here. I've got school, work, the glimmerings of a social life... I can't afford to be out of commission anymore! Maybe I've got to just take it real slow. Reeeeeeeeeal slow. I've also got a book I'm working through that I checked out of the library, and E lent me the accompanying workbook.

The thing is, ever since I started working on it, I've been aching in weird ways. My legs. My lower back. My knees and ankles. My neck.

I'm wondering if it's not a sort of body memory thing going on? (Which, by the way, research indicates that it may in fact be the fascia and not the muscle itself that is responsible for body memories!)

There's an opportunity for me to get 10 sessions of free counseling from undergrad students at the college who are working for their PhD and need hours. E's really adamant about my getting in there, and I think it'd be good.

I need to get ready for school, but I was going to delve into the realm of flashbacks, how I get them but it's not like I thought, and how C remembers a pretty intense flashback of mine from years ago that I don't recall at all. Later.

(On a positive post-script note, guess which blog author is making positive progress on self-talk and self-expectations and being overwhelmed? This one!!)
Okay, the guys are right. B and C talked some sense into me.

I was just... scared.

I've spent my whole life without being safe, but wanting safety desperately.

Every time I think I've got it figured out... something knocks that illusion out from in front of my eyes, and I'm forced to face the gaping uncertainty that laces the edges of our lives here on earth.

We had a crazy major storm blow through here yesterday. They call it a "tornadic event", but I think it was more like a hurricane, 'cause of all the wind and rain and whatnot. Anyway, the wind caused a LOT of damage. There are still places without power, and APS says there are over 60 electricity poles just snapped.

My grandparent's sheds were lifted, tangled, and thrown elsewhere while the contents were left to lie in the soaking rain. The contents that include my box of books, my three totes with whatever I couldn't fit into C's place. My books are good and waterlogged, but I'm hoping I can save them. The only one I'm worried about (and distraught over) is my 100 year old book. I'm not sure it'll pull through. It's already falling apart, much to my grief and distress.

What really set me off, though, was the fact that my little file of cards and notes from friends and family got tossed out of one of the bins that had been upended, and many of those were ruined.

One, especially... the awesome "Hear Ye, Hear Ye" birthday card from the S's. When I saw that it was completely illegible and undiscernable at all, I lost it.

I miss them. I miss them so much. And I miss the intentionality of that life. I have purposed in my heart that I am going to go to the dollar store and I am going to get fall decorations and I am going to decorate the house for the season! (Even if we don't really have that season here...) And I am going to make a nice dinner to celebrate the coming of fall, and I'm going to be intentional about doing special things throughout the year, like the S's do. (It's easier to make a big deal out of stuff when you've got 5 people to pull from... there's always a birthday or a first something or other or a good test score to celebrate. When it's just you and a couple of other people who don't really vary their routines, well... slim pickings. Maybe it's time to look for excuses to celebrate?)

And also I'm grieving over D. I know he's not my dad. I know that. And we did maintain an aloofness, but we also had a bond... and I trust him. And it just seems like every time I get even the resemblance of a father figure in my life... they get taken away. And it's not fair. (No, I know I have R. But even that has been back and forth. Remember recently, when I thought he was an abuser? Yeah. Ouch.)

And it's especially not fair to the girls, or to C, because they've had him so long. I'll miss him, but nothing like they will.

And knowing that D was the one who made up that card, and that his message to me was in there, and that someday in the near future, I guess, I won't be able to get that anymore and that what I had was taken away, well.... it just sent me over the edge.

And I'm scared to care about anything at all, because it just opens you up to be hurt.

As B pointed out, though... people who don't care at all usually end up being murderers and rapists. I don't want that.

And both B and C pointed out that having the memories is worth it. Knowing that he was there, and that I cared about him, well... it's worth it. It really is.

And they're right. I guess.

I can see their point, though I'm not entirely sold...

It scares me how much I care for C, because if he were to be taken from me... I'd probably lose it. Like, having to be checked into a mental hospital lose it. Temporarily, of course. But it wouldn't be pretty.

On the note of caring for C... I have it on good authority that C is actively plotting a proposal. I don't know what it is, but apparently it will set the bar a level higher for every other guy under the sun. Apparently it will be a really, really good story.

Do you know how excited I am about that? :D

And also I might possibly have a job. A job I can do without killing myself. A job involving taking care of an adorable 14 month old baby boy. Um, yes please. Where do I sign up?!

See? Life's not all bad, scary stuff. It lurks... but I suppose that I just have to choose to focus on the good.

I said this morning, and I said it later even after I was crying... "Thank you, God, for this good day. It's a good day."

And it is.
You know what I hate most about life?

There is nothing sacred, nothing holy, nothing that cannot be taken from you.

Nothing.

Not your family, not the ones you love...

Not the special little mementos that you tuck away with care...

Not your health, and not your life.

There is nothing, even when you're trusting God, that cannot be taken from you.

And there is no law in the universe, written or unwritten, that states that you have to be given notice. As a matter of fact, you probably won't.

You will lose what you care most dearly and deeply for, and it will destroy you.

You will suffer, and you will move on... and you might even forget, a little...

...until the next thing is taken, and the next, and the next.

Nothing is sacred.

There is no safe place.

Why even bother to love?

Why even bother to care?

It's just going to screw you up in the end, anyway...
Still in a weird place today. I feel funky. Like, funky-not-so-good-kinda-hurting-enough-to-distract-me funky. Not "do the hustle" funky. (I wish!)

I'm still puzzling... puzzling over life, the universe, and everything.

Puzzling over why typing and spelling have become harder for me in the past week, week and a half... Puzzling over why I seem to be automatically going for the phonetic spelling rather than the real spelling!

Puzzling over the whole God thing, and my relation to him... puzzling over why some of the things that I was always told were horrible, horrible things... don't actually seem to be that horrible, upon closer inspection. Puzzling over how they actually seem to be good, maybe even better than. Puzzling over how one can think that and still be "in the faith".

Puzzling over being in any faith.

Puzzling over my health.

Thinking to myself... what would happen if I gave up the idea that I should soldier through the day? What would happen if I no longer told myself that I had to? What if I gave myself permission to be, well... sick?

What shape would the landscape of my thoughts take on if I were to listen to my body and rather than forcing myself to function through fatigue and pain were to, say, take a nap if I were tired? What if I were gentle with myself? What if I were considerate towards my frame?

What if I stopped viewing myself as a liability and started acknowledging all the amazing things that I am doing, have done, and do on a regular basis?

Today, I have had a hard time physically. My gut hurts, I'm dizzy, and I can't seem to get my eyes to focus right. It feels like my head is stuffed with cotton. It's an improvement over yesterday, but it's still tough.

I tell myself that I have things to do, that I can't be a sissy, and that I need to keep going.

This is true. I do have things to do. I have a big test tomorrow night that I'm studying for. (And, despite my anger at myself for not studying harder, I'm actually doing really well on the absorption of the material.)

But as I thought about it, I realized that I have already accomplished a lot today. I studied. I cleaned the kitchen. I made muffins. I took care of the dogs. I watched a campmeeting talk that I had been meaning to.  I studied some more. And I realized that I had done more than I realized, simply because I never, ever feel like I've done enough. Ever.

So what if I get rid of the idea of "enough"? Like, what if I just replace it with "best", or something like that? Instead of trying to do "enough" each day, what if I just try to do my "best"? Because really, that can and does change from day to day. Wednesday and Thursday were good days. I got stuff done. I had energy. I didn't feel the best on Weds, but I felt good on Thurs, and I took advantage of it. The past few days haven't been good ones, necessarily. But I've still done what I needed to do (more than what I needed to, in most cases), and yet I still feel like I ought to have done more.

What if I decide to end this inner tyranny and simply say, "Today, I will do my best... no matter what that looks like"? What if I decide to say "It doesn't matter how much or how little I do or do not do today. I love and accept myself regardless, and I am proud of how I am choosing to live my life today"?

Because, really, I want to live each day with positive intention rather than forced performance. You know... rhythm, instead of rigid schedule. Grace, acceptance, and kindness, rather than criticism, impatience, and rigid expectations.

I want to be kind to myself.

Puzzling over how to make the transition...

Also, as a bonus, puzzling over the subjectivity of our perceptions of reality.

For instance....

...Did you realize that what you're experiencing right now actually happened in the past, because it takes our brains a smidgen of time to process the input? So what you think is happening now actually happened about, oh, eighty milliseconds ago.

By the way, to have your mind totally blown, check out this article on how our memories aren't really what we think they are (they change every time you recall them, too!), how you're always living in the past, etc. It's written in a very understandable (layman friendly!) manner.

There's a storm a-brewin. I'm totally digging the high winds and the thunder overhead. I don't, however, want to lose internet before I post this. So! Off I go.

Still puzzling.
I've just been out of sorts today... maybe the last couple days...

Craving my introvert time, you know :)

But my roomie has been having a hard week. Girl trouble. So he follows me around the house, wanting/needing to talk. It annoys me, though I'll never say it to him. I just stay in my room if I can't handle human company.

I'm aggravated at myself for procrastinating studying for the A&P test. I knew about it like, a week and a half before the test itself... but I put off studying for it until 6 days before the test. Really? Really? I'm talking about it like it's already happened, but I still have a few days.

And part of me tells myself to chill out, because it's about medical terminology, which I already have a basic grasp of in many ways, so I honestly don't need to study as hard as some people might.

The other perfectionist over achieving part is constantly decrying myself for enjoying my week and letting this slip by. Because, really, I did enjoy my week a lot. I've been very tired, and not feeling well, but I enjoyed myself. Rather than having my nose to the grindstone every second, I did things that I enjoy. I spent time on the internets.

Remember, it's the inexorable grind that got you so sick in the first place, and you're just barely recovering. Do you really wanna do that again?

Balance can be so hard, especially when you're accustomed to self-flagellation.

I'm going to do my best on that test, continue studying, and see what I get.

Maybe I just feel badly for not freaking out about it... for being confident enough in my capabilities that I haven't been studying every second? For having a test under my belt and knowing what I'm going to be up against?

Today, I've been very out of sorts. Very tired and just... drained. All day long. Spent a good chunk of the day over at the house I'm sitting, for the peace and quiet. I spent yesterday over there studying because there were people at the house and I need absolute quiet to study.

And I'm due for my period in less than a week, so this could very well be chalked up to PMS. Fluctuating hormones and all that. (Although I haven't stopped bleeding since my last period. I find that a bit odd, but I guess it's just that "spotting" or "breakthrough bleeding" that is one of the side effects of the pill? I hope that this isn't a part of having a regular menstrual cycle!)

I did find my dress, though. No, not the Rena Koh gown, though I still adore that one. I had to come to grips with the fact that, while all the pretty wedding fairy tale stuff is gorgeous and wonderful, it's just not me. It's not "us". And I don't have the budget for that. Better to stick with what I can afford and what I know I'll love.

The dress that I initially fell head over heels for is not available anywhere for less than $650. There's a beautiful knockoff for $400, but I don't want to spend that much. So, re-scouring the internet and my previous bookmarks led me to an Etsy shop owner who makes a beautiful, quality knockoff for $215 (including shipping and handling), and she's willing to do it in grey organza with ivory lace flowers and a corset lace-up backing (so I can wear it later, no matter if I lose/gain weight). Not to mention the fact that it's made to my measurements, so there'll be no alterations, unlike with a used dress (like the Rena Koh beauty).

I found a neat site today that I was poring over--A Practical Wedding-- and the recurring theme in the posts is that a wedding should be what you need and want it to be. Don't worry about the "shoulds", don't worry about the Pinterest boards and the wedding blogs and the ideas of what a perfect wedding looks like. Don't worry about the Wedding Industry that tries to sell you anything and everything.

I realized that I did it. I got caught up in the glitz and the glamour and the DIY centerpieces and the endless personalized touches... and it's not about that.

It's about enjoying our lives, our days, our moments together. It's about C and I believing that we have a future together, a good one. It's about C and I consciously choosing to hold each other exclusively in that special spot in our hearts. It's about... celebration, and family, and love and definitely not about paper lanterns and strawberry trees and cake frosting.

I like the way this post, In Praise Of The Slow Wedding, puts it. As a matter of fact, I really like this ideal as a summation of the intention I have for my life at this point.

"I believe the same things about weddings. I think we each have a fundamental right to joy at our weddings. I think that joy is about the simple things, and about paying attention to what you have. I believe that it is more important that we work with producers (in this case vendors, or wedding elves) that we respect, and that we treat them fairly and compensate them with a living wage that reflects the fact that this is their life's work. It's more important to me to pay people that I fairly than to make sure I get the best deal. And for us, with the resources we had, that meant picking a few things and doing them well.
We had amazing food.
And with all of that, it was impossible to notice the flaws in my homemade bouquet, the way my dress wrinkled under the bust line because I hadn't sent it off to a professional seamstress,the fact that we had our yichud in a parks & rec bathroom, our ipod play list, our simple cake, or our lack of favors.
So figure out what your doing with your wedding, what simple elements it boils down to, and then do those things well. Take a deep breath, slow down, pay attention. Put care into the things you value, and no one will ever notice the things that you don't have. Or to put it simply: you have what you need.
Fair warning: the site is addicting. Even more so than Offbeat Bride.
Anyway, I guess I just realized that I want to make it my intention to enjoy C and our life and the simple things every step of the way, rather than rushing through it to get to the wedding. The day is coming, and  fairly soon. But I don't want to miss the life in between the events, you know what I mean?

(Yeah, by the way... you don't have to have wedding favors. Who knew?!)
I guiltily waste literally hours on my Thursdays (and Sundays, if my homework's done) looking at wedding stuff and scheming, planning, and plotting. This past week, I realized that, while I dream about buying a nice dress and new shoes and a cool shawl and gloves and all that... I really don't want to spend upwards of $500 dollars on my wedding outfit. I don't. So I went in search of alternative wedding dresses, romantic goth dresses, simple lace dresses, renaissance dresses, etc. I found... nothing. Nothing that pleased me. So at the end of a few long hours of searching, I went through the ol' brain archives and revisited a dress that I had been absolutely smitten with at the onset of my search. I found it, it's still for sale, and guess what? I couldn't find it anywhere else. You know what that means? Unique. That's right.

I hate the idea of being a cookie-cutter bride. And I hate the idea of having this dress around that i'll never get to use again. This dress is gorgeous, simple, and, what's more... after I messaged the seller, she wrote back this morning that she'd take $300 for it! That's less than the other dress I had my eye on, and it's 1.6% of the original cost. (I'm learning how to do percents in math class. Real world application rocks.)

Also, I had the thought that, if I got some sort of surcoat to cover it and bustled up the bottom somehow, I could use the dress for my role as Baroness at the upcoming Ren Faire. Not only that, but with the right accessories, I can use it again for the black tie fundraiser event coming up in May.

Now... to scrape together $300. I just hope that I can take advantage of this before someone else does.

I just... hate having no money. No income. I know that'll change soon, but I'm anxious. (And, for the record, not a single application that I've put in has garnered a response. Not one. This dumb town seems to be notorious for that. I mean, really? Common courtesy, people! At least tell me that you picked someone else!)

I bought groceries yesterday. I haven't had this much good food around in I can't remember how long. For supper last night, I had sweet potato fries and fresh spring rolls (yellow and orange sweet peppers, onions, avocado, alfalfa sprouts, and a splash of coconut aminos), and I'll probably have spring rolls for lunch again today. Maybe with a couple of spoonfuls of mango sorbet afterward. Mmmmm.... I spent over $100 on groceries, and felt terrible, but then I remembered that the whole point of my parents giving me money to spend on food is so that I actually buy food. Mom has been concerned that I'm not eating healthy, well-balanced meals. Well.. she had reason to be concerned. Being sick had me living off of rice cakes and cashew butter, mostly. But I got some good ingredients, so that has changed for the better.
I had a surprisingly lovely day today.

Yesterday was purely awful, in the physical sense. I was bracing myself for another hard day, pain-wise, but today was rather mild, and I was relieved. Not that I felt good, but I surely didn't feel that bad! (It really can be a fine line, sometimes... ^_^)

I went to bed at a good hour, persuaded heartily by overwhelming fatigue. (It's been a nearly constant companion for at least the last month.) I woke up early enough to have a leisurely pace before heading out to school, but late enough that I actually "slept in". (I woke up at nine and dozed for the next hour. Let's hear it for 11 hours of sleep! Yeah!)

Upon arriving at math class (early, and after spending some time in the school library), I spent the next hour realizing that not only am I actually grasping the material somewhat easily (it still requires repetition and practice, or I lose it fairly quickly, but I'm getting the core concepts), but I'm actually up near the front of the class academically. In math class. As I was explaining to C earlier, it's kind of a shock for me, because math has always been difficult for me to grasp. So to be doing well, and to be one of the "smart kids" in this subject is, basically, a new experience for me. I'm reveling in it. It totally makes all the hard work worth it, and it even makes me want to step up my game some more! Check this beauty out:

This is my last math test. You can't check your answers as you go, so you find out at the end what questions you got correct... or not. I expected to do well, but not this well! I was so pleasantly surprised! :D

So math class has been more of a pleasant and rewarding experience than I had previously anticipated.

Not feeling too well, I headed home from school and proceeded to check my e-mail. While I was doing that and having a quick phone convo about work, C meandered out and applied himself full body to the couch cushions. I meandered over and spread out on his back (which was so nice and warm!). After a while, he rolled over and I slipped in beside him, and we just goofed off, laughed, watched youtube videos and teased each other for a while. Then we went out and grabbed some sushi, brought it home, and watched a movie. I headed off to class while he worked on finishing the upgrades and installing updates for his computer, which he just revamped.

A+P class is one I enjoy, and we're in medical terminology right now (got a test coming up on Monday, egads egads), so I'm pretty much happier than a speckled pup under a gutwagon right now. After going through our lecture, Doc let us out 1/2 an hour early, so I walked back home in the warm dusk. (I literally live half a block away from the classroom we're using for A+P. Maybe a full block, if you count crossing the street.)

C and I buzzed over to the Wetlands Park where we'll be getting married, because I wanted him to take a  look at the locations and weigh in on which ramada we wanted to reserve. He actually picked the one that I wasn't as fond of, but his reasoning is impeccable. There's a big, open flat sandy stretch down behind that ramada, and it's perfect for setting up the grills. It also inspired my wedding imagination, having all that space to ourselves, and... since we're going to be at a park and all... I'm going to have a big ol' basket of frisbees as part of the favors, but also for people to play with while we're there. Since we're going to be at a park and all.

So! The lower ramada with the space for the grills, the tables set up on the big grassy area, and a pretty, overhanging tree for us to get married under. Bliss.

Did I mention that I've convinced Mom to make our cake topper and wedding favors for me? The favors will be truffles, because she's super, super good at them, and isn't homemade gourmet candy just the best favor ever? I can totally see adorable little packages at each place setting with cool looking tags on them that say "Love is sweet". (By the way, "convinced" implies that there was resistance on her part. There was none.)

After the park, we swung by Walmart to see if they had the Star Wars series (don't waste your time-- they don't), but ended up grabbing The Princess Bride instead. We got home and spent a little more... ahem... quality time together... and then I proceeded to tackle my math homework, which turned out to be only three questions that I was already familiar with.

Basically, it just turned out to be "one of those days", where life is just simple and happy and unfolds warmly around you.

I was upset this morning, thinking about D and his health status... I can't say I'm surprised, but I don't like it. And as I sit here, hoping he'll be able to make it to my wedding... I realize that the very fact that I'm unsure whether he'll be here 7 months from now means that J most likely won't get to have him at her wedding. Unless something changes. Which, of course, we're all hoping for.

I'm still upset, in a way... but, as harsh as it sounds... I just kind of had to set it aside. I don't live there anymore. My love follows that extension of my family, that's not my daily reality... Does that even make sense? I guess what I mean is that I can't live in the grief of "Oh my goodness, we're losing him." I can't. And it's not as "in my face" as it would be if I were there, so it's easier to do.

I'm not not sad (ahh, double negatives), but I'm not wallowing.

But, oh, how I don't understand why bad things happen to good people. Why is G alive and languishing in prison somewhere while D is fading at home? Not fair, not fair, not fair.

A surprisingly lovely day tinged solemn by reality.

Actually, I think that made it all the sweeter... helped me to really enjoy what I have while I have it.