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When I first tested positive, the shame was the worst part of all. My symptoms at first were pretty bad--fever, awful headache, everything aching and hurting, loss of appetite--but still, the shame was the worst part of all. I felt ashamed of getting it, ashamed of exposing others at work, ashamed of testing negative for the days leading up to testing positive (I work a writing job and we get tested every day), ashamed of not having symptoms the day I tested positive, ashamed of not being an absolutely perfect human being who can do no wrong, ashamed of not having control over a global pandemic.

Of course, logically, I knew the system was fucked up, I knew everyone was getting it, I knew that I'm not actually invincible and would probably get it at some point. But I think as a (recovering) perfectionist, it was hard at first to accept the L. I loved that I had never gotten it before. See, the thing about me is that I love streaks. When I'm in a streak, it's hard to let go of it. It's why I currently have a 151-week streak with Peloton. Or why I've watched six cities of Real Housewives since the pandemic started. Or why I had to forcefully make myself stop playing Animal Crossing because I literally couldn't stop playing and it was affecting my life. (Addiction comes in many forms, people!) So when I tested positive after not getting it for over two years, it took a minute for me to actually surrender to it.

But after being sick for the first couple of days, I finally did have a moment of surrender. And I thought, wow, I feel so grateful for this experience! I feel a level of surrender I've never felt before! I feel like I've expanded and created space! It took Covid to get me to actually let the fuck go of everything and I did and I feel amazing!

And then the next day I thought, nevermind. I hate everything. Without the distraction of being severely sick, I was now faced with all my feelings that had already been there. And I was angry. Pissed. Seething, really. And then the anger turned into sadness. And then the thoughts turned dark and unkind.

The truth is I had already been in a challenging place emotionally for over a month leading up to this. Lots of personal things. Life things. That were bringing me a lot of anxiety and fear. So testing positive felt like another kick in the stomach when I was already down. The shame was no longer the worst part of this experience. Having to face myself and feel my feelings was.

It was jarring. Unbearable at times. I thought, why didn't anyone tell me about this part? Everyone talks about the symptoms. "They're mild!" they'd say. Or what to eat, what to drink, what to do. "Zinc lozenges! Vitamin D!" But no one told me about their mental health. No one told me, "Well, you are isolated in a bedroom for 10 days, your life stops suddenly, so you'll have to confront everything you've been avoiding by usually staying busy, and it can turn into a dark spiral where you think thoughts you haven't thought in a long time and you will lose all concepts of time and life and self-esteem and self-worth."

And then the majority of my isolation was spent in suffering, because it felt wrong to not be productive. I couldn't be creative because physically and emotionally and spiritually I felt like shit. I couldn't ride the Peloton because it was in another room. I did manage to start doing yoga and strength workouts. But did it come from a place of feeling like I had to? That I had to keep my streak up? That I needed to do something because I wasn't doing enough? Yes. (But also, I was on Season 7 of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, and Teresa Giudice did yoga every day in prison, so I thought, if Teresa could do it, I could do it.)

And then this shit made me mad. How infuriating to live in a system that makes us feel this way. The world is falling apart and yet we all learn that we couldn't possibly be doing enough. It's one mass shooting after the other, one tragedy after the other, one failure after the other, and we can't even pause and take a damn breath. We keep going and going and going. No time for processing. No time for nurturing. Money money money that's all that matters. Our values are fucked. And I am brainwashed just by being born. Because here I am in a global pandemic, sick, struggling with mental health, haven't hugged my husband in 11 days, and all I'm worried about is not doing enough, not being enough, and yes, this is the worst part of the experience, this right here.

I await my test results and hope to get out of isolation today. I still feel like shit, the fatigue is real, and I am out of breath just by telling a story out loud. And now I am welcomed by a new fear--having to return to the world that already sucked.

There is a message I received while meditating on day 3 of my isolation: The Universe wants you to stop. The things that are unfolding now, personally, and collectively, are all guiding you to just stop. It will get worse until you stop. STOP.

When I was eleven years old, I went to this Catholic weekend retreat for kids. I'm actually guessing I was eleven, because I remember playing the drums to "Zombie" by The Cranberries on stage, and I just looked up when that song was released. It was definitely a feeling of that time in middle school, when I was taking drum lessons and wearing baby tees with ridiculously huge jeans.

On the last day of the retreat, our parents came for the service. And I faked speaking in tongues. Well, now I know that, while it was happening, I did not know that. I was on stage, with my eyes closed, babbling nonsense at full commitment, as the priest held the microphone in front of my face, raving about how incredible I was. The Holy Spirit was speaking through me!

When I flash back to that moment, I just remember wondering what the big deal was. You want me to make a bunch of stupid sounds? I can make a bunch of stupid sounds. (God, I wish I could make the sounds for you right now, because I remember them, and boy are they good.) I made the stupid sounds, and wasn't expecting such a huge reaction. I remember keeping my eyes closed because I couldn't possibly face the huge audience in front of me, I just had to keep making these stupid sounds.

I was so relieved when it was over. And I swear--to this day--I had never seen my parents so proud of me. I sadly have no other memory of the both of them, together, smiling, and so happy. About me. Everyone was going up to them and gushing, in awe of their daughter.

To this day, this story makes me laugh so much to envision it. I just think back to little eleven-year-old me, just giving everyone what they wanted.

And I think of this story now, because I recently have shifted into this place where I no longer want to give everyone what they want. I have struggled for a long time with trying to be what I think people want me to be, wanting to be liked, wanting to fit in, feeling obligated to do things I don't want to, wanting to help everyone who needs my help, wanting to do the right thing. This especially started to happen after my several rock bottoms and subsequent recoveries; my whole mission became to help people, if I could just help everyone, the awful past that I was ashamed of would be worth it.

It's funny how you learn about being of service, but nobody talks much about the importance of boundaries. My biggest lesson in the past few years has been boundaries. Boundaries are hard, because most people who are unaware of healthy boundaries, will assume you are "selfish." How dare someone be selfish! How dare someone take care of themselves! You must suffer through life like the rest of us! (Why are we taught all the wrong things?)

Boundaries were really challenging for someone like me, it's hard to learn boundaries when you weren't raised with any. When we think of boundaries on a surface level, there are the obvious ones, like disengaging from harmful relationships or situations, but the truth is that boundaries are so much more than just the obvious. It's taking full responsibility for your energy and becoming fully aware and mindful of what you're doing with it and where you are putting it. It's saying no not only to the obvious and harmful, but saying no to even really kind people or really cool things. It's letting go of energetically assaulting people by dumping on them. It's shutting down someone who is dumping on you. It's stopping the habit of oversharing (this was me, truly a huge sign of so much unhealed trauma, LOL because it's still cringey and embarrassing). It's experiencing true intimacy by building actual relationships in a healthy way, and not giving that intimacy to people who haven't earned it. (When my therapist told me about "unearned intimacy" it blew my mind and I realized so many relationships that I thought were friendships were definitely not.) It’s respecting people’s time, respecting your own time. Staying out of other people’s business. Boundaries are even letting go of labeling yourself an "empath" and learning how to not take other people on--yep, that shit is just bad boundaries. You can literally focus on your own healing and learn how to manage that shit and use your sensitivity for only good.

And so much is the practice of boundaries with your self. It's not only setting the boundaries but following through. Because if you aren't respecting your own boundaries, why should others? It's choosing yourself first and doing what you need for yourself in order to be able to show up as your best self. It's listening to your body and no longer abandoning your own needs. Because another thing that's pretty messed up about boundaries is that you can't teach other people how to have them. You can only show others what your own boundaries are by sticking to them. (Trust me, I've learned this the hard way.)

For me, it was letting go of people-pleasing and then being okay with the consequences of that--disappointing people, what other people will think--just the worst things to think of as someone who was raised to be codependent. So nowadays, I am intentionally trying to be less available. Trying to give people less access. I am finally understanding now, as a 38-year-old, that I actually don't owe everyone anything. That I actually don't have to do anything that I don't want to do. I am a highly sensitive introvert. I recharge and replenish in solitude. I have to take care of myself or I become resentful and terrible. I'm doing this for all of us!!!!

It continues to be challenging, but what helps me follow through is to remember that I am simply being authentic. I am practicing integrity. I am doing what I need to do to be the most mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy, in order to... wait for it... BE OF SERVICE.

We only start with so much energy a day... what are you doing with yours? I'm not letting mine leak into anything I'm not completely in love with anymore. I will not be making stupid sounds to get you to like me. Sorry Mom and Dad.

Yup, imagine her speaking in tongues.

I had to go to the dentist to get my front tooth fixed the other day. I chipped it. Well, I actually chipped it a really long time ago, and have gotten it fixed a few times over the years. It had been awhile since it chipped again. I was due. Normal chipped tooth stuff.

(I was just about to describe how I chipped it, and I decided to search my old Xanga posts - which are archived on Wordpress - for "chipped tooth" and found this post from June 5th, 2008, recalling the experience:)

the last time i fainted was in the summer of 2003 in New York City. i was in a club, probably dehydrated, and i fainted not once not twice but four times - first in the middle of the dance floor, then at the wall after throwing up, then in the bathroom stall as i was undoing my pants, then again as i was about to wash my hands at the sink. i ended up with a chipped tooth and busted lip. and now, here i am in Salt Lake City, Utah. and i fainted at the Erykah Badu concert.

I am laughing and cringing. The all lower case! The double spaces after the periods! No one needs to see how they wrote 14 years ago. It isn't far away enough, like when you read something from when you were five and it was adorable.

But then I kept looking and found my post from June 22nd, 2003. The cringe, indeed, gets much worse:

Last night, I met up with some old friends that I used to party, or I guess you can say '"rave'" with two years ago.  We smoked a lot of blunts...a lot, of this stuff called Sour Diesel.  I had a couple of beers, but other than that, I felt completely sober...not even really high.  Nothing can beat Cali weed. We headed out to Club Arc by about midnight.  Party ran 'till 8 in the morning. I really liked the club...excellent sound system, good music, nice small room for intimacy...they didn't serve alcohol, so you know everyone there was fucked up on drugs.  Not even long into my time being there, I was standing, kinda dancing, listening to the music, when all of a sudden, I got really dizzy.  Then, my vision started to slowly fade away.  I kinda put my hands on my knees, and then, next thing I know, I'm sprawled out in the middle of the dance floor.  I'm completely blacked out, but I think I remember actually being conscious, so, like, I knew that I was passed out on the floor.  I finally came to, 'cause people were trying to get me to wake up.  They moved me to a big block thing to go lay on. Then I threw up. Then I fainted again, on that big block. Two of the girls I was with came to me.  I told them I needed water.  Keep in mind that I had no idea what the fuck was going on with me...because this was really random.  It's not like I dropped or anything.  I was feeling completely fine. I told them that I wanted to go to the bathroom.  They had to walk me, 'cause even though my eyes were open, I couldn't see anything, everything was black.  Really scary feeling. We got to the bathroom, and next thing I know, I'm on the bathroom floor with them trying to wake me up! I spit out something from my mouth - I fell on my face so I chipped my front right tooth.  I also had a pretty busted lip.  I drank more water... I got into the stall, and the last thing I remembered was starting to undo my pants...but next thing I see, they're trying to wake me up again! I fainted in the stall. They said that they heard a big sound, and saw my legs coming from under the stall door.  My friend Linda got me another bottle of water.  I started to feel better as I chugged the entire thing.  We sat there in the bathroom for awhile until I felt a little better.  Then we went back on the dance floor. Of course I wasn't feeling too hot and I was still kind of in shock of what the fuck just happened to me, so I sat down.  I wanted to go home, but there was no way I could, since all my stuff was still back at the apartment we were at.  And it's not like anyone was gonna leave. So I sat there - for maybe five hours straight.  I tried to sleep for awhile, but security came up to me shining a flashlight in my face and told me to stay awake.  I almost wanted to say to him, "I'm not on fuckin' drugs, you moron, I'm just tired!"  So, I sat there, talking to whoever ended up next to me every now and then, staring at the lights, watching people be fucked up, and of course taking in the beautiful music. I think I might have been dehydrated.  This kind of thing (but definitely not as major) happened at Raging Waters when I was in middle school.  I got the same initial feeling, but went to First Aid and they gave me some Gatorade and I was alright.  It was really hot in the club, and I think I remembered being really thirsty but not thinking anything of it.  Plus, when I ate a big stoner dinner, I didn't have anything to drink with it.  So maybe that's a possibility? We left at about 7.  They went to an afterparty in Brooklyn.  Hell yeah I wanted to go home! I'm gonna try and get the tooth fixed when I go to Arizona this week, 'cause I'm sure it'll be cheaper than it would be here.  Great, I get to see Don with a chipped tooth and a fucked up lip.  I guess it could've been worse, I mean, good thing security didn't see.  I would have gotten in big trouble!  Plus they probably would've took me out in a stretcher and I would be the symbol of those anti-rave commercials.  What kills me is that I wasn't even on E.  Ha.  What the fuck happened?!?!

"This stuff called Sour Diesel". My snobbery on Cali weed. "Excellent sound system." Things being "random." "And of course the beautiful music." Swearing and probably thinking I was so cool, because I was 19 years old. Oversharing every detail. Referring to yet another time of fainting and not having learned the lesson. And my raver boyfriend who lived in Arizona, my raver boyfriend that I met at a rave in San Francisco, who isn't even alive anymore.

It's such a trip to look back at POV's from your past. It always reminds me that the things I am thinking and saying and doing and writing right now... will eventually make me cringe in the future. Humbling!

It's also interesting to look back on how we tell stories, and how they change. How they edit themselves as they get further away. If I were to describe this night to you now, I would have told you that I was a child that had no idea how to take care of herself. I would tell you that I was definitely on drugs, because even though I wasn't on ecstasy, I had smoked a lot of weed. I would tell you that I was prone to fainting and it was a recipe for failure because it was hot and enclosed, and I hadn't been drinking water. And I would tell you that it took me until my 30s until I learned how to take care of myself, because now I very rarely get high, if I did it wouldn't be in public, I eat well and drink a lot of water, and I leave when I want to. Could you believe I was in my 20s at the Erykah Badu concert and that shit was still happening?

Because you just don't know... until you know. Which always makes me wonder-- what don't I know now? And how embarrassing is it?

You know, this blog didn't end up at all like I had originally planned. I was going to write about how when we are reminded of things from our past, they're opportunities to acknowledge how far we've come. How I can have a flashback of something I had completely forgotten, hear an old song, remember an old relationship, or smell a specific scent and time travel to whoever I was at the time, not knowing what I do now, wishing for all these things that eventually came true. How the cool job I have now is close to the building where my old group therapy was, where I once went to every single week when I was in some of the most painful and hopeless times of my life, and I get to drive by it, and remember. How life is funny and fun and weird and messed up and miraculous. But then I got distracted by old Xanga posts.

Can't wait 'til this post embarrasses me one day. (I still listen to EDM.)

Understandably did not have a photo from Club Arc, but here is one from Limelight in 2001, where I cropped out the glowstickers from West Point I had just met.

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