Eating Disorders, Adoption, and Why I’m a Semi-Happy Size 6

My binge eating disorder is this weird, omnipresent thing. It’s always lurking about in the shadows, but that doesn’t mean I’m binge eating every opportunity I get, but THAT doesn’t mean I don’t have it during the off-season. I mean, it’s like other mental illnesses in that way — I have clinical depression, but I’m not plagued with the sads and the “I-don’t-want-to-exist”s 24/7 (thank goodness).

So I guess that’s my way of explaining why I don’t discuss it all that much. I’m not ashamed of it so much as I’m either blissfully unaware that I’m in the throes of major binge eating till one night I’m laying in bed with the worst stomachache of life because I ate when I should have stopped five meals ago OR I’m eating just fine. Until I’m not.

Binge eating disorder is the one no one talks about and the majority of people don’t believe is a real issue (“You’re just eating because you’re bored,” “Everyone snacks before bed,” “You don’t look like you have an eating disorder”). Do we all binge from time to time? Totally. We have seratonin in our stomachs that reacts more strongly than the seratonin in our brains, and when carbs hit, we’re euphoric, and that feels awesome, so we have more. It’s not complicated. But the whole disorder — eating alone so others don’t see you, lying about what you’ve eaten, feeling such an incredible sense of shame nearly all of the time that you start to wonder if purging is actually as bad as it sounds. (I’ve never tried. I’m not one for throwing up.) It has nothing to do with the food — nothing at all.

Mine can be supposedly traced back to my days in the womb, little Fetus Mary just chilling in some amniotic fluid in the belly of a woman who starved herself to hide her pregnancy (which she successfully did all the way to the day of my birth, where I emerged feet first at 5 1/2 lbs.). As it was explained to me by both a Dietetics major and my psychologist, when I did get food — any food at all, which we can assume was infrequent and lacking in basic nutrition — I gobbled it up. I yearned for food, and when it arrived, I snatched up as much as I could because I knew it might be awhile before I got more. And my brain developed with the fear that perhaps the food wouldn’t come, that I had to eat what I could when opportunity arose, because it may be the last chance.

So here I am, 32 years old, with the occasional penchant to eating and eating and eating and eating and eating bread followed by chips followed by fruit followed by cheese followed by popcorn followed by a salad followed by a sandwich because deep down in my heart, I am afraid I won’t get another opportunity.

It’s perfectly illogical, so you’re preaching to the choir if you want to tell me all about that. I wish I didn’t have it. But when it is late at night, and there is a cookie in my pantry (or six or twelve or an entire package), there is nothing anyone can do or say that will fully convince me that it will still actually be there tomorrow. And then, because I am so stressed by my stress that I wanna up and vomit, I’ll eat some more to self-comfort. That I am not morbidly obese by now can only be chalked up to my Korean genetics, a strand of DNA that ensures I will never be fatter than around 140 lbs., even while binge eating, even while living a sedentary lifestyle. But please, whatever you do, don’t tell me I’m lucky because I’d take being fat over being mentally ill any day.

Lately I’ve been counting my calories in a non-obsessive, curiosity piqued sort of way through my Fitbit and exercising almost daily in hopes that at the end of the day, I will be able to have a small ice cream sundae or some McDonald’s fries or a glass of lemonade or some small treat — a reward, really — that tells me I’ve successfully achieved my daily goal of not overeating. Thus far, I’ve been able to indulge a little bit every night for the past week without going over a 500 calorie deficit except for this one night where I did, but I still ate less than I expended (and I’m very proud to inform you that I ordered a Medium fry at McDonald’s tonight, and I didn’t even finish it all). It’s been kind of liberating, taking charge of my eating habits rather than letting them take complete and utter control over me. I’ve been trying to make peace with the fact that I am no longer a rail-thin size 2/XS who can tuck her blouse into her pants and not look like sausage, that I am allowed to have new clothes, that I am allowed to look cute, and that it is perfectly acceptable for me to go up a size or two as needed because the clothes just look better (have you ever seen a woman who simultaneously muffin-topped and camel-toed? It’s tragic.). I am working on being happy. I mean, isn’t that all anyone wants? Just a general sense of happiness with his/her own physical, mental, and spiritual well-being?

But I know this may not last forever. We’re going on a cruise this Saturday, where an all-you-can-eat buffet and free room service will be my nemeses, where we won’t have internet service and I won’t want to log my calories anyhow because what a mood killer, and I’m a little worried that I’ll snap mid-way through and wake up one morning to make the unfortunate decision to have fifteen strips of bacon for breakfast, followed by hashbrowns, eggs, pancakes, toast, and fruit (I’ve done something similar, I really have, and yes I felt awful afterward). And I know, I know, I can start all over again and I shouldn’t consider it a failure as much as a lesson learned, but ideally I’ll just be a normal person who doesn’t lose her mind when presented with unlimited food. (Having my husband shooting me warning glances will probably help, and before you think, “Oh my gosh he’s a tyrant!”, know that he’s just doing what I need him to in order to survive through this life.) Ideally, there will be no self-loathing on this trip.

Perhaps even if my birthmother had been the peak of physical health and nutrition while she was pregnant with me, I still would have been struck with an eating disorder. It’s not really off the table. But sometimes I wish things had gone differently, that she’d felt comfortable confiding in a family member or a friend before it was too late, that she had a maternal instinct kick in that told her she needed to give me the best she possibly could because I was trying to survive in there and I’d need to survive, even longer, out here.

Sometimes I wish.

An Open Letter to Clothing Manufacturers

or, “I’m Tired of Your Body Shaming Antics” by Mary Nelson

To whom it may concern:

Look, I get it. Designers create clothing for humans who are abnormally tall and small; we see it on the runways every day, these willowy ethereal women who are small chested, with no hips, legs for days. But I think we can all agree that these women are few and far between (Gigi Hadid walks nearly every runway, it seems, as does Kendall Jenner), so I think it’s probably high time we started creating clothing for the Every Woman. You know, the one who’s had a couple kids, who doesn’t have a personal trainer or dietitian on hand, the one who is doing the best she can every day, working that hustle. Or, say, for the ones who are like me — 5’1″, with a comfortable fanny pack of stomach fat, a booty and thighs, and not much waist or legs. Because we exist, and we’re pretty awesome.

And here’s the problem: you’re body shaming us, the whole lot of you, and it needs to stop. We can all band together as women on a mission, fists raised in the air, talking big talk about how size is just a number, but when all is said and done, those numbers can really bum us out big time. (I’m not going to address the larger issue of wedding dresses and formals being sized entirely differently than street clothes, which is really the pits because a bride shouldn’t hate herself leading up to her wedding day because her wedding dress is a ginormous size she doesn’t normally wear nor want to. Another letter, another day.)

I decided recently that I wouldn’t let you bully me into feeling bad about myself, about being malcontent about my current state, about focusing on things less important than nearly everything, but that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally feel a little twinge of disappointment when I have to go up a size. Did you know that I suffer from four mental illnesses and was somewhat recently diagnosed with binge eating disorder? Did you know that much of what I eat isn’t even necessarily what I WANT to eat but rather feel compelled, obligated, almost forced to? Did you know that I’ve been spending several months working on my mental health, putting it ahead of my physical health for the time being because it just seemed more important? Did you know that some days, despite knowing how much seratonin could be pumped into my broken brain, getting out of bed and going to the gym feels akin to trudging up a mountain with no end in sight, no food, drink, or oxygen, and a backpack of rocks in tow?  So why do you feel the need to make me feel bad when I put on a pair of pants?

I’m not as thin as I used to be. My metabolism kind of gave up the ghost when I was 23, but a recent medication has killed whatever was remaining, making it very difficult for me to lose weight despite some of my mediocrest efforts. I like the way butter makes my food taste, and carbohydrates are some of my dearest friends. So I understand that I wasn’t going to be able to squeeze a tiny frame into size 1 pants for forever. That’s fine. 1 is a ridiculous number anyhow. But do I feel like a Large? Not really. I feel like a … normal human person who’s 32 years old and carries her weight in her abdomen (which isn’t a LOT of weight, mind you.) My husband, who is 6 inches and 40 pounds heavier than me is a size Medium/Large, so it seems to me that I should, at the very least, be a Medium, don’t you think? Why do men get to feel good about themselves while we are forced to feel awful?

Just this morning I saw a picture of myself that is four years old, a time in my life where I was certain I was fat. I was adorable. I looked great. I was 20 pounds lighter than I am today. But I was always concerned about how my clothes fit me, whether I had a smooth silhouette, and I waited anxiously for the day I couldn’t fit into them any longer (which did, inevitably, come). I wish I’d been able to just enjoy the size I was at the time, I wish I could chill out about the size I am now, and I wish I could compel a cease and desist against you, dear manufacturers, for making women around the nation (and perhaps the world? I’m not sure about clothing sizes around the world, plus there are a lot of countries full of people who aren’t morbidly obese like America) feel shame for who they are. We all know that the former size 14 that Marilyn Monroe was so known for wearing is akin to a size 8 today, and there was literally nothing back then that equated today’s 00.

It needs to stop. You need to get your crap together. And for heaven’s sakes, start sizing women’s clothing the way it should be.

On Having Depression

If you’re interested in reading all about OCD, check out this post here. I was going to follow it up with Things You Don’t Know About Depression, but I’ve come to realize that there are still things I’m learning about it, so probably I shouldn’t be writing some blog post like I’m the boss of the depressed. And if you suffer from Post-Partum Depression (for which I am very sorry, and please know that there are a lot of people in your corner, even though right now it may not feel like it), check out this awesome post by my good friend, Julie.

In looking back over the annals of my life, there are specific events that catapulted me into the throes of depression, but we didn’t really know that’s what it was at the time. My best friend moving when we were five. Middle school. Watching one of our cats die because we knew it was coming and Mom and Dad had to go to work. Most of the time, it was reasonable to feel sad because what I was experiencing were sad things, but I realize now that what I was actually feeling was clinical depression, one of my many mental illnesses that started taking root and growing every time I felt blue.

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The reason I’m less knowledgeable about depression is chiefly because when you suffer from OCD, you don’t get much time to focus on anything else. My morning routine (aka compulsions) takes about an hour before I get out of bed (my anxiety piquing in such a way I never knew was possible because the entire time I’ve got to pee, but peeing isn’t in the equation. I’m working on including it to lower my anxiety, but we’re not really there yet). And with OCD comes additional anxiety (I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and a panic disorder, but both are difficult to navigate because of, you know, the OCD). The depression became quickly and easily backburnered because I’m just so anxious all. of. the. time.

It’s all getting better. It is. I’ve worked out for a solid 30 days now (I don’t work out on Sundays and I missed two days, one due to a back injury and one due to a medical procedure that knocked me out for an entire day), and aside from the anxiety that accompanies OCD, I haven’t felt like scratching all my skin off because I can’t handle life (that’s not really a thing with me. I don’t actually feel like scratching all my skin off, but that’s the best description I can give for general anxiety that goes with you everywhere), and my depression has left the building. For now at least. My mother and I were discussing this today after lunch (at Chuck-a-Rama), and we both agreed that even if I were to never lose any weight or inches or fit into my “skinny clothes” ever again, all this exercise would still be entirely worth it because of my mental well-being. I eat, exercise, study, work, and socialize all for my mental well-being these days, and it’s been pretty great.

But having mental illness means I can’t just be cured of it — that one day I’ll wake up and that will be the end of all the anxiety and depression. It means that, despite all my best efforts, one day, sooner or later, brought on by something or entirely out of left field, I will wake up and be physically unable to get out of bed. Prior to my regular exercise (and prescription meds and therapist and Vitamin D supplements), my depression would attack me at least once a week and would last anywhere from several hours to a couple of months (depending upon any chemical imbalances, the weather, how much my job was killing my will to live, etc.). Mental illness attacks your mind, your soul, and even your body (depression, I have found, is incredibly painful, so oftentimes I stay in bed because it hurts to get up and work around my home).

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When you say, “I have anxiety,” a lot of people respond with, “I feel you.” And perhaps they do because they also suffer from anxiety, or perhaps they’re exacerbating their actual life experiences and know what it’s like to be temporarily stressed out, but either way, you receive a lot more empathy than you do when you say, “I have depression.” I’m not quite sure why that is — perhaps it’s because depression feels more vulnerable than anxiety or maybe it’s because anxiety is far more common — but I think that’s what inherently makes depression even more difficult to withstand. You don’t just feel like no one gets you — in fact, no one gets you, and what is already an isolated medical problem becomes even more isolated.

I get it. Not wanting to exist isn’t a feeling many people have experienced to the degree of the depressed, and it’s not the same thing as being suicidal, so it’s just confusing and weird. It looks like laziness, it sounds like an excuse. And while I am on occasion quite lazy and have a bag full of excuses, ready to utilize at any given moment I don’t want to do something, depression doesn’t fall into either category, and it’s offensive to imply that it does.

Why am I writing about this now? Because I’m genuinely scared that tomorrow or the day after that or the day after that or the day after that, I’ll wake up from this blissful depression-free life and hurt from the inside of my brain to the soles of my feet. And when that day comes, I’m going to need some understanding because I fear it’s going to be even harder than it was the last time.

The Epiphany

I’ve spent a lot of time on Instagram sharing my personal thoughts on mental illness, eating disorders, and happiness but haven’t ventured much to my blog. I assume people would rather read a long-ish photo caption than an entire blog, and most of what I want to say fits within Instagram’s constraints (though I’ve had many posts in which I had to edit stuff out because I extrapolated too long).

If you’re new to this blog, welcome — I don’t write in it too often, but because of that my posts hold more meaning than they used to. I am an LDS Korean-American adoptee, married (with three furbabies), with OCD, depression, anxiety, and binge eating disorder.

I’m a real riot.

After a very difficult 2015 (mentally speaking — a lot of great stuff happened, so I can’t say the entire year was a bust because it wasn’t) and start to 2016, I decided one day I needed to make some life changes. I was already seeing a psychologist, I was on new medication, and I was working on mindful eating (which is much harder than it sounds and thusly very difficult to maintain), but the lows I experienced were still so low. I forgot to take my Vitamin D (I still do — I’m going to put the bottle in the bathroom with my other medications right now. Give me a second.), I’d wake up with extreme anxiety and difficulty breathing, my irritability could go from 0 to 60 in a second. And although I found some answers in a rather fascinating article/study on the correlation between mental illness and high altitude living, I wasn’t willing to throw in the towel and say, “Well, this is just how it’s going to be while I reside in Utah.” I couldn’t possibly.

I’m going to touch on a few things as quickly as I can to avoid turning this post into a tirade. I know that some people will read this and understand or support my thoughts and others will read it and become defensive because ultimately they’re reading about their own lives and they don’t want to admit it. And, as I’ve experienced as an educated, certified professional makeup artist — life experience, education, knowledge simply don’t matter to some people. The information you have to share does not apply to them, it can’t possibly be correct, they want it to be wrong. But I’m going to say this: as an adult woman who’s suffered from an eating disorder for at least 14 years, I have just come to KNOW certain truths. Feeling guilty when you eat is one of the most mentally damaging things you can do to yourself. Recently, it was Easter, which meant candy and large meals for a lot of people, which then meant concern over how much we all ate. And not to sound callous, but I legitimately do not care how many Cadbury mini eggs you’ve consumed since they hit stores. Eat them, love them, enjoy the fact that they’re here because they’re going to disappear for another 10 months, and then don’t beat yourself up over it. Don’t EVER guilt yourself post-eating, no matter what you’ve eaten, how much of it, etc. Mindful eating means you’re listening to your body and its cues — “How full am I now? Do I feel satisfied?” — and it leaves out the self-deprecating hatred of, “I’ve failed. I messed up. My diet is over. I can’t ever succeed. Might as well give up now.” You eat for health, both physical and mental, which means if you want a cookie, you should eat the cookie. Mentally, you’ll feel better, and by allowing yourself to enjoy it, you won’t binge later. And trust me, I know all about bingeing. Being more mindful often leads to making better choices in the long run, so be mindful rather than guilt-ridden. (I just ate an entire box of Annie’s organic mac & cheese singlehandedly. No regrets.)

So one Friday a couple weeks back, I got home from the chiropractor and told my husband we were going to the gym to exercise. It was the one big factor missing from my life because no one likes working out, it’s germy, it makes you sweat, it requires you to interact with other sweaty, germy people. (And I know I could technically work out at home, but that’s like taking an online course. It’s going to be sorely neglected.) We hated every second of it, and then we did it the next day. And then we did it that Monday, and then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and finally Saturday. And then we woke up the following Monday (aka yesterday) and did it again.

Sometime late last week, I started to notice that my workouts were growing in their intensity, without my even really thinking about it or meaning to. It made me feel better, mentally and physically, and I wanted to experience more of that natural high. And then Monday, aka yesterday, I hit my epiphany: I wanted to go back, despite already working out in the morning. (I didn’t because it genuinely was not reasonable to spend much of my time in the gym rather than home with my family, and I’m not training for anything. I didn’t feel guilt not going back because that’s not the point.) I finally realized and understood how much exercise is for your mental health as much as physical.

Well, this was huge for me. I’d spent so much of my life working out begrudgingly because I was doing all the things I THOUGHT I should at the gym that I forgot to make it enjoyable. This time is different: I almost never run (and if I do, it’s for very brief spurts at a time), I take breaks during the classes and don’t care if other people see it because sometimes I genuinely can’t do what the teacher is asking and injury isn’t on the menu, and I spend a lot more time in the weight room actually knowing what I’m doing and why because my husband has educated me on it. This doesn’t meant that some mornings I don’t wake up and think, “But bed is so much better” or “I don’t really have time for this,” because I absolutely do, but I do it anyhow. I’ve yet to regret the decision.

So. I sleep better (sort of — insomnia can only be cured by so many things, but an effective workout does make me pretty tired), I eat better (this is two part — I don’t rationalize that I can eat everything in sight because I’m working out, but I also eat ice cream and candy and don’t feel bad about it, partially because I know that gymming it up every day counteracts much of it), I feel better.

I guess what it boils down to is that I’m not exercising to lose weight. I’m exercising to have a healthier mind. And that’s a lot more motivating than anything else.

On Dying, an Actor’s Obituary

I’ve hesitated writing this blog post because 1. it’s going to probably seem melodramatic to anyone who doesn’t quite understand from where I’m coming and 2. it feels like too much of a low point for even this blog, despite it being entirely about low points. I mean, I write about the silly, dumb stuff that happens to me in my life that isn’t life alteringly bad, so when I get serious things get awkward. #amirite

A part of me died this month. [Again, this is not for the faint of heart when it comes to what could be classified by misunderstanders as melodrama.] And it hurt, and it was surprising, and I’ll be totally honest right now, I miss it because it had been a really integral part of what made me who I am.

So here’s the backstory. I started out my life a piano playing kid, and I had this dream to not become a concert pianist but to land a job playing the piano in Nordstrom (I kid you not. That was literally a dream I had.) for the rest of my life and be really happy playing flowery music for shoppers. I think I probably also figured I could buy stuff there as well, so it seemed like a real plus. Piano, department store, cafe. I could live there.

When I was in eighth grade, my mother and I saw a local high school’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It wasn’t the first time I’d ever seen a show (or even that one — we were big theatre goers when I was younger), but for some reason that particular production really spoke to me. The lead, who was a high school drama prodigy (and is now a Broadway star/national touring co. Elder Price in “The Book of Mormon”), also choreographed the show, and they had the dance team in the ensemble, and … it was spectacular. (It wasn’t really, but it felt like it.) We left church early one Sunday to catch the matinee, which meant we saw all six performances that week, along with purchasing a video recording of it. We liked it that much. And something happened. I’m not sure if it was because I was an Asian kid trying to live the dream, realizing there aren’t a lot of Asian roles in musical theatre, or if it was the music (I mean, haters gonna hate, but that music is just catchy, and don’t even get me started on the megamix), but I knew the role of Narrator would be mine someday.

If Diana DeGarmo could do it, then darnit so could I.

If Diana DeGarmo could do it, then darnit so could I.

So I quit piano lessons. I began voice lessons, took Drama in high school, threw myself into the theatre world the best I could, and even signed up for some dance classes. I was going to be on Broadway, and I was going to be the Narrator, and it was going to be the best life I could imagine.

But, you know, stuff happens, and plans change, and I found myself entrenched in the choir department for the remainder of high school and the first half of college before switching majors to American Studies, which really means “eternal secretary with big dreams and a side of disenchantment.”

That’s the backstory.

When I got married, I became really blessed. I mean, that’s kind of an obvious statement because unless you’re in a loveless, destined for divorce type marriage, you’re blessed, and that’s just the way it is. But I was blessed with a remarkably understanding spouse who knew I wasn’t happy filing and collating all day long, and one day he came home from work and told me I could quit my job and pursue my love of acting for as long as I wanted. That’s the short version, anyhow. And I did. I quit my job, and I auditioned for shows, and I got cast in some of them, and I built up my resume and continued voice lessons and threw myself back into the world of theatre and got new headshots every time I changed my hair, and it was really exciting. Rejection happened, it hurt, but I moved on, and I knew things would turn out okay in the end.

But then my makeup artistry job started to not really pan out, and no one would hire me, and I stopped getting cast in shows (or even called back in a lot of instances), and I found myself sitting at home with the animals for several hours till Husband came home so we could play video games and talk and eat junk food (till I put us on a diet) and just be a family. Part of me was heartbroken, but part of me really loved it. I didn’t have rehearsals in the way of my relationship, I didn’t spend hours and hours and hours with people who weren’t my loved ones, I didn’t have to wear stage makeup or wigs or musty costumes that had been worn by dozens of other people.

Little Shop of Horrors, The Grand Theatre, Salt Lake City, Utah

Little Shop of Horrors, The Grand Theatre, Salt Lake City, Utah

And a little part of me started to die — the part that thought my happiness was intrinsically connected to performing. It felt like a good thing, like progress, and I looked at that death as a moving on, a growing up, a becoming closer to my husband and never wanting to turn back.

But it was just a little part, and that didn’t stop me from continuing to audition for shows — I just did so with less gusto and pizzazz. If I got cast, that would have been great, but if I didn’t … it wasn’t really the end of the world.

Of course there was a low point, there always is, and it hit with such incredible force that I kind of had to pick up my pieces and put myself back together, except I couldn’t find all the pieces in the rubble, and I’m still looking for them, half-heartedly, under a cloud of *sighs* clinical depression: I lost the role of Narrator. Twice.

My husband and a friend/former director once jokingly accused me that all the dreams for which I audition are dream roles, and I’m going to set the record straight right now that that is just not true. I have four dream roles, one of which I’ve already been blessed to perform, and the rest are just the icing on the cake, the cherry on top, any colloquialism you can think of that implies added bonus of delicious success. They are: Narrator (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), Eponine (Les Miserables), Lucy (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown), and Wednesday Addams (The Addams Family). I could be cast as Ursula in The Little Mermaid, Cathy in The Last Five Years, or The Witch in Into the Woods and be really over the moon, but landing one of those roles wouldn’t make my life complete, either, so they’re, you know, further colloquialisms I suppose.

Because Joseph changed my life so drastically, changing my career path from pianist in Nordstrom to Broadway star, and then from choir director/voice teacher to secretary to regional, decently-known actress, I always felt like I could land the role of Narrator and play it for the rest of my life without feeling too upset about it. It’s like when people ask you what one food you would eat for the rest of your life if given the choice; I’d eat up that Narrator role for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I’d probably even snack on it in between meals. (And since your curiosity was probably piqued, the actual food answer is Thai.)

Thai-Food-Wallpaper-3To lose it once was upsetting. It involved a lot of crying, some therapeutic binge eating, the usual stuff that gets me through a sad time, but I knew there was another audition coming up for the exact same show and role because my state goes through these ridiculous phases of doing the same shows as everyone else all the time, so I prepped an audition piece and waited, impatiently, for the audition to come.

And I did a pretty good job. Good enough to be called back.

I did not do a good enough job to be cast.

The night of discovery was a kind of dark one. I mean that literally and figuratively — despite having a great morning and afternoon, the evening was immediately sullied, and on top of it, things were overcast. (There’s your regular dosage of sarcasm for this post.) And that’s when the part of me that had begun to die earlier — the part that wanted to perform onstage for the rest of my life, to dance under hot stage lights and go to Denny’s at midnight and have permanent mic tape residue on the back of my neck — completely gave up the ghost. At first, I thought it was mere acceptance, a sort of fast-acting hopefulness that told me it just meant another role was supposed to be mine in another show at another theatre, but by the next evening, I realized that wasn’t the case at all. I just couldn’t do it any longer.

Not getting something you want is just a part of life with which we all have to deal. But there’s something painfully personal about not getting cast in a show — you’re not just slipping into a cupcakery five minutes before closing to discover the chocolate raspberry cupcake is completely sold out or bidding on an item on eBay — you’re giving who you are as a person and a performer to a panel of judges. It’s not just your voice and your acting ability and how well you move (for the record, I’m a non-dancer who moves relatively well), it’s your entire self. You’re telling them that for the next several months you’re willing to be theirs, that you’re willing to give every ounce of what moves you, drives you, challenges you to have a handful of most likely unpaid performances on a stage to complete strangers because you love it that much. Rejection isn’t just saying you’re not a right fit like a job, it’s saying all the sweat and tears you put into getting where you are wasn’t enough for them. Forget talent for a second and focus on the other stuff — that you didn’t look right, sound right, or move right. Talent becomes secondary. You just aren’t who they want, but you’ve chosen a career path that craves being wanted. It’s desperate, it’s vulnerable, it’s often embarrassing.

Can we go somewhere else?

Can we go somewhere else?

The second and final death didn’t feel like progress at all. And I find myself itching to discover what it is that I need to live joyfully, to express myself because that’s what keeps me sane. I wake up wondering if the spark of performing has come back. It still has not.

I recently joked with my best friend that the real problem here is that I’m really only good at belting, so what on earth will I do with that if I’m not singing in musical theatre. And this might be the point at which friends and family rally around me and try to point out other things that I’m good at, but I’m truly great at belting because it’s what I love to do. So I don’t say that with arrogance as much as I believe, rather firmly, that you’re especially good at what you love. I have the ability to sing in a very specific way, and I don’t have anywhere to put it, and I’m at a loss as to what I should do next. I cannot belt sing in a box, I cannot belt sing with a fox.

And that’s the end. For now, at least. Fellow actors continue to ask me if I’ll be auditioning for upcoming shows, and I waffle around for their benefit, but deep down, the answer is a resounding no. I recently saw a show with a dear friend, and it was fun, but I didn’t love it like I used to love seeing shows because it really hurt. She told me afterward, when we slipped backstage to congratulate a friend of mine, that being backstage made her want to be in a show so badly, and my response was just a noise because I couldn’t agree. Being backstage made me want to jump into bed and not wake up till I felt less depressed (but being in bed is depressing).

I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being. – Oscar Wilde

… but

I once dated this guy whose entire relationship with me was a massive train wreck from start to finish. People who’ve known me a long time know who this is, and they know precisely what I’m talking about because they watched said train wreck — it was on their 24/7 Mary news channel, it had casualties, fatalities, there was a lot of blood and gore. People who haven’t known me long enough to hear about this guy, you’re pretty lucky, and you won’t be hearing much about him ever, so that interest of yours that has piqued? Simmer it down.

Anyhow, one day he told me that he heard a song on the radio that made him think of me (this wasn’t the exact conversation but this also isn’t a non-fiction essay, and I do what I want), and the lyrics to the chorus are:

“You can’t always get what you want / but you get what you need”

I love sweet nothings.

I’d hit a point with this guy that my feelings didn’t get hurt all that much because I was so desensitized to it, and there was something really funny about it. He thought he was being sweetly romantic, telling me this really awful story, and instead, he was being a mega douchebag, and he didn’t even realize it. I mean, just totally clueless to the fact that you don’t tell your girlfriend stuff like that.

This blog post isn’t actually about him, I promise. Digging up old relationships in blogs is an uncomfortable thing for people — you can pretend all you want that you don’t talk about them with your friends, but yeah of course you do because you’re a human being — but blogs are where you’re supposed to be the best, unweathered version of yourself. You haven’t gone through stuff because your life is so damn perfect. I mean, I think that’s the point, but I started an entire blog focusing on the low points of my life, so clearly I missed the mark somewhere.

I think about that conversation a lot (not to be confused with thinking about him or our relationship because that ship sailed about seven years ago, and then, like the Titanic, it fell to the depths of the ocean floor).The sadness that he thought that he needed to be with me because it was what he needed, despite wanting to be with someone else because it was what he wanted. The hilarity that he shared such a thing with me to my face like it was something I would want to hear or be able to fix (dude, if you don’t really want me, then you probably shouldn’t have me is all I’m saying kthxbai). And, most of all, how utterly untrue it is.

That always word is a tricky little guy — English professors are forever telling students to not use the always or the never words because y’all don’t know, and standardized tests are laden with it to screw you up, make you fail, not get into college, become a deadbeat, live in your parent’s basement, become morbidly obese, never see the light of day again, become a pod person (I don’t like standardized tests).

The song may ring true, but the sentiment of tying it to an interpersonal relationship may (hopefully) not. When I met Husband five years ago (holy crap we’ve been together five years now — HA in your faces, people who thought we’d be divorced by now), I got exactly what I wanted, and the real cherry on top was that he was precisely what I needed as well. And I’d like to think that I fit both the want/need columns for him (he does seem to be very fond of me).

I can’t help but feel like the degradation of relationships these days is in part due to Kim Kardashian the fact that people think they can’t always get what they want, but they get what they need. To quote Geico, “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works!” There are a lot of instances in my life where I live the standard of “good enough” (DIY crafts, family meals, ironing my husband’s dress shirts, filling in my eyebrows), but marriage isn’t one of them. Little girls don’t sit in their rooms, playing with dolls, and imagining an adult life filled with good enough — they imagine perfection and happiness and joy and laughter and the opportunity for symbiosis (despite not knowing what that is at the time). Is marriage that way all the time? Ha. No. Not even kind of (just last night, Husband and I got in a big argument over my becoming a “Destiny” widow ever since he hooked his stupid headset to his PS4 controller and becoming friends with numerous strangers across the nation). But at the end of the day, when tempers have cooled down, when we force ourselves out of our selfish behavior, he’s still what I want and I’m still what he wants.

Image courtesy juxtapost.com

Image courtesy juxtapost.com

I suppose it was good my ex made the correlation of me and that song so we could get out of the mess we were making (if not spurned by him then me because he might be an idiot but I am not). Because I might not deserve being a princess or living in a house cleaned by other people or having a restaurant-quality kitchen, but I am absolutely and undeniably deserving of what I need and want. So I guess my alteration to the song, when thinking of a relationship, would be: “You can always get what you want / and you get what you need.”

A Message to the Girls of the World

I’m thirty, which to some of you is painfully old (like your parents) and to some not too bad. But one thing is certain: I’ve experienced a lot of stuff in these thirty years, despite you thinking perhaps we old folk don’t get it (we do).

Being a grown up is both enjoyable and adversely terrible. Like, you can take naps, but it’s kind of frowned upon by some, and if you take one too late or too long, your body clock is thusly screwed up for the next month. And you have to pay for everything, which let me tell you is a mega bummer. Your mom isn’t around to clean the house, so unless you’re fine with living in squalor, you have to clean it. Every week. Dishes: the bane of our existence. Even with a dishwasher, trust me. They’re just always there no matter what.

PAP smears suck about as much as you assume they do. The key is never have sex and then you can get one every three years (I’m kind of kidding but also kind of not because seriously no one likes to go to the OB/GYN). Sometimes you just don’t want to wear a bra, in which case don’t. You’ll find that home becomes wherever the pants aren’t — they’re the first thing to come off, and I don’t say that in a crude, sexual manner. I mean it in an “Adults hate to wear pants” way.

Don’t let yourself go when you get married. I’m not sure if this is a myth or reality, but it seems to happen all the time (I started to let myself go on the honeymoon, which God bless my husband for sticking around this long). I don’t mean to stress about your weight or your hair or your makeup or your clothes, but trust me: you feel better about yourself and your day when you’re clean and are wearing real clothes rather than sweats. Leggings are real clothes, I kid you not. Invest in several pairs because they’re like sweats but not. If you find a guy who wants you to always have long hair, ditch him.

Image  courtesy of pinterest.com

Image courtesy of pinterest.com

I’ve put Husband through the ringer with all my many hairstyles, and there have definitely been some he hated. Guess what: he didn’t divorce me, and he still kissed me when he got home from work. We may have come to an agreement that such hairstyles won’t make an appearance again forever awhile, but in all reality, I wasn’t particularly crazy about them either (don’t tell him. He’ll get a big head.)

If you find a man who makes you forget yourself, tells you what to do, makes you feel lonely, hates the things you love to do, doesn’t support every single hobby you ever try out, even the lame ones everybody knows won’t work out — if he seems to only love you conditionally, if you can’t fart in front of him, if you’re worried about what he’ll think when you take off your makeup and slide in your night guard, HE. IS. NOT. THE. ONE. Look, I get it, you’re hardwired and built to have a companion all the days of your eternity, so you just wanna be with someone all the time and snuggle. I got married about six years later than I thought I might in high school (high school Mary was really eager and hopeful), and I’m glad I had to wait. It helped me weed out the idiots and hone in on exactly what I didn’t want, so when I met Husband, it was quick and painless.

Men can still be as awful as boys and teenagers, and there’s something inherently worse about that because they’re grown ups, so they should know better. Chances are, they were raised by their mothers to become gentlemen, and they just missed the mark. Heartbreak is inevitable.

Enjoy making out now because when you get married, it’s basically never going to happen.

If you want the cookie, eat the damn cookie. I went a stretch counting calories and measuring my food, and sure the end results were freakin awesome, but I was truly miserable the entire thing. Just remember: portion control. Eat what you want, just a little less of it as you get older. Because trust me when I say you’ll turn 23, and your metabolism rate will give up the ghost. Exercise in the way you want to — if you hate running, then seriously don’t run. I mean, really. Life is way too short to spend a portion of your day in the gym doing something that makes you unhappy (even if it’s making you chemically overjoyed. Endorphins aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.)

Image courtesy of pinterest.com

Image courtesy of pinterest.com

Money will get tight at some point in your life, unless you marry an heir/heiress who is just independently wealthy. Being forced to live budget-friendly will help you out for the rest of your life, even though it feels awful at the time, but DO NOT under any circumstances, buy store brand cheese. You can save money elsewhere — cheese is not the place to do it. Same goes for butter, unless, I suppose, you’re allergic to lactose. I’m so, so, so sorry. Cheese is what will get you through every single hard time, so splurge a little. Buy the Tillamook.

Even when you’re a grown up, you’ll be able to sense when people don’t like you. Don’t let this deter you — be nice, always, and surround yourself with people who think you’re as great as you think they are. Find others who laugh at all your jokes, like all your Facebook status updates, and go to all the movies your husband won’t (chick flicks, documentaries, based on true stories, dramas, Jane Austen, etc. If it doesn’t blow up, he’s not going to want any part of it.) Sometimes adults form mini cliques. It’s just a human thing.

Image courtesy of pinterest.com

Image courtesy of pinterest.com

This will become easier the older you get. I promise.

Despite what a lot of people say (and I assume they do this to snow themselves and everyone around them), sometimes people have pretty perfect lives. Their houses are big and clean, their cars are nice, their kids are well-behaved, their marriages are great. Don’t let anyone else’s life affect yours. It’s an attitude thing, you get me? If you want a happy life, be happy, and things will work themselves out. You might be thirty years old, living in a condo you’re renting that has mold along some of the windows and an upstairs neighbor who floods your laundry room and entryway. You might really suck at vacuuming and dusting, and you might drive modest cars because that’s what you can afford. Doesn’t mean your life is any less perfect than someone else’s. So applaud the frenemy who started her own blog, the one who got married at a big venue, the one whose husband makes $150k/year. We all need to stick together and help a sister out. It’s cool if their lives are different from yours. Different never means better or worse. Ever.

And remember:

Image courtesy of pinterest.com

Image courtesy of pinterest.com