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i came across this post by writer anne lamott this weekend, and couldn’t help but feel the need to share. i’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how we aim for perfection, and feel we’ve failed when we achieve anything less. in the age of “pinterest perfect” – a phrase coined recently by one of my favorite bloggers, erin gates of elements of style – it’s really easy to feel like you’re not measuring up. like your home isn’t pretty enough, your thigh gap isn’t big enough, your outfits aren’t cool enough, your meals aren’t instagram-worthy.

the list goes on and on.

one of the things i love about reading blogs are that they are an escape. a pretty, cotton-candy colored, rose-tinted portrayal of life. one that’s lived in designer dresses and fancy shoes, one that involves perfect beachy waves and monthly getaways to mexico and kitchens that sparkle with marble and brass.

and one of the things i hate about reading blogs is the fact that all of the above, all that i love about blogs…it’s not attainable. it’s not even really real. blogs these days aren’t reality, they’re someone’s carefully curated feed of shiny happy things, shiny happy moments. and let’s be honest for a second: life is not full of shiny happy moments. i mean, sometimes it is. sometimes it’s glorious and wonderful and magical. but sometimes, it’s not. and most bloggers don’t chose to share those moments. they’re purveyors of pretty, not purveyors of angry rants about the ways in which life gets them down.

and i respect them for that, really, i do. they’ve made a conscious choice to show the good, not the bad. but my favorite bloggers are the ones that let a little bit of darkness in now and then (like erin gates, mentioned above, who inspired this post). erin recently participated in an episode of the lively show, and talked a lot about her perfectionism, and how it’s both worked against her and made her who she is today. the entire episode is worth a listen, but i found her examination of the “pinterest perfect” world we live in to be, by far, the most interesting portion of the show. because it’s true, isn’t it? we’re all on that seemingly endless quest for pinterest perfect, and none of us, and i mean none of us, will ever really achieve it. because it’s not real. life isn’t pinterest perfect. it’s messy and chaotic and full of all of the feelings. but that’s what makes it great. 

and if we keep holding out for pinterest perfect, and holding ourselves back from the doing the things we want to do – like lamott says above, if we keep holding ourselves back from going to the beach because we’ve got a big tummy and jiggly thighs – we’re limiting our lives, greatly. i don’t want to wake up when i’m 65 and realize i didn’t get to dig my toes into hot sand and feel the cool breeze of the ocean because i was embarrassed of how i looked in a bathing suit. i mean, i am embarrassed of how i feel in a bathing suit, but does that mean i should stop living? absolutely not. lamott is right.  i don’t want to be so strung out on perfectionism that i forget to have a big, juicy, exciting, interesting, creative life. that would be the saddest of fates, wouldn’t it? to get to a ripe old age and realize i hadn’t done so many of the things i’d wanted to do because i thought i wasn’t good enough to do them. i refuse. i refuse. do you hear that, inner monologue? i. refuse. 

now, if you’ll excuse me, me and my jiggly thighs have a beach trip to plan. 

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tonight is the first night in far too long that i can remember having absolutely nothing to do. no plans after work, no elaborate meals to cook, no spin classes to take, no freelance work to do. just me, myself and i and a stretch of four or so hours with which to do whatever i please. i’ve gotten in such a rhythm of busy busy go go go that i almost forget what to do with myself when i’ve got all the time in the world. it was an odd sensation, taking the train home at 6pm just like everyone else, crowding onto the L train and smushing myself into someone’s slightly sweaty armpit. it was weird to put my key in the lock and realize that for once, i’d beat my roommate home. i made myself dinner, and watched two episodes of my new favorite obsession, orphan black, before realizing that it was miraculously only 9pm, and i still had two delicious hours to kill, blogging or reading, or just plain laying in bed my hanging with my cat (as crazy cat ladies are wont to do).

it’s amazing what a night in will do for the soul, isn’t it? it’s funny. earlier today, i had a bit of an anxiety attack when i looked at my planner and realized i had no real plans for the week. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH ALL THOSE EMPTY HOURS?! my brain screamed. and then i promptly made plans for the next 3 nights. and for what? don’t get me wrong, i’m excited to do all the things i plan to do this week, but really, did i need plans? what’s the worst thing that could have happened if i’d been plan-less? i would have sat at home all week watching tv, reading the goldfinch (this month’s book club pick) and baking chocolate chip cookies? those are all things i like, actually, love, to do. and yet, it’s like i have fomo for things that haven’t even happened yet. like i’m terrified that if i stay home for too many nights in a row, the world’s most exciting events will go on in my absence and i will miss them.

it’s rather pathetic, when i think about it. and also, sort of strange. see, if there’s one thing living in new york has taught me, it’s how to be alone. like, really alone. as in, perpetually single alone. okay, hopefully not perpetually single alone, at least not forever, but you get my jist.

before i moved here, i always rolled with a posse of friends. we went to the bathroom together. we went to the grocery store together. we ate dinner together, made cookies together, watched silly girly movies together. it was rare that i’d spend a few hours in solitude, let alone a whole day.

and yet, here i am, six years into my time in new york, and it’s not uncommon for me to spend a whole weekend by myself. i mean, i go out and interact with society, but i do the things i want to do on my own. i’ll go to bar method and walk around soho, try on shoes i don’t need at j.crew and peruse the wares at the farmer’s market all by my lonesome. often, it’s just me and my headphones, my crazy thoughts and my sometimes sane ones. and for the most part, i’ve grown to enjoy it. crave it, even. when you work in a career that requires you to be “on” and witty at all times, it’s nice to disconnect sometimes. stet that. it’s more than nice. it’s necessary.

so why did i get in a tizzy about the possibility of three straight nights with no plans? i mean, really, who am i? what are these miraculous events and opportunities i think i’m missing out on? and why do i need to compete with those whose lives are a bit more exciting than mine?

i don’t. that’s the reality. i don’t need to compete, not even a little bit. not even with my imaginary cooler, more exciting self. because it’s a ridiculous, petty, silly thing to do, and a losing game. and more importantly, because, as tonight reminded me, i like my alone time. and i need not apologize, not to anyone else, and most of all, not to myself, for taking it every once and a while.

so, here’s to all of us brave enough to tell fomo to fuck off. here’s to staying in and watching TV and eating stale twizzlers and listening to nick drake (what? that’s just me? no stale twizzlers for you? okay then). revel in your staying-in-ness, in your decision to skip the bars and the restaurants and the socializing for some good ol’ one on one time with your brain. it’s a good thing, i promise.

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yesterday, i read this incredible, moving, maddening, saddening piece of work on xojane. it made me feel a giant complex ball o’ feelings, an amalgamation of hurt and shame and pride and anger that reminded me of my favorite quote from jeffrey eugenides. in particular, one section stood out:

Before I got on the plane, my best friend offered me a bag of potato chips to eat on the plane, but I denied myself that. I said, “People like me don’t get to eat food like that in public,” and it was one of the truest things I’ve ever said.

how often have i uttered that same exact sentence in my head? how often have i not eaten something i wanted because i was afraid of what people would think? or, on the contrary, how often have i tried to squelch my feelings of shame and eat exactly what i wanted, only to feel overwhelmed by thoughts of, am i being judged for eating this?

i’ve written on here before about my struggles with my weight. i’ve talked about my new year’s resolutions, which include learning to love my body. i’ve written about the f word. i’ve written about finding acceptance on a hike in nicaragua. i’ll probably continue to write about my struggles for the rest of my life, because lord knows i’m never going to be a size 2, or probably, even a size 6. but i’d like to someday get past the shame of that fact, to feel as though i can consume a bag of potato chips, or a bar of chocolate, or a plate of fries, without imagining that i’m being judged for doing so.

i know the feeling the author speaks of above. i understand what it’s like to not sit down on the subway because you’re worried you’ll take up too many seats. to not opt for certain outfits, or bright colors, or tight clothes, because you feel you haven’t earned the right to do so. i know what it’s like to want more than anything for your body to be invisible, to be whisper thin, to disappear inside itself, to just, for one single moment in your life, live without being conscious of how your body takes up space in the world.

i’ve been going to bar method for over three years now; this summer, i’ll mark a year of thrice-weekly soulcycle classes. i know, somewhere in my heart, that the bar method soho community loves me for who i am and doesn’t think, “fat girl” when i walk through the door. but i do. deep down, i still think it almost every class i take. i look at my legs and my waist and my chest in the mirror, and i look at my arms when we raise them above for balance, and i survey those body parts next to the rest of the pin thin women in class and i judge myself, and the little voice in my head tells me that all those women around me are doing just the same. they’re looking at me, up on my tiptoes, and thinking, what is she doing here? she’s been coming for 3 years and she still looks like this? she must eat like a pig. she clearly has no self-control. you’d think she’d have lost more weight given that she’s here 5 days a week.

you would think that, wouldn’t you? i would. i wish i had. but i haven’t, mostly because i refuse to deny myself the things i truly love. contrary to popular belief, most overweight people DON’T sit on their couches stuffing their faces 24/7. many of us actually eat quite a healthy diet, one filled with fresh fruits and vegetables and peppered with quite a bit of exercise. some of us are genetically pre-disposed to have a larger ribcage. some of us won’t ever have a thigh gap, no matter how much we want it.

when i was younger, i used to wish i had the self control to starve myself. i would scold myself for my lack of discipline, my inability to do what it took to be thin.

i’ve done enough work on myself (the inside, at least) to know that’s not a healthy attitude. but i’d be lying if i told you i don’t feel shame every time i step into a soulcycle studio. i’d be kidding myself if i said i haven’t tried many of the fitness classes i’d like to try for fear that i’m too fat to try them.

most of the women (and men) who ride at soulcycle have bodies that amaze me. they have not an ounce of fat on them, their muscles are carved into their skin like ancient stone statues. their sweat trickles down the cuts in their abs, the rock solid dips in their shoulders practically vibrate with strength. they appear to be the sorts of people who’ve never once had to worry about their weight. they flaunt their thinness in sports bras and tight yoga pants (not that i blame them; i’d do the same if i could). and i look at them, and all i can think is, are they looking at me and wondering what the hell i’m doing here? when i check in at the front desk, i wonder if they think i won’t make it through class. when i clip into my bike, i wonder if the person behind me sighs and thinks, ugh, great, the fat girl is in front of me.

i try hard, so hard, not to think like this. but it’s been ingrained in my mind that because i am greater than, i am lesser than. my weight isn’t just the ball and chain i wear around my ankles, dragging behind me with every step i take, it’s a scarlet letter on my ample chest, telling the world i’m no good. i’m lazy. i eat too much. i don’t exercise. i don’t deserve that bag of potato chips. i don’t deserve to ride in a class of athletes when i’m not one myself.

when i catch myself feeling pretty, feeling good, that feeling is often quickly squashed by my inner hatred, my inner shame. i can’t possibly look pretty, can’t possibly feel good – not if i’m still fat.

the only thing greater than my shame over my weight is my shame that i AM so ashamed of myself. i don’t want to live like this. i don’t want to think like this. i don’t want to be like this. i am far from perfect, but i am also far from a failure, inside and out. sometimes, when my favorite soulcycle instructor isabel says things like, “be proud of where you are right now, how strong you are,” i have a brief moment where i truly feel strong, and truly feel proud of my body and what it can do. but all too quickly, i let myself get bogged down by my insecurities, and my shame, and that feeling of pride dissipates before i can catch it and bottle it up for future use.

i want, so badly, to accept myself for who i am. i know, deep down, that no one will accept me until i can accept myself. i’m making progress, showing up to class each day even though i feel so decidedly out of place, and working through my feelings by writing about them. i’m making progress by buying clothes at lululemon even though their founder says fat women shouldn’t shop there. i’m making progress by trying new things, and meeting new people, and for the most part, wearing the things i want. i’m making progress by having small moments where i allow myself to feel pretty, to feel wanted, to feel worthy of someone’s attention.

because at the end of the day, i won’t be young forever, and even if i’m pretty now, lord knows i won’t be when i’m old and crotchety and bitching at my cats on my front porch at the ripe old age of 85. it’s not just my body that counts. it’s that i can love with all of my heart, and take care of the people who mean the world to me; that i can bake a mean chocolate chip cookie and can sing karaoke with the best of ’em.

and you know what? when i let that side of myself take center stage, and i push that judgmental little voice out of my head, things are okay. and if i want the potato chips, i’m going to eat the damn potato chips. IN PUBLIC.

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guys, i’m totally having a champagne problem. as in, a problem that’s so ridiculous, and so unworthy of attention, that i can’t believe i’m even writing a blog post about it. except that’s sort of my thing: i write about my problems. and my heartache, and my joy, and just about anything else i can think to write about. writing about my life has always been how i process it (ALL THE FEELINGS, ALL OF THE TIME), and lately, i need to process this issue: i am too damn busy. does anyone else feel like the quote above? my brain is just constantly churning with ‘to do’s’ and ‘don’t forget’s’ and all these other silly tiny little things that swim around in my imagination like tiny little amoebas.

i am a creature of habit to a fault, and ever so slightly OCD, which means that once i get in my head that i’m going to do something, i have.to.do.it. as in, if i wake up on a monday morning and tell myself that i’ll get two workouts in, and stay late at work, and wash my sheets and make myself a healthy dinner and catch up on at least one hour of TV, i have to do it all. even when there aren’t really enough hours in the day to do it all. and that’s just the things i do for myself, unrelated to any sort of social life.

see, that ridiculous list up there? that was my yesterday. and the average person would say to themself, self, i don’t think you have time for all those things. so maybe just one workout, or perhaps you order sushi instead of cooking red thai curry from scratch. or, self, the laundry can wait till another night. and all of those responses would be totally normal, and totally practical. but my brain doesn’t work like that. instead, it opens tab after tab after tab, trying to keep track of all the things it wants to do in any given day, and when those things don’t happen, or even seem to appear as though they might not happen, my stress levels go into overdrive.

would the world end if i didn’t make it to bar method? of course not. but in my head, not making it to bar method means destroying all the progress i’ve made in the past 3 years. would it matter if i didn’t get to wash my sheets after a somewhat debaucherous weekend? probably not. but in my head, the sheets are dirty, and contaminated, and stinky and must be washed immediately.

these thoughts are, i know, not the thoughts of a rational person. but a rational person i am not, especially to those who know me well. actually, scratch that: when it comes to advising others, i’m actually quite rational. but in my own head? shit is cray up in there!

riding a few times a week at soulcycle has worked wonders to help me clear the tabs in my brain. it’s as though with every sprint i complete, or every hill i climb, i’m closing a tab. single and never getting married? not going to worry about it today. x that one out. didn’t get to clean the apartment and OMG there’s no time and OMG it’s so dirty? CLICK. that can be done tomorrow. am i doing okay at my new job? do they regret hiring me? tab begone. there’s no way to know what they’re thinking, so it’s a waste of my time to hypothesize.

i’m sure if you’ve read this far down, you’re thinking, geez, sarah is a really crazy person. and i kind of am. thankfully, i’m a few other things besides crazy, and i’m not as crazy as the guy who called me a bitch in the subway yesterday for not donating a dollar to his “get more alcohol” fund.

here’s what i’ve learned about closing the tabs: it’s important to know what helps me shut that shit down. i have a tendency to get really wrapped up in my mind, in my worries, in my anxiety of what comes next, or what i haven’t done well enough or fast enough. and over the past few years (and even moreso over the past few months since i’ve started riding at soul), i’ve learned to be cognizant of when i’ve got too many tabs open. of when my brain is on overdrive. and most importantly, of how to close some tabs when things are getting a little like a mosh pit in the region above my eyebrows.

here’s how i calm myself down:

1) make a list. check things off. even things that you’ve done already. it will make you feel accomplished. (type A folks, can i get a hell yeah?) putting everything on paper means taking it out of my head. once it’s written down, i can close those tabs, and move on with my life.

2) take a bath. i used to HATE baths. i thought they were for old ladies, and more importantly, people who didn’t appreciate the importance of truly being clean (who wants to sit in their own dirty water?). as it turns out, they’re for people who want to close some tabs and let it go. (note: as an aforementioned slightly OCD person, i always do my actual showering after my soak)

3) sweat it out. again, i’m going to give a big shoutout to soulcycle here, for helping me get grounded and #leavethedramaonthebike. last night, instead of going to get a drink with coworkers, i went to bar method. and i debated literally until the very last second which thing i should do: be social, and friendly, and a good coworker, or get the workout i knew i’d feel unfulfilled without in. i went with the latter, and by the time i’d left the studio, i felt lighter.

4) make something. for me, it’s usually a baked good – something about turning on my kitchen aid really gets me in zen mode (weird, i know). it’s not even about eating the sweets. it’s about the methodical measuring and mixing; it takes my mind off everything else.

5) when all else fails, call mom. oh my god, do i dread the day when i’m officially too old to call my mother and vent. seriously, when is that cut off? have i passed it already? does it happen when i become a mom myself? my mother is the only person who will listen to my ridiculous ranting and still love me at the end of the day. god bless her.

there you have it. 5 ways i close the tabs and calm myself down. i’d love to know: what do you do when life feels overwhelming and your brain is on overdrive?

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today is my last day at my current job. on tuesday, i’ll start from scratch. fresh pens in my “s” mug. fresh folders on my desk. fresh faces, a new desk, a new office, a new commute. new people, new work, new life.

work is a funny thing. you try not to let it consume you, as much as possibly can, but in reality, unless you’re working for yourself, you’re spending 8-9 hours a day with your coworkers. who soon become your friends, not just the people you sit next to in the conference room a few times a week. which makes them all the much harder to leave when you decide to pursue a new opportunity.

i’ve spent the last year and a half LOVING the people i work with. sure, there have been some exceptions, as there always are, but for the most part, i’ve been thrilled to come into work each day. which is why when i was offered a new opportunity, i almost didn’t take it. because when you’re happy, and comfortable, your mind tells you not to leave. comfort is easy, simple, like putting on your favorite sweatshirt, the one that smells like home.

but what’s easy isn’t always what’s right. which is why when i was offered a new job two weeks ago, i decided to take the plunge. and i am terrified. because change scares the shit out of me, and always has. but that’s part of why i did it. because deep down i know that i need to do more of what scares me. one of my resolutions for this year was to embrace my fears, and stop holding myself back from trying new things simply because i was afraid of them. and while i know that there’s a chance that i’ve made a big mistake leaving this happy, comfortable place, i also know that there’s a chance that i’ve made the right decision, for me, for now.

i was talking through this the other day with my uber intuitive, smarty pants of a friend, liana, and you know what she said, in response to all my, ohmygodwhatifimadeamistake ranting? change is brave.

let me say it again, for good measure.

change.

is.

brave.

and i thought to myself, oh my god, she’s right. what i am doing, this leap of faith, this not knowing if i did the right thing, is brave. it’s brave because it’s scary, and because i can’t know if it’s right or wrong until i’ve done it.

my goal for this weekend, and for tuesday, when i walk into a new office with new people, and no friends, and no nothing, is to remember that i am brave. that i can do this. and that the very worst thing that could happen would be to realize i’ve made a mistake.

and really, that’s not the worst thing.

so here’s to being brave. to changing because we can, not just because we have to. to taking a leap of faith when it’s our only mode of transportation, and to knowing that everything will be okay.

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to embrace my fears. i’ve been thinking a lot lately about how many things i don’t do not because i think i wouldn’t like them, not because i’m not interested in them, but because i am afraid of them. afraid that i won’t be able to do it. afraid that i won’t be good enough. afraid that people will point and laugh. how many moments have i missed out on in life because i was too afraid to participate? too many. this year, i hope to stare my fears down, acknowledge them and then keep going.

to trust my gut. as much as i often hold myself back because i am afraid, sometimes, i hold myself back for the right reason: because my gut tells me something is not right. and then i beat myself up for holding back, and i say, why didn’t you try that? maybe it was the right thing! you’re missing out. and sometimes, i am. but more often than not, i’ve made the right choice – though maybe not for others – for me.

write more. goodness, i make this resolution every year. here’s hoping this is the year in which i keep it. and here’s hoping this blog will help me do so. i’d also love to take a creative writing course at 92Y in the spring or summer, if my schedule allows. there’s something about knowing you’re on a deadline that helps.

get away. my recent trip to nicaragua was, hands down, one of the best things i could have done for myself. it involved, for starters, embracing my fear of traveling alone, but beyond that, it involved a week of being blissfully disconnected to my life in new york; of sharing and talking and laughing and crying with two of the best women i know (and am privileged to know). in my early twenties, i read a lot of articles about the importance of getting away when you work a stressful job. and now, i know those articles are right. to that end, i’ve got a mid-march 5-day trip down to florida with my mother planned, and i’m in the process of putting a weeklong escape to california on the books for april.

love my body. this is a big one for me. scratch that, the biggest one. it always has been, and, if i’m being honest, probably always will be. but i feel like i’m on the path to acceptance. i had this little epiphany while hiking in nica, sweating my ass off and thinking, wow, my body got me up this GINORMOUS hill. and just for that moment, i felt proud of my body, instead of how i usually feel, which generally involves the words ugly, disgusted, ashamed, and a whole slew of other not-so-pretty things. i truly believe in beauty from the inside out, but it’s always been a struggle for me to feel that way about myself. but i’d like to get there, and i think i’m finally making my way.

forgive myself. i’ve made a lot of mistakes in my past. some were big, some were small. i’ve also been through some pretty intense stuff with my family this past year. stuff that’s made me realize that even the people i put on a pedestal (like my parents) are far from perfect. that everyone has made mistakes. big ones. and little ones, too. and it’s okay. all that we can do is forgive both those around us, and more importantly, ourselves. only when we’ve done so can we move forward, and become better people in doing so.

and there you have it. my plans for this year. bring it on, 2014.

77dbf1c75a6c1653c5e7b2d67c984937this past weekend was a rough one. i went home to massachusetts to see my family, and ended up spending time fighting with my family. to be fair, this isn’t a particularly unusual occurrence for us. my mother and i are one and the same – overly passionate people who feel too many feelings all.the.time. we share the same natural inclination to fight fiercely for the ones we love, with one big difference: my mother gets angry, and i get sad. where she will explode, lit like a spark from inside, i will collapse into myself, big fat salty tears welling up beneath my eyelids. she hits a point where she is so angry she can’t even speak. i hit a point where i’m so sad i think i’ll burst. my little sister takes after my mother. she, too, is quick to anger. quick to yell, quick to throw things, quick to storm out and slam doors and tell people she hates them and never wants to see them again. my other mom is the quiet one of the family. she’s neither sad nor angry. she despises confrontation, and will stand back and let the rest of us fight it out before she opens her mouth.

on sunday, we had planned to go apple picking as a family. after that, we were supposed to go over to my sister’s apartment to review the space, following a request from her that she wanted to make it more “cozy.” anyone who knows me (or has been reading this blog for an extended amount of time) know that i am an OCD-level, type a planner. i like things to happen when they’re supposed to happen, as they’re supposed to happen. i get extremely thrown out of whack when things don’t go as planned, an issue i’ve spent many an hour in therapy working out (though i’m still pretty bad at being flexible and/or spontaneous). so when my sister called about 20 minutes before apple picking time and said she was going to stay home and clean her apartment and skip the family outing, i was, let’s say, mildly annoyed.

then my mother told me she didn’t want us to come over at all. she thought we would judge her on the fact that her apartment wasn’t clean. and my first thought was, she knew we were coming since yesterday. she had plenty of time to clean. why didn’t she do it? my second thought was, i haven’t seen this damn apartment since the day she moved in a year ago (though i ask to visit every single time i am home). what the hell is that about?

apparently, what it’s about is that i’m such a judgmental bitch that even if i were to visit and not open my mouth, she knows my eyes would be flitting around the room, taking in this empty soda can and that piece of trash on the floor, judging all the while. nevermind that i have, month after month, promised to reserve my judgment, and told her that i just want to share in her space with her – it’s her home, for god sakes – that i don’t care if it’s clean or dirty, i just want to be with her. so i wasn’t allowed to come over. none of us were, on that day – though she promised my parents could come the next day. but me? i wasn’t allowed. her big sister, the one who spent hours with her cleaning the apartment when she first moved in, the one who helped her pick rugs and pillows and light fixtures and paint colors last summer – i wasn’t allowed in.

and for some reason, that touched a nerve, and i lost it.  i was so sick of her assuming that i’d act a certain way, think a certain way, do a certain thing. couldn’t she give me the benefit of the doubt? why was it that everyone else could be a part of this portion of her life, but i couldn’t? wasn’t i worth anything to her? her response? it’s just the place where i sleep. what does it matter? why do you need to see it?

as i said above, my sister’s natural defense mechanism is anger. the sort of anger that seeps through phone wires and travels over text messages and transcends any sort of potential benefit of doubt. i made the mistake of inquiring as to why we couldn’t come just for a bit? why she hadn’t taken the time to clean before? why she couldn’t just put her worries aside for a moment and let us enjoy the afternoon?

and somehow, it turned into a fight. a screaming fight, where i stormed upstairs, and she stormed outside, threatening to move out of the apartment my parents had so lovingly purchased for her, and paid for, and fixed up, and decorated. this was how badly she didn’t want us in the apartment – so much that she would threaten, and scream, and do anything she could in her power to keep us away. when she said she would move out, i saw red. see, my parents dropped a hefty sum of money on a second home for her. they call it an investment property, but we all know they really bought it for her. and they’ve poured money into fixing it up, into making it a nice place to live, and what had she done? not only had she shit all over it, choosing, clearly, not to clean it, EVER, but she’d threatened to leave it all behind. she acted like she did not give a damn what had been done for her, what had been given to her.

and at that, i saw red. i felt what my mother must have felt all those years ago when she chased me up the stairs one morning. i was so angry i felt i could strangle her. how could she be so ungrateful? so cruel? so quick to shut out her family, the ones who had done so much for her, and loved her through good and bad? how could she think she could just pick up and leave behind all that my parents had done for her like it was nothing? she had been given something so great, and all she wanted to do was throw it away. it was selfish. it was unfathomable. i couldn’t see through it. i couldn’t see through myself. i was so furious i thought i would scream.

and then she called back, and i did scream. i told her how i really felt – that she was ungrateful, selfish, mean. i was sick of being the big sister who was put through the ringer, who put so much in and never got anything out. {this, of course, isn’t true – but in my moment of anger, it was all i could see}

i let her have it. and she sat on the other end of the phone, and she did not fight. she did not defend. she did not argue. she just listened. and then she told us we could come over.

and when we got there, i knew it would be bad. i knew i was angry. i knew, in my heart, that the reason she hadn’t let us over was because the place was a mess. a shithole. and yet i wasn’t prepared for what i saw when i walked in.

i think my sister is a hoarder. it’s not just that she is messy. it’s not just that she is a slob. it is…i don’t even know how to describe it. it was like a punch to the gut, seeing her living like that. it was like having the wind knocked out of me. all my anger just sort of floated away, and all of a sudden, i was scared. scared that her mess was somehow tied into her not letting me in, both literally, and figuratively. she wasn’t letting me in the door because she knew how bad the mess was. and she wasn’t letting me into her heart because she was too scared to do so.

sitting on her living room floor, she told us she could never let us in. she would never let us in. she was damaged goods. she would never change. she didn’t believe she was capable of it. she believed she had faulty wiring, that it wasn’t (like i had assumed) that she didn’t want to change. it was that she thought she actually could not do it. she wanted to be emotional, and loving, and open, like the rest of us. but she wasn’t capable. she refused to let anyone in, because she was worried they would leave. 

and then she said something that broke my heart.

i live on the surface. i have superficial relationships with those around me, and i know it. and that’s just who i am. 

i looked over at my mother, who was crying. i wanted to cry, but i couldn’t. it was like my heart hardened. i couldn’t cry. i could barely speak. i felt so lost, so emotionally overwhelmed. how do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped? how do you convince someone who believes so deeply that she cannot change that change is possible? i didn’t know how. i didn’t know what to say. so all i said was that i thought she was wrong. that i believed she could change. and it would be hard. it would be really fucking hard, but she could do it. and she could do it because we loved her, with all of our hearts, with more love than we thought it was possible to give. ae46bc18df007adaeb7a6d5ff01fb887

and then, when everyone else went home, angry, and frustrated, and emotional beyond belief, i put my arms around her, and i begged her to let me stay. to let me help her. and to my surprise, she nodded.

and so i did the only thing i knew how to do in the moment: i cleaned. i filled trash bag after trash bag with empty beer bottles and soda cans and paper towels and cardboard clippings. i washed weeks worth of dirty dishes. i scraped mold off the bathtub and cleaned clumps of hair off of the floor. i scrubbed crusted oil off the stovetop, and put open boxes of pasta back into the cabinets. i emptied a carton of orange juice that had gone bad.

and i gave her one, tiny, simple job at a time to complete. i spoke softly, but firmly, when she got distracted, and attempted to move a trash pile from her to there.

and just when i thought my heart might break into a million tiny little pieces, so clogged up was it with love and sadness, a little guardian angel appeared in the form of my oldest and bestest friend, joia. joia and her husband live downstairs from my sister. we’ve been friends since we were two. joia knows me just as well as i know myself, if not better. she knows the intricacies of my family dynamics like the back of her hand, knows when we’re doing well and when we’re close to breaking point. she can read my mind, spot my feelings from a mile away, and always, always, knows just what to do to fix things. joia came upstairs to say hi, took one look at me, and at allie, and said, “i had a rough day. did you guys have a rough day too? is it okay if i eat my hamburger up here? okay, great.” and she sat down with her burger, and she ate. and just the sole fact of presence soothed me to my core. and when she was done, she crumpled up her wrapper, and she grabbed a trash bag, and she started to clean. she didn’t ask. she didn’t mention it. she just knew. knew that we were both close to breaking. knew that we needed her. that needed her. and so she helped. not because she had to, not because she had the time to, but because she is my friend. because she is my sister. because she felt the energy in the room and she knew she could make it better.

and after a few hours, we’d made good progress. we’d cleared and cleaned the kitchen, the largest room in the space, and tackled the bathroom (by far the most disgusting). we’d emptied bag after bag of trash. the dishes were done. the mold was gone. the bathtub was clean. the floors were clear. the laundry was in.

and while it wasn’t everything, it was something. a big something. it was a start.

and while a start is good, great, even, i still feel this heaviness in my heart. what if i can’t save my sister? what if everything i do, everything she does, everything we all do, isn’t enough? i don’t believe, in my deepest soul, that she is damaged. i think she is troubled, and hurt, and has put up barriers around her feelings because she’s so afraid of what might happen if she opened the floodgates. but i do not believe she cannot change. i do not believe she has to live her life on the surface. but i still feel heavy, weighted down by my worry for her. i don’t know how to help her, really. my cleaning her apartment was a quick fix, and it was as much a selfish relief for me as it was a help for her. i didn’t solve anything. i said some hurtful things that, even after apologizing, probably stuck with her. it scares me to think i was capable of feeling so angry with her. to think that maybe my loving her isn’t enough.3820dc87cbdea8b8a37eb189d7017438

i guess all i can do is hope that it is. that’s all we can ever do, right? love her, fiercely, deeply, intensely, and assure her that i will never leave her. never desert her.

and then i can let it go. because i can’t carry this weight for her. at some point, she has to carry it for herself. and i believe, i know that she can.