The Weight We Carry. 

“Oh, come on.”

Two weeks ago, I sat in McKinnon’s Irish Pub in Hartford with one of my best friends. We’ve known each other for about ten years, and chances are, if something funny has happened to me in the past ten years, it’s happened because she was adjacent to it. We were the girls in college that dressed up as Nickelodeon characters for Halloween (I was Ug, she was Patti Mayonnaise) and quoted Eddie Izzard’s Dressed to Kill special to each other until we couldn’t stand up straight from laughter. Now, we were hanging out in the early afternoon with a Guinness (for her) and an red apple martini (for me, because the only beers they had were gross and because I wanted to feel the Carrie Bradshaw fantasy).

At this point in the conversation, I had told my dear friend that in the course of my most recent relationship, I had put on a total of thirty pounds, and was currently in the middle of shedding them. She looked at me with a dubious expression, and said “There’s no way. I saw you a ton during that time. You looked the same! And besides,” she said with a small smirk, “I look at my friends with love.

I snorted, reaching for my phone. “I’ll prove it to you,” I said, scrolling through my phone until I got to one of me from last March – one of the few I didn’t systematically delete following the breakup. (When you feel like you’ve lost control, you’ll try to reclaim it in any way possible.). The photo is of me during a 5K race, and I look, well, bigger. I showed it to my friend, and her jaw dropped. “Man, she said, grabbing my phone to inspect it further,” I must have REALLY looked at you with love.”

We laughed, and the conversation turned to other things.

Since my breakup, I have come to understand how the body responds to depression. Some people lose weight. I gain weight. I gain it fast, and I gain it when there’s absolutely no reason to gain it. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

Depression has been linked as a viable cause for weight gain – a recent study showed that there is a definite connection between depression and anxiety and obesity. However, when examining the other way around, the connection that weight gain would cause depression  is more tenuous. I can speak to this personally, as it happened to me.

In 2013, I had been a dedicated runner for a few years. I was getting quite fast, and I had trained for two half-marathons before injuries and other life events caused me to defer my entrance. I was also weightlifting, doing yoga, biking for fun, and also just being incredibly active. I had been an athlete. But during the summer of 2014, my entire body fell apart due to depression, anxiety/panic disorder, and my arrhythmia. The arrhythmia had been solved due to medication, and the anxiety had been tamped down with the help of therapy, but I still felt like I wasn’t quite myself. I was sad all the time. I was unreasonably angry and pessimistic. I was bursting out of my clothes, despite the fact that I had slowly ramped up my workouts and was eating more normally than I had been, and I was trying to stick to my gluten free diet as much as possible.

I knew what the problem was. I was in the wrong relationship, I was feeling emotionally compromised and abused, and it was making me hideously sad and anxious. I’d known for quite a long time, but I was too afraid to say anything because being in the wrong relationship seemed infinitely better than being alone, than starting over. So I kept my mouth shut. Then last spring, everything imploded and I found myself forced to walk away.

I spent that summer heartbroken, but I also spent it in a state of fascination by what was going on with my body. I hadn’t done a damn thing differently, but my weight slowly started sluicing away from my body like feathers off a molting duck. My clothes started to fit better, and then I found myself fitting in clothes I hadn’t fit into in four years. I started feeling stronger and more capable in my workouts, and I didn’t feel like I had to stuff my face at meals. I hadn’t realized how much my body had been compromised due to my emotional compromises and toxicity. As a result, my body started to change drastically once I was out of that toxic emotional space. I’m not saying I hated how I looked when I was bigger. But I knew my body wasn’t necessary where it feels most comfortable, and the dramatic flushing of my weight once I was out of that emotional space was a sign that I had made the right choice.

I started to realize that self-care isn’t just about going to the gym. It’s about knowing how to take care of yourself entirely, body and mind. It’s about mentally helping yourself out and knowing when to both say “yes” and when to walk away. Depression is going to lie to you. It’s going to tell you that you need to stay in one spot when you know that you shouldn’t, but you feel like you can’t or don’t deserve anything better. And your body, in an attempt to protect itself, will start to pile on the pounds in order to hibernate inside your feelings. If you feel like you’re in that kind of a spot, don’t hesitate. Get out. Your body, and your mind, will thank you.

Now, I’m happily single. I’m busy, and loving how busy I am. Eventually I know I will find someone special, but I’m not stopping my entire life for it. Which is probably how I know I’m in a healthier headspace than I’ve ever been – I won’t sacrifice the health of my body or my mind because I don’t want to be alone. Being alone, it turns out, can be the best possible form of love.

If Presidential Candidates Were In the Marvel Universe.

Warning: SO MANY SPOILERS for the Civil War arc of Captain America, and probably a TON of spoilers for Captain America: Civil War. If you want to go into the movie unspoiled, GO AWAY NOWWWWW.

This was inspired by a series of (admittedly slightly drunk) Tweets I made last night in which I decided to outline the reasons why #TeamCap and #TeamIronMa for Captain America: Civil War were surrogates for #TeamHillary and #TeamBernie. Captain America, I argued, was like Bernie Sanders – Rigorously truthful. Sometimes incapable of summoning up the right type of ground game. Best interests at heart. Skips the details in favor of those good intentions. I then posited that Iron Man was like Hillary Clinton – Pragmatic. Smart. Coming from money. Slightly warmongering. Goes back on some decisions but again, also has good intentions. Sometimes unlikeable but a hawk in politics.

After I posted that, I got a tweet from my friend Jorge, a professor at Holy Cross and one of my favorite people to talk to about politics – mainly because we agree on some things, but HEAVILY disagree on other things. He’s also a huge comic book fan. He wrote You know that in the comics Cap dies, Iron Man takes over SHIELD, and he abuses his power and brings about Armageddon, right?

CRAP. I totally forgot about that. So, at the end of the comic book arc of Civil War, Steve Rogers (aka Cap) is arrested and about to be arraigned for his part in the anti-registration rebellion (he is against mutants needing to be registered, Iron Man is for it, yada yada cue giant fight). On the steps of the courthouse, he is shot and killed by Sharon Carter who has been hypnotized by Crossbones (the confirmed villain of the Civil War movie). The Avengers/mutant community is stunned, and Tony Stark takes over SHIELD and proceeds to accidentally let an alien race invade Earth (which, while not connected directly to the Avengers plotlines in the comic books, is what I think will be the film plotline of The Avengers: Infinity War, thereby tying together Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy). Meanwhile, Bucky (aka the Winter Soldier, aka Steve’s best friend) receives a posthumous letter from Steve telling him to take up the shield and become the next Captain America, which he does, and Steve returns at a later point because nobody dies in comic books. I’m pretty positive that this is going to be the plotline of Captain America: Civil War, and if you know me at all, you know that I have a borderline-inappropriate crush on Chris Evans. So, I’m gonna need to take an entire box of Kleenex to see this thing.

Once I put all of this together, I realized that Iron Man can’t be Hillary, because while Hillary can make bad political decisions, has the backing of a lot of large corporations, and maaaaaybe should get a better speechwriter, I highly doubt she will bring about Ragnarok and I think on the whole she’ll make a better representative of the United States than Sanders. (I LOVE Sanders, too, and I’ll obviously vote for him in the general if he gets the nom.)

Then, it hit me. So is Iron Man…Trump?! I tweeted back. And then the idea for this blog was born. I’m only using the people who are still in the running on both sides.

Thanks Jorge.

Captain America: Bernie Sanders
Because screw you and your dumb rules. He’s not part of your system. He wants to upend the status quo. Stars out as this little guy that suddenly had the best movie in the entire franchise and everyone whips their head around like “where did Winter Soldier come from?” He sees the little guy over the big picture. Wants everyone to just get along, god dammit. And sometimes, that’s to his own downfall, because he can’t really start a revolution without a little bit of that cold pragmatism that enables true change. Good, honest, and relentlessly truthful to a fault.

Iron Man: Donald Trump
Charismatic, made of money, billionaire on a total power trip, starts out as mostly liberal with a decent goal and then does a sharp pivot into neo-con mode (“registering” all mutants because they’re a POSSIBLE danger to society, come on), incapable of seeing anything beyond himself at the worst possible times. A good guy to have when you need a shot of money or “glamour” in your cabinet, but the worst possible person to put in charge because he will bring about the literal apocalypse. He also really divides people up.

(Note: Trump could very easily also be Ultron, because Ultron is also a super-powered villain on a massive power trip and is just as much if not more of an asshole than Iron Man)

Hillary Clinton: Black Widow
Expert tactician and combatant. Easily adaptable to all types of environments. Flexible (in all manner of speaking). Espionage training so she’s really well trained on foreign policy. Politically savvy. Has had psychological conditioning to repress certain memories (I love Hillary and I’m voting for her, but girlfriend needs to get a better speech writer).

Ted Cruz: The Vision
Simply because The Vision, near the beginning of his arcs in the comics, is incapable of human emotion and is made out of 100% synthetic material, but can also very easily bring about the end of the universe as we know it.

John Kasich: Hawkeye
The one that shows up and everyone’s like “Oh, you’re still here! Oh, you are kind of useless! But I’m sure you mean well!”

Marco Rubio: Ant-Man
Has the ability to shrink so small, nobody can actually see him, but he’s actually kind of a snarky dick and a thief. (I’m clearly using the Scott Lang version of Ant-Man here).

President Obama and Michelle Obama: Black Panther and Storm
Duh. (No but seriously read up on those two characters. I’m not just saying they’re those characters because they’re black. It works perfectly.)

I hope this amused some of you as we slowly, painfully, slog our way through one of the grossest election cycles I have ever been a part of. (Although honestly, we’ve got it better than the people back when this country was still pulling itself together. Our Presidents back then owned people.)

Also, this whole post has made me EXTREMELY excited for Captain America: Civil War. Although if it ends the way I think it’s going to, I’m going to need to see it alone. I’ll be a total mess.

ally

PS. Martin O’Malley is Superman – a seriously great guy who just wants to do good for the world, but everyone’s like “Ugh, you’re boring, NEXT.”

Currently.

Spring is here and I am pumped. The fall and winter, while immeasurably less sad than last summer (which we will all refer to as The Summer That Must Not Be Named), were still slightly melancholy, and every day I wake up, see the flowers starting to bloom on the giant tree outside my house, and feel a rebirth in my chest. Spring is the time to clear stuff out, clean stuff up, and look forward to the start of warmer weather. I can’t wait to get into my summer clothes, go down to the beach house, and do all of the things that my depression and heartbreak forbade me to do last summer. Chief among those things is HAVE SOME DAMN FUN.

I stole this meme from Megan, a dear friend of mine who lives in Canada. Fun fact – did you know that the equivalent of Dunkin’ Donuts in Canada, Tim Hortons, calls their Munchins “Timbits”? TIMBITS! And their Prime Minister is extremely handsome. Google him. “Justin Trudeau.” I’ll wait.

Anyway! On to the survey.

Making: Time. Art. Peace. And a book! Sort of. I don’t want to talk too much about it because I want to keep some of the details of this private. But this summer will be The Summer I Finish The Book.

Cooking: A lot more now that I have a month off from performing! Right now my favorite thing to make for dinner is ridiculously simple but so, so good. I saute up a giant pile of shredded Brussels sprouts with coconut oil. Once they’re done I plate them, then sear some firm tofu that I’ve rubbed with taco seasoning and salt/pepper, and lightly heat up some corn tortillas in the oven and douse them in guacamole and some vegan shredded cheese. Tada! Vegan tofu tacos. They are delicious, take about twenty minutes to throw together in one pan, and I could eat them for every single meal the rest of my life.

Drinking: Those ICE flavored sparkling water things. I’m obsessed. Probably too obsessed. My favorites are the Grapefruit and Nectarine Peach flavors. Delicious.

Reading: A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara. I also just read Aim True by Kathryn Budig and really loved it, but in the way that I love reading about the way pretty yoga girls tell me how to be happy while not really believing any of it. (Seriously, the only people I trust in yoga are Kino MacGregor and Seane Corn.) I also got the Advanced Reader Copy of Eligible, the new Curtis Sittenfeld book based on Pride and Prejudice that I want to dig into.

Wanting: Clothes! I’ve been slowly getting rid of a ton of stuff in my closet, namely the size-2 jeans that my (glorious, Italian and fabulous) ass will never fit into again, and I haven’t shopped for anything new in about five months.

Looking: Pretty punkass fly if I do say so myself. I shaved the side of my head and I’m letting one side grow out, and I got complimented by a 10 year old girl at work today, so I’m feeling fairly confident about my life choices.

Playing: Lemonade. All day, every day. Lemonade. That and the new Drake song but apparently he dropped a new album last night, too?

Wasting: Time worrying about the election and the opinions of people on The Internet.

Wishing: That I didn’t worry so much about that stuff!

Enjoying: Our acclaimed run in Company! We closed last week and I’m so sad about not being able to go play with my friends tonight. However, I don’t miss ending every weekend drunk and stuffed from the cast parties. 😉

Waiting: For tonight when I get to go to our first rehearsal for Proof, the staged reading I’m doing as part of LTM’s Evenings @ 7. Not only am I starring in it, I’m producing it, and three of my close friends are going to be doing it with me with another . So freaked out and excited.

Liking: Snapchat! I resisted it for a LONG time, but I finally got it. I normally use it to stalk people from YouTube (and to check in on my brother who recently moved to Portland, OR) but I have been posting random thoughts and snippets of life here and there. I’m really dumb on it. Follow me on it! I’m at alysamarsiella

Wondering: If I should try going for a run this afternoon, or just stick to the elliptical and go running on Sunday. I’m trying to get back into running, now that the weather is getting nice and I can

Loving: Decaf iced coffee with sugar free mocha from Starbucks. If they put the right amount in, it tastes like a chocolate milkshake.

Hoping:
This nice weather continues, although it could be a little warmer outside!

Marveling: At how big my littlest nephew has gotten. It seems like yesterday I went to visit my sister at the hospital when she had him in October, and now he’s all smiling and picking his head up and stuff. He’s also got a big head. He’s in the 90th percentile. Not to mention my godson is finally speaking in full sentences and the oldest one is going to be in FIRST GRADE next year. I just want to cast some sort of spell on them like ‘STOP GROWING, NOWWWWW’

Needing: To get my grading done without feeling like my shoulder is going to fall off. I have a lot of over-use problems in my right shoulder and as a result my neck gets into spasm. Thankfully I’ve got a boss chiropractor, so it’s been very helpful. But still – I have 19 papers to get done this week.

Smelling: Like the coconut lotion someone left at work. I put it all over my face and hands.

Wearing: Lots of dresses and rompers because they’re comfortable AF, as well as leggings on the days Connecticut pulls a Connecticut and decides to drop 20 degrees.

Following: Matt Doyle on Instagram (@MattFDoyle). Lots of pictures of his dogs, and of Matt in a suit, and of Matt working out without a shirt. The ratios are perfect.

Noticing: That I need to get new bras! One of mine broke during Avenue Q and I had to perform an entire show with the back safety-pinned together.
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Knowing: That life is good. No matter what.

Thinking: About all of the work I have to get done.

Bookmarking: So many dessert recipes that I know I logistically have no time to bake.

Opening: Hopefully a show this summer!

Feeling: Pretty good, if a little sleepy. Also happy for two of my friends who are getting married today!

In Response to XOJane.

If you are a human woman who writes on the Internet, by now you have probably heard about it. Yesterday, xoJane (or as I refer to it, the dumpster of the Internet, because you can find anything in there) made the choice to run a first-person essay titled “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing.” Even if I wanted to link to that story, I can’t, because xoJane has removed it from their site and issued an apology after vehement backlash from fellow writers, fellow people struggling with depression, and fellow non-narcissists who understood just how horrendous the article was.

In the article, the author (I won’t be using her name, because to give someone a name means to give them attention and visibility, and I want this writer to GTFO the Internet forever) outlined the reasons why she was happy a former friend of hers committed suicide. Basically, she was complaining that her former friend posted long, cryptic messages on Facebook, didn’t seem to like herself all that much, and may or may not have been sleeping with one of the writer’s former boyfriends. When the friend died, the writer concluded, “Her death wasn’t a tragedy, her life was.”

I believe in the First Amendment but I also believe in ethics. There are some things that, in the writing of it, reveal a hell of a lot more about the writer than the subject. The writer of this piece not only was painfully unaware of how absolutely repugnant her viewpoints were (and are; a follow-up interview with Jezebel shows the writer to have absolutely no regrets about what she wrote, although she does backpedal a ton), she clearly doesn’t understand both mental illness, or suicide.

Beauty editor Sam Escobar encapsulated my feelings about this piece perfectly when they tweeted “It seeks to confirm what many with mental illness believe: that people want us dead.” I would extend this out by saying it also seeks to confirm our worst fears when we are in the throes of depression or mental illness: that the world would be better without us. Sam from Let’s Queer Things Up said something similar in his response to the article, stating “I can think of a mentally ill teenager that would read your essay and say, “Maybe I can’t make it after all. Maybe I’m not supposed to.”

Since this writer has no idea what having a mental illness actually entails, let me just tell you how it manifested for me. This is in no way a universal experience.

The first time I wanted to die, I was eleven. I was verbally and physically abused by the kids at my school for the crime of being a smart, quiet kid, and I just wanted all of it to go away. Thanks to Mr. Sherry, the social worker at my school, I pulled myself out of this bad spot and actually became a mid-popular kid by eighth grade (you know, the kind of kid that is friends with all of the social groups because that’s how you survive, you just make everyone like you).

The second time I wanted to die was during my eating disorder, about six and a half years ago. I was so exhausted, and so sick of counting every single calorie that went into my mouth, and so tired of going on the machines at the gym for two hours every day. I just wanted the whole world to stop, and I wanted to sleep for a year. I started doing yoga, which slapped a large Band-Aid on my problems, and I was able to survive. Plus, my sister had her first baby, and I felt like I HAD to get better in order to stick around and see that kid grow up. (He’s going to be SIX in three months. STOP GROWING, KID.)

The third time I wanted to die was two years ago, when I was in the crushing throes of a depressive episode. I was trapped in a toxic relationship, I had been rejected from every PhD program I had applied to, I was broke as a joke, and I felt like there was no way out. I didn’t want to kill myself, understand. I just wanted to not exist. I didn’t want any of my family members to be in pain, and of course I wanted to be around for my nephews and my friends. But I wanted to take a nice, gigantic nap, in which the pain would be erased and I could wake up happy.

Then, on May 20th, 2014, I found out a close friend of mine from high school and college had died. I had just spoken to her a scant three weeks prior. She had been struggling a lot with personal issues that I will decline to recount here, out of respect for her family, and I had known that, but I just didn’t know what to do, so I kept silent. I regret that move. A lot.

I walked outside after I found out. It was an absolutely gorgeous spring day, and the blossoms on the trees in my complex were in full bloom. The light was coming through the trees. I looked out into the sun, into the clear blue sky, and felt something shift in my brain. I don’t want to be like this anymore. I want to be happy.

After that day, I started really talking more in therapy. I just felt this burst of desperation, all pinning back to that original discovery. I don’t want to be like this anymore. But it wasn’t until I was put on medication, and ended that toxic relationship, that I finally rediscovered what it means to be actually happy. Not only happy, but okay.

And now, I’m two years out from that place, and a year out from the worst breakup of my life, and I am the happiest, most peaceful, and most me I’ve ever been. I’m even running three times a week, and I’m SINGING IN FRONT OF PEOPLE, something I thought I would never do again.

But I still have my moments of crushing weight. This past week I auditioned for a musical and didn’t do my absolute best at the audition, and I beat myself up for two hours afterward. It all turned out okay, but that tendency – to self-flagellate because I didn’t perform with Cylon-like precision – is still there. I just have the tools to navigate it.

I’ve been friends with many people with depression. I’ve even been in love with someone who probably has depression. And there have been times when people have said to me about these individuals, “I think they’re just beyond help.” That kind of language is dangerous. Sure, they’re beyond your help. But they aren’t beyond all help, and to prescribe someone as to be just so beyond any type of assistance or empathy or basic human decency? You might as well give them a loaded gun and tell them they’d be better off with a hole in their head.

I got better, and am symptom free today, because there were people in my life who gave a shit and medication that tranquilized my adrenaline so I can function without f. There are so many out there who don’t have that luxury. Maybe the blessing here is that now, everyone is seeing this writer for what she truly is. I can only hope she never goes through the kind of mental and emotional struggle her friend did, and that she takes this experience and develops a modicum of empathy. As for me? I will never, ever pitch to xoJane, and I encourage all of you to do the same.

And to anyone reading this that might be struggling with depression or mental illness – you are not alone. I see you. I hear you. If you are having suicide ideation, please call the Suicide Hotline – 1 (800) 273-8255. They’re open 24/7.

Some more good pieces about this whole topic – Ijeoma Oluo at The Establishment wrote a breathtaking piece about mental illness and her son.

Kit Mead discussed the ethical consequences.

Here is a petition created by writers who have vowed to never pitch to xoJane, or never pitch again if they’ve written for xojane before.

Moonbeams, Part Deux.

It’s been a while!

No, seriously. It’s been a while. I just checked and it’s been a solid 10 months since I’ve updated. Now that I’m on a little bit of a break from work, I thought I would send you guys a missive from the crazy train that is my life. I was inspired by the brilliant and beautiful Chelsea Levinson, who has started a new writing venture called Chelsea Processing that you should check out immediately because it is gorgeously designed and so. totally. Chelsea.

So, here I am. After so many months, and a lot of changes, and lot of career and relationship and friend shifts in my life. Here I am. Here’s an update for you, in bullet points because I’m lazy.

  1. I did one show – The Addams Family – and I’m in another one – August: Osage County – and they couldn’t be more different than one another. In the first one, I had the tremendous privilege to play Morticia, a part I’ve salivated over for years but never in a million years thought I could play. Not only did I give what I think is my most assured performance in years, but I made amazing friends along the way. August: Osage County is completely different because I get to wear no makeup, at all, and all of my outfits are crazy comfortable, and it’s the least self-conscious performance I’ve given. We open on Friday!
  2. I got a job! For now. Back in November, I received a message from a teacher from Miss Porter’s School asking if I would like to come in and demo for the English department, because they were looking for a long term sub for one of their teachers who was going on maternity leave. I got the message while I was running to teach one of my freshman English classes at UConn, and I spent the whole class oscillating between fear and excitement. Finally, after some time to think about it (as well as text messages from my friends saying DO IT, DO IT) I called up the department head and told him I was in. We had a demo day, I was hired, and for the last month and a half I’ve been a full time English teacher at my alma mater. Being on this campus and teaching in the classes I was in as a student is surreal, to put it mildly. But I am so, so grateful and honored to be here. I’m up for the permanent position in the fall, and I am really, really hopeful I get it.
  3. My body continues to change. At the recommendation of my nutritionist, I’ve gone low-starch – I upped my protein and fat intake, and narrowed down my sugars, gone completely dairy and gluten free, and I’ve really tried to stay away pre-made foods and sodium-filled stuff. The results have been pretty insane. Right now I’m trying to make sure I get enough to sustain me for the show, but it’s been really interesting to see how my body is okay with a lower amount of carbs. (NOT a lower amount of food, FYI.) What do I eat? Everything that isn’t a heavy starch – fruits, vegetables, SO MANY EGGS, salads, soups, coconut, seeds, dairy free protein bars. There are many days of the week I’m fully vegetarian, and then there are other days I up my meat intake. One night a week I have a dessert or something to stave off the “GIMME SUGAR” feeling, but honestly, I don’t really miss it that much. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

 

joy, gratitude, grace.

The title of this post comes from Brene Brown, whose book Daring Greatly was recommended to me by my therapist earlier on in the summer. Aside from kicking me in the gut on various pages (my copy is already dog-eared and wrecked up with hundreds of underlined and highlighted passages), Brene has offered me so many different ways to fully assess and understand my life from a different angle. The full quote is thus:

“I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.”

This year has been…well.

How does one really come up with the words for when your life is absolutely ripped up from the foundations, and everything changes in the span of even three days, let alone the 14 months it’s been since I last sat down to write a post? When we last talked – for I really do see these posts as conversations, at least, I try to, when I’m not ranting and raving about something – I was feeling good. My life was stable, and safe, and I was looking forward to a few different things on the docket. The plan was simple – keep teaching at UConn, do some plays, work on some writing projects and keep freelancing. I had learned to embrace my stressful, slightly overloaded life.

Well, you know what they say – when you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.

Last November, while sprinting across the UConn Storrs campus to teach a class, I got a text message from the head of the English Department at my alma mater high school. I had applied to teach there two and a half years prior, and while I didn’t get the job, they had promised to reach out if any other openings came along. I thanked them and promptly forgot about it. Well, they hadn’t; one of the teachers needed a long term substitute for maternity leave, and the department head reached out to me. The offer was to teach 9th and 10th grade English for the spring 2018 semester, with the possibility of a full time position for the following school year.

I stood there reading this text message over and over again while my college students wrote responses to a prompt on the gender politics of Thor. I texted my Mom and one of my best friends who had just had a huge life change involving her career. I showed them the text from the Department head, and while my Mom immediately flipped out and told me to do it (proving that it is indeed possible to convey tone through text, if you use the right amount of exclamation points), Lindsay was more direct. Do you want this she asked.

I don’t know I replied. I do because holy smokes it would be amazing but I’m also – I’m really scared.

That was putting it mildly. I had just settled into a pretty good routine. A safe, orderly, structured routine, but that appealed to me tremendously. Lindsay, though, had me with her next point. Remember when I said the same thing about taking that job, and you told me to go for it? Well, it’s my turn. Do it. DO IT.

Friends who kick you in the ass are necessary. I messaged the head back after I got out of class and told him I would love to meet with him.

A week later, I had a meeting and demo. That night I received a text from the head: Welcome aboard!

I sat back in my chair, unable to fully comprehend just how much my life had changed in those two words.

I was ending my job at UConn (where I had worked for six years) and I was taking a chance.

I don’t do this. I don’t do ‘taking chances.’ I pontificate about that stuff, sure, but I don’t actually do it.

I started in February, and while the difference between high school and college is stark, the students and faculty were amazing, the workload actually got a little lighter, and it was incredibly rewarding and wonderful to have a full week of work. I felt challenged, supported, clear-headed about what I wanted. The curriculum was so much more fulfilling than anything I had done at UConn, because the students cared about what they had to say in my classroom. I was also so amazed at how elevated they all were! They were caring about things I definitely didn’t at that age. I learned how to ask for help, how to really work with my colleagues, and I tried to let go.

In May 2018, after three months of falling more and more in love with my work at the school as well as my students and coworkers, I met with the chief academic officer. After some small talk, he slid a piece of paper across his desk. Written on it was my contract to become a full time member of the faculty for the 2018-2019 school year. I had impressed them enough to secure a spot in the department.

I sat back in my chair, staring at the piece of paper, my hand at my mouth, while the academic officer talked about how happy he was that I was coming on board. But all I could think was – Eight months ago, I had 100 dollars in my bank account. Eight months ago I was working four jobs just to break even. Now? I was going to get a full salary. I was going to get health care.

I put myself out there. I said yes to a random text message in the middle of a November rainstorm. I said yes.

But was the universe done with messing around with me? Oh no, it was not. Not by a long shot.

Right after I got the job (I’m talking, like, a day later), I was speaking to a girlfriend, and I mentioned to her “I want to get better at casual dating. I’m not good at it. So this summer will be the summer I just casually date a bunch of people and see what happens with it. No attachments, hashtag single life.”

I don’t want to say too much, but about a week after I made that proclamation, I was proven very, very, very wrong.

I took a chance, again. I put myself out there, again. I said yes, again.

It’s super hard. Vulnerability is never something that comes easily to me, despite my reputation of word vomiting onto the internet. But I’ve lived more in the past 9 months than ever before. It’s exhausting and heartbreaking and so utterly worth it.

This was the year I started actually saying ‘yes’, instead of just talking about it. And I hope to continue that pattern.

You might not see a lot of updates from me in this space. I want to keep a clear line between professional and private matters, especially now that I’m teaching at a high school. I don’t have anything to be ashamed of, but there’s a different type of work that comes with HS, and I want to make sure I’m presenting myself well to the students and faculty.  When I do update, it might be different from what you’re used to seeing from me, but I promise you. It’s still me.

Nine years ago when I started this blog I didn’t realize what my life was going to be like, but I had a very clear plan. Plans are meant to be changed.

Life is crazy. Grab a rein, and try to hold on.

ally

Body Say. 

Over the past three years my body has been held hostage. 

In January 2014 I was hit with a round of panic and depression that took me nine months to fully address and recover from, but that period, combined with a difficult birth control and a toxic relationship, caused my weight to climb. I was at 170 pounds by August of that year, after maintaining a comfortable 150 for a solid year. 

150 is the weight I am at when I’m working hard in the gym, avoiding the foods I’m allergic to, and also enjoying treats every once and a while because I’m not a robot. It is 18 pounds heavier than my lightest weight, which took starvation and hours of cardio at the gym to maintain. Depression and hormonal imbalances caused me to gain twenty pounds from that happy weight. 
I am using numbers because I don’t want to be afraid of them. I use numbers because I want you all to understand what it means to be healthy. 

The story continues. 

In August 2014 I was put on a beta blocker to manage my heart condition. My cardiologist suggested I lose weight. So I set about getting healthier, and recovering from my depressive episode. 

My clothes still fit (I’m a size 4-6 in most stores), and some of them even got loose. I developed muscle. I felt good. 

In the fall of 2016 I went on Prozac to deal with OCD, chronic depression, and anxiety. It fundamentally changed my life. Not only was I healthy physically, I was finally at a good place mentally. I didn’t look at my weight once but I was still fitting into all of my clothes and a lot of them were getting looser.  

Last week I went to the cardiologist expecting to see a significant drop in my weight. It was the same as it was in 2014, when I was at my lowest mental point. 

As my brain’s logic center worked to remind me that I am so much healthier than I was a few years ago, that the Prozac and beta blockers make it hard to lose weight, that I’ve put on muscle, that the numbers don’t matter, one of the doctors said to me, “you need to change your diet. Tell me what you eat.”

It hit me that my cardiologist thought all of this wasn’t because of hormones, or Prozac. It was because of something I was doing. That I was simply not trying hard enough. 

Keep in mind, I am allergic to gluten, peanuts, eggs, and dairy, but I do slip and have them on occasion. I quietly told my doctor about this, and as he loudly pondered if I was exercising enough and how much fruit I should cut out of my eating plan, I silently began to cry. 

For the first time, I was physically and mentally healthy. I was strong. I was doing work I loved. I was able to be emotionally and mentally present in my life in a way I had never been before. My blood pressure and LDL levels were perfect. And this doctor couldn’t get past the numbers. 

I work out six days a week. I eat healthier than you. (No, I mean that. You, reading this right now? I eat healthier than you.) 

I am at a weight that I cannot control because of medication that is saving my life every single day, and you want to talk to me about the kind of grapes I eat after dinner?

I must say that when my doctor noticed my tears he felt terrible and immediately remanded his comments to say “of course the Prozac makes it very difficult to lose weight and you are very muscular, so I bet a lot of it is muscle.”

I called my psychiatrist the next day and we worked out some medication options that she says will help counteract the Prozac’s physical symptoms (so far it’s been working pretty well, I think) and I have been seeing a nutritionist to check if I have any other allergens in my diet that could be causing inflammation. Both of these doctors are women, and they listened compassionately and kindly to me. They nodded when I mentioned my difficulty with hormones and eating disorders, and I want to thank my nutritionist for understanding my desire to lose a little bit of weight without going into Eating Disorderville. 

When she asked me how much I was looking at losing, I thought back to my old self, who insisted that any weight above 140 was not good enough, and replied “I’m happiest at 150, 155.” She nodded and said “that sounds good to me. Let’s get you on a plan that’s right for you.”

But before I saw that other number on the scale, I was truly and entirely happy with my body. I am strong, skilled, and powerful. I am sturdy. I am sexy. I am so many things I wasn’t three years ago at this exact same weight. 

I would rather be happy and working on losing a few, than skinny and filled with daily terror about life itself. 

So, here’s to the journey, and here’s to wellness. 

Me this afternoon after lifting heavy shit at the gym. Get you some.

Abstinence.

(Mom, Dad, literally any family members I have – STOP READING. NOW.)

I have not had sex for two years. I’m planning on not having sex for a while longer.

This isn’t a misandrist protest, or a Lysistrata-esque act of defiance. This is just me, standing in front of myself, asking myself what I truly need and want out of life. Right now, that list doesn’t include sex. Or romantic love. Or even dating.

As women we are conditioned to be fully willing to chase sex, want sex, be completely submissive to the idea of sex, but at the same time we can’t be vocal about our desires to have sex because it’s seen as slutty or classless or distasteful. This left me in a difficult bind for most of my adolescent years; I wanted intimacy and love but I was terrified of anybody seeing me naked (probably a bad thing to be afraid of if you want to get laid…I mean I haven’t had sex in a while but I’m pretty sure being naked is still part of how the whole thing works).

For years I was obsessed with the idea of sex. Well, that’s a little inaccurate. I was more obsessed with the idea of the intimacy that springs up from sex. I was starved for some type of attention or validation. Blame the years of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. When the first man I ever loved held my face in his hands and told me he thought I was beautiful, I burst into tears and thanked him even as my brain yelled BULLSHIT. I had never even dared to think that of myself. And now this person, this person I thought was so wonderful and smart and handsome, thought was all of those things?

Once I became sexually active, it became like a drug for me. I wanted it all the time. I thought I was being selfish, especially if I wanted it at a point when my partner did not, and I would feel absolutely terrible about it. In therapy sessions, I would talk at length about why I needed to be more understanding, more supportive. More silent. More acquiescing. As a result, I never instigated or asked for any sexual encounter during the entire four years of my previous relationship, and the one time I did, I was turned down.

After we broke up, I spent an entire year feeling like I could never experience sexual desire for anyone else ever again. I thought I might as well close up shop. I was thirty, single, childless, and sure my career was on the up and up and I had just gotten a new nephew and my friends were absolutely incredible (one of my best friends literally threw out all of the jewelry my ex had given me, then sat on my lap and held me while I soaked her shirt). But did that matter? Did my successes matter? Of course not! I was alone. Sexually inert.

It wasn’t until last summer, when I ended up kissing a guy after a perfectly nice date, that I realized: Oh. There it is. 

Then it became all I thought about, for months. I just wanted a boyfriend. Or rather, I wanted to skip all the annoying parts about dating and get to the ending with a house and a husband and kids. So I chased guys who weren’t ready. Chased guys who weren’t interested. Chased, in general.

Was something wrong with me? Why wasn’t I getting dates? I’m pretty. I’m smart. I’m passionate. I’m kind.

After a lot of thought, a lot of meditation, and a lot of inner demons, I came up with a facsimile of a reason.

I realized that I end up wanting people – wanting feelings – so badly that I forget about myself sometimes. I forget that before I can give any of those feelings and heart to anyone else, I have to do it for myself first.

So, I have made a major decision. I’m not dating or having sex. At all. I’m not even going to look for a date. I am going to stop looking. Not because I think I’ll find someone when I stop looking, because I need to stop thinking that heteronormative love is the end game.

I have never been in a situation where I’ve not been looking for a boyfriend. That brings me back to the conditioning I was talking about at the beginning of this. The idea of constantly looking for someone. The idea of partnership being the end game. That’s the main reason why I was terrified to break up with my ex – I thought being alone meant I’d failed, when really, leaving that relationship and striking out on my own has been the best thing for my overall health and career.

For so many years I thought being single, being a virgin, being inexperienced at sex made me a failure of a human being. Meanwhile, I’ve done more in the past two years than most people do in ten, and none of that had anything to do with sex.

The idea of a husband or a boyfriend has never even really appealed to me, to be honest. I have always latched onto the concept of a partner. A soulmate. Marriage and labels are fine if that’s your thing, but for me, it’s always been about finding someone who holds my heart forever. That’s the most important thing for me.

I am not going after anything unless I am positive it is absolutely in accordance to my standards. I will not accept anything less than what I absolutely deserve. But in the meantime, I need to look out for me.

This summer, I am abstaining. I am saying no to dates. I am saying no to sex. I plan to work on my book, see my friends, get more hours at the bookstore, go to the beach. If I meet someone, that’s fine, but I’m not going to go out there hunting for it. I just end up getting hurt and heartbroken when that kind of thing happens, chasing after something ephemeral because I miss the idea of loving and being loved, or chasing after the wrong people, or the wrong types of love.

I am perfectly loved and loving as I am right now. Men can wait.

I need to cut myself a break, and put myself first for a little bit. That isn’t selfish. That is self-care.

I am thirty-one years old, and I am saying no to others so I can say yes to me.

 

A Crash Course in Dictatorship, By Way of Romania.

History lesson, guys!

 

A lot of people have been comparing President Trump to Hitler. Godwin’s Law, I know. But hear me out. There’s a little bit more here.

I think the rhetoric makes for an apt comparison (they both have the same type of rhetorical language; Hitler’s was based on Germany actually being a garbage fire when he took power whereas Trump seems to forget that we are actually in a pretty good place) but in my research on fascist leaders and dictatorships, I have found a startling amount of resemblance to the late stage reign of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Romanian Communist leader and eventual President of Romania. (Note: he installed himself as President, and ruled Romania for over 20 years).

The reason I think it’s an apt comparison to make is that Ceaușescu ran Romania with a strong focus on nationalism, police presence, and cult of personality. He outlawed abortion in 1967, made it more difficult to get a divorce, and by the 1980s, due to poor health policies, Romania (despite being very small) had some of the highest rates of pediatric HIV/AIDS. By 1987, he installed “austerity measures” which led to food rationing, electricity blackouts, and the closure of all radio stations. This was because he had debts he needed to repay to other countries. 

Frightened by growing anger in his people, he ordered his secret police force, the Securitate (similar to the Stasi), opening fire on a crowd of protesters. He gave a speech later condemning the protesters, stuffing the event with people who were bused in to look like he was popular. (Ring any bells?) This resulted in the entire nation, even the military, turning against him. This led to thousands of street riots over the course of a few weeks. Ceaușescu and his wife, Deputy Prime Minister Elena, were chased out of their own capitol building in Bucharest to the screams of joy of thousands of protestors and student revolutionaries. (Sebastian Stan recently gave an interview for Romanian television in which he described watching the footage of this on YouTube and feeling like “a knife had gone through me.” This shit is really, really sensitive to Romanians, guys.)

Elena and Nicolae were quickly convicted of genocide and executed, the last to be in Romania. Of course, this was part of the Revolutions in the late 1980s, which led to the downfall of Communism in the Soviet bloc.

Romania is now a democratic nation but the scars of Ceaușescu still remain – they have a very, very high child poverty rate.

These dictators, for the most part, do not die safe in bed at a ripe old age. Sometimes they do, of course – Pol Pot and Stalin were two of them. But a majority of the time, they die like this. Run out of town. Executed. Terrified of the beast they’ve awoken. Or, they are cornered like a yowling cat and seek suicide as the way out (like Hitler, and right now, President Trump is acting like he’s in full tilt bunker mode).

Perhaps President Trump should crack open a book and learn that those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.

An Open Letter to President Donald Trump.

How dare you.

No. Seriously. Take a second and breathe this in.

How dare you.

J’accuse, POTUS. J’accuse.

I accuse you of the following crimes.

  1. Failing to release your tax returns, which obviously just gives everyone in the country  the impression that you fucked your taxes like Tory Lane. The people who voted for you didn’t give a shit because you played into their fears and anxieties. The fear of econoimic instability, despite the economy being in the best shape it’s in since the 2008 financial crisis. You played into their innate inner xenophobia, their ability to dismiss misogyny and rape culture, and their ultimate fear of being left behind in the equality wave. When all you’ve known is privilege (and even if you’re poor and white, you still experience white privilege), equality feels like oppression. You played into that, and fooled the right people, and as a result, those people are going to suffer the absolute most.
  2. Being completely incapable of human empathy. Sure, you parade around your wife, Melania, like she’s some kind of show pony, and you claim to have good relationships with your children, but Barron looked terrified, your wife looks like she hates you, and Ivanka is probably just tolerating you until you die and she takes over your empire (which at this point is probably just one jagged-edged Trump Wines bottle filled with your own piss). Your lack of any regard for others showed in Day three of your presidency, when you reinstated the global gag order aka the Mexico Law, which punishes organizations abroad for dealing with abortion. You are going to kill thousands of women in your Presidency. Which I suppose you would think is a bad thing considering you can’t grab a dead woman’s pussy. (Then again, I wouldn’t put it past you to try.)
  3. Reordering the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project that will weaken the lands of thousands of Native peoples. The water protectors will resist you in every way they can, and know that the entire nation has their back. Passing executive orders just to spite the people who were here first makes you look like even more of a child.
  4. ADMITTING TO SEXUAL ASSAULT ON TAPE AND FACING NO CONSEQUENCES FOR IT (ALTHOUGH GOD FORBID WE ALLOW BILLY BUSH TO SHOW HIS FACE)
  5. Making the entire country so obsessed with a woman’s fucking emails that we voted into office the most unqualified, idiotic, myopic, temperamental, foolish, nuke-happy, fascist-wannabe, Berlusconi bunga-bunga emulating shitgibbon to ever hold the office of the Presidency.
  6. Going through with your promise to cut down on immigration from Muslim-majority countries. Now, I’m not a Muslim, but I am the daughter of an immigrant to this country, who came here just forty years removed from a time in which Congress was seriously debating passing a bill that would formally make the argument Italians were mentally inferior humans. My Nonna hid from the Nazis in the mountains of Italy. She had to run from her home, leaving behind her mother, not knowing if she would ever go back again. She’s the best human being I know. And, by the way? She hates you. She’s known men like you her entire life, and she hates you.
  7. Repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, including stripping the coverage for preexisting conditions. I have ADHD, inattentive type, and while I do not use medication for it right now, I might need to in the future. I do, however, take Prozac for depression and anxiety, and without the coverage I’m afforded through the ACA, who knows if I would be here right now.

I am disgusted as as an immigrant’s daughter, as a feminist, as a pro-choice advocate, as an LGBTQ ally, as a HUMAN, and as an American. You are everything we are taught to despise about America, and you played into the country’s worst misogynist and xenophobic tendencies and it was a gamble that paid off.

The sad thing is, I knew you would win, because you can’t argue with people’s feelings, and you took the feelings of the heartland and put a mouthpiece to them.

There are people who voted for you even though they don’t like literally everything about your personality. But that showcases their privilege, too. They were able to look past all of that. Well, I can’t. I won’t. I refuse.

My Nonna didn’t hide from Nazis and flee to America for a better life just so her granddaughter, whose middle name is her first name, would lay back and let fascists do whatever the hell they wanted to her country. She would want me to fight, to never back down.

If I were capable, I would drive my ass down to the White House right now, chain myself to the fence, and sing “We Shall Overcome” at the top of my goddamn lungs until someone came out to arrest me.

Or maybe they wouldn’t arrest me. I’m white, after all. The new laws you want to push through would make it easier for cops to arrest people of color for protesting. So maybe I need to get louder to make up for all of my brothers and sisters of color who are being unfairly persecuted just for their desire to be seen.

In conclusion, President Trump, I do not hope you have a successful Presidency. That will just breed more opportunity for assholes like you to take office. I hope you fail. I hope you fail so utterly, so spectacularly, that you are impeached and driven out of office by July. I hope there are protests every single weekend. I’ll go to all of them.

4.5. million people marched in unity and love against you on Saturday. There are more rallies planned for February 11th (to protect Planned Parenthood) and April 15th (the day we will demand you release your tax returns). We aren’t going anywhere. We are pissed off, and ready to fight.

I am as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore. Because we will win. We are the majority. You have zero mandate.

God bless America, and God Bless all who resist.

Liberty will always win. Remember that, President Trump.

There have always been men like you, and men like you always lose.

ally