What's today'topic?" My boyfriend asks at breakfast.
"A Secret Skill I have," I cock my head and look at him. "Fact: As an megalomaniac, I have no secret skills, and will or have absolutely told you about all of my skills."
Without missing a beat, he replies. "And there's the bad habit to write about."
I missed writing yesterday. I didn't want to, but I did and oh well. Writing for 14 days straight (I started early) has been fun. And fundamentally, I'm all for days of rest as a concept.
I wasn't going to write about being an egotist as my bad habit. I was going to write about this weird thing I do where I bite my cuticles and can't stop and the many ways I have tried to alleviate it over the years, but yeah, comparatively, that's a cop-out. Writing about being an egomaniac is much more flashy.
Words "egotistical" and "megalomaniac" I adopted over time after hearing them or seeing them painted on dastardly characters I liked. (Oh Lestat, what a babe!), but they don't quite fit. Certainly the head of our government this year has redefined what it means to be a megalomaniac, and I am decidedly lacking.
Merriam Webster define egotism as:
1. excessive use of the first person singular personal pronoun:the practice of talking about oneself too much
2. an exaggerated sense of self-importance
Close, but not quite. Not the perfect adjective.
In high school, I discovered Johari and Nohari windows. Straight from them:
"The Johari Window was invented by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in the 1950s as a model for mapping personality awareness. By describing yourself from a fixed list of adjectives, then asking your friends and colleagues to describe you from the same list, a grid of overlap and difference can be built up."
Johari is the good qualities. See mine here.
Nohari is the bad qualities. See mine here.
Unpicked by me but rated extremely highly in the Nohari was "self-satisfied." Let's see about that one:
Self-satisfaction -a usually smug satisfaction with oneself or one's position or achievements.
Ah, yes. That fits the bill. Maybe when I was 18 I suffered from delusions of glory, but thankfully I read enough Ayn Rand to get tired of it and yank myself from the grips of fanatical selfishness. Not bad selfishness. Not a "Mine, mine, mine" Scrooge McDuck selfishness with no regard for helping other people. I could give, I could help. I can self-sacrifice with the best. But certainly a sense of, "I am amazing and wonderful. Hear me roar!"
However, I didn't realize thinking and proclaiming to the world that I was great could tell other people they weren't. When I see Heidi Klum, I don't think "Oh god, I'm so ugly." When I see Elon Musk or Bill Gates, I don't think, "Oh god, I'm such an idiot." When I see anything anyone with traits that are fantastic or desirable, it doesn't bring to mind my deficiencies. For me it brings about a wave of fresh enthusiasm, "Hot damn! How do I get there?" With a healthy balance of knowing I might not get there. I might not ever be that beautiful or rich and famous, but I don't care because I love my life. It was a shock to me to learn that when others see you being successful, it can make them feel bad about their own accomplishments. It's the now well-studied "social media" effect whereby people because sad and jealous upon seeing the apparent happiness of others.
I don't like that effect, I want to reign in the part of being self-satisfied that makes people feel bad. That's why being an egoist remains relegated to "bad habit".
There is, though, a silver lining to knowing you have a big ego. With enough practice and control you can start throwing it around for other people. If I know someone has good ideas but are too timid or quiet to bring them up in meetings with the bullheads, I can throw in for them. (Always, always, always if you bring up an idea that's well received, credit the owner. You get as much respect for good ideas as you do crediting your peers). If someone makes feels awkward and shy, I can make the joke all on me knowing in 10 minutes I won't care while they may have fretted all day. Helping others, as always, is the penance to the sin.
I have to? Okay, if pressed, I'm sorry. I'm sorry seems to be the only thing to say.
Some people hang on thinking maybe if they had only said this or done this, things would be different. Maybe magic words drift in the ether and if only you could snag them and say them, you'd be saved.
But all the words in the world can't take back the bad ones you said.The anger, the hurt, the sheer and utter sadness and disappointment.
Words don't heal wounds -time does.
I have come to find that I am a melodramatic breakup-er, which I confess, is surprising. I'm typically not categorized as a terribly emotional person. But a breakup? Get ready for sad, reckless, angry and downright depressed Elise. I pondered and pondered why this was the case.
The short game is getting through it. The long game is getting better. If you don't get all the bad out in the short game, it'll stay with you for the long one.. The anger, the hurt, the deep seeded primal reactions are your reptile brain being angry. Let it rage; it likes to. If you let is dispel quickly, it haunts you for days or weeks, not months or years. If you don't let it out of your core, it sweeps out into the functioning, thoughtful part of your brain and takes root. I'm not going to pretend I'm okay now only to find out I've been concealing a cancer.
And so I whine and rage and get utterly exhausted of feeling all the feelings until I simply can't feel them anymore. They fade to black in my memory, with the passing of more and more time, taking up less and less grey matter. They remain, but they're buried in mounds and mounds of earth.
More words at the wrong point give them opportunity to return; I'd rather leave them buried. Foreign relics, anthropological wonders to be unearthed and explored after years have passed. Maybe then more words can be had.
Or maybe they can lay there and rot. Disintegrate back into the earth to be born again some other better time and place. Nothing's better than to start afresh.
I feel at peace.
I'm primarily an extrovert. I like being around people to recharge, feed off the energy that comes with loud nights and chaos. And yet, there's another part of me which periodically must enjoy isolation or be starved and irritable.
I went to a boarding school of 300 people contained in a two block perimeter. As teenagers, you were't allowed to leave campus unless you had a buddy to sign-out with. You had a roommate so you were rarely alone in your room. People stayed up until all hours studying for classes or crowding the common room to watch Grey's Anatomy. 'People, people, people all the time.
Except for 5am, when the doors officially "opened" from lockdown. I'd set my alarm for 5am so I could creep down, outside into the garden area for an hour or two before anyone woke. For an hour or two, I could sit and enjoy the stillness, the calm before the storm.
Much to the chagrin of my boyfriend, I don't just like being alone. I love it. I crave it. I need it. And yet, not to really be alone. No, I like to have a teammate. Someone I can rely on and to play with most of the time. It's only the few moments I need for real solitude. Like dessert -enjoyed only occasionally. Too often, I'd become overwhelmed. It'd spoil the taste. But a little bit every now and then?Just right.
What do I do in this alone time? Mostly this. I read, I write, I think things. Distill swirling, twirling thoughts into a coherent narrative. I give myself time to fully explore the idea of "What am I to do? Are they the right things? Should I do something different?" Proactive, not reactive. You don't want to plow through your life simply doing what's next because it's there, never contemplating on the when or why or how.
Or the should. What should it be? If you don't take the time to wonder, you'll never know.
They say, "No man is an island entire of itself. I think sometimes you need to be. "
I'm thankful for my body because….
It is strong.
Ha! I got you with the salacious words and pictures didn’t I?
Sorry to disappoint, but moments of feminine appeal aren’t why I'm thankful for my body. I love my body because it is strong. Because it has power and can do things. 15 mile hike battling the brutal grade of the Appalachian Trail? No problem. Dumping half a ton of chemical into a cooling tower 50 pounds a a time? Let's go. I want the blood, sweat and tears.
In middle school and high school, you develop a new interest in your body. Whereas it was perhaps taken for granted before, now it’s doing so many strange and intriguing things, it can’t go without notice. And you’re told by other people what you might think and feel about it. Maybe you’ll worry whether or not it’s attractive to others. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll decide you rank out as not bad, but not the best. Surely you’re never going to care about your hair or makeup or clothes the way other girls do. So since you can’t be the best, screw it. You’ll devote yourself to other efforts like books, brains and soccer.
Why starve yourself to be skinny? Being a jock will help on this quest. If you’re used to extreme physical performance, when the thought of “I wonder if I’m skinny enough” comes up, it can slide right off. It becomes “If I have to run more than six miles everyday to lose weight, ain’t happening. Too much work."
Real pride in your body doesn’t come when a boy twirls his fingers through your curls and says, “You’re so pretty.” It comes when he holds your jersey back after the front line has been released, and whispers, “At least give her a head start before you rip her up.” Or when you insist on shoving your way into the hazing ritual intended for the boys in your grade. Where seniors throw 20 pound boxes of fruit off trucks allowing five feet of fall to teach you the difference between mass and momentum. At the end though your arms are purple from the bruises, you haven’t dropped a box and you’re scooped up, paraded around for a week to show off your wounds.
Don’t worry, I dislike the thesis is based around the appeal of boys, too. Maybe we can’t help but base our feelings of our bodies off the appeal of others. But I like that I can tell you the appreciation is not because you’re a delicate feminine flower. It’s because you’re swole AF. Maybe by telling you it more, it can help you believe it. If not me, certainly J. Law, the queen, praising being fit and strong. Love your body because it is yours and you have so much to do with it.
Alright, alright. While we’re here. I'm also thankful for....
My cleavage. I think it’s perfect. I know perfect is a subjective term for something like this with so many styles and preferences, but I love it. It’s absolutely my favorite part of my body. I like being lush. Ripe with springtime promises, Ostara of the dawn. I know, I know. Stop being so affectual. I can't it. Maybe you're disappointed I'm not leaving on a message of strength, but you also need to appreciate your body in all it's blissful wonder, It's just the tits.
Dreams, dreams, dreams. What do I have to say about dreams?
Not much I'm afraid. A week in and without significant muse today, I was going to take you through my quote bibles and offer you pieces of wisdom I've gleaned from others. But when I consulted my bibles, I found they held no dreams. Only stoic platitudes or nihilistic realities and every so often, some small glimmer of hope. I suppose I'm not a wistful person. Dreams are the random misfires of my brain while it sorts data. Mine normally take the form of action movies where I'm the hero out to save the day. Ones I remember are rare; I am blessed with a deathlike sleep, locked away and unreachable.
The only dreams I have are of faraway lands bathed in sunshine like that beautiful view on the rooftops of Florence you see above.
I miss wanting things.
Wanting things with a fury.
To drown in pure want.
Life has been going so well;
I have everything I want.
Good job. I enjoy it.
It provides for all of my needs
and many of my simple wants.
Good boyfriend who's moved to be with me.
And, after months of wanting each other hours away,
we've got a nice domestic rhythm.
We're healthy, we exercise.
I drink tea and do yoga.
I am relaxed and centered.
Nothing to be worried about.
Nothing to be anxiety ridden about.
Because everything is going so damn well.
It's not that I don't want these things.
To be relaxed and comfortable unfamiliar.
But I do miss wanting.
I miss the experience of desperate need.
Of gnawing your fingers raw
Staying up all night, tossing and turning and churning.
A manic energy exists with want,
real want, pure want.
I want that.
I went to Chicago intent on falling in love with the town which held one of only 2 graduate programs in the country I was interested in. Pharmacognosy is the study of natural plants for medicinal purposes as I talked about in my Herbalism post. I’d been especially picky in choosing schools since my goals for grad school were well defined. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it and that this place was the best for it.
The school flew me up there to tour, arranging the flight and hotel room, pairing me and the other two candidates with professors and students to spend a day in the life. They hosted a formal dinner for us and after we went out partying with the students, playing pool and talking about medicinal chemistry as only chemistry nerds can.
However, as I wandered the city the next day, morning light coming in across Lake Michigan reflecting on the metal structures of Millennium Park, I settled myself into the idea that this place would be my home for the next 5 years.
And I almost started crying.
Of all the breakdowns I’ve had, this one caught me most unaware. Granted a night of drinking doesn’t do wonders for your emotional state the next day but I’m not one to really break down in public in tears. I’m not really one to break down in tears ever. But still, I sat on a park bench, quickly approaching disaster.
I pulled myself together, had a coffee, rode around the metro to get a scope of the city, and tried to talk myself down from the cliff. Of course, I didn't know what it was specifically, but my body and I get along well enough that I trust it’s instincts about things.
It was the lack of green. No trees, no forest, no apparent wilderness. My standard stress reliever is to get in my car and drive through the back country where it’s only green trees and blue skies. To head out to some secluded spot where I can just lay in the grass and get some fresh air. Chicago had none of that. It was all office complexes, high rises, miles and miles of sidewalk and pavement stretching as far as the eye could see.
I hated it. I couldn't do it. I couldn't live here.
So I tucked my tail between my legs and headed back to Alabama. While touring the school I had asked the professor tasked with leading us how many people they planned to accept into the program that year. He looked at me and said, "Well, you three." indicating me and my two touring companions. I was so heartbroken to know the message I would have to deliver when they asked when I'd be registering. I told them I'd like to defer my enrollment for a year. Maybe a year off of school would change my mind, and I'd be dying to get back in it.
But it didn't I worked at Whole Foods in the vitamin department spreading my love of herbals that way until I got my present opportunity to go be in nuclear power. Sometimes I look back and wonder what life would be like if I had made the leap. Would I be done with my PhD now? Doubtful though possible six years later. Would I have traveled to Spain and the Amazon to research exotic plant species and cure cancer? Hopefully. I like my life now. It's given me so many opportunities to learn and do whatever I wanted. To travel and write and pursue my other hobbies. Still, I can't help but wonder sometimes if I made the wrong choice.
Happy Anniversary I am the F-Bomb!
Here's to four years of space and support for women writers.
When I came to you, I was new to the publishing world. Sure, I'd been blogging for myself of a while, sharing it with friends and family but with no target audience. For my 28th birthday I set myself a goal -be published and get paid for it by birthday 29th. Work was finally slowing down after a brutal two years, and I was completing my Masters in the summer. I'd have plenty of time to devote to my love, the written word.
You were the first to accept me when I started shopping around my first article. I had been following you for a while after having heard of you from Birmingham friends. I liked the unapologetic style of the articles and the simple premise of the site. I tried to publish a few places with no success, Then I sent you "How to Be a Heartbreaker" and got an enthusiastic response. That was it! I'd be published. Thought Catalog decided they would publish it too, but your acceptance meant so much more. As I move and expand, you'll always have a special place in my heart.
May we have many more years together to come!
Do I believe the cosmic array on the day of your birth translates to a personality type? Probably not.
Maybe somehow the pull and tug of the planets does something to wack out your brain. Maybe mothers become seasonally depressed in the winter and it affects their hormones which affects their baby. I deem that plausible, so hey, why not.
Do I feel I embody my zodiac? Let’s take a few excerpts from popular astrological sources and compare.
Aries is a bundle of energy and dynamism, kind of like a Pied Piper, leading people along with its charm and charisma.
These folks are bold, aggressive and courageous. They can summon up the inner strength required to take on most anyone, and they'll probably win. Aries do not lack energy or vitality, and they can stay in the game longer than most anyone else. Now that's a winning edge
Or another top ranking astrology website
Strengths: Courageous, determined, confident, enthusiastic, optimistic, honest, passionate
Weaknesses: Impatient, moody, short-tempered, impulsive, aggressive
"Their circle of friends needs a wide range of strange individuals, mostly in order for them to feel like they have enough different views on personal matters they don't know how to resolve"
Or hell, how about Wikipedia? I trust it for everything else.
"People under the Aries sign are believed to be like a child who is frank, enthusiastic, fierce, a bit hotheaded and too loyal to their friends. Since Aries is the first astrological sign in spring during which everything comes to life, the Arians are believed to be always vigorous and passionate"
Okay, I feel like most of those apply. Let's go for some disreputable sources like Thought Catalog: Here's some choices from Thought Catalog Based on Your Zodiac Listings.
As a Girlfriend:
"They have a tough exterior and a bad temper but once you do get to know them you’ll see they are sensitive. They come across cold AF and have an acid tongue. So when you fight not only will you lose but they will probably say something that hurts."
Zing. Not to say that's probably not true.
As An Ex:
"When an Aries leaves you, they just do not even care. Do not eff with an Aries heart because they will just be like “alright, peace” and that will pretty much be the end of it. Aries intellectualize life, and so when it occurs to them that you are incompatible or that your relationship isn’t headed anywhere, staying together seems like an illogical thing to do, and if it is an illogical thing to do, why would you sit around and worry about it?"
Apparently the most chill of exes (I think someone forgot all the rage, but a lot of this too)
How We Do Show Love Sometimes:
They compliment you.
When an Aries really loves you, it’s in no small part because they are inspired by you. They think you’re smart, they think you’re interesting, they value your perspective on life. Generally, Aries think that they are the smartest people that they know (or the wisest, or coolest, or most talented) and it’s not because they are vain, it’s because they have evidence to back that belief up.
How I Would Behave on a Desert Island:
With your laid back attitude and your positivism, not even landing on a lost island with zero phone signal and no population scares you. You inspect everything curiously before considering planning a way out.
And Finally The Zodiac Traits from the Zodiac Killer:
"You are wild and full of energy. You are quick-witted, and that is what makes you fun. People love your excitable spirit. You are not an easy one to corner and that makes the hunt so much more exciting."
So what do I think I'm like? Hot-headed, stubborn, cocky. I think I am the best at everything because that's what people tell me, and like a damn fool I've come to believe it. Energy, charisma? You betcha. My worst qualities are a bad temper and assuming everyone operates on the same "Live and Let Die" attitude I do. Most people aren't impervious. They're sensitive. They have anxieties and doubts about themselves and who they are and what they're doing. And I have not really any idea how that feels. Which makes me cold and unsympathetic on my bad days. But skirting the tricky moments, I burn like fire attracting everyone to the flames.(Once again, direct quotes I've received from others.)
So in short, yes. I am such an Aries.
Write about both if they weren't the same.
Well let's get this out of the way -they weren't. Love first!
Ah first love. It happens as all good first loves, it sneaks. One minute you're a rational, calm, maybe even a little cool, human being. You like a person. Just as a person. To talk to, to adventure with. Then you notice the other people you used to adventure with have fallen away. You're no longer a renegade bouncing along from person to person for entertainment, whoever comes along is fine. No, instead you're seeking out one person, again and again and always. And if you're young, you don't know quite what it means. Not enough to make anything happen at least. You just let it ride as long as you can stand it.
And then one day you can't stand it anymore. Too long have your staked out the cafeteria, timing when and how long they stay. Too long you have spent memorizing your beloved's class schedule so you can conveniently run into them on their way back to the dorm. Too long have you spent volunteering for all their clubs as an excuse to spend time together. Too long.
I'm a grand gesture person. I have no idea how people date in the modern world where it's all farce and subterfuge. I'm going to stalk you and hunt you down until I know everything you love, therefore how to catch you. Then I'm going to do something weird like make you an all too obvious mixtape or send you a love letter -which society will tell you is heavy handed for a lady, but I will tell you hasn't lost me a man yet. (Disclaimer: It may have lost me a man, but I'm too oblivious to notice and/or if they get scared off you don't want those anyway).
And the gesture works. And it is good. For a while, it is good. And then it is bad, it is very bad. Because you are young and don't know what you're doing and don't know how to let the future go by keeping the present and don't know how to let the present go and fade into the past. And the uncertain future is more appealing than the certain future and you choose it. Then your first love is gone and c'est la vie. The world is as it is, and you're probably not supposed to stay with your first love.
And the first kiss? That was before the first love.
The first kiss, let's see. There's a movie I love called "Mistress America" which, if you watched, might annoy you. But I love it because in all her blissfully ignorant glory, Mistress America is me. And in Mistress America, there's a scene. where a younger cohort is fretting over what to do because she just discovered she likes her friend as more than just a friend but he has a girlfriend and what to do! What to do! And the Mistress exclaims:
"ADULTERY? Why the fuck does it matter? You are all eighteen! Where is this old-person morality coming from? There is no “cheating” when you’re eighteen. You should all be touching each other all the time. "
Let's preface with that. When you're 18 before you're 18, that doesn't count because you're young and irresponsible and obviously you're not going to marry this person.
My first kiss had a girlfriend. We had been talking for week and weeks in that way of "talking" and I thought it might go somewhere. And then he started dating someone else. Hi, my name is Elise and I have this very annoying habit where I refuse to lose.....ever (read more on that tomorrow!). So, one day I invited him over and seduced him and got my first kiss. And then a lot more later and later.....and later. Let's move on from my questionable morality as a teenage and go to the good part which is what this experience taught me and how it's made me better. Yes, partly don't kiss other peoples' boyfriends and husbands, etc. unless they ask you to very nicely.
But also this. Relationships are complicated. I feel the English word is paltry -love. What does love mean? We could spend days and nights expounding the variations or we could name them as the Greeks did. Eros, philos, agape. Lust love, friend love, total love. Which is it? What do you mean? At the time, I was Eros, young and lustful and in need of an outlet. What better than philos, the love of my friend, to share it with? But we weren't agape, the total love. We were friends and fun. And if you couldn't gather from my "Relationships before you're 18* are pointless"standard, I wasn't much for commitment. I didn't want a relationship where I would be nurtured emotionally and didn't want to nurture anyone else. I wanted to explore the wonder of life with a trusted companion.
Life becomes much easier when you can sort things this way. When someone tells you "I love you, but just as a friend" it doesn't have to be a traumatic experience. Someone is offering you love and even if it's not the form you wanted, love is to be cherished. And you become more adept at discerning your needs. Do I want true companionship or a distraction? How involved am I? What am I not getting? What do they want from me? When you can discern what you need, what others need, and know where to meet and forgive when necessary, truly you've won the kissing game.
*My real rule is 25.