To the Girl Who Came After Me

Shortly after I finally came to terms with the reality of my previous horribly abusive relationship, I wrote an open letter to the girl who came before me. I had finally seen what she tried to warn me about. I had finally understood why she had run. I had this to say:

To the girl who came before me

I didn’t believe you. No one did. No one wanted to believe that this handsome, charming guy was capable of the things you claimed. 

He made it look so black and white – he was wronged, and you were crazy. You ran, burned your bridges, cut your ties. Without your side of the story, he was free to write history however he saw fit.

I was weak and desperately lonely when he came along. He likes girls that way, I think. It lets him set all the rules and stack the deck. Weakened girls are easily controllable. Easily manipulated. Easily used.

I should have listened better. That’s true. But trust me when I say I paid for that mistake. He used me, hurt me, lied to me, cheated on me, discarded me, and then came back later to brag to me about all of it. If you hoped I would be punished, you got your wish.

And I understand now why you didn’t try to fight back. If I could tell my side of the story to the next girl, I wouldn’t. I’m too tired. Too done. I just want him gone from my heart and mind. 

I’m sorry. You deserved better. I deserved better. And as for what he deserves, I’ll be crossing my fingers that it finds him.

There is something horrifying about having to write this kind of letter. It’s already a nightmare to step out of an abusive relationship and find your feet again, but to then look back on the way you treated your predecessor and realize that she went through that same nightmare and you blamed her, ridiculed her, and vilified her, is mortifying.

Now I’m the girl who came before. Now I’m the predecessor. And Karma is a bitch.

So here we are. And here are some things that I want the next girl to know, although I will never speak to her again if I have my way.

To the girl who came after me:

It’s important to me that we are able to acknowledge that you and I do not know each other. We have had exactly one interaction, and have never been so much as in the same room. You’ve never spoken to me in person, never seen anything about my life, never interacted with me in the flesh. You know nothing about my history. You know nothing about my family. You know nothing about my character.

What you do know – or think you know – is what a man who has a vested interest in painting me as crazy wants you to believe. I heard his words in your message, accusing me of being attention seeking. That’s his phrase, not yours, and it’s not the first time he’s weaponized it against me.

I did my best to stay as far away from you as possible. I went well out of my way to be sure we would never accidentally interact either online or in real life. But you hunted me down anyway. You have things to say, just like I did once upon a time. You have a perspective on the situation you thought was accurate, just like I did once. You feel loyalty and love and a fierce desire to protect and defend someone you believe is a victim, and I have been in those exact shoes with the exact same person. One of his biggest talents is gaining people’s loyalty, and he obviously has yours.

You spoke about my right to have an opinion, as though you believed that the claims I made about him were based on hearsay or secondhand information, rather than first-hand personal experience. I stand by what I said before. I don’t owe you an explanation. I don’t owe you my story. And if I never have to tell that story from beginning to end again that will make me happy.

You’ve known him for a just over a year. I’m certain that in that year you’ve come to the conclusion that you know every part of him. I’m certain that in that year you have found a firm belief that you are closer to him than anyone. Maybe you are. But I remember that belief. I remember that feeling of knowing him better than anyone else. Convincing people to believe that they have seen a special and secret side of him is the best way for him to present anyone who offers a different perspective as being insane.

I have known him now for almost a decade. And in the nearly 10 years that we have been friends, best friends, and even dated, I have never seen him change on a fundamental level. He has always been the man I fled: manipulative, controlling, narcissistic, addicted to drama.

If he has magically done a 180° turn in the last year, wonderful. I wish you happiness. But if he hasn’t – if one day you open your eyes and find yourself in the same spot I did, that my predecessor did, that her predecessor did – know that I am here for you.

The girl who came before me has shown me grace and kindness even though I was hostile to her the way you have been hostile to me. She understands how easily people get swept up in his aura, and how deftly he can pull their strings once he has them.

You always have a space among people who understand, should you ever need it. You will always be able to find understanding and acceptance from the people who came before you, if the worst should happen. 

Until that day, the prospect of attempting to defend myself to you feels exhausting and completely pointless. For as long as he has you in his pocket you will never hear the truth without reacting with the same venom you did with me. I know this because I was you, and when I was you, no amount of reason or history was enough to break through that manipulation. 

So I won’t try. You are not my responsibility. But I do hope that you are able to see the truth before he harms you. No one deserves what he did to me, or the girl before me, or the girl before her. You certainly don’t. And I’m sorry that the wheel turns but nothing ever changes. I’m sorry that if you ever see him for how he actually is, that realization will come with pain. You deserve better.

A Day In The Life Of The Autoimmune 

When I wake up – after a night just like all the others: fitful and short – I’m already in pain. The pain is mostly in my shoulders, right wrist, and right knee, so I know right away it’s an arthritic flare up. Could be caused by the weather outside, or the way I slept, or even something I ate the day before.

I wake up when my daughter does, and find the energy to drag myself out of bed long enough to get her breakfast, change her diaper, and turn on Netflix. The guilt settles in my chest as I click on Little Einsteins and think about how many other mornings this week have started this way.

Then it’s back to bed with the first of many cups of coffee, to count my spoons. I need one for work later: physical work, as these days I’m primarily a housekeeper and yoga instructor. I add an extra spoon for the teaching. Interacting with people always takes a little more energy than working on my own does. At the thought, I pull closed the curtains around my bed so I can soak up a few more minutes of introvert time, meditate, and fuel up for the day. 

Out comes the planner: my brain on paper. I can’t trust the foggy mess inside my head, so everything goes in a little square with color-coded pencils and perfectly coordinated shapes to remind me of things most people can remember on their own. Further down the week, I have yet another doctor appointment. I’m already tired just thinking about it.

Breakfast isn’t happening today. I have a lot of food in my house, but almost nothing that my body will tolerate. I opt for a granola bar and some juice. My hair goes into a ponytail, against the wishes of my tension headache. My body hurts. It always hurts. It’s the predictable result of ignorantly poisoning myself almost nonstop for 23 years. I take medicine.

As I teach, I feel the pain migrating from my shoulders to my elbows, and settling in my hips. I nurse my joints, and coach from my mat, rather than demonstrating every pose. My regular students understand.

After work I take a power nap. Another necessity, if I’m going to make it through the rest of the day. I awake in a state of deep derealization. Ten full minutes of mindfulness later, the fog in my brain finally starts to lift enough for me to feel like I’m in the real world again. When I touch things, I can feel them. My boyfriend’s voice sounds like himself in my ears again. I make coffee.

The phone rings, a number I don’t recognize, and I send it to voicemail, to be dealt with when I have more spoons. I pray it isn’t another friend that I’ve disappointed by disappearing in the last couple of weeks.

Dinner is the biggest – and for me, most important – meal of the day. I summon the energy from my nap to pour as many nutrients as possible into a single meal. I studiously check the ingredients list of every single item before adding it to the pan. If all goes well, the meal will be nourishing. If things don’t go so well, I will overlook a crucial ingredient or discover a new intolerance and spend the rest of the evening downing digestive enzymes. 

Worst case scenario, I eat something something new that looks like it’s allergen-free but isn’t. That’s a mistake I could be paying for for days on end.

When I put my daughter to bed, we do a little bit of light yoga. I feel my joints crack and creak as I do the gentle stretches. By the end of our five minute routine, I barely have enough energy left to bathe myself and fall into bed. It’s 7:30 PM, and I can’t believe how late it feels. 

I take more medicine. A multivitamin the size of a horse pill to compensate for everything I cannot eat. SSRIs to keep the fog at bay and keep me moving. Allergy medication so I can breathe.

I will doze off immediately out of sheer exhaustion, but the sleep won’t last long before it becomes light and fitful again, full of pain and, frequently, sleep paralysis. It’s all part of the territory.

This is an average day, and, realistically, not a bad one. I will likely discover, somewhere down the road, that my new lotion has wheat byproducts in it and that’s why I’m in pain today. Or maybe a few nights ago we used a spice from the cabinet that had been contaminated. Maybe my daughter, immediately after her glutenous snack, stuck her fingers in my drink while I was out of the room. Maybe the waitress at that restaurant lied to me about the allergen content of my meal.

I feel guilty all the time. Guilty for flaking out on my friends when they want to see me after months of silence. Guilty about snapping at my loved ones, or panicking over something they said that was meant to be benign. Guilty about letting my kid watch so much TV, and for not taking her out of the house more frequently.

It is what it is. If I’m completely honest with myself, I’m happy. Truly, deeply happy. I am surrounded by people I love and who love me. My life is overflowing with good things. In my heart and spirit I am not miserable. 

Some days though, I wish my body would get the memo.

Why I Make Art

Neil Gaiman talks about success as a mountain – a beacon and a focal point, which gives us a direction when we start to lose our way. My mountain is two words, and I have begun to hear them: “me too.”

I make art because I want to have others see what I create and say “me too.”

“That resonates.”

“I have experienced this.”

“I know this pain.”

“I have felt this joy.”

“I do this myself.”

Me too.

Me too.

Me too.

My art isn’t just me. I draw from my own life and experiences but it isn’t just about mine. It’s about the connection I have to others like me. It’s about the connection we all have through life, through emotion, through heartbreak and triumph and fear and dreams.

So if you find yourself asking why I make art, you aren’t my audience. If you wonder why I model, why I write, why I paint (badly), you’re not the person I’m trying to reach. But if you see what I make and can say “me too,” my art is for you. It’s dedicated to you. It belongs to you.

And the day I stop hearing “me too,” I’ll check to be sure I’m still facing the mountain.

I had a first date with Seattle today and it could have gone better


I woke up this morning feeling like it was Christmas. I bounced out of bed around 7am, packed a day bag, and got dressed up. Cute dress, leggings, short boots, pearl earrings, the works. If I was going to Seattle, I was gonna look the part, dammit.

For a few weeks now I’ve had the itch to run away to somewhere new, but with a job that usually has me working seven days a week and a toddler who only spends twelve hours a week with her dad, it didn’t seem to be in the cards. As soon as I discovered, yesterday around noon, that I would have the whole day to do whatever I wanted, I knew exactly where I wanted to be.

My first (and only) foray to the western side of the state was with my ex-boyfriend, who – I’m just gonna say it – was a massive douche. We drove my car (and by “we” I mean I drove while he played on his phone and slept), and when he was awake he spent the whole time baiting me and manipulating my emotions. We only made it as far as Bellevue, which is where he needed to go, and he made me wait at a nearby Starbucks while he had his short appointment, because he didn’t want the person he was meeting to know he was seeing anyone. He never reimbursed me for the gas, either. I spent most of the trip deciding to dump him.

I’m not big on letting places or events get ruined for me by shitty people, so I knew as I merged onto the interstate and set my GPS for Pike Place Market that I was going to redeem this journey for myself.

And guys, Washington is SUCH a pretty state. Mindy Kaling’s second book Why Not Me kept me company as I drove through the pass at a speed I would never reach with my child in the car. I drove all the way into Seattle proper, which means today I went further west than I have ever been. That felt good.

I drove through downtown once, saw the Pike Place Market sign as I passed by, and experienced the New York-like throngs of people (during the day on a Monday??) swarming around my car in crosswalks like schools of fish moving around a whale. After deciding that it was too crowded for my comfort (and that there was no way in hell I was paying $15 an hour for parking), I took the advice of a local friend and checked out the University District.

There’s a cute little cafe/coffeehouse here called Chacos Canyon. I locked my key in the car just outside of it.

I locked my key. My only key. In my car. In Seattle. On a day when I packed my own food because my budget is so small. My KEY.

Through a series of pretty stressful circumstances, I was eventually rescued (THANK YOU, CHRISTOPHER) but I’ll be honest, I was humiliated. Because honestly, I really, really, really wanted Seattle to like me.

This was supposed to be our big romantic meeting, Seattle and I. I got dolled up in the way I know it likes, and the sun was shining today (which I have heard is pretty rare on the westside.) I thought the odds were in our favor, but no. On our big first date, Seattle accidentally spilled wine on my dress and I accidentally insulted its haircut. In the end, I found a bathroom, changed out of my leggings, and bought a coke. A COKE. IN SEATTLE. I DON’T EVEN DRINK SODA.

Some things are just not meant to be, but if you never try, I guess you never know, you know? Maybe next time I’ll wear my pajamas and keep a spare key in my wallet. In the meantime, I have a killer playlist for the drive back, so it’s all good.

Things in my life I wish I could automate

My generation has moved into a state of practical automation. We have pretty much everything auto-shipped to us, and automate whatever we can get our hands on. My first encounter with practical automation was Dollar Shave Club, a company that will send you new razors for a reasonable price every month. In the same vein, I get replacement toothbrushes and water pitcher filters dropped in my mailbox on a regular basis for no more than it would cost me to go out and buy them. Now, I don’t have to remember to buy them, which itself is worth it’s weight in gold when you are as insanely busy as I am.

This set-it-and-forget-it system for practical use products is to my generation what auto bill pay was to my parents. In the spirit of supporting young entrepreneurs who are looking for their particular set-it-and-forget-it gold mine, here are three proposals I have for the things that I would love to automate in my life. Feel free to steal.

1. My facial expression/body language when something unexpected happens. I am not great at reacting outwardly the way I react inwardly. It has been observed to me on many occasions by people who love me that the more excited or happy I am about something the more I clam up. This can be very confusing, particularly when coupled with the resting bitch face that I, thankfully, only experience before coffee. I am also a nervous giggler, which can be even more confusing when the situation is one of sadness or trauma and I am laughing like the Joker. I propose some sort of system that allows me to create predetermined reactions for different types of situations, and tells my brain when and how to react properly.

2. Some sort of database for all the witty one-liners I come up with when I’m alone. I walk in the mornings, and during that quiet time I frequently think of all the funny and clever remarks that I could be making to people. Of course, I never think of these remarks in the moment. I propose some sort of system that allows me to file these away in a portion of my brain where they will be automatically retrieved when an opportunity presents itself. Think of it like a caching system or a queue for all of my one-liners and comebacks.

3. Eye makeup. Seriously, automated eyeliner that does my makeup for me perfectly every single time. Preferably while I’m sleeping so I wake looking like Rhianna. 
You are welcome.