So here’s the thing about eating disorder recovery.
It is so freaking hard to write about.
I’ve started out posts multiple times with some tips or some techniques I’ve learned but then I realize that it’s impossible to describe how I’ve implemented them into my life because some of them have only worked once and some of them work always but I ignore them on purpose because I’m kind of messed up in the head like that and I don’t want to lead anyone astray.
But now I’m just kind of like, fuck it.
As long as you know that the information below is only my personal experience, and I’m certainly no doctah, and what you read could also trigger you into a binge or a relapse, then I’ll write it. Read at your discretion and know that I’m not here with any concrete answers, only the things that have worked for moi.
So here goes.
First of all – let me just fill you in on what I’m actually recovering from. I started secretly bingeing at age fifteen. I hit puberty at age fourteen on a family cruise to Alaska where I was too afraid to try tampons and thus spent the entire week staying out of the hot tub. It was fantastic.
At fifteen, I was no longer wearing cute little size three flares and tube tops from Wal-mart. I ballooned to a size nine within minutes it seemed. My dance teacher was less than thrilled with my “pooch pouch” that was forming below my belly button because it meant that two piece costumes at competition were out of the question. While the older girls in class were still able to wear low-cut jazz pants and sports bras to class, I was stuffing myself into leotards and covering them up with jazz pants and then another shirt on top of that. I guess “thick” would be a good word to describe my fifteen-year-old self. Dancing twenty hours a week in front of mirrors made it impossible for me to deny that that my body was changing rapidly.
I was just so sad that this was all happening. I didn’t know what to do about my expanding hips and my soft back fat and my stretch marked thighs, so I ate to forget. My parents would leave me home alone because I was old enough and I would eat all the Ritz crackers with jelly. All the chocolate peanut butter chips – straight from the bag. All the cheese, all the ice cream, all the pickles. Oh my God and the Better Cheddars. We were ALWAYS out of Better Cheddars. Sorry.
Take this story all over the east coast – from Pennsylvania to Virginia (college) to New York City (auditioning) to New Jersey (boyfriend) to Hilton Head (performing job) to Albany to Fort Lauderdale and all the way back to Washington Heights, NYC where everything came crashing down around me, finally, a decade after I first learned how to eat myself into a coma.
I came to find that I was an emotional eater. A compulsive eater. A secret eater. A food addict. And an extremely disordered eating female with depression and anxiety and no way to get help through my measly health insurance.
And through reading and my own tweaks and my own journaling, this is what I’ve learned.
- I have to keep all the food in the house. Fuck this Weight Watchers “keep your environment safe” bullshit. I need to have the Nutella and the ice cream and the cheese and the pesto and the cookies and the pizza and the beer in the house. For ten years I kept it all OUT of the house and spent nearly $40,000 on binges where I’d go and get it anyway, bring it in, eat it all up, and throw the containers in the garbage outside so that in my mind I could say “it was never inside”. For me to feel safe, I need all of it IN my environment. Now when I started doing this, yea, the ice cream disappeared within hours. But a month into it, I kept a carton of cookies ‘n’ cream in the house for an entire two weeks. Six months later, and I kept it in the freezer so long I forgot about it (community housing – it got hidden behind everyone else’s stuff and I totally forgot it was there). A year later, and I can bring multiple flavors into the house and they can be in there anywhere between one day and one month. It depends on my PMS and how hot it is outside, but it no longer scares me to have it in there. I need to know it’s there for my convenience at any time, and all of a sudden, it doesn’t consume my thoughts anymore. Hence why we’ve had two monstrous containers of Nutella from Costco in our pantry for over a month and I’ve only eaten an eighth of one jar. (I was going to show a picture but HELLO triggers – not appropriate today.)
- When I’m hungry, I need to eat NOW. I spent ten years ignoring hunger signals and only eating carbs for breakfast but never dinner and always before 7pm and every three hours and not at all and counting points and when I finally hit that rock bottom, I learned to listen to my body. My beautiful intuitive body that I never gave any credit to. My body tells me when I’m hungry and I listen now. It took me a year to figure out exactly what those signals are – the hunger signals and the full signals and the “i need protein” signals – but it was worth all the listening because I’m not one of those people that wakes up every day at the same time and can eat oatmeal for breakfast for the rest of my life. I need change and I need options and I need to eat when my body is ready – not before or after. Diets never taught me any of these things, and it was only after I stopped dieting that I could really spend time with my own body and learn the way it speaks. And it took me A YEAR y’all. As in, TWELVE MONTHS. As in, A WHILE. It did not, I repeat, IT DID NOT happen overnight.
- Oh my God the triggers. None of this “Healthy is the new skinny” shit on Facebook and no recipes. Nooooo recipes. No Women’s Health, no Glamour, no Cosmo. Twitter is a constant trigger no matter who I unfollow so I just stay off it altogether unless I post. Facebook has a mind of it’s own so I choose to follow Astrology writers and Ram Dass and “I Fucking Love Science” instead of all this Mind Body Green shit. I can’t see lists of things to eat and things not to eat and not be triggered. Know your triggers. Does seeing a list of things to do with chia seeds trigger you? Unfollow. Do ads for beer or weight loss or life coaching trigger you? Unfollow. Unfriend. Unlike. Immediately. Like it or not, social media is a humungous part of our lives. It’s how I’ve reached all of you. Thank God. I fucking love you and would not trade this for the world. But know your triggers – even if it’s me and my page – and cut them out.
- Friendship/Significant Others/Family: Be straight up. Don’t tiptoe. This might not be your style, so perhaps emailing them one of these articles could be helpful as well.*
Table for Three: You, Me and My Eating Disorder (a straight up guide for friends and loved ones)
Tips for Family (from the Renfrew site)
*There are many many many like TOO MANY articles on how to stage an intervention and how to try to get help for a person with an eating disorder but not nearly enough articles on what to do once they are in recovery and are seeking help. Especially for significant others. This is something I am determined to work on and will post as soon as it comes. If you know of one, please post it in the comments below so we can spread it far and wide. Mahalo.
With friends, family, and loved ones, do not be afraid to tell them exactly what you need. My family, well, those who understand anyway (grandparents don’t count – they forget and they don’t understand and they really just want to “fatten” us all up with cookies and how can you get mad at that?), knows to not say a word about my eating choices. When I eat, what I eat, and how I eat it (yes, mom, sometimes I wrap cheese around a pickle like a pregnant woman and put sriracha on it and I don’t even have an answer for why) is off the table for comments. It took them a few years to fully commit to this but this summer with my seven weeks home really helped them understand. Not eating at dinner because I’m not hungry? Sorry mom, that pasta looks delicous, but I might not be ready to eat it til 9pm tonight when you’ve already cleaned up. And I say, that’s okay because of where I’m at on my journey.
When it comes to loved ones, ask and you shall receive, for the most part. My mom was amazing and understanding and never once pushed me this summer when I ate at weird times with weird condiments. My dad is still learning, but he’ll get there and he’s aware and that’s what matters. Talk to your friends and your cousins and your girlfriend and your hubby and be as straight up as possible.
“I need to keep this nine dollar jar of organic pecan butter in the house and I need you to not comment on it’s price, it’s size, or it’s taste. It is my choice right now and it’s part of my recovery and I need you to support me.”
“I need you to pick the place for dinner tonight, and if you say it and I wrinkle up my nose because it doesn’t sound good to me, I need you to not get frustrated. I realize that I am frustrating you but I am not in a place to make decisions because I don’t know what I want and I would really appreciate your patience in this decision making process tonight.”
Okay, whatever it is, there is no harm in asking. And if your friend/boy/mom can’t understand why this is, I ask you to also be patient with them. They may accidentally make a judgemental face that they have no control over when they see you pouring animal crackers on top of a bowl of ice cream and they may accidentally ask you why you need to order pizza AND pasta AND salad AND dessert and the more patient you are with them, the more patient they will get with you. It’s a give give situation here. No one is perfect and this is a touchy subject that needs care and compassion from all sides – including yours.
5. Know your other “vices”. Cigarettes and TV are mine. When I am emotional and want to binge, I don’t reach for the beer so much as I crave a smoke and an SVU marathon. And you know what, I fully accept that laying on the couch on a beautiful beach day and choosing Olivia and Elliot over the sunshine is absolutely part of my healing process and a choice that I make when I don’t have the energy to go live life in the sand today. It’s a distraction, it’s a simple comfort, but you know what? It’s not a jar of Nutella and as long as I’m aware of it, I carry on with my marathon and do my best to forgive myself. The cigarettes – not so much, because I’m a role model for my students and I had such a hard time quitting that buying a pack would just send me into hardcore reverse. But occasionally I’ll bum one and feel satisfied and I do my best not to feel shitty about that too. I’m in recovery from an addictive habit – and most disordered eating is addictive if you really think about it – so knowing what you are using instead of eating/refraining from eating as your new vice is super crucial to your recovery and a healthy life. Forgive yourself for the replacements and give yourself a little credit for being aware and just do your best today. That’s all you, or anyone else, can ask for.
6. Therapy. Finding a therapist isn’t easy. Depending on where you live, you might be lucky enough to have an eating disorder clinic in your area that offers outpatient therapy. If you’re not so lucky, and you live in Hawaii like me and there is absolutely NOTHING pertaining to eating disorders at all (on the Big Island anyway), ask your health care provider for a list of counselors in your community and buck up and give them a call. I called around today, yes literally today before typing this up, and talked to some “therapists” that didn’t even ask my full name or what I was looking to get out of counseling. NEXT PLEASE. Then, when I was about to give up, I called a woman that has a PhD and asked appropriate questions and has already sent me forms to fill out so I can show up and just have a relaxing appointment. Shopping around is clutch – it’s like finding an agent as an actress – they are working for you, not the other way around. Trying them on for size takes time and is a real pain in the ass, but at the end, the payoff is something healthy for YOU. You get to take away the benefits of therapy and apply it towards a happier healthier life.
Holy shit, my arm hurts from typing this so fast. But you know, it’s been calling to be written for months now and I can’t keep putting it off until I find the right pictures or the right title or the right statistics to offer you. Please, for the love of all things healthy, pick up a copy of When Food is Love by Geneen Roth and allow yourself to become aware of your patterns. Or start from the very beginning and find solace in others like you in Feeding The Hungry Heart. I don’t love Geneen so much anymore because she charges you for everything and doesn’t really like to communicate with her fans but you know what the bitch can write and she writes it all and she helped me and I can’t deny that for a second.
Body love is a whole nother topic in this whole recovery thing and I’ll be on it very soon. It’s actually a huge gigantic amazing fabulous component that deserves a post all of its own.
I hope this list helps and I hope you find something here that sheds some light. Share it with someone who needs it. Print it out and put it in an inspiring place. YOU CAN DO THIS. I HAVE FAITH IN YOU. YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU REALIZE. YOUR LIFE IS YOURS AND YOURS ALONE. I AM YELLING AND I AM SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I BELIEVE ALL THESE THINGS TO BE TRUE. YOU ARE FUCKING AMAZING AND YOU DESERVE RECOVERY AND THERAPY AND LIGHT AND BREATH AND SANITY AND FEELINGS OF SAFETY AND CONTENT.
AND, last but not least, you know you can always email me at email@example.com with questions and concerns.
All my love and support and congratulations for being open to help and doing what you can to recover –
I totally get it. It’s a weird thing to bring up. Addiction. Eating disorders. Depression.
But enough with the tiptoes.
It takes balls to open up about such personal and damaging issues. Those of us who have been diagnosed or have been to rehab or who are in therapy are struggling to keep our head above water sometimes. But that doesn’t mean the whole process is a sad, tragic, terrible thing. Out of disaster can come beauty. Out of heartbreak can come freedom. And if we are lucky to have friends that stick by us in every step of the transformation, then there will come times to laugh and to reminisce and to celebrate.
Friendship is about sticking out the bad and rejoicing over the good and being there for each other even when nothing makes sense and the tissue box is empty. I know that my friends know and believe this as strongly as I do, but I have experienced a lot of tiptoeing around the topic of my binge-eating disorder since I’ve been home this summer. Naturally, New York City is where the majority of my friends are based, and where many of my bad habits formed, but my compulsive and unhealthy eating habits started long before I boarded the Bieber Bus to Port Authority. My issues started at my dance studio in Pennsylvania, and in high school, and although there are many factors that caused my issues to accelerate when I was young, my eating disorder is not anyone’s fault. It’s everyone’s fault and it’s society’s fault and it’s my fault and it’s nobody’s fault all at the same time. But it’s not YOUR fault. And that’s why I want to raise awareness on how to keep friendship as strong and mighty as it was before the eating disorder, before the addiction, before the “coming out”, before it was all real and gross and honest and nitty and gritty and on the table for all to see.
I hate preaching, and I hate speaking for a group of people. These thoughts I offer you are based on my personal experience and my personal journey. But I can bet on my pantry of Reese’s Oreos that some of your friends are experiencing the same things that I am on their journey to recovery and self-discovery. I speak for myself, but as always, I speak for all of us. So please take a deep breath in and let out an audible sigh of relief. We can move forward and frolick and eat and laugh and hail cabs at 4am just like we used to – just with a little more awareness.
After all, awareness is the salt of life. You can live without it, but it makes almost everything better.
1) To start, I know that it’s hard to understand what food addiction even is. Addiction is rarely on purpose, and I look at it as a coping mechanism that gets out of hand. It’s an unfortunate sickness that affects millions of people. Put simply, most people find themselves addicted to things that they started using occasionally to fill a void, or to distract from pain, or to find comfort. These occasional habits escalate and become the only way the addict knows how to deal with stress, depression, or anger. Stress-eating or emotional eating are common terms associated with food addiction because they are habits that escalate beyond the addict’s control. Food addiction and eating disorders are often very intertwined. In my case, they go hand in hand. Other times, it’s the addiction to avoiding food that becomes the issue.
Food addiction becomes a little tricky once the recovery process begins. First of all, it’s food addiction. It’s not meth. Although addiction is addiction is addiction, people can’t just give up food cold turkey – it’s our fuel and life source. Most food addicts have to completely re-learn how to listen to the hunger signals that we’ve ignored for so long. Either we’ve been dieting for so many years that we learned long ago to only eat certain things at certain times, or we eat when we’re emotional and struggling. For me, it was a combo of both. Sometimes, I would end up eating eight meals in one day. Sometimes, I didn’t eat a single one. Regardless, what I was eating and when I was eating it has had nothing to do with actual hunger for over a decade. Overcoming a compulsive eating habit of any sort requires a trust in my body that I somehow lost in the madness long ago.
2) It is completely okay if you do not understand what binge eating disorder is. The Renfrew Center defines it as this:
“People with binge eating disorder suffer from episodes of uncontrolled eating or bingeing followed by periods of guilt and depression. A binge is marked by the consumption of large amounts of food, sometimes accompanied by a pressured, “frenzied” feeling. Frequently, a compulsive overeater continues to eat even after she becomes uncomfortably full. Those identified as having Binge Eating Disorder generally do not purge. Although many who meet the criteria for this category are larger than average, many are of average size and weight.
Binge eating can lead to serious medical problems including high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and depression.”
This list of symptoms (also from The Renfrew Center) was the story of my life for my entire professional performing career, long before I went off to college for musical theatre.
- Eat large amounts of food when not physically hungry.
- Eat much more rapidly than normal.
- Eat until the point of feeling uncomfortably full.
- Often eat alone because of shame or embarrassment.
- Have feelings of depression, disgust or guilt after eating.
- Have a history of marked weight fluctuations
A lot of compulsive eaters go through periods of dieting and extreme eating limitations only to then “fail” at these impossible rules, which is when the real danger of bingeing comes into play. Bingeing alone, stealing food, and stuffing my face with it faster than I could swallow were very common habits in my late teens and early twenties. Binge eating disorder is the reason that I have gained and lost over 700 pounds in my lifetime. I share this with you so that if you share these symptoms, or know someone who does, that anyone who needs it can get help.
Moving on to more social matters…
3) Ignoring the fact that I was diagnosed with an eating disorder last May, was severely depressed, moved to Hawaii, fell in love, haven’t auditioned in a year, started teaching dance, and am forty pounds heavier than when I left, is awkward for everyone. Especially if we are extremely close, you have seen me eat an entire ice cream cake, and/or you’ve seen that beautiful yellow purse that I ruined by carrying around a jar of Nutella with me for all of audition season in 2012. For some people, addiction and eating disorders are extremely private and a very sensitive subject. I on the other hand have been blogging about it for over a year.
If we are friends, and if we have been friends for as long as some of us have been friends, let’s just get it out in the open. Ask me the questions that you want to ask. Ask me how I would like to deal with it in our friendship. Ask me if there’s anything that’s too personal (with me? impossible) and ask me what I need from you in terms of support.
I’m speaking for myself of course, but if you are close friends with someone who is dealing with an eating disorder or an addiction and they’ve filled you in on their struggles, my suggestion is to ask them what they need from you. Maybe all they need is to know that you’re there when they have a funny story about rehab. It’s not all tears all the time, believe it or not. Things come up in therapy that you just have to laugh at, once you’re done crying over them. Friendship is friendship is friendship. Don’t let the eating disorder or the fear of saying the wrong thing come between you.
4) Asking me to lunch is not the same as asking a recovering alcoholic for a drink. Again, once someone quits drinking, they can survive without it for the rest of their life once they overcome their addiction to alcohol through rehab and counseling. Although food is my drug, I gotta eat sometime, or we’re gonna have a new issue to work out. There’s no need to feel weird or uncomfortable when you’re asking me to dinner. You can even suggest a restaurant we used to frequent. It’s okay. You won’t throw me into relapse. None of this ever was, or ever will be, your fault, and I don’t want you to fear saying or suggesting the wrong thing. Ever.
5) Asking me to make the decision where to eat, personally, is sometimes too stressful, mainly because I’ve been away
from NYC for a year and there’s 45 billion restaurants to choose from and I get overwhelmed just picking which 99 cent pizza place to order from. As you can see, I get very overwhelmed when I have too many choices. So suggest away. I appreciate it. No need to tip toe.
6) It’s possible that something about a particular restaurant (or food truck, or bakery, or coffeeshop) will trigger something in me, which is a) very important for me to observe and b) going to happen for the rest of my life and something that I have to continue to deal with on my journey. That trigger is not normally about how they give you two pieces of chicken parm instead of one, or about how rich the chocolate soufflé is. The trigger is not about the actual food. The trigger is the memory associated with the place you may suggest. Maybe it’s the place we ended up after Stallion broke up with me, or the place where we celebrated my first off-Broadway gig. The trigger could be a devastating memory or a happy memory, but it’s important for me to experience the trigger and then feel the emotions that come up instead of eating to make them go away.
7) I’m still deciphering what it’s like to eat for pleasure and what it’s like to eat my feelings. This may seem like an insane concept, but I deal with it every day. Obviously, I’m known for my obsession with Nutella.
I used to eat jars of Nutella when things got really bad, and unfortunately, I still associate Nutella with pain, sadness, and heartbreak. I love the taste of Nutella, but sometimes it’s hard for me to know when I eat it for pleasure or eat it for comfort. The same applies to Numero 28 pizza and Two Little Red Hens Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes and the pistachio tart at Le Pain. I overthink the process at this point.
On one hand, I’m in New York City for a limited amount of time, and leaving the city without spending time at my favorite bakeries and coffeeshops makes no sense to me. Sometimes, I can walk in to Amy’s Bread with a friend and know exactly what I want, and I order exactly what I want because it tastes good, and eating can be pleasurable, and there’s no harm in that if it’s every once and a while. On the other hand, I used to do this multiple times a day when I wasn’t hungry, when I needed copious amounts of sugar to calm me down and keep me company in times of stress, worry, or self-doubt. So even though I know when I walk into Schmackary’s with Bronson that there’s nothing wrong with getting a cookie for the sheer enjoyment and pleasure that comes along with it, I do start to second guess myself since I used to eat that S’mores cookie to deal with a bad day.
This is a really great place to be in my recovery, and things could be a lot worse, but this might help explain why I don’t always know what I want to eat when you ask me, or why I say no to our old haunts. Sometimes, I just don’t really crave that pie right now. Maybe, I never really did, but it was there in times of sorrow and it helped me deal. Maybe I’ll never crave it again. And that wouldn’t be bad or good, it would just be another learning lesson for me to take in.
8) You don’t have to filter yourself around me. It’s more awkward to listen to you talk in circles to avoid sensitive topics than it is if you just fill me in on your life regardless of what it entails. First of all, I’m not going to diagnose you with an eating disorder just because you only ordered coffee on our lunch date. Does it break my heart when you tell me you can’t eat this week because Spamalot auditions are on Friday? Absolutely. Do I understand and empathize with you? More than you will ever, ever, EVER know. It might be a sensitive subject that I left the business (for now) because I couldn’t maintain a small enough body size (without going to extreme measures) to continue on the same career path that I started. But you’re still in the business, and you have to deal with these issues, and maybe they don’t affect you the same way they affected me.
The same applies for the opposite end of the spectrum. If it comes up that you got cut from an audition because your body wasn’t right, or if it comes up that your director asked you to lose fifteen pounds before rehearsals, I’m not going to preach at you to leave the business. I know what showgirls have to look like. I know what baseball players have to look like. Drink your protein powder and run your miles and just do you. Please my darling, don’t avoid any topics of conversation because of me. Everyone has a different journey. Mine is mine and yours is yours and although I’m here for you if you are concerned about your lifestyle and want to ask advice or questions, I’m not trying to be your therapist or your doctor or your mom. We can talk story just like we always have. The bottom line is, you shouldn’t have to filter yourself around me.
What I’m saying, above all, is that it’s okay to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room sitting across the table from us at Veneiro’s. An eating disorder is now present in my day to day life and it’s going to be a part of my journey forever. That’s not a morbid thing, it’s just a thing. It’s forever a part of my medical history and my emotional development and although I refuse to let it define me, it is a part of me. And as a friend, I would rather you acknowledge this and remind me of how far I’ve come when I’m feeling discouraged, than ignore it completely and pretend that everything is fine when it’s not.
Friend, I want you to know that my life up until this point has been a twisted path lined with chocolate covered obstacles and hidden speakers blasting showtunes. Yes, I’ve tripped and I’ve scraped my knees on my travels, but I’ve also belted along with the music and learned that 90% cacao is disgusting. I’ve learned and I’ve grown and I’ve fallen and I’ve always found my way back onto my feet even if my clothing is forever stained with sweat, tears, and melted ice cream. Your path might be more well-paved than mine, or you might have said “fuck it” to the rocky road ahead of you and just started bulldozing the forest to your left. If we have been friends this long, it doesn’t matter what our paths look like, as long as they intersect when we need them to. You don’t have to walk a mile in my shoes to understand what I’m going through – just tie your own real tight and let’s take a walk together. No filters, no sidestepping, and for goodness sake, no tiptoes.
*If you or someone you know thinks they may be suffering from food addiction or disordered eating, speak to your doctor or family member. Please visit The Renfrew Center’s “Do I Have An Eating Disorder” page if you want to do some private research before seeking help. And as always, I’m always here to answer questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So I have a long history with staying in relationships too long.
Long after it’s over, I’m still hangin’ out. Trying to make it work. Trying to fix it. Trying to ignore how much the bad outweighs the good.
I guess sometimes, we don’t realize that this is our pattern, until something really good comes along and wakes us up. You know, gives us a real good slap across the face.
Like for example…Hawaii.
My seven years with New York City is another tumultuous relationship to add to my very long list. The city gives me so many thrills, but really bruises my heart more than I like to accept. Like a bad boy in a leather jacket with a chain-smoking habit, I am infatuated with the city and it’s ups and downs and how misbehaved it can be.
Hawaii came along and it is just so nice to me. I mean literally, the people here are so nice to me. It still shocks me. And the packaging that this new relationship comes in, is not so bad either. Palm trees, hibiscus flowers, and the sun setting on the Pacific ocean is not really so hard on the eyes.
So basically, the question that has been waking me up each morning the past few weeks is something that a friend of mine posed to me a few weeks ago when he cheated on his girlfriend.
Can you be in love with two people at once?
I believe you can.
Because I’m absolutely in love with two places at once.
And it is the hardest thing I’ve experienced to date.
I shouldn’t say it’s hard. I am actually incredibly blessed to be in love with two amazing places at once. It’s just, extremely bittersweet.
I mean, I got New York City. My roots. My people. My passions.
New York City. Just two and a half hours away from where I grew up. My family always just a bus ride away.
New York City. Excellent bagels. Un-toppable pizza. The best fucking tap water in the world.
New York City. Where the bars don’t close til 4pm and you can get a bodega sandwich at any time of night and home is just a 35 dollar cab ride away.
New York City. Land of auditions, eighteen dollar dance classes, the best voice teachers, and an entire theatre district employing my friends and some of the most talented people in the world.
New York City. Land of auditions, eighteen dollar dance classes, the best voice teachers, and an entire population of some of the most talented people in the world who might never see their name in a Broadway Playbill because of the nature of our current world and economy.
I think that right now, I might be one of those people.
I have always defined “success” by having Broadway be the final destination. Always. I just, never ever thought that anything else would happen. I was completely confident that my dream would come true. And I was willing to basically do anything to make that happen. Give up friendships, eat lettuce three meals a day, sleep four hours a night, spend all my money on ballroom classes, you name it.
I quoted my friend Brooke in my last blog post with her words that have kept me going every year. “We knew what we signed up for.”
I have to take back my agreement with that phrase. If I really am being honest with myself, I had no idea what I was signing up for.
When I was in tenth grade, and I was playing Zaneeta Shinn in The Music Man at my community theatre, and I was hugging the gay boys and being included in a community outside of my dance studio and having my hair done by my mom for two hours before every show because there were no wigs, I was having the time of my life. Literally. My mom and I bonded in those two hours, and then I got to go put my face on and dance around a stage with people from all over town that I never would have met otherwise. It was fantastic. It was the most joy I had ever felt.
So when I found out that you could go to college for just this, this amazing joy of performing for the fun of it and twirling your skirt and wearing high heels to dance, I jumped on it. Obviously. I mean I never ever questioned that I wanted to major in musical theatre.
But truth be told, I had no idea what I was signing up for. They don’t teach the “business” in colleges. They sure do try. But they don’t talk about lists that are 500 people long. They don’t talk about how cold it is in February at five in the morning. They don’t talk about how people look down on you for getting up at five in the morning to get on the list so you can get seen before you go to your waitressing job at 2pm. They don’t talk about how audition calls ask for you to show up in a two piece. They don’t talk about how networking really equals happy hour with someone new every day of the week. That’s not what they talk about in college.
So really, I had no idea what I was signing up for. And for years, I played the game. I played along. I tried so damn hard to get to the point where I could wear a two piece to a Casey Colgan audition. I tried so damn hard to put my hair in curlers and calm that shit down instead of letting it be as big as it really is. I tried so damn hard to re-vamp my resume, and send those thank you postcards, and pick songs that had money notes.
Because that’s what I was taught in school. The resume stuff. And the thank you postcard stuff. And the 16-bar cuts of exciting songs.
I wasn’t taught how to deal with rejection. Or how to pick my chin up after nine callbacks for The Drowsy Chaperone tour without a job offer. Or how to recover from five nights in a row of “networking” aka “drinking in midtown” while still auditioning at four different buildings every day for the entire month of March.
So I figured it out on my own. I became the strong one in my group of friends. I became the relentless one who preached about not taking rejection personally. And how much good stuff was coming from auditioning for so many different theatres. And being ballsy.
I was the chick who popped down in a cooter slam in every dance call because at some point, around 2010, I stopped caring what the business thought of me. I was gonna make my name mean something. I might not be able to riff like Natalie Weiss. And I might not be able to do the opening of A Chorus Line with all the grace in the world. But I could do a little bit of everything and I was, again, never worried that I would end up on Broadway.
And then 2013 rolled around. After turning down my Equity card in February, I was sure that my hard work and networking all these years would land me exactly what I needed to finish one more year as a non-equity performer before I entered the questionable world of Equity jobs and, most likely, longer stints of unemployment.
2013. My fifth audition season in New York City. My fifth year going in for the same theatres who know me, love me, and chase me down the hall after I get cut to tell me “we love you and you look fantastic and you’ve obviously been working on your body and we just don’t have a spot for you this year but keep coming back, we will have you with us one day.” My fifth year of eating bananas and tomatoes with salt and pepper all day with two binge days on the weekend. My fifth year of happy hours after good OR bad auditions. My fifth year of putting new colors on my resume and waiting to be seen at ECC’s and preaching to my friends that, “This is the year. This is it, you guys. This is our year.”
Turns out, it was my year. My year to take a few slaps in the face, enough to be knocked to the ground actually, and re-evaluate all of the things I’ve been telling myself for years.
I have been in an abusive relationship with my career for over five years. And that career is the reason that I stayed in New York City for so long. And I stood my ground in my three inch Laducas and I fought back really hard. Really fucking hard.
But I still took a beating. And my soul is legit, bruised.
When asked yesterday at the new dance studio in Kona, Hawaii, where I will be teaching tap and jazz for the next six months, why I’m leaving New York City to teach dance to Hawaiian kids, I was very honest.
I told Miss Seatree, the owner of the studio, that my soul is bruised. And while I’m here in Hawaii, caring for myself and recovering from all the beatings that I voluntarily took with a half smile on my face since 2006, why not pass on the love that I still have for the hobby that I once loved so very much?
She said, “Okay, Miss Amanda. Welcome home.”
So where does this land me in the whole scheme of loving two places at once?
Well. My people, my family, my friends, are in New York City and Pennsylvania. From Washington Heights, to Williamsburg, to Astoria, to New Jersey, to Philadelphia, my nearest and dearest are living in a place that is thousands of miles away from me. But if those people were here, in Hawaii with me, I don’t know that I would miss New York City, or the east coast, so very much.
Which made me realize that it’s okay for me to break up with it for awhile.
Because it’s not the city, or the place, that I miss so much. It’s the loving people who have literally carried me through life with compassion and light and humor since the day I was born.
And to spend a winter in the sunshine – in the ocean – on a paddleboard, instead of trudging through the darkness to the Equity building in my rainboots held together by duct tape because I spent my money on new headshots instead of Hunter boots, is the healthiest thing for me to do right now.
I have never made any decisions in my life based on health. I don’t even know what that means.
But I think I’m getting the hang of it. Because coming to Hawaii was the first step for me in making healthy decisions.
Staying in Hawaii, is the second step.
If home is where the heart is, then I believe I will always have two homes. My heart lies with my sisters, Melissa and Brooke, on a picnic blanket near the softball fields in Central Park with paper cups of wine. My heart lies with my soulmate, Joshua, in the Washington Square diner in the third booth from the entrance. My heart lies with my best friend, Bronson, on his red couch in Washington Heights in front of a Golden Girls marathon. My heart lies with my brother from another mother, Justin, in his Cornell Medical School dorm room. My heart lies with my friends who attend my tap dance classes, and with my audition buddies, and with all of my co-workers from bars and gyms and restaurants gone by. My heart lies with my mom and my dad, in Pennsylvania, at the Railroad House, before visiting my aunt, uncle, and grandparents for some Yeungling and shooting the shit.
But my heart also lies in a deep love of dance, performance, and freedom. And here in Hawaii, where the sun shines every single day, and I can go hiking, biking, and swimming every single day, and I can wake up with the sun just because my body wakes up with the sun without an alarm every single day, I get to dance, perform, and live freely every single day.
And my heart is soaring. My heart is healing. I am literally, as my friend Beth put it before I left NYC, YOLOing, every single day.
So how, can I turn down the opportunity to YOLO every single day on an island that has the cleanest air in the world, to go back to a relationship with New York City that still has me on edge? Although my nearest and dearest are there, so is all of the root of my depression, anxiety, and eating disorder.
When it comes down to it…is it all New York’s fault? Is it all the performance industry’s fault?
No man. It isn’t. Nothing in this world happens TO us. We are treated, in this life, the way we allow ourselves to be treated. Things happen FOR us. I believe that everything that happened to me in New York City – from Stallion breaking my heart, to the rejection of the biz, to the financial distress of living in a metropolis – happened FOR me. To get me to this point, where I am about to give some little Hawaiian babies some real, city girl attitude and passion for 5, 6, 7, 8-ing.
Would I go back and change my relationship? Eh. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.
It is what it is. And now I’m aloha-ing all up on the internet and spreading the love and I really don’t think it should have happened any differently.
So, like I did with all my other exes from past relationships, I am taking this moment to forgive New York City. And I will suck it up, and quote something I read on Gawker the other week that at first I totally looked at in dismay. However, now I will be really honest with y’all and tell you that for now, and I truly mean FOR NOW, not forever, in regards to NYC, “I love her, but I had to leave her.”
For the first time since moving here on August 1st, I cried listening to Sara Bareilles’ song Manhattan. I cried listening to it every day before I departed the city but since I’ve been here, living on the jungle side where we could watch the sunrise but not the sunset, and there isn’t much beach to be had, I haven’t felt an emotional connection to it.
It wasn’t until last night, when I journaled on the balcony of the apartment I’m staying in in Kona, on the other side of the island, where I’ll be moving to teach, when I was watching the sunset and planning out my day today to go paddleboarding, that the lyrics brought tears to my eyes once more.
“You can have Manhattan, I’ll settle for the beach.
Sunsets facing westward and sand beneath my feet.
I’ll wish this away, just missing the days, when I was one half of two.
You can have Manhattan, cuz I can’t have you.”
I was one half of a person for so many years. And for the longest time, it felt like I couldn’t have what I wanted. The whole, Broadway thing. But.
Now, as I sit here with my 100% Kona coffee blend and my apple-banana smoothie that the love of my life, Johnny, made for me this morning, while I was catching up with Joshua on the phone despite a six hour time difference, I am a whole person again. And I might not be able to have what I thought I was gonna have. Broadway might not be my final destination. A penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side bought with my earnings from starring in the revival of The Will Rogers Follies as Betty Blake might not be my final destination.
But I sure feel like this, this right here – my outline for my new dance studio syllabus to my right and my Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen to my left – is part of an ongoing journey that might take me to a new destination. It’s just so not about the destination anymore. It’s about the fucking journey y’all.
And at 26, I sure don’t mind letting go of the idea of my “final destination” in order to enjoy this moment, right now. I have so many years ahead of me to figure the rest out.
I just want to say this.
John Mayer has a song called A Face To Call Home. All of you, my friends and family on the east coast, you are my face to call home. And as I spend time here, finding new faces to call home in Kona, Hawaii, I feel like I’m not leaving any family behind – I’m just making it bigger. And I could not be happier, to have so many places, to call home.
Next Week’s Posting:
This week, my best friend Melissa said the most amazing thing to me. She texted me and said, “I have to say. I was blow drying my hair today in my underwear and I looked up myself for the first time in a long time and felt really proud of myself. I’m not tiny but I love the way my body looks right now. It looks connected to how hard I’ve been working with my running and the gym. So I felt really peaceful and happy.”
“[My body] looks connected to how hard I’ve been working…”
I fucking love that.
It got me thinking about forgiveness. Melissa totally forgives herself for whatever has happened in the past with her body and she’s open to loving it for what it is right now.
Forgiving myself for what my body has been, what my body is now, and what my body will be in the future has been a really difficult part of this whole healing process. Remember the process? I said it like 18 times the other week? Recovery is a process. Aghhhhh the process. The process. But hey, listen, I feel what she’s saying for the first time in my life. And it feels so good to feel that connection to my body. And in the joy of that connection, I legit do not have time for hating myself for what’s happened in the past.
So basically, this brings me to this thing called Facebook. And, the thing about Facebook, is that its really easy to flip through your past and look at everything that’s led you up until now.
College frat parties. Throwback Thursday. Opening night parties. Ladies nights at Brother Jimmy’s. Holidays when my mother makes my brother and I take Christmas pictures in front of the tree, with the year written in sharpie on a piece of printer paper, before 8am. You know, the joyous occasions of yesteryear.
Facebook allows us to look back at pictures of ourselves like this:
Dear God just look at that tiny waist! And this:
No arm flab! And in turn we then hate ourselves because we now look like this:
Curvacious. Bodacious. Bootylicious.
See the thing is, the second weight, is not actually that bad. It’s actually pretty great. I mean look at the muscles on that Rosie the Riveter picture up there – mahalo for your time. But the thing is, is that it ain’t showgirl weight. And that’s what I’ve been beating myself up for.
At the “lighter” weight, I was booking jobs, dating a rich man who used me as his toy, and being called back for Jersey Boys and Mary Poppins.
At the “heavier” weight, I’m living in Hawaii, dating a man who is absolutely in love with me (who I maybe manifested in blog post 10?), and performing tap numbers in burlesque cabarets to raise money for Hawaiian Gay Pride.
The “heavier” weight isn’t actually that bad. It’s just…different.
Two very different lives all in the span of two years.
And I have to stop hating myself for that. Each of those lives is mine, and each of those lives are different and lovely in their own way. And so this post, is about forgiveness.
It’s taken me months, but I forgive myself for not looking like that anymore.
This is me now.
Happy, healthy, free, emotionally stable, kind of sane, and strong.
Let me say that again for my own sake.
Dear World, this is me now. Thirty pounds heavier than I’ve ever been during any audition season. More sane, and more happy, than I’ve ever been during a week where I’m starving myself for a showgirl call. Stronger than I have ever been doing any sort of Weight Watchers business where I’m consumed by points but take no time to work out. And healthier than I have been since I’m about twelve years old. This is me now. I accept it. And I forgive myself for no longer looking the way I once did while I was striving for a goal, but not taking care of myself.
“Our job…is to seek a greater capacity for love and forgiveness within ourselves. We do this through a “selective remembering,” a conscious decision to remember only loving thoughts and let go of any fearful ones. ‘To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that were given you. All the rest must be forgotten.” – Marianne Williamson, Return to Love
UM, HELLO. MUCH EASIER SAID THAN DONE MS. WILLIAMSON.
Homegirl is telling me to let go of the anger, fear, and animosity I have for myself because I’ve gained weight back and I have to restart life and find a new way to take a stand in my career. It ain’t easy. But she’s totally onto something. Instead of focusing on those past thoughts of Weight Watchers and failure and wearing a different size pant every three days, she’s just saying that maybe it would be more helpful to let that go and just focus on the love I had during that time, even amidst the failure, and the love I have now, even amidst hardships of the recovery process.
Here’s how I’ve been working on it.
I wrote it all out. And I hope I inspire you to do the same.
Here are the ways I have been letting go, and moving on, and forgiving.
- I cry sometimes when I think of the comfort that food still brings me. Knowing that through my recovery, I will one day be at a place where I never again fully indulge in a box of Cheez-its, a carton of OJ, a box of Bagel Bites, and a half gallon of cookies ‘n’ cream is hard. Sometimes I just want to finish a bag of Reese’s and be done with it. I forgive myself for that, even though my ego slips in and tells me it’s disgusting.
- I forgive my friends for saying things like “are you sure you wanna eat that” and “you’re stronger than food” because they didn’t know that things like that only made me want to rebel against my own disorder.
- I forgive the teachers in college for pretending to be brutal about physicality but not actually being brutal about physicality. As 19 and 20 year old girls, we were never really properly warned about what lied ahead in showgirl land.
- I forgive the director that taught dance to me in college who will never be down with a curvy girl. I am so sorry that I was never skinny enough to dance in your company. I feel like you are missing out on some excellent skillz, but I finally let that go.
- I forgive the casting directors for the looks on their faces when my weight fluctuated every time I went in to sing for them.
- I forgive the agents at Actor’s Connection for never calling me in after my initial meeting with them. Although I come across “confident in who I am” and “completely comfortable in my own skin”, I also lied about my weight and wore two pairs of Spanx to meet them.
- I forgive the musical theatre world for what it has done to my body, heart, and soul. It’s really not show business’ fault. I’ve been allowing myself to be controlled by it for so long and I was unaware. At the end of the day, the choice is mine. I decide where I fit in. I decide how my body type will fit in. I decide the way my career goes.
I feel like I’m a bit all over the place this week in my writing but I’m just on fire lately. Like, dude, there is a fire under my ass that has pushed me to new edges in the past two weeks and progress is happening and love is happening and acceptance is happening and courage is happening and inspiration is happening and changes are happening and basically…
…this is what I have to say for myself.
When I return to New York City, I will actually be unstoppable. To have let go of all pent up frustration, hatred, and negativity towards show business has turned my entire world around. To forgive the business for what it is, has opened my heart to whatever comes next, and I will embrace it with open arms, a graceful bevel, and full beat. Like my sisterfriend Brooke says, “We knew what we signed up for. We just have to figure out how to be happy within the perimeters.”
There is a strong possibility that I will not be cast as a showgirl, a secretary in How To Succeed in Business…, or a chorus girl in 42nd Street for the rest of my life. But there’s also a strong possibility that after a year of healing, the passion I have for performing will be so ferocious and pent up that when I unleash it on Auditionland I will land exactly where I am supposed to land. And I am willing to let it all go, in order to see where exactly that is. The unknown is so exciting in that sense. I have no idea where I belong in show business these days, but that’s like, totally cool, because all I know is that I belong and that’s all that matters right now.
Take a deep breath and feel whatever frustration, hatred, and negativity that has been built up in your heart around what you really love to do and see if you can figure out the root of it. Can you forgive? Can you really forgive, and then completely and totally let it go?
I wrote a post about three weeks ago forgiving all my ex-boyfriends. The reward for forgiving all of them, and dealing with my emotional baggage since I’ve been in Hawaii, has been absolutely, balls to the wall, fantastically beautiful.
So I suppose this week’s post is the letter forgiving show business. Because you know what? It is what it is. And this is what we signed up for.
Either we drive ourselves crazy trying to fit the mold, or we take a step back and remember that just like any job in the whole wide world, this career does not have to run our lives. I know that it seems like it has to – what we eat, what we wear, what color our hair is, when we sleep, who we are nice to, etc. etc. etc. And most of the time, all of that is true. But the key words are, most of the time. You are allowed to be you within all the guidelines and you are allowed to take the time you need to heal yourself from whatever you may have put yourself through to survive in the biz, or in the city, or in the passion of it all.
Auditionland is always gonna be there. But your life passes by every day and no one else is going to force you to take the time to live it but you. Take it from me. Look where I fucking live right now:
Forgiving people and events of the past has put me in the most loving, supportive place I have ever been in my entire life. Look at my fucking face dude:
Just an average morning in Hawaii, FaceTiming with my best friends. The most supportive, beautiful, compassionate, amazing friends in the whole world. Sending me love every day and encouraging me through my journey. I am blessed. I am strong. And I am on the right path to recovery because I forgive whatever has happened in the past and I’m ready and waiting, with open (and very tan) arms, for whatever is next!
Mahalo for your time! Now go forgive someone! Ahh! Life is good!
Next week’s post:
How To Change Everything In Five Days
So when I started this blog I said this would be a place to come for real talk.
So here goes some real talk.
I’ve fallen off the wagon.
See, the thing about a food addiction, is you can’t just give it up cold turkey. You gotta eat. If you don’t eat, you’ll end up at the other end of the spectrum… Which would still be a cause for a blog about eating disorders in the performing industry.
So basically what I’m saying is, I have to do this crazy thing where I learn how to live my life without food controlling it.
Which I started to do this past May. Which has been so inspiring and enlightening and wonderful.
But what I didn’t realize was that Hawaii was not gonna just cure me in the snap of a finger. Like, it was really awesome to think I was gonna come here and drop thirty pounds and be really tan and always crave kale and come back to NYC in a skimpy shirt and have people hug me and tell me how amazing I look but actually, that’s not the reality I’m living right now. So I’m gonna write about it and actually explain what happens when you come to Hawaii in hopes of healing an eating disorder.
Come to Hawaii feeling really confident and curvy and sexy and happy with the accomplishments that took place in July leading up to touchdown in Hilo Airport.
Go through the breakfast buffet and praise Jesus there’s always a vegetable with breakfast along with a fruit bar. Think to yourself “OMFG I’m gonna lose so much weight without even trying.”
Go without trying the homemade ice cream on property for a good two weeks because you don’t even crave it and you haven’t been hungry between meal times.
Start feeling comfortable in the social environment and completely forget to listen to hunger signals when you’re woofing down fresh fish and orzo with basil pineapple sauce and lilikoi cake with ten people at dinner every night.
Realize that you don’t even always want dessert but that you’re also being a pussy and not trusting yourself enough to know that you can live without it and also not binge later so you take dessert every night anyways.
Start eating when you’re not hungry just because it’s mealtime and someone else controls your mealtime and then also eating ice cream when you are hungry between mealtime.
Finally see yourself naked in a full length mirror and not hate everything that you see. In fact, noticing how great your legs look and your waist looks. But still thinking it’s not good enough.
I’m not sure what happened but I forgot everything I learned. Also, I saw pictures of myself and was completely shocked that I look like that right now. I have the opposite version of body dysmorphia. I see myself as a size 4 in my head. Pictures prove otherwise.
Feel lost. Eat chocolate. Sneak ice cream. Go back for seconds. Crave cigarettes.
Admit that you’ve taken a step backwards and maybe, you have to start all over.
Cry. Breathe. Cry. Wipe your eyes and be thankful for the little things in life – like living in the jungle and never wearing makeup and not having to worry about racoon eyes when you cry. Laugh a little bit. Accept that you’re not done working on shit. Breathe again. Start over.
So the thing is here, that in the midst of all the mental and emotional work I’ve been doing – letting go, moving on, feeling pain, and living in the moment – I’ve also been trying to take on this huge fucking project of a) not binging, b) eating healthy food, and c) trying to tell the difference between craving chocolate because I’m a woman with PMS, or craving chocolate because I’m a binger.
As I was so kindly reminded today by my beautiful friend Rachel, maybe, just maybe, I can’t do it all.
I’ve always been that girl with the huge plans. Long ass to do lists. Amazing ideas as to how I’m gonna make it, how I’m gonna do it, and how amazing life will be once I get it all done.
And I have these big plans that seem so simple. You know, like getting up at 6am and going for a bike ride before going to the linai for breakfast at 7:30. And at breakfast just having some eggs and a banana instead of granola, potatoes, eggs, oatmeal, and 8 different kinds of tropical fruit. And then journaling or practicing ballet and then also hitting yoga and then also updating my blog and then also posting a new YouTube video so New York doesn’t forget about me and then also calling my mom and then also making my bed and then also writing a novel all before 9am.
It’s like I never even heard of that fucking mantra I’m always writing about. “Baby steps.” Yea, that one? It’s like I can sure write it down. But I don’t allow it to apply to me. I want it all NOW. I want to be fixed NOW. All on my own. No help. No books. No process.
Well, see, that’s the thing. What I learned this week is this:
Recovery is a process.
Rushing the process sounds like, super fun. Like, “I beat the system” kind of fun. Like, “what’s next” kind of fun.
But rushing, is not even remotely close to being helpful.
Recovery is a process.
And so in the midst of being very (virtually) bruised from (virtually) beating myself up every single day, I took a pen and wrote “recovery is a process” on my foot today. And I did the same thing last Sunday. And I don’t know how I feel about getting it actually tattooed on my body but it is literally a reminder that I need every day. And just in case you need it every day, I’m gonna say it again.
Recovery is a process.
And if you need to Sharpie it on your mirror, or post it on your dashboard, or engrave it on your iPhone case, know that you’re not alone in needing to hear it every day too. Whatever you’re recovering from – a divorce, an addiction, a career loss, emotional baggage, an eating disorder – just please remember, to stop beating yourself the fuck up.
Recovery is a process. And you are not alone. And life isn’t always peaches and cream, says my Grandma. But that’s okay because the beauty of a life with ups and downs is that you’re reminded you’re alive. And the ups will always feel more amazing once you’ve experienced the downs. The appreciation that comes with the highs and lows of living this life that isn’t always easy, is so fucking lovely.
So. I will continue to share with you the ups and downs of my process. And I accept that it’s okay that I don’t have a positive Pinterest message for you every week full of hopeful solutions and miracles and cheery kale recipes.
I just have a lot of love to put out there in the world and I know that if I keep putting it out there it’ll come back around. And the support of all the love will help me through this journey of mine. And hopefully, by next week, I’ll be writing to you with less (virtual) bruises from less (virtual) beating myself up and I can share yet another thing I’ve learned in this crazy, amazing, awesome, gorgeous journey we call life.
We are so lucky to be able to experience all this shit, man. So lucky. Continue to feel it and process it and enjoy the fact that although sometimes painful, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to feel, let go, and move on.
I’m totally rooting for you.
Next week’s posting:
All of you. From the gay one, to the rich one, to the very taken one, to the older one, to the younger one, to the douchebag, to the stoner, to the one who just couldn’t fall in love with me, to the chef, to the tap dancer, to the soccer player, to the reality tv cameraman…
I would not be where I am at this very moment, which is, quite literally, in paradise, if it weren’t for all of you.
If you had complimented me when I wanted you to, it would have taken me that much longer to figure out how deep my insecurity lies.
If you had held doors for me and carried my heavy bags around New York City for me like “a true gentleman would”, it would have taken me that much longer to figure out how independent I can be.
If you had told me you loved me, it would have taken me that much longer to fall apart. Which means it would have taken me that much longer to arrive here, in this moment right now, when I can tell you thank you.
Since I’ve arrived in Hawaii, which is where I’m writing you from by the way, I have done so much work.
The work I’m speaking of is not the type of work you do. It’s not numbers on a computer or running a restaurant, although I respect you for that and appreciate the nice dinners you bought me because of it.
The work I’ve been doing here is different. It’s emotional. It’s spiritual. It’s mental. It is feeling the pain that I have allowed each one of you to inflict on me, accepting that pain, and forgiving you.
I’ve sat on cliffs and thought through the time I found your porn addiction on my own laptop.
I’ve laid under a sky of stars that you can’t even fathom and thought through all the names you used to call me. The “crazy”. The “bitch”. The “mess”.
I’ve swam out in the ocean with fish you’ve only seen in storybooks and thought about the bender you decided to have – cocaine, Grey Goose, and all your boys – the night that you were supposed to help me pack my car up before my Christmas show contract.
I’ve thought through it. Felt the anger. Felt the hurt. Felt the memory. Felt that shit.
And let it go.
Of course, there are still things I haven’t conquered. For instance, why I allowed myself to be taken to a hotel room during your hockey tournament only to have to hide out for three days so no one knew you were cheating on your girlfriend. But that’s not really on you. That’s on me.
Why I allowed myself to be treated like an object – someone who you could dress up, pay for, and show off at company dinners – feeling like your own personal doll who you could bring along when you needed me and forget to call me when it was poker night. But that’s not really on you. That’s on me.
Why I allowed myself to believe that your big plans to go back to school, get a degree, put a ring on it, and move to New York City were real. Even though my gut told me it was never going to happen, I moved to another state to be with you anyways. But that’s not really on you. That’s on me.
I take responsibility for staying in situations that my gut told me to leave. My instincts have always been there. I chose to ignore them.
My friends saw it. My mother saw it. My boss saw it. But I stayed. I loved. I loved you hard.
What I’ve learned in the past six weeks is that although all of you are great comedy material, and you’re great topics of conversation when I go to unlimited mimosa brunches with the girls, it’s not all your fault that it all ended up the way it did.
I had control over most of the situations I was put in with you guys. And I stayed. I stayed and thought loving you would fix everything.
You see, I fucking love a good project. What can I fix? How can I help? Who can I save?
All of you were great fucking projects. I’ll help you through that addiction. I’ll save you from your girlfriend. I’ll warm your cold, money-hungry heart.
Projects are great distractions, aren’t they? Projects could help distract me from all the work I should have been doing, on myself.
I’m quite the project. I’m sure you all knew that once you jumped into bed with me and discovered my insecurities. I’m sure you found that out when I was too afraid to eat in front of you on a date but would binge on your Nutella when you went to work the next morning. I’m sure you knew all of that when I picked you apart, nagged at you, told you every little thing you did that was wrong.
You may not know this, but all that nagging? The picking? The criticizing? All that shit is a reflection of me. All that shit I didn’t like about you? That has something to do with shit in myself that I don’t like.
I don’t like my own procrastination, but I sure as hell don’t mind bitching about yours.
I don’t like my own addictions and habits, but I sure as hell don’t mind telling you how bad yours are.
It was never my responsibility to fix you. And I’m sorry that I expected you, in return, to fix me.
Throughout all this work I’ve been doing, I’ve been journaling. Brooke, my sister from another mother, has been buying me fucking journals for six years as gifts and I never used any of them. Funny how I’ve filled three of them just since I’ve been here.
I’ve never done what I’m about to do before. Shared my journaling. I mean it’s the secret stuff that comes right from the brain – raw and real. But I’m gonna let you see what I wrote about some of you in my journal. Ain’t no names. Ain’t no nicknames even. I just used pronouns.
This work that you will read below, is what is changing my life. Opening my heart. Letting light in.
This is what I’ve learned:
“He didn’t want to live his life loving himself so how could he love me? He is a direct reflection of me. He didn’t care enough about himself to love me too. That’s not enough love to go around. Basically it’s not that he didn’t want me. It’s like that thing that Emily always says when we’re working together. On planes, you gotta put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help someone else. It’s the same in life man. It’s that he couldn’t figure out how to put on the oxygen mask first in order to move on to me. He was just like me. We took our energy from each other, instead of investing it in ourselves. We tried to complete each other instead of ourselves. We were each other’s addiction. Porn and food aside, we used each other to escape. I absolutely used him as an escape.”
“You couldn’t love me enough. And I deserve to be loved as much as I love myself. Which wasn’t much then. You could only love me as much as I loved myself. I couldn’t control when you loved me more or less. I couldn’t get compliments out of you. But that’s because I needed your validation so badly instead of stating to the universe that I was beautiful with or without you. The porn addiction would have been there with or without me. Binge eating would be there with or without you. Another person cannot save you from addiction. They can take you to rehab. They can offer an ear. But they cannot just heal an addiction because then THEY become the addiction. And when they peace out, leave, disappear, you’ll need to find something else to fill that void with until you admit that you’re using addiction to fill the void.”
“It’s not that he didn’t want me. He couldn’t give me what he didn’t already posess. There was barely enough love for him. He spread himself too thin by offering me any at all.”
“I am so thankful to have experienced the love I had with you. It was never about you not finding me sexy. You just had blurred vision as to what was right in front of you because you were too preoccupied trying to figure out why you weren’t happy. Why you weren’t living fully. I pray that you start living. I pray that you find self-love.”
“I forgive you for being a direct reflection of me. I accept that you did not intentionally hurt me during our relationship. I believe that I am going to love myself. Only then will I attract more and more and more and more and more and more love to me – whether it be men, women, friends, strangers – all kinds of love. I will attract love. I will attract love. I deserve love. And so do you.”
“He really tried. And when he tried I didn’t believe him. When someone tells you you’re beautiful, believe it. When someone tries to love you, believe it. When someone offers you love, trust it. You might get hurt, but it’s better to trust than to skepticize. At least if you end up getting hurt, you felt something spectacular first.”
I still have work to do, boys. I’ve conquered the big ones – literally, no pun intended – the two and a half year relationship, the whole dating a man who didn’t know he was gay thing, also the 8 month relationship with a man who just did not…love me. Now I have to move on to the smaller stuff. The verbal abuse. The objectification. The general douchebaggery of dating in NYC.
But again, that’s for me to deal with. I allowed myself to be treated that way. I stayed. I listened. I allowed it.
So this letter is about pure forgiveness. Letting go. Accepting what has happened. Everyone thought this blog was gonna be about you guys. For years, I made my life about you guys. You were what I talked about at girl’s night out. You were what I used in musical theatre class when I had to sing to someone who hurt me. You were what I used as part of my incredible self-deprecating humor skills.
And you’ll always be there to talk about, sing to, and make fun of. But not in the same way.
What has happened will no longer define who I am. I accept that I am fucking awesome, but not fucking perfect, and there will be a man who comes along and sees that, and accepts that, and he can choose to stay and experience it, or he can choose to move on. Whatever he chooses to do, will not define me. It might hurt in the moment if he chooses to move on, but it will not define me anymore.
I deserve someone who accepts all of my shit, will allow me to work on it by myself while dating me, and doesn’t try to fix me. I deserve someone who will allow me to love him as hard as I love. I love people hard, man. I don’t hold back. I have a big heart and I wear it on my sleeve and one day a man is gonna come along and fucking love that about me.
I say one day. But today’s the day, actually. He’s here. He’s real. It’s all happening. I’ve met him. Which is a story for later.
But for today, let me say thank you, boys, for all of it. All the laughs, all the cries, all the shit.
Everything that has happened in the past ten years has gotten me to this point. I would never be able to appreciate the good if I hadn’t had the bad.
And if I didn’t take the time to let you all go, and forgive you for all the shit, I wouldn’t have any room in my heart to let someone new and amazing in.
I encourage you to do the exact same thing as I’ve been doing. Do the work dude. It pays off.
Much love to all of you. Seriously – even if I waited eight months for you to say “i love you” because the girl shouldn’t say it first and I never got to tell you how I felt about you – let me say it now.
I loved you. Some of you, I will always, always love. Always in my heart. No regrets. Thank you for the good times and the bad times. The laughs and the cries. And all the shit.
Sending you healing and love from the Big Island of Hawaii,
To my blog readers: I encourage you to journal. I encourage you to write letters to exes and never send them. I encourage you to write down random trains of thought. I encourage you to think through the pain of past relationships and feel it and have a good cry and try to see why it still makes you so angry. I encourage you to find the reflections of yourself in other people and notice why it bothers you so much. I encourage you to forgive. I encourage you to remember the good times and laugh and get goosebumps. I encourage you to let go. I encourage you to do exactly what I just did.
The sooner you take the time to let go of the past, the sooner you can truly feel, and love, in the present. And trust me when I say, the most amazing thing, that thing you have been waiting for your whole life, could show up at any moment, once you’ve done the work. Do the work. Let the shit go. Feel it. Forgive it. Let it go. And get ready for one hell of a ride.
The payoff, is beauty. Love. Respect. Growth. Sex. Support. Amazingness. Gorgeousness. Belly laughs. And of course, someone to lay underneath the stars with and kiss.
Next week’s posting:
A Sensible Recap