I’m Trying Not to Be Stressed, I’m Trying to Be Afraid

It’s a frightening time.

I’m frightened.

My body has been on high alert for days. I’m exhausted when I fall asleep and I’m exhausted when I wake up. I am on an edge that no amount of meditating or cute puppy pictures can push me away from. I cry when something breaks in my house or when food doesn’t turn out. I cry when I read the news. I cry when I have do literally anything that is not looking at the news — what if I miss something critical to my family’s survival? The what-if worst case scenarios are so close to the surface of my psyche that you can read them in the bags under my eyes.

At the same time, I am radiating anger over our current administration’s fumbling and self-serving buffoonery. Anger helps people feel like they have agency. Anger means that you have not given up hope but you are furious that hopeful things have not happened yet. I am so furious right now that my body is in full on fight mode — ask my partner how many hugs I’m not accepting (but want oh so badly once my body calms down).

Today seems as good a day as any to start blogging again. By the look of my tweets, I’ve posted an essay or twenty in the last 24 hours anyway. I tend to tweet a lot when I’m anxious frightened. Me and the rest of the sane world are scared shitless (there is a hilarious joke about stockpiling toilet paper if you care to make it).

I had this theory before novel coronavirus took over the world. The theory was that I was hiding behind words like anxiety and stress because I was ashamed to admit that when I used words like those I was hiding from what they really meant– I was afraid.

When I said I was stressed, I was actually afraid. When I said I was anxious, I was afraid, when I said I was nervous, I was also afraid. That was the truth I felt I needed to sit with in order to overcome my fears, both real and imagined. But, I had a fear of feeling fear. Stress and anxiety sure – those are like “soft fear” right? Wrong, turns out, it’s all fear and we are suckers who are afraid of naming it.

It sounds insane, but it’s true. As a culture, we are afraid of fear, and I didn’t want any part of that lie – I pride myself on being emotionally transparent, at least to myself. So, like the queen of a far far away land naming Rumpelstiltskin, I was hoping that by naming and exposing these “soft fears” for what they were, real fears, I’d better manage them.

But here we all are, our president was caught with his pants down in the middle of a global pandemic (more loo roll jokes here) and our senators and hedge fund billionaires were caught with their hands in the cookie jar serving themselves instead of serving the greater good by sounding the alarm and saving lives.

I don’t know where the aftermath of all of this leaves the world, our country, or my family and that’s terrifying, infuriating, and heartbreaking.

I’m trying not to be stressed, or anxious. But I’m not practicing my zen, I’m trying to be afraid, and it sucks – because there is a lot of work that goes into honoring the truth of fear this big; I am struggling to sit with that, and I hate it.

PS. I love you, go wash your hands.

The 52 Books I Read in 2019

I read 52 books this year. That’s one for every week!

It wasn’t exactly one book a week, and some of these were audiobooks that I listened to while driving the scientists to and from school and such, but I heard somewhere that audiobooks still count – and so I counted them.

Not included are all the textbooks I read in my college courses, though there were plenty – They are somehow not the same in my mind.

I am a little proud of myself. It feels like if nothing else worked out this year, I still have this “I read 52 book in 2019”. Though if I’m being honest, I don’t remember what all of these were about anymore – It’s been a long year.

Here they are, listed alphabetically:

  1. A History of the World in 6 Glasses – Tom Standage (reread)
  2. An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding – David Hume
  3. Becoming – Michelle Obama
  4. Becoming Mrs. Lewis – Patti Callahan
  5. Bedwetter – Sarah Silverman
  6. Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Wall Kimmerer
  7. Braving the Wilderness – Brené Brown
  8. Call Me by Your Name – André Aciman
  9. Circe – Madeline Miller
  10. City of Illusion – Ursala K. Le Guin
  11. Coyote America – Dan Flores
  12. Culinary Reactions – Simon Quellen Field
  13. Disappearing Spoon – Sam Kean
  14. Educated: A Memoir – Tara Westover
  15. Eight Flavors – Sarah Lohman (reread)
  16. Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton
  17. God is Not One – Stephen Prothero
  18. Gold Dust Woman – Stephan Davis
  19. Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
  20. Growing A Revolution – Eric Michael Summerer
  21. Idoru – William Gibson
  22. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Wolf
  23. My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
  24. Mycophilia: Revelations From the Weird World of Mushrooms – Eugenia Bone
  25. My Own Words – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mary Hartnett, Wendy W. Williams
  26. On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong
  27. Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness – Peter Godfrey-Smith
  28. Proust and the Squid – Maryanne Wolf (reread)
  29. Rocannon’s World – Ursala K. Le Guin
  30. Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come – Jessica Pan
  31. The Afterlives – Thomas Pierce
  32. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Kim Michele Richardson
  33. The Botany of Desire – Michael Pollan
  34. The Circle – Dave Eggers
  35. The Disaster Artist – Tom Bissell
  36. The Far Field – Madhuri Vijay
  37. The Fifth Season – NK Jemisin
  38. The Forgotten Language – Erich Fomm
  39. The Golden Thread – Kassia St. Clair
  40. The Good neighbor – Maxwell King
  41. The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben (reread)
  42. The Museum of Modern Love – Heather Rose
  43. The Obelisk Gate – NK Jemisin
  44. The Pattern Instinct – Jeremy Lent
  45. The Songs of Achilles – Madeline Miller
  46. The Source of Self Regard – Toni Morrison
  47. The Stone Sky – NK Jemisin
  48. The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu
  49. Understanding Beliefs – Nils J. Nilsson
  50. Understanding Complexity – Scott E. Page
  51. Unwarrented – Barry Friedman
  52. Yes Please – Amy Poehler

Let me know if you’ve got a list from 2019, or a list started to tackle in 2020. I’d love to know what you are reading.

A few weeks ago, my wedding dress was delivered to me stuffed in a paper grocery bag.

A few weeks ago, my wedding dress was delivered to me stuffed in a paper grocery bag.

I made that dress myself. It’s lined with my son’s felted baby blankets and has my grandmother’s pearls sewn into it. It was really something, but I only wore it as long as the wedding itself.

It hung for 12 years in the back of what used to be the bedroom my husband and I slept in together.

It’s funny, I never thought I attached a lot of importance to weddings and wedding dresses. Big deal – the marriage is what’s important, everybody knows that. But I’m a flurry of crocodile tears now – because I worked too hard on that dress, too hard on that marriage, for it to end up like discarded like this.

So for the moment, I’m stuck in grief, wiping my tears on my son’s felt baby blankets and a bit unsure of why I’m crying.

We’re all much happier now, but receiving that dress was a finality that I wasn’t prepared for. I feel like, as long as it hung in a closet that the both of us used during our marriage, there was still a bond between us somehow, an acknowledgment that although it didn’t work out, it was still sacred, you know?

But I guess I don’t get to hold onto that sacredness either, it’s no longer part of who I am – is it?

Today, I hung my wrinkled wedding dress in the back of my new closet right next to the dress I wore the day I met my former husband.  I imagine those two dresses back there in the dark whispering to one another about possibilities totally unaware of the years that have passed on the other side of the closet door, and that makes me so so happy.

Hello from here, Melissa.

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“Me Too”

Everyone is saying “me too” and men are aghast and outraged.

Guess what bucko’

I’ve been raped by men nicer than you.

I have been assaulted by men who write feminist manifestos on their facebook walls.

I have been harassed and coerced by men you admire, perhaps you’ve read their books, or listen to their podcasts.

You probably think they are decent human beings.

Most perps are not monsters, they are your bros, they are you.