Buckwheat Pancakes: Let’s Get Healthy!
Boundaries! Delicious Carbs! Being selfish! Ignoring notifications!
This is Erika’s Year. Erika is doing stuff they need to do, cutting out the guilt, saying “no” loudly and often, and treating themselves like the delicate adorable large hairless rodent they truly are. This is the year that Erika abandons guilty, conflicted narcissism and becomes a full-blown self-loving, fiery brilliant self-absorbed Aries asshole. This is the year that Erika uses the third person for themselves, especially as a shitty way to let someone know they’ve used the wrong pronouns for them. This is the year Erika is aggressive-aggressive, not passive aggressive. This is the year they eat delicious carbohydrates and model vivacity and joy, and apply their Type-A intensity to HAVING FUN, DAMMIT.
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I have a mixed track record with New Year’s resolutions. I’m really into improving and refining myself, so I’m always looking for an excuse to do so. New Year’s has been a good enough excuse. When I was thirteen, I learned what the word masturbation meant, and realized I had been engaging in that particularly activity since uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh forever, and committed to not doing it anymore. I thought it was sinful or something. Plus some kid on the bus with a Hanson haircut kept asking me if I did it, and I knew that anything he was interested in was shameful. So I tried to stop. I lasted a few days.
In 2015, I resolved to make more memes. I did make more memes, including a cereal meme that was kinda infamous for a while. I call it my award-winning cereal meme. The only award it won was it appeared on Kotaku and got me a lot of hate mail.
In 2016, I resolved to do something that fucking mattered and would make a positive impact on the world, then I wrote my “Trigger Warning” essay, which reached 200,000+ people and actually changed a few human beings’ minds about a social issue. Like, people actually commented on that shit saying their opinion had changed. That shit never happens. I’ve probably peaked. That’s like, the ultimate spiritual nut I’m ever gonna bust.
But still, I gotta keep trying to bust more.
It’s not that New Year’s resolutions are particularly weighty for me. It’s just that I am always looking for excuses to reflect and change. I am a self-improvement, introspection, and personal growth wonk. I am forever digging into my navel and looking for gold. I am always inspecting my deepest flaws and trying to cast them in a new light, that I might eradicate them through understanding. I am filled with contradictions. I am fascinated with myself (ARIES). I am ever-changing. I have big earth-shattering revelations all the time. Ever year is a Saturn Return. And a midlife crisis.
Self-absorption has helped me process my dad’s death, cope with the trauma of an abusive relationship, combat an eating disorder, improve my once-impoverished social life, inspect my gender dysphoria/body image shit, and improve my professional life. I am thankful for my ability to think about my life, write about it incessantly, and come out of the messy, over-exposed process renewed. This year, I have no particular wound to process, so the focus will be on loving myself, and being selfish, and healthy, in all the good ways. And maybe some of the bad ones too. As long as they’re fun.
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I know it’s a bit late to talk about New Year’s Resolutions. More than a month has passed; nearly everyone has tossed their goals to the wind. But I am stubborn (ARIES) and I am committed to my goal of being selfish. And that commitment has been paying dividends. I am happy, empowered, healthy, energetic, mindful, and I have fucking boundaries. I’m a selfish shining jewel and I finally love my own brilliance. Like at least 70% of the time.
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For many years, I knew my hormonal birth control was giving me depression and anxiety. For over a year, I knew I wanted to get off the pill and try a copper IUD. All year long, I dreaded the pain, the heavier periods, the acne it might bring, the cost. I kept trying to convince myself I was not worth the trouble.
2018 Erika just did that shit. As soon as this year’s health insurance was current, I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood, dry-swallowed an ibuprofen, threw my legs into the stirrups, and took that fucking copper pipe like a champ (actually I whined quite a bit). I was resolved. I knew I needed it. I knew I deserved it. I was ready to cough up the money, the time, and the pain to get better.
And it has been worth it. My mood is completely different now. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but truly, the difference is paradigmatic. I am alert and aware of my emotions. My brain doesn’t get “stuck” on negative thoughts. I am less annoyed by sensory stimuli. I sleep more easily. I smile and laugh more. I look outside of myself more often. The days are not a slog of self-loathing. I feel free. I mean, I still get annoyed by a lot of shit, and am judgmental and rigid and introverted, but it’s way more manageable.
I am confident in a brash, teenagery way — I’d really missed that. I am a confident little shithead again. It feels like coming home. There was a too tight, pokey, misshapen bra encasing my mind, and now it’s off, and my brain is swinging and jiggling happily with every step (what the fuck am I writing).
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For years, I have been sick of serving as an emotional support animal. For years I noticed that I listened to people and mirrored their emotions and sent them painstaking supportive messages. I knew doing that was exhausting and upsetting and scary, and that it was rarely reciprocated. For years I noticed that I got into super-intimate friendships with sad people, but that these friendships were one-sided in their intimacy. I supported and listened and grieved; the other person talked and cried and spilled and demanded. I would push these relationships to their limits, get kind of traumatized by them, and then blow the relationships up after refusing to say “no” to the person’s demands for months or years at a time. And then the person would hate me, and rightfully so.
I realize that it was my fault I sought out relationships that were so one-sided. It was my fault that I never said no or disengaged. It was my fault that I only connected with people by being of use to them. I felt like a pissed-off, resentful victim about these friendships for years, but I can see now I made decisions that led to each and every one of them.
2018 Erika is selfish and short. I won’t write 1000-word emails or chat messages in which I validate a person’s emotions, wring my hands, and offer up buck-up, buckaroo encouragement. I am not a therapist. I am worthy of love and friendship without being a tool or a teddy bear. I check out. I block or mute. I refuse to reply. I reply in short, honest, easy ways. That sounds hard. I’m sorry that happened to you. I do care about people. I’m not a monster. But that’s it. That’s all I am gonna give. I move on.
It feels so fucking good. I can see now that if someone breaks down, or can’t make it through, it’s not my fault. I realize, now, that my unrelenting support and warmth kept people from seeking out actual help, in some cases. I didn’t mean to, but that’s how I was used. And I taught a lot of these friends that inappropriate, over-reaching relationships were acceptable. That hurt them too.
The more I disengage from relationships like that, the better I feel. I don’t feel guilt. I know that I am setting these former friends free, too. In some cases, I have improved my friendships by delineating boundaries more clearly.
This is gonna sound like some Gwyneth Paltrow Goop crap, but I have a right to surround myself with positive, appropriate people. I don’t have to stand by someone’s side just because they are desperate or they like my writing or we share some of the same traumas. I can like someone and disengage from the aspects of them that do me harm. That doesn’t make me a demon. Friendships should make you feel good, most of the time.
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For years I thought I had to work to constantly make people happy. My dad treated me like a therapist. He used me for emotional encouragement, he told me things I shouldn’t have been burdened with hearing, he made me apologize for his own bad behavior, he blew up if I did anything that violated expectations he hadn’t bothered to make me aware of. When I refused to fulfill that role for him, he disowned me, and then he died.
This trauma combined in a really toxic way with my lack of natural social skills. I can fake being appropriate and neurotypical, but it takes a lot of effort. As a child, I was always being told that something I was doing was weird, or nonsensical, or inappropriate. My whole life, really, I’ve been on the receiving end of messages that I wasn’t doing things right.
I learned that my natural way of being was not okay. I had to monitor myself, and attend to other people’s faces, tones of voice, postures, trying to eke out meaning. I had to expend a ton of effort into giving just the right amount of eye contact, talking just enough, sharing just enough personal details, but not too many, showing enough emotion, but not being cartoonish about it. I didn’t trust myself to be lovable or socially acceptable. I didn’t let myself be who I innately was. I thought the real me was some kind of vaccuum of lovability, a total creep.
2018 Erika is more authentic. I tell people no. I explain if I am uncomfortable. I tell people if something is going to give me sensory trouble, or if something rankles me. I accept that other people won’t always like me. It still hurts, but it doesn’t feel like I’m negating my self-worth, anymore. I am getting used to the idea that my worth doesn’t live inside other people’s hearts. I don’t have to unlock it. I have it already.
I am feeling less pressure to be something I’m not. The world feels less menacing, less filled with opportunities to be hated. I am more comfortable being odd. I have some degree of faith in my own worth. I can be a friend, a partner, a sibling, a co-worker without being an endless font of emotional support who never rocks in place or says something out of line.
A lot of this is facilitated by me not being on birth control pills — I’m less depressed, and I love myself more. But a lot of it is behavioral too. Saying “no”, “I’m uncomfortable with this”, “Sorry, I can’t do that”, requires practice. Listening to my actual desires, not the imagined desires and needs of other people, takes time. Self-advocacy is a skill. You have to believe you deserve it, but you also have to get good at it. And finally, I am getting good.
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Now let’s talk about some fucking breakfast food.
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I went to that goldenest of houses with my friends Melanie and Laura recently. Laura was visiting from out of town. She’s a glamorously sturdy lady with a penchant for kitsch and a fantastic sense of style. We talked about Cleveland-area flea markets and it really brought me back to my childhood of perusing knives and scary dolls. It was great.
At the diner, Melanie gave me my Christmas present: a whittling kit!! I have tabletop gaming character who uses whittling as a magical focus. I’ve always wanted to know how to whittle. It seems so soothing and yet destructive. And Melanie hooked me up with the tools to accomplish that. Self improvement. Growth. 2018. Let’s get healthy.
I knew right away what I wanted to eat:
It’s 2018, let’s get healthy. I wanted something nourishing, earthy. And that’s what I got.
These pancakes are like grape nuts, in a way. You can tell as you’re eating them that they are filled with nutrients and that they’ll make your poop dark and firm. They’re sweet, in a slightly ripe, strange way, like molasses. The flavor evokes olden days I wasn’t alive to experience. My mitochondrial DNA remembers my ancestors eating a pile of these piping hot suckers at 5am before heading out to husk some corn on the porch and shoe the horses. It’s the kind of food that makes you feel strong and satisfied, even if the flavor is kind of weird and shitty. It’s shitty…but it’s also good?
(In high school, I used to eat a big bowl of sugary grape nuts every evening before martial arts practice. I read the nutritional info on the box and became convinced it was a superfood. I knew those little gravely barley poops would make me a kicking and punching monster. And so they did. Until the martial arts instructor kind of hit on me, and a few days later I caught him on a date my hairdresser, who was married to someone else. I kinda stopped going after that. I took up DDR instead. But for a sweet while, I kicked and punched and eat grape nuts and was strong. This is an anecdote about drawing boundaries with inappropriate people, and getting healthy).
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It’s 2018 and grape-nuts eating, kickboxing Erika is back, bitch. I am an inquisitive, well-fed teenager who is always ready to fight. I will fight for my own happiness. I’ll cough up money if I need to, and not feel guilt. I will cut off overly demanding people. I will be vulnerable and ask for what I need. I will work because doing so is stimulating and because it gives me money that allows me to buy myself nice things. I will cuddle with soft porg stuffed animals and not feel like that’s shameful or immature. I will ignore notifications from people who don’t know me but want my love. I will be fucking weird and sit with odd posture and talk to the wall. AND I WILL MAKE IT LOOK COOL.
It takes work to love yourself. I am willing to put in that work. I am gonna love myself in an active, present way. My love is a shining gem, faceted in complicated, intriguing ways, and I will give that love to myself, and I will put it in a big fucking box guarded by a gargoyle and I will cherish it. I feel fucking great, dammit. I’m self-centered, confident, emotional, and strong. And I’m gonna act like it. 2018, let’s get healthy.