Day 22: Under Pressure

It’s Sunday night, and I’m in a pretty rotten mood, stemming from the combination of a headache and feeling entirely too stressed about money and social obligations. As I wrote and edited the first draft of this post, I realized that I was blaming it on the boyfriend, but that isn’t fair. This is all me, all my hangups. So very many to dig through.

We aren’t from the same world, and I keep getting reminded of that. New Orleans is so different in its expectations. I was raised in a different culture, where you never ask for the things you need, and you always think twice before letting people go out of their way to help you. And if you have even half a backbone, you would never let anyone go out of their way, unless you’re in danger of imminent death/dismemberment (and honestly, probably not then, either). In short, I was raised to feel ashamed if anyone had to lift a finger to help me when I could have figured out a way to do the thing myself. My own mother didn’t get out of bed in the morning to make me breakfast when I was a first grader, for gods’ sakes.

And though I don’t expect people to feel ashamed when I help them, I certainly do not enjoy being at the mercy of others. It always feels like the underlying emotion on their part should be begrudging, at best, but more likely some sort of seething animosity, a criticism of my weakness and pointlessness as a human being. Whenever people do nice things for me, I feel like I’ve pressured them into it. I hate that feeling. I’d rather just not have them go out of their way at all. I’d much rather walk 5 miles to the store than ask a friend for a ride. Or hand wash all of my clothes rather than ask the friend who lives a block away to use her washer now and then.

Anyway, a friend invited us over to watch the series premiere of American Gods, and offered to pick us up from my house. Then when we were there, she bought pizza and fed everyone (no pizza for me – I stuck to the stuffed grape leaves and La Croix that I’d brought). We were the last to leave, since I was waiting on the boyfriend to call an Uber (I couldn’t afford one, or I’d have done it earlier), but then the host offered to give us a ride home, too. I didn’t want her to. It felt like we were putting too much on her plate. Where I’m from, you offer to do something like that, but with the full expectation that the person will tell you no and go on to do the polite thing – find their own damn way home. In the end, we got into her car, the boyfriend handing me the chips and salsa he’d taken from the kitchen. I put them next to me on the seat, and at the first turn, the salsa jar fell over. The lid wasn’t screwed on. To my horror, salsa spread out all over the backseat, the scent permeating the car.

Our host/driver was so gracious about it, but I was incredibly embarrassed. And because the host didn’t seem to take it badly at all, neither did the boyfriend. Given their behavior at the situation, I know I should have been able to follow suit and just let it go. But really, I was so angry at myself for not checking the lid, and annoyed with him for putting me in a position where I’d have to overthink things and go checking lids after him, and also for forcing me to be beholden to our host for the rides to and from her apartment, and then again at myself for being so negative and not being able to take things at face value.

At the same time, I know that had someone spilled an entire jar of salsa in the back of my car, I probably wouldn’t be angry at them. I’d clean it up and move on with my life. And I know that if I offered to give someone a ride somewhere, it would be my prerogative. But I’m having trouble digging myself out of the guilt loop, and feeling like I just ruined our host’s night by putting her through so much trouble, and feeling like I can’t talk to the boyfriend at all about this because it makes me look insane. But I’m pretty sure he’d also see that I’m hurt and he’d be sensitive to that. Holy fuck, my brain hurts.

Also, I used all of my paper towels and my very last clean towel in helping clean out the back of that car, and I just don’t have the money for paper towels or the laundromat right now. I was already in a state over the amount of money I’ve spent this weekend, between getting my hair cut (which was entirely necessary) and a few meals out that I shouldn’t have bought. I did waste too much money on Friday night and then getting breakfast out yesterday and today. I simply do not have a spare penny to spend on anything besides exactly what my budget dictates, and because of this weekend I will be screwed for the rest of the month. I knew that, and I did it anyway. I keep doing this to myself. I hate being poor. I hate being in debt. Now I’m thoroughly wound up. At least I’m too broke to buy too much food; there’s that.

It’s time for bed. Too much to do at work tomorrow morning to keep badgering myself with things that have long since passed.

Day 4: Redux

Probably should have trusted my instincts more; there was no meditation group at the Healing Center tonight. Even so, it wasn’t a complete dud of a trip. First off, I hit my Fitbit daily steps goal on my long walk around the Healing Center. Secondly, I had a mini adventure, and got out of my head for a little bit, despite the adversity. Best of all, I was able to identify some triggers, then stop them in their tracks.

The New Orleans Healing Center is a total maze. There are four floors, with multiple stairwells leading up to various places that you can’t get to by other stairwells. It’s super confusing, but luckily I don’t get stressed out by getting lost or turned around, which is good, because I spent about 15 minutes wandering around in circles. There’s lots of signage, but it’s not entirely clear, so I got to the second floor and couldn’t find the stairs to the third floor, and ended up taking the stairs to another second floor, then realized that the first second floor was actually the mezzanine? Yup, totally lost.

After a while, I found an elevator, but when I got to the fourth floor, there was a security gate pulled over the elevator exit, so I had to go back down to the second floor, where I found a set of exit stairs that took me up to the fourth floor, but then the door was locked. I honestly still don’t know if I was taking the right stairs or not. For all I know, there was a whole other set of stairs on the other side of the building, and the meditation group is happening right now. But it was already past the event start time, so I decided to call off the search for the missing mindfulness group and move on with life.

As predicted earlier, as soon as I realized that I wasn’t making it to a meditation meeting tonight, my very first thought was to go to the food co-op and buy something tasty to cheer myself up. But I took the thought and sat with it for a moment, dissected it and took the time to talk it through and ask myself if I was really hungry, or if I was using food to smother my emotions. As soon as I paid attention to the root of the impulse, it wasn’t strong anymore. I was able to put it away and move on.

I decided to look at all of the flyers and leaflets and bulletin boards (there are many throughout the building), to see if I could find any other meditation group information that might be useful. On the ground floor, there’s a little thrift store that’s always closed when I happen by, but today it was still open. I walked in, and there was a gorgeous tie-dyed maxi dress sitting front and center on the first rack. It was just so vibrant and cheerful, I had to at least try it on. The shopkeeper was this chipper, energetic young woman who brightened up the room when she came over to ask if I needed help, so my mind was half made up before I even found out if the dress fit. Then, when I was trying it on in the bathroom, I came out of the stall to check myself out in the mirror, and another woman was there. She and I chatted for a minute, and she told me that I looked so happy in the dress, it seemed perfect for me. It’s a teeny bit snug in the boobs, but in a good way. My cleavage looks amazing! I’m so used to feeling like a frumpy stuffed sausage in all of my clothes; it’s nice to notice something nice about myself. I’m totally rocking my new frock this summer at the beach.

As I left the Healing Center, on my way past the food co-op I again had the impulse to go in. This time the thought was, “I’ve been so good today – I deserve a treat!” So in less than 30 minutes, I had the impulse to eat because I was frustrated, and to eat as a kind of prize for good behavior. It almost felt like a little kid trying a different tactic to get a treat. I again thought it through as I was walking out, and gently just reminded myself that I wasn’t hungry, and there were other ways to be happy. Thought process filed away for later dissection.

Once I was outside in the sun, safely past the temptation of the co-op soup bar, I thought maybe it was time to find a diversion instead of heading straight home. I decided to text a couple of girlfriends in the neighborhood to see if anyone was out and about and wanted to hang out for a little bit. It turns out that one of them will be available in 30 minutes or so, so she and I are going to take a walk around the neighborhood with her dog.

Down the street from my house, I caught something cool out of the corner of my eye: a really pretty wine box was sitting on the curb. There was a man nearby in his side yard, doing some clean up work, so I politely asked if the box was his. He showed me how it had a little termite damage, and then gave me a second box that was sitting in his garage. Score!

Today’s Interactions: I initiated conversations with three different hotel guests in the elevator today, and ended up meeting people from Raleigh and Nashville. I also spoke with the shopkeeper and a nice lady stranger at the Healing Center. I asked two different people if they wanted to hang out (one said yes!), and then when I got home, I initiated a conversation with my landlord about the new flower garden that he’s planting in the front yard. Later, I went walking with the friend who said yes, and though I don’t know her that well, I decided to take the plunge and tell her about the binge eating and seeking help. It was a great talk, and I think we might help each other, as she had some ideas for me, too.

Definitely patting myself on the back for getting completely out of my comfort zone today, and not freaking out about it. Go me!