Burnt. Toast.

“It’s just what you do all the time.”

I’m back from my brief stint in relative seclusion, and I have nothing left today. Everyone is going to get “no” as a response. Everyone.

I deeply enjoyed my weekend in the desert. I did not enjoy coming back to sub-freezing temps, and that short break was enough to highlight the things in my life that are really weighing on me.

It really bothers me that no one asks me how I’m doing. No one close to me, that is. If they do, it’s a surface level question, and any response I have that isn’t “great!” gets dropped as though I didn’t just say “I’m not doing well today.” My people aren’t checking in with me. Strangers and acquaintances, sure, but not my family and close friends. No one asked how my flight was, and I’m scared to death of flying. No one celebrated with me that I didn’t have to take Xanax for either flight. My Mom wanted details of my trip while I was hauling my luggage upstairs. Yes, I want to give you every detail of my weekend while I’m struggling to drag a suitcase and a couple of small bags up to my room. Can it wait ten minutes?

I hide most of what I experience because sometimes I don’t even understand it, and because I have yet to see it help for me to say what’s going on. “I’m having a bad day” or any other version of it gets met with the appearance of indifference. I can understand it must be hard to look at me or talk to me and know that I don’t blurt out what I feel, I need time to work out how to talk about it. If I ever did blurt it out, I would terrify everyone, because I exist in a painful reality. There would be screaming and yelling and probably a few punches thrown. So I keep it in, and I don’t get the time to slowly release it to someone. And they otherwise don’t see it so…it’ doesn’t exist? And I’m fine. And I can do anything. And Ashley is so strong and capable.

I am because I don’t have an option. There is no space in your life for me to be anything else. I do what I have to do to survive.

Therapy was rough this morning. I cried a lot. When we got to the root of my tears, it was that I don’t feel like I matter. I have been busting my ass for a lot of people, and don’t feel like I’m getting any of that in return. My business partner picked me up from the airport in the cold yesterday, and that was the most someone has gone out of the way for me in…ever? As much as I can grouse about him, he can hear what I need and just do it, no questions, no judgment and no making it about him. He said such a kind thing to me yesterday when I thanked him for picking me up, “It’s just what you do all the time.”

I’ve been driving around, working with clients, writing documents, getting us more work, taking care of my increasingly frail grandma, trying to keep the chaos at home to a dull roar and being emotionally supportive to the point that I feel burned up. I wanted to say “no” to everyone today. I don’t want to answer calls or respond to emails. I certainly didn’t want to comfort my grandma or work on my business partner’s project to help him finish or be supportive of David while he swoops in long enough to be supported and encouraged then disappears again to go help someone else. Anyone else but me. Because for whatever reason, me not having a good day only merits an, “I hope you feel better.”

Well shit, I hope I feel better too. It’d be nice if I didn’t have to do it alone…

Second Date/Planned First Date

There will be more of these.

Second date with Client’s Brother ended up being 12 hours. Sometimes you just don’t wanna leave…

Experience (which is not what any sane person wants to claim, but my 20s were a rough time in my life) has taught me that if I don’t bend (at times until I break) for another person, they’ll leave. I have been so accommodating for so long that I forgot to say what I want and need and not care if that didn’t work for him. That changed last night.

Client’s Brother met me after church to grab some supplies, eat lunch and head out Talkative Friend’s house to work on our charity craft project. He met the kids, was very helpful and actually worked, whereas they mostly socialized. I have some large wall art pieces to finish, and he painted framed and nailed boards like a pro. I introduced him but didn’t mention how I knew him, because, frankly, it’s more fun for them to wonder. We finished for the day in just enough time to make it to watch the sun set over the lake, and it is not terrible to be held and have your neck kissed while you watch the sky aflame with color. My favorite restaurants are closed on Sundays, so we got margaritas, then pizza and beer, splitting a massive slice while we snuggled and watched football.

Then we kissed in my car in the Home Depot parking lot till 1:30 in the morning. PG, y’all.

I am all for taking time to get to know someone. I think relationships happen at so many different speeds. I also think that with what I live with, and the lingering damage of assault, it’s better for a guy to know up front what he’s getting into. I may come off as bubble princess in public, but my private life is far different, and I don’t want to have to pretend with him. So I told him what being in my life entails, what I have to work through still and that I am still learning to ask for what I need. He was so accepting and accommodating. He asked what he needed to do and what that would look like for him. I just asked for patience, and he told me I was worth it.

We traded stories of our demons in between kisses. So many kisses. He’s just as hesitant that I won’t accept his past, even though he’s now a different person. He has similar family obligations, responsibilities and concerns, he has made bad relationship choices and he wants better. And he’s smart. He doesn’t understand what I deal with but he’s already shown he’s willing to take care of me. He’s affectionate, which I need because I am too. Two grown-ass adults PG kissing in a car for 4 hours? Because I was vulnerable and he valued that? It’s a way better experience. Here’s to trying new things.

Starting to Feel My Strength

What has been interesting about this short break is that instead of feeling weak or fat or lazy or other self-critical feelings about my unplanned pause, I felt stronger.

It’s such a good feeling to come out of a PTSD episode (I don’t even know what to call it, so let’s go with that). At the same time my brain started to let off I finished a work deadline with time to spare and some good news about being exempt from a state review. I also got an extra part of the project completed for now and was pleasant in my response to a client rep who leans heavily on an attorney I’ve never met – nor have I agreed to work with. So. Much. Relief.

After pounding out the miles for the last few weeks I hit a wall physically as well as mentally, and I haven’t exercised much in a few days. I just couldn’t. To compare, I’m working out about 12 hours a week on average. So far this week I’m at 3 hours, about half of normal. And that’s ok, because my body said it needed to rest, and I listened for once.

All of this the day before my brother has his next surgery, which will change the family dynamic and schedule once again as we transition to supporting him. Talk about timing! But my brain knows, doesn’t it? Time to get it back together, and time to get back to hitting my carefully-set Fitbit goals. The little tyrant tends to control me.

What has been interesting about this short break is that instead of feeling weak or fat or lazy or other self-critical feelings about my unplanned pause, I felt stronger. I’ve lost 3 lbs in as many days (ok but I did stop eating sugar after that Friday meltdown), I can see more tone to my body and I am willing to be more physical – rather than just walking, I’m ready to start tackling trails, hopping around, on and over rocks and tree roots in a way that is much more challenging than what I have been doing all year to rack up miles.

I watched the intro videos to a power yoga series (I really like DoYouYoga and have found the membership to be well worth it) and my first thought of watching this trim and muscular woman hop into a handstand and switch kick into Warrior I was no freaking way can I do this. I’m 30 lbs overweight, and I don’t have a lot of the body strength it takes to do this kind of cool yoga stuff.

Yet.

I also couldn’t run part of a trail, I also couldn’t get my weight down, I also couldn’t find healthy ways to cope with anxiety, I also couldn’t be a successful business owner, I also couldn’t drive again, I also couldn’t love that hard again, I also couldn’t be comfortable in groups, I also couldn’t focus that long, I also couldn’t grow a garden. Three beautiful avocado trees and a boatload of herbs and citrus later, yes I can.

Maybe I can’t do it yet, but starting to feel my strength is making me think yes, I will.