Hey darling, do you gamble?

I want to fall freely, openly, joyously into the arms of love. Give myself over naively and vulnerably. My heart aches with the desire to let go. Instead I try taking a step down first before leaping, like dipping a warm toe into the lapping, salty water’s edge to test it out before running, screaming into the cold ocean’s embrace. But now I’m just standing here, clinging to the rocks, my dirty fingers bleeding and strained, trying to pull myself back up. How do you do it?  How do you fall, without fear of repercussion? How do you trust, that everything will be okay?

My heart has been grossly mistreated. I do not say this for sympathy, I simply say it to get it out there and out of the way. I have a type. We all do. Only there are no specific physical features that tie my past loves together, but rather a common thread. I have pretty much always dated my father. Freud, you bastard. I’ve dated men who have great potential but squander it. I’ve dated addicts, liars, cheaters. Men that I’m not looking to fix but who are still looking for help. I’d like to think that on a case to case basis they have all been different, but still my folders fill up and now I’ve got a whole library of mistrust in my possession. Piles of pain with pages overflowing, spilling out. Literature laced with bad judgement. It has become too chaotic in here to organize my thoughts. Where did I leave my trust in this mess? I always misplace it, so hard to find amongst the clutter. Time to just burn the place down. Got a match?

I was told once that the weak often gravitate to the strong and perhaps that is why the people I date always seem to find me, my strength a beaming light they want to get close to in the darkness. Or perhaps I seek them out? Looking to be the one person who gave them a chance, believed in them. Believed they could be better. Believed they could be different from those in the past. Believed maybe, just maybe this time I would be more important then their addiction. But believe you me, you will never be more important than someone else’s addiction. Learn it now, you’ll thank me later. It has taken me years to understand that it has nothing to do with me and that I will never come out on top. I have never been more important than my father’s addictions, nor any of my partners. I am no ones cure.

I have spent the last year of my life alone and single. Actually, really, for real single. Not the kind of single I use to be, by which I mean, when there was still someone always around on the back burner. When I was still on constant watch, attentively scanning bars, bus stops and passing butts for my next potential make-out partner. This last year I have purposefully avoided gazes, advances and wayward lips. Sure, I went on a couple dates, all with men from out of town. As if the physical space that would come between us made it that much easier to keep them emotionally distanced from me. When they left I was alone again. I didn’t have to worry about my heart. I could have fun and still stay securely  tucked away. The more miles between us, the safer I was.

This last year has been a lot of self reflection and damage control. Giving myself time to understand these patterns and relearning how to be, well, just me. Relearning that I am worth more than what I have ended up with. Relearning that I am not just half of a whole but rather the whole damn thing and that I have no less value alone then when I am with someone. Relearning to trust myself even if I’m not sure I’m ready to trust others. It’s really hard to learn to trust yourself again after making so many poor choices, to forgive yourself for painful mistakes. It’s hard to trust being with just yourself, trust knowing that you are really truly enough. That in the end if I’ve only got myself it’s really not that bad because, hey, I’m a pretty okay person.

But what happens if you meet someone who makes you want to share part of yourself again? What if you’ve met someone who lives three blocks away, not three or three hundred miles? Someone you can’t and don’t want to just keep at a distance. Someone who makes you want to take a chance, lay all your cards on the table, go all in. Hey darling, do you gamble? I am terrified, the odds are never in my favour. I feel broken and damaged and weary. It seems to come so naturally for him to care about me, he does it with such an effortless and honest ease that it’s almost more unnerving. Unlike myself, stuck awkwardly trying to fumble my way over the walls and barricades I have set up to keep myself safe, internally fighting some epic battle because every cell in my body opposes this new found desire of my heart. And while he is patient and genuine and lacking the same baggage of those in my past, my fears and apprehensions are here with me like a burdensome carry on. I wish I could just jump. Let go. Leave them be. Fall free.

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My body is amazing.

Today at work I was told by a stranger that I was big and broad like a football player. The man then proceeded to puff up his chest and spread his arms wide laughing. Just in case I didn’t understand what he meant I guess, how very kind of him to offer visual clarification. Perhaps it was the shocked look on my face and inability to find words that gave him the impression I may have needed further exposition. That silence didn’t last long mind you, and as the clouds of disbelief in what this stranger had just said quickly dissipated, they gave way to a retort along the lines of, “you’d better shut your mouth now and leave before I toss you out like an actual football player.” However quick my response was though, that was still how my day started, mildly horrified that this man had felt the need to openly judge and insult me for no other reason than the fact that I happened to be standing behind the counter in front of him. Standing there in the body I was blessed with, the one directly inherited from my strong Viking ancestors. Was I suppose to apologize for not being a delicate flower or something?  If so I hadn’t received the memo.

His words hung heavy (pun intended) on my mind all afternoon. That small moment, that one thing had deflated me. I stood there afterwards serving customer after customer with my shoulders hunched feeling like an immense expansive being. A bulky hulking figure, blocking paths and views of the skyline.

I had to choose how it was going to affect me, or at least how I was going to show how it affected me. I decided to make light of it, so when a coworker asked what I was having for lunch, I replied, “Oh you know, the usual, small buildings, cars and wayward townsfolk.” Laughter makes things better after all, right? Riiiiiiiight?! Who was that man anyhow, and what did he know? But as I left to forage for lunch and the smell of pizza from the shop beside me called like a siren song to my slightly hungover body, the guilt and shame of my size and frame still hung heavy on my mind. I had a salad.

Now in my mind, my rational, educated mind, I know that what he said wasn’t true. Or wait, was it? Was I actually this huge monster and I’ve just never realized it before now? Was he the first one brave enough to let me in on the big secret? Maybe he saw something I couldn’t see. Maybe all my friends were just being nice. Maybe every photo of me EVER taken happened to be at just the right angle that I didn’t notice my imposing frame. Here I thought it was my personality that was larger than life, but perhaps it was just me all around. Dear Lord, have I been living in sweet oblivion?

What a difference a day makes, or in my case a few seconds. Still coming down from a euphoric high after the Burlesque Hall of Fame, I never expected to suddenly come crashing down so low. I have been walking with my head a little higher and my smile more frequent and genuine since returning from such an inspiring weekend. Having had the opportunity to perform and share a very personal duet about struggling with inner demons to find self-love and self-acceptance was a truly honouring experience. The roar of thunderous applause as the lights dimmed and we stepped off stage filled me with a new passion, more fire, and a reassurance that what I am doing, what I am pouring my heart into, actually matters. The tremendous support, encouraging words and overwhelmingly positive feedback about our number has been staggering. Beautiful, poignant and inspiring are words I keep hearing and will never tire of their power. But then there I was, feeling like a fraud, eating my side salad, no dressing. How ironic. How disappointing that the words of one man, one stranger, could fill my mind with such self doubt, when there were so many more kind words from friends, family, colleagues and idols that I could have been reflecting upon. How fragile everyday can be. I should probably take this moment to let you know that I have a sordid history with eating disorders, body image issues and self harm. One of the reasons our number was so important to me, and one of the reasons this little man’s words could deflate me in seconds I suppose.

I will never be willowy, dainty or petite. I could lose a hundred pounds and I would still have wide shoulders and a high set ribcage. However, I have worked hard to be proud of the body I have been given. My body is strong and built to last. My body bends and twists and allows me to pet all the cute dogs that cross my path. My body can hold open doors for frail old ladies and carry my bags of groceries home. My body allows me to laugh and drink and scream and spoon. My body transports me over hard rain soaked cement and soft sun kissed sand. My body allows me to tremble with pleasure and cry out in pain. My body allows me to dance and share my art, connect with people and move them to tears with the beauty it can express.

I feel bad for that poor man who can only see my body’s shape rather than its potential, because my body is amazing.

Chante_5602_BW_MedPhoto by David Denofreo, Black Opal Images.